Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Chase Bank Suspends Accounts

Chase Bank recently suspended the individual bank accounts of several porn stars as outlined in this article here.  The article doesn't explicitly state the government was behind the actions, but when I first heard the news the other day, it seemed obvious Chase had to be feeling pressure from somewhere.

This kind of news should be a wake up call to people and industries that have normally been persecuted by the right, but believe the left is willing to leave them alone.  The left craves government power, and will use it against anybody.  The relatively low stature porn stars occupy in our society makes them easy targets for actions such as this.  Chase's actions should worry a lot of people.  If the government is behind their actions, it's likely doing this as a test run for going against bigger fish in the future.

I haven't seen any mention of how Chase identified the porn star's accounts, and it's a detail that would be interesting to know.  Most porn stars operate under stage names, so Chase likely couldn't just run a program comparing account names to a list of known porn stars.  They likely followed the money trail from the porn businesses to the star's accounts.  If this is what they did, then it would seem to me like the government is behind it.  I'm sure Holder would love to be able to apply pressure to the banks and get them to suspend the accounts of people who work for or do business with the gun industry.

Hashtag Wars

A couple years back, Mark Steyn in America Alone wrote about the uselessness of the Free Tibet movement.  He commented on how the concerts and bumper stickers were all for making people feel good about themselves without having to actually do anything.  With our State Department doing nothing for Ukraine other than starting twitter hashtags, it's clear this kind of feel-goodism is now official government policy.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Income Inequality vs. Lifetime Earnings

So the latest fad among our political class is to show concern for income inequality.  The purpose of income inequality is to stir up hatred against 'the rich' and scapegoat this amorphous group for any financial struggles the middle class might be experiencing.

One thing I find interesting about the new income inequality wars is the way the professional class, government bureaucrats and academics, tries to march in solidarity with the working class.  The bureaucrats and academics have good reason to try and distract others with income inequality.  Pensions for government employees are becoming a huge burden on state and municipal governments, and could lead to higher taxes that could hit the middle class hard.  The costs of education is also hitting the middle class, as many struggle to pay their children's tuition.

The government bureaucrats and academics might like to say they are in the same financial boat as the working class, and a snapshot of their income might back them up.  However, a snapshot of yearly income overlooks potential differences in expected lifetime earnings.  Even if the yearly incomes of the academics and bureaucrats are modest, they can earn a solid amount over a lifetime as they can work at their jobs into their 60's.  Tenured academics can easily pull a paycheck in their old age, and government bureaucrats have generous pensions that pay out until the day they die.  Meanwhile, the working class has jobs in manual labor that they might have to retire from in their 50's when their body gives out.

The professional classes are also the beneficiaries of perks that don't count against their base incomes.  Most university and government employees get gold plated health insurance they don't have to pay much for.  A lot of academics also get free tuition for their children.  At private schools that can be a value of $200,000 per kid, and that income is tax free.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

H.G. Wells was wrong. Why alien life would be immune to Earth born pathogens.

In the ending to H.G. Wells War of the Worlds, the invading Martians are killed off by microbial infections they don’t possess immunity to.  Instinctively, this makes sense.  We've seen in our own history how certain populations have nearly died off when they have come into contact with new pathogens they don’t possess immunity to.

What the scenario in War of the Worlds overlooks is the slim possibility an Earth born pathogen would be able to infect an alien species.  Bacteria and viruses infect us by hijacking the biochemical processes of our cells and using them for their own replication.  These pathogens would be unable to do the same thing in an alien organism that contained just the slightest deviation in its biochemistry.

To explain why Earth pathogens would be unable to infect alien organisms, it is necessary to give an overview of the basic building blocks of life.  Our genetic information is carried in DNA, deoxyribonucleic acid.  DNA consists of two linked strands of nucleotides.   Each nucleotide is composed of a sugar residue, a phosphoryl group, and a base.  There are four different bases used in our DNA: adenine (A), cytosine (C), guanosine (G), and thymine (T).  Our genetic information is contained in the sequence of these four bases. 

Many of the biochemical processes of our cells are carried out by proteins, molecules that have a unique sequence of their own.  Proteins are large chains of amino acids, and there are twenty different amino acids that can be incorporated into them.   The information for the amino acid sequences of our proteins is contained within the base sequence of our DNA.   A three base sequence, termed a codon, signifies an amino acid.  For example, the base sequence ACG is the codon for the amino acid threonine, while the sequence CGT is the codon for arginine.  Accuracy is important as a single mistake in the amino acid sequence could render a protein non-functional. 

The viruses and bacteria that infect our bodies make use of the same processes mentioned above.  Their genetic information is contained in DNA, which encodes the sequential information for their proteins, using the same basic building blocks.  Pathogens would not be able to replicate inside of our cells if their DNA was composed of different bases, or if their genetic code differed from ours, or if the pathogen needed a different pool of amino acids from the one we use.

I believe there’s a good chance any alien life would have a biochemistry vastly different from ours.  Even if their genetic information was carried in DNA, they might use different bases, or have a different genetic code, or use different amino acids in their proteins; amino acids our bodies don’t produce.

In my series, the Lifespan Wars, the enemies of the series, the Hozans, make heavy use of genetically engineered pathogens.  Because of the differences in biochemistry among the twelve sentient species, each pathogen can infect one species, and only one species.  As humans have an unknown biochemistry to the Hozans, they are unable to construct any bio-weapons to infect them.  This natural immunity has led the Domarians to employ humans in their war effort.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Should the NCAA pay its athletes?

With March Madness recently concluding, the question as to whether college athletes should be played was once again discussed.  Almost all the discussions pertain to whether or not the colleges should be paying athletes themselves.  I'm always amazed that more attention isn't being given to the idea of simply letting athletes earn whatever they can off the field.  The high profile athletes could pull in a substantial amount of money through endorsements, and even the lower profile athletes probably wouldn't have much trouble finding a local booster willing to take care of them.  Rescinding this rule would be easy.  The athletes could make money and the schools wouldn't have to worry about how to fit the athletes' salaries into their budget, or how to deal with Title IX if the only players being paid are the football and men's basketball players.  Everyone seems to agree the worst part of the NCAA rules is the fact the players can't even have someone treat them to a five dollar lunch.  Sometimes I wonder if the reason there isn't a bigger push for this is that many of the people want the athletic departments to lose money before they want the athletes to gain money.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Declining Doctoral Standards

So I just found out recently my university is granting a doctoral degree to someone who can't even draw an amino acid, one of the most basic building blocks of life.  It's a stark example of how committees can approve someone for graduation because their PI wants to get rid of them and graduating them is the easiest way to do so.  That was certainly what occurred here.  The student was in her ninth year, and had yet to publish a single paper.  I really wonder how she ever passed her qualifying exam.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Saturday Morning Video

This performance of Phantom of the Opera was the first Nightwish song I ever heard.  It introduced me not just to Nightwish, but to the whole symphonic metal genre.