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8-3-02: Why is it easier for many to find things to die for than to live for?

Suicide, murder, terrorism, war, and violence of many other sorts, both physical and mental, done to oneself and/or to others. It's remarkably easy for the average human being today to find something they consider to be 'worth dying for'. Usually, perhaps normally, such justifications for death are related to one's family, and sometimes friends and lovers. But governments often ask (or demand) that we (or typically men, anyway) see more distant or abstract ideas as sufficient to die for, such as nationalism/patriotism, etc. The most extreme of cult or religious leaders sometimes desire something similar from both sexes.

If you look around, you find almost everyone is constantly trying to persuade you that their particular agenda or idol or idea is worth dying for-- even if it only means a drawn out death, reached via one pinprick at a time. For as your free time is the most valuable asset of anyone alive, and most of us must give up great gobs of that time to earn money, then everytime we pay money for something we're trading a bit of our life for it-- and so dying a little.

Thus, Madison Avenue advertising is constantly pushing different brands and speeds of death upon us, not much different from the worst illegal drug pushers-- at least from one perspective.

The developed world is now inundated with such death merchants, with the overall level of advertising becoming almost subliminal now, as it pervades our internet experience, TV viewing, radio listening, theater visits, taxi cab rides-- practically any aspect of human experience you can name, today.

At the same time we're drenched in violence in our media, and urged to act on impulse and make more money ever faster so we can spend more faster-- and die faster. Apparently the ideal consumer would be one who frenziedly works their butt off for a lifetime so that they can buy as much stuff as possible, and never ever stop to contemplate any other aspects of their lives or the world.

Today's America seems the epitome of this, as the entire economy appears structured to minimize conscious thought or financial independence on the part of individual consumers, while also draining them in every conceivable way money-wise in order to keep them running the treadmill in their cage. America does little or nothing to train children how to resist this bombardment, or even how to manage their own budgets in order to protect themselves from financial ruin when they grow up.

We're all pretty much on our own, with 'every man for himself'. No wonder some foreign observers often comment on the short-sightedness, selfish and self-centered nature of certain Americans. In broad societal terms, we're raised that way.

I wonder though, if there's no way we could turn this around? Help one another find things to live for, rather than die for? Of course, some would sneer that such a philosophy smacks of cowardice, as it would dilute the urge to find just causes for death, either for onself or others, in pursuits like war or terrorism, etc. But life itself is often no picnic, as even we sometimes pampered Americans know from first-hand experience.

Indeed, choosing life over death is often the more difficult course for many of us, as death would release us from all sorts of obligations, uncertainties, and suffering, while life tends to do only the opposite.

We Americans effectively rule the world at the moment. But find ourselves aghast when our emphasis on essentially glorifying death saturates the globe, and helps result in things like suicide bombers and the use of airliners as manned missiles.

Just look at the Hollywood blockbusters we feed upon and export to the rest of the world. Often brimming with extreme violence, and focusing on heroes who can find something or someone worth risking their life for around every corner.

What can we do about all this? That's hard to say, as glorifying extreme violence, suicide, and murder is very profitable for our media elite and large shareholders, as well as very useful to our politicians when they want to elicit emotional responses from us in support of various wars, candidates, or passage of new laws, and our employers when they wish to motivate us to be as ruthless as possible in business dealings-- since American brand capitalism seems to have degenerated into something like a perpetual war footing itself, since the end of the Cold War. They've got us locked up tight in support of death and violence in so many ways that it's mind-boggling.

How might we break this vicious cycle, before it possibly results in the end of us all? Well, the best 'big picture' ideas I personally find for this I post at places like Civilization's best defenses against war, terrorism, technological stagnation, and economic ruin and How to live well on very, very little.

Newz&Viewz Contents

7-28-02: Who declared war, against who, and why?

Nobody, that's who. At least nobody in legal terms has declared war. To my understanding, only Congress can legally declare war, and they haven't done so. There's also no clear and tangible enemy against whom to fight. Osama bin Laden, you say? Sorry, but I don't think you'll find any nation in history that ever officially declared war against a single man. Or no great nation, at least. Doing so would simply look like a joke to any sober observer.

-- War Against What

-- U.S. agencies cannot define terrorism

-- THE WAR ON WHAT; The New Yorker

-- Uncertainties Abound in Pinpointing the Real Enemy

Well, how about declaring war against bin Laden's terrorist organization? Or even against all terrorist organizations worldwide, for good measure? Well, that's pretty much the same as declaring war against organized crime, since these 'terrorists' are really just gangs of violent criminals who prefer political power or change to financial rewards.

But again, so far as I know, no great nation has ever elevated a band of criminals to such a high global profile by officially declaring war against them. Not even the USA, as of mid-2002-- because again, only the US Congress can officially declare war. The US President can yell about it a lot, and pretty much do what he wishes so long as Congress doesn't tug on his legal leash regarding the subject, but that's about it (at least according to a little thing some of us recognize as the Constitution). Bush's 'war against terror' has so far been unofficial, like the 'war on drugs' of the past 20 years (if Congress ever made the drug war an official, fully ordained war, I missed it).

So, in truth, as of mid-2002, the USA is decidedly not at war, in legal terms.

But how about in real, or physical terms? Haven't we performed a massive mobilization of troops and materials and sent them overseas in the past year to fight our enemies?

Not really. Mostly we've just moved existing troops from among the 140(!) nations we already had a military presence in prior to 9-11-01. Folks, we only have around 6000 troops in Afghanistan-- the very center of Bush's so-called war-- at last check. That's a little more than half the number we had in that awful war zone called Great Britain during late 2001, and considerably less than we have in Bosnia and Kosovo, according to the latest figures I've run across (of course, maybe Great Britain is becoming a bigger terrorist haven than Afghanistan, according to the Pentagon? Beats me). And of what troops we do have in Afghanistan, quite a few seemed destined to guard oil pipeline construction for big business concerns, rather than chase terrorists (some folks even suggest our invasion of Afhanistan was done because the Taliban wouldn't offer us a good deal on a pipeline project, rather than any terrorist presence; and the fact the Bush Administration had drawn up invasion plans for Afghanistan before 9-11-01 (as well as warned the Taliban about their stubborness in pipeline discussions) seems to support that theory). So even the physical reality of any present 'war' situation is pretty hard to discern from America's foreign military/business stance as it stood on 9-10-01-- the day before the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

Of course, like most all US presidents, Bush continues to move his military game pieces about the world board as it suits his fancy. And surely some US troops are being shifted out of certain areas and into those surrounding Iraq, to match Bush's threatening rhetoric in that regard.

-- U.S. Expands Military Ties Worldwide by Sally Buzbee, Associated Press, 1-15-2002

-- Troops Aside, 'war' effort is expanding by Jonathan Weisman, USA TODAY, 6-17-02

But actually the closest thing for the USA to an obvious and real change to war footing lately has occured inside our own borders, rather than elsewhere. American citizens have lost a mind-staggering chunk of their civil liberties and privacy-- though it's going to take a while for the extent of that to sink in. The fondling and strip-searching of women at airports, seizure of toys from children, harassment and detention of political opposition members and anti-war protesters, arrest and subsequent disappearances of US citizens for indefinite periods based on zero evidence or judicial oversight, and surprise FBI interviews of your neighbors and family concerning books or other items you recently bought (or claims made against you by your neighbors, co-workers, plumber, electrician, mailman, UPS man, cable TV man, etc.), has only just begun, after all.

-- 80-year-old woman strip-searched

-- Your Grocery List Could Spark a Terror Probe

-- Kid's 2-inch gun seized

-- Soldier toy disarmed at airport

-- Tighter airport security targets toys

-- Humiliation greets visitor at airport

-- A Prison Where Detainees Disappear

-- FBI targets protest groups -- The Washington Times

-- FBI checking out Americans' reading habits - Bookstores, libraries can't do much to fend off search warrants

-- Governor Campaigner Arrested - for Participating in Democratic Process

-- Magazine accuses State of intimidation -- The Washington Times

-- Let Mowbray Report

-- US finds strange bedfellows in UN vote on torture csmonitor.com; Christian Science Monitor

-- Justice Dept. forges ahead with TIPS, despite Armey ban

-- Bush wants a country of full informers - politics - MIRROR ON-line ONE

-- Some TIPS for John Ashcroft; Businessweek

-- Here's a TIP We don't want police state

-- The National Snooping Network

-- Big Brother Hits the Books

-- George W. Bush channels George Orwell

-- US threatens to block torture convention

-- Green Party USA Coordinator Detained at Airport; Prevented by Armed Military Personnel from Flying to Political Meeting in Chicago, CounterPunch Wire; November 2, 2001

In some cases high school students, priests, and nuns who wish to travel to join in peaceful protests are being significantly delayed or prohibited from such activities by government constraints on their freedom to fly to their destinations.

-- Are You on the No Fly List? by Matthew Rothschild; McCarthyism Watch; April 27, 2002; The Progressive

Chicago is initiating a new policy: having reporters fingerprinted.

-- Press Pass? I'll Pass BY WENDY COLE; Currents: Access ; Cjr.org; May/June 2002; found on or about 6-5-02

-- Press freedom being tested by Bush Administration's anti-terrorist policy; 05.23.2002; Reporters Without Borders

-- GOP Monitoring Lobbyists' Politics (washingtonpost.com) By Jim VandeHei; June 10, 2002; Page A01

-- RNC Targets Liberal Interest Groups (washingtonpost.com)

-- The GOP's Wacky War on Dem Lobbyists; Businessweek

It appears the US legislative process failed during the recent passage of the anti-terror bill. And the nation will probably regret this failure in the long term. Apparently Congress was too fearful of another terrorist strike to adequately perform their legal duties here. Much of the bill was passed without the members even having read it.

The new law throws the judicial system and its oversight out of the loop for many critical procedures, and makes historic changes in other government processes as well. The bill seems to be overzealous in its efforts to combat terrorism, and thereby possibly creates new and unnecessary dangers to society as a byproduct.

-- A Panicky Bill (washingtonpost.com); October 26, 2001; Page A34

-- Freedom flees in terror from Sept. 11 disaster By Paul McMasters; pmcmasters@freedomforum.org; Ombudsman; First Amendment Center; 09.19.01

-- U.S. On Verge Of 'Electronic Martial Law' - Researcher By Kevin Featherly, Newsbytes; http://www.newsbytes.com; 15 Oct 2001

-- Security vs. Civil Liberties By Mike France, Heather Green, Jim Kerstetter, and Dan Carney; BusinessWeek Online; The McGraw-Hill Companies Inc.; OCTOBER 1, 2001

A gargantuan new intelligence collection system is being born from recent passage of the anti-terrorism bill. The FBI's main priority will no longer be bringing criminals to justice, but rather collecting intelligence within the borders of the US. The Treasury Department will collect financial intelligence (like the banking activities of Americans), and provide it to the CIA. The CIA will also now have some say in FBI operations.

The bill looks to remove many of the safeguards put in place after Watergate against abuses of presidential power, in matters like using intelligence resources against political activists.

-- An Intelligence Giant in the Making (washingtonpost.com) By Jim McGee Washington Post; November 4, 2001; Page A04

-- Ashcroft's power grab brings Joe McCarthy to mind

Our President is making a historically stunning grab for power which threatens to upset the balance of powers crafted by the founding fathers to protect us from despots. Even if you personally trust Bush, Cheney, Ashcroft and company not to abuse these powers, you must also consider that these same powers will be in the hands of their successors a few years down the road-- and you may trust them less. The President's Administration, along with Congressional complicity, has also been encouraging and broadening secrecy for government, business, technical, and scientific matters, nourishing anti-competitive business behavior and stripping US citizens of long-held intellectual property rights at the same time, all of which seems sure to reduce future innovation, competition, entrepreneurial activity, and so jobs and potential rises in living standards too.

With each passing day, Bush is not only stripping American citizens of powers they previously enjoyed to limit government's intrusion in their lives, but also making it harder for us to even know what our government is really up to, from day to day-- or what they'll do next.

President Bush is assuming what are essentially dictatorial powers on the advice of his panicked attorney general.

-- Seizing Dictatorial Power by William Safire; www.commondreams.org; December 13, 2001 [November 15, 2001 in the New York Times]

"If this were a dictatorship, it would be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I'm the dictator"

-- US President-elect George W. Bush, December 2000

-- Bush's Hill tour comes to a close By Mark Sherman/ Cox News Service;12-19-2000

-- BusinessWeek Online: WASHINGTON WATCH A Gentleman's "C" for W By Richard S. Dunham; Edited by Beth Belton; JULY 30, 2001

Indeed, American citizens and their civil rights and future happiness would seem more in the cross hairs of this Administration since 9-11-01, than any foreign-born terrorists.

Amazingly, there's been almost no public outcry about all this. Or at least, none that the mass media like Fox News is willing to give much coverage to. Instead, the media has been bought out by big business interests more concerned with controlling the American consumer's buying habits than reporting the news. And so the nation's course looks to have been pushed towards a much darker future than almost anyone could have expected, only 12 months ago.

Folks, for some years now I've mixed in some outright fiction with my other speculations about the future course of America and the world, in my timeline. I'd even wrote about the inevitable terrorist attacks upon New York City and other places which were sure to cause worrisome shifts in US government behavior.

But even I was stunned by the US President's response to the attacks. Much more stunned by those than the attacks themselves. I was stunned too by the US Congress' total lack of backbone in opposing the new police state measures demanded by the Administration. Even the majority of Republicans, which for at least a decade have said they opposed increasing the power of the federal government, simply gave the President virtually a blank check in the USA Patriot Act, with many of the politicians not even reading the new laws before they passed them wholesale.

It appears the US legislative process failed during the recent passage of the anti-terror bill. And the nation will probably regret this failure in the long term. Apparently Congress was too fearful of another terrorist strike to adequately perform their legal duties here. Much of the bill was passed without the members even having read it.

The new law throws the judicial system and its oversight out of the loop for many critical procedures, and makes historic changes in other government processes as well. The bill seems to be overzealous in its efforts to combat terrorism, and thereby possibly creates new and unnecessary dangers to society as a byproduct.

-- A Panicky Bill (washingtonpost.com); October 26, 2001; Page A34

I've been surprised as well by the continuing acquiesence of the Congress and the Courts to the Administration's continuing grabs for even larger and more sweeping powers over the American citizenry, even after passage of the USA Patriot Act itself. As a result of all this, it appears any US citizen can now be legally arrested and held indefinitely in secret locations, without benefit of legal counsel or even a notification to family of their whereabouts and why, if only the President, Attorney General Ashcroft, or anyone acting on their behalf wants to do so. No evidence of wrongdoing whatsoever is required. In many circumstances such indefinite detentions will never ever be subject to judicial review. If they want you, they'll get you, and there's not a damn thing you can do about it. Can this really be happening in America?

All this brings to mind some of the very worst aspects of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. Heck, I may be endangering myself for possible 'disappearance' just by writing this. But this stuff has to stop, before it's too late.

"...the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country."

