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  1. An important word on news and traditional journalism
    The News Media Canada report details the way in which Google and Facebook use their monopoly powers in Canada to scoop up 80% of online advertising revenues and to distribute newspaper content without compensation. The government in Australia – with support from all parties in Parliament – is putting in place a comprehensive solution that resolves the same problems – without resorting to tax increases or user fees. Canadian publishers are calling for the same solution.
    https://www.levellingthedigitalplayingfield.ca/ (be sure to sign the petition then email it to your MP (Member of Parliament)
    comments: the majority of people in the west now get their news from big-tech companies like Google and Facebook. These companies are incredibly rich but pay no money to professional content-creators which is causing journalism is becoming a dying profession. They also avoid paying taxes. This situation reminds me of the events leading up to the French revolution starting in 1789. Why? At that time, members of the political bodies known as the first and second estates (the nobility and the church) had veto power over the tax-paying third estate. In fact, the nobility could drain the treasury by starting wars (loaning money to Americans for their Declaration of Independence is one clear example), then leave the third estate to suffer the economic consequences. Whenever I hear about big-tech companies moving their offices to Ireland in order to avoid paying taxes, I remember the lessons of French inequality as well as the excuses of the nobility (hey, I am a blue blood; the divine right of kings means that that I am special so that your rules do not apply to me). These companies need to be forced to return some revenue to the content creators (news outlets that employ journalists) as well as pay their fair share in corporate taxes. Ultimately, some common action will need to be coordinated through the G7 and G20 in order to stop tax shopping
    Additional information: https://www.sciencefriday.com/segments/tech-worker-unions/ - where we learn that 50-100 years ago, the auto-industry thought they were special so did not feel it necessary to support worker's rights or even divert some of the enormous profits to the workers that helped create products in that industry
  2. Friendly advice to the incoming administration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris
    Stop meddling in the affairs of other countries (you have enough problems at home).
    • Although the world admired the Obama administration, the world's history books will always associate it, and the USA, with "using NATO to take down Libya" and "causing the crisis in Ukraine by offering that country NATO membership". (did you learn nothing from the Cuban Missile Crisis when weapons of mass destruction were moved onto YOUR doorstep?)
    • Immediately remove all economic sanctions against all countries. This is especially important during the years of a world-wide pandemic
    • Reenter the JCPOA with Iran as soon as possible. It was the Obama administration that convinced five countries (comprising the UN Security council) to enter an agreement with Iran where Iran agrees to not produce weapons-grade uranium. The rest of the world entered into this agreement with you THEN a new president exited the agreement in 2018 (only because he hated Obama) which left the world bewildered. From 2018 forward, it now appears that any international agreement with the USA will not survive the next election cycle. You would not accept this behavior from any other country.
    • End the seemingly perpetual war (18 years and counting) in Afghanistan. Has your misplaced revenge for 9/11 not yet been satisfied? You already know that 15 of the 19 hijackers on 9/11 were Saudi so isn't your anger misdirected?
    • Leave Syria. You were never invited there in the first place so I suspect this outing has more to do with your military industrial complex and the fact that you love to meddle in order to always be the center of attention
    • Stop the war on drugs (just like the war on alcohol, you actions only empower criminal organizations)
      • Portugal has proved to the world that drug use is a health crisis, not a criminal problem.
      • No Knock Warrants (to catch illegal drug activity) in your own county is causing the death of a lot of innocent people. Especially people of color.
      • remove your military presence (and FOB sites) from Honduras. Your war-on-drugs creates societies that are "too violent" for civilized people which results in mass exoduses North to your border with Mexico (the majority of people crossing ARE NOT Mexicans)
    • Leave Venezuela alone. Do you not see "that your interference in their democratic processes" is no different than "the interference you claim comes to you from Russia"? It is time for you to suspend your Monroe Doctrine of 1823. Time has moved on and so should you.
    • Tell NATO that the move to have NATO members spend "2% of GDP per year on military hardware by 2024" is a step in the wrong direction. Stay at 1% for a decade then move to one-half-of-one percent after that. Countries that prepare for war usually go to war.
