Wednesday, May 31, 2006

What To Do About Illegal Immigration

Over the past few months the issue of illegal immigration has become one of the most discussed topics in America. This is absolutely the most wonderful topic any student or teacher could possibly raise. Why? Discussions about illegal immigration quite naturally lead to the most significant areas of United States and world interest any teacher might desire to raise.

Talking about illegal migration naturally leads to how the United States was built; by immigrants, of course. The subject of how important it is to know a foreign language easily follows along this train of thought. Every teacher can convert a discussion of immigration into a study of geography in the time it takes to unfold a map. Illegal immigration brings social issues like discrimination, poverty, and urban living simmering to a boil. Public transportation, voting, the U.S. Constitution, family studies, and international relations fester in the wound that illegal immigration opens up before us.

Journalists, the teachers of the adult population, can follow illegal immigration to the subjects of taxes, employment, economic growth, politics, and social justice.

Law enforcement officials, the teachers of the wayward in our society, can easily see that illegal immigration raises issues of border security, document forgery, identity theft, drug smuggling, and just who should enforce what laws.

Politicians may not like it but illegal immigration certainly does create an expanded workforce, economic growth, and, at some point in the future, a larger electorate. More voters to vote for somebody seeking office somewhere, someday.

To even begin to solve the problem of illegal immigration we have to fix the way we police our borders, the way we admit new citizens, the way we identify a citizen when we hire them, the way we decide who gets to vote, the systems of public transportation, the minimum wage we require employers to pay, and even what languages we teach in our schools.

Whew! What a list! To think, not one of these topics can be ignored without serious consequences for every person in this country.

What a grand topic for national discourse we have all chosen to raise. Ironically, it might take more than two hundred years to finish this national discussion! What could be more important than a conversation that takes just as long to finish as it took to get where we are today?

Teachers, here are a few discussion points:

What does every U.S. college freshman and every resident in a Mexican border town have in common? They both know exactly how to obtain illegal drugs and fake identities.

What group makes up more than 40% of construction and agricultural laborers? Immigrants

One third of all U.S. urban residents know how to speak what foreign language?

In ten years what will be the largest ethnic group in the United States? Hispanic

Where did 99% of the ancestors of all U.S. citizens come from? Foreign nations

Monday, May 29, 2006

Iran Nuclear Talk on Memorial Day

Recently there has been talk of the United States plans to attack Iran with nuclear weapons, because Iran may be developing nuclear weapons.

Other nations that already have nuclear weapons, including Israel, France, India, Pakistan, and Russia, among others, have come to regard them as some kind of wonderful shield. A panacea against future attack or suffering. Nothing could be more distant from the truth.

We could all use this reminder from the book Hiroshima by John Hersey:

Dr. Sasaki and his colleagues at the Red Cross Hospital watched the unprecedented disease unfold and at last evolved a theory about its nature. It had, they decided, three stages. The first stage had been all over before the doctors even knew they were dealing with a new sickness; it was the direct reaction to the bombardment of the body, at the moment when the bomb went off, by neutrons, beta particles, and gamma rays. The apparently uninjured people who had died so mysteriously in the first few hours or days had succumbed in this first stage. It killed ninety-five per cent of the people within a half mile of the center, and many thousands who were farther away. The doctors realized in retrospect that even though most of these dead had also suffered from burns and blast effects, they had absorbed enough radiation to kill them. The rays simply destroyed body cells-caused their nuclei to degenerate and broke their walls. Many people who did not die right away came down with nausea, headache, diarrhea, malaise, and fever, which lasted several days...
Nuclear Blast 1945
The second stage set in ten or fifteen days after the bombing. Its first symptom was falling hair. Diarrhea and fever, which in some cases went as high as 106, came next. Twenty-five or thirty days after the explosion, blood disorders appeared: gums bled, the white-blood-cell count dropped sharply and petechiae appeared on the skin and mucous membranes. The drop in the number of white blood cells reduced the patient's capacity to resist infection, so open wounds were unusually slow in healing....

The third stage was the reaction that came when the body struggled to compensate for its ills-when, for instance, the white count not only returned to normal but increased to much higher than normal levels. In this stage many people died of complications such as infections of the chest cavity. Most burns healed with deep layers of pink, rubbery scar tissue, known as keloid tumors. The duration of the disease varied, depending on the patient's constitution and the amount of radiation he had received. Some victims recovered in a week; with others the disease dragged on for months.

