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Radically Inept
Saturday, October 16, 2004
  Plugging a quality TV program

I've caught this program, Speaking Freely put on by the First Amendment Center, a few times. And, well they got me hooked when I saw the interview with John Prine. And last night, they had David Steinberg on, and were talking about The Smothers Brothers Show, and how it got yanked off the air for political censorship.

Apparently, this it's fifth season or better, and I'm just now seeing it. I don't know if it is because the local Atlanta PBS stations are just now picking the show up, or what. I am certainly becoming a fan. So, I'm plugging it as a show that deals with an issue near and dear to me - my right to speak my mind.

It shows here late Friday Nights, and I'll bet it doesn't show at all in Anniston, AL, where my parents live, so it may be hit or miss as to whether it shows where you live.

The web site, firstamendmentcenter.org:, appears to have all the transcripts, but I don't have time to check out the site in depth right now [A friend of the Wife's is getting published or honoured or something, and we're on our way to attend the ceremony].

So, check out the show if you can. 
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Friday, October 15, 2004
  Rick Eddy on the Temple of Doom (Part Four)

Yeah, yeah. I know I said Part Four would be the conclusion. So sue me. His Ineptness pointed out how what happens in Vegas and LA 'splains a whole lot a what happens in the Temple, so I hadda go back and write this part afore'n you'd understand the next part.

And if it ain't all spelled 'xactly right, or there's some real "continuity" problems, well, I'll get to them when I get to them.

Also, we done put all links to all the parts over there ------> (the right side link column), so we didn't have'ta put all a' 'em at that start of each Part no more.


I don’t know when I decided to declare war, but it was well before we were half way to Vegas. And I don’t have a clue what ultimately triggered it, but it was probably the ‘ol’ straw that broke the camel’s back’ syndrome. ‘Cause somewhere during the first hour after take off, I decided to cross the line.

Hell, it mighta’ been the fact that I was dealin’ with an amateur like Hickey. I’d asked Murdoch, “Why the fuck would anyone want to do a drop like this at a fuckin’ Beverly Hills tennis club? Shit, there was so much illegal drug money and the like flowin’ through places like that…”

“Look,” Murdoch said, “I want all people involved in this deal to have their hands sullied. So, yes, you are dealing with an amateur.”

“That’s fuckin’ crazy, Murdoch. It’d be safer to do this drop in a fuckin’ biker bar in Hollywood than a Beverly Hills tennis club.”

“R.E., you’ve been paid handsomely, and you have your marching orders. So MARCH.” Then he threw in a teaser that he knew’d get me to play along, “When you return tomorrow night, I will be providing you access to a story larger than all of the assassinations of the sixties, Watergate, and O.J.’s trial combined.”

Yeah, we’d see. But it worked. I mean, I could always walk away from the money, but my curiosity wouldn't let me miss this. Murdoch might be a bastard, and he sure as hell was using me, but if he said the story was big – it was big. Still, the whole Hickey thing pissed me off.

Hey, it mighta’ been the company I had for the flight. They didn’t know who I was; they had no idea of why I was bein’ allowed to fly with them, and they had no need to know. But what a buncha’ of pretentious, self-important executives - worse than the ones I’d been in the limo with. These people thought they were on this flight because they deserved it; ‘cause they were important; because they had somehow ‘earned the right’ to be there. Dumb fucks.

What they were, were fuckin’ house slaves. And these dumb fucks didn’t get it. Their power was not their own. They had as much power as Rupie allowed them. The master allowed them to come into his house, but it sure as hell wasn’t as equals. They might get better scraps from the master’s kitchen than the rest of the corporate slaves, but it was still just scraps. It wasn’t the execs that were important, it was the role they filled in makin’ Rupie richer and more powerful – it was the role they filled. The real dumb asses were loyal to Murdoch and believed the loyalty worked both ways. Rupie would sell these bastards as soon as they quit adding to his bottom line.

It mighta’ been that. It mighta’ been the fact that I was getting’ bored. Livin’ off the yuppies in North Georgia was too easy. So, maybe I declared war on the powers that be oughta’ boredom. I figured years ago that I probably only had 70 or 80 years on this planet, and that if I was lucky. At the same time, I figured that I might as well enjoy them. I wasn’t going to spend my time worryin’ ‘bout no fuckin’ after life, or keepin’ score by tryin’ to die with the most toys. Naah. Fuck that. I was going to have fun.

I like that. Declarin’ global war on the powerful out'a boredom. Hell, wars had been started for far stupider reasons than boredom. Like religion, or out of revenge for old family squabbles, or…Hell lots of stupid reasons had been used to get large groups of people to die for the good of the few vested interests. And that’s where my war would be different. I was going to bring down the vested interests without enlisting people into my cause - out of boredom. Don’t get me wrong, here. I ain’t sayin’ that I won’t never enlist people; I just don’t figure many people would rally to the battle flag of "Risk your life to bring down the pwerful out'a boredom". I’d have to sell my enlistees on some other idea. Hey, I got no reason to deviate from the tried and true.

Oh, don’t even think I believe I can win this. That’s the beauty of it. If you don’t have a prayer in hell of winnin’, there’s no pressure to perform. This war was more like that line from ‘Animal House’, “This situation requires a stupid, futile gesture on somebody’s part,” and in this case, I am just the guy to do it.

So, ‘bout an hour into the flight, I used the plane’s phone to call a Vegas hotel, made reservations in the name of ‘Dee Kay’, and told them to send a car to pick me up at the private landing strip where we were headed. That got their attention. Then I told them to expect an overseas wire transfer and credit the amount to the room. That’s the beauty of Vegas greed. They don’t ask a whole lot of questions if they think they’re going to get the action.

I knew the Swiss were just opening for the day’s business so I called a bank there; one where I had an old ‘black account’ that I’d left idle for ‘bout the past ten years. The Swiss didn’t give a shit, they’d earned interest on the money, and even though they’d been forced to tighten up, they still didn’t ask many questions. Especially where old accounts were concerned - they didn’t want to have to answer any questions either. I had them close the account and wire the balance to the hotel in Vegas; somewhere around $25k.

I know, I took the hit on taxes, and even the whole $25k ain’t much of a war chest, but I had more. I had a lot more - scattered across a lot of places. Over the years, I’d stashed away a fair amount of ‘undisclosed’ revenue. I had a pretty decent campaign chest. Not enough to be called a war chest, maybe, but more’n enough to start one. Now it'd be nice to at least have a plan, but I did at least I know where I was gonna start. I was gonna start with that schmuck Hickey. And since I plan best when I’m drinkin’, I helped myself to Murdoch’s finest. Yeah, I know I said that I liked cheap whiskey better - for the burn, but as long as I was goin’ to war, I figured I might as well start by tryin’ to single handedly deplete Murdoch’s bar, and for that matter, his supply of Cuban cigars. I stuck a fist full of the cigars in my coat, and grabbed a handful of the ones that came in them metal cigar condoms in the briefcase. Fuck Murdoch. I was a field slave that was getting’ to play house slave for the night, but at least I knew it.


When the plane landed in Vegas, the executives piled into the company limo, and I headed to the hotel's limo. I didn’t look to see if it raised any eyebrows. I just got in and helped myself to a drink from the limo bar, and started thinkin’.

I started thinkin’ about Vegas. Home of Hill Billy Heroin, Cracker Crank, Redneck Speed, or whatever street term they’d come up with for crystal meth. I hadn’t been to Vegas in years, but I’d heard enough, mostly from watchin’ fire department trainin’ programs on local public access stations to know Vegas had a lot of crack runnin’ through its veins. Hell, how could it help but be anything else? What a fuckin’ depressin’ city to live and work in. All those fuckin’ tourists and high rollers comin’ through, spendin’ like there was no fuckin’ tomorrow, and if you lived here, you weren’t makin’ shit. It was sort of like livin’ in Orlando and workin’ at Disney - lot’s a’ people spendin’ lots a’ money, and you’re workin’ for little better than minimum wage. Matter a’ fact, Vegas was called the Disney World for adults. Yeah. Only worse. You ain’t nothin’ but part of the woodwork, and you spend half your time fantasizin’ ‘bout hittin’ the big one. It’s probably even more depressin’ if you don’t even have that for a dream; if you know you’re going to spend your whole workin’ life next to all that money and not ever get a real piece of it. And in Vegas, you get to live next to Yucca fuckin’ Mountain. There’s a goddamn piece of civic pride.

Anyway, by the time I got to the hotel, I knew I needed to score some crank. Lots of it. So, while I was checkin’ in (Vegas may be the only city in America, where checkin’ in without bags is almost normal), I made sure the money had arrived, and how much was there after Uncle Sam had takin’ his. One thing for damn sure, in the future I’d get to my money without givin’ him his cut, or my war would fold due to lack of funds. No real problem, it just took more prior plannin’. There was enough money left that the desk clerk didn’t trouble me with minor inconveniences like showin’ ID. I asked her to arrange a rental car for me, quickly calculatin’ drive time and the time differential, I asked her to have it available by 9 am. I also got directions to a shop that sold tennis gear, and before I headed up to my room, I asked to send three bottles of Beam’s Rye up to the room.

On the way to the room, I detoured a walk through the gamblin’ area, checked out what shows were playin’, but mainly I was lookin’ for exits and alternate routes should the need arise. I was also takin’ note of all of the security cameras, at least the ones you were supposed to see if you looked; even those were so discreetly placed that you had to actively look for them to spot ‘em. I think I actually smirked. I mean, the new Vegas slogan was “What goes on here, stays here”. Yeah, it was a play on the old military slogan, “What goes TDY, stays TDY”. I never thought a city would adopt somethin’ so fuckin’ sleazy as their civic slogan, but hey, this was Vegas. It also gave me an idea. With all these cameras, this place was primed to be blackmail heaven. I’m still thinkin’ about turnin’ on a couple of teen hackers to the potential windfall they could get by breakin’ through casino security systems, accessin’ the videos, and blackmailin’ the people. It could be a beautiful thing. ‘Might have the makings of a future campaign.

