World’s Smallest Political Quiz

Not being satisfied with the far left / left-of-center / center-of-the-road / right-of-center / far right, one-dimensional, evening-news brand of political spectrum, these quizzes place you within a two-dimensional matrix.

Here is a link to the World’s Smallest Political Quiz, it should take you about two minutes to complete the quiz:  link

There is perhaps much to criticize about the World’s Smallest Political Quiz, but it is small and it is quick.

If you think the World’s Smallest Political Quiz is over-simplified, or if you think it is rife with leading questions designed to turn each quiz-taker into a Libertarian, try this more comprehensive Political Spectrum Quiz.  Answer 53 questions and rank how much each issue matters:  link

Finally, here is a link to a 106-question quiz put out by the “Center for a Stateless Society.”  I wonder if the C4SS is affiliated with the Organization of Cooperative Anarchists.  This quiz (well, at 106 questions, perhaps it should be called an examination) is designed to place you along five separate spectra:  Economic Leftist/Economic Rightist; Civil Libertarian/Civil Authoritarian; Socio-Cultural Liberal/Socio-Cultural Conservative; Anti-Militarist/Pro-Militarist; and Anarchist/Statist:  link

After having taken all three quizzes, I recommend that you go ahead and take the World’s Smallest Political Quiz.  Sure, it was designed by a Libertarian and there’s a chance your answers will peg you as a Libertarian, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still be a Republican and vote for Obama.

I recommend that you not waste your time on the 106-question C4SS exam.  The questions are so full of wishy-washy qualifiers (probably, desirable, most or all, frequently, etc.) that it is impossible to know whether you are answering the same question that is being asked.  Also, there is no neutral answer, you can only agree or disagree with each statement (although you can do either “strongly”).

If you have ten or fifteen minutes, take the 53-question Political Spectrum Quiz.  The statements seem to be worded in an impartial manner.  Although some of the same wishy-washy qualifiers are used, the statements are short and unambiguous.  Not only is “Neutral” an answer, but the relative importance of each issue can be ranked on a scale from one to five.  For example, you can Strongly Disagree with a statement and then mark that issue as being only “a little” important.

The Political Spectrum Quiz will pinpoint your political philosophy on a two-dimensional graph similar to the one shown above and will also give your political philosophy a name.  After taking the Political Spectrum Quiz, you might be able to tell all your friends that you are a “Centrist Moderate Social Libertarian.”  Finally, you can compare your political philosophy with that of other demographics.  You can see how your thinking compares with that of quiz-takers who have identified themselves as 18-29 year old Black males in Missouri.  Then you can see how you compare with 50-59 year old White female Democrats in Florida.  Good stuff!

Real Man’s Day 2011

Real men don’t eat quiche and, it seems, they also do not eat the 18-inch Hoagie sandwiches nor drink (all) of the beer set out for them when they are distracted by an over-abundance of guns, ammo, and bombage.  The 34th annual Real Man’s Day, hosted at an undisclosed location by an undisclosed real man on October 22, 2011, was a reverberating success.  For a nickel, I’ll tell you what was the cause of that reverberation.

a large firecracker

No, it was not caused by a very large firecracker.  The arsenal on hand for RMD 2011 varied widely—from bolt-action .22 rifle to semi-automatic AR-10—and one real man either had a very quick trigger finger or that was an automatic weapon.

a small part of the RMD 2011 arsenal

The Judge, a .410 guage revolver

Most of the excitement, however, was centered around a Barrett M82 .50 caliber “anti-material rifle.”

Real Man with M82 .50 caliber "anti material" rifle

The .50 caliber rounds were a handful, but recoil was kept in check by the muzzle brake and spring-loaded barrel, not to mention the mass of the gun itself.

.50 caliber round of ammunition

The M82 is typically fired from the prone position, as shown in the next photo.  Note the sideways-to-slightly-rearward blast from the compensator.

M82 being fired from the prone position.  Note the sideways blast from the compensator.

