Thursday, January 31, 2013

"Teach the controversy"? Uh....NO!

Teach the controversy!

Here in Colorado, we're once more faced with a brigade of  semi-literate knot heads that want to try to inject their idiotic brand of pseudo-science into classrooms under the aegis of "teaching the controversy" .In other words, teaching creationist nonsense along side evolution. I guess they figure that if they can toss up enough gibberish - and because creationism is simplistic compared to evolution-they can get the rank and file of their captive student audiences to gobble this piffle up.

Phil Plaitt, a physicist, in a post on Jan. 22nd,  warned of this impending bollocks:

"I live in Boulder, Colorado, which is a bastion of scientific research. There are four major space science centers here (CU-Boulder, SwRI, the Space Science Institute, and Ball Aerospace), two major atmospheric research centers ((UCAR and NCAR, as well as NIST and many other well-known science research centers.

But the state of Colorado, apparently, still wants to live in the 15th century: Just a few days ago, a bill was introduced into my home state’s legislature that would allow teachers “to miseducate students about evolution, whether by teaching creationism as a scientifically credible alternative or merely by misrepresenting evolution as scientifically controversial.”

Those words are from my good friend and tireless hero for science Eugenie Scott of the National Center for Science Education, an organization that has the goal of educating people about real science. The antiscience bill HB 13-1089 is one of the Orwellian-named “Academic Freedom” thrusts by creationists, where legislators claim they just want teachers to have freedom about what they can teach, but is in fact a clear and obvious attack on scientific fields that disagree with the beliefs of the conservative lawmakers. Don’t believe me? Here is the opening shot of the bill:

“The provisions of the acts direct teachers to create an environment that encourages students to intelligently and respectfully explore scientific questions and learn about scientific evidence related to biological and chemical evolution, global warming, and human cloning.”

If this were really about academic freedom, why is it so specific? Why not include all fields of science, instead of just those three? In fact, why not include all academic fields? I’d be fascinated to see literature, art, and math added to that. Or religious study…how about supplementary texts that show the contradictions in the Bible? I wonder how that would go over".

He goes on to note that all the co-sponsors of this bill are, to a person, Republicans.  Well, what would you expect of the STUPID party? The party hijacked by Tea Party extremists, religious fundie crazies and warmongering fools? The party that is so detached from reality they deny any human responsibility for global warming-climate change. That alone shows the worth of the bill, as we must always consider the source.

As it is, our students - especially in high school - are falling behind across a broad swatch of disciplines compared to other nations such as Sweden, Norway, Germany, Singapore and China. Do you think THOSE nations dilute their hard science courses with unproven, impossible bullshit - such as dinosaurs being alive at the time of "Adam and Eve" (see also:   )

As I showed in a number of earlier blogs, e.g., no creationist arguments can be supported.  The Bible itself, the source book for much of this crap, can't even get scientific facts partially right, e.g., which is no surprise since it was scribbled by scientifically illiterate nomads. So why in the hell would anyone of normal I.Q. want to teach this ancient bull pockey to any student of the 21st century?

The answer has to be to brainwash the student into being a religious goober or pawn. An unthinking yokel who lacks any questioning or critical thinking aptitude. The fact is, any state which turfs out evolution to accept Adam and Eve and creationism, is already dumb as a sack of hammers. Any state which attempts to mount the Ten Commandments on court house steps, as if our jurisprudence is based on them, is also a collective pack of morons. But it seems that if this asinine bill isn't slain where it stands, Colorado may join the ranks of the dumb Confederate states, like MS, AL, TX. None of us living in this state want that, given we pride ourselves as having the 2nd highest proportion of university grads in the nation - and we interpret that to mean that those university educated ought to side with reality, not mythology or ancient fairy tales.

It would be a cruel injustice to our students to force them to listen to two "sides" of how the Earth and life on it originated and evolved. There is only ONE side, and that is what needs to be taught. And it isn't a matter of being "afraid" of creationism, but rather realizing that every minute consumed by this bullshit is a minute lost for teaching scientific principles and reality - even made more difficult now with state wide tests gobbling so much precious class time.

The (majority) Dems in the Colo. state house need to shut this baloney law down and never let it come up for a vote again. Spreading ancient bull crap is not democracy, it's all about endorsing buffonery!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Give Ray Lewis A Break, Already!

PEDs expert says use of growth hormone is rampant, but not via deer antler spray Hmmmmmm......methinks I smell a rat. Methinks one or more disenchanted Broncos and Patriots' fans may have had a hand in attempting to distract and torpedo Baltimore Ravens' players by circulating an based piece of codswallop alleging Ray Lewis (the iconic Ravens' LB) used performance enhancing drugs (PEDs). The author actually names the source for his rapid comeback as "deer antler spray", alleging Ray relied on it during his recent recovery from a triceps tear.  Of course, Ray has soundly denied any such use in his Media Day appearance, while noting that he's been regularly drug tested over his recent rehab.

In any case, as reported in today's Baltimore Sun, a Johns Hopkins specialist professor noted that even if Ray had used the stuff, his body wouldn't have absorbed the banned component:  IGF-1. Dr. Roberto Salvatori, who runs a lab studying growth hormone deficiency and has been on the Hopkins faculty since 1998, said there is no scientifically accepted way to deliver IGF-1 orally.

“If there were, a lot of people would be happy that they don’t need to get shots anymore,” he said. “It’s just simply not possible for it to come from a spray.”

In other words, using the stuff would be useless anyway! So, for the author and any enablers it's about like saying Ray got a boost during his rehab from extra-terrestrials who sutured on bionic limbs in place of his organic, human ones. It's daft and silly.

Note: IGF-1 is short for insulin growth factor, and is produced naturally in the body but can also be produced as a result of increased presence of human growth hormone. (One of the performance enhancers used by cyclist Lance Armstrong.) 

Why pick on Ray Lewis and the Ravens? Including, again from  Media Day, asking him about his alleged role in an Atlanta murder 12 years ago? Well, number one, NFL Media Day has never been mistaken for a Scholastic Aptitude competition, or Math Olympiad. The "journalists" that attend Media Day generally have I.Q.s in the lower moron to imebecile range. Hence, their questions will reflect that low baseline, and Ray was quite right to simply dismiss all such banter as not worth dignifying by extended response.