    • Meanwhile, you already spend more than the next 25 countries combined on military defense (the ground recipients of your cruise missiles surely see this as military offense). Your country could have a nationalized health care system for all citizens if you were not already spending so much money on creating weapons of war. Is it really true that you spend 50% of your discretionary budget on the military industrial complex?
  3. Departing thoughts on 2020 (as well as two decades of online misinformation)
    • Prelude
    • Misinformation
      • Since the adoption of the world-wide-web by the general public starting in 1995, I have heard an increasing volume of medical and scientific nonsense from non-experts on both sides of the political spectrum.
      • Recent conspiracy theories like the one claiming that "COVID-19 is a Chinese military weapon" are just as absurd as paranoid utterances we associate with "vaccine hesitancy" or "that 9/11 was an inside job"
        • comment: vaccination is probably the single largest life-saving human invention ever created. Ask yourself "when was the last time you saw children wearing leg braces after the ravages of polio?" because when I was growing up in the 1950s every public school had at least one case. 
      • "I believe" the internet is partly to blame since it can spray conspiracy theories directly into the brains of people with no working Baloney Filter (citizens that never learned logic or critical thinking)
      • On top of that, politically biased cable news programs hosted by attractive young women (to get higher ratings) have actually convinced many people that traditional newspapers are not to be believed (those programs use the phrase MAIN STREAM MEDIA which can be used to easily dismiss anything you do not agree with).
      • Things have gotten so bad, that when newspapers published photographs of New York hospitals with 18-wheel truck trailers being used as makeshift morgues to support the spike in COVID-19 deaths, many claimed the photos were faked to support some sort of liberal conspiracy. And all this got me thinking...
    • We now live in an age of Survival of the Smartest. (or smartest + fittest)
      • If you dismiss some information because it was published by the MAIN STREAM MEDIA rather than your favorite politically-biased news outlet then you will probably die sooner (you will go to your grave knowing you were "politically right" but you will also be "dead wrong")
      • If your idea of doing research is "looking up stuff on the internet" then you will probably die sooner
      • If you have a limited education but think you are smarter than scientists and doctors who have more (and were trained to think critically) then you will probably die sooner
      • If you ignore expert advice on any topic (eg. you will not eat less sugar, you will not reduce the consumption of alcohol or tobacco, you will not exercise more, you will not get vaccinated, you will not where a face mask until this mess is over) then you will probably die sooner
    Comment: The internet was designed and developed by academics (scientists and engineers) who wanted to provide other academics with the free flow of valuable information. These people probably never guessed that the internet would be used to "allow crazy people to reach out to other crazy people" or to "promote conspiracy theories which were previously only found in tabloid publications sold at super-market checkout lines". 
  4. China is starting of a new era of lunar exploration (and space exploration?)
    When it comes to space exploration, China has long taken third place. The cold war’s space race saw the US and the Soviet Union vying for firsts – satellite, human in orbit, landing on the moon – and left few records for China to claim. That changed last year, when its uncrewed Chang’e 4 spacecraft made the first landing on the far side of the moon. Among other experiments, it contained a “lunar garden” of seedlings that went on to host the first plants (that we know of) to germinate on another world. The Chang’e missions, named after the Chinese goddess of the moon, have seen the country orbit, land and rove – all important, but fairly common. But Chang’e 5, launched this week, is attempting something that hasn’t been done in more than 40 years – bringing moon rocks back to Earth. Continued here: www.newscientist.com
  5. COVID-19 Death Numbers: Since the human population is quite large (7.8 billion for planet Earth; hundreds of millions for various large countries), deaths are statistically predictable from year-to-year. So when a pandemic strikes, statisticians will project "excess deaths" by subtracting "expected deaths" from "actual deaths". From this subset, scientists will apply sampling measurements to determine the how many of deaths were due to COVID-19. American numbers from here ( https://www.bmj.com/content/371/bmj.m3948 ) show the "excess deaths" number at 225,000 over 120 days which results in an average of 1,875 deaths per day. It is estimated (because of sampling) that two-thirds were due to COVID-19 which translates into 1,250 deaths per day.
