Saturday, March 31, 2012

Rat Cooperation

Science News December 31, 2011 reports that rats presented with an empty cage will make some effort to open it, but they're not very good at it. If a friend of theirs is locked in the cage they do much better at opening it.  Even more interesting, when presented with two cages one of which has chocolate inside and another one which contains their friend, half of the time the rats let their friend go before seeking  the chocolate! And the cherry on top? The savior rat often shares the chocolate with his friend. I wonder how people would do on a similar test.  Let's say, a friend in jail or a big pile of money in the jail cell next to him.

I suspect that we would do poorly compared to rats. We can think of excuses for not cooperating. It would be really interesting to see if Democrats were more socially responsible than Republicans. This forced choice would put ideology to the test.

Friday, March 30, 2012

A New War in Iran?

In his 1980 book, Expanded Universe, Robert A. Heinlein commented on the subject which has an interesting impact today. The book is a set of predictions he made in the past, then updated more recently. In 1950 he predicted that, "It is utterly impossible to United States will start a 'preventative war'. We will fight when attacked, either directly or in a territory we have guaranteed to defend. In 1965, he modified his position in regard to some aspects but not in regard to the key point that we would never start a preventative war.  In 1980, he further modified some elements of his position, but once again let stand the statement that the United States would never attack another nation unless we were directly attacked, or an area we were obligated to defend was attacked first.

This was a matter of honor for the United States for well over its first 200 years of existence. When George Bush became President, things changed. We have now engaged in the utterly dishonorable and historically un-American act of striking at another nation which was not a threat to us in a preemptive war. Add the to this the issues of torture and war crimes in general, and we see just how far America's honor has been degraded under the leadership of George W Bush.

As we remain entangled in Afganistan and Iraq, many are calling for another war in Iran and some, following the lead of Sen. McCain, also want military intervention in Syria! Have we learned nothing from the adventures of the junior Bush? Apparently not!

It is interesting that the comment directly above this one demonstrates that in 1950 Mr. Heinlein declared that, "The most important military fact of this century is that there is no way to repel an attack from outer space. Too bad Mr. Reagan hadn't read this sentence. It might have changed history and done a lot to end the Cold War a few years sooner.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Thesis Comments

OK, everyone, I had a bad night and a worse day. I tried to get off Bentyl yesterday and ended up forced to take a late night dose when my guts refused to cooperate. So I'm going to cheat a little today. Bobby, I'm posting my slightly edited responses to your thesis. It would be clearer with the thesis added, so, if you can, and if you wish, please post a link to it in comments. If you don't want to, no problem! My comments can stand alone, but lack depth. If anyone else is reading this, Bobby's thesis is engaging and well worth reading.

And so:


Notes for Bobby

What I'm going to do, Bobby, is just make recordings here on Dragon as I read your paper. That means it'll be rather chaotic, but consider it an going one-sided conversation.  I'll make comments in the middle or at the end of each page, not reading ahead.

Page 1

On the marketplace of ideas. It seems to me that conservatives frequently refer to the benefits of the marketplace as benefits which accrue because of what is, after all, a form of natural selection! Considering their enmity towards science and most particularly toward the theory of natural selection this is quite remarkable! Indeed, if taken at face level as they themselves present it, this suggests a literal state of anarchy. 
It can only be accurately descrdined as Social Darwinism.  Darwin hated social Darwinism, but the zealots have seized upon it since the days of the Monkey Trial to condemn the unrelated science.  It was Spenser who created the  actual social movement BEFORE Darwin's theory of natural selection was  created.  He simply  coopted the science to support his already declared twisted view of human nature-- a view utilized by William Jeenings Bryan, Hayek, Ayn Rand, the GOP, Reagan, Thatcher, the Tea Party, etc. to attack the unrelated science. So they utterly hate Social Dawinism, but desperately want it adopted as our economic and health care systems. I mist say again, considering their devotion to law and order, to anti Dawinism, and supposedly, to Jesus, this is quite  a strange position for them to take.

Page 2

If we accept market demand as an essential ingredient, it also occurs to me that means that the free market says we should certainly totally legalize drugs as well.  The market demand is there isn't it? 

Page 5

Do individuals really value truth over falsehood? We all say we do, but I seriously to question whether this is in fact.

Page 6

This all reminds me of the theory that everyone acts rationally in the marketplace, therefore you should simply carefully calculate these rational human responses and you will be a great success. The group which practiced this were referred to as quants, or quantifiers,  on Wall Street. They are the people who destroyed our economy with their foolish misunderstanding of human nature. 

Page 7

The independent media? You mean like FOXNews? Rigorous, disinterested; I wonder where you can find things like that? 

The rational public? A very tiny minority. 

The most fundamental problem of the whole free-market concept is that the free market sells what people want to buy. On what basis do all these academics assume that people want to buy facts or accurate information? What people want to buy is  reassurance, comfort. excitement, and emotional highs. They don't want facts. That's the last thing on their agenda.

Page 8

I can't help but make a contrast between the situation in World War II in which FDR was forced to attempt to convince the American people that the danger was real and that keeping our national head in the sand would not make the scary Nazis go away and the Iraq war in which the majority of the American people supported the war which was clearly and obviously going to be a complete disaster. Clearly, the power of the president is at once vast and almost nonexistent depending upon many other circumstances. FDR faced the problem that Americans felt cheated and tricked into World War I and therefore we're about to be tricked again whereas Bush had the advantage of having had 9:11.

The public seeks accurate information? No, they don't. At no point in the process do the great majority of the people seek accurate information. That is simply a baseless concept. You might just as well say that people going to the local drug dealer are seeking a nice safe medication to cure their illnesses. The so-called news media today or more in line with sports events than a history class. People watching football may display concern about facts in regard to statistics but only to support their team.. People watch the news for the same reason they watch the Superbowl -- emotion. They seek excitement and pleasure from watching their team win and the other team lose.

Page 9
At the top of the pager making my point. If we assume the public really wants accurate information than all the rest follows. But of course they don't.

Excellent! I was beginning to get a little bit worried about you. 

Page 11

The psychological disciplines are finally ceasing to be a fantasy of individual researchers and becoming a real science.  NOTE :  I said, beginning to...

Page 12

Perhaps the most primal function of reasoning was to understand other's motives in a complex social group. How do I protect myself? How do I cheat and get away with it? How do I keep others cheating me? 

Page 13

Speaking of mental maps, it is also beneficial to be able to understand the seasons in order to know where to go exploit available resources. Exploiting seafood seasonally makes an excellent example -- Neanderthals in one area did not, modern humans in the same area did.

Page 14

Bottom of the page-and there's the research that nails it. Emotions are fundamental, reasoning is an add on.

PAge 15

S1and S2--Thing one and Thing 2. Not a cat in 
hat in sight!  Excellent idea!  It strikes me, on an intuitive level, that S1correct

But, in terms with which you should be familiar, having listened to me for a few years now, S1 is the cognitive autopilot while S-2 is the copilot whose function is to make certain that the pilot knows what he's doing and where is going. . 

Page 16

In other words thinking is hard work.

Page 17

A pre-constructed mental space--love that.

Page 18

And this makes me think of the individual whose name escapes me, who makes millions of dollars by convincing people to do the wrong thing simply by changing the terms used. The most classic case. of course, this changing the name of the inheritance tax to death tax. Everybody hates taxing death, so what is actually an inheritance tax, aka just an  income tax, becomes a horror show plot.

Page 19

This is interesting in relationship to the problems with patients who have damage to one side of the brain or a severed corpus callosum impeding communication between the two halves of the brain. You're probably familiar with the classic case in which an individual is shown pictures and then asked to choose the tool appropriate to handle the problem shown in the pictures. An individual whose nonverbal side of the brain sees a picture of a snowy driveway picks a snow shovel, even though the other side of his brain sees a picture of a broken window ( not the actual example) But the verbal side of his brain didn't see that picture and so generates elaborate and very confusing rationalizations for choosing a snow shovel.

Page 20

Illusion of objectivity-– and that explains creation science.
Which is a more scientific and documented way of saying what I say quite often-man can reason but most often man rationalizes. A biologist might say man is a faculative reasoner and an obligate rationalizer.

page 21

Rather sanguine indeed . I don't want sound like Mark Twain or Kurt Vonnegut but I think that's overstating the case and being too generous to us hairless apes. The human brain is always making compromises, taking shortcuts, and constructing a sense of reality. It actually does this surprisingly well, but not as well as that statement would indicate.  Evolution makes do with the raw material it has on hand, human reasoning could be much better designed.

Page 22

This is why it's so important for us to choose carefully with whom we intimately associate. It especially is important for us to choose carefully whom we except as a leader, or former of opinions.

Page 23, 24

In other words, the Greeks' cherished belief, and subsequent Western thought, is mostly wishful thinking in regards to man the rational animal.

Page 26

Well said! Well written.

Page 27

The first paragraph-Obama seems to be finally beginning to realize this.  He was the penultimate rational man.  In an irrational world, he was I'm trouble.  Reminds me of me and the school board...long story

Page 31

Not much to say about the preceding pages. Making the case well, describing the attitudes of others well.  I'm glad to see you moving toward pointing out the flaws of some researchers inherent assumptions. Too many people think far too highly of human capacity and desire to be accurate and factual. Ask anyone in high school, belonging and fitting into the right group are much more important than facts or even reality itself.