-- Hermann Goering, Hitler's chosen successor for ruling Nazi Germany during World War II; quote from the Nuremberg Trials 1945-1946

But anyway...to be realistic, I personally can't change the course of my native land. I don't have the wealth or influence required. I'm also now realizing that my wildest political speculations on the future fate of the USA cannot match the present reality in terms of darkness and potential terror. Our future is going downhill far faster than anything I could make up.

So in future weeks and months I'm going to be purging various obvious political speculations and opinions from my site, and trying to refrain from adding new such items. I don't wish to waste my time and energies where they'll do no good. Plus, it looks to become increasingly dangerous in America to voice any dissent against the status quo. I don't have the resources to become a successful fugitive, nor the desire to become part of an underground resistance. It's hard enough in today's America just trying to "live long and prosper" as Spock might say, without trying to fight the government too.

"Americans ... need to watch what they say..."

-- White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer

-- White House whitewashers By Jake Tapper; Salon.com; Sept. 27, 2001

Ari Fleischer's stunning comment was missing from the official transcript afterwards, though the White House said that was due to an error. As of October 4th however the transcript still hadn't been corrected.

-- Spin-Off by Ryan Lizza; The New Republic; Posted date 10.04.01; Issued date 10.15.01

-- Rhetoric Check By Josh Gerstein; Oct. 11, 2001

"To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public."

-- Theodore Roosevelt, US Republican president, 1918

-- http://www.americanpresident.org/kotrain/courses/TR/TR_In_His_Own_Words.htm

I'm simply flabbergasted by what's happening to my country. And hope somehow Americans regain their healthy skepticism of (and rebellious independence from) big government police and domestic spying power, before it's too late.

For the reference of readers, I don't consider myself a republican or democrat. I'm even uncomfortable with the 'independent' label. In the past, I've been known to vote for any one of the three tickets, depending on the candidate and issues. I preferred the elder Bush against Reagan, when they were competing in Republican presidential primaries, but voted for Reagan anyway in the later general election-- and then was disappointed and dismayed by many of the things he did or presided over afterwards. More recently I preferred Clinton over Dole, for both candidate age and moderate politics reasons. As for Gore and Bush, I didn't vote at all there, as it was too difficult to see much difference between them, and both seemed to tout various extremist views with which I didn't agree. I personally would have required another candidate in the race to have participated in the polls (like McCain or possibly others).

Even in regards to the events following 9-11-01, I am unsure if Gore would have performed any better than Bush. Indeed, Gore, like Bush, may have followed his own extremist reactionary path, and been in his own way just as bad. It would seem only the details might be different.

Overall, I've been disappointed with just about every president we've had since I reached adulthood, both republican and democrat. And I suspect many of my American baby boomer peers share this view.

But so far this latest one is alarming me the most of all of them.

I just thought I'd share this before I begin to gradually 'go off the air' in direct political commentary on this site.

Good luck to all we Americans. We're going to need it, for what's coming.

Newz&Viewz Contents

7-27-02: America's political trap

Politics. I really, really dislike the subject.

A Washington Post columnist recently said to understand US politics you need to know that conservatives think liberals are dumb and/or naive, and liberals think conservatives are evil. What a shame that there's much truth in the reporter's observation.

To get fast traction on various issues and poll ratings US politicians and the media often do their best to polarize every issue big and small into either 'liberal' or 'conservative' extremes, to try to make everything look like a dramatic fight between good and evil, and as simplistic as possible. But very little of the world is truly composed of purely 'good' and purely 'evil' folks and simple, easy to figure out issues-- almost everything is usually some shade of gray, with some good aspects and some bad, with the best, most optimal choice typically being the selection of a shade of gray at least a bit more on the lighter side than the dark.

Such shaded choices are called 'compromises' of course, and are what business and government decision-making has to be among a diverse and dynamic people. But this works best when there's at least two opposing factions of roughly equal power, to insure that the compromises don't get too extreme towards either end of the spectrum.

The minimal number of two opposing parties probably isn't the optimal number for this process-- logic would seem to suggest the larger the number, the better. Simply because if there's only two sides, powershifts between them are unlikely to be small and incremental, even as the propaganda excesses from both sides tend to inflame both-- thus insuring that whichever side is dominant at a given moment will likely go overboard in their attempt to reshape society to their own ideal. This makes for big mistakes, scandals, corruption, fraud, waste, and a wrenching whipsawing of the citizenry and their institutions, which makes life harder for everyone and uncertainty about the future considerably larger than it has to be.

Think about it from a business point-of-view. Say government was a market, and political parties business operations, or companies, within that market. Pretty much all economists agree that having only one company dominant in a market is usually bad for competition and the consumer. Two big companies competing against one another is much better, but still does not a truly healthy and competitive market make. And yet that's been the status of American governance for almost our whole history, with only two political parties dominating everything we do. A thorough research project could probably find plenty of evidence to suggest this two-party system has resulted in far more mistakes and problems than a strong three or four party system likely would have. American health care (compared to that of other developed nations) would likely be an excellent place to start such research.

This consistently small number of dominant political parties over centuries likely stems from some deep flaw in the original system of governance as set up by the founding fathers-- but heck, they did so many other things right we can surely forgive them whatever error led to this particular circumstance. After all, they arguably dealt successfully with far more than their share of future political, economic, and military contingencies than anyone could have ever expected of them.

But regardless of all that, we Americans are today stuck in this perpetually polarized political environment, which seems way too prone to lurching from one extreme to another, mostly in response to immense scandals or disasters or uprisings by the populace-- or even to whichever major group can simply outshout/outspend the other most often in our media.

Whenever there's no 'big' events to drive our decisions, we all too often degenerate even further, into politics effectively driven by bribery, and business driven by a greed almost totally bereft of any ethics or long term perspective whatsoever.

I dearly wish we could run our country in a calmer, more objective, and rational manner than this. Our present methods make us (and the world too) far more vulnerable to war, economic turmoil, disasters both natural and unnatural -- and even mass extinction-- than we should be, in an age saturated with dangerous weapons and technologies of all kinds, and soaking in passions and desperation stemming from ignorance, intolerance, and abject poverty.

If you'd like to see some of my own recommendations for how things might be improved, please CLICK HERE.

Newz&Viewz Contents

7-27-02: Apple's currently running a promotional campaign trying to persuade PC users to switch to Macs. But this long term Mac user is switching to PCs

To see my many, many reasons for switching, just peruse my various user logs on-site (the links can be found near the top of this page).

I've initiated the next stage in my switchover from Apple Mac products to Microsoft Windows PCs. The Compaq Presario 5151 has joined my personal retinue of machines now. I'm presently transferring files from my iMac to the Compaq, and in general getting more acquainted with Windows style editing.

I'm testing HTML-Kit on the PC as a possible replacement for PageSpinner on the Mac. There's some annoyances involved here, such as the Compaq running Windows98 and an older version of MS Works than my Windows ME HP. The newer Works acts more like MS Word in underlining mis-spelled words as you type, rather than forcing you into a modal spell check box. I must learn new keyboard shortcuts for both applications and OS too.

But there's some new advantages as well-- a much bigger and better quality of free software downloads is now possible, compared to the Mac OS-- and even in some cases Windows ME. For example, I believe there's some free versions of some 3D software I can try in W98 that I couldn't in either of the other two operating systems. The Compaq brings with it a bigger display (17 incher) than my iMac, plus a much better keyboard (it's beige rather than black, so my old eyes can see it better, plus it's more roomy and comfortable to use). The Compaq's also more expandable than the iMac by a good margin-- as well as more modular and easily/cheaply repaired if necessary. Some extra peripheral and software wares came with the Compaq too, which I can pick and choose among for configuration, such as a scanner, printer, camera, CD-RW, etc. A ZIP drive is built-in, as is a slow Ethernet port.

Speaking of Ethernet ports, at the moment this is one of the annoyances involved in the switchover/configuration process. In a nutshell, at the moment I don't have a working Ethernet port on the machine and so will have to work on that, in order to get it connected to the LAN and internet. In the meantime I can download items on my HP and transfer them via ZIP disk for installation on the Compaq, but that's not optimal for many matters.

I'll be writing more on this later.

Newz&Viewz Contents

7-20-02: The glaring bioterror hole in US Homeland security plans UPDATED 7-24-02

In my 7-2-02: Unconditional love entry I pointed out that the unconditional financial love the US government currently lavishes on big business and wealthy individuals might be better spent on health insurance for the poor, as there's mounting scientific evidence that bad health in general is contagious, and so the uninsured poor present a much bigger contagion hazard to everyone else than is commonly realized.

Schizophrenia, depression, chronic fatigue syndrome, miscarriages, male infertility, Tourette's syndrome, obsessive compulsive disorder, arthritis, heart disease, mad cow disease, Alzheimer's (and other brain-related afflictions), multiple sclerosis (and other types of nerve ailments) and perhaps a large percentage of all known forms of cancer may in fact be capable of spreading through the population in various infectious ways (refer to the original entry for references supporting this statement).

Plus there's all the injuries to others due to accidents, mistakes, or violence stemming in some way from the afflictions listed above, wherever they exist untreated in an individual solely for reasons of lack of insurance. These injuries 'to the rest of us' must also be added to the overall societal costs of not attending to the uninsured.

But there's another factor to consider. Namely, bioterror attacks.

Any nation with a large percentage of its population uninsured health-wise is far more vulnerable to a bioterror attack than those countries with fully insured populations.

Why? Because uninsured folks on average will resist seeing a doctor when they get symptoms (even serious ones) for much longer than the insured. Since such uninsured folks are typically poor, they'll also tend to continue going to work, shopping, and running errands when sick, under circumstances wealthier folks would not. All this delays a nation from being alerted that a bioterror attack has begun, and allows the infection involved to spread much, much further than it otherwise would. Maybe even to you and I. Or to our kids or grandkids.

"Their lack of insurance is a known risk to their own health, but it must now also be recognized as a risk to the nation's health,"

-- Dr. Matthew Wynia of the American Medical Association and Lawrence Gostin of Georgetown University

-- Health experts worry uninsured may spread bioterror germs; The Associated Press/Nando Media /Nando Times; May 30, 2002

Even when a sick uninsured person does seeks help at a US hospital, they tend to receive a lower quality of care and less attention than the insured, both in cases considered routine or as emergencies-- and so a dangerous contagion from an as yet unreported bioterror attack would have that much more opportunity to spread throughout a community.

-- Lack of Insurance Hurting Americans' Health: Report By Todd Zwillich; May 21, 2002; Yahoo!/Reuters Health

--Myth challenged: uninsured adults not receiving needed care; 24 OCTOBER 2000; EurekAlert!; US Contact: John Lacey john_lacey@hms.harvard.edu 617-432-0442 Harvard Medical School

-- Safety Net Just Isn't There For Health Care Uninsured; [Contact: John Lacey, Judith Montminy] 25-Oct-2000; UniSci Daily

-- Many uninsured adults do not receive needed medical care; 24 OCTOBER 2000; US Contact: John Lacey 617-432-0441 Center for the Advancement of Health; Eurekalert!

30 million US workers don't possess health insurance. 40 million total Americans don't have health insurance.

-- Study: Uninsured Don't Get Needed Health Care By Ceci Connolly Washington Post; May 22, 2002; Page A03

Many of the those who are themselves uninsured actually pay thousands in taxes which end up paying for the health care of others.

-- Harvard Medical School study concludes: 'We pay for national health insurance but don't get it' by Frances M. Beal; July 17, 2002; San Francisco Bay View

Ironically, Americans already pay enough in taxes to get the universal health care virtually all other developed nations already possess. But we've let our politicians and big business simply pocket huge chunks of it rather than provide us with the services we've paid for. At some point this may become a far bigger scandal than the other schenanigans of US business accounting fraud and government waste. After all, eventually a research study will offer a good idea of how many Americans (both insured and uninsured) are unnecessarily dying or being permanently crippled in some way due to the actions or inactions of our politicians and various others involved.

"We pay the world's highest health care taxes, but much of the money is squandered. The wealthy get tax breaks, and HMOs and drug companies pocket billions in profits at the taxpayers' expense."

-- Dr. Steffie Woolhandler, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard

"...politicians claim we can't afford universal coverage. Every other developed nation has national health insurance. We already pay for it, but we don't get it."

-- Dr. David Himmelstein, of Physicians for a National Health Program.

"Other nations provide comprehensive health care to everyone without spending any more than the amount that we already pay in taxes to fund health care. But in the United States, we keep in place flawed policies that prevent tens of millions from having any health care coverage at all."

"We have an abundance of data to show that we can provide truly comprehensive health care benefits for absolutely everyone and actually reduce our total health care costs by adopting a program of universal health insurance."

-- Dr. Don McCanne, president of Physicians for a National Health Program

-- Harvard Medical School study concludes: 'We pay for national health insurance but don't get it' by Frances M. Beal; July 17, 2002; San Francisco Bay View

Compared to other countries, Americans are charged too much for just about everything health or medical-related. For example, we typically pay twice as much as other nations do for the same exact drugs. We pay our doctors twice on average what other OECD nations do too. We also pay lots more in administrative costs than most other OECD countries, wherever they use universal health systems compared to our private health care insurance system.

-- Health Insurance Premiums; OUTSTANDING STORIES OF THE WEEK; Economic Reporting Review By Dean Baker; July 15, 2002

-- Pills, Profit and the Public Health with Peter Jennings; ABC News Internet Ventures; Bitter Medicine: Pills, Profit and the Public Health aired on ABC, May 29, 2002 at 10 PM ET

-- Health Care in a 'Death Cycle' (washingtonpost.com) By David S. Broder; April 17, 2002; Page A15

Why should we suffer and pay so much for so little, compared to the citizens of other modern nations? Plus put ourselves at greater risk for bioterror attacks at the same time?

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7-20-02: Increasing the vitality, accessibility, profile, and convenience of this site for myself and others (for minimal extra cost and effort)

Please click here to see this item.

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7-19-02: Are those dark clouds on the horizon a gathering economic and political 'perfect storm'? UPDATED

There's been numerous news reports saying that it's not just US investors that've been selling US stocks lately, but foreign investors as well.

The mainstream media has concentrated on the bursting of the speculative telecom/internet bubble, plus the business accounting scandals as being the main drivers of such selling. Very little has been said of other possible sales motivations, such as the uncertainties regarding the US government's own accounting practices (i.e., can budgets and economic stats from the US government be trusted any more than from US business?); increasing unrest in the Middle East; the Bush Administration's constant drumbeat for war with Iraq (despite opposition and/or misgivings from virtually the entire rest of the world, including allies); and the still substantial and ongoing risk of nuclear war between Pakistan and India.

