Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Are We Here Yet?

If I were required to pick one overarching theme for America, I would perhaps suggest that it is the elimination of the difference between "here" and "there". The difference is not just physical, but metaphorical as well. The pathways and networks we have created have gone from canals and roads, highways, rails, and rivers, to wires and fibers, airwaves, and spectra.

We are told that these have aided the democratic process, either through enhancing our freedom of movement, or by expressing ourselves through near instantaneous communications. I'm not so sure. I've always felt that progress had a Newtonian component to it - that for each action there was an equal and opposite reaction. That for each obvious gain, there was a oftentimes subtle corresponding loss. Although usually this loss was in a sideways or lateral direction, as movements within the sphere of social direction are, but eventually it was felt and noticed, and occasionally lamented.

Take the automobile, the popular use of which is less than a century old. For all the freedom and convenience it has brought us, it has also brought congestion, pollution, urban sprawl, and possibly even a fundamental alteration of lifestyle through climate change and dependence upon oil from hostile regimes. 

Take the railroad, without which the entire system of mass production could not have occurred. There is no doubt that this system has resulted in prosperity and a more egalitarian standard of living regardless of social standing. Getting goods to market, in large quantity, to places that canals and rivers and trails could not easily reach has produced a change to our economy of near geological proportions. And yet railroads also gave us the curse of  the modern corporation, organizations so large they rivaled sovereign nations in power, and rivaled governments in terms of bureaucratic incompetence and indifference. Not to mention railroads helped to usher in the age of consumerism, mass consumption and planned obsolescence.

The telegraph, telephone, radio and television, the network of computers have shrunk the distance between individuals, strengthened the links from person to person. I am still amazed, today at what a monumental change the telegraph was. It is hard to imagine the impact. News and information which took days, weeks, even months to travel took suddenly mere seconds. The modern day equivalent would be nothing short of teleportation - to travel to any spot in the world and arrive in just moments as opposed to hours or days.

There certainly has been a  leveling of the playing field with regards to access of information. There was a time when facts and figures were held by the privileged few, jealously guarded and hoarded, and information parceled out only sparingly and miserly. Now, anyone with a smartphone and a university of google degree can look like an intellectual. 

There are moral hazards to this wired world, however. Flash traders, those companies with the fastest networks and the hottest supercomputers, with advanced financial models, can profit from a timing difference in  just milliseconds. And people may have any fact and figure to hand, but not the slightest idea of how to connect them, or how to act wisely with this information.

In short, we as individuals, despite being empowered and enhanced by space and time destroying technology, are also shackled and diminished by it. Despite the elimination of distance and duration, we are still here. 

As the saying goes "No matter where you go, there you are". I guess we need to be more mindful of that.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Dolphin Bubbles

I still haven't quite figured out the video embeddence thingie yet. So, I'll just link to the URL, so you can watch this amazing behavior.

On the one hand, I'm a little awestruck by how amazing this is. On the other, I'm more than a little dismayed, because this behavior suggests to me that these dolphins must be bored out of their fucking skulls to come up with this entertainment.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


It used to be that when I would read an art criticism piece, one that was not contaminated with post-modernist prose, I would still say, "What the fuck are you talking about?" Over time, though, I finally realized that the critic is just riffin', just free associating on the work as if the whole essay were an exercise in dream interpretation. And so, whenever I've had to talk about a piece where I did not have something specific or concrete to say, that's what I'd do, just go with my impressions, and pull an improv using simple associations. Not quite up to Fred Willard's standards in free association, but enough to, yes, bullshit my way through an explanation without resorting to artspeak.

And so it is with this one. I actually thought at first I could get away with saying something about a fundamental feeling of overwhelming melancholy (because it is something I've been fighting for the past couple of months for reasons I'll not go into), but when I really looked at this piece, I realized, this guy is pissed.

He is severely pissed off. And at me. 

He is severely pissed of at me for sticking him into this constraining pose and position. And I've really got to watch my back if I know what's good for me. I put him there, in that glass stasis or carbon ice, or whatever, and I'd better do something pretty fucking quick to get him out of his predicament. 

