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“Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.”

— Voltaire

Here is a sitting GOP congressman, on national TV, asking what minorities (by which he means non-whites) have done for civilization?

This has got to be the most arrogant and blatant racism I have ever heard from an elected official. He really believes this stuff?

First, whites are only about 17% of the world’s population, with 14% black and 60% Asian. Perhaps whites have built more tanks and rockets than other races, but they have also done their share of harm to the world (Hitler and Stalin come to mind).

Maybe King needs to travel more:

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrowmindedness … and many of our people need it solely on these accounts.

— Mark Twain

But justifying current discriminatory actions and outright racism based on made-up historic facts and subjective evaluation of the values of “contribution” to civilization is very despicable racism. It’s exactly what Hitler did to justify his deeds.

Way to go, GOP, way to go!

The Bully Pulpit

David McCullough

“What has the Republican party come to? That at such an unsettling time as this, with so very much at stake, so many momentous, complex problems to be addressed — and yes, so much that we must and can accomplish — why would we ever choose to entrust our highest office, and our future, to someone so clearly unsuited for the job? Someone who’s never held public office, never served his country in any fashion.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who so admirably served his country his entire career, said there were four key qualities by which we should measure a leader: character, ability, responsibility, and experience.

Donald Trump fails to qualify on all four counts. And it should be noted that Eisenhower put character first. In the words of the ancient Greeks, character is destiny.

So much that Donald Trump spouts is so vulgar and far from the truth and…

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Gag.

good marriage central*

AP

Two (not unrelated) examples from my inbox this morning:

In late October 2014, the FBI received an unusual email from a young man named Mohimanul Alam Bhuiya.

Bhuiya, then 25, had joined the Islamic State. Now the longtime Brooklyn resident was desperate and looking for a way out. He wanted the FBI to rescue him.

“I am an American who’s trying to get back home from Syria,” he wrote in his email, according to federal court documents unsealed last month. “I just want to get back home. All I want is this extraction, complete exoneration thereafter, and have everything back to normal with me and my family.”

He added: “I am fed up with this evil.”

As reported by WaPo.

The first uncharitably snarky thought in my morning migraine-addled brain was that it was nice of the resourceful young man to underscore he was finally fed up with…

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…was on my daughter’s wedding day – yesterday!

Wedding Day

If you want to know more about her, there is no better place to check than her own blog entry about herself on her and her husband Tyler’s business blog for SoundViz.

Seveneves1

The title SEVENEVES is a palindrome. I didn’t realize that until just now, when I wrote the title here.

Seveneves has a lot of flaws. Yet, it was the best future earth hard science fiction novel I remember ever reading. I was fascinated with its concepts, yet there were many facets about the plot and the story that were outright hokey.

Some of the one-star reviewers on Amazon blasted the book, called it the absolutely worst Stephenson novel ever. It was my very first Stephenson novel. I couldn’t read Cryptonomicon eight years ago. That left an anti-Stephenson taste in my mouth.

But I loved Seveneves, and I kept turning the pages. This is the first paragraph in the book:

THE MOON BLEW UP WITHOUT WARNING AND FOR NO APPARENT reason. It was waxing, only one day short of full. The time was 05: 03: 12 UTC. Later it would be designated A + 0.0.0, or simply Zero.

How can one possibly stop reading after that sentence?

The basic premise of the book is this: After the moon blows up, scientists realize that the earth will be bombarded by small and large meteorites from the moon, trillions of them. Meteorites generate a lot of friction heat and they will heat up the planet to a point where it can’t sustain life. To make things worse, the meteor shower will last between 5,000 and 10,000 years. It will start in about two years.

So humanity has two years’ notice to figure out what to do, and the only viable strategy to ensure the future of the human race is to escape into space. Everyone on earth will die in two years, except the lucky few that live in space.

I will stop here, lest I introduce spoilers. As I said, there are a number of things wrong with this novel, that kept bothering me. Some of the basic plot points are just too unreal. I know we haven’t figured out how to live in a completely enclosed system. They tried that on earth with Biosphere at one time, but it failed. The International Space Station (ISS) has been fully enclosed for a couple of decades by now, but it’s constantly being supplied by ships from earth with consumables, and it supports 5 to 10 people at the most. The concept of having the human race survive in space habitats based on 2015 technology for millennia is too farfetched to make sense.

However, I just got over it. I ignored these plot issues, and said to myself: What would happen if humanity could survive in that environment?

Stephenson explores this question to the utmost. He explains many of the technological concepts in great detail. Some negative reviewers complained about this level of  detail and wanted more of a plot and character development. I didn’t. Science fiction, for me, is about marveling what might be, and Seveneves is full of tremendous marveling. I loved the extensive and elaborate descriptions of the space habitats that humanity eventually develops. I loved the implications of using orbital mechanics to facilitate travel. I loved the mega-machines humanity built to live in.

For instance, just to give you one example, there is what they call “the eye.” The eye is a circular structure of about 50 kilometers in diameter. Inside of the circle, picture a “chain” of large habitats, sort of like giant train cars, each car about the size of a city block in length, or half a degree of arc inside the circle. This means there are 720 links in the chain. Each link is a habitat. The chain runs inside the circle so it generates artificial gravity by centrifugal force. You can walk from car to car around the whole 50 kilometer circle, if you wanted to, going from one habitat to the next. To generate one earth-normal gravity (1g), the chain has to move at a speed of about 1,500 meters per second, or about mach 1.5. To put it in terms on modern airliners, which travel at a speed between 800 and 900 meters per second, it means the chain moves at a speed of about 1.6 times as fast as an airliner. Once you are in the chain, you don’t notice it’s moving, and you just experience gravity. But to get on it from the outside of the ring, you basically have to get catapulted onto it. Humans sit down in little “cars” that get accelerated into tubes like bullets until they match the speed of the chain, so they can get off. It’s kind of like some of the rides at Disneyland where you walk up on a moving platform that goes at the same speed of the cars on the ride, so you can get on without the entire ride stopping, except the cars go at a speed of mach 1.5.

Fascinating. Seveneves is chock full of such concepts. Fascinating.

I wanted to join that world and live in it. I didn’t want the book to end.

Rating - Three Stars

CNN Ticker

Lately I have noticed that news channels on TV show “useless timers” on the screen. Note on the right side, there is a timer clocking down the seconds to a CNN Town Hall by Rep. Paul Ryan.

I understand that a timer that clocks down the hours, minutes  and seconds until the start of the Superbowl, or perhaps the State of the Union Address, makes some sense, but for little events like this – give me a break!

Ooohhh, I can’t wait, got to set my phone alarm for 10 hours,  32 minutes, and 29 seconds so I don’t miss the Paul Ryan town hall. I am so excited. I can’t wait.

Really?

Virgin America

My daughter and her husband-to-be are flying in from San Francisco tonight. They’ll be staying with us for a few days before their wedding next week! The moms of the bride and groom leaked this to the airlines – and the happy couple got a free upgrade by Virgin America.

Race

Jesse Owens wanted to be the world’s greatest track and field athlete in history. There were only three problems: He was black, he lived in the 1930s in the United States, and the 1936 Olympics would take place in Berlin, at the height of the Nazi regime, which taught that blacks and most other races were inferior to the Aryan race – whatever they cooked that up to be.

The title “race” appears to be a double-entendre, which interestingly only works in English, where we use the same word for running a “race” and he human “race” evident in the color of one’s skin, among other things. That’s not the case in any other languages.

The movie Race is an inspiring drama about human determination, courage, and friendship. We all knew the outcome. Jesse Owens did what no other Olympic athlete in his sport had done before, and by his performance he humiliated the German regime. He did it with grace.  He became a legend. And yet, at the end, he couldn’t even enter the hotel where a banquet was held in his honor, through the front door. He had to go in through the kitchen.

It was rewarding to watch Race in an age where the President of the United States is a black man. We have come a long way – yet we still have a long way to go.

Race is a timely movie and a rewarding experience to watch.

Rating - Three Stars

I came across this article: Terrorism, A Matrix of Lies and Deceit. It made me think about what we’re doing as a nation and as a world. We have a “war on terror” that is obviously not working. Bush started it 15 years ago, and terrorism is worse now than ever before. Clearly, doing the same going forward isn’t going to produce better results.

Seriously, we need to stop the nonsense. We need to stop bombing people. If we just stopped and refused to send military units to other countries for a decade or two, the youth in those countries would not grow up hating us. We would not be killing their fathers and obliterating their cities and infrastructures. They could grow up doing their own things. Why would they bother inciting war and jihad? They’d be busy living and feeding their children. We’d be busy spending all that military money on infrastructure right here at home.

We’d all be busy living, not busy dying.

Granted, it would take some years before the effects would be visible. It would take real leadership and consistency. Our election cycle of four or eight years is not long enough to implement a sensible strategy against a violent world.

So on we go, shooting our way to the endless war.

Four people died in Benghazi under Obama’s watch with Clinton in charge of the State Department. It was a tragedy.

3,000 people died under Bush’s watch. It was also a tragedy. Just much larger in size.

So why are we still, after all these years, hounding Clinton about Benghazi, and we’re acting like 9/11 didn’t really happen?

Mormon Fundamentalists tell their followers that if they leave the religion they will never be able to attain the kingdom of God. Of course, Mormons tell their followers a lot of very crazy stuff. If you want to read about some of it, just search for the keyword “Mormon” in this blog.

Christians also condition their members from small childhood on about the concept of “hell” and how terrible it is. No wonder Christians live in fear of hell all their lives. I once had a long conversation with a good friend who was a German Catholic priest. We were young men at the time. He always compared us to Narcissus and Goldmund, the two protagonists of Hermann Hesse’s famous novel. I was Goldmund, the lover of life. He was Narcissus, the erudite cleric. I still remember what he once said when he ran out of arguments for why I should be religious. He said that if he was wrong, after death, he’d never know and nothing would happen. But if I was wrong, I’d have to endure eternity in hell. Did I really want to take that risk?

