Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Most Loathsome, Destructive Tax Cut: So WHY Do Dems Support it?

I continue to scratch my head at how the Democrats operate, and wonder what they are really invested in, and especially whether they truly support the Middle Class of this country. Here's one of my head-scratchers: We know some 4,000 Boomers a day are filing into the Social Security system to collect their benefits, so WHY are the Dems proposing to keep this god-forsaken payroll tax cut when the payroll taxes are what support Social Security funding?

Don't they have any sense? Can't they see they are essentially enabling the consumption of their own seed corn in terms of social benefits (mistakenly called "entitlements") to the Middle and working classes? Thus, the news in today's WSJ article ('GOP Set to Back Payroll Tax Cut', p. A4) that the Dems not only wish to extend this payroll tax holiday but reduce it to 3.1% of payroll tax, is both appalling and infuriating.

First, because NONE of these damned tax cuts work - there's no evidence for any of them helping to fuel the economy, and second, because you are giving the Repukes future ammo to use against Social Security and to justify cutting benefits because "it's not paying for itself any more". So hey! No wonder the GOP would back this dimwit plan! They will back any tax cuts...because they know any of them ultimately increase deficits and help starve government....and especially PAYROLL taxes!

So no wonder Mitch McConnell has stated(ibid.):

"I think at the end of the day, there's a lot of sentiment for continuing the payroll tax relief"

But the existing "relief" is costly, to the tune of $170 billion defunded from Social Security each year, at time when the strain on the system is magnifying via Baby Boomer retirements. Add in all those now taking Social Security disability (because they can no longer collect unemployment benefits) and you have the makings of a disaster.

Thus, inquiring minds are led to ask why the party which instituted Social Security is now having a stake in sealing its demise by their cowardly and blatant vote-pandering when what we need now is ADULTS. We need adults to tell the American people that NO tax cuts are affordable, neither for the rich or the Middle Class, given the deficit-austerity environment.

And further, that Americans cannot have their cake and it eat it! If they receive tax cuts, whether via payroll tax cuts or the Bush tax cuts, then their future social benefits are in jeapordy. The reason is that any of these tax cuts effectively raise the deficits to such levels that make extending benefits without draconian cuts impossible.

In this sense, blogger Richard Eskow's take is spot on ('The Long Game: Payroll Taxes, HOstage Taking and Social Security')

when he writes:

"By proposing to expand and extend this 'holiday,' Democrats have bypassed more efficient ways to help the economy, and have once again endangered Social Security. And by demanding tax breaks for millionaires while blocking them for the middle class, Republicans have once again demonstrated their willingness to blow up the economy for self-serving purposes."

But the DEMs are ALSO self-serving! Indeed, they know the payroll tax holiday has already cost big money and will be amped up to well over $250 b next year if the expanded payroll tax cuts (down to 3.1%) and employer cuts go through. So no wonder they are very likely in the process of making a deal for a Social Security COLA reduction, or as Eskow notes:

" a Social Security benefit cut that both the White House and some other Democrats (including Dick Durbin) have been pushing all along. They call it an 'adjustment,' but their proposed method for calculating cost of living (COLA) adjustments is a benefit cut, pure and simple, that would lower an already-inadequate formula and take money out of people's pockets. It will probably be revived in these debates."

In other words, the Dems are guilty of giving you money (payroll tax cuts) with their right hands, and robbing it with their left! (Via proposed COLA adjustments)

How can anyone consider such a political climate as anything other than batshit crazy?

The sanest move now is to halt ANY further tax cuts forthwith. Start with letting all the payroll tax cuts expire, and then all the Bush tax cuts. Better that than tens of millions having to raid dumpsters for the next thirty or forty years!

Oh, one final point in all this: the phony argument that cutting payroll taxes "makes no difference because no special accounts exist" e.g. for Social Security ( including special Trust Fund accounts), and government can "move money any way it wants", is bollocks. To quote from the original (1935) Social Security Act:

"It shall be the duty of the Secretary of the Treasury to invest such portion of the amounts credited to the Account as is not, in his judgment, required to meet current withdrawals. Such investment may be made only in interest -bearing obligations of the United States or in its obligations guaranteeed as to both principal and interest by the United States."

In other words, the matter is not simply one of finding "offset" cuts (as the 'pukes wish to do) to pay for the payroll cuts, but government itself being prepared to pay back what's allowed to be used from those payroll taxes, and with INTEREST! In a high deficit environment it's just a foolish fiscal move, and not one worth the minimal economic gain that the pols promise!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Is Tim Tebow Guided by the "Lord"?

I fairly cringed when Nick Novak of the San Diego Chargers missed a 53-yd. field goal in overtime, because I knew if it got to "Tebow time" and the Xtian maniac managed to pull yet another last minute win out, we'd never here the end of how the "Lawd" was "guiding his arm" and his team destiny! Sure enough, Tebow did his thing, and the Denver Broncos prevailed 16-13 making it a 5-1 straight record for Saint Tim and a 6-5 overall record for the Broncos.

And the following day, all the odious religious bloviating began and continues..... For example, we learned that just prior to the game Tebow led his compatriots in a prayer and invoked the passages in Proverbs 27:17, which began:

"Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another....."

Very interesting, that. Because Jim Harbaugh, coach of the San Francisco 49'ers, after his team was defeated by the Baltimore Ravens 16-6 on Thanksgiving night, said:

"Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens my brother John has sharpened me....and John is the sharpest..."

This was acknowledging John, the head coach of the Ravens, as this was the first ever matchup in NFL history in which brother faced brother. (Hence the game had been nicknamed "the Har-Bowl")

So, one wonders if Tim had watched the Ravens- SF game - which I believe he did- and found the words intriguing, then googled them to get the full Proverbs quote before citing it and delivering it to his enraptured team mates. Just a theory!

We then learned from Denver Post sports columnist Mike Kiszla ('Old Testament Lesson Resonates with Broncos', Sunday Denver Post, p. 4BB) that Tebow had actually been praying for the Chargers to miss a potential game-winning field goal, which would have been the one from Novak. According to Kiszla's quotation from Tebow:

"I was kind of praying the whole time..."

Kiszla then observed that "Tebow praised the Lord for everything that happened....."


So, are we then to believe the "Lawd" intervened from his sublime rafters and caused the ball to veer off? Maybe the Almighty also stepped in and helped Tebow sustain all those punishing defensive blows, including when - on a 2nd and 9 at the Charger 39, the San Diego outside linebacker Travis LaBoy grabbed Tebow's facemask and yanked it down while defensive end Corey Liuget grabbed Tebow's shoulder pads and pulled him down before defensive tackle and 300-pounder Vaughn Martin barreled into him under a full head of steam - by one account "pounding Tebow like a veal cutlet".

But hey! I guess the Lawd was in there somewhere to absorb some of that punishment. Eh?

Horse pockey!

Let's dispense at once, for starters, that a putative Being or entity that would have (arguably) been responsible for the cosmos' inception (I am using this as a working assumption, not that I buy it) would have any remote interest in a game played by over-sized mammalian bipeds on a dust speck planet of an ordinary star two-thirds out to the rim of an ordinary spiral galaxy. The very notion is totally laughable!

The other notion that's laughable is that said Being would not only have an abiding interest in following this game, but following (and aiding) one player when called upon to do so! The notion that he'd even deign to think of interfering in a making a field goal go awry would be enough to make any serious believer reject the entity as comical.

So if it isn't any supernatural being behind Tebow's success, what is it? Simple: Because Tebow couldn't conduct a normal NFL offense (as seen in the Miami game he barely won with the Dolphins' help when they muffed an onside kick from Denver) John Fox, the Denver Head Coach, bent the offense to conform to Tebow's abilities (or lack of them). This meant running the so-called "option" in much the same way Tebow ran it while at the University of Florida.

The Denver-UF option system can be reduced thusly:

1) Tebow hands off the ball to a running back

2) Tebow pretends to give the ball to a RB, but throws it instead

3) Tebow pretends to give the ball to a RB, but runs it himself.

There you have it! That's it. The problem is that just like the Miami Dolphins' "Wildcat" which emerged in 2008, it will only be a matter of time before defenses catch on, and then the question will become: How long before such a defense breaks every bone in the guy's body?

We will see, but in the meantime Tebow would do well to give as many kudos to Broncos' strong side linebacker Von Miller, as to his god. It was Miller who, at a key point, sped into the SD offense and dropped RB Michael Tolbert for a critical 4 yard loss - making a fairly certain game winning Charger field goal into a dicey one.

Meanwhile, I predict Tebow will meet his comeuppance as early as this Sunday when he faces the Minnesota Vikings of the NFC's 'black and blue' division, with their astounding LB Jared Allen ready and waiting for any Tebow-time tricks.

A Mathematical Diversion: Magic Discs

Geometry, as we've seen in previous blogs, comes in many different forms. Two that I already explored have been plane geometry (to do with lines and planes in the context of linear algebra), and non -Euclidean geometry, in the context of Einstein's General Theory of Relativity. In this blog I take a look at projective geometry- a whole vast sub-discipline of math- in the context of "magic discs", which are simple representations of it.

Magic discs are useful because they keep consideration to a finite number of points. One then explores projective "n-spaces" - denote them as P^n(F_q) over some field F. When this is done, one finds that P^n(F_q) has exactly: 1 + q + q^2 + q^3 + .......q^n = (q^(n+1) -1)/(q -1) different points. Magic discs enter because they enable some very elegant constructions. When I first taught these to advanced 2nd formers, during a Peace Corps math teaching stint- I encouraged them to visualize the magic disc by making cardboard cutouts. The cutouts were done for different diameters, which were then numbered with evenly spaced marks around the circumference. Having done this, the students used pins to attach them to firm backboards, and the circles could then be rotated.

The method for enumerating a given cardboard disc was always the same: i.e. mark 1 + q + q^2 equally spaced points around the circumference matching marks on the cardboard circles to the backboard. Then label them in an anti-clockwise direction by the numbers: 0, 1, 2 ...q(1 + q) . Remember at all times that 'q' is a power of a prime. Say, for example, that q = 2, then one will use a clock face that is marked off starting from '0' (on the immediate right of the circle). The total number of equally spaced points to be marked off is computed as:

1 + 2 + 2^2 = 1 + 2 + 4 = 7

Since the first one is always marked at the '0' point, then the others will be: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6. The next job is to partition this circular field into (1 + q) points so that for q it will be 3 points. One finds that, apart from the 0 point, the other positions will always be such that for any selection of two marked points there is one position of the disc that "works", that is the selected distances end up in points that are coincident with two special points on the disc. The spacings for q = 2 will then be obtained from: 1 + 2 + 4, or more simply 1,2, 4. In other words, starting at the zero point, mark one space over to reach the number 1 on the background, then mark 2 more to reach the number 3 on the background, then mark 4 more to reach the number 2 + 4 = 0 where we began. In many ways, this procedure is similar to what we saw in the earlier blog (last year) to do with groups and "clock face" arithmetic. See, e.g.

In Fig. 1, is shown the magic disc resolution for the case of q = 3. And this leads to q(1 + q) marked off numbers in toto, or 3(1 + 3) = 3 x 4 = 12. And we confirm that the numbers go from 0 - 12 on the clock face. (Or in terms of the physical model, the numbers appearing on the backboard). The number of special points spanning the circle is similarly: 1 + q = 1 + 3 = 4 in all. The trick is then to identify them. The partition that works is by successive spacings of: 1, 2, 6 and 4 in succession, i.e. 1 added to 0, then 2 added to 1 (3), then 6 added to 3 (9) and finally 4 added to that ...bringing us back to 0.

Lastly, in Fig. 2 we have a much larger disc for the case of q = 5. Here, the total numbers marked off will be: q (1 + q) = 5 (1 + 5) = 30, in all. The number of special points to partition the circle will be 1 + q = 1 + 5 = 6, which will yield six partitioned spaces. These will be obtained from: 1, 2, 7, 4, 12 and 5. In other words, 1 added to 0, then 2 added to that (3), then 7 added to that (10), then 4 added to that (14), then 12 added to that (26) and finally 7 added to that ....which takes us back to 0.

Monday, November 28, 2011

"Climategate 2.0" or more Pseudo-climate Codswallop?

According to James Delingspole, writing in today's WSJ ('Climategate 2.0", p. A13), a new release of hacked emails has shown "top scientists in the field fudging data, conspiring to bully, and silence opponents and displaying far less certainty about the reliabiity of anthropogenic global warming theory than they ever admit in public"

Delingspole, who is as bad at propaganda as the Nat Geo bumpkins trying to pass Lee Harvey Oswald off as JFK's assassin, then names the "usual suspects": Phil Jones of the University of East Anglia, and Michael Mann of Penn State University.

Isn't this shit getting old (almost as old as the Oswald lone nut recycling)? Must we keep skewering this crap over and over? Will the propagandists never give it a rest and move on? Evidently not! They are as determined to have us neglect or ignore the evidence for anthropogenic global warming, as the evidence that Lee Oswald could not have killed Kennedy!

Like the Oswald did it bunkum - always timed to coincide with one or other anniversary of the JFK assassination (I can't wait to see what the 50th holds in store when all the talking rats, corporate-owned networks and their TV specials will come out at once to try to drumbeat the undecided into the nutter fold), these terrorist hackings of emails (and subsequent releases of them) appear to coincide with one climate conference or other. In this case, the just hacked emails are obviously intended to coincide with the upcoming United Nations climate summit in Durban, South Africa.

These terrorists, who hack into proprietary academic systems - and their enablers and cheerleaders - are in their own way no different in doing the "unspeakable" as the filth and vermin that perpetuate the lie that Oswald killed Kennedy - thereby covering the tracks of the real perpetrators and architects. Obviously, their egos must be enormous, to believe that they are doing some good when the cumulative facts show they're sustaining massive evil which ultimately will threaten the welfare of everyone on this planet.

In this sense, Rep. Edward Markey (D, MA) is correct in seeking justice meted out to the leaker or leakers (again, I call them information terrorists) who have attempted to "sabotage the climate talks". He wants them "brought to justice" and I even argue that may be too good for the scum: maybe what they need is to face the justice stipulated in the Patriot Act, given the calamity the planet faces if action is delayed much longer because of planned agnotology and obscurantism.

In an earlier blog, I noted that a premier climate change skeptic – Richard Muller- finally conceded that the mainstream scientific professional organizations - such as the National Science Foundation, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), NASA and the American Geophysical Union - are correct, and the global temperatures really are "rising rapidly".

See, e.g. :

This according to a report appearing in today's Denver Post ('Skeptic No Longer Cool to Warming', p. 9A).

Muller, an atmospheric physicist who is based at the University of California-Berkeley and the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, has completed an extensive study - partly funded by the global warming denier Koch Brothers - which showed land temperatures were now 1.6 F degrees warmer than in the 1950s, even taking into account the "heat island" effects near cities (wherein dark asphalt surfaces generate additional heat which had been thought to skew temperature results by the skeptic brigade.)

Muller was apparently motivated by the original so-called "Climategate" scandal where hacked emails from a British university (Univ. of East Anglia)apparently disclosed that critical information, data was being deliberately withheld from skeptics that requeste it. This, despite the fact that three separate independent investigations found the researchers at East Anglia to be guilty of nothing more aberrant than academic hubris, some mild snark and poor decision making. Certainly nothing to merit expulsion from any professional organizations or dismissal from their university positions!

But propelled by this incident, Muller proceeded to plumb a range of data, and went all the way back to the era of Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson for readings in the 18th century. The accumulated evidence from all his data showed agreement with the mainstream global warming research community, that Earth's land temperatures are increasing and more rapidly than ever. Muller, who present his results at a conference two weeks ago, reinforced this by asserting (ibid.):

"Greenhouse gases could have a disastrous impact on the world"

That a front and center climate skeptic could utter these words discloses that the claim of "fudging data" is total horse shit. The data are for REAL, Muller finally became convinced of its validity, and it's time now for these economically-motivated asswipes to fall in line.

Even before this, late last summer, Susan Solomon - senior scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) - warned that because CO2 is so long-lived in the atmosphere (~ 100 years for each molecule from the time deposited) and so much has been injected by humans, "it could effectively lock the Earth and future generations into warming not just for decades or centuries but literally for thousands of years.". This was reported in EOS Transactions of the American Geophysical Union (Vol. 91, No. 30, 27 July, 2010)

This came on the heels of an earlier report by the U.S. National Research Council to the effect that Earth is evidently now entering a new "geological era" which they have dubbed the "Anthropocene" (i.e. human-originated) during which "the planet's environment will largely be controlled by the effects of human activities."

Most of these uninformed doubters cite percentage proportions of CO2 in the atmosphere (e.g. 0.03 % or less), as if a piddling percentage confirms their view that CO2 can't be a major player. They seem to ignore, or discount, that even small differential concentrations can majorly impact projections. For example, we are now just passing 390 parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere, and most climate dynamics models suggest a runaway Greenhouse Effect if that surpasses 450-475 ppm.

Indeed, a National Research Council document issued in 2000, showed CO2 with the highest forcing component of all greenhouse gases, at 1.3 to 1.5 W/m^2 . Methane came next at 0.5 to 0.7 W/m^2 , then tropospheric ozone at , 0.25 to 0.75 W/m^2 . DO any of the "man can't change things" brigade even glance at these reports? Are they even aware they exist? One wonders!

The warp and woof the trends disclosed in the data (including since then, which I've referenced in numerous blogs) enticed Myles Allen of Oxford University to publicly comment (Financial Times, July 29, 2010) that it was clear from the accumulated work of climate scientists that human-engendered greenhouse gases were the problem. In his words (ibid.):

"Climategate never really brought climate science into question at all."

And I would add neither have the further leaked emails from "Climategate 2" - so called. Interestingly, even as the hype has been stirred up over these criminally leaked emails, African nations that will be attending the Durban conference have expressed alarm at the degreee of climate change compromising their own states. According to Prof. Paramu Mafongoya of the University of Zimbabwe, the millions across Africa now worried over altered rain season cycles "are a clear sign of the impact of climate change on a continent already struggling to feed itself" (AP Report, 'Climate Change Intensifies Struggles of African Farmers', in The Denver Post, Nov. 28, p. 16A)

The implication is that further postponement of necessary changes in behavior will lead to even greater catastrophe.

Meanwhile, the self-righteous coward and scoundrel nicknamed "FOIA" - who violated laws across the globe in leaking the emails, has written (WSJ, ibid.):

"Over 2.5 billion people live on less than $2 a day. Every day nearly 16,000 children die from hunger and related dollar can save a life...poverty is a death sentence.. Nations must invest $37 trillion in energy technologies by 2030 to stabilize greenhouse gas emissions at sustainable levels. Today's decisions should be based on all the information we can get, not on hiding the decline."

The problem for this ignorant, cowardly fool and his shameless enablers, is there is NO "decline"! All the evidence, amassed by meticulous research published in more than 15,000 peer reviewed papers since the 1980s, shows we are on the cusp of a global catastrophe of epic proportions which rivals a Torino scale 9 asteroid impact.

Therefore, anyone who delays needed action, especially by citing phony economics numbers and stats, is no better than the worst terrorist vermin of Al Qaeda. And...if they believe they are sparing millions of poverty-stricken children from hunger, they better damned well think again - and consult the African farmers losing millions of hectares in crop land each year to climate change.

They'd be better advised to do that with their time, than raiding and hacking email servers of those who are desperately trying to show we're nearly out of time!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Insanity of "Black Friday"

Watching the hordes of 'Black Friday' shoppers captured pummeling each other for x-boxes on one Saturday night news clip segment, I wondered what all the hoopla was about. Why had so many Americans been reduced to out of control cattle as if on cattle drives - instigated by cynical retailers who knew damned well they didn't have the merchandise in adequate quantity to deliver the goods.

Recall that it was Erik Larson (The Naked Consumer, Henry Holt & Co., 1992, p. 181) who first noted:

"No one ever notices. Ever. Consumers shop like in a trancelike state like 'idly grazing animals"

So that by extension, if "consumers" are packed into relatively small retail spaces with limited amounts of desirable merchandise, it is inevitable they will act not in "trance like states" but like wild herds careening into each other for the limited water in the water hole. This is why Larson and others regard consumption in itself as an inhuman activity, not fit for any whole person or citizen to do in any excess. It is also discomfiting that the term "consumer" has been applied indiscriminately, as much to a citizen who merely seeks to purchase to fulfill a need (e.g. buy a first home, a car for transport, or food to eat) as to someone who merely seeks to satiate material wants. (LCD TVs, HDTVs, X-boxes, ipads, etc).

This is germane to some of the over the top Black Friday phenomena, including: one woman pepper spraying 20 others in the eyes and faces to keep them away from a cache of x-boxes, another shopper tasering those close by so she had first dubs on a dvd-player, and in New York, wild crowds looting a clothing store in Soho.

One observer of all this, Theresa Williams - a marketing professor at Indiana University, has observed:

"These are people who should know better and have enough stuff already. What's going to happen next year? Everyone gets tasered?"

Well, maybe, or maybe stores will resort to the new "subsonic" weapons to inflict mass visceral discomfort on rampaging mobs --- inducing mass diarrhea and vomiting. Well, hopefully not that far?

But the question is: Why this unhealthy obsession over some choice material items? In a poor economy, one hovering on a new recession, one explanation is that with nothing much left many view any item of material desire to confer some form of value. No items, equals no value. If one then enters a store at midnight, and is already sleep -deprived but comes away with nothing, well then there is an overpowering need to compensate for the lack of power. Or perceived power.

The sad fact, however, is that in a capitalist culture that prizes money and material goods above all else, those items will come to be valued over all else. Thus, we have the multi-millionaires (such as featured on one CNBC special last week) bragging that although they already have 14 Lamborghinis, and 10 Lexuses, with 8 Bentleys, they still want more. They have over $125 million, but also want more because they are "scorekeeping to mark their success" and "money or goods is the way to do it".

This is pathetic. But it gets to the heart of the persistent American neurosis in obsessing over money and consumer goods, such as trotted out on Black Fridays. (And again, never in the quantities to deliver the goods to all who may want them).

An interesting take on this material shopaholism is provided by Buddhist Philosopher Alan Watts (Does It Matter?, Vintage Books, 1971. He writes:

"The commonly accepted notion that Americans are materialists is pure bunk. A materialist is one who loves material, a person devoted to the enjoyment of the physical and immediate present. By this definition, most Americans are abstractionists. They hate material and convert it as swiftly as possible to mountains of junk and clouds of poisonous gas."

Certainly he likely has a point if typical Black Friday shoppers do collect much more extra stuff than they need (and already have) and it merely ends up in a storage bin someplace. In this case, the shoppers are as neurotic as the multi-millionaires and merely collecting or buying stuff for the sake of score keeping.

"Well, uh, I got two x-boxes and a dvd-player and a 42" flat screen LCD TV last year, and I uh three x-boxes and two 55" HDTVs this year!"

But with no extra space, the earlier purchased stuff ends up in a storage rental. Meanwhile the person maybe lost ten hours of sleep or more, and possibly received a black eye and pepper-sprayed nose for her trouble.

Another perspicacious quote by Watts (p. 35):

"In a civilization devoted to the strictly abstract and mathematical idea of making the most money in the least time, the only sure method of success is to cheat the customer, to sell various kinds of nothingness in pretentious packages"

This is noteworthy, because he's basically saying all that stuff being fought so intensely over, is basically crap when all is said and done. There are only so many games one can play on an x-box before getting bored, and only so many hours one can watch the flat screen TV. What about real life?

This morning while eating breakfast at a local restaurant, my wife noticed a father and his obviously visiting college daughter (she wore an 'LSU' sweatshirt, like most frosh do on their first trips home during 1st semester) sitting across from each other. The dad had his nose in a book, the daughter was totally detached and wired up: an ipod with headsets to her ears, and her face gazing at a laptop computer screen. They were in two different realities (my guess is that the dad brought his book because he knew in advance his offspring wished to be on Facebook.)

I thought to myself: This is the most pathetic sight I've ever seen. What if this is the last get together for these two, and this is how they spend it? What if something happens to the girl on her way back to college, an accident or something else? Will she regret not spending quality time with dad?

Whose fault is it? I don't know but have noticed many young (e.g. Gen. Y) people now when they return home "tune out" the old farts...errr...folks, and simply stay wired to their artificial contraptions and hooked up to Twitter, Facebook or whatever. Again, this is pathetic. When families are together they ought to BE together. Not merely physically, but communicating.

The problem with too many Americans is they've lost their outward communication skills and now are reduced to doing it within limited, artificial social circles online, as opposed to real life. The effect is to render millions socially retarded, and also in terms of their communications levels (e.g. lingo interspersed with lol's, 'how r u's' etc.) Young people, for whatever reason, are particularly prone to this but I don't know why. A new standard for 'cool'?

Several years ago, a niece - from Clarke University -came to visit my wife and me for a week. But it was as if she wasn't here, because every time we'd look for her to converse or take a walk outside, she'd be hooked up to her laptop (or rather our laptop) and in another (Facebook)world. She was with us, but she wasn't. I suppose she figured that being at least in our home was being with us, and that's all that counted. But if that's the standard for young people in communicating with their peers, or more likely elders, then they have a lousy standard.

In this regard, Watts' Buddhist point is that we are living in a culture that has been hypnotized by symbols- words, numbers, measures, quantities, and images – and that we mistake them for and prefer them, to physical reality. This, indeed, is the essence of false consciousness: to be so distracted by the ephemeral material trappings of being, one neglects to partake of the real, inner being....especially that which makes us human.

In the case of Gen-Y youngsters' virtual solipsism and closed circles of communication, they believe that the proof of the pudding is in their blinking monitor screens , cells or ipads and the truncated text messages left on them, and not in any real human voices converging beyond or the sunlit blue skies that may beckon them to rouse themselves from their virtual stupor.

In the case of the Black Friday shoppers, they believe the proof of the pudding is in their recent buys, never mind that they already have three of each at home, and not in actually communicating with the people they have found themselves with in instant social congregations.

But since those others are now competitors for the same toys - and it is 'he who has the most toys wins'- they cannot also be fellow beings with whom actual, meaningful communication is feasible, or desirable.

The Buddhist recipe for happiness, as delivered by Watts?

"Reduce all your material wants to nothing!"

Some of the Worst Ideas to Emerge in Human Brains

Reading voluminously from many different newspapers, digests, journals, it's inevitable that one will encounter numerous ideas or proposals of others. Many of these are terrific and sound, but many others are atrocious in conception and one is forced to ask: WTF were these looneytunes thinking? Assuming they were thinking at all!

Below I look at four of the worst ideas I've seen lately:

1) Genetically manipulating chicken DNA to trigger "atavisms" (i.e. throwback or primitive features) that would pave the way for a Tyrannosaurus-like chicken or ""chicken-saurus".

Let me say right up front that I've never EVER been a big fan of excavating past organisms or their fossil detritus, whether of woolly mammoths, or T. Rex DNA, or ancient bacteria and viruses - with a view to "re-invigorating" them in the modern era. I firmly believe, therefore, that there is such a thing as scientific ethics and propriety and that any proposed achievements - even if they could be done- ought not be done.

It was for this reason I was horrified when the 1918 Spanish Influenza virus was re-engineered some years ago, and one reason I am now aghast at the remote plan to hatch dinosaur chickens. To what end? More meat? We already have chickens so full of meat on their bones they can barely waddle, thanks to pumping them full of antibiotics (another bad idea).

Anyway the basic concepts are relatively straightforward and known to geneticists: Every organism contains 'regulatory genes' bearing the recipes for specific proteins and their shapes- as well as different functions. Inherent in turning these on or off is whether one will arrive at an ordinary chicken, say, or one with a mouthful of teeth ready to tear flesh. Say, like a mini-T. Rex. In effect, every cell of a turkey or a chicken carries within it the blueprints for making a Tyrannosaurus but the way the plans are read must change over the time the species evolves. Thus, reading the plans now would be a lot more difficult than say reading them a million years ago.

According to one geneticist (John Horner) working on the problem, "The skeletons of a chicken and T. Rex are really very similar". He proposes (in an article two months ago in 'WIRED' ('How To Hatch a Dinosaur') focusing on just a few of the master regulator genes and "tweaking the differences". Such tweaks would include: 1) fixing the tails to make them more dino-like, 2) "unfusing" the webbed chicken claws to arrive at separate tearing digits, 3) replacing the chicken's keratin beak with long rows of dino-like teeth.

So whatever happened to the original idea (made popular by 'Jurassic Park' and spinoffs) of just grabbing dino DNA, say trapped in the bodies of ancient mosquitoes themselves trapped in amber - thawing them it out, and using it for clones? Can't work, according to Horner - who's investigated it at length - because the "DNA breaks down too fast in amber and in bones". Hence, he's working on the atavism -inducement ploy.

But, is this really a good idea? Typically, humans believe they can control these biological or genetic experiments (which is what they are), but often they get in over their heads. Think no further than the effort to enhance honey production by importing Africanized bees to South America some 35 years ago. On paper it looked great: transport a few highly aggressive honey-producers from Africa, let them merge with the native bees, and Voila! Vast stores of honey! No one bothered to check how the tamer bees would themselves become Africanized and then move northward.

So, do we really want 30 or 4o pound mini-T. Rex's with flesh tearing teeth chasing us, if they happen to escape from one or more of these genetic atavism-inducing experiments?

2) Setting off a multi-megaton blast in space, directly over Iran, with the aim of knocking out their nuclear weapons program via an electromagnetic pulse (EMP).

Given the obsession over Iran's nuclear weapon program, and the likelihood they will soon have 4-5 nukes of their own, this proposal possibly looked good at first glance to Jon Titus - who offered it up in a Nov. 16 letter to the WSJ editor. But careful thought discloses it to be fraught with risk - lots of it.

Let's leave out for the moment one small detail: such an EMP set off even 100 miles up would not only knock out Iranian electronics, including for all their nuclear plants, but take out all systems throughout the region from eastern China to Afghanistan, effectively making our remaining troops there sitting ducks. No way to call in strikes, no way to manage even the most rudimentary field operations without any long distance communications.

Then there's the global positioning system (GPS) which would also be disrupted with data from banks, stock exchanges and your own GPS systems instantly knocked out or degraded to the point of foolishness. Time -sensitive information worldwide would be especially vulnerable, with all timed data wiped out to the point of EMP origination.

Finally, the EMP would knock out just about all satellites in low Earth orbit, defined up to an altitude of roughly 2,000 km. Given this, the ability to maneuver satellites in orbit, say to escape collision with other neighboring ones, would be seriously compromised. Weather satellites would be knocked out, as well as military ones.

It is also a mistake to believe that by setting off a nuclear blast over Iran, Iran's allies and investors (namely Russia and China) wouldn't regard it as an attack ON Iran! A Russian Defense Minister barely ten days ago noted that any attack on Iran might well be considered an attack on Russian interests in the region and be responded to accordingly. Are we that anxious to have the nuclear war that JFK helped to avert back in Oct. 1962?

3) Cease All Further College Loans Unless a Given Major Can Be Proven Worthwhile.

This one was sounded in a TIME magazine issue two weeks ago, and also in the WSJ (Nov. 16, Nov. 26 - Letters, 'Some Majors Aren't Worth the Money'). Again, on the superficial surface this might attract would-be pragmatists and others invested in the Utilitarianism of Jeremy Bentham, who believe with all their hearts that college must be job-employment oriented so any degree that isn't (e.g. philosophy, music, ancient history etc.) should not be supported by any kind of loan, federal or private.

The template, according to one letter writer (Marc Segan, WSJ, Nov. 26, p. A14) is:

"If the earning prospects for the proposed major aren't likely to support repayment, don't make the loan!"

He then adds sarcastically:

"If you want to pay your way to a degree in Peace and Vegetarian Studies, then go for it!"

But like most abusers of rhetoric, he conflates what is unreal and not even offered at most accredited universities, with the many interesting subjects and majors that are - but which may not gain highly remunerative employment in a capitalist, commercial culture based on consumption (just look at 'Black Friday' to see what I mean).

He also makes the same error shared by too many Americans, in believing the college experience to be exclusively directed toward future work. In his article, 'The Myth of Higher Education' Dr. Steven Mason in an issue of Integra (No. 9, Oct. , the journal of Intertel), notes that a huge error of American education is orientating it explicitly for the utilitarian purpose of making money or getting a job. As he writes:

"the bottom line regarding a well -rounded education is that it has nothing to do with any kind of bottom line. Its value (non-monetary) is to be found in the quality it adds to one's life. It allows one to better appreciate music, art, history and literature. It contributes to a better understanding of language and culture, nature and philosophy. It expands rather than limits horizons and replaces faith and belief with reason and logic"

Mason adds that it "teaches a person to live - not to earn a living" and that living encompasses an impetus for further learning just for its own sake. If a fantastic, well-paying job also comes with it, that's icing on the cake.I totally agree. To me the measure of whether the degree obtained is worth the cost is how well motivated the graduate is to use his learning as a stepping stone to delve into new or unfamiliar areas, or use the techniques mastered (say in a research area of one's specialty) to apply to other arenas. But the most general criterion is: active curiosity about the wider world. If this is in evidence, then a degree was worth it, no question!

But how to get that into hard, utilitarian-oriented American skulls? That is the key question! In addition, if there were no philosophy, art or ancient history courses or majors, a person who might be well able to develop himself within these areas, might never attend college at all. In that case, s/he might never attain the richness and development of interests and intellect that is a primary benefit of university, beyond the mundane capacity to earn a buck.

Having said this, there is perhaps a median or compromise argument that can be made: that is, a person who chooses a non-utilitarian major to pursue could perhaps best do so at a state university, where the end bill may be in the tens of thousands, as opposed to an "elite" or Ivy League school where it may be over $100,000. The fact that recent research shows quality of degrees don't differ in these areas, from say an Ivy League school like Harvard, to a public one such as I attended - like the University of South Florida - further argues for students opting for the less expensive option. (Or as one student quoted in the TIME from 2 weeks ago put it: "I wish now I had opted for the 'free ride' scholarship at the University of Texas- Austin, rather than accepting a partial cholarship from Tulane and now owing over $90,000")

And what did that grand, spiffy Tulane education garner her? A desk clerk job at a hotel!

Increasingly then, we have a commercial culture that doesn't proportionately reward the academic effort - even for degrees earned at so-called higher-rated universities. Hence, it makes no sense to be in hock to pay for that effort. But that doesn't mean loans ought not be provided!

4) Extending the Bush Tax cuts.

This has to be included among the worst ideas, if only because the extension of those tax cuts will essentially destroy what's left of this country's economic viability. Their extension (and I am referring to ALL income classes) will leave us a shell of a nation, and barely at Third World level by 2021. The reason is that the rich will become vastly more wealthy, the Gini index of inequality will likely expand from its current 0.468 (comparable to Mexico and the Philippines) to perhaps 0.650 or 0.700, comparable to Benin or Malawi. Meanwhile, the middle and working classes will have effectively consumed their "seed corn" - via tax dollars- needed to pay for future social benefits programs. Do we really want that?

The template for why extended tax cuts are terrible (apart from The Financial Times analysis of the Bush tax cuts, in their 9/15/10 issue) is well known. Economists James Medoff and Andrew Harless observed in their excellent book, The Indebted Society, 1995, p. 84, 'Let Them Eat Cake', that "high tax rates are associated with higher productivity growth"

There is a consistent and strong relationship. By contrast, for the years when Arthur Laffer's supply side dogma held, productivity retreated by more than 30% and debt exploded- exactly the opposite of what we've been sold. The classic example was the Reagan era for which Medoff and Harless note (p. 23):

"For the health of the economy, Reagan's policies turned out to be just about the worst thing that could have happened: investment did not increase, growth continued to stagnate, and the federal deficit ballooned to new dimensions."

By all rational and sane accounts, with this foreknowledge in hand, the Bush tax cuts NEVER should have materialized, ca. 2001, and definitely not in a period of massive military expenses and putative or alleged "time of war". What it meant is that a double deficit whammy was inflicted: 1) massive, unpaid for military spending - doubling the Pentagon budget from what it was in 2000, and 2) massive tax cuts at the same time, adding to more than $2.7 trillion, with interest. However, the proviso attached was that they'd all "sunset" in 2011, so the fiscal damage would be minimized. The expectation at the time was that none would be extended, and congress certainly wouldn't keep doing it! (So much for any assumptions of sanity by our congress!)

Yet they've already been extended through next year, and the push is now on politically to extend them another ten years, instantly adding $3.7 trillion to the existing deficits according to both the Government Accounting Office and Congressional Budget Office impartial score keepers.

If that happens, you can kiss what's left of this nation 'Goodbye'. As in hasta la vista! And I mean permanently!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Can Opposing Scientific Theories Be Reconciled?

An intriguing question posed by WSJ columnist Mat Ridley today ('New Suspects in a 65-Million Year Old Mystery'), is that in certain cases "scientific tribal polarization" can be trumped and two competing theories reconciled or bought together to become one. His premise is that the polarization occurs because excessive "academic tribal energy" goes into one or both theories and hence any full bodied compromise yielding a hybrid theory becomes impossible.

As an example, he uses the extinction of the dinosaurs some 65 million years ago, accepted by most astronomers as being caused by an asteroid impact that delivered an explosion equal to two million hydrogen bombs and forming the 110-mile diameter Chicxulub crater. The explosion would not have been the immediate cause of the dinosaur's demise, but rather the injection of more than 4 trillion tonnes of dust and debris into the atmosphere because of it. This then led to the phenomenon of "nuclear winter" in which so much sunlight would have been impeded by the atmsopheric debris that most of the green flora would have perished. This would have led to the extinction of the vegetarian dinos, and thence the meat eaters which depended on them in the food chain.

Another competing theory for the dinosaurs' extinction, proposes massive volcanic eruptions that burst through the skin of the Indian subcontinent at about the same time and poisoned the dinos and 67% of other life via high concentrations of sulphur and CO2 in the atmosphere. Ridley then cites new "more powerful evidence" for this volcanic theory, though more work clearly needs to be done.

Ridley then asks why both theories might not simply be unified, and thereby we have "an impact and a consequent eruption, both of which contributed to poisoning the atmosphere and the ocean to the point that few species could survive".

To be sure, this might have merit, depending on whether further work shows that: a) the volcanic eruptions were really consequent on the impact, and b) the eruptions delivered the needed levels of toxicity to claim two thirds of all the then life on Earth. Another question to be addressed: Could the volcanic eruptions alone have been enough to cause mass extinction?

Even if the two extinction theories can be integrated into a workable hybrid, it doesn't mean all scientific theories can be handled in the same way. For example, Newton's theory of gravitation and Einstein's are impossible to reconcile because one (Einstein's) is a tensor theory predicated on the geometry of space -time being curved in the vicinity of large masses, while Newton's is a scalar theory dependend on "action at a distance" within an absolute space, no space-time!

In like manner, it would have been impossible to reconcile the Big Bang theory with Fred Hoyle's steady state theory. The reason is that each mandates separate predictions which must be validated for the theory's acceptance. There are no overlapping predictions! Since the Big Bang theory was vindicated by postulating a 2.7 K isotropic background radiation, it was the winner.

In the field of solar flares, meanwhile, two divergent paradigms have emerged, one (B-v) peculiar to solar physics and based on the magnetic field intensity (B) and surface flow vector velocity (v) and the other (E-J) peculiar to space physics which is based on the electric field intensity and the current density.

One implication of the E-J paradigm models is that adequate power for flares can be provided once sufficiently large field-aligned potential drops can occur (as in double layers) arising from sufficiently large longitudinal (J‖) current densities. (cf. Kan et al, Solar Physics, Oct. 1983). Unfortunately, there seems to be no way to track these changes in the pre-flare phase, at least for specific solar active regions and sunspots.

Meanwhile, the unloading force-free field energy system, for the B- v paradigm, has become the centerpiece template for use in most solar physics applications. According to this view, convective fluid motions with characteristic velocity v warp and deform the magnetic field B, leading directly to

curl B = u_o J

Where B is the magnetic induction, J the current density, and u_o is the magnetic permeability of free space (u_o = 4π x 10^-7 H/m) . In this paradigm, free magnetic energy accumulated during the shearing of force-free fields incepted by (v x B) , or the cross product of the velocity flow and the magnetic field strength. (Imagine the local magnetic fields being twisted up like you would a rubber band. The more twist imparted to the rubber band the more "free energy" it's stored. When you let it go, that energy gets released).

Most models based on the B-v paradigm concentrate on the energy generation (or storage) aspects, while ignoring energy dissipation other than as a passing afterthought. Clearly, this is unsatisfactory and leaves unanswered the question of detailed energy balance in a specified flare volume (coronal loop, arcade etc.). In particular, it leaves unanswered whether driven flare energy models (based on release of magnetic free energy from force-free fields) are adequate to ever be refined into full, self-consistent theoretical descriptions, as opposed to assorted ansatzes cobbled together or “cartoon” depictions.

The E-J models DO address the energy balance issues, but in most cases invoke artifacts common to magnetic substorms - such as V, -S potentials, and "neutral winds" which are not receognized by solar physicists as integral and physical parts of the flare process.

In a 1994 paper session for the joint meeting of the American Geophysical Union and Solar Physics Division in Baltimore, I presented a theoretical model that melded aspects of solar and space physics, by incorporating the respective B-v and E-J themes. Though numerous observers were “shocked” that a space physics basis could be incorporated to describe the flare process, others expressed interest and curiosity.

The basic model, depicted in Fig. 2, entailed successive weak double layer (WDL) formation in a Vlasov-Maxwell (upper coronal loop) plasma subject to anisotropic distribution of electrons in velocity space. The key point in the above model is that WDLs are needed to confine potential drops to extremely localized regions (in this case, also characterized by anomalous resistivity) . Meanwhile, the "feet' of the loop were anchored in a high beta plasma regime which was subject to the distorting motions of convective flows and their action in twisting the ambient (phnotospheric) magnetic field - leading to mutual polarity intrusion and magnetic gradients that could trigger flares. The activation arose when the potential drops in the upper part of the loop became large enough to tip the overall loop into instability. For example, if the twist of the loop was near T = 2π, then even a small micro-instability might act as the specific trigger.

The gist of the above illustrations is that yes, it is certainly possible in some cases to achieve a hybrid model or theory, but one must be aware all the time of the contexts, and also whether the resulting hybrid can make the predictions needed for acceptance. Alas, cross checking my theory must await the arrival of a higher resolution solar telescope that can identify the weak double layers in the upper corona.

The Top 0.1% Put the 1 Percent to Shame!

Top: The $65,000 all copper tub that's now a favorite buy of the top 0.1%. Below: their favorite dessert - a $25,000 apiece Frrrozen Haute Chocolate. How can they eat this thing every week without choking?

With the 'Occupy Wall Street' movement and the proper and overdue attention to the luxurious lives of the upper 1%, we have cast our eyes upon major defects in our alleged "free market" economic system that has allowed these rascals to profit at the expense of the rest of us. In an earlier blog,

I examined how these privileged scions of wealth live, most having obtained it via inheritance. I noted how they regularly can go on about their Tiffany's shopping sprees, and lengthy golf vacations to St. Kitts-Nevis, without being harassed by the "lesser" folks or made to feel some guilt for their excesses.

But what of the top 0.1 %? These are even greater reprobates of unearned and unmerited wealth and have no shame at all about flaunting it in the face of the rest of us, including the 14 million kids who lack enough food each day.

First, how have these rapscallions made out like such bandidos? Like all the greatest capitalist robber barons most have grabbed their vast wealth as a result of: 1) becoming expert speculators, either in the commodities futures markets, or via hedge funds, and 2) been blessed to have had to pay only 15% capital gains taxes on their killings, while Joe and Mary Schmoe of the middle class, must often pay at least that much PLUS a payroll tax in the vicinity of 6.2% (though it's been 4.2% the past year). Add in the effect of the Bush tax cuts, and the 0.1% garner an additional (estimated) $1 million a year free and clear- often ending up paying zero tax, effectively, according to tax expert David Cay Johnston (Perfectly Legal: The Covert Campaign to Rig Our Tax System to Benefit the super Rich and cheat Everyone Else).

This would be enough moola to instantly pay off the total college debts of five Harvard grads, and perhaps fifty grads hailing from public universities. But what do the upper 0.1% do with their money? Well, they do further speculation in their (rigged) markets, they donate huge campaign donations to their favorite Republican pols, candidates or they splurge on the latest hip luxury items, services. A rose wine wrap a day, anyone? Jetting to St. Kitts for 18 holes of golf? Easy as pie!

Pictured are two of the indulgences the wealthiest have been choosing lately, that is, buying $65,000 copper tubs to lounge in while they read their favorite Wall Street Journal columns on the op-ed pages, and enjoying a $25,000 "Frrrozen Haute Chocolate" from Manhattan's Serendipity 3. Now, think,.....THINK...of how many poor, underfed American kids the money from the purchase of that single confection could serve in a month!

But do these rich bastards who gorge on these things, often once per week, have any thought for their fellow malnourished Americans? Of course not! In fact, their giving - donation rate is below that of most Middle Class Americans (2% annually).

Second, what can we expect if the Bush tax cuts, for example, are extended even longer term to these parasites? Well, if the Republicans have their way, and they will if they're in control of the executive and legislative branches next year (if insufficient people vote Dem in Nov. 2012) we may expect an almost total consolidation of our political and economic system by these renegades. We aren't talking of a 90% control, but of 100%, a plutocracy!

In this case, we will expect to see at least 30 million unemployed and nearly half that many homeless, wandering the highways and biways, asking for any kind of handout ...for food, or work. Kids will leave college in droves without finishing, because even after two years they'll have compiled a half million or more in debts, due to variable interest rates approved by the polticos subservient to this criminal capital.

It's in our hands to put a crimp in their plans, but only if we vote next year and that means NO on any Repuke!

Friday, November 25, 2011

When Military Spending Cuts Aren't Really Cuts...

Now that the super committee (aka "Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction") has failed - which most of us expected, we are supposed to see about $1.2 trillion in spending cuts automatically triggered by 2013, $600b for military-defense spending and $600b for domestic spending. Even as the triggers were announced one heard the military -defense groupies squealing like stuck pigs. Little Pentagon puppet Leon Panetta (why I ever believed he had principles I'll never know!) has insisted it would "hollow out our military".

Meanwhile, another lackey, House Armed Services Chairman Howard "Buck" McKeon, has caterwauled and denounced any future possible reductions in defense spending. This he's done even as the Repuke candidates - especially Mitt Romney - label Obama some kind of evil doer for pulling out of Iraq (actually he didn't, and if this imbecile had any sense he'd have see it was part of an agreement between the BushCo gov't in 2008 and the Iraqis to withdraw when they demanded it). At the same time, asshole Mitch promises to "double" defense spending if he ever gets in the Oval Office.

Well, let's hope to hell he doesn't! (And btw, this is another warning to the 'Occupy Wall Street' movement that the biggest effect they can have between now and next year is to get out and VOTE in Nov. '12 and prevent a Repuke takeover of the whole government. No, the Dems aren't angels by any stretch, but think of how much worse you will all have it if a firmly 100% pro-corporate personhood, Wall St. party gets in and controls all the executive and legislative branches! The way I usually portray this political choice is simple: You are more likely to live if you get dysentery rather than cholera!)

Anyway, let's get back to the hype about tearing down our military to the bare bones, and leaving the planet at the mercy of modern day Huns. To hear these military defenders blabber, that's what you'd believe. The truth is somewhat different! Not counting the payment of interest on the debt, it means cuts of roughly $55b a year.

But are these really cuts? Consider first, that total or aggregate Pentagon spending has doubled since 2000, to $790 b a year. This number includes both yearly "supplementals" to fund the Afghan conflict and occupation, along with $553b for the base Pentagon budget. Over the past decade this translates into a pure growth factor of nearly $2 trillion. Thus, Repub Tom Coburn (OK) is correct that Pentagon spending today "is higher in constant dollars than at any time in the last 60 years, including the Korean War, Vietnam and all the Defense Dept. spending during the Reagan years ($2.2 trillion)".

It is also more than the next 25 nations' military spending combined. The gist of all this? In fact there are no real cuts to military spending in any absolute terms, but only an estimated "trim down" of roughly 23% in the projected INCREASES in Pentagon spending over the next ten years!

The point here? Contrary to the bloviators' bollocks of "jeopardizing national security", just the opposite is true: the Pentagon base budget will still be larger than it is today by 2021! This necessarily means, given the zero sum resources we have, everyone else will be much poorer. That means an even more shattered and useless infrastructure with crumbling roads, cracking sewer and water mains and collapsing bridges....and a much more likely intolerable domestic environment over all. That's because the primary focus of the immediate domestic spending triggers will be on reducing air traffic controllers, and also regulatory departments in charge of overseeing the quality of our food and water.

In other words, we are on the cusp - unless something is done- of approving an undermining of our domestic security in terms of health and national welfare, at the expense of padding the pockets of the defense contractors, their lobbyists and all the whore congress critters that support them!

Meanwhile also, as the yen to further bloat the military curries more favor from political Jacobins, traitors and numbskulls, the target of austerity hawks will continue to be "entitlements". They won't be satisfied until we're all homeless, sick, dead or maybe ....walking dead.

A country in decline or not?

You figure it out!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Re-Thinking of Snell's Law?

Readers may recall an earlier blog:

in which we examined light and optics in term's of "Snell's Law", which basically says that the ratio of the refractive index in a more dense medium to the refractive index in a less dense medium is the ratio of the velocity of light in the more dense medium to the value in the less dense medium.

Taking into account the two angles: Θ1 = angle of incidence, and Θ2 = angle of refraction, we may write:

n1 sin Θ1 = n2 sin Θ2

This may also be written:

n1 sin Θ1 - n2 sin Θ2 = 0

at the heart of this law is another physical principle, that of Fermat, which says that light will always take the "fastest path", i.e. that light rays travel the fastest path between two points. Interestingly, Richard Feynman in his Caltech 'Lectures on Physics' also showed how Fermat's Principle could apply to mechanics in terms of "the Principle of Least Time". But that's another blog!

Evidently, now - as reported in the most recent issue of Physics Today (Nov., p. 12) Harvard researchers are posing questions neither Fermat or Feynman likely considered, such as: How would a light ray's trajectory change if - at the surface of reflection and refraction - it experienced a position-dependent phase shift?

The researchers have combined theory and experiment and, using a specially constructed phase-shifting surface, shown that light can be bent in ways that defy the traditional laws of reflection, and refraction, including Snell's law.

Their underlying premise is that Fermat's principle works not because light is in some kind of a "race" to go from one place to the other, but because (mathematically) the fastest path lies at an extremum, e.g where the derivative dL/dx, of the optical path length with respect to small deviations in the trajectory, is zero.

In the Harvard experiments, it was found that away from the extremum, neighboring trajectories for light cancel each other out. In this case, Fermat's Principle can be recast as a 'principle of stationary phase' instead. In other words, a ray sych as depcited in Fig. 1 which reflects and refracts such that light originating at point A arrives at B and C with phases φ(B) and φ(C) that are constant relative to small perturbations of the point of incidence, x'.

Thus, the light will travel the path for which:

dφ(B)/ dx' = 0


dφ(C)/ dx' = 0

Adopting the more generalized interpretation of Fermat's Principle, the Harvard researchers whowed that a position dependent phase shift, say φ(x), imposed at the reflecting-refracting surface can alter the location of stationary phase and, concurrently, the usual optical laws (cited in the previous blog link) for refraction and reflection.

