Monday, October 31, 2011

Governor Rick Perry's Weird, Drunk? Speech

Has Rick Perry been taking speech classes from George Bush?

What It Takes To Be A Hero - Providing Relief to Somalia Famine Victims

Sometimes it takes a little, other times it takes a lot, but something it always requires doing SOMETHING!
It hardly hits the main headlines, but there are about 500,000 people in Somalia under the threat of starvation, including 160,000 severally mal-nourished children. Unicef is now reaching about 1/3 of these children, which is great but there is so much more to be done. To make matters worse, the Al-shabaab militant group is making it very difficult for available aide to reach the people.

When there are situations such as this one, it's easy to become frustrated with its magnitude and not do anything. "Why bother" becomes the common sentiment. But not my friend, R.K. (he is a humble type, I won't use his full name), instead of standing by and watching he is doing something. Together with a group of his friends he has already put together and sent a container (~4,000 cubic feet) of relief supplies to help in this dire situation. But he didn't stop there, he is actively working on filling a second container. He is doing this while working 60,70, or 80 hours a week and with hardly any sleep. Now that, my friends, is a hero!

There is always something that can be done, just point in any direction and there will probably be people that need feeding, hearts that need mending, etc, etc. Do you want to make a difference? Would you like to be someone like R.K.? Someone who sees a problem and does something to fix it? Then do something! Anything!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Ruins of Detroit Photos and Lessons for Living

I was looking through these photos of Detroit and it gave me a glimpse of what it once was. Even today, the ruins have a surreal beauty. You can imagine the hope and dreams of the people who worked to make the city one of the most prosperous cities in the world in it's prime. Many of these people have passed on and most of the city has passed with them. 

These photos make me think about how fleeting life is and how important it is to focus on what is important. So many times, we as a society, are focused on getting to the next goal; graduating high school, graduating college, getting a job, getting married, having kids, getting the kids to graduate, saving for retirement, retirement and very quickly life has passed and with it the chance to enjoy everyday as a gift. In the words of Jesus, "Now listen, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.' Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes." 

So enjoy today, but in so doing don't forget about the promise of eternity. As one of my favorite quotes says, "Dream like you'll live forever, live like you'll die tomorrow."

Photos of the Surreal Beauty of the Ruins of Detroit  

History of Detroit
According to Wikipedia of course:

Part 1 of a Documentary of Detroit
This is an amateur documentary, but it has some good information. Watch the other parts on YouTube.

Sources and More Detroit Ruins Photos:

Ecclesiastes 2
A fitting scripture passage for this post.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Continuing American Tradition of Abusing Native Americans

Since the founding of this country, Native Americans have been excessively abused and in many cases massacred. Holocaust expert and author, Cesarani states that "in terms of the sheer numbers killed, the Native American Genocide exceeds that of the Holocaust". The ones that weren't massacred were removed from their homelands and put on reservations that were comprised of the worst available lands. 

As if that weren't enough, the abuse is continuing to this day - by the government. In a recent NPR led investigation, the government of South Dakota was exposed for essentially kidnapping Native American children and placing them in foster care. The motivation? Money, of course! 

According to the article, "The state receives thousands of dollars from the federal government for every child it takes from a family, and in some cases the state gets even more money if the child is Native American." 

Even though Federal law prohibits Native American foster children from being placed with anyone other than their tribe and close relatives, 32 states are ignoring this policy. In South Dakota, Native American children make up only 15% of the child population, but they make up over 50% of the foster children. 

It's not that their aren't Native American families willing to take foster children if the need arises. It's part of their culture to take care of children who need help. However, if a Native American foster family takes a child, the state doesn't get the Federal money that would have come from the child being in the state sponsored foster system. 

I guess state politicians feel that sacrificing the happiness and security of these children is worth padding the budget.

Sadly, freedom in America isn't for everyone, especially not for the people who owned this land in the first place.

Truly sickening.

Bizarre Herman Cain TV Ad, What Was He Thinking?

Is it just me, or is this Herman Cain campaign ad totally bizarre? Why is Herman Cain's campaign advisor in the ad and not Herman Cain? Who care's if a campaign manager supports their boss? Are people going to think, "Oh, wow, Mark Block supports Herman Cain, I think I'll vote for him!" Does anyone even know who Mark Block is? And, most importantly, why is his mustache lop-sided?

When I first heard about his 9-9-9 plan I thought it was an interesting idea, but it seems that's all he will really talk about. When he is asked about anything other than taxation, things start getting a little weird. It's hard to to tell what he really thinks about something, as this article illustrates.

Is this campaign all about selling his book?

Who wants an ex-fed man anyway? Aren't they the ones who had a little something to do with our poor economy?

UPDATE: Jon Huntsman's Daughters Spoof Herman Cain's Ad

I thought this was pretty good.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

North Dakota - Six Figures and Homeless

Williston, North Dakota is attracting so many new workers that they can't make housing units fast enough to provide shelters to their new residents. New fracking technologies have opened up large oil reserves in North Dakota, creating an oil boom and a lot of new jobs. Unemployment rates in some parts of North Dakota are less than 1%. Because of the strong demand for workers, companies are forced to pay salaries that are higher than other parts of the United States. This is great for the employees, but since there aren't enough houses some people are forced to sleep in their cars or on the grass along highways.

