Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Slavery is OK with Lyin' Bill.

Sometimes I just don't know what to say.  Lyin' Bill O'Reilly manages to lie even while telling the truth when he attempts to counter Michelle Obama's poignant statement that the White House was built with slave labor. Isn't it a sign of hope that the black family of a black president now lives there?

Perhaps Lyin' Bill acts the way he does as a reflex rather than as any attempt at reasoned commentary, but can anyone think the fact that slave labor was used on a Federal project is mitigated by the allegedly adequate food and lodgings provided?  Hey Lyin' Bill, what if Fox withheld your pay and says it's OK because they give you a comfortable chair to sit in ( and obviously lots to eat) while you tell lies about just about everything.  What about we throw you into prison for sedition, Lyin' Bill -- I hear the foods not too bad.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Shots fired!

Another shooting incident at a Munich shopping center. 5 people stabbed on a train in Bavaria a few days ago. Terrorist attacks are almost a daily thing in Europe and far, far worse in the Middle East.

But it's because they have stronger leaders, right? Russia has had some big ones but that's because Putin is lawnorder tough and Army Strong, right?   It's because Obama is weak and probably a sympathizer and Hillary would be even weaker as the "facts" about Benghazi show. That's right the Republicans are lawnorder tough and always protect us -- right?

Oops, I mentioned facts - mea culpa. I should have known better. But I can't help myself. I can't control it -- 6% of US terrorist attacks are carried out by Muslims according to the FBI. 7% were from Jewish extremists.  No really I'm trying to stop. . .

There, I've got it under control, but someone just sent me something from some green beret or red underwear or lace panty he-men who say there were in Benghazi and they know - just Know - Hillary was to blame. Funny none of the investigators gave them much credit, but we "just know" they're right because they hate Crooked Hillary. Oh really I'm trying not to remember how the GOP refused to allow increased security funding and to this date have stonewalled it just so they could sing "crooked Hillary" like the little yellow birds they are.

Crooked indeed, not like whatsisname with the child molestation and rape and orgies with underage girls and real estate swindles and fake schools with plagiarized textbooks  and the serial infidelity -- but he's one of us!  He even tells dirty jokes. Sometimes about his own daughter.

Really Hillary is in with wall street, but I'm not sure what that means except somebody paid her a lot of money to talk once. But not Like the Donald the man of the people with his 3 billion.  I've given more to charity then he has but that just proves he cares about the working people he stiffs on their paychecks and the small business he bankrupts by not paying his bills. He's gonna make us great and by great I mean great big losers.

Oh god, it's hopeless  Oh, I feel it coming . . . Obama the Weak has deported more illegals than any Republican -- aaagh our murder rate is lower than during Lawnorder Reagan's reign of glory.  Somebody stop me!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Meanwhile back in the real world.

One of the problems with American discourse having moved to the Internet and the cable news networks is that we rush to the circus ring making the most noise,  and somehow there aren't enough rings to cover all the acts, even the most important.  Donald Trump  sits on the news like some fat, clucking chicken. The rest of the world has become a sideshow.

It's struck many people that of late the the guy in boots and top hat is getting all the attention, filling his ring with clown acts and crude insult comedy. A quashed rebellion in Turkey in which tens of thousands have been arrested in government and in the military was soon drowned out, and although many publications of late are quietly inquiring as to the security of US forces at Incirlik Air Base , we're arguing over a poorly written and partially plagiarized speech by someone who isn't running for president,

That airbase, with it's stockpile of hydrogen bombs is only protected by the shaky, unstable Turkish military which has now cut off power.  Incirlik is now running on backup generators. Top Turkish officers at the base have been arrested.
Why are such things designed for Armageddon still there? Why are we not asking? How do we trust Turkey to protect a world-destroying arsenal, NATO's largest nuclear weapons cache? How do we deal with Syria and ISIL without that base? Why aren't we talking about it? Why don't we get more than bravado and braggadocio and "tough guy"  posturing about Mexican walls and guns and what kind of life matters most?

It's because all our attention is directed elsewhere by the ringmasters and the clowns. For half a year it's been all about Trump, all about Benghazi, all about Bernie, all about bozos hurling insults and accusations at each other.

"When the whistle blows, everybody goes" Jonathan Winters used to say. Would we even hear it with all the background noise?

Miami Justice

Maybe the "hands up - Don't shoot" touring company should have waited to use that chant a bit longer, because the city of North Miami, Florida has acted out the scenario without needing to force anything to fit.

In what seems a perfect example of  "shoot first and refuse to answer questions later"  two officers with rifles shot an unarmed, co-operative behavioral therapist from an assisted living facility who was trying to protect and retrieve an autistic resident who had run out into the street. His concern, as evidenced in the cell phone video was to protect the severely impaired autistic man in his care from the police who showed up armed for combat because a report of a "man with a gun."

While lying on the ground, hands in the air and trying to explain to the cops what was going on and that his patient was holding a toy truck, one of them let off a three round salvo, hitting Charles Kinsey, a black man.  Asking the officer why he had just shot him (in the leg) the answer was "I don't know."

I don't know either.  I don't know why an unarmed man with his hands in view and lying on the ground defenseless would be shot by any competent police officer. Is it that he was never trained to keep his finger off the damned trigger or that he's a cringing paranoid coward? It doesn't matter, to those that frame matters in our country for us, he must only have done this because he was a racist.  Watch the video and you'll be as puzzled as I am and the man filming it was. "Why they shoot the black boy?" is heard on the recording?

Damned if I know, but we haven't heard the last of this, nor should we.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

My Little Phony

It's so easy to poke fun at the Republicans for trying to make Melaniagate evaporate without a trace, whether it's quoting My Little Pony or just insisting it's a meaningless coincidence and means nothing. Nixon proved that denial works and even though iron-clad proof of his lies and misdeeds has been established, to the Republican Zombies, it's still all the doing of "the liberal press."

Still, to be fair, essays are appearing making lazy Mrs. Trump's last minute bit of homework a race issue and an illustration of "white privilege." Does this make the whole thing as much of an illustration of universal bias and dishonesty as this: another of the endless Republican demonstrations of moronic mendacity?   Yes, yes, yes, we've all heard it. You don't see the world as it is, but as we are.

Yes, yes, yes, Trump supporters and many other republicans are delusional, demented, deranged and dishonest, but please, lets not persuade ourselves that it makes us unimpeachable or infallible or even honest.

Her speech was a cheap amateurish fraud, not an illustration of privilege, white or money-green. It doesn't mean white people are generically anything or that we need sensible, but inchoate gun control or that we need a world without banks or police or any of the other axes we rush to grind on every turning wheel.  Cheap and amateurish and typical of the student in over her head, grasping at platitudes and convinced that no one else knows much more than she does.

She's not running for president. Let's not be distracted, let's not gloat. We have a long way to go and stupid never sleeps.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

My Life As A Dog.

Species dysphoria is a bitter, hopeless condition. No matter how much I know that my inner species doesn't match my outer appearance, I just can't live life as a dog. Not with two legs and no one is going to let me use any toilet or walk into a bar without a species specific birth certificate.  How then can I separate myself from that most hateful of species, the most dishonest, the most destructive, the least rational? Surgery is out of the question.

The condition is usually at it's most burdensome in election seasons like this one where the hated faces appear before us on the TV and although you can change channels or cut the audio or record and speed through them some of it gets through.

Take the ad I just now saw, telling you to help Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton and her lies. It's financed by a PAC with a lot of money behind it and it accuses Mrs. Clinton of taking money from Billionaires. What species of animal or vegetable will fail to see the irony of denouncing taking money from the rich and advising you to give it to the already  rich?  That's right, Humans.  So eager will you be, you bipedal fool, to jump on the rage wagon, the marching band of bullshit, that you won't ask or even accept evidence as to the alleged lying and murdering and perhaps necromancy and you won't entertain the endless proofs of Crooked Donald's lying, cheating, fraud, plagiarism, misogyny or crooked business dealings much less the strong evidence of child abuse and rape.

The guy with the 3 billion will sympathize with your concern, Mr. Laid off worker, Mr. lost it all at Atlantic city. He knows your problems, Mr. High School Dropout. Even my dog won't stay in the room when that pumpkin face appears on the screen, but you reach for your wallet.  Yes, your farm may have failed because you can't get credit, but Donald, who wants to buy it for nothing to put up a condo that is planned to go bust after he gets your deposit -- but Donald, he's your man and your man needs your money because he's just got so much of it he doesn't need it. That makes sense to you, you two-legged imbecile?

I've watched those TV  Christ - O - Crooks tell the poorest Americans to send them money because God will make them rich just like Reverend Barnum. Just like Donald Trump. You probably believe it too, you hopeless idiot, but the Democratic opponent? She made money so she must be a crook. She got paid to give a speech to rich money managers so she must know nothing about money.

Trump? People paid him to teach them how and he screwed them using plagiarized text books and fraudulent advertising. The opponent went to the best schools, Trump stole from the poor and kept every dime. And you just love it, you spawn of monkeys. Well I'm not one of you. I renounce you, I condemn you. I execrate you with all the malediction a barking dog like me can muster.  Four legs good, two legs bad and don't you dare call me human, or I'll bite you.

Monday, July 18, 2016

The Leviathan

Baton Rouge. A few days ago, a word association test would have had me responding with Janis, but now it's more likely to be murder, cops, revenge and war: that Bellum omnium contra omnes Thomas Hobbes warned us about: that war of all against all.  It's a small and lopsided war. It's a big war about big principles. It's a crazy war with revenge killings and reprisals on one side and an apparently trigger-happy paranoia on the other side, but I'm trying to be careful of tendentious oversimplifications. Both sides real have grievances and there are a lot more guns than innocence in America. It's complicated and reality always is.

But it's Hobbes' observation about the "state of nature," so reminiscent of the kind of Libertarian paradise half our country seems to be longing for, that gets my attention: that repugnance for government, for authority -- that insistence that any law limits our freedom. Without that authority we have no civilization, no culture, no industry but a climate of fear and a war of all against all, said Hobbes in The Leviathan.

As it is in Baton Rouge, so is it in America. Everyone in everyone's face and at each others' throats. Solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short. You've heard those words many times.  Against our ruin we create the buttresses of a social contract, a moral, a civil authority and give up a part of our natural liberty that we can enjoy enough security to avoid chaos and enjoy our freedom without undue fear.. We cede some power and make it legitimate and authorize it for our own good. We create laws and we authorize the enforcement of those laws. That's an oversimplification of course but although it informs our American founding documents, that social contract is being portrayed as the cause of our ills rather than the failure of implementing that contract or defining the laws to benefit all rather than some. Some of us believe that racism will always make justice impossible and therefore authority is always to be resisted and with violence.

Is Libertarianism the gateway to Liberty?  I think Hobbes says otherwise and although we, in theory, have the power to change and improve that contract and to reform the way it's enforced, we seem for the moment at least to prefer to shoot it out in the streets and to remember when we shot it out on the battlefield 150 years ago with longing. On the TV,  today's real world, the war drums beat all day and all night, the bullets fly and the blood runs red in Baton Rouge. Police are the enemy, government is the enemy, guns are the enemy, gun control is the enemy. We're all the enemy.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Lying like a Fox

Lyin' Bill O'Reilly may have to share his liar's title with Lyin' Wayne, the former Fox News "Terrorism expert"  may have been a perfect fit for the Fox Crew of liars and frauds, failed Republican candidates and propagandists for hire, but he got caught. He fraudulently claimed to have been a Special Operations Officer for the CIA when at the time he actually was working as was a nightclub doorman, mortgage broker, manager of a rent-by-the-hour hot tub business, bookie, and defensive back for the National Football League’s New Orleans Saints.  He'll have 33 months to think about it.

“Wayne Simmons is a fraud. Simmons has no military or intelligence background, or any skills relevant to the positions he attained through his fraud,” said Dana Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia.

U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III also tacked on three years of supervised release following his sentence. Judge Ellis also required that he surrender two firearms, pay $176,000 in criminal proceeds, and pay restitution. He joins a lost of Fox Friends who couldn't get a job as a school janitor.  But even though Neill Cavuto apologized for allowing Lyin' Wayne on his show,  Fox Folk, like Trumpsters won't notice or care as long as they continue to supply them with the outrage they need to make their miserable and nasty lives seem justified.

Friday, July 15, 2016

French Lives Matter

The death toll is way over 80 now, not quite up to the 130 killed last November but far worse than the January 2015 killing of 11 that had us writing je suis Charlie although we weren't much like and didn't much like Charlie and still don't.

Are we Nice now?  No, but all we talk about is the danger of being shot by one or more of the 200 million or more guns in private hands in the USA.  We've been spared attacks by foreign terrorists on that scale since 2001 when George W was keeping us safe with his "strength."  Obama is weak, of course. We've been told that since the beginning of his presidency. He's weak, and "he will be tested" and "we will be attacked."   Another one of those dire predictions we believe despite their regular failure to come true.

Will we be Nice now or will this one fail to dominate the news with the Cleveland cesspool about to open?  Do French lives matter enough to merit the full mourning, healing and closure seeking news cycle?  Will I be seeing more of those smug posters and posts and cartoons about how hypocritical and racist we are for interfering with a certain publicity campaign I'm tired of talking about? French lives matter - now there I've gone and said it.

But we need to and we certainly will search for someone to blame and Obama is already on the short list. It will be hard to blame lax gun laws in France with its level of gun control that will never be accepted in the US and that this was done with a truck will challenge us to keep the talk entirely about guns, much less "assault" weapons.  Assault truck bans are hard to propose with a straight face.

Will anyone make the case for our current administration's relative success in keeping ISIS attacks to a bare minimum when compared to all those deaths in Europe? Well, I doubt it and this awful story will be hard to fit into the formulaic assault that is our presidential campaign.  Besides there's Pokemon Go.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Pounds and Pence

Trump has “never forgotten or forsaken the people who work with their hands,” trumpets Indiana Governor Mike Pence, hoping to advance to more power like some eager Red Guard, little red book waver from the 70's or a North Korean trying to exhibit such unrestrained enthusiasm for the Beloved Leader that he won't be shot.

Put me in coach! I wanna be the next Dan Quayle!

But yeah, it could be worse and it might well be. We don't really know who Trumplestiltskin will actually choose and it might yet be that most reprehensible and hypocritical of creatures, Newt Gingrich.  It could be anyone and after all, he said he likes to be unpredictable. He is that indeed, and predictably so.

Donald of course is one of those corporations that make money by stiffing their suppliers, going from one to another as he's cut off for non-payment or paying 80% after 120 days and telling you to sue him and hoping you'll just go bankrupt. I used to have customers like that and I remember people who screw people with their checkbooks as part of their business plan.

He'll need a mouthpiece like Pence to make us forget his scams and deceptions, but almost any Republican is an expert in creating false realities in which Newt had the moral high ground for trying to unseat Clinton while actually engaged in coitus with a young lady, not his wife.

So sure, Trump never forgets the little guy. He'd be a little guy himself if he didn't have the public to bilk, cheat and screw. He doesn't have to admit it though, or apologize or repay. He'll just appoint people to define it away. We won't remember. We never do.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Then I Said In My Heart, That This Also Is Vanity

Perhaps nothing to do with the way we think is more demonstrated than the fact that we humans are nothing like rational beings. We're beings who use all sorts of gymnastics to justify our opinions and we fight strongly against contradiction or simply ignore it as suits our equilibrium, our party affiliation, our inherited creeds or opinions we associate with our peers. The mechanics of cognitive dissonance are well described and illustrated, but the stronger the opinion, the more intransigent, the more these mechanics are ignored by the factually challenged.
"Instead of acknowledging an error in judgement, people tend to reformulate their views in a new way that justifies their old opinions. " Writes Leon Festinger.  It's certainly been demonstrated.
Do people moderate their views when presented with overwhelming evidence to the contrary? Not necessarily, writes Matthew Syed in today's BBC News Magazine.  He concludes, as did Festinger when he coined the term nearly 50 years ago, that experiments demonstrate that
"We use a series of post hoc manoeuvres to reframe anything inconvenient to our original position. We question the probity of the evidence, or the credentials of the people who discovered it, or their motives, or whatever. The more information that emerges to challenge our perspective, the more creatively we search for new justifications, and the more entrenched we become in our prior view." 
Experimental confirmation of this is copious and other evidence such as a study by some years ago showing that people who read political books never reach across the divide, sticking with those that confirm a certain mindset.

"Our reasoning, or at least that what we offer as the product of reasoning is regulated by emotion, not by dispassionate analysis and its goal is to minimize threats to the self"  Writes Mario Livio and the rampant and irreconcilable differences in opinion concerning most aspects of American life would seem to make it irrefutable. Nobody changes their mind, or at least very rarely. You'll see it at the macro and micro ends of  the scale of things. Listen to Joe Biden tell us there are more deadly shootings because "the bullets are getting bigger" when the opposite is true although part of  a fear raising agenda. To say otherwise means accepting you were wrong, your mentors are wrong and your argument is less than impeccable. So we go on restating the problem as though our pet solution were attached to it and ours alone.

But of course the size of bullets is less relevant than other factors, but to address that, to offer more rigorous analysis of a real problem risks fracking a fragile code, a rickety dogma that can raise the fear of an ontological crisis. "Who am I if all my axioms are false?"  Our defenses are sometimes  Manic, We respond with a flurry of  arguments as though to be a moving target. We respond with laughter or mockery or denunciation. I'm tempted to call up the ghost of Melanie Klein and her Manic Defense in which we downplay and minimize the threat with feelings of control, triumph and contempt. Is that what we hear from conservatives as their maxims demonstrate their fragile origins?  Perhaps I'm overreaching. This wasn't meant to be a critique of  adept but sophistical refutations of fact. It's about the sloppy street versions that sloppy street people adhere to often with violence as a response to perceived offense.

This triumphant and contemptuous banner was offered recently on the Internet and to some people it explains away a frequent criticism of the Black Lives Matter organization. It is of course an attempt at an argument by analogy using an incomplete or broken analogy. The disinterested might observe that not only is the premise that the universality of the specific argument is not an attack on its validity but rather its foundation. To say that only black lives matter is not a moral position. Universality gives it a basis. And of course our theoretical outside and dispassionate observer would inevitably notice that recognition of the universal need for food would result in those with it being required to share it, and not to withhold it. Humanists of course, by asserting universal human rights, are not denying justice to anyone nor by their belief supporting injustice. It's being perceived as an attack only because it attacks the unspoken premise that "only our group matters" Because it equates the group and only the group with working for justice.

 If saying "all lives matter" does not rectify injustice, neither does "black lives matter." Neither does chanting "hands up."  There is no refutation. Neither offers a solution anyway.  It's really not an argument but an attempt to explain contradiction by reformulating the opinion, and doing a really bad job of it. Would black lives matter if no others did? What is a "black life?" Teacher is asking, why isn't your hand up?

But you'll see that as true of false depending not on my argument or theirs but as a result of your political conditioning, group identification, propensity to feel guilt or indeed the need to feel it.  Is the cop innocent or guilty? You knew that before the trigger was pulled. How would you feel if innocence or guilt could be proved beyond a shadow of a doubt?  Would you doubt anyway would you scoff triumphantly at the evidence or launch into an excoriation of the NRA?

That our aversion to loss far outweighs the attractiveness of gain is well demonstrated. Face it, you don't want to be proven wrong which means you don't want to learn, which means you're just another dumb human ape, like all of us. You will defend the dumb argument, appending all kinds of hypothetical sophistry to it. I'll praise or smugly deny according to my a priori attitudes and I will fight till the end.

Thursday, July 07, 2016

From High Chair to I-Chair.

None of this will surprise you if you've read my libertarian drivel before, but safety is going to be the end of us as a free nation.  Well, not the concept of safety, but that power to  demand it arrogated by a corporate oligarchy and the forced paternalism it  profits from.  Teach your kids to cross the street?  That's criminal - just forbid them, to or better: make it impossible.

With all action there is risk so why allow action?  With all freedom there is risk but with absolute isolation from risk there is absolutely no freedom.  The urge to take the steering wheel away from us and by that to take private cars and the new birth of freedom they brought -- to take that away from us continues to increase even as intimations of the failures of such technology begin to appear. Idiot proof technology becomes  the design goal rather than freedom or mobility and the dependent, the timid, the incompetent and unable become the new 21st century Eloi, born to consume and raised only for the profit of others.  It's been coming for a while. Want to reduce this trend to absurdity?  Well you saw the Matrix too.

We need more technology, not less, says Computer World Magazine.  More technology will save more lives and we need to be more aggressive in mandating it. Even if one life is saved, it justifies turning yours and mine into a Kafka story and a very lucrative story for Google and Apple and the rest.  The life you save may not be much of one.

Yes, to a computer expert, all problems need more computers to fix them, but citing an alleged increase in car accidents of late allows them to demand driverless cars as the only solution to a multitude of changing conditions that are affected by things not mentioned.

And so of course highway safety figures suddenly begins to look worse after 50 years of improvements. because they need to look worse to support a growing industry and so they do.  And so as we panic and babble about it being too dangerous to drive: as we begin to see the fear build, we are steered toward the one and only available and necessary solution and that's the Google Car.  Any other approaches are, of course heresy and we will have to think of an appropriate bogeyman to associate you with.  No, actually you can't win and the only solution available to anything will be that of  the hermetic bubble you live in and must remain in for the rest of your life.

Google because we aren't yet all peons and serfs on the Google estate. Of course there  actually has been an apparent increase in distracted driving, what with the 12 second attention span of Millennials who are mostly interested in sitting someplace with WiFi and wall to wall video games where they can text and check dating services and shop and text again and damn if they aren't doing just that already. At least it seems so in the short term. Short term trends always extend indefinitely into the future when needed to scare us.. We know this, or at least I assume we do since we always, always, always act that way, unless things are getting better and we have to deny it because we're selling fear.

But yes, the millennials.  They don't seem to like cars much since they interfere with that great world of online interpersonal relationships and shopping and actually require a measurable attention span. You see them on bicycles and motorcycles and skateboards, sitting at a desk or walking down the street playing with their devices, but that can't be helped. It's not even profitable to make people stop it since childishness is the backbone of sales and Industry needs to cultivate the spending  of the new flock of sheep.  So we can only opt for robot cars or Uber, at least until it's no longer necessary actually to go anywhere after you buy that Google Cubicle and get plugged in to the Google matrix.

"We need more Google and Tesla" say the editors.  I think we need a "Tune Out, Turn Off, Go Outside"  revolution or perhaps we need to revisit a previous revolution having much to do with imposing government without consent.  Were we designed to be a government by safety experts, equipment lobbyists?  If that history doesn't exist, it will soon enough. Meanwhile it's dangerous to walk - buy an i-Chair!

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Star Light, Star Bright

"Fluch ist auch ein Segen, Nacht ist auch eine Sonne,"
 -Friedrich Nietzsche- Also Sprach Zarathustra 

 One of the difficulties in searching for exoplanets is seeing the minuscule light reflected from a planet against the massive glare of a star. It's the same thing with politics, only in reverse. The dim flicker of the FBI's decision that Mrs. Clinton's email problem didn't rise to the level of justifying prosecution, no doubt tempered by the observation that George Bush's Secretary of State, General Colin Powell, did the same thing, somehow seems still to be outshining the grave damage done to the world by that administration and the consequences we're still struggling with.

 But of course you don't campaign with the facts you actually have, you campaign with the facts you pretend you have and one still hears breathless talk of treason and espionage from the Trump campaign. It creates a sort of fake light that masks the idiocies still so gallantly streaming from those puckered lips. It's not easy though.

 Today's Trumpet blast from the golden-haired boy is that  more dictators like Saddam Hussein  "who knew how to deal with terrorists.*

That's an excellent observation at a time when the motivation for attacking the US is fueled by the fact that we've interfered with democracy and supported vicious tyrants like Saddam Hussein for so long.

What can I say but Shock and Awe?

 A curse is also a blessing, the night is also a sun. Light is dark, dark light and Trump will makes us great.

 * Nerve gas, torture, germ warfare summary executions, conquest and more.

73 to Juno

For those of you who know the International Radiotelegraph  code or Morse as it's popularly known, The letters HI (or more often HIHI)  has for a very long time been shorthand for laughter between telegraphers.  The sequence .... .. sort of sounds like it, don't you think?  Anyway, it's been heard around the world but now also out of this world.

Most of us have heard by now that Spacecraft Juno has entered a Jupiter orbit after years of dancing around the inner planets picking up speed. Not as many know that back in October, 2013 Ham Radio operators around the world participated in a test of one of Juno's radios designed to explore Jupiter's radio spectrum by transmitting the letters HI in slow Morse code as Juno flew past Earth.

Using the 10 meter band, hams tuned to a specific frequency depending on the last letter in their call sign and transmitted HI slowly in synch with the Internet. The test was successful and the signal received from myriad Earthbound transmitters, most no more powerful than 100 Watts, at a distance of over 23,000 miles.

Of course Hams have been talking to the International Space Station for years, but somehow this felt more dramatic even though there was no one on board to listen or answer.  Anyway 73 Juno, as one says in code:  So long, best wishes.

Saturday, July 02, 2016

Safety First

Like a bird on the wire, like a drunk in a midnight choir. I have tried in my way to be free.
-Leonard Cohen-

Here's a nightmare for you: Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty seeking America in a self-driving, air conditioned, Japanese safety capsule with no windows but with blue tooth and WiFi.  

Self driving cars: the urge to produce them mystifies me since being able to drive is an essential and precious freedom in my book. for over a hundred years it's been what America was about and I wonder what has done as much, rightly or wrongly - for personal liberty in America as the automobile.

I understand that the "millennials" are now the center of all marketing targets.  I understand the "millennials" aren't quite as keen on the fading American car culture that defined my own youth. They seem to prefer staring at those little black boxes and perhaps having a self-driving vehicle will allow their undivided attention to games and TV and playlists while shopping and texting their 19,642 Facebook Friends -- who knows?  

But robot cars are being touted as an important safety measure and safety in our country is seen as paramount, with all other rights and privileges pertaining to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness being secondary to the needs of absolute safety and the demands of an entertainment addiction.

You'll gather that  I'm mostly against these things, and I am, but not only for the threat of  restrictive "car control" regulations but for the firm belief that no machine can possibly predict the actions of another driver nor read the pavement to predict adhesion nor even distinguish a paper bag in the road from a cement block -- or someone's cat.   That opinion seems not to be so technophobic after May 7th when a Florida Tesla driver, cruising along on "autopilot" watching Harry Potter, found his Tesla not quite so good at discriminating between an 18 wheeler and a cloud and refrained from taking evasive action or hitting the brakes and putting the driver into another and safer vehicle: his coffin.

But it's "potentially life saving" and as anyone knows, even if one life is saved, all is justified.  Safety First, as everyone knows.

Now autopilots on airplanes are dependable and probably safer than requiring a pilot's concentration of great lengths of time. My former yacht had one and it worked amazingly well but the law and common sense demand that someone be at the helm watching out and able to take over command with the push of a big, red, button.  Cars?  Not so much as the popular phrase suggests.  Sure, pass a law so you can give out a ticket after a couple of carloads worth of people get killed. Great idea.

Of course highway safety has increased steadily, decade after decade and hasn't been much affected by speed limits or stop light cameras or $3000 speeding fines. So why are we ever more demanding of safety gadgets that pretend to be better than a trained and practiced human?   Is the day getting closer when we spend our lives sealed in a safety capsule, experiencing the real world only second hand via virtual reality coming soon?  Probably not. Nothing in history is linear, but that general trend makes reality so much more precious. Exercizing a skill, relying on it for your own safety, Being part of the enviornment first hand is worth it, but everywhere I see black boxes in the hands of people sitting in black boxes with blacked out windows and not looking out of them as they go about their connected days, oblivious.

So maybe this is a good morning to take the Schwinn out for a ride, while I still can ride it without body armor, back up cameras and padded pavement.