Personal information has become a gateway drug for business

We treat commerce as some sort of separate entity today, but it is quite simply one element of the integrated society we have built. Money is nothing more than a promise, a contract between people. It only works if we all have trust in the system. Money was created as a way of allowing people to trade goods and services in a consistent way.

Money only works if we all accept it as having value, if we lose trust in money they we all need to start carrying around purses with precious metals and shiny objects, that we could use to negotiate for goods and services.

Decades ago we moved away from using coins and notes to using numbers, but initially we had to have a copy of the numbers on our person to share with those we were trading (credit cards, checks etc).

Now all we have to do is give someone our numbers and they can suck money from our bank accounts or credit cards for us to pay later, or implement more complex contracts such as loans or major purchases. Your employer pays you the same way, numbered accounts in numbers locations is all that is needed to move money around.

Numbers are easy. You go into a restaurant and they suck money out of your credit card account. You take a taxi and the same happens. It’s very easy to move money around.

But what happens when the system breaks? What happens when a criminal gets hold of your numbers. They go to CVS and swipe a copy of your credit card, who checks? What happens when the disillusioned minimum wage worker at a fast food restaurant scans your card when they take your order and sells your information. And what happens when the bank doesn’t have enough security around your personal and private numbers, and they are stolen? What happens when one of the largest consumer credit reporting agencies, which has been collecting vast amounts of your personal and private data, loses it?

Quite simply we rely on a small series of numbers as our personal identity. These numbers are published in public documents, as well as being collected by many different organizations. And we have almost no control over how they are published, stored or used.

Theft of these numbers, our identities can take place across political boundaries, meaning it’s next to impossible to bring criminals down.

When someone collects and stores our personal information, they are taking on a responsibility to each person whose information they collect. If by their actions or inactions, that information reaches a criminal who steals from us, they have an absolute responsibility for the loss.

If a person dies because a car manufacturer installed brakes incorrectly, they are responsible. If a drug company creates a treatment with an adverse effect that wasn’t fully understood, they are responsible. And if you suffer a loss because a bank, a financial institution or a vendor failed to protect their copy of your personal data they should be directly responsible for the loss, and for repairing any damage it causes.

The law must reflect the importance we all place on personal data. Today it does not. There are some “soft” laws that describe how data must be protected, but when a business fails to implement these rules effectively the legal response is almost imperceptible. Let people know you screwed up, and maybe offer them a service to monitor their finances for a period of time, and then it’s business as usual.

Most of the world uses a Chip and pin credit card system. Where you have to both have a physical credit card and know a secret pin number to complete an in-store transaction. And nearly every county in the world mandates that that transaction must be entirely performed by the purchaser. In the US, this is not the case, we have a chip in our credit cards, but no pin number. And virtually every restaurant in the US uses a system where the waiter takes your credit card off of you and takes it to a machine out of your sight. These weaknesses lead to thefts that the rest of the world have already solved.

The US also relies on a social security number as the sole piece of personal data needed to prove your identity. Nowhere else in the world is this considered an acceptable practice.

Why is the US so weak in identify protection? Because the banks and vendors are not held responsible for loss, it’s normally left up to the consumer. If the bank makes a loss, they hike up their rates to cover it, the consumer pays.

We need a solid legal framework to protect the whole system, and that probably means much more infrastructure than a piece of paper issued to every citizen and legal immigrant when they are kids or first get the right to work, with a single nine digit number on it.

It’s time for the law to catch up with the requirement. And this means strict regulations and draconian penalties for non-compliance.

Today we have the technology to encrypt data, capture and use biometrics, spot fraudulent access using advanced artificial intelligence, communicate directly to everyone, anywhere, anytime and validate any number of ways.

But do we have the collective will to change a system that’s working quite well for banks, who have become addicted to social security numbers, credit scores, and acceptable losses without penalty?

(7)

US healthcare Makes Me Angry

The US has possibly the worst healthcare system in the world. Some may not agree, but here’s how I calculate the quality of healthcare:

  1. Is the population kept healthy?
  2. Is healthcare affordable?

Simple really, but for the US the answer to both questions is a resounding NO!

