Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Is "Moral Hazard" a Myth?

This was actually addressed (and answered in the affirmative) in a 2005 piece in The New Yorker, titled “The Moral Hazard Myth,” in which author Malcolm Gladwell noted that people with health insurance don't go into hospitals for their enjoyment (unless maybe they are One percenters in the "amenities units"), and that people without medical insurance often forgo preventive care that could save thousands of dollars. So how is that "moral hazard"?

Conveniently, when the pundits and elites bloviate about moral hazard, they overlook the noneconomic costs of risky actions like smoking, e.g. costs from lung cancer, the attendant suffering and death. Nor is gobbling giant burgers and fries every day (or even once every week) at Mickey D's deemed a "moral hazard". We are informed instead by the pundits that to try to regulate such behaviors is tantamount to intrusion by a "Nanny state", never mind our costs from obesity and diabetes will soon bannkrupt us if our military overstretch doesn't!

One law professor at the University of Pennsylvania, a Tom Baker, once wrote a historical account (1996) entitled On the Genealogy of Moral Hazard,” that: “Moral hazard signifies the perverse consequences of well-intentioned efforts to share the burdens of life, and it also helps deny that refusing to share those burdens is mean-spirited or self-interested.”

Again, convenient. But the question that occurs is why is this attribution and designation so selective? Tending to focus on the missteps, benefits or foibles of ordinary people as opposed to those of hedge funds, giant banks or bankers? Notably here, Baker also adds (ibid.):

"The economics of moral hazard work to convince us that, however well intentioned, social responsibility is a bad thing,”

Now where have we seen this before? Give up? It is in Vilfredo Pareto's Pareto distribution. See, e.g.


As noted in the top-linked blog, at the heart of "Pareto efficiency" is what's called the reservation price for a given object or service. This is just the maximum price a person is willing to pay. (Or more often, can pay....given financial circumstances!)

Example: say a new apartment complex opens up and is selling apts. (1-3 bedrooms) ranging from $1,500/month (for single Bdr) to $2,400 for 2 Bdr, to $3,600, and people want to buy. Obviously, a relatively poorer couple will have a reservation price probably lower (e.g. $1,000) than any of the apartments, and hence need a Section 8 HUD rental subsidy to offset costs, while the rich couples or families can move into any of them.

But, according to modern economics and the Pareto distribution, offering a rent subsidy on the order of $1,000 (for the single Bdr apt.) effectivly removes it from the actual competitive market . Because this exerts a price below reservation, though offering the apt IS sociall responsible, the Pareto economist regards it as "moral hazard".

This is exactly where and how the discussion was evolved to reject any economic actions that confer such social responsibility, because it is believed the recipients will not then exercise self- initiative and instead become dependent on "government handouts". The same arguments are often used against providing food stamps for any length of time. People - never mind jobs are unavailable- become too dependent on them and get "addicted" to handouts.

Thus, to these economists, "moral hazard" came to be equated with "Pareto inefficient".

Obviously, this was also the basis for Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan going on record in an appearance before congress (in 2003) and asserting that "Social Security benefits need to be cut to pay for Bush’s tax cuts." Social Security payments, especially with COLAs, do everything the Fed Chairman detested. They poured more money into the economy, but not via productive labor or market indices, or investment returns. People received their checks on the basis of a social insurtance contract....thus, merely by existing and breathing day to day, and having paid into the system with FICA deductions.

In effect, providing Social Security benefits, especially with COLAs that kept pace with inflation, was a "moral hazard". Socially responsible, yes, okay. But a hazard morally because those elderly people were now making haste to collect on the government dime (often as soon as they hit 62) instead of getting their butts out there and working longer ....earning on their own. (Never mind most employers won't hire them ...other than maybe as Walmart greeters!)

What about health insurance? Let's say the productive cost of the typical primary care physician's visit is $150. This is what she charges, or what her Affiliated Primary Care center does. The non-wealthy person (having shelled out $250 for an insurance deductible) is then happy to pay only $15 for a co-pay. But this "skews the system" and makes it Pareto INEFFICIENT while introducing "moral hazard" - because the patient will then likely come to underestimate ongoing real medical expenses.

If one therefore takes the difference ($150 - $15 = $135) it makes more sense to just give the unwealthy person say $134 NOT to visit the doctor and consume resources. This then, also avoids feeding the moral hazard. With Medicare and Medicaid it's even worse, because the moral hazard -Pareto poppets argue that medical services are even more undervalued by those government-served populations.

I noted as a special example getting a preventive test, like a colonoscopy which normally would run $3,500. But there's no way the insured regular patient can afford that total cost, most of which his or her insurance picks up. Meanwhile, calculations- based on Pareto Efficiency- show if the insurance paid part is $2,000 (while the patient's reservation price is $1.500) it makes more sense to give the prospective testee $1,499 NOT to get the colonoscopy, than to let her get the test and consume valuable specialist time and resources via $2,000 subsidy.

Their argument is that not getting the colonoscopy avoids moral hazard! (Never mind that if the patient then gets colon cancer much larger health costs will be imposed on the system)

In effect, to grasp the reasons for selective assignment of "moral hazard" in our society it is important to grasp the perverted basis of our economic system which rests on Pareto's distribution. This basis will always disfavor social benefit or social responsibility, when lined up against economic advantage.

The obverse is that the true villains who unjustly profit and display real moral hazard, get away with murder. Thus with the S&L crisis in 1989, massive public bailouts were made. Private entities collected massive public rewards. Same with the bailout of Long Term Capital Management in 1997, and more recently, AIG and the banks in 2008. The latter, especially, were guilty of using public money - put into the banks on trust - to speculate in the securities markets via credit default swaps. (See the movie, 'Inside Job', if you haven't already!)

According to Elyse D. Cherry, the C.E.O. of a community development group, Boston Community Capital, "moral hazard is hogwash.” Why would she say such a thing given her company is putatively a live laboratory for active moral hazard? (It buys homes that have gone into foreclosure, then sells them back to the original owner at a price they can afford).

Her response is insightful and discloses she can see through the moral hazard smokescreen and rubbish of the Elites and realize that people aren't just toddling toward endless and limitless benefits! Thus, the ruined credit of milliions - say who declare personal bankruptcy- makes it harder to borrow money, or get an apartment. Moreover, given nosy employers are increasingly doing credit checks on prospective hires, it makes it damnably difficult to find a job to escape their existing economic morass. Meanwhile, to even search for a job in greener pastures far away is hard on families because they may not be able to get the selling price they need for a home ...and moving is often a logistical and timing nightmare. Then there are the larger social costs when desperate people - like the subprime mortgage purchasers in 2007-08 - aren't assisted: pockmarked neighborhoods and declining property values.

So, in effect, while using the moral hazard PR weapon may temporarily save some economic costs it exacts profound social costs. This, of course, is for the average person in our society, not the big hotshot investment banker who maybe used millions in public money but lost it all in the risky credit derivatives markets. He can usually expect to get bailed out in some way with the usual modus operandi: "private rewards- public costs".

Meanwhile, the "moral hazard" evoked by the Pareto optimality fetishists always ensures the public square, the common good and the little guys.....inevitably get screwed.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Rick Santorum's Plan To Destroy the Country

This is the character who whined on a Sunday talk show that he'd have "vomited" to hear the words of JFK in 1960, when he addressed a convocation of Protestant ministers in Houston, that he would not be beholden or obliged to any prelate and regarded the separation of Church and State as "absolute". So for that, little Ricky wants to puke! Well, let him, since JFK was exactly correct.

There is no place for religion to exist under any formal banner in government, either as a special department or as employed by high powered officials to push their agendas, including taking marching orders from padres, popes or bishops. Does this mean religious people aren't entitled to enter the public square and debate, present their views? Of course not! But it does mean that those views aren't to be granted any special protected status by government. They have to compete openly in the marketplace of ideas and devil take the hindmost.

But Rick's heinous plans should he get in, such as universal intra-vaginal ultra sounds for all women of child-bearing age who insist on an abortion after being raped, are merely one aspect of his agenda. (Bearing in mind the need for the abortion likely arose after Santorum and a Reep congress made all contraceptives so expensive that virtually no woman other than a one percenter could afford them).

Rick's other plans were laid out in detail in the WSJ yesterday ('My Economic Agenda', p. A15) and it behooves me to share the most extreme parts with blog readers. Just be sure before you read you've already had your breakfast.

The plans are laid out as bullet points, and removed of political BS and Goop-speak, embrace the following:

1) The full approvial of the Keystone Pipeline ....for "jobs". Well I already discussed the terrible downsides of this in an earlier blog:

The fact is that the jobs Santorum speaks of would be for the very few (maybe 21,000 if that) and major hellacious environmental costs that would be a hundred times greater than the Exxon Valdez disaster if major leaks of this crappy tar sands-based stuff leached out to the surrounding environment.

This pipeline will also wend through drought-prone regions some of which are still suffering, and the water costs will be enormous. During the tar sands oil extraction process, vast amounts of water are needed to separate the extracted product, bitumen, from sand, silt, and clay. It takes three barrels of water to extract each single barrel of oil. At this rate, tar sands operations use roughly 400 million gallons of water a day.

There'll also be no assurance there won't be mature ruptures, despoiling the landscape (see map in earlier blog link) and spewing toxins far and wide. We already know TransCanada attempted to cut corners by seeking a safety waiver to build the pipeline with thinner-than-normal steel and to pump oil at higher-than-normal pressures. Thanks to the pressure exerted by Friends of the Earth and allies, the company withdrew its safety waiver application in August 2010. We also have NO assurance, none ...nada...that this pipeline if it ever does come through won't also have pressure-wall thickness issues.

As the toxins insinuate into local water supplies look for breast and kidney cancer rates to soar.

2) Santorum will ensure the Environmental Protection Agency is totally gutted - cutting $100 million of regulations that currently protect against mercury poisoning our air (from coal-fired power plants), even as other asthma -causing effluents are allowed to soar to exponential concentrations. Kids across the country better be well stocked with inhalers and other apparatus to ward off attacks.

Food and water regs will also likely be sliced, so don't be surprised to find all sorts of hideous diseases or maladies popping up...from E Coli outbreaks, to salmonella to cryptosporidium (which sickened 400,000 in a Milwaukee outbreak in 1994), to Listeria. Cancer rates will also be on a tear as each reg is abandoned, and lung diseases will go through the stratosphere.

3) Santorum plans only two tax rates: 10% and 28%. He claims that "in order to help families, I will triple the personal deduction for children". In fact, this is a ruse to get parents to accept many more kids and stop using birth control, which of course he plans to place on the highest drug tier in terms of costs. Santorum reasons that families will accept this tradeoff, and thereby do without the costly contraceptives if they're given compensation for the extra kids that will inevitably result. Not stated is that this triple indemnification will likely have to repealed after a year because his tax rates will be so low they will add more than another $5 trillion in deficits.

4) Leading to this next step where Santorum promises "$5 trillion in spending cuts over five years". These will likely be cuts to all the social programs, including Medicaid (which he will likely try to farm out to the states) Medicare, stopping the doc fix and making access cuts and Social Security(changing the COLA). He also makes it plain he wants to "cut the non-defense work force by 10%"

That means he wishes to add another 2 million unemployed to the rolls, and who knows if these folks will be able to get other jobs.

5) This leads to his next noted step to "reform entitlements". According to Rick:

"I plan to cut entitlement programs by 10 percent across the board"

In addition: he plans to "freeze their costs for four years, and block grant them to the states"

In other words, folks on Social Security and Medicare will expect to see their share of premium costs soar (i.e. if program costs are frozen and health inflation continues as expected, beneficiaries will have to pick up the tab). As for Social Security, with a less generous COLA and higher Medicare premiums (maybe $225-250 a month) it will essentially amount to a de facto cut to benefits.

Meanwhile, "block grants" means Santorum allows about $10 million per state, and that amount has to be divvied among all the Medicaid population for benefits. In Colo. this is nearly 1/2 million needy people, so we are talking about $20 benefit per person on average. Obviously this is much too low to get any care so that the entry thresholds will have to be made more rigorous to weed out most current beneficiaries, e.g. income less than $200 a month and 2 dependents, or what ever.

6) Repeal and replace "Obamacare": so look for your young adult kids to have to buy and pay for their own insurance which under Obama's Affordable Health Care plan they simply got under parents' policies. Also, if Santorum succeeds, look for insurance companies to go back to defining "pre-existing conditions" in order to cull the numbers in need as well as services.

7) Halve the corporate tax rate: Santorum insists he will drop it to 17.5% from its current 35%. But as I noted in a previous blog,

According to a special report in TIME (Feb. 20, p. 16), no corp. actually PAYS 35%. Rather, the effective corporate tax rate is now 12½ %.

This means if Santorum gets his wish, the effective rate will likely go down to 6% or less. In effect, granting corps. even vaster stories of money with which to ply our congress critters in lobbying efforts, not to mention to purchase "free speech" via super PACS.

Ah yes, Rick Santorum's economic that only a Satan could love!

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Making of a Terminal Bore: Wojciech Langer

The spherical harmonic function for problem (1) which I assigned Langer. He punted on all three cosmological questions that a first year physics student could have solved.

I wasn't remotely aware of the individual named Wojciech Langer until perusing some of the book reviews to do with cosmology on Then I beheld him cropping up like a bad penny each time five stars was awarded in a review for a book challenging the god assumption. The most recent example was Lawrence Krauss' excellent summation of recent cosmology, A Universe Out of Nothing.

In comment after comment going after 5-star reviewers of anti-creationist cosmology books, Langer's irritation - like most would-be godmongers, appeared to be that atheism was infiltrating or being infused into cosmology. Evidently the guy didn't realize or know this has been so for some time!

For example, there was the terrific book, ‘Great Ideas and Theories of Cosmology’ by Jagjit Singh (Dover, 1961).

I reference this book, because Singh’s book was among the first to boldly lay waste the idea of a “creator” being responsible for the cosmos (Chapter XVI, p. 252), and indeed he notes:

"No one… would dream of defending surrealism and cubism by an appeal to the tensor calculus or quantum theory, and it is as illogical to invoke scientific cosmology in support of God.

For the practice of rationalism is an irreversible process. If once one loses the innocence of naïve belief by venturing to stray into rational thought, there can be no honest way of recovering it. When one has cut himself off from God by a first sip of the cup of knowledge, one will not rediscover Him by drinking its dregs, no matter how hard they may be boiled

Even Stephen Hawking revived this tradition in his book, ‘A Brief History of Time’ though many readers may not have carefully parsed his words and only interpreted what they wanted to. For example, he clearly notes on p. 122 - after an audience with the pope, following a scientific conference at the Vatican:

At the end of the conference, the participants were granted an audience with the pope. He told us that it was all right to study the evolution of the universe after the Big Bang, but we should not inquire into the Big Bang itself because that was the moment of creation and therefore the work of God.

I was glad then that he did not know the subject of the talk I had just given at the conference - the possibility that space-time was finite but had no boundary - which means that it had no beginning, no moment of creation.I had no desire to share the fate of Galileo, with whom I have a strong sense of identity”.

A few pages later in the same chapter, emphasizing the consequences of the quantum, boundary free cosmos, Hawking asks: "What need then for a Creator?"

Which is precisely the point! Science and modern scientific theories - bearing predictions which can be verified - make religious or supernaturalist intrusion redundant. They add nada to the quality of predictions, nor do they afford a new variant of suggested observations based on existing ones. In other words, all they offer is some childish security blanket for the timid or mentally un-tough, but not much more.

I used all this as a basis to dismiss all Langer's comments to the effect that this mindset "has no place in a cosmology text". YES, it does!

As for Wojciech Langer - the "industrial chemist"(from his amazon profile) - I suspected he didn't know diddly squat about any cosmology so that all his criticisms were hollow. They merely needed to be exposed, as he did. So I put him to the test by giving him three simple cosmological questions, of which I'd have been satisfied to get even one back correct. They were:

1) The data obtained from balloon-borne microwave telescopes, e.g. Maxima and Boomerang (cf. Physics Today: ‘Balloon Measurements of the Cosmic Microwave Background Strongly Favor Flat Cosmos’, July 2000, p 17)enabled a power spectrum of spatial temperature fluctuations to be assembled (see graphic) using a spherical harmonic function fit.

The multi-humped graph (ibid) plotted mean square temp. fluctuation (in micro-Kelvin on vertical axis) vs. multipole order l on the abscissa. This multipole order also concides with the spherical harmonic order index l.

The temperature differences dT_i appear at angular separations of π/ l and display a non-uniformity on angular scales of about 1 deg. If the first peak occurs at l= 200 and the 2nd peak is asymmetrically spaced relative to it, predict the next 2 minima displayed (i.e. their spherical harmonic order indices) and show working.

2) If the plasma is treated as an ion acoustic plasma what is the most direct (and simplest interpretation) of the “humps” in the function? According to the article (ibid.) the propagation speed of sound in such a plasma would be expected to be v(s) = c/ [3]^ ½

The acoustic properties of the plasma therefore create “standing waves”.

Assuming v(s) to be the “ion sound speed” how would one use it estimate the temperature of the plasma?

3) Consider 3 galaxies: A, B and C, i.e. as represented below:

(0.7c) <--------(B)----(A)-----(C)-------->(0.7c)

An observer in A measures the velocities of B and C and finds they are moving in opposite directions - each with a speed of 0.7c relative to him.
What is the speed of A observed by someone in B? What is the speed of C observed by someone in B?

And what was Langer's reply? (Even after I let him know that calculus wasn't needed for any of the problems).I produce it below:

"No, I am not able and not willing ..-I read POPULAR books (in case you did not managed to verify it), and inability to deal with high level of math (I do practical work not theoretical science) does not disqualify me from reviewing and commenting on them Same relates to majority of reviewers for this and other pop-cosmo books, therefore you show disrespect towards them as well.

But of course, he had no problems showing disrespect to another commentator who also questioned his criticisms on cosmology issues, especially when his profile showed "industrial chemist". His reply to her? Her comment was "stupid". In fact, it was spot -on and she just didn't have the background to expose him for the fake he is, and why his comments - at least to do with cosmology texts, have no merit. If a profuse, relentless critic of cosmology books and reviews can't even solve one simple cosmological problem he definitely doesn't deserve to have his opinions or comments taken with more than a grain of salt!

Time to Snuff this Drone Bullshit ...NOW!

