Tuesday, August 4, 2015
A video shot of the Philly moron taking his loser's retribution out on a hapless robot.
Canadians at McMaster University made hitchBOT as a medium to test human interaction with a vocal, anthropomorphic mechanical device.. Incredibly, hitchBOT fared well in its traverse through Canada and a number of nations in Europe including Germany and the Netherlands before getting to the U.S. - land of psychos - where it met its end at the hands of a Philadelphia Eagles loser fan (wearing a Randall Cunningham jersey - clearly not aware that ship already sailed)
The idea was for various human agents to respond to the device's quest for transport and move it from one locale to the next- eventually arriving in San Francisco in the U.S. Well, it didn't make it. After being transported from Boston to New York and then to the City of Brotherly Love - not much human love was shown. A lunkhead wearing an old Eagles jersey - clearly still nursing wounds from the last season and no doubt grasping the next won't be much better - kicked the shit out of the robot.
Why? For what reason? Maybe one answer was found on one blog written by another Neanderthal- maybe also from Philly:
"they (Canadians) crudely assembled a broadly anthropomorphic heap of refuse and left it someplace for strangers to take care of for them. It traveled across Canada and Europe for some reason, experiencing nothing, doing nothing, being all the while nothing more than a loudmouthed freak thing."
Hey, Igor. You could have just ignored it. And, btw, "heap of refuse" is in the mind and eye of the bolder. To some that little bot my have been a work of art! As for "doing nothing". - you have any idea how many Iggles fans do nothing, other than gorge on Philly cheese steak sandwiches til they're too big to move? Why kick the crap out of it? Or turn a blind eye to a nitwit doing it? Maybe an inferiority complex?
We may never know including how the experiment in human interaction might have finished in San Fran. Sadly, the world merely has one more nasty view of psycho Americans - now taking their revenge out on an inanimate device that never hurt anyone.
The McMaster University researchers claimed it "could have happened anywhere" referring to the bot's brutal demise. But I doubt it. People in San Fran would have had too much class to ruthlessly rip an elaborate mechanism to pieces, ditto folks in the much larger Big Apple. And no Green Bay Packer fan would be caught dead doing a demolition job on a smiley face, primitive robot just asking for a hitch! If nothing else he'd have had too much pride in his team to wear its jersey while committing such a fell deed.
Seems only a sore loser Philadelphia Eagles fan could be such a loser as to carry this out. Maybe the guy's chick ditched him. Maybe she knew if he could beat up on a non-ambulatory mechanical man he could beat up on a live human female too. Or hell, even a quadriplegic human.
Who knows? We can only hope he's relatively happy now he's got at least 5 minutes of fame. Or more likely, shame.
Monday, August 3, 2015
In a number of previous posts I've noted that some journalists, while they may be fair to middling at politics or general affairs, need to steer clear of writing on global warming, the greenhouse effect or climate change in general. This lot includes George Will of the WaPo group, Debra Saunders of the SF Chronicle and Holman Jenkins of the Wall Street Journal. None of this lot, as well as others listed from time to time, appears to know a thing on the key scientific issues to do with global warming.
Now add to that another member of the WSJ propagandists' stable, John Steele Gordon ('The Unsettling Anti -Science Certitude on Global Warming'). His main complaint- though he also has questions that he puts forward- which I will get to - seems to be that climate scientists have adopted a position of "certainty" and claim the science is 100 percent "settled".
In his words:
"To say we have it all wrapped up is itself a form of denial. The essence of scientific inquiry is that there is always more to learn."
First, no serious climate scientist claims we "have it all wrapped up". Science, which too many believe is based on "proof", is actually much more subtle in its evidentiary approaches - so we leave "proof" to the rarefied areas of advanced math. In empirical science we instead apply quality assurance (QA) criteria to the evidence available for particular hypotheses. Thus, it is more practical to consider criteria of adequacy, and whether data meet these criteria. For example, a leading global warming hypothesis is that warming has never occurred when the CO2 concentration is below 200 parts per million (ppm). Similarly, cooling has never occurred when it exceeds 200 ppm. Both of these have been found to hold as noted by Gale Christianson ('Greenhouse')
In this way, the relative merit of a scientific finding can be adduced based on standards similar to those employed in industrial quality control. If certain minimal criteria or standards are not met, then the finding is regarded with skepticism or rejected outright. So far none of the minimal criteria or standards for the primary hypotheses have been found unmet in the case of global warming.
Indeed, as recent CO2 concentrations have been found to be increasing at a rate of 2 ppm/ yr, Earth temperatures have never been hotter, e.g.
Gordon's statement concerning scientific inquiry, i.e. "always seeking to learn more", is true, of course, but that doesn't mean all directed inquiry remains open ended in respect of never arriving at probabilities or relatively high QA conclusions. As noted earlier, if high QA evidence is at hand then consistency means high QA conclusions are forthcoming. This is the case with global warming but that doesn't mean we have it "all wrapped up".
I've already noted, for example (March 27, 2012), the peculiar anomalies associated with albedo (degree of surface reflectivity).. I noted Earth’s albedo increased from 2000 to 2004 but that this had NOT led to a reversal in global warming as expected. In other words, the data mismatch indicated a "loose string" in the theory - BUT not a deal breaker. Indeed, I cited a paper: 'Can Earth’s Albedo and Surface Temperature Increase Together’ (Eos Transactions , Vol. 87, No. 4, p. 37 ) wherein the authors cited (to then) the most up to date cloud data from the International Satellite Cloud Climatology Project (ISCCP). The data – from a range of meteorological satellites covering the entire Earth- disclosed the most likely reason for the anomaly was primarily in the redistribution of the clouds. This led the authors to write (ibid.):
"whereas low clouds have decreased during the most recent years, high clouds have increased to a larger extent leading to both an increase in cloud amount AND an increased trapping of infrared radiation.”
