Monday, December 31, 2012

Celebrate Arrival of 2013? Surely You Jest!

Many around the world will be celebrating the arrival of 2013 but if they knew what lies ahead, I doubt seriously they'd be in a festive mood. Yeppers, it is true that I am a guy who congenitally sees the glass half empty, but as many of my future year end forecasts have materialized, especially as regards climate change, I don't think I should be dismissed on account of being a "Grinch" or a "Grump". Indeed, as Jonathan Winocur once wrote in an AARP essay, the world needs more of us to balance the delirious, happy-faced fools who - like lemmings- are headed for a real planetary disaster cliff and are blissfully unaware.

Anyway, below I provide some of the reasons I'm not too enthused about welcoming in a new year that promises events as bad or worse than the last, and on all fronts: societal, political, economic and climate-wise:

1) The U.S. will continue its inexorable decline to a glitzy on the surface Third World superstate. Inequality will certainly increase and be part of this, with one political party so dysfunctional it's collective behavior now borders on the psychopathic- while the other party is so appeasing, pussified and corporatized that it enables the psychopath party at every turn.

Therefore, look for:

a) A terrible final deal on solving the "fiscal cliff" with sharp cuts in social insurance programs thereby fueling further inequality - even as the inequality -causing tax cuts are extended. (They ought to have been stopped two years ago)

b) Another diabolical episode of the pathological R-party's brinksmanship as they once more invoke the debt ceiling to deny any increase unless Obama capitulates to their insane spending cut demands (when I already showed - previous blog- they are the ones who need to face spending cuts, especially on defense). As usual, Obama, the mild-mannered gentleman that he is, will give in ....or as we on the left like to say, let himself get rolled again in a DC back alley.

c) Despite the fact the spending cuts are the worst possible solution, since we have a continuing crisis of aggregate demand, the Republicans will demand an austerity solution patterned after Friedrich von Hayek - whose own austerity solutions led to the collapse of the Weimar Republic and the rise of Nazism. But we know that the Neoliberal press-media won't see this, because as articulated by one of their main spokespersons - Bob Woodward- they want nothing more than to see oldsters having to go out and work at the age of 75 and that means cutting Social Security and Medicare to the bone.

d) At the same time, major deficit spending (as done in the Kennedy years) to restore our crumbling infrastructure would be the best means to immediately spur employment as well as feed aggregate demand with those new paychecks. But the Reepos, under a Paul Ryan style mandate for austerity spending cuts won't permit critical investments where needed. They will demand it for the military - increasing its bloated budget even further while forgetting the lesson of history that led to Rome's fall: military overstretch.

2) Sucking up another enormous fraction of the national budget, and spreading its tentacles everywhere - to the point of threatening civil liberties, is the National Security State. (See my previous blog on how the FBI, DHS, etc. spied on the Occupy movement). Few Americans even know the extent of this, since the Bush years and the extensions of the Patriot Act. They should, including how our representatives have consistently voted on these issues. Examples:

a) Senators voted to renew the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act through 2017. This law authorizes government spying without specific warrants on electronic messages. The wording is supposed to refer to "foreigners'" messages but the law really allows ANY to be picked up and indeed saved by the NSA. Hence, it is hence unlawful as it violates the 4th amendment to the Bill of Rights. To give some brief background: it was initiated in the Bush years, then when a case was brought to show such overtstepping violated the 1978 FISA law, the Bushies -and a willing congress- changed the law to make the unlawful lawful. Got that?  This law, designated HR5949, was sent to President Obama for signing.

b) Reinforcing the above, Senators refused to require search warrants for any government inspections of customer records held by firms such as internet service providers, credit cards and banks..

c) Senators refused to require minimal public disclosure of the extent to which U.S. citizens' communications are inadvertently collected in spying authorized by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (HR5949), The law superficially requires such interceptions to be expunged, but absolutely no oversight exists to ensure this is actually done.

d) Nothing has been done to restore habeas corpus which few Americans realize was removed under the Military Commissions Act of 2006.

3) Massive Dislocation, Disaster from Intensifying Climate Change:

Anyone who's seriously followed the latest climate research will see that the omens for violent storms, extended heat waves, floods etc. are even more malignant for 2013. 'Sandy" then was merely a shot across our bow. Look out for another spring replete with hundreds of F3-F5 tornadoes as well as continued drought and fires in the mountain west, and floods in the east, northeast and parts of the South.

Over the year another  ¼ C increase in mean global temperature will bring us closer to the first 'year of no seasons'.  The oceans meanwhile will become at least 10% more acidic than they are now and people around the world will see the ominous 'red tide' defiling their beaches. New, horrific breeds of sea weed will appear, such as I found in Barbados on my last visit, which induced searing burns , rashes merely on contact.

Tropical diseases, such as dengue fever and schistosomiasis will appear and become more widespread, even as flesh eating fungi, bacteria multiply threatening any who happen to wade in fresh water lakes with open wounds or even small cuts. a new virulent form of influenza will appear by September.

4) Education will continue to suffer as tens of thousands more teachers are laid off, what with states faced with flowing red ink from low tax policies. Poorly -funded state universities will have no choice but to increase their tuition yet again, up 20% or more - causing many young people to reconsider their college plans or settle for a community college.

Meanwhile, college debt will ramp up even more and the 53% current proportion of unemployed college grads will become 60%. Much of this will accrue from the austerity -spending cut measures imposed by the Republicans - in return for them allowing an increase in the debt ceiling.

5) North Korea, feeling its oats after a successful missile test, will challenge the U.S. in a new crisis, likely occurring in late spring or summer. This will be the first real test for Obama in a crisis similar to what many previous presidents have faced.

6)  As fracking mania rages across the country, with little ability of citizens to fight back, diseases and illnesses - including cancers, will spread for those inhabiting the fracked areas where water supplies will be contaminated. (See my earlier blogs on fracking).

Want to go ahead and ring in the New Year? Go ahead! But don't look for me!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

"Spending Cuts?" REPUKES Need to Make 'Em!

As noted in multiple prior blogs, despite all the palaver over the national debt, and $16 trillion deficits, it has really been the GOP, aka the Repukes, that created it over the past 11 years. The charts shown illustrate the primary contributors to the massive debt, and where we'd really be minus the "wars" (actually prolonged occupations) and Bush tax cuts. And yet, the obscene narrative promoted by Neoliberal stooges and hacks in the Beltway is that it's been "entitlements" such as Social Security that have caused the massive deficit, and debt. Not by a frickin' longshot!

Looking at the left side chart we see that (current)  debt without the tax cuts and the wars would have been about 40% of GDP.  Without the tax cuts, wars plus the 2009 stimulus the debt would've been around 37% of GDP. I have always argued that the stimulus was needed, to help us escape another Great Depression, so I don't deem that factor as useless like the other ones. (Military types might argue that the "wars"-occupations were not useless additions to the debt but my point is they ought to have been paid for by higher taxes as all other wars have. Real wars, that is!)

On Friday, I wanted to punch Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) right in the face for saying on national TV (MSNBC, Rachel Maddow show with Ezra Klein standing in) that the debt was now "160% of GDP" thereby arguing for major entitlement cuts. The truth is disclosed by the chart at the right, which shows in fact the total of all contributors to be roughly 68% of GDP at 2012 - with two of the contributors (again tax cuts and "wars") unjustified. Factoring in the stimulus, which was justified, one arrives at debt at about 42% of GDP. Add in Medicare ongoing over -expenses, and it rises to about 50% of GDP. (Over -expenses means the money Medicare must shell out over and above what the beneficiaries themselves pay for treatments, etc. Much of this arises from the 2003 Medicare Modernization Act and introduction of Medicare Advantage plans which yearly runs higher imbalances than standard Medicare.)

