Thursday, November 1, 2012

Mindless Followers

The similarities are striking - one, a mindless group of unthinking creatures stuck in inane behavior... the other; a bunch of ants.

[For full effect, play both videos simultaneously, turn OFF the audio on the lower clip but play only the audio on the upper clip.] 



Monday, October 1, 2012

Whoever Wins, We Still Lose

I have long believed that this country is in serious decline. To me the upcoming elections are less about whether or not that decline continues than more about the rate or rapidity of our inevitable decline. Occasionally a small non-partisan voice attempts to "tell it like it is"; unbiased and with sobering clarity - one such is Jack Rasmus:

Excerpts from his recent post: "The Coming Obama-Romney Economic Debate-Economic Program Similarities and Differences": (Hopefully Dr. Rasmus has no objections to my citing portions of his blog) You can read the entire article in detail here.
While there are several dramatic differences between the Obama and Romney economic programs, there are also several almost identical programs shared by both. Both favor major reductions in corporate taxes. Both advocate hundreds of billions in social spending cuts, including entitlement programs. Both are almost identical in their positions on Free Trade...

... both propose to extend much of the Bush tax cuts—Obama suspending the cuts for the top 3% and Romney eliminating tax credits for the working poor and lower middle class...

...Both appear quite willing to gut Medicaid spending, with Romney cutting other discretionary spending by additional trillions over the decade...

...These comparisons mean that, regardless who is elected president, an historic reduction in social program spending is on the agenda for the weeks immediately following the November 2012 elections....

...that has prompted this writer repeatedly to predict the likelihood of a double dip recession in 2013...

... if Obama is re-elected, the fiscal austerity coming in early 2013 may be delayed a year and effectively ‘back loaded’ to start taking its greatest effect a year later in 2014. But if Romney is elected and Republicans control either, or both, houses of Congress the more draconian austerity programs will take effect earlier in 2013. That alone will ensure a double dip recession...

Dr. Jack Rasmus is the author of the new book, “Obama’s Economy: Recovery for the Few”, April 2012, and host of the radio show, ALTERNATIVE VISIONS, on the Progressive Radio Network, PRN.FM, in New York, on Wednesdays at 2pm.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Decline in American Political Discourse



While driving around town I noticed this sticker (pictured left) on the back window of someone’s car. Really... urinating on the name of the president?! Is this what we have sunk down to as a nation? A short time later I saw another jewel, it read: “Obama bin Lyin”. A rather an asinine comment considering Osama bin Laden was taken out while Obama was Commander-in-Chief, not Bush.

If you do a Google search for images under "anti obama stickers" - the following is a sample of what comes up: "Don't re-Nig in 2012", "Douchebag In Chief", "A village in Kenia [sic] is missing its idiot". By the way, a note to the illiterate moron who came up with that last one; the county in Africa is spelled Kenya.

Now Search Google images for "anti romney stickers" – among these are "Vulture Capitalist", "Mitt Romney, Businessman (So was Madoff)" - there are even direct quotes from Romney himself: "I'm not concerned about the very poor", and "Corporations are People"... oh and yes, there is a sticker of Calvin urinating on the Romney name as well.

The glaring difference in discourse between Conservative versus Liberal sticker speech stands out – The attacks against Obama consist of personal insults, degrading, racist, and frankly, quite unsophisticated, juvenile. Conversely the anti-Romney messages are directed more against his policies... and as I say, using the man's very own words!

Yes, there are Liberal voices against Romney that certainly lack a semblance of propriety; but the sheer volume alone of hateful, vengeful rhetoric against the president literally towers over Liberal speech.

What ever happened to “I like Ike” or “Nixon’s the One"? When in our recent history did it become “American” to become so vile, so ill-bred?

One bumper sticker in the anti-Obama search read: “Pay for your own health care”. This insensitivity toward the welfare of others struck me particularly hard. At this moment our friend from work is dying of cancer, enduring painful (and probably hopeless) chemotherapy. She did have great medical insurance… while she was working. But her illness prevented her from working resulting in her losing both her insurance and her income with which to pay for COBRA continuing coverage. Friends are chipping in, but her bills are mounting into thousands of dollars.

As I have expressed several times in the past in this blog that I am not optimistic for the future health of this nation. When people accept that it is ok to urinate on the name of the president, it seems we are not very far from people justifying acting on this level of contempt – will they next stoop to feeling justified in killing the opposition to achieve their objectives? 

This is not the America I feel proud to live in, to want to pass along to my children and grand children

Friday, August 31, 2012

The "Media" We Wish We Had

In recent weeks I haven't found anything worth posting... that is, until I saw this video yesterday.

Though the clip is from Aaron Sorkin's fictional "News Room", everything spoken by the supposed fictional anchor is true - the stories, the politicians in their own words, the facts. Watch it; if you believe it speaks to the heart of the fate of this country, share it - put it on your FaceBook, your blog, whatever. It has over 1 million views already and it needs to be viewed by millions more.

How ironic that such clarity of truth should be spoken so eloquently from a "fiction" news media.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

AI, Sci-Fi and Silicon


Fairly recently my buddy and I got into a discussion regarding the future of computing; specifically, Artificial Intelligence (AI). Having grown up with television shows such as (classic) “Star Trek”, I have been amazed at how reality has actually surpassed our fictional imagination regarding computer capabilities. The cell phones we routinely carry with us today far surpass the computational power of the Space Shuttle. But are we on a pathway to someday creating a real “Lt. Cmdr. Data”? Well…

The silicon micro chip and modern science fiction has suggested, perhaps somewhat mythically, that future AI might manifest itself as some type of Silicon Life Form. Unfortunately, as chemists point out, silicon as a basis for a living organism has some major drawbacks compared to carbon. Though silicon has the ability to bond with other atoms, such molecules are relatively unstable. As a result the largest silicon compound ever observed was limited to only six silicon atoms. Carbon, on the other hand, is able to produce long chains of hundreds of thousands of atoms. Large complex chains of carbon atoms have the ability to form “left-handed” versions, which build amino acids, and proteins, and “right-handed” versions which form sugars. Carbon dioxide is a gas which dissolves easily in water, whereas Silicon dioxide is a solid.

Ok, so perhaps then we could conclude that a silicon life form might exist less as a carbon-based “living” organism and instead more like a super sophisticated robot. After all computing technology is increasing inversely to size and energy requirements. Well, not so much – silicon as a substrate is soon to reach its limits of it’s capability as a substrate for micro-processing. Moore’s Law has postulated that we could expect the number of transistors on a substrate to double every couple of years. That has happened to the point where now close to 200 million transistors can be placed on a single microchip resulting in smaller processors requiring less energy. But as size drops down to the 32 to 22 nanometer range, as it will within the next two decades, quantum effects and manufacturing technology limitations hit their bottom limit. For the trend of Moore’s law to continue, silicon must be abandoned.

It is true that silicon based computing has taken us very far. Earlier this year IBM’s Watson, a remarkable computer that demonstrated the ability to learn and reason, had its debut competing against two of the smartest human contestants ever to appear on the TV game show “Jeopardy”. But as sophisticated as was Watson, it was “tasked” with sole purpose of competing on a game show. Without being given a question to ponder, Watson is essentially inert – not capable of creativity, imagination or any of the other emotionally driven neural processes that make the human brain such a powerful generator of abstract ‘thought’. A computer with similar capabilities of the human brain would require a hydro dam amount of electrical energy consumption to even remotely emulate.

What works better than silicon, then? It turns out – Carbon; more specifically the carbon molecules that form the DNA molecule. DNA may be the future of computing technology that takes us beyond the limits of Moore’s Law. DNA is abundant and cheap, self replicating, consumes low amounts of energy; remarkable amounts of data can be processed in amazingly small amounts of physical space.

Though they are still in their infancy, DNA computers have been around since 1994 and have been used to solve some complex mathematical problems. These natural supercomputers already exist in our bodies; research into DNA computing promises to help us unravel both the complexity of the human brain as well as usher us into the newest realm of computer technology. With the epitaph of silicon looming on the horizon, science and industry is already working to build a more compact, efficient and accurate computer which replaces the need for electrical switching with chemical bonding.

