Chas' Compilation

A compilation of information and links regarding assorted subjects: politics, religion, science, computers, health, movies, music... essentially whatever I'm reading about, working on or experiencing in life.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Why Bees are Dying: Neonicotinoids

What Is Killing America's Bees and What Does It Mean for Us?
[...] Doan never really considered the possibility that the fault might not be his own until scientists at Penn State who had been testing his bees told him of news coming out of France that pointed the finger at a relatively new class of insecticides called neonicotinoids, or neonics. The first commercially successful neonicotinoid compound was synthesized by agrochemical giant Bayer CropScience in 1985, but it wasn't until the early 2000s that they began to be used extensively. Compared to older, more toxic insecticides, neonics certainly seemed to be a win-win: Though neurotoxins, they mess with insect brains far more than those of mammals, and their application is a breeze. All a farmer need do is sow a seed coated in neonics and the water-soluble chemicals get drawn back up into the plant as it grows. Referred to as systemic insecticides, they spread through the plant, making it resistant to predators. Neonics don't require repeated applications in a hazmat suit. Rain can't wash them away — but then again, neither can your kitchen faucet (unless you're eating strictly organic, you're eating neonicotinoids all the time).

Doan knew his hives had tested positive for the neonicotinoid clothianidin, but the results had seemed dubious because clothianidin wasn't even registered for use in New York state. That's when he learned that neonic-coated seeds weren't subject to the same regulations as sprayed pesticides, meaning that seeds couldn't be treated in New York, but they could be purchased elsewhere and then planted there, with no one the wiser. Furthermore, studies demonstrated that bees exposed to sublethal amounts of these neonicotinoids showed a loss in cognitive functions, including their ability to navigate home.

To Doan, this seemed like a breakthrough — a perfect explanation for why his bees hadn't just been dying, but disappearing altogether. He testified at the Environmental Protection Agency. He testified in front of Congress. He was interviewed for a Time magazine article on neonics in 2013, the very same year a report by the European Food Safety Authority showed "high acute risks" to bees from neonics and the European Union issued a ban on the three that are most widely used. Meanwhile, the Saving America's Pollinators Act, a congressional bill introduced in 2013 by Reps. John Conyers and Earl Blumenauer that would have taken neonics off the market until their safety was more definitively proven, never made it out of committee. (The bill was reintroduced this spring, but its fate remains uncertain.)

Doan waited expectantly for the EPA to step in and address the situation: "When I first started learning about this, I'm like, 'Well, the EPA's there to protect us. We don't have to worry about this, because the EPA's here to help.'"But as the years passed and the use of neonics spread, it started to seem that maybe the EPA wasn't there to help beekeepers after all. To Doan, the mystery of colony collapse disorder deepened. He no longer wondered what was killing his bees; he wondered why steps weren't being taken to save them. [...]
The EPA is doing nothing, is anyone surprised? And agribusiness is looking for new ways of pollinating without bees, or producing a genetically altered bee. Just what we need, Frankin Bees to go with our Frankinfoods.

The bee's aren't affected by the toxin immediately, the effects only start to show up 3 months later. The bees become confused, their cognitive functioning is impaired, and they can't find their way home to the hive. They can't function, and the hive dies.

And since the insecticide is systemic to the plants, we are eating it as well. What are the long term side effects of that? If it does this to bees, what would long term exposure do to people?

Read the whole things for links, details and more.


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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

China's growing pains

China’s economy is in big trouble, but it isn’t collapsing
[...] It has indeed been a brutal day in Chinese markets — and a very, very bad summer. But, while the plunge in China’s stock exchanges Monday and Tuesday signals big trouble, it does not mean things are about to collapse.

The problem is that investors seem to be reading what is happening in China’s highly volatile equity markets as a signal of the state of the economy as a whole — a mistake, experts say.

The two are linked, definitely, but not as much as those outside China seem to imagine. And the overall economy, though struggling mightily, is still showing some signs of life.

“Investors are overreacting about economic risks in China. The collapse of the equity bubble tells us next to nothing about the state of China’s economy,” Julian Jessop, chief global economist at Capital Economics, wrote in a note to clients Monday. “The recent data from other major economies have generally been good and there is little to justify fears of a major global downturn.”


