The COOLIBAH

The Coolibah was a well visited gourmet restaurant, with a unique modus operandi, catering to an upper class clientele.  It operated during the  1960s until the mid 90’s in Ventura and then later Miners Oaks (near Ojai) California.

The Coolibah restaurant was opened in 19xx by Yugoslavian born restaurateur, Sam Kovich. He named the establishment The Coolibah, after the Australian gum tree.

Its original location was essentially hidden in an unpretentious shopping center on Ventura Boulevard in Los Angeles’s San Fernando Valley. The restaurant’s presence was advertised only by a conventional business card tacked onto the door. Later in his life, anticipating his retirement, Kovich moved the restaurant to a section of his retirement home at 100 S. Arnaz Ave, in Meiner’s Oaks, California (a suburb of Ojai).

The restaurant’s initial opening was supported financially by Howard F. Ahmanson, Chairman of Home Savings, (the largest S&L at the time), as an exclusive place to cater to his personal and business friends and associates.

Kovich’s vision was to operate a truly unique restaurant serving unusual gourmet selections and served meticulously, and one that would cater to a highly selective upper class clientele. He never advertised the restaurant. The business operated strictly on word of mouth and he was adamantly against any kind of publicity.

The restaurant was only open three nights a week, or else on weekends. Guests arrived at a preset time, were greeted with a flute of Champaign, and were seated at one of the six to eight tables.  Service began only after everyone was seated. Occasionally, after  the guests arrived, they were given a formal tour of a large spotless kitchen in which there was absolutely nothing to see in the way of food preparation, save for a small pan of soup on the stove. “Food like this,” they were told, “cannot be prepared in advance”

There was no menu or individual requests (unless you happened to be someone famous).

Its doors were open only to invited guests or those that had previously established themselves as clients.  Potential guests were subjected to a certain amount of scrutiny upon making reservations as well as before, during and after the meal. Usually, they were there as a guest of or introduced by an existing client. After a new client made an initial reservation, Kovich would call them personally to give directions and related imperatives. For example, there was a definite dress code: suits and coats for men and long dresses for women.

Kovich mingled with the patrons during the evening He personally spent a great deal of the time with his guests, discoursing, lecturing, reminiscing, and even chastising. He reportedly criticized one customer for kissing his date. It appeared that the main purpose of his culinary endeavor was to capture people and hold them in his complete power for an entire evening.

After the meal was done, the kitchen the guests were invited to visit the small and somehow magically impeccably clean kitchen. There was no sign of employees, other than the waiters. Kovich must have done at least some of the cooking. In this scant operation, Kovich hosted and his wife collected the money. Their pet dog was free to roam about the place adding a mystique to the image.

At both the original as well as the later locations, the dining room consisted of a small number of tables set with solemn magnificence. Opulent centerpieces of flowers, candles, silver goblets and bowls of fruits and nuts dominate the tables. Five-fork place settings were graced with an array of wine glasses. The effect is both elegant and somewhat surreal–a cross between a Dutch still-life masterpiece and a ’50s Hollywood film set.

There was no menu.  The meal consisted of nine unvarying courses including wine and Champaign. The meal was served by college students who were outfitted in black tuxedos, and who never spoke a word.

The unvarying meal consisted of the following courses, interspersed with a suitable choice of wines and campaign at appropriate points in the meal. (He would not serve more wine to prevent people from becoming too rowdy).

  1. Smoked pheasant soup made with cream, red peppers, fresh ginger and a touch of mint.
  2. Shrimp canapés, essentially a minute portion of shrimp in warm Russian dressing on a Triscuit.
  3. small crepes filled with eggplant, chicken, crunchy wild rice and pungent fresh ginger,
  4. (The feast) presented as Kovich circled the room, displaying three succulent roasts on a silver platter (beef Wellington, lamb noisette and chateaubriand of beef) with an accompaniment of rice topped by a gravy made with drippings from the roasts.
  5. a salad with a grapefruit-tinged dressing served with a fine piece of semi-soft Finnish cheese, and
  6. (The grand finale), a small crepe suzette, which went around the room in a blaze of glory, superseded by a demitasse of quasi-Turkish coffee.

As one patron described it “This was an experience of feasting without gluttony, I’ve never had better service in my life–ever.”.

The price was usually an astonishingly low $23 per person, including beverages for many years.  At its highest, it was $32 per person. 

As a matter of course, the Coolibah attracted some of the most notable of clientele. In a corner of the restaurant, a huge leather portfolio was filled with letters dating back to the ’60s and ’70s attesting to the fact that many other diners felt the need to put words to paper acknowledging their admiration for The Coolibah.

Kovich once prepared a special squab appetizer for Michael Milken, the Wall Street tycoon, who called to cancel his reservation following a plunge in the market that cost him $260 million. He thoughtfully suggested that Kovich send him the bill for the evening. The appetizer defaulted to another lucky diner.

Kovich operated the Coolibah for decades, catering to thousands, until shortly before his death at the age of 80.  It’s safe to say that he leaves a void that will not be filled anytime soon.

CHRISTIANITY

Over the course of time a host of religions preceded Christianity, each with their own gods or saviors and different beliefs. Christianity began in the 1St century as a Jewish sect. Originating in the Middle East’s Levant region, it quickly spread to Syria, Mesopotamia, Asia Minor and Egypt

Christianity expanded in size and influence over the next few centuries, and by the end of the 4th century it had become the official church of the Roman Empire, replacing all previous forms of religion. During the middle ages most of the remainder of Europe became Christianized, with Christians holding a lesser reign in the Middle East, North Africa, Ethiopia and parts of India.

Following the Age of Discovery, Christianity spread to the Americas Australasia, sub-Saharan Africa and in the rest of the world. This expansion was essentially through missionary work and colonization. Christianity has played a prominent role in the shaping of Western civilization. As of the early 21st century, Christianity is the world’s largest religion, with approximately 2.2 billion adherents.

DEFINITION:

Christianity is a monotheistic and Abrahamic religion based upon the life and teachings of Jesus Christ as presented in canonical gospels and other Old and New Testament writings. The central tenet of Christianity is the belief in Jesus as the son of God and the Messiah. The core Christian belief is that through belief in an acceptance in the death and resurrection of Jesus, sinful humans can be reconciled to God and thereby are offered salvation and the promise of eternal life.  The foundation of Christian theology is expressed in early ecumenical creeds which contain claims predominantly accepted by followers of the Christian faith. Specifically, they claim that:

  • Jesus suffered, died, was buried and was subsequent resurrected from the dead in order to grant eternal life to those who believe in him and trust him for the remission of their sins.
  • Jesus bodily ascended into heaven where he rules and reigns with God and the Father.
  • Jesus will return to judge all humans, living and dead and grant eternal life to his followers.

PRINCIPAL BELIEFS:

  • In God the father, Jesus Christ as the Son of God and the Messiah (Christ) and the Holy Spirit
  • The death descent into hell, resurrection, and ascension of Christ.
  • The holiness of the church and the communion of saints
  • Christ’s second coming, the Day of Judgment and salvation of the faithful
  • The Christ child’s being the product of an immaculate conception
  • The virgin Mary was conceived without any stain of original sin. God directly inseminated Mary (his mother) and that the infant was essentially the son of God.
  • The Christ child is thought to be a superposition with God and the Holy Spirit, i.e. the Trinity
  • Christ is said to have risen from the dead three days after his after his crucifixion. (The Resurrection)
  • The Bible predicts the Christ will return to Earth (Second coming) the Day of Judgment and salvation of the faithful. (See below)

Christians consider the resurrection of Jesus to be the cornerstone of their faith and the most important event in human history. According to the New Testament, Jesus was crucified, died of physical death, and was buried within the tomb, and rose from the dead three days later.

