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Thursday, December 30, 2010

American Educational Failure

Maybe you’re aware that our public educational system is malfunctioning? Some States do better than others, but overall we are lagging behind the other developed nations of the world. To address this serious concern, Federal legislation called the No Child Left Behind Act, was passed. It requires schools to comply with a system of nationally standardized testing, and holds schools accountable if their students continue to fail. Sanctions such as decreased funding would be levied against non-compliant schools. This law has faced sharp criticism from educators around the country. Teachers and school administrators say that the punitive measures taken to force a school to comply with the law will end up hurting the very students the law is meant to help. Opponents of the NCLB act also say that it is the fault of the student and the student’s parents when a student fails; it is not the teachers’ or the school’s fault.

The NCLB law was accompanied by massive additional funding for schools throughout the country. Billions of additional dollars were given to schools around the country―the lion's share to the schools found in poor neighborhoods. Schools received this money so that they could hire additional teachers and purchase new books and other study aids. With the NCLB law, teachers were promised the carrot and threatened with the stick. Problem solved, right?

Problem far from solved... G. Gage Kingsbury, a testing expert who is a director at the Northwest Evaluation Association in Portland, had this to say:
“There’s not much indication that N.C.L.B. is causing the kind of change we were all hoping for. Trends after the law took effect mimic trends we were seeing before. But in terms of watershed change, that doesn’t seem to be happening.”
Furthermore the original purpose of the law was to close the achievement gap between white students and other minorities. This hasn’t happened, as Sam Dillon of the New York Times explains:
The achievement gap between white and minority students has not narrowed in recent years, despite the focus of the No Child Left Behind law on improving the scores of blacks and Hispanics, according to results of a federal test considered to be the nation’s best measure of long-term trends in math and reading proficiency.
The empty threat of defunding noncompliant schools has failed. The storm of protest by any community hit by the defunding sanction and the concomitant media blitzkrieg that would result, completely pulls the fangs from this punitive measure. It turns out that throwing money at the problem doesn't work either. In fact, even when teachers are offered hefty bonuses for achieving higher test scores in their classrooms, teachers fail to help the students improve these scores as this article by Christopher Connell reveals:
NASHVILLE – Offering middle-school math teachers bonuses up to $15,000 did not produce gains in student test scores, Vanderbilt University researchers reported Tuesday in what they said was the first scientifically rigorous test of merit pay.
The most important person in this educational dilemma is the student. It's not possible to force a child to pay attention. We can't make a child try harder, study longer and with more diligence. We can punish if they don't, but the consequences game only takes us half-way. The other side is just important, the quid-pro-quo side...

In all of this educational brouhaha, perhaps the solution is to ask the student. What can we offer you the student that will cause you to try harder? How can we get you to take your expensive tax-payer funded educational opportunity more seriously? How can we make the curriculum more interesting? What can teachers do that would make it fun?

If I'd been asked that question as a young student, my answer would have been 'free-time.' To celebrate a great score on a test, how about a Get-Out-of-Homework-Free card? Competition can be easily created in any classroom. It's not only fun, it instantly captivates the imagination of students because everyone loves to win. Let the winners go to lunch five minutes early. They can beat everyone else to the lunch line. What hungry kid wouldn't give one-hundred percent for a reward like that?

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Class War

As I sat patiently reading Robert Borosage's editorial "Obama and the CEOs" in which he wallowed with sentimental abandon in sanctimonious phrases steeped richly in the language of envy, it occurred to me that an entire demographic of the country is irretrievably insane.

I don't use the word “insane” lightly. A segment comprising perhaps as much as a fourth of our society is beset with delusions, illogic, and the same paranoia found in gibbering, foaming at the mouth, wide-eyed lunatics.

In Robert's editorial, we discover that President Obama was talking to some CEOs in a friendly fashion about a number of economic concerns. Robert Borosage, however, has only one thought on his mind: These CEOs make too much money! It's not fair! They shouldn't be able to make this much money when so many people who don't work for a living are not receiving a big enough paycheck from Uncle Sam.

Statistics are mentioned. Phrases like The richest one percent are disgustedly announced as though these “Fat Cats” were the same as depraved pedophiles who should be torn limb-from-limb by an angry mob. Clichés and memes proclaiming the fact that the rich get richer are bitterly discussed. I assume Robert Borosage would have the rich get poorer—preferably through aggressive taxation. Free enterprise be damned! Economic equality by fiat through that favorite liberal weapon of economic mass destruction known as taxation.

Off-shoring is mentioned. How dare these corporate shills make a bigger profit by cutting costs. So what if goods can be offered more cheaply to Americans. So what if the average American would be unable to afford a shirt crafted by a shop of unionized textile workers who cost $22.00 per hour to start. Instead of blaming the misguided policies that have caused off-shoring, namely greedy unions, minimum wage laws, punishing taxes of every stripe, a smothering web of regulations and red-tape, and the new behemoth on the camel's back called ObamaCare, not to mention regulatory agencies like the EEOC and Wage and Hour―once watchdogs―now attack dogs, who stifle business choke productivity, and cost businesses billions of dollars in attorney and court fees, Robert Borosage blames the "Fat Cats."

Liberals would lay all the world's ills at the feet of these big corporations who on behalf of their shareholders attempt to—gasp!—turn a profit. These employers of millions of people these pillars of the economy, these foundations of millions of retirement portfolios are just not taxed enough.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

ObamaCare

The cost for health insurance is already extremely expensive and only promises to become more so. Health insurance is prohibitively expensive because of the enormous cost of providing medical care. The costs of medical care include: hospital construction, maintenance, and utilities, the wages of doctors, nurses, and therapists, plus all the equipment costs and support personnel, such as sanitation workers, mechanics and kitchen help. These upfront costs are high enough but there is also an entire army of undeserving greedy hands waiting eagerly for their own share of the payola. A short list of these include: greedy patients, greedy lawyers, greedy politicians, greedy pharmaceutical and medical equipment manufacturers, All of this greed is cheered on by our overly permissive government—the legislature, the judiciary, and the executive branches—all conspiring to raise the price of medical care to astronomical levels and in the process skim a little cream for themselves off the top.

We have a society where medical lottery winners are paid for by the rest of us. We have a society where anyone with a life-threatening emergency must be provided care even though they lack insurance. Worst of all we have a society where the threat of a malpractice lawsuit pushes doctors to perform redundant and unnecessary tests just to show that they were “duly diligent.” The cost of medical services along with frivolous lawsuits, uninsured patient care, and multiply redundant testing are all borne by those of us who pay for health insurance.

The ObamaCare plan—if properly administered—would allow hospitals to lower their costs, and ultimately allow them to charge less for medical procedures. In a perfect world, where all citizens had insurance and all medical bills were paid, collection agencies and lawyers would be unnecessary for medical practices and hospitals. Medical providers could then drastically reduce the prices they charge for providing medical service to their patients.

If properly administered
But, it won't be properly administered. It will instead fail at every level because it will be administered by an uncaring and wholly inefficient bureaucracy. That's why no one wants ObamaCare, because everyone knows how badly the Federal Government will screw it up. The proof of this is written within the 2700 pages of the law itself. Why not tort reform? Why not work on fixing Medicaid? Instead we have this monstrosity of big government which might as well have been drafted over at the Kremlin.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Illegal Immigration

Why do so many Americans hate Hispanic illegal aliens? The list of complaints is varied and long. The complaint that I’ve heard the most is that these illegals move here and then live off the welfare system just like so many Americans do. We already resent generations of perfectly healthy Americans living as parasites, taking their ease while all their wants are provided for by the taxpayer. We certainly don't want to add an ever growing number of Hispanic families to what is already an economy destroying number of unproductive lazy citizens.

