Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Better Living Through Electronics

A few years ago a friend sent me the following. I found it moderately amusing at the time.

I Cannot SeeI Cannot PeeI Cannot ChewI Cannot ScrewOh, My God, What Can I Do?My Memory ShrinksMy Hearing StinksNo Sense of SmellI Look Like HellMy Mood is Bad -- Can't You Tell?My Body is DroopingHave Trouble PoopingThe Golden Years Have Come at LastThe Golden Years can Kiss My Ass!

Every year, it's a little less amusing. I've been deluged with offers to have my hearing tested, and several times I've taken them up on it. The tests have verified what members of my family have been saying all along: I don't hear very well. While the tests are free, the proposed solution is not, and after hearing the cost of the device, I've always skipped the free trial. But they keep on calling and writing so this year I said what the hell, let's see how it works. I was given two little metallic slivers that are slung over the back of each ear and wired to a small plug inserted into the ear. These things are custom tuned to amplify only the frequencies that have been lost with time. I must report that they work rather well. They also made me very nervous I could suddenly imagine how a woman might feel wearing clip-on diamond earrings. My life could definitely be improved by hearing better. But then, it could also be improved by a new car or a trip around the world, either of which might be had for a similar price. If I'm to make an investment in hearing of this magnitude, the device needs to be mar more sophisticated. Hearing normal conversation is a big help but what about filtering out the screams of small children. Better still, a device that just shuts down when it registers a commanding or nagging tone, ideally adding white noise to make orders inaudible. Two weeks into my free month, the devices stopped working due to an accumulation of ear wax that my attempts to replace the batteries did nothing to alleviate. This made me even more nervous and I just turned them in ahead of time, but it got me thinking of other electronic devices that could improve my life if only they were available.

  • An electronic fence- I know, such devices have been around for some time, but your dog or cat must wear a collar to activate it. I'm thinking in terms of keeping unknown animals, from dogs to rats, porcupines to wild boars, off one's property. We don't necessarily want to keep people out so perhaps three or four points of contact with the ground might be the trigger. That would have the added benefit of limiting the range of crawling babies.
  • A baby dissuader- To be attached either electronically or physically to cell phones, TV remotes and computer keyboards, it will emit an electric shock sufficient to inhibit the child from ever touching the protected device again. Extended exposure may keep children from ever becoming adept at the use of electronic gadgetry, but they can become an elite group, conversant with poetry and the spoken tradition. We need more poets.
  • A radar buster- While I've always opposed graffiti and other malicious vandalism, with the current spate of radar speed traps documented in an earlier post, the public needs a clean and neat means to defend itself from this epidemic of governmental overreach. If we can fly unmanned bombing sorties in Afghanistan from offices in Las Vegas, I can't imagine why we can't be electronically armed to fry the brains of these insidious devices as we inconspicuously drive by.
  • MP3 remote volume adjusters- Anyone who's ridden a bus or subway has been exposed to people with earphones whose “music” leaks out to envelop their surroundings. This device would allow gentler souls among us to lower the volume, while allowing the rest of us to instantly triple the volume. The owner would immediately discard or shut down the offending device or, if already effectively deaf, be throttled by enraged people nearby.
  • Electronic cat flap- Standard issue cat flaps are wonderful home improvements but they are deficient in two ways. Once your domesticated cat has been seen entering or leaving through her own little door, clever feral cats will learn to use the same entrance, with disastrous results. Your own sweet cat is free to come and go, with whatever prey, dead or alive, it chooses to drag in. Rat tails under the dining room table are always an embarrassment. The new electronic cat flap must provide identity checks and rat screening, not an easy task, but our airports have managed similar functions.
  • Intelligent cell phones (not to be confused with smart phones)- We see drivers wandering to the wrong side of the road, waiting to move when the way is clear, and then plunging into traffic when they should wait. Inevitably, there's the telltale hand pressed to the ear and the mouth moving. This is illegal in Italy but the law, being unenforced, has no effect. Our proposal would see to it that when a cell phone is activated the car's ignition would shut down. Many details need to be resolved to avoid unwanted side effects. We neither want to deprive passengers in a car the use of their cell phones nor do we wish to paralyze bus service. Connecting the shut off device to a sensor in the driver's seat is a possible solution. Still, the effects of engine shutdown at high speed may need further study before this device can be brought to the market.
  • Eyeglass finders- Finally, it has come to our attention that eyeglasses have a way of being lost or misplaced more than other objects. Despite appearances, they are rarely stolen or moved by ghosts or evil spirits. A simple alarm device could be implanted in each pair of glass frames which could then activated by a locater button fixed in a known and permanent location in the home.

Time for all you young entrepreneurial electronics wizards out there to get busy. You keep developing ridiculous new phone apps for kids and yuppies, but there are plenty of us aging curmudgeons awaiting your help.

Monday, July 4, 2011

The 2012 CatCartoonNetwork/punditalia Presidential Platform

Four years ago we posted on our website our 2008 Presidential Platform, a list of forty-one moderate proposals as to what an aspiring president should set as goals to make the USA a better country. Barack Obama was elected and four years later, one out of our forty-one suggestions has been partially carried out, when some US troops were redeployed from Iraq to Afghanistan. Meanwhile, strident neo-cons such as Paul Ryan have consistently made headlines by proclaiming the need for radical measures designed to eliminate the middle class and transfer its wealth to the richest 1% of the population. Such demands have been accompanied by threats to shut down the government if all non-military expenditures are not slashed.