Beyond all the above, long term investors also must be pondering what the backlash to an increasingly unilateral USA throwing its weight around worldwide might be-- could full-fledged trade wars erupt? Might the US find itself engaged in armed conflict not with some dirt poor banana republic or rag tag group of Afghan tribal men, but a force much closer to peer status in technology and training? It's been so long since the US military fought against a truly competent enemy that the results of such a battle wouldn't necessarily be as predictable as many might think. And what course would the present US Administration follow, if a humiliating military defeat appeared imminent? Escalation to nuclear and/or biochemical weapons seems almost a certainty in light of recent Bush Administration pronouncements. Indeed, foreseeing possible failures with conventional arms against such foes may be the reason for the recent change in nuclear use policies.

America's change in official nuclear posture also seems likely to encourage the proliferation of technologies for weapons of mass destruction worldwide, as virtually every nation may now feel the need to possess such items as a tool to fend off excessive US economic and military pressures, and interference with local affairs. Plus, as the US now says it might use its nuclear weapons even against states which have none, being defenseless nuclear-wise would appear to offer fewer benefits than ever for a sovereign state.

Of course, since many smaller nations will find it too expensive to go nuclear, they will often develop much cheaper biological weapons instead, thereby greatly increasing the risk to the whole world of a killer plague escaping from a lab, being stolen by terrorists, or expanding beyond a local war zone to kill millions or even billions of innocents worldwide. Ironically, the large population of folks without health insurance in the US will make America considerably more vulnerable to these runaway plagues than most other developed countries.

An EU increasingly uncomfortable with recent US behavior is seeking to establish its own global positioning system to make it more independent of the US military-wise. The major remnant of our previous superpower opponent, Russia, may be down at the moment, but retains tremendous potential for making a roaring comeback if just a relative few structural problems are resolved. India is very similar to Russia in some respects; it wouldn't necessarily take many structural and policy changes to make for enormous future strides there. Japan is in somewhat similar straits to Russia at the moment, but would have considerably fewer repairs to make, and could start afresh after such reforms with a much stronger financial and industrial base than either Russia or India possesses. China is biding its time and so far making few mistakes as it embraces its own superpower mantle-in-the-making. It's also considering a bid to perhaps free itself of the Microsoft software yoke, and even offer competitive products in this vein worldwide.

Meanwhile, there are things happening in the US and those nations following the US lead in matters like increased surveillance, intelligence, and police powers legislation and business practices, which could lead to widespread technological and economic stagnation in those states. Things like the US government's encouragement of anticompetitive, monopolistic business practices by entities like Microsoft, and the expansion of monopolistic intellectual property powers in general for big business. Entrepreneurship, innovation, and competition cannot help but be reduced by such measures. And so economic growth as well. Items like the USA Patriot Act and related legislation and policy changes which are throwing a thick blanket of censorship and secrecy over a wide swath of public and private issues, making for less accountability in general and more errors of ignorance in design and planning of all sorts of projects and policies, look sure to skew future US policies and economic performance towards the downside of expectations. Increasingly sophisticated quashing of internal dissent by both business and government and a huge growth in widespread surveillance of the population looks to make USA economic and political processes even more inflexible tomorrow than they are today.

The US is also at present throwing huge sums of money into persuading nations like Pakistan and others to go along with various short-term wishlists of the US Administration, as well as on domestic boondoggles like a so-called ballistic missile defense shield-- which won't defend against ballistic missiles. Still more money is being poured into institutions like the NSA, CIA, and FBI so that an additional huge store of documentation of spied upon phone calls, emails, and shopping lists a day can be warehoused with the enormous quantities already being stored away each day. Although these mostly unexamined-in-realtime records likely won't help prevent many terrorist attacks, they will most certainly provide US intelligence and law enforcement agencies with copious information by which to embarrass, discredit, or coerce selected political opponents and dissenters among the US citizenry, as well as silence potential defense witnesses and cause the concealment or destruction of evidence which might exonerate anyone the US government chooses to persecute and imprison for whatever reason. Hopefully such abuses of the US government's new post 9-11-01 powers will not occur-- but past history is not comforting in this regard. Thus, more corruption in US business and government actions-- not less-- would seem virtually guaranteed by the sweeping new government powers now going into place in America.

While a few US business execs and corrupt foreign leaders will get to add another several hundred billion dollars to their personal fortunes from all this-- and it might even add a point or two to US GNP estimates for a few quarters-- at some point the debt hangover would seem sure to lead to a lower valued US dollar, higher inflation and interest rates, and recession (as well as perhaps a substantial rise in unemployment).

If more than a handful of all the items listed above comes about, it could become a 'perfect storm' in economic terms, for the US and any nations emulating its policies (i.e., global depression, market crashes, trade wars, etc.). This potentiality has already been mentioned in various news media sources.

Thus, even if somehow investors can be convinced that US business accounting practices have been cleaned up, and the excesses of the internet/telecom bubble have been completely wrung out of the system, there'll remain gobs and gobs more such stuff to concern them-- if they're paying attention.

Below is just a sampling of recent news reports and US and world opinion relating to all the above.

| US bankruptcies break records | The Bankruptcy Run Isn't Slowing | Our Crushing Personal Debt (washingtonpost.com) | Some Real Estate Markets Are Overpriced, Experts Warn | War With Iraq May Threaten Housing Market | Statistical physics predicts stock market gloom | Stock market crashes are predictable, major decline is coming in 2003 and 2004, says UCLA physicist | US faces a dramatically increased risk of terrorist attacks if it invades Iraq, American officials have calculated | U.S. Economy in Worst Hiring Slump in 20 Years | German economic woe escalates | The Dollar's Precarious Position -- Plutonium for 25 bombs missing in Japan | US warns that bioterror attack is inevitable | The world employment situation is alarming | Japan's economy is falling further into a deflationary spiral | The threat that's bigger than ricin | Iraq war would 'pour oil on the flames' Mubarak - smh.com.au | War in Iraq would open Pandoraís box Mousa | The global slump is hitting commercial real estate | Currency Whiplash Ahead | The Main Squeeze in the Credit Crunch small manufacturers -- even those with unblemished credit -- are bearing the brunt | Slowdown Is a Global Out-of-Work in Progress (washingtonpost.com) | The Dire State of the States | The Dollar Soggy and Still Sliding | The U.S. government showed poor judgment in not responding to the legitimate timing needs of U.S. refiners | Wall Street vs. U.S. government Which is sneakier | I WANT THE PRESIDENT TO CERTIFY THE GOVT'S BOOKS By JOHN CRUDELE | US giants 'inflating their profits by billions' | How many Enrons are there More than people may think. csmonitor.com | Foreign Investors Losing Faith | Campaign Reform's Worst Enemy | The Eagle Has Crash Landed | The cookbook any firm can follow | President Bush against the world | THE ROGUE STATE | America's bid to control the world | Nato unease over Bush 'no-warning' attack plans | Quick-Stick Doctrine (washingtonpost.com) | Bush Acting as Imperial President | Why we should be worried about George W Bush [29jun02] |

| Latest in long line of leaders targeted by US - JUNE 27, 2002 | The trouble with George W - smh.com.au | Marooned on his fantasy island, Bush stands firm | Why Europe feels left out in the cold | George W's bloody folly | Europeans resist US call for UN immunity | Bush to issue 'strike first' strategy | Americans have more to fear than ever | Stop trying to behave like a Hollywood hitman |

| Bush’s speech will raise the level of violence’ | America is not so special that she can be allowed to shirk her obligations | EU Slams U.S. Threat to World War Crimes Court | Women's rights pact still unratified by U.S. (June 21, 2002) | The US assault on world criminal court | U.S. veto threat 'frontal attack' on law | Too Many Rotten Apples |

| Foreign Tourists Miss the Bus | Should Giants Rule the Defense Biz | Show us the bugs - users want full disclosure | Is There Any Way Out Of the Telecom Mess | Ties Binding U.S. to Arab World Are Weakened (washingtonpost.com) | The Real Missile Threat Cruise not Ballistic | Will Cable Companies Limit Choice Online | Taking the Piracy Fight Too Far |

| Tech industry pushes legislation to protect homeland security contractors from lawsuits | Half willing to suspend freedoms | Europe's New Air War | Stocks Drop Sharply Again, Hitting Lowest Point Since '97 | Market turmoil continues | Worried investors unsure what to do | WHITE HOUSE ASKS CONGRESS TO SHIELD ADMINISTRATION OFFICIALS FROM PENALTIES FOR BREACH OF TRUST AND DOCUMENT DESTRUCTION | Dear Member You've Been Deleted | Advocacy groups claim free speech imperiled - Computerworld | Breaking Records--For Bankruptcies | Stocks' Slide Is Playing Havoc With Older Americans' Dreams |

| FBI Eyes Americans in Terror Search | HK backs 'dangerous' anti-terror law | Anger at war crimes court deal | A sudden conversion to corporate ethics is unlikely | What Is Operation TIPS (washingtonpost.com) | US planning to recruit one in 24 Americans as citizen spies - smh.com.au | The great charade | This sense of irresistible US superiority is overblown | Bush in more trouble as markets crash | U.S. leaders ignore lessons of history |

| Watchdog needed to protect liberties | A U.S. Watchdog For Civil Liberties (washingtonpost.com) | Civil liberties we have lost since September 11 | Copyright in the Balance LJ Talks with Lawrence Lessig | U.S. should not be a nation of spies | Crypto Controls are Spreading Internationally | Security, Not Secrecy (washingtonpost.com) | Critics Missile agency will hide data |

| Ex-U.S. officials warn that U.S. policies threaten repression | The watchdog didn't bark | Ottawa says Bush 'Texans' tried to bully G8 host | | Ashcroft's iron will molds the law | | U.S. against the world | Magazine accuses State of intimidation -- The Washington Times |

| Let Mowbray Report | Planned volunteer-informant corps elicits '1984' fears -- The Washington Times | Eight Cities in Patriot Act Revolt | Surprise The Little Guy Loses | 80-year-old woman strip-searched | U.S. Air Force Israel has 400 nukes, building naval force | Watching You, Watching Me |

| Slide in Citizenship Knowledge | PCWorld.com - Privacy Watch Online Investigators Know All About You | The end of fairness Right-wing commentators have a virtual monopoly when it comes to talk radio pro | Being independent of Microsoft isn't easy | Who are America's real enemies | US giants 'inflating their profits by billions' | Governor Campaigner Arrested - for Participating in Democratic Process | | How many Enrons are there More than people may think. csmonitor.com | | Foreign Investors Losing Faith | | Campaign Reform's Worst Enemy | | The Eagle Has Crash Landed | | Some Businesses Balk at Giving Secrets for U.S. Terrorism Fight |

| Patriotism becomes nasty campaign issue csmonitor.com | Merger mania created millionaires but made millions more poorer | Even a 'Bad Man' Has Rights (washingtonpost.com) | MS to eradicate GPL, hence Linux | FBI checking out Americans' reading habits - Bookstores, libraries can't do much to fend off search warrants | missile defense whistle-blower fired | | Rewriting law on the fly | War on terror little to do with terror | Secrecy Sought on Missile Defense | | Missile Defense Funding Increased (washingtonpost.com) | Bush's aides press for US powers to detain Americans | FBI targets protest groups -- The Washington Times | Protecting liberty in a permanent war -- The Washington Times | A Prison Where Detainees Disappear | Israel Missiles Can Reach Any Target on Earth | Too many secrets | Palladium's perilous promise | MS Why we can't trust your 'trustworthy' OS | | The Growing Nuclear Danger | A Corporate (Crime) State | Taking on the School of the Americas | Anti-terrorism bills 'like Nazi decree' | John Ashcroft Minister of Fear June 12, 2002 211336 |

| Civil Rights -- and Wrongs | Bush's Police State Kicks Into Gear | A hole in our missile defense system | Ashcroft's Incompetence Begets Power | | The Secret War on Whistle-Blowers | | The secrecy administration | Religious Groups Call Drug War Immoral |

| Spielberg Big Brother's Already Watching | Security bill bars blowing whistle -- The Washington Times | US cartoonists under pressure to follow the patriotic line | Workers say checks by security-conscious employers go too far | State 'citizen-soldier' call-ups soar | Dispersed al-Qaida poses even bigger terror threat, US says | Control freaks tightening their grip on the Internet | Why Don't We Listen Anymore (washingtonpost.com) |

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7-17-02: Timeline fiction getting more plausible all the time

In my timeline I speculate about a future college student creating a little virus to loosen up his girlfriend. It spreads out of control of course, eventually wreaking havoc worldwide.

Do-It-Yourself Virus recreated from synthetic DNA Science News Online, July 13, 2002 looks like a good citation for the plausibility of such things.

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7-17-02: I personally don't hold out much hope that we can reverse the USA's current slide into a Nazi-style police state anytime soon, but a few brave folks are trying

REPEAL THE PATRIOT ACT! United we stand for freedom or nothing!

No cooperation with the U.S. Stasi Petition (Note: as of 7-24-02 there were some reports that TIPS program plans had been killed. But only time will tell for sure)

Petition for Impeachment Process of George W. Bush Petition

Folks, note that I'm personally of the opinion that President Bush simply doesn't grasp the larger implications of many of the actions his advisors (like Attorney General Ashcroft) urge upon him. His sense of history, the American Constitution, and the inherent dangers to American democracy of concentrating ever more power in the executive office and various domestic security and intelligence agencies, etc., all seem ill-developed. Unfortunately, the quality of his Administration's decisions regarding issues relating to these may thus often be no better than those of his worst advisors.

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7-14-02: A possible tally of star-faring civilizations alive at this moment in our galaxy UPDATED 7-24-02

I've been working on a comprehensive update to CONTACT! Alien Speculations: The Rise and Fall of Star Faring Civilizations in Our Own Galaxy. Sorry, but it's still far from ready to post online. I've collected massive quantities of new information by which to form estimates, and better tune my conceptual model. At present the new info and model are spitting out the numbers given below.

A possible tally of star-faring civilizations alive at this moment in our galaxy (the given age spans only started ticking when a particular civilization reached the equivalent of humanity's technology circa 1900 AD):

The legion of star gods

As many as 4,125 super-advanced civilizations older than 10,000 years each, could have arisen sometime since around 200 million BC, and survived in some form up through today (gamma ray bursters likely killed off most or all possible alien civilizations arising before 200 million BC).

But it'd be pretty much impossible for us to tell if any of them were still around, as they might be indistinguishable from the forces of nature in the cosmos.

Note many of these civilizations may have each converged into something resembling a single super-powerful entity, or handful of same. So rather than 4,125 societies of billions of individuals, there might actually just be 4,125 super-beings of various sorts.

Note that by super-being I don't mean something like 'Superman' out of the comics-- although such entities could get that small if they wished I guess. No, I'd expect that actual beings of this sort would usually be pretty large-- and almost always inconspicuous. A single such entity might look like an immense cloud of gas or dust floating in space. A nebula perhaps. Or they might be a dark, solar system-sized Dyson sphere capable of independent movement across space, and hard to detect but for its small perturbations of gravity in the local vicinity. There's a myriad of forms such beings could take.

These unimaginably ancient races may have originated as either biologicals or the artificial aids of biologicals. The technological prowess of these entities could make them appear god-like to us. These sorts of entities may sometimes migrate either towards the galactic core or out of the galaxy entirely, into intergalactic space. They could also go elsewhere, to realms unattainable to lesser beings.

