Friday, March 31, 2006

where is it made?

I try to avoid buying things made in China as much as possible. Evidently, I am not the only one, because I have been finding that nowadays, when something is made in China, the label that shows this is inside the sealed package. If this is not illegal it should be, but with Congress firmly in the pocket of big business, I don't expect it to be remedied in the near future.


NPR was interviewing a financial adviser on Tues. Mar. 28, 2006 about the high rate of house foreclosures. He made a statement about "people who get themselves into financial problems". Of course, many people handle money unwisely. But many people encounter financial problems because of such things as medical bills, loss of jobs, divorce. (Of course, medical problems can cause unemployment.) Such statements have the effect of right-wing propaganda, whatever the intent of the speaker. I have found that much of what I believed when I was younger, from reading news columns, including the business pages, is really what I would have to call propaganda for the protection of the powerful.

what to do with excess donations

When there is a highly-publicized disaster, relief agencies typically get more donations than they need for that particular disaster. But they don't get enough for other disasters. I, like many others, have been motivated to donate at times of well-publicized disasters. But I never designate my donation for a particular disaster. I will designate for "disaster relief". That, the agency can use my donation where it's really needed. I don't understand people who get upset when more donations are received for a disaster than are needed by the agency, and the agency uses them for other people in need.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

I am as interested as anybody else in preventing terrorists from hurting people. However, it seems to me that there is something wrong with calling for the death penalty for Moussaoui because he didn't tell authorities about the 9/11 plot. Wouldn't this be mandatory self-incrimination, which is not allowed by the 5th amendment to the U.S. Constitution? It just doesn't seem reasonable to me to impose a sentence on a terrorist or criminal for not confessing to something that will get them in trouble with the law. And what good purpose will be served by killing a terrorist who was planning on committing suicide in the commission of a terrorist act? It just shows that the real purpose of the death penalty is to satisfy our own blood lust, which is what we are objecting in the criminals. If we execute a suicide terrorist, it would seem to me that that might satisfy their criteria for getting into heaven in the same way if they had been killed doing the actual deed, so it certainly wouldn't be a deterrent; if anything, it would be an incentive.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Selective readings

I've never seen a mention in a Bible Concordance of  Ephesians 6:4, which says

"Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, "

Thursday, March 23, 2006

building may cause earthquakes

The weight of the world's tallest skyscraper, in Taiwan, could be causing an increased number of tremors.

So for sure, the effects of changing weight under glaciers and oceans could change the incidence of earthquakes.

mad cow testing not allowed - update

Here is a story just about the meatpacker I had mentioned a few days ago, who wants to be allowed to test all his cattle for mad cow disease, so he can sell it in Japan.  He is suing the government to be allowed to do so.

glacial quakes - additional info

Well, here is a really speedy update.  I thought I had reached the end of the article, but there was more a ways down, after some advertising.   "Melting water from the surface gradually seeps down, accumulating at the base of a glacier where it can serve as a lubricant allowing the ice to suddenly move downhill,  ... “Some of Greenland’s glaciers, as large as Manhattan and as tall as the Empire State Building, can move 10 meters in less than a minute, a jolt that is sufficient to generate moderate seismic waves.”

global warming causing quakes

Recently I put out a guess that global warming might have an effect on the incidence of earthquakes because of changes in distribution of mass caused by the melting of ice.  I felt that an increase was most likely, due to the release of pressure, but since I didn't know if the increased weight of the oceans might lead to a decrease in earthquakes in other areas that might offset these potential increases, I didn't hazard a guess as to whether there might be an increase or decrease in the total number of earthquakes in the world.  I still don't know about that, but it turns out that the faster than expected warming in Greenland and Antartica are triggering "glacial quakes".   From the rest of the article, it did appear that they were indeed talking about earthquakes, triggered by glaciers "the size of Manhattan".