END OF THE WORLD PREDICTIONS:  (Christian eschatology)

  • the tribulation
  • death and the afterlife
  • the Rapture
  • the second coming of Jesus
  • Resurrection of the Dead
  • Heaven and Hell
  • Millennialism
  • the Last Judgment
  • the end of the world, and
  • the New Heavens and New Earth.

Christians believe that the second coming of Christ will occur at the end of time after a period of severe persecution (the Great Tribulation). All who have died will be resurrected bodily from the dead for the Last Judgment. Jesus will fully establish the Kingdom of God in fulfillment of scriptural prophecies. Most Christians believe that human beings experienced divine judgment and are rewarded either with eternal life or eternal damnation.

The table below classifies the various terms and events supporting Christianity chronologically, including a brief explanation of their meaning and assessment as to their factual basis or creditability  (See Legend).

TERM/EVENT EXPLANATION N/S
Immaculate Conception Premise under which Christ was born without original sin, by   being impregnated directly by God.   S
Trinity “Father, Son and   Holy Spirit” represents both the immanence and transcendence of God. God   is believed to be infinite and God’s presence may be perceived through the   actions of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. Father being unbegotten; the Son   being begotten of the Father; and the Holy Spirit proceeding from the Father   and from the Son.   S
Crucifixion Jesus suffered death   by crucifixion.  N
Death Christ reportedly died   a physical death following his crucifixion.  N
Burial Christ, now deceased,   was reportedly buried within a tomb  N
Resurrection After being buried   within a tomb, Christ is said to have risen from the dead three days later,   in order to grant eternal life to those who believe in him, and trust in him   for the remission of their sins.   S
Descent into hell Jesus’ spirit   reportedly went to hell after His death to proclaim judgment to sinners   and/or rescue the saints of the Old Testament. Today, many in the heretical   Word of Faith movement teach that the crucifixion was insufficient to atone   for our sins and that Jesus also had to suffer three days of torment   in hell.   S
Ascension Jesus’ resurrected   body assertedly ascended into heaven where he rules and reigns with God the   Father.   S
Heaven and Hell Christianity teaches that our lives   extend beyond the grave and there is an afterlife, and one’s soul is destined   for either Heaven if they are saved, or Hell if they are unsaved or sinners.   S
Rapture A future,   end-times event when all true believers who are still alive before the end of   the world will supposedly be taken from the earth by God into heaven.   S
Great Tribulation Tumultuous events   referenced in Revelations.   S
Second Coming The event prophesized   to occur at the end of time after a period of severe persecution (the Great   Tribulation). All who have died will be resurrected bodily from the dead for   the Last Judgment. Jesus will return to earth to fully establish the Kingdom   of God in fulfillment of scriptural prophecies. Jesus will return to judge   all humans, living and dead, and grant eternal life to his followers.   S
Millennialism A Golden Age or   Paradise on earth in which Christ will reign for 1000 years prior to the Day   of judgment.   S
Day of Judgment Jesus, now alive again   is prophesized to come back to earth in order that he might judge all humans,   living and dead, and grant eternal life to his followers.   S
Salvation of the   faithful. Jesus’ followers will be granted eternal life.   S
End of the world A literal earth cleansed by fire.   S
New Heavens and New   Earth After the events of the end times, the current heavens and earth   will be done away with and replaced by the new heavens and new earth.  The eternal dwelling place of believers   will be the new earth. The new earth is the “heaven” on which mankind will   spend eternity. It is the new earth where the New Jerusalem, the heavenly   city, will be located. It is on the new earth that the pearly gates and   streets of gold will be.   S
Legend
N = Natural event
S = Supernatural (Miraculous) event

As depicted in the above table, almost the entire framework and basis of Christianity is predicated on a series of “miracles” or “supernatural events or phenomena: that are based entirely on scriptural or anecdotal accounts and for which there is no scientific evidence.  The only scientifically valid accounts among the entire framework are Christ’s death (crucifixion) and his burial.

Philosopher David Hume provides a simple syllogism for testing the credibility of “miracles”, (or supernatural) events:

  • A miracle is a violation of the known laws of physics.
  • We know these laws through constant and repeated experience.
  • The testimony of those that report miracles contradict the operation of the known scientific laws.
  • Consequently, no one can rationally believe in miracles.

If we are to rely on scientific reasoning, than Christianity is little more than folklore.  Yet for those millions guided by faith and scriptures, Christianity still serves as the most widely believed account of our religion.  WHAT IS YOUR CONCLUSION?

THE LIMITS OF SCIENCE

This article addresses the nature of limits, including how new discoveries alter our existing knowledge, how limits inherent in nature can constrain our understanding of the natural world, how these limits have changed over the years, and the implications of these limits for future civilizations.

Before enumerating the limits and/or end of science, it is appropriate to acknowledge science’s  many extraordinary accomplishments. The advances in science made over the past hundred years have been nothing short of astounding:

  • We’ve split the atom, traveled to the moon, decoded the human genome and saved countless lives with robotic surgery and designer drugs.
  • As it stands today, science has amassed a remarkable scientific baseline that spans from a fraction of a second after the Big Bang to predictions as to the universe’s ultimate fate; and from the most elementary subatomic particle, to the largest galaxies and beyond.

Just a few of science’s baseline constituents are:

  •  biology: cell theory, germ theory, evolution and natural selection,
  •  Chemistry: kinetic theory of gases, molecular theory, the standard model of particle physics.
  •  physics: atomic theory, the Big Bang theory, Theory of Relativity, quantum field theory, Universal law of gravitation
  •  mechanics: Newton’s laws of motion,
  •  quantum mechanics: Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle
  • relativity theory: Special relativity, General relativity
  •  cosmology: Kepler’s law of planetary motion, Hubble’s Law of constant expansion

Despite this success, scientists, since practically the beginning of time upon forging a new discovery, have claimed that science has essentially reached its limits, or that the end of science is near.  Physicists, in particular, have long believed themselves to be on the verge of explaining almost everything.

In 1894 Albert Michelson, the first American to receive a Nobel Prize in science announced that all the fundamental laws of physics had already been discovered. In 1928 Max Born, another Nobel prize-winner, said that physics would be completed in about six months’ time. In 1988, in his bestselling “A Brief History of Time”, cosmologist Stephen Hawking wrote that “we may now be near the end of the search for the ultimate laws of nature.” Now, in the newly published The Grand Design, Hawking paints a picture of the universe that is “different from the picture we might have painted just a decade or two ago”.  He asserts that increases in our understanding, instead of reducing the unknown, seem to unfold increasingly more new mysteries. We continue to grapple with realties beyond our understanding, from the inner workings of our minds to the intrinsic mechanics of the universe.

Given the above, one could conclude that current scientific knowledge includes most of the fundamentals of science, and all there is left to know are more details and unimportant nuances. Past discoveries have historically had a tendency to modify prior theories, rather than completely replace them.  For example, Einstein’s Special Relativity may form the basis for GPS technology, but Newton’s mechanics still continues to serve as the basis for the majority of every day challenges.  Moreover, for future challenges such as a “theory of everything” the plausible alternatives may be beyond experimental confirmation and would be more philosophical than science.

