Category Archives: Technology

One of the Rich

As I have written before, my family and I are just above the so-called poverty line, so although a person who makes $180,000 a year is not filthy rich, he is a lot richer than I am. Given that the person I speak of has also made another million or so on the side, he is way, way richer than I am. The person I speak of is a scientist in a government sponsored job. In other words, every person who pays income tax, directly or indirectly, is paying him. (Even those who pay no income tax, like me, pay it indirectly because we purchase things from people who pay it, and it is undoubtedly part of the price that we pay.)

His name is James Hansen, and he works for NASA at the Goddard Space Institute. On top of his quite nice salary that taxpayers fund, he has made a lot of money on the side–in ways that some people think are in violation of federal regulations. That part remains to be seen, but it is clear to me that what he has done is unethical in the general sense of the word. He apparently has used his position in a government agency to make extra money, to advocate a position that he is being paid to advocate, and to advance an agenda that makes many of his backers wealthy, too.  And it just so happens that his agenda is quite controversial and is not accepted by all of the taxpayers who fund his work.

I find it disgusting, deplorable, and despicable.  Yuck, yuck, yuck!  And I woudl dislike it even if he was being paid by some oil company to oppose the global warming movement.  In other words, I am against this sort of thing in principle–not because of my personal views on what Hansen has been advocating.

This situation is a straightforward and clearcut example of why I believe in the separation of business and state.  Climate research should be conducted and funded solely by private individuals and groups who have an interest in it.  Any adovocacy or promotion of a certain approach to climate should likewise be done privately.  Otherwise you run the huge risk that people will do what could easily be construed as taking bribes.  And, as I wrote above, I don’t care if the cause is something I believe in.  I want the government out of it.

If it is as important as people say it is, then people will support research on Climate Change.  They will support efforts to reverse it.  The govenrment, that is, the state, won’t have to.  If people are not in favor of support climate change research and propaganda, then the government should not do so.  “We the people” are actually the government.  Our representatives are supposed to–imagine it–represent us.

Since I wrote about Ayn Rand in the post below this one, let me make one thing perfectly clear.  In recent discussions I have had, it seems that many people would assume that Rand would applaud this man, Hansen, because of the large amount of money that he made for himself.  Not at all!  She would be appalled.  She believed, like me, that the government should have no involvement with business–either for good or ill.  She would certainly admire Hansen if he made a lot of money as a research scientist working for a private foundation or private business, especially if his work also happened to contribute something good to the world (think:  Harold Roark in The Fountainhead and Hank Rearden in Atlas Shrugged).  But she would not admire somebody living off public money and using his public position to further enrich himself.  Such a man is the antithesis of Roark or Rearden.

I think this leads me to another point.  Based on what I have written, it would seem that I object to the existence of NASA in the first place.  Actually, I do.  The work of NASA could have been done by private organizations and individuals.  You might say, “But private people do not have the great resources that the government has.”  I would first say, “Huh?”  First, the government is you and me, ultimately–”we the people. . . .”  Second, all the resources (or nearly all) that the “government” invested in NASA came from private people and private businesses.  Our government leaders don’t have a magic money machine or a big pile of money hidden under the Capitol building.  They get money by taxing us.  Therefore, all the money that has been poured into NASA could just as easily have been donated to a private space foundation or have been earned by a private space exploration company.

It’s the same money.  The same money that the government spent on space exploration was the money that once was in the hands of all of us.  So, it might have been nice for our leaders to let us decide if we wanted to spend our money on a space program or not.  If there was overwhelming support for such a program, it would have happened anyway, without the state’s involvement.  Just as there is a movie industry and a sports industry that does not depend on the state to exist and to thrive.

Not Just a Blob

     What if the “blob of tissue” that women get rid of during an abortion were not just a blob of tisuse?  What if it had appendages and even a rudimetary face?  By the time most women know that they are pregnant, decide to have an abortion, and then go through with it, the fetus is more than a little blob, and a new technology would allow them to hold a little model of her or him in their own hands. 

     Would a mother still want to”get rid of it” once she saw what “it” really was?  Maybe.  I don’t think that most mothers would.

Miraculous Diary?

