Monday, December 24, 2012

What is a Marxist-Leninist Capitalist Tool?

Another Forbes Magazine article by Mark Hendrickson titled "President Obama's Marxist-Leninist Economics: Fact And Fiction" takes a scholarly look at whether Obama's policies are truly Marxist-Leninist, or whether this is just name-calling.  However, despite the scholarly first paragraph it then soon loses the high road.

Mark Hendrickson's final paragraph in this article does a better job than I ever could of summarizing the entire article. Here it is in Mark's own words:

"In closing, I repeat that we should not recklessly call Obama a “Marxist-Leninist.” Although it’s too long and cumbersome a label for a generation addicted to sound bites and simplistic labels, a fair description of Obama and his economic goals is to say that he is “an interventionist, corporatist, statist, Big Government progressive, free-market-hating control freak who favors economic policies of a Marxist-Leninist flavor.”"

Whew. That was a mouthful. I had to look up some of the words in his "fair description of Obama".  "Corporatism".. is that a new swearword?  I had to check with Wikipedia, and honestly I don't see how the word could be applied to Obama any more than it could be applied to either the NRA or to Christian Fundamentalists, or even to corporations, actually.

And statist too? Wikipedia says

"statism (French: ├ętatisme) is the belief that a government should control either economic or social policy, or both, to some degree.[1][2][3][4] Statism is effectively the opposite of anarchism."

So Obama is opposed to anarchy and favours some degree of state control of economic policy.  Is that all?

I was afraid I was missing something here, and so I went to Conservapedia to see if there was a different definition on Statism.  And I think I found one.

"A statist government treats its political sovereignty as a platform for moral sovereignty. In other words, as ultimate sovereign, the state is therefore not subject to God, the Bible, natural law, or any other religion or ethical system. A statist government need not be accountable to its own citizens.
The philosopher Georg Hegel described the state as "God walking on earth".[2] In other words, as the state is the ultimate power in life, it assumes the status of God and can do as it pleases. This line of thinking influenced the political thought of Karl Marx. "

So according to conservatives, a statist opposes God's rule. Now back to Wikipedia to define a theocracy (where God does rule):

"Theocracy is a form of government in which a deity is officially recognized as the civil Ruler and official policy is governed by officials regarded as divinely guided, or is pursuant to the doctrine of a particular religion or religious group.[1][2][3]
From the perspective of the theocratic government, "God himself is recognized as the head" of the state,[4]

The arguments against theocracy, taken directly from Conservapedia:
  • "Stifling of speech. In a theocracy, it would be counterlogical to allow the citizens to know, or accept other religions or ideologies. Presumably, some mechanism will be placed to prevent dangerous speech, or make the ideas within artificially unwanted.
  • Thought is severely engineered, to prevent "dangerous" thoughts (Atheism, etc).
  • Unaccountable government. Because the government is supposedly an extension of a deity, they cannot be held accountable."

Sounds to me like high praise for Obama the Statist, from Conservapedia.  But then, wasn't it Conservapedia that defined Hitler as a Leftist, and then defined Leftists as opposed to military spending?

In the end, I think there is a twist of logic in Mark Hendrickson's essay.  Apparently, Obama is not a true perfect Marxist Leninist, but then, neither was Marx or Lenin.  Therefore, according to Hendrickson, it is even more correct to call Obama a Marxist-Leninist.  Because Obama, like Lenin, is not a perfect Marxist-Leninist either.

Mark Hendrickson first states that the standards for being called a Marxist Leninist are set impossibly high. But then he sets the bar impossibly low.

Picture: from the Marxist-Leninist Study Guide

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Now Forbes Magazine is Really a Capitalist Tool

An opinion piece in Forbes caught my eye, but only because I remember Malcolm Forbes, the publisher  of Forbes Magazine before he died in 1990.  Malcolm had a motorcycle gang called the "Capitalist Tools" who toured the Soviet Union and China.  He was featured in BMW ads as a man who owned 3 BMW motorcycles, but actually he owned far more Harley Davidsons, and his club rode Harleys while on tour.

Anyhow, back to the article in Forbes Magazine, which was titled "Romney And Ryan Didn't Cut It In A Time For Radicalism" by Mark Hendrickson.  Four lines into the article, we come to the phrase "a president with a Marxist Leninist economic agenda".  The "president" here being the President of the United States of America.

The contrast between Malcolm "The Capitalist Tool" and Hendrickson strikes me.  Malcolm actually got out there in the world and saw how the Russians lived under a Marxist Leninist economic agenda.  Hendrickson sits at home and glibly bandies words with an intent akin to name-calling.  Furthermore, the point of the article seems to be saying that millionaires should not be taxed more than the poor ("Rich people are Americans too"), and yet Malcolm suffered under even higher tax rates than proposed by Obama, and still had money to buy motorbikes, tour the world, and throw multi million dollar birthday parties. And as far as I know, he never referred to his own government as Marxist-Leninist, even as heavily taxed as he was.

The motto of Forbes Magazine is also "Capitalist Tool", and back in Forbes' day, this was an ironic reference to the phrase often used by Communist propagandists, referring to any people, especially political leaders, who were "tools" of the capitalists.  In other words, stooges, or dupes, blindly doing the will of the very rich to keep down the common man.  So the phrase had a humorous meaning, and Malcolm carried that phrase right into the heart of communism, the USSR and China, as the name of his motorcycle club.

Apparently, today, the magazine subtitled The Capitalist Tool has actually become a capitalist tool, without any real understanding of what it means.

Picture from this web page:

Also on this page: Forbes lives on in some of his quotations:

"I made my money the old fashioned way. I was very nice to a wealthy relative right before he died."

Monday, December 10, 2012

Can We Agree the Earth is Old

There is an argument about the age of the earth.  On one side you have many scientists claiming it is millions of years old, based on observations of the world around us, and you have some religious fundamentalists who claim it is less than 10,000 years old, based on reading the Bible.

In the USA, people are split on the age of the Earth. Also the question of the age of the Earth is connected to the issue of evolution (as proposed by Darwin).  I thought that almost half Americans believe the Earth to be 6,000 years old, and also believe Evolution is a hoax. There may be other ways to interpret poll data, but even if only 10% of Americans believe in the young Earth, it's still a very high number for a modern secular state.

This summer, while travelling in Montana I came across a large, new, and I assume well funded, museum that claimed to prove the Earth was not old and there was no Evolution.  There are 16 such museums in the US, and a few in Canada too.

In a recent development, Pat Robertson, a well known TV evangelist, has said on his TV program that the Earth may be much older than 10,000 years.  A video of Pat making his statement is here (starting at 1:21).

Pat Robertson, in his TV show, apparently also calls for an end to this fight between science and fundamentalist religion. I feel kind of strange about it, but just this once I think that Pat Robertson and I agree on something.  Unfortunately, people are already starting to defend their beliefs against Pat Robertson's call for reconciliation.

On the other hand, some other people that I usually don't agree with are defending Pat Roberston's stance.  Here is Michael Savage's take on it.

The next link is a website that tries to reconcile religion and science, and I think does a convincing job without ridiculing either side.  Ihe website takes a second look at the Bible, to see if it really does say the Earth is less than 10,000 years old (which apparently it does not). Then  re-examines the work done by James Ussher, Bishop in the Church of Ireland, about 200 years before Darwin's theory of Evolution was first proposed.  They find several flaws in Ussher's reasoning.

I have been trying to make the same point for a couple of years now, and so I consider it a step forward that an influential public figure has come out with the statement that people are not going to hell for believing the Earth is millions of years old.

So now I have my answer to the question "When God created the Earth, did He create the icecap in Greenland?"  Because if you drill through that icecap, you can find layers of ice much older than 10,000 years.   Seems kind of mean to send people to hell for believing the Earth is older than the bottom layer of ice in the Greenland glacier.

Scientific advances are made in little steps that usually take a lot of background preparation.  The theory of evolution is an example of one of those steps. Now, about 150 years later, Pat Robertson publicly rejects Bishop Ussher's theory on the age of the Earth.  I guess Pat has had quite a few years to think about this question.  After all, we know of his involvement with diamond mining, which I assume would mean contact with scientifically trained geologists, and most of them believe that diamonds were not made in less than 10,000 years.

