Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Revenge of “Dumb Money”!

For many years, Wall Street’s broker honchos have dismissed ordinary small guy investors, including retail investors, as “Dumb money” or “dumb order flow”. At the onset of each Bull cycle they’d sit back and watch as the “dumb money” bought in - hoping to amp up their savings – only to laugh as they were “plucked like chickens” when the “smart money” cashed out leaving little guys to suck up the losses.

However, according to the article ‘Investors Resist the Siren Call of Equities’ in The Weekend Financial Times (p. 15) this game is over. The article pointedly notes how millions of ordinary investors are shunning “the siren call of bullish Wall Street analysts” and pumping money into money market funds instead. In other words, these investors no longer wish to serve as willing hosts to the parasites of the Street.

They’ve seen the writing on the wall for months, including: the crash of two equities markets in the past decade, the Madoff scandal, the bailout of Wall Street banks and all crowned by the May “flash crash” – exposing the perfidious hands of high frequency traders who can sell off millions of shares before a small guy can reach his phone. (Using a peculiar leverage ploy, wherein the high frequency computers insert penny orders in front of all those by small fry, thereby leveraging their 'buy' intent to their own advantage).

Mike Mackenzie in his sideline article on the same FT page (‘Achilles Heel of Professionals shown up by dumb money’) acknowledges that the small guys have made the right call:

The ranks of retail investors, commonly derided as ‘dumb money’ by the Street, have made the right call on equity and bond markets in 2010

The author goes on to note that as recently as July “bullish research notes” were being put out by analysts, calling for "higher stocks”.

But retail and small guy investors weren’t buying. They’ve figured out the stock market is merely a large, sophisticated casino in which the larger or faster players (flash traders) have rigged the game to win nearly all the time – as little guys lose their asses. In that respect, things haven’t changed much since the “investment trusts” (touted as lifelines for ordinary citizens) were created in the 1920s.

As I noted in a number of previous blogs, the tactics of Maul Street are always the same and the objective is to suck up the hard earned money of 401k and IRA- investing small fry to make the rich richer. The strategy begins with analysts and pundits humping and pumping the "bullish outlook" and “new opportunities to buy in” thereby luring the money minnows. As the buy-in increases the price to earnings ratio is inflated – raising the share price, signaling the power investors to cash out while little guys (spellbound under the “buy and hold” mantra) remain and get clobbered. It has happened repeatedly and appeared to be on the way to happening again…when the small fry wised up.

The revenge of the dumb money has been fierce, from hatching a “sour mood” among the money men and green eyeshade types, to the Duquesne Hedge fund pulling back on its buys, delivering “a type of shot across the bow that people in the industry could well look back upon as a foreboding omen”.

Of course, not all of Wall Street’s hotshots are daunted, and as Mackenzie points out: “for many on Wall Street the pain has been minimal” . He adds that this “underpins their usual bullish take on stocks and why they think the economy is currently experiencing a soft patch”

But their false optimism has blinkered them to harsh economic realities. Namely, that we are on the verge of massive deflation as the unemployment rate continues to remain high and will only decrease if the BLS drops workers off the rolls as “discouraged”. This, I predict, will lead to even higher unemployment until one of two things happens: government pumps in more stimulus for truly massive jobs creation (NO more tax cuts!) or corporate America finally begins using some of the $868 billion in cash reserves it’s sitting on to create jobs. If neither happens, people will continue to pare back spending, retailers will be forced to cut jobs and inventories and stock share prices will be volatile or even fall. I predict the latter with a DOW at 9,100 (or lower) by December. (It's near 10,000 now- this before the close today, 8-31)

So long as the “dumb money” steers clear of the rigged stock market, the revenge can continue and eventually all the money men will feel the pain. What's not to like?

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Moneybags Billionaires Bankrolling the Tea Party Nuts

It is always sad and pathetic when one beholds average citizens being manipulated like so many puppets by powerful, hidden puppeteers. They are oblivious to how they're being controlled, and deluded enough to think they're acting on their own free will and initiative- rather than at the business end of a series of strings.

In the same way, we have the tea partyers happily going about their business of dissing Obama and the direction the nation is going, ignorant of those manipulating them. And just who are they? Thanks to New York Times reporter Frank Rich, we know, from his New York Times article: ‘The Billionaires Bankrolling the Tea Party’.

Three of them are: Rupert Murdoch (owner of FOX News, and The Wall Street Journal), and the two brothers David and Charles Koch- with a combined wealth exceeded only by Bill Gates and Warren Buffet. As Rich notes:

Their self-interested and at times radical agendas, like Murdoch’s, go well beyond, and sometimes counter to, the interests of those who serve as spear carriers in the political pageants hawked on Fox News”

Well, the problem is the “spear carriers” – like those fawning over Palin and Beck at Saturday's pseudo-religious liberty rally (any time you behold lots of flag wavers, watch out!)and yelping about “going back to God” – are so bedazzled by their fervor and fictitious faith that they fail to see how they’re being used. But this is exactly what delights their Overclass Masters: Just babble the G-word and "restoring honor" and many average citizens leave their brains at home and do the Masters' bidding - no coercion needed at all! Like the Gruen Transfer in advertising, they're co-opted by their own brains!

Let's make no mistake here that these wealthy covert backers of far right agendas are nothing new. They hearken all the way back to the du Pont brothers who spawned “The American Liberty League” in 1934 to attempt to bring down FDR. They detested the fact he had created a form of social insurance to protect the elderly against penury and which could not be subject to the variable phantom money mechanisms of the stock market (where it could easily be stolen, pilfered in their rigged games)

As Rich observes:

“You can draw a straight line from the Liberty League’s crusade against the New Deal “socialism” of Social Security, the Securities and Exchange Commission and child labor laws to the John Birch Society-Barry Goldwater assault on J.F.K. and Medicare to the Koch-Murdoch-backed juggernaut against our “socialist” president.

Only the fat cats change — not their methods and not their pet bugaboos (taxes, corporate regulation, organized labor, and government “handouts” to the poor, unemployed, ill and elderly).

Not mentioned by him is the Liberty Lobby, formed by a consortium of powerful corporations under the umbrella of the American Security Council. The most odious aspect of the group – apart from its attack on John F. Kennedy for his Medicare and other proposals, was it origins in Nazi-associated immigrant groups (see: ‘Old Nazis, The New Right and the Republican Party’, by Russ Bellant, p. 38)

It also in many way complemented the John Birch Society of the time, which painted JFK as a “traitor and communist”. Frank P. Mintz, in his book ‘The Liberty Lobby and the American Right’ – noted it was an “unusual umbrella organization that catered to constituencies spanning the fringes of neo-Nazism, to the John Birch Society and the radical Right”

In many ways, the Lobby resembled the Tea Party of today, especially in respect of its obsession with “high taxes”, “deficits” and “entitlements” – all of which its big boy backers hated, so that its spear carrier puppets did as well. (Though like the Tea Party of today, they were unaware of carrying out the designs of the power backers- -believing stupidly they were doing it all on their own)

Interestingly, as Rich notes:

The Koch brothers’ father, Fred, was among the select group chosen to serve on the Birch Society’s top governing body. In a recorded 1963 speech that survives in a University of Michigan archive, he can be heard warning of “a takeover” of America in which Communists would “infiltrate the highest offices of government in the U.S. until the president is a Communist, unknown to the rest of us.”

Of course, this swill could be heard at any Tea Party gathering today. Here thanks must go heartily to Jane Mayer for her expose piece on David Koch in a New Yorker article, ‘Covert Operations’:

Mayer’s article exposed for the first time that the rich guy who many New York libs believed was a generous donor of noble causes – was also a nefarious founder of The Americans for Prosperity Foundation, which (as Mayer writes) “has worked closely with the Tea Party since the movement’s inception”

In the words of Frank Rich:

To New Yorkers who associate the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center with the New York City Ballet, it’s startling to learn that the Texas branch of that foundation’s political arm, known simply as Americans for Prosperity, gave its Blogger of the Year Award to an activist who had called President Obama “cokehead in chief.”

But why be surprised? From the time of JFK we’ve known the most pernicious backers of renewing America for the wealthy have been rooted in Texas. Indeed, it was the five biggest billionaires (including H.L. Hunt) on the Texas Petroleum Club which supplied the cash to take Kennedy out on his visit to Big D in November, 1963. Kennedy had pissed them off with a series of moves, including: threatening their wealth with his proposed abolition of the Oil Depletion Tax Allowance, as well as his Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and moves to militarize state National Guards for integration. They likely also discovered (via military and intelligence connections) that JFK was conducting rapprochement talks with Rene Vallejo, an aide-de-camp to Fidel Castro.

Will the hoi polloi ever learn that they are merely ants carrying the offal for their overseers? Will they ever see that when they cry out “to take America back for God”– as at yesterday’s Beck rally – they merely make those overseers howl with laughter. And egg them on more with their false faith, that they may use it to help destroy their fellow Americans – and all so the fatcats backing their folly can grow richer. This is doubtful since the human delusion of authentic self-motivated action remains overwhelming even in those who are the willing chattel of those they'd spit on, if they knew their actual agenda. The Tea Party, like its Liberty Lobby and John Bircher predecessors, are today's willing chattel for the radical right billionaires - who likely wouldn't even allow them back door entry to use the servant bathrooms.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Usual Band of God-Mongering Idiots- So What's New?

