07 February 2016

Responding to pro-Kasich post

An extended family member posted a pro-Kasich item on FB. I'm sure I'll have pissed her off with this response, but I couldn't just say nothing:

Kasich is not a moderate. He supports a balanced budget amendment, which is one of the most foolish proposals to come down the pike in some time. The ability to address critical infrastructure needs and respond to economic recession in a way that ensures some economic security for ordinary working people would be essentially destroyed by such a short-sighted policy. In the past, even Republicans, such as Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and both Bushes, understood this simple economic truth. Moreover, his agenda in Ohio, apart from having enough sense to accept free money under the Affordable Care Act for Medicaid expansion (in which instance he was more sensible than most Right Wing Republicans), has been to attack the ability of working people to organize, cut funding for education, and pursue essentially the ALEC / Koch Bros. right wing legislative agenda. Moderate? Not so much. The truth is that NOT ONE of the Republican candidates can be reasonably described as anything other than "far right" or, in the case of Trump, nativist crypt
​o​
-fascist.
​ 

02 February 2016

Bernie ties HRC in Iowa.


I had hoped for an outright win. But you have to recognize going from 50 pts behind to a draw is a historic achievement. The real test of Bernie's staying power will be the Mar 1 so called Super Tuesday. He doesn't poll all that well in southern states or among African Americans. Which just shows how important an educated electorate is. Cornel West certainly understands that Bernie is better for minority communitys' interests.

Here's what worries me. Now that it looks like there could conceivably be a path to victory, the health insurance/for profit medical provider cartel is going to pour huge amounts of cash into an effort to smear and crush Bernie's candidacy.

The people will have to organize, volunteer, and sacrifice their own money like never before if Bernie is to succeed.

22 January 2016

Opportunity knocks

There's no such thing as safe bets in presidential politics, especially not this early. But it's sure looking like the Republicans may not be able to avoid nominating Trump. Here's the thing. What that means, if you believe, as I do, that Trump can only get 40%, 45% tops, of the national vote, is that
​​
this is the best opportunity we will ever have to elect a real progressive.
​ GO BERNIE! ​

21 January 2016

TV ad for Bernie Sanders

I think this will be an effective TV ad for Bernie. 

​ 

This taps into something real, which is that Americans are as much sad and dismayed as angry that the America they once believed in wholeheartedly has been to a great extent hijacked by oligarchs who think it's OK to BUY policy that hurts ordinary people and helps only the few. GO BERNIE! We want Bernie to succeed, because his success is OUR success.

13 January 2016

On the unelectable Bernie meme

I will admit that this story (link below) is a tad biased. But there is some information in there as well, and it buttresses the argument that those who decline to support Sanders because he's "unelectable" are not basing that view on facts.

http://usuncut.com/news/president-bernie-sanders-impossible-became-inevitable/

Sanders is obviously not inevitable. But neither is Clinton.

Bernie unelectable? Not so fast.

I just made the following argument to a friend who says he'd like to support Sanders, but feels he must support Clinton because Sanders is "unelectable."

Head/Head cross-party polling even now (closer to the election than the last time we had this exchange) is still pretty meaningless, admittedly, but such polling has consistently and for many months shown Bernie doing better against Republicans generally, and likely candidates Trump and Cruz, in particular, than Clinton.

The view you express is based on collective "political experience," but it's not supported by recent data, which I put more stock in.

It is very, very difficult to quantify the "enthusiasm factor," and the related demographic factors: high poll numbers among under-35s, including women, who are likely nonvoters but who say they would vote for Sanders. This data could be deceptive. Or it could just be right; i.e. that Bernie would actually stand a better chance of winning than Clinton. No one can say they know for sure which way things will turn out, except to say that the endorsement and power politics angles heavily favor Clinton and she still, albeit more narrowly, leads Sanders in poll averages, nationally.

If, and it's a huge if, Sanders were the nominee, it would necessarily (I would argue) be because the "political revolution" he keeps talking about actually came about. This is precisely the kind of groundswell of support among independents, and especially young voters and even more especially typical non-voters and first-time voters, that would be the only possible way Democrats could take back the House this year. Everyone realizes that for any Democratic president to really succeed we have to take back the Senate, preferably this year, and retake the House sooner rather than later. This is a vitally important consideration, in my opinion, and the chance, even if slim, that Sanders could ignite a "wave election" in 2016 cannot be discounted entirely, whereas, I think it's safe to say, the chance that Clinton will do so is essentially zero. She is pretty likely, I believe, to win the election if she is the nominee, but we can expect virtually nothing in the way of "coattail effect," to use the old-fashioned term for it.