Second, it is clear that there's still an element out there that begrudges the Ravens' playoff success over two of the biggest 'darling' teams in the league: the Denver Broncos with Peyton Manning, and Tom Brady's Patriots. So it makes sense a possible coterie of sour grapes sore heads might like to try and unleash a distractor to take the team's attention off the task of beating the Niners on Sunday. Then, if Baltimore loses Sunday, these imps can indulge in a schadenfreude mass -orgasm.

Best thing for Ray Lewis and the Ravens to do is ignore it, and let their response be on the field of play this Sunday.

As for the real drug using creepazoids, well there was Lance Armstrong- fessing up to Oprah, and then there's San Fran fave Barry Bonds who used steroids for years to build up muscle mass, just so he could overtake the greatest slugger of all time: Henry Aaron. At least the last Hall of Fame vote kept this miscreant Bonds out, as it should in perpetuity. As for the HR record, I still regard all Bonds' homers over 500  as bogus while Aaron retains the actual - real record (755). I mean, Aaron earned it!

If Bonds' sorry ass ever does get into the Hall of Fame one hopes at least a perpetual * will be adjacent to that so-called home run record.

Excited About the Roaring DOW? Better Take a Chill Pill!

The DOW broke all records since 1989 yesterday, and everyone is stoked! Their 401ks are replenishing and things are looking terrific. DOW 14,000 and over here we come!

The DOW ramp up was only mildly curbed on Friday after the Commerce Department reported the nation’s sales of new homes fell by 7.3% in December. (Shares in the home building sector traded higher, however).

Meanwhile, large institutional investors and others are looking at growth in emerging markets as a way to sustain gains. As one observer put it (‘Stocks Continue Winning Streak- May Draw in Investors’, Denver Post, Jan. 22, p. 13K): “Emerging markets should be a positive factor for many U.S. multinationals.”

The observer then went on to warn:

“That said, I think the market is a little ahead of itself, and I would like to see it go sideways in coming weeks to take some of the adrenaline out of the market.”

Bingo! Does this maven know something the stock-owning jocks and DOW groupies don’t? I believe he does and it’s spelled: B-U-B-B-L-E.

Combine Bernanke’s free money to banks policy (with effective interest rates near zero), with a speculative culture embedded in the markets and indeed, engrained in institutions across the country and you have an ominous formula.  Former Wall Street player Greg Smith already sounded the warning two months ago in an excellent essay, How Wall Street Is Still Rigging the Game’ (TIME, Nov. 5, 2012). As he observes:

“There is a misconception that Wall Street is composed of rich people gambling with other rich people’s money. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The secret that Wall Street doesn’t want anyone to know is that hedge funds comprise less than 5% of assets in the stock market. The real big players in the stock market are individual households and the pension funds, mutual funds, endowments, charities and foundations that are entrusted with your savings, donations, retirement funds and 401ks- trillions and trillions of dollars that are invested with Wall Street banks.”

In other words, Wall Street has the country by the proverbial balls, and has subverted “Main Street” by getting it to sell its assets or “invest” them in phantom money vehicles - many of them too complex to comprehend even for most financial advisors. It has thereby effectively converted a productive economy into a speculator economy. This was also predicted in the book ‘ ‘The End of Economic Man: An Introduction to Humanistic Economics’  by George P. Brockway.

Brockway noted that before about thirty years ago one had a 'productive' economy and a 'speculative' economy (based in Wall Street). There was more or less a balance between them, and the nation as whole benefited as a result. Real productivity kept growing because real investment was made in hands-on materials, plant, research and labor. Most everyone benefited, including workers - via real (defined benefits) pensions (not '401ks') as well as higher wages, and companies that produced REAL goods.

Sometime after Reagan was canonized, in the 1980s, the speculative economy - which up until then had been kept in the background- began to take control. A number of steps instituted by Reagan led to the Michael Milkens, Ivan Boeskys and that lot. This also probably laid the fertile soil for our own WorldComs, Enrons, and Arthur Andersen- type funny accounting.

One step was the Bank Holding (De-regulation) Act of 1984, which sped the way to speculative excesses resulting in travesties such as the S&L scandal in the late '80s.  One would have seriously thought the legislative infrastructure would have learned from that - but oh no, they didn't. In 1995, congress repealed the right of investors, shareholders to sue companies. That essentially removed the last private solution that would've kept the criminal speculators (like those who peddled credit default swaps to cause the 2008 credit meltdown) at bay. Too much big money from the corporate campaign contributors iced it.

Just as their money has been desperately trying to cook up a perfidy of a bankruptcy law- and has left a corporate "reform" law that isn't worth much more than the paper it's printed on. (Since it excluded independent audit provisions, and refused to count stock options for CEOs as expenses). This point was driven home in a  2009 London Financial Times article (‘A Metaphorical Proposal’, Mar. 13, p. 11A) by Michael Skapinker. He cited remarks by Joseph Berardino – chief exec of Arthur Andersen- who noted how the existing reporting system “fails to communicate essential information about the real risks facing companies” to the small investor.  If you don't KNOW what you're getting into, how the hell can you have any confidence that you will get anything back? You can't!

Skapinker quoted Berardino as noting how accountants could only issue ‘pass’ or ‘fail’ judgments on companies – but not disclose the red ink being bled by a company that’s been passed. (What's referred to as a “bleeding edge” company wherein auditors are actually resigning). As the author notes, to do so would precipitate a collapse in share prices.

Before all this, there was the  October,1987 Market crash,when  the speculative economy had sucked nearly $1 trillion from people who had invested, and could least afford to lose money. However, they were constantly besieged with the 'buy and hold' mantra to ready them for the next plucking. Meanwhile, a host of ancillary political-economic policy factors contributed to the ongoing speculative frenzy (culminating in the 2008 crash and the loss of over $8 trillion) and fed it such as:- the passage of the 401k as a substitute 'pension' plan which would replace defined benefits (in real money) that had been received until then.

Workers were now expected to place their savings - whatever they could muster given wage stagnation since 1973 - at the mercy of a market that was anything but merciful. Basing future retirements on 'phantom money' and the shenanigans of shysters on Wall Street (see e.g. 'License to Steal: The Secret World of Wall Street Brokers and the Systematic Plundering of the American Investor', 1999).

Then add to this morass the constant shrinkage of bank (pass book) interest rates, as well as CDs - forcing vulnerable people to chase yield in risky vehicles for which they were never prepared. These items drove millions of average Janes and Joes into the 'market' who otherwise may never have ventured there. Just as, before 1929, millions of ordinary folk were driven into the infamous 'investment trusts' that caused them to lose everything.  (These 'investment trusts' were the forerunners of today's mutual funds) and then - as now - touted as "the little guy's way to enter the stock market".)

The more recentt piling into the market with 401ks, IRAs, etc, resulted in a never-before -seen phenomenon. What mass speculation did was to drive P/E ratios (the price to earnings of stocks, and averaged out, for mutual funds) to incredible overpriced magnitudes. Some stocks and funds were trading at over 30 times earnings just before the '87 crash, and all during the 90s the average was at 45 times earnings. This was nuts, disclosing grossly overvalued stocks- and (as we now know) a speculative bubble..

“Bubble” economics therefore has a nasty past history. So why do people forget it so readily? Well, because hope springs eternal in the human breast and most brains are infected by a persistent false optimism. They inherently believe things will get better, their 401ks will get back to where they were, and their homes’ values will be what they were before the credit meltdown in 2008.

Or as Greg Smith puts it so bluntly:

“In effect YOU are the big player in the market, and when a bank overcharges a teacher’s retirement fund or a charity or a complex product, or misprices a Facebook IPO – causing billions of dollars of wealth destruction, or rigs interest rates affecting trillions of dollars of loans, it comes out of your pocket. “

So how does Wall Street make so much money while so many small fry lose theirs? Smith attributes this to “asymmetrical information”.  Basically, because Wall Street expedites business for all players (hedge funds, mutual funds, pension funds etc.) :

“It knows who is on every side of a trade.”

Therefore, Wall Street can always bet smarter with its own money. Add in fractional value trades (where the Street denotes the whole number values of stocks, mutual funds, but keeps the fractions in any and all transactions) and its money, money, money. We win, you lose! Worse, as Smith observes, given the lax regulation “there is maximum temptation to try to exploit unsophisticated investors or conflicts of interest.”

It brings to mind the banking creeps during World War II, who – according to Clive Ponting’s book ‘Armageddon’ were on each side of every loan, whether to the Third Reich or the Allies, and hence could not lose money. What they lost with the Germans, they gained via much higher loan interest rates with the Allies.

The bottom line: This chasing of phantom gains by speculation in the stock market - in fact – has caused the underfunding, under-investment in the REAL economy. This is why labor is in a precarious position now, as are all those who seek to earn money through hard work, as opposed to easy money by betting in the market. The whole Wall Street edifice has so captured most Americans’ brains that if the meme is challenged people look at you as if you are mad if you challenge them on where they keep their money.

But as long as people are hostage to the speculator culture of Maul Street they will be accomplices in the undermining of any real productive economy and contributing to higher and higher structural unemployment – or cutting the noses of their offspring trying to find decent remunerative work on leaving college.

Enjoy the DOW while you can, just bear in mind who is really prospering and who won’t lose even if there’s another stock market crash. (The 'Street' collects commissions and fees from both winners and losers.) Meanwhile, good luck if that 401k you need for retirement is stuffed with your hard earned money. You just better hope the GOP and wussified Dems don't cut your future benefits too!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

SB Players: Try to keep 'God' Out of Football This Week!

Tim  Tebow walks away with head down after the 45-10 thrashing by the NE Patriots last year. Why didn't he hold his god responsible for that debacle? If you're going to praise your deity for winning, ought you not critique it for losses? Especially of the blowout variety?

Today is SuperBowl Media Day in New Orleans, and if previous Media Days are any example – players on both teams will spend more time blowing hot air than talking about serious football. Already a number of bollocks story lines have emerged in the media (newspapers, and NFL Channel) to do with which scriptural verses tattooed on Colin Kaepernick he will kiss after each TD, and whether Kaepernick’s God will lead him to a SB win over Ray Lewis’ God.

Football fan blog readers may recall after the Ravens beat New England in the AFC championship, Ray – beside himself with emotion- pounded his chest and with tears streaming in his eyes, blurted: “This shows God is GREAT! He can do ANYTHING! When we put our trust and faith in Him great things happen! And He said, 'no enemy can stand against thee!'”

Maybe, but I seriously doubt any “God” worth his salt is interested in a game created by mammalian bipeds and played by more massive male bipeds for a lot of money. I believe it was Tim Tebow who first learned that lesson a year ago when his ‘God’ couldn’t save him or his then team (Denver Broncos) no matter how many times he wore John 3:16 on his eye-blackener or Tebowed. Where is Timmy now? Well, in a kind of limbo after a so-so season with the NY Jets.

Many of us who blistered Tim, the inveterate god monger, feel tremendous vindication now a year later. This despite certain clueless pundits like Michael Medved, who penned a Wall Street Journal op-ed : 'The Secrets of Tebow Hatred', castigating all churlish imps who would dare rain on the Great One's parade while a league "stocked with millionaire wife beaters and dog killers" received little or no opprobrium. Medved ultimately asked: "So why should Tim Tebow draw more resentment than other religious athletes?" and concludes "he's too apparently flawless to draw much sympathy from the uninitiated."

Actually, no. It was because he never let up nor was he consistent. While he attributed each Bronco TD, win or minor success, gain to his god, he never also acknowledged his god when he was brutally sacked or the Broncs were lashed with a loss, like their 45-10 thrashing at the hands of New England in last year’s AFC playoffs. So what then? The Devil was responsible for the losses? Oh wait, no…Tim blamed himself. Yet he was too myopic to see it was his making plays at the right time that led to wins, not any interference by some external supernatural hobgoblin.

