Saturday, April 30, 2016

Trump Has "Zero Chance" Vs. Hillary In November? Think Again!

Two days ago I read a piece at  by Walker Bragman I thought I'd never see, ever:

That the "lesser of two evils" paradigm also dominating this election (at least for progressives) may not be an HRC choice at all, but a Trump choice was unthinkable back in February.Bragman actually went through point by point - including Supreme Court picks - showing why (especially if the Dems managed to snatch back the Senate) a Trump presidency might not be as apocalyptic as made out by many on the Left. That includes  scolds like Patton Oswalt, Bill Maher and George Takei - warning "do not let the perfect be the enemy of the good, dumpkopfs!"

But is Hillary really that "good"? After her AIPAC speech and a recent NY Times write up on her war hawk nature, e.g.

Many inquiring minds are wondering.

Probably most of Bragman's article would have been unthinkable even a few days before the New York Times posted its lengthy magazine article on Hillary's evolution as an unreconstructed war hawk - prepared to back Netanyahu to the hilt, as well as go after Iran or Russia. I read the piece too and it sent chills down my spine. I made the mistake of reading the Times' piece after re-reading the spell -binding 1959 novel of thermonuclear war, 'Alas, Babylon', by Pat Frank.  The scenes described of an accidental U.S. strike on Latakia - the Russian Naval base - could occur even today and ok, start the real thing - if cooler heads don't prevail.

Anyway, to counter a recurring anti-Russia U.S. narrative we recently beheld Trump saying we needed to work with Russia instead of making war on her, including setting up 'no fly' zones. He has a good point, but is that enough to throw caution to the winds and dispense with a lesser of two evils approach? I don't know.

But what ought to be alarming to many on the left, especially the pundit class,  is the many still dismissing Trump as a "clown". They might want to think again. People some months ago dismissed him as a Bozo but look where he is now. On the cusp of getting to the magic number of 1237 Reepo delegates. If one compares his odds at any Vegas' bookmaker's they are far more in his favor, than they are in Ted Cruz' (especially after Johnny Boehner dinged Cruz with the "Lucifer in the flesh" epithet - probably referencing that video where Cruz is reaching out to hug his daughter and the poor girl recoils in disgust.)

Former Loyola University PolySci and Philosophy lecturer Sean Illing in his own ;piece has been among the first to confess he was all wrong. As he writes:

"Pundits are paid to pretend they know things. But we have no special insight, no higher claims to truth. We’re wrong as much as we’re right, if not more so. Sometimes it’s clear what will happen, often it’s not. In the case of Trump, everyone – myself included – got it wrong.
When Trump descended preposterously from that escalator and announced he was running for president, we all giggled. Trump? President? Seriously? And yet all the polls suggested that he had real traction. But we assumed his star would fade. Then he started winning primaries – by massive margins. We downplayed it. Then he made one gaffe after another – insulting John McCain’s military service, hurling a menstruation jab at Megyn Kelly, calling Mexicans “rapists” and “criminals,” promising to ban all Muslims from entering the country. He even vicariously called Ted Cruz a “pussy.”

None of it mattered. Trump is now on track to receive the most primary votes in the history of the Republican Party. Let that sink in for a moment."

In fact, little of it has sunk in, as the political chattering class continues to give Trump no hope at all vs. Hillary. In only one memorable televised instance in the past two months did I see and hear a different take - from a Hillary female supporter (Jess McIntosh) from Emily's List. She told Chris Hayes on his 'All In' show that she viscerally feared a one on one debate between Hillary and Trump. In her own words, and I quote:

"It would kind of be like facing a mad monkey with a gun. And you just don't know what that monkey might do so there's no way to really prepare."

Indeed. But far more ominous is that if this election is close, it might be another GOP steal especially in states like Ohio using electronic voting machines. See e.g.:

Greg Palast in an RT segment recently noted that the only reason Obama didn't lose the 2008 election is because his "numbers were way too big to enable a steal".  It may not be so this time, given Hillary's high negatives and also if she can't secure Bernie's people. Up to now, according to recent reports, she has indicated zero inclination to incorporate any of Sanders's' proposals into her platform. This is precisely the error that could conceivably render this general election close enough to steal. (Say by tossing OH to the  GOP by dumping a quarter million provisional ballots as in 2004)

Illing again:

"The political class is experiencing a collective cognitive dissonance: We just can’t quite believe this is happening. And yet it is happening – right now, in front of our faces. Barring something extraordinary, Trump will be the Republican nominee. Will he win the general election? Probably not. But he absolutely could win, and willing ourselves to ignorance won’t make it any less likely.
To read the latest “Insiders” report at Politico, however, is to discover how little pundits – on both sides – have learned. "

Will they learn enough before the November showdown? Who knows?  Who will be the most likely- Clinton or Trump -  to avoid a nuclear showdown with the Russians? That may be the true litmus test for determining the lesser of two evils.

See also:

Friday, April 29, 2016

Max Tegmark's Multiverse Types - And "Alternate" Universes (Tegmark's Type 3)

One idealized model of a Type II Multiverse with two localization angles defined.

Much of the discussion concerning the Multiverse has been muddied because of lack of clarity about what it means. Let us concede that for many years humans conceived of only one manifestation of the whole or 'universe' (the Milky Way galaxy itself was at one time conflated with 'universe' ) and it has taken the push of modern physics to acknowledge this grand assembly may not be the final statement of physical reality. Thus, by way of several theories - which we will get into. - one comes into the conceptual purview of the Multiverse - composed of perhaps an infinity of universes with differing properties, cosmological constants etc.

One person who has tried to provide categories and clarity is Max Tegmark of M.I.T. He has suggested a fourfold classification scheme, but only three of them are relatively comprehensible to most ordinary folk without advanced physics backgrounds. (It is those I will deal with in this post.)

Type 1:

The simplest or Type 1 Multiverse is essentially an infinite extension of the acknowledged universe. Our most advanced telescopes like the Hubble can only see to a certain limit given the finite speed of light (c = 300,000 km/ sec)  which means our vision is confined to a limited radius. This is called the "Hubble radius" and is generally equal to the age of the cosmos translated into distance or 13.8 billion light years.

Thus, if light takes 13.8 billion years to travel to the maximum distance we can actually see (assuming space is static) that turns out to be 13,8 billion LIGHT YEARS. (One light year being the distance light travels in one year.)

In fact, this is a simplification because space or rather space-time isn't static.  Because of its expansion immediately following the Big Bang the actual radius of the cosmos is 42 billion light years or some 28.2 billion LY greater than the telescopic limit.   Assuming physical reality, i.e. the universe, exists beyond the actual Hubble radius then all permitted arrangements may exist - and in infinite numbers.

In effect one finds separate "cosmi", cut off from each other by their own individual Hubble radii. These would be like separate compartments or "bubbles" cut off from each other.  The key point is that the laws of physics in one "bubble" are the same in those in all the others because in the end the universe - despite the disparate "bubbles- is one entity.

Type 2:

While the Type 1 version is based on the cosmological principle, so the laws of physics are the same in all the separate "bubbles" with their own Hubble radii, in this Type 2 case they can vary from one universe to another. The value of G, the Newtonian gravitational constant may be G as we know it (6.7 x 10-11 Nm2/kg2) in our universe, but 1.1G in another in the Type 2 Multiverse, and 0.98G in another. The result would be separate universes remarkably different from each other.

As I noted in previous blog posts, the genesis of the Type 2 Multiverse is distinct from the Type 3 which is really Hugh Everett's "Many worlds" quantum-based theory (which we will get to.) In the Type 2 all the universes in the Multiverse were spawned as a result of cosmic inflation immediately following the Big Bang.

Regarding inflation, most current standard theories propose inflation starting at about  10-35 s  and doubling over a period of anywhere from 10-43 to 10-35 s after the initial inception. Estimates are that at least 85 such 'doublings' would be required to arrive at the phase where entropy rather than field resident energy dominated. The initial size (radius) of our universe would have been likely less than a proton's - maybe 1 fermi (fm) or 10-15 m, by the time the doubling process began. By the time it ended (after 90 'doublings') it would have been around 1.25 x 1012  m. This is roughly eight times the distance of Earth from the Sun.

In effect, the role of inflation is to give cosmic expansion a huge head start or boost, without which our universe would be much smaller. If such an "inflationary field" could spawn our universe it could spawn many others (up to an infinite number).  Further, there is no reason why these offshoot universes from inflation should have the same laws of physics as any of the others.

