Sunday, 19 October 2014

Surge Election in the US

2014 feels like a surge election.  The  Republicans don't deserve it but feeling sorts out a lot of "undecided" votes.  I think polls understate the trend.

It's not a trend to the right but a trend away from stress about government.  My money's on Romney because Americans want a break from worrying about things like Ebola, ISIS and Ferguson.  "A rest is as good as a change".

I want a robot surgeon

Microsurgery by a robot sounds like it will be better than an experienced guy with a knife and a degree. Proof of concept had a titanium thread follow a curved path through the cheek into the base of the brain  while a dummy patient was in an MRI machine. The destination was accurate within a couple millimetres and could have been used for epilepsy repair on a real patient, the kind of repair you can stand up and walk home from.  Cadavers are next and real patients in ten years.  That "thread" had a couple inside layers capable of steering the outer shell and giving a pathway to deliver service.  Bring it on, but don't skip the practice stage.
Story at Science Daily News.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Russia's budget gets fracked hard

Fracking and a drop in oil demand will teach Russia manners.  Their economy has to have oil above $104/barrel.  Expect a little more cooperation with Europe and the Ukraine soon.  The little chart spells curtains for adventurism.  As a bonus, The American Interest shows the breakeven oil price for some trouble-maker countries that were blessed with oil and used the money to enrich the big shots and make the populace dependent on government redistribution.  The source article has detail.  Energy abundance bugs tyrants.
Russian deficit tied to price of oil.

Note: The red graph exaggerates the vertical scale to create drama but the message is important.

Hysteria in the Schools

Political correctness is the ancient hysteria that burnt witches and staked vampires.    A little kid in Alabama was used as a scapegoat offering by school officials who wanted to abjure Satan and all his works and bring back goodness to their community.   They got their holiness back after apprehending the five year kid who said "pew pew" with a crayon gun.    She was made to recant, sign a confession she didn't understand and evicted from the fellowship.  I don't see a difference between Iron Age hysteria and this magical behaviour to stave off harm.

It's as old as the hills.  They are still digging up ancient corpses in Europe with stakes through the heart, stakes put there by a PC community of believers who found a ritual to keep their village safe from vampires.

A Mobile, Ala., mom says school officials forced her daughter to sign a contract promising not to commit suicide or harm others after the kindergartner "drew something that resembled a gun," then pointed a crayon at another kid and said "pew, pew!" 5-year-old Elizabeth was sent home after school officials made her take a questionnaire .. evaluating her for suicidal thoughts, then had her sign the safety contract promising to contact an adult if she was thinking of suicide or homicide. This all happened while her mom waited in the lobby to pick her up.   According to her mom, Elizabeth didn't know most of the words on the contract she signed. "Suicide," in particular, was a new one for her. "Mommy, daddy, what is suicide?" Elizabeth's mother says she asked.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Vinyl LP's and newspapers - Legacy Media

About 5% of our viewing goes to papers and magazines but advertisers still drop 20% of their bucks on them.  They will soon wise up that maybe four times too much goes into hard copy updating only once a day or once a month, says former Washington Post chief.   Subscribing to a magazine will be a novelty purchase, a legacy quirk like limited edition vinyl LP's.


"Extra Extra Read All About It" is a ding on your twitter inbox, not a lad on the streets with arms full of paper.

This is good news.  More information is reaching you before it's mascaraed and  and corseted by the spinmeisters.  Papers need to move on to where there former customers are now congregating.

As Peter Drucker wrote, the first task of a business is to create a customer and the second is to keep him.  You go where he goes, and serve him well.

Added:  Getting unfiltered information won't make us smarter but it will improve the marketplace as more people bid for access to power.

The Highest Bidders Control The State

The chart shows who has the money.
The wealthy co-opt the political class.
The political class transfers payments to the voting class.
That's why socialism appeals to the very rich and the poor
if every adult gets a vote.

Chart and post title from Zero Hedge

 (They call it, "Self Serving Elites" and argue that any town, province or country run by such is the poorer for it.)

Trapped in a Coma.

 Scientists found some wide awake people in a brain survey of vegetative state patients.  32 "brain dead" people and some normal ones were asked to pretend they were playing tennis.  An EEG was taken. Graphics were added to show traffic between parts of the brain.  Some of the "vegetables" showed the same activity as normal people.  The image is stunning although the aura is a digital FX.
Vegetable on left, normal on right, miracle in the middle
after being told to pretend to play tennis.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Comet almost crashes Mars Sunday October 19th.