And the best thing I can think of his to sell him as quickly as possible. (That would put a small dent in my melancholic mood for sure). The piece is cast glass, bronze, and wood. It is about 9" x 12" x 4". 

I've pretty much run through this particular theme and material heuristic, and I've got nothing, absolutely nothing, in the way of new ideas. Not a damn thing. And the weird thing is, it's like, I've got all the pieces. I've got the data, I've got the connections. I've got the associations. I even have a hint of a pattern as to what and where I should go. I just need a thousand more brain cells, or a 50 point bump up in my IQ to get there. And that ain't gonna happen. 

So I'm frustrated, and there's nothing I can do about it but wait. Now I know how he feels. You know, the guy in the piece called "Immersion".

The Last Sweaty Monday Night for a while

My Traditional Metal Casting class has one more session, but yesterday evening was the last casting night. Which means I'm done pouring molten metal in above 80F temperatures wearing a silver jacket. Which means I don't lose ten pounds of sweat once a week.

Not that I'm complaining. I very much enjoy pouring molten metal. And it's not a pyro thing either. It's a very relaxing activity. Some people meditate or play the piano or collect and examine stamps. I pour hot molten metal.

I'm not sure it is a guy thing. I've had female students who feel the same way I do about it. It's not thrilling or exciting or an adrenaline rush, or at least not after the first time. It is possible that the heat has a lot to do with it. It is a rather warm and toasty experience.

I do know what is a guy thing. The book I'm reading now "Nuts and Bolts of the Past: A History of American Technology, 1776-1860" by David Freeman Hawke. You laugh at what a guy book that is, but no, you are reading the prose of a guy who read, and would readily re-read "The History of Coal". 

I will, without a doubt, find and read books from this book's bibliography, like "Tools for the Job: A Short History of Machine Tools" by L.T.C. Holt, or "Studies in the History of Machine Tools, by Robert S. Woodbury, or "Early Engineering Reminiscences" by George Escol Sellers.

It is a time, a time when mechanicians roamed the land, which does more than slake my curiosity. I suspect that I and my family were born two hundred years too late. We would have fit in well with those early engineers and technologists.

One of the more intriguing books is "The Machine in the Garden: Technology and the Pastoral Idea in America", by Leo Marx. 

Early America, America east of the Appalachians, blessed as it was with a plenitude of rivers and streams, was at first a Green Industrial America. True, there was no shortage of wood to burn, but Americans back then saw it more fit to make things from wood, seeing as we had not quite reached the age of steel. And given the availability of water power - water in rivers and streams that were not as sluggish as in the British Isles, but not so wild as rivers to the West - it was only inevitable that factories and machines were powered through the use of the millrace and the waterwheel.

And so industry, run by water, was a bit less concentrated in large towns. Even the small hamlets and villages had some form of industry run by water. And these industries, not producing thick choking blankets of coal or wood smoke, tended to be light open airy affairs - almost quaint. 

What then, was the problem? Why the eventual reliance upon the stationary steam engine? Well, quite simply, the seasons were the problem. Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall. Or, in more pragmatic terms, Ice, Flood, Drought, and Choke. (Choke being the annual silting, branch and leaf dropping which clogged dams and spillways).

A shop or factory or mill usually could not depend upon a turning waterwheel for more than 160 days a year. I suppose it was inevitable that steam and coal and hydrocarbons should usurp the renewables.

Still it is interesting that we turn to them again. My understanding is that, as of 2004, more than half the generating stations in America are renewables. A step in the right direction regardless of your politics? 

Perhaps. I'd like to see better and more efficient use of what we have. That would be step in the right direction.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Kurman's Law

Niall Ferguson is a historian who thinks there is some worth in working through counterfactuals.

Counterfactuals, alternate histories, ("What if the South won the Civil War? What if JFK had not been assassinated? What if Napoleon had won in Russia?" etc.) have had quite an extensive fictional treatment.

Ferguson's counterfactual analysis, from a historical standpoint, is less about a "what if?" story, and more an examination of the context and contingency of historical events, and the role that people - and luck - play in them. "For want of a nail...the kingdom was lost", etc.

