Ephemerides

A Daily Diatribe by a Pompous Git

Who is that fat bastard? A Sturm's Eye View, Guaranteed Free of Harmful, or Potentially Harmful Chemicals -- but Watch Out for the Ideas! Some of them are Contagious! 

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Monday 28 October 2002

From For a New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto:

The libertarian creed rests upon one central axiom: that no man or group of men may aggress against the person or property of anyone else. This may be called the "nonaggression axiom." "Aggression" is denned as the initiation of the use or threat of physical violence against the person or property of anyone else. Aggression is therefore synonymous with invasion.

If no man may aggress against another; if, in short, everyone has the absolute right to be "free" from aggression, then this at once implies that the libertarian stands foursquare for what are generally known as "civil liberties": the freedom to speak, publish, assemble, and to engage in such "victimless crimes" as pornography, sexual deviation, and prostitution (which the libertarian does not regard as "crimes" at all, since he defines a "crime" as violent invasion of someone else's person or property). Furthermore, he regards conscription as slavery on a massive scale. And since war, especially modern war, entails the mass slaughter of civilians, the libertarian regards such conflicts as mass murder and therefore totally illegitimate.

All of these positions are now considered "leftist" on the contemporary ideological scale. On the other hand, since the libertarian also opposes invasion of the rights of private property, this also means that he just as emphatically opposes government interference with property rights or with the free-market economy through controls, regulations, subsidies, or prohibitions. For if every individual has the right to his own property without having to suffer aggressive depredation, then he also has the right to give away his property (bequest and inheritance) and to exchange it for the property of others (free contract and the free market economy) without interference. The libertarian favors the right to unrestricted private property and free exchange; hence, a system of "laissez-faire capitalism."

In current terminology again, the libertarian position on property and economics would be called "extreme right wing." But the libertarian sees no inconsistency in being "leftist" on some issues and "rightist" on others. On the contrary, he sees his own position as virtually the only consistent one, consistent on behalf of the liberty of every individual. For how can the leftist be opposed to the violence of war and conscription while at the same time supporting the violence of taxation and government control? And how can the rightist trumpet his devotion to private property and free enterprise while at the same time favoring war, conscription, and the outlawing of noninvasive activities and practices that he deems immoral? And how can the rightist favor a free market while seeing nothing amiss in the vast subsidies, distortions, and unproductive inefficiencies involved in the military-industrial complex?

While opposing any and all private or group aggression against the rights of person and property, the libertarian sees that throughout history and into the present day, there has been one central, dominant, and overriding aggressor upon all of these rights: the State. In contrast to all other thinkers, left, right, or in-between, the libertarian refuses to give the State the moral sanction to commit actions that almost everyone agrees would be immoral, illegal, and criminal if committed by any person or group in society. The libertarian, in short, insists on applying the general moral law to everyone, and makes no special exemptions for any person or group. But if we look at the State naked, as it were, we see that it is universally allowed, and even encouraged, to commit all the acts which even nonlibertarians concede are reprehensible crimes. The State habitually commits mass murder, which it calls "war," or sometimes "suppression of subversion"; the State engages in enslavement into its military forces, which it calls "conscription"; and it lives and has its being in the practice of forcible theft, which it calls "taxation." The libertarian insists that whether or not such practices are supported by the majority of the population is not germane to their nature: that, regardless of popular sanction, War is Mass Murder, Conscription is Slavery, and Taxation is Robbery. The libertarian, in short, is almost completely the child in the fable, pointing out insistently that the emperor has no clothes.

Now The Git knows why to many he's a commie and everyone else calls him the opposite.

-oOo-

Another area where seeking a middle path tends to get you called names is Evolutionary Theory (as if there were only one). Despite the manifest lack of success at creating life from inorganic materials in the laboratory, or even model such in computer software, if you don't "believe in" Darwinian evolution, you are a "Creationist nutcase". There is in fact a third point of view, that of panspermia: life on earth has its origins elsewhere. As unrespectable as this viewpoint has been, some of its adherents, Francis Crick, co-discoverer of DNA, and the astronomers Sir Fred Hoyle and Chandra Wickramasinghe are in The Git's opinion quite respectable enough to take seriously.

This Monday morning found a colleague elsewhere on the planet reading an article in New Scientist that led me to point him to COSMIC ANCESTRY, a website devoted to a synthesis of panspermia and GAIA theories. It's not a nutball site and well worth a read if you have "a slow Sunday" as my friend Denis was experiencing.

