Saturday, September 30, 2017

Is The U.S. Political And Culture War Really A Class War?

Scene of one scuffle at Charlottesville between a racist (right) and Antifa member. Are such battles really based on class wars?

The author James Davidson Hunter, in a piece ('How America's Culture Wars Have Evolved Into A Class War', in The Denver Post (p. 1D, Sept. 17) makes a compelling case that the ongoing battle between Trumpites and the rest of us is actually a class war, not so much a "culture war" any longer.

He writes:

"The rally of white nationalists in Charlottesville, Va., reveals how the culture wars have evolved and metastasized into a class war with several sprawling components, far different from the one Karl Marx might have predicted. Much of this evolution has to do with a widening gap between members of America’s middle class."


"The cultural conflict of the last four decades has mostly taken place within the white middle class, mainly between the aspiring lower-middle and the comfortable upper-middle classes. But the cleavage between highly educated professionals and the less educated, nonprofessional, lower middle and working classes has widened in recent years, producing new tensions"

Make no mistake that this is a powerful observation and insight, since it means the nation is much more class conscious and class oriented than most have been led to believe.   It also interjects a powerful economic basis responsible for the class conflict because one class (upper middle, professional) is clearly making gains the other class isn't.   Making the case for this economic split, Hunter writes:

"What’s driving the wedge between these separate segments of the middle class? While the professional class has fared well in the recovery from the Great Recession, the lower middle class has lost ground. Wages are stagnating for middle and low wage workers, union membership and its traditional benefits are on the decline, income inequality is on the rise, and manufacturing jobs have been lost to technology and other countries. Thus those in the lower end of the middle class have grown increasingly estranged from their counterparts in the professional class as they have watched their opportunities and hopes for a better life grow more distant and, in some cases, disappear."


"What is more, these members of the lower middle class see many of the values and beliefs they live by — once perceived as honorable in their own communities — ridiculed as bigoted, homophobic, misogynist, xenophobic and backward by a relatively privileged and powerful elite. According to a study entitled “The Vanishing Center of American Democracy” conducted by the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture (which I lead), about 8 of 10 Americans with less than a college degree believe that “political correctness is a serious problem in our country, making it hard for people to say what they really think” compared with 5 of 10 of the well-educated. Likewise, 7 of 10 of the less educated believe that “the most educated and successful people in America are more interested in serving themselves than in serving the common good

The last is especially serious as it discloses a gulf in perceptions that perhaps not even education can resolve or reduce.    Thus, it seems the more people (especially white, less educated males)  veer away from college education, the more "political correctness" is likely to be seen as the problem as opposed to economic disparity.

Added to this is the expectation of even greater distrust of government becoming an increasing attribute of the aggrieved class, as Hunter observes:

"A growing majority of Americans believe that their government cannot be trusted, that its leaders (and the leadership class more broadly) are incompetent and self-interested, and that as citizens they personally have little power to influence the powerful institutions or circumstances that shape their lives. Survey research shows that this distrust has grown and even hardened.

Unsurprisingly, this crisis, too, follows a class pattern. The poorly educated are one and a half times more likely than the college educated to hold the highest levels of distrust of the government; nearly three times more likely to be highly cynical of politicians; and over twice as likely to express the highest levels of alienation from the political process. Among the poorly educated who are religiously conservative, the levels of distrust, cynicism and alienation are even higher."

Note the correlation set out in the last sentence above, which is very worrisome.  As Hunter emphasizes:

"Yet the candidacy and presidency of Donald Trump are not an aberration, but a reflection of the political estrangement of our times. So is the authoritarian impulse we see bubbling up from the fringes"

This elicits the question of whether Trump's ascension to power hints at an ongoing class conflict and I believe it does, as well as being an indicator of a revival of white supremacy predicated on class. (And let's grasp that African-Americans suffer most at the hands of growing economic inequality.) Thus,  John Caldara of the Independence Institute names economic inequality as "public enemy number one" in our continuing political battles (Denver Post, p. 3D, Sept. 17) . Caldara writes:

" I have warning to my friends on the political right: Economic inequality is real. And the blowback from it could blindside us and cause a seismic leap to the left from which we may not return.

Or let me try it another way. We’re all feeling it: a political tribalism rippling through the country. People are not talking, but rather yelling past each other. Tensions are rising. Scapegoating has become the rage: Mexicans are taking our jobs, big banks control the system, Trump is causing hurricanes, neo-Nazis say it’s the Jews, Black Lives Matter say it’s the cops …

There is a root cause for this polarization. And no, it’s not racism, Obamacare or Trump. It’s economic stagnation. People are not getting ahead, and we feel it in our bones. Economic opportunity is passing us by. It scares us to the core. It makes us act out. It turns us into victims in search of the right oppressor to blame."

He has a point, and I brought it up earlier in a Labor Day post. This has to do with the economic  growth "rate" seeming  to be stuck at 2 percent per year and no more.  Caldara argues, and he is correct, the difference between 3 % growth (which used to be the case over decades) and 2 percent is not 1 percent but 33 percent, e.g.

(2- 1)/ 3 x 100 %  = 1/ 3  x 100% = 33 %

And he argues this makes a huge difference as to whether we live amicably with one another or are at each other's throats.    The implication is that those having to live with less will be filled with grievance and likely xenophobia that blames others for their plight. As he puts it:

"Compound that over a decade and you get an idea what was lost. Lost was what gave past generations their first real job, a first home, a college education without crippling debt, a savings for retirement and the sense of security that everything happening around them wasn’t a risk, a threat to their livelihood"

Left unsaid, at the heart of all the class conflict and discontent,  is that false consciousness may play a huge role in exacerbating class divisions.  False consciousness is an illegitimate basis for economic perceptions often fed by PR from media sources, in this case including fake news outlets. It serves to distort a population's own class position relative to others and thereby mutes any reasonable response to being made an underclass.

The Economic Policy Institute in 2003 asked generally where people thought they were in the economic spectrum: upper 1% (earning $320,000 year or more); upper 5% (> $80,000) or where?

A full 19% in this random survey claimed they were in the privileged class of the top 1%. A virtual statistical impossibility in any random study.

In fact, internal survey cross-check questions on income category showed many of these working at a little above minimum wage, and even the highest were at barely $44,000/yr. Nowhere near the 1% threshold! Other commentators on this study (e.g. Froma Harrop, Ellen Goodman) pointed to this ignorance as a basis for lower economic classes supporting the Bush tax cuts, which overwhelmingly favored the rich elites. Thus:

A) They didn't know where they themselves fit, and indeed inflated their wealth and positions relative to the whole.  Hence they were more likely to support the Bush tax cuts that predominantly benefited the rich.

B) As author Michael Parenti has noted ('The Dirty Truth') 94% of all wealth comes by way of inheritance, not paid work.  Why do you suppose the top of Trump's tax "reform" plan is to eliminate the estate tax? So, the working class Trump supporters are fooling themselves. Unless they have a rich elder relative hidden away with a vast fortune, they'd be better off thinking they may have to work until they're 70 or 80 and even that may not be enough to financially stay in place. (46 percent of Americans can barely scrape together $400 in case of a minor emergency, according to Federal Reserve stats. Two thirds of the working underclass live on $2 a day or less.)

But sadly, the Overclass and its minions (including the GOP, a basic "sub-division" of the Kochs) consistently get working class folk to act against their own vested interests by distracting them with moralism ploys - raising "moral" issues like abortion, transgender rest rooms, gay wedding cakes and what not - just long enough so that many working class voters keep their eyes off the ball when election day arrives. Then these workers wonder why they never get ahead.  Watch it happen again with Trump's proposed tax cuts which mainly benefit the wealthiest - like him.

