Tuesday, September 23, 2008

7 down, 9,105 to go -- plus how scientists almost blew up the world!

There was a week or two ago a lot of concern over the start-up of the Large Hadron Collider and whether it would create a massive black hole that would swallow up the earth and we would all be either crushed or transported to a new dimension where we would finally meet V.I.N.CENT and the rest of the crew of the U.S.S. Palomino , which sounds cool except that I think we would also run into Maximillian and Dr. Reinhardt, and they were evil, so it wouldn't be a paradise or anything.

As it turns out, we were not swallowed by a black hole-- yet -- but that doesn't mean that the public didn't have reason to fear, given that "scientists" in the 1940s detonated the first atomic bomb despite worrying that doing so might ignite the entire atmosphere and destroy the world. They just went ahead and did that, without even warning us -- so would you expect them to tell you that the world just may be swallowed up by a black hole? Of course not. They're too busy pretending velociraptors exist.

Plus, consider the quality of the "scientist" that is working on the Large Hadron Collider. On the day it was turned on, CNN interviewed John Ellis, described as a "CERN Physicist" and asked John Ellis whether the public had anything to worry about.

Of course not, John Ellis responded. The collider, he explained, would be smashing together particles and releasing that energy. The public had no need to worry, he went on to say, because these particles were like mosquitos, so there was "no more energy than a mosquito." That is a direct quote of John Ellis.

What John Ellis was saying, then, is that the Large Hadron Collider would release no more energy than if two mosquitos ran into each other.

What John Ellis is not understanding, then, is Einstein's equation, one every single person in the world except John Ellis knows: E=mc(squared.)

E= mc(squared) is not just the name of a Mariah Carey album, John Ellis -- although you may very well think so, given that for a CERN physicist you are alarmingly unfamiliar with the formula. E=mc(squared) also is the equation Einstein (you may have heard of him) created to explain the relationship between matter and energy, and particularly how much energy is stored in matter and ready to explode.

In the equation,

E= energy
M= the mass of an object.
C = the speed of light in a vacuum.

So the Energy contained inside any given object is equal to that object's Mass times the Speed of Light, squared.

A mosquito weighs, typically, 2.5 milligrams. The speed of light in a vacuum is 299,792, 458 meters per second. Let's round that down to 299 meters per second to make the math easier. That means that the energy contained in a single mosquito is:

E= 2.5 mg * (299,000,000 * 299,000,000) or 2,235,025,000,000,000,000 joules.

Two mosquitos collided together and exploding like a nuclear reaction would therefore release 447,005,000,000,000,000 joules of energy.

One joule = the energy of one textbook dropped on the floor.

The Hiroshima bomb released 80,000,000,000,000 joules of energy.

So, what John Ellis should have said is that the energy produced by the Large Hadron Collider would certainly not be as great as that of two mosquitoes colliding and exploding, since if two mosquitos collided and exploded in a nuclear reaction, basic principles of physics tell us that the resulting energy released would be 5,587 times the destructive force of Hiroshima.

I, for one, was not reassured by either (a) John Ellis' deliberate misleading of the public, or (b) John Ellis' terrible misunderstanding of phyics or (c) the possibility that John Ellis was telling the truth and understood physics and that at any moment that day, a force equal to 5,587 nuclear weapons might be detonated.

That's why "scientists" should stick to making up dinosaurs and pretending they existed, and leave the real science to indie rock groups like Modest Mouse, which is the artist responsible for today's song, a song which accurately explains how the universe can be both infinite and finite. I give you song 7 of 9,105, "3rd Planet" by Modest Mouse:

Down... to go... is my attempt to out Wowbagger Wowbagger the Infinitely Prolonged -- by counting down all the songs on my iPod, one at a time.

"Science" is worthless; all it does is add oxidants to food and make up the velociraptor. Click here to read about my misadventures with science-ified food; or click here read about how I finally proved that velociraptors never existed.

Monday, September 22, 2008

This wouldn't have happened to me if men were able to become pregnant.

I'm not a bad person and I'm not a bad parent. It looks that way sometimes, but really, before you judge me, you should get to know all the facts.

I took the Babies!, Mr F and Mr Bunches, with me to the store on Saturday right after their nap. I did that to give Sweetie a break. Sweetie is a stay-at-home mom, which means she has 168 hours per week in the company of the Babies!, and almost that much in the company of The Boy and Middle. If Oldest were to drop by, Sweetie might need intensive therapy, but Oldest doesn't drop by all that much. In fact, now, she actively resists dropping by, even when there might be something in it for her, like this week when I told her that because we had a little extra money, we were going to give each of the kids $50.