This is a delightful conclusion since it disposes at once of the "specialness" of the cosmos that too many invoke as a cosmological argument to demand a deity or "Creator".  However, if universes are commonplace, and the physical laws that govern each vary, then the need for a "human-friendly" creator vanishes. It is no longer a fluke that one universe has just the right conditions for life if gazillions of them don't.

Type 2 universes, then, aptly deal with the annoying fine tuning problem that religionists endlessly invoke.

Type 3

The Type 3 "Multiverse" is in reality a product of Hugh Everett's Many worlds quantum interpretation, which was devised to counter the Copenhagen Interpretation's strange ramifications. In the Copenhagen Interpretation, any observer's consciousness is theoretically capable of "collapsing" the wave function, yielding one and only one eigenstate or final observation, i.e. observed state. Everett, to his credit, argued that rather than dealing with one wave function for whatever observed entity (particle, universe, cat in a box - subject to release of cyanide if a cesium atom decays triggering the release device) one might let ALL possible outcomes occur.

In this case, the universe is constantly undergoing a kind of multiple "fission" of reality into umpteen daughter universes where different events unfold from the one we're in. To fix ideas, in one of them Lee Oswald is a published Professor of History at Tulane, not an accused assassin. In the same or other universe, LBJ's plan to have JFK killed is exposed before the executive action and the SOB is tried for treason. In another the Challenger disaster never occurs, it goes off perfectly because NASA took the time to solve the O-ring problem. In yet another, there is no Indonesian tsunami that killed 200,000 in December, 2004 - but there is a massive ocean asteroid strike that kills just as many in SE Asia. You see what I mean?

Here's the catch: All those other universes are inaccessible to those of us in this universe. Hence, for THAT particular universe any given observer picked at random will see only ONE outcome - his own, i.e. from his history- events record. If he observes the outcome of LBJ being hung or shot for treason, he will not observe the outcome in ours where Lee Oswald was framed and LBJ got away with the crime of the century. To put it in the context of Everett's Many Worlds interpretation, the wave function will appear to have collapsed, say  for LBJ's treason and punishment- but that sole wave function collapse (to the exclusion of all other possibilities) is not really what happened. In other ("alternate")  universes other outcomes would have occurred - such as in ours where Oswald is found guilty in absentia and Johnson's Warren Commission fiction and fraud is promoted by a feckless political and media community.

Let's go back to why Everett's "Many Worlds" interpretation was devised specifically as an alternative to the Copenhagen Interpretation of QM - in order to physically make sense of the principle of superposition in QM. According to this principle, before an observation is actually made to establish a determinate state, the object or particle exists in a multitude of different (quantal) states simultaneously.

As to the more exact definition of a "state" this was first given by Paul Dirac in his monograph Quantum Mechanics ('The Principle of Superposition', p. 11):

"A state of a system may be defined as a state of undisturbed motion that is restricted by as many conditions or data as are theoretically possible without mutual interference or contradiction"

This definition itself needs some clarification. By "undisturbed motion" Dirac meant the state is pure and hence no observations are being made upon it such that the state experiences interference effects to displace or collapse it. In the Copenhagen Interpretation, "disturbance" of mutually defined variables (say x, p or position and momentum) occurs when: [x, p] = -i h/ 2π, where h is the Planck constant) leads inexorably to wave function collapse. Thus, an undisturbed state must yield: [x, p] = 0. Another way of putting this is that in the latter case the 2 variables commute, and in the former they do not.

Again, in Copenhagen, the key to getting from [x,p] = - i h/ 2π to [x,p] = 0 is the presence of an observer capable of collapsing the relevant wave function for the system observed. But the problem  is that peculiar considerations enter. For example, a major irritation is the incessant Copenhagenites' debate over the level of consciousness required for a given observer to collapse a wave function. Perhaps this was best epitomized in Richard Schlegel's  Superposition and Interaction:Coherence in Physics (1980, University of Chicago Press, p. 178,) referring to the opinion expressed once by Prof. Eugene Wigner (at a conference) that "the consciousness of a dog would effect the projection into a single state whereas that of an amoeba would not."

So, in this sense, "Many worlds" provided welcome relief from metaphysical conjectures.

What bothered Everett and others was the Copenhagenites' claim that all such differing states existed simultaneously in the same observational domain for a given observer. Then,  on observation, all but one of the states magically disappeared (referred to as "wave function collapse") when the actual observation was recorded.

To Everett it all seemed too contrived and artificial. What if...he asked himself...instead of explaining the superposition of states this way, one instead thought of all quantum states (prior to observation) as co-existing in one phase space representation . Then one could think of each phase attached to another "world", a quantum world. For the total duration (T) of time before the observation was made, all these "worlds" existed at the same time, and then - on observation - the "choice" for one became reality. However, in other quantum worlds those other choices might materialize, as per the examples given above.

In a way, then, Everett's "Many worlds" interpretation  is actually a theory of alternate universes, at least at the level of potential quantum states. It is more compellingly described this way than as a third type  Multiverse, in my opinion. Especially the Type 2 comprising actual physical universes incepted from the selfsame primordial vacuum state (via inflation) as our own universe. Thus, an actual primordial vacuum - not a human observer or consciousness making observational choices- is the source of the real set of universes. Thus, all putative parallel universes plausibly emerged from the primordial vacuum the way ours did, e.g. from the Big Bang.

In the graphic, I show an "idealized Type 2 multiverse" with an infinite set of members, each specified under a coordinate φ, and separated by uniform angular measure Θ from two adjacent universes. The whole represents a 5-dimensional manifold in a toroidal topology. The topological space of the hypertoroid cosmos can therefore be represented by the global state space, a product of absolute hypertorus coordinate time (Θ) and 'all-space'(φ):GL = Θ X φ

I repeat this is an idealized model which assumes that N-cosmi were incepted at equal intervals of time - as manifested by the equal spacing in Θ.

In principle, we don't know a priori how "close" (e.g. in complex time)  another universe may be to our own. When one uses the assumption of "equal time intervals" between inceptions in our idealized multiverse, one isn't stating what those times are, and so they could be minuscule - and the smallest time unit imaginable is the unit tau, τ. (About 10-43 s, and note Θ = f(τ).)

If we specify an exact parallel time displacement we might be able to show how one universe can be "mapped" topologically onto an adjacent one. As an example, let two parallel universes be distinguished by a 1-τ difference in fundamental time parameter, viz. [1 + 2τ] and [1 + 3τ], then we would require for connection, a mapping such that:

(Universe 'A'): f:X -> X = f(Θ,φ) = (Θ, 2φ)

(Universe 'B'): f:X -> X = f(Θ,φ) = (Θ, 3φ)

which means the absolute coordinate φ is mapped onto itself 2 times for [Universe A] and mapped onto itself 3 times for [Universe B]. Clearly, there’ll be coincidences for which: f(Θ,2φ) = f(Θ,3φ) wherein the two universes will 'interweave' a number of times.

For example, such interweaving will occur when φ = π/2 in [A] and φ = π/3 in [B]. The total set or system of multiple points obtained in this way is called a Synchronous temporal matrix. The distinguishing feature of this matrix is that once a single point is encountered, it is probable that others will as well. If one hyperspace transformation can occur linking adjacent universes, A and B, then conceivably more such transformations can occur, linking A and C, D and E etc.

What if both absolute toroidal coordinates (Θ,φ) map into themselves the same number of times? Say, something like:

f:X -> = f(Θ, φ) = (2Θ, 2φ): Universe A

f:X -> = f(Θ, φ) = (3Θ, 3φ): Universe B

For example, given the previous conditions for coordinate φ, now let 2Θ = 3Θ for discrete values of Θ (e.g. 2π). For all multiples of 2π, the same toroidal cosmos will be experienced - if the absolute time coordinates are equal (e.g. π/2 = φ in A, and π/3 = φ in B) then we will have: Universe A = Universe B.

This isn't necessarily poppycock.  Stephen Freeney of Imperial College, London has surmised that two adjacent universes in a Type 2 Multiverse could conceivably 'butt up' against each other and leave "imprints" in each other's space. He reasons that these imprints would likely show up in the cosmic microwave background radiation, generating 'splotches' in the radiation field or differing energy density signatures. As yet no such signal has been found, but in truth we may not yet possess the instruments needed to identify such signatures.

