Monday, September 30, 2013

The Finer Details of Obamacare (Part 1)

With the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act set to be operative from tomorrow, there may be many details prospective buyers are still not aware of. In this post and the next, I’d like to try to fill in some of the blanks – also provide some advice and traps to avoid.

First, if anyone has paid compulsive attention to the political news, and especially anti-Obamacare PR from the Right (i.e FOX) you've probably bought into the dire predictions of "rate shock," i.e. the supposed sky-high health insurance premiums to be inflicted on Americans starting next year, when the new health care law starts requiring everyone to have health insurance or pay a fine. Make no mistake that these fears are all off the mark, over blown. In the 11 states where 2014 health insurance premium information is available, the average price for a plan with a middle range of benefits is coming in at $321 a month, 18 percent lower than the impartial Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated it would be, according to a report released not long ago by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Second, these premiums are for much better coverage than consumers can purchase on the individual market in most states today. For instance, they must all cover mental health care, maternity care, and prescription drugs, essential health benefits that are absent from a lot of plans being sold to individuals today, This is a biggie, no matter what the Tea Baggers and Ted Cruz have to say! Best of all, the vast majority of people buying these plans through their state's new health insurance Marketplace (they're opening for business Oct. 1 nationwide) will receive a break on costs in the form of a new kind of tax credit that they can use right away to offset part of the premiums.

Now, let’s examine more of the details, as also made available in a new report from Consumer Reports. Org.

1)The early market reforms, such as requirements for a minimum Medical Loss Ratio and for review of proposed rate increases of 10% or greater, have clearly created value for consumers.Further, data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey Insurance Component (MEPS-IC) shows that the average premiums for employer sponsored insurance increased by only 3% from 2011 to 2012, the lowest rate of increase observed since the data series started in 1996. However, the major changes in the rules for individual and small group insurance will begin in plan year 2014.

2) Information on proposed premiums in the individual and small group markets has recently been made available by selected states, and it is now possible to move from theoretical arguments to data-driven analysis. This shows, for example, that for healthy young adults, who have the highest uninsurance rate of any age group and the lowest awareness of the coming reforms, premiums will be even lower. That's because the law allows younger adults to be charged lower premiums than older customers pay. In Los Angeles County, which according to HHS has more uninsured people than any other county in the country, a 25-year-old can purchase one of these mid-range plans for $174 a month, before subsidies. Young people ought to be breaking down the doors to get this insurance!

3) While the Tea Baggers have made much of the low initial penalties ($95 the first year)- and hence the "benefits" to the young of not signing up - they aren’t saying how the penalty costs will escalate reaching $2,585 per year by 2025. It therefore makes good sense to buy insurance in the initial stages – especially when financial support is also available.

4) In the eleven states for which data are already available, the lowest cost Silver plan in the individual market in 2014 is, on average, 18% less expensive than ASPE’s (Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation’s )estimate of 2014 individual market premiums derived from CBO publications. The lowest cost silver plan available to small employers in 2014 in the six states with available data ( New Mexico, Colorado, Vermont, District of Columbia, Washington, Oregon) is estimated to be 18% less expensive, on average, than the average premium that small employers would be paying for a pre-Affordable Care Act silver plan trended forward.

5) These preliminary rates may be further lowered before health plans are offered in Marketplaces this fall.

-- (*Marketplaces” are also known as “American Health Benefit Exchanges” or “Exchanges” as defined by and established in Section 1311 of the Affordable Care Act. In addition, Marketplaces may be established and operated by a state (State-based Marketplaces or “SBMs”), by the federal government (Federally-facilitated Marketplaces or “FFMs”), or by the federal government with state participation (State Partnership Marketplaces or “SPMs”)

Next in Part 2 - More Details: Who Is Paying, Benefits for Young Males and Possible Missteps

SO What Happens With This Government Shutdown?

With a looming government shutdown, thanks to the intransigent Tea Baggers who want the results of the last election repealed, people are now wondering what will transpire.

Based on Financial Times, Wall Street Journal and other inputs, here's what you - Joe or Jane Smith - can expect:

- All 401 National Parks will be closed, including Washington Monument, Yellowstone, Yosemite, Grand Canyon and others. Campers will be given two days to pack up and leave.

- Passport and visa applications will all be delayed

- Mortgage applications, i.e. for federal home loans will not be processed.

-Gun permits will not be processed.

-VA Benefits will be delayed

-The FDA will stop making routine food safety inspections.

- Service members will see delays in payments but they will still be expected to report for duty.

- Service member families of those deceased will see a delay in payment of death benefits.

- About 800,000 government workers will be furloughed which means loss of pay for those additional days (on top of those demanded by the sequester) for not showing up.

The services - benefits that will not be affected include:

-Border patrol

- Air traffic control

- Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid

How long will this last? No one can say. According to Nancy Cordes reporting from Capitol Hill this morning, Repukes are adamant that will only fund the government if they can weaken the health care law, the Affordable Care Act.

Let there be no mistake here, that if these terrorists succeed, it will set a god-awful precedent for the future wherein any disaffected minority (like the Tea Baggers) can use hostage taking to make inordinate demands to repeal or defund any law they don't like if it doesn't comport with their agenda.  This is why, as Bill Clinton stated emphatically yesterday morning on George Stephanopoulos' ABC program, that Obama and the Dems must not give in.

My projection? A shutdown of at least one week. One thing the repukes don't want is for this to merge into the really big battle, over raising the debt ceiling.

Hold on to your seats.

See also:

A Glimpse of What Our Future, Overpopulated World WIll Look Like

Yesterday evening, my niece Heidi - an RN in Arizona-  sent me a link to a video that must be seen to be believed. It shows 'rush hour in Dhaka at the time of Ramadan'  (2 1/2 months ago) but could equally be a preview of what our world's largest cities will look like - in NORMAL  periods- in 40 years when the population tops 10 billion. You can see the video here:

Note especially the traffic congestion, the piling into buses, literally crawling over one another to secure whatever small space available. Note also the congestion in the streets and the mass motion to get to destinations.  Again, this could very well be the normal scene in the planet's largest cities including, Dhaka, Mumbai, Jakarta, Tokyo, Lagos, Beijing, and even London and New York.

Richard Attenborough, in his BBC documentary entitled: 'How Many People Can Earth Hold?',  pulls no punches in his assessments. He observes that every current major societal, environmental problem- from clogged highways, to overflowing hospital ERs to crowded schools, as well as scarcity of commodities (reflected in their much increased prices) to fouling of our water and atmosphere, can be laid at the feet of too many people on this planet - each needing food, air, water and energy from the time it's born.

Of all the resources, the most critical is water because no one can live without it for very long. Even now, 1 billion people live in water-stressed conditions, meaning that renewable water supplies drop below 1,700 cubic meters per capita. One notable ‘State of the World’ report (2000, pp. 46-47), warned that the ever increasing water deficits will likely spark “water wars” by 2025. The situation is likely to be exacerbated by the fracking mania which is rendering millions of cubic feet of water useless for humans after it's been used for releasing natural gas and oil from underground deposits.

Attenborough reinforces this observation by noting the water intensity of the various beverages, foods we produce. For example, merely to produce one cup of coffee requires the consumption of 120 liters of water. To get a single can of beer requires 150 liters, and to obtain that 'Big Mac' or quarter pounder takes some 8,000 liters! All of this is water that could be put to better use, if changes were made in our highly consumptive diets.

Can this world be averted? This is an especially apt question given the most recent UN Climate Report noting that it is a near certainty that humans are the primary causative agents for global warming. It is even of more pressing concern, giving the enhanced effect of CO2 absorption by the oceans - converting them into carbonic acid (H2 CO3).  This is even now dramatically affecting the viability of sea life, including corals, crustaceans and varieties of fish.

What steps can be taken?

Attenborough brings up the "one child only" law in China. While people may seethe at such a law, it enabled China to achieve economic superpower status within a generation and now compete directly with the U.S. As Attenborough notes, if that law hadn't been enacted China would now have 400 million additional people and still be at the mercy of famine from too few grains, foods or ability to import them.

