Category Archives: Technology

The End of Another Year & What Have We learned?

Head_Platon_Glyptothek_Munich.jpg2018 is almost at an end. Maybe it’s time to review where we are, and what we think we must do.

There are a number of issues routinely discussed in the USA, and not necessarily a lot of agreement.

Lets take a look at a few.

How about one that seems to be ignored, but is indicative of how inept we can be at solving a known problem. No, I’m not talking about the national debt, although that’s certainly a priority issue. Here’s a localized problem that should be an embarrassment considering how much we send to other countries, let alone waste through poor governance.

Flint Michigan Toxic Water:  Flint Michigan lies along the Flint River, 60 miles (100 km) northwest of Detroit. Flint was a busy manufacturing town up until the 1980’s. General Motors was a leading employer in that area. When the fortunes of GM changed, area manufacturing closed down and a lot of ancillary business connected to automotive production also ceased to exist. The financial impact made its way to the city water decisions on saving money. By 2014, Flint wasn’t able to pay the cost of obtaining water from Detroit, a city that also was struggling. They were getting the water from Lake Huron. The city made a decision to route the municipal water from the nearby Flint River. They said it would only be temporary and like dopamine fools, people believed the city officials. (This is how toxic Flint’s Water is) It’s 2018 and the water is still being supplied from the lead and toxins contaminated Flint River. Read this CNN article for a timeline of the crisis.

In March 2016, Flint began to rip out and replace some of the hazardous pipes under a “FAST Start program.” That program continues.
Kristin Moore, a Flint city government spokeswoman, said that 6,264 pipes have been replaced as of April 18, 2018. However, an estimated 12,000 Flint residences still have lead and galvanized service lines that need to be replaced, she said.
“The pipe replacement work is expected to be completed by 2020,” Moore said. “However, the mayor is hopeful that the project can be completed even sooner.”

Climate Change: We might as well go from a local problem to a global one. It lays before us like a rotting pumpkin. Some suggest we should leave it alone, while others say it needs to be cleaned up. There’s probably more discussion on this topic than any of the others I’ll mention. Rightly or wrongly, when it comes to climate change, there’s going to be lively debate on social media any time this topic is discussed.

Some groups claim humanity is plunging headlong towards catastrophe and possibly even a future in which a tiny band of survivors cluster around the last remaining habitable territory near the poles.

Other groups claim that climate change will not be too bad so there is no need to stop using fossil fuels. They point to beneficial effects such as ‘global greening’ in which plant growth is boosted by the extra carbon in the air.

The answers may lay somewhere in between.

The United Nations IPCC publishes a research review in the form of a voluminous,  report on the subject of climate change, which the United Nations asserts is “authored” by approximately 600 scientists. These “authors” are not, however – as is ordinarily the custom in science – permitted power of approval of the published review of which they are supposedly authors. They are permitted to comment on the draft text, but the final text neither conforms to nor includes many of their comments. The final text conforms instead to the United Nations objective of building support for world taxation and rationing of industrially useful energy.

Does this make climate change data or predictions, incorrect or a hoax? That’s not as easy to answer as one can presuppose.

150 years ago Irish physicist John Tyndall discovered ‘carbonic acid’, known today as carbon dioxide. It was one of a number of “perfectly colorless and invisible gases and vapors” to absorb radiant heat. About 40 years later, the Swedish scientist Svante Arrhenius first suggested, increasing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would cause the global temperature to go up, particularly in the Arctic. Therefore, according to these ideas and the last 150 years of a rise in global temperature measurement, in combination with a rise in CO2, the science of climate change has become the “hot topic” of discussion.

The Climate-gate scandal proved that key data involving man-made climate change was manipulated. In 2009, the public discovered emails from the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit exposing how scientists who have been enormously influential in promoting the concept of man-made climate change actually attempted to cook the books to obtain results that served their narrative that the planet was heating at a dangerous trend due to higher levels of carbon dioxide.