     If I had heard about it, I had forgotten.  Pages from a diary that was aboard the space shuttle Columbia were discovered in a field in Texas about two months after the shuttle exploded.  They belonged to an Israeli astronaut, Ilan Ramon.  Some of them are now on display in a museum in Jerusalem.

     It seems unbelievable that the pages survived.  Is it a miracle?

Why Can’t We Drill Our Way Out?

     “We can’t drill our way out of the energy crisis.”  Who said it?

     Well, apparently Harry Reid said it first, then Nancy Pelosi repeated it, and then Barack Obama said it next.  And they say that Republicans have a playbook!

     As Ann Coulter points out, it’s like saying:

  • “You can’t eat your way out of being hungry!”
  • “You can’t water your way out of drought!”
  • “You can’t sleep your way out of tiredness!”
  • “You can’t drink yourself out of dehydration!”

     Why just today I ate myself out of being hungry.  It really does work.  You should try it.

     Likewise, if we drill for oil we are bound to have more oil, and having more oil should alleviate the problem of low supply.  Funny how that works!

     Of course, our Democratic friends counter with, “It will take years for greater oil supplies to lower prices.”  Hello!!!!!!  That’s what the Republicans said several years ago.  You, the Democrats, stopped them from allowing new drilling to take place.

     And now they want to raise prices by enacting a windfall profits tax on an industry that already pays three times more in taxes than it collects in profits.  The consumer won’t have to pay it, they say.  It’s a corporate tax.  Right.  Those corporations will just gladly pay it and won’t increase the price they put on the gasoline.  Or will they?  What do you think?

     Besides, what is a corporation?  Most of the oil companies are joint stock companies, and many middle-class and even lower-class working people have money invested in them for retirement.  When I lived on the Texas Gulf Coast, I had friends who worked for the oil refineries.  Their entire retirement fund consisted of shares in the companies they worked for.  When those companies lose, their retirement money dwindles.  Think about it.

     And what about the ladies that work in the school cafeteria that my sister-in-law manages?  Some of them are single moms; others are supplementing the family income.  Yet some of them have said that they don’t know if they can keep working, since they can hardly afford to pay for gasoline to get to work.

     So, Democrats, where exactly is your concern for the poor?  Do you think it will hurt rich people to keep paying more and more for automobile fuel?  Or will it hurt the poor working man who wonders how he will be able to buy enough gas to get to work?  The answer seems obvious to me.


No Ethical Dilemma for Me

     Do you know any children with Down’s syndrome?  I have known several.  In fact, I helped some kids with Down’s learn to read in a summer program in which I taught for a few years.  My wife’s sister had Down’s, and although I never knew her, I feel as though I did.

     Sharon, my wife’s sister, made a huge impact on my wife.  I believe that having such a sister helped mold my wife into the caring, compassionate person she is today.  Even now, the people who knew Sharon talk about what a happy and loving child she was.  Unfortunately she died at age 18 from the heart problems that went along with her disorder.

     Do you think parents who know that their unborn child has Down’s syndrome should “terminate the pregnancy”?  Do you think destroying the child in the womb is better than letting it live with Down’s syndrome?

     Scientists have developed a noninvasive test for determining if a fetus (that is, a preborn baby) has the disorder.  They can detect it in the mother’s blood.  It is a better alternative to the tests that are currently available, because they involve sticking a needle into the womb and can lead to miscarriage.

     The linked article suggests that the test will pose an ethical dilemma for the parents.  It wouldn’t for me.  My wife and I opted not to have either amniocentesis or chorionic villius sampling done when she was pregnant.  We knew that we would accept and love our babies as a gift from God, no matter how “normal” or “abnormal” they turned out to be.

     There are two problems with the whole idea of testing for Down’s syndrome, in my opinion. 

     First, the test is not 100% accurate, according to a trial.  Which means that some parents might choose to abort a perfectly normal baby, based on incorrect test results.  It also means that some parents who were determined not to have an abnormal baby will get a huge shock when their baby ends up being born with Down’s after all.

     Second, it’s just plain wrong to destroy a person because he or she is abnormal.  People supposedly do it for the sake of the child, but let’s be honest.  People who abort a baby that is thought to have Down’s syndrome do it because they cannot face having a child with a disability.  Either it hurts their ego, or they are too scared to accept the challenge of it. 