The deceased biologist and popular science writer Stephen Jay Gould wrote several treatments about this with respect to Nature. His views of contingency and determinism lead him to the statement that if: "You could rewind the tape of Life, it would never play the same way twice".

I think the technique is not without merit, and no doubt history is neither fixed nor inevitable, but the one thing that is not covered in these thought experiments is, not what would happen afterwards, but what would it take to get there?

I recently had a discussion in which the question "What if Hitler's labor camps were just that?" Labor camps, not extermination camps, but camps as portrayed in their propaganda? And the consensus was that Germany would obviously still have lost the war, but wouldn't have had to deal with the Holocaust, and the obvious eternal stigma. Israel most likely would not exist. Perhaps European governments, in reacting as they did to right-wing totalitarianism, may not have been as socialist.

But I thought of a more interesting question for this counterfactual, which was, "How could you even get to that situation?" I've asked this question before when the subject of "What would it have been like if the South won the Civil War?" (Let me get back to that in a minute).

How could Hitler and the Reich possibly have set up camps that did not exterminate Jews? And I would suggest that among the likely requirements for this to occur would be that Hitler could not be an anti-Semite. And, for that matter, when you consider that anti-semitism was endemic in Europe, the elimination of this condition would also be required. In short, the very reasons for Hitler's election and rise to power, as well as Germany's initiation of war, would need to changed in such a way that Hitler would never rise to power.

What would it take for the South to win the Civil War? I would argue that in order for the Southern states to whip the North, they would need a vast industrial base, good transportation, a well educated populace, and perhaps even a change in demeanor of whites in the South in a more curious and enthusiastic embrace of science and technology. In short, Southerners would have needed to develop the resources of the South without the use of chattel slavery. And if slavery did not exist, which perhaps would have allowed them to win, the war would never have occured.

I think you may see where I'm heading here, but if not, I'll just spell it out. The requirement to change the contingencies of history is such that the contingencies would never exist. In short, a paradox. Kurmans' Paradox (since I've found nothing in the literature which quite phrases this useless insight in the way I've described, I claim title to it). Or if you want a more time-travelly flavor:

Kurman's Law: "Any contingent change in history to alter the outcome of a turning point causes the turning point to cease to exist".

Friday, July 16, 2010


Well, today marks the anniversary of Trinity, the first atomic bomb test, back in 1945.

A lot people will say it was a world-changing event, that the world would never be the same again.

Oh, bullshit. Settle the fuck down, you drama queens.

The world was just as deadly before this as after. In case you didn't notice, there were a lot of people dying in horrific ways and in horrible numbers before the A-bomb went off. And recently, and with much more conventional methods.

Why, General Curtis LeMay had recently finished the fire-bombing of Tokyo. May 26, 1945. 100,000 people died. That's more than Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined. Does it really matter it wasn't done with nuclear fire?

People say the same thing about 9-11. The world will never be the same. Uh, guess what? The world is EXACTLY the same. We are still the same cruel, brutish, stupidly savage creatures as we were before. We are also the same loving, compassionate, kind and giving creatures that we were before as well.

What changed? Well, hopefully, if we use these big brains, maybe we gained a little wisdom?

It's been sixty-five years since anyone got nuked.

Here's to another sixty-five. What do you say?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

This Shit Practically Writes Itself

I received an email from my brother: "...A lyric buried deep in the recordings from our most recent session…“She’s just a filthy little angel.

For those of you not keeping up with current events, my friends and I have embarked on our version of a Mid-Life Crisis and formed a garage band, but with expensive electronic toys and sound recording equipment. Thus, some truly shitty music is digitally recorded for posterity.

We quickly decided upon stage names for ourselves, to which I made the observation "So what's next? Are we going to build a fucking tree fort?"

As a early morning joke, the drummer made the announcement "Ladies and Gentlemen! The Cocksuckers!" (drumroll cymbal splash) The name, unfortunately, has stuck, although I would prefer the more formal "The Motherfucking Cocksuckers" - a reversal on the old "Aristocrats" joke.  