Apparently, that’s what kept him in his religion. The fear of the consequences of possibly being wrong. 40 years later, he is still a priest.

Muslims tell their followers they’ll be stoned and killed in this world already if they leave the religion. Don’t even ask what their god does to you after you die. Several modern countries have the death penalty for apostasy including: Iran, Egypt, Pakistan, Somalia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Yemen and Saudi Arabia. Think about it: These countries will kill you if you don’t buy into their religious shit. Some of those countries are our “allies.” Go figure.

Of course, Christians did that too, centuries ago. They just worked it out sooner.

Then there are all those strange religions that make their members proselytize door to door. Those include Jehovah’s Witnesses and, of course, mainstream Mormons. Always on the lookout for more tithes.

And then there are the Jews. They are kind of the opposite. If you can’t prove Jewish roots several generations back, you’re not allowed in. It seems like you can’t really become a Jew. You have to always have been one. They like to keep their religion all to themselves. I actually like that about Judaism. Money, status, focus on education and learning, and tradition, all seem to be basic tenets of Judaism, at least from the uninitiated point of view this atheist.

If I had to pick a religion, I’d be a Jew.

California gave illegal immigrants drivers licenses and college tuition and conservatives said that encouraging immigrants like that would destroy the economy. But it didn’t. Immigrants just take jobs Americans don’t want to do, like raising their children.

Not playing football is not a sport.

Not collecting stamps is not a hobby.

Abstinence is not a sexual position.

Anarchy is not a form of government.

Not owning a gun does not mean you trample of the Second Amendment.

We’re all born naked and atheist, and then we slowly get indoctrinated to become something else. The word for atheism only exists because religion has become so prevalent and powerful over the ages, that non-religion is the minority.

Warning and Disclaimer: If you are religious, and are easily offended by criticism of your religion, you should probably stop reading now and move on. I am angry and this post will reflect some of that.

I came across the post below on Facebook. I don’t know the poster, and I don’t know any but one of the commenters. So I am an unrelated observer, and I am outraged. Here is the post:

Child Endangerment 5

Here is the transcript:

Yesterday, I received terrible news. Two of my twin girls students went hiking with there [sic] Mom and other sisters in Julian at a 101 degrees [sic] in the local mountains. XXX and YYY twin girls got dehydrated and they were weak and XXX fainted. They did not carry enough water and it was a 45 minute hike back for help. A good Samaritan carried XXX down the Mtn. She was in the hospital with severe heat stroke and went into a coma. Our XXX passed away yesterday. My sweet daughter in Christ you are in great hands now! We will miss you! God Bless You – Until we meet again. Always in my heart.

I cannot tell if the person who posted this is the father, or a teacher, or a minister. It is a terrible tragedy, and I thought it was tacky to be posting this on Facebook. What is one supposed to say to that? Given the tragic content, their friends did a pretty good job expressing their sorrow, pain and overall condolences.

If I were a friend, I would not know what to say to this, so I’d probably be quiet. But I am not a friend, just a casual bystander. Therefore, my comments are below the comments I lifted from the post.

Child Endangerment 3

Child Endangerment 7

Taking small children hiking in the mountains at 101 degrees is idiotic. Not bringing enough water shows added stupidity. Going 45 minutes out under those conditions is reckless. These girls didn’t just pass out all of a sudden. I am sure they showed signs of fatigue long before and complained, giving the parent a chance to turn around. The whole event is RECKLESS CHILD ENDANGERMENT. And it didn’t just end in endangerment. A child was killed by reckless parental negligence.

I can see that none of the Facebook friends wanted to say that, but I am sure some of them thought it before they posted their condolences.

But what’s worst, to me, beyond the incredible tastelessness of the original poster putting this on Facebook and thus exposing the parent’s recklessness, is his lame excuse at the end that is supposed to make it tolerable or acceptable:

My sweet daughter in Christ you are in great hands now! We will miss you! God Bless You – Until we meet again.

No, the little girl is not in great hands now.

She’s dead!

Her life was recklessly thrown away by a stupid and uninformed parent who took incalculable risks with the lives of her children. “May God bless her and her family” isn’t going to bring her back. If God had blessed this family, he would have given the mother more common sense. Giving prayers to this family is also not bringing the little girl back. Somebody ought to give a serious talking to this family. The mother needs counseling, or perhaps belongs in jail, since she is not any better than vaccine deniers, or those cults that deny their members medical care in case of illness.

My problem with religion is that it gives perpetrators excuses for their lack of responsibility and duty. It gives bystanders cause for rationalization that God has somehow caused this to happen so he can now “wrap his tender hands around this girl and her family.” Religion somehow makes all this easier to take.

I just hope that after this public post, Child Protective Services initiates a serious investigation into this family.

 

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