Saturday, December 12, 2009

How Corn supports Evolution

Corn, aka Maize, is a rather interesting and unique supporter of modern Darwinian Evolution.

Corn literally can not exist with out human kind, and specifically, humans with agriculture. The mutation that created the original spexies known as Maize requires deliberate intervention and preparation by another species (namely, humans) in order to continue to successfully reproduce.

Which means that Maize could not have come into existence until after humans had started farming.

either it evolved from other grains at a lucky place and time, quite possibly one of a multitude with corn being the only one we know about because it's the only one that was in the right place at the right time.

Or, it was placed via some direct but undocumented visitation from an intelligent designer at just the right point. in time, and there were never any similiar genetic variants that simply died off. Yeah, that's a magic man did it argument.

"Expelled", Darwinism, and ID.

Humans being what we are, we like absolutes in 'wrong' and 'right'. It's to bad that such absolutes are often rather misleading, even destructive.

So let's start off with my view point. I'm a 'Darwinist' in the sense that I find biological evolution from a single celled organism to be the most likely explanation for the origin of life, with the assistance of some form of intelligent intervention to be very unlikely. As previously discussed, I am an atheist as well.

Now, I'm quite willing to talk and discuss and argue with people who are interested in discussing Intelligent Design in a scientific manner. Of course, the greatest challenge to that idea that needs to be overcome is the necessity for direct physical evidence of a Designer, and to the best of my knowledge, we have none. A supposedly simpler explanation for how biological mechanisms were formed is far from direct enough. Leaving it up entirely to the evolutionary mechanisms that are in place that we know exist is simpler from the view point of not adding another agent of unknown qualities into the mix. And I have a whole slew of other arguments, that would continue to distract from the focus of this post

Scientific debate of ID is hindered by two things. First, and in my mind primarily, is the section of ID that is creationism trying to masquerade as something scientific. That approach is "and of an Intelligent Designer seems possible, why couldn't it be God! and if it's God, then look at this bible..."

They screw up the real ID scientists who find aspects of microbiology to be more easily explainable if there was some one who designed it.

That combines with the animosity between science and the church (which is ironic due to many famous scientists such as Galileo and Newton being religious, but is the church's own fault for attacking the early scientists so harshly) to create a backlash against any one who mention ID in a scientific publication or paper.

This backlash is itself unscientific. Unfortunately, humans are flawed creatures, and often in vigorous defense of an ideal, we act like those whom we originally set ourselves against. Loosing tenure for the slightest mention of researching the possibilities is not a good way to run things. Let them do research, bring up their evidence and arguments, then proceed in a proper, scientific method, using critical thinking skills, to hash it all out.

Go watch Expelled. Truly, it's not as one sides as many claim. It's flawed, and I'd love to get into that in another, very long post sometime, but all pro-ID siding that it may be taking aside, the primitive blackballing of IDers that the documentary seems to expose is not something any one who considers themselves a scientist should take part in.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Downsides to equality.

Something I was reading brought this up, and it didn't take long for me to decide where I stood intellectually, even if my emotional reactions do not quite match. It has to do with violence between genders.

of course, first a disclaimer, in general, violence is the wrong solution to most problems. Moving on...

"It's never OK to hit a woman." This is part of the code of being a gentleman, or being chivalrous, or various other codes that put the man in the position of protector over the weaker woman.

Yet it is also the cry of many feminists and other groups that push equality...

the problem is, any time you specifically say something is not right to do against women, you imply it is OK against a man. and this is not equality. Saying 'it's never OK to hit a person." is at least not hypocritical.

Under circumstances where it is OK to hit a guy (say, a mugger, or attacking you with a knife, or what ever.) , it is OK to hit a woman. This is not abuse, or at least, not any more abusive than it is against guys. True equality comes with bad things sometimes too. The gentleman who would never hit a woman, is also the same guy who assumes that a woman is a delicate creature that needs protecting. It's a built in assumption to the phrase "never hit a woman".

My emotional reaction is such that I'm still going to be 10 times more reluctant to hit a woman than a man, due to my upbringing, but for true equality, any phrase that treats women differently than men needs to be dropped or modified, as we continue moving forward.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

On Colonizing/Terraforming Mars

Colonizing Mars usually conjures up one of two ideas: life lived in large transparent domes, or some how terraforming mars with out massively altering the planet. The possible necessity of the first, and the difficulties in the second, arise from mars be small and cold. Which is related to how small it is as well. This combination has also left Mars with no magnetosphere to protect from harmful radiation.

So I've given some thought to a relatively radical idea on how to improve Mars in the long term, and I have some ideas on massive terraforming that would require no one be situated on the surface of mars while in progress.

You send crews out to the asteroid belt, and start aiming asteroids towards Mars (possibly through attaching small ion drives, possibly via a single push with a craft, many options are available). And you let these big space rocks hit Mars.

This is a fairly massive solar system engineering project, you are trying to dump a good chunck of the asteroid belt onto Mars, enough to build up it's gravity to a decent size. And in the process, possibly heating it up a fair bit (that's a lot of kinetic energy being transferred on each hit). This is a some what slow, and possibly rather expensive, project. Costs can be mitigated a little by doing the least work required to set a collision course. But that generally means it takes longer for said asteroid to get to Mars.

I can imagine a lot of people thinking of this as not very practical, but I believe I am simply looking at the longer term issues here. Yes, there is a small possibility we cna reheat mars's surface enough to get an atmosphere going again etc, but it is so small that any human-habitable atmosphere will begin leaking off, and that still doesn't help with the radiation problem.

