Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

2012 — The end of the world as we know it

September 10, 2009

As some would like to get you excited about anyway. Lately, the History Channel has been apparently trying to boost ratings by getting people excited about the end of the world coming shortly. In 2012, to be precise, and Dec. 21, 2012 to be even more precise. Of course, the world was already supposed to have ended in 1914, 1936, 1945, 1952, 1969, 1981, 1982, 1988, 1992, 1994, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, among other dates, including as early as 247. In 2013, we’ll likely be able to add 2012 to this list of failed dates.

So, why? Any google search will tell you that this particular date is the date that the Mayan calendar ends. In fact, as the above link shows, it seems likely that the Mayans had some notion of an age of enlightenment beginning with that new cycle. See here for more on the Mayan calendar end. Their calendars appear to be inspired from spiritual cycles, but based on the motions of Venus and possibly other planets. They were quite good at naked eye observational astronomy, great at making accurate seasonal predictions (useful for growing crops) based on those observations, and fantastic architects. They also seemed to think that blood letting is effective method to keep harmony in the universe and the gods happy to ensure good crops. So maybe in any case, the ancient Mayans are not the go-to guys for a useful model about how the universe works. There is still much to learn about the universe, of course, but nothing in astronomy, plate tectonics, or anything else suggests that an ultimate calamity is set to occur during 2012.

From what little I’ve seen on the programs on the History Channel, they don’t seem to be taking this more sober approach though. In fact, in their advertisements, they proclaim that many of the great prophets such as Nostradamus all point to a coming doomsday in 2012. In fact, I can’t find anywhere where Nostradamus makes a prediction specifically for 2012. The closest I’ve found is this famous quatrain:

The year 1999, seventh month,
From the sky will come a great King of Terror:
To bring back to life the great King of the Mongols,
Before and after Mars to reign by good luck.

Well, that’s clear. Let’s see, what happened July 1999? Ah, the Liberty Bell 7 from the Mercury program was lifted out of the Atlantic ocean. Man, Nostradamus was spot on after all! Oh wait, he said “Mars”, not “Mercury”. Must have been a typo. But 2012? Huh? Oh, I get it. Nostradamus was talking about Jupiter and the collision of comet Shoemaker-Levy. The five comet fragment that slammed into Jupiter. After all, Jupiter is the “King” of the planets, and to any Jovians living on the gas giant, those comet fragments must have seemed like a terror in the sky. But that was from 1994, five years off from 1999. Perhaps there was some perturbation Nostradamus forgot to calculate, or maybe five years is symbolic? Plus his quatrain would make the comet the king. Oh well, I’m sure somebody can think of some way to make it fit and it will be wonderfully poetic and symbolic.

Now I’m sure in 2012, somebody will find something that will twist some vaguely worded quatrain or prophecy to seem like that’s what was meant. One of the token skeptics on the History Channel said that these so-called prophets shoot a lot of arrows and later people draw targets around them to make it look like that’s where the arrow was meant to go. Shoot enough arrows and people will find ways to draw targets around them. I couldn’t say it better myself.

Of course, no mention of famous doomsday prophets is complete without Edgar Cayce. Someday I’ll have to do a full write up on this guy. The History Channel again seems to link up Cayce with 2012. So far, I’ve found no mention that Cayce predicted anything specifically for 2012. But that would seem to be irrelevant anyway. One of the major gifts he was supposed to have was psychic healing and diagnosis. In fact, there is no reliable evidence this ever worked. He seemed to rely on old homemade remedies and homeopaths and the like. What Cayce fans point to as evidence in favor of his psychic diagnoses is, in fact a scatter shot of arrows towards which they could point at one of the arrows in a diagnosis to claim victory. According to what I saw on the History Channel, he opened up a psychic hospital to perpetuate his fraud, er. self-delusions, er, cures. If his method was so successful, we would have expected this to have become a booming medical center. In fact, it went broke (albeit in a really bad economy), a fact one would think would have been “forseen”. For James Randi’s write up on Cayce, see here.

For another great take, and a rare agreement from me for this site, check out God and Science for another perspective on all the 2012 hoopla. For a taste:

The 2012 disasters are such good violence and mayhem that they would make the ultimate disaster movie. Hey, somebody needs to make a lot of money…

Well said.

