Driving Tests: My patience, definitely

If anyone needs a good argument for computer simulation before student drivers are allowed behind the wheel, here’s one.  There should also be dual controls in the car, so the instructor has a wheel and a brake pedal to prevent things like this.  But better still, no private cars and better public transit.


No learner drivers were hurt in the making of the video.





What Did You Expect?: Cop dogs can’t be trusted either

The only thing shocking about this story and lawsuit is that it didn’t happen before.  Likely because cops cover up for each other, they hide and destroy evidence.

Also not shocking is that it took a white man filing suit for this to be taken seriously.  How many people, especially Black people, were railroaded into false convictions, their property stolen (not “seized”) by cops?  From NPR:

Courts have long seen K-9 dogs as impartial. Now police bodycams hold them accountable

For decades, American courts have had to take it on faith that drug-sniffing dogs were impartial. Testimony by a dog’s handler, along with training records and credentialing by a local K-9 organization, were usually enough. But the recent spread of body cameras now threatens to upend that faith.

A newly filed federal lawsuit in Texas shows cameras’ potential to undermine K-9 unit legitimacy. Houston resident Alek Schott accuses Bexar County Sheriff’s deputy Joel Babb of pulling him over on Interstate 35 on false pretenses, and then, when he refused to give permission to search his pickup truck, he says K-9 unit deputy Martin A. Molina III prompted his dog to “alert” to the scent of drugs.

Historically, that claim would have been nearly impossible to prove. But in this case, Schott requested and received the officers’ body camera footage, giving him almost the same view the K-9 handler had — including the moment the handler’s right hand made a gesture toward the attentive dog, which then jumped up on the pickup’s door.

“It’s clear to me that he’s telling the dog to alert,” Schott says. “I thought, ‘These guys are trying to destroy my life.’ “

This suit should bring into question EVERY prosecution based on “dogs reacting”.  How many were cases of dogs coached or commanded to react?

Compare, Contrast, And Contradict: The media still doesn’t get it

Remember in 2022 after Russia invaded Ukraine, how the media reported on Ukrainian refugees?  From ReliefWeb (a United Nations agency):

How US and European media language used to describe the Ukrainian crisis reflects deeply rooted racism against non-European refugees

Communities across Europe opened their doors to welcome over four million refugees fleeing the Russian invasion of Ukraine which started on the 24th of February, 2022. While solidarity with Ukrainians fleeing the violence has been inspiring, the language used by US and European journalists against non-European refugees fleeing the country is concerning. The terms used to describe non-European refugees reflect a racist European and American policy that only extends human rights protections to certain groups of people to the exclusion of others, making the death and suffering of Middle-Eastern, African and Asian refugees more expected and therefore tolerated.

The racist language used by journalists is only the tip of the iceberg of discrimination. Reports by Euro-Med Monitor’s team and other human rights agencies show that Black, Asian, and Middle Eastern refugees are treated very differently when they arrive at the border in European countries. While Ukrainian refugees receive immediate help and fast processing to cross the border in Poland, refugees of African origin are asked to wait and are sometimes forced to use more dangerous routes to make the trip.

Emphasis in the text is mine.  You would think after a public dressing down and worldwide condemnation of racist, patriarchal and patronizing language that they would learn not to do it again.  But you would have thought wrong.

South Africa is suffering severe blackouts in recent weeks due to their energy system failing.  They are still heavily dependent on coal, and the planned move to renewable or other sources never happened.

How is the media reporting this?  Solely as an issue of corruption and lack of investment, with no accountability for the apartheid regime that ruled for nearly a century.  It reeks of the racist trope that “Black people can’t govern themselves,” inferring that the sole responsibility for the current situation lies with the Black majority government of the past 30 years.  In a single item, Bloomberg praises the apartheid regime for “being forward thinking” about South Africa’s energy needs while simultaneously blaming the ANC for the entirety of SA’s current problems.  This despite both governments overseeing the same energy system.