Was the land then filled with godless, cynical "Tebow haters"? Not really. The fact is most of us didn't "hate" Tim Tebow. Hell, we hardly knew him personally. What we hated was the media hype and schmaltz surrounding him and the unthinking nature of his fans and groupies who appeared to conflate occasional luck on the football field with some type of divine intervention or "miracle" - when a small dose of critical thought ought to lead them to ask 'Why this time and not next time?' Why praise the ‘Lawd’ for wins, but not blame him for defeats?

We also detested how the evangelical whackos in the country exploited Tebow to their own ends to push their agendas. Such as Colorado Springs -based 'Focus on the Family' which featured a "John 3:16" ad in the midst of one game.

The fact is, even IF a powerful supernatural force or Being did exist, by its very nature it would have no more interest in human football games or their outcomes than any normal human would have in two packs of hyenas having a pissing contest (to see who can mark the most territory) in the middle of the Mala Mala Game preserve in S Africa (as featured on a recent NatGEO ‘Wild’ documentary.

Let us hope that Ray Lewis, Colin Kaepernick and all the other would-be god mongers on the two SuperBowl teams process that as opposed to filling the airwaves with god talk or other baloney today.

And, if the Ravens do win on Sunday - against a tough 49er team-  let's hope Ray Lewis in his excitement (given this is his last game) gives at least as much credit to his team mates for making critical plays as his imaginary friend in the sky!

Footnote: (1/31/13):

It appears I may be the "outcast" in my views, since the NFL appears to actually the National FAITH League, according to the report in the latest Sports Illustrated ('In the Fields of the Lord', Feb. 4, p. 38). Evidently what was regarded as absurd 50 years ago (pro football players being "cozy" with Xtianity) is now regarded as a norm! Faith huddles and prayer services occur before each game, Chaplains are assigned to each team, and noisome bible studies abound.  According to the piece:

"At the Superbowl in New Orleans this Sunday, players on both teams will pray in small huddles on the sidelines, before every quarter."

Good grief! It's the Super GOD BOWL!

Interestingly, all these god-mongering bozos aren't able to transfer their godism into moral practice. According to the same article,  god-mongering "athletes generally score lower than the general student population in test on moral reasoning." It appears this can be extrapolated to the NFL players as well.

All of which shows me the need to clean out the peculiar American religious infection is needed even more than ever before. Atheist ball players anywhere? You need to infiltrate the NFL and get it back to normality! Ah, but then this whole ridiculous god-crazed nation needs to be brought back to sanity!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Why Don't More Americans Call Themselves Liberals: Ans. Too Many Phoney Ones!

"For the Democratic Party is not a collection of diverse interests brought together only to win elections. We are united instead by a common history and heritage--by a respect for the deeds of the past and a recognition of the needs of the future "- John F. Kenendy

Rachel Maddow presented some astounding facts a week ago, on her show. The theme was that despite the fact Repukes portray the U.S. as a “center right nation", poll after poll discloses Americans are foursquare for LIBERAL programs. 82% do not want any cuts to Social Security and 74% demand no cuts to Medicare. 94% are also in favor of universal gun checks. So why, despite polling for unabashed liberal positions or programs do only 22% of Americans regard themselves as liberals.

One worthy theory is that  of Joel Kotkin, a fellow in urban design at Chapman University, who argues in similar terms to what I have (in previous blogs) regarding the infection of the Democratic Party by cancerous Neoliberalism, or shameless pro-Business dominance. Kotkin argues that the Democratic Party and the left are now dominated by what he calls “gentry progressives”: largely white, well-educated, culturally liberal urbanites. (Or analogous to what we who attend football games refer to as the ‘brie and wine’ crowd, who sit in their temp. controlled little domes and schmooz while we in the lower seats grab some brats and beer and sit in the elements!)

In an essay published by Forbes  a month after Obama’s decisive re-election, Kotkin wrote:

“The now triumphant urban gentry have their townhouses and high-rise lofts, but the service workers who do their dirty work have to log their way by bus or car from the vast American banlieues, either in peripheral parts of the city (think of Brooklyn’s impoverished fringes) or the poorer close-in suburbs. This progressive economy works for the well-placed academics, the trustfunders and hedge funders, but produces little opportunity for a better life for the vast majority.”


Kotkin makes the additional case that the Obama coalition which united well-educated, often upscale liberals, with such struggling, often disadvantaged constituencies as single women, racial and ethnic minorities, and the young is fragile at best:

“The class issue so cleverly exploited by the president in the election could prove the potential Achilles heel of today’s gentry progressivism. The Obama-Bernanke economy has done little to reverse the relative decline of the middle and working class, whose share of national income has fallen to record lows. If you don’t work for venture-backed tech firms, coddled, money-for-nearly-free Wall Street or for the government, your income and standard of living has probably declined since the middle of the last decade.”

The fragility of temporary, expedient political coalitions, as opposed to a party grounding itself in firm principles, may be why JFK warned against them in one of his most famous and stirring quotes:

"For the Democratic Party is not a collection of diverse interests brought together only to win elections. We are united instead by a common history and heritage--by a respect for the deeds of the past and a recognition of the needs of the future"  

Sadly, the New Dems seem to have forgotten that message, and have left their respect for the deeds of the past behind to build on the quicksand of expediency and temporary coalitions. This is what Kennedy was warning against, and instead insisted the party needed a committment to its common history and heritage - which clearly is distinct from the Reeps. This common history thereby demands REAL progressives (aka bona fide Liberals, as opposed to Neoliberals)  embrace the principles of the New Deal and NOT put Social Security up for grabs as the wine and brie faction are wont to do.  

Yet all these Gentrified Libs (who are really Neoliberal - free market worshipping freaks) consider “Entitlement reform”  a necessity and share Beltway Hack Bob Woodward’s deformed meme, expressed in his recent book, The Price of Politics’, as: 

"Unsustainable entitlement spending on Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security as highlighted by Republican House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan and familiar to all informed politicians and economists....has been left largely unaddressed."