Well, then it dawned on me. I might have some real competition on I hands if I tried to play that game. I mean the people that ran Vegas didn’t ‘xactly have a rep for bein’ nice. Hell, ‘twouldn’t surprise me if the whole marketing campaign was a set up to do just that – the preliminary set up for a mass blackmail operation. I could imagine these guys sittin’ around dreamin’ this up, and one of ‘em sayin’, “Yeah, it be like, ‘What happens here, stays here’ – ‘For a Price’. And the whole lot of the falling all over themselves laughin’ their asses off. ROTFLTAO. On the other hand, as long as I was declaring a losing war on the major players of the world, I probably wouldn’t notice if added the casino owners to the enemies list. Didn’t matter, it’d have to wait.

Damn, they were good to high rollers. The Beam was in the room before I got there. I looked around. It was alright as far as these kinda’ suites go. I had about seven hours ‘til the rental would be out front waitin’ for Mister Dee Kay, high roller. And it was time to prep. I opened one of the bottles of rye, poured ‘bout two inches into one of the hotel tumblers, and pulled a long swig off the bottle. Then I put the bottle down, and picked up the glass, and startin’ lookin’ for the hotel literature. I found the hotel fire escape plan and committed it to memory. Hell, push comes to shove, I might be the one who started the fire. Ya’ never know.

I went ahead and pulled out that 60 Minute cell phone I’d bought on Friday Dawg’s credit card, and called a local number I knew from the bad ol’ days. The cell’s minutes would fly at long distance rates based on NYC, but hell, it don’t take all that much time to set up a dope deal, if ya’ know the right kinda’ people. And I happen to know all kinds of the right kinds of people.

A guarded, “Hello.”

“Dave’s not here, Mannn.”

A long pause, and “Is this Ace 44?”

“No, it’s Catch 22, Mutha Fucka.”

Another long pause, “I thought you were dead.”

“Yeah, Frank, and I’m sure a lota’ people are hopin’ that’s true.”

“Yeah, well I hope you ain’t callin’ just to talk about the old days; I ain’t got time for bullshit.”

Well, we were past the formalities at least, and based on his tone it was safe to talk business, “No, Frank, I need you to take advantage of me.”

“I always have, and I always will.”

“Yeah, fuck you too, Frank. I need some crank,” and I liked the way it rhymed. “I need enough to keep me goin’ for 72 hours minimum, maybe 96. Plus…Uh, how much to earn a felony rap with intent to distribute in California…and a big enough bust to get it on the news?”

“Shit, I don’t know Kalifornia law (Hey, I heard the ‘k’ in his voice), but to make the news on weight alone…Hell, way to goddamn much. As for keepin’ you up, when’s the last time you played with this shit?”

Wow. I had to think about that. Crank’s all over North Georgia, but it just wasn’t something I played with lessin’ I needed it for business purposes. “Ya know, it’s probably been eight-nine years since I’ve done any.”

Frank laughed, “Well, hell, it won’t take much for you. You just cut yourself out three or four grams for personal use, and let’s say…Hell, man, buy five kilos of the shit, pure, cut yourself out a couple of grams…I mean, I don’t know the game you’re playin’, but that oughta do you right.” Short pause, “By when?”

“Actually, Frank, I was thinkin’ in about, say, two hours? I got other arrangements to make.”

“In that case, you’ll definitely have to settle for ‘bout five kilos. Where do you wanna meet?”

“Let’s see…I’m stayin’ on the Strip, I gotta play for an hour to make it look good…You know a decent place within, say, a half an hours cab ride? And, uh, let’s go ahead and run this on your premium plan.” The ‘premium plan’ meant I paid way the fuck more than I needed to for the product, but I got silence and service include. That’s why he was willin’ to work with me on short notice, no questions asked. I paid top dollar, in return, I didn’t have to worry ‘bout him shootin’ me and keepin’ the stash and my money, and, he wouldn’t talk for 48 hours even if Ashcroft himself was pushin’ the button on the electrodes to his balls. 48 hours was a lot of runnin’ time in this business.

“$10k, and tell the cabbie to take you to *****. Unless you’d rather work the Latin side?”

“Naah, the white side is fine, but hey, let’s make it eleven, and throw in a QP of ‘kind’.”

“Done. See you at 4.”

I finished the rye in the glass, walked back over to the bottle, did another long pull. Poured another two inches from the bottle to a fresh glass, took another swig from the bottle, and went and grabbed a shower.

The only thing I got to say about that, is I’m always surprised ‘bout out how much chest hair hurts gettin’ pulled out by the med tape, but it’s worth it. I doubt even the casino’s stuff picked up on the plastic. I took a long ten minute shower, and tried to figure out how to use my remaining wardrobe to its best advantage. I’d freeze my ass off if I tried to hit the tables in runnin’ shorts and the tank top…I decided to put the grey slacks and the sports coat back on, with the tank top and black tennis shoes, no socks. Sort of that casual, ‘I made money durin’ the DotCom boom look’. That’d fit in, and play well with the whole persona.