I don’t know enough to comment on the details of how the country operates or its problems, but I would like to ask Bloomberg one question:

When apartheid ruled South Africa, didn’t that “sufficient energy supply” go almost entirely to the 10% white population, while Black South Africans mostly lived in poverty, in townships, and didn’t have electricity?

That hardly sounds like the apartheid regime “planned ahead”, unless you meant “planned to fail” when they turned over the reins of power.  It sounds to me like the ANC tried to give people more access to electricity and better quality of life.

Lying Tracks: Anti-rail propaganda

Today, I saw this pathetic piece of so-called “news” – from PBS, to boot – whining about long freight trains and long breakdowns “dividing towns”. This is not just third rate “journalism”, it’s anti-rail propaganda.

NO mention or poor or failing train infrastructure.

NO mention of failure to build bridges or underpasses for cars or pedestrians.

NO mention of inadequate government regulation (except to call for meaningless fines).

NO call to regulate railroads the same way the airline industry is regulated.

They are as useless at reporting issues as the US government is at addressing the problem.  The only thing the mouthpieces in the story call for is minor fines for rail companies instead of addressing the actual issue: Trains are getting longer because it’s more profitable for the rail companies.  Fewer trains equals fewer employees, and with no meaningful consequences (like regulation), they will do nothing.  Especially when they have a pal like Biden protecting them, signing “laws” that force rail employees back to work, denying the right to strike.

The fake news in the video goes on about “children having to crawl between cars on a stopped train to get to school!”, as if safety were the concern.  According to the University of North Carolina, pedestrian overpasses cost up to US$250 per square foot.  To safely build over a single track of rail would take a footbridge six metres high and six metres across, plus stairs up and down on each side of the rail.  Safe pedestrian overpasses could be built quickly for less than $100,000 each, which would alleviate the problem short term and remain there as a long term safe crossing. These mouthpieces pretend to care about children’s safety but refuse to address solutions that work.

The US has a little less than 260,000km of track, and Europe has about 220,000km.  If the standard of regulation were the same, one would think the rates of derailments would be roughly a 5:4 ratio.  Except they aren’t.

According to the Imperial College of London, between 1980 and 2019 (PDF), Europe had less then 300 derailments.  In forty years.  The US averages 1700 per year.


More Anniversaries To Note: PDF turns 30, Ethernet turns 50

Two separate items from Computerphile this week, both from the University of Nottingham.

First up, Dr. Steve Bagley talks about the 50th anniversary of Ethernet, which was developed (where else?) at Xerox PARC.  It was originally intended for a local Xerox network, but undoubtedly its superiority to other connections led to its adoption.


Dr. David Brailsford talks about the history of PDF, of which he was involvement in its development.  There are several other videos where he talks about PDF, its capabilities, and how it came to be.

Un-Intel-ligent Design: They didn’t learn the first time

In the 1990s, Intel created a new processor platform, the Itanium, with the vision of their multicore processor chips dominating the server market while “less powerful” personal PCs interacted or were replaced with Itaniums.  But it didn’t work out that way.  It was overly ambitious, not well planned, didn’t live up to expectations, and met with market resistance.  In short, it flopped.  From CNet:

Itanium: A cautionary tale

The wonderchip that wasn’t serves as a lesson about how complex development plans can go awry in a fast-moving industry.

On June 8, 1994, Hewlett-Packard and Intel announced a bold collaboration to build a next-generation processor called Itanium, intended to remake the computing industry.

Eleven years and billions of dollars later, Itanium serves instead as a cautionary tale of how complex, long-term development plans can go drastically wrong in a fast-moving industry.

Despite years of marketing and product partnerships, Itanium remains a relative rarity among servers. In the third quarter of this year, 7,845 Itanium servers were sold, according to research by Gartner. That compares with 62,776 machines with Sun Microsystems’ UltraSparc, 31,648 with IBM’s Power, and 9,147 with HP’s PA-RISC.

