Showing posts with label editorial. Show all posts
Showing posts with label editorial. Show all posts

Saturday, May 31, 2014

When did the Fastlane on Highways start to be called the Passing Lane?

When did the fastlane on highways start to be called a passing lane? From what I seen, a few years ago there was was a big nationwide push to change the concept of our highways and freeways; from fastlane/slowlane to the idea of a weaving-between-lanes-to-keep-a-constant-speed. Constant weaving between lanes not only is more dangerous, it actually slows down traffic. Every time there is a lane change, there is potential to slow down traffic behind the change. Also, forcing more traffic into fewer lanes inherently increases traffic back-up and congestion. What is this passing lane concept trying to solve? It's not solving the problem of traffic congestion. It appears to be making things worse.

 The problem is that highways in US weren't designed with passing lane concept in mind. Passing lane concept makes little sense in the context of driving on a highway or freeway within most larger cities with current infrastructure. If law enforcement and lawmakers want to create new driving rules that change our driving habits this drastically, they need to fund changes to road system to support those new rules. This would in line with HOV lanes, where current lanes are not converted HOV, but rather the highway is expanded to add a new lane for HOV.

 The US actually does have some designed to be passing lanes. These are usually found when going up long or particularly steep hills. It usually involves a lane being added to the right side, rather than the left side of the road. This makes the most sense in the US. Slower traffic is supposed to move over to the right! That is how our road system was designed.

 A slower driver who refuses to move over to the right is the problem, not everyone else trying to drive safely at a constant speed! How about instead of trying to magically change US driving habits in a way that just isn't supported by our infrastructure, let's enforce the rule that slower traffic move to the right!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Notion of Creation is not a theory, and scientific theories aren't proposed notions

Bible based knowledge does not lead to new scientific knowledge.  People used to think the Bible was useful to learn about nature.  They did try to use it as a guide to make new discoveries.  However, over time, scientists started finding out that the Bible just gets so much wrong.    The Bible literally has almost every major point wrong about the universe, from its description of Earth as a flat world with a tent over head to its description of rabbits as cud chewers. The value of the Bible is it's a general moral guide taken in the context within the times each portion was originally written/re-written. Taking it for more than that is truly grasping as straws.  People discovered the hard way that the Bible was not a good starting point to learn about nature. That's why the practice of referring to the Bible as a source for science was stopped over time.
So, to that point, Creationism based on the Bible isn't a theory. It is a failed notion. A theory isn't just a proposal. It is a proven working model of the Universe with a lot of peer reviewed data, from which accurate predictions can be made. To extend this further, those predictions often create new areas of exploration and further growth of knowledge, directly leading to new technologies, either in the exploration of the theory or as a result of knowledge learned from the theory. Last major invention spurred by Bible belief was the telescope, and use of that technology disproved that belief; the creator being forced to recant his statements about reality and live under house arrest for the remainder of his life.

On the other hand, Darwin didn't create the Theory of Evolution, he proposed the core concepts based on his observations. Evolution was born out of the peer review process with much more independently collected data. Evolution wasn't a theory until there was a massive amount of data and extraneous amount of analysis of that data, from which the natural model was molded.

Why is Creationism not a theory? Because it doesn't have one iota of this. The supporters want a magical shortcut, using circular arguments and cherrypicked research of other people's works in the form of anecdotes and impressive looking fake equations. No actual proven predictions come from Creationsm nor from its child contrivance called Intelligent Design. Creationism is the end of knowledge, not its birth. That is why is it not a theory and it is not science. Now, that said, the challenge is always there for Creationism supporters to objectively collect data and test hypotheses. Even if they don't prove their hypotheses, at least new knowledge would come from that. This process has yet to be undertaken by Creationist (and Intelligent Design believers), or if it has, results have been hidden.

Examples of observations that would grow knowledge along the Creationist track:
  • Find DNA in mammals that cannot be traced back to a common ancestor or introduced by some other natural process.
  • Show completely distinct lifeforms with no ancestry at all. 
  • Find data that offers new evidence to reinterpret apparent evolution in our own species, from malaria resistance to lactose persistence.
  • Additionally, find data that better explains why pre-agricultural humans did not have cavities and modern humans with no cavities is almost unheard of? (Hint, that has been very well explained with a recent study of mouth-dwelling bacteria and their evolution to adapt to our changing diets, along with our own evolution for such too.)
These examples cannot be explained with anecdotes.  Hard evidence has to be presented from scientific studies using the Scientific Method.  Research doesn't count for this.  New evidence has be presented.  That evidence must be collected and peer reviewed.  Until that happens, Creation Notion can never be put on equal footing with any Scientific Theory, especially the Theory of Evolution.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Lockdown of Boston

Well, the news today is surreal. Although I don't live in the Watertown area, I do work in nearby Waltham, so I've decided to work from home today. Allie and I are safe. We have relatives in Watertown that are also doing well. Just as I type that, the email comes from work saying that our Waltham Campus is closed due to these on-going incidents. And, as I come to post this article on my blog here, the lockdown of the entire Boston area seems to have just been put in place.