I hope that before long, we can get a little more movement in this direction.  Then the young Earth theory can join the flat Earth theory, and the Fixed-Earth-at-the-centre-of-the-Universe theory that we no longer have to teach in public schools.

Picture: I think this is in a Young Earth Creationist "museum".  From this website

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The 2012 MMIC Motorcycle Show, Toronto

 The Toronto Motorcycle Show is on now, located in the Metro Convention Centre.  I went down on Friday with three other back country rubes to see the show and see a bit of the big city. Our idea of big city sightseeing is to complain about traffic on the 401, walk through the mall renouncing the high price of watches, and other luxury items. Then we take the first compartment of the subway train, where we can give the driver directions if necessary.  We grab some Tim Hortons coffee and pig out on Cinnabons (Yes I know we have those in Kitchener too, but our wives and doctors are not in Toronto), and then make our way to the show through the Skywalk.  But On Friday, we were thrown a curve ball when the ticket booth lady informed us "Of course you know the show does not open until 12:00 today?", "No, I did not know that, which is why all us retired people woke up at 7:00 AM to get here exactly at 10:00 AM, when the show always is supposed to open."

The delay had us stumped for a few minutes, but then we decided to go outside and see what the rest of Toronto looks like.  Also the weather was not ridiculously cold, which is quite rare for this time of year. Never having gone outside to look around before, we were quite surprised to find a bar across the street, that serves free beer.  It turns out this is the Steamwhistle Brewery, which gives brewery tours and gives out free samples of their product.  Funny thing is the tour costs $10, but the beer is free and you don't even need to go on the tour.  However you are limited to one small glass and you do have to return the glass before you leave.  The brewery is built in "The Roundhouse", an old railway maintenance yard, with a turntable in the middle.  There are some old locomotives and rolling stock around too, and a railway museum, which was closed at the time.

We killed about half an hour in the brewery bar, then continued walking around the block back to the Convention Centre.  We briefly considered going up the CN tower, right next door, but we had all been up there before when the price of the elevator was under $10, and now it's about $25-35.  Apparently they provide some more experiences to add value to the tour, but we were really only killing time until the show, so we skipped the CN Tower and made our way back the the show.

Finally, I was loose in the motorcycle show I located the Sym booth, where the Sym Classic 150 was on display. I like the retro styling, and if my garage was not already filled with four motorcycles, I might buy this one.  I was told they would be available in March 2013 (if I heard correctly- and all of this is based on me hearing correctly) and priced at $3100, which is almost the same as the US price.  I wish Suzuki would sell their TU250 in Canada for the US price, it's actually a lot more expensive here.  The Sym distributors are still looking for dealers, but will also sell direct to a customer and deliver the bike to your house.

The 2013 Sym 150 has several improvements on my 1970 Honda CD175. It has electronic ignition, 12 volt battery and halogen headlight, of course modern electric regulators/rectifiers etc., tachometer, trip meter, better gas mileage, an 18" front tire, 5 gears (instead of four) and front hydraulic disk brake.  But is is not as good in other ways, as the Honda has a fully enclosed chain drive, two cylinders (not one) and adjustable handlebars (instead of clip on type).

There are also several apparent differences that I couldn't say are bad or good, the Sym has a washable foam air filter, no on/off light switch,  and an automatic fuel tap.  The single cylinder engine is a bit smaller, but likely just as fast on the road.

Kawasaki wasn't there again this year, and this time we also missed the Amsoil girls, even though I don't use the lubricants.

Touratech, the European touring accessory company, was present giving out a free catalog, which I put in my bag even though it was heavy.  But then I found out that 80% of it is for parts dedicated to specific motorcycles.  Touratech sells products suitable for motorcycle touring such as GPS's, tents, sleeping bags, flashlights, knives, tire pumps, clothing etc. The company was founded by Herbert Schwarz, a veteran touring rider.  On page 1302 of the catalog (I said it was big!)  is an explanation of Herbert's dissatisfaction with current trends where motorcycle jackets have waterproof liners. Hey, I also dislike that!  As I understand it, the Touratech motorcycling suit starts with a summer suit you can wear in warm dry weather.  There is a second, waterproof oversuit (jacket and pants) that is designed to  zip on over the summer suit.  I looked up the price later, looks like we are in the thousand dollar plus range.

I have also been looking at the new "Adventure Touring Helmets", basically like a full face helmet with a bigger eye port, and bigger visor to cover it, and an external sun shade or peak.  Technology changes, and I like to see the new stuff at these shows.

Picture: Me on the Sym Classic 150 looking good.  Second pic, me with beer on a Steamwhistle Brewery delivery tricycle, feeling good.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Will I Outgrow This Bike?

Here is a post that appeared in the Vulcan 900 forum last year, but it is timeless.
By Crushr  Subject: Vulcan 900 for a semi- experienced rider?
Hello gentlemen/ladies,
I have been riding a sportsbike (600cc) for a few years and have decided to switch to cruisers for comfort. I have looked at Honda, Suzuki, Yamaha, Harley and Kawasaki. I just tried out a 2011 Vulcan 900 Classic SE, Vulcan 900 LT and a Harley Sports Bob for size. I found the Vulcan 900 the most comfortable for me by far, I'm only 5'07" 165lbs. It seemed like a really great bike and it was $5,000 less then the Harley. I know the Harley is a bigger bike, engine wise, but the Sportster seems small in comparison. The salesman told me I would outgrow the Vulcan 900 quickly and that I should go with the Vulcan 1700 instead, for $4k more. 
As I have zero experience with a cruisers power, I ask you if I would really grow out of a 900 so quickly? Most of my commute is rural secondary roads with a few highways mixed in. Also, this is the last motorcycle my wife will allow me to purchase for years to come so I must choose wisely.
The line that I want to answer once and for all:  "The salesman told me I would outgrow the Vulcan 900 quickly and that I should go with the Vulcan 1700 instead, for $4k more."

First, you have to recognize this as marketing "B-U double hockey sticks" (Excuse the Mormon language).  From a scientific point of view, it is only true if you believe it to be true. The way it works is this: The salesman plants the idea in your head that (a) you will "outgrow this bike", which is semi-flattering you. (b) you will soon be so experienced that you will need a bigger bike.  Then in the absence of other ideas, these suggestions will gradually take over your mind and literally make you bored with your bike, and begin making you obsess over a bigger one.

The phrase used here is "you will outgrow", but also often I hear "you will get bored by". Obviously "outgrow" is just a figure of speech.  You are not getting bigger, the bike is not getting smaller. Since the bike is obviously more than big enough to handle traffic on any normal public road, the intended meaning is that you will get bored.

I will admit, you can get bored on any bike.  But you can sustain an interest in any bike.  It's all in your head, and you should not let anyone, especially a motorcycle salesman, control what is in your head.  One other possible reaction would be to buy the bike you think is right, and prove that you will never get bored with it by keeping it for forever and riding it every day, rain or shine, and never buying another bike in your entire life.

I have never had a salesman try this mind trick on me, that I can recall.  I suppose it's possible that they did and I ignored it and then forgot about it because it is such a cliche. Whenever I hear about this sales technique, it always seems be somebody else who is now also worried about it.  I guess it only really bothers me when I hear people fall for this line, because it is one way to ruin that person's enjoyment of motorcycling.

It may be just luck that I never heard this comment while I was bike shopping, it also may have something to do with  the way I shop for a bike. I think a customer opens themselves up to manipulation by admitting that they are uncertain about which bike to buy.  You need to remember in all sales situations, that the salesperson (could be a woman too) is not really your friend, although they seem friendly enough.  They are supporting their family, feeding their children, by selling bikes, and the bigger it is, the better for them.  When I go in to buy a bike, I usually manage to keep the sales pitch (i.e the bull) as short as possible by asking pertinent questions.  And usually I have already decided which bike I want, and maybe the salesperson gets the message that they don't need to pull this trick on me.  Although admittedly, I have fallen for it many times in the past, in a non-motorcycling sale.  But when I am shopping for a bike I never ever ask the sales person if they think this bike is big enough for me.  Their opinion on that subject means nothing to me, and never has, even going back to my very first bike purchase. Come to think of it, nobody's opinion on this subject means anything to me.