Another experiment proposed to test one's conviction in Everett type worlds is best called "quantum Russian roulette" and is only to be undertaken by the most cocksure quantum physicists. (Say like that lot that makes pronouncements on the JFK assassination simply because they have a QM background.)  The experiment is analogous to the one for Schrodinger's cat - with the experimenter inside a sealed off room connected to a cyanide injector with release of a gas capsule  governed by the decay of a radioactive isotope.

 In some futures the guy will be killed, in others he will remain alive. But since  -from his point of view - he is only aware of being alive he will only perceive that he survives. Hence, he does survive.

So far there have been no takers to carry this one out.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Capitalism IS A Zero Sum Game - It's Time Its Apologists Understand That

Despite Bernie Sanders' campaign bringing some degree of enlightenment to the 2016 presidential race (by making it okay to criticize capitalism), much more needs to be done. That includes holding its sundry apologists to account for the loose thinking, and false logic they consistently display.. One such case emerged in the August 15th issue of The Economist in a review of John Plender's book: Capitalism: Money, Morals and Markets.

The anonymous reviewer observed how "capitalism lacks defenders while protests against it have fresh vigor" forgetting that most of those protests have not occurred in the mainstream media but in the marginal media or blogs, as well as on the streets. Hence, it's debatable how much of an impression has been made.

What we can say is that when an illustrious person like Pope Francis speaks out on capitalism's ills, or a Thomas Piketty (in his books) then it's more likely the mainstream news takes note - but more often than not criticizes the critics for their short sightedness. Thus, in the review of Plender's book do we see a faint damning of ancient critics like Socrates who "declared that the more men think of making money, the less they think of virtue."

Which is probably true for most humans, just look at the tallies of those who win giant Powerball jackpots then blow them on booze, drugs, unwise gambling or unwise investments (often in the same category as the previous one).  Money -sighted people then, as I've often found, are basically two dimensional operating on the existential axes of time vs. money and seldom express an original thought outside this reference frame,

Gordon Gekko, of 'Wall Street'  movie fame,  may be something of a caricature but his basic persona is often replicated in many of the Street's money men (bond traders, investment bankers - once referred to as "big swinging dicks" by one of them in a FORTUNE piece, or plain old stock brokers.)   Their failure in morals then, if it transpires, usually occurs by virtue of a failed larger vision or perspective. One that transcends their yearly bonus and where they will spend their grand vacation or how - killing protected lions in Zimbabwe, or going on a week -long million dollar golf binge at a St. Kitts resort, while their wives enjoy $250k each rose and wine wraps - with or without cucumbers.

Usually, the defenders of these guys just plain fail to see the vast harm of which they are capable. Consider just the credit meltdown and freeze of 2007-08. How many attribute the cause to the correct source? Very few! Usually the lazy media (often right wing) blames it on poor dopes who had maybe $100 in an account but were offered sub-prime mortgages by unscrupulous scheisters (such as depicted in the film, 'The Big Short'. Based on the excellent book by Michael Lewis).

Seldom (either) do they look at the pseudo-intellectuals or “quants” that helped develop the Gaussian Copula formula (see embedded graphic at top) who were quite confident that when they applied it to the development of credit default swaps (a bastardized form of credit derivative)  they’d be virtually home free. On account of the lingo used and the complex nature of the underlying formula – few ordinary mortals would figure them out before it was too late.

To refresh memories, these nasty devices were geared to enable commercial banks (the ones that hold your passbook savings) to leverage their assets to preposterous ratios, sometimes as high as 33:1.  In other words, their generation of profits would largely be based on phantom money – since they lacked the reserves to make good if the bets (which is what the credit defaults swaps were) failed. In the meantime, the Gaussian formula itself allowed the credit derivatives to be sliced and diced numerous ways to package them throughout ordinary securities such as collateralized mortgage obligations.  The failure of the credit agencies themselves to be onto the junk bond nature of CMOs and allowing the presence of one fraction of ‘AAA’ bonds in each – then designating the whole AAA - led directly to the collapse of the credit markets in 2008.

 Since then  it’s become ever more evident why elite economics is a failure and can’t even be regarded as a science like Physics, or even in a “pre-scientific phase” . If it had then the main practitioners of the dismal science ought to have been able to predict the effect of their CDS on a vulnerable home debt market. They didn't.

 In the case of the Gaussian copula, invented by David X. Li  -  while working at JP Morgan Chase and articulated in his (2000) paper: ‘On Default Correlation: A Copula Function Approach”  -  it wasn't even a true mathematically sound equation analogous to those used in physics or celestial mechanics.. It was more an intellectual Frankenstein monster that never should have seen the light of day any more than a four-headed baby with a pointed tail. For example, Li's misuse of the distribution functions (FA(1)) and (FB(1)) would appall any genuine mathematician or physicist. Each is actually based upon significant uncertainties via survival law distributions which can vary enormously. There is no way to normalize any probability based on (TA, TB so there is no way to equate Pr[TA, TB] to anything on the left side. The equal sign is dangerous recklessness masquerading as math. Did the illustrious economists or "quants" know any of this when they cranked out credit default swaps? Or assigned the bonds in which they were buried AAA ratings? The evidence of failure to predict the 2008 credit crash shows they didn't.

All of which supports Chris Hedges’ condemnation of these mental zombots, i.e. p. 98, The Empire of Illusion:

“They cannot grasp that truth is often relative. They base their decisions on established beliefs such as the primacy of an unregulated market or globalization, which are accepted as absolutes.”

In other words, these money men and derivative inventors inhabit a self-confected, solipsist world of illusion devoid of critical empirical testing or critical thought. I mean, Jeez, if any one of these so-called geniuses would have just taken the time to understand WHAT he was doing in applying the Gaussian Copula to credit derivatives he’d likely have seen it was the equivalent of a physicist taking a tiny piece of special relativity and trying to inject it into areas that had no relevance because the primary criterion (speeds near c, the speed of light) were not being  met.

But see, at least physics has and uses empirical testing before advancing – so the odds are less that physicists will make asses of themselves. Not so with these economic, political elites.   Unlike astronomers,  who can accurately predict the position of Jupiter or Mars in 2050 or the next lunar eclipse or occultation of a star, the economists can't even predict simple stuff in their immediate domain - say like forecasting the growth would be 3.2 % in 2011 when it was only 1.7%
Remarkably, Plender is aware of the cost of high finance on capitalism's rep and this is pointed ou by the reviewer (p. 75):
"It's not just that few people can see the benefits of complex financial products like credit default swaps. He adds that 'bankers have undoubtedly done their best to give capitalism a bad name. The extraordinary scale on which big banks have been rigging interest rates and foreign exchange markets and ripping off their customers is almost beyond comprehension."
Fair enough, but it still doesn't let the system itself off the hook, which breeds these tactics and the money men who use them.  This leads to a blindness about perceptions of capitalism.
For example, the reviewer's claim - echoing Plender- that the financial crisis was the latest example of "the inherent stability of capitalism", i.e. "allowing it to benefit from creative destruction". In fact, the financial crisis was just the opposite, a glaring example of capitalism's instability.  We actually came within a hair's breadth of another Depression and only barely escaped because the political system and party in control at the time was enabled by votes to use taxpayer money (nearly $897b) to bail the system out and interject liquidity.
In the same manner, if a series of nuclear reactors were to "nearly melt down" - governed by the same computerized control algorithms - one would not argue or assert the "system is stable" or "shows stability".  But no one - after all the taxpayer money was spent - came after the clowns that nearly wrecked the financial system, leaving it open to future predations.

Why do we keep paying attention to these clowns? Just because they have Harvard, or Cambridge or Stanford or whatever degrees after their names? Mainly, yes – and also because the politicos who achieve high office tend to install them in their cabinets so instead of being relegated to some corner office behind the walls of ivy, they have the ear of Presidents and Prime Ministers. These clowns can then help determine national policy which is usually to the detriment of the rest of us.

At root of it all, which none of them or the bought out media will tell you, is that the trillions of bucks circulating in the capitalist markets represents  FORCE. A force that can crush opponents underfoot, including presidential campaign opponents who dare to bring its nefarious consequences (to our electoral system) to light.

They also don't want too much exposed because they know deep down as capitalism ramps up it generates millions of losers a year, not to mention destroys what's left of our natural environment. As Naomi Klein has pointed out, it's no coincidence that a capitalism has spread and consumerism reached exponential levels, the planet's atmosphere has been laid waste to via the Greenhouse effect.

