April 5, 2008 archive

From the Irony File: Mount Misery

Master Thomas at length said he would stand it no longer. I had lived with him nine months, during which time he had given me a number of severe whippings, all to no good purpose. He resolved to put me out, as he said, to be broken; and, for this purpose, he let me for one year to a man named Edward Covey. Mr. Covey was a poor man, a farm-renter. He rented the place upon which he lived, as also the hands with which he tilled it. Mr. Covey had acquired a very high reputation for breaking young slaves, and this reputation was of immense value to him … Added to the natural good qualities of Mr. Covey, he was a professor of religion–a pious soul–a member and a class-leader in the Methodist church. All of this added weight to his reputation as a “nigger-breaker.” I was aware of all the facts, having been made acquainted with them by a young man who had lived there. I nevertheless made the change gladly; for I was sure of getting enough to eat, which is not the smallest consideration to a hungry man.

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

854 million people in the world go hungry

“Right now most of the world is living under appalling conditions. We can’t possibly improve the conditions of everyone. We can’t raise the entire world to the average standard of living in the United States because we don’t have the resources and the ability to distribute well enough for that. So right now as it is, we have condemned most of the world to a miserable, starvation level of existence. And it will just get worse as the population continues to go up… Democracy cannot survive overpopulation. Human dignity cannot survive it. Convenience and decency cannot survive it. As you put more and more people onto the world, the value of life not only declines, it disappears. It doesn’t matter if someone dies. The more people there are, the less one individual matters.”

That’s from Bill Moyers interviewing Isaac Asimov in 1988.

fascinating video here – I had never seen this particular show before, did not know it existed until tonight.

What was true 20 years ago has not changed. It has become worse.

From Moyers web site today

   * More than 854 million people in the world go hungry

   * Every day, almost 16,000 children die from hunger-related causes – one child every five seconds

   * Poor nutrition and calorie deficiencies cause nearly one in three people to die prematurely or have disabilities, according to the World Health Organization.

   * 35.5 million people in the United States – including 12.6 million children-live in households that experience hunger or the risk of hunger.

   * Undernourishment negatively affects people’s health, productivity, sense of hope and overall well-being. A lack of food can stunt growth, slow thinking, sap energy, hinder fetal development and contribute to mental retardation.

   * Economically, the constant securing of food consumes valuable time and energy of poor people, allowing less time for work and earning income.

My concern is that these conditions will be getting much worse, (and from the data see I suspect changing quite rapidly as well), as climate change interferes with normal growing cycles, disease vectors and availability to obtain clean water for billions on this planet: what is an ‘inconvenient truth’ for us is a death sentence for perhaps billions who will not be able to cope.

The political upheaval we see today is nothing compared to what the future holds as climate change destroys the crucial infrastructure of areas where billions live.

Asimov said 20 years ago in the interview ..

.. you get the feeling somehow that Americans somehow are smarter somehow .. that what we consider a decent econmic system, freedom, free enterprise, that that alone “will do it for us” .. but not if we are lazy.

.. mixed in amongst the interview strikingly accurate views of the future

And then, he smacks George Bush for making comparisons between Harvard and Yale ..



That’s George Herbert Walker Bush, and Mike Dukakis he was talking about.


I wish Asimov were still with us, to hear his wisdom again about where we are now.

We need bold leadership right now to address the issues that face us, and there are still too few voices.  

Funkalicious Friday: um….songs!

Stream of consciousness Youtube surfing, brought to you by my Minor Brain Chemical Imbalances.

Starting with: The song stuck in my head this morning, a cliche now, but undeniably a great song and great geetar.

Innovation Denied

Seven years ago the company paid $96,000 dollars for a machine I designed, built, wired, programmed and tested.  It enabled the company to process a “widget” which is six to eight times more energy efficient and lasts far longer than the older technology “widgets”.  You have many of the older technology “widgets” in your home.  As far as I know and even to this day my machine is the only one in the world that can do this process.

Friday Night at 8: In Dubious Battle

From Milton’s Paradise Lost, Satan says:

Innumerable force of Spirits armed,

That durst dislike his reign, and, me preferring,

His utmost power with adverse power opposed

In dubious battle on the plains of Heaven

And shook his throne. What though the field be lost?

All is not lost-the unconquerable will,

And study of revenge, immortal hate,

And courage never to submit or yield:

And what is else not to be overcome?

I always liked Milton’s Paradise Lost.  In high school I wrote a paper about the book, claiming that Milton never really did “justify the ways of God to man.”  He never showed, in my view, how God was better, but he certainly showed that God was more powerful!  

But as Satan put it:

He who rules by force rules but half his foe.