China knows it needs to undergo a fundamental economic transition, moving away from pumping money into heavy industry, infrastructure investment and the property market, and toward services, consumer spending and tech — a shift that will bring slower growth.

The government understands this and has moved to temper expectations, calling slower growth the “new normal” and vowing to let markets play a “decisive” role in the years ahead.

The trouble is, authorities seem unwilling or unable to let the “new normal” take hold. Their efforts at reform have been piecemeal and halting — they took steps on the currency, for instance, but have yet to move ahead with promises to truly shake up state-owned enterprises.

When the stock market started to slide this summer, the government stepped right in, turning to a series of extraordinary measures, including forcing big investors to buy stock and freezing initial public offerings.

This week, it has taken a more hands-off approach, so far steering clear even as the markets tanked.

The lack of a clear strategy has rightly spooked investors. “It’s a matter of confidence,” said Wei Wei, an analyst at Huaxi Securities in Shanghai, on Tuesday. “China’s economy is not really as bad as people imagine, but people are overreacting. The decline of the stock market reflects people’s expectations.”

Indeed, the picture is not altogether bleak.


Also lost amid the talk of collapse is the fact that, despite real and worrying problems, China’s economy is still making gains.

There is a debate about how fast China is growing — the government predicts 7 percent GDP growth, but some experts believe the true figure could be as low as 4 or 5 percent. Even if the figure is near the lower end of that range, it is growing still.

China’s industrial sector is struggling badly, but there have been positive signs in terms of services and consumption — the very sectors China hopes to develop.

The latest data show the services sector has become the biggest driver of economic growth in China, expanding 8.4 percent in the first half and accounting for 49.5 percent of GDP, according to government statistics — which, while not perfect, are generally thought to give a sense of trends.

China’s retail sales grew 10.5 percent year on year to 2.43 trillion yuan, or $383.8 billion, in July, slightly down from 10.6 percent growth recorded in June. In the first seven months of this year, retail sales grew 10.4 percent, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

On Monday, Apple’s chief executive Tim Cook weighed in, saying in an e-mail to CNBC’s Jim Cramer that, from his perspective, things are still looking good.

“I get updates on our performance in China every day, including this morning, and I can tell you that we have continued to experience strong growth for our business in China through July and August,” he wrote. “Obviously I can’t predict the future, but our performance so far this quarter is reassuring.” [...]
Desperate attempts to control the economy stifle free market forces that could work for them. It's a learning curve they are climbing. Read the whole thing for embedded links and more.

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Catstantinople? “Being a cat in Istanbul is like being a cow in India,”

Why Istanbul Should Be Called Catstantinople
Turkish city can’t quit delighting in felines; ‘like being a cow in India’
ISTANBUL—In this ancient city once ruled by sultans and emperors, the real king is the humble alley cat.

In historic neighborhoods along Istanbul’s Bosporus and Golden Horn waterways, an army of furry-tailed street cats are fed, sheltered and cooed at by an adoring public. Hundreds of fleece-lined houses have been erected at street corners by cat-mad residents. Most are flanked by makeshift feeding stations fashioned from yogurt pots or plastic bottles and overflowing with tasty scraps.

In some districts, ground-floor windowsills are lined with pillows and blankets, offering a cozy place for the discerning kitty to recline. In restaurants and cafes, cats are often part of the furniture, curling up next to dining tables or patiently waiting for leftovers from patrons.

Visitors to the city can dine at one of several cat-theme cafes or stay a night at the Stray Cat Hostel. During a 2009 visit here, President Barack Obama paused to pet Gli, one of dozens of cats living in Hagia Sophia, a museum that was once a Byzantine church and Ottoman mosque.

“Being a cat in Istanbul is like being a cow in India,” said Sibel Resimci, a musician and confessed cat junkie who says her husband often walks nearly 2 miles to work rather than disturb street cats sleeping on his moped. “For generations, they’ve had a special place in the city’s soul.”

Now, Istanbul’s feline fetish is adapting to the digital age.

