Sunday, December 5, 2010

Limited Government vs. Free Enterprise

A lot of folks, including many tea party activists, say they're for limited government and free enterprise. I'm not.

If by "government" you specifically mean civil government, then okay, I'm for limited civil government. There are other forms of government, such as self-government and family government, that enter into the picture of human governance, but I'll stick with civil government in this post, since that's what most folks mean when they refer to "the government." Overall, I'm for balanced human governance.

If you consider "free" enterprise as completely unrestrained enterprise, then I'm against it. There are countless examples of how we're all better off due to some limits on enterprise, such as not allowing companies to put sawdust in milk (yep, that really happened, on purpose, to make the milk thicker), not allowing companies to impose sweatshop conditions on workers, and not allowing companies to discriminate against employees or customers based on skin color.

So, I'm for limited civil government and limited enterprise. However, there's a big, huge, colossal difference: Regarding civil government, we do best when we are cautious in what powers we grant to it; and regarding enterprise, we do best when we're cautious in what constraints we impose on it.

Give the civil government too much power, and we will all be its slaves. Impose too many severe restrictions on private business, and we will all be paupers.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The First National Thanksgiving

Shortly after Congress approved the First Amendment in 1789 to send to the states for ratification, President George Washington issued the first National Thanksgiving Proclamation:

“Whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me 'to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness;'

Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the TWENTY-SIXTH DAY of NOVEMBER next, to be devoted by the People of these United States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be;

That we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks...for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government...particularly the national one now lately instituted, for the civil and religious liberty with which we are promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue.”

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Something Nice

Can I say something nice about President Obama? Quite a few things, and here's a good example: In a speech in Indonesia, he said, "I have made it clear that America is not and never will be at war with Islam. ... Those who want to build must not cede ground to terrorists who seek to destroy." Amen.

Friday, November 5, 2010

QE2 and 2012

Federal government intervention hasn't solved all our economic problems yet, so it's time to try the same things again, obviously. Without a gold standard or something similar, the Federal Reserve has the ability to create money, and put more of it into circulation. They claim this is to improve the economy. Interestingly, they expanded the money supply by 2.45 trillion dollars from Sept 2008 to June 2010 (the biggest expansion in history), and as you may have noticed, it didn't improve the economy. So now they're planning "QE2" to expand it by another 800 billion dollars (600B fiat and 200B from TARP funds) from now until mid-2011. It will have an impact, primarily by further enriching the biggest banks, who are at the front-end of the expansion, but it won't benefit the economy in accordance with their stated goals.

This makes it clear, once again, that these high-level leaders (Obama; Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve; Timothy Geithner, Secretary of the Treasury; et al.) don't exercise common sense and appear to be too ignorant for their posts. They're guessing! Worse, they're gambling with trillions of dollars of our money. Bernanke just recently said that QE2's 800 billion dollar expansion is an "experiment."

Expand the money supply to stimulate the economy? Really? Consider this quote and see if it doesn't make more sense than our exalted leaders... "A lesson that was taught by classical economists that remains true: there is no ideal supply of money in a society. Any quantity of money will do, so long as the quality of the money is sound. Prices adjust based on the existing money supply. New quantities of money injected into society confer no social benefit. If production rises and the money supply remains stable, the purchasing power of the money will rise. If production falls while the supply of money remains stable, the purchasing power of money will fall." End the Fed, Ron Paul, page 203

Obama, Bernanke, and Geithner seem to have no concept that the money supply has quality, let alone that their actions are harming its quality. But whether I like it or not, QE2 is here. If, as I suspect, QE2 makes things worse in the long run, then Obama probably won't be reelected in 2012, because the economy will still be struggling. By then, a majority of voters will know or suspect that Obama and his czars' efforts to control the economy were guesses all along, and they guessed wrong. And instead of making things better, they made things far worse.

In 2012, the Democrats will almost certainly field Obama again, and no independent or 3rd party candidate is likely to win, so if we're to change presidential administrations, it will have to come from electing whoever wins the Republican primary. So let's not blow this deal.

I don't know who to recommend yet, but I know who not to recommend: Sarah Palin. Why? Lack of sufficient experience and knowledge. She's added to her knowledge since her vice-presidential candidacy, and can add more, plus she is an electric speaker (with polarizing charges - pun intended), and her experience is greater than Obama's was before he became President, but her experience is still not enough. I want a President with a lot more experience and a lot better understanding of economics than either Obama or Palin. Surely we can find someone better out of 310 million people. And while it is essential to have a candidate who understands the importance of a constitutionally-limited civil government, of financial responsibility, and of free-market economics, is it too much to hope that such a candidate could be more congenial than polarizing?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Surf Shelf

I just recently got a Surf Shelf, and it's great. It easily mounts on the control board of a treadmill or exercise bike and will hold your laptop while you walk, run, or pedal. It's $40, but it lets you work or play while you exercise.

