Thursday, November 24, 2011

Ode to Thanksgiving

Today is the day that all bloggers traditionally post lists of things to be thankful for. To me, this sounds empty and hollow. I find it much more meaningful to contemplate things that we, the more fortunate people on our earth, have left to do to give the rest of the world things to be thankful for.

Much of the world lives in abject poverty and misery.

In some countries running water, where it exists at all, is implemented by paying people two cents an hour to run down to the polluted river and dip buckets full of filthy water and carry them up to the attic to fill a tank, from which water is siphoned to the rooms.

Roads, where they exist at all, consist of places the local gentry permit you to drive your car, if you've got a car at all, but it's up to you to figure out how to get your car through.

Police protection, where it exists at all, consists of heavily armed trigger-happy goons whose primary interest is protecting their own hides. It seems as though we've got some of that here in America, too.

Low-cost housing, where it exists at all, consists of cardboard boxes in the woods, on somebody else's property, where the dwellers therein run a risk of being discovered by the property owner and run off, if not indeed shot outright.

Medical care, where it exists at all, consists of volunteer nurses smuggled in by welfare agencies in wealthy countries, and these nurses run a risk of being deported or possibly executed by the local authorities.

Shoes, for the few people who have shoes at all, are made of rags and old tires.

Agriculture is often done with no tools but hoeing mattocks, and often a whole village owns only one of them and they've got to share it, and they have to hide it when the tax assessor comes around.

Meanwhile back in the U.S.A., today's Washington Post came with an enormous plastic-wrapped bundle of advertising hogwash that more than quadruples the total weight of the newspaper. Every bit of it advertises stuff I don't need. None of it is going to get read. All of it is going straight into our paper recycling cannister to be loaded into Nelson the Nissan for my next trip to the recycling center.

Many countries don't even have recycling centers. They have dumps. With people living in them. People who eat, wear, and live in trash that rich people throw away.

And our stores are so eager to sell us junk we'll just throw away next year if not sooner, that they're opening at midnight tonight, thus requiring at least a few of their employees to curtail their thanksgiving holiday and bunk down early just to open the store so late revelers, often drunk, can rush out and buy luxuries nobody needs. Target, Macy's, and Kohl's, just to name a few I happened to notice, are among the offenders.

But anyhow, enjoy your turkey. Or whatever you're having. Oh by the way, I've known vegetarians who are in better health than I am, having found perfectly satisfying substitutes for America's traditional gluttonous carnivorous fare.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Halal Turkey

This almost has to be a joke. Halal turkey is evil somehow? Oh well, it comes from Weird Nut Daily, which is about the same as The Onion except that The Onion at least admits it's a satire.

So what if something has been blessed in honor of Allah instead of God? Allah is an Arabic word, cognate with the Hebrew word in the Old Testament that's translated into English as God. So, Allah is simply the Arabic name for the same make-believe sky fairy that we call God. In fact, some Muslim friends of mine actually use the word God instead of the word Allah when they're speaking English instead of Arabic.

To the best of my knowledge, (correct me if I'm wrong, those of you who know better) Halal slaughter is essentially similar to Kosher slaughter except for the exact pronunciation of the mystic incantation involved. And I challenge anybody to come up with a scientific laboratory test to identify which, if any, mystic incantation was used in the turkey's presence during slaughter.

My wife has already bought our turkey, and I'm not sure it occurred to her to check on which religion's canonically valid procedure was used for the slaughter. Personally, I'd rather have pork roast for Thanksgiving anyhow. From what I've heard, there supposedly isn't any Halal method of slaughtering pigs. The inventors of the Halal ritual allegedly consider them unclean.

So if you like turkey, don't ask, don't tell, just enjoy it.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Debt Limit

Here's a hypothetical situation. I receive a bill for $10,000 but I'm able to identify $5,000 to pay it. I'm in trouble. But I didn't get in trouble just now, I got in trouble a month ago when I signed the deal committing me to pay $10,000 when I knew up front that I would only have $5,000 available when the bill came due.

So why does our government commit itself in advance to pay more than it knows it will have on hand when the bill comes due?

Besides, the debt limit is not the problem. The debt is the problem. And the way we incurred the debt is the real problem.

Here's how our capitalist economy appears to be working. We levy taxes on productive enterprise in order to provide speculative opportunities to supposedly boost the economy. Income tax, sales tax, import tariff, property tax mostly on buildings, this sort of thing. The primary result of these taxes is to provide investment opportunities, but only for investments in which the location component of property value is a major component.

