Monday, June 27, 2005

Dark chocolate seen healthy for arteries

I may seem like a pessimist, with as many bad news gripes as I post, but the truth is, I am actually quite upbeat. There is simply a lot more bad news to talk about than good. But this one is good, if a bit confusing. I say confusing, because it seems hard to believe that it can really be true.

It seems that chocolate is good for you. I know that this news has been out for a while, but some more research has come out. I was well know that chocolate had some very nice anti-oxidants, but now it seems that its effect on the elasticity of arteries is far beyond what one would expect from them alone.

I won't try to detail all the good stuff we know about this odd delight. There is some good references here, and here, but beats them both.

It is a strange matter that I think needs pondering, perhaps over a bag of Dark Chocolate M&Ms

-update: Bad news, I got an email from Mars, inc. that says that they are no longer distributing dark chocolate M&Ms, but that they will again when the movie comes to video. And after that? Anyones guess.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Vitamin Supplements

Global Battle Erupts Over Vitamin Supplements by Bill SardiIn an unprecedented action, the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations (UNICEF), and an AIDS activist group that promotes drug therapy in South Africa, joined forces in opposing vitamin therapy that exceeds the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA), and in particular vitamin C in doses they describe as being 'far beyond safe levels.' These health agencies suggest nutrients primarily be obtained from the diet and warn that supplemental doses of vitamin C that exceed a 2000 milligram per day upper limit could cause side effects such as diarrhea. The AIDS activist group also suggests patients receiving doses beyond the RDA should undergo proper counseling and informed consent before being placed on high-dose vitamin C.

The weirdness just goes on. As if the Codex Alimentarius wasn't draconian enough. Though at least it appears it might be severely injured. Hopefully.

Nevermind that a two-time Nobel prize winner (there are only 2 two-time winners) put his full weight behind vitamin C. Because it was contrary to prevailing belief, he was considered a quack.

Enough of that griping. Why is it that certain people are so concerned about herbs and vitamins being available. There are only two possibilities, either they don't work and they are sincerely concerned for our saftey, OR they do work well enough to threaten the bottom-line of those with financial interests. I am not going to worry much about any altruism here. Call me a pessimist, I don't think that they honestly have our best interests at heart.

Maybe they are sincere, (blinded by their own greed) but sincerity will not make the chains any lighter.

As for me, I intend to fight this, and learn to wildcraft as much as I can in the meantime. But that is hard, and not all herbs are local. I am reminded of the old Chinese curse, 'May you live in interesting times'.

Autism treatment opposed "Debated autism therapy gives hope to parents"

Ok, I will seriously consider conspiracies. I regularly contemplate things that most people laugh off. But what is up with this? Why is it doctors are so opposed to anything they do not consider proven to their satisfaction? Even if it can be done safely?

The issue at hand is chelation therapy applied to autistic children. It seems to have a significant effect on a large percentage of people who try it. Are doctors just that convinced of their own expertise? Do they feel threatened by real cures to a real crisis? I have a hard time believing that, but then this is a strange situation. One doctor even lost his license because he was using this.

We haven't heard the last word on this.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Beware of car keys

TSA confiscates folding car key, calling it a 'switchblade'

Likewise, I will keep this one short.

The TSA is out of control. The weird variety of things that the TSA has confisgated is deeply annoying. A little while ago I heard that they confiscated a purple sombero. Never heard an explanation for that one.

Today, however, it is a car key that they thought looks like a "switchblade". It was just a folding Audi car key ($300 replacement cost). Of course, there is no recourse. (The government doesn't want the burden of responsibility.)

We got problems.

Back when I was a boy, we had checks and balances....

Supreme Court Rules Cities May Seize Homes - Yahoo! News

Ok, I will not bore you with a long diatribe on this one. Perhaps there is a place for Eminent Domain. I will grant that. But its place most certainly is not to displace the poor in favor of the rich, which is what this is in essence. It was passed with the purpose of increasing tax revenue. (hint: maybe it is time to start spending less instead) Thus, tax revenue possibility is more important than the property rights of citizens.

