Maybe the world is ThreeSources -- add a #3src hashtag to post your tweets
August 22, 2014
Quote of the postwar era
I do not feel that my choice of title is overwrought.
The whole questionable debate on American war weariness aside, the U.S. military is not war weary and is fully capable of attacking and reducing IS throughout the depth of its holdings, and we should do it now, but supported substantially by our traditional allies and partners, especially by those in the region who have the most to give - and the most to lose - if the Islamic State’s march continues.
From a must read article by General John R. Allen, USMC retired. He gives the President great credit for actions taken in the theater thus far, but makes a profound plea for his annihilation of Islamic State immediately.
For its part, the White House has finally unleashed the "t-word."
"When you see somebody killed in such a horrific way, that represents a terrorist attack," White House Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes told reporters. "That represents a terrorist attack against our country, against an American citizen, and I think all of us have the Foley family in our thoughts and prayers."
Look for the Union Label...
#WarOnWomen Anybody? Bueller?
Insty links to two stories on this today. I have chosen the link that doesn't clean up the language because I think it is best enjoyed in the raw:
The Teamsters picketers were already mad. By the time Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi's car pulled up to the Steel & Rye restaurant in the picturesque New England town of Milton just outside Boston, one of them ran up to her car and screamed, "We're gonna bash that pretty face in, you fucking whore!"
It seems the Top Chef (Honestly, I don't get these shows at all but that is not germane to the post) crew allowed ... get this: non union production assistants to drive cars.
I know, you're shocked.
Just when I was about to quit looking for any of the racist, misogynist, homophobic angry white men with which the GOP is supposedly monolithic, you show us evidence that they're openly advocating their beliefs in the Teamsters. "Dat's ok thouh, dey vote Demmycrap!"
It could have been spectacular. I mean, a bunch of the Teamster thug brigade, picking a fight with a dozen people who are famously good with knives, and once a season have to break down a pig or a side of beef on camera. I'd have put that on the pay-per-view.
I want to know where Tom Colicchio was in all of this.
New Cory Gardner Slogan
My darling bride should write campaign ads. This morning, watching a Mark Udall ad she blurts: "If you like your ObamaCare, you can keep your Obamacare -- vote for Mark Udall! I'm Cory Gardner and I approved..."
Erhmigawd, that's inspired!
Meanwhile, back in the Centennial State, it looks like partly cloudy with a 99% chance of more cancellations
The Colorado Division of Insurance has reported that there were about 2,100 health-plan cancellations in the state over the past two months, bringing this year's total to more than 6,150.
The division reported the figures for June 15-Aug. 15 to Senate Minority Leader Bill Cadman last week. Senate Republicans have requested monthly on the numbers.
Since 2013, there have been about 340,000 policy cancelations in Colorado. Many customers received notices last fall as the Affordable Care Act was rolling out.
Heh. I just posted this to his wall. :)
"I wanna control my own life, not yours"
From www.thepartyofchoice.com, where conservative ideals are [hopefully] presented in a non-threatening way to the liberals who, as one co-founder writes, "I despise Liberalism, but I love Liberals."
HT: Kris Cook's 'Grassroots Radio Colorado' program, 560 KLZ 6:00 hour today, 8/21.
I'd like to encourage viewing of this by not just unaffiliateds, but by conservatives who could use a refresher course in "that's her call, not mine."
August 21, 2014
A new kind of politics is being born in the discussion over race and militarized policing in Ferguson. -- Nick Gillespie
Writing about Ferguson, object #1 is to write nothing I'll have to retract or apologize for. Object #2 is to contribute something to the discussion.
Arnold Kling wrote a goober-load of great books. The one that comes to mind in Ferguson is "The Three Languages of Politics" [Review Corner]. The Three Languages were L, C, and P (to fit Libertarians, Conservatives, and Progressives) and building on Jonathan Haidt, he created an axis for each. We cannot see the point of our othered-philosophied friends because they are measuring events on a different axis.
The Libertarian sees the coercive-freedom axis. My sister votes with me 99% of the time but cannot accept that smoking bans are a bad idea. I'm looking L-wise and seeing a property owner coerced, she enjoys (as I do) the ability to go out in Colorado and not choke to death. L person Nick Gillespie sees "The Libertarian Moment" as the world accepts long advanced Libertarian concerns on police militarization.