    Stats Links:
    Date American COVID-19
    Deaths 'per day'
    Dec-05 2,700 reported by NPR; a lot higher than expected deaths
    Dec-08 3,100 reported by NPR; higher than the deaths on  September 11, 2001
    Dec-17 3,700 source: Johns Hopkins University; higher than 9/11
    Dec-30 3,860 source: Johns Hopkins University; higher than 9/11
    Jan-8 4,100 source: Johns Hopkins and NYT; higher than 9/11
    Jan-12 4,400 source: Johns Hopkins and NYT; higher than 9/11
    Date American COVID-19
    Total Deaths
    2020-02-29 1 COVID-19 kills one American (may as well say that this pandemic starts in March)
    2020-04-27 58,000 COVID-19 has killed as many Americans in 2 months as died in the Vietnam War
    COVID-19 has killed as many Americans in 10 months as World War 2 did in 4 years
    2021-02-17 502,000 COVID-19 has killed a half-million citizens in only 50 weeks
    • The rise in December death rates is a direct consequence of Americans ignoring advice given by professional health professionals (scientists, doctors, nurses) over "Thanksgiving Holiday" week which included the "Black Friday" shopping ritual on Nov-27.
    • While the 9/11 attacks were a cultural shock to most Westerners (and Americans vowed revenge) news numbers indicate that Americans are experiencing the equivalent of a 9/11 attack every day and yet many claim it is fake news.
    • The total number of American deaths due to COVID-19 in less than one year has exceeded the total number of Americans deaths due to world war two in four years (405,399)
  6. It is Ottawa, not Beijing, which initiated "hostage diplomacy". (triggered when Canada backed Donald Trump's illegal sanctions against Iran which Huawei legally ignored)
    As a former member of the Canadian Forces, I’m appalled by Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan’s lack of judgment. On Oct. 7, 2020, during a widely-reported panel discussion hosted by Slovakian think tank Globesec, he claimed that China was engaged in “hostage diplomacy.” It’s frightening that the minister cannot distinguish between the actions of his own government and those of China. I wish to remind him that, on Dec. 1, 2018, his government acted upon a request of the Trump Administration to arrest Meng Wanzhou, CFO, Huawei Technologies. The U.S. indictment was approved by a New York State Court on Aug. 22, 2018, and the U.S. tried unsuccessfully following that date to pressure dozens of countries, through which Meng travelled, to arrest her. Every single country refused until Meng arrived in Vancouver on Dec. 1, 2018, and Trudeau slavishly acceded to the “urgent” U.S. extradition request. Developments following Meng’s arrest confirm her arrest was politically motivated. On Dec. 6, 2018, Trump declared he might release Meng if he secured a favourable trade deal with China. He also told John Bolton that Meng was “a bargaining chip” in his trade negotiations with China. In fact, in “The Room Where it Happened,” Bolton reveals that Trump privately gave Meng Wanzhou the nickname, “the Ivanka Trump of China,” a moniker indicating Trump understood he was asking Canada to take a high-value hostage in the person of Meng Wanzhou to be leveraged against the People’s Republic to get a trade deal favourable to the U.S.A. So, it was the Trudeau government, which first initiated “hostage diplomacy” in relation to China. Following the arrest of Meng, the Chinese government arrested Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig on espionage charges. While I have no opinion on the justifiability of the charges against the Two Michaels, I believe the fraud charges against Meng are unwarranted. After all, they arise from Huawei’s alleged dealings with Iran, in violation of U.S. unilateral sanctions against that country. In the first place, the U.S. unilateral economic sanctions against Iran are illegal. According to the UN Charter, only the UN Security Council has the authority to impose coercive economic measures against member states. And all those UN-approved measures against Iran were lifted in the JCPOA (Iran Nuclear Agreement) which came into effect in 2016. When Trump abrogated that agreement in 2018 to the chagrin of the entire world, Trudeau’s government also expressed regret. It stated it hoped that the other parties to the JCPOA would continue to honour its provisions. In effect, then, Meng, a Canadian permanent resident, has violated no Canadian law. She’s being held under house arrest by the Trudeau government for violating a U.S. sanctions regime on Iran that no other country in the world recognizes. This bizarre situation is termed U.S. “extraterritoriality,” where the U. S tries to enforce its domestic laws on other countries. Canada should not play along! The arrest and extradition proceeding against Meng have contributed to deteriorating Canada-China relations. At various times following Meng’s arrest, China, which is Canada’s second-largest trading partner, banned importation of Canadian canola, pork, and lobsters. Since livelihoods of thousands of Canadian farmers and fishers depend on the export of these products to China, they were severely affected. Thirty per cent of Canadian exports go to China, but Canadian exports only account for less than 2 per cent of China’s imports. So the potential of even more harm is possible. In addition, the promising Chinese-Canadian collaboration on a COVID-19 vaccine collapsed. Canada and its people paid dearly so far and gained nothing from the Trudeau government’s decision to hold Meng as a hostage for the U.S. in its trade negotiations with China.