...And, as if nature were protecting man against his own ingenuity, the reproductive processes were affected for a time; men became sterile, women had miscarriages, menstruation stopped.

We all live on the same planet under the same sky. These well-known effects of a nuclear bomb will not simply cease at the borders between warring nations. The effects do not cease when one side surrenders. People in all nations will suffer many consequences even if only one bomb is used in one place in the world. Look at the recent impact of Chernobyl and ask yourselves the question:

How wise is it for mankind to depend on any highly radioactive substances for any purpose whatsoever?

Monday, May 15, 2006

About Kevin Kelly's article Scan This Book

An incredible article entitled Scan This Book, written by the New York Time's Kevin Kelly, probes the future of book publishing, the Internet, and finally, the many possible social benefits of information interconnectivity. Mr. Kelly's ability to see beyond the 5 boroughs of New York, indeed well beyond the controversial U.S. borders, is refreshing. The immediate implications include rapidly changing societies and more informed voters. The long term impacts may include better healthcare, improved nutrition and wider economic opportunities for everyone on earth.

Kelly seems to be expanding on the deepest thoughts of author Seth Lloyd (Programming The Universe, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2006). Ironically, mapping the intellectual heights of thinkers like Lloyd for the understanding of mere mortals is precisely what the information age is all about. The world needs web pages with hyperlinks to understand great thinkers from Mark Twain to Marie Curie. Great libraries are not available to the villagers in Ghana or Bihar. The Internet is already there or soon will be. What billions of ordinary people do with this knowledge will be far more significant than what the relatively small populations of wealthy nations have already done.

As someone who has followed words, authors, and ideas mentioned in one paragraph to hundreds of other destinations, I can fully appreciate Mr. Kelly's weltanschuaang. These days I meet too many people in the United States with a world view that barely extends past the hood of their SUV. When I travel overseas even the poor seem to better understand issues like energy conservation or what it means to vote in every election. Wealth and availability of information does not automatically create an informed electorate.

Beginning in the airport departure lounge, I meet people that understand the needs of the greater world community. The issues of the world seem to get lost in a land where people focus only on the cost of fuel at their neighborhood filling station. Nevertheless, the rest of the world's actions are a major part of what determines the cost of nearly everything we buy, in any part of the world.

It no longer matters if you are a technology-averse Luddite or even Old Order Amish. Information-sharing is directly impacting the existence of every human being. This impact grows phenomenally as people give more money and attention to tools like Google and ideas like those shared by Kelly and Lloyd. Intellectual property lawyers may fear for their client's copyrights but the tsunami of knowledge will not be stopped by arcane legal statutes.

People on boats in the Bay of Bengal can determine the market price of their catch in various ports, using the Internet. A villager in Vanuatu can learn from Mark Twain. A gifted little girl in Peru can now study chemistry when she is ready, not when her family can afford to send her to CalTech. A method for generating methane gas now practiced in Bihar is being repeated in Burkina Faso. All these people can share what they are learning with people thousands of miles away. Do not underestimate this power for one moment. Like it or not, we are all moving into a period of human history that is beyond the greatest ideas of science fiction writers. Those who fail to reap the greatest benefits will have only themselves to blame.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006


Clients and friends snickered last year when I answered their questions about good investments. "My investment strategy is simple" I invariably respond. "I put my money where all the rest of the money is going. I look at where other investors are spending and where consumers are spending. I walk through shopping centers and malls and look at where the customers are. I walk through new computer data centers at all kinds of corporations, looking at the names of the new equipment. I look at what all the young people are wearing. I see older people buying medicines and surgical procedures. Everybody seems to be refinancing homes."

I look at where I have wisely spent my money recently. What did I buy that turned out to help me the most in my work and daily life? What products did I return because they failed to serve my needs?

Who is providing these products and services? Where were these products manufactured? What corporations, banks, and employees are profiting when consumers make these spending decisions?