However, this idea of Hispanic welfare families is just not the case. While so-called anchor babies are eligible for social services, the illegal alien parents are not eligible. The idea that the welfare available to one or two children can support a family is ridiculous. These illegals quickly accept menial jobs from employers who pay under the table. Construction, lawn care, dishwashers, general labor, etc are just a few of the many niches where an employer can hire an undocumented worker and pay him less than minimum wage. It's a good deal for the illegal. He's making more money than he could make where he migrated from, plus he has access to twenty-first century medical care. It's a good deal for the employer too. He doesn't have to waste valuable time with reams of government paperwork. He doesn't have to pay for matching social security, or unemployment insurance, or any of the beyond-the-pale red-tape hurdles that liberals have misguidedly placed in front of someone who wants to hire someone else to do some work.

If you can't get rid of a problem, find a way to work with it. Millions of handicapped workers do it every day. Illegals are not in-themselves a bad thing. Some simple changes in the law could make illegals a real boon to our economy.
1. Abandon the idea that the 14th amendment makes those born here illegally, legal citizens.
2. Get rid of minimum wage laws. They are pointless, and only serve to cause inflation.
3. Allow illegals to work here and have taxes and Social Security taken from their paychecks. They would have to work here for a set length of time, say twenty-years before they became eligible for either Social-Security payouts or Medicare.
4. Since nationalized health care is already a fait accompli, go ahead and use it. Require the illegals to pay for some kind of health insurance program.
Naysayers will say my idea is too simplistic.

Perhaps it is. But, what is the alternative? Do you want to pay for a thousand miles of concertina wire fencing? Do you want to pay for tens of thousands of border guards walking that stretch of fence everyday and do you want to pay for repairing the hundreds of holes cut through it every day? What a pointless and Sisyphean task that would be, since the illegals are now on the wrong side of it anyway.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Price of Gasoline

As of today, December 8, 2010, the price of gasoline is nearly $3.00 a gallon for regular unleaded. The price of gasoline is caused by a variety of factors, the most important being the cost of oil. Commodities traders in their daily lemming-like misson to buy whatever's hot, often drive the price of oil up beyond all rational opinions of its intrinsic value. The season of the year is a big factor to these speculators. If it’s especially cold they buy oil since they know people will need it to keep warm. If the summer is coming on nice and hot they buy oil since they know people will need it to keep cool, and to drive to summer vacation spots around the country. The price of oil is now at $90.00 a barrel, the highest it's been since 2008 when gasoline was $4.00 a gallon, and we can expect ever higher prices this summer.

Further complicating the picture for oil speculators, an unexpected but inevitable new player has now entered the game. China has a burgeoning population of 1,331,460,000 citizens who promise ever higher demand for many natural resources, especially oil. Most parts of China are still backward, and agrarian, but expect that to change and change quickly. Remember that during our own industrial revolution, the USA was transformed very quickly, and that was done even though resources were very scarce at the time and even though much of the technology of today had not yet been invented. China will suffer no such hurdles to its own modernization. All the blueprints for every type of manufacturing process are available for free or for very little. The only stumbling blocks they will face will be the cost of natural resources like oil. Expect a feeding frenzy as the commodity traders go all in on oil.

In light of these facts, it seems obvious that the USA needs to drastically expand its own oil production capabilities. Where will America be when China buys up the lion's share of the mid-east's oil supply? A clarion of American voices, all screaming the same thing—Drill!—has been largely ignored by our President, Barack Hussein Obama. Not content to simply ignore Americans, Barack goes the extra mile for his eco-buddies by announcing a seven-year moratorium on all drilling in the Gulf. So, when you fork over nearly a hundred dollars to fill your tank, remember that if in 2008 you voted for “Hope and Change,” maybe—just maybe—it wasn’t the smartest thing you ever did.
“Hope and Change" I hope I get some change from that Benjamin I'm gonna be pumping in my tank.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Paradox in Freedom of Speech

Ants crawling on a Christ figure, penises, naked brothers kissing each other on the mouth, men in chains, and Ellen Degeneres―a popular media lesbian―are just a few of the degenerate images contained within a Christmas art exhibit called "A Fire in My Belly," a film by David Wojnarowicz at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery.

What do you tell your children if they happen to see this exhibit? What do you say when they ask why ants are crawling on Jesus? The liberals over at Huffington Post see this as an issue of freedom of speech. They're upset that the Smithsonian caved to popular pressure and ditched this film. To liberals and the Association of Art Museum Directors this is censorship at its worst. Paradoxically, liberals would be hysterical and foaming at the mouth at the idea of this sort of blasphemy directed at Islam or Muhammad.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, and a film is a thousand pictures one after another, then this disgusting thirty minute film is one million words of blasphemy. We don't have to wonder what would happen if someone put ants on Muhammad. Muslims―and Liberals―would go nuts! Rioting and arson would set fire to the entire world. Thousands would die, being trampled, burned, beaten, stabbed, and shot.

It's the same as shouting "Fire!" in a crowded theater—the cliché so popular when denoting exceptions to the right of freedom of speech. You are not allowed to practice freedom of speech when your careless or malicious words could incite riot or induce panic. Therefore putting ants on Muhammad would be a criminal offense not protected by the First Amendment.

Since Christians don't get so upset that they run amok, putting ants on Christ is protected by the First Amendment. Therefore the solution is simple...if Americans really object to this sort of depraved blasphemy, all they have to do is have a few riots, and start a few fires, kill a few bystanders, and beat the crap out of a few cops. Then as quick as you can say: 'As-Salāmu Alaykum', exhibits like "A Fire in my Belly" would no longer be protected.

My final thought: Liberals don't believe that Christ is the son of God or that Muhammad is the prophet of Allah. They don't believe in God or Allah. They see both religions as equally false, merely superstition and tall tales passed along as gospel from one ignorant savage to the next. So why do liberals venerate and protect Muslims, and at the same time excoriate and try to outlaw all public expressions of Christian belief? Because Christians love America and want to protect it and see it continue, while Muslims hate America and would like to destroy it. Liberals are just cozying up to those who hate America as much as they do.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

An Alien Way of Thinking

As a fiscal conservative, some might wonder why I would read any of the zany twisted thoughts that spew from the misguided minds at the Huffington Post. It's my sisyphean attempt to understand the self-destructive insanity infecting the minds of so many on the left. Much like a criminal profiler, I attempt to climb in the head of the maniac to find out what crazy caper he's got in store for us next.

Case in point an article entitled Jobs First by Richard Eskow. To paraphrase this rather long and rambling editorial: The economy needs jobs, not tax cuts for the rich. It was those filthy little hobbits―a-hem―Wall Street bankers who bankrupted our economy in the first place. Yes, jobs, that's what we need, and to get more jobs we need...more stimulus money! And bailouts to states struggling with massive debt.

In this article I find code phrases, memes which are alien to my way of thinking, jarring out-of-step concepts which upon reading cause my mouth to gape open in astonishment. Two such memes are found within this jewel by Mr. Askew―a-hem―Eskow:
...a small group of well-financed politicians and economic advisors is advising the country to abandon economic fairness, slash its most treasured programs, and expand already-massive tax giveaways to wealthy.
By 'tax giveaways to wealthy', Richard Eskow means not stealing quite as much from the most productive members of society as was done in the good old days. It's their money, Richard. You can't give someone their own money. By 'treasured programs', I'm sure this "progressive thinker" means programs which enable those who don't work for a living to continue sucking at the government tit. Or to put it another way, programs which are used to buy votes for the Democrats from those who don't really understand what that vote is worth.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Don't Touch My Junk!