One of these scientists included Dr. James Hansen, a former NASA climatologist who is known by some as the “father” or “grandfather” of the climate change myth, as it was his “Model Zero” that first introduced the concept of global warming. Hansen, Philip Jones, Michael Mann, et al. were all involved in trying “to lower past temperatures and to ‘adjust’ recent temperatures upwards, in order to convey the impression of an accelerated warming.” The leaked emails bore that out. The emails also revealed how this cabal of scientists would discuss various ways to stonewall the public from seeing the “background data on which their findings and temperature records were based,” even going as far as deleting significant amounts of data. They would engage in efforts to smear “any scientific journal which dares to publish their critics’ work.”

Michael Mann has used Canada’s courts to sue one of his major critics of anthropogenic global warming. Dr. Tim Ball has on several occasions caused people to pause and review the underlying facts and purposes of a government proposition they can tax the environmental reprobates and credit the appropriate parties. It’s a perfect “crisis” for any government to use more authority and gain added revenues. All the while, taking credit when it isn’t due, and shifting blame whenever things aren’t favorable.
The use of ‘science’ as a tool for social manipulation is thoroughly confusing to most people until they understand the motive behind the deception.

It has been 28 years since Channel 4 in the UK produced >The Greenhouse Conspiracy.  It covered all the things that were wrong with the AGW theory. They are still valid, but now time-tested. Unfortunately, most people still don’t understand how it disproves the theory, despite all the efforts to educate people about the misuse of science. The bureaucratic technocrats, including those funded by them, who created and promote the deception, rarely respond to scientific challenges. Why bother when the public doesn’t understand?

Health Care: The debate over U.S. health care reform and the future of the Affordable Care Act dominated headlines in 2017, and has slowly diminished attention. The problems with healthcare in the US has continued. It’s a mixed message to the public by government politicos. On one hand, they say we need universal, “government managed” health care, but this type of care has been available since the inception of medicare.  The evidence for government managed health care has proven to be an empty promise. The Veterans Health (a very small percentage of the US population) has gone through numerous exposes on its mis-management. Medicare is definitely limited coverage, and about the only people who seem to have the right amount of health care coverage are those with a lot of money or high up government officials.

There’s no doubt that health care costs in the U.S. needs to be controlled. It’s not going to be corrected by elimination of private insurance, and corporate medical health organizations. The government has for decades, along with insurance, pharmaceutical lobbyists, and the legal industry, have been manipulating the health care industry. There’s a lot of shifting of responsibility, making it more complex for the care giver as well as the patients.

Government Spending: This is the 800 gorilla in the living room, and he’s growing into a 1 ton monster.

Federal, State, Local, and Total US government spending

Amounts in Trillion$ FY 2018 FY 2019
----------------------------------
Federal Spending     4.11  4.41
Intergov. Transfers  -0.72 -0.7
State Spending       1.81  1.87
Local Spending       1.93  1.99
Total Spending       7.12  7.56

Where’s the money being spent?
2019-budget-spending-chart

“World stock markets staggered Monday towards the end of their worst year since the global financial crisis a decade ago, rocked by rising interest rates, the global trade war and Brexit, dealers said.”

“London and Paris wobbled in holiday-shortened trade on New Year’s Eve — but nursed dizzying double-digit annual falls after an exceptionally volatile 2018.”

All that is what may concern some investors, but what should concern everyone, is the rapid year upon year increase of government debt. This is a crisis that can be averted, but the distress in shrinking the exorbitant spending habit of the federal government is more painful than the withdrawal symptoms of a heroin addict. Massive protests would ensue if someone’s favored group or program either was shrunk or defunded. As evidenced by the growing outspoken demands by a younger generation, they want to see universal health care, free college tuition, and basic income for all. Where this all will be created from, isn’t their problem. They just believe the “wealthy will pay”.

“They’ve got to keep the government-funded,” and where or how we obtain that funding isn’t important. That kind of thinking is a train wreck waiting to happen.

“Every dollar the government spends, even if borrowed, has to come out of some existing person’s pocket and therefore pre-empts the use of that dollar somewhere else in the economy—not in the future, but here and now.”