To show how ridiculous it is to say you would get bored with this bike, answer this question.  Was Lawrence of Arabia bored riding his Brough Superior in the 1930's?  That bike was smaller and less powerful than the Vulcan 900. I don't think so. You could tell just by the way he he wrote about riding his bike.  Instead he was out there running at high speed on narrow roads, thrashing the motor up to almost 100 mph, even though that motor was much (MUCH!) more likely to blow up than the Vulcan 900 motor. And the brakes and suspension and frame, virtually everything about that bike was pure junk compared to a Vulcan 900.  But that Brough Superior today is still worth about a million dollars.  And given the fact that he died in a motorcycle crash, he obviously had better things to think about than "will I get bored/outgrow this bike?".

So, what is the first answer that Crushr gets to his request on the Vulcan Forum?  "Go with the 1700".

Picture: from the web page

In this picture, I can just tell the young lady is bored with this scooter already, obviously she should have started with the Vespa 900 instead.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Helmets and Statistics

Some people say statistics have no meaning.  It is true that statistics can be twisted to prove anything.  It is also true that people who understand how numbers are collected, can learn valuable lessons from statistics.  So you may ignore statistics that are being used only for propaganda.  But some statistics have survival value.

So now let me discuss statistics, without really giving any statistics.  The statistics we are all looking for regarding helmets:  When wearing a helmet how much are your chances of surviving improved?  Also, how effective is a helmet in preventing different kinds of injury? e.g. brain damage, face damage to skin or bones, etc. And furthermore, what is the effectiveness of a helmet in different situations? e.g. sliding down the road, hitting an immovable object at speed, or resisting penetration when you strike a sharp object with your head, or if it strikes you.  For some questions, no data has been gathered yet.  For others, the same answers keep coming back.  Mainly, a helmet can save you from death about one third of the time.  That statistic is worth remembering. Use it to decide if you want to wear a helmet.  This statistic is also intuitive, in that common sense should tell you that wearing a helmet is going to provide more protection than not wearing one.  You can ignore it if you like, but don't make up any bogus argument like "Statistics don't mean anything".

One more thing to consider about statistics is this.  The way statistics are gathered, we need to use actual accidents, and not all non-fatal accidents are reported.  We generally figure out what percent of people ride with helmets, and then compare motorcycle fatalities due to head injury with and without helmets.  So if 50% of people ride with helmets in a given state, and 75% of fatal motorcycle head injuries are not wearing helmets, then I think it works out to a 50% better survival rate for wearing a helmet.  (These are made up numbers, just to illustrate the math.)  If everybody wears a helmet all the time, then you can't calculate what the survival rate is, because everybody who dies would also be wearing a helmet.

But there is another thing to consider.  Are people wearing helmets better or worse drivers on the average?  You might think they would be more careful, but I'm not sure we have any data to back that up.  Also, they may be worse drivers because they feel invulnerable, and also the quietness of the helmet may fool them into thinking they are going slower than they actually are.  All these things may affect the survival rate, at least the way I think we measure it.

Now what kind of helmet?  To know that answer, we need to consider that most of the time, when you are riding a motorcycle, your head is moving at a good speed.  When your head is moving at speed, so is your delicate brain.  Now if the skull contacts a solid, non-moving object, at a speed of say 30 kph, you brain has to also come to a sudden stop inside your skull.  When it does, things will break inside your brain, and you may die as a result, or suffer permanent brain damage.  How much damage to your brain depends on G forces, or how quickly your brain has to decelerate from 30 kph to 0 kph.  That force depends on two things, how fast you are moving when contact is first made, and how many centimeters your brain travels before stopping.  Inside your skull, the brain can move a little bit before coming to a stop.  The helmet adds a little bit more stopping distance by providing a crushable inner Styrofoam lining.  But that crushable lining must not be too soft, or too hard.  It must be just the right density to crush at the same rate all the way from 30 kph to 0 kph.  That crushable liner may be about 2 cm thick, so even when working perfectly, it only gives you an extra 2 cm to stop from 30 kph.  In other words, it cuts the G forces inside your head by about a half.

If you wanted a helmet to cut the G forces by about 90%, you could wear a helmet with a (softer) crushable liner 10 cm. thick.  But the fact is nobody wants to wear a helmet that big.  So everybody opts for smaller helmets, and we accept a 33% survival rate instead of a 90% survival rate.  Furthermore, some people opt for no helmet at all, and go with 0% survival rate.  OOOPS- am I misusing statistics?  What I mean by 0% survival is compared to chances of surviving an accident that would have killed you if you were bare headed. So if you ARE bare headed, and happen to have the type of accident that will kill you if you are bare headed, then mathematically your chance of survival should be 0.  We calculate the survival rate as improving (or getting worse) by wearing a particular helmet.  And just to be scientific, yes it is possible to design a helmet that would kill you sooner than not wearing a helmet ( a negative survival rate).  It is also possible to design a helmet nobody would want to wear, that would be ten times safer than our current helmets.

There are other types of head injury that have little to do with G forces.  Here is an example.  A rock from a passing gravel truck hits your head with a difference of speed of 30 kph.  Because the rock is small compared to your head (hopefully), the rock will not be able to change the speed of your head very much, and actually, it will be the rock that changes its speed, not so much your brain.  If the rock is about the same weight at your head, then the G forces are still only about 50% (or divided equally between the rock and the head)  So small rocks cannot impart enough G forces to damage your brain.  Of course, this logic is the same with any object you hit.  The more that object gives way, the more the energy is shared, the better your chance of survival.

In the end, what you are doing by wearing a helmet, is carrying with you at all times a slightly softer surface that will share about 50% of the impact force no matter what your head hits.  That's assuming the helmet has been tested for structural integrity and crushability of the liner.  And that you're wearing it on your head, not hanging from the rear turn signal because you are in Florida, where there is no helmet law.

Picture: from

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Comparing 2 Movies "The Time Machine" and "Chasing Ice"

 I watched the movie "Chasing Ice" last night, and a few days ago, I also saw a 1960 movie by George Pal, "The Time Machine". The first similarity that struck me was the use of time lapse photography in both movies.  In case you have never seen this classic movie, The Time Machine, maybe you want to skip this review that includes spoilers.  Now go and see the movie, or maybe read the book.

The Time Machine is based on an H.G. Wells science fiction book from 1895, where someone invents a time machine and travels forward 800,000 years to the future to see how the world has progressed. The time lapse photography is used to simulate the effect of moving forward rapidly through time to the future.

Chasing Ice is a documentary by James Balog about our world's beautiful but disappearing ice landscapes.  In this documentary, time lapse photography is used to speed up the shrinking of glaciers so that you can see in one minute, what took five years to occur naturally.

In a way, both movies are about the same thing.   They are predicting the future, and have something to say about humans causing this future.  The main difference is that "The Time Machine" has to go forward 800,000 years to see what will happen, while Chasing Ice only needs to go from 5 years ago to the present time, to see what will happen.  Chasing Ice needs no time machine, nor does it need to  invent a future. It is enough to show what has happened in the last five years, and from there, scientists have told us what will happen next.

In The Time Machine, no global warming seems to be happening.  H. G. Wells is more worried about what will happen to mankind, if the gap between the rich and poor increases, and if we continue having wars with technologically advanced weapons.  According to his vision, 800,000 years in the future, the rich classes (called the Eloi) will have lost their energy and will to succeed, while the working classes (called the Morlocks) have moved underground, and evolved into a different species that now uses the Eloi as feeding stock.  H.G. Wells explains this in terms of evolution and predictable outcomes of social and economic forces.  However he does seem to be discouraged that the Eloi have no will to resist the Morlocks, nor any desire to even rescue each other when danger looms.  The Eloi seem like brainwashed zombies sleepwalking to their doom, not curious about what is happening or why.  The Morlocks, while looking like beasts, at least have drive, cunning, and curiosity.