The time is sometime in the near future....after more than 18,000 unmanned drones have been allowed to roam freely in our skies.....sent aloft by every Tom, Dick and Harry... from farmers, to cops, to utility companies to corporate industrialists seeking to spy on competitors. At this particular junction of time and space, a large commercial aircraft has just taken off with 220 souls on board when.....three minutes later and during its ascent....a massive fireball erupts over a large municipal airport.

After months of tedious investigation and recovery of the black box - which referred to a "bogey at three o'clock" the FAA concludes the plane was struck 2 3/4 minutes after takeoff by a "Dragonflyer X6" drone dispatched into the skies by local law enforcement. While much more intensive scrutiny is promised and a possible congressional investigation....mostly unheard were the screams of thousands who said: "I told you fucking SO!"

Fantasy? Hyper imaginatiive paranoia? Don't believe it for one second! The above horrific scenario is very plausible if our lawmakers continue to sit on their fat, overpaid, useless asses and do nothing while the drone manufacturers of the military-industrial complex seek to transfer their market share to domestic that the occupations in Afghanistan and Iraq are winding down.

In a previous blog I warned about this and gave the background as to who is pushing it:

In that blog, I noted, from a piece in The Wall Street Journal ('U.S. Skies Could See More Drones', Feb. 4, p. A7) that:

"Barely hours after the 374-page bill became public pilot union officials urged a more deliberate approach. Lee Moak, president of the Air Line Pilots Association, which represents 53,000 pilots across North America, said his organization remains worried about safety issues such as training and certification of those unmanned aircraft."

And further (ibid.):

"Safety experts also have raised questions about the ability of sensors aboard unmanned aircraft to properly detect a nearby plane, and to assure immediate action to avoid a midair collision".

But is anyone listening or doing anything? Hell NO! According to today's paper (Denver Post, p. 2A, 'Domestic Drones Take Off!') it's damned the torpedoes (or drone safety in the air) and full speed ahead. The dollars are calling and the military industrial fuckers need new sources to ply their wares since they won't be able to churn out machines by which hidden "warriors" (thousands of miles from danger) fire on Afghan wedding parties any more. So, every two bit manjack now has a hard on to get one....even a little 'hummingbird' scale gizmo "that weighs less than a AA battery" - which can "perch on a window ledge to record sound and video"....

Hmmm what end? To spy on neighbors?

Others demand the "Global Hawk" with its 116 ft. wingspan ....which at least in the case of a near mid air collision encounter should be possible for an able pilot to dodge.

As for congress? What do you expect of these bought and paid for whores? Mainly whores to the military industrial complex (the Repuke whores, get this, actually want to DOUBLE the military presence in Afghanistan after the outrage that erupted in the wake of the accidental Koran burning. In fact, this ought to be the alarm signal to get the hell out! That war is lost, hearts and minds all with it! No more pissing $10 billion a week into the toilet). Anyway, according to the Dpost article:

"Congress has told the FAA that it must allow civilian and military drones to fly in civilian airspace by 2015"

In other words, congress is inviting a slew of mid air collisions and near collisions! All for what? MONEY! Each drone that gets made and put into the skies will put lobbyist money in their pockets, likely from the "Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International"...the industry trade group that has pushed this bullshit down the FAA's throat and used congress as the Trojan Horse to do it....with billions of dollars of money in the background. You know how that works! ;

According to one government public relations manager for the same outfit, a Ben Gielow - who could barely control his drooling:

"The potential civil market for these systems could dwarf the military market in the coming years if we can get access to the airspace.."

Yes, and at what future cost in lives?

See, these capitalist grabbers make it to be about personal privacy, but while that is definitely a worry it pales beside the insecurity of air travel with thousands of these (mostly unregulated) things in the skies and no controls. It is also colossally stupid, when you have TSA officials doing everything to protect the flying public and meanwhile,....a huge gaping security hole ten miles wide opens up in the skies because our lawmakers are craven whores. Where's the sense in that?
Make no mistake all of this is driven by money! It is all about handouts to congress via lobbying by industry swine and then congress kowtowing to the swine to issue orders to the FAA to open up "air space"......errrr...... new capitalization opportunities and higher shares for the makers of these stupid unmanned drones. Even the Defense Dept. has bought in, but then they've always been the biggest whores for the defense contractors, drone makers. They insist:

"the demand for drones and their expanding missions requires routine and unfettered access to domestic airspace, including around airports...."

Just one question here, cheeseballs: WHO or what agency is going to regulate these fuckers to ensure they comply with flight safety parameters, guidelines and they don't careen into commercial aircraft? Or are you too blinded by the green stuff to see your way to an answer?

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Need a Hospital? Better Hope It Has NO Elite Enclaves

Where does Ms. One-percenter go when she bangs her big toe? Why, to the "amenities unit" of her local, taxpayer subsidized hospital!

Okay, a hypothetical question: Missy Marcus bangs her big toe on exiting her special one-percenter jacuzzi and believes she's sprained it. What does she do? Where does she go for treatment or succor? Dumb question! She heads directly - with all necessary shopping appliances, bags, etc. - to the nearest "amenities unit" of her city hospital.

These are special units, which often take up entire sequestered floors, which cater only to elite clientele. The personal pampering includes a personal concierge whose duty it is to take care of all tasks, large and small as well as shopping duties - say in case Missy needs a special pair of designer slippers, a new negligee (she obviously can't be expected to wear a .....gown!), a gold-embossed toothbrush or whatever.

If Missy resides in New York City, she'd likely make her way to the elite floor called "Eleven West" - an exclusive wing of New York's Mt. Sinai Medical Center, as recently reported by colmnist Jim Hightowe in a recent column ('Hospitals Offer Elite Services for Wealthy'). Quoting Eleven West's Director of Hospitality (ibid.):

"We pride ourselves on getting the patient anything she wants. If they have a craving for lobster tails, and we don't have them on the menu, we will go out and get them!"

Wowser! And I thought that designer water fall tables and special toilets equipped with automatic warming toilet seats, with special butt sprayers and driers were the limit for the 1%- e.g.

Seems I underestimated their pure hedonist quotients!

What else could Missy expect over her hospital stay? Well, for $2,400 a day (no biggie for an investment banker) : butlers, five -star meals (e.g. foie gras), marble baths, imported bed sheets, and even personal massages. Not to mention other goodies, e.g. special rose wine wraps and chocolate scrubs, for those with insurance and cash to burn - according to Hightower.

The terrible downside? From LA to New York all these elite wing hospitals are "drawing huge subsidies from us taxpayers" according to Hightower, and also - because so much space is taken up by the elites, regular 'economy class' patients are often relegated to gurneys in hallways (as my wife was several years ago when she experienced an attack of c. diff. and had to wait 3 hrs. to be seen).

But even more inexcusable is that these concierge-level hospital offerings are transmogrifying our health system -- perverting health care itself into a luxury commodity. No wonder that Mitt Romney feels he can justify raising the Medicare eligibility age to ....70!

The principle of the common good? What the hell ever happened to that? In the world of wolves and sheep, where the former are encouraged to consume the latter to increase "Pareto efficiency" ...we are all fucked. Except perhaps Missy, the One Percent Mistress as she makes her way to her 5-star meal in her custom suite - with marble bath waiting.

Atheists "Need Religion" for Community? Horse Manure!

In a nation already pretty well mind-gutted on account of the virus of "public relations" it stands to reason that deformed memes will huckster in on the back of PR, and soon evolve to become new implants. People tethered to their i-pods, i-pads or cell phones will then barely notice once the degenerate memes occupy mind space and what's left of civic space. We call this a memetic foothold, or mind virus foothold. We have seen it with ever increasing frequency over the past few years - from the efforts to insist or claim "happiness" is part of GDP, to Charles Murray's (in 'Coming Apart')notion that the white lower class or working class needs more religion to be redeemed of its moral defects including: too many children out of wedlock, refusal to marry, and males' refusal to work or work hard.

SO no surprise a new meme has cropped up: that atheists and secularists could see their lives prosper by incorporating some religious attributes, or even ally with a religion to prosper in life, and enhance one's morality. Puh-leeze! The grossest error of humankind was to ever believe or become convinced that any religion offered any self-consistent prescription for ethics or morality!

And where is all this offal to be found? Why in the book entitled: 'Religion for Atheists- A Non-Believer's Guide to the Uses of Religion', by Alain de Botton. Now, I must confess I lacked enough barf bags to be able to read this dreck, but did read the extended review of it in the WSJ ('Religion for Everyone', Feb 18-19, p. C1) which believe me was bad enough.

In fact as I've repeatedly said, there is one and only one use for religion: to incorporate into a Museum of Human Anachronisms, as testaments to the period when human brains, wills, critical thinking and autonomy were essentially under the domination of beliefs in fictional beings, fantasy places and corrupt authoritarians. The latter using the vehicles of sanctimony, faith and other hogwash to gain control of their respective flocks' mind, gonads, money .....or all three.

Leaving all the pfolderol out, the central argument (of both Botton and the WSJ reviewer) appears to be that secularists have no real options to counter the evident "eroded sense of community" that permeates our society and world. We are then, as driftwood cast off into stormy seas, each tossing about with little connection or control of our lives. As the WSJ reviewer puts it (I presume with tongue in cheek, or maybe not):

"Religion serves two central needs that secular society has not been able to meet with any particular skill: first, the need to live together in harmonious communities despite our deeply rooted and selfish impulses, second, the need to cope with the pain that arises from professional failure, troubled relationships, the deaths of loved ones and our own decay and demise".

My problem here is that both Botton and the reviewer offer a specious solution to a real problem: that of communities rent asunder and the tragic loss of civic space.

But in at least a dozen past blogs - see e.g. 'The Shredding of the Social Contract'

I noted exactly where the answers inhere. I also noted that they have nada to do with religion replacing secularism but with beating back a vicious, predatory economic system based on the parable of wolves getting to eat "sheep". (The Pareto distribution and optimality of Vilfredo Pareto).

It is THIS bestial system that has destroyed common cause, cooperation, common investment in fairness and economic justice and replaced it with a predatory jungle landscape where the social Darwinian's "Survivel of the fittest" precedes all other considerations. So, how could we not have an atomized society?

Moreover, since religions themselves are often part and parcel of this vicious economic network (check out the money changers and others doing business at the Vatican Bank, or better yet, look into its past) why expect they would offer any ways to change the situation. Hell, THEY are part of the problem!

And ask yourself WHY has civic space been steadily eroded? WHY? Why is it that the Occupy Wall Street movement has been driven from every city space its attempted to occupy? Well, because what they occupied was no longer civic space but corporate space! Civic space occupies - or had occupied- the mid ground between government and the rapacious private sector. In terms of set theoretics, imagine circles for ‘government’ and ‘private sector’ respectively – with large intersection of commonality between them. Civic space or the ‘set of civic society’ lies apart from the influence of these two.

It was where people in the past met and discussed common issues, or conducted protests or simply speechified.

No longer.

The tragedy of the 20th (and now 21st ) century is the tragedy of the civic commons. The gradual erosion of civil society and civic space (including as actual property) is largely eclipsed by corporate and market interests. Either in pursuit of state (or corporate) power, profits or both. Thus, political influence is purchased via the power of the purse (for example in lobbying) and laws enacted to favor these special interests. Laws which include usurpation of once common ground, common institutions for sharing ideas, or conducting political campaigns minus the corruption of money.

Now the confluence of government –market/corporate interests has forced those wishing to live within non-coercive spheres of influence to make a Hobson’s choice: Either to side with state power and ‘commandeering of individual rights’ or private power, and its extirpation of what remains of government and its advocacy for the non-elite segment of the populace (i.e. those unable to purchase political influence).

One can choose to be passively serviced (and servile) by a massive bureaucratic state wherein the word citizen has little or no resonance (until it’s election time) or submit to the selfishness and barbaric, radical individualism of the private sector – which extols the Social Darwinist refrain of ‘survival of the fittest’.

HOW has this come about or when did it commence? Look no further than the 1886 Santa Clara Supreme Court Decision which made all corporations "persons" under the 14 th amendment. Look to the 2009 Citizens United Supreme Court decision that solidified it, and effectively made corporations super-citizens by the power of their money-purses. For what single ordinary, flesh and blood citizen can compete with monsters that own whole networks and airwaves.

Getting up to screech on a park bench? Right!

The sense of community has been decimated all right, but there is no religion in the world that can repair that fracture or fill the social vacuum. By which I mean, real community - not the egregious temporary confection that surfaces once a week on Sundays when Catholics shake each others' hands or whatever it is they do now. And then every other day of the week do whatever they can to stab their neighbors in the back to get ahead in the rapacious "wolf eats sheep" economic system that plagues us all and forces us (via a stacked deck) to be the "sheep".

As for secular communities - they have more than ample options and that will occupy the content of a future blog!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Another Noonan Gasbag Moment!

Peggy Noonan (Declarations, 'Obama Above the Fray for Now', WSJ, p. A13 today) is incensed because American women are starting to catch on to Rick Santorum and the fact the GOP is waging war against them. While other conservo columnists (i.e. Kathleen Parker) have correctly pointed out that the GOP "lost it" by proposing a Virginia law that amounted to rape (an intra-vaginal ultra sound) Noonan doesn't get it at all. But what's new? Noonan has always had her pet GOP-advancing agenda, never mind how many millions of women will be irreparably hurt by it!

According to Noonan in her column, poor Rick Santorum is "trapped in a web laid by the administration's claim that the furor over the Obamacare mandate isn't about religious freedom and abortion drugs it's about crazy people trying to take away your contraceptives"

Well, duh! But in fact, Noonan cartoons the problem as is her modus operandi. The issue isn't that government officials will actually come in and seize contraceptives as if in some drug bust (though to hear and see Santorum's past statements that's still feasible) but that all contraceptive drugs...the pills. ..will simply be allowed to rise to astronomical price levels, via drug "tiers". It's done all the time, and one reason so many in Medicare's Part D prescription drug program, for example, end up in the 'donut hole". Case in point, my aciphex which has just been put up to tier one and now costs $460 for 90- pills, when three years ago they cost $50 for 30 pills. Do the math! That's $1.66 a pill to $5.11.

Now, consider that the Reeps needn't physically barge in and "take away" a woman's pills, merely make them so damned expensive (via negotiating with drug companies to put them in higher cost tiers) that they become unaffordable. Or worse, a liability - say if a woman believes she can only take them every other day. As for condoms and diaphragms, no surprise that some reeps once joked about lowering QA manufacturing standards to make it more probable that "the damned things will tear when least expected".

Then what? Well, one arrives at the GOOPer's fondest wish: accidental parenthood! Never mind they don't want to pay for child care or medical care after the kid is born! (That would require taxes!)

Thus, Noonan's next claim that:

"This is as big a lie as you can tell in politics, and a deeply mischievous one"

is simply bollocks. It definitely isn't a lie because Noonan doesn't want to believe it, or hear it, nor does it "only muddy the waters and adds a new layer of meaningless alarm"

Because make no mistake, American women have every right to be alarmed! The Virginia fiasco law of mandating a putative medical device to rape them in order to be allowed to have an abortion in that state, ought to have sounded five alarm bells. If it didn't, then American women are comatose - and that refers specifically to the younger ones in the 18-22 age category, who made a large difference in the 2008 elections and need to turn out again. Even if that means standing for hours in a state motor vehicle office to get a proper photo ID card.

American women simply cannot allow themselves to be lulled into false complacency by the likes of Peggy Noonan, then wake up when it's too late to discover Rick Santorum or Mitch Romney or Newtie Gingrich (via Executive order) has taken away all their physical and sexual autonomy - rendering them Gooper chattel. Or to put it another way: "Always subject to being barefoot and pregnant".

How far can these despicable cretins go? How far can they and an accessory church that used to help Nazis escape to South America go in attacking the women of this nation? I recall a conversation with German friends, former Wehrmacht soldiers, in May of 1985 who recounted horrific tales of what Hitler did under his "Reich laws". One of the first things was to make birth control a felonious crime in the Nazi dictatorship. The reason? To use any form of birth control was to defy the need for the Aryan state to provide members of the Master Race, and also to provide new soldiers for the Wehrmacht. Those women caught practicing it for any reason....were dispatched to the camps: Chelmno, Treblinka, Buchenwald. Often placed under the supervision of brutal female S.S. guards until they either perished of disease, torture, malnutrition, or in the gas chambers.

Now, I am not saying any Goop that gets in will go that far. However, if his party grabs all branches of the government it's not beyond the realm of possibility to believe any of them will be seriously emboldened to exercise even more extreme actions than rhetoric hitherto. What I am saying is we already know this party features extremists who've made their hatred and distrust of women abundantly clear. They couch and conceal that hatred in the language of "religious liberty" and freedom, but the subtext is pure hate different from what the Catholic Inquisitors met out to hundreds of thousands of women ...ripped and shredded over their torture racks and open pits.

My question then is, why give them ANY chance to wreak havoc on any woman, of any age? Why even remotely entertain the possibility of a new "Inquistion" directed at inflicting pain, shame and humiliation on those who are already up against it?

The Value of Airborne Surveys is Indisputable in Climate Science

A new paper in Eos Transactions of the American Geophysical Union ('Regular Airborne Surveys of Arctic Sea Ice and Atmosphere', Vol. 93, No. 4, 24 January, p. 41) really highlights the importance of aerial and satellite surveys in determining how the ocean, atmosphere and cryosphere are intertwined and especially how they impact global atmospheric and oceanic circulations in the climate cycle.

Of pre-eminent import has been the 'Polar Airborne Measurements and Arctic Regional Climate Model Simulation Project' (PMARCMiP) which featured precise measurements made over April, 2009 and 2011. Measurements were primarily made from the Alfred Wegener Institute's Polar 5 aircraft. Meanwhile, an existing network of Arctic meteorological sites served the logistical requirements of the missions.

The reason for investment of resources for such surveys is well known: The Arctic region is undergoing rapid climatic and environmental change most dramatically manifested in sea ice reduction - extent and thickness. As EOS report notes: "These changes are attributed to anthropogenic effects related to greenhouse warming."

One of the primary findings of the two surveys was that the modal thickness of old ice changed little between 2007 and 2009, but "in 2011 was significantly less". The latter campaign was also highlighted by coordination of observations with the European Space Agency's CryoSat-2 satellite mission. The latter included flyovers of several in situ sea ice "validation" sites. Readers who are interested can learn more here:

In the graphic appended, readers can see the blue (2009) and red (2011) flight tracks of the Polar 5 aircraft as well as an insert image of the plane. Also, pay particular attention to the legend at the lower right for ice concentration and the gradation of levels. This can be used to infer estimates of the sea ice concentration over the region, from Barrow, AK to Longyearbyen.