The asteroid bombardment would fix the gravity based issues, supply more water, and possibly, maybe, give Mars enough energy to warm up its core and produce a magnetosphere once more. I don't know the numbers and formulas that need massive crunching to figure out the probability of this happening.

Of course, by the time we are in a technological position to perform this terraforming, we'd have had a chance to explore mars more, learned most of what we can, and gone deep enough to be sure that microbial or bigger life didn't simply follow Mars's fading warmth down deep into the crust & mantle. There may yet be (probably rather small) things living deep, deep underground.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Atheism and Me

There are many people who describe themselves as Atheist. Then there is the definitions they are labeled with, which often do not match. So, here is what I consider the accurate definitions of various theistic types.

Theist: Believes that there is some sort of Divinity.

Atheist: Has no religious belief system.

Anti-theist: Believes that there absolutely no sort of divinity at all

I am not an anti-theist. There is no definitive way to prove that there is no sort of divinity at all in all of existence. Lack of proof is not proof of lack. This applies to both sides of the coin. There is no proof that there is a god, there is no proof that there is NOT a god.

Now, I will say that I do not believe that there is a god that literally matches any current religious document. The old pantheon religions tend to speak of deities that live specific places and have specific forms, etc, and the worlds described there-in do not exist.

But this can be said of any religion based off the Torah / Old Testament as well. The sky is not a Vault above the flat plane of the earth, there are no Waters Above, and we've established solid evidence that humans evolved from other creatures and that the universe is a lot more than 6000 years old. So basically, there is no God who did the things specified through out much of the bible, because the events there in have been disproven.

Scientology fails this test too. In addition to the lack of evidence of any of this alien activity they claim exists, specific devices they claim prove their claims, are bogus (as per this YouTube clip on the E-meter).

So there is my specific disbelief in religions as so far claimed & described by man. But, if you ask this question, things change: "In or beyond this universe, does there exist an entity (or multiple entities) so far beyond our comprehension, understanding, and power that it could only be considered God or A God?"

I have to say, in all fairness and because I have a scientific frame of mind, to say "I don't know." Mind you, I don't consider it probable, but it is not impossible.

The who believe ardently that there is no such thing as god, that it truly is impossible for such a being to exist, are Anti-Theist. And while their view points may be inspired by the findings of science, in the strictest sense it is not scientific, as they believe in something which is not provable.

But one should also consider the arguments represented Here and Here, which make good points about how one who makes a claim about the positive existence of something needing to be the one who presents Positive proof.

Religion, churches, and Me

Some one commented recently that I seem to be not merely atheist, but some what anti-religion. This is only partially true, and I feel the need to explain myself in detail, and writing is always how I work out my thoughts best.

When it comes to an individuals choices, I fully respect a person's right to be religious, and it seems that people who undertake an in depth personal evaluation of their heart and mind and choose to believe in a literal God or some other religious path, tend to be very wise and spiritual people. They usually have insight and understanding, and tend to be good people.

What I tend to have issue with is churches, and religious groups. At best, I am wary and leery of them, because they are organizations that accumulate power over people with out much in the way of vetting. All you need is enough charisma and presence combined with enough wit to avoid directly challenging any group more powerful than your own, and you can get away with a lot.

To me, it reeks of great potential for tyranny and abuse. The Catholic church, especially in medieval times, and all to large and numerous Islamic sects of the present, represent potent examples of this power on a large scale. On the small scale, we have Jonestown and Waco as places in recent history where cults caused massive deaths. (Click HERE for more details)

Side note: I consider Nazism and any other racial superiority group to effectively be religious in nature, as they are belief systems that are rigid in their faith and ignore any evidence that might happen to be contrary to their dogma.

I admit that this may be a personal, emotional reaction to the knowledge of the horrors that religions have inflicted upon 'heretics' and 'pagans, whether of the classical not-my-religion type, or in more recent times, against those who present science or rationality against religious believes. The Christian religions have(mostly) already figured out that this doesn't work, we're still waiting on various Islam sects to catch up. (Go on, preach evolution and equal rights for women in a Muslim run country. See how long you last.)

But even so, despite the Catholic church having accepted evolution as not being against the bible, they still set their own agenda above proven facts. Example: It has been proven time and again that teaching abstinence does not work, while teaching responsibility and the use of birth control & condoms does. Yet in Africa, which is being ravaged by AIDS, the church still struggles against condoms and sex education being distributed in poor communities, so that they can teach abstinence instead. They just simply do not get the idea of doing what works to help people, rather than doing what you WANT to work, but doesn't actually help.

Side note: Yes, amongst teens that volunteer to take no-sex pledges, they do tend to stay abstinent. But that's a self-selecting group. Across a broad community, teaching abstinence policies has less effect on teen pregnancy than teaching responsibility and how to use a condom.

For an individual to find something they believe in after much thought, deliberation, and soul searching is a good thing generally speaking. it's blindly putting your faith in another person or group and following them around doing as they say is what I have issue with.

Religions tend towards this sort of behavior the most. Closely followed by political groups (just look at people who vote the Party Line, or people who still think Communism works, despite the evidence.) But almost any group with a specific set of behaviors and/or beliefs can fall into these categories.

So I distrust religious groups as part of a behavioral type that tends to blind people from thinking on their own, and is often involved in manipulating groups towards destructive ends.

And this really seems like a good time to discuss my personal beliefs and definition of atheism, but I think I'l do that in a separate post.

A third 'true moderate' party?