Above: Some of the 85,000 or so clowns drawn to the Washington Mall yesterday by Clown-in Chief, Glenn Beck.

Yesterday featured a spectacle on the Washington, DC Mall (near the reflecting pool and Lincoln Memorial) , as two competing rallies were held, one actually in commemoration of Martin Luther King's vision (from his rally on the same date in August, 1963), the other led by a clown named Glenn Beck - of "Beck University" fame and peddling gold coins in case of a currency crisis.

Estimates of the Beck crowd varied, but most sober reckonings put it at around 87,000 (not 300,000 as Fox-driven crazies have propelled). From what I could see (having been on the Mall and familiar with its dimensions) it looked closer to 60,000, but who's counting? 60,000 nuts blathering about "going back to God" (when they're obviously more worshippers of Mammon, since all they worry about are deficits) is not much better than 87,000 or 87 milion. The sad fact is, this country is stewing in nut-tism and psychopathology and has been since Obama became President. Add on all the fears stoked precisely by looneytunes like Beck (who has referred to Obama as a "racist") and all the pieces are there for a large segment of the populace that belongs on a couch in an analyst's office. From FDR's famous "The only thing to fear is fear itself" we've come to: "The only thing to fear is EVERYTHING! A black President, Muslims, Mosques, Jews, Socialists, Atheists, deficits, taxes, ...."

You see, these racists at heart can't tolerate the thought or remote idea of a black man as President - so they disguise their racist mindset in covert ways: yelping that Obama's a "Socialist" (he's actually the furthest from it - a diehard Centrist Neo-liberal), or a "Nazi' (so laughable and idiotic it's not worth dignifying by response) or "destroying their children's future" via huge deficits. (Actually, if these fools knew one micro-bit about recent history they'd know that Bush and the Repukes ran up nearly $7 trillion before Obama even took office!)

But, oh ...they want the nation to "Go back to God".

Where do these numbskulls live? Inside their heads? Do they think "God" has been missing? Au contraire, he-she-it has been embedded in Amerikkan politics since the Reagan days - of Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and the Christian Coalition, as well as Focus on the Family! The latter two alone have been mentioned as the major forces getting Bush back into office in 2004 as the rest of the world looked on in horror and thought Americans truly are morons.

It sure as hell hasn't been atheists in charge! Reagan, Bush Sr. and Bush Jr. - under whose watches the deficits accumulated to a total of over $10 trillion, have all been church-going, knee bending CHRISTIANS! So what do these yelping morons want to go back TO? My take is they want an all-white, Christian conservative Theocracy - and only then will they be happy. In the meantime they will wave their bibles while they stab Muslims in the neck that they don't like....or threaten to burn down any mosques under construction.

As noted in The Washington Post:

"The Beck crowd, meanwhile, was overwhelmingly white, and many in the crowd described themselves as conservatives with deep concern about the country's political leadership and its direction. "

That last line is code for:

"We are concerned about an out of control Negro leading our nation, and we want it back in the hands of a white man.... preferably a Baptist or Evangelical Christian"

Fortunately, there was one real genuine rally and it was composed, according to the Post, of union members, church-goers, college students and civil rights activists. The Obama administration Education Secretary Arne Duncan also spoke of education as the "civil rights issue of this generation."

There was no violence, which was good. Maybe we all ought to be grateful the Beck crowd were fervent God believers....as they probably reckoned that with their old man in the sky looking down on them all the time they'd best not try to stab a civil rights worker, or black man in the other rally in the neck. Or go bonkers in rioting or yelling "We hate Muslims"

All in all, not a very encouraging sight, though one couple Jim and Linda Harvey did drive 13 hours to the gathering to "bring a voice of sanity". Harvey held a sign labeling Beck a "whiner", while his wife held another labeling Sarah Palin "a Quitter" (since she resigned as Alaska governor). I can just hear all my European friends chuckling now as they watch clips of the main Beck slobbering crowd on TV, thinking:

"Jeezus, this country is really full of nutball freaks. Let 'em get distracted by an invisible man and old time religion, racism and they forget all about how unprovoked wars and corporations are impoverishing them all!"

Saturday, August 28, 2010

A Birth "recession"? So, what's the bad news?

Recent numbers issued from the National Center for Health Statistics disclose the U.S. birth rate has now dropped for the second consecutive year - and is being pinned on the recession. Evidently, with so many without work, people are figuring out that another mouth to feed (which also has to be educated, clothed, etc.) isn't a very bright idea. (Not to mention, we know that just raising a kid to the age of 18 costs an average of $237,000. That much would definitely help pay all or most of out of pocket medical costs in retirement).

Specifically, the birth rate fell to 13.5 births per 1,000 people, and even lower than the 14.3 per 1,000 registered the year before. Birth fells 2.6% last year even as the population grew. (Which ought to be a wake up call for those who insist we are flirting with a birth "dearth"). The decreases also aren't that parlous when one realizes (from the same NCHS stats) that in 2007 more babies were born in the U.S. than in any other year of the nation's history. Do we really want to go back to this?

According to one Johns Hopkins sociology prof, a Dr. Andrew Cherlin, we do - as he says:

"It could take a few years to turn this around"

Really, doc? Well, personally, I hope it never turns around!

Let's even leave out for the moment the fact that current jobs creation can't even keep up with the existing population increase, which is adding some 100,000 work seekers each month - almost singlehandedly assuring the unemployment rate of 9.5% isn't going down any time soon. And note this is an increase that will continue indefinitely - or until most people stop looking for work, or corporate America produces jobs at the rate of 100,000 new ones per month. Which, of course, will not help the existing population of unemployed workers - numbering nearly 15 million (or 26 million - if you tack on the under-employed!) Most estimates of that come to more than 500,000 jobs per month and it will take years to return to the low 6% rate of 2007 or so.

After that, there's the specter of a mammoth surplus population. Let us pointedly note here that this will exacerbate divisions between haves and have- nots to the flashpoint. Unchecked population creates a vast surplus labor pool, which innately lowers the value of all labor relative to capital in a global economy. A number of historians see the possibility for another world war induced by similar factors to those leading to World Wars I and II.[1] Put too many people in competition for too few resources (including water, which is forecast to plummet in supply by 2020) and only bad things happen.

In the U.S. a vast surplus labor pool holds those who actually do work to a condition not dissimilar to a "sword of Damocles" over their heads. If they don't accept the terms and conditions of their work, including sliced and diced benefits, lowered pay or even having to put in unpaid overtime - there are hundreds waiting to take their place, and probably for half the remuneration- just to have moola. THIS is what a surplus population does, which is to tame the expectations and demands of all existing workers and render them rented slaves. (Why Alan Greenspan, back in 1997, referred to the benefits of the "Unemployment rent")

If Americans are stupid, and they well may be, they will go back to having more kids and create the very conditions they deplore - rendering themselves and their progeny ever poorer, because they have created the ongoing conditions for lowered value of labor.

Obviously, it doesn't end there. Anyone with a half conscious brain who's visited a national park in the past year can witness first hand the horrific environmental impacts of teeming herds of people. Wildlife are affected, waste predominates, noise is everywhere, and it makes for a much less enjoyable experience than it would be if about nine tenths of the mob could be instantly subtracted (at least the noisy, waste hurling, cigarette smoking mob)

Meanwhile, in our towns and cities, ERs must post projected wait times (some up to 12 hours) they are so crowded. Think all this will get better as more people are generated? Think again! Already major university hospitals in Denver have had to shut their doors to any additional people on Medicaid or Medicare. That means merely having insurance is no guarantee you can use it. Essentially, those who insist on having more babies will ensure that in less than fifteen or so years, NO one of ordinary means can get insurance!

The late, noted science writer and biochemist Isaac Asimov- in various essays written over decades- repeatedly warned of severe constraints on humanity's use of resources, particularly in terms of how population growth impinges on finite resources and sets limits to growth. Asimov was probably also the first to use the term "carrying capacity" which he estimated to be 3 billion humans for this limited world.

Most upsetting to me is the justification for added births (such as in the U.S.) "to support the elderly and Social Security". This idiotic meme germinated in Ben Wattenberg's book, 'The Birth Dearth' and is still echoed - as by our illustrious Johns Hopkins prof who asserts:

"We do not need to be worried yet about a birth dearth"

Nor need we ever be, if we act like an intelligent nation, instead of a suicidal one.

Comments like these are so egregious they hardly bear being dignified by a response. But given the extent to which our public discourse (and language) has been debased during the Bush years, one can make no assumptions. Let me just say then that the response of increasing numbers of pundits - "to provide more workers to support Social Security" is insane as well as being a non-sequitur.

Indeed, the 1983 Social Security reforms(by raising the FICA rate to 6.2%) were explicitly implemented to cover the coming boomer onslaught. Thus, the solution to the greater number of retirees was already provided 27 years ago! That the Social Security funds have dwindled is not because there was no solution or no extra money put in, or a dwindling number of workers to support those not working - but because the Social Security monies-funds have been repeatedly RAIDED!

