‘Affluenza’, what a load of horse shit

‘Affluenza’: Is it real?
http://www.cnn.com/2013/12/12/health/affluenza-youth/index.html?hpt=hp_t2

More proof, as if it were needed, of our oligarchical police state. Rich, get off, poor go to jail for the rest of your life. I have no doubt that the ‘syndrome’ is real, but for me it is an _extra_ reason to extend the sentence/severity of the punishment, not an excuse for leniency. No different from sports stars poor behavior being endlessly excused, rich brats will continue to escalate their behavior until it gets them killed or society finally has enough. In the ‘good old days’ (the rich have, and will continue no matter what, always been able to get preferential treatment) society ‘had enough’ much sooner, so societal remediation started much younger. In other words, when the little babies acted out in school they got punished (physically; spanking used to be the norm) so even if their parents excused their crappy behavior they still got punished. Now, with our totally hands-off policy at school, students who act out suffer no consequences whatsoever unless their parents mete any out (and that is increasingly unlikely), so they grow up knowing that any bad behavior gets them nothing but a ‘stern talking to’.

Today our society collectively is fully responsible for any untoward behavior, the parents and the individual have none (which doesn’t mean that poor people get a pass, they get fucked by our injustice system guilty or otherwise; just because society will swallow a dumb-assed excuse doesn’t mean our injustice system will cut them any slack (besides, our prison industrial complex needs as much funds as it can get)). Of course, we simultaneously give society absolutely no authority over anything, so what results is everyone running amok until they finally cross that ill defined and fuzzy line where suddenly the injustice system says it has had enough (which is a vastly lower bar for the poor than for the wealthy; indeed for the poor, you don’t actually have to be guilty of anything in order to get sucked into the system).

It is great to be rich in our third-world country!

More subprime scandle

Lurid Subprime Scams Unveiled in Long-Running Fraud Trial
http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/blogs/taibblog/lurid-subprime-scams-unveiled-in-long-running-fraud-trial-20131212

Matt is more upset about this sort of thing than I am. I _expect_ this sort of behavior when our government regulation has been as completely neutered as it has been for decades. Criminals are criminals no matter what the laws are, but if the laws aren’t enforced then their behavior gets increasingly blatant. Indeed, as our too big to fail (and too big to jail) banking has assured us, if you are wealthy and connected enough, you are totally immune from any sort of personal consequence to your behavior. Sure, your _company_ might wind up paying a fine (pennies on the dollar, though, for the economic value realized by the company; tiny fractions of a penny on the dollar based on the economic damage their behavior caused), but it won’t impact your personal bonuses (indeed, we have seen them increase!), let alone cause any personal discomfort to you.

This is what an oligarchical police state looks like. The rich and powerful answer to no one but their peers (and those peers can easily be bought), the rest answer to an increasingly arbitrary ‘justice’ system that systematically demonizes certain groups (say, the poor and Muslims). I don’t think our society has sunk far enough yet to trigger the wide-spread changes in voting behavior that would have a chance in resulting in the fundamental changes to our government that would put it back in the hands of the people. The Great Depression was a pretty fundamental shakeup to our society, the Great Recession not so much.

I would love to be wrong: I predict things will get a lot worse before there is any chance of them getting better (and I don’t hold out much hope it will get better).

Yet another plug for exercise…

Exercise as Potent Medicine
http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/12/11/exercise-as-potent-medicine/?_r=0

I have noted many times that exercise is good for you (just a few examples):

This article is some additional scientific evidence that exercise is the best medicine (well, the same as medicine). Simple exercise (we aren’t talking about marathons here; just brisk (where ‘brisk’ is based on the individual) walking 30+ minutes a day) works just as well as medicine, costs nearly nothing (got to get some shoes and maybe some gym clothes) and doesn’t require a prescription. Note, though, that it also doesn’t provide any revenue to the medical industrial complex, so don’t expect much support for targeted research to identify the patient-specific ideal combination of exercise.

However, as I hope the above collection of links shows, if you engage in a reasonable amount of physical activity 5+ days per week the probability you can add several healthy years to your life is dramatically higher than getting the same outcome taking drugs.

And it is free!

Lizard Breath

Lizard Breath May Have Evolved Before Dinosaurs
http://news.discovery.com/animals/dinosaurs/monitor-lizards-breathing-may-have-evolved-before-dinos-131211.htm

This is interesting and has me wondering how it is that we are only just now discovering it. That birds had a funky way of breathing that seemed to super charge their metabolism has (so far as I know) a long history and it would seem to me that once science had generally accepted that birds are dinosaurs, someone would have quickly started to compare birds with all other living dinosaur relatives and precursors. The article makes a plausible argument that the funky breathing (well, funky compared to us) was a survival characteristic during an earlier mass extinction event and only coincidentally wound up being the competitive advantage for the dinosaurs and later birds.

Larn supmin neu ever day!

The Knowledge Journey

On my ride in this morning I had a mental conversation with my boy about encyclopedias in general and Wikipedia in particular. I figured it would be a good thing to add to my blog, so here she be…

There are no absolutes in knowledge. There is only the best picture at present. Open minded people grasp that immediately, others not so much. Any student of science will know that what is known absolutely one day might be completely contradicted the next (this doesn’t happen very often and when it does it sometimes takes an entire generation of old fogies to die off before the new, more correct (really, less incorrect) paradigm becomes accepted (see the back story on plate tectonics for a great instance of this effect)). Any and all sources of knowledge were assembled by people and all people have biases and agendas. Sometimes it is difficult or impossible to glean the biases or agendas of the author(s), so it is best to get into the habit of not trusting any single source of data and to seek multiple sources for comparison. This is not immune from issues either, but the diversity helps to get an improved impression of the agreed state of the art.

Knowledge is generally considered more likely to be ‘true’ (note that there is no universal truth for anything, only increasingly accurate measurements of physical constants and events) when there is a strong preponderance of the evidence in support of the most widely held theory/hypothesis. Even there, sometimes scientists build theories they know are inadequate to cover _all_ observed events because they can explain a great deal with partial theories and no one has yet developed a more encompassing theory (the divergence between gravity at the large scale and quantum events at the tiny scale is a great example; each aspect has very detailed, well developed theories with great predictive value, yet can’t explain the events in the other aspect).

With this as background, on to my original ‘conversation’. When you want to learn about something encyclopedias (do they even print them any more) such as Wikipedia are great places to _start_, but since they are assembled by humans, they are inevitably biased and have agendas that might be difficult to discern. Even when the biases or agendas are obvious, the source might still be useful, as long as a firm grasp of the bias/agenda is kept in mind. So, when people tell you that Wikipedia is a terrible source of information because so much is wrong, keep in mind that there is nothing that is really better. Even when you drill down to primary literature there is no escaping bias, so anything built on such a foundation must remain suspect. Also, be sure to ask those complaining about Wikipedia what their preferred alternative is, their response will surely be revealing their biases and/or agendas.

So, what can it mean to ‘know’ something? In school you are taught all sorts of things are ‘facts’ and not subject to dispute. At a young age it is almost impossible to get into the philosophy of life, the universe and everything, you simply lack the depth and breadth of knowledge to have meaningful discussions. So, at an early age it is almost a requirement that you accept what you are told as ‘truth’. For instance, 2+2 is nearly universally accepted to be 4 (in the numbering systems that support enough digits, of course); though there are bizarre edge cases (for example: when measuring lines drawn on a curved surface). When you are young it is best to ignore those edge cases or you might never learn anything because you spend so much time discussing the edge cases (the number of edge cases can, in principle, be infinite). Generally speaking most ‘facts’ are ‘true’ for the vast majority of the cases (say, 99.9% or better), so statistically speaking these ‘facts’ are, indeed, ‘true’. Some people never seem to acknowledge that ‘facts’ are not ‘true’ except in a broad sense and that those who assemble ‘facts’ and deem them ‘true’ inevitably have bias and agendas. I am hoping you can grow up to be the sort of person who realizes that while you can rely on commonly accepted ‘facts’ as being ‘true’ most of the time, some of the time (perhaps a very small amount of time!) these commonly held ideas/concepts are just plain wrong. I am hoping you will grow up to be curious about edge cases (in whatever excites you) and want to develop better, more encompassing, theories about life, the universe and everything. I find learning that I am wrong, while sometimes painful and frustrating, is more interesting in the long run because with better understanding of knowledge brings increased opportunities.