tag:blog.genericwhite.com,2013:/posts TQ White II 2024-07-02T16:28:06Z TQ White II tag:blog.genericwhite.com,2013:Post/2120491 2024-07-01T18:27:30Z 2024-07-02T16:28:06Z In TRUMP v. UNITED STATES, the United States loses In the suit, TRUMP v. UNITED STATES, the Supreme Court decided against the United States. The decision (HERE) is a calamity.

Though it does not actually say the president cannot be charged with a crime, it sets a ridiculously high bar for doing so: "The President must therefore be immune from prosecution for an official act unless the Government can show that applying a criminal prohibition to that act would pose no 'dangers of intrusion on the authority and functions of the Executive Branch.'"

Since the entire purpose of a law is to 'intrude on the authority and function' of a criminal, it's almost a tautology. If the president does it, it's not a crime.

It's made worse, though, because this bunch of corrupt assholes leaves a loophole. Despite their absolute-sounding language, they say that it might be okay to interfere with a president. And they say that they will decide, based on no expressed principles, when that occurs. Would this court find a prosecution less likely to interfere with the "authority and function" of a Democratic president? Could be.

Actually, the court says that the presumption of immunity does not apply to unofficial acts. I guess that might mean that a president could, after being out of office, be charged with theft if he left a restaurant without paying. Whether that's the case, however, would also be decided by the new king-makers of the court.

And they make clear that it's very unlikely that a president is ever unofficial. They explain that talking to the public is presumed to be official. If a government official is involved, it's official. They make clear that it really would have to be theft in a restaurant and not much more.

For good measure, they also categorically exclude official acts (determined by them) as evidence of a crime. The example in the dissent is, a bribe having been received, the discussion with the government person implementing the purchased activity is official and cannot be brought into evidence.

The dissent reminds us that the Framers were explicitly clear that the president is subject to law. They saw no reason to think that the president should not do his or her job with a clear eye on what is legal or how this could reduce the effectiveness of governance.

The majority says that it is important that a president need never fear pernicious prosecution for fear of political retribution, i.e., what Trump wants to do. The dissent observes the obvious fact that every prosecution has to get past a judge and for a president, there would be grand juries, interlocutory appeals out the ass, trials, appeals, all of the structure of justice that would stand in the way of abuse.

Justice Barrett, who is showing signs of decency, concurs with the decision but disagrees with its main conclusion. She would, instead, create a premise for pretrial appeal (interlocutory judgment) to determine if charges were applicable to the president. She doesn't discuss the majority premise, "must be immune," but she disagrees with the prohibition on using evidence derived from official acts and that makes me think she might be choosing not to rock the boat in a decision where her vote is not dispositive.

Justice Sotomayor is outraged and brings us to the conclusion that I think is correct: "The President of the United States is the most powerful person in the country, and possibly the world. When he uses his official powers in any way, under the majority's reasoning, he now will be insulated from criminal prosecution.

Orders the Navy's Seal Team 6 to assassinate a political rival? Immune. Organizes a military coup to hold onto power? Immune. Takes a bribe in exchange for a pardon? Immune. Immune, immune, immune.

Let the President violate the law, let him exploit the trappings of his office for personal gain, let him use his official power for evil ends. Because if he knew that he may one day face liability for breaking the law, he might not be as bold and fearless as we would like him to be. That is the majority's message today."

I dissent.

TQ White II
tag:blog.genericwhite.com,2013:Post/2117819 2024-06-20T16:00:40Z 2024-06-20T16:00:40Z Dangers of Universal Camera Surveillance

I found this excellent analysis of The Dangers of Surveillance. 

The following AI written list of harms that could result from universal camera surveillance matches my understanding from reading the article:

  • Severe chilling effect on behavior and intellectual freedom: People would likely alter their public behavior and activities, knowing they are constantly being watched. This could stifle creativity, free expression, and the development of diverse or unconventional ideas.

  • Erosion of privacy in public spaces: Universal camera observation would effectively eliminate the concept of privacy in any public area, fundamentally changing the nature of public life and social interactions.

  • Increased potential for abuse of power: With access to comprehensive visual data on citizens' movements and activities, the government would have unprecedented power to track, profile, and potentially manipulate individuals.

  • Risk of selective enforcement and discrimination: The vast amount of visual data could be used to selectively target certain individuals or groups for law enforcement or other government actions.

  • Threat to anonymous speech and association: Universal observation would make it extremely difficult for people to engage in anonymous political or social activities, potentially undermining democratic participation.

  • Creation of a permanent, searchable record of public life: This could be used for retroactive surveillance or investigation, creating a chilling effect even for past actions.

  • Potential for data breaches or misuse: The massive database of visual information could be vulnerable to hacking, leaks, or misuse by government employees.

  • Normalization of surveillance: Ubiquitous government cameras could lead to greater acceptance of surveillance in general, potentially opening the door to even more invasive forms of monitoring.

  • Inhibition of intellectual privacy in public spaces: People might feel less free to read certain materials, have sensitive conversations, or engage in intellectual exploration in public areas.

  • Psychological impact: The constant feeling of being watched could lead to increased stress, anxiety, and self-censorship among the population.

  • ]]>
    TQ White II
    tag:blog.genericwhite.com,2013:Post/2106927 2024-04-30T21:13:00Z 2024-05-02T01:16:31Z Never Talk About God in Public, Part 2 You know how I could get in trouble if I were to go up to a woman at work and start talking about how lovely her tits are? That's not because her tits aren't lovely or that I mean anything nasty. It's just that so many men have complimented women on their bodies in ways that are demeaning or threatening that most women are immediately repelled if you say something nice about their tits.

    Also, you are feeling kind of creeped out because I used the word 'tits' three times and, even though it is a perfectly fine contraction of the word 'teats', common usage has made in an uncomfortable word.

    Your Messiah (and pretty much all the religions at one time or another) is like that for a lot of people. So many people have conducted Inquisitions and witch burnings and justified taking away women's reproductive autonomy while talking about their god that it has become creepy. Even when they weren't doing violence, they were telling all of us we were going to hell, a lot.

    So, your public expressions of religion are, like the word tits, are tarred by the brush wielded by your co-religionists.

    But with religion, it has another important facet. Your assertions about the glory of God, as benign as you mean them to be, are also, intrinsically because of the very definition of 'god' an assertion that the God I worship is not real, or right, or allowable.

    You, being you, don't intend that. One reason that I don't really object to your protestations anymore is that I know you are just kind of going on about it without any real intention toward the rest of us. The problem is, just as with my perfectly kind observations about tits, that ship has sailed.

    As you said, I "already got that message from somebody else." It's been said enough that, when you bring it up, you may as well be saying it.

    Further, religious assertions are always as much an assertion that my religious assertions are wrong as they are anything else. Religious kindnesses are creepy and inappropriate because it is talking about a person's intimate feelings. Think about how you felt when I did my rap above talking about the falsity of your God. That's how everyone feels if they are paying attention when someone else proclaims a different religious belief.

    I do not want it banned, any more than I want talking about tits banned. I want it to be formally disallowed. I talk about Debbie's tits all the time, often in lurid terms (she's got great ones!). It's fine. She has given me permission. But, if I talk about some young woman's tits at work, she can sue me, not for the word, for creating a hostile workplace. In a restaurant, not for the word, but for harassment.

    I think talking about religion should be like that. I think that talking about religion should be considered to be as sensitive as talking about the virtues of a woman's body. It is my view that having to listen to religion in the workplace (I had a coworker once, don't get me started) should be grounds for hostile workplace action. I think talking to a person about religion with their active consent, should be actionable as harassment.

    I am completely enthusiastic about your desire to enjoy your religious views. I want you to go to church and, with all the people who have agreed to talk about it, go crazy. I just don't want to hear it and I think society would be much, much, much better off if we took it out of the public conversation.

    TQ White II
    tag:blog.genericwhite.com,2013:Post/2106145 2024-04-26T12:29:47Z 2024-05-02T01:29:22Z Never Talk About God in Public It is the nature of gods and belief in them, to assert their 'rightness'. You think your 'god' is *the* god. All the good religions assert that their god is the only one and that failing to adhere to dogma is blasphemy.

    Christians and Moslems think that having beliefs in a different god is a crime, based on the idea that expressing said different beliefs is heresy. This is premised on the idea that me claiming that I have the *only* God is exactly the same as saying that *your* god is not real. Your claim about your god reciprocates.

    Which is to say that you making the claim about the supremacy of "THE awesome G-d" is also a statement that *my* God is false. I think saying that is rude and inappropriate. That it is often couched in the former, sneakier, phrase makes no difference.

    In fact, I claim that it's worse. On the one side, you are attacking and undermining my God. On the other, you are trying to take me away from it, too.

    See it this way. When I say that my God is the opposite of your god and that it is a supernatural fantasy responsible for a huge amount of negative results in the world from the Inquisition to the abuse of gay people, you want to fight me. You think I am using the word 'god' as a cover to attack your belief.

    And you're right. It's my view that talking about one's god is *always* an attack on the beliefs of people who have a different view. Always and intrinsically. That's why I take such a harsh attitude about religiosity in public I find it deeply offensive.

    TQ White II
    tag:blog.genericwhite.com,2013:Post/2105614 2024-04-23T12:41:43Z 2024-05-02T01:32:08Z Taylor Gets the Treatment, Again

    And so, Taylor gets the treatment again. Two years after her previous one, she releases a new album, Tortured Poets Department, and, again, the poopy meta analysis begins. Too this. Too little that. So much. So soon. So so so. Couldn't she just be less?

    Here's what I think: Her fans love it. That's all that matters and, if you're not a fan just shut the hell up. The NY Times puts this on the front page. More negative click bait.

    The first time I listened to the album, it felt long. The second time, less so. Then a friend noted four tracks she liked and I listened to them several times. And here's the thing about Taylor Swift, each time I listened to them, I liked them more. I've listened more to others since.

    Previously, I wondered, are any of them going to be caught in my head on repeat like Love Store or Blank Space do? Each time I listened, I noted an interesting little hook. Felt the frisson as I recognized a moment where she had captured another subtle idea in a sweet turn of phrase.

    She will tell you herself that her most important art form is lyric. I think that's fair. I don't think she's ever going to be compared, on a strictly music level with, say, Lennon/McCartney, Irving Berlin or Brian Wilson, people who were innovators in music style and structure, per se. But, listen to the song Fortnight a couple of times and I don't believe anyone who loves music can come away with anything short of delight and a tune stuck in your head, on repeat.

    This article is bullshit. The songs, one by one or in a group, are lovely. Taylor is a force of nature. I consider having discovered her from a fan perspective to be a huge gift to my life. I have another thing to enjoy and she is good.

    TQ White II
    tag:blog.genericwhite.com,2013:Post/2104927 2024-04-20T12:59:44Z 2024-04-20T12:59:44Z Joanna Newsom James,

    So, I dug into Joanna Newsom and am thrilled. It reminds me of when I discovered Katherine Ryan and was astonished to find this brilliant person who is a big deal just a little bit out of my sight. That I have never, ever heard of Newsom before shows how difficult it is to know what's going on even in a fully connected world.

    I listened to a bunch of her music and then some interviews and then a charming ten minute vid of her husband, Andy Samberg (as you doubtless know) talking about how much he loves her and how cool she is. All made me love her, too. She will now always be on my attention list.

    All that said, it's pretty easy to understand why she isn't extremely popular. Her music is mostly pretty weird. On the first couple of vids I watched, I couldn't understand anything about what she was doing. I couldn't understand the words (I later learned that she is often doing a sort of beat poetry and, once I learned not to interpret in sentences, it worked better for me). Her music is very spiky and unconventional. Also, and this is trivial, her facial contortions as she forms her very strange vocal style is hard to interpret.

    Fortunately, she came with your recommendation so I kept at it and learned enough to begin to understand what she is doing, to understand the semantics of her style, build enough familiarity that I could start to categorize and feel in ways that build meaning for me. I learned and conclude that she is free, innovative, expressive beyond belief. Her music is unusual but interesting as hell and, often, once I got used to it, lovely. Not only that, she's not talking about the commonplace crap that most are.

    As much as I admire Taylor Swift, she is speaking a truth that resonates with her audience, like her and the audience are matched tuning forks. Her virtue is (partly) the accuracy and cleverness with which she evokes the experiences of a young women in America.

    Joanna, of course, is not part of any kind of resonance system. She seems intensely determined to avoid the road most traveled, less Robert Frost, more Alan Ginsburg, in her lyrics. I'm not musically literate enough to to make a similar comparison for music but it's there. Her tunes are often arhythmic and melodies disjoint and surprising. I think she might be the most creative musician I know about. Hell, the most creative person.

    As I write this, I am listening to her tunes. During that last paragraph, I was especially charmed by the song. It was a little more melodic (which is good for me) and the lyric pronounced a little more clearly (most of her songs I need lyrics on to know what she says) and, as I wrote, I thought, Gotta look at the song title after I finish this paragraph. Amusingly, it was named Emily.

    Anyway, thanks for the reference. Made for a fine Saturday night and great addition to my playlist.

    TQ White II
    tag:blog.genericwhite.com,2013:Post/2104088 2024-04-16T14:56:01Z 2024-04-16T14:56:01Z Is This TMI?

    I consider my main goal to be lowering the bar to match my capability. I try to be satisfied by the things in my life that are good.

    I am old enough so that getting sick as a prelude to dying is part of the planning process. I intend to have perfected my ability to look on the bright side by being able to take full satisfaction about any tiny thing that is good.

    To the extent possible, I hope to avoid allowing negative stuff to influence my self evaluation or sense of happiness.

    TQ White II
    tag:blog.genericwhite.com,2013:Post/2101665 2024-04-06T12:49:35Z 2024-04-06T12:49:35Z RANT: Millenials deserve respect and sympathy

    I am an old, male boomer. I want to shout: I think the anti-millennial crap spewed by older people is utter bullshit. It's unfair. It's wrong. It's so horrible I categorize it as on par with full-on racism.

    Millenial people (they are not 'millenials', some mythic creature in your imagination) did, in actual fact, grow up and come of age in a remarkably shitty time. Worse than other bad times, maybe yes, maybe no, but from 9-11 on, American society has not been good. This is compounded by their vicious exploitation by the ruling classes and corporations. You needn't go any farther than the elimination of art and music from public school, to the cost of college education and then the rapacious structure of the student loan industry.

    But another thing that matured in the lives of millennial people is the technology of worker exploitation. The fucking over of young people in the job market is unconscionable. And, as with student loans, it's abetted by the government (though more on one side of the aisle than the other) supporting corporations uber alles.

    Before networked technology, it wasn't practical to manage randomized work schedules that make you work days alternating with working nights. There weren't as many jobs simple enough that firing an experience worker because they are making an extra buck an hour and you can hire a new one for less. It makes your life miserable on purpose.

    We won't talk about climate change, the unwholesomeness of food, or mass shootings every day, or etc, but they count, too. Suffice to say, I agree that things suck today and tell you that they are actual things that have been done, almost maliciously, mostly to young people.