So, in short, when the big bad asteroid comes to destroy the earth, the prophets and seers will not be the ones to tell you about it. It will be the astronomers, with telescopes pointed at the sky and scribbling down orbital mechanics calculations. Unless, of course, one of the prophets also happens to be one of the afore-mentioned astronomers.

District 9 review

September 8, 2009

Well, we finally went out and saw the movie District 9. For its intent, this movie was quite well done. In the extremely unlikely event aliens would ever come here, and if they were in the sad shape these aliens happened to be in, I would hope that the outcome would be different. Sadly, in this hypothetical situation, I can see this movie as being not too far off the mark. In the movie, the worst of humanity was put on display for our visitors. Humanity’s inhumanity to others who are different, to themselves, along with a healthy dose of greed and superstition. The reason this is somewhat plausible is because this is stuff we’ve seen before. With European colonization of the Americas, to apartheid in South Africa, to Nigerian witchhunts, to the genocide in Rwanda. The fact that people do notice these things and that there is moral outrage is a sign of progress, but it seems we have a significant ways to go to raise the bar.

Possible spoilers below the fold.

The Beck paradox

August 14, 2009

Unfortunately, I have not had very much time to put into watching actual news, let alone Faux News, but after my run and during stretches tonight I managed to see a little of the Colbert Report (caution, automatic audio there) which had an interesting clip of Glenn Beck. The whole Beck video can be found here.

Essentially, he said that Obama has a “deep seat hatred for white people”. When confronted with the fact that Obama has actually put many Caucasians (or “white people”) on his staff, he replied that he wasn’t saying that that Obama “didn’t like white people”, but that he was still was clearly a racist. His evidence was that Obama attended Rev. Wright’s church (I would be prepared to call Obama delusional on this point, but that’s a different story). Oh, and calling the actions of a cop stupid for arresting a professor for behaving obnoxiously. I am not sure Beck understands the meaning of the word evidence.

This begs two questions.
1) Why is Glenn Beck still on the air?
2) Why would anyone hire Beck for any position requiring at least a high school diploma?

But then, this is television, and Faux News no less. So, probably the answer to 2) explains 1).

Unscientific America, a nonreview Part 1

July 19, 2009
Stepping out

Stepping out

Lately there’s been a lot of talk about Chris Mooney’s and Sheril Kirshenbaum’s latest book, Unscientific America. I have not yet read this book. I would like to, but burdened already underneath a huge reading list and too many projects, it is not likely I will have a chance to do so. So this, unlike other reviews of the book out there, will be a non-review. I think it is good that they have sparked some discussion, although much of the discussion seems to have been focused on the wrong things. From the review I linked to above, much of their discussion seems to not have been backed up with sufficient evidence and they don’t seem to have really addressed the root causes of the problem, if in fact, there is a problem.

They seem to lay part of the scientific illiteracy problem at the feet of the so-called new atheists. Apparently spending a couple of chapters to do so. The thinking seems to be that outspoken atheists alienate people and drive them away from science. They single out P.Z. Myers and Richard Dawkins as the poster children for this so-called bad behavior. There is a strong anti-science component in the U.S. There are people determined to undermine science education and public policy choices informed by good science. In strong part, this component is fueled by religious fervor and thinking. People like P.Z. Myers are addressing this, and rightly so. The muddle headed anti-critical thinking that is often inspired by religious thinking needs to be pointed out, and when necessary, mocked. One of the factors, according to their blog, Moony and Kirshenbaum, decided to leave science blogs was the “Crackergate” affair (Google it, if you haven’t heard about it. I’m too lazy to go digging around for that at the moment.). This just borders on the bizarre. It was not directed at them. In fact, the whole thing should have been merely a barely noticed minor blip on the “blog-dar”. The fact that it got so much attention speaks far more about the disproportionate reactions religious thinking inspires than anything Myers did. This fact seems to have been lost on Mooney and Kirshenbaum.