The answers to these questions are easy to find. People of all ages are shopping at JCPenney, Apple Computer Stores, and Old Navy (owned by Gap, Inc.). All kinds of people are buying and selling on eBay. In drugstores and hospitals, people are dropping serious cash on Johnson and Johnson products. Banks like Bank of America are profiting from loan and credit card interest.

The new equipment in corporate computer centers is often storage equipment, made by Network Appliances and EMC, among others. I realize most people cannot go where I am permitted to go but the equipment sales figures are available to anyone who cares to look at them. Most small business owners and many homes are using DSL service provided by firms like Verizon. Other companies are buying up network capacity in fiber optic networks like those operated by Level 3. Check out the profit margins at any business you think might be a good investment.

I see people talking on cell phones everywhere I go. There are many competing services but Sprint/Nextel, Verizon, and Cingular sure seem have some serious market share.

Sure people are spending on things like gasoline and groceries but are there serious profit margins for the retailers of those services? I bought some energy firms last year and sold them after they grew enough to meet my needs.

Looking beyond the obvious, I ask who is really manufacturing the cloth, plastic, medicines, software, and electronics that are necessary for all of the products and services I see being consumed. My research takes me to places in Asia, including China, India, and the nations of southeast Asia.

Finally, I ask what countries are enjoying significant economic growth, if not actual widespread prosperity. In addition to India, my research lands me in places like Brazil, Singapore, Venezuela, and Colombia. Where are the employees in those places saving their money? Where are they spending money?

In some cases, I choose to let experts at mutual funds or exchange-traded funds help with those decisions. I look to see how much they are going to charge me in expenses to manage my investments in places like Brazil and India. This is how I found certain India funds and T. Rowe Price mutual funds.

Some of my research turns up investments that are already priced to reflect the market demands. Oil company stocks or the stocks of certain retailers, like JCPenney, are already priced high. Some of the phone company stocks seem too expensive. I do look closely at the price to earnings ratio (P/E) for each prospective investment, but I also consider other, less tangible factors as well.

Right now, Apple Computer is probably near an upper limit, but who really knows? What if the Beatles suddenly agree to sell their songs through iTunes? Have you seen people wearing little white headphones when you ride on a bus, train, or airplane? They are listening to iPods in most cases. What if people suddenly discover that MAC computers are far less likely to get a computer virus? I bought my AAPL stock years ago after learning about how MAC computer graphic performance and reliability exceeds the Intel-based PC. Everyone was buying digital cameras at that time. Now the best of both computer platforms is being offered by who else but Apple Computer?

Speaking of virus', what companies do research and make anti-viral or cancer medicines? Are there any drug companies with promising research and low stock prices? Peregrine Pharmaceuticals jumped out at me.

I do not recommend you make the same investments as I have. I made my choices at a certain time in the past, when the decision was right. I make a decision to invest expecting it to do well for at least a year. I prefer to pay only long term capital gains taxes, not the much higher short term tax rates. If I invest for the long term, the stock or mutual fund investment must pay me significant dividends for using my money.

Think about my reasons for making the investments I make. Look around the world, look at where people are spending money. Look beyond the borders of the country where you live. Go out there and live your life, but take note of what you see going on around you. Investing is not as difficult as the banks and investment firms want you to believe.

Monday, May 08, 2006


Save Energy @ Home

1. Getting lost wastes energy. Use a mapping web site like to find the best directions.
2. Know which TV stations, radio stations or Internet sites provide the best traffic information and road conditions.
3. Give yourself plenty of time to get where you are going.
4. Most cars built today do not need to be warmed up.
5. Clean the ice off all your windows with an ice scraper before you start the car.

