Political Correctness is the arch-enemy of truth, justice, and rationality.

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Censorship is alive and well. The vast majority of it comes from the left, from so-called “progressives.” An unexpected legacy of my generation’s ‘Free Speech’ movement, perhaps? As they say, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

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Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Banner Falls on Academia in America

Daryl Kane

There’s a classic scene in Jurassic Park where the park’s banner falls over the T-Rex as he roars in the main lobby. It’s certainly not the subtlest of visual puns but it’s a powerful one nonetheless, and the image has since become an icon for the flawed hubris of man.

Today a similar scene is unfolding before the eyes of the public on campuses all across the country. The monster behind the current carnage is a group of academic elites who have instituted a bizarre form of politically correct fascism on their campuses that comes equipped with a massive brainwashing apparatus as well as a rather large stick for silencing dissent. The installation of this apparatus is not news to anyone who has set foot on a college campus in the last 50 years. What is news is that this story is finally being reported on, at least by any news sources not completely in the tank for the anti-American zealots otherwise known as “social justice warriors.” But even those weaponized news sources are now being forced to report on what is happening, even if their slant can be predictably found exactly 180 degrees away from reality. On this both sides can agree: something is happening.

After the communist revolution stalled in Europe after World War II, the Marxists sought to regroup in Germany and established a massive think tank called The Frankfurt School. The general thrust of what emerged from their discourse was that the reason why the revolution failed to manifest across Europe was because the emphasis had been placed on economic issues rather than cultural ones. Only after dismantling a people’s ethnic, religious and national identities could they be made to accept the ideas of communism. Thus Cultural Marxism was created, an idea so radical that it was rejected in Moscow. Eventually they were forced to flee Germany and were unfortunately granted a safe haven at Columbia University. Before long they had spread their views to most of the prominent universities in the country.

Cultural Marxism in academia would manifest itself in many ways. One was in the formation of the various ethnic, gender or sexual identity-based studies that litter the current curriculum. While the subjects of the studies differ, they are all essentially cloned versions of one another. The story is always the same, a minority group victimized by America and Western Civilization. The heroes change but the villains remain constantly, white, male and Christian. “Critical Theory” is applied to the various ways in which human beings characterize one another until all of human history is deconstructed so it can be rebuilt to fit the narrow lens of political correctness. The same process and principles used by earlier communists to reduce all of human history to a struggle between classes now being applied to the cultural identity of America. This leads to the creation of the various victim groups that we currently understand to be the base of the Democratic Party.

But these are not the people we are dealing with today. We are dealing with second and third generation Cultural Marxists that are the unfortunate byproduct of intellectual inbreeding. Hired by, answering to, and surrounded by people that view the world exactly the same way they do. People that value “diversity” over merit and to whom the term “tolerance” means the mandatory and passionate embrace of political correctness. And they’ve dutifully passed on these values to the current generation of students.

Only something has suddenly gone terribly wrong. The ideological inbreeding has created a degree of intellectual deformity so severe that the students have reverted to cannibalism and are eating their professors alive as we speak. Recently, students complaining about “micro aggressions” and other imagined (and often times deliberately fabricated) offenses have called for the resignations of any and all faculty that did not apply enough lipstick before kissing their asses. The great irony here is that the very people who have aggressively, and often times violently harassed and attempted to silence others, are the ones claiming to be bullied. The student spit on, cursed at or punched by hooligans is not the artsy lesbian with piercings and tattoos. It’s the Christian girl who quietly decided to opt out of the LBGT rally. The still greater irony is that the very assholes who endowed these delinquents with their sense of entitlement are the very same people whose resignations they are now demanding!

The PC chickens have finally come home to roost at the original scene of the crime. Ultimately, what you are watching is the ugly death of the American college. First and foremost it no longer offers education. It does not even offer an environment conducive to exploring ideas on your own, either. Hell, you can’t even get laid in college anymore without a signed contract. Well, not unless you’re OK with being accused of sexual assault by an angry ex a few weeks later and ready to face prosecution, guilty until proven innocent.

On top of all of this, the cost of this dangerous and degrading experience is increasingly exorbitant. To paraphrase Matt Damon in “Goodwill Hunting,” you’re much better off getting a library card. Or perhaps enrolling in an online course where you can get a degree for a fraction of the cost and considerably less hassle. You’ll also miss out on a heavy dosage of leftist brainwashing which has long been the primary function of academia in this country. And that is precisely why I predict that this “free college” initiative from the Left will soon be the central item of the Democratic Party’s platform. Their survival as a party may well depend upon it. Because we’ve given them unilateral control of education and they have utterly destroyed it, and because without the college campus there will be no one to train the next generation to vote for them. The cost of the atrocious product now being offered simply is not sustainable anymore, which is precisely why they will need to make it free, if not mandatory.

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Friday, August 14, 2015

GOP Post-Debate Power Rankings

Daryl Kane

1. Scott Walker. Despite a generally underwhelming debate performance and a slight slide in polls, Walker remains the candidate likeliest to thread the needle and satisfy the various wings of the party.

2. Donald Trump. On the one hand, it’s extremely early in the race and it remains far more likely that the Trump bubble will burst than not. Nevertheless, he is the undisputed front runner at this particular point in time and has earned that place by repeatedly bitch slapping political correctness and mastering Nixon’s madman thesis. Hint to the establishment: your attempts to sabotage Trump all inevitably backfire; legitimate questions on policy prove to be his Achilles’ heel. Treat Trump fairly and trust in primary voters to figure out where he belongs.

3. Ted Cruz. Cruz may not be polling particularly well at the moment but he is first in line to receive the most Trump votes should his bubble burst. He also has arguably the strongest social media presence save Rand Paul, whose campaign is going nowhere fast as I’ll address several numbers down.

4. Marco Rubio. Rubio performed well during the debate and remains a safe pick for a general election due to his appeal to Latinos and his ability to shore up Florida.

5. Jeb Bush. Many might place Jeb higher on this list but if anything I feel this placement is generous. Jeb has an extremely low ceiling amongst conservatives. Put another way, as the bottom half of this list drops off, whose votes will be going to Jeb? The only candidates whose voters might have Jeb as their second guy are Rubio, Walker and perhaps Kasich, all of whom look to go deep into the primaries. The current size of the field works to Jeb’s advantage and his inability to get a bigger share of voters at this stage does not bode well for him moving forward. As for his debate performance? Well, ehh... it was “Jebby.”

6. John Kasich. Kasich remains my top dark horse candidate. Being able to deliver Ohio is the single most substantial asset of all the GOP candidates. Add to that his common touch, likability and appeal to moderates and you have the makings of a very formidable general election candidate.

7. Ben Carson. Despite having a relatively small amount of speaking time during the debate Carson managed to stand out with his wit and charm. Carson has a tremendous platform and his ability to turn the board on its head by liberating the African-American community from the destructive worldview of political correctness makes him another potential dark horse.

8. Carly Fiorina. Fiorina emerged as the clear winner of the little kid debate and was quickly catapulted to the grown-ups’ table.  I respect her candidacy hence her placement on the upper card, but my gut tells me she will prove to be more of a flavor-of-the-month candidate than someone that goes deep into the primaries.

9. Mike Huckabee. I’ve never been a big fan of Huckabee but no one can deny that he performed very well at the debate. He also has a great platform for a general election. That being said I ultimately think his lack of intellectual depth holds him back in a field this deep.

