123. Ford v. Kavanaugh * Revised

19 Sep

(Revisions are in blue)

As I was listening to commentators discussing the alleged sexual assault on Professor Christine B. Ford by Justice Brett Kavanaugh, in high school; I heard statements that I think need clarification. But before I begin, I must emphasize that rape (and attempted rape) is a serious crime, is never justified, and should be severely punished. I think that Prof. Ford should be taken very seriously and given a clear opportunity to make her case. Since I wrote the original, a date was set Monday 9-24-18 (a week later) when both parties could testify.  Dr. Ford has requested an FBI investigation before testifying.

Here are my thoughts about Ford vs. Kavanaugh.

First, the argument that holding back this issue was based on politics is not supported by any facts. Prof. Ford wanted to maintain her anonymity. She decided to come forward when her name was leaked. Also, Sen. Feinstein early on, sent information based on the  Ford letter to the FBI. The FBI confirmed this communication.

It is well-known that lie-detector tests are not 100% reliable, but could be used in conjunction with other evidence in a “hearing” (but not necessarily in a court). Prof. Ford passed a lie-detector test and that fact should be given some consideration.

An FBI investigation may sound like a good idea but could be a waste of taxpayer money. It is extremely unlikely that any physical evidence would be discovered, and testimony after all this time might never be fully trusted. If anyone else has information about this issue, the publicity about it would stimulate a response, if there were willing parties. That may have been that Ford’s original intent.  After further thought, I think it is possible that further testimony could be obtained. 

It is a valid argument that serious errors occurring in high-school should not be given great weight and should not ruin the rest of a person’s life. No “criminal” charges were made at the time. The issues of this controversy are difficult, and I can see both sides, and of course, I sympathize with Prof. Ford’s trauma, then and the death threats now.

Brett Kavanaugh’s friend in the room would have to deny what happened, or else he could be considered an accomplice. So his denial would be expected and not of relevance (not exculpatory). On the other hand, if he jumped on Kavanaugh to help Ford, then he should get some credit.

My tentative conclusion is that, so far, this particular case against Kavanaugh is compelling, but not conclusive.  I feel that there are better reasons, already elucidated in the hearings, for rejecting his appointment to the Supreme Court.

Revision added: Dr. Ford’s request for an FBI investigation supports her claim and the Republican refusal is further support for her. Generally speaking, a person who lies would not want to be questioned by the FBI.

(Revisions are in blue)

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122. Considerations for a Good Life

18 Sep

I recently met a young man who was troubled and was dealing with difficult decisions. When I think about him I imaging how much better his life could be if he did not make the same mistakes that I have made. There is so much to learn. I have listed below many of the important factors that one should consider.

1. In many interactions, it is better to ask questions than make assertions. An assertion implies that the recipient is unaware of something and deficient in some way. For example, a dental assistant said to a patient “your teeth are yellow.” That would imply that his house does not contain mirrors, that his vision is deficient, or that he is stupid. Better to ask “would you agree that your teeth are yellow?”

2. As a general rule, it is always good to tell the truth. However, there are specific circumstances where saying something true, can be hurtful or destructive. A communication must be evaluated, comparing its negatives against the value of “truth.” A husband may have thoughts about a sexy secretary, but truthfully describing these thoughts to our wife could ruin a marriage. Everything you say to another person must be evaluated.

3. Dealing with a complicated situation usually does not have a quick and simple solution. The most successful people consider all the possible outcomes for each important decision variation considered. Also to be considered is relevant history and the opinions of experts.

4. Learning how to find truth, and evaluating the truthfulness of a statement, is extremely important. We are lucky today, to have a resource like the Internet to help us with this. After your formal education is completed, it can be beneficial to continue with informal learning. Try to keep an open mind in most areas.

5. For your entire life, frequently stretch the major muscles of your body. Consider carefully what you eat (“you are what you eat”). Get 8-hours of sleep every night. Exercise regularly. Good health habits make a big difference.

6. I can say from bitter experience: if at all possible, never make an enemy. Learn to assert yourself in a polite way. The rules seem simple, but this is a very difficult area and attention to this is critical to success. Think about how to respond in difficult situations. Many people you don’t like can be helpful in some way. Keep the doors open.

