Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Colin Kaepernick and the Star Spangled Banner

San Francisco 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick refused to stand for the Star Spangled Banner at a pre-season football game the other night and, as a result, has come into a storm of criticism. He's also received support.

Kaepernick refused to stand as a protest against what he called the oppression of people of color.

Kaepernick is entitled to his opinion. That's how freedom of speech works. Others are also entitled to criticize him for that opinion. That's also how freedom of speech works. It's a two way street.

Some people are saying that Kaepernick shouldn't have protested while wearing a 49ers uniform. That it was inappropriate to protest essentially while at work. As far as I'm concerned that's an issue between Kaepernick and the 49ers.

I'm going to take a neutral stance on this one. Are there issues? Yes, there are. Are they as racially motivated as some make out? I don't think so. Certainly race plays a part but it's not the whole story.

Economics plays a large part. Poverty leads to crime and crime leads to confrontation with authority. Until we recognize all the parts of the play, things aren't going to change for the better and just might get worse.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

The Kalam Cosmological Argument

This is a "proof" of the existence of God made popular by William Lane Craig and adopted by giddy theists everywhere. It has the appearance of simplicity and, to the casual reader or listener. may even look convincing.

The reality is that the argument's "simplicity" comes from being fast and loose with the precise meanings of words and making a number of unfounded assumptions. The argument, as put forward by Craig, is actually in two parts.

Part 1 - Demonstrating that the Universe has a cause.
1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
2. The Universe began to exist.
3. The Universe has a cause.

Part 2 - Defining that cause as God.
1. The universe has a cause;
2. If the universe has a cause, then an uncaused, personal Creator of the universe exists, who sans the universe is beginningless, changeless, immaterial, timeless, spaceless and enormously powerful;
3. Therefore: An uncaused, personal Creator of the universe exists, who sans the universe is beginningless, changeless, immaterial, timeless, spaceless and enormously powerful.

There are so many issues with this argument that it's difficult to know where to begin. Let's look at the argument a bit closer.

1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause. - Says who? In order to make such a statement you must have perfect knowledge of everything that has ever begun to exist or that ever will begin to exist.

While we're at it, define "begins to exist?" When does a table "begin to exist?" After the carpenter finishes building it? When the carpenter starts building it? When the wood arrives from the lumber yard? When the wood is cut at the lumber yard? When the tree from which the lumber is made is cut down or when the tree from which the lumber is made is planted?

Then you can define "cause." Are we speaking about a material cause? An efficient cause? Both? Sticking with the table analogy, the material cause would be the wood; the efficient cause would be the agent of change or the carpenter.

If you say that "cause" here only refers to a material cause then you are admitting that no efficient cause or agent of change is required. If you say "cause" refers to either an efficient cause or both then you are effectively assuming the conclusion in the first premise.

2. The universe began to exist - Again, says who? The mathematics of General Relativity that is used to wind the universe backward no longer works beyond when the universe is a Planck Time old (about 1x10-43 seconds). So no one can say anything about the universe prior to then. We don't know whether it existed or not.

The "Big Bang" simply marks the beginning of the expansion of the universe. No one knows anything about anything prior to that including whether the universe existed or not.

Given that neither premise is necessarily true, the conclusion that the universe had a cause is not necessarily true.

However even if you accept the premises and conclusion, the remainder of the argument that this "cause" should be "changeless, immaterial, timeless, spaceless and enormously powerful" and be a "personal creator" doesn't follow. These are simply a pair of unjustified assertions. An unsupported leap to the desired conclusion.

Even if there was a cause for the universe, this is no reason to conclude that this "cause" was intelligent or even that it survived the creation of the universe.

So, there really is no reason to be impressed with the Kalam Cosmological Argument. I'm not sure if Craig really believes this crap or if he knows it's nonsense but hopes his audience won't recognize it as such.

Election 2016 IV

My how time flies. Time for the Saturday update already? Perhaps I should cut this down to once a week?
Polls Plus Model - Clinton - 73.6%, Trump - 26.4% - Trump +2.4
Polls Only Model - Clinton - 81.4%, Trump - 18.5% - Trump +3.3
Now-cast Model - Clinton - 81.5%, Trump - 18.5% - Trump +6.0

Real Clear Politics 
Popular Vote - Clinton 48.4%, Trump 42.1%, Clinton +6.3 - Clinton +0.9
Electoral Vote - Clinton - 272, Trump - 154. Undecided - 112 - No change.

Predict It Betting Odds
Clinton .72, Trump .28 - Clinton No Change, Trump No Change

The only real major shift is in the models and that's primarily because Arizona and Georgia appear to have shifted into the Trump column according to their models.

It's interesting how different prediction sites have slightly different takes on where some states will end up.

The latest buzzword is "Alt. Right" and the two candidates have taken to calling each other names. That doesn't strike me as terribly useful but I learned time ago that you don't get elected based upon facts. You get elected based upon how much emotion you can stir up.

