Shots Across the Bow

A Reality Based Blog

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Guilt by Association: Sen. Reid Channels McCarthy

Libby gets indicted, so Rove should resign. Why?

Well, you'll have to ask Harry Reid about that one; he's the one making the charge.

As near as I can figure it, the logic goes like this; Scooter Libby was indicted. Scooter Libby is a close confidant of President Bush. Karl Rove is also a close confidant of President Bush. Therefore Rove must resign.

It's brilliant, isn't it?

But wait, there's more!

Karl begins with a 'K', while Scooter's first name, Lewis, begins with an 'L'. Two letters right next to each other alphabetically. Coincidence? I think not. Why else would Libby try to hide it by adopting the ridiculous nickname "Scooter."

Where's Oliver Stone when you need him? We need his crack investigatorial skills to get to the bottom of this conspiracy!

Lost in the feeding frenzy is the fact that we still don't know who told Bob Novak, the only reporter to actually publish the story that revealed Plame's status as a former covert analyst, about Plame.

Call me simplistic, but since that's the story that started all of this, I think that might be a key bit of information.

Posted by Rich
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UT vs South Carolina: Questions

I went to a Halloween costume party last night. I was going to go as the Vol offense, but then realized I'd have to be a no-show, and I didn't want to miss the fun.

I've just got one question for the UT coaching staff. Who had the bright idea to bench the starter, leave him there until 2 minutes left in the game, then bring him in to try and save the day when he was ice cold?

Now I've got just one question for the Sports Director. Why the hell is that coach collecting a paycheck?

I was asked today who we should hire if we fired Fulmer. How about David Cutcliffe? He's available, has Tennessee ties, and it would be a fitting bookend to the Fulmer era. He replaced a Tennessee legend after that legend lost ignominiously to South Carolina. Now it's Fulmer's turn. The numbers make it abundantly clear that he cannot or will not get the job done. By the way, for the current season, the Vols are averaging 15.8 points per game. Their opponents are averaging 16.

Posted by Rich
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Saturday, October 29, 2005

And Now For Something Completely Different:  Everybody Wins

I'd been on the road for hours, driving to get back home. I'd been away for three weeks this time, working a job for a guy I didn't like much, and trusted less, but that's the way this gig works. You take the money and you do the job.

Posted by Rich
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Friday, October 28, 2005

UT vs South Carolina

The bookies have made this one a 14 point game with an over/under of 42, favoring Tennessee. Now, this is the part of the season where UT generally recovers from their swoon and starts playing football. Of course, this is also the part of the season where UT's schedule softens up considerably.

But you just can't take South Carolina lightly this year. After all, they played Georgia a lot closer than the Vols did. Unfortunately for Spurrier's Gamecocks, UT's defense should rise to the occasion once again and keep South Carolina out of the end zone. Unfortunately for the Vols, Randy Sanders impotent offense will also rise to the occasion and once again keep the Vols out of the end zone.

10-3 UT. Take South Carolina and the Under. And I hope I'm wrong.

Posted by Rich
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The Libby Indictments: Martha Stewart Redux

Martha Stewart was convicted of lying about a crime she was never charged with.

Now Scooter Libby is in the same boat.

Ain't the legal system fun?

That being said, if he did break the law, he should pay the price. I'm just curious though; who leaked the info about Plame to Bob Novak, and was it a crime? Was she covert or not? Wasn't that what Fitzgerald was supposed to be investigating? Does anyone know who told Bob Novak about Plame? Why didn't he face a subpoena? Why did Judith Miller go to jail to protect her source, but Novak wasn't even questioned? After all, he was the guy who wrote the article that kicked off this whole she-bang.

Is it safe to say that afer two years of investigating this matter, if all he could come up with is 5 indictments for inconsistent testimony, then the investigation is a complete failure?

Heck, even the Whitewater investigation came up with more indictments and convictions than that, and we know how dems viewed that piece of work.

What do y'all think, will dems view the Fitzgerald investigation with the same scorn as they showed Starr investigation since it was even less effective in handing down indictments? And will the reps take this one as seriously as they did the last one, or will they try to minimize it?

Well, since both sides are dominated by partisan hypocrites, I'm betting on the latter in both cases. Dems will howl for Bush's impeachment even though his name isn't on the indictment, and reps will claim that it was nothing but a partisan witch hunt.