"Do I have to come over to pick it up?" she asked me.

"No," I said. "I'll bring it with me to work." There was a pause, and then Oldest sighed and said:

"Well, okay then."

We had that discussion in the office; Oldest has been helping out around my office a little lately, and she was in the office yesterday. Helping around the office should be something Oldest likes doing; not only does she get paid pretty well for doing it, but she gets paid to spend time working on her own legal problems -- so when her apartment doesn't have hot water, not only does she have access to a lawyer (me!) to get advice from, she then gets to come into our office and use some of her time drafting up a letter to her landlord demanding a break on her rent. How many people get paid to work on their own problems? Besides me, I mean?

Oldest gets paid to do that, plus when she comes in, I bring her a lunch. True, the lunch I bring her usually has the Reject Snacks for dessert, but that's because someone has to eat the Reject Snacks and I don't actually eat that many snacks, so they're all going to go bad if Oldest doesn't help out by letting me unload some of the Reject Snacks on her.

The Reject Snacks are the snacks and desserts that Sweetie or I bought which will never actually be eaten by Sweetie, Middle, or The Boy. I will eat them, because that is what Dads do. Dads get very little credit simply because we don't have the ability to get pregnant and so we have to spend our whole lives hearing if men could get pregnant you wouldn't say that -- about everything, it seems. No matter what a Dad says, somewhere there is a woman who feels that if men could get pregnant, the Dad would change his story pretty quickly. I like this song, a Dad might say, and some woman somewhere in the world is ready to fire back You wouldn't if men were the ones who got pregnant, that's for sure.

But Dads deserve a little credit, because we're the ones who drop everyone off at the mall door and then go park in the next county and walk in and spend the next hour wandering with the family through stores that don't interest us, and with wet feet, only to at the end of the shopping trip have to go back out into the blizzard and pull the car up to the door again. And we eat the Reject Snacks. One major job for all Dads in life is to eat those things that will otherwise get thrown out, sometimes combined into dishes that are edible only if you're a Dad.

We end up with Reject Snacks in one of three ways: the first way is that the kids go grocery shopping with us when they're hungry, and through the process of wearing us down they eventually get us to buy something we otherwise wouldn't-- and they otherwise wouldn't. Middle uses this tactic a lot. Take her grocery shopping and she begins almost as soon as you walk through the door: can we get this, can we get this, can we get this. The answer is no, no, no, no because Sweetie and I use a grocery shopping list and get only those things that are on the list, or, if I'm the grocery shopper, which cost a buck. Regardless of what it is, if it costs a dollar, I will put it in the cart, because you can't go wrong for a dollar.

Middle keeps up, though, becoming more and more desperate throughout the store, picking up things at random: dishwashing gloves, weird oriental food, a little kid in a cart, asking each time can we get this, until finally I cave in and say "yes," at which point Middle, who is likely holding lingonberry marmalade at that point, realizes her error but doesn't want to back down, and so we go home with lingonberry marmalade that will not get eaten.

We also end up with Reject Snacks when I buy something I think the kids will like, only to learn that either (a) they don't think something is great simply because it cost a dollar, or (b) their tastes have changed and they no longer like it. That latter one happens a lot, because their tastes change by the microsecond. Sometimes, their tastes change mid-chew. They'll put something in their mouth and then decide, just before swallowing, that they no longer like it. I know that I'm not too far from hearing them say When I started swallowing it I liked it but now I don't.

The final way we get Reject Snacks is -- and I'm totally serious about this -- to take them out of the box and put them in a bowl. The kids will not eat anything that they did not get out of a box. Homemade desserts are out entirely; I think they assume that it makes them look poor; we live in a very affluent community where people simply don't home-make desserts. We home-make desserts because I like to cook and Sweetie likes to cook and because we're on the lower 1/2 of that community, but nobody else does and the kids abhor homemade desserts. The closest they'll allow to a homemade dessert is those cookies that come from a tube, which are "home-made" but still look storebought.

I learned about the out-of-the-box rule inadvertently; one day, I was cleaning out the cupboards because I had gone looking for something and realized that we had, by my count, a hundred jillion boxes, each of which had exactly one snack in it. I'm very familiar with that technique: If you don't eat the last snack, you don't have to throw away the box, so nobody ever eats the last snack.

