American citizens may not know this, but since 9/11, every non-citizen, even green-card-holding Canadians like my parents, must have their fingerprints and photographs taken by U.S. Customs every time they enter the U.S. from abroad. There is NO WAY the FBI missed the Boston bomber's trip to Russia because of a simple spelling mistake. Either the FBI is lying, or our entire system is a fraud and the U.S. government completely wasted over $2 billion (and countless visitor headaches) on the US-VISIT program.
In 2009, there was 1 person killed by a gun for every 31,000 guns owned by Americans. In that same year, there were 4 people killed by cars for every 31,000 cars owned by Americans. Car ownership is 4 times more deadly than gun ownership in America.
You are unlikely to hear this comparison from Democrat politicians and the mainstream media as they push for more gun control and bans, of course.
Here's how I arrived at these numbers. According to CNN, Americans owned 310,000,000 guns in 2009. That same year there were 9,146 gun homicides and 789 accidental deaths, for a gun fatality rate of 0.0032%. By comparison, in 2009 Americans owned 254,000,000 cars and there were 33,808 traffic fatalities, for a car fatality rate of 0.013%. These numbers exclude suicides, which I believe makes for a more relevant comparison. If suicides are included, the gun fatality rate is 0.0087%, still 35% lower than the car fatality rate.
Trial lawyers are trying to kill the private space industry by blocking liability protection legislation. As if we needed another reason to hate trial lawyers (and my apologies to all my lawyer friends). The fact is, rocket failures are going to happen. People riding rockets into space are going to die. This is inevitable, it's the price human kind has always paid for our spirit of exploration and adventure. Trial lawyers want to make sure that when the inevitable happens, they will be able to sue the space industry out of existence. I'm sorry, that's not the way this stuff should work. Shackleton would never have mounted an expedition to the South Pole if his crew could sue him if disaster struck. Trial lawyers and the legal system that supports them are forcing modern society to become unreasonably risk-averse. This is very harmful to our well-being and prosperity as a nation. Without risk, there is no progress.
My lab does a lot of work on wound healing. In a petri dish, cells are capable of growing many times faster than they do in the body. So why do our wounds heal so slowly? These Swedish scientists got the crazy idea to calculate an energy balance for our bodies. Turns out that it costs an incredible amount of energy for our bodies to transport resources to wounded areas to feed new cell growth. Our bodies need to expend almost 5,000 calories to grow just 1 gram of new tissue! With all the energy it takes to just keep us alive every day, our bodies have only a small amount of excess energy left over to feed new cells, and so our wounds heal very slowly. It seems to me that there should be a way to short-circuit this process and make wounds heal much faster.
I'm just going to say this once. The Republican Party is in need of major reform. Here are some basic truths, as I see it:
#1: Most Americans don't care what other people do in their private lives.
#2: The Constitution gives the federal government zero authority on social issues.
#3: The *worst* way to promote your social values is to hold a gun to someone's head and say "share my values, or else", which is ultimately what you're doing when you try to get the government involved.
I'd say at least half of my friends who vote Democrat do so because they think Republicans want to ban abortion and contraceptives, hate gays and immigrants, and want to force everyone to live by the Bible. The fact that these things aren't true DOES NOT MATTER. In politics, the truth does not matter. Only perception matters. You can't win every debate, and on these issues the GOP has lost, and lost big time. As long as the GOP holds to its social-issues platform, they will never win the debate, and instead they will lose the country. Americans should promote their social values at home, in their communities, with their friends, family, and neighbors. Keep the government out of it.
If the Republican Party wants to have a future in governing this country, it needs to embrace libertarian values. It needs to promote capitalism, individual liberty in ALL matters (not just economic matters), fiscal responsibility, federalism, and a broad transfer of power and money from the federal government back to the states and the people. It also needs to take a welcoming stance toward immigrants who are already in this country, whether legally or not. By making these things central to its platform, the GOP will regain strong majority support and enthusiasm. By rejecting its failed social-issues platform, it will take away the primary line of attack that Democrats use to win elections. The GOP can and will take the youth and minority vote from the Democrats, while still retaining the support of traditional conservatives, if they follow this advice.
If the GOP fails to make these reforms, then it may be time for the rise of a third party.
A very interesting new study from NASA on the importance of a planet's axial tilt on its ability to sustain complex life. This may explain the "Cambrian explosion" of complex life on Earth. Evidence suggests that, possibly due to the ancient planetary collision that formed the Moon, primordial Earth had a severe axial tilt. This somehow changed around 540 million years ago, which finally stabilized Earth's seasonal climates and allowed complex life to flourish.
Of course, that's a big "somehow". If a massive collision with a Mars-sized planet caused the original change in Earth's axial tilt, what could have caused it to change back?