For example, no sooner had the higher FICA provisions gone into effect, than Reagan began raiding them to hide the deficits from his obscene military spending. Bush Jr. carried on the tradition, using those monies to hide the deficits ushered in by the follies in Iraq and Afghanistan. Obama and his crew continue the methods now, though they do preach long and hard about "protecting Social Security" while warning of the Repukes privatizing it. But last I checked, it wasn't Repukes who initiated or organized this absurd "deficit commission" - which has two out of control deficit hawks (Ernest Bowles and Alan Simpson - see my earlier blog on them) that want to go after Social Security.

Remember this: Every so-called "supplemental" budget for the Afghan adventure, is money taken out of Social Security which means less there for needy seniors. (Never mind the horse manure about "zero inflation for seniors" - why do you think there are no COLAs this year and likely next too?) Until the current "war state" is put into cold storage, this sad state of affairs will continue. Want to provide support for the elderly- then break up the war state and send their many parasites ("defense" contractors) packing. What we don't need is to be spending 58 cents of every budget dollar for defense - more than the next 45 nations combined. This is empire-building, not defense! And it impoverishes us all by bleeding off the resources we need domestically so Empire-builders can fight stupid, misbegotten "wars" we can never win.

More babies only digs our graves deeper and accelerates our path to collective hardship, degraded environment, and utter misery: more crime, pollution, global warming, crowding, road rage, random killings, increasing incidence of riots, protests and general mass mayhem. This will incite increasing police state measures and restrictions to control it- in other words assure us of a fascist state. But hey, maybe that's what the tea partyers want at the end of the day.

I don't - and that's why I will discourage anyone from having kids, period.

[1] See, e.g. History Recycled in The Baltimore Sun, Jan. 19, 2000. The article looks in depth at the history of cycles theory of Christopher Chase-Dunn, based on his examination of 500 years of events.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Let's talk about fairy stories!

Left: "Adam and Eve" - a colorful fable for elementary school children, but should grown men and women be believing these things? Maybe they need to go back to kindergarten!

Okay, by "fairy stories" I mean any accounts, purported revelations, passages in books (including Grimm's Fairy Tales, or Mother Goose) that leave one pop-eyed in incredulity as they weave narratives that only a psycho or dumb child would buy. Most intelligent people, for example, when they read Grimm's Fairy Tales, interpret them as metaphors or simple morality tales - not literal accounts!

Yet Bible beaters seem to believe because their favorite fairy tales appear in some book that has been endowed with special dispensations.....their "HOLE-Y Bible" - that it must be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth!

Now, don't get me wrong here! When I was a young, impressionable (and gullible) child in Sister Vivena' first grade at St. Leo School in Milwaukee, I was definitely fascinated by the tall tales weaved by the delirious ancient Jews - mainly in the Old Testament. "Adam and Eve" was a favorite, because it always seemed to explain why the world was not so good now: why vaccinations hurt like hell, why Sister gave so much homework, why mom and dad sometimes fought, why you every now and then skinned your knee falling off a bike, or why your little 8-year old cousin had to die horribly from Leukemia.

Whenever I contemplated these large and small arrows of misfortune, I hearkened back to that damned Adam and Eve - eating that blasted apple because a talking snake (errr....serpent) conned them into it. WHY oh WHY did those two dumb asses have to ruin it for the rest of us? WHY couldn't they just have said 'NO!'

Then, two years later, by the time I took my first IQ test at St. Sebastian school, I realized those were all just tall tales, embellished fairy stories that in no way could have been real. Why? Because there never was any "perfect" place or "Garden of Eden" on Earth, nor talking snakes! Snakes have never talked - none of the 15o or so I've ever handled or caught (including boas and pythons), and they aren't about to be possessed by any spirits...."Satan" or any others.

In the first year of high school, my new found insights were confirmed as we studied ancient history. Going all the way back to cave man era and beyond, there were only wars, outrages and vicissitudes, never any harmony. But the ancient Jews babbling in Genesis probably found some old Babylonian account of a "first couple" and just copied it - then added to it - because it sounded cool. But I'll bet even they didn't expect 21st century humans to take their fables seriously!

There's a reason the primitive-minded, reason and logic deficient believers grasp these old stories: because it relieves them of having to account for the absence of any positive (intercessionary) action of their god in the world. If they can fob it off on ol' Adam and Eve, they can wash their hands by blaming humanity for a fictional "fall" - forgetting that humanity have always been a form of risen apes, not fallen higher beings or near angels.

It is amazing the fundagelicals still abide by and teach this crap, where at least the Catholics have the good sense to inform their charges (in Catechism classes) it is all metaphor, not to be taken literally.

Will fundies ever deliver on theodicy? No, it's easier to either dredge up Genesis tales or blame atheists for being too "proud" to accept the existence of a god they can't even begin to explain. Fundies are so hapless, pathetic and clueless that they even refuse to take responsibility for the basic Leibniz ontological question: WHY is there something rather than nothing? (They try to foist this onto atheists, despite the fact THEY are the ones claiming a "creator" and hence ought to be able to reason as to why It started the whole show off instead of leaving things by itself)

But intelligent minds are left pondering the Leibniz conundrum of: WHY must there be something as opposed to nothing?

If "nothing" be the simpler state, in which an invisible deity could still exist as "spirit" then why "create" a universe? Especially one which would be fraught with violence, despair, "sin" and all the rest. Also one which an ominiscient deity would have to know (IF it was judgmental) that it would have to condemn billions before he even created them. This itself makes the act of creation an act of violence against those created- who would not be able (for whatever reason, including where born) to live up to its standards.)

Thus, we would have to question on an a fortiori basis any judgmental deity that created the cosmos. It could not have good will at its core, since it would know its act would condemn billions it would have to know about before it even began. Hence, it would be a pre-meditative sadist!

Leibniz himself used two premises:

1) the principle of sufficient reason, and

2) an a priori argument from simplicity

for the presupposition that - spontaneously - the universe feature nothing contingent at all, because the Null universe (nothingness) is the most natural of all.

As he put it:

"the great principle of sufficient reason holds that nothing takes place without sufficient reason...a reason (or condition) to determine why it is thus and not otherwise"

Thus, the principle having been laid down the first question one must ask is: Why is there something rather than nothing? (For `nothing' is simpler, easier and less problematic than something. NO need for pain, sacrifice, crucifixions, saviors, death, sin, horrors etc. so why create something that in effect destroys an already PERFECT world and Being? And note - it is the primordial state of nothingness that is the REAL "Eden" here - because in it - with only potential humanity - no one would have to die, go to Hell, suffer etc) Let us also bear in mind that if an all perfect Being already existed, it would have no need to create at all. It would be complete, perfect, self-sufficient and non-contingent.

In effect, by creating it really adds something (universe) to itself - so it cannot be "infinite" in the true sense, unless it and the universe are one and the same. Worse, it adds imperfection to itself so it is no longer perfect. (If one argues the universe is a separate creation from the deity, then one is saying the deity is not infinite)

Why perform an act of creation that renders it imperfect?(Since if "omniscient" or assigned such attribute, it would have had to know before all time that it would create those it would later have to destroy (assuming the afterlife construct of "Hell"). This very foreknowledge of its own future act of massive destruction - via "Hell" - shows it is a monster, not to be trusted. It committed pre-meditated and cruel violence by creating a universe in which it already knew exactly who it would damn!

And who gets the rap? Why poor little humanity via the fictional fable of "Adam and Eve"! Blame the humans, who had neither the power nor opportunity to create, construct, initiate or confect a vicious and violent world in which evil - both natural and human - reigned from the start!

Leibniz solved his conundrum by reverting to the Null hypothesis: that there ought to be nothing rather than something. But the external evidence points to something, and hence this 'something' is unexpected from the Principle of sufficient reason. Therefore, the actual existence of this something cries out for an explanation. NOT from atheists, but from believers - since THEY posit the CREATOR!

Hence, it is the job of the deity believer to explain why there is this putative product - designed and manufactured by his "designer - Creator" God. This also underscores his principle of sufficient reason to account for why we have something rather than nothing. Or to put it another way:Why wasn't `nothing' (no creation- or an ab initio perfect "Being") good enough for the creative force or deity?

Will we get serious answers? If the past is anything to go by, not bloody likely.

More probably we'll see more appeals to more fairy tales, or - when that exhausts- fundies blaming and scolding atheists for their own deficiency of mind. Evangelistas ought to get down on their knees and kiss the shoes of atheists every time they pass by. Without them, who would they have as their favorite scapegoats? Oh wait, they'd demonize some other group of fellow believers (e.g. Muslims, Catholics, Eckists) or project "Satan" onto them! But never, ever can we expect them to assume the intellectual responsibilities of adults! Why would they if they're so grounded in children's fairy tales? Heck, they can't even do a basic logic test, far less pass it!

Fundie Gets Exactly One Right on Logic Test

An unnamed fundie, obviously exercised by the assumption fundies 'don't know jack' about logic, actually submitted the answers to the recent basic test of logic I gave (via the comment moderation submission interface) and got exactly ONE right. Well, I guess my question embedded in the header was answered then: since one fundie did get one correct.

Anyway, let's look at the answers in detail.