Now here is where another parallel appears.  If you believe the rapid warming of the planet may have disastrous consequences, then we are already in some ways like the Eloi.  Because humans taken as a whole, do not seem to have the will or even the curiosity to fight back.  Mankind has the same attitude as the Eloi in that we simply accept what will happen.  Another similarity is that our present situation is being controlled and manipulated by present day Morlocks.  I don't mean that they look scary or anything, but there seems to be a split between rich and poor that is growing.  I'm going to call the Morlocks the rich, who benefit materially from a passive working middle class.  I don't mean to imply that the present day Morlocks are eating the present day Eloi.  They are just using them to get richer and more powerful.  And cynically manipulating them through controlled messages on TV, Internet, newspapers, and radio.

H.G. Wells' original Morlocks actually evolved from the poor and working classes, while the Eloi evolved from the rich idle classes.  I'm not sure this is made abundantly clear in the movie, but I read the book after I saw the movie.  The book is far more left wing in it's attitude than a movie (which was made during the cold war) could ever be, and Wells' opinions are made clearer in the book.

My interpretation of Chasing Ice in 2012 has the Morlocks and Eloi in role reversal,  but I think the main point is that in both movies mankind is passively accepting a situation that is within their grasp to change.  And in both movies there exists a class divide that pits an aggressive class against a passive class.

In the end, both movies are looking at how the world changes.  But for H.G. Wells, the changes are so slow as to require 800,000 years and a time machine to see.  For we humans of 2012, cataclysmic changes are so speeded up that a time machine is superfluous.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

My New and Scary Electric Vest

This morning I woke up to a layer of ice and snow on the ground, and on the car.  The summer is over.

My latest motorcycling purchase is a new vest to replace my  5 year old electric vest, which just suffered a partial failure.  By 2:00 PM Friday afternoon, it was windy, cold, dark, and threatening rain. Perfect conditions for a test ride with the new electric vest which I got at Royal Distributing for $159.99.  It is an "+Venture 12v Heated Vest Light" in XL size.

My new vest has carbon fiber mat heating elements rather than copper wire heating elements.  The new pad is supposedly more rugged, and many of my vest failures have been caused by breaking the thin heating wires.  Also, the carbon pad is supposed to be more energy efficient, and I can feel heat quickly, 3 seconds from turning on the vest.  The old vest took maybe 15-25 seconds before I would feel heat, if it ever did come on.

I am not one of those "early adopters" of new technology, and I was not really ready for the major technological revolution I got with this new type of electric vest.  According to my research, these new vests use carbon fiber heating elements that give off far-infrared radiation that penetrates your body up to three inches.  Whew! Far-infrared is the infrared band that is right next to microwaves.  Apparently far-infrared heating has become very popular in saunas in the last ten years, gradually replacing the traditional hot rocks and water.  There are claims that far-infrared is good for your health.  Although I did see a warning in the Royal Distributing catalog, that "Heated apparel not recommended for diabetes."  Some questions come to mind.  Do I have diabetes, or more importantly, does this heater cause diabetes? I looked on the Internet and found another interpretation.  There are hundreds of claims that far-infrared helps cure diabetes, so in that light we could interpret the warning as "These heated vests are not intended to cure diabetes". With all these scary changes, no wonder I could not find out any real information about these vests before I started getting serious with Google.

So to summarize, these new vests are a couple of wavelengths away from being microwave ovens, and furthermore are not guaranteed to cure diabetes.  The heater element is a thin flexible mat with wires attached. There are four heat settings on the power switch, so far I have tested "Full" "Defrost" and "Popcorn" (I had to come up with the names myself for the power levels, they are represented only by different coloured LED lights on the panel).

Heated clothing is starting to be used more widely than ever before.  Mark's has a battery powered heated jacket. Apparently the military is getting in on the act too, to extend their fighting season.   Quiksilver has battery heated vests to go under wetsuits for diving or surfing in cold weather.

If you have the right equipment and use it properly, you can extend your season no matter what your choice of activity may be. Although I am not able to extend my riding season very much because often when the weather is cold, there is also ice or salt on the road.  But still, I can't go back to riding without electric vests in cold weather.  When one heated vest expires, I will replace it.

Some people have extended the riding season to extremes. See these videos to know what I mean.

Picture: From this web page;start=10

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Electric Vehicles Perform Some Functions Better than Gas

Today the Globe and Mail had an interesting headline: Why modern electric vehicles are like cars from 1905

I could not figure out what the headline meant, even after reading the article.  Anyway, one comment got me motivated to write a blog, it goes like this

Edgenet 9:23 AM on November 17, 2012
"Electric cars will never replace the gas cars. Electric cars are for crazy professors and people like them that do not live in the real world."

I know many other people think the way Edgenet does.  So it's time to have a public service lesson in how an average Canadian uses a car.  I do not wish to argue that electric cars will completely replace gas cars.  But they will be increasingly creating niche markets alongside gas cars, where a family may own one of each.  So instead of owning three gas cars, a family may own two gas cars and some kind of an electric vehicle.  Electric cars are not just for crazy professors and people who don't live in the "real" world.

Although I don't have statistics in front of me, I know that many Canadians are turning to electric four wheel and two wheel vehicles to get around.  The four wheel vehicles (also called mobility scooters) are often used to go to supermarkets for shopping, and can in fact go right inside the mall or supermarket, because of their electric technology, and because their owners have great difficulty walking.  You may not want to call these things "cars", but they use the same technology, and they perform the function that a car used to perform, but do it better.  Their batteries and charging systems are adequate today,  to accomplish the goal of shopping.

A second use for an electric car, this time a more conventional electric car, is getting kids to school.  School busses do not carry all the kids, for proof you only need to go by a school at 3:00 to see all the parents waiting for the kids to come out.  Those people drive their kids to school or back four times a day, with a cold start each time.  And it is getting to the point where some families have a minivan that is only used for this one purpose.  Toyota is having some problems with engine failures in minivans whose oil turns to sludge and burns out the engine, because the vehicles never get operated for more than 15 minutes at a time. So the engine never has a chance to get up to operating temperature.  Families who use a minivan like this, usually also have huge four wheel drive pickups and SUV's that they use for longer trips, relegating the minivan exclusively to school shuttle duties. It would make a lot more sense for this type of work to be done with an electric vehicle, that needs no oil changes, no gas fillups, no warmup time, and does not burn out the engine on stop and go driving.  200 mile range and top speed of 100 mph are not needed in this application.  Just plug it in at home and drive around the block when you need to.

I don't necessarily agree with driving the kids to and from school four times a day, but I'm just observing the "real" world that I see developing around me.

Picture: Taken from this website "EV World The Future in Motion"

Friday, November 16, 2012

Benghazigate: Coverup or Statesmanship?

I was just reading through Canada's National Post on the subject of General Petraeus and his remarks today on the Benghazi situation.

First I will rant about the headline of the National Post story contradicting the text, with the headline as usual leaning to the right and the text (and presumably the more accurate and fact-checked) text of the story skewing to the left.

The headline was

"David Petraeus says he believed terrorists behind Libya attack all along as pressure mounts on Obama’s version"

The text contains this

"Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said Petraeus disputed Republican suggestions that the White House misled the public on what led to the violence in the midst of President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign.
“There was an interagency process to draft it, not a political process,” Schiff said after the hearing. “They came up with the best assessment without compromising classified information or source or methods. So changes were made to protect classified information.
“The general was adamant there was no politicization of the process, no White House interference or political agenda,” Schiff said. “He completely debunked that idea.”
Schiff said Petraeus said Rice’s comments in the television interviews “reflected the best intelligence at the time that could be released publicly.”
 So the headline suggests that Petraeus testimony conflicts with the President's version.  But according to an eyewitness (I'm taking this from the text of the story), Petraeus backed up the President's version as "the best intelligence at the time that could be released publicly.”