Oh, and it works for books and magazines, too.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

All The King's Men and All the King's Horses

The catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico is not only an environmental catastrophe, it's an economic catastrophe for that region of the United States.

I know they've been consulting an army of experts, but I still don't understand why this has been going on so long. I'm reminded of a story I heard long ago about a tractor-trailer that the driver tried to get under a bridge that was too low. Traffic was snarled for hours as they tried using tow trucks and other means to pull it out, all to no avail. All the experts were stumped, until a little boy who had been in one of the cars that got stuck in traffic and was now in the group on onlookers said, "Why don't you just let some air out of the tires?" Problem solved.

Maybe there's something I'm missing, but it seems to me like all the solutions I've heard about involve experts trying sophisticated techniques of some kind or another, when a brute-force attack would be a better approach.

Instead of focusing all efforts such things as trying to calculate just the right density and adhesive qualities of slurry to pump into the well head, why not build a huge concrete dome with more than enough mass to counter the oil pressure, tow it out to sea and sink it over the well head?

Yes, I'm aware of the box idea they tried that failed. That was too small, with too little mass, because that wasn't an attempt to stop the leak, that was an attempt to cap it with an outlet that would still allow them to pipe up the oil to the surface. Forget all that. Just smother the thing.

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Greatest Ice Hockey Goal of All Time?

I thought I had posted a link to this clip here before, but I wanted to watch it again, and discovered it wasn't here after all. So I hunted it up and I'm posting it anyway, even though it's 3 1/2 years old now. Maybe someone else will see it here who's never seen it before, and wow, is it worth watching.

This is Alex Ovechkin playing for the Washington Capitals, against the Phoenix Coyotes in November 2006. The announcers are Coyotes' announcers, and one of the says during several replays from different angles, "...we can't see this enough. I mean, we can, because it's against the Phoenix Coyotes, but that is something spectacular."

Alex the Great, on his back, rolling over, moving away from the goal, which he can't see but knows about where it is, three opponents between him and the goal, only one hand on his stick, next-to-impossible absolutely-minimum angle left to get a shot in, but...

Link for when it gets copied into Facebook (on accounta FB hasn't been copying embeds):

What a shot!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

A Candidate I Can Support

Today I started campaigning for a candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives. It feels strange.

I strongly dislike the long-term behaviors I have observed in my incumbent Congressman. For example, on taxes, he emphasizes that while he was Chair of our County Board of Supervisors, he "lowered taxes." He clearly makes it seem that his lowering of taxes was the most notable characteristic of his tenure as Chairman on the issue of taxation. He lowered taxes, he claims. Yeah, well, he once voted to lower the tax rate on properties after the property valuations had risen dramatically, so that they were ever-so-slightly less than what they otherwise would have been, but the overall effect was that property taxes went up. Up is not down. Property taxation is a huge issue, as property taxes make up the vast majority of tax revenue for most counties and states.

During this guy's entire tenure as Chairman, property taxes doubled. Doubled. He voted for one tiny little reduction in a tax rate one time, but he allowed the overall taxation to go up and up and up. And yet he has the gall to talk as if lowering taxes defines his position on the general issue of taxation. He is a quintessential ~politician~ who appears to have no difficulty distorting the truth, and I want to vote him OUT.

I'm an independent. This political bum I'm referring to happens to be a Democrat. He not only voted for the recent health insurance legislation, he was a co-sponsor of the bill. This is the roughly 2,000 page bill of which House Speaker Nancy Polosi made the idiotic statement during a press conference, "We have to pass the bill to find out what's in the bill."

Well, there are two Republicans running in the primary to compete against my incumbent. I like the stated positions and real-world, private-industry experience of both of them. Neither one is a career politician. Both have accounting expertise. Neither one is perfect, but I think they are far superior to the sorry excuse for a Congressman who now holds the office. I prefer Pat Herrity for several reasons, so I have started supporting him. A couple of independent polls indicate it will be a close election in November.

Today I went to Pat Herrity's campaign office and got a handful of bumper stickers and a dozen signs. I drove to a busy highway, parked my car, walked to the median and started planting them. Tomorrow I'm going back for more.