See also:

All of the above discloses that the hair-on fire screeching of the Repukes to cut "entitlements" is so much PR codswallop fueled by the shameless Neoliberal media and politicos. It is not entitlements - other than the misbegotten "Medicare Modernization Act" of 2003 (which essentially sought to privatize Medicare and increase premium costs on standard beneficiaries) that have contributed to the massive debt load but rather unpaid for wars and military expenditures- many of which have actually siphoned off Social Security monies to try to make deficits appear smaller.

Let's also recall here that the end-of-decade $5.6 trillion surplus forecast by the Congressional Budget Office in 2000 was more than eviscerated by the two unfunded "wars",  plus two indefensible rounds of Bush tax cuts, and the unpaid for Medicare prescription drug benefit along with the TARP bank bailout. By all standards of reason, NO tax cuts ought to have been implemented once two invasions and occupations had been planned, as we now know ad been the case even before Bush Jr. entered the WH.

Lastly, please recall that in order to accommodate those "spend and not tax" (e.g. massive credit increase) policies, Bush and his GOP allies in Congress voted seven times to raise the U.S. debt ceiling. As it turns out, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) voted for all of it. And yet now, the Repukes - dastardly vermin that they are - plan to use the debt ceiling to take the country hostage as they did last year. Refusing to raise it unless Obama and the Dems give in to them! (Which is why I say this time Obama must cease showing them any "respect", or treating them as rational equals, thus invoking the 14 th amendment to raise it on his own. Thereby for once acknowledging his Reepo opposition in the House as economic terrorists!)

Given this, it makes sense that a last ditch effort by these shameless Reep-turds to interject Social Security cuts into a late, limited "fiscal cliff" deal  (via the chained CPI)was shot down by the Dems.

At least it shows they have some cojones. As I've said before, if a terrible deal is on the table, it's better to dive over that cliff one time and let all the tax rates rise - since there's no way the Repukes would ever have willingly voted for them with Norquist holding a phoney no-tax pledge gun to their heads.

Brace yourselves people, and be ready for whatever comes next!

Retailers Pout, But Charities Are Glad 'Muricans Didn't Totally Revert to Infants this Xmas Season

If anyone has been reading the financial press or at least financial pages in major newspapers the past week, they'd have noticed the hand-wringing of the usual consumption cheerleaders that this Xmas season was a downer. Why? Well, despite the early (ca. Thanksgiving period) shopping trends and highest consumer confidence index in 4 years, citizens didn't completely revert to the stage of infantile consumers and blow as much $$$$ as they used to on garbage that will most likely be either exchanged or re-gifted.

In general, the season itself -  despite all the appeals for recognizing "Christ's birth" - was in fact Mithra's long before Christ's. The Christians simply copied the Dec. 25th template, see e.g. ) didn't live up to the merchants' expectations. There was a major drop off and retailers ended up having to savagely slash prices - sometimes from 50-75%, just to get people in the stores.

Less reported is that many of those would-be "consumers" took their disposable income and used it in a constructive way,  donating to a local charity - say a food pantry- as opposed to simply fueling the consumption machine. As reported in yesterday's Denver Post (page 1A) charities and non-profts are elated at seeing in uptick in seasonal giving.  One Sr. Vice-President at Philanthropy Experts was quoted as saying she's really grateful people "didn't feel it was totally appropriate just to blow a bundle of money."  I think their pocketbooks and bank accounts are probably grateful too!

As well as the better "angels" of their nature, the ones who maybe long for Americans to be a bit less consuming and infantile. As Benjamin Barber points out in his book, CONSUMED, markets and consumption basically corrupt children and infantilize adults. A primary dynamic in this infantilization process is the meme of "privatization" and its attendant twin, individualism. The more these twins are fed, often ironically by hard work, the less the social or communitarian embrace.

Barber notes (p. 134):

"Infantilization acts to reinforce the preference for the private and the puerile by treating the impetuous, grasping child as the ideal shopper, and the shopper as the ideal citizen. It inculcates in adults an obligation to give free rein to 'I want!' and 'Gimme that!' that both disclose and constitute the infantile Id."

And most germane to the point:

"More than simply an option, puerility is regarded as a necessity of capitalism's survival and hence a mandate of the zeitgeist- which of course, is the ethos of infantilization."

Buy, shop and spend! That will make you happy! And that, in turn will make the capitalist Overlords and their protectors happy!  Or to put it another more direct way: When you're out in the Mall buying crap, or even immersed in using it (Barber also makes the point that with the panoply of goods in people's possession they barely have the time to use any one of them for very long) the Powers-that -be will be elated. They will be elated if you're so consumed in such infantile self-immersion you will be less likely to join any "Occupy" movements, investigate any of the country's political assassinations...or maybe seek to learn who is in the Bilderberg group. In other words, a contented state is one which doesn't have to do too much surveillance of smart alecky citizens who refuse to toe the line, i.e. be a good sheep and shop, then play with their i-pads, i-phones, twitter accounts, video games...or whatever else retains them in an infantile state.

But I get a bit ahead of myself. According to the Post article, the retailers aren't too soothed by the "paradox" of people who have money - but donate to charity! According to the piece (p. 11 A):

"For retailers expecting sales to be high after consumer confidence hit a four year high in October, the paradox remains an unwelcome reality. But local non-profts aren't surprised and say heart wrenching stories often inspire people to help out in their community."

Now, let's deconstruct that paragraph a bit. In other words, many people - despite having "consumer confidence" - opted to take their money and use it to give to the nearest food bank or other charity rather than blow it on themselves or their greedy (often ingrate) kids, say for i-pads, cell phones, X-boxes or whatever. Meanwhile, the non-profits were not surprised that when so much societal need occurs (such as after Sandy struck, or the fires here in Colo.) people sought to help others rather than hoard their cash stash to buy more toys- for themselves or their consumption-conditioned, "branded' kiddies. ("I don't want any non -name brand jeans!")

According to Terry Tedeschi of Community Food Share, quoted in the article:

"It's a matter of people opening up their hearts, period. Certainly the tragedies like Sandy and the shootings in Newtown and Aurora break people's hearts and make them want to reach out to people in some way."

Another non-profit head, John Arigoni, said:

"Maybe people are saying 'Let's do less around the presents and more with giving back to the community."

Indeed. And this is the opposite of what Barber sees as the price of overt consumption, meaning more and more privatization, individualism. Especially in purchasing gobbledegook. Whereas in places like Barbados, a family will purchase one large gift, say an X-box video game - to be shared among all the kids, in this country each kid demands his own. Then he can lock himself away in his room and be away from the rest of the family ....privatization!

Capitalism depends on this non-sharing, non-community buy meme because if all families go the route in Barbados, there'll be too much inventory left on the shelves. Can't have that! So it behooves the markets to pander to the infantile to always purchase for the individual, never for a group! Oh, and this drives them to constantly come up with a new individual want (as opposed to a genuine need) to feed the insatiable capitalist coffers and the need to fuel the nation's GDP. (70% of which is upheld by consumption).

If Americans are indeed giving more and spending less, it is an encouraging sign because it perhaps signals a greater attention to society and the commonweal than the perpetual 'Me'.  But time will tell, so we will have to wait and see!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

National Security State Spied on Occupy Movement…….So What’s New?

In his most recent blog on, David Lindorff references recently obtained documents from the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security by the Partnership for Civil Justice and released this past week. (For the complete article go to:

Lindorff states that the document shows that the FBI and other intelligence and law enforcement agencies “began a campaign of monitoring, spying and disrupting the Occupy Movement at least two months before the first occupation actions began in late September 2011.”

