Monday, May 18, 2015

Jeb Bush 2016: a faux campaign

     As 2015 moves forward, Americans are already looking towards the 2016 Presidential Elections. Potential candidates such as Hilary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Chris Christie, and Jeb Bush are already making their respective rounds across the fifty states. However, there is one peculiar asterisk to the candidacy. Jeb Bush isn't technically running for the presidency (or at least not yet). Why can't he come out and say he is? Money. According to CNN, "[Bush] can use super PACs, campaign accounts that allow unlimited contributions, to raise millions of dollars as long as they aren't official candidates." 
[Republican Presidential Candidate] Jeb Bush (left)

     So it's basically a total scam for extra cash. Until someone like Bush, formally declares for president, they are legally permitted to personally ask for money for a super PAC that will ultimately benefit their campaign. But once they formally acknowledge their candidacy, "a legal wall goes up between the candidate and the super PAC that supports them." 

     A super PAC is a type of independent 'political action committee' which may raise unlimited sums of money from corporations, unions, and individuals. The key for me here is corporations. Once Jeb is running for the big office, being directly sponsored by a corporation could obviously be seen as a conflict of interests. 

     Many are pointing fingers at Bush and saying that he has violated the Campaign Act of 1971 by "establishing, directing, and controlling an independent expenditure-only committee", Right to Rise Super PAC, Inc., and has been raising and spending soft money in violation of the law.  In addition, as a complaint by the ADLF detailed, "Mr. Bush has been raising money in excess of what could reasonably be necessary to explore his candidacy through his leadership PAC and Right to Rise Super PAC, Inc. since January 2015, but he still has yet to register and report as a candidate, and he has not designated an authorized campaign committee."

     For me, regardless of the law, this is a simple principle of ethics in government. The fact of the matter is that potential candidates, or official candidates, should not be spending hundreds of millions of dollars on campaigns and essentially advertising themselves to the American public. Campaigns should not be run based off billboards and TV commercials. It is reported that Jeb Bush's super PAC has now raised over $100 million. How is that kind of fundraising and spending necessary and how does it help the American public at all?

Friday, May 15, 2015

This Just In: money doesn't buy happiness

It seems simple enough. Americans value material goods and property. Both of which require money to buy. More money = more 'stuff'. More stuff = more happiness, or does it?

According to a recent study published in George Washington Law Review, "Researchers who surveyed 6,200 lawyers about their jobs and health found that the factors most frequently associated with success in the legal field, such as high income or a partner-track job at a prestigious firm, had almost zero correlation with happiness and well-being. However, lawyers in public-service jobs who made the least money, like public defenders or Legal Aid attorneys, were most likely to report being happy." 

So maybe it's not how much money one can bring to the table. Maybe it is the way by which said money is acquired. Those who can look back on their career and think, "I helped somebody" or "I made society better" tend to be happier in their later lives. I am not at all surprised by the George Washington study. At the end of the day, it's quality over quantity. The 'cleaner' the money, the more satisfying it appears to be.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Autonomous Commercial Planes: the Future?

German air traffic controllers are now calling for big change in the aviation industry. They believe that it would be beneficial to build technology that would allow the remote control of commercial planes from pilots on the ground. 
This is all in a response to the March 24th crash, where Germanwings pilot Andreas Lubitz locked his captain out of the cockpit and flew an Airbus A320 into a mountainside killing all the crew members and 150 passengers. 
Klaus Dieter Scheurle, head of the Deutsche Flugsicherung air traffic control authority, said "We have to think past today's technology. Such a system could be used in an emergency to take command of the plane and steer it safely to the ground."
This sort of technology would obviously serve as a sort of safety net for the in-air flights, but in the same breath, there are some clear issues that would need to be worked out. What if somebody hacked into the control system and took over a plane? The in-air pilot would need an override of some sort, and then that defeats the entire purpose of the system itself. 
Perhaps there is a way to control the planes without a human pilot, the entire process being performed by autopilot and various other electronic flight assists. I am willing to bet that there would be a lower crash rate of commercial planes if there were all drones.
Immediately when I heard about this proposed idea, I drew comparisons to the US military. For years already the United States has been flying autonomous drones that are simply monitored by a single pilot behind a computer. Less lives are at risk, and the aircrafts are far more efficient.

If commercial planes were run like military drones, they might even be safer. The problem with that would be getting the general public to trust their lives on a computer system. 

Friday, April 10, 2015

Freedom From Religion Ad Rejected

While watching "The Nightly Show" on ComedyCentral an intriguing advertisement came across the screen. The FFRF (Freedom From Religion Foundation) works to pretect the constitutional separation of church and state. The ad features a man, Ron Reagan, in a chair who recited a monologue. It goes, "Hi, I'm Ron Reagan, an unabashed atheist, and I'm alarmed by the intrusion of religion into our secular government. That's why I'm asking you to support the Freedom From Religion Foundation, the nation's largest and most effective association of atheists and agnostics, working to keep state and church separate, just like our Founding Fathers intended. Please support the Freedom From Religion Foundation. Ron Reagan, lifelong atheist, not afraid of burning in hell."
The commercial makes some bold statements. I can respect that. But to a national television service, I am not really surprised that most don't. NBC, ABC, FOX, just to name a few, all rejected the commercial. Nobody ran it except Comedy Central. CC has always pushed the boundaries. Their flagship shows, Tosh.0 and South Park, have always crossed lines and occasionally offended people. Other networks simply cannot go as far as Comedy Central does. They had no risk of losing sponsorship because of this commercial. It's really too bad that other major networks can't speak with free minds.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Audi: The Automotive Industry's Greatest Scam?