But don’t sell your Intel stock just yet.
 ~~~
References and further reading:

Could Life be based on Silicon rather than Carbon?, NASA Astrobiology Institute

Where Is My Silicon-Based Life? Ask a Biogeek

Limitation Of Silicon Based Computation And Future Prospects, Shazia Hassan, Department of Computer science, The Islamia University of Bahawalpur, Punjab, Pakistan

Silicon shrinking will end about 2020, what will replace it?, Geek.Com

Is DNA Surpassing Silicon? George Klington Fernandez, St. Eugene University, Zambia

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Some (personal) Medical Insurance Facts


While the country is swirling with monumental discussion, facts, statistics, opinions, lies and myths about the medical care and medical insurance issues, I thought I would share some of my personal facts regarding my wife’s and my medical coverage; anecdotal though it may be.

Medical Insurance:
When we retired in 2006, our group (state public employee) medical insurance premium for our joint coverage began billing us $893.76 per month. Prior to retiring our employer paid for this coverage. Today our premium is $1,157.46 – a 29.5% increase in premium costs over 6 years. The current rate of inflation is 2%.

Last year our monthly health care premium actually went down from $1,159.52, to $1,157.45 this year – a $2.07 per-month decrease. However, the plan has changed whereby we now must pay $500 out-of-pocket before anything is covered. So essentially, our medical costs have actually increased 3.5% over last year.

This year, our insurance provider is requiring all customers to participate in a mandatory “Health Engagement Model (HEM) program”. A surcharge (penalty) of $17.50 per person will be added to our monthly premium if we do not comply with the HEM requirements, which consists of watching online training videos. Between my wife and me, we have spent six hours on this process. Emphasis for those of you who decry government interference regarding your health care, note that these are private company hoops we are having to jump through – not government.

Over these six years, our group coverage has forced us to change insurance companies four times. As a result, we have had to change from medical providers and facilities with whom we have established doctor-patient relationships over years. Emphasis again, for those of you who decry government making decisions about your health care, note that these are private companies, making choices for us who we will be allowed to see – not government.

Pharmaceuticals:
One prescription my wife takes cost $543.78 for a 3-month supply in 2007. This same prescription charges the insurance company $912.58 today. This is a 68% increase in the cost of this drug over five years. Our co-pay for this prescription was $15, it is now $75.
… researchers’ estimate is based on the systematic collection of data directly from the industry and doctors during 2004, which shows the U.S. pharmaceutical industry spent 24.4% of the sales dollar on promotion, versus 13.4% for research and development, as a percentage of US domestic sales of US$235.4 billion. [1]
Dental insurance:
We discontinued dental insurance as the premium amount plus the out-of-pocket costs for non-covered expenses was more than simply paying for services directly.

Final thoughts:
Our medical insurance premium, deductibles and co-pays consume one-third of our disposable income. I often wonder how many Conservative local business owners would much rather I spend that $19,800 a year in their local restaurants and businesses than send this money to out-of-town insurance companies? Multiply my $19,800 by the thousands of people like me – this amounts to millions of dollars denied the local economy.

Consider that for every car you buy, every bag of groceries, every movie ticket, every magazine, every gallon of gasoline… the cost of employee medical care premiums is factored into the price of what we pay for those goods and services. Why wouldn’t Conservatives rather want to either A) reduce the cost of their goods by that factor and increase sales, or B) pocket the additional profit from the reduced overhead, by having their employee insurance costs picked up by a single payer government plan? A single-payer plan seems like a win-win for every business in the county except medical insurance companies. Our business leaders must be the laughing stock of the remainder of the developed industrial world.

My final thought on the ACA (aka: ObamaCare)
It appears to focus of this law is directed entirely on insurance coverage but little on containing the rise in medical costs and the demise of medical outcomes. But hey… it’s a start.

References:
1. Big Pharma Spends More On Advertising Than ResearchAnd Development, Study Finds, ScienceDaily.com, January 5, 2008.
 

Friday, June 29, 2012

What exactly is "Obamacare"?

I ran across this fairly concise yet thorough overview of what exactly the provisions of the Affordable Care Act (affectionately known as ObamaCare) at the web site Reddit.com

Rather than completely republish the article, I will merely link to it below. It is presented in simple information points. I encourage you to browse the key points; whoever did prepared this did an excellent job.


The underlying opposition to the Affordable Care Act come primarily from those who claim they don't want government making medical decisions about their health care. But just under half our population is already currently receiving government managed health through Medicare and Medicaid with few complaints and at administrative costs far under that of private sector insurance companies which have a profit incentive to reduce costs. Employees of government medical insurance providers do not earn multi-million dollar bonuses and salaries.

It is an established fact that the USA has the highest medical costs with the lowest outcomes of any developed country. The facts speak for themselves. If you don't like the Affordable Care act, what is your alternative in a system where these costs increase far greater then inflation every year? Opponents, I'm listening.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Where The Hell ... ?

Okay, I've been slacking as of late. Frankly it's becoming difficult to regularly formulate a cogent essay on topics over which which I end up finding myself extremely depressed.

However I recently ran across this video; and not being the purist that many bloggers are in avoiding stooping to draw upon YouTube for content, I gladly offer this very uplifting clip to pass on. Matt has discovered the way the world is really supposed to work.

(Do yourself a favor... Run it Full Screen. Enjoy!)


Saturday, June 16, 2012

The American People Have Spoken

As House Speaker John Boehner likes to remind us, The American People Have Spoken:

Source unknown.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

American Coup d'état


In the plot of the film “Seven Days in May” authored by “Twilight Zone” creator, Rod Serling, the United States government faces an attempted Coup d'état; a takeover of our government by the military. Seem impossible? I suggest that this very thing is currently playing out in our country as we watch. However it is not the military who is orchestrating this coup – it is the power of money.

The Supreme Court poured gasoline on a smoldering fire of campaign finance reform in it’s “Citizens United” decision, affirming a decision made decades earlier that corporations be considered as having the same constitutional free speech rights as individuals. Money has become the voice for that speech.

In Wisconsin, the recall election of governor Scott Walker failed, in large part, due to the support of campaign spending amounting to seven times that of his opponents; this in spite of a monumental “get out the vote” initiative.[1]  In a nation where the population obtains the overwhelming balance of their political information from television advertising, where people vote their ‘gut’ over their head, the results are easy to predict.

Will this ever change; can it? It is doubtful. The powers of money and influence smell the blood in the water; they will use that same power to thwart any attempt to wrest their grip on control.

I personally fear that our 200-year old experiment in Democracy has come to an end – our economy, once the beacon of the free world, now revolves almost wholly upon using money to concentrate the acquisition of even more. Most of us stand powerless, like lowly surfs as modern day Genghis Khans sweep over our landscape pillaging and ravaging our Republic by those who equate freedom as no loftier a goal than to acquire personal financial gain.

I am Robert the Skeptic and I approve of this message.

References:

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Perspective


Gay Marriage, Bain Capital, Entitlements, deficits, Westboro Baptist Church, children murdered execution style in Syria…

… but stop for a moment to look at the photograph below – It was taken by the Voyager I spacecraft, the first man-made object to leave our solar system, shortly before it turned it’s camera toward ‘home’ to snap one final photograph before continuing it's journey.