Based on the 2 successful survey missions, future plans are to include regular April missions over successive years to monitor inter-annual changes at the time of sea ice maximum extent. The ultimate goal is to obtain a better grasp of how the ice surface energy budget varies and in turn affects the distribution of sea ice cover.

Let us sincerely hope no budget cuts are in the offing, because these aerial flyovers are simply too important to place at the whim of the austerity hawks!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Why DO Reeps & Libbies Suffer from the Smart Idiot Syndrome?

For the past two years, as a member of both Mensa and Intertel I have had to challenge either articles, or opinions expressed (which often appear to be in the majority) that global warming is a "hoax" or "fraud". Now in Mensa we are talking about the top 2% of IQs or over 130-135 depending on which test is used. In Intertel we are talking of the top 1% of IQs or 135-142, again depending on which test (e.g. Stanford-Binet, Wechsler-Bellevue etc) is employed. So one would naturally expect that any given member of either of these groups would know what he or she is talking-writing about. Alas not! Led by their Libertarian ('Libbie') tendencies, most allow economics and Ayn Randianism to trump science and common sense and tow the line of FAUX News, the Heartland Institute, the Global Warming Coalition and other denier-flat Earth enclaves.

A classic case of what I am writing about appeared in The Mensa Bulletin of March, p.28, 2008, wherein regular contributor Marty Nemko asked ten questions of “climate change alarmists” . One of his questions was:

"If global warming is substantially man-made, why have CO2 concentrations increased in the last decade, yet the average global temperature hasn’t?"

Which disclosed he couldn't even get basic climate facts correct, since as I responded by citing report entitled: ‘Warm Oceans Raise Land Temperatures’, appearing in Eos Transactions, Vol. 87., No. 19, 19 May 2006, which noted:“

"It is recognized that land temperatures in recent years have consistently been above normal with indications that 2005 was the warmest year for globally averaged temperatures within the instrumental record.”

So one had to wonder where Nemko was gleaning his info. But then one beholds a question that embodies the very Randian heart of his Libbie mentality:

"Why should we spend many billions and greatly restrict freedoms when experts believe that even if global temperatures rise, efforts to slow it will fail?"

Showing once and for all Nemko's concerns aren't with the science but with economic effects and "loss of freedoms" - never mind the Earth becomes an inferno!

But this is typical of the "smart idiot" syndrome. Nemko is smart, he has to be in order to be registered Mensa material, but his Libbie tendencies allow his ideology to trump the scientific facts and thereby confect pseudo-scientific bollocks....except in the odd the preceding where he betrays his real intentions.

According to a 2008 Pew report (issued not far from when Nemko's jabber emerged) all or most of the intense divide in the U.S. over the reality of global warming is politically partisan in basis: political conservatives no matter how well educated (and even members of the High IQ societies such as Mensa and Intertel) don ‘t buy it (and believe they’re smarter than their peers for not doing so) while political independents and progressives (Democrats for the most part) do accept it.

This is genuinely maddening for bona fide climate scientists, since the advance of modern climate research (as I’ve shown in multiple recent blogs) has actually seen a paradoxical tendency for the educated sides to widen even further as the basic facts about global warming have become more firmly established. Those facts are these:

1)Since the Industrial Revolution, humans have been burning exponentially more fossil fuel to power their societies.

2)This has led to a steady accumulation of greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide, in the atmosphere.

3) CO2 derives its heat-retention properties via the vibrations associated with its molecule.

4) Its toll over time is assessed by the fact that its deposition -activity time is close to a century. This means that every ton of carbon or CO2 deposited continues its influence up to a century after entering the atmosphere. Also, each additional ton added multiplies the effect of the original amounts.

5) The cumulative effect by now is that we are adding 2 parts per million of CO2 concentration each year, to an existing concentration of ~ 374 ppm, with a runaway greenhouse effect threshold near 450 ppm. This means at the current level of demand we are barely 50 years from the runaway which has the potential to convert Earth to another Venus.

Now, the most mind disconcerting aspect of the Pew report is the bifurcation along political party lines. For Republicans, having a college degree is essentially useless (just as belonging to a High IQ society) in terms of appreciating the global warming threat. Worse, as they added education –including post –graduate, they didn’t appear to be any more open to what climate scientists have to say. Better-educated Republicans were more skeptical of modern climate science than their less educated peers. Only 19 percent of college-educated Republicans agreed that the planet is warming due to human actions, versus 31 percent of non-college-educated Republicans!
For Democrats and Independents, the opposite was the case. More education correlated with being more accepting of climate science—among Democrats, dramatically so. The difference in acceptance between more and less educated Democrats was 23 percentage points.

What the Hell is going on here? I think the explanation is relatively simple. The politically conservative and pseudo-Randian "Freedom" end of the political spectrum has been hijacked by agnotology to act as useful idiots for the economic fascists. These fascists don't give two shits about the planet, or the welfare of the billions that inhabit it, they're only concerned with securing their profit margins and the mobility of their capital. They (correctly) perceive that both would suffer if carbon limits were imposed, since the mobility and preservation of capital depends on energy - which in turn depends on the production of fossil fuel with carbon emitted as waste. Hence, limits to carbon deposition imply limits to profits and capital.

But....since financial fascists are fundamentally dishonest they couch their objections in terms of either restricted liberties (actually, the liberty to plunder the vulnerable to get their oil to generate their profit machines etc) or pseudo-science confected in one of their think tanks devoted to the purpose.

But at the end of it all, the bottom line is agnotology, public relations. Stanford historian of science Robert Proctor has referred to agnotology as the the trend of skeptic science sown deliberately and for political or economic ends - e.g. in imparting ignorance and faux skepticism. Derived from the Greek 'agnosis' and hence the study of culturally constructed ignorance, It is achieved primarily by sowing the teeniest nugget of doubt in whatever claim is made (and as we know NO scientific theory is free of uncertainty).

The key is that the doubt doesn't concern any underlying science, but rather creating a subterfuge by which to attack the science. Proctor notes that when a society doesn't know something it is often because special (often paid) interests have worked hard to sow immense confusion on the issue. People read 'A' then see 'B' ostensibly refuting it, and without a hard science background themselves (at least two years of university physics or chemistry plus calculus), are "lost at sea". Among the top machines for this purpose, are Faux News and its clones.

No surprise then that Tea Party members appear to be the worst of all. In a recent survey by Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, they rejected the science of global warming even more strongly than average Republicans did. But then, since they consume the agnotology of Faux News more faithfully than any other demographic, why express surprise?

As for Marty Nemko, and his fellows in Mensa and Intertel, as well as the thousands of Reepo Ph.D.s who reject global warming, it is likely due in part to agnotology and in part pseudo-intellectual skepticism combined with a large dollop of false pride. I also behold this phenomenon on the astonomy site, where more than a few "experts" have fallen into the comforting trap of global warming denial while believing they are really the ones "in the know". Alas, they are fooling themselves and only disclosing they don't know dot.

The hard fact is that the REAL climate scientists, not pretenders or wannabes, accept the factuality of global warming. Indeed, the extent of scientific consensus on global warming was revealed in a survey report (Eos Transactions, Vol. 90, No. 3, p. 22) authored by P. T. Doran and M. Kendall-Zimmerman who found that (p. 24)

the debate on the authenticity of global warming and the role played by human activity is largely non-existent among those who understand the nuances and scientific basis of long-term climate processes.”

Alas....Marty Nemko, probably most of Mensa, Intertel and the Repuke post-graduate brigade are not included among "those who understand the nuances and scientific basis of long-term climate processes.”

Seething at Soaring Gas Prices? Blame the Speculators!

As American drivers are barely coming to grips with some semblance of an improving economy, soaring gas prices threaten to wreck it all! In California gas prices have soared to over $5 a gallon , emptying people's wallets at the rate of $70-100 per fill up. In other parts the prices approach $4 a gallon and at the rate of increase may well hit California's rates within weeks. What the hell gives?

Though some immature drivers have vented their frustrations at actual gas station attendants, or owners, they are not the cause - earning maybe 10 cents on every gallon sold, if that. The real culprits are speculator parasites hiding behind flashing screens in air conditioned offices on Wall Street making "bets" on the upward futures costs of oil, and thereby driving the costs upwards for all of us. It has not one damned thing to do with the law of supply and demand.

By some independent estimates, up to 30% of the current per barrel price of oil is due exclusively to speculation by institutional traders in the oil commodities market. These institutional outfits often include pension funds, who put their members future welfare and livelihoods at grave risk especially if the oil prices should crash. If Oil is currently at $107 a barrel it would mean that minus speculative influence it be about $77 a barrel and the current $3.60 for a gallon of gas would likely recede to $3.10 or even $3.00 or lower if the speculation was controlled.

The key is "controlled"! To his credit, Brad Chilton, head of the Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) has brought this to Americans' attention - last night, on the ABC Newscast, and vows to crack down on the casino operator traders and their slimey ilk. And what was Wall Street's response? To threaten to sue the CFTC!!! Obviously, the bastards have a good thing going, just like the speculators who drove our economy into the ditch using credit derivatives in 2008, so they don't want any authority mucking it up.

