Thursday, March 31, 2011

Californai--nutville or great place to live?

On an unrelated forum I mentioned by lifelong pleasure at being a Californian, saying (jokingly, pretty much) that "I've felt a smug sense of locational superiority to other Americans..." . I got this comment:

George says:
This is why most of Americans think that people in California are way too weird, smarmy to excess, and now they may have to bail them out from their fiscal excesses. Great people there. Every time a Californian tries to say something, no matter how refined in ability, most people in this great nation look upon them as irresponsible hippies. But that's just me talking... 
My response:
Actually, George, California is and has been for many years, a donor state. Which means every year we send far more money to Washington then we ever get back. That money is distributed to "conservative" states as pork, to Republican communities that never seem to object to what amounts to liberal welfare.

And most states, Red and Blue, are in deep trouble now, due to Washington trying to balance its books by withdrawing much/most of the state aid that used to go out--and to states making unbreakable pension promises to employees that are now biting them in the you-know-what. Most of those state employee unions are Democratic, but three of the biggest categories of pension pork are solidly Republican--police, prison guards, and firefighters. So it's a bipartisan fiscal black hole.

Texas, one of the most conservative states, has for years bragged about being in far better shape fiscally than California. Now it turns out the Republican state government was simply lying. So they're both fiscally profligate--like the Democrats--and serial liars--not a Republican monopoly, but, if you read regularly, you'll see that Democrats shade the truth and spin it wildly, while Republicans just lie, brazenly and repeatedly, depending on the vast financial resources of their patrons to say those lies so often and from so many paid mouthpieces that many take them for truth.

Moreover, a majority of the people living in most of California's geography--i.e. away from the coast--are actually conservative, politically and socially. And even here on the coast a substantial minority is, like my spouse, socially and politically very conservative.

Lastly, despite the looniness which abounds, to be sure, we've led in things that are now generally accepted and adopted by everyone else--such as banning smoking in public places, and setting higher emissions standards for vehicles and industry.

And we can't get our financial house in order because (1) the state's Democrats and Republicans colluded in making the state heavily gerrymandered, which has stuffed the legislature with left- and right- wing extremists who can't compromise, and (2) our supermajority rule for taxing/spending legislation has enabled one third of the electorate (the conservative third) to dictate to the rest, making for minority rule.

Texas is also heavily gerrymandered, but rather than doing so through collusion, it was strictly designed to make Democratic voters disproportionately under-represented, using every dirty trick in the book to do so, after a state election putting Republicans firmly in charge that has now been revealed to have been accomplished through illegal corporate campaign contributions engineered by now-convicted criminal Tom DeLay.

Bottom line: California and other Democratic donor states have been carrying the Red states for decades. I will gladly listen to Red state denizens pontificating about how we should put our house in order--after, and only after, the Red states voluntarily renounce the Liberal welfare they've been receiving for so long.

Wanna take bets on the odds of the new Republican House of Representatives fixing this?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

GOP propaganda tacks constantly as it strives to always fault Obama

Tom Friedman wrote a NYT column titled "Looking for Luck in Libya." It described the challenges President Obama faces, and praised him for doing as well as he has with a bad hand.

The very first comment showed what patriotic Americans are up against: millions of citizens who've swallowed the Republican Noise Machine's propaganda line, hook, line and sinker.
Here's what she said:

>>Obama does not have the temperamanet nor the good judgement to make the proper calls in regards to the war he began with Lybia. Obama is trying to pretend that he is a tough-guy cowboy , like Bush. The problem is that Obama is shallow and soft; and everyone -- including Khaddafi -- knows that to be fact. We have no Constitutional reason to be in Libya. Obama has committed an impeachable offense by going to war without congressional approval<<

My comment:

Quite a contrast to the judgment of several hundred American historians, who are polled every few years on how they'd rank all American presidents. In their last poll, done last year, they ranked President Obama a respectable #15, President Reagan a not-too-bad #18...and President Bush II 6th from the bottom--one of the six worst presidents in American history.

Yet this commentor mistakes Bush's rashness and tough-guy talk for decisiveness and courage, while assuming that if Obama isn't making a public speech he isn't lining up his ducks behind the scenes (like George Bush the 1st did with Desert Storm, in fact).