Nevertheless, Mooney and Kirshenbaum do a service on at least helping to spark some discussion on addressing scientific illiteracy. I don’t think a case is clearly made that it is a growing problem, but I think we are probably safe in assuming that we, as a nation, are not as literate in science as we could be. I think there is some discussion to be had on just how literate is enough. Not everyone is going to be needing to figure out how to do lattice gauge calculations, or what have you. Certainly, as a representative democracy, we need to be able to carry on a public discussion about climate change, recognize the need for vaccines, alternative energies, and so forth. There are several contributing factors to anti-science thinking in the U.S. Religion is one of them. The other is that same democratic spirit that made helps to define our national character. “I don’t need no ivory tower scientist to tell me how things work!”. Yankee ingenuity, all of us are equally capable, no elites necessary. I personally know several people where these traits combine to make the perfect storm. “Creationism is just another viewpoint! It should be taught in the schools on at least equal footing!”. These are factors about which very long discussions can be had and perhaps we’ll explore these further in future posts (I’ve already hit on these a few times myself), though feel free to tackle them in comments.

The suggestion that Mooney and Kirshenbaum make is to pave the way for an increased number of literate science communicators, modeled after Carl Sagan. Get scientific ideas out to the public and help them understand what we’re doing, and how things work. Chad Orzel, over at Uncertain Principles is running with this ball. I certainly agree that it is important to get ideas out there. To enable people to see a little better how the world works, and how it effects daily lives and public policy. It is an important mission. Of course, in fact, there are plenty of good science communicators out there already. There is Chad Orzel, of course. We also have Phil Plait, Sean Carroll, et al, P.Z. Myers (linked to earlier), Jennifer Oulette, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Ken Miller, and many more. My first thought is not that there is a lack of good science communicators, but many are lost in the white noise of everything available on all the different available media. With a few exceptions (Phil Plait on Coast to Coast radio, for example), one has to seek these guys out. There is a preaching to the choir effect where those who are interested and motivated by science will find these good communicators. We have to nurture the interest, and I think this starts with a good education, along with something that will engage imagination and curiosity.

So to start with examining such matters, and to throw in a few thoughts, I’ll look to myself as an example. What motivated me to go into science? What were the initial seeds? One of course, was museums. Visiting air and space museums and natural history. Another was the movie 2001, A Space Odessy”. I had no idea what this movie was about as a kid, but the awesomeness of space exploration was firmly transfixed in my mind and inspired me to learn all I could. Another factor that contributed to my motivation was the lunar landing of Apollo 11 on July 20, 1969. Getting humans to the moon, and then back, was a stunning achievement, not only for America (after all, it was a competition with the Soviets), but for all humanity. This motivated many young minds at the time into studying science and engineering.

It is now 40 years after this stunning achievement. Friday night, I saw nothing on T.V. celebrating this. Aside from a few obligatory film footage shots on CNN this morning and a good article in the LA Times, the media have been relatively quiet. Is this part of the problem? What can be done now to make the type of inspiration stemming from Apollo 11 part of our national fabric?

The Iran problem and theocracies

June 28, 2009

One of the larger pieces of news over the last few weeks was the Iranian election. Or what passes for an election anyway. As I’m sure everybody has heard by now, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was allegedly re-elected and Mir Hossein Mousavi, was apparently not. As Mousavi seemed to have a lot of popular support this shocked many Iranians who took to the streets to voice their disapproval. The regime, led by Supreme Leader issued stern warnings and eventually cracked down on dissent with violence. This was accompanied by an attempt to control information. Not allowing journalists to properly cover events, and attempting to control and censor the internet connections to and out of Iran. Typical of a theocratic mindset. We see the same thing on a very small scale on some religious blogs. Post a sound rebuttal to some argument and it is deleted, at least at some sites. Can’t let people see that. Fortunately, the educated populace of Iran managed to skirt around some of these issues and get videos posted to youtube and so forth.

But what about the internet censorship? Apparently two companies are involved in developing the technology to help the religious leaders of Iran monitor and possibly block internet access, Nokia, and Siemens. From the article:

in confronting the political turmoil that has consumed the country this past week, the Iranian government appears to be engaging in a practice often called deep packet inspection, which enables authorities to not only block communication but to monitor it to gather information about individuals, as well as alter it for disinformation purposes, according to these experts.

The monitoring capability was provided, at least in part, by a joint venture of Siemens AG, the German conglomerate, and Nokia Corp., the Finnish cellphone company, in the second half of 2008, Ben Roome, a spokesman for the joint venture, confirmed.

How does it work?