Despite this somewhat overly optimistic characterization, there are a number of genuine problems remaining for science to solve. The most important “mysteries of science” at this time include the following:

  1. What preceded the Big Bang? An increasing number of Cosmologists believe that the big bang was not the true beginning, and that there may have been antecedent events such as the spawning of a new “bubble” within a multiverse of universes.
  2. Is there life elsewhere?  (The universe is an enormous place. Astronomers estimate that there are approximately 100 billion to 1 trillion galaxies in the Universe. That would suggest that there are between 10 sextillion and 1 septillion stars in the Universe, that have existed for nearly 14 billion years.  Is it conceivable that within this time and space, we are the only planet that spawned sentient life?
  3. Are there other Universes, other dimensions? Multiverse theory suggests that there may be a world beyond our universe, consisting of a multitude of different universes, each with their own laws of nature.  String Theory suggests the material world is comprised of tiny strings vibrating in 12 dimensions.
  4. What is the fundamental “Theory of Everything?” (The single formula that explains all materials and their interactions with all of the forces). While science has essentially unified most of the particles and their interactions, they have yet to incorporate the force of gravity.  A unified field theory is what Einstein spent the latter part of his life searching for (unsuccessfully).
  5. What is the quantum theory of gravity? Both General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics incorporate gravity, and each has been proven to a high degree of accuracy.  However, when you attempt to apply the equations at very high speeds, or very small distances, the formulas result in nonsense.

THE LIMITS OF SCIENCE

Given the impressive scientific accomplishments to date, and the significant unexplained mysteries of science, how likely is it that we will ultimately know everything there is to know about science? Are their limits to what science can possibly tell us?

There are in fact, limits to what science can tell us. The noted author John D. Barrow addresses the problem in his best-selling book titled Impossibility — The limits of science and the science of limits. My article is based largely on ideas contained in this work.

Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense during the Bush administration popularized a type of quandary with respect to limits when he claimed: “We know what we know, and we know what we don’t know; but we can’t know what we don’t know we don’t know”. (In other words the intersection of the two sets).

The unfortunate fact is that there are definite limits in science and mathematics that restricts what we can ever know about science. In the following sections, I’ll summarize the principle factors that limit what science can tell us.

 1.      MAXIMUM LIMIT IN THE SPEED OF LIGHT AND RELATED DISAPPEARING HORIZON

In 1905 Albert Einstein, in one of his well-known thought experiments realized that there is constancy in the speed of light, i.e., the maximum speed at which all energy, matter, and information in the universe can travel.  As a law of nature, the speed of light will always be 186,282 miles per second, irrespective of its source or propagation. (I.e., whether a flashlight is pointed in the direction of or in the opposite direction to the earth’s rotation, light travels at exactly the same speed.).  As a practical consequence, any portion of the universe that is beyond this limit (3x 1027cm) is essentially invisible to us. 

A closely related, cosmological limit is known as the disappearing horizon problem.   It arises out of the fact the fact that, according to Hubble’s Law, the galaxies are moving away (receding) from each other at staggering rates of approximately 71 kilometers per second per Megaparsec. This expansion is in addition to the big bang’s normal expansion. This movement is believed to be the added result of a ubiquitous, invisible dark energy, or scalar field known as quintessence that acts like a repulsive gravity.

While we here on earth are presently fortunate to be able to see the universe all the way back to its origin, cosmologists of the future, due to the disappearing Horizon will only be able to see their own galaxy and, barring some for some kind of interstellar communications will have no fathom of other galaxies or the Big Bang or the universe’s origin.

2.      INTRACTABILITY

Some problems are more complex than the prevailing computational technology or economic resources permits. We are confronted by a host of practical problems, too complicated for the human brain to solve unaided, which even the fastest computers that Nature allows cannot solve. These problems are said to be intractable. Many of them sound simple, but their solution can involve more space and time than the entire Universe is capable of providing.  These limits are limits resulting from practicalities, costs, and time. Moreover, there might be unexpected limits that define more fundamental levels of impossibility. The further we stray from the everyday realm of human experience in our quest to understand the nature of the Universe, the more daunting are the limits we encounter.

A simple example of an intractable problem is the Towers of Hanoi mathematical puzzle. It consists of three rods, and a number of disks of different sizes which can slide onto any rod. The puzzle starts with the disks in a neat stack in ascending order of size on one rod, the smallest at the top, thus making a conical shape.

The objective of the puzzle is to move the entire stack to another rod, assuring that: only one disk may be moved at a time; each move consists of taking the upper disk from one of the rods and sliding it onto another rod, on top of the other disks that may already be present on that rod, and no disk may be placed on top of a smaller disk. The number of moves increases exponentially as the number of disks increases. Given a computer program that calculated a move every second, then for 40 discs the program would take 34,841 years (1,099,511,627,776 /60 /60 /24 /365.25), which would clearly be intractable in human life terms.

On a more scientific note, formulating a Grand Unified Theory connecting the four fundamental forces of nature was among the objectives of the Superconducting Supercollider (SSC) a 55 mile in circumference ring collider near Waxahachie, Texas, with energy of 20 TeV per proton. This energy component is almost three times the current 14 TeV of its European counterpart, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN in Geneva. The SSC was billed by physicists as their giant microscope to observe the fundamental particles of matter, a tool that would lead to the greatest progress in physics since quantum mechanics. Experiments using the supercollider would have proved or disproved key theories in particle physics.

These objectives became economically intractable when the estimates for completion of the project rose above $11 billion, and the project was cancelled for budgetary reasons, after an expenditure of $2 billion.  Scientists say the project’s cancellation was a significant setback to the field of high-energy physics.

The cost of satisfying our growing demands for knowledge are somewhat offset by increases in effectiveness and capacity in computing power. Several elements of digital technology are improving at exponential rates in accordance with Moore’s law, which considers the size, cost, density and speed of components: (principally: transistors per integrated circuit, density at minimum cost per transistor, hard disk storage cost per unit of information, and Network capacity). Moore’s law describes a driving force of technological and social change in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.  This trend has continued for more than half a century. Sources in 2005 expected it to continue until at least 2015 or 2020. However, the most recent future estimates indicate that transistor counts and densities will double only every three years.

3.      UNDECIDABILITY OF CERTAIN MATHEMATICAL PROBLEMS

Throughout history science and math have been closely associated, particularly with respect to the confirmation of experimental results. However in 1922 Kurt Godel, an Austrian mathematician and close friend of Albert Einstein, discovered an unexpected limit in mathematics referred to as his Incompleteness Theorem. This theorem postulates that a system can be either accurate (consistent) or complete, but not both. That is to say, within any sufficiently complex mathematical system there will be undecidable propositions.

It seems on the strength of Gödel’s theorem that the ultimate foundations of the bold symbolic constructions of mathematical physics will remain embedded forever in that deeper level of thinking characterized both by the wisdom and by the haziness of analogies and intuitions. For the speculative physicist this implies that there are limits to the precision of certainty that even in the pure thinking of theoretical physics there is a boundary… An integral part of this boundary is the scientist himself, as a thinker.

As Stephen Wolfram remarked, “If truth can outrun provability, reality can outrun knowledge”. The pattern needed to abbreviate the string of symbols might be one of those truths which cannot be proved. Thus, you can never know whether your ultimate theory is the ultimate theory or not. Some deeper version of it might always exist: it might just be part of a larger theory. One may speculate that undecidability is common in all but the most trivial physical theories. Even simply formulated problems in theoretical physics may be found to be provably insoluble.

4.      HUMAN LIMITS

Another fundamental limit in science is the human mind, itself, and the inherent limits imposed solely by our humanity. The human mind was not designed with science in mind.  It did not evolve for that purpose. We possess our physical and mental attributes as a result of a random process of adaptation to ancient environments whose challenges no longer confront us today.

We are evolved instead with traits favoring social interactions, acquiring safe habitats and food, pursuing creature comforts, attracting mates, avoiding hazards and predators, and fostering as many offspring as feasible. There is no logical reason why we should possess the conceptual ability to comprehend the way the Universe works. It would require a coincidence of cosmic proportions if the Universe were complicated enough to give rise to life, yet simple enough for one species to understand its deepest structure after merely a few hundred years of concerted scientific investigation. There is no reason to expect the Universe to have been constructed for our convenience.

There is a considerable gap in sophistication between our own mental capacity for conceptualization and that required for unraveling those enormous complexities in the states that Nature has created with its simple laws. Einstein is said to have been several decades ahead of the time in his discovery of General Relativity.  The idea would have eventually been discovered later, perhaps in some form of hidden symmetry.  It was only a result of his pure genius that the ideas came to him as early as they did.  The same situation might be said for string theory, or a Theory of Everything.  According to Michio Pichu, a well know science writer, the main reason we haven’t solved these problems is that no one currently alive is smart enough to solve the equations,

Of course we can and do use the power of computers to leverage our human limitations, particularly that of our mind. This is a strength that we can amplify enormously by artificial means. In the future, the increasing use of networked computers will provide us with a powerful tool to offset our individual limitations. In effect, we shall be evolving, artificially, a large-scale version of the human brain. But while there are advantages to this evolutionary development, there are pitfalls. While there are obvious powerful advantages, they are not a panacea. There remain intractable problems that require so much computational time to solve that they are for all practical purposes insoluble.

5.      TECHNOLOGICAL LIMITS

Someone once said the acid test of all scientific progress is whether it allows us to build better machines. This view is provoked by the position that we occupy in the spectrum of sizes of natural things. We are far bigger than the atoms and far smaller than the stars. We must create artificial senses if we are probe the worlds of the large and small, understand environments that display extremes of temperature and density, or come to terms with overwhelming complexities. We have found that the path to understanding the deep structure of the Universe, its laws and complex states, leads us to explore conditions far removed from those which were familiar to our ancestors. The limits to what we can ultimately discover are likely to be imposed by limits of technology rather than by limited imagination.

Already, our most successful theories of Nature’s forces make precise predictions about the workings of the Universe under conditions that, at present, we cannot remotely approach by direct experiment. Indeed, in order to discover whether our version of Nature’s laws is the correct one it looks as if it is necessary to investigate what happens when matter is subjected to

temperatures more than 1015 (1,000,000,000,000,000) times as great as those achievable in our most powerful terrestrial experiments. It is unlikely that direct experiments of that sort will ever be possible.

Unfortunately, our technological powers are confronted by a variety of limits. Some are financial and practical. Democracies are not usually willing to devote large fractions of their GNP to activities that offer no immediate return, when society is confronted with serious environmental or medical problems that require scientific solutions. These limits will recede only if entirely new ways are found to generate energy. But there are yet deeper limits to experimental inquiry. We have speculated about the steps that civilizations might take as they ascend to master the realms of the large and the small. Ultimately, these advances will have to come to terms with the limits that Nature imposes on how fast we can transmit information, how small we can ensure accurate timekeeping, how much energy must be expended to gain information, how close to criticality are the complex systems that we see, and how sensitive is our technology to errors and the chaotic amplification of uncertainties.

The development of technology, and the ability to test the theories that we have about the behavior of matter under extreme conditions, require us to manipulate matter, energy, and information over scales that are increasingly divorced from those of our everyday experience. I, the decisive features of the laws of Nature appear to be manifested in these extreme environments. By delving into them we are not merely seeking completeness for its own sake: the behavior of matter at ultra-high temperatures is the crux of its most basic character. One of the ways in which we could sidestep these limits on our ability to create high energies is by using astronomical observations.

6.      COSMOLOGICAL LIMITS

No branch of science extrapolates so far into the unknown as cosmology, and no line of human inquiry is more at risk from limits of all sorts. As a result, there are limits to what we can know about the Universe. Those limits cut across all of Cosmology’s major unsolved problems.

In the past decade there has been huge progress in our knowledge of the astronomical universe. Technological ingenuity has provided us with light detectors of unprecedented sensitivity. Space agencies have launched astronomical satellites able to look at the Universe across the whole electromagnetic spectrum. The highlight of this program–the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope has enabled us to look at planets, stars, and galaxies with astonishing resolution. Light moves with a finite speed, and so when we ‘see’ a distant galaxy now, we see it as it was when the light left it, not as it is today. The Universe provides us with the simplest form of time machine, one that allows us to see the distant past just by looking.

Despite the success of Einstein’s theory of gravity in describing the visible universe, we know that there are fundamental limits in our cosmological search.  The finiteness of the speed of light segments the Universe into parts which are within and beyond causal contact with each other. We can gather information about the Universe only from the region within the horizon prescribed by the speed of light.  This prevents us from ever answering penetrating questions about the Universe’s origin or its global structure. We cannot tell whether or not it is infinite, whether it had an origin or whether it always existed (or whether it is open or closed). We can only observe the structure of the visible part of the Universe. It is likely that we are situated in a particular expanding bubble, unable to investigate the possibility that other Universes of enormous complexity blossom eternally beyond our horizon.

Future satellite missions might provide decisive tests of the inflationary bubble hypothesis, but we will forever be unable to observe anything about them since they are beyond our horizon.

Although the inflationary universe provides explanations for several of the properties of the observable universe, it nevertheless prevents us from acquiring information about events that preceded it, and consequently, the origin of even our visible part of the Universe is indeterminable. While the theories of relativity and quantum mechanics combine to provide us with an account of the universe that we see, (without regard to how it began) the penalty for this fortuitous gift is the surrendering of information about if, or how the Universe began and about all its properties beyond our horizon. As Barrow put it: “The Universe is not only bigger than we can know, it is bigger than we can ever know.

Although science and cosmology will continue to explore the mysteries and increase our knowledge for some time to come (perhaps millions or billions of years) a time will approach when science will be incapable of further exploration, the well will run dry, and science, as such will sadly come to an end.

 

Art Collecting

In this entry, I’d like to discuss art collecting.  Specifically, the collecting of contemporary art by recognized artists. Collecting contemporary art has been a primary passion of mine for the last 18 years. In this article, I’ll comment on the broad spectrum of related aspects such as what art is, and what makes it collectable, the different types of art, who are the collectors and why they collect art, about recognized artists, where collectors buy art, the Tyrnauer Collection, our “Open House” and lastly what I refer to as ersatz art.

What is art?In the physical sense, art consists of form and contentForm includes the elements of art, the principles of design and the actual, physical materials that the artist uses.  Form, in this context, is concrete and fairly easily described irrespective of the particular example involved.  Content is idea-based and includes what the artist means to portray, actually did portray as well as our individual reactions to both the intended and realized results. Additionally, content includes ways in which works was influenced externally by religion, or politics, or society in general, or even the artist’s mindset while creating the work. Art is both aesthetic as well as functional.

 Why collect art?  – I general, art plays a large part in enriching our lives. Art stimulates different parts of our brains to make us laugh or incite us to riot, with a whole gamut of emotions in between. Art gives us a way to be creative and express ourselves. For some people, art is the entire reason they get out of bed in the morning. You could say “Art is something that makes us more thoughtful and well-rounded humans.” Art is something that you will have for years, and can then pass on to your children.

In my specific case it is because of art’s intrinsic beauty.  I enjoy being surrounded by varied and beautiful art works.  Another is the lure of discovery: the excitement of participating in auctions where the outcome is largely up to chance.  Then, there is the potential for financial gain, since art is known to generally appreciate in time.

When you buy art, you are not only purchasing something that will beautify your home and light up the space you live in, you are making a statement about your values. You are saying, “Creativity is important to me. I am supporting the spiritual growth and talent of these individuals that have the ability to create and capture the beauty that exists around us that we don’t all have the opportunity to see.

Types of art – Some of the more important types of art are:

  •  Oil or acrylics on canvas, paper, or board.
  • Drawings, watercolors, etchings
  • Reproductions (prints) (either lithographs or serigraphs)
  • Sculptures
  • Art glass
  • Posters

Who Collects Art? – Throughout the ages fine art has been collected by art museums and individuals. Prior to the 1950’s only museums or wealthy collectors could own original works by renown artists such as Picasso, Calder, Van Gogh, Dali, Monet, Da Vinci, etc.  These works were primarily original oils on canvas hand signed and titled by the artist. As such they carried enormous price tags.  I happened to live in Pittsburgh during this time and was fortunate to know G. David Thompson, Chairman of American Steel Foundry and owner of many other enterprises. Thompson had the largest art collection in the world at that time.  The rooms of his Brentwood house were sectioned off into isles to accommodate his large number of holdings. Our association was strictly business, but he did respect my interest in his collection, and invited me to see it frequently. He eventually offered the entire collection to the Carnegie Art Museum on the condition that they pledge sufficient funding to maintain it.  This arrangement went by the wayside, and the largest collection of its time was broken up and auctioned off to the public.

Beginning in the early 1950’s, commercial publishers began publishing limited editions using a lithographic printing process.  In this procedure, the artist creates an original work from which the publisher creates a master.  A contractually agreed upon number of copies are printed, and each is hand signed and numbered by the artist.  Thereafter, the master is destroyed so that no more copies can be made. The artist receives the same amount of money he would have earned from a single work, but now the work is affordable by a larger number of collectors. The advent of limited editions changed the entire nature of art collecting.

 About recognized artists – Most artists’ success is based on their popularity which relates to the quality of their work.  Of course art is subjective, but today, there are hundreds of “recognized” artists.  They come from all over the world.  These artists are listed in sites such as ARTNET.com, ASKART.com.

Where collectors can buy art – Initially, a collector had to buy art directly from the artist, or from art galleries.  Today, there is a huge secondary market supported by the internet.  eBay lists $1,7 Million more art works at any one time.  Another huge source is on line auctions sponsored by services such as www.liveauctioneers.com that conducts several auctions per day for its dealers.  When you buy art from on-line auctions, there is a service charge assessed to both buyer and seller, but the ultimate price is still likely to be less than gallery prices.

The Tyrnauer Collection – I began collecting contemporary art seriously around 1995.  Prior to that time I had a dozen or so works by recognized artists.  My current collection numbers over 400 items, of which 100 are displayed in each of the 14 rooms/areas of our home.  Most items hang on the walls, but some stand casually on the floors, and one picture hangs from a ceiling.  A dozen items are in a floor to ceiling gallery, and others are in several outdoor sculpture gardens.   The balance of the collection is in archive.  All of the items are signed by more than 250 recognized artists, from Agam to Zox.  In recent years I’ve tapered off on acquisitions limiting them to a few choice items that I am particularly interested in acquiring.  Several years ago my wife and I planned an “open house” to showcase the collection in collaboration with the local art society.  The event was aimed primarily for interested parties, local artists, art teachers and their students.  (See: 101 artworks.com). The event itself was never carried out for security and other reasons, but subsets of interested parties did get to see the collection.

An insight into the artists – The following artist’s works are so valuable that essentially, only museums can afford them:

  •  Andy Warhal
  • Mark Rothko
  • Jackson Pollock
  • Kurt Scwitters
  • Roy Lichtenstein
  • Joseph Bueys
  • Gerhardt Richter
  • Marcel Duchamp
  • Henry Moore
  • Henri Matisse
  • Keith Haring

Andy Warhal is a hometown artist.  His brother and my father were friends.  I would love to have a Warhal, or a Haring or a Lichtenstein, but unfortunately that will never happen.

Ersatz art – Some artists enjoy fad-like popularity for works of questionable worth.  I’m referring to artists like Patrick Nagle, Margaret Keane (children with big eyes), Thomas Kinkaid, and the like.  Kinkaid illuminates his reproductions which gives them a quaint appearance, and issues editions as large as 5000.  He is notable for the mass marketing of his work on the QVC home shopping network. He was claimed to be “America’s most-collected living artist” with an estimated 1 in every 20 American homes owning one of his works. The fine-art world overwhelmingly derided Kinkade’s work as little more than commercially successful kitch, without substance, and has described them as chocolate box art and “mall art.”

Kinkade’s production method has been described as, “a semi-industrial process in which low-level apprentices embellish a prefab base provided by Kinkaid. The studio continues to produce Kinkadian works after his death in 2012.

True art?  I think not, and I see these works listed on eBay at a fraction of their original price.

There are other artists of questionable substance, who have somehow developed a staunch dedicated following.  Santa Monica’s Michael Bedard who creates the whimsical ducks offers his new works to dedicated existing collectors that subscribe to future editions in advance of their publication.  These editions are rarely seen in galleries or on the secondary market.  Are these true art?  Its anyone’s guess.

TINNITUS – Best Solution is to Ignore it!

Tinnitus, or “Head Noise” (the problem is actually seated in the brain) is usually described as “ringing in the ears”.   It can also present at times as a buzzing, hissing, seashell sound, roaring, humming or pulsation. It might be loud at times or barely noticeable at other times. Usually, tinnitus is most noticeable when the environment is quiet. It may or may not be associated with hearing impairment, but most people with hearing loss (80%) have tinnitus as one symptom. Only about 5%-10% of people with tinnitus have normal hearing on an audiogram.

There are two forms of tinnitus: objective and subjective. The most common form of tinnitus is subjective tinnitus. This means that you hear the sound but others cannot. Tinnitus that can be heard by an observer is called objective tinnitus.

Most people who experience tinnitus are not bothered greatly by it. But about 20% of people with tinnitus are severely disturbed by it. The severity of symptoms varies considerably from person to person, with some being hardly bothered by it and others becoming emotionally consumed by it.  Unfortunately, the higher the level of concern, the more intense or louder the symptoms may reach because of a “boot-strap” effect.

In many cases, the cause of tinnitus is considered idiopathic (no known cause).  Due to the uncertainty, some sources list hundreds of possible causes.  One of the most likely candidates is rather technical and suggests that a very delicate feedback cancellation mechanism – sensing cells connected with the vibratory cells through a neural feedback loop, whose gain is regulated by the brain, isn’t functioning precisely and fails to cancel out an oscillatory feedback signal, resulting in the ringing sensation.

MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE

When my symptoms first appeared some thirty years ago they were very faint.  At first I hardly noticed them.  Then I asked my company doctor if they might ever get worse. He said they would as I got older, which scared me, and actually exacerbated the situation..

I went to the House Ear Clinic[1] in Los Angeles and spoke to one of their top doctors. I explained that my major concern was that the intensity would increase to the point where it would drive me insane.   The specialist told me that there is no treatment, per se, but if I ignored the symptoms they shouldn’t bother me since the largest trigger might be panic, itself. That made a lot of sense to me and from that time on I have essentially disregarded the noise.  And as a matter of fact, I only notices it some external situation makes reference to it.