The Economist reviewer's claim then that (ibid.):

"For all its faults capitalism has raised the living standards of billions of people since the 18th century and improved their life expectancy"

Is only a half truth, since it ignores the other side: that this enhancement of living standards and life expectancy has come at the cost of the planet as a habitable future abode. These long lived consumers (no longer seen as citizens) now plunder the planet to the tune of the equivalent of 1.5 Earths' worth of finite resources per year. They are driven by capitalist-based advertising to do so, as it generates ever more 'wants' as opposed to fulfilling actual needs. Thus, every manjack has to have his own car to drive and pollute  with CO2. Every unused computer or 'Barbie' tossed into the landfill - along with soiled diapers and plastic bags - creates ever more waste and hazards.

It is no surprise that pollution and cancers have reached a peak now as ever newer weedicides and pesticides have to be created - not to mention GMO crops - to feed a growing population in which food sources must keep up with numbers.

But the other perverse aspect is that capitalists love overpopulation because it means - n their minds- vast "markets" of global consumers to buy their ever larger quotas of crap, that ever lowers Earth's store of non-renewable resources.

Perhaps no one has better explained the connection of global warming, especially, to capitalism, than Naomi Klein. Readers who are interested should get hold of her book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism Vs. Climate Change.  Basically, as Klein argues, capitalism is unable to affect or alter  the course of climate change due to its dependence on fossil fuels and need for continuous growth. Also,  the time for marginal fixes has expired, thus forcing us to now make radical changes in how we live.

 We simply don't have the luxury of using all the carbon that lies in the Earth. Yet capitalism's never ending growth engine would demand we do so to support the expansion of new markets for exploitation and wanton consumption.  Failing to note that the more we take from the Earth the less real wealth we have left: a zero sum game.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Yes, Hillary Will Have To Meet Conditions To Get Bernie's Supporters On Board

WATCH: Clinton goes off on Greenpeace activist: "I am so sick" of you bringing up my fossil fuel money
"WAAAH! I shouldn't have to accept conditions to get Bernie's supporters!"

In a victory lap speech last night, after taking four eastern primary states (DE, PA, CT. MD) Hillary made a pitch to Bernie Sanders's' supporters that "there is more that unites us than divides us" - betraying a real desperation to be able to actually turn Right, and go after Donald Trump. She also showed again that talk is cheap. But what Bernie's people really want to see is engraved in stone promises to back up the unity blather (having already been burned by "hope and change" nonsense eight years earlier.). You know the old saw: "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice shame on me."

Well, Bernie's supporters don't plan to get fooled again, especially when most of them already sense a yen to get off the leftward tilt and turn to the "center" and the Right. (In fact the current center, so called, is really center-Right.)

Bernie himself, in response to an idiot reporter's inane question ('When do you plan to drop out?') answered correctly that the campaign isn't just about winning the nomination but changing the political direction of the party and the country - implying that it must be away from its Neoliberal tilt of the past 34 years. (Since the formation of the DLC, 'Democratic Leadership Council', and its "Third way", Republican lite version of the Dems.)

That means building planks into the Democratic Party platform that reflect Bernie's positions, such as dealing with the banks in a real way as opposed to "optically". At the very least that means bringing back a version of Glass-Steagall to keep investment and commercial banks separate. As in Canada, banks should not be using depositors' hard earned savings to make risky bets with derivatives and then have to be bailed out with taxpayer money when they fail. That also means at least verbally acknowledging the validity of Bernie's bill which allows the Treasury Secretary to name banks too big to fail.

It also means making a clear promise to lower the burden of student loan debt.  As one expert on military  growth interviewed recently by Laura Flanders put it, nations are spending an average of $1.75 trillion per year on military armaments. Just a fraction of that ($200b) could be used to enable lower tuition at U.S. public universities for example.

We also want to see Hillary accept a non-interventionist foreign policy given we simply can't continue to spend precious resources on occupations and wars when there are so many pressing domestic needs, like repairing crumbling infrastructure.

In a nutshell then, these are some of the conditions we expect to be met when Bernie rolls into Philadelphia with well over 1, 500 delegates and 10 million votes that Hillary will need to beat Trump:

-  Acceptance of a viable plan to separate commercial and investment banks

- Acceptance of a plausible plan to reduce student college loan debt (at the very least lowering interest rates to 3% or less.)

- Promise not to advocate for any cuts for Social Security (as Obama tried with his "Debt Commission" in 2010)

- No to any cuts to Medicare, including "privatization" plans

- No to any liaisons with Israel to either attack Iran or Syria, or send troops (or cruise missiles) in.

- No to any new adventures in the Ukraine, or trying to set up a "no fly zone" over Syria.

The last two are particularly apropos given Hillary's robust background as a hawk, illuminated in a recent NY Times magazine piece, e.g.

The piece noted that Clinton’s extreme belligerence “will likely set her apart from the Republican candidate she meets in the general election,” noting “neither Donald J. Trump nor Senator Ted Cruz of Texas have demonstrated anywhere near the appetite for military engagement abroad that Clinton has.” In the 2016 presidential campaign, the report concludes, “Hillary Clinton is the last true hawk left in the race.”

HRC's gender backers - who may have sons that she enlists to fight a war of choice, say in Syria or Iraq-   ought to take note.

I would also add that before we embrace "Hill"' she come clean and release those transcripts of her Wall Street speeches (mainly to reps of Goldman- Sachs).  We deserve to know exactly what she said, and whether any statements made included promises to "cut entitlements", privatize Social Security or punch any more holes into Dodd-Frank.

Hillary whined last week that she never issued any conditions (to get her supporters on board) when she ultimately backed Obama in 2008. But she omitted saying the differences between them were tweedle-dee and tweedle-dum, both Neoliberals at heart.

This time around is not the same, given we have a democratic socialist exposing the flaws of a diehard Neolib and warhawk. Thus, millions of Bernie supporters won't be satisfied with anything less than her not only mouthing words of unity - but building Berne's main proposals into the party platform.

See also:

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The End Of Moore's Law? Maybe Sooner Than You Think

Let's first clarify that "Moore's law" is not a physical law in the sense of Newton's 2nd law of motion, e.g.

F = m (dv/dt)

But rather a law that appears to govern the miniaturization and speed of microprocessors, applicable at least for the past 44 years.  It can be traced to Gordon Moore, who became one of the founders of Intel and in 1965 wrote a paper in which he claimed that the number of electronic components that could be crammed into an integrated circuit was doubling every year. This exponential increase became known as Moore's law.

By 1970 the rate of doubling was reduced to once every two years and this has pretty well held for the past 44 years. Effectively we're looking at a 22 times doubling (starting with Intel's 4004 chip in 1971) and hence something 4 million times improved. This is just about what's happened. Whereas the 4004 had roughly 2,300 transistors (tiny electrical switches representing the 1s and 0s as the binary language of computers), the Intel's new Xeon Haskell E-5 (launched in 2014) has 5 billion - just 22 nm apart.

But that may be about to end in what some might term "the limit of small".  That is, the components are now approaching the fundamental limit of smallness: the atom. For example, the Intel Skylake transistor is only 100 atoms across. The fewer atoms in scale, the more difficult it is to store and manipulate the electronics and especially those 1s and 0s.

Of course, according to one wag, "There's a law about Moore's law: The number of people predicting the death of Moore's law doubles every two years."

But I am predicting it, based on the limits not only of size but of energy to continue to manufacture any scale of chips. This limit of energy I already wrote about at length in terms of its impact on economics in general, e.g.

Energy limits and especially efficiency are important because once the EROEI (energy returned on energy invested) goes below a given threshold all bets are off and production is limited - and more costly - across a wide spectrum of products, not just computer chips. Wonder why NASA's space exploration budget has been pared by nearly one -third (according to the most recent Physics Today)? It's because of the much higher cost of energy to drive those rockets, space craft across vast distances. Wonder  why thousands of oil shale wells across the U.S. have shut down and workers sent home? It's because it is no longer cost effective to take the stuff out of the ground because the price per barrel is too low to support the expenditure of energy needed for extraction, storage, transport.

At root of many of these issues is the standard problem of entropy, or ever smaller amounts of useful energy available for a closed system with each energy conversion.  That is, more waste energy is generally given off, e,g, as heat in the process of transport, than used in the actual chips for computing. The more energy wasted or lost this way the less available for computing. Modern chips are so "power hungry" as the Economist piece notes, that up to 80 percent of the total input energy is expended in the course of transport leaving only a few to get energy in and out.