Let’s put the affordable healthcare act (ACA aka Obamacare) to the side for a second, and just look at the basics of US healthcare. Firstly, it is a for-profit system, which means that the system itself is designed to make healthcare as costly as possible, and where possible to provide the least amount of service, as these are the parameters used to maximize profit.

In the US, healthcare services are considered an exception to the normal rules of contract law. If you buy a product or service and at a point of no–return in the buying process the vendor sticks you with crazy last minute terms on a contract, the fact that the contract is not equitable is considered to have made the contract invalid, and yet when you enter a hospital for treatment, the hospital, your doctors, and a plethora of ancillary service staff are able to decide not to accept the payment from your insurance company and instead bill you for anything they like and you will be asked to sign this contract prior to them cutting you open to fix what is broken or you will die. There can be little doubt that an operating table signed contract is the ultimate form of stress and duress, and yet it is normal in the US. A whole industry exists to sue patients or their surviving relatives after medical operations, and anyone who has had even the smallest procedure must spend the following months fighting lawyers to protect themselves from health induced bankruptcy.

Tens of thousands of dollars a night for hospital stays are normal billing rates, and bills will explicitly list every single cotton bud and sheet of toilet paper at incredibly high prices, and while insurance companies may well negotiate significant discounts on the parts they cover, the patient is expected to pay list price for their responsibilities. And there is little advocacy available to help patients unless they choose to hire their own legal team to fight back.

Any company that is used to providing products or services to the US government is very aware of the standard clause in all contracts that states the US government will always be charged the lowest price for a product, wherever it is sold. But of course, this does not apply to healthcare products, where vendors can charge whatever they like with impunity. Every countries healthcare system in the world (except the USA) negotiates centrally, dramatically reducing the cost of products (drugs, devices etc.) as well as standard services. The US has no such central control on healthcare products, and so the costs in the US are exponentially higher. It doesn’t matter if it’s over the counter, Medicaid, Medicare or through insurance, the costs are much higher in the USA than anywhere else in the world. It makes no sense. Oh and (of course) the US government has made it illegal for someone in the USA to buy their drugs form abroad, because that would be free and open and we can’t have that!

Malpractice and medical mistake lawsuits in the USA also pay much higher payouts than anywhere else in the world, which drives up medical malpractice insurance, which in turn drives up healthcare costs. And there is a whole sector of the US legal marketplace focused on healthcare related class actions, pushing up the costs of healthcare related products with most of the costs going to just the lawyers.

Education costs much more in the US, and medical degrees are long, and so the loans doctors and nurses carry are very large, meaning they must earn a lot more to pay them off, again driving up healthcare costs.

Everywhere you look in the USA, healthcare costs are higher than anywhere else, and the whole ecosystem is designed to move money, not to provide quality and length of human life (the primary goal of healthcare).

While every other western country focuses on making and keeping people healthy as a way of driving down healthcare costs, the US does not. Doctors do not visit patients and preventative healthcare is seen as a cost to insurance companies and so is much more limited than anywhere else, so the population is generally less healthy than anywhere equivalent.

Drug development processes in the US are very similar to the rest of the world, but are used as an excuse to drive up costs. While the drugs and devices used may cost a lot less in the rest of the world, the US population is in effect subsidizing everyone else’s use of these products. Why you ask, because the US government has been paid by the healthcare industry to allow this to happen. There are no poor politicians in the USA, their salaries are not that large, and yet they all are wealthy, I wonder how that happened?

And then you have the ACA. A start at trying to change the healthcare in the USA. It started by putting controls on insurance companies to mean they couldn’t stop insuring people when then become ill, or refuse them cover because they had previously been ill, and provided a number of mechanisms to get more people insured. But it didn’t fix the for-profit nature of the US healthcare industry, and so made little long term sense. Ideally it would have been a start and would have gone through year after year of improvements, until it become more workable. And yet it was an easy task for healthcare companies to pay for access to politicians and push a for-profit agenda, which they have done incredibly effectively, to stop any real change that would drive down the overall cost of USA healthcare.

Healthcare in the USA today is more expensive and less efficient than anywhere else in the Western World. You can still go bankrupt from the cost of healthcare if you or anyone in your family becomes seriously ill.

People in the USA still die daily from curable conditions due to lack of available healthcare. If you are rich it may seem great, but if you are rich, healthcare everywhere in the world will be great. If you are not rich, the US system becomes a drag on your life and your family. Sick people will pay anything to not be sick, and the US system exploits this.

The frustration is that the amount of money involved is far too great for anyone to not want to take a slice of that action. Donkeys, Elephants and everyone in between has shown absolutely no interest in fixing this massive problem, just shuffling a couple of the pieces and trying to make it look like they are just good enough to vote for as opposed to the other person. The republican fixation with repealing Obamacare seems to be much more about earning their paychecks from lobbyists than providing a viable long term solution. And while the democrats talk a better game, they have shown no real interest in solving the underlying financial problems associated with healthcare.

The GOP make a very good point when they say that a country should run in the black not the red, but they also have no plan to make it happen. Cutting federal spending, just means that state spending goes up, and cutting state spending just means city spending goes up. So the family living in the burbs still ends up paying more every year. Anytime anyone suggests that healthcare companies make too much money, every politician’s head explodes with paid-for anger.

Until healthcare is considered a social right available to all and costs are controlled to make it affordable and of high quality nothing good can or will happen. And neither of the major parties have shown any sign of moving in that direction. Oh I know “socialism” is that big evil word, but insurance is a social mechanism, it demands high volume to make it work. If everyone pays in and only some need to use it, it’s cheaper per person, that’s just basic math. It’s not like there is some other type of math you can use to make it work differently.

(6)

Hate Breeds Hate

There will always be people who hate, it’s an unavoidable symptom of the human condition. Some people, who cannot get what they want, will always blame someone else. And some of that blame will become violent. Sometimes that violence will hurt people, sometimes, innocent people. And the friends and relatives of those innocent people will, in turn, hate the people who hurt those that they loved. And with this righteous justified hate focused on the ones who hurt their loved ones, they will create reciprocal hate, and quickly the idiocy of the original hate is lost in the mealy of revenge and a whirlwind of battles where everyone loses.

It’s almost impossible to forgive the killing of a wife, husband, son, daughter, father, mother, brother, sister, cousin or friend. So the hurting of one person can create an exponential number of new enemies’.

It takes incredible heroism, intellect and strength to break this cycle. Very few people have ever been able to do it.

Those that have ended conflict are the true heroes, and yet it’s much easier to remember those who won battles and wars, than those who stopped the next battle.

Honoring those who fought assuages some of the pain of loss, but it also galvanizes opinion in support of further conflict. Honoring those who fought, provides support for their fight, and continues the battle. This is why every government, army, politician, religious group and cause uses it.

Soldiers returning from war, more often than not, promote the value of peace and complain of the futility of the war they just fought. Those who never fought, scream for more battles.

Those who enter the armed services, and accept the orders of those who run those services, are heroes, end of story. They choose to put their lives on the line for their country and way of life. In return they expect their leaders and country to have their backs. To only send them into harms way when it is the only choice, and to provide them with the training, tools and support to do their job, and if they get hurt to do whatever it takes to care for them. Leaders have failed in the past, putting their personal wealth and that of their friends ahead of the people, and it is unacceptable! The lesson for the future is to carefully choose leadership that truly understands the critical nature of their role, and has the experience and temperament to do it well.

Many battles seem righteous in the moment, but in the cold hard light of history, the reasons for their inception seem crazy. The history of the British, Spanish, Portuguese and Dutch empires is littered with battles fought to support commercial growth, to make the rich, richer. The Greek World, the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire and the Holy Roman Empire were forged in battles, generally at the cost of many lives in exchange for wealth for their leaders.

Today’s Middle Eastern wars have removed carefully placed despots who through genocide and torture kept millennia old hatred’s in chains. These puppet rulers were monsters, but they were monsters created by the Western European powers in the last few hundred years to reshape countries who they had tried for millennia to subdue. It worked, but then we forgot why we put these horrible people in power, and we removed them. And the Middle East now has to find a new balance. It is taking time, but the most horrible elements of hate, will again be controlled, hopefully this time, by the people within their own borders. It will not be pretty, but it will happen.