Government is out of control. Even the states are chaffing under Federal control. Witness states that thumb their nose at Washington and pass laws about gay marriage, medical marijuana or importing drugs from Canada. But that is a whole other story for another day.

We need a new re-enforced Bill of Rights. More on that later.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Engineered Crisis

Ok, something is rotten in the state of Denmark, so to speak.

Why are we suddenly getting this rash of identity theft? Suddenly our ID and ability to spend and access our money is being stolen from people who don't even have any business having it. Something is not right here. This has been an ignored problem for a long time, but suddenly, it is all over the national news. And then the scandals start up, with numbers like 145,000; 13.9 million; 40 million and names like MasterCard, ChoicePoint, LexisNexis, Bank of America, Wachovia, Stanford University and the University of California at Berkeley. Why is it that

Erik Norlin on C| Net asks just why were these companies keeping all this information anyway. The companies try to talk about better encryption, or security, and so on, but that is merely a red herring.

The stories have been legion, Slashdot, C|Net and more stories than I can count in mainstream media, as found in a Google search.

The modus operandi of the power elite has been to engineer crises, and then to provide their solution to the problem they created. I have mentioned on here before, how a federal ID card is being introduced. This will be the solution; a new secure federal electronic ID - the mark of the beast. I hate that term, because it has been so abused. I can hardly use it and still take myself seriously. But it is coming and we had better be ready.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Big Tobacco and Big Pharma: same tactics, different chemicals

Big Tobacco and Big Pharma

Ok, I belabor this one, because this article goes into PLENTY of depth. As much as I am opposed to the present state of the medical establishment, this article showed in depth part of just how bad it is and it was startling just how similarly they worked. That said, it is not a perfect article, and not all points are shown conclusively. However to fault it for some shortcomings while ignoring the other excellent points brought up, would be both a mistake and a disservice.

Both relied/rely on doctors approval. Yes, that is right, doctors used to recommend cigarettes for all sorts of stuff. Just like they do for drugs now. Sure we have studies now, but the drug companies have permission to pick and choose which studies llok good to them.

The goal of both are to get people stuck on them- for Tobacco is it is addiction, for Big Pharma it is a drug that treats, but does not cure. There is no incentive to cure. It would be "bad for the shareholders". Partly, it is the fault of modern corporate organization that puts the blame on no one, but to a large degree it is simple greed.

Now days we have drugs like statins, that are unproven in increasing health, and have been shown to be highly dangerous. But I will gripe about statins, and bad corrolation later.

And while we tend to look down on people for being in poverty and smoking, spending money they need, we don't look down on people who take the doctors advice hook, line and sinker, and then have to declare bankrupcy.

These are not all carefully researched things. They come out too fast for that to happen properly. We have seen a large number of drugs have to be recalled because some side-effects (and usually they already knew something about it) ends up killing or maiming a large number of people. And we can't even expect the doctors or scientists to give us the answer we need because they are the ones accepting money and trips to Hawaii.

Are all drugs bad. No, that can safely be answered 'No', but they are the minority. And even the good ones are not prescribed carefully. Consider for a moment the careless overprescription of antibiotics and the upswing in resistent bacteria. And all this while other good treatments and remedies languish or are actively persecuted.

Like Deep Throat said.... Follow the Money

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Review: The Long Emergency by James Howard Kunstler

Ok, I have been promising this, but it is time I carried through. I will tell you what I thought of James Howard Kunstler’s ‘The Long Emergency”.

Mostly, I liked it. I points out how our world will change as the peak oil crisis emerges. Mobility for both ourselves and for the things we buy and sell will dramatically increase. Wal-Mart, for instance, has dire prospects become everything is shipped.

Our problems come down to this.

Oil is finite.
He disregards T. Gold’s case for a geologic origin of oil, but this is a moot point, because the issue is not how much is there, it is how fast we can get it.

Oil is not in our country. This was the same problem that plagued so many civilizations in Jared Diamond’s Collapse. Because we rely on imports vital to our well-being, if our supply were cut off, we would face our own collapse, not unlike the Norsemen in Greenland. We need to be locally self-sufficient.

Other forms of alternate energy can not pick up the slack, especially for transportation.

Other problems such as climate change and biologic plagues will kick us while we are down.