But perhaps most significant, it compares with 1.7 million servers with x86 chips, based on an architecture Itanium was intended to replace.

“At the original launch, the claims from HP and Intel were essentially saying, ‘If you’re not with us, you’re going to die. We’re going to be the chip that runs everything,'” said Illuminata analyst Jonathan Eunice. “It so happens that promise has largely been achieved, but with x86.”

Prior to 2000, Intel dominated the microprocessor industry with AMD and Cyrix a distant second and third, copying and reverse engineering to barely keep pace with Intel’s innovations.  But Intel’s massive blunder (combined with the brains and resource of Cyrix, which it acquired) allowed AMD to match Intel for market sales and processor capability (video from the Wall Street Journal).  Intel’s massive edge turned into an equal fight.

AMD vs Intel: Which CPUs Are Better in 2023?

If you’re looking for the best CPUs for gaming or the best workstation CPU, or just one of the best budget CPUs, there are only two choices: AMD and Intel. That fact has spawned an almost religious following for both camps, and the resulting AMD vs Intel flamewars make it tricky to get unbiased advice about the best choice for your next processor. But in many cases, the answer is actually very clear: Intel’s chips win for most users looking for the best balance of performance in both gaming and productivity at a more accessible price point. However, AMD’s lineup of specialized X3D CPUs wins for PCs focused on gaming.

This article covers the never-ending argument of AMD vs Intel desktop CPUs (we’re not covering laptop or server chips). We judge the chips on seven criteria based on what you plan to do with your PC, pricing, performance, driver support, power consumption, and security, giving us a clear view of the state of the competition. We’ll also discuss the process nodes and architectures that influence the moving goalposts. However, each brand has its strengths and weaknesses, so which CPU brand you should buy depends mostly on what blend of features, price, and performance are important to you.

One sign of AMD’s gains it how Linux distributions are packaged.  They are listed as “for AMD (will also work on Intel)”.

The Itanium debacle was less than twenty years ago, with many in Intel’s current management having lived through this mistake.  Which makes it utterly flabbergasting that the company seems intent on repeating it.

Intel has announced plans to produce 64bit only processors, the “X86-S” (S for “simplified”), to drop all legacy support for 8bit, 16bit, and 32bit software.  Their argument is “efficiency, optimized code, reduced design and redundancy”. From Hackaday:

Intel Suggests Dropping Everything But 64-Bit From X86 With Its X86-S Proposal

In a move that has a significant part of the internet flashing back to the innocent days of 2001 when Intel launched its Itanium architecture as a replacement for the then 32-bit only x86 architecture – before it getting bludgeoned by AMD’s competing x86_64 architecture – Intel has now released a whitepaper with associated X86-S specification that seeks to probe the community’s thoughts on it essentially removing all pre-x86_64 features out of x86 CPUs.

While today you can essentially still install your copy of MSDOS 6.11 on a brand-new Intel Core i7 system, with some caveats, it’s undeniable that to most users of PCs the removal of 16 and 32-bit mode would likely go by unnoticed, as well as the suggested removal of rings 1 and 2, as well as range of other low-level (I/O) features. Rather than the boot process going from real-mode 16-bit to protected mode, and from 32- to 64-bit mode, the system would boot straight into the 64-bit mode which Intel figures is what everyone uses anyway.

Where things get a bit hazy is that on this theoretical X86-S you cannot just install and boot your current 64-bit operating systems, as they have no concept of this new boot procedure, or the other low-level features that got dropped. This is where the Itanium comparison seems most apt, as it was Intel’s attempt at a clean cut with its x86 legacy, only for literally everything about the concept (VLIW) and ‘legacy software’ support to go horribly wrong.

If this included talk of retaining parallel processing, it might not be such a bad idea.  Intel already has 16/32bit technology and could cheaply produce a parallel second chip for legacy software.  But are they willing?  In reality, this sounds more like a plan to force consumers to buy new PCs.

