Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Accusations of socialism

Okay so Bill Weld is going to primary Trump, giving some RASRs (Residually Adult-Sane Republicans) a potential path off the plague ship. But will it matter? While total numbers of self-described Republicans keeps plummeting – especially hemorrhaging members of every fact-using profession – Trump’s percentage support among the remaining GOP masses remains 90% while his organization is frenetically busy enforcing Trumpist purity in every Republican state or county committee. (This isn't new; name one top Republican between Reagan and Ryan who was touted at the 2016 GOP convention? Just Newt, who had frantically toed the line. No other Republican leaders - even presidents - were even mentioned. What can that mean?)

Will folks in the Republican outlier state – Utah, clean and sober – finally come to grips with their wretched quandary? Either stick with a Kremlin-led party of mafiosi, gambling, addiction and sexual perversion, or follow Evan McMullin or Gutless Mitt offstage…  

…or else (shudder) start flirting with the party of socialism?   

== They plan to scream “socialism!” ==

Among liberals’ biggest mistakes: getting lured into expressions of hostility to the markets, enterprises and small/startups that generate the wealth we then use to make things better for all children. The Putin-Fox Party plans to use “socialism” against democrats, despite the GOP now being wholly owned by communist and “ex”-communist foreign despots. 

There are two forceful answers:

1) The Greatest Generation (GG) that endured Depression, crushed Hitler, contained Stalinism and made the world’s greatest middle class adored one living human, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The GGs “made America Great." So why not force our red neighbors to choose: either attack the GGs or accept that they were right?

Only one democrat has edged closer to using this powerful meme. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, with her terminology “Green New Deal.” But even she doesn’t seem to quite get the power of a true judo move.

2) Across 6000 years, far more open-flat-fair-competitive-creative enterprise systems were wrecked by oligarchy than were ever harmed by moderate, democratic socialism (e.g. Canada or Sweden.) Oligarchy by uber-rich cheaters must be denounced as the enemy of enterprise. Dems Should claim Adam Smith as one of their own. (If you actually read him, you’ll understand.)

See the point made here. Counter the "socialism!" accusation with the Greatest Generation's love of FDR, then follow through with the favorite Americans of the 1950s, Jonas Salk, who saved a generation of children, and Dwight Eisenhower, who made AOC's socialism seem tame. Here's the info about Ike you can use to shred Fox nostrums into confetti.

== A flawed hero is better than a traitor villain ==

In comments below, watch how the Kremlin-generated meme machine is already in gear with hate-blips aimed at FDR's faults.  And yet, the only sane way to judge men is by the context of their times and their net effects for good. Roosevelt's flaws were real and lamentable; I lost some cousins because of his waffling. But there is a reason why Philip K. Dick set the Nazi-dominated hell of "The Man in the High Castle" in a world where FDR had been killed.

Yes, by our current standards, FDR was bigoted and made some howling-awful decisions. The same could be said of LBJ. And you honestly think they would not have led the way in recanting those mistakes? 

Anyone condemning them, while ignoring all their good, should read Frederick Douglas's eulogy of Abraham Lincoln. Especially the last paragraph of this excerpt:

"I have said that President Lincoln was a white man, and shared the prejudices common to his countrymen towards the colored race. Looking back to his times and to the condition of his country, we are compelled to admit that this unfriendly feeling on his part may be safely set down as one element of his wonderful success in organizing the loyal American people for the tremendous conflict before them, and bringing them safely through that conflict. His great mission was to accomplish two things: first, to save his country from dismemberment and ruin; and, second, to free his country from the great crime of slavery. To do one or the other, or both, he must have the earnest sympathy and the powerful cooperation of his loyal fellow-countrymen.

"Without this primary and essential condition to success his efforts must have been vain and utterly fruitless.[...]

"Viewed from the genuine abolition ground, Mr. Lincoln seemed tardy, cold, dull, and indifferent; but measuring him by the sentiment of his country, a sentiment he was bound as a statesman to consult, he was swift, zealous, radical, and determined."

Likewise, our own mad wing of lefty purists uses genuine tragic history to make true criticisms... and draw utterly useless/counterproductive conclusions, as in this example from earlier threads: 

Eisenhower is a bad example he toppled democratic nations in South American for taking care of their citizens like “communists” and put brutal dictators in charge. He doesn’t deserve even a small measure of good will.”

To which I answer: try reading the history of empires across 6000 years. Name one that tried harder for a better ratio of good deeds to bad, or did as well when tempted by great power. Go on, please, offer your examples in comments, below.

Oh… and Harry Truman had some insightful thoughts on socialism:

"Socialism is a scare word they have hurled at every advance the people have made in the last 20 years. Socialism is what they called public power. Socialism is what they called social security. Socialism
 is what they called farm price supports. Socialism is what they called bank deposit insurance. Socialism is what they called the growth of free and independent labor organizations. Socialism is their name for almost anything that helps all the people."
             -Harry S. Truman 10/10/1952

Whatever your armchair quarterback/hindsight views of Truman, note that red-boomers still recall how their GG parents admired the man. Use him -- and FDR and Salk and Ike -- against the confederate-putinist-foxite madness.  

 == As the Mueller turns… ==

Given how many Trumpists and Republican operatives have been convicted by juries of their peers – compared to almost nil among Clinton-Obama folks – the Fox-Putin machine has turned to Whatabouts. But the standard “what about Hillary’s emails?” has collapsed now that we find the same regulations against using private servers were violated far worse by both Bushes, Cheney, Colin Powell, Ivanka, Kushner and half of Trump’s aides (not to go into DT’s own unsecure phone and unvetted meetings with dictators.)  

The new whatabout is the word “collusion.” The only thing that matters is direct proof of specific conspiracy between Donald Trump himself and Russia’s spy agency during the 2016 election. (That is the only "exoneration.") 

Anything else, from conniving with Putin-pal oligarchs to vast loans from Russia via Deutsche Bank, is “circumstantial,” while Fox etc. shout “don’t look!” at the tax returns and other document troves that might get to the core. 

Above all, they scream that Russian interference on behalf of Trump and the Republican Party is irrelevant, a non-issue, a trivial matter.

But in fact, it’s the core matter.  HereThis cogent summary in the Los Angeles Times cogently summarizes where the Mueller investigation seems to stand, at-present, and you need to read it, in order to have ready the stunning tsunami of facts, showing we have been attacked in what are clearly, open acts of war.

And yet, of course, the inferno is not what the Kremlin did on behalf of Trump and Fox and the GOP. It is the hellscape that these three have made of every American strength, from our alliances and world standing to the smoking ruin of U.S. science, to betrayal of the tens of thousands of skilled men and women who saved us from Hitler, Stalin, Mao and bin Laden, and who are now derided – (by genuine traitors) – as a so-called conspiratorial “deep state,” just because they believe in the things that Fox hates most and that could defeat Vladimir Putin and gird us for the challenges ahead.


Saturday, April 13, 2019

Science updates!

It's hard to evade politics, even in a weekend science update. for example when a top Republican factotum declares: “Science is a Democrat thing.” 

Um. They say it proudly! Yes, science, but also every single fact-based profession. Including medicine, law, teaching, journalism and those "deep state" enemies -- the Intel/FBI/military officer corps -- who know that fact and science and climate change are real.

== Long ago at least they had an excuse for ignorance... ==

As we re-examine our distant past...

We’re finding numerous past eras when the male population in a region was winnowed to a narrow gene pool or else replaced by newcomers. One massive swing happened about 12,000 years ago, about the same time that two technologies might have exacerbated male death rates: agricultural kingdoms and the availability of plentiful beer. (This is actually my own theory, based upon traveller reports from Polynesia and other places that told of kings ordering the instant death of offending louts. It would help explain human resistance to addiction, which though terribly imperfect is greater than in most species.)

Now comes evidence that a mass migration of males transformed the genetic make-up of people in Spain during the Bronze Age. It remains unclear whether there was a violent invasion or whether a male-centric social structure played an important role.”  Interesting article!  And yet, in my “contrarian gadfly” role, I must point out that while dominance by top king-chief-patriarchs seems the most likely explanation, there IS another way that a Y chromosome winnowing could have occurred. 

Female dominance. There have been a few cases of matriarchy in which women councils exerted strong control over which males were allowed to breed. It is quite conceivable (get it?) for such councils to enforce hypergamy – preference to share those males who meet strict standards, rather than “settle” for average. 