Hundreds of somewhat anomalous clouds of gas (overall "an inhomogenous mixture of different phenomena") in the galactic halo (a huge, mostly empty spherical region surrounding our galaxy) appear to be moving considerably faster than they should. Scientists have yet to fully explain the characteristics of these clouds.

-- Clouds lift on source of fast galactic clouds By Robert Roy Britt, explorezone.com . 11.29.99

As some of these old timers fade out of existence or move away for various reasons, they might be replaced in the galaxy by new, younger races reaching this pinnacle from the lower technology classes. This level of beings could accidentally eradicate our whole solar system as easily as we kill single insects by not watching where we walk.

The seven young galactic superpowers

Seven advanced technological civilizations younger than 10,000 years, possibly still somewhat organic in composition, perhaps still recognizable to us as living, physical beings, and able to relate to us in some coherent fashion. In theory we could communicate with or locate such races by various means. Interaction with these beings would be completely unpredictable in consequence.

The 47 beset and beleaguered societies

47 long-lived but struggling civilizations, younger than 10,000 years, likely mostly organic/biological in composition. These peoples would possess superior technologies to our own, and resemble humanity in perhaps too many ways, motivation and behavior-wise, making them likely more dangerous to us than beneficial. In theory we could communicate with or locate such races by various means.

The worlds of the dead

Possible ruins and artifacts distributed about space from as many as 28,000+ 'dead' civilizations, which possessed technological capacities equivalent to somewhere between 1900 AD and 2600 AD humanity's when they collapsed, sometime within the past million years. These relics are pretty much insignificant technology-wise to anyone who already has the means to reach and find them. But there may be some interesting biological, social, and historical aspects to them for scholars. In some cases biological survivors of these races may still exist, but living in primitive conditions equivalent technology-wise to humanity's past, somewhere between one million BC and 1900 AD.

So how close to us might the nearest such folks be?

Well, it appears that we could find recognizable relics or remnants of a dead/collapsed alien civilization only some 178 lightyears away.

Approximately 1,506 lightyears away we could run into the nearest struggling alien civilization, typically commanding a volume of space not much larger than their own solar system.

Still further away, at some 2,840 lightyears distant, would be the central world of the nearest rich and powerful technologically advanced civilization, possibly exploiting dozens of solar systems, and perhaps even possessing some form of faster-than-light transport or communications.

These numbers are still subject to change as I work through the piece and all my compiled information (my references will be disclosed with the updated article when it's published). But I personally find the substantial changes in numbers since my last update to be intriguing.

One particular downside of the new estimates: It appears less likely than ever that we might get help from alien intervention if we screw things up too badly on Earth via pollution, nuclear or biological warfare, a mass extinction cascade, or economic ruin.

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7-12-02: Dirty bombs: Made with loving care in America

Contrary to what you may see in the mainstream press, the primary purveyor of dirty bombs in the world is America, not someone else. You see, we pack radioactive waste into our shells used for tank and artillary ammo, and shot at folks literally all around the world. You know-- that "depleted uranium"? Folks, such shells are state-of-the-art dirty bombs, which terrorists could only dream of building. And yes, we offer a full range of such dirty bombs, including city-busters-- the full-scale nukes (which may be configured by design to be either 'dirty' or relatively clean, fall out wise).

With the hundreds of thousands of such 'dirty' shells stored away for military use throughout the US, it seems the most likely dirty bomb scenario Americans might face is that of our own shells being used against our cities and suburbs (much like our own military anthrax was used in the mailings after 9-11-01). YIKES!

So just how dangerous are the typical US dirty bombs used for tank ammo? Apparently as dangerous as any dirty bomb a terrorist might build of similar size (if not more so).

-- Depleted uranium may cause kidney failure "in days" by Rob Edwards; 12 March 02; NewScientist.com news service

-- Uranium weapons health warning By Ania Lichtarowicz; BBC News Online; 12 March, 2002

-- US Dirty Bombs Radioactive Shells Spiked with Plutonium

-- Dirty Bombs, Blowback and Imperial Projections

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7-11-02: Healthcare and wholistic accounting

It seems that the last decade or so most high-profile US policy-makers have usually assumed the following:

#1: That using government funds to insure the survival and health of citizens is a net drain on the government budget, and thus on the larger economy itself.

#2: That it's more efficient (read: costs less) to allow private enterprise to manage a large part (if not all) of the health care industry-- plus citizens will get a better quality of service too (read: live longer and healthier than they might with a single payer government system, plus pay less for it).

But where's the evidence supporting these assumptions? I see the assumptions themselves touted frequently, but not any proof of their validity. Rather, the case seems to be quite the opposite. That private enterprise is not necessarily more efficient than government in such matters, and private concerns do not necessarily provide quality of service superior to non-profit institutions.

It may be that just as economic growth allows health improvements in a given population, the opposite may also be true: that health improvements themselves can lead to economic growth.

Improvements in health increase productivity and energy on the part of a population, as well as reduce down time. Health improvements boost life expectancy, which may bring with it a greater demand for education-- since the longer the lifespan the more useful an education can be. More education leads to more productivity and higher incomes. Longer lifespans also make for increased investment, since people must plan for retirement. This expanding investment pool itself allows for more economic growth in a nation-- as well as further improvements in health...

-- Healthy nations more likely to become wealthy, Reuters Health/Yahoo! Health Headlines, February 17 2000

The world's healthiest people are the Japanese, while France appears to possess the best health care system overall. The United States spends more per person on health care every year than any of the other 190 countries in the study, yet ranks only 37th in terms of health care quality.

The World Health Organization studied health care quality and cost in 191 countries worldwide, announcing their conclusions around mid-2000 AD. Among them were these items of note:

WHO's study focused primarily upon the cost-effectiveness of each nation's health care, compared to all others. Important factors included the health of a country's native population relative to others, the treatment of the nation's minorities and poor, and how well a country's public health system does at preventing sickness in the first place.

The people of Japan were judged to be the most healthy population overall, living on average 4.5 years more in good health during their lifespan than Americans. Japan spends an average of $1,759 per person in health care.

France was judged to possess the best health care system overall, with Italy coming in second. The French live on average three more years in good health than Americans. France spends an annual average of $2,125 per person on health care.

Japan, Singapore, and Spain ranked among the top ten best health care systems in the world.

Britain and Canada, which offer a free national health service and a widely acclaimed system respectively, came in 18th and 30th on the scorecard.

The United States came in 37th in ranking, despite spending more per person on health care every year than any of the other 190 countries in the study ($3,724).

Professionals commenting on the study pointed out that Italy probably benefits from the advantages of the so-called Mediterranean diet, which includes substantial amounts of olive oil, known to help maintain good health. They also said the USA was good in the area of expensive, high end health care-- it's in the realm of low cost prevention that it does poorly, compared to some of those countries scoring higher on the list. Other observations were that government-run health insurance isn't necessary to have a good system, according to the study. Some nations perform well with combinations of public and private programs.

-- Controversial study finds France has world's best health-care system By LAURAN NEERGAARD, Associated Press, June 20, 2000, http://www.nandotimes.com

The total healthcare monies spent in the US annually per person around 2000 amounted to $4,187, by one measure. By contrast, Costa Rica spent only $226. The US also enjoyed twice as many doctors per person as Costa Rica. Some results of this vast resource disparity include higher life expectancies at birth for Costa Rican men than US men-- with expectancies for women just a bit less in Costa Rica than the US. Why? Perhaps because basic healthcare services focused on prevention are available to most Costa Ricans, and the Costa Rican economic policies allow most everyone sufficient income for food and housing for themselves and their families. The biggest healthcare difference all the extra money spent in the US seems to bring is the addition of a bit more lifespan via advanced technology to old folks near the end of their lives.

-- The slowing pace of progress By Phillip J. Longman, US News & World Report, found on or about 12-30-2000

-- For-Profit Hospitals Present Greatest Risk Of Dying; unisci.com

-- Despite resources, at-risk infants in US fare no better, researchers find; eurekalert

-- New Drugs Termed Riskier Than Old (washingtonpost.com)

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7-8-02: Some quotes that should have lots of Americans squirming in their seats

"...the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country."

-- Hermann Goering, Hitler's chosen successor for ruling Nazi Germany during World War II; quote from the Nuremberg Trials 1945-1946

"To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public."

-- Theodore Roosevelt, US Republican president, 1918

-- http://www.americanpresident.org/kotrain/courses/TR/TR_In_His_Own_Words.htm

"Preventative war ... I don't believe in such a thing, and frankly I wouldn't even listen seriously to anyone that came in and talked about such a thing."

-- Dwight Eisenhower, US Republican president and Allied military chief in World War II , 1954

-- A TIME FOR DISSENT IN AMERICA By Richard Reeves; Jun 29, 2002; Yahoo! Op/Ed

"They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."

-- Benjamin Franklin, one of America's most important founding fathers, 1,759 AD

page 348, Benjamin Franklin, Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 15th edition, by John Barlett, Little, Brown, and Company, 1980

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7-6-02: Mounting pressures for acceleration in the timeline-- and not in a good way UPDATED

Close watchers of my timeline over years past may have noticed that in recent months I expanded my existing predictions of future economic turmoil and trouble for the US, moving up some elements of same from as far away as the 2060s to as near as 2007. I did this because the US government over-reacted to the successful terrorist strike of 9-11-01 even more than I had previously expected they would (I'd predicted big terrorist acts in New York for years). I anticipated an extreme reaction to stem from the events-- but the Bush Administration went beyond my wildest speculations with their actions, to possibly accelerate by many decades a decline for US fortunes which I had earlier believed would take close to centuries. YIKES!

Recent events and trends are building a case for substantial American economic malaise gathering strength already, in mid-2002, to bring about surprisingly difficult problems much sooner than anyone expects. The number of items pointing in this direction is so jaw-droppingly large I'm not going to attempt to list them here, but rather just direct you to the various news sources available in my What's New and News & Magazines pages. You'll find plenty there over the weeks and months to come.

I feel pressured to pull the prediction dates for bad news still closer to the present. But hopefully normal fountainheads of American dissent and debate will return to save us from the madness, before we sink too deep, and prevent such near term calamity. I can't believe our collective intelligence as a nation has simply evaporated in the wake of 9-11-01. There must be more to us than simply a knee-jerk, panicky reaction to everything. Over-reacting to events can often lead to much worse consequences than those brought about by the original events themselves. Examples of over-reactions worsening problems rather than solving them abound, from people over-reacting in scary driving situations and thereby causing themselves to lose control of their autos, to people taking drugs in an effort to cope with life's problems and ending up in the hospital or worse. Over-reactions in war result in more innocents being killed, not less. And more in-justice (rather than justice) being served. Remember the internment camps for thousands of innocent Japanese-American citizens in World War II?

Keep in mind that we've really been extraordinarily lucky for decades-- and even the 9-11-01 strike could have been much, much worse than it was. We've never yet had to deal with any individual terrorists of relatively large IQs (except perhaps for the lone Unabomber? And it appears he only got into the game because he was genuinely deranged). And the terrorist organizations we've faced have averaged even lower on the intelligence scale than the individuals.

What happened on 9-11-01 was simply this: After decades of trying all sorts of ways to get our attention, one particular terrorist group from among many simply got very lucky. Keep trying at anything enough times, and eventually you'll just get lucky. Even bin Laden, I'm sure, never dreamed a single WTC tower would pancake all the way to the ground-- much less both of them! His greatest ambition was probably that the top 10-20 floors of the building might tip over and fall to the ground, like the top of a tree being cut off. Note they tried the tree toppling scenario for a WTC building years before, with a bomb in the basement. But bin Laden and his minions would likely have been thrilled at achieving nothing more than causing twin towering infernos, plus putting a hole in the Pentagon and the Capitol building dome (or crashing flight 93 into the Three Mile Island nuclear plant).

In addition to simple luck for the terrorists, we played into their hands by training airline passengers over decades to simply follow terrorist orders during such events, no matter what. And lastly, we had a Presidential Administration at best asleep at the wheel, more intent on censoring the internet, pushing the drug war, building a missile defense system, and criticising Iraq than attending to counter-terrorism initiatives. At worst, the Administration (at minimum) outright encouraged 9-11-01, with their hands off policy in regards to Israel in the preceding months (I remember in the summer of 2001 often thinking that sooner or later that was going to cause immense trouble for someone), and by ordering the FBI to cease their investigations of bin Laden family members, as well as forcing the FBI to back off on other counter-terrorism measures and investigations at the time. Rumsfield even shifted something like $800 million away from counter-terrorism programs to shore up the so-called missile defense system he and Bush want so badly, prior to 9-11-01. The Bush Administration, strongly alerted to likely terrorist strikes using airliners for suicide bombings against US landmarks in the weeks prior to 9-11-01, also neglected to take the sort of extra security measures the Clinton Administration did years before in response to similar threats against the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta. Faced with alerts at least as substantial and detailed as what Clinton had earlier received, Bush took little if any discernible action to protect the public.

But you don't have to take my word for it. I have a growing list of references supporting all this and more at America's crisis in governance, 2001-2003. The sources include just about every major and credible US and international news organization you can name. Check it out.

UPDATE: Debunk the myth of Al Qaeda, FBI: Just 200 hard-core Al-Qaeda, overhyped terror threat, Terror threat overblown, says expert, and West Overestimates al-Qaida's Reach are some of the few articles I've seen pointing out that the US government sure has built up a flimsy (and tiny!) rag tag group of thugs into something resembling a glittering James Bond film villain. What's amazing is that most Americans seem to be swallowing the party line wholesale, even when they see over and over again the dire living conditions these villains were living in (video from Afghanistan caves and "training camps"). These guys might be considered valiant rebels against America in some Arab/Islam enclaves, but they're basically nothing but common murderers in their actions-- little different from our own home-grown killers. And yet we're touting these foreign criminals as some sort of superhuman threat to us all-- just because after decades of repeated attempts, and our own failings in many related matters, the criminals finally struck it lucky and did something that caught our attention. Perhaps the worst thing about all this is how the current US Administration is using this as justification for turning the US into a full-fledged police state. END UPDATE.

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7-6-02: New pages on site

Three new pages appearing onsite include:

America's crisis in governance, 2001-2003

Leads to Recent Medical and Health Related Articles and Like Resources

Stream of web consciousness snapshot log

True love, soul mates, relationships, inspiration, job burnout, depression, and more

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7-5-02: Scientists can create 'electronic' black holes. Real black holes may actually be gravastars. Are electronic gravastars possible? What about electronic Q-balls? UPDATED 7-24-02

Could it be possible to enclose an electronic Q-ball inside an electronic gravastar to create a strong and highly versatile power source, scalable from the micro scale to planetary-size? But devoid of the normal gravity-related problems of the non-electronic versions of all these? If gravastars exist, they would emit more energy than black holes when 'fed'.