The U.S. doesn't need such draconian methods, only minor changes for example in its tax code. Taking away the child tax credit, or having a sliding scale of increased taxes when people have more children, while giving credits when they adopt more kids in need. The problem is, the U.S. is already overpopulated in terms of the resources it can deliver for 315 million people.

We also need to target and fight against the spurious arguments that we need to have more people in order to pay for what the Right called "entitlements". No we do not, we need more judicious use of our existing economic resources and their allocation. A good start would be to cut the Pentagon budget by 50% and use that money to shore up Social Security and Medicare. The only reason these huge budgets remain is because certain communities - like Colorado Springs- have become dependent on the federal tax teat at the expense of other communities (the majority) which lack military bases.

There is still time to alter the course toward a nightmare world, but it isn't infinite. If we don't begin to act now, we will pay dearly later - all of us - even if we don't live in the most densely populated areas or cities. We will experience the shortages of food, fuel, much higher prices, as well as shortages and blackouts, attendant on a population beyond carrying capacity.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Mysterious Radio Bursts Detected - Of Alien Origin?

The Parkes 64 m radio telescope which detected the strange radio bursts.

Six years ago, radio astronomers were baffled on detecting 4 energetic bursts of radio waves that lasted only a few milliseconds. Their bafflement was engendered by being unable to associate the bursts with a specific object.  Now, more recently, we find in the July 5 issue of Science, that Dan Thornton of University of Manchester and colleagues also reported 4 mysterious bursts.

Interestingly, they exhibited energies similar to the 2007 events,  and also resembled them in appearing only once. While researchers still aren't sure what might have caused such a signal they know it wasn't a fluke. The parameters for the radio telescope and the observed events all check out and conform to radio astronomy physics.  So we do know in order to be detected at all,  radio waves must fall within certain physical limits, i.e. brightness temperature, received flux, solid angle etc. One also needs to look at properties of the antenna -receiver such as beam width, gain, antenna temperature, etc. Since all the detected parameters were within conformance to standard radio physics we know the bursts aren't flukes.

In the Science paper, the radio astronomers reported scanning the sky with the 64 m Parkes radio telescope in New South Wales, Australia (see image).  They'd actually been searching for the rapidly spinning compact remnants of once massive stars as well as other transient radio sources. In the first case, one expects a supernova would have erupted leaving a neutron star (at least) in its wake. (The 4 newly observed bursts originated in the high latitudes of the Southern hemisphere, and roughly 40 degrees south of the Milky Way's disk.)

The first order of business was to determine the distance of the events. We know as radio wavelength radiation propagates through gas and dust it impacts electrons which smear the signal. The four strange burst emissions showed such a smearing, indicating the bursts were from space and not from Earth. Also, since the point of origin was 40 degrees off from the galaxy's disk the researchers concluded the burst originated outside the Milky Way. Following a computation of how much material the radiation had to travel through, they estimated the bursts' distance at between 5.5 and 10.5 billion years.

As for the energy signature, it was astounding. Each of the four bursts released as much energy in its brief emission time as the Sun puts out in 3,000 years.  So what is the source?

Could it be an advanced alien civilization which has somehow managed to exploit the energy of powerful astronomical objects to dispatch brief, but energetic signals? Granted, this hypothesis can't be totally excluded, since one must recall E.A. Milne's rubric of always dealing with physical proposals by using the concept of a bead on a wire and never letting the bead get to one end (certainty) or the other (impossibility). However, if the distance calculation for the events holds up - it is doubtful aliens are the source. At such immense distances, in effect looking that far back in time, it is improbable advanced alien civilizations existed.

In an article appearing 25 years ago, in The Journal of the Barbados Astronomical Society, I also argued against the likelihood of extra-terrestrials using radio signals to communicate. In order to communicate, say over thousands (or even hundreds) of light years' distance, information is transmitted. It requires energy to do this. Interestingly, a relation between energy and information is available. It can be written as:

E = 0.693 kT

Here, E is the energy associated with transmission of 1-bit of information. T is the temperature of the environment in which it is sent (say the radio transmitting antenna) and k is a physical constant known as the Boltzmann constant. Imagine an alien civilization sending the equivalent of a small novel to humans. This would be approximately 1020  bits of information. The associated energy would be about 0.3 (three tenths) of a Joule.  The energy required, from a practical standpoint, would be much, much larger - maybe 100 million times larger. Why? Because in the process of pure transmission (over light years distance) a significant fraction of signal dilutes. So, at least 30 million Joules would be needed, to have it get to Earth in a useful form.

Arguably, aliens genuinely interested in contact would not waste time or effort with anything so puny as a small novel. It is more probable, if they went to the trouble of first contact (as in the film 'Contact') they'd send a lot of information. Say, equal to an alien encyclopedia of mathematics, or their most prevalent language. In this case, the information content soars to billions of megabytes, and the energy accordingly. For one million megabytes (1012    bits) the aliens are looking at an energy for transmission on the order of 3 x 1019  Joules.

It is well to realize that time factors into this as well. If the aliens kept the transmission going for at least one hour (Earth time), 3 x 1019   kilowatts of power are needed (assuming the aliens are able to sustain a rate of energy conversion of 1 Joule per second). In the civilization classification scheme of the late Russian astrophysicist I.S. Kardashev, this would put them at a bit beyond Type I, but not quite Type II. Kardashev's three-class scheme is:

I: Able to harness the equivalent power of the planet Earth

II: Able to harness the power equal to a typical star (1023  kw)

III: Able to harness the power equal to a typical galaxy (1033  kw)

While the burst energies appear to be close to the last category, there is one problem: no decipherable or intelligible communication was recorded. In this case, it leaves a powerful astronomical object as the likely source.

The astronomers themselves, in their Science paper, propose the most convincing cause is a neutron star known as a magnetar.  Thornton and colleagues suggest some 1,000 of these magnetar bursts occur across the sky every year. We will wait for confirmation to see if this is in fact, the best explanation

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Mail Brane Blog: Readers Seeking Answers To Questions

Once more a selection of some of the best readers' questions to do with posts on Brane Space:

Q. I was keenly interested in what happened in Colorado with the recent floods. What will happen there if the government shuts down on October 1st? - Veronica L., Toronto

A. Basically, a disaster would ensue, with FEMA funds then held up and the 40-odd miles of roads, highways and bridges that were destroyed unable to be completed. More than $2b of FEMA funds had been allocated to repair key highways such as 36, which connects many for example, to jobs in Denver. Until the key highways are repaired workers have to drive north to get 60 or more miles south to Denver - adding hours to their transport each day.  With bridges in disrepair, as well as key highways, whole towns such as Lyons and Jamestown will remain islands with no one able to live there because there is no way to get supplies in, or even basic services. All in all a shutdown would be much worse for citizens of Colorado than most other states - exactly because of the destruction wrought in the flood disaster.

Q.  Can you give me one reason not to go to Florida and teach your fat cracker racist brother some manners? I accidentally came across his website hate blog:
and it made me so angry I had to get a beer to cool off. He calls black people every stinking name in the books, like 'jungle jooks', 'black fucks' and even says he can 'smell a nigger in a woodpile' while denying it's racist. All you have to do is see the shit on his site to see this cracker is racist to the bone. As one of my homeys put it, 'the boy is inbred Southern white trash', What say you about learnin' his fat cracker ass some manners? - Davantae Hoyte, (location withheld)

Q. I can actually give you several reasons. First, what you consider "teaching manners" may not be considered so by any cops down there.  Second, he has " high powered weapons all with high capacity magazine clips" if you believe his bilge (he claims he needs them, as opposed to a .38 special because he "lives near Miami Gardens which is full of gangs", sic)  Third, Mike is no where near as tough as he portrays, as I have it from a sound source, the same one that exposed he never really traveled out of the country while in service, other than on a ship (USS Coronado).  The guy,  just out of the Marines- actually fled from a looming bar fight (where another jar head wanted to start something in Miami) leaving my source behind to fend for himself. According to the source: "He ran his ass out of there so fast he left a cloud of dust behind."  Fourth, he is not really "Southern" (born in Milwaukee)  nor "inbred" (which would mean I am too) but he is rather ersatz or pretend Southern.  This was probably from living in Mississippi a number of years, where he actually went broke from gambling in Biloxi casinos. So why he has such a hard on for that place and the Stars n Bars is beyond me.