While if happens we cannot allow the raw hate that these murderous fools transmit to infect us. We must resist the urge to lower our morals and our ethics. We cannot allow their hate to become our hate. While they behead, and commit suicide/murder we must continue to live by our code of ethics, and with strength and good judgment we will win.

(12)

Will there ever be another Republican Party POTUS?

Democracy is an unpleasant way of running a country, but it is the least unpleasant way ever invented.

Democracy requires that a process choose the leaders where the group with most votes get’s to win. With more than two parties it is possible for the winner to actually have less than half of the votes and still win. In the US for all practical purposes there are two main parties, and so the winner is nearly always the one who wins more votes than anyone else and actually more than half of the votes.

Of course there are nuances to the process, because the US is not a pure democracy but a system whereby each state effectively has a separate election, and the sum of those elections chooses the president. This means that a smaller state actually can have a greater influence on the result. So some weighting is placed on states to try and even out the relationship. It’s a good attempt, but it does mean that a vote in one state is not quite as valuable as a vote in another state. But it’s close enough.

The US is also a country populated with almost entirely an immigrant population. Obviously there was a native population in place hundreds of years ago, and even after centuries of genocide that population is still alive and a part of US. I think the total is just north of five million. The population of the US is now around 320 million. So the US population is around 98.5% based on immigrants. And the influx of immigrants continues today.

Today the US population is approximately 65% of western European (white) descent, 15% of Africa Descent (dark brown) and around 20% of Latin American (light brown) descent. Those are rounded up numbers from the 2010 cencus. And of all those people around 50% are men and 50% are Women. Personally I find the idea of skin color or sex being important factors in anything to be ridiculous, but they are important as they define groups who act and are treated differently.

So a representative government would be looking to understand and support the needs of all that population. And that is what one of the two parties is trying to do. But the other party seems to think it’s going to win by just supporting the needs of white men.

People its simple mathematics! If you need to win an election in a two party system you really need to aim to get over 50% of the people to support you. Well there are not enough white men in the US to make up a majority. You need to win the women vote and you really should be looking to win the brownish vote as well. Otherwise you will never win another election.

And yet instead of doing this, the grand ole party, is trying to find ways of stopping women and non-white men from voting. And the techniques are just incredible. Everything from religion, to education, to limiting womens health, to making areas where non white people live really hard to sign up for voting.

And lets just think about that, you have to register to vote! What for, you were born (or gained citizenship through a very long process,) you are registered to work (social security) why doesn’t that automatically provide the information needed to vote, it does it most sane countries. The only reason it doesn’t in the US, is a long term and persistent effort to stop young people (who tend to start off more left leaning), women(who rightly demand equality) and browner people from voting.

Slavery, Segregation and Suffragettes and not dim distant ideas. The issue for the GOP is that even though they have tried to stop it, education in the US is now good enough (despite efforts to damp it down), and communication is now good enough that most people actually can spot the self-serving bullshit.

The Republican Party is an important part of the US makeup. Society is very expensive, and sometimes you need to be tougher than any one party can be. We need the counter balance of a left and a right.

But there is absolutely no way that any of the current group of bigoted, racist, religion spouting, conspiracy theory believing children running for the GOP nomination can be seen as a viable president. Not one of them is even willing to agree that the world is more than six thousand years old, or that climate change is man influenced and potentially deadly. They believe in magic and would press the big read button to end the world if the voices in their heads said to do so. That is just not acceptable.

So the democratic candidate will win the general election. Are the choices for democrat perfect? Well of course not. But they are reasonable, and can explain a plan to help everyone do better, protect us all from disaster, and are willing to let the wheels of global democracy turn.

The GOP and their wealthy and armed supporters will continue to espouse that Hillary Clinton is the devil incarnate (as was her husband, as is the current president and as was the peanut farmer). And on the off-chance that Bernie Sanders were to win the democratic nomination, you would hear the Jew quotes, the too-old, and the communist-socialist Armageddon stories surface.

But none of it will matter.

