Thursday, February 28, 2008
  Myed, Poot

Professor Polistra finds it interesting that the correct pronunciation of the new Russian leader Medvedev has become a Campaign Issue (admittedly small) while the correct pronunciation of Putin was never discussed. Yet the same problem applies to both.

Hillary pronounced the new leader Med-ved-ev, while it should be something like
Mid-vyed-yef. The "correction" applied by some TV hosts is only partial, but still the difference is noticeable enough to American ears that it seemed worth noticing and criticizing.

By contrast, most Americans pronounce the current leader Pyootin, but it should be Pootin. Yet nobody has ever commented on this error.

Why? Because the phonemic status of u and e in English is different.

In Russian, ye and e are strictly different sounds, represented by different letters. And in Russian, yoo and oo are strictly different sounds, represented by different letters.

In English the ye sound occurs only initially, in a few words like yes, yellow, yet. In those cases we feel the Y as a consonant, not part of the vowel at all, so we hear ye as fully distinct from e, and the difference stands out to our ears.

But in English yoo and oo are only partly and confusedly distinct. In many words, yoo "happens automatically" depending on which consonants are nearby.

Technically, yoo and oo are allophones of the oo phoneme, because the choice is determined by nearby sounds. Compare cue and sue ... or pew, few, and new.

We automatically say yoo when the sound in front is velar (k) or labial (p,b,m,f), but we leave the sound as oo when the sound in front is dental (s,n,t).

'Putin' isn't a word in English, but think of 'computing' which contains the same letters, and will always have yoo in the middle syllable.

Brits tend to say yoo after all types of consonants, not just the labials and velars. Thus the famous riddle about Tyoosday versus Toosday.

To make it even more confyoosing, there are some words where the spelling "oo" overrides the automatic choice. Cutie and beauty have yoo as they should, but cootie and booty have oo despite the same initial sound.

= = = = =

Sidenote 1: This discussion would have been much clearer with proper phonetic symbols and Russian letters, but Blogspot doesn't handle font changes well.

Sidenote 2: The old riddle, in case there's anyone who hasn't heard it, goes like this. "Do you pronounce the second day of the week Tyoosday or Toosday? Give up? It's Monday, you fool! Ha ha ha ha ha!"
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
  PS on NK

Just after writing this praiseful entry on the Philharmonic in NoKo, I was listening to Jerry Doyle, the only major talker who gets things right in general. By 'right in general' I mean that he understands national interest; that he thinks like a Rohrabacher.

Doyle treated the cultural exchange with raw contempt, called it a "feel-good" gesture.

When my take on an important question differs from a solid thinker like Doyle, I need a damn good reason, or at least need to justify the difference.

Here's the justification, for what it's worth.

I start as always from scientific premises. Start from genes, from the fact that People Are Different, and most of those differences are innate. Start from the fact that all human traits, talents and tendencies, from height to intelligence to morality to sexual preference to automotive preference, are mostly determined by DNA.

The 'separated twins' studies, basically completed in the 60s but strictly censored until recently, proved this point in great detail.

North and South Korea are a national example of separated twins. They differ in appearance and behavior because they've been adopted by different political systems, but before the separation they were a homogeneous group, nearly insular, with very little mingling and mixing of other cultures and races. Thus, given a specific stimulus or input, we can assume that they will respond or adjust in the same way. Well, what happens when you "treat" the Korean genes with Communism? You get starvation. What happens when you "treat" the Korean genes with Capitalism and Christianity? You get a lively, highly innovative, highly prosperous and highly moral country. You get a country that loves democracy enough to have actual fistfights in Parliament, a country that sends missionaries to Mohammedan regions and builds fine cars, fine computers and fine pianos.

Then it's a safe bet that the Northern twin will respond similarly when she gets a chance to experience the reality of capitalism, as opposed to hearing standard Stalinist propaganda about capitalism.

Now let's apply the same experiment to Arabs. What happens when you mix a little Western culture with the Arab genes? The best they can do is Egypt. Not very damn good.

And when you expose them to modern American culture, they go berserk and start bombing everything in sight.

In short, Arabs have been given plenty of chances to straighten up and fly right, and each time they choose to fly into buildings.

That's why I'm totally pessimistic about redeeming Arabs and totally optimistic about redeeming North Korea.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
  All the way to hell.

Comrade McCain today, clarifying his earlier remark about 100 years of war in Iraq: "I was asked in a town hall meeting back in Florida, how long would we have a presence in Iraq? My friends, the war will be over soon, the war for all intents and purposes although the insurgency will go on for years and years and years, but it will be handled by the Iraqis, not by us, and then we decide what kind of security arrangement we want to have with the Iraqis."

Okay, Comrade John, let's think about this.

There wasn't an insurgency under Saddam. He "handled" all attempts in that direction by his own methods.

And how does any government successfully "handle" an insurgency? How did our own government "handle" a secession, for instance? Lincoln "handled" the perfectly legal secession of Southern states by killing 600,000 Americans.

Makes Saddam's gassing of Kurds look minor by comparison.

So, Comrade John, if you imagine that this insurgency will somehow continue for 100 years, just how do you think that will happen? (And I use the word think in a shamefully inappropriate way.) If the Iraqi government acts like our "greatest President", it will kill all the Sunnis and end the insurrection quickly. Even if it acts more moderately and gently, like Saddam, it will end the insurrection in a couple of years.

Contrarily, if the Iraqi government fails to "handle", the insurgency will soon win, and it will become the government of Iraq. Again.

If the Iraqi government is "handling", our troops will have to be part of the operation. And if it's not "handling", our troops will have to jump in and help.

Have to? Yep. If they just stand by and watch either situation, our politicians will quite properly ask why we're just standing by and watching.

And when they participate they will be seen (by adversaries) as assisting with ethnic cleansing, or helping to set up a dictatorship, depending on the outcome.

In either case the insurgency will be over in a couple of years at most, not 100 years.

In either case our presence will accomplish only two things: bankrupt America and destroy our military.

Yes, pulling out now will make us look weak for a little while. But if we don't pull out now, we will continue to be concretely and objectively weak, and the enemy will know it.

= = = = =

Later thought: Actually there is a situation where the insurgency goes on and on. If our troops act like UN peacekeepers, running around to damp down brushfires, the various sides can keep fighting with no decisive victories and no severe losses. No side will lose its appetite for fighting, and Iraq will remain in chaos until somebody else (eg Persia) finally invades and bombs the place down to bedrock. Unfortunately this seems to be exactly what Comrade McCain envisions.
  New Symphony World

Polistra believes the NY Philharmonic concert in Pyongyang is the most important event of this year. Perhaps historians will consider this the 'inflection point' for the overall opening of NK, which will be seen as the most positive achievement of the Bush administration.

We've discussed the commercial and charitable opening of NK before; this concert represents a unique cultural opening.

Most importantly, it's an opening to the best of the West, because the NY Phil chose to play Gershwin and Dvorak rather than modernistic shit like Schönberg or Stockhausen. If we're going to send a cultural message by music, Gershwin and Dvorak send American culture and American values at their peak, thus giving NK a more valid place to start from and emulate.

There is no American music, and very little American culture, after Gershwin.

= = = = =

Sidenote: I guess it's not overly surprising that our diplomatic approach to NK is working ... Condy Rice was a hard-line Sovietologist for most of her career, and NK is the last piece of pure absolute Sovietism. If she's applying the Reagan / Thatcher methods to puncture and collapse the dictatorship, they should work in this case. Unfortunately, those methods aren't working on Arabia.
Monday, February 25, 2008
  Parker on Kosovo

Polistra has long suspected that the current war may in fact be WW3 in the strictest sense: that is, a third uprising of the Germanic imperial impulse. Since the latest little kerfuffle in Serbia, she dusted off her copy of Robert Parker's 1944 book Headquarters Budapest again.

Well, what does Parker say about Kosovo? Nothing at all! And believe me, Parker covered everything of military or political significance. Unlike today's "journalists", Parker had a firm grasp of relevance. If Kosovo had any meaning in 1944, Parker would have discussed it at length.

Kosovo's importance was generated later by Stalin's version of Affirmative Action. Comrade Stalin's AA had the same underlying mechanism and purpose as Comrade Nixon's AA: pick a Designated Victim Group and a Designated Oppressor Group; propagandize the Victims to believe that all of their problems are caused by the Oppressors; then ram the two groups together. Stalin did the ramming by force, often shipping thousands of people from one area to another, while our Nixonian method uses the workplace instead, but the INTENDED result is the same mix of resentment and guilt, ultimately leading to civil war.

Parker does give one important piece of advice to Western powers: The local leaders in the Balkans can hardly understand the convoluted tangle of historical grievances; why should you think you'll be able to handily manipulate those countries for the sake of resources?

"It is essential that we take no hand whatever in choosing Eastern Europe's governments. If we should try to impose the old discredited regimes against the will of the people, we will drive them straight into the arms of Soviet Russia. If we fail to ... allow Eastern Europe to make its own choices, then WW3 will inevitably follow, just as surely as WW1 and WW2 began in Eastern Europe."

And later history has proved him right. Germany tried hard before and during WW2, but didn't ever get full control; Stalin did put his arms around the region, but after Stalin died, Khrushchev was unable to keep Yugoslavia, Albania and Romania locked into the sphere of satellites. When the Soviet empire fell, the standard Balkan mess reasserted itself. Clinton succumbed to the eternal temptation to clean things up, but only moved the germs around.
Friday, February 22, 2008
  What? How?

Candidate debates and forums this time have been significantly better than in the last two elections. Granted, we've had plenty of name-calling:

I'm the true conservative.
No, I'm the true conservative.
No, I'm the true conservative.
You can't call yourself a conservative, you dirty poo-poo.
How dare you call me a dirty poo-poo! I'm the true conservative.
No, you dirty poo-poo, I'm the true conservative!
Stop calling me a dirty poo-poo or I'll tell Grandpa Ronald about you!

and so on.

Despite that, we have heard a fair amount of substantial discussion; a fair number of good What questions. "What do you propose to do about illegal immigration?"
And we've had a few good answers in terms of meaningful proposals.

The missing element is the How question. No reporter or Youtube snowman has ever asked a brand-R candidate:

"Okay, you've told us what you want to do about immigration. Sounds good, but you're ignoring three facts. 1. Congress is completely non-functional. It won't pass any useful laws at all, left or right. 2. The bureaucracy is functional in one direction only. It will serve Democrats efficiently, but it will mutiny when asked to work in the other direction. 3. Most federal judges are enemy agents. They will instantly delete any legal action that serves the interests of America.

Given those three unquestionable facts, exactly how will you bring your good proposals into action? Will you dissolve Congress for the duration? Will you fire the bureaucrats, layer by layer, until the remaining handful finally submit to your commands? Will you summarily execute the treasonous 80% of judges?

If you aren't going to take those steps, you're just blowing smoke."
Thursday, February 21, 2008
  Moon, Sally, Quake

Long as I'm discussing meteors and such, might as well discuss moons....

A lunar eclipse is unique among natural phenomena. Unlike lightning, tornados, or even solar eclipses, the lunar eclipse doesn't look unusual at a single glance. If you happen to peer out the window at any moment, you'll just think it's a quarter moon or a new moon. What makes it unusual is the shadow's movement over the course of a few hours.

So you'd think that critters without a cultural record of change wouldn't notice a lunar eclipse. Not so. Dogs certainly notice it.

Back in 1970 my parents adopted a dog named Sally, who had been a stray for some time. Sally was a ragged terrier ... think of Tramp in Lady and the Tramp and you've got the picture. She had been accustomed to scavenging in dumpsters, dodging boots and cars, and had some scars to show for it. The security of home and family was new to her, but once she picked up the concept, she loved it. Sally was intensely female and intensely maternal. Had puppies every chance she got, and while she had them, those puppies were her entire universe. When the litter was grown and departed, she applied the same care to her human family, encouraging us to play, guarding us from strangers, herding us into one room when possible.

Sally divided living things into five categories:

1. The Master, who was my father. He wasn't a dominating or commanding man in the view of humans, but Sally decided instantly and permanently that he was her Lord, to be studied and followed at all times. I think this was the first time he had received such complete respect, and he certainly enjoyed it.

2. The Puppies, canine or hominid as described above.

3. Neutral Strangers, who were treated with polite formality. There were a lot of these, because my mother did freelance typing work for college students during those years.

4. Enemies, also known as Arabs. And unfortunately there were a lot of these, because many of the students who used my mother's typing service were Arabs. Sally could sense an Arab coming up the sidewalk before we saw him, and we had to restrain her in a back room every time.

5. Toads. For some unknown reason, Sally couldn't resist catching toads, even though their toxin made her foam at the mouth when she tried (unsuccessfully) to eat them.

In short, Sally was emphatically not your baying-at-the-moon type of dog. When I took her outside for a walk, her attention was firmly on the ground. So when she abruptly started barking one night, I looked around to see if there was a toad or Arab nearby. Nope, she was barking at the moon and wouldn't stop. I looked at it, saw a crescent, nothing special. After dragging her back into the house, I checked the almanac: sure enough, it was a lunar eclipse. Even though the moon wasn't part of her standard territory, she somehow knew it was strange, and wanted to call my attention to it.

Since then I've paid close attention to the connections between feelings and natural events. I've noticed over the years that my sexual nature is strongest three days before the full moon, and weakest three days before the new moon. More recently, a swarm of small earthquakes in Spokane in 2000-01 made it possible to correlate feelings with quakes. (The swarminess was the key, because most quakes are so widely spaced that you can't spot a correlation.) I observed a dark dire rebellious feeling, with no obvious direct cause, that peaked about 18 hours before each quake. And this sensation appears to be fairly common. Local talk shows during the swarm were full of similar observations.

Later on, I've observed this particular emotion before large quakes elsewhere on the Pacific rim; stronger when the quake is nearer. It doesn't seem to "notice" quakes
elsewhere, such as the Middle East.

Yesterday I had such a feeling that peaked around 3 PM. And sure enough, a large quake hit northern Nevada at 6 AM this morning.
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
  Borodin effect

Back in the Soviet days, I often listened to Radio Moscow on the shortwave. Moscow reliably provided a propagandistic parrot-squawk, with a characteristic overmodulated sound. Their programs about Russian arts and events were usually interesting, and it was easy enough to subtract out the propaganda constant.

However: When the Soviet oligarchy was in turmoil because of a death or a palace coup, Radio Moscow ceased all talk and confined itself to dark Russian classical music, often Borodin or Mussorgsky. I called this the Borodin Effect, because it was a readable signal that things had dramatically changed.

This morning the McCainstream Media seemed distracted. Ingraham avoided politics and discussed her sore throat; Beck avoided politics and played weird music. I got that old Borodin feeling, but didn't know what the signal meant.

Well, we know tonight.

This may also explain why the cable shows, on the rare occasions when they condescended to even mention Huckabee, had speculated obliquely that there may be "other reasons" for his staying in the race despite their repeated Official Commands that he must Exit Forthwith. Or rather, "other reasons" beyond their normal assumption that Huck was just a charming charming charming charming charming charming charming charming charming charming charming dumbass redneck southern Christian who didn't know up from down.

Now we know the "other reasons."

Polistra has ignored all of that crap; she has simply been praying for a miracle.

Thank you, Lord.

Nearly all of the politicians, nearly all of the radio personalities, nearly all of the TV news-folks, are having extreme sore throats this year.

I've been listening to campaigns, radio, and TV for a long time. Listened to 70 years of radio in recorded form. Never before heard such a broad epidemic of hoarseness; in fact can't recall any unaccustomed hoarseness, leaving aside a few TV actors who were permanently hoarse (eg Andy Devine or Lauren Bacall.)

This is not normal. What's different?

One thing occurs to me: this is the first Presidential campaign since most of the country prohibited smoking in public places. The first campaign when most speakers have a very low exposure to second-hand smoke .... hence very low immunity to throat-affecting problems or organisms.

Untested theory, but has the logic of immunity behind it. Needless to say, nobody will ever test it, because it just might give unfashionable conclusions.

Yesterday a tremendous meteor fell somewhere west of Spokane. Astronomers have a fairly new tool in the form of security cameras. A meteor happens so fast that serious observers have no time to set up and be ready ... except perhaps during the major 'showers', when so many meteors fall that you've got a good chance of catching one. But security cameras click along merrily through the day and night, and this flash was so large that it was caught from Portland to Boise. By triangulating the directions of the cameras, the Weather Service places its fall somewhere around Ritzville. Needless to say, plenty of people are now combing that region for the blob of iron!

KREM TV has a great collection of the security cam videos.

A mobile home caught fire explosively in Airway Heights at the same time as the meteor; fire investigators are seriously considering the meteor, because no other ignition source was evident.

Random rambling: I've seen enough meteors, and I've seen one comet. The one phenomenon I haven't seen, and would really like to see before I'm too old to appreciate it, is the Northern Lights. The aurora has reached Spokane's latitude several times during my residence here, and each time the sky was thoroughly overcast. Frustrating. I have a vague "memory" of seeing the aurora in Manhattan in 1957 (a year of great sunspot activity) but I suspect this image was manufactured from wishes and dreams, because it seems to be facing west, not north.
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
  Michelle's pride

Yesterday's Official Standard Talking Point for the 'R' branch of the McCainstream Media was Michelle Obama's comment: she's proud to be an American for the first time.

