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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Cut Spending or Raise Taxes?

The debt ceiling has been reached. Everyone knows that the we have to raise the debt ceiling if this nation is to continue to operate. Obama wants to raise taxes as a part of that deal. He's a Democrat and raising taxes is what Democrats do. It's funny, but the dialogue has completely changed. Months ago, as we saw this moment of insolvency approaching, the call went out to conservatives to make budget cuts a mandatory part of any deal to raise the debt ceiling. Now of course the liberals are pushing back, and demanding tax increases be included in any deal to raise the debt limit.

So, here it is, the defining moment of both parties. This one argument is the central and defining paradigm of our two party political system. Weasel how you will; obfuscate and employ every rhetorical misdirection under the sun, the facts can't be denied.
Liberals want to raise taxes and increase spending, while conservatives want to lower taxes and cut spending.
"The path forward ... seems to be blocked by the insistence on raising taxes in the middle of an economic slowdown," Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said at a news conference, one day after meeting with President Barack Obama.

"Republicans walked away from the negotiating table to save tax breaks for corporate jets," Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid said on the Senate floor.
The problem with the Democrats' plan―raising taxes―to solve the debt crisis is that we're already spending so much borrowed money that a tax increase would merely be a symbolic gesture, an asinine point in a game of political one-upmanship. If they doubled or even tripled the taxes of the "Super Rich," the additional income would amount to nothing more than an insignificant drop in the bucket when compared to the amount we're already spending.

Calling for raising taxes on the wealthiest is the same thing as raising taxes on everyone. When we raise taxes on the "Super Rich," we're increasing their cost of doing business. This increased cost is usually offset by paying lower wages to their workers, and sometimes it's offset by increasing the price of their goods and services and passing on the tax increase to consumers.

Don't be fooled by a call to tax the "super rich." Any tax increases will ultimately fall disproportionately on the shoulders of those who aren't super rich in the form of lower wages.
The Questionable Tax Martyrdom of the Super-Rich
More importantly, as we know, the statutory incidence of a tax is very different from its economic incidence. Take the corporate income tax: As I have mentioned in the past, several much-discussed studies have found that it is likely that most of the burden of the tax is borne, not by capital, not by shareholders, but by domestic labor, in the form of lower wages. Here is CBO’s William Randolph (2006):
Burdens are measured in a numerical example by substituting factor shares and output shares that are reasonable for the U.S. economy. Given those values, domestic labor bears slightly more than 70 percent of the burden of the corporate income tax. The domestic owners of capital bear slightly more than 30 percent of the burden. Domestic landowners receive a small benefit. At the same time, the foreign owners of capital bear slightly more than 70 percent of the burden, but their burden is exactly offset by the benefits received by foreign workers and landowners.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Hackers and the Annihilation of Trust

It's hacker Armageddon! Never before have hackers been so prominent in the news. It doesn't seem like there is a network they can't hack, a site they can't take down. They're anonymous and practically untraceable. They cause billions of dollars of damage and permanently damage corporate reputations.

Mac users have until now blithely computed along with nary a security worry. Viruses were a PC concern. Hackers have never before targeted Macs. However, with the introduction of hugely popular products like the iPhone and the iPad, Apple has now entered the big league and that's all changed.

I don't know much about hacking, but there's this daydreaming fantasizing part of me that really wishes I did. When I was a kid I wanted to be an outlaw—Billy the Kid or Jesse James. There's just something about the outlaw lifestyle that's exciting and adventurous. I don't really know what it all means but I know one thing. I don't trust my computer. I don't trust entering my credit card information at any website. I don't trust on-line banking or completing my tax return at Quicken. I never have been completely comfortable but now after the whole Lulz-Sec extravaganza I can't see myself ever trusting any organization with an on-line access point ever again.

With old-fashioned commercial transactions it was still possible to beat the system but it required face-to-face interaction. The unsolvable problem with online access these days is that you're putting your security up against the entire world. I don't care how smart you are, with a whole world full of people there's always going to be somebody smarter.

The Collapse of the American Empire

"The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth becomes the greatest enemy of the State." ----Joseph Goebbels, Nazi propaganda minister
The decline and fall of the Roman Empire is often cited as a lesson to America to beware the decadence that is slowly rotting the foundation of this powerful nation. There is a subtle deception in this sentiment. Rome had bread and circuses, while America is near the top of the chart for being the fattest nation on earth. Three-fourths of our citizens are obese, and one-seventh―41 million―are receiving government assistance to pay for all that food. Nearly 14 million are on unemployment with half of those drawing it for more than 27 weeks now. Meanwhile the entire nation stays glued to their television sets watching our own version of the Roman circus, I.E. football, Oprah, or the latest "reality" show. The decline in moral values, in educational achievement, and in our national work ethic is evident to anyone who's willing to open their eyes. These factors all align nicely with similar events that caused the eventual collapse of ancient Rome.

The subtle deception with the comparison to ancient Rome is the idea that since the Roman Empire took centuries to fall, we also, will have centuries of time before the final collapse. The unprecedented success of America was made possible by a combination of a great deal of luck, plenty of hard work, and good old American ingenuity. Lately however, the continued success of America is a less about productive ingenuity and more about fiscal legerdemain. We are living in a house of cards supported by a combination of smoke and mirrors. The information age and the prevalence of computers combined with instant access to information allows processes which used to take decades if not longer, to happen in months if not days. Fortunes can be won and lost in seconds when the same gambles used to take months if not years.

For more than one-hundred years the world has been bombarded with the power of America. The Yanks are Coming... Our patriotism and national pride has not gone unnoticed by the rest of the world.

Our undefeated history and our unmatched credit rating has allowed the USA―a nation in desperate financial trouble―to continue borrowing more and more money at wonderful interest rates even when it's become obvious that we're at the breaking point.

It could happen very quickly; much more quickly than most people would ever imagine. Our incredible prosperity and power is built on a mountain of debt. We've used our unmatched borrowing power to leverage for ourselves vast wealth. We've gained this wealth incredibly quickly by any measure in historical terms. Over the past forty years our economic growth has been fantastic! Our GNP has grown by 1000 percent since 1970, while our debt in the same period has grown by 5000 percent.

Investing borrowed money―leveraging―is very risky though. While it magnifies gains, it also magnifies losses. When investments begin to go sour, at some point creditors initiate a margin call. Instead of a margin call, I'm in favor of a wake-up call. But the sleeping populace won't awaken. They've been lulled by non-stop state propaganda courtesy of the main-stream media. Everything's fine. Nothing to see here. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

We have our bread, our circus, and now our universal healthcare. You may also have noticed the recent implosion of your constitutional rights. From Emily Good to Lena Reppert to the recent Supreme Court overturning of the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution, Big Brother is consolidating his power. The end justifies the means. The terrible truth that must be concealed by any means necessary so that those in power can remain in power, is that we are in the same sinking boat as Greece.