Rather than let that go on, I took a bowl and emptied all of the snacks into it, and threw away the boxes, and put the bowl back into the snack cupboard.

That bowl, which was filled with the same Little Debbies and Twinkies and granola bars and candy that had only moments before been in boxes and had only moments before been beloved by the kids, sat there for months untouched. When we got new groceries, the kids ate those instead of the snacks in the bowl. I slowly realized that they weren't eating the snacks from the bowl because they were in the bowl.

I've tested that theory, because that's what parenting is all about: doing secret psychological experiments on your kids and then blogging about them. I've taken snacks that they love, and opened the box and poured them into the bowl and put the bowl out. The snacks are untouched. They stay untouched forever. The Boy and Middle won't eat a snack that is not in its original box.

I was not, though, performing any kind of psychological experiment when I was wandering around a store with Mr F and Mr Bunches on Saturday night, giving Sweetie a bit of a break. With Middle and The Boy off at their own jobs, and Oldest off somewhere grudgingly accepting money for nothing or whatever it is she does, that left Sweetie and me and the twins around the house, and I could tell Sweetie needed a break through a sixth sense I have for that sort of thing. I picked up on subtle clues that Sweetie was giving me, subtle clues like when she said "I need a break." I'm very good that way.

So I got the twins up promptly at four p.m. to take them somewhere and give them a break. This did not go over real well with Mr F and Mr Bunches, since they hadn't actually fallen asleep in their nap until about 2:30 p.m., but Sweetie and I are adamant these days that the Babies! stay on a schedule. We put them on this schedule the day after they turned two: they get up at 7 a.m. They take a nap from 1-4. And they go to bed at 9 p.m. We had to put them on that schedule because they were killing us. They'd get up at 8:30 or 9 or 10, whenever they felt like it, and then nap from 4 p.m. to 6, and then when we put them to bed at 9, they'd talk and play and jump in their cribs until after midnight.

So now we adhere to the schedule, and if they fall asleep at 3:50 p.m., well, tough: They're still woken up at 4. This makes them, as you might guess, angry. Angry two-year-olds can't tell you they're angry. Mr F and Mr Bunches, between them, have a vocabulary of about 6 words, and that's counting "yah-do" as a word.

I don't worry about their vocabulary, or their talking, even though apparently they're supposed to have a vocabulary of 7-20 words so far, judging by what was asked at their two-year checkup. The nurse said to us at the checkup: "Do they have a vocabulary of 7 to 20 words?" to which Sweetie and I unhesitatingly lied and said Yes because if you say no then your child is in special-ed or on medication or something, and probably taken away from you. So we lied and then justified it by counting things as words that might not really be -- or, in Sweetie's case, counting word groups. Mr Bunches says "No," and "Oh," and sometimes he says "Oh no," which Sweetie counts as a whole separate word.

But I don't worry about their talking, because I can see that they're smart, even if they don't talk much yet -- or talk in a way I can understand. For all I know, they've invented a language that's more sophisticated than English. They could do that, because, like I said, these Babies! are smart. I know they're smart because they outsmart me routinely and because they know when I'm paying attention and when I'm not.

Like last week, when I was "watching" them while doing a little writing. They were running around and playing and the newspaper was on the table. At one point, Mr Bunches grabbed the newspaper, and I looked around when I heard the rustle and saw he was grabbing part of the paper. He looked at me, and I said "Go ahead," because it wasn't a part of the paper I read, and because I like to encourage them to read, or at least to play with the newspaper because when they're playing with the newspaper they're not throwing heavy things at the television.

A few minutes later, I heard more rustling, and paid no attention because I assumed they were getting more of the newspaper. Then there was more rustling, which I continued to ignore.

Finally, after about fifteen minutes, I finished up what I was doing, and heard some more rustling, and went to see what was going on.

What was going on was that the boys had taken the giant box of Lucky Charms off the table and were dumping that at various spots on the carpeting, and then throwing them and walking through them. The Lucky Charms box, in dumping out, made exactly the same kind of rustling as a newspaper -- try it yourself and see.

Did you know that Lucky Charms' marshmallows stain carpeting when ground in? Pink hearts, yellow moons, blue clovers-- all there on our dining room floor.