10. Chris Christie. The man who was four years too late. Christie did well during the debate but it remains to be seen if he will be able to overcome the scorn he has drawn from conservatives since 2012. My suspicion is no.

11. Rick Santorum. It certainly doesn’t look like Santorum’s campaign is going anywhere—but then again it didn’t look that way in 2012, either. Santorum remains a principled advocate of blue collar Americans and his proven track record of winning states and delegates give him the tie breaker over the bottom portion of the pack.

12. Rand Paul. Whether or not you think Paul got the better of Christie during their 4th amendment tiff is irrelevant. Rand Paul had the worst debate performance, by far. He came off as testy, erratic and a little bit weird. With foreign policy primed to play a strong role in 2016 the libertarian party ceiling continues to sink. My advice to the Rand Paul fan boys: do yourself a favor and put your bitcoins on someone else.

13. Bobby Jindal. Last week I blasted Jindal for being a generally bland and generic candidate. That being said, his line about “assimilation vs. invasion” proved to be best line of the night. That alone puts him ahead of Perry.

14. Rick Perry. Perry was clearly disappointed he didn’t make the cut but he was actually rather lucky not to. Glasses or not, the man simply is not intelligent enough to be president and the more people hear him speak the less likely it is that he will ever be taken seriously.

15. The rest of the list has such low chances of winning there’s not much point in trying to rank them. Here we have a tie for last place between candidates Gilmore, Pataki and Graham.

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Sunday, June 28, 2015

The DOLEZAL POINT: Rachel Dolezal, Political Correctness, and the 2nd Derivative

Mark Charalambous

Since everyone is riffing on Rachel Dolezal, I figured I’d get my licks in, too. After all, how could the Third Rail shy away from a story about a woman from the “Privilege” class who chooses to disguise herself as a member of the ethnic class that occupies the bottom rung of virtually every measure of societal success?

Keywords: Political Correctness, Identity Politics, Transracialism, Transethno-something?...

You get the idea. Yes, this is ripe for a ride on the Third Rail.

To the question of “Why everyone everywhere is so captivated by this story?”  well, after some false flags, the truth has actually emerged into the general consensus. It’s this:  This case of identity politics is so absurd that not even the leftist loons can avoid acknowledging it. Bill Maher gets it.   Even Jon Stewart gets it.

The Left has been indoctrinating us for decades that all identities we used to consider immutable, those that constitute conditions of birth, basically your sex and your race, are in fact. . . not so!  We’ve been wrong all along!  They are now recognized as “social constructs.”
Rachel Dolezal, now-and-then
Yep, “Society’s to blame,” in the words of Monty Python (comedic references are unavoidable and de rigueur when discussing these matters).  It is the consensus of society and your own volition that determines your sex, race, or ethnicity.

Well, the upshot of all this from the Third Rail is this: 

REJOICE!   I bring good tidings!

Rachel Dolezal is The Tipping Point.  We are finally there!  The absurdities and inherent paradoxes of political correctness have reached their zenith.  Political correctness is officially beyond parody. You cannot make up stories that are both funnier and more preposterous than this one.

What’s The Onion going to do—write a fake news story about a dad who “self-identifies” as a mother?  That’s not as funny as Rachel Dolezal pretending to be black.

Now that you’re laughing, I’m going to teach you some math. Seriously. I’m going to explain to you, mathematically, what a tipping point is. Its formal name is an inflection point.

Before we do that, just a little background and more editorializing on political correctness is in order.

Most if not all politically correct notions are built on a foundation of quicksand. Gay marriage, for example, is predicated on the ridiculous notion that procreation is not implicit and irrevocable in the meaning and definition of marriage. Transethnicity, this latest farce, is predicated on the notion that race is a social construct, not biological.  Transgenderism is woven from the same identity-politics cloth: the inherent biology of one’s sex is meaningless; what matters is what sex you feel like, your “gender.”

Political correctness had a beginning in time. I might put it at around 1970. A good case could be made that it falls within a few years in either direction of that year. This is clearly arbitrary, but bear with me. It’s as good a year as any to pick. The first Earth Day was held in 1970, the same year the EPA was created. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with these events, but they were harbingers of a “new consciousness.”  It was the consciousness of the sixties generation beginning to be implemented, as we precious, sanctimonious folks embarked upon adulthood and our mission to remake the world in our image.

As time went on, political correctness (henceforth abbreviated to “PC-ness”) increased. There was more and more of it.  There was more in say, 1984 than there was in 1983. And the amount of that increase was greater than the increase from 1982 to 1983.  What we are talking about here is a rate; a rate of increase: how much PC-ness is increasing over a given period of time.

Time for the math.

A function is a math formula (or read: equation) for describing how something changes due to some other quantity.

For example, weekly pay could be a function of a fixed rate of hourly pay and the number of hours worked in the week. If the rate of pay was $10 per hour, and we used the variable h to count the number of hours worked, the function would look like this: P = 10•h  In math, we typically don’t write multiplication crosses or dots, and so this equation would actually be written like this:   P = 10h.

To find out your pay (P) for a given week, you multiply the number of hours worked, h, by 10. Bingo.

Figure 1.  Function over time
We now consider a function that represents a quantity changing over time. If we want to graph how a function is changing over time we first establish what we call the time axis. We usually draw a horizontal line at the bottom of the graph that represents the time axis.  It will have some scale drawn on it so specific times and time intervals can be noted or measured.

This establishes that the “picture” of the function’s behavior, typically a line or curve, is “read” from left to right indicating how the function changes going forward in time. The value of the function at the left end of the line occurs before its value at the right end, or for that matter any point on the line to its right. Refer to Figure 1.

Figure 2.  Constant function

If the line is flat (horizontal), the quantity that the line is describing (the function) is not changing over time. As you move right or left on the line (forwards or backwards in time), the line does not go up or down. The quantity is neither increasing or decreasing in time. In math we refer to this as a “constant” function. This is shown in Figure 2.

If the quantity increases as we go forward in time, the line goes up.  A line describing PC-ness would necessarily go up (to the right) because it is always increasing (over time).

If a quantity is decreasing over time, such as water evaporating in a pot, the line will go down (to the right).

From this point forward, I’ll use PC-ness as my example function. Any point on a line or curve that represents PC-ness shows how much PC-ness there is at that point in time.

Figure 3. Linear function
PC-ness has been increasing over time. If its picture were in fact a (straight) line and not a curve, it would imply that for all durations of time of the same length (for instance the time frame could be yearly, or every 5 years, or every day), the amount of increase over that time frame would be the same. In other words, it would increase by the exact same amount from 1977 to 1978 as from 1992 to 1993; or, the increase from June 1982 to July 1982 would be exactly the same as the increase from September to October 2007. We say the rate of increase is constant. We would then call the graph of PC-ness the graph of a “linear” function; because its graph is a straight line. An increasing linear function is shown in Figure 3.

If the rate of increase was not always the same, but was getting bigger all the time, the graph would not be of a line going up—it would be a curve going up, as in Figure 4. This would correspond to the situation that the increase in PC-ness from 1984 to 1985 was more than the increase in PC-ness from 1983 to 1984. And the increase from 1985 to 1986 was greater than from 1984 to 1985. The rate of increase is increasing.