Page 32

Interesting point! I hadn't realized the lack of correlation between the WMD deceits and and support for the war.

Page 34

Trusted elite cues, exactly the point. We are a species of followers. If we ceased being that we would cease being human. We're not a flock of sheep as so many writers have suggested-we are a troop of apes. But that doesn't mean we don't follow our leader.

Page 35

A sad, but accurate view of human nature. You're hinting at some hope on the next page. Well I hope so!

Page 40

It sounds good. But I think the likelihood that ever happening is vanishingly small. It was only government regulation, agreed upon by both sides in a bipartisan  manner, that prevented this current state of affairs until Ronald Reagan gutted the regulatory process, allowing the wealthy to poison the news media.  See my quote from Fukuyama on the entrenchment of the rich.

Page 41

But Americans strongly tend not to vote. I think our greatest hope lies in movements like the occupy movement. Unfortunately, such movements arise only at moments of desperation. We let the system go corrupt and practically fall apart, then desperately repair it, only to watch it descend into  corruption all over again. Not a very hopeful view, on the other hand it is a view that allows for the system to continue to survive and function, if poorly.  Still, reforms are hard to  undo.  From Reagan on the Right has attempted to undo FDR's  legacy, and failed.  Blacks are not likely to be reenslaved, etc.

Plurality of outlets. Yes, exactly. But that's what we've lost. We need to reregulate the media.  A guest on Bill Moyers tonight mentioned a book by another author who referred to the free enterprise system as a garden. A garden is not simply allowed grow or die depending whatever happens. It isn't just planted and abandoned.  It is regulated, controlled, watched, watered, weeded, nurtured, et cetera.

An excellent paper. The opening was heavy on data and jargon, unavoidable in the scholarly medium.  Once through that obligatory groundwork, you made your case smoothly and convincingly.  I find your conclusion overly hopeful, but very defensible.

Thanks for sharing!  I enjoyed.


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Dullard Fathead

Another great cartoon from that famous duck , Dullard Fathead. Dullard himself doesn't appear in this one, just a mammal and a pair of dinosaurs.  The first Dino says, "Stupid, liberal, socialist mammals!  Always saying things need to change! Like we dinosaurs can't keep things the same as they always were."

"As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be!" says the second dinosaur.

Old Dullard got it right this time.

Okay so I changed the lines a little. Dullard's actual point was that those who took help from the bailout would be destroyed. Whereas those who didn't take money from the government would thrive.  That's why you never heard of companies like General Motors, Goldman Sachs, or any the others that went extinct.  

Just goes to show, Conservatives cannot deal with reality.

Cloud Cookoo Land

You've got to see this to believe it! It is real, as far as I can determine. The author is a currently serving public school principal. It would be hilarious on the Daily Show or the Colbert Report. As a real book, it's pitiful

I felt this deserved its own post, though there seems to be nothing I can add.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

An idle thought

Consciousness is a shadow cast by our neurons, 

A rainbow set alight by our electrochemical reactions.

This speaks for itself

What I said, as best as I can reconstruct it:

The vampire bat which had a bad hunting night and may starve to death, will beg a meal from his fellows. This is generally granted. However, the bat which consistently begs meals but never reciprocates finds that he can no longer depend upon the safety net.  The reciprocity he depends upon very quickly is cut off by the others because he's not being fair.  He, then, goes back to hunting or he starves.

There are also cases among primates, even monkeys. I recall a certain species, sorry can't remember the name, in which reciprocity is displayed.  So I disagree that it is clear in humans but not in animals. 

What Dragon and auto spell check made of it:

The vampire bachelor is a bad hunting night and may starve to death Begues food from the spells it is generally granted. However, the bathroom becomes lazy and stop talking and never reciprocates, Thies reciprocity is pierced form, very quickly is cut off by the others because he's not being fair. Any other gets back to hunting or he stars. There also cases among primates, even monkeys. In my give a certain species, sorry can't remember " reciprocity is clearing humans but not an animals. 

I know what's going on.  Microsoft has planted moles into Apple.  They created auto spell check and refuse to allow it to be turned off in order to destroy Apple"s reputation. It's working!

Monday, March 26, 2012

True Believers

Comments continued on the subject of True Believers both fundamentalist, evangelical atheists out to save humanity from religion and the religious out to save humanity from the the wrong religion.  It should be noted that I am deeply spiritual, but convinced that God is not concerned with doctrine or ritual. Only with our kindness and being good to the world and to each other.

Hey, Bobby!  Really interesting response to Krauss. I suspect the multiverse is correct and it is eternal, though our universe is  not.  But this raises unanswerable problems too.  The nature of eternity is beyond the limits of the human mind, which recalls a point  made in  the first link below.

A little arrogance gets a long way.  Waiting for the second coming and waiting for the day when everyone instantly converts to atheism are reverse and obverse of the same golden coin of, "I'm right.  You're a fool.".  Both are rationalizations of the individual believer's emotional decision to believe in his faith, and both are all about lording it over the other dope who got it all so wrong.  Each is desperate to sing "We are the Champions" over their crushed and sorrowful opponent.  The believers have been saying, "Any day now!  He's coming!  Any day now!" for 2,000 years.  The anti faithful have been declaring that no one had a need for that hypothesis since Laplace.  "They'll stop believing any day now!  They"re stopping!  Any day now!". Both can hardly wait to win.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

America the Divided

From a response to Bobby:

The level of partisanship in this country has become toxic.  It is impossible for otherwise pleasant people to simply discuss the issues of the day without rancor and accusations.  Especially on the Right, disagreement is labelled socialism or even treason.  Quoting, or even showing an unedited video of, a Republican's comments is regularly declared to be "unfair" or "gotcha journalism".  So what happened?

Two problems contribute to the situation. Number one: people do not care about facts -- they care about emotions. It is difficult and hard to think. It is so easy just to feel angry and bitter. This is why propaganda has always been so effective throughout the ages. If you've never actually watched the Pox Propaganda Channel, you should!. The entire message, all day long, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, is 1, be afraid and 2. be angry. There is no other message. 

In other words, your comment about people not wanting facts and only caring about emotional nonsense is accurate. 

The other problem began, of course, under Ronald Reagan, like so many of America's problems do. He began the process of deregulation. Among the things he deregulated was control of the public airways. In days past, once a year, everyone who broadcast on the public airways, and please note those airways belong to you and me, not to the big businesses that now dominate them, every broadcaster was required to prove to the FCC that they were providing good balanced programming, "in the public interest". This programming had special categories for news, children, and other public matters. Agreed, children's cartoon programs were often presented as  "educational". But at least there was a system and it was given more than mere lip service. 

Today, of course, the businesses own the airways. At least they do according to themselves and Congress and the FCC. It's as if corporations moved into your yard and began erecting advertisements and painting them all over your house. It's actually your property but they're using it the way they want. And if you're touchy about that, saying that your home is private property,  let's say that they are moving in and putting advertisements on every piece of public property, every park, every school -- and the principal of the school has no control whatsoever over what the corporations put on the walls of his school. I will repeat, those airways belong to the American public! They are not the private property of corporations. 

Finally, let me point out that while the Pox Propaganda Channel is obviously nothing but propaganda with not merely a disregard for, but an absolute hatred of facts, the so-called liberal media are terrified of being called liberal . Therefore they are, in fact, deeply prejudiced toward the Conservatives and against facts. It is a remarkable victory for an extremely corrupt system. 

Consider this response from Fox to the killing of Trayvon Martin.  "It took Fox News a while to get onto this story, but when it did, it identified the real victim – the National Rifle Association". The editorial (from the NY Times) goes on to report that Fox feels the NRA is suffering from being blamed for the obvious impact of the stand your ground laws which have caused a 300% increase in "self defense" killings.  An innocent 17 year old is dead, but Fox feels sorry for the real victim, the NRA!  Worse, you can bet that Fox viewers, as always, will believe what they are told to believe.

Hope lies in the American people.  It seems they are finally fed up and that the 99% movement will succeed. By the way, I'm fairly confident that it will. If Obama will not stand up and be the new FDR, someone else will

Saturday, March 24, 2012

TED Talks

But which TED lecture is this taken from? Would you believe it's a puzzle? Figure it out and win a prize if you give me the right answer! OK, how about, I lost the specific address. Sorry.

TED now has a series on The Science Channel. Premier March 30. (TED Talks)

TED notes

Interesting presentation! Thanks for sending that over to me. I responded to it by making a running series of comments while shifting back and forth between TED's presentation and my own dictation on Dragon. Ipads are wonderful! Anyway here's what I wrote:

The lecturer comments that reciprocity is clear in humans but not so clear in animals. I disagree. The evolutionary roots of reciprocity are very clear. Consider the vampire bat. The bat which had a bad hunting night will beg a meal from his fellows. This is generally granted. However, the bat which consistently begs meals but never reciprocates finds that he can no longer depend upon the safety net.