I’ve heard of tinnitus victims buying expensive electronic white noise generators to mask the noise.  In my mind, the tinnitis is itself an exotic noise generator that essentially serves the same purpose as a commercial white noise generator..

I realize that there is a lot more to the subject, but my main purpose in blogging this topic is not to delve into unnecessary details, but to suggest that anyone else with this problem take the same approach that I did and essentially ignore it.

Good luck!



[1] The House Ear Institute is a Los Angeles research institute engaged in the scientific exploration of the auditory system from the ear canal to the cortex of the brain for over 62 years. It is attended by more than 22,000 doctors and research fellows since 1946. Today, the House Research Institute’s five-story facility accommodates more than 180 researchers and administrators within 22 departments.

WHY WE AGE

We are all familiar with the profound effects of aging and its progressive nature. But the process that causes this phenomenon is not at all obvious.  For facts about aging, we look to gerontology, the study of aging, and a relatively new science. While aging is a complex interaction of genetics, chemistry, physiology and behavior, there are apparently two predominant aging theories.

  • Aging is genetically programmed into the body,
  • Aging is a result of genetic damage which accumulates over time.

The Human Cell

The human cell is the fundamental unit of all living organisms. All living organisms are composed of cells. All basic biochemical processes take place or begin in the millions of cells that make up our skin muscles, and vital organs.

Cells eventually wear out as a normal aspect of their existence, but when this occurs, most of them are fortuitously able to divide and form new cells. As the cell’s DNA replicates, imperfections inherent in splicing, degrade the integrity of the genetic material. In addition, errors may occur in the chemical reactions in producing DNA, RNA, or proteins, because the metabolic machinery does not replicate with 100% accuracy. In addition, a small DNA sequence is lost during replication, thereby reducing the “stability” of the cell’s DNA. These cumulative random errors contribute to the failing of our bodies on a cellular level, and the ability for opportunistic diseases to take hold.

As “new” cells, are produced,  the cell’s DNA has already been copied over and over and subjected to potential external sources of damage such as UV radiation or harmful chemicals in the environment. This large scale duplication is somewhat analogous to repeatedly making a copy of an original document on a traditional scanner. Each successive copy is less precise than the previous one and the degree of imprecision increases with the number of iterations.

In mammals and other eukaryotes, [An organism whose cells contain a nucleus], DNA is arranged into structures called chromosomes, capped by a structural component called telomeres. These are similar to the tape on the end of a rope that keep it from unraveling and maintains its structural integrity.

The telomeres are made of repeated sequences of DNA (‘repetitive DNA’). During cell division, enzymes that duplicate DNA cannot continue their work all the way to the end of chromosomes. If cells divide without telomeres, they lose the ends of their chromosomes, and the information they contain.

The telomeres are essentially disposable buffers blocking the ends of the chromosomes. They are destroyed during cell division, and are remade by an enzyme, telomerase reverse transcriptas.

Telomere_caps

Human chromosomes (grey) capped by telomeres (white)

Each time a cell replicates the telomeres become shorter because the cell can’t replicate the DNA to the very end of the strand. Once the telomeres reach certain “shortness” it signals the cell to die… effectively limiting the number of times a cell can divide.

Although our bodies work at maintaining these substances and even tries to recycle worn out substances and recreate them, it is an imperfect process. Flaws accumulate causing signs of aging like wrinkles. DNA itself is highly efficient in replicating itself, but ultimately flaws do creep in and when they accumulate they can cause problems associated with aging, such as cancer.  Hhuman cells can reproduce themselves only a limited number of times before all of their descendants aged and died. The maximum number of times a cell can reproduce itself is now called its “Hayflick limit”.

Death is caused by the loss of too many cells, or the loss of cell function.  As cell fail to support the critical bodily functions such as the heart, immune system, arteries, lungs, brain, kidneys bladder and muscles, etc.  As these processes intensify the heart becomes unable to sustain blood flow, the lungs ability to oxygenate the cells, the kidneys become less able to remove waste from the body, the bladder atrophies and causes incontinence, and a multitude of other problems occur.  In other words, the body is eventually unable to repair itselfUAnd death ultimately results.

That’s why (and how) we age.


[1] A telomere is a region of DNA at the end of a chromosome. It protects the end of the chromosome from deteriorating (getting worse) or fusing (joining) with other chromosomes.

IS THE COSMOS REALLY FINED TUNED?

Perhaps the most persuasive argument in favor of fine tuning of the Cosmos resulting from God’s design, is the cumulative odds attained by adding all the cosmic coincidences.  I don’t know what the number is; I have seen it and forgotten it, but it is a very, very large number..

Before I get to the counter-arguments, let me suggest that large numbers should not alone rule out considering an otherwise sound alternative.  Consider the likelihood that you and I are currently engaged in pondering on this particular matter on this particular website.  Our very existence is a highly unlikely results of the following cumulative events:

  • the big bang, that created the universe
  • creation of the Milky Way Galaxies at the precise time  when it would create our sun exactly a billion years ago.
  • Creation of the Sun at the precise time  when it would spin off the solar system, as it did.
  • Creation of the earth and other planets in a way that it would exactly settle down where it did in relationship to the solar system.
  • Evolution of the earth in a manner that it would evolve life, and mankind at exactly the present time.
  • The chance meeting of both of our parents at the particular times they met.
  • The  chance fertilization of a sperm and ovum from among millions of sperm and hundreds of ovum, at the exact moment that conception occurred.
  • Our survival from birth to the present moment, etc. etc.

The odds of this ever happening had to be one in trillions, and yet it did!

The hallmark writing on this subject is the book by Victor J. Stenger (noted particle physicist and author) titled “The Fallacy of Fine Tuning”.  The following explanations are taken in part from his writings.

 FINE TUNING ARGUMENTS

Ratio of Electrons to Protons – (Maximum deviation = 1/10^37) Theists assert that if it were larger there would be insufficient chemical binding.  If it were smaller, electromagnetism would dominate gravity, preventing galaxy, star and planet formation. However, the principal of charge conservation, suggests that the total electric charge of the universe is neutral; the number of electrons and protons should be equal, as it should be if the universe came from “nothing” and charge is conserved.  Therefore, the parameter is fixed by established physics and cosmology. There is no fine tuning.

Ratio of Electromagnetic Force to Gravity – (Maximum deviation = 1/10^59). Note that the electromagnetic force is stronger that the gravitational force by 39 orders of magnitude. Theists assert that if the ratio between the two forces were larger, there would be no stars larger than 1.4 solar masses, resulting in short and uneven solar burning..  If the ratio were smaller, there would be no stars with solar masses over .8, resulting in an absence of heavy elements.  However, as Stenger points out, there are other factors involved that can mediate or offset these effects, allowing the parameters to remain within suitable ranges.  Therefore the parameter is in the range expected from established physics, there is no fine tuning.

Expansion Rate of Universe – (Maximum deviation = 1/10^55).  Theists argue that if it were larger, there would be no galaxy formation, and if it were smaller, the universe would collapse prior to star formation. However, Stephen Hawking asserts that in such instance, the rate of expansion would automatically become very close to the critical rate determined by the universe’s energy density.  It was not carefully chosen, there is no fine tuning.

Mass Density of Universe – (Maximum deviation = 1/10^59).  Theists argue that if it were larger there would be too much deuterium from the big bang and stars would burn too rapidly.  If it were smaller, there would be insufficient helium from the big bang and too few heavy elements would form. According to inflationary cosmology, during a tiny fraction of a second after the universe appeared, it expanded exponentially by many orders of magnitude resulting in the mass/energy density of the universe now being very close to its critical value in which the total kinetic energy of all its bodies is exactly balanced by their negative gravitational potential energy.   Therefore, the parameter is fixed by established physics and cosmology. There is no fine tuning.