Saturday, June 25, 2011


Decisions have consequences. In all the triumphant celebration over gay marriage in New York, in all the in-your-face exhibition of homosexuality that seems to be exploding in popular culture, the lesson of Sodom and Gomorrah has been forgotten. It's too bad that the Bible has become so polarized. Whenever a verse of scripture is recited, immediately listeners turn to catch the eyes of other listeners while surreptitiously making a face of disdain. Sometimes an index finger makes a circular motion around an ear to more emphatically indicate that the scripture reciter is a hopeless fanatic who's impossible to have a rational discussion with.

There is a very real taboo against homosexual behavior. A taboo is simply a general understanding held by a society that a particular practice is forbidden or wrong. Often no one even knows why a practice is taboo it's a mystery handed down that we all just accept as truth.

The taboo against homosexuality has been in existence since before a written language even existed so we really have no idea how long this practice has been forbidden. These days though, we are all just too smart, too sophisticated and worldly wise to believe in some outdated superstitious piece of folklore. How could some ancient relic who didn't even have toilet paper teach us anything? I could mention pride going before a fall, but as soon as I did those index fingers would start circling those ears. I was a child before I was an adult. Maybe you had a similar experience? I remember thinking so many times how stupid my parents were. They didn't know jack-shit. I remember as well how many times I went running to them in tears for help, for amelioration of the very nasty consequences my decisions had conjured up.

Practicing homosexuality has very real and very nasty consequences. But we are just so sophisticated aren't we? We know better than stuffy old books written thousands of years ago. Nothing can change our certainty that we know everything. Even the most deadly diseases fail to make any impression on a society who think they're sitting at the apex of rational thought, who believe that a latex membrane less than a tenth of a millimeter thick is an invulnerable shield sovereign against all harm.

The body count of victims who've already fallen to the AIDS epidemic just in the USA is around half a million. Around the world it's more than 25 million people who've died because of AIDS. Current statistics estimate that about 5000 people die every day from AIDS. You think none of them wore condoms?

Ok you consenting adult you, it's time to lay a little known fact on you, and unless you're a blood donor you probably don't know this. There is a list of questions the phlebotomist will ask you before you can give blood. He'll ask you about intravenous drug use and he'll ask you about receptive anal sex. While he will test your blood for various diseases including tuberculosis, hepatitis, and AIDS, these tests are not considered conclusive. If you admit to engaging in risky behaviors your blood will not be acceptable for donation.

But...But...You use a condom. There's nothing wrong with your blood! You use a condom! Okay okay that's great! You're practicing safe sex you responsible consenting adult you. What could possibly go wrong? Well...the condom could break couldn't it? It could leak couldn't it? It could slip off in all that frantic activity couldn't it? And of course there's always the possibility—no matter how unlikely—that in your drunken lustful highway rest-stop rendezvous neither of you happens to have a handy Trojan on hand.

The central truth I've been trying to illustrate is that our ancestors have already gone through this before. They already learned all this the hard way themselves...please! That was not some kind of salacious play on words... Are you quite certain that you're so much smarter and wiser than they?

Friday, June 24, 2011

You Want the truth? You Can't Handle the Truth!

If you're thinking about doing this, stop. Just stop! You've got so much to live for; why throw it all away? Maybe you're thinking there's something missing in your life? If you have an irrational need to hear the pitter patter of little feet or if that ominously ticking biological clock has you feeling sentimental, then I've got to tell you from one parent to an aspiring parent, truly you don't want to be here. It's a vast conspiracy of the miserable looking for a little more company. When they say "Come on in...the water's fine," they're lying!

When I was a young innocent child my father pronounced the most diabolical and merciless curse imaginable upon me. He said: "I hope that one day you have kids of your own who act just like you do!" At the time it made absolutely no impression on me. Now I think about it a lot. I hear the echo of that curse as I jolt awake drenched in sweat with my heart racing in terror. For one magical peaceful moment I'm relieved. For those eternal few seconds I believe that it was all just a terrible dream—then I remember...This is my life!

You want the truth? Follow me for a few minutes into chaos and pandemonium:

My brother at the age of six woke up before my parents. He crept stealthily from his room, and sneaked craftily like a wily cat-burglar into my parents room. He was going for the keys to the deadbolt which kept him from getting outside. On top of this dresser was a set of keys and also my mother's pride and joy. It was her most valued possession. She collected figurines and this figurine was not only her favorite it was also her most valuable. My brother tipped that dresser over and broke that figurine and my mother's poor heart. It could have been a rare comic book: June 1938 Action Comics #1. It could have been a rare stamp: The Inverted Jenny. It doesn't matter because whatever you value most will be destroyed. Destruction is what kids do best. You can put things up high, and kids will climb. You can put your valuables under lock and key and kids will remove the hinges or drill in through the back. So, if you're's some advice: Sell everything. Get rid of all your possessions—think sleeping bags and paper plates.

You're going to be spending more money than you ever thought possible. Your darling dear love-of-your-life will present you with plenty of shopping lists of things that she says you need. If there's a dollar left after the bills are paid go ahead and hand it to her. You're not going to believe how many outfits she's going to want for a child who'll outgrow every one of them by this time next year. You haven't lived the American Dream until you've spent your entire paycheck on a birthday full of presents that by the next day will be nothing but a jagged rubble of plastic caltrops waiting for your bare feet.

Learn your way to the emergency room. Ambulance co-pays are going to bankrupt you otherwise. My kids thought they could skateboard like Tony Hawk on their friend's brand new homemade plywood halfpipe. They thought they could wrestle like Hulk Hogan and The Ultimate Warrior from the top bunk of their bunk bed. One delightful child thought it would be fun to pretend to be the Orkin man using a full can of Raid Wasp and Hornet Killer—his four-year-old brother was the hornet.

Peace and quiet? quiet. Sorry, I'm giggling right now. It's the kind of teary-eyed giggling where somebody finally has to come and slap me.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Well, is Atheism a Religion?

They keep doing it! Michael Newdow—an Atheist—sued the public school system in California because he claimed the words "Under God" recited by children in the Pledge of Allegiance, threatened to "establish" a state religion. Now—a decade later—Atheists in New York are demanding that a sign honoring seven firefighters killed in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center be taken down because it has the word "Heaven" on it. What the Atheists are really demanding is that the city rename the street. The Atheists don't like it when a street has any reference to a religion that they don't follow in that street's name.