He goes on to write:

“As early as August, while acknowledging that the incipient Occupy Movement was “peaceful” in nature, federal, state and local officials from the FBI, the DHS and the many Fusion Centers and Joint Terrorism Task Force centers around the country were meeting with local financial institutions and their private security organizations to plot out a strategy for countering the Occupy Movement’s campaign.”

  Hmmmmmm.....should anyone really familiar with deep politics be at all surprised at this? I think not! In fact, any deep politics maven would recognize we essentially found out what we expected all along!  Also the collective "joint task force centers", plus fusion centers in concert with other fed super snoopers is reminiscent of John Poindexter's 'Total Information Awareness' plan - which was rejected by congress in 2003, but appears to have re-materialized as the Domestic Security Alliance Council.

 Also, is there anyone around – not still living under a rock or a recently landed alien from Epsilon Eridani – who doesn’t know that the feds have been singularly after the U.S. Left since the 1940s-50s finding every ruse under the frickin’ Sun to break up its organizations , and scatter them to the four winds? The disrupted organizations include: Labor, the Civil Rights movement, the Anti-war movement of the 1960s, the Black Panthers and others.

Much of this commenced under the Hoover- instigated FBI program known as COINTELPRO which featured assets being planted in various organizations with the sole purpose to disrupt them. Hell, many of the alleged “anarchists” appearing in Seattle for the WTO protests in ’99 were these jockos – it certainly fits their modus operandi.

In his excellent series, ‘The Untold History Of the United States’ Oliver Stone documents a lot of these instances starting with his ‘Chapter 5’ (‘The 1950s, Eisenhower, the Bomb and the Third World’) when commie hysteria ran rampant. (Eisenhower was once quoted as saying: “I’d rather be atomized then commie-ized”. I believe he must have been under the influence of a senile brain fart at the time….or maybe hypnotized by J. Edgar or one of his then misfits)

Stone, in his series,  continues to highlight the sad and sorry saga of relentless Left harassment with his Chapters 6 and 7 (‘LBJ, Nixon, Vietnam and the Third World’) when the feds really went ape shit determined to break up anything that even smelled leftist. Meanwhile, the right wing nuts – like in the John Birch Society, and States’ Rights parties, were basically allowed to do whatever. (Even now, as in the recent issue of the Southern Poverty Law Center's 'Intelligence Digest', pleas are being made for the security establishment to train more eyes and ears on the extremist Right whackos - including militias, "patriot" groups, Confederate sympathizers and others - which have exploded since Obama's re-election.)

The main unifying theme to keep on your radar is the growth and expansion of American capital and equity markets with their attendant insatiable need to devour precious resources for the sake of wanton consumption. In addition, the engrained perception of these cancerous capital markets is that anyone or anything that stands in their way – even potentially- is an enemy. Thus, as Stone shows us (Chapter 5), the removal of Mossadegh in Iran in 1953 because he obstructed expansion of petroleum markets, then the removal of Guatemala's Jacobo Arbenz in 1954 because he wanted to implement land reforms that included some nationalization of United Fruit’s banana plantations.

Meanwhile, the domestic Left has been under fierce attack since the 1920s with the “Wobblies”. Special fed task units were assigned to infiltrate and break them up just as the FBI’s COINTELPRO did with the anti-War movement in the 60s. Many of those protestors were shot, or bludgeoned in manufactured riots. In a similar vein, one of Lindorff’s PCJ -obtained documents reveals a perp -instigator (name conveniently blanked out in the released document) who actually proposed to assassinate leaders of the Occupy Movement in Houston with “suppressed” sniper rifles. As the released PCJ document puts it:

“One identified ------  as of October planned to engage in sniper attacks against protesters in Houston, Texas if deemed necessary. An identified ----- had received intelligence that indicated the protesters in New York and Seattle planned similar protests in Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Austin, Texas. ---- planned to gather intelligence against the leaders of the protest group and obtain photographs, then formulate a plan to kill the leadership by suppressed sniper rifles.”

Jesus H. Christ! What is it with these demented Reich Wing Texans and their boners for assassinations?  Wasn't JFK enough? Now they wanted to off innocent kids just trying to exercise their rights to free speech. Oh wait, yes, that did go out the window along with the 4th amendment when the Patriot Act was signed, sealed and delivered. I forgot!

The point is this shit isn’t new, nor should any American who’s had a REAL history course be amazed or surprised. But the question remains: Where did this virus begin? This virus driving the government over multiple election cycles (even when Dems - the alleged "people's party", are in power)  to selectively clamp down on one part of the political spectrum while allowing the other to run wild. The answer is the American Security Council (ASC).

FACT: The origins of the ASC began almost at the apex of Trade Union power in the United States, after Army and business surveillance of workers became linked in common cause. (See e.g. Jensen, J.M.: Army Surveillance in America: 1775-1980 , Chapter 7: 'Watching the Workers', Yale University Press, 1991. )

Author Russ Bellant ('Old Nazis, The New Right and The Republican Party' , South End Press, Boston, 1991) documents the origin and makeup of the ASC as follows:

"The ASC began in Chicago in 1955, staffed primarily by former FBI agents. In its first year it was called the Mid-American Research Library. Corporations joined to take advantage of what former FBI agent William Turner described as ...'a dossier system modeled after the FBI's, which was intended to weed out employees and prospective employees deemed disloyal to the free enterprise system."

And further (op. cit., p.33):

"Although the ASC began as an anti-labor operation with support from Sears, and other businesses, it soon became involved in foreign policy issues. It co-sponsored a series of annual meetings from 1955 to 1961 called National Military-Industrial Conferences in which elements of the Pentagon, National Security Council, and organizations linked to the CIA discussed cold war strategy with leaders of many large corporations, such as United Fruit, Standard Oil, Honeywell, U.S. Steel, and of course, Sears Roebuck. "

Bellant (p. 30) citing a Washington Post piece (1/8/79, p C1) that described the ASC as 'The Cold War Campus' and 'The Heart of the Military-Industrial Complex' went on to write:

"Both are names the American Security Council wears with pride. Its boards are filled with retired senior military officers, executives of major corporations, including some of the largest military contractors, and some New Right leaders. Wes McCune of the Washington DC - based Group Research, which monitors the political right wing, says the ASC 'is not just the representative of the military-industrial complex, it is the personification of the military-industrial complex'."

Here we see why the nation’s one-track  "security apparatus" doesn’t do overly much about the Right: they are themselves part of the political Right- or at least coopted by it - and have been since becoming attached to the ASC. Oh, but they do have time and energy to squander on someone like Marilyn Monroe - whose FBI files were released yesterday. Evidently she was suspected of having "commie" friends, and "possibly visiting communists in Mexico"  (like Lee Harvey Oswald,  as portrayed in the Warren Commission fable). And,  I guess like many OWS protestors are suspected of having "t'errist" friends today. Who the hell knows?

Sadly, if you’re classified as a Leftist in this country, you're not considered a patriot and you don’t have much going for you other than to maybe brag that some spooks, or wannabe James Bonds have ‘x’ monitors on you or are tracking you….especially if you become involved in a national protest movement. (I know the FBI et al probably started files on me in the early 1960s when as a HS student I used to write the Soviet Embassy in D.C. requesting issues of 'Soviet Life'. Hoover must have had a shit fit that his commie hysteria didn't work on me!)

Forewarned is forearmed. Oh one more thing: knowing how far and wide the tentacles of this apparatus are now so widespread it may be no wonder why the sole “people’s party” has descended into a bunch of Neolib establishment appeasers in the past fifty years! But, after what happened to JFK, I guess they can’t really be blamed for looking out for their hides first.

Friday, December 28, 2012

PSA Test Results Are Back: To Celebrate or Not?