Nude Body Scanners and "Enhanced Patdowns" enable Big Brother to take a giant leap forward. National media sources seem to be highly in favor of this heavy-handed practice. Polls are cited by the media that show two thirds of Americans favor these unconstitutional searches in airports. Underwear bombers are mentioned, and concerns are raised about hypothetical explosives possibly concealed in the crotch area. Complaints about privacy issues are airily dismissed as being trivial objections raised by Bible Clinging Prudes. The standard opinion of media spokespersons is that if it helps combat terrorism then everyone should just go along with it.

I'll start by asking a really big question. A question I've not yet heard asked by any media figure, nor asked by any individual. The question is: have any pollsters ever bothered to conduct their polls at the airport? Hmmm? I have little doubt that people who are affected by these invasive procedures have an entirely different opinion about them. When you poll some random sampling of people―most of whom don't imagine themselves flying on an airplane any time in the near future or indeed perhaps ever―the question becomes hypothetical. As we are all aware, hypothetical questions of moral equivalence are almost always answered as though the answerer were Saint Peter himself. It is at best useless information, if not outright fabrication.

Well, it seems pointless now, to protest over this new monumental loss of freedom, a freedom guaranteed by our Constitution. The freedoms enumerated in the Bill of Rights have undergone a steady erosion over the last eighty years as American citizens traded safety and security for freedom.

Freedom it seems, is little valued anymore. That's the saddest thing of all to me; sadder by far than any number of untimely deaths. When the day comes when you've given up every last tattered shred of freedom you once had, and you lie safe and secure and dying in your bed many years from now, would you be willing to trade all the days from this day to that, for one chance, just one chance to come back here and tell our leaders that they may fine us, they may imprison us, they may even take our lives, but they'll never take our freedom?!

As terrorists become trickier, the slippery slope will only get more slippery. While I wait for the first rectal bomb to be discovered I can only ass-ume that KY Jelly will ease our passage into the world of randomly egalitarian body cavity searches.

(Memo to Self: sell [DAL], buy [JNJ])

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Google News: Computer Driven Cars Now on the Road

Robotically controlled cars are here. Sounds great. Or, maybe not. Frankly this is too much...too fast. Google is starting to remind me of The Matrix. I've often wondered what rush-hour traffic would be like without an entire city full of idiots driving their vehicles while yapping on cell phones, doing makeup, eating, driving drunk, asleep, etc. Can you imagine, as the light turns green, a line of thirty cars all rolling forward at the same time? Sounds great to me, but in the back of my mind is this little voice going...I'm sorry Dave...

Ok, here's my main objection...while it's possible that a well-designed computer system could drive better than me...like that would be hard to do...what if the software is compromised? There's just too many computer hackers in this world to trust myself on a highway full of massive steel, plastic, and carbon fiber robots driving at seventy miles an hour or more. Don't even get me started on the number of recalls that car manufacturers perform every year. If this happens, if robot controlled cars take over the road, I'm moving out to the country where all they have are dirt roads and a shop-n-go.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

My Response to I.Q. tests and merit pay studies

The I.Q. test is a loathsome thing put before young students in an attempt to pigeonhole them before they even know what they're being tested for. My kindergarten I.Q. tests were below 100. Today I score around 140. Which test is correct? What a huge difference! What if my parents had believed those first tests and just given up on me?

This is the first thing I want all of you to understand; an I.Q. test only measures where you are, not where you will always be. So, especially for those of you with children, I advise you to forget everything you thought you knew about I.Q. and the imperfect testing they've developed to date, and please never let them pigeonhole your kids into some kind of slow-learner club.

The carrot and the stick, not just the carrot, and not just the stick. They go together like cheese and crackers, and while one's ok, both together are perfect. I clicked the link and read about the merit pay study. It has some validity, however it has one major flaw, such a glaring flaw in fact, that it renders the study only mildly noteworthy as perhaps a footnote, but never a chapter.

Why didn't they study the most important grades: kindergarten, first grade, and second? These Vanderbilt researchers decided to study the ability of teachers to change the study habits of kids who'd already had five years or more of practice in screwing off. Furthermore there was no downside for these teachers. They no doubt just went ahead and did the same thing they always did, but probably at a higher decible level. Lets ask this question: What if....

What if the children had all of a sudden started doing better? It seems to me that certain questions would have started to be asked...why hadn't they been trying this hard all along? This would certainly be the first thing on my mind if I was running a school. As I signed that 15,000 dollar check. I'd have to wonder whether it would take an extra 15,000 every year to get this teacher to keep doing her job.

How about next time you do a real study Vanderbilt? New teachers fresh out of college, new students fresh into kindergarten and first grade. Incentives for teaching well, AND so important, dire consequences for the reverse. Now, that's a study I could believe in. Finally, for those of you who believe there's something significant in 15 points difference on an I.Q. test, please, open that closed mind of yours.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Freedom of Religion and Prayer in School

We've all noticed―and many have commented on―the slow creeping degradation of America's public school system. Coincidentally, the banning of prayer and any other religious teaching in public school in 1963 is just about the same time that our public school system started going downhill.

While I'm not a follower of any particular religion, I think most religions have much to offer with regard to morals and character and living in the way that good people believe we should. What is ironic, is that this kind of moral teaching is straight in line with what our school system should be teaching our children. A teacher can say to his classroom that hurting others or stealing is wrong, but he's forbidden from using examples from the Bible―or any other religious text. The children listening to this teacher trying to tip-toe around religion to teach these moral lessons, experience a disconnect―for lack of a better word. Without the moral lessons instilled in children by religious teaching, the only thing children end up learning is the importance of not being caught. They learn that if you don't get caught there are no consequences. Contrast this with lessons from the Bible for example. While you may not have been caught performing your dastardly deed, God saw it, and you will pay the consequences! Other religions have similar paradigms. In any religion no wrong act goes unpunished.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

All religions have as their preeminent dictum that adherents must spread their belief as widely as possible. Teachers are forbidden from practicing this part of their religion while on the job. Both freedom of speech as well as freedom of religion are denied to the teacher. When I read the above amendment to the constitution I'm frankly appalled, and disgusted, and infuriated, that a group of eight Justices could take a sentence like "Congress shall make no law" and somehow by byzantine logic and deceptive circumlocution extend the meaning of it to say that teachers are forbidden from exercising their freedom of speech and their freedom of religion in the classroom.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Misperception

I can see her now, that wise old woman—quiet and serene—her eyes lifted towards an unknowable future. Her gentle smile lets us know that with a little patience everything will work out for the best. Then again, maybe she's just an idiot. Complacency of this sort is often mistaken for wisdom, when in fact it's merely laziness or simple stupidity.

Often, the worst mistake I can make in any conflict is to overestimate my opponent. This sounds contrary to popular wisdom, but in my experience is all too often the truth. The imagined deep play unfathomable by mere mortals such as we, is often simply a bad move. Right or wrong I must have confidence in my own perception of reality.

The lie, the bluff, the trick, these are mankind's penultimate weapons. It's hard to remain confident while that grinning devil suggests so unswervingly that it is we who've blundered and not they.