Once again, the title composer at the  National Post seems to have a right wing agenda.  But I suppose I should be thankful that the text itself is not pure fabrication, like Fox News in the U.S.  I'm thinking the real title, before the composer redid it, might be seen by reading the computer filename in the internet link (which I suppose the title composers forgot to edit: )

"david petraeus says he believed terrorists behind libya attack all along but talking points removed by other agencies"

Next, I made the mistake of reading some of the comments. Woo-wee!  Is it just me or is the tone of the comment section going to h-e-double hockey sticks in a handbasket?  It is quite clear that people are divided along party lines.  Some people suggest that, had they been President, they would have sent in a large enough contingent of Marines to protect the Ambassador and all the people in the the US embassy.  And furthermore they suggest that Obama failed to do this through sheer laziness, and then lied about his incompetence and dereliction of duty so that he could get re-elected, while 52% of the American public are simply too stupid to realize they have been duped by the mainstream media, and voted for incompetent Obama again thereby completing the destruction of America so desired by people with their heads up their asses.

The pro-Obama side are inclined to give Obama a break for the following reasons: 1. You cannot send marines into a sovereign country to kill people without an invitation, or you risk war, or at least a backlash that could end up killing more Americans and tipping the political balance to the anti-American side.  2. This was not in the embassy.  The consulate, unlike the embassy, is not technically U.S. territory  3. S-h-double hockey sticks happens.  4. The president is not obligated to keep inbred hillbillies informed of every nuance of foreign affairs. 5. Sometimes, diplomacy requires you to keep your thoughts to yourself until the right time.

I am not really sure why Petraeus is such an important witness anyway? He, like Obama, was not on the scene.  Both were in Washington getting their information through the usual channels.  He is not even really a General any more, as head of the CIA. Notice he is wearing a business suit now?

In the final analysis, this difference of opinion shows how much the entire world needed Obama to win the 2012 election.  To keep out the "Shoot first and ask questions later" crowd for at least four more years.  Just to give us some rest before the pro-war faction gets their next turn.

What I Didn't Know About Being Canadian

Readers Digest put out an article "13 Things You Didn't Know About Being Canadian" (or should I say aboot?)  Anyway, I took this as a challenge, because as a Canadian, I guess I should know almost as much about Canada as I do about the USA.

1. Our Parliament Has a Sanctuary for Stray Cats

At first I read this as "Our parliament is a sanctuary for stray cats", which would explain why the conservative Members of Parliament are so fat.  But seriously, I saw that sanctuary a few years back when I visited Ottawa and wandered around the parliament buildings and talked to one of the unpaid volunteers who was feeding the cats. If this was coming out of the taxpayers pockets, though, you can bet all Canadians would know about it.

2. One of Our Prime Ministers Used a Crystal Ball

That would be William Lyon MacKenzie King, a native of the city where I live, Kitchener, Ontario.  I knew this, I think its taught in history class.  It was taught in my classes anyway.  Funny coincidence, the previous town I lived (Baie Comeau, QC) in was also a home to a Prime Minister, also had a middle name of "Lyon"

3. We Launched a Secret Project To Build an Aircraft Carrier Made From Ice

OK I did not know that.  My excuse is that it was a secret, and it never was built.  But it makes sense.  It would never rust, and we have the know-how to build that Ice Hotel in Quebec City.

4. Our Beavers Built a Dam Visible From Outer Space

Actually I knew that, I think it was on the news a few years ago.  So I went to Google Maps to see if it was visible from way up, which it is because there is water on one side, and green on the other.  Actually way more visible than the Great Wall of China that is reputed to be the only man made thing visible from space (which I doubt).

See this 2010 report, stating that the dam is 2800 feet long.  I guess it shrunk in the last two years, or was that a rounding error because Canadian beavers use metric units?

5. Our Cities Have Some of the Freshest Air in the World

I did not know that.  One example given is Kitimat, a town similar to my home town of Baie Comeau, because it has an aluminum smelter and a paper mill, and is far from other cities.  As I recall during the sixties, the aluminum plant air pollution killed all the coniferous trees for about 20 miles around, while the paper mill air pollution was killing all the deciduous trees.  Finally, people started getting serious about air pollution when the acid in the air started etching the car windows.  Today it is pretty much cleaned up, but I don't know how they did it.  However, I would bet that the the air sampling centre in Kitimat is upwind of the paper mill and aluminum plant.

And finally, Googling Kitimat CLean Air, I came across this site, asking "Please don't burn garbage".  In Kitchener we are more serious about clean air, I believe there is a law against burning garbage.

6. Have a Taste of Home When You Travel

I knew we grew mustard seed in Canada, but did not know they use our seeds in France to make Dijon mustard.

7. Iceberg Vodka? How about Iceberg Wine?

I did not know that Newfies make wine with iceberg water, but also I have never been to Newfoundland.  I do know that in Ontario we make wine with grapes that got frozen on the vine, and furthermore we charge a premium for that type of wine.  We are clever people.

8. Leave Your Door Unlocked in Churchill Manitoba...or Else!

I have never seen a polar bear in the wild, but I did see a documentary on Churchill's polar bears.  In the documentary they were interviewing this old native grandmother who got up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, and encountered a polar bear in the hallway and shot him.  The interviewer was shocked and disgusted that she would kill so magnificent an animal.  The old lady did not understand, she said "Well, I had to go to the bathroom"

9. You Can Drink a Toe Cocktail in Dawson City, Yukon

Yes I knew that, even though I have never been to the Yukon. I believe it is common knowledge to Canadians, and the main reason I have never been to the Yukon.

10. One of Our Cities Aims To Be the World's Greenest by 2020

I did not know this.  Go for it, Vancouver.

11. We Have the World's Most Dark Sky Preserves

Another thing I didn't know, although I did know that we have got dark sky preserves near Southern Ontario .

12. We've Minted Many of the World's Coins

Another interesting fact I didn't know.

13. Just Think, Being Canadian Means You Could Be From...

I pass through Punkeydoodles Corners, Ontario on the way to visiting my Mother most of the time.  Newfoundland has the best place names. If Ontarians weren't so uptight, Punkeydoodles would have been Punk Ass Corners.  Now what Canadian has not heard of Dildo, Newfoundland?  Mary Ann camped there one night a few years back, but she didn't take a picture.

OK, then I didn't do too badly on this quiz.  I have come up with a fourteenth thing I didn't know about being a Canadian, although technically, Newfoundland was not part of Canada at the time, but: The ferry from Sydney NS to Port Aux Basques NF was sunk by a german submarine in WW2.

Picture: Dildo Run Provincial Park sign from the

Friday, November 9, 2012

My Advice to Republicans, FWIW (i.e $30 million)

A lot of money was spent in the US election to try and swing the voters.  I think Karl Rove was given about $700 million, and basically all that money is gone.  At least the taxpayers don't have to foot the bill.  But that amount would have been able to bail out half of Chrysler Financial, and would not even have cut into Romney's campaign funds because they were all external funds (Super PAC rules).

I would love to get a piece of that money.  But obviously I am not Karl Rove.  Anyway, to start it off, I will offer some advice for free to the wealthy Republicans, and see if that gets me a job the next time round (if this advice seems good).

Advice from "The Lost Motorcyclist" to fix Republican election problems

Obviously one place to start would be to eliminate racism and anti-female rhetoric, because it is not working now, and the demographics (ignored by your current highly paid experts), are changing to make it even worse.  It is not enough, as Rush Limbaugh suggests, to place minority groups "front and center".  You know why that does not work? Because Rush Limbaugh makes racist comments on radio all the time.  And so it looks very fake to make racist comments and then call on the party to put racial minorities "front and center" at the national convention.

It is not enough, either, as Charles Krauthammer suggests, to give "AMNESTY" to all illegal aliens.  According to Charles, this one simple move could tip the balance, and get the Republicans elected.  I don't think so.  Your first problem is that you have to get elected first.  Because until you are elected, all you can do is promise amnesty.  So your election is based on the assumption that voting aliens will believe you and vote for you to make illegal aliens legal.  Some of those people are going to think you're lying, and some are not going to want amnesty granted to others anyway.  And for sure you would lose many of your racist supporters, guaranteeing you won't get back into power.  So, Krauthammer's strategy is not going to work either.