(1) We already know C is at zero Celsius (O C) so all we have to do is correctly compute the total difference in temp. to object O. This is just: dT = 2F + 1.8C . Thus, we know O is at a temperature of more than 1.8C. Now how many C degrees in 2F? The hint provides the basis for deducing the answer (if one didn't already know it) so 1 C = 1.8F Then logically, 2F = 1C + 0.2F, and for 0.2F:

0.2F/ (1.8 F/C) = 1/9 of a Celsius degree = 0.11 C

therefore, 2F = 1.11 C

so O is at a temperature of: 1.11C + 1.80 C = 2.91 C which is answer (C)

(The fundie gave (A))

(2) This is simple. Obviously, a consecutive clockwise and counter-clocwise rotaton of 60 degrees cancels each other. Then, rotating the triangle through 360 degrees clockwise simply turns it through a full circle - bringing it to its original position. Thus, the answer is: (A) the same as the original orientation. (The fundie gave D)

(3) We know A and B choices are immediate conditions based on the information. Since we already have more than one choice, the answer has to be (D) - all the preceding may apply. (The fundie gave answer (C))

(4) The fundie responded (D) (2nd cousin) which is correct.

(5) We have consecutive operations such that: operations: addition by 1 is denoted by A; multiplication by 2 is denoted by S; division by 4 is denoted by F, and subtraction by 1 is denoted by T.

Then: 28 SFATS -> (28)x 2 = 56 and 56/4 = 14 and (14 + 1) = 15 and (15 - 1) = 14 and finally 14 x 2 = 28

So the answer is: (B)

(The fundie responded (A))

(6) This references a series of operations on a square whose top left corner is A, and the other corners (going clockwise) are: B, C and D. The operation sequence is: R2 M1 M3, where,

R2: rotation clockwise by 180 degrees

M1: Mirrors corners exactly through the midline of the square

M3: Mirrors two opposing corners in the opposite sense to M2

Now, performing operation R2 first, causes the square to rotate so that 'A' ends up where C is in the original orientation. (Fig. 1(A)) Operation M1 then causes all the existing corners to be mirrored throught the midline of the square. Thus, Fig 1 (B) shows the orientation after M1.

The last operation, M3, mirrors two opposing diagonal corners: from top right to bottom left (e.g. opposite to the sense of M2) This will yield the result shown in Fig. 2 which is DABC or (C). Meanwhile, the fundie responded (B).

(7) The key is to carefully read the conditions proposed for affecting the rate of synthesis, and to note that the density of the proteins will have nothing to do with this rate. All an increased density of the proteins means is that more will be there to be synthesized but this doesn't affect the rate applied to each of the proteins proper. (Of course the total time to complete the task will be longer but this is only because there will be 1000 times more to be synthesized!) Thus, galactoside at half the original concentration means the rate of synthesis slows by a factor of two, so we can expect only 500 molecules (as opposed to one thousand) to be synthesized for every five generations. Thus, the answer is: (B). The fundie gave (D)

(8) The next step in the sequence is easy to figure out once one identified the key components of the previous sequence of 4 and how they are changing. This is in the direction of increasing white squares and reducing the orange. Since the algorithmic sequence requires at least two whites for the next step, this automatically eliminates options (A), (C) and (D), leaving answer (B). The fundie gave answer (D).

(9) The key for this question is not to be fooled by the 'easy pop-up answer' which is (D). If miracles are argued as an exception to existing physical laws, it is implicit that quantum mechanics enters - since the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle is being invoked at some level. (Even if the person doesn't know it). Therefore, quantum logic would have to be factored in, so the logical error inheres in ignoring quantum logic when the claim of "exception" demands it. So, the correct answer is (C), while the fundie gave (D)

(10) The key to resolving this is to read the lead- in carefully, which specifically asks for the "BEST question", singular! This again rules out the facile, quick choice of (D). The best question to ask in this case is: What are the necessary and sufficient conditions for an “exception”?

Which is (A). (The fundie gave (D))

(11) In the case of this answer, the conclusion allows for a multiple point of view and this definitely prescribes answer (D): He has committed all the above.

The fundie ignored this one. So, I acted with generosity and didn't count it as an error, leaving him with a score of 1 out of 10, or 10%. On consideration, this really isn't too bad for a person who literally believes in talking snakes, and people able to live three days in a whale's belly full of hydrochloric acid - and emerge alive!

Basic Statistical Mechanics of Order & Disorder

Issues of order and disorder occupy the top rungs of that branch of physics we call statistical mechanics. In this discipline, we apply principles from classical mechanics as well as microscopic thermodynamics to arrive at properties of complex systems and their evolution. In so doing, we can expose the conditions under which spontaneous order can arise from chaos, as well as ascertain systems in which equilibrium applies.

One example isthe so-called Markov process which is at the heart of an important model used in statistical mechanics. As an example of this (Ehrenfest) model, one can consider a number of marbles, N, distributed among containers C1 and C2. At precise periods, say every 2 seconds, one marble is randomly selected from C1 (with X initial marbles at time to) and moved to C2 which must have N – X marbles by inference. It can be shown that at some arbitrary future time:

t(o) (less than or equal to) t Iess than or equal to) t(o) + tN/2

There will be either X + 1 or X –1 marbles, with transition probabilities: X/N corresponding to X -> X - 1, and 1 – X/N for X -> X + 1. Eventually, assuming the initial number of marbles large, equalization (‘equilibrium’) will occur with N/2 marbles in each container. The sketch of the approach to equilibrium is shown in Fig. 1.

We expect that as the process continues, oscillations will stabilize about the line X = N/2, so effectively the transition probabilities equalize. The important point of this process is that each such transition is independent of the system’s prior history. Say, there are just 16 marbles in all initially with 11 in C1 and 5 in C2 at t(o). Then successive distributions might appear like this, leading toward equilibrium (equalization of C1-C2 distributions):

C1: (11) -> (10) -> (9) ->(7) -> (9) -> (7) -> (9)

C2: (5) -> (6) -> (7) -> (9) -> (7) ->(9) ->(7)

Notice how the numbers relative to each container ultimately settle into small deviations from the equilibrium value (N/2 = 8). Of course, the probabilities reflect this, and can be represented on a separate graph for probability density plotted against X. This is shown in Fig. 2. In effect, this is the standard ‘Gaussian’ distribution. Mathematically, one can obtain it starting with the basic diffusion equation, @r/@t = D*DIV^2(rho) - where @ denotes partial derivative - and applying suitable boundary conditions, then using a Fourier transform to solve. This indicates all Markov processes can reduce to a form of diffusion.

The probability density peak at N/2 discloses this to be the most probable state. The reader should again bear in mind, however, that we are assuming thousands of marbles, transitions, to get it! Fig. 2 illustrates the direction in which all physical processes tend to run: from more order to more disorder.[1] By definition, in physics the equilibrium (or ‘equalized’ distribution) state is the one with the greatest disorder.

An interesting analog to the above is based on polymers, using Monte Carlo simulations in what is called ‘the two space algorithm’.[2] In one such computation it is found that a characteristic scale size for the polymer (given by a defined ‘radius of gyration’) fluctuates about some final equilibrium value. Such simulations would seem to have direct bearing on work[3] that provides a model for pre-biotic evolution. In particular, that in given environments a single macromolecule can emerge to dominate, with all others fluctuations only[4].

What about processes that more clearly give rise to order out of chaos? Is such a thing possible? To address this, one needs to venture outside the domain of equilibrium processes, and delve into non-equilibrium ones. Indeed, these are observed in the cosmos at large. Thus, the formation of large scale structures like galaxies, galaxy clusters, gaseous nebulae and even superclusters can arise entirely from chaotic processes! One interesting model for the origin of all the matter in the universe is based upon a quantum fluctuation in its earliest epoch, engendering a primitive superdense radiation state followed by the non-equilibrium production of matter.[5]

Next: Examining a simple spin-system model.

[1] This, of course, is from a thermodynamic viewpoint. In order to elicit thermodynamics from Markov processes, one must somehow assure that the probabilities in question approach that for the Boltzmann distribution, viz. P = exp(-E/kT)/Z, where Z is the partition function.

[2] See, e.g. Yaneer Bar-Yam, 1997: Dynamics of Complex Systems, Addison-Wesley, p. 499.

[3] See, e.g. Eigen, M. and Schuster, P.:1979, The Hypercycle, Springer-Verlag.

[4] The magnitude of a fluctuation can be obtained from probability parameters, in this case multiplying the rms deviation [N]^1/2/2) by 1/N, or in the case of the polymers, [R_G]^1/2 /2) by 1/[R_G]^1/2.

[5] Padmanabhan, T.: 1982, Universe Before Planck Time: A Quantum Gravity Model, in Physical Review D, Vol. 28, No. 4 (15 August, 1983), p. 756

Thursday, August 26, 2010

George Boole and the Laws of Thought (II)

We continue now examining the basis of the Boolean Laws of Thought. Boole, continuing in his Chapter II, now makes some extraordinary associations and conclusions which are important to follow. This section again deals with the use of letter symbols (e.g. x, y, z etc.) and their meaning. As he notes the following is a “law of thought and not a law of things”:

He writes:

“We are permitted, therefore, to employ the symbols x, y, z etc. in the place of the substantives, adjectives and descriptive phrases subject to the rule of interpretation, that any expression in which several of these symbols are written together shall represent all the objects or individuals to which their several meanings are together applicable, and to the law that the order in which the symbols succeed each other is indifferent”

In the previous blog we saw the symbolic example (given x = white and y = sheep) that:

xy denotes white sheep, but also yx denotes white sheep, since the order of the symbol doesn’t alter the meaning of the conception (combination). Thus: xy = yx

Boole is careful to emphasize that while this illustrates the commutative law of algebra, it is not in the sense of actual algebraic multiplication but rather a process of “logical combination” by which xy means a definite conception.

