19 April 2024

ChatGPT lists some supplements to stay away from

I take a regimen of dietary supplements, including coQ10, D3, nicotinamide riboside, pterostilbene, PQQ, berberine, a blend of saw palmetto and other things supposedly promoting prostate health, and a few others. I try to make sure that at minimum they're not harming me. Anyway, I asked Chat GPT if there were supplements that doctors generally advise their patients NOT to take in most circumstances. You have to ask these questions right or CGPT will refuse to answer (it won't give medical advice (or legal advice) per se, for obvious reasons). This was its answer:

There are several dietary supplements that many doctors generally disapprove of and may recommend against in most circumstances due to concerns about their safety, effectiveness, or potential interactions with other medications. Some of these include:
  1. Kava: Often used for stress and anxiety relief, Kava has been linked to serious liver damage, including hepatitis, cirrhosis, and liver failure in some cases. Due to these risks, it is banned or restricted in several countries.
  2. Colloidal Silver: Touted for its supposed immune-boosting properties, colloidal silver can cause serious side effects, such as argyria (a permanent bluish-gray discoloration of the skin) and potential kidney damage. It provides no known benefits in the body when taken orally.
  3. Aristolochic Acids: Found in some traditional herbal remedies, aristolochic acids have been linked to kidney failure and urinary tract cancers. They are considered carcinogenic and have been banned in many countries, but they might still be found in some supplements.
  4. DMAA (1,3-dimethylamylamine): Often included in weight loss and bodybuilding supplements, DMAA has been linked to serious health issues such as cardiac arrest, headaches, and tremors. The FDA has warned against its use due to safety concerns.
  5. Yohimbe: Used as a treatment for erectile dysfunction and also in weight loss supplements, Yohimbe can cause erratic blood pressure, rapid heart rate, headaches, seizures, and kidney failure. It has significant potential for serious side effects, particularly in people with heart disease or hypertension.
  6. Comfrey: While traditionally used to heal wounds, bruises, and for joint inflammation, comfrey has substances called pyrrolizidine alkaloids that can cause liver damage and are also carcinogenic. It is unsafe for ingestion and advised against even in topical use over large areas or on broken skin.
  7. Bitter Orange (Synephrine): Commonly marketed as an alternative to the now-banned stimulant ephedra for weight loss, bitter orange can cause increased heart rate and blood pressure, leading to cardiovascular problems.
Doctors typically advise that supplements should not replace whole foods and a balanced diet. Before starting any supplement, especially for those with pre-existing conditions or who are taking other medications, it is crucial to consult a healthcare professional to assess potential risks and benefits.

Fortunately, I don't take any of these. I did try Kava (which I consider a drug, not a supplement) once, but didn't like it and wouldn't take something like that on a regular basis anyway. (Portland actually has at least one "kava bar," which seems to me to be a very questionable business venture, especially without prominent health warnings, of which, I gather, there are none). Yohimbe is pretty well known to be dodgy, and all the ephedrine-adjacents are pretty obvious stay aways.

The list is hardly exhaustive, especially if you include "traditional herbal remedies," which is sort of a euphemism for "raw plant material drugs." Quite a few of these, such as Ayahuasca (Banisteriopsis spp., often mixed with Psychotria viridis), are as dangerous as cocaine or opium, just not as well known. I'd say the jury is out on kratom (Mitragyna speciosa), which some doctors think of as just another addictive opioid-adjacent, but which remains legal and pretty widely used in many parts of the US. As a friend of mine wisely pointed out, just because plant alkaloids have been used in some traditional societies for a long time doesn't mean they're safe; different people, often with particular genetic profiles common in a regional population, may have very different tolerances and variations in liver function, such that what is a benign drug to some people may be toxic and quite dangerous to other people. This is even more true across species lines, interestingly: I read where the commonly used topical NSAID diclofenac is so toxic to cattle that a normal human dose can actually kill them. Just something to think about. Unfortunately, supplements and "herbals" aren't really regulated for safety. If you use them, it's caveat procuator.



18 April 2024

Time to jail Trump for contempt?

Trump is even more out of control than I thought. His most recent thinly disguised attempt at jury intimidation is so obviously a violation of the gag order that Justice Merchan is going to have no real choice but to impose a pretty strict sanction. He's already fined him, so it would seem that some kind of custodial sanction (house arrest? No access to the internet during course of trial? Not sure what's possible). If he does nothing, he is basically admitting his orders are feckless.

Interesting. I'm not following this trial minute by minute, but this is crazy. 

16 April 2024

Interesting analysis by ChatGPT of the phenomenon of increased "analytic" language prevalence over time

I got to thinking about the prevalence of Chinese and English, both fairly described as "analytic" rather than "synthetic" languages (like Sanskrit or Latin, or even moreso, like certain "polysynthetic" languages like certain Native American languages). There was at one time a theory than languages might go through a cycle, where they gradually simplify and become more word-order dependent (more analytic), and then some of the periphrastic conventions and "helper words" become more like grammatical endings, and a more synthetic language develops. But it seems, maybe widespread multilingualism, and advanced technology may be favoring more analytic grammar in languages. The tendency of writing, then printing, and now digital encoding, to "fix" languages so they do not evolve as rapidly as when they were only spoken, is also an interesting factor. So I asked Chat GPT about it: 

My question: Is there a discernible trend in modern languages actually spoken by tens of millions or more, for the languages to be more analytic and less likely to by synthetic, or even polysynthetic, and/or agglutinating?

ChatGPT's answer:
«
Yes, there is a discernible trend towards analytic languages among those spoken by tens of millions or more. Analytic languages typically rely more on word order, particles, and auxiliary words to convey grammatical relationships, rather than inflections or affixes attached to words. This trend can be observed due to various factors:

1. **Language Contact and Globalization**: With increased globalization and language contact, languages tend to simplify grammatical structures to facilitate communication between speakers of different linguistic backgrounds. Analytic languages often emerge as a result of this simplification process.

2. **Technological Advancements**: In today's digital age, where communication happens rapidly across various platforms, concise and straightforward languages are often favored. Analytic languages, which tend to have simpler grammar and morphology, are more conducive to digital communication.

3. **Education and Literacy**: As education becomes more widespread, there's a greater emphasis on literacy and education in many parts of the world. Analytic languages can be easier to learn and teach, especially for those who are not native speakers, compared to synthetic or polysynthetic languages with complex morphological systems.

4. **Urbanization**: Urbanization often leads to language simplification as diverse populations come together in cities, necessitating a lingua franca that is easy to learn and use. Analytic languages may be more suited to serve as this lingua franca due to their simplicity.