Still we regard it as an area of open inquiry, but no deal breaker in the sense of blowing up a global warming consensus that: 1) The Earth is getting hotter, 2) This is due to increasing CO2 in the atmosphere, and 3) If it continues then we may reach the runaway greenhouse effect (see Venus for an example at work)
Afterward, Gordon then digresses for several paragraphs, examining Newtonian gravitation and how it had to retreat with the discovery of Mercury's advancing perihelion. He claims that with the Einstein general relativity equations "the planet turned out to be exactly where Einstein said it would be" - but this is misleading.
The equation was not one of the planet's pre-determined position, as from celestial mechanics, but rather of computing:
e = [24 (p)3 a2]/ T2 c2 [1 - e2]
where e is the advance (or rotation) of the perihelion in seconds of arc, T is the period of revolution in seconds, c the velocity of light and e the eccentricity of the orbit. Einstein, on page 164 of the paper ‘On the Influence of Gravitation on the Propagation of Light’,, asserts that for Mercury e= 43 seconds per century. Readers interested in this calculation and related ones can go to:
Alas, what Gordon didn't say is that despite the Newtonian failure to predict the advance of Mercury's perihelion, we still use Newtonian gravitational theory in standard celestial mechanics, i.e to obtain planetary positions or to compute the trajectory needed for a spacecraft to reach Pluto, for example.
Gordon then proclaims:
"Climate science today is a veritable cornucopia of unanswered questions" - which is simply not true. There are some unanswered questions (I noted the albedo and cloud issue earlier) but they don't amount to a "cornucopia" by any means. Some of the questions he lists include:
1) Why did the warming trend between 1978 and 1998 cease though computer models predicted steady warming?
Ans. Standard temperatures had not as yet been standardized to a defined altitude, e.g. troposphere, and measured consistently from the same positions using satellites. For more on this go to:
2) How sensitive is the climate to increased carbon dioxide levels?
Based on ice cores and other analyses predictions have been validated that for every 2 ppm increase in CO2 concentration there is a corresponding 2 W/m2 increase in solar insolation. That is, the latter has been increasing now for at least ten years past the base insolation 1360 W/m2. This is the amount of effective radiation in watts delivered per square meter.
3) What feedback mechanisms are there that would increase or decrease that sensitivity?
The primary mechanism to increase sensitivity is a positive albedo feedback - driving us toward the runaway greenhouse. This was described by Sagan in his essay, 'Ambush : The Warming of the World', in his book 'Billions and Billions: Thoughts on Life and Death at the Beginning of the Millennium' :
"Melting of ice caps (already occurring) results in diminished albedo (reflection of solar radiation back into space), and a darker Earth surface - with more infrared radiation absorbed - reinforcing the tendency while enhancing the melting effect, leading to further darkening of the surface, reduced albedo and more melting."
This mode of positive feedback is what we're faced with in the melting of the Arctic.
A negative feedback to decrease sensitivity would be any accumulation of particulates in the atmosphere which would increase global dimming -and thus mask the warming. The mechanism isn't difficult to understand: The particulate pollution reflects sunlight back into space, preventing it reaching the surface. But the pollution also changes the optical properties of clouds, most often in the lower atmosphere. Because the particles seed the formation of water droplets, polluted clouds contain a larger number of droplets than unpolluted clouds. Recent research shows that this makes them more reflective than they would otherwise be, again reflecting the Sun's rays back into space, via a spurious albedo effect, i.e. which reduces warming by reflecting more infrared radiation.
4) Why did episodes of high carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere earlier in Earth's history have temperature levels above and below the average?
In fact, CO2 levels when high never manifested "below average" temperatures, however fluctuations of CO2 levels (i.e. above and below the critical threshold of 200 ppm) would have, given when less than the threshold there'd be below average temperatures and when higher than the threshold there'd be above average temperatures. This is further confirmed once the 200ppm was passed the last time and concentrations have risen since the Industrial Revolution in tandem with the enhanced radiocarbon C14 over C12 noted by John Eddy, e.g.
As Eddy noted: The sharp upward spike at the modern end of the curve, representing a marked drop in relative radiocarbon, is generally attributed to anthropogenic causes—the mark of increased population and the Industrial Age.
Thus, what we're seeing now with the C14:C12 ratio obviates any problems or issues with past variations, especially when the CO2 concentrations went above and below 200 ppm.
After his "cornucopia" of four questions, Gordon brings up the great email flap and avers "the communications showed that whatever the emailers were engaged in it was not the disinterested pursuit of science."
Well, not really. As I noted after the climategate fiasco exploded, e.g.:
"The warp and woof that the data trends disclose enticed Myles Allen of Oxford University to publicly comment (Financial Times, July 29, 2010) that it was clear from the accumulated work of climate scientists that human-engendered greenhouse gases were the problem. In his words (ibid.):
"Climategate never really brought climate science into question at all."
So that Gordon's complaint is basically irrelevant. Well, the major transgression of the emailers was "groupthink" in the words of the FT's Christopher Caldwell at the time. I translate that more accurately into circling the wagons against know nothing Huns. No scientist I know of has any problems defending his or her work against the scrutiny of PEERS. However, vs. ignorant laymen with an agenda - decidedly political, it's a different matter. Defense then comes to the fore. For one thing, what quality can be assured by ignorant scrutiny when it's driven by political or economic imperatives?
Even Gordon admits that's a major concern of his when he writes at the end:
"If anthropogenic climate change is a reality then that would be a huge problem only the government could deal with. It would be a heaven sent opportunity for the left to vastly increase government control over the economy"
So there we have it at last in a nutshell. Forget all the "anti-science" blather, bullshit and PR malarkey. Gordon in his heart of hearts knows the facts are there, knows climate change is real - as real as the glaciers now cracking and melting in the Arctic- and he's petrified it would mean economic action by the government. THAT is what has his panties in a twist, not the "cornucopia of questions" supposedly buzzing in his brain.
In like manner all the other objections by the Right and its think tanks fall under the same perverted purview. Mount pseudo-scientific, PR attacks against the global warming hypothesis to try to make enough dummies reject it and thereby prevent any meddling in the oil-based economy, even if we dig every last barrel up out of the ground - which will surely kill us and convert the Earth to another Venus.
