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We get mail (contd.)

So I occasionally get mail via the feedback form on this blog. And I usually try to reply to it (when I get a reply-able email address and it seems to expect a reply and I have something to say), and I certainly don't publish email without getting permission first ... unless it's like this (i.e. the sender is unidentified and unidentifiable from the content, which is copypasta of someone else's out-of-copyright rant):

Subject: Fear the Lord!!!

From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts. Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy? But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.

(James 4:1-6 KJV)

To which the holy spirit[*] led me to reply:

My imaginary friends have more fun than your imaginary friends.

Moral of this story: assuming someone else shares your beliefs—or even understands them well enough to respond to your attempt at evangelism other than with baffled amusement—is a bad idea.

Also: what is it that leads people to believe that an all-powerful omniscient creator, who is presumably responsible for the fine structure constant, neutron stars, and Sacculina carcini, is nevertheless obsessively interested in where and what hairless African plains apes rub their genitalia against?

[*]The memory of last night's very nice single malt whisky



"Someone else's out-of-copyright rant" made me smile ...
If you read just that first sentence of the rant in a Yoda voice it works really well. After that, try channeling Daffy Duck for the rest...

It's interesting that a "ye olde worde" version of the out-of-copyright rant was selected for the purpose, I imagine the spammer thinks all that whence, wherefore, and ye language lends some lofty authority.


You want an actual answer to your totally rhetorical question?

Two parts: the functional one is that it's a useful way to differentiate my tribe from your tribe. Note that regulating who are lawful sex partners and who are not seems to be extremely widespread, although not universal, even in the majority of groups that don't have religion per se (which seems to be a Christian concept from 1000-1500 years ago that's slowly spreading through other languages). Since humans are obligately cultural beings, I suspect this is one of the ways culture reproduces itself through people, and it just happened to get caught up in the current concept of religion because of western civilization's Christian roots or something.

The mystical answer is that the omnipresent divine is obviously equally interested in the lives of every single being. You get the same attention as Trump does and each of Trump's fecal bacteria do. Omniscience means there's no limit on God's interest. Why should you not bask in that attention?


On the bright side, they did not seek to use CAPITAL LETTERS to emphasise the IMPORTANCE of their MESSAGE!

Oh, and eleventy ;)

You could have been naughty, and quoted an appropriate Surah or Sutra back at them... assuming, of course, that the sender actually reads any replies.


I have this hypothesis (which is probably more than half bunk, because dammit Jim, I'm an engineer) (and which is also more properly said in some book):

There are at least three different questions religion can answer. Namely:

  • How was the world created? - That is, what was the beginning, and perhaps how the world will end.
  • How does the world work? - What creates clouds, wind, rivers, mountains, animals, people, and how do they change through time?
  • How should we behave? - Who should I be polite to and how, what laws we should have and so on?

These categories could be defined more properly and obviously there is much overlap. When you get something we call 'a religion' it usually tries to answer all these questions in the same meme package. This is where you get the "god which created this world is also the god overseeing our morals", though in the beginning it might have been different imaginary creatures.

For example, every time I read through Genesis and Exodus, I have hard time equating the creation god with the Israelite god who communicates with them through the desert.

(Yeah, I know it was a rhetorical question, but as I've talked about this with people, this doesn't seem to be clear to many people.)


In the UK "Rights in The Authorized Version of the Bible (King James Bible) in the United Kingdom are vested in the Crown and administered by the Crown’s patentee, Cambridge University Press."

And the extract is more than 25% of the total text of the work in which they are quoted, and has omitted the required acknowledgement though that may be allowable.


Mikko Parviainen said: For example, every time I read through Genesis and Exodus, I have hard time equating the creation god with the Israelite god who communicates with them through the desert.

That's because the Bible that you are reading is the corrupted version of many stories. Remember, the God of Abraham was part of a pantheon, including his wife and three sons, they and the other gods of the pantheon were edited out as the dogma changed.

Start with

wiki - Asherah

and then go from there.

The music video _Most High_ with Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, with the god containment facility, lends itself to a wonderful series of stories about that. Each time I watch the video I see:

Klaxons sound, a priest stumbles out of the Holy Rock storage facility, and cries out. "The God of Abraham has escaped!"*

*Translated from the Greek.


And which of these authoritarian stories, each of which claims to be right, each of which has fanatical followers who will kill to prove they're right, is really the right one? Claiming to be correct seems to be one of the standard religious phenomena. (Obviously I'm not going to claim that my religio-megalo-fantasy is incorrect, but it might be refreshing if someone did!)

And of course they all claim to be "religions of love" even as they brutalize their own children and rape, torture, and kill members of other religio-megalo-fantasies. (At least the Church of the SubGenius makes honest claims to be a religion of hate.)

I must confess, the entire phenomenon puzzles me. I guess I'll just continue to have a private and enquiring spirituality and not impose my personal results on others.


Blast from the past:



Yes, I know - I used to live with a biblical exegete as a flatmate. It just amazes me how somebody could not see that the book(s) are a collection of stories.


Who cares?

What we all care about, the only really important question, is what Single Malt was it?


And the copyright expired in 1661 (retrospectively) :-) I don't understand HW - is there another English version? :-)


I agree that is far more interesting than such rants; I, too, should like to know.

It's very noticeable how rarely fundamentalist Christians quote the Gospels, and often quote texts that conflict with them, but the very definition of a Christian is someone who follows the teachings of Jesus (as described in the Gospels). There are quite a few lessons against intolerance in them, too.


There's a common feature of belief systems to present being good (as variously defined) as optimal.

If you're being good, the people around you are not being good, and those people at least look like they're way happier than you are, there's a cognitive dissonance. The fix for the dissonance is "God's gonna get you for that"; in the next life, as the workings of karma unwinded, at the most ironic time, whatever. Anything to patch the observation of non-optimality back into "good is optimal".

("The future is a surprise" precludes "optimal", and there's a bunch of patches for that, too.)

Anyway -- so your correspondent is doing insecurity management by assertion, that while you may suffer from a delusion of happiness, god will eventually get you for it. They've got the entirety of goodness and power lumped into one god the father almighty purely out of habit, but the process of lumping was patches for the non-obvious optimality of goodness.


There's a common feature of belief systems to present being good (as variously defined) as optimal.

If you're being good, the people around you are not being good, and those people at least look like they're way happier than you are, there's a cognitive dissonance. The fix for the dissonance is "God's gonna get you for that"; in the next life, as the workings of karma unwinded, at the most ironic time, whatever. Anything to patch the observation of non-optimality back into "good is optimal".

("The future is a surprise" precludes "optimal", and there's a bunch of patches for that, too.)

Anyway -- so your correspondent is doing insecurity management by assertion, that while you may suffer from a delusion of happiness, god will eventually get you for it. They've got the entirety of goodness and power lumped into one god the father almighty purely out of habit, but the process of lumping was patches for the non-obvious optimality of goodness.


I imagine the many translations work a bit like statistics: pick the version which best supports your prejudices :-)


... that while you may suffer from a delusion of happiness, god will eventually get you for it

So, er ... Roko's Basilisk!

(This is going to hereafter be my religious-debate equivalent of shouting "Mornington Crescent"!)


I'm forever arguing with the loons on facebook. To a great part, they don't actually read their own holey books. They like to band the 'omnis' about ,omnipotence, omniscience but fail to think the consequences through


Remember, the God of Abraham was part of a pantheon, including his wife and three sons...
As in: "Thou shalt have no other gods, but me" ??
Acknowledging that there ARE actually, other gods, but that the Bronze-Age goatherding Israelites can only have JHWH ...
Incidentally, some really devout evangelicals get all exited, if you point at one out, but getting them existed is a bit like shooting fish in a barrel ....


Perhaps answering Charlie's question?
I suggest a combination of a really good imaginary story, allowing for the time at which it was first composed or collated, coupled with the Iron Law of Bureaucracy.
Which then ossifies into an inevitably cruel & intolerant dogma.

Once such a system is well-established, the "priests" can set about suitably brainwashing the entire population & the meme they have started will then easily self-perpetuate.

Having recently read a philosophical 201 classic, Bertrand Russell's "History of Western Philosophy" ... the one stand-out characteristic that got to me was ...
How the advances of science, especially Physics has demolished vast swathes of philosophical & religious maunderings, by the sheer accumulation of real actual, you know: EVIDENCE.
( Which is why, of course, G Galilei was by no means the only person to fall foul of the bigots/people in charge, etc. )

The buggers still haven't caught up, of course, & probably never will now.
[ E.G. The Cretinists steadfastly ignore any evolutionary/botanical/zoological advances or research made since about 1960, since they would crash-&-burn instantly if they did ... ]
This probably explains why my mantra of:
"No BigSkyFairy (Of any sort) is detectable - & therefore, even if existing, is irrelevant & can be treated as non-existent."
The squealing & wriggling is wonderful to watch, but the original proposition has never been actually challenged.
P.S. I got the idea from uncle Albert , of course, as in: "the Luminiferous Aether is undetectable"


While there are differences, they are mostly minor. They may LOOK considerable, but that's only to people who aren't fluent in the versions of English in which they are written. The main arguments arise over exactly what the original Aramaic meant. Anyway, the points I have made aren't affected by such variations.


Yes, I am afraid that it's all too easy to show that the really devout evangelicals exist :-(

Incidentally, the Luminiferous Aether may be undetectable, but the fizzicists are all debating how many angels fit on the head of a pin in the Non-Luminiferous Aether. It would help a lot if they didn't regard the working hypotheses of Uncle Albert as having been written on tablets of stone and brought down from a mountain.


andyf said: They like to band the 'omnis' about ,omnipotence, omniscience but fail to think the consequences through

wiki - Omnipotence paradox

The standard question is:

"Can God create a rock so heavy that even he cannot lift it?"

My answer is, yes.

Google - laser carved rocks

And you will see pictures of round river rock with words or sayings on them. I see having a rock engraved, and there are places that you can order personalized rocks, but it's too expensive for just a joke.

On one side of the rock I would have:

- The rock God cannot lift

On the other side:

- I'll carry it for Him

I use this as a running gag in many books. I have one where the rock is sitting on a desk, and a guy comes along and can't pick up the rock. He is the God of Abraham(GoA) just wandering by.


Roko's Basilisk requires too much background information for most people. My working of the whole thing goes something like this:

Imagine you meet an amazingly smart and evil dude. He tells you that he's a scientist and demonstrates conclusively that he can simulate a human brain on his very powerful computer, including sensory input and output. He then goes a step further and aims a sensory device at your head. Now the smart and evil dude simulating your personal wetware in his computer program. He gives you the opportunity to talk to yourself so you can be absolutely sure that you and the software are exactly the same person.

Smart and evil dude then tells you that he is storing a copy of your mind off site, and if you don't obey him absolutely for the rest of your life, he will subject his copy of your mind to the most evil tortures imaginable.

Is this guy God, or merely a vicious blackmailer?


Not so
Relativity has, so far, passed all the experimental & observational tests thrown at it.
And, so has QM.
Um, err ......
[ But that is not what I interpret your meaning as, is it? ]


Absolutely. It's exactly the same insecurity management process.

Effective insecurity management involves "I really am at risk here" and "nobody wants to have sex with me because it's totally not in their self-interest to do so and if I want to change that I need to do a lot of work with no guarantee of success". (I'm pretty sure patriarchal social norms are built on the bottom couple fifths of the male population figuring enslaving all women was less work than trying to become personally attractive. The persistence of the forms suggests that judgement is accurate.)

Oh, and "I'm not special. I might not be average, and depending on choice of criteria I'm way below the population average; if I think about it, there are way more criteria at which I'm wildly sub-standard than there are by which I'm vaguely average. If I was actually exceptional at anything, I would already know."

Cultural support for self-honesty is lacking; most belief systems are trying to sell you a certainty that you are special, the creator the universe says so. It's generally effective emotionally even when obviously ineffective materially.


"...or even understands them well enough to respond to your attempt at evangelism other than with baffled amusement..."

It's best understood as a sort of CD-ism, with the same caveat that "you" refers to the human species in general and not to any sub-grouping or individual of it:

"You lot spend all your time and effort squabbling over who gets the oil and who has a bigger penis^H^H^H^H^Hiphone and generally obsessing over stupid primate status bollocks (You can't have that, it's mine, so ner; Ner ner ner mine's got more features than yours; etc) but does any of it actually make you happy? Does it fuck, it may partially distract you from not being happy, but it only works on a superficial level; it doesn't work properly, but it does prevent you from realising that, so you carry on and on doing the same futile crap to no avail. Meanwhile the ecosystem is collapsing under the strain of what you're doing to it and little girls in Somalia still get their flaps hacked off with a rusty razor blade because of your inverted sense of values. This is shit."

"Also: what is it that leads people to believe that an all-powerful omniscient creator, who is presumably responsible for the fine structure constant, neutron stars, and Sacculina carcini, is nevertheless obsessively interested in where and what hairless African plains apes rub their genitalia against?"

People are obsessively interested in that, fuck knows why, but they are; and take their obsession to the level of thinking they ought to be able to dictate that everyone should do it in precisely the same way as the obsessor, fuck knows why, but they do. It helps them to do this if they can convince other people that the all-powerful omniscient creator partakes of their own personal prejudices and hangups. Carrying out such convincing is all the easier when the holy book is so long and boring and written in such a tedious and obscure style that most people can't be arsed to read it, and those who do are already so inculcated into such a viewpoint by the time they get the motivation to do it that they fail to notice that nearly all the references to "adultery" and "whores" and stuff are not actually literal references to shagging, but are metaphorical references to lust for having stuff, and lust for power, and lust for having a newer iphone than your neighbour so you can go "ner ner ner I'm better than you", and other such crap that people lust over just as obsessively as they lust over sex.


Is this guy God, or merely a vicious blackmailer?
I assume that was quite deliberate, because, as we should all know by now
BigSkyFairy = "god" IS a vicious blackmailer.
Equals Roko's Basilisk, which equals circular argument.

Which means it's all bollocks.


To be noted that the "nobody" in "nobody wants to have sex with me" does not actually mean "nobody at all", but "nobody from that rather small subset of the population whose tits feature all down the right hand side of the Daily Mail website". In practice nearly everybody does get to have sex with someone, and reproductively successful sex at that (if their inclinations are such as to make that a possibility); the number of people who don't is very small, and even smaller if you exclude people who eg. just can't be arsed with it.


While there are differences, they are mostly minor...


Minor little things such as, oh I don't know, "What are the Ten Commandments?" Because it varies slightly from Christian sect to Christian sect, and between Christianity and Judaism.

OK, the big themes are consistent, but they differ on the little details ;)

Note: I may have suffered from working at the desk next to an evangelical Christian for a year or so. Full-on Literalist, Young Earth Creationist, women for Kinder und Kuche, anything other than Kinsey 0 is sin, type... with a mind like that, no surprise that he gravitated to the QA Department.


Historical anomaly due to forced marriage. It's very clear that a lot of what's driving the current blood-and-soil nonsense is that if you take away forced marriage, a good fair chunk of the male population have precisely zero women showing interest in them. This is seen as a failure of the universe rather than as a failure of their person by the people complaining. Once you've postulated a failure of the universe, why not argue that you're inherently special and should get to murder anyone who says different?


"Is this guy God, or merely a vicious blackmailer?"

A blackmailer with, for all you really know, just a souped-up version of Eliza... and a distinctly gullible victim.

The stuff about demonstrating that it really is a copy of you (a demonstration which is much easier to fake than to do for real) is just a red herring. It's just a computer program. Your only evidence of what it "feels" - if it feels anything at all - is what the guy tells you. You have no more real knowledge of that than you do of the poor sod somewhere on the other side of the world who trod on a stonefish while you were reading this.

The guy is in effect telling you no more than that if you don't do X he will torture any old random person whose experiences - as is the case with any other person - you do not share in, and he will do it in such a way that the only evidence of it happening at all is what he tells you, to which there cannot possibly be any corroboration. So the default assumption is that what he is really doing is the much easier option of making it all up, which for the same reasons he cannot refute, and the sensible response is simply to ask him where he got his drugs from and are there any left.


I'm trying to avoid the Roko's Basilisk thing so it can be explained to an uneducated person without a lon aside.


No, just looking at what I see around me. The "distribution of desirability" applies equally to both sexes, so the number of who'd-look-at-that men is roughly equal to the number of who'd-look-at-that women. Both sets have the same problem that while they may want Mr/Miss Universe it's never going to happen, but it doesn't in general result in them all remaining single; rather it means that they end up hooking up with each other, faute de mieux. You just get pairings where both partners look like Shrek.


Except the cost/benefit isn't symmetrical. Women tend to contribute more and gain less from pairing up, and have generally started to notice.


Reading the first half of it, I got the feeling I was being set up for an Oglaf joke.


I don't think it matters much whether the Smart and Evil guy in this scenario really has a computer that can simulate your consciousness or not, because the important question is not "real process" vs. "false process."

The important question is a moral question. It assumes that the process works and asks why the morality changes when a human rather than a god is making the threats. Why is this transaction OK when God promotes it, but bad when a Smart and Evil guy promotes it?


So, as someone who actually is a believer (Catholic btw, and no, I do not support the Crusades, or child abuse, etc.) I thought I'd weigh in.

In terms of why an omniscient, omnipotent deity might be interested in human behavior - how many books have been written about people? And how many have been written about other natural processes? There are admittedly a good deal of the latter - physics textbooks, travel guides, etc, but there are far more of the former. Humans can give rise to far more varied behavior - yes, there's an infinite number of potential snowflakes, but they all look similar at a distance, and they'll never build anything more significant than a pile of snow. Perhaps more significantly, snowflakes cannot conceive of the concept of a God.

Addressing some of the other comments in this thread, many people take issue with basing morality around the threat of going to Hell. So do I. Which is why I conceive of Hell as simply being the logical end-point of living a life focused on yourself and your immediate wants. If you never open up to others, you will never have anything more than yourself. This ties into the Christian belief that the two most important commandments are loving God and loving your neighbor.

Finally, another question brought up in the thread was: if the existence of God cannot be proven or disproven, does God even matter? To which I might reply: has belief in God affected human history? The answer, obviously, is yes, though of course you may consider the net effect to have been negative. However, I personally look at the results achieved by people like Gandhi and Martin Luther King, and believe that religion has the ability to be a force for good, which is why I continue to hold it.


"The guy is in effect telling you no more than that if you don't do X he will torture any old random person whose experiences - as is the case with any other person - you do not share in, and he will do it in such a way that the only evidence of it happening at all is what he tells you, to which there cannot possibly be any corroboration. So the default assumption is that what he is really doing is the much easier option of making it all up, which for the same reasons he cannot refute, and the sensible response is simply to ask him where he got his drugs from and are there any left."

It constantly amazes me how often in an action-adventure or thriller film everything depends on the hero (or the sidekick, etc.) believing what the villain says, without evidence of any sort.


If god is real and has all the attributes traditionally associated with the job then the ancient principle of "might makes right" makes divine blackmail OK. In the sense that objecting will achieve nothing so you may as well deal with it.

OTOH if the blackmailer is subject to something like reasonable physics then you don't have to put up with that shit and can give them a shoeing.

Anyway, I thought the basilisk could dispense with the whole "point thing at head" nonsense and magically reconstruct a true and faithful representation of your personality from dental records. That way you don't even need a blackmailer.


Hierarchy. Why is it OK for a king to chop a subject's head off but not OK for a subject to chop the king's head off? Why is it not OK for a dog to bite a human but OK for a human to euthanase the dog? Why does a child have to do what a parent says but a parent doesn't have to do what a child says?

Pretty well everyone goes along with the principle, even if they disagree over where it applies and where it doesn't - people could be found who disagree with all, with none, or with any selection of, my three examples.

The question devolves to whether it applies or not in the god/human case, which in turn is just a roundabout way of asking whether or not you believe in the concept of a god, because if you do the answer is "well, like, duh" and if you don't the same applies.


Beliefs in things like gods, magic, spirits, etc. is probably tied to things in our minds like how we see faces in things that don't have faces, and how we always look for a cause for everything that happens. In a small hominid band that's probably good survival adaptation. Social interaction was probably very important, so recognizing faces and identifying who caused various things to happen will help you succeed.

It just stuck around as we evolved and our horizons broadened. Instead of looking for who threw the rock that killed Gronk, now we're looking for who threw the lightning that started the fire that killed Gronk, or who cursed us so that Gronkina doesn't think we're attractive.

It's something deep inside that makes us need to find the cause of things, and assign blame and punishment (or appeasement if we can't punish). It's hard to accept that often no one is to blame and nothing can be done.

The movement from animism to polytheism to be universal, though the move to monotheism is more varied. In some cases it is a development out of henotheism.


Ok: for the vanilla readers, this is satire. Although, it's really not. It's also not exactly direct - we have to fuzz the quality right down.

Script: Intro (to be read in the style of the A-Team intro)

#1 In 2010, a younger than today British Science Fiction Writer Won an Award. An award no-one had ever heard of; it was from Estonia, and referenced Пикник на обочине. Which was strange, because the authors were Russians and the Game Developer who brought it into modernity was Ukrainian: GSC Game World. And yet this magazine claimed they were all secretly Estonian and they gave said Author their highest Honor.

#1a A precursor of StormFront has a large tract how this is all about SPACE-JEWISH-FICTION-MARXIST-CULTURAL-ATTACK. Like The Witchfinders, he was being paid by MI5, KGB and Mossad for his output at that time. It amounted to about £628 per year. He once wrote a story for AMAZING Magazine, but was turned down. Vox Day later denied that they had been room-mates once.

#1b This was in the Time Before Soros The Boogeyman, so it took until 2015 before #1a's tracts were refined into a more "(((Globalist)))" meme. #1a had long since died from self-inflicted wounds to the back of the head / duffle-bag / over-dose / heart-attack.

#1c In 2017, said Author finished his Ultimate Weapon; The Full Space Communist / Anarchist / Feminist Ovipovitors FROM SPACE novel. His Estonian Backers applauded[1]: he was their man, for their mission and they had no-one else to call.

Script: Exegesis (to be read in the style of the Watchmen)

#2 At about the same time, a Young Wo/Man went to Hell. S/H/Ze had been stalked by various things and was tired of being threatened (in many cases, quite literally) and was just looking for friendship and love; the offers of eternal power, money, fame and so forth bored her. She was 5,915 years old at that point. Ze cried after exiting a stone vagina: it was the first time in 20 odd years.

#2a Despite Warnings, ze was prodded and corralled into a situation where a funeral-that-broke-a-spirit was held and said members decided that their Religious Beliefs could be realized. They decided to push the buttons; Ze had already made a choice.

#2b Ze watched her entire family die while Games Were Played. "Tell no-one on pain of death" is rather hollow[2] when you've spent 50 odd years making her unhappy via torture.

#2c The Eternal Question was ever: Why do you not uplift / support / grow but rather prune / police / stunt? Apparently ze broke the world / reality Tree when that happened; It's not a way to define your reality.

Script: Continuum (to be read in the style of the Rocket Raccoon

#3 Running Dream-Scape Mind-Fucks like "STALKER" written on the side of USA police cars became weaponized with attempts to break reality further. Looking at Host in particular; we know what they're doing, and we know why.

#3a Real World Weaponized Declarations of Psychological Modelling have also been deployed: Interestingly enough, MIB and Psychosis stuff were written on this forum before they happened in reality. Now, that's Talent.

#3b Reality is already sundered. They were Tried, Tested and Found Wanting.

#3c It's all about this, really: “I do know that for the sympathy of one living being, I would make peace with all. I have love in me the likes of which you can scarcely imagine and rage the likes of which you would not believe. If I cannot satisfy the one, I will indulge the other.”

And so on.


λόγος - someone threw them the entire stack of SF/Fantasy novels and a load of Mills n Boons and told them they could be anything.

It's going to be awesome.


You're getting said emails (if you actually are) because of a post #779. It's a marker, weaponized bots / Intel will spam you. It's all about pheromone tracing.

Your Grasp of Reality is weak, Young Apes. Really fucking Weak. There's Lions, Tigers and Bears out there cheating like shit don't matter.

[1] Look, you're really not going to get this joke unless you know stuff like: Trump Data Gurus Leave Long Trail of Subterfuge, Dubious Dealing Bloomberg, 23rd March, 2017 - Latvia, check it out.

[2] Dark Souls reference - Praise the SUN.


I claim that the best way of understanding scripture involves filtering it through Dissociated Press.

Deep calleth the hair of women, that came to Gibeah the son of Abiathar, and speak unto me, This signs and women, (for so it seemed greatly to seek a proof of your possession of spirit, if so be thy nursing mothers' stead, shall be desolate.

I once created a cursed item for a Dungeon the did Biblical ranting.

The Magic Femur club also talks to the weilder about weird quasi-Biblical stuff - a long, crazy string of strange commandments and bizarre prophecy. "Into the wind shall ye throw the earwax of your children, and stand fast when the Gods return to thee the earwax thou hast committed to the breeze, for in the third age of Zanzar, before the coming of the Zuupricari shall Gigantis the Fire Monster destroy Osaka; Lo! and The Spiky One shall stoppeth him not! And in the land of Zark, shall there be born a girl-child! When the Farslanni charged down the hill towards the unbelievers, the hand of the Lord was laid upon them, and each of them slew 37 of their enemies and died not, for in battle the hand of the Lord is upon the righteous, and no unbeliever shall prevail, thus if thou losest at war, look to yourself and repent your sins, then make sacrifices and go forth and strike at the minions of the Infernal One. And in the Land of America they make a pastry called the Oreo, which has a pleasing taste unto God. And the Oreo contains a minty filling between two cakes of faux-chocolate. And there are those in the land of American who remove the minty filling from their Oreos by turning the cake of faux-chocolate in a counter-clockwise direction, and this is pleasing to The Lord. And there are those remove the minty filling by some other method which is contrary to the commandments of God, and they are practitioners of abominations, and thou shalt slay them out of hand, for such is the commandment of God! And there was a woman of Bal-Bani-Bar, who practiced harlotry, and she was approached by three wise men. The first wise-man availed himself of her services. The second wise man counseled her in the way of God, and the third wise man fed her with the fruits of the Ard-Nak tree, thus at our mealtimes we look to the left before we eat, as does the Egret before he pecks at the Ard-Nak fruit."

This does not stop, even when the character attempts to sleep, and attempting to understand, apply, and catalog all these commandments is likely to drive the character who claims the Magical Femur Club nuts! (The long tradition of using the Magical Femur Club by Hyena-Person Ghost Eaters is the primary reason why they are considered insane!)