Social media sites offering daily pictures of the city’s cutest street cats boast tens of thousands of followers. Web developers have created apps to help adopt and locate users’ favorite kitties. Local filmmakers have released a trailer for their coming feature film “Nine Lives” on video sharing platform Vimeo. Wildly popular YouTube tutorials show Istanbul residents how to build shelters and feeding stations so cats can nap and nibble in maximum comfort. The #catsofistanbul hashtag on photo-sharing website Instagram has more than 50,000 posts of cats nonchalantly—and almost always adorably—doing their thing.


Cats have a special place in Islam: Muslim lore tells of a cat thwarting a poisonous snake that had approached the Prophet Muhammad. One teaching tells that he found a cat sleeping on his shawl and opted to cut the fabric rather than disturb the animal. A popular saying goes: “If you’ve killed a cat, you need to build a mosque to be forgiven by God.”

The feline fetish is also functional: In the 19th century, cats were bred in large numbers for pest control to kill a rat population thriving in the city’s expanding sewage system. Before that, they helped Istanbul avoid the worst of a bubonic plague epidemic spread by rats.

Cats are even hard-wired into the city’s iconography and political culture.

In the bowels of Istanbul metro stations, pictures of waterside cityscapes feature cats posing alongside fisherman, in some cases munching the daily catch. Cat cartoons are used to satirize politicians: a digitized picture of a mustachioed sour puss named Recep Tayyip Erdocat was shared thousands of times last year, in a not-too subtle effort to lampoon Turkey’s pugilistic President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. [...]
Who knew? See the whole article for pics, videos, links and more.


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Friday, August 21, 2015

Bon Jovi Sings in Chinese

Jon Bon Jovi takes on Chinese classic love song
Jon Bon Jovi has become the latest Western pop star to woo the Chinese market, singing what is arguably the most famous Chinese love song ever. The BBC analyses his attempt.

The music video, set in a recording studio, starts in soft focus as the soulful opening strains of The Moon Represents My Heart cue up.

Then, Jon Bon Jovi's familiar gravelly voice fades in. "Ni wen wo ai ni you duo shen, wo ai ni you ji fen..." croons the American rock star in somewhat intelligible Mandarin.

"Jon put a lot of thought on choosing the right song for his Chinese fans," reads a statement on his website announcing the video.


Gift of love

Jon Bon Jovi's statement said he chose the "heart-warming classic for Chinese fans as a gift on Chinese Valentine's Day".

But there are actually two Chinese Valentine's Days.

One is Qixi Festival, which falls on 20 August this year. It marks the seventh day of the seventh lunar month, and is linked to the legend of the Cowherd and the Weaver Girl - star-crossed lovers who remain separated but reunite one day every year.

The other Valentine's Day is Yuanxiao Festival, which marks the end of the traditional Lunar New Year celebrations.


It's no coincidence that the video was released ahead of Jon Bon Jovi's Asia tour in September, where he'll be playing in China for the first time.

He is also performing in other places with significant Chinese populations such as Macau, Taiwan, Singapore and Malaysia.

While Western pop stars regularly play in Asia, it's rare for them to sing in Mandarin - but it's a guaranteed crowd-pleaser and helps to boost their profile.


So how have the Chinese taken to Jon Bon Jovi's attempt?

It hasn't generated much buzz on microblogging network Weibo - yet - but initial reviews appear to be positive, with many moved by his attempt to sing in Mandarin.

The music video features several shots of the 53-year-old looking stumped as he ploughs through the song and practises his pronunciation. At one point, a woman who appears to be his Mandarin tutor gives him an encouraging thumbs-up.

"Bon Jovi's too hardworking, he's given us Chinese fans a nice Qixi surprise... you can see in the video that he's continually trying to get the lyrics right, it's quite sincere," noted popular Weibo blogger Eargod.

Other fans were more circumspect. Said user Zhufuaguai: "Even though it sounds horrible, it's still Bon Jovi - and that's enough for me."
It sounds like a pretty song, though I don't imagine it's easy for a Western singer to emulate, especially someone who doesn't speak Chinese.

