Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Some Fundamentals On Textual Analysis- Exegesis That Religionists Ought To Know For Holy Week

 

 

Holy Week is arguably the most important period in the Christian calendar, but it is amazing that so few practicing faith adherents have even heard of scriptural analysis.   This is important, for example, because scriptural exegesis alone is needed to assess whether a given biblical quote was merely a late insertion by a translator or an actual historical quote.

An ongoing problem that consistently emerges is that many who purport to have mastered exegesis have often omitted textual analysis as part of it, which also requires familiarity with one or more languages, in particular Latin, and Greek. Thus, a person versed and educated in these languages will be able to at least parse the Latin Vulgate form of early biblical texts, and also make forays into the Greek Septuagint. By using such language skills to examine then compare earlier and earlier texs, one is then in a position to identify errors and obvious mistranslations without having to have the original texts as reference. Hence, one can deduce errors have been made and also have been propagated on the basis of simple deduction, once inconsistencies are exposed.

As an illustrative example: Half the oldest manuscript witness texts, including a Bodmer papyrus, the Vaticanus and Beza’s Codex omit the sentence in Luke 23: 34 which purportedly contains the "last" words of Jesus. This level of uncertainty in the textual tradition means the interpretation of the passage was a subject of serious debate. Put briefly: half the witnesses insisted Jesus begged God’s forgiveness for “them” – the other half pretended to know nothing of the “Eloi, eloi lama sabacthani” prayer. What gives? How can the divergences be reconciled? The conclusion of textual analysts is that the passage is probably bogus and a later addition. Why say so? Because the earliest Greek witness papyrus (called P 75 - which dates back to 200 AD) has no such content. However, the prayer CAN be found in Codex Sinaiticus and a large range of mss. produced in the Middle Ages. Again, the comparison of earlier mss. with much later ones (in the Middle Ages) shows prima facie evidence for alteration of text in the later epoch. We don't need any Divine Being to inform us of this, we arrive at it using simple logical inference, deduction!
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Another example is the verse from Matthew 25:46:“And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal". This verse is critical because it's the only one in the whole good book that has the two words "everlasting" and "punishment" in the same sentence. Thus, the entire concept or claim of "everlasting punishment" rests on the validity of this single verse. But is it valid? Not when one applies the Greek translation (from the Greek Septuagint), emerging as:"kolasin aionion” or punishment for an aeon. Now as anyone even without Greek language skills knows, an aeon never has been nor will it ever mean "eternal". Thus, one can legitimately conclude that later scribes and copyists deliberately inserted their own version to bend the scriptures to their own agenda. In effect, whatever the original original verse said, it was altered, and we don't need possession of it to ascertain that. (Especially since if said verse ever really existed and said what fundies claim, there'd be no reason to alter it!) As for the later scribes' agenda, this has been known since the first oral traditions were transcribed and were noted by the Catholic Scriptural Historian, the Rev. Thomas Bokenkotter, in his mongoraph, A Concise History of the Catholic Church. As he put it (page 17):

"The Gospels were not meant to be a historical or biographical account of Jesus. They were written to convert unbelievers to faith in Jesus as the Messiah, or God.”

In other words, they were intended as a propaganda pressure ploy! Further, what we have from Rev. Bokenkotter is a de facto admission that no historical support exists for any of the accounts in the New Testament. Indeed, if they "were not meant to be historical" (or accurate), then we cannot be sure if any are! Quite possibly, none of the accounts should be taken seriously. This is also a good reason to interject once more that interested readers ought to avail themselves of the easily accesible online course, Introduction to New Testament History and Literature by Prof. Dale B. Martin of Yale University. (Roughly on a par with my 'Introduction to the New Testament' course taken at Loyola in 1964-65. ) The compilation of course sessions, all on video, can be accessed via this link:

Introduction to the New Testament History and Literature

And the one I recommend most for those short on time is No.13, dealing with the "Historical Jesus" (link below):

The Historical Jesus

Moving on, one can also consider the example of the letter of Paul to the Galatians (assuming it was even penned by Paul). What we do know based on the course of Prof. Martin and other historical work, is that Galatia was not a single town with a single church, it was a region in Asia Minor (modern Turkey) in which Paul had established churches. When he wrote to the “Galatians” therefore, was Paul writing to ONE single church or to all of them? (Presumably since he doesn’t single out any he intends his missive to go to all of them). If so, given the churches were far apart (on average 150 miles) did that mean he made multiple copies of the same letter – or did he intend one letter to circulate to all the churches of the region? These are important and not facetious questons!

Suppose he made multiple copies, how did he do it given no printing presses were available and the precise copying of merely one letter would have taken over a year. In fact, the evidence of extant texts shows Paul dictated the letter to a scribe. (Paul’s initials, unusually large, diverge from the scale of script used in the actual letters). Problem with the dictation: Did Paul actually dictate it word for word, or did he merely spell out general points and enjoin the scribe to fill in the rest? We don't know but in any case, this makes whatever was in any "original" a moot point! It doesn't matter because the subsequent evidence from history, language and logic discloses alterations had to have been made!

Here’s what we do know: What survives today is not the original copy of the letter, nor one of the first copies that Paul himself made, nor any of the copies that were produced in the towns of Galatia to which the letter was sent – nor any of the copies of those copies.