My basic theory is the guy somehow became or always was a necrophilous personality. See more at:

My best advice, is "let thy heart not be troubled" and simply avoid his website, just as you might stay clear of any toxic waste dump full of potassium perchlorate, benzene, atrazine, lead and dioxin.  While the latter chemical waste dumps can be injurious to one's physical health, there are blog sites that can be injurious to one's psychological health. Mike's so-called 'straight talk' is among them, and it's more hate talk.

Q. I am somewhat confused. In your last post on Honoring JFK's accomplishments you included Kennedy challenging the Federal Reserve control of the money supply. But when I google "JFK and Federal Reserve" or "U.S. Notes" I pull up page after page claiming its a "myth" especially from one MacAdams website and from some South Carolina professor of economics, Edward Flaherty. Flaherty claims JFK actually wanted to increase the Federal Reserve notes not reduce them. What gives? - Terrence J., Roanoke, VA

What gives is that what I call  obfuscation from the "ambiguation brigade", which wants to sow ambiguity to keep people confused. (John MacAdams site is one of the known disinfo sites, btw).  But ask yourself this: If Flaherty and his contingent are really correct, why the need to have U.S. Notes printed in the year 1963 at all, some 50 years after the Federal Reserve Act was passed in 1913?  Surely, if Federal Reserve silver certificates were intended to dominate JFK would not have printed some $4,292,893,815  (e.g. about $4.2 b)  in such notes in 1963.

The full statement of his Executive Order 11,110 (which is still in effect to the extent any president could re-enact it if he or she wanted- but not one ever will after the Nov. 22 lesson)  is:

AMENDMENT OF EXECUTIVE ORDER NO. 10289 AS AMENDED, RELATING TO THE PERFORMANCE OF CERTAIN FUNCTIONS AFFECTING THE DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY. By virtue of the authority vested in me by section 301 of title 3 of the United States Code, it is ordered as follows:

SECTION 1. Executive Order No. 10289 of September 19, 1951, as amended, is hereby further amended - (a) By adding at the end of paragraph 1 thereof the following subparagraph (j): "(j) The authority vested in the President by paragraph (b) of section 43 of the Act of May 12, 1933, as amended (31 U.S.C. 821 (b)), to issue silver certificates against any silver bullion, silver, or standard silver dollars in the Treasury not then held for redemption of any outstanding silver certificates, to prescribe the denominations of such silver certificates, and to coin standard silver dollars and subsidiary silver currency for their redemption," and (b) By revoking subparagraphs (b) and (c) of paragraph 2 thereof. SECTION 2. The amendment made by this Order shall not affect any act done, or any right accruing or accrued or any suit or proceeding had or commenced in any civil or criminal cause prior to the date of this Order but all such liabilities shall continue and may be enforced as if said amendments had not been made.


Now, like Kennedy's National Security Action Memoranda the wording is deliberately obscure and generic.  Kennedy was obviously wary and the cautious wording reflects that. But read between the lines and you see - in concert with Kennedy's actions - he is giving himself permission to issue silver -based notes outside the Federal Reserve system. Why do this at all? Because the Federal Reserve brokers notes into the money supply upon their creation. This means they emerge with interest on them which is passed onto the distributing banks - which in turn pass it on to borrowers (or savers) via the 'spread' - the difference between what banks earn in interest, say for a saver, and what they will actually give him. Or the interest they earn, and the interest they charge a borrower for a loan. In this way, mammoth debt is generated. Most of the debt that exists in the private sphere is based on interest - whether from home mortgages, car loans or whatnot. Kennedy knew all this which is why he had U.S. notes created interest free.

The Executive order meant effectively that, for every ounce of silver in the U.S. Treasury's vault, the government could introduce new money into circulation based on the silver bullion physically held there.

And so, over time, U.S. notes would gradually increase in number (like an organism conferred genetic advantage in a biological environment)  and gradually make the Federal Reserve paper redundant. At that point, interest-bearing currency would be a thing of the past. Thus, the demand for Federal Reserve notes would disappear. Again, IF the skeptics are correct, why were so many non-interest bearing U.S. notes floating around in 1963 and being made in 1963? Yes, the U.S. Notes did originate earlier, in the Lincoln era, and this was because the printing of money at that time was done according to the Constitution - the U.S. Treasury as the only legal creator - and no Federal Reserve existed. When the FR came into being in 1913, then logically-  if the skeptics are correct- the printing of U.S. notes would recede into the background owing to the paramountcy of the FR notes. So if one plotted a graph of notes and value printed, it ought to be something like at least a linearly decreasing function with time. But what one finds is suddenly increased gradient in 1963!

Here's another thing the skeptics don't consider: The power of perception to override reality.  Author Donald Gibson, in his monograph: Battling Wall Street - The Kennedy Presidency, notes that overriding all central banks (say like the Federal Reserve in the U.S.) is the Bank of International Settlements in Switzerland. Also, as Gibson puts it,  this über-Bank would (p. 72): "have little tolerance for a president who interfered with their decisions or made their interests secondary to the needs of nations or of people in general."

  More critically, is how Gibson shows the internal linkage of the central banking monolith to the intelligence community (ibid.).  Since these interests already had it in for Kennedy, after firing Allen Dulles (after the Bay of Pigs), and rapprochement with Castro, a putative kill order from that über-Bank is not beyond consideration. Why would such an order arise?  It could have if the Bank of International Settlements, not fully understanding the intricacies of the U.S. system, really DID believe JFK was undermining its Federal Reserve link in the U.S. via issuance of U.S. Notes. This theory, while not widely held, jibes with Michael Parenti's take ('The Gangster State' essay) that Kennedy could well have been assassinated even if his affronts to embedded power, i.e. in the military, intelligence, central banking spheres, were only "imagined" or exaggerated.  Thus, so fearful were the powers that be of being one-upped, that the mere misinterpretation of JFK's actions could have warranted Executive Action.  These exaggerated or misinterpreted perceptions would have doubtless been reinforced by Kennedy's already documented real actions, including: his threat to U.S. Steel in the spring of '62 to cut its defense contracts if it raised steel prices, his firing of Allen Dulles after the Bay of Pigs, and his refusal to invade and bomb Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis - as well as making a secret deal with Khrushchev to remove U.S. Jupiter missiles in Turkey. And we won't even get into NSAM 263 to withdraw all personnel from Vietnam by 1965.

My point is that - even if the skeptics are right on the surface- it still doesn't mean that banking interests were not complicit in the need to see Kennedy eliminated, or to have provided the funding - including for the cover up. Is this subject complex? Yes, but that's exactly why so many of the elites don't wish Americans to examine it too carefully!

Q. In your blog post with the answers to the Caribbean algebra 2 questions, there was one, 8(b) with a simultaneous equation, but you didn't really show how to solve it. Could you provide some details? - Maurice V., Speightstown, Barbados, W. Indies

A. Yes. Recall that the two equations were set up as:

7x + 5y = 11.60

5x + 3y = 7.60

Now, we need to eliminate at least one variable, say 'y' and solve for the other one. To do this, we examine the equation set and see we can get rid of the y variable by multiplying through the top equation by 3 and the bottom by 5. This will yield:

21x + 15y = 34.80

25 x + 15y =  38

Now, subtract the bottom from the top and obtain:

- 4x  =   - 3.20

then: x =  -3.20/ -4  =   0.80  or 80 cents.

We merely need to substitute this back into one of the equations to get y, i.e.

 5x + 3y = 7.60

5 (0.80) + 3y = 7.60


4 + 3y = 7.60

and: 3y =  7.60 - 4  =  3. 60

y = 3.60/ 3   =  1.20

Or:  y = $1.20

Friday, September 27, 2013

The Ants That Destroy Computers and Start House Fires - Are They Headed Your Way?

‘Crazy Ants’: The ants that destroy electronics march into Georgia photoImage of a queen, Nylanderia pubens - observed in Starkville, Miss.,

They are relentless and they are bloody horrific in their damage - to household electronics, especially computers, as well as getting into electric sockets and starting house fires. They've now become such a force in parts of Georgia, that residents are actually having to move! Will Florida be next, maybe seeing the varmints march all the way to Miramar near County Line Rd?