Sunday, August 2, 2015
Jefferson County students protested last year as their school board attempted to push a non-controversial version of AP U.S. history.
As the segment on CBS News yesterday evening put it:
"Students might not notice the changes, but AP U.S. History teachers will. For example, western expansion where in the last AP version the focus was almost entirely on the negative impact of western settlement on the native American populations".......Now, not so much, as the points of view of the settlers themselves - how great it was to take all that Indian land - will dominate.
But to Seton Hall History professor William James Holhoffer:
"When you change the story to one of pioneering spirit and economic opportunity it's not just a change in emphasis. It's a lie."
So the College Board has evidently acquiesced to the promulgation of lies about U.S. history - to placate raving Right wingers intent on substituting a rah-rah patriotic veneer for what really transpired..
Prof. Holhoffer again:
"The new standards have gone completely wrong."
So what was the genesis of this egregious change?
Almost a year ago, I posted about the kerfuffle in Jefferson County, Colorado - after a misbegotten local school board sought to revamp the latest AP History recommendation. This triggered protests from thousands of students who wanted their history straight - not perverted, "positivized" or rendered like mush. The teachers also were in full revolt as they should have been, since no teacher worth his or her salt ought to bend over to replace genuine historical content -however sordid and painful- with PR, and mischievous malarkey. That sort of crap leads inevitably to the swill we behold from clowns like Larry Schweikart and his '48 Liberal Lies About American History - when he's the one doing the lying!
Anyway, like 6 other states Colorado law allowed local school boards to override school districts and impose their own history content, such as for AP studies, courses. Taking advantage of this, the Jefferson County school board held a closed door meeting (wherein most nefarious deeds get hatched) that created the original uproar
At the meeting, Board Vice President Julie Williams proposed that a committee be formed to review the current Advanced Placement History Curriculum and change it. She wrote in her goofy proposal:
"Materials should not encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law. Instructional materials should present positive aspects of the United States and its heritage."
Of course, thinking teachers and students mocked this gibberish via Twitter. Two of the tweets that appeared were:
"Roe vs. Wade was about the best way to cross a river."
"The Declaration of Independence refers to a song by Beyoncé"
As I noted if the JeffCo proposals succeeded one would never learn about:
- The basis for the American Revolution, or be allowed to read Thomas Paine's fiery 'Common Sense'
- The Haymarket Massacre and the influence of labor unions in U.S, history
- The Civil War and its bloodiest battles such as Shiloh and Antietam
- The Sand Creek Massacre and the betrayal by the U.S. gov't of its signed treaties with the Indians - to take their land.
- The use of propaganda by Edward Bernays to goad the U.S. into WWI
- The assassination of John Kennedy and the role of the CIA in it,
- The pretext for the Vietnam War in the Tonkin Gulf Resolution wherein it was falsely claimed that the U.S. fired in N. Vietnamese gunboats in international waters after being fired on first.
- The My Lai massacre
- The false pretext for the Iraq war and "Operation Iraqi Freedom" pushed by Bush, Cheney and the Neocons like Paul Wolfowitz,
Now, however, it seems all those omissions (and more) may manifest as it appears the College Board - after initially siding with the students, e.g.
has opted to side with the conservatives' shiny, smiley, bullet point view of history - accurately described as "RNC talking points". Evidently, the massive shit fit pitched by these ahistorical ninnies - bawling their asses off that U.S. history would now be "corrupted" - got the College Board to back down.
The changes are essentially contained in the document 'Course and Exam Description; AP United States History ' - basically guidance on what the final exam will cover. The new recommended course topics will now include:
- The American ideals of liberty, citizenship and self-governance
- The productive role of free enterprise
As Prof. Holhoffer puts it:
"Those are Republican National Committee presidential, Donald Trump talking points"
In other words, totally regressing to the earlier mode of indoctrination of students for assimilation into the corporate state. As authors D. Stanley Eitzen and Maxine Baca-Zinn note in their wonderful book, 'In Conflict and Order', p. 443:
"The schools perform several vital functions for the maintenance of the prevailing social, political and economic order. Through their curricula, testing, and bureaucratic control, and emphasis on competition, the schools reflect the social class 'structure' of society by processing youth to fit into economic slots similar to those of their parents.."
Schools thereby became Agents of Corporate False Consciousness.
What drove the reversion to imparting corporate false consciousness and historical revisionism? Last year's well thought out changes were not accepted in knuckle-dragger states like Texas, Oklahoma, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia - as well as in the capitalist bastion of Jefferson County, CO, which all screamed "Unpatriotic!" and "went on a rampage, pushing for changes to the original changes"
The moronic asshole and current Reeptard candidate Ben Carson actually barfed out:
"I think most people that finish that course would be ready to sign up for ISIS"
Really, Ben? Seriously? Or are you talking out of your ass again? Methinks the latter is the case. One wonders how you ever managed to get on the staff of Johns Hopkins with blabberwash like that! Of course, Carson's blurtations and those of other Reeptards weren't surprising given the Republican National Committee adopted a resolution specifically calling the original changes "biased and inaccurate accounts of many important events"
But the underlying subtext - unexpressed- is that they were terrified the changes might promote civil disobedience. I mean god forbid Americans ever do that, or were reported to have done that! But if one only conformed to authority no change would ever come, which evidently escapes these jackasses. And without change there is no history! Rosa Parks would have remained in her place and not violated "authority" by moving to the front of a bus in Montgomery. Martin Luther King would have remained in his Atlanta church and wrote sermons and never taken to the streets of Selma, or Birmingham. Vietnam protestors would have stayed in their university classrooms and never made a single protest sign or marched. Oh, and JFK would never have printed $4.2 billion in U.S. Notes outside the Federal Reserve system, e.g.
or sought a rapprochement with Fidel Castro (including secretly sending medical aid, etc.) while his Joint Chiefs wanted to oust the Cuban leader. Nor would he have signed a document (NSAM-263) to head off the Vietnam war before it started.
Why was the College Board driven to back off its original AP U.S. History proposals? We may never know the exact details, but we do know itwouldn't be the first time that an organization backed down after conservatives went ape shit.
