Repetition of a mantra – even a “human rights” mantra – does not make it true

May 27, 2019

Article 1 of the Declaration of Human Rights begins with a mantra.

Mantra – “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”.

Reality – Human beings are unique and different. They are born with varying physical and mental characteristics. Their genetic characteristics define and constrain the limits of their physical and mental potentials. At birth they are incapable of survival in isolation. From birth and through their lives they are afforded privileges (rights) by the surrounding human society. Their capabilities – mental and physical – develop by the nurture they receive in their early years and their development is constrained by their innate (genetic) capability. The nurture they receive varies according to the resources and will of the surrounding society to provide such nurture. Human behaviour is a consequence of their genetics and their nurture. In similar situations humans may behave similarly but any individual’s behaviour is unique. An individual’s behaviour determines the respect afforded by the surrounding society.

The mantra is a nonsense. It is little more than “a sanctimonious wish, full of ill-defined words, signifying nothing”. It is repeated incessantly, but it is not true, cannot be true and should not be true. For it to be true would require that all humans be identical down to the last atom. For it to be true humans must lose their uniqueness and be a species of clones.

The difference between natural law and human laws is that natural laws cannot be broken. Compliance is assured even if the natural law is not even formulated. Human laws do not command automatic compliance. In fact, any human law which did command complete compliance would be an unnecessary law. “Human Rights” (and all human rights are nothing but privileges) are all attempts made by societies to regulate human behaviour. If the mantra were true, no “human rights legislation” would ever be necessary.

The reality is that human beings are not born equal in dignity and in rights.

A concept of “equality” which ignores the reality that humans are innately unequal is fundamentally flawed. Humans are unique and are not equal, or of equal value. Justice demands inequality. The very concept of justice requires unequal treatment. A child is not equal to an adult. A murderer is not equal to a saint. The perpetrator of an injustice is not equal to the victim. To treat a child as an adult is unjust. To respect bad behaviour is both unjust and stupid. Any society which treats a murderer the same as it treats a saint is an unjust society. Any concept of “equality” must be subordinated to justice.

I would take the UN Declaration more seriously if it simply began:

 “All human beings shall be afforded just dignity and respect by all human societies”


 

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Lamenting Modi’s absolute win is more phobic than rational

May 25, 2019

The point about phobias is that they are all irrational fears. A phobia is not removed by rational argument but by addressing and removing the underlying fear(s). “Phobic” assertions are futile then in a rational discussion just as “rational discourse” has no impact on reducing a phobic fear.

I have been hearing many people lamenting the absolute win that Narendra Modi and the BJP party have just achieved. They believe themselves – in the main – to be of the educated middle classes; to be liberal, secular and rational. Nearly all of them believe themselves to be atheists (conveniently forgetting that their atheism is existentially dependent upon others’ beliefs) and they are all generally contemptuous of those who profess themselves to be religious. They generally claim a monopoly over “reasoned argument” and dismiss nationalistic or religious claptrap out of hand.

But what strikes me is that their lamentations about the Modi win and the rise of dark, nationalistic and religious forces are more manifestations of a Modiphobia or a BJPphobia than the exercise of reason. It is not unlike the Trumpophobia that now dominates the Democrat discourse in the US. But just as in the US, the apparently “rational arguments” are subordinated to irrational fears and only carry the appearance of rationality. They end up being phobic assertions and lose rationality along the way.

Following the Indian elections the BJP, by itself, now commands a comfortable majority in parliament. The BJP with its allies now have almost two-thirds of the seats in parliament (353 of 543). Narendra Modi is unchallenged as Prime Minister and is perhaps the first to to have transcended some of the traditional block-voting patterns of caste and religion.

Back in 2014, I posted:

If Narendra Modi manages to break – or even to weaken – the debilitating stranglehold that caste and clan have on Indian life, he stands some chance of releasing the huge potential that is still buried deep in the country. Paradoxically, his brand (now mellowing) of Hindu nationalism may allow him the freedom not only to challenge the shackles of caste and clan but also to keep in check the extravagant expectations engendered by the pampering of minority groups (which was unavoidable with a coalition government).