More abstractly, he allows that (since the logic is commutative for the conception) we need not use either xy or yx but simply ‘x’.

“As the combination of two literal symbols xy expresses the whole of that class of objects to which the names or qualities represented by x and y are together applicable, it follows that the two symbols have exactly the same signification, their combination expresses no more than either of the symbols taken alone would do. In such case we should therefore have xy = x

As y, however, is supposed to have the same meaning as x we may replace it in the above equation with x and we thus get:

xx = x

Now, in common algebra the combination xx is more briefly represented by x^2. Let us adopt the same mode of notation here; for the mode of expressing a particular succession of mental operations is a thing in itself quite as arbitrary as the mode of expressing a single idea or operation. In accordance with this then, the above equation assumes the form:

x^2 = x”

Again, I have to interject here that we are not seeing any violations of known mathematics, but rather the outcome for a logical process of combination. Boole is simply compacting and simplifying notation for logical combinatorial operations, much like the inventors of tensor calculus did with their notation.

So what is Boole getting at? Is he really and truly saying we can let ‘x’ denote ‘white sheep’ or ‘good people’ instead of writing xy?

Yes, and he confirms it:

The reader must bear in mind that although the symbols x and y in the examples previously formed received significations different from each other, nothing prevents us from attributing to them precisely the same signification. It is evident that the more nearly their actual significations approach to each other, the more nearly does the class of things denoted by the combination xy approach to identity with the class denoted by x, as well as with the class denoted by y. The case supposed in the demonstration of the equation: xx= x is that of absolute identity of meaning”

Boole, obviously not sure if his readers have grasped this, goes on to clarify using examples:

“The law which it (equation) expresses is practically exemplified in language. To say ‘good, good’ in relation to any subject, though a cumbrous and useless pleonasm, is the same as to say ‘good’. Thus, ‘good good men’ is equivalent to ‘good men’”

Applying this to the example at the end of Part I, we saw that we denoted an “all Good God” by XG and an “all evil Hell” by YH.

Using Boole’s compactified notation we can write either G or H to mean the same thing, with no loss of generality. Thus: XG = GX and we may let X=G so GG = G. Another way of stating or saying this is that the very word “GOD” elicits GOOD – if used in terms of the prior conception, so no adjectival X is required. When one uses the word “GOD” then ALL Good is understood.

In a similar fashion, we can write: YH = HY and we may let (based on prior conceptions) Y = H therefore: HH = H, or Hell is an ‘All Evil’ state of Being or abode,

We will further process this in terms of Boole’s next section on numerative classes.

Boole’s next law is prefaced:

“Signs of those mental operations where we collect parts into a whole, or separate a whole into parts”

He illustrates this using the example of letting x = women and y = men

So all (adult) people living on Earth is:

x + y = y + x

In this case, the signification is not only by quality (sex) but numerical as well, since the total of men plus women (x + y) must equal the total of adults living on Earth. Less generalized operations can also apply, for example – let ‘z’ denote European, then:

z(x + y) = zx + zy

and we have the juxtaposition of two literal symbols to represent their algebraic product.

Now, take the earlier symbols we used for God (G) and Hell (H).

Can we manipulate them in a similar fashion to the preceding? This allows an excellent illustration of the power of the laws of thought in action.

First, we identify – for the sake of clarity, G with ‘B’ or 'Being'.

Then does: G + H = B?

Only if both G and H are finite, and G is not 'all good'. But if G= oo, and G = XG = GG

G + 0 = G, or G + (H+ (-H)) = G

(since oo +1 = oo)

Hell is negated by the presence of XG, the "All Good" or an infinity GOOD- which eliminates any finite evil.

In other words, only GOD exists! What has happened? How can this possibly be?

A clue is provided in Boole’s own discussion. Take two finite groups of men, x and y, where x denotes the main class (‘men’) and y denotes “Asiatic men”. Then when one writes “All men except Asiatics” it implies: x – y

But bear in mind this is for finite classes. However, once one assigns G= oo, one no longer has a finite class for God as Being. One has exhausted ALL being. (The very definition of infinite).

Thus, one cannot write: “All Being except Hell” or B – H

The only option is: GG = G implying H = 0

Once more we see that the conceptions G and H are mutually exclusive if G = oo. One can incorporate both only if G and H represent finite classes, then:

B = G + H or B – G = H

Now, a side problem for readers: Let X denote “GOOD” and apply it to the above such that the operation is distributive, i.e.: z(x+y) = zx + zy. How do you interpret this?

Moving on, we go to Boole’s next class of law under the header:

Signs by which relation is expressed, and by which we form propositions

And the law follows via axioms:

"1st. If equal things are added to equal things, the whole are equal.
2nd. If equal things are taken from equal things, the remainders are equal.

Hence, we may add or subtract equations, and employ the rule of transposition as in common algebra.”

Let’s apply this to the previous example: B = G + H or, using transposition: B – G = H

How do the significations hold up against the new axioms for Boole’s law of thought?

In Boole’s formulation (Proposition IV), “nothing” and “Being” are the two limits of class extension. He allows that numerical values can be applied here: 0 for nothing, and 1 for Being.

His statement of Prop IV is: “That axiom of metaphysicians which is termed the principle of contradiction, and which affirms that it is impossible for any being to possess a quality, and at the same time not to possess it, is a consequence of the fundamental law of thought, whose expression is x^2 = x”

Or as we have seen before: GG = G.

Now, Boole rewrites his equation for the fundamental law of thought (using transposition) in the form: x^2 – x = 0 or x (1 – x) = 0

Where x denotes ‘being’ and (1- x) ‘not being’.

But if we take: GG = G and rewrite: G^2 – G = 0 or G(1-G) = 0

Then we have G denotes “God” and (1- G) denotes “not God’ or presumably “Hell”.

But what if G= oo?

Then: G^2 = (oo)(oo)

But then: G^2 – G = oo(1 – oo) = oo = G

In other words, (1 – G) doesn’t apply or factor in. This conforms, as Boole notes, to Aristotle’s “fundamental axiom of all philosophy”:

It is impossible that the same quality can belong and not belong to the same thing…this is the most certain of all principles.”

In other words, we have shown – again – using the Boolean fundamental law of thought, that an infinite God cannot coexist with any type of Hell. It would mean the same quality (evil) would have to apply to the same thing, or to put it another way, Hell would have to be part of the Divine being.

In a future blog we will consider the application of Boole’s laws to logic gates, as used in digital components.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Time to Kick Alan Simpson to the Curb!

Yes, you heard it right! It's time this vampire - who would suck the life out of Social Security - be sent back to pasture in Wyoming to spend the rest of his days, where he can't make trouble for the rest of us! Why all the kerfuffle?

To put it bluntly, Obama Deficit Commission co-chair Alan B. Simpson has just proven he’s an even bigger asshole than many of us heretofore believed. As I noted in earlier blogs, Simpson and his partner in crime, Ernest Bowles, have targeted Social Security and Medicare under the pretext of fixing the nation’s exploding deficits and "stabilizing Social Security". Never mind, Social Security hasn’t contributed one dime to the deficit and the only stabilizing it needs is raising the FICA limit to at least $250,000.

One of Bowles and Simpson's wonder “cure alls” is to raise the retirement age (at which full Social Security can be received) to 70, despite the fact that the newest demographic economic data shows that contrary to the myth that “all Americans are living longer”, elderly poor black women are seeing decreases in life expectancy. Bowles and Simpson’s solution would not only add 1.5 million seniors to the poverty rolls, but literally force millions more poor black seniors (mainly women- 45% of the men already dead by 66) to work until they literally drop dead.

Thus, these two clowns would literally chop off an essential lifeline for millions of Americans, especially poor female minority Americans. In this context, one elderly female sent an email to Simpson – the top asshole on the commission, complaining about his denigrating reference to “pink panthers”.

The email he wrote back is as follows:

“If you have some better suggestions about how to stabilize Social security, instead of just babbling into the vapors, let me know. And yes, I’ve made some plenty smart cracks about people on Social Security who milk it to the last degree. You know ‘em too. It’s the same with any System in America.

We’ve reached a point now where it’s like a milk cow with 310 million tits. Call us when you get honest work!”

Huh! Social Security is a “cow with 310 million tits”!

This was to the Executive Director of the National Older Women’s League, making a derogatory slang reference to women’s breasts. Rightfully, in the wake of this display, the AARP has called for President Obama to remove Simpson. Why on Earth Simpson was even there in the first place, boggles the mind. Why on Earth Obama even felt the need to set up a “commission” which has put a key Democratic program in its sights – while not even mentioning allowing all the Bush tax cuts to expire (which would free up $3.3 trillion to plug the deficit) is beyond me.