Then there is a species of monkey, sorry can't remember the name, in which, as the troop spreads out through the forest, an individual who finds a rich source of food is supposed to issue a certain call bringing others along. Naturally, this means that he gets only a little of the resource found and most of it goes to the higher ranking. Therefore, it is to his benefit to get as much of his discovery into his own stomach as he can before making the call. But, if he is caught doing this, the other monkeys beat him unmercifully. This is both kind of group reciprocity and a kind of primitive moral sense. One might even say, a system of justice.

Consider chimpanzees who are extremely dedicated to reciprocity. They regularly trade grooming, babysitting, and other favors for political, and sometimes even physical support in fights.

On authority and respect: While it is true that most other primates give authority or respect based on violence, that is not entirely true. Again, consider chimps. They are extremely violent creatures, yet even among them, it is necessary to build relationships. Violence and brutality help to gain dominance , but so does the support of the older females in the matriarchy, which is why sometimes the brutal chimp leader is seen being nice and sweet to somebody else's baby. Yeah, human politicians are not the only ones who kiss babies.

Furthermore, consider the case of a troop of monkeys featured by the Discover or Science channel. An usually savage individual bit and brutalized his way into the alpha male position. The observers, although trained in objectivity, clearly hated this individual, but of course, they were not permitted to interfere. These are the rules of scientifically studying animals. Field biology does not allow for human intervention. As the television program continued, the troop wandered off and was not seen for several months. When they returned, the brutal individual was not only no longer alpha male, he had disappeared. Of course, it was impossible to determine why. Perhaps a predator killed him, perhaps he died due to some disease or accident, or perhaps he was simply killed by the other males who had had enough and, supported by their female networks, ganged up and put an end to him.

Finally, consider bonobos. The hippies of the primate world. They truly do make love not war. Ritual sex acts, most which are not necessarily actually sexual in nature, dominate their interactions. Their alpha females are generally more powerful than the alpha males and, compared to chimps and humans, they are remarkably peaceful.

It is quite interesting that the speaker chose Pinker's, The Blank Slate, as an example to support the assumption that our moral mind has a framework which is innate, as Pinker and Chomsky before him assume that there is a framework for language development.

TED also makes interesting comments on the problem of the commons. I had an illuminating experience with this problem personally as an administrator, a long time ago. But also I have found that it is an engaging concept which conveys telling philosophical points. It is especially useful in understanding human behavior. Consider the Soviet Union's People's Apartments in which residents would not turn the heat down to adjust the room temperature since heat was free. Instead they would adjust the temperature in the home by leaving the heaters on full blast and opening the windows to the subzero temperatures.

I'm also very interested in the importance of religion as well as punishment as a means of mitigating peoples' tendency to abuse the Commons. Consider Gobekli Tepe which so radically changes our view of exactly why human beings first entered into societies. It seems to indicate that we gathered together at the earliest stages of post hunter gather societies in order to express our religion; and that perhaps religion is the force which drove us from hunter gatherers into settled, civilized people. Of course, one could question if this was actually a valuable move. Still, the fundamentalist evangelical atheists might need to reconsider their opinion that everything religion does always wrong.

Interestingly, I seem to have paused at just the right time in my commentary to go back to TED and see where the speaker is headed with this. As soon as I went back to his presentation I found out that he was wondering why people gather together and begin to live in a settled manner and related the impulse to religion. Seems he and I think somewhat alike some some issues.

Well, he took that to an excellent place. Yin and yang, balance -- you know me and balance. It is interesting that he contrasts liberal and conservative endpoints,but does not mention that crossover areas in the center of the the lines. Clearly, drawing those lines leads to a crossing between the two groups at a central point, which point is occupied by a perhaps small number of people, but at least some are there! I would say it is better to be the fulcrum which provides the balance than to be one of the obstinate extremists at either end who unwittingly collaborate in creating the problem.

Critics of Zimbardo and his prison experiment have said that it is entirely invalid because both the prisoner students and the guard students were simply acting out the roles that were expected of them. I find this ironic, because it seems to me that these critics are actually making Zimbardo's point! We do more than simply play out roles when we are dressed in a certain way, or when we have a sense of membership any particular group, especially if it is a well-defined group. We feel we belong to a certain subset. We are aware of that we must meet the standards of that group. We act out what we believe is expected of us. This is because we are social animals. This is not just casual play acting. It is instead a deep reality about what it means to be a human being.

This is indeed an instinctual reaction. Chimpanzees, while patrolling their territory, are seeking out and brutally killing any intruders. They are acting on the same basic impulse. Social rules are to social animals what meat is to a carnivore. It is a basic functionality of our species. A biologist would describe it as obligate, not facultative, behavior. We cannot all be leaders. There must be followers, and the followers will follow and do what is expected of them. We may love it; we may hate it. We may find it beneficial, or we may find it horrific. But we cannot change this behavior without ceasing to be human. As long as humans are, well, human, this is the way we will behave. If this ever ceases to be a part of us, we will cease to be human beings and become some other species.

I find it interesting that this is now called this individuation. We used to call it mob psychology. I recall at least one science fiction story in which humans and an alien species went to war. In the heat of combat the crews of the human ships became unified into a super organism. That is to say, they deindividuated. The aliens did not understand this as they were not as much social animals as we. They considered it to be a mysterious and strange force against which they were helpless. The humans won the war, of course. That, naturally, was partly John Campbell's influence on the field! His impact on science fiction was both beneficial and malignant. It all depends on which aspect of his influence we are discussing.

It is also interesting to note that the author points out the mob psychology controlling individuals who were reacting violently at Woodstock. It works both ways of course. Consider the reactions of say the Oakland police to the 99!%. The protesters are being remarkably peaceful, this is a real tribute to the effects of Martin Luther King on American society. The police, on the other hand, seem to be the rioters. They regularly use grossly excessive force against helpless individuals. In other words, we find the police using brutal force in order to protect the people from exercising their constitutional right to seek the redress of grievances.

And now to confess some ignorance and ask for a little information. 4Chan? Reddit? Digg? I googled them and found out that they are some kind of social groups but I am not certain of any details. I'm wondering why they would exact justice as the author indicates. I am curious as to exactly what that justice might be. Just wondering .

If I had more time, I would explore such issues as the often discussed banality of evil as represented by perfectly nice individuals were good kind, loving fathers when they were at home but got up in the morning to go run a death camp for Adolf Hitler. After all, it was their job.

To sum it all up, from my point of view, the issue does not excuse us from responsibility . While these facts demonstrate a severe limitation on human free will, it is also clear that one of the issues which this suggests must be addressed is who we choose to follow. The author noted that individuals dressed as a nurse were kinder than individuals dressed a more threatening costume. While on the one hand it is natural to be lead, on the other hand, you do have the option to choose whom you follow. It follows that if you choose to be led by forces which insist upon no facts, no rational thought, and a defiance of reality, then you still must take responsibility for the awful actions which inevitably result . It is you who chose to follow those particular leaders and it is you must accept responsibility for the consequences of that choice.

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities -- Voltaire

Friday, March 23, 2012

St. Ronald of Reagan

The difference between Ronald Reagan and today's Reaganites is that Ronald Reagan, although an ideologue, also recognized that reality is real and must be dealt with. In other words, when the facts finally forced him into a position where he either denied reality and got a divorce from it or changed his ideology; he changed his ideology. This means the extreme right wing of today who lionize and idolize Ronald Reagan are Reaganites in Name Only a.k.a. RINOs.

The situation is so extreme, that Reagan would be called a liberal, pr even spcialist, today by those who claim to be his disciples.  This is remarkably like their attitude toward Jesus.  They worship him, but consistently do the opposite of what he told them they must do to earn salvation.  They are CHINOs.  

No, not the pants!  Christians in Name Only.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Immigration solution

Alright, I'm forced to admit it. The Republicans are right. All these awful immigrants are the source of every problem America has had or ever will have . And this anchor baby business must be stopped. So what we'll do is pick a date – we have to pick a date because the American Indians are immigrants too and if we don't set some cut off point, every single human being in United States will have to leave it --but  anyone arriving after that date, and all of their descendents, will be expelled from this great nation.

This is the only way to save America! I propose we set the date at 1575. That will get rid of all those grave robbing and land stealing Pilgrims and other illegal immigrants who came after them. Not only were the Pilgrims illegals, they never even bothered to learn the language, Wôpanâak, spoken by the Wampanoag citizens!  Hey, Pilgrim descendants, this is America!  Learn Wôpanâak, or go home to England and talk all the English you want!

By the way, I should mention that this program would exempt my family since the Naranjo patriarch arrived here in 1574, but that's just a coincidence.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

I'll do my running commentary routine, as usual. It makes me feel that I am part of a real time discussion. I'm sitting at Onna's computer watching the program, occasionally pausing it and dictating comments onto my iPad.

Krauss seems not to have a good grip on biology. His assertion, gently opposed by Dawkins, that life came from nothing is odd. He contends that life was not, then suddenly was, whereas it is far more likely that there was a continuum in which the self replicating molecules to which Dawkins refers became more and more life like. Consider the virus. It is not clearly alive, or is it? Ask different biologists and they will give differing answers as to how alive this unit is. Some will go so far as to insist that it is clearly a non living semi self replicating construction of chemicals, a structure, not a living thing. Others will state that is definitely alive, by their definition!

Dawkins is witty, as usual. I enjoyed his reference to the first gene as a John the Baptist molecule, that is, the precursor to DNA, probably an RNA variant. Recent studies has shown that RNA could have performed the basic genetic functions, though not as well as DNA.

God of the gaps is indeed careless thinking. I don't think it is
lazy, since evolution deniers will go to exhausting lengths to defend it.

Is life rare? Dawkins suggests it probably is not, In the light of all the planets we are now finding, including many around dwarf red stars and even binary systems (thought to have been impossible--Tatooine lives!) shows myriad "beachheads" exist. However, some astrobiologists wonder if life may be common, but that complex, multicellular life may be rare. Bacteria may be much more common than Tharks and Klingons So many factors limit the viability of complex forms...our own planet was occupied by only bacteria and, presumably, the viruses that preyed on them, for most of its history.

The rare earth hypothesis is interesting in this regard.

Why are there still monkeys? Answer: they fill the monkey niche. Darwin's wedges are the answer. I'll look that up and add it as a footnote. The best answer to this came from a female biologist who replies that this query is like asking, "Since I'm here, why do I still have cousins?"

Why isn't evolution happening now? Answer: bird flu, HIV, hemorrhagic fever, seaweed tolerance in some Japanese, etc.

I find it interesting that both men referred to Einstein's question, "Did God have a choice in forming the universe?" And then so quickly hurried to point out that Einstein was wrong to use the word God, that they practically fell over each other in their hasty urge to correct that terrible error on the part of the great scientist.

I haven't studied this particular issue in any depth. However, it seems to me that Einstein knew exactly what he was saying. And yes, he did mean God. Of course, he did not mean a personal god to whom one could pray, but God as first cause. The prime mover. The god of Aristotle.

I am reminded of the famous tale in which Neil's Bohr, irritated at Einstein's continual declarations that, "God does not play dice with the universe!"; snapped back, "Albert, will you PLEASE stop telling God what to do!"

In the same spirit, I say to Dr. Krauss and Dr. Dawkins, Will you boys PLEASE stop telling Einstein what to believe!

The multiverse. There's a concept that I love! It provides for permanence and a sense of enduring reality. Admittedly, things change within that multiverse, and it is less stable than Hoyle's steady-state universe, nevertheless it provides a sense of security.

The anthropic principle. In the multiverse, it makes sense. However, it does sound disturbingly like the arguments made by creationists. That is to say, things must have been designed. The multiverse answers that reintroducing evolution and therefore natural selection into the formation and survival of bubble universes.

I can not agree with Krauss' typicaIty argument. I do not see why we must be typical in order for theanthropic principle to make sense. All that is required is that we exist because the laws of the universe allow us to exist. Even if our existence is utterly unique in the entire universe or multiverse, the principle still applies.

There may be fundamental physical laws which may be beyond our reach. A disturbing thought, fundamentally different from the limitations demonstrated by Godel. but one which may all too real. I am unwilling, however, to concede that science may not advance to such a level that we will be able to accomplish that which is that now seen as beyond our comprehension. Indeed, which ARE now beyond our comprehension.

Wineburg, "Science doesn't make it impossible to believe In God. It just makes it possible to not believe in God"
Love the tolerance and balance of this quote. Now, how will the fundamentalist, evangelical atheist, Dawkins, respond to what is an inherent attack on his extremism? I'm hitting " play" to find out.

Krause is going on to other issues, Dawkins may just let it go.

Krause, "theologians and philosophers are experts in nothing."
So much for tolerance. It was clever, if shallow. In that regard, how is is possible that scientists do not recognize that every scientist IS a philosopher? A philosopher who adheres to empiricism? Is the education of science students so poor that they know nothing of the history of their own field? Apparently so.

Such a level of ignorance, in those who claim to revere the facts, is appalling and should be embarrassing. But, like their creationist foes, it seems that many scientists revel in their ignorance.

Krauss decries those call him shrill and dogmatic for making scientific statements with which they do not agree. This is beautifully ironic considering how shrill and dogmatic he becomes when he discusses religion.

"You know to be falsehoods." No sir, you mean what you believe to be falsehoods. In fact, even many atheists are not fundamentalist evangelicals like you. Remember the earlier quote from Weinberg! Dawkins needs a 6th grade lesson in the difference between opinion and fact.

And here we go! Mr. Super Genius, Only I Am Right. I understand everything. I know all! I tell all! All who dare to disagree with me are fools or monsters! is at it again. "They are fools! All fools! I'll show them!". Maniacal laughter. How can so brilliant a biologist who is dedicated to rational discourse, be so bigoted and blinded by his hate? Answer, he is only one of us. A poor naked ape struggling to overcome his evolutionary heritage, and sometimes failing.

Atheism is an interesting phenomenon. Bigotry derived from a utopian vision of everyone being just like me is not.

Finally, back to Wineburg! Tolerance is too weak for Dawkins. I am not surprised.

God is an excrescence, a carbuncle on the face of science.
I suggest bigotry is an excrescence, a carbuncle on the face of society.
I suggest intolerance is an excrescence, a carbuncle on the face of Dawkins' otherwise honorable character.

Krause then attacks all religion for what some believe. All atheists are not enemies of religion. All religious are not Jerry Falwell. This is the very definition of prejudice, to declare that all of THEM are...fill in the blank.

And now the ugly truth begins come into focus. An astronomer who teaches accurately, correctly, and factually should not be allowed to teach if his beliefs -- his personal and private beliefs -- are not in line with what is acceptable to Dawkins and Krauss. The same for a medical doctor.

Enter the thought police! Dawkins and Krauss are in favor of creating an atheist inquisition, in which those who dare to disagree with them on a personal, private basis will be forbidden to practice their professions matter how professionally they do so! Do these men ever listen to what they themselves saying? Do they ever think about the consequences of their utopian dreams?

I think they do not. Both appear to be sincere in their desire to do good, but then, so was Torquemada.

"You are an excellent physician, but we think you are a secret Jew. You are no longer allowed to practice medicine." -- Torquemada 1482

"You are an excellent physician, but we think you are a secret theist. You are no longer allowed to practice medicine." -- Dawkins and Krauss 2012

Dawkins on Mormonism:

At the risk of offending a Mormon who might someday read this, I will speak frankly. I have had Mormon colleagues. I have supervised Mormons. I found them to be reliable employees. I found them to be pleasant, enjoyable people. However, I find their theology to be one of the most obviously made up and frankly silly religions ever concocted by a lonely, horny teenage boy. I concede that Scientology is even sillier, but that's not saying much, is it?

But Krauss and Dawkins are prepared to create a religious test for employment! Need I say more? This is shocking! Frankly, this is disgusting! It is also very, very threatening to the existence of a democracy.

Dawkins knows an amazing secret! It seems that every politician he approves, and presumably everyone else that he respects or likes, is a secret atheist! His, and please forgive the use of this term, logic appears to be as follows: All religion is evil and/or stupid. All believers are evil and/or stupid. I know some believers who are neither evil or stupid. Therefore, they are really not believers, after all. They are secret atheists. They're only pretending. Just like every good intelligent person in the world. Yes, just like me.

How can a trained and expert scientist be so irrational and delusional? Asked and answered.

Note: This argument is identical to that used by believers who contend that all morality comes from God. Atheists therefore can't be good or moral. Know a good or moral atheist? He's a secret believer.

This taking and adopting the very arguments he rightly condemns in his opponents is typical of Dawkins and other irrational, sanctimonious True Believers. It is straight from the Radical Republicans' play book.

Krauss..."so that just questioning the existence of God doesn't become akin, in our society, to being evil.". No, you just want the opposite. It is stunning that that you cannot see your own hypocrisy, while being so sensitive to its identical twin in your opponents.

Remember, there are scientists, good scientists, who believe in God.

Bizarrely, the two ended their festival of attacking the intelligence and morality of religious individuas by bitterly complaining about the intolerance of religious audiences toward them! This after THEIR audience displayed intolerance toward those who questioned them.

Krauss says the faithful should understand science isn't about atheism, after having declared repeatedly that science is the implacable enemy of religion. Again, don't these two ever listen to themselves? They flatly and bitterly attacked religion at every possible opportunity, declared it their hated enemy, then they look bewildered and say, "Why don't the religious like us?". Yeah, who doesn't like people who insult and degrade you at every opportunity?

They are at the self pity thing again, so I will repeat... They spend many minutes insulting, sneering at, and very nearly dehumanizing believers, then they wonder why atheists are thought to be enemies of religion. Yeah, how could they think you don't like them?

Women are oppressed because of region. You just attacked the pigeons' delusion in a stimulus response experiment. Look at your delusion. It is the same. Post hoc ego prompter hoc. Religion is the excuse, not the cause.

As promised:

Darwin expressed this view in a metaphor even more central to his general vision than the concept of struggle – the metaphor of the wedge. Nature, Darwin writes, is like a surface with 10,000 wedges hammered tightly in and filling all available space. A new species (represented as a wedge) can only gain entry into a community by driving itself into a tiny chink and forcing another wedge out. Success, in this vision, can only be achieved by direct takeover in overt competition.

Un grito en la noche

I am having a bad night.  I've fallen a few times, once actually ending up in the closet as the floor suddenly tilted and dumped me against the door, which popped open.  I am in and out of awareness, sometimes asleep and then in whatever state entraps me whenever I am so disoriented.  I hope I can get back to actual sleep.  I was even having pleasant dreams.  In any case, here is a post from the holidays:

It's a beautiful day today. A Symphony in Gray. With luck, it'll rain or maybe even snow . This is good because right now I'm not feeling so great. I was feeling really fine yesterday, catching up on Big Bang Theory and thoroughly enjoying the evening. Then I got up and found myself against the wall, which, for some odd reason, had become the floor.
I had a very bad night. And I'm not doing so well today, as everything seems to be tilted. You know, like being in one of those fun houses at a tourist attraction. I know the house isn't actually tilted because I'm the only one who's trying to keep his balance as he walks across the floor. Logic forces me to conclude that either I am extremely disoriented or my family is following the lead of Jeff Goldblum and  have all somehow added fly DNA to their genome and are now capable of walking up walls without even blinking. Note: for the age limited, look up the movie The Fly to understand the previous reference.

This, of course, is just an aspect of my life as it is been for the past 15 years or so. What really troubles me, is that this is my favorite time of year. The holiday season begins with Halloween and ends with New Year's. Of course, I will have the great joy of all of my family with whom I have contact. But I cannot help but be wounded and sad as my prodigal daughter still has not contacted me and so I still have little hope of seeing my lost lambs who she is withholding for me because of resentment over step family issues. 

And now let's end with one of my favorite songs,
Of course, I prefer the original lyrics: 

I am a really whiny guy.

All I do is whine and cry.

Alone again,

Wonder why?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The autotrophs began to drool

OK, Big Bang Theory, I was wrong to condemn you for the autotrophs reference.

Mea culpa, but you culpa, too.  Your reference made no sense without explanation.

Note: In the comments that follow there is an unusually enjoyable discussion referrence to "chemoheterotrophs did in fact exist before chemoautotrophs"

Well, I found it enjoyable.

Me vs Society

New York Times columnist David Brooks reports that in the 1950 the Gallup organization asked high school seniors, "Are you a very important person?". 12% said yes

They asked the same question of the same group in 2005 and 80% said they were very important. 

TIME Magazine asked Americans, "Are you in the top 1% of earners?" 19% of Americans thought they were! 

This brings me to the question, "Is self-esteem important?". I answer, "Yes of course!  However, an inflated sense of self-worth, making you think you are better than other people, absolutely not!"

In a related issue, Mr. Brooks also points out that economic consumption in the 20th Century is flat until the 1970's when it suddenly takes off.  Over most of the 20th century, that was consistently at 43% of GDP, when 1970 arrived it suddenly jumped to 133% of GDP.  Note that we are approaching the era of Reagan. Similarly, corporate executives did not make vast amounts of money,although course they were wealthy, until the late 70's and early 80's when they suddenly began demanding tens of millions of dollars a year and golden parachutes which would save them from economic loss – even if they destroyed the company.

Mr. Brooks contends that this is due to a conviction of being absolutely correct which possesses these individuals. They have a high self-esteem, indeed an overinflated self-esteem. They have an absolute certainty about the correctness of their beliefs and if you disagree with them, you must be regarded as an object that is in the way.  I recall a philosopher who once said something along the line of: the more certain you are that you are absolutely correct, the more likely you are to be wrong.

Mr. Brooks also points out that, given a test psychologists utilize to identify narcissism, which is an excess of belief in and even adoration of oneself, in the last 20 years, the median number of people who are identified as narcissistic has gone up 30%! My own view of the self-esteem movement is that it is very important to build self-esteem of youngsters, but it should not be based on the sense of the individual is significant and important as opposed to other individuals. In other words, the lesson should be; yes, I am an important, special, unique individual, and so is everyone else! What we have lost, in my opinion, is the sense that everyone is important, that we all matter, and that we are a part of a society, a family -- a group; and that that group is important and we are simply one important part of it, not the most important part.

I no longer have the article, but I recall in long-term study which extended over decades. The study listed 100 attributes of  children, and asked parents, utilizing a forced choice methodology, to rank those characteristics as to which were most important for their offspring.

In the 1950s, parents ranked traits such as "is a good citizen" and "gets along with others" at the top of the list and ranked "stands up for his rights" in the middle. By the 1980s, this had been reversed.  I think this is profoundly significant. Being a good citizen, doing one's duty, having a sense that one is a part of things greater than oneself, were once considered essential to a child's well-being by American parents. Today, this is no longer so. It is considered much more important for a child to stand up for his rights, as opposed to the rights of others, or the welfare and benefit of his society. It seems to me that this is not an exemple of our social decay, but rather a root cause of the problems our nation is facing today.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Books and people I like

Some of my favorite literature:

Gulliver's travels - Jonathan Swift
Metamorphosis - Franz Kafka
Night Watch  - Terry Pratchett
The essays of Steven J Gould 
Walden Henry - David Thoreau
Don Quixote - Miguel de Cervantes
Lear - William Shakespeare 
Maus - Art Spiegelman 
Vanity Fair - Thackery
Tristram Shandy - Lawrence Stern
The Gospel according to Matthew 
The Origin of Species and the Descent of Man - Charles Darwin
The Winds of War and War and Remembrance - Herman Wouk
The Count of Monte Cristo, The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas

Some of those I respect:

Juan Carlos of Spain 
Martin Luther King Junior
Benjamin Franklin
Henry David Thoreau
St. Francis of Assisi
Abraham Lincoln
Charles Darwin
Harriet Tubman

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Cuban Missile Crisis

From a post made to my grandson who has survived an anthrax attack drill. This should bring back memories for anyone who remembers the 60s.

Then there was the Cuban missile crisis.  Dad vanished on base for days, we were all reminded that a tactical AFB (in the old days, there were two branches, tactical and strategic...) was a primary nuclear target. Everyone was prepared for what appeared to be the end of the world as we knew it. At our house, we were expected to spend our time, in the event of a nuclear exchange, living in the hallway.  This put an extra wall between us and the outside, the idea was that this would reduce some of the radioactivity.
 Of course if a nuke had actually hit George, we would've been worried about any nuclear radiation afterward. We would've been the nuclear radiation afterward -- or at least the dust carrying it That meant we anticipated being  in some very severe conditions even if George was spared. It never happened, but at that time we really believed it might.  History says we were right.  If Kennedy had listened to LeMay, there would've been a nuclear exchange. Even Khrushchev's records tell us that.  

Saturday, March 17, 2012

From a couple of weeks ago

So studies now show that the wealthy tend to be more selfish and greedy than the non-wealthy. It is also shown that this tends to apply even when people who were poor suddenly become wealthy, for example by winning the lottery. Those of us who have worked in poverty-stricken neighborhoods are not surprised by this discovery. When we used to work with the Salvation Army collecting food baskets for Christmas and Thanksgiving, representatives of the charity always informed us that they got better food items, and more of them, from Adelanto, the poor city, than from other areas of the High Desert. Those who could least afford it, were those who gave the most. Items donated in areas which were better off economically tended toward obvious throwaways from their pantries which were not being used by their own families.

All of which makes you wonder about the details of human nature. We can be a very puzzling species. I don't do very well in this area myself. Clearly, I and others who call ourselves Christians, are obligated to take good care of the poor. All I can say that I do is provide a meal for those of ask when I'm out shopping. This happened yesterday. A couple of young men and a very beautiful dog asked for a meal; so of course I bought them a couple of meals at Del Taco and provided five dollars to purchase a can opener, since the dog's owner said he had the dog food, but was ruining his knife opening the cans the hard way.

For this I was thanked and praised, but I should have been criticized.  Like so many who are doing better than others, I give sporadically and give less than I should.  Humans, got to love us, but we don't make it easy, do we?

Friday, March 16, 2012

Affirmative action. A great idea that failed in the real world. Intended to heal
and reverse the pernicious effects of racism, it inflamed and aggravated tensions without effectively meeting the needs of those suffering from centuries of abuse. The newer Texas system is more effective and race neutral. I strongly support it.

Shawn's response: Being that Affirmative action was initially intended to promote "equal opportunity" in due time to "heal" discrimination and subsequently dissipate the need for such initiatives ... Yes I would agree that it "Failed" ... However, being that this didn't work for the "healing" of discrimination, it did successfully help A LOT of minorities in areas of the workforce as well as education obtain that which would have been even harder to obtain had not such initiative been in place. The fat that it "Didn't" work completely as planned proves that.

My response to Shawn: Agreed. It did good work in its day. I was a strong supporter in the beginning. I believe now that it has become more negative than positive and believe that we need to address the ongoing root problems that deny a fair chance. I've been convinced for decades that guaranteeing admittance to junior college, state college, or state university if you meet certain grade standards, is one effective solution.
No games, no tricks. You earn it, you get it. This promise must be made clear to all kids in elementary school and it MUST be kept. For those who fear a new entitlement, the grades must stay high in college and financial support must be on a sliding scale. Also, recall that the entitlement of the GI Bill made us the wealthiest nation in the history of the planet in the 50's

And later:

The other side of the story. Affirmative action did much good in the beginning, but I believe that the time has come to change the focus to ending the causes, not simply mitigating their results. I suggest four essential changes: 1. A "GI Bill" for America's youth. If you earn admission to higher education, you get it. Think of it as a salary for the work done in K through 12 education. 2. Stop the war on minority young men, which is a war on their families. These men belong at home with their wives and children, not incarcerated at such unbelievable rates. A white man arrested for drug possession is very likely to get probation and treatment. A Black or Hispanic man is almost certain to get imprisoned. 3. Give a future back to inner city kids. Growing up in gang and drug infested neighborhoods makes many children believe they will not live to grow up. Why try when you are soon to die anyway? 4. Give principals much more authority and responsibility for their schools. Government meddling by incompetent amateurs, from local school board members to US senators has steadily and predictably degraded our once world class education system into a test driven national disgrace. Reform not the schools, but the system of political education systems which care more about ideology than about teaching children.

Thursday, March 15, 2012


On Neanderthals:

 The difference is that these early populations of our species had developed the ability to invent new tools, like sewing needles that were useful in producing warm, body-hugging clothing. Preserved beads and stones suggest that they, but not the Neanderthals, maintained social networks over vast areas. 

I add:

Of the advantages of our species over the Neanderthals, I suggest social networks were the most the most important.  While it is clear that the advantages of our inventiveness and our ability to adapt was critical for success, I believe that our use of social networks gave us the option of mutually supporting each other, even over great distances.

They permitted us to share those new inventions and adaptations.  In this manner, developments which would have assisted a small group of humans to survive spread out rapidly and gave the advantage to human beings in a given regional area. Eventually, the knowledge and skills would spread to all human beings, anywhere on the continent and beyond. 

It seems to me that without the benefit of this sharing, whatever advantages had been gained by the innovation would be limited only to a very small group of humans. A group of perhaps 15 or 20 humans could not effectivelyrealize the benefits in order to compete against a population of many thousands of Neanderthals over a large regional area. 

In other words, it is the  opinion of this retired educator that education was the tool which gave our species victory in the competition for control over the  resources on this planet.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Post from the past

Technically, I have failed to post every day for Lent. My Tuesday post was a few minutes into Wednesday, so here's another. It is a Facebook post from December:

For a variety of reasons, no need to list them all , I feel better spiritually, emotionally, and physically tonight than I have felt in months. God willing, it will last. But in any event, tonight I am at peace. Tonight I am, in spite of having had a rather difficult couple of days, I find myself in surprisingly good shape tonight. I got a few things done today, and in fact I had just hung the third string of Christmas lights when James called. I need to go back to moment and point out that while I did put up Christmas lights for the first time in years the day after Thanksgiving, I only put up two because the third set was not working properly, since only the blue and red lights would come on, leaving the green ones dark. Since I couldn't find any new sets yesterday, I decided to go ahead and hang it up. And surprise, surprise, shortly after I plugged it in, the green lights came on. That made me quite happy. 

Then James called. He had Alex reading to me. Since Alex is recently in first grade, this is pleasant in and of itself. But the piece de resistance in this case was what he was reading was a little critter book I given in James on Christmas many long years ago. The dedication indicated to James that this was another little critter book which I knew someday he would give to his little critters when he was a father; and, sure enough, here it was happening. It's hard to top that! 

In spite of all the problems, I think it's going to be a good Christmas this year. I had a great start to Thanksgiving! I had breakfast at Denny's with James and his Orangemen.  And the score is as follows: I began with two orders of bacon, pancakes, scrambled eggs, and hash browns. Jeremiah got half the bacon, Lexi and Alex got two of the other pieces, and I got one. Jeremiah got about one third of the eggs, with Alex and Lexi taking a pretty good chunk out of the rest. But I did get take some of them home. Since the kids have their own pancakes, I got to eat all of those. Lexi, Alex and I pretty much evenly divided the hash browns, since Jeremiah didn't like them. And Charlotte had to content herself with her own meal, since she was at the other end of the table. As any grandparents and tell you, that was a very good meal indeed! 

From Facebook

From a speech by Rick Santorum:

"The dangers of carbon dioxide.  Tell that to a plant.  How dangerous carbon dioxide is."

OK.  Experiments prove that  too much carbon dioxide causes a plant to grow thin and weak.  It looks similar to etiolation and is similarly unhealthy.  Said plant is low in nutritive value to herbivores and unhealthy in general.

The idea that if a thing is necessary in moderation, it must be better in excess is typical of poor thought processes and a misunderstanding of the nature of reality.  For example, humans must have salt to live, but too much salt will poison a human, causing death.  Since Mr. Santorum despises facts and science, and has frequently demonstrated a contempt for reality, his inability to comprehend these facts is unsurprising.

However, we should ask ourselves, is it a good idea to have as our President a man who can't think straight?

Etiolation (pronounced /iːtɪəˈleɪʃən/) is a process in flowering plants grown in partial or complete absence of light.[1] It is characterized by long, weak stems; smaller, sparser leaves due to longer internodes; and a pale yellow color (chlorosis).

Monday, March 12, 2012

From last December:

Had a wonderful night with James and the kids yesterday. Tony being away at school in the evening, he gets lonely, so I went over and we spent some time together. He pointed out that this is the first time the old house had outside Christmas lights and, you know, as far as I can remember, it is. It looked really nice. I tried to give him some advice, only to find out he had already thought everything through when it came to the conclusions I was suggesting. Smart kid .

Just back from walking the dog . Last night, he went wild over a coyote hanging nearby. Tonight he was eager to get out, obviously looking for the coyote again. I'm not far from the house and there he is, just standing there.  It was dark and I didn't see him at first, but there he was no more than 40 feet away calmly looking at us. Toby was wild, trying to get over to him, but the coyote just quietly walked off into the bushes as if we were nothing very important. For the rest of the walk, I could hear that weird coyote howl, yowl , yelp in front of us, behind us on both sides of us --obviously they're out hunting tonight. So I guess our friend felt comfortable because he knew he had plenty of backup! 

I don't like coyotes, they're dangerous to pets. But I must admit a grudging admiration for such clever, fast, survivable creatures. Looney Tunes notwithstanding, if a coyote could get hold of a credit card, I don't think he would waste much time buying things from Acme and I don't think the Road runners would get away with it as often as the cartoons imagined.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Once again, we are hearing from the Radical Republicans about how we must suppress the votes of those who wish to vote illegally . Of course it's interesting to note that this serious problem that must be addressed doesn't look quite so serious when we take a look at the numbers. The Bush Justice Department, which also made a lot of noise about voter fraud, on the part of Democrats, of course, ran a specific probe on the subject from 2002 to 2007. 

Yes, the United States Department of Justice devoted many millions of dollars and many, many man hours to tracking down every single possible case of this evil voter fraud. Five years later they managed to bring a shocking number of prosecutions -- 86. Yes, that's right, 86 prosecutions.  Mind you, that's not convictions, only prosecutions, out of 300 million votes cast. That's a total of 0.00003% -- four zeros, one 3; also known as three one hundred thousandths of one per cent. That sure is a huge, incredible problem that requires a massive effort to disenfranchise millions of American voters just to prevent those 86 possibly fraudulent people from voting isn't it?

 And let me remark again, that's 86 prosecutions, not convictions. So it's very clear that voter fraud is taking place on a frightening level in America, only it's not individual Democratic voters who are committing it. It's the Republican Party and it's elected officials attempting to destroy the very concept of democracy in America by disenfranchising perfectly legal voters because they vote for the wrong party. Wrong meaning Democratic, of course.

Remember, this is the political party which, a few short years age, openly planned to become the "permanent majority" party. They intended to change America into a one party nation with only a token and powerless Democratic Party to make the sham of democracy appear to be real.  They are continuing their efforts and, right now, they are beginning to succeed. 

Who is the target of these voter suppression efforts?  Primarily minorities and young voters, especially college students.  Why them? Because they strongly tend to vote for Democrats.

I support all reasonable efforts to encourage ALL eligible voters to vote.  Republican, Democratic, Independent.  Your vote is your business.  If I disagree with your choice, that's my problem, not the government's!  Free people get to vote.  If you don't like how they vote, that's too bad!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

From an article in the LA Times on self-immolation inTibet as a protest against Chinese occupation and brutality:

 "Only by staying alive can the will become a reality."

I add:

The Chinese empire endures. The oldest empire still in existence. It seems to me that the battles fought in the 20th century between democracy and totalitarianism have largely been won. No one can deny the totalitarianism still rules all too many human beings on our planet. Nevertheless, the trends are clearly heading toward democracy.

Not only victories 20th-century, but also spread of technology which empowers individual people and groups and individual people are having a tremendous impact. I'm certainly not saying that the battles are over, but I do believe the ultimate victory is now in sight.

As the middle-class continues to rise, the Chinese government will more and more be forced to deal with the demands of well-educated populace which now expects life to be getting better and better at an accelerated rate. The inevitable result will be democracy. The question, then, becomes how long will this process take? How much human suffering must continue in a pointless effort to maintain a system which is already beginning to rot on the trash heap of history?

I have no doubt that given enough time, the people of Tibet will be free. But I do worry that they may not be free for decades and many, many more will die before this can be accomplished.

In spite of this grave concern, I will again make a prediction i have been making for some time. In the foreseeable future, certainly within the next 50 years, China will be one of our very best friends. She will be our trading partner.  She will be our ally. It happened with Germany. It happened with Japan.  It will happen with China.

But how much suffering must be added on to the already too great a toll? It is all so pointless. The old regime clings to the power which is rapidly eroding. And the people suffer on.

Friday, March 9, 2012

"The Planck length is derived from Newton’s gravitational constant, the speed of light and Planck’s own constant from quantum theory. It is unfathomably small: Comparing its size to a bacterium is like comparing the size of a bacterium to the visible universe."

The above quote brings us to Zeno's Paradox. Zeno pointed out that you get from point A to point B you first had to go halfway from point A to point B. Then, of course, you had to go half of the remaining distance and so on, ad infinitum.  His conclusion? That no one ever could actually get anywhere. To actually obtain any goal in terms of covering the distance is simply impossible!

Nevertheless, it is very clear that things do manage to reach their goals. That's why it was considered a paradox. If the universe is atomic, that is to say composed of units which cannot be reduced any further than their smallest limit, the supposed paradox disappears. In other words, yes, you must cover half the distance, then half of the remaining distance, and half of the remaining distance, but at a certain point there is no we remaining distance.  There is only this tiny little leap from one frame to the next.

Of course, this means that the world down at the tiny quantum level, is incredibly strange. It means that at that vanishingly small level we move forward like frames of a motion picture. At a certain point, things have gotten a small as they can get. This includes distance itself! Down at that level there is no smaller distance. There is no halfway to anything. There is only here and there with nothing in between. And that nothing includes no distance.  It's not a vacuum.  It's an absence of anything. It's a space that simply does not exist!

What's my point? I'm not sure I really have one. I suppose I just feel like saying that paradoxes, if I may repeat myself, are things that exist only in the mind of man. Reality does not allow for them. Paradoxes are language misused, sloppy thinking, or just human misunderstanding.

And that's all to say for today.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Whiny Guy

The title is a warning!  Whenever you see it, be aware that I am entering into territory which is treacherous and full of shoals.  It comes from my version of one of the dreariest, most reeking of self pity, wretched songs ever written.  Alone Again, Naturally. 

It my subtle way of warning potential readers that I am NOT happy at the moment.

Read on at your own peril!

I had a very long, but accomplished day yesterday.  I got my taxes done (thank you, Debbie!) and relocated/rewired my upstairs sound system.  The latter was a frustrating experience,  but was successful. The result was a difficult night.  As always, I pay dearly for demanding my body function for an extended time.  OK, so I had a mild crash.  That is hardly surprising.

The  problem is today.  My grandson's dog, normally a welcome visitor, ate a few things I value...well, details don't matter.  The point is, I needed a quiet, peaceful day. I got a noisy, irritating mess.  I am irritable, confused, vertiginous and generally unfit for  company, human or animal.

I am posting because, late as it is, I am trying to post on  this blog every day during Lent. I am retreating from the world and my family for the rest of the night.  I hope for a better day tomorrow.  I end this day with my words for the above referenced song:

I'm a really whiny guy,
All I do is whine and cry,
Alone again,
Wonder why?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

From today's LA Times

  A study comparing prices for hospital stays, physician office  visits, drugs and other medical procedures in developed  countries shows U.S. prices among the most expensive. 

Scott Hauge, president of the San Francisco-based Small Business Coalition, told coalition members this  week that the survey and other indicators of growing medical costs are "not good news for small  businesses that are struggling to continue to provide health insurance and why health insurance access  and cost is the number one issue again for small businesses in our survey."

This is one of the main reasons  we need a single payer system!  We spend more and get less than any other wealthy nation in the world.  It hurts our citizens and it hurts our businesses.  It only benefits the insurance industry at the expense of the rest of the nation.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

A response to a family political dispute. One decrying the excesses of the Radical Republicans, the other, a Republican, defending the party as not all extreme. My response to the first position follows:

Your facts are accurate in general, but I recall a time when both parties were reasonable and cooperative. The Republicans have allowed the propaganda machines of Fox and company to drive them to extremism and to purge or excommunicate those who are moderate and reasonable.  (RINO's -- Radicals in Name Only) They will either return to moderation or be replaced by a more reasonable party.  The Democrats will eventually drift toward extremism, to some degree or another. that is why I have no party loyalty and am deeply suspicious of all who do.

I Like your Christ

I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ. -- Mahatma Gandhi

Far From Home

To a young man, far from home, making his way in a troubled world:

The world is often a harsh and troubled place.  At times humanity is depressingly short of our hopes and even our expectations.  It should not surprise anyone who knows me that five of my favorite authors are Swift, Twain, Kafka, Pratchett, and Vonnegut.  All take a sharp and even harsh view of humanity.  

It is easy to become depressed and despair of our species.  But recall that we are one with not only the crude and hateful, the bullying and the crass, but with the kind and wise, the creative and the loving. 

More importantly, consider the history of humanity. We have come a very long way from our roots. Casual cruelty, torture, rape, murder, slavery... the list of things which were once considered normal,  but which are now considered terrible, is very long.  We do progress. We do become a better species. It is slow and difficult road, but one which we have taken throughout our history, and are continuing to take now.

As hard it is for you at the moment, I recommend that you consider looking at things in a different way. You have referred to your feeling that you have a calling. Perhaps your calling is to be a better person yourself, and through the rest of your life, to help others to be better than they are today. It behooves each one of us, each and every day, to do what we can to make the world a better place than it was when we woke up that morning. It may seem at times as if we are struggling to create a huge cathedral one single stone at a time. But then again, given enough time and enough people making the effort, such cathedrals will rise.

After all, think about the progress we have made. Cathedrals have risen. There is much work to do, and is discouraging see how slowly and erratically the work goes, but it does go on.  The progress is painfully difficult and gains are often lost or at least eroded, yet we do not slip completely back into savagery at every opportunity.  In the long run, we advance.

I am reminded of an African story and an American one.  The African story was told on a television show I cannot recall.  The American one at a conference for school administrators.

The jungle had caught fire. A small group of varied animals who had escaped gathered on a hillside down which ran a stream and watched the destruction of their home.  A hummingbird, it's iridescent feathers flashing In the flickering light of the fire, began flying to the stream, sucking up as much water as it's tiny body could hold, then flying back to edge of the burning jungle, and squirting out the liquid in a vain attempt to slow the flames.

"You're wasting your efforts" said the elephant. 

"Yes," answered the exhausted hummingbird, "but at least I'm MAKING the effort."

Following a hurricane in Florida, a man was walking along a devastated beach. He was shaking his head at the terrible distress of the many thousands of sea urchins, sea stars, and starfish which had been washed ashore and were dying in the hot sun.  He met a little boy who was carefully picking up the animals one by one, and placing them back in the ocean.

"Don't waste your time, Kid," said the man.  He waved his hand at the disaster spread across the sands, "There's just too many of them. You can't make a difference."

The boy carefully picked up a red starfish, carried it to the waves, and dropped it in. He and the man watched it begin to stir and slowly start to crawl away. At that point the boy said, "Made a difference to that one."

I should end on that note, it feels right strictly from an authorial viewpoint.  However, I need to go on and make an additional point. Looking at the whole thing from a different angle, I must say that for all the difficulties that they are inflicting upon you, these are our fellow human beings. I was a quiet, intellectual kid, so I suffered my share of bullying in school. I understand your feeling of frustration and anger, because I've been there and I've done that. But I have also learned that human beings are very complex creatures. 

While it is true that many of us engage in reprehensible need only look at Rush Limbaugh's recent excursion into filth and the degradation of American women, to see that even the powerful and wealthy are often vicious is nevertheless also true that, with a few exceptions, there is a decent side even to those who are the most offensive.  I have, as an educator, worked with roughnecks, I have raised roughneck or two, and I have to say that not all rough-and-tumble dialogue is bullying or is even intended to be harmful. Much of it is intended as humor, as a bonding technique, and even as a cover for the tenderness which a roughneck can find confusing in himself.

Also remember that we gentle folk, we who prefer things smooth and easy, depend very heavily upon roughnecks for the safety of our existence:

People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf. --George Orwell

Your chosen profession places you in the company of rough men. I'm not excusing everything all that they do and say. I am sure there are excesses and that at times they're entirely out of line. On the other hand, you are working with rough men. I think it is reasonable to expect them, from time to time, to be rough.  In other words, sometimes their behavior is just the habitual way which they have. Sometimes it is malicious, but try to remember that it isn't always malicious. Sometimes it's just...well, being rough.

So, although it isn't fair, since you are the thoughtful and reasonable one, it follows that it is up to you be thoughtful and reasonable.

If you do remain in this profession for your entire career, I can easily see you as the one who is regarded as "the old man". The thoughtful, steady hand which is key to a unit functioning smoothly. It's a position well-known and well respected in the Armed Forces. It may not be an  official assignment, but, believe me, it is an essential one.

Monday, March 5, 2012

I have a new TwinTurbo WaterPik shower massage. This is a direct result of my Moen  showerhead finally falling apart. Considering that it wasn't new when I moved here, and I moved here 12 years ago, I can't really complain. When I first used the new showerhead, I was pleased to find that it gave me the strongest massage yet.  I depend upon that due to my arthritis and general muscle aches and pains. My big complaint has always been, why isn't this shower massage stronger? 

When I first used the new unit, I was pleased, it was stronger than any I had used  before. But it still wasn't strong enough. Then I realized that there was a leak in the hose connection.It turned out at the washer was damaged. A quick trip to Walmart and that was corrected.  With the leak blocked, the massage spray was much more powerful.  

To all of you It may not matter. But I am happy!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

From a Facebook comment on Republican attacks on Obama for apologizing to the Islamic world for the accidental mistreatment of the Koran by US forces:

Message to the Republican Party:

 A manly apology is not a weakness. It is a strength. An adult, secure in his position, confident in his masculinity, is not afraid to apologize. This, of course, is also true of an adult woman who is self confident and self-assured. The insecure, the frightened, those lacking in self-respect, these are the ones who are afraid to make a sincere honest, apology when an error has occurred.

As a retired elementary school teacher and principal I am quite familiar with this particular problem. Actually, I think every parent is quite familiar with this particular problem. Every kindergartner needs to learn, if their parents have not already taught them this essential fact, that throwing a temper tantrum, hissing and shrieking, and flatly refusing to apologize to everyone who dares to disagree with you is not actually the way to appear to the world to be a big boy or a big girl. The simple fact is, grown-ups apologize.

It does not hurt them to apologize. It does not weaken them to apologize. It shows that they are polite, self-assured, and secure.  It bears repeating, grown-ups apologize. Spoiled little children do not.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

From the LA Times today. :

'We have a biology for reciprocation. I call oxytocin "the moral molecule." It's a chemical that motivates us to engage and care about others — and that's the basis for moral behavior. '
Yes, but there is much more to the story!   The chemical has a dark side:
'Oxytocin, a hormone produced in the brain during bonding activities such as breastfeeding, childbirth, and sex, helps humans to relax, trust one another, and feel comfortable with others. Its pleasant effects are so well-known that it's often referred to as the "love hormone." But researchers at the University of Amsterdam have recently uncovered a dark secret: oxytocin appears to prime humans to prioritize in-group members over out-group persons, prompting questions of whether oxytocin is the key ingredient of ethnocentrism and prejudice.'

Scientists should know better than to oversimplify.  Flattered by the attention, honest scientists simplify and "clarify" complex data.  The popular press seizes on such carelessness, and later, when the full facts come out, the public assumes that science is untrustworthy and is constantly changing it's view of reality.  Not true, but it looks so to careless and poorly informed minds.  Minds that vote.

Bobby, back in the days of the Philosophy Club, I once made point about humans as biochemical robots.  I pointed out that naked mole rats made lousy fathers and unfaithful mates, until dosed with oxytocin.  Then they became nurturing fathers and stayed loyal to one mate.  I have since discovered that the actual research was done on prairie voles.  In my defense, a story about prairie voles' sexual conduct has less amusement value than one about naked mole know, like Rush Limbaigh, the nakedest mole rat ever to insult American women.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Stop and Frisk, aka, Walking While Black or Brown

According to Vanguard on Current TV, more people are being arrested for marijuana possession in New York City than at any other place or time in history. The great majority of these arrests, in fact almost all of them, are being made for minor possession. This is happening because of a policy which is called stop and frisk. Tens of thousands were arrested for minor marijuana possession last year. That's right, in one year.

The stop and frisk system allows police to stop anyone an officer decides is suspicious. The person is not accused of any crime. All that needs to occur is that a policeman decides that that individual is suspicious. Having stopped that individual for no discernible reason, the policeman then has the right to frisk them. In case you think I'm exaggerating, according to the records of the New York Police Department, yes that's right, the NYPD themselves-they made over 600,000 such stops last year alone! 

If we are to believe the NYPD, the fact that almost 90% of these 600,000 who were stopped were either Black or Hispanic was not a result of blatant racism. That means the Black and Hispanic people in New York City somehow managed to behave in a suspicious manner nine times more frequently than the White people in New York City, and that's ignoring demographics and assuming there are equal numbers of White citizens and Black and Hispanic citizens.

Included in the criteria for suspicious behavior are two very interesting items. One is furtive behavior. This is, of course, means anything the policemen doesn't like about you. Another item is the clothing being worn by an individual. That's right, if the NYPD doesn't like the way you walk, talk, look, or act or if it feels that the fashion choices you have made are unacceptable, they can stop and frisk you.  No other requirement is needed.

Unsurprisingly, the NYPD refused to discuss the matter with the reporter. A prosecutor did agree to be interviewed. She said the stop and frisk policy was to protect people from the danger of guns. Of course, almost no guns are actually found during the searches. The math works out to about one gun found in every 700 stops. What's found most commonly is small amounts of marijuana. It is also interesting to wonder why the NYPD thinks that Blacks and Hispanics are nine times more likely than whites to be carrying a gun. It is an interesting question, isn't it?

How many arrests for small quantities of marijuana being possessed have been made? About 50,000 a year. Please remember, that whatever your position on the possession of marijuana, these are individuals with small amounts of the drug clearly intended for their own personal use. These are not dealers. These are not drug lords.  These are ordinary citizens who were doing the equivalent of caring around a bottle of beer or a pint of whiskey.

But those are legal, you say? Okay then, this is the equivalent of an 20 year old carrying around a bottle of beer or a pint of whiskey. Should such an 20 -year-old be arrested or have the bottle confiscated and be given a citation? That's a fair comparison.

But wait! There's more! In New York City possession of small amounts of marijuana should get you only the equivalent of a traffic ticket. So why are these people being arrested? The answer is that while you are allowed to have a small amount of marijuana for personal use in your possession, you may not have it in public view.  That is grounds for arrest. So how do the police justify an arrest? You won't believe this, but this is the truth. They order the individual they have stopped because he's suspicious or they don't like the clothes he is wearing to empty his pockets.  When he obeys that order and takes the marijuana out of his pocket, it is suddenly in public view! This is the excuse for an arrest.

In other words, the individual is being arrested because he complied with a police order. Of course, if he refuses to empty his pockets, he would then be arrested for refusing to comply with a police order.

The result of this is almost 400,000 arrests for marijuana possession in public view in the last nine years.

Not everyone arrested is formally charged. However, merely being arrested gives you a record. This can lead to a number of consequences including eviction from your apartment, especially of you have had a prior arrest on any charge.

The cost of all of this to the city is $75 million a year. That's just the cost of the prosecutions. The cost of police time, especially considering that most of these arrests result in a release rather than prosecution, must be enormous by comparison.

It's hard to believe that things can be even worse, but they are. A local politician sponsoring legislation to stop these abuses points out the NYPD's own statistics demonstrate that 9 out of 10 of the people stopped are immediately released, on the spot, because they have committed no offense whatsoever. 9 out of 10.

Please remember that all this is taking place in a system which is overloaded with serious cases. The court dockets in New York City are full of robberies, rapes, murders, and other serious crimes. But huge amounts of court time is being spent on charging people with having a small amount of marijuana in public view, after, of course, complying with the police order to put it in public view.

The prosecutor who agreed to be interviewed refused to believe that policemen were ordering people to empty their pockets and then arresting them for having marijuana in public view. This is unsurprising, since if she did believe it, it would be her job to seek the arrest and prosecution of those policeman as such an act would, in fact, be false arrest.

I strongly support effective and fair law enforcement.  I also strongly condemn breaking the law under the color of authority and racism.  In fairness to the NYPD, these stop and frisk abuses can also be interpreted as as much anti poor as anti minority.  Virtually no one is ever stopped and frisked in wealthy or even middle class areas of the city; it's all happening in poverty stricken neighborhoods.  But outright racism or prejudice against the poor, it's still prejudice and it's still an abuse of the police authority of the government--being under the color of authority only makes it worse.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

We all know about Rush Limbaugh's smear of American women. We know he wants to enjoy seeing our wives and daughters having sex for his enjoyment. I must comment.

The bottom line is that Limbaugh had insulted every American woman who has ever used contraceptives covered by thier health care insurance.  He not only calls them sluts and prostitutes, he says they should post videos of thier sex acts for him to enjoy.  Millions of American men should be defending the honor of their wives and daughters.  Of course, some of us are American males and some of us are American men.  Limbaugh has made it easy to differentiate.

Let me add that free contraceptives are not at issue.    Contrary to the hysterical men like Limbaugh, the contraceptives in question were either covered by the University's health plan or not covered.  That was the issue.  Since health insurance is never free in this country, no ones' precious money was being given away.

  I suppose a wealthy donor to Georgetown University might make a contorted argument that some of his donation might be used to help insure women's health (what a waste of precious money!), but everyone else should shut up, until and unless they donate a large sum to the university.

I also answer the "Why should I pay for it," crowd by asking, why should I for your being saved by a fire department or police department or military paid for with my money?  We live in a society.  We work together to make it better.  This is being human.

Don't want to do your share? Drop out and live alone in the mountains without any help and without any of society's benefits, like roads, electricity, stores, doctors, and so on.  Have fun, rugged individualist