I find myself in an odd position when I look at politics. No party out there seems to describe me to any great detail, and I wonder how many people seem to be in between the great extremes out there? And I can't help but wonder what changes might occur if the moderates of both major parties were to leave their respective parties, and meet up with the 'opposing' moderates and form a third party? A party focused on non-extremism? Let's see if I can shed some light on my sense of moderation, and maybe a few other folks out there will find something in common.

I am an atheist, but I do not have any problems saying 'Merry Christmas', and I like a well decorated Christmas tree. I see no issues with religious imagery being put up at a Fire Department, so long as other religions get to as well (by representation of people who work there, ie, if 1 or more people there are Jewish, then a Menorah would be perfectly appropriate). Counter again, I do not want Creationism or ID being taught in biology class, but I have no issues with them being taught in philosophy class. But hey, some people might think me odd for wanting science, philosophy, and critical thinking being taught starting in elementary school.

I do not think abortion shoudl be illegal, but I don't think it's OK for a woman to have a dozen abortions in 6 years. Solving that tangled mess is more than I'm going to try and figure out in this post.

I support people's right to own & bear arms, privately, but not just for personal self defense. It's also for defense against tyranny of our own government. I do not trust ANY government at any time to always be doing what is best for the people it governs. This is certainly what the liberals used to be all about in the 60's, but now they seem to think they can trust the government just because it is 'liberals' who are in charge.

I believe in Capitalism as a the best form of economy in existence, by virtue of being the least evil/bad. I also believe that it needs to be regulated and moderated to ensure that companies to not go out of control and form powerful monopolies. (sorry folks, communism fails beyond village size, because humans are flawed creatures and you can't force us to be otherwise. Capitalism sucks too, it just sucks less than everything else)

I do not think America is the Great Shining City On The Hill, or any other such nonsense about America being perfect. However, I think the very fact that that I can write this blog, and could freely wander out and about handing out fliers promoting my ideas, and that even groups whom I over all think are corrupt can still have their say, is a good part5 of what makes America none the less better over all than just about any where else. So yes, I am proud to be an American. But I still think there is much we can learn and improve upon. The willingness to do so, is what makes the USA a country to be proud of.

The right wants to invade your privacy for the sake of 'security'. The left wants to invade your privacy 'for your own sake'. They are both fear mongers and it disgusts me.

I believe in responsibility for ones own actions, and consequences there of, and my ideas of consequences for crimes includes hard labor (a more conservative value usually), yet I also believe in rehabilitation for most non-violent criminals, and consider the current prison system to be a part of the problem, not a solution (A more liberal attitude).

If you find yourself facing the same or similiar situations, where you could easily be arguing with extremists from either side on any given issue, maybe it's time to register as independent or something. I'm worried by the idea of forming a 'third' party only because then woudl we end up with our own extremists some how?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Terraforming venus

First the why, to get out out of the way.

Part 1) Why Colonize outer space at all?
A: To get human life/civilization off this planet, as only the spreading of human life as far & wide as possible can increase the chances of survivability of the human race as a whole, given that on a large enough scale, 'local' disasters can include wiping out an entire species on a given planet.
Added Benefit: Advances in technology required to do this completly will advance our knowledge and most likely increase our quality of life (Space-born technologies i cna think off of hand: the modern refrigerator, cell phones, and the wave front technology used for advanced laser eye correction surgery)

Part 2) If I except that, why Venus?
A: Near-earth mass & size and already present atmosphere offer great promises towards eventual habitability with out involving being permanently living in a giant super-building.
Disadvantage: It's current atmosphere is actually the biggest hurdle in making it habitable. Explained in depth below.

Now that the Q&A is out of the way, let's get on with the 'how'.

Fortunately, Venus offers what may be the least expensive, but also potentially the slowest going, method of terraforming: Get life to do the work for us. The temperature and pressure on Venus are truly, truly extreme. Which is where creatures called Extremophiles come in handy. Namely, thermophiles and acidophiles (which some times go hand in hand).

But the ones currently on Earth are not tough enough for our needs. Oh, there might be a few species that can be collected from Black Smoke volcanic vents on the sea floor which would survive in the upper atmosphere near the poles, but we want better than that.

So we turn to an age-old technology that takes advantage of evolution. We call it 'breeding'. We collect the microbes from appropriate volcanic vents form around the world (to get as much genetic variation into the mix as possible), and create large tanks that simulate the conditions of the volcanic vent areas. These tanks will also need various controls and technologies for creating ideal situations for fast-tracking evolution to give us what we want.

The tanks would be used to create a varied environment, with one end of the tank being hotter than the other. The hotter end of the tank is where nutrients would be introduced, so that microbes better able to survive in a hotter environment would have better access to food. with such a direct ration of advantageous trait to survivability, as soon as the hotter end of the tank is heavily populatedyou can start cranking the heat up on that end slightly (note, it woudl be very important to mix the distribution of microbes before doing so, in case the small temperature change is to much for that generation to handle)

This is an expensive proposition, but like many extreme experimental technologies, simply doing this woudl likely provide us with new raw data regarding biology. And it would likely take a long time before reaching the point where they can survive on the surface of Venus anywhere, by temperature alone. More likely is the possibility that we'll eventually reach a stagnant point, where no matter how long we let them sit, no mutations or other genetic variations will allow the microbes to get any closer to the food source/hottest point in the tank.

Fortunately, Acidity and pressure are already covered by the living conditions they are already in here on earth.

Once you have a stable population in each of the tanks, you now take samples from every tank (as they might have adapted to higher temperatures via different mutations), and mix them in a new set of tanks. It is very important to keep your first set of tanks maintaining a population, in case anything goes wrong in the stage 2 tanks. Then you won't have to fall back as far (consider it a 'save point').

