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.

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.

1. Big Pharma Spends More On Advertising Than ResearchAnd Development, Study Finds,, 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

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