Friday, April 29, 2016

Race And Economic Staus Rule!

Nick posted:

One reason inequality is self-perpetuating 

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/04/29/upshot/money-race-and-success-how-your-school-district-compares.html?_r=0

I responded:

Nick, it starts long before school, as teachers have known for decades.  The article below reports, "children from families on welfare heard about 616 words per hour, while those from working class families heard around 1,251 words per hour, and those from professional families heard roughly 2,153 words per hour. Thus, children being raised in middle to high income class homes had far more language exposure to draw from."

http://literacy.rice.edu/thirty-million-word-gap

Of course, we must hold teachers accountable for the way parents talk to their children in their homes before the children are even old enough to go to school. Accountability is good!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Howard Roark, Foiled Again!



http://architectureau.com/articles/affordable-sustainable-high-quality-urban-housing-its-not-an-impossible-dream/

I found this really interesting, so I posted the link and added:
Nicholas, this is right in your area of interest. It sounds so nice in the article. Is it practical? Would it be applicable in America where we have a different attitude toward housing?

Nick responded:
Hmmm, I'm reading this right, these are essentially mid rise, middle density buildings that try to keep costs ultra low, and also be environmentally friendly. 

That sounds good but each part has different obstacles and varying degrees up importance. 

Take the idea of middle density units. These are very much needed in supply constrained urban regions, particularly the outer edges of the core. But of course most of these areas are zoned for single family homes or office spaces, and don't allow anything in this size. Unfortunately these zoning laws have a lot local protection and are very difficult to overcome--especially with all the brain dead thinking out there about the critical need of new housing stock. 

The cost of building isn't a bad idea but I don't think much of a problem. The cost of construction isn't really the problem, but rather the cost of land and regulations. Plus soon to be coming 3D printing will dramatically lower construction costs and speed.

Environmental stuff all sounds good too and I'm sure if we ever get our needed building boom, a lot of this kinda stuff will be incorporated. SF just mandated all new buildings must have solar panels for example.

I responded:
So, not such a bad idea, but a little hard to apply in the real world. I shouldn't be surprised. It seemed  like such a good idea though.

Later I added:
I can't help but recall news reports that when a Catholic charity group (Mother Theresa's?) tried to convert a decrepit high-rise in New York into a refuge for the homeless, they were unable to do so. What prevented it? It was too expensive for them to install elevators and if they renovated the building they were required to install elevators. So the homeless stayed on the streets.

In a similar case, when George Air Force Base closed, a California group tried to take over the base housing and use it for the homeless. They were not allowed to do so because state regulations wouldn't allow anyone to be housed in buildings which had asbestos content. 

There are two ironies here. Number one, this housing was considered adequate and safe even for the Colonel  commanding the base and his family.   Second, the asbestos in question was only dangerous if you broke open the walls and accessed the insulation.

The California regulation was not unreasonable. However, hundreds of the homeless could have been very comfortably housed and conditions which were safe as long as no one broke open the walls.  The question is, were the homeless better being left out on the streets and down by the river bed where they tend to collect here in the Victor Valley?

In the end the housing simply sat, and is still sitting, and is slowly rotting away.

Fast Breeder Manipulators

"The most hated sort, and with the greatest reason, is usury, which makes a gain out of money itself, and not from the natural object of it. For money was intended to be used in exchange, but not to increase at interest. And this term interest, which means the birth of money from money, is applied to the breeding of money because the offspring resembles the parent. Wherefore of an modes of getting wealth this is the most unnatural.”
- Aristotle (not Onassis)

Today we accept some level of interest charging as reasonable and necessary.  However, the interest levels which money is loaned out today (at a time when the lenders can borrow money almost interest free) are wildly exorbitant. I think usury is an appropriate term here.

More importantly, so much of the money in America today is in the hands of the ultra wealthy who gained it through such means as stock market manipulations and financial activities which benefit no one except the wealthy, who set the rules of the game.  A reasonable level of interest is requisite for modern life, but these manipulations are merely ways to take money from those who have less and give it to those who have more.

These methodologies were unknown and Aristotle's day, but I think it is clear that he would condemn them. I know I do.

Sounds Good To Me!


Right wingers are still reposting a weird old meme declaring that Obama was ordered out of his helicopter by one of his junior officers because he didn't salute his marine guard standing out front.

I responded:
Why is this nonsense still circulating? It was instantly disproven when it was first claimed long ago. Besides which, do you know what would happen to a real Marine officer who looked his  commander-in-chief in the face and ordered him off the aircraft? If this had actually happened that officer would be dishonorably discharged and currently serving his 20 years of hard labor at Leavenworth.

These bizarre political wet dreams are why so many independents and young people are utterly disgusted with the Republican Party.  This is why your party is no longer allowed in the White House.