Pat's not rich, and he can't fund his campaign out of his pocket. If you're looking for a good guy to give $5 to help him de-fund the recent health insurance legislation, promote generally "conservative" values, including actually supporting the U.S. Constitution, you can contribute here:

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Pre-Strike Civilian Warning?

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's mind may be warped the same way Saddam Hussein's was. He may think he can stall forever by stringing along the U.N. while bouncing between promises and threats without getting bombed by the U.S or Israel. He may think that we learned a lesson from overthrowing Hussein that it's too hard and costs too much, in money and lives. He may think we wouldn't even drop bombs on his nuclear facilities without invading because we're too -- take your pick: weak, tired, soft, foolish, etc.

Maybe he's right. I don't know if President Obama has what it takes to decide we're too close to a homicidal dictator getting working nuclear bombs to actually stop him, rather than merely lament and plead until after they detonate their first underground bomb as a test and testament.

Certainly the pronouncement this week that the world is safer now from nuclear weapons than before the security summit is not encouraging. The security summit changed exactly nothing, and Iran wasn't even mentioned in the self-congratulatory assurances that sounded too much like Neville Chamberlain's "peace in our time." That was shortly before Hitler launched World War II, for those who don't recall.

Obviously, I don't know if we'll strike, or allow the Israelis to strike. But as far as I know, we might. So, here's a wild idea I had, and I'd love to get some responses from other folks. If we decide to bomb Iran's nuke sites, what if we were to warn the entire population before-hand? Give the civilians time and warning to get out of the way, in order to minimize innocent casualties?

It might make things more difficult and riskier for our military. If so, that's a clear down-side. Saving civilian lives would be a clear up-side, but I don't think this would simply be trading our military lives for their civilian lives. Just because it might increase risk to our guys doesn't mean it would definitely cost more of our lives, or any, for that matter. If we were to use high-altitude stealth bombers that can fly above the range of Iran's anti-aircraft missiles, that'd be one option. Another would be stand-off cruise missiles, or even non-nuclear ICBM's.

For the sake of discussion, suppose we were certain we could bomb them with them being able to strike back. Would it be a good thing to warn them to let the civilians flee to safer places? We would haven't to specify the exact day or time. The targets are fixed sites, so we can't exactly surprise them there, except that we may know more of their secret places than they hope.

After 6 months of incinerating scores of Japanese cities with conventional bombs brought them no closer to surrender than ever, we finally dropped the first war-deployed nuclear bomb on Hiroshima. That killed over 100,000 people. When they still didn't surrender, we dropped a second one on Nagasaki, and they finally surrendered. Regardless of what you like or don't like about that history, two things are clear: it was effective in getting them to surrender unconditionally, and it killed a whole lot of civilians.

Yes, the situation between the U.S. and Japan was far different from the situation between the U.S. and Iran, by many measures. And if we had warned them about which city we intended to bomb, they may have been able to shoot down our bomber. But suppose we had warned the Japanese that we were going to annihilate one of their cities without telling them which one, and urged their civilians too leave all their cities? Maybe no one would have paid heed and the same people would have died in Hiroshima. What would have happened when we warned them the second time? Perhaps a lot of people would have fled cities all over the country, including at least some in Nagasaki, and perhaps tens of thousands of lives would have been spared.

We only had two bombs back in 1945. If either one had gotten shot down, maybe they wouldn't have surrendered for a much longer time. How much would a warning have increased their chances of intercepting one of our nuclear bombers? I don't know. And if they had, perhaps even more civilians would have died in the continued conventional bombings. I can't help but recall that my Dad was in the U.S. Navy, in Hawaii, about to ship out toward the fighting front, when the Japanese did surrender a few days after Nagasaki. That was before my dad met my mom and fathered my brother and myself.

But in this situation, the point of bombing Iran wouldn't be to get them to surrender. It would simply be to physically eliminate their ability to process weapons-grade uranium. No invasion necessary. Cruise-missile their underground processing facilities with non-nuclear warheads until there's nothing left but dust. That's my best guess as to what we would actually do, IF we do anything other than talking until seismographs reveal they've succeeded in a detonation.

Well, if we were to do that, what would be the harm in giving them advance warning? Something along the lines of, "Citizens of Iran: We wish you no harm, but we cannot allow your dictator to finalize his efforts to build nuclear weapons. We have reasoned, we have urged, and we have threatened, all to no avail, and now we regret that he has forced us to act to eliminate this very serious threat to world peace. Therefore, we urge you to stock up food, water, and medicine, and move as far as possible away from your government's nuclear facilities. We will begin bombing them within a few days and will continue bombing them until they have been completely destroyed. Here is a list of the most prominent facilities that you should remain far from at all costs..."