Resist the urge to second guess yourself. Better an honest mistake than a lifetime of anxiety and second guessing. In the military they call this making a command decision. Right or wrong make your choice and live with it. Making no decision at all is a choice you will likely regret.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Annihilation of Imagination

To say that I'm an avid reader is an understatement. I truly love to read. In this affinity, I'm definitely in the minority. A question I've often pondered—why do so few people love to read? Why would most people rather pluck out their toenails than pick up a book?

Those who know me, know that I'm seldom at a loss for an answer even when that answer is completely wrong. With that said, I believe most people don't enjoy reading because their imagination was strangled by well-meaning but sadly misguided teachers. It all started—if you remember—with that seminal event in our lives called a “book report.” We were assigned a book to read, and after trudging tediously through this waste of a perfectly good tree we were then asked to stand up before a classroom full of hecklers and explain exactly what it was about this book that was so wonderful.

Maybe you were one of the lucky ones. Perhaps you actually enjoyed your book. It's hard for me to conceive of but I'll give you the benefit of the doubt. In all my years of schooling I was never once assigned a book I enjoyed. In case that statement wasn't definitive enough... I absolutely loathed the poorly written and mind-bogglingly boring amateur hour narratives handed down by those smug and condescending trolls more commonly referred to as teachers.

The trouble all boils down to one fact; classics were written by unimaginative hacks whose works would have rotted in some publisher's slush pile had they been written today. I'm not blaming them; what did they have to compare themselves against? What kind of competition were they up against? Few in their time could read and those that could didn't exactly have a wide selection to choose from. In those unenlightened days maybe a 416 page story about an OCD fisherman and a big fish was a rollercoaster thrillride.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Some Philosophy for Fun

If Life Is:

If Life is a Journey—then all that really matters is getting to the end of it.

If Life is a Game—then it doesn't matter whether I win or lose, just how I play. Hey, how about double or nothing? Best two out of three?

If Life is a Highway—Wait, life is a million tons of steam-rollered tar?

If Life is a Play—If we're just actors on some cosmic stage, then who's the audience? What if I don't like the script?

If Life is a Guided Tour—then where the hell did the tour guide go?

A Sad Story

Some background to start with: The company I work for is a medium sized security guard company with a fairly high turnover. The turnover is caused by the fact that the job is essentially unskilled labor requiring only about six hours of training, and therefore the people we get are not what you'd call self-starters. I work in HR and have been there for fifteen years. One of the hats I wear is that of record keeper / employment verifier.

You'd think in an economy with nearly 10 percent unemployment, people would want to keep a job where they don't have to lift stuff, move stuff, pack / unpack stuff, or screw part A into socket B, but nope they quit at the drop of a hat. Today I got a call from a guy we hired a month ago. We hired him; we spent 6 hours training him. We fingerprinted, photographed, drug tested, filled out all the forms, and then mailed off his state security guard certification packet—with a check for 50 dollars for his guard license. Do you think he even showed up for work?

Not only did he not show up for work, but today he requested a letter on company letterhead stationary, explaining that he had in fact never worked a minute nor received any wages from our company. You see, he didn't want to lose out on the unemployment money he's been getting for over a year now.

It's really a sad story. Not the scumbag's story; I'm talking about this country.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Censorship, Profanity, and Thought Control

We are all taught not to use Profanities. Obscene words offend people, and we certainly wouldn't want to offend anyone. Ok I'll accept that reason. We shouldn't do things that are offensive. But, why is cursing offensive?

Farting and burping for instance are also offensive. We wouldn't want everybody farting and burping all the time. Fart and burps smell bad. I don't want someone's intestinal gas inside my nostrils. Who would want microscopic floating bits from someone's rectum coating their olfactory sensors? Same thing goes for a burp. I don't want molecules from someone's churning bag of half-digested food and saliva and stomach acid to coat the inside of my nostrils.

This doesn't explain why cursing is offensive though. Ever since I was old enough to curse, I always wondered why cursing was so upsetting to others. Even more upsetting though is when women and especially children are exposed to those offensive vulgar words.

Well I think it's bullshit! People want to control what I say, and the only reason they can give is that it's offensive. I ask why it's offensive and they say... "It just is." I think it's offensive to try and censor speech just because you have some odd bias against a particular synonym for fecal material.

This whole profanity argument really is the slippery slope towards thought control. Once you've got everybody questioning themselves internally about every little thing they're about to say until they're afraid to say anything at all for fear of giving offense, well... what do you have? I suppose if you desire a quiet society, a fearful society, a dull and ultimately dimwitted and docile society, then you'll have achieved the total thought control you were after.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Here's my big conspiracy theory

I read the following article which I found on American Thinker entitled: Death of The Dollar. The opinion makes the clear cut argument that the dollar will soon be dead as a door nail. The article stops at that point, but what happens next?

What will happen when the dollar becomes worthless? A new currency will become necessary. Barter won't work. You can't pour kerosene in your car's gas tank and expect to get very far; likewise our nation's economic engine will not run on barter. Americans will need a new form of currency, something completely different not just in appearance but in a radically different way. Remember the lesson our leaders have learned over the past fifty years: NEVER WASTE A GOOD CRISIS.

What form will the new currency take? I suspect it will be entirely electronic. It will be touted as a great new vehicle of commerce which will put a stranglehold on black-market activity, curtail illegal immigration, and finally sound the death knell for the illegal drug trade. No more burglaries or muggings, because there's no paper money to steal. And if you stole possessions you wouldn't be able to sell them when there's no longer a black-market. It will also cause the United States of America to finally resemble the dystopian world envisioned by the late George Orwell, some thirty years later than the author's original prediction.

The vehicle for this electronic commerce will be a national ID card. This card will be highly tamper resistant—perhaps even foolproof. All transactions will be enabled in some fashion through some combination of this card with its photo and thumbprint, and retinal scanners at all retail locations. I'm not sure what people without retinas or thumbs will do but I'm pretty sure the geniuses in DC will figure it out. All money will be digital and accounted for in a central national bank. Because all transactions will be tracked through a government supercomputer, any suspicious activity will be spot-lighted and investigated.

So far so good? Wait, there's more...

There won't be any more fudging on your taxes, because Uncle Sam will know what you bought, and when. They'll know what movies you saw, whether you're a kinky little porn freak, what books you bought, how much alcohol you drink, and how long you're likely to keep your current job.

With the ability to track all money transfers, the government will be able to compile dossiers on every citizen of this country and assign a threat assessment score. They will base this score on purchases and computer activity, television, radio, and book preferences. This kind of information gathering is nothing new. The FBI has had the ability to gather data about anyone—without a court order—for some time now.

But wait, there's still more...

You hear that knocking at your door? That's your case worker. He knows you're broke and rent's due. He's here to make you an offer you can't refuse.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Charity Industry

As I sat in the tub this morning, I started thinking about everyone's contribution to society. Many of us work, pay taxes, and raise our children, and this constitutes the totality of our contribution. Others do more than this and while I admire that kind of energy, I don't possess it myself. I started thinking about what thing I could do that would improve society in some small way.

I was still thinking in the tub when the concept of charity bubbled to the surface, carrying with it a less than agreeable odor. There are people who devote their lives to those in need. Can you imagine that? Maybe they run a soup kitchen or work for the Salvation Army, whatever the case, the list of charitable organizations is immense. The charity industry is huge, and because I am such a cynic, I suspect it must be quite profitable as well. In the best of all possible worlds, how many cents of every dollar given to a charitable organization goes to those who're truly in need?