7. Doctors, dentists, etc are necessary for a healthy life. Try to choose them carefully (not easy). Most of what they say is true, but as you further your education you will find that some statements are controversial and some good ideas are omitted.

8. All of the above is serious, but a good part of life should be fun.

This whole page is an over-simplification and certainly incomplete, but still may be helpful. Every concept could be discussed and clarified in several pages, and for each rule, there could be exceptions. I hope that this piece is at least thought-provoking.

121. Democrats Do Have Important Messages.

10 Sep

Republicans love to claim that Democrats don’t have positive goals and they are only interested attacking Trump. For example, Sarah Sanders says they “have no message” and only want to “attack people that support this president.”

I have studied politics for many years and I find this assertion to be absurd. Democrats have always promoted the following themes (with a reasonable amount of variation). Here is my version of Democrat goals.

1. All Democrats support improved health care coverage for our citizens.

2. Social programs like Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, etc. have always been preserved and often improved by Democrats.

3. Democrats support the USA Constitution and traditional governmental institutions, including the FBI, DOJ, and all other executive branch agencies. They also support the authoritative press.

4. Democrats tend to promote the financial success of the middle class and discourage excessive and inappropriate financial support for wealthy people. Democrats favor fair tax programs and elimination of unnecessary subsidies for righ corporations.

5. Democrats believe in the importance of voting rights for everyone who is eligible. Laws that make it difficult for certain people (often low-income) to vote (voter suppression) must be changed.

6. Tax programs and other policies should be designed to increase average income for the non-rich (almost no change), while income has been steadily increasing for the wealthy.

7. Democrats traditionally support NATO and all of our other world-wide allies.

8. Our international trade policies should be designed to help our USA workers in terms of employment and improving their income.

9. Democrats are anti-torture, promote improved gun laws, and favor reproductive “choice.

10. Democrats promote inclusiveness, are against racism, defend the rights of lesbian, gay, and transgender people, and DACA (dreamers).

11. Democrats promote peaceful (and even generous) international relations and agree to war only in drastic situations.

12. Democrats support unions — the right to join them and organize.

13. Almost all Democrats accept American capitalism, but also believe in social programs and certain other limits. There is confusion over the word “socialism.” The few Dems that use this term actually mean support of “social programs” within a capitalistic system.

14. Democrats believe that campaign laws should emphasize equality; and those favoring the rich, like “Citizens United” should be abolished.

15. Democrats support efforts to combat climate change, regulate pollution, promote clean energy, and other efforts relevant to safety for our citizens.

16. Democrats generally support public education, more free education, and federal support for students.

A casual research of Democrat leader speeches and their websites will quickly show that there are many consistent messages and ideals.

In the past two years, Trump has purposely dominated the news with his outrageous tweets and policies so that many Democrat message are obscured. Trump has messages but they are extremely inconsistent, not factual, and change frequently. Most just serve his ego and many like “make America great again” are vague and meaningless. He attacks our basic institutions and our long-term vital allies, who are perplexed by his communications.

120. Where Democracy is Dead

28 Aug

An article by Paul Krugman (NY-Times, 8-27-18) is so profound and insightful that I had to write this small blog. Krugman states that democracy is dead in Poland and Hungary, both members of the European Union. Both of these countries have powerful ruling parties.

In both countries, there are elections, but Krugman points out that they: “have destroyed the independence of the judiciary, suppressed freedom of the press, institutionalized large-scale corruption and effectively delegitimized dissent.”  

The effect of these aberrations is that it is likely that there will be “one-party rule for the foreseeable future.”  Krugman warns that this could easily happen here.

Our current ruling party and our current POTUS, are increasingly engaging in these anti-democratic activities. If the next election fails to reverse this process, the USA will further deteriorate to a point where recovery may not be possible. My previous blogs have discussed these issues in detail.  Briefly, I am concerned about: nominations to the Supreme Court, attacks on the FBI, emolument violations, threats toward the press, criminal actions by POTUS staff and consultants, gerrymandering and other interferences with our election process.

 

 

  

 

 

 

119. How Humans Evolved

28 Aug

The latest issue of Scientific American (September 2018) is concerned with the issue of how we humans are different from other animals. The issue title is: “A Singular Species: The Science of Being Human.” A lot of this valuable issue is concerned with evolution. As I looked through the issue, I tried to find a discussion of certain details about how evolution actually produced our superior brains.

Here is my analysis.  First, what is necessary for biological evolution is the following:

1. Death, which leads to many generations, that can make small incremental changes.

2. Mutation: A change in DNA that is relatively permanent.

3. Survival of the fittest. The key to understanding “fittest” is that there is a combination of traits in an individual that will allow him (and her) to reach the age for sex and child rearing. The mutation and progeny must live long enough to promote the reproductive cycles. These are the main themes, but many details are involved in the whole process of evolution.

An overall observation, is that evolution is a tree process rather than a number of parallel lines. Some detail about primates is instructive. Primates include lemurs, lorises, monkeys, apes, and man. All primates are mammals and have advanced binocular vision, grasping ability, and specific enlargements of brain.

60 or 80 million years ago there was a key species that had the capability of leading to various primate species. There are many primate variations that have been successful. Some species will continue because they are “fit” and those less successful may terminate, that is, become extinct. The branching tree of evolution will lose some branches and gain new ones. The species we see today, have all been good at all the many requirements for survival. The lemurs, monkeys, apes, etc are all successful variations.

The interesting fact is that perhaps a hundred million years ago, a mutant was born that had a DNA structure that could eventually lead to the evolution of humans. I think the existence of humans was not inevitable, it was just a chance event. If you look at all the other current species, many non-human animals are quite successful. Humans are not necessary for their success, and in fact, humans have been responsible for the extinction of many interesting animals. It is easy to imagine an earth without humans.

Some precursor animal lived in an environment where mental ability was a major asset. So this species kept evolving better and better brains that led to more successful and likely reproduction.

Let’s fantasize an environment where high intelligence, instead of such traits as better legs for running, was important for survival. Suppose one such environment was characterized by several major changes in food supply. Perhaps a favorite plant or animal to eat became extinct. The adaptation to major changes in food source probably would require more brain power. There could also be major changes in climate or the availability of water. Perhaps in one region there were two pre-human species that were highly competitive for a limited supply of food. The smarter species could have been more able to survive, and more likely to pass its DNA on to future generations. A superior memory could help find water during a drought, or the location of food sources for different seasons.

Dinosaurs never developed big smart brains like ours during their many years of existence. This suggests it takes a certain DNA structure and a certain environment to initiate the evolution of this large adaptive brain. It may, in fact, be a very rare occurrence in the Universe, and we are just very lucky.

I have written the above to provide information in a short form that may be useful for those not wanting read thousands of book pages. It is an effort to present key facts that may be lost in a sea of writings. I also commend the thousands of dedicated scientists that have contributed to our understanding of this profound topic.

118. President Cornered

25 Aug

Today is August 24, 2018, marking 581 days of Trump presidency.
The case against Trump (and staff) is accelerating. In the last few weeks, there have been very significant events. I have tried to document the most important factors and much of the emphasis is based on Trump denial arguments. Here is my list.

A very significant event was back on April 9, 2018: Michael Cohen‘s (Trump personal lawyer) office was searched and documents confiscated. This influenced many of the events below and also the subpoena for Trump’s long-term accountant, CFO Allen Weisselberg in July 2018. Just added, Allen W. was given immunity.

The following all occurred within about a week.

Recently reported: White House counsel, Donald McGahn, was interviewed for 30 hours by the Mueller investigators, and provided extensive valuable information.

Trump has been accused of treasonous actions (for example, Steve Schmidt) in his dealing with Putin. Maybe worst of all is that he often did not recognize (or respond to) Russian attacks on our election system. There are claims that you cannot have “treason” without a war — but there is a very real and dangerous USA-Russian cyber war with ongoing covert battles.

Trump’s first supporter in Congress, Chris Collins (R-NY) was charged with
insider-trading. His second supporter, Duncan Hunter (R-CA), was indicted for misusing campaign funds.

August 21, 2018: Paul Manafort convicted on eight counts. He was Trump campaign manager starting June 20, 2016, although he worked on the campaign starting in March 2016. He resigned August 19, 2016. So, he worked for the campaign for about six months and was manager for two months. Trump had occasional interactions with Manafort since around 1980.

Trump, when in debt, likely earned millions by helping Russians launder money. It was done by Russians buying Trump-owned over-priced condos. This occurred over many years, but recently came to light in the writings of Craig Unger. Unger also describes possible interactions of Trump and the Russian Mafia. These Russian relationships may explain his strange favoritism towards Putin.

Omarosa Manigault just published a tell-all book “Unhinged” about Trump. She has tapes recording various interactions with Trump and staff, which she will make available to Special Counsel Mueller.

Michael Cohen confessed to crimes associated with Trump’s election, and implicated Trump as a director of illegal actions.

David Pecker, publisher of National Enquirer, and long-term friend of Trump, was granted immunity in the Michael Cohen investigation. He may have important info regarding Trump’s questionable activities.

Jeff Sessions (Attorney General) answered Trump back regarding recent criticism of his running of the DOJ. Sessions strongly disagreed with the assertion that he “never took control” of the department. He also praised its personnel and affirmed its independence. This is the first time that he has really defended himself from Trump’s numerous attacks.

Trump has recently admitted to criminal actions because he does not understand our laws. For example, he admitted to campaign expense violations because he thinks that the source of funds must be strictly from the campaign. Campaigns can be financed by many means including by the candidate himself.

Robert Mueller has indicted or secured guilty pleas from a total of 32 persons. Please note that Mueller is a Republican and highly respected by both parties.

Looking at all of the above, the Trump claim of “witch hunt” is ridiculous. He has a long history of shady practices (like Trump University) and he has illegally profited from his presidential status in several well-documented ways.

 

 

 

117. The Amazing Brain: How it was made.

6 Jul

Most people know, or are at least aware of the idea, that our amazing brains were developed through biological evolution. I am going to try to make a clear explanation of this process. One approach is to make comparisons with easy to understand non-biological processes.

A manufactured product can evolve under the following conditions:
1. Consider a product such as a cell-phone, that has a high volume of sales.
2. This product can and will be improved in a number different ways.
3. After each modification, there is an objective measure of the product’s success.
4. The product is permanently modified if there are indications of its success with the public.

So, the procedure is to make and sell a specific improvement, say, a larger screen. If the larger screen sells more phones, then it will be included in all future versions. If sales are worse, then the improved version will be abandoned. In this way, the cell-phone will “evolve” and customers will enjoy better and better phones.

The key factors in this and other evolution are variation (which is persistent) and feedback related to the new features. And, of course, the feedback must have an effect on the persistence of variations.

In biological evolution, mutation (relatively permanent changes) occurs in a species as new DNA is created for offspring. The feedback is success in survival. If a change, such as a longer neck for a giraffe, helps giraffes to survive, then giraffes may “evolve” longer necks. Note, longer necks allow giraffes to reach more food. Natural selection (survival of the fittest) is the biological process, similar to customer satisfaction for the cell phones.

It is really remarkable that “nature” has created automatically self-improving objects like animals and plants. The improvements can take place without any human intervention. Every animal and plant on earth has developed, in this way, for billions of years.

.                           Amazing time leads to Amazing complexity
Now think about this: the amazing complexity of the human brain is based on an amazing amount of time, billions of years. Brains (and all other organs) have developed to a fantastic degree, because of a fantastic amount of time for this “evolution” process to take place.

I should also mention that in our world, there are many types evolution. Similar to natural biological evolution, is animal breeding. Here, the selection is NOT natural, but by humane intervention. As civilization developed, there have been remarkable changes in species to make them more desirable for human use. The clear effects of breeding are very supportive of the concept of natural evolution.

If you want to develop your understanding of brain evolution, do an Internet search on the words “animal nervous systems” or “animal brains” and look at the images. This will help you to see the progression. After the transition from single-celled to multi-cellular animals, rudimentary nervous systems appeared. These provided simple two-cell reflexes based on an input (sensory neuron) and an output (motor neuron). Eventually, more neurons were added to the processing and finally complex brains appeared. Some of this nervous system development is well understood, but there is still very much to learn.