Satire or Reality?

(Not mine, but can't find original source either) For Immediate Release Washington, DC - President Barack Obama and the Democrat controlled Congress is considering sweeping legislation that will provide new benefits for many Americans. The Americans With No Abilities Act. AWNAA is being hailed as a major legislative goal by advocates of the millions of Americans who lack any real skills or ambition. 'Roughly 50 percent of Americans do not possess the competence and drive necessary to carve out a meaningful role for themselves in society,' said California Senator Barbara Boxer. 'We can no longer stand by and allow People of Inability to be ridiculed and passed over. With this legislation, employers will no longer be able to grant special favors to a small group of workers, simply because they have some idea of what they are doing.' In a Capitol Hill press conference, House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid pointed to the success of the U.S. Postal Service, which has a long-standing policy of providing opportunity without regard to performance. Approximately 74 percent of postal employees lack any job skills, making this agency the single largest U.S employer of Persons of Inability. Private-sector industries with good records of non-discrimination against the Inept include retail sales (72%), the airline industry (68%), and home improvement 'warehouse' stores (65%). At the state government level, the Department of Motor Vehicles also has an excellent record of hiring Persons of Inability (63%). Under The Americans With No Abilities Act, more than 25 million 'middle man' positions will be created, with important-sounding titles but little real responsibility, thus providing an illusory sense of purpose and performance. Mandatory non-performance-based raises and promotions will be given so as to guarantee upward mobility for even the most unremarkable employees. The legislation provides substantial tax breaks to corporations that promote a significant number of Persons of Inability into middle-management positions, and gives a tax credit to small and medium-sized businesses that agree to hire one clueless worker for every two talented hires. Finally, the AWNAA contains tough new measures to make it more difficult to discriminate against the non-abled, banning, for example, discriminatory interview questions such as, 'Do you have any skills or experience that relate to this job?' 'As a Non-abled person, I can't be expected to keep up with people who have something going for them,' said Mary Lou Gertz, who lost her position as a lug-nut twister at the GM plant in Flint, Michigan, due to her inability to remember 'rightey tightey, lefty loosey.' 'This new law should be real good for people like me,' Gertz added. With the passage of this bill, Gertz and millions of other untalented citizens will finally see a light at the end of the tunnel. Said Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL): 'As a Senator with no abilities, I believe the same privileges that elected officials enjoy ought to be extended to every American with no abilities. It is our duty as lawmakers to provide each and every American citizen, regardless of his or her inadequacy, with some sort of space to take up in this great nation and a good salary for doing so.

Uncle-fied

I'm proud to announce the newest addition to the Aimonetti family. Brosef Jeffrey and Steffi have a new son, Leon Jeffrey Michael! He was born this morning, weighed 8 lbs 8 oz, and was 21 inches in length. He, Mom, and Dad are all doing wonderful! Very exciting to have the first nephew aboard. See the first pictures at my flickr page.

Education vs Schooling

It is hard to question the value of public schools. The premise, a free education to enable children to lift themselves up and be productive members of society, is certainly hard to argue against. And yet, we see public schools failing, some quite miserably, to produce competent young adults. Solutions proposed, like "No Child Left Behind" are equally hard to argue against. How can a politician vote against such a proposition? And yet we have seen a good deal of backlash from teachers and administrators as to the decrease in quality learning that students have received. Despite all the "work" put into public education, public schools are not producing the intellectual citizens hoped for and desired. So we need to question deeper. I was given an article today that takes a deeper look at public education and provides some refreshing insight. The author, John Taylor Gatto, questions the premises of public education and finds that, not only are they ineffective, but designed to be so. Read with an open mind and see if the content jives with you. At the very least, we need to examine so many of the governmental institutions put in place in the last century that we take as necessary, and public education is certainly one of those institutions that will generally be disregarded in that discussion. The Federal Reserve, the IRS, Homeland Security, and more are easier targets because they have a negative impact on our society. Public education is generally perceived as a net positive for society, and thus tends to be exempt from discussion on its needed existence.

Obama's Wealth Redistribution In Action!