 “Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there--on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.” - Carl Sagan

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Plan

There seems to be little doubt that, throughout the world, and particularly in the US, there has been a monumental transference of wealth from the Middle Class to the very highest levels of the Upper Class. Substantiation of this trend is readily available from a wide variety of sources – it is reflected in tax rates, real estate and equities ownership, valuation of net worth, salaries and bonuses. It is happening – it is real. But is this the result of some sort of diabolical plan, a grand conspiracy?

A few years ago I heard a story on National Public Radio’s “ThisAmerican Life” (Act 2, ‘The Plan’) which told of gentrification of neighborhoods in Washington DC. Here predominantly Black neighborhoods were slowly being replaced by upwardly mobile middle class Whites. In one specific instance, an academically well performing school was condemned in order to make room for new housing – housing which was marketed to mostly higher income (White) people.
The synopsis of The Plan: “American cities have gone through a massive wave of gentrification in the last few decades. To some people, it's not a natural ebb and flow of the real estate market, but a plot, by rich, mainly white people, to take over the neighborhoods of poor, mainly black people.”
But it turns out there was/is no “Plan”, at least, not one that can be attributed to a designed conspiracy, that is. These sorts of changes are, of course, happening in neighborhoods all over the country. My own kids recently bought and renovated an old home in an inner city Portland, Oregon neighborhood. Now known as the Alberta Arts District, the neighborhood is frequently the subject of articles in Sunset Magazine featuring its eclectic boutiques and restaurants. To people of our kid’s generation, integration of neighborhoods such as this is a positive for society. But are these changes the results of specific planning or the result of other perhaps not so obvious forces?

In Europe “Austerity” looms threateningly over the customary way of life. In Greece, people experiencing shortages of food.for the first time in their lives. Here in this country the social safety net is being targeted as the source of both our moral and economic decay. Erstwhile CEOs pull in salaries and bonuses that would make the Vanderbilt’s, Carnegies and Rockefellers of their day looking like chumps.

We read that the Koch brothers have convened secret meetings including influential business and political leaders; even Supreme Court Justices. But do these individuals truly have the power to coordinate a conspiracy on such a monumental scale?

Many now grudgingly accept (I among them) that the boom times after WWII in this country was more of an economic aberration than an linearly upward trend into future decades. Is the flow of culture, for that matter, designed or driven through it’s own momentum? Consider the attitude changes over the past decade regarding Gay Marriage, for example. Was this progress cooked up in some elaborate plan or the result of some sort of cultural evolution?

I recall observing large flocks of hundreds of individual birds flying in undulating, random patterns; the whole of which appearing to have some direction. Scientists studying this behavior were curious if, among the individual birds, there might be a “leader” directing the movement of the flock.
Such movements are a prime example of emergent behavior: the behavior is not a property of any individual bird, but rather emerges as a property of the group itself. There is no leader, no overall control; instead the flock's movements are determined by the moment-by-moment decisions of individual birds, following simple rules in response to interactions with their neighbors in the flock. [1]
Rising consumer prices, falling standard of living, the rich becoming richer, may more be a product of individuals or groups taking advantage of opportunities and situations, than any sort of detailed conspiracy – Cultural Evolution through Emergent Behavior? Perhaps.

Source:
1. How does a flock of birds wheel and swoop in unison?, March 2004, TheStraightDope.com


Friday, May 18, 2012

Made in the USA

Well at least some things are still being manufactured in the USA. Though I'm thinking that, if the GOP takes the White House this year, these products will probably comprise a significant share of the Export Market... once the Conservatives make their use illegal here.



Sunday, May 13, 2012

Photography is Not a Crime


I have recently become increasingly concerned over the apparent of “militarization” of the police in this country; I trace this rise back to the events of 9/11. Though the Patriot Act granted sweeping enforcement authority to our federal government, it is my understanding that there is nothing in this law which gives any additional powers to local police.

In the news this past year in particular with the Occupy Protest movement; there have been increasing incidents of police using force, coercion, arrest and confiscation of people photographing and/or recording police. In some cases even journalists have been subject to harsh treatment. As a filmmaker, I find this trend particularly disturbing.

Here is official clarification from the ACLU – It is not a crime to photograph or record police in public while in the process of carrying out their duties when it is done openly and where there is no expectation or presumption of privacy.

Yet even though police have been trained regarding this issue, incidents are still rampant of police arresting people recording them; and in confiscating phones, cameras, film and other the like.

I have seen video of police asking a videographer if their device is recording audio; taking the device from the photographer if answered in the affirmative. From the ACLU:
Another disturbing trend is police officers and prosecutors using wiretapping statutes in certain states…to arrest and prosecute those who attempt to record police activities using video cameras that include audio. (Unlike photography and silent video, there is no general right to record audio; many state wiretap laws prohibit recording conversations if the parties have a reasonable expectation of privacy — which is never true for a police officer carrying out his or her duties in public.) [1]
Some states like Illinois have passed laws making it illegal to photograph or video police; it is not likely that these laws would pass Constitutional legal challenges under the First Amendment.

With the prevalence of high quality video recording devices in simple cell phones which are carried by almost everyone today, the potential exists for more people to be subjected to the capricious actions of questionable police practices.

Know your rights and be prepared to defend them. Refer to some of the links below, or Google “Photography is not a crime” and follow the links.

1. You Have Every Right to Photograph That Cop, ACLU.org

Photography is Not a Crime, Carlos Miller, Pixiq.com

7 Rules for Recording Police, Steve Silverman, FlexYourRights.org

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Death By A Thousand Cuts + One

Remember this picture? You may recall my blog post back in February 20, 2012 “Death By A 1000 Cuts” where I revealed evidence uncovered by my wife (an ever vigilant and tireless whistle-blower for the latest consumer shams perpetrated on the public) about how we consumers are being shorted on the toilet paper we buy. The company had just started delivering toilet paper on shortened length cardboard tubes – resulting in your receiving 12% less product than what you previously paid for.

Ingenious to be sure; but surely, what more could Corporate America possibly come up with that could top this nifty little rip-off on we unwary consumers?

Well I have apparently again underestimated the innovative thinking of American companies; Check out the following latest scam my consumer detective wife just uncovered:

video

Yes, now not only is the cardboard tube SHORTER in length, they have also now slightly INCREASED the DIAMETER of the tube! With a larger and shorter spool, they can sell us even that much LESS product for the same price!

No doubt that these little “tricks” fall under the radar when Washington is calculating the Consumer Price Index or Rate of Inflation. After all, the actual prices for consumer goods show no noticeable increase, we all simply get less product for the same dollar.

We may try to be savvy consumers, but really, at some point, who has the time to sort through a shopping cart full of products to determine the extent to which we are increasingly being scammed? 

Sunday, April 29, 2012

What Have the Romans Ever Done For Us?

Most folks would likely agree that few support the concept of “Big Government”. But what exactly does that phrase really mean? To some, Big Government implies restrictions on free exercise of commerce. To others, Big Government may have more personal implications, such as dictating what a woman chooses to do with her body. But whether we recognize it or not, we all need government at some level.