The truth is once again lost in partisan political maneuvering.

Here's what I think, for what it's worth:

Based on the information we have, Plame was no longer a covert agent, and her work as an agent was common knowledge in Washington. Therefore, disclosing her name was not a crime. Joseph Wilson lied repeatedly and publicly about who sent him on the mission, and the results of that mission, in an attempt to embarrass the Bush administration. Anti-war folks have seized on a feud between the White House and the CIA to try and bring down the Bush administration.

However, Fitzgerald may have (God, I hope so after two years of looking in to it) more information than we do. The story may be quit different than what we know right now, and if folks in the White House broke the law, they should be punished. If the White House exerted undue influence on the analysis of intelligence data, then that too should be exposed and addressed.

And finally, mos of the press continues to distort the story to serve their own ends. Every story I've read makes the claim that WMDs were either the sole reason or the main reason that we went to war in Iraq. Since a simple google search definitively proves otherwise (Check every speech given by Bush or Cheney during that time period. They always listed multiple reasons for invading, including humanitarian efforts, and spreading democracy in the Middle East.) this myopic view of recent history must be the result of either partisan bias leading to tunnel vision, or an innate inability or unwillingness to communicate complex issues, prefering instead to go with the sound bite.

Posted by Rich
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Tuesday, October 25, 2005

I Think I’d Rather be Sick

Katie Allison Granju posts that kimchee may prevent or treat Avian Flu.

Having been to Korea where kimchee is as ubiquitous as a cheeseburger is here, I'm telling you right now that I'd rather get the flue and take my chances.

That stuff reeks like you wouldn't believe! Take old, sweaty gym socks that were worn for an entire football season and put them in a baggie with concentrated skunk oil. Add brewers yeast and allow to set up for about a month. Pour off the liquid and reserve the gloopy, cheesy mess and put into a blender. Now add 2 dozen rotten eggs and turn the blender on high without putting on the top. Allow the contents to spew all over the room. Now, shut off all ventilation to the room, add six months worth of kitchen garbage and turn the thermostat up to 98 degrees for 4 days.

The smell you get when you open the door is sweet perfume compared to the breath of a kimchee eater. I'm not surprised that it kills the virus, but this is certainly a case of the cure being worse than the disease.

Posted by Rich
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Monday, October 24, 2005

Wide Receiver Who?

Remember back in the old glory days of Tennessee football, when UT was known as Wide Receiver U? You should because it wasn't so very long ago. Tennessee was known as a school that could recruit, develop, and play top flight wide receivers year in and year out.

So, name 5 top shelf wide receivers from the Fulmer era. Naah, lets make it even easier, name 5 wide receivers who could catch the ball and NOT fumble it into the end zone for a touch back instead of a touch down. Never mind that, let's make it even easier, name 5 receivers during the Fulmer era who could catch the damn ball when it hit them in the gol durn freakin' hands!

So, when was the last time UT lost to Florida, Georgia and Alabama all in the same season? That would be 2002.

You know, the stat we hear associated with Fulmer most often is his amazing win percentage, 78.8% as of this week. And why not? After all, that's a pretty impressive stat and when you couple it with a National Championship and 2 Conference Titles and four trips to the SEC championship in the last 8 years, surely Fulmer has done enough to prove he knows what he's doing.

At least, that's the argument I used to make whenever faced with the nay-sayers and doubters who claimed that the Championship was a fluke, the exception to an otherwise mediocre coaching job. The argument can go on for hours, and support several sports radio stations for weeks with each side venting their opinion with bluster and bombast, and the occasional sarcastic quip.

But let's take a closer look at some other stats and see what's really going on up on Rocky Top. Despite 9 players sent to the NFL in the first round since 1997, and leading the SEC in number of players drafted and number of players on the opening day roster, and despite being second in the nation in players drafted into the NFL since 1994, Tennessee:
  • Is 0-3 vs teams ranked #1.
  • Is 14-18 vs teams ranked in the top 10.
  • Is 7-6 in bowl games.
  • Is averaging just over one loss each season to a team ranked beneath them, including 7 losses to unranked teams when Tennessee was ranked.
  • Has finished the season ranked lower than the preseason ranking 6 out of 12 years. (Soon to be 7 out of 13.)