The effect might then be accomodated with suitable modifications to Snell's law such that we now write (as opposed to the earlier simplified version):

n1 sin Θ1 - n2 sin Θ2 = (L/ 2π) dφ/ dx

Similarly, for the law of relection, we'd use:

sin Θ_r - sin Θ_i = (L/ 2π) dφ/ dx

where L denotes the wavelength of light for the particular experiment.

The more nuanced Harvard re-do of the optical laws is well justified since they (based on experiment) introduce a structured phase delay with a gradient along the surface.

Here's something else to ponder: David Deutsch in his The Fabric of Reality, has postulated phase and interference effects (pp. 45-51) that can theoretically reveal the presence of "shadow particles" from parallel universes. If so, perhaps further refinements of the Harvard and other experiments (some as proposed by Deutsch) might reveal if indeed we're able to detect the incursion of such parallel cosmi into our own!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Amy Ridenour's Social Security "Ponzi scheme" Foolishness

The last time I had a run-in with pundit and gasbag Amy Ridenour was nearly 10 years ago in a letter exchange, after which she'd tried to argue for "natural climate change", i.e. based on the Sun. When I dutifully informed her that there was no evidence for solar irradiance levels being as high as she appeared to claim, she became sarcastic and questioned my sources. Since these were all from bona fide climate science journals, I realized that any further discourse would be futile. She was attached to an ideology and her think tank (the conservative 'National Center for Public Policy') would never let her think or write independently.

Now, one of her more recent columns has embedded itself in the long standing canard that Social Security is "unsustainable". This is understandable given that all domestic social programs are under attack by austerity mongers, their lackeys and propaganda puppets. What I will do here, is show how and why Ridenour is wrong on several of her counts, because these will also be applicable to all the other pundits that parrot them.

First, she writes:

"The Securities and Exchange Commission says Ponzi schemes involve 'the payment of purported returns to existing investors from funds contributed by new investors'. Check! Social Security pays benefits from funds contributed by younger workers."

Implying that Social Security makes this crtierion for a Ponzi scheme. But as an Economist editorial counseled barely three weeks ago, this is a false standard to apply to Social Security because first, everyone already knows how it is paid for while actual Ponzi schemes keep hidden the mechanism for current payments, and second, Social Security is not and never has been an investment scheme - it is rather a savings program. Moreover, the way it funds itself is exactly the same as all other social insurance programs around the world! Hence- uncheck!

She goes on:

"The SEC says Ponzi schemes 'require a consistent flow of money from new investors'. Check! Benefits enjoyed by beneficiaries are dependent upon contemporaneous payroll tax revenue, not returns on an investment".

But again, as I noted in the early rejoinder, Social Security was never set up as an investment program but a social insurance program! Hence, this criticism is moot. FDR in fact knew that the only way Social Security could be practically implemented was to use the same system as Germany, Denmark and other social democracies: by withdrawing a certain amount from every paycheck year to year. In this way, the program would automatically fund itself, and never be vulnerable or subject to appropriations deliberations in congress. Imagine what it would be like if every year Social Security checks and benefits were subject to congressional approval - say like the current fiasco surronding yearly approval of AMT or alternative minimum tax adjustments, or Medicare payments to physicians.

This is also exactly why extending the payroll tax cut is a terrible idea, no matter how much politicians (including Obama) pander to it. In effect, it de facto destroys the premise for Social Security' stability while also handing radical austerity hawks more ammo to use to argue that its financing is unsustainable. If this cut is extended, $170 billion will be lost in Social Security funding next year! How will this self-inflicted deficit be made up? More IOUs to make the Reich wing screech monkeys howl for its abolition, or conversion to a privatized plan?

Above all, Democrats ought to be against anything that dilutes or compromises the one thing protecting Social Security from attack or disruption!

Ridenour again:

"The SEC says 'In many Ponzi schemes, the fraudsters focus on attracting new money to make promised payments to earlier stage investors'. Check! Supporters of the current structure, such as President Obama, seek new Social Security taxes on workers earning over $106, 800."

But the lady here is guilty of false analogy, because in fact, increasing the payroll tax threshold is simply rectifying an existing unfairness and defect in the system! The reason? All workers, no matter their earnings, are entitled to collect Social Security. Nor is there any "means testing" as of now.

So, in effect, the current workers earning over $106,800 are able to collect Social Security without having to pay their fair share into it, like those earning less! And once more, Ridenour's investor analogy doesn't apply because Social Security isn't an investment program!

In fact, Ridenour in her next paragraph illustrates herself exactly WHY Social Security isn't a Ponzi scheme (apart from the fact the SEC isn't investigating it for such as all her SEC-invoked "checks" would imply!). She writes:

"To be sure...there are differences...Social Security is mandatory while Ponzi schemes are not. And when a Ponzi scheme is about to collapse, it can't raise your taxes!"

Bingo, missy! Because Social Security is a SOCIAL INSURANCE scheme predicated on pay-in taxes, extracted from paychecks. THIS is the beauty of it, compared to an investment scheme - liek Bernie Madoff's - where indeed one can lose everything!

Ridenour is correct when she writes that the Social Security And Medicare Board of Trustees has warned that projected long run program costs aren't sustainable under currently scheduled financiing"

But this isn't a result of the system's internal pay defects, but rather:

a) Congress raiding it from year to year, already having taken more than $3.3 trillion out since 2000 (and often using it to fecklessly diguise the size of the deficit)

b) People who are unable to collect further unemployment benefits, and unable to find jobs, applying and getting Social Security Disability. Right now, according to the WSJ (Nov. 20) there exists a backlog of 721,000 cases to approved and already more than 22 million are drawing down on the Social Security funds. This is also why payroll tax cuts are insane at this time, and also any other gimmicks that threaten Social Security funding.

As for Ridenour's warning that Social Security won't be able to cover the 76 million Baby Boomers, hardly - not as long as the proper adjsutments are made now, including raising the payroll tax level to at least cover incomes over $250,000, and no more payroll tax cut foolishness - a bad idea if ever there was one.

Maybe Amy would do better to stick with her faux climate change issues!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

More on the NAT GEO Explorer "Lost Bullet" Bunkum

On this 48th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination, I again pondered the woeful propaganda on offer from the National Geographic channel on Sunday night. My conclusion is that in future they'd be best served by sticking to polar bears in the Arctic, or the antics of Emperor Penguins in the Antarctic, as opposed to dallying in blatant propaganda efforts to prop up a discredited pseudo-investigation by the Warren Commission.

In this blog I examine key evidence and aspects that the National Geographic special chose to ignore, and by the end, hope to convince readers of the extent of this whole charade and why no sane or rational person in this country should ever give any credence to the Warren Commission Report.

We now focus on the Nat Geo's "Bullet B" or what they claim is the single bullet that entered JFK's back then made a throat wound before entering Gov. Connally and making several more wounds. I aim to skewer this horse shit one step at a time.

Using laser firing rifles and an Oswald stand-in, firing from the Book depository, Warren groupie Max Holland (who also professes to be a "physicist") attempts to show that the same bullet that passed through Kennedy's back - near the third thoracic vertebra (according to one Parkland surgeon) also passed into his throat and then into Connally. This is patently impossible, violating all known principles of geometry, trigonometry, physics and biology!

First, examine Fig. 1 which is the Warren Commission (WC) rendition of how the back and throat wounds occurred and essentially what Holland attempted to confirm with his toy laser rifle. The argument being that angles defined by something as precise as a laser beam can't lie. Well, they can, if one isn't faithful to the specific replication! According to Fig. 1, the WC version shows the bullet entering at the base of the neck (bland yellow streak) and exiting near the throat.

The problem here is the wound placement is too high! The next graphic image (right side) shows the actual placement of the back wound during the autopsy. Note it's much further down than the Warren version claimed (and one reason Bethesda autopsist Humes burned his notes and diagrams, to conform to the WC!) In order to have the throat placement where it was (center lower image of graphic) one would need a trajectory such as shown in blue, in Fig. 1. This would allow a congruence between the actual back wound placement and the throat wound but it could not have been fired from the Book Depository! Indeed, one would literally have had to have someone shooting from a manhole cover somewhere to actuate that!

Worse, Parkland surgeon Malcolm Perry (who should know his business given having to deal with multiple Dallasites' gunshot wounds at Parkland) was adamant in declaring the throat wound an ENTRY wound. This means necessarily that another bullet (besides the head shot dealt with in the last blog for 'Bullet C') had to have come from the front. Thus, Holland's demonstration could not be valid IF he was seeking to replicate the actual wound positions, and not spurious ones.

Holland then proceeds to show the same purported "magic bullet" made more wounds in Connally and was the same as WC Exhibit CE 399, or "the magic bullet". This bullet is shown in the second set of graphics, or Fig. 3. Entry (A) is the "magic bullet" which purportedly did all this damage, while (B) is a test bullet, one of several fired by Joseph Dolcet into the wrists of cadavers to compare the degree of damage sustained with that of the WC Exhibit. Readers can see for themselves how the magic bullet, claimed to have made 7 different wounds in two people, stretches credulity to the breaking point!