One possible solution is "spintronic transistors" given the voltage needed to drive them is only 10- 20 millivolts (1 mV = 1/1000 of a volt). This is hundreds of times lower than for a conventional transistor which means the latter's energy needs are hundreds of time greater. Thus, the spintronic device would solve the heat problem at a stroke but the problem is research has been ongoing for 15 years with nothing to show for it. This implies design problems of its own given with such minute voltages distinguishing between a 1 and a 0 from electrical background noise becomes tricky.

To push Moore's law further along a number of key changes would have to occur beyond merely resorting to a few more different designs and materials i.e. that may make transistors amenable to a bit more shrinkage.  (One of these 'tweaks' is to diffuse computing power rather than concentrating it, i.e. spreading the ability to calculate and communicate across an ever larger range of everyday objects.)

Higher energy efficiency will be essential to even keep Moore's law going for a decade. That includes dispensing with energy-intense lithium batteries (unsustainable in a lower energy environment)  and instead harvesting energy from surroundings including from the vibrations of E-M waves - using  tiny amounts of power amidst an intensely crowded radio spectrum.

Even Lindley Gwennap, who runs the Lindley Group of Silicon Valley analysts has admitted in the March 12th Economist: "From an economic standpoint, Moore's law is over." In other words, the cost to continue the Moore's law doubling (for miniaturization and chip power) is no longer sustainable in the current degraded energy environment operating on lower EROEI fuel. (Intel's boss, Brian Krzanich, has also publicly admitted the firm's rate of progress has slowed.)

As The Economist observes:

"The twilight of Moore's law then will begin change, disorder and plenty of creative destruction. An industry that used to rely on a handful of devices will splinter."

According to Bob Colwell who helped design Intel's Pentium chip:

"Most of the people who buy computers don't even know what a transistor does. They simply want the products they buy to keep getting better and more useful than in the past."

That route is getting more difficult but hopefully there will be other ways to make better computers and computing devices even without the full benefit of Gordon's Moore's "law".

We just have to be patient and see what they are.

Monday, April 25, 2016

CERN Set To Rupture Dimensions And Unleash Demons? Total Balderdash!

One of the demons people fear is likely to be released if CERN's Large Hadron Collider Is back  up and running.

What is it about basic physics experiments, i.e. into the basic nature of the universe, that drive an element of humanity into total paranoia and hysteria? Now that CERN is ready to commence experiments once more with the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) it's been noted that wacky, halfwit speculations are circulating the memosphere like a virtual brain virus (WSJ, April 5, p. A1 and A10).

One nutty blogger actually tried to pin last year's deadly Nepal earthquake on LHC trial tests, while a headline of an opinion piece published by the Coldwater MI 'Daily Reporter' screamed: "We Should Be Very Careful About CERN!". Why?  Because you don't understand its working principles?

Meanwhile, as the WSJ piece put it (A10):

"Last summer, Internet chatter about CERN's role in hastening Doomsday spiked"

Showing again that too many without adequate knowledge have way too much time on their hands.

Acknowledging the frenzy, CERN's cognoscenti put up a FAQ on its website called "The Surreal FAQ" and in its one of many deadpan rejoinders to the nonsense assured one and all "it won't open a door to another dimension" also adding: "Shiva, a gift from the Indian government represents the life force and we have lots of statues. Our logo is meant to represent particle accelerators, not Satan"

Sadly even having to acknowledge no obeisance to an entity ("Satan") that doesn't exist anyway.

Then there are the dime store psychologists, never mind they lack even a dime store exposure to psychology. The WSJ piece cites a Michael Barkun - an emeritus professor of Political Science at Syracuse University who offered the chestnut that "CERN has a special ability to attract the conspiracy subculture".

But as I noted in my post from two days ago it was Dr. Pat Bannister in the 1970s who distinguished a conspiracy (sub-) culture from the genuine conspiracy research community. And the yokels proposing CERN's LHC opening up "doors to other dimensions"  and unleashing "demons" are definitely of the first category. They are basically adult children who lack a grasp of even basic physical concepts and hence concoct whole cloth nutso nonsense that some - like Barkun - generously describe as "conspiracies".  A better word for them is unsupported, unverifiable bullshit.

According to Barkun quoted in the WSJ (ibid.):

"Any time you have forces that are high energy and invisible, like those in the Large Hadron Collider, they lend themselves to these kind of interpretations"

Which is debatable. It is rather more plausible that such off the wall interpretations will come from those with a minimal science background, or even reading background. Which are exactly the points made by those such as Neil Postman and Pat Bannister. If you think and operate at a cartoon level, and your reading is at a comic book, superstition or cartoon level,  eschewing anything "difficult",  you will emerge as a child. Then you will entertain childish ideation.

This is the specific case of the Raelians also cited in the WSJ piece.  According to the article: "They see life on Earth as the creation of scientists from another planet, and announced last year they would stage a demonstration at CERN's campus to protest the LHC's destruction of tiny life forms contained within particles"

No, you just can't make this shit up. These dopes truly believe subatomic particles like quarks harbor miniature life forms. As one CERN spokesperson put it: "I guess they more or less see particles as planets with very small people on them:"

Clearly the Raelians ignore the fact these life forms would have far more to worry about being gobbled by ordinary dust mites. Fortunately, they must have come to their senses as they never showed up.

Some of the blame I think might be placed on CERN for willingly participating in fantasy fiction fare that weak minds might find believable. For example, CERN chose to participate in the 2009 film 'Angels and Demons' which spun a yarn about using antimatter created in the LHC to construct a super bomb. In fact, CERN's physicists contributed to the script! Bad idea, because even a loose association like that would trigger neurons in the collective brains of a paranoid child subculture that grew up with video games and X-men comics. Then they might conjecture such fictional participation was concealing a real one.

Kate Kahle, who oversees social media for CERN (and has a physics degree), was quoted in the WSJ piece admitting she "tried to engage directly with serial conspiracy theorists with mixed results." She recalled one of the responses to her denial of occult mischief: "Was that a 'no' to the portal or to the demons?"

Of course, Pat Bannister would have advised  Kahle  from the outset not to waste her time because none of the occult lot she addressed were at the level of  mentally mature adults. That is,  who could grasp her words within a rational setting as opposed to an irrational one embraced as more real by semi-literates, unread in even classic fare like 'Beowulf' or The Odyssey'.  (Far less factual scientific books like Hawking's 'Brief History of Time',  or Peter Sturrock's 'The UFO Enigma: A New Review of the Physical Evidence', (It would be like arguing with a kindergartner whether the 2nd derivative can be used to obtain the maximum of a function.)

Again, the conspiracy culture approaches its conspiracy thinking - if that is what it can be called - from a cartoon level of simple analogies and caricatures: i.e. good vs. evil, '666' means antichrist,  high energy machines imply dimensional ruptures etc. No genuine research or investigations of any scientific or mathematical validity go into it. Bannister herself would point out the very mention of "demons" immediately discloses the person as possessing the mental age of a 5 or 6 year old.  Hence, no serious person would treat such a "conspiracy" as the rational product of a sound or mature mind.

Kahle's error lay in making that assumption (of dealing with rational minds) as opposed to overgrown babies who combine an extravagant imagination with a sense of profound entitlement to have their codswallop respected. Much like too many in Google groups who believe just because they can express an absurd opinion on the Kennedy assassination they can expect it to be accepted.(Or they base their opinions on a work of fraudulent scholarship like the Warren Report.)

In the end, CERN's high energy experiments will be performed and no untoward effects - like mini black holes or cosmic ruptures- will be manifested. At that stage one hopes the regressed infants and their ideation will settle down, and perhaps muster enough curiosity to read a real science book, as opposed to a comic.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Reversion Of Too Many Adults To The State Of Children - Appalling and Pathetic

Let us concede that any adult who spends many hours of the day coloring images (using colored pencils or crayons) in a coloring book is in some form regressed: either actually retarded, or less excusable, wasting time by deliberately reverting to childish pastimes to try to escape the psychological or other burdens of adulthood.  Thus, the latest pastime of too many elders spending time with coloring books like children is nothing to applaud and kind of embodies the regression of too many Americans to a proto-toddler state.