I fully support the entrepreneurial spirit of this nation. However I note that many individuals who tout the values of “free markets” often forget that their success may not be entirely attributed to their ego-driven self-made assertions. The fact is much of the business success by smart, motivated, innovative people, was achieved by standing on the shoulders of others who laid the groundwork before them – this includes significant benefactions made possible through government investment.

It is a fact that many successful commercial enterprises would not exist today without the initial investment of government projects. Some undertakings were simply too large, excessively complex or otherwise beyond the scope, abilities or resources of the private sector. Government instigated projects have been essential in fostering many private commercial industries existing today. Let me offer a few examples:

The Railroad System
In 1862 President Lincoln signed the Pacific Railroad Act (1) authorizing congress to issue to the privately held Southern Pacific and Central Pacific railroads, 6,400 acres of FREE land (later doubled to 12,800) and $48,000 in government bonds for every mile of track built. The railroads then sold portions of their land to arriving settlers at huge profits.

Today Congress still authorizes funds to support Amtrak passenger service, funding the upgrade of track and infrastructure to private railroad companies which also benefits the railroad’s primary source of income: freight revenues.

Interstate Highway System
The Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways otherwise known as the Interstate Highway system, was authorized by the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956. The cost of construction has been estimated at $425 billion (in 2006 dollars), making it the largest public works project in history.(2) Interstate commerce, in the form of commercial trucking, depends almost entirely on the highway system.

Dams and Irrigation
The Federal Power Commission in 1920 enabled construction of federal dams on the Colorado and Columbia rivers, leading directly to public/private competition for production and sale of power.(3) The Columbia Basin Project of irrigation canals and aqueducts which directly supports commercial agriculture is estimated to have cost $1,687,000,000 alone.

Space program
Far too risky for most private companies to venture, the US Space program has resulted in monumental economic, scientific and technological returns, far exceeding the initial investment. The space program represents significant revenue for American corporations such as Honeywell, Northrup, Locheed, Douglass and a long list of other technical and engineering companies. It is estimated that for every dollar spent on the space program, the U.S. economy receives about $8 of economic benefit.(5)

The Internet
The Internet we know today (not invented by Al Gore) started out as The Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET). The network was funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) of the United States Department of Defense for use by its projects at universities and research laboratories in the US.(4) Today thousands of private companies, large and small, depend on the Internet for their existence.

Nuclear Power
Privately operated nuclear utility power plants would not have been able to develop the nuclear fuel in use today were it not for the Manhattan Project.

The list continues: the Panama Canal, the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge as well as government agencies which directly support commerce such as the National Weather Service, the U. S. Postal Service and the Federal Aviation Administration.

So when we ask, what has the government ever done for us? Well, there's the aqueduct...



References:
1. Wikipedia: Pacific Railroad Act
2. Wikipedia: Interstate Highway System
3. University of Washington Library: "Grand Coulee: Harnessing a Dream" (book excerpt)
4. Wikipedia: ARAPANET
5. Freakonomics.com: "Is space exploration worth the cost?"

Monday, April 23, 2012

It's Broke

I heard on the news this week that the presidential and congressional candidates (and their unregulated PACs) will amass the most money ever in our electoral history... and we're talking in the BILLION$.

My recommendation for addressing your own personal survival during the trying times ahead: buy stock in media corporations.

In the mean time -



I am reevaluating my commitment to the futility continuing this blog. Added to that, I logged in today only to discover the "new and improved" blogger interface. They were nice enough to include a little "Send Feedback" link in the lower right-hand corner. My feedback essentially said: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it". I have little doubt, though, that Google/Blogger will afford me the same level of concern and responsiveness as does the Representative Republic in which I supposedly live.

Monday, April 16, 2012

It's In our DNA

Back when I was in taking high school Biology in mid 1960’s, the discovery of the role of DNA in heredity had just been confirmed a scant few years previously in 1953. Over the previous century Darwin’s Theory of Biological Evolution was already well documented and accepted by the scientific community – a marvelous advance for its time based fundamentally on the morphology of animal species. So when I learned that every species has its own unique and identifiable genetic DNA signature, I confidently thought that the precise genetic trail of DNA lineage would drive the final nail into the coffin of Creationist beliefs. I was wrong!

Over the intervening years the specific order of genes (genome) for a huge number of species, including Homo sapiens, has been mapped. Even within our own species, we can delineate the relationship and ancestry of specific individuals beyond 99% reliability; certainly no surprise if you’ve ever had to prove paternity for child support.

DNA mapping has actually gone back and corrected errors made in the taxonomy of many plant and animal species previously classified through morphology. Beyond a doubt, DNA PROVES Biological Evolution!

Yet still today in backward countries such as Turkey, Afghanistan, Somalia and the United States of America, a large percentage of their populations still tenaciously cling to the creation stories of their assorted Holy Books; tales written back in eras when the causes of weather, disease and the movement of planets were woefully beyond the technology of humans to explain.

But it is incorrect to ascribe these archaic beliefs in a deistic cause for the origins of life to ignorance or illiteracy; some very smart and highly educated people continue to hold Creationist views, though their justifications tend to be more elaborate.

For example, Dr. Francis Collins, physician and geneticist, currently director of the National Institutes of Health and formerly head of the Human Genome Project, believes that DNA itself is proof of the existence of god. In his book, “The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief”, Collins asserts that the universe was created by god 14 million years ago specifically tuned to promote life on earth. Collins believes that the development of living organisms was part of god’s plan (through the divinely created mechanisms of DNA) and that humans are unique from all the other species in ways that defy evolutionary explanations.

I must give scholars such as Collins some credit for at least attempting to reconcile scientific evidence with their beliefs; most evangelical Christian, Jewish and Muslim believers are satisfied with merely dismissing DNA and Biological Evolution as a “lie”.

I spent some time a few years ago attempting to understand why some very smart and accomplished scientists hold biblical or deistic beliefs. My father-in-law, Melvin, for example, a highly published former university Horticulture professor, is among them. I have attended lectures, debates and read their works – but I find repeatedly that when I pare away the specific elements of their arguments, one underlying theme always seems to be revealed: these folks want very earnestly the reassurance and comfort one finds in belief.

Collins’ desire for there to be a god becomes quite evident in “The Language of God” and is typical of other scientists who I have heard or read. In his book Collins asserts that “God exists because we have an innate desire for him to exist". He goes on to explain: "A duck desires to swim, so water exists. A baby desires food so food exists".

The question comes to my mind: if I don’t have the desire for god, does he/she/it therefore not exist?

I began this post essentially acknowledging what a remarkable volume of human understanding about the workings of our world has accumulated during just my lifetime. In fact, far more knowledge has been discovered during my generation than in my father’s; exponentially even more his father’s. Within only the most recent decade we have acquired a tentative understanding of how this universe actually came to be and what was likely there before the Big Bang and it’s ultimate fate.