From a mailing list:

Today on my way to lunch, I passed a homeless guy with a sign that read, Vote Obama; I need the money." I laughed. Once in the restaurant, I noticed my server had on an "Obama 08" tie. Again I laughed as he had given away his political preference — just imagine the coincidence! When the bill came, I decided not to tip the server and explained to him that I was exploring the Obama redistribution of wealth concept. He stood there in disbelief while I told him that I was going to redistribute his tip to someone whom I deemed more in need — the homeless guy outside. The server angrily stormed from my sight. I went outside, gave the homeless guy $10 and told him to thank the server inside, who, I decided, did not need the money as much as the homeless guy. The homeless guy was most grateful! At the end of my rather unscientific redistribution experiment, I realized the homeless guy was very grateful for the money although he did not earn it. And the waiter was pretty angry that I gave away the money he did earn, even though the actual recipient deserved the money more. I guess redistribution of wealth is an easier thing to swallow in concept than in practical application. Or is it? Redistribution of someone else's wealth is a great idea — or just a fool's game?

It seems like there should be a market for all those Obama supporters to bind together into a group fund that then they can redistribute their wealth by choice, and not force others that don't agree with the method of redistribution. Oh wait, there are…they're called charities and non-profits. No need for the government there! If only…

Important Ideas

  • You cannot help the poor, by destroying the rich.
  • You cannot strengthen the weak, by weakening the strong.
  • You cannot bring about prosperity, by discouraging thrift.
  • You cannot lift the wage earner up, by pulling the wage payer down.
  • You cannot further the brotherhood of man, by inciting class hatred.
  • You cannot build character and courage, by taking away people's initiative and independence.
  • You cannot help people permanently, by doing for them what they could and should, do for themselves.

To whom are these attributed to? None other than Abraham Lincoln. Sad that after all these years, our politicians haven't learned these lessons, and our citizenry hasn't elected politicians that do get it.

Get rid of the Fed

Regarding the VP "Debate": Overall, Palin didn't suck. Biden was good. Neither was very impressive. I would have liked to have seen a third party VP candidate up there to actually talk substance. That said, why will no one acknowledge that the Federal Reserve is directly responsible for the financial meltdown? The monetary supply was increased by the Federal Reserve and loaned that increase to firms on Wall Street at low interest rates. There was no call from the market for an increase, there was no market influence on the interest rate. Other than Ben Bernanke, can anyone name someone else on the Federal Reserve board? Can anyone remember voting for Bernanke to replace Greenspan? So, we have a board with no tangible oversight determining the monetary supply and interest rates. With all this cheap money to be had, and with the nature of Wall Street to make money, it is only natural (good or bad is subjective) for the financial industry to take the money and do something with it. The cliche "kid in a candy store" is so fitting because we are seeing the tummy ache of too much candy. Do you blame the kid for getting the tummy ache? Sure, there has to be personal responsibility. The kid has to learn a lesson. But what about the parent who let the kid run wild in the store? If you gave a kid $500 and let them loose, don't you think they'd most likely buy candy and not something more nutritious? So the Wall Street folks took the artificially low-interest money and went nuts. How did the kid get the $500? It was given to him for essentially free. Now, what if the kid had had to work hard to earn $20, perhaps by mowing the lawn or some other chore. Wouldn't they be more likely to purchase something of value instead of some candy? The same with Wall Street. Given sound money, investments would be more prudent, and investors would not be buying debt-backed investments at such ravenous rates. The Federal Reserve is ultimately to blame for the mal-investments. By corrupting the free market with cheap money, investors binged on candy and now have a tummy ache. The bailout will be another handout, and another tummy ache (or worse) later down the road. Sure, those investors that lost their scruples will need to pay, to be hurt by the collapse. In that way, the market becomes stronger. If the Federal Reserve continues to inflate the money supply, we will see more bubbles (remember, this "housing" bubble was preceded by the tech bubble, which also was fed by artificially low interest rates). Let's take a look at some other numbers. The 2008 fiscal year ended Sept 30th. On that day, the Federal Debt was $10,024,724,896,912.49. $10 trillion dollars. In 1913, when the Federal Reserve was spawned into being, the Federal Debt was $2.916 billion. Almost a 3,500 times increase. The national debt grew by $1,017.1 billion this year (2008), the first time the debt has grown by over $1 trillion dollars. The rancid cherry is that since Sept. 15th of this year, the debt increased $390.6 billion. In 15 days! 40% of the year's debt in 15 days? Sounds like Sec. Paulson and Bernanke have assured the next few generations an uphill battle to solvency. The $700 billion bailout will not stem the tide. It will not turn the ship. It will do nothing but exacerbate the problem. The silver lining, so far, is that the citizens of this country pressured the House enough to get a 'No' vote on the initial bailout bill. The Senate has passed a turd of a bill that includes the $700 billion bailout, as well as over $150 billion in tax breaks. So they want to take $700 billion and remove another $150 billion from the tax revenue. Doesn't that seem odd? Anyway, if Americans are ever to take their country back, a doubling, tripling, even a quadrupling of efforts is needed to ensure the bill does not pass the House. Now, there are those Congressmen that know the bailout is bad news for the taxpayer, but they can't get help but feel like they need to do something. Here's how you can help them do something. When you call, fax, and email them, everyday, you can mention that they should support three bills: HR 2755 (Federal Reserve Board Abolition Act), HR 2756 (Honest Money Act), and HR 4683 (Free Competition in Currency Act). These three bills will help the economy recover in a more timely manner and with more lasting changes that will discourage this scenario from playing out again. To those Congressmen that voted 'yes' on the initial bailout, they must reverse their votes or else be run out of town. To those that voted 'no' initially, encourage them, thank them, and require them to stay true to that 'no' vote.