The thing to adjust here is food. Namely, you start introducing compounds that are in Venus's atmosphere that are not already in their own environment. Once you've verified that these new compounds do not act poisonous to the microbes, you slowly increase the amount. Then you start reducing the nutrient compounds that are not found in Venus's atmosphere.

Again, making a graduated situation is ideal, but may not be necessary in this case. Eventually you should have a set of microbes that have adapted to this new set of nutrients, surviving solely off of nutrients found in abundance on Venus.

Now the tricky part. Disclaimer: there is a very good enough chance that at these preasures & temperatures Venus atmosphere & water interact in ways that make my ideas not workable as is. Stage three is getting rid of the water. Venus is a very dry planet. I would recommend gradual slopes placed through out the tanks, followed by introducing Venus atmosphere at the top of the tank, before withdrawing water at the bottom (into another pressurized tank of course). Or vice-versa, if the specific gravity of Venus's atmosphere is higher than water's, at that temperature and pressure. Possibly some other method You want about 50-50, assuming that they won't quickly dissolve into each other.

Keeping with that assumption, you'll also need a small wave motion generator, and some divots and bumps on the slopes. Most of the time you keep the wave action very small, to create continuously moist surfaces that are exposed to the Venus atmosphere mix, and infrequent but regular larger wave sets to push water into divots that would collect it and hold it. If creating this tidal pool structure is possible, you should be able to just let it run indefinitely, until you have microbes living exclusively on the dry sections. Keep reducing water levels and adding more dry atmosphere slowly, there still be a humidity factor for the microbes living outside of the wet zones.

If the Venus atmosphere at the water mix freely, then no graduation is available. Instead, just slowly increase the concentration of Venus Atmosphere compounds in the water until it reaches such a high concentration that it will no longer dissolve. It shoudl form some sort of bubbles (at the top or bottom of the tank). And then patience becomes key, a waiting game to see how long it takes microbes to migrate to the areas where there is no water. There will be less food imperative as the microbes will have already adjusted to eat the same compounds which are very abundant in the water. Space/room seems to be the only adaptive imperative in that situation.

So that third, trickiest part is the final biological hurdle. Once we have microbes surviving in a Venus atmosphere, even if only in certain conditions (say, over the polar caps at high-ish altitudes) we can make sure our next Venus mission includes releasing spores in the appropriate locations, while we continue breeding the microbes to fit more and more areas.

So a lot of work, mostly in the form of time. But, it is *relatively* inexpensive in terms of money, compared to terraforming other worlds. And of course, this is only stage one. The purpose of stage one is to start taking the sulfur out of the atmosphere, and other greenhouse compounds. Any greenhouse gasses produced in that process, we breed something to eat that too, if at all possible.

At some point, we may be required to flat out genetically engineer microbes, but that's a few centuries off I'm guessing. At least. And this whole process may take millennium, during which time we might also colonize other worlds. But as long as we keep sending in biological agents to do our work for us, we can keep it as a back ground project, to eventually seed with life forms that will free up oxygen, and then basic multi-purpose plants in several waves, then we can start full scale colonization with out having to live in giant arks permanently. Really, beyond getting this process started, it's hard to describe what we'd do, because there are so many possibilities of technol;ogical advancement.

Or maybe we'll get things started on changing Venus, and something will happen that sets us back to the stone age, and it takes 5 thousand years for us to really look at Venus again. And we re-evaluate again at that point. But no matter what the eventual path we take, creating possibilities is better than closing them. So let's open up this path.

here are some links to some rather relevant sites, though they have some differing ideas on how to go about things.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Net Neutrality

For those unfamiliar with the term:

Now, here's what I'm griping about:

And for those who do not want to read the links, here's the short short version: Net Neutrality is the best option for customers, you pay what ever for your connection, and your ISP doesn't get to say anything about what you download or upload. FCC is looking to mandate this policy for all ISPs. 6 GoP Senators have proposed a bill that would suspend any funding for such an action by the FCC. Those 6 senators turn out to have major contributions from AT&T, a very large ISP that shapes internet traffic so that using it's VOIP system will give better results than using any other independent VOIP, even if that other group has better software etc.

Political corruption sucks. Again.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Political Corruption, aka, let's fire 'em all.

Our current political structure is now, and has been for a while, unfortunately rather corrupt. And I only see one solution: get rid of them all. And here's how we do it, if you're willing. It's not very hard, but does require a little bit in the way of hard decision.

From now, until certain conditions I will describe below, every time we vote for a federal position, we vote out the incumbent. Preferably, you'll even aim for third party people, rather than Republicans or Democrats. This is a hard thing to decide to do for a lot of people, but it's OK for the liberals to vote for liberal third party people, and conservatives to vote for conservative third party people. Break the two party system, and get people from outside the system, into power. For one term. And then they are outed, get the next guy in. Don't let any one sit in power long enough to get comfortable. keep them all on the hot seat.

And here's the conditions under which we relent, when ALL are met:

A) All of Congress has a 2-term limit. This forever limits their power. If they jump between the senate and the house, they can get a total of 4 terms, for 20 years (2 x 6 years + 2 x 4 years). If they aren't ready to take a shot at the presidency by then, they should retire. It won't be perfect, but it should limit entrenchment of power.

B) Congress's pay scale becomes attached the American economy, say, twice the average American salary. Or possibly something else, but still attached to what non-government officials are getting, or at the very least, putting themselves into an existing pay-grade for the government. GS-15 is already over 100K/year, that seems generous enough to me, especially with benifits. After all, they have the privilege to work for us as our represenatives. Let's remind them that it is a privilege we have the power to revoke.

C)Also, the president should have the power to veto any discretionary spending on the part of congress, such as purchasing new planes.

D) There are no Czars or equivalent positions in place in the executive branch, and there is law in place declaring there never will be again. They are already unconstitutional, but that doesn't seem to be good enough.

Now personally, I'm going to add some more conditions. I will discuss those in a later post most likely. Limiting the power of congress in such a way as to squeeze out some of the corruption, should give them the focus to keep the president in check, which is after all, a very important part of their job. One they've been ignoring ever more it seems, as they let president after president claim ever more powers for himself.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Obama Haters..

Geeze people, don't be idiots. I'm not exactly a fan, but damn it, the man's birth certificate in Hawaii was proven legitimate several times over, *AND* even if he wasn't born on U.S. soil, so long as one parent is a U.S. citizen (I believe his mother was, not sure about his father) he's a natural born citizen of the U.S.

So the paranoid conspiracy people can all go bugger off. At least, on this issue. ACORN seems about as disturbing as Haliburton, but it seems all officials are corrupt, so doesn't matter what side you vote for, you get a different flavor of corruption is all.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

On Legalizing Cannabis

I don't know why I didn't find out about this site before. It's great, and pretty much falls in line with a previous post I made on legalizing cannabis.

Religious idiots

"This is why we can't have nice stuff."

I have heard some sound, fairly put forth ideas about religion being taught in a philosophy oriented class early in high school or even middle school. By religion of course I mean all major current world religions, including but not limited to the Judaic trio (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), Buddhism, and Hinduism, not just one view point. This would help with a deeper understanding of our own cultural history, as well as cultural differences with other countries.

But then I get reminded of how idiotic the creationist religious nut jobs can be. And how badly they want to push their agenda, *THEIR* world view of religion. And make no mistake, any creationist/Intelligent Design person is following a religious view point for the simple reason that there is not a single shred of evidence that there is an actual divine entity. Of any sort, let alone the particular flavor these people are pushing.

If you believe something with out any proof or evidence, and even more, if you believe stuff that directly contradicts existing proof and evidence, then you are religious. Or crazy. Though some would call them one and the same, and there are certainly times when I lean towards that.

Religion is not science. it can never be science, buy the simple fact that it is about believing something, no matter what truths might be presented to you. Aka, religious faith. None the less, creationist fanatics want to impose their will upon the young by teaching it as science, and here are demanding the right to give out scientific doctorates, when what they teahc has nothing to do with science.

I simply can't trust them enough to give them the proverbial inch of letting there be a semester of religion & philosphy, for fear they will try to use that to take the proverbial mile, and demand a better standing for their own particular religious view.

In the end, it's not my decision of course, but I can always hope my words will, through some convolution, influence some chain of people that might help keep the crazies away from deciding what should be taught in school.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Religion and fanatics

I try to keep myself open minded about religious faith and letting people believe what they choose, how ever unreasonable it may seem to me.

Then shit like this happens:

Their 15 month old daughter died because they counted on faith healing and did not seek out any medical advice at all.

I know that this sort of extreme religiousness is relatively rare, but this sort of willful, destructive sort of behavior in the name of God is what gets me riled up.Though what a given church encourages is usually milder, this is the core of what Religion asks of people: Blind devoted faith, belief in the unseen over proof, evidence, and fact. No matter how harmful that might be to yourself and your loved ones.

I find that sort of action and attitude outrageous, and insulting & demeaning when people ask me to shut off my intellect and believe wholly in something based entirely off of faith. So that is the basis of my issues with organized religions, they demand their followers to not use their brains and just be nice little mindless sheep and drones.

Friday, July 3, 2009

What Environmentalists shoudl really be looking at.

OK, so there are some things that many environmentalists don't seem to get. So let's see what's really environmentally sound.

1) Nuclear power. It's simple really, coal is horribly dirty, releases lots of mercury in the air. Nuclear waste (and I'm talking about the stuff that's truly dangerous, not the 'has been in a radioactive environment garbage' like radiation suits are considered after one use, etc) is not only small and easily containable, but can be recycled into more power via pebble bed reactors, and used until it has fissioned into non radioactive isotopes to keep producing electricity.

2) Buying Used 4 cylinder cars, not new hybrids/electrics. The amount of pollution that goes into making almost any new car is very, very high. The amount of pollution produced by a used 4 cylinder car that's simply kept tuned and in good working condition is low.

3) Buying antiques for furniture, vintage clothing at Estate sales and such. If it's at all feasible to wait and shop for it at some place that sells used, do so. Kitchen items? Estate sales and flee markets. Furniture? Antique shops, estate sales, sometimes garage sales or flea markets. Shop Craigslist, maybe Ebay. Every time you buy used instead of new, you help the environment. Even fur is fine to purchase Vintage, as the purchase does not increase or encourage the killing of animals. That money never goes to the original fur makers, and in some cases, said company might be out of business already.

4) Helping countries develop industrially is actually good for the environment. There is a short term increase in carbon emissions and such, but a properly industrialized country requires an educated populace, to keep up with the other modern countries. This combines with a push to spend time working, and both partners working, leading to a decrease in population growth over the long term, as well as greater interest by individuals to be environmentally sound. This develops into being better for the environment in the long term.

And I'm sure there's even more I'm missing. Think out of the box, in all things!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Regarding Congress

Quite frankly, it's becoming a bit of a clusterfuck up on capitol hill it seems to me. Speed reading through 1000+ page bills? Come on folks, this is getting so bad... reminds me of ideas I've heard before about making the sponsor of a bill have to stand out on the floor and read the entire damn thing before all of congress.