Hey. I'm not immune to that either. I just get concerned that someday a candidate is going to unleash forces he can't control. Trump is coming close. He's simply too stupid to realize how idiotic some of his supporter are.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Election 2016 III

Time for the Wednesday update.
Polls Plus Model - Clinton - 76.2%, Trump - 23.8% - Clinton +1.0
Polls Only Model - Clinton - 84.7%, Trump - 15.2% - Trump +1.0
Now-cast Model - Clinton - 87.4%, Trump - 12.5% - Clinton +0.3

Real Clear Politics
Popular Vote - Clinton +5.4 - Trump +0.3
Electoral Vote - Clinton - 272, Trump - 154. Undecided - 112 - No change.

Predict It Betting Odds
Clinton .72, Trump .28 - Clinton +.01, Trump -.03

So things are pretty much holding steady. There's a slight tightening of the nationwide popular vote but the electoral vote counts are holding steady.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Election 2016 II

Time for the Saturday update.
Polls Plus Model - Clinton - 75.2%, Trump - 24.8% - Trump +2.4
Polls Only Model - Clinton - 85.7%, Trump - 14.2% - Trump +1.7
Now-cast Model - Clinton - 87.1%, Trump - 12.8% - Trump +1.0

Real Clear Politics
Popular Vote - Clinton +5.7 - Trump +0.3
Electoral Vote - Clinton - 272, Trump - 154. Undecided - 112 - No change.

Predict It Betting Odds
Clinton .71, Trump .31 - Clinton -.04, Trump +.07

So a slight tightening of the race as Trump hasn't said anything excruciatingly stupid this week. In the meantime new campaign leadership is attempting a reboot of his campaign and making it look more like a normal political campaign.

I want to see his tax returns. There's no reason not to release them.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Election 2016

I've decided to expand my tracking of the election a bit to include Real Clear Politics and the current betting markets. I'll try to do updates Wednesday and Saturday until we get closer to the election.
Polls Plus Model - Clinton - 77.6%, Trump - 22.4% - No change.
Polls Only Model - Clinton - 87.4%, Trump - 12.5% - Trump +0.3
Now-cast Model - Clinton - 88.2%, Trump - 11.8% - Trump +2.6

Real Clear Politics
Popular Vote - Clinton +6.0
Electoral Vote - Clinton - 272, Trump - 154. Undecided - 112

Predict It Betting Odds
Clinton .75, Trump .24

There's still a long way to go and I expect the race to tighten as we move forward. Enthusiasm for Clinton isn't terribly strong and that's what gives Trump a chance although it's hard to believe that someone who has said as many stupid things as him is still in the race.

He also continues to demonstrate he's awful at picking advisers. This was something that was a Ronald Reagan strong point. He also continues to demonstrate an unwillingness to learn from the experts believing himself to be the ultimate expert on everything.

The combination of these two things is incredibly dangerous.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The Mail

A somewhat exiting daily event, the arrival of the mail.

It's not nearly as exciting as it used to be as we have most of our bills on auto pay so we don't get many bills in the old snail mail. I get dire warnings about impending deductions via e-mail. I suppose they want me to make sure I have sufficient funds.

One exception is the water bill. They made it too painful to set up auto payments so I usually wait until it arrives and then pay it online.

Suez Water Company
So, on the top of the stack is an envelope from Suez (the new name of Hackensack Water) stamped "Reminder Enclosed." Couldn't be the bill; we already got one this month. Ah, yes, they're reminding me that I haven't bought their water line insurance for about $10 a quarter.

Let's see, I've been living here 32 years without this insurance and I've never had a problem so I figure I'm about $1300 ahead of the game. I think I'll just let it continue to slide.

Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores
An advertisement plus coupons which is actually addressed to my #3 daughter. I'll let her decide what to do with it.

Family Circle Magazine
Actually it's addressed to my wife complete with what looks like a renewal bill and our daily 20% off coupon from Bed, Bath and Beyond. I'll let her worry about it.

New York University School of Professional Studies
Looks like a course catalog addressed to my #1 daughter. I'll let her worry about it.

The Woman Within
Hmm, plus side woman's brands addressed to my wife or current resident. I'll have to pretend I didn't see this or I'll be joining my wife on a diet for the next month or two.

Trader Joe's Fearless Flyer
An advertisement addressed to Resident containing my road map for cheating on that diet.

Valpak Coupons
Local store coupons addressed to Our Friends. I'll let my wife worry about that too.

American Express Platinum Card
My quarterly offer from American Express to apply for their platinum card. I already have a Bank of America Platinum Account with card and a Chase Freedom Card. I used to have an American Express from work but gave it up when I retired. I don't need it.

CVS Pharmacy
Samples and coupons addressed to my #1 daughter.

This was the sort of mail I like. Absolutely nothing for me to do and no headaches or problems. I like it.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Divided we Stand?

That we are a nation with fairly deep divides is not a secret. I think it's safe to say it has always been that way. But what has changed recently is the willingness of the political elite to use those divisions against us

In September of 2009 considering the widening of the gap between a left shifting Democratic Party and a right shifting Republican Party I predicted:

"It would be only a matter of time before one side or the other manages to elect a president that is totally unacceptable to the other side."