Much of our wealth is NOT in the form of actual material
, but in investments and the stock market, which is mostly running on expectations and hopes. It has collapsed in the past, and will most certainly in the future.

Finally, he looks at the prospects for different parts of the United States. Parts of it are thought provoking. Others are good for some laughs.

His condemnation of suburbia is also harsh out of measure, but I will deal with that later.

I say that this is a good book in spite of its failings. He writes in such a way that he shows himself to be an Eastern (American) Elitist. About the only place in the United States that has a ghost of a chance is, by coincidence, his native New England. Those of us in the Mountain West are religious and individualist fanatics who can not survive when the oil runs out. (Ok, I mean, it becomes too expensive.) And those poor people in the Southwest will all die when the air conditioners stop running. Alas, it is sad to see an otherwise fine book flawed with the same defect he condemns America for, narcissism and not understanding issues around them. I think that the things people are most likely to condemn in others are the things that they themselves are the most guilty of.

Personally, I am both more pessimistic in the short term and far more optimistic in the long term. I do not believe that we live in a universe of scarcity, but one of abundance. I understand that many people think nothing of it, but I put great stock in the words of the prophets. Frankly, many of the prophecies in the scriptures can not be properly fulfilled if we that desperate for mere survival. Temporal salvation is thus tied to spiritual salvation. There will be no New Jerusalem, or Millennium for that matter, if struggle for mere food. I am NOT suggesting that the economic side of things is primary, or that we ought to devote all our attention to making money. If it were that easy, the Kingdom of God on Earth would have been established a long time ago.

But today is not the day for a proper analysis of future energy prospects, though it does make one hunger for it. Personally, that is one of my goals.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

The Day of the Amatuer

The Day of the Amatuer

Experts and professionals are the modern equivalent of false priests. They hold themselves up for our worship and adoration and we are expected to believe their every word, because after all, they are experts, right? I am not so much in the mood right now to condemn these know-it-alls, as I am interested in the solution.. the common man, your everyday Joe. Some people have said that the blogging phenomena has peaked and will one day be much smaller. I hope not. What we need is to think for ourselves, and cease this worship of easy answers and those who preach conventional wisdom.

quoteth Nibley:
Someone (this writer, in fact) has said that anyone can become a dean, a professor, a department head, a chancellor, or a custodian by appointment -- it has happened thousands of times; but since the world began, no one has ever become an artist, a scientist, or a scholar by appointment. The professional may be a dud, but to get any recognition, the amateur has to be good. To maintain his amateur status, moreover, he has to be dedicated, honest, and incorruptible -- from which irksome necessity the professional, unless he cares otherwise, is freed by an official certificate.

Do Americans have to apologize for generations of ingenious amateurs from Franklin to Ford who fathered their modern technology? Or for Ives and Carpenter, their best composers? Or for Parkman, Motley, Prescott, H.C. Lea, and the rest of their excellent historians? Is science ashamed of Descartes or Priestley, or Sir William Hershel or Father Mende Is science ashamed of Descartes or Priestley, or Sir William Hershel or Father Mendel? Arts, science, and scholarship would be in a sorry way today were it not for patrons who were also first-class practitioners in their own right, e.g., von Bissing, H. Carter, and A. Gardiner in Egyptology.

Of course there has always been protest from the professional side: the greatest discoveries in classical scholarship were made by a German merchant and a young English architect, each of whom in his time was ridiculed by the professors. Emerson, "the wisest American," was banned from the campus of Harvard for his famous "American Scholar" address, which proclaimed that one did not have to be a professional to be a true thinker and scholar.

Not long ago one of the world's greatest violinists was barred from the music faculty of a west-coast university solely because he did not have a degree, while the head of the department gave whole seasons of concerts and got away with it, because he did have a degree.

Amateur generally means a person without a degree to prove they know what they are talking about. But their opinions are just as much worth listening to. Dare I say, to be otherwise is snobbish? I am well aware that many people out there have ideas that are complete bunk. Nevertheless, I still think more highly of those people than I do of those who merely accept conventional wisdom and do not think for themselves. We need more amateurs.