Almost every day I drive a 2012 Volkswagen Passat. In the last 5 years, VW has really stepped up their game and its starting to show. The automotive group has seen a huge increase in popularity in the United States. On multiple occasions, I have had a passenger get out of my car, notice the VW badge on the front-end, turn to me and say something along the lines of, "Wow! I didn't know this was a Volkswagen. It seemed like a nicer car." Many people fail to realize that VW AG owns and produces: AudiBentleyBugattiLamborghini, and Porsche. Audi is the subsidiary that is closest in price to most VW models. For similar models, Audis sell at around 150% higher than their VW brothers. Take the Audi Q5 and the VW Tiguan for an example:
VW Tiguan (left) and Audi Q5 (right)
At first glance, the resemblance is striking. This is for a good reason. Besides the obvious color difference, they are essentially the same car. They both feature the exact same 2.0 liter turbo 4-cylinder engine at the base model. They have nearly identical body shapes and they feature the same 4-motion all-wheel-drive system. To somebody not familiar with these cars, it would be nearly impossible to tell them apart in a parking lot. The starting price for the base model VW is at a somewhat modest $26,225. The price for the same features on the Audi? $39,300. For the extra $13,005 you get the exact same audio system, same navigation system, even the analog clock on the dashboard is identical. So what are you paying for? Slightly larger wheels and full-leather seats compared to only partial leather. It is kinda sad that people are honestly willing to pay 50% more for a product simply because it has a different badge. $13,000 for bragging rights. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter how the car performs or how comfortable the ride is. Apparently all that matters is peoples' opinions of you are when you are seen driving it.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

"The Sound of Feminism"

Earlier today I stumbled across a YouTube video titled The Sound of Feminism. The title in and of itself is a little controversial as the video depicts a feminist absolutely laying into some man. At one point in her rant she even calls the man a 'f*ck face'. 
Feminism is currently one of the hottest topics on the market and many are a bit weary to touch on it. In the woman's speech she recites off a paper, "The idea of certain people are inherently more valuable than other people because of superficial physical attributes is part of patriarchy." This doesn't make much sense at all. Don't get me wrong. I believe that women are just as good as men and sexism is very real, but there are certain ways to go about voicing opinions. She claims that men view some women as more valuable than others based off physical appearance. I agree with that statement. While this practice may be unethical I also believe that is the very nature of human existence. Our biological purpose is to find a mate and produce offspring that will survive and be appealing to other humans, thus continuing our species, but I digress. When she says that this is part of 'patriarchy' is when she looses my support. Patriarchy is a system in which men primarily hold power. I don't see how some women being judged by some men fits into that system. A man judging a woman because she is less physically attractive doesn't somehow give the man more power. Maybe I am not fully understanding the argument itself but she doesn't do a great job of explaining it. What do you think?

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Is 3D Printing the Future?

All the time now I hear (on the news or on tech-sites) of new and increasingly ridiculous objects being created via a 3D printer. I know the average person does not have access to one, so until we all do, here is a collection of wild creations I have found:


3D Printed Cookies Created in the 'Foodini' Printer
Foodini users can prepare fresh ingredients, create a variety of pastes, and insert them into reusable capsules, which are then printed into any shape. 


A Chinese company has demonstrated the capabilities of its giant 3D printer by rapidly constructing 10 houses in less than 24 hours. Built from predominantly recycled materials, these homes cost less than $5,000.


South African carpenter Richard van As suffered an accident and lost four fingers on his right hand. He decided to create a set of mechanical fingers to replace his lost digits. After two years of research, he created the prosthetic Robohand – and he has made the blueprints available to download.


In 2007, one of the first bio-printing companies was founded: Organovo. At the moment, Organovo is printing out liver tissue samples used for drug testing and research. The company's hoping to develop a functional liver, as well as other organs, in the near future.


This gun was machined by Defense Distributed and has stirred up a lot of controversy. Several groups have taken action against the creation of these types of weapons, but with the  blueprints available online, there is little that can be done.

Fully Functioning SLR Camera and Lens

You can 3-D print a fully-functional SLR camera in 15 hours and only $30 in parts. Assembly takes just one hour. The camera is capable of taking quality pictures and is compatible with any photographic lens. If it's not enough to have a near-complete 3-D printed camera, you can actually print a lens as well.

My Favorite: A 3D Printed Car

According to Local Motors, "Everything on the car that could be integrated into a single material piece has been printed. This includes the chassis/frame, exterior body, and some interior features. The mechanical components of the vehicle, like battery, motors, wiring, and suspension, are sourced from Renault’s Twizy, an electric powered city car." The Strati takes 44 hours to print and is already street legal in the US

What would you like to see 3D printed? Are these products going to become widely available?