But...but...they don't believe in religion! Why do they care? They think it's all just superstition anyway, right? Why are they so upset? I mean, they are upset aren't they? Really really upset? These atheists, they go to court. They dedicate their lives to ensuring that no mention of Christianity—no statue, no artwork, no music, no literary reference—ever, ever, ever assaults their delicate Atheist sensibilities for any longer than the next court date. This is their life! Sure, they have jobs and wives and perhaps children, but this—the fight against religion—is their passion, their Raison d'ĂȘtre.

Sadly, they're all alone in this fight against religion. It's only the atheists who complain. I've looked into this and they are the only zealots doing this. You might have thought that there was this constant battle in our nation's court system—a worldshaking battle for religious supremacy!—between all the different religions, but it turns out that only the Atheists are upset about religious references and symbolism in the public's view. My whole premise rests on this so I can't stress it enough. Please be patient.

Jews aren't complaining about state religions. Mormons also not in court accusing the state of sneaking in the dreaded state religion. Muslims ... nevermind. Zoroastrans are not yet thrusting their way into the limelight of the religious intolerance narrative. Why on earth do Atheists care so much about religious freedom? I thought they didn't believe in religion? This can be really confusing, but it all starts to make sense once you realize that Atheism really is a religion. Every mention of God is an affront to the belief of Atheism. Every statue of Jesus attacks their doctrine. The reason they get so angry is the same reason we'd get angry if someone defiled a portrait of the Virgin Mary, because these religious references are a direct contradiction of their faith, a slap in the face. When we put the word "Heaven" in the name of a public street we are attacking everything they hold sacred.

Atheists believe that there is no god. They believe that we are all just a cosmic accident. They don't have any more evidence of this than the Scientologists have proof that Zenu infested Earth with a bunch of enemy souls a billion years ago. Atheists accept the religion of Atheism on faith. They like the—I'm an accident and so are you—belief system. It's definitely a no pressure religion. "You lived big died so what...the end." The fact that this religion is completely pointless lends it a certain nihilistic charm.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

What Brand Do You Smoke? Grim Reapers, Strike Outs, Coffin Nails?

You may have read the latest news about how the FDA plans to scare smokers and potential smokers by forcing cigarette manufacturers to print gruesome images on every pack of smokes that they manufacture. They've also forced cigarette manufacturers to stop labeling their products as "light" or "ultra light" or "low tar," or any other combination of words that might cause someone to foolishly believe that cigarettes are anything other than an insidiously slow-acting deadly poison.

I bet you think this is great. You're probably hoping the gruesome images on these cigarette packs are so ghastly, that anyone seeing the pack will become violently ill. Maybe you think this will finally convince smokers to at long last quit this filthy habit? I, for one, seriously doubt it. I'm having trouble imagining a smoker seeing this and thinking, Gee Whiz! I knew smoking was bad for me but golly! I guess I'm going to quit after all! What troubles me most about this, is the power over private enterprise that this decision showcases. If the government can force private companies to print sickening pictures on their own products in the hopes of driving these companies out of business then, as Congressman Pete Stark said, "The Federal Government can do most anything in this country."

I'm pretty sure that the brand names will be the next to go. Philip Morris will have to change the names of all their brands to something the FDA decides is sufficiently horrific. "Gimme twenty dollars of unleaded...and I'll have a pack of Emphysema Reds too. No...wait...on second thought lemme try a pack of those Black Lung Crusts instead." It's so reassuring to know that the FDA has the power to do most anything in this country. If this is okay, how about forcing tobacco companies to put foul smelling additives in the tobacco to discourage its use. Why not indelible dies to turn teeth black? I can't imagine a future where the FDA and Philip Morris both exist at the same time. And, perhaps that makes you happy. After all the FDA is doing what you want.

But, what will you do when they go after your little fix? Oh, sure those filthy cigarette smokers deserve all the hassle we can throw at them, but what about people who like fast-food? Before you jump up and say "Oh Jack, that's just silly talk..." understand that San Francisco has already outlawed Happy Meals. Do you really think they're going to stop there? They can force us to purchase health insurance. They can ban Happy Meals. "It's for the common good." I really love that line...for the common good. When the FDA decides that exercise is necessary for the common good then you're just going to do your morning calisthenics and like it. No! Don't complain. You didn't complain about all the other stealthy little thefts of your constitutional rights. Now...drop and give me fifty!

Monday, June 20, 2011

What if Democrats Finally Got Everything They Wanted?

[A Short Story]

Michael's mother Sarah was back with the daily food allotment—stale bread with an onion—when she noticed Michael sitting in the living room watching "Showland Real Living" on the 3V. Her face bloomed an ugly blotchy red as she shrieked in outrage, "You're supposed to be studying for your exams, you idiot! You moron, you lazy little shit, I'm not watching another son of mine throw his life away!" Michael jumped off the couch running and dodging as Sarah threw the bag of hard bread and moldy onion at him. "Okay okay," Michael shouted running in his room and slamming the door. David, Michael's father always the peacemaker tried calming Sarah down, but after nearly twenty years of marriage he should have known that the Worried Parent Program was running and there would be no easy way to stop her until exhausted sleep finally silenced the long litany of fearful and dire predictions.

Later that night David had a quiet sitdown in the worried teen's room. "You know what happened to your brother and you know your mom loves you, so just stay in your room until exam day and keep studying. You've got a better shot than most. You're about the brightest kid I know. Just try to use a little common sense. You'll have to score in the top eight percent for a slot at the 'versity. Our family doesn't get any 'firmatives 'coz we're just uptights, and you know it's either the 'versity or the c-serve." David paused for a minute. Then, almost as though he was programmed, he fell back on Sarah's favorite consequence line "And you know what happens to c-serves."

"I study all day every day. I study and I study and I study. It's so boring! And stupid. How come none of my friends ever have to study?" Michael held up his hand quickly, "I know I'm just an uptight, a crackerboy. I've heard it and heard it, but it's not fair!"

"Shhh," whispered David. "I know it's not fair and you know it's not fair, but it's the world we live in and you just have to make the best of it. Just keep studying."

* * *

"Who can tell me about the uptight twenties?" asked Professor Dafiyah.

"The Super Rich selfishly kept ownership over the means of production and enslaved the workers," came the immediate textbook parroting from the obnoxious pouty lips of Ummaya, the know-it-all teacher's pet.

"That's right Ummaya," Professor Dafiyah said bumping her class Face profile with a merit. "But what does that mean? Who can explain how the Super Rich kept the workin' man down?... Mr. Zimmer? What about it?"

Michael sat up in his seat trying to mentally rephrase the stock answer so that it made more sense. "Well, the Super Rich owned everything, so if you wanted to work back then, you had to agree to work for min-wage, which wasn't enough to even live on, and then when Unions tried to make the Super Rich finally pay their fair share, the Fat Cats collapsed the 'conomy and caused everybody to starve to death. Only the Super Rich had food which they hoarded in their mansions and then they shot workers who tried to get their fair share of the food. Finally when everybody was mostly dead, the Corps picked up all the pieces of the 'conomy and made sure that no one could ever be Super Rich again. Now everybody's got a fair deal."