There is more material in this next quote than I can reasonably comment on today. But the thought that strikes me the hardest, is that our current educational system and philosophy are geared to make paper degrees and actual learning is second. Further, it is contrary to promoting genius, primarily genius that runs contrary to conventional wisdom. More on my thoughts on that later.

Professionalism is the child of the universities. Its modern rule began with the Sophists of old. Preceding the Sophists were those wise men called Sophoi, ancient traveling teachers who gave the modern world its moral and intellectual foundations. They were, to a man, amateurs.

They had to be amateurs, for the same reason that the greatest athletes in the world, the Olympic victors, ancienetes in the world, the Olympic victors, ancient and modern, were required to be amateurs; and for the same reason that the people who wrote and directed and acted and danced in the greatest dramas the world has ever seen were required by law to be amateurs: because what they were doing was holy business and not to be contaminated by ulterior motives and ambitions.

Then the Sophists, imitation Sophoi, took over and professionalized everything to the highest degree. They were the great professors, and since they professed publicly and for a fee, Socrates, the champion of the independent mind and not one of the Sophists, advised students to examine every prospective teacher's credentials very carefully and critically before enrolling with him. That indiscretion cost Socrates his life, for the whole point of professionalism is that one's credentials should never be challenged.

Rashdall has shown how the medieval universities, beginning with wild elan and spontaneity in the days when anyone could get into the act, "quickly hardened into the mold of the university system" as administration took over.

Official credentials, a foolproof shield against criticism and scrutiny, were naturally coveted most by those who needed them most: it was the poorly qualified who clamored for the status symbol of the degree. As in the days of the Sophist schools, the great demand for this valuable commodity caused factories or this valuable commodity caused factories to spring up everywhere, competing for degree-seeking customers by making their product ever easier and cheaper to get. At the same time the degree became the object -- the sole object -- of "education." And when it reached that point, it was, of course, worth nothing.

Learning, forgotten in the universities, was revived in academies, salons, societies, courts and coffee houses where amateurs came together to revel in things of the spirit and make the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the high point of western civilization. It was the Age of the Amateur.

Beginning around the mid-nineteenth century, the university staged a comeback, culminating in elephantine growth as twentieth century technology sends everyone to school. During the first half of the present century, college teaching offered a safe birth for mild and mediocre souls who in time, by the sacred rule of seniority, ended up ruling their institutions.

Here they jealously perpetuated their own kind in office and shut out those talented students who might threaten their own supremacy in any way. The more intelligent students had always seen through professorial sham, but as the university population soared into the millions, the tension between the two mounted dangerously. It is no paradox that some of the most intelligent students at the best schools have been causing the most trouble. In fact, most students have been galled by the artificial restraint of professional status.

If the only way to get a professional certificate was to deserve one, there would be little trouble. But there have always been many ways of winning a prize for which the incompetent are willing to pay almost any price. The time-honored devices for beating the game are legion, but the most reliable one, since the days of the emperors, has always been appointment.

Everyman needs to make himself a scholar and an expert, and stop relying on others.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

I am about ready to scream at myself. I was posting quite regularly until that last trip. I am bound and determined to get back into the groove. That said, there has been a bit of a reason why I have not posted. I have recently read two things that I wished to comment on, that expressed my feelings quite well, but both would have taken some time to type to properly explain. I will get to it as I can. The two things were “Self-Reliance” by Ralph Waldo Emerson, and “Day of the Amateur” by Hugh Nibley. This is rather ironic as Emerson upbraids us for quoting other people. Oh well.

My book reviews on “The Long Emergency” and “Freakonomics” will have to wait.

I will start with Emerson. Emerson is, in most circles, the better known of the two. He has been called ‘the wisest American’, banned from at least one ivy league campus for his views and wrote something that has haunted me since my freshmen days. Haunted not unlike Ebenezer Scrooge, voices whispering that I could do better. I know I can, but, like a word I can’t quite remember, it seems to stay stuck, where my mind can’t quite grasp it.