So now everybody's trying to invest in land, or some derivative of land value. Nobody's trying to invest in productive enterprise. The result is less productive enterprise and lower job opportunities and increasing unemployment.

The longer we try to support this idiotic program with deficit spending, the higher the national debt is going to rise, and the more unemployment we'll have.

Now, what if we tried to lower taxes on productive enterprise, such as income tax, sales tax, property tax on buildings, etc., and raise taxes on speculative investments such as location components of land values?

I suppose the first thing that would happen is that the "economy" as we know it would totally tank. The stock market, based, as it is, primarily on asset values (largely land values) owned by corporations, would plunge through the cellar. Investors would lose their shirts.

But the next thing that would happen is that the Phoenix would rise from the ashes. Productive enterprise, freed from burdensome taxes, would thrive. Land, if the location component were taxed adequately, would be nearly free to acquire initially, and the taxes paid on land would be no higher than the taxes currently paid on productive enterprise for the privilege of having your property values artificially jacked up.

Of course, by most currently popular measures, the "economy" would suffer horribly. Financial institutions who depend on loaning huge sums for land purchases would go broke. Real estate speculators would go broke. Everybody would have to go out and get real jobs for a change. But real jobs would be available.

Location components of land value are entirely the result of the doings of the community in general, not the doings of the individual owner, therefore it's only fair that the entire location value of land should be taken as tax for public benefit.

And it might even help reduce the national debt! But then again, maybe not. Maybe reducing the national debt is too much to ask.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Gods and Creators

Many years ago a student wished to enter a certain project in a science fair. A portion of the project was to consist of the Pascal's Random Distribution Machine, that arrangement of pegs through which marbles are dropped. This project would demonstrate the pattern-forming tendency of randomness.

The science fair administrator nixed the project. Why? Well, the lame excuse was that randomness is something like gambling, which is immoral, and therefore not to be permitted on school property or at any school-sponsored event.

I think there was a deeper reason. There are many things such as randomness, chaos, truth of the axioms, workability of mathematical functions, and so forth, which could conceivably exist on the Primordial Realm of the Uncaused, without the kind intercession of any sort of God to have created them. These things have distinct results that would occur even without the creative action of any God.

For instance, the Pascal's Random Distribution Machine causes a distinctive pattern, varying only slightly from one trial to the next. The axiom that if A=B and B=C then A=C causes the measurability of all dimensionally definable things. The mathematical functions that we call Sinusiods have all sorts of interesting results.

So here we have a rather large group of things that can function as uncaused causes, but they're not God. I think that many school administrators are afraid of the outcry that might be raised by deviously powerful religious groups if students were encouraged to study these non-God uncaused causes and come to realize that there are many possible causes for the universe to exist, not just the one promoted by religion.

Just think! A few students might even become (gasp) ATHEISTS (shudder)! Wouldn't that be horrible!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Two Kinds of Ideas

I shall suggest that there are two kinds of ideas: those that can be addressed rationally, and those that cannot. Well, yes, there are many other ways of evaluating ideas, but let's go with this one for now.

What would you call an idea that cannot be addressed rationally? I call it insanity.

Let me present this idea. I think that Jupiter's moon Europa is populated by purple moon monkeys who eat green cheese and ride pink unicorns. You're laughing, I'm sure. But I'm perfectly happy for you to laugh at this idea since it's apparent that I just dreamed it up out of thin air on the basis of no evidence whatsoever, so laughing is actually a form of rational response.

Other forms of rational response are also possible. We could discuss the estimated cost of a space probe to Europa and the chance of ever getting funding. We could discuss what other priorities there might be for spending that funding. I'm perfectly happy to see any and all such responses to my seemingly wacky idea, so therefore my idea is not insane, even though it's most likely not true.

Now let's observe that many others have presented the idea that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the World and that anybody who doesn't believe it is doomed to roast in eternal fire and brimstone. They support this idea with bumper stickers that say, "The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it!" They are, by their attitude, blocking out all possibility of rational response to their idea, therefore the idea is, by definition, insane.

Now let's consider this news article about a high ranking clergyman complaining about something he calls secularism. What he's actually complaining about is people who attempt to address religious doctrine rationally. Religious people consider rational discussion to be a form of disrespect.

It looks to me like religious leaders are paying the utmost disrespect to rational thought. And then they have the gall to accuse me of disrespect to their religion. They are, by their own attitude, proudly declaring that all religions are actually forms of institutionalized insanity. Hey, how could I possibly disagree with them about that?