Sources regarding Q-balls include New Scientist (date stamp 8-30-97)

As of early 2002, humanity may have found natural variants of Q-balls or quark stars in space.

-- Quark stars point to new matter By Richard Black, 10 April, 2002; BBC News Online

-- Two Stars Defy Current TheoriesBy PAUL RECER, Associated Press; April 10 2002, Los Angeles Times

-- APOD: 2002 April 14 - RX J185635-375: Candidate Quark Star by Robert Nemiroff and Jerry Bonnell, NASA

-- Collapsed Stars May Aid Understanding of Matter; April 15 2002; Los Angeles Times

-- Strange Stars Odd features hint at novel matter Science News Online, April 20, 2002; www.sciencenews.org

Could there be 'mirror' star systems and life forms among the outer rim of our galaxy which are practically invisible to us?

These entities, which seem to resemble Q-balls in some ways, may exist under a set of physical laws somewhat removed from that to which we are accustomed. That is, they still are affected by gravity, yet may not exude photons like normal star systems as they burn (and other differences could exist as well, such as a far faster burn-through of fuel and shorter lifespan overall; most mirror stars may well have burnt out and collapsed into black holes long ago throughout the universe).

It appears the maximum stable mass of such a mirror star would be around half that of our own Sun-- and this determination seems to match nicely with the phenomenon known as MACHOS (which is the label applied to these bizzare mirror masses).

The mystery of MACHOS may well continue for another century, due to the difficulty involved in resolving the questions they raise.

-- "There Could Be Whole Worlds Of Invisible Matter Out There" Author: Hazel Muir New Scientist magazine, issue 13th Feb. 1999

It may be possible to create medicine ball-sized electronic black holes in the lab-- and relatively easy, at that. Such black holes in theory would not pose a danger to ordinary matter or light, but only electrons-- i.e., electrical energy brought near the beast might disappear into it forever, but nothing else.

The more familiar matter-eating type of black hole created in the same setting could devour the entire Earth in less than an hour after its birth.

-- BBC News | Sci/Tech | The home-made black hole By Dr David Whitehouse, November 16, 1999, http://www.bbc.co.uk/

The traditional notion of a black hole may be wrong. Another explanation for the phenomena may be gravastars.

Gravastars could be strange bubbles of very dense matter: shells of cold, dense matter, filled with an exotic type of space. The exotic space would repel any matter falling into the shell, forcing it back into the shell itself. Outside the shell, an enormous gravitational field emanating from it would pull mass in just like a theoretical black hole. So the outer shell would be like a strange porous windshield-- some things might splatter on the outside, while things with greater momentum might get inside for a bit, then bounce back to splatter against the interior side of the shell after all.

The shell might be much like a standing wave of gravitational shock energy in space-time, separating the normal space outside from the exotic space inside.

The idea of gravastars may pose fewer unsolved mathematical and physical problems than the concept of black holes.

The creation of gravastars might also be an explanation for the source of gamma ray bursters.

The entire visible universe could possibly be inside one enormous gravastar.

One difference between black holes and gravastars would be gravastars would allow the escape of more energy than black holes, as matter fell into them.

-- Black holes fact or fiction? by Hazel Muir; 16-Jan-2002; New Scientist; Contact: Claire Bowles; claire.bowles@rbi.co.uk 44-207-331-2751; New Scientist; 19th January 2002 ; RELATED URLS: www.arxiv.org/abs/gr-qc/0109035 and http://www.newscientist.com

And while we're on the subject of black hole derived power sources, it appears a future entrepreneurial opportunity for tapping such sources may exist within the vicinity of our solar system in the form of microscopic black hole remnants left over from the Big Bang. Such power sources may also be available along deep space interstellar exploration routes to power long range probes and other vessels.

The very brief (lasting under 100 milliseconds) gamma ray bursts we detect may stem from microscopic-scale black holes exploding throughout space. As of 2001 these made up around 1.4% of the total bursts detected so far, and appeared to maybe be local in origin.

These tiny black holes could be left-over relics from the Big Bang, only now evaporating away into nothingness in gamma ray burst 'pops'. The 'pops' appear to be somewhat concentrated in the Orion arm of our galaxy.

There could be 10 billion such micro-holes distributed within every few cubic lightyears of space-- which means one could pass through our solar system any time. If this theory is correct, several of these will detonate-- each with the force of a 100 billion megaton nuclear bomb-- every year in this same volume of space. Fortunately these particular gamma ray sources and their blast effects shouldn't much effect Earth unless they occur very, very close to us.

-- Black holes in the neighbourhood by Marcus Chown; 28-Nov-2001; Contact: Claire Bowles claire.bowles@rbi.co.uk 44-207-331-2751; New Scientist issue: 1 December 2001; http://www.newscientist.com

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7-5-02: Could diamonds become an important future fuel for starships?

There could be diamond dust floating in space...and carbon fuel cells are a real technical possibility as a spacecraft power source...hmmm

Might a spacecraft be able to sweep up enough diamond grains to run one or more cells during voyages?

If a carbon-fueled craft couldn't get by indefinitely with only the diamond space dust, it might be able to do some refueling at dead or dying white dwarf stars along the way, which may possess an outer shell of solid diamond, and central cores composed of diamond metal.

If they wanted easier and maybe more common refueling stations than dead/dying white dwarf stars, they could try gas giant planets like our own Uranus and Neptune, where diamonds may regularly fall like icy hail does on Earth. Brown dwarfs may also possess such diamond factories.

(You DO realize that diamonds offer so little real world utility, are so common in the universe (and on Earth), and so easily made artificially as to be intrinsically worthless, don't you? Only the power of Madison Avenue advertising and tight artificial control of as many Earthbound diamond sources as possible by the DeBeers virtual monopoly props up prices to ridiculous levels among early 21st century humanity. What price would diamonds go for naturally? Probably about the same as glass marbles. The precise moment a critical mass of consumers figures this out, the diamond market will crash hard, never to recover again. And children everywhere will suddenly discover they have lots of new and pretty baubles to play with)

Of course, you could derive carbon from lots of other substances found on gas giants and other bodies too-- it's just that diamonds would be a highly concentrated source.

Carbon from a variety of sources can be converted directly into electricity electrochemically. The other product is a stream of carbon dioxide, which may be put to other technological or biological uses. The carbon fuel is not consumed, but transformed. "Molten lithium, sodium, or potassium carbonate" is another substance utilized in the reaction. The thermodynamic efficiency of this type of fuel cell already exceeded 70% as of mid-2001.

The preferred form of carbon for cell use is fine dust (10 to 1,000-nanometers in diameter).

The gas produced by present-day cells might serve as the expendable gas propellent for ion engines.

-- S&TR | June 2001 by JOHN COOPER; S&TR | June 2001; Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory; UCRL-52000-01-6 | July 23, 2001, and other sources

Diamond dust may make up 5% of the carbon floating in interstellar space. Individual particles "...measure just a few nanometers across".

-- inScight - 7 May 2002: Diamond Grains Waft Among Stars

Dying white dwarf stars may at least sometimes develop a thick outer shell of pure, blue-green colored diamond.

-- A Star Encased in Diamond by Lee Dye; ABCNEWS.com; April 29, 1998 (found on or about 1-16-2000)

White dwarf stars may have cores of diamond metal.

-- Scientists Turn Diamond Into A Metal by Charles Seife; 31 MARCH 1999; New Scientist issue 3rd April 1999; Contact: Claire Bowles claire.bowles@rbi.co.uk 44-171-331-2751 US Contact: New Scientist Washington office newscidc@idt.net 202-452-1178

-- Do Diamonds Hail Down Upon Neptune And Uranus? 01-Oct-1999; unisci.com; [Contact: Robin Benedetti, Raymond Jeanloz, Bob Sanders]

-- Uranus, Neptune May Be Diamond Mines By Maggie Fox; Yahoo!/Reuters; September 30, 1999

-- Astrophysicists discover possible nanodiamond formation in the early solar system; Eurekalert!

"...a multibillion-dollar industry has risen up upon an object that is essentially quite useless."
-- Matthew Hart, author of Diamond: A Journey to the Heart of an Obsession.

-- BusinessWeek Online:Why Are Diamonds Forever? Interview of Matthew Hart by Karin Pekarchik, Edited by Patricia O'Connell; DECEMBER 5, 2001

-- "CRACKS IN THE DIAMOND TRADE" and "INDIA'S DIAMOND-STUDDED DILEMMA", Businessweek (on or about 2-19-98)

-- "Wear-resistant Diamond Coating Created By Sandia Scientists: Superhard Material Thickly Coats Metals, Plastics, Also Stands Alone", Sandia National Laboratories, April 9 1998

-- "Man-made gems fool diamond dealers, pawnbrokers" By TESSIE BORDEN, June 14, 1999, Nando Media/Associated Press

-- "Simply brilliant: UF/Russian team makes gem-quality diamonds", EurekAlert! Contact: Reza Abbaschian, rabba@mse.ufl.edu, 352-392-6609, University of Florida, 18 AUGUST 1999

-- Have You Ever Tried To Sell A Diamond?; The Atlantic

-- Ten reasons why you should never accept a diamond ring

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7-2-02: Unconditional love: I'm against it. Especially for big business and super wealthy folks who (unlike most of us) pay little or no income taxes UPDATED

51 of the 100 biggest economic bodies in the world are now corporations rather than nations. Over 25% of the global economy is based upon only 200 corporations, which altogether employ under one percent of the world's labor force.

From 1983 to 1999 profits of the 200 companies described above increased by over 360%.

82 of the 200 companies are USA corporations. 41 are Japanese.

Seven of the US companies actually received net tax credits from the federal government rather than paying any taxes for 1998. 44 of the 82 US companies paid less than the 35% federal income tax normally required between 1996 and 1998.

-- Study Reinforces Public Distrust of Corporations, the Institute for Policy Studies, found on or about 12-14-2000

-- Corporate tax avoidance is costing us all billions by Nick Mathiason; June 29, 2003; The Observer; Guardian Newspapers Limited 2003

Oh sure, unconditional love may be essential at times for the raising of children, and perhaps for the care and/or treatment/therapy of the disabled, injured, sick, and elderly. Maybe for the education/training of the ignorant or unskilled too at times. I've nothing against that.

But unconditional love for able-bodied and able-minded adults who pursue their own interests regardless of how it affects those around them? Nope. Folks, if you're of mature physical age and not significantly functionally incapacitated so far as any reasonable measure can discern, you better be willing to compromise and give back and help out roughly in proportion to your abilities and resources, if you want to get some measure of what you want out of me in return.

I believe that's roughly how lots of other folks feel about the matter too. Able-bodied grownups better not think they can be as irresponsible as kids around me.

Scaling this issue up a few notches takes us into the entitlement/social welfare arena, where our politicians set our priorities about doling out help (or not) and determining just how the judging will be done about who deserves help and who doesn't. Then, beyond all this, they also decide how hard, costly, and complicated it'll be for those who do deserve such help to actually get at what's available. Our pols also decide how big the available 'help pie' will be.

Taxpayers provide all the money government spends, in one way or another. Today the vast majority of these tax payers are relatively low income individuals, as truly wealthy folk and big business get new ways both legal and illegal to avoid paying taxes each and every year. For example, many of the richest folks and companies you ever heard of may not have paid any income taxes at all in one or more of the past few years.

"We don't pay taxes. Only little people pay taxes" -- Leona Helmsley

"the average level of corporation tax in the world's 30 richest countries has been seen to plunge - from 37.5 per cent to 30.8 per cent between 1996 and 2003"

"as corporation tax rates plummet the burden will increasingly fall on individuals and small businesses - the little people"

-- Corporate tax avoidance is costing us all billions by Nick Mathiason; June 29, 2003; The Observer; Guardian Newspapers Limited 2003

Regardless of whether these rich folks or corporations paid any taxes, they often get big chunks of the available 'help pie', in various loan guarantees or other subsidies of things like second and third homes, advertising their products in certain regions of the world, and other matters like that.

Yep. That's right. There's plenty of 'unconditional love' in the form of government money going to amazingly wealthy folks and companies, even in some cases where those folks didn't contribute at all to the taxes paid to government in the year they get such largess.

-- 'end corporate welfare for tech'

On the other hand, there's quite a few 'little' people with real problems, including children in many cases, who get no help at all from the government for reasons including the 'pie' being too small to accomodate them, or the hurdles to accessing it being too difficult for them to overcome. Hmm. Pie too small huh? Seems like if we cut off the wealthy and big business from tapping the pie, that'd leave more for the truly needy, wouldn't it?

I guess some libertarians and free marketers would scream this isn't fair. Well, how about if we just stop the rich folks and corporations who didn't pay any significant income taxes in a given year from tapping into the pie for that same year? Wouldn't that at least be fair? No, some folks will say. Because those hungry kids or working poor adults probably didn't contribute any appreciable taxes that year either. Those despicable poor people! Why should they get any help whatsoever?

How about because many of them are just children? Or parents of such children, struggling to make ends meet?

How about because the rest of us (including the super-rich) want to stay healthy and uninjured ourselves? It's starting to look like contagions of various sorts can cause such diverse afflictions as schizophrenia, depression, chronic fatigue syndrome, miscarriages, male infertility, Tourette's syndrome, obsessive compulsive disorder, arthritis, heart disease, mad cow disease, Alzheimer's, and other brain-related afflictions, multiple sclerosis, and other types of nerve ailments, and perhaps a large percentage of all known forms of cancer.

Sources include the Scientific American web site (found 9-26-97)

Evidence is mounting that at least some forms of schizophrenia can be caused in whole or in part by viruses.

-- Hopkins researcher finds retroviral 'footprint' in brains of people with schizophrenia; EurekAlert!; 9 APRIL 2001; US Contact: David Bricker dbricker@jhmi.edu 410-223-1728; http://www.stanleylab.org

-- Virus in DNA 'is cause of mental illness' BY MARK HENDERSON; Times Newspapers Ltd.; APRIL 10 2001

The Borna virus looks to have a connection to human depression, chronic fatigue syndrome, and schizophrenia. It can kill sheep and horses via brain disease.

-- Animal Virus May Contribute to Mental Illness By Stephen Pincock; Reuters Health/Yahoo! Health Headlines; January 9, 2002

Tourette's syndrome and obsessive compulsive disorder may develop in cases where children endure repeated infections of a particular kind of strep, and go untreated.

-- Strep a Linked to Psychiatric Disorders in Kids By Anne Harding; Reuters Health/Yahoo! Health Headlines; December 19, 2001

-- Bizarre Child Behaviors Possibly Linked to Strep Infection Respond to Antibiotics

But that's not all. There's mounting evidence that far more of humanity's ills are spawned by infectious agents than ever imagined in previous decades.

It appears the bacteria Salmonella, most known as a cause of food poisoning, may also cause a bout of arthritis in 10% of victims, which lasts for weeks. A smaller percentage of people suffer long term arthritis from such encounters. The method by which this occurs appears to be applicable to other auto-immune afflictions as well.

-- Study Finds Evidence Food Bug Can Cause Arthritis, Reuters/Yahoo! Science Headlines, February 1, 2000

Evidence is mounting that infectious diseases may contribute to cardio-vascular problems, including diseases of the system. Chlamydia pneumonia bacteria and the herpes variant cytomegalovirus (CMV) are but two such agents.

-- More Evidence That Infections Cause Heart Disease By Maggie Fox, Reuters/Yahoo! Science Headlines, September 18, 2000

All sorts of common bacterial infections, from urinary to gum disease, may contribute to later heart-related illnesses/conditions.

-- Infections Linked to Clogged Arteries By Merritt McKinney, February 26, 2001, Yahoo!/Reuters Health; Circulation 2001;103:1064-1070 is cited in the article

Note that being burdened with one affliction possibly stemming from infection can lead to still others by different means.

-- Cardiovascular disease leads to higher risk of dementia, Eurekalert!

-- Ulcer bacteria linked to strokes, Eurekalert!

There's 200 different known forms of cancer. Viral infections appear to trigger almost 20% of these.

-- Scientists Seek Cancer Clues in Cold Virus By Patricia Reaney, Yahoo!/Reuters, February 20, 2001

A new infectious threat to human beings, in addition to the bacterial and viral agents known before, is now being officially recognized: prions. These things are responsible for afflictions such as Mad Cow Disease, and likely various cancers and other brain-related problems.

-- Predictions for the new millennium By LANCE GAY, October 25, 1999, Nando Media/Scripps Howard News Service, http://www.nandotimes.com

Under some circumstances it appears the act of suicide itself can be infectious, and spread alarmingly through a given population.

-- Alaska health officials worried about rash of suicides By MARTHA BELLISLE and S.J. KOMARNITSKY; Anchorage Daily News; Nando Media/Scripps Howard News Service; March 16, 2001

Some viruses (such as certain herpes variants) apparently can cause certain types of cancer.

-- Cancer-Causing Virus Spares Healthy Individuals By Will Boggs; Yahoo!/Reuters Health; April 9, 2001

It appears leukaemia may be spread among humans by an infectious agent of some sort, probably a virus. It also seems many people harbor the virus, but it only causes leukaemia in a portion of same.

It had been known for some time that a virus could spread leukaemia amongst cattle and felines. Viruses are also often responsible for human cases of stomach, liver, and cervical cancer.

-- Deadly import by Emma Young; New Scientist Online News; 16 March 2001; The Lancet (vol 357, p 858)

Some believe infectious agents could be related to many ailments today which are commonly attributed to old age, lifestyle, or genes instead, such as Alzheimer's and atherosclerosis.

-- Scientific American: Feature Article: A Host with Infectious Ideas By Steve Mirsky: May 2001

At least one contagion looks like it can make men shoot blanks (in terms of sperm). It may also help cause miscarriages in women.

-- Common virus linked to male infertility by Emma Young; 26 October 01; New Scientist; newscientist.com; Human Reproduction (vol 16, p 2333)

Exposure to the Epstein-Barr virus (mononucleosis) appears to relate to the later contraction of multiple sclerosis, as well as possibly other types of nerve ailments and some cancers. As much as 95% of adults in the US of age 40 or older may have been infected by Epstein-Barr.

-- Mono virus may be linked to multiple sclerosis, study suggests By LINDSEY TANNER; Associated Press/Nando Media/Nando Times; December 25, 2001

-- Antibiotic May Be A Potential Therapy For Multiple Sclerosis ; ScienceDaily Magazine; sciencedaily.com; 12/21/2001; University Of Wisconsin-Madison (http://www.wisc.edu/)

It appears that the more infectious agents you're exposed to, the higher your risk of developing heart disease.

-- Infection cited as a direct link to artery thickening; 7-Jan-2002; Contact: Carole Bullock; carole.bullock@heart.org; 214-706-1279; American Heart Association

-- Repeated infections may raise risk of heart disease, study says By LEE BOWMAN, Scripps Howard News Service/Nando Media/Nando Times; January 7, 2002

So if we don't help keep the poor healthy (even including their dental health), we only increase everyone's risks (and related healthcare costs) of serious illness. Poor health in general is contagious, people!

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7-2-02: It's not right to run our government like Enron or Worldcom, where a few folks at the top steal huge gobs of money and masses of innocents pay for their misdeeds for years and decades to come. If you think it's unpatriotic for me to say that, sorry. But somebody has to UPDATED

Folks, I don't know about other countries, but here in America we have a serious problem with shortsightedness in our politicians/government officials. Example: Tax cuts. Certain politicians and political parties often use tax cuts as a way to rally votes and get into office. And of course voters often like to have their taxes cut. But there's this little nugget of Reality called the business cycle. And another called the unexpected. Smart individuals, families, organizations, and even nations are aware that times change. In some periods money will be easier to come by than in others. Expansions and booms always eventually give way to slow downs and recessions. On the individual level, jobs aren't forever. Health and youth aren't forever. So half-way smart individuals, organizations, and nations all pay down debts or put away savings in good times so they won't fall into abject poverty when the inevitable bad times roll around.

But in US politics there often seems no such thing as tomorrow. We seem to prefer to pretend we can live off some sort of heaven-backed credit card for never-ending deficit spending, all the way to the end of time. If by some miracle we even begin to momentarily reverse the trend, saving up some money for hard times, or even paying down debt, we always quickly find some excuse to abandon all discipline and start using the imaginary credit card again-- and even take voluntary income cuts too as we perform the new binge spending.

And even worse, we often spend all that extra money on frivolous, even ridiculous items, rather than things which would actually improve our lives.

Huh? That doesn't make much sense, does it? But that's how our government acts, pretty much with little resistance from us, as we periodically vote in scoundrels who'll cut the government's income even as they charge more stuff to the government's credit card.

Folks, eventually, at some point, someone will have to pay all these bills. If we're lucky, we our selfish selves will be dead when the bills come due, and it'll be our kids or grandkids who suffer. But that doesn't make it right.

It's not right to run our government like an Enron or Worldcom, where basically a few folks at the top redirect huge gobs of money to themselves, friends, or family, and masses of innocents pay for their misdeeds for years and decades to come.

"According to some estimates we cannot track $2.3 trillion in transactions"

-- US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld

"We know it's gone. But we don't know what they spent it on...they have to cover it up...that's where the corruption comes in. They have to cover up the fact that they can't do the job."

-- Jim Minnery, Defense Finance and Accounting Service

"[the defense budget] numbers are pie in the sky. The books are cooked routinely year after year"

-- Department of Defense Analyst Franklin C. Spinney

"With good financial oversight we could find $48 billion in loose change in [the Pentagon building]"

-- Retired Vice Admiral Jack Shanahan

-- The War On Waste (possibly by Vince Gonzales); CBSNews.com; Jan. 29, 2002

-- Deficits as Far as the Eye Can See; Businessweek

"the federal government is keeping its books much like Enron did, and all of us will end up paying for it"

-- Sheila Weinberg, the Institute for Truth in Accounting

-- Federal reports blasted BY KEN GOZE; West Proviso [IL] Herald, 1/1/2003; Digital Chicago Inc.; http://www.pioneerlocal.com/cgi-bin/ppo-story/localnews/current/wp/01-01-03-27530.html [this article was cached for a time at http://www.unknownnews.net/cache34.html, where it was found on or about 1-1-03]

-- 'Corporate Socialism' (washingtonpost.com)

-- Finances of U.S. States Called Worst Since World War II; New York Times

-- N.Y. Fiscal Crisis Is Echoed Across Nation (washingtonpost.com)

-- 'worst crisis in state finances since World War II'

-- Governors Cite U.S. In Fiscal Crises (washingtonpost.com)(washingtonpost.com)

-- Leaving the States in the Lurch (washingtonpost.com)

-- A Grim Fiscal Forecast for States (washingtonpost.com)

-- Ruling by corporate fiat is no way to run a democracy

-- A Democracy On Corporate Autopilot

-- Bush's indefensible missile-defense plan. By Fred†Kaplan; Slate

-- The Real Missile Threat: Cruise not Ballistic

-- Tax Cut Trickery

-- States Use Gimmicks To Tackle Deficits (washingtonpost.com)

-- If You Like Tax Gimmicks, This Deal's For You (washingtonpost.com)

-- U.S. Job Statistics Revamped (washingtonpost.com)

-- The Enronization of America; Businessweek

In a better world, our government and our politicians wouldn't be allowed to knowingly embezzle and pass the bill this way. Instead, they'd be held accountable in some fashion for their acts down the road, even if it took decades to realize the full extent of the damage they'd done to the nation. Or better yet, they'd be prohibited from performing such mischief in the first place, with some sort of Constitutional Amendment which would robustly prevent Enron-style 'cooking' of the government books, as well as force executives and legislators to always shape their policies, laws, and regulations with a substantial consideration of the future consequences of their actions, and the known cyclical nature of economics and demographics, as well as the likely environmental impact on ourselves, our kids, and our grandkids.

Real campaign finance reform, more transparency in both government and business processes and policies, and stricter regulation of big business concerns would all help towards this goal.

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6-27-02: Circa 2002 USA telecommunications contemplation UPDATED

I'm not renewing my Cingular wireless account. Or replacing it with another. I have a Nokia 7160 cell phone that's pretty neat and pretty much useless without an account, but I can't justify the account cost on any value or functionality grounds.

I had a one year contract and cancelling it early had a significant penalty. I had a $55 a month plan that included roadside assistance and offered me pretty much total freedom in calling from anywhere in the USA to anywhere in the USA with no long distance or roaming fees-- as long as I didn't use more than 250 minutes a month (I believe that was the specs anyway).

But I hate talking on the phone-- especially cell phones. So I rarely used it. Primarily it was a safety net for car travel. But I rarely travel too. And when I do, it's usually in the company of others, and one of them likely has a phone (almost everyone likes or needs (or THINKS they need) to use a phone more than I). Keep in mind as well that other cell phone options exist. For instance, some companies you might go to work for will provide you with a cell phone. There's also pre-paid phones you can get a week or so before a trip (just make sure to get them activated in the store if at all possible! Activation can be a bear. Also keep in mind activation may require a wait of a few days, so this needs to be done ahead of time).

There's also new cheap pre-paid cardboard phones supposed to become available any time now.

But let's say next month I'm alone in a car and get stranded. It's not like I'll be in Afghanistan. I can walk a few miles at most to find a phone (in 90% of cases probably just a few feet). Plus, by US law even my dead Nokia phone is supposed to be able to call 911 for emergencies (I might need to delve deeper into the details of that to put it to practical use). Plus, even paying the $55 a month there was several times my phone wouldn't work, due to inadequate cell tower capacity in the vicinity. So paying $55 a month can often leave you just as stranded as paying $0 a month.

Several things (beyond the above) prompted my decision not to renew. I visited the Cingular website to check out some possibly cheaper plans which would better match my long term usage in a renewal, and to manage my account online rather than having to play phone hockey for a couple hours with clueless machines and voice mail boxes.

The online management thing required a registration. Registration required entry of a 13 digit number Cingular claimed was on my wireless service bill. I sure couldn't find one. And Cingular's online help offered no more help about it either. So scratch the online management thing.

I looked at the Cingular plans for my zip code. Two year contracts required. That's not good. The dirt cheapest plan they had (for two year span, mind you) was $20 a month with features that were so minimal even I, who might use the phone once in a whole month if something unexpected happens, might exceed the minutes on, and get into extra fee territory. The lowest cost semi-practical plan they offered was $30 a month, with 350 minutes-- plus a $36 activation fee.

Let's see now, sign over to Cingular $756 over two years for a service I likely won't use and which may not work anyway precisely when and where I need it most? And get no way to manage the account online, so any problems I have must be handled via phone tag and lots of Muzak? Plus, in my case, I need to change the local calling area of my account (I got it in Texas last summer) to Tennessee, AND want to apply the account to an existing phone rather than a brand spanking new one. Can you say extra fees for this and extra fees for that, sir? Yes you can.

I think I'll pass, thanks.

What I'd really like is a tough wristwatch cell phone that's powered by the natural movement of my arm (so if I ever have low power I can just shake my arm to get more) (and possibly a thermoelectric backup power source derived from my body heat) with a wireless account which lets me have up to, say, 80 minutes a month worth of calls at no extra cost to anywhere within a 100 miles of my home location. Voice mail, call waiting, and caller ID included. Reasonable extra fees for longer distances, extra minutes, roaming outside my normal region, and auto towing service would be OK. The base price for this wireless service should be around $3 to $10 a month, and include some sort of fail-safed panic button service where your location is provided to emergency services for response even if you can't speak. Maybe the watch monitors your heart beat for signs of trouble, as well as accepts manual activation of the service. The locator could be remotely activated too in the case of lost or kidnapped kids wearing such watches. The watch signals should automatically/transparently hop through a sequence of other communications devices in the vicinity to find the nearest central telecommunications hub, so that no grid of cell towers are required. The signal could use a variety of tech platforms to hop through: other cell watches, cell phones, PDAs, suitably equipped cars, trucks, businesses, and homes, etc., etc.

-- Wear your cell phone on your wrist - Apr. 5, 2003

-- A Flashlight That Goes On Forever by Arik Hesseldahl; Ten O'Clock Tech, Forbes magazine; 05.17.02

Anyone wanting more talking minutes or other features could of course pay more for them.

Pretty much all the tech described above exists today. It's just that we're not allowed to have it.

BUT ANYWAY....I've been figuring I need to revamp the landline system of WebFLUX Central too. Maybe set up a low cost broadband-derived VoIP system to shield us from the current high cost and annoyance problems plaguing traditional landline accounts, like telemarketing and excessive (and mounting) long distance and mystery fees.

Some broadband/cable TV companies are supposedly already working on adding such services to their offerings. But it may be a year or several before such things become available to most of us. Plus, those services are unlikely to be as cheap and flexible as what some geeks could put together today on their own.

On the downside, rigging something up like this in your home or business still wouldn't provide you with a mobile phone account, or the reliability and simplicity of use you might expect after using the legacy nets of Ma Bell the past few decades. And it might be a bear to set up/troubleshoot, too.

So what would be some ideal specs of a theoretical multi-phone VoIP system for a home or small business?

A: Free or extremely low cost long distance at least to all USA locations, if not the world.

B: Easy, conflict-free sharing of an internet broadband connection with multiple PCs.

C: Easy access via old fashioned, existing phone gear.

D: Support for lots of phones on the same line, just as old fashioned land lines do.

E: Options for both portable (in and around the house/office) and fixed phones in the system.

OK. Note that if conventional phone gear will work with your VoIP, then any portable phone gear typically based on landlines should as well. Plus, the same should be true for connecting several home/office phones onto the system.

Thus, the critical thing here is to get a good VoIP system that offers no problem to supporting your existing building's phone infrastructure. Does such a beast exist?

According to TIME Magazine -- On the Internet, Talk Is Cheap BY LEV GROSSMAN; April 15, 2002 Vol. 159 No. 15 and Slashdot VoIP for the Masses April 16-2002, Vonage was offering 8.33 hours of talk a month for $20 over VoIP around 4-16-02 ($40 for unlimited time), and it can work through a router link to cable modem broadband. The price included niceties like call waiting and ID and voice mail. Local 911 didn't work though. A $25 set up charge is also in the mix. Only one phone can be plugged into the Vonage system, unless you elect to incorporate a PC and more into the infrastructure.

Note that such entities as CBS 60 Minutes I believe have pointed out steadily rising costs and UN-reliability with regards to the old fashioned land-line services the past 10 years or so. Thus, land-line/POTS phone service may be deteriorating to a point where soon there may be no compelling reason for using it over alternative technologies. Of course, the level of such deterioration may vary greatly depending upon the region of the USA in which you live.

Some downsides to ViOP:

Keep in mind such a system will have problems at least as often as your broadband account and/or LAN router and/or administrating PC does. So any of us going the VoIP route now or the next few years will be 'early adopters' subject to trials and tribulations all our own in regards to phone service. Another term for 'early adopters' of course could be 'guinea pigs'. Or 'astronauts'. Or 'hackers' (note that mainstream media mistakenly uses the term 'hackers' for people who should really be called 'crackers'. Real hackers are usually more like software research scientists, and/or student programmers striving to get the hang of computing from the inside of the box, and/or virtual bungee jumpers, rather than criminals).

Providing a UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) for all the equipment required to drive your VoIP system would be necessary to enable your VoIP sys to function during a general power outage even a fraction of the time a traditional landline usually can.

Vonage may allow you to choose the area code for your new number, but there may be no guarantees you'll end up with the code most convenient long distance-wise to yourself and those most likely to call you(?) Plus, is it possible a Vonage user might be charged extra for certain types of incoming calls?

Miscellaneous other matters related to all this:

Speakfreely.org is a VoIP service which may offer two-way encryption of messages.

You can access speakzero.com VoIP via a local access number for unlimited long distance for $30 a month.

7-17-02 UPDATE: Flaws Plague VOIP Phones END UPDATE.

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6-22-02: How to squeeze maximum functionality, power, and convenience out of the personal computing experience for minimal cost

Modern computers suck. Sure, we've got the internet now, CPUs are running faster than ever, and hard drive space is getting big enough to swallow our whole lives on a single disk-- photos, word processing docs, music, everything. And computers are lots cheaper now than they were ten years ago.

But today's computers are harder to use than yesterday's. They crash more often than yesterday's. And often are less functional than yesterday's, too. If it weren't for the existence of the internet, the difference between today's computers and yesterday's in practical functionality and ease-of-use would be downright alarming for human civilization. Many lifetimes ago in computer years, I had a brand new Mac IIx with (I think) 8 MB RAM and 100 MB hard disk, 14 inch (?) color display, and Mac system 6.0.4. Can't recall the speed. Maybe 33 MHz or so?

It was blazing fast, effortless to use, and multi-tasked like a demon (even though technical purists will tell you it couldn't truly multi-task, but only pretend to do so). I remember once having 35 Excel windows open simultaneously, plus several other items (maybe MacDraw, More II, and MS Word, etc.?), working at a feverish pace to finish an important presentation plus juggle half a dozen other projects at the same time, and feeling like I was the maestro leading a symphony. It was a mind-blowing experience. I was able to do things I never dreamed I could with that system. I don't think I ever had to re-install the OS. When I got hold of an OS update I was never fearful of installing it-- I just clicked one button and it was done. The Mac might have crashed on me twice in a year(?) I can recall no strenuous measures ever being required to resuscitate it. I just restarted it. And it always booted extremely fast.

I loved that IIx so much I bought my own IIcx version of it for $thousands after I left the job where the IIx had been available to me.

Fast forward 12 years. I'm writing this on an iMac running OS 9 that supposedly runs at 333 MHz and crashes anytime I even dare think about creating a simple graphic on the machine. All I can realistically do on the machine is the simplest of text editing (HTML for my web site). Despite spending untold manhours trying to troubleshoot the system to make it more reliable, consulting MacFixIt and its forums, buying a disk utility for repairs, and re-installing the OS who knows how many times, etc., etc., etc.. When I start the iMac booting I leave the office for coffee or some other errand, as it takes so long to boot. I quit using Macs for web surfing maybe 1-2 years ago, as they're so incredibly bad at it. I got tired of crashing and spending 20 minutes waiting for the disk to be verified and the restart to finish, several times in every web surfing session.

We've got Apple's latest and greatest hardware here too-- a dual CPU G4 with tons of resources-- running OS X. And so far as I can tell, it runs even worse than my OS 9 iMac (check out the frequency of OS re-installs on that baby).

I must admit my Windows ME PC has so far given me far less trouble than the new Macs. But a big part of the reason for that is I baby the machine by avoiding installing hardly anything extra on it, and use it almost exclusively for web surfing (and yes, I baby the iMac too). I also don't let anyone else in the world use these machines, as it can be much harder to prevent problems and to figure out what went wrong when they do occur, if more than one person uses a computer. I got the PC new too, so it's been babied since day one. I only got the iMac after it had been used and abused by a user who loved installing everything on the Mac market on the machine. Ironically, the more stuff you install on modern computers, the less they can do (the worse they tend to run).

So what's an ambitious computer user to do? Like, say, if they want to have a reliable capability to print or scan on demand, create graphics, surf the web, write documents, etc.? For minimal cost and hassle?

Apparently the most practical and reliable way circa 2002 to accomplish this is to have not one but several different computer systems, with each one dedicated to a particular set of tasks. Once you have each machine successfully configured to do a particular set of tasks, you never change its configuration again. The stuff in italics is important.

For example, let's say you set up one system to be a graphics and printing workstation. Hopefully you can get both a scanner and printer to work in it. With this machine you do all your major or complex desktop publishing and/or graphics jobs. Another system might be reserved for plain word processing and/or HTML editing. And a third would be your dedicated web surfing/email station. A fourth computer might be dedicated to gaming, for the kids or whatever. A fifth might specialize in video editing maybe. You can hopefully get all these networked together into a fast LAN (Local Area Network) so it's easy to transfer files between them, and share internet access in a pinch.

Now some of you may be saying I'm crazy, that one system should be able to do all this, and you're right on both counts. One system should be able to do this, but making many attempts over the past decade to make a single system do all this reliably and at minimal cost has drove me crazy.

Keep in mind the qualifications reliably and at minimal cost in time and money.

The more stuff you install on a single computer the worse it runs. Period. If you get enough stuff piled onto it, it finally stops running completely, and you have to wipe the disk and start all over again-- or buy a new computer and start over there. At minimum tens of millions of folks the world over have experienced the truth of this.

Luckily, between the best deals in new PCs and the ones available for quality refurbs, monetary cost is not nearly as big an issue in regards to setting up multiple specialized systems as it once was. At least in regards to Windows or Linux PCs. Apple Mac prices however remain stuck at the stratospheric levels of maybe eight years ago, in some sort of time warp. So only rich folk could attempt this technique with relatively new Macs.

Remember too the differing hardware requirements for various specialized systems. Plain word/text processing systems can get by with just about the lowest hardware specs available today, in terms of disk space, RAM, display, etc. You can send all your docs to be printed over the LAN to the printing specialty system, so the other systems need no printer. There's adapter boxes available to allow multiple systems to all use the same display/keyboard/mouse/other input devices, I believe. So that could save expenses too. Thus, the major costs involved come down to the multiple CPU boxes and software for each, plus networking wares. And the desk space to store all this, of course.

You can get decent new PC boxes for around $400 these days (at last check). Likely less if you go refurb. So $400 or less each would be the financial floor cost for each system mid-2002. Your word processing box wouldn't necessarily require even this much hardware-- you could use a pretty old and slow PC already sitting around the house for that in many cases. So the WP box hardware should be free for lots of folks. The web surfing station would mainly need a fast Ethernet card or 56K modem-- the rest of the system could be pretty basic. So let's say $400 or so for that.

Your graphics/desktop publishing system, and/or gaming system could in truth utilize $400 boxes too, but some folks might want to add more RAM or a better graphics card for them. Heck, why not forget about computer gaming altogether and get a $50 Playstation or $200 Playstation II instead? So we're talking a cost of anywhere from $450 to $1000 maybe for obtaining these two items.

So how about the video station? Well, lots of folks would be tempted to make the desktop publishing station (or a gaming PC) do double duty as video editor too-- and if they were very lucky they might pull it off-- for a while anyway. But it's far safer to keep these functions separate.

Like the desktop publishing and gaming workstations, a video editor would often do best with a bit more hardware than the lowest end PC might offer. Plenty of RAM, bigger hard drive, faster CPU, Firewire, USB 2.0, etc. And there's the accessories to consider as well, like a digital video camera, tripod, external removable media with lots of disk space, etc. So this baby could easily run you $1000 to $2000 (or more).

In-depth analysis of how much money, time, and effort many folks put into just a single or dual system to attempt to shoehorn in all these capacities (and keep them working over months and years) would likely show the multiple system route to be far easier on the wallet and the nerves.

Keep in mind this caveat though: allowing users other than yourself to access any of your machines will significantly increase the risk of problems, as well as reduce your own clues as to what caused the problems, thereby making them tougher to troubleshoot. So how do you (in good conscious) deny family members access to your machines? Buy them their own.

(And as soon as it's practical force them to learn how to troubleshoot, repair, maintain, and upgrade their own system themselves)

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6-16-02: Some tips on preventing job burnout and/or depression-- and about 'true love'

This section is growing and been given its own page. Please Click here to see The Crucible of the Soul: True love, soul mates, marriage, relationships, friendships, inspiration, stress, job burnout, depression, suicide, and more.

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6-14-02: The chickens are coming home to roost

Well, it's starting to look like the rampant corruption and excesses of American capitalism and governance are finally reaching levels where they're getting noticed by the people who count (the wealthy). All us other folks have known about it for years-- we just couldn't do anything about it.

Now these things (with help from other matters to be sure) are tending to put consistent downward pressures on things like stock prices. We still get occasional short spikes up, but these seem mainly to result in more small fry investors getting eaten by the bigger fish. So the brief jumps are looking more like traps for the unwary, lately.

Now it appears that the almighty corporations have bribed away much of the threat of real or biting reforms on their accounting practices and other manipulations of markets and pensions. It looks like they figure the small investors will eventually forget about how badly they were burned the past few years, and hand over still more of their hard-earned savings to be Enron-ized, sometime down the road.

Me, I'm not so sure that'll be the case.

Bush's increasing reliance on using new terror warnings to fend off dissent or criticisms of his Administration, or push his extremist agenda are also hurting the markets. You'd think maybe sooner or later his rich friends would tell him to lay off that stuff, to help prop up the market. But keep in mind the market savvy can make money just as easily in a down market as an up one-- so it may not matter that much to them. It's mainly the small and un-savvy investor, or average employee enrolled in a retirement plan who needs an up market to do well.

But eventually America may grow tired and even angry over the warning strategy. At which point Bush will need to start a real war, or a new and impressive terrorist strike will have to take place to reinvigorate Bush's influence over US opinion.

Terrorist strikes could occur any time, since it's relatively easy to destroy stuff or kill people. The Law of Entropy and all that. Creation is must harder than destruction. Heck, initiating widespread pure terror doesn't even require weapons of destruction. Or even box cutters. A simple radio broadcast will do. Widespread terror and panic is what ensued in 1938 after Orson Welles performed a realistic radio broadcast of "The War of the Worlds" by H.G. Wells.

These days something similar might be wrought by little more than a cleverly put together email message. And with American capitalism becoming increasingly shrill and ruthless in its pursuit of the dollar, I wouldn't be surprised if an American company concocted something terribly alarming just for promotional reasons.

-- That Way Madness Lies (washingtonpost.com) By Don Oldenburg Washington Post; October 19, 2001; Page C01

Keep in mind plain old spectacular industrial accidents can pretty much stand in for terrorist attacks where inspiring fear is concerned. Remember Bhopal India? Chernobyl? Three Mile Island?

But regardless of terrorist attacks, or war, or rumors of either, there's still another facet to all this: the explosion in secrecy. The Bush Administration for some reason has been trying to classify everything in sight, including any doodles Bush may have left on notepads as governor, and even stuff from past presidents as far back as Reagan(!)

Could it be the Administration has something to hide about matters like Enron, and how US energy policy was determined? Bush and Cheney sure do act like it. But of course they insist not keeping everything secret would hurt national security. For instance, many, many times they asked Congress not to investigate the events of 9-11-01. So pretty much nobody did, at least for close to a year. Then we started to find out some reasons why the Administration didn't want an investigation..... Yikes!

As the mistrust of the public in government rises (as things begin sinking in), and it appears more and more misdeeds are being covered up via unwarranted secrecy by both government and business, and it increasingly appears nobody at the top is accountable, all this will have to hurt the stock markets in some fashion. And down the road we've got the economic problems of exploding government deficits and rising inflation and interest rates to worry about. Especially if foreigners start losing confidence in our leadership and direction.

And what does the Administration think putting a chill on free speech and drastically reducing civil liberties will do to consumer confidence, atop all these other matters? Plus we're getting hit from all sides by rising cable and health and insurance bills (even though everyone assures us inflation is not a problem). And the government's new encouragement of anti-competitive behavior and strengthening of the monopolies of corporations in intellectual property will surely cut innovation and consumer choice in the decade ahead. Doom and gloom look dominant in the forecast for years to come.

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6-13-02: Want to read something scary?

Virtually none of the current top leaders of government and business in the world get regular psychological tests to determine the state of their mental health.

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6-12-02: The effect of disease on the rise of civilization

It occured to me recently that the devastation of infectious disease upon human civilization must have spiked within 10-30 years of certain milestone events in development. Such as:

Whenever people reached a critical mass of population in a given vicinity, began traveling far and wide, and encountering other groups (the ravaging of native Americans by European diseases after the 1530s was one example of this).

Every time people successfully managed to domesticate a new animal species and such domestication became commonplace among a group (lots of diseases mutate and jump from animals like horses, pigs, chickens, etc., to people).

Whenever population pressures or urbanization or war or slavery forced lots of people into close quarters for extended periods of time.

Wherever and whenever people began flocking to public events and community markets.

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6-11-02: In search of a decent health insurance deal, and the spin off of new pages

Whew! I thought it was tough researching the best web host deal and practices a few months back-- but finding a new and optimal health care insurance plan looks even tougher! SHEESH! I figure I'm going to have to pay an arm and a leg, too.

From my new stat resources I've noticed my used Mac page was pretty popular. So I recently updated it, fixing broken links. I also spun off a couple pages from it (sort of). One is The best of the lowest cost (pre-iMac) PowerPC Macs, and other is An ounce of PC trouble prevention.