The GOP needs its followers to believe that only Republicans know anything about courage and taking the fight to the enemy. They forget who gave the Navy the go-ahead to drill the Somali pirates through the head, killing them on the spot. They forget who's been sending all those drones into Pakistan and Yemen, making our enemies terrified to take a walk in the open. They forget how Bush II botched both ward he started by doing them on the cheap, followed by a massive trillion-dollar balloon payment left to the next several presidents to deal with.

And this constant prattling about the Constitution--as if this commentor actually knows more about it than a former constitutional law professor and Harvard graduate, which is what the President is--would be funny if half the country hadn't eaten the Republicans' rat poison (tasty at first--then it kills you).

Not only that, these Tea Party types put their constitutional scholarship above that of hundreds of professional American historians. You might say they're all lib-er-ul college professors, but if they were left wing dupes they'd have given Obama a higher score than #15--and they wouldn't have put a number of Republican presidents higher than him, along with a number of Democratic presidents down in bottom-of-the-barrel Bush Country.

How do these people get the sheer gall to think they're such experts at running the United States of America and interpreting our Constitution? Do they even realize that ours is one of the shortest Constitutions on Earth because the Founding Fathers said explicitly that they expected subsequent generations to interpret it according to contemporary needs, while obeying its bedrock principles?

They do not. Reasonable people can point to Republican and Democratic presidents they respect--Eisenhower's one of my favorites,for example, even though I'm a Democrat--but these party tribalists can only see the ill one side does, and only the good the other does.

Really, I'd vote for requiring American citizens to pass the civics test given to citizenship candidates before letting them vote. That would know out a whole lotta Democrats as well as Republicans, but I think the ones left on both sides would actually be able to vote at least semi-intelligently.

I wonder if Mr. Friedman would agree with that?

Monday, March 28, 2011

Libya--not a civil war

We had a civil war, with armies of each side going at it until one won. Nazi Germany did not have a civil war with its Jews. The Nazis just butchered most of them. But what if the Jews had tried to defend themselves with old hunting rifles and kitchen knives against the Wehrmacht's Panzer divisions? Would that have made it a civil war?


What you have today in Libya is a guy and his family, aided by some tribal alliances but mostly by foreign soldiers brought into the country because Qaddafi didn't trust most actual Libyans--trying to kill everyone who complains to the guy's kleptocracy, and after the first few massacres, the massacreees-designate trying to defend themselves. from being slaughtered, as Qaddafi expressly declared he would do.

I submit that it's not a civil war when one side had nearly all the ordnance and the trained military. Otherwise using the term "civil war" dilutes its traditional meaning to the point of worthlessness. It just gives the appearance of moral cover for those who want to avoid spending money and manpower on the situation there.

It's certainly possible to argue against any involvement in Libya. But to say it's strictly an internal matter, a "civil war" is intellectually dishonest.

And it's equally dishonest to say that President Obama did something unconstitutional in intervening--that he declared war, usurping Congress's prerogative.

If he'd waited for Congress to hold hearings and debate the issue at hand--the imminent overrunning of Libya's second-largest city by Qaddafi's mercenary army--there would have been no need for the hearings, because the issue would have been moot. The thousands of people the President was trying to save would have been dead. In fact, it took so long to corral the international support he wanted that it would have been moot anyway if the French hadn't jumped in.

Sometimes there's no time to wait for every Congressman to stand in front of hundreds of empty seats while CSPAN patiently trains a camera on him and he pontificates for an hour on the subject, followed by another, and another...

Today the world community--outside its dictatorships--agrees that no nation has a right to massacre its own civilians. Nor that no nation has a right to intervene in an immediately impending massacre unless it produces and ratifies a formal declaration of war. Modern communications and military technology has seen to that.

It is also true that some massacres are easier to prevent than others. Iran has been committing judicial murder of tens of thousands of Iranian minorities, dissidents and others for decades, but it would take a major war to stop them at this point. China in Tibet is another example. Even little Ivory Coast, which is also massacring civilians, would be harder to stop, if just for logistical reasons--though it may yet be possible there.

The Libyan massacre we could and did stop, though. The fact that others are harder to stop is no reason why we shouldn't stop the ones we can. Tolstoy said "We must help those whom God has set before us."
That's not a bad way to look at it, even if you treat "God" as a metaphor in this case.

Let's debate this and other issues honestly, instead of throwing up fake facts and false reasoning. If someone doesn't mind thousands of civilians dying deaths we could have prevented, just say so. Don't hide behind specious arguments.