In any case, once I received the email, I wrote up some lyrics in about five minutes. As I say, shit practically wrote itself, and is appropriately in the gutter and completely juvenile. And, uh, the subject of the song is Japanese so that I could use the word "bukkake", which I like the sound of:

She got what look like a kabuki doll face

She got a slim little body that you want to embrace.

She always dressin' up in latex and lace.

She surely from heaven, but she fallen from grace.



She my filthy little angel


just a filthy little angel


just a filthy little angel

filthy little angel


She the cream of the riding crop - atomic flotilla

She like a dirty little thought in the mind of Godzilla

She do a disappearing rope trick - no plain vanilla

And she got a fist grip like a mountain gorilla



She make me want to build my own private hell

I'll be the demon under her spell

And she would receive a private bukkake

'long as I stay humble and don't get too cocky

 I'm told I need two lines for a bridge. Why do I have to do all the work?

I'll leave the rest to those Motherfucking Cocksuckers.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

"Government Does Not Create Wealth"

"Government does not create wealth, it merely redistributes it" goes the saying, "The redistributionists - socialists, if you will, are out to destroy this country".

This has become something of a mantra among the so-called conservatives, anarcho-libertarians, and anti-government free-market enthusiasts for some time. Not much logic in this simple-minded platitude. And I mean "platitude" in its most insulting form, since those who go by these stupidly thoughtless pigheaded mantras insist upon saying idiotic things in a jackass kind of way.

I would argue that these people don't remember their elementary school lessons, or have chosen to be ignorant of them. But, okay, let's say that they are right. Let's do this scientific-like, and go with that hypothesis, and see if we can find any empirical evidence that contradicts this.

(I'm pretty sure I could write a book-length treatment to drive the point solidly into their little pinheads, but who would want to read it?)

So, Resolved: Government does not create wealth. Contradictory evidence? Anyone?

Land Purchases

The Louisiana Purchase. Remember that? President Jefferson authorizes the purchase from Napoleon. Napoleon snookers Spain (since France didn't actually own the land) into trading land west of the Mississippi in exchange for an Italian Kingship for one of the idiot inbred Hapsburg princes, then reneges on the deal, and pockets the$15,000,000 from Uncle Sam. Fifteen million in 1803 dollars is about two hundred fifteen million in 2010 dollars. With the acquisition of 828,800 square miles, that works out to $259 a square mile, or 40 cents an acre. What's the average land value west of the Mississippi now? A thousand bucks? On average? More? A lot more? And that's just land. Let's not forget to mention minerals (gold, silver, lead, iron, platinum, copper, uranium, oil, natural gas, you name it), forests, plants and animals harvested (those buffalo hides made a lot of leather belts to run factory overheads back East), just for starters. To I need to continue? How much did we get out of that deal, so far. A couple dozen trillion dollars? More? What was the return on investment on that deal? Anyone?

Seward's Folly. The purchase of Alaska. We got an even better deal on that. Five cents an acre!

Wars of Expansion

The Mexican War was not exactly our country's finest hour, but we got a lot more land out of it. Texas. California. The Southwest. You don't suppose any money was made on that, right? How about killing off and corralling all those Injuns? Got 'em out of the way for the settlers. The Spanish-American War. Okay, that didn't work out so well, but we did make a buck off our territories for a short while.

Socialist Legislative Acts

If providing for the betterment of the community through federal agency is socialism, then maybe you should call all of these projects communist as hell.

You know, if you look closely at Abe Lincoln's record, the fucker was a Major Commie. He makes Obama look like a robber baron laissez faire capitalist. The Railroad Act. The Homestead Act. Giving shit away FOR FREE. COMMIE!!!!

Teddy Roosevelt. The National Parks. The Panama Canal. How much shipping time and lives have been saved by avoiding passage around the tip of South America - through some of the worst seas on Earth?

That commie pinko, Herbert Hoover. You know, Hoover Dam? The Bureau of Water Reclamation, so that all those fascist cocksuckers living in Arizona could survive in the desert? Uh, would Las Vegas be there? Phoenix? Would our industries have even stood a chance of producing even a fraction of what they did in WWII without the power provided by all those dams?