So, to make a long story short, I went down and played an hour’s worth of Black Jack, ‘bout the only casino game I can win or break even on. I piss the other players off ‘cause I don’t play the number game, I play feel. Fuck ‘em. I may not win every time playin’ on feel, but I ain’t never lost.

This time I won. Alright, It was only a $k, but it was a win. And, a’sides, I was going to need cash to keep movin’.

Then I headed out to meet ‘Frank’. Ya’ll don’t need to know, but I’m gonna’ tell ya’ anyway, he’s government. I don’t know what agency, but it ain’t the Bureau of Indian Affairs. I’d worked with him over the years, and I ain’t never tried to find out too much ‘bout him. As far as I know, he ain’t ever looked too far into me, either. Worked well so far. I cashed in the chips, wandered out, and made it to the meet point. NO, I ain’t tellin’, but the bacon and eggs were good, and they couldn’t do grits right. Least wise, by what I was served.

‘Frank’ showed up with a woman. She looked like a wife. They looked like tourists on their way to the city and the Strip; tourists/losers. Ya’ had to admire the look. They joined me at the table, ate, and we all left together, like I was showin’ them the way into town. The action happened in their four door, and they dropped me off a couple a blocks from the hotel, with me in possession of the five kilos of crank and a QP of 'kind'.

Hell, I didn’t know shit from Shinola as far as meth was concerned, but I took the package to the room, broke off a chunk that I figured might be ‘bout five grams worth, chopped up a fifth of that, and did a couple of lines. It was good. I knew sleep wasn’t gonna be a problem. Massive psychosis maybe - not sleep. Then I realized I didn't have anything to smoke the weed in - to take some of the edge off the crank. So, I found something in the room that was wrapped in a decent tinfoil, cut through the paper on a roll of T.P. and used the roll and the tin foil to make a quick, disposable pipe. I also lit on of Murdoch's cigars to cover up the smell of the weed. So far, so good.

Now I had somewhere around four hours ‘til rental car time. I had time to kill or more accurately, time to prep. I grabbed one of the opened bottles of rye and found my way to the hotel tennis courts where the early risers were starting to get court time. I way pretty wired and catchin’ a good whiskey buzz. That was one of the benefits of the crank, I was now a wide awake and on the verge of being schnockered. I waited for the shop adjoining the courts to open, and bought myself some tennis whites, shoes, a racquets, a couple of cans of balls and one of those sports bags, and headed back to the room.

When I got there, I changed into the tennis whites, put the crank in the bag with the raquette and balls, and put my street clothes in a hotel laundry bag with a tag sayin’ I needed them ready by three in the afternoon. Then I headed down the blackjack tables to get in a few hands while I was waitin’ for the rental.

I love drivin’ through the desert. Nice and desolate, and I love being able to see those incredible distances. You don’t get that much in North Georgia. Usually, there are far too many trees and hills to see any great distances. I sucked down the last of the rye as I was workin’ my way through the fuckin’ LA traffic. As much as I loved the desert, I hated this city. Fuckin’ sprawl and traffic, and too fuckin’ many people.


Anyway, I got to the tennis club and met Hickey at his cabana. Yeah, the club had cabanas for the members use, and I guess Hickey was using it to entertain his daughter – hey, not my business. There were no introductions. I knew who he was, and he had no need to know who I was. That’s the way I like to handle this kind of work – I keep the information advantage. He had the money in his tennis bag, and we swapped it to my bag. He poured us both a drink, which I was happy for. Then, while he was distracted by his daughter, I slipped the five kilos (okay, just short of five kilos) into a side pocket on his bag. He didn’t look like he was actually gonna play any tennis, so I figured the risk of him finding’ the package before I was ready was pretty small. I also overheard him and his 'daughter talkin' about stayin' to watch some match later this evening.

The whole thing took about fifteen minutes, including the three minutes I used to snort some more crank in the cabana’s bathroom, and I was headed back to the rental. On the way out, I found out the match Hickey was stayin' for, started at seven. With a quick stop at a liquor store to stock up on more rye for the ride and some rollin' papers, I headed back for Vegas. I got there with enough time to spare to play a few more hands at the tables before changing back into my street clothes, re-applying the stirrer stiletto with fresh medical tape, and threw the whites and all the stuff from the briefcase into the sports bag, and put the money into the briefcase. I left the raquette and balls for the maid to find and checked out via the telephone. I wanted ‘Dee Kay’ to have a good rep here in case I ever came back – not likely, but you never know.

We'll also call this the end of Chapter One. Don't know how many chapters they'll turn out to be, but I figure the this ends the set up for what actually happened next, and that sets up what's happenin' now. I'll 'splain later...

