Newt’s Moon Base

If you’ve been following the news, one of the front-runner candidates for president is Newt Gingrich.  Looking at the Republican candidates, I’m pretty much universally disgusted.  I’ve watched the debates and sat in abhorrence as the crowd cheered on bizarre, inhumane ideas.  They roared in applause at the mention of Rick Perry’s record number of executions during his administration as governor of Texas.  When Ron Paul told them that attacking other nations that have done nothing to us violates the golden rule, the entire hall boo’d and roared in disgust.  At another time, I think it was Wolf Blitzer, asked Ron Paul what he would do if a 20~30 year old needed medical attention yet lacked health insurance at the time.  Would he let him die? Paul basically replied, “In a society with personal responsibility…” and the crowd cheered ecstatically.  Though he basically avoided the question, he doesn’t seem to feel there’s anything wrong with saddling that young man in $50,000 of debt, or if he can’t afford it, and the hospital won’t finance it, just letting him die.  He thinks that some charity organization will always be there.  I seriously doubt it, and should we really play around with people’s lives like that?  It’s disgusting.  The crowd boo’d hysterically when Rick Perry mentioned that he was proud that he’d taken measures to help educate illegals who had come into Texas from Mexico.  Oh, and on the most recent debate, the moderator brought up the issue of Newt having abandoned his sick wives (yes, he’s left two different wives on different occasions when they were sick and in the way), Newt basically responded with, “For you to bring up the issue of my past wives in a presidential debate is despicable.”  And the crowd roars in applause!  What happened to the family values they’re supposed to stand for?  Don’t half of them vote solely on ethical issues?  The only thing that seems to unite the current conservative base is the deep desire to start another war in Iran.

I don’t understand mainstream conservatives at all.  They talk about Jesus, the Bible and “family values”, but then at the same time could care less about Newt and his past affairs.  That’s an attack from the lamesteam “liberal” media.  It’s pretty ingenious how conservative politicians play that made up narrative to their advantage.

Or take universal healthcare.  They hold up their Bibles, but in that same book Jesus taught that if you find a sick man along the roadside, put him up in an inn and leave the innkeeper with money to take care of him until he recovers.  But when the issue comes up, it’s the evangelicals who are up in an uproar.  “It’s a government takeover of healthcare!”  What?  And half of them are old people on Medicare, which they all universally love!   Sometimes I just don’t know.

And Rick Perry, the family man.  How could these people cheer on executions?  Jesus taught to forgive your enemies, pray for those who have done evil to you, and to turn the other cheek.  Jesus died for others; he never called for execution.

Regardless of what you think of Christianity and its teachings, it just disgusts me is how these people run around with crosses and Bibles, decrying everyone else as heathens, and wanting prayer in schools, yet haven’t even read the book they want to cram down our throats.  They cheer for wars. If Jesus was a presidential candidate, they’d boo him off the stage. Jesus and Christianity are just crude bumper stickers they attach to.  Tribal “logo” decals these people put on themselves.  It’s like the American flag.  To appeal to this crowd, you just need to understand a few buzzwords.  You talk about freedom, the red, white, and blue, and finally, mention that you pray to Jesus and look up to Ronald Reagan.  But don’t think too hard about it, because if you do, it won’t make any sense at all.  Ronald Reagan was all about free-markets, and their other supposed master, Jesus, was a communist.  After all, Christ’s apostles formed a completely communist society where everything was owned in common, and nobody had personal property.  Didn’t Jesus send his apostles out to preach his message, and not demand any financial compensation in return?  But who has actually read the four Gospels, or book of the Acts of the Apostles these days?

I say all of this to point out the sheer stupidity of what goes on in these debates.