Thus, the primary directive of the Overclass propagandizers - to divide and conquer - is to succeed in sowing a fictitious system based on false consciousness. That is to say,  a persistently class-less system or false equality world view at variance with reality.  To grasp the strategy one must  first know what false consciousness is.

'False consciousness' is the term given to a false information system that's been absorbed in part or whole, osmotically or via direct mental ingestion (fake news), by the majority of a population. It has specific uses in our Corporatocracy to mislead a population about how things actually work, and also on the basic economic and other data which are used to formulate policies. I touched on a number of the inherent economic lies and disinformation ploys in a 2011 blog post:

But realize these ploys are just the tip of the iceberg.

For example, the effects of language and PR debasement of reality extend to the whole political system which can best be described as one of legalized, corporate-fuelled bribery. While citizens do get to vote every two or four years, in reality it's only to choose their next set of Overseers, errr....Overclass masters. Once the votes are in, the true powers - the corporate ones- take over and direct (via their money and lobbyists) the real choices and possibilities. Any pol can thus say "Yes, we can!"  or "Make America great again!" all he or she wants, but the truth is that it's more: "Yes we can- make America great -  IF the corporations and the wealthy agree our 'great' is the same as theirs!"

This dynamic is certainly in play now with the Trumpies (Dotard voters, supporters) believing they really were doing better, until shocked into economic reality by the "elites" perceived as lording it over them.  The ironic fact? Many of the white nationalists parading in Charlottesville in July actually hailed from upper middle class, entitled families. Go figure!

This spectacle interjects yet another political fact: archconservatives in both parties have always - or nearly always- defeated their Left and Center Left opponents by dividing their natural constituency: the bottom two thirds of the nation's economic pyramid.  This division is mainly along racial or ethnic lines and many of those divided still get by on barely two dollars a day.

Those Democrats who've successfully countered this 'divide and conquer' strategy used by the Koch brothers, Trump and others didn't turn their backs on the civil rights of African - Americans or Mexican Americans. Rather they emphasized a fundamental interest in prosperity that unites the working and middle classes.  This is something to bear in mind as Dems seek to overthrow the Trump Imperium moving forward.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Mars Struck By Powerful Solar Storm Earlier This Month

While millions of earthlings were understandably obsessed with the prospect of a nuclear war erupting between the U.S. and North Korea, an unexpectedly strong blast from the Sun hit Mars this month.  The effects were observed by NASA missions in orbit and on the surface, according to an American Astronomical Society News release.  MAVEN Program Scientist Elsa Talaat, program scientist at NASA Headquarters, Washington, stated:
"NASA's distributed set of science missions is in the right place to detect activity on the Sun and examine the effects of such solar events at Mars as never possible before."

She was referencing  a major solar event on Sept. 11, 2017 which sparked a global aurora at Mars more than 25 times brighter than any previously seen by the MAVEN orbiter, which has been studying the Martian atmosphere's interaction with the solar wind since 2014. It produced radiation levels on the surface more than double any previously measured by the  Mars Curiosity Rover's Radiation Assessment Detector, or RAD, since that mission's landing in 2012. The high readings lasted more than two days.  Needless to say, any 'MARS One' explorers left on that world would likely have experienced the brunt of the radiation and perished on the Red Planet.

Oddly, the solar storm affecting Mars occurred in conjunction with a spate of solar activity during what is usually a quiet period in the Sun's 11-year sunspot activity cycle. This event was big enough to be detected at Earth too, even though Earth was on the opposite side of the Sun from Mars.  According to Sonal Jain of the University of Colorado -Boulder's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, who is a member of MAVEN's Imaging Ultraviolet Spectrograph instrument team:

"The current solar cycle has been an odd one, with less activity than usual during the peak, and now we have this large event as we're approaching solar minimum,"

This is an anomaly I referenced some two years ago,  in conjunction with disruptions of the solar tachocline and possible resulting disruptions of the meriodonal flow - affecting the alpha-omega torsional oscillations that give rise to the cycles of the (Babcock model) solar dynamo..  RAD Principal Investigator Don Hassler of the Southwest Research Institute's Boulder, Colorado, office, noted:

"This is exactly the type of event both missions were designed to study, and it's the biggest we've seen on the surface so far.  It will improve our understanding of how such solar events affect the Martian environment, from the top of the atmosphere all the way down to the surface."

The critical aspect, of course, is to trace such events to the energetic phenomena on the Sun and particularly the phenomenon of the solar 11- and 22-year cycles. (Which we believe are tied to the behavior of the solar dynamo.)

RAD monitored radiation levels inside the encapsulated spacecraft that carried Curiosity from Earth to Mars in 2011 and 2012 and has been steadily monitoring the radiation environment at Mars' surface for more than five years.  These RAD findings strengthen understanding of radiation's impact on Mars habitability, a key objective of the Curiosity mission. NASA is also using RAD findings for planning the safety of human-crew missions to Mars. Highly energetic solar events can significantly increase the radiation that penetrates through the atmosphere to the Mars surface. The increased radiation also interacts with the atmosphere to produce additional, secondary particles, which need to be understood and shielded against to ensure the safety of future human explorers. According to the SRI's Hassle:

"If you were outdoors on a Mars walk and learned that an event like this was imminent, you would definitely want to take shelter, just as you would if you were on a space walk outside the International Space Station.  To protect our astronauts on Mars in the future, we need to continue to provide this type of space weather monitoring there."

This is an important point, and I hasten to note the Mars One project ballyhooed the past several years has not as yet incorporated any space weather forecasts into its mission priorities. Indeed, the word out is there aren't even enough redundant systems - including in situ for protection on the planet - to ensure the survival of any potential crew.  Given this it's still puzzling how so many thousands could have even signed up.

Let's be clear the Sun is always emitting a continuous stream of charged particles, mainly electrons and protons, which form the solar wind.  Occasionally, eruptions called coronal mass ejections occur, with higher density, energy and speed of the ejected particles. As I have written in multiple previous posts these events vary in strength. Strong CMEs cause dramatic aurora displays on Earth, and very strong ones can disrupt communications. Some coronal mass ejections, such as this month's event, are broad enough in extent to affect planets in quite different directions from the Sun.  Forecasting them has become a priority in space weather and space physics research.

Sonal Jain said,

"When a solar storm hits the Martian atmosphere, it can trigger auroras that light up the whole planet in ultraviolet light. The recent one lit up Mars like a light bulb. An aurora on Mars can envelope the entire planet because Mars has no strong magnetic field like Earth's to concentrate the aurora near polar regions. The energetic particles from the Sun also can be absorbed by the upper atmosphere, increasing its temperature and causing it to swell up."

The AAS report states that analysis of the Martian solar storm data is just beginning. According to MAVEN Principal Investigator Bruce Jakosky of the University of Colorado -Boulder:

 "We expect to get a better understanding of how the process operates in the upper atmosphere of Mars today, and a better understanding of how storms like this may have stripped away much of the Martian atmosphere in the past."

What  is even more critical for future Mars' exploration is predicting the occurrence of such storms to ensure any astronauts on the planet's surface have ample time to secure shelter - especially from the intense radiation of a major CME.

Fewer Americans Value A College Degree? A Possible Explanation

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In the WSJ of  September 18 (p. A3)  one finds the article 'Fewer American Value College Degree, Poll Finds' by Josh Mitchell and Douglas Belkin.  The breakdown by age and gender is shown in the graphic above.   Some of the findings summarized:

- A slim plurality (49 %) of Americans believe a 4-year degree  will lead to higher earnings

- 47 % don't believe that

Four years earlier the spread between these groups was 13 points, so the pessimists have gained significantly

- Among Americans 18 to 34 years old skeptics outnumber believers 57% to 30%

- Democrats, urban residents and Americans who consider themselves middle or upper class generally believe a college degree is worth it.