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

CO in meat

There was a big brou-ha-ha recently because some companies have been treating meat with carbon monoxide (CO) to keep the color looking good.   But the articles I read were did not address important issues in judging whether treating meat with CO is good or bad.  The reason people want fresh food is that it is safer, more nutritious, tastier.  How does CO affect these properties?  Botulism, the deadly food-poisoning, grows in an oxygen-free environment.  Does it grow in a CO environment?  If CO’s improvements are only cosmetic, that is bad.  If CO actually stops the aging process, than what’s wrong with it?   I myself am a vegetarian, but I would be interested in whether CO stops the growth of bacteria and loss of nutrients.  This is an example of why we really need better reporting on scientific matters.

Note:  Carbon monoxide (CO) is not the same as carbon dioxide (CO2).

Democracy is not a magic bullet

President Bush wants to bring democracy to other countries.  I  think that is a great goal.  But he apparently thinks it is a magic bullet that will solve all problems.  Of course it isn’t.  Just look at the history of our own country.  Becoming a democracy didn’t keep us from slavery, lack of rights for women, civil war, legal segregation.  Maybe all democracies naturally grow in maturity.  Only time will tell.

But if Bush is such a believer in democracy, why is he working so hard to reduce democracy in our own country?

Friday, March 17, 2006


Some democrats are calling for the impeachment of President Bush.  Does that mean they want Vice-President Cheney to become president?

productive speeds

A recent computer study of the relation between drivers speeds and the number of cars that a road could carry in a given amount of time, found that the highest throughput would be at about 50 mph; this was because at higher speeds, the increased distance between cars needed for safety more than outweighed the higher speed.  Of course, in Atlanta, few drivers allow a safe distance.  The result is a high number of accidents that reduce the average speed (I expect to well below 50 mph) and cause many injuries and deaths.  I myself have been on I-285 when I timed the average speed at 4 (four) mph!  Since the minimum legal speed on I-285 is 40 mph, just think of all the money that could be made in tickets, if it were enforced!  Many people don’t seem to be aware of how many people in the Atlanta metropolitan area die in auto accidents, because most aren’t reported by the news media.  The only thing that seems to matter to the news media  is the effect on commuters.  In Gwinnett County alone, there are almost 2 fatal traffic accidents a week.  I have a 4-cylinder car that gets more than 30 mpg; the trade-off is that it does not have great acceleration, which fits with the way I drive anyway.  So I often have people speed around me when we the light turns green, only to have me catch up with them at the next traffic light.  My advice to people in Atlanta is to learn to meditate!  You can do it while you’re stopped at a traffic light, or even in slow traffic.  It will improve your mood and blood pressure at the same time!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

mad cow (non-)testing

The government tells us that we are safe from mad cow disease in this country because it is so rare.  But how do we know it’s so?  Testing is voluntary.  So,  we are only testing a small portion of our cattle. Only about 650,000 of the total US herd (some 35 million slaughtered annually) have been tested (1.86%) - a rate far lower than the percentage tested in Europe (25%)or Japan (100%).  In fact, they outlaw independent testing of cows in this country. They won't let companies run their own mad cow tests. It is ILLEGAL for a rancher to test his own cows for this disease.  In the case last fall, the first USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) test was positive.  So, they ordered another test by the USDA, which turned up negative.  They then sent a sample to England, which confirmed that it was positive for mad cow disease.  A few years ago, I read of a small farmer who was having all his cattle test, because that allowed him to sell the meat overseas for a higher price.  He was ordered to stop by the U.S. government!  And the USDA budget calls for only 40,000 tests annually.

No human cases have been reported in this country, but that of course, there may be cases that were attributed to other causes.  We have no way of knowing.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

automatic organ donors

Some people want everyone to be automatic organ donors unless they specifically opt out. I very much disagree. If you can’t show that you can afford the treatment to maintain the organ after it’s transplanted, you won’t get a transplant. Many people don’t have health insurance, and the percentage is growing. Even if you have insurance, it may not cover the immediate and continuing transplant costs. If we made people automatic organ donors unless they take action to prevent it, what we will have is the poor and working-class being used as organ donors by the more well-to-do people, while not being able to get organ transplants when they themselves need them.

