Ain’t it great?

Tax reform proposals to be secret for 50 years
http://money.cnn.com/2013/07/25/pf/taxes/tax-reform/index.html?hpt=hp_t3

Taking a page from the Obama (“our rationale for killing US citizens has to remain secret so the terrorists can’t take advantage of it”) playbook now the Senate is going to keep its public deliberations secret. Maybe the pendulum is about to start swinging back (I have read some bloggers (here for instance) that think that this Snowden thing is the trigger for the return), but I am not so sure. I was pretty sure that Bush Jr. was going to declare Marshall Law to keep himself in office a while longer and was a wee bit surprised when he allowed the normal transition of power to take place. However, given my predilections to think that Obama is the Antichrist (and here for why the right might back him), I am starting to wonder if he will be the one to do it instead. He has done nothing but shred our Constitution since he took office (and it was pretty damn tattered after Cheney was done with it!), why not got that extra step and install himself as dictator? After all, it is trivial to argue that the Congress is not acting in the best interests of our nation, I imagine he could get a lot of popular support for declaring Congress Null and Void (not that they are likely to object much, heck, they might go ahead and vote him in as dictator! Not that much different from the powers they have already given him). I (re)developed these suspicions when I heard about his recent speech where he blamed everything on Congress. Funny thing is, anything that is related to defense or security has full bipartisan support, so the ‘obstruction’ there is only in the minds of a few liberals that still believe the Kool-Aid that Obama fed them back in the primaries of his first election.

Megadose vitamins due to one man

The Vitamin Myth: Why We Think We Need Supplements
http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/07/the-vitamin-myth-why-we-think-we-need-supplements/277947/

I guess I was too young to appreciate Pauling in his prime. By the time I was old enough to form lasting impressions he was already starting to be considered a crank and most of what I have read about him has been post-crank, so I never really developed any sort of hero worship for the guy (sort of like Hoyle and his Steady State idea). Reading this article was quite eye opening to me. More than likely had Pauling kept his mouth shut the ‘Nutraceutical‘ industry would be a fraction of its size (and possibly regulated by the FDA, not that that doesn’t come with its own baggage).

The evidence is quite solid now, mega dose vitamins shorten your life and increase the risk of cancer and disease.

Time to buy copper!

A Shuffle of Aluminum, but to Banks, Pure Gold
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/21/business/a-shuffle-of-aluminum-but-to-banks-pure-gold.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

A very interesting read on how the great USofA now works. In addition to the direct tax payer transfer from the govt to special interests (no less than sixteen _trillion_ dollars!), now we have a govt sponsored ‘tax’ that pulls another $5 billion dollars out of people’s pockets. Of course, that is pennies compared to the ‘tax’ on crude oil:

In 2011, for instance, an internal Goldman memo suggested that speculation by investors accounted for about a third of the price of a barrel of oil. A commissioner at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the federal regulator, subsequently used that estimate to calculate that speculation added about $10 per fill-up for the average American driver. Other experts have put the total, combined cost at $200 billion a year.

And pennies, of course, compared to the above mentioned $16 trillion dollars ponied up directly by the tax payer, but when our idiot ‘sequester’ is about shaving a few 10’s of billions off our (admittedly bloated; why do we need so many aircraft carriers?) budgets we have at least $200 billion being sucked out of our economy because of accounting trickery with zero (really, can it even be that high? surely it must be very negative) benefit to our nation.

Portions of the article talk about how JP Morgan is trying to do with copper what Goldman is already doing with aluminum, so brace yourself for sky high copper prices in the next few years. I am not sure it even qualifies as speculation since I am quite sure that these massive ‘banks’ have the fix solidly in.

PIXAR explained

The Pixar Theory: Every Character Lives in the Same Universe
http://mashable.com/2013/07/12/the-pixar-theory/

A pleasant diversion, this article, and I highly recommend it to those who have enjoyed Pixar movies (note to those of you who haven’t seen them: they are, for the most part, equally as watchable for adults as for kids). It rather interestingly ties all the movies together and explains a lot of otherwise difficult to explain issues.

Lets make it even easier for people to get fleeced!

SEC lifts ban on hedge fund ads
http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2013/07/10/hedge-fund-ads/2505463/

There appeared to be a brief period where, after costing the US economy at least $22 trillion dollars and probably no less than twice that in the global economy, where some regulation would be put back into the system. However, we are now back to more than business as usual, letting hedge funds advertise to the even more credulous lottery playing sheeple will be sure to increase profits at hedge funds beyond their already unbelievable rate (what is with this 2% + 20% business anyway? And why can’t I get in on the action?) by extracting money from said sheeple’s pockets. Oh yea, they will be sure to require a signed document stating the ‘investor’ (gambler, something that is true for most hedge funds already) is ‘accredited’, but no different than the liar loans people will cheerfully sign on the dotted line.

Ain’t America Great?

Forensic Flies

Forensic Fly Moves North
Insects can aid death investigations, but non-native species complicate matters.
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/07/130710-fly-blowfly-forensic-time-of-death-climate-science/

Kinda gross, but interesting to me since I have been interested in forensics since a teenager (I was _extremely_ skeptical of the original CSI because I was used to seeing forensics being done badly, I was pleasantly surprised to see it wasn’t totally BS (however, that Miami thing was embarrassing (never watched the NY version))). This sort of thing will lead to a field day for the defense as they can now make the bug people’s testimony into nonsense (or more nonsensical than it already is to the 12 clueless people in the box).

Yet another Constitutional Amendment that will go nowhere

Keep states’ hands off your right to vote
http://www.cnn.com/2013/07/10/opinion/pocan-voting-rights/index.html?hpt=hp_t4

In the list of things-that-ain’t-gonna-happen this has to rank near the top. Our government only agrees on two things: reducing privacy and giving massive taxpayer handouts to millionaires and billionaires. Other than that, our government can’t even agree on the weather, day of week, if it is sunny or dark, etc. So what is the chance that an amendment to our (shredded) Constitution is going to get any forward progress? Never mind that the states that are so intent on taking away the rights of them poor stupid people to vote would block this amendment every single step of the way.

Personally I think fewer engaged voters are better than more idiot voters (see here and here), but what we have now is the worst of all worlds (funny how Americans are so damn good at achieving that exalted state).

More on diet soda

Diet soda may do more harm than good
http://thechart.blogs.cnn.com/2013/07/10/diet-soda-may-do-more-harm-than-good/?hpt=hp_c3

I have talk about the dangers of diet soda before, this report is about a meta analysis of a variety of other studies. Meta analysis can sometimes really bring something into clarity and just as often further muddy the waters, so it is wise to take these reports with a grain of salt. Also, as the beverage industry was quick to point out, it is an ‘opinion’ piece and as such likely got minimal peer review (but note that Cell is a major scientific primary literature journal and as such the editors are even going to review opinion pieces). Still, the conclusions do jive with the other accumulated information, so on the other, other hand (or the gripping hand), it is worth taking note.

However, the author of the above article is clearly an airhead:

There are five FDA-approved artificial sweeteners: acesulfame potassium (Sunett, Sweet One), aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet), neotame, saccharin (SugarTwin, Sweet’N Low), and sucralose (Splenda).

All of them are chemicals. “Saccharin was one of the first commercially-available artificially sweeteners, and it’s actually a derivative of tar,” says Swithers.

Natural sweeteners, like Stevia – which has no calories and is 250 times sweeter than regular sugar – is not a chemical, but is still a processed extract of a natural plant, and increases your health risks similar to artificial sweeteners.

“Just because something is natural does not always mean that it is safer,” says Jampolis.

Yep, watch out for them chemicals! As I recall from my biochemistry education (but what do I know?), all molecules are chemical, thus glucose (sugar) is a member of that dreaded chemical clan that is so dangerous.

What happens when you put morons in charge

Federal agency spent $3 million fighting non-existent malware
http://money.cnn.com/2013/07/09/technology/security/commerce-malware/index.html?source=cnn_bin

Even more interesting than the $3 million thrown away was that the agency wanted to toss another almost $30 million after it:

The report has a silver lining: Government watchdogs eventually caught on to the EDA’s unnecessary panic and turned down a request for $26 million to fund further “recovery efforts.” The agency’s remaining laptops and computer mice are safe from the incinerator.

If the government would simply pay the going rate for qualified people (or actually listened to their 3x more expensive contractors (though contractors are just as likely to inflate a problem), how that is supposed to save money is a mystery to me) they could get people that actually knew how to do their jobs instead of relying on people unable to get jobs in the private sector (at typically a substantial pay premium!). Sure, there used to be a life-time equivalence for govt vs private sector work (when the govt had its great pension plan), but that was then, this is now. Only dummies and a handful of patriots are going to give up the 2x paycheck for work in these fields. What is the chance that the patriot is going to wind up in the critical decision making position? And just because she is a patriot doesn’t also mean she is qualified, keep in mind!

Hybrid planes?

Once a Joke, Battery-Powered Airplanes Are Nearing Reality
Aerospace companies are working on hybrid electric airplanes, and the earliest versions will likely arrive before the end of the decade.
http://www.technologyreview.com/news/516576/once-a-joke-battery-powered-airplanes-are-nearing-reality/

To get a 25% decrease in fuel usage is quite amazing, the article indicates that up to 50% might be feasible which goes beyond amazing to incredible. Fuel is by far the greatest expense in air travel so the idea of cutting fuel costs in half could have a dramatic impact on the cost of travel. If they could only produce the super capacitors they keep talking about we could do away with the limitations of batteries and all sorts of alternatives start to make a lot of sense.