- Women by a large margin still believe college is worth it.

- Men - who approved of college 4 years ago by a 12 point margin, now disapprove by 10 points, a 22 point flip.

Let's consider some explanations, starting with the last. All kinds of surveys now show males bailing out of college as females comprise a larger and larger proportion of students. In general, men remain for much shorter periods, often dropping out after a year or two, while most women stay the course. Men in general are also not performing to the same academic level as females in many universities. See e,g,


"Women work harder in school, Mr. Kohn believes. "The girls care more about their G.P.A. and the way they look on paper," he said. A quarter-century after women became the majority on college campuses, men are trailing them in more than just enrollment.
Department of Education statistics show that men, whatever their race or socioeconomic group, are less likely than women to get bachelor's degrees — and among those who do, fewer complete their degrees in four or five years. Men also get worse grades than women."

So this explains why women have a more positive attitude toward college. In terms of Americans aged 18 to 34 being more "skeptics" that is simply traced to so many of them drowning in student debt (now $1.3 trillion) or with siblings who are.  Many of the older set may have also fallen behind in student loan payments.

Part of this negativity may also be linked to how many currently see college as a "trade school for the elite" (WSJ, 'College Is Trade School for the Elite', Aug. 7. p. A17). Therein Allen Gelzo makes the case that too many are simply paying a bundle of money for an education that in the end isn't needed for the job they ultimately get.  So, though they may have taken loads of math courses including abstract algebra, differential equations and advanced calculus, they don't get to use it - say as a real estate broker or car salesman or plumber.

So, wouldn't it have been better then to just go to a vocational training school or community college without blasting a hole in one's finances with a 4 year degree at a university?  According to Gelzo:

"Vocational training is what higher education has been doing without even realizing it."

How is this? Well take a peek into classes at most 4-year institutions and you find (ibid.): "Literature majors are being taught as future literature professors, history majors - in department after department - being taught as future history professionals". 

Of course, one can also say that for most physics and astronomy departments! The profs come in and teach you as if you will be a future physics or astronomy researcher. Only later, after you graduate, do you grasp you won't need most of the courses taken - unless you move on to more advanced degrees and graduate with those. Even then there's no guarantee.

An editorial in an AAS Newsletter noted, for example, that more than 6 out of 10 jobs for Ph.D. degrees in astronomy were outside the academic marketplace. The percentage was slightly better (5 of 10) for Masters recipients.   The newly minted astrophysics or astronomy Ph.D. basically faces a herculean task in getting his or her foot in the academic door. First, he must compete with postdocs - those with Ph.D.s already in hand who now are hired at lower than standard pay rates to teach classes and work for 3-5 years "earning their stripes". Next on the totem pole are the graduate teaching assistants who teach tutorials as well as lower level classes and problem-solving sessions. Finally, there are the adjunct lecturers, who are paid by the hour only and hired just to teach a course or two.

All of this, obviously, would entice Gelzo to reinforce his "elite trade school" argument.  But is it really? Lost in the mix is the intangible value of a college degree which no monetary yardstick can capture.   The most perceptive take  on this appeared in an article('The Myth of Higher Education') by Dr. Steven B. Mason in an issue of Integra (No. 9, Oct.  2010) the journal of Intertel:

"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.

Of course, the trade school route ought not be overlooked either. In the first WSJ piece (from which the graphic was taken)  the account of one 32-year old caught my eye, who chose to attend a trae school "earning a certificate as a mechanic". He now earns a base salary of $50,000 a year and "has never gone 3 weeks without a job".

So definitely the vo-tech route needs to be considered. For others, who aren't sure which way to go - trade school or 4-year college-  the best option might be a community college.  That  this is a definite solution that is both realistic and rational is a no-brainer. Especially given that nearly 60% of incoming college students (mainly males)  now don't finish their degrees.

Thus, a student who can't finish a 4-year degree will now have an option, in most cases,  before s/he comes to the point of quitting. So rather than waste tens of thousands of dollars the student  will come away with something (A.A. degree or trade certificate) allowing them to economically advance. Community colleges also provide a major economic solution because they can be accessed for half the cost or less of state universities, mainly because they aren't research institutions

Indeed, a recent article ('All The Places You Can Go To College For Free') in MONEY magazine (Oct., p. 82) singled out programs across the nation, e.g. The Oakland Promise, where interested high school students can partake and get a financial award to complete college - without needing an 'A' average. (In the Oakland case, described on p. 82, students need at least a 2.0 average).

The point is that there are indeed options for those who do wish to advance their education but without going into decades of debt.   Even someone with a low opinion of 4 year colleges and universities at least has a shot entering a program at a community college, say in  automotive mechanics or nursing, that could lead to a better job in  the future.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Math Revisited: Continued Fractions And Diophantine Equations

An area of ongoing interest, historical and otherwise, is that pertaining to Diophantine Equations, which includes the use of continued fractions (see image) and the Euclidean algorithm. The latter is especially useful for solving Diophantine equations, as well as generating continued fractions such as those shown. Continued fractions, for their part, are key aspects of a branch of higher arithmetic known as 'Diophantine analysis'.

A Diophantine equation "is an algebraic equation in one or more unknowns, with integer coefficients, for which integer solutions are sought", according to the authors of 'What is Mathematics?'.  They add that such an equation may "have no solutions, a finite number of solutions or an infinite number." As the simplest example of such an equation they give: ax + by = c.

Here, a, b and c denote integers and the equation needs to be solved for x and y, and ideally these solutions are integers, not fractions.  At this point, we have to cut to the Euclidean algorithm and how it's used.  A general theorem may be stated thus: If a is any integer, and b is any integer greater than zero, then we can always find an integer q such that:

a = b*q + r

where r is an integer satisfying the inequality:  0 < r < b

A general task is to find the “greatest common divisor” (gcd)  of a and b, called d(a,b). If d = (a,b)then positive or negative integers k and m can always be found such that:  d = ka + mb

This proceeds by successive divisions with remainders. As an example, consider the Euclidean algorithm for finding (a,b) = (61, 24). Here gcd or greatest common divisor is 1 and we find:

61 = 2*24 + 13

24 = 1*13 + 11

13 = 1*11 + 2

11 = 5*2 + 1

2 = 2*1 + 0

From the 1st equation we have: 13 = 61 - 2*24

From the end of the second result we get:

11 = 24 – 13 = 24 - 61 - 2*24 = -61 + 3*24

From the third:

2 = 13 – 11 = (61 – 2*24) – (-61 + 3*24) = 2*61 – 5*24

From the fourth:

1 = 11 – 5*2 = (-61 + 3*24) – 5(2*61 – 5*24) = -11.61 + 28*2

Apart from these operations, we can also use the Euclidean algorithm to compute continued fractions. Examples are shown in Fig. 1. Now, let’s look more closely at continued fractions. We see in Fig, 1 how 2/5 is converted into a continued fraction.

We look, for example,  at 169/70 and seek the continued fraction development:

169/70 = 2 + 29/70 = 2 + 1/70/29

 70/29 = 2 + 12/29 = 2 + 1/ (29/12)

29/12 = 2 + 5/18 = 2 + 1/ (12/5)

12/5 = 2 + 2/5 = 2 + 1/(5/2)

And: 5/2 = 2 ½ = 2 + ½

Thus 169/70 is developed as shown (Fig. 1) with result = 2.414

Let's now see how the preceding operations can be used to solve a Diophantine equation. In particular, we want to solve: 7x + 11y = 13   We proceed by working with 7 and 11, respectively, using the Euclidean algorithm.

Thus:   11 = 1*7 + 4  and 7 = 1*4 + 3  

We see remainder 4 for the first, so use the algorithm again, so: 4 = 1*3 + 1

 Then we can write: (7, 11) = 1  

Meanwhile, the remainder of 1 (after working on remainder 4) is dealt with, so: 

  1 = 4 - 3 = 4 - (7 - 4) = 2*4 - 7 = 2 (11 - 7) - 7 =  2*11 - 3*7

 Therefore:   7*(-3) + 11(2) = 1   and   7*(-39) + 11(26) = 13

 From the last equation we see that x = -39 and y = 26.

All other solutions can be expressed in terms of x and y -values with a remainder r (integer), so that:  
x = -39 + 11r  and y = 26 - 7r  

For example, let r = 1, then x = (-39) + 11 = - 28 is also a solution.  Similarly, let r = 1 and y = 26 -7

(1) = 26 - 7 = 19 is also a solution.  

In summary then, the linear Diophantine equation of form ax + by = c has a solution in integers if and only if c is a multiple of (a, b). In this case, a particular solution may be found using the Euclidean algorithm.  

Problems for the Math Maven:
1) Carry out the Euclidean algorithm for finding the greatest common divisor of (187, 77)

2) Reduce (245, 193) via the Euclidean Algortihm:

3) Using the Euclidean Algorithm show the continued fraction for:  (237/ 139)

4) Solve the Diophantine equation: 3x - 4y = 29

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Righties Still Delude Themselves About Trump, NFL and Flag Protests

It appears the education of righties is a never-ending task, and at times borders on futility because of their penchant to rely on fake news (e.g. from FOX News) and also fake sports polls and bogus, related sources. How else explain the 'forecasts" of some that - watch out! - the NFL's fortunes will nose dive on account of  not followingTrump's stupid order to fire players for not standing for the anthem. Please! Look at any serious sports site (most of these critics don't even follow football, never have) and you will see ten times as many fans as the "boycotting", bailout losers begging for the latter's season tickets.  After all, if a person is so unctuous and dumb not to use them, why let them go to waste?

And this doesn't come close to their failure to process basic facts! For example, some of these bloggers have quoted Dallas' owner Jerry Jones  about being "against the players' protests"  - and yet - if they'd had a clue they'd have SEEN Jones kneeling with his Cowboys' players on Monday night. How do they explain that? They can't!

These bloggers also highlighted a Steelers' player as the "only one" not to remain the club house as the anthem was played, but failed to note he later apologized for embarrassing his teammates and trying to one-up them.   Again, these sort of miscues demonstrate why all their predictions for the NFL's demise this year - with fake low ratings added in - are basically humbug and horse feathers.

These jokers, who clearly missed Jerry Jones kneeling with his players, also missed the memo that flag protests ARE FREE SPEECH!

As I pointed out in a post from two years ago (July 24):

"in the case Texas v. Johnson (1989) flag burning was upheld as symbolic free speech which could not be curtailed under the 1st amendment. "

And further:

 "In 1990 another conservative congress tried to pass a law to outlaw burning the flag but again it went down.  This was in the case United States v. Eichman, 496 U.S. 310 (1990).  While the Johnson decision only affected a Texas state law this decision was broader. . In the wake of the earlier decision, the federal government  had enacted a law that also prohibited flag burning. In order to try to get around constitutional challenges, that federal law prohibited all types of flag desecration, with the exception of burning and burying a worn-out flag, regardless of whether the action upset others.

The Supreme Court held that this law did not cure the constitutional defect and the same 7-3 majority from Johnson held that the law still impermissibly discriminated upon viewpoint and struck it down."

Logic and good sense dictate that if flag burning is permitted free speech then not standing for the anthem, must likewise be. One is here not burning or destroying a flag but simply passively refusing to posture for its proclaimed principles when it's misused to advance racial discrimination, aggressive wars and economic exploitation. Hence, kneeling for the anthem was Colin Kaepernick's right, in terms of his protests against racism, and  those who complained be damned. We who are aware of the NFL's own rules also know that they do not demand a player MUST  stand for the national anthem.  And yes, that means that free speech protections apply to NFL players, contrary to some misinformed bloggers. Also, the players - as contract agents - are  granted rights and protections that (sadly) ordinary (9 to 5) American workers for corporations are not (as in the case Waters v. Churchill).

Common sense here also tells us that the SYMBOL of a nation cannot have more import or viability than the principles it is supposed to protect.  Nor have soldiers "fought and died for the flag".  You do not fight and die for a piece of fabric, you fight and die for the PRINCIPLES the flag stands for - all listed under the Bill of Rights (including free speech)! That some 'Muricans can't or won't get that through their thick skulls is beyond belief.  It does, however, show what fools they've been played for by Donald Dotard using his weekly dog whistle via tweets.
 In the end this issue should not be about Kaepernick and other NFL players being "un-American" but in fact being Americans and patriots in the fullest sense of all - by holding their nation to account and exercising their first amendment rights just as their critics so proclaim in their assorted blogs.

Sadly, even the Attorney General of this country doesn't appear to grasp the basic principles of liberty and first amendment rights pertaining to the NFL protests- though Jeff B. Sessions pilloried campus displays and protests as violating those rights. Talk about hypocrisy!
And now for a hum dinger of a finding related to the Russian exploitation of Facebook to drive fake news, and divide Americans further. It's now been revealed that Trump's pal Putin had recruited Russkie cyber goons to pump and hump on the side of Trump AGAINST the NFL and demanding the players "respect the flag". How's that for irony? Even more, the sunshine patriots blasting the NFL and owners are really now seen in league with the Russians. And they carp and bitch about Kaepernick wearing a "Castro" t-shirt. HAHAHAHAHA!  What's worse,  a guy wearing a Castro Tee or traitors siding with Putin and Russian to undermine this country?

In the end, Trump's anti-NFL dog whistling was all about division, spewing phony patriotism  to jack up his clueless base.  The sooner that base wises up the sooner they ought to see they've all been played for clowns and losers.  Especially after he flat out informed them in January that he didn't care about them, he "only needed their votes".

Skewering the "Americans Are Getting Richer" Trope

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It seems very plausible now  that the basis for much of the nation's polarization is the mutation of the culture wars into class wars. The latter primarily driven by slowing economic growth and an increasing poverty especially among the lower middle class.  Even Jon Caldara of the Independence Institute worried when he wrote (Denver Post, Sept. 17):

"A warning to my friends on the political right: Economic inequality is real....the difference between 2 percent and 3 percent growth isn’t 1 percent. It’s a difference of over 33 percent (check a calculator if you need). Compound that over a decade and you get an idea what was lost. Lost was what gave past generations their first real job, a first home, a college education without crippling debt, a savings for retirement and the sense of security ...What I’m talking about is the end of The American Dream. The difference between 2 percent and 3 percent is the hope and security of a nation."

So even Caldara admits economic conditions are worsening and that must include incomes, So how can the WSJ in one editorial (Sept. 14, p. A16, 'Americans Get Richer') claim:

"Last year real median income rose 3.2% the second consecutive increase as 2.5 million Americans rose out of poverty".

Leading to the assertion of a new median income (last year)of  $59,200. But is it real? Or better, what exactly underpins the claims?   The website 'Motley Fool'  provides an answer how, in a piece headed 'Here's How 44 Million Americans Are Getting Richer':

"According to a new Bankrate survey, there are 44 million Americans who currently have some sort of side hustle on top of a regular job. Not familiar with the term? A side hustle is basically a way of generating income outside of one's primary paycheck...Side hustles come in many shapes and forms. Walking other people's dogs on the weekend is a legitimate side hustle, as is telemarketing during evening hours. Want to wait tables twice a week? Welcome to the side hustle club. No matter what sort of additional work you're willing and able to take on, committing to even a small amount could mean the difference between struggling financially and paying your bills -- and it's encouraging to see so many folks making the effort."

Yes, it may well be "encouraging" but it shouldn't be necessary in a normal and equitable economy to have to work extra gig jobs to have sufficient income to meet one's needs. This, of course, gets to the heart of Caldara's complaint about slowing economic growth. It basically means Americans have to work more and longer just to keep pace.  Even the temporary "good news" won't last because there's no assurance growth will even stay paced at 2 % per year, it could easily slip to 1 percent.  See my extensive post on exactly why this growth erosion is occurring - to do with the continual degradation of energy quality, e.g.

Strangely, very few authors have managed to look at the real culprit preferring to be distracted by x number of red herrings.

In the interest of completeness, one day after the WSJ cheery editorial came out, some other rather more sober news did on page A9 ('The Flip Side Of The New U.S. Economy) noting the transition of millions of steady American workers, e.g. with steady jobs, to now doing "contract" work.

"Millions of contractors now do heavy lifting, paper pushing and other jobs for American companies that have replaced employees with outside workers. Within the next four years nearly half of the private sector work force in the U.S. will have spent at least some time as a contractor, temporary employee or other type of outside job estimates MBO Partners, a provider of support services to self-employed professionals.

The contractor model offer companies lower costs, more flexibility and fewer management headaches. Workers get far less from the arrangement. The costs hit home in every paycheck and every day on the job, according to interview with dozens of current and former contractors, s well as many of the more than 150 responses to a survey by The Wall Street Journal. The survey also asks readers to describe their experiences as a contractor".

So here again we see the underbelly of the "richer" trope which really isn't richer at all. Outside of the numerical value of the "higher income" a contactor (or gig worker) may get are the costs not mentioned: no health care benefits (the contractor has to pay himself), no sick days, no 401k plan or other perks or vacation days. As the WSJ reality check piece  put it:

""While regular employees get a relatively stable paycheck and benefits contract workers are on their own."

That seems like a pretty high extra cost to me! SO yeah, maybe a guy like one of these contractors discussed is getting $59,000 a year - and more than he'd get at another job. But what about after he has to pay $1,000 a month for a COBRA or other health insurance policy?  Well, that brings that fantastic "richer" income down to a pedestrian $37,000 a year - and we aren't even factoring in saving for retirement such as a 401k plan would allow.

The Federal Reserve's own stats disclose that 46 percent of Americans are unable to scratch up even 400 bucks to meet a minor emergency.  More sobering and tied to it, the personal savings rate is now 3.5 % the lowest since the worst of the Great recession in 2008.  In terms of those who do have 401ks there is the massive problem of "leakage"  or borrowing from one's 401k plan and undermining retirement savings.

Bottom line? Americans aren't getting richer, they are working harder than hell as freelancers and contractors- including doing extra jobs- just to stay afloat because wage stagnation is real and persistent. It is time the financial press stop the propaganda when anyone in an extra gig or contractor job can see right through it.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Math Revisited: Fractals

Fig. 1 - Base space gasketFig. 2: A  2-space gasket

We return to fractals again, this time to examine them in more detail at a basic level. Here I want to compare two simple fractal spaces based on an object known as "the Sierpinski gasket". The most elemental form is depicted in Fig. 1 above and can be compared with Fig 2 which is generated from it.

For Fig. 1, we regard the simple (1/a) space as the generator of more complex fractal spaces F that are essentially infinite. To undertake the cyclic generation process we require that the specification of the vertices (a1, a2, a3) be non-degenerate, i.e. no more than one eigenvalue: a1, a2, or a3 can be assigned for any triangular space. The fundamental space depicted in Fig. 1 we shall call a "Planckian gasket" and note that its fractal mass density can be found as well as its fractal dimension.

The fractal mass density can be computed from:

r (f) = {N(s) - N(h)}/ N(s)

or the number of scale elements minus "hole" elements divided by scale elements.

In this case: N(s) = 1, and N(h) = 0, so:

r (f) = {1 - 0}/ 1 = 1

The fractal dimension D f is the inverse, or: D f = 1/ r (f)

In this case,  D f = 1

Now, examining the larger space (2-space)  in Fig. 2 defined by {2/a}, we again obtain the vertex designation (a1, a2, a3).

However, we further note that to get from the primitive space to the space {2/a} we require the transposition (see the blog entry on transpositions from two years ago):

(a1, a2, a3) -> (a1, a3, a2)

That is, a1 remains fixed, and a2 - a3 are "mirrored" through a bisector axis identified above from, e.g.  a1-a1. Note that the "hole" (in black) represents the inversion space (or negative space: -a1a2a3) a result of the inversion of the positive space of the primitive {1/a}.

The fractal mass density can be computed from:

r (f)  ={4 - 1}/ 4 = 3/4 = 0.75

And the fractal dimension is:

D f = 1/ r (f) = 1/ 0.75 = 1.333

Exercise for the math-minded reader: Draw the space for {3/a} with three symmetric holes of oriented vertices a1, a2, and a3 inside it. Then work out the fractal mass density and fractal dimension. 

Monday, September 25, 2017

Any College Prof Who Equates Trump's Tweets To Proper Writing Ought To Be Fired!

Twitter Troll Trump is spewing cartoon garbage in his tweets - not "poetry" or "concise writing" according to one demented professor.

When Trump's last stream of tweets received segment attention on the NBC Saturday evening news - criticizing the NFL and its players who refuse to stand for the national anthem, wifey had had enough. Sitting across in her recliner, she spat: "The day that tweets get the same respect as regular prose is the day we are all for the high jump!"  "High jump" a Bajan expression for "the end' as in jumping off a high cliff or tall building.

I couldn't bear to tell her that in the weekend WSJ (Sept. 23-24, p. A13) one idiot professor (Crispin Sartwell) at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, actually tried to make that ignorant case ('Texting and Twitter Make This A Golden Age For the Written Word').   The title alone had me prepared to lose my breakfast, but I felt this fool at least deserved a chance to make his case. Within three paragraphs I was forced to lump him with the other extremist contrarians who need to create unhinged arguments of absurd positions to rise above the attention din.  They reason that too many write about the same things so why not pick out a fringe idea to get reads or clicks and defend it with sophistry and specious analogies. 

Such was the case with Sartwell's piece, as when he writes:

"Texting - to say the obvious - is writing. Snapchat conversations are written with thumbs, but they are written. Twitter seems to be getting blamed for many ills, including those of the Trump administration. But whatever else the president does as he tweets, he is definitely writing. Barack Obama composed a couple of decent memoirs, but he is not as prolific an author as Mr. Trump, a master of his chosen genre.

It strikes me that Twitter is not only a social media platform, it is a poetic form, like haiku or a sonnet."

At this point I had to wonder what Sartwell was on when he wrote this unmitigated hogswill. I suspect it must have been a combination of MJ edibles and maybe booze. No sane human, certainly not a professor, could compare a bunch of incomprehensible, misspelled,  cartoon tweets to Obama's memoirs - unless he wasn't in his right mind.  And to compare a tweet to a sonnet carries false analogy to the same level as comparing a can of Alpo to a 5-course gourmet meal for a human. It is simply bare bollocks. Utter nonsense.

Sartwel's arguments fall on many grounds but I will confine attention to two: i) the danger of trying to make policy by tweet, and ii) the fact no university admissions office in its collective right mind would accept a tweet or series of text messages as a substitute for an admissions essay.