Edited for content: 10/19/04
 
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Wednesday, October 13, 2004
  Dueling sound bites, the Government In Exile and the value of inforomation

I half composed this post on Wednesday, but never came back to finish it. I'm suffering from "I can't believe this is what Amerika has come to". I've gotten to where I can't believe anything I read or watch on TV has any basis in reality. It's probably a serious psychosis.

The reason I never came back to finish this post on Wednesday was I caught "an exclusive" on CNBC telling me that NY AG Spitzer is now going after the insurance industry. When they were done, I expected one of the newscasters to point out how they have been steadily wrong in continuing to say that "corruption is limited to just a few players, and that the overall market is as honest and trustworthy" as...Well, I don't know what, as I can't seem to find a single institution that possesses any integrity, but they could point that out also. Matter-of-fact, $10, in play dollars, to any reader that can name an industry or institution that hasn't suffered an integrity related scandal.

Today I watched Al "I had to suck Bush off to keep my job" Greenspan on three different channels explain why $55 a barrel of oil is no big deal. How in proportion to real 70s dollars, it is actually lower than it was at the peak prices of the 70s. I kept waiting for him to point out that real wages, in terms of 70s dollars, have gone down too. But he never brought that point up.

The other thing that may be contributing to my delirium is lack of success in this, what I keep being told is, recovering economy. I don't know who the economy is recovering for, but I wish you'd share. So, I've been spending time shopping for a minivan or some other vehicle, at a good price, so I can go back into the painting business. Not really what I had in mind when I went back to school to get a masters, but...It's a business I know, and one I should be able to make good money at, but..

So, anyway, no excuses for not posting, just not real enthusiastic about much of anything here lately.


I went to Manuel's Tavern last night for the weekly meeting of the Government In Exile and had a fairly interesting evening which I'll get to in a moment, but first I wanted to address tonight's meeting of the same at the same. I received an invitation to watch the final bout of the 'Dueling Sound Bites' tonight at Manuel's. I don't think I will attend. I haven't gone to Manuel's to watch any of the other 'Dueling Sound Bites' matches, in fact I haven't watched them at all, but it turns out they have been a HUGE draw with even republicans showing up to watch these farces. I was told it was so bad that last Friday night the crowd had to pass the drinks from the bartenders through seven or eight people to the patron, and the money was transferred in the reverse. Way too crowded for my blood. So they are planning to set up a large screen TV in the parking lot so the GIE people and enjoy the farce without having to deal with the huge crowds inside, and possibly be able to actually engage in conversation.

So, it will probably be a fun event, but I still have no intention of dignifying the 'Dueling Sound Bites' by watching them. I haven't even paid attention to the talking heads who tell us later who won. I don't care. The situation is so bad, that everywhere I turn people are talking about the fact that the elections will be decided in court, not at the polls. And even this is really a non-issue, as, as far as I can tell, our government has already been bought and they are just letting us pretend that we have a say in its management. Regardless of who they let win, the wealthy will continue to be allowed to loot our coffers and affectively make our grand-children indentured servants to this corrupt system. I will give the republicans some credit though, since they at least make little effort to hide the fact that they are the party of greed and surprisingly - considering their vocal position on 'moral' issues and evolution - socio/economic 'darwinism'. Fuck the poor, they deserve it. Certainly Baby Bush has been known to give those thoughts credence, and his policies have given them force.

My position now is that Amerikans deserve four more years of Baby Bush, and certainly no better. And no better is offered. After listening to Kerry's positions on the issues, he'll just allow us to be bankrupted a little slower. Big business controls pretty much every government agency and that will only be changed via, if not out-right armed revolution, than at least a real sense of rage on the part of the populace. And that won't happen, as our populace is more focused on sports figures and movie stars than on things that actually affect their lives.

So, consider this my first real political rant in probably 6 or 7 weeks, and it is due in large part to the "give my tax dollars to corporations, who are making enormous profits already" bill that got passed over the weekend. Who the hell remembers the last time congress stayed in session over a holiday weekend? Not only did they screw up my C-Span watching, they passed this bullshit. 
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Monday, October 11, 2004
  If a tree falls in the woods...

Okay, this may be the most briliant question I've asked in this blog.
If I have the TV on downstairs, but I'm not watching it, what is the value of the information transfered? I'm paying the utility costs, power costs, of having the TV on, the producer/sender has assumed all of the costs of producing the information and for transmitting it...But I'm not there to receive the information, what is the information's value?

This is a question I will be pondering. It is exactly parallel to "if a tree falls inbthe woods, but no one is there to hear it". But in this case, I am paying the money to receive the information. I'm just not receiving the information. All of the costs of producing the show are there, and I am paying all of the energy costs to receive the information, I'm just not in the same room. I'm not watching the info I'm paying for. What is the value of the info?
The costs of providing me the info are measured/captured and the costs to me to receive the info are measured, at least in some respects. But, I am not receiving the information. What is the value of the info?

I will explore this further, but I really wanted to put the question out here. I'm sure I'll spend a lot of time thinking about it, I just wanted to provide you guys the same opportunity. What is the value of a show that presents a tree falling down, I have the TV on, but I'm not watching it. Did the tree make a sound? Did someone make money?