Socialist Senator Bernie Sanders has also called for the rapscallion’s resignation, along with the National Organization for Women, and National Older Women’s League. All of them already well aware of Simpson’s hostility to Social Security – though the maggot has tried to conceal it under the cover of “stabilizing it”.

But that dog won’t hunt, since he’s already on record as averring that those receiving Social Security benefits are “lesser people”. The full comment can be read at:

www.social security-works.org

In a response to what Simpson and his commission were trying to do, the former Wyoming Senator blurted:

Look here, we’re trying to take care of the lesser people of society”

Lesser people?! Both my mother (now 88) and father (now deceased, and a WWII vet) are not “lesser people”! Both worked hard their whole lives, and my dad soldiered on even though he still suffered from bouts of the malaria he acquired in the jungles of New Guinea. He enlisted and fought 3 1/2 years for this damned country, sir, so don't you dare imply or think to suggest he was a "lesser person" because he needed Social Security in his later years! No, he wasn't born with a silver spoon in his mouth like you, nor was he the scion of a Wall Street Investment Banker, but he was by no means a "lesser person". Neither was my mom, who toiled for over twenty years in a humble parochial school system where her final pension was barely $400 a month, and so Social Security was a necessity. Now, she can live with dignity because of it.

What these remarks show is Simpson doesn’t respect Americans, doesn’t respect that Americans have earned the right to Social Security benefits, nor that they have worked hard to earn the fundamental basic means to survive in old age. Nor does he care that every one of our children is protected against loss of a parent. In Simpson’s world view, loss of parents means children would starve or find child labor – maybe making athletic shoes in some backwater abode. No wonder this guy is leading the charge to cut the program, though he denies it.

Overall, however, the inane comments of Simpson fit with the other silly comments coming out of this Pudwhacker Commission (including those of his sidekick Bowles) and many others like Peter G. Peterson – who in the name of “protecting our grandchildren” want to eviscerate benefits for our grandchildren.

As Eric Kingson (Professor of Social Work at Syracuse University) has put it:

they have it mixed up. What they really want to do is protect their grandchildren and those of Wall Street bankers”.

We agree with Kingson’s demand that Simpson be removed from this commission and also his other demand that Social Security be removed from the Commission’s spotlight and crosshairs.

Mr. Obama, step in and put an end to this travesty! Remove Simpson now if he will not willingly leave!

Act with courage!

George Boole and The Laws of Thought (I)

Left: George Boole: Author of the real 'Laws of Thought'

Much drivel has been written by uneducated twits about what they believe are “the laws of thought” but in this blog and the next we examine the basis of the real ones – which have formed much of the foundation of today’s digital technology-computer revolution as well as propositional logic.

George Boole (after whom Boolean Algebra is named) is the author of the genuine Laws of Thought, by which he sought to develop a symbolic system to embody logic- ultimately leading to the realization that logical and mathematical operations are, to a certain degree, interchangeable.

One caveat before we begin: Boole, even in his day, recognized his laws and symbolic logic would only be as good as the quality of the inputs. Like the financial language known as Intex (previous blog) if the wrong facts and assumptions are used, the output can only be garbage. In the case of the Laws of Thought, if incorrect facts are assumed, then false premises are created, resulting in false conclusions.

Boole, in his Chapter II of the Laws of Thought, notes:

“The elements of which all language consists are signs and symbols. Words are signs. Sometimes they are said to represent things, sometimes the operations by which the mind combines together the simple notions of things into complex conceptions…..But words, although in this and other ways they fulfill the office of signs or representative symbols, are not the only signs which we are capable of employing.”

Boole then goes on to note the existence of mathematical signs, such as X, - , + , / and so on. In this way he justifies an entire system that integrates the signs of mathematics with those of words. His critical basis is (ibid.):

It is necessary that each sign should possess, within the limits of the same discourse or process of reasoning, a fixed interpretation. The necessity of this condition is obvious and founded in the very nature of the subject”

Boole then goes on to articulate propositions by which the analysis and classification of assorted signs (words or mathematical symbols) are advanced.

For Proposition (I) we have:

“All the operations of Language, as an instrument of reasoning, may be conducted by a system of signs composed of the following elements, viz.

1st: Literal symbols as x, y etc.- representing things as subjects of our conception

2nd. Signs of operation such as +, - , x, standing for those operations of the mind by which the conceptions of things are combined or resolved as to form new conceptions involving the same elements.

3rd. The sign of identity (=).

And these symbols of Logic are, in their use, subject to definite laws, partly agreeing with and partly differing with the corresponding symbols in the science of Algebra

Clearly, from this, Boole expected anyone who would deign to use the Laws of Thought he compiled to be skilled in algebra. If one had not taken an algebra course or been exposed to it via self-education it is doubtful he’d be able to use the laws effectively, or reason rigorously. We find this, in fact, with many fundies – who are often as deficient in numerous areas of mathematics (algebra, geometry, trig, etc.) as they are in science. Boole implied in his precepts that such people would only have very crude conceptions since their lack of symbolic background wouldn’t allow them to refine what their thoughts held. (No surprise when we see the typical fundie has such limited conceptions of his god – almost like a cartoon)

Boole then shows how the algebraic –word and thought linkage occurs, e.g.

“Let it be agreed that by the combination xy – that class of things shall be represented by which the properties are simultaneously applicable. Thus, if ‘x’ alone stands for ‘white things’ and ‘y’ for sheep, then let ‘xy’ stand for ‘white sheep’. In like manner, if ‘z’ stands for ‘horned things’ then let ‘xyz’ represent ‘horned white sheep’.

Boole then considers the laws to which such symbolic combinations are subject.

First, it is evident that the order by which two symbols are written is indifferent. The expressions xy and yx equally represent that class of things to the several members of which the names or descriptions x and y are together applicable. Hence we have:

xy = yx

There may be a difference as to the order in which the conception is formed but there is none as to the individual things which are comprehended under it”

Boole is also emphatic about qualities and discerning them:

When I say ‘x’ represents ‘good’ it will be understood that it only represents ‘good’- as when a subject for that quality is supplied by another symbol, and that used alone – it will be interpreted as “good things”.

This quality property shows that dissonant qualities cannot be combined into anything acceptable in the Laws of Thought.

For example, let X represent ‘ALL Good’

Meaning the property or attribute is an ultimate one. (One could even think of ‘infinitely GOOD’) . Then if one denotes G by “God” we can say:

‘XG’ denotes an All GOOD God .

Now, let Y represent any and all evil, including anything which can be interpreted as ‘evil’ -including all things destructive. Any event, entity, abode or thing destructive cannot have associated with it the quality of ‘Good’.

Consider now the conception of ‘Hell’ – call it ‘H' and since it is destructive as conceived by certain people, then one can only frame it as ‘YH’, never as XH.

What we immediately discover here, using the Boolean laws of thought, is a condition Boole described via:

~ (G / H)

E.g. Two statements G and H, are contrary if they cannot both hold, i.e. if: ~ (XG/ YH)

Note that this is not the same as being contradictory, which implies:

two statements p, q are contradictory, if: [p -> (q) ] , [ (~p) -> ~q]

However, if many further attributes (qualities) are assigned to the preceding conceptions then it may also be possible to ascertain contradiction as well. (This would occur, as I showed in a previous blog, if one designates BOTH Hell and God as "infinite". Since infinite means all encompassing, then there cannot be two infinities- only ONE. Even more rigidly, there cannot be an infinity and anything else! (Since whatever might be "left over" would make the infinity finite- since something occupies being along with it- and hence delimits its extent.) Either there must be G, or H. Hence: [ (~G) -> ~H] , denoting a contradiction between the concepts. I did leave room to resolve this, however, by reducing G from an "infinite" to a "finite" entity - which would then "make room" for H to co-exist with it. Else it is logically impossible.)

In other words, the laws of thought reveal that an entity (GOD) designated as ‘All GOOD’ AND "infinite" is contradictory to YH or a “Hell”. Thus, if YH IS valid, then XG cannot mean or signify “All Good, infinite God” but rather YG = “Evil God”. Since then YG and YH become compatible and consistent concepts.

Such are the ways in which one can use the laws of thought to expose contradictions in words used, even when the users themselves are oblivious to their own violations of thought.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Is Intex Worth it?

According to a recent article in The Financial Times ('Unlocking the Language of Structured Securities') we may finally have arrived at one of the main contributory factors in ushering in the financial meltdown in 2008. Evidently, bond traders and raters took liberties with their computations of mortgage backed securities by taking shortcuts when using Intex.

What is Intex? Actually three things rolled into one, according to Donald MacKenzie, author of the piece:

1) A high level computer language for defining intricate cash flow rules for assorted deals.

2) A graphics interface for defining, illustrating deals

3) A computerized library of the parameters of the underlying asset pools and cash flow rules for more than 20,000 deals.

What does this cost? A cool $1.5 million.

Mortgage backed securities themselves can be frightfully complex, and most of this has to do with the inclusion of derivatives called "credit default swaps". In earlier blogs, I wrote about the illustrious quants who designed these based on a complicated formula known as the Gaussian Copula Formula. Many of these CDS instruments factor in such things as: the rate at which borrowers repay mortgages earlier (lowering the yield on the security), the propensity of borrowers to default, and the proportion of debt that can't be recovered on default. Other CDS also factor in disturbing intangibles that destabilize the whole compact- especially bets on any of the preceding happening.