I gotta say, that although any city would be angry that these assholes would attack their home, Boston really was the wrong city to go after. Resolved is heighten, not diminished. The people are not terrorized, they are just pissed. Ironically, these Chechnyan terrorists have misjudged America. US has spoke out against previous Russian actions in Chechnya (de facto support of Chechnya). I'm guessing we won't be doing that anymore. So, instead of forwarding their cause for Chechnyan independence, these idiots have pretty much buried all hope of that ever happening. ...and to spend your entire adult life for one poorly executed blood bath? How sad that they valued their own lives so poorly as to give them up for so little. In America, we say, Give Me Liberty Or Give Me Death. I guess these idiots motto is "Give me death because I'm going to make everyone pay for my self-loathing."

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Who are we calling producers and who are those who refuse to produce?

One of the sad sign of our times is that we demonize those who produce, subsidize those who refuse to produce, and canonize those who complain. --Thomas Sowell
This is a particularly disgusting statement.  First, those who produce and those who do not is a matter of perspective.  What do you tell the father of 3 who has relied on a job for most of his life, who then lost his job because the company who he worked for was mismanaged by executives and had to shut down?  What do you tell that same father when the same guys that ran his company into the ground got huge bonuses "so they wouldn't leave" before operations were completely shut down?  If the father had stock in that company, he lost on two fronts because of those executives.

Given Sowell's statement above, I would ask, who is he calling the producer?  Who is he calling "those who refuse to produce"?  Would it be the executives that drove their company into the ground, not only losing value in the company, but also within the greater economy?  If anything, they are anti-producers.  This makes them worse than the supposed people who "refuse to produce", whoever they are.  The producer is the father who worked his entire life at his company, making the goods and services that found their way into homes all across America.

Fed has spent trillions to keep a dying financial industry on life support, who in turn gave huge bonuses to the very people the caused the last melt down of our economy.  What did those people do with the rest of the taxpayer's money?  Most of it is locked away, being kept out of the economy (likely for good).

Are we really all that worried about giving a few pennies (comparatively) to people who are likely already not putting enough food on the table because they believed in this very system that eventually let them down?  It's this kind of nonsense that makes communism start to look good to the starving masses.  We would not need to raise taxes had it not been for the massive problems that we, the voters, allowed in Wall Street by putting congresspersons in office that are more worried about the next big donor than they are about the solvency of our system.

How badly do we want to lower taxes?  Well, let's consider something.  Out of the last three crashes of our economy, two were caused by real estate financials games that started happening as a direct result of deregulation of particular financial institutions.  The games these institutions were playing eventually stopped working, but the corporations still needed to pretend they were making money (when, in fact, they were losing massive amounts of money).  So, they created paperwork fantasies to keep showing profits on Wall Street in order to convince everyone that nothing was going on until it was too late.  The third economic crash was caused by too much speculation on Wall Street. The common thread here is Wall Street and all the money that the taxpayer is continuously asked to pay to keep these guys rich when really they should be in jail.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Is state sales tax on interstate commerce allowed?

Did you know that individual States cannot tax interstate commerce, as a general rule? There are some very specific exceptions, and California (and other States) have been trying to exploit extremely loose interpretations of those exceptions.

Interstate commerce is any transaction, transit or business that is conducted across State borders. This includes mail order, Internet, and physically going to another State to purchase an item to bring back to your home State. Many States have taxes on their books that attempt to circumvent this law. Recently, States have been trying to exploit what they think is a loophole in the Quill Corp. v. North Dakota (91-0194), 504 U.S. 298 (1992) Supreme Court ruling that solidified the limitations on taxation by States. In this ruling, the Supreme Court declares that States may only attempt to levy an interstate commerce tax against businesses that have a presence within their State, known as a substantial nexus. Leave it to judges to come up with a term like that. It basically means a business must have a physical presence within the State in order for its transactions to be taxed by that State.

California is now ready to pass a law that will try to specifically impose the collection of taxes from consumers on sales by online retailers, even when the retailer has no physical presence within the State. They are trying to expand on a similar law passed by New York recently. The idea behind the bill is that marketing itself counts as some sort of physical presence. If that doesn’t scare everyone, I don’t know what will. It basically means that anyone with a website that is accessible within California’s territory (i.e., any website on the Internet) is subject to California taxes and law, even if they’ve never set foot in the State. This substantially contradicts the body of Quill v ND, but hey, it’s a taxation party right now!

Now, the common mistake is to assume “oh, the States are just strapped for cash and are trying to find ways to soak us dry.” That might be true if politicians actual wrote the bills that become laws. As a general rule, they do not. You know who does, as a general rule? Corporate lawyers of companies that lobby our legislative bodies. Hmmm, what corporate lawyers would be in favor of raising taxes on businesses? The corporate lawyers that work for companies who would not be substantially hurt by those taxes, but whose competitors would be. Let this excerpt from a recent letter from Amazon.com tell the story.