As a friend of mine once pointed out: Every day something new is added to the body of knowledge and our understanding of the workings and origins of our universe. Yet religion, for over two millennia, has added nothing.

Resources:

“The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief”, Book review by Robert Neary

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Empty Space

When I created my blog, I chose a statement for the masthead: “A once-great nation being crushed under its own weight.” I have often written here that I believe that my generation has lived in the best times man has had, and ever will have, on this planet. I also believe that our nation, which has always been the beacon for the world in innovation and leadership, due to a combination complacency and hebetude, is poised for a headlong race to the bottom.

One symptom on which I base my pessimism about our future is that our nation’s self-vision of greatness appears to me mostly based on reminiscence. Our position in the global scheme as innovators and leaders in the advancement of humanity has been replaced by short term fixation on personal and individual material security. I fear this mindset will doom to failure our 200 year “experiment in democracy”.

I recently came across two videos; one an interview by Bill Moyers with author Isaac Asimov done in 1988. The other video; the testimony of scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson made before Senate Science Committee, March 7, 2012.

In the 1988 video interview with journalist, Bill Moyers, Asimov says:
"The decline in America's world power is, in part, brought about by our diminishing status as a world science leader.”

"Yes, we're still probably up there technologically... but what margins we do have are slimmer, narrower, and we're being overtaken."

"The most damaging statement the United States has ever been subjected to is the phrase 'Yankee Know-How". You get the feeling, somehow, that Americans, just by the fact they're Americans, are somehow more smarter and more ingenious than other people.

"… there is this feeling that somehow because we have a... decent economic system, freedom, free enterprise, which I am all in favor of, that alone will do it for us, and I admit that helps us out in some ways, [but] not if we're lazy about it. It’s not going to do it for us if we don't DO anything.”
In other words, even back in 1988 Asimov was warning that America’s decline in advancing science and technology was already noticeable. It was apparent, even back then, that we could not rely solely on our reputation in the past as innovators alone, to continue to carry us through to the future.

This year Neil deGrasse Tyson published his new book, Space Chronicles: Facing the Ultimate Frontier, in which he continues the point made by Asimov: that the engines that drive American innovation, and more importantly, stimulate and grow our ECONOMY, are founded in our ability to envision the future. Tyson points directly to the decline of the Space Program and diversion of funding from NASA and other scientific research.

In his testimony before the Senate committee, Tyson said:
“If all you do is coast, you slow down until others eventually catch up and pass you by. We have symptoms in society today; we’re going broke, we’re mired in debt, we don’t have as many scientists we want or need, and jobs are going overseas. I assert that these are not isolated problems; that they’re the collective consequence of the absence of ambition that consumes you when you stop having dreams."
Tyson was trying to promote the idea that increased funding for NASA has proven far greater benefits by driving a culture of innovation that is responsible for overall economic growth "…. innovations take place, patents are granted, products are developed. Everyone feels like tomorrow they want to invent and bring into the present."

Americans have often held a slightly myopic view of the basis for our Yankee Know-how. The truth is that much of our past brain power has been actually imported:
“The atomic bomb was invtned and brought to fruition by a bunch of European refugees; you go down the list of names, that's the [supposedly] 'Yankee know-how" - Asimov

… most of the principle scientists behind the Manhattan project… were foreign nationals. All educated in European countries… Once we developed that infrastructure here… we became the target for people to become educated from all around the world. That became a boon to our country because we were getting the smartest people in the world. My great fear is that we now educate them and they go back their home countries and we would lose the contributions they would have made had they stayed.” - Tyson
China, India and other countries which used to send almost all of their best students to the US for education are now building their own universities and research facilities at home.

Meanwhile in the US, the final Space Shuttle was hangared last year; there currently is no replacement program in place and we must now depend on our former enemy, Russia, for our meager manned program needs. The percentage of US citizens who believe in Biological Evolution show we are at the bottom of the list of developed countries, way down there with Turkey. The Tennessee legislature last month passed a law requiring that Creationism be taught in schools along with Evolution. We are in the process of selecting the leader of the Free World based on whether or not these men feel women should have access to birth control or not. These are not encouraging indicators of a strong nation retaining it's status on the globe as a champion of innovation, leadership and progress.

When asked what could be done to restore our nation’s national standing, Neil deGrasse Tyson suggested that merely increasing the money allocated to NASA by one-half-cent of the national budget would provide remarkable return on investment toward rebuilding our economy. Tyson went on to add:
“… without this we just move back to the caves because that is where we’re going to end up anyway as the rest of the world passes us by."
I would urge you to invest the time to watch both videos linked below:

1. Bill Moyers interview with Isaac Asimov. Originally aired in 1988 (runtime 5:57)
2. Neil deGrasse Tyson Testifies Before Senate Science Committee, March 7, 2012 (runtime 25:49) (Listen particularly to the question and answer period following Tyson's official testimony.)

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Hang ‘Em High - A True Story

In the old Clint Eastwood western “Hang ‘Em High”, an innocent cowboy, accused of cattle rustling, is lynched by a posse of angry and powerful ranchers. In the film, Eastwood’s character is rescued from imminent death then sets about bringing the would-be vigilantes to justice… in typical Eastwood style, of course.

Hang ‘Em High was a fictional story; however, in 1889 a young woman and her husband, were actually lynched for cattle rustling in Sweetwater River Wyoming by a posse of angry and powerful ranchers. One of the men involved in the crime which has gone down in history as “The Lynching of Cattle Kate”, was my great, great uncle John Henry Durbin.

My cousin Nancy just recently uncovered this skeleton in the family closet during a trip she and her husband made a few years ago attempting to find the old Durbin family ranch in Wyoming. Cousin Nancy’s interest in family genealogy piqued one day while digging through some family archives; she discovered a letter written by a Mrs. Ordway, the wife of the foreman of a Wyoming cattle ranch. In this letter a worried wife revealed fear and dread regarding the fate of her husband apparently implicated with John Henry Durbin and rumors of some horrendous unmentioned deed.

Cousin Nancy and husband set off for Wyoming last fall to try to locate the old ranch property. Their quest brought them to the archives of the Casper College Western History Center. It was here that my cousin discovered the family secret; and the explanation for the source of fears mentioned in Mrs. Ordway’s old letter – historical documents revealed that indeed, our great, great uncle Durbin had been implicated in the lynching of homesteaders Ellen Watson and James Averell.

There are a number of internet sites and a book written about “The Wyoming Lynching of Cattle Kate”. [1]

The story:
My great, great uncle, John Henry Durbin was a wealthy and influential Wyoming cattleman. In those days ranchers laid claim to anywhere their cattle grazed; paying little heed with regard for property lines and land ownership. Conflicts arose over grazing rights and access to water. To secure their own financial self interests, Durbin and other big ranches formed the Wyoming Stock Grower’s Association. The association wielded a powerful influence on the local business and political landscape.