Recall some 4 years ago Daryl Johnson tried to warn about increasing right wing terrorism: His April 7 report, headed, Right Wing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment analyzed the causes of the surge in right -wing extremism since Obama's election, and which included numerous incidents - including nearly beating to death of dozens of Obama voters, supporters. They traced nearly all the incidents to the election of the nation's first black president.
The report, alas, was short circuited when one office (or official) inside DHS leaked it prematurely to the media, which then had a field day with it - mainly the conservative zombots of FAUX News etc. along with Lush Limburger. Subsequently, Janet Napolitano's DHS reacted to the stream of criticism by withdrawing support.
The episode disclosed the power of the right wing and its media in the country - to actually cause a government agency to back off if they screamed and squealed loudly and often enough. So in a way one shouldn't be surprised that a similar coordinated hissy fit would sway the College Board on its recommendations for AP History.
I mean, it takes a lot of cojones to stand up to these yelping infants hurling their feces every time something doesn't go their way.
The one consolation regarding the latest AP U.S. History changes is that the College Board "doesn't mandate textbooks" (yet most are still pathetic) and AP U.S. History teachers remain free to teach what they think is important without considering the latest controversy.
Let's hope that's the case, and there are no penalties including on the exam. As Jefferson County history teacher
Stephanie Rossi put it last year:
"If we can't talk about the struggles that people go through history, to gain a greater equality, a greater America, then how can we convey a true story and a complete picture to our students?"
"If we can't talk about the struggles that people go through history, to gain a greater equality, a greater America, then how can we convey a true story and a complete picture to our students?"
Sadly, the Reepos and most conservatives would prefer our citizens not have a complete picture or an accurate one regarding our history. They prefer it remain a Norman Rockwell portrait of perfect harmony devoid of ugliness and conflict. In other words, the exact opposite of the truth, but sure to manufacture more lockstep Republican voters and corporate tools, fools.
Saturday, August 1, 2015
Confusing Issues Again: The Reeptards Mix Up Cecil The Lion Outrage with Abortions At Planned Parenthood
One of the many daffy images put out by the Right to try to make millions feel guilt over reacting with sympathy to Cecil the Lion's brutal slaughter- but not to abortions.
Jeebus! The sanctimonious ninnies and nannies of the Right never cease to amaze. Now we have Sen. Marco Rubio - running for President- bellyaching that we oughtn't get so worked up over Cecil the Lion when "hundreds of human babies are being annihilated every day". Uh look, dingbat, last time I checked those were not "babies" but fetuses. Repeat after me: Neither a zygote or fetus is a baby, or a person!
But trying to drill through their craniums is like trying to drill through concrete. It just doesn't work because they are incapable of processing scientific distinctions, far less nuanced arguments. Hence, the hue and a cry raised by conservos over people's reactions to Cecil's vile butchering but "they're hardly making a sound over all those butchered babies". Well, maybe because some of us are intelligent enough to be able to distinguish a zygote or fetus from a baby!
Let's leave aside for the moment the fact that no sane person in his or her right mind can possibly regard a "zygote" as a person, or a fetus as an "unborn child". There is simply no standard by which that passes even elemental laws or tests of logic, or science. A child cannot be "unborn" because by definition it is already born! Thus, we send the 'child' to school, get him to do his homework, to take his medicine, cross streets safely, respect his elders and so on. If unborn, it's a fetus, not a "child" so all those activities are preposterous. They also show the entity is not a person. Don't these ignorant twits know any better?
A person, a human person, must have at least minimal capacity for basic cognition and rudimentary choice. It must possess a brain, at the very least, which evinces definite brain waves. Anything that doesn't is a proto-human entity, but clearly not a person. The logical error made is called the "genetic fallacy" as first described by Antony Flew ('Thinking About Thinking'). That is, arguing that because a thing is going to become something, it IS something. It would be like me picking up an acorn and claiming it's an oak tree. Nope. No way. Only an insane person would assert that!
So why all the outrage about Cecil the Lion and not extending to unformed zygotes or aborted fetuses? Because Cecil was an independent, autonomous living creature in his own right - not a parasite dependent for its existence on the blood supply of another. Cecil was also the embodiment of a nation's pride as that magnificent, autonomous beast - with his black mane.
In addition, Cecil's death was violent beyond measure with the SOB Walter Palmer letting him suffer 40 hrs. before finishing him off then lopping off his beautiful head to mount as a trophy - while letting the carcass to rot after skinning. DO NOT even try to compare this with aborting a zygote!
As for those knuckle draggers who insist on charging after Planned Parenthood after those videos by a nutso group ('Center for Medical Progress') - obtained surreptitiously and hence illegally because of state wiretapping laws (i.e. against electronically recording conversations without the person's permission) let me clear up a few things:
- Most of Planned Parenthood's services are NOT for abortion. The true data, shows that barely 3% were abortion services last year, the remaining 97% were for health screenings such as mammograms, pap smears, and even prostate exams for males. None of this was disseminated by the vile Rs, but when one traced the source, he located the lie most often being repeated at Fox
- NO federal funds are used for abortions. Under the Title X legislative clause, they are not permitted to use one single dime of federally allocated funds for abortions! This is a detail that could be pursued anywhere, yet as we know, believers seldom do this because of the risk of having their preconceptions overturned by facts!
The problem is that all those now screeching loudest on behalf of all those unborn are prepared to turn a blind eye to the needs of the already born. Thus, they are morally near sighted in vociferously defending unborn life but failing to stretch that concern to supporting life of actual real life humans- already born. Thus, their hand-wringing over the value of life in the womb comes up hollow. One could then ask them what they are doing:
- To provide affordable health care and proper nutrition benefits to the baby-child. (If against Obamacare and specifically contraception then they are enablers of the abortions they complain about)
- To provide state-run and paid for child care to a mom trying to get off welfare, or to be able to work.
- To provide free schooling, right through university, as Barbados and other progressive nations have done.
If you're only pro-life to birth, then you're a damned hypocrite, and don’t truly believe black lives (or any lives) matter at all. If you’re an anti-higher tax clone of Grover Norquist – or believe taxes are only for military defense and not social support, ditto.
If you're truly pro-life you have to take civic, community ownership for the child's welfare -after it is born as much as before, via appropriate legislation- enabling it, not impeding it. And further this has to be effective all the way through that child’s dependent years.
Given these Rightist miscreants have no problem with eschewing the quality of life after birth (for humans) it's no surprise they wouldn't care about the after-birth lives of other living things - including Cecil the Lion. Or dismiss them as "no big deal". Therein is where the problem lies, including in the resistance to rational gun control, given in the U.S. there are now an average of 88 deaths per day from gun violence (according to the documentary 'Requiem for America'). But, of course, none of those deaths were of entities in the womb - only those already forced to live outside it! Cognitive dissonance, anyone?
As humans have continued over decades to search for extraterrestrial signals, a number of different takes have surfaced as well as proposals, advice. In an article I wrote in 1978, 'We Are Not Alone', I warned that our hitherto emitted radio and TV signals could already have betrayed our position to an alien civilization. I suggested that if humans had any residual smarts at all they would take care to conceal their radio presence in future rather than announce it, because we could not be sure who or what might pick the signals up and what they'd do in response. I then cited physicist Freeman Dyson, who in a 1972 speech, asserted that the extraterrestrials we're most likely to encounter would be “like a malignant, technological cancer spreading across the galaxy” and we’d "do well not to wish for any meeting." He predicted that it would be the most aggressive species we'd be most likely to meet, and we'd likely regret it.
I also cited British Astronomer Royal, Sir Martin Ryle, who pleaded for extreme caution in the nature of radio band signals we send, and advocated for restricting any and all types of electro-magnetic signals and noise emanating from our planet. He warned that it would be foolhardy to be anything but passive listeners given we don't know anything about alien intentions .
More recently, this has echoed in new warnings from Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking, comparing the aliens that are most likely to visit Earth (because of stupidity on our part, i.e. in actively beaming messages) to the first colonizers of the New World - who decimated native populations for resources and territory. Musk, Hawking and others have urged that we do not move to "active SETI" which entails designing radio telescopes to actively transmitting messages as opposed to mere passive reception.
The general tenor of discussion then, has been that the aliens likely to be contacts will be: a) super -intelligent, far in advance of Earthers' best, and b) highly aggressive.
Never mind. In his WSJ piece (July 25-26, p. C5) Joe Queenan assures gullible readers (of which there are likely to be many) that "scientists don't want to let on they are searching for signs of average intelligence".
As he facetiously notes:
"The logic is infallible. If aliens were really smart, it stands to reason they would already have contacted us."
Adding, to clarify:
"Really, really smart creatures would want to let us know they were there, if only to show off, the way people who went to Harvard can't order a BLT without letting everyone in the room know they once wrote for the Crimson."
Not really! And again, though to me his angle was tongue in cheek, it definitely could be literally misconstrued by a hidebound human chauvinist - who would have his belief reinforced that either: a) humans are the only advanced species in the cosmos, or b) any other species would be at the level of "incompetents" compared to us (Queenan uses the analogy of the East Germans before being absorbed by W. Germany)
The reality is that we're more likely to make first hand physical contact with extraterrestrials than radio contact. The logic and basis for this were well laid out in the paper ‘Galactic Civilizations: Population Dynamics and Interstellar Diffusion’ by William Newman and Carl Sagan, in Icarus, Vol. 46, June 1981,
The authors' logic was impeccable and simple. Any civilization worth its salt would at some point enter an Atomic age. Weapons of ultimate annihilation would become widely available as well as potential for nuclear power, possibly fusion. A civilization entering this age would either come out much more advanced and in one piece, or destroy itself. It is the latter category that would most likely limit itself to only radio contact.
The former would be able to parlay their awesome new power into fusion energy, and also interstellar space flight. The latter would open the doors to planetary conquests, given, as the authors noted, interstellar colonization would more likely be accomplished by a technologically aggressive species. Hawking, for example, compared their arrival on Earth to the arrival of Columbus' expedition to the New World, resulting in the decimation of the Arawaks. Thus, the simple disparity in technology would result in the elimination or the absorption of the less advanced species - without even the veneer of a "war" declaration.
How advanced could such aliens be? Russian astrophysicist I.S. Kardashev, put forward a three-class scheme:
I: Able to harness the equivalent power of the planet Earth
II: Able to harness the power equal to a typical star (10^23 kw)
III: Able to harness the power equal to a typical galaxy (10^33 kw)
Plausibly, an encounter with either Types II or III would amount to Earth hominids elimination or absorption - though it is difficult to see how the latter might work. (Perhaps literally, as food, see e.g.
the Twilight Zone episode 'To Serve Man'). On the other hand, an encounter with a Type I may have more potential for genuine exchange, even if at the analogous level of a human mathematician trying to teach a backward child residue calculus.
What we should not do, is buy into Queenan's theme of meeting or contacting "average" aliens. In terms of actual galactic civilizations, there is no such thing - except perhaps for humans.
Shklovskii, I. and Sagan, C.:1966, Intelligent Life in the Universe, Dell Publishing Co., p. 394.
Friday, July 31, 2015
"Mediscare" is the word conservatives use to mock the Democratic strategy of warning seniors what would happen if the Reepos alter it, i.e. according to "free market" value such as issuing vouchers.
Is it all really harem, scarem? Don't believe it for a nanosecond!
Yesterday, the 30th of July, marked the 50th anniversary of the government health benefit program called Medicare. While predictions of its demise have been with us almost since it's inception, all have been proven to be false or overblown. The one thing that has remained constant, however, is the conservative elites' belief it is "socialism" in disguise and needs to be dismantled - replaced by a "free market" solution.
In the December 19, 1960 issue of LIFE magazine, President -elect John Fitzgerald Kennedy referred to a few of the modest requests he would make in his new administration. Modest, because he recognized he had won the popular vote by the barest sliver of a majority- a mere 113,000 votes.