An Oort cloud comet, "Siding Spring"is missing Mars by a whisker on Sunday, by a mere 87,000 miles.  The planet will get a small dusting of carbon compounds and water vapour.  A little closer and it could have dumped enough stuff to restart a robust atmosphere..  Mars orbiters plan to duck and cover on the other side of the planet about an hour and a half after the nucleus passes to hide from the debris trail. Meanwhile both orbiting sun observatories and other devices will scoop data.
Science Daily News.
Artist's Imp;ression

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

A Flat Tax Is Progressive

"Any flat tax calibrated to earnings from labor and capital will necessarily redistribute income to the less well off, because an individual’s share from standard public services, such as access to public highways, does not increase proportionate to his income."
   Jay Epstein at 

 The rest of the article is pretty good.  A head tax is regressive because the same charge to rich and poor takes more of the poor's wealth away.  A flat tax targets those who are better off.  And even a fair tax can be corrupted by politicians if they take too much cream off the milk.  At least it reduces perverse incentives and any increase in tax will come out of the pols pockets too.

Remember, all those loopholes in tax law are a feature, not a bug, giving lawmakers the power to distribute favours to lobbies.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Waste is essential when your time is short.

Waste and death are necessary to renew the bodies politic, and familiar. The church of the three R's (reduce, re-use, recycle) wants to hang onto what we have in this life but has no doctrine of heaven or hell.  If we soon find a way to put off death entirely, it will be to protect the wealth and world-view of aged women and men, not to usher in a golden age.

Death is a great waster, throwing away property, wisdom, experience, networks, character and beauty. It's left to mewling and puking babes to start over and renew everything in a few decades, and it works.  With my mom's passing went encyclopaedic knowledge of plant taxonomy in the Ottawa Valley and pick-your-own wild blueberry pie parties.  Dad departed with the genealogy of several hundred years
and radioactive tracer knowhow about the ADP-ATP energy packing molecule.  The flight from death is behind the multitudinous rules to eliminate risk from the playground, the supermarket, and in fact from everywhere.

Energy should be used liberally wherever abundant.  That means waste it, floor the pedal, dump the excess, enjoy it.   Remember e=mc2.     The bomb on Hiroshima released as much energy as is bound in a single blob of snot.  There is no shortage of energy, and never has been, or will be.  Reducing, Re-using and Re-cycling is a patchwork policy until access to abundant energy is improved.  Think cold fusion with a box buried in the back yard that can run your town for a hundred years.
New Yorker

Since I"m involved with the housing industry, I see a lot of plans including one this week for an expensive  cottage with triple exterior walls.  People are afraid to waste energy and go to great expense avoiding it.  They won't be getting that money back.   For half a million dollars, childless couples build 2500 square foot houses with R40 insulation values while old timers in the Chilcotin would leave the door of their two room un-insulated cabin open in winter because the wood stove was making them sweat.

Hindu belief has Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva  - Creator/Sustainer/Destroyer.  You've seen statues of the Kali version of the latter, ugly with many arms and the heads of its victims dangling. The three aspects of life are always present.  Our p.c. culture has been retreating onto an island of sustainability, nursing scarce resources, while outlawing risk and danger. Creativity and renewal through destruction of the old come from off island.

Faced with an abundance of stuff and a shortage of time, you must waste stuff to get value from your time.

U.S.Governed by Dead Men

Author P.K. Howard writes:
America is now run by dead people—by political leaders from the past who enacted mandatory programs that churn ahead regardless of waste, irrelevance, or new priorities.
Rules have replaced leadership in America. ... Nobody asks, “What’s the right thing to do here?” Instead, they wonder, “What does the rule book say?”
Public paralysis is the inevitable result of the steady accretion of detailed rules.

From the forward to The Rule Of Nobody.
Clear law is the ruin of a nation.
Obsession with writing excessively detailed laws had made it impossible for real people to get anything done".

Give us rule of law but with renewal, not accretion.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Bring back disorganized sports

I was stunned at this plea for cash at Canadian Tire.   Two out of three families actually send their kids to organized sports.  What's wrong with everybody?