The first is most important, and I refer here to an earlier post in which I  made reference to Trump's "verbal looseness"  epitomized by his  reckless December tweet on expanding U.S.  nuclear capacity, e.g.

"We need to strengthen and expand nuclear capacity until the world comes to its sense regarding nukes."

What the hell is he yapping about? Expand nuclear capacity? Is he nuts, ignorant or just stupid? As a number of strategic analysts have pointed out, including staff from The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the U.S. already has just under 5,000 nuclear warheads in its active arsenal and more than 1,550 deployed strategic warheads. This is more than enough to turn the world to ash about six times over.

Meanwhile the clueless media, especially on TV, kept showing the tweet on large HD screens in bold relief, as they scratched their heads, openly wondering what the hell he meant. No surprise here. As I pointed out earlier (Nov. 23rd  post) Twitter is essentially a cartoon language medium by which I mean its 140 character limit basically excludes any complex thought. and most facts.  Or, I might add, any basis for proper explication of what one is communicating.  One is basically reduced to the equivalent of a series of language cartoons.  This also harkens back to the medium used  constituting the basis of the message, as Marshall McLuhan first pointed out in Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man

Thus, no surprise the Trump team itself was scurrying to impose some semblance of meaning on the word jumble expelled.  In fact, as a Denver Post release noted, the "Trump team offered only slightly more explanation of the comment later in the day when communications director Jason Miller said Trump was 'referring to the threat of nuclear proliferation and the critical need to prevent it'"

Well, if that is what he meant, why didn't he write in a proper written format?  Well, because he's a lazy sot and can't even read properly!  The tweet then is the lazy person's form of writing, and certainluy no sonnet or haiku even.   The use of emojis also, which Sartwell defends (comparing them to Egytpian hieroglyphs, if you can believe it) is a shortcut to proper communication offered in actual cartoon form.

Does one really need an I.Q. higher than a hamster's to grasp that tweets  (and most texts) are an inappropriate medium for making nuclear policy Must it really be spelled out for Sartwell?

Let's be clear  that no sane person ought to be propounding nuclear policy via a cartoon language medium. The very choice to do so indicates that person lacks all his marbles. I would add that any person who defends such use also must be questioned as to his "lost marbles".

Trump's tweets, never mind their abbreviated form that Sartwell actually claims comports with the principles of The Elements of Style', lacked any inclusion of relevant facts  But this begs the question of how or why such a truncated medium would be able to to justice to facts in the first place.

In response to Trump's nuclear policy tweets, The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists replied:

We understand that Mr. Trump has been in office only days, that many of his cabinet nominees are awaiting confirmation and that he has had little time to take official action. But Mr. Trump’s statements and actions have been unsettling. He has made ill-considered comments about expanding and even deploying the American nuclear arsenal. He has expressed disbelief in the scientific consensus on global warming. He has shown a troubling propensity to discount or reject expert advice related to international security

This was part of  the Bulletin's basis for moving the Doomsday Clock closer to midnight. The fact an inept, ignorant fool was trying to tweet nuclear policy, devoid of facts, and subject to misinterpretation.

Lastly, I do give credit to Sartwell for at least offering one solid, sober perspective on what genuine authorship means, e.g. of real writing:

"Authorship, whether of great novels, fundamental works of history and philosophy, poems that set the soul afire,  or blog posts- can be a lonely journey, It's hard, but all truly rewarding things are."

Yes but that does not include tweets or texts which take minimal effort. The real message of what Sartwell is writing ought to be that those written contributions or communications that take great effort are worthy of being considered platforms for authorship.  Tweets and texts are not because the same effort doesn't go into a message that can be fired off in mere seconds or minutes. Am I saying genuine writing is proportional to the effort put into it? Yes, I am.  If it takes seconds or minutes to do sorry it is not really writing in the manner of actual, serious communication.

And as I pointed out, no college to my knowledge has yet accepted a series of tweets or texts as a substitute for its essay- composition requirement. Case closed!

Tweets may be cutesy modes of communication for the Millennials and many others but they don't make the cut as genuine writing -  any more than a dog's or ape's random paint splashes on a canvas make even a passable work of abstract art.

President Donald 'Dotard' Deserved His Smackdown From NFL Players, Owners

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Jags players in London for the Ravens-Jaguars game kneeling to diss the Asshole -in-Chief. Kim Jong Un must really be feeling he nailed Trump correctly as a "dotard".

"The people run this country, not any one individual and it damned sure isn't this guy!" - Le Bron James on Trump's irate tweets that NFL players needs to be fired if they don't stand for the national anthem.

Let's concede the dotard in the White House is more each day morphing into the caricature of the elderly curmudgeon who screams at the neighborhood kids each morning to stay off his lawn. Never mind it's been ravaged by weeds and insects for the last two decades. But this is what the ignorant fool is devolving into as each day it seems he makes more and more enemies.

Thus, it was a marvelous sight peering at wife's laptop stream of the Ravens- Jags game to see the players from both teams in London's Wembley Stadium kneeling after Donald Trump mounted another imbecilic twitter attack. This time not on Kim Jong Un but  on any players who kneel in protest of the national anthem. The asshole actually demanded they be "fired" by team owners - clearly believing he's still acting on 'The Apprentice' where "You're fired!" were the only words he know how to say without looking at a script.

Not long after Trump fired off his tweets, the Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James called the dotard a “bum” - starting a tweet response with U-BUM, and Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy called him an “asshole”. Perfect descriptions for a piece of garbage who can't keep his yap out of others' business or at least business that doesn't concern him. Indeed, it shows this jackass is totally unable to do the work that really counts for this nation. But then we knew from early on this job was beyond him. Too many details, too much stuff to master in an extensive government bureaucracy.  Hence, his penchant for becoming a cable TV and tweet addict. See e.g.

And look,  generally I am no fan of tweets or texts which I regard as crude language "cartoons".   BUT if one is using them as retorts to an imbecile who himself acts like a cartoon - then it's fine by me!

Anyway, yesterday was a climactic day for a movement that began with Colin Kaepernick kneeling before a pre-season game 13 months ago and has since prompted a nation to wrestle with questions of free speech and racial justice.  Sadly, most of the morons who've yelped against Kaepernick, as I posted at the time, appeared not to know he was exercising his free speech privileges. In addition, it signified the important meme that the flag is merely a rag unless the principles it represents - such as  free speech- are adhered to.   In the same way, the anthem is merely an arrangement of words sung to a certain melody if the principles alleged to be behind it are not acted upon. This is what Dotard's supporters seem not to get.

To recap the day's events:

Early on Sunday, shortly before his treasury secretary (Steve Mnuchin) insisted the president was not picking a fight, Trump had doubled down on his bellicose remarks at a rally in Alabama on Friday night and anyone could see he was emphatically picking a fight. It's about all this asshole does, whether with Hillary, NFL players, the media, the courts or Kim Jong Un.. The dotard then repeated his challenge to NFL team owners and encouraged fans to stop attending until the owners take action. He barked in a tweet like the mad dog he is:

“If NFL fans refuse to go to games until players stop disrespecting our Flag & Country, you will see change take place fast. Fire or suspend! NFL attendance and ratings are WAY DOWN. Boring games yes, but many stay away because they love our country. League should back U.S.”

Of course, it was totally beyond this dumb piece of shit to grasp that anyone who REALLY loves his county doesn't work with the Russians to undermine an election and get in through the side door. Or maybe better, the trap door in the basement.

Wembley staged the day’s first game, which featured Janice's Ravens. (Who alas were stomped 44-7) .  Around 25 players from the Jacksonville Jaguars and Baltimore Ravens kneeled.  While The Guardian’s Sean Ingle reported that no white players appeared to kneel “many players, coaches and even the Jaguars’ owner Shahid Khan linked arms instead as they stood, showing unity for their black team-mates against Trump”.

Later, at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, several Miami Dolphins players wore black T-shirts supporting Kaepernick before facing the New York Jets. During the anthem, the Dolphins locked arms.  Meanwhile, at  Chicago’s Soldier Field, he Pittsburgh Steelers collectively decided to remain in the tunnel before their game against the Bears .

Team owners also came out with sober words for the moron Trump.  Steelers coach Mike Tomlin told CBS.

We’re not participating in the anthem today, not to be disrespectful to the anthem but to remove ourselves from the circumstance.  People shouldn’t have to choose. If a guy wants to go about his normal business and participate in the anthem, he shouldn’t be forced to choose sides. If a guy feels the need to do something, he shouldn’t be separated from his team-mate who chooses not to.”

Stephen Ross, owner of the Miami Dolphins stated:

"Our country needs unifying leadership right now, not more divisiveness"

Even NFL commissioner Roger Goodell expressed disappointment with the “divisive” comments while the New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, a close friend of Trump, was among team owners to side with their players. In a statement, Kraft said he was “deeply disappointed” by Trump’s remarks.

Trump made his initial remarks at a Friday night rally for the Republican senator Luther Strange, and what likely really tipped the players over the edge was his use of the SOB epithet. Again, which no true President exercising decorum and dignity would do. This isn't "political correctness" which the Trumpsters seem to yelp about obsessively. It is about the qualities that make a president worthy of respect. But in this case the disrespecting dotard blabbered:

Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired. He’s fired!’”

To which all the assembled brain dead zombies roared their approval. But why expect anything different from these yahoos. They don't even recall that back in January Trump insulted them to their stupid faces when he said he didn't give a rat's ass about them, he just needed their votes.

Dotard  also complained about rules introduced to improve safety in the NFL, which has a serious problem with head injuries.  This is a guy that likely hasn't played a down of football - tackle or flag - in his miserable, entitled life.

Finally, I am getting damned sick and tired of Trumpies bellyaching about "real Americans" and those who don't follow their lead who "ought to leave the country".  Hell no, assholes, because this is our country as much as yours.   If you want to bow and scrape before Trump and yelp "Yessiree, Mastuh!" at his every dictum that's your choice. But don't make that a litmus test for who is a real patriot (or American) and who isn't .  The real Americans, for their information, include anyone who stands up to Trump in whatever form of resistance - whether NFL players, NBA players, medical doctors and nurses (fighting for preservation of the ACA), protesters in marches - including the heroes of Antifa (who saved dozens at Charlottesville) and every person who fights to reclaim this nation as a place of decency and honor instead of Trump's cesspool.

Of course, there are some who are just happy as hogs in sewer shit with Trump, his orders and Trumpism. That included Richard Petty, head of NASCAR, who belched "Anybody who don't stand up for the anthem ought to be out of the country, period". Spoken like a true cornpone, Johnny Reb yahoo which is what he and NASCAR are, as defined by historian Joshua Zeitz in his 2002 essay 'Dixie's Victory'.  Zeitz noted NASCAR, along with bible punching and pickup trucks laden with shotguns were carryovers of the Old Confederacy to the modern U.S. - which insinuated themselves despite the South losing the War..  But since we associate the South with traitors we can dismiss Petty's remarks as we do the rest of the crackers that support that line of thought.

We are as much or more a part of this nation, and if the paper patriots don't like it let them move to an autocracy more to their liking! Say like RUSSIA!

See also:


"The sports site Deadspin wrote that Trump's attack on the NFL's new safety rules "demonstrated an already-evident dearth of intellect," which is also the chief characteristic of most Trump supporters. Their tolerance of presidential ignorance and its assorted corollaries appears to be infinite..."


Math Revisited: Complex Algebra

One graphical method of representing complex numbers. For example, here C = 4 + 3i

Back in 2010 and earlier this year we examined multiple features of complex analysis, including the nature of complex numbers, complex functions, simple manipulations -  for example,  getting a complex number into polar form, as well as complex roots (e.g. Ö2i), the Cauchy -Riemann equations and residue calculus.  A basic area includes complex algebra, or solving algebraic problems using the principles of complex numbers.  Below are a number of selected problems to challenge math -inclined readers looking for more than Instagram stuff or Trump's idiotic tweets:

1)   Let f(z) = ln r + i(q)  where r = êz ê and q = Arg(z)

Find f(1)

2)   Find f(2i -3) for f(z) = (z + 3)2(z – 5i)2 

3)   Find f(2i) for f(z) =  - 3z2

4)   Let f(z) = e (-3z)

Find the real and imaginary parts of the function f(z)

5)  Find all solutions for cos (z) =  5

6) Solve for z if:  sin z =  i sinh  1

7)  If   ln 1  = ln 1 +  ln 0i

Solve for z   

8)   Find: f(-3i) for f(z) = (z + 2 – 3i) ¸ (z + 4 – i)

9)  Find f(1+i) for: f(z) = 1/ (z2 + 1)

10)   Solve: (z + 1)3 = z3

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Why Did Ken Burns Omit NSAMs 263, 273 In His Vietnam War Documentary?

JFK speaking on the problems in Vietnam in late 1963.

As I finished watching the 2nd and 3rd episodes of Ken Burns' documentary 'The Vietnam War', one - actually TWO - notable historical references were glaring by their absence: 1) any mention of John F. Kennedy's National Security Action Memorandum 263 (at the end of Episode 2', 'Riding the Tiger') and  (2) any mention of  LBJ's NSAM 273 in Episode Three ('The River Styx).  Of course, I had feared such an omission when I wrote my September 16th post, which is why I supplied a lot of the document details and backstory then, including reference to the cover letter by McGeorge Bundy, e.g.

Usually carelessly cited as NSAM 263 by amateur researchers or "buffs"  and the actual heart of the NSAM  (sections IB(1-3) of the report cited in the letter) appearing in  Document 142 of The Pentagon Papers: ‘Report of McNamara - Taylor Mission to South Vietnam'

So the question becomes: Why - in the course of 10 years preparation -  couldn't Burns, or his assistant Lynn Novick, have found this NSAM which clearly stated Kennedy's intent to withdraw all forces from Vietnam? Why also, could they not find NSAM 273 from Johnson which clearly nullified JFK's NSAM and expanded the war? Again, for more on the origin backstory of LBJ's NSAM -273 check out the information in the link below:

One possible reason for the omission was deliberate, i.e. to avoid contention or controversy. Much of this can be laid at the feet of the late Vince Bugliosi who contended  the evidence was "ambiguous" in his cinder block book, Reclaiming History .  This also reinforced a meme of uncertainty that was pronounced at least until 2013.

Referencing the matter, James K. Galbraith writing in The Nation (Nov. 22, 2013) explained regarding Kennedy's NSAM 263 and intent to pull out:

In 2003, this was controversial. Many historians had denied it. Peter Dale Scott, John Newman, and Arthur Schlesinger were exceptions. They were right, and documents and tapes released under the JFK Records Act proved them right. The issue was resolved by early 2008 when Francis Bator, who had been President Johnson's Deputy National Security Adviser, opened his reply to my letter in the New York Review of Books with these words:
Professor Galbraith is correct [Letters, NYR, December 6, 2007] that “there was a plan to withdraw US forces from Vietnam, beginning with the first thousand by December 1963, and almost all of the rest by the end of 1965…. President Kennedy had approved that plan. It was the actual policy of the United States on the day Kennedy died.
He adds that Bator followed with a qualification  to the effect there existed an agreed upon determination of "essential functions" to be carried out by the South Vietnamese by the end of 1965.   This again may have introduced an element of uncertainty which Burns and Novick preferred not to confront, far less resolve.  But is it valid?