Read the full story here.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Starting a Movement May Require You to Look Like an Idiot

This is one of my favorite TED talks.

It's a presentation that uses a creative way of illustrating what it takes to start a movement.

If you want to make a significant change, it is almost inevitable that you will stand alone for awhile and take a risk of looking like an idiot. If you persevere through the lack of attention or the ridicule, a few people will eventually recognize your mission and become followers. As more people join, your followers will eventually reach a critical mass and your idea will become a viral movement.

I think the video is a good reminder that we shouldn't be afraid of standing alone if we really believe in something. So if you want to change the world, go look like an idiot and get the movement started. As Gandi once said, "First they'll ignore you, then they'll laugh at you, then they'll fight with you, and then you win."

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Pew Research Study: Does Ron Paul really get ignored by the media?

If you talk to most Ron Paul supporters, they will almost always vent about the media bias against their hero.  Are they over-reacting, or are they right? Has he actually been blocked out of the media? Mistreated perhaps? A study by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism has some convincing evidence that shows that their accusations are indeed accurate. 

Take a look at this graph. The bar represent the amount of coverage each candidate received by the media. Which candidate had the least amount of coverage? Ron Paul, of course. However, when the Pew Research Center looked at non-traditional media coverage (individual driven blogosphere, social media, etc), Ron Paul had the highest amount of favorable coverage. 54% of the sentiment was positive and only 15% was negative.  

The study says, "The blogosphere, it turns out, is proving a much rougher environment than the news media for candidates, including contenders associated with the Tea Party movement. But one candidate has emerged as the winner of the blog primary so far—Texas Congressman Ron Paul."

Read the entire study. Facts are facts.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Top 5 Reasons to Abolish the Department of Education

Ron Paul recently announced a budget reduction plan (Restore America Now) that would include the elimination of the Department of Education, saving taxpayers an estimated $77.8 billion in Federal spending. The idea of eliminating the Department of Education sounds a little radical, but when I did some research online, I found some pretty convincing arguments in favor of it's demise.

1. Failure to meet it's mission - Simply put, the Department of Education has failed it's mission. It was put in place to improve education, but there isn't any evidence that shows any improvement. In fact it's quite the opposite. I don't think many people would argue with this fact, but if you wish find me a study that proves otherwise.

2. Spending on the DofE has increased about 500%. When the Federal Government formed the department, supporters promised that the budget would be small and stay small. That certainly didn't happen. When the agency was formed in 1979, the annual budget was $14.5 billion. It is now $77.8 billion. Do the math. Since the department was formed per pupil spending has increased from about $3,000 to almost $5,600 (adjusted for inflation).

3. Unconstitutional - The 10th amendment of the Constitution says, "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." The Department of Education has put numerous rules and regulations in place regarding education, instead of leaving it up to the states 10th amendment dictates.

4. Probability of failure - If all 50 states had competing programs of education, the possibility of some, or most of the programs being successful would go up substantially. Sure, some states probably wouldn't be as successful as others, but it would be better than having one nationwide plan that doesn't work. Logically, how can a bunch of bureaucrats create a educational program that meets the unique needs of millions of children in 50 unique states?

5. Cookie-cutter approach - An improvement in education needs to start at the micro-level before any improvement can be seen on the macro-level. The most successful education happens when children learn to love learning. Very few children will love learning if they are pushed through a cookie-cutter curriculum that stifles creativity and imagination. In a society with problems of ever increasing magnitude, what we need are people with imaginations - people who think different. It may just be me, but using a standard curriculum for all students doesn't seem to be the answer.

Friday, October 14, 2011

1 Person Dies and 100 Million Cry - 1 Million Die and No One Cries

Kind of makes you think doesn't it? This year about a billion people won't have enough food. In the horn of Africa alone, experts are projectioning that death tolls could in the hundred thousands due to the recent drought and subsequent famines. Yet this devastation hardly makes the headlines. Steve Jobs dies and the world is in mourning.

Don't get me wrong, I think Steve Jobs did make a positive impact on the world (yes, I know, as some will say he had his problems), but I think it would be good to think a little more about the suffering in the world. So next time you use your iPad or iPhone and think of Steve Jobs, think for a second about the people don't have one and probably never will.

Yes, RIP Steve Jobs, but, RIP 1 the million who starved to death.

Help support the suffering in the world. 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Best Job in the United States - Pure Michigan Contest Idea

Idea: State of Michigan Offers Best Job in the United States with Salary of $1 million/year for being a Michigan Tourist

I'm loving the Pure Michigan campaign. I think it has been great for my state's tourism economy. I've seen license plates from all over the United States, including a couple from Hawaii. I know, weird. Why would someone ship a car to the mainland when it would probably be cheaper to just rent one. Michigan has been really hard hit by the economic downturn, so I love when anything positive takes place in my state. While I think the Pure Michigan campaign has had great success, I think some creative social marketing techniques could take it to the next level. How? By creating a challenge that everyone will talk about.

There are probably a lot of ideas that would work, but I recall a couple of marketing campaigns that Pure Michigan could piggy-back off of. One being GE's Ecomagination challenge and another being Australia's "Best Job in the World" competition. In GE's challenge, contestants would post YouTube videos of their idea to make the world greener, the winning videos would win a large prize (I forget what exactly, $millions?). This created a lot of attention and competing videos received tens of millions of views.

The "Best Job in the World" was a similar concept, according to the linked story (paraphrased):
"An Australian state has launched a global search for candidates for "the best job in the world" -- earning a top salary for lazing around a beautiful tropical island for six months. The job pays 150,000 Australian dollars (105,000 US dollars)... In return, the "island caretaker" will be expected to stroll the white sands, stay in a multi-million dollar beach house, soak up the sun, snorkel the reef, "maybe clean the pool" -- and report to a global audience via weekly blogs, photo diaries and video updates."

Here is one of the video ads for the campaign, Tourism Queensland Seeks Applicants for the "Best Job in the World" - Island Caretaker

How could these ideas be used by Pure Michigan? 
They could advertise a "Best Job in the United States" YouTube video contest. Contestants could post videos of themselves talking about why they should get the position and why they want to experience Michigan. The videos that the most views would be entered in a final drawing by judges who would then choose the finalist. The finalist would get the "Best Job in the United States," which could include perks like a huge salary and traveling around Michigan to all the tourist spots. The only "work" the contestant would have to do would be writing a few blog entries on every week about their experience and maybe doing media interviews.

There could be a lot of other details, but this concept would create a lot of viral buzz around the idea. If the perks were good enough, news media would pick up the story for additional buzz. Imagine the headline, "Michigan Offers Best Job in the United States with Salary of $1 million/year for Touring Michigan". Something like that would become national news pretty quickly. With the country's attention being focused on the lack of jobs, something like this would have even more impact. People would notice a story about the best job in America.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Great Flu Shot Conspiracy

It's that time of year. Time for flu shots. Everyone should get the flu shot or you will endanger your life and the lives of the people around you. At least that's what we are being told. Funny thing is, there are no studies that conclusively prove that flu shots actually work. Even the Center for Disease Control and Prevention doesn't provide an accurate estimate flu shot effectiveness. After some rambling jargon about how vaccine effectiveness varies depending on age group and a variety of other factors, the web site states, "CDC is currently reviewing recently published studies on vaccine effectiveness to update existing estimates." Currently reviewing recently published studies? How long has the flu shot been around? Wouldn't they have reviewed these studies by now? 

There have been some studies that have shown that flu shots reduced mortality in the elderly by over 50%. That sounds great, but when you examine the studies things start to fall apart. 

Lisa Jackson, a researcher from Group Health Research Center thought a 50% reduction sounded to good to be true, so she decided to look into factors that could be causing a discrepancy in the study. She hypothesized that the "difference between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated might be caused by a phenomenon known as the “healthy user effect.” Meaning that people who get vaccinated could simply be more healthier and more health conscience than people who don't get the flu vaccine. 

According to an article, Does the Vaccine Matter, in the Atlantic Magazine, "Jackson and her colleagues combed through eight years of medical data on more than 72,000 people 65 and older. They looked at who got flu shots and who didn’t. Then they examined which group’s members were more likely to die of any cause when it was not flu season. Jackson’s findings showed that outside of flu season, the baseline risk of death among people who did not get vaccinated was approximately 60 percent higher than among those who did, lending support to the hypothesis that on average, healthy people chose to get the vaccine, while the “frail elderly” didn’t or couldn’t. In fact, the healthy-user effect explained the entire benefit that other researchers were attributing to flu vaccine, suggesting that the vaccine itself might not reduce mortality at all. "

In some years the use of flu shots rises and falls quite a bit, but the mortality rate due to flu shots doesn't rise and fall with usage rates. A classic example of this is 2004. The vaccination rate for the year was 40% less than normal. If the flu shot worked, one would expect the mortality rate to rise due to the reduction in the vaccination rate. This didn't happen, in fact the mortality rate due to getting the flu remained the same. 

Another thing, flu shots are based on predicting the strain of the flu virus 9 months in advance. Flu viruses change rapidly, why would a few people's predictions be close to accurate? If they aren't accurate, a vaccination wouldn't do any good. 

What do doctors think? 

Read Influenza Vaccination: Policy vs. Evidence for a much better discussion of the issue. 

Watch Tom Jefferson, epidemiologist at Cochrane Institute, talk about the Swine Flu Vaccine and the Politics Behind It

There are numerous other articles and videos by other flu shot skeptics. Just Google for things like, "does the flu vaccine work?" 

Maybe they are right and maybe they are wrong. I'm inclined to believe the former. Check with your doctor and all that good stuff, but remember someone is getting an awful lot of money to produce 100's of millions of vaccine doses. Maybe, just maybe flu vaccines are more about the money and less about actual effectiveness. 

Me? I think I'll pass, but what do I know.