Make no mistake, this critter is for real not part of a scifi flick as portrayed in the 1956 movie, THEM!.   The "tawny crazy ant", scientific name nylanderia fulva, can overwhelm environments quickly, travel in massive groups and moves in a quick, erratic fashion. They can cause major havoc, including ruining electronics, if found close to homes or buildings. According to one study published in April in The Journal of Biological Invasions,  these tiny, reddish ants can destroy the fire ant communities that Georgians know well. Now,  that is serious, given fire ants used to be the bad guys on the block.

Yes, fire ants can leave hellacious stings, but despite the fact they may build mounds close to homes, they're usually not aggressive unless bothered. Tawny crazy ants, by comparison, actually seek household electronics to feed on. And while they don't sting like fire ants, they do use sheer numbers to overwhelm other ant populations.

Ron Harrison, director of technical services for Orkin, said he would not be surprised if the tawny ants survive in Georgia, or parts of Fla.. According to him:

They will displace fire ants. They are just so prolific. The whole ground can be moving. I would not be surprised if they can survive in our area."

University of Georgia agriculture and natural resources county extension agent James Morgan found the ants on Aug. 15 in Alban, GA at an assisted living facility in a vacant duplex and out building. He said:

I found that they can cause problems. When they’re in the house they can get into wall sockets and short-circuit things,”

He explained that the ants are attracted to electrical outlets because of the warmth coming from them, but small electronics aren’t the only things tawny ants enjoy. 

They get into light fixtures, electrical breakers, computers, handheld devices and things like that,”

This, according to Joe MacGown, research technician for the Mississippi Entomology Museum, adding:

And in Houston they have even gotten into large equipment in factories, and they have had serious problems in that area.”

But why are they called crazy? Morgan explained:

"They sort of crawl around erratically, hence the name ‘crazy ants'. Fire ants build mounds, and these ants don’t build mounds or nest. They have colonies and can have multiple queens.”

The beasties were discovered in Texas in 2002, and it's believed the ants originated from South America where they've been known to ruin pastures because of their overwhelming numbers. They've been driven toward N. America by global warming, climate change.

According to expert MacGown:

The main thing is that they have superhigh numbers. They call them supercolonies. You’re talking about massive populations, and they can affect other wildlife, even small birds and lizards. They just eat everything.”

Hopefully, the altitude here in Colorado will be too great for them to settle in, we have enough pests as it is.

Obama Must Be As Good as His Word and Not Let Himself Be Rolled Again by the PUKES!

Depiction of Obama from two years ago when he basically allowed the country to be extorted by the Reepo Economic Terrorists. This time he needs to approve the debt ceiling limit increase under Executive order- under the 14th amendment - even if brings on a constitutional crisis.

In a heartening speech yesterday Obama basically said that the nation was being held hostage on two counts - with the upcoming potential gov't shutdown if  Obamacare isn't defunded for a year, and with raising the debt ceiling to pay the nation's bills. In the latter case, if the GOOPs are allowed their extortion gambit again, it may well mean another credit downgrade, stocks crashing and people suffering.  One news anchor, Scott Pelley, on CBS New last night noted from his correspondent (Nancy Cordes) in the field, that Social Security checks could well stop going out by early November if a shutdown ensues and the debt ceiling isn't raised. For sure, all 401 National Parks will close, and service members' checks as well as military death benefits will be delayed. Thank your local Tea bagger fascist for that!

Obama responded that such a debacle would "not occur on my watch". In other words, he is not prepared to deal again with these terrorists "with bombs strapped to their bodies"  - which is literally what it amounts to. In this case, an economic "bomb" that will affect tens of millions of innocent citizens.  But will Obama hold strain, or allow himself to be rolled again by the extremists in the Tea Party? As Bill Clinton observed last night on a CBS news segment, their tactic is simply to try to dictate to Obama their terms, and not negotiate at all. This is the standard terrorist modus operandi, and in that case it requires the standard response: NO deals, no matter what transpires.

Now, it is a shame, a pity in fact, that some 33%  (in a recent CBS News poll) place the blame on the Dems for this impasse and impending economic crash, but they are either congenitally dumb, fundamentally ignorant or Reepo Foxites.  Anyone with more than air between the ears knows the reprobates are those who threaten a nation via extortion , i.e. "You will do so-and-so or these will be the consequences.",  or seek to dictate their own terms with horrific results for millions if they aren't accepted.

This time the way to deal with these thugs is obvious. In the case of the potential shutdown, given more sane Reeps are against it in the Senate, there is no issue on refusing to make any deals. The fallout will be largely on the heads of the Teepee House which Boehner has shown he can't control. That means someone must exercise adult authority over them, and that has to be Obama. So, don't give in, let the cards fall where they may, but don't yield....not one inch, not one nanometer!

They will demand "spending cuts" in return for paying debts already owed, but this nuts. The graph below shows the spending cuts ought to have occurred under Bush II's term, since the spending increases were actually MUCH greater during his rein, yet the debt ceiling was raised 7 times without fanfare!
The numbers in the chart come from Budget of the United States Government: Historical Tables Fiscal Year 2012. They are just the amounts that the government spent and borrowed, period, Anyone can go look then up. People who claim that Obama "tripled the deficit" are either misled or are trying to mislead, stupid or outright lying to gain specious political advantage.

One can easily see that over his tenure Bush's deficits consistently increased and at his last budget showed a $1.4 trillion deficit. This was fobbed off directly onto Obama.

Bush's overall spending increase was 88% over his time, vs. 7.2% for Obama. If anything, Obama's spending immediately after he took office wasn't enough, and we ought to have had at least double the stimulus he implemented and with NO tax cuts!

In the case of the next round, over the debt ceiling, the solution is also clear as day. If the Reepos won't raise it to pay existing debts then Obama needs to do so on his own, and fuck them and their terrorist ways. The Constitution (Amendment XIV, Section 4),  stipulates:

The validity of the Public Debt of the United States, authorized by law, includes debts incurred for payment of pensions ....and shall not be questioned.

It is clear to me that if the Republican Congress refuses to act to raise the debt ceiling (and thereby honor the validity of paying the Public Debt) then President Obama can and MUST issue an Executive Order to override a putatively derelict Congress and invoke Article 4 of Amendment XIV to raise the debt ceiling himself. If this triggers a "constitutional crisis" then let it be! If the Reepos are going to act in an extremist way you must be MORE extremist in the interest of the nation. You cannot roll over again. Or evince a scenario such as depicted in the bottom cartoon from two years ago.

We have in fact, because of the Teepees and their lot, been leading up to a showdown for some time, given the polarization in the country. What better way to resolve it than via a constitutional crisis?  I am fully convinced, given what's at stake, that even the Roberts Supreme Court will see where the national interest lies and side with Obama  - if he has the courage to raise the debt ceiling limit on his own authority - given the congress has devolved into reckless simpletons who can't be trusted with the keys to the congressional rest rooms, far less the nation's economic welfare.

Give in to these turds again, as he did two years ago, and Obama will only be recalled as a weak and timid wuss who was unable to deliver more than tough rhetoric in the nation's moment of need.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Robert Reich Accosted at Airport for being a "Commie" - Are You Kidding Me?

Complaints about the level of political discourse in this country have perhaps never been so plentiful. They may transpire when some one does something as common as knee jerk responding to a blog post, or as serious as confronting a person in an airport, such as apparently happened to Robert Reich and detailed in his blog.

According to Prof. Reich (a frequent guest on Chris Hayes’ ALL In, on MSNBC) he was abruptly stopped while making his way to an airport concourse, and asked by some knuckle –dragger:

"Are you Robert Reich?”

Reich answered in the affirmative whereupon the loony tune hurled an epithet Reich's way – like certain innominate bloggers, yelping:

“You’re a Commie f*ck head!”

Reich, unable to process or accept that such a whacko could be walking around free, not locked up in a straight jacket, responded: “I’m sorry?”, thinking he had misunderstood him. Whereupon the nut responded again:

“You’re a Commie fuck head!.”