If the choice is a bible-thumping, misogynistic xenophobe with a racial superiority complex against an extension of the non-birth-certificate/Kenyan-Muslim, balanced books, no-new wars, full employment, woman supporting, health system enabling policies of President Obama I believe that the vast majority will go with the saner choice.

And so yet again the GOP heads will explode, every effort will be taken to double down on killing everything, and a fraction of what could be achieved will be. But we will move foreword, onwards and upwards.

(7)

Putting it all in context

The human brain while amazing has some very significant limitations. The basic process of learning is to compare any piece of information to experience. Without a frame of reference we get very confused.

When we are born we get to compare the previous wet warmth to the newly discovered cold and dry. Then we open our eyes and get to experience images and it takes years to fully build up to a level of sentience.

And even then we have a real issue with existence, the toughest is often the end of someone else’s existence. When someone dies, it can be really hard to resolve the fact that they are gone, and so we often use our imagination to make up a place where dead people go. We have absolutely no evidence of these places, but it’s easier to imagine they (the dead) are still with us than to accept they their existence only now exists in our memory.

And if other people reinforce these ideas with stories of god’s and ethereal dream creatures then these other people’s imagination can become our evidence. We call it belief, but it’s actually denial. And the longer a story is retold then the stronger the evidence for its truth.

Since these stories and beliefs become so important, then it is critical for the believers to not question anything that the stories tell, as not believing any one part creates cracks that can cause the whole belief system to crumble. So it doesn’t matter how crazy an idea is, if it’s linked to the belief system it must be upheld as totally true, otherwise the whole of your life’s belief system will be exposed as a total fiction.

So people believe in wild and crazy ideas such as the moon being a source of light, as opposed to a reflector of the suns light. People believe that the earth was created in six days around six thousand years ago and that a talking snake in a park told a woman made of a mans rib to have her man (who was made of dust) eat an apple that was forbidden by a god. That the patterns of stars (as seen only from here) are the bodies of gods; and their positions foretell your personal destiny. That the son of a god (who was also the same god) was born of a virgin woman and died horribly to pay for the apple, but wasn’t really dead (for long) and allowed a bunch of the Romans who killed him horribly to kill people for thousands of years to repent for their killing of him. That each version of god hates each other version of the same god so much that it’s okay to kill and persecute every follower of every other version of that same god. But it’s all okay because if you tell a representative of a god that you are sorry, all will be forgiven and you’ll go where all those people you loved went when they died. And if you strap on a bomb and kill yourself with a bunch of other people (whom you don’t know) then you will end up with a thousand randy virgins in your version of the afterlife who were just waiting to service your every need. And if your version of god happens to have been an alien then you are going to his alien world when you drink that poison, his invisible spaceship is just waiting orbiting the moon for you to leave your Earthly body so he can “save” you. And it’s really lucky that Moses got those ten commandments while walking around that mountain, because otherwise we wouldn’t have realized that murder, theft, swearing at your parents and screwing your wife’s best friend were wrong. And you are still amazed at how awesome your god is that he told all this to people thousands of years ago, and through his inspiration hundreds of people have then selectively edited those aural stories in to written books which have then been selectively edited and translated to ensure that the views just happen to match the ideas of the most powerful and wealthy (and often brutal) leaders over the last couple of thousand years.

But all of this must be true otherwise the people who you have loved and have died no longer exist. And it’s much more important that grand mommy is in heaven than that the world can live in peace and prosperity.

There is a lot of comfort that can be felt from the sharing of good thoughts, but everyone is responsible for everything that happens in the name of every religion and every idea.

Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Solemn Ramadan, Enjoy Kwanza and have a great naked Yule dance everyone.

(11)

Your ignorance is NOT as good as my knowledge

Isaac Asimov once famously said “There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”

The processes that are slowly but surely turning the news reporting and news publishing services into a continual flow of restating the opinions of others with absolutely no reference to actual facts is making this point of view more valid than ever!

