Class Warfare Blog

September 5, 2016

Just So You Know

Screens In Schools Are a $60 Billion Hoax


September 4, 2016

The Decline of Journalism, Part 2 (Of a Long and Sad Series I am Afraid)

I have commented before about the decline of journalism. One aspect of that decline is the ascendance of journalist narratives, which occur when a journalist, rather than report the opinions of others more expert, inserts their own narratives, the ones that will get them advanced in their position at their workplace.

In a recent article on the Samsung cell phone recall, which centers on their batteries having a disturbing tendency to burst into flames, the journalist answers his own question “If the batteries are problematic, why do companies continue to use them?” with “Battery technology has been slow to advance, largely because the products must pass rigorous safety testing.”

So, the problem is not with manufacturing defects in batteries that have been used quite safely for well over a decade, it is “guv’mint regulation.” And if it weren’t for those pesky safety standards battery technology would zoom ahead.

What BS!

I remember reading a Scientific American article about the advent of solar power. One conclusion stuck in my memory, namely that solar power was set to explode as soon as a “more viable alternative to the lead-acid storage battery is developed.” The lead-acid storage battery is the one you have in your car. The article was dated 1906. When I was reading that article, we did not have NiCad (nickel-cadmium) batteries or lithium ion batteries; they hadn’t been invented yet. Interestingly, both of those fabulous “new” batteries, without which we would have no portable electronic devices at all, are variations on the same design as the zinc-carbon battery, the first design of “flashlight battery” invented decades ago. (The zinc-carbon battery was the first “dry cell” battery in that it was the first that didn’t have liquid sloshing around inside (like your car battery still does) and which dates back to the 19th century.)

There are no whiz-bang, new fangled, high tech batteries because we can’t figure out how to make them. All batteries are based upon the same thing: a chemical reaction that when placed in an appropriate container, can created electricity and, if designed correctly, can be recharged by forcing electricity back into the battery, causing the chemical reaction to reverse itself and so to be able to produce electricity again.

This is the inherent weakness of all of these batteries, the dependence upon chemical reactions, the chemicals of which refuse to stay put where we want them to be. This is why all such batteries wear out, why your car battery needs to replaced every five years or so (and has been for over a century), why “rechargeable batteries” aren’t rechargeable indefinitely.

This is why every rechargeable device has batteries that can be replaced easily (unless you buy Apple products). My wireless earphones have ordinary rechargeable batteries behind the earpieces. When they stop recharging, I can prize out the old batteries and pop in a fresh set and we are off and running again. You cell phone has a removable battery, it is not hard-wired in, for the same reason. (You probably haven’t done this because “you just gotta have a new phone” before the battery wears out.)

“Many of our problems would be solved if government
would just get out of the way and unleash good, old American knowhow.”

There have been advances in battery technology but the basic design has stayed the same, just new materials and design tweaks have made them lighter, able to pack more electrical charge in them, and to be recharged faster and for more cycles before replacement is needed.

It is not because of government safety regulations, for Pete’s sake!

I wonder why the drum would be beaten so strongly against “guv’mint regulayshuns?” The government is us. The regulations that exist are in place to safeguard us. Where they have been circumvented and bastardized through the political process, it has been at the behest of the plutocratic powers that be, not the Ralph Naders of today. (Ordinary people can’t get anything through Congress, you know that, yes?)

So, to create support for these anti-democratic usurpations of political power, a narrative is needed. Ah, here’s just the one: “many of our problems would be solved if government would just get out of the way and unleash good, old American know how.”

As just one example of  how “good, old American knowhow” is in the world of commerce, and in tune with the topic of “batteries” involves a California remanufacturer of car batteries. These batteries contain a goodly amount of the element lead, both in solid form (the electrodes) and in water solution. You know that lead is poisonous, don’t you? It has been known to be quite poisonous for centuries. If you are old enough you have seen lead banned from gasoline and house paint, etc.

Now, to rebuild these batteries, the old solution, containing a great deal of dissolved lead as well as sulfuric acid, had to be removed from them. Do you know what their disposal process was? Yep, they poured in on the ground and it sank in and voila, it was “gone.” They did this for over fifty years! When the “guv’mint” got around to investigating they found significant lead pollution of ground water over 150 miles away. When the company was accosted with this result, they did what you expected them to … they closed their doors and left it to the guv’mint, aka “us,” to clean up the mess.