"Not bad Mr. Zimmer," and mostly correct, but why did the Super Rich want to own everything so much?"

"Because that was the way they were taught. The uptight cracker families taught their children about The Game. The Name of the Game was Capitalism, and you were either a player or a loser."

"But what does that mean?" demanded the professor impatiently

"Uptights, people who had pink skins—like me—hated the 'norities and wanted them all to work for min-wage. So that we could keep on living high on the hog.

"So, the Uptights—people like you—weren't very nice people back then, were they?" Asked Professor Dafiyah rhetorically. "Who can explain why uptights like Michael have to pay the jizya and why they don't get 'versity creds?"

Ummaya's mouth opened, but Michael already irritated by the arrogant disregard shown him every single day of his life since he could remember, had finally had enough. He slammed his book shut, stood up and walked out of class. His face red with pent-up rage and shame, his mind feverishly considered and reconsidered plan after plan. He'd been taught little but hatred by professionals in the field for nearly eleven years . . . and he always was a gifted student.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Graphene and Clarke's Third Law

Clarke's Third Law
"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."
— Arthur C. Clarke
I'm not a scientist, which is unfortunate since science and technology interest me so much. I've been reading science fiction—the fictional application of yet to be discovered science—since I learned to read. Wondering and daydreaming about fantastic science fictional gadgets like the "Light Saber" instead of studying is the most likely reason I'm not a scientist. I could realistically make the very plausible claim that were you to bring a squad of Roman Inquisitioners to modern day America, they would pronounce a sentence of death on all the witches riding around in the devil carriages and flying through the air by use of diabolical powers. Which is just my way of saying that today's science would be indistinguishable from yesterday's magic to someone from that bygone era.

Talking about the possibilities developing right now in laboratories in places like IBM and MIT makes me feel like that caveman of yore regaling his primitive family about that bright ball in the sky and rituals that he knows which can influence it's flight across the heavens. My father worked for Kroger in the late fifties. He was one of the technicians who operated that company's computer system. It was a very large room filled with a giant computer composed of thousands of vacuum tubes. There were also lots of fans and a massive air conditioning system because those vacuum tubes ran hot! Yesterday's million dollar room full of computer had less computing power than a Happy Meal prize does today.

The transistor was invented on December 16, 1947 at Bell laboratories by William Shockley, John Bardeen, and Walter Brattain. I wonder if they had any idea of what kind of genie they'd just let out of the bottle? Integrated circuits containing trillions of transistors are now available.

Gordon E Moore in a 1965 paper described something he'd noticed about integrated circuits and how more and more transistors were being packed into integrated circuits every year. This trend is now known as Moore's Law.
Moore's law describes a long-term trend in the history of computing hardware. The number of transistors that can be placed inexpensively on an integrated circuit doubles approximately every two years. This trend has continued for more than half a century and is expected to continue until 2015 or 2020 or later.
With the discovery of graphene I believe the world is again going to be turned on it's ear as it was with the invention of the microchip. The study of this amazing molecule is still in it's infancy but already IBM has created the world's first graphene integrated circuit. Graphene is a two-dimensional molecule composed of carbon atoms in a regular hexagonal pattern. It is 200 to 300 times stronger than steel. Graphene is also 100 times more conductive than silicon. The possibilites are almost unimaginable. In areas from the laboratory to the football field to space exploration the possibilities are...well, they're magical.

Researchers have reported the creation of pseudo-magnetic fields far stronger than the strongest magnetic fields ever sustained in a laboratory - just by putting the right kind of strain onto a patch of graphene.
"We have shown experimentally that when graphene is stretched to form nanobubbles on a platinum substrate, electrons behave as if they were subject to magnetic fields in excess of 300 tesla, even though no magnetic field has actually been applied," says Michael Crommie, from Berkeley National Laboratory. "This is a completely new physical effect that has no counterpart in any other condensed matter system."

Previously, it was difficult to sustain tremendously strong magnetic fields in a laboratory setting. The current record is 85 tesla for a field that lasts only thousandths of a second. When stronger fields are created, the magnets blow themselves apart.
Potential applications for the material include the replacing of carbon fibers in composite materials to eventually aid in the production of lighter aircraft and satellites; replacing silicon in transistors; embedding the material in plastics to enable them to conduct electricity; graphene-based sensors could sniff out dangerous molecules; increasing the efficiency of electric batteries by use of graphene powder; optoelectronics; stiffer-stronger-lighter plastics; leak-tight, plastic containers that keep food fresh for weeks; transparent conductive coatings for solar cells and displays; stronger wind turbines; stronger medical implants; better sports equipment; supercapacitors; improved conductivity of materials; high-power high frequency electronic devices; artificial membranes for separating two liquid reservoirs; advancements in touchscreens; LCD's; OLED's; graphene nanoribbons could be a way to construct ballistic transistors; and nanogaps in graphene sheets may potentially provide a new technique for rapid DNA sequencing.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Competitive Schooling

Our public school system is based on the model of socialism and socialism doesn't work. It is a failed social experiment that sounds great to the have-nots but when put into practice it just doesn't work. It can never work because it lacks a profit motive while enabling the naturally lazy to indulge themselves in the grossest displays of sloth imaginable.

Our educational commissars issue their diktats and decrees by fiat, seldom caring about the desire of the parent and never the desire of the student. The public school is a totalitarian regime without free speech, and where every student in every moment of every day is completely under the control of someone who often doesn't have that student's best interests at heart.

Our public schools start out by trying to give every student an equal education. This is a misguided policy of the worst kind. It is impossible to have true educational equality because it is just a fact that can't be argued that some children are smarter, or have better memories, or solve problems more quickly, or just plain work harder, and these students are going to receive a better education than the rest, no matter what we do. In our socialist school system, students are rewarded for their natural ability or their superior work ethic by better grades. Good grades are not a true reward they are a symbolic reward―a pat on the back.

When a student fails―because they don't have the natural ability or much more often because they are simply lazy―they are rewarded for this failure by the allocation of additional resources. A failing student is often allowed special accomodations not provided to the successful student, such as having questions read aloud or being given additional time to complete a test.

Our school system fails to adequately reward high achievers. They receive very little extra attention, and no additional resources are expended on them. They receive nothing for their hard work except a symbolic pat on the back in the form of good grades. Meanwhile, low achievers receive a massive amount of attention, and a great deal of additional resources are expended in trying to force educational parity. Our entire educational system is geared towards the lowest common denominator.