The rest of the article is about the history of the song, the original singer that made it famous did so in Taiwan, where she was from. In the late 70's, when the Chinese Communists began to loosen up on restrictions on Music, the song became popular in Mainland China.

The article also mentions other Westerners who are singing or speaking in Chinese. Is it the beginning of a trend? See the whole article for embedded links, photos, translated lyrics and more.

For comparison, here is a video of the original performer, Teresa Teng, singing the song:


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Can China Change? A Lot?

Why China will never be as rich as America
[...] The odds are against China ever becoming a rich nation by U.S., European, or Japanese standards. Since World War II, South Korea is the only large country to get rich for the first time. Once promising up-and-comers like Argentina and Thailand have fallen victim to the "middle-income trap," stuck in an economic halfway house between poverty and first-world wealth. China is a likely addition to that list, according to my AEI colleague Derek Scissors:

It would not be unusual if there were cities in China with income levels similar to, say, France. It would be highly unusual for China as a whole to reach French levels of income. … The single most likely result is that China will share the fate of many other economies and fall far short of being wealthy. [AEI]

That's why the Chinese Professor ad was actually pretty stupid. It imagined an American economy that eventually loses out to China's because Uncle Sam embraces big government. But it is actually China that is increasingly favoring state intervention over market reforms as the path to greater national prosperity. And it isn't working out so well for them. China needs to shrink the state sector if it is to have any chance of generating broad-based wealth. And if a more market-driven capitalism drives a new era of economic growth for China, it also means a China where there is a lot more economic freedom — and probably political freedom, too — than exists today. And that would be a great thing for global prosperity and peace — not something for economic populists to rage against.
To quote Ronald Reagan, "Never say never." If the state sector backs off enough to allow market-driven growth, and that resulted in more political and economic freedom, we could see very big changes in China indeed. Read the whole article for embedded links and more.


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Dementia levels not getting worse

If we are to believe what this article says:

Dementia levels 'are stabilising'
The proportion of people living with dementia is levelling-off in parts of western Europe, a report says.

The University of Cambridge study shows the proportion of elderly people with the condition in the UK has fallen, contrary to predictions that cases would soar.

Improvements in health and levels of education might be protecting people from the disease, the scientists said.

Charities warned there was no guarantee the improvements would continue.

The report, in the Lancet medical journal, analysed twinned dementia studies that were conducted in the same way, but decades apart.

Data from the Netherlands, UK, Spain and Sweden showed that the proportion of people with the condition had stabilised over the periods covered by the studies - which ranged from nearly 20 years to almost 30. But in the UK and among Spanish men, it had fallen.

In the UK, the data from 1991 suggested that 8% of over-65s would have dementia in 2011, yet the team in Cambridge said the figure was in fact 6%.

It means there are around 670,000 people with the condition rather than the 850,000 figure regularly cited.
Improved health

An ageing population should have led to more people living with dementia. However, lead researcher Prof Carol Brayne said the expected rise "had not occurred".

She told the BBC News website: "Effectively it has stabilised rather than gone up.

"The age-specific prevalence has gone down so even though the population has got older, the number [of patients with dementia] has stayed the same." [...]
The article goes on to look a possible reasons why. The current generation of old people are generally wealthier and better educated than their parents and grandparents were, are more health-conscious and take advantage of advances in medical knowledge and health advice. Read the whole thing for more.


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Saturday, July 25, 2015

Nations within Nations. Is it true?

Which of the 11 American nations do you live in?
Red states and blue states? Flyover country and the coasts? How simplistic. Colin Woodard, a reporter at the Portland Press Herald and author of several books, says North America can be broken neatly into 11 separate nation-states, where dominant cultures explain our voting behaviors and attitudes toward everything from social issues to the role of government.

“The borders of my eleven American nations are reflected in many different types of maps — including maps showing the distribution of linguistic dialects, the spread of cultural artifacts, the prevalence of different religious denominations, and the county-by-county breakdown of voting in virtually every hotly contested presidential race in our history,” Woodard writes in the Fall 2013 issue of Tufts University’s alumni magazine. “Our continent’s famed mobility has been reinforcing, not dissolving, regional differences, as people increasingly sort themselves into like-minded communities.” [...]
See the whole article for a larger map, embedded links, and descriptions of each of the individual "nations" on the map.