A comment some one made on digg (in regards to this article: ) made me ponder an idea. I already see many of the flaws in it, but it's fun to consider at least. For the next ten years or so, always vote for whom ever is not the incumbent. Create such a rapid turn over that both the Senate and the House of Representatives are entirely filled with new folk. Break up the old social ties and networks, stir things up. And keep doing it until they start behaving themselves properly, and getting their damn work done.

Also, I think that they should earn a total of 1 month of paid vacation, and no more, which is the same that military members earn, instead of these long recesses. And no more than 10% of congress can be on vacation at any time, they have to be functional all year round, and get the exact same number of paid holidays as every one else. They've got a damn job to do, so do it already!

I haven't researched any of this, so it's rather off the top of my head, I expect there to be flaws.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

On Marriage in the modern world

This specific variation on currently popular ideas became defined during a conversation with a good friend of mine.

Let's get this whole marriage controversy about who can marry whom, and nullify it by removing 'marriage' from being a legal term at all, can creating a better separation of church & state.

Instead, domestic partnerships will become the legal standard, and the only standard that matters for any and all legal and/or tax concerns. Those who are already married automatically become Domestic partners, and any further marriages performed by people the government recognizes as credible, and assuming appropriate paper work is filled out and fees paid, will also mark a domestic partnership.

If your church only recognizes marriages between a man and a woman, then no same sex marriages are performed at your church or by your minister. And if the church down the street does recognize same sex marriages, they can perform them. And if you aren't religious, it doesn't matter.

My proposal goes a step further than merely same-sex marriages too. Though I would have the laws state that any individual can only be involved in one domestic partnership contract at a time, I would not limit a given contract to just 2 people. So yes, 3 or more people could get married together, but before to many men go off dreaming of having multiple lady partners... remember, they are partners to each other too, and have every right to divorce your sorry ass, and in a communal property state, that'd only leave you with with 1/3 (or less, if there are more than 2 women involved) the total value of the partnership. While they remain together as partners.

Also, the details of a partnership can be arranged in the domestic partnership contract, everything from pre-agreeing that one partner is supplying the majority of the financial support, to making it part of the contract that sexual fidelity is not part of the agreement (also known as an 'open marriage')

Really, this is all about letting people customize and declare how they want to live with each other, rather than limiting them to the few options that are recognized today (which, on most paper work, is single, married, or used-to-be-married.) And the government can stay out of it for the most part then.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

On Juries.

It is time to to redefine the jurist. A "Jury of one's peers" is no longer sufficient. Most of those who actually stand jury duty are those who can not find a way to get out of it. Which quite frankly lowers the quality of mental capacity of those standing jury duty. And even if they are smart, they may be lacking in the basic education to understand introduced evidence on specific topics, and lawyers can use this to manipulate how that evidence is viewed as fact or not.

My proposal is the Professional Jurist. Now, the professional jurist must NOT be a lawyer. However, they must be given a grounding in law, so education towards the degree or specialist degree for this would include basic college courses in constitutional law, perhaps a class in the history of law, and similar, to give the jurist a broad understanding of how the law works, plus a class focusing on the powers & duties of the jury. For example, most juries are utterly unaware of their power of 'jury nullification'. And until the mid 1800's, juries were actively informed of their right & power to nullify a law for a particular case.

So now with a solid understand of their rights and responsibilities as jurists, they should receive a broad technical education. One basic computer class and one basic networking/internet class should cover most of what they need to know about computers. Now they just need Biology, Chemistry, and Physics 101, along with basic and advance courses in critical thinking/debate, and a class or two in psychology.

This should leave them well defended against the manipulations of the lawyers, and well armed to understand the facts and decide the truth for any given case. I'm open to other suggestions of what should be in their education for this position.

Now, working the professional jurist into the current system. I would ease them in, and keep them spread thin at first. If there is a case and 1 or more professional jurists available, then one of them would be on the jury for that case. Only one would be used per jury, because there would only be a few at first, and even one should provide some helpful insight to the rest of the jury.

As more are hired as they graduate etc, the number of them in any given jury should increase, with the intent of moving to a situation where the entire jury is professional. The biggest downfall, aside from the fact that all of this requires a constitutional amendment in order to implement, is that this means each trial will cost more. But then, I can always hope that if we reach the point where we can institute a rational system like this, we will also be at the point of instituting the fines-based punishment system I described in a previous blog entry.

Friday, May 29, 2009

On Religious freedom & ridiculous laws

This post is inspired by this bit of news.

Now, for those who do not know me, I am not exactly a religious person, and actually hold at best apathy, and often antipathy towards organized religion. (Some exceptions for those I respect, like Buddhism.) But this is ridiculous. Misuse of land for bible studies? That set of questions could describe dinner for some families! They meet regularly (every night) and give grace (which is prayer and includes 'amen').

While freedom of religion does not give one the right to do anything one wants, it does mean the government doesn't get to interfere with private religious matters that are otherwise lawful. And having a regular group of friends (even if its 15 friends) over is otherwise a legal event, so having some special law make it illegal just because its religious in nature is offensive, in addition to being unconstitutional.

Now, if one of the couple turned out to be a pastor, or pastor-like figure, and some sort of monies were being collected for charities or something like that, then yes, I could see the argument being made that the house was being used as a church, but even then I'm not sure they should need a license.

So currently, I'm rather hoping the couple wins their case easily and quickly.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Evolution and the Stasis 'problem'.

It had come to my attention, in the course of exposure to more creationist/I.D. arguments, that there are some who find the puzzle of Stasis to be an issue unmining the theory of evolution, so I'm going to put my 2 cents in regarding this.