     Life is a precious gift that should not be thrown away.  In fact, people should be committed to preserving the lives of those most vulnerable–not testing them to see if they are fit to live.  It’s tempting to wonder if people who would destroy a tiny preborn infant because of chromosomal abnormalities are fit to live themselves.  Of course, that’s really between them and God.

Back to Bach

     Do you want to know what Johann Sebastian Bach looked like?  Check out this video.  Here’s a print article with still photos.

A Blessing a Day: My Computer

Each day from now until Thanksgiving Day, I plan to post something that I’m thankful for.

NOVEMBER 16–My Computer 

     The usefulness of something is always more apparent when it is gone or inoperable.  At the moment my computer is the latter.  It is in the shop and might be out later today. 

     I could live without access to this blog or to the ones I enjoy reading.  Somehow I could manage without Google.  However, I’m enrolled in an online course and I must have access to the Internet in order to get my work in this week.  Fortunately my sister has lent me her laptop.

     I won’t go into the pros and cons of computers.  We users all know what they are.  But overall I am very thankful for my computer and for the genius that went into designing it.


A Blessing a Day: Plumbing

 Each day from now until Thanksgiving Day, I plan to post something that I’m thankful for.

NOVEMBER 14–Plumbing 

     I have lived in the so-called Third World.  I have seen sanitation–actually the lack of sanitation–that would curl your ears.  I am thankful that I have grown up in a time and place with indoor bathrooms.  It might seem silly to write about plumbing as a blessing, but consider the alternative.

     Whenever I hear people talk about one career being more important than another, I always think about janitors.  We joke about janitors, but where would we be without them?  I’ve done a bit of work as a janitor myself, and it is definitely not pleasant, but it is necessary.  All of those sparkling facilities that you find in most public places have to be cleaned by somebody.  And they must be kept in good working order.  Yes, janitors are important and should be valued more highly.

     Plumbers too.  I’m thankful for plumbers, because I’m not good at that kind of work myself.  I once tried to do a plumbing job myself and finally called a professional.  In my opinion it’s a noble profession because it’s one that most of us wouldn’t like to do but that all of us want done.

     The society which scorns excellence in plumbing as a humble activity and tolerates shoddiness in philosophy because it is an exalted activity will have neither good plumbing nor good philosophy. . .neither its pipes nor its theories will hold water.

           –John W. Gardner

New Developments in Malaria Prevention

     The BBC reports some good news about the prevention of malaria.  A possible vaccine has been shown to be safe and apparently effective in preventing this horrible disease.  It is not definite yet, but it is a good step in the right direction.

     I have lived where malaria was common, and I have known many families who have lost loved ones, especially children, to it.  Between 1 and 3 million people die from it every year.  Let that statistic really sink in!    

    This good news follows another recent report that the use of treated nets has reduced the number of deaths from malaria in Africa.  Thank God!

     I had malaria once.  At the time I was taking preventative medicine, which made my infection light, and I was able to take a cure right away, which worked quickly to stop it.  However, in the parts of the world where malaria exists, many of the people cannot afford either the prophylaxis or the cure.  Many of them simply cannot get the drugs.

     Another solution to the problem would be to eliminate the mosquitoes that carry the parasite.  This was done effectively in the North America by the draining of swamps and the spraying of DDT.  But some birds died, and Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring, and people in other parts of the world were not allowed to use DDT on a wide scale to kill the anopheles mosquitoes that spread malaria among them.  In the meantime millions of people have died.

     Let’s hope that these new measures will wipe out, or at least slow down, the spread of this killer.

It’s Alive (Almost, Maybe)

     So, a scientist (a mad one, perhaps?) has finally created life.  At least it looks that way.

     Well, he didn’t exactly create life; he just modified it a bit.  And he hasn’t actually succeeded yet; at least he hasn’t formally announced it.  Notice the title, “I Am Creating Artificial Life.”

     Notice also that it took Criag Venter, a creator, to bring about this “new life form.”  and finally, please notice that he is justifying it by saying that it could lead to solving the problem of global warming, the current trendy cause.

     What do you think about new artificial life forms being created?  Do you think it will enable mankind to save the planet?  Do you think it may lead to disastrous results in the future?  Does it have any bearing on the debate among Evolutionists, Creationists, and Intelligent Designists?