Monthly Archives: February 2016

America’s Prisons


For awhile now there has been a growing awareness that America’s prison system is failing society.  The fact that we incarcerate so many of our young folks only to see them emerge from the system as hardened criminals is repulsive.  I have been excited to hear talk of prison reforms during the campaigns but am left disheartened as Rand Paul seemed to be the only candidate seriously and earnestly addressing the issue.

We have to do something.

But I don’t know if this is it:

Pennsylvania is on the verge of becoming one of the first states in the country to base criminal sentences not only on what crimes people have been convicted of, but also on whether they are deemed likely to commit additional crimes. As early as next year, judges there could receive statistically derived tools known as risk assessments to help them decide how much prison time — if any — to assign.

In theory, and in a nearly perfect world, this method could be a good one.  For example, today we lock up minor drug offenders for far too long.  This method could be employed to demonstrate that a first time weed arrest at age 15 requires very little prison time.  On the other hand, a single arrest may very well occur for unique experiences resulting in a ‘signature’ that is otherwise inappropriate.

And say nothing of the potential problems when sentencing takes into account socio-economic conditions or race.  Not to mention the libertarian arguments against punishment for a crime not yet committed.

Racism – The Princess Bride Edition

Princess Bride

It’s famous : “You keep using that word.  I do not think it means what you think it means.”

For years I have found this to be true for society when discussing racism.  The term has lost its original meaning and morphed into a new and dangerous version.  All of this is better said by the Coyote:

I have come to the conclusion that the concept of original sin must be one of those that are quite appealing to humans.

For literally millennia, original sin has been a foundational part of much of Christianity.  We were all born with original sin, and so effectively started life with guilt.  It turns out that it is much easier to exercise power over the guilty than over people who consider themselves innocent.  The Catholic Church took advantage of this power by claiming that no individual could wipe away their original sin, their inherited guilt, without active engagement with the Church itself.  I will leave aside theological arguments** here, but conclude that the Church used the original sin doctrine in part to enhance its temporal power.

As Christianity fades somewhat as an active part of Western culture, the idea of Christian original sin seldom comes up much in any practical way.  But that does not mean the world has abandoned the concept of original sin – no indeed.  Racism is one of the classic examples of original sin – in it, someone born black, or Jewish, or whatever, is tainted with an original sin that they cannot wash away, and makes them somehow inferior to others.

Much of what social justice warriors say sounds racist to me, as they often offer negative generalizations of whole groups based on race, or gender, or sexual preference.  In my naive younger days I used to think that judging anyone based on their race rather than their individual actions and values was racism.    However, SJW’s have managed to change linguistics in their favor, conveniently redefining racism (or sexism) as only applying to those in historically more powerful groups  (e.g. white males).  By this definition, a black woman can never be a racist, no matter how much she negatively stereotypes other racial groups.

Well, OK then.  I am tired of fighting this definitional issue.  So I will just say that SJW’s frequently fall in the trap of believing in original sin.  Whites, males, heteros, successful people – they are all tainted in the SJW mind with original sin, so much that any utterance from any individual in these groups is deemed as having no value and therefore should be ignored or actively suppressed.  This is actually a radical version of original sin that goes way farther than the Catholic Church ever took it, though I would argue it is promulgated for roughly the same reason – to enhance one’s power.


** Speaking of original sin, in one of the great misconceptions that Christians have of their own religion, the immaculate conception was not Mary’s virgin birth of Jesus but rather her own birth without the taint of original sin.

Zika Virus


If you haven’t noticed, the new world health crisis is the Zika virus transmitted via the common mosquito:

There’s another big health concern that’s all over the news, and it’s behind this week’s Words You’ll Hear. That’s the segment where we try to understand stories we’ll be hearing more about in the coming days by parsing some of the words associated with those stories. Today, our word is Zika. That’s the name of a mosquito-borne virus that’s been detected in parts of the Caribbean and Central and South America, especially in Brazil, where it’s being blamed for a spike in birth defects. The Centers for Disease Control has issued travel advisories for women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant.

You’re humble contributing editor suggests a single course of action.


A 1978 National Cancer Institute report concluded—after two years of testing on several different strains of cancer-prone mice and rats—that DDT was not carcino-genic.36 As for the DDT-caused eggshell thinning, it is unclear whether it did, in fact, occur and, if it did, whether the thinning was caused by DDT, by mercury, by PCBs, or by the effects of human encroachment.16,37 And as recently as 1998 researchers reported that thrush eggshells in Great Britain had been thinning at a steady rate 47 years before DDT hit the market; the researchers placed the blame on the early consequences of industrialization.

By all means, let’s ban a cure saving millions of life for … well, for nothing.

It’s Over


A computer has just beaten a Go champion:

On Wednesday, in a research paper released in Nature, Google earned its own position in the history books, with the announcement that its subsidiary DeepMind has built a system capable of beating the best human players in the world at the east Asian board game Go.

There are more possible moves than there are atoms in the universe.  It’s only a matter of time before the machines terminate the human race.