Friday, October 31, 2008

Scary Thoughts for Halloween

You may want to stop reading when it starts getting familiar. Leave it to a Scot to come up with it:

About the time our original thirteen states adopted their new constitution in 1787, Alexander Tyler, a Scottish history professor at the University of Edinburgh, had this to say about the fall of the Athenian Republic some 2,000 years earlier:

'A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government.'

'A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury.'

'From that moment on, the majority always vote for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship.'

'The average age of the world's greatest civilizations from the beginning of history, has been about 200 years'

'During those 200 years, those nations always progressed through the following sequence:

1. >From bondage to spiritual faith;

2. >From spiritual faith to great courage;

3. >From courage to liberty;

4. >From liberty to abundance;

5. >From abundance to complacency;

6. >From complacency to apathy;

7. >From apathy to dependence;

8. >From dependence back into bondage'

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Sobering Thoughts for the Last Week Before the Election

In the Federalist No. 51 James Madison wrote:

If men were angels, no government would be necessary.

If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.

In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men,the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.

As we know all too well there are no angels.

And this quote from James Monroe seems all the more pertinent in this angel-less time:

"It is only when the people become ignorant and corrupt, when they degenerate into a populace, that they are incapable of exercising their sovereignty. Usurpation is then an easy attainment, and an usurper soon found. The people themselves become the willing instruments of their own debasement and ruin."

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Modern Science

Most of my encounters with the medical field have been less than productive. Luckily I am in fairly good health. But as we age (a poignant topic at this point in time) our encounters with doctors will necessarily increase. Having read alot about medicine and tracked the trends and treatments and thought about it a great deal (not to mention having watched ER for an entire decade) my conclusion is that doctors today really don't know that much more than they did 50 years ago.

Then I heard about this new study regarding dopamine and obesity. I also got to take a tour of the TGen facility in Phoenix where they are doing all kinds of research at the molecular level about a year ago. I think the findings of the dopamine research and the groundbreaking work taking place at TGen are about to really change medicine and it can only be for the better. We really can't fix much until we understand how it works at the molecular level.

The ridiculous system we have for health care in this country is the result of economics as much as anything. The zillions of dollars that are spent on needless activities are at once feeding and feeding on the system itself.

So this got me thinking about education. Everybody knows that public education is in a free fall as well, and there are dozens of reasons for that. Our daughter Melanie was involved with Science Olympiad in junior high and FIRST robotics through high school but the programs were essentially solely supported by the parents. It is amazing how little main stream attention these remarkable programs garner; especially when in order to take full advantage of the coming technological changes, we really need to be churning out a bunch of scientists. Alas, we are not. Most kids can barely pass the basic of all basic tests, the AIMs test.

As all of this is swirling around in my mind, here comes the editorial page in today's Arizona Republic with Jeffery Trent the top TGen dude articulating my concerns. Rather than throwing billions of paper dollars at failing mortgages, we should be financing the future through scholarships for scientists.

Here is the Trent article:

Science programs worth cost

by Jeffery Trent - Oct. 18, 2008 12:00 AM
My Turn

The Translational Genomics Research Institute helps Arizona students pursue a lifetime of science learning

Recently published results from this spring's first science test administered by Arizona's Instrument to Measure Standards (AIMS) showed only 38 percent of Arizona high-school students passed.

Without judging the validity or necessity of AIMS or its pilot science program, there is substantial evidence that Arizona's and America's schoolchildren are lagging behind much of the developed world in science instruction.

The most recent international comparisons published by the U.S. Department of Education show that American 15-year-olds ranked 29th of 57 nations surveyed in science literacy.

But it doesn't have to be that way. Science doesn't have to be a chore. As science advocates from Carl Sagan, Mr. Wizard (Don Herbert) and Bill Nye, the Science Guy, have shown, science can be fun - even hip.

Organizations such as Yale's Women in Science and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute have mentoring programs that show early exposure to the process of discovery can pay lifetime dividends in commitment and knowledge.

To sustain Arizona's growing biotechnology industry, it is important to understand the impact of science in our lives; on decisions with profound implications for issues as varied as climate change, health care and the economy.

Scientific literacy is key to understanding today's technologically advanced world. And providing for the needs of scientifically empowered citizens begins with education.

One way to foster learning and develop a love of science is internship programs, in which experts mentor students who are immersed in scientific inquiry and the creation of new insights.

TGen hosts the Helios Scholars Program, which recently received $6.5 million to fully fund the program for 25 years from the Phoenix-based Helios Education Foundation.

Each summer, 45 Helios Scholars participate in eight-week internships. TGen scientist-mentors actively engage high school, undergraduate and graduate students in research projects, including new ways to treat cancer, diabetes, autism and Alzheimer's disease.

These programs work. Some of TGen's interns include:

• Anne Lee and Albert Shieh, the first Arizona high-school students to win the team competition for the internationally recognized Siemens Westinghouse Competition in Math, Science and Technology. They developed new software that more accurately analyzes genetic data, resulting in a shared prize of $100,000.