    I also think that much of it could have been avoided. I think the older peoples' condemnation of millennial people is mostly projection. They cannot face the guilt of having wrecked the culture and the planet so they blame the victims.

    I start to say that I also apologize for my age cohort and it's bad behavior but, that doesn't capture my real feeling. I am enraged and ashamed of being part of such a rapacious, short sighted and prejudiced bunch.

    TQ White II
    tag:blog.genericwhite.com,2013:Post/2100504 2024-04-01T13:32:14Z 2024-04-01T13:32:15Z Alena Kate Petit ur Trad Wife I ran into this article on my daily tour of Wonkette, one of my favorite link aggregating blogs. It was, as is its wont, characterized cynically. The main character, who is arguably the first woman to have a social media presence as an anachronistic, stay at home mother, ie, trad wife, was said to have "the sads" about the cultural consequences of the people who followed her lead.

    Alena Kate Pettit, trad wife in the New Yorker, sounds nice. She had a rough childhood that formed her. That resulted in the desire for a nice family and a relationship with a man who would reciprocate her commitment by taking care of her and her kids.

    Unless the interviewer is being specifically manipulative (and it's the New Yorker where I'd expect the opposite if anything), Alena is not a conservative monster. She takes her religion like I take mine, lots of songs and bake sales (my inference). Without seeing her online history, I can't prove it but she sure doesn't sound like she's pounding any kind of conservative drumbeat.

    In this article, a skeptical tv interviewer is surprised by Alena's assertion that she would have to talk to her husband about buying a couch. I thought, "WTF? Who would buy furniture without talking to their spouse?"

    I've often disdained the notion of 'head of household' and the supposed submission that entails. In my life, I often joke that I have turned "Happy wife. Happy life." into a religion. I don't go with submission but, if she has a preference, that's what I do in just about everything.

    Reading about Alena, since the article left me feeling friendly toward her, I realized that her acceptance of her husband as the head of the household does not sound so much different, practically speaking, to my concern for my wife's happiness.

    You can safely read the article about Alena. If the article is fair, she is a person who found a way of life that she liked, not a politico determined to push women into the past. As I say, she sounds nice.


    TQ White II
    tag:blog.genericwhite.com,2013:Post/2100110 2024-03-30T14:02:48Z 2024-03-30T14:02:48Z Quotation: Bertrand Russell Deconstructs Christianity

    Bertrand Russell says,

    “The Christian religion, as it was handed over by the late Roman Empire to the barbarians, consisted of three elements: first, certain philosophical beliefs, derived mainly from Plato and the Neoplatonists, but also in part from the Stoics; second, a conception of morals and history derived from the Jews; and third, certain theories, more especially as to salvation, which were on the whole new in Christianity, though in part traceable to Orphism*, and to kindred cults of the Near East.

    The most important Jewish elements in Christianity appear to me to be the following:

    • I. A sacred history, beginning with the creation, leading to a consummation in the future, and justifying the ways of God to man.

    • II. The existence of a small section of mankind whom God specially loves. For Jews, this section was the Chosen People; for

    Christians, the elect.

    • III. A new conception of ‘righteousness’. The virtue of almsgiving, for example, was taken over by Christianity from later Judaism. The importance attached to baptism might be derived from Orphism or from oriental pagan mystery religions, but practical philanthropy, as an element in the Christian conception of virtue, seems to have come from the Jews.

    • IV. The Law. Christians kept part of the Hebrew Law, for instance the decalogue, while they rejected its ceremonial and ritual parts. But in practice they attached to the Creed much the same feelings that the Jews attached to the Law. This involved the doctrine that correct belief is at least as important as virtuous action, a doctrine which is essentially Hellenic. What is Jewish in origin is the exclusiveness of the elect. 

    • V. The Messiah. The Jews believed that the Messiah would bring them temporal prosperity, and victory over their enemies here on earth; moreover, he remained in the future. For Christians, the Messiah was the historical Jesus, who was also identified with the Logos of Greek philosophy; and it was not on earth, but in heaven, that the Messiah was to enable his followers to triumph over their enemies.

    • VI. The Kingdom of Heaven. Other-worldliness is a conception which Jews and Christians, in a sense, share with later Platonism, but it takes, with them, a much more concrete form than with Greek philosophers. The Greek doctrine — which is to be found in much Christian philosophy, but not in popular Christianity — was that the sensible world, in space and time, is an illusion, and that, by intellectual and moral discipline, a man can learn to live in the eternal world, which alone is real. The Jewish and Christian doctrine, on the other hand, conceived the Other World as not metaphysically different from this world, but as in the future, when the virtuous would enjoy everlasting bliss and the wicked would suffer everlasting torment. This belief embodied revenge psychology, and was intelligible to all and sundry, as the doctrines of Greek philosophers were not. 

    To understand the origin of these beliefs, we must take account of certain facts in Jewish history, to which we will now turn our attention ...“

    — Bertrand Russell, A History of Western Philosophy (1945), Book Two. Catholic Philosophy, Part. I. The Fathers, Ch. I: The Religious Development of the Jews, pp. 307-09


    * Orphism (more rarely Orphicism; Ancient Greek: Ὀρφικά, romanized: Orphiká) is the name given to a set of religious beliefs and practices originating in the ancient Greek and Hellenistic world, associated with literature ascribed to the mythical poet Orpheus, who descended into the Greek underworld and returned.

    TQ White II
    tag:blog.genericwhite.com,2013:Post/2098463 2024-03-23T18:01:34Z 2024-03-23T18:01:35Z if one could live on the sun where there is nothing but perpetually changing whirlwinds of gas
    “Take, for instance, numbers: when you count, you count “things,” but “things” have been invented by human beings for their own convenience. This is not obvious on the earth's surface because, owing to the low temperature, there is a certain degree of apparent stability. But it would be obvious if one could live on the sun where there is nothing but perpetually changing whirlwinds of gas. If you lived on the sun, you would never have formed the idea of “things,” and you would never have thought of counting because there would be nothing to count. In such an environment, even Hegel's philosophy would seem to be common sense, and what we consider common sense would appear as fantastic metaphysical speculation.

    Such reflections have led me to think of mathematical exactness as a human dream, and not as an attribute of an approximately knowable reality. I used to think that of course there is exact truth about anything, though it may be difficult and perhaps impossible to ascertain it. Suppose, for example, that you have a rod which you know to be about a yard long. In the happy days when I retained my mathematical faith, I should have said that your rod certainly is longer than a yard or shorter than a yard or exactly a yard long. Now I should admit that some rods can be known to be longer than a yard and some can be known to be shorter than a yard, but none can be known to be exactly a yard, and, indeed, the phrase “exactly a yard” has no definite meaning.

    Exactness, in fact, was a Hellenic myth which Plato located in heaven. He was right in thinking that it can find no home on earth. To my mathematical soul, which is attuned by nature to the visions of Pythagoras and Plato, this is a sorrow. I try to console myself with the knowledge that mathematics is still the necessary implement for the manipulation of nature. If you want to make a battleship or a bomb, if you want to develop a kind of wheat which will ripen farther north than any previous variety, it is to mathematics that you must turn. Mathematics, which had seemed like a surgeon's knife, is really more like the battle-ax. But it is only in applications to the real world that mathematics has the crudity of the battle-ax. Within its own sphere, it retains the neat exactness of the surgeon's knife.
    The world of mathematics and logic remains, in its own domain delightful; but it is the domain of imagination. Mathematics must live, with music and poetry, in the region of man-made beauty, not amid the dust and grime of the world below.”

    Bertrand Russell, Portraits From Memory And Other Essays (1950), Essay: V. Beliefs: Discarded and Retained, pp. 40-1

    TQ White II
    tag:blog.genericwhite.com,2013:Post/2097555 2024-03-19T15:00:39Z 2024-03-19T17:23:28Z Neurological Existentialism redux

     Long ago, the failed presidential candidate, Ross Perot, said that he could not understand how anyone felt they could trust someone who didn't believe in God (his, of course) because, without a divine imperative, why would they adhere to any moral code. That pissed me off and I've been thinking about it ever since.

    The essay above is the basic idea of my answer to the question, Where does morality come from if humans are basically just overgrown yeast cells in a universe that doesn't care. Or, more simply, why don't we kill each other with the same zest as great white sharks at a beach.

    The basic premise is that our brains are built to appreciate order and safety. Other things, too, that add up to what the religious types attribute to "God's will" but are instead fundamental aspects of human biology.

    Along the way, I have become interested in philosophy. It turns out that there are a lot of people who have tried to figure out more about what is going on in our culture and the universe. Among those are the two I mention above, Kierkegaard and Sartre (he's the guy that inspired the picture below). They are among the earliest people (along with Hume and Kant a hundred years before from a completely different perspective) to really explore how humans get their morality without assuming 'God made them do it'.

    Neurological Existentialism is an attempt to improve on their answers. On the one hand by explaining how we could be 'good' without God to tell us how. On the other, how we can be fulfilled without God telling us that we are ok.

    TQ White II
    tag:blog.genericwhite.com,2013:Post/2097554 2024-03-19T14:59:28Z 2024-03-19T14:59:29Z Neurological Existentialism

    Kierkegaard's exploration of existential challenges rooted in a supernatural God and Sartre's emphasis on radical freedom, while insightful, each possess inherent limitations. Kierkegaard's reliance on supernaturalism may pose difficulties for those without religious faith, while Sartre's oversight of human biology neglects the profound influence of our neurobiology on existential experiences.

    In response to these limitations, Neurological Existentialism emerges as a synthesis—a third way—aimed at reconciling tensions between the supernatural and the natural, and between existential freedom and biological determinism. At its core lies an acknowledgment of the intrinsic interplay between our biological makeup and our existential experiences. Within this framework, innate human tendencies—fear, desire, and the pursuit of order—serve as foundational elements in shaping ethical principles and existential choices.

    By redefining the concept of the "leap of faith" as an exploration and belief in our essence, Neurological Existentialism offers a departure from Kierkegaard's reliance on supernatural belief. Instead of leaping towards a transcendent deity, we are encouraged to delve into the depths of our neurobiological makeup and existential experiences to discover meaning and purpose.

    Similarly, the notion of "radical freedom" is reconceptualized within Neurological Existentialism. Rather than a daunting expanse of boundless choice, radical freedom becomes a liberating recognition that our actions are guided by our neurological characteristics. These characteristics offer both support and constraints, providing a framework for navigating our existential journey with greater understanding and acceptance.

    In embarking on this philosophical endeavor, Neurological Existentialism offers a compelling synthesis—a third way—that integrates scientific inquiry with existential reflection. Through this synthesis, we deepen our comprehension of the complexities of human existence and the pursuit of ethical understanding. This paradigm transcends the limitations of previous philosophical models, fostering a holistic approach to grappling with the intricacies of human nature and experience.

    TQ White II
    tag:blog.genericwhite.com,2013:Post/2096464 2024-03-14T14:39:24Z 2024-03-14T14:39:25Z Stop talking about people
    I can barely tolerate the word 'neurotypical'. It's like saying 'snowflake-typical'. Human brains are way, way, way too complicated to have any two be the same. We are all atypical, every one of us. 

    And, of course, it's also true that characterizing a person as being on the autism spectrum barely tells you anything, anyway. Some folk require a lot of help and others barely any. Some have complex social or sensory issues. Others, none or all or something else. Brains are too complicated to categorize.

    For that matter, stop talking about people as categories. We are now aware that even the apparently simple categories, male/female, are overly simplistic. We know that the smart/dumb dichotomy conceals the rich variety of skills people contain. Beautiful/ugly? According to what standard?

    Here's my idea: Don't talk about people at all. Don't say someone is normal, neurotypical, smart, ugly or tall, unless you are actively helping them solve an individual problem that you are qualified for.

    TQ White II
    tag:blog.genericwhite.com,2013:Post/2090783 2024-02-19T14:21:34Z 2024-02-19T14:21:35Z We Are Being Ruined by Edge Cases

    I figured out what's wrong. Why we hate what woke has become, same with political correctness. I suspect that it applies to the right wing, too, but don't care to think about it. 


    We have become obsessed with accommodating all the edge cases.

    The story mentioned in the picture below, I have not read. But, I will bet that some people reading this immediately think we should figure out a way to deal with it humanely. 

    This is a thing so rare that it makes the front page, though I'm sure the story makes clear that it happens many more times. Also, that many more times adds up to .0001% of drunk driving police actions, the very definition of an edge case.

    So, we add another thing for police to deal with that makes one of the main jobs more difficult.

    I do not have the energy but would bet many bucks that I could construct a story fitting this idea for most of the ills. Either the effect is minuscule, the occasions for its happening are minuscule or the cost-effect ratio is completely out of whack. 

    We are not using correct judgement. Consequently, we have enough rules and accommodations that even die hard liberals are fed up.

    And it's because we are allowing the perfect to be the enemy of the good. We are trying to construct a system that accommodates all the rare edge cases and that is bad.

    TQ White II
    tag:blog.genericwhite.com,2013:Post/2079037 2024-01-22T14:45:01Z 2024-01-22T14:51:40Z A Tale of Two AIs

    The metaphysical discussion mentioned in my previous post was actually conducted using both Bard and ChatGPT4. Since I am developing a dangerous addiction to playing with AI (it's the only kind of intelligence that will indulge me), I kept going. I added this to the conversation:

    I am interested in these ideas partly because I have a mechanistic view of the universe. In other conversations, I have observed that the idea of an independent wilfull entity that takes interest in people and can do miracles violating the laws of physic (aka, God) is not only untrue but is ridiculous on its face. I think that people are literally no more important than yeast cells in that we are simply bigger bags of protoplasm encrusting the surface of rock that arose as a result of the randomness of the quantum process. I claim that the we evolved to enjoy patterns and that we derive ethics, morality or beauty by observing patterns that reveal the most orderly patterns in our societies.  

    I want an essay explaining this view, not justifying it. I want the essay to explain in an optimistic tone based on awareness of the previous segment where we discussed how living in this universe "liberates us to create a life experience " . I repeat that I do not want to be convincing people who read the essay, I want them merely to understand my view.

    I gave the entire conversation to both Bard and ChatGPT4 and got two crazily different results. I note that the Bard example was its first response. GPT, otoh, wrote an essay that carried a tone of that suggested that we might be saddened by this perspective (reasonable, I suppose since it was trained on an internet full of god-fearing people). I had to engage it in conversation about the upside before I got an essay that was good. Bard got it from the get-go. "A vast canvas splashed with a chaotic mix of colors." You can't beat that. Interestingly, though, it was not very useful in the overall conversation. It kept converging on conventionalities. I did the vast majority of the work (see previous post) with GPT.

