BLOGS

existentialism (5)

Near the Levee...

Credit: Mario Tama Getty Images

 

Topics: Climate Change, Existentialism, Global Warming


Related spoken word piece: Near the Levee

We cannot exist as a nation without a basic acceptance of common facts. I can't say "2+2=4" and another "2+2=5" and we BOTH be correct!

Abortion: Let's accept hormonal teenagers are likely to do something a little more than "make out" and pet heavily. They have myriad means of gathering information on the sexual act. We can educate them on birth control and responsible sexual behavior as the Netherlands does. Or, we can try "abstinence only" and get abysmal teen pregnancy rates as many red states do.

Climate Change: A sane republican administration accepting the science might use cap and trade policies to make polluting uncomfortable for manufactures financially. Compliance would be a matter of the bottom-line.

A democratic administration did something: The Paris Agreement was landmark policy, involving "an agreement within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), dealing with greenhouse-gas-emissions mitigation, adaptation, and finance, signed in 2016. The agreement's language was negotiated by representatives of 196 state parties at the 21st Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC in Le Bourget, near Paris, France, and adopted by consensus on 12 December 2015.[4][5] As of March 2019, 195 UNFCCC members have signed the agreement, and 185 have become party to it.[1] The Paris Agreement's long-term goal is to keep the increase in global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels; and to limit the increase to 1.5 °C, since this would substantially reduce the risks and effects of climate change." They might actually spearhead green technologies, spurring economic and job growth.

We're not at a sane point in our republic now.

The $14 billion network of levees and floodwalls that was built to protect greater New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina was a seemingly invincible bulwark against flooding.

But now, 11 months after the Army Corps of Engineers completed one of the largest public works projects in world history, the agency says the system will stop providing adequate protection in as little as four years because of rising sea levels and shrinking levees.

The growing vulnerability of the New Orleans area is forcing the Army Corps to begin assessing repair work, including raising hundreds of miles of levees and floodwalls that form a meandering earth and concrete fortress around the city and its adjacent suburbs.

 

After a $14-Billion Upgrade, New Orleans' Levees Are Sinking, Thomas Frank, Scientific American

Read more…

The Insistent Center...

Image Source: Facebook

 

Topics: African Americans, Civics, Existentialism, Extinction


NK Jemisin is an African American author of speculative fiction. She's also the victim of a group of trolls on the Internet referring to themselves as the "sad puppies"/"rabid puppies" because of the lack of Euro-centric main characters in her stories, which for the author IS the point.
 

Sonequa Martin-Green, lead on the CBS All Access Star Trek: Discovery was vilified by the same alt-right, racists that could not see anyone other than the clone of Buck Rogers, James T. Kirk, Jean Luc Picard: White Anglo Saxon Protestant, Cisgender (WASP-C)  males as the central "hero" figure and ruminations of fictional "white genocide."

A man who earned his law degree, passed the (ironically) bar and served the nation as Attorney General for the George H.W. Bush administration was also the architect of pardons for key figures in the Iran-Contra Scandal. His 19-page unsolicited memo/job solicitation born of the effectiveness of Rupert Murdoch propaganda cum Fox "News" as he likely regularly consumed that informed his treatise. He was on point yesterday as he dusted off the 80's play book to try the formula on an international audience viewing on cable, Internet and social media. He was immediately labeled a pitiful hack, a caricature of a country bumpkin lawyer and NOT the nation's attorney, but the current president's* Roy Cohn.

William Barr lied. His boss's staff lied. His boss is a prolific liar, telling 8,718 as tabulated January of this year. The Mueller Report - redacted or not - only confirms what we already know and that the hypocrisy of the white evangelical right rises to the stench of dung hills. The institution is the white-washed sepulcher of white nationalism. It is the spur of the exodus with organized religion in the US.

You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. John 8:44

There are TEN attempts to obstruct justice in the report. Despite lies told to Mueller by his then deputy press secretary  Sarah Sanders, despite the fact the report did NOT exonerate him, his minions, his staff, his fascist cult base will claim total exoneration, because facts and fascism are not on speaking terms. They never have been.

GONE are the halcyon days of Grey Poupon and Tan Suit scandals breathlessly pursued by Sean Hannity et al. President Obama DID golf during his presidency as did his WASP-C predecessors, but his current successor has taken golfing to steroidal levels, greeted by the same right wing propaganda echo chamber...with crickets.

All these intersect in Venn diagram fashion of centrality: of a 400-year insistence that the stories told about our country has one hue, one type of damsel in distress and one repeating, ad nausem conclusion: the hero is white, heteronormal.

And that hero has to be white because our concepts of god is a white male in the sky, judging and damning every aspect of our existence. Therefore the president in tan suit with Melanin is an aberration from the mental ideal we've been conditioned to respect and accept.

Let me be blunt:

1. The POTUS is a crook. As David Frum points out, it may be a choice of the current presidency*, or rule of law.

2. He is a racist. He doesn't have to wear a swastika; a Klan hood or quote chapter and verse of Mein Kamph. As George Will opined, he's barely on speaking terms with the English language. He's an admitted nationalist. He's tweeted against a sitting congresswoman and Somali immigrant that has increased death threats against her. He's too cowardly to do his own violence, but he's pyromaniac enough to light the fire and run.

3. The AG is a hack and a liar.

We’re not a democratic republic; not even an oligarchy or kleptocracy. We’re a kakistocracy: “government under the control of a nation's worst or least-qualified citizens.”

This is what Rome looked like before it fell.

This is what - for our own survival - we have to fix.
 
Gil Scott-Heron: B-Movie, Genius Lyrics (both insightful analysis and prophecy).
Read more…

Sunshine Fascism...

Source: Ecosia Images


Topics: Civics, Existentialism, History, Politics


"We are a people of different religions, but we are one. Which faith conquers the other is not the question; rather, the question is whether Christianity stands or falls... We tolerate no one in our ranks who attacks the ideas of Christianity … in fact our movement is Christian. We are filled with a desire for Catholics and Protestants to discover one another in the deep distress of our own people." (1928) Wikiquote: Religious views of Adolf Hitler

 

*****


Fascism is a movement that promotes the idea of a forcibly monolithic, regimented nation under the control of an autocratic ruler. The word fascism comes from fascio, the Italian word for bundle, which in this case represents bundles of people. Its origins go back to Ancient Rome, when the fasces was a bundle of wood with an ax head, carried by leaders.

On March 23, 1919, the Fasci Italiani di Combattimento — a group that grew out of a number of earlier movements that had also used the image of the fascio in their names — met for the first time in Piazza San Sepolcro in Milan. At this rally, Mussolini said that membership in the new group “commits all fascists to sabotaging the candidacies of the neutralists of all parties by any means necessary.”

“Mussolini thought that democracy was a failed system. He thought that liberty of expression and liberty of parties was a sham, and that fascism would organize people under state power,” Ben-Ghiat says. “Their idea was you would be freer because you wouldn't have any class consciousness. You’re just supposed to worship the nation. It’s nation over class.”

The corollary of that belief was the idea that anything that might impede national unity had to be gotten rid of, and violently. In fact, violence was seen as beneficial to society.

And “society” was not a loosely defined idea. Rather, Mussolini and those who came after him had very specific ideas about who got to be part of the nation. It followed that those who did not fit the mold were seen as disruptive to that unity, and thus subject to violence.

To set the tone for a dystopian movie, one typically gets a noir treatment: lighting is dark, air is misty; camera angles are stark and weather is typically overcast. The decision to "go glum" is likely due to only having a few hours to make their point and resolve any plot twists to the denouement and conclusion. An in-your-face theatrical release might involve swastikas, goose stepping and nostalgic, feel-good faux patriotism.

Even though there have been decidedly darker days under authoritarian regimes, every day looks like any other day when ruled by fascism. There are for example, photos of Hitler on holiday at his villa in Bavaria. It looked sunny; he (for a monster) looked happy.

Democracy depends on a shared set of facts that can be debated in discussed either in a court, on a congressional floor or near a coffee machine at work. It's affable and seeks a happy medium: no one gets everything they desire, but it does require compromise.

Fascism is nothing at all like that. Like George Orwell's famous novel, "1984," fascism requires and demands power for its own sake. It wants what it wants for the sake of wanting. History has no meaning to it at all. Logic and reason have no appeal or sway in people who traffic in "alternative facts" or its Karl Rove precursor: "created realities."

- It is why you can justify the outright theft of land from First Nations' peoples and slaughter them at will for "Manifest Destiny."

- It is why you can have the transatlantic slave trade with no moral or monetary compensation (reparations) to its African Diaspora descendants.

- It is why they demonize people of color as "lazy, shiftless, moochers and cheats" on all things, particularly academic, and now the SAT college scandal has blown up the previous myth of meritocracy in their faces that they were desperate to maintain for credentials and supremacy. 

- It is why as presidential Manchurian Candidate, can say "WikiLeaks! I love WikiLeaks," and on the arrest of Julian Assange can say with a straight, orange face "I know nothing about WikiLeaks."

- It is why the same can incite violence of his followers and deny doing so in the same breath.

- It is why the Attorney General can send an unsolicited 19 page memo campaigning for a job to essentially not be the top cop, but the president's personal Roy Cohn and slow walk the Mueller Report to Congress and the public.

- It is why we insist on telling ourselves comforting fables about American benevolence; about being Winthrop's "shining city on a hill" (who himself had no stomach for "the other") so as to not face our own national depravity...

...our own foundation of racism, sexism, homophobia, genocide and fascism.

Giovanni Gentile (not Mussolini) coined the phrase "Fascism should more properly be called corporatism, since it is the merger of state and corporate power." But this is not what access media conglomerates will say about it. They'll pretend there is still a middle ground that only requires compromise and clever arguments. They will still opine for a former, mythological days where things worked if only (typically) democrats gave concessions to republicans' demands.

During the Great Depression, Marine Major General Smedley Butler narced on what was called the Business Plot to overthrow Franklin D. Roosevelt and install Butler as a dictator compliant to corporate interests. He wrote the treatise "War is a Racket."

There are quite a few American billionaire families with Nazis ties, starting with Ford, GM, Chrysler, IBM, and JP Morgan Chase. The Koch’s father did business with the Nazis and Russians. The Bush’s and Kennedy’s (Prescott and Papa Joe) were Nazi sympathizers.

Ayn Rand provided the fictional cover: behind every massive fortune, there are likely crimes.

 

*****


To set the tone for a dystopian movie, one typically gets a noir treatment: lighting is dark, air is misty; camera angles are stark and weather is typically overcast.

 

When you tell yourself comforting lies, a liar may ascend to power.


Fascism like weather can change its environs and display its power on blithe, sunny days.

 

Related link:

More Than A Dozen European Billionaires—Linked To BMW, L’Oréal, Bosch—Have Families With Past Nazi Ties
Madeline Berg, Forbes Magazine

Read more…

AI, Control and Turing...

Image Source: Comic Book dot com - Star Trek


Topics: Artificial Intelligence, Computer Science, Existentialism, Star Trek


If you're fan enough as I am to pay for the CBS streaming service (it has some benefits: Young Sheldon and the umpteenth reboot of The Twilight Zone hosted by Oscar winner Jordan Peele), the AI in Starfleet's "Control" looks an awful lot like...The Borg. I've enjoyed the latest iteration immensely, and I'm rooting for at least a season 3.

There's already speculation on Screen Rant that this might be some sort of galactic "butterfly effect." Discovery has taken some license with my previous innocence even before Section 31: we're obviously not "the good guys" with phasers, technobabble and karate chops as I once thought.

That of course has been the nature of speculative fiction since Mary Shelley penned Frankenstein: that playing God, humanity would manage to create something that just might kill us. Various objects from nuclear power to climate change has taken on this personification. I've often wondered if intelligence is its own Entropy. Whole worlds above us might be getting along just fine without a single invention of language, science, tools, cities or spaceflight, animal species living and dying without anything more than their instinct, hunger and the inbred need to procreate unless a meteor sends them into extinction. Homo sapien or homo stultus...

It is the Greek word mimesis we translate to mean "imitate" but can actually be more accurately said as "re-presentation." It is the Plato-Aristotle origin of the colloquial phrase "art imitates life."

Re-presented for your consumption and contemplation:

Yoshua Bengio is one of three computer scientists who last week shared the US$1-million A. M. Turing award — one of the field’s top prizes.

The three artificial-intelligence (AI) researchers are regarded as the founders of deep learning, the technique that combines large amounts of data with many-layered artificial neural networks, which are inspired by the brain. They received the award for making deep neural networks a “critical component of computing”.

The other two Turing winners, Geoff Hinton and Yann LeCun, work for Google and Facebook, respectively; Bengio, who is at the University of Montreal, is one of the few recognized gurus of machine learning to have stayed in academia full time.

But alongside his research, Bengio, who is also scientific director of the Montreal Institute for Learning Algorithms (MILA), has raised concerns about the possible risks from misuse of technology. In December, he presented a set of ethical guidelines for AI called the Montreal declaration at the Neural Information Processing Systems (NeurIPS) meeting in the city.

Do you see a lot of companies or states using AI irresponsibly?

There is a lot of this, and there could be a lot more, so we have to raise flags before bad things happen. A lot of what is most concerning is not happening in broad daylight. It’s happening in military labs, in security organizations, in private companies providing services to governments or the police.

What are some examples?

Killer drones are a big concern. There is a moral question, and a security question. Another example is surveillance — which you could argue has potential positive benefits. But the dangers of abuse, especially by authoritarian governments, are very real. Essentially, AI is a tool that can be used by those in power to keep that power, and to increase it.

AI pioneer: ‘The dangers of abuse are very real’
Yoshua Bengio, winner of the prestigious Turing award for his work on deep learning, is establishing international guidelines for the ethical use of AI.
Davide Castelvecchi, Nature

Read more…

Antithesis of Wisdom...

 

Topics: Biology, Civics, Climate Change, Existentialism, Entropy, Mars, Politics


Chimpanzees look up to those they consider to be more prestigious, echoing the way that young people admire celebrities such as David Beckham and Cheryl Cole, according to a new study. Researchers found that apes copy the actions of those they consider to have high status within their group.