Another way I know the Babies! are smart is through what they did Saturday night. They were very very crabby, so I decided the best way to give Sweetie a break was to get the boys out of the house, and I decided to take them to pick up their movie that we were getting Mr Bunches as a reward for using his potty chair. When we began potty-training them, I told them that the first time they used the potty chair successfully, I'd get them a movie.

"Yah-do," they told me, which probably translates as "My feet still have smushed up Lucky Charms marshmallows on them."

Mr Bunches had successfully used the potty chair earlier that day, although he didn't seem to know that he'd done that. He'd sat on the chair for a few minutes, then got very upset because Mr F was, you know, touching the wall, and Mr Bunches had to do that, too, so he got up and ran over there, and after I separated them I noticed that he'd used the chair, and so I cheered him and said "Yay!" and told him I was proud of him, and in response he poked his whole entire hand into my mouth and tried to grab my molars.

Regardless, he was entitled to a movie, so I loaded up him and Mr F in the car after their nap, both of them yelling at me and crying because they didn't want to be awake and they didn't want to get into the car and they certainly didn't want the glass of milk and S'more crackers I'd given them for a snack (they caved on that last one) and we waved good-bye to Sweetie, who looked far more relieved than a mother probably should as we backed out, and I took them to the store -- stopping first at a different store because I wanted to look for hanging lamps to put up downstairs, because our house is gloomy downstairs and needs more than the two lamps we have.

We got to that store, and I loaded the boys into the stroller to take them in. When you've got twins, you have to shop using the double stroller because nobody has double-seat carts to use, and if they do, then you've got two crabby twins sitting next to each other and it's only a matter of time before the shoving match starts. Shopping with the stroller is better, because they sit one behind the other, so only one can start something-- that one is usually Mr F, who likes the back seat. I hope he doesn't like it just because it gives him the ability to lean forward and squeeze his brother's head for no reason, like he did on Saturday as we were shopping, but I fear that's his only reason.

Shopping with a stroller also gives you the appearance of a shoplifter-- I get to take stuff off the shelf and put it in the basket underneath the stroller, where I also have two plastic balls, a tiny construction worker, two sippy cups, a piece of my travel mug that the boys like to play with, and a sweatshirt. I always feel guilty as I put things from the shelf down into the basket, because I assume it looks like I'm shoplifting. So I cover my tracks and point out to hidden security cameras or other shoppers that I'm not stealing anything. I'll pick up, as I did Saturday, a wooden wall hanging with a barometer and thermometer, and put that in the stroller's bottom basket, and I loudly tell the Babies! what I'm doing.

"I'm going to buy this," I tell the Babies! (and security). "We'll just put that down here until we get to the cash register, where I'll take it out again and pay for it," I mention to them.

We were midway through the store where I was looking for hanging lamps when the crabbiness overtook the twins. First to go was Mr Bunches, who got upset about something, maybe the atmospheric pressure. It doesn't take much just after their nap. He began to grouse and complain, and that's a chain reaction moment, because whichever twin starts up first, the other one isn't far behind. They don't even have to know what is wrong -- just the fact that the brother is crying means something is wrong, and gets the second one upset.

That's what happened Saturday. Mr Bunches began complaining and fussing, and Mr F picked up on that and astutely realized that something must be horribly awry or Mr Bunches wouldn't be fussing. So Mr F began crying.

At that, Mr Bunches turned around, startled, and I could almost see what was going through his mind: What's upset Mr F so much? It must be terrible! So he began crying, harder, which then convinced Mr F that something terrible really was happening, and he began trying to get out of the stroller to take evasive action. When upset, Mr F has two options he pursues. The most common is that he heads for a secluded corner, where he will hunch over, yell at you, and sometimes turn upside down.

So I was in the middle of the store, with two screaming 2-year-olds, one of whom was trying desperately to extricate himself from the stroller through ever-more-elaborate contortions, and I did exactly what I always secretly wished other parents would do when that happens. I left.

Or I almost left. I was prevented from leaving because as I headed out of the store, as I was only ten feet from the front door, I looked down and saw that Mr F had only one shoe on.

That's his other option when upset. If he can't make it to a corner, Mr F throws his shoe.

That's the other way I know they're smart. Mr F didn't want to be shopping for hanging lamps just after getting up from his nap. So he taught me a lesson, throwing his shoe when I wasn't looking.

"Where's your shoe?" I whispered. God forbid I attract any attention at that point.

He just kept crying and trying to escape. I checked the stroller bottom, but it wasn't there. I scanned the immediate area, but it wasn't around there.

I seriously considered just heading out without the shoe. I gave serious thought, for 0.1 seconds, to just going home with only one shoe, but I didn't know what I'd tell Sweetie, who is still a little suspicious about those marshmallow stains. Sweetie would point out to me that she'd never had them lose a shoe on her watch, and that would put me behind in parenting.

So I began to roam around the store, retracing my steps, and scanning the floors and the racks and the shelves for a shoe, trying to figure out where Mr F had taken it off. I thought back in my mind: when was the last time I noticed him having a shoe on? The answer, truthfully, was never; I couldn't even recall putting his shoes on him before we left; up until I noticed the missing shoe I'd given no thought to his shoes.

I kept looking, and tried to ignore the stares around me while using various calming techniques. I gave them my keys to play with -- hoping to God that I didn't find the shoe and lose the car keys, but it was a risk I had to take. I kept saying "Shhh... It's all right. We're almost done." I interspersed that with "Where is your shoe?" in case maybe they could talk, and they'd suddenly decide to just answer me.

I also resorted again to mock conversation designed to be overheard by store workers, fellow shoppers, and any child welfare authorities who would take a dim view of a dad deciding to go on shopping -- and shopping in an unusually attentive way, getting down to look under shelves -- while his children shrieked as though they were being electrocuted.

"We're almost done," I told everyone, in a calm whisper. "We'll just get your shoe and go. Daddy's not shopping anymore. We're just looking for your shoe. Daddy's all done with his stuff. We just need your shoe."

On the second lap through the store, I found the shoe wedged under a rack of women's slacks. When I found it, they stopped crying. They became good enough for me to calmly go up to the register, acting like I didn't have a couple of twins sniffling hoarsely in the stroller, and like I hadn't just spent fifteen minutes frantically pushing aside merchandise and getting down on my hands and knees while pushing those Babies! around the store, and calmly pay for the barometer/thermometer -- while also holding both of Mr F's shoes, which I didn't let go of until we were in the car.

So you see? I'm not a bad person and I'm not a bad parent. If you were in that store, you no doubt assumed that I was a horrible person, but maybe you shouldn't just jump to assumptions and judge books by their covers and all that. After reading all this, I hope that the next time you see someone pushing some screaming kids around a store, you stop them and ask if they need a little help.

Because I do. I really do.


Sunday, September 21, 2008

Shame on America Sunday: $18 bucks a second.

I hope that all of the people who decry me as a socialist are frantically writing to any elected officials they can, and saying For God's sake, I am opposed to socialism of the type that I decry when The Trouble With Roy espouses it, so please, Mr. Government Official, do not in any way interfere in the marketplace by, for example, bailing out Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and AIG. I'm willing to let all my insurance premiums be for naught because I'm opposed to socialism!

All the "you're nothing but a socialist" types, you're doing that, right? Or are you NOT, because you think government intervention in the marketplace is okay when you want them to do that? If so, then line up with the people who tell me It's their money and that I shouldn't tell people what to do with their money ... yes, yes, over under the sign that reads "Hypocrites."

If you're going to disagree with me about what I write, in Shame On America Sunday or anything else, you should at least make sure you're being consistent. Don't say "It's their money, they can do what they want with it" unless you are also intending to say "it's okay to buy and sell human beings," because if it's their money to do what they want with, then there are no limits. That's what you're saying. if, on the other hand, there are limits, then I'm free to say that those limits should include not wearing a $313,000 outfit and you can't respond that it's their money because we agree that there's limits.

I bring those two points up in advance because I'm going to hear a lot of that today as we look at people who have more money than the law should allow them to have.

The Forbes 400 list came out this week; the big story about that was that for the first time ever, if you have only $1 billion, you are not among the 400 richest people in America.

Only $1 billion. There are 400 people who have more than One billion dollars. That's one of the main stories about the list. There were a lot of stories, but that was one that got the most attention.

A lot of attention was paid to this list, and I followed that attention, and not once did I hear anyone even remotely approach the notion that it is disgusting, it is contemptible, for people to have that much money.

It is contemptible, moreover, regardless of how much the greedy rich person gives to charity.

I'm comfortable saying that, and here's why: Just as there can be limits on how much money you spend on something, there should also be a limit on how much money you need in a lifetime.

Now all the hackles just went up again, as people get ready to tell me You can't just take away their money and they give a lot to charity.