Intex's output reliability is not at all automatic or a foregone conclusion, even for $1.5 million! It depends entirely on the validity of the user's assumptions and how spot-on or wide of the mark they are. As they say, "garbage in, garbage out" - and even a $1.5 million utility can churn out garbage if not properly prepared beforehand.

Even if you make your proper assumptions, you can still foul up. For example, maybe you do take time and reckon in the securities containing collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) possess not simply packages of assembled mortgage debt - but tranches of other packages of CDOs - each of which may be incorporating further CDOs, like an unending sequence of those Russian dolls (where each large doll has a smaller one within). Well, in the case of CDO tranches, each has millions of smaller ones within!

The effect is that the underlying mortgage pools and ancillary deals are multiplied enormously. While a simple CDO-tranche analysis may take only a few hours, a file with hundreds of nested ones may take days or even weeks. No surprise since time is money, many rating agencies took shortcuts here and - instead of doing a full exhaustive run - they chose to operate one run based on the prepayment, default and severity rates deemed most likely. Since the sidebets weren't also factored in, it's no wonder many of these blew up in their faces.

The error of many other bond rating agencies was to treat the complex, CDS -infested CDOs as if they were corporate bonds. (In which case the properties of the bonds would be simply inferred from the separate parcel ratings - most of which were already AAA). Thus, the ratings agencies operating on this false assumption went on to rate the large CDS-infested, multiple CDO tranche packages as 'AAA' too! Bad mistake! We all paid for it, and are still doing so!

Interestingly, one bank and one alone did analyze the CDO-CDS structures properly, and that was Goldman- Sachs. They were also clever in using a "computer farm" in New Jersey to spread the computations over several machines and thereby save time. Based on what it saw, Goldman ended up liquidating or hedging its positions on mortgage-backed securities, allowing it to survive almost unscathed. (Except for an SEC probe into its selling of securities-mortgages it already knew would fail).

What is the moral of all this? Basically that just because you shell out $1.5 million for a high level program to parse structured securities, you shouldn't expect it to do all your work for you - or save you time. (Well, at least not save you unrealistic time!).

Let's hope the next time bond agencies use Intex they do so honestly, with a view to giving honest bond ratings, not fraudulent ones.

A Basic Logic Test: Can Fundies Get Even ONE right?

It is ludicrous that so many brain-impaired fundies believe THEY are the ones possessing a serious inside track on logic and can use it better than anyone (even those of us steeped in scientific backgrounds) since it’s a “reflection of God’s own Being” according to their codswallop. However, as I showed in numerous preceding blogs to do with basic scientific issues – they consistently get even basic logical connections wrong, or commit one or more of the ten logical fallacies I described in my ‘Primers on Logical Fallacies’.

What follows is a basic test in logical analysis that I warrant not ONE fundie will pass, that is- assuming he even has the balls to take it and submit it for correction. (Given they punked out on the evolution test, who would be surprised?)

Give it your best shot, fundies, or admit you’re logical losers and have no business bloviating on the subject at all!

Time Limit: 30 minutes

1. A object O is 2 degrees F. higher in temperature than body B which is 1.8 C higher than body C which is at 0 C. What is the temperature of O in Celsius degrees? (Hint: Every 1 C increase in temperature = 1.8 F)

A) 2.8 B) 1.8 C) 2.91 D)1.91

2) The equilateral triangle shown in Fig. 1(a) is rotated clockwise through 60 degrees, then 60 degrees counterclockwise, then through 360 degress clockwise– what will the new orientation look like (Select option from Fig. 1b)

A) B) C) D)

3) If proposition X is true, then Z is also true. If X is false, then Y is true. If X and W are false, then Z MAY be true or false. If it is found that proposition Z is false, then:

A) X is false B) Y is true C) W is false D) all the preceding may be true

4)Roger is Paul’s uncle. Deke is Roger’s brother. Gerald is Deke’s father. Carmela is Gerald’s niece. Beula is Carmela’s daughter. How is Beula related to Roger?

A) niece B) sister C) cousin D) 2nd cousin

5) Consider these operations:

Let addition by 1 be denoted by A
Let multiplication by 2 be denoted by S
Let division by 4 be denoted by F
Let subtraction by 1 be denoted by T

Then given the sequence of operations: 28 SFATS, the result one obtains is:

A) 14 B) 28 C) 56 D) 7

6) Referencing the square shown in Fig. 2, one can apply the following operations, each of which can alter its orientation:

R1: Rotation clockwise by 90 degrees
R2: rotation clockwise by 180 degrees
R3: rotation clockwise by 270 degrees
M1: Mirrors corners exactly through the midline of the square
M2: Mirrors two opposing diagonal corners: from top left to bottom right
M3: Mirrors two opposing corners in the opposite sense to M2

If we apply the sequence of operations to the square (in the order identified):

R2 M1 M3

Then the result is (assuming the square in Fig. 2 is given by ABCD):


7) An experiment is performed in which the bacterium E. Coli, grown in a medium devoid of galactosides, so that its three available proteins (alpha, beta, gamma – or A, B, G) are synthesized at an exceedingly slow rate – about 1 molecule every five generations.

If galactoside is introduced into the medium the rate of synthesis of all three proteins is increased a thousandfold. E.g. A/1000t = B/1000t = C/1000t.

If it is withdrawn, the synthesis rate returns to its original low form:

A/t = B/t = C/t

A chemical K is added in a new experiment, which increases the density of all 3 proteins by 100 times. If the galactoside is re-introduced but at half the concentration as before, then we can expect the new rate of synthesis for all three proteins, and for every five generations to be:

A) 5 molecules B) 500 molecules C) 25 molecules D) 250 molecules

8) Examine the sequence of steps in Fig. 3a and the possible next configuration in Fig.. 3b. The new configuration will most likely be that in:

A) B) C) D)

9) A person (religious) makes the claim:

Laws of nature are descriptive , whereas logical laws , like ethical laws are prescriptive . That is , laws of logic tell us how we ought to reason in order to conform our thought to how things really are A miracle is an exception to physical law . As such it does not contradict the general law . The comparison between physical laws and laws of thought is invalid .”

The logical error committed by the author is:

A) Making the claim both logical and ethical laws are “prescriptive”- since no absolute ethics exists.
B) Making the claim that the laws of logic tell us how to reason, since reason developed the laws in the first place.
C) Omitting the role of quantum logic, which supersedes Boolean 'Either-or' logic and hence represents the applicable laws of thought for quantum mechanics.
D) All of the above

10) Considering the author’s claim that a “miracle is an exception to physical law” and the simultaneous claim “it doesn’t contradict the general law”, the best question to ask this author would be:

A) What are the necessary and sufficient conditions for an “exception”?

B) How does one discriminate between ordinary exceptions associated with certain physical laws (ie. For the 2nd law of thermodynamics, biological organisms are a temporary exception to increasing disorder) and “miracle exceptions”?

C) If thought is required to formulate physical laws, then how can comparison between them be ‘invalid’?

D) All of the above

11) Given the author's reference to "general law" - what would you conclude?

A) He has conflated "general law" with laws of thought, without defining the former.

B) He has committed the "one True Scotsman" fallacy, i.e. asserting a certain association always trumps any other associations by virtue of having some special dispensation or quality (usually an appeal to "authority" or an undefined God).

C) He has erred in extrapolating from the particular to the general.

D) He has committed all the above.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Why Miracles are Impossible

Carlo, the math -accountant monkey in Barbados. Is he a "miracle"? Hardly! Just well trained with an abacus!

"Unless a man can quantify or measure what he’s talking about, he’s not talking about anything."

- Lord Kelvin

In the last set of logical fallacies, I noted a number of examples that would cover the claim of "miracles" which include: non-sequitur, ignotum per ignotius, and affirming the consequent. Feeling I may have left some loose ends untied, I want to explore these in more detail, and also show why miracles are impossible in our universe - and merely a misunderstanding of natural laws.

A good starting point, is Philosopher David Hume's principle of what it would take to accept any "miracle":

"No testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind that its falsehood would be more miraculous than the fact which it endeavours to establish."

This is one of the most important principles underlying much of empirical science, and also tied to the Ockham's Razor principle of parsimony. It is what inheres at the back of any physicist's mind when a claim is made for others about having beheld "miracles".

In his essay collection Unweaving the Rainbow biologist Richard Dawkins, Britain's most prominent atheist, chose to examine the Fatima miracle of 1917, where 70,000 people "reportedly saw the sun move", to apply Hume's principle: As Dawkins observed:

"On the one hand, we are asked to believe in a mass hallucination, a trick of the light, or mass lie involving 70,000 people," Dawkins writes. "This is admittedly improbable. But it is LESS improbable than the alternative: that the sun really did move...If the sun had moved in truth, but the event was seen only by the people of Fatima, an even greater miracle would have been perpetrated: an illusion of NON-movement had to be staged for all the millions of witnesses not in Fatima."

The dual –tandem improbability associated with this is less than getting a royal flush in poker 6.5 million times in succession. It is actually less than the proverbial monkey on a typewriter re-typing Hamlet in its entirety, and with no errors.