This reminds me a lot of a similar map I blogged about in 2007. The older map broke up areas into even smaller areas. So which is better? Have things changed much? Or is it just a matter of perspective?

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Sunday, July 12, 2015

Are their different "flavors" of capitalism and socialism? What should we choose?

Is the pope stirring the pot for the communists?

In Fiery Speeches, Francis Excoriates Global Capitalism
[...] Having returned to his native Latin America, Francis has renewed his left-leaning critiques on the inequalities of capitalism, describing it as an underlying cause of global injustice, and a prime cause of climate change. Francis escalated that line last week when he made a historic apology for the crimes of the Roman Catholic Church during the period of Spanish colonialism — even as he called for a global movement against a “new colonialism” rooted in an inequitable economic order.

The Argentine pope seemed to be asking for a social revolution.


Francis has defined the economic challenge of this era as the failure of global capitalism to create fairness, equity and dignified livelihoods for the poor — a social and religious agenda that coincides with a resurgence of the leftist thinking marginalized in the days of John Paul II. Francis’ increasingly sharp critique comes as much of humanity has never been so wealthy or well fed — yet rising inequality and repeated financial crises have unsettled voters, policy makers and economists.

Left-wing populism is surging in countries immersed in economic turmoil, such as Spain, and, most notably, Greece. But even in the United States, where the economy has rebounded, widespread concern about inequality and corporate power are propelling the rise of liberals like Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who, in turn, have pushed the Democratic Party presidential front-runner, Hillary Rodham Clinton, to the left.


Even as he meets regularly with heads of state, Francis has often said that change must come from the grass roots, whether from poor people or the community organizers who work with them. To Francis, the poor have earned knowledge that is useful and redeeming, even as a “throwaway culture” tosses them aside. He sees them as being at the front edge of economic and environmental crises around the world.

In Bolivia, Francis praised cooperatives and other localized organizations that he said provide productive economies for the poor. “How different this is than the situation that results when those left behind by the formal market are exploited like slaves!” he said on Wednesday night.

It is this Old Testament-like rhetoric that some finding jarring, perhaps especially so in the United States, where Francis will visit in September. His environmental encyclical, “Laudato Si’,” released last month, drew loud criticism from some American conservatives and from others who found his language deeply pessimistic. His right-leaning critics also argued that he was overreaching and straying dangerously beyond religion — while condemning capitalism with too broad a brush.

“I wish Francis would focus on positives, on how a free-market economy guided by an ethical framework, and the rule of law, can be a part of the solution for the poor — rather than just jumping from the reality of people’s misery to the analysis that a market economy is the problem,” said the Rev. Robert A. Sirico, president of the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty, which advocates free-market economics.

Francis’ sharpest critics have accused him of being a Marxist or a Latin American communist, even as he opposed communism during his time in Argentina. His tour last week of Latin America began in Ecuador and Bolivia, two countries with far-left governments. President Evo Morales of Bolivia, who wore a Che Guevara patch on his jacket during Francis’ speech, claimed the pope as a kindred spirit — even as Francis seemed startled when Mr. Morales gave him a wooden crucifix shaped like a hammer and sickle as a gift.


The French economist Thomas Piketty argued last year in a surprising best-seller, “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” that rising wealth inequality is a natural result of free-market policies, a direct challenge to the conventional view that economic inequalities shrink over time. The controversial implication drawn by Mr. Piketty is that governments should raise taxes on the wealthy.

Mr. Piketty roiled the debate among mainstream economists, yet Francis’ critique is more unnerving to some because he is not reframing inequality and poverty around a new economic theory but instead defining it in moral terms. “Working for a just distribution of the fruits of the earth and human labor is not mere philanthropy,” he said on Wednesday. “It is a moral obligation. For Christians, the responsibility is even greater: It is a commandment.”