A mild version of this practice was seen among the Cherokee and Iroquois, for example.  Yes, our sad litany of nasty and oppressive patriarchies was far more common. But it’s wrong simply to assume that Y chromosome winnowing happened because of inter-male strife. It might have been female selection, which is actually the great driver of evolution in many non-human species.

== More evidence from the past ==

And the Denisovan story gets even more complicated and strange: our Denisovan cousins may have mated with modern humans as recently as 15,000 years ago.

A fossil discovery in North Dakota is strongly believed to be a fish that was blasted and killed precisely the very day that the Cretaceous ended with the Chicxulub meteorite impact, 66 million years ago, the most incredible (and precise) paleontological discovery of the century, so far. If this story is even 5% Just wow.

Meanwhile a new fossil trove in China - the Qingjiang biota - has yielded thousands of Cambrian period specimens, with dozens of new species, yet to be named.

Gabonionta are the earliest multicellular macroscopic organisms discovered so far, vastly older –by almost 4x ! – than previous evidence for complex life. Known only from their fossilized mucous trails in black shale from Gabon. Likely something like colonial amoebae or slime molds, they seem to have appeared almost right after Earth finally got appreciable oxygen in its atmosphere. Good science reporting.

My old Caltech housemate Joe Kirschvink has done it again, proving (with colleagues) that humans have a small but verified sensitivity to magnetic fields. 

== Tech updates ==

Via Peter Diamandis: Researchers at Boston University have mathematically designed a 3D acoustic metamaterial that can block up to 94 percent of noise flowing through it. Most dramatically, however, the 3D-printed structure reflects noise-producing vibrations without impeding the passage of light or airflow itself.

GauGAN, from NVIDIA, may be the “MS Paint for the AI age.” Using a generative adversarial network (GAN) trained on 1 million Flickr images, GauGAN can create photorealistic images from just a few lines drawn by a user. As an example, a user could click on “tree,” draw a line, and GauGAN will create an image of a tree trunk.

And “Google has successfully shrunk its speech algorithm storage demands down to 80MB, rendering its speech recognizer small enough to fit on your smartphone, and work offline.”

A world game-changer would be to wean billions off cattle or other inefficient and eco-damaging meats, either with vegetable substitutes like the (yummy) Beyond Burger or else real-meat by tissue culture. Latest: “Memphis Meats, for example, recently filed a patent describing a method to create real chicken and beef tissue using CRISPR.”

Goodyear unveiled its new concept Aero tire, designed to run on roads and double as a propulsion system for flying vehicles.  Yes, the tires become rotors capable of downward thrust and lift. Yipe. Amazing tech.

Optical interferometry has long promised to help us parse distant planets from their hugely brighter nearby stars. Now a group claims to have done it. But then, a few weeks later, we got that image of a real black hole(!) via a method very similar.

 == short takes ==

Methane is so good at trapping heat that one ton of the gas causes 32 times as much warming as one ton of CO2. And Methane is spiking. The possible sources are worrisome. The GOP blocked Obama efforts to fund more inspectors to prevent venting from oil fields. But Trump savagely cut them further and progress toward an international treaty have foundered. 

Even worse are signs that methane is bubbling forth from permafrost and undersea hydrate ices, threatening the “blurp” cascade that would truly make it all deadly, making Earth an almost literal hell. These people are outright enemies of your children.

Slime molds’ ability to reconfigure their volume while fleeing from spots of light has enabled scientists to use these biological computers to solve complex mathematical  conundrums like the Traveling Salesman Problem.

Our opportunity to save ourselves includes ideas like the “Circular Economy.” Watch the video. Then re-read Earth?

An article on Vox discusses the latest silly-wrongheaded attempt by zealots to shout “messages” into the cosmos without ever doing risk analysis or talking it over with the rest of humanity, or allowing their assumptions to be examined. The saddest part is their dislike of science fiction, since SF explores a wide horizon of possibilities, and their religious fanaticism allows for only one.

Wallace’s bee, the size of your thumb and thought extinct, rediscovered!

Evidence that the huge Deccan Traps volcanic eruptions started just before the Yucatan asteroid impact, and hence may have severely weakened the dinosaurs and other species… but then got even worse after the impact, possibly tightening the noose. “The researchers' dates are also consistent with a major shift in the properties of the erupted rock occurring at the same time as the impact. This supports the idea that the impact's seismic effects reached across the entire planet.”