It doesn’t matter if you follow MSNBC, Fox news, CNN or any of the other news services or news aggregating sites (such as the huffingtonpost or drudge report), the content is based on restating the most outrageous statements of every mouthpiece on every channel. The goal is not to report the news but to get eyeballs on the gaps between the news, by trying to tickle the interest enough of already biased consumers so that the stay on the channel across the ad breaks. And showing the latest shot of some oversized body part of a mostly naked vacuous plastic twenty something who is famous for only being famous is seen as more valuable than an analysis of some currently critical world event.

Why do political parties think it’s important to collect huge sums of money for their cause? Do robot-calls, surveys, print and TV ads actually influence peoples voting behavior? Or is the lucrative publicity machine using elections as a revenue stream and generating self-perpetuating statistics to “prove” their value to their customers.

When people give large sums of money to political causes, they are not doing it out of the goodness of their hearts, they expect something in return. And people who can afford to give to political parties generally want something big, such as a return in excess of the expenditure they are making. Why would anyone think that it’s a good idea to allow government to be influenced by money? Well it seems that politicians are becoming part of the richest class in history.

Politicians should be paid for their work, and if they don’t break anything and find ways of doing what’s required without spending in excess of the available funds, they should be rewarded with some ongoing remuneration. But if they screw things up, get us into wars that should have been avoidable, spend money we don’t have or raise taxes beyond a very tiny amount, then they should get nothing.

And hey politicians and wannabe politicians let’s be clear on a number of things:

1. If you get us into a war, you have failed! War is the ultimate failure of diplomacy, if you can’t outsmart our enemies with words, and sneaky behind the scenes manipulation then you are the wrong people to lead.

2. Poor people need more help than rich people! Your job is to sort out education, healthcare, and a social net to ensure that this place is filled with happy, healthy, well educated, clean people who don’t need to live as an underclass, do that and everyone wins, and it can be a hell of a lot cheaper than a massive prison complex and millions of unemployable (mainly) minorities.

3. Balance the books! Stop spending half of everything on overpriced military hardware and services, that’s just a way of paying off your buddies (war profiteers), instead either pay a lot less for the military hardware you buy or buy less of it. That’s the only area of government that needs to be tweaked for the budget to balance, every other item is just a rounding error in comparison.

4. Tax religion! Religious organizations are trying hard to be political, it even says “In God We Trust” on the cash. Tax religions and you will have more money than you know what do to with, and it will just make us smile.

5. Education is NOT a way of making money! The blatant screwing of public schools, and the idiotic volume of testing is killing a generation, and charter schools are going to be the same at a higher price. Local county taxes for schools are killing people’s income and the huge cost of student loans is going to kill generations of spending power.

6. Science is key, we need well educated and highly motivated scientists to make a world of seven billion plus people function; otherwise we’re looking at a Mad Max future.

7. Infrastructure – We need better trains, roads, power, communications, water, and airports. We need better than everywhere else in the world, stop being stupid about it.

8. Stop worrying about difference. Everyone is different, and it is absolutely the government’s job to stop any and all levels of discrimination, there are no acceptable levels. Skin color, ability, sexual orientation, left or right handed, fat, thin, tall, short, blind, deaf, man, woman, race, religious affiliation, country of decendency, whatever criteria you can think of. If you don’t like someone else, tough, difference is just a fact of existence live with it!

9. And stop saying and doing stupid things. They say power corrupts and ultimate power corrupts ultimately, but COME ON, we’ve had Cigar-gate, Darth Vader, client number 9, dick picks, email scandals, selling senate seats, toe tapping in toilets, married men taking girlfriends on fuckaways on government jets, undeclared corporate gifts, leaks every which way you could ever imagine and so much more, isn’t in clear yet it’s not worth it. If you want to be a politician, take some bromide while you’re in office, and stock up on Viagra for when you get thrown out, and use it then and not before.

(105)

A scientific explanation of religion

A question often asked is “can you prove the existence of non-existence of a deity or deities” and this question is often asked in the context of religion or belief.

While it’s hard to prove the non-existence of anything when we have knowledge of an infinite universe, the existence of religion can clearly be separated and considered.