First, a quick cover of the Fact vs Theory argument. As far as biologists are concerned, that evolution has happened, and continues to happen, is fact. (Bacterial evolution is pretty obvious in the now resistant strains that are harder to kill off inside of a human body, as well as recent viral mutations in the swine flu virus). the mechanism behind the fact is considered still theory, with Darwin's theory of Natural Selection being the core, if modified, of modern evolution theory.

Stasis in evolution refers to thos species which have been around a very long time with little if any change in over all appearance and biology. So they haven't done much evolving.

it seems to me the answer is relatively simple, if one remembers that evolution itself (according to natural selection) is simply a by product of survivability. If a species' environment, including available food sources, predators, and competitors, remain consistent pressures thent here is little natural selection going on to force change.

Rnadom mutations may pile up and cause genetic drift, but if no mutation creates a shift in balance such that one variation is superior to the original, then at best that new gene will simply be drawn into the normal gene pool, becoming simply a variation of the species, rather than starting off a new track to follow.

As far as I'm concerned, the fact that some species live in stasis is a logic result of natural selection in an evironment where there is little pressure to force that selection.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Enlightened Self Interest and the Economy

So, a few ideas for the companies out there in dealing with this economy, that will help out every one in the long run. And remember, the flow of money is from the bottom up, all of these ideas reflect that reality.

1) Cut hours, not jobs. This has already been passed around a lot, but it's hard to over emphasize. Aside from avoiding the cost of increased unemployment insurance, this approach also has the benefits of keeping experienced staff around, so you don't have to retrain when you need more work hours again, garnering you good will from both inside and outside of your company, and reduce any drama involving people desperate to keep a job they fear they are loosing.

2) If you are renting a lot of office space, and have work that can be done off-hours, consider reducing your rent by shifting some of your office workers to evening shifts, and having them share computers/spaces with their daytime workers. As a secondary benefit, this also reduces the chances of your offices being targeted for breaking into at night, as there are people around, and recessions/depressions increase crime rates.

3) This one is for larger retail companies, and only the ones still doing well. It's also something I know isn't going to happen, but if we could get enough larger retailers doing this, I think it would help be a significant boost to the economy, especially in the long run. First, a stockholders meeting has to be held, as it effects stock prices, and the CEO convinces said stock holders to aim for a long term strategy, strengthening the company for survival at the cost of lush profits. Making the company lean and competitive.

That's when you start stretching store hours. Usually later rather than earlier, but it can vary. One extra hour a day, find out how it works after a full quarter. As long as there is a net profit in that hour, how ever slim, you keep it. Then you stretch another hour. If done right, your net profits narrow, your gross profits go up, and you help stimulate the economy by increasing total hours of paid work you are providing.

Now, I'm not an economist, but I'm fairly smart, and I understand the concepts fairly well. The more people who are working, the more taxes they are paying, and the more money they are spending. The more money people spend, the more money goes to companies over all, though in a diffused, averaged fashion. Luxuries suffer the most when there is a lack of money of course. The ideas I posted above are aimed at increasing the trend towards people working, and thus spending. None of it is a cure-all for our economy. But it is a small thing to try and make things better, which can have synergistic effects with other stimulation efforts.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Improving the Economy and Society Through Decriminalization

It's an incredibly simple idea really. In one stroke, you reduce income to gangs and other criminal organizations, reduce prison populations of non-violent and often otherwise productive citizens, and reduce costs spent by Lew Enforcement agencies following and prosecuting minor, victimless 'crimes' instead of chasing after more dangerous criminals.

So what to decriminalize? Cannabis is an obvious choice, it's being pushed for already. But honestly, I have to say all but the very most dangerous of the recreational drugs should be decriminalized. This comes from some one who has no intention of partaking in these substances, and who does not smoke, rarely drinks, and always in moderation when I do drink.

There are a multiple reasons behind this. 1) Prohibition doesn't work. History shows us that. 2) the only reason most (not all) drugs are related to violent crime, is because the drugs themselves are illegal. When alcohol was illegal, it was related to gang activity too. Now it's legal, you don't find criminal gangs trying to sell it on the streets. 3) If there is no threat of jail or fines, someone who is addicted is much more likely to seek help once they realize that they have a problem. 4) If some one is determined to self destruct, making a method of it illegal isn't going to stop them.

For the most part, law adjustments will be easy. All intoxicants should follow the same rules as alcohol (age to purchase/imbibe, being drunk in public, etc), and if it's smokable, then it has to also follow all rules for smoking, the same as tobacco. However, a more generalized rule shoudl be added, making 'being intoxicated while [...]' be an additive to any crime, increasing penalties. I believe in responsibility for ones own actions, and that includes making the choice to be intoxicated in the first place. If you tend to get so drunk that you make bad choices, you need to make the decision to not drink. And that same goes with every other mind altering chemical. If you make the choice to take it, you are taking responsibility for every action you do while under the influence.

A small set of drugs (PHP topping the list) are however to dangerous. Taking them even once creates a high risk of violence towards others, or similiar issues, thus making it necessary to keep them illegal. Others are dangerous to make in most settings, such as meth, which would remain illegal to create in a home brew operation, even if it is otherwise legal to take.

Natually, Taxes could now be applied to these intoxicants, much like it's applied to alcohol and tobacco. This increases revenue to the government with out raising general taxes, which is good.

But are drugs the only things that we can decriminalize? Not by a long shot. This next one will get short-sighted feminists, and conservative religious types, equally outraged. Legalize prostitution.