It dawns on me that the same can be asked of a blog post that no one reads - does it have value? It may to me, and certainly my ISP or blogger or someone is paying some fractional cost to host the post, so it has costs associated with it, but if no one reads it does it have any value? 
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  How do we value: value?

I'm sort of trying to continue this theme, obsession, whatever. As I've repeatedly stated, I don't have a clue where it is going, but I do think I need to do some site maintenance here in the next few days. I need to group Rick Eddy's work, this particular trail and a few others. Point of fact is I need to do a little organization. for one thing, I think I need to group science posts, and environmental posts, and corporate posts. That alone may prove to be somewhat of a chore. Rick Eddy's posts will be easy because they are his posts, but the others have so much overlap, that, well, I don't want to double post, but I do want to make it easier for you to navigate this site. We'll see how it works out.

On a slightly different tact, I am not...No, actually, I'm making a point of not keeping up with election information. Everyone is posting on politics, I don't feel I have much to contribute, other that some wiseass comments. Of course, you might not think they are all that wise, and that I'm more of an ass, butt...Really, I don't find the current discourse rises above the "he said - he said level". And both sides seem to lack any real sense of 'standards'. I don't know how we can get the dialogue to meaningful point without real participation of the electorate, and I don't know how to get the electorate to truly participate until we see a meaningful dialogue. It's the whole chicken and egg thing, but somebody has gone ahead and fried both the chicken and the egg for dinner, and there's not even scraps on the table for the rest of us. Okay, maybe there's a few scraps left to fight over, but I don't feel like putting a whole lot of energy into fighting over the scraps. So, to a large extent, I'm bowing out of the 'sniping' contest, and for those of you who actually liked my 'snipes' I apologize. There are issues, like the recent corporate tax-giveaway, passed over a holiday weekend, that I do feel obligated to comment on, but I seem to lack the energy to really do the research it deserves. Sorry.


I spent yesterday afternoon/evening over at COL Spock's, eating and drinking good wine. I was also able to engage some brilliant people in conversation, and I was able to direct the conversation (most of the time...Well, some of the time - Lot's of time was spent on the small children [ages 3 months to 5 years]...but that's not a bad thing) to the subject of values. Pretty much most of the people were upper CDC or EPA, and that makes for a group who understand the policy implications of values, if not necessarily my reductionist look at the subject.

One of the things that came up was Dr Gerberdings 'futures' initiative. But, based on what I hear, I'm dissapointed on what it is and how it's being implemented. The subject of their efforts (and our tax dollars)appears to be missing the point. I would have thought the iniative would focus on the environmental, blah blah blah, impacts of new technologies coming down the pike, but apparently they are focusing on adolescent and adult health concerns. I'm sorry. I'm more concerned as to how these technologies will effect and have lasting affects on pre-natel and early childhood development. I would have thought that any health futures look would have primarily focused on that level of development, which can be most effected by treatments or prevention...[Sorry if I used 'affected and effected' incorrectly...fuck you..]

Regardless, the program that is being implemented does not seem to be as focused on prevention, as I at least would have liked.

But don't think the conversation was not stimulating. I got a lot out of it. I had no idea that CDC (the Centers for Disease Control and prevention - note the lack of capitlization of the 'p' in prevention) had a concept of 'Qualities', and that these qualities, were measured in arbitrary mathimatical terms. A good example is the idea, that CDC is working with these 'Qualities' and that they hve decided on a 0.70 value of degradation of the quality of life. Okay, alot of this comes from talking to COL Spock, and he's pretty much a futurist.

But I sort of got stuck on the idea of the 0.70 (and, yeah, it is Zero Point Seven Zero, officially). Me, and from what I gather, No one, has a real Idea of what that means. Redardation, a non-PC term, has a value of 0.70, but it does not take in to consideration whether the individual is actually cognizant that they are operating in a 'degraded' mode. If I know I'm not part of 'society' as a whole, is my life worth more or less than if I'm cognizant that the people around me have greater...I guess the point is, how much does cognition of your limitation - how much should cognition of limitation affect the value of an individuals life. Can there even be some way, other than arbitrary, to determine the value? Do any inroads down in this area carry by necessity implications on the value of intelligence? If the normal person is valued at 1.0, and a mentally handicapped persons quality of life is measured at 0.70, is a genious' quality of life a 1.20?

I sure as hell don't know, but it certainly is something I have to consider if I am ultimately trying to come up with a universal 'valuation system' for the quality of life- for what it's worth.

There was a lot more that came up in conversation, but I think I sort of owe it to you the reader to...I don't know what I owe you, but it is more than just reciting the info. But I...

Anyway, when it comes to trying to come up with a self-consistent system of 'value', it's an area that cannot be ignored.

I really don't know where this will go, but I do think establishing some sort of self consistent metric for the evaluation of information - well, I think it's important.

