Eric Knight Inventor. Entrepreneur. Author. Futurist. Business & Internet Pioneer.
Browsing all posts in: Politics

Excellent report: Consumer Report’s review of the Affordable Health Care Act “Obamacare”

September 22

Consumer_Reports_Health_Care_FactsDownload and read the excellent perspective on the Affordable Health Care Act, a.k.a., “Obamacare” — entitled “Health Reform:  Seven Things You Need To Know” — by clicking on this link.

The Journal of the American Medical Association publishes scientific gun study: “Firearm Legislation and Firearm-Related Fatalities in the United States.” SUMMARY: The higher the number of firearm laws in a state, the lower the rate of firearm fatalities in the state.

March 7

Results:  Over the 4-year study period, there were 121,084 firearm fatalities. The average state-based firearm fatality rates varied from a high of 17.9 (Louisiana) to a low of 2.9 (Hawaii) per 100,000 individuals per year. Annual firearm legislative strength scores ranged from 0 (Utah) to 24 (Massachusetts) of 28 possible points. States in the highest quartile of legislative strength (scores of >9) had a lower overall firearm fatality rate than those in the lowest quartile (scores of <2) (absolute rate difference, 6.64 deaths/100,000/y; age-adjusted incident rate ratio [IRR], 0.58; 95% CI, 0.37-0.92). Compared with the quartile of states with the fewest laws, the quartile with the most laws had a lower firearm suicide rate (absolute rate difference, 6.25 deaths/100,000/y; IRR, 0.63; 95% CI, 0.48-0.83) and a lower firearm homicide rate (absolute rate difference, 0.40 deaths/100,000/y; IRR, 0.60; 95% CI, 0.38-0.95).

Conclusions and Relevance:  A higher number of firearm laws in a state are associated with a lower rate of firearm fatalities in the state, overall and for suicides and homicides individually. As our study could not determine cause-and-effect relationships, further studies are necessary to define the nature of this association.

Full report:   http://archinte.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1661390

Eric W. Fleegler, MD, MPH; Lois K. Lee, MD, MPH; Michael C. Monuteaux, ScD; David Hemenway, PhD; Rebekah Mannix, MD, MPH

JAMA Intern Med. 2013;():1-9. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.1286.

Published online March 6, 2013

Death of the Internet? Run-amok legislation could kill the Web.

January 2

Washington legislators may have finally lost their minds. Two bills winding their way through Congress — the House’s “Stop Online Piracy Act” (aka, SOPA) and the Senate’s “Protect IP Act of 2011″ (aka, Protect IP) — could gut the very foundation of the Internet.

But don’t just take my word for it. The same conclusion is represented by three distinguished law professors from Stanford, Elon, and Temple universities in their jointly published essay, “Don’t Break the Internet.”

Here are a couple of snippets from the authors’ essay:

“The procedures outlined in both bills fail [a] fundamental constitutional test. Websites can be ‘completely removed from circulation’ — rendered unreachable by, and invisible to, Internet users in the United States and abroad — immediately upon application by the government, without any reasonable opportunity for the owner or operator of the website in question to be heard or to present evidence on his or her own behalf. This falls far short of what the Constitution requires before speech can be eliminated from public circulation.”

“As serious as these infirmities are, SOPA, the House’s bill, builds upon them, enlarges them, and makes them worse. Under SOPA, IP rights holders can proceed vigilante-style against allegedly offending sites, without any court hearing or any judicial intervention or oversight whatsoever.”

In the noise of all of the other political gyrations in Washington, legislation that could undermine the foundation of the Internet could squeak through. I urge you to review the entire legal analysis at this link.  If you’re equally concerned, you may want to consider contacting your Congressional representatives.

Image courtesy Stanford Law Review.

Raise up to $2 million for your business (BIG NEWS for entrepreneurs)

December 12

How would you like to raise up to $2 million for your startup business?  And do it by letting investors “point-n-click” the cash your way via the Web?  It may soon be nearly that simple, thanks to the “Entrepreneur Access to Capital Act” (more commonly known as the “Crowdfunding Act”) that passed the House in an overwhelming (and bi-partisan!) 407 to 17 vote.  President Obama is another driving force behind the legislation, which is designed to dramatically streamline fund-raising for entrepreneurs.

After the bill passes the Senate (and all indications are that it will), and President Obama signs the legislation into law, entrepreneurs will be able to turn on a grassroots method to raise capital — equity sales online — with greatly reduced SEC restrictions.  The freer flow of money would be rocket fuel for startups, which are an essential engine for a robust economy and job creation.

“Crowdfunding” — a way for masses of people (“the crowd”) to feed ventures with capital via the Web — has blossomed in recent years thanks to sites like Kickstarter.com.  But SEC “red tape” (primarily the Securities Act of 1933) has prohibited these sites from directly offering investment shares in the enterprises.  The new Crowdfunding Act will remove this barrier.  No longer will equity sales be restricted to accredited investors.  And the power of public-supported funding will be unleashed.