I see the Republican problem as lack of trust.  There is a perception among many Americans, that Republicans make up facts to get elected.  And I believe that as time goes on, you will have more people thinking like that.  Here is why. You have several high powered, Republican pundits like Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Fox News, and Pat Robertson (and maybe others), who regularly make false claims on TV or radio.  Most of the time, you can count on voters to not bother fact checking for themselves.  But it seems like the population is getting better and better at spotting the falsehoods in the Republican story.  And at the same time, the Republican pundits are making even more outrageous false statements.

Think of Megyn Kelly (normally a Fox News hardliner) asking Karl Rove  "Is this just math that you do as a Republican to make yourself feel better"?

If all the extremist rhetoric and misleading information have not succeeded in unseating Barack Obama for a second term, you have to wonder if maybe that strategy has lost it's power.  As somebody once said, you can fool all the people some of the time, some of the people all of the time, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time.  Apparently that time is passed.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Who Would God Vote For?

Hurricanes are starting to be a pain in the behind to Republicans. To some people who believe that hurricanes are controlled by God, and that God cares about who wins the US elections, it is starting to look like God is helping Obama.

Let me just go over the list.

Does anyone remember hurricane Katrina that wiped out New Orleans and made President Bush and the Republicans look bad?

In 2008, there was a failed Christian prayer campaign for God to rain out Obama's acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention.

However, a few weeks later, the Republican Convention was disrupted by Hurricane Gustav, forcing President Bush to cancel his speech.

As we all know, Obama won the 2008 election.  Let's move forward to the next presidential election.  Hurricane Isaac, in August 2012 again disrupted the Republican Convention. (Democratic Convention had no problems)

The latest is Hurricane Sandy, which allowed Obama to "look presidential" and apparently convinced a few people he was not trying to destroy America. (Including Republican Governor of New Jersey Chris Christie)  In the end, Obama won a second election, with the hurricanes voting 2-0 for the Democrats in 2012.

I'm not going to make any hurricane predictions based on this pattern, because I think it was all coincidental.  But some people  conveniently forget about unfavourable coincidences, and boast about favourable coincidences as being the result of their personal prayers to God.  I just want to put a reminder here for the next time somebody mounts a political prayer campaign.

Picture: from this website

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Who Does the Rest of the World Vote For?

Canadians cannot vote in US elections.  But US elections affect not only the US, but Canada, and also the whole world.  I think that if the US election was open to the whole world, only two countries would support Romney.  They would be Israel and Pakistan.  My impression is that both those countries have more than enough religious fanatics. (so does the USA, by the way, as a recent survey says more Americans believe in Demonic possession than believe in Global Warming.)

So I am going to try to explain this mysterious tendency for Canadians to favour Obama over Mitt Romney. To do that, I will use only one question, which I think is the most important. Was four years enough time for Obama to turn the US (and World) economy around?

I have heard some Republicans say that Obama could blame Bush for the deficit for the first six months in office, but after that, Obama takes the blame.  I'm not sure I agree, because my understanding of debt is that it does not expire magically after 6 months.  If I personally were to get saddled with a million dollar debt for something I didn't do, I know that I would have to pay it, no matter how long it took. Even if I did pay it off somehow, there were plenty of other things I could have done with a million dollars.  I will resent that unfair bill forever.

Sometimes a debt can have a silver lining. For example, if it was a mortgage to a house with a good market value, and if the debt came with the ownership of the house.  Then I could sell the house, or possibly even keep the house if I needed it.  But in some cases, that one million dollar debt may have no silver lining, for example if it was paid to a lawyer to fight a legal case that I didn't win, or it paid for a house that has been flattened by a hurricane without insurance.  In political terms, if the deficit handed to Obama was because money was spent for new infrastructure (such as a new road system or electric grid), then Obama could leverage the value of those items to help improve the economy.  So that kind of  deficit would not be all bad.  But if the deficit was created by two lost wars and trillions of dollars lost in financial shenanigans, then none of that money can be recovered. There is no silver lining. Not only that but four years later, the negative repercussions of the wars and the financial meltdown are still hampering economic recovery.  I guess you could argue that the deficit's only silver lining was that some lessons were learned about what NOT to do next time, and I admit it's worth something that Saddam Hussein is gone.  But the problem is that smart people would not have needed to waste trillions of dollars learning this, so all this money proved only that Republican neo-con ideology was wrong about militant go-it-alone foreign policy and about economic deregulation and laissez faire theory.

I suppose that if the only net benefit from Bush's legacy was to learn that the Republicans were wrong, that might be worth going trillions of dollars in debt over, but has the lesson actually been learned?  Actually, no, not by the American voters anyway.  Sure they voted for Obama in 2008, and may again in 2012.  But from what I can see it's a toss-up and it's all about the wrong things.  Don't vote for Obama because he's black, or because he "looks presidential".  Vote for Obama because the US is not in a major depression today.

In my mind, the question is not so much about "Was 4 years enough time to get the economy moving again?" It should be "Was four years out of office, enough time for the Republicans to figure out where they went wrong?"  You would think they could learn by watching how Obama is finessing foreign policy.  They could compare Obama's taking care of Osama Bin Laden and Mohammar Gaddafi's in four years, and then think about how Bush took care of Saddam Hussein in seven years. They could observe Obama's investments in rebuilding the US economy, compared to investing in war.  But when when you hear that the Republicans are still talking about deregulating the banks, and next bombing Iran, well, what more incentive do you need to vote for Obama?

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Towards a Garbage-Free MacLean's Magazine

MacLean's magazine has a new article by Cynthia Reynolds titled "Why are schools brainwashing our children?"

In this article Cynthia gives examples of situations where children in Canadian schools are being brainwashed into being tolerant and caring for the environment.

Let me take one example.
  "In Laval, Que., a six-year-old boy was disqualified from a teddy-bear contest because a Ziploc was found in his lunch".
Now if I may clarify this a little: It was not a Teddy Bear contest, it was a draw for a teddy bear in a garbage free lunch contest. Yes, the difference is important. What is a garbage free lunch?  It is a lunch that has no garbage in it.  What is garbage? Any throw-away one-use container.  Now, let's go into this a little bit more.  A drink box has garbage (the box and the straw.) An apple core is not counted as garbage.  A candy bar has garbage. (The wrapper).  Any garbage in your lunch means you don't have a garbage-free lunch. A tupperware container is not garbage because it can be re-used.  But if you throw the tupperware container away, it should count as garbage.  If you remove the wrapper from the candy bar at home and put the naked bar in a Tupperware container, the teacher has to make a call one way or the other.  A Ziplock bag is not necessarily garbage.  It can be taken home, cleaned and re-used.  But if it is thrown out after one use, it is garbage.  A fair teacher would accept the ziplock bag as long as it is taken home and re-used, but of course it's impossible to know the truth.  Obviously, garbage free lunch games are not that simple.

Now to explain a little bit about teaching. Teachers generally reward students learning with scores and marks, rarely with material goods.  That's because the school budget does not allow for it.  So who paid for the Teddy Bear prize?  I couldn't find out, but it might have been an old item that the teacher needed to get rid of, and if so, the teacher had found a good way to divert one more bit of garbage from the landfill. Very unlikely to be the taxpayers footing the Teddy Bear expense.

Now what about the ziplock bag scandal? I think a case could have been made for the ziplock bag in a garbage free lunch, but first you have to understand what is going on.  Sometimes six year old kids make mistakes. That's why we have teachers.

Now why do Conservatives (and their propaganda machines like MacLean's Magazine) hate it when children learn about garbage?  Probably the same reason they hate children to learn about tolerance.  Conservative propaganda has two main pillars: support for corporate profits, and hatred for "others".  It suits the conservative agenda to keep people as ignorant and easily-led consumers of throw-away trash.  The last thing conservatives want is for children to learn about the environment, because that might affect corporate profits.

Why would MacLean's sensationalize this simple story?  And does MacLean's do the same kind of one-sided misrepresentation when they are stirring up hate against minority groups?  The answer is yes.