So... what do you think?

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Microsoft Acquires Oracle and IBM

News Flash: Microsoft has just announced that it will acquire both Oracle and IBM in the largest merger of technology companies in history.

Oracle products will continue to be supported for at least 5 years, but no new products or features will be developed. Existing customers will be encouraged to begin shifting to SQL Server, SharePoint, and other mainline Microsoft products.

IBM mainframes will now be marketed as Microsoft Frames, running Windows Server Frame Edition. The IBM consulting services division will be merged into Microsoft Services, and those employees will no longer be required to wear ties or attend meetings.

Anti-trust objections from the Justice Department were mooted yesterday by Microsoft's acquisition of the Justice Department's anti-trust division. Anti-trust objections from the European Union were allayed by promising not to install Internet Explorer by default on the Windows Frame edition.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Royal Presidency

In my next-to-last post, I included a chart of expenditures of the Federal Government for fiscal year 2009. It includes the expenses of the Executive Office of the President, but it barely registers on the 800 Billion dollar scale needed to show the largest categories.

<tangential rant>
In the chart notes I pointed out that the Federal Government employs over 22 million people. Twenty-two million. Do we really need that many people to run our Federal Government?
</tangential rant>

Here I'd like to single out that tiny little line item for the President's Office.

Guess how much of your tax money was spent in fiscal year 2009 to operate the White House, the President's staff, and the rest of the Presidential expenses. Go ahead, guess... Ten million? Fifty million? A hundred million?

Try over seven-hundred and forty-two million. Exactly $742,850,260 according to the U.S. Treasury Dept.

Don't blame Obama for this. At least, don't blame him alone, because that budget didn't just get that large in the last year or two.

But I can't help but wonder how much harm it would cause our country if that budget went down a few million. Or a few hundred million.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Why I'm STILL Against the Current Health Insurance Reform

Well, the big news today is that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has just finished their estimates based on the proposed House of Representatives' revisions to the health insurance reform. Those favoring this legislative package are giddy with delight, because the CBO estimates are that the revisions will lower the Federal deficit over the next 10 years, and lower it even more the decade after that.

My primary objection in my last post was that we can't afford it, so why aren't I changing my tune?

Because no legislation can change the fundamental principals of economics.

These latest estimates are for a proposed subsequent change to the health insurance legislation that the Senate passed. A reform of the reform. These estimates only apply if the House passes the exact same legislation the Senate passed in December, which has far higher CBO estimates, and then the House and Senate would both have to pass this revision. If the House passes the original Senate bill and this revision at the same time, the revision won't be applied unless the Senate passes the same revision legislation that the latest CBO estimate is for. There is almost no chance that will happen since the majority of the Senators don't want it, and probably couldn't pass it even if they did want it.

Additionally, the CBO estimates are never real-world estimates. I'm not saying that to be mean, or to exaggerate support for my position, but because the CBO isn't allowed to try to be realistic. They're required to base their estimates on whatever assumptions are included in the proposed legislation. History shows that such estimates are typically severely underestimated. Here's a closely related example: In 1966, total Medicare expenditures were about $3 billion dollars. At that time, the Congressional estimate for Medicare in 1990 was $12 billion after adjusting for inflation. The actual cost was over $107 billion. That's a little more than a rounding error, and is solid evidence that Federal "estimates" can't be relied upon.

If the House passes the Senate reform bill, Obama will sign it into law. If the House also passes the legislation they intend to reform the reform, the Senate is very unlikely to pass it, so it won't become law. The House reform to the reform will be nothing more than a footnote in history. The taxes will begin immediately, with the tax-funded benefits not beginning until the 5th year. If it's not changed before then, then tens of millions of people will begin to receive those benefits.

No legislation can change the fundamental principals of economics. If you try to provide a much greater quantity of health care without a corresponding increase in the number of qualified doctors, nurses, and hospitals, then the quality of health care has to come down, costs will go up, or both. Legislation can't change economics any more than it can change physics.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Why I'm Against the Current Health Insurance Reform

Year 11

Year 11 is the primary reason. The failure actually begins with year 5, but Obama and his legislative supporters have done their best to hide the fact that years 5 through 10 of their plan are unaffordable. They think we're stupid enough to believe their ploy of starting taxes 4 years before they start providing benefits so they can claim that the overall 10-year plan is financially balanced.

