Archive | August, 2018

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.

 

 

  

 

 

 

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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.