Reich blogged that his “mind raced through several possibilities. Was I in danger? That seemed doubtful. He was well-dressed and had a briefcase in one hand. He couldn’t have gotten through the checkpoint with a knife or gun. Should I just walk away? Probably. But what if he followed me? Regardless, why should I let him get away with insulting me?”

Reich then decided to respond, as civilly as he could, saying first, he was wrong, and second asking where he got the information. At that juncture the source of 99% of the stupidity and political ignorance in this country was exposed:

“Fox News. Bill O’Reilly says you’re a Communist.”

Ah yes, Bill O’Reilly! The same guy that used to teach English at my high school, Monsignor Pace – until the Marist Brothers had to read him the riot act about political digressions. Well, he finally found his calling as a know-nothing blabbermouth and blowhard on FOX.

Evidently, according to Reich, a year or so earlier O’Reilly did say on his Fox News show that Reich "was a Communist." The basis for the claim? His arguing for higher taxes on the wealthy! On the fuckin’ wealthy!! The ones who now have so much money, so many giant houses over 20,000 square feet, and so many Rolls Royces and blood diamonds they don’t know what to do with them! And this Foxite moron thinks higher taxes make a “commie”?

What really does is first, nationalization of all resources and companies – taking including oil, banking and investments and turning them all over to the state. After that, stripping the wealthy of all their excess riches and re-distributing them to those who need them the most, including: the unemployed older workers, under paid women, the homeless and vulnerable families with hungry kids – now made even hungrier since Repuke fucks cut the food stamps by $4b

As Karl Marx noted in Das Kapital this is justified given that the wealthiest got that way by expropriating the surplus value of labor. Say the labor value sold as a product was L, and V is the labor value embodied in the production of the item, then the surplus value S is:

S = L - V

As an illustration, assume that a craftsman working for a company is paid $10 an hour to make beautiful mahogany chairs by hand. He takes 10 hours to make one chair, thereby imparting a discrete labor value of 10hr x $10/ hr = $100 into the chair, invested in his blood, sweat and maybe tears. The chair is then sold at retail for $1,000 by the company. Then the surplus value S is:

S = $1,000 - $100 = $900

Hence, in this light, V is the paid labor and S is the unpaid labor. The amount of labor expropriated is therefore equal to $900.

In other words, the ultra-wealthy capitalist feathers his own nest at the expense of his workers and their kids.

A real communist would – after seizing all excess wealth of the richest – tax the rich assholes at least at 90% - not the paltry increase to Clintonian rates (39.5%) as Reich proposed. If a person can’t tell a real commie from a mere egalitarian capitalist, like Reich he or she has no business ranting or engaging in political discourse at all. Better yet, any future dummies that confront someone like Reich in an airport and barf out “Commie!” need to be dropped off at Komodo Island. We will be sure to give ‘em a little pocket knife to fight off the hundreds of flesh-eating Komodo dragons!

'The Most Complete Observational Evidence for Solar Magnetic Reconnection To Date'

The plasma flow represents the motion relative to the existing (B)-field(say in a local solar field), and its "cutting" action on the field line leads to a change in magnetic flux and induced current.  The only way to avoid this unrealistic situation is for the plasma to be constrained to follow B-field lines rather than cross them. This is what is meant by field freezing.

The region of a large Solar flare, Note the magnetic field lines which follow the solar plasma - this is at about the level of the solar chromosphere.

Magnetic reconnection - the topic of this post- requires solar plasma to temporarily deviate from the infinitely conducting condition displayed in the very top image.  In this situation, when opposite polarity magnetic regions get pushed together, the changing magnetic flux generates a sheet of electric current (called a 'current sheet') that flows perpendicular to the plane of the page. Let this current be strong enough and the plasma's ability to conduct electricity is impeded- which allows the electric field in the plasma to build up and the magnetic field lines to reconnect, generating heat via joule dissipation. The newly connected field lines are then able to lower their energy by snapping back from the reconnection region, converting the magnetic energy into bulk kinetic energy and heat - what we observe in solar flares.

Image of solar corona taken at 211Å by the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly of the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). Note carefully the lines - which are magnetic field lines - which have actual reality in the solar corona and are not merely artificial constructs.

      Three years ago NASA launched the Solar Dynamics Observatory, with great expectations. Much was expected on account of the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA)  equipped with the capability of obtaining images of the Sun with greater speed and resolution than ever before.
     Now that expectation has more than paid off, with the first detailed observation yet of magnetic reconnection in a solar flare. As one solar researcher, Eric Priest, has put it (Physics Today, September, p. 12): "This is exactly the type of event many of us have been waiting for, for years". 
       On paper- or in theoretical plasma physics classes - magnetic field lines are treated as theoretical constructs with no reality in and of themselves. But in the Sun's corona, they have  physical reality, as seen in the last image taken with the SDO's AIA.  Plasma in the corona is an excellent conductor or electricity because the ratio of kinetic energy density to magnetic energy density is less than one, in fact much less than one. In such a circumstance, the magnetic fields are said to be "force free" and the condition applies such that:  J x B = 0
     Here J is the current density and B denotes the magnetic field intensity.  This condition means that the magnetic field lines cannot move perpendicularly to the underlying solar plasma - which case is depicted in the top most graphic.  In that case, for a non-force free situation one would have:  grad p = J X B

      where grad p denotes the pressure gradient.  As opposed to this, in the corona, the magnetic field lines are entrained with the plasma and move in the same sense. As the Sun rotates and its plasma convects, the field lines will be affected dynamically by the rotation (think of Coriolis forces as on Earth) and become contorted into an ever more series of complicated loops whose topology (under ideal plasma conditions, i.e. J x B = 0) cannot change. But in force free conditions they can - as described in the text for the second image.
        Before going on to the comprehensive SDO discovery - observation, let's be clear what the AIA's limits and capabilities are: It basically uses four telescopes to obtain images of then in ten channels - 7 in the extreme ultra violet (EUV) ranging in wavelength from 94   to  335   -  two in the ultraviolet (UV) and one in the visible spectrum. It can collect one image of the Sun every 12 seconds with a spatial resolution of 0.6 arc seconds (for comparison, the full Moon's diameter is about a half degree or 1800 arcsecs.). It is also possible to collect images even more rapidly by restricting the field of view - say to just part of the Sun, maybe to observe a flare in real time - such as the second image shows.
        In the case of the solar flare of interest, and the subject here - Yang Su (University of Graz, Austria) and an international team of collaborators reported the most comprehensive observations of field reconnection ever for a flare that occurred on Aug. 17, 2011, and just after 4h 00m Universal time. While many flares have erupted in the 3 years since SDO's launch none have shown the explicit features of reconnection as well as the 8/17/11 flare. This also meant it didn't saturate the sensitive AIA detectors and obscure the flare region as other events have.
      Movies obtained of the entire flare - at the full 12 sec resolution - are even more impressive. The film shows hot solar plasma pinned to the magnetic loops flowing away from the reconnection region. One of the images extracted from the movie is shown here (credit Physics Today:)
Solar magnetic reconnection seen in detail (2013_07_25)
       One problem the researchers need to reckon with is reconciling the inherent 3D nature of the Aug. 17, 2011  flare  and the typical 2D models of magnetic reconnection. What we need therefore is a proper three dimensional model of reconnection as it would apply to the solar corona's events
     TO see other events occurring the same date;


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Brazilian Prez Tells It Like It Is Re: NSA Spying- and American 'Above the Law' Exceptionalism

Dilma Rousseff UN general assembly
Dilma Rousseff addresses the UN and gives the U.S. a piece of her mind on NSA spying.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, speaking this morning at the United Nations,  delivered a merciless indictment of spying by the NSA on behalf of the United States.  Unlike assorted Neoliberal, anti-4th amendment twerps in the U.S., President Roussef didn't play games blaming Edward Snowden - but rather the dissembling culprits his revelations exposed: the NSA.

She said:

"Without respect for a nation's sovereignty, there is no basis for proper relations among nations,"

This ought to be a no-brainer. Because to spy on another country is to display malignant distrust of the spied -on nation. It therefore undermines polity, as well as civility, and in the process destroys any potential for normal relations or mutual respect. I would advance the same regarding the relation between a state and its citizens. If the former intrudes and spies on its people, then it mistrusts them at the core, and the citizen - knowing this - has no choice but to mistrust the state.