Year 11 has no such camouflage: The year following the 10-year plan will cost billions of dollars more than the taxes taken in for it. Either taxes will have to be raised, the national debt will have to be raised, the benefits will have to be cut, or some combination of these actions. Regardless of what else you like or dislike about this health insurance legislation, we simply can't afford it. We can't afford it now, and the next generation can't afford it later.

We already have the same impending problems with Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. It's all an economy-ruining financial time-bomb. Take a look at the following chart (data from Dept. of Treasury). Medicare and Medicaid are part of the Dept. of Health and Human Services budget, and under current laws, they will continue to grow rapidly. The baby-boomers are beginning to retire and Social Security outlays will continue to grow rapidly. The astonishingly irresponsible deficit spending over the last few years (Bush 2 and Obama) will cause the interest on the national debt to continue to grow rapidly in addition to threatening the stability of the dollar.

Chart notes: "Dept of Treasury" includes hundreds of billions of dollars intended to shore up Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. "Independent Agencies" include a large number of organizations such as the U.S. Interagency Council On Homelessness; the Vietnam Education Foundation; and the State Justice Institute. "Other Defense - Civil" includes military retirement. Covered throughout this budget: There are over 22 million employees of the Federal Government.

No legislation should be passed that isn't financially sustainable. In the long-run, this health-insurance monstrosity won't provide better health care to more people, it will multiple the economic damage threatening our economy that could cause more hundreds of thousands of jobs to evaporate. And those folks unfortunate enough to lose their job will also lose their employer-based health benefits. Fewer jobs, fewer employer-based health benefits -- the opposite of the purported goals for this foolish legislation.

I'd rail awhile about how all the effort toward the misguided health-insurance legislation should have been focused on the economy, as the President seemed to acknowledge in his first State of the Union address ("Creating jobs has to be our number one priority in 2010") but I have no reason to think that this President or legislature has any understanding of how to improve the job situation. For example, the President and legislature are still virtually ignoring the continuing meltdown at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, with extremely far-reaching consequences for the housing industry and the economy.  Nevertheless, since health-insurance is in fact, still his number one priority, I'll close with a quotation from former Democratic President Bill Clinton, which I direct to the increasing egotistical President Obama:

"It's the economy, stupid."

Monday, March 1, 2010

Running Record

Logging when I'm not too tired and not too forgetful afterward.

13Mar2010, 5 miles! First time in over 20 years! Did it in under 50 minutes, on a treadmill, starting with a run of over 5 minutes at 9 mph, but had to slow to a walk a several times. As usual, did it with asthma medicine, several minutes of stretching first, and running in my wonderful Vibram 5-finger KSO shoes.

1Mar2010, new personal best for 5K: 24:34, on a treadmill. This was after learning a new technique my timing my asthma medicine. Worked pretty well!

25Feb2010, personal best for 5K: 25:26, on a treadmill. Goals for 2010 (no particular order): break 25 minutes in a timed 5K race, run for 5 miles without any walking, and run 9mph for 10 minutes.

22Feb2010, <gasp>Ran for over 4 minutes at 9 miles per hour and discovered how valuable my asthma medicine is, since I had forgotten to take it first.</gasp> <wheeze>Yesterday I ran 3 minutes at 9mph at the beginning of a 5K run and finished with another minute at 9mph, all on a hit of Advair an hour beforehand.</wheeze> I definitely prefer breathing while I run.

15Feb2010, 5 miles in just under 50 minutes. That's the first time I've been able to run/walk 5 miles in more than 25 years. The first 5K in less than 29 minutes. Treadmill, with varying incline. I'm looking forward to the first time I can run 5 miles again without having to walk any. My distance and speed are only improving very slowly, but at least it's improving and not declining!

2Feb2010, 5K in 29 minutes flat, on a treadmill, with varying incline.

2Jul2009, some distance, in some number of minutes. I've been going on fun runs around the neighborhood, so I don't track how far, and usually don't track how long, though I'd guess in the 20-40 minute range. I learned 2 things while running tonight: 1) I'm not fast enough to outrun mosquitoes; and 2) Lightening bugs are as awesome now as they were when I was a kid!

6Jun2009, 5k Race for the Cure. I finished, and I'm happy with that. It was perfect weather, not too hot, not too cold, slightly overcast, but not too humid. I was less than perfect. As the race began, I was in a porta-pottie with "the runs." Got done and there were so many people, it took awhile before I could even get to the starting line. This also meant that the entire crowd was in front of me, and it stayed crowded the entire time I was running. The RFID tag on my shoe should give me an accurate time whenever they post it, but I got anxious and once I got started, I ran on the outside much faster than my usual pace. Faster than usual meant I was certain to have to stop and walk some, and I did. During my first slow-down, I started feeling like I might have to barf, so I made a conscious decision not to push myself. I know the timer at the finish line was 42 minutes and something, but I have no idea how long it was between the official start and my start. I'll find out in a few days, I guess. So, I'm a survivor of the race, though that's a different kind of surviving than those wearing the pink shirts...

