A flat government

We must assure our prosperity.
We must build our society to keep us proud.

I am beginning to think that the most important thing we can do in politics and government is to insist that no elected or appointed official may have better salary or benefits than their constituents.

  • a state of being essentially equivalent; equally balanced; “on a par with the best” wordnet.princeton.edu/perl/webwn

  • a social state of affairs in which different people have the same status en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equality_(law)
  • Suddenly, very suddenly, percs, subsidies, compensation and policies in trade, health, education, and life’s good qualities would be improved. Favors and percs to rich buddies and lobbyists would be of no benefit to leaders and officials if benefits are measured across the constituent median.

    How can we rope our leadership until we can trust their efforts?

    Constituent Equity is one tool that I think will exercise complacent government.

    But maybe I’m just frustrated and confused. Maybe I’m falling into idealism, a sorry tilt to socialism, or a hint of worry that we are becoming far too willing to accept a class system.

    Easily track federal spending

    You have a right to know how the federal government spends its money.

    Summary of Federal Spending:
    Financial Assistance and Procurement in Billions of Dollars

    FY 2000
    FY 2001
    FY 2002
    FY 2003
    FY 2004
    FY 2005
    Direct Payments
    (e.g. Social Security)

    Created by OMB Watch, fedspending.org is a free, searchable database of federal government spending.

    “We hope you will explore this site. But mostly we hope you will use the data to hold our elected leaders and government agencies accountable for their actions.”

    Poor food increases violence

    Just as vitamin C deficiency causes scurvy, nutrient deficiency in the brain may be causing of a host of mental problems from depression to aggression.

    New research calls into question the very basis of criminal justice and the notion of culpability.

    It suggests that individuals may not always be responsible for their aggression.

    Violent behavior may be attributable at least in part to nutritional deficiencies.

    A UK prison trial at Aylesbury jail showed that when young men there were fed multivitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids, the number of violent offences they committed in the prison fell by 37%.

    Although no one is suggesting that poor diet alone can account for complex social problems, the former chief inspector of prisons Lord Ramsbotham says that he is now “absolutely convinced that there is a direct link between diet and antisocial behaviour, both that bad diet causes bad behaviour and that good diet prevents it.”

    The Dutch government is currently conducting a large trial to see if nutritional supplements have the same effect on its prison population.

    In a US study, results are simply what you might predict if you understand the biochemistry of the brain and the biophysics of the brain cell membrane — industrialised diets may be changing the very architecture and functioning of the brain.

    Research commander Joseph Hibbeln at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, which is part of NIH, asserts, “We are suffering from widespread diseases of deficiency.”

    Story, with naysayers, at the Guardian

    Capital shifting to China

    The media tend to blame middle-class and overextended homebuyers for changes in loan rates and less available capital for mortgages, but media is about profitable headlines and not about research.

    Here’s a snippet from China indicating where capital is turning:

    Statistics show that capital from North America accounted for 51 percent of investments in China’s real estate.

    Beijing and Shanghai remain the priority choices of foreign real estate investors. Beijing attracted 49 percent of the investment, followed by Shanghai which claimed 45 percent of the money.

    The percentage of foreign investment in advanced residential buildings rose from last year’s 7 percent to 36 percent in the first half year.

    Foreign capital holds the largest share of investments in advanced office buildings — 42 percent — and 12 percent of retail and hotel investments.

    Foreign capital holds the largest share of investments in advanced office buildings — 42 percent — and 12 percent of retail and hotel investments.

    Biofeedback redux

    IT SEEMS that emotional self-control really does come from within.

    Previous studies have shown that people can learn to control the activity levels of specific brain regions to alter, for example, pain levels, when shown real-time “neurofeedback” from fMRI brain images. Now a similar approach may help psychopathic criminals increase their emotional fluency.

    Niels Birbaumer and Ranganatha Sitaram from the University of Tübingen in Germany found that by showing healthy volunteers the activity levels of the insula, a brain region important in emotional processing, represented in real time as a thermometer bar on a screen, the volunteers could control their emotional responses.