Yes, I understand prostitution usually takes advantage of women in vulnerable positions. No, I wouldn't want any woman I know to become a prositute. Once again I reffer to the issue of prohibition, and to an insight others have had before me: It's legal to have sex, and it's legal to sell stuff including services, but it's illegal to sell sex. How does this possibly make any sense?

Naturally, pimping is kept illegal, as it involves coercion of the prostitutes into doing that job, and not seeking a way out, so depending on circumstances, would include rape, blackmail, theft, and conspiracy to rape (he's working to have others effectively rape her, as she's unwilling, even if they don't know she's being forced, so they don't know they are participating in rape).

Again, LE agencies don't have to spend time and money on vice squads for this issue, which I consider a legitimate if degrading way to earn money for anyone, male or female. And it would involve normal income tax of course, as well as taking away another source of income for gangs.

The third thing is gambling. This is a state by state law in the first place, and people just travel to go do it elsewhere anyway, such as indian reservations. Make it legal, you reduce underground bookies and such, and again, remove income from gangs.

So if all three things are decriminalized and legalized, you increase the revenue of the government, thus reducing national debt, you redirect money to much more important issues, decrease prison populations, and you automatically weaken the power and influence of gangs, both internal and external.

All three of these things are false sins in the first place. Some religions are offended by them for ideological reasons, but we are a free country, not bound by what the Muslims, Christians or other religions want. They can continue to impose their additional restrictions upon their own adherents, and let the rest of us do as we please.

The government, despite the potential for increased revenue, would rather keep these things illegal, because it gives them more excuses to be strong and powerful and intrusive into our lives. By decriminalizing these, we reduce the power of the government over us. This is a good thing.

Monday, May 11, 2009

A step to Fixing the American economy: Start with the legal system

My proposal is simple in some ways, yet with potential wide ranging effects:

Fines Instead of Prison.

All non-violent crimes would move under this category. For most crimes, you simply multiply the estimated financial cost to any victims by a given, large, amount (I prefer by x10 for simplicity), and split that fine, 1/2 to the victim(s) , the other half to the government. Plus an additional fine for the cost of the case. An example:

A criminal robs a convenience store, takes two wallets and a bunch of cash, a window gets broken in the process. He gets caught, charged, tried, found guilty, and sentenced. In addition to the cash and the wallets being returned to the owners, the robber now owes each man 5x the total value of everything in their wallets (cash, gift cards, etc), and the store 5x the amount of cash stolen, plus 5x the cost of replacing the window. If the store's window is covered by insurance, then that amount is owed to the insurance company instead. He also owes the government the total of all that, plus the cost of being tried in court.

Now, the next question that comes to mind, is what if the criminal can not pay? If the criminal has a job, then his wages are garnished and the monies distributed automatically. If the criminal is unemployed, then he is assigned to either an available basic government job that fits his skills, or to a supervised manual labor job, doing jobs such as trash pick up or other duties that need to be done, at the higher of state or federal minimum wage, and his wages are garnished until everything he owes is paid off. He may only quit this job if he finds another job.

And now I'm going to here complaints that this looks like slavery. No, prison is like slavery: You live in a confined cell, get up when you are told, go to bed when you are told, eat when you are told and what is served to you. My proposal is like a grown up version of a punishment parents inflict: "You broke the neighbor's window! You are going to get an after school job and work until you can pay them back!"

That's the easy part. What about crimes that have no direct financial cost? for example, in a robbery (as opposed to a burglary) there is a threat of force involved. That's a crime in and of itself. Well, we currently have prison sentences for these crimes, we replace prison with fines of appropriate amounts.

A threat with a fist might be a fine of $100, while a threat with knife or other weapon might be $1,000, and a threat with a gun would be $10,000. Note, that this is per person. So in the scenario I used before, if the robber was using a gun, the criminal would also owe $20,000 minimum more (if one 0f the wallents belonged to the cashier, and the only customer was the other person whose wallet was stolen.) That's an addition $5000 that each victim would receive, the other half of that $10,000 fine going to the government.

Non-lethal bodily harm would probably start at $1,000, and increment from there. Rape and murder would have to include prison time combined with incredible fines, with release to only come IF the person is ever deemed to no longer be considered a danger to society.

If fined for causing another person's death (including man slaughter, etc, but not for self defense), half the fine would go to the government as usual, the other half would be split amongst all immediate family members (excluding the convict of course, should the situation arise).

Some advantageous side effects would be insurance companies might lower their rates for certain shops and persons, if they know they can recoup and profit off of any costs incurred by criminal activity, prison population would drop dramatically (thus reducing costs), the legal system in general would become a lot less costly, a lot more labor intensive public jobs would get done at minimal cost, and hopefully a lot more.

It is true that the rich would be able to afford to perform crimes a lot more easily, but at the same time, depending on the crime, they may waste a whole lot less of the court's time. "I pleased guilty, and I have my cheque book ready to go. Whom do I make these out to, and for how much each?" Not fair, but their ability to spend massive amounts of money on lawyers to keep themselves out of jail on technicalities isn't fair either. The unfairness in my proposal costs the taxpayers less than the current unfairness, so I consider it the better option.

I am sure there are other objections, and I am even more certain my concept can be refined. But this has the potential to do us a lot of good, and reduce cost instead of increasing it.

Effect on government control on our lives: Neutral, maybe slight reduction. It does not increase government intrusion, but at best, in reduces jail time to "pay your fine and be on your way." Which has the benifit of letting some one who made a mistake but is otherwise in a decent position in life to continue on. Garnished wages are certainly no more, and most likely a lot less, intrusive than time spent in prison.