This is what happens when “government just gets out of the way” of good, old American know how. What the “know how” really is, is knowing how to make money, and messes, and letting others clean up afterward.

And incompetent journalists are selling us this “system” as a good idea.

August 7, 2016

You’ve Been Waiting for This All Year …

Filed under: Sports,Technology — Steve Ruis @ 3:27 pm
Tags: , , ,

You know you want it!

All right boys and girls, we are into the second half of the baseball season and it is time for my annual rant regarding baseball. (I can hear the … delete, delete, deletes … and now that we are rid of those not interested, I continue.)

All the rage on TV broadcasts of baseball games are the graphic strike zones which claim to show where the ball was thrown on each pitch. There are a few problems with these graphics and I have already written about one (see “On Baseball from 4/24/2015 … that’s 24/4/2015 for you Euros out there).

Pitch Trax
Here is a screenshot showing the PitchTrax grid and the little balls that represent the places previous pitches passed near home plate.
The ball is about 3˝ in diameter and any part of it that intersects with the strike zone should be deemed a strike.

Here’s a definition of the strike zone:
Rule 2.00: The Strike Zone. The STRIKE ZONE is that area over home plate the upper limit of which is a horizontal line at the midpoint between the top of the shoulders and the top of the uniform pants, and the lower level is a line at the hollow beneath the kneecap.

And we must keep up with rule changes, so in 1996 the “Strike Zone” was expanded on the lower end, moving from the top of the knees to the bottom of the knees.

So if a ball is thrown by the pitcher from any angle (as long as he begins to throw with one foot touching the pitching rubber he can end up anywhere he can reach) if any part of the ball passes through the strike zone, it is supposed to be called a “strike.”

Now with regard to the grid in the little graphic, we have a problem. Home plate is 17 inches wide and hence so is the strike zone … for everybody, but the height of the zone varies with how tall the batter is. So, I decided to use my own body for an example. According to the written definition, my strike zone would be 17˝ wide and 30˝ high. This zone has an aspect ratio of 1.76 that is the height is 1.76 times larger than the width. I then took a plastic ruler and measured the little grids on my TV screen and this is what I got”

PitchTrax     1.35 : 1
tbStrike Zone     1.35 : 1

I must have got something wrong so I remeasured my own zone and it came out the same … and then I remembered that umpires don’t call balls and strikes according to the actual rule. The rule they follow is:
De facto Rule 2.00: The Strike Zone. The STRIKE ZONE is that area over home plate the upper limit of which is at the top of the uniform pants, and the lower level is a line at the bottom of the knees.

This practice has made the major leagues a “low ball league.” So I measured myself according to this de facto rule and I came up with an aspect ratio of about 1.32 : 1 which is close enough to the little screen grid.

But this doesn’t  actually solve my problem. My problem is they use the same grid for a tall player that they do for a short one. Here are the aspect ratios for the strike zone (= height / width) for the tallest and shortest players:

Tallest (roughly 6´8˝)     1.41 : 1
Shortest (roughly 5´7˝)     1.18 : 1

Now those numbers don’t make a very visual difference, so here are the two grids to the same scale graphically:

Strike ZonesThe strike zone on the left would be the one to use for a 5´7˝ player and the one on the right for a 6´8˝ player.
Note they are of quite a difference in height (but same in width as that is determined by the width of home plate, not the batter)
as well as the one for the taller player starts off farther from the ground (estimated).

I do realize that it is perfectly possible to map any of those grids onto the “standard” one they use for every batter, but that doesn’t give an accurate sense of where the ball actually was to most viewers making it easier for them to be disgruntled.

Also, I still wonder about the technology. I was watch Chris Sale of the Chicago White Sox pitch the other day and he is a left-hander who often throws side arm. This means the ball is coming from about three feet to the left of a line drawn outward from the center of the plate. The camera is set up in centerfield shooting over the shoulder of the pitcher (so the batter and catcher can be seen) but fairly high up and to the right. (I am guessing it is to the right because most pitchers are right-handed.) So, Mr. Sale throws one of his wicked sliders which curves from left-to-right as well as travels over 90 mph and the “strike tracking software” throws up a ball symbol exactly where the catcher caught the ball, which was just off the grid. The pitch was called a strike, correctly so, for the pitch to land in the catcher’s glove … three feet beyond the plate on the outside edge of the grid it must have traveled through the grid up near home plate. The announcers reacted that the umpire had given the pitcher a gift by calling a pitch that was outside of the strike zone a strike … based upon a glance at the tbStrike Zone. Why the position of the ball symbol on the grid matched the position of the catchers mitt, which was physically impossible for the ball to do unless it started to curve back to the left when it reached the plate is puzzling.