Of course, the speculators and their apologists and protectors in the financial media don't wish to hear this, nor do they appreciate the daylight cast upon their activities. Indeed, in the last such go-round, in 2009, I counted no less than eight counter-attacks (in The Economist, The Wall Street Journal and The Financial Times) against any remote suggestions of making the speculators "scape goats". Much umbrage was taken and editorial ink and bile spilled, but I saw little to convince me the speculators were the "angels" depicted: the "guardians" charged with controlling things in the futures markets for the public good.

To which I say, 'Bah', 'Codswallop!' and 'Humbug!" All they are protecting is their own bank accounts, just like the notorious Enron energy traders did back in 2000, when they'd tank the electric supply in California to raise it on a whim, in order to get back at "granny"! Again, nothing to do with actual supply.

The problem with speculative enclaves such as commodities, futures markets is they're mostly hidden away from public view, so they are able to conduct their shenanigans beyond the scrutiny of the public mind. G.P. Brockway (The End of Economic Man, Harpers, 1991) noted that before about fifty years ago one had roughly equal 'productive' and 'speculative' economies based on Main St. and Wall Street. Real productivity kept growing because real investment was made in hands-on materials, plant, research and labor. Most everyone benefited, including workers - via real (defined benefits) pensions (not '401ks') as well as higher wages, and companies that produced REAL goods.

Sometime after Reagan was canonized, in the 1980s, the speculative economy (which up until then had been kept in the background) began to take control. Much of this became possible through de-regulation, especially of the banking system. The effect was to shift enormous volumes of capital from Main Street to Wall Street.

The odious advance of this speculative cancer, the degree to which it has our nation by the balls, was recently addressed in the UTNE Reader article(p. 40, March-April), 'Gilding the Big Apple', by Christopher Ketcham. Ketcham cites a December, 2010 Fiscal Policy Institute report noting that "New York City is now at the forefront of maldistribution of wealth in the hands of the few". No wonder, since NYC is the cornerstone of speculation. Most of its top 1 percent, as the piece notes, have average annual incomes of $3.7 million. During the last year for which stats are available (2007) they took for themselves 44% of all income. This compares to 23.5% of income for the one percent nationally.

Here's another astounding fact made known in the piece: Despite 9 million New Yorkers, the top income people comprised only 34,000 households and 90,000 people. Meanwhile, NYC's middle income earners experienced a 19% decrease in earnings, and almost 11 percent of the city's populaton or 900,000 live in "deep poverty". Meanwhile, "50 percent of the city's populace have incomes below $50,000."

According to the FPI:

"The wealth of the one percenters (in NYC) derives almost entirely from the operations known as 'financial services' whose preoccupation is something called 'financial innovation'"

In other words, they are useless parasites! They do not, even like John Galt- the erstwhile hero of the Libertarians' 'Atlas Shrugged', create or build anything. Their "product" is speculative devices: dervatives, credit default swaps, ETFs and other bilge, none of which constructively contributes but which serves only to obscure investment quality and hoodwink the innocent into gambling their money away on "structured investment vehicles" (sic) or other rancid crap, they know nothing about. At the heart of much this, the "quants" - the Ph.D. refugees from math and physics who opted to go for the cash and trade in their talents to the Dark side.

Another disgusting fact presented: The 20 largest financial institutes in the U.S., almost all based in NYC, now control upward of 70 percent of the country's financial assets- roughly double of what they controlled in the 1990s.

And the saddest fact of all? It's all based on quicksand! Because unless a major portion of those assets (at least $2.7 TRILLION, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers) is plowed into infrastructure repair and rebuilding our water mains, sewer lines, bridges etc.. it is all useless. We will end up being the "richest" (on paper) 3rd world nation in history. Little different from the homeowner who wins the Publishers' Sweepstakes contest, but opts to do nothing while his basement rots away from black mold.

It was Kevin Phillips, in his superb book Arrogant Capital, who first noted that whenever an empire or nation is in decline, rampant speculation preceded it. Monetary gaming and the creation of dubious speculative devices always dominated over all else and drove the economy. Such was the case with the 16th century Dutch, as with the British at the end of the 19th century. It is as true today in the U.S.A.

Thus, for every percentage point that "finance" claims a higher portion of the country's financial assets, it is another nail in our national coffin. If Mr. Chilton, or Mr. Obama, can do anything to rein in the speculators, it redounds to the national benefit!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Remembering Benoit B. Mandelbrot

This blog remembers the enormous mathematical contributions of Benoit B. Mandelbrot who died on Oct. 14, 2010. Mandelbrot is best known for coining the term "fractal", developing their basis in power law scaling and applying them to a broad range of natural processes, geophysics as well as astrophysics. He is best known for his books, including The Fractal Geometry of Nature.

Attached to this blog is one type of fractal I generated using a simple program. All such fractals are generated via a self-similarity property that enables us to compute them via repeated iterations. One can easily see from this that the self-similarity replicating property repeats at smaller and smaller scales. (Hint: Save the graphic, then click on it to "zoom in" at various points especially near the center, but also toward the periphery).

Two years ago, I showed how Mandelbrot's creations could be applied in cosmology, and specifically to a fractal dimension. Thus, the universe may well not be four dimensional, or five dimensional, but fractal dimensional with the dimension non-integer, say between 4 and 5. In the case of the cosmos at large, one generally wishes to examine concentric spheres of radii: R1, R2, R3....RN and assess using these radii the density of objects within, assuming a hierarchical configuration. In the most abstract sense then, the cosmos' fractal dimension will depend on regularity between successive expansions factors k, k', such that the dimension will be:

D = (log k')/ (log k)

and one uses radii: r_n = k_n r_o

where the cosmic radius r_o contains N_o objects, and r_1 contains N_1 objects, r_2 contains N_2 objects and so forth. In each rn we assign what we call "strata" and "sub-strata" for both particles-objects and cosmic space. It's important to understand at least in a general way how the boundaries apply between sphere radii. We take a prosaic example to try to illustrate the separation of substrata-strata by radii and also by fractal dimension.

To fix ideas, let the zeroth radius r_o = 1 pc or 1 parsec (3.26 light years). Let it possess N_o = 1 (1 object, say a star). Then we go to r_1 = 10 pc and N_1 = 100. Then, r_2 = 1000 pc, and N_2 = 10,000. If one truncates the data right here, then we can establish the expansion factor using the last two r-values:

r_2 = k_n x r_o = (1000) r_o = 10^3 (r_o)

r_1 = k_n x r_o = (10) r_o = 10^1 (r_o)

From this we determine:

D = log k3/ log k1 = 3

Note, however, that if r_2 = 1500 pc (same objects interior) then D = 3.17 and we have a true fractal dimension. A sketch comparing an "ideal" cosmic fractal and a real sector with a computed value (right, based on an early estimate obtained by Vaucouleurs (SCIENCE, Vol. 167, 1970, p. 1203) for the cosmos, of f_d = 1.8 is also shown.

This can actually be approximated using a similar process to what I showed, and a normalizing constant A= N_o/ r_o^D.

Many other astrophysical areas opened up with the application of fractals and I will show some of those over the next month.

Mandelbrot received 21 prizes and awards over his rich academic life, including the Wolf Prize for Physics, in 1993, the Lewis Fry Richardson Medal of the European Geophysical Society in 2000 and the Japan Prize in 2003.

Rick Santorum: Now Trafficking in Demonology!

Bottom: The Demon "brothers" Gaap (left) and Focalor, who were part of the Hierarchy of Demons drawn up by Catholics in the Middle Ages. Perhaps Santorum knows a few things about these entities?

We already knew basically that Rick Santorum was a screwball, e.g.

But now as word comes in that he's referencing "Satan" in his sanctimonious moral tirades, it can be concluded the guy is desperate or really gone off the cliff. Why the need to introduce a fictitious character of supernatural origins when the women of child -bearing age in this country are already under assault from flesh and blood demons - namely the Reepos! Fortunately, American women are only now waking up to what these fiends have in store for their bodies and their autonomy!

As reported in the latest Utne Reader ('Aborted Rights', March-April, p. 11) while the Choice proponents have mostly slept, anti-abortionists have "succeeded in passing 52 new restrictions in 24 states" - the primary ones associated with mandating that all women considering having an abortion first have an ultra-sound - during which a physician-obstetrician lectures her on the "new life" visible (never mind it is essentially a parasite that can't exist independently) and which adds $500 to the cost of the abortion.

As smart women's rights critics have pointed out, this is meant to do nothing more than intimidate and shame women in a bold faced effort to deter them from the procedure. Is it being mandated out of moral rectitude? No, but rather out of immoral piggery.

Indeed, Repukes in the VA legislature had put up an ultrasound law mandating that every woman who wanted an abortion first submit to an intra-vaginal ultrasound! One Reepo slimeball, quoted last night on "Ed' Show" (MSNBC) by an NOW activist, actually had the nerve to defend the proposed law by asserting: "Well, they already've had something in there already so what's the big deal with having something else?"