Religion can be proven to be a useful mechanism for the creation of society, even in the absence of any deity.
Consider this scenario (which is in line with facts that can be seen from the human historical record).
Many thousands of years ago men were purely hunters and gathers, finding food in the same way as most other animal species on Earth. Over time in some places it became viable for Man to stay in one place and grow plants.

Over hundreds or even thousands of generations some of these Men worked out good processes and timing to maximize their food production. These processes (worked out through trial and error) worked out the right time to plant seeds, so that their leaves would just appear when the frost of the spring was receding and the sun’s energy was able to be consumed by photosynthesis. And they worked out the most effective time to harvest the crops before the seasons changed, allowing the plants to have absorbed as much energy as possible without decaying as would have happened if they would have been left in the ground or on the tree too long.

Even small improvements to this timing would have had a positive effect on the population, making them healthier than others around them.
Learning how to predict this timing was critical. As we know today the Earth rotates around the sun with a pretty precise period. And the earth wobbles on in axis over a cycle of several decades. And the Earth’s rotation around the Sun is not circular but elliptical meaning that the amount of energy the Earth receives in terms of sunlight varies on a rather complex but predicable cycle.

Early Man didn’t know the reasons why, but through careful observation he could predict much of the required data.

Making these predications would have taken many people working together a lot of time and effort, and required careful recording of the information in such a way that it could be considered over hundreds of years to work out the complete cycle.

These people performing this work would not have had the time to perform this function and feed themselves at the same time. So they needed to have a mechanism for barter, so they could sell the knowledge for food.

Also they would have needed to encode the information is such a way so that others could not have just taken if from them by force. And of course they would need to have a way of protecting themselves from others just taking this valuable information through torture.
So you can easily imagine the social, political and security requirements needed to have a society based on knowledge to function. And we can see these societies and how they formed through the archeological record.

The people collecting the critical information would be seen as elite, with a mystical ability to tell the future.

These people were considered special, and spend their lives learning and teaching, and they became powerful and wealthy.

Telling stories as a way of sharing information is core to all teaching, and it can be seen in the historical archeological records that that’s exactly what happened.

When you look at the observable records of stone circle development in Europe, the pyramid based cultures of north Africa and the tribal cultures of south America, it can be seen how critical information about the position of the earth and sun over time was collected from astronomical observations, and in each of these cases strong social infrastructures developed to secure and foster the core knowledge gathering and dissemination processes.

The human brain has a need to apply information to a situation to allow it to be stored. We learn by comparing what we observe to what we already know, this is how we learn. This is how from our very first moment we learn. We compare warm and dark to cold and light, quite to noise.
Information gets communicated through stories. If you want people to grow better crops you can tell them everything you know and then they will grow better crops, but they are less likely to come back to you next year and pay you for the information again. So you tell them a story about how the Sun god told you the information about what day to plant the seed in exchange for three chickens and your cute daughter. It’s not the priest who wants the chickens of course it’s the sun, and if you kill the priest the sun won’t tell you what you need to know.

In fact it would be best of all if you bow to the sun god when giving him your chickens and daughters and hope that that’s all that he wants, and in exchange he will grant you a good crop and the rest of your family won’t starve.

Of course farming is not the only attribute of society that can be improved by careful observation, record keeping and analysis. Everything from human health, engineering, architecture, military technology, social strategy and more benefit from having the time to think, consider, plan and control the distribution of effort. Society stems from a group of people who are able to stand back, look at facts and analyze them.

Religions at their very basis use the scientific method, but there is a need to keep control of a population and it’s easy to make up a bunch of mystical stories to push people down a specific path.

Knowledge is power. Every group throughout time has used mysticism to protect the keepers of knowledge, and the most successful of these became religions. And the most powerful religions taught conversion, and absolute adherence to their words.

The linkage between deities and religion is only in the words of the religion. There exists no observable proof outside of the dominance of the words onto the minds of the religions followers.

This doesn’t mean there is no deity, but it does mean that the observable impact of any deity is trending in that direction, in the same way that any number divided by infinity is tending towards zero.

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Presiding while Black

I try not to live my life through the lens of politics, but I have to say I’m quite unimpressed with the US governments’ ability to replicate the last years of the Roman Empire.