    Henry Evans-Tenbrinke (2020-10-16)
  7. Julian Assange. There are a lot of things to dislike about him but that does not mean anyone should cheer his current treatment in a British court. Why did the judge bar NGOs, like Amnesty International, from covering this spectacle while limiting the number of public spectators to 5? And why are witnesses for the prosecution not allowed to be cross examined while this luxury is not afforded to witnesses for the defence? And why are big newspapers like the New York Times and Washington Post (to only name two of many) not covering of this travesty of justice?
    On Contact: Chris Hedges interviews Craig Murray
  8. My Two Cents Worth on "America, China and COVID-19" :: Any person, politician or not, who claims that China created COVID-19 or manipulated the COVID crisis to create an economic advantage for China is either deranged or deluded. Were mistakes made by lower level officials in Wuhan? Definitely. But errors happened, not because the decision makers were Chinese, but because they were human. The fact that China published the genetic sequence within four weeks at the end of January surely has to count for something positive. As I type this, the COVID-19 death count in the USA has passed 196,000 lookup current value and some stuff I'm reading/hearing/watching sounds like the USA is heading into a cold-war with China. The problem with cold wars is that they can accidentally escalate into hot wars (the Spanish American War and the Vietnam War immediately spring to mind).
  9. Commenting on Huawei: It appears to me that people in the west only support capitalism when the west wins. When a Chinese company, like Huawei, becomes the next Nortel, then ridiculous conspiracy theories are invoked. IIRC, Huawei was one of many companies that bid on the sale of intellectual property, as did Apple, Google, Blackberry and others. Huawei was not one of the winners which forced it to increase its own R&D operations (estimates put Huawei R&D in 2019 at a massive 40% of net income). People claim that Huawei steals IP (intellectual property) so how is it that many industry experts agree that Huawei is 19-24 months ahead of everyone else on 5G. Anyway, western companies continually accuse each other of IP theft (look at the number of times that Apple is in court for stealing IP from Broadcom and Qualcomm). Other western companies are no better (Apple has sued Google; Facebook is currently suing Google). The CEOs of these western companies justify this by saying "this is just the way business in done".

    On a related note, Huawei telephone hardware is nothing more than a special-purpose programmable computer made in China which is almost always installed along with a CISCO firewall. Firewall transactions are almost always logged and monitored so someone would need to show me proof that data packets were seen going back to China (or show how packets could flow from China back to the west for any nefarious purpose). On top of all that, Apple manufactures their equipment at Foxconn in China. This is the same place where Microsoft manufactures the Xbox One and Sony manufacturers the PlayStation4. HP desktops are manufactured by Megatron in China. So why is Huawei being singled out? Shouldn't Trump block the imports of all these companies as well? Heck, many of these consumer and small business appliances are seldomly protected by firewalls.

    I think it was Deng Xiaoping who once said "The Middle East has its oil, China has rare earth". Since modern electronics is dependent upon rare-earth materials then it should be no surprise that Chinese-made electronics is much less expensive. Speaking of Deng for a moment, in 1985 I was attending school in Boston where it appeared to me that Chinese students were everywhere. Apparently, Deng had sent 1.3 million Chinese students to the USA to receive a top-quality western education paid for by China (one of my more-gifted Chinese classmates was accompanied by "two minders" who were there to ensure that he returned to China). Unlike Mao, Deng saw great value in education and realized that this was the best way forward for China. Thirty five years later, China has moved more than 350 million Chinese citizens from poverty into the middle class. This number is greater than the current population of the USA so is it any surprise that China is doing well? Meanwhile, there is a tendancy amongst westerners to label "an educated person" as "an elite". It seems to me that the world has flipped.