Quoteth Emerson:

To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men, — that is genius. Speak your latent conviction, and it shall be the universal sense; for the inmost in due time becomes the outmost,—— and our first thought is rendered back to us by the trumpets of the Last Judgment. Familiar as the voice of the mind is to each, the highest merit we ascribe to Moses, Plato, and Milton is, that they set at naught books and traditions, and spoke not what men but what they thought. A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the lustre of the firmament of bards and sages. Yet he dismisses without notice his thought, because it is his. In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts: they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty. Great works of art have no more affecting lesson for us than this. They teach us to abide by our spontaneous impression with good-humored inflexibility then most when the whole cry of voices is on the other side. Else, to-morrow a stranger will say with masterly good sense precisely what we have thought and felt all the time, and we shall be forced to take with shame our own opinion from another.

Shame indeed! Forced to take with shame my own opinions from another! I has happened too often!

There is a time in every man's education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better, for worse, as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till. The power which resides in him is new in nature, and none but he knows what that is which he can do, nor does he know until he has tried. Not for nothing one face, one character, one fact, makes much impression on him, and another none. This sculpture in the memory is not without preestablished harmony. The eye was placed where one ray should fall, that it might testify of that particular ray. We but half express ourselves, and are ashamed of that divine idea which each of us represents. It may be safely trusted as proportionate and of good issues, so it be faithfully imparted, but God will not have his work made manifest by cowards. A man is relieved and gay when he has put his heart into his work and done his best; but what he has said or done otherwise, shall give him no peace. It is a deliverance which does not deliver. In the attempt his genius deserts him; no muse befriends; no invention, no hope.

Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string. Accept the place the divine providence has found for you, the society of your contemporaries, the connection of events. Great men have always done so, and confided themselves childlike to the genius of their age, betraying their perception that the absolutely trustworthy was seated at their heart, working through their hands, predominating in all their being. And we are now men, and must accept in the highest mind the same transcendent destiny; and not minors and invalids in a protected corner, not cowards fleeing before a revolution, but guides, redeemers, and benefactors, obeying the Almighty effort, and advancing on Chaos and the Dark.

If I am to do anything great, it will not be by imitation. In my younger days, when I had the opportunity to put my heart and soul into my studies, I was at the top of my class. For too long now, I have lost that spark, that excitement, being driven by the mere busyness of homework, or work to be done. What is it I need to do to leap Mohammad-like, from the terrestrial straight into heaven? I know I can do better, but how is not always obvious. As much as I have sometime criticized Covey, perhaps it is time I humbly eat my words, and learn from his success literature.

There is too much dumbing-down in society these days. Why start off with the seeds of genius and godhood, but end up as boring lifeless people. I shall have to comment one of these days on the movie, “Joe vs. the Volcano”. Life is meant to be lived, and not sold for ‘rent money’ in a rat race.

I do not care for glory, but I do want to have lived so I have done some bit of good in the world, that only I could have done, because that bit of good was my little work of genius. I don’t want or care for the spotlight, I just want to become what God put Man on Earth to become, like Him. I have a long way to go.

Friday, June 10, 2005

#%! Spanish Inquision

It is not often for me that a Star Trek quote accurately summerizes my feelings. The lines delivered were the movie where our heroes had gone back in time to save the whales. Silly green plot, but a fun movie anyway. At this particular moment, Bones was standing in the elevator with a couple of physicians discussing chemotherapy (or was it radiation?). "Do you have a differing opinion, Doctor?" And old Doctor 'Bones' McCoy says with usual tact, "God Damn Spanish Inquision".

Perhaps many of you know this story anyway. There is a girl in Texas with cancer. Some doctors, who think very highly of themselves, think she needs radiation therapy. Her parents disagree. In a normal sane society people can respect others opinions. It is not as if her parents are neglectful. They simply disagree.

And so what does the state do? It steps in 'to save her life'. After all, it is 'for the children'; who could disagree? Think of the children! Never mind that this precident give the power to the government to give you (at the moment, just our children) whatever medical treatment it sees fit, just as long as it is for our good. Well, for our good in their opinion.

Since when are any who disagree with a common opinion second-class citizens? Are dissenting opnions not allowed? Freedom of speech is offically protected, you just aren't allowed any dissenting opinions.

