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our artificial intelligence
Since we discovered rocks, it has been the desire of all thinking men to devise ways to kill from a distance. Drones are simply the latest step on that evolutionary chain. While still the stuff of special effects movies, remote controlled and/or robots you wear are receiving active research and development efforts as we write. So, whether the future foot solider turns out to be Iron Man or a materialized electro-mechanical monster operated by a champion video gamer situated in an undisclosed location next to Dick Cheney…
Cochran's Mississippi Victory
Too aligned with the Democrats? In the Tea Partiers denunciations of the Republicans, in the aftermath of Cochran’s victory in Mississippi, it keeps coming out that they see the Republicans as altogether too much like the Democrats, and too much working with them. Unhinged! Here we have a Republican opposition in Congress that has made the president’s failure its top priority from Day One, trying to keep him from accomplishing anything– not even CARING what kind of outcome would be best for the nation.
Cochran's Mississippi Victory
We often hear about the disconnect from reality on the right. Paul Krugman keeps exclaiming about the way his peers as professional economists, who are on the right, continue to generate zombie ideas (disproved but never die) and refuse to recognize when they’ve been proven wrong– contrary to every value of intellectual integrity that Krugman holds dear.
Here at Blue Virginia, Lowell Feld tells us, again and again between parentheses in the morning news report, how bat**** crazy so much of what we see on the right (think E.W. Jackson) is.
Something very interesting and, perhaps, very important happened in Mississippi last Tuesday. By now, everyone reading this knows that US Senator Thad Cochran of Mississippi pulled out a remarkable victory in the Mississippi Republican primary for the Senate. He did so by increasing the number of black votes he received between the initial primary two weeks ago and the run off by something over 13,000 votes.
the choice is ours
Not until 1804 did the Earth’s human population first exceed one billion. Between 1804 and 2014, a 210-year period spanning just three consecutive human lifetimes, population skyrocketed: to 2 billion in 1927, 4 billion in 1974, and 7 billion at the end of 2011. What spurred such explosive growth?
It’s not accidental that the Homo sapiens explosion coincided with the advent of the Industrial Age…
“Doubt is our product, since it is the best means of competing with the ‘body of fact’ [linking smoking with disease] that exists in the mind of the general public. It is also the means of establishing a controversy….” (Internal 1969 document of Brown & Williamson, a tobacco company, outlining their strategy to undermine medical science linking tobacco to cancer and heart disease)
I belong to a progressive faith community that is deeply concerned about the state of the Earth…
Is it possible for citizens to be bribed for their votes by a muffin and/or a couple of slices of pizza? I sure hope not. In my case, I was really put off by Comcast and “Ready for Hillary” getting access to New Hampshire Democrats at their state convention via an infusion of callories for breakfast and lunch. It’s hard to know what the party staff were thinking when they invited Comcast to make a fifteen minute presentation and the Hillary people comcast a full hour to flog her book. “Hard Choices” is a phrase no Democrat should use, since it inevitably means that someone other than the chooser is in for a tough time.
educator's lament: part 3
“You have to be confused before you can reach a new level of understanding anything.” — D. Herschbach (Harvard University chemist and Nobel laureate)
In the summer of 2007, I attended “Boot Camp for Profs” in Leadville, Colorado. For an entire week, a maverick team of educators from multiple disciplines — geology, chemistry, education, biology, and psychology among others — bombarded 30 college and university professors with the theory and practice of learning.
educator's lament: part 2
“Education is not the filling of a pail but the lighting of a fire.” — Wm. Butler Yeats
In the previous two posts — In Defense of Light and Magic and An Educator’s Lament: Part I — I argued that education is 1) the guardian of liberty, 2) the cornerstone of democracy, and 3) under siege in America. Today, we’ll delve into why. The primary culprits include neglect, austerity, anti-intellectual/anti-science attitudes, good intentions gone awry, and malevolence aforethought.
states have choice
The politics surrounding climate change is getting warmer.
President Obama has caused quite a ripple in this arena with his proposals to cut carbon emissions by 20 percent. He has taken a back door step to remove this issue from the do-nothing Congress, and exercised his executive power under the Clean Air Act to move toward fewer carbon emissions.
Like an amoeba, Rayonier is splitting, but not in the interest of promoting organic existence. Rather, the real transformative and productive endeavors, which informed the operations of the original corporation to convert trees into paper and other useful products, is being left behind, as the new moniker, Rayonier Advanced Materials, Inc., is clearly designed to disguise, in the interest of promoting speculation in Real Estate development. I suppose we could say it’s a matter of separating the doers from the seers.
educator's lament: part 1
“A popular Government without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy, or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power that knowledge gives.” – James Madison
Education is the cornerstone of democracy. The writings of both Madison and Jefferson are chock full of admonitions that only a generally enlightened public can hold at bay the forces of tyranny.
pluff mud slinging
If it’s hard, their solution is to just not do it. Maybe it’s only Republicans in Georgia that react that way. Jack Kingston, who’s now seeking a seat in the United States Senate, the gentleman’s club, complained bitterly when the Democractic Speaker of the House decreed that that body would be in session five days a week. More recently, Kingston has been joined by Judson Turner, the Director of the state’s Environmental Protection Division, who determined that protecting the marshes from pollution and sediment intrusion was just too hard and just wrote the whole thing off.
In the past several decades, a major force has entered the American political arena under an explicitly Christian banner. I’m talking about the Christian Right, which has aligned itself with the Republican Party. Has this alliance advanced the values that Jesus taught?
Jesus advocated for the poor and the outcast, and castigated mostly the privileged and the mighty. Today’s vociferous Christian political force supports the party that cuts programs to feed the hungry and to lift up the downtrodden, while protecting the interests of the fabulously wealthy.
see the evil
In today’s Washington Post, there’s an excellent op/ed about a threat to the integrity of our nation’s judicial system. That is, the piece is excellent but for one glaring omission.
Entitled “Keep politics out of the courthouse,” it is written by retired Chief Justices of two of our states’ Supreme Courts, Ruth McGregor of Arizona and Robert D. Orr of Indiana. McGregor and Orr give three examples of how altogether inappropriate kinds of political pressure have lately been brought to bear upon our “independent” judiciary.
ignoring the central battle
Usually, the President of the United States is the leader of the nation. It is a hugely important position, a single person embodying the whole of one of our three branches of government. With hundreds of congresspeople and a hundred senators, the president is the one person whose voice gets heard.It is only the president who has the “bully pulpit.” Particularly at times of national crisis, the president is the person to whom the nation turns for leadership.
I recently got embroiled with a friend over the eternal question of why nations go to war and whether the drive to fight is so embedded in our nature that we cannot avoid war. He shrugged off the question, since he felt it was kind of a silly issue. Of course, mankind will always be at one’s throat for one reason or another. Been that way since cave man days and will go on throughout the future. This response seemed so cavalier to me, a cynic’s view of everyday news…
2 presidents from illinois
Lincoln was elected president of the United States, but suddenly found himself effectively president of only a part of it. Obama was elected president of the United States, but suddenly found himself president of only a part of it.
Lincoln had just recently become president when Fort Sumter was fired upon. Obama had just recently become president when the other major political party “fired” upon him, planting rumors that he was not qualified to be president, trying to make him fail regardless of what he proposed.
The two presidents faced analogous challenges. But responded to them differently.
The 40 page section covering the Reagan Years in Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick’s book, The Untold History of the United States, provides enough documentation of chicanery, hypocrisy, doublespeak and sociopathy to confirm in spades those of us who were appalled at the time and to turn around all but the most dedicated Reaganites. These will flee into ever deeper depths of denial in order to keep mythology intact. So, while they stop reading, let us consider some of the disgraceful aspects and consequences of that time.
Who should Democrats and Independents vote for in the May 20 Republican U.S. Senate Primary? Before recoiling at the seemingly inappropriate nature of this question, please consider the following. Michelle Nunn appears to have the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate seat locked up. Unless voters want to cast votes in contested races further down the ballot there is little reason to participate in the Democratic primary beyond the public display of civic virtue.
Never mind that in the U.S. it has been become all the rage, since the supposed cradle of central planning, the U.S.S.R., crumbled. That raises suspicion about the sincerity of the opponents to begin with, but might be explained as a simple case of rivalry rearing its head. More worrisome is the realization that, in terms of man’s well being, failure may be what planning ultimately aims for.
In other words, planning on a grand scale looks to be designed to destroy the population for whom it claims to provide…
Why do so many Americans doubt the scientific consensus about Darwinian evolution and anthropogenic climate change? Although the temptation is to attribute these sentiments simply to religious indoctrination and corporate public relations, feelings of powerlessness and resentment may also be in play.
Consider the large differences in acceptance of different scientific conclusions in March 20-24 AP-GfK Poll. Where a mere 4% of respondents doubt the link between cigarette smoking and lung disease and only 6% doubt that mental illness is a medical condition affecting the brain, fully 42% doubted that life evolved through natural selection and 37% doubted that humans were responsible for global warming…
“Government should prevent an immoderate accumulation of riches.” — James Madison
In a previous post, we revisited Martin Luther King, Jr.’s iconic “Beyond Vietnam” speech of April 4, 1967. King, confronting head-on America’s “triple evils” of racism, economic injustice and militarism, challenged America to find its true values and “come home.” Polls and statistics suggest that, in the 47 intervening years, America has not “come home” and sadly is further from home than ever.
Politicians from both parties might perform public anguish about the student loan problem but it is painfully obvious that they just don’t get how serious it is. The most recent Congressional legislation tying interest rates on student loans to the several points beyond the interest rates on treasury notes might have looked like an important reform in Washington, where achieving anything bipartisan is hailed a great victory, but not to the 37 million young Americans who are on the hook for more than one trillion dollars in student loans that cannot be discharged in bankruptcy. They owe an average of $29,000. In an economy that no longer produces enough decent jobs
“Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” — Matthew 6:21.
On April 4, 1967, exactly one year before he was assassinated, Martin Luther King, Jr. made public his opposition to the Vietnam War, articulated in his iconic “Beyond Vietnam” speech. Presented at Riverside Church in New York City, “Beyond Vietnam” was the most controversial speech King ever delivered. In it, he confronted head-on America’s “triple evils” — racism, economic injustice, and militarism — and called for “a radical revolution of values” to restore our nation’s integrity. Afterwards, many supporters, black and white, abandoned him…
stupidity and crime of war
Before I fell asleep last night, my wife Jody read aloud to me from her copy of Barbara Kingsolver’s book The Lacuna. The passage she chose was a diary entry that opened:
“Tonight’s news: the Allies broke open the dikes along the Netherlands coast, letting in the open sea and drowning thousands of German soldiers in the flood. Like the Azteca opening dikes to drown Cortés and his men on the shores of Lake Tenochtitlan. But fiction is nonsense, the war is real. Tomorrow the farmers of Walcheren will wake to see a tide standing over their crops, the floating corpses of their cattle, every tree in the land scalded dead by the salt on its roots. The glory of war is so frequently disappointing.”
That’s what the spouse said when I wrote him how surprised and disappointed I was to discover that Michelle Nunn has gratuitously endorsed the XL pipeline from Canada, because buying oil from “neighbors” is better than from overseas, as well as to read a report that Nunn wants changes to Obamacare to allow cheaper policies for the young.
Worthy of Comment
Also on the Dew
When I met Ernest, we courted for five months, and after we married, on February 2, 1974, in Fort Valley, GA. That was 40 years ago. I wrote my parents in Anniston, AL. They replied with the hardest letter that I have ever received. They knew I was gay. That was not their problem. Ernest's being black was the hard part for them. In their letter they wished us all happiness but asked me not to bring Ernest home with me. They hoped that I would continue to visit, but they did not want to put their friends to t Read on →
Why do we care what happens in Ferguson, Missouri? Because on some level we recognize that if any one group or community can be officially deprived of their human and civil rights without restraint, then it can happen to any other group or neighborhood. Sea Island, Georgia is proof. Sea Island, Georgia has been turned into an exclusive neighborhood. Random visitors are turned away at a guarded gate and even residents driving off the island must pause and wait for the barricade to rise and let their vehicle pass unscratched. Presumably, pedestrians can leave unchallenged. Though, people on foot are universally Read on →
"... if you believe in God, then intellectually you cannot believe in man-made global warming ... You must be either agnostic or atheistic to believe than man controls something he can't create." -- Rush Limbaugh Conflict between faith and science is as old as science itself. In 1543, Copernicus's great work, On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, laid the groundwork for a new model of the cosmos, with the sun, rather than the Earth, at its center. Attempting to preemptively defuse the controversy the new worldview would unleash, Copernicus's publisher anonymously attached a preface. Addressed to the pope, it stated boldly Read on →
"Old Age is like everything else. To make a success of it, you've got to start young." --Fred Astaire It’s finally happened to me...I’m now the Biblical threescore and ten years old. I went to bed after a great meal, wonderful evening with my ever-loving wife Jody, some funny conversation, a little mystery on the telly and woke up...well, I didn’t feel any different. I did wake up, though, which is a good thing. Aside from that, I woke up early as usual and as old men are wont to do, didn’t change my technique of putting my right leg first into my shorts, Read on →