Folks, something is very wrong in Big Orange country. The short version is that the Vols routinely fail to live up to their potential. Winning a lot of games is great, but what do you say when even though you do win a lot of games, you consistantly lose games that you should have won? Despite all the top caliber players coming through Tennessee and moving on to the NFL, the Vols just aren't getting the job done when game day rolls around.

Who takes the blame for that?

The guy who's getting paid a couple of million dollars a year, that's who. He's had his assistants on board for years, and he's stood by them, particularly Randy Sanders, the often embattled offensive co-ordinator. But are they producing?

Using this year's Media Guide, the source for the numbers above, by the way, I ran a quick spreadsheet of the Vols performance during the Fulmer era. To keep it simple, I made two charts. The first shows the trends for how many points we score per game compared to how many points we allow per game. The second graphs the ratio between the two.
Points scored and Points allowed

Points Scored/Points Allowed

The two graphs say everything that need to be said. We're scoring less and allowing more points, and it is a steady trend, not just a blip or a couple of bad seasons. The only thing offensive about Randy Sanders is the performance of his offense.

In fact, the offense is so bad that I tend to cut Chavis a little slack, since his players have had to carry the entire squad more often than not. In fact, despite facing 4 top ten teams so far, he's giving up only 16 points per game. Unfortunately for him, the offense is scoring less than 17 points per game.

The question of whether the Championship was a fluke or a true measure of Fulmer's coaching ability has been answered by the numbers. Since Fulmer took over in 1994, despite the 1998 championship, the team has been on a steady slide to mediocrity, and Fulmer has taken no steps to stop it. Since Fulmer is either unable to see that changes need to be made, or unwilling to make those changes himself, it is up to his boss to make an even bigger change.

Or the rest of us will just have to get used to 6-5 seasons and playing in the Music City Bowl.

Upset lock of the millenium Take Vandy and the points against Tennessee on Nov 19. The 'Dores are about to end the streak and win outright.

Posted by Rich
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Sunday, October 23, 2005

The Tournament

The tournament starts in less than a minute.

Two hands in, two pots won. Good start.

Update: Sitting in 95th position with 2840 in chips. Table is tight, passive. Bummer though. I folded a 5,6 suited in middle position, the flop had 23 same suit and the turn was the 4. Straight flush. Ah well, it was the right call. But damn!

UPDATE Arrghh! Pushed 2 pair aj got knocked by 3 7s. Ouch.

OUT10 high straight ran into a flush. Damn!

Ah well, it was fun while it lasted. At the time I busted out, I was running about 577 place in chip count. SHopuld have folded the straight with 3 clubs on the board, but the guy with the flush played it very quietly and suckered me out.

Posted by Rich
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Saturday, October 22, 2005

We Apologize for the Inconvenience

For those of you still out there, waiting desperately for me to post, yesterday's interruption in service must have been truly dreadful. For the other 99.999999% of you, you probably didn't even notice. But you'll all be happy to know that the person responsible for failing to pay the bill has been promoted to being responsible for not paying any of my bills, as he has shown a tremendous aptitude for the task.

In other news, most of you have noticed the blurb directly above, flashing XBox 360s and Plasma monitors at you as you try to read these posts. Well, if you haven't clicked on it, here's what that is all about.

About 6 months ago, I began to play poker online, and I've done fairly well, meaning I haven't lost all the money I started with yet. In truth, if you add in the trip I took to Tunica a few weeks ago, I'm actually up about 20%, which is pretty cool.

I started of playing for free on Poker Stars, chosen because I didn't have them on my list of places never to play because of obnoxious spam attacks on my site. It was only after I signed up that I found out that the two previous World Series of Poker Champions (Greg Raymer and Chris Moneymaker) came from there.

I lost thousands of free chips before I decided I might need to learn a little about the game I was playing. I went directly to the book store and purchased books by Dan Harrington, David Sklansky, and Doyle Brunson and began to study. I am happy to say that, after one session of study, I never went broke again.

SO I decided to play for real money and opened an account. I put in the $50 I had left over from my stock market investments (Please don't ask what I started with; it's a painful memory) and boldly sallied forth to play $0.05/$0.10 limit hold 'em. And I won. Now, you don't win much playing low limit, but I wasn't losing money; that was the important thing. I moved up a level or two, and I now play mostly $0.25/$0.50 limit, but I plan on moving up again as I make more money and increase my bankroll.