Figure 4. Exponential function
There are many functions that correspond to something increasing in this manner, at an increasing rate. They are all curves that go up. One of the most common is called the exponential function. When we say that something is “growing exponentially” we are describing behavior like this, something that is getting bigger and getting bigger by bigger amounts all the time. Figure 4 shows an exponential function.

If there is nothing to arrest this increasing rate, we call this “exponential or uninhibited growth.”  Generally, population growth is exponential until there are mitigating environmental (or human) factors that throw a wrench into the works. One such example is the growth of mold on bread. There is only so much bread. The mold grows very quickly at first, but eventually it slows down as there is less bread to grow on. Eventually the mold reaches a maximum value. No more can grow. And that is what leads us to our final growth picture, shown in Figure 5.
Figure 5.  Logistic function

What if there was exponential-like behavior in some human endeavor, but something happened to derail it? A good example of this is the introduction of new technology.

When CDs were first produced the technology was new. The cost to switch over to the new music medium was expensive.  Both the CDs and the machines you needed to play them on cost more than the current music media, records and cassettes. As more and more people gradually discarded their old relics of the previous technology, dubbing-cassette boomboxes and record players and the like, the sales of CD players and CDs went up. As sales went up, the costs went down. As the cost went down, more people switched to the new media. Rinse and repeat.  What you have here my friend is an exponential-like growth pattern.

But would it go on forever?  Of course not!  The technologists never rest. When the second wave of the digital revolution arrived, the need for a physical medium for the music was replaced with software, a file of 1s and 0s that could be downloaded from the internet and played on a new device, the iPod.

What happened to the sales of CDs and CD players then?  They started to decrease. The growth in the number of CDs and CD players purchased would slow down. The rate of sales would slow down. As shown in Figure 5 on the top half of the “S-shaped” curve, eventually the sales will come to a crawl and the total amount of CDs and CD players sold will approach a maximum, fixed value. The picture of this growth pattern shown in Figure 5 describes what is called a “logistic” function.

We’re now ready to understand the tipping, or inflection point. The inflection point is the point where the picture changes from going up rapidly to a slower and slower rate of increase. Note, it is still going up, but at the far right the curve looks like it actually wants to become flat; meaning:  no change.  This is important; until a maximum value is eventually reached, no matter where we are on the curve the quantity being measured is always going up. But after a certain amount of time has passed a tipping point is reached where the curve bends toward the other direction. At this inflection point, the rate of increase slows down, until it crawls almost to an eventual stop at what is called the “carrying capacity” of the function, the point of maximum saturation, when no new CDs and CD players are purchased.

If the inflection point for PC-ness occurred in say, 1991, the increase from 1992 to 1993 would have been less than the increase from 1991 to 1992, and so on.

Granted, we sensible Americans don’t just want the rate of PC-ness to slow down and the total amount of it to eventually level off at some “acceptable” amount—we want PC-ness gone.  Period. As in zero. Ideally we’d like all the PC mischief that has plagued the body-politic over the past 45 years or so to not just stop, but reverse and eventually evaporate.

Eventually we’d like to see the curve that represents the amount of PC-ness become a flat line at the very bottom of the graph. But before we get there, the rate of growth of PC-ness has to start slowing down. The curve has to bend.

Question: Where is the inflection point?

I assert that Rachel Dolezal is that very inflection point. The rate of increase of political correctness that infects our world is going to begin to slow down now. Why do I make this claim?

One of the properties of the logistic function is that at the inflection point the rate of increase is at its maximum value (actually, just before the inflection point the growth rate is virtually exponential).  The tipping point for PC-ness will come at the point of its maximum madness.

I think we are at that point. The absurdities have reached hilarious proportions. Days before the Dolezal story broke the media was abuzz with accounts of Bruce Jenner’s sex change. For the past 8 years Jenner has been a reality TV whore. But ESPN, the nation’s preeminent sports network, chose to celebrate the “heroic” action of this Olympic athlete of 40 years ago by awarding “her” their Arthur Ashe Courage Award.

As this goes to press, the President has used the latest Islamist beheadings as an opportunity to once again lecture the nation on the dangers of “Islamophobia;” the White House has been bathed in rainbow colors celebrating the Supreme Court’s decision legalizing homosexual marriage; and the latest list of college “microaggressions” is making the rounds on Facebook.  I know it’s a tired cliché, but you can’t make this stuff up.

After the fallout form Dolezal from such disparate quarters—not just the expected conservative talking heads but also sources on the Left such as Maher and Stewart—it’s hard to believe that everything will soon go back to “normal.” I look for increasing ridicule as “Check out this latest case of political correctness...” becomes a frequent (and welcomed) narrative.

I hope it becomes an issue in the presidential debates on the Republican side. Some of the candidates should recognize that bashing PC-ness will be a vote-getter. To date, the candidate that has showed the most proclivity for attacking PC-ness head-on is Ben Carson.  People forget that while speaking at the National Prayer Breakfast in 2013, the event where he made his political bones by attacking Obamacare right under the nose of the President sitting a few feet away, he spent the first five minutes of that speech railing against PC-ness.

Once the Democratic race opens up after the recalcitrant Democrats realize that the “Hillary coronation” is a Jedi mind trick, watch for a candidate to test the waters by dropping a relatively innocuous but carefully contrived “spontaneous” joke or two mocking PC-ness.

If someone were serious about mathematically analyzing PC-ness to see if in fact it could be modeled by a “logistic” growth model or some other mathematical model, from which the inflection point could then be determined, two things are necessary.

First, a mathematical algorithm would have to be developed to actually quantify PC-ness. We would have to be able to measure it.  That is, we would need to produce a specific number for say, 2005, that measured the amount of PC-ness in that year, and the corresponding numbers for all the years since our starting point, 1970.

A disclaimer and cautionary note here: The notion of actually quantifying PC-ness in a mathematically rigorous way is, quite frankly, ridiculous. It depends on mutually agreed upon definitions and is inherently subjective. This wouldn’t stop academicians in the behavioral sciences from pursuing nonsense like this, however, as they’re always seeking ways to justify the “hard science” of their discipline.   Someone who believes that a differential equation from fluid dynamics can be applied to a measure of how positive, affirming statements can lead to better decision-making in the boardroom, is not going to balk at measuring PC-ness...

We, on the other hand, are just doing this mainly for fun and the opportunity to explain some cool math.

Figure 6.  Comparison of Exponential and Logistic function 
The second thing needed to demonstrate that PC-ness follows the logistic (or other) growth model is an indication that a turning point has indeed passed and the rate of PC-ness has begun to slow down.

Perhaps two years from now our hypothetical measuring system will show the increase in PC units from 2016 to 2017 is less than it was from 2015 to 2016. If no such evidence is forthcoming, then unfortunately we are still in an uninhibited growth model (Figure 4) with no end in sight—or we are still on that bottom half of the “S” curve. A side-by-side comparison of exponential and logistic growth is shown in Figure 6.
If these two conditions were met it would be possible to see if the data fits a logistic function. Once the actual function was found we can determine several things. We could find out exactly when the inflection point occurred; we could predict what the growth rate will be in a given year; and we could predict the maximum value at which PC-ness will eventually top off (mathematically speaking, the “carrying capacity”... of how much PC-ness we Americans can stand before, hopefully, starting the cleanup operations...).

I am now going to discuss in a more general way the mathematics involved in finding the rate of change and the inflection point of a function. These are standard operations of calculus and are not specific to logistic functions.