Friday, March 25, 2011

This just in: 50% of America's growth is Mexicans!

The 2010 Census reveals that 50% of America's population growth is Mexicans and other Hispanics--mainly Mexicans, though. Odds are this under-reports the actual numbers, given the reluctance of illegal immigrants to talk to census takers.

Whether you like this or not, it is a plain fact that you were not consulted about this. Our duly elected government abandoned national quotas, granted illegal immigrants--again, mostly Mexicans--amnesty (in 1986), left our southern borders with only token protection, and made only token efforts to crack down on employers of illegal immigrants. And Congress also decreed that the main purpose of legal immigration was to be "family reunification" defined as anyone related to you, however distantly, rather than prioritizing bringing people who could contribute to Ameica's economy or culture. That is, Congress tacitly decided that America's existing culture had nothing worth preserving--other cultures were welcome to come in and replace it.

And, here in the Southwest, so they did. Well, one culture: Mexico's.

Meanwhile the Catholic Church aggressively lobbied government to grant citizenship to anyone who decided to come here (it's a total coincidence that 90% of them were Catholics, of course) and commanded its members to disobey any laws that might cramp illegal immigrants' style.

And self-appointed Mexican leaders and organization arose to obtain government grants and loudly denounce anyone who objected to this culture shift as racist--despite the leading Mexican advocacy group naming itself "The [Mexican] Race." They were joined enthusiastically by America's Left, who agreed with greedy billionaires that the Mexicanization of America was a Wonderful Thing--and that anyone who opposed it didn't even deserve to be debated with. They were just ignorant racist mouthbreathers, to be dismissed out of hand.

Joining in to praise Mexicanization were economists who pointed out that without a huge influx of young workers, America would get grayer like Europe and Japan are getting, with fewer and fewer workers supporting more and more retirees. The long term downside of this short term gain...was, apparently, irrelevant.

And behind the scenes, major political donors from the corporate world quietly lobbied Congress--especially the Republicans who got most of their patronage from corporatists--and the Executive to admit illegals in huge numbers so they could use them for cheap, no-complaints labor and union-busting.

At not time was this policy--to vastly increase our population and supplant Anglo Americans with Mexicans--submitted to any kind of referendum by the American people.

So--there are two issues here, not one.

1: Should the American people be consulted about specific issues that have a major bearing on their lives? Or at least informed by our government when it's implementing a policy that will have such an effect? In this case we weren't even told. It happened on the down low. In this case, it's actually two things: should the American government have allowed America's population to double largely from immigration in the last half-century; and should have allowed that doubling to come from cultures that represented 1/2 of 1% of America in 1940?

2. Is it a Good Thing to replace American culture with Mexican culture? Interestingly, Mexico's own immigration law forbids immigration that would change Mexican culture/demographics significantly. But we're more enlightened than that. So--Mexico won't let America replace Mexican culture with American culture, but America will let Mexico replace American culture with Mexican culture. BTW they think we're chumps.

In 1940 America was over 85% Anglo. By 2040 Anglos will be a minority, if not sooner. This is what's known as cultural suicide. But it's racist to object, so resistance is futile. You will be assimilated...

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Libya reveals much

The limited war being waged in Libya reveals several truths:

1. As I said in my last post, UAVs could have made this operation vastly cheaper and more capable.
A Tomahawk missile costs over a million dollars. Using one to take out something that isn't a million dollar target doesn't make sense. A UAV dropping smart bombs could do the same job for so much less--and with even less warning.

2. The bottleneck isn't the technology. It's the military top brass and their patrons/future employers in private industry, with a titanic vested interest in expensivo manned weapons systems and cruise missiles. The problem with UAVs is that they don't make as much profit for military contractors and they don't give pilots enough glory. Landing a plane on a carrier under combat conditions, at night, in rough seas, is one of the bravest, most skilled things I can imagine a human being doing.

Another is a President standing up to those promoting the status quo and getting our armed forces the tools and training they really need--including UAV carriers and aircraft.

That this foot-dragging is a real problem is borne out by a comment on my last post quoting Aviation Week about military aviation top brass disdaining UAVs.

3. President Obama should use the Libya incident as an excuse to light a fire under the military to greatly expand UAV roles and to hasten the development of UAV carrier systems. There's plenty of money to be made here by military contractors--just not as much.