Dilma Rousseff added that: "Brazil knows how to protect itself. Brazil ... does not provide shelter to terrorist groups. We are a democratic country."

The Brazilian president, has been so outraged at American spying- both on her country and on her personal emails and her personal life, she canceled a state dinner with President Obama. Good for her. She isn't two-faced but consistent. Her privacy was seriously violated, as U.S. citizens' privacy has been, so why should she be seen to be accepting of it, by agreeing to a state dinner - for simple pompous display?

Alas, too many dumb Americans - brainwashed by the corporate media - will perceive this simply as a tiff or rift between Brazil and the U.S., missing the larger point - that THEY are having their heads pissed on by the NSA  too, and ought to be equally outraged as Dilma Rousseff. Indeed, President Rousseff highlighted this very thing when she said:

"Without the right of privacy, there is no real freedom of speech or freedom of opinion, and so there is no actual democracy."

In other words, people denied this right - by NSA intrusiveness - via XKeyscore, PRISM or whatever, are inhabiting a Potemkin democracy. They have no true freedom of speech because they can't know how their (spied and mass-grabbed) speech is being used.  I also noted this in a previous blog on the 4th amendment, after quoting it:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

In other words, the NSA MASS-grabbing of data violates directly the 4th amendment, and yeah, I'm as much a stickler about the 4th as the gun people are about the 2nd.

As I noted, "secure in one’s person, house, papers, effects” implies PRIVACY! These are after all MY private papers, my private effects, my house, etc. If an inherent right to privacy was a myth then by all accounts being secure in one’s person, papers, effects wouldn’t matter. Hell, let the whole freakin’ world see ‘em! This is why in a fascist dictatorship “personal effects” don’t exist. “Personal papers” has no meaning. The state has full monopoly, de facto ownership on whatever the person has, even his own body. Hence, in fascist dictatorships, such as existed in Nazi Germany, all personal effects, papers could be seized by the Nazis on a whim or remote suspicion - under the Reich Laws. A fundamental right to privacy, meanwhile, insists there exist bona fide entities that one can uniquely own, e.g. papers, effects – including photos or what not- that are private. Without this fundamental right, then, “personal papers, effects” has no meaning hence the 4th amendment is meaningless.

This is exactly what President Rousseff's point was, but it likely sailed over most Americans' heads - if they heard or saw it at all- and was met with smirking cynicism by our own pols. (Who probably still have a hard- on to put Snowden in chains for revealing the criminal acts of the state spy system) As The Guardian also noted:

"Rousseff's angry speech was a direct challenge to President Barack Obama, who was waiting in the wings to deliver his own address to the UN general assembly, and represented the most serious diplomatic fallout to date from the revelations by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden."

In a global rallying cry against what she portrayed as the overweening power of the US security apparatus, Rousseff went on to say (ibid.):

"Tampering in such a manner in the affairs of other countries is a breach of international law and is an affront of the principles that must guide the relations among them, especially among friendly nations. A sovereign nation can never establish itself to the detriment of another sovereign nation. The right to safety of citizens of one country can never be guaranteed by violating fundamental human rights of citizens of another country."

I again trace the malignancy and desecration of international law of which she speaks to the false belief in American exceptionalism.  It is only such exceptionalism which feeds the insane meme that one country is superior somehow to all other nations, and can therefore do whatever the hell it wants - and follow no international norms.

It's the same irrational delusion that fuels the conviction the U.S. is some kind of global policeman - entitled to flog any "misbehaving" nation with a 'Pax Americana' drone or cruise missile attack based on whatever pretext it wants, or none. Because it views itself as "exceptional" - meaning above the law- then it has no need to obey any laws other than those it creates itself out of its false beliefs of hegemony and imperialism.

Needless to say, Washington's efforts to soothe Brazil have all been for naught. Why be soothed if you know in advance nothing will change and the spying will continue? It's a waste of time. Rousseff then went on to aver (ibid.):

"Friendly governments and societies that seek to build a true strategic partnership, as in our case, cannot allow recurring illegal actions to take place as if they were normal. They are unacceptable.

The arguments that the illegal interception of information and data aims at protecting nations against terrorism cannot be sustained. Brazil, Mr President, knows how to protect itself. We reject, fight and do not harbor terrorist groups,"

She then called on the UN to develop "a new global  system" to govern the internet. This is all well and good, but so long as a superpower with too much heft and hubris is around that believes its warrant is global control, not even that will protect against incursions.   The only thing that might work is a powerful countervailing force to offset U.S. exceptionalist hegemony- and, unless aliens land from Tau Ceti, I see nothing on the horizon to rein in American imperialists.

Post-Prostate Cancer Treatment One Year Later: How Are Things Different?

A remote brachytherapy afterloader of the type that delivered my cancer radiation treatment exactly one year ago, Sept. 25, 2012. It's an electro-mechanical system by which 16 transfer tubes  with radioactive Iridium -192 needles are inserted into catheters in a fixed template (stitched to the perineum) to deliver radiation directly to the prostate gland. I received a total dose of 1930 cGy (centigray), in a treatment delivering one single high dose.

One year ago today at this time, I entered the UCSF Helen Diller Cancer Center, in San Francisco, for treatment of stage T1c prostate cancer. Within an hour of my sign -in I was in a hospital gown and given last minute checks before being wheeled into the OR on a gurney. Thus began an "adventure" I never thought I'd ever have, and yes, a life-changing experience.

Only in retrospect did I realize it was even more of an adventure than first believed, since I had received a novel brachytherapy treatment still relatively rare up to that time: one single high dose of radiation delivered through 16 Iridium -192 needle sources. Only 6 months earlier the standard protocol called for  three administrations of lower dose radiation delivered over two days. So, yes, I was something of a "guinea pig". What makes it more interesting, is that - according to  number of sites, as well as research articles (e.g. in Urology Times): "little is known about the sexual outcomes of the treatment, particularly ejaculatory function."

Well, I definitely found out more about that in the aftermath. I had also attempted to learn about it before the treatment, but there was nothing there.....a total information vacuum. Evidently, whoever did get the single high dose therapy wasn't talking.  I did converse with a guy (friend of Janice's from her days working at Nucletron) about what he experienced, but then he had the earlier standard 2-day lower dose therapy. What he told me is that he generally got on ok, except for the fact of having "dry orgasms"- which he was trying to get used to.

This phenomenon, as noted in an earlier blog from last October, was explained by Dr. John P. Mulhall thusly:

"Radiation therapy results in reduced ejaculate volume as the function of the  prostate and the seminal vesicles is to produce ejaculatory fluid, and in most men, will result in loss of  ejaculation completely".

He also observed:

"The amount of radiation needed to cause endothelial damage is tiny, ranging from 0.1 to 1 Gy. It is estimated that between 15 to 20 Gy is required to injure large blood vessels (when given in a single dose).  This damage to blood vessels is known as endartertitis obliterans and may take up to a decade to manifest itself maximally."

Both of these after effects are confirmed in the literature, including for both low dose brachytherapy and high dose brachytherapy.  I have not experienced any "dry orgasms" yet, but Mulhall notes that - despite oncologists' attention to sexual function after 12 months, it is preferable to only begin to examine it closely after 2 years. He observes:

"Any study looking at erectile function outcomes should really assess these outcomes at no sooner than 24 months, if not 36 months, after the completion of radiation."

Perhaps Mulhall's most salient point is:

"Radiation attacks the DNA in our cells. It causes breakages in the DNA, and when this occurs, the cells commit suicide, a process known as apoptosis. Normal cells have better repair machinery to fix some radiation damage while cancer cells do not.  As well as killing off the actual prostate cancer cells, radiation causes injury to the blood vessels that supply the cancer."

The last effect is confirmed at a site (of the National Cancer Institute) which states:

 "Radiation damage to nerves and blood vessels may occur with brachytherapy, and higher doses of radiation may cause more damage"

In addition, there is this difference noted in comparing effects of the radical prostatectomy and radiation therapy (ibid.):

"Radical prostatectomy damages nerves that make blood vessels open wider to allow more blood into the penis. Eventually the tissue does not get enough oxygen, cells die, and scar tissue forms that interferes with erectile function. Radiation therapy appears to damage the arteries that bring blood to the penis."