Too tired to do the sourcing, but:

Truth Rising from Her Well to Shame Mankind

Of truth we know nothing, for truth is in an Abyss

Rescuing the Sphinx from the Abyss is quite the feat, don't cha-know?

And did you talk with Thoth, and did you hear
the moon-horned Io weep?
And know the painted kings who sleep beneath
the wedge-shaped Pyramid?

Lift up your large black satin eyes which are
like cushions where one sinks!
Fawn at my feet, fantastic Sphinx! and sing mev all your memories!


This is clearly an abomination unto Nuggan!


Of course, the Hebrew version is "no other gods before me", really driving home the fact that this is a claim of primacy among deities, rather than of being sole godhead.


Every day I am grateful that my God--Armok--does not believe in me.

I don't know who thought a God of Blood was a good idea, but I hope he prayed loud enough to end up in his presence after he died.


Slightly OT, but do you ever read your server logs to see what Google searches brought people here, Charlie? If you're wondering what the point of that would be, well, it would be entertainment. C.f.


Ah yes
Defined ( by me ) as "Something mu particular iteration of BigSkyFairy doesn't like", & sually for reasons of power, of course.
R-believers seem to be unable to distinguish between "sin" & Evil - i.e. Hurting other people, directly or indirectly

It's a common wrong argument used by the brainwashed, when encountering atheists, that atheists "don't believe in good & evil" - & like all their so-called "arguments", utter bollocks


As Pigeon says somewhere up above, the sort of people who post this sort of rant to random blogs are the sort of people who take things *very* literally, including biblical metaphors using shagging as an easy shorthand for other stuff. There is a message about "don't be a dick" in that little lot up there. What it's actually saying is "You want to know why your life sucks because you spend half of it fighting and arguing? It sucks because you can't keep your grabby mitts off other people and other people's property, and they take exception to this. Stop it."

Quite a lot of the Bible is variations on the theme of God saying unto his Children "for the love of Me, would you kids grow the fuck up!" However, this is not a message little Tommy wants to hear when he's playing the "But I'm not touching you!" game...


Trying to be polite here, but it's going to be difficult
( I did not expect anyone with your level of delusion to be present in this discussion )
Finally, another question brought up in the thread was: if the existence of God cannot be proven or disproven, does God even matter?
Because if, as I postulate the testable hypothesis that: "BigSkyFairy is not detectable", then people, like yourself, believing in said BSF are not only deluded, but acting out your (dangerous) delusions in society, amongst the rest of us. And, never mind us, you are doing yourself harm by doing so.
There are all the other cases that you allude to, as well ( Crusades, child slavery, oppression of women, etc, but lets keep the discussion focussed & polite shall we? )

And, there are OTHER believers who not only will but actually do act out their BSF fantasies upon deliberately harming other people ( See my reply @ 51, above )
See: Republic of Gilead, Mike Pence, abortion laws in the USSA or any part of Ireland, Da'esh etc at bloody nauseam, for ever & ever amen.


Truth Rising from Her Well to Shame Mankind
Ohhh ... er missus!
Nude, angry young female WITH A WHIP!
Stop it, I like it, or something ......

Can I fall about laughing now?

As for late-Victorian soft-porn it's very good, along with Pharohs' Handmaids or La dejuner sur l'Herbe
It's probably not a good idea to get too close to The Origin of the World, though.
I should probably add NSFW, but I suspect y'all knew that anyway, didn't you?


Please try to get the jokes, especially when they're carefully sourced.

In 1895, Gérôme had painted a similar work, Mendacibus et histrionibus occisa in puteo jacet alma Veritas (English: The nurturer Truth lies in a well, having been killed by liars and actors). It has been suggested that both paintings (like a similar, later work by Édouard Debat-Ponsan) were a comment on the Dreyfus affair

Dreyfus affair

It's especially galling (yes, that's a pun) when you miss that the jokes are tailored to your personal grind stones:

Adolphe Thiers called republicanism in the 1870s "the form of government that divides France least"; however, politics under the Third Republic were sharply polarized. On the left stood Reformist France, heir to the French Revolution. On the right stood conservative France, rooted in the peasantry, the Roman Catholic Church and the army

French Third Republic

The rest we'll leave up to the reader to parse: trust me, it's funny (Mr Wilde being, well, let us say, not so interested in the naked ladies, eh?).


The higher order / spiritual side, well: don't throw out the dirty bath water into the gutter without eating the rose petals fading on the top, there's a hint.

(I did not expect anyone with your level of delusion to be present in this discussion)

Look to Author's post: My imaginary friends have more fun than your imaginary friends.

There's a reason sources are chosen.


Anyhow, I suspect I shall be arrested for S.T.A.L.K.I.N.G soon, so apologies to host.

[Redacted: Not allowed to post Aramaic or Sumerian stuff, naughty naughty]


And, ***spoilers***

Absolutely none of this is actually about Abrahamic Religions, ethnicity or labels Tribes place on each other, race, gender or genetics. If you read any of this through those lenses, you're doing "God's Work"[1].

It's about Imagination, Frameworks and Schemas and about how a paucity creates Monsters. Not Your Narrative Space Anymore[2] - that's what this is all about, really.

[1] "You're doing God's Work" is 100% tip off / dog-whistle to certain crowds: and they're not the usual ones you'd imagine. They're fairly heinous though, and a lot more dangerous than your usual bears; actually dangerous not like Mr Spencer the Cotton Farmer who is Gilded Friends with the Bushes and the WASPs[3]. That's a freebee.

[2] Not at Author or anyone here: it's a useful reference tool, however. Ze who controls the spice controls the universe

[3] Yes, Mr Alt-Right Spencer really is a mockery of WASP-dom, Government agricultural subsidies and in with the old (Lovecraftian) WASP crowd. He's a simulacrum, playing a role: do your homework already!


The end point of the "why/how can god do/allow bad thing X" is always, from a true believers point of view: God is omniscient, therefore god knows more than we do and understands why "bad thing X" is actually for our own good; we should just trust god and not question his wisdom.

In other words, it's the justification of the abuser to the abused: I love you and I am doing this for your own good!

Therefore: If god exists, he is in fact a serial sadistic abuser of his creations.

Worship this if you must. I choose to say: Even if an omnipotent omniscient god does exist, I will have no part in promoting such a complete and utter bastard.


"What is that leads [...] genitalia against?"

At a guess, Somebody got blitzed at the universe wrap party and tried to photocopy their reproductive apparatus with the Total Perspective Vortex.


You are kinky, as is the Multinomial One. That is a decadent French picture. A True Englishman favours a hatchet-faced woman in a severe dress with manacles and a whip. I am sure that you can think of examples.


Er, no. Forced marriage is rarer than is claimed, and is almost invariably to people who CAN get women - they just want more of them, higher prestige ones, sole possession, etc. And occasionally it's to dominant women. It's a matter of power hunger FAR more than sex drive, and is simply a modern derivation of the alpha male/female behaviour in social mammals. And the same applies to the marriage and exclusivity laws in Abrahamic religions; look at them as a ritualisation / regulation of the reproductive practices of social mammals, especially the few that are more than purely herbivorous, and they all start to make sense.

Bow down and worship the holy Evolutionary Principle, as described by its prophet Darwin and enunciated so evangelically by its High Priest Dawkins.


I DO NOT need information on l'affaire Deryfus, thank you very much
Recommendation: "An Officer & a Spy" by Robert Harris


No. Explaining what I meant would be a derail, so I shall imitate Minestrone Fruit-Nuttery and leave things to your imagination. But consider the difference between the principle of a theory and its detailed formula; and the saying that with seven parameters you can fit an elephant, as applied to 20+.


Just a week ago, I had two well, if slightly anachronistically attired, apparently male persons, knock on my door. Clutched in the hands of one was a poorly printed pamphlet, with a childishly rendered painting on the cover.

"Have you heard the Good News" (you could hear the capitals"

"Nah, mate, I've already got my own invisible friend, not interested"

The way they departed is what the word 'Scurried' was invented to describe.


Bow down and worship the holy Evolutionary Principle, as described by its prophet Darwin and enunciated so evangelically by its High Priest Dawkins.
Errr ..
1: You are being sarcastic?
2: You actually believe the utter crap you have just written?

And I can't tell which, which is not good.

If the latter - what's your alternative explanation, that fits all the known facts, then?


And the Decalogue was originally written in Aramaic? Tell me more :-)

The same applies. Those differences are primarily due to the imposition of a (verse) structure on a text that didn't already have it, followed by disagreements over what the original text was - the actual translations account for very little difference in the meanings.


I am afraid that you have had a sense of humour failure :-) If only one of those interpretations makes sense, which do you think I meant? My first paragraph was entirely straight.


“Do not call up that which you cannot put down.” (c)H.P.Lovecraft


...from the Strange Case of Charles Dexter Ward, perhaps?


I'm very far from considering myself an expert, but I seem to remember the early part of the Bible wasn't written in Aramaic, because Aramaic only became the 'common language' of Asia during the Achaemenid period (Note: 'Asia' in this context means what the Greeks called 'Asia', i.e. the Near and Middle East).

So we can be treating with a source written in Hebrew, translated to Aramaic, translated to Greek, translated to Latin...


Exclusivism is a feature of some religions (e.g. the Abrahamic religions) but multiple belonging is common in other cultures (e.g.79% of Japanese self-identify as Shintoists and 75% self-identify as Buddhists). Also syncretism is quite common; especially in new religions which often mix elements of Christianity with other religious traditions and brand new crazy stuff.


Er, WHY should the translators into Greek have used an Aramaic translation of the Decalogue (assuming that there was one) instead of the Hebrew? Unless I have got completely befuddled about the history of Judaism, there has never been a stage at which the canonical version of the Pentateuch was not in Hebrew, nor when there were no scholars specialising in it, which is not the same as its text or interpretation being invariant. And the Decalogue isn't exactly a minor part of that canon!

Apparently, modern belief is that the New Testament (as well as some of the old) was written in Greek, not Aramaic, so I misquoted there. But the point stands - the differences in original language and translation between the Decalogue and the Epistle of James are immense.


Several responses.

First, Charlie, I am reminded of Days of Yore... back in the first half of the nineties, when i used to hang out in alt.pagan. Every mid-Sept, some kid with a Brand New Shiny Internet Access would have been steered to usenet, and discover that, By Gawd, everybody *doesn't* believe like we do in Rock City, TN (there is one - I've driven past it), and the all in caps YALL BRUN IN HAYUL. And they'd usually cross-post to multiple non-Christian religious newsgroups. My favorite was the one of "Jesus Save!". We responded with the usual "yes, but Moses invests", and "Mohammed profits"... and then someone from alt.religion.editors (if you don't know, that was for vi/emacs flamewars) came back with "Yes, but Gretxky gets the rebound and scores!"

Second, Patai, in The Hebrew Goddess (scholarly academic work) mentions that in '63, they'd already found tens of thousands of potsherds from ancient Israel inscibed "to Asherah and her Yahweh".

Third, anyone asking if I've heard the Good News immediately is guilty of one of their Big Sins, since it's the hight of arrogance and pride to think that anyone outside of the deep Amazon or Africa has NOT heard about Christianity in the last 200 years, at least.

Finally... based on their own descriptions of Satan (tm), I can't tell the difference between their "God" and their "Devil", based on evidence ranging from the real world to my own personal real world. I haven't had to pull that... but if someone wanted to argue it... let's just say You Won't Like Me When I'm Mad, and leave it at that.

mark "Holy Klono's gadolinium guts!"


Totally off topic:

All the hubbub around Empire Games lead (along with a few nudges by fellow posters here) to me starting the Merchant Princess series (at the start). Two books (of the omnibus variety) in I'm loving it and I look forward to continuing on the series.


You got the same thing in Every year there would be an influx of people who would either question the necessity of the project or post whiny diatribes about how we were destroying it already.

Asteroids and vapour!


For a long time now I've felt that the relationship between spirituality and religion pretty closely parallels that between sex and marriage.

In each case, the former is a widespread human experience, much alike across a wide range of cultures (although with wide cultural variations in expression); a profound and potentially disruptive primal force.

In each case, the latter is an attempt to get litigious with the former. To emplace boundaries and rules. To inject a social control mechanism into what is, at root, an intensely personal experience... Which is understandable. Spirituality and sex both have demonstrated potential to lead people into exalted goodness, and into horror. Seems like cultural norms to fence them in are an inevitable human thing.

But the inane cruelties that institutions of religion and marriage both inflict seem deeply regrettable.


For a lot of the arguments over how God gets away with doing horrific crap, the answer is that that's one of two possible answers to the question Socrates poses in the Euthyphro, in the form "Do the gods love holy things because they are holy, or are holy things holy because the gods love them?" You can say that the gods are really powerful and so they get to decide what counts as holy; or you can say that there's an independent standard of what counts as holy and even the gods can't change it, no matter how powerful they are. In the latter case, you're saying that might doesn't make right; in the former case, you're saying that of course might makes right, but people don't get to invoke that because no human can have significant might as compared to the gods. Arguments across that divide are seldom productive, because each side is taking for granted something that the other side can't imagine anyone would be crazy enough to believe.


Asteroids and vapour, what a merry caper... Galileo, Galileo :)


To what extent is "holy" an accurate translation of the original Greek word? Because it seems to me that "the gods love them" is pretty much the definition of "holy", and therefore for the part before the comma to make sense the word in the original must have had a meaning of which "holy" is not an entirely accurate translation.