The results are in: 30m 31s
50-54 age group, 74th out of 186
All men: 1446 out of 2762

5Apr2009, Cherry Blossom 5k Run/Walk from near the Washington Monument to the entrance to Arlington National Cemetery and back. I finished in 27 minutes and 13 seconds! The best time I've ever run 5k since my thyroid problems started causing leg problems. [Correction: 2nd best time.] And somehow I ran the whole way - no walking!

Didn't get much sleep on the 12 hour trip home from Hawai'i, Carla & Niah picked me up at the airport, went home, changed clothes, and off we went to the Metro station. We got to the starting area with just a few minutes to spare. Niah & Daniel ran with me, and Promise went with us to hold our junk. Carla and Rebecca weren't feeling up to going with us.

I easily got up to the front of the crowd, the starter counted us down, and off we went. That's when I learned there's a notable disadvantage to starting in the very front: there's no one for you to pass, and plenty of people that might pass you. And a lot of people passed me. I did okay the first 1/2 mile or so, and then started thinking I'd have to walk some before I hit a mile. But I got to a mile, and then I figured I'd try to make the half-way point at 1.55 miles. I made it and that got me jazzed up a bit, so I tried hard to make it to the 2 mile mark. I made that and heard my time and did a little pondering on what my final time might look like depending on how much walking I had to do before the end, but I soon realized I was on the last mile, so I decided to try to keep trudging along a little bit farther. Then I started trying to recognize where the end was. Sometimes when my pace gets too hard to continue, I can actually keep going by speeding up, which changes my stride, and changes how I'm using my muscles a little bit. With about a half mile to go, I sped up just a bit, and it was enough of a change. Then I estimated about 1/8 of a mile to go and tried to give a final kick. I kicked okay, but started losing breathing control, and then realized the end was farther away than I had estimated, and I had kicked too soon. I was about 50 yards away and about to slow down to a stagger when I remembered they'd have cameras taking photos as people approached the finish line. Well that was excellent motivation. I gave up on breathing control altogether and sped up to a gasping sprint to cross the finish line, stumble over to the grass and collapse. Promise and a race volunteer kept an eye on me to make sure I didn't need a doctor or something. I just needed to pant awhile until I got my oxygen balance back.

I finished 70th out of 410 men, and 3rd out of 20 in my age group. Not bad, eh? Well, I'd feel a lot better about it if I hadn't been trounced by Alexander Van Valkenbu, a nine-year-old who finished in 24:45. And after I had asked him nicely before the race not to make me look too bad. ;)

28Mar2009, 3.1 miles in just over 38 minutes. First 2 miles in 18m3s, but then had to walk a lot. Home treadmill, 1/2 degree incline. Cherry Blossom 5k in 8 days. My return flight from Honolulu is scheduled to arrive at 6:19 AM, and the race starts at 8:40 AM. If the plane's not too late, I should be able to get there, but not sure how much energy I'll have.

24Mar2009, 3.1 miles in 30m3s. Went 2 miles in just under 19 minutes before having to walk a bit, on home treadmill.

22Feb2009, 1.75 miles in 17m2s, home treadmill.

20Feb2009, running delayed due to bruised ribs, just ran 1.5 miles in 13.5 minutes, no walking, treadmill.

2Feb2009, 1st mile in 9m, total 1.75 miles, ~17m, hotel treadmill, Seattle

27Jan2009, ~1 mile, ~12m, 29 degrees, outdoor IN THE SNOW!, gently rolling terrain. (Last time I ran in the snow, 30 years ago, I ran a distance of 5 miles, but probably ran about 10 miles counting all the slipping and sliding!)

19Jan2009, 1 mile, 8m35s, treadmill

6Apr2008, Cherry Blossom 5k Run/Walk, 28:47

7Jun2008, Komen National Race for the Cure - 5K, 26:23

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Vindication for Global Warming Skeptics

A global-warming skeptic is not a global-warming denier. The difference is somewhat like the difference between atheists and agnostics. I, and many others like me, don't claim that the earth is in a long-term cooling trend or that it's stable. In addition, even if long-term global-warming was certain, I have serious doubts about the quality of the computer models upon which claims are made that global-warming is caused by humans.