Well, maybe not much to choose between there! What I've found basically is these effects are manifest and they translate into: much more difficulty in sustaining erections (though not in getting them) and pain sometimes as an accompaniment. PDE 5 inhibitors are not much use, what with blood pressure issues. Another effect not accounted for any place, despite bringing up  dozens of Google pages, (or available literature) is burning semen on ejaculation. Not only does it burn, like my urine - if I fail to hydrate enough on a given day - but it acts as a skin irritant.  Fail to wash it off thoroughly after an ejaculation and the skin becomes red and inflamed. Why has this  side effect not been reported anywhere? Are men too embarrassed to do so? Or is it simply rare and varying person to person?

 Has the high dose radiation produced "radiated semen"? My inclination is to say 'Maybe', but I'd like to know if the burning sensation of the urine, and that for semen,  arise from the same mechanism.  There also appears to be some relationship - certainly of the urine burn - to extreme urgency. More than once while in Europe, for example, I had to suddenly make a mad dash to any accessible RR to empty my bladder. While most men are aware of how desperate it can be when the bladder is full, now imagine multiplying that sensation by two or three times - as you find yourself say in Salzburg, and the only rest room is one for pay that requires exactly one half euro!

I think I have to agree with many observers (including Dr. Mulhall) who insist more longitudinal studies of the post-treatment effects need to be done, and those results documented and circulated. Maybe lots of the effects are age-dependent, who knows? Maybe a younger male (hopefully) doesn't have to fret over something like burning semen  for whatever reason. But whoever the prospective patients may be, all deserve to know more about what lies ahead and how they will be affected. Also, what they can do about them, if anything.

Re: the effects on the arteries, I've tried to counteract those by going to a diet heavy on veggies and fish (salmon, etc.) and limited in red meat.  Needless to say, I am hoping such a strategy will help me cope when the enhanced, longer term effects of the radiation start kicking in within another twelve months or so.  As Mulhall has noted, and despite radiation therapy being "less invasive" (some consolation!) the erectile success rates are the same for surgery and radiation after 24 months.

In the end, any given prostate cancer treatment has a cost, and it seems like it's only a matter of whether one pays it sooner or later.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


We now continue to elaborate on JFK’s major accomplishments:


Contrary to the misbegotten trope that Peace Corps was started as a legion for do- gooders, the actual basis was as part of geopolitical strategy during the Cold War. Even before the program was inaugurated on March 1, 1961, Kennedy had pointed out that the Soviet Union "had hundreds of men and women, scientists, physicists, teachers, engineers, doctors, and nurses . . . prepared to spend their lives abroad in the service of world communism."

Kennedy understood, as few leaders do today, that most true victories aren’t won on battlefields but in the hearts and minds of populations. Support those vulnerable populations in a constructive way – by providing medicines, basic health care, ways to grow new crops to feed themselves, access to clean water and education – and you will win the most critical battles. To say JFK’s program has helped burnish the American image abroad would be an understatement – never mind the common detractors whose only contribution to human advancement to date has been…..well, nothing !

Since 1961, more than 220,000 volunteers- male and female - have served in the Peace Corps, working in such diverse fields as education, health, agricultural development, HIV/AIDS education and prevention, information technology, business development, protecting the environment and developing water resources,. Peace Corps volunteers have to be U.S. citizens and at least 18 years of age. Peace Corps service is now a 27-month commitment.

And no, contrary to the lies of certain n’er do well, ignorant imps (who likely wouldn’t qualify for Peace Corps based on failing the psychological exam) Peace Corps was never a historical haven for “draft dodgers”. As part of the government, how could it have been? To be accepted you had to go through a government screening process and if you had dodged a draft call -up you’d have been exposed in a New York minute. If of draft age, at the time – say late 1960s, early 70s when the Vietnam War was going on – you had to either have a government deferment, or a draft card showing your classification was IY or 4F. There were no exceptions!

The goals of the Peace Corps remain:

1) To help the people of interested countries and areas in meeting their needs for trained workers

2) To help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served

3) To help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.

During my four year stint in the Peace Corps in Barbados, I helped set up the Science departments and fully outfitted biology, chemistry and general science laboratories at two different secondary schools, acted as the Head of Science Dept. in both, assisted in teacher education and curriculum development, helped found the Barbados Philosophical Society, and launched the first ever scientific journal for The Barbados Astronomical Society – as well as helping to organize public lectures, seminars, technical workshops.


In March, 1961, Kennedy launched this critical economic assistance program – realizing the strategic importance of Latin America. In his opening speech in recognition of its goals, Kennedy said:

“We propose to complete the revolution of the Americas, to build a hemisphere where all men can hope for a suitable standard of living and all can live out their lives in dignity and in freedom. To achieve this goal political freedom must accompany material progress...Let us once again transform the American Continent into a vast crucible of revolutionary ideas and efforts, a tribute to the power of the creative energies of free men and women, an example to all the world that liberty and progress walk hand in hand. Let us once again awaken our American revolution until it guides the struggles of people everywhere-not with an imperialism of force or fear but the rule of courage and freedom and hope for the future of man

Because of the program, economic assistance to Latin America nearly tripled between fiscal year 1960 and fiscal year 1961. Between 1962 and 1967 the US supplied $1.4 billion per year to Latin America. If new investment is included, the amount of aid rose to $3.3 billion per year during this time span while the total amount of aid was roughly $22.3 billion. Sadly, once LBJ got in, the amount of aid did not equal the net transfer of resources. LBJ was likely worried about the bad press Kennedy had received – as in the reactionary Wall Street Journal – which repeatedly accused him of being a “statist” and using “dirigisme”. (E.g. 8/15/63: 'When Friends Become Foes')


After the ignominy of the Russian satellite Sputnik, launched on Oct. 4, 1957, the U.S. received a wake up call in respect to its science and technology deficiencies. JFK knew that in order to technologically compete, a single program and focus was needed to capture the nation's imagination and to propel it toward a future where it wouldn't be left behind. Thus the manned space program was launched, and Kennedy declared in 1961 that "before this decade is out we will land a man on the Moon". With this single -minded focus the national resources were summoned through NASA, and he was as good as his word, with the Apollo astronauts setting down on July 20, 1969. Look at most of those who became interested in math or science, especially physics - at the time - and they will tell you it was Kennedy's challenge of going to the Moon, and manned space exploration in general. For me, I recall Alan Shepherd's Mercury flight on May 5, 1961 as if it was yesterday.

Many of the devices we take for granted today, especially in computers and electronic miniaturization, are direct spinoffs from the manned space program. Specific examples include: artificial limbs, scratch resistant lenses, ventricular assist devices, and light emitting diodes for medical therapies. In addition, you can thank the space program for having provided the satellites essential to keep your GPS locators functioning in your cars and satellite dishes operating for your satellite TV. You can also thank the space program for all the weather satellites that make it possible to know in advance the approach of hurricanes.


Few Americans today appreciate what we had to endure in the 1950s - early 60s, in terms of radioactive fallout (with Strontium 90 and other nuclides contaminating food, air, water etc.) from massive Russian and U.S. nuclear tests in the atmosphere. Often, say each month, 100 megaton or larger test warheads would be detonated – especially in the Soviet Union. The radiation from the blasts traveled across Europe as well as the Pacific. The U.S. had its share of tests too, and before Kennedy’s initiative (signed also by Nikita Khrushchev) few of us knew whether or if it would ever end.

But with the signing and ratification of the Nuclear Test Ban treaty in August, 1963, it did. As author James Douglass aptly has noted (JFK and the Unspeakable):

“The test ban treaty was JFK’s critically important way to initiate, with Khrushchev, the end of the Cold War and their joint leadership in the United Nations for the redemptive process of general and complete disarmament.”

What changed Kennedy? Most observers believe it was the close call with the Cuban Missile crisis. Kennedy then became firmly convinced there needed to be controls in place, and also a path to general nuclear disarmament. In his American University speech on June 10, 1963, for example, JFK noted:

“Our primary long-range interest is general and complete disarmament- designed to take place by stages, permitting parallel political developments to build the new institutions of peace which would take the place of arms”.