    After four training sessions they had learned to raise and lower their insula activity levels, in turn changing how they rated the emotional quality of disturbing or neutral images.

    Three psychopathic prison inmates who lacked a normal insula response trained the same way. After four days, one appeared to have learned to raise his insula activity towards more normal levels. It opens a potential avenue for treating emotional disorders such as psychopathy or social phobia, the team told a meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in Atlanta, Georgia, last week.

    Tame your brain to keep your cool

    Thinking amazing, incredible, noble things

    I’ve forgotten the exact quote, but Marcus Aurelius wrote that no one can see inside your head so you might as well walk around and think amazing, incredible, noble things – because no one will ever know that you aren’t thinking the same as they’re thinking. It’s your mind, after all. You can think whatever you want.

    “What lies behind you and what lies ahead of you
    are small matters compared to what lies within you.”

    Ralph Waldo Emerson

    Toward good death

    Open University offers free higher education.

    Here’s a course in dying.
    This unit will explore how knowledge and beliefs about death and encounters with death affect people’s lives. It will also examine the concept of a ‘good death’ from an individual perspective in order to enhance the quality of dying.

    Less disk drive energy

    Intel and AMD have spent billions trying to lower the energy consumption of their chips.

    Yet disk storage is responsible for consuming 30 percent of the energy in a PC and up to 50 percent of the energy in a data center.

    Disk drive companies have done very little.

    Until now. Using metal foil.

    A $24 10-gigabyte 0.85-inch drive can spin up, read or write data, then shut down again, all in less time than it takes to perform the same task using flash.

    Little Evidence Supporting Flu Vaccine

    Oct. 2006 (Bloomberg) — The present U.S. policy of encouraging people to get seasonal flu shots is supported only by thin medical evidence shows a study published in the British Medical Journal.

    “The large gap between policy and what the data tell us is surprising.”, said the author.

    Testosterone costs men money

    A new study finds men with higher levels of testosterone are more likely to make irrational decisions when shown sexual images.

    Deciding how to split $10, aroused males made costly choices.

    Similar studies with women haven’t found similar results.

    The Future of the Internet

    A Pew Internet & American Life Project survey of internet leaders, activists, and analysts shows that a majority agree with predictions that by 2020:

  • A low-cost global network will be thriving and creating new opportunities in a “flattening” world.

  • Humans will remain in charge of technology, even as more activity is automated and “smart agents” proliferate. However, a significant 42% of survey respondents were pessimistic about humans’ ability to control the technology in the future. This significant majority agreed that dangers and dependencies will grow beyond our ability to stay in charge of technology. This was one of the major surprises in the survey.
  • Virtual reality will be compelling enough to enhance worker productivity and also spawn new addiction problems.
  • Tech “refuseniks” will emerge as a cultural group characterized by their choice to live off the network. Some will do this as a benign way to limit information overload, while others will commit acts of violence and terror against technology-inspired change.
  • People will wittingly and unwittingly disclose more about themselves, gaining some benefits in the process even as they lose some privacy.
  • English will be a universal language of global communications, but other languages will not be displaced. Indeed, many felt other languages such as Mandarin, would grow in prominence.
  • Oh, what to do, what to do.

    We need to find a way to unite the professions. And there is a way. We’re just not very good at it, and keep getting in our own way.

    Don’t focus on the profession. Don’t even focus on the firm.

    Focus on the customer.

    Focus on the customer.

    Focus on the customer.

    A firm that unites around the customer unites all it does.

    And becomes a formidable force.

    Want passionate users?
    Get passionate employees first, and nurture their passion

    Advertising in Politics and Pork

    The Ethicurean [moved the white marble farms location] food blog points out:

    Cargill Meat Solutions’ has a site for its own brand of specialty pork, Prairie Grove Farms, which is grown by an “exclusive network of family farmers in Iowa and Illinois.” The brand’s home page states:

    Prairie Grove Farms controls the integrity of its branded, premium pork products from conception to consumer. Today an important word to keep in mind is “traceability.”