12 January 2016

Bernie's campaign still surprising

Two immediately adjacent headlines in NYT right now are music to my ears:

«Poll Finds Sanders Ahead in Iowa and New Hampshire» and

«Passion for Sanders in Iowa Worries Clinton.»

As recently as two weeks ago most people would've said this was impossible.

If there's one thing that's shaping up clearly in 2016 it's that Americans are tired of politics as usual.


05 January 2016

Why Should Saudi Arabia be considered ANY sort of ally of the US?

The New York Times op ed timidly asks "Is Saudi Arabia a Risky Ally?" What I want to know, is WHY should Saudi Arabia be considered an ally of the US at all? It knowingly endorses and promulgates a particularly insidious and violent form of Islam (Wahabism), which is the philosophical underpinning of both ISIS and Al Qaida; it refuses to use its own military power to suppress radical Jihadism, it engages in barbaric practices and has no adherence to even basic international standards of administration of justice, human rights, or political administration responsive to the needs and will of its people; it is prosecuting a barbaric and illegal war of aggression in Yemen; it is a rogue Petro-state that opposes necessary actions to address Climate Change at every turn; it secretly acts in opposition to many US interests, and, as Bob Graham has clearly said he himself read in the redacted parts of the 9/11 Commission report, its public officials were COMPLICIT in the 9/11 attacks. And now it is actively undermining the attempts of the US to quell the instability in the region by stirring up even more trouble with Iran, totally unnecessarily.

Does this sound like the actions of any sort of ally? I believe the US should put Saudi Arabia on notice: mend your ways at once; and behave like a member in good standing of the international community going forward, or we will disengage from you, both commercially and politically, and pursue a whole new policy: isolation and containment. These have worked before to constrain and restrain the power of nations whose policies mainly were directed at destabilizing a peaceful order of international cooperation. They can again.

Our policy towards Saudi Arabia is based on an antiquated calculus: namely that they are an essential source of oil, which we cannot do without. But wake up, America! That just isn't the case any more. We DO NOT NEED SAUDI ARABIA going forward.


30 December 2015

The Force Awakens (spoilers in article)

I wanted to like the new Star Wars movie, and I did, more or less. I enjoyed the experience, as a space romp with some elements of nostalgia. I did, however, feel like it was more or less a remake of the 1977 original, but without the novelty. The space graphics were good, but actually, far from the best I've ever seen. (For many, this is trivial, but for some of us space realism is vital). For example, I don't know if it was deliberate, but the starfields were actually terrible; almost exactly like those in the original. Real starfields, even "naked eye", have stars of varying brightness, a clearly delineated galactic plane, voids where there are few stars, here and there very bright stars, maybe some nebulosity visible as faint fuzziness; and a "milky" appearance where the more distant galaxy's billions of stars fail to resolve as points of light. The star fields in this movie were pretty much just randomly distributed points of equal brightness. You would never see that in reality, and it's boring. OK, technicality, but it's a symptom. The whole movie felt just a bit formulaic, contrived, not really engaging on a human-story level. I keep thinking "jejune." Afraid the word fits, if perhaps a little harsh.

I have to pretty much agree with this commentary, by Michael Hiltzik, from the LA Times Business section (after all, movies are business here in LA). It's not so much a movie as a giant commercial for the whole Disney Star Wars commercial enterprise.

http://www.latimes.com/business/hiltzik/la-fi-mh-star-wars-the-force-awakens-stinks-20151226-column.html


♦ David Studhalter
 

25 December 2015

Some Optimistic Thoughts for Christmas

Krugman has a column about the disappointed expectations of technology over the last 40 years or so, and hopes for the future. 

I've been re-reading utopian Space Operatist Iain M. Banks (who died young a couple of years ago) (Player of Games is his best book, IMO). He's not strictly speaking writing about our future, but he is writing about a society that has emerged from our stage of technology to a much higher stage. I set aside his facile assumption that there will be hyperspace, faster than light, etc., because I believe those things probably really are impossible (if they weren't, and civilizations were even a little bit probable to arise now and then in the universe, I think it's pretty obvious that space travelers would have been to Earth many times before in the 14 billion year life of the universe, and we would know about them. There are a helluva lot of planets in any given galaxy, but a society that set about systematically exploring them, if it was capable of surviving at an advanced level of technology, and even without "Warp Drive" or whatever, could plausibly visit every single one of them in just a few million years (out of 14,000 million years to work with). 

But he does make some assumptions I think are likely TRUE. Such as that the Problem of Medicine will eventually yield to knowledge completely; medicine will become perfect, like a game whose rules are completely understood and the outcomes are completely predictable. And the temptation to enhance the evolutionary contingencies that make our bodies less than ideal and that cause us to age and die rather quickly will be irresistible. Future humans will not be immortal, but they will live a LONG, LONG time, free of disease and most forms of physical suffering. 

Such as that ultimately economies of scarcity and elites just don't make any sense. The universe is essentially full of matter and energy; there is no reason why future development of human civilization should be in any way limited by resource availability. This is admittedly a REALLY long term view, but if you think about it, unless you want to talk about the survival of life into the tens of billions of years, there will be plenty of everything, including starshine and any quantity of all the elements in any form desired, essentially forever. This also implies that if we meet up with beings comparable to ourselves, there is no need for competition; there is abundance for all. 

Such as that some sort of moral convergence on freedom of action and freedom from want is essentially inevitable. 

We live in ancient history, from the point of view of most "people" who will ever live, of this I'm reasonably sure. And we have only the barest glimpse of what the future will bring. 

The only thing that can prevent it from happening, apart from the (relatively) unlikely contingency of something like an asteroid destroying our planet before we have a chance to develop some backup sites (a contingecy people like Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking take quite seriously), is STUPIDITY. Sure, we could blow it. We could wreck our planet and become extinct before we even really get going. But boy oh boy would that ever be DUMB. 
♦ David Studhalter

Find out what the number one song on your birthday was.

This is fun. 


Mine was "Till I Waltz Again with You" by Teresa Brewer. It really dates me. (1953). 

♦ David Studhalter
 

20 December 2015

Iain Banks's Culture novels and left wing utopianism

 I am currently reading Simone Caroti's rather "academish" critical appraisal of Iain M. Banks's science fiction.* She makes the point that he rejected the implicit libertarian right wing narrative of much of American space opera, and instead posited an advanced society (not actually a future society, because it's only approximately human), based not on the assumption that today's political economy of scarcity and elitism will just continue into the future indefinitely, but on more or less the following assumptions: 
  •   The current regime of production and exploitation of resources and people by and for elites is unsustainable and if not changed will result in the collapse of advanced civilization on Earth (a not unlikely outcome). 
  •   This is true in broad outlines everywhere. 
  •   Where cultures do achieve success and longevity, and become true spacefaring civilizations (leave aside for the moment whether quasi-magical technology is possible; Banks obviously chose to adopt that, since it makes the stories more fun)... they are necessarily economies of abundance, where scarcity is not a driving factor and people can pretty much have what they want; possession and control of resources stops being the primary motivating factor in the existence of the "people." (Who may or may not be human). 
  •   A fairly obvious and consistent kind of overarching morality is a necessary element in all that. 
  •   "Flesh sentients" ultimately aren't as good at balancing all these factors and making good decisions as AIs, so AIs end up running the place. 
None of this is surprising to anyone familiar with Banks, who was a Scottish nationalist democratic socialist, even a Marxist utopian. (Banks died in 2013 at 59 of cancer). 

Personally, both as a premise for fiction and as the essential truth of the matter, I buy into all of these except the last point. I remain unconvinced that AI, which really should be called Artificial Consciousness, since that's the key distinction, is even possible, still less than that it necessarily makes better decisions than flesh minds. Or, for that matter, that it would, as Banks assumes, necessarily have any interest at all in cooperating with icky flesh sentients (a la Fred Saberhagen's Berserker series, which was the inspiration for Star Trek's Borg), if it did. But again, my working assumption is as follows: Cybernetics is unbounded and the ability of machines to emulate intelligence will grow and develop indefinitely; if there are ever starships, they will be physically controlled by artificial "minds," but directed by flesh sentience, because I just don't believe in artificial consciousness. Call it an article of faith. I just don't buy that that inner awareness emerges from efficient computation, any more than that if a star trek transporter were somehow possible to construct, it would actually deliver you (and not a simulacrum that only appeared to be you, whether conscious or not)... to the destination. 

To anyone who's happened to read or listen to my ideas on this overall subject, I know I'm repeating myself, but these ideas are rumbling around in my head and I'm trying to pull them together into a magisterium for a science fiction universe of my own devising. 
----
*The Culture Series of Iain M. Banks: A Critical Introduction. I don't actually recommend this book except to anyone who has a strong interest in Banks as a writer. 

18 December 2015

Fwd: Almost 250,000 signatures demanding the DNC return Bernie's voter file!

If you believe, as I do, irrespective of who you're supporting for president, that Debbie Wasserman Schulz's virtually complete shutdown of the Sanders campaign is an obviously politically motivated overreaction to what was primarily, and fundamentally, a software glitch for which the DNC's own contractors are responsible, please consider signing the petition demanding that the Sanders campaign have restored access to their own data without delay. It is apparently true that there was improper access to files that should not have been accessible in the first place, but this overreaction to a problem that was mostly caused by a third party and has already been stopped is just not justifiable.

We supporters of Bernie Sanders do not intend to stand for this.

Thank you.

♦ David Studhalter
 

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Carl Gibson <noreply@list.moveon.org>
Date: Fri, Dec 18, 2015 at 6:09 PM
Subject: Almost 250,000 signatures demanding the DNC return Bernie's voter file!
To: Studhalter@gyromantic.com


Dear Supporters,

Thank you SO much for signing the petition to Debbie Wasserman Schultz demanding the DNC restore the Sanders campaign's access to the voter database. We're on the verge of a quarter million signatures in under 24 hours thanks to your signing and sharing this critically-important petition.

Our goal is to reach 500,000 signatures before tomorrow night's Democratic debate to send a strong message to the DNC that we won't tolerate their sabotage of the Sanders campaign. Please share this link with all of your friends to help us reach our goal:

http://pac.petitions.moveon.org/sign/debbie-wasserman-schultz-2?mailing_id=32323&source=s.icn.em.cr&r_by=14160954 

If the DNC refuses to reverse their decision to cut the Sanders campaign off from their own data this weekend, we'll deliver all of the signatures to the DNC offices on Monday morning.

Thanks for everything you've done so far!

Solidarity forever,

Carl Gibson
 


This message was sent to David Studhalter by Carl Gibson through MoveOn's public petition website. MoveOn Political Action licensed and paid for this service, but does not endorse contents of this message. To unsubscribe or report this email as inappropriate, click here: http://petitions.moveon.org/unsub.html?i=32323-14160954-h6aO7Q

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14 December 2015

Star Wars

The L. A. Times is republishing its reviews of all the Star Wars films to date, and the verdict is not surprising. Most enthusiastic was Charles Champlin back in 1977 for the original film, now rather sillily retitled "Episode IV -- A New Hope." (As Star Wars geeks all know, it was always Episode IV; that epithet appears on the very first screen). Champlin also liked "Strikes Back" (1980) (as did most reviewers in those days), and even, unlike almost everyone, liked the ewoks in "Return of the Jedi" (1983) (which I never noticed before was intentionally titled to bring to mind Tolkien (Return of the King)). 

Kenneth Turan, along with most of the rest of the known universe, was unimpressed by the three "prequel" films, "Phantom Menace," "Attack of the Clones," and "Revenge of the Sith". (1999-2005) (I only managed to see one of these, and it was awful. Oh wait, I might have seen the second one, too. I honestly can't remember). 

But most of the buzz about Episode VII, "The Force Awakens," the first film under the new Disney franchise, with the original cast as old folks and John Williams composing a new score, and J. J. Abrams, who did a great job reinventing the Star Trek franchise, as director... is positive. 

At its best, space opera is great fun. At its worst, well, frankly, the worst thing you can say about the prequel movies, which have some pretty great graphics, etc., is that they're boring. The invention is just not that special. I have a feeling this new one will overcome that.  

♦ David Studhalter
 

07 December 2015

Obama's speech and the terrorist threat

It appears that Obama's speech is being widely panned as not enough, etc. Which is unfortunate. Obviously, there are some things that need to be done, primarily in the area of making assault weapons and explosives much harder to get a hold of, and vetting travelers and restricting immigration waivers from the "War Zone" (which I am enough of a realpolitiker to advocate should include Western Asia from Turkey to the Caucasus to Yemen east to India and the Easternmost of the "Stans", and west across Northern Africa from Egypt to Kenya across to Nigeria to Morocco). But it remains a FACT that terrorism is far less significant than the flu, auto accidents, or ordinary murder as a threat to the populace of the United States (64 deaths, total, since Sep. 12, 2001). It's terrible; it needs to be addressed, but we should NOT overreact. I believe had it not been for 9/11 there would not have been a second Bush/Cheney term, and, callous as it may seem, the Bush presidency was far more damaging to the USA than 9/11 itself.




I worry that, although in reality terrorism, awful as it is, simply is NOT an existential threat to the US, it will end up highjacking our whole political climate, AGAIN, and remove the focus from critical issues like income inequality, oligarchic control and and power of money in politics, infrastructure investment, universal health care, and, the real biggie, the REAL existential threat, conversion to a renewable energy future so we have a livable planet as the century progresses.

04 December 2015

Importance of Paris and Insanity of Climate Change Denial

It's no secret that I consider Paul Krugman to be essential reading for just about anyone, but I try to avoid touting his columns too often. However, today's column about the importance of the Paris talks and the absolute, potentially devastating destructiveness of Republican anti-science ideology on this issue is truly, truly, a must-read. 


Thank you.  

23 November 2015

My humble predictions on presidential politics

Here's my prediction, which is hardly a great departure from conventional wisdom, but whatever. IF there is a Paris-level terror attack in the US by ISIS or its hangers-on between now and the election, it is entirely possible that Donald Trump will be our next president. As hideous a prospect as that is. And if it happens before the Democratic primaries are complete, it is virtually certain that it will be Clinton who is nominated. She might still win in November, but it will be a close election. If this does NOT happen, I predict that Clinton, while very likely to be the nominee, could just possibly be upset, and in any case whoever is the Democratic nominee will win relatively easily. The memory of the current jitters will have faded almost entirely. 

This isn't an opinion about my preferences, just my call as to what is LIKELY to happen. I remain a committed Bernie Sanders supporter, and will remain so unless he at some point withdraws and endorses another candidate.

One other point, though. While I disagree with the likes of Joe Scarborough on almost everything, he is right that Pres. Obama needs to get back to the US and stay here for a while, formulate a strong but sensible response to the current apprehension about international terrorism (which, after all, is hardly groundless), and address the American people on the subject, outlining exactly what the US will be doing about it. Tout de suite.

14 November 2015

Solidarité

Amazon's website opens with no ads or other junk, just the French flag and the word "Solidarité".

♦ David Studhalter
 

13 November 2015

Health Care Cost Comment

​As a follow up to my comment on how for profit diagnostics are a racket, here's an idea. On the way to enhanced Medicare for All, which is what we really need, by way of opt-in to Medicare for Anyone (aka Public Option), providers should be required to publish their negotiated "insurance" prices, and be required to charge the same rates to anyone, regardless of insured or uninsured status. Gouging uninsured patients should be illegal. Moreover, billing in hospitals should be according to published "reasonable and customary" rates, so that, in principle, anyone could calculate what their bill will be based on what was done, without any mysterious and ridiculously high charges, such as $10 for an aspirin. Services should be charged as services, at published prices, and drugs, equipment, and materials should be priced according to a published schedule that is based on cost. ​

In the long run, of course, the prices, reimbursements, premiums, and subsidies to low income people, will all need to be based on reality, so that we have affordable health care with realistic reimbursements to health care facilities and professionals, not so that they can make huge profits, but so that they can cover their costs and pay their employees fair compensation.

My customer comment to a for-profit diagnostic lab (Quest)

OK, I admit to being a curmudgeon, but I really do believe that making profits on health care, which should be considered a human right, is immoral and unacceptable, and is an inherent conflict of interest. So, true to my curmudgeonly nature, I incorporated the following comment into my response to a patient survey for Quest Diagnostics:

​I do not appreciate, being asked to provide a credit card and told a totally incorrect probable patient responsibility amount, and I invariably refuse this request, although it is asked in such a way that many unsuspecting clients may not realize that they are under no legal obligation to comply. My insurance is supposed to pay for diagnostic tests in full but there is usually some amount you people claim I owe you, which indicates that you are charging more than a reasonable and customary amount (not to mention that the practice of charging uninsured patients far more is tantamount to profiteering but is apparently legal, due to a failure of regulation on Federal and State levels). Further, the estimated amount is never correct or even close (the amount they state is usually many hundreds of percent of the actual residual charge). Moreover, I do not and will not give out a credit card to be billed an unknown amount at any time and you should not be asking patients to do this.