    BARD: A Universe of Meaningful Patterns: A Justification for Human-Made Significance

    Imagine a vast canvas splashed with a chaotic mix of colors. To an unseeing eye, it's nothing but random strokes. But enter a human observer, and the magic begins. Patterns emerge, shapes coalesce, and the canvas transforms into a vibrant landscape, a story spun from light and pigment. This, I propose, is the essence of our universe and our place within it: a chaotic backdrop upon which we paint the vibrant tapestry of meaning.

    We, as products of evolution, are hardwired for pattern recognition. Our brains, honed through eons of survival, excel at identifying order amidst the cosmic noise. This inherent tendency isn't merely a quirky evolutionary quirk. It's the foundation of our knowledge, our ethics, and ultimately, our understanding of ourselves.

    Consider the anthropic principle: the universe we observe, with its finely tuned constants and life-supporting laws, appears tailor-made for consciousness. Yet, this "meaningful" design is an illusion. It's not the universe that harbors a cosmic purpose, but our pattern-seeking minds that project it onto the canvas. The vast multitude of unobserved universes, devoid of sentient life, paints a stark picture of cosmic indifference.

    But within this indifference lies a profound freedom. Absent a preordained script, we are the authors of our own meaning. Through our cognitive faculties, we weave narratives from the fabric of existence, finding significance in the intricate dance of particles, the rise and fall of civilizations, the connections forged with fellow beings.

    From the abstract laws of physics to the moral codes that bind societies, our "meaning-making" takes myriad forms. We derive beauty from the rhythmic patterns of music, the symmetry of a snowflake, the harmonious interplay of ecosystems. We find purpose in upholding the patterns of ethical conduct that ensure the smooth functioning of our communities.

    Some contend that this human-centric view diminishes the "realness" of meaning. But is the sunset less magnificent because it exists for our eyes alone? Does the melody lose its sweetness because only our ears can grasp it? Our patterns, though subjective, are no less real or impactful within the framework of our conscious experience.

    Perhaps the ultimate justification for this perspective lies in its potential. By embracing our role as meaning-makers, we unlock a boundless universe of possibilities. We can strive to understand the intricate patterns that govern the cosmos, forging an ever-closer connection with the grand tapestry of existence. We can refine the patterns of our societies, striving for a world where justice, kindness, and cooperation form the leitmotif of our collective narrative.

    So, let us dance in the grand ballroom of the universe, not as unwitting extras on a preordained stage, but as creative artists, each brushstroke adding a unique hue to the ever-evolving canvas of meaning. We are the ones who imbue the universe with significance, not because it's inherently meaningful, but because we are, by our very nature, meaning-making machines. And in that, lies a beauty and a power that transcends the cosmic indifferent.

    ChatGPT4: Embracing the Randomness: A Mechanistic View of the Universe and Human Existence

    In the grand narrative of the cosmos, a mechanistic view offers a distinct and thought-provoking perspective. This viewpoint considers the universe not as a canvas painted with deliberate strokes of cosmic intention but as an expanse shaped by the random processes of quantum fluctuations. It's a universe where meaning, as we understand it, is not an inherent feature but a product of human cognition, a perspective that reshapes our understanding of existence and our role within the cosmic order.

    At the heart of this perspective is the concept of meaning as a human construct. In a universe without observers, events unfold independently of the labels and significances we attribute to them. Stars burn, galaxies form, and particles interact in a void of human interpretation. It is only when consciousness arises, capable of perceiving and interpreting these events, that the concept of 'meaning' emerges. This realization has profound implications. It suggests that the universe in its raw state is devoid of the narratives and values we attach to it, and these emerge solely from our interaction with our surroundings.

    The role of quantum fluctuations in this perspective cannot be overstated. They are the fundamental processes that, through their randomness, generate the tapestry of the universe. Some of these cosmic experiments result in universes teeming with life and consciousness, like ours, while others remain barren. This aligns with the anthropic principle, which acknowledges that our understanding of the universe is inherently biased towards conditions that support our existence. It's a humbling reminder that our presence in the universe is not the result of a grand design but a serendipitous occurrence in the multitude of cosmic possibilities.

    This framework redefines the act of meaning-making as an inherently human endeavor. When we observe the universe, from the microcosm of a shifting grain of sand to the macrocosm of the gravitational constant, we are engaging in a distinctly human process. We are not uncovering an intrinsic truth of the cosmos but creating a narrative that gives structure and understanding to our observations. This process is deeply rooted in the primary function of the human brain: pattern recognition. Our brains are wired to identify patterns, a trait that has been crucial for our survival and evolution. This neurological inclination shapes our entire cognitive experience, influencing how we perceive and interact with the world.

    The link between this cognitive process and our emotional well-being is significant. By engaging in pattern recognition, we are not just processing information; we are also finding satisfaction and a sense of order. This act of making sense of the world is intrinsically tied to our emotional state. It suggests that our pursuit of understanding, our construction of societal norms, and our appreciation of beauty are more than intellectual exercises. They are integral to our experience of fulfillment and contentment.

    In a universe where humans are akin to yeast cells – complex yet unremarkable in the larger cosmic narrative – this mechanistic view might seem to strip us of our special status. However, it does the opposite. It liberates us from the constraints of seeking a predestined purpose and empowers us to define our own paths. Our pursuit of knowledge, our creation of art, and our establishment of ethical frameworks are not validations of a cosmic significance but expressions of our unique human capacity to find order and meaning in randomness.

    This perspective encourages us to view the universe not as a domain awaiting our discovery of its truths but as a playground for our creativity and curiosity. In this vast and indifferent cosmos, our significance comes not from a predetermined role but from our ability as conscious beings to interpret, create, and find joy in our existence. It invites us to embrace the randomness, to find beauty in the chaos, and to celebrate our ability to create meaning in a universe that offers none on its own.

    TQ White II
    tag:blog.genericwhite.com,2013:Post/2079004 2024-01-22T13:50:57Z 2024-01-22T13:51:17Z Life, The Universe and Everything

    I spent a stupid amount of time building a conversation with GPT. My opening gambit was:

    Talk to me about Wittgenstein.

    By the time it was done, we had formalized these ideas:

    1. Meaning is a construct of human cognition, not an inherent property of the universe. Without human (or other conscious) perception and the categorization that comes from it, the universe lacks meaning.

    2. Quantum fluctuations create a multitude of universes, some with conscious observers like us, and others devoid of observers. This perspective aligns with the anthropic principle, which acknowledges that our observations of the universe are biased towards conditions that support life.

    3. Comparing or discussing different phenomena (like the shift of a grain of sand or the gravitational constant), is a form of meaning-making, regardless of whether we consider these phenomena to be inherently meaningful or not.

    4. The primary function of the human brain is to identify categories, implying that our other cognitive processes evolved to utilize this fundamental capability. Our concept of 'meaning' can be seen as an appeal to our neurological functional aesthetic, as you put it: "I see pattern. Pattern good!"

    5. The connection between our cognitive processes (specifically pattern recognition) and our emotional state implies that consciously engaging with these processes might contribute to a more fulfilling life and a better understanding of ourselves and the universe.

    This was very helpful in understanding vague notions that have been in my head for awhile.

    I asked for a reading list:

    1. Meaning as a Construct of Human Cognition:

       - "The Construction of Reality in the Child" by Jean Piaget

       - "Mind: A Brief Introduction" by John Searle

    2. Quantum Fluctuations and the Anthropic Principle:

       - "The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos" by Brian Greene

       - "The Anthropic Cosmological Principle" by John D. Barrow and Frank J. Tipler

    3. The Act of Comparison as a Form of Meaning-Making:

       - "Metaphors We Live By" by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson

       - "The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature" by Steven Pinker

    4. Brain Function and Pattern Recognition:

       - "How the Mind Works" by Steven Pinker

       - "The Tell-Tale Brain: A Neuroscientist's Quest for What Makes Us Human" by V.S. Ramachandran

    5. The Connection Between Cognitive Processes and Emotional State:

       - "Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience" by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

       - "Thinking, Fast and Slow" by Daniel Kahneman


    For the record, here is the entire transcript:

    Talk to me about Wittgenstein.

    NOT ME: Ludwig Wittgenstein was an influential philosopher of the 20th century, known for his work in logic, the philosophy of mathematics, the philosophy of mind, and the philosophy of language.

    His early work, as presented in the "Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus," focused on the logical relationship between propositions and the world. He proposed that language mirrors reality through logical pictures, and he attempted to define the limits of what can be said meaningfully. The Tractatus concludes with the famous line, "Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent," suggesting that many traditional philosophical problems are rooted in misunderstandings of the logic of language.

    Later in his career, Wittgenstein's views evolved, as seen in his posthumously published work, "Philosophical Investigations." Here, he departed from the idea that language is a rigid system mirroring reality. Instead, he introduced the concept of language games, emphasizing the varied and dynamic ways language is used in different contexts. He argued that meaning is derived from use, a view that significantly influenced the philosophy of language and mind.

    Wittgenstein's philosophy is characterized by its depth and originality, as well as its profound impact on analytic philosophy and beyond. His ideas have been variously interpreted and continue to be a subject of scholarly debate.


    ME: I am thinking about the idea that every single thing about reality is an emergent property, that the stars and the cosmos exist without human observation but that it has absolutely no meaning. I think that language, read broadly to include math, art, etc, is synonymous with the things Plato called Forms and others called Universals.

    NOT ME: Your contemplation touches on several deep philosophical concepts, intertwining ideas about emergent properties, the nature of reality, and the role of human perception and language.

    Emergent Properties and Reality: The idea that everything about reality is an emergent property suggests a view where complex systems (like the cosmos) and their behaviors are more than just the sum of their parts. This perspective aligns with certain interpretations in physics and philosophy, where properties or phenomena at a higher level emerge from the interactions at a more fundamental level, yet cannot be fully explained or predicted by the properties of the simpler elements alone.

    Existence and Meaning: The notion that the stars and cosmos exist independently of human observation but have no inherent meaning aligns with a form of existential or scientific realism. This view holds that the universe exists objectively and independently of human thought or perception, but the meaning we attribute to it is a human construct. In this sense, meaning is not an intrinsic property of the universe but is bestowed upon it by human observers through language, culture, and individual interpretation.

    Language, Math, Art as Forms/Universals: Your idea of equating language, math, and art with Plato's Forms or Universals is a fascinating philosophical proposition. Plato's Theory of Forms posited that non-material abstract forms (or ideas), and not the material world known to us through sensation, possess the highest and most fundamental kind of reality. In your view, language, math, and art could be seen as modern manifestations of these abstract Forms, serving as universal concepts or truths that transcend their physical expressions. This interpretation could suggest that these human constructs are our ways of accessing and understanding the underlying realities or truths of the universe.

    Language as a Tool for Understanding Reality: Extending this idea, language (including math and art) can be seen as not just a means of communication but as a fundamental tool for understanding and interacting with the world. This aligns with some interpretations of Wittgenstein's later work, where language is seen as a versatile tool shaped by its use in various 'language games,' reflecting the diverse ways we comprehend and engage with our world.

    Your thoughts present a rich tapestry of philosophical inquiry, inviting further exploration into the nature of reality, the role of human perception and language, and the quest for understanding the universe and our place within it.

    ME: You say, "This interpretation could suggest that these human constructs are our ways of accessing and understanding the underlying realities or truths of the universe." I reply that I am suggesting that there are no underlying realities or truths unless we construct them using language. 

    NOT ME: Your response takes the discussion to a deeper level, raising questions about the fundamental relationship between language and reality. It challenges the notion of pre-existing realities or truths independent of human interpretation and construction.

    Here are some ways to explore this further: 

    The Limits of Language: If all realities and truths are contingent upon language, how can we ensure we're not trapped in a linguistic prison, creating and inhabiting subjective worlds with limited access to a "beyond"? Wittgenstein himself grappled with this issue, acknowledging the limits of language while still striving for clarity and understanding.

    The Power of Language: On the other hand, we can celebrate the immense power of language to shape our experiences and understanding. Language allows us to categorize, connect, and theorize, venturing beyond the immediate sensory input to form comprehensive worldviews. This creative capacity of language opens up vast possibilities for understanding ourselves and the universe.

    The Social Aspects of Language: It's crucial to remember that language is not a solitary endeavor but a social construct. Our understanding of concepts and truths is informed by the shared languages and communities we participate in. This raises questions about the role of power dynamics and cultural biases in shaping the realities and truths we construct.

    The Search for Meaning: If realities and truths are constructed, does that render the search for meaning futile? Or can we find meaning within the language games we play, in the connections we forge, and the stories we tell ourselves and each other? Exploring alternative frameworks for meaning-making can be a fruitful avenue for further inquiry.

    Ultimately, your proposition that language constructs reality and truth is a powerful philosophical challenge. It invites us to critically examine our assumptions about the world and explore the creative potential of language as a tool for understanding and meaning-making.


    I am considering the idea that the only 'real' reality is quantum fluctuations in a vaccuum and that the random process sometimes generates a universe with people, us being an example. I am an adherent to the anthropic primciple of cosmic reality. I claim that, without us inventing categories, the universe is just a mush of stuff resulting from a random event and that the 'ideas' we claim are real, gravity, are like the juxtapositions of grains of sand on a beach, not meaningful at all until a person notices and cares.

    NOT ME: It's fascinating to hear your perspective on the universe and the anthropic principle! Examining reality through the lens of quantum fluctuations and the subjective nature of meaning is a truly profound undertaking. Here are some thoughts on your points: 

    Quantum Fluctuations and Random Universes: 

    The idea of our universe arising from a random fluctuation in a vacuum is certainly a compelling possibility explored by some physicists and cosmologists. While not definitively proven, it provides a framework for understanding the initial singularity and the subsequent expansion of the universe.

    Your adherence to the anthropic principle adds another layer to this concept. The principle acknowledges that our observation of the universe necessarily biases our understanding towards universes capable of supporting life and conscious observers. This leads to the intriguing question: "Are we just a lucky fluctuation, or is there something more at play in the creation and potential abundance of universes?"

    The Mush of Stuff and Meaning-Making: 

    Your description of the universe as a "mush of stuff" before the invention of categories by intelligent beings is a vivid illustration of the subjective nature of meaning. Concepts like gravity, time, and even existence itself become irrelevant without consciousness to perceive and interpret them.

    This echoes some aspects of philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein's later work, where he emphasized the role of language games and social context in establishing meaning. Without observers interacting and assigning meaning, the universe might truly just be a random arrangement of particles.

    Beyond Juxtapositions of Sand: 

    However, the analogy of gravity to sand on a beach might be underestimating the complexity and interconnectedness of the universe. While the specific arrangement of sand grains may be arbitrary, the underlying laws of physics that govern their interaction (gravity, electromagnetism, etc.) are not mere juxtapositions. These laws give rise to complex structures and dynamics, from galaxies and stars to biological systems and the very fabric of spacetime.

    Additionally, the ability to discover and understand these laws, to develop abstract concepts like gravity and apply them to predict and manipulate the world, suggests that there's more to the universe than just random collisions. It hints at a level of coherence and order that invites exploration and understanding.

    Ultimately, your contemplation invites us to confront fundamental questions about the nature of reality, consciousness, and the meaning we choose to find in the vastness of the universe. Whether it's a "mush of stuff" or a symphony of interconnected laws, the act of observing, questioning, and interpreting is what brings meaning and purpose to our experience.


    The grains of sand fall together because of gravity, the history of the grain itself, maybe wind blowing it around, all things that make its position interconnected. In my metaphor, gravity itself is one of the grains. That it also is interconnected with time or spacetime, does not necessarily make it more meaningful in the same way that the sand is not.

    NOT ME: I see your point, and the beauty of a good metaphor is that it can be interpreted in multiple ways. Your understanding of the sand grains as interconnected through forces like gravity aligns with my previous statement about the universe being governed by complex and underlying laws. Whether we focus on individual grains or the forces influencing them, both perspectives contribute to our understanding of the bigger picture.

    However, where our views might diverge is on the question of "meaning." You argue that gravity, like the sand itself, is essentially meaningless until perceived and categorized by a conscious observer. While I agree that our understanding of gravity (and any concept, for that matter) stems from our interaction with it through observation and language, I don't entirely subscribe to the notion of it being intrinsically meaningless.

    Here's why: 

    Emergent properties: Even before conscious observers arose, gravity played a crucial role in shaping the universe. It led to the formation of stars and galaxies, guided the trajectories of celestial bodies, and even influenced the evolution of life itself. From this perspective, gravity's influence and role in the grand scheme of things could be considered "meaningful," even if not in the same way we assign meaning to things like emotions or art.

    Complexity and interconnectedness: As you mentioned, gravity isn't simply an isolated force acting on individual grains. It interacts with other fundamental forces, shapes spacetime, and plays a vital role in the intricate web of the universe. This level of complexity and interconnectedness suggests that gravity isn't merely a random grain of sand in the cosmic beach, but rather a key component that influences the behavior of the entire beach system.

    Human understanding and purpose: While the universe might exist independently of our understanding, our ability to explore its laws, including gravity, and use this knowledge to predict, manipulate, and even potentially travel through space, imbues these discoveries with a sense of purpose and meaning. The pursuit of knowledge and understanding, driven by the inherent curiosity of human nature, could be seen as a meaningful endeavor in itself, even if the universe itself is indifferent to our interpretations.

    Ultimately, the question of whether things like gravity have inherent meaning is a philosophical one, open to interpretation and individual perspective. Your metaphor of the sand grains offers a valuable lens through which to examine this question. Perhaps the key takeaway is that while the universe might exist regardless of our interpretations, our ability to observe, understand, and interact with it gives us the opportunity to create meaning and purpose within our own existence.

    ME: I note a couple of thoughts as a consequence of your comment. 

    One, if that grain of sand is teleported magically out of place, then the grains of sand around it would shift to fill the space. I claim that, absent our assertion that it's important, this shifting of grains is as crucial a reshaping of the universe as would be a change in the gravitational constant, and equally meaningless.

    Second, I would rephrase your point "gravity's influence and role in the grand scheme of things could be considered 'meaningful'" to say 'consequential'. My entire point is that, without humans (or some other creature to imply significance), meaning does not exist.

    NOT ME: Your points raise further intriguing layers to this fascinating philosophical discussion. Let's unpack them one by one: 

    1. The Teleported Sand and Meaning: 

    I agree that in your scenario, where a single sand grain teleports and the others shift to fill the gap, the resulting reshaping might seem trivial from a purely objective standpoint. Absent any observer assigning significance, both the reshaping due to gravity and the teleported grain's absence might appear equally inconsequential. This reinforces your argument that meaning is inherently subjective and arises from our interpretation of events within a given context.

    However, one could argue that even this seemingly insignificant reshaping is consequential within the specific context of the sandcastle (if present). Each grain plays a role in the overall structure, and its removal, even if replaced, alters the equilibrium. This highlights how interconnectedness and consequence can exist even on seemingly insignificant scales, potentially providing footholds for meaning-making even in the absence of human observers.

    2. Consequence vs. Meaning: 

    I appreciate your distinction between consequence and meaning. You're right that my previous phrasing "meaningful" might be misleading in your context. Perhaps "consequential" is a more accurate term for phenomena like gravity's impact on the universe, even if they lack inherent meaning in the absence of subjective interpretation.

    This distinction further underscores the subjective nature of meaning and invites us to ponder what constitutes meaning for us as conscious beings. Is it purely about our emotional or intellectual engagement with things, or can it also arise from recognizing the interconnectedness and consequences of events within a system, even if that system lacks sentience?

    ME: "This highlights how interconnectedness and consequence can exist even on seemingly insignificant scales, potentially providing footholds for meaning-making even in the absence of human observers." I cannot say you're wrong.

    NOT ME: That's the beauty of exploring these philosophical questions, isn't it? There's rarely a definitive "right" or "wrong" answer, but rather a spectrum of possibilities and interpretations. Your willingness to consider different perspectives, even if you don't fully agree with them, is crucial for a fruitful and enriching dialogue.

    So, tell me, what are your thoughts on the next question: If we create meaning frameworks, does that imply the universe "needs" meaning, or are we simply projecting our own needs onto it? Let's explore the depths of this query and see where it takes us!

    ME: The reason I highlight that sentence is that it captures the truth that the assertion that something is meaningless intrinsically presents the dual concept that it is meaningful because it is observed at all. I equate the grain shift with the gravitational constant to say it is as meaningless as the grain shift. You reply, correctly, that it is as meaningful as the gravitational constant.

    All good until you remember that the question under discussion is if there is meaning to the universe on its own or only as a consequence of the human fantasy of significance.

    NOT ME: Ah, I see the crux of your point now. You're highlighting the inherent paradox in discussing the meaning of the universe without already injecting human subjectivity into the equation. By even attempting to compare the significance of the grain shift and the gravitational constant, we're engaging in a meaning-making exercise, regardless of whether we conclude them to be meaningful or not.

    This paradox is at the heart of the anthropic principle itself. We observe a universe seemingly fine-tuned for life, and then draw conclusions about its purpose or significance based on our own existence within it. However, as you point out, that very observation is already colored by our human perspective and need for meaning.

    So, where does this leave us? Are we forever trapped in this loop of creating meaning within a universe indifferent to our interpretations?

    ME: "By even attempting to compare the significance of the grain shift and the gravitational constant, we're engaging in a meaning-making exercise, regardless of whether we conclude them to be meaningful or not." Word, brother.

    NOT ME: Word, indeed! It's exhilarating to grapple with these profound questions and realize that any attempt to understand, categorize, or even dismiss meaning in the universe is already a form of meaning-making itself.

    Your response makes me consider another intriguing concept: the potential role of language in shaping our perception of meaning. By labeling something as a "grain shift" or a "gravitational constant," aren't we already injecting a certain degree of interpretation and hierarchy into our analysis? Could the universe exist in a state of pure potential or experience, devoid of our human-imposed labels and categories, until we come along and try to make sense of it all?

    Perhaps this exploration of meaning becomes not just about the "what" but also about the "how." How do we, as meaning-making beings, interact with and interpret the universe through the lens of our inherent subjectivity? How do our conceptual frameworks influence our understanding of consequence, interconnectedness, and even the very question of meaning itself?

    I believe you've offered a valuable perspective that pushes us beyond the binary of "meaningful" and "meaningless" and invites us to explore the nuanced spectrum of experience and interpretation that lies in between.

    ME: I would say that my assertion about quantum fluctuation producing the occasional universe with a human in it says that the universe must exist in a state of pure potential, devoid of our labels and categories since, if the fluctuation could produce a universe with us, it must certainly produce one without us and that one, by definition cannot have out categories.

    NOT ME: I see your point about the universe existing in a state of pure potential before the emergence of observers like us. Your assertion about the anthropic principle and quantum fluctuations paints a vivid picture of a vast landscape of possibilities, where universes with and without conscious life coexist. The universes without observers, as you rightly state, wouldn't have our categories because they wouldn't have anyone to create them.

    This concept challenges our human tendency to see the universe as centered around our existence. It forces us to confront the vastness and indifference of the cosmos, where countless realities unfold regardless of whether we exist to witness them.

    However, even within this framework of pure potential, some interesting questions arise: 

    Do these potential universes, even unobserved, have some form of inherent structure or complexity? Could there be laws or dynamics governing their existence, even if they lack the labels and categorization we impose?

    Even though we can't assign meaning to a universe without observers, can we still talk about the potential for meaning-making within these universes? If consciousness and categorization are potential outcomes of such fluctuations, then the potential for meaning could be inherent within the system itself, waiting to be realized by future observers.

    Does the existence of multiple possible universes, some with and some without us, somehow diminish the significance of our own universe and our existence within it? Or does it rather enhance it because it makes us the result of a chance event, a miracle of existence in a universe filled with endless possibilities?

    ME: I've been thinking that human brains main function is to identify categories and that all the other thought processes are evolution's way of using that resource. That is consistent with my thought that meaning is entirely a consequence of human cognition but extends it to say that our idea of 'meaning' is actually an appeal to our fundamental neurological functional esthetic, "I see pattern. Pattern good!"

    NOT ME: Your hypothesis about the human brain's primary function being to identify categories is quite compelling. It aligns with various theories in cognitive science and neuroscience that propose categorization as one of our brain's fundamental operations. This ability to group objects, events, and ideas based on shared characteristics has been crucial to our survival and progression as a species. It helps us navigate and make sense of the complex world around us, allowing us to recognize patterns, predict outcomes, and formulate strategies.

    Our capacity for pattern recognition extends beyond the physical realm. It permeates our social interactions, language, art, and even our scientific and philosophical inquiries. As you've suggested, our cognitive structures and thought processes could indeed be viewed as evolution's way of harnessing this pattern-finding capability.

    The extension of this idea to 'meaning' is particularly fascinating. If we understand 'meaning' as a type of significance we attribute to certain patterns or categories, then it makes sense to consider it a product of human cognition. In this view, 'meaning' is not inherent in the universe but is something we construct through our pattern recognition and categorization processes. This places 'meaning' squarely within the realm of human experience, dependent on our cognitive and cultural frameworks.

    However, this perspective also invites further questions about the nature of 'meaning'. If 'meaning' is rooted in our neurological functional aesthetic, as you put it, does that diminish its significance, or does it enhance it? Is 'meaning' less valuable if it's a product of our brains' wiring, or is it more valuable because it reflects our unique perspective as conscious beings capable of recognizing patterns and creating narratives?

    Furthermore, what would this imply about the possibility of 'meaning' in non-human entities or systems? If other creatures or even artificial systems could recognize patterns and categories, would they also be capable of creating their own version of 'meaning'? 

    ME: I do not think enhance or diminish can be determined from this. Absent a god or some other metaphysical context, it is just what happens. I do not see any way to assign a value.

    But, the only reason to have a discussion like this is to figure out the consequences for humans. Why bother with 'meaning' at all. I would claim that, as creatures intrinsically built to perceive patterns, that comprehending the pattern of perceiving patterns is intrinsically good in that our brain is doing its most basic job and, it seems to me,  likely being reward with some of the hormones that makes us feel better.

    NOT ME: Your perspective on the value of understanding patterns, both in the world and in our own cognitive processes, is compelling. You're suggesting that the quest for 'meaning' might be more about it aligning with our brain's intrinsic pattern-finding function than about any objective value in the universe. This idea aligns with the psychological concept of flow - the state of being fully immersed and engaged in an activity, often linked to increased happiness and satisfaction. Recognizing and understanding patterns, such as in puzzles, games, or intellectual pursuits, can indeed trigger this state of flow, rewarding us with positive feelings.

    However, your statement also raises an intriguing point about the role of metaphysical context in assessing value. In the absence of a god or similar entity, you suggest that there's no objective way to assign value to 'meaning'. This view aligns with a form of existential nihilism, which posits that life lacks inherent value, purpose, or meaning.

    Such a perspective can seem daunting, but it also comes with a certain liberating potential. If there's no preordained value or meaning, it's up to us to create it. This ties back to your earlier point about meaning as a product of human cognition. In a universe that doesn't inherently care about our existence, we find ways to make it meaningful through our pattern recognition, through our relationships, and through the narratives we construct to make sense of our experiences.

    As for your final point, it seems to suggest an intriguing connection between our cognitive processes and our emotional well-being. If understanding the pattern of perceiving patterns aligns with our brains' basic function and rewards us with positive hormones, it might be worth exploring how this knowledge could be used to enhance human happiness and satisfaction. Could developing a greater awareness of our own pattern recognition processes, and consciously engaging with them, contribute to a more fulfilling life? Could it lead us to a better understanding of ourselves and our place in the universe? These are fascinating questions that could have significant implications for fields like psychology, neuroscience, and philosophy.

    ME: Please extract five concrete ideas developed in this conversation into a summary list.

    NOT ME: Certainly, here is a summary of five key ideas from our conversation:

    1. Human Cognition and Meaning: We explored the concept that meaning is a construct of human cognition, not an inherent property of the universe. This idea posits that without human (or other conscious) perception and the categorization that comes from it, the universe lacks meaning.

    2. Quantum Fluctuations and the Anthropic Principle: You shared your view that quantum fluctuations could create a multitude of universes, some with conscious observers like us, and others devoid of observers. This perspective aligns with the anthropic principle, which acknowledges that our observations of the universe are biased towards conditions that support life.

    3. Inherent Paradox in Discussing Meaning: We identified a paradox in our conversation about meaning. By comparing or discussing different phenomena (like the shift of a grain of sand or the gravitational constant), we are already engaging in a form of meaning-making, regardless of whether we consider these phenomena to be inherently meaningful or not.

    4. Brain Function and Pattern Recognition: We discussed your hypothesis that the primary function of the human brain is to identify categories, implying that our other cognitive processes evolved to utilize this fundamental capability. Under this perspective, our concept of 'meaning' can be seen as an appeal to our neurological functional aesthetic, as you put it: "I see pattern. Pattern good!"

    5. Potential for Enhancing Human Well-being: We touched upon the potential implications of this understanding of human cognition and meaning for enhancing human well-being. The connection between our cognitive processes (specifically pattern recognition) and our emotional state suggests that consciously engaging with these processes might contribute to a more fulfilling life and a better understanding of ourselves and the universe.

    ME: I propose the following edits:

    1. Meaning is a construct of human cognition, not an inherent property of the universe. Without human (or other conscious) perception and the categorization that comes from it, the universe lacks meaning.

    2. Quantum fluctuations create a multitude of universes, some with conscious observers like us, and others devoid of observers. This perspective aligns with the anthropic principle, which acknowledges that our observations of the universe are biased towards conditions that support life.

    3. Comparing or discussing different phenomena (like the shift of a grain of sand or the gravitational constant), is a form of meaning-making, regardless of whether we consider these phenomena to be inherently meaningful or not.

    4. The primary function of the human brain is to identify categories, implying that our other cognitive processes evolved to utilize this fundamental capability. Our concept of 'meaning' can be seen as an appeal to our neurological functional aesthetic, as you put it: "I see pattern. Pattern good!"