His ‘requests’ included (p. 31):
The last would evolve and become known as "Medicare" which is the system JFK originally foresaw and which is operating today as an ancillary benefit to Social Security. JFK understood that as powerful a benefit as Social Security was, it fell short if seniors' health issues were not attended to. The pre-Medicare era was indeed nasty, brutish and saw most elderly either dying in an impecunious state, or simply alone.....of some disease or infection. This is why JFK felt the issue of elderly medical care as an assured benefit could no longer be excluded.
Over the decades numerous attempts have been proposed to kill it or replace it, but all have been stymied as poll after poll has shown popular support for the program. Indeed, it is so popular that "Medicare for all" has been proposed as an alternative, e.g. to the too center-right formula of Obamacare - where citizens still have to cough up for increasingly higher premiums. But since all the usual conservative tactics have basically been exhausted, the only one left is to brand any defense of Medicare as "Mediscare". But if seniors probe the underbelly of what's alternatively offered, they should be scared!
Most recently, Sally C. Pipes in her WSJ op-ed from yesterday (p. 11) has advanced the thesis that "Medicare spending is unsustainable" and so a new model must replace it. What is this new model she advances that she claims will provide greater access to medical care and lower costs? She sets out the following aspects:
- The eligibility age to get it ought to be increased to 67 because today life expectancy is 79 - up from 70 in 1965 - and those extra years "put additional strain" on the system.
-The postponement to 67 isn't enough and Medicare also needs to be "converted from an open-ended entitlement to a system of means-tested vouchers."
How would these vouchers work? According to Pipes:
"The government would give every senior a voucher based on health status, income and age. Seniors in better health and those who are wealthy would receive smaller vouchers. Sicker or needier seniors would receive larger ones. Seniors would then choose from among privately administered health plans the one that best suited their needs and budget."
What are the cutoff thresholds? She doesn't say. But, based on past gov't standards we can be sure if it's a Republican congress and President issuing them, they will be stringent to say the least. Probably the "neediest" will have incomes of $13,000- 14,000 a year or less. This would leave open what happens to a middling income couple - say with $50,000/year - who is also initially healthy at time of issuance - but then the husband develops prostate cancer and the wife breast cancer. It could happen! Then what?
Well, she says seniors can "choose" from among private insurance plans for needs and budget, but how would that work out? Really? Let me provide some perspective - including based on her desire to increase the eligibility age to 67.
At the age of 66 - one year short of Pipes' eligibility cutoff- I was diagnosed with stage T1c prostate cancer in six cores, Gleason scores of 3+3, to 3+4. I elected high dose rate brachytherapy treatment and that bill tabulation, for those who might be interested, came to $42, 776 . This encompassed a breakdown of different contributors, from (epidural) anesthesia ($4,124) to radiology services ($16,768) to recovery room ($2, 090) to operating room services ($14,994). The bill, after Medicare Part B kicked in, came down to $1,299 of which most was paid by my Medicare Supplement Plan (F).
It doesn't take a genius to see that had I been left with that bill at 66 - and no Medicare to depend on - with Obamacare still years from being formalized - I'd likely have gone bankrupt. By extension, many millions of other 65 and 66 years olds would too under Pipes' plan.
My other alternative, of course, would have been to skip any immediate treatments and hence, do nothing. In that case, the cancer would plausibly have metastasized until - by the time I finally did qualify for Medicare - the costs of treating advanced prostate cancer would've been drastically more.
Pipes also claims that according to her proposal (ibid.):
"Insurers would have to compete for beneficiaries' business and providers would have to compete to get on the most popular plans".
But one has to wonder what fantasy world she inhabits. Compete for sickly (or soon to be) old folks? You have to be kidding me!
NO private health insurance companies are going to want to compete for senior health care! They only do it now because the Medicare Advantage plans are paid more for their services than the government pays in standard Medicare. Hence, contributing to the standard program’s insolvency (by an excess $12 billion a year according to the GAO).
Let us assume an elderly woman requires hip replacement surgery at an on-paper cost of $30,000. Today, Medicare - standard Medicare, will pay 80% of that or $24,000, leaving her with $6,000 to pay on her own. A goodly amount, but not insuperable. In premium support at the maximum level, however, the woman would use ALL her allotment for one operation and still have $15,000 left to pay, and no more "premium support" voucher for any other needs that may arise.
Worse, why compete for a pool of citizens which is basically going to be sickly most of the time? This is self-evident. Even now health insurance companies factor in the medical loss ratio (the ratio of unhealthy subscribers to the healthy ones that support them via fees, costs) as the most important in getting continued profits. That means they already know that any private plans for seniors on the open market would have vast medical loss ratios meaning the proportion of insurers' profits would be next to nil. Thus, seniors will clearly be shut out, translating to a no win situation for them. (No Medicare, and no private insurer to take them)
As Economics Professor Fiona Scott Morton aptly put it several years ago in referring to any such "voucher" plan, it is merely a demand shedding plan. As she puts it:
“there’s no evidence many companies will be rushing in to provide health coverage to ailing boomers with competition that ought to lower any premiums"
"The Republican voucher plan is not solving the problem. It’s solving the problem of the cost of government health care. You have people who can’t afford it and they’ll just die. Economists call that demand shedding”.
Thus the “Medicare revolution” proffered by Pipes and earlier Paul Ryan is NOT to engender market competition to "lower health premiums for seniors", but to shed market demand (by seniors) so they'll be unable to enter or access any private health care, period. And since no government help or insurance will be available (other than other than a meager voucher to try and purchase private insurance in an open market with seniors the only and largest risk pool) the senior will have no choice but to die.)
Thus, we effectively have a "death policy" and there's no gaming it with euphemisms or trying to put any lipstick on this pig.
Apart from that, we know purchasing health care isn’t like buying a car, or i-pad or TV. The elements of objective and cool rational choice aren’t available mainly because the time when people most need health care is when their lives may be on the line: after a serious auto accident or fall, or appendicitis, or contracting pneumonia. Then, they simply need care and cost may not factor into it given that we know costs vary across large geographical regions, see e.g.