Fortunately, women in the state caught wind of the pig's remarks and the suggested law and let loose holy hell forcing the governor to back away See more at:

But make no mistake, these are Santorum's ideological "blood brothers"! If this SOB gets in you can be sure that not only will such horrendous and invasive procedures be invoked as a way to bully and terrorize women, but also other threats will surface if they even try to use birth control. After all, according to Rick, birth control is Satan's friend! It enables and allows immoral sexual conduct without any consequences, like having babies! Correction, Rick: It allows autonomously chosen sexual conduct without having to worry about needing abortions later ....because one can't afford the fiscal, emotional and other costs of accidental fertilization.

But no, to Santorum and his Catholic and other knuckle-dragger cronies it's mainly about "Satan"- eliciting the question: Do we really, REALLY want any guy whose brain is steeped in the Dark Ages anywhere near the "football" bearing the nuclear response codes? I don't think so!

In his book, ‘The History of the Devil’, Dr. Paul Carus observes that “demoniality, or Devil-worship, is the first page in the evolution of religion" . Carus opines that before the most primitive religions can erect a positive gestalt they must first define what it is they're against, to get the most bang for the buck. To get people into the fold first, then maybe notch it down later. Thus, demoniality or "Satan worship" is the first base for all primitive, psychotic belief systems.

Why are Satan-Hell-believing religions Satanist? As Lauran Paine has noted (‘The Hierarchy of Hell’, Barnes & Noble, 1972, p. 140), the erosion of Church power almost exactly paralleled the demise of the long –enduring “orders and hierarchies” of Hell. These had been put together by clerics and Church authorities from the time of Aquinas and made use of dozens of Satanic entities including: Asmodeus, Belial, Asiel, Gaap, Raum, Sitri, Focalor and dozens of others – each presiding over an order or level of Hell. (Two of these denizens, Focalor and Gaap- are depicted in the lower graphic - and who knows, maybe Santorum is channeling these fiends of the netherworld to formulate future tirades!)

Thus, a full Satanic belief system with its ordered hierarchies was so entrenched by the 14 th century, when The Malleus Maleficarum was written, that indeed – one was regarded as a heretic or atheist if one didn’t accept it! Hence, the belief in Hell and its denizens amounts to Satanism.

Hence, if one resurrects it now, even as part of a political campaign he must by definition be a Satanist.

Note again, that the generic standard Catholic belief (ibid.) was that “there was God and there was Satan”, the latter had dominion over the Earth and the former over everything else. Given Catholicism's Manichean roots, it thus made perfect sense why this religion would most often associate the "flesh" with demoniality and with females in particular. It was most often the females who endured the most vicious tortures by the Inquisitors which always included assault on their sex organs by dozens of different implements - pliers, pincers, blades..rods...often heated in an open pit first.

One historically aware of these offenses against the fairer sex (as open described in Henry Lea's book on "The Inquisition") would therefore quickly see the analogy to the "intra-vaginal" ultra sound Virginia's GOOP demons had proposed to use on women wanting abortions. The mindset of forcible submission that characterized the Catholic Inquisitors, is on full parallel display with the VA lawmakers, as well as Santorum and anyone else who even approves of non-invasive ultra-sounds. Because, see, the end objective is the same: to shame and humiliate women.

Hopefully, the gradual awakening of American women to the mounting threats against them by these latter day Satanist- Inquisitional, hypocritical moralizers, will produce a bounty at election time that will translate to an even bigger landslide for Barack Obama!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

"Chern surfaces" Have Wide Applicability

Chern surfaces, developed for use in global differential geometry, don't exactly roll off the tongue or conjure up cocktail table discussions, but they have immense importance in math as well as in physics. Developed by Shiing-Shen Chern, the Chern class number to be associated with a given surface was originally conceived as the number of times a closed surface could be wrapped around another closed surface. Before getting to a physics application, let's consider the math origins.

Basically these can be traced to the polyhedral theorem of Leonard Euler. The Table shown with representative polyhedra can serve as a basis for a more concrete appreciation. Starting from the left a distinct polyhedron is identified (e.g. tetrahedron) then simply illustrated in a no frills way, then its vertices (V), edges (E) and faces (F) identified before giving the "Euler characteristic" E in the final column on the right. This is given by the simple form: V - E + F.

Thus, the tetrahedron with V = 4, E = 6 and F = 4 will have characteristic:

V - E + F = (4) - (6) + (4) = (-2) + (4) = 2

As one can see from the table, Euler's theorem basically asserts the same number, 2, results for all cases in which his formula is applied - whether for regular or irregular convex polyhedra. Obviously, the more faces, vertices, edges added the more the particular surface is smoothed out to approacy a sphere (e.g. with infinite edges, faces) then one has the Euler theorem transferring to the Gauss- Bonnet theorem, formulated and proven in the 19th century.

Now, a simple physics application of the Chern surface and class number is to Bohr "quantization", such as depicted in the accompanying graphic for two cases: left - where the quantization is not satisfied (i.e. the outer wave surface doesn't complete itself an integral number of times around a given Bohr orbit, and right - the case where it does, leading to the quantum number (n) being identified with the integer number of waves completed, in this case 4.

The beauty is that the radius is scaled into n (standing) waves of de Broglie wavelength L(D). A visual reference for this wave-orbiting electron atom can be represented as shown in the same right side of the graphic, with the de Broglie wavelength spanning the distance between successive "humps", and emphasizing that an integral number of such wavelengths form the circumference of the atomic orbit, as required by 2π r = n L(D). By extension of the concept of these standing waves, but for different n and r, one can arrive at the probabilistic wave model of the atom.

In a later blog, we will explore the uses of Chern's discoveries as applied to some differential geometry!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Payback Really IS a Bitch!

Many blog readers will recall two years ago when all hell broke loose after innominate hackers broke into the email directories of Michael Mann of Univ. of Pennsylvania and climate research collaborators at Univ. of East Anglia in Great Britain to try to reveal a "climate gate"scandal concealing a "hidden agenda". Of course, the Neo-liberal, corporate-coopted media picked up on a lot of this kerfuffle because, let's face it, they always get a hard-on for conflict - never mind the underlying issues.

So again, they framed it as a "Gotcha!" moment with the Denier faction "striking back" against those pointy-headed climate scientist nerds that really have the evidence for warming but just want to keep deniers out of their precious journals! Never mind that all this turned out to be mostly a storm in a teacup.

For exmple, Myles Allen of Oxford University, quoted in a Financial Times article from July 29, 2010, observed 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."

Meanwhile, according to an EOS Transactions article on the outcome ('Report on Climate Change Emails Exonerates Scientists', Vol. 91, No. 29, July 20, 2010):

"The report (Commissioned by the University of East Anglia) specifically refutes a number of concerns raised about tampering with scientific data and notes that allegations about CRU (Climate Research Unit) scientists misusing the IPCC's process 'cannot be upheld'"

The American Geophysical Union's own take on the email flap was even more blunt and to the point, reported in December, 2009, noting:

"The AGU finds it offensive that these emails were obtained by illegal cyber attacks, then exploited to distort the scientific debate about the urgent issue of climate change".

Now it appears that payback has arrived, at least on one of the funded denier outfits, The Heartland Institute. According to a news brief making today's Denver Post (p. 7A), a prominent environmental activist, researchers and blogger - Peter H. Gleick - used subterfuge to obtain and distribute "confidential" internal materials from Heartland, which is dedicated to spreading lies on global warming which they dare call "questioning". ( many cranks today are still "questioning" the sphericity of the Earth and the fact it orbits the Sun, not the converse? Well, maybe Rick Santorum, but not many others!)

Basically, Gleick didn't commit the terrorist act of actually hacking into a system as the rogue predators who obtained material from Michael Mann and East Anglia did. Rather he resorted to the simple expedient of posing as someone else to get the materials which included strategy and fund raising documents as well as the outline of a plan for major "greenwashing" by delivering "educational materials" to elementary school students to try to disabuse them of the global warming paradigm.

The last echoes earlier green washing efforts (cf. Polluters in the Classroom, by Chris Bedford, in Chesapeake Newsletter, The Sierra Club, May/June, 1998, p. 1), noting:

"Ironically, the polluting corporations contending that environmental education turns kids into 'green-eyed monsters' are dumping misinformation into our classrooms. For example, a video Exxon distributes rewrites the history of the worst oil spill ever as a 'great test for their cleanup equipment'."

Other green washing initiatives noted in the same piece included:

-The American Coal Foundation's 'Power from Coal'

-Proctor and Gamble's 'Planet Control'

-The Chlorine Institute's 'Welcome to Block City'

-Dupont's 'Less Is More - Learning About Source Reduction'

The principle operative throughout, the byword as it were, is that "every teachable moment is an advertising moment." And, in the same voice, the message is launched that ecological concerns are misplaced hysteria, or 'mythologies'.

And what, pray tell, was the response of the right wing reactionary financial press to Gleick's expose? Well, it was found in today's WSJ Editorial, 'The Not So Vast Conspiracy' noting that from available documents, Heartland is going to get barely "$7.7 million this year" - which they contend is toddly squat to the World Wildlife Fund which took in $238.5 million last year.

But this compares chalk and cheese.

First of all, only a minor portion of WWF's funds actually goes to climate research or education. If the total is $10 million, I'd be amazed. As a steady recipient of their literature, I see most (99%) is devoted to saving this or that species on the verge of extinction, from certain monkeys in Madasgascar to Polar Bears to Bengal Tigers. Thus, their emphasis is not on the climate aspect so much.