Cosmological Constant – (Maximum deviation = 1/10^120). Theists argue that the value cannot be changed by the tiniest amount without making all forms of life impossible.  However, recent theoretical work has offered a plausible non-divine solution to the cosmological constant problem. Theoretical physicists have proposed models in which the dark energy is not identified with the energy of curved space-time but rather a dynamical, material energy field called quintessence. In these models, the cosmological constant is exactly 0, as suggested by a symmetry principle called Supersymmetry. Since 0 multiplied by 10120 is still 0, we have no cosmological constant problem in this case. The energy density of quintessence is not constant but evolves along with the other matter/energy fields of the universe. Unlike the cosmological constant, quintessence energy density need not be fine-tuned.

OTHER (NON-TUNING) ARGUMENTS)

The existence of man within the universe took a much longer time to accomplish than would seem logical, if God really created it solely for man’s existence.  The universe is 14.7 billion years old.  Man’s first appearance was roughly only 170,000 years ago, (and his likely existence may not be very long in cosmological terms, considering the perils to which the planet is subjected).  That is a ratio of 1 in 18,400, a huge waste of time. Man’s existence in the cosmos will ostensibly be an unimaginably fleeting moment, a senseless waste of God’s time.

The universe is illogically large, if it were really designed solely for man. 

  • The mass of the Earth is 5.9736 x 10^24 kg.   The estimated diameter =12,756 kilometers.
  • The mass of the Universe is 10^54 KG.  The estimated diameter = 8.8 × 1026 meters
  • The earth’s mass is only 1/ 10^30th the size of the universe, an unimaginable waste of real estate, if the universe were created solely for man.

 Conclusion

 Whereas design advocates argue that the universe seems to have been specifically designed so that intelligent life would form, established physics and cosmology tells us that there is in fact no fine tuning.   We now have plausible explanations that do not require fine-tuning.

Most of the fine tuning arguments is explained as inherent constants which could be assigned any values or parameter fixed by established physics and cosmology.  Some of the parameters have the values they do by definition, e.g., the speed of light (c) and gravity (h).  Some of the parameters have exactly the values they do based on standard models in physics and cosmology. The remaining parameters not fixed by standard models have values within ranges expected by those models. Only the Cosmological Constant remains arguable, but plausible explanations exist even for it.

One alternative to the fine tuning arguments invoke the hypothesis of multiple universes. Although there is currently no direct evidence of them, they are entirely plausible. In fact, other universes besides our own are not ruled out by fundamental physics and cosmology. If they do exist, a wide variation of constants of physics leads to universes that are long-lived enough for life to evolve, although human life need not exist in such universes. The theory of a multiverse composed of many universes with different laws and physical properties is actually more parsimonious, more consistent with Occam’s razor, than a single universe. Specifically, we would need to hypothesize a new principle to rule out all but a single universe. If, indeed, multiple universes exist, then we are simply in that particular universe of all the logically consistent possibilities that had the properties needed to produce us. One significant fatal assumption is that only one kind of life, ours, is conceivable in every conceivable configuration of universes.

The fine-tuning argument would tell us that the Sun radiates light so that we can see where we are going. In fact, the human eye evolved to be sensitive to light from the sun. The universe is not fine-tuned for humanity. Humanity is fine-tuned to the universe!

SEE ALSO: FINE TUNING OF THE COSMOS

 

THE FAIR TAX – FAIR TO WHOM?

Since 1913 when income taxes were first imposed,the rates have escalated from an initial top rate of 7% to a high of 91% during the 50′s and early 60′s. The sources of federal tax revenues in the order of significance are: Individual income taxes, payroll taxes, Corporate Income taxes, Miscellaneous taxes, excise taxes and custums duties. Although flawed, the U.S. system of taxation has evolved steadily over its 100 year life and probably represents the most effective system reasonably attainable.

But not in talkshow host Neal Bortz’s mind. He advocates a tax based soley on consumption.  The Fair Tax. The Fair Tax is the most recent iteration of a consumption tax, popularized in Bortz’s book on the topic, Bortz includes a number of bells and whistles that I have not studied and am frankly not interest in.   That is because the tax is inherantly infeasible from the start. The “Fair Tax” has two limitations that will undoubtedly prevent legislators from ever seriously considering it.

Firstly, consolidation of all forms of revenue to one single source would be highly impractical. Speaking colloquially, it’s tantamount to “putting all your eggs in one basket”. This could have dire consequences if the revenue produced fell short of budgetary requirements, due to economic downturn, or merely due to a resistance factor to the tax, itself.  The shortfall would require an inordinate upward compensating adjustment(s). For example, if a 23% initial tax on consumption resulted in a nominal 10% resistance factor, the initial 23.0% rate would escalate to 31.6% (a 37% hike) within a mere 4 iterations. (See table).

Revenue Required

Resistance Factor

Taxable Base

    Tax             Rate  

23,000

-

100,000

23.0%

23,000

10.0%

90,000

25.6%

23,000

10.0%

81,000

28.4%

23,000

10.0%

72,900

31.6%

Secondly, the fair tax is really fair to the wealthy and unfair to the poor, since it shifts taxes from those individuals who spend only a portion of their income on consumables (the wealthy), to those who must spend their entire income on consumables (the poor).

Really?

 

THE SOCIAL SECURITY, MEDICARE ISSUE

I just began watching the Chris Matthews Show (3/3/2013) whose panel was discussing entitlement programs, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, in the context that the pending sequestration only cut entitlement programs by 4% compared with much higher cuts for defense and non-defense programs. I was both shocked, and perturbed by the fact that every one of the panel, including Matthews, referred to these programs as “free benefits” or “welfare” and the like, “contributing to the national deficit”. They uttered comments such as:

  • It’s the main cause of the deficit
  • It’s not a deficit problem, it’s a health care problem
  • It’s not a guarantee, it’s a benefit
  • beneficiaries want everything, but don’t want to pay anything

Not one panelist seemed to realize that that these programs (except for Medicaid) are essentially funded by participants and their employer’s contributions, not the Government.

Didn’t any of those “experts” ever look at the deductions on their pay stubs? (I’m referring to the deductions for FICA and Medicare!

It’s not only on this particular show; I hear this same “problem” posed every time I read the paper or watch the news. We often see data claiming the government pays out more in benefits than they collect in contributions. However, these calculations are grossly incomplete and shockingly misleading. They omit the essential fact that the government collects funds – in advance, that will not be spent until decades later. During the course of my employment (I’m now retired) my, and my employer’s Social Security and Medicare contributions amounted approximately $450K – for benefits that didn’t start until I retired, decades later. The ultimate invested value of my contributions by the time I retired was about $2 Million. The government will probably pay out in benefits (assuming a ten year life beyond retirement) of $330K, leaving an estimated surplus of $1.6 Million!

Social Security Trust Fund

In the United States, the Social Security Trust Fund is a fund operated by the Social Security Administration into which are paid payroll tax contributions from workers and employers under the Social Security System and out of which benefit payments are made to retirees, survivors, and the disabled, and for general administrative expenses. The fund also earns interest of approximately 4.4%.

When program revenues exceed payments (i.e., the program is in surplus) the extra funds are borrowed and used by the government for other purposes, however, a legal obligation to program recipients is created to the extent of these borrowings. These surpluses add to the Trust Fund. The fund is required by law to be invested in non-marketable securities issued and guaranteed by the “full faith and credit” of the federal government.