As shown in that blog post, there is a way to control medical costs, but it doesn't depend on "premium support". It requires a provider network than mandates FIXED pricing for each procedure irrespective of what insurance vehicle one has....or doesn't. In this way, the delivery of care is rendered uniform without wild variations in costs, and in addition, costs can be controlled - especially as unnecessary procedures.
Other ways Medicare's costs can be controlled to ensure it's sustainable into the future include:
1) Allowing Medicare to bargain for the lowest cost prescription drug costs like the VA does.
2) Transferring those currently on "Medicare Advantage" (based on more expensive private plans for which standard beneficiaries must subsidize) to standard, gov't run Medicare.
3) Implement new computer software to detect fraud, e.g. that can distinguish fake M.D. addresses - given by those trying to bilk the system - from actual ones of genuine providers.
The problem with all conservative solutions is that they're based on an exaggerated assumption that ascribes more power to the majority of people than they actually possess. Hence, the conservos can insist with a straight face (cf. WSJ, July 25-26, p. C2 )that "limited government allows individuals to take responsibility for themselves and their families and communities".
Yes, in an ideal world of limited corporate influence, that might be so. But not when corporate power and money can purchase political influence that undermines democracy and inveighs against the will of the people as well as the general welfare. Then, "limited government" becomes exactly what the corporatocracy wants, a government too weak to protect the interests of its citizens against the array of private power. As FDR once put it:
"The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerated the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than the democratic state itself. That in its essence is fascism: ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or any controlling private power.”
Thursday, July 30, 2015
A trio of unrepentant slimeballs: Walter Palmer (top left) with a lion he killed in 2008, cell phone evidence destroyer Tom Brady and hate inciter Mike Huckabee.
I decided that rather than deal separately with the reprobates Tom Brady and Walter Palmer (now wanted in Zimbabwe for murdering Cecil the Lion) I'd treat them alongside the rat's ass fool and Über reprobate Mike Huckabee, to show the singular moral blindness that applies to all three.
I already ripped into Huckabee in an earlier post, e.g.
So will not overly dwell on his moral dysfunction seen through the lens of his vicious conflation of the Iran nuke deal with the Auschwitz ovens. In the end each of these characters exhibits a separate "lens", for lack of a better term, by which their lack of principled ethics can be seen.
Suffice it to say, all truly principled people (whether conservative or other) have come out to thrash Huckabee's rhetorical misfire, including the Jewish Anti-Defamation League, the Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. and Richard Haas, President of the Council of Foreign Relations - who observed how it "demeaned" the whole level of the Iran debate. All three sources emphasized how such calculated, incendiary rhetoric undermined the credibility of those who invoked it - or supported it. As Haas pointed out, the Holocaust was "a one of a kind historical atrocity" (in terms of magnitude) and so to invoke any measure of similar outrage at common diplomacy - to conflate it with this singular atrocity- was to automatically lose the argument. This Huckabee has done as well as those yapping in his clueless echo chamber.
Even Joe Scarborough, long time conservative mouthpiece on 'Morning Joe' - and vociferous opponent of the Iran nuclear deal - bemoaned (yesterday morning) how Huckabee had "cheapened the debate" to below the lowest common denominator. As Scarborough said, "the difference between marching Jews into ovens and negotiating a bad deal is so enormous it's obvious the comments were crass and political".
Mike Barnacle also asserted how the comments "cheapened the debate and also cheapened history in regard to the purpose for which they were used." That is, for the purpose of political self-promotion. In effect, Huckabee's outrageous "oven" remarks amounted to an insult to all those who perished in Auschwtiz' gas chambers. They'd literally be turning over in their graves with the realization they were being used as rhetorical pawns in a political campaign.
Meanwhile, one of Joe's guests (Sam Stein) exposed Huckabee as a bald faced hypocrite given he had called for the same balanced measures back in 2008, to bring Iran's nuke aspirations under control. The best ending sound bite from Joe Scarborough?
"Republicans need to be aware that these comments will stay with them"
True, and let's hope that Huck's stupidity sinks them all, especially given 'the Donald' has also chimed in now to support him - disclosing he really is as nutso as many of his earlier comments make him out to be - especially the ones on the Mexicans being "rapists and murderers".
Then there is Bloomington, Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer, currently with less value than the Donald's lickspittle after this jackal (as Jimmy Kimmel called him) lured a majestic and beloved Lion named "Cecil" outside of his game preserve to shoot him on a nearby farm with bow and arrow. Cecil suffered for 40 hours before the vermin pseudo-hunter tracked him down and finished him off - cutting off the beast's head, skinning him and allowing the carcass to rot in the sun.
The turd is now paying for his crime and being slimed across the internet, as on YELP, where the hate is hot and deep, as well as death threats e.g.
Of course, while a bit of net hate can have its therapeutic value, I don't approve of death threats, any more than I did when they were launched against my then pastor brother ('Pastor Mike') after he proposed a "National Atheist Registry". But there is simply no excuse for threats, no matter how enraged one might be at a person's actions and/or proposals.
Anyway, Palmer the big, bad Bwana hunter soon became the hunted, when the UK Telegraph identified him as the poacher who killed Cecil the Lion in Zimbabwe in early July. The Internet, as is typical when its collective ire has been aroused, responded with such ferocity you'd have thought Cecil was a personal pet of millions. Brutal reviews of Palmer's dental practice and a cavalcade of online threats followed - many of which can be seen at the highlighted links. (Eventually forcing Palmer to shutter his dental office and go into hiding as protesters post 'Coward!' and 'Killer!' signs on his doors.)
Within an hour of the Telegraph’s report Tuesday, death threats appeared on Twitter and, soon after, on a new Facebook page called "Shame Lion Killer Dr. Walter Palmer and River Bluff Dental," which had more than 1,000 likes as of early Tuesday afternoon. Palmer's name trended worldwide on Twitter, and many of the posts on Facebook are calling for him to be held accountable and imprisoned.
Shamed at being exposed, Palmer took to social media in an attempt to placate the Internet haters and scribbled:
"In early July, I was in Zimbabwe on a bow hunting trip for big game. I hired several professional guides and they secured all proper permits. To my knowledge, everything about this trip was legal and properly handled and conducted.