This occurred to me while reading a WSJ piece about early education expert Erika Christakis who many will recall as being at the center of a Halloween brouhaha at Yale last year. It began when Yale's Intercultural Affairs Committee advised students they ought not present themselves wearing feathered headdresses, turbans or war paint - or modifying skin tones (to appear as a minstrel performer) . The aim was to try to steer students into being more sensitive in their choice of costumes or apparel.

In response, Ms. Christakis dispatched her own email wondering whether such oversight and advice was really needed. She wrote:

"Whose business is it to control the forms of costumes of young people to get them to act responsibly?"


"Free speech and ability to tolerate offense are the hallmarks of a free and open society".

(Attributes one wishes were more in evidence last month at a Denver Art Exhibit when a HS student had to withdraw her painting under a hail of criticism - when it depicted a police officer in a KKK hood, pointing a gun at a small black kid with his hands raised high in the air, screaming "Don't shoot!". Avoiding the bane of 'political correctness' ought to apply to every group, in other words.)

Anyway, many Yalies  became enraged and called for Christakis and her husband to be removed from their positions as heads of undergraduate residence at Yale. Ms. Christakis then resigned from her teaching position.  In the WSJ piece, she admitted she stepped down not only because of the email kerfuffle but also she felt more broadly that "the campus climate didn't allow open dialogue"

In other words, it more or less treated staff and students as impudent and out of control barbarians who had to be directed toward more judicious actions and couldn't be depended on to act responsibly on their own.  This perhaps was simmering all the time as she delivered her honest opinions at the outset observing, "adults now act like children, reading Children's books, dressing like college students" and I might add, coloring inside the lines in assorted children's style coloring books (though the clever marketers call them 'adult coloring books' - yeah, right!)

This in turn evoked the book by Neil Postman entitled, 'The Disappearance of Childhood', which noted as far back as thirty odd years ago how adult Americans were apparently regressing in mentality toward childish pastimes and preoccupations.

In his Chapter Seven (‘The Adult Child’), for example, Postman lays out a summary of his thesis on the disappearance of childhood in tandem with defining the modern conception of “adult” and what it has evolved (devolved?) into after the emergence of video culture. As he puts it, the modern idea of the adult “is largely a product of the printing press.” Further, almost all the attributes we associate with adulthood “are those either generated or amplified by a literary culture”. These include:

- A capacity for self-restraint

- A tolerance for delayed gratification

- A sophisticated ability to think sequentially and conceptually

- A preoccupation with both historical continuity and the future

- A high valuation of reason and hierarchical order

Postman then goes on to warn that as electronic (visual) media assume center stage “different attitudes and character traits come to be valued and a new, diminished definition of adulthood begins to emerge”. This new stunted version of the adult reaches its apotheosis (nadir?) in the adult child having arrived with the television-video age - which primary characteristic flattens out all differences between ages. A typical observation by Postman (p. 101) serves to clarify and lead to a fuller exposition:

“Television redefines what is meant by ‘sound judgment’ by making it into an aesthetic rather than a logical matter. A barely literate ten year old can interpret and at least respond to the information “given off” by a (political) candidate as easily and quickly as a well-informed 50 year old."

In other words, one required literary heft and markers - say in ability to read weighty, dense books (like James Joyce's Ulysses , or Milton's Paradise Lost, or Jean -Paul Sartre's Being and Nothingness) to finally separate adults from children, adult minds from childish imitators.  Thus, literary culture and mature works provided the truest litmus test to distinguish an adult from a child. Coloring books? Not so much because any kid of five or six could do that.

Some eight years before Postman's book was published Dr. Pat Bannister was also doing theory of mind research wherein childish, regressed tendencies could be separated from more mature ones. I already noted her theory that conspiracy awareness evolved to neutralize the penchant for precocious lying, or more mature conspiracy planning.  Thus, it afforded a mechanism by which surreptitious activity might be neutralized or at least outed ex post facto.

While Bannister's work didn't receive much prominence at the time (and still hasn't, having never been codified in electronic formats like so much else) she did do a lot of research into theory of mind before there was such.  One aspect involved identifying a childish "conspiracy subculture"  which obsessed over things like alien autopsies and Roswell aliens being stashed away at Area 51.  Tragically, those enmeshed in this subculture were also more likely to be driven into paranoid ideation as a result of strong religious stimuli (much like what befell the forlorn folk at Jonestown, Guyana in November, 1978).

By contrast, those with genuine theory of mind grounding as embodied in the investigation of real world conspiracies (like the JFK assassination, Iran-Contra, BCCI) were more likely to be thoroughly familiar and comfortable with an extensive literary culture. They possessed truly adult intellects, in other words, and not childish substitutes.  JFK was a real President, after all, unlike the supposed aliens in Area 51. His assassins from the CIA and Staff D operation were also quite real, unlike the supposed ne'er do wells at Area 51 hiding the aliens from scrutiny.

To her credit, Bannister never bought the narrative circulating at the time that acceptance of a conspiracy, as in the JFK case, provided a "pacifier" to those faced with an otherwise random, senseless act of violence. On the contrary, she saw JFK conspiracy analysts as the real adults for their willingness to pierce the veil of secrecy of a shadow state - and exposing the horrors of what that actually meant. It was rather the lone nut purveyors who wished to keep American citizens at the level of malleable infants: "Look! It's one crazy guy, one off! Nothing to fret over! Nothing happening there! Now go back to sleep!"

Lastly, actual files and documents have helped unearth the warp and woof  - as well as plausible participants -  in the Kennedy assassination (e.g. George Johannides, David Atlee Phillips, disaffected Cubans like Sergio Archacha Smith etc.) while no similar files or document trail have unearthed any alien artifacts or records from Area 51.  Does this mean that no such artifacts or aliens exist? No, only that there is as yet no factual basis to suppose so. This is why Bannister coined the term "conspiracy culture" to distinguish it from "conspiracy research community". The latter she envisaged as the province of mature, rational adults. The former was the realm of adult children who fancied themselves adults but who really weren't. The very nature of their conspiracy hunches often exposed the naïve, incomplete, and woefully unsophisticated knowledge base. (For example, the present day Raelians who see the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) as a devilish means to destroy tiny life forms contained within particles. Not appreciating that the size of such particles precludes the existence of life forms existing on them.)

If she were alive today, I am certain Bannister would also include a mathematical facility along with literary mastery as attributes needed by genuine conspiracy researchers. Thus, Richard Charnin's work on the Poisson statistical analyses leading to identification of suspicious witness deaths in the JFK case would have been applauded as totally adult. I am sure Neil Postman, if alive, would also have given that work his wholesale backing as representing the product of an adult mind- and an appreciation of it as a test of rational adulthood.

  As for the adults engrossed in their coloring books, Bannister would have despaired and likely thought: "Good god, anyone would be able to pull off even a basic conspiracy on these people!"

Like Postman and Christakis, she feared the mass regression of adults to the state of de facto children, especially with the oncoming emphasis on the visual by way of TV. Like Christakis, she believed true adults needed to be able to make their own decisions and also have the maturity to live with them, come what may. When I last saw Pat Bannister in January, 1974 (at the Barbados Psychiatric Hospital in Black Rock, St. Michael, while visiting a friend's daughter) she asked about my future plans.  I told her I planned to go into space and solar physics research. She applauded that and responded: "Good for you! If I hadn't chosen psychiatry that's likely something I would have done!"

Friday, April 22, 2016

An Earth Day Memo To Climate Change Deniers: Time To Give It Up

As most of the news media appears to be obsessed with the untimely death of a rock star, the death of a planet still goes mostly unnoticed on this Earth Day, 2016. Despite three of the past four years being the hottest on record, tropical diseases such as West Nile and dengue fever killing ever more in temperate zones, and 330 million now adversely affected by drought in India, the media deems the death of Prince more important than attending to the latest climate convulsions.

Oh, this also includes the latest reports that only 7 percent of Australia's Great Barrier Reef has escaped 'bleaching' a result of being exposed to ever higher sea temperatures. In respect of this phenomenon, Prof. Terry Hughes - member of the National Coral Bleaching Taskforce- recently informed a BBC audience that the link between global warming and coral bleaching was "very well established". Indeed, it has been, just as the ramping up of El Nino events with enhanced global warming has been well documented by S. George Philander of the American Geophysical Union.

As Prof. Hughes noted, the rising water temperatures cause corals to drive out color-giving algae and the coral dies if conditions don't return to normal.  The task force's survey shows the extent of damage is most severe in the northern section of 2,300 km reef off of Queensland.  More than 900 reefs were surveyed using a light plane and helicopter and the accuracy was checked by scuba teams.