Thus, feeding the fears of the landed gentry libs that "costs are now exploding"  according to the immutable logic of demographic and actuarial facts.    No surprise then that this debased progressive "elite " now fancies it can disregard the distributive consequences of their  New Deal- 1960s forbears. A perfect example of these brie and wine degenerates:   calling for gradual reduction in Social Security benefits – either by raising the retirement age or switching to a “chained” Consumer Price Index (a revised inflation index which cuts government spending by reducing annual cost of living adjustments.  

Who would be most affected? Those in the bottom quntile of the elderly who depend on Social Security  for 84 percent of their annual income, and those in the next quintile dependent on Social Security for 83 percent of their income. At the beginning of 2012, the average Social Security benefit was $1,230 a month, or $14,740 a year. For 35 percent of elderly white beneficiaries, for 42 percent of Asian-Americans, for 49 percent of blacks, and for 55 percent of Hispanics, Social Security represents 90 percent or more of total income.   

Tragically, in the current debate over financing the cost of income support for older Americans, the chained C.P.I. proposal has more political support than the TRUE  progressive alternative of raising the current $113,700 payroll tax cap . Low-income Social Security beneficiaries are not equipped to absorb cuts in benefits that a switch to a chained consumer price index would entail; on the other hand, according to the centrist Tax Policy Center, raising the cap on income subject to the payroll tax could completely cover Social Security costs into the foreseeable future without reducing benefits.  

But do the entitled "liberal" brie munchers and chardonnay sippers in their gated communities want this? Hell no! These lily-livered rats would rather keep their lower taxes than make any real sacrifices for their lower wage, struggling, blue collar brethren! And then they have the nerve to wonder why so few Americans - barely one fifth - describe themselves as political liberals? Well, DUH! Because along with the Repukes who soiled the name, so have these MFs by their disdain and inaction for true liberalism.  

As NY Times columnist Thomas B. Edsall noted (‘New Liberalism’)”

“Obama’s victory and the growing evidence of an emerging majority Democratic coalition pose the danger that the left will take false comfort. The demographic forces currently powering the Democratic Party in no way guarantee a resilient coalition assured of a long-term competitive advantage.

In addition to the glaring class conflicts between the party’s upscale cultural liberals and the larger body of Democratic voters with pressing material needs, there are a host of potential fissures.

In cities from Los Angeles to Chicago to Houston, African-Americans are competing with Hispanics and others for government jobs, good schools, good neighborhoods, political power and basic resources. Republicans are looking toward these tensions to see how their party can capitalize on them"

Can the Repugs profit at Dem expense? Of course! If enough of the lower strata Dems see how the Gentrified bunch is screwing them over! Just watch and see in the coming months if a Chained CPI is really enacted under a nominal Dem administration or if Medicare age thresholds are increased. You will see the Reeps able to exploit it like a  pack of hyenas rips into defenseless prey.

The way to preserve and expand Dem victories? Upper income Dems must be part of the solution and not the problem. They must not show themselves as Neoliberal rats, who already have theirs, and deny (or cut) government support for their lower- income brethren.  They need to re-learn the lesson, seemingly lost, that in this age of vast corporate wealth and power the rest of us need gov't as a counter-lever now more than ever. IF the Dem party isn't prepared to embrace its own heritage (from FDR) and ensure that, they may reach the stage of the Whigs faster than the Repukes!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Can The Dreamliner’s Nightmare Be Fixed? Probably not!

Anyone who’s been a fan of the ‘Alien’ flicks will recall some of the coolest scenes were when the Alien was shot or stabbed and its ‘blood’- actually potent acid- zapped through layers and layers of ship floors or decks. If the stuff managed to somehow get splattered on a uniform or space suit, it instantly burned through and destroyed any flesh in contact.

This comes to mind on reading a report of Japanese investigators in the wake of a Nippon Airways 787 emergency landing, after the 787’s lithium battery leaked (‘Leaking Lithium Batteries Central to 787’s Problems’, The Denver Post, Jan. 18, p. 16A. According to the article,

“An inspection of the Nippon Airways 787 that made an emergency landing in western Japan found that electrolytes, a flammable battery fluid, had leaked from the plane’s main lithium ion battery. Japan’s Kyodo News Agency quoted transport ministry investigator Hideyo Kosugi as saying the liquid leaked through the electrical room floor to the outside of the aircraft.”

The article cites another incident on Jan. 7 when it took firefighters 40 minutes to put out a blaze in an auxiliary power unit of another 787 used by Japan Airlines. Each incident resulted in the release of flammable electrolytes, as well as heat damage and smoke. The release of the battery fluid was particularly alarming given it’s extremely corrosive so can quickly damage electrical wiring and components. (787s rely far more on these Li batteries to power electronics rather than hydraulic or mechanical systems.)

As may be expected, Japan has halted all use of 787s. Meanwhile, the news emerged (reported from the Seattle Times) that in 2006 a devastating lab fire erupted in Arizona when a lithium ion battery blew up, showing how volatile the battery can be if the energy is not properly contained. (A single battery connected to prototype equipment exploded and the whole building housing the lab burned down.)

Let’s look at this energy issue and the construction of the battery in more detail.

Any first year General Physics student knows how an electrolytic cell is made. Usually, the student is first given a beaker of water into which two platinum electrodes are placed, connected to a source of emf –voltage. Hydrogen ions migrate to the negative electrode, pick up electrons and form hydrogen gas according to: 4H+ + 4(e-) -> 2H2

The hydroxide ions (-OH) that reach the positive electrode meanwhile give up their electrons to form oxygen gas and water:

4(OH-) -> 2 H2O + O2

This, of course, demonstrates electrolysis. The key aspect to note is the voltage is below 1.7V. Once the threshold voltage is exceeded the original electrolytic cell acts like a battery on charge. For example, in the decomposition of a kilomole (18g x  1000 = 18,000 g = 18 kg) of water, 69,000 kcal or 2.9 x 10^8 J of energy is released, or more accurately this amount of energy is converted to chemical energy (to drive the reaction H2O-> H2 + 1/2 O2.