The other Roosevelt. Subsidized water for Western farmers and big cities. Subsidized electricity for rural folks. Tennessee Valley Authority.

And there's that other Commie, Eisenhower. The Interstate. DARPA. NASA. DARPA created the Internet, provided funding for hundreds of other high technology innovations. ALL given away for free. Nobody made any money off that. NASA only jump-started a thousand companies with government subsidies.

Congress subsidized the telegraph. In 1842, Samuel Morse received a gran of $30,000 to build an experimental line between Baltimore and Washington DC. The entire communications backbone of the Uinted States of America is built upon that. Government funded research and development. Money to keep the lights running, while companies let their employees dick around in the basic sciences. Yeah. Nothing came out of that. Only radio, television, the transistor, computers, radar, lasers, CDs, DVDs, flat screen TVs, atomic energy, atomic bombs, jet planes...

While we are at, let's throw in all the "welfare queen" legislation, things like educational grants, community health, cleanliness of our food, air , and water. You know, all the things the "parasites" soak up from decent tax-paying lunkheads.

See? Money forcefully taken from the "productive class", and wasted on nothing, blew it all on nothing. No wealth created at all. You are proven dead wrong, again and again and again, you greedy, shortsighted, infantile, stupid fuckheads.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Zombie Ideas

There are smelly old ideas, wrong-headed notions, unnecessary assumptions, unwarranted premises, invalid axioms, that, if they could, should reek of decay and death. They are zombie ideas. Ideas that should be dead, but continue to exist, to be active, to thrive, to walk the earth like the living... like zombies.

They continue because they are coddled and swaddled inside the heads of stupid people. If you could smell the ideas, you'd never, ever let them enter your head, unless, of course, the inside your head was suffused with the rotting stench of death already, which I figure is what the insides of the heads of stupid people smell like. And not just any kind of stupid people, but Class IV Stupids: the ones that can process, retain, assemble, conclude, but then willfully ignore information. They got rotten brains. Rotten brains holding smelly old ideas.

Things like phlogiston, Flat Earth theory, geocentrism, the luminiferous aether, the caloric fluid, memes, and the rational market, to name just a few.

Libertarians love the rational market hypothesis. Libertarians are fucking idiots.

Take Milton Friedman and Jimmie Savage. They proposed that people, regular folks,  made economic choices according to rational decisions derived from complex statistical rules. When the obvious objection was made that this was just plain fucking ridiculous, because people are generally irrational goddamn animals, driven by greed and fear, who panic to buy and panic to sell, Friedman and Savage countered that billiard players do not calculate the mathematical physics equations behind their shots, but nonetheless act as if they did.  

In other words, when Friedman had to choose sides between empirical evidence and convenient theory, theory won out, and to hell with the facts.

Friedman's argument was: 

the relevant question to ask about the "assumptions" of a theory is not whether they   are descriptively "realistic", for they never are, but whether they are sufficiently good approximations for the purpose in hand. And this question can be answered only by seeing whether the theory works, which means whether it yields sufficiently accurate predictions.
 - The Methodology of Positive Economics 1953

Apparently, Friedman never studied the history of science. 

Take epicycles. The ancient astronomer Ptolemy, in trying to describe retrograde motion (the seeming temporary backward motion of planets in the sky) within the theoretical framework of a geocentric - an Earth-centered - universe, had to rely on the use of epicycles. 

In this model, planets did not directly orbit the Earth, but actually orbited in a small circle, called an epicycle, which travelled along a large circle, called the deferent, which orbited the Earth. This model of Earth at the center of the universe, with some planets traveling around in circles within circles stood for nearly 1500 years. The model (per Friedman above) used "sufficiently good approximations for the purpose in hand" and provided "sufficiently accurate predictions" of motion of planets in the sky. It was therefore, by Friedman's standards, a perfectly acceptable theory.

It was also completely full of shit. Try launching a rocket into space and navigating the solar system using epicycle navigation. You'll fly up your own asshole before you even get to the Moon.