Bleached coral off Australian coast.

The bleaching, of course, is not merely an aesthetic negative. It signifies rapid death of coral and that climate change is (already) irreversibly affecting the world, even as slothful policy makers treat it as a future threat. As Ocean scientist Steve Palumbi of Stanford has put it:

"Climate change may be slow creeping sometimes, but other times it takes great leaps forward. This is one of those leaps with the coral reefs."

Meanwhile, in India, a ferocious drought is taking a toll even as a heat wave extends across much of the country with temperatures having reached 40 C (104F) four days now. Schools have been shut down in the eastern state of Orissa and more than 100 deaths from heatstroke have been reported from across the country. These include the states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh which saw over 2,000 heat deaths last summer.  The Indian government has reported nearly 256 districts affected across India, home to nearly a fourth of the country's population - or 330m.

Most Indian climate specialists attribute these heat waves to a ramped up El Nino and global warming which they agree is fueled by humans generating CO2, increasing the planet's CO2 concentrations now to over 400 parts per million. Let's recall that the late Carl Sagan, who did the original research tying the conditions on Venus to an incipient Greenhouse Effect via CO2 buildup, also pointed out that prolonged heat waves would occur as a result of the later stages of global warming - before the runaway greenhouse sets in.

All of this has transpired even as revised temperature increases are for 4C- 6C by the end of the century, and sea level increases up to 0.5 m higher. (See attached U.S. Geological Survey map of consequences to Florida by 2035.)

In the midst of all this, climate deniers and also quasi deniers (like Bjorn Lomborg) continue to make light of the situation, either dismissing it entirely (namely the human CO2 factor), or averring that "cold kills more than heat" - as Lomborg did in a recent WSJ op-ed (April 7, p. A15).  In that piece, Lomborg actually wrote:

"In the U.S. about 9,000 die from heat every year but 144,000 die from cold."

Failing to take note that it is actually social conditions that precipitated those cold deaths, not the cold per se. (Or to put it another way, the cold only caused the deaths after the victims were denied affordable heating in their. homes.) The victims then were primarily from the huge homeless population, and also millions unable to afford adequate heating owing to the high cost of energy. To fix ideas, some eight years ago tens of thousands in New England faced a bleak winter with little heating oil - because subsidies were cut - when Venezuela came to the rescue, compliments of their national company Citgo.

The U.S. was shamed in the Left press at the time for letting a foreign nation tend to our needy elderly (mainly) while the wealthiest roasted chestnuts in their own fireplaces with abandon.

Every October, in fact, I receive notices from the Colorado Springs Utilities asking for energy donations to help one or more of the 24,000 people in need in our area. Even for us, the cost of the natural gas has increased so much that if we are faced with an especially cold month (most days 10F or lower) the utility bill can come in at over $250 with nearly $125 for gas heating alone. Many in our area cannot afford this. It's either lower the thermostat (often to 60F or less) or don't eat. Note this is above all an ECONOMIC issue, not a climate issue, so it is specious of Lomborg to compare cold deaths to heat deaths without reckoning in that it is much more costly to remain warm in colder temperatures than to remain cool in hotter ones. (Though this is increasingly changing here in Colorado as the warming temperatures over the past ten years have forced more and more home owners to install air conditioning).

Lomborg's emphasis on cold vs. heat deaths also greatly oversimplifies the issue, given that is only one aspect of the increased mortality from enhanced global warming. Left out is the spread of once tropical diseases, as well as parasitical ones, not to mention extreme droughts and flooding attributed to global warming linked events. Again, while one can't pin a specific event to global warming it is possible to arrive at a statistical limit of probability given that any high school physics student knows that a warmer atmosphere (air) holds more water and under the right conditions that moisture can be unleashed - to torrential levels as we've recently seen in the case of Houston, and earlier Louisiana.

Lomborg does at least admit: 'Climate change is a genuine problem that will eventually be a net detriment to society".

But my take and the take of others is that it is already a net detriment now, even as the African-originating Zika virus now stands to spread to the U.S. this summer.

Those who want to access the 'Climate Deception Dossiers' , showing how the denier gestalt has been fabricated and funded, can go here:

See also:

Thursday, April 21, 2016

"Vampire" Bosses Can Be Controlled Using Religious Artifacts? Maybe

According to The Economist (March 19, p. 70), fully 9 percent of U.S. employees in an Ethics and Compliance Act (2013) study, reported their managers had pressured them to do things that compromised their ethical beliefs. Most went along - such as when Countrywide pressured employees to pass on defective loans to government- because they rightly feared negative repercussions. (In the Countrywide case, those employees who spoke out or complained were immediately fired).

Now, it appears that "dodgy" bosses can be warded off like vampires by using a religious artifact - say in your cubicle - to signal you are not that kind of person.  The Economist reports that new research by Sreedhari Desai of the University of North Carolina - to be published in The Academy of Management Journal - indicates that brandishing or showing artifacts like crucifixes can get boos boy to look elsewhere for a nefarious comrade.

Desai after carrying out real world studies, mainly in India - found that bosses are reluctant to put seemingly righteous employees in compromising positions.  Desai surmises that they may also fear that such "godly" folk are more likely to blow the whistle on any blatant shenanigans that come to their attention. Another theory? The displayed religious symbol - whether crucifix on a desk or image of St. Thomas Aquinas on the wall, nay cause these vampire bosses to "look deep within themselves" to consider the ethical consequences of what they'd like to ask.

Desai, according to the piece, suspects the truth is a mix of all the above. Basically, her experiments  showed that those in positions of power who were exposed to moral or religious symbols - even a closed Bible - were less likely to ask something immoral of any of their employees. (But they were even less likely to do so for the person to whom the symbol actually belonged.

But the amazing aspect was the "umbrella" effect conferred by any symbol used.  Interestingly also, "Muslim bosses were more likely to respect someone displaying a Hindu deity or Christian cross, for example, than someone who displayed nothing - like your standard atheist.  Thus, Ms. Desai worries that bosses who are themselves religious may discriminate more generally against workers or keep their faith to themselves or don't have one.

What remains to be seen, say in follow up studies, is whether the generalizations so far made by Desai hold up across national boundaries and cultures. For example, when the typical Aussie sees a 'holy quote" attached to a sender's email, he doesn't take it as a true representation of the sender's beliefs like Americans. Instead, he suspects the sender is acting "holier than thou" and trusts him or her less.

Most atheists also assume the same, that the religious icon or quote is merely being used to attempt to inject a certain perception which may not relate at all to the use. Atheist bosses, wherever they are, likely share that view.

But it appears at least in a limited subset of cases displaying a crucifix, Bible or some religious image could have positive advantages for believer workers who disdain doing their bosses' dirty work.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Higher IQ Liar Children, Conspiracy Awareness & Theory of Mind

According to Dr. Kang Lee of the University of  Toronto, cited in Susan Pinker's WSJ piece ('Children's Lies Are A Sign Of Progress', Jan.16-17, p. C2) "the ability to bend the truth is a developmental mental milestone  much like walking and talking". His research shows that "lying begins early in precocious children" and clearly the more cognitively advanced the child, the earlier he starts with the whoppers.

Dr. Lee found that among verbal 2-year olds, 30% lie, among 3 year olds it's 50 %. and rises to 80 % among 4 year olds. In other words, despite all their moral declarations, parents ought to worry about a totally truthful child at age four as much as one who is still unable to utter coherent sentences. As Pinker puts it(ibid.):

"In other words, lying is nothing unusual in small children. What's more,  younger children who tell tales have a cognitive advantage over truth tellers"

Quoting Dr. Lee:

"Lying requires two ingredients: Children need to understand what's in someone else's mind - to know what they know and what they don't know. We call this ability theory of mind. The children who are better at theory of mind are better at lying."

The 2nd requirement is higher executive function - the power to plan ahead and curb unwanted immediate actions that promised relatively lower gratification. Thus, according to Dr. Lee:

"The 30 percent of the under 3's who can lie have higher executive functions , specifically the ability to inhibit the urge to tell the truth and to switch to lying."

This is very interesting given that forty -four years ago Dr. Pat Bannister of the University of the West Indies postulated an "inverse" theory of mind, based on the genesis of conspiracy sensitivity or awareness. She published papers, mainly appearing in university symposiums, showing that conspiracy investigation arose as an evolutionary adaptation to the (earlier evolved) ability to lie. In her conception, if conspiracy is among the most sophisticated forms of lying (entailing misdirecting actions as well as words)  then an evolutionary  "equalizer" was needed in order to expose it so this advanced lying would not be to the total future detriment of a tribe, community or nation.