As I pondered, it occurred to me that soup kitchens would be impossible without soup. Put another way, a soybean farmer probably feeds way more people than a man running a soup kitchen. What an astounding thought! Everyone loves the kindly old man administering that soup kitchen, “what a kind soul!” they gush in genuine admiration. Of course the fact that his soup kitchen accepts donations should not be forgotten, because that is the heart of the matter. Both the soup kitchen administrator and the farmer are running businesses which feed people. The soybean farmer is just way more efficient at it.

Everyone with a job helps put that soup on the table at the soup kitchen. Without the vast infrastructure and supporting web of interrelated industry, the soup kitchen would be impossible. Whether it's a nurse a teacher a police officer or a warehouse truck loader, we are all necessary for society to function, and without society there would be no soup kitchen and no soup or bowls either.

So remember, when you answer the annoying donation solicitor with: "I gave at the office," that you really did!

Is Homo Sapiens an Evolutionary Dead End?

Life evolved from simple organisms to more complex ones, and this evolution is founded on competition for resources. We live in a competitive society, with a free market and western thought holds that this competition is healthy and makes life better for all of us, and up until now this was undoubtedly true. We stand at the apex of all that has gone before us. A vast uncountable series of victories brought us to this unimaginable height. It was the winners of every struggle who continued on, not the losers. We are all descended from an eons-old line of these winners back to the very beginning of life on earth. That's a pretty admirable pedigree for every one of us.

That's all in the past, however. Times have changed, and we must change with them or face extinction. Competition ceases to be healthy when every competitor carries the ability not only to defeat his competition but also kill every other life-form on the planet into the bargain. I'm speaking of nuclear weapons of course. The proliferation of nuclear weapons grows more and more critical. We will soon have critical mass, and once that point is reached what follows is inevitable. It's called a chain reaction.

If only one country on earth had nuclear weapons that would be dangerous enough, but imagine what happens when every country on earth has them? This practice of beating on our chests and brandishing clubs at our competitors has brought us to this inevitable final nuclear wall. Is the wall our evolutionary dead end, or is there a way to get past it?

How can a world of human beings who've evolved to compete, to win at any cost, how can we as a species suddenly change? I don't know the answer to that, but I do know that this change must happen very soon or it will be too late.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Waiting patiently for Armageddon

It seems as though most of us want to see the end of this little guided tour we call life, not through anything so bucolic as dying a natural death, but in some cosmic smash-up that has everyone shuffling off their mortal coils in a massive all-encompassing crescendo. Some believe that those who’re more worthy will be ‘swept up’ into a utopian paradise where everyone is happy all the time. Others believe we’ll just stop existing. Every religion including the religion of Atheism has one all important message, and that is that life is irrelevant. And believing this, we all act as though our own life is the last act in God's mawkish play. The curtains come down and, Finis.

In the following incredibly depressing article, Monty Pelerin makes the argument that the socioeconomic system in place in the United States of America is completely unsustainable and that systemic catastrophic failure is inevitable and soon to come. Unfortunately his argument is more than persuasive, it’s undeniable. The sad fact for citizens of the United States, is that the bloated parasitic bureaucracy voted in on the promise of all things to all people is unable to support itself and all the other non-producers living on the blood of the relatively few productive members of this sick society. The patient on the death bed is Uncle Sam and the monstrous Ponzi scheme called a federal deficit will hold off that death only briefly.

Americans of this era have behaved as though they believe they are the last Americans, ever. So what happens after? A worldwide depression the likes of which has never before been seen or even imagined seems a certainty. Will this be the Armageddon prophesied of? Should we hoard gold, guns, and food? Or should we rely on Karl Marx's opiate of the masses?

For me, I think none of these. I’ll invest in nature’s perfect commodity, whiskey.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Indefensible Center

The indefensible center is a great weakness at the heart of a religion. When I was twenty years old I became vulnerable. I was having trouble at college and had fallen in with a bad crowd. Then one day a Mormon missionary came knocking at my door. After being baptized Mormon and formally joining the church, I discovered the indefensible center of Mormonism. They don't tell you about this core belief at the beginning, because if they did most people wouldn't join.

I became dissatisfied with Mormonism when they exhorted me continually to bring my family and friends to church with me. They explained that being a Mormon meant converting everyone I knew to Mormon. The thought of being a proselytizing pest to friends and family was repugnant to me. They explained their dietary restrictions, some of which made sense and some of which seemed pointless.

Some might begin to question when they heard the odd story of Joseph Smith and the angelic delivery of a set of golden plates with a strange language written on them. No one but old Joe ever saw those plates, and the tale of why that is, would take several pages. I could accept all that, but when they fully explained their beliefs, this was the camel's back-breaking straw. They believe that you can't go to heaven until you are baptized as a Mormon. For me this belief was the indefensible center.

I naturally asked about all the billions who would never even have a chance to be baptized Mormon, the billions who'd lived and died before Joseph Smith was even born. Mormons believe that their campaign of geneology will eventually allow them to discover the name and family tree of every human ever born back to Adam and Eve. Those who died without a chance to be baptized can be baptized by Mormans even long after death, as long as the full name of the person is known. I just couldn't accept that they'd be able to discover the names of people born before the invention of a written language. I visualized teams of Mormons working Ouija Boards, and that was it. I left the church.

Similarly, Scientologists believe that 75 million years ago an evil warlord named Xenu—who was dictator of the Galactic Confederacy—brought billions of his people to Earth in a DC-8 like spacecraft, hydrogen bombed them, then collected the souls of these dead billions and brain washed them in big cinemas. This information is not revealed until the new Scientologists have spent thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours being brainwashed. A website called Operation Clambake is a valuable resource if you wish to learn more about this wholly evil scam of a religion.

Christianity has the virgin birth. I don't know about Islam or Judaism; however I suspect a similar indefensible center lies within these religions as well.

So, why do religions have these impossible to accept central storylines? My theory is that it's a sort of litmus test of gullibility. If you can get over the hump of believing the unbelievable you're now ripe for the plucking my plump young pigeon. Even more importantly, someone who has this kind of faith, will kill others or even martyr themselves in support of this indefensible center. The most popular religions protect their vulnerable central weakness with an impenetrable shield of thousands of martyred believers.

Friday, June 18, 2010

reboot

Those of you who've used PCs for years must remember Windows 98. Programs running in this operating system grabbed blocks of memory and often kept them even after the programs were shut down. This meant that periodic reboots were necessary. Failure to reboot resulted in slower and slower response times from the computer until even opening something as simple as Notepad took several minutes to accomplish.

The way I see it, our government is analogous to Windows 98. With all the government programs still running long after they should have been shut down, with all the clutter of obsolete laws still on the books, with all the corruption and injustice in our legal system, and a President who'd rather take another vacation than work, it's obvious that the government can't or won't respond nearly as fast as we need them to.

The response times for hurricane Katrina and the Gulf oil spill debacle were abysmal. After almost nine years we still haven't even started rebuilding the World Trade Center. It takes months, sometimes years, to get defendants to trial. We've known about the lack of money to fund Social Security for baby boomers for decades now, and still nothing has been done. The few examples listed here are barely scratching the surface of the entirety of our government's total systemic failure.

Perhaps it's time for a reboot.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Unemployment

The national unemployment rate stands at 9.7 percent. I got this figure from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. I was curious about how they arrived at this figure. I had always assumed it was drawn from the number of people who had filed unemployment, although when I thought about it, I realized that this would leave plenty of people uncounted. All the people looking for a job wouldn't necessarily go down to the unemployment office. So I assumed that the 9.7 percent figure was probably a misleadingly low figure. It turns out that they get their statistics from a sample group of about 60,000 households―sort of like television's Neilson ratings.