4. For Libyan-type operations we especially need the UAV equivalent of the A-10 ground attack aircraft. Its rapid-fire cannon could kill tanks as fast as it could do attack runs on each one.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The US Navy should have had the tool Obama needs in Libya--long ago

Part of President Obama's problem is that he should have had a tool that Navy foot-dragging has denied him: UAV carriers.

Our assault carriers--much smaller than the big ones you always see on TV--are designed for choppers and Harriers, so they don't have a catapault. UAVs could fly off them just fine, and we've had the technology to mate assault carriers with UAVs for a long, long time. But flyboy top brass don't like planes without people inside them.

But imagine if we had just one assault carrier off the Libyan coast with a complement of reconnaissance and hunter/killer UAVs. Then we could make Libya a no-fly zone without risking live pilots and without having to bomb anti-aircraft emplacements (UAVs are so stealthy it's really hard to hit them--and if they do, no American pilot is lost or captured.)

Reconnaissance UAV circling high overhead can spot Qaddafi's mercenary-piloted choppers and fighter/bombers and hunter/killer models could do the rest.

We wouldn't even have to announce a policy, but just do it on the down low, like we do in Pakistan. We can even take them out on the ground when no one's inside them.

Tanks can be hit the same way. And one thing about using mercenaries--they're a lot less willing to die for you. Once aircraft and tanks start disappearing, we don't have to get them all.

That's if the Navy had done its job instead of lavishing most of its attention on manned fighters and giant carriers. Assault carriers with UAVs are far less, well...romantic.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Nuclear reactors are dangerous!

It turns out that 40 year old nuclear reactor designs weren't up to the impact of a once in a thousand year earthquake. So we shouldn't build any new nuclear reactors with designs reflecting 40 years of development in safety design.

Oh, wait. Nobody's doing that.

OK, so let's not build any new nuclear reactors at all. The three Japanese ones hammered by the quake may winding up shortening the lives of several dozen people, after all.

Of course that leave the little matter of the 10,000-odd people killed by the earthquake's tsunami.

So if we turn off all the reactors, by that logic we must evacuate all low-lying coastal areas on both coasts, from San Diego to Barrow, from Key West to Bar Harbor, as well as most of the Virgin Islands. That means emptying LA, San Diego, Miami, Oahu, San Francisco, Seattle, New York City, Boston, Savannah, and more.

And by the same token, all cities built atop dangerous earthquake faults must be evacuated. Oakland, California.

We must also evacuate all areas subject to tornadoes.

And change the national speed limit to 25 mph.

And require parents to let their kids get vaccinated.

And make people walk around wearing protective gear and construction site-type helmets.

If you look at actual number of lived endangered in all these ways, actually shutting down nuclear plants provides by far the mallest improvement in overall human safety.

And actually, thus far I'm impressed that the three Japanese powerplants have done as well as they have, considering the force of that earthquake--which I heard actually moved the entire main island of Japan (Honshu) eight feet.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Why are school stats so bad when the ones in your area are so good?

The US has three school systems, actually:
1. Those of college towns, affluent suburbs, and the non-necrotic parts of cities.
2. Inner city schools.
3. Rural and exurban schools, along with homeschools.

If you look at education in the #1 area, it's generally OK. It's what comes out of the other two systems that drags the averages down.

That's how you get a majority of American high school grads unable to read an employment, house purchase, auto loan or credit card contract, much less analyze it critically--much less tell fact from opinion--much less weigh emotionalistic propaganda dispassionately.

The burgeoning anti-vaccine movement alone proves how many of us are little more than talking chimps (though they do unintentionally prove evolution by showing humans who only made it halfway there).

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Party politics boil down to this

Conservatives long for a past that never was.

Liberals long for a future that never will be.

"Fairly Legal" turns unfairly PC

The USA Network cranks out good, entertaining TV shows--often more entertaining then the broadcast channels put out.

But they're not immune to the siren song of preachiness. The last episode, "Coming Home" a returned soldier needs Kate's help when it turns out she's an illegal alien.

Of course nothing is her fault. Her parents brought her here when she was a child. The guy who sold her her Social Security number said it was from a dead person, and she'd only bought it so she could serve "her" country. She was in fact a combat veteran and a hero to boot. She was pretty. She spoke good middle class English. She was responsible, committed to making whole the woman whose social security number she'd taken. She was hardworking and responsible. She had PTSD from her combat experiences, but not so much as to make her a burden on society.

In contrast to this saintly illegal immigrant, the woman who owned the Social Security number didn't want her money back--she wanted revenge and didn't care about Saint Sergeant's service. The ICE official--ditto. The rules are the rules. When she goes to a hearing she's arrested and publicly humiliated by jackbooted INS agents.

And so it goes.

Now I'm sure there really are people like Saint Sergeant. But that's all we see on TV shows--the Saint Sergeants. We don't see MS13 gangbangers, human traffickers, drunk drivers, rapists, etc. etc. etc.  We don't see victims of illegal aliens treated as victims and not, somehow, as the bad guys themselves, as this show did. There are ICE people who are good. Honest.

But we never see them in fictional shows. Instead it's the saints come marching in.

Propaganda doesn't have to lie per se--all it has to do is stick to presenting only one side of the story, and present it anecdotally, with the implication that it's presenting the whole story.

I don't like right wing propaganda.

Well, guess what? I don't like left wing propaganda any more.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Science doesn't have all the answers

In's religion forum I got this point (science doesn't have all the answers).

My answer:

"science doesn't have all the answers..."

Wrong framework. Science has all the answers that we've been able to figure out so far. Religious people claim that they have the answers science lacks, but in scientific terms none of them are answers, just proof that "hope clouds observation." Why should anyone assume human beings have any reason or right to expect all answers to all questions? Doesn't the very idea seem ridiculous once it's articulated?

Here's the right framework:

All human beings start out knowing nothing. But they quickly experience positive and negative tropisms--i.e., some things feel good, others feel bad. Drinking mother's milk feels good. Lying around in a dirty diaper feels bad.

Nobody ever really "knows" anything. Each of us is trapped inside our bodies, building our weltanschaung via senses, thinking, experiment. Watch babies over a year and you'll see this at work.

Many people assume they have knowledge--even certainty. They're fooling themselves.

For example, how do you know the entire universe didn't pop into existence two seconds ago, complete with the artificial memories you now have of your past? How do you know some metabeing isn't dreaming us, and we'll all instantaneously pop out of existence when it wakes up? How do you know you aren't the only sentient being, who's asleep and is dreaming the rest?

The most certain people know even less than the most skeptical scientist, because they don't know what they don't know.

Science enables us to achieve exactly as much certainty as it's possible for humans to acquire.

That said, I'm confident, through a lifetime of experience, that the universe really exists, I exist, my spouse exists, yada yada. I'm not certain of any of this, but my convictions about such things approach certainty asymptotically.

Other things I'm less sure about. For example, I don't know how smart humpback whales are. I think sentient technological beings on other planets look like us, but neither you nor I will ever be able to prove or disprove that.

I'm guessing that the Higgs boson exists, but no one knows for sure yet. Go Super Hadron Collider!

What religious people don't know most is that the emotional experiences they think only religious people have, and without which they imagine life must seem meaningless and utterly lacking in a moral compass, is in fact universal, without any exclusive connection to religion--or to spiritualism in its many flavors either, for that matter.

We evolved with those emotions tens of millions of years ago when we were still arboreal primates, but they got a big boost around six million years ago when we adopted a walking/running existence on the ground, and then got an even bigger boost a million or so years ago as we developed our big brains (long after getting our upright stance and hands with opposable thumbs and feet specialized for walking).

The intensity of those feelings--beyond what even other social animals experience (notably dogs/wolves) stem from the fact that our big brains necessitate women being more incapacitated (and endangered) by pregnancy and childbirth) than other animals, and our childhoods lasting waaay longer than other animals.

Because of these things we have powerful tribal and familial bonding heuristics hardwired into our brains. They can be overridden by genetic defects or natal injury (such as fetal alcohol syndrome) or largely erased by a horrific childhood. Othewise we all get these feelings.

Religious people add a layer of cognitive furbelows to these feelings, and then try to get a patent on them.

Which is like a pharmaceutical firm trying to patent a natural medicine some Amazonian tribe has been using for a millenium.

So yes, Lateef, we all have the feelings you can get in church. The first time I sang "How great thou art" I got choked up and couldn't finish it. Not because the blood of Christ cleansed my "soul" but because it tapped those heuristics. The same heuristics, combined with the phenomenon of consciousness, give us what religious people call a soul.

But really it's the "miracle" of evolutionary chemistry.

Not to mention the fact that most adult chmpanzees recognize that it's themselves in the mirror after about half an hour. That elephants do too, but in less time as I recall. That dolphins do. Monkeys don't and can't. I don't know about the other primates. I bet gorillas and bonobos do, and maybe orangutans, but probably not gibbons.

But even if, say, dogs don't recognnize themselves in a mirror, they certainly have rich emotional lives--and a sense of fairness. And crows can do two-step logic mentally, without physical expermintation being required. And at least one parrot gained a vocabulary of over 100 understood words.

The border between us and the consciousness of other animals is not a bright line. Even fish and some cephalopods can show evidence of learning--of rudimentary thinking. And they certainly can feel pain. They have specialized pain sensors, just as we do. (No, I'm not a vegetarian--just a realist).

People who want to Believe will find all this stuff about "inexplicable" events and circumstances and acts by "special" people. And scientific debunkers spend inordinate amounts of time patiently deconstructing them all.

But you have to realize that science is not open minded, because we are mortal. Few scientifically trained people are going to explain why the world isn't flat to anyone but a five year old. Nor are we going to look at something on YouTube about an alchemist turning lead into gold.

We stand on the shoulders of giants. We try to reach farther. We don't hop off those shoulders and run around spinning our wheels to indulge others, then try to climb up again. Science, as a profession, is kind of harsh--it does not suffer fools gladly. Again, because we're mortal,

Tick tock, tick tock.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Are some people commenting in forums for $$$?

Besides the blogosphere there's the--what, threadisphere? All those comments on articles in newspapers and media websites. 

Turns out a fair number of those comments are being made either by people who are doing it for money, or who were directed there by people doing the directing for money by setting up Astroturf propaganda websites.

On's Science forum someone has been starting human-affected climate change denialist threads for over a year--one after another after another. I don't know if he's doing it for pay but something's seriously off here (he's also flagrantly violating standards, which forbid incessant posting of the same topic repeatedly).

I wrote an entry on the Science forum about special interest money invading supposedly "free forums,": citing investigative research by The Guardian and Greenpeace (one a leftist newspaper, the other a leftist advocacy group, to be sure).

A guy on an forum contested my entry, saying the accusation of doing entries for money was intrinsically illegitimate--something that just resulted in tit for tat accusations.

The short answer:

The money trails do matter because this isn't a formal debating society-it's a forum of intellectual exploration, and it does influence what we should do if it appears that certain posters are here to push propaganda for pay, or as pawns of those who direct them here.

Moreover, this is a widespread problem across all public forums that deal with science and technology-not just Too widespread, and too much by people who obviously are not natural members of the forums.

I strongly suspect that this is one of those conspiracies that do exist (among the countless fake ones)-and you should care whether someone's trying to play you like a flute. (see Hamlet if you don't recall the scene where he asks Rosencranz and Gildenstern to play a flute, and when they say they can't, asks they why they're trying to play him.)

The long answer:

It is true that in the logic of formal debate, my character/motives are only relevant if I'm asking you to trust me as part of my argument..

So if an axe murderer says 2+2+4, I don't need to trust him--I can use my knowledge of arithmetic to verify it. But if he says "my former cellmate told me he killed Johnny Pell" that's more problematic, and I won't believe him without independent confirmation. And if Mrs. Jones sues her father for molesting her as a child--after he disinherited her for being a drug addict--I'm going to need a lot of independent validation before I believe her claim.

However, what I see being done by far right wing billionaires and their minions is the attempt to convince the public that many more people agree with their propaganda than actually do. This is an implicit "fact" that's very important. As are attempts to mold public opinion through propaganda amplified by vast funds used to pay "serviceable villains" who promote their patron's viewpoint for money.

After all, legislators are generally more impressed by perceived numbers of voters on one side of an issue, rather than by sweet reason alone. So this isn't a minor issue. And, humans being the social creatures they are, if you think many, many people hold a particular view, you'll be more daunted than if you think it's just a handful of loons.

Social experiments done over the past 70 years have revealed how susceptible most people are to what they perceive as public opinion.

Every single day the major broadcast news media--all of them--constantly refer to "public opinion" yet almost never talk about whether or how that "public opinion" was carefully guided by slick, well-financed psy ops. Vast applications of money to American political debate has greatly shaped it.

And Goebbels, an expert propagandist, accurately observed that if someone hears a lie repeated often enough he'll come to perceive it as truth, often as not. Even the way we think about issues. From "death taxes" to "death panels" to "tax relief" we're given a conclusion at the start of our thinking about something. See George Lakoff for information about this from a cognitive psychologist's viewpoint.

Moreover, in these forums, we're accustomed to believing that people come here with questions and issues they want to explore/debate. However, what if the person you're debating with is being payed to advance his position? Wouldn't that change your willingness to debate with him--realizing that nothing you say will change his mind, because he's not here for the same reasons as you are?

He might be here as a missionary, or perhaps as a "threadstitute" (I just made that up). But either way you're wasting your time arguing with him.

So it's the implicit propositions that "this is a widely held belief" which can be validated/invalidated by seeing whether there's a money trail.

And surely you realize that "everybody does it" is the standard fallback position of a propagandist who's been uncovered.

So of course if you turn over the rock and discover Koch and Exxon minions scuttling around under it, they're going to start chanting "Soros, Soros, Soros." Especially since they regard him (and Buffet, and perhaps Gates) as a "class traitor."

However, the Koch brothers have a financial motive: they're major polluters, major beneficiaries of corporate welfare, major promoters of government taking other people's property and handing it over to them.

Soros is a money guy who doesn't gain personally from his financial contributions. So his motive is philosophical, not pecuniary. That's a big difference. Doesn't mean he's right and the Kochs are wrong on the face of it, but it is relevant to my evaluation of their activities.

Moreover, the Kochs are deceptive/underhanded, while Soros is pretty straightforward. Soros donates money to campaigns and politicians he approves of. The Kochs are major creators of astroturf operations that try to create the impression of being grassroots affairs.

Case in point: Right wing psy ops operatives trained Tea Party volunteers to sit spaced apart at public healthcare forums, then to interrupt pro-reform speakers by shouting verbal assaults thinly disguised as questions, then shut up immediately so as to avoid being thrown out, while another trained "volunteer" sitting somewhere else would immediately shout out another phony "question." And another, and another. By not massing, by not just standing up and shouting until they were removed, by asking pseudoquestions that maintained a tiny fig leaf of respectability, they could not only destroy pro-healthcare reform people from presenting their pitch--they could also make it seem as though the whole audience was against healthcare reform.

And here you have one person--"mug wump" posting the same thread topic with minor wording variations time after time after time for over a year.

I think it's relevant to speculate on how such a major imposition on's Science forum came to be. This forum isn't just formal debate--a field I'm intimately familiar with--it's also psy ops--another field I've been forced to educated myself about, due to stuff like this.

Of course "mug wump" [the guy doing the serial denialist postings]  might just be a pawn--but if he 'fessed up and told us where he's getting his info from, I bet the trail of breadcrumbs would lead back to Koch Industries or one of its subsidiaries.

And that's my last point. This isn't just going on at I've seen the same thing happening all over the place--Scientific American, NYTimes, Washington Post, you name it.

And in particular I'm seeing major invasions of online forums by people who don't belong there--whose illogic and poor grammar/spelling reveal that they aren't actual members of that community. The New York Times by people who clearly aren't New York Times readers; Scientific American's forums likewise, and so forth.

So how did they get there? These people aren't, for the most part, geniuses at ferreting out stuff. I'm betting they're being directed to go hither and thither by paid operatives running Astroturf websites.

So yes, the money does matter, and while adherents of both parties try to market their ideas to the public, one side has vastly more to spend on it than the other, because one side represents billionaires while the other represents wage slaves.

It's not an equal fight. We're being bullied, and having been a bright kid who went to blue-collar public schools, I became way too familiar with both bullying and with anti-intellectualism-which pervades the propaganda of the far right. Look at all the posts by the pawns and the threadstitutes-they're chock full of scorn and contempt for smart people-all them scientist types. Doesn't that get your back up?

The billionaires' bully boys storm in here and tell us how they spit on us and how they expect us to knuckle under to them-that they are the Real Americans and we're some kinda unAmericans.

And they violate's forum guidelines routinely. They don't play the game by the rules you and I observe, and I'm trying to get the decent people on these forums to fight back and not keep playing their game by their self-serving rules.

They can set up their own forum and run it any way they please, but here they should observe Amazon's guidelines, along with the rest of us.

They have no honor.