Monday, September 18, 2017


Steven Cave has an article in Aeon on the history of intelligence and why we should be scared witless. Interestingly, "intelligence" does not appear much in philosophical writing nor does it translate well into Greek or German. It is perhaps best seen as "reason or rationality."
Plato emerged from a world steeped in myth and mysticism to claim something new: that the truth about reality could be established through reason, or what we might consider today to be the application of intelligence. This led him to conclude, in The Republic, that the ideal ruler is ‘the philosopher king’, as only a philosopher can work out the proper order of things. And so he launched the idea that the cleverest should rule over the rest – an intellectual meritocracy. This was opposed to the obvious in history--that the powerful should rule--and the less obvious--that rulers had been chosen by God.

In his book The Politics, Aristotle explains: ‘[T]hat some should rule and others be ruled is a thing not only necessary, but expedient; from the hour of their birth, some are marked out for subjection, others for rule.’ What marks the ruler is their possession of ‘the rational element’. Educated men have this the most, and should therefore naturally rule over women – and also those men ‘whose business is to use their body’ and who therefore ‘are by nature slaves’. Lower down the ladder still are non-human animals, who are so witless as to be ‘better off when they are ruled by man’.

So one generation after Plato's revolutionary declaration,  Aristotle presents the rule of the thinking man as obvious and natural.

The idea that intelligence defines humanity persisted into the Enlightenment. It was enthusiastically embraced by Immanuel Kant, probably the most influential moral philosopher since the ancients. For Kant, only reasoning creatures had moral standing. Rational beings were to be called ‘persons’ and were ‘ends in themselves’. Beings that were not rational, on the other hand, had ‘only a relative value as means, and are therefore called things’.

Cave sees this as the beginning of all sorts of oppression and injustice, particularly the goofy eugenics movement and slavery. His anxiety is Artificial Intelligence: How will we adapt to the creation of intelligent machines--perhaps our equals or even our superiors. My bet is such a worry is misplaced; the confident leaders and trailblazers might create such a threat but only by accident. No thought or political leader would create an opponent or rival on purpose. But they certainly would create an inferior to dominate.
My bet is the real threat with AI is the creation of beings inferior to humans, "humans" with missing parts like ambition, competitiveness and creativity, a diminished--and diminishing--subset of us.

That will cause some real theological anxiety.

Sunday, September 17, 2017


In classical Greek tragedy, the chorus, whose metrical variety is believed to derive from its lost  musical accompaniment, alternates with the spoken dialogue of the play’s heroic characters and provides both context and commentary for the developing psychological narrative. And it was with the psychological truth of the Oedipus Rex Trilogy (published in 1985) – Stephen Spender’s single-play version of Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex, Oedipus at Colonus and Antigone – that the theatre critic Michael Billington was most impressed. Spender’s great achievement, in Billington’s view, had been to unify the three plays – which were originally written thirty-five years apart – by focussing on the fact that the characters are “not simply playthings of the gods but victims of their own moral blindness”. For all its mythological trappings, the chorus’ “O thrilling voice of Zeus”, one of six from the play that Spender collected as poems in their own right, is the Theban citizens’ terrified plea to the powers above not to let the mistakes of their rulers fall on their heads: “O Delian healer hear my prayer / star of hope in my night of despair”. (tls)

A Chorus From Oedipus Rex

O thrilling voice of Zeus           sent from Apollo’s golden shrine           with what intent toward us?

                    I tremble I faint I fail                    terror racks my soul

O Delian healer to whom my criesfrom this my abyss of despair arise
           what fate unknown until now           or lost in the past and renewed

drawn from the revolving years                     will you make ours?

O speak o tell us immortal voice
           To Athena daughter of Zeus    and her sister Artemis           and Apollo of burning arrows    triple guardians of Thebes

                                                   I call
If ever before in time pastyou saved us from plague and defeat
            come back to us now and save

                    The plague invades                    no knowledge saves                    birth pangs of women                    bear dead their children                    life on life sped                    to the land of the dead                    birds wing on wing                    struck down from their flying                    to the parched earth                    by the marksman death

O Delian healer hear my prayerstar of hope in my night of despair

Grant that this god who without clash of sword on shieldfills with cries of our dying Thebes he makes his battlefield

            turn back in flight from us                                               be made to yield

          driven by great gales favouring our side
to the far Thracian waters wave on wavewhere none found haven ever but his grave

            O Zeus come with thy lightning to us                                                                    save
            And come back Bacchushair gold-bound and cheeks flame-red         whom the Bacchantae worship and the maenids led         by his bright torch held high

revelling again among us Bacchus and make death  the god whom gods and men most hate lie dead

Saturday, September 16, 2017


The first step towards such restoration...[of classical liberalism]... requires us to recognize that our basic institutions are the heritage of a public philosophy clearly articulated by our eighteenth-century forebears, notably by Adam Smith and the Scottish Enlightenment as well as by the American Founders.  It was they who refined a set of norms, rules, procedures, and practices that we now simply take for granted: the rule of law with its universal and nondiscriminatory application; separation of powers; and universal and open franchise.  This means guaranteed protection of person, property, and contract, with periodic elections, open entry into competition for political office, and constitutional limits on the extent of governmental action.  That is the institutional heritage of classical liberalism, which we must zealously protect.--Buchanan

Synoptic: adjective:
1. Relating to a summary or general view of something.
2. Covering a wide area (as weather conditions).
3. Taking a similar view (as the first three Gospels of the Bible: Matthew, Mark, and Luke).
From Greek synopsis (general view), from syn- (together) + opsis (view). Earliest documented use: 1764.

The Owl Service by Alan Garner released in 1967 broke new ground in fantasy literature. It is tightly structured around the last episode of the Fourth Branch of the Mabinogi, one of the earliest tales of the medieval Welsh mythological compilation known as the Mabinogion. The young protagonists become caught up in the myth which begins to run their lives.  Its haunting quality was unlike anything seen before in a young adult novel. Its focus on class conflict and ethnic and cultural identities (Welsh vs. English) linked its mythological past yet made it currently relevant. The novel’s writing style, which relied heavily on dialogue (exploiting Garner’s earlier experience as a freelance television reporter), gave it a feverish energy. The Owl Service won both the prestigious Carnegie Medal and the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize.

One big danger with modern-day presidents has been that they are too eager to improve the nation’s moral health. They either hector the country to atone for its past sins (Barack Obama). Or they aggressively push it to the promised land of moral perfection (Teddy Roosevelt who declared that he would do “battle for the Lord” to improve mankind during his term). (dalmia) Enter Trump......

Who is.... Antifa?

From a recent editorial on the style and rhetoric of the U.S. and China:
"We're at economic war with China," Mr. Bannon said. "One of us is going to be a hegemon in 25 or 30 years and it's gonna be them if we go down this path.
China's foreign ministry responded by saying that the China-US economic relationship was "mutually beneficial" and there could be "no winner from a trade war". It added: "We hope that people will not use 19th- and 20th-century perspectives and measures to address 21st-century problems."

A Christopher Columbus monument was destroyed in Baltimore and a YouTube video was made of it. This was the declaration of one of the vandals:
“Racist monuments to slave owners and murderers have always bothered me,” a narrator identified as Tye says in his YouTube video. “Baltimore’s poverty is concentrated in African-American households, and these statues are just an extra slap in the face. They were built in the 20th century in response to a movement for African Americans’ human dignity. What kind of a culture goes to such lengths to build such hate-filled monuments? What kind of a culture clings to those monuments in 2017? The culture of white supremacy preceded the United States. It’s at the foundation of U.S. culture, business, bureaucracies and psychology.”

President Trump said he would expand the U.S. mission in Afghanistan but take a different approach from his predecessors by being tougher on Pakistan and refraining from telegraphing troop levels. (wsj)

Sometimes it is difficult to figure out which teapot-seeking tempest one should pay attention to.
Antifa is a Left group with a diffuse identity. The Philadelphia branch defines itself this way on its website, as if these qualities were in some way compatible: "Philly Antifa is a Antifascist division operating in Philadelphia, PA and the surrounding area.  We are in direct conflict with Racism, Homophobia, Sexism, Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, Transphobia, and all the various other flavors of Fascism."
From The Atlantic by Peter Beinart: "But for all of antifa’s supposed anti-authoritarianism, there’s something fundamentally authoritarian about its claim that its activists—who no one elected—can decide whose views are too odious to be publicly expressed. That kind of undemocratic, illegitimate power corrupts. It leads to what happened this April in Portland, Oregon, where antifa activists threatened to disrupt the city’s Rose Festival parade if people wearing 'red maga hats''—you know, the "Make America Great Again" hats—"marched alongside the local Republican Party. Because of antifa, Republican officials in Portland claim they can't even conduct voter registration in the city without being physically threatened or harassed. So, yes, antifa is not a figment of the conservative imagination. It’s a moral problem that liberals need to confront

Golden oldie:
What is the nature of truth and falsehood?  This seems to be the question Christ is asking today when he says, " Think ye, that I am come ...

Plato’s epitaph for Socrates in the Phaedo: “Upon the whole, I have always considered him, both in his lifetime and since his death, as approaching as nearly to the idea of a perfectly wise and virtuous man, as perhaps the nature of human frailty will permit.”

It will be interesting to see if the recent sanctimonious epidemic has any effect upon the Che statues, college posters and t-shirts that memorialize the ideological serial killer. But the new Pure-of-Heart may see their purity in him.

In 79, the ancient cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum were destroyed when Vesuvius erupted. Of the 20,000 residents of Pompey, 2,000 were killed. Pompeii was buried under 14 to 17 feet of ash and pumice, and the nearby seacoast was drastically changed. Herculaneum was buried under more than 60 feet of mud and volcanic material.

The finale episode of Game of Thrones' penultimate season, called "The Dragon and the Wolf", will be a record-breaking 79 minutes and 43 seconds long. I will miss it when it finishes.

According to Politico, tax reform is actually moving forward, include capping the mortgage interest deduction for homeowners; scrapping people's ability to deduct state and local taxes; and eliminating businesses' ability to deduct interest, while also phasing in so-called full expensing for small businesses that allows them to immediately deduct investments like new equipment or facilities.

There were “nearly 1.3 million hospitalizations involving the United States in 2014,” representing “a 64 percent increase in inpatient stays and a doubling” in opioid-related emergency room visits since 2005, according to data “published this year” by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).

ESPN confirmed Tuesday night that it had decided to pull an announcer from calling a University of Virginia football game because his name is Robert Lee. This Robert Lee is Asian.
“We collectively made the decision with Robert to switch games as the tragic events in Charlottesville were unfolding, simply because of the coincidence of his name. In that moment it felt right to all parties,” reads the ESPN statement posted at the popular Fox Sports college-football blog Outkick the Coverage.
They exiled him to bland old Pittsburgh to do the Youngstown State game.
Pittsburgh is the "Panthers" and Youngstown State, for some reason, the "Penguins" (Pete and Penny), so maybe there is an animal activist opportunity there.

In his new book, Dennis Rasmussen suggests that, in some important instances, Adam Smith’s views diverge from, and indeed are more sophisticated than, his friend David Hume’s. Smith states, for example, that a true moral judgment must contemplate not merely the effects of an action, as Hume maintained, but also the circumstances in which it transpired. Nor did Smith take as dim a view of religion as Hume. He adopted the more conventional view that religion, with its emphasis on punishment or reward in the afterlife, tends to buttress rather than subvert traditional morality.

Hume met Rousseau in Paris and invited him to England. Baron d’Holbach warned Hume that “you are warming a viper in your bosom.” Rousseau  soon turned on Hume, accusing him of spearheading an international conspiracy to traduce his reputation. In a thirty-eight-page epistle, Rousseau said, among other things, that Hume’s charitable acts on his behalf were simply a ruse to win control over him. Adam Smith, Hume's friend,  warned Hume not to respond: “To write against him, is, you may depend upon it, the very thing he wishes you to do.” Hume ignored this sage advice and wrote a pamphlet that sought to vindicate his name. After Rousseau departed England for Calais, Smith asked, “What has become of Rousseau? Has he gone abroad, because he cannot continue to get himself sufficiently persecuted in Great Britain?”

A tablet, known as Plimpton 332, was discovered in the early 1900s in Southern Iraq by the American archaeologist and diplomat Edgar Banks, who was the inspiration for Indiana Jones. The true meaning of the tablet has eluded experts until now but new research by the University of New South Wales, Australia, has shown it is the world’s oldest and most accurate trigonometric table, which was probably used by ancient architects to construct temples, palaces and canals.
However unlike today’s trigonometry, Babylonian mathematics used a base 60, or sexagesimal system, rather than the 10 which is used today. Because 60 is far easier to divide by three, experts studying the tablet, found that the calculations are far more accurate.
The tablet, which is thought to have come from the ancient Sumerian city of Larsa, has been dated to between 1822 and 1762 BC.

The Greek astronomer Hipparchus, who lived around 120BC, has long been regarded as the father of trigonometry, with his ‘table of chords’ on a circle considered the oldest trigonometric table.
A trigonometric table allows a user to determine two unknown ratios of a right-angled triangle using just one known ratio. But the tablet is far older than Hipparchus, demonstrating that the Babylonians were already well advanced in complex mathematics far earlier.

AAAAaaaaaaannnnnndddddd.....a chart:

Friday, September 15, 2017

The Magnetic Field

The Magnetic Field

The Earth is blanketed by a magnetic field. It’s what makes compasses point north, and protects our atmosphere from continual bombardment from space by charged particles such as protons. Without a magnetic field, our atmosphere would slowly be stripped away by harmful radiation, and life would almost certainly not exist as it does today.

The strength of Earth’s magnetic field has been decreasing for the last 160 years at an alarming rate. This collapse is centered in a huge expanse of the Southern Hemisphere, extending from Zimbabwe to Chile, known as the South Atlantic Anomaly. The magnetic field strength is so weak there that it’s a hazard for satellites that orbit above the region — the field no longer protects them from radiation which interferes with satellite electronics.
And the field is continuing to grow weaker, potentially portending even more dramatic events, including a global reversal of the magnetic poles. Such a major change would affect our navigation systems, as well as the transmission of electricity. The spectacle of the northern lights might appear at different latitudes. And because more radiation would reach Earth’s surface under very low field strengths during a global reversal.

There’s a patch of reversed polarity beneath southern Africa at the core-mantle boundary where the liquid iron outer core meets the slightly stiffer part of the Earth’s interior. In this area, the polarity of the field is opposite to the average global magnetic field. If we were able to use a compass deep under southern Africa, we would see that in this unusual patch north actually points south.
This patch is the main culprit creating the South Atlantic Anomaly. In numerical simulations, unusual patches similar to the one beneath southern Africa appear immediately prior to geomagnetic reversals.
The poles have reversed frequently over the history of the planet, but the last reversal is in the distant past, some 780,000 years ago.
Analysis of clay in African Iron Age structures show several changes 700 years ago where the strength of the magnetic field declined, then returned. It is theorized this area of instability might initiate polar reversal.

(From a Yahoo article)

Thursday, September 14, 2017


Another stolen parable:
A two year old is playing in a sandbox in a public park while his parents watch. An older boy the parents do not know, about six or seven, wanders up with his mother and, before anyone can do anything, the older boy grabs the two year old and throws him to the ground. The two year old hits his head on the side of the sandbox and screams; there is no obvious injury but the child continues to cry.

The mother of the older boy, the perpetrator, rushes to him and says, "Oh, honey, what is upsetting you?"

Wednesday, September 13, 2017


"If you board the wrong train, it is no use running along the corridor in the other direction." - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Less than 40 percent of ancient Greek vocabulary has a recognizable Indo-European etymology; 8 percent of ancient Greek vocabulary is definitely of non-Greek origin; and the remaining 52 percent of ancient Greek vocabulary has no known etymology.

The modern economist may reject [Adam] Smith’s central notion that capital accumulation in a setting of natural liberty protected by law provides the key to economic development, or even that such development is, in itself, a desirable objective.  What the modern economist cannot do, at least consistently, is to propose further interference with natural liberty for the avowed purpose of stimulating capital investment while at the same time continuing to ignore the stifling effects of public sector expansion.  As Gordon Tullock has remarked, government should take its foot off the brake before it hits the accelerator.  Adam Smith would surely have agreed.--Buchanan

Two rising temperature trends appear in the last 2000 tears: the first peaks about 1200 AD and corresponds with a period known as the Medieval Warm Period (MWP), while the second peaks in 1980 and then shows decline. In between, is the Little Ice Age (LIA), which according to the Northern Hemisphere composite bottomed-out in 1650 AD.

Who is...Paul Allen?

The gospel of the Canaanite woman: She is a Hellenistic Syro-Phoenician woman, a descendant of the ancient Canaanites, the bitter biblical enemies of Israel whose paganism had often led Israel into idolatry. It is always presented as a victory of faith and how faith can include the gentiles in salvation. But there is more and it is unsettling. The woman is begging for mercy for her sick daughter. "But Jesus did not say a word in answer to her." Christ does not answer her. Then He says, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." He then compares non-Jews to dogs. There is no mercy here and no inclusiveness. He eventually yields to her faith but it is a bitter scene; how can one read it? Is Christ setting the scene so He can reverse it to make His larger point? Is He testing her? Can man make God change His mind?

Hyundai  is planning to launch an electric sedan under its high-end Genesis brand in 2021 with a range of 500 km (310 miles) per charge. It will also introduce an electric version of its Kona small sport utility vehicle (SUV) with a range of 390 km in the first half of next year.

In Japan, the number of children has dropped to less than 10% of the population. The government is converting elementary schools into hospices, providing care for the elderly in a country where 40% of the people are 65 or older. In Japan, the world's oldest and most sterile nation,  there is a popular expression: "ghost civilization".

Seventy-two years after two torpedoes fired from a Japanese submarine sunk cruiser USS Indianapolis (CA-35), the ship's wreckage was found resting on the seafloor on Saturday -- more than 18,000 feet below the Pacific Ocean's surface. Paul Allen, Microsoft co-founder and billionaire philanthropist, led a search team, assisted by historians from the Naval History and Heritage Command in Washington, D.C., to accomplish what past searches had failed to do -- find Indianapolis, considered the last great naval tragedy of World War II. 

Maine has given each high school student laptop computers. After a decade and a half, and at a cost of about $12 million annually (around one percent of the state's education budget), Maine has yet to see any measurable increases on statewide standardized test scores.

Somehow the Rube-publicans, the party of Lincoln, have been successfully portrayed as the party of secession and racism and the Democrats of the racist and secessionist South, the party of liberation, unity and tolerance.

Parabens are a class of widely used preservatives in cosmetic and pharmaceutical products. A recent study has connected them to male infertility.

Since 1975, the number of practicing physicians older than 65 years in the United States has increased by more than 374%, and in 2015, 23% of practicing physicians were 65 years or older.

During the French Revolution, statues of saints were actually guillotined. Stay tuned.

Golden oldie:
"You cannot wake up someone who is only pretending to be asleep”--political proverb Voyager 1 was launched in 1977 on a mission to ...

A Free Speech Rally in Boston fell apart when thousands of counter-protesters showed up and drowned it out.  Journalists at the Boston Common, a downtown park, tweeted about an hour into the planned rally that many, if not all, of the attendees left the bandstand where they were due to hear speeches from several prominent conservative figures.
The Free Speech Rally organizers had permits to hold their event from noon to 2 p.m. local time on Saturday. But as of about 1:30 p.m., police on scene were dealing mostly with counter-protesters. The free speech group had left.
And the lesson here is.....?

"We're at economic war with China," Mr. Bannon said. "One of us is going to be a hegemon in 25 or 30 years and it's gonna be them if we go down this path.
China's foreign ministry responded by saying that the China-US economic relationship was "mutually beneficial" and there could be "no winner from a trade war". It added: "We hope that people will not use 19th- and 20th-century perspectives and measures to address 21st-century problems."

AAAAAAaaaannnnnddddddd....a map:


Tuesday, September 12, 2017


A guy named Sperry writes in the N.Y. Post that Obama is going back to his roots; he has been organizing a resistance movement through his old Organizing for Action group.
Since Donald Trump’s election, this  well-funded protesting arm has beefed up staff and ramped up recruitment of young liberal activists, declaring on its website, “We’re not backing down.” Determined to salvage Obama’s legacy, it’s drawing battle lines on immigration, ObamaCare, race relations and climate change.
Obama is intimately involved in OFA operations and even tweets from the group’s account.
According to him, this group is responsible for a lot of the demonstrations recently. It has more than 250 offices across the country.
I don't know if this is true but it is very unusual if it is. Nor am I keen on the technique of social and economic disruption.

More on Organizing for Action, Obama's community activist organization, as reported in the WashPo:
'Unlike parties, in the post-Citizen’s United era, 501(c)(4) groups like OFA can accept unlimited contributions. And they can advocate for policies in ways unregulated by campaign finance laws. Although such groups must spend more than half of their funds toward “social welfare” (read: not overtly political) purposes to be eligible for tax-exempt status, enforcing this provision is daunting. Just as parties once exploited the soft money loophole, 501(c)(4) groups like OFA can now take advantage of ambiguity over exactly what counts as a campaign-related expenditure.
In addition to advocating on issues and policies, OFA has taken on some of the campaign-related roles traditionally played by national party committees. In addition to maintaining and updating the databases and other digital assets that have been so critical to Obama’s campaign and policy successes, OFA has held numerous “community organizer workshops” and an annual Spring Fellows Program. Through these efforts, OFA mints new community organizers and trains a workforce for Democratic candidates and other progressive nonprofits.

Organizing for Action trained more than 10,000 organizers during its first two years, many of whom worked on the 2014 midterm elections and have joined 2016 presidential campaigns. These campaign and advocacy laboratories suggest how OFA – a pioneering presidential organization – might endure beyond 2016, seeking, as a recent organization e-mail trumpeted, to secure the “future of the Progressive movement.”'

So it's a takeoff on the old "soft money" contribution. Looks like the only potential fly in the ointment is the refusal of the Clintons to demur.