5. **Language Standardization**: Standardized forms of languages often tend to simplify grammatical structures for easier comprehension and learning. This trend can lead to the adoption of more analytic features in widely spoken languages.

However, it's essential to note that while analytic languages are becoming more prevalent due to these factors, there are still many synthetic and polysynthetic languages spoken by millions of people worldwide, particularly in indigenous communities and regions with strong cultural identities. Language evolution is a complex process influenced by a multitude of factors, and while there is a trend towards analytic languages, linguistic diversity remains rich and varied.

»

Another reason I remain optimistic

One reason I remain pretty optimistic about the election is exemplified by Orange Douchebag bitching about how unfair it is he can't attend Barron's graduation. Because he's a defendant in a felony criminal trial for crying out loud. The fact that he seems to be expected to be treated specially, when every other defendant if they behaved like him would be locked up in pretrial detention, is not lost on most of the public. 

David Frum, whom I disagree with about many things but share a determination to make sure Trump is not elected, noted that if you're running against an incumbent (Carter v. Ford, Reagan v. Carter, Clinton v. Bush I)... you make the election about dissatisfaction with them. You don't whine about how unfair they're being to you, and make the whole election a grievance fest about yourself. That's a recipe to lose and lose badly. Things could change, but right now, Trump's utterly selfish behavior is causing him to hemorrhage voters. Nobody likes a whining sore loser, and that's what Trump presents. 

08 April 2024

Anthony Davis interviews Simon Rosenberg; worth a listen

Longish (and very good) interview; Anthony Davis ("The Weekend Show") with Democratic operative Simon Rosenberg. 

05 April 2024

Why I remain relatively optimistic about this election

I remain fairly optimistic that Joe Biden will defeat Donald Trump, the Democrats will retake the House, and possibly even keep the Senate despite the worst Senate map for Democrats in literally decades. If you're receiving this e mail and don't like political pitches, sorry, but for me this is so important that I don't shy away from offending a few people. I honestly believe our democracy is at stake. If you disagree, feel free to tell me off or tell me why, but I don't apologize for making my views known, as I regard it as an integral part of the democratic process. (There's a delete button in the upper right, too). 

Here's why I remain optimistic about a "blue wave," in no particular order: 

1.  Trump is increasingly incoherent but also messianic, playing up the "chosen by God" meme and heavily playing on saving America from Satanic Democrats. The bad news... for MAGA... is that this just doesn't play well with the great majority of Americans. Literal biblical Christians are a distinct minority in this country, and the fact is that even at least some of them can't quite swallow the obvious grift and amorality of this, pardon the vulgarity, fucking liar. 

2. Dobbs. The fact is that many non-college educated women, who previously in many cases didn't even vote, or just voted the way their husbands told them to, feel an almost visceral sense of betrayal. They ... and their daughters... have enjoyed the rights over their bodies that their grandmothers had to fight for... their whole lives. And now, suddenly, they fear getting pregnant with the right to abortion, which really means the right to health care that focuses on them and not just the fetus they're carrying, is ... gone. Many of these women will vote for the first time. And they won't be voting for the Orange menace. 

3. Trump has never, ever, done a single thing to widen his base. Right now, many people when polled have a negative view of Biden due to a lot of distorted "both sides" media coverage and some real issues (Gaza, for example, where Biden has painted himself into a corner and is associated in many peoples' minds with Netanyahu's policies). Then there are the misperceptions (inflation, the economy, both much better than under Trump). And he is old. There's no way around it, he doesn't radiate vitality. But Trump is actually mentally worse, by several professional assessments, so the perception of disqualification based on lack of mental acuity should... and just may... work against Trump more than Biden. But it's true that when so far disengaged voters hear "Trump" or "Robert F Kennedy Jr" they align with those names, having developed a negative reflex about Biden. But as the actual facts of how grifty and narcissistic, as well as incoherent, Trump has become, many will drift home to Democrats, because, quite simply, there are no sane and honest Republicans left; the entire party has become MAGA. I think as the election heats up and people actually see the choice, more will end up in the Biden column than the Trump column. 

4. Trump picks many of the down-ballot candidates of the MAGA party, and he's terrible at it. Most of his "picks" lose, because their principal qualification is ass-kissing the Narcissist in Chief. This is now a well-established pattern. 

I do worry about Robert F Kennedy Jr., who is a conspiracy theory nutcase first and foremost. (Not only anti-vax. He's a 9-11 truther, and believes a whole host of ridiculous, non-evidence based conspiracy theories). But as the election season progresses, I believe his singular lack of Kennedy family charisma, and the really nutty elements of what he says, will begin to penetrate. As things stand, he draws some votes from Trump, but probably hurts Biden more so it's vital to not ignore him... Democrats must expose how virulently anti-democratic and just plain whacko he actually is. 

There are other factors, of course, and America is very polarized. Trump may well be a convicted felon by election day, which can't help, although I don't actually think that's a top tier factor. But the reality is that Biden and Democrats come across as sane, stable, reasonable, focused on the needs of ordinary people, etc., while MAGA is all about the fake victimhood and grift. (Keep up those lavish parties at Mr. & Mrs. MAGA's expense, Alina Habba... see how that works out for you and your mob boss). People can be swayed, to a point, and Trump, for all his repulsiveness and shocking ignorance, does have some sort of charisma with a lot of people. But in the end, you can't fool enough people to overcome the deficit. At this point, I believe exposure to more of Trump is costing him votes, not gaining them. I would go so far as to say, I think truthfully, unlike Trump who was grifting (and projecting) when he said it (and still is): the only way they can win is if they cheat. And they will try. We have to be vigilant and ready. 

In recent elections, it seems, every one is "the most important of our lifetime." But this one really is different. It's not about issues, not about policy, not about a vision of America's future. It's about whether we continue to be an at least more or less democratic country, or not. And you know which side is which; everyone does. We don't like to admit it to ourselves, but there is a significant cohort in America that doesn't care about or even believe in democracy. But we are the majority. We're right. They're wrong. And we have to remember that every minute between now and November 5, and act like it. 

Winning this election is only a first step to reclaiming democracy, which is assailed in the judiciary, in campaign finance, in other ways money controls politics... you name it. But winning this election is the sine qua non. We will have no opportunities to move forward with democratic reforms if we lose this one. So everyone needs to give till it hurts, do what they can on the ground till it hurts, have uncomfortable conversations, appeal to friends and family members' sense of loyalty to the bedrock principles of American republican democracy. It has never been so critical. 

Thank you. And, on to victory in November!

31 March 2024

This is NOT normal.

Whatever one may think of Joe Biden and his policies, there's no denying that Trump's posting of a photo of Biden bound and gagged in the back of a pick up truck comes perilously close to a direct threat on the life of the president of the United States. Of course you can always equivocate, but in the context of all the other Fascist memes and threats coming from MAGA, there's no denying that this is far, far from American norms and probably comes pretty close to the kind of threat the Secret Service and FBI will need to investigate. 

26 March 2024

George VI exceeds his constitutional authority on behalf of his German relatives in WW2.

This is interesting. And it is reflective of why I despise royalty, full stop. Were I British (or a citizen of any other country clinging to this hideous anachronism), I would be a Republican, in its British/Australian meaning. Nothing that has happened since 1945 convinces me that there is any value in maintaining this shameful tradition. 


I suppose with our own country at risk of descending into Fascism, one should be more circumspect, but two wrongs don't make right. 

25 March 2024

Schutz at 25

I asked ChatGPT to create an image, based on the famous Christoph Spetner portrait of Heinrich Schütz at age 80, of what he might've looked like as a young man in Venice, studying with Gabrieli, at about age 25. This is what it came up with. Spooky, almost. There is only one decent likeness of him; others from his lifetime are rather crude. This is plausible, from the image we do have. It's not 100% scientific "de-aging," but it is approximate. 


For reference, the Spetner portrait, with the Electoral Medal. 



______________________________
COMMIT TO PRESERVING DEMOCRACY 
______________________________

The equal right of all men to the use of land is as clear as their equal right to breathe the air—it is a right proclaimed by the fact of their existence. For we cannot suppose that some men have a right to be in this world, and others no right.
—Henry George

Tolkien Reading Day

Today is "Tolkien Reading Day," we're told, mainly by businesses trying to sell books. I was a big fan in my youth, and did re-read the entire series (not the many patch-up prequel material, apart from the Silmarillion, which is very nearly unreadable). Three times, over the years. But, nah, not gonna read it again. ChatGPT gives the following, but the fact (actual fact) that March 25 is the traditional old-style New Year in Anglo Saxon culture has more to do with it, I suspect. 

«Tolkien Reading Day is celebrated annually on March 25th to honor the life and works of J.R.R. Tolkien. This date was chosen because it marks the fall of Sauron and Barad-dûr in Tolkien's Middle-earth lore, specifically in "The Return of the King", which is a significant event in his mythology. The day encourages fans of Tolkien's work to read, discuss, and celebrate his contributions to literature, fantasy, and the creation of rich, detailed worlds and languages. It's also an opportunity to explore themes central to his work, such as friendship, courage, and the struggle against darkness, which resonate with many readers around the world. The Tolkien Society initiated Tolkien Reading Day in 2003 to promote the reading of Tolkien's works and to spread awareness of his stories and characters.»

There's something rather anodyne about ChatGPT. I suspect they build in banality to avoid offending people, but, well, it's annoying.

22 March 2024

Giaches de Wert

I absolutely love, even after all these years of exploring music before 1750, to "discover" new composers from the past who have been neglected, by the music "establishment," and by me. My latest discovery is Giaches de Wert, a Flemish composer whose life spanned most of the 16th century (died 1596), and who spent most of his adult life in Italy. He was a tremendous influence on the great Monteverdi, but his music is just wonderful entirely on its own. Less famous than Gesualdo or even Vecchio, and certainly than the "greats" of the century, Palestrina, Lassus, Victoria, etc., I would take his music to a desert island over all of them.... except Monteverdi of course. But I count Monteverdi as primarily a 17th century composer (d. 1643), and the greatest of that century; rivaled only by the greatest German composer before Bach,  Heinrich Schütz (d. 1672, at the age of 87). De Wert was definitely one of if not the bes of the nearly forgotten geniuses of the "high renaissance of music" in the Italian courts of Ferrara and Mantua in the 16th century. Gesualdo was more daring, no doubt, but de Wert has this lovely graciousness and even humor, as well as a profoundly emotional musical language without resorting to what could, even then, be considered gimmicks of chromaticism. 

21 March 2024

Hope for relief from 2023's hottest recorded year? Don't count on it.

I read where 2023 was the hottest year, planetwide, in recorded history, so I decided to ask Gemini (ChatGPT doesn't have access to records up to the current month, one of Gemini's clear advantages)-- about it. Sure enough, 2024 already looks potentially worse. In fact, if you forget the calendar year and look at running 12-month periods, the period from Feb. 2024 thru Jan. 2023 was the hottest 12 month period ever, beating out calendar 2023 by a statistically significant margin. 

Folks, this is bad. If people express skepticism about climate change, don't let it pass. Tell them, excuse me, I don't mean to offend, but you are wrong, and acting from ignorance on this overriding issue is reckless and dangerous. The reality is that climate change is accelerating, and is already progressing at a significantly worse level of change than was anticipated even just a few years ago. 

______________________________
COMMIT TO PRESERVING DEMOCRACY 
______________________________

The equal right of all men to the use of land is as clear as their equal right to breathe the air—it is a right proclaimed by the fact of their existence. For we cannot suppose that some men have a right to be in this world, and others no right.
—Henry George

Trump appeals to his low information followers to pay his massive debts

How it is that Trump's appeal to small donors to help him pay off the judgment against him, for massive financial fraud, is able to raise one thin dime, is beyond me. 

20 March 2024

Slight variant on the most basic everyday dish

Question for foodies out there. I am not a foodie, but I like to cook a little. I've been experimenting with cooking the pasta for linguini or spaghetti to about 3/4 done, then draining and transferring it to the pan with the sauce in it to finish cooking in the sauce. Wonder how common this practice is and what you think of it? (For aglutenists, you can use chickpea or brown rice pasta). 

For 2
1/3 lb. ground beef
1 piece broken up cooked bacon
1 tbs. basil dried or use fresh 
1 tsp. thyme likewise 
6 cloves of garlic, minced
oil, pref. EVOO
2 tbs. powdered mushrooms
Pint of marinara sauce (1/2 jar)
1/3 pckg. spaghetti or other pasta
1 bell pepper, chopped, pref. red, yellow or orange; green has a "taste"
parmesan to taste

Start the garlic in a few tbs. of oil till fragrant, add meat, bacon, and cook awhile, add herbs, mushrooms, etc. then simmer covered for 30 min. or so. Add water as may be needed. Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a big pot till about 3/4 done, drain, then add to the meat, turn heat to med. and cook the pasta in the sauce till done. Serve with parmesan if desired. 

Simple as pie. 

____________________________
COMMIT TO PRESERVING DEMOCRACY 
______________________________

The equal right of all men to the use of land is as clear as their equal right to breathe the air—it is a right proclaimed by the fact of their existence. For we cannot suppose that some men have a right to be in this world, and others no right.
—Henry George

Creating a font from your own hand lettering

See attachment
Obviously not for everyone, but I find it intriguing. 

______________________________
COMMIT TO PRESERVING DEMOCRACY 
______________________________

The equal right of all men to the use of land is as clear as their equal right to breathe the air—it is a right proclaimed by the fact of their existence. For we cannot suppose that some men have a right to be in this world, and others no right.
—Henry George

Nerd Alert: ChatGPT explains the Siletzia terrane to you

I asked ChatGPT4 to comment on the debate over whether the Siletzia terrane (where I live, coastal OR and WA), which collided with North America about 50-40 million years ago, may show indications of having passed over the Yellowstone Hotspot, then located offshore to the W of N America, before being accreted into North America. I mentioned Nick Zentner, of Cen. WA. S.U., who talked about this in one of his many videos on the formation of the Western margin of NAmer.

This is its answer:

«

The relationship between the Yellowstone hotspot and the Siletzia terrane, as well as their respective roles in the geological evolution of the Pacific Northwest, is a subject of ongoing research and some debate among geologists. The idea that the Yellowstone hotspot could have played a role in the volcanic activity associated with Siletzia during its formation is a hypothesis that has gained attention and is being actively explored.

Nick Zentner, a well-known geology educator from Central Washington University, has contributed significantly to public understanding of complex geological concepts through his lectures and colloquiums. His discussions often highlight the latest research and theories in the field, including those that are still being debated or refined.

The Yellowstone Hotspot and Siletzia Connection

  • Timing and Location: The timing of Siletzia's formation and accretion (approximately 50 to 40 million years ago) does coincide with the speculated position of the Yellowstone hotspot in the Pacific Ocean, according to some geological models. These models suggest that the hotspot could have been involved in the formation of volcanic features that are now part of the Siletzia terrane.
  • Volcanic Evidence: Some of the volcanic rocks in Siletzia show characteristics that could be consistent with hotspot volcanism, including high volumes of basaltic flows that could have been produced by a mantle plume (the source of hotspot volcanism).
  • Geodynamic Models: Recent geodynamic models and geological evidence have led to hypotheses that the Yellowstone hotspot may have had an influence on volcanic activity in the Pacific Northwest, including the formation of features that were later accreted to the continent as part of terranes like Siletzia.

Ongoing Debate and Research

  • Complex Subduction Dynamics: The Pacific Northwest's geological history is complicated by the simultaneous occurrence of subduction-related processes, terrane accretion, and potentially hotspot-related volcanism. Disentangling the effects of these processes and identifying the precise contributions of the Yellowstone hotspot to the region's geology are active areas of research.
  • Advancements in Technology: Improvements in geochronological dating techniques, geochemical analysis, and geophysical imaging are providing new insights into the timing, processes, and impacts of hotspot volcanism in relation to terrane formation and accretion.
  • Interpretation and Models: As with many aspects of Earth science, interpreting the geological record requires piecing together evidence that can sometimes be sparse or ambiguous. Different models and hypotheses are developed to explain the available evidence, and these can be the subject of scientific debate and revision as new information becomes available.

In summary, the hypothesis that the Yellowstone hotspot might have been involved in the formation of the Siletzia terrane is an intriguing and actively researched topic. While there is evidence that supports this hypothesis, it remains a subject of scientific investigation and debate. The geological history of regions like the Pacific Northwest is complex, and our understanding continues to evolve with ongoing research and technological advances.

»

16 March 2024

Foods we take for granted are "unnatural" hybrids.

I find it interesting that we tend to assume that the foods we eat come from naturally occurring plants. And of course, that's true in the broadest sense, but if you read Michael Pollan's books you know that naturally occurring apples are almost entirely inedible. Oranges and grapefruits are both hybrids of Citrus reticulata (mandarins) with other Citrus species that would never have occurred naturally. And now I learn that our sacred plant, which we worship daily, coffee (Coffea arabica, eschewing the more productive but inferior C. robusta), is itself a highly unlikely hybrid of two of the 125 or so Coffea species that occur naturally in the highlands of Eastern Africa: C. canephora and C. eugenioides. I'm reading where active research is ongoing to develop other, fruitier "coffees" from the hybridization of other species in this genus. Presumably they're also thinking in terms of the effects of climate change, which are likely to make it more difficult to meet the enormous worldwide demand for coffee through growing existing strains. Will wonders never cease?

Extremes of this phenomenon include navel oranges, Cara Cara oranges, and bananas, all of which are single-individual sterile clones reproduced commercially through grafting and vegetative reproduction. None of these artificial strains would survive a single generation without constant human attention, as they are sterile "sports." And yet major economic activities depend on these "unnatural" varieties.

13 March 2024

Critical issues separating Right from Left, and not what most people think about

Yesterday I heard some very insightful discussions, the first coming mostly from Senator and Constitutional Scholar Sheldon Whitehouse, and the second from Journalist and financial/legal expert David Cay Johnston. Both illustrated how it's not just or even primarily policy that separates the now cultlike Right Wing party from the "real American" party. Democrats are far from a "left center" party... we are the only party that seeks to preserve the essence of American small-r republican government.

Whitehouse talked about how even in the worst times of Supreme Court jurisprudence, the Anglo Saxon common law principle that appellate review, and particularly constitutional review (dating back to Marbury v. Madison) is to be based on adjudicated facts originating in the lower courts. Constitutional and legal principles are to be applied to the facts, but if a court of review finds a deficiency in the factual record, they return the case to the lower court to redetermine the facts. What the ultimate court of review is not to do, and did not do, even in Plessy v. Ferguson and other horrible decisions of the past, such as Santa Clara Co. v. So. Pac. R. R.

Whitehouse has been vocal about his critique of recent Supreme Court decisions, notably Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission and Shelby County v. Holder, for what he perceives as the Court's reliance on false facts rather than established factual records from lower courts or legislative findings. In these cases, he argues that the Court engaged in inappropriate appellate fact-finding, deviating from its role of relying on trial courts for factual records and on legislatures for the factual bases of laws. This, according to Whitehouse, undermines the legitimacy of the decisions. For instance, the majority opinion in Shelby County, which invalidated a key provision of the Voting Rights Act, was criticized for relying on an outdated set of facts about voting discrimination, facts which Congress had not used when it almost unanimously extended the Voting Rights Act in 2006 The court chose to improperly substitute falsehoods of its own divining, which is just not the way it's supposed to work. Continuation of this process has become the norm, and has resulted in the Roberts Court being the worst court in history from the point of view of separation of powers and proper constraint of the arbitrary power of the Supreme Court.

Whitehouse's concerns extend beyond these cases to a broader critique of the Supreme Court's engagement with "phony front groups" and the impact of dark money in the legal process, which he discusses in his podcast "Making the Case." He and his guests examine how these factors have contributed to what they view as a "captured Court" that favors corporate interests and undermines democratic protections.

Whitehouse also connects these issues to a broader historical context, tracing the influence of corporate interests on the Court back to decisions and actions taken as far back as the Nixon administration. He emphasizes a continuous effort to establish corporate personhood and the equivalence of money to speech, culminating in decisions like Citizens United. This history showcases an ongoing struggle over the role of money in politics and the influence of corporate and dark money on the judiciary.

These developments, in my opinion, are one of the principal threats to the continuity of small-d democracy in our country.

Another is the fast and loose trashing of financial restrictions on Federal officials practiced by Trump and his administration, as discussed in detail by the brilliant David Cay Johnston. He points out that the founders of the Second American Republic (ours), after the failure of the Articles of Confederation, were particularly concerned about the effect of bribery and monetary influence. The emoluments clause, and provisions in the Constitution prohibiting the administration or Congress from taking money from states, foreign interests, or private companies or individuals due to the inherently corrosive effect of money on democratic processes. Trump immediately discarded any remnant of such principles, refusing to insulate his governance from the influence of money, or even disclose the improper financial arrangements. One could go on and on about this, but the point is the precedent is set, and without reversing Citizens United and significantly toughening the rules for financial incentives, the Founders' attempts to provide the nation with a government free of undue influence will have well and truly, and finally, failed.

It is our job as citizens to make sure this situation is fixed, and it's just as important as economic or foreign policy; probably moreso as it will determine whether the country founded in 1789 really still persists, or does so only in name.


______________________________
COMMIT TO PRESERVING DEMOCRACY 
______________________________

The equal right of all men to the use of land is as clear as their equal right to breathe the air—it is a right proclaimed by the fact of their existence. For we cannot suppose that some men have a right to be in this world, and others no right.
—Henry George

10 March 2024

Ashamed for Chubb

As a retiree of over 20 years' employment with over 150-year old insurer Chubb & Son, now taken over by a Swiss company and with right wing ogre Evan Greenberg as CEO, I am deeply ashamed that they saw fit to hand Trump a gift in the form of an undercollateralized bond on the E. Jean Carroll verdict. Chubb was originally a very good and reputable company, that promoted from within, understood that its most important asset was its people, and maintained a sterling reputation for service. These crooks have ruined the company, and this fiasco is just a further black mark on an already besmirched reputation.

08 March 2024

Lincoln Project "Last Election" ad

Reminds me of the shown-only-once on TV nuclear armageddon/little girl with daisy ad from 1964. 


These guys do know how to do effective video communication. 

______________________________
COMMIT TO PRESERVING DEMOCRACY 
______________________________

The equal right of all men to the use of land is as clear as their equal right to breathe the air—it is a right proclaimed by the fact of their existence. For we cannot suppose that some men have a right to be in this world, and others no right.
—Henry George

Great Line from Biden's speech

Joe Biden is an old guy with a speech impediment. But regardless, I believe his State of the Union was pretty darn great, and will help to dispel a lot of the nonsense about him. I especially liked this line, which clearly differentiates him and our party from Republicans, namely that he actually believes in the essential idea of America, and by and large they do not, especially not their cult leader.

« Our North Star. The very idea of America, that we are all created equal and deserve to be treated equally throughout our lives. We've never fully lived up to that ideal, but we've never walked away from it either. »
Because, friends, the Republicans, a party controlled by that cult leader, has already walked away, and will never, ever come back. Their way leads to perdition and the end of the American ideal forever. If you don't get that, you are either delusional or just not paying enough attention to what is happening in our country.

07 March 2024

Katie Porter in contrast to Andy Kim .... keeping a Democratic Senate is vital

I have admired, and continue to admire, Katie Porter, progressive Congresswoman from Orange County, California, who was a candidate in California's senate primary. But, she should immediately accept the fact that she lost the primary. With California's jungle primary, the put-up job Republican candidate Steve Garvey came in second, and thus it will be Schiff, Democrat, vs. Garvey, Republican, in November. I might've preferred Porter to Schiff, but Schiff won, and it is absolutely vital that we Democrats keep this seat. So, Katie, accept that this is not your time, endorse Schiff, and get on with helping to unify the party.

Now, the upcoming primary in New Jersey in June is another story. The "first lady" of New Jersey, Tammy Murphy, is being pushed on the people when a better, more experienced Democrat, Andy Kim, is leading in polls. There, the party should get behind the more qualified and popular candidate-- not the more connected. Unity and victory, indeed, but that doesn't mean forcing machine politics down our throats.

Stay tuned. And by the way, if better qualified Kim is shoved aside by less-qualified but better machine-connected Murphy, I would still support Murphy, although I think that would make it much more likely that we will lose the Senate. So the unity candidate is Kim at this point.

______________________________
COMMIT TO PRESERVING DEMOCRACY 
______________________________

The equal right of all men to the use of land is as clear as their equal right to breathe the air—it is a right proclaimed by the fact of their existence. For we cannot suppose that some men have a right to be in this world, and others no right.
—Henry George

06 March 2024

Corrupt Menendez must resign

Robert Menendez must resign soonest. Schumer, and if necessary, Biden himself, must call for this. We cannot afford this stink of actual corruption in our party, when so much is at stake this year. 

Community Music Workshop • Thursday March 7, 1o:30 AM • PROGRAM ATTACHED

Again, reminding everyone of the Community Music Workshop, this Thursday at 10:30 AM at the Community Music Center, 3350 SE Francis St., Portland. All are welcome; admission is free. Donations accepted to defray costs, most funds are donated to the Community Music Center.

We have a terrific program this month. Program attached, subject to minor corrections (hopefully not more than that!)

If you are interested in playing or have already reserved for April, please send details and/or contact me. David Studhalter at ds@gyromantic.com or 971 328-1750, text preferred.

Thanks everyone for making this work. 

05 March 2024

Phil Mandel concert link

Phil Mandel has asked me to let everyone know about the live link to his 70th birthday concert at the Reser Auditorium last September.

False Equivalency

I despise the false equivalencies of political culture in our country. Democrats confront Republican obstructionism and the media, perhaps best represented by NPR, reports that "neither side could come to agreement." Biden shows what respected clinical psychiatrists describe as normal signs of ageing, whereas Trump displays cascading and accelerating phonemic aphasia, in a syndrome which can only be caused by neurological cognitive dementia that will certainly... and pretty rapidly... get worse over time, and the media reports that the public has a choice between two old guys who sometimes slur their words. Democrats mostly, and to a fault, play by the institutional rules, whereas the MAGA movement, which has now completely taken over the Republican party, is, as a matter of objective fact, embarked on a program to completly undermine the checks and balances of representative government outlined in our Constitution, in a brazen attempt to destroy that system and replace it with the kind of authoritarianism that marked most of human history. Turning the clock back. We used to say to "before  the New Deal" but it's now to "before the 18th century Enlightenment." And what does the media report? The horserace, as if the two parties were facets of an essentially unified whole, as they perhaps were for a time during the 20th century. 

I'm not having it. Wake up, folks. We are in an existential fight for the survival of democratic governance. It has never lived up to its ideals, of course. But if we lose, and it is gone, gone, gone, we will rue the day. Believe me. I am not exaggerating, even a little. 

______________________________
COMMIT TO PRESERVING DEMOCRACY 
______________________________

The equal right of all men to the use of land is as clear as their equal right to breathe the air—it is a right proclaimed by the fact of their existence. For we cannot suppose that some men have a right to be in this world, and others no right.
—Henry George

04 March 2024

BRIDGETOWN BAROQUE free concert Saturday March 23 • 1:30 PM

Want to hear Telemann, Loeillet, Vivaldi, and CPE Bach played by a Baroque chamber ensemble? Free by invitation. If you would like to come, please RSVP so we can get an idea how many will be showing up. See flier for details. 

Community Music Workshop this Thursday 10:30 AM at the Community Music Center

The first Thursday of the month is upon us, so this coming Thursday March 7 at 10:30 is the Community Music Workshop, at the Community Music Center, 3350 SE Francis St., Portland ("the old Firehouse"). We have an excellent program for March, including a major piano work by Max Reger played by notable local pianist and teacher Nick Fontana, and various pieces by Biber, Schumann, and several 20th century American composers (among others) played by Jules Elias and Dave Knaub, Chris Schindler, and Chris Swanson. It promises to be an exciting and varied program. Watch your e mail for the program, and please come and invite your friends and family to attend.

01 March 2024

Will the Turtle endorse the mad hyena?

It seemed pretty widely expected that McConnell would endorse Trump, but I'm wondering if his announcement that he's stepping down in November may signal just the opposite. He may do what Romney did and not endorse anyone but say he won't vote for Trump, but more likely he will just not endorse at all. This is giving him too much credit, unfortunately: I'd say the most likely thing is he will eventually endorse Trump. Because... and this is really my point: the fact that Republicans believe only in their power  and not democratic governance  is nothing new. And old Turtleface is a career-long exemplar. 

29 February 2024

Supreme Court's game is so obvious

This seems so obvious to me it hardly bears saying. There must be at least four members of the Supreme Court who insisted on granting certiorari to the ridiculous Trump immunity appeal. One can surmise that at least one more, and probably not Roberts, insisted on slow rolling the hearing just a bit, and will probably also force a delay of the publication of the decision until just before the Summer recess. The reason for this is obvious. They are tilting the scale just a bit in favor of Insurrectionist/Adjudicated rapist Donald Trump, for purely political reasons. They seek to, and will probably succeed at, preventing the DC election interference case from going to trial before the election. 

The credibility of the Supreme Court as an independent branch of government whose purpose is to enforce and support the rule of law is now in tatters, possibly irreparably so. 

27 February 2024

A safe bet, I'd say

Like lots of folks, I don't bet, or at least not more than $1. But I'd bet that, for sure, that Tr**p has already begged Elon Musk to lend him the money to post a supersedeas bond in New York for ½ billion bucks. But here's my prediction: Musk has already said no and there may be rumors but nothing overt will be said.

Work more, worry less

No sane person is unconcerned about the possible election (again) of the adjudicated sexual assaulter and would-be authoritarian dictator (Tr**p; expletive deleted). But watch this. This isn't even Hopium Chronicles' Simon Rosenberg. It's respected financial reporter and Trump debunker David Cay Johnston. Listen to what he says (early in video) about the South Carolina Primary. Summary: 40% of American likely voters are Republican. In a very conservative state, he got 60% of the Republican vote. That's 24% of the electorate. That, and give him a realistic margin of Independents, and you've got a base for him of somewhere between 1/4 and 1/3 of the voters.

You do not win elections with 33%. And think about it. Are there really 17% of voters left who are likely to move to him between now and November? Or even 13%, which is probably the amount of voters, in exactly the right places, that could led to a Trump victory even with loss of the popular vote by 10%. That's possible, but only barely, and would require an extremely unlikely demographic anomaly.


23 February 2024

The Choice

I'm almost 71 years old, and I've been reasonably attentive to American politics since I was about 15. I actually was present (with my mother) in Chicago during the Convention Demonstrations in 1968. So I have a pretty good personal recall of the grand sweep of the last couple of generations of politics in our country.* Here's my point: not a single candidate for president of either major party, and probably not even Ross Perot or George Wallace, would have continued a run for president, nor would it have possible for them to do so, having anything close to the disqualifications, factual and legal, that currently hang over America's worst president by far ever, Donald Trump, in his manic effort to be elected again. This is not just an anomaly... it is the equivalent for the body politic of a potentially fatal disease. We will know by the end of this year whether the disease that is Donald Trump is, in fact, fatal to democracy in America, or whether we have a chance to shake it off, and recover, to whatever degree possible. 

Analogies like this are always a bit strained, but the gravity of it is not exaggerated. I'm with Simon Rosenberg: work more (for democracy), worry less. But don't buy into self-reinforcing media nonsense either. The choice could not be clearer, and there is every reason to believe that when the ballot is right in front of them, a significant majority of American voters will end up making the right choice. 

*I voted in every congressional election and presidential election, and almost every off-year and special election since I turned 18. Except one time, for an insurance commissioner who promised reforms but turned out to be a crook, and had to resign, I never voted for a Republican for anything and I feel vindicated in those choices 100%.  


How do you spell "democracy"?  B-I-D-E-N. 

______________________________
COMMIT TO PRESERVING DEMOCRACY 
______________________________

The equal right of all men to the use of land is as clear as their equal right to breathe the air—it is a right proclaimed by the fact of their existence. For we cannot suppose that some men have a right to be in this world, and others no right.
—Henry George

22 February 2024

George Conway on House Republicans

Tell us what you really think, George...  https://youtu.be/bDUL9ip7o6M

"The House Republicans are scum. They're liars. It's insulting to scum to say they're scum. It's insulting to liars to say they're liars."

This from one of the lawyers who engineered Bush v. Gore.

