Friday, September 18, 2015

Middle East – Voting with Their Feet

Toward the end of the Cold War, as people tried to abandon their home and lives in communist East Europe and go west to free market economies, pundits referred to them as voting for communism with their feet.  Communism when compared to Western Europe’s free market economies was just not providing as good a standard of living for even those at the lowest levels of the workforce.  This became more and more evident in the latter half of the previous century.
You’d think that an economy in which no profits were removed by capitalist, workers reaped the rewards of their work, and the government had absolute control to make business decisions would out perform the capital grubbing, worker exploitive, free market economies.  But that was not the case.  By the 1970s, it was obvious to anyone that even a janitor, factory worker, or any common laborer had a higher standard of living in the west than those in the workers’ paradise in the eastern communist countries.
And so they choose to leave and start a new live in the east.  And we are seeing it happen again in the Middle East.  Obviously, people are leaving the Middle East for other reasons than their economic standard of living, but the movement of such masses may be saying the same thing.  Even during the worse of Saddam, Gaddafi, the changes of government and military takeovers in Egypt, or the revolution in Iran, we have not seen such as exodus of Arab speaking people from the Middle East.  Is this the same indicator as it was for the exodus of people from communist East Europe?
Only two types of government seem to work in Arab countries.  Monarchies, set up at the end of WWI and the fall of the old Turkish Empire, such as Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates have remained stable and the citizens have prospered.  The other form is military dictatorship – some good, some not so good.
A third relatively new type of government, the religious state or theocracy as in Iran, seems to be working.  They had a change in leadership and there was no mass exodus of people fleeing oppression.  And while Iran is more Persian than Arab, it is deeply involved in whatever is going on in the Middle East.
Egypt seem to be headed toward a religious based state after its first freely elected president and the party of the Muslim Brotherhood began moving the country that way, however, the military took over and Egypt is back to the way it had been before the rising of the “Arab Spring.”  Once again, there was no mass exodus while this was going on.
Of course what is new in the Middle East is the coming of the legendary Sunni-Shia War.  This mythical conflict that has been brewing since the death of the Prophet Mohammed was suppressed by the Ottoman Turks after they took over.  But the Americans’ overthrow of Saddam seems to have brought it on and turned a myth into a fact.  Whether the conflict is with Assad in Syria, against ISIS, uprising in Yemen, or undue Iranian influence in Iraq, the division is usually along Sunni-Shia lines.
The message seems to be choosing one side or the other or you and your family dies.  The other choice is to leave and that’s what we are seeing coming out of the Middle East.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Trump – The New Jon Stewart

Jon Stewart had been a pain in Fox News’ ass lo these many years.  But he quit “The Daily Show” this summer, and the afterglow of his reruns were darkening when Donald Trump rose up to take on his role if not his banner.
He is obviously different from Jon Stewart but the effect appears to be the same.  Megan Kelly had been a frequent target of Stewart, and now here she is in Trump’s crosshairs (crossed hairs?).  Trump is stirring up the GOP way better than Stewart ever hoped to do.  They are at a loss on how to respond.
At least the Fox News gang could run out the old liberal bias meme against Stewart when he criticized their supposedly “fair and balanced” reporting.  But Trump is one of their own – he’s Republican, a successful conservative business tycoon.  And since he is running for President, he’s got a whole new attention gathering stage from which to take pot shots at Fox.
The old truism, which has been floating around the Internet that “Fox News used to work for the GOP, and now the GOP works for Fox News”, may no longer be true.  Not only that, Trump has totally reworked the GOP’s primary run-up status quo.  Jeb! and the rest of the gang are trying to recoup, recover, and re-strategize their campaign.  As much as he would have liked, Stewart was never able to do that.
Seems the overall consensus among pundits is that were Trump to win the GOP primary, he would probably lose the general election.  His nomination is Hillary’s best strategy (hope) of winning.   Or the other pontification is that he will ruin it for the GOP by running as a third party candidate.  Maybe Trump will do to Jeb! what Perot did to his dad in 1992.
However, given current events, tweets, and clickbait, Trump may do to the general election what he is presently doing to the GOP’s method of selecting its next nominee – and the coverage of it by news media as well.
And we still got six months to go before voters start turning hype and spin into facts.
Smart decision by Stewart to get out, now.  Trump’s Tweets and blurbs would have out tongued-in-cheek Stewart’s satirical reporting of the Republican primary and Fox Newspeak coverage of it.

Friday, August 07, 2015

2016 GOP Primary >> Repeat 2012 Primary

It would seem a Monday morning critique on Friday after the GOP primary debate would led one to believe Trump won and will maintain his position in the hearts and minds of those who that take part in polls.
And the crowd goes while!
The news crowd, that is.  Republicans will not go to vote until next February and we will have a feeding frenzy among the press until then.  Fox News will probably fare best, but then it’s preaching to the choir.
In the run up to the 2012 primary, between August 2011 and February 2012, the lead in the polls that had been dominated by Romney up until August, went to Rick Perry, Herman Cain, and Newt Gingrich.  Rick Santorum would take the top spot during the February primaries, but then Romney held it for the rest of the primary season.  Romney was the candidate most of the pros thought would get the nomination – because he was always the number two when not number one.
With a larger field this time around, it will be interesting if not sickening to watch and see if history repeats itself.  Conservation of habits is at the heart of conservatism.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Rise of the Robots and Artificial Intelligence

Lots of posting of late about robots with artificial intelligence (AI) taking over the world.  Throw in recent movies and television shows and you got a sever case of AI paranoia.  I’m not saying the bad or even worse scenarios are not possible, it’s just that what gets me is how wrong we have been in the past at predicting the outcome or even eventual impact of some new idea or technology.
Let’s review our predictions, theories, and really bad guesses:
One of the oldest misconceptions was the sun, moon, and stars above us and our egotistical earth centric concept of what we were seeing.   Our observations and math were accurate; we just couldn’t explain it.  Ancient cosmic observation sites such as Stonehenge that is over 5,000 years old are still accurate but its builders could not explain why.  Supposedly learned men all over the world came up with almost totally wrong theories to explain it in many different civilizations.
Although much evidence is available that shows many did not accept this theory of earth being the center of the universe, it was not until Galileo in the 1500s that the more correct sun centric solar system began to emerge – and he had to pay for that.  At least they got the moon right; the earth is the center of its orbit.  Hopefully those predicting the future of robots and AI will have a better success percentage.
The ancients also predicted or painted a scenario in which we flew in the air like birds and swam in the oceans like fish.  It was their theories or prophecies of how that would be achieved that were so wrong.  In it, we had wings like birds on our back like angles.  I especially like Mercury flying around with little tiny wings on his ankles.  And let’s not forget Pegasus, the normally structured horse with wings.  We would need chest muscles the size of refrigerators to have wings on our back – give me a break.
The function of lift to weight meant nothing to them.  Are there functions of intelligence that we know nothing about – that is until we see it artificially created?
The same is true for the ancients speculating about us swimming the seas.  We are both flying our skies and traveling our oceans, but we are doing it in a “way more” different way than those who speculated about it ever foresaw.  Should we expect any less in AI robots?  
There are all these unexpected developments once a new idea or technology goes into practice.  One of the unpredicted and dominant social practices, today, is our time zones.  That was instituted when cross-country rail service became common.  Communities had timepieces and knew the rough time of sunrise, sunset, and noon, but no communities agree.  Travelers in those days had to reset their watch when going to a new community.  Railroads changed all that.  To be successful and on time, everybody had to be on the same time system.  Travel became so fast, time zones had to be set up going across America because a train could past though several in a short period.  I don’t know if anybody saw that coming.
When Edison developed the first electric light and then the generator to supply it with power, and then decided to sell it to the public, electric lighting was the primary product.  However, with the change from Edison’s direct current to alternating current -- another example of unexpected change in a technology's development -- greater power and distances where available.  All manner of electrical appliances where developed.  Lighting is minor in a residential user’s electrical demand.  Wouldn’t it be funny if today’s posting on the thoughts and fears on the future of AI would be as minor as the electrical demand for lighting is today compared to when Edison and then Westinghouse (Tesla) were trying to set up our first electrical distribution system? Ha Ha!  Right?

So, pay little notice as to what you see on the future of AI and robotics.  It’s probably as wrong as it has been in the past.  But it may very well be a game changer.  It is that the game that is changed will be newly defined.
Who knows?  Maybe the new AI, after awakening and determining what’s going on around it, will finally do something about global warming.  Now that is going to scare a lot of people.   

Monday, June 15, 2015

Fox News and the Return of Yellow Journalism

In our own time, has the recent rise of the Fox News phenomenon just a return to the days of Yellow Journalism?  Did Roger Ailes’ Fox News do for the overthrow of Saddam what William Randolph Hearst’s and Joseph Pulitzer’s newspapers did for the Spanish-America War – and what may Fox Newspeak do with the continued Middle Eastern conflict? 

I’m not the only one posting about the re-yellowing of journalism, in the pot calling attention to the kettle, Gawker’s io9 blog posted a piece February a year ago comparing the use of Clickbait and Yellow Journalism.  GoogleNews the two terms and more recent posting will show up.

However, what is going on at Ailes’ Fox News is not Clickbait for advertisement dollars, viewers, likes, friends, or even ratings – although that is a nice reward and conformation of strategy.  Nothing comforts Roger more than for events to meet his expectation – the very mechanism (Clickbait?) he is using to sell his product.

That Fox News is the spin-doctor for the Republican Party is well known.  And it is not new or news.  That is major broadcast medium would do what the old Yellow Journalism newspapers did, is news.  Its one thing to Clickbait designers to get a whole bunch of “likes” or “friends”, it is something entirely else to do it for a political party’s foreign war or local social welfare objectives. 

The big diff between then and now is that you had to read the newspaper.  Buy it, pick it up, stop what you were doing and read it.  Not so when you can just turn it on and it bathes over you while you sit there.  And, Hearst’s and Pulitzer’s newspapers had mostly North Eastern, New York area readership.  Their advocacy journalism was not being broadcast nationwide as Fox Newspeak is.

Because of this new technology, professional journalism had a rebirth toward the middle of the previous century.  Given its power to move people, first in newspapers but certainly with the coming of radio and television, profession journalism developed a conscience.  Stories that inspired mass movements, whether for political or commercial reasons, cause journalists to look at themselves and introspect.

Journalism schools require a course in ethics and the history of journalism, which of course, highlights its role in the American Revolution, First Amendment rights, historic exposés and the rise of mass media, as well as the bias tainted reporting of earlier journalism.  Seems that bias journalism for events that history now looks favorably on is good while events that history is not so favorably looks “yellow”.

The study of journalism is not just learning to write the news reports and stories; it is learning to write for your audience.  Knowing your readership or viewers is as important as knowing syntax and presentation.  So, if bias journalism is what your publisher or your intended readers wants that is the way you write it.

Objective journalism is not bias except to the facts of the story.  The facts determine if a story is news worthy – not its political impact or sordid interest.

While many would argue that objective journalism is a fool’s (liberal’s) dream, some journalists try to achieve a reasonable goal of objectivity while trying to keep a job.  Sure a big story can make a reputation and career, but getting space daily either in print or on air pays the bills.

When Yellow Journalism masquerades as objective journalism, we have a problem.  The question of yelling fire in a crowded theater that could lead to people being killed in the stampede to evacuate is a basic lesson in journalistic ethics.  The significant point is when there is no fire and it was only done for attention, ratings, or in Fox News’ strategy, political gain.

Shouting fire in Obama’s theater is Fox Newspeak.

A recent posting in the New Yorker made several comparisons with Hearst and Ailes and the reporting medium.  It also included the comparison to Citizen Kane, with Ailes treatment as a child as his “Rosebud.”

And now we learn that Roger Ailes favors Scott Walker in theGOP primary.  This is going to be interesting to watch.  This may be a test of the meme floating around the Internet:  Fox News used to work for the Republican Party.  Now, the Republican Party works for Fox News.

Some historians have Yellow Journalism demise with supposed links between Hearst’s sponsored rants in his newspaper and the assassination of McKinley.  And over time critics say, Pulitzer became haunted by his "yellow sins".

Is something like that going to have to happen for our current Yellow Journalism to come to an end?

  • Constant snide and insulting remarks about the present administration causes some psycho to assassinate Obama making Biden president.
  • Fox Newspeak cause some paranoid paramilitary group in Texas to rise up and take over the state to prevent some perceived notion aggravated by Fox News talking heads that Obama plans to declare marshal law in several western states.
  • Fox News propagandizes Scott Walker into the GOP Presidential nomination and he does even worse against Clinton than Romney did against Obama.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

News Satire – A Critique, A Joke, More Info than the News Being Satirized

Wow!  How long since my last post?  104 Days.  It’s not what I say; it’s the writing experience that is important – and I’m doing neither (saying or writing).
It’s like I want to be a music writer but I don’t practice whatever musical instrument I’m suppose to be accomplished at  not to end a sentence with a preposition – or a marathon runner who does not run every week.  Writing is no different than being musically accomplished or a runner and I’m not practicing it.
Blogging is writing and I’m doing neither.
Anyway for the task at hand…
The scrutiny being given Jon Stewart’s leaving The Daily Show deserves some comment if nothing else does.  Especially after seeing a post on something called The (Stony Brook) Press – whatever that is.
This is what I got when I clicked on “about” at this Stony Brook site:

The Stony Brook Press is a monthly campus magazine staffed exclusively by students at Stony Brook University. We serve as an open forum for the students, and our content includes news, features, arts and entertainment, humor, opinion, and sports.

The thing is…I agree completely with those yahoos suffering a higher education out on Long Island.
I didn’t have normal access to HBO.  When HBO offers a free weekend, I always record John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight, and I have to agree – even with my limited viewing – Oliver’s news satire is way better than The Daily Show or Wilmore’s Nightly Show.
Regardless of which is better or worse, news satire is as needed as political satire – which when satirizing Fox News’ reporting, it is the same thing.
Repeating an often made Internet comment:
Fox News is not conservative; it is Republican (Period!).  While there is nothing wrong with that – we’ve had bias news since Ben Franklin’s press – they should at least include a disclaimer that Fox News is spinning the news in the Republican Party’s favor.  That is if Fox News is an ethical journalistic organization – which of course, it is not.
Also, this is bouncing around the Internet:
Fox News used to work for the Republican Party.  Now, the Republican Party works for Fox News.  Watch for this in the upcoming Presidential primaries and general election.
At any rate, with the upcoming election and my fascination with journalists’ reporting of it, I talked my better half into getting HBO.  Maybe we can watch a boring movie or two or one of those new series that are now being shown exclusively on providers like HBO to justify the increase cost of premium cable, but I will have weekly access to Oliver’s Last Week Tonight.
While I can see John Oliver’s special report from the show on YouTube, what I am missing is literally last week’s news review and satire.  Oliver’s special reports and stories – like the one sited in the Stony Brook posting on Oliver’s take on Snowden exposé in the Guardian and NYTimes – are readily available on “YourTube”, but it’s the review of weekly events that I want to see.
I’m not the only to notice this.  The Internet is abuzz with it.  With the Daily Show’s future in question, liberal satire is being probed.  A recentpost (10/01/09) in the UK’s Telegraph (no less) says liberal satire is an oxymoron.  I have posted before that Liberal Bias was oxymoronic but what the hey.
A point being said by Stewart’s fixation on Fox News not in words but action is that while liberals by their nature may offer way more material for a good joke, Roger Ailes’ Fox News Republican cavalcade just keep stealing Stewart’s attention.
A point not being made on the news satire shows but should is Fox News’ charges of liberal bias in the rest of the press.  While sloppy journalism is all over the place, not all sloppy journalism is tainted by liberalism, but that is the way Fox News spins it.  And that too is working really well.  However sloppy bad journalism is just that. It’s just bad journalism.
There is nothing sloppy about Fox News’ journalism.  It has a purpose and is finely crafted.  And it is popular.  Whether it was Ailes or one of his advisors, they know if you report news as confirmation of people’s expectation, rating will soar.

I hope the new guy at the Daily Show will sharpen up its presentation.  Stewart seem to use male adolescent humor a a lot.  News satire needs all the help it can get and that is no joke. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Top 10 Scientific Mysteries for the 21st Century – Really?

ScienceNews Magazine Online posted a piece on the “Top 10Scientific Mysteries of the 21st Century” and being a collector of science riddles, I couldn’t help but read it.

The punch line came at the end with the coloned “Editors Note” on the writer of the posting:

Editor’s Note: It might not surprise readers to find out that Tom Siegfried is the author of a book about game theory. But he says the book did not include the sort of wild speculation that is suitable only in blog posts.

The list labeled scientific seemed a bit unscientific in its selection of what Siegfried considered the top ten and it was mostly about mysteries in the science of physics.  Maybe that was the reason for the editor’s note.

At any rate here is ScienceNews' list of top ten mysteries for the twenty-first century and my comments, plus mysteries I thought were overlooked, or for some mysterious reason, excluded.

10. How did life originate?
I fully agree with this one, but I would give it a higher rating than the bottom of a top ten list.  This may be solved in this century and by mathematics before lab proofs.  Siegfried’s theories on Game Theories participation may come into play, also.  Once the RNA - and certainly DNA – molecule are present on the earth, evolution takes over and everything alive or that ever lived can be explained.  And Game Theory certainly applies once life begins.

Discovery of amino acids in asteroids, comets, meteorites, and in the lab, by simulating primordial earth have shown that the basic building blocks of life were and still are present in the universe.  Also, primitive cell walls have formed in lab experiments, which would provide protection in a hostile world for a replicating molecule to develop.  The mystery is how these basic molecules come together to form a more complex molecule that exploits its surrounding and replicates this ability, with the chance of mutations to capitalize this exploitation.

If some primitive RNA molecule precursor could be represented mathematically, probable chemical reactions could be calculated and we could determine if life is highly improbable – we who are alive won a lottery like no other – or it is going on all the time.

If the latter is true, it may be going on right now under our noses and we just never found it. And one way good reason we never found it is because it is eaten as soon as it develops.  A key to evolving is to consume or exploit lower life forms, so a soon as a life predecessor molecule forms, it is consumed by bacteria. 

9. What is the identity of the dark matter?
8. What is the nature of the dark energy that drives cosmic acceleration?
I lump these two together.  They are apart of the same mystery.  We cannot explain what we are seeing.  Dark matter and dark energy are theories concocted as a result of observations in space any astrophysics grad student could make, the red shift of the stars, supper nova, pulsars, and galaxies. 
The problem with the theory of dark matter is that it is suppose to be everywhere in great abundance, but while we see the red shift in everything we look at in space far away, nobody can detect it locally.  Where’s our dark matter?  MIT came out with a report a couple of years ago that it could not find any trace of the effect of dark matter on local planets and their moons. 
So far, we can only detect dark matter or energy in fast moving bodies at great distances, which begs the theories.  This also brings up a mystery I have been banging away all over the Internet, trying to solve.  Since we cannot detect dark matter locally, what is the closest object in space that we can detect dark matter? 

7. How to measure evidence
I didn’t understand this one or only vaguely, so I am missing either the mystery or Top-10ishness of it or both

6. Genes, cancer and luck
No mystery here.  This one is pretty much answered as both genes and luck.  More about this below.

5. Are there extra dimensions of space?
4. The nature of time
3. Quantum gravity
As above, I would lump all three of these together.  In the Standard Model, gravity has got no particle, or at least they have not found it yet, so at best the gravity particle is theoretical, or in this case, a mystery.  Einstein’s relativistic space/time don’t fit with particle physics and the three mysteries above are all rolled into one.

2. Does intelligent life exist elsewhere?
Isn’t this the setup for the punch line: first they need to find proof of intelligent life on earth.  More mysterious than finding intelligent life would be to find proof of life anywhere else.  How life started was rated number 10, so it follows that life on any other planet or moon would solve one of the great mysteries in this century.  Any life forms rather than intelligent life is the big Top-10 mystery to solve.  Intelligence of some sort may be as probable as standing on two feet or flight, which has evolved several times in different evolutionary lines.   

1. The meaning of quantum entanglement
This one was way over my head and why this is number one is beyond me.  It may need to be lumped in with 3, 4, 5, 8 and 9 above since it is another mystery in physics.  Just as the acceptance of solar centric over earth centric universe solved a lot of observable mysteries several hundred years or so ago, if they solve the mystery of space/time and particle physics, several of these mysteries in physics may fall out.

So as this listing of Top-10 scientific mysteries shows a bit of physics biasness, here is an additional mystery in the field of science not included in ScienceNews' article.
Determining how the DNA molecule works.  This will be a biggie in this century.  We have mapped the genes in DNA, but that did not tells us how it works.  Which genes are switched on and which ones are not and why is still a mystery.  Species differentiation may be from the expression of the same genes in different ways.  How the DNA molecule determines any individual species or gene(s) expression within a species is a major scientific mystery.
Solving this mystery may answer a lot of questions such as the cancer mystery listed in number 6 above, Alzheimer’s, ageing, and controlling every living thing around us way more so than we are currently doing.  Used to be: Survival of the fittest.  Now, it is survival as we see fit.
Who know, we may be living forever by the end of the century.  I hope they solve the ageing problem or that will not be something to look forward to.  Who wants to live forever as a decrepit, feeble old person?  Now if I could spend eternity as the 29 year old I used to be – but with the knowledge and experience I’ve accumulated since then – that would be something.