Some might respond, “What’s wrong with this?  Who uses 32bit software anymore?”  The answer is everyone.  Booting systems on PCs today still run off 16bits.  The entirety of system BIOSes and operating systems would have to change.  But even if boot systems and OSes are rewritten, that only addresses the system level.

Tens or even hundreds of millions of people use legacy software.  Many people still use 32bit applications because they work, and because they paid for them.  Being forced onto a 64bit-only platform means being forced to buy new versions of some software, or paying for replacements because there is no 64bit version of their preferred program (i.e. it’s no longer made, company was acquired or went out of business).

And what about thousands of businesses that run in-house software developed years or decades ago, like accounting or billing systems?  As with multiple events in the last 20 years (Y2K, COVID-19 and taxes) when the shortage of COBOL programmers became an issue, many of the programmers who build propriety programs have retired, or there may be no 64bit version of the compilers to rebuild them.  Redeveloping software could be prohibitively expensive and force small businesses to go under or use old hardware.

Keeping existing hardware this time isn’t about retrocomputing, it’s about not losing the sunk costs and expending greater costs to replace what still works.

It Just Goes To Show: Anyone can fake patriotism

Robert Hanssen died on Tuesday (April 18, 1944 – June 5, 2023), reportedly of natural causes.  From the FBI’s own site:

On January 12, 1976, Robert Philip Hanssen swore an oath to enforce the law and protect the nation as a newly minted FBI special agent. Instead, he ultimately became the most damaging spy in Bureau history.

On February 18, 2001, Hanssen was arrested and charged with committing espionage on behalf of Russia and the former Soviet Union. Hanssen—using the alias “Ramon Garcia” with his Russian handlers—had provided highly classified national security information to the Russians in exchange for more than $1.4 million in cash, bank funds, and diamonds.

Hanssen’s espionage activities began in 1985. Since he held key counterintelligence positions, he had authorized access to classified information. He used encrypted communications, “dead drops,” and other clandestine methods to provide information to the KGB and its successor agency, the SVR. The information he delivered compromised numerous human sources, counterintelligence techniques, investigations, dozens of classified U.S. government documents, and technical operations of extraordinary importance and value.

Because of his experience and training as a counterintelligence agent, Hanssen went undetected for years, although some of his unusual activities had aroused suspicion from time to time. Still, he was not identified as a spy.

Hanssen and Aldrich Ames are two of the biggest spy scandals in US history, and both were of the same calibre: arrogant men who thought they were smarter than everyone else.  They were playing a dangerous game of egos, similar to serial killers that taunt law enforcement and society.

But most important of all, they were rabid flag wavers, church going christians, pin wearing “patriots” that could spew a “pledge of allegiance” without believing a single word of it.  They proved that anyone can fake patriotism.

Robert Hanssen: The fake job that snared FBI agent who spied for Moscow

In December 2000, FBI agent Richard Garcia had a curious visit from a colleague overseeing the Russia desk.

“He asked, ‘Do you know a guy named Robert Hanssen?'” Mr Garcia recalled. “I said, ‘No’.”

The official responded: “Good. Because you’re about to.”

A few months later, in part thanks to Mr Garcia’s covert work, the whole country would as well. Hanssen’s arrest in February 2001 sent shockwaves through the intelligence community and the extent of his double life burst on to the front pages.

More than two decades later, on Monday this week, authorities announced that he had been found unresponsive in his cell at the maximum-security prison in Colorado where he was serving a life sentence. He was 79 and is thought to have died from natural causes.

Mr Garcia, now 70 and retired from the FBI, reacted tersely to the news. “Good riddance,” he said.

Compare this with Ana Belén Montes who was released from prison in January 2023 after 20 years.  I suspect the leniency in her sentencing was related to her motivations, protecting the human rights of Cubans.  Or maybe because it was Cuba she was spying for, not the Soviet Union.