_____Conserve On The Road_______

6. Leave early and drive patiently.
7. Do not do jackrabbit starts.
8. Use the cruise control feature often if your car has it.
9. Drive close to or at the speed limit on all highways and city streets.
10. Slow down below the speed limit when driving in heavy rain, on snow or ice.
11. Listen to the radio stations that broadcast traffic information before you leave home, before you get stuck in traffic.
12. Do not drive with your fog lights on all the time.
13. Drive in the right lanes unless you need to pass.
14. Use your turn signals to change lanes or exiting and entering highways so other people do not waste energy braking to avoid you!
15. If you absolutely must use the cell phone, use a hands-free earpiece.
16. Do not tailgate!
17. Look far ahead to see if traffic is stopped.
18. Look far ahead to see if traffic lights are about to change red.
19. Why race up fast and slam on the brakes at red lights?
20. If there are no cars behind you, just let off the gas when you see a traffic light turn red up ahead.
21. Over 35 mph, use the flow through vent system instead of driving with your windows open.
22. Use the recirculate feature when you need to use air conditioning.
23. Turn the air conditioning off temporarily when driving up long hills.
24. Know when your exit is approaching. Be in the correct lane for that exit far in advance of the exit.
25. Drive the posted speed limit for the exit ramp.
26. When you enter a parking lot, park in the first open parking spot.
27. Shut off your lights and car engine immediately when you have reached your destination or when the toll bridge starts to open.
28. Flick the headlight switch to make your car lights go off when you want them to, not when the car manufacturer decides they should go off.
29. Teach the other members of your family these energy saving tips.

*Do Regular Maintenance*

30. Make sure your tires are properly inflated.
31. Make sure your oil is changed at the intervals the car manufacturer recommends.
32. Keep your car clean inside and out.

Use Public Transportation...

33. Public transportation is now a clean, fast way to save energy and avoid traffic or parking issues. Try it when flying into Washington National, Newark, Atlanta, Dallas, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Miami, and other cities with major traffic issues. It saves time, stress, and energy, especially around rush hour!

Flying uses fuel too!

34. Plan several client visits when flying to another city on business.
35. Plan trips far enough ahead to book a non-stop flight, if possible.

Save @ The Office

36. During the initial client visit, ask if you can use web conferencing or conference calls to replace the follow-up visit.
37. Try to schedule client visits on your drive between home and office.
38. Leave early and drive slower to appointments. If you arrive early, use the extra time to go over your presentation one more time. You will increase the chance of a sale!
39. Try not to plan client visits during rush hour traffic. You will arrive stressed out.
40. Quickly check an Internet traffic/road conditions web site before leaving the office.
41. Ask your manager if you can telecommute at least one day a week.
42. Check with coworkers and neighbors to see if anyone can carpool, even two days a week helps.

Why save energy???

43. Energy costs are not expect to go down in the years ahead. The more energy you waste the less money your company has to give pay raises, bonus payments or even simply to stay in business.
44. When sales teams at large corporations save energy, the savings really add up!
45. Customers like vendors that make an active effort to reduce business costs.
46. Driving the speed limit is less stressful, try it, you will quickly learn to enjoy it.
47. Driving the speed limit is less expensive.
48. Do you know how much speeding tickets cost?
49. Do you know how much higher your insurance rates will be if you get tickets?
50. Driving slower is safer, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.
51. Do you know how much a visit to a hospital emergency room costs?
52. American troops are dying in combat overseas to secure world energy sources while we waste that energy here at home. Around the world the United States has a really bad reputation for wasting energy. Do your part to change this situation!

Sunday, May 07, 2006

The Persistence of Light and Truth

Einstein had a difficult time making the Law of Propagation of Light compatible with his Principles of Relativity. In fact, he had to develop a Special Theory of Relativity just to try to make the behavior of light fit in with the other known laws of physics. The problem is that light displays such different physical properties than all other matter. Is light made of particles or is it just pure energy? How does movement in wave lengths fit in with the way Newton's apple comes tumbling down? For example, light is bent by the powerful gravitational field of certain large objects. Yet, that damn apple seems to fall straight down to earth. It sure is much easier to weigh apples or anything except a beam of light.

If light is particles what about the light of distant stars? Did those particles travel millions of light years from a distant star? Light particles traveling though the vacuum of space? We know the light of a distant star is bent as it passes close to the Sun. This can be proven by comparing the location of certain stars during a solar eclipse with the locations of those stars at other times. What about all the particles coming from our Sun that get reflected off everything we see? How much does the light coming from an electric light bulb weigh? Where do light particles end up? Piled up in the back of our eyes? Not hardly.

So we must conclude that light is only pure waves of energy, very much like electricity. Forget the particles notion. See what I mean about the issues Einstein had about physical properties and the properties of light? The truth is somewhere in between particles and wavelengths. The problem is we start to bump up against Renée Descartes and his doubts. I think therefore I am. I think about light therefore I define my world in terms of light. Dogs define their world mostly in terms of smell. Snakes mostly define their world in terms of heat. What do humans use to define their world?

