The Philosopher's Tinker Room


Category: Uncategorized

Why is the mainstream left ignoring American militarism?

Question: Is the Democratic left engaging in emphasizing socioeconomic domestic policies at the expense of largely ignoring American militarism and military imperialism in a similar way that the Republican right wing emphasizes social conservatism at the expense of ignoring populist economic principles that would support working class Republican Party supporters?  I have in minds specifically Elizabeth Warren’s, when questioning Mattis during appointment hearings, not addressing any of General Mattis’s actions or lack of action involving the alleged war crimes committed under his watch during the Iraq war.  Instead, Warren just asked the General questions about making sure that the military bases in Warren’s state wouldn’t be eliminated.

The need to guard against Ayne Rand followers.

Ayne Rand’s principle of valuing selfishness is the very antithesis of conservative right wing patriotism.  Instead, we need a strong government and regulations to protect the public and environment from the very sorts of selfish capitalism that Rand advocated for.  Letting the markets run things is very much like the fox guarding the hen house.  By the time, if ever, there is a general recognition of the harm done by a business, irreversible harm could have been done to people and the environment.  The only reasonable action is to be proactive by vigorous regulation of the marketplace to protect consumers, workers, the environment and even the systemic structure of the market itself from the sorts of selfishness that Rand advocated for.

Why to I have to go through an ISP to connect to the internet?

I don’t understand why I can’t be my own internet service provider.  By that I mean, given that the internet is merely a computer network, why can’t I just plug my phone line into my computer’s Ethernet input and thus be connected to the rest of the computers on the internet the same way I could connect computers to a network in a home or office?  Maybe what we really need is to treat the internet as a utility and have the people own and operate it as such.

Idea to form a web services cooperative

by Glen Wallace

Idea: a cooperative or union formed to own and operate a server farm and run web services for various organizations.  The cooperative would of course be not for profit, but owners who use it and contribute to the coop could be for profit businesses.  I think that for something utilitarian like a server farm and web services that require large initial funding requirements, and thus limited competition among private server farms and web services that would keep price points down, a cooperative or union would be an ideal way to keep those costs down instead of having to fork over unnecessarily large funds over to some corporate behemoth like Amazon for their Amazon Web Services.

Progressive populism should be pushed

First, propose lefty programs that would likely have widespread populist appeal — such as a program to eliminate all or nearly all federal income taxes for middle class workers by shifting the burden onto the top one percent along with some more novel sources such as taxing transactions on the Wall Street high frequency trading machines.  Then, when Republican’s inevitably block such programs, call them out for standing in the way of programs that would eliminate income taxes for the vast majority of the working public.  And when the political right inevitably comes back with a retort that such a shifting of tax burden would stifle growth, have your ideological toolbox ready with responses — in this case, point out how America saw some of its greatest economic growth and prosperity in the 1950’s when the top one percent were taxed very heavily compared to today.  Point out how the human drive and motivations that lead to economic growth and innovation are much more complex principles that can’t be reduced to the point where a comparison is made with the way humans relate to money the way lab rats relate to kibble.

Trump asks why we can’t just use our nuclear weapons

I was just watching MSNBC Morning Joe program where they were talking with a defense expert by the name of Hayden.  At the 5:57 point in the interview Joe said that in a meeting where Trump was consulting with an unnamed foreign policy expert, Trump asked three times “If we have nuclear weapons, why can’t we just use them?”  This creates just another reason why we cannot risk having Trump becoming President.  Among other things, his asking the same question three times in the same interview presents the possibility that Trump is facing the early stages of dementia.   Presumably the foreign policy expert answered the question every time, so why did Trump have to ask more than once.  Not only  should Trump have already known of the dangers of weapons that he would have the trigger to as President, but he also should have got it after having his question was answered the first time in the same interview.  Trump asking the same question three times in the same meeting is in itself a symptom of having great difficulty with his short term memory.  Combine his apparent reasoning difficulties with poor short term memory along with many instances of paranoia, another symptom of dementia, we must realize we need to stop being nice or polite and call out the wannabe emperor for having no clothes — he may be in the early stages of dementia and therefore not fit to be President.