Happy (belated) Constitution Day

From an email received today:

24 Constitutional Questions Every American Should be Able to Answer Adapted from "A Quiz About the U.S. Constitution" By John F. McManus, writer and narrator of "Overview of America"

  1. Has the Constitution always guided the country?
  2. Does the Constitution allow the Supreme Court to make law?
  3. Does the Constitution allow the President to make law?
  4. Does the Constitution give the federal government any power in the field of education?
  5. Where in the Constitution is there authorization for foreign aid?
  6. What are the three branches of government named in the Constitution?
  7. Does the Constitution require a minimum age requirement for a Senator?
  8. What are the Constitutional requirements for a person to be President?
  9. Did the Constitution give the federal government power to create a bank?
  10. Can treaty law supersede the Constitution?
  11. Does the Constitution allow a President alone to take the nation to war?
  12. Are there any specific crimes mentioned in the Constitution?
  13. Are the Bill of Rights considered part of the original Constitution?
  14. According to the Constitution, how can a President and other national officials be removed from office?
  15. What authority does the Constitution give the Vice President?
  16. How many amendments to the Constitution are there?
  17. Does the Constitution say anything about illegal immigration?
  18. Does the Constitution tell us how new states are added to the union?
  19. How is an amendment to the Constitution added?
  20. Is the term of a President limited by the Constitution?
  21. Which part of Congress is designated by the Constitution as having the "power of the purse?"
  22. How does the Constitution explain expelling an elected member of the House or Senate?
  23. What does the Constitution say about financing a military arm?
  24. How many times is the word democracy mentioned in the Constitution?

Also, why the economy is tanking, why it is the Federal Reserve's fault, and why aren't the two major party candidates talking about it? The Fed and the Recession

Writing Excel Spreadsheets Using PHP

When using the Spreadsheet\_Excel\_Writer library from the PEAR repository, I came across an issue I didn't see handled in the docs (as of this writing, I am using Spreadsheet\_Excel\_Writer 0.9.1 beta) My application creates spreadsheets that contain order information. Part of each row is a list of up to 20 ISBNs and the quantities desired of each. The issue came in how to handle ISBNs that had a leading zero. When I first looked through the PEAR docs for the library, a Worksheet method, writeString, looked to be the solution. However, the end result was that while the leading zero was maintained, the cell's format was still numeric. This resulted in the application receiving the generated xls to then drop the zero, resulting in an invalid ISBN. Looking over the internals of the Worksheet::writeString method didn't reveal an undocumented feature that would ensure a cell was read as text, regardless of its contents. I next looked at the Format::setNumFormat method as I knew it contained ways to format the number as currency, timestamp, fractions, etc. You could then pass this Format object as the optional fourth parameter to the Worksheet::write method. Contained in the Format::setNumFormat docs was a link to the OpenOffice.org documentation of the Excel File Format (found here, pdf). Interested in how exactly the file was structured, I read on. What I learned that was directly applicable is that each cell contains a pointer to a format definition, or XF record, and it was this XF record where formatting was stored. From the doc, section 4.6:

All cell formatting attributes are stored in XF records…The cell records themselves contain an index into the XF record list. This way of string cell formatting saves memory and decreases the file size.