As another example of applying the Hume principle, consider the claim of the miracle of "Jesus “walking on water”. (Forgetting for the moment this was copied hook, line and sinker from the Ized's account of Mithra in Persia!)

Prof. Hugh Schonfeld has a simple explanation for this: a mistranslation of the Hebrew word “al” which can mean “by” or “on”. So, when a scribe supposedly wrote “walking by the water” it was translated to “walking on the water”. Now let us apply the Hume test: Is the Schonfeld claim of mistranslation MORE or LESS miraculous than a man actually violating the law of gravity and walking on water? It doesn’t require a lot of thought or effort to see that the mistranslation of a passage of the New Testament is LESS miraculous (or if you prefer, less improbable) than that a man actually, literally walked on water.

Thus, applying Hume's principle, one opts for the less dramatic explanation, and the more conservative in terms of preserving natural principles.

During one extensive press debate I had with a fundie named Terence Mahon in Barbados, he asserted that laws are subject to sudden alterations to permit the occurrence of "miracles". However, as far as we know (and I don't know what sci-fi comic books Mahon has been reading) these laws are not violated anywhere in the universe. If one claims, therefore, that a "miracle" occurred such that thousands of loaves and fishes were produced from only a few (a clear violation of the law of conservation of mass-energy) he needs to show how or where there are ANY single exemptions in the cosmos. No one I know has ever, EVER proven any!

Indeed, if we did not expect these (physical) laws to hold everywhere and at all times then anything could happen! One minute this keyboard could be here on my desk, and the next it could rise up and vanish! Or, Mahon (or some other fundie) might be penning another reply to me when presto! his pen dissolves into a bunch of dispersed atoms and molecules. Or, his car stops working one day on gasoline and requires water instead!

This is the sort of haphazard universe one gets when physical laws are treated frivolously and with total disdain for their inherent predictability and repeatability. It is also a common treatment I have found from people who have never taken even a basic high school physics course. These people, bereft of exposure to detailed natural laws, can really believe six (or one hundred) impossible things before breakfast. If you want "tomfoolery", then this is it to the nth degree. What miracle seekers need to bear in mind is that physical laws are not simply repealed on a whim, or on the basis of a pet fantasy of how we'd like the universe to be, they have to be shown by serious scientific work to be subject to such. No fundie I know has ever published such work, say in Physical Review D, and I doubt they ever will. All they have is a specious, mistranslated book for which they can't even reconcile the thousands of contradictions within. And they expect us to take their claims seriously?

Physical laws may be suitably modified or extended, however, should there be sufficient observational and empirical data to warrant it. This is exactly what was done to Newton's law of gravitation by Albert Einstein. This has resulted in a new law of gravitation which applies to the entire universe (i.e. taking into account its shape or curvature) instead of just a small region like the solar system. The major error of the idiot fundies is asserting miracles are "allowed exceptions" when they've never bothered to give the necessary and sufficient conditions for a miracle "exception". All they do is dream up words then fling them out as if the mere saying so is ample. What we do know is that any physical law so defined (e.g. gravitation or parochial 'law of gravity' on Earth) cannot be accepted as being liable to "exceptions" unless the claimants can prove such exist that aren't tied to their stupid, ancient and pathetic good Book. But it's doubtless these thick-headed morons will ever process that!

Contrary to most fundies' misperceptions, scientists do not willy-nilly accept violations (or "exceptions" to) of physical laws without demanding empirical support for the claim. If you insist that water can be changed into wine, a scientist will demand to see your evidence for such a feat. The same applies to the claim of a man "walking on water", or "brought back to life". In each case, the evidence by which a natural law is violated must be thoroughly scrutinized. In this process, all alternative natural explanations must be considered-- including outright trickery or fraud, before the violation of a physical law is conceded. If you instead simply quote an ancient text, you will be summarily dismissed as a babbling idiot.

And this is all I ask of miracle proposers. I do not deny "miracles" because they are "miraculous", but because I've never seen any convincing evidence which would compel me to accept them without question. If anyone has such evidence in his possession then by all means he should share it with us skeptics-- that is, if he wishes to be taken as more than a drunk or on drugs. Again, the barometer is simply the one MAKING the claim must substantiate it, since extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence. And bear in mind you cannot use your bible for backup or support, since this is one of the logical fallacies I listed: the appeal to authority. So - either SHOW a man can walk on water, or change water to wine, or survive three days in a whale's belly - or SHUT THE HELL UP! As in put a sock in it, rather than making bigger asses of yourselves.

Those lamo fundies wedded to ancient texts, mostly mutilated and mistranslated, perhaps need to just follow the advice of fellow atheist Larimore Nicholls': go for Mother Goose fables instead. At the very least, you'll look like less of a loony in need of serious electro-convulsive therapy!

Biblical Contradictions to do with "Salvation"

We now return to the issue of biblical contradictions (after giving more than 40 in previous blogs), which – of course – the fundamentalists will try to sweep under the rug or employ other specious arguments in an effort to get around them. You can be sure they will deperately try to get around this next set - which have to do with the basis for "salvation". After all, if their followers are given conflicting and contradicting guidance here, what's next? Telling them that they are all predestined for Hell or Heaven so there's nothing that they can do anyway?

Once more, be assured the zombie fundies will deny everything. They'll merely insist the clashing quotes are “inconsistencies” which are not contradictions. I guess this fits right into their fantasy realm wherein they can believe six impossible things before breakfast- so this isn’t too startling.

However, an “inconsistency” defined in my Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary, is given as:

"Lacking in agreement, as two or more things in relation to each other"


"Direct opposition between things compared, inconsistency. That which is inconsistent involves involves variance, discrepancy or even contradiction, especially from the point of view of truth, reason, or logic."

Note that the word “discrepancy” above, ALSO means DIFFERENCE!

Thus, the two words can, in effect, be used interchangeably, and moreover there is more than the implication (from the latter extension of the def.) that an assault on truth is involved. Now as to reconciling the contradictory passages, I still maintain as I did before that this CAN be done, but ONLY if one adopts a non-literalist approach. Yes, the writers used differing colloquial terms of the period, and maybe even there were “copyist errors” to account for differences.. BUT IF either is true the bible’s words CANNOT be taken literally but must be re-interpreted, e.g. in light of the jargon or word forms of the time, or to reckon in the copyist errors!

Biblical literalists, basically, want to have their cake and eat it too. They want to claim the bible is “inerrant” and can be read “as is” – literally - but then they want to also claim the “contradictions aren’t real" or have to be parsed in the context of "what the writers really meant". (In other words it can’t be read “as is”) They don’t understand they can’t have it BOTH ways! Either the bible is inerrant and stands alone without the need to interpret the differing passages, OR it can only be read in the spirit of the book and interpretations are a natural part of it.

So, now we give more contradictions to do with the “Salvation” myth. In each case, a question will be given - then the answers: 'YES' and 'NO' and the biblical sources where each is found.

1. Are unsaved sinners eternally tormented?

YES: Isa 33:14; Matt. 13:40-42, 25:41,46; Mrk 9:43-48; Jude 6-7; Rev. 14:10-11

NO: Eze 18:4; Matt 7:13, 10:28; Luk 13:3,5; John 3:15-16; Acts 3:23; 1Cor 15:18; 2Th 2:10; Heb 10:39; 2Pe 3:7,9

2. Will everyone get saved?

YES: John 12:32; Rom 5:18, 11:32; 1Cor 15:22; Col 1:20; 1Ti 2:4,6; 1John 2:2

NO: Matt 7:13-14; Luke 13:23-24

3. Is salvation totally predestined by God?

YES: Ps 65:4; Pr 16:9, 20:24; Isa 46:9-11; Jer 10:23; John 6:44,65-65, 15:16; Ac 15:18; Rom 8:28-30, 9:18; 1Pe 1:2; Eph 1:4-5,11, 2:4-10; 2Th 2:13; Rev 13:8, 17:8

NO: Matt 25:34-40; Luke 10:25-37; John 5:28-29; Rom 2:5-10; Jas 2:14-26

4. Is one who believes in God's son, but who has never repented, saved?

YES: John 3:15-16,36, 6:40,47, 11:25; Ac 16:31; Rom 10:9; 1Jo 5:12

NO: Luke 13:3,5

5. Is one who believes in God's son, but who has done no good deeds, saved?

YES: John 3:15-16,36, 6:40,47, 11:25; Ac 16:31; Rom 10:9; 1Jo 5:12

NO: Matt 25:41-46; John 5:28-29; Rom 2:5-10; Jas 2:14-26

6. Is one who is very moral and charitable, but who does not believe in God’s son, saved?

YES: Matt 19:16-17, 25:34-40,46; Mrk 10:17-21; Luke 10:25-37, 18:18-22; John 5:28-29, 8:51; Rom 2:5-7,10; Jas 2:24

NO: Luke 13:3,5

Note that NONE of these entails “minor differences”. If someone who refuses to accept Jesus Christ as Savior but is still moral and does good works, then the last set of quotations mre than supports his position.

In the end, despite all their bluster and rectitude, the fundies don't have a clue what the prescription for their own salvation is, since they haven't been able to sort out their own scriptures. They ought to at least do that before trying to proselytize the rest of us!