I can, though, just take away their money. Well, I can't. But politicians can, and they should do so. They should do so for the same reason they already do so -- they should take away the money because the greedy billionaires do not need it, and other people do.

The government already takes the money it figures you do not need, and gives it to the people and institutions it thinks do need that money; that's what taxes are. People, too, take money that they do not need, and give it to institutions and people that do need it; that's called charity.

The government should take away most of the Forbes 400's money, and give it to people who need it.

It should do that even though those people may already pay a lot in taxes and may give a lot to charity. They have more than they will ever need, more than they should have, and it does not matter how much they give to charity; it's greedy of them to keep the amounts they have.

The Forbes 400 multibillionaires, regardless of how much they give to charity, are hoarding wealth, hoarding wealth and using it for selfish purposes -- and doing so when it cannot possibly gain them any more in terms of luxury, comfort, or material gains.

In other words, they're keeping money they will never have any need for and cannot use now -- while keeping that money from people who could use it. That's why I say they're greedy, and that's why the government should take it away from them, as much as the government can.

And, as I said, I don't care how much they give to charity. They still have too much. Most people will disagree with that, but I'm right. People will think they can't have too much because it's money. But they can have too much, because they have more than they could ever use and are keeping it from those who could use it. Keeping something that you have no need for, keeping it and keeping others from using it, is greedy and selfish and hoarding.

Let me give you an analogy. Suppose I'm talking about food. Suppose I stockpile enough food in a warehouse for me to eat for my entire lifetime; food enough that I would never be hungry, even if I lived to be 150 years old.

At that point, I don't need more food, do I? I don't need more food stockpiled.

But suppose that I'm the nervous type. Suppose I say what if my needs change, and I suddenly require double the calories each day? Or what if my first food supply gets nuked? So I decide to be safe. I stockpile enough food for three lifetimes, in different locations.

At that point, I don't need more food, do I? Shouldn't I quit stockpiling food?

If I keep stockpiling food, despite having enough for three lifetimes, then that is only justifiable if everyone else everywhere has enough food, too -- because otherwise, I've got three lifetimes worth of food that I will never eat, while people are starving.

Suppose, then, that I keep my three lifetimes worth of food, and keep stockpiling more -- but now I take 1/2 of all the new food I gather up, and give that away. So after a few years, I've given away a lifetime's worth of food, but I have four lifetimes worth of food stockpiled, and there are still people starving.

What do you think of me now? Is it right that I have four lifetimes' worth of food, food I'll never ever eat, while people starve? Is it right even though I gave away a whole lifetime worth of food?

Of course it's not.

That's why it's wrong that the people on the Forbes 400 list have that much money. That's why it's greedy and selfish of them. That's why our country should not countenance that. I'm not against people being rich -- even though nobody anywhere needs to earn more than $200,000 per adult in their household-- but I am against people hoarding resources (money is a resource) and using resources foolishly while others go without.

Let's take the top person on the list. Bill Gates is worth $59 billion dollars. I'm not sure that anyone can really take in the scope of $59 billion dollars, and writing it like that doesn't help.

Here's $59 billion dollars in numeric form: $59,000,000,000. Looks like a lot more there, doesn't it?

Here's how $59 billion dollars measures out over a human lifespan. If a person lives to be 100, he or she could spend $589,999,900 every year he was alive, and still die with $10,000 leftover to cover funeral expenses.

That $589,999,900 per year breaks down like this: That selfish billionaire could spend $1,616,438.08 per day, each and every day of his life from the moment he's born until the day he dies -- and still have $10,000 left over.

That person -- Bill Gates -- could spent $67,351.58 per hour of his existence, living to be 100, and still have $10,000 left over. That's $1,122.52 per minute, with money left over.

$18 per second. That's what $59 billion is, over 100 years of existence, a person with $59 billion can spend $18 per second; $18 per heartbeat... and never run out of money.

In other words, Bill Gates cannot spend all of his money. If he set about trying to do just that... short of giving it away... Bill Gates could not spend all of his money -- and if he even came close, he would either be vastly overpaying for the things he bought, or he would simply be accumulating wealth and things he does not need and should not be allowed to own (like private islands -- which I'll get to someday, but not today)

I don't mean to pick on Bill Gates alone; his hoarding of $59 million is the tops on the list of the Forbes 400, but by no means the only example of a rich, greedy person withholding resources from people when he himself cannot use those resources.