I do not trust the accuracy of these gizmos and for all I know they could have an intern with a light pen watching a TV screen and then touching the grid on a tablet with a light pen, rather than the complicated radar systems they say they have.

I would prefer that they explain their technology better especially why the grid is the same for all players when the rules say each player has his own strike zone.




July 30, 2016

WTF? Further Government Shilling for Tech Companies

I just got a message from the ’Merican Guvmint that they are required by Executive Action to provide an additional layer of security to my Social Security online account, my “my Social Security” account.

To access my account in the future, I must supply a cell phone number that can receive texts to which an automated code will be sent, which when entered will allow me to view my account. Then they dropped the hammer:

If you do not have a text-enabled cell phone or you do not wish to provide your cell phone number, you will not be able to access your my Social Security account.

In other words, if you are poor or elderly and not tech savvy, well FUCK YOU, write us a letter and drop in a post box (which we have eliminated) or hand it to your local postman (which we are in the process of eliminating) or take to your local post office (which we are in the process of eliminating). But, in any case, fuck you, fuck you very much. <signed> Your Federal Government

February 26, 2014

NRA: “Mission Accomplished!”

This is the title and first paragraph of a recent NRA press release:
U.S. Firearm Production Sets Record in 2012: AR-15 Production Up Over 100%
“The number of firearms manufactured in the U.S. for sale to American customers hit an all-time high in 2012, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ (BATFE) new Firearms Manufacturers and Export Report. American firearm manufacturers produced roughly 8.3 million firearms for sale in the U.S., a new record, up 33 percent from the 6.2 million produced for American customers in 2011.”

Wikipedia says this about the AR-15:
“The AR-15 is a lightweight, 5.56 mm/.223-caliber, magazine-fed, air cooled rifle with a rotating-lock bolt, actuated by direct impingement gas operation or long/short stroke piston operation. It has been produced in many different versions, including numerous semi-automatic and selective fire variants. It is manufactured with extensive use of aluminum alloys and synthetic materials.
“The AR-15 was first built by ArmaLite as a small arms rifle for the United States armed forces. Because of financial problems, ArmaLite sold the AR-15 design to Colt. After modifications (most notably the relocation of the charging handle from under the carrying handle like the AR-10 to the rear of the receiver), the new redesigned rifle was subsequently adopted as the M16 rifle. Colt then started selling the semi-automatic version of the M16 rifle as the Colt AR-15 for civilian sales in 1963 and the term has been used to refer to semiautomatic-only versions of the rifle since then. Although the name “AR-15” remains a Colt registered trademark, variants of the firearm are independently made, modified and sold under various names by multiple manufacturers.”

The phrase “adopted as the M16 rifle” means adopted by the U.S. Military. In other words, this is not a hunting weapon or a self-defense weapon, this is a weapon designed to kill a great many people as fast as possible, a military weapon. The rate of fire of the fully-automatic AR-15 was 800 rounds/min. The rate of fire of the semi-automatic version, the only version legal in the U.S., is indeterminant because it depends on how fast you can pull the trigger. Some say it is as low as 12-15 rounds per minute and that if you go faster, the barrel will overheat and the gun will jam. This seems a preposterous claim for a weapon designed to shoot 800 rounds/min. Also, a technique called “bump firing,” was devised that, while inaccurate, allows the trigger to be pulled at a very fast rate.

To make matters worse, while the interior parts of the commercial AR-15 have been redesigned so that the fully automatic parts from a military AR-15 cannot be just dropped in, consider this comment from January 2013 (Source: This Simple, Legal Add-On Lets an AR-15 Rifle Fire 900 Rounds Per Minute,, 1-7-13):
“. . . a company called Slide Fire Solutions introduced a replacement rifle stock called the SSAR-15 that, for $369, allows you to bump fire your AR-15-style rifle from your shoulder while still retaining accuracy and control. The stock, in the simplest terms, is the part of the rifle you hold and brace against your shoulder. According to the Slide Fire website, “unlike traditional bump firing, the Slidestock allows the shooter to properly hold the firearm and maintain complete control at all times. As a result of the forward movement required to discharge each round, the shooter naturally corrects their point-of-aim for each shot and prevents recoil from pushing the firearm’s muzzle upward in an unsafe direction.” Or, as the subhed more concisely puts it, the SSAR-15 lets a shooter “unleash 100 rounds, in 7 seconds.” A product review at a site called Guns America notes that the SSAR-15 “installs in one minute with no special skills.”