Barely ten minutes ago a nurse phoned from my primary care doc and gave the results of the PSA test taken last Friday, and roughly 3 months after the conclusion of my prostate cancer radiation treatment. She reported the PSA as 2.0 - which is "within normal range". While wifey was ecstatic, and this was definitely a positive,  considering it had gone up to 6.1 in June (before the biopsy and radiation treatment in September, see e.g. I noted we still had to wait to see what Dr. Hsu of UCSF made of it. Would he be satisfied with this first post-treatment result? We'd have to fax the lab report to him then see.

In the meantime, I am not hitting the panic button though I had hoped the PSA would have been closer to 1.5. But in a way it makes sense. As I noted before one can't compare a first PSA taken 3 mos. after radiotherapy (even high dose) with that taken after radical prostatectomy because in the latter case the whole gland is effectively removed, while in radiation it is left in. Thus, one still has production of prostate specific antigen by the remaining intact cells of the prostate, and one knows this is fueled by testosterone. (I haven't had a test for testosterone level, but if I had I am sure it would show close to normal levels.)

The other thing one must bear in mind is that the effects of radiation are progressive. Most statistics show that by five years after radiation high dose treatment the effects are almost identical to those after radical surgery. In other words, my time line will disclose increasing effects- many of them negative - such as damage to the erectile tissue, blood vessels etc. as the effect of the radiation dose continues on the cells. Over this increasing time line, one ought to see a decrease in PSA, though as I also noted before there may be aberrations which occur - temporary blips upward- and then declines. A "treatment failure" is only reported when there is no further decline. When I hit the lowest PSA over a timeline, say two years, that will be defined as the "PSA nadir". If it pops back up, we call it a "PSA bounce". Ideally we don't see too many bounces!

The "cure rates" reported in most studies tend to depend on two factors: 1) the quality of the treatment, and 2) the average risk type of the patient. Note most studies are "retrospective" or ex-post facto, only concluded after the fact. This is consonant with both the nature of the disease and also the treatment, especially radiation. The problem is that accuracy is limited by variations in "risk types" for different institutions. (Oncologists do their best to match risk types from institution to institution but for a number of reasons the matching process is less than perfect, introducing uncertainty.)

In one of the most notable studies, completed by Dr. Patrick Walsh (who invented the modern form of radical prostate surgery) at Johns Hopkins, the 15-year cure rates as reported in the journal 'Urology' in 2007, were 85%, 63% and 40%. These were for low-risk, intermediate risk and high risk disease, respectively. (Let's also bear in mind that even the best surgeons in one study group left cancer behind in 10% of cases - as determined by the "positive surgical margin rate". This is the frequency, usually given as a percentage, of leaving cancer cells behind over a number of 'n' surgeries performed.

Meanwhile, in the most prominent reported study for (low dose) seed implant brachytherapy, in the International Journal of Radiation Oncology (2007), the cure rates were 86%, 80% and 68% for low, intermediate and high risk cancer.  (By all considerations my high dose rate brachy results ought to compare even more favorably!) In other words, the two methods compare very well at least from these two studies. (A futher interesting point is that a Johns Hopkins study has shown that relapses after surgery occur on average five years earlier than seed implants.)

In the end, it's a waiting game. Over more time, perhaps at least two years, the chief oncologist will be able to definitely say that the battle has been "won" or perhaps only drawn, or lost. Right now I am just elated to have a much lower PSA than I had 6 months ago, and will take that as a 'W'.

Aargh! The Ordeal of Too Much Math Homework!

The poor college student above is overwhelmed! The math is too difficult! Who would have believed that  a teacher- to -be has to become immersed in Abstract Algebra, Geometry and Linear Algebra? It's too much!  Now, "Phoebe" needs your help! The 3rd year Education major is stuck on an Abstract Algebra problem.

Let's peek in on her preliminary reading and see what the problem is:

Let (G, o) and (H, o) be groups. Then a homomorphism of (G, o) into (H, o) is a map of the sets G and H which has the following property:  f(x o y) = f(x) o f(y)


(G, o) = (R1 +)

(H, o) = (R*, ·)

Take f = the exponential function, so f(x) = exp (x), f(y) = exp(y)

Then: f(x + y) = exp(x + y) = exp(x) exp(y) = f(x) f(y)


H = R* = {x Î R: x  not equal 0}

And: exp R -> R* so exp(x + y) = exp(x) exp(y)

Def.: Isomorphism: An isomorphism of G onto H [(G, o), (H, o)] is a bijective homomorphism.

Example: H = P = {x Î R: x > 0}         (P, x)

Let G = (0, 1, 2, 3) for the operation (o) which is addition in Z4

Let H = (2, 4, 6, 8) for the operation (o) which is multiplication in Z10

Problem: Prepare the respective tables for the isomorphism and give specific examples in terms of the function φ, i.e. show specific mappings.  (Where: φ(x) φ(y) = φ(xy) for example)

Can you help Phoebe out with her homework?

Hint: Check out an earlier blog on isomorphisms:

All proposed solutions welcome as comments!

Corker's Correct on ONE Thing: Left & Right Underestimate Cost of Government

I will be upfront and honest that, as a Socialist, I don't have much truck for any Republican of the modern -day extreme Right breed. They are all nutso, and - apologies to the Demo blogs & media (who compare those of us on the unrepentant, vocal Left to 'Teabaggers' using the pejorative 'Firedog-baggers') you've got your analogies all screwed up.  For those not in the know, 'Firedoglake' is a hard Democratic Left blog that argues for Democratically elected reps to grow a spine for once, and support what the voters indicated they wanted on Nov. 6. Meanwhile, what I call the 'wussie' -Corporate Democrats, say "Oh no! We must not do that- we must COMPROMISE! We must display bipartisanship" 

Yes, in the long held tradition of Grover Norquist, who used the term "date rape" for reaching bipartisanship with Dems. By the looks of some Dem Corporate blogs, a lot of them must love being "date raped" by the likes of Norquist and his Republican followers.

Anyway, I digress a bit. Bob Corker (R-TN) was on CBS this morning and went on a longish rant (which they had to cut short) on the upcoming "fiscal cliff" and the need for Americans to prepare. I tuned out most of his jabber but he did hit one note correct: Both the Left and the Right in this country underestimate the full cost of government. (Though, truthfully, I will say a LOT of this is because of politicos, presidents not being honest with them! For example, Bush Jr. telling Americans to go out shopping after 9/11 and then starting two lengthy occupations and not asking them to sacrifice by paying higher taxes for them.)

Anyway, Corker noted that even with people like me on Medicare, 40% of the total benefits which accrue to us -  whether in the form of treatments (say like for my prostate cancer) or preventive items like colonoscopies - are unpaid for. This means debt accumulates as a result.

Corker then went off on his high horse using the above to assert there hasn't been enough attention to spending cuts, especially on "entitlements".

Not one elaborating word came that his Right wing bunch, including Teabaggers, are also oblivious to the true cost of their pet projects, namely military -defense spending! This means that Corker regards - or seems to - those costs as 'freebies' that the rest of us must pay, but he's deluded. This has never been done before and as my late dad used to point out to me, during WWII sacrifices not only had to be made on the home front with rationing but higher taxes too.

Flash forward to the year 2012 and what do we see? The United States currently maintains 702 military 'installations' in 63 foreign countries (it has 4,471 bases altogether), according to the Defense Department's annual budget statement. These figures don't include bases in Iraq and Afghanistan. The total cost for all this support, including what has been consumed in Iraq and Afghanistan is upward of $4.5 trillion.  This dwarfs what's been taken in from Social Security payroll taxes over the past eleven or so years (about $1.8 trillion) but no mention is made that most of that money taken in by S.S. has been used to support those "wars" and defense.

Note here, as I said before - a number of times - Social Security is prohibited by law from adding to any deficit. More to the point, Social Security itself can't go "bankrupt" because it has no external creditors who can impose "collections". Other domains of government, however, DO have monetary obligations to Social Security -  on account of using that money, which now must be paid back. (Oh yes, it must - and don't let anyone tell you any different. It is the total of these paybacks that the Neolib press has referred to as "unfunded liabilities")

So what the hell is Corker yelping about?  Well, mainly that the Left doesn't understand how much it's getting for "free"- especially in terms of Medicare and Medicaid, food stamps etc. but again, no word on the Right not understanding: a) how much military stuff and "wars" they've gotten for free (including Iraq and Afghanistan, neither paid for by higher taxes), and b) how much they've raided from the top "entitlement" they hate - Social security - and have had a major boner to kill since the 1930s.

In this sense, Corker's complaints against "entitlements" can't be taken seriously and come across merely as a convenient smokescreen to gut those social benefits. But truthfully, military spending on all the bases and military installations I noted above, is what really needs cutting! They now consume an ungodly 58 cents of every current federal dollar and this is what's driving us to borrow ever more from China, Japan, etc.

So yes, both Left and Right underestimate the costs of their pet projects - but at least Social security is being paid for via payroll taxes - which btw, ought to be increased after the past two- year "payroll tax holiday" people enjoyed. The reason is that if you're not willing to pay those payroll taxes then you will have to look for congress each year approving a S.S. budget! Do you really want that? I don't!

The bottom line in all this is that Americans, given what they demand -  whether in terms of social insurance benefits or military defense-  are definitely paying way too little in taxes. "Spending cuts", meanwhile, is a Mcguffin created by the likes of nincompoop Repubs and Grover boy, but make no sense for a modern industrial nation that owes its citizens not only the 'promotion of the GENERAL WELFARE" (see the Preamble to the Constitution) but adequate defense in the modern world.

Thus, spending cuts for a nation this large - with over 300 million people, and with social as well as defense standards to meet, is simply a non-starter. I do admit that spending could be cut on nonsense and fat (say like 2,300 F-35s at $0.3b each) , and we should always do what we can to extract the most from each dollar. But to apply sweeping spending cuts, say to "entitlements" the way the pinhead Neolibs and Reepos wish to do, while letting our gargantuan military budget basically sit untouched,  is both foolish and self-serving. Nations that do that usually don't last very long.

It's now time that people, especially our elected officials, use some common sense and understand that any "cliff" solution that is to be meaningful, HAS to have higher taxes and yes ...on BOTH the middle class and upper classes! Middle class people can't continue to be pampered like the politicos are wont to do, say with extending the Bush (now Obama) tax cuts. They need to understand they have 'skin' in the game too, with their future benefits. Do they want those future Medicare benefits? Or would they rather pay $42, 700 for a prostate cancer treatment- like I would have had to do without Medicare?

I believe any right-thinking middle class person will suck it up in terms of higher taxes, and demand his reps vote for them, rather than be faced with draconian cuts or even god-awful Paul Ryan style vouchers down the road.

On that note, it's time we all grow up for once and understand we only get the government we pay for. If we choose to pay only chump change, then get set to live in a third world America!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Benefits of Sin - Can We All Agree on Them?

It was last year - in May to be exact- that a long time atheist friend and my dear sister-in-law,  Krimhilde (see photo) got together with wifey and myself to discuss religious issues, and in particular whether atheism had any 'commonality' points with a spiritual teaching such as Eckanckar.

Among the topics which came up were: 1) "original sin" and 2) sin in general.

On the first we all concurred, there is no such thing as "original sin" since infants can't enter the world with any such millstones. Original sin is merely a confection of theological idiots who take the "Adam & Eve" story literally. Humans are evolved apes and thus their behavior is totally explicable in terms of our Simian past and tri-partite brains composed of both more recent structures (e.g. neocortex) and more ancient ones (paleo-cortex, reticular formation).

The generic topic of sin overall, including the "seven deadly sins" was rife with much more debate, with Rick and I tending to the view that they didn't exist, period, and the word was simply invented to make humans ashamed of their animal selves, or their instincts - which yes, could sometimes go into overdrive. Krimhilde and wifey, meanwhile, leaned to a more moderated stance that 'sin' could indeed exist and cited mass murder, rape as examples. The atheist contingent, however, preferred to see those examples as aberrations or deviations. We disdained the term "sin" as too fraught with religious overtones.

In reality, “Sin” is predicated on an exaggerated importance of humans in the universe. Thus, it elevates (albeit in a perverse way) the importance of humans in an otherwise meaningless cosmos. With “sin” the overly self-important and morally smug, self-righteous human has at least the potential of offending his deity – thereby getting its attention – as opposed to being relegated to the status of a cosmic “roach” (which any advanced alien sentience would regard us). "Sin" is thus an attention getter to a Big Cosmic Daddy.

“Sin” then is a catch all term for any localized and reactive behavior, e.g. at the personal, individual level. In the strict religious idiom, “Sin” impinges on and affects the deity that so many believe if a deity doesn't exist there can be no sin. Take away the deity, and the whole sin fetish, obsession loses its allure and quickly becomes redundant. How can there be “sin” if there is no deity to offend or to notice “sin”? To tote up all the little “black marks” in its “book of future judgment”.

Thus, we eventually agreed on the rational stance that "Sin" is a macguffin invented by religions to keep humans in an inferior state as opposed to attaining mastery over their lives. Sin is also a ridiculous concept. As Rick put it, how can a finite tiny flesh being "offend" a supposed infinite Being? it's totally ludicrous. If such a Being existed one could no more offend it than an ant could offend a human ten billion times its size by attacking the human's boot with his antenna!

Now, it appears that there may be actual benefits to "sin"! According to a new book, 'The Science of Sin' , by experimental psychologist Simon Laham, there are definite benefits that can accrue from ....well...for lack of a better term: Sin. In his book, he thereby shows how indulging in each of the "seven deadly sins" can be advantageous. (None other than Pope Gregory the Great popularized the seven deadlies in the 6th century.)

Laham's research discloses that these 'sins' and likely others, are much more complex and less simple than humans like to believe. (A point I've often made in arguing for an ethics based on scientific Materialism instead of bibles and canon laws).

Ramping up the ante much further are the essays in the book, 'In Defense of Sin', edited by John Portmann.  Thus, we find stirring contributions under the chapter headers: 'In Defense of Idolatry'( One), 'In Defense of Lying'(Six), 'In Defense of Adultery'(Five), and 'In Defense of Lust' (Twelve). 

In Chapter Twelve for example, John Portmann, the contributing author first describes St. Augustine's problems with lust as related in his 'Confessions'.  Make no mistake here that this saint was over the top in his opposition to the flesh and its sinful ways. Much of this is derived from the fact that Augustine was originally a Manichean. The ancient Manicheans (founder Mani, b. 219 BCE) absolutely believed that the human was essentially a spark of deistic light locked within a body of flesh fashioned by 'Satan'. Of course, semen was the satanic fluid that kept the cycles of evil going.

Birth was the manifestation or culmination of the evil when the devilish flesh finally sprouted. Hence, enabling birth, was in effect tantamount to multiplying the total of diabolically imprisoned 'sparks' in the world. Since there was never any assurance these sparks could be liberated, it was paramount that the diabolical flesh be prevented from reproducing itself.

Interestingly, when Augustine converted to Christianity in 387 CE, the only Manichean tenet he ditched was the contraception. He retained all the other flesh/pleasure =demonic connotations and interjected them into his various teaching including his 'letters'. (For more on this, see the excellent monograph 'Eunuchs For the Kingdom of Heaven' by Ute Ranke-Heinemann, Doubleday, 1990). 

Augustine's Manichean teachings (after his conversion) held that any sexual pleasure whatsoever was diabolical in origin. However, it could be countenanced IF a baby was the end product. Otherwise, the offending parties were trafficking with demons. (He cites at one point, for "proof", the demon Asmodeus, who slew seven men in 7 beds with seven women, but not when they were sitting at a table.)

Augustine's harsh and sterile dogmas also probably spurred the Church Father Origen (of Adamantius) to cut off his own sexual organs - because he was unable to control them. Since each 'stimulus' enabled a particular demon to gain a foothold, it was better to get rid of them entirely.

In regard to Augustine's up tight views on sexual sins, Portmann writes (p. 223):

"Missing from Augustine is the idea that lust completes us (however temporarily), fills us with a vivid sense of being alive, propels us along the way to self-fulfillment...Lust like the playfulness of children or the treasures of the Louvre, lights up a rainy day."

The author also makes a good case for enhancing creativity before listing (including with reasons) all those things we think qualify as "sex" but which really aren't, including: Phone sex(lack of touching so can't be sex), ogling porno photos or videos (voyeurism, but not sex, doesn't make the touching or intimacy cut), flirting is not sex.

He also (rightly) rips into masturbation as sinful (p. 229) since it is based on a phantasm engineered by the early Church Fathers: to wit that each sperm is a "homunculus" or "little man" - hence then each and every sperm had to be protected - extended the same rights - as the big man in whom it lived. Thus, spilling it was a no-no (often confused with Onanism ....which was actually a different category of "sin" since it was an offense against the Hebrew law of succession. In this, the nearest male relative of the deceased husband is obligated to fertilize the wife. If he refused, and spilled his seed, he was guilty of onanism. This is different from the early Catholic view that each seelding is a little man with life of his own. (This position didn't change until after better optical resolution in microscopes was achieved and individual sperm could be as similar to single celled flagellate creatures.)

Once the actual sperm could be observed, as well as photographed, the Church's antiquated position was dispelled, and there was no more reason to oppose masturbation other than on an irrational basis. (Thus, the Church had to come up with its absurd "natural law" doctrine, which holds no weight since the RCs insisted at one time that slavery was justified under natural law).

Of course, it's much more difficult getting rid of the cultural, societal baggage which - if we could - might reduce teen pregnancies immensely. Again, a major benefit accuring from a once maligned "sin". (If we could only get teen males to see it as a useful release mechanism as opposed to a "loser's" option!)

But the point of the above is to show and highlight how irrational the whole concept of sin is. For those whose interest is piqued, I suggest getting the two books cited.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

W. Antarctic Ice Sheet Melting at Twice the Rate Previously Thought

Comparison images of Arctic (top) and Antarctic sea ice changes for summer minimum and wniter maximums. (From National Snow and Ice Data Center)

The news that the West Antartic Ice Sheet has nearly doubled its rate of melting has recently been reported in the journal  Nature Geoscience. According to one of the co-authors, Andy Monaghan,  from the National Center for Atmospheric Research:

"If this melt continues, if the summer warming continues, we could begin to see increased runoff from the West Antarctic Ice Sheet later in the century that could enhance its ongoing contribution to sea level rise."

Co-author David Bromwich, a senior research scientist at the Byrd Polar Research Center added:

"Our record suggests that continued summer warming in Antarctica could upset the surface mass balance of the ice sheet, so the region could make an even bigger contribution to sea level rise than it already does."

The Byrd station, originating in 1957, became a year round automated station in 1980, however power outages have complicated data gathering from that single site, as has the extended polar night - making the station's solar panels difficult to re-charge. This led Monaghan and Bromwhich to reconstruct the Antarctic -wide temperature history over the past half-century from station records around the continent.  Now, working with partners at Ohio State and the University Of Wisconsin-Madison, they have completed the data gaps with a computer model of the atmosphere and a numerical analysis method. (Recall that I went into such methods for solar plasma some 7 months ago, i.e.

According to researcher Monaghan:

"Even if you didn't fill in with the (numerical) simulations, you still get these strong trends. It's really the observations telling us this."

Rising sea levels are a critical concern for climate change researchers given the number of highly populated areas around the globe -many of which have sprung up in coastal areas. In this sense, the east and west coasts of the U.S. are especially vulnerable to sea level increase.

Currently, sea level is rising at the rate of 3 mm each year. Given 1" = 25 mm, this means by the end of the century a rise of 87 (yrs) x  3 mm / yr. = 261 mm or (261 mm/ 25 mm/in) = 10.44 inches - enough to wash away roughly one third of S. Florida and most of the sea level areas of the Atlantic coast.

Bullying of Atheist Kids: A 'Breeding Ground' for New "Pastors"?

An eight-year old non-religious kid bullied into thinking "Satan" will pop out of a mirror and take her to hell? This is the kind of crap mutant right wing religious kids are now pushing on their peers if they don't hop on the God bandwagon. THEIRS!

After the story was sent to me by my sensible, non-religious brother, I had to read it over twice for clarity. I had to be sure there actually existed a school at which right wing bible -punching, brainwashed kids were actually trying to intimidate their non-religious schoolmates (who the bullying creeps dismissed as "atheists"). It made me again wonder why these twits couldn't just live and let live. Do they really believe casting hell threats against any unbeliever is going to make the person suddenly stop in his or her tracks and go for the nearest bible? What are these idiots drinking?

Yet it now seems to be starting as early as 2nd and 3rd grade. In the case referenced, the child under psychic attack said: “Susie told me because I didn’t believe in god, the devil was coming to take my soul.”

“Susie” was a fellow eight-year-old student at the beseiged daughter’s Catholic school. and attended church every Sunday with her family—the same church that many of her classmates go to. As the mother of the psychically -attacked girl described what was going on, and the effects on her child:  "She wouldn’t enter a bathroom without a friend or parent and began wetting the bed at night for fear of our extensive collection of bathroom mirrors pulling her into almighty hell at 2 a.m."

The mom went on:

"Sure enough, the religious eight-year-old was still pressuring my daughter to consider her morality, spirituality and reason for living daily in the school bathroom".

When the mom complained to the principal of the school, she wasn't taken very seriously. Bullying, after all,  was getting punched in the stomach in a dark place behind the school, not a little girl being taunted for not believing she was going to have life eternal.

But in fact the mom was spot on correct in her instincts, and the principal nun a bit retarded in her conscious recognition of the warp and woof of bullying. Because make no mistake, to a vulnerable person or kid, psychological attacks are every bit as potent and destructive as physical ones, maybe moreso. 

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, every day “an estimated 160,000 students in the U.S. refuse to go to school because they dread the physical as well as the verbal aggression of their peers. Many more attend school in a chronic state of anxiety and depression.”

Verbal aggression and threats are often worse because they leave no identifiable marks - as a punch in the face would. So teachers, administrators are likely to treat it lightly. But the damage is there.

I originally encountered the extent of such damage ca. 1972-73 while a Peace Corps volunteer, visiting the Psychiatric Hospital in Barbados, at Black Rock. I was astounded to see so many young people, teens in the hospital - many being on a regular "diet" of largactyl as well as ECT. These were young people from 15-19 years of age. When I talked to the head of the hospital, Dr. Patricia Bannister, she told me most of the young people were there as results of "psychotic episodes" instilled by evidently "well-meaning" preachers and pastors, who went overboard with the fire and brimstone message. Most of the teens, sensitive and highly strung, took the messages to heart and began to search for "demons" that might drag them to hell when least expected. One insane pastor, at the Berean Bible church, actually attempted to reinforce the message with the added quip:  "Tick, tick, tock!....That's the sound of your life ticking away and your soul headed for the eternal fires!"

The nutso message so upset one girl ("Petra") that she lost it and began hallucinations similar to those reported by the 8-year old, being harassed by her nutty Xtianoid classmate.

Dr. Bannister informed me that this case, as well as another, were two of the saddest she'd encountered and estimated at least a year for each on anti-psychotics as well as three times a week electro-convulsive therapy.

Do the god and hell mongers have any guilt for such outrages? Of course not! They are convinced they're doing "God's holy will" to try to save the "damned" - at least in their mind. Bullied and brainwashed themselves into mental insensibility, they've no choice but to try it on others. (And if it works often enough, look out for the wretch to aspire to some later "pastorhood"- even if only self-proclaimed.)  Those of us who are tough minded just toss it back at them and ridicule their idiocy as well as the contradiction manifest in their faith and actions. However, the more tender-minded among us ....the more sensitive...often take the threats to heart and untold psychological damage is the result.

In relation to the little 8-year old bullied at her Catholic school, Courtney Campbell, a Professor of Religion and Culture at Oregon State University, says he encountered the same case with his own children who were told at a very early age by some of their “friends” that they were “going to hell.” Though there were no physical beatings, the “psychic bullying” may have been worse.

According to Campbell:

“There is a phenomenon of religious-bullying at an early age, though in my own view/experience with raising my kids, it’s less of an issue than lookism [obese kids], size [‘big’ bullies], or gender, or clothes, or any of a number of things that kids do to manifest power over others,”

He points out that in most conservative/evangelical/fundamentalist Christian traditions, kids are taught at a very early age in their Sunday schools or summer bible camps that there’s only one path to happiness and salvation. That teaching, absorbed at a young age, is on its own rather threatening to the child. (As well as to adults who stumble upon it, and embrace this bollocks as a reaction to their own "sin slides" in drunkenness, gambling whatever. So hyper -religion and bible punching, salvation mongering materializes as kind of a reaction formation.)

Campbell adds:

“When the child goes to school, and encounters for the first time other kids who don’t believe the same thing, whether it’s no belief or a different belief system, that can rock a kid’s world,”

Indeed! And an adult bible maniac's as well! They cannot believe or understand how....with the "fires so hot" ...there can exist other beings, sentient beings, who dismiss it all as poppycock for the feeble-minded. Their only possible reaction, because they are terrified these others might deep down be correct, is to ramp up their own hellish threats to try to intimidate whoever the target is. But they are too dumb to see it is their emotional and angry yelping that always does them in and discloses their beliefs as the province of psychopaths. So, why would any sensible or rational person jump on the bandwagon? Because of going to "hell"? That's a joke since when you're dead, you're dead. (At the very least, even if some type of consciousness is available, it's not localized, e.g.

Meanwhile, Rachel Wagner, Associate Professor for the Department of Philosophy and Religion at Ithaca College and author of Godwired: Religion, Ritual and Virtual Reality, says we are overlooking a major player of the religious bullying model—video games. Thus, the "shoot  them bad guys" template is adopted if only unconsciously.

While Wagner admits it’s very important to remember that all world religions also have “deep and abiding practices urging compassion, understanding, tolerance, and social justice,” in today’s media-soaked society, feeling the need to retreat into a simpler world where people can be reduced to camps can be terribly tempting. Hence, it's simpler to brand all "unbelievers" as "Hell bound" and arrange the world into sheep and goats. But this is a retarded perspective which never bears much productive fruit in the long run, and again, the hell-pushers and would-be pastors and "saviors" never get it that it's their behavior that pushes most people away. Their brash, aggressive shtick is a turn-off and no one who's the least bit grounded mentally wants to hear it.

Meanwhile,  Stacy Pershall, author of Loud in the House of Myself: Memoir of a Strange Girl, says that growing up in Prairie Grove, Arkansas, in an athletics-focused, Christian bible belt, she was used to being surrounded by “Jesus talk.”

Perhall goes on to add:

“Although it still makes my heart pound a little to stand in front of a crowd and admit that I don’t believe in god (as I recently did at Catholic University in D.C.), somebody needs to do it. I get to be the adult who says to kids, ‘I’m an atheist, I have morals, I have friends, I’m happy, and I care about how you feel.’ That’s a wonderful, powerful thing. I get to tell bullied kids who might be considering suicide that they’re not alone, and that they have kindred spirits. It’s what the Flying Spaghetti Monster put me on Earth to do.”

That's a sentiment with which I could not agree more and a powerful reply! It sends a message to the would-be tormentor and religious psychological bully that you regard his beliefs and his central "god" with about the same gravitas as a totally dreamed up confection....especially since s/he can't show any singular proof for any claims anyway! (Citing biblical quotes doesn't count since that invokes the logical no-no of appeal to authority...or presumed authority.)

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

It's Never Fun When A Loved One is Sick for the Holiday!

Let's face it: a pall of misery is cast over the whole house. Nothing cheers, nothing elates......your loved one (in this case my wife) is suffering and barely able to cope with even the most rudimentary tasks. "Christmas"? What's that? Oh, you mean it's today? Didn't know! Too sick coughing, sneezing and barely able to breathe!

Obviously the above symptomology doesn't refer to norovirus about which I wrote three blogs ago, but rather the flu, influenza.  (Interesting as we both had flu shots over a month ago!) We were both certain when she began sniffling on Friday evening it was just a mild cold, no biggie....nothing to get hysterical about. But by Monday night it was clear this was no ordinary cold. It had gone down into her chest and impaired breathing....and too, caused enormous phlegm production. She was basically up all night, going into the bathroom to cough up well, ....really nasty stuff. Christmas Eve? Surely you jest!

The thing with a bad illness is the pall cast suddenly collapses all day distinctions-  special ones,  say, from any ordinary ones. To the "sick" (as we refer to the person in Barbados) all days are the same and a special day feels the same as any ordinary day. How can it be otherwise when all your senses are blunted, your taste, hearing, smell.....nothing works and the only thing produced is don't want to know!

With the first White Christmas in Colorado Springs in more than ten years, we had originally planned - as far back as last Thursday when the forecast was made - to go for a walk in the snow. Janice is like a child in the snow, and you can tell from the glee erupting in her eyes. Though a born Bajan, she always loved two things: snow and the mountains. Even up to yesterday morning she had talked of still doing it, but I warned it was best to bide time and see how her "cold" developed. This morning there's no issue, and btw, she's still in bed sleeping, trying to catch up on the zzzzzs she missed last night.

Today's dinner was supposed to be a pork shoulder roast with stuffing, which she had still intended to do (her own recipe)  up to last night. This morning, I am planning to tell her (when she finally awakens):  'NO Way!' She can give me the instructions on how to prepare it and I will do it! Hell, I already regularly do the lamb roasts when we (very occasionally) have leg of lamb - so a pork shoulder roast can't be that much harder.

As for today's plans, those depend on her. Given that in the midst of a bad flu (I can vouch as I caught the Hong Kong flu in 1968, yes....right at Xmas!) the sick one is limited even in considering what can be done, far less whether, it is very likely the most plausible activity will be watching TV. We still have plenty of stuff unwatched on our DVR and maybe also, if she's up to it, I can put on some Xmas music to cheer her! (She's especially fond of the Kings College Choir, in their usual Xmas arrangements).

We will see!

For the rest of you, if everyone in your household is healthy just be thankful! And remember to treasure that good health when you have it. Never ever take it for granted! Especially on a major holiday!

Monday, December 24, 2012

A Coming Schism in The Democratic Party? About time!

Those of us who are old school Kennedy (as in JFK) liberals, have watched for decades as the party of FDR and JFK has degenerated into corporatist pussies before our very eyes. We pretty well knew the writing was on the wall after Jimmy Carter became a one termer, and a new mutant breed of Dem emerged that sucked on the corporate teats and longed to be more like the new "king on the block",  Ronnie Raygun. Never mind Reagan single- handedly converted this nation into a massive debtor with his reckless armaments spending even as his ruthless social brutality increased the number of homeless by five-fold merely by tossing all the mentally ill out of their hospital beds.

How ANY Dem, president or other, could in any way hold up Reagan as an exemplar is beyond me and shows how far this country's political duopoly has gone into the crapper. But for a lot of that we can thank two corporate arms of the Democratic Party that shill for the Corporatocracy: the DLC or "Democratic Leadership Council" and "The Third Way". These mutants can call themselves whatever the hell they want but what they really are is Neoliberal puppets. And if Neoliberal at all, they are degenerates of mind and outlook.

Because of their entrenched position and now even directing all future vision, I predict that within ten years - maybe sooner- we will see a political schism within the Democratic Party into a corporate breed of DINO Dems, and a new breed of truly Progressive Democrats. At that point, I may well rejoin the Dems via the latter.

My ire now is directed at some of these D-corporate ass-suckers who are trying to make the REAL liberals-progressives look like "hair on fire" freaks in a frenzy because we have called out Barack on going back on his campaign promises. We've also called out the corporate poseur "Dems" for trying to ply us with utter bullshit that the Chained CPI is "not a real cut". I refer to tools such as a character calling himself "Deaniac 83" who scribbled this blog post entitled Dear Liberals, Chained CPI is NOT a “Cut” to Social Security. Get Over It

No fucking way will I "get over it", buddy boy! Not now or ever. And no amount of soft-soaping PR from a shill (maybe on hire by the Third Way or DLC) will cause me to! You little bastards are responsible for wrecking the party, either driving people out of it like you did me, or simply causing others to cease voting entirely - understanding that corporate hegemony trumps votes every time.

It's those like Deaniac 83, DINOS for sure, that give all Dems a bad name. One heholds this smug, self-described  “progressive” sneering that the chained-CPI benefit cut has “set off more alarm bells on the Left’s media than Pearl Harbor.”  Well, maybe because this could well be the Democrats' "Pearl Harbor". Because if Obama goes through with the Chained CPI, while he has the Reepos' backs against the wall, he will damage the Dem brand forever. 

As blogger Richard Eskow describes the effluent from this fool.......errrrrrr.....TOOL:

"The piece’s blend of arrogance and misinformation typifies the new style of the corporate-Democratic loyalist, with rhetorical ploys straight out of the Pete Peterson playbook: Benefit-cut opponents are “zealous liberals” and “ideologues” who speak with “hair-on-fire” hysteria. And this is not a cut in benefits."

But as I noted in a previous blog the chained CPI would lower benefits for the typical Social Security recipient (who retires at age 65)  by $653 a year at age 75 and by $1,139 a year at age 85    If this isn't a CUT what the hell is? The bottom line is that the affected senior has less and less to live on each year, even as costs will likely shoot through the roof (especially when the roof collapses on oil, and Peak Oil rears its full brunt).  As Eskow notes:

"The “chained CPI" .... lowers the rate at which benefits are increased by factoring in the reduced consumption of certain items – reductions that would be driven by cuts in benefits!"

In other words, those like my 90-year old mom, whose income will fall to $915 per month if she reaches 95, will barely be able to afford kibbles and low grade cat food.  But see, these Chained CPI Scrooges insist that there's never any cutting because the sensible senior just ratchets down his diet and expectations as the costs go up! So s/he ain't really losing! So, if beef soars, you go to pork chops. If pork soars you go down to chicken. If chicken soars you then ratchet down to tuna. If tuna soars you go down to sardines. If sardines soar, you go to the giant bag of kibbles. If kibbles soar.....well, I guess the senior has to eat shit.

Or as Richard Eskow puts it:

"This would quickly become a death spiral to the financial security of the elderly and disabled financial: They can’t afford beef so they buy chicken. They can’t afford chicken so they buy cereal. Then they go from cereal to Fancy Feast. From Fancy Feast to Purina. And so on and so on, ad infinitum, Ad nauseum."

Meanwhile, economists Kathy Ruffing and Paul Van de Water (not Pareto-based economists), who compared the U.S. Social Security benefits with those of similar programs in other countries noted that:

"Social Security benefits in the United States are low compared with other advanced countries.  Future retirees already face lower benefits (relative to their past earnings) than current retirees as a result of a rising Social Security retirement age and escalating Medicare premiums."

Ruffing and Van de Water found that Social Security benefits in this country provide 41.3 percent a retiring worker’s income on average, while those in other developed countries provide 60.8 percent. That’s roughly one-third less than other nations’ program — and yet this “liberal” argument claims that our cost-of-living calculations are so lavish that they must be slowed down.

DO these smug, self-satisfied turds like "Deaniac83" care? Hell no! All they care about is pumping out their loopy, obfuscating, pro-corporate, pro -plutocrat rhetoric and expecting the rest of us to swallow it. "Now be a good little do -be, and understand that Barack had no choice what with all those crazy people on the Hill!'" Sorry, bozo, don't buy it! Barack needs balls (or maybe a shot of 'T' or some Androgel), and if he had half the balls of John Kennedy, he'd teach those Teapee twerps, dysfunctional Reepos a thing or two. One example: He could have opted to use the 14th amendment last year to increase the debt ceiling on his own, as opposed to allowing the insane sequestration that now looms, unnecessarily I might add. But invoking the 14th would have required some balls. He didn't do it, now we have even more of a mess as this "fiscal cliff" evolves.

Sure it might have invited a constitutional crisis, but that is the price when you must confront insane nuts who somehow managed to get elected and are wreaking havoc - holding the nation hostage - by using the same ploy as leverage when they weren't taught properly not to do so the first time!

The difference between these wussie -ass, corporate-puppet Dems and the old line liberals like me, is we are still prepared to take the other side to the mat, not sit down with them and make tea....and give them everything they want.

If there is to be a Democratic Schism, I say bring it on! The sooner we get rid of the DINOS in the D- party, the once upon a time party of fearless men like FDR and JFK, the better off we all will be. Then we can leave the corporatists behind! 

If corporatism, on the other hand, is the only game to be left in town, then count me out as being any future contributor to its advancement.

Permutations Applied to Solid Geometry

In a previous blog  I looked at how we can work out transpositions, and how permutations fit into this. See:

What I'd now like to do is extend the permutation basis to three-dimensional geometry (specifically solids) and look at the tetrahedron(Fig. 1, below). Since the interface in the main blogger frame doesn't allow the adequate use of symbols such as I'll be using - I will insert some the working in the image (Fig. 1) and already known alternative symbols in the text.

The main proposition we're going to be proving here is that for a 3D figure like the tetrahedron, we can reduce it to an algebraic complex then show the "boundary of a boundary" is zero, by applying the permutation principle.

Now, consider the ordered tetrahedron (vertices ordered by number) shown in Fig. 1. Call the ordering '1234'. In terms of signage (sign rules - e.g. for (+) or (-) being followed, it's important to note that a segment (1 2) induces orientation (+1) in the associated complex, but a segment (2 1) induces (-1). This is how differing segments acquire negative signage in the complex.

The boundary of the tetrahedron, in terms of its four faces can than be written:

- (1 2 3) - (1 3 4) + (1 2 4) + (1 3 4)

And the calculation of the boundary is shown in Fig. 1 using the appropriate boundary symbols for the respective faces.

Leading to the result which we saw earlier, i.e. , that the boundary of a boundary is zero, or = 0 (Given as Delta Delta in the Figure)

By definition, the factor group: Hr = Zr/  Br

Then, in our case, Br = B2 (for the boundary) while:  H2 = Z2

where:  Z2 = a(1 2 3) + b(1 2 4) + c (1 3 4) + d( 2 3 4)

The careful reader who's followed the earlier blog entries on groups, factor groups should be able to show this.