It is my firm belief that all health care should be provided on a non-profit basis and therefore companies like Quest are, in my opinion, profiteering rackets which should, by rights, be illegal. In the future, we will eventually reach a consensus that health care is a right, not a privilege, and that profiteering on health care is deeply immoral and unacceptable in a civilized society. At that time, we will look back on operations such as yours the way we look back today on child labor sweatshops of the early 20th century: vestiges of an age of barbarism when activity which is clearly criminal in nature was tolerated. ​

12 November 2015

Fake mental illness diagnosis used to deny vets health care

Ian Masters reported on Veterans Day about the alarming practice of categorizing wounded soldiers as having personality disorder, rather than PTSD or other effects from injuries suffered in Iraq and Afghanistan. Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton should come out strongly in favor of ending the practice of categorizing personality disorder as an ineligible condition for continued medical care for veterans. It is absolutely scandalous that this country is turning people out with a fake diagnosis of mental illness, and refusing them the medical care that they need. To add insult to injury, some of these veterans are even being required to rebate part of their signing bonus, because they are being discharged with a fake mental illness. This reminds me of the practice of the Chinese government during the Cultural Revolution of billing families for the bullet used to execute their family member. I am ashamed of my country that this is going on.

ds

07 November 2015

Conservative Republican tells it like it is.

​​
Here is a conversation Robert Reich posted, that he had with a conservative Republican former member of Congress with whom he maintains at least cordial relations (but who preferred to remain anonymous for obvious reasons). Reich asked him what he thought of the current crop of Republican candidates for president.
Him: "They're all nuts."
Me: "Seriously. What do you really think of them?"
Him: "I just told you. They're bonkers. Bizarre. They're like a Star Wars bar room."
Me: "How did it happen? How did your party manage to come up with this collection?"
Him: "We didn't. They came up with themselves. There's no party any more. It's chaos. Anybody can just decide they want to be the Republican nominee, and make a run for it. Carson? Trump? They're in the lead, and they're both out of their f*cking minds."
Me: "That's not reassuring."
Him: "It's a disaster. I'm telling you, if either of them is elected, this country is going to hell. The rest of them aren't much better. I mean, Carly Fiorina? Really? Rubio? Please. Ted Cruz? Oh my god. And the people we thought had it sewn up, who are halfway sane — Bush and Christie — they're sounding almost as batty as the rest."
Me: "Who's to blame for this mess?"
Him: "Roger Ailes, David and Charles Koch, Rupert Murdoch, Rush Limbaugh. I could go on. They've poisoned the American mind and destroyed the Republican Party.

The following is Washington Monthly weekend blogger, Nancy LeTourneau's comment: "Wow! One has to wonder how many more there are out there like this guy. Too bad he doesn't have the courage to say all that publicly. But that probably wouldn't make much difference anyway."

 

06 November 2015

Yet another comment on the implications of faster than light travel, or the impossibility thereof.

A friend sent me a link to this youtube presentation hosted by Neil DeGrasse Tyson. With the suggestion that there is new research indicating that the commonly held belief that no massive particles travel faster than light may not be correct. And that somehow this has implications for the future possibility of Star Trek/Star Wars style faster than light space travel. I won't get into the arcane reasons why FTL violates causality and is almost certainly impossible, as I have blathered on about all that before. See gyromantic.com and search for FTL if you are interested. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3UwmIG8lRfQ


Here is my characteristically grumpy response (Warning: of no interest to people who don't think long term and have an interest in the future of humanity at the longest time scales).


This was fairly interesting, although in terms of giving any real indication that it will ever be possible to move ordinary matter (such as human beings) at superluminal speeds, I'd say, pretty much: zippo. Glashow was the most conservative, but there's really nothing any of them said that indicates there's any reason to believe physics will ever open that door.


I'm not troubled by that. It is apparent to me, speaking quasi-teleologically, that the universe is organized in such a way that the great leap, on the scale of the bodies of, and in terms of distances accessible to, naturally evolved beings and their artificial civilizations, is the relatively great distances between stars. The inferrable fact that these distances are bridgeable at all only with difficulty, and that they will never be bridgeable casually, in spans of time short in comparison to the "attention span" of such natural beings, has two major implications: there is a strong natural incentive to achieve long term sustainability, balance and efficient resource utilization within star systems, and the universe is not likely to be overrun by extremely advanced civilizations that plow through the field and destroy the opportunities for unique evolution in many disparate locales. Essentially, physics, and therefore economics, favors staying home and cultivating one's own star-system garden, and maybe colonizing slowly nearby stars. Galaxy-spanning empires are just too expensive and impractical to be worth pursuing. In general.


Another possible implication is that either in the future, or elsewhere already, it is probably transcendent organisms, possibly of artificial origin, that have the capacity to exist for extremely long periods of time, that will or already have the ability to practically travel among the stars. That this is not apparent indicates to me that it happens either rarely, or that, in this comparatively young universe, it has not yet become common.