I realize that these sentiments I've just expressed may find a great deal of disfavor, especially from a parent who has a special needs child. If you disagree, stop for a second and imagine the "special needs" child in the real world. What kind of job will he be qualified for? Should we expect an employer to go out of his way to accommodate someone who has trouble completing tasks, who can't pay attention, who doesn't understand what they are supposed to do? This is what we expect of public school teachers, but we'd never expect it of an employer, because we understand that free enterprise just won't put up with that kind of nonsense.

Some children are going to require extra help. Of course, but that help never comes with a concomitant price tag, and it should. And why on earth is excellence not adequately rewarded? Yes a scholarship to a prestigious college is a wonderful reward, but this reward is only given near the end of a successful academic career. Try telling a seven-year-old about that wonderful reward he'll be getting in about ten years. See if he's motivated by it. Mine wasn't.

So, without further ado, my idea: Free Enterprise schooling, or if you like, competitive schooling. Allocation of resources towards a particular student should be based on that student's level of achievement. If a student is doing really well, he should receive his own tutor. Why not find out what he's really capable of? If a group of students are high-achievers they should get their own school, and the highest achievers in this "special" school should have even more attention focused on them―an elite school within the special school for the highest achievers of all.

Outstanding teachers, those who have the proven ability to engage the students and bring about marked improvement get to go to the higher achieving schools. They get raises. They get to work in more luxurious surroundings with better and newer equipment.

We have to get the parents involved―how about a superior student tax credit? Most important of all, we have to motivate the student. This will require real rewards vs. merely symbolic ones. Find out what the kids want and offer that as a prize to the winners. We already throw billions of dollars at failing schools. Why not take that money instead, and buy rewards the kids want: video-games, telescopes, microscopes, entertaining novels written by the student’s favorite author, movie tickets, comic books, etc. And for the best of the best, the elite? How about leather sectionals in a well-lit space with water-fountains and soft music, filet-mignon for lunch with a side of hand-cut French fries―skin left on―and fresh broccoli with cheese sauce?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Holy Fuk-ushima!

I'm so totally freaked out! The nuclear disaster in Japan is the worst disaster in the history of the world. People are dropping dead from Japan all the way to California. There has been a 35% spike in infant mortality on the west coast which is probably due to radioactive exposure from Fukushima. There are these "hot" particles floating around the world in the atmosphere. The whole nuclear pile is about to erupt because they can't cool it down and not only that, but there has been this monumental conspiracy by the world press to cover all these horrific facts up.

I just read all about it on front page Google News. Let's see ... the actual news organization that Google is posting from is ... hold on a second! ... This article came from Al-Jazeera! Al-Jazeera?

Maybe all this is true. Perhaps Al-Jazeera―World News by Terrorists for Terrorists™―really is telling us all the truth for a change.
Gundersen, a licensed reactor operator with 39 years of nuclear power engineering experience, managing and coordinating projects at 70 nuclear power plants around the US, says the Fukushima nuclear plant likely has more exposed reactor cores than commonly believed.

"Fukushima has three nuclear reactors exposed and four fuel cores exposed," he said, "You probably have the equivalent of 20 nuclear reactor cores because of the fuel cores, and they are all in desperate need of being cooled, and there is no means to cool them effectively."
So there you have it. Gundersen, some guy from the USA who has 39 years of experience says that "probably" the "equivalent" of 20 nuclear reactor cores "because of the fuel cores" are in desperate need of being cooled. But there is no means to cool them.

Who is this Arnold Gundersen? An expert they say. Meanwhile, babies are dying in Northwestern cities at an unusually high rate:
In the US, physician Janette Sherman MD and epidemiologist Joseph Mangano published an essay shedding light on a 35 per cent spike in infant mortality in northwest cities that occurred after the Fukushima meltdown, and may well be the result of fallout from the stricken nuclear plant.
Wow! A 35% spike in infant mortality that "may well" be the result of fallout. If babies in California are being killed by radiation from a disaster 8000 miles away, then none of us are safe! This may well sound the death knell of the nuclear industry. So where did Al-Jazeera get their information?
The recent CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report indicates that eight cities in the northwest U.S. (Boise ID, Seattle WA, Portland OR, plus the northern California cities of Santa Cruz, Sacramento, San Francisco, San Jose, and Berkeley) reported the following data on deaths among those younger than one year of age:
4 weeks ending March 19, 2011 - 37 deaths (avg. 9.25 per week)
10 weeks ending May 28, 2011 - 125 deaths (avg.12.50 per week)
A few things stand out to me. The most important and damning from an objective point of view, is that no evidence was cited regarding the same period of time from a year earlier. In any experimental study it's very important to have all factors except the experimental factor be the same. This is fundamental in experimental design. This concept expressed in Latin is: Ceteris paribus. Why not ten weeks vs. ten weeks? Why not ten weeks from the same time period last year? After all, mortality rates vary from season to season. Why pick these particular eight states? What was the average mortality rate across the country? Was it higher as well? The most damning argument of all for this "theory" is that the statistical sample is just too small to be statistically relevant.

Last but certainly not least, no good conspiracy theory would be complete without a concerted cover-up effort being conducted by the FBI the CIA and that Super Secret Organization that operates outside of the boundaries of the US Constitution―CURE.
Why have alarms not been sounded about radiation exposure in the US?

Nuclear operator Exelon Corporation has been among Barack Obama's biggest campaign donors, and is one of the largest employers in Illinois where Obama was senator. Exelon has donated more than $269,000 to his political campaigns, thus far. Obama also appointed Exelon CEO John Rowe to his Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future.

Dr Shoji Sawada is a theoretical particle physicist and Professor Emeritus at Nagoya University in Japan.
He is concerned about the types of nuclear plants in his country, and the fact that most of them are of US design.

"Most of the reactors in Japan were designed by US companies who did not care for the effects of earthquakes," Dr Sawada told Al-Jazeera. "I think this problem applies to all nuclear power stations across Japan."

Using nuclear power to produce electricity in Japan is a product of the nuclear policy of the US, something Dr Sawada feels is also a large component of the problem.
So there you have it. "Dr. Sawada" says Fukushima is all the fault of the USA. I just knew Al-Jazeera would come to the point of their story eventually.

Why is Google headlining this story?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Blobs of People Pudding Rolling Around in "Smart Carts"

If you saw Wall-E with your children a few years ago, you may recall the unhealthy overweight humans who couldn't even stand up. They lived their lives being whisked around in personal hoverchairs. Their appalling helplessness was the end result of having every need fulfilled and every whim catered to, by a benevolent computerized spaceship called The Axiom. When I saw that movie, it immediately brought to mind the hefty individuals overflowing their motorized shopping carts at Wal-Mart. I understand that some people are handicapped and require these things, but it seems as though they are overused by lazy slobs who find it too much trouble to actually walk.