Second, there are many dozens of denier outfits apart from Heartland which the WSJ dares not mention, including:The Global Warming Coalition (definitiely funded by Big Oil and the fossil fuel0coal lobbies which investment the WSJ denies), The George C. Marshall Institute, which is a haven for publishing "research" by dedicated denier "scientists" such as Willie Soon and Sallie Baliunas- who in a 2003 paper used 50-year data increments to conceal a CO2 warming effect, when the IPCC scientists already disclosed anthropogenic warming appears at 30 -year increments.

We refer to this as selection bias.

Then there is the American Enterprise Institute, which offered and as far as I know continues to offer, $10,000 per article to denier "scientists" to question global warming, the IPCC, or any adjuncts of them to do with climate research.

Above all, the WSJ conveniently omits the massive benefits in brain (green-)washing redounding to all the reactionary think tanks and their denier participants, politicos each time one publishes (for FREE) a syndicated column extolling or applauding global warming skepticism. It is such columns that we put into the category of public relations, not genuine information or scientific knowledge. (For more on the PR industry get the book, 'Toxic Sludge is Good for You' now available used on for pennies).

Thus, we have a large interlinked network of deniers, including all the above named think tanks, plus American Heritage Foundation, Hudson Institute, Hoover Institute, CATO Institute and many others linked in common cause to try to baffle Americans with their flat Earth bullshit. Putting all of them together, I daresay the monetary -funding benefits accrued rival the WWF, the Natural Resource Defense Council and many progressive outfits by at least 5-1 in terms of bang for the buck delivered. (Certainly, I seldom if ever see a column in the Denver Post or anywhere composed by someone from the WWF or NDRC, as often as I see denier bunkum from a hack hailing from one of the reactionary tanks like CATO)

As I've stated in earlier blogs, I wouldn't have so much of a problem if these denier networks just came out and openly stated they fear the economic costs of carbon limits and taxes, and THAT is why they are actively fighting the IPCC, the AGU, the NOAA and others in the scientific - reality based - realm. Their campaigns then, are based on preservation of finance capital and profits, as opposed to any science!

Hence, don't come back with half-baked, specious mumbo-jumbo based on "sunspots", "natural warming cycles", "cosmic rays", or other bull pockey that seeks to challenge the established science with pseudo-science and piffle while insisting that the "warming mongers are doing it for the money-grants". Believe me, folks, the grant money isn't all that much and pales beside what the capitalist think tanks get each year - including freebie space in the mainstream press under the guise of 'syndicated columns" offered by the think tanks!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Santorum Has No Clue About REAL Christianity (2)

We left off in the previous blog challenging Rick Santorum's contention that President Barack Obama "supports a phony theology, not based on the Bible."

But as I showed, if one goes to actual sources of revelation in scripture, one arrives at a moot dead end, because nearly every major theological question has both 'yes' and 'no' answers, hence no self consistent theology really exists! In a way this isn't too surprising, since as Biblical scholar John Dominic -Crossan has observed ('The Historical Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant', p. 422) that Yeshua's

"strategy, implicitly for himself and explicitly for his followers, was the combination of free healing and common eating, a religious and economic egalitarianism that negated alike and at once the hierarchical and patronal normalcies of Jewish religion and Roman power"

In other words, "economic egalitarianism" was at the heart of this great Rabbi's message, as well as the implicit subtext, 'do no harm to others'. Yehsua then, was an "Augustan Hippie" to use Crossan's apt description, who dunned the outward forms of theology as well as morality in favor of an intrinsic adherence to self-knowledge, truth and shared resources. Hence, his emphasis on "common eating" wherein even a small repaste would be divided equally between all those present.

The original Socialism!

Even more importantly (Crossan, ibid.):

"And lest he himself be interpreted as simply the new broker of a new God, he moved on constantly, settling down neither at Nazareth or Capernaum. He was neither broker nor mediator but, somewhat paradoxically, the announcer that neither should exist between humanity and divinity or between humanity and itself. Miracle and parable, healing and eating were calculated to force individuals into unmediated physical and spiritual contact with God and unmediated physical and spiritual contact with one another.

He announced, in other words, the borderless kingdom of God."

In other words, Yeshua boldly repudiated mediators! No priest, bishop, cardinal or pope (the bulwarks of Santorum's Catholic hierarchy) were to impede or obstruct the direct channels from humans to the divine or vice versa. THIS was the REAL theology taught, and that the immanent divine was as close to the follower as the beautiful rose, the starlit sky overhead, or the great mountains in the distance. In other words, spiritual contact extended directly to the world of nature which ....after all....was a reflection of the divine nature. (Hence, Yeshua's references to the sparrows of the air and "lilies of the field" etc. )

Again, unmediated contact was the rule, as opposed to priests and their associates impeding such contact. In this sense, one can therefore see it is Santorum who upholds the false theology or the phony one. Indeed, if Yeshua were alive today one could almost hear him say: "Be gone from me, thou whited sepulchre! Thou Pharisee!"

In Crossan's final conclusion, Jesus was a "peasant Jewish Cynic". (As Crossan points out, p. 421, a 'Cynic' embodied "a life-style and mindset in opposition to the cultural heart of Mediterranean civilization, a way of looking and dressing, of eating and living and relating, that announced its contempt for honor and shame, for patronage and clientage. ....Hippies in a world of Augustan yuppies.")

Little wonder then that Jesus' habits would infuriate not only Jewish orthodoxy but the Roman government. Leading ultimately to their ultimate attacks for what they'd have perceived as "subversion" of the Empire. Not surprisingly, those same orthodoxy upholders - like Santorum today - view Obama in an analogous way for their perception that he- Obama - is not adhering to an orthodoxy they regard as supreme.

But in fact, Obama is closer to the truth than any of those, whether Cardinals like Timothy Dolan, or their lap dogs such as Rick Santorum.

For example, just as Yeshua's economic egalitarianism was reflected in his practice of common healing and common eating, Obama's economic egalitarianism has been reflected in his Patient and Affordable Care Act which enables every American in every walk of life to obtain the health care he or she needs. In addition, his call for the wealthiest to assume greater tax burdens discloses his awareness of how an insidious inequality is destroying our Republic from within - by causing people to trust each other less and less. Yeshua would be proud!

Lastly, Santorum claimed that "radical environmentalists share Obama's world view that elevates the Earth above man and says we can't use those resources because we're going to harm the Earth"

Which is bare bollocks! Indeed, this passage -quote of Santorum's shows he possesses such a stupendous ignorance that he has no business even thinking about being President.

Further, NO "radical environmenalist" asserts or claims the "Earth is above man" but rather the Earth is the sole finite habitation that can provide for human life....but only if there is proper, judicious stewardship of its resources. If we squander those resources now, owing to an immediate greed, there will be nothing left for future generations...including drinkable water.

In other words, the Earth's resources are the basis for supporting human life! Destroy that basis, that limited abode ...and you take out human life with it. In effect, our lives as humans are inextricably bound to the resources on this little orb. Divest "Spaceship Earth" of its finite supplies, or overpopulate that "ship" so that the supplies are inadequate, and all perish!

This is not a novel concept but an ancient one predicated on judicious stewardship. This concept is called Oikonomia, from the Greek meaning "preservation of the household". The central notion is that all strands of the World Web of Life are equally important. No strand is primary or pre-eminent to exclusion of all others. If the human strand is designated superior, in order to justify the extermination or consumption of all other strands, then the whole life web collapses with humans along with it.

Oikonomia regards the Earth as a finite, unitary whole. That is, while limited in terms of resources, it is nonetheless interconnected, e.g. sea water evaporates to form clouds, which later transit land to deposit rain, etc. Interlocked with this concept of 'unitary finitude' is a related one: the Earth is here solely for humankind's temporary use, not wholesale exhaustion (including irreversible pollution) of resources.

Further, the ethic of the shared household implies resources are accessible to all inhabitants equally - including those not yet born! This demands judicious harvesting, husbanding and distribution of resources. The objective is long term: to ensure that future generations can use them also.

The view above is opposed to the imperative of short term gain: the 'profit-over-all else' ethic. In the long term perspective it is unthinkable that global resources, including timberlands, atmosphere and oceans, be exclusively earmarked for development and formation of capital. Such a mindset is inherently selfish since it exalts its own well-being to absolute status. At the same time, future generations are condemned to destitution and deprivation. It is flawed because it elevates one strand or 'strand segment' over the whole web of life. The imperative of Oikonomia is to engage a familial dynamic. This brings the strands back into balance with each other.

In this context, it is Santorum's theology which is both odious and pathological. It would dismiss the well being of billions in order to hyper-populate one religion, using the ruse of "prohibiting artificial birth control". In this way, the Catholics think they can win in their blatantly demographic "contest for world conquest" (i.e. outdo the others by sheer numbers) but fail to see they will take everything and everyone down with them. Pyrrhic victory, anyone?

This is why Obama's birth control mandate must be allowed to go through because it recognizes the greater good that redounds to the benefit of us all. Santorum and his sanctimonious apologists, including Catholic Bishops, cannot be allowed to have the final say...whether over women's bodies...or the welfare of not yet born humans. Humans who will curse us to their dying day if we end up leaving them only a barren, hellish husk of a world with nothing to eat.....or even drink.