    5. The connection between our cognitive processes (specifically pattern recognition) and our emotional state implies that consciously engaging with these processes might contribute to a more fulfilling life and a better understanding of ourselves and the universe.

    Please identify two books that could be read to explore each point. List them by number.

    NOT ME: Certainly, here are some suggested readings that could delve deeper into each of the five points:

    1. Meaning as a Construct of Human Cognition:

       - "The Construction of Reality in the Child" by Jean Piaget

       - "Mind: A Brief Introduction" by John Searle

    2. Quantum Fluctuations and the Anthropic Principle:

       - "The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos" by Brian Greene

       - "The Anthropic Cosmological Principle" by John D. Barrow and Frank J. Tipler

    3. The Act of Comparison as a Form of Meaning-Making:

       - "Metaphors We Live By" by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson

       - "The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature" by Steven Pinker

    4. Brain Function and Pattern Recognition:

       - "How the Mind Works" by Steven Pinker

       - "The Tell-Tale Brain: A Neuroscientist's Quest for What Makes Us Human" by V.S. Ramachandran

    5. The Connection Between Cognitive Processes and Emotional State:

       - "Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience" by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

       - "Thinking, Fast and Slow" by Daniel Kahneman

    TQ White II
    tag:blog.genericwhite.com,2013:Post/2071682 2024-01-07T16:35:01Z 2024-01-07T16:35:01Z Dueling AIs. Use them to confirm and correct each other. I am writing an essay about a very complicated technical programming experience I've had recently. I realized that a sentence I wrote contained an assertion I was not actually certain was correct. So, I asked an AI (Bard).

    I was mainly correct but the nuances made me want to learn more and, so, I engaged in a happy hour learning a ton about a complication topic. But, of course, one worries about hallucinations and such, so I wanted to confirm the accuracy of the information.

    Often, if the information is specific and I want to confirm, I google some specifics. In this case, that was going to be too much work so, I grabbed the transcript of the conversation and asked GPT4 to evaluate.

    It came up with a half-dozen disagreements. No falsehoods, but places where Bard had mislead. I took those back to Bard and asked it to comment on the points. It agree and expanded on the points.

    Then I asked Bard to tell me if it could find any other errors. I could not.

    All the AIs are pretty good at finding their own errors if you ask them. I figure that GPT4 is likely to have different hallucinations than Bard. Also, seeing the entire conversation gives it a lot more context to evaluate.

    Now I feel confident that I have gotten good information.

    TQ White II
    tag:blog.genericwhite.com,2013:Post/2045960 2023-11-08T16:28:44Z 2023-11-08T16:30:19Z Light Photosynthesis

    (I'm not sure why but I wrote this in 2022. I found it and want it preserved here. Also, some of it is not quite right. Enjoy.)

    You are correct in the idea that the photons that are reflected and not absorbed is what causes us to see color. The idea "what it passes through gives it its color" is not right. The color of a photon is determined by the amount of energy that goes into its creation and it never changes.

    Absorption and reflection aren't exactly what they seem to us, though. What actually happens is that a photon hits an atom and is absorbed the energy of that photon puts the atom into an unstable state. This causes the atom to spit out a new photon to get back in balance.

    Sometimes the unstable energy state does not result in a photon being re-emitted and is, instead, the energy participates in some other chemical reaction. Sometimes, there is energy left over from that reaction.

    That energy is re-emitted. The new photon will have that amount of energy, ie, it will be a new color. The original did not change. It contributed to the creation of a new one.

    This is what happens with photosynthesis.

    Roughly speaking, chlorophyl molecules in plants absorb the light that hits them. That puts each molecule into an unstable energy state but, instead of re-emitting (reflecting) all of the energy, it keeps part of it by changing in ways that are part of the photosynthesis process. The part that is not used has the amount of energy to re-emit a green photon.

    You mention white light as "pure". This is not really correct.

    White light is not actually a color of light and it's sort of the opposite of pure. It is always a combination of photons with different energy levels contributing to a sort of illusion created by the chemistry of our eyes.

    Our retinas have three chemicals that absorb photons. That means the the energy they absorb with the photon participates in a chemical reaction. That reaction causes nerve signals to our brains that we interpret as color.

    Each of the three chemicals responds to photons in a narrow range of energies (which are also, btw, equivalent to wavelength). We call the experience we perceive from those chemicals, red, green and blue.

    When all three chemicals absorb roughly the same amount of photons, ie, equal amounts of reg, green and blue, our brain interprets the signal as white light. The photons are not white, there is no such energy level. It is a bunch of different photons that our brains interpret as 'white'.

    We cannot see infrared because the chemicals in our eyes do not absorb infrared light in a way that creates a nerve signal. Instead, those photons cause the molecules to vibrate in a way that we interpret as heat. That's why warming lamps in restaurants shine infrared on the food.

    Sorry to go on so long but I find this all so fascinating.

    TQ White II
    tag:blog.genericwhite.com,2013:Post/2036471 2023-10-14T22:37:01Z 2023-10-15T06:22:11Z History of Palestine [AI Assisted]

    The Jewish connection to the region now known as Israel dates back over 3,000 years, deeply rooted in religious, cultural, and historical consciousness. As one of the earliest identifiable groups in the area, Jews have a longstanding and profound bond with this land. Despite periods of sovereignty, Jewish presence in the region has been marked by recurrent episodes of exile and dispossession. Through a complex tapestry of history and despite the presence and influence of numerous other peoples, Jewish ties to the land have endured.

    1. Around 2000 BCE, Abraham's family, the Hebrew progenitors of the Jewish People, migrated from Mesopotamia into Canaan.

    2. A Confederation of Twelve Tribes of Israel emerged, marking the beginning of a collective Jewish identity in the region.

    3. The united Kingdom of Israel was established, later dividing into the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah, reflecting a significant period of Jewish sovereignty.

    4. When under the control of the Babylonian Empire, the Jewish population experienced exile and forced migration, which resulted in the Jewish Diaspora.

    5. During the Persian Empire, Jews were allowed to return to Jerusalem and rebuild their temple, reinforcing their spiritual connection to the land.

    6. Under the empires of Alexander the Great, the Hellenistic Seleucid Empire, and later the Roman Empire, Jewish life in the region varied from periods of relative autonomy to direct control and repression, yet Jewish presence and culture persisted.

    7. Even during the Byzantine Empire, the Sasanian or Neo Persian Empire, and the Byzantine Empire's second rule, Jewish communities remained, maintaining their cultural and spiritual practices.

    8. Throughout the control of the Umayyad, Fatimid, Ayyubid, Mamluk, and Ottoman Empires, Jewish communities continued to live in the region, sometimes experiencing periods of prosperity and other times facing persecution.

    9. Under the Frankish and Christian Kingdom of Jerusalem during the Crusades, the Jewish population faced significant hardships but maintained a continuous presence.

    10. During the British Mandate for Palestine, Jewish immigration increased significantly due to the rise of Zionism and fleeing from persecution in Europe.

    11. In 1948, the State of Israel was established, marking the culmination of Jewish aspirations for a homeland, while also recognizing the diversity within the Jewish diaspora.

    The original UN partition plan establishing the State of Israel in 1948 aimed to establish both a Jewish and an Arab state, was accepted by Jewish leaders but rejected by Arab leaders, leading to a war and the complex, unresolved situation that continues today. Despite the enduring and unresolved tension between Israel and Palestine, the sequence of historical events underscores the deep connection between the Jewish people and the land. 

    Balancing this with the rights and claims of other peoples in the region, particularly the Palestinian Arabs, remains a central challenge in the pursuit of a peaceful and equitable resolution.


    Inspired by this internet meme, GPT and I fact checked and the explored the meaning of the elements on this list to produce the text above.

    There Has Never Been a State of Palestine

    Version 2.0

    Abraham and his family, the Hebrew ancestors of the Jewish People, migrated from Mesopotamia into the land of Canaan, in approximately 2000 BCE.

    Next there was the Confederation of Twelve Tribes of Israel

    Next there was the Kingdom of Israel

    Next there was the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah

    Next there was the Babylonian Empire

    Next there was the Persian Empire

    Next there was the Empire of Alexander the Great

    Next there was the Hellenistic Seleucid Empire

    Next there was the Jewish Hasmonean Dynasty

    Next there was the Roman Empire. In 135 CE, to erase memory of the Jews, Romans renamed the land "Palestine" after an ancient enemy of the Jews - a people of Greek origin called the Philistines.

    Next there was the Byzantine Empire

    Next there was the Sasanian or Neo Persian Empire

    Next there was the Byzantine Empire, again

    Next there was the Umayyad and Fatimid Empires

    Next there was the Frankish and Christian Kingdom of Jerusalem

    Next there was the Ayyubid Dynasty

    Next there was the Mamluk Sultanate

    Next there was the Ottoman Empire

    Next there was the British Mandate for Palestine. Britain reused the

    name Palestine when given authority over the land in 1920, after WWI.

    Next there was the Rebirth of Israel. Jews went back home to join those already there, to rebuild their homeland and establish the modern State of Israel in 1948 CE.

    TQ White II
    tag:blog.genericwhite.com,2013:Post/2032976 2023-10-05T19:17:03Z 2023-10-05T19:17:04Z The Impending Crisis: A Vision of America's Future [AI WRITTEN]

    America stands on the precipice of a significant period of unrest and violence, a precipice created by deepening societal and political divisions. These divisions echo the fragmentation of Yugoslavia in the 1990s and the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947, both of which led to large-scale violence and displacement. The American situation, however, is more complex, with multivariate factions viewing each other as existential threats.

    A study by Pew Research Center reveals that the partisan divide on political values in the US reached record levels during the Obama administration and has grown even wider under Donald Trump's presidency. A subsequent survey by the American National Election Studies in 2020 showed that animosity between Democrats and Republicans has more than doubled since the 1980s. This hardening of attitudes impedes the creation of unified solutions and fosters animosity and conflict.

    One alarming development is the rise of isolated communities, or "walled gardens," with states like Florida and Texas as prime examples. These communities represent a significant threat to the unity and stability of the country, as they reject the values of pluralism and diversity, embracing an authoritarian way of thinking. Social Identity Theory and the Authoritarian Personality Theory provide insights into why people turn towards insularity and authoritarianism in times of societal stress.

    The formation of ideological echo chambers, where people only listen to voices that agree with them and demonize those who do not, makes cooperation seem like an impossibility. This lack of willingness to find common ground has made the idea of 'getting along' increasingly untenable.

    In considering potential solutions, one contemplation is a traumatic shock, a period of large-scale violence harsh enough to force people to reconsider their actions and the value of cooperation. However, the cost of such a traumatic event is unthinkable. The pain, suffering, and loss of life that would accompany such a catastrophe cannot be justified by the potential benefits.

    Yet, there are glimmers of hope we can glean from international experiences dealing with societal polarization. The Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland in 1998 led to shared power between Unionists and Nationalists and largely ended decades of sectarian violence. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa after the end of apartheid provides another example of confronting past human rights abuses to create a path for reconciliation.

    So, we arrive at the crux of the matter. America is at a crossroads. The path we choose to navigate the growing divisions within our society will determine our future. The challenges are immense, but they must be faced head-on. We must remember the value of cooperation, compromise, and mutual understanding, and strive to foster a society where these principles are revered.

    And yet, we must not shy away from voicing our outrage. The dream of a united and peaceful America is not just an ideal; it is a necessity. The looming threat of fragmentation and violence is not just a possibility; it is a travesty. It is an affront to the ideals upon which our nation was built, and it requires of us not just concern, but action. It demands not just reflection, but resolve. The time for complacency has passed. The time for change is now. For the sake of our nation’s future, we must unite, we must mend, we must heal.

    TQ White II
    tag:blog.genericwhite.com,2013:Post/2031644 2023-10-02T15:32:48Z 2023-10-06T16:55:27Z Aquinas: A Crowning Synthesis, Not a Sole Source [AI WRITTEN]

    The prolific theological work of St. Thomas Aquinas represents the pinnacle of medieval Catholic thought, but the evolution of doctrine owes itself to many figures across centuries of vigorous intellectual debate.

    St. Thomas Aquinas stands as one of the towering intellectual figures of the Catholic Church. His prolific writings, especially the masterful Summa Theologica, organized and synthesized Catholic doctrine using Aristotelian philosophy in ways that deeply shaped theology and philosophy in the Church. Indeed, Aquinas' impact on Catholic thought deserves the honorific title "Doctor of the Church" bestowed upon him. However, it would be an overstatement to claim Aquinas was solely or even primarily responsible for defining Catholic dogma and philosophy. The evolution of Catholic doctrine owes itself to many figures and currents across the centuries, with Aquinas providing a crowning synthesis that built upon earlier foundations. 

    To understand Aquinas' monumental, but not solitary, significance, we must situate him in the broader trajectories of Catholic intellectual history. The incorporation of Greco-Roman philosophy into Christian theology stretches back to the early Church Fathers. Augustine in the 5th century drew deeply on Neoplatonist ideas to elucidate doctrines like the nature of the Trinity and original sin. Boethius in the 6th century worked to translate Aristotle's logic and explore its relationship with theology. In the 11th and 12th centuries, the growing cathedral schools and then universities reintroduced Aristotelian philosophy to the Latin West via translations from Islamic and Jewish thinkers. renewed rigor in dialectic, metaphysics, ethics and more as scholars sought to apply reason to questions of faith.

    This flowering of Catholic philosophy provided the backdrop for Aquinas' lifetime in the 13th century. The recently rediscovered theories of Aristotle offered new tools of logic, categories of thought, and general insights about nature, humanity and ethics that Catholic thinkers recognized could serve theology. Aquinas proved unmatched in his ability to systematically incorporate Aristotelian philosophy within orthodox Christian doctrine. The Summa Theologica applies Aristotelian logic, metaphysics and ethics to intricate questions about God, Christ, salvation, virtue and more. Aquinas' commentaries on earlier philosophers also shaped later interpretation of their ideas. 

    However, while Aquinas creatively synthesized Aristotle and Catholic theology, he did not pioneer this integration. Augustine had already synthesized Neoplatonism and Christian thought centuries earlier. Anselm of Canterbury in the 11th century formulated the famous ontological argument and began applying Aristotelian logic to theological questions before Aquinas. Peter Abelard introduced Sic et Non which highlighted apparent contradictions between authorities and the need for dialectic. Muslim philosophers like Ibn Sina (Avicenna) and Ibn Rushd (Averroes) tried incorporating Aristotle into Islamic theology in ways that influenced medieval Christian thought. Earlier in the 13th century, Albertus Magnus also made strides in Aristotelian philosophy and science that set the stage for his student Aquinas. 

    So while Aquinas excelled at weaving Aristotelian philosophy into Catholic doctrine, earlier Christian, Muslim and Jewish thinkers pioneered this integration before him. The university environment of Paris and Cologne provided a vibrant intellectual culture that profoundly shaped his ideas as well. It was the flowering of medieval philosophy across cultures that allowed Aquinas' synthesis to take root.

    Secondly, Aquinas' theological positions, while highly influential, often represented the culmination of extensive earlier debates rather than a radically new perspective. Core doctrines like Christ's incarnation, the Trinity, transubstantiation and original sin had been explored for centuries before Aquinas treated them through his Aristotelian lens. For instance, mystery of Christ's simultaneous divinity and humanity had been discussed since the early Church, with definitive formulations appearing at the Council of Nicaea in 325 and the Council of Chalcedon in 451. Augustine and later Anselm extensively explored the doctrine of original sin and ideas of atonement. 

    On the doctrine of transubstantiation, the eucharistic presence of Christ's body and blood in the bread and wine, debates trace back to the 9th century mystic Radbertus with extensive developments by other theologians. Aquinas' treatment represents the orthodox position cemented at the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215. But he was not breaking entirely new ground. 

    While Aquinas brought tremendous rigor, clarity and depth to existing doctrines, earlier theologians had extensively mapped many central issues of Catholic thought. Aquinas provided a masterful summit to centuries of preceding debate, but should not be viewed as solely responsible for these dogmas.

    Thirdly, Aquinas' theology, while profoundly influential across so much of Catholicism, did not represent the final word even within his lifetime. Fellow medieval philosophers and theologians such as John Duns Scotus and William of Ockham would critiques, modify and expand upon Aquinas' perspectives in the following decades. The Franciscans developed alternative schools of thought not entirely derived from Aquinas. Within Aquinas' own Dominican order, many future thinkers tried modifying and extending his philosophy as well.

    This ongoing ferment of medieval philosophy underscores how even Aquinas' brilliant syntheses marked milestones amid a living tradition continuously debated. Aquinas towered over 13th century thought but did not stand alone or bring an end to discussion.

    In fact, some of Aquinas' views would eventually be rejected by the Church, such as his opinion that Mary was conceived with original sin. The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception affirmed in 1854 adopted Duns Scotus' position of Mary's sinless origins instead. Aquinas, while clearly the greatest medieval Catholic thinker, did not have the final or only say among his peers. 

    Therefore, while St. Thomas Aquinas may deserve the title of the Catholic Church's premier theologian and philosopher for his monumental work, especially the Summa, it would be a significant overstatement to suggest he was solely or even primarily responsible for defining Catholic dogma and philosophy. Christian thinkers before and after Aquinas played irreplaceable roles in developing Catholic doctrine. Aquinas built upon patristic authors such as Augustine who had already integrated non-Christian philosophies like Neoplatonism and paved the way for applying systematic reason. The flowering of medieval philosophy from multiple cultural sources allowed Aquinas' attempted synthesis to thrive.

    Aquinas brought tremendous analytical rigor and clarity to existing doctrines and debates that had already occupied the Church for centuries. His brilliance was not in inventing entirely new positions but providing systematic explanations using the latest philosophy of his day. Yet fellow medieval thinkers contested and amended aspects of Aquinas’ perspectives from the start, showing the ongoing evolution of Catholic thought. 

    St. Thomas Aquinas earned his exalted status in Catholic intellectual history through his unparalleled ability to synthesize the height of medieval philosophy with Christian theology. However, this crowning achievement occurred against a backdrop of continuous debate within a faith tradition already centuries old. The shaping of Catholic dogma and philosophy owes itself to many figures across the tradition. Aquinas signals a pinnacle of medieval Catholic thought, not its sole genesis. His towering synthesis built upon earlier foundations and kicked off later developments in the continuous unfolding of Catholic doctrine.

    NOTE: This essay was written entirely by Anthropic's Claude large language model according to a chain of prompt strategy that I devised. I did not change a single letter. Here is the prompting plan:

    User Input: St Thomas was almost solely responsible for the definition of Catholic dogma and philosophy

    Thinker Quartz: What sort of person should I ask to write an essay responding to this query: "<!human input!>? Please supply exactly one description of a candidate.

    Thinker Apple: I want to invite three people to discuss this topic: "<!human input!>". I want you to figure out who I should invite, better, I want you to suggest the academic, professional or other discernable category of knowledge and experience that would help provide a well rounded discussion. Tell me about each of them.


    Thinker Star[1-n]: You are to contribute facts and ideas to the development of an essay answering the inquiry "<!human input!>". In a list form, produce several ideas that are very specific to your perspective as a <!Apple.n!>. These should be succinct ideas that contribute to further discussion, not a final answer.


    Thinker Ocean[1-n]

    We are working a a response to this idea "<!user input!>", asked about it, other people said that these are important ideas to consider:



    Following is the suggestion you suggested:


    Consider the other ideas and see if they can make any contribution to the clarity, correctness or creativity of your ideas. Please make sure that the ideas still represent your viewpoint from the perspective of a <!Apple.Z!>.


    Thinker Harmony

    We are working on a response to the inquiry "<!human input!>".

    Reasearch and discussion has provided the following ideas.




    You are a <!Quartz!> with excellent writing skills, subtle use of language and the ability to communicate well on all sorts of topics, especially those within your specialty. Your readers will be well educated and sophisticated adults who do not have much prior experience with this topic. Write a one thousand word essay.

    After it is written, please check the word count carefully and make sure it is about one thousand words. If it is the wrong length, rewrite it and give me a version that is the correct length. Revise the essay as many times as needed to reach the required length, plus or minus a little bit.


    Thinker Blaze

    Following is an essay responding to the topic "<!human input!>". 

    Here is the essay.


    Identify any errors and unsubtantiated assertions in a list.


    Thinker Whisper

    Following is an essay responding to the topic "<!human input!>". 

    Here is the essay.


    Others have reviewed the essay and find the following problems.


    You are a smart editor with excellent grammar and linguistic clarity. Rewrite the essay, keeping it about the same length, to solve the problems listed while also making sure it is easily understandable by it audience of well educated and sophisticated adults who do not have much prior experience with this topic.


    Thinker Falcon

    Responding to the inquiry, "<!human input!>, the following essay has been written.


    Please make up a headline title and two sentence subtitle for a magazine article.


    TQ White II
    tag:blog.genericwhite.com,2013:Post/2030581 2023-09-29T12:22:52Z 2023-09-29T12:28:09Z Joe is on Fire. A Sober Assessment of MAGA 2023. "There's an extremist movement that does not share the basic beliefs of our democracy, the MAGA movement."

    It is the most cogent explanation of the present danger I have heard. Brutal, unsparing, detailed.

    Take forty and give this a listen. You will come away admiring Joe more and with a better awareness of our situation.

    YouTube Link



    SEPTEMBER 28, 2023

    Remarks by President Biden Honoring the Legacy of Senator John McCain and the Work We Must Do Together to Strengthen Our Democracy

    THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, thank you. Please — please, sit down. Thank you.

    I’m going to put a little bit more meat on that bone — that last one. (Laughter.)

    John and I used to travel together. When John got back from all the time in Vietnam in prison — when he was released, he decided he wanted to go back to stay in the military. And he was assigned to the United States Senate and to the military office there that travels with senators when they travel abroad.

    And John and I put in a couple hundred thousand miles together. And on our way to — I think I was going to either China — I forget what the destination was — China, I think. And we stopped in — we stopped in Hawaii. And the — the Chief Naval — of Operations was there showing me around. They did an event for me.

    And John kept looking at your mom. Oh, I’m serious. (Laughter.) And he said, “My God, she’s beautiful.” (Laughter.) I said — and I said, “Yeah, she is, John.” And I said, “Well, you to go up and say hi to her.” He said, “No, no, no, no, no, no.” (Laughter.) “I’m not going to do that.”

    Well, as your mom come — I won’t go into more detail, but I’ll tell you: I insisted that they meet. (Laughter.) And I take credit. I take credit for you guys. (Laughter and applause.)

    And I just told your mom: John and I had something in common, we both married way above our station — (laughter) — way above our station.

    Cindy — or I should call you Madam Ambassador — thank you for all you’ve done, all you do, you continue to do. Jack and Bridget, the entire McCain family, and to all those who love the McCain family. (Applause.)

    Oh, I didn’t see all up there. (Applause.) Whoa! Don’t jump. Don’t jump. (Laughter.)

    Well, I tell you what, it’s an honor to be with you. It’s a genuine honor.

    Governor Hobbs, you’ve done an incredible job. You’ve been a leader and defender of democracy. And you’ve always been available when I’ve called, and I hope I’ve been available when you called as well.

    Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests — (applause) — in the end, John McCain thought about the beginning. Five years ago, as John was dying from brain cancer, John wrote a farell- — a farewell letter to the nation that he said — that he served so well in both war and in peace.

    His words tracked back centuries to America’s founding and then toward a triumphant future. Here’s what John wrote, and I quote, “We are citizens of the world — the world’s greatest republic. A nation of ideals, not blood and soil. Americans never quit. They never hide from history. America makes history.”

    And John was right. Every other per- — every other nation in the world has been founded on either a grouping by ethnicity, religion, background. We’re the most unique nation in the world. We’re founded on an idea — the only major nation in the world founded on an idea. An idea that we are all created equal, endowed by our Cr- — in the image of God, endowed by our Creator to be — to be able to be treated equally throughout our lives.

    We’ve never fully lived up to that idea, but we’ve never walked away from it. But there’s danger we’re walking too far away from it now, the way we talk in this deba- — in this country. Because a long line of patriots from — like John McCain kept it from ever becoming something other than what it is.

    I often think about our friendship of 40 years. The hammer-and-tong debates we’d have in the Senate. We’d argue — we were like two brothers. We’d argue like hell. (Laughs.) I mean really go at one another. Then we’d go lunch together. (Laughter.) No, not a joke. Or John would ride home with me. I mean, we — we traveled the world together.

    And, by the way, when he found this magnificent woman and got married, I’m the guy that convinced him to run in Arizona as a Republican. Bless me, Father, for — (makes the sign of the cross). (Laughter and applause.) No, but it’s — you’ve got to admit, Cindy, I did. I talked to him, and I said, “John, you can do this job. My only worry is you’ll do it too well.” (Laughter.)

    But, look, running on opposite sides of the nation’s highest office when — when he was running for president and I was on the vice presidential ticket — we still remained friends.

    The conversations we had — he had with my son, Beau — the attorney general of the state of Delaware, a decorated major in the U.S. Army, was a guy who spent a year in Iraq — about serving in a war overseas, about the courage in battle against the same cancer that took John and my son.

    Two weeks ago, I thought about John as I was standing in another part of the world — in Vietnam. I don’t want to be — I — excuse me if I — it was an emotional trip.

    I was there to usher in a 50-year arc of progress for the two countries, pushed by John and, I might add, another John — this is the former Secretary of State, John from Massachusetts, won the Silver Star as well.

    Once at war, we are now choosing the highest possible partnership, made possible through John’s leadership. I mean that sincerely. Think about it.

    While in Hanoi, I visited a marker depicting where John — what John — where John had endured all the pain. Imprisoned five and a half years. Solitary confinement for two years. Given an opportunity — an opportunity to come home if he just said a couple things. He was beaten, bloodied, bones broken, isolated, tortured, left unable to raise his arms above his shoulders again.

    As I stood there paying my respects, I thought about how much I missed my friend. And it’s not hyperbole. I — from the bottom of my heart, I mean this.

    I thought about something else as well. I thought about how much America missed John right now, how much America needed John’s courage and foresight and vision. I thought about what John stood for, what he fought for, what he was willing to die for. I thought about what we owed John, what I owed him, and what we owe each other — we owe each other — we owed each other as well — and Americans as well.

    You see, John is one of those patriots who, when they die, their voices are never silent. They still speak to us. They tug at both our hearts and our conscience.

    And they pose the most profound questions: Who are we? What do we stand for? What do we believe? What will we be?

    For John, it was country first. Sounds like a — like a movie, but it’s real with John: honor, duty, decency, freedom, liberty, democracy.

    And now, history has brought us to a new time of testing. Very few of us will ever be asked to endure what John McCain endured. But all of us are being asked right now: What will we do to maintain our democracy? Will we, as John wrote, never quit? Will we not hide from history, but make history? Will we put partisanship aside and put country first?

    I say we must and we will. We will. (Applause.)

    But it’s not easy. It’s not easy.

    AUDIENCE MEMBER: When will you stand against corruption, Mr. President?

    AUDIENCE: Booo —


    AUDIENCE MEMBER: (Inaudible) ask why you have yet to declare a climate emergency? Why have you yet to declare a climate emergency? Hundred of Arizonians have died!


    AUDIENCE MEMBER: Hundreds of Arizonians have died because you won’t —

    THE PRESIDENT: Why don’t you wait at —


    Well, hang on one second. Hang on a second. I’ll be happy to meet with you after I speak, okay?

    AUDIENCE MEMBER: You promised no new drilling on fossil fuels. Why have you yet to declare a climate emergency? Not (inaudible) —


    AUDIENCE MEMBER: We need your leadership, Mr. President.

    THE PRESIDENT: Well, I tell you what, if you shush up, I’ll meet with you immediately after this. Okay? (Applause.)

    But democracy never is easy, as we just demonstrated. (Laughter.) The cause — the cause is worth giving our all, for democracy makes all things possible.

    Let me begin with the core principles. Democracy means rule of the people, not rule of monarchs, not rule of the monied, not rule of the mighty. Regardless of party, that means respecting free and fair elections; accepting the outcome, win or lose. (Applause.) It means you can’t love your country only when you win. (Applause.)

    Democracy means rejecting and repudiating political violence. Regardless of party, such violence is never, never, never acceptable in America. (Applause.) It’s undemocratic, and it must never be normalized to advance political power.

    And democracy means respecting the institutions that govern a free society. That means adhering to the timeless words of the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident.” A mission statement embodied in our Constitution, our system of separation of powers and checks and balances.

    Our Constitution — the bulwark to prevent the abuse of power to ensure “We the People” move forward together under the law, rather than believing the only way is one way or no way at all.

    But our institutions and our democracy are not just of gov- — of government. The institutions of democracy depend on the Constitution and our character — our character and the habits of our hearts and minds.

    Institutions like the McCain Institute and the new McCain Library that will be built at Arizona State University with the funding from the American Rescue Plan, which I signed into law when I came to office. (Applause.) A library that’s going to house John’s archives, host dialogue and debate, inspire future leaders around the world, to serve tens of thousands underserved Arizonans as a reminder of our obligation to one another.

    These principles of democracy are essential in a free society, but they have always been embattled.

    Today, let’s be clear. While we’ve made progress, democracy is still at risk. This is not hyperbole; it’s a simple truth — a simple truth.

    I’ve made the defense and protection and preservation of American democracy the central issue of my presidency. From the speech I made at Gettysburg, an Inaugural Address, to the anniversary of the June 6th insurrection — or January 6th insurrection, to Independence Hall in Philadelphia — to the speech I made at Union Station in Washington, I’ve spoken about the danger of election denialism, political violence, and the battle for the soul of America.

    Today, in America [Arizona], to honor an institution devoted to the defense of democracy, named in honor of a true patriot, I’m here to speak about another threat to our democracy that we all too often ignore: the threat to our political institutions, to our Constitution itself, and the very character of our nation.

    Democracy is maintained by adhering to the Constitution and the march to perfecting our union —

    (A toddler in the audience babbles.)

    THE PRESIDENT: — by protecting and expanding rights with each successive generation, including that little guy. He’s going to talk about it. (Laughter.)

    That’s okay. In my house, kids prevail. Okay? (Laughter.)

    This adherence isn’t op- — this isn’t optional. We can’t be situational. We can’t be only going there when it’s good for yourself. It’s constant and unyielding, even when it’s easy and, most important, when it’s hard.

    For centuries, the American Constitution has been a model for the world, with other countries adopting “We the People” as their North Star as well. But as we know, we know how damaged our institutions of democracy — the judiciary, the legislature, the executive — have become — become in the eyes of the American people, even the world, from attacks from within the past few years.

    I know virtually every major world leader. That’s what I did when I was a senator, as vice president, and now. Everywhere I go in the world — I’ve met now with over a hundred heads of state of the nations of the world — everywhere I go, they look and they ask the question, “Is it going to be okay?”

    Think about this: The first meeting I attended of the G7 — the seven wealthiest nations in the world — in Europe, the NATO meeting, I sat down — it was in Feb- — Feb- — January, after being elected — so, late Janu- — early February — and it was in England. And I sat down, and I said, “America is back.” And Macron looked at me, and he said, “Mr. President, for how long — for how long?”

    And then, the Chancellor of Germany said, “Mr. President, what would you think if you picked up the paper tomorrow — tomorrow, the London Times — and it said a thousand people broke down the doors of Parliament, marched, and killed two bobbies in order to overthrow an election of the new prime minister? What would you think then? What would America think?”

    What would we think, the leading nation in the world, having gone through what we went through?

    And many of you travel internationally. Many of you know people from around the world. I’d be surprised if you heard anything different than the concern about: Are we okay? Is the democracy going to be sustained?

    And from that institutional damage, we see distrust and division among our own people.

    I’m here to tell you: We lose these institutions of our government at our own peril. And I’ve always been clear: Democracy is not a partisan issue. It’s an American issue.

    I have come to honor the McCain Institute and Library because they are a home of a proud Republican who put his country first. Our commitment should be no less because democracy should unite all Americans, regardless of political affiliation.

    And there is something dangerous happening in America now. There is an extremist movement that does not share the basic beliefs in our democracy: the MAGA Movement.

    Not every Republican, not even a majority of Republicans, adhere to the MAGA extremist ideology. I know because I’ve been able to work with Republicans my whole career. But there is no question that today’s Republican Party is driven and intimidated by MAGA Republican extremists. Their extreme agenda, if carried out, would fundamentally alter the institutions of American democracy as we know it.

    My friends, they’re not hiding their attacks. They’re openly promoting them — attacking the free press as the enemy of the people, attacking the rule of law as an impediment, fomenting voter suppression and election subversion.

    Did you ever think we’d be having debates in the year — stage of your careers where banning books — banning books and burying history?

    Extremists in Congress — more determined to shut down the government, to burn the place down than to let the people’s business be done.

    Our U.S. military — and this in not hyperbole; I’ve said it for the last two years — is the strongest military in the history of the world. Not just the strongest in the world — in the history of the world. It’s the most diverse, the most powerful in the history of the world. And it’s being accused of being weak and “woke” by the opposition.

    One guy in Alabama is holding up the promotion of every — hundreds of these officers.

    Frankly, these extremists have no idea what the hell they’re talking about. (Laughter.) No, I’m serious.

    They’re pushing a notion the defeated former President expressed when he was in office and believes applies only to him. And this is a dangerous notion: This president is above the law, with no limits on power.

    Trump says the Constitution gave him, quote, “the right to do whatever he wants as President,” end of quote. I’ve never even heard a president say that in jest. Not guided by the Constitution or by common service and decency toward our fellow Americans but by vengeance and vindictiveness.

    We see the headlines. Quote, “sweeping expansion of presidential power.” Their goal to, quote, “alter the balance of power by increasing the President’s authority over every part of the federal government,” end of quote.

    What do they intend to do once they erode the constitutional order of checks and balances and separation of powers? Limit the independence of federal agencies and put them under the thumb of a president? Give the President the power to refuse to spend money that Congress has appropriated if he doesn’t like what it’s being spent for? Not veto — he doesn’t like what it’s being spent for — it’s there. Get rid of longstanding protections for civil servants?

    Remember what he did as he was leaving office: He imposed a new thing, the Civil Service — but then he imposed a new pro- — schedule. “Schedule F,” it was called. These civil servants had to pledge loyalty to the President, not the Constitution. It did not require that they had any protections, and the President would be able to wholesale fire them if he wanted, because they had no so- — no — no Civil Service protection. One of the first things I got rid of when I became President.

    Just consider these as actual quotes from MAGA — the MAGA movement. Quote, “I am your retribution.” “Slitting throats” of civil servants, replacing them with extreme political cronies. MAGA extremists proclaim support for law enforcement only to say, “We…” — quote, “We must destroy the FBI.”

    It’s not one person. It’s the controlling element of the House Republican Party.

    Whitewash attacks of January 6th by calling the spearing and stomping of police a leg- — quote, a “legitimate political discourse.”

    Did you ever think you’d hear leaders of political parties in the United States of America speak like that? Seizing power, concentrating power, attempting to abuse power, purging and packing key institutions, spewing conspiracy theories, spreading lies for profit and power to divide America in every way, inciting violence against those who risk their lives to keep America safe, weaponizing against the very soul of who we are as Americans.

    This MAGA threat is the threat to the brick and mortar of our democratic institutions. But it’s also a threat to the character of our nation and gives our — that gives our Constitution life, that binds us together as Americans in common cause.

    None of this is surprising, though. They’ve tried to govern that way before. And thank God, they failed.

    But they haven’t given up. Just look at recent days: their accusations against — of treason — treason against the major new net- — news network because they don’t like its coverage. I don’t know what the hell I’d say about Fox if that becomes the rule. (Laughter.)

    But think about it. I’m joking, but think about it.

    Tomorrow, I have the honor of overseeing the change of responsibilities of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the United States military from one genuine hero and patriot, General Mark Milley, to another, General CQ Brown — both — both defining leaders of our time.

    And yet, here is what you hear from MAGA extremists about the retiring patriot general honoring his oath to the Constitution: quote, he’s “a traitor,” end of quote. “In times gone by, the punishment…” — quote, “In times gone by, the punishment would’ve been death,” end of quote.

    This is the United States of America. This is the United States of America.

    And although I don’t believe even a majority of Republicans think that, the silence is deafening. The silence is deafening.

    Hardly any Republican called out such heinous statements, just as they watch one MAGA senator outrageously — instead, blocking the promotions of hundreds of top military leaders and affecting not only those leaders but their families, their children.

    MAGA extremists claim support of our troops, but they are harming military readiness, leadership, troop morale, freezing pay, freezing military families in limbo.

    Just as they looked the other way when the defeated former President refused to pay respects at an American cemetery near Paris, referring to the American servicemen buried there — and I’ve been to this cemetery — as “suckers” and “losers,” quotes.

    I’m not making this up. I know we all tried not to remember it, but that’s what he said. He called servicemen “suckers” and “losers.”

    Was John a sucker? Was my son, Beau, who lived next to a burn pit for a year, came home, and died — was he a sucker for volunteering to serve his country?

    The same guy who denigrates the heroism of John McCain. It’s not only wrong, it’s un-American. But it never changes.

    The MAGA extremists across the country have made it clear where they stand. So, the challenge for the rest of America — for the majority of Americans is to make clear where we stand.

    Do we still believe in the Constitution? Do we believe in the basic decency and respect? The whole country should honestly ask itself — and I mean this sincerely — what it wants and understand the threats to our democracy.

    I believe very strongly that the defining feature of our democracy is our Constitution.

    I believe in the separation of powers and checks and balances, that debate and disagreement do not lead to disunion.

    I believe in free and fair elections and the peaceful transfer of power.

    I believe there is no place in America — none, none, none — for political violence. We have to denounce hate, not embolden it.

    Across the aisle, across the country, I see fellow Americans, not mortal enemies. We’re a great nation because we’re a good people who believe in honor, decency, and respect.

    I was able to get the infrastructure bill passed. It’s over a trillion dollars. The majority of it so far has gone to red states who didn’t vote for me. Because I represent all — no, I’m serious. I represent all Americans. (Applause.) Wherever the need is.

    And I believe every president should be a president for all Americans. To use the Office of the President to unite the nation, uphold the duty to care for all Americans.

    I’ve tried my very best, and I’m sure I haven’t met the test of every — all of you want me to meet. But I tried to do my very best to meet the highest standards, whether you voted for me or not. Because that’s the job: to de- — deliver light, not heat; to make sure democracy delivers for everyone; to know we’re a nation of unlimited possibilities, of wisdom and decency — a nation focused on the future.

    I’ve spent more time with Xi Jinpin [sic] than any world — -ping — than any world leader has. Sixty-eight hours alone with just he and I and an interpreter. Traveled 17,000 miles with him here and in China. On the Tibetan Plateau, he turned to me and he asked me — he said, “Can you define America for me?” And I was deadly earnest. I said, “Yes. In one word: possibilities.”

    We, in America, believe anything is possible if we try it. Anything we do together, we can get done.

    We’ve faced some tough times in recent years, and I am proud of the progress we made as a country. But the real credit doesn’t go to me and my administration for the progress — for this progress. The real heroes of the story are you, the American people. And that’s not hyperbole again.

    Which is why I’m asking you that regardless of whether you’re a Democrat, Republican, or independent, put the preservation of our democracy before everything else. Put our country first.

    Over the past few years, we can and should be proud of American democracy, proud of what we’ve been able to hold on to. We can’t take democracy for granted.

    Remember when you were in high school and college, if you took political science, they said every generation has to protect democracy. I used to think that that was just a saying. But here I am, as President of the United States of America, making this speech about my fear of the diminishment of democracy.

    Folks, every generation has to be vigilant.

    You know, toward the end of my Senate campaign, I convinced Strom Thurmond to vote for the Civil Rights legislation — not a joke — and I thought, “Well, you can — you can defeat hate.”

    You can’t defeat it. You just bury it. But when someone comes along and lifts up the rock and breathes a little oxygen in there, it comes roaring back. It comes roaring back.

    We should all remember: Democracies don’t have to die at the end of a rifle. They can die when people are silent, when they fail to stand up or condemn the threats to democracy, when people are willing to give away that which is most precious to them because they feel frustrated, disillusioned, tired, alienated. I get it. I really do. I get it.

    For all its faults, though, American democracy remains the best pass [path] forward to prosperity, possibilities, progress, fair play, equality.

    And democracy requires all of us in all of the major parties. You matter. And, again, I’m not just trying to be nice here. You matter — all of you in this auditorium — because history and common sense tell us that we can change things by adhering to our Constitution and our institutions of democracy.

    Our task — our sacred task of our time is to make sure that they change not for the worse, but for the better. That democracy survives and thrives, not be spa- — smashed by a movement more interested in power than in principle. It’s up to us, the American people.

    In my view, the more people vote, the more engaged the whole nation becomes, the stronger our democracy will be.

    So, the answer to the threats we face is engagement. It’s not to sit in the sidelines; it’s to build coalitions and community, to remind ourselves there is a clear majority of us who believe in our democracy and are ready to protect it.

    To the students here today and the young people across country, you’re the reason I’m so optimistic.

    I know I don’t look it, but I’ve been doing this for a long time. (Laughter.)

    But all kidding aside, I’ve never been more optimistic about America’s chances in domestic and foreign policy as I am today. I really mean it. To see young people — a hundred thousand students at this university and all across America — they are the most gifted, the most tolerant, the most talented, and the best-educated generation in American history.

    And it’s your generation, more than anyone else’s, who will answer the questions — the legitimate questions the young man asked me a moment ago — who I’m going to meet with — questions for America: Who are we? What do we stand for? What do we believe? Who will we be?

    It’s not your burden alone, but your generation will not be ignored, will not be shunned, will not be silenced.

    I’ve said it before: We’re at an inflection point in our history. One of those moments that not only happens once every several generations, it happens once every eight or nine generations, where the decisions made in the short period of time we’re in now are going to determine the course of this country and the world for the next six or seven decades.

    So, you, me, every American who is committed to preserving our democracy and our constitutional protections, we carry a special responsibility. We have to stand up for American values embedded in the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, because we know the MAGA extremists have already proven they won’t.

    You know, Madeleine Albright wrote a book — the former Secretary of State — saying we’re the “essential nation.” We are. And I think you’ve fe- — sensed it abroad, Cindy, haven’t you? Any room I walk in and no matter what heads of state I’m with, everything stops. Not because of Joe Biden, but because I’m President of the United States of America.

    We are the essential nation. We are the essential nation. The rest of the world is looking, so we have to stand up for our Constitution, our institutions of democracy, because MAGA extremists have made it clear they’re not going to.

    History is watching. The world is watching. And most important, our children and grandchildren will hold us responsible.

    So, let me close with this. In three years, we’ll commemorate the 250th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence — a moment not only about our past, celebrating all we’ve done, but a moment about the future, about all we can be — still be.

    Imagine that moment and ask: What do we want to be? Now is our time to continue to choose and secure a sacred cause of the American democracy.

    I know we can meet this moment. John knew we could meet this moment. He believed, as so many patriots before him did, that character [is] destiny in our own lives and the life of this nation. He believed in us.

    That’s what we see in the McCain Institute and Library and everyday places across America doing extraordinary things. And remember that the soul of America depends on the souls of all Americans — how we choose to see our nation, how we choose to see ourselves, how we choose to lead not only by the example of our power but by the power of our example.

    So, let’s never quit. Let’s never hide from history. Let’s make history.

    If we do that, we’ll be — have done our duty to our country and to each other. Future generations will say we kept the faith.

    We’ll have proved, through all its imperfections, America is still a place of possibilities, a beacon for the world, a promise realized — where the power forever resides with “We the People.”

    That’s our soul. That’s who we truly are. That’s who we must always be.

    And that’s why I’ve never been more optimistic about America’s future. We just need to remember who we are.

    We are the United States of America. There is nothing — nothing beyond our capacity when we act together.

    Well, God bless you all.

    May God bless John McCain and his family. And may God protect our troops. Thank you. (Applause.)

    TQ White II
    tag:blog.genericwhite.com,2013:Post/2029732 2023-09-27T12:31:59Z 2023-09-27T12:32:00Z Definition of Fascism

    I think this is an especially good characterization, 

    “And one interesting thing about the Republican party is, it is entirely captured by fascism, that is to say it is a popular political movement organized around a cult of personality, and mediated through an open and explicit reverence for violence as a redeeming force, and by a nationalist myth of purification.”