  10. Now here's a smart idea. The European Parliament (EU) just voted to end daylight savings time in 2021
    The main reason given was that Europe's closest trading partners, China and Russia, do not shift their numerous number of time zones, and having Europe change its clocks twice annually was bad for business between all. But as a computer programmer and system admin, I can tell you that not having your computer systems change their internal clocks is a huge advantage.
  11. Our culture is awash in lies, dominated by streams of never ending electronic hallucinations that merge fact and fiction until they are indistinguishable.  We have become the most illusioned society on earth.  Politics is a species of endless and meaningless political theater.  Politicians have morphed into celebrities.  Our two ruling parties are, in reality, one party - the corporate party.  And those who attempt to puncture this vast, breathless universe of fake news, designed to push through the cruelty and exploitation of the neoliberal order, are pushed so far to the margins of society, including by a public broadcasting system that has sold its soul for corporate money, that we might as well be mice squeaking against an avalanche, but squeak we MUST
  12. A conservative friend of mine was fond of asking me political questions (I am a centrist) then would cut me off mid-sentence before I finished answering because he did not value my (just beginning) response. Apparently he was the only conservative amongst his family of brothers, sisters and parents but had no problem thinking he was right while they were wrong. How could this be? This thought rattled around in my mind until I stumbled across a book titled The Republican Brain which was positively reviewed by liberals and conservatives alike. The book contains several points which I will pass along here:
    • Size differences in two brain structures, the amygdala (larger in conservatives) and the anterior cingulate (larger in liberals), bias human perspective of the world. Therefore ...
    • Conservatives see most issues as "black and white" while liberals see "shades of gray"
    • Conservatives play politics as a team sport so will almost always "vote their party" while Liberals will split their vote choosing alternate parties (now you know how Trump got in)
    • Conservatives (larger amygdala) are more fearful of others so are more easily encouraged to vote for POPULIST issues like "building the wall" or BREXIT (funny point: Britain had the lowest number of Syrian immigrants but apparently the highest political reaction against them)
    • Since conservatives only see things as black and white, they try (and sometimes succeed) in converting liberals over to their way of voting. It seems to me that the reverse never happens
Continued here: Index Part-2 (more sciency, while less newsworthy, stuff)
"2001: A Space Odyssey"
A mysterious monolith awakens the imagination of humanity's distant ancestors.
A second monolith awaits humanity's giant leap to the moon. And in orbit around Jupiter,
a third monolith beckons humanity to transcend beyond the limits of of body and machine.
Click: 2001: A Space Odyssey @ Wikipedia
"a Feynman Diagram"
Feynman Diagram (animated) Feynman Diagram (static)
"All forces in the universe are mediated by particle exchange"
This "Feynman Diagram" (of electron repulsion) depicts the movement of two electrons (1 to 3 and 2 to 4) in space and time. A virtual photon transfers energy between them (5 to 6) causing them to repel each other.
To learn more:
1) brief explanation
2) detailed explanation
Legend: Y-Axis (up-down) is time while X-Axis (left-right) is space

Neil Rieck
Waterloo, Ontario, Canada

Yes, this is the old "Laptops and Lederhosen" site
  • Humanity's coming Dark Age
  • STEM Book Recommendations (Dark Age antidote?)
  • Thomas PaineThomas Paine (1737-1809) wrote about many modern topics including " the importance of the separation between church and state" and " racial equality" (he proposed "abolishing slavery" 100 years before Lincoln). The following three titles are a "must read" for all modern citizens:
  • Adam Smith (1723-1790) was a self titled "moral philosopher" who developed economic theories with the intent of redistributing wealth to workers who were about to be displaced by the industrial revolution. Anyone reading Smith's books will come to the conclusion that American capitalism is based upon a synthesis of Adam Smith and Charles Darwin (survival of the greediest). Many things Americans attribute to Adam Smith are not found in his books (the 'invisible hand' is mentioned only once in a revised edition of WoN). What would he think about hedge funds and activist investors?  
  • The $2 Trillion Dollar War by Nobel Prize winner Joseph E Stiglitz
  •   Comparative Anthropology
  • the Enlightenment (my favorite topic)



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