______________________________
COMMIT TO PRESERVING DEMOCRACY 
______________________________

The equal right of all men to the use of land is as clear as their equal right to breathe the air—it is a right proclaimed by the fact of their existence. For we cannot suppose that some men have a right to be in this world, and others no right.
—Henry George

21 February 2024

Trump compares himself to murdered opposition leader Navalny

Look, folks, I'm pretty weary of even talking about the former guy. Like Simon Rosenberg, I endorse the concept of "work more, worry less," which includes carp less. But this comparison by this utterly narcissistic toad of himself to murdered opposition leader in Russia Aleksei Navalny is a new low. What a total POS. Sorry, but had to say it. 

20 February 2024

Favorite fonts, both "As" from an "A" country, an obscure rant

Some few of my farflung correspondents may share my interest in typefaces (commonly nowadays called "fonts," although the technical term is typeface). I have a deep and abiding loathing for both Times New Roman and Arial, probably the two most common computer "printer fonts" (except on Apple, where real Helvetica, rather than knockoff Arial, is standard). I regard both as lifeless and ugly, each in its own uniquely awful way (Helvetica is only slightly better, associated as it is with the 1960s brutalist esthetic). I would dearly love to see all three consigned to the scrap heap of typographic history. TNR was literally designed to make more text fit in a newspaper column, and it sacrifices all proportion and even legibility for that end. The less said about the deliberately minimal and ugly Arial the better.

So here's something I'm pretty sure is not a coincidence. Among the newer font families I've come across, there are two, one a classic serif and the other a unique "baroque humanist" semi-serif, that I really like and use whenever I can, in their respective milieus. These are classic serif Alegreya, designed by Juan Pablo del Peral, and Asul, designed by Mariela Monsalve, after unnamed typefaces used in the 1920s. Both were designed in the early 2010s in Argentina. Alegreya is a sort of modernized and more legible version of Garamond, or possibly Bembo; whereas Asul is really unique; combining the best of the virtues of sans serif fonts like Humanist and Trebuchet with real proportion and a hint of serif. It's beautiful and very legible.

To see and read a bit about each:

Asul is free from Google fonts. Alegreya is also readily available free, but you have to look for it. Just google the name if you're interested. There are standard, medium, real italic (not just algorithmically slanted italics, which are a travesty and should never be used in anything where graphic beauty is important), and also bold and extra bold standard and italic versions. In a world where beauty is often shortchanged, I would take a little but genuine pleasure if Alegreya were to supplant Times New Roman as the standard serif font and Asul were to replace Arial... there really is no justification or need for purely sans serif fonts anywhere. We are not robots, why should we use robotic typefaces?

I say all this in the full realization that most people almost literally could not care less.

Cheers.

16 February 2024

Navalny murdered. Not in America!

So it is now nearly certain that the brutal dictator Vladimir Putin had his only real political opponent, Alexei Navalny, murdered in prison. My reaction is that if anyone believes that if Trump is given the Oval Office again, his enemies won't start being imprisoned, then some even killed, then you don't understand the narcissistic dictator personality, because it could not be clearer that that's the direction he would go. We simply cannot let that happen in our country.

Just watch. In the next day or two, Trump will do a "tell." Something. He'll show that he admires Putin, including having Navalny murdered. Because that is exactly what he wants to be able to do to his enemies. And, folks, if you're reading this, chances are you are one of his enemies. Probably not high profile enough to be a victim of a purge, but if you're saying to yourself, How bad could it get? How could it affect me, really? ... you are just not understanding how this works. Don't you think middle class Germans in 1933 said the same thing? Even some Jews, believing that civilization had gone beyond the Pogroms, probably said that to themselves. And they did not escape the horrible consequences of allowing a brutal dictator to take power, not even the non-Jews. We are warned.

I have one or two friends who so distrust the "deep state" (or whatever the F*k) that they trust Putin more than our own government. But I have lost all patience. The die is cast. We fight and defeat the would be autocrat or we face the consequences, and no friendship, no comfortable middle class isolation, no going along to get along will protect us.

15 February 2024

Elaborate Football Analogy for MAGA


______________________________
COMMIT TO PRESERVING DEMOCRACY 
______________________________

The equal right of all men to the use of land is as clear as their equal right to breathe the air—it is a right proclaimed by the fact of their existence. For we cannot suppose that some men have a right to be in this world, and others no right.
—Henry George

GPT "remembers" Mackinder's Heartland theory for me (I'd forgotten his name)

Another in a series of conversations with LLMs Gemini and/or GPT.

Me:

There was, I believe, a British historian (not Toynbee), who conceived of the crucial importance of "central place" geographically in the power politics of national supremacy. In this theory, the British, and subsequently the US, utilized an alternative strategy of "containment" through (primarily) naval power, to overcome the inherent disadvantage of peripheral location, and to exercise dominance over more favorably situated "powers," such as, in turn or concurrently, Germany, Russia and/or China. 1. Please infer who it was I am talking about and describe his principal works (I genuinely can't recall; this isn't a test); and 2. Please comment on how technological advance since the early 20th century has to some extent falsified this concept, and made geographical positioning less critical (if that is, in fact, the case according to current geopolitical thinking).

ChatGPT:

 

The historian you're referring to sounds like Halford Mackinder and his Heartland Theory. Mackinder was a British geographer and one of the founding figures of both geopolitics and geostrategy. His ideas have had a profound influence on the strategic thinking of nations throughout the 20th century and beyond.

Halford Mackinder and His Principal Works

Halford Mackinder proposed the Heartland Theory in a paper presented to the Royal Geographical Society in 1904 titled "The Geographical Pivot of History." This theory was later expanded in his book "Democratic Ideals and Reality: A Study in the Politics of Reconstruction," published in 1919. Mackinder's theory posits that the control of Eastern Europe (the "Heartland") was key to global domination. He argued that the Heartland was naturally impregnable due to its inaccessibility and could be the base from which to project power globally.

His famous dictum, "Who rules East Europe commands the Heartland; who rules the Heartland commands the World-Island; who rules the World-Island commands the world," encapsulates the essence of his theory. Mackinder's model was a challenge to the then-prevailing British naval hegemony, suggesting that terrestrial power could eventually overmatch sea power, especially if a single power managed to dominate the Heartland.

The Impact of Technological Advances on Geopolitical Strategy

Since the early 20th century, technological advances have indeed altered the strategic importance of geographical positioning, though not entirely negating Mackinder's insights. Several developments illustrate this evolution:

  1. Nuclear Weapons: The advent of nuclear weapons has made sheer territorial control less decisive in global power terms, as even geographically peripheral or smaller nations can wield outsized strategic threats.

  2. Air Power and Missiles: The development of long-range air power and missile technology, including ICBMs and cruise missiles, has reduced the security provided by geographical barriers. Powers can project military force directly over such barriers, diminishing the strategic value of controlling central landmasses.

  3. Space Technology: Satellites and space-based assets have transformed intelligence, communications, and navigation, enabling global surveillance and coordination beyond the constraints of geography.

  4. Cyberspace and Information Warfare: The rise of cyberspace as a domain of warfare and influence operations has further abstracted power from physical geography. Nations can influence others, interfere in elections, and disrupt infrastructure without traditional physical presence.

  5. Economic Globalization and Supply Chains: Globalization has intertwined the economies of nations, making economic power and resilience as crucial as geographical position. Supply chain vulnerabilities, as highlighted during crises like the COVID-19 pandemic, can exert a significant impact on national security.

However, geography remains a critical factor in geopolitical strategy. For instance, the importance of chokepoints like the Strait of Hormuz for oil transport or the significance of maritime routes in the South China Sea underscores continuing geographical considerations. Furthermore, the rise of China and its Belt and Road Initiative can be seen as an attempt to reshape global geopolitics not just through maritime power but also through terrestrial influence across Eurasia, which echoes Mackinder's Heartland concept.

In summary, while technological advancements have mitigated some of the strategic disadvantages of peripheral geographic positions and challenged some aspects of Mackinder's Heartland Theory, geography continues to play a crucial role in global power dynamics. The interplay between technological capabilities and geographical realities remains a central theme in contemporary geopolitical strategy.



 

GPT on Mars Colonization

I have taken to having frequent conversations with both Gemini (Google's AI Large Language Model) and ChatGPT. They are more similar than different. My interactions with them are driven more by curiosity than practicality. From time to time, I intend to share with my Farflung Correspondents some of these interactions, through the modern miracle of cutting and pasting. Probably a good time to reiterate that if you would prefer to be removed from my Farflungs' list, you need only ask and it shall be done, no questions asked.

Thank you.

Here's one on my skepticism of the likely near-future human colonization of Mars. I suspect that had I asked the question in a slightly different way, I would've gotten a quite different answer, because LLMs are not aware, and don't have actual opinions, feelings, intuitions, or even the basic self-awareness that, say, a lizard (probably) has. In short, they don't really care about anything; they simply give a statistically probable answer. How similar that is to a human being's expression in language is just amazing, but we need to remember, our innate "Theory of Mind" tends to mislead us: they don't actually "think" at all, so asking them what they "think" is probably not the right approach.

 Me:
I read about Elon Musk's and Robert Zubrin's firm belief that humanity will soon colonize Mars and I remain intensely skeptical. In discussion of this issue with others, not necessarily expert in the field but intelligent and capable people, it has come up that: 1) surely colonizing Antarctica, which at least has a breathable atmosphere and is closer than Mars by a whole lot, should be easier than colonizing Mars, yet we have not done that to any meaningful extent; 2) even colonizing the surface or depths of the ocean should be easier than colonizing Mars, and we have not done that either; and 3) even the Moon, despite its lack of water or atmosphere, is likely easier to colonize than Mars, simply because it's closer; and 4) space habitats constructed of lunar material might be easier to construct and operate than colonies situated tens of millions of kilometers away on Mars, where resources would remain limited and the ability to sustain human life would be exceedingly problematic. Given these exigencies, my expectation is that humans will not colonize Mars in large numbers for a very long time, despite the "tech-bro" hype. What say you, GPT?

ChatGPT:

Your skepticism regarding the near-term feasibility of large-scale human colonization of Mars, despite the enthusiasm of figures like Elon Musk and Robert Zubrin, is grounded in several pragmatic considerations. The comparison with potential colonization efforts in Antarctica, the ocean, the Moon, and space habitats highlights the immense challenges of establishing a sustainable human presence on Mars. Let's unpack these points:

1. Antarctica as a Precedent for Mars

Breathable Atmosphere and Proximity: While Antarctica does have a breathable atmosphere and is far closer than Mars, the continent remains largely uninhabited due to extreme conditions, legal protections, and logistical challenges. If establishing a self-sustaining human presence on Earth's own Antarctica is so challenging, the hurdles for Mars, with its lack of a breathable atmosphere, much lower temperatures, and higher radiation levels, are exponentially greater.

2. Ocean Colonization

Technological Feasibility: Colonizing the ocean's surface or depths presents its own set of challenges, including pressure, corrosion, and isolation. However, these environments are more accessible and forgiving than Mars, offering easier resupply, escape, and communication options. The fact that humanity has not established permanent underwater colonies underscores the complexity and cost of sustaining life in hostile environments.

3. Moon vs. Mars

Proximity and Resupply: The Moon is only about three days away from Earth, making it a more accessible target for initial off-world colonization efforts. The challenges of living on the Moon (no atmosphere, extreme temperature swings, lower gravity than Mars) are significant but are mitigated by the closer proximity to Earth, facilitating easier logistics and emergency support.

4. Space Habitats

Utilizing Lunar Materials: The concept of constructing space habitats from lunar or asteroid materials offers a potential alternative to planetary colonization. Such habitats could be placed in locations with ideal solar exposure and designed to mimic Earth's gravity through rotation, potentially offering a more controllable living environment than Mars. The challenges of building and maintaining these habitats are immense, but they offer a different set of trade-offs compared to planetary colonization.

The Realities of Mars Colonization

Technological and Logistical Hurdles: Colonizing Mars involves overcoming severe challenges, including long-duration space travel, life support in a hostile environment, radiation protection, and the development of in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) to support human life.

Economic and Ethical Considerations: The economic costs of Mars colonization are astronomical, and ethical considerations regarding the potential for life on Mars and the impact of human presence on another planet also need to be addressed.

Timeframe for Colonization: Given these challenges, the timeframe for establishing a self-sustaining human presence on Mars is likely to extend far beyond the optimistic projections of some proponents. Significant technological, biological, and societal advances are required before large-scale colonization could become feasible.

Conclusion

While the dream of Mars colonization captures the imagination and drives important advancements in space technology and exploration, the practical realities suggest that such an endeavor is a monumental undertaking that may not be realized on the timescales suggested by some of its most vocal advocates. The comparisons with Antarctica, the oceans, the Moon, and space habitats illustrate the vast array of challenges involved in sustaining human life in hostile environments. Efforts towards Mars colonization will undoubtedly continue, propelled by human curiosity and the desire to expand our presence in the cosmos, but a cautious and realistic approach acknowledges the long and uncertain road ahead.