Diwali break

November 3, 2018

This year Diwali falls on 7th November.

 


 

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Why is there an ethical problem with capital punishment?

October 31, 2018

There is no problem of ethics involved in destroying cancerous cells in our bodies.

There is no ethical problem in destroying viruses and microbes which threaten disease.

There is no ethical problem in wiping out entire populations of plants and animals which we consider invasive, or threatening to other “native”plants or wildlife, even if humans are not directly threatened.

There is no ethical problem in killing any animal for food.

There is no ethical problem in culling animals – of any non-human species – if we believe their numbers are excessive.

There is no ethical problem in putting down domesticated but unwanted pets.

There is no ethical problem in police forces killing in performance of their duties.- as a last resort – perpetrators of crime.

There is – apparently – no ethical problem any longer in killing, or helping to kill, those elderly who are suffering great pain and have no quality of life remaining.

There is no longer an ethical problem – so the consensus goes – in the on-demand killing of unborn fetuses less than about 20 weeks old.

There is no ethical problem in soldiers of your own country killing soldiers of the enemy in times of conflict.

Why then, should there be any ethical problem in executing a German nurse who has confessed to killing over 100 patients while they were in intensive care? Or in executing an Anders Behring Breivik who glories in the 77 people he killed? Or executing Robert Bowers who killed 11 at a Pittsburgh synagogue?

The real point of capital punishment is not as a deterrent or as revenge or as redemption, but just the simple excision of a cancerous individual from the body politic.


 

Why the false god of liberalism is failing

October 29, 2018

Brazil has turned sharply right.

There is now a global move away from the sanctimonious form of “liberalism” which has prevailed since the late 60s. After more than half a century of pursuing a mirage a correction is taking place.  In the Philippines and Brazil it is a “law and order” label. In the US it is in addition the “illegal immigration” issue. For EU countries such as Austria and Poland and Hungary and the Czech Republic it is also the “sovereignty” battle. Brexit and the unholy alliance in Italy are further examples. While it is being manifested in different countries under different labels, the shift is actually about values.

Long before humans had speech, we had established the concepts of good and bad. It is not difficult to see how these fundamental values developed. Anything which helped survival was good and all that didn’t was bad. Every system of values starts here, with the distinction between good and bad. Every other value gets categorised into good and bad. With speech and language came the ability to describe the past and the future and more abstract concepts. But every concept carries with it a valuation of good and bad. Every individual has a fundamental and unique understanding of the difference between good and bad. It is part of his identity. What I consider good is what distinguishes me from others. Every collection of individuals develops a common understanding of the difference. An attack on an individual’s basic understanding of good and bad is an existential attack. It attacks his core identity.

The liberalism mirage is one where the most fundamental value of distinguishing between good and bad is ignored or has been forgotten. The most corrosive and corrupting notion of this liberalism has been the labeling of privileges as “human rights” and where such privileges are decoupled from behaviour. There is no “human right” which is not actually a privilege. It is inherent in the liberalism mirage that behaviour not be a qualifying factor for the privilege, yet there is no individual who does not moderate the privileges he grants to others based on their behaviour. Ther is no State or society which does not withhold privileges based on behaviour. To decouple privileges (rights) from behaviour tries to establish and legitimise a fantasy. The supposed “rights” to life and free speech and religion (which are all privileges) are severely curtailed everywhere. But it is perfectly logical and moral and correct that they be so restricted based on behaviour. It is the propagation of the fantasy that behaviour can be decoupled which is so corrosive. It is the fantasy that an individual’s core judgement of what is good and what is bad can be overridden by diktat which makes “liberalism” a mirage. There is now a reaction to the arrogance of the liberalism elite trying to force people to reverse their own judgements of good and bad.

This mirage is now becoming unsustainable in many parts of the world. That is not so surprising since it attacks the core identity of many people and of their notion of what is good and what is bad.


 

Mental diabetes

October 28, 2018

A surfeit of politically correct thinking can lead to a sort of mental diabetes. The brain gets clogged with sweet and sticky thoughts. Rational thinking stops. Self-righteousness and sanctimony prevail. Mental enuresis follows. A regular dose of astringent cynicism is needed to control the brain-sugar levels from becoming debilitating.

I cringe as I observe that it has become fashionable to apologise for the actions of distant ancestors. Last week I heard a Canadian politician apologise for what his ancestors had done some 200 years ago. Of course, he couldn’t name them, and he had no inkling about the lives they led, but he apologised for them anyway. No German politician can survive in the present without regularly apologising for Hitler and the Nazis. Indian nationalists expect the British to apologise for 1857. The British always expect the French to apologise for the Norman Conquest (and for being French). Swedish and Australian politicians self-righteously proclaim their own goodness by apologising for what their ancestors did to the Sami and the Aboriginals. A Danish apology for Christian the Tyrant and the Stockholm bloodbath would be welcomed by Southern Swedes. The current Italian government is expected to apologise for the actions of Mussolini. The Japanese are expected to remain apologetic for the next few centuries. Macedonia expects the Greeks to apologise for Alexander. There must be some who are waiting for apologies from someone for Genghis Khan. It is a regular occurrence for politicians to apologise for the actions of their distant ancestors. But all these apologies are actually not about the past. Every such apology is someone trying to proclaim their own goodness in the present.

Parents clearly bear some responsibility for their children. It is not wrong to say that there will always be some trace of us in our distant descendants to come. But it is ludicrous to pretend that anybody can bear any responsibility, singly or collectively, for distant ancestors. Applying the values of today to the actions of those who came long before is, at best, meaningless and, at worst, self-serving, self-righteous, sanctimony. There is no feedback loop to the past. Every apology is a statement in the present about the present. Almost always, every apology about the past is someone blowing their own goodness trumpet in the now.

A far more logical question is whether any of our ancestors would be ashamed of the actions of their descendants in the present. Every time I hear a politician apologise about the past, I ask myself whether that ancestor would have been proud or ashamed of his descendant. Inevitably I come to the conclusion that the ancestor would have been ashamed of the descendant wringing his hands and “wetting the bed”.

My grandmother’s grandfather


 

Year Zero

October 25, 2018

The ghost year zero.

There is common usage (AD, BC), politically correct usage (BCE, CE) and then there is the astronomical counting of years. In archaeology there is YBP (Years Before Present).

In sixth century Europe, the concept of “zero” was still unknown. Thus, the year 1 BC was followed by the year AD 1. …… The convention is that “BC” is a suffix (used after the year) while “AD” is a prefix (used before the year). …. ….. (This has been replaced by) the use of the religiously neutral abbreviations BCE (for “Before Common Era”) to substitute for “BC,” and “CE” (for “Common Era”) to replace “AD.” These secular terms are both used as suffixes making them better suited to computer generated tables.

The “astronomical” dating system refers to an alternative method of numbering years. It includes the year “0” and eliminates the need for any prefixes or suffixes by attributing the arithmetic sign to the date. Thus, the astronomical date for 2000 CE is simply +2000 or 2000. The astronomical year 0 corresponds to the year 1 BCE, while the astronomical year -1 corresponds to 2 BCE. In general, any given year “x BCE” becomes “-(x-1)” in the astronomical year numbering system. Historians should take care to note the numerical difference of one year between “BCE” dates and astronomical dates. — NASA

Counting the years


 

Straightness of the curve

October 22, 2018

There are around one million words in English though probably less than 200,000 in active use.

The number of possible words is infinite.

The number of valid word combinations is determined by the meanings of the words and the meaning to be conveyed by the combination.

Just playing ……

straightness


 

Could the Democrats win California without the illegal voters?

October 20, 2018

Saturday trivia.

It is utterly inexplicable that the US must be the only country where in an election, open only to citizens, voters are not required to have proof of eligibility to vote (citizenship). However it is perfectly understandable that the Democrats who are the primary beneficiaries of illegal votes are against the idea of any voter having to have any proof of identity or citizenship.

I reckon that in the 2016 election the Democrats (Hillary Clinton) had the benefit of about 3 million illegal votes by non-citizens (mainly in California and New York).

 


 

Short memories for Indian Rafale deal

October 16, 2018

The Rafale deal was done in 2012 when Manmohan Singh was still Prime Minister. The bidding process actually began in 2007. All the “side deals” would have been well structured at this time. The current Modi Government could only have taken over the “tributary mechanisms” of money flows from what was already structured by the previous government. Of course these would have been embellished a great deal.

Rahul Gandhi, it would seem, is trying desperately to obliterate the personal Bofors stain.

I wrote this in January 2012: Indian MMRCA: Dassault’s Rafale dumps its price to beat the Eurofighter

Finally the winner of the Indian MMRCA competition has been announced (or at least the L1 bidder) and it seems that the French dumped their prices for the Rafale to beat the Eurofighter by $4-5 million per aircraft. The performance of the Rafale in the Libyan adventure was also to its benefit compared to the Eurofighter Typhoon. Normally in the procurement process, the L1 bidder is called for final discussions to settle the contract and some further price negotiations can be expected. The contract will not be settled till the next fiscal year (after April 2012) and it would be very unusual for the evaluated L1 bidder not to get the contract. This contract is particularly important for Dassault since not only did the Rafale need a boost but also because they are guaranteed a market with the Indian Air Force for at least the next 15 years.


Related:

https://ktwop.com/tag/dassault-rafale/


 

Elizabeth Warren is probably more Neanderthal than she is Native American

October 15, 2018

UPDATE!!

The analysis of Warren’s DNA was done by Carlos D. Bustamante, a Stanford University professor, but when he studied Sen Elizabeth Warren’s (D-MA) DNA sample, he did not actually use samples of Native American DNA.

“To make up for the dearth of Native American DNA, Bustamante used samples from Mexico, Peru, and Colombia to stand in for Native American.” So all the test proved is that Warren might be 1/64 to 1/1024 Mexican, Peruvian, or Colombian — which again makes her no different than the average white American.

Regardless, all this DNA test proved is that Warren has no more claim to Indian heritage than the average white American.



 

With language came lies

October 13, 2018

First came deception, then came language and then came lies.

A minuscule level of cognitive ability is sufficient for animal deception. Some animal mimicry and camouflage is probably at the instinctive level and requires no consciousness.

Some types of deception in animals are completely involuntary (e.g. disruptive coloration), but others are under voluntary control and may involve an element of learning. Most instances of voluntary deception in animals involve a simple behaviour, such as a cat arching its back and raising its hackles, to make itself appear larger than normal when attacked. There are relatively few examples of animal behaviour which might be attributed to the manipulative type of deception which we know occurs in humans, i.e. “tactical deception”. It has been argued that true deception assumes the deceiver knows that (1) other animals have minds, (2) different animals’ minds can believe different things are true (when only one of these is actually true), and (3) it can make another mind believe that something false is actually true. True deception requires the deceiver to have the mental capacity to assess different representations of reality. Animal behaviour scientists are therefore wary of interpreting a single instance of behaviour to true deception, and explain it with simpler mental processes such as learned associations. – Wikipedia

We have been using deception probably starting before we were primitive humans some 10 million years ago. Deceiving those who were hunting us, deceiving prey and even deceiving competitors of our own kind. Deception generally requires another mind to exist to be deceived (and self-deception is fanciful except for a schizophrenic). There is no deception involved in hiding from a tree or in avoiding a landslide or escaping a volcanic eruption. Deception lies in inducing the other mind to believe in something false as being true or in believing something true to be false. Before we had language, deception was confined to using behaviour and actions to induce the false belief. This could have been, for example, hiding from hunters or prey or of appearing taller and stronger than a competitor. Deception was a tool even for groups cooperating among themselves to induce a false belief in a third party. However the cooperative act of deception required communication between the cooperating parties – even if without language. This kind of deception was primarily about inducing a false belief about the present (and about the imminent future), but could not really address the past or the distant future or anything in the present which was not immediately perceivable.

And then came rudimentary language. That was more than 100,000 years ago and maybe even more than 200,000 years ago. But we already had some idea of the concepts of “good” and “bad”. It is not difficult to see that anything which helped survival would have been labelled good and the levels of goodness of any event would have been linked to its relevance for survival. This would have been the beginnings of the development of a value system. Good and bad lie as the foundation of any, and every, value system. There was surely communication before language, but without language there was no possibility of communicating about things past or things future. Life was in the now. What was, was true, and what was not was false. But the concepts of true and false had been established well before language was discovered.

Sometime after the world around us had been divided and classified into good and bad and all the shades in between, came language. First came the discovery that we were capable of language and then that language enabled communication. Then came the invention of various specific languages at different times. (I see language as being discovered and languages as being invented). Some were good and others were not so good. Naturally all those who spoke the same language were on the side of the good. Every language that has ever existed has an in-built logic which mirrors the logic perceived in the surrounding world. To begin with, language was anchored to perceptions of reality. But language opened the doors to the past. History could be communicated. Forecasts of future events could be made. The past could be connected to the now and the now to the future. As people communicated about the now, it would have become apparent that even events in the now were mere perceptions. And then came the dawning of the realisation that language did not have to be anchored in reality at all. Language could describe what was not. The concepts of true and false expanded to include the past and the future and the abstract. History could be guessed or invented. The future could be fantasy. Fake news became possible. Language made lying possible.

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

The most widely accepted definition of lying is ……. “A lie is a statement made by one who does not believe it with the intention that someone else shall be led to believe it” (Isenberg 1973, 248) ………there are at least four necessary conditions for lying.

  • First, lying requires that a person make a statement (statement condition).
  • Second, lying requires that the person believe the statement to be false; that is, lying requires that the statement be untruthful (untruthfulness condition).
  • Third, lying requires that the untruthful statement be made to another person (addressee condition).
  • Fourth, lying requires that the person intend that that other person believe the untruthful statement to be true (intention to deceive the addressee condition).

Lying needs the ability to make a statement which is enabled by language (condition 1). More than that, lying is endemic in the use of language. Lying, as a concept, is necessarily imbued with the intent to deceive (condition 4). Inevitably, given that intention, lying carries the (almost) universal value of being “bad”. Exceptions are made only when the intent to deceive is secondary to a more laudable intention.

All social interaction involves some level of lying. I suspect that “benign” lying is necessary for the human use of language. Every statement has a truth value. Any statement of belief (which includes also all “facts” which have not been personally verified to be true) is a lie to some extent. Most human behaviour is based on beliefs that statements, which are not personally verified, are true. We could not speak about the future, or of the past, or about abstract things, if language did not allow the lie. I suspect that modern humans would not have evolved, as we have done, if language was constrained to disallow anything other than true statements.


 


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