Think of it: effective conspiracy (a surreptitious plan to alter outside events to a group's advantage)  is not merely a simple matter of bending the truth, but bending it - usually in an extended manner over time - to achieve a specific end or manifestation in the real world. It requires not only the awareness of what's in the minds of those one conspires against and those who might try to detect the plan, but also predicting in advance how they might act or respond to prevent the conspiracy from being executed in the first place. And also predicting how future inquirers might be impeded from exposing it decades later.

Thus, as Bannister pointed out in a 1972 UWI  symposium, the Kennedy assassination conspirators would have to know not only how the normal law enforcement structure would respond, but also the official  paraphernalia needed to misdirect it in the case of an accidental encounter while the plot was unfolding. (Thus, years later, with the publication of Abraham Bolden's 'The Echo From Dealey Plaza', we learned about the role of the stolen Secret Service Commission books, and the crucial role they played in misdirecting authorities from the actual plan, locations of the real assassins.)

The conspirators would also have to be able to predict where the biggest potential threats might lurk, odd citizens with movie cameras (like Abraham Zapruder and Orville Nix) or with still cameras (like Mary Moorman). Thus, they had to have special teams ready to confiscate films and even alter them if need be - as was attempted at TIME magazine with the Z film to reverse the backward head motion) and with the Mary Moorman images and Nix film.

The greatest level of forward planning and cognition was reserved for the autopsy - which had to be carried out in a secure venue under full government control (not Dallas' Parkland Hospital) so that the actual entry and egress points for the bullets could be manipulated as well as x-rays, regular photographs).

In other words, in concert it amounted to one of the most sophisticated lies in history, fooling a generation almost totally (other than a few original skeptics like Mark Lane) until at least the JFK Records Act.

Given Prof. Bannister's theory of mind, conspiracy awareness leading to rational investigation and coherent research, would be a natural response to this mammoth lie, and it has been. This has led to the implication of the CIA in the Kennedy killing, under the direction of Allen Dulles as well as William Harvey, via the Staff D operation discussed at length by researcher Peter Dale Scott. (See also David Talbot's recent book, 'The Devil's Chessboard'.)

Pinker's WSJ piece notes that Prof. Kang Lee's theory of mind predicts that "if you teach people to imagine what's going on in other people's minds then they might become better fabricators".  Prof. Bannister's theory of mind posited that if one could imagine oneself in the minds of  actual conspirators he might successfully conceive how those conspirators might accomplish the conspiracy.  (Or at least figure out what was in the conspirators' minds to accomplish a specific conspiratorial objective, e..g. framing Lee Harvey Oswald in the JFK assassination case).

Bannister didn't accept any of this was hopeless, and whatever the conspiracy,  there would always be 'x' other minds capable of detecting its mechanisms ex post facto from clues that the conspirators left behind. (They would not able to erase everything, after all, though this did not - as she emphasized - mean any future prosecutions for the most adept conspiracies, i.e. for which a chief executive might be involved and able to oversee the investigation that ensued- like LBJ in the Kennedy case.)

In Bannister's mode of thought then, the conspiracy alert sounder had to possess a theory of mind at least equal to the conspiracy planner's, certainly in finally exposing it.  Yes, there could be missteps - especially given the conspiracy planning side would inevitably add further layers of lies ex post facto to throw off conspiracy investigators. These would be in the form of misinformation and disinformation (e.g. inventing whacky conspiracy theories to circulate and get many to bite then ridicule them as 'buff-based') or simply ridiculing any person that even conceives of conspiracy - no matter how well -versed or grounded the formulation is.

It was basically a race between successful gaming of the public via actual conspiratorial  actions and exposing it at a deeper cognitive level by those with conspiracy awareness. (She emphasized, of course, the latter always had to be fact -based.)

Alas, working against the exposure is an entrenched Neoliberal media framework that a priori treats all conspiracies as fantasies hatched in the febrile brains of unstable people.  In pushing this meme all conspiracies are conflated, the most supported (e.g. Iran Contra, JFK assassination) as well as the most absurd (UN Black helicopters and FEMA prison camps, or the feds buying up all ammo nationwide from preventing all gun owners from using their weapons). Thereby, the investigative landscape becomes so muddied that only the hardiest intellectual pursuers are prepared to move on undaunted.

Author Michael Parenti ('Dirty Truths ') has referred to this syndrome driven by the media as "conspiracy phobia". He has mocked it in speeches and in his books with the rhetorical take (op. cit., p.174):

" Those who suffer from conspiracy phobia are fond of saying: 'Do you actually think there's a group of people sitting around in a room, plotting things?' For some reason that image is assumed to be so patently absurd as to invite only disclaimers.  But where else would people of power get together - on park benches or carousels?"

Parenti averred that conspiracy "is clearly a way to get things done", mainly at the political level for which the media was often an accomplice in impeding disclosure of full information, or invoking the usual "tin foil hat" mockery. Parenti's further salient point was that even if conspiracies failed, as in the case of the Watergate conspiracy, BCCI, and Iran-Contra, that doesn't mean a conspiracy never existed. Even Operation Northwoods which never even came to partial manifestation (thank goodness!) was still a conspiracy. This is a point Parenti rams home again and again, while alerting us that at some point in the future the same media might attempt to obliterate conspiracy memes altogether by changing the language. This is already happening as the word "scandal" more and more is cynically substituted in the press for the word 'conspiracy', i.e. in discussing past cases like Watergate and Iran-Contra.

If Bannister's theory is valid, precocious conspiracy awareness and its derivative cognition is as important a facet of theory of mind-  especially in terms of directing higher executive function to out conspiracy planners - as the early development of the capacity for lying. Perhaps even more.

Newsflash For Hillary: Sanders' Supporters Aren't Ready To Make Nice Yet

Okay, so Hillary scored a huge win in New York with 57.3% for her to 42.7% for Bernie with 94 percent of precincts reporting. So, she felt it quite justified to chirp "the road to victory is in sight" which it may well be. But that doesn't mean Bernie's ardent supporters are ready to throw their lot behind her yet. Nor are they totally willing to bite on her line that "there's more that unites us than divides us".

In fact, to many, there is as much division or more in the Democratic Party as there is in the Republican, there just isn't the same level of rancor. But don't let the reduced rancor be interpreted as absence of serious divisions. Some of them named below:

- Her stance on the banks, keeping a weakened Dodd-Frank in place which stands to be further emasculated as banking lobbyists continue to chip away at its regulatory provisions.'

- Her warhawk posture, including siding with Netanyahu and Israel, and kowtowing to Zionists at the AIPAC side show. (Not to mention getting side kick Victoria Nuland to orchestrate the overthrow of Viktor Yanukovich in Ukraine 3 years ago.)

- Her Wall Street money and especially what those transcripts of her Goldman-Sachs speeches reveal.

- Her pro-fracking environmental stance, with global fracking largely erupting during her time as Secretary of State. This conforms to her view that natural gas fracking is a "bridge energy source" to alternatives.

- Her refusal to clearly assert she will protect Social Security from future cuts.

The bottom line is that there is no good reason for Bernie Sanders to make life easier for Clinton just yet, no matter what her surrogates (like Jennifer Granholm) say. The math is neither here nor there, since it is true that the odds are long for Bernie to become the D-nominee. The issue now is twofold: 1) giving millions more supporters the chance to participate and cast their votes with a sense of aspirational hope -which they wouldn't have if Bernie bows out, and 2) Having leverage going into the Convention in July.

The last is critically important, because the sooner Bernie leaves the sooner Hillary will pivot to the center which is what his supporters don't want. We don't want to see her at the Convention in Philadelphia suddenly changing her tune on the issues (like TPP, Keystone) she already seemingly moved left on.

So no, his remaining in to the bitter end - despite the "math", and even getting interviews and more debates -  is essential to holding her feet to the fire on those core issues. (Which is in her interest to do to get Sanders's' supporter in her column anyway.)

We know the corporate media and Hillary are literally salivating for her to focus her fire entirely on Donald Trump (aka Drumpf), but that will have to wait a bit longer. Hillary has a task, an unenviable one, to pull her party together and get the Left on board first.

And that job won't be easy!

Watch this space!

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