Professor Whiten commented, “Teenagers look to pop stars as social models, copying their clothing, mannerisms and speech. Adults are inspired by prominent members of their society, such as successful professionals. Our study shows that chimpanzees are similarly selective in their choice of trend setters.” [1]

 

*****


Abstract

Humans follow the example of prestigious, high-status individuals much more readily than that of others, such as when we copy the behavior of village elders, community leaders, or celebrities. This tendency has been declared uniquely human, yet remains untested in other species. Experimental studies of animal learning have typically focused on the learning mechanism rather than on social issues, such as who learns from whom. The latter, however, is essential to understanding how habits spread. Here we report that when given opportunities to watch alternative solutions to a foraging problem performed by two different models of their own species, chimpanzees preferentially copy the method shown by the older, higher-ranking individual with a prior track-record of success. Since both solutions were equally difficult, shown an equal number of times by each model and resulted in equal rewards, we interpret this outcome as evidence that the preferred model in each of the two groups tested enjoyed a significant degree of prestige in terms of whose example other chimpanzees chose to follow. Such prestige-based cultural transmission is a phenomenon shared with our own species. If similar biases operate in wild animal populations, the adoption of culturally transmitted innovations may be significantly shaped by the characteristics of performers. [2]

 

*****


Thwaites glacier in West Antarctica is often referred to as the "Doomsday glacier" because of its sheer size and position as "'backstop' for four other glaciers which holds an additional 10-13 feet of sea level rise." [3] Add the two feet of sea level Thwaites holds and Florida may have a little more to fear than the denials of their republican senators on the impact of climate change.

I've used the term fascism before, not because it's powerful but because it's stupid. The basis of its appeal is fear: fear of the "other," fear of the future, fear particularly of a supposed loss of birth numbers, therefore future voters and numerical power. So-called "white" supremacy has always been a math game of bad algebra and pure ignorance.

But it does not benefit the crowd proudly without Melanin, intellect and possessing MAGA hats: the celebrity chimps with all the bananas above them they worship use the faux demarcation points of politically constructed cultural differences to rob blind the very people that become their shock troops. Rigging elections is not beneath the 1% simians, as they've motivated their rubes that their "white" team won, despite the lack of sharing of spoils after said rigging, Russian interference or not. Socialism is thrown up as demon while demons rob rubes. They ask for "trick-down" bananas" and get feces. Smoking causing cancer must be denied. Humans causing climate impact MUST be denied until the last drop of oil; the last fracking of methane. Then, the royal chimpanzees will wall themselves up as sea levels rise, soundproof beyond "weeping and gnashing of teeth." They'll have extra bananas to live on as the rest of the planet starves. Eventually, their impressive supplies will run out. Perhaps they'll resort to the cannibalism as the Jamestown colonists did in desperation, eating their own children first. Eventually they will see their last sunrise in splendid, decaying mansions atop a canopy of the forest they razed. Currently, their high potentate Orange Orangutan cannot discriminate "orange" and "origin"; that his own father was born in the Bronx and not the Germany and thinks windmills causes cancer.

Homo sapiens, (Latin: “wise man”) the species to which all modern human beings belong. Homo sapiens is one of several species grouped into the genus Homo, but it is the only one that is not extinct. [YET] See also human evolution. Source: Britannica

Entropy - the measure of a system's thermal energy per unit temperature that is unavailable for doing useful work. Because work is obtained from ordered molecular motion, the amount of entropy is also a measure of the molecular disorder, or randomness, of a system. Encyclopedia Britannica

Having stupid citizens also serves a more ‘noble’ purpose. Although most of us want to be treated as intelligent beings, it is also in the interest of ruling parties – be they political or religious – to have an overall stupid population, dumb enough to make them controllable. Education and knowledge are being pushed aside in favour of technical training. Governments are more interested in a highly-skilled labour force than in critical and intelligent citizens. The media feed the population with ready-made entertainment and information, thus forming people’s minds according to what is preferable for the overall functioning of society. Zoereei, Homo stultus

Mars may have been a living world once. We still study it. We wish to terraform it. Mars as a world still takes 687 days to complete its year. It will take 365.25 days for Earth to complete its year...whether we're here, or not.
 

Homo Stultus - foolish man, stupid man: the chimps are exonerated.

1. Chimpanzee trend-setters: New study shows that chimps 'ape' the prestigious, University of St. Andrews, 2010, Phys.org
2. Prestige Affects Cultural Learning in Chimpanzees, Victoria Horner, Darby Proctor, Kristin E. Bonnie, Andrew Whiten, Frans B. M. de Waal, PLOS Journal
3. A glacier the size of Florida is on track to change the course of human civilization. Pakalolo, Daily Kos

Read more…