Speaking of walking, I wonder how long it will be before all of our walking is done with the aid of a bionic contraption like the one now being sold by Lockheed Martin.
The HULC™ is a completely un-tethered, hydraulic-powered anthropomorphic exoskeleton that provides users with the ability to carry loads of up to 200 lbs for extended periods of time and over all terrains. Its flexible design allows for deep squats, crawls and upper-body lifting. There is no joystick or other control mechanism. The exoskeleton senses what users want to do and where they want to go. It augments their ability, strength and endurance. An onboard micro-computer ensures the exoskeleton moves in concert with the individual.
The use of a crutch even when unnecessary is not just confined to physical pursuits these days. Our minds are also being turned into pudding by the constant use of gadgets which do all of our thinking and remembering for us. When I was in school, we didn't have calculators. Everything was done with paper and pencil and we had to show our work. Last year, one of the items on my child's school supply list was a calculator. We've gone from not having them, to not allowing them in the classroom, to actually requiring them through school policy. Alex―my seven-year-old―wanted to know why he had to learn how to add and subtract numbers when his calculator did it so much faster. I explained that he wouldn't always have a calculator, and that it was a necessary skill to learn. He walked away with an expression I'll just say looked somewhat doubtful.

You may or may not know about Wolfram Alpha. They call this thing a "Computational Knowledge Engine." You type in any mathematical equation: x2 - 6x + 2 = 0 for example, and Wolfram Alpha will solve it for you. This of course is just the beginning. Why learn algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and calculus, when your computer will answer all your questions for you at nearly the speed of light? Why walk or run when you can ride in comfort? We are at the cusp of nearly perfect computerized speech recognition. Why learn to type when you can just talk to your computer or smartphone? Why learn to spell when your spellcheck will just fix everything for you. Why learn history or geography when the answer is just a Google away?

I've just got to say that while all this new innovation is neato and far-out and supercool and all, it truly fills me with a great deal of apprehension. I fear that our descendants will all be completely ignorant fat little lumps of pudding rolling around in futuristic looking Wal-Mart Carts, being spoon-fed the answers to questions they don't even have the wit to ask.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Male Circumcision

Russell Crowe doesn't like circumcision. I'm unaware of his own situation in this regard but based on similar cases it's very likely he still possesses that often unsanitary little flap of skin. I believe he has the right to enjoy his foreskin and to decide whether his own male children will have theirs or not. That is just about the full extent of his rights. Like most celebrities however, he is very opinionated and has decided to inject himself into the debate:
I love my Jewish friends, I love the apples and the honey and the funny little hats, but stop cutting your babies. I will always stand for the perfection of babies. I will always believe in God, not man's interpretation of what God requires. Last of it, if you feel it is your right to cut things off your babies please unfollow and f**k off; I'll take attentive parenting over barbarism.
Russell Crowe loves those adorable little Jews with their "funny little hats." But, he angrily condemns them for circumcision. Arrogant patronizing condescension aside, I often wonder what makes actors think they are experts on everything. Now, Russell Crowe is a suddenly a medical expert on the beneficial qualities of possessing a foreskin? And, he just has to convince all the stupid Jews that he's right and all of them are wrong.

I don't really think it's useful at this point to try to defend circumcision as a religious ritual or duty. There are lots of religious practices which are illegal in America―polygamy for example, as well as the entire gamut of barbaric sharia law, because they either offend our western sensibilities, or because they violate someone else's inalienable rights. The argument against circumcision is that it is traumatic and painful to the baby. The argument for circumcision is that a circumcized penis is much more hygienic than an uncircumcized one. I'm sorry, but "painful to baby" is a wholly insufficient counter to unhygienic. I'm very grateful to my parents for deciding as they did. In the final analysis this is a personal decision that is entirely up to a mother and a father and no one else―until now that is:

San Francisco―The modern world's remake of infamous Sodom and Gomorrah―has an initiative on the ballot for this November, that will outlaw circumcision within the city limits. If it passes and they make this silly initiative a law it will only serve to illustrate how out-of-step the moonbats of San Francisco are with the rest of America.

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Attention Hound

I was working out at my health club yesterday. Picture a room with about forty fairly modern pieces of exercise equipment.
I was working my lats but I was resting between sets, when a fifty something guy started doing this crazy grunting duckwalk in front of me. He was holding a thirty pound dumb-bell in each hand and as he stepped he was putting his back knee all the way to the ground, causing his front leg to bend forwards like a fencer lunging, but much lower. He was duck walking back and forth across this room filled with people using all kinds of sophisticated exercise machinery worth many thousands of dollars, but this equipment wasn't good enough for him. His routine demanded duckwalking with dumbbells. When he got finished a woman―who I'll assume is his young wife―repeated his performance, grunting as she duckwalked back and forth in front of everyone. Her face was flushed―her eyes looked neither left nor right―and I got the feeling that she was really kind of embarrassed during her performance.

The duck walking duo's next act was a "stepping up and down" thing which they decided to perform on a bench-press bench. The guy was stepping up onto the vinyl padded bench with one leg, standing atop the bench then stepping down with his other leg before reversing the leg order. It didn't look like the soft vinyl bench was designed to have a jaggedy-looking cross-training shoe trampling all over it, but he was going to do this novel exercise because the normal use of the bench press equipment was just not entertaining enough. When he was done, his wife took her turn.

It always makes me uncomfortable to be in the limelight and I often wonder what makes a person actually enjoy being the center of attention. There's always one though, isn't there? "That guy" who loudly declaims his knowledge about the director or his opinion of an actor in a movie everyone is waiting in line to buy a ticket for. Or the zaftig broad in the pants-suit who wants everyone at the restaurant to know how she's always chatting up the mayor about her floral displays at the Chatham House or something.

I've noticed that attention hounds―women are often labeled with a more unflattering term that sounds similar―always want to have someone validate their performance and therefore they frequently drag their family or their friends into these little skits they so enjoy starring in―much to the embarrassment of these relations. If you're looking to entertain an admiring audience, please just leave me out of it. I don't want to watch you or participate in your show.

My sister's little impromptu public exhibitions were always a source of extreme embarrassment to me. I remember when I was seventeen with my family at the mall. My ten-year old sister just had to show the world that she could do the splits all the way to the ground―picture me edging away from my admiring family while looking casually through a store window at some product on display and trying to conceal my beet-red face. Finally I couldn't stand it another second and demanded of my mother an answer as to just who it was that was going to be mopping the floor where my sister had enacted her little performance!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Facebook vs. Privacy

What is privacy? 1. The state or condition of being free from being observed or disturbed by other people. 2. The state of being free from public attention.