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5-24-02: The viruses just keep coming

I continue to be emailed viruses by various folks. At least some appear to be in Russia. These things practically always give themselves away by having attachments. Note that the default settings in programs like Outlook/Outlook Express may not be the optimal in terms of security. For instance, often one default is to sort of preview emails you single-click in one window pane of your app display, even before you double-click on the message. This is a security no-no, and one of the things I've changed in my own preferences.

My J.R.'s Dirt Cheap PC and Killer Deals Page offers links to various security tips for PC/Web users. I've put quite a few of those tips to use in my own defense over the past year or more.

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5-14-02: The USA rules the world-- but should it?

The USA pretty much controls the world today, by virtue of both its unsurpassed military and economic power, as well as cultural influence. But is this a good thing?

Sure, on the face of things, it might seem nice to be a citizen of the country which orders everyone else around. But is our country smart enough to do such a job well? And if we're the ones running things, why are there so many kids starving and dying and getting no education around the world? Why are we letting pollution and corporate corruption run rampant? Why do we discourage the spread of democracy except in those cases where voters choose who our government wants elected?

And haven't we got plenty of problems to attend to here at home? Like skyrocketing health care costs, for one? How come we're spending enough money on our military and intelligence agencies to insure we can usually rig foreign elections or bribe or bully foreign governments and businesses into following our orders, rather than taking care of our own selves here at home with the same cash?

I mean, don't get me wrong: I enjoy buying cheap goods at huge discount stores in many cases made by enslaved Asian children or innocent political prisoners as much as anyone. But I also have to sometimes consider the fact that those folks probably deserve better-- and that this practice is also why all those factories and small mom & pop stores are closing in my home town, gradually helping to squeeze most of the US middle-class onto a lower rung on the financial ladder.

We're sort of like that proverbial frog in the very slowly heated pan of water. The threat of our end is approaching gradually enough so that we'll never notice it in time to make an escape.

Does the average American citizen really, truly believe it's more important to be a successful global bully or tyrant, than anything else at all? Even more important than attending to our own future? Surely not. But as our mainstream media is increasingly censoring the news and opinion which tend to shape our views, I fear we won't realize the danger until long after we've become so weakened we can no longer do anything about it.

Unfortunately, even if we average American citizens become ultimately so poor as to match third worlders in our economic plight and political power, our government and military will still possess the momentum to order the world around for quite some time afterwards. At some point we may no longer have any say at all in our government's policies. Sometimes I wonder if this is already the case.

"Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely."
-- Lord Acton, 1887

-- page 615, Bartlett's Familiar Quotations by John Bartlett; 15th Edition, 1980; Little, Brown publisher

"We are on the cusp of the further perfection of extreme evil"
-- Sun scientist Bill Joy, WIRED April 2000

-- Mankind Pursues Forbidden Fruit, Via Computer JAY BOOKMAN; COMPUTER NEWS DAILY - NYT SYNDICATE/Cox News Service, found on or about 4-11-2000

Is enormous power over the world enormously corrupting American business and politics today?

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5-14-02: I'm attacked by virus-writer(s)

There were multiple and repeated attacks on me by one or more virus-writers lately. These didn't seem to be accidental indirect attacks stemming from my address being in some other infected person's address book, as I didn't recognize the origin addresses as being from past correspondence. These attacks also were directed at an email address not posted on the web at this time (though it was posted, for less than a year I believe, with that period ending quite a few months back).

I've occasionally been attacked before by hopeful crackers, etc., but these are usually sporadic and isolated. This last bunch came in several waves of multiple messages over several days.

Most of them had attachments. I routinely ignore/delete messages with attachments unless I'm expecting them and know where they came from. So these attacks weren't amounting to much.

Indeed, I was bored enough to be deleting them on auto-pilot, not really paying much attention. And of course, when you're on auto-pilot is when accidents and mistakes take place. I was thinking of something else and when my mouse got to the last email message to delete I double-clicked it instead of single-clicking to get a pop up menu for deletion.

I realized my error a split second after my click, and before anything else had time to happen. But it was too late. The virus was about to get a chance to invade...

Fortunately I have a subscription to MacAfee anti-virus software protection, and one of its alerts immediately stopped the virus in its tracks and warned me what was happening, and asked me what it wanted me to do with the infected file. I told it to delete it, and go ahead and scan my whole disk to make sure nothing got through. I don't scan very often because it requires about a solid hour. In this case it'd been a while since I did a scan, so it was time for one anyway, even if I hadn't had a viral near-brush.

MacAfee pronounced my disk to be clean, and I went on my merry way.

Folks, these days you gotta stay on top of everything you can knowledge-wise (like viruses), PLUS erect some safety nets too for those times you forget something important, or just aren't paying attention to what you're doing.

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5-5-02: A new page is born

I've spun off The best deals in TV content, internet access, and telephone service from my J.R.'s Dirt Cheap PC and Killer Deals Page.

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4-1-02: I started a new user's log today

It's for an Apple PowerMac G4 computer.

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3-26-02: I finally realize a long-held goal

Living Well Within Our Memes: The Best Ideas for Obtaining the Essentials of Modern Human Sustenance for Minimal Cost is now online. This page has been literally years in the making, as it took me that long to accumulate sufficient material for a useful version-- plus figure out how to best organize and present it.

It's primarily meant as ideas and leads for how the poorest of the poor in the third world might improve their lives via the cheapest (but still effective) methods possible. Of course, much of it should also work for the poor in even developed nations like the USA.

Though most of the attention I get is for my timeline, a page like Living Well Within Our Memes is probably what might really do the most good in the world, if the right people learn about it. This page is part of my response to all the suffering and poverty which still exists in the world. I'm not Bill Gates, so I don't have the financial might to help folks. But any of us with the will to devote some spare time to researching and considering such matters might still help by compiling information like this, and making it available on the web. Maybe some Peace Corps folks, or appropriate technologies people, or charities with internet access will see something here they can apply out in the field, and help save a few extra kids or something.

That's what I hope, anyway.

Don't get me wrong-- the great people listed above already know and are applying many of the items I describe (I wrote the page assuming third worlders with no foreign aid of any type might somehow see it). But I worked hard to include at least a handful of items few aid folks are likely aware of, circa 2002.

I plan to improve and expand upon the page as I get the opportunity. If you share my desire to help, and agree there might be some useful info there, I hope you'll help me spread the page's URL far and wide to maximize that value. Thanks!

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3-19-02: The US health insurance crisis

Health insurance costs are going through the roof in the US, and as one result my own health insurance company has notified me they're getting out of that business entirely. So I'm going to have to go elsewhere (major headache in the research department).

To make matters worse, the feds are also squeezing Medicare payments to doctors so hard that some doctors are refusing to take patients on Medicare any more-- because basically Medicare isn't paying them but a trickle of what's charged. I've seen this in the statements of my own parents who are retired and depend on Medicare for their primary insurance. They also have a secondary policy through my dad's pension, but that corporate-based policy routinely turns the heavy-lifting over to Medicare. The end result is my parent's bills are getting pretty hefty, and neither Medicare or their other policy is paying the bills, in an increasing number of circumstances. So not only must I now try to find myself a decent new insurance provider, but I'd really like to find a good, cheap supplementary policy for my parents too.

Gosh, what's America coming to that retired folks need three separate health insurance policies in order to get by?

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3-19-02: Footnote hell

Well, I guess I'll soon overhaul my footnotes to be more in line with real academic standards. This will faciliate my publishing certain materials in hard copy form, among other things. At present I preface them with the phrase "jump off sources include..." and color code them in green. Why the non-standard format up to now? Well, the reference listings sort of crept up on me rather than me planning them, in the beginning. I was doing this weblog and began sort of casually listing references for some items, after a while. People liked the references. The Newz items and their references ended up being compiled into huge book-like works online. Before I knew it I had 6000+ pages of this format. Yikes!

To be honest, part of the problem was probably laziness and rebelliousness on my part, too. I've always instinctively rebelled against authority, and stuff like footnote rules smack of authority big-time. But as you get older, you rebel less, and see more sense in many rules. Agh! Plus, since I'm now trying to commercialize my content I now wish I'd done it right in the first place. It's going to take considerable work to fix, and it'll open the way for some new accuracy errors as well. Doh!

Another significant factor though was the lack of a good way to properly (and non-distractingly) format footnote numbers in the text, back in the early days of web browsing. Formatting like subscripts and superscripts may not always have been available or practical in the net's younger days, especially when you were trying to be compatible with two or more different browsing apps and the most ubiquitous font set available as well.

The present format looks like this:

"Money and technological development in regards to military force in the developed nations have focused on relatively small elite elements, and this shows in the navy/air force equivalents of dozens of small submersible carriers which may surface to use hydro foils and/or hovercraft technologies for fast transit...

[jump off sources include...Robots could begin shouldering the biggest combat burdens within only five years.

-- Robots To Fight Wars In The Future- UK Expert By Bill Rosato, Reuters/Yahoo! News Science Headlines, September 16 1999]"

My transitional format to fully 'legal' footnotes will probably look something like this (though the box color selection may vary to better match local site section formats):

Money and technological development in regards to military force in the developed nations have focused on relatively small elite elements, and this shows in the navy/air force equivalents of dozens of small submersible carriers which may surface to use hydro foils and/or hovercraft technologies for fast transit...

Robots could begin shouldering the biggest combat burdens within only five years.

-- Robots To Fight Wars In The Future- UK Expert By Bill Rosato, Reuters/Yahoo! News Science Headlines, September 16 1999

Why a 'transitional' stage? Because I'm not sure I can accurately connect all my very oldest references with the material they support, such as putting the proper footnote number with the exact sentence or phrase. The reasons for this are (one), a shortage of free time for that effort, and (two), that I originally would just display many of my references for a fairly large amount of text at the bottom of a particular section. As I may no longer possess access to the full text of the oldest reference items to examine for differentiation concerning which idea came from or was supported by which reference, it'd often be difficult to assign footnote numbers like 1, 2, and 3 to the precise spot they should go in the several paragraphs of text involved.

Hopefully over time I'll add fresh references I can specify as to relevance, and gradually drop the older, more problem-prone citations. And those pesky footnote numbers will begin dotting my pages.

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3-17-02: A big idea so scary I dare not post it

I just had a scary thought. An idea actually. Something that could literally shake the world to its foundations. Unfortunately, not necessarily in a good way. DOH! as Homer Simpson might say.

I started to write it up as the last item in an updated 2030s state-of-the-art war technologies page. But as I was writing I realized this idea was unlike practically every other concept that's ever struck me. It's too potentially big and dangerous to post. It's much like a theoretical general purpose nanotechnology assembler, as described by Eric Drexler. Only more applicable to terrorism and coercion than anything else, it seems. Once this meme gets out in the wild no outside force may be able to stop it. In theory, its run could only be ended by the meme being used successfully to destroy all the potential sources of motivation for its practice, or all potential users losing interest in it for some other reason (both of which amount to the same thing being accomplished, only by different parties and methods). The decision to abandon it could not readily, easily, or cheaply be forced onto users. Indeed, it might be impossible for any force short of that required to kill all humanity (or utterly enslave it) to stop this particular meme, once it got out.

But after a few hours of consideration I realized I could still warn folks about it, and how to minimize its impact, without really giving anything away. So I did. I offer a vague description of it as 'The growing retribution challenge to the use of overt and covert operations by governments and their militaries or intelligence arms, and various financial or political manipulations by government or corporate entities', which is the last item on the 2030s state-of-the-art war technologies page. Pretty good ways to reduce the power of this meme both now and later are offered in Civilization's best defensive measures against war, terrorism, technological stagnation, and economic ruin.

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3-8-02: Recent updates and additions to the site

The latest major updates or additions to jrmooneyham.com include:

How to protect yourself, family, and friends from biological and chemical attacks, and other health threats in the early 21st century

Civilization's ideal and most effective defensive measures against war, terrorism, technological stagnation, and economic ruin

2030s state-of-the-art war technologies

Intellectual property reform in the 21st century

Ragnarok: The War for our Destiny

J.R.'s Dirt Cheap PC, TV, Internet, and Killer Deals Page

Low Cost Web Site Authoring Log

What Could Have Been: A Lost Civilization in Southeast Asia, 25,125 BC- 13,875 BC

Dinosaurs, Dragons, Loch Ness, and Reptile People; Where does fact end and fiction begin?

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3-7-02: The focus of Newz&Viewz, and expected update schedule

This one's a toughie. Keep in mind many of the spin off logs and guides linked at the top of the page will likely be updated at least as often if not more so than Newz&Viewz itself.

In N&V's previous incarnation I often posted rough drafts of timeline material and their related reference sources here. I may do that again at times, but likely not frequently. Anything posted at all requires some polishing, and I just don't have the time for much such toil.

Going the way of many other modern weblogs, like Robot Wisdom, and merely posting timely links to news and content sources I find interesting and may eventually use elsewhere in on-site citations is a distinct possibility, with much to recommend it. I almost daily run across lots of neat items which often take me years to get fully assimilated elsewhere on my site. However, I'd need to streamline my present system of processing such info, as many such links only last for a few hours or days. Specifically, I'd need a better favorites/bookmarks collector than that available in Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.x, that would make it easier to edit, organize, and extract the URLs for posting.

I previously sometimes posted the gist of email exchanges between myself and others too, when I thought their contents might benefit others. This is another possibility for the new N&V. But there too I could use a more streamlined method for posting than I presently possess.

Finally, much of the new focus of N&V will likely need to develop organically. In other words, let it find its own course.

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3-6-02: It's been a while, but Newz&Viewz is back!

Actually N&V didn't disappear entirely-- it just went lower profile and more specialized: witness the index of specialty logs at the top of this page, much of which was generated during the dormancy of this main Newz&Viewz page the past few years.

Newz&Viewz was probably one of the first weblogs on the net (well, first thousand maybe?) starting as it did in 1996. It went 'off the air' around May 1997, due to increasing time pressures on me, plus a few other factors.

One of those other factors included a steep decline in the fortunes of the Mac (don't take my word for it-- examine Apple's marketshare fall since Jobs' return). I often used to rave about the possible future of the Mac and Apple on this page, but when Steve Jobs returned and killed the Mac clones, as well as virtually all Apple's most promising internal research and development efforts, things went downhill fast-- at least in the view of many long time Mac users like myself, who knew what the platform was like in its Glory Days. Newbies often have little idea of those times, and so are more easily won over with the new superficialities at Apple, like strange shaped or 'cute' physical form factors, even while the operating system itself has deteriorated alarmingly in quality and reliability with 8.x and 9.x, and then took an ease-of-use plummet too with the switch to OS X.

But it'd be a waste of time to mourn the passing of the Mac. Life's too short. Hopefully another great personal computing platform will emerge somewhere, despite the stranglehold Microsoft enjoys today.

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The above article(s) come from and make references to a collection copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 by J.R. Mooneyham (except where otherwise noted in the text). Text here explicitly authored by J.R. Mooneyham may be freely copied and distributed for non-commercial purposes in paper and electronic form without charge if this copyright paragraph and link to jmooneyham.com or jrmooneyham.com are included.

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