The algebraic form of a logistic function is fairly complicated, and the typical reader would not have the math background to understand it. It has a time variable in it along with several special numbers, along with exponents and cool things like the number e

So rather than tackle an actual logistic function to demonstrate the actual math to do these things, I am going to use as my function something understandable to anyone familiar with basic algebra.

Here is the algebraic expression that I am going to use as my function for PC-ness:
5x3 – 3x2 + 7x + 1

A logistic function does not look like this (though there are similarities), but we are going to use this simple algebraic expression to illustrate the mathematics of finding the inflection point. The process is the same.

Let’s pretend that this expression is the function that represents the amount of PC-ness in years after 1970. If you wanted to find out how much political correctness there was in 1970 you would replace the variable x with 0 (1970 is 0 years after 1970), and then do the math. We “plug in” 0 to the expression.
5(0)3 – 3(0)2 + 7(0) + 1 = 1

The answer would be 1. That would be the amount of political correctness in 1970. We might use that as a benchmark and name it 1 PC unit, or PC1.

If we wanted to find out how much PC-ness there was in 1971 we would replace the variable x with 1 (1971 is 1 year after 1970). Then we’d “plug it in” and eventually arrive at the value of 10.  We might say the amount of political correctness in 1971 was 10 PC units or 10PC1, that is, 10 times the amount of political correctness in 1970.

Now, here’s where it gets interesting. What follows is one of the things you learn how to do in calculus. Yes, calculus is needed to find inflection points. It is higher math.

What if you wanted to find out the rate of change at any of the years?  Or, for that matter, at any point in time. (Note, with calculus you can find the rate of increase at any day, hour, minute—any instant—of your choice.)

What you have to do is what we call “take (or find) the 1st derivative” of the function. When a derivative is taken, what you get is another function which describes the rate of change of the original function. This is something you learn how to do in calculus, and obviously I’m not going to show the various rules for doing this here, but I will show you what it is in our example so that you see it just produces another (occasionally simpler) mathematical expression.

The first derivative of 5x3 – 3x2 + 7x + 1  is 

15x2 – 6x + 7

By the way, if you’ve never seen calculus before but you’re good with numbers, you might be able to discover the pattern that produced the 1st derivative here. Go ahead, try.  I won’t tell. You’ll have another opportunity in a minute.

Now that you have the 1st derivative, if you wanted to find how much PC-ness was increasing in 1971, you would replace x with 1 (again: because 1971 is 1 year after 1970, and we established 1970 as being Year 0). Then, plug it in to the 1st derivative,  15x2 – 6x + 7 . 

The rate of increase in PC-ness in this model would give 16. You would interpret that as “PC-ness was increasing at a rate 16 PC units per year in 1971.”

We’re almost there. Remember, what we actually care about is how fast the rate of increase is changing. We are looking for something that will indicate that it has begun to slow down; that is, that the rate of the rate of increase in PC-ness is slowing down. As stated above, a derivative of a function gives the rate of change of the function. When you take the derivative of the 1st derivative you are finding a function that describes the rate of change of the 1st derivative—yes, a rate of change of a rate of change! 

Guess what we call the derivative of the 1st derivative? You guessed it:  the 2nd derivative, of course! The first derivative we found above was the rate of change of the function, specifically: how much the amount of PC-ness was changing over time. To find out how much that quantity changes, we are taking its derivative. We take the derivative of the 1st derivative, or in other words, the 2nd derivative of the (original) function.

Here it is, the 2nd derivative. The derivative of the 1st derivative 15x2 – 6x + 7  is:  ­­­­­­­­­­­­­
30x – 6

(If you think you figured out the pattern for taking derivatives before, this may confirm it for you; or, give you another clue with which to work.)

Driving: Distance, Speed and Acceleration

Another example of functions and derivatives
An everyday experience that is often used to explain the concept of the derivative, a fundamental concept in calculus, is driving.

You go for a drive. You drive a certain distance. The (main) function corresponds to your position.  How many miles had you driven at some particular point in time on the trip? It will be a line/curve going up. As the line moves to the right we are going forward in time, and we are moving, so our overall distance traveled is always increasing.

The 1st derivative of this position function gives the rate of change of the distance traveled over time, the rate of our motion: our speed. How many miles per hour were you driving at that particular time?

The 2nd derivative of the position function is the derivative of the 1st derivative; the rate of change of the 1st derivative. The rate of change of your speed. That’s acceleration.  Acceleration is the 2nd derivative of the position function. When you find the 2nd derivative you can plug in a number for the time variable and it will tell you what your acceleration was at that instant in time, how many miles per hour per hour, or miles per hour2. This will be a positive number if you are speeding up or a negative number if you are braking or slowing down.

#  #  #
If you want to find out how much the rate of increase in political correctness was itself increasing, in say, 1984, you would replace x with 14 (1984 -1970 =14), and get 414 PC units. (The actual dimensions of the 2nd derivative of a function measuring total PC-ness over time would be PC units per year per year, or PC units per year2.) 

And now, finally, the magic is revealed. How do we find out where the inflection, or tipping point is, i.e., when it occurs?  How do we find the date when the rate of increase begins to decrease?

What is actually happening at the inflection point?  Look again at Figure 5.  Look at the rate of increase to the left of the inflection point. If we cut the graph at the inflection point and throw away the top of the “S” part, we would have a graph similar to the one of exponential, uninhibited growth (Figure 4). Getting bigger and bigger all the time.

Just before the inflection point the rate of change of PC-ness has its maximum value!  Just beyond the inflection point the change in PC-ness has a slightly lower value. What has happened in between is that the rate of change of the increase in PC-ness has gone over from a tiny positive number to a tiny negative number. It has crossed the threshold of zero change in the rate of increase in PC-ness

This is analogous to stepping on the gas pedal to accelerate when passing a car on the highway. After you’ve passed the car you let up on the pedal. You are then decelerating. The moment where you let up on the pedal was the inflection point. In that instant you were neither increasing your speed nor slowing down. Your acceleration was zero. (Refer to the sidebar, Driving:  Distance, Speed, and Acceleration, for further insight into the driving analogy.)

The point of inflection comes at the point of maximum increase of the function.  That is at the most extreme point of increase in PC-ness. Which I claim is right now!

To find out exactly when it is, you have to find the point where the second derivative is exactly zero. You solve an equation. In our little example, we would have to solve the equation
30x – 6 = 0

The answer to this, the solution to this equation, is the fraction 1/5, or 0.2 as a decimal number.

Please remember that the algebraic expression we have been using is not a logistic model that describes the behavior we are talking about here, either sales of CDs or PC-ness. It was provided as a simpler example to show you how derivatives work. Clearly, sometime in March 1970 (the date corresponding to x = 0.2 when 1970 = 0) could not be the tipping point of PC-ness!  
(However what we did is sound, and there is an inflection point in the graph of  5x3 – 3x2 + 7x + 1 at  x = 0.2 .  If you’re curious, you can enter the function into a graphing calculator and look.)

But if PC-ness could be quantified, then a function for it could be formulated. And if that function is logistic, if it fits the “S” pattern, then an inflection point could be found (See NOTE 1). And it might very well have been in June 2015.

Henceforth: the Dolezal Point.

There is one irrefutable argument to be made in support of the contention that PC-ness must turn around. Has there ever been a time when one generation so enthusiastically pursued and promoted the tastes and value system of its parents'?  Whatever happened to “Question authority,” my generation’s watchword?  The blowback is coming. 