But, my favorite gun was a 40-year-old Ithaca pump-action 20-guage—repeatedly raised by D.M., apparently almost effortlessly, to pick off clay pigeons.  Many thanks to T.H. for over an hour of hand-tossed flying pottery.

After the cases of clays had finally been emptied, one final toss was made.  This time the flying target was a laptop computer that had outlived its useful life.  There was no telling which of the several shooters missed the airborne computer, since everyone shot at once, but it may have been … none of them.  Here’s a look at the remains:

laptop computer, after being targeted by several shotguns

So, what was it that caused the four-wheelin’ old-fart to stop by and offer anyone a nickel to tell him what made his house shake?  Tannerite, which is a trade-name for what is approximately 85 percent ammonium nitrate granules and 15 percent aluminum, titanium, and zirconium hydroxide dust, shaken (not stirred), and detonated with a bullet fired from a high-powered rifle.  Ask for it behind the counter at your favorite gun shop.

Star Targets brand Tannerite explosive target

And finally, don’t be caught with your pants down.  Be on the lookout next Fall for the latest trend in distressed denim clothing, including:  Birdshot Brand No. 8 Distressed Denim Pants, from the bush to your toosh, we’ve got you covered. (see U.S. Patent No. 7427299)

Information for Mulch

The internets are a excellent source of the informations.  This quiz will help you learn about the many types of answers that are available for each questions.  Pick the answers you fell most comfrotoble with and then do whatever you wnat.

Question: Mulch comes in 2 cubis feet coverage how many sf will it cover?

Answers:

a.)  Dont buy bags … go to a nursery and get it by the yard.

b.)  A cubic foot is 1 x 1 x 1.  1 wide 1 long 1 deep.

c.)  Cubic feet as 2 is 2 x 2 x 2.  If 2 inches 24 divided by 2 inches = 12 x 2 = 24 square feet.  3 inches = 8 x 2 = 16 cubic feett.

d.)  It really depends on how deep you want to mulch.

Source: Yahoo! Answers

Neuromancer and Inception

I missed seeing Inception on the big screen, but I finally saw it last night in the comfort of my home.  When Cobb landed on the desolate beach of his subconscious, complete with concrete bunker, I was struck by the similarities to the beach scenes in William Gibson’s Neuromancer, when Case is flat-lined by the AI.  Obviously, I was not the first to notice the many parallels between the two stories.

In an interview with Wired magazine, William Gibson offered his own opinion as to the inception of the film’s ideas, “I thought [Inception] dallied way more in Giorgio de Chirico than it did in Neuromancer.”  You know, De Chirico, the Italian surrealist who painted such dreamscapes as “The Uncertainty of the Poet”:

"The Uncertainty of the Poet"

From three novels to read if you liked Inception come these observations:

I first thought of Inception as a [Philip K.] Dickian film, but it’s actually more of a Gibsonian film. Neuromancer, Gibson’s first novel, is a heist story that takes place in virtual reality.  Inception fans should feel right at home.

Inception is probably the closest anyone will ever get to making a film version of Neuromancer. Inception borrows so much from Neuromancer that it’s impossible not to parallel the two stories. Most importantly Inception borrows the overall mood of Neuromancer, but there’s a remarkable similarity in details, including the “haunting” of Cobb by his wife, as the protagonist in Neuromancer is tormented by his dead lover.

Who Rules America?

U.S. Department of the Treasury information regurgitated on taxpolicycenter.org, a website published by the Urban Institute and the Brookings Institution, shows that in the year 2000 taxation on the top 10% of earners in the United States paid for 48.5% of the annual spending of the Federal government.  The bottom 60% of earners funded 14.8% of Federal spending.  The 20% of folks in the “fourth quintile” (i.e., those who earn more than 60% of Americans, but less than 20% of Americans) funded 19.9% of Federal spending.  Here is a graph published by the Congressional Budget Office illustrating the distribution of income and taxes in 2007:

Those statistics do not say anything about the percentage of income paid in tax by each quintile.  The previous chart only shows quintile income as a percentage of total income and quintile taxes as a percentage of total taxes.  There is no way to derive taxes as a percentage of income from that chart.  Now, here is a chart that does show the “effective tax rate” (tax, as a percentage of income, after deductions) by quintile:

Thus, Federal taxes are “progressive”; the greater your income, the greater the percentage of that income you pay in Federal taxes.  In general, the progressive nature of Federal taxes is partially off-set by state taxes, which are usually more “regressive” in nature.  Florida does not have a state income tax, but does have sales tax, property tax, and other taxes, fees, and levies.  Sales taxes are usually considered regressive, but the regressive nature of Florida’s sales tax is, in turn, partially off-set because Florida does not collect sales taxes on food and some other necessities.  Much of Florida’s sales tax revenue is collected from people in the higher income quintiles who can afford to vacation in Florida.

Here is a chart that shows how Federal tax rates have changed over time.  In addition to the effective tax rate for the five income quintiles, the chart also shows the effective tax rate for all quintiles combined (blue) and the effective tax rate for those in the top 1% of incomes (orange):

Now, who are these people in the orange line?  The bottom half of the orange line (the 99th to 99.5th percentiles) is made up largely of physicians, attorneys, upper middle management, and small business people who have done well.  This group typically contributes $50,000 to $100,000 per year to 401Ks, IRAs, Defined Benefit Plans, and other retirement vehicles, which defer taxes until distribution during retirement, leaving them with yearly cash flows (spendable incomes) of $175k to $250k, after taxes, or about $15k to $20k per month.

The top half of the orange line is made up largely of people whose wealth comes from being involved in some aspect of the financial services or banking industry, real estate development involved with those industries, or government contracting.  Some hard working and clever physicians and attorneys can acquire as much as $15M-$20M before retirement, but they are rare.  Those in the top 0.5% have incomes over $500k, if working, and net worths of over $1.8M, if retired.  The higher you go into the top 0.5%, the more likely it is that wealth is in some way tied to the investment industry and borrowed money than to personally selling goods or services or personally providing labor.  It is much more likely that those in the top 0.5% have built their net worth from stock options and capital gains in stocks and real estate and private business sales, than from income, which is taxed at a much higher rate.

Folks in the top 0.1% come from many backgrounds, but most acquired their wealth through direct or indirect participation in the financial and banking industries.  The picture is clear; entry into the top 0.5% and, particularly, the top 0.1% is usually the result of some association with the financial industry and its creations.  It is questionable as to whether the majority in this group actually adds value or simply diverts value from the US economy and business into its pockets and the pockets of the uber-wealthy who hire them.  They are, of course, doing nothing illegal.  For the source (and all of the opinions, most of which I filtered) of the last three paragraphs, see Who Rules America?

Swedish Hospital Employee Data Breach

We received one of the “nearly 20,000″ letters sent out by Swedish Medical Center in Seattle offering free credit monitoring services to employees and former employees whose personal information may have been compromised.  What first caught my eye is that the letter (and a Seattle Times article, but not a Swedish press release) stated that the security breach affected employees who worked for Swedish during all or part of 1994, 1995, 2002, 2003, and 2004.  Our employee relationship with Swedish ended in 1990.

I telephoned the Swedish “Privacy Department.”  The telephone number for the Privacy Department is not listed online, but the main switchboard transferred me, no questions asked.  I told an answering machine that I had some questions about the accidental disclosure of employee data.  My call was returned within a couple of hours, but the nice lady was not able to answer my specific question: Why did we receive the letter if we are not a member of the affected group? However, she did offer to try to find out and call me back.  She called back about an hour later and the answer was, “My boss told me that some employees from 1990 were also affected.”  Her boss, it turns out, is the Swedish Medical Center Privacy Officer, the signer of the letter.  I asked if Swedish is going to issue a new press release stating that employees during additional years may have been affected by the security breach.  She mumbled something that sounded like, “Yes.”