Deep packet inspection involves inserting equipment into a flow of online data, from emails and Internet phone calls to images and messages on social-networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Every digitized packet of online data is deconstructed, examined for keywords and reconstructed within milliseconds. In Iran’s case, this is done for the entire country at a single choke point, according to networking engineers familiar with the country’s system. It couldn’t be determined whether the equipment from Nokia Siemens Networks is used specifically for deep packet inspection.


Big Brother is alive and well in Iran. From a technology standpoint, it is kind of cool how it works, but ultimately is fundamentally at odds to a healthy democracy. Interestingly, the President of Iran has little real power. The ultimate power rests with the undemocratically selected Supreme Leader. From the Wiki:

However, certain executive powers, such as command of the armed forces and declaration of war and peace, remain in the hands of the Supreme Leader.[5] Furthermore the Supreme Leader may even dismiss the president and prevent the legitimation of any law (appointed by assembly) by the institutions under his control, the Guardian Council and the Expediency Council.

So, that’s the real problem. A shining example of how religion mixed with politics leads to a mindset critical of openness, and insidiously controlling of all. Iran needs a velvet revolution. I doubt that will happen though as this is not a threat to national identity and does not interfere with local religious practices. But it should inspire all of us to vigorously support the American United for Separation of Church and State organization.

The silly party

April 18, 2009
Silly walks for a silly party

Silly walks for a silly party

I didn’t really have the time to blog about it, but I’m sure you have all heard about the conservative Republicans latest experiment with tea bagging (also here and yet another unique take). Without delving into particulars of what this can be taken to mean, allow me simply to say that this exhibits right wing cluelessness at countless levels. The motivation was, of course, to emulate the Boston Tea Party. This was an event at which some of the individuals associated with the American Revolution dressed nominally as Indians and dumped tea into the harbor to protest British taxes on tea imposed with no representation from the colonies. The only thing in common with this week’s tea party was that it involved tea (though had nothing to do with a tea tax) and was about taxes. Taxes legislated, by the way, from our representative government.

I saw a clip on the Daily Show in which a “tea-bagger” was asked about this. He said that he was not represented. More specifically, he added, his views were not “represented”. This fellow needs to retake civics class in high school, as he obviously flunked it while utterly and studiously failing to learn what a representative government is. What is more funny is that this individual will probably see a tax decrease from Obama. He was protesting the fact that taxes will be raised to a level slightly lower than it was under Reagan on people likely much wealthier than him. The money from the taxes will, of course, go towards paying for infrastructure, education, defense, etc. Is the stimulus and budget going to raise the deficit? Yes. But we are now in a bad situation with no good solutions. Only varying shades of bad. It will get better eventually, and it seems possible that Obama’s solution will shorten the wait.

On top of the utterly ridiculous tea party, we have the governor of Texas making not exactly veiled threats to secede. That would be interesting. Let me know how that goes Perry. Last I recall, it didn’t go so smoothly.

Now on one of the Daily Show clips I saw earlier, one of the protesters was holding up a sign showing Obama as Hitler. This was something I’ve seen started during the campaign in fact. Last week or so, I was sent a right wing chain mail warning people about the media’s “love affair” with Obama. Then ended with the quote “What good fortune for those in power that people do not think. ” by Hitler. Are right wing conservatives so devoid of ideas that they’ve got to drag out the old and tired Hitler cliche? Nosing around, I found a youtube video that purports to demonstrate how Obama is like Hitler. Go ahead and watch. I’ll wait.

Done? O.K. The main argument of the video seems to be that Hitler was popular and spoke at big rallies. Obama is popular and speaks at big political rallies. Therefore, Obama is Hitler. It’s kind of baby play, but I type fast so let’s break this down. Abstract it out.
Statement 1: X is P and Q.
Statement 2: Y is P and Q.
Conclusion: X is Y.
Let’s try it out for fun, and stick with the Hitler theme.
Paul McCartney is popular and a vegetarian.
Hitler was popular and a vegetarian.
Paul McCartney is Hitler.
Wow! Who knew?

Except last I checked Paul McCartney is not trying to invade Poland (at least not militarily; I’m not sure what his concert schedule is after Coachella.). Obama is not blaming a specific race of people for our current economic woes and advocating rounding them up into ghettos. Nor does he seem geared up to invade Mexico or Canada. Perhaps the main argument is that Obama doesn’t stumble all over his words like somebody else. Not mentioning any names. Is it now fair game for any articulate speaker to be likened to Hitler?