MacLean's is a conservative, bigoted magazine.  I think the more appropriate question would be "Why is MacLean's Magazine Brainwashing Canadians", but I think we all know the answer. Because it pleases their rich owners, and stirring up hatred is the best way to brainwash people.

Next, the goal for MacLean's: Let's try to put out a garbage free newsmagazine.

Picture: Left garbage lunch, right garbage free.  from this website

Another Roadside Repair Story: Emile Leray

One of the aspects of motorcycling that I find most fascinating is the possibility of doing roadside repairs to get out of a stranded situation.  Just a few weeks ago, I had a flat tire on the road and had to improvise to get home. Actually, I didn't really do much, as I drove the bike on the flat tire to the nearest gas station. Eight years ago, I got stuck in my Toyota Matrix while off-roading in Baja Mexico, and was rescued by a nearby camper who spotted the plumes of sand the car was kicking up. Recently I found a story that tops everything I have ever known up to now for getting stranded.

Emile Leray gets the award for all time most unbelievable roadside repair.  My only problem is which category to make the award in: motorcycle or car?  Emile's roadside repair started with a broken down car and ended with a motorcycle.

Emile was driving off road through the Sahara Desert, alone, when his 2CV car broke an axle and swing arm.  Apparently he decided that his only chance of survival was to cannibalize the car to build a makeshift motorcycle.  This project took him 12 days, after which he drove the motorcycle back to a main road where he could be arrested and fined for driving an unlicenced vehicle.  (His modifications were too extensive for his original licence plate to be legal - although the plate was affixed to the makeshift motorcycle.)

I have checked this with a few different sources, but although it seems legit, it is so over the top that I am still harboring a suspicion that it might be a hoax.

Picture: OK I'm also surprised that Emile also had the time and/or mental wherewithal to take pictures during this episode.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Gorillas are Liars

If a human speaks truthfully only once in their entire life, they are still an honest person. But if a Gorilla tells one lie, that gorilla is a liar for the rest of their lives.   This is a double standard.

In California, there is a female gorilla named Koko, who has been taught to speak in sign language. With an I.Q. of about 75, and a vocabulary of 1000 sign language words, she can form sentences and make up new compound words.

There are reports that Koko lied once.  Once, when left alone, Koko tore a sink out of the wall.  When her human discovered the ruined sink, and asked Koko who did it, Koko blamed her pet kitten.  Yes, Koko the gorilla had a pet kitten.  How did Koko get a pet kitten?  She asked for one through sign language, of course.  Anyway, With this one lie, Koko is now famous for being a liar, even though everything else she says is true (e.g. Koko want banana)

I have noticed that lying is more acceptable among humans than among gorillas.

Performing experiments on Koko could answer a lot of questions for us.  I have an idea for an experiment to force Koko to watch Fox News 24 hours a day.  After a few weeks, will this gorilla begin to forward right wing e-mails?

I am also interested in whether a Gorilla has the "God Gene", enabling them to have paranormal spiritual experiences.  I suspect that somebody has already spoken to Koko about religion. In wikipedia, I read that Koko named a Macaw "Devil tooth" because of the Macaw's dangerous beak.  So I assume at some point an attempt was made to convert Koko to Christianity, because otherwise how would Koko know the word "Devil". Unfortunately, I could not find out what Koko's religious affiliations were.

I Googled this website, titled "Koko the Gorilla PROVES Evolution a Lie!".  My immediate thought was that the born again Christians had gotten to Koko, and now Koko thinks that evolution is a lie.  But how would a gorilla, even as smart as Koko, prove Darwinism is a lie, while many humans have not been able to do so.

Unfortunately, it was not Koko's clever arguments that proved evolution was a lie.  It was the existence of Koko that proved humans could not have descended from apes. (The reason being if apes turned into humans, then how come Koko is still here?)  Frankly I was  disappointed, as I was looking forward to reading about Koko's thoughts on evolution and instead I got the thoughts of David J. Stewart, a Born Again Christian, and a long time non-gorilla.

If I understand religion correctly, God has made it possible only for Humans to commit sins.  The concept of sin does not apply to animals, therefore Koko can never "be saved by Jesus".  However even though Koko is an animal, it appears that she has officially sinned in the Human sense. Koko was once accused of sexual harassment in the workplace. I am not sure how the lawsuit against Koko ended, but innocent or guilty, where there's smoke there's fire, I always say.

I found a web page with an online chat between Koko and other AOL users, (no jokes about AOL users please.)  Many AOL'ers found Koko's conversation boring and began to dismiss her intellectual abilities.  If you are familiar with what people say about AOLers, this is a real put down.

Fortunately, Jason Craft was able to provide a simple explanation for Koko's seemingly nonsensical chat session.

Picture: Koko uses sign language to show Pet Kitty how to chat on AOL.  I photoshopped the computer and the words.  The Kitty is real.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Romney is More of a Bullshitter than Obama

Did I hear correctly?  Apparently, Barack Obama called Mitt Romney a bullshitter. And is it true? I mean is Mitt Romney really a bullshitter, not a truthful Mormon missionary?  Mormon missionaries never tell a lie, and never use a word stronger than "H-E-double hockey sticks".

Well, Obama didn't directly call Mitt Romney a liar to his face.

Actually, Barack Obama said that children have good instincts for calling the other guy a bullshitter. And then to put it in context, he made that statement after a small child had expressed support for Obama.  Which if you think about it a bit, means Romney has just been called a bullshitter by Obama.

Well, I think it really is bullshit when Romney keeps saying "I know how the economy works".  While it may not be a lie, it is certainly bullshit.  Nobody really knows how the economy works, it is too complicated. Romney does not know for sure that his extremist economic theories are right, and after those theories set the stage for the 2008 collapse, why does he want to continue with them?  Oh yes, I just remembered: those theories involve more tax cuts for the wealthy.

More bullshit when Romney says he saved the 2002 Winter Olympics.  That's because Romney "saved" the Olympics with government funding.  And Romney is running on a platform that is opposed to government funding.  It was the taxpayers who really saved the Olympics, and they should be given some credit.  Similarly, Obama did not really save GM and Chrysler, but he did fight for funding to get them restarted, which Romney would not have done.

Barack Obama is doing a little bullshitting on his own.  He is bullshitting about children having good instincts about liars.  Apparently there have been studies done, indicating children are easily fooled by bullshitters.  Also Obama once called himself "as patriotic as anybody" which is plainly a lie, as he didn't wear a US flag on his lapel and didn't put his hand over his heart during the pledge of allegiance.  If you want to see hundreds, if not thousands of other lies by Barack Obama, consult Google. (55,900,000 hits, including this one)

But two places Obama did not lie, was saying that Romney opposed the auto company bailout, and Romney opposed going after Bin Laden in Pakistan.  Obama succeeded in both, and now Romney is trying to take credit, which is my definition of a classic, if not pathological, bullshitter.

Picture: I made it with "The Gimp" a Linux photo editing program like Photoshop.

Translation: The Mormon word for bullshitter is "bu -double hockey sticks- shitter", in case that helps.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Seven Things You Can't Say in Canada, Apparently.

Margaret Wente, a columnist for the Globe and Mail, wrote a piece for the Canadian Version of Reader's Digest titled "Seven Things You Can't Say in Canada".  To provide a bit of background, I consider the Reader's Digest to be an American propaganda voice, and the Canadian Edition to be a thinly disguised American propaganda outlet, forced to run "Canadian Content" similar to Time Magazine.  Margaret Wente moved to Canada in 1964 and became a Canadian citizen.

"Influential columnist Margaret Wente shares her controversial opinion on seven sacred Canadian cows most dare not criticize. Margaret Wente's background gives her a certain perspective on Canada's sacred cows."

There may be things you can't say in Canada, but in my opinion, these are not them.