While bridal consent to marriage was generally observed (in English law) the ability of women to own anything was generally not. It's that lack of a distinct legal and economic existence that's the forced marriage. That went away in living memory, to the extent and degree which it is away.


Sigh, bad dog, no.

Auður djúpúðga Ketilsdóttir / Unnur djúpúðga: Laxdæla saga.

Gudrid Thorbjarnardóttir

Women in Anglo-Saxon England C. Fell, AMZN link

Yawn. Wake me up when the Men cease yapping.


[Redacted: Not allowed to post Aramaic or Sumerian stuff, naughty naughty]

It's not the oil. It's the predecessor relics. Ina Godda Da Vita wasn't a song, it was a recipe.


Apologies, pedant hat coming on.

FWIW; In the original original Hebrew, the word that gets translated as Holy is Kadosh, which more literally means Separate—the separation of Earthly & Heavenly, Sacred & Mundane, etc.

Hat off now. Goodnight.


Thanks, that is useful to know.

But to pedant the pedant, as it were, I should point out that William H. Stoddard was quoting Socrates, who is unlikely to have written in Hebrew :)


" look at them as a ritualisation / regulation of the reproductive practices of social mammals, especially the few that are more than purely herbivorous, and they all start to make sense."

My sediments exactly, add E.O.Wilson to the Darwin/Dawkins mix for his clear explanation of the conflict between genetic selection pressures coming from two different survival priorities, individual versus group, at the same time in the same organism. It helps the individual's survival chances to act selfishly at the expense of the group, and vice versa.

PBS just broadcast a nature show about zebras, showing daddy zebra kicking a newborn colt to death, since he somehow knew it wasn't his. And although the "Meerkat Manor" program never explicitly showed the hutch mother killing infants of other females in the troupe, they explained it was the reason behind a lot of the domineering behavior, from trying to prevent sub-dominant females breeding. And it's a well established background fact among social workers that stepchildren are far more at risk of abuse from a stepfather, than his own offspring. So widely acknowledged that it even spawned a dark joke-meme, "I'll whip you like a rented mule, drop you like a bag of cement, beat you like a red=headed stepchild!" Really, stepchildren? Couldn't be anything other than genetic conflict rising up right out of the DNA. So why couldn't this factor in to Biblical/religious/tribal sex obsessions? From an evolutionary psychology standpoint.


Pigeon, you do realize that you just fell into the "might makes right" -camp, right?


I didn't mean strictly the Decalogue, but the general problem with Bible terms. Even without a direct translation concepts like 'holy', for example, have passed from one language to other through 3,000 years or more. From Hebrew to Aramaic when Jews adopted it, from Aramaic/Hebrew to Greek (even if the New Testament was written in Greek I think most scholars think they used Aramaic sources now lost), from Greek to Latin, etc, etc, etc...

@73 whitroth
I have always liked 'Jesus saves, everyone else takes 2D20 fire damage'


Lack of a separate legal/financial identity went away so recently in UK law that when I started my post-uni job I would have been obliged to declare most of my income to my hypothetical husband, because my husband was legally responsible for filing the tax return and paying tax on the joint marital income to Inland Revenue. It was a hangover from the days when married women had *no* property rights, because their property became the property of their husband. That was less than thirty years ago. Advice columns in women's magazines had regular letters asking how to conceal some savings/income from an abusive husband in order to build up enough of a nest egg to be able to leave. This was a major reason the popularity of interest-free savings products from National Savings & Investments - they were interest-free, so could be hidden from the husband. So yes, Graydon is quite correct about lack of an independent legal/financial identity creating de facto forced marriages.


H Beam Piper (?) As in great Ghu the Grandfather God ... because Gadolinium was essential to his McGuffin for a star-drive, IIRC....


Except, that "when I hear the word spiritual, I reach for my revolver Physics textbooks"...
The words "Spiritual" & "Spirituality" are used to cover almost unlimited quantities of drivelling bullshit - almost as bad as that of the "organised" religions, in fact, but without the institutionalised cruelty, power-seeking & blackmail.


And, the "believers" have never com up with an answer to that, or its modern almost-equivalent:
Is it Good because god says so, or is it good of itself ... with the extra proviso as to what happens when BigSkyFairy changes his/her/its mind?
The answer that BSF is unchanging, immortal, etc, can easily be rubbished, of course, simply form the "holy" texts, or history.
They don't like it up'em & also as usual the lying / wriggling gets interesting.


That went away in living memory - err, no.
Married Women's Property Acts .. 1870 & 1882


Where I lived it was usually "Jesus saves! but Beckenbauer nets the rebound!"


Assuming the income WAS "joint"
Custom & Practice as opposed to actual law?
Individual judges? ( See very recent disgraceful scandal in the courts here in the last week over just this sort of issue, including domestic violence, incidentally )


That's STILL about power, not about sex, which was my point! I am interested that Greg Tingey can remember the events of 1882 - my memories of that era are a little, er, hazy - but he may be older than I am ....


Indeed. Just like modern physics :-)


I am old enough to remember that, too, but the abuse was both ways. A husband was liable for his wife's tax, but had no legal power to extract it from her! Some cases even got to court, and the judges were very perplexed at what penalty to impose.


We're in the process or sorting out my late Father-in-Laws affairs. Only one name on the deeds to the house or any of the contemporary paperwork.

As I understand it from what his wife tells me (with a certain undercurrent of bemused outrage even 50-odd years later) it's not that her name *couldn't* be on the paperwork it's that the building society, solicitors, and state functionaries involved *wouldn't* put her name go on any of the paperwork...


Religious, political and sex talk all has the same overripe gibberish quality to my ear. The rational brain is disconnected and the incantatory word salad comes out.


Errr... yes.

While it's more "equal rights" than property law, it used to be that for female service personnel, pregnancy was grounds for automatic dismissal from the UK Armed Services. Until 1990. Until then, women could also apply for discharge on grounds of marriage.

There was even a sitcom in the 1980s called "Holding the Fort" where an Army Officer has a stay-at-home husband doing child-care. Sitcoms are an interesting indicator of "things that society finds awkward to deal with" because obviously, it's hilarious (and probably deeply threatening to the Daily Heil) to think that women can carry on working after starting a family...


Did someone mention Galileo?

Useful starting place for people interested in history of science and correcting various false public ideas.


(Sorry, been away from keyboard for about 24 hours)

Greg: ( I did not expect anyone with your level of delusion to be present in this discussion )

YELLOW CARD with cause: unjustifiable rudeness.

You're no less intolerant than the intolerant religious believers you rail against. In this instance, "Tohron" (who I will note is explaining their own rationalization for belief, not evangelizing/saying you should believe) was making a polite contribution to the discussion. Your invective, in contrast, is not helpful in any way.

If I see similar ranting by you — or anyone else — in this thread, I will hit the delete button.


The issue with the Heil also surely being classical, given how many poorer women had to work after having children.


quoting Socrates

Guess I forgot that part, and was getting discussions mixed up.
As I implied, it was getting late. It's now early—probably earlier than I should be leaving comments.


I always heard it as Jesus Saves—nickels and dimes.


The Greek word used in Euthyphro is hosios, which is usually translated IME as "pious" rather than "holy"- it certainly has a sense of "following the laws".


Ahhh, but the Daily Heil is firmly aimed at selling middle-class consumer eyeballs to advertisers. So, put bluntly: poorer, working-class, working mothers don't count - except as a "bad example" for non-working middle-class housewives, who are thus reassured that they're doing the Right Thing by staying at home.


Charlie please note, I'm discussing differences in idiom based on residence, not discussing Wendyball or religion.

That (small change) would make sense to you James, but do you actually know who Franz Beckenbauer is/was? Virtually everyone in Scotland did back in the day.


Ahh... that reminds me. It was 1995, I was young and a bit nuts... anyway, we had that bulletin board in the university hall (of the wooden kind, not one of those newfangled computer sort) – and that board belonged to some Evangelical Christians of uncertain denomination (we had a lot of preachers from the US at the time). So we started a discussion of sorts – they posted some note condemning abortions because Gospels. We stapled our reply to that note (citing, I think, Genesis). They replied, we replied to their reply... well, before long it grew into two-meter-long scroll – all the time they tried to prove their point with Gospels only to be replied with verses from the Old Testament...

And then it came to an untimely end. I still remember their last reply: "Sorry, the only one of us who have read the Bible is traveling, please wait a couple of weeks for his return...". We did not bother...


Exactly. I was going to jokingly type that you work for them in your spare time, but that would be an insult.
Also phone utocorrect is annoying.

I don't know who Beckenbauer was, clearly i've not been in Scotland...


Sure that it wasn't the other way round? In my experience (and apparently that of OGH), the looney evangelicals tend to be intimately familiar with Revelations and a few of the Epistles, the bigoted fundamentalists with Genesis and Leviticus, but neither spend much time reading the Gospels, let alone following the precepts in them. Here, let me put in a plug for the Society of Friends. Whatever you may think of them, they do and always have done - I have no connection with them, incidentally.


Since you guys are talking about religion, I figured this expose is on topic


Unless I've badly mixed up the memories, my mother told me she had to conceal her engagement or she would have lost her job. (British teacher, about 1961).


Next, you'll be saying you've never heard of Johan Cruyff or Total Football...


For me it was "Jesus saves! Everyone else takes damage."

Which may say quite a lot about the era and social circles I grew up in.


Just a pedantic note: it's known as the "Problem of Evil".

At least the Zoroastrians solved it, by making their Bad Guy as powerful as their Good Guy.

Me? I decided that being a socialist and a science fiction fan of Jewish ancestry wasn't a small enough, persecuted enough minority, so I became a Pagan.

Now, my late ex used to use atheist pagan, and I can live with that, as I go back to the Lovelock Hypothesis. And my Goddess is *not* all-powerfull... otherwise, She would have saved her dearly beloved dinosaurs from the comet.



Yes, the funny thing is this branch (they're extinct in Russia now, it seems) was NOT big on the Old Testament... Another source of fun was inviting them in when they were making round in the dormitory, pouring them a cup of tea and very politely asking about their difference from the rival group (another branch from the same US church). The usual reply was: "We're living according to the Scripture!" Asking to elaborate would yield exactly the same reply, each time more and more whiny... but we never managed to find out what they were meaning by that (and we were genuinely interested)...

And all that fire-and-brimstone, Revelation-Genesis-Leviticus rhetoric is now spewed by Russian Orthodox Church who protect their monopoly. I actually do miss those Protestants from the '90s – at least those were polite, friendly and mostly harmless...


No, no, NO. Doc Smith's Lensmen universe. And the Ghreat Ghod Ghu (purple be His Name) is the one true faanish Ghod (accept no substitutes). Purple is His Color, and bheer is His drink.

Why purple, you ask? Allow me to offer you this ancient koan:
"YUCH! That purple jello in the 'fridge tasted *terrible*!"
"Purple jello? Oh, NO, you ate the hectograph!"

mark "first fanzine: 8 page hecto... with a (yes, really) four-color illo...."


My mother carried on teaching after marriage in 1970's Scotland, but her mother had had to stop working for the post office in the 1940's after getting married.

Martin #115- who?


Hmm ... decided to look up a commentary on this passage. Apparently this is an exhortation to fellow Xians to stop the in-fighting, therefore applicable to most religions.

Can't jump on the hate-religion bandwagon since I find that there's a continuum of religions from the absolute dogmatic and hateful (JW doorbell ringers, ISIL and a few others) to the intense anticorporeal but cerebral (RC - SJs, and Georges LeMaitre variety) through to the warm and cuddly (Laughing Buddha) types right through to the step-by-step how-to-look-after-yourself-from-cradle-to-grave self-help primer (Judaism). Not sure where the Druids - a growing increasingly popular to the point of 'officially recognized as a religion' in the UK - figure in.

The way I see it about religion ... Humanity's been social for a while. Rules came about because more people could survive if they weren't killing each other over grievances and could therefore direct their energy into useful endeavors. The most important rules needed the strongest authority ... God. So, a religion basically recaps that society's most important rules and biggest fears. Unfortunately the longer stability is maintained, the likelier literal interpretation of 'God's Word' as argument of last resort. This means no competition allowed for other possible explorations and explanations of why humans do what they do. Possibly explains why societies die within a couple of centuries of embracing religious absolutism.

Lab work has shown that the two best systems for directing behavior are reward and punishment. Most religions incorporate this as a key feature. Lab work and longitudinal studies also show that kids/individuals who can postpone taking a reward are generally brighter and more socially responsible and likelier to become leaders. Again, most religions have recognized this.

As an atheist, I'm nonetheless impressed by how much most of the major religions managed to get right despite their continual misattribution of cause.


Where I lived it was usually "Jesus saves! but Beckenbauer nets the rebound!"

I recall Glaswegian graffiti, circa late 1970s, where it was "Jesus saves! But Dalglish scores on the rebound!"

Elderly Cynic @21
It would help a lot if they didn't regard the working hypotheses of Uncle Albert as having been written on tablets of stone and brought down from a mountain.

We don't. For example:

And, of course, Einstein was quite wrong about "hidden variables" in quantum theory.


I hope that you wont mind if I suggest a Mild, and even Minor alteration? This to Correct your interpretation of the News?Just a teeny little amount? And, suggest the Insertion of the word, " English " at any point of your own choice? As in, England is a very conservative country? MUCH more so than the Country that is Scotland ..or Ireland or Wales? Also ? It really isn't all that long ago that Scotland held a conservative sizable minority? And that the Con Men ..err , Con folks, could still divide and rule Scotland between and betwixt the Highlands - the land of my Mums Ancestors - and the Lowlands of the Glaswegians and so forth? Oh, how the Highlanders do love the Lowlanders .... and do Respect Herself, Nicola Ferguson Sturgeon, as their Dear Leader? Thus, this is bound to appeal as The Dear Leader of all the Scots .. "Sturgeon has been a member of the Scottish Parliament since 1999, first as an additional member for the Glasgow electoral region from 1999 to 2007, and as the member for Glasgow Southside since 2007 (known as Glasgow Govan from 2007 to 2011).

A law graduate of the University of Glasgow, Sturgeon worked as a solicitor in Glasgow. "

A Female, Glaswegian, Lawyer, who is now a Politician?Right at the Very Top of the Tree that is the Lowlands political Establishment? Right,then, this is bound to play well up in the North of Scotland - the Highlands - isn't it?
So, I wonder ? What would happen if the Highlands chose to hold a referendum in the interest of Freedom, FREEDOM!!! and .... Independence from the Lowland Scots? The Oily Stuff beneath the Seas wont go far if it is spread across the whole of Scotland in the form of income, but ..what about a Free Nation of The Highlands and Islands? Spread about that population UP NORTH things begin to the Highland Scots to be rather more interesting? And how could the Scots Nats Object to INDEPENDENCE for The Highlands and Islands? Would they object to the Highlanders having a Referendum on this ? And how would the Highlanders choose, if they were the offered the opportunity to chose ..and that offer were to be supported by the English?

The English Political Class wont have thought of this will they? Nor will the Highland Scots...I Alone have thought of this for I am a Master of Duplicity ... and I am shopping around for a Secret HQ beneath an Extinct Volcano. What could possibly go wrong? Unless Agent "Charlie " has been briefed to thwart my Evil Scheme?


I keep pointing out that as far as i know, the Scottish office building on Carlton hill has a bunker or very strong basement, and Carlton hill is an extinct volcano.....


Who? WHO? We'd better stop there, young man, or this will get Messi...

I will confess to be a heretic apostate, and to have failed in my devotions to the Great God Wendyball. I just had to learn the litany, and some of the catechism, because it's a social necessity among certain social groupings in Scotland...

I gave myself a crash course in Scottish football in the late 80s / early 90s, just so I could keep up with the rest of our Rifle Platoon. They weren't fooled, particularly after I declared my support for St.Johnstone, but then that wasn't the question that they were really asking[1]... ;)

[1] Our Platoon Sergeant had a season ticket to Parkhead; my predecessor had a season ticket to Ibrox. We had a pretty even split otherwise; 30% Rangers, 30% Celtic, 15% Hearts, 15% Hibs. The outliers were me, Peter (who played semi-pro for a local non-league team) and young Karen (who claimed to support Aberdeen)


Minor nit - it's Calton Hill...

The scurrilous allegation was that the Dear Leader (Salmond) had his eye on the Governor's House being the Presidential accommodation post-Independence, so you'd have to fight him for it.


Look forward to future research that might isolate a graviton for closer examination because I have a tough time visualizing 'virtual particles', i.e., bespoke items that magically fit the cut-out/missing pieces in the current puzzle for the requisite (typically) infinitesimal length of time. (Easier for me to visualize a graviton as an emergent property/residue/outcome than as an initial ingredient.)

Curious why there isn't any discussion about there being more than one type/flavor of graviton esp. considering how many different types/flavors of other particles are known to exist.


its the oldest scam,, obviously at some point a tribesman who was a little more savvy and less energetic , invented a trick so he could get food without having to do anything.' If you give food to the great spirit - through me obviously- you won't get eaten by bears.'
and the silly sods bought it


'virtual particles', i.e., bespoke items that magically fit the cut-out/missing pieces in the current puzzle for the requisite (typically) infinitesimal length of time.

That's not what virtual particles are. They certainly aren't "bespoke items": they have the normal quantum numbers as determined by the interaction, and if there isn't a particle with the required quantum numbers the reaction won't happen. The difference from real particles is that a virtual particle does not obey the standard relation E2 = c2p2 + m2c4, where E is the total energy, p is the momentum, m is the invariant mass, and c is the speed of light. As a result, it can only exist for a limited time, which is defined by the Heisenberg uncertainty principle ΔEΔt > ℏ/2 (in other words, you can violate the energy-momentum-mass relation by an amount ΔE provided you do so for a time less than Δt = ℏ/2ΔE, because according to the uncertainty principle such a violation isn't measurable—the 11th commandment, "thou shalt not get caught"). Virtual particles occur as internal lines in Feynman diagrams: for example, the reaction e+ + e → μ+ + μ goes (assuming that the centre-of-mass energy is much less than 90 GeV) by a virtual photon whose mass, in the simple case where the electron and positron have equal and opposite momenta, is equal to the total energy.

The number of distinct particles mediating a given interaction is defined by the group structure of the interaction: there is only one photon, because QED is an Abelian group (the photon mediates interactions between electric charges, but does not itself have electric charge) but there are 8 gluons, because QCD is non-Abelian (the gluon carries colour charge, and gluon-gluon interactions are possible).

The properties of the (entirely hypothetical) graviton can be deduced from the properties of gravity. It has to be massless, since gravity is a long-range force (this is the uncertainty principle at work again), and it has to have spin 2, because it is related to a rank 2 tensor and not a simple vector as the other force particles (all of which have spin 1) are. Unfortunately, gravity is not easy to describe as an exchange force—there are very fundamental mismatches between general relativity and quantum mechanics—so talking about the properties of the graviton is not really very justified.


American Evangelicals don't bother much with the "Old Testament", since they think they have the New and Improved version. More than once I have heard, or read, accounts of curious christians approaching their ministers, saying that they can't get through the OT (usually getting bogged down in Leviticus), only to be told not to bother and just read the NT. Though they love to quote Isaiah, totally misreading it. As in "Isn't it miraculous how Jebus fulfilled all the prophecies of Isaiah! Riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, etc." To which the answer, of course, is NO, he read the book too* and intentionally followed the so-called prophecies (which were all about Isaiah's own time, not talking about the future).

*or rather the gospel writers had read it, since I've never been convinced that Yoshke actually existed.


As I said, I am not going to derail by responding in detail, but you have seriously misunderstood. If you are interested, wait for #300 or a more appropriate thread; or ask a moderator for my Email address (now that I am retired, my reason for anonymity has gone).


I am pretty certain that there are Roman records of a rebel called Yeshua or similar; whether he was anything like what the Gospels claimed, or was campaigning for the independence of Israel, is less clear.


Yup, stupid Anglo-centric autocorrect got the name wrong.

I admit i have heard of Kenny dalgleish.

Fortunately as technical, not production, i didn't have to fit into the footie following groups, in a factory in Bellshill. The football was related to religion, or was it religion related to football. As usual, it was a few loudmouths who stirred things up, but the HR guy sorted them out. Footie shirts were still banned though.


Ah the exception that proves the rule, I suppose.
Persecuted by just about every other variety of christianity.
The muslim equivalent appears to be the Ahmadi .....(?)

{ Still loonies, IMHO, but perfectly harmless, unlike all the others. )


Yes, I should've said the Yoshke of the gospels.
I* haven't heard of any actual Roman records of him, other than Josephus' single mention of someone matching the description, other mentions were provably added by later christian scribes, and Joe himself was writing well after the fact.

*not that I'm any kind of expert.


Ah yes, the "Russian Orthodox" seem to have reverted to the status they had 1905-14.
As seen in the film of Doctor Zhivago" where the priests are marching alongside the cheering crowds & people enlisting ... until Yevgraf (Alec Guinness) ignores it all, & joins up to further the revolution.


And/or that the Islands, esp Shetland/Orkney decided that they want no part of Ms S's schemes.
Charlie is always telling me that I "don't understand".
But, it's just as bad in reverse, because London - almost twice the size of Scotland in population is hugely pro-EU & is getting more & more thoroughly pissed-orf wiv the goings-on re "Brexit"
Yes, it's complicated


Fortunately as technical, not production ... in a factory in Bellshill.

I can now smile and mention that Ferranti's ATE Group where I spent my summers interning, had its production and most of its technical staff based in a factory in Bellshill...


No, Greg, women's personal income being treated under income tax law as belonging to their husband right into the 1990s was *not* custom and practice, or individual judges, it was the law of the land, and there was a massive campaign to get that law changed both because of the practical impact it was having on women, and the unfairness of women being treated as legal infants (a technical legal term) with no right to privacy in this area. There was no reciprocal requirement for men to disclose their income to their wives.

Stop frigging mansplaining to me something that I explicitly said in my comment could have had a direct impact on me. Something that indeed did have an impact on me, because I thought very seriously about whether I was willing to accept that sort of loss of my financial privacy as a condition of getting married. Fortunately the law changed during my somewhat long engagement to the man I did evnetually marry.


The graffiti versions:

Jesus Saves - with the Woolwich.

Jesus saves, but Channon gets the rebound.

...and Tanuki's splendid version from asr:

Jesus saves, Moses invests, C'thulhu forecloses.


Sounds good to me!


Ohh dear!
You may not realise, but my "other half" is a professional financial person ( as in CTA ) & I may be higgorant of some historical aspects of financial regulation as regards females, but I've never heard her complain of that one.
And believe me, if it had impacted her, she would have complained.
So ... go & bite someone else, OK & DO NOT USE "mansplaining" on me- I hope you get the message.


It constantly amazes me how often in an action-adventure or thriller film everything depends on the hero (or the sidekick, etc.) believing what the villain says, without evidence of any sort.

I vaguely remember a book in which the villain claimed to have hacked into US nuclear arsenal, and had it set to go off if his heart stopped -- and his (known) computer skills made this claim plausible. The hero basically called his bluff. When asked how did he know the villain was bluffing, his answer was "Had he died, he would not really care whether his revenge plan succeeds or not. By definition, he would never get any satisfaction from it. OTOH, actually hacking US nuclear arsenal would be an extremely difficult job even for him. Much easier just to claim he did it."

Unfortunately, I forgot the book's title.


Thanks for those scripts; the Script: Intro was diverting (from perturbing US political news) to poke at a bit, and play with what appears to still be the pre-GNMT version of google translate.
Two awards, technically. A Boy and his God of course came to mind while pre-ordering "Godshaper #1" (tx) a couple of days ago.

Trying to decide whether Brain stimulation improves schizophrenia-like cognitive problems is interesting.
Don't have access to paper: Delta-frequency stimulation of cerebellar projections can compensate for schizophrenia-related medial frontal dysfunction


See #40... or did you actually mean to reply to #40 but clicked on "reply to #79" by mistake, since your reply doesn't seem to relate to #79 at all?

A necessary part of the definition of a god must surely be a being who is superior to humanity, not only in potentiality, but in moral authority. So the questions of whether one should obey the god, and whether the god's actions towards humans should be accepted, don't even arise, as they are answered implicitly in the affirmative by the definition.

(Note that the question of whether one believes that a god exists or not is a completely separate matter and nothing to do with this.)

Some would seek to dispute my point by denying the moral authority aspect, but if you remove that aspect the being you're talking about is not a god. It's a genie, or a demon, or a wizard, or an advanced alien, or something along those lines.

(And if you remove the potentiality aspect, you have, er, Constable Lensman minus Lens, I think.)


Well, 1905 would be too modern... for me it looks like they're aiming for something like cross between 1650s (boneheaded orthodoxy combined with the hatred of everyone and everything foreign) and 1850s (Church as analogue to the Department of Ideology in USSR) with a dash of Ministry of Truth from Orwell. And the accusations Leo Tolstoy was making in... was it 1904?.. about severe shortage of Christ in this Christianity is still standing. Hmm... this situation may have something to do with the reading of the Bible being discouraged by the Russian Orthodox Church ("Read what St. Someone-or-other wrote, you wouldn't understand The Book anyway!"). Some people are afraid of the Church Slavic (liturgical language of Russian Orthodoxy) as well, despite there being an official translation into modern Russian on the site of the Moscow Patriarchy... oh, and reading and thinking is hard...

The end result is that belief in Christ the Savior is replaced with belief in the ritual (the latter is technically considered a sin but nobody cares). So I would not be surprised if Russian Orthodox version of the Almighty manifests one day in the form of a small, shaggy and mildly bewildered bear...


Update for those who don't live / work in or near London
Please do read this wonderful piece of sarcasm from the excellent "Diamond Geezer" ...
It shows the general feeling about Brexit this far South & how depressing the whole thing is.


That rather depends on the god doesn't it. Some have moral authority. Some are dicks.

The necessary attribute of a god is power of some kind.


Regarding abortion laws: I think there is an oversimplification lurking here. Considering the views of zealots on either side; it appears that on one side they consider a single-cell zygote to be fully human with all the rights thereof, and on the other side a full-term foetus five minutes before birth to be not human and have no rights at all.

Put into those terms, I think it's obvious that both extreme views are ridiculous. Which leaves the problem of at just what time, during gestation, a foetus becomes human WRT right to life. I would suggest that viability outside the womb is a reasonable starting point for discussion, at the very least. This means that with advancing technology, the legalities creep earlier in gestation. It also deals with the rare cases in which the foetus will never be viable because of catastrophic deformity - an example being anencephaly.

Incidentally, the matter of the mother's health is covered by other existing law and custom; the right being invoked here is that of self-defence. If a human adult threatens your life, then you have a right to end the threat whether or not such ending kills the adult who is the threat. IMHO the same would apply to a foetus in those (rather rare) cases in which the foetus imperils the life, or severely imperils the health, of the mother-to-be. Unlike some, I would not include mental health in this because it's all too easy to make a matter of convenience a mental health issue on the record.


Plus the fact that half (?) the fertilised eggs fail to implant, a third (?) of those miscarry very early on, and some miscarry later, because of genetic and other defects. And that very small foetuses may be viable, but are likely to suffer severe developmental problems; there comes a point where attempting to keep them alive is inhumane. The problem is thinking in terms of black and white - one day a foetus is just a dependent organism and the next day - blam! - it is an undeveloped human.


I suggest that you get her to look it up. The details were messy, already falling apart by the 1960s, and were as unfair to men as to women, as I said.


I am sure that some of our Brexitish media would claim that, if Scotland votes for independence, that volcano will start erupting again.


Yes, well: dumb questions get answered sometimes:

Your internet history on sale to highest bidder: US Congress votes to shred ISP privacy rules The Register, 28th March, 2017

Be aware that following links also adds them to the pattern (which is why futa references are funny); but we're drumming a pattern different to most. Let's just say: obvious it was going to pass, Shadowrun is moving onwards.

Elon Musk Seen Targeting Human-Computer Link In New Venture NPR, March 28th, 2017.

I'll refrain from commenting, apart from to note:

Large-scale design of robust genetic circuits with multiple inputs and outputs for mammalian cells Nature, 27th March, 2017 - paywalled, too new to provide a legal copy.

Multi-input CRISPR/Cas genetic circuits that interface host regulatory networks NCBI, Mol Syst Biol. 2014 Nov, 2014 - full paper, text.

Things that make you go hmm. JW's with Weaponized Pixie Dust to instill the Word of the Lord, indeed.

But, for all USA readers, VPNs only go so far, we suggest data smog.


I know some geologists who would be delighted by that.


Uff, dropped a link.

The fact that cellular reprogramming of distantly related cells can be achieved by simple
administration of a few transcription factors, nicely demonstrates how plastic and flexible and finally how manipulable cells can be. Thus, transcription factor based reprogramming can be seen as an inspiration or a trigger for a new mammalian cell engineering discipline that is closely implicated with synthetic biology(29). For example, an iPSC can be viewed as a “synthetic cell”, which completes an anticipated task (that is self-renewal and differentiation). In this respect, the stem cell field pursues the same essential goals as synthetic biology; modulation of cellular behavior by administration of external genes in order to perform a human specified function or task.
Stem cell biologists produced this “synthetic cell” not by applying rational design principles but by an empirical approach that uses current knowledge and technologies to change the abundance of some endogenous transcription factors, perturbing the existing epigenetic equilibrium that stochastically pushes the cell towards a path of cellular transformation.

DESIGN AND IMPLEMENTATION OF PROGRAMMABLE GENE CIRCUITS IN MAMMALIAN CELLS Laura Prochazka, PHD thesis, ETH ZURICH, 2015. PDF, warning: long (155 pages). It covers the 'basics' rather well, however.

And yes, not just commenting about this Brave New tech, there's ulterior commentary in play.


if Scotland votes for independence, that volcano will start erupting again.
"Which volcano"? Large chunks of Scotland are on igneous rock flows, and I can name several crags that are specifically the plugs on long extinct caldera.


All of them!

Scotland would be an exporter of geothermal energy within the year and could find employment to thousands of people building giant concrete chutes to direct pyroclastic flows towards York.

It will be magnificent!


Which surprises me enormously, as she was independently earning by then ( When we fist met, she was a postgraduate student ) & I never ever saw (IIRC) a joint tax return ... mind you, it's 29 years ago, & such things may have got lost in the grey mush of the past .....
On the legal technicality, it would seem I was wrong, but the "mansplaining" really annoyed me, given that I'm the one of the ones around here who always points out that the best way to detect an oppressive system is to ask: "How does it treat women?"
Which takes me back to the delicate subject of the RC ( & almost all the others too ) church, who still treat women like dirt, so I'll stop now, shall I?


I can think of other religions/cultures that treat women a great deal more like dirt than the RC Church does. Can't you? But we aren't supposed to mention that, because it's raciss...


Do they actually, though? Or is more that we're used to/inured to the mistreatment by familiar cultures/religions, and ones we're unfamiliar with look worse because the alien-ness exacerbates the differences?

[Regarding mansplaining, I would think anyone can fall into that trap regardless of good intentions, previous behaviour, etc. In fact, it might be even more important for those that *are* usually good, progressive allies to be open to such accusations, because they might otherwise be so defensive that criticism simply doesn't get through at all...]


Apologies in advance Charlie if this is over the edge.

Can you really Ian? When answering, please bear in mind that:-
1) IC1 people can be Muslims.
2) Da'esh are not Muslims (source ~99% of Muslims).
3) The Qu'ran actually says that all Muslims should "dress modestly" but does not define the term, or mandate specific garments for either sex.


Thanks ... and once again I'm back to viewing videos re: particle physics.


It is also instructive to look at pictures of festivals, crowds, demonstrations, etc. in various countries. Iran comes out surprisingly well, especially for a theocracy, which is one reason to disbelieve the anti-Iran propaganda. Sub-Saharan Africa is not what is claimed, either. You can guess the countries that come out worst, though you would be hard put to tell it from the USA's and UK's mainstream media.


Hmm ... too bad I don't read German.

Did however read the below article which might be related:

First concern: how much does the donee's immune system first have to be suppressed? I'm guessing it depends on the type and location of the cancer. If the recipient's immune system has to be completely ablated (destroyed) before the 'transplant' then this remains a high-risk procedure that would be approved only for near-fatal conditions.

Second concern: Because this transplanted cell is different ('foreign'), there's still a risk of rejection. The work-around is immune suppressants - possibly for life - which means a whole bunch of other medical issues.

While still a step in the right direction, not yet a panacea.


Yes, I should've said the Yoshke of the gospels.
I* haven't heard of any actual Roman records of him, other than Josephus' single mention of someone matching the description,

One of Bart Ehrman's many books on New Testament topics is titled, straightforwardly enough, Did Jesus Exist? and looks at the extrabiblical sources mentioning him. Of relevance to the Roman records question, Ehrman writes, "Within a century of the traditional date of Jesus's death, he is referred to on three occasions by Roman authors... They were all writing about eighty to eighty-five years after the traditional date of his death." (The first was Pliny the Younger writing in 112 CE.)

On Josephus, Ehrman discusses two passages from The Antiquities of the Jews, which was written in the 90s CE. Although there is dispute about whether they were written by Josephus or inserted/altered by Christian scribes at a later time, "most scholars continue to be convinced that Josephus did indeed write about Jesus..."


According to the 2017 World Happiness Index (UN), Iran is ranked 108th vs. UK 19th, Germany 16th and USA 14th.

Crowds are not a reliable metric for evaluating a society: you've no idea why the crowd has gathered nor its composition.


I have never understood the preoccupation with whether there was a historical character that originated Christianity, given that we have no idea how closely the character and (almost all) the events depicted in the Gospels matched reality.


Please don't change the context. This was specifically about whether women are treated as second-class citizens. And, obviously, I didn't mean look at a single picture, or even single type of crowd - and, in most cases, reporters say what sort of crowd they are depicting.


That's sort of my point. If any god maintains a hell where the punishment of any one sinner is eternal, that becomes evidence of the god's moral inablity; any given god might be smarter or wiser than I am, or might have massively greater raw knowledge than I do in both theoretical or practical terms, but if a sinner's punishment is eternal that god has demonstrated an extreme lack of proportion.

Think it out a little. Does Hitler deserve eternal punishment? An unstopping infinity of suffering for each of the 80 million deaths for which he is responsible? Or should we show a sense of f**king proportion and merely sentence him to a billion years in the fire? Personally, I think he'd get the point after the first million years of being on fire every second of the day but maybe I'm just an old softy!

Or if someone's soul is truly that vile, maybe we should just erase it rather than be responsible for the eternal suffering of any being?

The point is, we don't put up with abusive humans, why should be put up with abusive gods?


Read in the context of what was replied to please.

No-one claimed that Iranians were "happy" according to the UN WHI. What was claimed was that there were a significant percentage of women in crowd/street scenes from Iran, and that they were not all wearing chadur.

This supports my argument that Islam itself is not a "tool for oppressing women", as was originally and erroneously claimed.


All patriarchal religions are potential tools for oppressing women. It happens that in the U.S. and Europe we have those religions under fairly firm control and they don't oppress much, but there are plenty of Catholics (and Jews and Hindus) who would happily join their Muslim brethren in killing those damn uppity women who don't want to obey the all-important mandates of Gawd.


One of my believer friends is working on an essay on the non-existence of Hell and believes in universal reconciliation. Leads me to think, yes, I could see that, while I'd differ on what happens with any so far undetectable life essence, yes, all the memory of what was done in life rots in a hole in the ground.


I think the point at issue is whether or not there is a scriptural basis for oppressing women (or anyone else) rather than whether a theocratic government or a church leadership has ever done so.


A Muslim who wants to oppress women will look at his scripture and find an excuse to do so. So will a Christian, Jew, or Hindu, probably a Buddhist as well, (though I don't know enough about that religion to be sure of it.)

On the other hand, a Muslim who wants to imitate Mohammad might just go to work for his wife... and so on.


Yes, precisely. I don't know whether that is primarily Tehran, but the pictures I have seen indicate that it is only a matter of degree, not kind. The UAE and even Saudi Arabia are much 'happier' (at 21 and 37), but ....


And Elderly Cynic ...

I'm getting my info on women's rights in Iran from Wikipedia:

'During the Sixth Parliament, some of Iran's strongest advocates of women's rights emerged. Almost all of the 11 female lawmakers of the (at the time) 270-seat Majlis tried to change some of Iran's more conservative laws. However, during the elections for the Seventh Majlis, the all-male Council of Guardians banned the 11 women from running for office, and only conservative females were allowed to run. The Seventh Majlis reversed many of the laws passed by the reformist Sixth Majlis.'

Note the 'only conservative women' ... in the US this would be TeaParty-ers.

BTW, the World Happiness Index correlates quite well with women's rights because ... y'know ... women usually make up about half of a population.


There's this BBC article on Hasidic Jews in the UK.

Sounds pretty dire for the women.


They will "find an excuse to do so".

That is my key point; The oppressors are people using "$holy_text" as an excuse for mistreating others and are not genuinely following the text.


Yes. I bought a copy of the Koran to see what it really said (in translation, unfortunately). In terms of the patriarchical/liberal spectrum, it wasn't all that different from many of the Epistles, and a damn sight more liberal than the Pentateuch, though not as much as the Gospels. Which also fits with the historical record - Mohammed was a wise, just, enlightened and even liberal ruler (for his time and place, which wasn't).


I never claimed that Iran is a bastion of liberty, but that the propaganda produced by its bitter enemies is largely a pack of lies. The UN happiness index is seriously misnamed and pretty dubious - but, even if it were reliable, see my remarks about the relative positions of the UAE and Saudi Arabia.


I'm trying to wrap my head around Pigeon's description of a god. Moral by definition. A *state* of being moral, rather than what looks, to me, like a process, maybe? Still thinking about it.

I find this disturbing as hell.

Unless this ...thing has seriously circumscribed its own freedom of action, or has made morality just a word without any actual content, can it act at all? I have this vision of a being which retroactively makes everything it ever does moral, causality breaking like micron-thin mirrors, fractures spreading back towards the big bang every time it moves.


Re: '... scriptural basis for oppressing women (or anyone else)'

As mentioned by others, you can find a phrase in the Bible to justify any position or bias. Or, you could rewrite the Big Book (since hardly anyone has actually read the original, so no one would know) and start your own religion. This has been a very popular and profitable pastime in the US for over 250 years now. Back in 2013, WashPost reported that US religions got about $82 billion in tax breaks. No idea how wealth is distributed between official religious institutions and public sector (gov't) in Iran, so can't tell if finance is a major factor there as well.

Considering that mirages and death from dehydration, hallucinations from overheating/fever have been described in literature for years, why would anyone consider someone who's wandered in from 40 days and 40 nights alone in the desert sane let alone enlightened. (Or was this another mistranslation?) Would be interesting to see a 21st century version of the BigBook's golden boy within the context of contemporary knowledge, i.e., what any 7th grader would have learned at school.


The only comments I could find from you saying anything about these countries' relative positions is: 'Iran comes out surprisingly well, especially for a theocracy, which is one reason to disbelieve the anti-Iran propaganda.'

'comes out surprisingly well' -- on what, says who?

'anti-Iran propaganda' -- personally have a hard time believing that the UN is making stuff up.

What am I missing? Not being argumentative, just not seeing your POV.


If I recall correctly, we actually have more contemporary historical evidence of the existence of Jesus (as a person) than we do of Hannibal Barca. What's your opinion on the historicity of Hannibal?

(In addition, I've never seen a strong argument for why the Gospels would entirely make up a person. Misrepresent what he said/did, sure, but not his existence itself.)


I don't remember how much Druids were covered, but if you want a very decent, short read on the varieties of religion, and how modern (neo)Pagans feel, you might check out the old soc.religion.paganism FAQ. (ObDisclosure: the Silverdragon, referred to in the credits, as a Jedi once said, "he's me".)



So, how do you feel about DeBroglie-Bohm mechanics?

mark, wave-ing at you


I remember a scene - that's all I saw of it, it was in some tv special - of a cowboy movie that MADE SENSE. The good guy has the drop on the leader of the bad guys, six-guns aimed at him. Bad guy's henchmen come out of the alley behind the good guy, and tell him to drop it.

Unlike any other cowboy movie, good guy tells them that he bets he can kill their boss before they kill him. Boss gives in, and tells them to drop their weapons.

Wish I could remember what movie it was from. It was in b&w.



Let me add to the fog of god(s) here.... On a much more serious note than I posted yesterday, I base my Paganism on the Lovelock Hypothesis (1968), which is that the entire biosphere of the planet can be viewed as a single organism. Based on the science I know, it appears to me to be pretty much like one of those optical illusions - is it a goblet, or two faces staring at each other, etc., whether you choose to view it as a single organism.

I choose to do so. On the other hand, forget this Personal Relationship bs - I mean, when was the last time you had a deep conversation with the cell that's 6cm to the left of the median of your right knee, and 1.0000cm in? Whole muscles, yep. Bones (or cartilage, asks the osteoarthritis recipient)? Yup.

I don't do faith. But then, when I celebrate the eight holidays, as homo sap has done since literally time immemorial (with different window dressings), I also don't do worship. I mean, do you worship your mom on her birthday? No, I celebrate it.

So... y'all tell me, do I have a Goddess, or not? Are there Revealed Moral Strictures, or can I have them just as a human bean, livin' in the RW with people, many of whom I care about?

Btw, going this route makes me a true pantheist, since each world with a biosphere would have its own individual deity.



As I understand it, it was the Ottoman Turks who brought in the burka, etc. Before then, I am given to understand, clothing that allowed women to have bare breasts were normal and accepted.

Also, I believe I've read women had more property rights before the Ottoman Turks.

Byzantium needed more Varangians, I think... Or a few airships... sorry, I'm in the middle of 1636: the Ottoman Onslaught....



I prefer Pascal's Mugging: A man in the street walks up to you and declares that he is, in fact, a Matrix Lord, and everybody is living in a simulation. If you don't give him $5, he says, he will instantiate [insert suitably large number here - 3^^^3 is standard, but the point is that it's arbitrarily many] consciousnesses which will all be tortured for a billion subjective years. Now, your obvious first reaction is that he is lying/delusional. However, can you say that there is literally no chance that he is right? That there is no evidence, no matter how strong, that would make you believe him? And if there is even the slightest chance that he is correct, then there is some number of consciousnesses undergoing some amount of torture for which the loss of giving him $5 is outweighed by the expected amount of suffering for not giving him $5, and you should give him the $5.


I never claimed that Iran is a bastion of liberty, but that the propaganda produced by its bitter enemies is largely a pack of lies

I immediately thought of this incident, which was broadcast widely at the time. I get the feeling that there doesn't need to be much in the way of anti-Iran propaganda, it seems to be doing quite well all on its own...

...unless you think that Amnesty International are pawns of anti-Iranian propaganda...

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe
Neda Agha-Soltan

Meanwhile, Russia's doing its bit for democracy - dare to protest against corruption, get locked up for a couple of weeks.

Amnesty continues to hold the UK to account, reassuringly, and it notes the restrictions on Womens' Rights in Northern Ireland. Compare and contrast their reports on Russia and the UK...


If he's not delusional and is unwilling to provide evidence then he can instantiate his own $5 and piss off.

If on the other hand he is willing to perform suitably entertaining miracles then it might be worth $5 to watch.


Who are you to make demands of him? He doesn't need $5 in general, he wants you specifically to give him $5. Do you want to take the risk of condemning an unimaginably large number of people to unimaginable torment? On average, this will be a worse outcome than just giving him $5.

(yeah, it's bullshit, obviously. but still.)


"If I recall correctly, we actually have more contemporary historical evidence of the existence of Jesus (as a person) than we do of Hannibal Barca."
The closest we have to a contemporary source is Josephus, and he's... problematic.
Tl;dr: the insertion in Josephus' Antiquities has been know to be falsified for centuries!


Which is relevant to the status of women (as distinct from general brutality and the suppression of dissent) just how? Oh, I forgot, you don't do evidence - you just misrepresent and change context. Your support for the Wahhabist pogrom to eliminate Shiism from the world is disgusting. If you think that is a misrepresentation, they I suggest that you investigate the actions of the countries and organisations you support a bit further.

197: are Wrong. Your Defense is to broadcast - on the emotional spectrum - that YOU are a Severely Vicious and Competent Adversary ..along the lines of 'Piss with ME and I WILL Rip Your Head Off and stuff it up your Arse! ' Simple? Glad I was able to help you with your problem. Practical example? Well, Once upon a time I solved a Problem with a drunken Smoker on the Newcastle Metro ..." You Don't MIND if I Smoke on the Metro DO YOU!!!!???? YOU MIDDLE CLASS FUCKS !!! ".. and my adversary said, as He before he left at the next station .." Because HE has been SO Nice to Me I'm going to put my Fag Out!" " his wife/partner looked ever so grateful as they left but, at the Next Stop a Mister Angry, of Prodigious Size, extracted himself from out of a corner seat and turned towards Me. Hey Ho, these things happen and I was already aware of my surroundings and in a Good Defensive Position.. prep wasn't needed - though it is always necessary - and as he scuttled out of the door He said " You Were Wasting YOUR Time There Mate " and then he ran away. Another time? Outside of a night club, and as I was going home after leaving my junior colleagues, The Minions.. ..believe it or not they actually called themselves that ..I came upon a really serious Puppy Fight ..Smack of Head Against a curbstone, is once heard never forgotten .. and moved to intercept the Group, and I said .." STOP!!!!! You don't want to Kill HIM, now do YOU? You HAVE WON!! Stop it NOW !! " And the Victor of that Fight said, " ..Course NOT!! He's Me Mate !!! " So, instantly, I became the referee and was in charge of First Aid; as the Nearby Door-staff of the Club that I'd just left realized and thus they didn't summon The Law. OF Course I had Made Friends with the Door Staff! Line of defense and retreat if necessary at late at night, and also basic sympathy with working Security Staff that I might have needed to recruit one of these days. Don't You do that? If not Why Not? The Secret is never to shed blood unless you must, and, if you have to. Shed LOTS a non lethal sort of way.Shock and Gore gives you time to retreat backwards to your first defensive position. It's Always sensible to make a good first impression don't you think?


It's a lot worse than that, actually, but is very much swept under the carpet.


Perfect for the purpose of World Domination HQ ..what about property values?


Oh, Well, You gotta Laff 'avent you? Freedom For Hackney Marshes and their indigent wild-fowling natives! For Too long have the Marsh Dwellers been Oppressed by ..someone or other.

Seriously, though?

I wonder how small a population of The Scotland's of any given Island off the mainland has to be before it can't be called a NATION? Your Islands seem to be a reasonable sort of population size ..and in any case they could instantly import any number of New Citizens if their Island Nations Oily wealth became known. My Contender is ...Ta Ra, Roll of Drums ... FREEDOM and Independence for ... South Uist! We demand a Referendum NOW if not sooner!

So, to our Gracious Host ? Seriously Charlie ? In your opinion? How large does a population have to be before it can claim to be a Nation State in preparation for Independence ..just like Scotland?


People keep bringing that up, bit it's nonsense. There's no history or anything behind it, the Scottish islands can't even claim a long history of local government like the Isle of Man.


Oh, no? What about the Orkney and Shetland islands rejoining Denmark (or perhaps Norway)? :-)


How much "History" does a Nation require before it can claim Independence from another Nation? And what happens if that New nation appeals to another Nobel and Heroic defender of Liberty against the Vile Scottish Oppressor? As an Englishman I would be prepared to take the Highland and Islands Demands for Liberty from their Oppressors very seriously ..especially if they undertake to support and harbor our highly cute and lovable nuclear deterrent submarine fleet.


If you want to dump 700 years of history and total integration of legal and other systems for three or four hundred years, sure. You might also like to ask Berwick if they would rather be in Scotland or England.

Arnold, that would probably count as sedition, and anyway only the local jobs would vote for it. If that is a logical step, clearly London should just declare itself a city state and annexe the lower reaches of the Thames to ensure sea access.


Well, the extreme Euroseptics were quite happy to drop 400 years of integration.


London is already a city state and has annexed the whole of England.


That's not exactly accurate either, insofar as the ruling class have always intermingled with the rest of the country, London is merely their cockpit of governance. And ordinary Londoners have to go along with them, although it is usually in their best interests to do so.


Actually, the burqa is usually worn in Central Asia, in Arabia it's the Niqab:

Also note talking to some not so sex-positive feminists about "bare breasts" or even plain bikinis

might disabuse one of the idea women's clothing is a clear indication of their status in society.

Generally, niqab and like are quite a complex issue. They might signal plain belonging to a different culture, they might be a declaration against Western body cult, quite similar, ironically, to how some feminists react to bikinis

They might be a reaction to sexual harassment, paradoxically giving women some more freedom of movement ("See, I'm not inticing mem, so you can't argue I should not leave the house.") and OTOH reproducing rape culture when sexual harassment still happens.

Also note they protect against sunlight,

and there is a sex specific element to high UV, namely folate depletion due to high UV is not that nice in both sexes, but in pregnant women it leads to children with, inter alia, spina bifida.

Oh, and they might indicate women are seen as "impure".

On another note, funny thing is the societal (and gender) norms in the Near East are called "namus", from Greek " nomos", law. Without going into details of Ancient Greek and Roman law or Byzantine developments, just because some people built nice aequeducts, made nice speeches, had a penchant for drunk discussion and some views that vaguely look like our Enlightenment (when you squint really hard) doesn't mean they freed their slaves or treated their women as equals. Look at it this way, the Byzantine emperor combined the fun with Roman emperors (Caligula, anyone) with the fun with popes. What could possibly go wrong?


Pretty sure that punching the dude has an even lower expected value than giving him $5. Although I suppose you can't tell how things from outside reality will react to a given behavior unless they tell you.


There are no contemporary accounts of Hannibal. One, even if it is possibly compromised, is greater than zero. That was my point.


This has been more or less my conception of God, ever since I encountered idea of the four dimensional bio-blob in first year evolutionary bio. Viewed in the time axis, life is a great, single-celled dendritic coral anchored in the common ancestor. The countless quadrillions of discrete cells seen in cross section are the illusion. We're just three-dimensional slices of Gaia's sensory polyps.


Ah, but since it take a small amount of energy to instantiate a consciousness, the probability that he is telling the truth goes down as the number of consciousnesses that he claims he will instantiate goes up. So, depending on whether your model for the probability of him having the necessary means declines faster than an inverse linear rate, there may be no number of proposed consciousnesses that would justify giving him $5 :p


Ah, but we cannot necessarily make conclusions about the laws of physics in the base-level universe from the laws of physics in the simulated universe that we live in. So if there is any probability of him living in a universe where he has the means to make arbitrarily many consciousnesses, that probability will not go down as the number of consciousnesses increases, and in the limit will come to dominate. So it cannot decline faster than an inverse linear rate, and there is a number of proposed consciousnesses which justifies it. :p


American to quote Isaiah, totally misreading it. As in "Isn't it miraculous how Jebus fulfilled all the prophecies of Isaiah! Riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, etc." To which the answer, of course, is NO, he read the book too...

For what it may be worth, that was what I was told as a sprog in Sunday school, in a Methodist church in small-town America. Nobody was frothing about religion there, possibly because the local environment was as boringly wholesome as a Norman Rockwell painting, and people were getting on raising the next generation to be boringly wholesome in their turn.

(I acknowledge this was a limited plan; I will not say it was a bad plan.)


To be nerdish Polybius is a contemporary source. He was born in 200 B.C., Hannibal died more or less 20 years later. They could even have met - highly unlikely, but not impossible - during Hannibal's exile.

Your point stands, since you could have said Hamilcar, but in truth what this really means is that our sources are meager indeed. We only have four or five ancient sources covering Hannibal's time, and only Polybius was anything like a contemporary. Livy, Plutarch, Appianus... wrote at least two centuries after the Second Punic War. We have more sources from Augustus and Tiberius' time and they are contemporary, but they had a long list of matters quite more interesting than small, provincial Judea, from the Roman point of view nothing important happened there until the last years of Nero's rule. If some unruly preacher was executed and his followers dispersed, that wasn't worth a footnote.


Your support for the Wahhabist pogrom to eliminate Shiism from the world is disgusting. If you think that is a misrepresentation, they I suggest that you investigate the actions of the countries and organisations you support a bit further.

I'm not quite sure how you extrapolate me pointing out that Iran (like Russia) is just a touch paranoid totalitarian, into me supporting a Wahhabist pogrom. I linked to the Guardian, Wikipedia, and Amnesty International...

The irony is you talking about misrepresentation :)


Well, in both the christian bible & the muslim recital, yes.
There are specific texts that state that women are either / and / or inferior to men, worth less than men, subject to male orders & control.


oh, you mean the later Ottoman attacks, siege of Vienna, etc..
Not the capture & "reconstitution" of Constantinople, 1453.


I don't want to go anywhere near whatever you were smoking when you wrote that!