Wired ran a story on Valentine’s Day about OpenAI, the nonprofit institute founded by Elon Musk and Y Combinator founder Sam Altman, which has apparently designed a system that can learn natural language patterns better than any previous attempt so far after feeding it eight million web pages to train it. What is newsworthy to me about this is what they did next: they stopped to consider the implications.  “It could be that someone who has malicious intent would be able to generate high-quality fake news,” an OAI vice president told Wired.

We are a glorious, scientific civilization. Pictures of black holes! SpaceX triple landings! New disease cures! Meat substitutes! And if the enemies of all this want to make this partisan, then let's go.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

North Korea, China and other concerns

Before turning to Asia, let me remind you that efforts to spark a US-Iran war continue apace, with the (squeaker) re-election if Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Donald Trump's saber rattling at the Persian militias. There are so many reasons for certain forces to want this distraction, whose only conceivable net-winner would be ring-master Vladimir Putin. Again, I urge folks to be familiar with the terms "Tonkin Incident," "Gleiwitz Incident," and Reichstag Fire." Know them, even if you figure I am a kook.

==  The North Korean Potemkin façade ==

Having waited a while after the absurd sham-meeting between a .U.S. president with a murderous communist tyrant, in another communist state -- a debriefing without a single U.S. official present -- before launching into this "emperor has no clothes" jeremiad.

I find it astonishing almost everyone accepts the potemkin farce-facade of North Korean autonomy from China, without ever pondering - even briefly, in passing - the obvious alternative. Well, it’s my job to consider “unconventional plausibilities” so mull over this one.

As recently as 1958, China had half a million troops on the Korean peninsula. Kim Il Sung was entirely their creature. So, bBy what logic does everyone assume they'd let go of such control, even when most troops were withdrawn? History shows innumerable ways that a ruthless empire can keep reins on a puppet regime, right next door. How does this alternative not merit primacy, under Occam's Razor?

Now consider the elephant question. How could North Korea develop – simultaneously – compact H-Bombs and triggers plus ICBM delivery systems, while its people starve and luxury goods pout into the Pyongyang elites? Do not yatter about Iranian complicity or ex-Soviet techies-for-hire. Not only is it all implausible, but it takes a special kind of delusion to imagine the PRC leaders would let it happen, a crazed, murderous clan stockpiling nukes practically next door to Beijing, without some pretty tight nooses and leashes.

Suppose – just as a mind-teaser – that I’m right and the conventional notion of NK autonomy is a put-up job. From Beijing's perspective, there are no disadvantages to this farce. They get a finger puppet who can be used to poke us in the eye at any time, or serve as "bad cop," while the PRC maintains "who me?" deniability. A few NK-delivered EMP pulses over North America could cripple our economy, while our fierce retaliation would be limited to an expendable peninsula downwind from anything Beijing cares about, but upwind from Japan and California. And note that deniability war is exactly what Putin expertly wages against Georgia, Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia, Poland and the entire west. 

Okay, I may be crazy. But I am paid to poke at the edges of pat assumptions. Moreover, for this scenario not to be at least on your horizon, considered as a plausibility, is far crazier.

== And on to China ==

China published a report on the United States that “exposes human rights violations.” As reported by Bill Bishop at Sinocism, these include: severe infringement on citizens' civil rights, the prevalence of money politics, rising income inequality, worsening racial discrimination, and growing threats against children, women and immigrants, as well as rights violations caused by unilateral America First policies." At surface, it is a blatant propaganda response to Congressionally mandated (since Jimmy Carter) U.S. reports on human rights violations around the world. And while it’s ludicrous to compare, it certainly is our way to welcome the corrective influence of criticism. Zero sum minds cannot comprehend that positive-sum strength.

This matter is actually fantastically important on a practical level. We need to recall that agents in Col. Vladimir Putin’s KGB had advantages in attempting to undermine America, e.g. being able to operate and move freely about our open society. During the overtly Marxist era, they also tried to use western self-critical guilt-trip mentalities to suborn the U.S. left into assisting them - something that absolutely never worked on any large or middle scale. 