    If the person behind the counter where you buy your pork can name the farm that raised it, you are taking a step in the right direction. [emphasis added]

    But, Cargill does not make public the names of the farmers raising their product.

    “Traceability”? Traceable baloney.

    You own the spectrum

    WorkHappy selected this:
    “From excitement and bold moves, great things often happen”

    It’s a quote from Evan Williams, founder of Pyra Labs who created Blogger which was bought out by Google. He later launched Odeo – the full assets of which he just bought back so he could start something exciting.

    This is a business quote. It’s not poetic. It’s not rhetoric either.

    Evan and his crew founded Obvious Corp.™

    The Obvious model goes something like this:

  • Build things cheaply and rapidly by keeping teams small and self-organized

  • Leverage technology, know-how, and infrastructure across products (but brand them separately, so they’re focused and easy to understand)
  • Use the aggregate attention and user base of the network to gain traction for new services faster than they could gain awareness independently
  • It’s obvious to me that Odeo and Twitter attract hungry clicks in lonely places. It piles up.

    If a circus clown is passing out evangelical tracts to a crowd of kids, I suppose you can call it using “the aggregate attention and user base”.

    But I can’t imagine the usefulness of randomized social sites like these any more than I can use
    can 800- dating service to get married.

    One great and coming danger in the internet is highly capitalized attention aggregation. Note the reversed term.

    Odeo and Twitter capture clicks. These are easy sites – as easy as a kid browses an old fashioned candy store with a nickel in his hand.

    The transportation system helped carve our communities into branded aggregation designed on the basis of trips per day (tpd). The web will thrust our attention into branded aggregation too, based on clicks per day.

    Unless you learn that the spectrum belongs to you….

    Women blame snoring

    In a UK study by the Sleep Council, findings showed that “only 9 per cent of women slept well every night, compared with 15 per cent of men.”


    The Sleep Council, which aims to raise awareness of the importance of good sleep, found 24 per cent of men said they never woke up grumpy, compared with only 14 per cent of women. It also found 13 per cent of women stayed in a bad mood for two to four hours, while 10 per cent of men did the same.

    But look:
    Almost a third of women blamed their partner’s snoring for their trouble sleeping.

    Asia has consumers

    There might be more buying power in Asia than most of us think.

    Asia boosted the world’s GDP 21% in the last six years — half of the world’s growth since 2001 — versus America’s 19%.

    Most people believe Asia is booming because of exports; primarily because Americans are on a consumption binge. But of the 7% growth rate of Asia, only 1% of this growth rate is export driven.

    Yes, Asia has consumers too. The Economist reveals that the bulk of Asia’s growth has been domestically driven.

    Across many other Asian countries, the notion of the frugal Asian consumer is equally flawed…

    Wineries in the Arctic?

    The wine industry is particularly vulnerable to climate change.

    Grape growers can expect to see rising temperatures which will cause a shift in budburst dates, shorter growing seasons and earlier harvest dates.

    “A range of greenhouse gas emission scenarios and climate models were used to determine the sensitivity of environmental impacts to future grape growing possibilities.”

    In a paper published in the latest Wine Industry Journal, the impact of projected greenhouse gas-induced climate change will cause earlier harvests in a warmer climates and temperatures that are too warm to produce balanced wines from some or maybe all grape varieties growing in the region.

    This study recommends ‘obvious adaptive responses’ to global warming by preparing now to relocate existing varietal plantings to cooler regions. Choosing new regions and grapevine varieties suited to a changing climate should become part of any vineyard strategy.

    Slowing germ resistance

    New alternatives to antibiotics should require the use of naturally occurring compounds capable of stimulating the immune system of animals to kill disease causing pathogens.


    A conventional antibiotic will almost guarantee the appearance of resistant organisms within about five years. Soon the antibiotic would no longer be effective.

    A robust research program called VIDO, reported by Farmscape, is trying to make sure they kill bad germs in an indirect fashion. This will avoid problems associated with organisms becoming resistant as they do with antibiotics.