Her actions (who she worked for, the material she gave away) were similar to Ames and Hanssen, but she received a much lighter sentence (25 years plus five on probation) than they did (multiple life sentences without parole).  Interestingly, she was released on January 6, 2023.  Philip Agee, ex-CIA spook who wrote CIA Diary and exposed all the CIA’s dirty secrets across Latin America, but never comitted treason against the US, died on January 7, 2008, almost exactly fifteen years before Montes’s release.  CIA Diary is available for download (PDF) from the Internet Archive.

Ana Montes: Former top spy says she will live in Puerto Rico

Ana Montes, a long-time Cuba spy recently released from prison in the US, has landed in her native Puerto Rico.

In a statement, Montes said she is now focused on leading a private life.

She has also called attention to difficulties facing people in Puerto Rico and the ongoing US embargo on Cuba.

Montes spent 20 years in custody after she was found to have been spying for Cuba for two decades.

The 65-year-old was called one of “the most damaging spies” by a US official.

Her spying, conducted during her time as an employee at the Defence Intelligence Agency, is said to have significantly exposed US intelligence operations in Cuba.

During her time at the agency, her colleagues, who did not know about her spying, dubbed her “the Queen of Cuba” because of her expertise in the region.

She was arrested in 2001 by the FBI, just 10 days after the attacks of 9/11.

On Friday, Montes was freed from a federal prison in Fort Worth, Texas.

Ames is 82, still alive and probably regretting every day of it.

The Inevitable Happens: Rabid ideologues get dragged out of court

A republican judge appointed by Cheetolini (the same one that first put a stay on the Tennessee “law” which criminalize not being cisgender and heterosexual) has ruled such bans are vague and unconstitutional.  Beau of the Fifth Column seems to think this will repeat itself elsewhere.

The part I don’t like about Parker’s decision is that the cis hetero male judge seems to falsely conflate being Trans or doing drag shows with being sexually explicit.  It’s only sexual if sex is involved.  Cheerleader routines at football and basketball games are more sexual than most drag shows.

Federal judge rejects Tennessee drag show ban as unconstitutional

WASHINGTON, June 3 (Reuters) – A federal judge has ruled that Tennessee’s law restricting drag performances in public or where children were present was unconstitutional, striking a blow to efforts in U.S. states to regulate LGBTQ conduct.

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee in February had signed the bill passed by the state’s assembly that aimed to restrict drag performances, putting the state at the forefront of a Republican-led effort to limit drag in at least 15 states in recent months.

U.S. District Judge Thomas Parker, an appointee of former Republican President Donald Trump, ruled late on Friday that the law was “both unconstitutionally vague and substantially overbroad.” The First Amendment to the Constitution commands that laws infringing on freedom of speech must be narrow and well defined, Parker said in the 70-page ruling.

“Simply put, no majority of the Supreme Court has held that sexually explicit — but not obscene — speech receives less protection than political, artistic, or scientific speech,” Parker said in the ruling.


Ahead of the 2024 elections, Republican lawmakers across the country have introduced more than 500 bills this year regulating the conduct of gay and transgender people, ranging from what can be taught in schools to bathroom use and medical care. At least 48 of those have passed, according to the Human Rights Campaign, an advocacy group.

Parker had temporarily blocked the law on March 31, just before it was set to go into effect, siding with Friends of George’s, a Memphis-based LGBTQ theater group that filed suit against the state.

So far so good.  But “unconstitutional” isn’t enough.  The judges hearing these and other cases should be demanding the phony “laws” be subjected to medical and scientific approval.

Copium Overdose: Was this made by the Walk-owskis?

Another youtube channel I watch regularly is Not Just Bikes by Jason Slaughter, a Canadian from Fake London (Ontario) who lives in the Netherlands.  He is adamantly anti-car, pro-public transport, and pro-environment.  His videos are normally slow paced and well thought out arguments (with humour) designed to make a point and reinforce it with facts.  However, two of his videos don’t follow that template.

Almost a year ago, he published the video, “There’s Something Wrong With Suburbia (The Orange Pill)”, a very Matrix-like, Morpheus-copying intro to the real world outside suburbia.  But your choice isn’t “red or blue pills”, it’s orange and blue pills, like a reference to orange and blue morality.  Watch the three minute video linked above first.

Then this week, he posted before watching the 16 minute film below.  This is absolutely hilarious, and sad at the same time.  He captures all the awfulness of suburban life.  It really makes you wonder why anyone would want to live like that without excess amounts of copium.

Another page I recently encountered is Dave Walker’s Diagram Club.  Not “cartoon”, but diagram he says, because it shows how things are.  And he’s right about that.  The image below comes from his site.

There are multiple incidents of entitled traffic terrorists intentionally driving through running races and bicycle races, threatening and endangering people because of the “injustice” of having to wait, of being forced to cede the road to bikes and runners one day out of the year.  Such hardship.

2018: Woman ‘regrets’ driving into path of runners in Plymouth

Her only regrets are being publicly shamed.  And for not killing anyone.

February 2023: Pickup driver arrested after crash with cyclists killed 2 and injured 17 others

He intentionally drove into them, to threaten and intimidate people who dared to ride bicycles on the road.  I don’t care what his intent was, he should be locked up for life.

November 2022: St. Pete woman stopped from driving into 5K runners, preventing mass casualties, police say

A woman in a deranged rover intentionally drove though the path of runners at a running race, placing her selfishness and impatience over people’s lives.

March 2023: Racers Endangered During Final Stage of Paris-Nice When Random Car Appears on The Course

This was caused by poor organization by those running the race.  But still, why is someone driving anywhere near a bike race?

September 2022: “I’ve killed one of you guys before”: close pass driver who left cyclist fearing for his life gets police caution

Yeah, a warning will stop that behaviour, because a ten year driving ban wouldn’t. 9_9

March 2023: Man on the run after driving car through Fargo-Moorhead bike race

A criminal on the run inadvertantly going through a bike race is not the same as road ragers that threaten cyclists.  But it’s equally awful.



Not two days after I posted, this item from CityNews in Toronto appeared.  It is EXACTLY like the Dave Walker image, car drivers whining incessantly about a ONE DAY cycling event “terrorizing the city”, “threatening motorists”.

This.  Ride.  Was.  On.  A.  Sunday.

And it was ONE DAY out of the year.  One.

The very next day, entitled traffic terrorists were back on the roads, threatening pedestrians and cyclists with impunity.





I Don’t Mind At All: Mind Your Decisions, on youtube

One of my favourite youtube channels is Mind Your Decisions by Presh Talwalker, a Stanford University graduate.  It’s a collection of math and logic puzzles, presenting solutions to problems using common techniques, or in the case of less common, he explains them in clear language so that the average viewer can understand.  His graphics and presentation are highly polished (even his videos from five years ago), and the mathematics is done on screen, making it easy to follow (or rewind and rewatch if you didn’t get  it the first time).  It’s always easy viewing, and often pleasantly surprising how simple the solutions can be to what appear to be complex problems.  He takes on many “viral” math problems and breaks them down, and shows problems from advanced math competitions and olympiads.

One of his most recent videos was on cube roots and their digits.  How many numbers are there where for any integer x, the sum of the digits of x^3 equals x?  The video preview shows one of them: 17 cubed is 4913, and 4+9+1+3 is 17.  Two of the seven are trivial, 0 and 1.  But what are the others?

Talwalker uses programming to test all the cases, but I’m working on an alternate solution that doesn’t require code and doesn’t involve exhaustive testing, using proof by elimination.  For example, 3√100000 is ~46.42, and 1+9+9+9+9+9 equals 46.  This means there are no solutions with six or more digits because the cube of any other sum will always be larger than the original number.  3√10 is ~2.15, and the cube of 2 is greater than 2, so there are no two digit solutions. (7 and 8 are the only integers whose cube last digit is less than that number, 3 and 2, all others are equal or greater.)  And 3√1000 is 10, so the only three digit solution is 8 (3√512, 5+1+2), since all others produce sums greater than the original number; 3 is less than 7 (3√343) but the sum is greater.  Thus the other four solutions all have four or five digits, but how do you find them without testing? 