Note that that doesn't refer to slow colonization of other stars, and slow spread of civilization, which I believe is possible for our kind, or beings much like us, without much enhancement or modification through intentional artificial evolution. The evidence (peace to theories to the contrary) that visitation to the Earth by other life has either not occurred (my view), or, at minimum, has been exceedingly rare (no more than which I believe the evidence allows), suggests that even this does not commonly occur in the wider universe, since, for reasons we've discussed several times before, if civilizations were common that 1) were able to sustainably begin a program of even subluminal speed colonization, and 2) were able to survive and prosecute such a program for at least hundreds of thousands of years or more, we would almost certainly already know about them, because any such civilization could colonize an entire galaxy in a period of time short in relation to the period of time that habitable worlds, and thus, probably, life, have existed in any given galaxy. And as far as we can see, and that's actually rather a lot (I cite Kepler and the "absence of evidence" from SETI), this has not happened in our Galaxy and probably not in any nearby galaxy (since even a civilization of that level of advancement would probably leave evidence of mega-engineering that would be detectable at prodigious distances).


I admit I have very definite views on this subject, which I find endlessly fascinating. I am a little intolerant of speculation that doesn't address the issues. That's one of the things I dislike about a lot of science fiction. Somehow if it just drops all pretense and posits magic (hyperspace drive or whatever), that's preferable to when it pretends to address the implications of the actual limits of physical reality, but then just ignores the objections. Most "wormhole" stuff in science fiction, for example, is just nonsense, because it completely ignores well-known effects of General Relativity.

Now, I can't help but wonder if anyone actually read this post all the way to the end. If you did, please comment.

27 October 2015

Reiterating Reality on Presidential Election System in America

​I hate having to say this over and over again, because it seems so bloody obvious to me. But here, I'll say it again.

Everyone can make their own judgments, of course. That's democracy. As for me, I am working for the nomination and election of Bernie Sanders. But if he is not the nominee, I am realistic. We have a completely bipolar system in this country. The nominee of one of the two "main" parties is always elected president. Ask President Gore about the 200,000 wasted votes for Nader in Florida in 2000, and how that "protest vote" affected his election to the presidency. So, I for one will follow Bernie Sanders's stated preferences, if it comes to that, and VOTE FOR THE DEMOCRATIC NOMINEE in November 2016, whether it's Sanders, Hillary Clinton, or (conceivably but highly unlikely) someone else.

​​
​This is particularly so this year, because the Republican field is, to a man (and one utterly deranged woman), completely unacceptable. I'll go further, this is far and away the worst set of candidates for president, with the greatest potential to wreak possibly irreparable havoc on our country, ever. I will not throw away my vote and increase the chances, even minutely, that one of these lunatics is elected president. ​

26 October 2015

Universal Health Care Blues

I've seen recent reports about efforts in several states to enact Single Payer health care.

Universal health care, many Americans do not know, started in Canada a Saskatchewan provincial law (in 1946; primarily as a response to a shortage of doctors, although it's hardly a coincidence that the NHS in Britain dates from around the same time). Only later was it adopted by the nation as a whole.

America is a more difficult case, because the health insurance industry is so deeply entrenched in a for-profit high-marketing expense model, and is already regulated, for better or worse, heavily, on a Federal level (not particularly for the benefit of consumers, but it is regulated). This makes it really hard for states, especially smaller states, to institute truly universal health care for their own citizens.

What is clearly needed is to amend the ACA to allow more robust negotiation, especially with regard to pharmaceuticals, incentivize and later require health providers to be non-profit, and ditto insurance providers, and, most importantly, 1) enhance Medicare so that for its enrollees it is a true universal health care system, like Australia's or Taiwan's... AND.... 2) offer it, in addition to its current aged-and-disabled enrollee elibility class, as a premium-based PUBLIC OPTION to everyone, and FREE to children. This should be Bernie's (or Hillary's for that matter) plan, and, frankly, they should both publish model legislation and promise to do their damndest to get it passed in their first term.


Either concurrently or shortly afterwards, Medicaid could be converted to sliding scale subsidy program for low income people, to pay for the Public Option. Then we would have one form of public health care, which is available to everyone, although not necessarily free to everyone. The subsidies would have to go deep enough to truly guarantee that public option health care is a RIGHT of all citizens, not a privilege that only the wealthy can afford.

I would envision, down the road, that a VA-style public health network would be instituted as an option available to most people (depending on geography), which would provide advanced health care at the lowest possible cost within this system. 


As Dennis Kucinich used to frequently say, the profit motive and health care simply do not mix. 