In fact the U.S. labor movement, while “socialist” in a Canadian sort of way, was also the most vigorously anti-communist force in American life. This relentless failure to win via the left forced the Kremlin to consider alternatives. They always had good fortune with western plutocratic families like the Kochs and Trumps. An idea began to simmer.

Consider their problem. The KGB etc. had damn good spycraft, but it was always hampered by a fatal flaw… defections.  On occasion a major agent or official would jump the fence, bringing along troves of information that devastated Kremlin plans. Putin and others studied this flaw, and realized it was based upon three conditions, the West’s ability to offer:

1. Safety - often via new identities in a secure relocation program.

2. Good prospects - new employment and a chance to live the dream.

3. The moral high ground. A sense that, for all our faults, we were at least trying to keep a higher ratio of good to bad actions than past empires. A reputation for correcting flaws and moving forward, amid some degree of good intentions.

Now consider carefully. All three of these defection lures have been systematically wrecked by Putin’s New KGB, as defectors are systematically hunted down and killed, without much interference.

Moreover you can see the context for China’s human rights report, now. Though it does far less to rob our moral high ground than any single day or hour of the Trump Administration.

All of it — China’s assertive diplomacy, Putin’s machinations and Trump’s spectacularly deliberate demolition of American alliances and prestige — have had effects. As Bishop points out: The U.S. approval rating for 2018 stands at 31%, only a 1% increase from the "new record low" seen during the first year of Donald Trump's presidency, per Gallup. 2018 also marks the first time that the global approval rating of Russia — currently at 30% — has been on equal ground with the U.S.

At long last, look at how this all fits with what has happened since we supposedly “won the Cold War.” All communist or socialist symbols and creeds have been dropped and Soviet state companies were converted into zaibatsus owned by cartels of oligarchs — most of them Lenin-raised former commissars(!) — who now schmooze with billionaires in the west. The KGB has converted to mafia styles, allowing it to adapt western criminal practices to evade our accountability systems and laws. Putin is resurrecting czarist symbolism and protocols and thus winning over royal tyrants like the Saudis.

Where western socialists had been almost impossible to suborn, the same cannot be said of world billionaires, despots and organized crime (e.g. casino moguls), all of whom now share the very same agenda — to wreck enlightenment accountability systems.

Did anyone see BLAST FROM THE PAST? At the end, Christopher Walken's character shakes his head, upon hearing the "Politburo just gave up one day.” 

He sighs and comments only: "You've got to hand it to them.

Never was a film more prophetic!

==  Don’t Eat, Don ==

We’ve all seen reasons to oppose any further Trump private meetings with communist or ex-communist or mafia foreign leaders. First, nothing good ever came of it — at all, even slightly — and they stink of being blatant de-briefing sessions, issuing fresh orders to Putin’s agent. Indeed, the House should present the Senate with a simple bill requiring any such meetings to be in the presence of State and Intel officials, and dare Mitch McConnell to oppose it! 

But there’s an added reason now, why Two Scoops should give up this filthy habit. Self-preservation.

He still views himself (delusionally) as a mighty Adonis. But Putin sees damaged goods and an asset turning into a liability, serving to unify the Union side of this civil war that Vlad cleverly helped Rupert to re-ignite. There comes a point where the mafia dons start thinking of cement overshoes… about how much more useful their raving “asset” would be, as a martyr

Close your eyes and think about it. The field day that silky-smooth President Pence would have, both reassuring and luring-back some of the officer corps, while riling 33% of Americans into confederate fury over martyred dear-leader Trump.

Fer crying out loud Donald, when you are alone with these tyrant pals DON’T EAT ANYTHING! Yes, you imagine it is only liberals and western-civilization types and smartypants who have it in for you, and that the despots are your pals. But remember how rapacious you were, in business, and consider that you may have outlasted your usefulness to your best pals.

 (God bless the U.S. Secret Service! Which -- noteworthy in recent news, is suffering morale problems for... reasons.)

Now consider how stupid this plausible scenario actually makes Don AND the dons. He won’t be careful, thinking he’s still valuable to them. And they won’t consider the long range, lethal consequences. One fact in particular should worry any sane, thoughtful person who cares for future generations...

... that there is nothing Mike Pence prays for, daily, more fervently than - absolutely literally - the End of the World.