Now, unlike the simple electrolytic cell above which can use water or dilute acid, the Li ion cell is made of thin sheet electrodes separated by micro-perforated plastic sheets. The positive electrodes are made of lithium cobalt, while the negative electrodes are made of carbon. The separator sheets allow Li ions to pass through while keeping positive and negative electrodes apart... or so one hopes. The Li ion battery itself is comprised of eight re-chargeable Li-ion cells connected in series. Each of the cells in turn is in a case within which the separator sheets are submerged in an organic solvent.

(+I ! I ! I ! I ! I ! I ! I ! I ! I+)

The configuration above gives an idea of the cell placed horizontally, with the outer positive electrode at far left then followed by a negative electrode, then positive and so on, alternating until reaching the final + electrode on the right. The outer brackets denote the shell casing. When one such cell charges, Li ions move through the electrolyte from (+) to (-) electrodes. On discharge they move back. This allows each cell to generate 3.7 V compared to only 1.5V for a normal alkaline cell.

So what’s the problem? The problem is the proximity of the electrodes to each other, with only thin plastic sheets acting as separators. If then even one separator fails, and the electrodes come into contact, the result is a short circuit which heats up the system. The cell then ‘vents’ the organic solvent. A spark can then cause a fire and the heat from one burning cell can cause others to ignite leading to a battery fire. If then the battery ruptures the corrosive fluid will have even further catastrophic consequences.

The very proximity of the separators, as well as electrodes in the cells, combined with the large emf generated in each cell amounts to what we call a potential “engineering catastrophe” (see e.g. ‘Catastrophe Theory’, Penguin Books, 1978, pp. 92-95). Catastrophe Theory shows that even one minor, but fatal flaw in a design, can translate into a systemic engineering failure. In the case of the 787 such a systemic failure would be a fire affecting the whole plane, likely of electrical origin, similar to what brought down a Swiss Air 111 jet (a McDonnell -Douglas MD-11)  back in 1998, flying from NYC to Geneva and killing all 229 on board. Later inspections, examinations determined a probable short circuit, and electrical system overload causing a fire that affected the hydraulics.

Can the Li -ion battery problem be fixed and the 787s be airborne again? I don’t think so unless the design is changed. The Li ion batteries as they are now simply invite a major calamity. The electrode placement in a flammable solvent is way too dicey, unstable. Personally, I wouldn’t fly on one of those things even if they paid me, but that’s just me. If the Li ion batteries are retained, a supporting safety system needs to be installed on every Dreamliner, to enable any battery fire or explosion to be quickly contained. Of course this would add monumentally to the cost, but one must ask: What price safety?

The bottom line is the 787's battery suffers from a bad design!  Moreover, the existing safety protocols are simply insufficient to contain the explosive energy that can be released by a Li ion battery with poor separators between electrodes which can too easily come into contact- say even from a rapid change in barometric pressure. As for Bill Maher’s question on his last Real Time: Do I need to worry about the lithium ion batteries in my laptop? Well, maybe. See:

Saturday, January 26, 2013

NO, Obama Doesn't Want to Take Your Guns Away!

Image of Obama as Hitler on a Gun whacko’s blog, which uses assorted false comparisons of Obama’s administration to the Third Reich to stir up fear and frenzy.

The free floating hysteria now sweeping the nation is almost too much to process. In the wake of the Newtown massacre and the proposal of some modest, common sense gun control by Obama, gun nut Amerikka is freaking out to a far thee well. Guns are flying off the shelves even as the Colorado Bureau of Investigations in our state barely have the manpower to keep pace with background checks. In the wake of this there exists an irrational fear that Obama is somehow planning to take away guns as “he always planned”. Hence, the images such as that shown which compares Obama to Hitler, although the gun nut bozo who put it up has zero clue what Hitler did and has never been to Germany in his life.

I have, and have actually discussed at length what went on in Nazi Germany with REAL Germans who fought during the Second World War. See, e.g. my blog of Sept. 30, 2010. Among the canards dismissed in assorted visits to Germany (Bielefeld, Dissen, Frankfurt, Hemsbach) :

1) The Nazis “took away people’s guns". IN fact, as former Hitler Youth Kurt Braun reiterated when we visited him in 1985, gun ownership was a non-starter. Most of the German populace at the time never owned even one (there’s no 2nd Amendment in Deutschland which may also surprise gun nuts). Even today gun ownership is amongst the lowest in the world with 30.3 per 100 people in Germany, whereas in the U.S. it’s 88.2.

2) The Nazis "forced women to have abortions". Another nutty idea, since in fact under the Reich laws a German woman could be sent to the camps for HAVING an abortion! Hitler fervently demanded as many births as possible to serve as future German soldiers. To have an abortion was therefore a crime against the state.

3) The Nazis "forced universal health care on Germans". Another screwball trope that’s been spread by assorted whacko anti-Obama –ites with their other BS. In fact, the only people with full access to any health care had to be members of the Nazi party. Others (e.g. Jews, Gypsies) either had to rely for assistance on their own physicians (in the case of the Jews) or on folk medicinal cures (in the case of Gypsies, Slavs). Once Reich laws were passed, and Jewish physicians were forced into hiding then it became almost impossible for German Jews to get health care.

4) The Nazis were “Socialists” and "dissolved all banks". This circulated canard discloses either the low I.Q. of claimants or their abysmal lack of history knowledge or both. In fact, the Nazis, specifically their early set of gangsters- the S.A. (before they were purged and replaced by the S.S.) ruthlessly persecuted socialists as well as communists. Hitler, in fact, believed both to be Jews and he wanted all Jews exterminated as Untermenschen.. Meanwhile, the German Banks applauded the rabid persecution of ALL Leftists whether communists or socialists. German banks, indeed, made possible the massive funding of Hitler’s war machine by repeated infusions of capital. American companies, including FORD, assisted in this. (Source: ‘The Life And Death of Adolf Hitler’, by Robert Payne). Meanwhile, George Prescott Bush – yeah, the grandpa of Dumbya- expedited the investments needed by the Third Reich, to fuel their munitions factories, the Luftwaffe, and the Panzer tanks used by the Wehrmacht.