Jim Averell and Ellen Watson homesteaded a plot of land in the Sweetwater River valley. The homestead had good grazing and access to water. However, prior to Jim and Ellen having homesteaded the land, another wealthy cattleman and member of the Stock Association, Albert Bothwell had used the property, considering it open range. Bothwell continued to run his cattle over Jim and Ellen’s homestead. When Jim and Ellen strung barbed wire to block Bothwell’s “free range” cattle, the enraged Bothwell took action.

Bothwell enlisted Durbin and four other cattlemen to confront the homesteaders, determined to intimidate them run them off the land. It didn’t’ go well: Bothwell and Durbin pulled guns on the pair of homesteaders. A scuffle ensued and Durbin ended up shot, wounded in the leg. The cattlemen tied up Ellen and Jim, throwing the two into the back of a wagon. Their courage bolstered by adequate amounts of alcohol, the cattlemen eventually threw a rope over a tree near the bank of the Sweetwater River where they hanged Jim Averell and Ellen Watson.

The bodies were discovered and cut down from the tree the following day. Word of the lynching quickly spread and the six cattlemen were soon arrested. However, being wealthy men, they were immediately released on bail. A month later a grand jury was convened, however, the indictment stalled as witnesses to the crime began to mysteriously disappear before they could testify. These suspicious events ,doubtlessly, was the probable source of the worries expressed by Mrs. Ordway in the letter discovered by my cousin.

No one was ever tried for the lynching of Averell and Watson. My great great uncle John Henry Durbin died a millionaire in 1907. His obituary reads: “Former cattle king and bonanza miner had [a] most romantic career”. His obituary makes no mention of his involvement in the Lynching of Cattle Kate.

Resources:

Legends of America web site.
http://www.legendsofamerica.com/we-cattlekate.html

1. Amazon.com: “The Wyoming Lynching of Cattle Kate, 1889” by George W. Hufsmith.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Irrational Exuberance

Are you optimistic, hopeful about the future? It turns out you are not alone; roughly 80% of the population expects things to get better. The reason? You’re biased.

Below I offer a 19-minute explanatory video from the RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce).
Synopsis:
Why are we so terrible at predicting what will make us happy? How do we maintain such stalwart optimism about our future in the face of so many modern threats?

Psychologists have long been aware that most people maintain an often irrationally positive outlook on life. Now it looks as though optimism may, in fact, be crucial to our existence. But does unrealistic optimism also threaten it as well?

Acclaimed neuroscientist Tali Sharot’s experiments and research at The Social Brain Project in cognitive science have shed new light on the biological basis of optimism, and she visits the RSA to take an in-depth look at how the brain generates hope and what happens when it fails.
As a Skeptic, I find optimism (or pessimism, for that matter) equally disquieting, particularly if either position is based on incorrect or biased assumptions. For me, I would much rather deal with the facts of a situation; this gives me a more accurate basis on which to act or proceed and thereby expect a more optimal outcome. I have long felt that religious belief is popular because it affords people an optimistic viewpoint regardless of the realities of one’s situation.

But our media and culture are often bombarded with optimistically appearing messages. Over the last month, for example, media reports that the Consumer price index rose 0.2% or home sales rose 3% or unemployment dropped 2% leave the implication that these trends are linear and will continue their positive progression. In fact these figures rise and fall with regularity – precisely what statistics of these measures routinely do.

A reported drop in unemployment does not explain how many people have permanently given up looking for work, how many have returned to work at much lower wages. The underlying concept of "productivity" actually equates to more products or services using fewer people and/or at lower cost. Less people accomplishing more does not bode well for an increasing population all wishing to thrive and prosper.

Still I speak with friends who just assume that things will be getting better; housing will rebound, employment will rally. And in the short run, at least,they probably are correct.

Maybe it’s just me, but in the grand scope of things I don’t see things getting better. As I have often repeated in this blog, I believe my generation has seen the best times Man has, and ever will, on this planet. The truth is the middle class has shrunk, college graduates are increasingly finding it difficult to earn a decent living, and the tenor of political discourse makes me feel like there are those among eager to return society back to the 19ths century.

During a recent exchange with one of my commenters I came across this quotation: "You believe easily that which you hope for earnestly." – Terence 185–159 BC

I believe Terence's simple statement more than adequately sums up the conclusions drawn from Sharot's research at the Social Brain Project.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Angry (or Fearful) White Men

I am always interested in why we humans perceive and respond to the world the way we do. How is it that our brains are comfortable with attaching significance to one set of facts, yet conversely be dismissive (or even ignorant) of contradictory information?

No where do these perceptual differences appear so pronounced (or have such effect directly on our lives) than in the political arena. Here we have candidate Rick Santorum stating with absolute certainty that Global Climate Change is a “hoax” or that a college education essentially amounts to nothing more than Liberal indoctrination. The latter a remarkably absurd statement coming from a religious adherent … religion quite literally wrote the Book on indoctrination!

Liberals certainly are not immune to thinking errors or political gaffs, but why do we associate the prevalence of apparent rational-less ideology so strongly with Conservatives? It sometimes seems that Conservatives are almost living in their own separate reality.

Recent research, it turns out, is revealing that this may indeed be the case. A multitude of psychological studies reveal that Conservatives tends to hold more of a “defensively based” ideology; or more to the point, Conservatives view political issues on an emotional level within a context of threat.

I recently read a news article suggesting that the GOP party establishment is attempting to encourage their candidates to shift the campaign focus less on threatening and fear-inducing commentary and instead more toward what the party visions as their platform for the future. Indeed, the 20-some odd public debates seem to be all about demonizing Obama and each other rather than laying a foundation for sound governance. The GOP's menacing portrayals regarding social issues such as gay marriage, access to contraceptives and religion in politics, appear to be running headlong into a wall not shared by most Americans... even among many other Conservative voters.

The data in these studies show that Conservatives tend to have strong adverse reactions when presented with negative images. "The aversive in life is more physiologically and cognitively tangible to some people and they tend to gravitate to the political right."[1]

Liberals, on the other hand, appeal more to an open, exploratory philosophy; trying things out and seeking multiple and contradictory information in comparison. Liberals feel less visceral responses to stimuli because they question whether it is true or if there may be another different or more complex explanation. This philosophic approach has the effect of dispelling fear by considering other possible information.

I notice this fear-based response to topical issues is common among strong religious adherents as well. Evangelicals, who tend to view issues in stark black-and-white terms generally tend to also be Conservative in their thinking. For these folks, belief in god is based on fear of reprisal (hell) for not following the rules, fear of death, even fear of being ostracised by one's peers, all of which plays into acceptance of dogma, or comfortable rationalism, to assuage the threatening consequences.

Back on the political spectrum, this is probably why unsubstantiated, not clearly defined and scary adages such as “redistribution of the wealth”, “Socialism”, “entitlement society”, and “Big Government” to name but a few, seem to resonate as somehow meaningful to Conservative minds.

The down side of acknowledging this theory, regarding the psychology of fear and belief, has the discouraging implication that it may be difficult or impossible break through to minds which appear to be "hard wired" to view the world through the context of fear or threat.

To these folks, as Stephen Colbert has suggested: "The truth has a Liberal bias".

References:

1. "The Left and the Right: Physiology, Brain Structure and Function, and Attentional Differences", Chris Mooney, The Intersection (http://scienceprogressaction.org), Feb. 28, 2012

Monday, March 12, 2012

Deja Vous all over again

In their pandering to sway the voting public to their side and opposing granting another four more years to President Obama, the Republican candidates are campaigning on a dangerous position of "saber-rattling" with regard to Iran’s nuclear ambitions. As I mentioned in my previous post regarding how Conservatives rely mainly on fear as a motivation, they are attempting to position themselves as (macho) brash enough to stand up to Iran’s nuclear ambitions versus Obama’s more (wimpy) calculating and realistic stance. Well after all, as Obama has orchestrated the removal of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and killing of Osama Bin Laden, the country needs a new Boogieman to rally and the frighten the gullible voter.

To further this objection, Iran is being presented as an irrational rogue state, crazed with idealism and poised to strike Israel before the paint is even dry the moment their new nukes roll off the assembly line. Whoa, now just hold on a moment says, Joint Chief of Staff, Army General Martin Dempsey who recently came under fire from Congressman Tom Price (R- Georgia) when the general said “Iran is a rational actor… the alternative is that we attribute to them [that] their actions are so irrational they have no basis of planning. The key is to understand how they act and not trivialize their actions by attributing to them some irrationality, that’s a very dangerous thing for us to do.” In other words, the General was warning the Conservatives that Iran is not acting in a manner which indicates that they are completely oblivious to the consequences of their ambitions, policies and actions. The Conservatives, of course, are not happy the general is not doing a War Dance and want him fired. Video Here.

I recently listened again to a decade old broadcast of NPR’s This American Life, “Why We Fight”, specifically Act III of the broadcast titled "Realism 101" which was an analysis of the reasons behind our ramp-up to go to war against Iraq and take out Saddam Hussein. My friends, listening to this broadcast was “deja vous all over again”originally broadcast back in December 2002, I was overwhelmed how closely history may be poised to repeat itself.

The main impetus for whipping up public frenzy for going to war against Iraq was we needed to stop Saddam Hussein BEFORE he got his hands on nuclear weapons. Sound familiar? The incessant drumbeat was that Hussein was an irrational unpredictable megalomaniac who would do anything without regard for the consequences. Actually Hussein cooperated with UN inspectors allowing them into his country and made any number of concessions apparently fully fearing he would be invaded by the US. Actually I think is cooperation pissed the Bush Administration off even more... the result, as we say, is history.

Interviewed in the This American Life segment, Kenneth Pollack, author of the book “The Threatening Storm: the Case for Invading Iraq” spells out in greater depth the (real) reasons for the Bush Administration's eagerness in invading Iraq, among them:
  1. Taking Iraq was doable, his army was no match for the might of the U.S. military.
  2. The belief that Arab cultures respect the show of force and doing so would change the political climate in the Middle East.
  3. Taking Iraq would allow the U.S. to establish bases in Iraq and thereby allowing us to close the Prince Sultan Air Base inside Saudi Arabia. (which did close in 2003).
  4. Establishing a friendly government in the region (Iraq) would then appear to promote other U.S. interests in the area including:
    a.) Reduce the dependence on obtaining oil from Saudi Arabia and Iran.
    b.) Imply tacit support to pro-Democracy movements in Iran, Egypt and cause the government of Syria to fall.
    c.) Place additional pressure on Saudi Arabia and Egypt to crack down on Islamic extremism.
I remind you, this interview was conducted in 2002 before we attacked Iraq. Applying 20/20 hindsight, how many of these predictions have come true?

Fast-forward again to today where John McCain just recently grilled Defense Secretary Leon Panetta regarding the Administration’s reluctance to take an aggressive military position regarding the “threat” posed by Iran and involve ourselves in the conflict in Syria. McCain, in criticizing Panetta’s admonition that we proceed cautiously before committing American lives, said “... let me tell you what’s wrong with your statement... you don’t mention American leadership”.

Of ALL people, Vietnam veteran and former prisoner of war McCain should know better. Idealistic posturing regarding idealism and our nation’s honor can, as it has in the past, been paid for with the lives, the limbs and the blood of real people.

As for the GOP candidate's disgusting posturing regarding this extremely serious topic, they can well afford their nonchalant rhetoric… none of those Bozos are the Commander In Chief – yet!
I highly recommend you listen to the short 19-minute segment of link posted here. I think you might agree that we are poised on the brink of having history repeat itself.

Audio Link:
This American Life, Why We Fight, Act III: Realism 101.
Runtime: 19 min
Update:
After composing this entry, Meir Dagan, former chief of Israel's Mossad, was interviewed on last night on CBS 60 Minutes. For the last 30 years Dagan has been specifically charged with counteracting Iran's nuclear weapon development. Dagan stated that Iran is capable of acting rationally and fully understands the consequences of any potential actions they may consider. Dagan emphasized in the strongest terms that military action against Iran is ill advised at this time. View the CBS interview here.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Poltics of Fear

My wife and I recently had dinner with two other couples at their home. During the course of the evening the discussion turned political. At one point one of the husbands asked if we would go around the table and reveal who we would likely vote for in 2012. The three wives and I indicated we would likely again vote for Obama; one of the guys was leaning toward Ron Paul. The third guy said he had voted for Obama in 2008 but he would now vote for whoever the Republican nominee was. Clearly the character, experience, or the political platform of the final Republican candidate did not matter whatsoever to him; his vote will simply be “Not Obama”.

During the course of the discussion, Third Guy dropped a few key phrases such as: “Socialism”, “redistribution of the wealth”, “entitlement reform” and finally how Obama’s policies were blatantly “anti-business”. Stereotypical (and mythical) opinions regarding Welfare, Unemployment and Food Stamps were also bandied about. Having personal career experience in administering those programs, I was quick to point out their thinking errors… though I had a sneaking suspicion my facts did little dislodge any already congealed ideas in their minds.

I’m not the best at thinking on my feet and, of course, one often thinks of more salient responses long after the fact. Recalling the previous night’s conversation, the nagging suggestion that Third Guy was a regular consumer of Conservative Talk Media came to mind. Given the opportunity to go back in time to the previous evening, I might have offered the following in reply:

Socialism:
As in publicly run institutions for the greater good such as public schools, municipal water supplies, air traffic control? Third Guy had already revealed he was waiting until he reached 65 to retire so he would not be without medical coverage… you know, in order to quality for that Socialist of all social programs – Medicare.

Redistribution of the wealth:
Is he talking about fearing what he thinks WILL happen; or is he completely ignorant that we have already seen the LARGEST REDISTRIBUTION OF WEALTH IN OUR NATION’S HISTORY? I am talking about the monumental transfer of ownership from the Middle Class to the upper few percent. There is no shortage of data to confirm this has happened already.

Obama is “anti-business”:
Really? I am curious if the employees of GM, from the highest compensated CEO down to the assembly line, think the government guaranteed LOAN he orchestrated to keep the auto maker from closing, is anti-business. (Conservatives dismiss this as him merely to pay tribute to Unions) The Obama administration even facilitated millions of taxpayer dollars investment in (non union) solar technology company Solyndra, only to have their corporate management squander Our investment and declare bankruptcy. Let’s make this abundantly clear: this private company dropped the ball, not the government.

I find it discouraging to attempt to have any sort of meaningful discussion with people who have surrendered their thinking for mindless parroting of simplistic, and often outright false, propaganda from Conservative handlers. When faced with such doltishness, facts unfortunately become completely irrelevant.

I'll leave you with this little gem I stumbled across on Reddit: