Saturday, July 1, 2017

THE BALONEY DETECTION KIT


The late,, great Carl Sagan came up with this list of tools to use to try to separate truth from idiocy. Too bad there isn't another term to use. Real baloney (the lunch meat) has it's uses. 

The Baloney Detection Kit

Apart from pointing out these common fallacies, Sagan makes a few suggestions about the "tools" a skeptic should keep ready in their Baloney Detection Kit. These are not merely measures to identify bad arguments, but constructive ideas about how to come up with better alternatives:
  • Seek independent confirmation of alleged facts.
  • Encourage an open debate about the issue and the available evidence.
  • "In science, there are no authorities. At most, there are experts."
  • Come up with a variety of competing hypotheses explaining a given outcome. Considering many different explanations will lower the risk of confirmation bias.
  • Don't get too attached to your own ideas, lest you get reluctant to reject them even in the face of evidence to the contrary.
  • Quantify whenever possible, allowing for easier comparisons between hypotheses' relative explanatory power.
  • Every step in an argument must be logically sound; a single weak link can doom the entire chain.
  • When the evidence is inconclusive, use Occam's Razor to discriminate between hypotheses.
  • Pay attention to falsifiability. Science does not concern itself with unfalsifiable propositions.


Sunday, June 25, 2017

HER NAME WAS EDITH

This post was prompted by this article  and I will tell what I know of her story as often as I can.

This is about a great aunt I never knew. We were doing the Memorial Day flower round when I noticed a very small grave marker near other family graves. I guess it caught my eye because her name was the same as my grandma Parks. Edith. Checking out the dates on the marker was obvious that she died way too soon. It didn't take long for mom to tell me what she knew of her story.

Edith Freeman was her married name. Mom didn't remember her family name. If she ever knew it. And isn't that a kick. Try tracing the maternal sides of your family tree and like as not you'll keep running into brick walls.

She and my not so great uncle lived in a tiny little town in the foot hills of the Oregon Cascades. The nearest town with a hospital was over an hour away over a gravel road. As mom remembers it there was one family in town with a car.

 It was during the depression. They were dirt poor. She already had three small children and I'd be surprised to find out that the oldest was already in primary school. I don't know what she used but she tried to end her pregnancy herself. The owner of that only car tried to get her to that hospital. She never made it. She bled to death.. I'll repeat that.SHE BLED TO DEATH. She died in a car on a gravel road with only the driver for company.

That's her story. What I know of it. I'm guessing that there are a lot of stories just like hers. Her name was Edith and I will keep telling her story whenever and wherever I can.

INTENDED CONSEQUENSES

Or how to use fear and prejudice to make a profit;

Ran across the term BLOCKBUSTER today under the subject of housing segregation in the Los Angeles area in the forties thru the sixties.

Realtors would target a block or part of a neighborhood buy a piece of property and then resell or rent to a minority family. Often African American. Then wait for prejudice to take its course; make offers to buy at the lowest price possible. Then turn around and resell the property minority families looking for a piece of the American Dream. At a much higher price of course.

Of course this couldn't work in neighborhoods that had restrictive covenants in the purchase contracts. But it did work often enough to make the practice very, very profitable.

Ah, good old American Free Enterprise. Gotta love it. NOT.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

THE LAW OF UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES PART ONE

Sorry for the weird spacing. This started as post of FB that got too long.

Now that I have more than three brain cells firing at the same time it might be time to revive this tired,old blog. The title would be "The the Law of Unintended Consequences.

With no overseas competition corporate America exploded after WWII. Between the bottled up consumerism in the US and the need to rebuild a shattered Europe those were the Golden Years for American business. It will never come again.

Business expanded. Corporations asked their execs to move to California or Seattle or Houston or Atlanta leaving their extended families behind. The older generation said to hell with the frozen winters of Wisconsin and New York and moved to Florida. Fortunes were made in real estate and construction. The old neighborhoods withered. Those who couldn't afford to move or compete for the new jobs got left behind.

Farmers sold their fields. The first out went because they wanted to. Many of the others sold up because it became too expensive to grow potatoes as land values and taxes skyrocketed Those fields sported a new crop. Houses instead of potatoes. Just houses. No stores. None of the other businesses that crowded the streets of the Bronx or Queens. And many of those went out of business when the customers who could afford to got the heck out of Dodge.

We passed laws making it possible for minority groups to live anywhere they could afford to live. Those new subdivisions for example. Those that could got the hell out of their segregated neighborhoods. Taking the doctors, the lawyers, the business leaders; the human infrastructure needed to keep cities and neighborhoods alive.

Who was left behind? The people who couldn't afford to move because they were too old, too poor, unskilled.


Friday, January 13, 2017

SOMEBODY THROW ME A ROPE

We all could use a lifeline before we drown in a sea of personal and political idiocy. 

Comment I left over on Coming to Terms.  More later. Some of  this has been kicking around in the old brain box for a week or so. 

When Harry Truman was fighting for his second term he got on a train and went whistle stopping. I've heard that there were times they had to do a whip round the train to keep it going since he was getting almost no support from the party. If he wanted to win he had to get out and TALK to people. Big people, little people, the people in what we call the "fly over" part of the country. 

And the era of social media only makes it worse. The keyboard fanatics seem to forget that there are a lot of people who don't own computers or use them the way some of the rest of us do. These people and their opinions are invisible to too many of us. 

There's a story knocking around about the first nation wide political poll using telephones. I BELIEVE it was when FDR was running for his second term. According to the poll the Republicans were going to win. Trouble is, many of the folks who were likely to vote for Roosevelt didn't have telephones!

And too many of us on both sides are willing to believe the worst without doing some investigating of our own. How many liberals laughed at the birthers, truthers, the Obama is a secret Muslim, the folks who claimed that Hillery was running a trafficking ring out of a pizza parlor. And how many liberals have jumped on the allegations about Trump and Russian "golden showers." It may be true, but good Lord the man has enough baggage that we know to be true without drooling over what amounts to political porn?

We are better than this time to prove it. Thanks for letting me bend your ear. So to speak.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW

Comment on the thread started by another Face Booker recommending flying the flag at half staff on inauguration day. Well, one commenter was correct usually we fly the flag for death. For distress you fly the flag upside down. But hey, I wasn't going to argue with her.

Anyway this commenter who shall remain nameless genderless was quite free with his/hers opinions. Didn't much want to hear ours and was totally puzzled when I commented that I had visited the FB page trying to get a feel of where they were coming from. 

"Why did she visit my page? I don't know her!" Well you apparently believe that YOU can go on the site of a someone I assume is a total stranger to you and offer your unsolicited opinion. Unless you've taken your page private that's a risk you take while apparently not realizing how clueless that comment sounds. Specks in eyes vs two by fours and all that. 

In what I assume was a blast intended to silence the rest of us the following statement was posted. "I'm a Christian conservative and that's all you need to know." 

Too dense to realize that the statement tells us everything and nothing. Christianity is a hodge podge of often conflicting beliefs ranging from the Amish to the Unitarian Universalists with Lutherans, Presbyterians, several flavors of Methodists, Quakers and seemingly endless tribes of Baptists. As for the conservative claim. That's almost meaningless too.  Conservatives have a spectrum ranging from  old style Eisenhower Republicans (almost extinct) to the followers of Ayn Rand. 

That you voted for Trump and want to America Great Again without explaining what isn't great now and what you support to make us "great" again tells me more than you probably want me to know.

And I almost forgot the little statement that you had put everything in the hands of a higher power and Trump won, So it must be God's will. Ran across the same claims about Bush II. Which leaves us with President Obama. Either it was God's will that HE also be elected president or you are full of it.

God or Goddess must get awfully tired being left holding the bag all the time.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

TERRIFYING

You can have your zombies currently watching a rerun of an episode of the original Star Trek titled A Taste of Armageddon. The Enterprise is escorting diplomats to a world that refuses to open diplomatic relations because the planet is at war with a former colony. A war that has been going on for five hundred years. 

While they are in preliminary negotiations at "attack" begins. An attack that the sensors do not detect any weapons being used or any damage. Spock realizes that the war is being waged by computer. The buildings and infrastructure survive. Casualties are recorded and expected to report to a suicide station within twenty four hours. And the citizens comply. The head of the ruling council explains that they've accepted that they are barbarians and murderers. The people die at the rate of one to three million a year but the planet and the "civilization" survives. 

When the Enterprise is declare a casualty Kirk does what he usually does when the prime directive is involved. Changes the rules. He and Spock throw several monkey wrenches into the works and destroy the war computers. Kirk admits that yes we're killers with generations of blood behind us but we don't have to kill anyone today. That's how it starts. We don't have to kill anyone today. And we'll worry about tomorrow when tomorrow comes. 

Faced with fighting a real war with real weapons the two worlds are open to the idea of negotiating an end to the war. Kirk points out to the others that a real war wouldn't cause any more casualties than they've already suffered. 

This is one of the scariest TV episodes or movies I have every seen. As I said keep your zombies. 

Monday, December 19, 2016

A LONG TIME COMING

So, Trump is officially the next president. This has been coming for decades.

Think about it. The constant efforts to undercut the judicial branch of the government. Any judge that showed a glimmer of a backbone was labeled an activist judge and it was suggested that he or she didn't know what the hell they were doing.

The constant efforts to undermine public education. It'll probably fall back on the states. Some states will still have decent systems. The others? Poor kids will be damn lucky to get any kind of education. some ultra conservatives seem to believe that everything from schools to libraries should be turned over to the private sector. Keep the peons ignorant and docile. Good luck with that.

The constant drumbeat that scientists can't be trusted. It would never have occurred to me as a college freshman to get up in class and challenge my biology professor about evolution or much of anything else until I had a class or three under my belt. Now we're told that those of us who do research, question, wonder are "elitist" and not to be trusted.

And oh for the days of three networks and PBS. Like it or not everybody got pretty much the same information. Now it's a buyer's market and if the buyer chooses to remain ignorant? There isn't much the rest of us can do about it. At least not right now. Anyone who has dealt with an internet troll knows how hard it is to get unwanted information through the cult barriers. Did I say difficult? Try downright impossible,


Saturday, December 17, 2016

THE REBEL JESUS

A Brazilian bishop has been quoted over the years. "If I feed a starving man, they call me a saint. If I ask why he is poor they call me a communist." Helder Camara  was lucky. Either the Brazilian right wing wasn't quite as blood thirsty as some American trained death squads in El Salvador or they still marginally respected the bishop because he was a bishop. Didn't stop the US supported dictatorship from trying to silence him. 

At least HE died at a good old age and didn't find himself in the shoes of Oscar Romero. Gunned down while he was celebrating the mass.


The Rebel Jesus

All the streets are filled with laughter and light
And the music of the season
And the merchants' windows are all bright
With the faces of the children
And the families hurrying to their homes
While the sky darkens and freezes
Will be gathering around the hearths and tables
Giving thanks for God's graces
And the birth of the rebel Jesus

Well they call him by 'the Prince of Peace'
And they call him by 'the Savior'
And they pray to him upon the seas
And in every bold endeavor
And they fill his churches with their pride and gold
As their faith in him increases
But they've turned the nature that I worship in
From a temple to a robber's den
In the words of the rebel Jesus

Well we guard our world with locks and guns
And we guard our fine possessions
And once a year when Christmas comes
We give to our relations
And perhaps we give a little to the poor
If the generosity should seize us
But if any one of us should interfere
In the business of why there are poor
They get the same as the rebel Jesus

Now pardon me if I have seemed
To take the tone of judgment
For I've no wish to come between
This day and your enjoyment
In a life of hardship and of earthly toil
There's a need for anything that frees us
So I bid you pleasure
And I bid you cheer
From a heathen and a pagan
On the side of the rebel Jesus

Jackson Brown


Friday, December 16, 2016

HOW SOON WILL IT HAPPEN HERE?

Jackson Brown wrote this back in the eighties when El Salvador, Nicaragua and Honduras were going to hell. Since then we've had Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria. How soon before the guns, bricks and stones are here? 

LIVES IN THE BALANCE BY JACKSON BROWN

I've been waiting for something to happen
For a week or a month or a year
With the blood in the ink of the headlines
And the sound of the crowd in my ear

You might ask what it takes to remember
When you know that you've seen it before
Where a government lies to a people
And a country is drifting to war

There's a shadow on the faces
Of the men who send the guns
To the wars that are fought in places
Where their business interests run

On the radio talk shows and TV
You hear one thing again and again
How the USA stands for freedom
And we come to the aid of a friend
But who are the ones that we call our friends?
These governments killing their own?
Or the people who finally can't take anymore
And they pick up a gun or a brick or a stone

And there are lives in the balance
There are people under fire
There are children at the cannons
And there is blood on the wire

There's a shadow on the faces
Of the men who fan the flames
Of the wars that are fought in places
Where we can't even say the names

They sell us the president the same way
They sell us our clothes and our cars
They sell us everything from youth to religion
The same time they sell us our wars

I want to know who the men in the shadows are
I want to hear somebody asking them why
They can be counted on to tell us who our enemies are
But they're never the ones to fight or to die

And there are lives in the balance
There are people under fire
There are children at the cannons
And there is blood on the wire

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

IS MERRY CHRISTMAS GREETING BIBLICAL?

Apologies for the weird formatting. Not quite sure how to fix this.

ust had a very subversive thought. We have this whole crop of fundies with their "if it isn't in the Bible it isn't 'Christian.'"

News flash Christmas isn't in the Bible. Yes, the story of the birth of the future footsore rabbi from Nazareth IS in the Bible. But, if I have my history straight official commemoration of the birth started during the reign of Constantine.

Christmas? Christ's mass. Yep, the December date close to the solstice is part of what became the yearly liturgical cycle starting with what has become Advent and ending with Pentecost. As follows

Christmas Eve
Feast of the Nativity
Feast of St. Stephen (first official martyr)
Feast of St. John for John the Baptist
Feast of the Holy Innocents (Herod's blood bath)
Just because
Feast of the Holy Family
Eve of the Feast of the Holy Name
The Feast of the Holy Name Jesus' circumcision, either one
Feast of Mary the Theotokos
Epiphany when the three kings arrived with gifts is on January 6. And in many countries THAT day is the day gifts are exchanged.

All of these traditions were added years or centuries after the Bible was written. So, the whole argument about what to say is really, well totally weird. We get all hung up on the words while conveniently forgetting that Jesus (if he existed) was a Jewish guy who was crying in the wilderness with the messages of the old Hebrew prophets in the hope that maybe, just maybe people would listen this time around.

Of the few of you who actually know me you will know that my sense of humor is well, sort of off the wall. Out in far left field actually.

God has sent prophets over the years from Amos through Jeremiah to Zechariah with mixed and apparently futile results. This is how it goes in my weird imagination,

"Son I need to talk to you. Remember that conversation we had a three or four eons ago on the other side of the Milky Way."

"Yeah, the one where I end up on earth eventually learning the difference between oak and cedar and end up walking the length and breadth of the Holy Land?"

"That's the one. It's time. I've got a great family all picked out for you."

"OK dad, Catch you on the flip side. I've got a feeling I'm going to get into more trouble that all the other prophets put together."

"Afraid so, Son."

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

POST TRUTH AMERICA

I wish this tool would read a history book. Preferably Bruce Catton's the Coming Fury about the run up to and the first few months of the Civil War.

How many of you know that there were four, yes four, presidential candidates in 1860?
Abraham Lincoln for the Republicans
Stephen Douglas for the northern Democrats
John C Breckinridge for the southern Democrats
John Bell for the Constitutional Union Party
And we all know how well THAT turned out. Douglas damn near killed himself touring the south after the election trying to persuade them not to secede.
Nearly a century later the Dixiecrats turned on Harry Truman for his early civil rights efforts. During the Johnson administration and the Nixon era the Southern strategy resulted in southern Democrats becoming Republicans and a lot Republicans (me included) becoming Democrats. Couldn't stand the thought of being in the same party as Tricky Dick Nixon.
So yes there are people of color in this country (Doh) And you sir should be locked in a small room with basic facilities, MRE's, a stack of history books and not allowed out until you've read them. There will be a test.
So much post truth America.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

ANOTHER GENERATION

I believe that the Millennial Bernie Bots and third part supporters realize what the boomers who just might be willing the choose the lesser of two evils have in our psychic photo albums.

November 1963. Snapshot of the vice principal holding a piece of paper for the home room teacher to read, That's how we learned about Dallas. Snapshot. A woman in black holding the hands of her children as they said goodbye to a husband and father who just happened to be the president. Snapshot. That same figure leading the mourners through the streets to the cathedral. Snapshot. A new president who basically told the secret service that if he was afraid to march where the people could see him he didn't deserve to be president. Snapshot, The horse with no rider, boots reversed in the stirrups. Sounds. Those damn drums I'll hear into eternity.

Snapshot. The faces of three missing civil rights workers. They found their bodies in an earthen dam in Mississippi. Snapshot. A woman named Viola Liuzzo gunned down in a drive by on the lonely highway at night. Sanpshots from different times. Police dogs set on school children. Fire hoses blasting non violent civil rights protesters, Four girls killed when a coward bombed their church one Sunday morning.

It went on year after year. A little girl, naked and screaming, running from her village that had just been napalmed. A Vietnamese officer caught on film as he shot a prisoner in the head. Napalm, B52's, we had to destroy the village to save it, Agent Orange,

A southern governor standing on a college campus promising segregation forever. That same governor gunned down in an assassination attempt. A man of peace gunned down in front of a motel in Memphis. A presidential candidate gunned down in a hotel kitchen minutes after winning the California primary in 1968.

The totally out of control Democratic convention in 1968. AKA as the Chicago police riots. And it went on.

What did all this have in common? Individuals or groups of people who were so damn sure they were right they were willing to kill for it. Burn down the neighborhood for it. Blow up a church for it. A few, a very few, were willing to die for it.

I guess I could go on. But I suppose this is my answer to the "true believers." Most of us learned to temper our idealism. "Hey, what he or she is saying sounds good. What are their chances of actually accomplishing this."

Well, we have a nightmare in the making on our hands. And a reminder. Every vote you didn't cast because the candidate didn't suit you was a vote for a candidate that was even worse.



















Sunday, November 13, 2016

DENMARK 1943 OR RESISTANCE IS NOT FUTILE

In late September 1943 Denmark had been occupied by the Germans for over three years. Denmark had a fairly small Jewish population and they had been left alone. Until a few days before Rosh Hashanah.

The plan was take the Jews on the eve of the Jewish New Year when they would all be at home. That was the plan, A German attache told a Danish politician who told other Danes who warned he Jews. They were hidden in hospitals, warehouses, private homes, shops while the Dane negotiated with the Swedish government. The Swedes agreed and nearly seven thousand Jews were smuggled across the straits to Sweden. When they returned after the war they found their houses, shops, gardens and pets pretty much as they left them.

The Germans managed to arrest about four hundred people and most of them survived the war. Song writer Fred Small wrote a song, Denmark 1943.

The song can also be found on YouTube.

 DENMARK 1943

And it's Eichmann and Himmler are turning the screws
The Fuhrer they say grows impatient
"How can it be Denmark's Jews still walk free
After three years of kind occupation?
We will take them like sheep in their beds as they sleep
On the second night of their new year
Devoutly at home they'll be helpless alone
When they cry out no one will hear"

But Duckwitz the German tells Hedtoft the Dane
"My friend I have dangerous news
In three hours the transport ships will set at anchor
You must warn them warn all the Jews"
Soon good Rabbi Melchior stands in the synagogue
"There'll be no service today
The raids come tomorrow, dwell not on your sorrow
By nightfall we must be away"

Refrain:
And it's fire up the diesel and look out for swells
We're leaving Espergaerde behind us
Who strike at our friends strike us as well
We'll pray the patrol boats don't find us
When the sirens are wailing and shouts fill the night
Never will you stand alone
So it's over the Oresund
Till the day we can welcome you home

Sompolinski the tailor on the eve of Rosh Hashana
Gathers his family near
"The Lord is my light and salvation
Whom on this earth shall I fear?"
When a young Danish gentile steps into the glow
Of the candle with tears flowing down
"Good neighbors flee - I pray you believe me"
And as quickly the young man is gone

Christian policemen, shopkeepers, and teachers
Tell their friends of the quickening storm
While students on bicycles race through the streets
Searching for Jews to be warned
And Katlev the foreman blurts out to the trainman
"My family has no place to hide"
"Well bring 'em to my house," the stranger replies
"And we'll spit in the damn Nazi's eyes"

Refrain

And it's fire up the diesel and look out for swells
We're leaving Espergaerde behind us
Who strike at our friends strike us as well
We'll pray the patrol boats don't find us
When the sirens are wailing and shouts fill the night
Never will you stand alone
So it's over the Oresund
Till the day we can welcome you home

Ellen Nielsen the fishwife in the port of Drag√°¸r
Has no use for political views
She'll call out the catch, "Fresh salmon, fresh cod"
Comes a whisper "Please help, we are Jews"
"But if you are Jews you're not safe on the street
I know a man with a sail"
Till moonrise they sleep in the shade of her eaves
And escape on the fisherman's keel

Rabbi Melchior hires a young trawlerman
To ferry his family across
After twelve hours afloat in a scurfy old boat
Morning light shows the same Danish coast
Says the skipper "I'm afraid of the German blockade
So we've motored in circles around"
The rabbi gives a shout, with one blow knocks him out
And steers a straight line 'cross the sound

Refrain

And it's fire up the diesel and look out for swells
We're leaving Espergaerde behind us
Who strike at our friends strike us as well
We'll pray the patrol boats don't find us
When the sirens are wailing and shouts fill the night
Never will you stand alone
So it's over the Oresund
Till the day we can welcome you home

Frozen with fright in the October night
Families huddle in basements and barns
Mistaking each breath for the angel of death
The Gestapo, the shot, the alarm
Then down into the hold with the stench and the cold
And drug all the babies with schnapps
Someone shouts, "Valk√°mmen till Sverige
You are in Swedish waters at last"

Seven thousands of Jews smuggled over to Sweden
By fishermen, nurses, and priests
Hitler sends Eichmann to hunt them down
But his quarry have vanished like mist
When the war's over the Jews return
Cheers and flowers adorn their way home
"We're not heroes or martyrs," so say the Danes
"We were just looking after our own"

Refrain

And it's fire up the diesel and look out for swells
We're leaving Espergaerde behind us
Who strike at our friends strike us as well
We'll pray the patrol boats don't find us
When the sirens are wailing and shouts fill the night
Never will you stand alone
So it's over the Oresund
Till the day we can welcome you home

And today we will welcome you home
And today we welcome you home