"I had no idea that the lion I took was a known, local favorite, was collared and part of a study until the end of the hunt. I relied on the expertise of my local professional guides to ensure a legal hunt.
"I have not been contacted by authorities in Zimbabwe or in the U.S. about this situation, but will assist them in any inquiries they may have.
"Again, I deeply regret that my pursuit of an activity I love and practice responsibly and legally resulted in the taking of this lion."
The problem is that the account given here simply isn't credible. As one animal sanctuary keeper and conservationist explained on a CBS News segment, everyone within 1,000 miles of Zimbabwe knew of Cecil's iconic heritage and reputation, and no "guides" could possibly have existed who could claim they were ignorant. It didn't add up. Worse for Palmer, he'd already been caught using a similar modus operandi in Wisconsin in luring a black bear to his lair and slaughtering him.
So yeah, Walter can piss and moan all he wants but he's guilty as hell.
Then there is that rascal Brady, who had to face a ten hour appeal with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, at which time it finally came out he destroyed his cell phone on the same day he was to face investigator Ted Wells. Goodell, no fool, saw this as yet another piece of evidence pointing to Brady's guilt.
As CBS commentator James Brown pointed out:
"Even though he knew investigators wanted emails and texts from his cell phone, Tom Brady ordered his assistant to destroy it. Something he says he does whenever he gets a new one. Brady had the phone for just four months at that point and Roger Goodell pointedly noted that Brady previous cell phone was still around.
The Commissioner concluded Brady 'made a deliberate effort to ensure the investigators would never have access to information that he had been asked to produce."
As one legal commentator (Nancy Armor) put it, after noting Brady had 10,000 text messages on the phone:
"If you're not guilty, if you had no knowledge and had no role in this then why would you destroy your cell phone? "
Goodell himself added that scientific tests showed the balls did not deflate from natural causes. He added Brady's 4 game suspension was justified because "he was an active participant to tamper with the game balls."
Of course, Brady's lapdog agent Don Yee called the Goodell appeal process a "sham" and asserted Brady was "completely transparent" - which is total bollocks that only a Patsie homer could believe. (Or to quote Boston Globe sports columnist Dan Shaughnessy, "It’s time for local loyalists to parachute down from Planet Patriot and get in touch with reality.".) The biggest joke is Yee calling it "junk science" - based on an "alternative study" by economists at the American Enterprise Institute - when no less a REAL science stalwart than Bill Nye already demonstrated how Bellichick's original theory was full of hot air. No pun intended! I think Yee needs a crash course in physics.
But as Armor pointed out: "It's not the crime itself, it's the cover up". Brady could have gotten off with just a slap on the wrist, if he'd just 'fessed up, but he, Robert Kraft and the other Patsy assholes were too damned arrogant and believed they were above the law. Bad mistake.
NY Times sports columnist Bill Rhoden appearing on CBS yesterday morning was even more blunt noting how this "completely changes his legacy". As he put it:
"Once you destroy evidence, in any investigation, I don't care where you are, you cannot do this. This is not about football any more, this is almost borderline criminality. Frankly, it even surprises me this guy's still playing.
If I found out this guy destroyed evidence, I'd cut him. I mean he's disrespecting attorneys, disrespecting the league, he's disrespecting the game. He's basically saying 'I'm larger than the game'. It's one thing to tamper with a football, it's another to tamper with evidence."
Rhoden's take, while vehement, is the ethically correct one - as opposed to bloviators (i.e. on ESPN) who mocked the seriousness based on the original ball deflations. After all, the Patriots did blow out the Colts so what's the big deal? The "big deal" is it doesn't matter if the score was 44-7, 10-7, or 250-3, it was the attempted gaming of the system by breaking the rules. And as I noted in a post earlier this year, if you endorse cheating of any magnitude you will endorse its use in many others.
What is the unifying moral deficit underlying all of these cases? I believe it is flouting the basic cornerstone principle that "the ends never justifies the means".
In Huckabee's case, he became convinced that in order for him to compete in the presidential polls he had to make an outrageous, slanderous statement comparing Obama to Hitler, and Obama's peace plan to marching Jews to ovens. In so doing, he may have garnered attention and an added point in the latest Marist poll- but lost whatever 'soul' he had.
Worse, he revealed himself as the most reviled form of politician: one who will spew any venomous, inflammatory vitriol in order to incite the hotheads who perpetually feed on indignation and anger. Knowing he'd draw them in just as moths to a flame, but not so much light emitted here as incendiary rhetoric that demeans and distorts political debate - with potential poll numbers purchased by cynical manipulation.
In Palmer's case, he became convinced from decades ago the only way to become the big game hunter he fancied was to lure majestic animals to a place outside their protected environments and then kill them in a canned "turkey shoot" setup. Whereas a real man would go toe to toe with a predator and not try to bag or kill endangered species, and certainly not take out iconic members of a species like Cecil.
But Palmer, who fancied himself a macho hunter because he could lure big cats or other predators into a trap - was really a coward. In many ways his tactics reminded me of former NFL safety Darren Sharper's who had to resort to putting pills in women's drinks to induce them to have sexual relations with him. He didn't have the manly courage to enter into a conscious relationship to fulfil the sexual ends and face the possible consequence of rejection.
And before we get too carried away by Palmer's transgressions, let's bear in mind there are dozens of rich guy pseudo-hunters just like him still out there, who - according to stats released last night on the news- bag 600-800 lions a year. They pay $50,000 each for a lion, for example, which basically entails setting the lion up for a kill that is near 100 percent assured. They call this "hunting" but it's a mockery of actual hunting. We need to ferret out these other degenerates and shame them like millions have Walter Palmer.
Then there is Tom Brady, who became fully convinced he was bigger than the game itself, so could justify the ends of trying to spare his reputation and that of his team by using the means of destroying his cell phone - and all the evidence on it. An act of bankrupt morality which only ensured his rep is tarnished in perpetuity.
As I said, a trio of slime balls.