21 October 2015

Being pragmatic and realistic: Biden is wrong: the Republicans ARE the enemy

​I support Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton, as I've said many times. On the issues, he's better. That's it. But, I also agree with Bill Maher that we have to defeat the Republicans, and if ends up not being Bernie, then we go with whoever it is, and that's almost certainly Clinton. I'm not giving up, and I am working for Bernie, but I will not just stand by and watch the Republicans win.

All of which is prelude to saying that even though I thought it was just possible that a Biden candidacy would end up helping Bernie, probably only marginally, but some, so I was kind of hoping he WOULD run, I AGREE with Clinton's castigation of Republicans, and I think Biden's apologia for his "Republican friends" is nonsense. The Republicans have not made themselves the "enemy" of Progressive policy and politics because they're awful people (although some of them are, of course), but because they are deluded and believe in policies that have terrible consequences for ordinary people. I am not their "enemy" in the way we were the enemies of the Nazis in WWII. It's not a fight with weapons, and something short of total surrender (by them) is possible. But politically, OF COURSE they are the enemy. They are trying to create a society in America that I don't want to see come about, and I'm not sure I could bear to live in. Fighting them on every front is IMPORTANT. And it's TOO IMPORTANT to waste our votes... if we can get Bernie nominated, that will be absolutely wonderful, and I am confident we can get him elected. If not, we have to get the Democrat elected anyway, because at least we will be forestalling the truly frightening and horrible prospect of a unified REPUBLICAN government, free to wreak havoc on our Democracy and society unimpaired.​

19 October 2015

Of course I blame George W. Bush for 9/11... not entirely, but he is partly responsible, and here's why

​For some reason, we're not supposed to acknowledge this.

REPORTS: Jeb! is incredulous that anyone can blame his brother for 9/11.

Here's how it works. If it were a murder, obviously Al Qaida is analogous to the actual murderer. But it you were the newly elected sheriff, and your deputy told you there was a call warning that someone had repeatedly threatened the victim, you knew who that someone was, and all you did was say "OK, Deputy, thanks, you've covered your ass, but that was a big deal to the last sheriff, and I won the election," you'd hold that new sheriff culpable for allowing the PREVENTABLE crime to occur. It's much the same. The Bush administration in the Summer of 2001 had literally hundreds of warnings that Al Qaida was planning a terror operation in the US, and they did absolutely nothing. So, it's reasonable to conclude that 9/11 could have been prevented, and they were too stupid and stubborn to do so. I call that blameworthy. Of course they didn't DO it. But they are nonetheless partially responsible.

And politically, they SHOULD be deemed accountable. Many of the political changes in our country, such as the trillion dollar national security industrial complex since 2001, the Patriot Act and wholesale violation of the Fourth Amendment (imagine the hue and cry if they did that to the Second Amendment!)... are the result of the 9/11 attacks, which by any reasonable analysis the Bush administration FAILED to prevent, due to incompetence and negligence. The party that still adheres to the same world view as Bush and his cronies should be thrown out of every political office in the land!


16 October 2015

Sanders needs his supporters' energy and hard work, but not to complain about the media

​I'm a little discouraged by all the Sanders folks who can talk about nothing else on social media than that the media and commentariat are out of touch with the focus groups and internet polls (which are notoriously selection-biased) showing Bernie "won" the debate. This isn't going to help Bernie win the nomination. Fact is, she did get a shot in the arm for her campaign, which last week looked troubled, and it looked like Biden would get in, and now it doesn't and if I were a better I'd bet he won't. There's a poll today showing she's risen to even or beating Sanders even in New Hampshire, so it's foolish to try to deny that she benefited more than he did from the debate.

And it just doesn't matter. As Sanders supporters, our job is to put out his message and try to convince people to support him on the issues... which is his entire message. His has always been a come-from-behind campaign, and we will have to work like hell if he is to have a chance at success. She has only to hold on to a lead she's had all along. ​

DNC's DWS M U S T G O

​I have made no secret of my dissatisfaction with DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz's refusal to even consider the opinions of millions of Democrats who have made known that they want more debates than the six her committee scheduled. Now, with charges and countercharges of her having not consulted with her vice-chairs, and lying about it, and all the obvious dissent about this issue and her governance in general it seems to me obvious:

FOR THE GOOD OF THE PARTY and the election of its nominee and House and Senate candidates next year, SHE MUST RESIGN NOW.

It would be helpful if Clinton and Sanders would both, in concert, tell her that, first privately, and then, if necessary, publicly. ​This is no longer just about her obvious Clinton bias. It's about her making a party that is actually remarkably unified appear divisive and at loggerheads when it just isn't necessary. She has become a major liability and IT IS TIME TO GO.