I consider myself an amateur scientist, with an appreciation for fact and the scientific method. Where science has been applied to medical research, it has had a major and direct impact on my life, and my appreciation is especially strong when I recall that it's only been a couple of hundred years since 'doctors' regularly drained blood from patients as a standard treatment for a variety of ailments, with absolutely no scientific basis for it.

However, despite my appreciation of science, I don't trust scientists much more than I trust politicians. Someone does some important research and analysis? Great! But don't just tell me the summary and expect me to accept it without question. What were the assumptions? What were the measurements? What was the analysis? Which statistical methods were applied, and why? If a reasonable theory has been developed, great! But are there other reasonable theories? Are there other plausible theories?

So, despite the 'consensus' of scientists often alleged by crisis-profiteers, crisis-careerists, and an easily duped media, I've remained skeptical that we have enough measurements or a thorough enough understanding of circumstances that impact global temperatures to reach a conclusion about the current long-term global temperature trend, or the impact of human activity on global temperatures. This has often felt like being a round-earther ridiculed by the official flat-earth dogmatists. But no one will get me to change my mind just based on alleged consensus while there are intelligent scientists who hold contrary views and provide reasonable explanations for their contrary views. The esteemed leading doctors of Western medicine had a strong consensus on the value of frequent blood-letting, so don't give me 'consensus.' Give me facts. Give me reason.

So today comes an article in London's Mail Online: Climategate U-turn as scientist at centre of row admits: There has been no global warming since 1995. Dr. Phil Jones, a leader in the man-caused-long-term-global-warmist theories, has admitted that the evidence isn't nearly as strong as many have been led to believe. Dr. Jones gives lucid statements that don't debunk the possibility that the earth is getting warmer in the long-run, and don't debunk the possibility that human activity is a dominant factor in whatever the earth's temperatures are doing. But read the article, and it will become apparent that this interview is a bellwether event because it virtually destroys the alleged certainty that has been so popular with the crisis-mongers.

The earth has not been getting significantly warmer in the last 15 years, as Dr. Jones admits, and as many skeptics have been pointing out. It may still be that the last 15 years has been an exception to the rule and perhaps the earth is getting warmer over a period of hundreds of years. But maybe not. The door is now almost fully open, where it was almost fully closed, to consider all possibilities, and not jump to conclusions based on inadequate data or inadequate, unproven computer models.

If Dr. Jones isn't enough for you, then consider the interview by Dr. Robert Watson, none other than the former chair of the IPCC itself. In an article at the Times Online, Dr. Watson responds to the rash of errors recently pointed out in some of the IPCC reports. While none of the errors I've seen reported are damning individually, Dr. Watson points out that together they indicate a significant bias, because every single error favors catastrophic predictions. If they were unbiased, as the tarnished current chair of the IPCC claims, then the errors would be roughly evenly distributed between those favoring catastrophic predictions and those opposing it.

So let's continue to study global temperatures. Let's continue to measure and improve how we measure. Let's continue to model global processes and improve how we model global processes. Let's continue to reason and improve how we reason.

And while we're improving science (and scientists), let's not damage or destroy national economies based on overreactions to false assumptions and irrational predictions. Let's also bear in mind that regardless of the long-term temperature fluctuations, whether up or down, we'll always need clean air to breathe and clean water to drink, so let's not throw out the baby of responsible environmentalism with the dirty bathwater of unproven climate-change fears.

Come, let us reason together.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Irrational Global-Warming Leader

The leading organization preaching that global warming is man-caused and a disaster-in-the-making is the U.N.'s International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and the head of that organization is Dr. Rajendra Pachauri. Pachauri is also the head of the The Energy Research Institute (TERI) (formerly the Tata Energy Research Institute).

His degrees are in engineering, so he should be familiar with rational thought. However, he's been quoted by the Financial Times as making the following statement:

"[Climate change skeptics] are people who deny the link between smoking and cancer; they are people who say that asbestos is as good as talcum powder. I hope that they apply it [asbestos] to their faces every day."

For the record, I am currently a climate change skeptic, and I do not deny the link between smoking and cancer, nor do I say that asbestos is as good as talcum powder. And despite his stated desire, I do not apply asbestos to myself or anyone else.

As head of the IPCC and TERI, Dr. Pachauri has been subject to much criticism, some for possible conflicts of interest from running both organizations. In his recent interview with the Financial Times, he also was quoted as saying, "[There are] nefarious designs behind people trying to attack me with lies, falsehoods." I don't why anyone would lie about him... the direct quotes above are enough to ruin his credibility as a rational scientist.