I mean talk about fiddling while Rome burns! The ability for politicians to take actions that hurt real people, just to score political points is incredible.

I measure the effectiveness of any governing body by the results it achieves. If nothing breaks, minimal people die, employment goes up and the cost of living goes down I’m generally happy.

And by the cost of living I’m talking holistically. I don’t care if it’s federal taxes, state taxes, local taxes, sales taxes, VAT, inflation, healthcare costs, airport fees, booking fees of Broadway show tickets, a tax on plastic bags or the price of fuel. If at the end of the day what you can spend and save goes down something is broken and I want to know what and why.

Any politician that fails to stop a war or starts a war, clearly has failed. I don’t care who started it, the most powerful politicians are the ones who fix it without sending teenagers with guns anywhere. Sending heroes into harm’s way is a last resort, and the politician who was not good enough to stop it has proved their ineffectiveness.

And when a politician has failed and people are pointing guns at each other, the only way the politician can redeem themselves at all, is to ensure that the fighting is swift, decisive and with minimal casualties. Generals know how to do this, and they do it best when the politicians back off. Police actions, spending time standing around at check points and patrolling streets are political points, and they lead to real people paying the price.

But here’s the thing, I really don’t care if a leader has a dick or a vagina, or both or neither. I don’t care what color his or her skin is, and I don’t care what political party they favor or what deity they pretend to gesticulate towards. I really do hate people who do care about these things.

The affordable healthcare act, seemed like a good idea. The ACA was broken before it was launched, but even in its broken state it is better than what was in place before. I think most people expected government to do what governments have always done, and make it better. But instead it was used as a tool to break government even further.

The US has millions of immigrants from countries to the south. They have always been a great source of cheap labor who could be treated badly and due to their lack of legal status had only two choices, take it or fuck off. Rather than fix the situation again government has used it as a tool to break things even further.

In every possible way, from replacing dead judges to fixing crumbling bridges government have used the situation as a tool to make things worse.
Some would like to blame this on just one political party, but that is weak and pointless. Don’t believe me? Well, just note how many democrats refused to acknowledge that they voted for the black man, twice.

I would suggest that the republicans and democrats are equally to blame for the mess we are in. Republicans for blind loyalty, and the democrats for being too weak and cowardly to stand up and be counted.

The president does seen to have more melanin under his skin than most elected federal politicians. And it does seem that a lot of people hate him for it. Like all political leaders he has done a mix of good and bad. It’s just a shame that so many people are so tuned to be racist assholes, that they are happy to promote the bad as a way of making things worse, while stopping the good to … making things worse.

The phrase “cutting off your nose to spite your face” seems to be the new American normal.

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Airlines are screwing us!

I’m not the tallest person to fly, at five foot eleven inches I’m probably in the average category in terms of European and Americans. And yet when I sit in an economy seat on most airlines my knee touches the seat in front. When the person in front leans their seat back, there is a good chance my knee will be touching the metalwork of the seat back and they will be met with a yelp of pain as their action whacks me. Are they wrong? Am I sitting incorrectly? I think there is a third, quite obvious option. Airlines are making the space between seats too small.

Laptops used to be much bigger than they are today, but in the past I used to be able to use mine while flying in economy. Today’s seatback and table configuration are so small as to not allow a modern (smaller) laptop to be used without significant risk of it being crushed if the seat is reclined.

The space in economy is shrinking, each new plane or seat configuration finds ways to shave a couple of inches out of every seat.
The concept of premium economy came about when airlines realized people preferred specific seats. These are just the least crappy seats in economy, and now they charge extra for them.

Passengers fighting over the right to recline vs. having enough space to fully inflate your lungs is missing the point. Airlines are F&*^ing with their basic service to make economy so uncomfortable that passengers will pay extra for what was until very recently no cost options.
Flying is getting less pleasant and more expensive every year. Airlines are going out of their way to make it so.
Next time you’re in a plane and feel like fighting with another passenger over who gets the space, recliner or recline, think instead about blacklisting that particular airline.

When I book airline tickets I have a choice, and I actively choose to avoid certain airlines. It’s easy to do, and the compound effect of every flyer going through this simple equation is huge.

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