Honestly, this is a huge worry to me. What if the government wants to give my children some vaccines I do not consider safe, or drugs I disagree with, or some little RFID chip I am opposed to? Would they then turn my kids over to my neglectful ex? Just because I did not give into their desires? What ever happened to the 'land of the free'?

Thus far, the state has seized the child, and used the "Amber Alert" to do it. At least there is some public outcry. Let us see if she is returned and if she continues to improve.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

When a theory is not a theory

Pharyngula::A historian disgraces himself Well, supposedly at least.

Why is it that otherwise rational people forget what the scientific method is, because of prevailing public opinion? Ok, what is all this about. We have one guy arguing against evolution and another guy maiking fun of him. I am not going to get into the particulars because I have not made it a point of serious study. There are some serious problems with the prevailing theory, and some anomalous data, but I am not concerned with that at the moment.

What is wrong here is the fact that some things in science have been evalated about theory to fact. When does a theory become so well established that it becomes fact? Either when we have performed every possible experiment and excluded every alternate explanation, OR when God tell you so. In a word, that isn't going to happen to society anytime soon. Let's think about theories for a moment. Copernicus had revolutionary idea. It made calcuation easier, though the old way did work just fine. However, the authorities of the day saw no need to look through Galileo's telescope, because they already knew.

Around the turn of the century physics had been solved, with a few very small exceptions. Albert Michelson had data that told him otherwise, but he could not believe it. A few years later, Relativity and Quantum Mechanics blazed onto the scene and upset everything.

Right now, we have theories that no one would dare argue with. And those are the ones most likely to be in need of revision. Being a physicist myself, I have understand why it is said that the only thing that allows new theories to gain acceptance is the old generation dying off. I am going to mention a few theories that have had societies Final Judgement.

Gravity - At this point, it is called Law, but at least there are many that are looking for cracks in its armor. Einstein has become the patron saint of scientific knowledge. Not many people, certainly not many without pre-existing credentials, dare to critize him. And yet, there are problems. The gravitational constant is the most poorly measured constant of all the fundimental constants and some have argued for a whole new theory. Fascinating stuff, but the details are not the point at the moment.

Cold Fusion - NOBODY takes this seriously, except a few crackpots, right? Well, some of these crackpots have better credentials than I and have done some detailed research. This story is not over yet. If you want to read papers, check this out.

Evolution - Unless you just don't care what people think, don't even think of arguing against this one. Note that I am not specifically arguing, at the moment, that it is wrong. I may try to have a nuanced argument one of these days, but not today. The problem here that makes me want to scream is that no one will even take the opposition seriously. No one will think about it. Ok, I have to admit that some creationist are kooks. They take an overly literal reading, and don't even try to understand how God did it. And too many of them take intellectually weak positions like Intelligent Design, in some perverted attempt to merge both positions. Some of you will argue at this point that I am one of THEM, this guy is a Creationist. Yes, I am. And I don't pretend to have all the answers. But it really bugs me when other people without all the answers act like they do. The particular argument that I mentioned at the top is two people, neither of which are taking a proper look at the evidence. Yes, that is right. NEITHER. Is there some evidence for Evolution? Sure. Does that make it a sure thing, even if there were no evidence for Creation? (And yes, there is evidence) No, it does not. It takes a very honest man or woman to admit it is just a theory. Yes, folks, just a theory. And will it ever become a fact? Not by the scientific method it won't. It can't. We can not do every experiment and God does not seem to be in the habit, lately at least, of talking to large groups of agnostics. And until he says yay or nay, it will be a matter of faith.

That is why such arguments are generally so vitrolic, it is a matter of faith for both parties, but one sides denies it and the other doesn't like to admit it. How many people honestly search out the evidence and can clearly give you the arguments for and against? Almost no one. No one I can remember having met at least. The Evolution position is an act of faith in Authoritarianism and in certain pieces of evidence. Yes, an act of faith. Are all authorities worthy of being ignored or condemned? Certainly not. Should contrary evidence be ignored? No. Should we bare in mind the strengths and the weaknesses of the scientific method before we condemn religious positions, Always.

For your own saftey, ignore the Authorities

Wired Article

Yikes, the trip I took has seriously broken my blogging pattern. But no more! I have sworn to return to the blogosphere to add a voice of reason to some things on the fringe. But do not worry, if I have not been blogging, I have been reading. And I have some good stuff to talk (ok, type) about.