Truth seems to have properties similar to light. The truth is sometimes hard to see but it is there and it needs a medium to travel through. It seems certain very large objects also have the ability to bend the truth as it passes near them. You can try to weigh the truth but uncertainty often remains.

There are times when we can all agree on the truth of a particular statement. Someone states, "the sky is blue", although there may be differences of opinion about the particular shade of blue, we all agree it is some shade of blue, as opposed to red, green or black. Those who really get it wrong are labeled color blind.

At other times we simply find ourselves unable to agree on the truth of easily observable phenomena. Billions of people have learned that there are fossil remains of dinosaurs, mollusks, and plants embedded inside rock formations clearly formed hundreds of thousands of years ago. Most of these people can agree that dinosaurs lived on earth more than one hundred thousand years ago. The rock formations around the fossils easily prove this. However, some people look at these same formations and still arrive at the conclusion that earth cannot be more than ten or twenty thousand years old. Some members of both groups have used their eyes to observe the sunlight reflecting off the actual rock formations yet arrived at widely different estimates of the age of those dinosaur fossils.

Before you dismiss this discrepancy as a minor disagreement made to support the existence of God in some way, stop and think about it. Disagreements about easily observable phenomena can have a tremendous impact on our world. What happens when people ignore certain scientific facts in order to uphold the ideas in a particular ancient textbook? Some of these people then decide that science should not be taught to their children. When other educated scientists dispute the concepts in ancient textbooks, the textbook believers suddenly become willing to murder those who disagree with the book's teachings. Things we clearly see can be terribly distorted by things we are fervently taught to believe.

There are many wonderful teachings in the ancient books, they just did not get the part about the age of earth correct. No need to start a war over this understandable discrepancy, right?. But then one group says their ancient book gives them the right to take all the land from another group that reads a different ancient book. An organization in yet another place supports this land grab, as long as that group will support their right to believe the earth is less than twenty thousand years old. It all starts to pile up in a tremendous amount of very questionable shared beliefs. All these different belief systems often obscure the truth we desperately need to make critical life decisions. The obvious truth we observe, such as when sunlight is reflected from an object, gets lost in the process

As long as this strange charade is allowed to continue, thousands or perhaps millions of lives are extinguished prematurely. These may happen for lack of proper medical treatment or bloody warfare. Soon we are all faced with the threat of global epidemics or world wars.

People continue to believe certain words in a few ancient textbooks for very specific reasons. In the case of most other outdated textbooks, people quickly come to understand that the authors simply did not have enough understanding to reach the truth about some phenomena. When people acknowledge the observable truths, certain parts of ancient books start to become irrelevant. When specific teachings in certain books become irrelevant, the actions based on those teachings are also proven wrong.

Massive institutions depend on the words written in a few ancient textbooks. They concentrate money to support beliefs that wholly contradict observable truths. These institutions use those concepts to control the lives of millions of people. This unquestioned control is essential for the future of these large organizations. In other words, easily observable truths must be carefully concealed and denied or the institutions will start to crumble into obscurity. Until this happens we are forced to believe false explanations and some teach these lies to each successive generation of children.

Some want to use the government to force children to learn lies about our world. It almost seems like the advances of people like Curie, Einstein, or Newton are receding into the past to be forgotten.

When humans are forced to not believe easily observable truths this causes great confusion in their daily lives. This cognitive dissonance can and does grow into greater problems. Debilitating mental illness and violent warfare are two such significant problems that now threaten the human race. It is imperative that the easily observable truths be acknowledged and the ancient textbooks discredited or the future of the human race is almost certainly extinction from warfare, disease or both.

There can be no doubt that some groups will fight violently to be allowed to continue teaching certain passages from ancient textbooks. These groups must be gently made to recognize that not all the teachings in these books have been proven wrong through observation. However, there are enough errors in the ancient textbooks for us to determine one truth for certain. These books were written by humans, just like you and your neighbors, just like every book ever written. The easily observable truth in this case is that humans sometimes make mistakes. That is surely one truth we can all observe every day and agree on, without further argument.