Random Cats and Neglected Social Issues*

Attempting to get ‘normal’ pictures of our cats only reinforces the notion they are not normal. Not surprising since the world itself is far from normal.

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Her name is Boots

I could go on at length about the world situation right now, but to what end? In over half a century no one has listened to my opinions despite my being proven right repeatedly. So, random thoughts. (The words aren’t important: it’s about the cats. It’s always about the cats.)

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His name is Hannibal

And just like that, suddenly Colin Kaepernick was right.

Until it’s no longer fashionable to be anti-racist, that is. Then it will be business as usual again.

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Her name is Squeak

If you want to end racism you have to execute people of a certain kind.
The problem will not respond to any other methodology. Sensitivity training isn’t going to do it, and as long as their type are around (never mind in power) nothing changes. I’ve seen vast improvements in social conditions in my lifetime, and then saw them all but vanish in a few years. Why? Because the people who benefit from the hate were still there, lurking in the shadows and awaiting the opportunity to take advantage of fear. All they needed was a champion. No, not a champion but a figurehead; a symbol of authority to put the official stamp of approval on reprehensible behaviour. Even if that approval was only implied and not blatant.
If you’re not willing to end the lives of the people whose very existence causes everyone else trouble, you’re not serious about tackling the issues. We’ve fought wars over this.
Remember: they are perfectly willing (and indeed eager) to kill you to advance their cause.

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Boots, as normal as she gets

The prevalent economic system in the world today isn’t capitalism, it’s anti-socialism. All forms of government are some type of socialism. All forms of socialism involve equitable distribution of resources for the common good. Anti-socialism involves inequitable distribution for the benefit of a few at the expense of the many. That’s why feudal systems and dictatorships inevitably fail. You can see the signs of anti-socialism in CEO’s having their compensation cut to a mere $5.8 million during the pandemic when the people who actually did the work of the company are having to survive on a $2,000 per month government handout (that the government can’t afford to pay).

Remember that “socialism” and “society” have the same root word. If you don’t have one you don’t have the other; you have chaos and anarchy.

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Hannibal, sleeping as normal

57 police officers resigned in support of their comrades who beat up a 70+-year-old-man. That’s 57 job openings welcome. It also shows that every law enforcement agency (and indeed legislative body) needs to be vetted for these bullies, whether racist or just power-crazed, so that they can be permanently removed and given restricted social standing. Yes, let them feel what it’s like to be a minimum-wage slave for a change. Bar them from voting too, so they can’t build a political power base of abuse. Again.

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Squeak, who normally sleeps under the covers

Lessons from the pandemic include:

All false medical practices need to be stopped and outlawed.

People who actually do work are more valuable than unskilled and interchangeable executives who earn lots of money for contributing nothing to the company.

Symbolic gestures are just as useless and damaging as riots.

Gasoline that cost $1.38/L before the lockdown still generated a profit at $0.89/L. Because the law of supply and demand is based on greed, not some magic ability for more money to make a product appear out of thin air in an instant. Same goes for PPE.

Reality is not a matter of public opinion to be voted on.

Politicians are least able to deal with crises because they are the least qualified in any given field, yet are put in charge of everything.

No country should allow itself to become dependent on another country for essential goods of any kind.

The ecology actually is important. A lot of businesses are not.

If you are wounded, look for a man with scars.

Don’t do business with anyone who doesn’t share your ethical nature.

The current crises will all blow over and everyone will go back to doing things the same as before. Oh wait: that’s not a lesson from the pandemic, it’s a lesson from a long life.

I’m too old to deal with this stuff, to fight the battles, to try and educate the young. So I’m just reverting to my “selfish” lifestyle and I don’t care what anyone thinks of me, my life, or my opinions.

*The title is an adaptation of Edward Gorey’s “Dancing Cats and Neglected Murderesses”

Clueless in Canada

After listening to our illustrious leaders tell us all about it, one has to wonder if they have any idea what they are talking about. I’m going to have to say “no, they don’t”.