We grew up playing disorganized sports.  Football with about three to the side.  500 with a bat and ball in the middle of the street.  Hide and seek in the bushes and garage.  Tree climbing.  Forts in trees, forts underground, igloos made of drifted snow chunks.  All this was built using unofficially borrowed shovels, axes and matches to light candles.  Hikes upriver on the frozen ice, miles from parental scrutiny, and back with frostbitten toes. We took off after breakfast with terse remarks like "I"m going fishing to Rocky" and weren't seen for hours.  I still regret the time I knocked out power to some cottages when the tree for my new log cabin hung up on a second tree and then a third tree before breaking loose in a cascade of sparks onto the power line.  This is normal.  I knew of a couple kids who played on a hockey team but never saw the inside of an arena.

There was the copper wire across the road and through the neighbours trees so Alan and I could talk in morse code when our parents thought we were asleep.  And the time the cops stopped us cycling in our pajamas on the way back from a midnight dew worm hunt.

This week I talked to a guy about twenty years older than me.  He and his buddies got into a coal mine near Lethbridge on weekends, got helmets with lamps and rode coal carts into the mine, taking hay with them to feed the ponies underground.  Other times they crossed the half mile long railway trestle, hiding inside the beams if they misjudged the next train.

This thirst for organized sports puts parents forever in control of their kids,  The kids deserve better. Bring back disorganized sport.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Misbehaving spouses in power: Left and Right differ.

Corrupt people are not particularly drawn to politics and high position.  Power itself creates corruption. Once there, something decent is often turned off in the brain.  I'm tired of reading about leaders who cheat on their spouses.  The Americans have had a few pretty straight guys in power like Bushes, Nixon, Reagan and perhaps Obama but even Ford, Eisenhower and Roosevelt had their sidelines.   Clinton, Johnson, and the Kennedys are a sad self-excusing lot.  Somehow more left than right politicians seem to excuse their infidelity.  Is it situational ethics versus principle?

Some references:
There's a report that Reagan had a short fling with Elizabeth Taylor before his presidenting days. If you keep reading, you'll find eventually find a rumour about everyone.

And a Clinton sex joke:
Clinton and the Pope died on the same day and, due to some administrative foul up, Clinton gets sent to heaven and the Pope gets sent to hell.
The Pope explains the situation to the hell administration, they check their paperwork, and the error is acknowledged. They explain, however, that it will take about 24 hours to make the switch. The next day, the Pope is called in and the hell administration bids him farewell and he heads for heaven.
On the way up, he meets Clinton on the way down, and they stop to chat.
Pope: Sorry about the mix up.
Clinton: No problem.
Pope: Well, I'm really excited about going to heaven.
Clinton: Why's that?
Pope: All my life I've wanted to meet the Virgin Mary.
Clinton: You're a day late.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

RCMP ordered to keep fur hats

The RCMP runs on law not opinion.  Leona Aglukkaq, the environment minister, is right to tell them to set aside the talking points of the Association for the Protection of Fur-Bearing Animals and keep those warm muskrat hats.

If the hats don't work properly, change them.  If they work properly, wear them proudly.   (Story at National Post)

Control power by controlling sex.

Margaret Wente
Margaret Wente
"Sixty years ago, sexual behaviour among the young caused deep alarm among the puritanical religious right. Today, it causes deep alarm among the puritanical progressive left. Like their forebears, they are doing their best to restrict and regulate it."

Read more about lefty campus puritans at the G&M link.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Plants recruit animals to do their bidding

If the plant kingdom is below the animal kingdom, how come plants use us to get about, to reproduce, and even to defend themselves?   While our reproductive organs are just interesting to other homo sapiens, plants advertise to alien species.  They have tarted up their reproductive organs to be eaten by mammals and bug-licked for nectar,  They gum their organs to the fur and socks of the lords of field and forest and hitch rides in the nutritious guts of their hosts en route to new property when pooped out.  If they're so dumb, how come we work for them?
Strawberry seducing mammal
for reproductive purposes.

Now Science Daily News reports that the fresh-mown grass smell is part of a plant's alarm system. When a plant is under attack, it emits that smell to signal parasitic wasps that juicy caterpillars are on offer.  "Green leaf volatiles" and "jasmonic acid" are the smells released when something starts cutting and eating the plant. Maize (with and without the ability to release the chemical scents) was used for the test.

Clear law is the ruin of a nation.