All the brand-R talking pointheads spent all three hours yesterday repeating over and over and over and over the Official Talking Point that we are all required to be Proud Of Being A Great American Citizen Of The Greatest Country On God's Green Earth At All Times, and that anyone who fails to be Proud Of Being A Great American Citizen Of The Greatest Country On God's Green Earth At All Times is shameful, distasteful, and a huge huge Lib, huuuuuge huuuuuuuuuuuge huuuuuuuuuuuuuuuge Lib.

Amazingly enough, despite all this gaudy parrot-squawk, the Talking Pointheads missed one angle.

Michelle Obama benefitted from affirmative action: she came from a working-class background and was able to attend Princeton. Clarence Thomas also benefitted from affirmative action: he came from a working-class background and was able to attend Yale. White youngsters of the same generation and background did not have the same chance.

Our Communist masters have been instructing us daily for the last 16 years that Clarence Thomas is unqualified to criticize affirmative action because he experienced affirmative action.

So why aren't they calling Michelle Obama unqualified to criticize her privileged life? She had the same 'benefit'.

Behind all this mess of hypocrisy stands one plain fact. Affirmative action is not really a benefit to anyone. It creates convoluted feelings of resentment, guilt, and shame on both sides: those who gain position and those who lose.

This is exactly why our founders decided to set up a system without official privilege, because they had felt these resentments in the English class system.

Thanks to Comrades LBJ and Nixon, we've long since abandoned the dream of the founders and resumed a hereditary class system. We are now reaping the rotten harvest, but because our communist masters instruct us that the purpose of this class system is to get rid of classes, we aren't able to deal with it honestly.

"The class system is a temporary necessity to help us reach the classless utopia."

Sounds familiar, doesn't it?

Ordinary Russians understood this Marxian scam only too well. We don't.

Either we're dumber than Russians, or our Politburo does a better job of internal propaganda. I truly don't know which is the case.
  Bush in Benin

As much as I've come to disrespect Bush for his incompetent leadership of this country, I have to sympathize with the guy. His current situation can't be any fun.

By contrast, he obviously likes these people, and they obviously like him.

Absolutely classic photograph, with all those hands competing for territory! I see two stories in the photo. First, those African kids have a fine unjaded sense of respect. They all want a tactile memory of their meeting with an important man, and they want the important man to know that he is loved and respected. Second, the Secret Service would never allow this to happen in America.

Hmm. What does that say about the relative level of civilization in the two countries?

And it must be a tremendous joy for a tired politician to encounter this expression of respect:

when he's been getting the opposite at home.

These Africans have a good reason for liking him. His AIDS program has already saved many lives. I wouldn't blame him for moving to Tanzania or Benin when his term is over, perhaps to manage a foundation of some sort. Bush is a kind-hearted compassionate man, the right man for such a foundation. He's not the right man for a wartime presidency.

Combine this with the likely election of Obama, who is a genuine African-American in the proper and strict sense of the word, and we may end up with something close to the situation Polistra dreamed about last year.
Monday, February 18, 2008

The Clinton machine is using a "charge" of plagiarism against Obama, and is getting the desired results. All of the McCainstream Media, both left and right, are helping to carry the charge.

It's really an irrelevant charge within the world of politics, because nearly all politicians grab good lines from other politicians. Original writing is simply not part of the job description for a good leader; you're more likely to inspire people with well-tested lines. Only a few pols (Disraeli, Churchill, Jefferson, Lincoln) are fully original writers. All the rest are happy copiers, and the [living] sources don't seem to object.

But plagiarism does matter within two other professions: Academia and journalism. Doing your own research, and attributing sources accurately, are definitely part of the job description for professors and reporters. Even within those worlds the charge is only used in exceptional cases, though .... both academia and journalism have tight fraternities with strong leftist tendencies, and both have audiences which don't share the leftist tendencies. Now and then a prof or a reporter will crank out propaganda so crude or heavy-handed that the audience (college alumni or newspaper readers) will start withdrawing their support for the institution. In those cases, plagiarism gives the management a functional method to fire the heavy-handed propagandist. If they fired her honestly, the fraternity would rock the institution with shouts of McCarthyism! McCarthyism! McCarthyism! McCarthyism! McCarthyism! McCarthyism! McCarthyism! McCarthyism!

So they use plagiarism as the stated reason, because it's a meaningful offense to the fraternity members, who are serious professionals as well as serious Communists.

The Clinton machine is following the same gambit. They know that the two Leninist fraternities ... who naturally prefer Obama as the more orthodox leftist ... will carry the charge against Obama, and may even lose some of their love for him in the process.

The voters don't give a rip either way.
  Real ID

Polistra returns to the subject of Intelligent Design because of a new development. Peculiarly enough, the science-ists have actually decided to engage in real science in order to defend their claims against the ID'ers.

The whole dispute started when Darwin, himself a firm Christian, wrote: "If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous ... small modifications, my theory would absolutely break down. But I can find no such case."

Since then, the argument has been refined to include purpose or usefulness as well as complexity; generally the ID folks cite complex organs that would be useless consumers of energy and growth during the "numerous small modifications", and which could only help the organism in their final or current form. Survival of the fittest would generally eliminate organisms that carried such intermediate stages, because they were wasting energy on structures that served no purpose.

My own favorite example is the cochlea, an exquisitely complex and tiny mechanism that serves no purpose until it is connected to an eardrum for input, and connected to a fantastically complex set of processing "software" in the brain for output. The origin of the mechanical part of the system can be traced easily enough: the three little bones that couple the eardrum to the cochlea have undoubtedly evolved from the multi-jointed jawbone of frogs and snakes. The intermediate stages have been demonstrated. But why would a device that helps a python swallow a pig, develop into tiny specialized levers that transform acoustic impedance between the air and the fluids in the cochlea?

Most importantly, the cochlea itself would simply have no purpose unless it was between the eardrum and the processing "software".

Consider this snail-shaped object containing three chambers, each with its own custom-made fluid of just the right viscosity, lined with nerve cells that are triggered by movement of tiny hairs embedded in the ceiling membrane. The combination of viscosity, shape and mass of membranes, leads each frequency of the incoming sound to strike the membrane at a different place, thus giving each nerve cell its own frequency response. It works beautifully to process exactly the range of sounds that a human [in pre-urban society] needs for communication and safety.