Nick Hanauer, a Seattle venture capitalist, said he believed Francis was making a nuanced point about capitalism, embodied by his coinage of a “social mortgage” on accumulated wealth — a debt to the society that made its accumulation possible. Mr. Hanauer said that economic elites should embrace the need for change both for moral and pragmatic reasons.

“I’m a believer in capitalism but it comes in as many flavors as pie, and we have a choice about the kind of capitalist system that we have,” said Mr. Hanauer, now an outspoken proponent of redistributive government policies like a higher minimum wage.

Yet what remains unclear is whether Francis has a clear vision for a systemic alternative to the status quo that he and others criticize. “All these critiques point toward the incoherence of the simple idea of free market economics, but they don’t prescribe a remedy,” said Mr. Johnson, of the Institute for New Economic Thinking.

Francis acknowledged as much, conceding on Wednesday that he had no new “recipe” to quickly change the world. Instead, he spoke about a “process of change” undertaken at the grass-roots level. [...]
This pope has a strong history of being an advocate for the poor. I get it, and don't think anything is wrong with that. It's just that he seems out of touch with the modern world and how it works. He has spend so much time working with the poor, that it's all he sees; with out a more balanced understanding of the larger whole, and no clear plan for change... what is he doing?

Stirring up revolution against people who create wealth, calling for the redistribution of wealth, without any sort of plan as to how that should be done... how is that any different from the Communism of the past, that has wrought so much death and destruction? And when will the Vatican put it's money where it's mouth is, and return all the gold and priceless treasures they've ripped off from around the world?

Instead of cursing the darkness, why not light a candle? Why not focus on the more positive aspects of capitalism and how it can be used to lift people out of poverty, be used wisely and compassionately, steer the conversation in more constructive ways, rather than just painting all capitalists with a tar-brush and stirring the pot for communist revolutionaries? I think perhaps this pope, however well-meaning, doesn't have the broader perspective or the brain-power to be able to do that.

Here at home, we have Bernie Sanders and followers, wanting us to drink his flavor of Kool-Aid:

How Bernie Sanders plans to win, and change Washington
[...] In an interview on CBS' "Face the Nation" Sunday, Sanders said that the president ran "one of the great campaigns in the history of the United States of America" in 2008, but he also made a mistake by trying to negotiate fair compromises with Republicans and their leadership in Congress.

"The truth is Republicans never wanted to negotiate, all they wanted to do is obstruct," Sanders said. "What I have said throughout this campaign is electing Bernie Sanders as president is not enough. Not going to do it. We need a mass grassroots movement that looks the Republicans in the eye and says, 'If you don't vote to demand that your wealthy people start paying their fair share of taxes, if you don't vote for jobs, raising the minimum wage and expanding Social Security, we know what's going on, we're involved, we're organized, you are outta here if you don't do the right thing.'"

He plans to build that grassroots coalition by bringing more people into the political process and focusing heavily on poverty and income inequality.

"I'm going to be going around the country not only to blue states...but to red states, conservative states. We're going to go to Alabama, we're going to go to Mississippi," Sanders said. "I think the message that we have is resonating. People are going to get involved in the political process, we're going to drive turnout up and when we do that we win." [...]
He sounds like he's the one that doesn't want to negotiate anything. I'm always amazed when Democrats become outraged that the Republicans don't just roll over and play dead. As if it's a crime to disagree with them.

I agree with one of the comments below the article; we don't need any ONE group of people telling us all what to do and how to live.

Also in the comments, someone holds up Denmark and Germany as examples of socialism that "works"; should we, could we not follow them as examples of the way civilized people should live?

That's the progressive dream. It's tempting to say yes. If it works, why not?

Those particular countries have been very careful to maintain a balance between wealth re-distribution and fostering the conditions for the creation of wealth. And perhaps that IS the civilized thing to do. I just have doubts that the pope or Bernie really understand that balance. It's easy to advocate the redistribution of wealth. But if the people who create wealth no longer have the motivation to do so, the redistributed funds dry up, and when there are no more, then everyone ends up poorer.

Most of the nations around the world have overspent more than they have created. Until they demonstrate that they understand the balance between spending and wealth creation, I would not encourage their redistribution efforts. It will only end badly. Such stupidity CAN only end badly.