The first reasonable copy we have of Galatians is a papyrus called P 46 – for the 46th New Testament (NT) papyrus to be catalogued, which dates to 200 CE (200 AD). This is roughly 150 years after Paul putatively wrote the letter. It was in circulation – copied sometimes correctly, sometimes not, for 15 decades BEFORE any copy was made that survived to the present day. Further, we cannot reconstruct the copy from which P 46 was made.

Textual criticism and analysis not only exposes the inadequacies in distinct texts of the NT, but through the whole bible via the propagation of errors concept. Consider: from the earliest OT scribblings (12 th century BC) to the final establishment of the NT corpus at the Council of Trent (16th century) more than 28 centuries elapsed! That is, twenty eight centuries for copyist errors to propagate through millennia and not be caught and for enormous mistranslations to emerge because of said errors. Even worse, the Trent corpus was not even the final word or revision, the good Book was then bastardized compliments of Henry VIII of England who enjoined the fabrication of the King James Bible which is even less trustworthy than any of the Catholic versions! Trustworthiness itself was often determined by consensus in the earliest writings and codices. Most present day fundamentalists aren’t even remotely aware that the content they are claiming today as “literal or inerrant words” were in fact originally “passed by committee” !

While it is natural for fundamentalist critics to gloss over all this, as they claim some "inerrant original text inspired by God" still exists, the bottom line is that the ball is still in their court, and with it the burden of proof. So far, they've produced or proven no pure original text and have only, for some reason, placed all their faith in the King James version (KJV) as the authentic descendent of that original. Which is pure poppycock. We know, for example, it was transcribed from an entire corrupted 12th century mistranslated text substituted for the Latin Vulgate (by Erasmus) then reconstructed and issued long after the mismatch could be easily tracked. Subsequent exegetical experts were able to do this by comparing the language in the original mss. but even a novice can ascertain the monumental deficiencies just by ferreting out all the glaring contradictions, many of which are not minor by any means! 

As an example, consider just the question (at the core of most orthodox Christian doctrine): Will everyone get saved? Simple, eh? One would certainly think any extant, "divinely inspired" and "inerrant" Bible would uniformly get its answers right (no contradiction), but the KJV fails on all counts! One finds (on excavating the relevant answers from the gospels and other sources) that a 'YES!' answer is located in: John 12:32; Rom. 5:18, 11:32; 1Col 15:22; Col 1:20; 1Tim 2:4,6; 1John 2:2, but the 'NAY!' also exists and is found in Matt. 7:13-14; Luke 13:23-24.

My point here? IF the KJV was truly an authentic carryover version of the "original original word of God" there'd be no ambiguity whatever. Nor can the argument be made that faulty "humans" were responsible, since if that happens then the de facto admission is made that the Bible is a human invention. Surely, if the divine word was so critical, then an inspired work ought to have ensured no disparity or deviations in such a critical message! As for the resort to "hermeneutics" to try to explain it away, this is a non-starter.

Recall that hermeneutics asks what the writer (in that vernacular) actually meant in the idiom of his day (NOT our day!) and what losses in meaning that idiom encountered as it was transcribed to other languages in succession.Thus the primary objective of exegesis is interpreting what the passage in the original language meant in terms of its OWN CONTEXT not simply putting it into the new one. THIS is why so many biblical literalists foul up and end up in a ditch.

As I noted in an earlier blog post, the process for the literalist is basically 1:1 onto:

[Text x] -> [Text x]

Thus, [text x] undergoes no modification from what their eyes detect or parse in the passage.

In fact, there are three primary phases of the hermeneutics process so that at least three stages have to be covered, so:

[text x] -> [1] ->[2] –[3] -> [Text Z]

Even this is oversimplified, since technically each step also needs to be checked and parsed from one language to the other. For example, what did the author MEAN in Aramaic? What did he mean when this was transferred to GREEK? What did he mean when this Greek was transferred to Latin? What did he mean when the Latin went to English? Then step [2] – repeating the same. When we did exegesis at Loyola we used columns for the four main languages and parsed each passage for EACH step before arriving at the final meaning. (As anyone who's ever studied foreign languages knows- and I've studied Latin, Russian, German and Spanish- it is essentially impossible to get a perfect translation from one to another!)

What we acknowledge in doing this procedure is the fact that we have NO ORIGINALS of any scriptures, only error-ridden copies (as the evidence I presented earlier shows). But, if we can take the passages through the above sequence, then let the light of the historical research shine upon the effort, we can at least approach the truth. We are not so na├»ve as to claim or expect we HAVE the truth, since hermeneutics itself – its very use- is a tacit admission one can’t take passages literally.

The many logia in the Gospels would, if they could convincingly be shown derived from a single personality or source, be strong evidence that a historical Jesus existed. But such is not the case. In tandem textual analysis and historical research (see the Yale lecture)discloses we are left with an artifact created or invented by eager followers.


Below, a 1964 test on Biblical Exegesis from a Loyola University 1st year course:

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1. Estimate the percentage of the Qumran scrolls that are copies of books of the Bible. Of which proto-canonical books were there copies or fragments? Of which deutero-canonical books? Define each type of book, making clear any unfamiliar terms.

2. WHY are the Qumran scrolls of such great importance? Why would it be erroneous to conclude that these scrolls provide us with the original reading of the New Testament books?

3.What aids did biblical scholars already possess toward reconstructing the original reading of the Old Testament books? How have the discoveries at Qumran enhanced the value of the Septuagint translation as a reliable aid for reconstructing the original reading of the Old Testament that appears in the scrolls?

4. How (not how much) have the Qumran scrolls contributed to our knowledge of the history of Judaism? What caution(s) must we keep in mind when reconstructing Israelite history from these scrolls?

5. Three fourths of the Dead Sea Scrolls are writings composed by the Essenes themselves, treating their religious views and way of life. What have we learned from them about the Essenes' beliefs to do with the "angel of light" and the "angel of darkness"? What have we learned about their beliefs concerning the Messiah?

6. Discuss the moral views and practices of the Qumran sectarians as they might have impacted their texts-scrolls. Give at least two specific examples and expand on them at length, including likely copyist errors.

7. Half the original manuscript witness sources, including a Bodmer papyrus and Beza's Codex, omit the last line (accorded to Jesus) from Luke 23:33-34. What does this omission convey concerning the textual tradition of this sentence? What general caution does this provide concerning exegesis for the synoptic gospels in general?

8. Some Protestant biblical scholars used to hold that St. John's Gospel could not possibly have been written by a Jewish Christian living at the time of Christ. They asserted it was more likely written in the 2nd or 3rd century A.D., because of the terminology and ideas in St. John's Gospel reflecting an abstract dualistic theology (e.g. emphasizing the conflict between light and darkness).

Explain how the Qumran documents smashed this theory. Why would Jesus (as reported in his speeches in St. John's Gospel) have used such terminology and ideas?

9.  Discuss fully the new insight for interpreting the 'Epistle to the Hebrews' which we get from the Qumran scrolls.

10. The word "mystery" (Greek 'musterion': 'what is known only to the initiated') occurs twenty seven times in the official New Testament and almost all these occurrences demonstrate the "secret infrastructure of a nascent cult". Further, a careful reading of the Pauline Epistles, and Gospels (supplemented by modern documentary discoveries- such as at Qumran) shows Christianity began as a mystery religion, replete with initiations, secrets and multiple levels of indoctrination.

The 'mystagogoue' element is also very evident in passages such as 1 Cor. 2:6 ff.

Explain the nature of a "mystery religion". Do you concur that Christianity - from the scriptural elements, passages noted- qualifies as such? Why or why not? If the negative, provide an alternative exegesis to make sense of 1 Cor. 2:6 ff.

Biden Ready Now To Restore The EPA Away From Trumpian Anti-Climate BS

 


Top: Methane gas flaring from a pit in Bakken oil field. Lower: Satellite image of melting permafrost near  Liverpool Bay, Canada.

Few people are aware that in the first  18 months of the Trump administration, 1,200 staff members left the EPA- half of them scientists.  They were simply unable to sign onto a deplorable and deliberate program to gut science at the agency and replace it with PR and propaganda.  Those numbers represent an enormous trove of expertise that will be difficult to recover.

Early on in Trump's reign of terror he set loose a string of environmental atrocities  on the EPA to try to irreparably damage the agency.  One such atrocity was intended to weaken yet another an Obama-era requirement: one that mandated that companies monitor and repair methane leaks.. This was according to documents reviewed by The New York Times. In a related move, Trump's Interior Department released its final version of a 2018 draft rule that essentially repealed a restriction on the intentional venting and “flaring,” or burning, of methane from drilling operations.


In July of the same year the E.P.A. proposed weakening a rule on carbon dioxide pollution from vehicle tailpipes. And in August, the agency proposed replacing the rule on carbon dioxide pollution from coal-fired power plants with a weaker one that would allow far more global-warming emissions to flow unchecked from the nation’s smokestacks.

In the words of Janet McCabe, the E.P.A.’s top climate and clean-air regulator in the Obama administration.:

"They’re taking them down, one by one,” 

For the fossil fuelers, of course, jubilation reigned or something close to it. Kathleen Sgamma, president of the Western Energy Alliance, an association of independent oil and gas companies based in Denver, spun it thusly:  

"The Obama-era E.P.A. methane rule was the definition of red tape. It was a record-keeping nightmare that was technically impossible to execute in the field.”

In actual fact, this is a disgusting dodge and also an admission of colossal inefficiency given the fossil fuel energy sector appeared more open to wasting product than harnessing it.   As noted in a paper in the journal Science, methane emissions from domestic oil and gas operations reached 2.3 percent of total production last year. Not much you say?   Well, it's 60 percent higher than current estimates from the EPA and it translates into an estimated 13 million tons of natural gas lost - or enough to fuel 10 million homes.

Try to process that. And while you're at it, that all this lost methane instead went directly into the atmosphere to add to the already powerful CO2 driven greenhouse effect.  Let's quantify that for you: The Trumpie EPA conceded at the time that easing the rule for methane leaks would put as ,much as 380,000 additional tons of methane into the atmosphere from 2019 to 2025. This added amount would be equivalent to 30 million tons of  CO2 - given methane's much higher forcing factor.

The  Science journal study was based on the culmination of five years of research to determine the effects of methane leakage and its effect on climate. Leaks themselves can occur at many places along the natural gas supply chain, including poorly maintained pipes, seals and storage tanks - and even certain equipment that emits gas by design- including outmoded pneumatic devices.

To read more about the paper's findings go to:

Oil and Gas Facilities Leak More Methane Than ... - Scientific American

Sgamma, meanwhile, had  praised the Trump administration for turning the oil companies’ requests into policy, i.e. formalizing the gross inefficiency, while  noting that the Obama administration frequently turned proposals from environmental groups into policy.   She had the audacity to blab at the time:

It all depends on who you trust.  That administration trusted environmentalists. This one trusts industry.”

Well, those days are over!  Now, at last,  it's all out war on these miscreants.

As reported in the NY Times, the Denver Post and WaPo two weeks ago, the Biden administration is taking the extraordinary  step of providing a public accounting of the Trump gang's  political interference in science.   This long overdue step will entail drawing up a list of dozens of regulatory decisions warped by political interference in objective research.  Such as the matter of methane flaring and other unintended CH4 leaks.

The effort could buttress efforts to unwind the spurious pro-business regulations of the past four years, while uplifting agencies' science staff battered by four years of disregard. It is particularly explicit at the Environmental Protection Agency.  This is where President Biden’s political appointees said they felt that an honest accounting of past problems was necessary to assure career scientists that their findings would no longer be buried or manipulated.  One could say it has the highest priority to restore confidence to all the federal agencies that do science and I agree.   There can be no stone unturned in rooting out all the Trump tentacles of misinformation and disinformation. 

In a blunt memo earlier this month, one senior Biden appointee said political tampering under the Trump administration had “compromised the integrity” of agency science. She cited specific examples, such as Trumpie plants discounting studies that showed the harm of dicamba, a herbicide in popular weed killers such as Roundup that has been linked to cancer and subsequently ruling that its effectiveness outweighed its risks.

The broader list of decisions where staffers say scientific integrity was violated is expected to reach about 90 items, according to one person involved in the process. It currently includes well-known controversies like the miasma of decisions around Pebble Mine, a proposed copper and gold mine in Alaska’s Bristol Bay region, as well as rulings around relatively obscure toxic chemicals.  

In the words of current EPA administrator, Michael Regan, in an agency wide email message 2 weeks ago Tuesday:

Manipulating, suppressing, or otherwise impeding science has real-world consequences for human health and the environment, When politics drives science rather than science informing policy, we are more likely to make policy choices that sacrifice the health of the most vulnerable among us.”

He asked employees to bring “any items of concern” to the agency’s scientific integrity officials or the independent inspector general and pledged to encourage “the open exchange of differing scientific and policy positions.”

Trump’s well-documented, abominable attacks on science include doctoring a map with a black Sharpie to avoid acknowledging that he was wrong about the path of a hurricane and pressuring scientists to back his false claim; meddling in federal coronavirus research; and pressuring regulators to approve COVID-19 vaccines and treatments. Those actions provoked bipartisan concern during his administration.

It is now time to restore scientific credibility on multiple critical science issues, which the Trump scum had debased, distorted and defiled.

See Also:


AND:

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

'The EPOCH TIMES' - A REICH Rag By Any Other Name

 'The Epoch Times'  is a sometime free (sample) right wing rag that has ended up in my mailbox three times now.  (Ordindarily, if you're dumb and gullible enough you pay $139 a year - for 12 issues.)  The fact this rag - compliments of renegade Reich editor Jasper Fakkert-  could even be offered and distributed free as samples - shows there's a huge appetite for fake news, propaganda and disinformation in this country.  

Going through this sample issue one finds the usual right wing buzzwords like 'freedom', e.g. atop the banner headline, 'A Long Awaited Gift to Americans Who Cherish Freedom'.   Hardly.  More in the way of a long awaited sop to morons who love bullshit, fake news, propaganda and distortions.   And it starts with the first sentence on the first page, i.e. "They aren't telling you the truth of what's happening   They paint a picture of the world they want you to see."

Who is 'they'? Well, the usual Trump targets: the 'liberal' media and academic "elites"!   Basically, the same  culprits often targeted by OAN, FOX News and the WSJ op-ed pages.  Are people really dumb enough to believe this twaddle?  Well, sad to say it's possible. A recent letter writer in The Mensa Bulletin noted the depressing statistic that in the U.S. now 16 percent of the population has an IQ of 85 or below.  Think about that!   That translates into roughly 55 million Americans within 2 standard deviations of moron level (51-70) and many more below.  That is more than ample to cover all the QAnon bunch, plus a lot of the insurrectionists and even "lawmakers" like Bimbo Lauren Boebert.  (The  last sending out tweets that "They're gonna take our guns away!" within hours of ten people slaughtered at a supermarket in Boulder. )

 According to a recent piece in The Atlantic about this rag:

The Epoch Times is unreservedly pro–Donald Trump, and coverage of the newspaper tends to portray it as either a recent entrant into the Trumpist media stable or a case study of Facebook-enabled misinformation. To an extent, it is both. Following Joe Biden’s election as president, the newspaper reconstituted itself into a vehicle for esoteric voter-fraud allegations. In Georgia, heading into the two January special elections  for the U.S. Senate, people affiliated with the newspaper materialized to stick copies under car windshields. Balmakov himself now has his own YouTube channel, Facts Matter, devoted to the notion that the election is not over; in less than two months, the channel has amassed more than 400,000 subscribers

Adding:

The newspaper, whose revenues have quadrupled in the Trump years, has used every opportunity to call Biden’s victory into doubt. It has interviewed promoters of election-related falsehoods ad nauseam and eagerly publicized the January 6 Trump rally that turned into an insurrection at the Capitol. Even after the violence of January 6, The Epoch Times has continued to publicize doubts about the outcome of the presidential election. One of its columnists postulated that the riot was a “false flag” operation.

This is basically all the astute reader needs to know, apart from the fact that:  

"conventional descriptions of The Epoch Times don’t adequately capture the singular mix of straight news, religious belief, conspiracy-peddling, Sinophobia, science denialism, legitimate grievance, and political expediency at the heart of the institution—a mix that, despite the paper’s mysteries, makes it a strangely fitting poster child for this unsettled moment.."

All of which was amply on display in the sample rag dropped into my mailbox Saturday.   For example:  

Study: CDC Overstated Covid 19 Deaths

Which balderdash has been a mainstay topic of the Right media for the past year.  The reason? To diminish the import of the disease and encourage more minions to flout mask mandates, social distancing and lockdowns.   Trump actually originally tweeted this crap and as you might expect with the conspiracy nonsense  repeated and widely shared across social media, with users claiming the statistics were evidence the coronavirus pandemic was not as severe as public health officials have warned or that the deaths were not the result of the virus.

The report in “Science, Public Health Policy, and The Law,” led by an imp who has spread misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines, relies on a debunked claim that the way the CDC requires comorbidity to be reported on death certificates-  which means that many deaths are incorrectly attributed to the virus.   According to the illustrious Epoch Times, by August last year when the CDC had tallied 162, 392 deaths, there were really only 9, 684.  The character was also quoted in the rag as asking: "Did the CDC knowingly alter rules for reporting cause of death in the presence of comorbidiy?"   

Well, uh, NO!  As usual in this Trumpian fake news environment boneheads entered the frame and mucked things up.  In fact, the CDC data on comorbidity at the time was incorrectly interpreted. While comorbidities - like the prostate cancer I have - can be chronic conditions a person can live with and may even contribute to a person's death - that doesn't mean Covid  19 wasn't the immediate cause of death.  And in nearly all those cases the classic Covid signs were already clearly in evidence, such as the "silent" oxygen level depletion.  It is also well to bear in mind 6 in 10 U.S. adults live with a chronic disease and 4 in 10 have more than one. This means that technically going by the suspect study virtually no one would ever be declared dead of Covid 19!

In another piece in this sorry excuse for a newspaper we encounter this headline (on page A6):

A Closer Look Behind The Rise In Anti-Asian Hate

And what might we be missing?  Well, while "some of the incidents might be due to racial bias the others aren't so clear."   This according to Charles Fain Lehman of the Manhattan Institute.  He cited the case of some poor homeless bloke who just got carried away when he shoved three Asians in Oakland's Chinatown.  He also cited the guy's defense council who insisted it was clearly  a case of "mental illness" and any other narratives or claims were "false, misleading and divisive."

 A criminologist named Jeff Asher is then introduced who refers to crime rates - including murder- soaring in 40 cities and concludes most of the Asian attacks were "a product of free roaming criminals" given that "the pattern of crime appears in cities where Asians are being attacked."    So by this spiel the two recent attacks in NYC - with a large black man pummeling a Chinese lady outside an apartment building, then stomping her on a sidewalk-  and another where a young black thug is choking a Chinese man on a subway,  are just plain lawless acts. 

In other words, the so-called "hate crimes" are really just general crimes committed by lawless refuse with zero undertones of racial hate bias.  This is given the cities they occurred in (like NYC)  were all in the midst of a general 2020 crime wave.  Again, note the effort to diminish these attacks, which of course gets the Epoch Times' golden boy Trump off the hook.  But recall all the times he yapped about "Kung flu" and the "China virus".  Which the piece defended given "Most viruses are named after their places of origin".    

Yeah, but it's not rubbed into our faces day after day by a bigot president!   Suffice it to say my sample copy of The Epoch Times has now found its rightful place once again: in the dumpster.

See Also:

by Jill Richardson | March 27, 2021 - 5:09am | permalink


Monday, March 29, 2021

Are 12,000 Starlink Internet Satellites Really Worth Destroying The Night Sky?

 

               Artist's conception of  Starlink Internet System  (WSJ, p. B7,  Mar. 20-21)

Space X's Starlink  already dominates the night sky to the point of seriously threatening Earth-based optical astronomy, See e.g. the effect low  Earth orbit satellites could have on astronomy.

But now a new iteration for a Starlink-based internet will just about finish it off. Starlink has now received approval from the FCC to launch nearly 12,000 satellites.  These will be to support a "Starlink internet" system (WSJ, Mar. 20-21, 'The New Space Race That Is Landing In A Backyard Near You').  Why so many whizzing overhead? Because given the relatively low altitude of each (about 1,200 miles) they will each pass very quickly overhead - this in contrast to the standard geosynchronous satellite at 22,400 miles altitude.  

 The diagram below - from the AAS meeting and Lowenthal's prsentation, shows the difference between the geostationary orbit (GEO) and low Earth orbit (LEO) for satellites:



Because of the standard Starlink low Earth orbit, a signal can travel swiftly from Earth to satellite and back.  The disadvantage is so many thousands of satellites are needed to sustain connections, basically making a mess of astronomical observing.  Recall the Starlink image from 2019 compliments of James Lowenthal in his AAS 236 presentation  ('Satellite Mega Constellations And The Night Sky: OIR Visibility, Impacts & Policy.'on the associated problems:


This  will now, alas, be normal for observers from Earth and,   as Prof. Lowenthal noted in his lecture,  the  Vera Rubin Observatory    is already being affected in its mission to image the entire southern sky every few nights.  As Lowenthal put it:

"We are talking about tens of satellites at once, at any moment, during many hours of the night … across your field of view. It’s a terrible collision of technologies” 

But it seems the observations of land-based astronomers  must now take second place to ensuring every manjack on the planet as an internet connection.  Here's the other aspect: Starlink requires (or will) every manjack using its service to "handle his own installation" and have his own antenna.  The WSJ piece referring to one early 'guinea pig'  assures us it is "min-numbingly easy" - which is to say, connecting the pizza-sized antenna to the provided router and power".  And finally adding the Starlink app.  The hardest part? Running the antenna's data and power cable into the home.

Not humbugged by such details? You will still have to get in line as the waiting list is now longer than  a year.  However, for those in isolated rural areas the wait may be worth it.   "Internet from space" as it were, clearly has advantages in closing the rural-urban divide - not only for Americans but for the rest of the world.   As the WSJ writer notes: "It could also encourage new ways of working and living untethered from cable and fiber-optic internet connections and providing a wider array of internet service options.  

The question humans will have to answer is: Is all this new technology worth shutting off our access to the starry skies? Looking up to the heavens and only seeing artificial "stars"  - the thousands spawned by the Starlink technology. Is that really worth it?  For millions - who don't fancy being "star gazers" it may well be.  But for many millions of others the loss of the skies will mark a major backward step and a significant research impediment as well.  

Make no mistake that the launch of Starlink  angered astronomers around the world and began a conversation about humanity's relationship with the heavens - namely with the ability to observationally access the myriad astronomical objects in the night sky - which might now recede into visual obscurity.   As Lowenthal plaintively asked at the conclusion of his talk:  


What are the stars and the sky worth?

That's the $64 question each human, especially those who retain a childlike curiosity about the universe, will have to ask.

See also:

Light pollution is getting worse, and Earth is paying the price

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/2019/04/nights-are-getting-brighter-earth-paying-the-price-light-pollution-dark-skies/

Friday, March 26, 2021

Cornpone Texas Buffoon In WSJ Claims Failure Of Wind, Solar Caused Texas Power Out - What Brand Of MJ Candy Is He Gobbling?

"This nonsense has already been debunked dozens of times. Does this right-wing propaganda rag believe its readers are this gullible?"  Poster on Reddit - reacting to WSJ op-ed that wind and solar failures caused power breakdown in TX

As we've seen during the pandemic, the WSJ op-ed pages have featured a never-ending procession of buffoons, liars, disinformationists, propagandists and just plain fools.  Their sole task: to alter the thinking and neuronal 'wiring' of enough readers to believe claptrap and codswallop.   In the latest iteration - or at least one - a Texas cornpone Repuke (Wayne Christian) is trying to convince readers that a breakdown in wind and solar generating capacity created the recent freezing fiasco in his state. See, e.g. 

Texas’ Blackouts Blew In on the Wind - WSJ

But as one Reddit responder put it, does the WSJ really believe its readers are this gullible? Well, clearly the editors (like Paul Gigot)  do so believe -   or at least that their readers lack the background information and smarts to challenge patent BS when they see it.   

According to Christian:  

"Texas taxpayers and ratepayers will shell out an estimated $36 billion by the end  of the decade to subsidize wind and solar energy. These subsidies have tripled wind and solar capacity in the Lone Star state in the past 10 years, but as Texans learned first hand during the storm there is a huge difference between capacity and generation."   

Well, of course there is, especially when you crackers and cornpones fuck up the investment in back up capacity critically needed when an extraordinary event - like the February freeze hits!  E.g.

As I noted in that post:

Ultimately, this outage, like many of the biggest blackouts before it, reflects the challenge of unanticipated events and consequences.  But it also reflects a "wholesale" market system that- in order to keep costs generally cheap- plays the margins and has deregulated to an astounding extent.  Among the benefits, the state could set goals, foster investment and expand transmission without input from other state or federal agencies.   But the downsides of the cheap energy model include NO incentive to winterize the infrastructure - whether insulating windmill turbines, or natural gas pipelines, etc.

 Thus, the  gamble taken was only advantageous until a "black swan" event occurred - such as the expanding polar vortex this past week.   The Texas system then had "bet the house" that saving investment money - by not winterizing generators, not insulating them, might work - and lost that bet

The lack of winterizing in Texas applied to both wind turbines and solar infrastructure which the Texans simply ignored, in the hope of keeping costs to consumers low.  They blew it.  Even a WSJ Business Exchange contributor (Charley Grant) skewered this twaddle just one day later in his column, e.g.

Losing Dollars by Pinching Pennies: When Short-Termism Goes Bad - WSJ

Writing:  "Severe winter weather in Texas last month froze generators' water intake facilities and knocked out power for days, snarling local economic activity in the process. Utilities were caught off guard by the weather, even though such extremes aren't entirely new.  In a business world where maximizing return on investment has long been the highest priority, corporate America has a way of costing itself big by not adequately preparing for trouble".

Mr. Grant is correct though is too polite to directly call out his WSJ buffoon counterpart like I did.  Indeed, if Christian had half a brain he'd have known that   wind makes up just a fraction — 7 percent or so, by some estimates — of the state’s overall mix of power generation.   But just like Minnesota, Texas could have insulated its wind turbines as opposed to letting them be exposed to the elements, just like it could have winterized its natural gas pipelines and solar collectors.  But it chose not to in order to keep costs down, and thus bet the house nothing terrible would happen.  It lost.  

Apart from that lapse this cornpone fool is oblivious to the fact that the main immediate problem was frigid temperatures that stalled natural gas production, which is responsible for the majority of Texas’ power supply.  Even Texas' snarky governor, Greg Abbott, admitted as much during one press conference with a local news outlet when he said:  

"The companies that generate the power, their operations have frozen up and trip wired, and become non-operational. This is why there is a lack of power, a lack of natural gas arriving at power generation centers across the state.  That's because the ability to both manufacture and transport the natural gas has been frozen also. It's been frozen in the pipeline, frozen in the rig,  frozen in the transmission line."   

Hmmm....natural gas frozen in the transmission line. But maybe Christian doesn't believe his own governor.  Still, he shouldn't be spouting boneheaded baloney without getting his facts straight. That includes raging against green ( solar and wind) subsidies when his own fossil fuel cohort are being subsidized for taking unwise risks - like in refusing to winterize infrastructure, betting the extra costs could be ignored to save $$$.   

But as Michele Wucker noted in the same WSJ Exchange Grant column:

 "Too many businesses are being subsidized for taking unwise risks when the consequences of bad decisions fall mainly on customers and taxpayers."   

 And so, as a result: "The benefits of risk taking are privatized while the consequences of the bad decisions can be socialized.

 Which is exactly what happened in Texas last month  - so Mr. Wayne Christian and the toadies on his commission could sit pretty reaping the benefits of the risk they imposed on Texans - while the hoi polloi had to suffer the consequences of their folly. Welcome to the US of A, where the real socialism is now the redistribution of suffering in the wake of corporate folly.  In the case of Texas, the folly of trying to pinch pennies to avoid investment in winterizing energy infrastructure that could have spared suffering for tens of thousands.  

But never mind, MJ candy- munching toads like Christian and his Texas Railroad Commission will keep on blaming subsidies to solar and wind power for their own stupid failures of foresight and foolish penny-pinching just to save a few bucks.  

What about the parade of WSJ op-ed liars, disinformationists and media manipulators?  Any chance of impeding their hog swill?  Not so long as demented trolls like one (D.C. Circuit Court Of Appeals) Judge Laurence Silberman (WSJ, 'Reconsidering Times vs. Sullivan, March 23, p. A14) pop off about how the WSJ's actual news section is more like a "liberal broadsheet" (like the WaPo and NYT),  while its op-ed pages - along with FOX News- are banners of journalistic fairness and objective enlightenment.  Has anyone given a dementia test to this fool lately, especially after blabbering that "a press so one-sided is dangerous to democracy."    No, judge, yellow Reich wing journalism - so full of disinformation -  is dangerous to democracy! 

But even minus Silberman's insane takes on the sources and value of real news, there will be those who defend the WSJ op-ed stable of twits (like Holman Jenkins Jr., Kim Strassel et al) as providing real insights. Thus, it is up to the reader to be aware of the mental landmines that lay in wait when s/he reads the WSJ op-ed pages.

See Also:

by Basav Sen | March 26, 2021 - 6:14am | permalink

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Colorado Cake Maker Believes His Cakes Are "Speech" - Why He Merits Another Lawsuit to Dispel His Delusions

 Who can forget Colorado cake maker Jack Phillips?  This is the character who owns Masterpiece Cakeshop  in Lakewood, Colorado and believes his artistic cakes are really "speech".    Thus, he has refused to bake any cakes that he believes will feature speech that goes against his Christian beliefs.

In his latest court case which began Monday, we learn ('The Christian Baker Who Said 'No'', WSJ, March 23, p. A13)   Phillips is being countersued by one transgender person - Autumn Scardina - who wanted Phillips to bake a simple custom cake that was pink on the inside and blue on the outside.  This was to "reflect her gender transition".  Phillips refused, filing a federal lawsuit against the state civil rights commission - which then dropped the case- after which Ms.Scardina then filed her own suit.

According to WSJ's William McGurn, poor Mr. Phillips is "being harassed into submission" by the lawsuit given "he has already lost 40 percent of his business because he's stopped making his custom cakes".  Well, that was HIS choice.  Besides, it's because prospective customers seem to always want special designs with which he doesn't agree, based on "speech" that offends his beliefs.   But those designs are only speech in his own mind, not objectively so.