The top 10 people on that list of people who should be ashamed of themselves, and who should hope that the population of the U.S. doesn't listen to me and realize that they could simply vote to take away that money, have together a net worth of $271.2 billion. In numeric notation, that's:


That's just the top 10. The entire list of 400 is worth $1.54 trillion; and again, it looks less evil to write it that way, so I'll write it out numerically:


Supposing-- just supposing, that each greedy billionaire on the list were to simply give away all of their assets except $1 billion. Suppose they gave it all away, but each of those 400 people kept $1 billion for themselves.

That would leave each billionaire with $1,000,000,000. Is that enough to live on? Again, do the math. If you lived 100 years and had $1,000,000,000, you could spend $10,000,000 per year, or $27,397 per day, each and every day of your life.

I think they'd make do. I think a billion dollars would manage to help them muddle through.

Doing that -- having them give it away, or taking it from them, would keep $400 billion in the ranks of the Forbes 400, but would free up ... $1,140,000,000,000.

Over 100 years, the money that would be taken from them would allow the US to spend $11,400,000,000 per year.

Assuming that we didn't invest that money and get some interest, of course. I wonder how much better a place to live the US would be with an additional $11 billion dollars per year for schools and social programs and roads?

Bill Gates has net worth of $59 billion dollars; reducing that to $1 billion dollars would not in any way change his lifestyle, but would help countless people in the United States achieve something a little more than they thought they could. It could, for example, help someone pay for, say, a kidney transplant.

That's what Jay Menhennet III is trying to do. Jay is getting his second kidney transplant, from a kidney donated by his sister. Jay's body rejected the first one; he's struggled all his life with diabetes and has had part of his right leg amputated.

A kidney transplant costs $250,000 (So Bill Gates could buy himself 236,000 kidney transplants! Or he could buy himself a new kidney every four hours for the next 100 years!), and there are additional costs beyond that, costs that are not always covered by insurance. The medications cost $2,000-$5,000 per month (so the average selfish billionaire on the list could use about 3 minutes' worth of his money to pay for a month's worth of medications!)

Jay, and his family and his friends don't have $59 billion dollars. They can't spend $18 per second every second of their lives for a 100 years. Because of that, they have to find a different way to pay for a kidney for Jay. They are trying to raise money to defray those costs; they're having a pasta dinner pretty soon, and they're asking people to pay $6 per ticket (or 1/3 of a second worth of Bill Gates' existence; Bill Gates could treat 9 billion of his friends and have money left over!) to try to help cover the costs, and they've also set up a fund to help, and they've listed him on the website for the National Foundation for Transplants.

They have to rely on donations, you know. Donations for money and time and even for an organ. But luckily for Jay, not everyone is like the Forbes 400; not everyone takes resources that are precious and keeps them from other who need them. There are, instead, people like Jay's sister, who realized that she only needs one kidney, so she's giving Jay her other one. Even one of Jay's nieces offered her kidney.

Total number of kidneys offered by the Forbes 400 to help Jay? Zero. Total number of kidneys offered by people who can't spend $18 per second? Three.

But, then, hoarders don't give up anything valuable, do they? So we can't expect that the Forbes 400, who are so intent on keeping resources they could never need or use in their lifetime, to give up anything they've hoarded.

Lucky for Jay, he's not relying on the goodness of the Forbes 400; he's relying on people like me and you. We may not have $18 bucks a second, but we do have some spare kidneys, and we do like pasta.

You can donate money to Jay -- it's a tax deduction just like the selfish billionaires get -- by sending it to: NFT Ohio Kidney Fund, 5350 Poplar Ave., Suite 430, Memphis, Tenn. 38119.

Read more about Jay by clicking this link

The Fix: The highest marginal level of income tax should be raised to 60% of annual income over $1 million dollars; there should be a federal property tax leveled on property and assets held above $1 million dollars. Those, plus the remedies I advised to keep celebrities from owning 160 cars, would help.

What You Can Do Until The Fix Is Done: (1) Make sure your license okays you to be re an organ donor -- you certainly can't use them after you're dead, and (2) make a contribution to The National Foundation For Transplants to help someone like Jay afford the basic necessities of life (Yes, I'm counting "a functioning kidney" as a basic necessity of life; if that makes me a socialist, I'm okay with that) until such time as voters get their act together and start voting for politicians who understand that it's okay to tax the rich because the rich will have more than enough left over, and (3) voters, get your act together and start voting for politicians who understand that it's okay to tax the rich because the rich will have more than enough left over-- and demand that they do so!