As a cynic, it's always been my opinion that people who have six months of unemployment payments coming to them will probably take about six months to find a job. Well, what about those really looking for a job? That's the true unemployment figure. I don't believe it's possible to ever have an accurate figure of the people truly looking for work, because people are such seasoned liars. E.g. Tommy says he's looking for work. Tommy schedules and attends several job interviews every week, but is never hired. Is Tommy truly looking for work or is he merely pretending?

I've had the opportunity over the last fourteen years to closely observe job applicants interviewing for work at my company. Many choose to dress in slovenly fashion or worse. Many speak a language that is only tangentially aligned with what I call the English language. Almost none of them know anything about our company that can't be assumed from the name.

The job interview is kind of like a blind date. Neither party knows very much about the other and for the relationship to continue, both parties must be pleased with what they see. The applicant is focused on presenting an image of himself that is the most flattering. The interviewer is focused on seeing past that image to the person behind it. Often the interviewer forgets that for the blind date relationship to continue, both parties must be satisfied. The applicant often forgets that his responsibility is not just to land any job, but a job where he'll be happy.

Finally if you're truly looking for work, do your homework first. Have you got a well organized résumé? What do you know about the company where you are applying? Have an answer for the following two questions, "Why should we hire you?" and "Why do you want to work for our company?"

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Welfare States of America

As time passes I grow more and more pessimistic. I work long hours—from 60 to 70 hours per week—and this level of output is rewarded with ample wages to support my family. I'm a problem solver, and if I was ever to look for a new job, the first thing and the last thing I would stress to my interviewer is that I'm a problem solver. My motto is—Work Smart!

Things are in balance. My tax rate isn't yet ruinous, so it still pays to make as much as I can. I'm looking ahead. I'm looking at college tuition for four boys. I'm looking at retirement in twenty years. I'm also looking at burdensome health insurance, a house mortgage, utilities, two aging vehicles soon in need of replacement, and the list goes on. I’m not alone. This is the story of America, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Dad never said it would be easy; in fact he stressed the exact opposite. His motto was always—There’s no such thing as a free lunch.

No free lunches—except for the ones getting the free lunches of course. Every day I see evidence of the degeneration of America. What incentive is there for a person to work for a living when all life’s necessities will be provided to him whether he works or not?

As the Federal deficit mounts towards unsustainable levels I'm reminded again of my father's motto. The bill will arrive, and everyone will be looking around for somebody else to pick up the check. I have this pessimistic feeling that the somebody will be me.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Full Metal Jacket

You may have seen the movie Full Metal Jacket—a film by Stanley Kubrick. I enjoyed it, although the 2nd half of the movie doesn't quite live up to the promise made by the 1st half. My wife and I watched this on DVD the other day. I was surprised and intrigued when she expressed grim satisfaction that Gunnery Sergeant Hartman—R. Lee Ermey—was killed by Private Leonard Lawrence—Vincent D'Onofrio. "Why are you so happy the drill sergeant was killed?" I asked.

She replied at length and with quite a bit of heat. I don't remember her exact words but hopefully the following summation will capture her opinion.
When I went through basic they didn't do any of that. The drill instructors weren't allowed to touch us. They didn't use curse words or humiliate us. The idea that people were treated that way in the 60s and 70s really pisses me off. This is a free country, not Nazi Germany. How could they do stuff like that?
My defense of Drill Sergeant Hartman fell on deaf ears, although I'll post it here in the silly hope that one day my wife will condescend to read my thoughts on this issue.

What is the purpose of a drill sergeant? I believe the short answer is to prepare soldiers—marines in this example—for war, and to train them to be effective combatants in war. If a person is unable to bear both the physical and mental adversity of boot-camp then that person obviously doesn't belong on a battlefield. A drill sergeant is responsible for turning out—as Ermey so eloquently puts it—Ministers of Death praying for war. The Marine Corps basic training is no place for touchy-feely sentiments, or even common dignity, it's literally about life and death, and even more importantly, it's about winning battles.

My wife would say, soldiers don't charge hills anymore. They call down air-strikes and then soldiers just move in and take over the now empty area. Why do they need to be tortured for thirteen weeks by sadistic little control freaks? To which I would reply: Drill Sergeant Hartman was a Marine. He was training Marines. You don't join the Marines to sit in a bunker and call down air-strikes. Often you're first in. Often you're behind enemy lines. Often, you don't have the option of calling in an air strike!

Well times they sure have changed. Now it looks like they might even start giving medals for not killing the enemy. They call this a medal for Courageous Restraint.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Elena Kagan and Free Speech

There's been plenty of talk about Elena Kagan. Most of it is of the imbecilic type. She walks and sits like a man, wears dowdy clothing, has never been married; sexual preferences unknown. Every last sentence of this sort by the thousands of journalists and bloggers, who think we care, is all completely irrelevant. I wanted to know how she would rule on issues I care about. I found one Washington Post editorial that gave me some of what I was looking for. Elena Kagan the new solicitor general for Obama chose as her first case to argue before the court, the case of Citizens United vs. FEC. In this case a grassroots organization wanted to air a politically motivated criticism of Hillary Clinton. The FEC held that Citizens United was a corporation and that its political message violated the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002.

The Supreme Court decided that corporations have the right of free speech just as individuals do. The BCRA was enacted to try to limit big corporation impact on those running for elected office, a seemingly worthy aspiration but an ultimately misguided one, for here was a grassroots organization that happened to be incorporated, yet it was being muzzled by the Federal Election Commission as though it were EXXON-MOBIL or Philip Morris.

Those in opposition to the Supreme Court majority ruling—a 5/4 majority on strictly partisan lines—say that now big corporations can attempt to brainwash all of us into electing their choice. Aren't ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, and FOX, all corporations? Why don't they fall under the FEC's umbrella of corporations trying to brainwash us? I have to wonder whether Elena Kagan was defending the BCRA because she truly believed that this grassroots organization should be silenced, or because of her political affiliation. If the former, she is apparently against the right of free speech, and if the latter, she's just another DC politician, and perhaps not principled enough to be entrusted with a life-long appointment.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Life in a war zone called Earth

Today the world's population stands at 6,697,254,041. I suppose since it's been such a long time since we've had a population reducing world war, or a devastating plague like the Spanish Flu of 1918 that killed more people than Hitler, nuclear weapons and all the terrorists of history combined, everybody is feeling a little bit crowded right now. Maybe this population pressure explains the apparent insanity that seems to be infecting mankind at epidemic levels.

In an earlier post I criticized police for shooting a 7-year old girl. I stand by that condemnation; however as always, events occur that alter my viewpoint just a little bit. Today—May 21, 2010—two police officers were gunned down by two suspects in a routine traffic-stop just 30 miles from where I live. The two suspects—names not yet released—were later killed in a gun battle in which they critically injured two more police officers.

In World War II—and earlier wars—the enemy wore a recognizable uniform. How polite those old time wars were. Now the enemy is anyone—and perhaps to police everyone. Why would anyone volunteer for a job like this? Not for the pay! It could be that it's what their family has always done. In other cases perhaps some officers chose their profession because they enjoy the power they hold over everyone else—the power to speed recklessly, to blow through traffic lights, carry a gun and shoot it, and especially the power to tell everybody else what to do.