Welcome to 2016.

Trump is breaking all sorts of rules. He is pandering to the stupidity of his base and doing everything feasible to undermine the legitimacy of his losing the election in November.

He is outright declaring that if he loses it can only be because the election was rigged; he has hinted that violence might be necessary if Clinton wins.

His latest call is for "polling observers" which sound a lot like brown shirts to intimidate voters.

That it is still quite possible that he will win this election is mind boggling.

I'm going to follow for the rest of the time to the election. They're using three models this time around. A "Polls Only" model which is the same as the one used in 2008. A "Polls Plus" model which adds economic and historical factors and a "Now-cast" which considers who would win if the election were held immediately.

All three provide probability of winning numbers.

August 13, 2016

Polls Plus Model  - Clinton - 77.6%, Trump - 22.4%
Polls Only Model - Clinton - 87.8%, Trump - 12.2%
Now-cast Model   - Clinton - 90.8%, Trump -  9.2%

But, of course, according to Trump and his Trumpettes these number are all lies anyway or based upon phony poll numbers. It's all a big conspiracy.

Saturday, August 06, 2016

The Rio Olympics

The Olympic Games began last night in Rio de Janeiro. I didn't watch it. I used to enjoy the games but now I pretty much ignore them.

I'm not really certain why that's the case. Maybe because the presidential elections occur in the same years and that seems so much more important?

I say seems because sometimes I think it's all an illusion.

I saw a Post that said that the American Voters are coming to their senses.

The American voters are coming to their senses? Would you like to place a small wager on that one?

There was a Reuters poll last night that claimed the margin between Clinton and Trump was less than 4 points. Not only that but the array of states that look like they will contribute their electoral votes to the Trump looks to be about the same number that voted for Romney.

There are Trump signs on lawns around here and I’m utterly at a loss to understand why anyone would even consider voting for this self-centered, ignorant, loud mouthed clown. Then I remember that Republicans live in an alternate reality shaped by Fox News and Right Wing talk radio.

In Louisiana something like 30% of Republicans blame Obama for the slow response to Katrina. Something like 25% of all Republicans believe that (1) unemployment has gone UP under Obama and (2) the stock market has gone DOWN under Obama. Then of course the policies enacted by Obama and Clinton led to the death of Captain Humayun Khan, Obama is a Kenyan born Muslim and Hillary Clinton planned and personally led the attack on Benghazi.

I like to think I’m insane. Because if I’m NOT insane, then 50% of the country is insane and I sleep much better at night thinking that I’m the crazy one.

I fear for the future of the Republic.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

The Houston Chronicle Endorses Hillary and Nails it

The Houston Chronicle has decided not to wait and has joined the Daily News in endorsing Hillary Clinton while blasting Donald Trump.

"The Chronicle editorial page does not typically endorse early in an election cycle; we prefer waiting for the campaign to play out and for issues to emerge and be addressed. We make an exception in the 2016 presidential race, because the choice between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is not merely political. It is something much more basic than party preference." 

"Any one of Trump's less-than-sterling qualities - his erratic temperament, his dodgy business practices, his racism, his Putin-like strongman inclinations and faux-populist demagoguery, his contempt for the rule of law, his ignorance - is enough to be disqualifying." 

Oh yeah, that pretty much hits the nail on the head but they're not simply going against Trump.

"Americans know Hillary Clinton; post-Philadelphia, they're even better acquainted with "the real Hillary Clinton," as her husband phrased it. After her quarter century and more in the public eye, they know her strengths and her weaknesses...As President Obama noted, she's the most qualified person in years to serve as president - 'and that includes Bill and me.' The only candidate to come close is George H.W. Bush...On the issues, there's no comparison in terms of thoughtfulness, thoroughness and practicality."

In 2012 I could understand why someone could prefer Mitt Romney to Barack Obama. In 2008, if it wasn't for what turned out to be a disastrous choice in Sarah Palin for VP, I could also understand someone choosing the clearly more experienced John McCain over Obama.

But this time around I cannot understand how anyone with any degree of decency as a human being could possibly support Donald Trump.

A vote for Trump is a vote against all of the positive things this country stands for. Are we perfect? Of course not. We're not even close, but we're trying.

Trump is asking us not only to stop trying but to move backwards. I refuse to do that.

Monday, August 01, 2016

When is Enough Finally Enough?

The conventions are over and Trump continues to demonstrate his total lack of discipline.

How do you get into a pissing contest with the parents of a dead soldier?

Have you no decency sir?

When is it going to be enough? When will it finally dawn upon his harebrained supporters that this clown does not have the temperament to be president?

Hell, he doesn't have the temperament to be dogcatcher.

Hillary, please, don't fuck this up. I never thought I'd see the day when I thought that the country desperately needed Hillary Clinton in the White House but that day has arrived.

I'm with Hillary.