What Trumps comments also show is that progressive voters voting for a third party candidates are engaging in risky behavior insofar as doing so could risk having someone who doesn’t appreciate the dangers of the very nuclear weapons he would have the prerogative to launch.  We are facing an exigent situation here that we haven’t faced in any recent previous presidential elections.  In the past three Presidential elections I have voted for either the Green Party or the Socialist Workers Party candidate — but not in this election.  This time is different.  In past elections I at least had confidence in the mental stability of the Republican candidates such as Mitt Romney.  Therefore I didn’t see such a grave risk if the Republican candidate were elected like I now see with Trump.  Given the risks involved not only should all progressives, and anyone else for that matter, be sure to vote for Hillary Clinton, Jill Stein should suspend her campaign and endorse Hillary as well.  Voting for anyone besides Hillary is playing with fire.  We are in an all hands on deck situation here to insure this ship of a country and world stays afloat long enough to have a chance to implement some sorely needed progressive reforms including but not limited to the ideas of Bernie and Jill Stein.  We may need to call our representative democratic system largely a failed experiment and implement a complete overhaul such as phasing in a direct democracy modeled after the one successfully run in ancient Greece.  But we need to be around to try those ideas.  Pleas, don’t be gambling by voting third party just because it is assumed your state is safe or because Hillary is hopefully high in the polls on election day.  Don’t gamble.  Vote to insure the mentally stable candidate is the one that will be in charge of the nuclear launch codes — Hillary Clinton.


Drug price increases unmask the failure of capitalism to assist medicine

Capitalism not only often does not assist the medical field, it is very often its worst enemy.  The recent case of a particular drug having its price raised so much as to amount to rank price gouging demonstrates the need to completely overhaul the entire economic structure of the medical field.  Outside of a clinical trial, patients are entirely at the mercy of the whims and fancies of for-profit pharmaceutical corporations to provide any medicine, at whatever price they feel they can get away with.  And yet, despite cases of such well publicized price gouging, the public seems to retain some fundamental misconceptions about the nature of medicine and its relationship with the realm of capitalism.  Charities continue to tout how your contributions are being used to help find a cure for some horrible disease.  But our system is set up so that the only necessary truth is that your medical charity contribution that goes toward research is only being used to assist Big Pharma in searching for their next money maker.  So, our only hope to find a cure is that some cure is found that will be more profitable for a drug company than the current inferior treatment they are now selling.  For if that ‘cure’ will not pad their bottom line to the capitalists satisfaction, there is absolutely no fiduciary reason for them to offer that cure to the public at all.  And if that pharmaceutical business is a publicly traded corporation, as they very often are, they have a legal responsibility to look after the financial interests of the shareholders and not the health of the public.

We need a medical system that is necessarily structured around making patient health the top priority.  That seems like a common sense philosophy, but we are not currently using such a philosophy.  Instead, the public is just operating under the assumption that the only way to incentivize and finance the quest to find better treatments and cures is to succumb to the mercy of the capitalist sharks.  What we forget is that the people on the front lines of that medical quest, are researchers and practitioners that generally don’t stand to gain financially by the introduction of any new drug or treatment.  Therefore, why not put those front-line medical people, who are motivated by a combination of genuine altruistic caring about the patients and a healthy competitive environment between researches striving to be the first to find that elusive ‘cure’?  How are we then going to finance such a system?  Well, I can’t think of a better and more popular use for the pooling of the public’s money in government coffers than to fund such research.  And if no drug company wishes to manufacture and sell a new found cure at a reasonable price?  Then we the people could take on that task as well and let such an organization as the NIH manufacture and sell at cost the new cure.

Wikipedia and the use of the Term ‘Pseudoscience’

I’ve written a number of comments in the discussion sections and elsewhere on Wikipedia regarding the editorial use of the term ‘pseudoscience.’  I first went by the username of Phiborjam until I forgot the password for that one and so I later started going by the username Quarky Gluon. Here are some of my posts:

In the ‘Recent Conjectures’ section, the first sentence states: “The field has attracted pseudoscientific authors offering a variety of evidence, including psychic readings.” The term ‘pseudoscientific’ is an ad hominem label that is epistemologically irrelevant to any arguments or reasoning made by the authors listed in the ‘Recent Conjectures’ section. The listed authors may or may not have provided any good scientific reasons for believing in their theories, but that can be assessed by anyone that reads their works. Phiborjam (talk) 23:46, 6 February 2011 (UTC)

There is fine line between promoting an agenda and supporting a position. I think I’ve found in this article an excellent example of promoting an agenda. In this case there is clearly a group of editors bent on promoting the position that certain authors deserve the label ‘psuedoscientific.’ While promoting a position is supposed to be against the principles of Wikipedia, I’m starting to wonder if an exception is being made for those that are promoting the skeptics agenda. I thought the purpose of an encyclopedia, of which Wikipedia attempts to portray itself as such, is to present facts and information, and where necessary an explanation of those facts and information in a manner that the reader can acquire knowledge. However, drawing conclusions about the nature of particular individuals (authors) in one article based on a description of a practice(pseudoscience) presented in an entirely different article veers away from the objective presentation of information and into the presentation and promotion of a particular point of view. This is especially true with the case at hand given that no citation or evidence has been presented to support the position that any given author fits the category of ‘pseudoscientific.’ In fact there is a great deal of vagueness about who the editor is referring to as pseudoscientific. Does the term necessarily include all those authors listed in the section that the term is used? If so why is that not stated? I’m sure many different hypothesis, theories, conjectures whether accepted by academics or not have still attracted a large variety of characters that would fit into a myriad of different categories that are listed as entries on Wikipedia. Does that mean every time we find an author that an editor thinks fits category X that wrote about subject Y, an entry needs to be made stating that subject Y has attracted an author who is an X? To me this all seems like I’m fighting against childish name calling, especially when the authors in question I’m sure have never identified themselves as being, nor would they ever like being called, a pseudoscientific author. So let us leave the conclusions about authors, and any possible name-calling to the reader and keep this encyclopedia a professional, serious place for objective learning.Quarky Gluon (talk) 05:33, 28 December 2011 (UTC)

The Two Sides of Bitcoin

Bitcoin seems to have a problem with its identity, and it is that identity crisis that may be its undoing. Bitcoin supporters seem to want to have both their libertarian ideals and speculative capitalism all at once. In order for Bitcoin to work at all there has to be a certain degree of cooperation among the Bitcoin community. The value of Bitcoin as a commodity used as a means to transfer value depends on Bitcoin’s value as a commodity used as a speculative investment vehicle and vice versa. Bitcoin will have no value as a value transfer device — a way to pay for things or send money, if the speculators on the currency exchange believe the dollar value of Bitcoin will fall precipitously. Conversely, the speculators will not give any value to Bitcoin if there is no demand to use it as a way to pay for things.

The long list of companies now accepting Bitcoin as payment are all treating it as a ‘hot potato currency’  — they all want to exchange the Bitcoins they receive for dollars, as quickly as possible, before they might realize a loss in dollar value. It is understandable that those companies make such an effort to accept Bitcoins given that in so doing they will likely receive new customers from the loyal and enthusiastic Bitcoin community.

I actually would love to see some way of being able to pay for something electronically without going through Visa or MasterCard — I think those companies must be making money hand over fist on all those transaction fees for each and every purchase. But as a consumer that does not own or manage a business, I think I am in a minority in terms of being bothered by the transaction fees charged to the vendor with each purchase made by a credit card. Yes, those large transaction fees are avoided by Bitcoin, but how is that an incentive for the average consumer that doesn’t give much thought to macroeconomic principles and philosophy? It is the average ‘Soccer Mom’, or ‘NASCAR Dad’ or company softball league player that goes to the sports bar after the game that needs to adopt Bitcoin in a widespread fashion for virtual currency to become commonplace. But there is little incentive for those outside of the Bitcoin believers to adopt the virtual currency. If the consumer gets ripped off they can’t get a charge back like they can with a credit card. And if Bitcoin loses value relative to the dollar the holder of the Bitcoin is out that value with no recourse there as well. Given those facts, why would the average consumer be expected to adopt Bitcoin as their regular method of payment? And if widespread adoption never happens, then what is the long term outlook for the value of Bitcoin?

Looked at from the perspective of the speculative trader, there are some vulnerabilities to Bitcoin. Perhaps the biggest vulnerability on the value as a commodity end is its lack proprietary value. While there may be some inherent value that is ingeniously built into Bitcoin, as far as I know, there is no exclusive license to the mathematical and computer science technology that make the transfer of value utility possible. There are currently at least 500 different virtual currencies in existence, and I’m sure most if not all of them use the same mathematical and computer science principles as Bitcoin. While Bitcoin may have, by far, the most widespread use of all the virtual currencies, I don’t believe any contracts exist to insure and assure that will continue to be the case in the future. If another virtual currency were to come along as the new favorite, then is there any written or unwritten understanding among the current Bitcoin community that they wouldn’t, after seeing their Dollar to Bitcoin ratio plummet, cut their losses and bail from Bitcoin and hop on the next virtual currency bandwagon?

Just a idea for a future essay: When does due process become a punishment in itself?  Why does our legal system allow for systemic abuse of process by large corporations?