I find the lamentations now lacking in reason:

  1. There was not a single individual among all the opposition parties who realistically aspired to be or (or was capable of being) the Prime Minister.
  2. There was no majority coalition of any kind remotely feasible without the BJP.  The option of the BJP not being in government did not exist.
  3. A parliament having a party with an absolute majority is more likely to be effective as a parliament and less likely to be disrupted than a minority or a coalition government. A BJP minority government or a BJP led coalition (and since BJP is in a minority in the Rajya Sabha) would have given India an impotent government.

India will have at least 5 more years of Narendra Modi and the BJP. From 2020 the BJP will likely have a majority even in the Rajya Sabha. The subcontinent is awash with fractures and fissures. My reason tells me that the chance of Indian potential being unified and harnessed is far greater now than it has ever been since independence in 1947. It is greater now than it was under Nehru and his phobias, and greater than it was under Indira Gandhi’s Emergency. I may not like some of the fanatics riding the BJP wave, but paradoxically, a strong Modi has a better chance of keeping them in check than a weak Modi.

I suspect that 2020 – 2024 will see a period of unprecedented growth of not only the Indian economy but also of Indian infrastructure and social welfare.


 

The last car I buy to drive myself

May 19, 2019

My current car is 10 years old. So, I have ordered my new car for delivery in September.

A hybrid with a petrol engine. Range on batteries alone – 60 km. Range with full batteries and full fuel tank is over 2,000 km. Self-parking (but which must be activated by the driver). “Driving assistance” to keep me awake and stop me from drifting on the highway, but has to be manually engaged. Automatic maintenance of distance from other cars when engaged. 360º vision cameras. Live satellite navigation assistance.

I am 71 now. I can feel my reaction times are slowing. My eyesight is still fine but glare at night on wet roads is increasingly bothersome. My neck hurts sometimes when reversing. I feel my concentration dipping on long journeys. My attention strays. With the various “assistances” now available, I reckon that I should be able to keep and drive this car for another 5 – 6 years. At that time -if I am still around – my faculties would, no doubt, have deteriorated further. But advances in technology are surging ahead and will compensate for my deficiencies. By then I expect very smart, virtually self-driving cars to have come a long long way.

This may not be the last car I buy for myself. But it probably is the last car I buy to drive myself.

 

My next car – if there is a next – will drive me. 


 

What’s best for me is my call

May 18, 2019

I dislike and have always disliked political labels. I particularly dislike being forced into the mould of a particular political party. Since I became “politically aware” in my teens I have always found that my own views are never completely encompassed within those of a single political party. Invariably I find my views straddling those of opposing parties.

It is easier sometimes to consider what I cannot – at the core of me – support. And I find that this is actually one of the fundamental values I have. All other views flow from these core values/beliefs.

I am fundamentally opposed to being coerced – under threat of force or law – by others as to

    • what I should or should not think,
    • what I should or should not say,
    • how I should or should not behave, and
    • who I should or should not support (financially or otherwise)

Advice from others is one thing (my doctor, my car mechanic, my plumber, my teachers), but I find it unacceptable for someone else to impose upon me what he/she thinks is for my own good and best for me. I find I am not prepared to compromise on retaining the ultimate judgement of what is best for me. In the classical conflict between the individual’s good versus the common good, I take the position that it is the individual’s good which is paramount. If the “common good” does not itself accommodate the individual’s good it is no longer the “common” good, but is in fact “the others’ good”. In practice, society imposes many things upon me which I accept, even if without much enthusiasm.  I do so because it creates sufficient good for me even if it is not for my best. The “sufficient good” may be no more than retaining membership of the surrounding society. But I do so in the illusion that it is my own decision. This preference for the individual inevitably pushes my views towards the right of centre of the political spectrum. I do not like my compassion to be coerced. Sanctimonious compassion is an existential threat. I find it unconscionable to be forced to support “bad people”. I do not like science by consensus. I find “fashionable” science contemptible. I find the use of “mental sickness” to excuse bad behaviour to be brainless.

