Our rights do not originate with government, but they are to be "secured" by government.
Formerly: Libertarian Party of Citrus county

Monday, February 23, 2015

LPF Equality Plank

By Tom Rhodes, Chairman LPF Platform Committee, 2/23/2015

Should America have special laws and programs for different groups based on race, gender or faith or should America have the same laws and rights for all Americans? Simple question and philosophically the answer is clear; America have the same laws and rights for all Americans. The sad fact is even in the leadership of the LP Americans want special rights and privileges for some men.

Our tax code is a prime example of different laws and rights for different men based on some group or other identification. Imagine tax code if it applied equally to everybody? Even maintaining the idiocy of the inequality of a progressive tax system. Imagine that everybody who made $30K paid the same taxes on that $30K. The biggest inequality is not based on how much that person earns, but on how much somebody else earns. If you make $30K and are single you’d end up paying around $5K in taxes, if you were married to somebody making $300K you’d end up paying at least $15K in taxes. Why does who you choose to be in a private relationship or not determine how you are taxed?

Should our tax law consider your sex and the voluntarily chosen profession of your spouse as a means of determining the tax you should pay? Obviously the answer should be no; if we believe in equality under the law. Now let’s get all emotional and really foul up your thinking. Should the widow of a man who died in battle overseas get a tax break? If you think so, why? Why does the widow of man who died at a construction site not deserve the same? Should the same tax break be granted to a widower? Why if it is a financial burden of a spouse dying from one means more deserving of a tax break than another means? Why should the sex of the surviving spouse grant special tax breaks? If taxes are such a heavy burden on military widows that they deserve special tax breaks, why is that same burden on others acceptable? Why shouldn’t the man whose wife dies in a car wreck not get the same tax break a military widow gets?

The answer is simple, equality under the law is a nice idea, but emotionally the reality of treating everybody equally is hard to accept. We want special people to get special privilege because it feels good, we don’t care about fair and equal. When asked “Should our tax law consider your sex and the voluntarily chosen profession of your spouse as a means of determining the tax you should pay?” rationally the answer is clear, your sex and the vocation of your spouse should not determine your taxes; but consider a woman whose husband died defending our country from terrorists, and you throw rational thinking right out the window. Emotionally you are willing to get rid of equality under the law, and grant special privileges to some people based on sex and the chosen profession of their spouse; if the sex is female, and the chosen profession is soldier. For many when it comes down to it, you don’t believe in equality.

The problem is that when we grant some special privilege for somebody special, you destroy the rule of law, and equality under the law. The unintended consequences of such thinking leads to tyranny. Always has always will. That kind of thinking eventually leads to, “that rich guy hires lots of people, we should not arrest him for that crime because those people will be out of work,” AKA “too big to fail.” Accepting and even promoting unequal treatment based on something “special” is generally exercising emotion over logic. It is however very effective, hence special interests, not equality under the law are the rule in Washington and Tallahassee.

The LPF Platform has a plank that effectively states the LPF’s position on all such laws, be they special privileges for military widows, or excessive taxes for being single, or marriage laws. It is principled, logical, and effective, and fair. This plank covers a huge variety of political and legal issues today.

LPF Platform Section I, paragraph 4: We support Equality under the Law, and condemn any law that either rewards or punishes any individual based on race, ethnicity, religion, gender, or any other group identification. Each person has the same inalienable rights. It is the States duty to protect those rights for each individual equally.

That plank is simply a modern recognition of what our forefathers stated in the Declaration of Independence, that “… all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted …”

The LPF Position is that government exists to protect the natural rights of all men equally, and any law that grants unequal protection or privilege or punishment to anyone is wrong. The LPF position is also clear, we need government and instituted a government purposed to protecting the natural rights of all men equally. That purpose of course inevitably lead to the War Between the States but the idea was realized and continues to be realized. Equality under the law for all men without exception. It is as we abandon that idea of equal protection under the law and the rule of law that we watch the USA creep back to tyranny that was and is normal for most of history and all of mankind.

Footnote:This article is written in English, therefore when referring to people of undetermined sex the generic pronouns man, men, he, him, etc. are used because it is grammatically correct to do so when the sex is unspecified. If your offended, tough, get a life. Using grammatically correct English is not sexist, no matter how you “feel” about it.

If interviewed on TV about a fire a cop might say, “We don’t know who started the fire, but he will be held responsible.” It is understood, by both the police officer and any listeners, that “he” could refer to either a woman or a man.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Can Cops Make an Unlawful Order?

