• Small Claims Court Offers More Jurisprudential Integrity than the Proposed Impeachment Trial

    Even SMALL CLAIMS COURT Invites You to Introduce Live Testimony in a Public Hearing Decided by an Impartial Finder of Facts.

    You don't even need to go to law school to know this.? It is basic due process.? There will apparently be more jurisprudential integrity in a small claims court than in a proceeding considering the impeachment of the President of the United States.

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    Hiring Yourself to Do Your Household Chores, Tax Free

    I've been working on my house today, which is part fun, part tedious. It gets more fun when I consider what I’m saving financially by doing the work myself. I just make up a number of $40/hour, whch is less than it would probably cost me to hire many kinds of workers. I can’t in good conscience pick a higher number because I’m not as efficient as a specialist who has all the right tools ready.

    Here’s my totals from today. I earned $80 (two hours) putting up two window blinds. What the heck . . . I also cooked, cleaned, configured some software, did some bookkeeping, laundry and a few other odds and ends. All in all, it was about 4 hours of work, so I just paid myself $160. PLUS, I’m writing this post rather than hiring a writing. And I’m going to read to myself tonight – otherwise I might have had to pay someone to read to me. And just before falling asleep, I will fluff my own pillow and operate my own dream theater.

    Perhaps I’m getting too obsessed about saving money as a result of visiting the website of Mr. Money Mustache. That is a place where "Frugality is the New Fanciness."

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    My Awkward Love Letter to Plants

    This morning I pretended I lived in a world without any plants.? I pretended I was an inventor.

    My first client was someone asked me to invent something she called “plants.” She was entirely concerned with function, not aesthetics. She had some very demanding requirements. Each of these living things would be rooted to one position for their entire lives. They would not be able to move. I said, “Oh, like sponges . . . ” She corrected me: “No, sponges are animals like you!” She handed me information showing how plants differ from animals, though there are many similarities too, since all plants and all animals have common eukaryote ancestors.

    At first, I was relieved that my task was to design only plants, not animals, because this would save me a lot of work. There will be no need to design locomotion, vision, migration or hunting behaviors. There would not be a need for any sort of biologically expensive brain that would offer neural plasticity, the ability for an individual plants to learn. A bit more thinking made me realize that this was going to be incredibly difficult. How does one design the ability for anisms to survive day to day when they are stuck in one place? The more I thought about this project, the more daunting it seemed. [More . . . ]

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    On the Link Between Alcohol and Breast Cancer

    In 2018 Stephanie Mencimer of Mother Jones published a truly sobering article that deserves repeated attention:"Did Drinking Give Me Breast Cancer? The science on the link is clear, but the alcohol industry has worked hard to downplay it."

    The statistics would be difficult to ignore, if they weren't downplayed by those who find these numbers inconvenient to an activity they enjoy:

    Researchers estimate that alcohol accounts for 15 percent of US breast cancer cases and deaths—about 35,000 and 6,600 a year, respectively. That’s about three times more than the number of breast cancer cases caused by a mutation of the BRCA genes, which prompted Angelina Jolie, who carries one of the abnormal genes, to have both her healthy breasts removed in 2013. . . . But alcohol-related breast cancer kills more than twice as many American women as drunk drivers do. . . . [A] woman who consumes two to three drinks a day has a lifetime risk of about 15 percent—a 25 percent increase over teetotalers. By comparison, mammography reduces the death rate from breast cancer by about 25 percent. “Alcohol can undo all of that at about two drinks a day,” [Harvard Epidemiologist Walter] Willett says.

    In addition to increasing the risk of breast cancer, the CDC reports that drinking increases the risk of cancer to the mouth, throat, larynx, esophagus, colon, rectum and liver.

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    Becoming an Amateur Rock Jeweler

    Over the past few months, I've been posting on my newly ignited passion for rock hounding, sculpting rocks and rock tumbling. SE Missouri is a great place to find beautiful rocks. I find most of my rocks in creeks 1 or 2 hours south of St. Louis. After tumbling them, I've handed them to many friends and acquaintances as mementos and for no reason at all. People love smooth polished rocks--I'm tempted to call it a human universal.

    As I've created increasing numbers of tumbled rocks, I've learned that for a minimal cost, one can create necklaces and other jewelry with them. This is a photo of my first creation. I gave it to a dear friend who is moving away from St. Louis and it brought a big smile to her face. I'm late to this game--lots of people make jewelry. As with all handmade gifts, this is equal fun for giver and receiver.

    Here are two other necklaces I just put together. Nature generates some awesome patterns. I couldn't see these patterns on the raw rock. Not until it was tumbled. Some beautiful rocks look ordinary when tumbled. Some ordinary rocks look beautiful when tumbled. You never know.

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    Resisting Wars of Discretion Could Save Lives at Home

    Our belief in war as a solution to our foreign policy issues, despite the lack of clear objectives and confirmatory metric of "success," is hemorrhaging the U.S. budget. Where are the voices of politicians demanding that we justify this annual military spending by pointing to real life successes?

    In the meantime, many Americans are going bankrupt in an effort to get the necessary medical care to stay alive (2/3 of all bankruptcies). Others simply give up and die.

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    The Most Recent False Justification for War

    Of course there is no evidence that there was any imminent attack, even according to Mark Esper, the U.S. Defense Secretary. That's because Trump's claim of "self-defense" was torn right out the well-worn US Playbook of War Justifications. It's the chapter right after the two chapters dealing with "The Gulf of Tonkin" and "Weapons of Mass Destruction."

    When you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail. The U.S has such a enormous arsenal of war machines that it makes military actions an almost irresistible temptation. It feels so good to do something--almost anything--rather than doing nothing. The focussing illusion makes launching an attack feel like the right thing to do even when the big picture shows that a killing of a prominent leader of a country could stir up massive intense hatred toward the United States. Trump's inner circle of warmongers (which apparently might not include Esper) are true believers that a show of military force is powerful, effective and bitter medicine for Iran. Maybe so, but those who stir up intense hatred should be careful when their country has thousands of soft targets (schools, shopping centers, airport lobbies, banks, stadiums) that are realistically indefensible. And this is especially true in that we also have dozens of realistically indefensible big cities that could be horrifically paralyzed by dirty bombs, biological weapons and cyber attacks well within the means of a technologically sophisticated country like Iran.

    I'm sure that Trump felt really happy--probably asmic-- when he killed Qassim Suleimani. But based on how he has handled many things, including North Korea, I am fairly certain that he didn't think through the long term consequences of that feel-good moment.

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    If Only There Were a Well-Funded Peace Lobby as a Counterweight to the Military Industrial Complex

    If only there were an industry of businesses that manufactured goods and services specifically geared to maintaining the peace (something more profitable and focused than libraries). Then there would be a weighty lobby to counterbalance the military-industrial complex. This Peace Lobby could sponsor NFL half-time shows. Instead of showing pretty photos of missiles taking off, they could show what happens to human beings when those missiles land. And they could sponsor research to explore the extent to which U.S. articulates meaningful objectives regarding its wars and also set forth detailed metrics to show whether U.S. wars actually achieve those objectives, using (as one example) the 20-year war in Afghanistan.

    They could investigate the extent to which the U.S. government has been honest with the citizens regarding the need for each war. They could have teams of analysts assess the risks and benefits of going to war or not going to war. They could warn us that many media outlets uncritically and gullibly join in whenever politicians beat the drums to go to war. They could also explore the effect on diverting massive U.S. tax resources to war, and they could run campaigns showing the lost benefits of failing to spend those tax resources on peaceful uses, such as decaying U.S. infrastructure. They could also educate Americans of the dangers of the sunk cost fallacy.

    Related Thought: If only were were better incentives for Hollywood to produce storylines where war was averted. Unfortunately, scripts permeated with visual violent conflict sells, especially visual conflict involving physical fighting. ?I wonder about the filtering that likely occurs when Hollywood script-writers and producers want the cooperation of of the military to use military resources in their movies (e,g., military hardware and access to military ships, planes and bases). If only we had the following data: How often does the U.S. military turn down cooperation of a movie-maker because the script puts the military in a bad light or makes war look like a bad idea?

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    What is the Biggest Problem for Society: Government or Business?

    There's no doubt in my mind that the government is the biggest problem with our society.

    Except for those many times when unregulated corporations are the biggest problem with our society. Here is Exhibit A these days, Boeing's conduct regarding the 737 Max, resulting in 346 deaths. . Tomorrow it will be some more gross misconduct or price gouging by Big Pharma, or Wall Street banks fleecing the taxpayers.

    Rather than pushing and pulling on this false dichotomy, can we agree on this compromise: Unchecked power operating outside of meaningful sunshine is the biggest problem with our society?

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