Now, Obama, along with rest of us, is a descendant from a primate from long ago. In other words, he is human. He is not perfect, and in fact, has a made a few decisions I’ve not agreed with. Going forward, I’m sure he’ll favor decisions that require more debate and modification. But it looks as though the conservatives* have nothing further to contribute to the debate. So, a message to all the conservatives out there. If you ever decide you can actually have a serious adult conversation, we’ll be over here fixing problems. Until then, I guess we’ll just have to regard you as the Silly Party.

*There may be a few good folks left here. For example, Schwarzenegger, although I don’t agree with him on a lot, has not been totally bad and seems somewhat amenable to reason and evidence now and then. Maybe the few sensible ones left should go off and form their own party.

New OS

March 29, 2009

Sort of off topic from anything I’ve written here, but, hey, I think it was kind of fun. I spent yesterday afternoon installing the openSuSE 11.1 Linux distribution on a new system I bought recently. So, I can now give a brief review so far.

Seems like a pretty stable distro so far. The installation went very smoothly. I had to spend a little time mucking about with the partitioning, since the interface is significantly different than what I’m used to with SuSE (10.2 and going back earlier). But I managed to create the / mount, swap, and stick everything else into logical volumes (/home, /usr, /opt, /{and so on}) for ease of expansion later. Once that was done, everything went as smooth as liquid helium. The sound card (82801G ICH7 family high definition audio controller) worked perfectly. My last sound card worked as well, but I do remember the days when sound cards on Linux was kind of hit and miss.

One of my pet peeves in software design is poor user interface design. There were a few glitches in this area. I opted to use a static IP address (for some future DNS set up, and didn’t want to fool around with callbacks, being kind of lazy) instead of a DHCP (obtaining a dynamic IP). In spite of a perfectly valid IP I entered, it kept complaining that it was invalid. Turns out I had an extra space before the address. How difficult could it be to trim out extra spaces? This is what we do in our code all the time. The most tedious part was getting online updates near the end of the installation. We have a cable network connection to “the cloud” and this just took forever. Which is o.k., I’ve got things to read while this is going on. But, when one connection fails it would throw up a dialog asking to retry, ignore, or skip. I’d usually hit retry and everything would be fine. It would also give a little beep when pressing the “Retry” button. In fact, it would have been more useful to have the beep when throwing up the dialog. I don’t need audio confirmation that I pressed a button; I have visual confirmation of that. The updates take so long that I need an audio cue that the dialog came up. There were many instances where I’d look up from my reading and chance to see the dialog.

It is still painful to grab all software to install (all the optional packages and such). In the old days, after selecting all, you wouldn’t actually get everything but would still need to go and select individual packages. I didn’t actually see a select all option this time, but had to go in from the beginning and select everything individually. I do tend to want to get everything out there, all kernel source, all development tools, etc., etc., so I’m not sure how much of an issue this would be for the average user. But I will say that compared to previous releases, there was much less in the way of having to slog through dependency hell this time. They seem to have fixed this up pretty nicely.

With KDE 4.1, the task bar disappeared when moving to multiple desktops. After researching this for a while and finding no clear answer applicable to what I was doing, I found rebooting fixed the problem. Probably restarting the windows manager would have been sufficient, but oh well. KDE 4.1 does seem pretty sexy (yes, I opted for KDE instead of gnome, although I went ahead and installed all the gnome software). Infinitely configurable as well, there’s a whole lot to play with here.

But all in all, those complaints are pretty minor compared to the big changes that seems to have gone into this distro. The NIC (network card) drivers worked great. On the old SuSE 10.2, my NIC card would not work unless I have a noapic parameter to the kernel on boot. Took a lot of headaches to figure that out. With 11.1, the network connection came right up with no headaches at all. It came with a lot of cool apps and server additions. I’ll have to spend more time playing around with it to see everything they got, but so far, responsive and solid. If you want to try a Linux distribution, you wouldn’t make a bad choice to go with this one.

After backing things up and moving things around, I’ll replace the old SuSE 10.2 with Ubuntu to play with and see how that goes. I keep hearing good things about Ubuntu and guess I should see what the fuss is about.