Phlogiston (FLAH-jist-on) n: Obsolete term. A hypothetical substance once thought to be responsible for combustion. The material or elemental form of fire released as flame. Coined by physician/alchemist Georg Stahl (1660-1734). The Phlogiston theory was destroyed mainly by the great aristocrat and tax collector, Antoine Lavoisier, who almost single-handedly created modern chemistry. In recognition of this, French hippies cut his head off during the Terror.

In college, I read an excellent book, "The Art of Probability" by Richard W. Hamming. It is probably the best cautionary textbook for practitioners of statistics. Hamming used that phrase "art" for a very good reason. In all his years of examining the calculations and models of computer scientists and mathematical physicists, time and again he discovered that these models and calculations, being perfectly correct and consistent in math and logic, and producing extremely reasonable results - were based on incorrect assumptions, or were, even worse, simply modeling the wrong thing! 

And as such, there was a certain artistic component in the field of mathematical modeling and theory. Not so much an aesthetic component, as, for example, the way Einstein would speak of the beauty or elegance of equations. But rather more in a gustatory sense, as in a cook checking whether the ingredients were fresh, to avoid spoiling a recipe. 

If it smells like shit, don't eat it!

You'd have thought that the Crash of 2008 would have driven a stake through the heart of the idea of the rational market - and the notion of the productive class, for that matter - and that would be the end of it. But no, plenty of rotten brains out there, and plenty of shitty ideas.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


I've given up on a certain blog that I have read for perhaps the past six months.

I do not name it to protect the innocent, but to avoid adding traffic to it when the spiderbots come crawlin' to pull references. I call it a blog (in my mind a disparaging term, akin to "bad TV show") because, after getting twinges of regret for some time, I've come to the conclusion that it is vicious and mindless entertainment posing as leftist political commentary.

Why did I give up on it? Well, it didn't happen all at once, but the final straw was they were making fun of rednecks.

Wh-at? Making fun of...? SO?

I know! I know! I mean, who cares, right? It's like making fun of bad tattoos, or worse haircuts. But the fact of the matter is those are choices, whereas being a redneck is more situational, more blameless nurture than bad fashion statements.

I love, well, I don't love, I enjoy making fun of the great unwashed, as did many of America's best humorists. Mark Twain did an excellent job for one. But here's the thing, Twain may have poked fun, but underneath the humorous insult was a clear and abiding identification of, and affection for, the basic humanity of the redneck.

Whereas the place I gave up on, the supposedly liberal poster, and his sycophantic coterie of buttlickers, are just downright nasty. Humorless humor. Non-egalitarian. Pitiless snobs. Snobs convinced of their own superiority. In other words, the very stereotype of liberal butt-head that conservatives think, well, that liberals are. Smug superior snobs, unwilling to rub elbows with the great unwashed, more than ready to suggest that they bathe, and do many other things to make themselves presentable to "polite" society. In other words, British colonial officials talking about the savages they live amongst. I realized that I didn't like these people at all!

It reminds me of when I first ventured onto the internet message boards, before most of them died a well-deserved death, and I came across a forum of the Skeptic magazine. At first, reading the threads and discussions, I decided that these seemed like likable and intelligent people. Well, middlebrow intelligent, no real brilliance or genius level types there. And then after a bit, I realized that the prodding and poking of "believers" is not quite all in fun. I realized that these people are snobs! I realized that these snobs with undeserved and unrealistic (and therefore unhealthy) self-images of intellecutal superiority, merely because they didn't beleive any of the silly things that others did. And by this method, came to think they really were genius level types, when their prose, and arguments proved they weren't. You know, exactly like that douchebag, Richard Dawkins - mindlessly, inflexibly, nastily, caustically, ignorantly intolerant.

Exactly like the so-called liberals that I recently got fed up with on the blog I will not mention.

I'll hang with the liberal who will poke fun of people, but if they see that feelings have been hurt, is ready to lie and say "Oh, we didn't mean it. We're sorry!". You know, the ones that have to live in society, with other people. Not the sociopathic neo-imperialist fucking humorless commie pinko so-far-to-the-left-they-are-far-far-right "liberals". Fuck them!

