November, 2018

Nov 18

Has Humanity Become Too Vile to Deserve Survival?

“An animal rescue group is outraged after its president said he recovered a dolphin shot to death at a beach in Southern California. Peter Wallerstein, president of Marine Animal Rescue based out of El Segundo, California, told ABC News he spotted the freshly-killed dolphin in the surf on Manhattan Beach on Nov. 8.Wallerstein said he pulled the animal -– known as a common dolphin — out of the water. When he saw the hole in its side, he brought the animal to an animal rehab center where the bullet was removed.

“Usually officials with the Los Angeles Natural History Museum will pick up a dead animal for a necropsy, according to Wallerstein. But since this seemed to be case in which the dolphin was purposefully killed, he wanted it to be analyzed immediately.” Wallerstein called the incident “barbaric” and a “senseless act of aggression.” He noted that he’s seen sea lions who have been shot over the years, but this is the first dolphin killing he has come across. It’s possible other dolphins in the area have been shot, but if they float further out to sea instead of towards shore, they wouldn’t be noticed.

“We don’t know if it’s the only one,” said Wallerstein. “There could be others being shot out there, too.”

Nov 18

What have they done to the Earth?

“What have they done to the earth? What have they done to our fair sister? Ravaged and plundered and ripped her and bit her Stuck her with knives in the side of the dawn

“And tied her with fences and dragged her down

“I hear a very gentle sound …With your ear down to the ground

“We want the world and we want it… We want the world and we want it… Now” –Jim Morrison

Nov 18

Or they might eat your Children

My son, who works with a company that helps people who’ve been scammed online, tells me that the scammer’s favorite target is: “…old people with dementia and write or say things that sound techy but make zero sense. They just empty their accounts and use their credit and name for all sorts of shit and then send them emails explaining that there is nothing to worry about because ‘a double opt in crypto CD has been initiated and the account is in the process of receiving a gold level business upgrade, after which funds will be reinstated with 150% interest regarding opsec’ and other nonsense.”

My son, people who rip off elderly people who are naive or who suffer from early dementia might as well be breaking in their house and beating them to get their money. It does as much harm in the long run.

There is, in the human brain, an area which–if not supervised by a conscience–switches on, and dehumanizes select people. This exists because of primeval survival instinct. You are less likely to kill an enemy who wants to club you and take your food and possibly eat your children, if you do not dehumanize them first. So we have this thing. Most people are not aware that it switches on. So they become psychopaths for the time this dehumanization thing is switched on. Nazis at concentration camps would feed the poor starving birds as little children starved right behind them. Selective repression of empathy. With some scammers– they’re real psychopaths. Others fall into psychopathy conveniently.

Until human being 1.0 is gone, and 2.0 takes over, we have to stop these people falling into the dehumanization state and be tough about it.

Or they might eat your children.

Nov 18

Why Aliens WOULDN’T Invade Earth…

As a science-fiction writer, a guy who’s written–mostly from a skeptical viewpoint–about UFOs, and a person with a general interest in the cosmos, I sometimes wonder how things would play out if we were visited by extraterrestrials. Would they be benevolent? Or would it be like the pre-Columbian tribes facing sickness and enslavement from Columbus and Cortez? Would it be like “Independence Day”–an all out war? An invasion?

For the first time, it occurred to me today that they probably would not invade us. Invasion presumably takes a great deal of energy and commitment of resources. If they use some form of money, it’d take that too. It might take a punishingly large amount of energy, personnel, resources, and sheer risk to cross the vast stretch of interstellar light years with the aim of prosecuting an invasion of Earth. Even if they have some faster-than-light or wormhole traversing system, some subspace warpdrive that can get them and their resources here rather handily, they’d still be taking a major risk. They’d have to think about our bacteria, or viruses, which might be enough to defeat them unless they have some universal immunity biotech developed. Even if they have sufficient protection–invasion condoms, so to speak–they would have to have a lot of confidence that their weapons outstripped ours. Maybe they would be more powerfully weaponized, but a race that’s gotten to the moon and back is pretty flexible and resourceful and quick-witted. We might come up with something effective. And nuclear weapons, while crude, might actually be powerful enough to be an interstellar deterrent.

But there’s another consideration–do we have anything they want that badly? The chances are, their own biology is singular to their world. Probably our atmosphere would not suit them; probably our (rather damaged) biosphere would not be suitable either. They would likely have a whole different set of biological needs. They’d be better served to alter some suitable raw lifeless planet to fit their needs. If they flourish in methane, they’d seek a methane rich planet and modify it for their purposes. So much easier than an invasion.

The final consideration is, if they’re smart enough to get here they’re intelligent enough to know that we are worthy of study; they’d know that–even if we’re more primitive than they in some respects–we may have something to offer that would repay them more than an invasion would…

Finally, we come to the conclusion–it just wouldn’t pay to invade Earth…

Nov 18

Am I Treasonous for Suggesting USA Should be Sanctioned?

Does it sound treasonous? That I think it may be necessary for the EU and Canada and Australia and Mexico, say, to levy sanctions against the USA because of Trump’s policies? Financial sanctions will hurt us all, me too. Prices will go up, our economy may founder. His dropping out of the Paris Climate Agreement, his trashing the agreement with Iran, which puts our allies in danger, his plan to drop the Nuclear treaty, his failure to support NATO, his willingness to kowtow to Russia’s needs–all of that puts our allies at risk.

If financial pressure is put on the Trump administration, he may well be forced to back off. One thing Trump understands…is losing money. The financial fallout for America might well make even more Americans feel that the Trump era needs to be over with. Some, of course, will only dig in their heels. But when bankers and oil companies start to lose money, pressure is brought to bear. And Trump could be forced by the big money people to moderate, to backtrack on some things, even to resign.

Is it treasonous for me to take that tack? I’m loyal to the USA. But I’m also loyal to the planet Earth. I think that if Trump is thwarted, this way, then both the USA and the Earth end up winning.

Nov 18

Ah, the Complexity of Stupidity

Stupidity, especially considered as a factor in politics, is surprisingly complex. Note these simple statistics, from CNBC, regarding the states which score the lowest in education:

41. New Mexico Total score: 36.11
42. Oklahoma Total score: 35.58
43. Tennessee Total score: 35.52
44. Nevada Total score: 32.84
45. Kentucky Total score: 31.80
46. Alabama Total score: 31.33
47. Arkansas Total score: 27.18
48. Louisiana Total score: 22.96
49. West Virginia Total score: 21.71
50. Mississippi Total score: 21.06

These states are known for their racism and their support of right wing extremism and…Donald Trump. The people of Kentucky are on the least educated list and they keep re-electing Mitch McConnell despite his willingness to take away services that help them enormously. You’ll see many a MAGA hat in those states. So theoretically, the explanation for much of the support for people like Trump and McConnell, is raw ignorance. And of course we associate ignorance with stupidity. But here’s the first complexity–sometimes stupidity vanishes if the real facts are impressed on the apparently stupid. Were they to become educated to the fact that they’ll get more services, more help getting their kids into college, from progressives, and that history shows that government investment in subsidizing, in infrastructure, in schools, ends up driving the economy–many of them would change their minds. “We won with poorly educated. I love the poorly educated,” Trump said during his campaign. From USAToday: “Trump did well across the board in Nevada, garnering 45.9% of the vote, but he did even better among voters with a high school education or less. Fifty-seven percent of those voters supported him, according to entrance polls…”

There’s another factor that affects intelligence, or the lack of it, in political choices. Emotion. Less educated people haven’t learned critical thinking, haven’t had a chance to exercise the moderation of emotion that education supports, and many of them tend to fall headlong under the sway of irrational emotion-based reactions. Demagogues like Trump and Newt Gingrich and the congressional right-wing extremists in the GOP know all about the emotional factor, and they exploit it. I myself have felt my ability to think undermined by moments of high emotion. Everyone reasonably educated knows this, just as they know your IQ will plummet while you’re sucking down four or five alcoholic beverages. (That I have personally experienced, too.)

What a demagogue also instinctively knows, is that in evocation of fear of foreigners, in evocation of race-based anger, in painting terrifying pictures of crime, they’re inducing in their excited listeners a kind of catharsis, a good feeling that comes from bringing anger to quench fear; that feeling is amplified by the us-against-them illusion,  otherwise known as the mob mentality. What results is a sort of high. Look at Hitler’s followers; look at the followers of Mussolini. Look at Trump rallies. The demagogue knows that people brought to that excited, angry, us-against-them state are easier to manipulate. Because, for awhile, they’re stupider. Ideology imprinted into them in these suggestive states tends to linger–the brain supports whatever induces pleasure.

More specifically, Trump followers were already misled into thinking that Planned Parenthood clinics exist to kill children, that gays want to turn their children into homosexual whores, that an evil Satanic conspiracy controls “big government”, that immigrants have taken the best jobs–and these treasured fantasies have made them quietly, bubblingly angry all the time. Trigger the release of that anger and they feel that pleasurable rush–and that good feeling is not something these folks want to give up. So they’re motivated to be selective about the information they’ll accept. Despite evidences that Trump, for example, is brutal with women, despite evidence that he’s incompetent and he cheats people in business, despite evidence that he’s a liar–lately they’ve been saying “we don’t care” if he lies–and despite evidence that he’s broken the laws of the land. Emotion blurs the import of all that negative data about Trump. Obviously emotion can be good–empathy is emotionally based. And there is even a time for directed anger. But often, blind emotion simply makes us stupid.

Then there’s another complexity–simple mental laziness. It’s so much more comfortable to be mentally lazy, to go for that big, fat, simple explanation–”Jews caused all our problems”–rather than do the work needed to get and confirm the facts that would debunk that monstrous lie. Mental laziness can feel good just as taking a nap does. It’s so easy to follow a link to some clickbait website–maybe it’ll be called The Eagle’s Angry Scream  or simply Infowars–to shore up your comfortable biases by gorging on every possible aspersion against Democrats and gays and Muslims and people of color. Or where you can simply get endless endorsement of that old saw, the trickle-down theory.

There is, you see, such a thing as selective intelligence. People unconsciously or even deliberately ignore data that doesn’t fit into their comfortable worldview. They “select it out”. Even clever people do it: Silicon Valley, awash with clever people, cultivates a deliberate mental blind spot, they cling to the idea that technology has no responsibility attached to it.

I really suspect that if education in the United States was fairly high across the board, Trump would not have been elected, and conscienceless  puppets of the oil industry like McConnell would not be elected either. But–there are complexities. And it’s all one mesh, that holds people in place, like a Chinese finger trap, clasping them, gripping them…made up of  many different strands.

There are so many ways to be stupid.

Nov 18

The Spectrum of Curmudgeons


Some curmudgeons are digging moats
and filling them with gators,
Some curmudgeons are passing gas
in crowded elevators;
Some curmudgeons are kinda nice
– don’t get on their wrong side–
Some curmudgeons are ladies
rocking a big ol double wide;
Some curmudgeons are laughin’
at this technology,
but they write on facebook
about taxonomy;
some curmudgeons are right-wing,
some are pissed-off old commies–
some curmudgeons hate em all,
and some are lovin’ mommies;
Some curmudgeons wave a cane
but they do it while they dance,
some curmudgeons swear by prayin’–
they ain’t gonna take a chance;
some curmudgeons jeer at churches,
they sneer at all that stuff;
they’ll chase those mormons with their belts,
and if they catch ‘em they get rough;
Some curmudgeons make tater salads;
and bring em to the church,
some curmudgeons sing cowboy ballads
from a horse n’ saddle perch;
Some curmudgeons will spit fire–
they target your neurosis–
some curmudgeons spit only spittle
laced with halitosis;
some curmudgeons growl at kids,
then let them pet their baby kitty;
some curmudgeons have twenty kids–
(they deserve our pity);
Some curmudgeons hate pollution–
some pollute like the Marlboro Man–
some curmudgeons yell at the neighbors
but help them when they can;
The point is there’s a spectrum–
let a zillion curmudgeons bloom:
we know the bastards when we see em:
we’ll plant roses at their tombs…

Nov 18

Racists Have Murdered Again and Biblical Misinterpretation Helped

Anti-Semites have been abusing the Bible for centuries, and they still do. The Pittsburgh synagogue murderer and his ilk quoted Jesus, in John 8:44, supposedly saying, “Jews are the children of Satan”. But ol’ Jeebus didn’t say that. He said that the group with whom he was having a disagreement, were sons of the devil. Not all Jews. Basically he was saying, You guys here are assholes.

The text of John 8:44, presented here in the New International translation, is very interesting because, as Will Durant observed about many stories of Jesus, and much of what he’s quoted as saying, it has the ring of truth in a purely historical sense. It has verisimilitude. It plays out like real life does. One of many indications that Jesus–while not a supernatural miracle working redeemer–was a real person. Notice that Jesus has to duck out to keep from getting pelted with stones.

Dispute Over Whose Children Jesus’ Opponents Are

31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.
32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
33 They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”
34 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.
35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever.
36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
37 I know that you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are looking for a way to kill me, because you have no room for my word.
38 I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence, and you are doing what you have heard from your father.2”
39 “Abraham is our father,” they answered. “If you were Abraham’s children,” said Jesus, “then you would3 do what Abraham did.
40 As it is, you are looking for a way to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things.
41 You are doing the works of your own father.” “We are not illegitimate children,” they protested. “The only Father we have is God himself.”
42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me.
43 Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say.
44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
45 Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me!
46 Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me?
47 Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.”
Jesus’ Claims About Himself
48 The Jews answered him, “Aren’t we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?”
49 “I am not possessed by a demon,” said Jesus, “but I honor my Father and you dishonor me.
50 I am not seeking glory for myself; but there is one who seeks it, and he is the judge.
51 Very truly I tell you, whoever obeys my word will never see death.”
52 At this they exclaimed, “Now we know that you are demon-possessed! Abraham died and so did the prophets, yet you say that whoever obeys your word will never taste death.
53 Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?”
54 Jesus replied, “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me.
55 Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and obey his word.
56 Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.”
57 “You are not yet fifty years old,” they said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!”
58 “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!”
59 At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.