All eyes on Texas

March 27, 2009

It looks like we have narrowly averted a major assault against science education in Texas, but that Champion of Ignorance, Dr. McLeroy continue the assault with what has been termed a death of a thousand cuts. One of his wedge arguments he tried to get in is to examine the sufficiency or insufficiency of a cell to have formed from natural selection. I touched on that a little bit here where I pointed out some plausible scenarios that could kicked off the whole shebang. Of course, to rigorously examine this far beyond the scope of high school biology. The only reason for wanting students to think natural selection may not be “sufficient” is to try to seed doubt. Normally, doubt is a good thing of course. Scientists doubt themselves all the time, and if not, they’ll get corrected later if need be. But the doubt McLeroy wants to sow is that evolution may not work, and this simply goes against everything we know in biology. Muddying the water with doubt about well established scientific principles is not appropriate in a science class.

Next, we had stuff on how the universe formed. Somebody named Cargill seems to have wanted standards with more “humility”, recognizing that there are “other theories out there”. It was laughable that she couldn’t actually name any other these relevant theories. I’m also not too sure that high school students are prepared to go into discussing anisotropies of the cosmic microwave background and relation to various inflationary models. Is this what Cargill had in mind? Somehow, I doubt it. And these are the people deciding the future of education for our country? I shudder in fear.

It is frustrating dealing with Creationists, but I almost wish that they just went ahead and said textbooks needed to discuss strengths and weaknesses of evolution. If I were to write a biology textbook (which I won’t; I’ll leave that to actual biologists who know much more about the material than I), I would do this in the first chapter:
We will now examine the strengths and weaknesses of evolution.
Strengths of evolution: See the rest of the book.
Weaknesses of evolution: None.

Happy Pi Day!

March 14, 2009
Pie Are Round!

Pie Are Squared!

A very Happy Pi day for everyone. Of course, the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter, \pi, has a long and fascinating history, as can also be found here and here. It allows us to easily do useful things with angles, and hence phases for describing waves and much more.

One of the many formulae for computing \pi (as can be found at Wolfram) is:

\pi = 2\sum_{n=0}^{\infty}\frac{n!}{(2n + 1)!!}

Besides being a very cool formula, that was also an excuse to dip my toes into Latex again. It’s been quite a few years since playing with for publishing, so it feels good to have it here on the WordPress blogging engine.

Getting back to \pi, it seems only fitting that this ancient and venerable number have its own day to be remembered. It also seems only right that this day be 3.14. It also seems only fitting that its day be celebrating by eating, what else, pie! Having illustrated one of the formulae for obtaining \pi, I direct your attention to what could appear to be a most excellent way to obtain pie. The Quantum Pontiff has posted a pie recipe which incredibly includes 2 of the major food groups, chocolate and bacon. Being an experimentalist swayed by primarily by evidence, it seems these experimental results will need to be reproduced.

Mr. Obama, build up this wall!

February 18, 2009

A recent perusal of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State has a recent article detailing Obama’s apparent reluctance of reversing Bush’s allowance for religious organizations to keep hiring discrimination even in the face of receiving government support. As noted, this was also reported in the LA Times.

From Americans United, Rob Boston writes:

As a candidate, Obama promised to end the noxious Bush order allowing religious discrimination in tax-funded programs. The rules that Bush overturned with his directive, I should note, were put in place by President Franklin D. Roosevelt; they were one of the nation’s first efforts to get serious about civil rights protections. Roosevelt was right to put that order in place, and Bush was wrong to change it. Americans United intends to keep pushing until Obama understands that.

Excellent for Americans United; I can always count on them. I understand the motivation to help those who are helping others, but if an organization is to receive federal dollars, they need to follow federal guidelines. To not wish to work with someone qualified simply because they may believe differently than you is childish. It is, as Paul writes, time to put away childish things. The important thing is to get the work done.

In fact, there are many secular organizations the government could be helping. To supply funding to religious organizations, no matter the motivation, undermines the wall of separation between church and state. I do not think that theists would appreciate the possibility of government intrusion into their religion, and many of us do not appreciate religion intruding into our government. These are two tastes that do not go well together. Historically, this mixture has been fraught with peril and horror. So it would be better to just do away with the government supported faith based initiative completely. Mr. Obama, build up that wall! (To be clear, the wall is already there. It needs to be made impermeable. But, “Obama, make that wall impermeable!” seems to lack some of the dramatic oomph.)

While you are at, President Obama, you may want to consider giving up smoking. It will help your basketball game.