For well over a decade, the Amazon Associates Program has worked with thousands of California residents. Unfortunately, a potential new law that may be signed by Governor Brown compels us to terminate this program for California-based
participants. It specifically imposes the collection of taxes from consumers on
sales by online retailers – including but not limited to those referred by
California-based marketing affiliates like you – even if those retailers have no
physical presence in the state.

We oppose this bill because it is unconstitutional and counterproductive. It is supported by big-box retailers, most of which are based outside California, that seek to harm the affiliate advertising programs of their competitors. Similar legislation in other states has led to job and income losses, and little, if any, new tax revenue.

Big-box retailers are companies like Target and Walmart. According to Amazon.com, companies like these seek to protect their businesses by fooling State governments into thinking the State will increase revenue with expanded scope on their sales taxes. Instead, this new tax (like any other tax) has a negative impact on the economy. I’m not against all taxation, but I am against any laws (taxes or otherwise) where one industry attempts to screw over another without providing any new benefit to the consumer.

My website is just like any other. It does generate an extremely small amount of income from referrals (upon which I already pay income tax) via affiliate links with Amazon (please see the FTC 16 CRF Part 255 notice in the right column). Now, this law wouldn’t require me to pay any more taxes direclty, but as a customer of Amazon and other online sites, I would be forced to pay sales tax from a law that is probably unconstitutional. Laws that see to “tax the Internet” erode everyone’s rights, and threaten to hold anyone with a website accountable to the individual laws of over six thousand different taxing jurisdictions in America, according the Quill v ND ruling (linked above).

Oddly enough, I no longer live in California. But, how long will it be before more States try to pass similar laws? Congress needs to act on this issue soon to prevent this economic nighmare from growing any further. I’m not making this a call to action because each person much act on their own. As such, I am going to be contacting my *new* Congress representitives about this issue very shortly.

For additional reading, please see The Problems of State Taxation of Interstate Commerce and Why Congress Should Act

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

49er's Stadium: What does Cedar Fair really want?

Perhaps there is some legitimate concern for proper bureaucratic process over at Cedar Fair, owners of California's Great American theme park. Why else would they file a lawsuit against the City of Santa Clara complaining about how paperwork was recently handled in the process to approve the new 49ers stadium? (Santa Clara County Superior Court Case number 109CV158836.) Well, maybe they seek to take advantage of the delicate phase in the planning of the new stadium?

Given the lack of enthusiasm for the new stadium previously expressed by Cedar Fair, I'm guessing this is more of a ploy to legally extort conditions and concessions from the City of Santa Clara. Cedar Fair may feel it needs more money from the city simply because the new stadium site is a direct neighbor to the theme park. Here's the funny part. Even though Cedar Fair does own Great American, the City of Santa Clara actually owns the land upon which Great America rests. The City of Santa Clara is the landlord to Cedar Fair. Santa Clara has already bent over backwards to make Cedar Fair feel at home. Cedar Fair now seems to be abusing their position as our guest and interfering in our business. Is there a San Francisco connection, as SF City Hall tries to buy yet even more time in their uber-pathetic effort to keep the 49er's in San Francisco? They've already had over 1.5 decades to do something.

Frankly, there could also be a Sac connection, since some big names in our state and even the Federal government are against the 49er's moving to another city in the Bay Area. Again, there is another funny part to this. If the 49er's do not find a new home in the Bay Area, they have suggested that the will leave the area completely. So, all this effort to pin the 49er's down in San Francisco could backfire by slingshotting our team to another state altogether! How embarrassing would that be?

And now a new wrinkle. Cedar Fair was just bought by a private firm that has yet to comment on their position. My hope is that they do not interfere with local economic endeavors, and instead help boost the local economy by supporting the new 49ers stadium.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

"Mommy, what's a keyboard"

Even with the explosion of the QWERTY keyboard being plastered on to almost every type of electronic device these days, I’m going to go out on a limb here and now to declare that the QWERTY keyboard will be obsolete within my lifetime. This prediction is not limited to the keyboard device I’m using to type this article. I’m referring to any type of letter based data input that takes the form of QWERTY. The beginning of the end for QWERTY is not the Dvorak keyboard. Nor is it speak [mis]recognition technology. In my view, the signal of the end is predictive text input.

Predictive text input is where a person enters there first couple of letters and then is presented with a word or list of words that most likely match the author’s intent. The author keeps typing until the correct word appears, then accepts the entry. On a cell phone number pad, each number represents 3 or 4 letters. Predictive test input can quickly find the desired word, often with the push of only a couple of numbers. In addition, more sophisticated systems will learn which words are most commonly used by the author and present those as first choices to the author.

With predictive text input, a person can drastically increase their typing capabilities. I’ve seen individuals text with cell phones numeric pads faster than what is even possible on a smartphone QWERTY keyboard. In fact, I would suggest that average wpm speeds of numeric pad texters with predictive text input even exceeds that of experienced typists on traditional full size keyboard devices. That’s not hyperbole, and I’m not kidding. The QWERTY keyboard’s current Golden Age will be over soon enough.