UAE ports management

I disagree with those who say racism is  to blame for all of the opposition to the deal to hand over management of many U.S. ports to a company owned by the United Arab Emirates.  Human nature being what it is, some of it surely is due to racism.  But there are other reasons.  I would have at least as big a problem if the company were owned by China, which is a dictatorship that mistreats its citizens.  I wouldn’t have a problem if the company were owned by India or Mexico, because these are democracies.  They aren’t perfect, but neither are we.)  I know from experience that when I have feelings about such things, that I am not alone.

The silliness of objecting because two of the 9/11 terrorist came from the UAE has been pointed out by others.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Walk a mile in their shoes

Bush wants to do away with the $255 death benefit because it has not been changed since 1952, and now only goes a small way toward funeral expenses.  For the working poor, $255 is a lot of money.  Also, he wants to eliminate monthly survivor death benefits for 16- and 17-year-old high school dropouts.  Of course, these kids are more likely to be poor. I am sure that the grief and loss of income from losing a parent causes some youths to drop out; they may need to get a job to help the family survive.  Making them even poorer is not going to help them.   Bush seems to be doing his best to show that inherited wealth damages a person's understanding of reality.

Fair is fair

There is plenty to legitimately criticize in the Bush's administration lack of timely response to hurricane Katrina. However, I think it's unfair to criticize Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for going shopping for shoes while hurricane Katrina was ravaging the Gulf Coast. The Secretary of State deals with other countries. What do people think she should have done? What did her critics do during the hurricane? I admire the people who collected supplies and drove down there, but I have to admit I couldn't afford to do that. How many of Ms. Rice's critics did that? None that I know of. Since the Republicans have been so savage and unfair toward Democrats, acting like piranhas, does not mean Democrats should do the same. There is plenty of legitimate criticism that can be made. Something I would like to know is how much Ms. Rice donates to charities that aid the unfortunate, such as the hurricane Katrina victims.

I haven't seen anybody take note of where people such as the secretary of education or the head of the FDA were when hurricane Katrina was devastating the Gulf Coast, as they did for Condoleeza Rice. Is it because Condoleeza is a high-powered woman?

Unemployment rate

Statistics on the U.S. unemployment rate show it lower than reality.  Others have pointed out that it only counts those who are actively looking for work.  Those who have gone back to school because they can't find work are not included.  Those who worked for only an hour in a month would be included in the employed category.  People working part-time who want to work full-time are counted in the employed.  People who have had careers in IT and now are working in low-wage jobs because they can't get anything else are counted with the employed.

A factor I have not seen discussed in relation to the unemployment statistics is the fact that our country has one of the highest percentages in the world of people in prison.  When someone is in prison, they are not counted in the unemployment rates.  Large numbers of prisoners means more jobs for prison guards,  construction jobs to build prisons.  They may also cause an increase in jobs for providing food for the prisoners.  When people get out of prison, I would assume they would be added to the unemployment roles until they find a job.  However, they usually have a very hard time finding a job that makes enough to support themselves, which is one of the factors that cause them to often land up back in prison, and back out of the employment statistics.  If our prison rates were comparable to those of other countries, our unemployment rates might be much higher.

How to give back

I have seen people complain in letters to the editor when they let someone into traffic, and the person doesn't wave their thanks.  To tell the truth, before I read these letters, it never occurred to me that it was expected, whether I was the giver or receiver of the favor.  But now, I try to wave when someone lets me in (at least, as soon as it's safe to take my hand off the steering wheel).  For myself, it is more important to me if I do people the favor of letting them in, that they pass it on to others.

On the way to my present work, there is an intersection where we are normally backed up both ways.  My lane has the right of way, but is going very slowly.  It is really nice to see that most of the people in my lane will let someone in from the side road.