  1. Margaret Atwood's books are awful? Well at first I thought Wente might have a point there.  I hated "Stone Angel", at least the small part of it that I actually read.  Then I realized that "Stone Angel" is written by Margaret Lawrence.  Margaret Atwood wrote "The Handmaid's Tale", which I liked, or I should say I liked the movie, as I didn't read the book.  This barely qualifies as something you can't say in Canada.  If you said it in certain intellectual circles, you may get a lively debate going.  But I guarantee the secret police will not be at your door the next day
  2. Recycling is a waste of time and money? I recycle stuff, and I find that overall I save time by recycling. I only have to put the garbage/recycling box out about once every six weeks instead of once a week. In exchange, I spend a bit of time sorting the trash into different boxes, and cleaning out empty cans and bottles. Because the blue box is right beside the garbage can, the extra time take making the decision where to throw stuff is negligible. The time I spend on recycling is done in a nice warm house.  The time I save carrying out the garbage is outdoors,  FMAO.  As for wasting money, I have been told that the recycling program is paid for by the bottling/canning companies, although I doubt it.  I can see the point though, that if a lot of people are spending time and paying taxes for a recycling program that some other people are ignoring, then it becomes an aggravation when somebody argues against it.  Kind of like somebody saying they save time by throwing their Tim Horton's cups on your lawn.  But news flash for Margaret Wente: Many populated parts of the USA have started recycling programs since you left in 1963.  When I was in Bismark North Dakota this summer, there was a discussion going on about starting up a blue box program even out there.  So the same taboo of criticizing recycling would apply in some parts of the USA.
  3. Private enterprise saving health care?  Yes, you would get an argument from me about this.  I consider Canada's health care system to be an important part of living in Canada, and if we didn't have free health care I would probably move to the USA.  Here is why.  Without free health care I am obviously going to die sooner because I am a cheap bastard who doesn't want to pay for insurance or even life saving surgery.  So if I'm going to die sooner, I might as well go to the USA where I can at least ride my bike year round until I die from lack of health care.
  4. David Suzuki is bad for the environment.  As Margaret says, "And our hugely expensive investment in the unworkable Kyoto treaty, which Mr. Suzuki tells us doesn’t go nearly far enough, will crowd out more practical measures to cut smog and clean up our waste sites." With recycling, Margaret was about 30 years behind the times, but with smog Margaret now appears to be  60 years behind the times. Killer smog was a big deal in London in 1952.  They took measures to eliminate smog, and so did the USA, particularly Los Angeles and the state of California. Smog has largely been dealt with now, and I'm guessing the expense was huge but probably worth it.  And as for more practical measures for cleaning up waste sites, didn't Margaret just finish arguing against recycling?  If she has something else in mind, now is the time to speak up.  Not even Americans (And I don't mean that in a bad way)  want the environment destroyed.
  5. National day care programs: I don't care one way or the other at this point.  Let's skip to another topic that actually would annoy me.
  6. Group of Seven paintings Overexposed?  I, like many other Canadians, do not buy art, but if we did it might be paintings of trees and rocks.  I suppose its possible that Canadian Art Critics may try to silence anyone who criticises the Group of Seven, as I have never met a Canadian Art Critic.  
  7. The USA is the greatest force for good in the world.  Now we come to the climax, this is probably what Margaret Wente wanted to say all along, but had to pad it out with six other topics to make an entire column.  Canadians, of course feel this statement is bullsh*t, or we would have joined the USA long ago.  That way, we at least could vote in the US elections, and cross into Detroit without being sniffed up by salivating Rottweilers.  But she is right, Canadians do not believe that Americans are the master race come in the name of God to save the world.  The greatest force for good in the world may be science, or education, or a free press, or the Internet,  or consumerism, or democracy.  There are many choices, unfortunately all flawed in some way.

That brings us to the end of the seven things Margaret Wente thinks you can't say in Canada.

Now what about some of these that I came up with, that I didn't see on her list, but I think would be acceptable answers to the question "What things can't you say in Canada?"

1. Torture is a good way to extract confessions from criminals and terrorists.

2. Sometimes the law does not work, so lynchings are necessary.

3. Jesus is our only hope for salvation, and Pat Robertson is His one true prophet.

4. There was no holocaust.

5. Canada is the greatest force for good in the world.

Saying any of those 5 things in Canada would get you more of an argument than saying Margaret Atwood's books stink.

Picture: From Readers Digest, but I added the ironic wording on the box and on the shirt. Yes, ironic.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Making Racism Part of the Presidential Debate

It seems like a lot more than usual is riding on the presidential debates between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama.  Before the first debate, we were told that the debates historically did not affect the outcome of the election.  But after the first debate, where Obama had a weak performance, the polls showed that the lead in the popular vote had changed hands.  It went from an almost insurmountable lead by Barack Obama, to a small lead by Mitt Romney. So for the second debate, Obama needed to perform better or possibly lose the election.

When the pundits and experts analyze the debates, it seems to me that they pay a lot of attention to the style, and very little to the substance.  This does not make much sense to me.  As a teacher, when marking essay questions, for example, I would first of all look for facts that show the student knows what they are talking about.  I would pay much less attention to style - e.g. handwriting neatness, spelling, grammar (Unless it was a course in handwriting spelling or grammar of course.)  And I would try to not be influenced by racism or prejudice against certain a students. (Yes some students are way more likeable than others, in case you were wondering).  And most of all, I would be looking for B.S.  Here is an example.  "For ten marks, write a one page essay about how you would improve the US economy."  One students writes "I understand the US economy, so obviously I would know many ways to fix it". And then proceeds to fill the rest of the page with the same thought stated over and over.  That would fetch him or her a zero regardless of neat penmanship.  If another student goes ahead and lists ten different points, that all seem perfectly valid possible actions to take that might improve the economy, and correspond what was discussed in class, even though I may not agree with them personally, I would probably give a 10/10.

Apparently in Presidential debates, style matters more than substance, especially this time.  I wonder why?  One answer I can think of, is that people are looking for someone they can trust to lead the country into prosperity.  Since nobody really knows how to fix the economy, the substance is unimportant.  The important thing is: Do you trust this person to make the right decisions, do you think his entire world view is basically right, is he a deluded stooge who people will not respect?  Is he or she a real leader who can get things done?

Unfortunately, if we are going to start valuing style over substance, it also means that prejudice takes hold, and in a country like the USA, which has a history of racism right up to present day, that means Barack Obama has a  handicap in the election.  But this handicap is reinforced by pundits who take up a lot of space arguing about who has better style, instead of doing some much needed fact checking.  Also the Republicans insist they are "Not going to be dictated to by fact checkers".  If style is valued over substance, another casualty is the truth.

This is what I see in the first debate, if style is the only standard.  Debate one: Stereotypical wealthy white man yelling at black man about what a bad job he did.  Black man avoiding eye contact and saying "yes massa". Nobody questions the truth of what the massa says, or his right to say it. Apparently this style resonated very strongly with some parts of America, and immediately after the debate, the polls indicated Romney (the white guy) had wiped out Obama's lead in the popular polls.

Now what do I see in the second debate?  The black guy is not going to take any more crap, and basically says "You are lying."  To which the white guy stares him in the face and says "You dare to question me, boy?  For this you will be punished."  Then the moderator jumps in and says "Well basically he is right." And then all the white supremacists go crazy.  That is my summary of the style of the second debate.

If you would like to watch it again, in this light and see if it makes sense, here is the debate video - fast forward to one hour and 13 minutes, for the 2 minute part part where Romney tells Barack Obama how bad he was for not calling the attack terrorism right away. Obama says, but I did call it terrorism right away, and Romney flashes his eyes about being challenged on a fact, then the moderator jumps in "But Obama is right".   (The second debate)

Then read about the attitude displayed by Mitt Romney's son, about this "President" essentially calling his father a liar.

In the old south, if a white gentleman made a statement like "On September 12th in the Rose Garden, I said it was terrorism", and another white gentleman said "No you did not", the rest of the conversation would go like this: "Sir, are you calling me a LIAH?"  second southern gentleman. "That I am, sir."  first gentleman "Bring your duelling pistols and your attendant tomorrow at dawn.  Good day.".

Picture: Romney's best "You dare to speak back to me, boy?" face.  Style over substance.