I'm all for that!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Say NO to Corporate Clenchpoops

The news is discouraging. Unemployment fell to 9.5% in June 2010. Change in real GDP is steady at 3 percent. (Let's ignore that the best change in real GDP during the Bush ta "boom" decade was 2004 at a measly 3.6%.) This is down from 5.6 percent in the 4th quarter of 2009. Are we in for a double dip recession? Yes, if the private sector does not step up to the plate.

What? The people who got us into this mess? Yup. Believe it or not, we need these fuck-ups. Government can't do everything. Especially now, with the ill-informed and ignorant politics involving the "worrisome" deficit.

A few things to remember.

Despite all the noise about Fannie and Freddie, ACORN, socialism, subsidized housing, the guvmin'ts fault for not regulating properly, it was:

the banks
Wall Street parasites
the rich

who got us into this mess. You will notice that they all ain't hurting too badly right now.

I do not disagree that TARP was necessary, but people get confused as to why. TARP was there to pay off the bank's and investing houses debt-holders. Had this not happened, I don't see how we could have avoided a depression and  30% unemployment. But we have to recognize what actually happened. Oh sure, some banks got bailed out, but what really happened was the bank's creditors got paid off. Its important to recognize this. 

The whole crisis occurred because the money flow was frozen. The economy was constipated.

Had debt holders not been paid off, no more money would have been lent out. No more money flow. That was the problem. Still is. 

The government did its damndest to get the money flowing again, with a hefty dose of Metamucil in the form of the stimulus. That's what government is supposed to do. They could no more, but the asshole Republicans and Teabaggers idiots worried about inflation and the size of the debt are making so much noise that Congress ran for cover. These same idiots, unaware that the big problem is deflation and real depression from lack of a further enema jolt to the system in the form of another money stimulus.

So, it's up to the private sector now. The problem is, they are holding onto cash. Companies have record amounts of cash. We have a nation of corporate clenchpoops.

And by not loosening up their bowels, and let the money flowing again, which in turn opens up the job market, the corporations are only hurting themselves - but not before they hurt everyone else.


Thursday, July 1, 2010

Astounding. Amazing.

For as much as I complain about how stupid and primitive we all are, we can occasionally be clever and brilliant. My student aides will pull this on me at times. Just when I think they've got brains the size of marshmallows that will never grow into the front of their skulls, they surprise me by concocting some type of brilliant solution to a problem. I guess I do the same to them. Just when they are about to write me off as a grizzled old ape completely alzheimered out, I amaze them.

Case in point. One student aide examines a text message on his cell phone and asks to no one in particular, "How much is a wizard of pot?"
I think a moment, actually think out loud, and say "Ounce. Abbreviation O-Z. OZ. Wizard of OZ. An ounce".
"...Did you just think of that?"
"That's pretty good".
"I still have my moments".

Mother Nature does the same thing to us. That's what is so cool about life on earth. Just when you think everything is settled, someone finds something that makes you say "wow".

Take the fossils they just found down in Gabon, in Western Africa, near the Congo. Here is a link to a  better picture of them. These are fossils of multicellular organisms that date back to 2.1 billion years ago. So what?

Well, before this find, the oldest fossils of multicellular life - animal life - go back to perhaps six or seven hundred million years, to the pre Cambrian. It was assumed that multicellular life, or life that you could actually see with the unaided eyes, got its start around that time. Prior to that, it was all microbes, going all the way back to the origin of life.

This is just astounding. No really. It changes a lot of assumptions. It was thought that all that was around for two billion years was scum. Bacterial mats. Not that they aren't complex in their own right. But still, they're just scum. It means we have a lot of rethinking to do about life. 

A cell, in and of itself, is a pretty amazing thing. I don't think our engineers have even come close to building a machine as complex as the innards of a cell. 

So then it is just that much more amazing when cells can communicate and cooperate together to form an organism. It's just a whole other added layer of complexity on top of that.

And now they've found that all this stuff was going on two billion years before we thought it happened. Why, it poses lots of questions.

Hopefully, the fossil site at Gabon will provide answers.