Brainy Quote of the Day

Friday, January 18, 2019

Cult of Nihilists...

Source: 9GAG

Topics: Civics, Civil Rights, Existentialism, Human Rights, LGBT Rights, Women's Rights

“In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” Ronald Reagan

My goal is to cut government in half in twenty-five years, to get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub. Grover Norquist

Disclaimer: I am neither a fan of Ronald Reagan, or Grover Norquist. Ironically, Saint Ronnie's almost prophetic regarding his current republican successor.

*****

Where Johnson, Nixon, and Carter had expanded the Role of Government economically, Reagan wanted to shrink it by cutting:

1. The growth of government spending.
2. Both income taxes and capital gains taxes.
3. Regulations on businesses.
4. The expansion of the money supply.

In other words, Reagan is just laying down the groundwork for what would become Reaganomics (trickle down, supply-side - later disavowed by David Stockman) in this quote, he isn't saying government is the problem in general (and indeed his record shows he used government liberally at times despite his general small government message; in fact, his critical fans will tell you Reaganomics would have worked if it wasn't for all the other government spending!)

Today people often treat the quote as if it applied to any issue of government, but Reagan didn't say it that way, and Reagan didn't govern that way. Source: Fact/Myth dot com

*****

Excerpt from the post "Nihilistic Narcissists..." August 3, 2014:

I don't use the word "cult" lightly. Mike Lofgren - previous life as a GOP operative - takes his former party to task in his op-ed: "Goodbye to All That: Reflections of a GOP Operative Who Left the Cult."

Two poignant excerpts:

"It should have been evident to clear-eyed observers that the Republican Party is becoming less and less like a traditional political party in a representative democracy and becoming more like an apocalyptic cult, or one of the intensely ideological authoritarian parties of 20th century Europe. This trend has several implications, none of them pleasant.

"Far from being a rarity, virtually every bill, every nominee for Senate confirmation and every routine procedural motion is now subject to a Republican filibuster. Under the circumstances, it is no wonder that Washington is gridlocked: legislating has now become war minus the shooting, something one could have observed 80 years ago in the Reichstag of the Wiemar Republic. As Hannah Arendt observed, a disciplined minority of totalitarians can use the instruments of democratic government to undermine democracy itself."

I was reminded of this from Dr. Paul Krugman's Opinion Piece in the New York Times: Donald Trump and His Team of Morons

On the generic point: To be a modern conservative is to spend your life inside what amounts to a cult, barely exposed to outside ideas or even ways of speaking. Inside that cult, contempt for ordinary working Americans is widespread — remember Eric Cantor, the then-House majority leader, celebrating Labor Day by praising business owners. So is worship of wealth. And it can be hard for cult members to remember that you don’t talk that way to outsiders.

An article appeared on Huffington Post in 2011 during the Obama administration by Bryant Welch, Clinical Psychiatrist/Attorney/Author:

The danger Fox News poses to America is not that it is a biased or partisan arm of the Republican Party, as the Obama Administration contends. Fox is a danger because it is a cult and uses the same destabilizing psychological techniques cults use to undermine the independent functioning of minds they want to control.

Once unleashed, these cult-like techniques can ultimately take on a life of their own and become very dangerous, especially to the most important of all American freedoms, the freedom of thought. The most precise term for these techniques is mind control.

Unfortunately, by focusing on Fox News’ bias, the Administration diverts attention from the true problem. Fox is a powerful system of mind control that makes a mockery of the principles of self-reliance and individual responsibility for which Fox adherents ostensibly stand.

There were breathless pronouncements of "demographics is destiny" when the Census showed the United States becoming less White Anglo Saxon Protestant-Cisgenger (WASP-C) Male and more like the rest of the diverse planet. The backlash was most toxic and directed at the country's first (and so far only) African American president. He was mocked as Hitler, voodoo doctor (Obamacare) and hung or burnt in effigy. The Tea Party - now the Orwellian "Freedom Caucus" - were his racist, motivated opponents. "Where's the birth certificate?" Answered in short and long form, it didn't matter. Their minds were made up an alien occupied the White House. Jordan Davis, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin et al were simply sad proxies for hatred of him. His family was constantly insulted by bare arms, tan suits and Grey Poupon faux controversies as well as by the toxic misappropriation of Psalms 109:8 - 10. This is the foundation of continuous government shutdown as led by the Neo Confederate Christian Fascist Republican Party: Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and its titular head, Orange Caligula - essentially president of less than one third of the nation. The dead ferret-topped head of the former Party of Lincoln apparently asked his former lawyer to lie to Congress about the Moscow tower project while in office. You cannot expect governance from those avowed to destroy it.

The above quotes from Reagan and Norquist have become a kind of scripture and orthodoxy. It is a faith that doesn't need to be verified by research, facts or reality. They are mantras to be repeated and memorized, not debated for their merits. They are reinforced nightly on it's cult insular networks, like Fox, all likely as 94% white. They specifically feed their audiences what they want them to believe and what they themselves want to hear in a perfected feedback loop. It is no coincidence they fear begetting oblivion. The suppression of their birthrates might have assignable causes like: the gun deaths in the US; the opioid epidemic, the impact of automation, free markets and globalization and jobs that used to be plentiful getting outsourced, increasing the incidents of depression, substance abuse and suicide. Assigning your woes to "brown people" is intellectually dishonest, lazy, myopic and doesn't solve your current circumstances. But nihilists have no solutions: they just do things.

Source: IMGFlip


The modern Republican Party sadly can't be reasoned with, or confronted directly. They listen to right wing talk radio and Internet icons more interested in bomb throwing than governance; biased, bigoted pastors that given time reveal their own breathtaking hypocrisy. They have an orange avatar that articulates their supremacist world view far better than their faux brand of "Christianity." As a group they deny facts, climate change, science, reason and rational discourse. Instead of killing them with zingers on social media, we had better think about how we're going to talk some of them out of the cult while voting in every SINGLE election from here to Kingdom Come. Like most cults (I'm thinking of the flat earth movement) some will stay and endure, build websites and blogs in their own insular reality. Hopefully they will do so at smaller, more manageable numbers that are insignificant in our daily domestic and international affairs.

No Star Wars Jedi will ride to our rescue. This factum and diligence towards our own civics  from now on is "our only hope."

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Doppelgänger...

(Courtesy: shutterstock/tomertu)

Topics: Antimatter, Astrophysics, Cosmology, Dark Matter, Star Trek, Theoretical Physics

Our universe could be the mirror image of an antimatter universe extending backwards in time before the Big Bang. So claim physicists in Canada, who have devised a new cosmological model positing the existence of an “antiuniverse” which, paired to our own, preserves a fundamental rule of physics called CPT symmetry. The researchers still need to work out many details of their theory, but they say it naturally explains the existence of dark matter.

Standard cosmological models tell us that the universe – space, time and mass/energy – exploded into existence some 14 billion years ago and has since expanded and cooled, leading to the progressive formation of subatomic particles, atoms, stars and planets.

However, Neil Turok of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Ontario reckons that these models’ reliance on ad-hoc parameters means they increasingly resemble Ptolemy’s description of the solar system. One such parameter, he says, is the brief period of rapid expansion known as inflation that can account for the universe’s large-scale uniformity. “There is this frame of mind that you explain a new phenomenon by inventing a new particle or field,” he says. “I think that may turn out to be misguided.”

Instead, Turok and his Perimeter Institute colleague Latham Boyle set out to develop a model of the universe that can explain all observable phenomena based only on the known particles and fields. They asked themselves whether there is a natural way to extend the universe beyond the Big Bang – a singularity where general relativity breaks down – and then out the other side. “We found that there was,” he says.

The answer was to assume that the universe as a whole obeys CPT symmetry. This fundamental principle requires that any physical process remains the same if time is reversed, space inverted and particles replaced by antiparticles. Turok says that this is not the case for the universe that we see around us, where time runs forward as space expands, and there’s more matter than antimatter.

Our universe has antimatter partner on the other side of the Big Bang, say physicists
Cosmology, Physics World

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Ultra-bright X-rays...

Overview: Advanced Photon Source, Argonne National Laboratory

Topics: High Energy Physics, Particle Physics, Theoretical Physics, X-rays

The upgrade of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Photon Source at Argonne National Laboratory will make it between 100 and 1,000 times brighter than it is today.

“That factor is such a big change, it’s going to revolutionize the types of science that we can do,” said Stephen Streiffer, Argonne Associate Laboratory Director for Photon Sciences and Director of the APS.

“We’ll be able to look at the structure of materials and chemical systems in the interior of things — inside a turbine blade or a catalytic reactor — almost down to the atomic scale. We haven’t been able to do that before. Given that vast change, we can only dream about the science we’re going to do.”

In December, DOE approved the technical scope, cost estimate and plan of work for an upgrade of APS.

The APS upgrade has been in the works since 2010. The upgrade will reveal a new machine that will allow its 5,500 annual users from university, industrial, and government laboratories to work at a higher spatial resolution, or to work faster with a brighter beam (a beam with more X-rays focused on a smaller spot) than they can now.

Beam Us Up: Ultra-bright X-ray beams expanding the boundaries of research
Steve Koppes, Argonne National Laboratory

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Disaster Hypocrisy...

Credit: Karl Spencer Getty Images

Topics: Climate Change, Global Warming, Politics, Research

Mexico won’t pay for President Trump’s border wall. But Northern Californians might.

Many of them live near the American River, one of the country’s most flood-prone urban watersheds.

Houston residents could shoulder the cost, too, along with Texans along the Gulf of Mexico, where the Army Corps of Engineers is working on 10 disaster projects funded by Congress in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

Florida might have to put beach nourishment projects on hold. And upgrades to the 60-year-old dike ringing Lake Okeechobee, which many consider to pose the state’s greatest flood risk, could have to wait.

Puerto Rico, still in tatters after Hurricane Maria, could lose funding for a critical flood project in the heart of San Juan, where rapid runoff from the Rio Puerto Nuevo Basin threatens 6,500 people and homes and infrastructure valued at $3 billion.

These are among the 57 construction projects totaling $13.9 billion that the Army Corps prioritized last year. The White House appears to have identified that funding as a potential source of cash for building a border wall if Trump declares a national emergency to circumvent Congress’ spending authority.

The $13.9 billion, allocated under the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 (P.L. 115-123), is intended to help victims of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria and other natural disasters dating back to 2014.

Now that disaster aid could be seen as a potential funding stream for Trump’s proposed $5.7 billion wall.

The lead-poisoned water in Flint, Michigan, the American opioid crisis (and the previous racially biased and criminalization of the cocaine epidemic); the average of 342 citizens dying in "murders, assaults, suicides, suicide attempts, unintentional shootings, and police intervention" PER DAY...not a national emergency.

But...we'll have a wall for a mythical crisis on the border. That...wasn't a crisis until the 2018 midterms. That... wasn't a crisis when he had the White House, the Senate and the House of Representatives...then, the priority was tax cuts for the already well-heeled and profitable corporations, not a wall.

Just a scared, bigoted, orange, Russian-compromised man; his scared, bigoted followers and their hatred for brown people.

"Who's going to pay for the wall?" The response was decidedly not taking from our own disaster relief funds, or a fake GoFundMe campaign.

Disaster Response Projects Could Lose Funding to Border Wall
Daniel Cusick, Policy and Ethics, Scientific American

Monday, January 14, 2019

3D Topological Insulators...

Courtesy: H. Chen
Topics: Laser, Optical Physics, Photonics, Materials Science, Nanotechnology, Quantum Mechanics

Reference: Topological Insulators, then the rest of the post.

Researchers in China and Singapore say they have made the first ever 3D photonic topological insulator using a stack of thin plastic sheets embedded with metal nanoantennas. The insulator works at microwave frequencies, but if extended to terahertz or optical wavelengths, it could find use in applications such as high-power lasers, optical diodes and photonic computer chips.

2D topological insulators, also known as 2D quantum spin Hall insulators, are materials that are electrical insulators in the bulk but can conduct electricity extremely well on their edge via special, topologically protected, electronic states. Electrons can only travel in one direction along these states and do not backscatter. This means that they can carry electrical current with near-zero dissipation of energy and so could be used to make energy-efficient electronic devices in the future.

Structures made from photonic crystals
In recent years, researchers have started looking at making topological insulators that work using light rather than electric currents. These structures are made from photonic crystals – materials in which the periodic variation of the refractive index means that only certain wavelengths of light are able to pass through. One of the advantages of these photonic topological insulators is that they can operate at room temperature, unlike their electronic counterparts.

Another is that the space through which photons can travel can be engineered so that it is curved like the surface of a cone. These structures thus mimic a 2D quantum spin Hall insulator that naturally contains so-called surface Dirac cones. These are the sharp single points in a 2D material at which the valence and the conduction bands meet at the Fermi level, and at which electrons behave as though they are relativistic particles with no rest mass.

3D topological insulators go photonic, Belle Dumé, Physics World

Friday, January 11, 2019

Post Apocalypse...

Nuff said.
Topics: Civics, Civil Rights, Existentialism, Human Rights, Politics

Donald J. Trump is a a carefully-crafted public fiction. I have said this for years, and stand by that assertion. A headline from Newsweek: "Working With Trump Was Like Making the Court Jester King" by Tom Porter pretty much bore my statement out. In this 21st day of a contrived crisis and hostage situation, it's not so much that he wants a "wall" (a mnemonic device used on the campaign trail): he wants a fight, a public spectacle and "debate" about the efficacy of 12th century civil engineering. He also desperately wants not to look like a failure to his adoring followers, particularly to a powerful woman that like his previous presidential opponent, he loathes. He of course had "mommy issues," and by his own behavior: attachment avoidance, lacking empathy particularly for 800,000 furloughed government workers that won't receive a check.

Dr. Randall Pinkett, author of "Black Faces in White Places: 10 Game Changing Strategies to Achieve Success and Find Greatness" attributes his inspiration to his experience as the only African American overall winner on The Apprentice. "The Donald" wanted him to share his prize with the third place white female (Introduction: Not Getting Trumped: Randall's Nationally Televised "Black Faces in White Places" Moment, pages 1 - 3, hardcover). Dr. Pinkett refused, and received for his integrity online death threats. Since I've seen him on news media recently, he's currently alive and well, despite his experience - a precursor for how President Obama would be treated by his determined opposition, and the racist tropes, memes and effigies encouraged by right wing media and Orange Caligula.

The bizarre behaviors we're experiencing as a nation from someone that's supposed to have a natural acumen, a "gut" for right decisions that are demonstrably WRONG in real-time has little to do with Alzheimer's or Dementia as many have surmised. Whether Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Sociopath Disorder; Psychopathic Disorder: this is him! The difference is on The Apprentice (referencing the Newsweek article above), scriptwriters worked ferociously behind the scenes to make his inane decisions from previously baffling episodes look like brilliance. We are behind the curtain in Oz, where wizards and emperors are typically naked. Unfortunately, life is not episodic, nor a "reality show." Unfortunately, life does not impose "cliffhangers" to drive up Nielsen Ratings. Unfortunately, he began to believe his own carefully doctored press. Unfortunately, so did a sizable number of the American electorate, manipulated by a hostile foreign power, social media bots and their own bigotry and xenophobia.

It stretches credulity: No "billionaire" has six bankruptcies. No "billionaire" enunciates with the diction of Archie Bunker. No "billionaire" refuses to read and self-learn in his field of expertise, proud of his willful ignorance. No "billionaire" needs an infusion of money from first daddy, then Russian oligarchs because no American banks trusted him to loan any money. No "billionaire" works for a reality show he's recruited to, nor would he take a salary, or be a member of the Screen Actors Guild receiving a pension. No "billionaire" sends his own tweets from a porcelain throne: if they have an account, they have staffs that do it for them, and it aligns with their company and product. George Conway has designated himself as at least a counter tweeter in the resistance.

There will be an "aftermath" to this. There will be a last tweet, a last insult, a last government shutdown, a last broadcast; a last time of dominating the news cycle. With the Mueller investigation concluding, there will likely be legal action in what ever form that might take. There will be an eventual fade-to-black as an orange mistake melts away into the pages of history and purgatory of obscurity. There will be an end to this: either by electoral route, term limit, impeachment or 25th Amendment. There will be an end because counter to Gil Scott-Heron, "the revolution [is] both televised," and live. There will be a decisive end, and a reaction: perhaps jubilation in the streets - here, and worldwide. Perhaps shots toasted; tears from his particular peculiar sect's fan base. Or just, a collective sigh of relief and the marveling of normal days and news without self-projected tragicomedy. The last tweet should be memorialized in a museum.

For the dwindling white evangelical base that empowered this dystopian nightmare, there will be a reckoning. Robert P. Jones captured this in "The End of White Christian America," where before the entire demographic becomes a numerical minority circa 2042, this particular sector became one in 2017. The so-called "moral majority" spent decades telling everyone that wasn't White Anglo Saxon Protestant, Cisgender Males how to live their lives. 81% of them voted for the vagina grabber and are trying to justify him as the second coming of King Cyrus. They are mocked now; their philosophies exposed as hypocrisy, though dominionism - a flirtation of the right - should not be taken lightly: it is a friendly fascism, right before the ovens fired. The youth are departing the church in a flood, and those tabernacles' pews are noticeably barer than earlier days. Religious orders have commonly unified behind agreed upon external enemies. For African American and Hispanic congregations, it's almost always been white supremacy; for WASP-C's, it's always been "other" than themselves. A desperate constituency raised on the mother's milk of white supremacy might do desperate things, collusion included. Unless they can override The Constitution and install him as king or "god emperor," the next democratic president will have to recover not just possibly our economy, but our national image. Internally however, white evangelicals are headed to an inevitable Entropic oblivion of their own making.

The Trump family is simply a criminal enterprise - similar to the Mafia and exported from New York to Washington, DC, which usually receives rational actors in the POTUS chair regardless of party. Thus, this impacts everyone and everything on the planet.

Instead of Michael Corleone, this criminal enterprise is being run by Fredo.

Related link:

Party of Apocalypse - a pre-election, frustrated essay rant that sadly hasn't faded away.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Hobbled Hubble...

The Hubble telescope launched in 1990. Credit: NASA

Topics: Astronomy, Astrophysics, NASA, Politics, Research

Yet another casualty: science. The NSF, NOAA and other related sites are either down, or limited. Research is slow to crippled. The FDA is discontinuing food inspections. Any delay in industry was almost a death sentence in semiconductors, as your competitors took advantage of your tardiness to market, and sped past you. This is Economics 101 one would THINK a "businessman" would understand, but tariffs seem a mystery to him. A months long, or year-long shutdown as threatened by this hostage situation, will cause our economy and along with it the world's to falter. I can't imagine China or Russia standing still while our orange child throws a tantrum for his wailing/whining wall pablum. "Winning"... #MCGA, #MRGA

Aging telescope’s wide-field camera fails while key NASA staff are on involuntary, indefinite leave due to political impasse.

One of the Hubble Space Telescope’s main instruments stopped working on 8 January because of an unspecified hardware problem, NASA says. Engineers are unlikely to be able to fix the aging telescope until the ongoing US government shutdown ends — whenever that might be.

Hubble’s mission operations are based at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, where most employees are on involuntary leave during the shutdown. A few people who operate spacecraft that are actively flying, including Hubble, have been allowed to keep working.

But fixing the problem with Hubble, which is almost 30 years old, will almost certainly involve additional government employees who are forbidden to work during the shutdown. NASA has formed an investigative team, composed primarily of contractors and experts from its industry partners, to examine the technical troubles.

Federal law allows agencies to keep some personnel working during a shutdown if they are deemed necessary to protect life and property. It is not clear whether NASA might request an emergency exception to allow repairs to Hubble before the shutdown — now in its 19th day — ends.

Hubble telescope camera is broken — and US government shutdown could delay repairs
Alexandra Witze, Nature

Related link:

About the Hubble Space Telescope, NASA