# #

In reality PC-ness would not follow the strictly logistic model. The inflection point would be higher up on the “S”.  In a logistic function the inflection point lies exactly midway between the minimum and maximum values of the function. 

If Dolezal were the tipping point in a logistic model where we established 1970 as the starting point for PC-ness, we would have another 45 years of gradually diminishing new PC-ness to endure before the maximum value would be reached!  We would only be halfway to our collective “carrying capacity” for PC-ness. Now that’s a scary thought!

A better fit can be found from a function that coincidently is of the same form as our simpler example:  a cubic polynomial function.  See Figure 7.  Its leading coefficient would be negative, and we would restrict its domain to begin at its first local minimum, which should also be a zero of the function, to a point on the graph that lies somewhere beyond the local maximum and before the next (and last) zero.
Figure 7. Cubic Polynomial function

I have tried to fit some speculative data values to such a model using cubic regression, using 0 as the beginning value of PC-ness in 1970 (x = 0), an inflection point value of PC-ness of 400 occurring at 2015 (x = 45), and setting a maximum value of PC-ness of 550 occurring in 2020 (x = 50); yes, the eternal optimist...

Here is the model it produced:
–0.0176x3 + 1.44x2 – 19.17x + 37.34

(after some rounding which had negligible effect on the graph). The model fails before about 1985, and from that point does only a fair job of matching the speculative points that I created for 5- or 10-year intervals from 1970 to 2030.

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Copyright 2015  Mark Charalambous / The Third Rail

Sunday, June 21, 2015

The Rachel Dolezal Phenomenon

Daryl Kane

Last week droves of progressives stood up and applauded as Bruce Jenner heroically embraced her “true” identity as Caitlyn.  This week however, the same do-gooders find themselves doing a bit of soul searching as they feel inexplicably ambivalent towards Rachel Dolezal.  If they accept the notion that gender is a social construct, an illusion, why don’t they feel the same way about ethnicity?  Are they, too, guilty of prejudice?  In their efforts to abolish the constant barrage of bigotry that is western civilization, had they neglected to fully cleanse it from themselves?  For those of you asking yourselves this question, don’t worry.  Remove the belt from around your neck and slowly step down from your chair. Take a deep breath and repeat after me.  It’s not your fault.  It’s not your fault. 

The reason why you felt compelled to cheer for Jenner but not Rachel Dolezal is actually quite simple.  It’s because you hadn’t been told to yet.

When Rachel Dolezal began her transracial journey she made one tragic mistake.  She didn’t allow the Left to tell everyone how heroic she was first.   You see, “Caitlyn” Jenner had the luxury of emerging on stage after Americans had already been thoroughly “educated” about the wonders of transgenderism.  Their professors at P.C. University had already enlightened college students about the age-old historical struggle between a community created a few decades ago and the forces of reactionary, patriarchal evil.  This lesson had been reinforced by the charming depictions of the transgendered hero that graced our televisions and the snide put-downs of anyone who dared oppose their struggle for liberation.  And ultimately, even if you lived under a rock or managed to navigate around your college indoctrination, activist judges made it clear.  Transgenderism and the surgical mutilation of one’s reproductive organs is not only perfectly normal, it’s actually quite heroic.  Besides, isn’t it covered under Obamacare?

For those of you still with me the lesson is clear.  Don’t wait for the loony Left to tell another generation what is and is not “normal.”  The antidote to the absurdity of political correctness is a hearty dose of common sense.  The Left is fully aware of this fact which is why they’ve put so much effort into bullying us away from cultural issues.  Meanwhile, as we timidly retreat, the Left defines the rules and boundaries of the conversation in such a manner that by the time it begins we have already been disqualified.  Those of us who still rely on rational thought must not only make our voices heard during the debate but must also insist on having a say in defining the narrative.

The Left will argue that parallels between Jenner and Dolezal are faulty because Jenner announced his/her trans identity openly, while Dolezal appears to be using it as a defense after being caught in lie. 

This is not altogether untrue, but even if this narrative survives they will not be able to avoid answering the simple question: Does transethnicity exist? 

As is often the case with politically correct assertions, there is no answer to that question that doesn’t lead to a paradox.  If the answer is Yes and if ethnicity truly is yet another “social construct,” why are campuses so obsessed with determining the ethnicity of their applicants?  If the answer is No, how can you accept the notion of transgenderism when society began its horrific habit of classifying its members as male or female long before it began classifying them as black or white? 

Traditionally the Left’s response to the numerous paradoxes created by politically correct orthodoxy has been to provide no answer.   That is to say, they have relied on their unilateral control over the portals of public discourse (mainstream media, academia, the entertainment industry, etc.) to swiftly eliminate any such questioning before anyone gets a chance to even think about it.

The purveyors of political correctness have created a strange world where things like gender and ethnicity are fluid or imagined and the only constants are racism, sexism and white-male privilege.  It’s a world where the deranged are given free rein to project their delusions on the masses and those that don’t pretend to see it are the ones diagnosed with phobias.  They’ve had a great deal of success growing this world, so much so that a majority of Americans twice elected a proud proponent of it.  There is however one fatal flaw in the design of their world.  It is built on ideas and premises that have no basis in reality and are diametrically opposed to natural law, logic and reason.  That’s why a seemingly minor and trivial story like Rachel Dolezal can prove to be so powerful—because political correctness is a bubble of hot air that depends upon a massive defense apparatus for survival.  A massive, tax payer funded machine that aims to pulverize any and all obstacles, be it a politician, business or private citizen.  For the most part the Left has done an impeccable job protecting the masses from dissenting views and free speech, but inevitably something was bound to slip through.

Rachel Dolezal not only happened, America knows it happened, and for the first time in a long time they are seeing political correctness for exactly what it is: A whole lot of nonsense.

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What is Political Correctness?

Daryl Kane

Recently comedian Jerry Seinfeld made headlines by stating that he avoids doing shows on college campuses due to political correctness.  This sentiment, which has been expressed by numerous other high profile comedians (Chris Rock, Louis C.K. etc.), has stirred up a moderate level of discussion.  Conservatives, being quite familiar with the experience of being silenced by political correctness, have rallied behind Seinfeld while progressive syndicates have done the opposite.     

Now that the issue is front and center the time is right to address a question that has been bothering me for many years: Just what is political correctness?

If you ask the average, reasonably informed citizen to define political correctness most would describe it as a mindset of hyper-sensitivity to the feelings of others, particularly regarding ethnicity, gender, religion or sexual orientation.  This assessment has some truth to it but it misses a very big point. 

Let’s look at religion as an example.  Political correctness informs us that we must be sensitive to Islam and its relationship to terrorism.  This courtesy however, is not extended to Christianity.  Whereas political correctness comes to the defense of Islam when its followers commit terrible atrocities, it searches for opportunities to condemn Christians as bigots.  This bizarre contradiction is odd, but far from unique.  Across the board when one looks at the various ways in which people can be categorized we can draw a clear distinction between groups promoted by PC values and those demonized by them.

The common denominator to be found amongst groups benefiting from political correctness is that they are groups not traditionally associated with American power.  Be it women in the workplace, minorities from non-European countries, or people engaging in alternative sexual lifestyles, political correctness advocates expanding the influence and collective voice of these groups.  Political correctness is a forced selection choosing that which is alien or new to America over that which is traditional.  This is not to say, as Seinfeld would say, that there is “anything wrong” with these groups.  It is merely an acknowledgement that political correctness actively discriminates against what is traditionally perceived as American. 