Lastly, bullet (C) was one of the actual bullets found on the treatment room floor at Parkland, by one of the doctors in attendance. Note immediately the pointed head, compared with the rounded one for the claimed Oswald rifle. As I showed in the last blog, Oswald's Mannlicher -Carcano could not have fired the shots, given the echo patterns.

Now, what we've already exposed is that there have been at least four different shots and putatively from 3 different locations (The Dal-Tex building provides a better angle for the back shot than the TSBD). Let's enumerate them thus far:

1) The Back wound - fired from the Dal-Tex bldg.?

2) Throat wound - fired from the front (GK?)

3) Head wound - fired from the GK.

4) Connally wounds - fired from the TSBD ?

Note also that another reason the magic bullet is bollocks is the fact that, had Gov. Connally been hit at Z-frame 230 (as single bullet adherents posit), he would have had to continue holding his heavy white Stetson for about another second and a half, AFTER being shot in the right wrist. Anatomically this is nonsense. Close examination of the key frames discloses he firmly retains his grip on his Stetson between right thumb and forefinger. It is the ulnar nerve which permits this apposition. But any bullet fired into the wrist (i.e. at Z-230) would have severed that nerve, making any grasp of his Stetson totally impossible!

We now come to "Bullet A" or the alleged, "lost bullet". Of course, the presumption of a lost bullet is also the presumption (erroneous as we've established) there were only three shots in toto- with two bullets identified (B and C) and the third unaccounted for. In fact as I will show, the "lost bullet" (the one that sprayed pavement up and hit witness James Tague standing just beneath the Triple Underpass) is merely one of several more!

Reference is made here to the 4th set of graphics shown which indicates the location where Tague was standing, and the curb where the bullet actually struck - but since paved over and removed. The late, long time researcher Harold Weisberg documented how – when he inquired for the spectrographic evidence associated with the original curb struck by a bullet near witness James Tague- he was told by the FBI that it was “destroyed”. Earlier, the curb itself was paved over - see upper left image- then subsequently removed (by another Fed agency). It was then sent back to FBI HQ in D.C. Why is this so critical? Because it constitutes evidence for a clear and separate shot. This then is Holland's and Nat Geo's "lost bullet" for their purposes.

Not yet reckoned into the mix, is a bullet that struck the limo's windshield frame, with the indentation shown in the lower right image of the "lost bullets" graphic set. Of course, when the limo was sent for re-building, that evidence was destroyed, probably with a lot more!

So we now have this tally of two additional shots:

5) Bullet that struck a curb and sprayed James Tague with metal and concrete (fired from TSBD or the Dal-Tex Bldg.)

6) Bullet that struck the limo windshield frame.

That is SIX bullets in all, which clearly can't be accounted for by one man, even firing over 11 seconds, as Holland insists. In fact since Holland demands "Bullet A" as the first bullet, and no others for 6.4 secs, it would have compressed at least five shots into the remaining 4.6 seconds, impossible with Oswald's alleged Italian rifle which was limited to a 2.33 sec bolt action recycling time. Three shots would have been about the most Oswald could have made in that time marking shot two at 'zero' starting the stopwatch at the 4.6 second mark. Even then it would have been damned near impossible - given the aiming and other flaws of the actual weapon disclosed by the Army marksmen that attempted to replicate it.

In trying to trace the origin of his "lost bullet A" Holland devises another test with his toy laser rifle: this time picking the west end window of the Texas School Book Depository to fire from, and theorizing from his trial runs that - to get near the pavement or curb where Tague stood- the bullet had to have struck a traffic pole extending from the building. This is an interesting hypothesis to make, but essentially useless if one is only using a mock rifle that bears zero similarity to the one actually used by Oswald (which, incidentally, the National Archives evidently won't allow anyone to handle any more!

Even worse, the Archives has evidently refused the calls by some to actually confirm the internal control number on the rifle. According to author H.E. Livingston ('Killing the Truth', 1993, p. 204, Carroll & Graf Publ.)

"The National Archives will not let anyone actually examine the rifle. They wrote Patricia Dumais, who was suspicious that it was a stage prop and wanted to see the 'internal control' number supposedly placed on it by Klein's: 'We cannot disassemble Lee Harvey Oswald's rifle because this action might be destructive to the object.'"

So given this, I suppose we can at least let Holland and his collaborators off the hook for demanding they use the actual rifle (which again, Army experts had to have sights, shims adjusted before they even attempted replication - then had to abandon it for a similar model). But at the very least, Holland - to test his hypothesis - ought to have been able to secure an actual, working 6.5 mm Mannlicher Carcano, had Dallas PD clear the area, then get off at least 2-3 test shots to track the REAL trajectory of real bullets - as opposed to laser beams issuing from toy rifles.

The last graphic set shows a blow up view of the controversial west side of the Book Depository on the 6th floor, and the specific window from which a young African-American boy at the time (Amos Euins) claimed to have observed a moving figure. But, was it really Oswald? Let's leave out for the moment the annoying little fact that the actual sniper's nest found (photographed by Tom Alyea, who was never called by the WC as a witness) was situated at the EAST end window of the Depository not the west end which is visible as one drives up Houston St. (And depicted by me with a circle around it in the last graphic, and in a blown up view.) Let's also leave out the other annoying little fact that as of 12.31 p.m. Oswald was identified by several co-workers on the 2nd floor lunch room and nowhere near the 6th floor. Further, none of his witnesses reported him the least bit fatigued or out of breath - as one might expect- after engaging in a shooting barely a minute earlier on the 6th floor, and racing down 4 flights of stairs to sit quietly in the lunch room!

However, a blown up view of the west end window - with images taken about 10-15 secs apart, clearly shows the empty window then a heavy set person (see lower right inset image). He's clearly in a white t-shirt but the size of his head is definitely not narrow like Oswald's. Also, do we really imagine Oswald to have taken a pot shot out of this west end window- bullet spraying James Tague with concrete, then rapidly racing to the other side of the sixth floor (where the sniper's nest ws found) and taken further shots at JFK and Connally? Give me a break!

One plausible surmise is that the character in the 6th floor window, and the putative actual 6th floor shooter (one of at least three for triangulated gunfire in Dealey Plaza) was actually the heavy set fake Oswald the CIA recorded in Mexico City. (See his inset image, taken with a CIA camera from Mexico City). This was actually the beginning of the other urban assassination legend promoted by the lone nut buffs, i.e. that Oswald had gone to Mexico City and carried on in front of a consulate officer, Silvia Duran. But when other CIA officers on the scene examined the image further, they probably had a shit fit concerning the subject's blatantly divergent appearance from the real Oswald.

Of course, the CIA regularly monitored the Cuban and Soviet embassy compounds in Mexico City, and had photographs of anyone coming or going. A cable dated Oct. 10, 1963 referred to (John Newman, Oswald and the CIA, p. 399)

" American male, who identified himself as Lee OSWALD, contacted the Soviet Embassy in Mexico City inquiring whether the Embassy had received any news concerning a telegram which had been sent to Washington. The American was described as approximately 35 years old, with an athletic build, about six feet tall, with a receding hairline."

It was certainly not Oswald, who at only 5'9" (at most) and slight of build (160 lbs.) possessed a decidedly un-athletic physique. Univ. of Maryland Military Science Professor Newman also makes reference (ibid.) to a note scribbled in the margin of the above cable by a CIA employee with the words:

"Not Oswald! WRONG!"

Subsequently, Duran was arrested by Mexican authorities under CIA instigation[1] and coercively interrogated for eight hours until she broke[2] and gave the testimony they wanted to hear: that the person at the Embassy was Lee Harvey Oswald.

For its part, the CIA withheld original cables and documents from the Warren Commission (probably under Allen Dulles' orders, and recall he'd been fired by JFK as the CIA chief after the Bay of Pigs, and appointed one of the Warren Commissioners by LBJ), offering instead the bogus, coerced statement Duran made, in a desperate attempt to prove Lee Harvey Oswald - the person arrested in Dallas for assassinating JFK - was the same person creating a scene at the Cuban Consul in Mexico City, Sept. 1963 .

But anyone with eyes and ears, and not totally deluded, WC- kool aid drunk (like WC- recyclers Joel Grant and Vince Bugliosi) or batshit crazy, would realize the guy imaged in that graphics set could not be the slim 5' 9", 160 lb. Oswald! Similarly, it was not Oswald seen in the TSBD window by Amos Euins, or Howard Leslie Brennan.

[1] Fonzi, The Last Investigation, Thunders Mouth Press., p. 289.
[2] Fonzi, ibid.; and Newman, op. cit. p. 409.