One specific area of interest now is: when will things get back to normal? Our Prime Moron said “that information will be coming soon” which is monkey code for “I haven’t any idea”. I can’t really blame him for this as I doubt anyone has any idea. It’s easy to know that while the disease continues to spread and claim more lives we have to hunker down and try to slow its progress. But at what point does a change in numbers indicate it’s safe to open up the stores again?

Never mind the pendants who argue the numbers are skewed or false: they have no understanding of statistics anyway. In order to be as “accurate” as they demand you’d have to test our over 7 billion people every day. There really is no practical way to get more in-depth information than the imperfect methods we are using. This isn’t about perfection; it’s about having some sort of guideline, arbitrary or not, to give us something to go by. Just as there is no absolute definition of temperature, so we have to make up some sort of scale for case results. Sometimes the methodology will change as we try to refine that scale and get a more accurate picture of the situation, but we should never be foolish enough to believe it is perfect or ever could be.

Thus we take our imperfect understanding of far-from-ideal data and muddle along. One day the numbers will stop going up, and a downward trend will begin. We can then pretend this means we are getting the upper hand with the disease and decide it’s okay to ease the restrictions. But at what point? When it just starts trending downwards? When it’s fallen by 50%? 100%? When there have been no new cases for a year? It is a difficult question, and one made worse by knowing that when the restrictions are eased there inevitably will be a rebound; a resurgence of cases directly related to the newly increased human interactions made possible by the easing of restrictions.

Even if it doesn’t go up immediately, we know it will come back. People will panic and scream and blame everyone. As long as there is no vaccine to truly break the cycle and prevent a resurgence we are living in a precarious situation, disease-wise.

And should we trust our leaders even when they sound the all-clear? Will we? Inevitably the answer to both questions is “no”. After all it was their disregard for the seriousness of the situation and their slow-to-act attitude that made it so bad to begin with. You can start anywhere you like with that too, as the Chinese tried to silence it the minute the problem arose and our own heads of state did no better. You could even blame them for allowing people to continue to promote anti-vaccine nonsense and endangering people with ‘alternative medicine’ rubbish, making society more distrustful of science.

Only science works, people. Only science.

To that end I note there are things which could have been implemented years ago to reduce transmission of many kinds of disease which have still not been put in place despite the pandemic. I despair to see waiting rooms at medical facilities which still haven’t got so much as HEPA filtration in place, never mind the specific UVC lights that can kill viruses without harming humans. Really this sort of thing should be standard practice wherever people gather, especially if they are likely to be ill when gathering there.

But science has been ignored and denied for years because it costs too much. Right. The USA just enacted a bill for $2.2 trillion to make up for the effects of a single virus just in their country, and that won’t be the end of it. As I write this we’ve just hit 1 million reported cases of COVID-19, and the US alone is expecting a quarter of a million dead before it’s over.

Yes, science is too expensive and we’ll just go back to the old ways as soon as we can. Who needs clear skies and clean water anyway?

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Education is a wonderful thing

Yes education is a wonderful thing.

Get some.

I don’t mean the formal bit of paper that declares you’ve achieved at least the minimum passing grade on standardized testing. Those wonderful documents we wave in the air then place in a box as we get on with our lives and the utter necessity of doing what needs to be done so we can eat and sleep indoors.

More the kind of education that allows you to see sentence number two in the previous paragraph before you commit sentence number one in same said paragraph. The practical, pragmatic education of reality that lets you avoid so many mistakes and so much suffering. Too often these are the things we learn to late. Wouldn’t it be nice if they taught them in school to begin with? Instead our high school classes are an exercise in archaic academia and soldier training, and our college courses presume you already know about life and how to deal with it.

I’ve had more than half a century of learning and still regret not entering adulthood armed with useful, practical knowledge of how to cope with it. I literally could have saved years of struggle if I had, and could have sailed more smoothly through the easy times as well.

There’s not much meaning to this diatribe. It’s too late for most of us and nothing is likely to change for the others because the situation has become institutionalized, even though the majority may agree it needs alteration.

In fact what triggered this useless rambling was scanning through blogs where so many people were quickly willing to earnestly offer you what they had learned about … well almost everything. A cursory glance showed none of it was knowledge so much as it was opinion, and that is what passes for facts these days.

We have a saying “you can’t fool a hammer” and few people understand what it means. Basically it means physics is absolute, and just because you truly believe a hammer is a screwdriver doesn’t mean it will work as one. Nor does the philosophical argument that since you can use it as one (pounding the screw with the hammer and thus ‘driving’ it) that makes it so.

On more than one occasion I have used algebra to explain the relationships between multiple variables. That’s what it’s for. I’ve even taught it. On almost every occasion the listener failed to grasp the concept because although they had passed algebra they never understood it. “You don’t need it” is a frequent excuse, and yet there we were; me explaining and them not understanding. It wasn’t as if I was just doing it to be mean; there was something they wanted to understand and they needed algebra to understand it but the education system had failed where it pretended to have succeeded.

Philosophy originally meant “field of study”. It’s where PhD comes from (Philosphy Doctorate). Now the colloquial meaning of random belief supported by flimsy argument and zero facts has overtaken that definition to the point of reversal. We will declare we are PhDs not because we have contributed to the body of knowledge on a particular subject, but because we decide we know about it based not on facts but opinion and rhetorical argument.

I don’t know. I still try to educate people and get told I’m wrong because all I have is facts and data and decades or even centuries of accumulated knowledge to prove my point. Apparently if I had a lot of nonsense and ad hominem attacks to draw on I’d be on firmer ground.

But that, I will admit, is just my opinion. Not the facts.

Remains of the day

Greek find called earliest

Wow. How bad reporting is that, eh? This is the sort of thing that makes scientists look like morons. The “chunk of skull” becomes a “fossil” and then it just gets worse. Business Insider SA and others call it “a 210,000 year-old skull” when it’s just a piece of one. It’s only when you get into the posts from actual scientists that you see the appropriate caution being used:

“As with any challenging new find, the appropriate initial reaction should be healthy scepticism, even when my own name is on the paper.” – Chris Stringer

What’s missing is corroborating evidence, such as more pieces of bone of the same era. Also there is no accounting for other possible explanations for its presence, such as having been moved to the location at a later date. We had this same problem when a ‘black’ skeleton (a few remains of one) was located further North than it should have been; so many people started declaring it factual that Africans had been in Europe much longer than anyone knew and it was absolute proof of the migration.

Really? Since when does science base its conclusions on a sample size of one?

It’s bad enough we keep getting ‘health reports’ that draw absolute conclusions based on some obviously flawed meta-analysis (the most recent one blamed sugar for cancer), misleading people into changing their life without any actual explanation of why they should (and yet they still ignore making changes that have been proved), but here we corrupt science and history – all because ‘journalists’ can not understand what they’re reporting on. Or maybe they don’t care: “news” these days tends to be sensationalist rubbish designed to grab attention rather than inform. The frequent disassociation between headlines and article content is proof enough of that.

Then when someone points out the mistakes and flaws (such as ridiculously small sample size) they get attacked. After all, it was “in the paper” so it must be true. Well ha, ha. That one has never been true ever since someone invented newspapers. Digital media is simply a faster way to spread lies. (And we can all laugh at the fact the biggest complainer about this is himself the biggest abuser.)

Instead we have people claiming vaccines aren’t safe because of falsified studies and rare instances, ignoring the huge body of positive results. We have people drawing cause-effect conclusions based on coincidence with no proven interactive mechanism. We have people reveling not in ignorance, which is a lack of knowledge, but in stupidity – which is the rejection of knowledge. All exacerbated by media reports constructed by those just as foolish and only marginally better-skilled in writing.

How does the world end? Not with a bang but with a whimper.