An even more substantive source is cited by long time JFK researcher James Di Eugenio in his book, 'Reclaiming Parkland'.  This would be for historian Frederik Logevall in a book published n 1999 - years before Bugliosi's book and "proving beyond any doubt that from the moment Johnson took office until he was inaugurated in 1965, America was going to war in Vietnam". And true to its basic theme Burns' documentary showed Johnson amping  up  aggression from March, 1965 with the first American ground forces and also using fully initiated  air strikes instead of merely retaliatory ones.

While Burns and Novick's documentary does devote about five minutes to the Tonkin Gulf Incident (and subsequent Resolution) it doesn't connect them to Johnson's NSAM 273. The Tonkin Gulf incident itself started, according to Burns and Novick,  because on July 30, '64 Americans initially guided South Vietnamese gunships to attack N. Vietnamese targets - prompting N. Vietnamese response - then U.S. air attacks. There followed the main incident on August 4th, 1964 when American radio operators  mistranslated North Vietnamese radio traffic and concluded a "new military operation was imminent." 

Actually, Hanoi had merely called upon torpedo boat commanders to be ready for a new raid by the South Vietnamese.  Then the Maddox and fellow destroyer, the Turner Joy,  braced for a fresh attack.  No second attack came, as the Burns' documentary noted,  but "anxious radio operators aboard Maddox and Turner Joy convinced themselves one had".  LBJ then decided the "probable attack" (sic)  should not go unanswered, claiming the non-attack was "open aggression against the United States of America". This led directly to the Tonkin Gulf Resolution passed in the Senate by 88-2, and in the House with total 'Aye' votes.

This still doesn't account for the omission of mention of either NSAM 263 or NSAM 273. But James Di Eugenio's research is crystal clear (p. 164):

"Concerning the differences between NSAM 263 and NSAM 273, first let us dispose of the obvious. Johnson never removed the first thousand troops as Kennedy's NSAM 263 had forecast. Because as is made clear in the book (Newman's 'JFK and Vietnam') ...he wanted to create the illusion there was no breakage in policy, when in fact he was planning for that split within days of taking office. The important difference was that the latter order reversed Kennedy's previous one by allowing for direct American naval involvement in the Tonkin Gulf. This in turn led to the Tonkin Gulf incident in the late summer of 1964. LBJ had been preparing for that since he already had the resolution to attack Vietnam in hand."

In my Sept. 16th post, I described how  Johnson - according to FOIA released documents in John Newman's book- - secretly courted the military to fire up American aggression though Kennedy was steadfastly against it. (Especially after his visit to Saigon in 1951 as Di Eugenio points out and Burns' documentary notes in Episode 1.)   These back channel efforts to curry favor with the military entailed setting up a network to receive actual Vietnam intelligence behind Kennedy’s back – while ensuring the spooks and Pentagon sources delivered only doctored pap to JFK.  The latter always portrayed the situation much better than really obtained.  Di Eugenio then leads to understand how exactly Kennedy's NSAM 263 germinated (p. 164):

"Knowing that the American-backed South Vietnam effort was failing, the Pentagon chose to disguise this with a whitewash of how bad things really were. Therefore, Kennedy was going to hoist the generals on their own petard: If things were going so well, then we were not needed anymore."

Of course, Kennedy would have already distrusted the generals after they tried to force his hand to bomb and invade Cuba during the Cuban Missile crisis. We now know in retrospect - and from Robert McNamara when he visited Cuba in 1992, that would have led to a nuclear war. JFK  knew from then not to trust anything the Joint Chiefs said, and he must have at least suspected Johnson's collusion with them which Frederik Logevall and John Newman had exposed in their own books via thousands of pages of documents released under the JFK Records Act.

Had Burns and Novick integrated this background into their Part 3, the episode would have made much more sense and not seemed so irrational, i.e. S. Vietnamese gunboats  simply attacking North Vietnamese targets out of the blue and the U.S. mounting airstrikes when the North Vietnamese were the victims not the aggressors.  The pattern, in other words, would have been evident and the objective clear.

So why not 'go there'?  Probably a combination of Johnson hagiography, see e.g.

And a deliberate choice to avoid controversy. But by this avoidance, or dodge, they ended up with a Part Three that was much less coherent than it needed to be. So they avoided controversy at the expense of coherence.  Undoubtedly,  they didn't wish to portray LBJ in any more negative way than he already would be by vastly expanding the conflict using a pretext (Tonkin Gulf incident).

Had they actually delved deeper, say beyond hagiography in the opening segment of the episode, they'd have acknowledged LBJ was not the charming, "Great Society" creator they portrayed but a no good rapscallion and murderer.   Could Johnson have actually stooped to have anyone killed? The Dallas Morning News story from March 23, 1984  (see image inset) is quite blunt about it. Billie Sol Estes reported that Johnson had Henry Harvey Marshall, a USDA official in charge of the federal cotton allotment detail,  killed because he had attempted to link Estes’ nefarious dealings to the then Vice-President.  While Estes ended up doing prison time, he did have his say before a grand jury (which subpoenaed him) after his release in 1984. As reported in news story, Estes linked Johnson and two others to the slaying of Marshall.  

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 In the follow-up grand jury investigation, Johnson, his one-time aide Cliff Carter, and ‘Mac’ Wallace were all deemed “co-conspirators in the murder” of Marshall. How is this useful? Because it is prima facie evidence that LBJ could also have cooperated in at least enabling Kennedy's assassination in order to expedite the war for the generals he always wanted (in return for which he'd have the presidency).

Most of us who are researchers in the area of deep politics firmly believe that Vietnam was the “Devil’s deal” LBJ struck with his JFK assassination collaborators (CIA, Generals), in order that he be catapulted into office – while facing  felony charges(barely days before) .  This isn’t “blowing smoke” either. As Steve Kornacki reported in his ‘UP’ journal on MSNBC, the morning of Nov. 23, 2013.   Using tapes and  displayed FOIA and media documents, Kornacki showed that Johnson was about to be exposed as an influence peddler in conjunction with the Bobby Baker scandal by LIFE magazine in its upcoming issue (to be published the week of Nov. 25, 1963.(

A paper trail of bank statements and payments was to have been included, and as Kornacki pointed out a Senate investigation would likely have ensued with LBJ being dumped from Kennedy’s 1964 ticket.  In other words, LBJ had by far the most to gain from JFK’s assassination, since he’d then be next in line as President, and not have to face justice in the Baker scandal.

Burns and Novick? Maybe they were aware of these nefarious connections, maybe not. But the most straightforward reason for omitting anything to do with NSAMS 263 and 273 is that  considering them (seriously!) meant heading into the heart of the Kennedy assassination.  That also meant considering LBJ clearly as a bad actor - not in firing any shots - but in expediting planning, say "helping" with the Big D motorcade route leading right into an area ideal for triangulated crossfire.  Hell, he already had his NSAM 273 prepared before JFK was even shot. Sadly, the two Vietnam War documentarians' omission has meant a more superficial understanding of the origin of the Vietnam War, specifically Johnson's primary role.

No surprise as Di Eugenio notes (p. 165), "in his first meeting on the issue held just forty-eight hours after Kennedy was killed, he made it clear to all his approach to Vietnam was much more militant, much more confrontational than JFK's"

No wondering at this if LBJ was also the one who engineered Henry Marshall's execution, and removed Kennedy to get his Vietnam War.

Too cynical and disingenuous?  Then you need to do much more research on the Kennedy - Johnson document background to the Vietnam War, and into the JFK assassination itself.