It’s painful to support any of the candidates that are out there today.  I don’t like any of them.  So I actually came out and reluctantly supported Ron Paul.  But don’t get me wrong, I don’t like him much either.  I do admire his consistency.  The others?  Well, all I’ll say about Michelle Bachmann and Rick Perry is that I’m glad they’ve dropped out.  Mitt Romney, I have no idea what he even stands for.  I don’t trust a word out of his mouth.  I at least know Ron Paul believes what he says, and will respect personal liberty.  After seeing signs of Big Brother emerging here within the United States, and our civil liberties being trampled on, I don’t have much faith in President Obama.  Anyone who could throw a person in jail indefinitely, without a trial, will never have my vote.  I HATE Guantanamo Bay.  Everytime I hear that place is still in existence, I grit my teeth in anger.  People being locked up without a trial, indefinitely, it’s just against everything I stand for and believe in.  It’s pure evil.  Worthless wars, erosion of liberties, huge debts and deficits.  I want it all to end.  I hate seeing these SOPA bills and PIPA, and I want a president who would veto that shit into the trashcan.  Ron Paul would veto all of them for sure.

So as I was out for a walk the other day, I just was thinking, “I can’t find any redeeming quality in any of these people other than Ron Paul.”  I look at them all and they come up lacking.   But even with Ron Paul, I just cringe at the thought of him cutting foreign aid, cutting the National Science Foundation funding, completely privatizing everything he can get his hands on.  The list of things me and him disagree with on is large.

I’m not a socialist, and I’m not a free market libertarian.  I’m someplace inbetween, wanting compassion in our society yet at the same time still desiring a large degree of personal responsibility, transparency, and efficiency.  It just seems possible that we can have a society where we get the benefits of corporations and our collective working power, without brutally exploiting one another in abhorrent working conditions (like the Chinese factories I’ve been talking about), without insane wealth disparities, without people going broke if they come down with a medical condition, and a commitment that everyone deserves a shot at a decent life.  People need access to the skills and training required to work in today’s information economy.  If that means funding their college education, then so be it.  I don’t want to get into the university system though.  Costs are skyrocketing, and there’s a lot of things that need to be done there too.

My main desire is to see an educated society which respects and funds science research.  It’s what drives progress.  Cures for diseases, new forms of transportation, new forms of innovative manufacturing, and so on.  Reading over the history of science and progress inspires me.  I’d like to help be a part of that progressive trend of improvement.  That’s mainly why I’ve chosen to be a physicist.  I want to build things which improve our lives.  I want to build AI systems which can drive cars, construct new robotic arms using nanotechnology, or write the code running our future virtual reality systems.   Maybe even more than any of those things, I want to see space exploration.  There’s an entire universe out there.  I’ve always wondered why nobody ever has a vision to explore space.  I guess they feel our society’s resources could be better used elsewhere, and I can understand that, but I also feel our generation needs a vision.  Something to be proud of.  All I hear about is decline, decline, and decline.  I get tired of it.

But my mouth dropped when I actually heard a presidential candidate wanting to do something truly daring and exciting.  The media has been deriding Newt Gingrich about his commitment to building a moon base, but I may be somewhat changing my opinion of him.  I thought, “A moon base?!  Wow… that’s pretty, awesome.”   During his second term, he tells us we’ll have a moon base.  But will Congress fund a moon colony?  If so, I’ll vote for Newt.  I’d love to see mankind construct a moon base.  Obama’s just going to indefinitely detain me and I will NEVER vote for someone who doesn’t even believe in due process.  But I’m sure Newt will just continue those same policies too… *grits teeth*  Why does every candidate have to suck?  I haven’t read if he has a position on the Patriot Act, SOPA, PIPA, and all that.  I didn’t feel Newt was even close to electable considering what he did to his past wives.   Should I even vote?  I don’t want any of these people running our country.

Vote Ron Paul?  Eh’, Ron’s going to cut every government service, and though I’d like to see a lot of waste eliminated, I know there are vital government services that we need.  It’s just too radical of a position.  So why not Newt?   I don’t like any of these people, but if Newt is elected, maybe we will build a moon base.  I could be proud of my generation.  I’d be an old man, my great nephews would visit me in my cabin out in the middle of nowhere, and I’d have photographs in my album of me working on the moon base.

“…twice recently Governor Romney has made fun of me for having bold ideas in space and has suggested that the idea of having a permanent lunar colony – he actually didn’t catch the weirdest thing I’ve ever done and I’m going to tell you all because sooner or later his researchers will find it – at one point early in my career I introduced the Northwest Ordinance for Space, and I said when we get – I think the number was 13,000 – when we have 13,000 Americans living on the Moon they can petition to become a state [laughter and applause].