Michele added:
This was proven untrue and the entire event covered recently by Snopes.  Only those in the service and in uniform are supposed to salute.  Obama would have been wrong , just as all those others have been wrong, to salute. Apparently Reagan started it, but that doesn't make it appropriate, or correct.

Dan commented:
Republicans are getting desperate, recirculating old fake news.  When Clinton humiliates Trump in November, we'll see a lot more of this idiocy.  The Democrats had better take Congress is all I can say.

I posted:
 I don't respond to most of the ones I see. It's just that they are so utterly divorced from reality and so full of hate that they irritate me enough to make a response.

Dan replied:
It's like resisting the temptation to waste time dealing with a classroom disrupter.

I responded:
I probably shouldn't respond to these. Actually I don't respond to most of the ones I see. It's just that they are so utterly divorced from reality and so full of hate that they irritate me enough to make a response.

It's all a result of the Republican Party's careful efforts to drive out any one who wasn't extreme and fanatic. It's an age-old story. Time and again various groups have thought, "I just had a great idea! We'll just let those extremists  think they're taking power and then we will pull the strings to make them our puppets."  The problem is the strings connect to both the puppet and the puppeteer. Often the puppet turns out to be the bigger and more powerful of the two.

I'm not feeling that well today so I'm going to be lazy and not do the research. However, there was a king in one part of early not yet united England who grew tired of all the Viking raids he was suffering. His solution? Why, he'd invite one Viking tribe to settle around the edges of his kingdom so they would provide a buffer and fight off the other Viking tribes.

You can see what's going to happen here. It was not long before the "friendly" Vikings decided they didn't want some of the land, they wanted all of it. So they took it.

The same thing had happened earlier with Rome. They invited one of the barbarian tribes, I think was Goths or Visigoths, to settle out around Rome to protect the city.  Being Romans, they abused this allied group of barbarians until they had taken enough and sacked Rome for the first time.

Then there's Hitler. Most Americans don't realize he was never elected to power. In fact, his party had lost a lot of seats in the parliamentary election just prior to his ascension.  Many of his political opponents were rejoicing that the whole Nazi nonsense was finally over.  Then a group of upper class conservatives, wealthy businessman, conservative military officers, and other fellow travelers decided that in order to get the country back under control they needed the determination and even the street brutality of the Nazi party.

Not that they liked the party. It's just that they thought, "Hey this guy Hitler is just a underclass street thug. We intelligent members of the upper class could easily control him. We'll just get all that passion and determination on our side, pull the strings, and make this guy do whatever we want him to do.  We will be the power behind the throne!"

You know how well that worked.

So the Republican Party has driven out moderates and even what used to be called conservatives. They were all declared to be Rhinos; not true Republicans. Now there is nothing left but the fanatics and extremists -- and of course the party leaders who thought they could pull the strings and control those people. Doesn't seem to be working out very well, does it?


Tuesday, April 26, 2016

God Is Not Amused!


In response to an article pointing out that Christians were very upset by the SNL skit spoofing the Religious Right's agaitprop film, "God's Not Dead", I posted:

One erratum needing correction:  The term "Christian" is not limited to fundamentalist evangelical, politically active, right wing Christians. It means others too; including liberal Christians and left wing Christians and even Christians like me.  To clarify:  "Christian" is not a term which means only those who support the freedom of religion laws which allow them to discriminate against others based upon their religion, including their being a different kind of Christian with different beliefs less absolutist than those of the "Christians".  The article made it sound like all Christians would be offended by this presentation and that all Christians support the freedom of religion laws. Many of us don't.

And I thought it was one of the funniest things SNL has done in a long time. I hope they do more like it.

Millennials, Now Label Free

So, John Della Volpe, Polling Director of the Harvard Institute of politics, reports that millennials have a strong dislike of political labels. 

I find this a very refreshing position. I don't like labels either. When people try to put a label on me and say,  "I know what you think because you're a fill-in the blank and they all think exactly the same way," I always say "Sorry, I don't fit in your nice little categories."

I find this so interesting regarding millennials.  They don't like to be called socialist, they don't like to be called capitalist. They prefer to look at the details and the hard realities. They want to know, is this working? Where has it failed? How can we make it work? They seek answers without regard to whether that answer is included in a given label which has been attached to them.  They're thinking is much more open and unconstrained than that of traditional political participants.

When you add to this that millennials also dislike belonging to a specific religion, and thus being labeled and categorized, I find reason for great hope for the future. Even in the area of their religion, millennials don't want to  mindlessly submit to authority, they prefer to think for themselves. In the 1950s, when I was young, a great deal of criticism by social observers was aimed at how rigidly society enforced a strict code of behavior. Everyone was expected to conform. We even spoke of "conformism" as a critical issue.  Not everyone was speaking of it in a negative way.