I’m quoting that line from memory, so I may be wrong about exactly how it goes.  But anyway, Milton made God stronger, more forceful, he had better weapons and such.

So I always had a soft spot for the Satan of Milton’s Paradise Lost.

LSD economics


Non-Borrowed reserves of US depository institutions (1950 – 02/2008) – Source Federal reserve of Saint Louis

No you’re not hallucinating.

Three years ago I was asked to put the national debt in simple terms.  Finally, here’s what you need to know in less than one single-spaced page (bear in mind, this is radically simplified)…  

Up The Country!

We started way back when forty odd years ago so young and strong and innocent and loving and curious and fascinated with possibilities, and all we asked for was a world of honesty, fairness, peace, cooperation, respect for human life and people of all shapes and sizes and colors and sexes everywhere that could ask for and seek the same things… and here it is – two thousand and f’ing eight!

Two thousand and f’ing eight? Long past what I always thought was any reasonable amount of time to live.

Well… here we are. And we still have the nutbars on the run!

Heh! Read the papers or turn the TV on and what do you see and hear? Republicans and Democrats still trying to sell fear to as many people as they can.

Well… Up them! What the hell do they know? When will they ever figure out that in the long run they can’t win?

We’ve still got the music in us.

McCain Mumbles

I wish I could have figured out how to embed this video properly, as it happens you will have to click a link.

I realize asking anybody to listen to John McCain speak for nine minutes is a stretch for patriotism and patience. You won’t get this nine minutes back from your life. I can’t give a time refund but I can buy you a drink some time.

I have some thoughts on the speech that I would like to offer and am hoping to get feedback/analysis from you as well. Click the link, you might need toothpicks to keep your eyelids propped open.

John McCain mumbles and makes me hopeful we will have a Dem president. Watch the speech if you aren’t suffering from a stomach virus. My apologies in advance. There is a much more abbreviated version on you tube that simply fails to catch the essence of dullness, lifelessness, lack of conviction, blatant discomfort, and lack of sincerity this one offers.

McCain wouldn’t last three seconds in a parliamentary system where delivery, wit, and tone count as much as content.

He manages a feat I thought impossible, a speech about one of the greatest men who ever graced this country that lacks passion. A boring speech about MLK. How on earth did he accomplish this? That requires conviction.

My take is that the crowd is tolerant at best and vaguely restless.

I am also astounded that McCain manages to stumble and drift through a speech about Dr.King without once ever mentioning the word racism. He dances slowly around it mentioning “unfairness” and “justice”. He never uses the words “black” and “white” just once, pretty impressive. He certainly doesn’t suggest that “black” Americans were purposefully oppressed by “white” Americans. I am not sure he even mentioned that Dr.King was black himself.

He pays lip service to Darfur and Tibet and lumps them in with Iran. Does this mean he wants to invade all of them?

McCain, clothes his words in Christianity and faith, and almost completely avoids placing the civil rights movements in political context. As if it had no political context. None. Not that his faith based argument worked, there isn’t one “praise Jesus” or “hallelujah” from the crowd. You’ve completely missed your mark in the south if you make a personal/political speech your weaving your faith through it and nobody answers you.

Pony Party: Which Side Are You On Boys…

Today. Anniversaries. Martin died 40 years ago today. The peace sign made its debut. That was fifty years ago.

MLK… and peace. A man who shared his vision of love, equality, and brotherhood, and a little symbol that became instantly recognized as the totem for peace… both caused fissures in the fault lines of human interaction.

So let me ask you…

Friday Philosophy: Freedom of Choice

A question was asked this morning.  “What am I reading?”  Because of my poor eyesight, the current answer is all too often, “Not much.”

But I’ve had a burr under my saddle for about 10 days and I decided to remedy that.

It all started with NLinStPaul‘s essay, Right Brain Consciousness about Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor.   Well, I’m as much a brain geek as the next layperson, so I was interested.  I made the following comment last week:

What of someone who habitually combines what are traditionally thought of left-brain and right-brain activity?  And what of the place of cross-fertilization?

From wikipedia:

The corpus callosum is a structure of the mammalian brain in the longitudinal fissure that connects the left and right cerebral hemispheres. It is the largest white matter structure in the brain, consisting of 200-250 million contralateral axonal projections. It is a wide, flat bundle of axons beneath the cortex. Much of the inter-hemispheric communication in the brain is conducted across the corpus callosum.

Of much more substantial popular impact was a 1982 Science article claiming to be the first report of a reliable sex difference in human brain morphology, and arguing for relevance to cognitive gender differences.

Oh, really?  My interest is piqued.

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