Why did we receive the letter?  Did Swedish send letters to all current and former employees?  Does 19,799 equal the total number of all current and former Swedish employees, or does it equal the number of Swedish employees during the affected years.  Why would Swedish send the letter to non-affected employees?  Why did Swedish apparently alter the text of their July 20, 2011, online press release to eliminate the listing of affected years?  Does Swedish have a business relationship with the provider of the credit monitoring?  Yes, Swedish is footing the bill for the credit monitoring, but for how long?  One year, after which the credit monitoring service potentially has a new paying customer?  Could the benefit to Swedish of such a business relationship with the credit monitoring service really out-weigh the cost to Swedish, as measured in the loss of good-will incurred by subjecting current and former Swedish employees to this advertising scheme?

July 20, 2011, Swedish press release
July 20, 2011, Seattle Times article
Apparent alternate text of Swedish press release

What will the Future be like in 1999?

In 1967, this is what we had to look forward to in the future (1999):

Part 1.  Home schooling, home computer, modular housing, storing photos on home computer

Part 2.  Instant cooking, online shopping, family finances on the home computer, making music, home health center

Part 3.  Checking weather forecasts online, greatly diminished time demands on the homemaker, playing chess with home computer, bootlegged music of Puerto Rican castrato

Arizona’s New Immigration Law

The full text of the new law (about 18 pages) may be read here.  The new law adds text to several existing Arizona laws.  The new text is shown below in UPPERCASE BLUE letters.

I have read through the new law once.  I may be grossly paraphrasing, but the new law seems to be saying:

“It shall be unlawful for an illegal alien to be in Arizona and it is ok for the police to arrest an illegal alien for doing something unlawful.”

Perhaps the sticky part is (lines 20 – 25, page 1):

FOR ANY LAWFUL CONTACT MADE BY A LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICIAL … WHERE REASONABLE SUSPICION EXISTS THAT THE PERSON IS AN ALIEN WHO IS UNLAWFULLY PRESENT IN THE UNITED STATES, A REASONABLE ATTEMPT SHALL BE MADE, WHEN PRACTICABLE, TO DETERMINE THE IMMIGRATION STATUS OF THE PERSON.

An essay by Cornell University law professor Michael C. Dorf discussing the concept of “reasonable suspicion” may be read here.

The new law stipulates (lines 34 – 43, page 1) how a person may appease the reasonable suspicion of a law enforcement officer:

A PERSON IS PRESUMED TO NOT BE AN ALIEN WHO IS UNLAWFULLY PRESENT IN THE UNITED STATES IF THE PERSON PROVIDES TO THE LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER OR AGENCY ANY OF THE FOLLOWING:

1. A VALID ARIZONA DRIVER LICENSE.

2. A VALID ARIZONA NONOPERATING IDENTIFICATION LICENSE.

3. A VALID TRIBAL ENROLLMENT CARD OR OTHER FORM OF TRIBAL IDENTIFICATION.

4. … ANY VALID … GOVERNMENT ISSUED IDENTIFICATION.

Married to Distraction: Microsoft Word OCR

I placed a library hold on this book.  There is only one person ahead of me.  Still, I was able to read some of the book on Amazon.com, as shown in this screen capture:

I used Microsoft Word’s OCR (optical character recognition) capabilities to convert that bit-mapped image into text:

Have you found that it is increasingly difficult to get your partner’s attention, not to mention affection? Are too many of your conversations devoted to bad news and toxic worries? Are you feeling a little lonely, even though you do (usually) love the person you’re with? Do you feel as if many important conversations take place on the go, or via cell phone with its incessant, infuriating dropping of the calls? Do interruptions often abort your attempts to sustain a conversation? Do you frequently cram an hour’s worth of dialogue into two minutes of blurting as you’re rushing out the door? Do you feel a rising anger at your spouse without knowing why? Are you frazzled, even worn-out, when you’re only halfway through your day? Do you feel as if communicating with your partner is like trying to talk to someone who is sitting five rows in front of you at a sold-out rock concert where you have to scream just to get the simplest phrase heard?

If you answer yes to some or all of these questions, you’re not alone. Welcome to modern life, with its ever-expanding array of ways

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