“The government can obtain its borrowed money by selling Treasury bonds to either American citizens or foreigners. If it borrows from domestic sources, it is getting money that Americans would have either invested somewhere in the economy or spent on goods and services. Government borrowing simply diverts the cash from other uses, just as if its spending were financed by taxation.” Economists call this the “crowding out effect.”

What’s necessary to understand, there will be a point where there’s not enough money to pay the interest and the required expenditures. This usually results in runaway inflation in order to “devalue” the debt.

US_debt_history

Growing Government Encroachment

“As we look into the future, contemplating artificial intelligence, automation, driverless cars and robots in our homes, big data — our data — is providing the foundation for this new world. Smart technology is just another part of the food chain, foraging personal data from our lives, without our permission or full comprehension of the implications.”

“The scale of hacking at numerous corporations around the world and the data exchange between Cambridge Analytica and Facebook, gives us an idea of how fierce this battle has become. Big data are today’s gold. Our personal and national sovereignties are at stake.”

Whistle Blowers are most often hailed as heroes, but not when it comes to blowing the whistle on a major government, most particularly, the United States. The U.S. will hunt you down, in almost any country in the world. Edward Snowden and Julian Assange have been identified as either traitors, or a high security risk. Most problematic for those advocating their arrest and need for a trial, are the things they’ve revealed. Snowden disclosed the unrestrained eavesdropping by the NSA, and Assange opened the curtain of secrecy on how third-party military contractors conduct themselves in some situations with non-combatants.

Even more problematic for the “pure democracy” the politicos have tried to portray, were the devious conduct of the National Democrat party co-opting their support of  Bernie Sanders in favor of Hillary Clinton. This caused enough backlash from the Clinton campaign, they began a series of intrigue and rumors to the point where we are still investigating the 2016 election results, blaming the Russians and the Trump campaign in concert of subverting the election. All of the facts disclosing this “palace intrigue,” came through Wiki Leaks led by Julian Assange. Mills_Snowden_holidays_2018

This national anxiety over either the Russians, Trump, Assange, or Snowden, are misplaced. It’s one huge disinformation campaign. Private & government ambition and technology have raced ahead of law, policy and norms.

This is not just a national problem. It’s a global problem seeking global solutions. Stricter data protection regulations and the breaking up of monopolies may be excellent starting points. Of course the clever government sponsored ideas on making the Internet Fair, are nothing more than a way of twisting the debate to furthering federal control of a public resource. The Chinese have that control within their borders, the U.S. government will continue to posit arguments through surrogates to wrest this control from private entities. What’s most amazing is the naive public view that government is inherently more trustworthy than a corporate entity.  Amazon and Google have gone to great lengths to be willing to share any data on a proactive basis. Forget privacy, it’s an illusion.

Indeed one of many arguments I’ve seen on the topic of privacy and the need for controls, are similar to asking the wolf to guard the chicken coop.

Privacy commissioners need the tools and the authority and we all need a transparent process focused on marrying moral and ethical considerations with technological progress.” Oh sure, the people who have repeatedly demonstrated their self-serving ineptitude, should be in charge of the technology they’ve already exploited.

There are other concerns and challenges facing us in 2019. The U.S. routine military interventions around the world should be a cause for concern for all of us. If the situation was flipped around, let’s say China or Russia were inside U.S. borders and using military force to impose their will, what would be the reaction? Might we become a terrorist, or support that type of activity in their homeland? I believe we need a clear written public policy statement which identifies the reasons for our military to engage into a foreign country. It needs healthy debate. We’ve skirted this debate, by having a contemporary President make a televised impassioned speech, then impromptu short international meetings and choreographed public pronouncements. USA_military_interventions_map

What are your concerns going forward? What changes, if any do you think need to at least begin in 2019?

 ——

You Want a Government Solution or One That Works?

I’m amazed how these politicians, or “activist groups”, get us to think we need another service or law to make our life wonderful. In spite of real world experience, we keep betting on the horse that never seems to win.

Ocasio-Cortez-global-warming
The people we elect, have a variety of ideas, mostly about, how to remain employed by the federal government. If not the federal government, then as a lobbyist to that government. We debate these ideas and listen to candidates on how they will solve our problems.

