Monday, April 29, 2024

A Short Verbal-Logic Analytical Brain Teaser

 Read the short passage below then answer the questions on it which follow, by selecting the most logical choice:

The work week in a small business is a five-day work week running from Monday through Friday. In each workweek, activities L, M, N, O and P must all be done, but the work is subject to the following restrictions:

L must be done earlier in the week than O but not earlier than P

M must be done earlier in the week than N and not earlier than O.

No more than one of the activities can be done on any one day

1. Which of the following is an acceptable schedule of activities with the activities listed from left to right in the order from Monday through Friday:

(A) L, M, N, O, P,

(B)M,N, O, M, N

(C) O, N. L, P, M

(D) P, O, L, M. L

(E) P, O, L, M , N

2. Which of the following pairs of activities could be done on Monday and Tuesday, respectively, of some week:

(A) L and O

(B) M and L

(C) M and P

(D) N and O

(E) O and M

3. If P is earlier than M on the schedule for some week, which of the following must also be true of that schedule?

(A) L is earlier than M

(B) N is earlier than M

(C) N is earlier than O

(D) O is earlier than L

(E) O is earlier than P

4. If P and N were done on Thursday and Friday, respectively, which of the following must be true?

(A) L is done on Tuesday

(B) L is done on Wednesday

(C) M is done on Monday

(D) O is done on Tuesday

(E) O is done on Wednesday

5. Which of the following could appear on the schedule for some week?

(A) L on Friday

(B) M on Thursday

(C) N on Monday

(D) O on Monday

(E) P on Tuesday

6. The one day of the week for which any one of the five activities could be scheduled while still allowing the other four activities to be scheduled is:

(A) Monday

(B) Tuesday

(C) Wednesday

(D) Thursday

(E) Friday

(Answers on Friday)

How The Loyola U. Visit Of Existentialist Philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre Propelled My Path To Atheism


I never told mom that Loyola aided me on the path to atheism

Loyola University, New Orleans, provided me the opportunity of  hearing and seeing perhaps the foremost Existentialist philosopher in the world at the time:   Jean-Paul Sartre.  He had been invited by Loyola's Jesuits to debate the Christian Existentialist Gabriel Marcel at the Loyola University Fieldhouse in early 1965.  The Fieldhouse, with a capacity of 3,000, was packed. (The semester, my first at Loyola, had begun in September 1964.)

The debate was conducted in  the language  (French) of each of the opponents and translated into English  by Loyola's head of Language Studies. It lasted nearly 2 hours and it must be admitted that Sartre had the advantage from the get go. It appeared to many Marcel had not been able to coherently formulate exactly what "Christian Existentialism" meant and was also a newly minted convert to Roman Catholicism.  Sartre also had a leg up given his massive work, 'Being and Nothingness' was already available at the Loyola Bookstore, and I made sure to purchase a copy prior to the event:

By contrast, Gabriel Marcel had nothing 'on paper' to offer or to provide solid, English-translated ideas.  Hence, even before the debate I knew the gist and essential theme of Jean-Paul Sartre's arguments while Marcel's remained in "limbo", nebulous and ill-defined.

Sartre's core concept was "bad faith" and he emphasized it in the debate. The most serious transgression an authentic being or person could make, according to Sarte, was to succumb or surrender to bad faith. By "bad faith" Sartre meant going against your own interior barometer to find an authentic Self.  In other words, taking the easy or conformist path, to "go along to get along". It made life relatively easy (few conflicts) but ultimately led to despair since an artificial life was substituted for an authentic one.  In the attaining authenticity, one bore total responsibility for the direction of his life, which also incepted a degree of anguish.

As Sartre explained on p. 73:

"In anguish freedom is anguished before itself inasmuch as it is instigated and bound  by nothing.  Someone will say, freedom has just been defined as a permanent structure of the human being; if anguish manifests it then anguish ought to be a permanent state of my affectivity. But, on the contrary, it is completely exceptional.  How can we explain the rarity of the phenomenon of anguish?.....

Anguish in fact is the recognition of a possibility as my possibility;  that is, it is constituted when consciousness sees itself cut from its essence by nothingness or separated from the future by its very freedom.  This means that a nihilating nothing removes me from all excuse and that at the same time what I project as my future excuse is always nihilated and reduced to the rank of simple possibility because the future which I am remains out of my reach."

Sartre is basically saying - as he did in the debate -  that anguish was spawned from the recognition of personal freedom by the individual consciousness. That freedom entails one or more choices of possible paths, possible futures.  This is given one choice forecloses all others or in his words is "nihilated".  This in response to Gabriel Marcel's claim there was a deeply personal meaning of life bound to our engagement with it and one choice made - provided it's personal - need not extinguish others. If one wished to be a priest he could, but he could also be a scientist simultaneously.  

But Sartre viewed such a double choice with skepticism, given science and religion were clearly at odds (See e.g. the links at bottom). If then a man was a responsible scientist, who adhered to it natural laws and principles, he simply could not believe in the supernatural flotsam and jetsam required to be a priest. (E.g. a man walking on water, raising the dead from graves, a virgin who gives birth etc. etc.)  To Sartre this exemplified bad faith and was not being true to oneself. 

As he noted (B&N, p. 101):

 "If a man is what he is bad faith is forever impossible and candor ceases to be his ideal and becomes instead his being.  But is man what he is?"

In the last question Sartre suggested that with consciousness of being it may not be so easy to be what one is.  One would have to be conscious of all the pitfalls, for example, if one were to be a totally free being all the time.   As Sartre poses the quandary (ibid.):  

"In this sense it is necessary that we make ourselves what we are.  But what are we if we have the constant obligation to make ourselves what we are, if our mode of being is having the obligation to be what we are?"

It is from this secondary quandary that Sartre takes issue with the claim of sincerity, say for the hypothetical priest-scientist,   i.e., p. 105:  

 "What can be the significance of the ideal of sincerity except as a task impossible to achieve, of  which the very meaning is in contradiction with the structure of my consciousness.  To be sincere we said is to be what one is. That supposes that I am not originally what I am."

 This then leads to Sartre's harsh conclusion (p. 109): 

 "Thus the essential structure of sincerity does not differ from that of bad faith since the sincere man constitutes himself as what he is in order not to be it.   This explains the truth recognized by all that one can fall into bad faith through being sincere.... Total, constant sincerity as a constant effort to adhere to oneself is by nature a constant effort to disassociate oneself from oneself.  A person frees himself from himself by the very act with which he makes himself an object for himself."

For Sartre (p. 112):

 "The true problem of bad faith stems evidently from the fact that bad faith is faith.  It cannot be either a cynical lie or a certainty if certainty is the intuitive possession of the object.  But if we take belief as meaning adherence of being to its object when the object is not given or is given indistinctly, the  bad faith is belief, and the essential problem of bad faith is a problem of belief."

In his April, 1965 PLAYBOY interview (p. 72), Sartre is direct about this matter of belief (e.g. in God) and freedom: 

"If I have this theory of freedom it's precisely because I do not believe in God." 

 In this response, again, he is reinforcing his earlier position that bad faith is belief, in God, demons, witches, whatever.  Elements and aspect that do not conform to reality. So he makes clear that - based on his existentialist position-  any existentialist atheist cannot allow belief in an unproven claim or existent. Hence, a priest cannot be a scientist and vice versa. It is as much an oxymoron as claiming there can be a square circle. We see in the Playboy interview:


And here Sartre's concept of radical freedom is revealed, e.g.:        

That such freedom is "not a cheerful thing" would be self-evident to anyone who has made a clean and clear break from his or her  earlier formed background, say like a former Roman Catholic becoming an atheist.  

 I guess I made that hard choice, after performing a test (in junior year of HS) for "transubstantiation" on a communion wafer to see if it was really the "body of Christ".  Alas, a starch test performed in the Pace chemistry lab disclosed the consecrated wafer to be starch, aka carbohydrate, as I suspected. No trace of protein. No corporeal substance.

In effect, Sartre's debate (as well as his monograph) confirmed for me I was already on the path of authenticity (for me) and I would be unable to go back to simply being even a nominal Roman Catholic. What Sartre's debate and book - thanks to the Loyola Jesuits did- was to flesh out the form of atheism I would adopt based on a radical freedom rooted in existentialism.  It basically confirmed and consolidated suspicions I already had, thereby propelling me further.

See Also:

Kudos To A Courageous High School Atheist And Her Award -Winning Essay




The Vatican's Big Bang Conference: Does George Lemaitre's "Theory" Prove A Supernatural God?


Battle Of Science vs. Religion Resumes In 'Physics Today': My Published Response To A Religionist 


Friday, April 26, 2024

Other Voices Weigh In On Trump "Hush Money" (AKA Election Interference) Trial


"Help me, my evangelical friends!"

As I noted in my March 27th post Trump never should have been a candidate and allowed to campaign at all after launching the Jan. 6th insurrection.  He ought to have been disqualified under Section 3 of the 14th amendment, i.e.

No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice-President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.

Frankly the bastard ought to have been hung by now - and then maybe drawn and quartered like the Brits did to traitors in the olden days.  But failing that we have the so-called "hush money" (read: election interference) trial and case which will reveal to one and all what a loathsome piece of orange carrion this maggot is. It's blatant election interference given the rat smoked his Reepo opponents (including Rubio and Cruz) using devastating "news" from the National Enquirer rag and its head honcho David Pecker.  All this came out Tuesday and much more is to come today.  Anyway, here are other voices weighing in on the trial which the media has covered breathlessly and was originally deemed not worth the cost of paper or digital bytes.

by Amanda Marcotte | April 26, 2024 - 5:58am | permalink

— from Salon

In his opening statement in the People v. Donald Trump, defense attorney Todd Blanche told the Manhattan jury to gaze upon the criminal defendant and see a devoted family man. "He’s a man. He’s a husband. He’s a father," Blanche said of the former president accused of election interference. "He’s a person just like you and just like me." Hamfisted as it may be, it was a play by Blanche to distance his cranky, often sleepy client from what promised to be days, if not weeks, of testimony detailing a tawdry conspiracy to pay hush money to an adult film actress in order to cover up what sounds like rampant adultery.

There are many obvious pitfalls in this effort to recast Trump in the image of a suburban sitcom dad. The biggest might be one very noticeable absence in the courtroom. As a reporter who was pointedly ignored by Trump asked on Tuesday: "Where's Melania?"

It's not just the failed fashion model-turned-Mrs. Trump #3 who hasn't shown up in support. None of Trump's five children, or their spouses, have stood by his side in court, either. His two adult sons would rather spend time screening hypothetical future political appointments for "loyalty" than bother to show their father any in-person care at court. His eldest daughter, Ivanka Trump, is posting photos of her fancy vacations rather than staying in New York with her father.

by Amanda Marcotte | April 24, 2024 - 6:50am | permalink

— from Salon

While this falls far short of the punishment he deserves, there was considerable satisfaction to be gained from reports that Donald Trump spent much of the first week of his first criminal trial sitting in silence listening to mean tweets about him read aloud in court. For hours at a time, potential jurors in his New York "hush-money" trial were interviewed to determine whether they could judge the ex-president with an open mind. In the process, both past social media posts and in-the-moment honest opinions were made public.

Trump is such a famous narcissist that he literally has a woman who follows him around with a wireless printer to feed him a steady supply of online praise. Hearing what people outside the paid shills have to say was, all reports suggest, very upsetting for the former president. He glowered and eventually tried to leave the courtroom so quickly that he had to be told to sit down by the judge.


by Elizabeth Preza | April 23, 2024 - 7:05am | permalink

— from Alternet

CNN’s Kaitlan Collins on Monday detailed Donald Trump’s frustration with courthouse security as “a few dozen” supporters “are kept cornered off a bit of a distance” from the former president’s Manhattan “hush money” trial.

Opening statements in the Manhattan district attorney’s 34 felony count case against Trump began Monday morning as prosecutors alleged the former president lied “over and over and over” in an “illegal” conspiracy to hide hush money payments to adult film star Stephanie Clifford, whose stage name is Stormy Daniels, the New York Times reports.

According to Collins, Trump is growing increasingly frustrated as he views “this all through the lens of the campaign trail.”

“I think big picture, when you look at what Trump has been saying, his mindset going into this, he’s complaining about the gag order incessantly,” Collins told CNN’s Anderson Cooper. "I’m told privately the idea that he can't directly attack the judges family, the prosecutors in this case — he can go after [Manhattan District Attorney] Alvin Bragg— but not other members of the team … it has been a big thing of his.”


by Carl Gibson | April 24, 2024 - 6:59am | permalink

— from Alternet

If former President Donald Trump is convicted of crimes and sentenced to prison, it's likely his permanent Secret Service detail would follow him to the cell block.

Since 1965, the U.S. Secret Service has been required by statute to protect all former presidents of the United States and their spouses for life, unless they decline protection. This means that Trump could theoretically have his personal security team with him — even if he's an inmate.

According to a Tuesday New York Times report, the logistics of incarcerating a former president are already being discussed now that his first criminal trial is officially underway. The topic of how Trump's Secret Service protection would operate in a prison environment initially emerged after this week's gag order hearing in Judge Juan Merchan's courtroom.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg and his team of prosecutors have argued that Trump should be fined $1,000 for each instance of him allegedly violating Merchan's gag order. They also stressed that the gag order — which was meant to prohibit Trump from attacking trial witnesses, court staff and their families — could also be enforced by incarceration of up to 30 days should financial penalties prove ineffective (prosecutors did not call for Trump to be jailed over the current alleged violations).

by Heather Digby Parton | April 27, 2024 - 6:52am | permalink

— from Salon

Donald Trump held a little rally at a construction site in New York before his trial commenced on Thursday morning. He glad-handed the workers and passed out pamphlets that claimed he would end Biden's electric vehicle mandate. They all seemed to like him but, of course, they would, as Fox News reported that the attendees were solicited and vetted by the Trump campaign. In fact one of the "workers" interviewed at the event was a former staffer of disgraced GOP congressman George Santos:

See Also:

Ex-tabloid owner saw payoffs to Stormy Daniels, Karen McDougal as campaign-related





Are Small Fry Biotech Investors Really Getting "Hosed" In The Equity Markets? Looks Like It To Me


           Flash traders plot more gains via high frequency trading in 2014                             

The recent Wall Street Journal Business and Investing piece ('Certain Biotech Investors Get An Edge',  April 16, p. B12) was an eye opener for many but perhaps not in the way they wanted.  According to the article: 

"Publicly traded biotech companies are turning to PIPEs or 'private investments in public equities' to help them get through a volatile period in equity markets.  In the first quarter U.S. biotechs raised a record $5.7 billion using this approach."

What's not to like? Well, the small fry average biotech investors are not happy.  While it's a "cost effective way for experienced investors to raise money while avoiding the choppier public markets" it is less of a blessing for average shareholders of those companies which benefit.  As the WSJ notes: 

"The problem is that the PIPE boom is leaving out many investors, some of whom complain that it is essentially a form of legal insider trading.  This is because many PIPEs give  a select group access to nonpublic information such as data from a cancer study that is about to be published.  Once the deal is locked up PIPEs are announced to the public often alongside the information leading to major share gains."  

According to Daphne Zohar, founder and CEO at one biopharmaceutical company:  

"These deals make generalist investors feel like the deck is stacked against them."

But let's be clear it isn't like exclusive access to PIPEs is the first iteration of this form of shadow gaming. In my 2011 book,

The Elements of the Corporatocracy: Stahl, Philip A.: Books

 I noted The London Financial Times article (‘A Metaphorical Proposal’, Mar. 13, p. 11A) by Michael Skapinker. He cited remarks by Joseph Berardino – chief exec of Arthur Andersen- who noted how the current reporting system fails to communicate essential information about the real risks facing companies” to the small investor.  Result?  The small fry "generalist' investor gets hosed, the big fish gets rich off the small fry's ignorance.

 Author Michael Lewis  also pointed out big boys' advantages in his book 'Flash Boys' .  Therein he described in detail how flash traders- using the high frequency trading (HFT) gambit - were able to see milliseconds ahead of ordinary investors'  buy orders to get in first, buy the stock and raise the price.  In a way it's kind of a tax on small fry transactions, so they don't come out as far ahead as they thought. Also, the same applies to sell orders. The flash traders can get there first, and you get much less than you originally thought you would.

Lewis emphasized the flash traders often traded on fractional share values but these inevitably pile up. Billions could be made off the backs of poor ordinary day traders, who trusted that when they placed their buy or sell orders no shenanigans or secret advantages were afoot. But alas, this wasn't the case. It only took a tiny fraction of a second of a flash trader's advantage (i.e.  or "latency")  for them to see slightly ahead - to what you're intention is - and do it before you do.  

So yes, in a real way, these built-in aspects of capital markets amount to legal ways to hose the small guys. Should you be alarmed?  Maybe, only if you have money - like approaching retirement - you can't afford to lose.  Otherwise just be aware of the pitfalls and how the game is stacked. In the case of the PIPEs it's especially the way access to the inside info is "extremely limited."  If you're not among the "two dozen or so controlling the vast majority of the deal flow" well you're out of luck.   

Then there is another concern (ibid.): 

"While there are strict rules around the information shared in PIPES, these deals could be leading to what is known as shadow insider trading - a pervasive problem in biotech whereby an investor learns information about Company A and then uses it to make an investment in Company B".

More reasons why wifey and I don't gamble in the Wall Street casino at all, opting for the slow and steady gains via money markets and the stable (monthly) income accruing from our immediate fixed annuities.

See Also:

Bringing The Stock Market Back In Synch With Main Street: It CAN Be Done But A Price Will Be Paid 



The 'Game Stop' Speculative Frenzy And The Emerging Stock Bubble - What's Behind Them?



Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Can New Bitcoin Coding Reduce Its Outrageous Mining Energy Consumption?


                          Bitcoin mining operation using exorbitant electric energy

The recent article (Code changes could drastically reduce bitcoin’s enormous electricity requirements) in Physics Today (APRIL, p. 26)  -  suggesting use of different coding as a means to control energy consumption of Bitcoin mining - was worthy of attention. As the piece notes, the Energy Information Administration  (EIA) :

"estimated in February that cryptocurrency mining accounts for anywhere from 0.6% to 2.3% of US electricity consumption."   

That is a lot and is having a major impact on our environment especially fueling climate change.

Bitcoin is by far the largest of the world’s more than 10, 000 cryptocurrencies, and to generate new bitcoins, mining companies must solve cryptographic puzzles that require vast computational resources.  This has led to the rapid growth in electricity demand and an additional CO2 input that is approaching intolerable levels. According to the PT piece:

 "Worldwide, bitcoin mining used more energy in 2020–21 than all but 26 countries, according to an October 2023 report by an academic arm of the United Nations. It emitted carbon dioxide equivalent to burning 38 billion kg of coal.

(As Physics Today went to press, bitcoin was trading at an all-time high price of around $73 000. Bitcoin mining—and its energy consumption—rises in parallel with the price.)

For the uninitiated in the esoteric realm of cryptocurrency, "mining" is a loose metaphor for what is going on. There is no actual mining as in extraction of precious ores - like gold - to make bitcoin.  It is instead based on the continuous use of powerful computers to keep solving numerical - math problems and conundrums, in 10 minute stretches, to create the basis for generating bitcoin.  According to the website "Investopedia":

"Bitcoin mining is the process by which new bitcoins are entered into circulation, but it is also a critical component of the maintenance and development of the blockchain ledger. It is performed using very sophisticated computers that solve extremely complex computational math problems. Cryptocurrency mining is painstaking, costly, and only sporadically rewarding. Nonetheless, mining has a magnetic appeal for many investors interested in cryptocurrency because of the fact that miners are rewarded for their work with crypto tokens."

The abstruse mathematics underlying cryptography enables bitcoin to exist in the first place and is what drives computer energy consumption.  The applicable coding needs to follow that arc which allows most expeditious solution.  Especially as the Mathematics may entail solutions to the peculiar functions known as elliptic curves, i.e.

Thus, for example, bitcoin uses elliptic curve technology - a type of public key cryptography is needed to ensure the validity of transactions. I.e. that the bitcoin you are using is every bit as valid as the one I am using.  You can learn more hereabout elliptic curve cryptography.

While this would pose a humongous problem for any virtual currency,  Bitcoin attempts to solve it using what's called  "blockchain".  Basically, this is a registry of all the Bitcoin transactions to date, and which all users can see.  It includes: when the Bitcoins were created and the dates for transactions between individuals.   The problem then becomes ensuring the blockchain is accurate. This is accomplished using powerful, number crunching computers that basically solve fearsome elliptical equations that help in verifying the Bitcoin transactions, dates, and hence the blockchain is accurate. If not, then it would be possible to steal or duplicate the currency.  Specifically, the amount of power consumed  by this number crunching is equivalent to all of that consumed by Finland in one year, or 5.1 gigawatts.  For comparison, the current largest bitcoin mining plant (in Texas) has a capacity of 700 MW and will soon be followed by a 1 GW plant. (The typical nuclear reactor produces about 1 GW of power).

Miners completing a new block are currently rewarded with 6.25 new bitcoins. As the mining network has grown over time, the computing power necessary to create new blocks has increased, since the code automatically adjusts the difficulty to keep the time required for completion of a block steady at around 10 minutes.

Nor is this likely to mark the limit of consumption. This is because bitcoin's energy intensive validation process - known as "proof of work"- is only likely to get more intense with time.  This will arrive as more and more application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs) are incorporated and added to the blockchain. Clearly then, there must be a means or method to limit energy consumption and the greenhouse gases churned out.

Thankfully, environmental groups -  including Greenpeace and the Environmental Working Group  - have urged bitcoin to change its code to a far lower energy-intensive process called "proof of stake". Ethereum, the second-largest cryptocurrency, switched in 2022 to proof of stake, where large holders of the cryptocurrency offer some of their own holdings as collateral to validate new blocks and transactions in exchange for a chance to receive rewards. That change lowered the Ethereum network’s energy consumption by 99.9%, to an annualized 7.5 GWh.  Alas, large holders of bitcoin have opposed change. One (BMC) says the energy is required in order to provide network security and tie the cryptocurrency’s value to the physical world.  (The BMC claims that 60% of the energy consumed by the global bitcoin mining industry is supplied from sustainable, non-CO2-emitting sources—more green energy than is used by almost any other industry sector.)

Nonetheless, a 2022 report by the Sierra Club and Earthjustice accused some companies of “greenwashing” by locating their plants in proximity to wind or solar farms. But unless a company has a power purchase agreement or a direct connection to a renewable supplier, the proportion of renewables they use will be the same as that of the grid from which they draw. Apart from a few publicly traded bitcoin mining companies, few self-report their energy consumption source.

 All of this amounts to a giant spin production on behalf of the bitcoin miners, and in service of a cryptocurrency whose value to the greater economy remains dubious.  (Look no further than the continuing fallout from Sam Bankman-Fried's crypto scam).

What is needed is not "proof of work" right now but proof of energy use and that it is truly green-emphasized, not quasi green, or "green washed". A first step is a change in coding to generate bitcoin.

See Also: