Enough Already!

There is rising angst these days on Facebook about the internment of Japanese-American citizens right after Pearl Harbor.
It was done by a liberal president (FDR) and the very liberal Governor of California — the soon-to-be liberal Chief Justice of the United States, Earl Warren.

That said, the overreaction was of its time, and the Untied States had just had the Pacific Fleet had almost completely been sunk!

I lived through Dec. 7 as a young child, and felt the palpable terror deep in our mainland. You can’t place today’s morales, and ethics, on those in the past.

It was terrible. The Japanese-Americans were badly treated and their property seized. They deserve reparations, perhaps even their children deserve reparations — but at some point reparations as a concept must end. The Italians do not owe the Greeks because the Romans enslaved the Greeks.

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American Sniper

I watched American Sniper, and found it gripping. Let’s just say that at the end I was glad the credit roll lasted long enough for the tears in my eyes to dry. As we left the theatr, the audience clapped…a muted clap because, of course, the hero died. Moist hands do not clap well.

A tragic end, for certain. Kyle had a rare combination of skill and judgement. He was a true American Hero and one of the few about whom we know, because of the movie.

This was the first movie I attended in an actual theatr for decades, and I found the new sound systems to be the most impressive thing — and the cost of popcorn!

My first takeaway from the film is that the nation continues to breed patriots, particularly from Texas and the Southern states. I was born in Alabama and raised in Texas, and I can attest that in that axis, men — and it is men in particular, men talk of America with tears in their eyes, and it breeds in them a drive to serve. I joined the Junior Yanks of America and drilled with wooden rifles before I was 10 years old, spent more than six years in military school, then two years as an Enlisted Man in the Navy, went to and graduated from the Naval Academy at Annapolis, and spent 20 years as an officer — primarily in submarines.

Going into the military was preordained by the culture in which I was raised. The Star Spangled Banner still brings tears to my eyes. Texans from small towns are indeed patriotic.

The second takeaway was the price that families pay for our service. It is often unrecognized by those in the services because the intensity of our work, and our interest in doing it well — because always other depend upon our actions ( in Submarines, one mistake can easily cost the lives of all, because Submarines do not fail in just one compartment), and we live in our own bubble. Our wives tell us that the hot water heater failed the day after we deployed, or of children’s sickness, but it does not register as much as when we are home.

So I got two messages from the film — and neither was any glorification of war. War is not glorious — victory is indeed glorious., but war is endless and victories are followed by long periods of more war.

I am certain that the American Sniper movies’ success galls many liberals. With Obama in the White House for six years and counting, conservatives must appreciate small victories when they can.

Lying By Omission of Facts

The president’s declaration that Christians should get off their high horse should have been placed in historical perspective…but it wasn’t!

Heaven knows, a a Non-Believer it is not up to me to defend Christianity, but I am a Non-Believer, not Anti-Christian, so I’ll take a view more Christian than did the president.

The president surely knows that the Crusades were designed, at least in theory, to re-Conquer Jerusalem, the most sacred of Christian sites which had been seized by the Muslims. Certainly the Crusaders, at least some of them raped and pillaged on the way to recapture the “Holiest of Cities.”

Now exactly why the Crusaders wanted Jerusalem is not clear, since the Romans had reduced it to ruins in the First Century, but I look on the Crusades as sort of a Tulip Craze, and I lump Japan’s Attack on the U.S. IN 1941 in the same boat — sort of mass insanity that becomes even more contagious as it rolls.

Anyway, I put little blame on the Crusaders because they were of their time, and readers of this blog know that I am very much an anti-Presentism, Presentism being the belief that you can place todays morals and ethics upon people who never had those morals and ethics.

History is absolutely filled with wars, plots, poisoning, incest, rape, murder,,,in fact that is the way we study history…the French and Indian Wars, the War of Independence, the War of 1812, the Civil War…

So the Crusades were history by men of their time, as was the Inquisition of the 15th Century, and US slavery, which had a history going back into pre-history.

To the credit of Christians, they have evolved. While they no longer rape and pillage in the name of their faith, no longer support slavery, no longer burn Heretics at the stake, ISIL does. Not only do they do 12th Century atrocities here, more than a Millennium later, they relish in their inability to conform to 21st Century norms.

Yes, Christians once did terrible things. Even our early generations treated Heretics, Witches, and Indians badly, but they too were of their day. The president made no attempt to place his remarks about Christians in their proper historical light. I suspect he did that purposely because he wants to bring his heritage — both his American and his Christian heritage down a peg or two, because he wants to normalize if not equalize everyone and everything.

It is not quite Socialism, but it moves in that direction.

Why I Support the Concept of Common Core

Let me tell you why I support at least the concept of Common Core. I want national standards, because I lived the problem on no standards.

Now I admit that the implementation of those standards has left a lot to be desire.

I graduated from a tiny school in Texas, and I was fairy smart. I went to Trinity University as a Math Major. I went to the Naval Academy in Annapolis and found out that I was among men (and they were all men at that time) whose slide rule (if you are old enough to remember those) I was not qualified to carry!

The only way that the academies get geographical representation, is to let Congress Critters appoint four nominations in each academy at any one time — or else every Cadet or Midshipman would come from Massachusetts. No one from MISSISSIPPI, Louisiana, California or Hawaii could ever enter an Academy!

There are certain common pieces of knowledge that all educated people need to know. As a Professor of Computer Science, I was dismayed by the lack of knowledge of my students, so I devised my own “Common Knowledge” test 88 questions) on which my wife and Editor each scored 77 correct.

The test was administered only to those who wished to take it, and one would think that would be those who thought they could do well. The AVERAGE was SEVEN! The HIGHEST, was TWELVE!

I support, not cookie cutters, but everyone knowing the basics. How we get there can be under local control, but Common Core was devised by STATES, not the federal government as some would infer. Yes, the Feds have tried to co-opt those standards, but they did not write them!

“Beware The Greeks….”

The newly elected Greek president, Alexis Tsipras, has said the he intends to end austerity, and renegotiate the debt. Brussels and Berlin are not amused.

(Alexis Tsipras was elected from a political party called “The Party Of The Radical Left.)

Margaret Thatcher’s brilliant observation that, ” The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other peoples’ money” is that, in the case of Greece, there is no one else’s money.

And, without the EU lending them more money, they will not in the future.

Apparently, Alexis Tsipras has not heard of Christina Kirchner, the president of Argentina. Her nation has delayed and delayed billions owed to hedge funds in New York, but.a Federal Judge hearing the elongated case has ordered them to pay up!

Their refusal has caused Standard and Poor to call Argentina in “Sovereign Default,” and the day of reckoning is nigh.

The European Union was wondering if the Euro would survive Greece leaving the EU, but more recently the Brussels/Berlin axis has decided the EU would be better off without Greece.

The problem that Alexis Tsipras has is exactly what happened to President Obama –indeed EVERY president of every country discovers on the first morning of his presidency, best described by the term, “Holy Crap! I had no idea it was that bad!”

There follows a dance to hide, dissemble, delay the problems, trying to keep the balls in the air — hoping the problems will either solve themselves, get solved by other nations, magically disappear, or can be nuanced sufficiently to be passed on to the new president.

Greece has its problems, but the reflected problems impact the EU and, since the EU is our main trading partner, to a minor extent, the US.

The Fear of AI

The advances since I wrote one of the Navy’s first Artificial Intelligence programs — probably the very first such program — have been exponential.

Today, my program would only qualify as “weighted values” program, because it had no Feedback Loop or an AI Engine (Inference Engine). It was designed to take all of the usual data — training, armament, fuel load, overhaul schedule, etc. and tell a Destroyer Squadron Commander which ship to deploy on short notice if one of his ships had a problem in Vietnam. (As if he didn’t already know, intuitively!)

By the time I was a Core Adjunct Professor of Computer Science teaching Artificial Intelligence, the craft had vaulted into something special, like a program at La Guardian Airport the told Controllers which runways to close or open as storms rolled across that huge airport, I real time.

Modern AI is so much better still, and people like Bill Gates, Stephen Hawkins, and Elon Musk are expressing concern about the future of AI. They have a much better view of the situation, and they would say problem, and I have no opinion on their opinion but I just think it is inevitable.

If it is inevitable — and it is like nuclear proliferation and cloning, in fact all technology. Once identified and developed it will proliferate. My concern is much less technology, which is the concern of the above mention scions of technology, than the social impact which is much more immediate — the rapid loss of jobs and the potential for social unrest the could result.

A hotel in Japan has announced that upon opening, 90 % of employees will be Robots. Said Robots will check in the guests, take bags to the room, clean the rooms, deliver the Room Service meals…the hotel hopes to exceed the reported 90%. Here at home, hospitals are using food and medicine by Robots.

As this replacement of workers increases in an effort to get labor costs under control, a modern approximation of the Luddites will appear, in the form of Labor Unions trying to protect wages and benefits. At some point in each industry, the increasing manual labor cost curve crosses the decreasing Robot cost curve.

Workers usually equate their wages with their labor cost, but, depending on the business, total labor costs can be 140% of the wages. Medical benefits, retirement, replacements for sick leave and vacations, Workman’s Comp….the list of costs in addition to the wages just keep adding up.

Before we get to the fear about AI taking over the world, we may have awful social unrest as governments wrestle with fewer workers supporting growing unemployed.as I have remarked before, the Greeks had their own Robots — called “slaves” and few people actually worked, so they gathered at the Forum to discuss whatever Greeks discussed. (They then repaired to some neighbors home, where they lay on couches and drank wine mixed with water and were entertained by women of suspect repute. Actually they were more like Geisha. Who were more conversationalists than prostitutes…though some may have been both.)

Sounds like a winner to me!

Quick Hits

The Computer Electronics Show in Las Vegas is over, and among the sparkling new TVs, Home Automation, and Gee-Gaws that will never go into production, the most important innovation occurred before the show– an Audi A7 with a Journalist at the wheel(sic), and it was a driver less car.

Now, to be certain, the Journalist had to take control after the Audi hit an off-ramp because it was really only designed for freeway work, but Google has the city driving down pat, and Mercedes has prototype driver less cars and trucks.

It’s close. Very close.

I have told the story before of being dragged out of 5-Way heart by-pass recovery at home by my friendly neighborhood MD/Ph. D (Engineering) who carted me off to Victorville, California, to witness a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (one of the few government agencies that actually work) challenge for “Autonomous Automobiles. This was four years ago. No apparatus filled autonomous cars finished the 50 mile city model, but Stanford University did well enough to win the million dollar prize. (Stanford had won the previous “Freeway” Challenge in the desert years before — and another million dollar prize.)

The driver less cars in California will require a special license and a carbon life-form behind the wheel, as did the Audi driven to the Las Vegas convention.

Still 565 freeway miles without a scare is not to be sneezed at.

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We have an entirely analogous situation developing between the good Muslims of the world, Blacks in Detroit and the overwhelming number of good teachers in California.

And there is a lesson to be learned here.

The president and his administration appear to be counting on the Muslim nations and communities to grab hold of their, by any count, small number of atrocity-bound Muslims.

Ain’t gonna’ happen.

By any measure the vast majority of teachers are good or even great teachers, and California has waited for decades for the good teachers to rein in their union and get control of the awful teachers who give them all a bad name…it has not, will not happen.

Similarly, the vast majority of Blacks, even in crime-ridden communities like Detroit and Chicago, are law abiding citizens. They know who the drug dealers, pimps and gang-bangers are — but they draw their blinds and double-lock their doors without calling the police.

Waiting for a modern population to rise up just isn’t going to happen. In the early days of America, certainly — can you imagine the western Settlers sitting in their traffic-jammed cars without heating tar and plucking feathers while marching on the halls of the San Diego Association of Governments who fund freeways too little and mass transit too much?

Neither can I.

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The Islamic Empire had a Caliph called “The Bloodthirsty” who invited opponents to dinner, clubbed them to death, threw a rug over them and dined on the rug as their opponents bled to death.

But being the reason he was called the Bloodthirsty.

But Islam was not the only group where the norm in being bloodthirsty. In the early Middle Ages, Basil II of the Byzantine Empire was rumored to have defeated an army of Bulgarians and put out the eyes of 14,000 soldiers, leaving one out of 100 with one eye to lead the defeated troops back home. That is possibly apocryphal, but that it was even believed at the time served its purpose.

The ISIS group can be accurately termed “Fundamentalists” in that they adhere to Middle Ages norms.

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In my Little Known And Completely Useless Information File: Perhaps you remember the “Ice Man” an ancient Stone Age man discovered a few years ago, who had been frozen as he fell some 5,200 years ago in the Alps. As you may know, newly discovered methods of obtaining DNA even from ancient bone, (Ice Man was not even much of a challenge) but the interesting thing to me is that 16 descendants of Ice Man have been discovered in Austria…..

In a related ice age data, Archeologists now have a new specialty — studying items being released by melting glaciers. It seems that there was a warming spell about 7,000 years ago and a treasure trove of lost items is being released by the current warming spell in Norway. They have recovered mittens, snowshoes and many farming items. (Bet you didn’t know that autos caused CO2 warming 7,000 years ago! We learn every day.)

The study of DNA is very useful in determining the flow of humans, and when they arrived in certain places…

One more note: Not all ancient Egyptians who were mummified were kings — commoners were also mummified. Millions of them!

In fact, in the early 1900s, there were so many Mummies, that Indian trains burned them for fuel.

Well, the Death Masks for Kings and Queens may have been made of gold, but commoners often had death masks made from used Papyrus and glue. Recently, technology has been able to melt the glue and recover the used  Papyrus, and we can read it…and a portion of an unknown Book of the Bible has been recovered. The actual announcement was leaked in 2012, and has just been officially acknowledged, but the contents have not been released.