That millennials' minds are so generally open and unwilling to be shoved in rigid categories makes me feel that I may have been born in the wrong generation. Their attitude, in some ways, is much more similar to mine than mine is to so many of my generation. I am not alone in this.  I have friends my age with a similar mindset. We are the outliers of our generation, however.

Sadly, the guest also indicated that about half of millennials believe that the American dream is dead.  They are not terribly hopeful about the future. I find this ironic because I think the very reason that the future is so hopeful, and I find it very hopeful indeed, is because of those very millennials. It is they who will bring this country to a new level of greatness. It is they who have opened the minds of this nation.

In millennials, I trust.

The relevant portion of the interview from C-SPAN. (Sorry, but the dialogue on the C-SPAN website was in all caps and is difficult to read due to a number of errata as well.  I have made some minor corrections, these are not in caps):

John Della Volpe
GUEST: THIS IS A COLLABORATION I HAVE WITH A COUPLE DOZEN STUDENTS OF HARVARD AND ONE STUDENT FROM OREGON WAS REALLY INTERESTED IN TRYING TO MEASURE WHETHER OR NOT YOUNG PEOPLE COULD ASSOCIATE WITH -- OR CALL THEMSELVES A SOCIALIST OR CAPITALIST. WHAT WE FOUND WAS A COUPLE OF THINGS, YOUNG PEOPLE REALLY DON'T LIKE ANY LABELS. VERY FEW PEOPLE AS you indicated feel COMFORTABLE CALLING THEMSELVES A SOCIALIST OR CAPITALIST. MORE TELLING IS THAT A MAJORITY OF YOUNG PEOPLE TODAY indicated that they do not support capitalism. That's frankly, I think, what I consider one of the most significant findings of this survey -- THE FIRST THING WE DID WAS, WE EXPANDED THE POLLS FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER AS YOU NOTED AND ASKED PEOPLE OVER THE AGE OF 30 AS WELL, WE CONDUCTED A separate SURVEY AND FOUND THAT until you get OVER THE AGE OF 50, THERE IS NOT A LOT OF SUPPORT FOR CAPITALISM. until YOU GET OVER 50, A MAJORITY OF PEOPLE IN AMERICA TELL US THEY DO NOT SUPPORT CAPITALISM. I WENT BACK TO A COLLEGE CAMPUS AND CONDUCTED A FOCUS GROUP OF OVER A DOZEN OR SO IN Lancaster AND FRANKLIN AND MARSHALL COLLEGE AND WHAT I LEARNED WAS CAPITALISM THAT IS PRACTICED TODAY IS SOMETHING THAT IS UNFAVORABLE FOR STUDENTS. THEY TELL US THAT IT PROVIDES OPPORTUNITIES NOT FOR ANYONE BUT FOR A CHOSEN FEW THAT KNOW HOW TO MANIPULATE THE SYSTEM AND THAT THOSE OF THE MAIN REASONS WHY CAPITALISM IS NOT SUPPORTED BY MEMBERS OF THIS GENERATION. LARGEST GENERATION IN THE HISTORY OF AMERICA.


Sunday, April 24, 2016

A Good Conversation


I repeated a post which pointed out how few Americans believe in basic science theories which have been proven.  The post was headed with a comment indicating that conservatives voted in the way they vote because they are kept ignorant of the functions and proven realities of science.

Later I added as a comment:

I'm not sure about the Big Bang theory either. I prefer Ekpyrosis, which started as a  belief of the Stoics in ancient Greece that the universe would end in a conflagration at the end of one cycle and the start of a new one.  It is now a theory that our universe began when two universes bumped into each other… Oh, just Google it.   I don't think I understand it well enough to explain it. But I do like it.

My friend C responded: 

Jim, most Conservatives believe in a "theory" (for lack of a better term) of a God, all-knowing and all-powerful, that created all of Creation in much the same appearance as it is seen today; this is rejected by those who don't believe this theory, because it involves a singularity, an unexplainable event that happened once in all history and won't happen again. Most Evolution believers have a problem greater than this to justify their faith in evolution; evolution relies on at least two (Yes, 2) singularities, unexplainable events that happened once and won't happen again- 1) a Big Bang that spewed out all known matter that later generated stars and dust, and 2) spontaneous life, the generation of a self replicating cell of life that later decided to generate differing kinds of cells. SO... Who really believes a more extravagant and improbable theory?


I responded:
You forget that I am also a believer. Many who believe in science also believe in God. The two are not contradictory. Only absolutists insist you must believe in only one or the other. Most people believe in both.

As for the Big Bang theory, that is only one of the current well supported by facts theories that could be true. It is the most commonly accepted, but science is in such a state now that this particular theory has not been confirmed or unconfirmed by irrefutable evidence.

Remember that science is always ready to change its opinion. All it takes is clear proof that a theory wrong. The state of falsifiability then requires that that theory be discarded.  An excellent example is the luminiferous ether.  Once accepted as  an unavoidable necessity, experiments by Michelson and Morley proved it could not exist. This once critical theory was therefore discarded.  It was replaced with Einstein's concept of the space time continuum.

Scientists freely acknowledge that the very term "singularity" really translates as, "We don't know what we're talking about." The singularity is a point at which current knowledge of physics breaks down. No one knows what the term "singularity" means. Science is trying to determine that now. They do not claim to have done so.

Six or seven years ago a computer experiment was run on a universe which existed in Meisner space. Don't ask me what Meisner space is.  I don't understand any of the various kinds of space. Frankly, the mathematical concepts exceed my mathematical capacity. The point is, however, that after they had run the experiment for a while, they were surprised that a bit of that universe was pinched off in what they referred to as a "closed time like loop", went back in time, and became the singularity which seeded the existence of the universe. Is that actually what happened in the real world? Maybe. No one knows at this point in time. Science is not able to answer that question yet.

There is no contradiction in assuming that God began the universe and that science is an accurate description of the real world. If you don't believe in science you better not get on an airplane. Don't living a modern house. Or use electricity. We can go on and on. All of those things are a direct result of science applied to our real lives. One thing you can say about science, it works.   But what science cannot do is say anything about God. By definition God is above and beyond the capacity of science. If God exists, then science cannot measure or test Him.

As for spontaneous life. At this time science also does not know how life formed. They are working on that. They have created what many refer to as the first artificial life form. If only God can give life, how is it possible that scientists took chemicals and used those to build a genome which, when placed in a cell stripped of its existing genome, lives?  Yes, they did put the genes into a living cell, but it was not a natural genome. It was a man created genome.

Science once couldn't explain how electromagnetic waves propagated. They didn't even know there were electromagnetic waves. That doesn't mean that electromagnetic waves didn't exist. It meant that science haven't found them yet. It is a perfectly acceptable position to believe that science is not going to be able to find an answer it does not yet possess. That is a possibility. But so far, every time science hasn't been able to explain something, eventually it could.

In other words, if you wish to believe that God created life which then evolved, that is a possible explanation. At the present time, science cannot prove or disprove that proposition. Perhaps it will be able to prove it or disprove it sometime in the future. But at this point in time science cannot do so.  

That is simply a fact.

Regarding singularities. In fact, one of the more popular theories, not yet proven or disproven, is that singularities occur with great regularity and frequency. This is the multiple universes theory. Well, it's one variation on the multiple universes theory. In this variation, the singularity which created our universe via the Big Bang, continues to occur in the greater universe. And in that greater universe, many universes like the one in which we exist are being created constantly. In fact  there are innumerable  universes.   It is an unproven theory this time. Again, it may be proven in the future or disproven in the future or, conceivably, maybe be beyond the human mind's capacity to understand it.  We don't know yet.

What I, and so many others, believe is that when the facts prove something they have proven it. The facts prove that the universe, the observable universe, is billions of years old. The facts prove that our earth is a little over 4 billion years old. The facts prove the dinosaurs died out about 65 million years before the first man walked the earth. These are proven facts. They are not simply beliefs.  They have been proven to be empirically correct by testable, replicatable, falsifiable facts.

As long as there are areas of science which cannot at this time answer a question, it is entirely possible to explain the answer as the actions of God independent of working in the framework of science.  Still there are things that have been proven to be true which, if God was involved in creating them, show He  did it through scientific means and methodologies. Perhaps He did so. There's no reason He couldn't have done so had He so chosen. Nevertheless, the fact remains at some things have been shown to be true. To ignore them is to say that facts and reality don't matter.

It comes down to a matter of what philosophers call epistemology. How do we know what we know? And how much can we know? I believe that reality is real. Therefore I must believe that which reality compels me to believe. 

I also believe that I have a personal and distinct relationship with God. He and I are friends. We have spent considerable amount of time together -- in each other's company. That is not a scientifically testable belief. It is based upon experiences which I have had and have not shared with others, simply because they can't be shared. The relationship is a direct communion with God, one on one. It is by definition a supernatural experience. That's not supernatural in the silly way have come to misuse the word today, but in the original sense, meaning above or beyond nature. Nature in this case being epistemological reality.

In other words, I have a foot in both camps.  I assure you that some of my atheist friends are as rejecting of my religious  positions as you are of my scientific positions. I made peace with myself along time ago, but it wasn't an easy peace to attain.