I've posted previously about the likely future of world economics and the needed flexibility of the new economic reality of the global economy in the Brave New World we are becoming. A good deal of "workable" socialism or socialist ideas may be built into it. If it works, then so be it. Perhaps it will be true progress. It's just that, where will it lead us, unless we are VERY careful?

Every communist I've ever known (and I've known quite a few) has told me that socialism is not an end goal in itself; it's merely a stepping-stone to communism. Socialism gets people used to the idea that the government has the right to redistribute wealth and control people's lives for "the greater good". Once the people become dependent on the government for their needs, then democracy and capitalism and be abolished as "unnecessary", and the government can own and run everything. Which is essentially, one group of people telling everyone else what to do and how to live.

But, people could get "stuck" on socialism that "works"; they get too comfortable, and stop "progressing". The communist's answer to that is to overload the system till it no longer works; destroy the balance, keep spending until the system collapses. Capitalism can then be declared "dead", and replaced with communism. By then the people will be so dependent on the government and so fearful that they will gladly trade freedom for security. And if history is any indication, they will end up with neither.

Communists are fond of saying that "real" communism has never been tried. But that's not true, it has been tried, many times, and every time it's killed a lot of people. That kind of control goes against human nature, and the only way to enforce it is to kill lots of people. If we don't learn that lesson from history, we may be destined to continue repeating it. There may be different "flavors" of capitalism and socialism. But there is only one flavor of communism, and it's always deadly.

Perhaps we are destined for some flavor of socialism to dominate the Brave New Word our future is becoming. I can only say, it's a slippery slope. Perhaps it can be managed, but it would mean being forever vigilant of the dangers. Are we, the human race, up for it? Time will tell.


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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Auroras tonight, and Wednesday?

Looks like it. This was Iowa from the early morning hours today:

Look up! Another solar storm may supercharge auroras Wednesday
While a "severe" solar storm that sparked dazzling auroras around the world on Monday through Tuesday morning is dying down now, skywatchers shouldn't stop looking up quite yet.

Another potentially powerful solar tempest is expected to impact Earth on Wednesday into Thursday, and it could create more amazing auroras for people in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres.

In particular, the next solar storm is especially well aimed to enhancing aurora activity over North America, according to experts at the National Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) in Boulder, Colorado.

Monday's solar storm hit the G4 or "severe" level, a relatively rare class of storm that can create bright auroras in relatively low latitudes. Such G4 storms — the rating scale goes up to G5 — can also cause problems with power grids on Earth and harm satellites in space.

And another storm of that severe magnitude is likely on its way to Earth now.

Scientists at the SWPC are anticipating that the solar storm predicted to arrive Wednesday could, yet again, produce beautiful auroras in relatively low latitudes.

At the moment, the SWPC is predicting a G3 or "strong" storm on Wednesday and Thursday, but that was the forecast for Monday, as well. [...]

See the whole article for embedded links, photos, videos and more.

For more technical details, and an Aurora Prediction map, see the NOAA website:


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Saturday, June 20, 2015

Oregon is for Losers?

This is an unpleasant statistic:

Report: Oregon has worst graduation rate in the U.S.
A comprehensive U.S. report showed that Oregon not only has the worst graduation rates in the nation, but it's holding the country back from achieving its graduation rate goals.

The 2015 Building a Grad Nation report analyzed 2013 graduation rate data from every state in the nation. While the national average reached a record high of 81.4 percent, the four-year graduation rate in Oregon was only 69 percent.

Furthermore, Oregon hadn't improved from the year before, showing stagnation as the last remaining state with graduation rates lower than 70 percent.

"Oregon did not experience significant improvements and became the state with the lowest graduation rate in the nation and the last remaining state with an ACGR [Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rate] in the 60s," the report said.

The Grad Nation report shows that overall, much of the country is on track to graduate upwards of 90 percent of seniors by 2020, and many states are already graduating more than 80 percent of students, including neighboring California. Washington State had a 76.4 percent graduation rate. [...]
Even California is doing better. What gives?

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