But for starters, this article in Wired impressed me. The people who escaped the twin towers during the 911 attacks, were those that ignored the authorities telling them to stay put. People didn't panic. They exited orderly and helped others along the way. There was none of this panic we are taught that happens under such circumstances. Many people broked the cardinal rule of emergencies and fires, don't use elevators. Braking that rule saved many more people. The lesson learned is that the people on the scene had better information than the so-called authorities had.

God has given each of us a brain and he expects us to use it. We can't delegate thinking to experts and authoritiies without losing some of our humanity. Reality gives security to no man, and any man that thinks that he can merely trust others to keep him safe, is hiding in ignorance. God insists on freedom and responsibility for each soul. The Devil on the other hand, desires people to have neither; he wants us controlled, and for others to be responsible for us. Of course, that just doesn't work. Ultimately, neither Communist societies, nor even socialist regimes like Hitler's, provided real security. Security does not come from experts.

Full article from Wired

For nearly four years - steadily, seriously, and with the unsentimental rigor for which we love them - civil engineers have been studying the destruction of the World Trade Center towers, sifting the tragedy for its lessons. And it turns out that one of the lessons is: Disobey authority. In a connected world, ordinary people often have access to better information than officials do.

Proof can be found in the 298-page draft report issued in April by the National Institute on Standards and Technology called Occupant Behavior, Egress, and Emergency Communications. (In layman's terms, that's who got out of the buildings, how they got out, and why.) It's an eloquent document, in many ways. The report confirms a chilling fact that was widely covered in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks. After both buildings were burning, many calls to 911 resulted in advice to stay put and wait for rescue. Also, occupants of the towers had been trained to use the stairs, not the elevators, in case of evacuation.

Fortunately, this advice was mostly ignored. According to the engineers, use of elevators in the early phase of the evacuation, along with the decision to not stay put, saved roughly 2,500 lives. This disobedience had nothing to do with panic. The report documents how evacuees stopped to help the injured and assist the mobility-impaired, even to give emotional comfort. Not panic but what disaster experts call reasoned flight ruled the day.

In fact, the people inside the towers were better informed and far more knowledgeable than emergency operators far from the scene. While walking down the stairs, they answered their cell phones and glanced at their BlackBerries, learning from friends that there had been a terrorist attack and that the Pentagon had also been hit. News of what was happening passed by word of mouth, and fellow workers pressed hesitating colleagues to continue their exit.

We know that US borders are porous, that major targets are largely undefended, and that the multicolor threat alert scheme known affectionately as "the rainbow of doom" is a national joke. Anybody who has been paying attention probably suspects that if we rely on orders from above to protect us, we'll be in terrible shape. But in a networked era, we have increasing opportunities to help ourselves. This is the real source of homeland security: not authoritarian schemes of surveillance and punishment, but multichannel networks of advice, information, and mutual aid.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

The world is not enough

US wants to be able to access Britons' ID cards

Ok, I am back in town, and the world has not completely fallen apart. But this is a weird bit of news. It seems that an easy to read National ID card is just not enough for the elites in power. It has to be compatible with new cards in Britain. The argument used is that we don't want a compatibility battle. From the article...

Mr Chertoff said yesterday that it was vital to seek compatibility, holding up the example of the "video war" of 25 years ago, when VHS and Betamax were in fierce competition to win the status of industry standard for video recording systems.

"I certainly hope we have the same chip... It would be very bad if we all invested huge amounts of money in biometric systems and they didn't work with each other.Hopefully, we are not going to do VHS and Betamax with our chips. I was one of the ones who bought Betamax, and that's now in the garbage," he said.

Why is it that we need to avoid any kind of a compatibility issue? Why is it we care about compatibility with anywhere other than home? Really, the only funny part is in the lameness of the VHS-Betamax argument used here, because the real reason is evident. They want compatibility because the elites do not merely have domination plans for just this country. I can see no other compelling reason, not one sufficient to coordinate the loss of security and privacy between two countries (or all of Europe rather).

It is all too much to take sometimes.