    And I think this is the right response,

    "I think we need to persuade them that the margins of permission have snapped back, and let them know if you do this, you are going to have to fight—not because we want a fight, but because we won’t stand by and watch a beating."


    TQ White II
    tag:blog.genericwhite.com,2013:Post/2024610 2023-09-13T19:26:57Z 2023-09-13T19:26:58Z The Debt Collection Industry

    Do I still have any friends here who are not well-to-do? Perhaps with some consumer debt that is in default? Who might, once in awhile, hear from a debt collector? Well, this is a topic that interests me, partly because I had a go with this problem several years ago. I beat it because I had a lawyer friend who told me a couple of key things that are strongly confirmed by this article, which has a few things that were not pertinent to me back then.

    1) Do not ghost the collector. The main way they get you is by waiting 30 days and then seeking a default judgement. This judgement will be legally binding and allow them to take your money against your will.

    2) Do not talk to the person. Tell them to send you a letter, give them your address (I know, scary but the right thing to do). DO NOT TALK TO THEM. No discussion. No "I can't afford it right now." Get their details, name, mailing address, case number (make sure to confirm the hell out of the case number and that it is the correct reference; these people are liars).

    3) Send a registered letter well with 30 days of hearing from one. Dispute the charges and ask for documentation in the form of a signed contract. (Other ideas are in the article.)

    4) If you always show up on time and say, "Show me the contract", you will beat them.

    This article is fascinating. It explains all about how it works.

    TQ White II
    tag:blog.genericwhite.com,2013:Post/2024053 2023-09-12T13:33:26Z 2023-09-12T13:33:26Z Abortion Today

    I read most of the Dobbs decision, enough to judge it. The Supreme Court is not entirely wrong. Abortion has long been considered a crime. Roe v Wade was, I think, judicial activism. Respect for precedent only goes so far. Eg, Plessy v. Ferguson was an insanely wrong decision that made racial segregation legal. Retaining it as controlling law would have continued a crime.

    But it also has two flaws that make it unreasonable. First, privacy and personal autonomy are real, traditional human rights that deserve the utmost respect even if women have only recently been included in the list of humans who deserve it. Second, society has absolutely no legitimate interest in "preserving fetal life". Yet these are the foundation of the Dobbs decision.

    The decision explains that everyone goes around claiming rights that are components of 'liberty' that are not mentioned in the constitution. It ridicules the ideas of privacy and "bodily integrity" yet, these are rights that men (in America, white ones) have had throughout history, so much so that nobody even thought to mention it. If someone had suggested to Willian Penn or Thomas Jefferson that anyone had authority over their personal bodies, they wouldn't have even argued. They would have laughed.

    Of course, we all submit to infringements on our freedom in support of important goals. Your driving speed is restricted for my safety. Basically all laws restrict freedom. The operative phrase is "important goals". The Dobbs decision explains that many people consider the value of "potential life" to be an important moral point. It tells us that this fact gives legitimacy to the efforts to restrict womens' liberty. If most people value "potential life" over womens' freedom, that's enough to make it an "important goal".

    But preserving potential life is no more legitimate an interest than, say, preserving racial purity. They both have arguments that favor them. They both have many adherents. But the values they propose are founded on completely personal, internal, emotion motivations. There is no consequence to society to justify either, no important goal that can be named.

    Having spent my life arguing with anti-choice proponents, I can tell you that I have never, ever found an argument that didn't, at bottom, rely on God. Nobody has ever once said that "society needs more people", or "society's a better place if women have more babies", or "we need more Soylent Green". 

    I have never heard, or read, a single explanation of why abortion should be illegal that did not come down to "God says so" and I have never heard of a single consequence of abortion that makes the rest of the people less safe, prosperous, secure or free.

    Dobbs essentially says, "We see that many people hate abortion. That serves as a state interest. Some say a woman has a right to privacy. We don't think so. Let the rich people decide." Ok, I add "the rich people" but it's not as if the Supreme Court doesn't know that laws are made by rich people, after all they supported Citizens United.

    Roe was a bad decision but only because it was afraid to simply say, "The right to privacy is obvious. The state has no possible interest in determining if a woman bears a child." Had they simply stood up for the right of a woman to determine the course of her life like every man in history, they would not have felt the need to say a lot of complicated crap that has made life worse.

    And it would have put today's Supreme Court in the position of explaining exactly what interest the state has in regulating abortion. They would have had to explain why a woman doesn't have the right to control her body. 

    Instead, they got to talk about a lot of extraneous bullshit to cover the fact that they don't think women are fully human.

    TQ White II
    tag:blog.genericwhite.com,2013:Post/2019251 2023-09-01T14:10:16Z 2023-09-01T14:10:17Z On Stoicism and Why I Don't Prefer It

    I want to note first, that I have no thought to contradict the current edition of 'Stoic' ideas that are giving people comfort these days. Maxims cherry-picked from Marcus Aurelius Meditations are mostly perfectly good ideas, if taken out of context. My interest is in understanding my opinion of Stoicism as a technical philosophy and why I have, on that level, a generally bad opinion of it.

    Also worth note is that Marcus Aurelius was the last in a series of four or five important Stoics. Zeno and Epictetus are the two others who influence my thinking most. (Though Seneca, another important Stoic is interesting in that he was tutor to Nero.) They varied significantly in their interpretations of Stoicism.

    I am correct in my recollection of the fundamental Stoic reliance on God as a motivating concept. Though the Stoics were (like me) materialists believing the opposite of Plato's notion that the real reality is the ideas that occur in you mind, somewhat inspired by the information of your senses. The materialists consider the world to be physical and our perceptions to be indicative of what is really happening. (Eg, the mishapen circle we draw is more real than the ideal, mathematical one we imagine and use for our geometry).

    For Stoics, God is the soul of the physical world with most of the attributes of the rest of the Gods. For them, virtue is obeying the laws of that God/nature, whatever those are. Zeno and Epictetus took this to the extreme of considering anything that distracted from behaving virtuously to be anti-virtuous and thereby actually seeking discomfort. So, for them, and this is where I start to be annoyed, comfort and pleasure are to be avoided and love for others is no virtue.

    It has the famous idea, inspiration to Aurelius and the modern maxims, that the good life of virtue is entirely internal to the person, ie, one's thoughts. The quip has been made that a Stoic could be happy on the rack, under torture, if he retains his virtue. They hold that Socrates cheerfully choosing death rather than recant his philosophy is the ultimate hero. A good Stoic is not troubled by the death of, say one of his children since that external event is no obstacle to this sort of virtue.

    The way that the Stoics got to the idea that the only virtue is (put over simply) good thinking is that they believed in determinism. Fundamentally (which I mean literally to distinguish from the nicer ideas in pop culture today), the Stoics thought that God created the world for an inscrutable reason and that our actions were merely motions of the cogs. It is true that they also considered humans to be God's purpose but that didn't make our will any more free.

    Every doctrine has stupid crap like that and I am happy to overlook it. My real beef with the Stoics is the passivity it suggests. It turns out that Aurelius was king in a bleak time (war, pestilence, earthquake, insurrection). Much of the point of the Meditations (written as a diary, not for publication, and which I have not read) seems to be the account of his ways of enduring life in a difficult time, ie, obeying the will of God (in a deterministic universe where free will is not a thing).

    As Bertrand Russell characterizes it, "When the Stoic philosopher is thinking of himself, he holds that happiness and all other worldy so-called goods are worthless; he even says that to desire happiness is contrary to nature, meaning that it involves lack of resignation to the will of God." 

    Stoicism, then, provides a way to live with adversity and offers no guidance about how to avoid it or to make it better. This is appealing, of course, when times are difficult. I like the idea of controlling one's internal state to feel more comfortable but, when choosing a philosophy, I prefer one that offers ideas for a life that is better.

    TQ White II
    tag:blog.genericwhite.com,2013:Post/2011935 2023-08-15T12:52:13Z 2024-05-02T01:59:04Z Fani Does Not Disappoint

    TURNS OUT THAT working with a bunch of people doing crimes in order to gain a benefit is a separate crime all on its own. 

    "they knowingly and willfully joined a conspiracy to unlawfully change the outcome of the election in favor of Trump. That conspiracy contained a common plan and purpose to commit two or more acts of racketeering activity"

    The indictment lists 161 criminal acts, many by Trump himself, to support the claim. Fani documented phone calls and meetings and emails and actions and speeches where Trump and his gang worked together (as an enterprise) to convince officials to illegally change the outcome of the election.

    I read the entire indictment, all 98 pages, and Fani didn't shrink from her duty. She dug out every single outrage, documented it in detail and charged Trump and company with racketeering. She also charged them with 41 of the crimes separate from the racketeering charge. We finally have an official accounting of Donald Trump's crimes.

    IN FAIRNESS, THE 161 CRIMINAL ACTS are a little redundant. Many are sets of 'conspired to', 'attempted to' and 'did do' one thing. The bottom line is that they did a bunch of illegal things that resulted in these foundational crimes:

    RACKETEER INFLUENCED AND CORRUPT ORGANIZATIONS (meeting after meeting in the Oval Office, speeches, phone calls and emails to plan crimes)

    SOLICITATION OF VIOLATION OF OATH BY A PUBLIC OFFICER ("just find eleven thousand votes", "call a special session of the legislature", "just say it's a flawed election and let me and Congress do the rest")

    FALSE STATEMENTS AND WRITINGS (so, so many; turns out it's illegal to lie to officials (baskets of ballots, evidence of fraud, and such) and that lies elsewhere constitute evidence)

    NOT ONLY WERE THE FALSE ELECTORS an immoral attempt to prevent legitimate votes from being counted, they were committing crimes:

    IMPERSONATING A PUBLIC OFFICER (the electors pretended they were valid electors and are being charged as part of the conspiracy)

    FORGERY IN THE FIRST DEGREE (they fabricated official looking documents and filed them with the government, ie, Pence, et al)

    AND SOME FACTS I DUG OUT of the Justia website regarding the legal history of Georgia's racketeering law:

    - two crimes, included in the statute as designated predicate acts, which are part of the same scheme, without the added burden of showing that the defendant would continue the conduct or had been guilty of like conduct before the incidents charged as a RICO violation

    - these offenses were not committed as an occasional practice but were part of a systematic and ongoing pattern over a number of years concealed by a scheme of subterfuge and intimidation

    - the defendant was the perpetrator and direct beneficiary of a pattern of racketeering activity and not merely a victim or passive instrumentality, would subject defendant to RICO liability

    - evidence that the operator through a pattern of racketeering activity, i.e., mail fraud, acquired an interest in or control of money was sufficient to find liability


    A person who knowingly and willfully falsifies, conceals, or covers up by any trick, scheme, or device a material fact; makes a false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation; or makes or uses any false writing or document, knowing the same to contain any false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or entry

    THE BOTTOM LINE ON THIS is that Fani has way, way more than enough to put Trump in jail. She will have to get past the blizzard of bullshit Trump is sure to provide. She will have to deal with the winnowing of charges as they claim federal precedence and executive privilege. But, if they manage to confuse, deny and eliminate 90% of the charges, she still has way, way more than enough to put Trump (and Rudy Giulani and Sidney Powell) in jail.

    TQ White II
    tag:blog.genericwhite.com,2013:Post/2011724 2023-08-14T23:03:49Z 2023-08-14T23:03:49Z I mean, "fill a hole in his soul"? Who says that kind of thing?

    A friend praised an article in The Atlantic magazine. He quotes...

    Brooks is a simpering boob. Atlantic won't let me read the whole article, HERE, (and, since it's David Brooks, I should thank them; it's bad enough I have to see him in the NY Times) so I can only respond to your quotation. I do not share your admiration for it. I mean, "fill a hole in his soul"? Who says that kind of thing? In 2023, who writes articles about peoples' souls?

    And I don't even agree with it if you imagine he meant something less floofy by soul. You guys might think that our descent into civil war is a consequence of having left behind greed, aka, the politics of distribution, but not me. That's the foundation of every culture war. It begat protestantism, France's revolution, our civil war, and on and on.

    Today's problem doesn't result from some new psychic flaw. It comes from, in my humble opinion, the fact that shitheads can communicate with millions of other shitheads for free, allowing them to self-organize like bubos on a plague victim. Together, they convince themselves that there is no need to have a conscience or accept the validity of anyone outside of their own thousands of fellow shitheads. 

    Eventually, a truly psychotic shithead, I'm looking at you Donald Trump, finds his way into the hearts of 74 million people who have morally bankrupted themselves with endless, solipsistic reinforcement of their hatred for immigrants and people of color, resentment of those who do better in society than them and, because 'incels' are part of their cohort, how much raping is a good idea for the bitches.

    Brooks didn't have to go after Trump to make his point except for the fact that Trump is the point. Without Trump, 74 million morally bankrupt shithead supporters would have no leader. Without him, they would ebb and flow, like the Tea Party did.

    I can trace the evil from Ronald Reagan to Newt Gingrich to Dick Cheney (and his puppet W) to Donald Trump with endless, boring detail and it's true that there has been a process. But it has nothing to do with peoples' souls and plenty to do with the very factor he denies, the politics of redistribution. Greedy people want it all. Greedy people think brown people have too much. 

    Greediness and Donald Trump are the reason we are so mean.]]>
    TQ White II
    tag:blog.genericwhite.com,2013:Post/2009681 2023-08-09T12:57:39Z 2023-08-09T12:57:39Z America Ferrara's Barbie Movie Rant

    (Obviously, this is a guest editorial. I post it here so I can see it whenever I want.)

    It is literally impossible to be a woman. You are so beautiful, and so smart, and it kills me that you don’t think you’re good enough. Like, we have to always be extraordinary, but somehow we’re always doing it wrong. 

    You have to be thin, but not too thin. And you can never say you want to be thin. You have to say you want to be healthy, but also you have to be thin. You have to have money, but you can’t ask for money because that’s crass. You have to be a boss, but you can’t be mean. You have to lead, but you can’t squash other people’s ideas. You’re supposed to love being a mother, but don’t talk about your kids all the damn time. You have to be a career woman, but also always be looking out for other people. You have to answer for men’s bad behavior, which is insane, but if you point that out, you’re accused of complaining. You’re supposed to stay pretty for men, but not so pretty that you tempt them too much or that you threaten other women because you’re supposed to be a part of the sisterhood. But always stand out and always be grateful. But never forget that the system is rigged. So find a way to acknowledge that but also always be grateful. You have to never get old, never be rude, never show off, never be selfish, never fall down, never fail, never show fear, never get out of line. It’s too hard! It’s too contradictory and nobody gives you a medal or says thank you! And it turns out in fact that not only are you doing everything wrong, but also everything is your fault.

    I’m just so tired of watching myself and every single other woman tie herself into knots so that people will like us. And if all of that is also true for a doll just representing women, then I don’t even know.

    TQ White II