Political correctness becomes laughable when confronted by its absurdity.  But the laughter quickly fades when one contemplates the degree to which Western life is influenced by political correctness.  Not only are the PC sensibilities promoted on all levels of popular culture, but it has taken unilateral control of public education.  So much so that one could easily argue that the primary focus has shifted from educating students in math and science to indoctrinating them into a particular ideology.  So much so that Jerry Seinfeld does not feel comfortable performing on public campuses.

Identity politics is not the only issue covered by political correctness.  Political correctness also speaks to foreign policy and national security.  Whether the issue is ISIS or having secure national boarders, the American liberal can usually be found defending those who are undermining America.  At the very least, they occupy the part of the discussion least interested in defending America.  For this reason it could easily be argued that political correctness as a collective force represents the single greatest threat to America.  Because political correctness simultaneously coalesces and amplifies all of the threats that we face.
            There is a name for political movements that spread their ideas by converting public institutions into political weapons: “Fascism.”  When it is not “politically correct” for a nation to treat the groups that built it fairly, or to defend itself from outside threats, it becomes imperative that citizens begin to seriously question the “politics” of the day.

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Thursday, June 11, 2015

Evil Empire? Of ISIS, America, Rome, and the Pax Americana

Mark Charalambous

Geraldo Rivera has given the best reason for direct US military intervention in ISIS: “Revenge.”

Speaking on Fox News’ The Five on June 9, he clarified: “For taking the heads of Americans.”

Such candor may repel a lot of people.  But if we widen the lens focus to analyze the emerging new global reality of our position in the region... and beyond, Geraldo’s argument emerges as the correct one to make.

Allow me to explain why Geraldo’s seemingly crude, reckless notion bears merit.

The counter-arguments go like this.

  • This is our fault for invading Iraq in 2003 under a pretext.
  • We committed numerous wartime atrocities during the Iraq War, culminating with a civilian casualty count recently measured as 150,000 out of a grand total of 500,000 Iraqi deaths.
  • The Islamic uprising is one of epic nationalism and religious fervor justified by a people that have suffered under the yoke of western dominance since WWI. Starting with the colonialist arbitrary dissections of the Middle East after the collapse of the Ottoman empire, the region has endured repeated interventions, political, economic, as well as military, by the United States. Such as overthrowing governments by CIA skullduggery (installing the Shah of Iran after overthrowing an elected government) or just flagrant “regime change” by brute force as we did in the Iraq War.

And then there’s always the forced dislocation of the Palestinians to make way for the creation of the state of Israel following WWII.

Indeed, there is no shortage of reasons to justify the Al-Qaeda-cum-ISIS-cum-Caliphate “blowback” that has jolted not just us, but the entire civilized world.

So how then can we argue—morally? —for a military response, justified by a need for... revenge? 

There are plenty of arguments to be made by our enemies that we, indeed, are the “Evil Empire.”

Good luck trying to deny it to the man tortured at Abu Ghraib by the decadent US Army forces, particularly the sexual humiliation at the hands of female soldiers.

So, are we the “Evil Empire?”

No, we are not. Despite the atrocities. No more than ancient Rome was an “evil empire.”

Like ancient Rome, we are the superpower of our day. Like Rome, we are hated by many people outside of our borders—both in enemy nations in the Middle East and within many of our ally nations... in fact, by many American citizens right here at home.

We are constantly reminded of this thanks to the generosity of our First Amendment rights of free speech.

American America-haters. Reverend Wright, Ward Churchill, Noam Chomsky. Hollywood. Chances are, your college humanities or social science professor. Michelle Obama even (“For the first time in my adult lifetime I am proud of my country.”). Our President, Barack Obama, many claim, is another anti-American. (A truly scary thought...)

People hate us for many reasons. One: they are not us. They do not enjoy the wealth, freedom and privileges we have, especially when it comes to some extent at the expense of the exploitation of non-Americans. This, in a word, is jealousy. Everyone hates the boss.

Two: they have direct experience of harm resulting from our actions. You cannot fault someone for hating us if their child was killed, unintentionally or not, by a drone attack at a wedding celebration.

We can all agree that it should be the norm, not the exception, that bad players acting on our behalf are held accountable when they commit... evil acts. (Let’s call them what they are...) One of our strengths is that occasionally when something like that happens the guilty parties are held accountable. If so, it’s a result of one of the many things that make us not an evil empire, but a great empire. We are a nation of laws. 

Nations, cultures, civilizations are measured not just by their monuments, but also by their ideals ...their cultural mythologies. What a people believe about themselves can be more revealing than their tangible accomplishments. Our mythology is of a nation founded on principles of personal freedom, liberty and self-governance. We have high ideals. Opportunity. Responsibility. Charity. Inclusion. The “melting pot.” We have had high aspirations; and we have tremendous achievements to our credit.

Back to the United States / Rome analogy.

In the centuries of Rome’s dominion of over much of their known world, they committed atrocities to create and hold their empire. Rest assured, the conquest of Gaul by the great Julius Caesar was not accomplished without ruthless massacres and war crimes, despite the wonderful whitewashing in his canonical Latin text, the Gallic Wars.

But we have the hindsight of history to judge Rome. Two thousand-plus years of it, in fact. If Rome was an “evil empire,” would civilization as we know it been better off if it had never existed?

Of course not. The Roman Empire contributed so much to the advancement of the human potential and civilization that we cannot imagine the world as we know it without it. Perhaps first and foremost, it midwifed the glorious culture of ancient Greece for posterity.

The analogies between Rome and the U.S. are well excavated by historians. Like the Romans, we brought forward the great civilization that preceded us: Europe. Like the Romans, we in a sense perfected and capitalized on it. Thanks to the genius of the Founding Fathers who were well-schooled in their history, we codified the best system of government ever. And largely as a result of our Constitution, gave rise to the greatest machine for scientific, technological and economic achievement the world has ever known. The Roman Republic/Empire had endured for half a millennium before the Pax Romana established a period of peace and prosperity for the Romans and all those who wisely chose to accept their terms: “Be our friend, friend to our friends, and enemy of our enemies.”

Other than it took us less than half the time, are we much different from the Romans?

There is one last comparison between us and our ancient role-model. And this one is just as important.

As we look to this new “Caliphate” that has to date conquered half of Syria and Iraq and is growing daily by the influx of volunteer converts flock there from around the world like hippies to San Francisco in the Summer of Love, we are struck dumbfounded as we witness their atrocities in the name of their religion.

Islam is the very definition of intolerance. Try asking a Muslim scholar if it is true that his religion prescribes the death penalty for someone choosing to leave it. One thing I will tell you:  you will not get a one-word answer, as in “Yes, “ or “no.”

How do we compare with the Romans in terms of religious tolerance? Speaking of pre-Christian Rome, we are in an important respect quite similar.

The Romans were politically astute. They recognized, for instance, that to preserve their empire it was sometimes necessary to have nations at their borders quarreling with one another. Instability between neighbors at the periphery served to keep them too busy to cause trouble. Those pragmatic Romans...

Similarly with their religious policies. They recognized that religion was something that humans do. It is clearly a necessity for human beings to have some explanation for what lies beyond... in Hamlet’s “undiscovered country.”