Working on it (I know the answers, I’m looking for rules or methods of elimination).  Noticeably, with the except of 10 and 11, in all cases from 2 to 19 the sums of the cubes’ digits are equal to or greater than the original number.  For all cases 21 to 46, all the sums of the cubes’ digits are less than or equal to the original number. All multiples of ten (10, 20, 30, 40) automatically fail, and are less than the solution.

Spaced Out: This is cart and horse, not chicken and egg

NASA is holding some sort of “public meeting before a UFO report”.  My word, is this what NASA wants to waste its time on?

I may not be the most qualified person to comment on this, but these two things wishful thinking, not science:

“We don’t know what this is, therefore aliens!”

“Aliens exist, we just haven’t found them yet!”

I’m all for the search for life elsewhere, but as I may have said before, setting up unrealistic expectations only leads to a demand for results, impatience for not producing, or worse, some willing to fake results for the sake of their “career”.  There’s nothing wrong with saying life doesn’t exist elsewhere until we prove it.




Cash Crops: May 31st is World No Tobacco Day

As the title says, May 31st is World No Tobacco Day, a day to advocate the end of tobacco usage.  And in 2023, end its farming.

The WHO’s slogan for 2023 is Grow Food, Not Tobacco, which is apt considering the increasing effects of climate change: the reduction in arable land due to desertification, drought, rising sea levels, and tobacco’s toxicity, just to name a few.  Food insecurity is a growing problem, and growing a useless plant like tobacco is a waste of declining resources.  From the WHO’s website:

Tobacco growing harms our health, the health of farmers and the planet’s health. The tobacco industry interferes with attempts to substitute tobacco growing, contributing to the global food crisis.

This campaign encourages governments to end tobacco growing subsidies and use the savings to support farmers to switch to more sustainable crops that improve food security and nutrition. 

Campaign objectives

  1. Mobilize governments to end subsidies on tobacco growing and use of savings for crop substitution programmes that support farmers to switch and improve food security and nutrition.
  2. Raise awareness in tobacco farming communities about the benefits of moving away from tobacco and growing sustainable crops;
  3. Support efforts to combat desertification and environmental degradation by decreasing tobacco farming;
  4. Expose industry efforts to obstruct sustainable livelihoods work.

The key measure of campaign success would be the number of governments that pledge to end subsidies on tobacco growing.

Tobacco farming poisons the land it is grown on. (source: US’s National Cancer Institute)  Land that has had tobacco farming can no longer grow food nor be used for crop rotation.  It requires increasing use of pesticides and fertilizers to prevent desertification.  Unusable land then leads to deforestation and less plant cover (most tobacco farming happens at tropical lattitudes).

Tobacco farming poisons those who grow it.  (source: British Medical Journal)  Farmers are constantly exposed to nicotine, suffering the same effects are heavy smokers.

Cash crops are a short term “solution” that leads to long term problems. (source: Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance)  Just like farmers in Afghanistan are forced to grow poppies instead of food, farmers in tropical areas are “encouraged” to grow tobacco as a cash crop.  They don’t understand or think about the long term effects of land poisoning, their own health, or the fact that growing tobacco means they will have to buy food that they could and should have grown themselves.  Profit from their cash crops may not be sufficient income to live on, and they have destroyed the land for future food cultivation.

Resources (JPGs and PDF format) can be downloaded from the WHO website.

Posters and other campaign material can be downloaded from the WHO and PAHO websites.

Grow food, not tobacco – Tobacco crops lead to less food on tables (girl, PDF poster)

Grow food, not tobacco – Tobacco crops lead to less food on tables (boy, PDF poster)

[Read more…]

The Matrix Recalculated: This is beautiful

Anyone who’s ever worked with Dijkstra’s algorithm or complex information systems understands matrices, and knows what a PITA they are.  If they weren’t incredibly useful (from computer games to air traffic control), nobody would use them.

This video sounds like propaganda for google’s AI system.  Putting that aside, the reported increase in efficiency of solving matrics is incredible.  Problems on large matrices were always solvable, but took as long as an Ackerman function.  With these shortcuts, large matrices can be solved in reasonable times.

Now if they could just find a shortcut for inverting matrices (e.g. from 3×2 to 2×3).

Greedflation Exists: Even the corporate raiders now admit it

Axios recently published an item on inflation over the past four years.  Everyone who wasn’t a rightwingnut and either works for a living or worries about putting food on the table knew that inflation was caused by corporate greed.  If the costs of production went up by one cent, corporations would raise prices five cents, then blame “global pressures”, “COVID-19”, “supply chains”, “war in Ukraine”, or the biggest lie of all, “worker wages”.  Four years after the fact, the corporatists, not just the media, are admitting that “inflation” in recent years was almost entirely due to corporate profiteering, not any external factors.

Once a fringe theory, “greedflation” gets its due

Once dismissed as a fringe theory, the idea that corporate thirst for profits drives up inflation, aka “greedflation,” is now being taken more seriously by economists, policymakers and the business press.

Why it matters: Though inflation is starting to come down, it still remains well above the Fed’s target level of 2%, and understanding what’s causing inflation is key to combatting it — now and the next time.

The idea that profits drove our current bout of inflation surfaced in the last few years among progressive economists and lawmakers but was waved away by more mainstream types as a “conspiracy theory.” That changed earlier this year.

  • In a speech in January, then-Fed vice chair Lael Brainard said wages weren’t the main driver of inflation and pointed to a “price-price spiral,” where companies mark up prices far higher than the increases in their input costs.
  • In March, the chief economist at UBS Global Wealth Management, Paul Donovan, published a note on “profit margin-led inflation,” describing how in late 2022 and into this year, companies — particularly retailers and consumer goods makers — convinced consumers that they needed to raise prices. (They didn’t really.)
  • Most of the time, these companies have “weak pricing power,” meaning they depend on repeat customers and can’t just wildly increase prices because consumers will abandon them, he says.

But businesses both large and small had a convincing story to tell: They really didn’t want to raise prices, but there was “this terrible war or the pandemic or labor shortages or whatever,” Donovan tells Axios. “That’s what’s basically been going on.”

  • With so much in flux, people were more accepting of higher costs for everything, and more convinced companies HAD to raise prices.
  • In earnings conference calls last year especially, executives spoke in corporate lingo about consumers accepting such price increases.

Key point: Most folks aren’t sticking with the “greedflation” label — that got a lot of blowback from those who argued that companies have long been “greedy.”

  • That’s not what’s at play — Donovan’s work describes companies taking advantage of a window of opportunity to raise prices more than normal. Like kids in a candy shop.

A few weeks after Donovan’s paper came out, European Central Bank executive board member Fabio Panetta expressed worries that inflation growth was “due to increasing profits.”

I disagree with Axios on one thing: greedflation was never a “fringe theory”, it was accurate and silenced by those who profited.  Disaster Capitalism became Pandemic Capitalism.

It wasn’t “fringe” to say in 2001 that Saddam didn’t have WMDs.  It wasn’t “fringe” to say in 2014 that Putin had further ambitions and the world was appeasing him.  It wasn’t “fringe” to say in 2016 that rightwing extremists planned violence against Trans people and to use government to control women’s bodies.  It wasn’t “fringe” to say in 2019 rightwing extremists intended to overthrow democracy, etc.

These and other views were always valid, but the corporate media and those in power pretended they weren’t.  A “fringe theory” is one that has no facts to back it up, like “tax breaks for the rich help the economy”.