From best to worst, based on who did the most to further their chances to win the nomination:
1. Mitt Romney. HUGE night for him, and he hit it out of the park. He killed Perry, and for him that counts more than anything else.
2. Herman Cain. His best night so far. In fact, he's been improving dramatically with every debate. He came out of nowhere -- the only real "outsider", who has never held political office, and now he's competitive with any candidate on that stage, and did better than anyone except Romney. No surprise if he surges in the polls after tonight.
3. Gary Johnson. Being the low man on the totem pole, he got shafted with time. But crowd reaction to him was great, and he had the most memorable line of the night. I don't think I've ever laughed so hard at a presidential debate. He came across as a serious, and in my opinion far better, libertarian alternative to Ron Paul. The other networks did our country a great disservice by not including him in the previous debates.
4. Michelle Bachmann. She did very well tonight. Every answer was on target and well thought-out. And she didn't claim that vaccines cause mental retardation. Her best performance yet. She's a serious candidate but still hurt by her lack of executive experience.
5. Rick Santorum. Maybe just because he was given disproportionate time relative to his position in the polls. His attacks against Romney were hard and effective. As were his attacks against Huntsman. He is a consistently good debater, though he gets too emotional at times. His fumbling answer on DADT was a low point. He had a rehearsed answer, and when the moderators threw him a curve ball, he stumbled big time.
6. Ron Paul. He did relatively well in this debate. No gaffes -- or perceived gaffes, I should say, since he means everything he says 100%. But he did a good job explaining his hard libertarian positions, at least better than he usually does given the limitation to short sound-bites.
7. Newt Gingrich. He's the smartest guy on the stage, and always comes across that way. Nobody dares attack him, and it is beneath him to attack anyone. Every answer is close to perfection, but he sounds academic. Like he's the teacher and the other candidates his students, and his responses sound more like he's giving his opponents advice, rather than trying to win it himself. Newt would make a great President, but I think his destiny lies elsewhere.
8. Jon Huntsman. He basically rehashed his performance from the last debate, when he needed to step up his game big time. He looks presidential. He sounds presidential. He has some good policy positions. But his answers seem to lack substance, and his "America's core is rotten" line was effectively eviscerated by Santorum. Maybe he's coming across as too much of a politician to gain significant support in this election cycle.
9. Who am I forgetting? Oh yeah, Rick Perry. He did not do well at all. In fact, he was forgettable. The attacks against him were more memorable than his responses. His answer on Pakistan made no sense. His answer on Social Security made no sense. He was the only candidate without a specific economic plan, and he admitted it! His answers all boiled down to "look what I did in Texas". Yeah but man, you're not running for Governor of Texas anymore; you're running for President of the USA. That crap is not going to cut it. He's not ready for the big leagues.
Jon Huntsman's official campaign website (jon2012.com) does not appear anywhere in the first 5 pages of Google search results for "Jon Huntsman 2012". In Bing search, it is the very top hit. Is Google is deliberately hiding Huntsman's website in an attempt to hurt his campaign?
President Obama just blamed our high unemployment rate on "companies learning to become much more efficient". Apparently we need to be inefficient to save our economy! We need to roll back industrialization. Think of all the jobs we'll create if we abandon automation and the assembly line and go back to the days of 100% manual labor! Sure it'll take a week of labor on the spinning wheel to make that new shirt you want, but wow will it get our economy growing!
Ugh. I'd say someone really needs to teach Obama basic economics, but with only a year and a half left in his presidency, what's the point?
Administrative bloat is the major driver of rising education costs. Looking at the absurd, dysfunctional administrative bureaucracy here at my university, I'm not surprised. In the private sector, managers who don't control costs get fired. In the public sector, they get a lifetime of employment, a gratuitous pension, and a building named after them.
At least here, finally, is something to celebrate. Earth's ecosystem is thanking us for the record levels of CO2, one of the basic building blocks of life, that we are liberating back into the atmosphere after harmful eons-long geological sequestering underground. Who, 100 years ago, would have thought that this would be one of the wonderful unintended beneficial consequences of mankind's industrialization!
Canada has once again become a role model for the world. Responsible fiscal policy, shrinking deficit, rapid economic growth, and the latest, a principled and commanding foreign policy. Prime Minster Stephen Harper: "When Israel, the only country in the world whose very existence is under attack, is consistently and conspicuously singled out for condemnation, I believe we are morally obligated to take a stand."
Yesterday, Canada took a leadership role in the G8 statement regarding the Israel-Palestinian conflict, explicitly opposing President Obama's call for using the 1967 borders as a basis for negotiations. All references to the 1967 borders were removed from the G8 joint statement, at Canada's insistence.
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson has confirmed there has not been a single case in which the process of "fracking", or hydraulic fracturing, has caused ground water contamination. The left-wing smear campaign against fracking, including the unscientific documentary Gasland, has once again been proven false.