Climate

Projections of global sea level rise by 2100, these projections range from 0.2 meters to 2.0 meters (0.66 to 6.6 feet) [Melillo et al., 2014]

In the recently updated Copenhagen Diagnosis, the carbon that we are releasing into the atmosphere today is in the process of ‘programming’ a potential 2-5 meters of sea level rise by around the year 2300.

That’s a wide range of predictions.

As you can see from the video associated with the above image, the young, ambitious, political candidate, believes the government will be able to manipulate climate if we allow them. These wonks and wizards can’t even control spending, which is far more tangible and predictable than the global climate. Examine the government’s historical record of managing anything to a degree which could earn them, well done.

What’s their solution? As usual, tax, spend, regulate.

Abortion

We begin the catastrophic tumble, down the bewildering, pandering, deceitful, rabbit hole of political marketing 101.

First, a problem is identified. Next, they advertise they’re the people who are going to solve the problem and give you what you want.

Do you want a safe, clean & Listerine abortion? Then vote for us.

Do you want to stop abortions? Then vote for us.

If you want to be “pro-choice”, they got you covered. If you want to be “pro-life”, they got that covered, too. It’s the complete package.

Now that’s some slick Madison avenue. Better still, if you don’t agree with them then they’re going to get in your face, march down your main street, and call you derogatory names to embarrass you through social media.

I have this crazy idea. How about we quit looking to government to solve our problems? What if we quit blaming each other, and start to do things for ourselves? Sure, it might be baby steps at first, but think for just one moment (maybe two). When have you witnessed a noteworthy, praiseworthy, glad the feds took over responsibility and solved that problem?

I found a relatively simple way to solve the problem of unwanted pregnancy, it’s guaranteed to work. Don’t have sex with someone you don’t want to co-parent. I know, what a crazy, stupid idea, right? Let’s just say, that’s not possible for you. Your impulse control is limited. Then why not get fixed? A vasectomy or tubal ligation. You, thought that’s too much to ask? How about safe sex? You know, when a man simply wears a condom. Wait! That’s not a 100% guarantee. Tell me something, anything in life is guaranteed. If you say there’s anything other than death or taxes, you’re a fool.

Health care

He claims it’s working. Wake up! For who? For example, my family members received their health care through employment and they still do. The shared costs have risen dramatically and the deductibles have as well. I personally tried to get insurance through the government web site and the premium costs exceeded 50% of my gross income. He continues to put forth the number, 44 million people were without health insurance, prior to the ACA. We solved that problem, really? All of these people are covered? The exceptional cost containment we were promised, the keep your doctor, and everyone is covered? Where is this magical solution no one I know is experiencing?

Do you know how well the Feds run the VA? I’ve had a hit and miss relationship with them. Sometimes I’m quite happy, and other times, I’m highly disappointed. It’s generally not top drawer care. To say we get what we paid for, isn’t exactly correct. Some have paid with their limbs or life. None the less, government doesn’t do a very good job with it, and yet people are clamoring for “free” or “single payer” health care. Our government doesn’t handle anything that’s large in an efficient cost effective way. Quit thinking about little countries like Norway, Sweden, or the UK. We have never seen our government demonstrate real concern or efficiency. Look at what the Feds do now with the VA, and tell me you think it’s going to get better on an even larger scale?

There are people in each political party, despite the lip service, who have raided the Social Security and Medicare funds using them to augment the general fund. They (Congress) continue to give themselves raises and perks, then tell us Social Security and Medicare are in financial trouble. Of course they are. Look who’s in charge! Even though those have been separately collected funds from our paychecks, they call them entitlements, then go on to say, they’ve got to cut back “our entitlements”. I suggest those who are entitled have offices in Washington DC and live very well off the populace.

ox-cart-old-west

We’ve gone from stubbornly independent to stubbornly dependent

This is how you survive the unsurvivable, this is how you lose that which you cannot bear to lose, this is how you reinvent yourself, overcome your abusers, fulfill your ambitions and meet the love of your life: by following what is true, no matter where it leads you.
Augusten Burroughs

Sadly, year after year we fall for this nonsense. We take great pride in our “political utopias”, meanwhile the carrot(s) continue to get dangled in front of our collective noses and we chase after them.