Entrepreneurial endeavors will be able to sell up to $2 million in ownership shares to an unlimited number of investors.  And individuals will be able to invest up to $10,000 or up to 10% of his or her annual income, whichever is less.

If a company seeks the maximum $2 million in funding, it must supply “the crowd” with audited financial statements.  A company can choose to bypass the audited-financial-statement requirement — but then the maximum capital it can raise is $1 million.  (That’s nothing to sneeze at!)

When the President signs the legislation into law, it will be a great day for all entrepreneurs.  Just as important for America, the ensuing new businesses will provide a shot of adrenaline for the economy and help rev up the job-creation engine.  Everyone will win.

Americans Elect: Fast ‘n’ loose with the facts. Healthy skepticism recommended.

December 9

I’m following up on my earlier thoughts regarding Americans Elect.  On the November 25th “Hardball” with Chris Matthews (one of my favorite shows, btw), Americans Elect COO Elliot Ackerman had some revealing comments — a number of which were not factual.  For instance, Ackerman expressed that the donor list is “streaming live on our Web site.”  However, it is not.  He also said that Americans Elect is “not a political party.”  However, a little fact-checking reveals that Americans Elect is registered as a political party in a variety of states, including Florida, Colorado, and Arizona.

Because Americans Elect doesn’t have to reveal its donor list, that invites big money to sneak in the back door — along with wink-and-nod influence.  And the organization, itself, was kicked off with $1.55 million from Wall Street billionaire Peter Ackerman.  Yes, that’s the COO’s father.  So there’s a strange mix of things going on here.  The organization may very well have a significant impact on the 2012 election.  But will it be a healthy impact?  Stay tuned for further perspectives.

In the meantime, check out the Wikipedia information here:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Americans_Elect

And here’s a link to the above-referenced Hardball interview: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3036697/#45406374

Political (and technology) prediction

November 28

I’m not big on politics.  But I am on technology.  And I’ve spotted an emerging technology platform that has a legitimate potential to profoundly impact the U.S. presidential election less than a year from now.

It’s called Americans Elect www.AmericansElect.com.  Its goal:  Allow the public to select its own President / Vice President candidate ticket — and put the pair on the election ballot in all 50 states.

What distinguishes this endeavor from a symbolic gesture is that Americans Elect is collecting signatures nationwide to place the selected candidates on the ballot in all 50 states.  So, in theory, the Americans Elect ticket could become President and Vice President of the United States.

As stated by Americans Elect“We’re using the Internet to break the gridlock in Washington, open up the political process and give every single voter — Democrat, Republican or independent — the power to nominate a presidential ticket in 2012. Your voice matters. You decide the issues. You choose the candidates. And in a secure, online convention next June, you will make history by putting the Americans Elect ticket on the ballot in every state.”

Could this actually happen?  Given the volatile political climate, and now the technology infrastructure, it’s not impossible.  Check out the Web site www.AmericansElect.com and keep an eye on things.  And if Americans Elect blossoms into a real political force, remember where you heard it first.

Dim-witted politicians seek to reverse light-bulb law

July 26

In 2007 President Bush signed into law an energy bill that requires light bulbs to be 30 percent more efficient by 2012.  Sounds like a good idea, right?  Today’s old-fashioned “Edison” bulbs turn only 10% of electricity into light — with the other 90% turned into heat.  But now some “brilliant” lawmakers want to overturn the 2007 law, and they’ve introduced legislation to do so.

Their rationale?  People should have the right to choose how they want to light their homes and businesses, regardless of bulb type or efficiency.  Now, I’m all for a free society and minimal government impact on our lives.  But the reality is that America has five percent of the world’s population, but consumes a whopping 25% of the world’s energy.  Expressed another way:  On average, each one of us consumes five times more energy than an individual in any other country on the planet.  And lighting is one of the heftiest contributors.

Edison bulbs have been around since 1879.  As we all learned in school, Thomas Edison found a way to create light by sending a current through a metal filament, causing it to glow. But this ancient technology, as mentioned above, is a terribly inefficient light source; for most homes, it’s the second-largest energy expense.

Today’s energy-efficient light-bulb alternatives come in all shapes, sizes, and types.

The now-popular “curly” fluorescent light bulbs (a.k.a., compact fluorescent lights, CFLs) are much more energy efficient (20% or more).  But some people don’t like the slight turn-on delay.  And, contrary to recent media reports, they don’t contain life-threatening levels of mercury.  Yes, they contain some mercury — but only about one hundredth (1/100) of the mercury as the medical thermometers we grew up with.

My personal preference is the LED light bulb, based on the same LED technology used in everything from flashlights to TV displays.  They are considerably more expensive — $20 to $40 per bulb.  But, because they are up to 80% efficient (vs. an Edison bulb’s 10% or a CFL’s 20%), they pay back quickly in energy savings — and can save hundreds of dollars per year in operating costs.  And forget about replacing them.  Under typical usage, a single LED bulb can last up to 25 years.

Watch for the costs of LED bulbs to plummet over the next year or two, as demand and production increase.