The C axis is order-barbarianism and I am not L enough to discount it. There is zero social justice element to stealing a flat-screen TV or breaking windows. This community -- with any other problems -- will have to outlive this image and re-attract investment frightened away.
The P axis is harm-care: a lot of residents likely have had terrible experiences with police. I don't want to outrun available facts but stealing cigars is not a capital offense. Without faulting the police, we can all agree that it is too bad it resulted in death.
Putting on these three lenses, looking at these three axes, I think the fundamental truth of Kling (and Haidt) is underscored.
Well stated. But, the officer-citizen interaction did not concern the theft of cigars. I agree that it is too bad it resulted in the citizen's death, but every citizen needs to recognize the cardinal rule that states, never threaten an armed policeman with physical harm. If this citizen did that, as credible reports have described, then the deadly force used against the citizen by the policeman is - justified.
Facts seem to dribble out that "question the narrative" but I think I am correct to synopsize the P view as "young, unarmed, African-American shot six times."
I was attempting to be fair though I generally subscribe to your view. This morning's read of Cato's blog turned up some interesting observations I had not seen. The short version is that Ferguson and some neighboring communities finance their government through small fines for petty offenses -- and Jovert-esque collection and prosecution methods. This poisons an already tense mood between the cops and citizenry.
Fair point, but on the harm-care axis is there not visibility of "don't threaten cops with harm?" I'm saying that the "he's unarmed, so nothing else matters" crowd is missing more than just coercive-freedom or order-barbarism data points. They have a clinical case of yeahbutitis.
I agree that cops getting to keep the fines for tickets they write is a perverse incentive. It's not hard to see how inner city folks may dislike police as much as the TEA Party dislikes tax collectors.
I still love David Mamet's Rabbi's admonition that you should be able to make your adversary's case to a level that he or she agrees that you have captured it. I'm not prepared to take their side in a full-on debate but I want to see where they are coming form. Said policeman is armed, badged, has a radio for backup, and will be given the benefit of the doubt in any future proceedings. There is an asymmetry between him and the young man walking down the street.
I'm not complementing them on rationality or consistence but if you find the "victim" and think "poor Treyvon|Michael|Gaza Gus|Sandra Fluke" you have taken a step into their world.
On a good day, go even farther than the good Rabbi and "do a Karl Popper" viz., strengthen your opponent's argument so that you attack it at its strongest point. Were I do that, I'd suggest that institutional racism in the service of the War on Drugs is the strongest reason to support the protesters. But I'm just looking at the L axis...
Agreed. Everything except, "will be given the benefit of the doubt in any future proceedings." That may happen in some jury trials but if the judge does his job, evidence reigns.
But double agreed on the War on Drugs angle. Welfare benefit perverse incentives aren't the only things taking fathers out of homes.
Umm, What's Second Prize?
If you must click....
Why only two?
F*ing elitist one-percenters.
A Facebook friend compared the Islamic State movement [ISIS] to Nazism in 20th century Germany. Given the wholesale mass murder that both ideologies engaged in, I think the comparison is a good one, and completely leaps over Godwin's Law. I replied with the following comment:
The analogy between "ISIS" (Islamic Statists) and NAZI Germany is apropos, but I think there is a more timely analogy for IS - namely, the Ebola virus. Islamism is an ideological virus comparable to the biological virus. Both viruses kill or make carriers of the majority of people which they contact. Both are merciless, and have no goal but their own propagation. Both pose a threat of spreading to every nation on Earth. They are impervious to reason or "negotiation." - So why does Ebola warrant emergency efforts by our NIH and deployment of our latest experimental "weapon" the ZMAPP drug, while the rapidly spreading Islamic Statist movement is met only with "limited airstrikes?"
Michael Moynihan deliberately mentioned and then contravened Godwin's Law on The Independents last night, saying "This is Babi Yar."
Strong but undeniable words. There are no examples contradictory to equivalence.
I would certainly back the President on a forceful response, but I mistrust his judgment sufficiently to hope for caution. "Limited Air strikes" have been somewhat effective. A clandestine arming of the Kurds could be good politics and good policy.
