Happy July 4

Today is the 71st anniversary of Hungarian physicist Leó Szilárd's filing of the nuclear chain reaction patent which formed the core of the nuclear bomb's functionality… America later imported him to help other European scientists on the Manhattan Project which eventually plunged us into decades of cold war hell and was instrumental in bringing about our current state of perpetual war.

I got a message this morning telling me, among other things, that I needed to stop criticizing the US government since it was thanks to America that I was even allowed to speak English and have free speech. That kind of surprised me, because after wracking my brain's history archives, I couldn't think of any situation where a land invasion of modern North America would even be plausible — it's not as if the Ruskies were about to roll tanks across thousands of miles of Siberian wasteland and then float them over the Bering Strait into Alaska and across the Yukon.


America is often compared to the Roman Empire, for a wide variety of reasons, but I'd like to briefly talk about its attitudes toward engineering. Unlike the Greek, Indian, or Muslim cultures, the Romans actually made very few independent contributions to science. They were on the other hand brilliant at appropriating it and applying it, which helped them grow to be a monstrous empire — but it also meant that in the end they stagnated and were unable to adapt, especially after widespread Christianity (“all men are created equal”) put a stop to much of their slave trade.

In the early days of the United States, the US government ignored all foreign patents, trademarks, and copyrights, allowing it to quickly build up its technological might, even though few of the inventions were domestic in creation. Coupled with abundant local oil giving large amounts of power, copious natural resources, slave labor (which later became cheap labor, and was eventually sourced overseas in foreign slavery — sweatshops, workers in nations with lower health standards, and so on), it allowed America to build to the top of the global food chain. Unfortunately, while like the Roman Empire application was brilliant, actual innovation was limited, and grows less and less every year.

Because of the precarious nature of America's extreme economic bulk, I worry that it has hit the tipping point where it will soon crumble, unable to adapt to a world where the nations that once supplied slave labor become equals. US citizens are now uneducated to the point where the US state governments are spending a quarter billion dollars a year in remedial writing classes for their employees, reporting that two thirds of their clerical staff have “inadequate literacy”.

That brings me to the story of the new $800 million North American Toyota plant that will built the RAV-4. The US had offered hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies if Toyota would be willing to build it in America, but Toyota declined, choosing to place it in Ontario, Canada instead. The reason? American workers are too uneducated to work in a high tech factory without supplementary training that makes it a financial impossibility, plus privatized American healthcare is so expensive that it costs more to employ American workers once they're unionized and actually have to be given a living wage and benefits.

I mentioned here before that 68% of all US taxation now goes to support war. To put that into context, this year nearly a trillion dollars will be spent on the US military. To further put that into context, if that number was simply cut in half, America could offer world class education to all of its citizens including free university educations (solving the issues mentioned above), as well as free healthcare, free universal high-speed Internet access, and still have enough money left over to “cure” poverty, disease, and hunger in Africa. Or simply slash taxes to a fraction of what they are now.

But I guess war is more important, right?

If you don't think so, you need to speak up with your votes, and you need to speak up by writing and calling your government officials and your media. You can change America, but you have to stand up and do it. America has the momentum to become something great, but it's at its most precarious stage — the next twenty-five years will decide whether America crumbles (or explodes), or if it blooms.

America, become that shining city on the hill!

We <3 gasoline

According to Texas oil analyst Matt Simmons, oil may be at $100 per barrel by this winter (how will I power my computer), which would bring gas prices to about $4 per gallon — meaning that driving the average American SUV car a mile will cost a quarter (or worse). I think Sweden has the right idea — not only bring back your train system, but power it with rotting organic garbage.

If gas gets out of hand, the above will be my new sportscar… but in all seriousness, I still really want to build a biogas car. I know that if I start a company that designs, builds, and markets them they could become the 21st Century's killer automotive product (or maybe air power will dominate instead… I could be wrong). If you're reading this and are a competent engineer or mechanic and want to go in on something like this, drop me a line.

Other than that, I see that the Live 8 concerts managed to produce monstrous amounts of garbage, with over six pounds of trash per person left lying in the Park. Ah, saving the world with overconsumption…

Take the challenge!

Wow Shannon, that's really annoying! What is it, 1997 on Geocities? Retroweb is NOT cool!

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