And here’s the difference between romantics and so-called practical people. I wanted every young American to say to themselves: I could be one of those 13,000. I could be a pioneer. I need to study science and math and engineering. I need to learn how to be a technician. I can be part of building a bigger, better future. I can actually go out and live the future looking at the solar system and being part of a generation of courageous people who do something big and bold and heroic.

And I will as President encourage the introduction for the Northwest Ordinance for Space to put a marker down that we want Americans to think boldly about the future and we want Americans to go out and study hard and work hard, and together we are going to unleash the American people to rebuild the country we love [applause].

So, I’m going to give you a set of goals and then I’m going to make a set of observations about how to achieve those goals.

By the end of my second term we will have the first permanent base on the Moon, and it will be American [applause].

We will have commercial near-Earth activities that include science, tourism, and manufacturing, and are designed to create a robust industry precisely on the model that was developed by the airlines in the 1930s, because it is in our interest to acquire so much experience in space that we clearly have a capacity that the Chinese and the Russians will never come anywhere close to matching [applause].

And by the end of 2020 we will have the first continuous propulsion system in space capable of getting to Mars in a remarkably short time, because I am sick of being told we have to be timid, and I’m sick of being told we have to be limited to technologies that are 50 years old [applause].”

– Newt Gingrich, during his speech January 25th Space Policy Town Hall speech

Not only the moon, but new propulsion systems which can take us to Mars and beyond.  That’s about the only cool thing I’ve heard out of any of these candidates.  If that’s not all rhetoric Newt, I’ll consider voting for you.  You fund it, I’ll help build it.  But I have my doubts about you.  Can you seriously get Congress to fund something other than yet another middle-eastern war?  Our needing to “stop” Iran from getting imaginary nuclear weapons seems to be the only issue our two parties agree on.  I would have hoped we’d learned our lesson in Iraq.

*Sigh*  Why do I even bother following politics.  It just makes be depressed.

Conditions In Chinese Factories

Just a few days ago I felt compelled to blog about the conditions of workers in Chinese factories like Foxconn.  These factories are responsible for assembling our iPods, iPads, Xboxes, and other electronic devices.  Workers in these places are slaves.  If you can’t see that, you’re completely blind.  They can be at times worked for 35 hour long shifts, paid a whopping 35 cents an hour, and are often caught attempting suicide within the factory.  What kind of workplace has nets hanging from the walls to catch suicide roof jumpers?  I’m really tired of hearing people praise Steve Jobs.  Companies like Sony, Apple, and Microsoft are earning billions of dollars in profits as they exploit the poor and helpless.  35 cents an hour?  Twelve year prison sentences if they try to form a union?  Eight people to a small dorm, crammed together like sardines?  It’s evil.

Jon Stewart covered the issue, and I think you should watch him.

The Daily Show
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It should be illegal to do business with companies that fail to meet various working condition standards.

Worshiping the Invisible Hand

I don’t know where I sit on the political spectrum, but I know I don’t fit into any particular party or ideology.  I’m not a socialist, nor a communist, and I suppose you could say I reluctantly advocate free markets, though I don’t think the invisible hand deserves much praise.

I feel that large amounts of money in few hands is a dangerous thing.  Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.  My views toward the rich could be summed up with this quote,

‘To convert the business man into the profiteer is to strike a blow at capitalism … The business man is only tolerable so long as his gains can be held to bear some relation to what, roughly and in some sense, his activities have contributed to society.”

– John Maynard Keynes

As long as businesses create products and services that improve people’s lives, in fair competition, then I won’t complain about large profits or even a large degree of income inequality.  I’ll bear it.  As Mark Zuckerberg rakes in billions of dollars selling our private information to marketing firms and private corporations, I’ll turn away because I know of the millions of people, like my mom, who love Facebook, and it really does provide a service people love.