Ah, that’s more like it. The NRA is crowing about record sales of a rifle that for a fraction of its original purchase price can be converted in just a few minutes to a fully automatic weapon capable of killing hundreds of people in just seconds.

Why would anyone think this was a good idea?

Ah, according to the Christian Science Monitor, “The estimated economic impact of the US firearms industry in 2012 was $31.8 billion, according to data from the National Shooting Sports Foundation. That’s up from $27.8 billion in 2009.” You can always determine the “whys” of American politics by following the money.

The NRA is a shill for the U.S. firearm manufacturers. When they make money, the NRA makes money. The next time you hear of a mass murder, remember it was not a crime of passion, but of greed.

Postscript Many people claim being able to fire automatic rifles is great fun. I agree. I have done so myself. This can be enjoyed by one and all at licensed establishments designed for such pleasures. There is no need for individuals to own such weapons.

December 24, 2013

Wow, Smell that Highway!

Filed under: Science,Technology — Steve Ruis @ 10:42 am
Tags: , ,

According to the NY Times, “this month, Milwaukee began a pilot program to repurpose cheese brine for use in keeping city roads from freezing, mixing the dairy waste with traditional rock salt as a way to trim costs and ease pollution.”

All I could think was “Whey cool!”

November 6, 2013

Tech Sanity, Finally?

Filed under: Science,Technology — Steve Ruis @ 1:36 pm
Tags: , , , ,

Recently the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) endorsed new guidelines for parents who are concerned with the question: how much screen time is too much? The guideline, in summary, equates to “for children over the age of 2, their total exposure to televisions, computers, tablets, and smart phones should be restricted to two hours a day. In addition, they should not be allowed to keep TVs and Internet-capable devices in their bedrooms.”

Contrast this recommendation to parent’s who are hooking their kids up with smart phones (with GPS leashes to keep track of where their kids are), tablet readers, laptop computers to do homework on, video game consoles, etc. Plus schools are trying to jamb as many screens in front of our kids as is possible (to the extent that companies are trying mightily to inject advertisements onto those screens because of the huge audience).

Compare this with the countries that score highest on international benchmark tests. There is very little technology in their classrooms because they understand that education is a social activity and technology isolates people. (What, you’ve never seen two students stand right next to one another and communicate with texts? Ask any teacher.)

November 3, 2013

Another Conservative Meme Exposed as Balderdash

A conservative mantra is that government needs to get out of the way and unleash the power of private enterprise. Get rid of all of those pesky regulations and corporations will lead us to the promised land. This has almost become “common knowledge” in the U.S.

Unfortunately, or fortunately, it is not true.

Watch this TED Talk if you want to know better what the real source of innovation is:

As a teaser, the presenter points out that everybody’s favorite invention, the iPhone, has many features such as: access to the Internet, access to the Cell System, GPS, Siri, and a touch screen. Apple is so damned innovative! Actually all of those features were developed by the U.S. Government. And, if you will remember, the things that made the Apple Macintosh different were also not invented by Apple, but by the Palo Alto Research Corporation, a division of Xerox and Stanford Research Institute (for whom my mother worked). SRI was heavily funded by government grants and programs.

If government really got “out of the way” corporations would, avoiding risky enterprises, innovate very little. When it comes to R&D, their strength is in the D and not the R.

And conservatives have no problem repeating big lies over and over and over. It helps them learn to believe them.

October 21, 2013

I Can Hardly Wait

Filed under: Technology — Steve Ruis @ 8:13 am
Tags: ,

Now that cars are being made that can sense danger ahead and even apply the car’s brakes for us, I expect that soon teenaged drivers will invent some very interesting games with these cars. Another triumph for Darwinism.

October 11, 2013

Obamacare Launch Problems? Ho-hum.

Republicans are making a big deal about the launch problems of the Obamacare “Insurance Exchanges,” but once again have overplayed their hand. Americans have been preparing for decades to deal with crashing computers and frustrating software during program rollouts; you see most computers run on Microsoft Windows.

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