While we stand behind our 2008 platform, it's time to stop pussy-footing around and raise the volume as we pare down this year's goals to the essential.

  1. Ten years after 9/11, with the objective of finding and eliminating Osama Bin Laden finally realized, it's time to bring all troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan.
  2. In keeping with the current nostalgia for better times and traditional values, restore income tax rates to those in effect when the last great Republican president (not counting Barack Obama), Dwight D. Eisenhower, left office in 1961. That means a top marginal rate of 91%.
  3. Immediately pass a constitutional amendment making clear the obvious, that “persons”, for the purposes of constitutional rights, shall be defined as individual human beings, and that shall mean all human beings who have been born.
  4. Have the Justice Department investigate the possibility of charging the five person majority of the Supreme Court with treason, for their scandalous, irresponsible and unconstitutional decision in Citizens United, which opened the doors for US elections to be influenced by non-citizens.
  5. Restore the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 as written, thus separating commercial and investment banking.
  6. Corporations shall be forbidden from making contributions to candidates or occupants of political office. Penalties shall be mandatory jail terms for the executives in charge of such corporations, and should the amounts exceed a figure to be established by Congress, jail terms shall be extended to the entire Board of Directors.
  7. Corporations shall be subjected to a three strikes and you're out provision. With the third violation of the Political Contributions Act, the corporate charter will be revoked and the corporation disbanded.
  8. Legislators shall be required to disclose all sources and amounts of campaign (or other) contributions and shall disqualify themselves from presenting, arguing, or voting on any legislation that may provide direct benefit to their contributors. Penalties shall be immediate removal from office and the loss of all accrued benefits. Additional fines and jail time may be applied.
  9. Judges, especially those on the Supreme Court, shall disqualify themselves from sitting on cases the outcomes of which shall provide direct benefit to themselves or their immediate family. They shall be forbidden from accepting gifts or payments from anyone who is party to a case coming before them. Violations will bring immediate removal from the court.
  10. Penalties for crimes against property, e.g. robbery, theft, embezzlement, fraud, and insider trading shall be roughly proportional to the value of the items illegally taken from the victim. Thus, if a $100 theft from a grocery store yields a 30 day jail term, the embezzlement of $100,000 of pension funds would yield a 30,000 day prison term. We acknowledge the practical difficulties of this concept. Heavy penalties may be necessary to discourage relatively minor property crimes, whereas sentences of 500 or 1000 years of jail time would be relatively meaningless. In for a dime, in for a dollar. Given the high cost of housing criminal offenders and the record number and percentage of Americans who are incarcerated, the policy could be modified so that anyone convicted of a property crime amounting to more than $50,000 could be required to pay the full cost of his or her incarceration. We would urge caution to avoid unintended consequences. Given the record low level of taxation currently in vogue, some states may find it remunerative under this law to find reasons to jail all their bankers.
  11. Disband the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Former officials will be offered a bronze parachute, acceptance of which will exempt them from prosecution for most of their misdeeds.
  12. Guantanamo will be closed as an off-shore concentration camp for people the US doesn't want to prosecute and converted into a retirement home for former officials of the above-named organizations. Guests will be provided with comfortable accommodation, as befits their station, but there will will be no electronic communication with the world beyond the island, nor will visitors or off-island excursions be permitted.
  13. Country of Origin labeling will be required on all products sold in the United States. This is in conflict with WTO rulings, but as stated above, the WTO is to be eliminated.
  14. To combat the inexorable tide of the outsourcing of American jobs to Asia, Indian telephone responders will be imported into the US to teach their American counterparts the fundamentals of courtesy and diction.
  15. In the current political climate there is a big push for testing school children to assure their job-readiness. In that spirit we advocate literacy tests for presidential and vice-presidential candidates. Had this policy been in place earlier, we might have been spared the disastrous first eight years of the new millennium. It could cull the herd of young elephants currently charging the White House but wider application to the entire Congress might result in overly swift and radical changes to the country.
  16. Given the clear need to render the US Military less bellicose and the Justice Department more aggressive, we propose the following Cabinet appointments:
      Secretary of Defense- Dennis Kucinich
      Attorney General- Elliot Spitzer
17. Now that we've seen Barry Bonds standing trial for lying to Congress and a Grand Jury under oath about his personal use of performance enhancing drugs, we believe that The Justice Department should take a similarly tough stance with regard to other members of the citizenry, less famous perhaps, but more closely linked to the health of the nation. A few prominent and well documented examples come readily to mind. Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell and George W. Bush all lied to Congress about WMD in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. Chief Justice John Roberts stated under oath at his confirmation hearings that he was opposed to judicial activism, yet he has proved to be the most activist Chief Justice in Court history. Members of various intelligence agencies lied to the Congressional Committee investigating 9/11 about what was known to them about the imminent attacks on the WTC and the Pentagon. The list is long and while we don't condone professional athletes breaking their rules, we consider government officials violating the Constitution, and banksters devastating the economy, to be more deserving of immediate Congressional oversight and subsequent prosecution.