Let's back up and apply some rational perspective.  Is a blue and pink cake really speech?  Is it conveying a "message"?  If I see a blue and pink cake just sitting on a table my answer is certainly 'No' it's just a blue and pink cake. Cakes like Phillips makes are artistic confections, but not speech - any more than money is speech.   

What if the customer who wants the cake says the colors will represent a certain thing- like a gender transition? That is a subjective meaning she is imposing on the confection- but it is not what any wording says on the cake. In other words, there is no speech involved, given no words to that effect appear on the cake..  Phillips therefore is creating a phantom, an objection in his own mind and is liable for non-compliance so long as he works in the public commercial sphere. 

The principle at work here shouldn't take a Mensa IQ to process or parse.  At issue then, is whether the cake maker has entered into a commercial business or not. If not, if they simply follow their art or self-expression - with NO public sales or commerce- then they are not obliged to do anyone's bidding. They are not in the commercial marketplace but operating in their own private (e.g. hobby) domain.

If, however, they are businesses and operating in the public, commercial sphere, then no such rights apply. That's why this ought to be a no brainer for anyone considering  going into the custom cake business- Christian, Muslim or atheist.  Consider the consequences if Phillips' arguments were extended willy-nilly so that anyone could apply them. Pharmacies could refuse serving people they regarded as "violating God's  laws"   - say denying birth control pills to young, single women.

Owners of football teams could decide that they want no Jews, blacks, or gays entering their stadiums and they might put that into place. Private Catholic hospitals -operating as businesses - might decide that they want no Muslims, atheists, Wiccans or gays on their premises either. Restaurants would feel free to bar anyone they think is marginal, including those who look like 'thugs' - or  whoever doesn't fit flitty criteria like hair length, or quality of dress.

In other words, you'd invite a society bordering on chaos.  Thus, rulings in favor of Masterpiece Cakeshop would open the door for widespread discrimination — starting with weddings and spiraling outward- as I described above. In the words of one of the lawyers for the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce back in 2017 when two gays brought a case against Phillips for non-complianece.:

"It is not hard to imagine the claims that will follow this case: A jeweler may argue that his religion forbids him from selling wedding rings to an interfaith couple; a shop owner may refuse service to women customers to avoid contact prohibited by his religion,” 

The whole problem then is that in a putatively business sphere- cake making- which ought to be secular only,  religious beliefs have been interjected. This is what clutters the legal landscape and raises specious concerns that Phillips'  "Christian speech" is being "violated", which is nonsense. Cakes are not speech, and they bear no objective messages, hence however they are made they can't violate a person's religious beliefs.

McGurn in his column complains about Ms. Scardina telling the court in her filing she "just wanted  a birthday cake"  but this was having been changed from earlier saying it "was to celebrate her transition from male to female".  But again, there is no fault here, no foul.  Whether she said she just wanted a birthday cake, or said the meaning was of her transition, the difference is between tweedledee and tweedledum.  Since the cake bears no words of any gender transition it doesn't matter what she says it means, objectively it's just a cake- with no speech attached. For the preservation of general sanity we do not read "speech"  into inanimate entities which themselves bear no words, no messages. 

Subjective impositions of meaning do not count as speech if not actually articulated or manifested in a created artifact.  So basically any offense is in Phillips' head. So yeah, he needs to face a lawsuit to comply - or else let cake making just be his hobby. 

Meanwhile McGurn is perversely elated that "there are some encouraging recent precedents from the Supreme Court.", i.e. which would work in Phillips' favor.   Well, for rational citizens that isn't encouraging because we are faced with a court that will then allow religious (or rather, anti-religious)  speech to be imposed onto Phillips' prospective customers' cakes where none exists.  

But why be surprised when the same court ruled money is speech.  All of which shows the court really needs to be expanded and balanced to remove the conservatives' 6-3  advantage.  

Update:   6/22:

On June 14, Denver District Judge A. Bruce Jones said Autumn Scardina was denied a cake that was blue on the outside and pink on the inside to celebrate her gender transition on her birthday because of her transgender status in violation of the law. While Jack Phillips said he could not make the cake because of its message, Jones said the case was about a refusal to sell a product, not compelled speech.



Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Answers To "QAnons Need Not Apply" Analytic Test

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

Then logically, 2F = 1C + 0.2F, and for 0.2F: 

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


Therefore, 2F = 1.11 C

So O is at a temperature of: 1.11C + 1.80 C = 2.91 C 

Which is answer (C)

(2) This is straightforward. Obviously, a consecutive clockwise and counter-clockwise rotation of 60 degrees cancel each other. Then, rotating the triangle through 360 degrees clockwise simply turns it through a full circle - bringing it to its original position. Thus, the answer is: (A) the same as the original orientation.


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

(4) A straightforward logical regression and deduction exercise:   (D)


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

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

So the answer is: (B)


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

R2: rotation clockwise by 180 degrees

M1: Mirrors corners exactly through the midline of the square

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

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

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

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


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

(9) The key for this question's response is not to be fooled by the 'easy pop-up answer' which is (D). Clearly, on careful reading he has invented an  ad hoc law to permit miracles and that contradicts laws of logic and the general law.   The key sentences that give it away?  "A miracle is an exception to physical law but not to logical or ethical law. As such it does not contradict the general law "

BUT - if it contradicts the physical law, it also contradicts the general law- by his own definition.

Hence, answer is (C).

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