The Romans knew that when attempting to absorb a people into their “sphere of influence,” obliterating their customs, traditions, or especially their religion, would not make things easier. The Romans assimilated. They assimilated the religious beliefs, and gods, of these aliens into their own pantheon.  The Romans may have been obsessively superstitious, but they were pragmatic...

And this is how the Christian world, after surviving its own era of intolerance, persecution—and let’s be honest, atrocities—evolved in the west to tolerate other belief systems. No, Christianity did not directly assimilate foreign religious beliefs into its catechism (though it is not a coincidence that Christmas falls on the date of the Roman holiday Saturnalia, not on the supposed historical birthdate of Jesus Christ), but it bent to welcome non-believers and not treat them as infidels. Over the centuries it eventually grew to accept science where it conflicted with scripture, albeit grudgingly. Religious pluralism, including atheism; that is the present-day religious climate of the nations of the west that once used Christianity as a foundational pillar.

When scummy, decadent, NEA-recipient “artists” decide to mock Christianity by making “Piss Christ” or the cow-dung rendered “The Holy Virgin Mary,” no one is killed. There are no death threats, despite the outrage from offended Christians. In fact, the “artists” probably won’t even lose their tax-supported NEA funding! There is no Christian-equivalent fatwa. The worst thing that can happen is excommunication. I doubt the “artists” were worried about that...

The real “religious” intolerance in the west today comes from the anti-religious zealots. Case in point: the recent contrived outrage expressed by secular “progressives” upon discovering a restaurant that merely admitted it would decline a request to cater a gay marriage if asked to do so! The national outrage, stoked by the media, reached such a fever pitch that the state legislative body was compelled to enact emergency legislation to “correct” the law that would permit a private business to act in such a way.

Such media-driven crusades resemble Islamic intolerance far more than any supposed religious bigotry of the shop owners. No wonder “progressives” now avoid the label “liberal.” They are the very antithesis of liberal.

When the U.S. curries favor with other nations, it doesn’t seek to impose our first religion upon them. It wants you to be our friend. Be friend to our friends. And give, at the very least, moral support when we oppose our enemies, such as voting with us in the U.N.

Sure, there’s a whole lot more to it than that. Most importantly, we want you to open your markets to our businesses. We want to encourage trade and investment. Investment in your country and your people that, on the balance, will raise the standard of living eventually in both of ours. No, your religion is fine—as long as it does not mandate death for non-believers.

And that takes us full circle. Why “revenge” is the justifiable reason to take whatever steps are necessary to squash ISIS and the “Caliphate” before it gains weapons of mass destruction and enters the growing pack of nations that we are now too scared to antagonize (North Korea, China, Russia, ...Iran?).

In ancient Rome’s heyday, any foreign state choosing to willfully abuse the person of a Roman citizen abroad knew what to expect: Shock and awe.  Power is meaningless if it is not enforced. This is the realpolitik of it. If you are the strongest, but the recalcitrant adversary sees no real risk in defying you with impunity, you lose the power to impose your will when it matters.

It is growing increasingly clear that America has crossed this border into a state of what could graciously be described as "diminishing capacity." 

“Leading from behind = Lack of will to lead.”

After the century of turmoil and civil war that led to the eventual demise of the Roman Republic, the foundation of the Empire laid by Augustus led directly to the Pax Romana, a (relative) peace that lasted for two centuries. Your definition of our Pax Americana may begin after WWII or may exclude the nuclear tinderbox that existed until the fall of the USSR in 1991, but it is now fraying at the seams.

ISIS is at war with us! Whether we like it or not. And ISIS is—by the way, Mr. President—Islamic. It’s in their name, for chrissakes; it’s the “I” in ISIS, IS, or ISIL, whichever you prefer.

ISIS is beheading, crucifying, and immolating “infidels,” including Americans. The honor of every American who has died in wars past and present demands that these atrocities not go unpunished, regardless of what happened in Iraq.

We are the new Rome.

Revenge, and revenge alone, is sufficient cause for us to respond militarily to destroy ISIS. The heck with “degrade.” And the real benefit: reestablishment of genuine fear in the minds of any enemies—or competitors—considering resisting our honorable and legitimate interests.

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Copyright 2015

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Distrust of Obama on Iran Nuke Deal Justified

Cries of “treason” have greeted the open letter to Iran’s leaders signed by 47 Republican senators.  Secretary of State John Kerry has led the charge against the Republicans who have, by general consensus, committed an unprecedented breach of protocol. But there is a strong case to be made for this “unpatriotic,” “unconstitutional”—possibly treasonous?—action.

The administration claims that the letter threatens to undermine their ability to negotiate a deal with Iran. Clearly, it’s critical to understand what the actual objectives of our negotiations are.
In February, Kerry addressed Congress, stating emphatically that under the deal, Iran will not get a nuclear weapon. "The president has made clear—I can't state this more firmly—the policy is: Iran will not get a nuclear weapon," he told members of a Senate Appropriations subcommittee.

This declaration is key to my analysis, and I’ll return to it shortly.

What, then, was the purpose of the letter? I won’t bother to rebut the ridiculous reasons offered by President Obama (in his interview with VICE News) that the Republicans were in league with the Iranian hardliners...   nor add legitimacy to claims whispered by race-baiting Democrats by responding to them.

No, I think the reason is really just what it seems: the senators simply don’t trust Obama to make a deal with Iran over nuclear weapons. I share this distrust, and I know I’m not alone.

There is plenty of evidence that Obama seeks a rapprochement with Iran, much like his present campaign to normalize relations with Cuba.

The Obama “Iranian connection” is well known. Its focal point is Valerie Jarrett, his Iranian- born senior advisor. Since first occupying the office and going on his “apology” tour of the Middle East, Obama saw himself in a historic role—the man who would pave the way for a new era in US-Islamic relations.

His subtle pivot away from Israel and toward her enemies provides further circumstantial evidence. Ditto his “terrorist summit” that was performed for Islamic leaders and seemed to have as its chief aim the prevention of associating Islam with the pandemic jihadist atrocities presently visited upon “infidels” and apostates around the world.

So what about the nuclear deal?  Any discussion that does not begin by asking the question, “Does Iran seek nuclear weapons?” is to my mind, facially invalid.

We used to hear this question often. It was always posed to any Iranian spokesman or diplomat granting an interview. We just don’t seem to hear it very much now, when you would think it is most critical. Why is that? After all, these negotiations... this deal... is supposed to be about preventing Iran from “going nuclear.” Isn’t it?

Perhaps the reason we don’t hear this question is because the answer is painfully, and laughably, obvious.  Of course Iran seeks nuclear weapons!   Is there anyone outside of Iran who doubts this?

They sit on the fourth largest crude oil reserves in the world. At a time when nations are sensibly dismantling their nuclear industries and moving to healthier and safer renewable energy sources, how can anyone claim with a straight face that Iran’s pursuit of nuclear power is to satisfy its energy needs? Unless, that is, “peaceful purposes” is really just a euphemism for “obtaining nuclear weapons as a deterrent against Israeli or US aggression.”

The lesson to be learned from our handling of North Korea in contrast to Iraq or Libya is not lost on Tehran. If you possess nuclear weapons, and particularly a sophisticated missile delivery system, you do not need to fear military intervention from the U.S. (By the way, Iran has an ICBM program.)