Edited 10/22/04. Am personally amazed at how poorly this was written originally, but I'll blame it on Old Thompson's whiskey and being in a hurry.  
|
  What would you like to 'morph'?

Virginia Tech leads effort to develop new, shape-changing materials:
Blacksburg, Va., Va., September 29, 2004 -- Over the next 17 months, Virginia Tech will lead a team of researchers exploring the development of a new class of materials that will use plant protein structures in an attempt to mimic biological systems. The Defense Science Office of the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) is funding the $2.1 million project.

DARPA is specifically interested in a group of hard polymers called nastic materials. In biology, nastic refers to the natural movement of plants in response to changes in their environment, such as plants that track sunlight or that stiffen when watered. These movements are caused by changes in the water pressure inside the plant and can result in very large changes in shape.

The goal of the DARPA project, administered by John Main, is to develop synthetic materials that utilize internal pressure changes to cause large shape changes.

The plan calls for the investigation of the protein structures of plants for the purpose of understanding their role in generating shape changes in natural materials. The protein structures under analysis would then be used to develop a synthetic material to incorporate properties that produce controllable shape.

Ultimately, successful development of the nastic structure concept will provide a new class of materials based on the direct conversion of biochemical energy into mechanical work. In this manner it will provide a truly integrated ‘smart’ material that serves as the foundation for a new generation of biologically-inspired engineering systems.

In this unique program, researchers will be working with a company on the application of nastic materials to a morphing aircraft wing. This wing would dynamically change its shape and control surfaces during flight.
I want one of those cars that morphs into a briefcase when I get to work. 
|
  So, Nanotech without the nanotech?

For those that have been following the nanotech debate between Smalley and Drexler, well, it looks like Smally is winning:
The second blow to Drexler came only two days later, when President Bush signed the 21st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act, allocating $3.7 billion for molecular-scale R&D. In the months leading up to the signing, the bill had promised to catapult Drexler's agenda to the forefront of the nation's scientific priorities. But in the end, no money was earmarked for molecular manufacturing. Instead, the funds were largely allocated to projects using variations on conventional chemistry to develop novel materials "with new combinations of characteristics, such as, but not limited to, strength, toughness, density, conductivity, flame resistance, and membrane separation characteristics."
But than, as is so often the case, political decisions are not nessecarily based on the best science. As the article points out:
What turned the tide on Capitol Hill? Drexler's ideas had always been outlandish and his political skills underdeveloped. That combination became an Achilles' heel as opposition emerged from two quarters. First, a group called the NanoBusiness Alliance entered the fray. Formed in October 2001, the alliance wasn't interested in anything as starry-eyed or scary as self-replicating molecular assemblers; it wanted to sell newfangled products like "nanotech" suntan lotion, ski wax, and paint. One of the founders, venture capitalist F. Mark Modzelewski, was a notorious opponent of Drexlerian notions; in a later email exchange with blogger and nanotech booster Glenn Reynolds, he likened Drexler's theories to "a wino's claims on skid row that bugs are crawling under his skin."

Meanwhile, support for Drexler's ideas softened elsewhere in Washington. The White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy worried that fears whipped up by the likes of Crichton and Joy would turn the public against nanotech, just as similar scares had fueled opposition to GM foods and nuclear power. As New Hampshire's John Sununu remarked on the Senate floor, "some people have expressed concern that nanotechnology will lead to a superrace of humans or a situation where nanomachines attack or even dominate human beings."

Molecular manufacturing is a "loaded term," a Senate staffer says. "It upsets a lot of people."

The sponsors of the House bill were more interested in making sure it got through the Senate than they were in preserving funding for Drexler's ideas. Thus, when House and Senate staff members met to discuss their respective bills, they scuttled the molecular manufacturing study. In the Senate version, Arizona's John McCain introduced an "amendment in the nature of a substitute" in which the provision no longer appeared.

The watered-down bill was passed by the unanimous consent of the Senate on November 18 and signed into law by Bush on December 3. During the ceremony, Richard Smalley stood at the president's side.
Fear has a lot of political clout, and politicians don't mind business people usurping a term to sell more products. Integrity has never stood in the way of funding and legislation.

The interesting thing here, is that in all likelihood nanotechnology, including the self-assembler concept will be developed - just not out in public. I pretty damn sure that DoD is not going to back away from the concept, especially when people like the President of India:
"Triad of Nano-Bio-Info Technologies

I would like to introduce you to a future technology called Nanotechnology. We believe Nanotechnology is such a new technology that is knocking at the doors. It has wider applications compared to information technology and is likely to touch the common man. It will be the central focus for many technologies to converge and open a large number of applications. The essence of Nanotechnology is the ability to work at the molecular level to create structures with fundamentally new molecular organizations. Potential benefits of Nanotechnology are all pervasive covering fields such as materials and manufacturing, NanoElectronics, computer technology, medicine and healthcare, environment and energy, aeronautics and space, biotechnology and agriculture. We are today at the convergence of Nano, Bio and Information technologies. The world market in 2004 for Nanomaterials, Nano tools, Nano devices and Nano biotechnology put together is expected to be over hundred billion dollars. It has been noticed that the fastest growing area among these is nanobiotechnology, predominantly for the civilian sector.

