Monday, April 29, 2013

It's not Capitalism, it's EXTREME Capitalism

Paul B. Farrell at MarketWatch decries capitalism for killing our morals and our future. Of course what he is referring to as capitalism is just one version of it. Unfortunately it's the version we currently practice. If you read the comments on this article you'll notice that as is normal there are those who take any critique of our current economic religion as indicating a belief in Marxism or Socialism. Do you think any of those making these types of claims understand that even Adam Smith expressed distrust of unfettered profit seeking? I tend to think not.
People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices. It is impossible indeed to prevent such meetings, by any law which either could be executed, or would be consistent with liberty or justice. But though the law cannot hinder people of the same trade from sometimes assembling together, it ought to do nothing to facilitate such assemblies; much less to render them necessary.
Adam Smith

Saturday, April 27, 2013

GOP Embraces “The Crazy” | John Avlon via The Moderate Voice

Joe Gandelman's Quote of the Day over at The Moderate Voice is from John Avlon at The Daily Beast and addresses how insanity has worked its way throughout so much of the GOP. It's not just their media outlets like WorldNetDaily, Breitbart, Glenn Beck and Alex Jones any more. You hear the most outrageous conspiracy theories and claims about their opposition's motives and policies from state legislators, members of the House of Representatives and high ranking officials in state governments now.

Avlon's article even addresses the Missouri example of GOP crazy where scanning documents (A standard procedure in modern business and government.) became part of a grand conspiracy theory. There was even a tidal wave of ads on television warning viewers in a sinister tone that the Nixon (Jay) administration might be sharing your information with the Obama administration.

Somehow this isn't too surprising when the governing of the nation is only a priority after those of winning the election "game", demonizing your opposition and reassuring yourself of your moral superiority.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Issues and Priorities in Congress

Ezra Klein asks a very important question via Twitter.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Cosmological Speculation on Things We Might Never Know

What is outside our Universe? We have no idea. But that's never stopped active human minds before and it still doesn't. Speculations are varied and the ones in this article aren't the only ones out there. I love reading about cosmology and theoretical physics including books like The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory and The Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time, and the Texture of Reality by Brian Greene. If you haven't seen the PBS shows based on these books do yourself a favor and look them up.

Honesty about a complex subject

I'm sharing this New York Times essay mostly because I think it's just such a refreshingly straightforward article by someone who is comfortable in her own skin. It also shows, IMO, just how complex a subject sexuality and sexual identity can really be.

Though her relationships with men far outnumber her relationships with women and she is happily married to a man she recognizes that her emotions and sexual attraction for those women she'd been involved with were just as meaningful and just as deep as those she'd felt for men. There are people who just refuse to recognize that this woman's sexuality and that of others like her is just as valid as theirs and unfortunately I think there will be people like that for a very long time to come.

Joe Gandelman's Quote of the Day

Joe Gandelman points out that Larry Sabato tries to bring media critics down to earth by correcting the myth that we ever had a "Golden Age" of disaster coverage where reporting on major events wesn't full of early misinformation. Sabato's prime example is one of the best known post-WWII shocks to the United States in the 20th century.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Facebook Has Big but Understated Plans for a New HQ

Facebook has commissioned Frank Gehry to design its new headquarters and it's not what you would consider typical for a Gehry design but I think it has a lot of great ideas and Gehry just might have liked the idea of a big departure from his previous work and the challenges Facebook's requirements would have posed for him. I would love to see the real thing after it's finished.

Did NRA Supported Policies Impede the Boston Bomber Investigation?

David Cay Johnston at The National Memo thinks so. Given their paranoia about anything that involves tracking anything that has to do with guns and explosives the NRA doesn't have much of a defense against his arguments.

15 facts about our planet from Bad Astronomy

I've always liked Phil Plait's Bad Astronomy and here's a post for Earth day from him. Earth Day: 15 facts about our planet.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

All jobs are not equal

Especially if they're only part time. One of the responses I've seen to news like this from the reality challenged is to point out those who want to work part time as though their existence somehow mitigates the fact that many of those working part time in today's economy don't want to be doing so and are in desperate need of full time work. They need the money. They need the benefits. Businesses don't want to spend the money, though. This is a problem. It's a glitch in the American version of capitalism in the 21st century. Shouldn't we admit it and search for a solution?

Friday, April 19, 2013

Hubble has given us so many beautiful images

In its 23rd year it gives us a new and amazing look at the Horsehead Nebula, which has been an iconic astronomical image for many years. Gorgeous. Simply breathtaking.

There's a place where an 'anti-incest' app is a good idea

It's really hard to know what to say about this app created in Iceland to avoid awkward social situations other than I suppose it's understandable in a country with a population only two-thirds the size of Kansas City. Just the city, no suburbs or ex-urbs counted.

Deja Vu in Asia all over again

This sounds eerily familiar. What would be wrong with just ignoring the lunatic ravings of North Korea? Seriously. Negotiations will never go anywhere for the foreseeable future since China has far too much patience with the regime. Just don't bother responding and continue with appropriate reactions when they actually do something.

Alien Things

I will not bother with links to stories about the tragedy in Boston. I think anyone reading this knows about what happened there. They might not know that bombs still go off in Iraq and Afghanistan constantly. In those countries weddings, funerals and religious celebrations are popular targets. Now in the U.S. it is one of the most famous sports events in the world. I often see comments, whether in fiction or non-fiction that we are all capable of violence, that we don't know what we are capable of until we are tested in some way. But I do know that these people murder, maim and destroy with no true threat to them or theirs and no regard for who might be killed and that makes them as alien to me as any being imagined by the best science fiction writers I know.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Ford and GM partnership an example of every little bit helping

DailyTech reports on a R&D partnership between Ford and GM. The new partnership will develop 9 and 10 speed transmissions for the automakers. Although it's unlikely that they will license this technology to competitors it would be nice. At the least I would expect that it will push competitors to come up with their own versions of the technology. Estimates are that it should improve gas mileage 5 to 10 percent. Given the number of vehicles that the two produce between them it would save a lot of fuel once enough vehicles with the new transmissions roll out but that's years away.

It's not just CO2 we need to worry about

Researchers from NCAR and Scripps find that cutting other pollutants could make significant contributions to slowing rising sea levels. These are pollutants that have a much shorter life time than CO2 and should therefore be more amenable to correcting the problems caused by excess amounts in the atmosphere.

How NASA brought the monstrous F-1 “moon rocket” engine back to life

Ars Technica has a great story about NASA engineers "reverse engineering" an F-1 engine so that the plans could be put into modern systems for design and computer modelling purposes. Starting from the outside everything was imaged and in one case a custom torque wrench was recreated. The original work was done in ways that wouldn't be used now and basically resulted in an engine where every one built was unique in some way and built largely by hand. It's a really fascinating story.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Problem of Too Many Books

OK, so there is a bit of a problem with having thousands of books in the house. I mentioned in an earlier post that I was re-reading the Dresden Files books. Well, I hit a bit of a roadblock. I can't find my copy of Turncoat, the eleventh book in the series. I'm still looking but this is really, really annoying. Then there's the other minor inconvenience of occasionally buying a duplicate of a book you just haven't seen on the shelves for a few years.

Friday, April 12, 2013

NOAA says Arctic will be nearly free of sea ice by the middle of this century

NOAA researchers now think that Arctic sea ice could decline even faster than previously thought, actually being nearly ice free by 2050 and maybe even within the next couple of decades. It's not good news and we don't really know every possible consequence of this event.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

My name is Jim...

...and I am a book-a-holic. I haven't posted that much lately because I've been on a binge of reading. First I went through the Dubric Byerly series by Tamara Siler Jones. I'd read the first two soon after they came out and just bought the third one recently and I decided to re-read the first two before reading the third. On her own blog Ms. Jones writes a post about Dubric as a character. I know I remember seeing a post somewhere where she said that her publisher didn't want any more Dubric Byerly books which I consider to a major fail. She accomplished something difficult for a writer to do with me, which is make me care about a character who often is a complete ass. She also created a world and set of characters that definitely kept me involved and I'd like to see more of it and will probably pick up Fire - A Lars Hargrove Story this weekend. Then in the same spirit I started re-reading The Dresden Files series again to lead up to reading the latest book in that series that hit paperback, which I just picked up.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Governing Kansas badly

The state of Kansas joins the ranks of states that put ideology ahead of good governance with an anti-choice law. The law states that life begins at conception but has other provisions that seem to say it isn't an attempt to completely ban abortion. It will still probably be challenged in court, though, because of provisions that explicitly block any organizations that provide abortions from taking part in sex education programs in schools, presumably directly targeting Planned Parenthood. In addition the bill blocks any type of tax breaks for any organization that provides abortion services in the name of not providing any tax money, no matter how indirectly, for abortions.

This is in a state that is busy cutting taxes and planning on eliminating the state income tax even while promising to not hurt education any further than existing cuts to education have already done. Governor Brownback and his fellow Republicans seem to be fond of making promises they almost certainly can't keep and wasting even more state money defending the state from lawsuits they didn't have to incur.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Nat Geo fact checks some science conspiracy theories

National Geographic does rational people bombarded with misleading claims about several issues in science a favor with their article Fact Checking 6 Persistent Science Conspiracy Theories. Back in 2009 Scientific American had a piece about why people believe in conspiracy theories.

In the age of internet research being so easy it would also help if people would ask themselves if an idea really passes the smell test, do some research on it and not accept one source as being authoritative and consider the reputation of every source they find while doing their research.

Monday, April 1, 2013


OK, so if you didn't watch Star Trek: The Next Generation you have no idea why this post is titled "Engage". Even if this NASA scientist's research bears fruit it will probably be a long time before Captain Picard's spiritual descendant can give that command on his ship's bridge but we can hope.