• Shannon Fortin, an Arizona State University graduate in biochemistry, who received a $7,500 Goldwater Scholarship, as well as a Fulbright Scholarship to spend nine months in Belgium researching brain cancer.

• Graduates of TGen's Helios program have gone on to attend some of the most prestigious schools in the nation, including Harvard, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Georgetown and Stanford, as well as ASU, University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University.

TGen is not alone in this movement. Other Arizona science education efforts:

• Gov. Janet Napolitano in September announced the establishment of the Arizona STEM Education Center, housed within Science Foundation Arizona in downtown Phoenix. STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) goals follow the Arizona Bioscience Roadmap, which urges "a more informed citizenry in the biosciences and encourage(s) young people to explore and pursue scientific and technical careers."

• Phoenix Union Bioscience High School began in 2007, providing a unique, four-year science education with opportunities for as many as 400 students a year to collaborate with downtown Phoenix's academic and scientific communities.

• The Biotechnology Laboratory for Arizona Students and Teachers (BLAST), established in 2006 at the Tucson Magnet High School, provides instruction at a state-of-the-art-equipped molecular-biology laboratory.

• ASU's School of Life Sciences Undergraduate Research (SOLUR) program since 2004 has provided opportunities Valley-wide for students to participate in exciting biological research.

Internships and other educational programs are both time-consuming and costly. But the investment is critical to our recognizing a brighter future for all Arizonans.

Dr. Jeffery Trent is president and scientific director of the Phoenix-based Translational Genomics Research Institute.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The World of Finance Made Simple

This is going around but is very apt:

After the recent tethering-on-the-edge-of-total-economic-and-financial-meltdown couple of weeks it seems economic systems and their workings have pushed there way into the need-to-know-category.
Well thanks to a friend from rural Ireland we can now simplify this all down to what makes sense and explain 21 economic models with cows. It is
> remarkable how much sense it all makes from this real world perspective
> You have 2 cows.
> You give one to your neighbour.
> You have 2 cows.
> The State takes both and gives you some milk.
> You have 2 cows.
> The State takes both and sells you some milk.
> You have 2 cows.
> The State takes both and shoots you.
> You have 2 cows.
> The State takes both, shoots one, milks the other, and then throws the milk away...
> You have two cows.
> You sell one and buy a bull.
> Your herd multiplies, and the economy grows.
> You sell them and retire on the income.
> You have two giraffes.
> The government requires you to take harmonica lessons.
> You have two cows.
> You sell one, and force the other to produce the milk of four cows.
> Later, you hire a consultant to analyse why the cow has dropped dead.
> You have two cows.
> You sell three of them to your publicly listed company, using letters of credit opened by your brother-in-law at the bank, then execute a debt/equity swap with an associated general offer so that you get all four cows back, with a tax exemption for five cows. The milk rights of the six cows are transferred via an intermediary to a Cayman Island Company secretly owned by the majority shareholder who sells the rights to all seven cows back to your listed company. The annual report says the company owns eight cows, with an option on one more. You sell one cow to buy a new president of the United States, leaving you with nine cows. No balance sheet provided with the release. The public then buys your bull.
> You have two cows.
> You go on strike, organise a riot, and block the roads, because you want three cows.
> You have two cows.
> You redesign them so they are one-tenth the size of an ordinary cow and produce twenty times the milk. You then create a clever cow cartoon image called 'Cowkimon' and market it worldwide.
> You have two cows.
> You re-engineer them so they live for 100 years, eat once a month, and milk themselves.
> You have two cows, but you don't know where they are.
> You decide to have lunch.
> You have two cows.
> You count them and learn you have five cows.
> You count them again and learn you have 42 cows.
> You count them again and learn you have 2 cows.
> You stop counting cows and open another bottle of vodka.
> You have 5000 cows. None of them belong to you.
> You charge the owners for storing them.
> You have two cows.
> You have 300 people milking them.
> You claim that you have full employment, and high bovine productivity.
> You arrest the newsman who reported the real situation.
> You have two cows.
> You worship them.
> You have two cows.
> Both are mad.
> Everyone thinks you have lots of cows.
> You tell them that you have none.
> No-one believes you, so they bomb the sh#t out of you and invade your country.
> You still have no cows, but at least now you are part of a Democracy...
> You have two cows.
> Business seems pretty good.
> You close the office and go for a few beers to celebrate.
> You have two cows.
> The one on the left looks very attractive..

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Lunatics Have Taken Over the Asylum

Just when you think Congress is about to come around to reality they go and pull another boner.

If you are still outraged about the bailout please do not go to this link, you are likely to have an utter stroke:
On second thought, go for it. This bailout contains a measure requiring insurance companies to cover mental health to the same extent that they cover physical health, so at least you will be able to get some treatment.

I predict passage with flying colors. These people have no sense, much less any spine. This continual mixing in of all kinds unrelated stuff to bills is what perfect politics is made of; you can never really tell what anyone is for or against so those attack ads about voting records become impossible to make or if they are made impossible to defend against because NO ONE can decipher what went on.

I am going to take fiddle lessons. Apochrypal as the story may be I think Nero had the right idea.