This is a horrible tragedy. The slain police officers will get a heroes burial and a twenty-one gun salute. I believe their family and their fellow police deserve this tribute. Donation drives are in full swing, and the people of my area are all giving generously, as they should. But what about the 7-year-old girl who was killed accidentally by police? We can't call her a hero. She didn't die in the line of duty. How many people will show up for her funeral? How many friends and colleagues will offer support and money to her family?

I understand why police are so paranoid; this tragedy today is all the reason anyone would need. I still don't believe it justifies crashing into a family home where children are present, with drawn guns and fingers on triggers. It explains it, but it doesn't make it alright.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

7-year old gunned down by Detroit police

I came across this CNN article while reading the Drudge Report. A police officer—who apparently shall remain nameless—while participating in a raid, somehow gunned down a seven year old girl. Oh yeah by the way, Detroit police are all really very sorry about it.
Upon entering the home, the officer encountered a 46-year-old female inside the front room, Godbee said. "Exactly what happened next is a matter still under investigation, but it appears the officer and the woman had some level of physical contact.

"At about this time, the officer's weapon discharged one round which, tragically, struck 7-year-old Aiyana Stanley Jones in the neck/head area."
See how they're trying to spin it? There was physical contact! So, of course his gun went off. My only question then is why was he waving a gun around in the first place?

I've said this before; the police are given too free a hand, and forgiven for far too much. Oh he may lose his job over this—though I doubt it—but it's not enough. Who hired him? Who trained him? Who are his gung-ho friends, and how were they trained? I know being a police officer is dangerous, but if your first response as a police officer is to pull out your gun, maybe you are in the wrong line of work!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Hypocrisy

The Religion of Peace—Perhaps the biggest lie of our time?

George Burns was born in 1896, died in 1996; he lived to be 100 years old. This is an unusual accomplishment, but what is even more unusual, he lived this long even though he committed three egregious acts of public blasphemy. Had he been born in 1296, he would have been the recipient of numerous acts of inventive torture, followed by a Burns-Bar-B-Que.

But here we are in the good old twenty-first century. Luckily for George, mankind has matured enough that we don't kill people, just for poking fun at, or ridiculing our religion...Most of mankind doesn't anyway.

There is however, one religion whose practitioners kill blasphemers on sight, one religion whose clerics issue fatwas authorizing the murder of particularly noteworthy blasphemers. Naturally I will not mention the name of this religion. You are probably aware of the death sentence hanging over the head of Salmon Rushdie for his work The Satanic Verses.

Recently Trey Parker and Matt Stone—the creators of South Park—aired episode 201, watched by 3.5 million people. This episode featured the most important prophet of a certain peaceful religion dressed in a bear costume. Networks across the world refused to air this episode, and where it was released, it was heavily censored due to death threats. This wholesale media blackout occurred say network executives, for the safety of their employees.

The "Religion of peace" has an army of terror, and very few people are willing to stand up against it. Way to go Matt and Trey!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Copywrite, Pricing, and Piracy

I just got a Kindle, and of course the first thing I did was hunt for common complaints. I found this blog: Vanderblog, by an author who is angry that Amazon users gave his book a rating of 1 out of 5, simply because the Kindle version instead of costing the usual $9.99 was priced at $37.50. T.J. Stiles was attempting to justify his book price of $37.50 based on a mathematical calculation of the estimated number of copies that would sell.

What a concept! I just had to look into this further. It reminded me of textbooks. If you weren't aware of the reason school textbooks are so expensive, it's because the number of units sold is relatively low, while the costs of printing, binding, warehousing, and distribution are all high. Additionally—as Mr. Stiles points out in his blog—their are mysterious fixed costs. These costs would not be a factor in any business except the publishing industry—which includes music, books, movies, and television. These costs are actually the same costs my dog incurs when I fail to give him his weekly fleabath. Part of the price you pay for any intellectual property is sucked away by a host of parasites who have this "right" for some undisclosed reason.

However, very few of these factors are applicable when the book is an electronic edition which takes up no space, can be reproduced an infinite number of times for free, and transmitted electronically for essentially zero cost to the seller. In fact, the way I see it, the only thing being sold here is a non-transferrable license to view the content of this one document. When a Kindle reader has finished reading this eBook, he cannot donate it to a library, give it to a friend, sell it, burn it to provide warmth on a really cold day, or even wipe his butt with it.

Searching further I came upon this blog: Rampant Piracy... In this article, Jason Kincaid makes the argument that the new Kindle DX is so expensive that only eBook pirates will buy it. That in fact textbooks are so expensive to young and poor college students that this piracy will become De rigueur, and thus poor college students will set up scanning stations in every dorm, disassembling old textbooks to scan while downloading what they need for their next term.

I suppose that if textbooks continue to cost $150.00 per unit, that eventually students will do exactly what Mr. Kincaid expects...unless textbook publishers start releasing $9.99 Kindle versions of all their textbooks instead of operating those printing presses, those book binderies, those warehouses and distribution networks, and paying all those employees.
As technology changes what we can do, it also changes what we must do.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The contradiction of capitalism and kindness

In the following post I will use the word Christian often. However, when I use this word, I am not subcribing to the limited definition that a person would receive from the King James version of the Bible, I am describing a collective group of people who believe in a creator, hold a common view of right and wrong, and believe that people should be good to each other, even if their viewpoint or particular religious teaching is different from someone else's. This definition of Christianity would include Baptists and Mormons and Buddhists, but would not include fanatical violent religious groups whose practitioners enjoy sawing people's heads off and strapping on backpack bombs.


I read this Christian Business blog, and I highly recommend it. It is very insightful. In a nutshell, since Christianity is about doing unto others as you would have them do unto you, and capitalism is about getting from others as much as you would have them give, there doesn't seem to be any common ground.

Imagine a Christian business, I'm not talking about a Bible Bookstore, I mean a business that operates on a certain moral level. Let's say it's a bakery. Give it a pithy name like "Our Daily Bread" or "The Miracle of the Five loaves." This place might plan to charitably feed the poor with unsold bakery products, and perhaps somehow bake scripture into its bread. The idea would be that the owners of the bakery are Christian and want to be good to people. Great idea right?

Vagrants would start hanging around the store pan-handling from legitimate customers and next the owners would have to call the law to disperse and/or take these homeless unfortunates into custody. This doesn't sound very Christian. So, another good idea bites the dust before it's even begun, because you just can't rely on the downtrodden to remain discrete.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Spicy Beef Stew Recipe

Here's a great crockpot recipe for a thick and tasty beef stew. Warning, this is a spicy recipe and may be too much for grandma or junior.

2 lbs beef (roast, etc., cut into 1 in cubes)
16 oz peeled baby carrots (fresh not canned!)
1 cup diced vidalia or sweet onion
16 oz beef gravy (I just buy this premade)
1 package beef stew seasoning
2 cups water (mix stew seasoning in water before adding to crockpot)
3 or 4 peeled and lightly chopped potatoes (1 potato = about 5 slices)
16 ounces Italian cut green beans
1 tbs salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tbs Tobasco Sauce
2 oz House of Tsang Szechuan Spicy Stir-Fry Sauce

Add meat, vegetables, gravy, water, and stew seasoning to crockpot. Cook in crockpot for 8 to 10 hours on low heat. Serve Grandma and Junior, then...
Mix in salt, pepper, Tobasco Sauce, and Spicy Szechuan Sauce and enjoy!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Bureaucracy

Often called “rainforests of the sea”, coral reefs form some of the most diverse ecosystems on earth. They occupy less than 1% of the world ocean surface, about half the area of France, yet they provide a home for 25% of all marine species, including fishes, molluscs, echinoderms and sponges.