And then this tournament comes along. Free to enter, open only to bloggers, and the top prize is a place at the table for a World Poker Tour event. To those of you who haven't been watching Poker on TV, this is the equivalent of being given a car to drive at the Daytona 500 for getting the fastest lap at NASCAR Speedpark.

It can only happen in Poker, folks.

So I entered. And now, tomorrow afternoon, at 4PM EDT, I will begin my second online tournament, along with about 1500 other bloggers from around the world, including Wesley Crusher himself, Wil Wheaton, who, having moved up from acting to blogging, is now making a name for himself in the poker world. (Man, I almost feel like Frank Murphy, dropping names of celebrities I almost come into contact with!)

Anyway, you can click on the link above and download th software to watch me lose live, or you can just keep watching this space. I plan on live blogging as much as I can throughout the tournament.

Posted by Rich
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Wednesday, October 19, 2005

No Need For a Flu Shot Here

I've already got it, thank you very much.

Fever, stuffy head, sore throat, cough, I got the works, folks.

Catch you tomorrow.


Posted by Rich
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Thursday, October 13, 2005

An Announcement

When I don't say I'm not going to blog, I really don't mean it.


You're welcome to drift over here and see what I have been doing with my spare time instead of writing here.

The good news for y'all is that the regular season is almost over, and playoffs will only last for two weeks, so I'll be picking up speed soon.

Posted by Rich
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Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Things I’m Thinking About INstead of Sleeping. (dammit!)

I'm a bit pressed for time this week (2 football programs to write, edit, layout, publish, print and bind; one house to rewire; 5 football games to announce, 3 to write up and add to the website, not to mention the standard load of chores) but there are some things that must be addressed.
  • Bush's nomination for Supreme Court Jester err Justice, Harriet Miers Have I stumbled into some alternate bizarro universe where Jimmy Carter put Billy in charge of the ATF because he had so much experience with cigarettes, whiskey and shotguns? This nomination makes about the same amount of sense as that one would have.
  • Speaking of Carter remember how the dems hollared "Dynasty!" when Bush first got the nomination? It appears the dems have decided if you can't beat 'em, join 'em! Not only are we looking at Clinton v2.0 (New and Improved!! Guaranteed to sleep with 50% fewer women than the first model!), but there's a Carter looking to run for office. Not Amy but Jack Carter, Jimmy's oldest child. (Is this guy like Chuck Cunningham in reverse? If you'd asked me yesterday, I would have sworn Amy was an only child.) He's contemplating running for the Senate because he didn't like the government's response to Katrina. Given that he lives in the desert, I'm sure FEMA is breathlessly awaiting his expertise in dealing with large oceanic storms and massive flooding.
  • Global Warming: It isn't just our problem anymore! Measurements taken of the surface temprature on MArs show that it has heated up aling with Earth's surface. I knew we wee evil nasty polluters, but I never thought that wewere so bad that we could cause the next plabet over to sta heating up!

    Unless of course, something else is causing both planets to heat up. Like the sun, maybe?
  • Oregon's Assisted Suicide Law is Challenged at the Supreme Court Oregon State Law says your doctor may prescribe a lethal dose of drugs to assist you in killing yourself. The Bush Administration insists that a doctor's responsibility is to preserve life, not end it. Also at issue is the federal government's ability to regulate how drugs may be used. They reason that if Oregon is allowed to prescribe drugs in contravention to federal laws, then that opens huge loopholes in the War on Drugs.

    As Glenn Reynolds would say, "That's a feature, not a bug."

    Incidentally, Oregon's governor is using an argument fundamentally identical to the one used by George Wallace, and will probably prove equally as successful.

    As for me, well, I just figure if you really want to die, you don't need a doctor's help to do it. But it's nobody's business but yours if you do.
  • Walmart employees in Florida are organizing. And that's pretty cool if you ask me.


    Simple numbers. Look, Walmart is known as a company that is, well, to put it kindly, thrifty. They don't pay much, their benefits are below average, and they routinely treat their workers shabbily. At least, that's what I hear via most news stories and through the gossip mill. SO when I hear that current and past employees are banding together to gain leverage against the retail giant, it warms my heart.