So if two cells use the same formatting, like the ISBN columns would, each cell would contain a pointer to the XF record that would tell Excel the cell was text. Seciton 4.6.1 lists the 6 groups of formatting attributes, the first of which is number format, which is then an index to a FORMAT record. Okay, we're on to something here. Further in the pdf, in section 5.49, we see the definition of the FORMAT record. Lo and behold, the table of formats from the setNumFormat page is listed in the pdf, but we see that the PEAR listing is incomplete. Scanning the complete table in the pdf, we see index 49, type Text, format string '@'. Bingo. Our code for formatting numeric data as text in a string goes a little something like this (modified from the PEAR example code):

    $workbook = new Spreadsheet_Excel_Writer();
    $worksheet =& $workbook->addWorksheet();

    // We'll show dates with a three letter month and four digit year format
    $text_format =& $workbook->addFormat();
    $text_format->setNumFormat('@');

    $worksheet->write(0, 0, "Without formatting");
    $worksheet->write(0, 1, '0123'); // cell contains 123

    $worksheet->write(1, 0, "With formatting");
    $worksheet->write(1, 1, '0123', $text_format); // cell contains 0123

To verify, generate the xls and open it. Right click the cells to modify the format of the cell, and see that the first cell is formatted as a general number, and the second cell is formatted as text. The meta-moral is to read the docs and follow references to get at the source material. Had I not opened the pdf, it may have been a few more time units finding the information on Google. Plus, I learned a lot more about an important file format. I can sleep easy knowing I'm that much more knowledgeable.

Don't buy that politician

From a mailing list:

Just like you wouldn't buy a new car with a serious defect, nor should you vote for a politician with a serious defect and then work to fix it later. You also shouldn't buy a car with a serious defect because the only other car on the lot is an even bigger piece of junk. What should you do? Keep your money and walk, and tell the dealership that you aren't buying until they carry something that's worth buying. That is how we get quality cars, and that's how we'll get quality leaders.

Think voting for a candidate is throwing your vote away because they can't win? Vote for them anyway. Let your voice be heard.

Private Philanthropy

So many government-sponsored social welfare programs are touted as helping the poorer and more disadvantaged in society. While noble in intent, history shows that these programs are at best inefficient. With so much bureaucracy inherent in government doings, these programs are at a disadvantage from the start. So why do they persist? I think mostly because politicians refuse to take a stand on issues. Who wants to vote against welfare? You are immediately pegged as "elitist", uncaring, out of touch with most of Americans. The fact is, the government cannot effectively deal with this social issues, and should not for that very reason. Some would even argue that most of the social welfare programs are un-Constitutional. Indeed, these programs are paid for by forcibly taking money from hard-working citizens and redistributing it according to what the government deems appropriate. A problem with this approach is that a disproportionate amount of the funds go to a small segment of society. Why is my labor paying for a family in another state to live on welfare for years at a time? Why am I forced to make this payment? Who doesn't resent being told to do something, especially if they don't agree with it? And yet, we must comply, otherwise the IRS thugs will take your money by force. How is it moral to force someone to pay for something they don't support, and if they refuse, to take drastic actions to ensure they pay? Indeed, it is an encroachment on personal liberty. How much more fulfilling is it to help out of the goodness of your heart? My volunteer experiences have all been positive and encourage me to continue my efforts. What if it was compulsory? I would probably not expend the effort I do when it's my choice. When it comes to what to do with my money, I'm even more bothered by forced support. That is why reading stories about private businesses and people reaching out into their communities, where they can see a direct effect, are so important to know about and support. That should be government's roll in welfare. Make it easy for people to support their local communities. Incentive it. Don't force it. I firmly believe we have a responsibility to help our fellow man. I do not believe we should be forced by any authority other than our own to do so.