There are simpler cochleas in some mammals, more complex in others. Obviously adaptation and mutation are responsible for the varied types of cochleas; and obviously we haven't adapted yet to urban situations, because the cochlea is highly susceptible to damage from frequencies and intensities often found in automobiles and factories. Evolution on those levels is visible and understandable. But that doesn't take us from the earless fish to the wildly complicated mammalian auditory system.

Another example is the flagellum, found in bacteria and in many of our component cells. Flagella serve as "oars" to propel the bacterium through the water as it seeks food or light. Until rather recently, the flagellum was thought to be a whip that moved back and forth, perhaps driven by filling and emptying nearby membranes.

A whip would be interesting, but it turns out the flagellum is vastly more complicated and ingenious. It is an electrostatic motor, with a free-floating shaft held in alignment by the bearing between the outer and inner membranes of the cell. The shaft is turned by charging and discharging the Stator bodies in a circular pattern, thus attracting the Rotor bodies successively in each step of the circle.

(This motor was re-invented 2 billion years later by Tesla, using magnetic fields instead of electrostatic fields.)

Intelligent Design advocates love the flagellum because it's very hard to imagine an intermediate or "prototype" form. Remove any of the parts or arrange them differently, and you get a motionless hair or a circular set of thingies that serve no purpose. And the flagellum is a significant part of the size and weight of the cell, so it's not a minor burden.

The science-ists had always answered this objection by saying "The flagellum evolved." Hmm. Sounds a lot like "Darwin said it, I believe it, that settles it."

"Modern biology, of course, has no need for omniscient designers. Evolution is all that is needed to explain the origin of complexity in nature. Even so, [the ID'ers] continue to search for evidence of design in the living world. The bacterial flagellum has become their cause celebre - and a focal point in science's ongoing struggle against unreason."

Struggle against unreason. Rhymes with jihad against infidels, doesn't it?

Lately, feeling the pressure, a few microbiologists finally decided to look at the question scientifically. What a novel idea!!!! They examined the various bits and pieces, and found that several of them existed in other tissues or cells. From this they concluded: "This abundance of homology provides incontrovertible evidence that bacterial flagella are cobbled together from recycled components of other systems, through gene duplication and diversification. In other words, they evolved."

= = = = =

Polistra finds this idea to be a wondrous epiphany, and is now exploring various structures found in Nature to celebrate their incontrovertible randomness.

This structure, discovered in a valley in Pennsylvania, appears to have an "abundance of homology." In fact, within the formal study of homes, this structure is generally considered to be a prime example. (Sorry, lame pun, couldn't resist.)

It is evidently "cobbled together from recycled components of other systems", such as small rocks, metal bars, and melted sand. Thus we can decisively conclude that it was not designed by any sort of intelligence; it must have evolved randomly.

Or how about this system? Cobbled together from components found in deciduous trees, elephant dentition, and igneous rocks. Clearly random. What's more, its internal structure is remarkably parallel to the cochlea, with a sequence of precisely tuned resonators. Since we already know the cochlea is random, we can impute this one to a mere toss of the dice as well, by homology.

And this system was found on top of the previous one. It appears to be cobbled together from a series of flat slabs of crushed tree material, coated in places with a mixture of carbon and glue. Polistra is examining a segment of the carbon and glue layers which form the following visible pattern:


This sequence must be random, produced by the proverbial thousand monkeys at typewriters, because the accompanying musical pitches were recycled from the third movement of a harpsichord concerto. Clearly random, clearly the blind product of evolution.

Yes, the science-ists have finally won. This argument is unanswerable.

Or perhaps it's just unfathomable.


Wednesday, February 13, 2008
  Rush is seriously missing the point on this one...

As he does on so many things.

Just finished listening to the call from 33-yr-old Jared here in Spokane. Jared was voicing a fairly common idea: Since the R side won't give us any substantial candidates, he's voting for Obama because Obama is inspirational.

First, Rush and most of the punditry are still not getting the basic problem.

Americans have become so totally cynical, so totally fed up with the bizarre corruption, wild incompetence and shameless disloyalty of the Federal level, that a revolution is brewing.

"Futility is the nemesis of democracy" like it says up there.

FDR faced a similar situation in 1932. Hoover had done such an abysmal job of handling the Depression, had spent so much time claiming the economy was still strong (though at least he didn't use the word Robust!) that the people had lost faith in the entire system. Father Coughlin was gathering voters for outright Fascism, and various Communist candidates were gaining strength.

Roosevelt's substantial solutions were no better than Hoover's at first ... in fact FDR simply implemented Hoover's ideas. But he was able to avoid revolution from either side because he gave the people something to hang onto. After that, he had more freedom to experiment with unconventional solutions.

It's a plain fact that most people need to trust their leaders in times of stress.

This isn't true for the Rush class, because (as Polistra has said many times) the Rush class doesn't even need a country. They have their private transportation systems, private armies, private economies. But for the rest of us, a major crisis will turn us into starving mobs ripe for revolution, unless we feel some degree of reassurance that the leaders are ... that the leaders are not mentally defective, to put it plainly.

I understand how the emphasis on ideology came to be supreme: in several recent elections we had no particular crisis, and in the last two elections we had candidates who could only be separated by (essentially false) advertising of ideology. Bush and Gore are both mentally defective rich white guys from Yale. Bush and Kerry are both mentally defective rich white guys from Yale. Bush, Gore, and Kerry believe most of the same things. In order to make those elections seem like contests, the parties had to create something to advertise.

This time is different. We have both foreign and domestic crises. We did have some potentially available candidates with both substance and inspiring leadership. Well, we had one. Dana Rohrabacher, the nearest thing to Churchill in our government. But he didn't run. Duncan Hunter had the substance but not the inspiration, and he dropped out. I've been supporting Huck because he has the inspiration if not the substance, but now that he's practically out, I just might go to Obama.

Yes, I understand what Jared is saying, and I'll bet many others do also.

Rush ended up with a stupid and contemptuous insult: Assuming Jared was a seminar caller, a plant, because nobody of that age could possibly have been conscious of Reagan in high school - especially in a liberal state like Washington. That's lame, Rush. Not just lame but ignorant. Washington is not the same kind of liberal as Massachusetts. Perot did very well here. Spokane is distinctly Republican; tradition holds sway here, and the public schools here are not badly infected by Communism.
Monday, February 11, 2008
  By and by, part II

I've been arguing with (or more precisely arguing at) Lawrence Krauss for a while without naming him; he has been writing some truly obnoxious opinion pieces in New Scientist, and I've been responding indirectly.

My quote on the right-hand side in this post was from Krauss.

Right now Krauss is giving a speech at AEI, broadcast on C-Span, in which he makes the same terrible points. Luckily, some questions are allowed, and luckily the questioners are excellent. It would have been better to format the whole presentation as a debate, with questions after each point, so that Krauss's illogical arguments weren't allowed to stick in the audience's minds.

Krauss (to his credit) backed off in some places, but he stuck to a couple of silly and dangerous arguments, which nobody questioned in the time available.

Krauss began by associating ignorance with totalitarianism. He gave the example of the Taliban destroying important parts of world culture (the ancient Buddhist statues) "because of ignorance", and proceeded from there to state that Americans must understand the BASICS of evolution as taught by the current consensus, in order to avoid totalitarianism.

This is worse than nonsense.

First, the most effective totalitarians were very smart. Hitler and Stalin poured huge amounts of money and emphasis into research and education. German and Russian math and science teaching was -- probably still is -- vastly superior to ours. Modern Russians know more about nearly everything than modern Americans.

Our entire space program depended on scientists educated under Hitler, not on scientists educated in America. Hitler's problem was emphatically not ignorance.

Second, Krauss seems to think that American science and math education is bad because we hesitate to tell students that evolution is an axiom.

It's exactly the other way around.

Our science and math education is awful BECAUSE WE HAVE FOLLOWED the Krauss model: start with a few axioms, build theories, consider the theories to be settled. Ever since the Scopes trial, we have IN FACT been telling students that evolution is the only possible theory, and this hasn't made a damn bit of difference.

Science and math education -- for that matter, science and math in general -- work best when you start with experimentation. Students learn best when they know first why each fact or theory is important. Why did I slip and fall on the ice this morning? Why did the fried egg stick to the pan? Why did the snow hit Spokane instead of Pullman? Why did this resistor burn, while that one over there is nicely cool? How do I know which part of the computer needs to be replaced?

After the students have their motivation, after they feel the frustration and puzzlement of the question, after they know that the answer will help them to live better or earn more money, THEN you can go into the lab and check out the details. And after the details have been discussed and settled, preferably with some (carefully contained) failures to show what doesn't work, THEN you can show the math and theoretical background.

This is how the Russians did it, with great results; yet despite a few good local programs, we still don't teach this way in most schools.

The Taliban way of thinking is destructive because it starts with definite knowledge and proceeds to immediate action. Allahu akbar, therefore we must destroy all evidence of other gods.

Krauss's own mindset is much closer to the Taliban than to science or Christianity. He takes evolution and global warming as unquestioned axioms, from which we must proceed to immediate action.

A good Christian, or a good scientist, is far more humble. "We'll understand it all by and by" is a Christian attitude and a scientific attitude.

= = = = =

Update: It appears that NBC Nightly News will be doing a feature on math teaching, called "Math Wars", Mon 2/18. Dispute is an encouraging sign ... but it would be more encouraging if the CORRECT method, the EXPERIMENTAL method, had been chosen 100 years ago when it was already obvious.

In a backward sort of way, the Kraussites are right about one thing. Good teaching is actually opposed by conservative and religious factions, but this is totally unrelated to Darwin. Every respected "conservative" is required to rant for "sticking to the basics" and rant against "progressive" education. Unfortunately "sticking to the basics" always means teaching by memorization of verbal facts, while "progressive" education includes the Montessori methods that work, PLUS a batch of egalitarian ratshit about eliminating competition and eliminating grades.

The correct solution, the Russian solution, is not "the basics", but Montessori PLUS competition and evaluation. Since the correct solution lies outside the rigid chalk lines of each team, it will never be adopted. The "conservatives" will never allow experiential education because it has been dirtied by association with the Left; and the Left will never allow competition because insane egalitarianism is an absolute core belief of the Left, second only to the sacrament of Abortion. I conclude that the teams have drawn the lines this way intentionally, since the one thing our political teams WILL NEVER ALLOW UNDER ANY CONDITIONS IS A CORRECT SOLUTION TO ANY PROBLEM. We must, must, must, must, must, must, continue our pointless repetition of opposing meaningless mantras, while the ship continues to sink with nobody at the helm.


Sunday, February 10, 2008
  Lordy, lordy, lordy!

This morning I was googling to find a non-modern recording of 'Farther Along', to decorate this entry. I found it, and therewith found also an immense cornucopia of real raw unfiltered Appalachian music. Been exploring it since then!

The source is the Digital Library of Appalachia. Contains not only music but oral history and texts.

The Messenger Quartet, who sing 'Farther Along', have about 40 other songs in the archive.

Best I've found so far is the Emmanuel Quartet, consisting of "Mr. and Mrs. Arvil Hanks, with their daughter on piano, and an unidentified man." The singers are below average, but the "daughter on piano" is pure heaven. I do believe she was playing straight to Jesus.

Imagine what she could have done with a piano that had been tuned once in its life....... or accompanying singers who had been tuned once in their lives.

Hint: These recordings are scratchy and rumbly. Set your equalizer like this

for best results.
  This is how corruption works.

The McCainstream Media are all reporting as a solid fact that Comrade McCain won the Washington state caucuses.

This is a FIX, not a FACT.

Why? Because the state Republican Party STOPPED COUNTING AT 87% OF THE BALLOTS.

At that point, the totals for Comrade McCain and Huck were 25.5% and 23.7% respectively. If these numbers came after counting all the votes reliably, they would indeed represent a narrow victory for Comrade McCain. But when you've stopped counting at 87%, this separation is simply meaningless. Could go either way easily.

I conclude that the state Republican establishment must have seen the remaining votes trending toward Huckabee, and decided to stop while their Comrade was ahead.

The Huckabee campaign is actively working on this fraud.

= = = = =

Thirty minutes later: Amazingly, Fox News just picked up this fact, through their embedded reporter. I figured they would maintain silence, because up till now they have tried hard to delete Huck from their coverage. Credit where credit is due!

= = = = =

Later: Fox is all over it. Good stuff!

This particular fraud is especially galling ... The gov election of 2004 was essentially a tie, with a highly dubious recount in Seattle that threw the tie to the Dems. The Rep Party then spent all of its resources for a year in trying to fight that result, long after the fight was pointless. Ultimately the Seattle county official responsible for the fraud was fired (or rather resigned to spend more time with his Life Partner). In other words, the State Rep Party had nothing to offer but honesty, because they used up all their ammo shooting at the Dem fraud when they should have been fighting legislation. Now the very same R party commits an even more egregious and obvious fraud, totally negating the one and only thing they stood for.

  By and by

The high priests of Gaia have been shouting loudly of late. They shriek that Christians such as Huckabee should not be allowed anywhere near the government, because Christians are closed-minded and incapable of comprehending data. They bellow that politicians who refuse to march in line with the diktats of Gaia should be jailed.

Okay, let's compare a typical "emanation" from fundamentalist Christianity with a typical "emanation" from the Gaia priesthood.

[The Christian text is by J.R. Baxter, the Gaian by Lawrence Krauss.]

Now let's ask a basic question.

How is science supposed to proceed?

The textbook answer: With humility, through an incremental process of adversarial argument, always open to contrary alternatives, willing to suspend judgment until more data is available.

Which of these two "emanations" comes closer to the proper attitude of science?

Got it?

= = = = =

PS: Here is an especially fine rendition of the left-side emanation above. Click on "Access this Item" near the top of the page to play the recording. A bit of explanation is needed for modern listeners who may find this rendition difficult to comprehend: The four voices in this recording are emitting different pitches at the same time. You will observe that the different pitches sometimes agree and sometimes disagree. This was an archaic technique known as harmony, no longer implemented by modern enlightened performers. One very loud note is all you need when you're an enlightened follower of Lenin. Or Allah. Or Gaia.


Thursday, February 07, 2008
  The bell of Atri

At Atri in Abruzzo, a small town
Of ancient Roman date, but scant renown,
One of those little places that have run
Half up the hill, beneath a blazing sun,
And then sat down to rest, as if to say,
"I climb no farther upward, come what may,"--
The King Giovanni, now unknown to fame,
So many monarchs since have borne the name,
Had a great bell hung in the market-place
Beneath a roof, projecting some small space,
By way of shelter from the sun and rain.
Then rode he through the streets with all his train,
And, with the blast of trumpets loud and long,
Made proclamation, that whenever wrong
Was done to any man, he should but ring
The great bell in the square, and he, the King,
Would cause the Syndic to decide thereon.
Such was the proclamation of King John.

How swift the happy days in Atri sped,
What wrongs were righted, need not here be said.
Suffice it that, as all things must decay,
The hempen rope at length was worn away,
Unravelled at the end, and, strand by strand,
Loosened and wasted in the ringer's hand,
Till one, who noted this in passing by,
Mended the rope with braids of briony,
So that the leaves and tendrils of the vine
Hung like a votive garland at a shrine.

By chance it happened that in Atri dwelt
A knight, with spur on heel and sword in belt,
Who loved to hunt the wild-boar in the woods,
Who loved his falcons with their crimson hoods,
Who loved his hounds and horses, and all sports
And prodigalities of camps and courts;--
Loved, or had loved them; for at last, grown old,
His only passion was the love of gold.

He sold his horses, sold his hawks and hounds,
Rented his vineyards and his garden-grounds,
Kept but one steed, his favorite steed of all,
To starve and shiver in a naked stall,
And day by day sat brooding in his chair,
Devising plans how best to hoard and spare.

At length he said: "What is the use or need
To keep at my own cost this lazy steed,
Eating his head off in my stables here,
When rents are low and provender is dear?
Let him go feed upon the public ways;
I want him only for the holidays."
So the old steed was turned into the heat
Of the long, lonely, silent, shadeless street;
And wandered in suburban lanes forlorn,
Barked at by dogs, and torn by brier and thorn.

One afternoon, as in that sultry clime
It is the custom in the summer time,
With bolted doors and window-shutters closed,
The inhabitants of Atri slept or dozed;
When suddenly upon their senses fell
The loud alarum of the accusing bell!
The Syndic started from his deep repose,
Turned on his couch, and listened, and then rose
And donned his robes, and with reluctant pace
Went panting forth into the market-place,
Where the great bell upon its cross-beam swung
Reiterating with persistent tongue,
In half-articulate jargon, the old song:
"Some one hath done a wrong, hath done a wrong!"

But ere he reached the belfry's light arcade
He saw, or thought he saw, beneath its shade,
No shape of human form of woman born,
But a poor steed dejected and forlorn,
Who with uplifted head and eager eye
Was tugging at the vines of briony.
"Domeneddio!" cried the Syndic straight,
"This is the Knight of Atri's steed of state!
He calls for justice, being sore distressed,
And pleads his cause as loudly as the best."

Meanwhile from street and lane a noisy crowd
Had rolled together like a summer cloud,
And told the story of the wretched beast
In five-and-twenty different ways at least,
With much gesticulation and appeal
To heathen gods, in their excessive zeal.
The Knight was called and questioned; in reply
Did not confess the fact, did not deny;
Treated the matter as a pleasant jest,
And set at naught the Syndic and the rest,
Maintaining, in an angry undertone,
That he should do what pleased him with his own.

And thereupon the Syndic gravely read
The proclamation of the King; then said:
"Pride goeth forth on horseback grand and gay,
But cometh back on foot, and begs its way;
Fame is the fragrance of heroic deeds,
Of flowers of chivalry and not of weeds!
These are familiar proverbs; but I fear
They never yet have reached your knightly ear.
What fair renown, what honor, what repute
Can come to you from starving this poor brute?
He who serves well and speaks not, merits more
Than they who clamor loudest at the door.
Therefore the law decrees that as this steed
Served you in youth, henceforth you shall take heed
To comfort his old age, and to provide
Shelter in stall and food and field beside."

The Knight withdrew abashed; the people all
Led home the steed in triumph to his stall.
The King heard and approved, and laughed in glee
And cried aloud: "Right well it pleaseth me!
Church-bells at best but ring us to the door;
But go not in to mass; my bell doth more:
It cometh into court and pleads the cause
Of creatures dumb and unknown to the laws;
And this shall make, in every Christian clime,
The Bell of Atri famous for all time."

.... Longfellow

Tuesday, February 05, 2008
  Madame Polisztra sees ........

China is suffering the worst cold and snow in 50 years. Thousands of roofs have collapsed, unknown numbers of people are dead, the power system is badly damaged.

Note the 50 years. This means that China had similar climate conditions half a century before. In simpler words, THIS HAS HAPPENED BEFORE. It's a La Niña cycle, the same pattern that is pouring heavy snow on Spokane and heavy rain on California.

Madame Polisztra can see two things coming, and she is not happy.

First: The high priests and prophets of Earth Goddess Gaia will manage to reverse their field. As temperatures continue dropping steeply, which is exactly what any rational creature would expect after the peak of a wave, "Global Warming" will be magically repurposed to "Climate Change", and the chilling will be OUR FAULT just as the warming was OUR FAULT. The chilling will require Western Civilization to surrender to China and Arabia, just as the warming required Western Civilization to surrender to China and Arabia.

Second: Behind and beneath all the propaganda, CHINA IS A NORMAL AND RATIONAL NATION. Its first priority is the success and advancement of China. Unlike chickenshit America, China will not be afraid to try various forms of weather control. Unlike coward-ass America, China will find a way to steer the jet stream when it suits China's purposes. If the steering happens to make things worse on this side of the Pacific, well, c'est la guerre, eh? Meanwhile, we have been hypnotized and paralyzed by Dear Leader George the Micro-wit. His appointed and anointed successor, Dear Leader McCain the Senile, who has declared full-throated and absolute fealty to Gaia, will advance our hypnosis and paralysis. America will continue to be an insane nation, devoted solely to its OWN DESTRUCTION.
Monday, February 04, 2008
  One word

Spokane is digging out pretty well. The public school system took an entire Snow Week ... highly unusual, since the last time they took even one Snow Day was after a huge ice-storm in 1996. Only the seniors would even remember the previous Snow Day.

The school in my neighborhood has a bulletin board out front, normally bearing such dull but necessary notations as PTA 7PM MON or PRE-REGISTER AUG 9.

Today, on the first day back in session, the bulletin board says simply


Friday, February 01, 2008
  The real Maverick

Comrade McCain is often called a "maverick". I suppose the term is partly appropriate, in that he doesn't follow either the brand-D or the brand-R leadership consistently; instead, he follows the money.

The original political Maverick was Mayor Maury Maverick of San Antonio.

Mayor Maury is in the middle here, with his son on the left and his father on the right; his grandfather, the eponymous Maverick and source of the metaphor, is in the picture on the wall.

= = = = =

In this segment of the wonderful quiz show Information Please, from July of 1939, Maury Maverick explains the source of the metaphorical term: Listen.

And in this segment, the Mayor answers a question about the Constitution: Listen.

Transcription of the Constitutional question for non-listeners.

Note that the host (Clifton Fadiman, book reviewer for the New Yorker) didn't try to drown out or censor Maverick's correct but unfashionable answer; note that the quiz show's editors also understood the point and didn't try to "re-educate" the submitted question.

Imagine a similar question on Jeopardy or Millionaire. The show's writers would require the modern incorrect answer. An unfortunate contestant who gave Maverick's correct answer would have been declared absolutely wrong, would get yanked out of his seat, tasered by Network Security, and sent instantly to Colorado Supermax as an "anti-government militiaman".

Well then, was Mayor Maverick considered a raging right-winger in 1939? Not hardly. He was an active New Dealer, a close associate of FDR, and an enthusiastic initiator of WPA projects to serve San Antonio.

According to this personal account by his secretary, he was generally considered to be a radical, even a Communist.

What did Mayor Maverick actually believe? Read "In Blood and Ink", his own beautifully written booklet on the Constitution. He emphasizes territory and property as the source of rights and prosperity. Defending your own land, your own house, your own family, your own country, is the crux of the matter.

This, then, is the correct definition of the word maverick.

= = = = =

Clarification after re-reading: I wasn't trying to say that Maury Maverick was a 'conservative' in modern terms; he was most certainly a Populist in the original sense, or more precisely an Agrarian. He wasn't cheering for state's rights; he was saying that state's rights needed to be decreased. The difference I'm trying to emphasize is not in ideology, but rather in the understanding of what a Constitution means. Maverick and Fadiman both understood in 1939 that the document is meaningless if the personal feelings of judges are allowed to rule the country. Maverick wanted to see the document changed in the direction of more central planning, but he wanted the change to be done properly, through the process of amendment, so that it could be undone later if it turned out to be wrong. When we allow the menopausal hormone surges of Lesbian Leninist black-robed saboteurs to serve as perpetual precedent (stare decisis) we lose the ability to undo an obsolete or bad policy.

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