By Tom Rhodes, 2/19/2015

Today we have LEO’s not Peace Officers, their job is no longer to protect the peace, but to enforce laws. If you don’t know the difference, stop reading and go play Farmville or whatever is popular on FB. Try to look up a legal definition of a “lawful order.” It’s not well defined, and is generally anything a cop tells you to do, legal or not. If a cop gives you an order and you don’t obey it, chances are you will be arrested, often violently, detained and thrown in jail. Doesn’t matter what that order is, or if the LEO has the authority or right to make the order.

Take something as benign as a traffic stop. By Florida statute you are required to “show” your license when a LEO requests it. The law does not require you to surrender you license to the LEO. If an officer asks to “see your license” and you put your license up against the window of your car so he can see it, you are complying with both the law and his order. The question is if the officer asks for your license and requests you hand it to him, is that a legal order?

There is no Florida statute saying you must surrender you driver license to the police if requested. But there is a law that says you must follow all lawful orders. In reality all orders a cop give to a civilian are lawful. Want proof, find any case were a cop was disciplined anywhere in Florida for giving an unlawful order.

Let’s say you show your license as the law requires but refuse to surrender it as requested. What will happen is the cop with get angry, and may be arrest you for disobeying an officer, you will be strip searched and placed in jail. At some point in the future (1-3 days), charges may be dropped and you may be freed. You were not successful even though you didn’t break any law and were within your rights, being jailed for 3 days is excessive punishment for not actually breaking any law other than pissing off a cop. So now that your rights were abused you can’t do anything meaningful. Due to qualified immunity, you will not be able to sue the law enforcement officer. You might be able to sue the department, but the officer is completely in the free and will not be held responsible in any way. Even the department won’t be held responsible because their funding won’t be reduced, instead the municipality that runs the police department will use taxpayer money to pay you.

In reality no order given by a law enforcement officer is ever considered unlawful. No person has ever disobeyed an unlawful order, and had justice prevail. Nowhere in Florida has an officer ever been held accountable for “giving an unlawful order.”

The only way for there to have never been an officer held accountable for “giving an unlawful order,” is either that no order by an LEO is unlawful, or no LEO has ever given an unlawful order. The sad fact is that, today, in Florida, you have no legal right to not obey any order a cop gives you, whether the LEO has been granted that power by law or not. There is no such thing as an unlawful order by an LEO. That is a problem, and it is a problem or government doesn’t even want you to know, much less talk about.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Sci Phi Journal

By Tom Rhodes, 2/16/2015

You want to understand Libertarian philosophy the best place is in classic science fiction. Heinlein’s “Moon is a Harsh Mistress” is a prime example, and easier to read than Maynard, or Locke. Michael Z. Williamson’s “Freehold” is another fine example of the expression of libertarian philosophy in fiction.

StarTrek is a huge example of philosophy as expressed in science fiction. Perhaps no other medium better delves deeper into philosophy than SciFi. Sci Phi is an online science fiction and philosophy magazine. In each issue you will find stories that explore questions of life, the universe and everything and articles that delve into the deep philosophical waters of science fiction universes.

This magazine available in print or as an ebook from Castalia House or in print at Amazon. The writing is varied and includes articles and fiction. It has bestselling authors like John C. Wright as well as unknowns.

This anthology, is better than any of the big name Science Fiction anthologies that have long ago turned into pink shadows of themselves. Its roots are in a popular podcast of the ame name by Jason Rennie. That looks at science fiction through philosophical lens, or most like looks at philosophy through a science fiction lens.

This is an interesting place where Science Fiction, Philosophy, Religion, and Ideas are treated with respect, and thoughtfully explored.

In it’s first issue, Sci Phi Journal contained an original novellete from author John C. Wright, “The Ideal Machine,” a tale of aliens from a distant star come to visit an old country church and offer our world a chance for the future.

It contained the following original fiction (science fiction of course):
  • Joshua M. Young - Domo - A story of a Robot who wonders if he has a soul
  • David Hallquist - Falling To Eternity - Can a Blackhole help you get away with murder?
  • Frederick Best - Cosmic Foam - What is beyond the visible world
  • Jane Lebak - Abandoned River, Dry Water - What do you do when life throws you a curve ball?