    An indirect way of approaching the problem of killing organisms harnesses natural compounds called host defense peptides — small molecules naturally occurring in all living species that can kill bacteria and viruses.

    Natural peptides can kill directly or they can turn on the immune system to kill in an indirect fashion, but they do not cause resistance.

    USA against the wall

    First, nowhere in the world can you find such a high concentration of optimism and daring.

    Second, the United States is radically global.

    Third, the United States is the only nation on earth that can do business globally in its own currency.

    But there is a flip side to the coin.

    Make no mistake about it: at the start of the new century, the United States is still a superpower. But it is a superpower that faces tough competition from outside and difficulties within. The feedback effects involved in globalization are especially intense for the US economy — so much so that large parts of the US workforce are now standing with their backs against the wall.

    Who’s asking?

    Senator John Danforth reminding us 15,400 times on Google:

    God is bigger than all of us.
    God is neither Republican nor Democrat.
    God is not portable.
    God is bigger than any idea….
    God is bigger than logic.
    God is so big that…
    God is big enough to incorporate and encompass…
    God is spacious…
    God is more important than following…
    God is bigger than your God…
    God is good for everybody.
    God is not finished.
    God is worth doing…
    God is merciful.
    God is the one who…
    God is Love.

    Healthcare mis-management

    We can be more than twice as likely to die if we choose the wrong hospital.

    HealthGrades, which evaluated Medicare records from 40.6 million hospitalizations, estimated that a patient treated at a hospital that received five stars, the stellar rating, had a 69% lower chance of dying than a similar patient treated at a hospital rated one-star, the poorest, and a 49% lower chance of death than if treated at an average hospital (three stars).

    Only 15% of America’s 5,000 hospitals received five-stars.

    More than 300,000 Medicare patients died from 2003 to 2005 because they were hospitalized in institutions that were average or poor.

    more at MedPage Today

    Ira Allen at Science Blog asserts in Great Expectations: “…the most critical element in the system – the public – has yet to be let in on what [we] must actually do in order to get good care.”

    Self-Cleaning Coatings

    self cleaning surfaceWhen rain hits the leaves of the lotus plant, it simply beads up.

    When the leaves are tilted, water runs off instantaneously.

    While the water is rolling off, it carries away any dirt.

    Despite growing in muddy conditions, the leaves and flowers remain clean because their surfaces are composed of micron- and nano-scale structures that – along with a waxy coating – prevent dirt and water from adhering.

    The plant’s ability to repel water and dirt results from an unusual combination of a superhydrophobic (water-repelling) surface and a combination of micron-scale hills and valleys and nanometer-scale waxy bumps that create rough surfaces that don’t give water or dirt a chance to adhere.

    The self-cleaning action of the lotus plant has intrigued researchers for decades. C.P. Wong at Georgia Tech is studying one of Nature’s best non-stick surfaces to help create more reliable electric transmission systems, photovoltaic arrays, and surfaces able to prevent bacteria from adhering. [story]

    Can we detect liars?

    There is an eloquent comment on the previous post recommending that apprehending pedophiles is “best left to law enforcement.” They’re trained, capable, and importantly, legally authorized.

    Law enforcement professionals might be more able to detect when someone is lying, although much more research is needed.

    A study posted by the British Psychological Society cited a recent meta-analysis (DePaulo et al., 2003) to make the point that, according to psychological research, there are no reliable cues to deception, and added that other research implies that police officers are not very good at spotting liars. But these studies have been almost wholly based on how Western students behave when deceiving in relatively low-stakes situations.

    In a recent examination of forensic psychology published in Applied Cognitive Psychology the participants were experienced police officers. The officers’ task was to judge four sets of clips of liars / truth tellers on four different occasions. Their total accuracy (four tests combined) was 72 per cent. This is an improvement on the usual 50-60 per cent hit rate. Officers were equally good at detecting truth (70 per cent accuracy) and lies (73 per cent).

    Yet there’s plenty of evidence that would-be lie catchers often rely on rigid cues, including signs of nervousness, which could be displayed by an innocent person who is anxious about being believed….