Cosmic Ancestry is a new theory of evolution and the origin of life on Earth. It holds that life on Earth was seeded from space, and that life's evolution to higher forms depends on genetic programs that come from space. It is a wholly scientific, testable theory for which evidence is accumulating.

...

The case for Cosmic Ancestry is not yet proven, of course. At this point the best reason to notice it is that sustained evolutionary progress and the origin of life on Earth are not satisfactorily accounted for by neo-Darwinism. We will mention some of the flaws in that theory, but our primary purpose is to present Cosmic Ancestry as a viable, new scientific account of evolutionary progress and the origin of life on Earth.

Thought for the day:

There's only two things that money can't buy, and that's true love and homegrown tomatoes.

Guy Clark

Current Listening:

The Kinks -- Golden Hour


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Tuesday 29 October 2002

After yesterday's pleasant ramble through "heretical thoughts", The Git is once more struck by the remarkable similarities between Creationists and the priesthood of modern science. Both believe that the Universe is finite, having a beginning and end. The distinction that they make of the Universe being 10,000 years old versus 15 billion years is merely quibbling over detail. Both believe that inanimate matter preceded life. The distinction that one side postulates a separate Creator and the other that life created itself again appears to be quibbling over details.

Perhaps the most interesting common aspect is their disdain for the concept of an infinite, unbounded Universe. One inexplicable miracle, that the Universe exists, versus two (or more) miracles: the Universe of matter coming into existence ex nihilo, followed by life spontaneously (or not) from inanimate matter, optionally followed by a separate creation of human beings. Something for nothing versus "there ain't no such thing as  a free lunch".

No, The Git cannot prove the Universe is infinite with a single set of underlying, unchanging laws, but then the Creationists/Scientists are unable to prove their case either. Moreover, The Git finds no compulsion to prove anything.

-oOo-

The weather has ameliorated somewhat and the day promises to be fine and warm. The garden calls for attention as the pending the forecast is for more snow on the higher peaks...

Thought for the day:

The greater the number of laws and restrictions, the poorer the people who inhabit the land. The sharper the weapons of battle and war, the greater the troubles besetting the land. The greater the cunning with which people are ruled, the stranger the things which occur in the land. The harder the rules and regulations, the greater the number of those who will steal.

The sage therefore does not contrive, in order to bring about reform, but teaches the people peace of mind, in order that they might enjoy their lives. Having no desires, all he does is natural. Since he teaches self-sufficiency, the people who follow him return to a good, uncomplicated life.

Lao Tsu

Current Listening:

Tom Rapp -- Pearls Before Swine


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Wednesday 30 October 2002

The Git has received several emails over the last week or so where the writer requested their missive not be published. As always, The Git respected the request, despite fervently wishing he could respond directly to the comments. As a substitute, he will respond today to the general thrust of several emails not individually worth publishing. Paraphrasing this feedback: "Why, given the obvious depth of your reading in science, do you persist in your scepticism towards what all scientists know to be established scientific facts?" Usually, the writer will mention something like Big Bang Theory, Relativity, or whatever.

The problem for The Git is that many accepted "facts" aren't. Facts that is. Here's a well-written piece on Big Bang Theory:

Over the past century, physicists have been weaving a cosmic creation-myth from theories about the smallest and the largest objects in the universe. It might even be true, writes Geoffrey Carr

In 1900 physicists were feeling pretty smug. Many of them thought they had the universe taped. The majestic clockwork wound up by Isaac Newton was running exactly as predicted. Subsequent discoveries in fields as diverse as heat, light and electricity all seemed to fit into the grand scheme of things. New telescopes were mapping the heavens and revealing that the earth and its sun were part of a huge but measurable star system, the Milky Way, that seemed to encompass the whole universe. Exactly what an atom was remained to be determined, and there were a few puzzling discoveries, such as cathode rays and radioactivity. But these could surely be fitted in. Basically, it was just a matter of dotting the "i"s and crossing the "t"s.

A few years later, it was all over. People realised that far from knowing everything, they knew almost nothing. Two hypotheses, quantum theory and relativity, and two discoveries, the atomic nucleus and the fact that the Milky Way was not alone, but was one of a zillion similar galaxies, did not merely upset the apple cart, they scattered its contents right over the road. It has taken a century to pick the apples up and order them neatly again.

One of the "apples" is known as the Gravitational Constant. The problem is the Gravitational Constant appears not to be constant. Back in April 1995, Science News published a summary of three separate attempts to measure the Gravitational Constant. Each of the three groups involved had performed careful determinations that differed from the "known" constant and each other. To make matters even more interesting, each group's measurements indicated that gravity is weaker than previously thought. But Pioneer 10/11, Galileo, and Ulysses satellite data from NASA indicate the opposite. Those satellites are slowing more rapidly than gravitational theory allows.

If the foundational assumptions of the science The Git is asked to believe implicitly are incorrect, then he continues to reserve the right to be sceptical of the conclusions. When theories trump facts, it's a religion, not science. And The Git will continue to pay attention to the "pseudo-scientists", some of whom are surely building the scaffolding of the theoretical framework that will replace currently accepted theories that blithely ignore observations.

Thought for the day:

Chanting is no more holy than listening to the murmur of a stream, counting prayer beads no more sacred than simply breathing... If you wish to attain oneness with the Tao, don't get caught up in spiritual superficialities.

From The Hua Hu Ching

Current Listening:

John Cale -- Music for a New Society


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Thursday 31 October 2002

Regular reader Andrew Duffin writes:

Jon,

You wrote (or maybe quoted)

our primary purpose is to present Cosmic Ancestry as a viable, new scientific account of evolutionary progress and the origin of life on Earth

Origin of life _on Earth_, possibly, but not the origin _of life_. That is what puzzles and enthrals so many people, I think, and by postulating, perhaps proving, cosmic origins for life on Earth, all you have done is move the problem somewhere else.

No?

Best Regards,

Andrew Duffin

It was a quote. I prefer to indent quotes, rather than place them in quote marks. Sometimes quotes contain quotes, and that can create a nightmare of single and double quotes to differentiate. Far easier just to indent them.

From Brig Klyce's FAQ:

Q. Didn't life have to start somewhere, somehow? 
A. This is a preference that many people have, not a necessary truth. Cosmic Ancestry does not attempt to explain the origin of life in the first place. As Hermann von Helmholtz said in 1873, "if failure attends of our efforts to obtain a generation of organisms from lifeless matter, it seems to me a thoroughly correct scientific procedure to inquire whether there has ever been an origination of life, or whether it is not as old as matter."

The Western mindset insists that life must have arisen from something, likely a result of the Christian creation myth. Hindus, Buddhists, Taoists and doubtless others, take the view that life, like everything else in the Universe, is eternal. Some questions, such as The Git's persistent "Why is blue?" asked of his mother when he was a tadpole have no sensible answer. "How did life originate?" may be just such a question. As fascinating as that question is, there remain plenty of other absorbing questions, many that have answers.

Thought for the day:

It is of great use to the sailor to know the length of his line, though he cannot with it fathom all the depths of the ocean.

John Locke

Current Listening:

Small Faces -- The First Step


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Friday 1 November 2002

From Neil Baird's News Report:

Enough is enough

The federal police/ASIO raids on suburban homes in Sydney and Perth should be a wake-up call to the Australian people. The raids have rightly been called a stunt. The authorities are testing just how far they can go, and if they get away with this level of intimidation you can bet your bottom dollar the raids will escalate.

They raided Muslims this time but who'll be next? Christian fundamentalists? Neil Baird? the League of Rights' Jeremy Lee? Anybody who's ever addressed or even attended the Inverell Forum? It's not an unreasonable question considering that one of the men targeted is 'guilty' of publishing a newsletter and that they all had attended lectures by an Islamic cleric.

As yet, publishing newsletters and attending lectures aren't criminal acts in Australia. In fact freedom of speech and freedom of assembly are supposed to be protected rights. But rights only have currency as long as they're exercised and vigorously defended.

Surely Australians will not meekly accept that men in "black helmets, balaclavas covering their face, [in] flakjackets [and] carrying submachine guns" can literally smash their way into people's homes with sledgehammers? (ABC, 31/10/02)

That the police/ASIO officers didn't even arrest anybody proves the raids were stunts, terrifying ones for the families concerned. Why smash down the door? Why not just knock? On what evidence did the police believe that the targeted men would refuse to open their doors? On what evidence did they believe the targeted men were armed and dangerous?

One of the men had his wife, a seven month old baby and a four year old daughter present. Imagine their trauma. Another man's seventeen year old daughter expressed her bewilderment saying, "They put ... him on the floor, they handcuffed him and they, they actually knocked his, like whacked his ear with one of the guns. And, um, yeah, so, and he was like on the floor with guns pointing at, um, him and also my brother and sisters as well. And I was also pushed to the ground and one of the policemen with the gun like was like, in my face." (AM, 31/10/02)

At issue is not the raids themselves but the violence and over-the-top use of force. Why were the officers in balaclavas? As Australia isn't cold in late October the balaclavas were obviously intended to frighten people. Is this Australia or the Soviet Union? Fighting 'terror' by resorting to it makes little sense.

John McFarlane, a former head of intelligence for the Australian Federal Police, stupidly described the public concern about the raids as "emotionalism". In all seriousness he said, "Waving guns sounds a fairly emotive way of describing it. Bashing down doors is probably an emotional way of describing it."(AM, 31/10/02) But the heavily armed raiders hiding their faces behind balaclavas DID smash down doors and DID wave guns in people's - including children's - faces! They intended to terrify men, women and children. Such behaviour is totally unacceptable.

Predictably the Attorney-General Daryl Williams defended the raids. And showing his utter uselessness, Australia's so-called opposition leader Simon Crean said he had no concerns: "If the authorities have the evidence, they should act."

Indeed they should but as everybody's asking, why did they act with such violence? Who signed the warrants and on what evidence? What did the raids uncover? Caches of arms? Explosive devices? Anthrax bombs? Plans of Parliament House's air-conditioning?

Most likely the raids uncovered the most dangerous weapons of all - words and ideas. Brute force has never yet defeated them though periodically it gives an impression of having done so. The only weapons against words and ideas are other words and other ideas.

Australians of all political persuasions must express their revulsion at the nature of these raids to their political representatives. Failure to do so will embolden the authorities. They're testing the water and it's our duty to make it uncomfortably hot for them. People who can't be bothered to protest must wear personal responsibility for legitimising a police state in Australia.

Antonia Feitz

P.S. Emails are virtually useless as a form of protest. Telephone or write to your local representative. Be polite but very clear: Australians don't want to live in a police state. We expect our political representatives to uphold the rule of law.

During the latter part of his life here in Australia, The Git's father received compensation from the German government for his period of internment in one of their WWII concentration camps. The payment was made with the request that the country where such victims resided not tax these payments. The Australian government taxed those payments to my father and we speculated whether it was because they felt the Australian Taxation Commissioner was just as much a victim of Nazi oppression as my father, or whether they thought he had been insufficiently oppressed by the Nazis.

Thought for the day:

First we kill all the subversives; then, their collaborators; later, those who sympathize with them; afterward, those who remain indifferent; and finally, the undecided.

General Iberico Saint Jean

Current Listening:

Marc Bolan -- Solid Gold, Rapid Action


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Saturday 2 November 2002

The Git very rarely plays computer games. When his son Thomas was a tadpole, they used to play many games together, Captain Comic, Sierra's Space Quest series, Mixed Up Fairytales and others. Thomas has moved on to become a passable player of first person shooters, Master of his friends' LAN parties and a programmer. The Git mostly uses the computer as an information tool.

Nevertheless, he very much enjoys playing computer games. One day, he fully intends to finish Infocom's Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, but he was sidetracked by the Civilization series started by Sid Meier. The best of the series by far is Call to Power 2. It has a plethora of panels for fine-tuning your civilisation and an option for automating cities that can be turned on and off as needed. Unfortunately, the game was released unfinished and Activision have lost interest in it.

The main shortcomings of the game are in the computer players' AI. Diplomacy options are much richer than earlier Civs, but your computerised opponents make some inane decisions that lead to feelings of immense frustration. Most bugs and shortcomings (The Git has not played long enough to say all) have been fixed with the Apolyton Pack. Usually, he plays these games at deity level (CTP calls this "impossible") and becomes unassailable by the 20th century. The Apolyton Pack has The Git really struggling. The AI has been considerably improved and The Git is well pleased.

Any fan of turn-based strategy games who hasn't tried Call to Power 2 is advised to get a copy before it becomes unavailable -- Activision has apparently dropped it. And don't forget the Apolyton Pack to fix the bugs.

Meanwhile, the real-world strategy game of gardening calls and The Git's back-pain is bearable without stupid, mind-numbing drugs! I hope you all have as good a day as  have.

Thought for the day:

I am convinced that the world is not a mere bog in which men and woman trample themselves in the mire and die. Something magnificent is taking place here amid the cruelties and tragedies, and the supreme challenge to intelligence is that of making the noblest and best in our curious heritage prevail.

Charles A. Beard

Current Listening:

Radiohead -- OK Computer


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