UPDATE:The week of March 21, 2010, Dr. Pachauri was quoted in the London Times as saying, "It is not correct to say there are people who don’t trust me." If that is an accurate quote, it is conclusive evidence that he does not exhibit a scientific mind. He has also been apologizing for the factual errors in the IPCC reports, but I have not heard him address the issue of bias. Bias is not only a significant factor in facilitating factual errors that favor a pre-determined view, it is also a critical factor in errors of omission -- the fact that the IPCC reports intentionally exclude metrics that are inconsistent with their favored Earth-is-getting-too-warm-and-people-are-to-blame beliefs.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Fairness or Freedom?

We all like fairness, right? "Mom, he/she got more than I did!" is a complaint heard from every child with a sibling. It's often said because of perceived injustice, as when a sibling really did get a larger amount of something. Most children with loving parents quickly learn how effective the "fairness" complaint is and try to extend it's use by altering its meaning: "Mom, I want more candy." "You can't have more candy, it will spoil your appetite for supper." Altogether now... "That's not fair!" Fairness is good, but not everything is a matter of fairness.

Suppose we try to use civil government to force fairness into society to the greatest extent possible. Is that a worthwhile goal for a nation? Well, what if maximum fairness means imposing the lowest common denominator on wages and wealth? Would you want comprehensive, forced economic equality if it meant you get exactly the same daily ration of food regardless of how hard you work or how much you learn?

Suppose our civil governments allow people maximum freedom instead, even if it means some people who learn more or work harder will earn greater wealth than others? Freedom and individuality have long been dominant in the United States and it's produced a level of wealth that was unimaginable when this country began. Yet free enterprise guarantees inequality of wealth.

So, if you were limited to these two choices, which would you chose? Forced economic equality that provided everyone a perfectly even distribution of goods, including exactly 1000 calories of exactly the same food per day, or complete freedom that resulted in economic disparity such that some people have as many calories of whatever food they want per day and the poorest have at least 1500 calories of food per day with a substantial variety of food choices?

Which is better, comprehensive forced fairness or universally superior wealth?

I suggest that fairness shouldn't be the ultimate goal of society because people are different. Men are different from women. That doesn't mean men are better than women, and it doesn't justify a lower salary for a women doing the same work as a man, but it's acknowledging the reality that there are substantive differences between men and women, and the cause is genetic. Industrious people are different from lazy people. An argument can be made that hard-working people are better than lazy people by some measures, and the cause for the difference is primarily behavioral choice. Healthy people are different from those with infirmities, and that could be due to genes or environment. The fact is that everyone is unique. The inference is that absolute fairness, or equality, is not possible. In every socialist country where great effort has been made to enforce fairness, it has been clearly seen in practice that the leaders "are more equal than others," as Orwell put it.

If you give everyone exactly the same health care, that means you must either give everyone a pacemaker or no one a pacemaker. Silly argument, right? That would be true, complete fairness, but that's not the only option to try to arrive at equality. Okay, so we use a different policy: everyone who needs a pacemaker can have a one if they want it. That sounds pretty good, right? Unless your society doesn't have enough pacemaker surgeons. Which leads to the question, how do you give a pacemaker to everyone who needs and wants one if there aren't enough pacemaker surgeons? Give the person a do-it-yourself kit? Or just let a civil government agency decide on everyone's careers, so they can ensure enough pacemaker surgeons? Do you want your career choice to be made for you? There are socialists who think that's the best course for public policy.

For myself, and for my family, my friends, and my neighbors, I prefer freedom to forced fairness. I'll learn as much as I can and work as hard as I can, and I want the opportunity to improve my financial circumstances. And I want that opportunity for everyone else.

It was President Kennedy who famously said, "A rising tide lifts all boats." He was talking about economic prosperity, not Cuba, but whenever I think of that speech in 1963, I tie the two together, thinking of the many boats people have used to try to escape from the prison camp known as Cuba, where fairness is guaranteed by Castro. Cubans risked their lives in desperate attempts to flee Cuba's fairness for American freedom. A freedom that has proven Kennedy's point, a freedom that has created so much wealth that American charitable giving makes the United States the most generous nation on Earth. In fact, America is more than twice as generous as the next most generous nation.

Fairness has its place, but if it comes down to a choice between fairness and freedom, give me freedom.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Command Performance

Some time ago, I wanted a photo-viewing program and couldn't find one with the features I wanted, so I wrote one myself. It's called Command Performance, and I've just tweaked it and posted it as freeware. If you want to try it out, you can download it here:

I'd love to hear what you think of it.