Carbon Nano tubes and its composites will give rise to super strong, smart and intelligent structures in the field of material science. Molecular switches and circuits along with Nano cell will pave the way for the next generation computers. Ultra dense computer memory coupled with excellent electrical performance will give the society low power, low cost, Nano size and yet faster assemblies. The Nano-computers will find many applications.

Nano technology will influence the strategic sector with Nano satellites, stealth structures, micro & Nano vehicles, smart clothes & shoes and gadgets, Nano electronics, Nano computers, Nano actuators, Nano robots, new type of explosives and sensors for land, sea, air and space systems, revolutionising the total concept of future warfare.
Comes right out and calls on Indian scientists pursue military advantage via nanotech. [Quick rant: Of course, the Indians have the advantage in that their culture looks up to the educated, provides them with prestige, the best paying jobs, etc. Whereas in our culture the educated are considered pin-heads, eggheads, nerds etc. Is there any wonder that we can't produce enough scientists? We don't value them, why would a kid want to be one? Much better to take steriods and play pro sports and be rich and admired, than to learn science and hope there will be a job when you're done.]

Anyway, the US will continue to pursue nanotechnology, and all of the dangerous stuff, we'll just do it behind closed doors, out of public view, and without oversight. The true, traditional American way. And once we have weaponized the science, we will waste time and money in a futile attempt to try resticting access to the knowlegde, and I predict we will be as successful as we have been with nuclear science - not very, in fact, given the rate of proliferation, you could almost say: not at all.

In my view, when scientists fight about what is possible, the ones that say something is impossible are almost always wrong. It may take a little time to prove them wrong, but pretty much, the "can't do it group" can't be right. If we can imagine it, we can do it. Or somebody else will... 
|
  Too late for Superman, but... Why can't I 'blog' some sites? Is it the site trying to prevent me from blogging it, or some problem in the settings? Just wondering...
New UCL Unit holds out hope of repair of spinal cord injuries

Clinical trials that could ultimately lead to repair of spinal cord injuries are scheduled to begin within three years at UCL, following the arrival of an internationally-renowned research team at the university’s Institute of Neurology. UCL today announced the arrival of Professor Geoff Raisman, who will be the first Director of the new Spinal Repair Unit, and his team from the National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR), at a press conference to launch Advancing London’s Global University – the Campaign for UCL, UCL’s development plan for the next decade.

Spinal cord injuries have long been considered incurable, but the work of the team holds out significant hope that spinal cord patients will eventually be able to regain much of the ability to move that they have lost. For paraplegic patients this could lead to a return of sensation and movement to some leg muscles, potentially allowing them to stand and making movement easier, while tetraplegics (patients with spinal injury high in the neck region), could recover touch sensation and movement of the hands, and regain the ability to dress, feed and clean independently.

Professor Raisman’s team at the NIMR has demonstrated that it is possible for severed spinal cord nerve fibres to grow back and restore lost functions, and has now moved to UCL with a view to transferring the technology from rats to humans, working with patients at the new Spinal Repair Unit within UCL.


ABC News: 'Superman' Christopher Reeve Dies at 52 
|
  You only live forever?

washingtonpost.com: Kurzweil's Quest For Eternal Youth Sets Group Abuzz:
"At MIT last week, Kurzweil described a future in which he's convinced immortality -- or a drastically longer life span -- will be possible thanks to emerging technologies. His new book, which will hit stores in a few weeks, outlines a special 'longevity program' of diet, exercise and nutritional supplements aimed at slowing the aging process...

...Kurzweil acknowledged that science today can't halt aging, but he said he believes science will develop age-defying or even age-reversing techniques within 10 to 20 years, thanks to advances in biotechnology and nanotechnology.

He described three stages or "bridges" on the purported road to immortality. First is his healthy living program designed to correct "metabolic imbalances" and keep people alive long enough to benefit from the second stage. In stage two, a decade or so away, he contends biotechnology advances will block diseases and slow aging, because the decoding of our genome is already leading to tissue-engineering techniques for regrowing cells and organs, and to the creation of genetically targeted drugs and gene therapies.

These techniques, he said, should help some people reach the third stage -- about 30 years away -- when nanotechnology will allow humans to radically rebuild and extend their bodies with help from "nanobots," itsy-bitsy robots smaller than human blood cells that will slip into our bloodstreams to fix DNA errors, fight pathogens and expand intelligence.

At that point, he declared, humans may be able to live forever."
I'm really not sure about this one. I mean, can you be unemployed forever? Or retired forever? And what about the people you don't like?

Though, serious life extension does seem highly probable, and I'll even accept the fact that it's coming down the pike pretty quick - I'm just not really sure if it's such a good thing... 
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GEORGE W. BUSH - TOUGH ENOUGH TO TORTURE CHILDREN
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