"Obsession with writing excessively detailed laws had made it impossible for real people to get anything done".  (This is a feature, not a bug for those politicians whose power and wealth come from writing loopholes in the obstacles they create. km)  

Image result for philip howardPhillip Howard     
writes trenchantly in The  Atlantic:

"Modern government is organized on “clear law,”the false premise that by making laws detailed enough to take in all possible circumstances, we can avoid human error. .... Law has gotten ever more granular. But all that regulatory detail, like sediment in a harbor, makes it hard to get anywhere. The 1956 Interstate Highway Act was 29 pages and succeeded in getting 41,000 miles of roads built by 1970. The 2012 transportation bill was 584 pages.
Modern law is too dense to be knowable. “It will be of little avail to the people,” James Madison observed, “if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood.” The quest for “clear law” is futile also because most regulatory language is inherently ambiguous. Dense rulebooks do not avoid disputes—they just divert the dispute to the parsing of legal words. 
"Nursing homes, day-care centers....(have) a maze of input-oriented regulations. “Food shall be stored not less than 15 cm above the floor”; “there shall be .09 recreational workers per resident”—about a thousand rules in most states for nursing homes.  Australia the wake of scandalous revelations of poor nursing homes ... abandoned the thick rule book and replaced it with 31 general principles, for example to provide “a homelike environment” and to honor residents’ “privacy and dignity.” The result was an almost immediate transformation for the better.
Principles, ironically, are less susceptible to abuse of state power and gamesmanship than precise rules. One of the many paradoxes of “clear law” is that no one can comply with thousands of rules. With principles, a citizen can stand his ground to an unreasonable demand."

He also writes: "Shackling public choices with ironclad rules...dictating correctness in advance supplants human responsibility. ("Nothing that's good works by itself".) Responsibility is nowhere in modern government. Who’s responsible for the budget deficits? Nobody: Program budgets are set in legal concrete. Who’s responsible for failing to fix America’s decrepit infrastructure? Nobody."

He recognizes some rules need to be prescriptive but calls for principle and good judgement as the first face of the law.

Note: Howard's reference to Australia sounds appealing but a quick Google search didn't find it.  The link to his name at the top of the page points to his career and data..

Sunday, 21 September 2014

I wish Putin was a bigger man. Canada's air space would be safer.

Publicity shots show him looking like Tarzan.

Scaled pictures show he is a bit of a shortcake.

A shot of growth hormone might have saved us recent indignities:  Air intrusions over Canada,          Finland,  America,  threats that he could have Russian troops in Kiev, Warsaw and Bucharest within two days,  his actual invasion of Ukraine and his unveiled boast: “I want to remind you that Russia is one of the leading nuclear powers.”

Will Lefties Ever See Sense?

Never.  This Hydra has many heads - one "biggies"government to get a p.c. solution to every problem - one is telling you how to recycle - others shut all doors free men would walk through.  It's an unstoppable impulse to tell the new neighbours how to behave and to layer zoning and bylaws over the freedom to make deals.  You're not going to persuade vegetarians who believe no fluffy thing should ever be killed to cheer for rib-eye lovers.  You won't get the folks who banned guns from next suspending school kids who point a finger and say "bang".  Regulatory creep is our nature and our fate.   It's coming down the pipeline and even your close friends who mock political correctness, are agonizing over splitting junk into paper, cardboard, metals, plastics, and two kinds of compostables, worried someone will report them for shredding styrofoam and hiding it in a bag of refuse.  The market will look after this if allowed.  In fifty years the few descendants of these same PC people will be making up rules to restrict the "greedy capitalists" who will buy all the landfills in America to make millions putting garbage in one end of a machine while copper, oil, wood fibre, and potting soil pour out the other.

It's our nature to mind other people's business.  The fire of liberty, the fire of innovation and commerce is blanketed by our other nature, which is to put out fires.

"Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded — here and there, now and then — are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty. This is known as “bad luck.” "  (A quote from Heinlein, via Instapundit).

Change arrives nonetheless.  A couple hundred years of Chinese ascendency with harsh rulers and smartphones may be in the offing.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

"The Scots Kingdom was Europe's Afghanistan"

Niall Ferguson writing in the Telegraph:
"Scottish history offers proof that even the most failed state can be fixed – by uniting with a richer and more tranquil neighbour. For most of the early modern period, the Scots kingdom was Europe’s Afghanistan. In the Highlands and the Hebrides, feudal warlords ruled over an utterly impoverished populace in conditions of lawlessness and internecine clan conflict.  

"Another Scotland has sprung up. ...What did history have to do with Scotland’s future as a new Scandinavian-style haven for egalitarianism, inclusiveness, clean energy, world peace and all the other things implicitly repudiated by the gimlet-eyed Tory bampots?"
Lots to chew over on voting day.
Politically this is a lefty operation with a dose of deep brain territoriality.
The upside would be Tories ascendant in Westminster.
Not that we love them so much.