We are slowly losing the ability to lead private lives free from casual observation. The gradual loss of our privacy is the result of technological innovation and especially the development of incredibly advanced and sophisticated computer systems. On January 28, 2001, at Super Bowl XXXV, tens of thousands of fans had their faces surreptitiously scanned by the police and their features matched up to mug shots of wanted criminals.

Ten years later and that old school facial recognition technology has been supplanted by vastly more sophisticated technology and it's also about to be available to everyone. Facebook has announced that it will make facial recognition technology available to all of its six-hundred million Facebook members.
Facial recognition technology will ultimately culminate in the ability to search for people using just a picture. And that will be the end of privacy as we know it--imagine, a world in which someone can simply take a photo of you on the street, in a crowd, or with a telephoto lens, and discover everything about you on the internet.

Obviously, we can't stop the world of technology from moving toward the development of accurate facial recognition software. But so far, no facial recognition software has really been a threat to our privacy, because nobody has that huge database of people and photos required. Oh wait, except Facebook totally does.
Why do you need privacy? The devil's advocate would say that you don't need it. His opinion would be that privacy is that place in the shadows where bad men lurk, waiting for an opportunity to commit revolting acts and sometimes even horrific crimes. Without privacy all evil acts would result in punishment. All the guilty would go to jail. It would break the back of the underground drug culture. Stolen property would be returned to its owner and identity theft would become impossible.

That all sounds pretty good, but what are the drawbacks?

In a world with no privacy, celebrities will have no recourse at all. Not only will these celebrities stay under a 24/7 microscope, but so will the friends and relations of that celebrity. Yes, the idea that some serial killer could snap your picture and upload it on the internet to find out who you are and where you live is pretty creepy, but that is really only the beginning. When you put this together with all of the other little facts that your own computer collects about you: your likes, dislikes, and surfing habits, your Facebook account, and who knows what else, this signals the end of privacy as we know it. You might as well be an exhibit at the zoo!

Facebook has already been in the spotlight before, because of its controversial skirting of the border between privacy and profits:
Beacon was a part of Facebook's advertisement system that sent data from external websites to Facebook, ostensibly for the purpose of allowing targeted advertisements and allowing users to share their activities with their friends. Certain activities on partner sites were published to a user's News Feed. Beacon was launched on November 6, 2007 with 44 partner websites.
Furthermore, Facebook and other social networks are also one of the leading causes of divorce in the country, as cheaters use these networks to hook up and their spouses use them to catch the dirty cheaters in the act.
A lot of married people -- about 80 percent in the process of a divorce -- are using a social network such as Facebook to cheat, says a survey of divorce attorneys.

Although the divorce attorneys agreed Facebook is cited in 20 percent of all divorces, about 80 percent are using some kind of social media to make assignations or communicate with lovers, the New York Daily News reported. At least one Florida lawyer says those numbers are low and actually closer to about 90 percent.
The evidence is clear that Facebook has little real concern for privacy regardless of their privacy policy and their privacy settings. The owner and CEO of Facebook admitted to a live audience that privacy was not really much of a concern:
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg told a live audience yesterday that if he were to create Facebook again today, user information would by default be public, not private as it was for years until the company changed dramatically in December. Zuckerberg offered roughly 8 sentences in response to Arrington's question about where privacy was going on Facebook and around the web. The question was referencing the changes Facebook underwent last month. Your name, profile picture, gender, current city, networks, Friends List, and all the pages you subscribe to are now publicly available information on Facebook. This means everyone on the web can see it; it is searchable.
Facebook plans to enable facial recognition service for its users and it has no real respect for privacy as evidenced both by its actions over the last few years as well as by the sentiments expressed by its owner. It has six-hundred million users who use Facebook as an address book, a contact list, a little black book, and a diary. Privacy is dying and Facebook looks to me like the hands holding the strangler's cord.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The First Two Steps in the War on Ignorance

Why is it that the government's solution to failing schools is always throwing more money at them? Look at that! There's a school where the students are failing! Quick throw some money at it. The purpose behind School Improvement Grants, [SIG] is to hire better teachers. The problem is that in most cases the same failing teachers will still be teaching, or worse the school administrators won't fire the incompetent teachers, they will instead fire the good ones.
Take for instance, Huntington High School, where brand-new Los Angeles Superintendent John Deasy gave the school only six weeks to prepare for replacing one half of its teachers. Harold Blume wrote in the Los Angeles Times that Huntington is "expected to become the laboratory for just how fast things can go." One issue that the district did not have the time to address is how to decide who to fire -- the regular teachers who did not raise test scores enough, or the teachers in the selective school within a school who did.

Or take Austin Polytechnic High School in Chicago where a last act of their lame duck principal was dismissing nearly a quarter of the school's teachers. Four of the seven had received "Excellent" ratings last year. So, one half of the student body signed a petition protesting the firings and nearly a third of the kids joined a walk-out. Meribah Knight of the Chicago News Cooperative, who had been embedded in the school, learned that nearly two thirds of the faculty complained about the principal's failure to listen or to provide consistent discipline.
When you factor in teacher unions like the NEA it gets even more difficult to turn a failing school around. When asked how America can improve its failing schools, these teacher unions always have the same answer: more teachers with higher salaries. At some point, I think even the dumbest cowboy can start smelling the bullshit. Our country needs to do two things to turn this all around. If we choose to do nothing, our students will continue to fail, and so will our country.

Step One: Outlaw public teacher unions. They are the single greatest problem that America faces in the war on ignorance. They collectively bargain against America. It's been proven that firing even the most incompetent teachers is problematic at best and impossible at worst because of teacher unions like the NEA.
"We could spend as much as $200,000 only to have the (state) Tenure Commission put the teacher back in the classroom," said Bruce Brown, superintendent of the Stockbridge Community Schools.

Tenure is the status public school teachers achieve after four years in the classroom. It provides a level of job protection rare outside of education circles.

Teachers with tenure who are fired or disciplined can access a lengthy appeals process and generally receive pay during any suspension.
It's not going to be easy getting rid of the unions, but somehow it must be accomplished. As a political organization they are the most powerful force in the nation. Remember that insane debacle of teachers and unions in Wisconsin?
Walker's proposal sparked weeks of protests. Tens of thousands of demonstrators toting bongo drums, amplifiers and camping gear occupied the state Capitol around the clock for nearly three weeks and Democratic state senators fled to Illinois in an attempt to block a vote on the bill. Republican lawmakers finally broke the stalemate by convening a special committee to remove the measure's fiscal elements, allowing it to pass with fewer senators present.
Step Two: Permanently get rid of the bad teachers. Discovering the bad ones is not all that hard. Student achievement scores combined with student, parent, and colleague surveys would quickly identify the bad apples in the barrel. It's not enough just to fire them though, because they could easily take a job in some other school system. There should also be a national teacher database which tracks hirings and firings of public school teachers, as well as the findings of teacher investigations, reports, student scores, and surveys. This would not be all that expensive or problematic to set up and would prevent bad teachers from continuing to plague our school system.