When I think of the laws on the books at the Federal, state, and local level, it reminds me of a coral reef. The only problem with this analogy is that Coral Reefs are useful. However, laws built on top of laws on top of laws...not so useful. We hire lawmakers to a term of office. Their job is to make laws, amend laws, and repeal laws. They make laws, no one can dispute that! Every year another layer of laws are laid down like calcified snail tracks on the reef that hems in and restricts the actions, ideas, and spirit of the American people. However the legislature seldom amends, and almost never repeals any law from the vast unfathomable wasteland of defunct and now obsolete laws on the books. Home of sponges indeed!

More laws should have an expiration date, and be immediately purged from the books when that date comes. Many laws do have this expiration date, but many more don't, and thus the vast incomprehensible labyrinth of red tape, the infinitely massive immovable object known as a bureaucracy. Perhaps we need a fourth branch of government, the Delegislative Branch. Since the Legislature is too busy making laws to review and repeal old laws, perhaps we need an elected branch hired to perform just this function.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

SUVS are detrimental to my view

I don't care about carbon footprints and oil shortages and all the assorted reasons other people dislike SUVs—well, not very much anyway. What I do care about is the view. My number one rule for a person sitting behind the wheel is LOOK AHEAD! There's little difference between a guy staring at the back of a vehicle, and a guy with his head up his own ass. If you're sitting there all relaxed and head-bopping to some tune on the HI-FI, and not looking ahead, then you don't belong on the road with me. Just because your eyes are open and drool isn't running tracks down your chin, doesn't necessarily mean you're awake. You should be able to see through the front window of the car ahead of you. You should notice when the car in front of the car in front of you breaks—by the shine of red tail-lights in the windshield of the car ahead of you.

In many highway pile-ups, a line of cars smash into the car ahead of them, one after the other, because they didn't have enough time to stop—they all had their heads up their asses, or they were tailgating, or more likely both. If you can see through the car ahead of you, then you should be able to stop in time. This brings me to SUVs.

I've noticed that SUV drivers all have several things in common:

1. They all have tinted windows.
2. They love to tailgate.
3. They’re all using a cellphone.

I'm not sure if tinted windows are standard equipment in these behemoths, but I figure this must be the case since I've never seen an SUV without tinted windows. They're tall bulky vehicles and I can't see over them; I can't see around them, and because their drivers all insist on tinted windows, I can't see through them. This means that my number one driving rule has just been negated when one of these monsters is in front of me.

I’m not sure why SUV drivers all tailgate. It’s possible that it’s a point of view problem. They’re sitting there high up in the air, and from this perspective perhaps other cars look like tiny ants and therefore seem far away even when they’re only three feet from the front bumper. It’s also possible that SUV drivers are all just assholes. This possibility seems more likely than the point of view problem, especially when coupled with the aforementioned tinted windows.

Now cellphone use is certainly not confined to SUV drivers, however it should be noted that when a person is driving a five ton vehicle three feet from the guy in front of him while doing 80 mph, and peering murkily through heavily tinted windows—all while yapping non-stop about whatever an egomaniac likes to yap about—cellphone use takes on a darkly sinister association.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

From Hatred to Glory

A shakespearean style sonnet I wrote.
The subject is from Revelations.


As I shiver in this dusty cold,
my heart and fingers have no feeling.
The end has come that was foretold.
How sad we lonely men left stealing
another hour, perhaps a day.
Cursed we be, who are left alive,
to wander this earth, not long we pray.
The broken cities, the human hive,
all is ashes rubble and disaster.
We beg salvation of The Master.

I hear whispered rumors of a man,
feeding folks with manna from Heaven,
who heals the sick and 'tis said he can
curse the wicked, bring forth their blood.
They flock to him and chant his name,
while infants cough their lives away.
He walks this land in rising fame.
This Abomination tells them pray,
and kneel down at his golden throne.
between rotting heaps of flesh and bone.

A clarion of trumpets on high
rising in the dusty morn I hear.
Hallelujah shouted into the sky.
A host of angels take my fear,
and suddenly I'm swept up.
Ineffable vainglorious pain,
nostalgic dreams overflow my cup,
with bittersweet tears of loss and gain.
You can't imagine, no words exist,
the beauty waiting beyond life's mist.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Corruption

Power corrupts. This axiom is indisputable. I just read a story about another police beating and then watched the video. It was a terrible and vicious beating, but what troubles me the most, is that Officer James Manderino apparently forgot his vehicle had a recording device. What was never mentioned in the story—and what will never be mentioned—is how many other so-called perpetrators this officer has brought in, beaten black and blue and bloody, and charged with resisting arrest. It’s my guess that not all the police cars are equipped with cameras in Chicago, and he just didn’t realize he was in a camera car that day.

Give a man—or woman—a badge, a gun, a vehicle, and limitless power to do as they please, then watch the carnage ensue. This is too much power. This video, and so many more like it, are evidence. They are more than just evidence of crimes; they are evidence of a pattern. The pattern is police corruption, and it doesn’t end with beatings, because the police have a bigger weapon than a baton, they also have a gun, which they pull from their holster often.

There are no perfect solutions; however the video I watched offers at least a partial remedy—more cameras. Citizens need to have cameras in all vehicles, not just police vehicles, every vehicle, and audio recorders as well.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Theory of Universal Opposition

Everyone acts in opposition to everyone else, pointlessly.

I've often wondered, why people are the way they are. I often thought, I must be paranoid, it seems as though everyone is out to get me; then I realized that this was way too self-centered a judgment. It's not just me everyone is out to get. Everyone is out to screw-over everybody. This over-riding and fundamental paradigm seems to explain why people are the way they are, but is it valid? Can the scientific method prove or disprove this theory?

You may ask why I would come to believe such a sweeping and depressing condemnation of all humanity. Two words: RUSH HOUR.

What I'm after here is motivation. To get to the true motivation of a person's actions, it's necessary to strip away all the concealing concerns and distractions―and especially―fears. In my vehicle, I'm as close to anonymous as it's possible to get in a real-life situation. I'm armored in a couple of tons of safety-glass, steel, and space-age plastics. I've got many of the comforts of home, with a few notable exceptions such as a television. I'm usually anxious to get where I'm going because I'm not earning any money until I get to work, and I'm not being entertained, fed, loved, or taken care of until I get home.

I'm a two-ton Jedi Knight in big damn hurry. The only problem I see―and it's a really big problem―is all the Darth Vaders in my way. I want to change lanes. I either signal my intent with a turn signal, or I just go for it. Either way, it's my experience that any nearby driver in the desired lane will move to block. Then there are the tailgater vadors. No matter how fast I go, even if it's 90 in a 55 mph zone, it's my experience that a driver sooner or later will station himself three feet off my six-o'clock. What does he want? He wants me to change lanes. Only one problem: the vader at my four-o'clock moves to block while flipping me the bird with a smirk on his face. Checkmate.

This is no random osmosis, no Brownian motion, this is deliberate and pointless interference, simply because every driver is out to screw-over every other driver. You wouldn't see this kind of behavior on a pedestrian walkway, or even a bike path, because people would get their asses kicked.

Thus the Beatdown Corollary to the Theory of Universal Opposition. People will oppose and/or interfere with others pointlessly, only when they feel they are anonymous.