Jason Riley points out that the President's poll numbers are not only sagging on big issues, but also on smaller items like his education initiatives.
The Common Core state standards being pushed by Mr. Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan are especially unpopular. In return for adopting the new standards, the administration promised states more education funding and exemptions from federal accountability provisions in place under No Child Left Behind. Forty-five states eventually signed up for the new standards, but many parents have rejected what they consider a federal intrusion into local schools that would reduce teacher flexibility. Some 81% of respondents in the poll had heard of Common Core--up from 47% last year--and 60% opposed it.
Even with the Internet Segue Machine™ set on "stun" it was easy to relate that to George Will's superb Unified Cupcake Postulate
. You'll want to read all of Will's piece (free link), but the short version is that government both feels emboldened and empowered to regulate school bake sales while actual government functions are neglected or handled poorly.
Washington's response to the menace of school bake sales illustrates progressivism's ratchet: The federal government subsidizes school lunches, so it must control the lunches' contents, which validates regulation of what it calls "competitive foods," such as vending machine snacks. Hence the need to close the bake sale loophole, through which sugary cupcakes might sneak: Foods sold at fundraising bake sales must, with some exceptions, conform to federal standards.
Resistance to taxation, although normal and healthy, is today also related to the belief that government is thoroughly sunk in self-dealing, indiscriminate meddling and the lunatic spending that lards police forces with devices designed for conquering Fallujah. People know that no normal person can know one-tenth of 1 percent of what the government is doing.
Limited government. Limited corruption. Limited incompetence.
Where'd I Put that Neoconservatism Again?`
A stupid Facebook meme touched a nerve today. A brit friend (Britons of all political stripes are united in their hatred of President George W. Bush -- he truly is a uniter) posts a screenshot of the ice bucket challenge: Laura is pouring the bucket on George and the caption reads: "That awkward moment when ... you realize you just reminded everyone of your career waterboarding people."
Queue up the worlds smallest "heh."
Marine Brian Welke (rank not given) has a guest editorial in the WSJ today where he answers a frequent question.
Was it worth it? That's a question I've been asked no fewer than five times since large portions of Iraq have fallen to the murderous Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham. As a Marine veteran who served a tour of duty in Ramadi in 2005-06, I understand that people are genuinely interested in how I now feel about my military service in Iraq.
When that question, which every veteran is inevitably faced with, rears its head, I respond with the same four words, albeit with the first two reversed: It was worth it. In my heart and mind, the answer doesn't matter whether Iraq stands on its own or collapses into a sea of blood and hate. It isn't an answer I have to hold for the future--to wait and see. A sacrifice's worth is not determined by outcomes.
I'll let the Randians the last sentence, but Welke stirs a little latent Sharanskyism, with a reminder of a majority's choosing self-direction.
It was in the sands of Ramadi that I learned most people want to be masters of their own fate. When we were providing area security for a week-long recruitment drive to re-establish the Ramadi police force, the turnout was overwhelming. More than 1,000 applicants stood in line when death approached in the form of a suicide bomber. The blast killed more than 60 and wounded at least 50. On that day, as on many days before and after, Americans and Iraqis were killed by the same enemy. They fell in pursuit of freedom. One for the other's; one for his own. No matter how things turn out, there was a time when Americans and Iraqis stood united against hate and evil.
You want fries with that big bowl of conflicted, jk?
What I do know is that if the "guy who made a career out of waterboarding" were President, we would not be seeing ISIS's territorial gains. You folks who want to celebrate that on Facebook, go right ahead.
Dubya would have intercepted ISIS, I have no doubt, but in the service of what goal? The rallying cry in Gulf War II was "democracy" for Iraq. That legacy has had a lukewarm reception from Iraqi's and utter disregard and contempt by ISIS (they and I call them simply "IS" or Islamic State[ists].)
Does it assuage your internal conflict to view Dubya's "adventure" as the right action for the wrong purpose? The stated objective should have been freedom, liberty, individual rights, not this BS weasel concept "democracy." Democracy is two Islamists and a Jew deciding how everyone has to pray.
But the power void left in Iraq has had a positive consequence, and I use the word "positive" advisedly. The utter savagery of IS, culminating with the decapitation murder of an American journalist, does more harm to the Islamic Caliphate movement than a million smart-bombs. It has almost completely destroyed any semblance of a moral justification for Islamism. "Conform or die" might even get the French to send troops this time. - And so, the toppling of Saddam was an unmitigated good, as were the various random Islamists who were killed in the aftermath. But the misguided and doomed effort of "nation building" should never have been attempted. Colin Powell was wrong: We should have broken it and left them to clean up the pieces, themselves, in complete self-determination.
I forgot to discuss "sacrifice." If our military efforts had been expended in defense of their proper goal, they would not have been sacrificial. We properly fight in foreign lands to protect not merely "innocents" but a principle: The idea of fundamental birthright human liberty.
I am with you on "break it and run like hell." Keep me out of Pottery Barn.
But I was not sure about your separation of Democracy and individual rights. On Facebook, I am happy to confront my friends' sloppy use of "Democracy." It is dangerous to think that majority rule somehow is responsible for the liberties and prosperity we enjoy. And I'm not the least bashful correcting another free individual on the finer points.
But I am completely comfortable with Natan Sharansky or President Bush using it as shorthand for self-directed government that respects individual rights and rule of law. Whisky, Democracy, Sexy remains a flag I can fight under -- in Iraq. In Colorado, we need remember that superior numbers do not supersede property rights.
Had W pushed for individual rights, I don't see a different outcome. Like the Chinese in Helen Raleigh's book, I worry that there is insufficient philosophical appreciation for individual rights to find purchase. The celebrated moderate and peaceful Muslims reject violence and beheadings but do they reject government's telling people how to pray?
I agree that "individual rights" is on a higher plane of understanding than what one should expect to encounter in the third world. That's why I also included freedom and liberty in my formulation. My problem with "democracy" is it is a package deal concept - freedom and liberty for certain things, majority rule for the important stuff. It trades the authoritarianism of Allah and his Quran for the authoritarianism of Uncle Sam and his Code of Federal Regulations. The concept of "your rights end at the tip of my nose" is the principal one we must advance.
"Be democratic" sounds too much like "trade your culture for ours." Unfortunately, at the present, that is a case of the blind leading the blind.
Quote of the Day
MoDo -- that's got to be a first. But she is disenchanted.
His circle keeps getting more inner. He golfs with aides and jocks, and he spent his one evening back in Washington from Martha's Vineyard at a nearly five-hour dinner at the home of a nutritional adviser and former White House assistant chef, Sam Kass . . .
The extraordinary candidate turns out to be the most ordinary of men, frittering away precious time on the links. Unlike L.B.J., who devoured problems as though he were being chased by demons, Obama's main galvanizing impulse was to get himself elected.
Almost everything else -- from an all-out push on gun control after the Newtown massacre to going to see firsthand the Hispanic children thronging at the border to using his special status to defuse racial tensions in Ferguson -- just seems like too much trouble.
The Constitution was premised on a system full of factions and polarization. If you're a fastidious pol who deigns to heal and deal only in a holistic, romantic, unified utopia, the Oval Office is the wrong job for you. The sad part is that this is an ugly, confusing and frightening time at home and abroad, and the country needs its president to illuminate and lead, not sink into some petulant expression of his aloofness, where he regards himself as a party of his own and a victim of petty, needy, bickering egomaniacs. -- Maureen Dowd
Hat-tip: Jim Geraghty
August 20, 2014
Still a piece of health care outside government control?
"A big part of our concern is not just Sovaldi, but all the other specialty drugs," said Mario Molina, the CEO of Molina Healthcare that runs Medicaid and ObamaCare plans in nine states, on a July earnings call. He added: "I think that the government needs to step in here and make sure that the market is rational. If we as a health plan want a rate increase, we have to go to our regulators and get it approved. There's no such thing going on in the pharmaceutical market. Right now, pharmaceutical companies can charge whatever they want, and I think there needs to be a rational basis for all of this."
Oh, dearie me.
For those who have not been watching closely, Sovaldi pretty much cures Hep-C. Not manages its symptoms, not prolongs life, cures.
The WSJ Ed Page points out that the typical complaints of "copycat" and incremental pharmaceuticals do not apply. Sovaldi is a breakthrough. At $89,000 it is pretty pricey. But the alternatives include liver transplants, and constant, intensive, expensive treatments to maintain and mange symptoms. If you'll pardon my "playing the Medical Card," were there an $89K cure for MS I would be both applying for loans and throwing a party.
I guess I can see why Mr. Molina's life sucks. The government sets his prices, offerings, profits and fat content in the cafeteria. How sad it must be to look out the dirty window at freedom. But let us not forget what brought us here.
To the extent drug prices are rising, one reason is because researchers are asking more challenging clinical and biological questions. Only two of every 10 drugs on the market ever earn back enough money to match the cost of R&D and FDA approval before patents expire. Successful drugs thus underwrite the uncertain, failure-prone, time-consuming and often wasteful and even random process of scientific invention.
Yes, Mr. Molina, we could spread dirigisme to the Pharma sector. Might I suggest we try freedom?
Renewable Energy Idea
IVANPAH DRY LAKE, Calif. (AP) -- Workers at a state-of-the-art solar plant in the Mojave Desert have a name for birds that fly through the plant's concentrated sun rays -- "streamers," for the smoke plume that comes from birds that ignite in midair.
Federal wildlife investigators who visited the BrightSource Energy plant last year and watched as birds burned and fell, reporting an average of one "streamer" every two minutes, are urging California officials to halt the operator's application to build a still-bigger version.
I put on my engineer's hat and have come up with some improvements. (Granted, it is a software guy's hat, so I'll ask my hardware brothers to chime in.)
Solar plants torch birds and wind plants julienne them. Wouldn't it be better to cut out the middleman and just build large incinerators which burn birds for fuel? You could put bird seed and carrion around the edge, then have a fan that sucks them in: finches, hawks, eagles, condors, herons -- a clean and renewable fuel source.
First, I'm gonna need a government grant...
It's a feature, not a bug. Birds emit CO2 when they breathe. Killing a few hundred thousand of them a year will help to lower the Earth's greenhouse gas load.
August 19, 2014
This is not a "classic" Libertario Delenda Est post. Those refer to the pragmatic politics and tactics that I feel will better promote the ideas Libertarians and I share. This is a darker disagreement.
You're not going to like or agree with fellow travelers all the time. But there is an underreported strain of crabbiness in the libertarian community. For all the libertine feelgoodism of a Penn Jillette, there is an equal and opposite amount of ill humor. The ideas hurt to find their "happy warriors."
Being Classically Liberal is an outstanding FB page. I do not agree at all times with posters Frank and M, but the retort to the obnoxious "Being Liberal" page starts them with 40 points, and they tend to rise from there.
Today though, some classic curmudgeonliness slipped out.
I despise the ice bucket challenge and I seriously wish people could find a less obnoxious way to raise awareness for Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), otherwise known as Lou Gehrig's disease. I mean seriously, why the hell would you want to accept a challenge anyone can complete IN ORDER TO AVOID DONATING TO CHARITY?
I voiced my disagreements in the comments. The short version is that this is non-coercive, good clean Toquevillian fun. I mentioned that the MS Society emails me frequently to demand more government $$$; getting $100 from Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerburg, Peyton Manning and Jimmy Fallon seemed okay.
It's a fair disagreement, but the comments went better than 2:1 against me. I can even stand to lose, but the smug tone brought me down.
So instilling guilt and pressure on someone is the most efficient way to raise money for charity? Pressuring someone to donate takes the whole charitable aspect out of it.
People are sheeple and will do anything their favorite celebrities do. It makes me sick to see all of those videos of people showing their true colors in stupidity
I live in Southern California where the drought is the worst it's been in a hundred years. People are getting fined for using too much water while these guys dump it on their heads. I appreciate what they're accomplishing, but their message is out. Now it's just wasteful.
I could join a Progressive group if I wanted to be around killjoy scolds all day -- and they'd probably have better buffets.
UPDATE: Maybe we need a "Grouchy Libertarians" category...
Kinda puts a kink in their "we like everyone" sales pitch, don't it?
"We don't require any moral principles in order to defend freedom, because freedom is a good in and of itself, but some of you should be ashamed of what obnoxious things you do with it."
404 of the week
Remember "Fuzzy Math?"
President Bush accused VP Gore of using "fuzzy math" in the 2000 debates, causing great numbers of Floridians to vote for Pat Buchanan. Or something like that.
But the phrase popped into my head reading Megan McArdle's latest PPACAHSoTD. It seems IBD has reported high attrition rates in ObamaCare Exchanges.
But on net, they expect enrollment to shrink from their March numbers by a substantial amount -- as much as 30 percent at Aetna Inc., for example.
McArdle says this might be a big deal.
How much does this matter? As Charles Gaba notes, this was not unexpected: Back in January, industry expert Bob Laszewski predicted an attrition rate of 10 to 20 percent, which seems roughly in line with what IBD is reporting. However, Gaba seems to imply that this makes the IBD report old news, barely worth talking about, and I think that's wrong, for multiple reasons.
I'll leave the main point in McArdle's capable hands. But only in the halls of government is a 30% attrition rate "roughly in line with" an expected 10-20% When I went to school, 30% was three times 10% -- or roughly analogous to Travis County DA Rosemary Lehmberg's being three times over the legal limit when she was caught
So it is somewhere between three times above and half-again. I'm a charitable and big hearted person -- let's just say it is double the expected attrition rate. I'm not charitable or big hearted enough to call that "roughly in line." As if we ever got the actual starting numbers. I suspect we got inflated values for the start and now double the expected attrition.
Nope. Everything's fine.
Removing an option entirely does not help teach good decision-making skills, it’s just temporarily taking something out of the equation for 6 or 7 hours a day.
Yet another argument against prohibition, but this one is not in support of legalizing recreational drugs, or alcohol, or pharmaceuticals. This lunatic nut job is very seriously suggesting the radical idea of unfettered access to ... groceries.
The recent passing of the Healthy, Hunger-free Kids Act was done with the best of intentions. The act, established as a way to promote healthy eating among kids and decrease childhood obesity, which is rising at alarming rates, sets nutritional standards for school lunches and snacks available to school-age children. That means the end of the elusive vending machine and the high-calorie snacks it contains.
But don't expect kids to give up their sugar fix so easily…
As The Atlantic reports, jonesing students have turned to the junk-food black market… some as dealers, others as addicts.
That's right, kids are smuggling in junk food, risking punishment, but making bank. The Atlantic reports that some kids are making upwards of $200 per week dealing in sugar, and it’s even hit student government. Yup, a student body vice president at one Connecticut school was forced to resign after buying contraband Skittles from a student "dealer."
That's "recently passed" as of 2011, but of interest today as it is back-to-school time. This is when it is most noticeable, with flyers coming home in packets of forms to complete. We've never been called into the office for sending our kids to school with Frito Lay products in their backpacks, but one does rehearse speeches in preparation for that possibility.
"We ask you to teach our children how to think for themselves but when it comes to the foods they may eat, you teach them that thinking is forbidden."
When Cheetos® are outlawed...
Cold, dead, orange fingers.
August 18, 2014
Everything is improved by competition. I cannot expect that the entire Internet is mine just to provide Review Corner. It was inevitable, really, that someone else would step in.
I was just not prepared for this discussion of Robert Heinlein's "Friday."
Whether it is SFW depends on where you work.
And, is that how you pronounce "Heinlein?"
Thank you for the link, and for being man enough to promote a competitor! Still hoping to make time for a thorough viewing in the company of the charming literature aficionado and Heinlein acolyte who deigned to accede my nuptial proposal some years back.
Now, what I'd like is a video of Sister dagny's watching that video. That would score an embed whether SFW or not.
Ummm, I think just the one video is enough. We're simple folk.
America's First Woman President!
Why wait? NYPost:
The former first lady is already insisting on staying in the "presidential suite" of the world's finest hotels, typically traveling to them on nothing less than a $39 million private Gulfstream G450 jet before collecting a $250,000-plus speaking fee, a new report says.
Just like the president, she sends an "advance" team to check out her accommodations and speech set-up before she touches down, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, which reviewed her standard speaking contract and other documents related to an upcoming Nevada visit.
Hasn't that title already gone to Valerie Jarrett?
Quote of the Day
I think this pairs nicely with RAH's "bad luck" quote. It introduced a Chapter in Matt Ridley's "Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters"
This is the excellent foppery of the world, that, when we are sick in fortune -- often the surfeit of our own behaviour, -- we make guilty of our disasters the sun, the moon, and the stars; as if we were villains by necessity, fools by heavenly compulsion ... an admirable evasion of whoremaster man, to lay his goatish disposition to the charge of a star. -- William Shakespeare, King Lear
August 17, 2014
This is an idea that goes right back to Aristode, who said that the 'concept' of a chicken is implicit in an egg, or that an acorn was literally 'informed' by the plan of an oak tree. When Aristode's dim perception of information theory, buried under generations of chemistry and physics, re-emerged amid the discoveries of modern genetics, Max Delbruck joked that the Greek sage should be given a posthumous Nobel prize for the discovery of DNA.
Matt Ridley's "The Rational Optimist" received five stars and among the first Editor's Choice Award. [Review Corner]
. When a friend of a friend on Facebook listed his Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters
as being a formative book, I rushed to pick it up on Kindle.
I had recently finished Dennis Bray's Wetware [Review Corner], so I was as up on genetics and cell biology as any time in my life (my tastes run towards Physics and Math, but one cannot help being intrigued). Ridley's takes the genome past genetics and actually does limn a history of life by reading changes in genes and comparing them across species and geography.
If the human genome can tell us things about what happened in the primeval soup, how much more can it tell us about what else happened during the succeeding four million millennia . It is a record of our history written in the code for a working machine.
I was born just five years after the moment when, and just two hundred miles from the place where, two members of my own species discovered the structure of DNA and hence uncovered the greatest, simplest and most surprising secret in the universe .
Mock my zeal if you wish; consider me a ridiculous materialist for investing such enthusiasm in an acronym. But follow me on a journey back to the very origin of life, and I hope I can convince you of the immense fascination of the word.
Well, yeah, Matt. Sign me up. To expand the concepts from genetics to other, superseding concepts, Ridley deftly explains evolution, politics, science, and even economics.
The habit acquired through the sexual division of labour had spread to other aspects of life. We had become compulsively good at sharing things, which had the new benefit of allowing each individual to specialise. It was this division of labour among specialists, unique to our species, that was the key to our ecological success, because it allowed the growth of technology. Today we live in societies that express the division of labour in ever more inventive and global ways.
Pardon the British spellings, but it recalls an interesting section where genetic similarity was compared to language which allowed the comparison of human migration with people bringing their language with them against the flow of ideas and languages among people who stayed put. That's as good an example as I can come up with to show how Ridley expands the genome beyond genetics
Not that there is not plenty of genetics. He ridicules books that "blame" genes for disease. He lists several genetic ailments but reiterates IN ALL CAPS AT ONE POINT that genes are not there to cause diseases anymore than the transmission in your car is there just to malfunction and cause an expensive repair. There is a chapter for each chromosome (with a small twist) and an example sequence to launch a discussion on History (Chromosome 3), Self-interest (Chromosome 8), Sex Memory, Death, Politics, Immortality, Eugenics, Free Will...
From The Rational Optimist, one can expect that when the subject matter drifts into the philosophical/political realm, the ThreeSourcer will not be left behind.
Indeed , the definition of the perfect meritocracy, ironically, is a society in which people's achievements depend on their genes because their environments are equal.
To think otherwise, to believe in innate human behaviour, is to fall into the trap of determinism, and to condemn individual people to a heartless fate written in their genes before they were born. No matter that the social sciences set about reinventing much more alarming forms of determinism to take the place of the genetic form: the parental determinism of Freud; the socio-economic determinism of Marx; the political determinism of Lenin; the peer-pressure cultural determinism of Franz Boas and Margaret Mead; the stimulus- response determinism of John Watson and B. F . Skinner; the linguistic determinism of Edward Sapir and Benjamin Whorf. In one of the great diversions of all time, for nearly a century social scientists managed to persuade thinkers of many kinds that biological causality was determinism while environmental causality preserved free will; and that animals had instincts, but human beings did not.
It is a wondrous work. He completed it before the Genome Project but was aware that its completion was immanent. In a later revision, he updates this. But nothing in the sequencing alters or contradicts anything Ridley has written, it just underscores the wonder and paves the way for a bright future.