    And it contained these non-fiction philosophical essays
  • David Kyle Johnson - In Defense of the Matrix Saga: Appreciating the Sequel through Philosophy
  • James Druley - Star Trek's Prime Directive : Moral Guidelines, Exceptions and Absolutes
  • Stephen S. Hanson - Personhood in H.Beam Piper's Little Fuzzy
  • Daniel Vecchio - "I am Groot": An Aristotelian Reflection on Space Aliens and Substance
  • Ruth Tallman - Endangered Species: Exploring Transhumanism, Genetic Engineering and Personhood Through the World of Sweet Tooth
  • and a book review by Peter Sean Bradley, Monster Hunter International by Larry Correia.

    The second and third editions were equally as interesting. When I saw a serious discussion on the implications of an extreme implementation of the NAP, StarTrek’s prime directive, I had to have the first issue.

    How do you not read an article titled: "I am Groot": An Aristotelian Reflection on Space Aliens and Substance

    Sci Phi Journal, worth a lot more than $4 the e-version costs. I particularly like getting the eversion at Castalia House they don’t have nasty DRM encoding. I’ll readily pay for my copies without DRM, and will spend time and effort bootlegging DRM encoded works. It a philosophic difference in how I believe that I the customer should be treated.
  • Tuesday, February 17, 2015

    GOP Skims Donation Right Off the Top

    By Tom Rhodes, 2/16/2015

    Truth in Republican Politics and why the grass root candidate loses, “perhaps the biggest reason grassroots candidates have been having trouble breaking through in recent years is because such a large percentage of the money that was intended for them is being siphoned off.”

    What is clear is that the GOP has control of the purse strings and electing people to office that are not part of the establishment isn’t going to happen if they can help it.

    From Right Wing News

    Right Wing News hired a researcher who spent more than a month researching 17 conservative PACs so we could do a special report. What we found was shocking.

    * The bottom 10 performing PACs we researched spent $54,318,498 overall and yet only paid out $3,621,896 to candidates.

    * Did you know that despite the fact that it raised a staggering 13 million dollars, The National Draft Ben Carson for President isn’t affiliated with Ben Carson and the small percentage of money they spent on independent expenditures didn’t go to him? Now you know why Ben Carson’s business manager, Armstrong Williams wouldn’t allow the group’s campaign director to take a picture with Carson and said, “People giving money think it’s going to Dr. Carson and it’s not. …Our hands are tied. We don’t want people exploited.”

    * The Republican Mainstreet Partnership is getting an enormous amount of union money.

    "Labor unions provided significant funding for the (Republican Main Street Partnership) with Working for Working Americans, the International Union of Operating Engineers, and the Laborers International Union of North America all contributing around $250,000. The United Transportation Union ($30,000), Seafarers International Union ($20,000), were joined by the Teamsters, Air Line Pilots Association, International Association of Firefighters, and various other unions who contributed $10,000. SEIU contributed $5,000, as did the Laborers Union, the Transport Workers Union and various others."

    In conclusion, "One of the things I realized while I was putting this report together is that perhaps the biggest reason grassroots candidates have been having trouble breaking through in recent years is because such a large percentage of the money that was intended for them is being siphoned off to vendors, wasted, and just plain old pocketed by people in these PACs."

    If your shocked, or even surprised you’re not paying attention. The only thing if found interesting is that they skim off the top as much as the United Way. Tear-jerking and Fear-mongering seem to be the best ways to get people to part with their money.

    Monday, February 9, 2015

    Life and Death

    By Tom Rhodes, 2/9/2015

    Life and Death, the rationale for the LPF Platform being silent on abortion.

    The idea and scientific reality of being alive is a binary, black and white, issue. Something is either alive or dead not in between. You can be dying, but you're not dead yet. Politics not science has changed the definition of life. It was assumed that if a cell is taking in nutrients, expelling waste, respirating, and when mature enough or as a result of some stimulus divides, that cell is alive not dead. Multicellular organisms are alive if as a whole they are doing the same. A multicellular organism dies, some of its organs and tissues may be alive for a while longer before that organ or tissue no longer takes in nutrients, resparates, expels waste, and responds to stimuli, hence organ donation is possible from a cadaver, but the multicellular organism as a life is dead.

    Scientifically not theologically, for living multicellular organisms that are not asexual, life begins once an egg is fertilized. At that point there exists a new life with distinct DNA from its mother. The fertilized egg exhibits all the markers of life, takes in nutrients, respirates, expels waste, and responds to stimuli. At that early stage of life, the stimuli it responds to are chemical, it has not yet developed the sensory organs to detect light, pressure, sound, etc. that it will have when fully developed. But it is not dead, and meets, what were before Roe v. Wade, the scientific criteria to be called alive.

    The DNA of a fertilized egg, has the plans and directions for that life to develop. It may or may not survive to die of old age; it may not develop to be able to sustain itself; it can die from any of a million different things that can interrupt it's life. But until and unless it stops taking in nutrients, expelling waste, respirating, and responding to stimuli, it is alive and not dead, regardless of where in its life cycle from fertilized egg to death.

    Scientifically to determine species is easy, look at the DNA. If it’s a person, it will have human DNA, if it’s a dog it with have canine DNA consistent with the specific breed, etc. etc. etc. The scientific fact is that the life of a human starts at conception, goes through many stages and ends at death. Once an human egg is fertilized, it is a distinct person who is not dead, rather alive, until it dies of natural or artificial circumstances.

    The only reason there is discussion and argument over abortion is because some people not only want to have the "right" to kill other people they don’t want to feel guilty over such murder. Murder by definition means to kill another person deliberately and not in self-defense or with any other extenuating circumstance. Some people want to base the legality and feelings about murder on the value of that other living human based on that person not reaching some arbitrary stage of its natural life cycle. It’s barbaric to allow parents to murder their offspring regardless of what the current stage of their child’s life cycle.

    The emotional impact of murdering another human is terrible. The idea is to lessen this emotional impact of abortion by declaring that a less developed person is not yet a life thus does not deserves the same protections as others. This is why the very definition of life and what it means to be alive has been changed. Not based on science but on emotional and political impact. Think about the rationale for the vast majority of abortions, "This life will be inconvenient and may not live in optimal circumstances so she should be killed before she costs me any more problems."

    Libertarians are fond of the NAP, unless it’s inconvenient. Many libertarians are anti-abortion, but they tend to be not quite as loud as the pro-abortion crowd. They fall prey to the fallacious argument that a woman should be allowed to do with her body whatever she wants. Thinking a woman should be allowed to abort her pregnancy because it is her body. This position ignores the caveat that freedom to act as you please stops when it infringes upon the rights of another. It also ignores the elephant in the room. The new human has not committed any act of aggression against anybody, in fact she exists as the result of voluntary acts of another. The idea of abortion is the idea that you should not have to be accountable for the consequences risks you voluntarily take. Sex has many risks, including, STD’s, emotional trauma and the start of new life. Just like you can take a risk and drive too fast, you are not exempt from the consequences of that action; like not being able to make a curve and crashing. Life isn’t risk free, sex is an action with known consequences, just because you may not like the results doesn’t grant you the right to aggress against another.

    What about rape? Answer is obvious but not palatable to many. Rape is a sexual assault. Like any assault it is a violation of the NAP, and as it should be, a violation of the law. Being assaulted, does that give you the right to murder you child? The rapist, not the child, is the aggressor and the one who should be held accountable; as in massive child support for life, to the mother or adoptive parents. Imagine half your earnings given to your victim for 22 years, plus the cost of medical services required as a result of your assault. That punishment would severely curtail rapists more than a couple years of being housed and fed in jail. The idea that because of one crime, murdering an innocent is legal and moral is not the hallmark of a civilized society.

    Life and Death, knowing what each means, and how they relate to a civilized society is important. Whether based on science or theology, a large number of people (over half the country) believe life begins at conception. This includes a large number of Libertarians. There is no plank on abortion in the LPF Platform. The reason such a plank doesn’t exist is clear. Abortion violates the NAP, but a plank based on the scientific fact that the life cycle of a person begins at conception would ostracize a large number of libertarians who think with their emotions and cannot tolerate rationality overriding their emotional need to ameliorate suffering the consequences associated with the risks of exercising liberty. Having liberty and exercising freedom is dangerous, there are consequences to actions.

    The Mission of the LPF Platform committee is to clearly present the ideas of liberty to which we as a party ascribe and expect to be held accountable. The goals of the LPF Platform committee are to develop the declaration of the LPF’s principles and aims consistent with libertarian ideas that help unify the party and clarify our direction.

    Many Libertarians, just like Democrats and Republicans want the liberty and freedom to do what they want without any consequences. That is not libertarian thinking, but it is what we have to deal with. So for now the LPF Platform is silent on abortion and the LPF Platform committee will not consider any planks on the subject because such a plank would clearly violate both our mission and goals.

    Wednesday, February 4, 2015

    Physical Education – the Basis for Lying About American Education

    by Tom Rhodes, 2/4/2015

    What does it take to get an A grade in high school physical education? You know the answer, show up, dress out, participate. That’s it. The 100 pound nerd or 250 pound couch potato who can’t catch a ball, shoot a free-throw, bench press 200 pounds, tackle, block, run a mile, or do 10 pull up s gets the same A that the Jock who can do 100 pull ups and earns a football scholarship for showing up. The question is why?

    Apply that to Algebra II. Why doesn’t the kid who shows up, does the work, and participates in class, but can’t solve a simple quadratic equation, can’t factor a polynomial, can’t figure out the length of the two sides of a right triangle given the length of the hypotenuse and the cosign of one angle, not get an A?

    Why do we accept the fact that the 100 pound nerd can try as hard as he wants, will never be able to bench press 200 pounds, but ignore the fact that the 90 IQ jock will never be able to do higher math? Imagine how the 100 pound asthmatic nerd would feel if he was told to get an A in phys-ed he had to do 50 pushups in 2 min, 100 sit-ups in 2 min, 20 pull ups, and run a mile yards in less than 8 min.

    I’m a smart man, that’s not bragging any more than Rob Gronkowski saying he’s an excellent athlete. Just statements of fact, like saying somebody is tall or short, measurable facts. I used to believe that if anybody applied themselves they could do anything. If I decided I wanted to learn C++ or Python, I could do it, it would take time and work but the outcome would be assured, I would learn those languages. It wasn’t until about the midway point of my first semester teaching high school chemistry, that I learned I was wrong. The fact is there are a significant number of people that no matter how hard they apply themselves and how hard they work, won’t ever be able to do chemistry, or calculus, or factor a polynomial, they don’t have the mental capacity. Just like no matter how hard I work and apply myself I’ll never be able to kick a 50 yd field goal, or win a marathon. I’m different than the athletes that can do those things. My desire, my effort, my attitude, nothing would matter, I don’t have the physical capability and never will. Never in in my physical prime regardless of effort and training would I be able to run a 100 meters in 13 seconds it can’t happen, much less 10 seconds times required to be a successful sprinter.

    In fact the reality is that less than a 1000 people in the whole world are physically capable of running a 10 second 100 meter sprint. That is an accepted fact. We accept the fact that in any given high school only a small percentage of students could qualify for any varsity sport. Saying all kids should be on the varsity team is idiotic. The 100 pound asthmatic nerd does not belong on the football team, not only isn’t he qualified, he is physically unable to do so. Oh he could dress out and participate, but never ever perform even at the average level, much less be competitive. Why then should he get an A in Phys-Ed? If being able to factor quadric equations is a requirement to get an A in Algebra II, and predicting the results of chemical reactions and balancing chemical equations is a requirement to get an A in chemistry, why isn’t running a 100 meters in less than 12 seconds a requirement to get an A in Phys-Ed? If demonstrating performance in academics is the how people are judged in academic classes, why not demonstrating performance in athletics how people are judged in Phys-Ed?

    The point is somebody asked that question, and rather than give the 100 pound asthmatic nerd a D in phys-ed because he has below average physical capability, we lowered the standards so that showing up, dressing out, and participating was good enough to get an A (excellent) grade. Grades used to mean something F = failed, D = performed below average, C performed at average level, B = performed above average, A = excellent performance. Any class academic or physical or artistic that doesn’t have the vast majority of students receiving a C grade, meaning they are average, is problematic. Assume a middle sized high school with 2000 students, all of them have to take physical science in their first year That would be about 600 students. A normal distribution curve would mean that of those 600 freshman, if the class was fair and accurate there would be about 50 As, 125 Bs, 250 Cs, 125 D’s, and 50 kids would fail. Unless you skewed the test and lowered the standards so that low IQ kids could pass.

    As a chemistry teacher that is exactly what I did, because my pay depended on student performance, regardless of student effort. If you showed up, did the work, and participated, and got at least 50% on every test, you got a C in my chemistry class. The tests were also skewed so that minimal effort could produce at least 50, but harder question did separate some of the excellent students. To fail you had to purposefully try. Part of why I did this is that there were a lot of kids who worked hard, did the work, and tried, but just mentally chemistry was beyond them, and failing a good hard working kid because he’s dumb is not acceptable in public school, any more than failing a kid in phys-ed because he’s physically far below average. Out of about 100 kids there were 20 As, 35 Bs, 40 Cs, 5 Ds and 2 Fs; I was chastised because I didn’t give out enough As, and didn’t understand that I was hurting the spirit of the students by not giving better grades based on effort not performance. Documenting that my grades accurately reflected their standardized test scores was meaningless. How students feel about themselves is more important than their actual performance. Three years of that was all I could take, I quit for a job that paid twice as much and had half the hassles. Having dozens of students contact me and thank me for preparing them for college and holding them to a realistic standard was a great reward.

    For some reason culturally recognizing what everybody can see and knows isn’t acceptable. The 100 pound 5’4” asthmatic nerd is not physically above average, he’s not going to be dating the “hot” girls, he’s not going to be on the varsity squad, but you can’t give him a poor grade in phys-ed because he might make him feel bad, so the standards have been set so low he’ll get an A in phys-ed regardless of actual performance.

    Physical Education standards and the thinking that lead to them crept into academic standards and thinking. The idea that everybody should be prepared to go to college, and actually go is absurd. Any student who doesn’t have at least an above average IQ and doesn’t score better than the 50th percentile on the ACT or SAT should not go to college, they don’t have the mental chops to perform at that level. Unless of course the colleges lower their standards so that people with below average IQ can pass. Sending dumb people to college is a waste of their time and money, and a waste of societies resources. The stats that say college graduates earn more money are not wrong. It’s not the college degree that earns more money, it’s the fact that more smarter people graduate college than dumb ones, and smart people earn more money than dumb people. Sorry but the 90 IQ waitress, who does an excellent job, but cannot and will not ever be able to factor simple quadratic equations shouldn’t be pushed into getting a meaningless degree.

    The average high school GPA is 3.0, that means that a B is not above average but average, and on a 4.0 scale we have no meaningful measurements for excellence, the data is skewed. That’s why advanced academic students routinely have a 4.5 GPA on a 4.0 scale. The fact is intelligence and grades in high school reflect what you’ll earn in the future better than college degrees.

    Note that a student with a B average in high school will earn about the average wage, and the dumber the student the lower their average wage. Now even if you’re dumb, if your 6’4” tall, can run a 10 second 100 meter dash, jump 6 feet in the air, and catch a ball thrown from 60 yards away, you can make a lot of money because you can physically perform better than just about anybody else in the world. Being sub-par academically doesn’t’ mean you can’t excel someplace else. Of course the best world class athletes are not only superior physically but superior mentally.

    Education should help every student maximize their potential. It should not ignore the fact that not everybody has the same capabilities. Our education system should not ignore or try to cover up the fact that half the people have below average intelligence, and that there are relatively few people with the mental capacity to do actual higher learning. Applying physical education grading schemes to academic grades only means we are lying to kids when we say that their 3.0 GPA means they are above average. They are not; they are just average. If your kid doesn’t have at least a 3.5 GPA, you should do some rational thinking before you waste $50K or allow your kid to borrow $50K to get a degree that in reality won’t get them a better job.

    Lying to our kids is wrong, telling them they are “special” and they can do “anything they want” is a lie. If your kid has an IQ less than 120, don’t encourage her to become an chemist or engineer or doctor, you’re setting her up for failure. With rare exception, the average IQ person does not have the mental capability to be a chemist or engineer or doctor. That’s a hard fact just like it’s a hard fact that the average 100 pound nerd is never going to play professional sports. We need to quit lying to ourselves and our children. Not everybody is above average.

    Tuesday, February 3, 2015

    Rational Decision Making

    By Tom Rhodes, 2/3/2015

    Pew Research survey shows there is a huge gap between what scientists believe and what the average person believes. "On the whole, as compared to most members of the public, scientists are likely drawing from a larger scientific knowledge base — and thinking more scientifically — about each of these issues," George Mason Univ. communications professor Edward Mailbach wrote in an email. "Therefore, their views appear to be more in line with a completely dispassionate reading of the risks versus the benefits."

    The biggest split between scientists and the general public is on GMO foods. Fully 88 percent of the scientists surveyed said it is safe to eat genetically modified foods, while only 37 percent of the public say it is safe and 57 percent say it is unsafe. Over two thirds, 68 percent of scientists indicated it is safe to eat foods grown with pesticides, compared with only 28 percent of the general public.

    Dispassionately looking at the facts, the war on GMO is clearly emotional not rational. Libertarians in general are somewhat more scientific, that’s why differences in libertarians opinions on GMO’s are more towards labeling issues, not banning issues. I generally like to point out the average US lifespan before the general use of pesticides, antibiotics, and GMOs compared to after their general use. The data is clear, pesticides, GMO’s, and antibiotics in our food production has accompanied a huge increase in our lifespan.

    Consider the type 2 diabetes, there is an obvious and measurable increase in type 2 diabetes. Lots and lots of people want to blame our diet, GMOs, etc. What people don’t recognize or look at is the fact that we have a lot more people living long enough to get it. The average person who is diagnosed with type 2 diabetes is over 50. Now 100 years ago the average lifespan in the USA was under 50. The increase in type 2 diabetes very closely matches the increase in our population’s age. More older people more old people diseases. Not to say that our food does not contribute to the problem, but would you rather large numbers of people didn’t live to 50, or having to deal with diseases that generally don’t happen until 50? The real reason we are seeing more type 2 diabetes, hypertension, cancer, Alzheimer’s, osteoporosis, arthritis, and cardiovascular diseases is we have a lot more people surviving long enough to get those diseases. Let’s face it, we are better off with more people dying of old age diseases in their 60’s to 80’s than when people died in their 20’s to 40’s of the flu or foodborne disease, or animal borne pathogens. Those disease increases are an indicator, they mean we’re living longer fuller lives. More than medicine, engineering has prolonged our lives, from cheap refrigerators, cheap electricity, cheap HVAC, indoor plumbing, clean water, and safely processed food, we live a lot longer.

    A hundred years ago the Spanish Flu killed around 100,000,000 people. Fully 2% of the people who got it died. The last flu pandemic in 2009 less than 400,000 people died, equally about 0.03% of the people who catch the flu dying. Because of better diets that pesticides, antibiotics, and GMO’s and other technology provide we have a 100 fold increase in the entire world’s population surviving a common disease, the flu.

    Want to drink raw unpasteurized milk, go ahead, but know that the science and facts are clear, you’re at greater risk of getting sick and dying drinking raw milk than of any of the complications that may exist from drinking pasteurized milk. But you can’t compare milk borne diseases of 100 years ago to today either, the same tech that makes indoor plumbing and refrigeration common, has made milk processing safer at every stage. The chances of getting a raw milk disease are also a lot less than in the past. Pasteurized may be safer overall, but if you know the farmer and trust his practices, for that dairy (not all dairies) the raw may be safer than pasteurized. More importantly if you’re an adult, the science is clear, the health benefits of milk are questionable at best be it pasteurized or not.

    Rational based decisions by the general public are not that common. Scientists generally say the way to clean safe cheap energy is nuclear, not what the general population thinks. The science on anthropogenic global warming is also pretty clear, but then neither the ruling elite nor general population want rational scientific decisions for what to do about global warming. Neither do the scientists, who make a bazillion dollars of researching global warming and climate change so long as their results are what the people controlling the money want. In the case of global warming, the ruling elite, who control the money, want more government so they can have more control. Follow the money, still more accurate than just about any indicator. Money from the government is just as tainted as money from some industry. TANSTAAFL

    Take the current measles scare. It is a scare not a problem. The fact is there have been zero measles deaths in the past decade according to the CDC. If you look in the VAERS database you notice another fact, in the past decade there have been about 108 deaths due to complications from measles vaccines. Another fact is there have been over 6000 deaths of children from bicycle accidents in that same decade. You really care about children ignore measles and outlaw bicycles. Statistically there is a greater chance of your child dying from the MMR vaccine than from catching measles. Like the flu in the USA people generally don’t die from measles.

    We need to learn to think like scientists and make rational decisions. But then I may be biased, I’m a professional chemist.

    Information Theory

    By Tom Rhodes, 2/3/2015

    Ever hear of Information Theory? It’s not terribly new theory, but has become more robust as we’ve progressed through the information age. You will notice descriptions of Information Theory are based in physics, mathematics, and biology: Wikipedia describes information theory as being “based on probability theory and statistics. The most important quantities of information are entropy, the information in a random variable, and mutual information, the amount of information in common between two random variables.” You can take MIT’s course on it for free: Information Theory Course at MIT

    From Information Theory we get Bioinformatics, “an interdisciplinary field that develops methods and software tools for understanding biological data. As an interdisciplinary field of science, bioinformatics combines computer science, statistics, mathematics, and engineering to study and process biological data.” Again from Wikipedia (I know not the best source but good enough for this).

    Bioinformatics is both an umbrella term for the body of biological studies that use computer programming as part of their methodology, as well as a reference to specific analysis "pipelines" that are repeatedly used, particularly in the fields of genetics and genomics. Common uses of bioinformatics include the identification of candidate genes and nucleotides (SNPs). Often, such identification is made with the aim of better understanding the genetic basis of disease, unique adaptations, desirable properties (esp. in agricultural species), or differences between populations. In a less formal way, bioinformatics also tries to understand the organisational principles within nucleic acid and protein sequences.

    OK, so studying biology and information are basically the same kind of study; the study of the transmission of data. Like all info, genetic or computer, information suffers from degradation a.k.a. entropy. When looking at information transfer we work units of information. Be it computers information, or language, or even biology the basic unit is a word. The alphabet may be different, bits, bytes, nitrogenous base, etc. But information is created from small bits, that create larger bits, that create complete ideas, that make up wholes. Decoding these words can make something. A recipe for Ice Cream isn’t actually ice cream, and DNA for a fish isn’t the fish, but both are the information required to make those items.

    Consider the “net”, in 2013, the World Wide Web is estimated to have reached at least 4 zettabytes (write a 4 and put zeros after it). Now mutations in information are possible, with that much information you would expect to see at least one web page that was created from information mutation that had new information on it that was created by random chance not some artificial intelligence creating that information. Not the formation of a web site by a program designed to transmit information, but the creation of new information through random mutation. Every webpage with the zettabytes of information on the web, we know was designed by some intelligence, good web page, 404 error web page, bad web page, wrong web page, ugly web page, inspiring web page, every web page was designed, period. Information has never been observed to be created without design, period. Clearly the creation of real information by a non-intelligent source has never been observed, even with astronomical chances for it to have happened. Oh every time somebody queries google it generates a new web page, but regardless of how many inputs or programmatic mutations, google never produces obamacare.org. Call that natural variation within a program. A random informational transmission error (mutation) may In fact return a 404 page not found error (fatal error that returns nothing), but it doesn’t return new information generated randomly.

    Cellular life is the most complex information system ever observed. The information in a living cell makes the internet look like a couple of Lego blocks. As with the interweb there has never been observed the creation of new information without a designer.

    Back to words, or specifically the term word. In language a word is a unit of information, consisting of one or more spoken sounds or their written representation, that functions as a principal carrier of meaning. In computing a word is a term for the natural unit of data used by a particular processor design, basically a group of digits (binary or decimal) that are handled as a unit by the instruction set or the hardware of the processor. In biology it can be referred to as a gene.

    You can’t have information nor transmit it without a designer of that information. Information has never nor can it ever be created without a creator. In fact it cannot be used without a method, or language, to interpret it. Random sounds can’t transmit information, speech and language can. Random electrical pulses can’t transmit or create information, computer programs created with language can. DNA, the recipe for a life, cannot transmit itself, RNA as part of a vastly complex designed system, that looks remarkably like a programed molecular robotic system can. Like language, or computer programs, such a system is required to read and process the information before information can exist.

    The new words we have now, like bioinformatics, did not originate in randomness, they were created. You can say the word, bioinformatics, evolved. That would not be improper or wrong. Just as you can observe and identify the fact that computers and computer programs have evolved. Language and computers evolved from the creation of new information. They did not evolve from random, arbitrary, uncontrolled sources. The evolved by design. Evolution of anything is caused by design changes. Some design changes are good like the creation of the new word “scientological “, some are just awful, like the creation of the new word “twerk.” There can be no doubt both of those new words transmit information and originated from some intellect. You may question the quality of that intellect, but not the fact that it is an intellect.

    We’ve engineered new genes, created GMO’s, used animal husbandry to create miniature poodles and St. Bernards from the same original program (wolf). We’ve never been able to, nor observed a living organism becoming something completely different. What’s in common is an intellect to design the changes, but no wolf to cat modifications yet. We’re getting better at manipulating the program of life. But the more we learn, the more we learn that it is a program, with a language, and as such was designed.

    I read about it a long time ago, before we had words like bioinformatics. Even before Information Theory, it was explained. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”