All of the above are cited to show the degree to which the blogs of gun maniac whackos lie their asses off by employing associative lies (i.e. if they can get Americans to believe the lie that Obama = Hitler and Hitler was a “socialist” they can get them to buy into the bullcrap that he wants to take away their guns “like Hitler”)). The fact is, as Rachel Maddow disclosed two nights ago, Americans support banning high magazine clips by nearly 54%, while they support universal background checks by nearly 94%. Meanwhile, none of Obama’s executive orders (not “executive actions” – which are murders of heads of state) are in any way aggressive and I already went over them in detail, e.g.

Other lies the Right’s gun nut whackos have manufactured have to do with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, i.e. “Obamacare”. The right-wing Noise Machine cranked up its pseudo- indignation because the Obama administration wants to make sure health care professional are allowed to communicate with their patients about guns and gun safety. (Well uh duh! The Rightists have no problem demanding drs. communicate with women concerning impending abortion procedures, which is by far a greater personal freedom issue!)

In other words, the right-wing Noise Machine is furious that the White House is treating gun violence, in part, as a health care issue when it transparently is one. Fact: The United States' life expectancy rate is is far lower than most other affluent countries, in part because of our rate of gun violence far outpaces those other countries.

Meanwhile, taxpayers spend billions each year paying health care costs to treat gunshot victims, the strong majority of whom, research indicates, are uninsured. Taxpayers spend even more money covering societal costs, such as long-term psychological problems, disability, and the loss of productivity suffered by approximately 70,000 Americans who suffer non-fatal gun shot wounds annually.

Following the school gun massacre in Newtown, Conn. last month, Bloomberg News reported:

The cost of U.S. gun violence in work lost, medical care, insurance, criminal-justice expenses and pain and suffering amounted to as much as $174 billion in 2010, according to data compiled by the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation in Calverton, Maryland.

That averages out to more than $644 in costs for every gun owned in America. As economist Ted Miller, the Institute's principal research scientist, told Bloomberg, "Gun ownership is like smoking, an expensive and dangerous habit."

2005 study of hospital charges for firearm injuries in Pennsylvania found that the average charge for inpatient hospitalization due to firearm injuries was $30,814. That figure was more than double what gunshot injuries cost hospitals between 1996-1998. Meanwhile, Caleb Haney is still paying for his head injury  hospital costs (est. $2 million) after being one of those wounded in the Aurora massacre. Any of these gun nuts care to help him out? Maybe donate $1,300 for his medical bills instead of buying a  new .223 Bushmaster? Didn't think so!

Meanwhile, an in-depth investigation on gunshot violence by the Milwaukee Journal in 2006 reported that the average bill for a shooting patient treated at the city's Froedtert Hospital was $38,000. For gunshot victims who suffered spinal damage, the bill regularly reached six figures.

So yes, gun violence is America represents an epic and costly  health care problem, which is why it makes sense to include health care providers in any comprehensive attempt to combat the crisis. Meanwhile, the far-right allegation that Obama now requires physicians to press patients about gun use represents a complete fabrication. So was Rush Limbaugh's claim that Obama's trying to turn doctors into "snitches," and Lou Dobbs' fearmongering about the president turning doctors into "an agent of the federal government."

The right-wing freak-out is built around the fake premise of, how dare Obama recruit doctors to fight his war on gun violence. (See e.g. Drudge Report headline: "War on Crazy: Obama Deputizes Doctors") That may be a conservative attempt to keep the gun debate focused on the issue of gun rights and the Second Amendment and away from the catastrophic, real-life costs that gun violence registers each year.

However, the right-wing media's baseless assertion ignores the obvious fact that the health care industry in this country -- doctors, hospitals, emergency rooms, mental health centers -remains inundated with gunshot wounds daily and deals with the life-changing crisis all the time. (Nearly 300 people are shot everyday in America.) Doctors don't have to go snooping around acting as "snitches" in order to find the problem.

But the gun nuts want none of this. They won’t even concede the need to ban high capacity magazines. (Or as the fruitcake nutso who put up the Obama =“Hitler” image put it, “If I wanted to I could make my own high clip magazine as we were taught to do in the Marines, using ‘banana clips’. Not that I’d do it, heh, heh, heh”) Yeah, right! Well, how about we ban all freelance high capacity clips too, and anyone found with a banana clip gets a one -way ticket to Komodo Island, where he can make his peace with the Komodo dragons!

If gun-crazed whackos won’t help themselves using common sense, to get on board in terms of sane firearms regulations including  banning high magazine clips, we need to do it for them!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Solutions to Math Problems

Recall the set of four problems from the blog on the Euclidean algorithm and Diophantine equations:

1) Carry out the Euclidean algorithm for finding the greatest common divisor of (187, 77)

2) Reduce (245, 193) via the Euclidean Algortihm:

3) Using the Euclidean Algorithm show the continued fraction for: (237/ 139)

4) Solve the Diophantine equation: 3x - 4y = 29


1) We have (a,b) = (187, 77)

Take:  (187)/ 77 = 2 R33 [e.g. 187 – 154]

= 2*77 + 33   or (77, 33)

So take:  (77)/ 33 = 2 R11 [e.g. 77 – 66 = 11]

= 2*33 + 11 = (33, 11) = 3*11 + 0

Hence: (187, 77) = (33,11)

2)  We have (a,b) = (245, 193)

=> (245) / 193 = 1 R52 [e.g. 245 – 193 = 52]

= 1*193 + 52 = (193, 52)

=> (193)/ 52 = 3 R 37 [e.g. 193 – 156 = 33]

= 3*52 + 37 = (52, 37)

But: (52, 37) = (52)/ 37 = 1 R 15 [e.g. 52 – 37 = 15]

= 1*37 + 15 = (37, 15)

But (37, 15) => (37)/ 15 = 2 R 1 = 2*7 + 1

= (7, 1)   and  7/1 = 7

Hence:  (245, 193) = (193, 52) = (52, 37) = (37, 15) = (15, 7) = (7, 1)

3) Take 237/ 139 = 1 + 98/139  = 1 + 1/ (139/98)

139/98 = 1 + 41/98   = 1 + 1/ (98/41)

98/41  = 2 + 16/41  = 2 + 1/ (41/16)

  But: 41/ 16 = 2 + 9/16  

This will then be laid out in continued fraction form such that the final form will be analogous to that shown in the images for the blog, but with 2 + 9/16 in the final denominator. 