Friday, June 3, 2011

You are going to sit there until you eat every last bite!

The myth that vegetables are good for you

I really hate vegetables. On a related topic, I don't really know what causes mental disorders, but I suspect that inflexible autocratic authoritarian parents probably play a large part. Dinner―that warm time in the lives of most families, when everyone sits down at the dinner table to nourish mind, body, and spirit with delicious food and thoughtful discussion―was a nightly torture extravaganza, a diabolical and medieval spectacle of humiliation and despair. Did I mention I hate vegetables? They are particularly unappetizing when they've been congealing in a puddle of cold grease for a couple of hours.

Incredibly, my brother hates vegetables more than even I do. I look back now on a lurid scene that you could well imagine might have happened in the ninth circle of Hell, but instead happened at our dinner table most nights: My brother stares down hopelessly at a loathsome puddle of green peas lumped on an otherwise empty plate. He gingerly picks up one pea between finger and thumb―much as one might peel a maggot off of an infected pus-filled wound. Eyeing this nugget of obscenity with a steely glare, my brother holds his nose with his other hand, and shoves this green morsel of corruption into his tortured mouth. He gulps down the evil pill with a swallow of his iced tea―ice now long melted―while gagging for long seconds as he fights to hold his gorge. His eyes are bloodshot from burst vessels; he looks much like a lost soul in Hades must look―utterly and completely hopeless―as he considers that this stoic performance must be repeated and repeated for as long as a single pea still defiles his plate.

Incredibly, after years with little or no vegetables, we are both still alive and well. I stumbled across the following article which proclaims loudly and cogently what my brother and I have been saying all along, vegetables are evil!
Behold The Book of Proverbs:
"Better a meal of vegetables where there is love than a fattened calf with hatred."
— Proverbs 15:17 (NIV translation)
The point of this particular Proverb is supposed to be that the company you keep during a meal is far more important than the contents of the meal itself. But look at the choice of foods the author(s) used to make their point. For the meal with hatred, which the reader is meant to avoid no matter how good the food is that's being served, they chose a fatted calf. Now, in Old Testament times, fattened calf was just about the tastiest, richest, best food there was. It was the pepperoni pizza with extra cheese of its time.
So . . . what did the authors of this passage choose as the food to contrast with this? What did they choose as the bad food for the meal with love? What did they choose as the worst, most worthless, scummiest, vilest food they could possibly think of? Vegetables.

More evidence that vegetables are evil can be found in the Book of Daniel:
"Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, 'Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.' So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days. At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food."
— Daniel 1:11-15 (NIV translation)
On the surface, this passage might look like an endorsement of vegetarianism. But take a closer look. Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah were God's chosen representatives during the Babylonian exile. The point of this passage was to show that God would sustain their health because of their servitude to Him, even if their diet would not normally sustain them. They didn't become healthy because of the vegetables they ate, they became healty in spite of their vegetarian diet!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Feel-Good Myth of Recycling

Do you recycle? You may believe that what you're doing is helping the environment while saving money and you may believe that we are running out of landfill space. If that's what you thought, it turns out you were mistaken.
Two events created the perfect garbage storm in the late 1980s. A barge and a bureaucrat created this overhyped myth - The garbage barge was the Mobro 4000. The bureaucrat was J. Winston Porter.

The Mobro 4000 gained celebrity status by spending two months and 6,000 miles seeming to scour the Atlantic coastline and the Gulf of Mexico looking for a home for its load, as if no landfills existed. The physical availability of landfill space was not the issue, but you would not have guessed that from the hysteria the media whipped up.

J. Winston Porter became a star that season at the US’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by writing a report entitled The Solid Waste Dilemma: Agenda for Action, (Nov 1993 Govt Publication DF47-1HZ-FJS5) in which Porter proclaimed that recycling is absolutely vital because America is running out of landfill space.
What the EPA and J. Winston Porter never knew―because they never bothered to ask―was whether actually landfill capacity was shrinking. They saw the number of landfills across the nation becoming less numerous and immediately jumped to the conclusion that there was nowhere left to put a landfill. In reality the reduced number of landfills was caused by the fact that increased landfill capacity as well as sophisticated new technology has made fewer landfills necessary to handle the available waste.

Recycling costs more than disposing of it in a landfill, and in addition it is more harmful to the environment.
The Solid Waste Association of North America found that, of the six communities involved in a particular study, all but one of the curbside recycling programs, and all the composting operations and waste-to-energy incinerators, increased the cost of waste disposal. Indeed, the price for recycling tends to soar far higher than the combined costs of manufacturing raw materials from virgin sources and dumping rubbish into landfills.

Recycled newspapers must be deinked, often with chemicals, creating sludge. Even if the sludge is harmless, it too must be disposed of. Second, recycling more newspapers will not necessarily preserve trees, because many trees are grown specifically to be made into paper. The amount of new growth that occurs each year in forests exceeds by a factor of 20 the amount of wood and paper that is consumed by the world each year. Wherever private-property rights to forests are well-defined and enforced, forests are either stable or growing.

Glass is made from silica dioxide — that's common beach sand — the most abundant mineral in the crust of the earth. Plastic is derived from petroleum byproducts after fuel is harvested from the raw material. Recycling paper, glass, or plastic is usually not justified compared to the virgin prices of these materials.
Warning, this video has some curse words, so don't watch it if you can't stand to hear the F-bomb a few times. It's also one of the most amazing videos I've ever seen. Recycling is a fraud. It's a waste of time, resources, and causes more pollution than if you just threw the trash into a landfill. Penn and Teller have the full details below:

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

I sent an email to Hallmark, you should too.

The cartoon wasn't as upsetting as the treatment by Hallmark personnel of military families who complained. Cassy Fiano has the particulars.

My letter:
I just read about your company's appalling treatment of military families who were concerned about an insensitive cartoon on the Maxine facebook page regarding Memorial Day. I saw the cartoon. I didn't think it was very funny, but I also didn't think it was really very offensive either. However, apparently many other military families did. I also belong to a military family; the men in my family have served in WWI, WWII, the Korean war, and Vietnam.

You are aware of what happened. You are aware of how abusively these military families were treated when they complained. You chose to side with the vicious subhumans who regularly loiter at the Maxine page. That was your decision. I hope and believe that you're going to find out what a huge mistake that was. You should immediately fire whoever it is that monitors the Maxine page, and then publicly announce that this person has been fired and finally you should apologize humbly and profusely. This would be a start.