Companies are springing up, all across America, to manufacture both CFLs and LEDs.  These companies are creating jobs and fostering innovation.  Now if only the light bulb would go on in the heads of our politicians.

Hooray! Obama administration to overhaul slow-motion U.S. patent system.

April 18

One of the most frustrating things about being an inventor is the time it takes for my patent applications to wind their way through the system at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.  It can be two years, or more, before I even get my “first response” – that is, the initial feedback on my invention.  It’s excruciating. The article below from The Register provides a good overview of the changes that are in the works — thanks to the Obama administration.

(The Register) The Obama administration is launching an effort to reform the slow-motion train wreck that is the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

“We’ve got the greatest inventors in the world, and it’s time we give them the help they need to bring this country where it needs to be,” said Austan Goolsbee, chairman of the Obama administration’s Council of Economic Advisers in a White House White Board video on Monday.

Goolsbee says that the USPTO takes far too long to review patents, and makes too many mistakes. He notes that it took Alexander Graham Bell only a month to get a patent for the telephone back in 1876, and that in 1974 the “main patent” for the cell phone was issued in two years.

“But today,” Goolsbee says, “we’ve had the number of patent applications grow enormously – they’ve almost tripled in the last 20 years. And now we’ve got a massive backlog of more than 700,000 patents who haven’t even had their patent applications opened. The average patent in 2011 takes almost three years to get – and thousands of them take many more years than that.”

That delay is unconscionable, according to Goolsbee, and is a drag on American business. “To put that is some context, if you look at the failure rate of new businesses, in that kind of time frame more than one-third of them has ceased to exist.”

Goolsbee cites a survey of venture capital–backed startups which found that three-quarters of them said that having patent protection was “critical” for receiving financing.

To ameliorate this slow and mistake-filled process, the Obama administration is instituting a patent-reform plan that Goolsbee says will “cut the average delay by more than 40 per cent.”

The administration also plans to introduce a “fast-track” process through which inventors can get their “most important” patents approved within a year – although Goolsbee provided no details as to who will decide which patent applications will be allowed to jump into that express lane.

Finally, the USPTO will institute “a patent-review process after patents are granted to try to quickly and fairly resolve any patent disputes without getting embroiled in years of legal limbo,” Goolsbee says.  For the complete article, visit http://bit.ly/dJsZoX

Very funny (but sad): Senator Jon Kyl vs. Stephen Colbert

April 15

Senator Jon Kyl stood on the floor of the U.S. Senate the other day and proclaimed that abortions represent “over 90 percent of what Planned Parenthood does.”  The reality: 3%.  He was only off by 87%. Sadly, Kyl’s “fact” is now part of the permanent Senate Record — and heard (and likely believed) by countless Americans.  Ironically, we need to turn to comedians, like Stephen Colbert, to provide factual assessments of what’s heard in the hallowed halls of Congress.  Check out this very funny segment from Colbert’s show, as reported on The Last Word:

If your browser doesn’t display the video, visit the following link at YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-EaB69vv-iY

Tune out the politicians: Listen to a Nobel-Prize-winning economist for advice on strengthening America’s fiscal situation

March 31

Check out the insightful Op-Ed piece from Nobel economics laureate, Joseph Stiglitz, as he outlines his plan for substantial economic growth and reducing the deficit.

“Deficit reduction is important.  But it is a means to an end — not an end in itself.”  He adds, “Years of underinvestment in the public sector — in infrastructure, education and technology — mean that there are ample high-return opportunities.”

You can view the full article at http://politi.co/fZA3hG

Ann Coulter Says Radiation Is Actually Good For You

March 20

(eCanadaNow) “On the popular TV show, ‘The O’Reilly Factor,’ conservative columnist Ann Coulter said that radiation is actually good for you, and that the media is blowing the Japanese nuclear crisis out of proportion.  Coulter recently wrote a column in the New York Times that cites a number of articles stating that a number of physicists say that cancer patients can actually benefit from radiation.  O’Reilly was very skeptical about her statements, and told his audience to air on the side of caution.”  For the complete story, visit http://bit.ly/eyqceO

You’re essentially looking over my shoulder as I write, think, create, invent, and — in general — ponder the world around us.  Feel free to peruse my writings and chime in as you’re so inspired.  I encourage spirited debate.

This is a specially crafted multi-pronged conduit.  Everything I type feeds parallel simultaneous streams to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and my e-mail broadcast system.  It’s a global tightrope without a net.  Oh, my.

No topic is off limits.  If you’re looking for a site that is “politically correct,” you’ve come to the wrong place.  Hit the back button on your browser now.

Lots and lots of new features are coming online.  They’re all in various stages of development.  You’ll soon see innovative things I’m working on — such as a live, streaming, two-way “TV channel” of sorts where you’ll be able to interact with me (audio, video, text) in real time as I type here in front of my computer.

This is my platform to push the boundaries of technology in every dimension.

Hang on tight.  We may achieve orbit.  Or we may sail off a cliff.  But the ride will be exhilarating.

— Eric

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