There’s something really wrong with this picture and we never quite seem to catch on. Oh sure, we complain about it, but it’s that other party, race, or age group’s fault.

Business Comes & Goes, So Does a Culture

There were days when we would go downtown to shop. It wasn’t like going to the grocery or hardware store. No, this was something special, and we would dress for the occasion.  Mother would take her dress gloves out of the drawer, and along with her dress and high heels, she would take out a hat from a box. I would wear dress slacks, shiny shoes, and a sport coat. There were times when I too would wear a hat.

We rode the bus from uptown to downtown, and we weren’t all that out of place in the way we dressed. Most of the other people riding would be dressed in what we might now refer to as business casual.

Minneapolis_downtown_Powers_dept_store_1950sUpon arriving downtown, we might walk down the street and look in various store windows to see what was on display. Most of them of course were pitching their current sales, but there was competition among the variety of retailers as to who might have the most attractive window display.

Minneapolis_Emporium_diner_1950s

Emporium tea room 1940-50s Minneapolis

Eventually we would enter a store, either through double doors which we would pull open, or by entering a revolving door which you or someone else would push to rotate your part of the large glass triangle, until you could enter the store. What awaited your eyes were a couple of things. Usually a store greeter, but not the disinterested couch potatoes who might greet you at Walmart. No, these would be smartly dressed people that knew how to smile. The other thing immediately noticed were the row upon row, of neatly arranged aisles with well placed merchandise on shelves, in displays, or on mannequins. As you made your way to the center of the store, there would be several elevators. Each elevator had a person inside the elevator who would open up the doors, or gate and doors for you to enter. They would then close the doors after everyone that could or wanted to get on. You then would tell them your floor, and they would make the selection for you. Each of these ‘operators’, wore some type of uniform, some with hats, most also wore gloves.

Sears_Tower_1988_1All that changed quickly as the suburbs began to erect large enclosed shopping malls. There were of course what we call strip malls. Stores that shared a large common parking lot and each retailer store were aligned side by side. That didn’t nearly have the impact of the enclosed shopping mall. Once they were constructed, many of the downtown stores simple opened their store in the new mall. This took a big toll on downtown retailers. They typically paid higher rates for taxes, most didn’t have convenient parking. They relied on nearby parking decks and lots, or those like us, who took city transportation. The downtown retailers didn’t maintain their greeters, elevator operators. Even their display windows became less interesting, a far simpler asthetic became the norm.

Those times seem strange to people unfamiliar with that era. Most downtowns have morphed into high rise condominiums, or permanent apartments. Either that or they were torn down as if part of a failed social experiment.

All that has changed again. Many shopping malls are skeletons of what they once were. Some malls have closed entirely. All this due to the evolution brought on by the Internet. The Amazon shopping model has become the new norm. First it was mail order. The big retailers like Sears, JC Penny adapted well. Then the Internet became a ready made 24/7 sales facility. Display windows are now the Internet tabs to click and expand. People still shop, the delivery times are quick and you might not even get out of your night clothes. Social interaction is minimized.

New_York_Lord_Taylor_store_closing

Oldest department store company in the US is disappearing entirely from Fifth Avenue after 104 years

The New York Post just came out with a lament on how much the retail store front is disappearing, and how it’s changing the character of the city.

Chicago_Sears_stores_closing_1

Sears closed last store in Chicago Illinois

The Chicago Tribune opines over the loss of the last Chicago Sears store. The once mighty retail giant, headquartered in Chicago is gone. There building tower still stands, but was sold off years before.

It’s fundamentally changing business, but furthermore, it’s removing us from personal interaction and social restraint. If social media is the replacement for the way friends might meet at the mall, or take day trips downtown, it’s a poor substitute.

Along with the loss of social skills comes another challenge, the need for fewer people. Just like the elevator operators, greeters and floor persons, all will disappear when picking and delivery become fully automated.

Retail has indeed changed, and so too has the culture.