Indeed, in his National Security Action Memorandum 239 he explicitly said he was prepared to pursue such a program, noting:

” The events of the last two years have increased my concern for the consequences of an unchecked continuation of the arms race between ourselves and the Soviet bloc.”


Kennedy, while not a strict constructionist as regards the Constitution, did believe that the creation of money was legally only allotted to the U.S. Treasury and not an outside banking enterprise. (Which the Federal Reserve was, and is – see e.g. James Livingstone Origins of the Federal Reserve System - Money, Class and Corporate Capitalism 1890- 1913, Cornell University Press, 1986, p.233.)

Realizing that if he didn’t make a move to challenge the Federal Reserve no one else would, he signed Executive Order 11,110 on June 4, 1963 - to challenge Fed's control of the money supply. This EO authorized the creation of some $4.2 billion in U.S. Notes ($30b in today's dollars) to replace Federal Reserve Notes. These U.S. Notes were issued by Treasury Secretary Douglas Dillon, and bore his signature. After the assassination nearly all the notes were recalled. I was fortunate in being able to save two: a $2 note with Jefferson on the front, and a $5 with Lincoln. Both display the serial numbers in red ink, not green like Federal Reserve notes. Readers who are interested in seeing the fiver can go to my blog post of July 14, last year, e.g.

JFK's U.S. note issuance was clearly an effort to break the Fed stranglehold, and especially its policy whereby new money is brokered into the M1 supply system via interest, passed on to lending, issuing banks, thereby creating a stream of new debt each time.

Had he lived, massive additional infusions of U.S. Notes likely would have occurred, ultimately leading the way to redundancy of the Federal Reserve. But perhaps that’s why he couldn’t be allowed to live.


JFK realized also in the wake of the Cuban Missile crisis, that Castro’s Cuba could not be an enemy of the U.S. for life. There was no upside to it, for either nation. National Archives specialist and archivist Peter Kornbluh has already extensively documented the goings on in the Kennedy white house to do with Cuba in the months leading up to his assassination. Much of this was documented in his article, 'Kennedy and Castro: What Might Have Been', in The Baltimore Sun, Aug. 22, 1999, p. 1C. As he notes:

"Unknown to all but Robert Kennedy and a handful of advisors, John Kennedy began pursuing an alternative tact on Cuba in 1963: a secret dialogue toward a rapprochement with Castro. "

(snip) "The first private channel to Castro was James Donovan, a Washington lawyer negotiating the release of the Bay of Pigs prisoners. During the late fall of 1962, Donovan became the first American emissary to gain Castro's ear and his trust. Donovan arranged a trade of $62 million in food and medicines for the imprisoned brigade members. During the spring of 1963 he continued his trips to Havana to secure the release of two dozen American citizens including three CIA operatives, held in Cuban jails. Debriefed by U.S. intelligence officials after each trip, Donovan described his meetings with Castro as 'most cordial and intimate'."

Developments proceeded rapidly, according to the Kornbluh documents, until by November 19, 1963, the stage was set for a preliminary “secret meeting at the United Nations to discuss an agenda for talks with Castro”. Alas, it was not to be, and 3 days later Kennedy was dead. Most deep politics researchers suspect the CIA caught wind of the plan – despite the extraordinary efforts to keep it secret- and this along with Kennedy’s plan to pull out of Vietnam in 1965 sealed his fate. (Also quite plausible, is that the anti-Castro Bay of Pigs Cubans run by George Joannides of the CIA were privy to the Castro rapprochement, and they volunteered to be mechanics in the assassination – to “pay Kennedy back for his treachery".)

Make no mistake the legacy of John F. Kennedy lives on especially in the hearts and minds of those of us who were directly involved in one or more of his programs. We who carry on that legacy seek to make it known, as well as beating back the endless efforts of racist knaves, know-nothings and knuckle draggers to slander his name and besmirch his legacy.

'DEXTER' Finale was "terrible"? Not! (SPOILER ALERT!)

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Well, the terrific SHOWTIME series 'Dexter' has finally ended after eight years with the episode 'Remember the Monsters'. To see some of the reactions on the blogosphere, you'd think it was some kind of major betrayal of fans. 'BWWWAAHAHA! How could they end it like that?  This is worse than the ending of LOST!'

One writer at the Atlantic Wire, actually asserted that he "wanted to throw something at the TV". Not to be outdone, a critic on the Huffington Post bawled about Dexter "not manning up", and assuming his proper responsibilities - including dealing with other killers, and taking care of his kid, Harrison. How he could he just run off to "somewhere in the Pacific Northwest" and leave everyone behind? How could they just leave fans hanging?

Puh-leeze! People who write such scruff either never grasped Dexter's personality, nor have they ever read or investigated Carl Jung's theories of psychic transformation, in attainment and evolution of the Self. Which is sad. Because it once again reminds us that the preponderance of reviews will  then be superficial and fail to objectively take account of the full arc of the 'Dexter' narrative.

The whiners and complainers assumed, probably based on their superficial interpretations of earlier episodes or lines, that Dexter had finally reached a stage of transformative completeness. In fact, he did not. Even though Dex appears cheery and ready to take the flight to Buenos Aires with girlfriend Hannah, and son Harrison, he has not completely transformed - the 'dark passenger' remains alive and well within. This is evident after Dexter goes to perform a GSR test on Oliver Saxon (the brutal serial killer  - who effectively is responsible for Deb going into a coma and being brain dead after abdominal surgery) and ends up stabbing him in the neck with a pen - killing him almost instantly. Even as we see the stone serial killer Saxon on the floor, blood spurting from his neck, and elate that this vermin is finally exterminated, we (should) know Dexter's issues remain unresolved.

Dex pleads "self defense" and it works because he'd incited Saxon to recklessly grab the pen and stab him with it first. It's all captured on the viddies. Both Det. Batista and Quinn agree - on re-examining the footage- it's self-defense. But the serious fan isn't fooled, and knows Dexter's dark passenger is back again. The seeming transformation to 'good guy' Dexter was only a feint, a mirage.

In his magnificent book, Answer to Job, Jung is adamant about the essential dynamic for inner transformation in a man. Basically, intense pain and a type of "violence" in experience are needed to bring one to wholeness, and the discontinuation of inner strife, alienation. The experiences, from the inside and outside, come upon the person and one must submit to their action. As Jung puts it:

"He must be affected by it, otherwise its full effect will not reach him. But he should know, or learn to know, what has affected him, for in this way he transforms the blindness of the violence on the one hand and of the affect on the other into knowledge."

There follows from this "a complete change of system, an acceptance of things that were unacceptable before"

Given this context of the incomplete path of Dexter toward wholeness and genuine self-knowledge, the ending was masterful. It acknowledged that Dexter's resolution of his dark passenger issue was not complete and he had yet serious work to do on himself (and without 'Pop' - James Remar's character-  offering his 0.02), in order to avoid hurting others close to him in the future. Will he do the inner transformative work necessary in an isolated lumber outpost of the northwest? That is the ambiguity with which we are left, and it's always the adult that can accept ambiguity. (Impatient children or child-like adults inevitably want all loose ends tied.) But to me, it ends the Dexter narrative perfectly. (Even the cast agrees, as the pre-finale interviews disclose)

According to producer Sara Colleton, interviewed by Entertainment Weekly:

 'From the very beginning the paradox was here’s a guy who doesn’t feel he’s a human being, who has to fake it. But in faking it, he’s a better brother, boyfriend, colleague that most real people. People think of him as a monster, but he yearns to be human. We’ve seen him go forward on this journey every year. Now we found out what the final price was. What sums up the entire journey was the scene on balcony of his apartment before going on the boat to put Deb down — that’s horrible to say aloud. The voiceover: “For so long all I wanted was to feel like other people … now that I do just want it to stop.” It’s the horrible awareness of what it was to be a human being and how overwhelming that is for him. His punishment is banishment. He sends himself into exile. Killing himself is too easy. When he turns and looks into the camera at the end he’s stripped everything away."

This exile means pain, of course, but according to Jung's thesis also means the potential for a full transformation.

The adults in the room can leave it at that!