    After all, the only way a union, excuse me, "worker's group", can weild any power is if the employer would have trouble replacing them if they quit. So that must mean that there is a shortage of people available to work for Walmart, which means unemployment is effectively zero!

    Seriously, when I first read the story in the Mountain Press (story not in the online version, I had a positive reaction to it. The AP story I linked to was the basis for the story, but it was heavily edited. The paper made it sound like this was a grass roots groun up type organization, not some union trying to muscle in, or some PAC disguised as a union looking to leach out a few more campaign dollars for their politician of choice.

    Then I read the full piece from USAToday and I find out that it's something completely different. Instead of a grass roots employee driven effort, it's a coalition of unions and interest groups, including ACORN and the United Food and Commercial Workers Union. As you recall, ACORN was implicated in voter fraud in several states during the 2004 election cycle, notably swing states.

    Yeah, I trust these guys.

    And the UFCW, well, I had a brush with them several years back. I was still in the Navy, and my buddy's wife was an RN in a Washington State hospital. The hospital was unionized (a frightening thought in itself) and the nurses were members of a nursing union. One day, UFCW workers showed up at the hospital, performing what they called a 'survey.' One of the questions on the survey asked if the nurses there would like more information on the UCFW and how it worked. What the nurses weren't told was that the question was actually a vote on whether or not the UCFW would be allowed to come in and try to replace the existing union.

    Real nice fellows, eh?

    So they filled out the surveys, and a bare majority checked yes on the more info question, and so several weeks of hell began as the UCFW minions descended on the hospital, working feverishly to convert the nurses over to their union.

    Now you may wonder what a food service union had to do with nursing. So did we, but we didn't discover the answer until it was far too late.

    The blitz was intense and as is usually the case in a propaganda fight, the first casualty was truth. The UCFW workers promised the nurses the moon and the stars and all for free, and enough of them bought it and the UCFW became the official reps for the nurses.

    Then they found out the truth. The reason the UCFW wanted the nurses is that they got paid lots more than a grocery worker or a dishwasher, so their dues represented a tremendous financial windfall for the union and the lower paid membership. The nurses represented nothing more than a cash cow for the union, and they began milking immediately.

    Suffice it to say that I'm less than impressed with the organizers of the 'worker's group.'

    Looking at the numbers, out of 92,000 employees working in Central Florida Walmarts, only about 250 have joined the group. That's only 0.2% of the current employee pool, and remember, some of the 250 come from former employees. It seems to me that if Walmart were truly so horrific to work for, we'd see just a tad more activity.

And that's it for now folks. I've got to get busy on more of this free stuff I'm doing.

Hey, does anybody know of a way I could actually get paid to write this stuff? Wouldn't that be a cool job!

Posted by Rich
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Monday, October 03, 2005

The Technological Tragedy

I went to see Serenity last weekend and enjoyed the movie thoroughly. I never got the chance to see Firefly while it was on the air, but I did rent the DVDs, and I was impressed with the series. As anybody who's been reading me for a while knows, I am sympathetic to the Confederacy so I had no problems identifying with the lead character, Malcolm Reynolds. The key issue was the balance of power between the individual and the state. Mirroring the fate of the Confederacy, Reynold's side lost the war, and the Alliance took over everything, with less than satisfactory results for those who valued individual freedoms. Whether that outcome is a commentary on modern times is left for you to decide; how I feel about it should be intuitively obvious to even the most casual observer.

But there's another theme in Serenity that intrigues me, simply because it's one that most folks seem to miss entirely. I've read many reviews of the movie (Incidentally, any reviewewr who refers to spoilers, even obliquely, during a review should be bashed repeatedly over the head with their keyboard until it breaks. And I'm not talking about the keyboard.) and one of the common themes has been Joss Whedon's surprising juxtaposition of Western and Science Fiction elements. The truth is that Whedon is making good use of what in practice would be inevitable. Any time a society expands rapidly, the technology available to a settlement will decrease in direct relation to the distance they travel. In effect, the frontiers of the expansion will move backwards to a level of technology that their population and energy systems will support. Consider for example our own westward expansion. Conditions on the frontier were always behind those back east. Why? Because a frontier society does not have the infrastructure to support a higher level of technology.

Now, why is this? Well, let's look at what is required to support a high level of technology.
  1. First, you need a surplus of labor. If the workforce is fully engaged in surviving, there will be no time left to develop or support a higher technology. Now then, in order to achieve this surplus of labor, you need a surplus of food so that the society can afford to support non productive labor in the short term.
  2. Next, you need people in the group with technological competence. Without people who know how to create and run the technology, it doesn't matter how much food you have, you'll still be stuck in the Stone Age.
  3. Next, you need an abundant source of cheap energy. Labor saving devices are actually misnamed. The same amount of work gets done whether it's done by hand or machine. The difference is the source of energy that does the work. For example, plowing a field takes a given amount of energy, whether it's done by a man, a mule, or a tractor. And of the three, the tractor is the least efficient, requiring scads of energy to do what a single horse could do. Technology reduces human energy input into the system, but that energy must be replaced with something else, and since mechanical systems are always less energy efficient than biological ones, you'd better have energy to burn.

You must have all three of these to maintain a high tech society, lack of any one will automatically reduce the society to a lower technological level.

Ok, so we have the requirements to maintain a high tech society. Now, let's look at the pioneering process and see whether there is any way we can meet these requirements.

First, we have to deal with transport costs. Expansion is expensive, and shipping enough machinery out to the frontier to allow a high tech society will be prohibitively expense. Imagine for instance trying to pack up the entire city of Knoxville and moving it, say, a couple of thousand miles away.

Next, we have to deal with support costs. Shipping food and fuel to a colony is just as expensive as machinery. It is the job of the colony to achieve self sufficiency as quickly as possible, and it is far easier to achieve with a low tech colony than a high tech one.

Now, some folks might want to argue this point, so let's take a minute or two to look more closely at it.

Let's compare a high tech and low tech solution to the same problem and see which is easier to support. We'll go with transportation and compare a car to a horse. Both will get you around, but which will be easier to support in a colony?

A car needs fuel. A horse eats grass.
If a car breaks, it must be repaired, requiring spare parts and specialized knowledge. If a horse gets hurt, it heals.
If you need another car, you have to manufacture one or have one shipped. If you need another horse, find a mare and wait.
A car requires specialized roads. A horse goes anywhere.
A car requires extensive modifications to be used for another purpose, say, plowing a field. A horse just needs to be harnessed.
A car requires constant attention to perform properly. The horse always knows the way to the barn.

OK, point made. The low tech solution is also most likely the low maintenance solution. For those unconvinced, consider a blacksmith's shop vs. a steel factory.

When you stop and think about things like this, it begins to make sense that the best chance for a colony to survive is to move a maximum number of people along with the bare minimum of equipment they will need to survive. And that measn a lower tech society, at least for awhile.

Now then, there will be exceptions, certainly. If the technology is light, and easily maintained, it will spread just as rapidly as the pioneers. But in the main, low tech will rule the day.

So, why am I thinking about things like this? I'll give you one reason.


And another.

Al Qaida.

Remember one of the keys to maintaining a high tech society is an abundant supply of cheap energy. What happens if we lose that? The effect would be the same as if we'd moved towards the frontier. Our technology would degrade to the point where our new energy supply could support it. And then our society would adjust accordingly.

That doesn't sound too bad when put like that, but what does that mean in real terms?

Riots. Starvation. War. Famine. Pestilence.

In general lots of nastiness.

You see, that surplus of labor thing that allows us to develop technology is a double edged sword. Yes, it means that we can make all kinds of wonderful gadgets, and watch Lost on TV, and take long vacations, and retire when we're 65. It also means that most of us would starve if we had to provide our own food. And even if we could farm, hunt, or gather enough to support ourselves, the vast majority of our neighbors couldn't. And they would starve.

And if you don't think your starving next door neighbor would hurt you and take your food, then you've never been really hungry. Stop and think just for a minute. What if your kids were starving, and you knew that Joe down the block had a pantry filled with food, but refused to give you any.

What would you do?

We've come a long way from talking about a simple science fiction movie, haven't we? I guess thoughts like these are why I'm usually still up at 2:30AM.

Aren't you glad I decided to share?

Posted by Rich
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