But there are those who worship the free market.  They lose all common sense and spew out total nonsense.   Many if not most hardcore libertarians are this way, and that’s why I can’t associate myself with them.  One of their central websites is the Ludwig von Mises Institute, and I occasionally read their articles.   Just a few days ago I came across the most ridiculous post entitled Defending Kim Kardashian.

I saw the title and immediately rolled my eyes.  I thought, “Are you kidding me?  Are you seriously going to defend the millions of dollars Kim Kardashian is making?”  I read on to find gems like these,

Unlike the majority of us who live relatively boring lives, Kim Kardashian has made a career out of selling the public an up-close-and-personal view of her private affairs. This recently included a rumored farce of a wedding to NBA superstar Kris Humphries, which fizzled after only three days but made the reality star millions.

Whether or not you agree with the type of life Kim Kardashian leads is ultimately a question of morality and ethics. However, her ability to attract fans and monetary compensation is something to admire. Unlike the government, Kardashian forces no one to purchase the products she endorses, view her television reality shows, attend her birthday party, or cover her exploits for various media publications. What she gives up in terms of a private life has brought her and her family a financially comfortable standard of living.

Oh yes, Kim Kardashian lives such a fascinating life.  *rolls eyes* We all know reality television is poison for the mind.  American culture has went down the toilet, and it’s really an indictment against our society that anyone is interested in Kim Kardashian at all.  I’ll admit she earned her money in the free market, and nobody was forced to participate in her wedding, or watch her television show, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t a parasite to society.

Of all the people in this world, you think she’s the one who deserves millions of dollars in the bank, which she earned through a sham wedding, to a man she obviously didn’t love?  Just a few weeks after the fact, both her and her ex-husband were bad mouthing one another.  “You’re only famous because you made that sex tape!”  “Oh yeah!  You’re just an inconsiderate bastard!”

She’s the one who deserves to have the best of everything life has to offer?  Are you seriously trying to defend this woman, in the midst of our economic crisis?   This is what I mean.  The free market is their religion, and it blinds them to common sense.

After babbling on about capital, the free market, and the importance of saving, the article proceeds with,

The act of savings both forestalls present consumption and, when placed into a bank or financial institution, adds to the amount of funds available to be lent to aspiring entrepreneurs. With more funds available, longer-term and better methods of production can be sought to increase the supply of consumer goods. In an economy not subject to continual monetary debasement and inflation via a central bank, prices are allowed to fall, thus raising real income for consumers.

Reality stars such as Kim Kardashian aid in this process as their revenue-generating ability allows them to set aside more of their income. This accumulation of savings leaves more money to be invested in base capital, which increases the productive capacity of the economy. This isn’t supply-side economics; it’s a simple acknowledgement of the scarcity that dominates our world.

This libertarian author is trying to convince us that it’s ok that Kim earned all this money, even through she contributes zero benefit to society.  She’s going to deposit her millions in the bank, and they’re going to lend those funds out to entrepreneurs who are going to do wonderful things for all of us.  So don’t worry.  It’s all going to be ok.

That’s ridiculous.  But do I want to live a society where all of our decisions are regulated and controlled by government bureaucrats?  No.  If you want to support such a worthless woman with your time and money, then I suppose I can’t stop you.  But please, stop defending her.  I can understand that you don’t want the government to tax her, and feel that bureaucrats would just spend it all on wars and payoffs to their buddies.  I get it.   Just don’t worship the invisible hand.  You look like an idiot.

Chinese Factory Workers Threaten Mass Suicide

Some days I just lose hope in humanity.

Around 300 Chinese workers who manufacture XBox consoles took to a factory roof and threatened bosses with mass suicide over a dispute about pay, unconfirmed reports have claimed.

The workers were employed at the Foxconn Technology Park in Wuhan in Hubei province. Foxconn is an independent, global manufacturing partner to companies including Apple, Microsoft and Sony.

– Source:  Huffington Post

Think how miserable you’d have to be to even make demands like this.  With this in mind, look at these tweets from American children, complaining how their parents didn’t buy them the latest iPad, iPhone, or XBox for Christmas.

Across the world, those devices are being made by despondent Chinese workers, so poor and miserable that they’re threatening to kill themselves in mass by jumping from the factory roof.