 4) Solve: 3x - 4y = 29  

There are no immediate integral solutions since neither 3 or 4 divide evenly into 29. So we write:  
4 = 1*3 + 1   and 3 + 1*2 + 1   and 1 = 4- 3 so that (3, 4) = 1  

=>  3(3) - 4(2) = 1  

=> 3(11) - 4(1) = 29 

 So that x = 11, and y = 1  

Other solutions (for r = integer) can be obtained using:  

x = 11 + 4r   and y = 1 + 3r  

Check for r =2 :  x = 11 + 4(2) = 19  and y = 1 + 3(2) = 7 = 7 

 Subst. into the equation: 3x - 4y = 29 to get:   3(19) - 4(7) = 57 - 28 = 29  

Other values of r can also be tried by the reader, just ensure they're integers!

How Badly Did Colorado Springs City Council Sell Out Its Citizens? 9.9 on a 1-10 Scale

Things are not looking good here on the Front Range in Colorado. Cancer incidence is increasing (likely from over 1,800 fracking wells shooting crap into the water supply), even as health care costs, treatment expenses rise, and the drought is pulverizing our land into crumbly dust.  In terms of the latter, the Colorado Springs Utilities' January water outlook received scant attention last week in one Council meeting, but it ought to have.

Right now, Colorado Springs is in a "Stage One" drought declaration. Voluntary restrictions ask customers to water no more than one day per month. In the upper Colorado River basin, snowpack Jan. 4 was 64 percent of normal. Given that the National Weather Service's three-month forecast predicts above-average temperatures and below-average precipitation in the northern, central and southern Rockies, it seems highly unlikely that snowpack will reach anything like normal levels.

In early summer of 2011, the city's reservoirs were at 83 percent of capacity, holding enough water to meet more than two years of demand. Since then, storage has dropped to 48 percent. If the drought persists, and the city doesn't implement restrictions it has planned, storage could drop to 25 percent of capacity by this fall, with less than a year's demand in reserve. That means if a fracking permit is issued, as the City Concil intends to do, we are all basically fucked. As one water officer who works for a local university quipped:" "By the time the water runs out we'll all be drinking recycled wastewater anyway".

For those not in the know, that means using a system that recycles the water from your toilet, and delivers it straight to your tap! Once fracking begins, that means you'll not only get the benefits of filtered shit, piss and assorted prescription drugs but also fracked chemicals. WUNDERBAR! 

In 2012, Colorado Springs received 8.11 inches of precipitation, less than half of normal. The 2012 average temperature was above normal. In its seasonal drought outlook, the U.S. Department of Agriculture predicts drought conditions will persist or intensify for all of Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Nebraska, Kansas, New Mexico and Arizona. And yet communities in many of these regions are prepared to add water-wasting fracking to their existing water-starved regions. Let's recall each fracked well consumes millions of gallons of clean, potable water in order to fracture rock and release natural gas and shale oil. It is part and parcel of what's driving up the cancer rates throughout our once beautiful state, while also sullying the landscape.

Flash to Colorado Springs. The City Council some two months ago decided it needed more money in its coffers, to run city services, so allowed a re-zoning plan to enable Ultra Petroleum of Houston to frack away. You see, although the Springs is a military enclave and for decades has helped settle military by the tens of thousands here (using the trope that they will "add to the economy") the truth is somewhat different. What they've actually done is added social -economic costs with  more burdens to local schools - beleagured by costs even before the Ft. Hood contingent arrived, as well as burdens on local hospitals, roads-highways, not to mention crimes. (Many of the most lurid recent killings-murders, rapes, have been by miitary perps.)

So, given that the military has not exactly fulfilled the Council's fiscal ambitions for our Burg, they've gone to the frackers, even though these assholes know damned well we're in serious Stage One drought and fracking will wreak havoc on citizens' health. While a form of what we refer to generically as "fracking" has been around for years, the new method involving high-pressure and horizontal drilling, such as Ultra Petroleum has planned for Colorado Springs, is neither well-established nor well-regulated (see "Gray matters"). Even the industry admits the research is not complete enough to know what the right setbacks should be.

According to Dem U.S. Rep. Jared Polis,:"While the newly proposed 500 foot buffer zone between operators and residences is better than current rules, it is not enough. In Colorado, a commercial diesel vehicle is prohibited from idling for more than five minutes within 1,000 feet of a school. The fact that drilling operations require diesel-powered compressor pumps and engines argues for a standard at least as strict as for that of a single diesel truck."

That's an apt comment, but we should add that spills and leaks are much more common than the industry leads us to believe, and Ultra Petroleum's record is one of the worst. The company bought a bunch of land to the city's east side that was not zoned for drilling under the law. But the good ol' City council and Mayor Steven Bach are considering changing the rules for this company — and any others — to allow drilling in all zones. ALL zones! That means they could set up a frack operation right next door if they had a mind to! Cancer chemicals here we come.

A citizens voice meeting has been mentioned, but many here fear that the Council will have a sneak meeeting in private with little or no advance notice. Those of us from outside City Hall want a real public hearing, where we can hear from scientists, researchers, members of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Bureau of Land Management as well as experts on water and health, property values, infrastructure and tourism.

The citizens of Colorado Springs deserve to have their questions answered by professionals not employed by the oil and gas companies, at a public forum set up only for this subject,. This also needs to be at a time of day most people can attend, and not on the same day as the vote on the regulations is scheduled.

What we really need or ought to have done, is used a referendum like Longmont did, to ban these gas-frackers altogether.

Meanwhile, the drought goes on....and so do the cancers.