What is also obvious is that should (at this point we might be tempted to say “when”) Iran develop nuclear weapons it will set off a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia will be next in line, presumably with our help. Then... Egypt? Turkey?

The thought of any nuclear armed Islamic nations in the Middle East should be cause for maximum alarm to any sane person. It should in fact be the highest priority of the civilized world to prevent this from ever happening. Do I need to say the word: ISIS?

Inferring no judgments on the Israeli Prime Minister and his address to Congress, Netanyahu said, "The greatest danger facing our world is the marriage of militant Islam with nuclear weapons." 

In light of the scale and degree of the Jihadi atrocities we have now witnessed, can this be disputed?

And so we return to our negotiations with Iran over its nuclear “program.” What is the Obama administration really seeking? Is it to ensure that “Iran will not get a nuclear weapon”?

What is missing from Kerry’s statements above?  A time coordinate.

When, Mr. President; Mr. Secretary of State?  Until when?

What I fear, and what I believe is shared by many including the 47 Republican signatories, is that the time parameter is intentionally left off. I think the unstated time is “in the immediate future,” or “for the remainder of my administration,” or perhaps at the extreme terminus of ten years, as that number features into the controversial “sunset clause” of the deal.

Netanyahu again, speaking of the deal, one quote that rings resoundingly true: “It doesn't block Iran's path to the bomb; it paves Iran's path to the bomb.”

I believe that Obama & Co. are reconciled to the inevitability of a nuclear-armed Iran, and that perhaps they envision an alliance with Iran as the first step in a some future grand reconciliation between the three religions spawned by the children of Abraham—after Iran finishes off ISIS, that is.

But most importantly, Obama envisions a nuclear deal with Iran as part of his legacy, and he is willing to do anything to get it.

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Monday, February 2, 2015

Book Review: The Art of Living Forever, by Pierce Timberlake

Mark Charalambous
February, 2015

Pierce Timberlake has written a wonderful and thought provoking short book ruminating on the ultimate questions of life and death.  “The Art of Living Forever” dissects various established philosophies on how best to live this wonderful and mysterious thing we call “life,” and then subtly and logically leads us to a plausible rationale for the current popular notion that what we perceive as existence may actually be a turbocharged virtual reality game.

Timberlake’s meditations begin with observations one day at his job as a telemetry technician in a hospital observing the CRT screens displaying the heart signals of several patients. One of them is experiencing his last moments. The patient’s acknowledgment that he is ready for “the big show” stimulates Timberlake’s own thoughts on the Big Question.

He starts by questioning the (seemingly) inherent unfairness of death itself. This leads to the question of how best to use the time we have before arriving in that last hospital bed. He cleverly dissects the incongruities inherent in “living for the moment,” taking the time to correct the common misconception of Epicureanism while comparing it with hedonism, and then contrasting both with stoicism and altruism, living for others. Finally, he explores the common notion of “life is for learning.”

Timberlake writes with a dry sense of humor while displaying a sparkling wit as evidenced in this passage on altruism:

Altruism: fulfilling yourself through service to others
“One standard of conventional wisdom is that we find meaning in our lives by living for others. I’ve heard this in some form since I was very young, and have generally bought into it. Even as a child, though, one question bothered me: If I live for others, who do they live for? Do they live for some third party, who in turn lives for someone else, and so on, going around in a daisy chain until it finally comes back to me? It would seem to be more efficient if everyone just lived for themselves. Living for each other sounds friendlier, but it would be more straightforward if we each took care of our own situations. After all, who knows what you want and need better than you do?”

Man’s belief systems on the big picture, what it all means, cannot rightly be separated from the state of his technology and understanding of the physical universe. Presently, a new explanation of the Big Picture has emerged that reflects the digital revolution. Timberlake speculates on a perfect future where human ambitions have been fully realized and even immortality become possible. What this would mean for the human condition eventually leads us to the fanciful notion that our experience of reality is actually software, within a huge virtual reality game existing in cyberspace. This new reality paradigm would not have been possible before the advent of the computer. It has been popularized in science fiction, most notably with the “The Matrix” movies, and intelligently explored in the TV show “Caprica,” the “Battlestar Galactica” (remake) spinoff.

Timberlake incrementally, and ingeniously, leads us to how such a “world” could evolve from a highly intelligent, technologically advanced species. Step by step, he reveals how a life such as we all experience, with no knowledge of the higher reality and no memory of past life excursions into the “Game,” is the logical outcome.


Assume immortality is medically and technologically achievable, how long would it take for boredom to take its toll? It can be argued that once we have reproduced, had children, Nature is done with us. We have served our purpose. Once one reaches a certain age, and has children, this can come to feel intrinsically, and painfully, true. Certainly our aging bodies behave in this way. At a ripe old age, observation of family members who inevitably pass away, usually—or at least, often—confirms that at our expiration date we are ready for death. We, with resignation, understand that there is really nothing left for us to “do.”

If it were possible to “reboot” our consciousness (mental capacities?) into a new body, how many would choose to do so? In the cyber-reality “Game” scenario, those who do so would eventually realize that the ennui could only be overcome if any memory of our previous existence (both the “real” as well as our cyber-reality “avatar” lives) were hidden from us.

This scenario so neatly fits the Hindu concept of reincarnation that it can’t be ignored. A question arises: Does this similarity with an existing religious worldview make it a more, or less, plausible picture of “reality”?  That depends on the individual, and their existing beliefs.

For me, there is a fundamental flaw in the concept of reincarnation. The notion of a wheel of repeated lives requires an absolute framework within which these lives occur: a constant, universal flow of time. But not only do we know from Einstein that no such thing as absolute time exists, we can reject it on the basis of two other lines of reasoning: 

(1) On an epistemological basis, namely that our perception of time is a result of our physical bodies and our senses, and as such it is not provable that time represents anything “real.”

(2) If reincarnation were real, then we could claim to understand what happens after we die. That is, what happens after death is something that can be understood rationally, by the brain of this species of life that evolved over some 2 billion years on this particular planet. I refuse to accept that that is the case. I do not believe that what happens after death is something that can be understood, expressed and communicated, in the sense that our human-created languages could codify it into words. As one wise person once said, “The map is not the territory.”

Nonetheless, the “Game” scenario is an intriguing thought experiment, if nothing else, and makes at least as much sense as the various other theories of the afterlife believed by billions of people.


Epicurus, Marcus Aurelius, Nietzsche, William Blake, Descartes and Plato all make guest appearances as either authors or exponents of various philosophical schools of thought or important contributors to the grand discussion of the human condition throughout the ages.

Other than Zen and the reincarnation aspects of Hinduism, religion gets small mention. This book is not about rote belief in a prescribed set of explanations for life and the afterlife. Timberlake acknowledges that a more comprehensive treatment, including religious thought, would require another, different book.

Timberlake writes with humanity and gentle wit in a voice that doesn’t preach or condescend, guiding the reader with reason, humility and honesty through his landscape of ideas on the ultimate questions. He has three other titles that followed “The Art of Living Forever,” they are:

“Sex, Not-Sex, and Love,” “Should You Study a Martial Art?” and, “Style as Ideology / Ideology as Style.”  They are all available on Amazon for the kindle, and I look forward to reading them.

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Timberlake, Pierce (2014-01-19). The Art of Living Forever (Kindle Locations 443-444).  Kindle Edition.