For we, this lucky generation, will be the first to read the book that is the genome. Being able to read the genome will tell us more about our origins, our evolution, our nature and our minds than all the efforts of science to date. It will revolutionise anthropology, psychology, medicine, palaeontology and virtually every other science .
Five stars and a fulsome recommendation.
Oh Man!! I've got to find time for this! JK says, "my tastes run towards Physics and Math, but one cannot help being intrigued." I, on the other hand, can manage physics and math as necessary but biology was always what fascinated me.
P.S. It is one chapter per chromosome pair. Humans actually have 46 chromosomes.
I think you'd dig it. (The twist is that the first last Chapter is Chapter 22.)
August 16, 2014
Form your own Headline
You have the words: Udall, Spox, Lie, Whopper, and 30 seconds. Go!
The winner is: DAMAGE CONTROL: Udall’s Top Spox Tells Whopper Of Lie
Is it time for Sen. Mark Udall to add another press person? One would think between the three he already has, they wouldn't commit the kind of mistakes you would expect from a dog catcher's campaign. Today, in a completely epic fail, Udall's spokesman Chris Harris, a Kansas City via Washington D.C. transplant unleashed this blatant lie:
.@CoryGardnerCO voted AGAINST bill to re-open government that included $450 million for flood relief. http://t.co/JWdg86ABwA #copolitics
-- Chris Harris (@chris_p_harris) August 15, 2014
The problem is that Gardner not only voted for that bill, but he was also one of the major advocates pushing it. Udall even praised Gardner in a press release on the bill. Don't worry PeakNation™, plenty of screenshots out there of this one just in case Harris wants to go back and delete his boneheaded, blatant lie.
I don't know that this is the worst lie of the campaign, but I will suggest that Sen. Udall's three press persons' time would be better sent fabricating a record for their boss than for his opponent.
The Ithsmus Canal
It's almost enough to make a feller forgive President Theodore Roosevelt: today marks the 100th anniversary of the Panama Canal.
The Erie Canal, which connected the Great Lakes with the Hudson River, opened in 1825, greatly shortening the distance between the burgeoning Middle West and the east coast. It quickly made New York City, "that tongue that is licking up the cream of commerce of a continent," and the greatest boom town in world history.
In the mid-19th century, the Suez Canal, originally 102 miles long, shortened the sea route between Europe and India by thousands of miles.
The Panama Canal route was much shorter than these three great canals, a mere 48 miles. But Suez was built in a level, low-lying desert. Building Suez was, therefore, essentially a matter of shoveling sand, although, to be sure, there was a lot of sand to be shoveled.
I know my adamantine recommendation of David McCullough's "Brave Companions" is tiresome, but my friends in the NSA mention that a couple of you have yet to order it. Insty asks
"if we could do anything like it today" and I daresay no way in freakin' hell.
McCullough details brave adventures, but also bold projects like the canal and the Brooklyn Bridge which could not have been completed without many of the workers' dying. Nobody values human life more than me. But we cannot do a space launch that goes past 34th Street; we could not put guys under the ocean in wooden boxes to dig and pour bridge pylons; and we certainly could not dig the Panama Canal.
We could repeat these achievements safely with current technology but we'd never complete the paperwork. Yet risky pursuits like space travel are cordoned off. The paperwork jab is a joke -- but everyone knows it is not. Somebody would stop a canal, a bridge, a Dam -- yet we have prospered greatly from their completion.
UPDATE: Professor Reynolds provides the segue post as well: America's Forgotten Astronaut.
If there was a prize for the most isolated memorial to an America astronaut, the one for Maj. Michael J. Adams would win by a wide margin.
From Mojave, it's a drive of nearly 50 miles through the sagebrush and Joshua trees, around dry Koehn Lake, and through the old mining towns of Randsburg and Johannesburg before you reach the unmarked dirt road leading to the site. A half mile of bad road later, you arrive at the modest but heartfelt memorial to one of America’s forgotten space heroes.
It was on this spot where Adams and a large section of his X-15 rocket plane came to rest on Nov. 15, 1967. The vehicle had broken up in flight after Adams lost control of it while re-entering from a suborbital spaceflight.
A brave companion, indeed.
The Endangered Species Act, via the UN, would halt any similar project today. In addition, the indigenous peoples would block any development on ancestral lands amid cries of "Yanqui go home!"