Under current law, the securities in the fund represent a legal obligation the government must honor when program revenues are no longer sufficient to fully fund benefit payments. However, when the trust fund is used to cover program deficits in a given year, the Trust Fund balance is reduced. By 2033, the fund is expected to be exhausted as a result of the projected routine activity. Thereafter, payroll taxes are projected to only cover approximately 75% of program obligations.

The issue is whether the U.S. government will be able to borrow sufficient amounts to honor its obligations fully to recipients, or whether to curtail program benefits. This is an overall deficit problem, not just a Social Security problem.

As of the end of calendar year 2010, the accumulated surplus in the Social Security Trust Fund stood at just over $2.6 trillion.According to the SSA’s projections the Trust Fund will continue to show net growth until 2022 because the interest generated by its bonds and the revenue from payroll taxes exceeds the amount needed to pay benefits. After 2022, without increases in Social Security taxes or cuts in benefits, the Fund is projected to decrease each year until being fully exhausted in 2033. At this point, if legislative action is not taken, the benefits will be reduced.

So don’t try to tell me that the Government is giving me anything. That’s pure nonsense. The real question is whether the government is managing the funds effectively, or spending them elsewhere. There is no such thing as a Social Security or Medicare problem; only a Government fiscal management/deficit problem!

Shocking!

WHAT ARE THE ODDS?

Perhaps the most powerful two safeguards in our government, are: (1) the separation of powers between the government’s executive, legislative and judicial branches that serves to assure independent review and verification of decision support information and optimum results in government decision making, and (2) the principal of “justice for all” that provides no one is above the law. The premise of this article is that had these controls operated as intended – had the initial (unadulterated) reports of the investigative agencies been relied upon, had the presidents ambassadors not yeilded to authority, and had Congress performed adequate due diligence, there is not one chance in a million that the US would have attacked Iraq in March, 2003.

As mentioned elsewhere, my background is Internal Audit, (not politics, science or cosmology). As such, I am keenly aware of the necessity in government for effective separation of duties as well as exercizing due dilligence in fact finding, and for assuring sufficient competent evidential matter supporting important decisions. Government agency policy (PCAOB AU Section 326), Evidential Matter codifies the latter requirement.

BUSH’S DECISION TO ATTACK IRAQ

As a prelude to his longstanding plans to forcibly unseat Saddam Hussain, President George W. Bush enlisted Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice to make the case before Congress for a unilateral attack on Iraq, a case based upon the (misleading) information that they possessed WMD’s, thereby posing an immediate threat to our country.  Both houses of Congress approved this decision perfunctorily, without bothering to see the original agency reports attesting to the “so-called” threats, and on March 21, 2003 US troops made an unprovoked unilateral attack on the Iraqi nation that resulted in over 4,000 American troops casualties, over 100,000 Iraqi casualties as well as senseless expenditure of over a trillion US dollars.  The government’s independent verification and separation of powers principles had failed!

It was a well recognized fact that from the outset, Bush had a hidden agenda with respect to Saddam Hussein.

  • His father, President George H.W. Bush, failed to eliminate Saddam in the 1991 Gulf war’s Desert Storm.
  • Saddam threatened to kill his father, the elder George HW Bush.
  •  His actual words were “He tried to kill my daddy”.
  • God, in his daily get-togethers, told Bush to “end the tyranny in Iraq”.
  • A published source quotes the following: “President Bush said to all of us: ‘I am driven with a mission from God’. God would tell me, ‘George go and fight these terrorists in Afghanistan’. And I did. And then God would tell me ‘George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq, and I did”.
BAD DECISION – DIRE CONSEQUENCES On Friday, March 21 at 12:15 PM EST
US bombers released an unprecedented amount of armament on the city of Bagdad in an
air strike to  be known thereafter as “shock and awe”(See Youtube video)
As I watched this display on television, I was disturbed by the realization that something
did not add up – Hans Blix’s denial of WMDs, unilateral attack, a president with hidden agendas,
who talks to God, and the Congressional rubber stamp of approval without any due dilligence.
This attack did not appear to be preemptory, but on satisfying someone’s personal whim.
My background in audit management told me that there was no legitimate evidence that
Saddam Hussein posed a threat to our country.  Further, my familiarity with
Hans Blix’s contradictory statements concerning the existence of WMDs convinced me
that there were no WMDs and that this was a colossal failure of the governments
independent verification and separation of powers to avert a meaningless war.
It was afterward confirmed that there were no WMDs and the entire justification for the
attack was shifted from “threat containment” to “regieme change to nation rebuilding”.
American troop casualties exceeded 4,000 and thousands wounded.  Iraqi casualties exceeded
100,000.  Over a trillion dollars was wasted on the war contributing to a serious economic recession.
REACTION -Two well known individuals have published works calling for the prosecution of George
W. Bush for murder!  They are:
  • Vincent Bugliosi, the well known attorney and author, and prosecutor of Charles Manson in the Tate-LaBianca murders case.
  • Benjamin Ferenccz, a chief prosecutor of Nazi war crimes at Nuremberg.

 Bugliosi, in his 2008 book,  argues that George W. Bush took the United States  into the invasion of Iraq under false pretenses and should be tried for murder for the deaths of American soldiers in Iraq.  He further argues that Bush intentionally misled Congress and the American people about the evidence that he said mandated going into Iraq and overthrowing Saddam Hussein. Therefore, under the felony-murder rule the deaths of over 4,000 American soldiers and more than 100,000 Iraqi civilians since hostilities began amount at the very least to second-degree murder. He further states that any of the 50 state attorneys general, as well as any district attorney in the United States, has ample grounds to indict Bush for the murder of any soldier or soldiers who live in their state or county.

Ferenccz contends the United Nations charter, which was written after the carnage of World War II, contains a provision that no nation can use armed forces without the permission of the UN Security Council. Ferenccz said that after Nuremberg the International community realized that every war results in violations by both sides, meaning the primary objective should be preventing any war from occurring in the first place.  He said the atrocities of the Iraq war-from the Abu Ghraib prison scandal and the massacre of dozens of civilians by U.S. forces in Haditha to the high number of civilian casualties caused by insurgent car bombs-were highly predictable at the start of the war. “Every war will lead to attacks on civilians,” he said. “Crimes against humanity, destruction beyond the needs of military necessity, rape of civilians, plunder-that always happens in wartime. He concludes that you’ve got to stop using warfare as a means of settling your disputes.”

Bush’s preoccupation with religion raises serious questions as to his credibility and rationality. Bush became a born-again Christian at the age of 40 and is one of the most overtly religious leaders to occupy the White House, a fact which brings him much support in Middle America.  He prays to God on a daily basis, and imagines that he is on a direct mission from God who calls on him personally.

CONCLUSION

What are the odds that a president, who talks to god, with a longstanding hidden agenda, would intentionally mislead our congress, who would perfunctorily approve a unilateral attack, without due dilligence and/or independent verification, leading to senseless deaths and destruction and the near collapse of our economy, and not one of the 50 states Attorney General’s or District Attorneys would enter an indictment for at least 2nd degree murder?

Had Powel or Rice refused to mislead congress, or had even one of the 535 voting members of congress asked to see the original white papers, the Iraqi war and all of its consequences would not have happened.  In other words, had the established independent verifications and separation of powers been effective, and had the decision to wage war with Iraq been based on idue diligence and independent verification of decision support information by congress and sufficient, competent evidential matter, the Iraqi war and its untoward consequences would never have occurred!

What are the odds? In my opinion, they are unbeleivble small!

Note: Some of the above material is from public sources, such as Wikipedia