I choose to pay my taxes. I choose to comply (mostly) with road speed limits. I choose to follow most societal rules which make sense. But I choose to ignore those who will tell me what I cannot think or what I cannot say or what I cannot eat. Political parties whose universal solution is to forbid some behaviour are not for me. Those which have no other solution than to get others to pay for their self-righteousness are equally anathema to me. I choose to ignore those who would tell me what I should consider good or bad. I choose to ignore those I consider stupid.

And anybody who claims to know, and wants to impose upon me, what is best for me is just stupid.


 

Apocalypse Now (yet again) or the false god of biodiversity

May 7, 2019

Here we go again.

The UN (who else) has its annual freak-out about a million species being threatened by humans. (There are about a trillion species on Earth). The 6th mass extinction is upon us! The solution is mass suicide by humans! The humans left will be happily dead ever after. Failing that we could have World Government.

When life on earth began, there was no biodiversity. As individual life-forms survived environmental changes, new species were created. Sometimes the parent species survived and sometimes not. Sometimes the new species did not survive further changes. The results of survival we call evolution. As for anything else there is an optimum number of species for any given environment, in any given place at any given time. Too many species is a worse thing than too few. Too few, and new species will always be formed to exploit the available environment. Too many, and every species is miserable.

All invasive species are – by definition – successful species. All endangered species are – also by definition – failing species. “Protecting” failed, but somehow attractive, species is entirely an emotional response by humans but it has no rational purpose. The rational and responsible approach to biodiversity would be to genetically modify failing species to survive or to let them become extinct in a world where they have no place.

Judging by the posts I have been driven to write in recent years, I must find all sanctimonious, self-righteous apocalypse predictions somewhat obscene.

Mass extinctions correct for evolution’s greater than 99% failure rate

Earth has too many failed species and 30% need to go extinct

There was no biodiversity to begin with

Raging biodiversity – “One trillion species on earth”

I just repeat my post from 2018.

The biodiversity myth (or How many species should there be?)

How many species should there be?

In any given environment, even with no change in the environment, natural selection will see to it, given enough time, that the number of species will increase to fill the available space. Competition between species will increase with increasing biodiversity. Species incapable of coping with the competition will restrict themselves to protected niches or disappear. As environment changes, modifications will also follow. As environment changes, species which were once viable may become extinct, continue in a suitable niche or adapt.

As far as we know the earth is the only planet on which life has developed.

……… 

Time and the laws of the Universe were established soon after the Big Bang singularity occurred some 13.8 billion years ago. ………… The earth itself was formed when it congealed about 4.54 billion years ago……. Chemistry between atoms and molecules happened. About a billion years later chemistry became biochemistry. Somehow RNA molecules (the RNA world) appeared. Some of these were replicating molecules. Some of these arranged themselves into single celled organisms. Single celled life began. Around 500 million years ago, complex multi-cellular life took off.

In the 500 million years since there have been at least 10 major extinctions and 5 Great Mass Extinctions. The last one was around 50 million years ago when the large dinosaurs “disappeared” (though that disappearance may have taken many thousands, or even hundreds of thousands, of years). Nevertheless it was the spaces left vacant in the environment which enabled, and were filled by, the mammals and in turn the primates and humans. …..


 

We don’t exist, and even if we do we are doomed

May 5, 2019

The nice thing about cosmological theories is the the time scales involved make the theories unfalsifiable.

One of the latest theories is that the universe is cyclic.

  1. A sort of a Big Bang,
  2. Expansion,
  3. A Big Suck,
  4. Compression.

followed by another kind of a Big Bang, and so on ad infinitum.

But why that should be so is outside the realm of the knowable.

Two articles caught my eye this morning.

Universe shouldn’t exist, CERN physicists conclude

NEW RESEARCH SUGGEST ANDROMEDA AND MILKY WAY GALAXIES ARE ALREADY TOUCHING, MIGHT COLLIDE SOONER THAN WE THINK


One of the great mysteries of modern physics is why antimatter did not destroy the universe at the beginning of time.

To explain it, physicists suppose there must be some difference between matter and antimatter – apart from electric charge. Whatever that difference is, it’s not in their magnetism, it seems.

Physicists at CERN in Switzerland have made the most precise measurement ever of the magnetic moment of an anti-proton – a number that measures how a particle reacts to magnetic force – and found it to be exactly the same as that of the proton but with opposite sign. The work is described in Nature.

“All of our observations find a complete symmetry between matter and antimatter, which is why the universe should not actually exist,” says Christian Smorra, a physicist at CERN’s Baryon–Antibaryon Symmetry Experiment (BASE) collaboration. “An asymmetry must exist here somewhere but we simply do not understand where the difference is.”


The Milky Way and Andromeda galaxy won’t collide for next 4 billion years. But but a recent discovery of a massive halo of hot gas close to Andromeda Galaxy may mean that our galaxies are already touching. Astrophysicist Nicholas Lehner from University of Notre Dame, led a group of scientists using the Hubble Space Telescope to detect an enormous halo of hot, ionized gas about 2 million light years in diameter around the galaxy.

The Andromeda Galaxy and Milky Way are the largest member of a ragtag group of some 54 galaxies, called the Local Group. Andromeda, with almost a trillion stars — twice as many as the Milky Way — shines 25% brighter and can simply be seen with the naked eye from outlying and rural skies. If the recently discovered halo spreads at least a million light years in our direction, our two galaxies are way MUCH closer to touching than previously thought.


 

Boeing made survival an “optional extra” with the B737 Max

April 30, 2019

It does not look good for Boeing (or the FAA).

It seems that a sensor advising of a malfunction of the MCAS was deactivated intentionally and made an optional extra to be bought separately.

“Not fit for purpose” comes to mind.

Boeing de-activated a signal designed to advise the cockpit crew of a malfunctioning of the MCAS system ……. Boeing had opted to make the malfunction alert an optional extra costing more money — and had deactivated the signal on all 737 MAX …….. Neither of the Boeing 737 Max planes in the Lion Air crash in Indonesia or the Ethiopian Airlines crash were equipped with the signal that is supposed to show a malfunctioning of the MCAS

It seems that at some level within the FAA this was seen as a potential problem last year, but the issue was not escalated within the FAA nor was it acted upon.

If surviving a flight is an optional extra an accident is no longer a random event. What somebody at Boeing did may not have been murder but it comes preciously close to manslaughter.

Yahoo News: New York (AFP)US regulators considered grounding some Boeing 737 MAX planes last year after learning of a problem with a system that is now the main suspect in two deadly crashes, a source close to the matter said. Investigators in the Lion Air crash in October off the coast of Indonesia and the Ethiopia Airlines disaster in March have zeroed in on the planes’ anti-stall system, called the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS.

Last year, inspectors with the Federal Aviation Administration discovered Boeing de-activated a signal designed to advise the cockpit crew of a malfunctioning of the MCAS system, the source said. The inspectors were in charge of monitoring Southwest Airlines, the biggest user of 737 MAX planes, with a fleet of 34 of them at the time, added the source.

Before the Lion Air crash, which killed all 189 people on board, “the (signals) were depicted as operable by Boeing on all MAX aircraft” regardless of whether the cockpit crew thought they had them turned on or off, said a Southwest spokeswoman. She said after the accident, Boeing told Southwest the signals were “turned off unless they were specifically designated as being turned on” — prompting the airline to choose that option for all its aircraft. It was at that point inspectors learned Boeing had opted to make the malfunction alert an optional extra costing more money — and had deactivated the signal on all 737 MAX delivered to Southwest without telling the carrier. They considered recommending grounding the planes as they explored whether pilots flying the aircraft needed additional training about the alerts, said the source. They decided against that — but never passed details of the discussions to higher-ranking officials in the FAA, the source said, confirming a story in The Wall Street Journal.

……… The Ethiopia Airlines crash left all 157 people on the plane dead and led to all Boeing 737 Max planes all over the world being grounded. In this case too the MCAS is being looked at as a possible cause of the crash.

In times of mid-air distress, the system is supposed to activate on its own and push the nose of the plane down to keep it from stalling. Boeing is working on changing the MCAS so it can get the planes back in the air. The grounding has already cost the carrier a billion dollars, Boeing said last week. But the bill will probably climb because Boeing is expected to pay money to airlines forced to cancel thousands of flights and hire more reservations and services staff. Boeing has suspended deliveries of Boeing 737 Max planes and cut production of them by 20 percent.

Neither of the Boeing 737 Max planes in the Lion Air crash in Indonesia or the Ethiopian Airlines crash were equipped with the signal that is supposed to show a malfunctioning of the MCAS, an industry source told AFP in March. Called “disagree lights” in Boeing parlance, these lights turn on when faulty information is sent from so-called angle of attack sensors to the MCAS. Those sensors monitor whether the wings have enough lift to keep the plane flying. …. 

image – Zero Hedge


“Liberal” bigotry at the New York Times

April 29, 2019

Published under pressure by the New York Times.

An opinion piece by Bret Stephens – where the publishing of a critical article is supposed to balance the blatant and bigoted propaganda that went before.

As prejudices go, anti-Semitism can sometimes be hard to pin down, but on Thursday the opinion pages of The New York Times international editionprovided a textbook illustration of it.

Except that The Times wasn’t explaining anti-Semitism. It was purveying it.

It did so in the form of a cartoon, provided to the newspaper by a wire service and published directly above an unrelated column by Tom Friedman, in which a guide dog with a prideful countenance and the face of Benjamin Netanyahu leads a blind, fat Donald Trump wearing dark glasses and a black yarmulke. Lest there be any doubt as to the identity of the dog-man, it wears a collar from which hangs a Star of David.

Here was an image that, in another age, might have been published in the pages of Der Stürmer. The Jew in the form of a dog. The small but wily Jew leading the dumb and trusting American. The hated Trump being Judaized with a skullcap. The nominal servant acting as the true master. The cartoon checked so many anti-Semitic boxes that the only thing missing was a dollar sign.

The image also had an obvious political message: Namely, that in the current administration, the United States follows wherever Israel wants to go. This is false — consider Israel’s horrified reaction to Trump’s announcement last year that he intended to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria — but it’s beside the point. There are legitimate ways to criticize Trump’s approach to Israel, in pictures as well as words. But there was nothing legitimate about this cartoon.

So what was it doing in The Times?

For some Times readers — or, as often, former readers — the answer is clear: The Times has a longstanding Jewish problem, dating back to World War II, when it mostly buried news about the Holocaust, and continuing into the present day in the form of intensely adversarial coverage of Israel. The criticism goes double when it comes to the editorial pages, whose overall approach toward the Jewish state tends to range, with some notable exceptions, from tut-tutting disappointment to thunderous condemnation.

For these readers, the cartoon would have come like the slip of the tongue that reveals the deeper institutional prejudice. What was long suspected is, at last, revealed.

The real story is a bit different, though not in ways that acquit The Times. The cartoon appeared in the print version of the international edition, which has a limited overseas circulation, a much smaller staff, and far less oversight than the regular edition. Incredibly, the cartoon itself was selected and seen by just one midlevel editor right before the paper went to press.

An initial editor’s note acknowledged that the cartoon “included anti-Semitic tropes,” “was offensive,” and that “it was an error of judgment to publish it.” On Sunday, The Times issued an additional statement saying it was “deeply sorry” for the cartoon and that “significant changes” would be made in terms of internal processes and training.

In other words, the paper’s position is that it is guilty of a serious screw-up but not a cardinal sin. Not quite.

Imagine, for instance, if the dog on a leash in the image hadn’t been the Israeli prime minister but instead a prominent woman such as Nancy Pelosi, a person of color such as John Lewis, or a Muslim such as Ilhan Omar. Would that have gone unnoticed by either the wire service that provides the Times with images or the editor who, even if he were working in haste, selected it?

The question answers itself. And it raises a follow-on: How have even the most blatant expressions of anti-Semitism become almost undetectable to editors who think it’s part of their job to stand up to bigotry?

The reason is the almost torrential criticism of Israel and the mainstreaming of anti-Zionism, including by this paper, which has become so common that people have been desensitized to its inherent bigotry. So long as anti-Semitic arguments or images are framed, however speciously, as commentary about Israel, there will be a tendency to view them as a form of political opinion, not ethnic prejudice. But as I noted in a Sunday Review essay in February, anti-Zionism is all but indistinguishable from anti-Semitism in practice and often in intent, however much progressives try to deny this.

Add to the mix the media’s routine demonization of Netanyahu, and it is easy to see how the cartoon came to be drawn and published: Already depicted as a malevolent Jewish leader, it’s just a short step to depict him as a malevolent Jew.

I’m writing this column conscious of the fact that it is unusually critical of the newspaper in which it appears, and it is a credit to the paper that it is publishing it. I have now been with The Times for two years and I’m certain that the charge that the institution is in any way anti-Semitic is a calumny.

But the publication of the cartoon isn’t just an “error of judgment,” either. The paper owes the Israeli prime minister an apology. It owes itself some serious reflection as to how it came to publish that cartoon — and how its publication came, to many longtime readers, as a shock but not a surprise.

“Liberal” bigotry is bigotry masquerading under the cloak of self-righteous, and sanctimonious pretense. It is corruption when the New York Times uses its reputation for integrity to tout propaganda.


 

Euthanasia takes off in Canada

April 28, 2019

I don’t believe there are ethical problems here.

Maybe it’s just because I’m getting older, but when there is great suffering or no quality of life left, there is much to recommend an assisted peaceful end.

Reblogged from BioEdge.

At least 1.12% of deaths in Canada are due to euthanasia

According to the latest figures, about 3,000 Canadians were euthanised in 2018. According to the Fourth Interim Report on Medical Assistance in Dying there were at least 2,614 medically assisted deaths in Canada between January 1 and October 31.

Although euthanasia was only legalised in Canada in June 2016, it has quickly become widespread. In the 10 months covered by the report, euthanasia accounted for 1.12% of all deaths in Canada. Cancer was the most frequently cited underlying medical condition, accounting for approximately 64% of all deaths. 

According to the report, “The percentage of deaths due to MAID in Canada also continues to remain within the percentage of medically assisted deaths provided in other countries where 0.4% (Oregon, USA, 2017) to 4% (Netherlands, 2017) of total deaths has been attributed to a medically assisted death.”

There have been at least 6,749 medically assisted deaths since June 2016. However, this does not include data from the Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut. Some figures are also missing from Quebec. Most people who were euthanised were between 56 and 90, with an average age of 72. Most deaths occurred in a hospital (44%) or in a patient’s home (42%). Doctors were the main agents (93%), with nurse practitioners providing the rest.

This is the last interim report now thatregulations standardising euthanasia statistics across Canada have come into force.

It is interesting to note that only 6 of all reported MAID deaths were attributable to assisted suicide. Nearly all patients wanted their doctors to administer a lethal injection.

The release of the figures did not create a big splash in the media. But Wesley J. Smith commented in the National Review: “This means well over 3,000 people are killed by their doctors each year in Canada, which — if my math is correct — is more than 250 a month, more than 58 a week, and more than eight per day. Heck, that’s about one every three hours.”


 

Understanding why two Boeing 737-800 Max planes crashed

April 23, 2019

Understanding why two Boeing 737-800 Max planes crashed.

Trying to use software to compensate for a bad design did not work.

Nice video.


 


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