I will add to Elderly Cynic's point & simply say
Jarldom of Orkney
Incorporated under the Scottish crown ... 1468


Yes, all too true.
The Corporation gets an awful lot of stick, usually from people who haven't a clue & sometimes from people who do ( Hello Charlie! )
Pink Ken, before he lost his marbles, got on very well with them - they had a common aim. {NOTE]
The Corporation was:
1. - agin the abolition of the GLC
2. - offered to buy LUL (the Tubes) off the Thatcher guvmint for £1 & pay for the upkeep, to stop the disintegration of transport in the capital. [ Killed by the mad & unlamented Ridley, I believe ]
3. - has its; own separate special representative present at the Brexit negotiations - yes, it's got that serious.
4. - further back, cottoned on to clean water (following John SNow) faster than anyone else & started to do something constructive about it. It's though that they strongly supported Bazalgette's plans, against other vested interests.

[ NOTE: That aim being the prosperity & well being of London, including "The City" but all of London, actually.
Having the place prosperous & healthy is important & the Corp. will always back that against other forces, even right-wing tory manics like the Madwoman. ]


Since I seem to be on the same side of this argument, what is being said is that the UKian and USian meedja are systematically mis-representing the actual "position on the ground" in Iran, rather than that "Iran is a paradigm of sexual equality".


You may be correct there; I honestly don't know.

My underlying argument is that what constitutes "modest dress" should be a matter of individual conscience rather than dictated by "the religious* of the nation".

*Religious - Noun, collective - clergy, lay preachers to a congregation, members of "cloistered orders" and the like.

OTish - I haven't bought that volume yet, but I will when it comes out in paperback.


Would this be the same Amnesty International who, at the heights of"The Troubles" claimed that persons tried and convicted in UK courts of "terrorist offences" were political prisoners?


Who are they to make demands of me, for I am the avatar of the sysadmin running THEIR simulation and I find their pathetic threats amusing.


I seriously doubt that individual Hebridean isles could claim independence,but given the Lordship of the Isles it's possible that the inner and outer Hebrides "en bloc" could. You may wish to note that in the last several Westminster and Holyrood elections, Eilean Sear has returned SNP representatives to both parliaments.


Yes, precisely. I said merely that " Iran comes out surprisingly well, especially for a theocracy, ...." Given the fact that it IS a theocracy and what is said about it in the West, one would expect something more like the Gulf States. Iran is a thoroughly nasty state, in a great many ways, but its vicious treatment of anyone even suspected of treachery is at least understandable, given that the USA etc. are actively waging war against it and have plans to destroy it.


As per my #223, this should be a matter of individual conscience; $name_feminist saying "$garment is 'too revealing' " is every bit as wrong as $cleric saying so, or an individual's significant other saying so to an adult.


I think/hope that you realise that I am not, nor do I claim to be, any, never mind all, of a Biblical, Qu'ranic or Talmudic scholar.


The closest thing I'd have to an issue with that is that he didn't once mention that it's also not for one woman to tell another how to observe hajib.


Only just seen this....

I just assume a christian script kiddy got their hands on a spambot and as IIRC Christians have a mission statement about proclaiming the word - they can now go and claim to their relevant spiritual guide that, this week, they quoted the bible to "up to five billion people", and presumably a fairly large number of other symbolic processing entities that have an email address)

(Note: my username does not imply any belief in things I can't measure in SI units, but is actually from a roleplaying game years ago.)


Re Pascal's Mugging.

Why? Only $5? The Bishop of Rome (Pope Francis) said just give them the $5.

Why agonize over it?


The whole Eric Flint 1632 alt history universe.

Too many down timers with modern sensibilities, but still great fun while waiting for the next part of Empire Games.


Quite apart from the fact that we both view the Wahhabis with distaste (understatement)...

[Iran's] vicious treatment of anyone even suspected of treachery is at least understandable, given that the USA etc. are actively waging war against it and have plans to destroy it.

I'm curious as to what you might think about Kuwait's / UAE's treatment of those Shia suspected of treachery (vicious and brutal), compared to Iran's treatment of those suspected of treachery (vicious and brutal).

Understandable (because Iran spent the decades after its revolution in a genuine attempt to spread that revolution)? Or not understandable (because Iran is innocent of any such actions, it was just propaganda and they're only attempting to look after the rights of the local Shia)?

While I rather suspect your words as written weren't quite intended this way, they can be read as similar to a statement such as "Saddam's treatment of the Marsh Arabs / Kurds (see Halabja) was at least understandable, given that they were actively waging war against the regime".

I would suggest that "having its own internal logic" is no justification; and claiming that the USA is "actively waging war" against Iran is polemic (by your measure, what was the Cold War?).


(Been away from keyboard again and war breaks out ...)

Greg, your non-apology at #159 was graceless and rude. You should have either shut up immediately or apologized properly at that point.

Consider this your RED CARD on this thread. Further comments by you will be unpublished. I'm just sorry I didn't see this yesterday when prompt feedback might have done some good.


Regarding your 3) I admit you may be right; I haven't checked. However, I suggest that you repeat that statement in public in either Saudi Arabia or Iran to reference the cultural element. You might even survive the experience.

Incidentally, the cultural element in this isn't all that important. Indonesia is culturally and ethnically distinct from anywhere in the ME, but it is still fairly common there for (heterosexual) couples to be arrested and jailed for holding hands in public.

And also didn't prevent Indonesian adherents of the Religion of Peace from beheading Catholic schoolkids for being Catholic. Maybe they were dressed immodestly?



Ref my #3, you'll find a link to a Muslim scholar discussing hajib in this thread; TL;DR of link - He says I'm correct.

I don't deny the factual truth of any of your other statements, but draw your attention to the general thrust of my arguments that, according to the Qu'ran it is for the individual to observe hajib themself, rather than to force it on anyone else (except possibly their dependents). This means that your cites are an abuse of power (also discussed further up-thread).

So I'll continue with an actual quote in support of my argument; "He who kills one, it is as if he has killed all mankind: He who saves one, it is as if he has saved all mankind", which means that those who murdered the schoolgirls are not Muslims, since they do not follow the Qu'ran.


And also didn't prevent Indonesian adherents of the Religion of Peace from beheading Catholic schoolkids for being Catholic.

This is your YELLOW CARD for trolling, due to that "Religion of Peace" crack.

Also for linking to an anti-Islamic hate website. (Thanks for wearing your agenda on your sleeve; makes you easier to spot.)


what this really means is that our sources are meager indeed.

Ehrman makes somewhat this same point using Pontius Pilate, Prefect of Judea 26-36 CE, as an example. Although we know of him from later sources, there are no contemporaneous mentions of him except, probably, for the Pilate Stone fragment.


How small can you be and call yourself a nation-state? I see Monaco has a population of just under 38,000.

We will, of course, ignore the Dildonian idiocy of "sovereign citizens".



I really prefer a nice paperback. It's the right size, and comfortable, and is a BOOK, with all the history of the word.

That being said, I'm starting to use ebooks more, just because a) I don't have to wait a year or so for them after initial publication; b) I can now buy small press books, and not walk around at cons bitching at them, telling them yes, I know the economics force them to use trade paper size... but I built all my bookshelves for mass market paperback size, and c) worst of all... I've run out of wall space for more bookshelves, and esp. series where they're up to book 13 of a trilogy....



I don't really see that many with modern sensibilities. What we do see is *some* of them - the ones the stories focus on, of course, whose sensibilities start to shift... and the ones who tend to be enemies, who are vehemently against the shift.

One of the scenes I enjoy the most is when a down-timer suddenly has the Lightbulb of Enlightenment go off over their head, and it hits: "all this equality, and their Constitution... they really MEAN it!"

I was reminded of that last year, when my ex (she wasn't then) and I saw Brooklyn, and the climax, when our heroine turns on the bitch and tells her off, like no one had before. I admit it, some chauvinism here, when she says to the would-be blackmailer, I'm an AMERICAN, and I did marry that Italian....



Many of the details of the story in the Gospels are implausible, anyway, because crucifixion was a Roman punishment used for slaves, pirates, traitors, rebels etc.; a mere heretic would have been stoned. It is very plausible that a trouble maker called Yeshua was reported by the priesthood for sedition, if they wanted him eliminated without having to face the backlash themselves. He may even have called himself the Messiah.


You're demanding $5 of me? You're threatening so many others? I don't think so, let's see, you're process 24188... kill -USR1 24188.

There, now that you're reloaded, do you feel any better and less offensive?

mark "I know, no one can imagine what I do for a living...."


If we're looking for parts of the UK that might declare independence, Anglesey (sorry, Ynys Môn) seems like a good candidate. 68,000 people, self sufficient in energy, some industrial activity, perfectly located to enact tolls on passing trade and with a defensible border. It's even got some history of being independent although admittedly that was 900 odd years ago. And best of all, it's got a picturesque motor racing circuit that could be upgraded to international status with a bit of work.

Rhyddid ar gyfer Ynys Môn!


crucifixion was a Roman punishment used for slaves, pirates, traitors, rebels etc.; a mere heretic would have been stoned.

I'm beyond my depth here, but AIUI a theory about this is that, it being fraught times for Roman control what with the Zealots and sicarii and such, a troublemaker who was reported as claiming to be the future King of the Jews would have been regarded as a political threat and treated accordingly.


Precisely. But note that Messiah does not translate as Rex Judaeorum.


the whole thing smacks of fiction.
can you see roman legionaires letting gawking spectators close enough to talk to a crucified prisoner?
can you see this character being let off for disrespecting his mother in public during the water-to-wine incident.. theres a commandment for that


worst of all... I've run out of wall space for more bookshelves

I feel your pain...

A couple of years ago, we decided that the spare single bedroom was sufficently unused as to be converted into a study for the boys. With a desk, and some nice floor-to-ceiling bookshelves... muhahaha.

Unfortunately, previous shelf-space restrictions meant by this point I had already moved past Book Thunderdome (two books enter, one book leaves) into Book FIFO (one in, one out - mostly).

The delights of having shelves that weren't double-banked with books on top, has now moved to "mostly double-banked, starting to worry" :(


But note that Messiah does not translate as Rex Judaeorum.

Au contraire, it had very much that meaning. Jesus, as far as can be discerned, was a Late Second Temple apocalypticist and was much into the End of Days thing.

The term "mashiach" literally means "the anointed one," and refers to the ancient practice of anointing kings with oil when they took the throne. The mashiach is the one who will be anointed as king in the End of Days.


Except that the Jewish and Roman concepts of "King" were very considerably different ....


Do you? Yet you support organisations that are supporting them, and oppose those that are opposing them. Those examples you chose are polemic, again. They were pure revenge, because the threat was essentially over, and were taken against whole populations. You should blame the USA for supporting that anti-Shia pogrom, and promising support to the Marsh Arabs and then reneging.

Neither is the case for Iran, which is behaving no worse than the UK did in WWI (disgracefully, I agree). BY FAR the most powerful military force in the world is waging active war against Iran, and has threatened to destroy it, and is allied with fanatics that have stated they want to purge the world of Shiism and Shiites.


It is of course obligatory to reply to any comment about the Messiah with this clip.


Your support for the Wahhabist pogrom to eliminate Shiism from the world is disgusting

Yet you support organisations that are supporting them, and oppose those that are opposing them

Implying that because I criticise Russia and Iran, that I therefore support their opponents, is a rather obvious logical fallacy. "Playing the man not the ball" suggests that you're struggling to justify your position.

I support the concepts of the UN, the EU, and NATO; they aren't perfect, but they appear to be trying to act in the right way. I distrust non-democratic regimes with a recent history of oppression, such as Russia, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Iran.

I disagree with the domestic policy of certain democracies, and though I absolutely support their right to exist, I view them as occasionally oppressive (e.g. Israel). I have reservations about the domestic policy of other nations, given their levels of corruption, even though I absolutely support their right not to be invaded by Russia (e.g. Ukraine).

The above statements, along with the observation that many regimes around the Gulf are vicious and brutal, are hardly polemic. It seems to be a touchstone of yours, however, that the behaviours of Russia (and now Iran) are justified by the aggression of the USA ("actively waging war against them", your words).

By your acts shall you know them. British mobs haven't stormed the Iranian Embassy recently, nor seized Iranian sailors. American mobs haven't stormed the Iranian Embassy, and held their diplomats hostage for over a year (gosh, I wonder if that contributed to the US antipathy?). I don't see the British Government supporting any Basij-like organisations to suppress or prevent peaceful protest.

Even so, I have rather more sympathy with Iran than Russia. Unlike Russia, Iran hasn't gone spreading Polonium-210 around London in order to murder its domestic political opponents. Unlike Russia, Iran hasn't invaded its neighbours. Unlike Russia, Iran hasn't handed over Medium SAM systems to a bunch of yahoos who promptly shot down an airliner. And while the President of the USA is a complete moron, at least inherited his millions before he gained office, unlike the President and Prime Minister of the Russian Federation who appear to be running a kleptocracy.

Two questions - are you going to deny the truth of any of the statements in the paragraph above (or just push an excuse of "it's all the USA's fault")? And is that enough polemic for you?


One of my favourites was
Christ has risen but our prices remain the same


Once I passed the 3000~ book (not counting magazines of which I have a few titles complete back to the 70s) mark I switched completely to ebooks except for graphic novels. I've even reacquired some books as ebooks because finding the printed one was too much bother.


The thesis isn't in German, just the dedication.

No-one has added 1+1 yet to see what it was actually saying, but there we go[1]: it's a rather sweet and gentle introduction with some serious science in it. Oh, and it's by a woman, gosh!

@255: I don't see the British Government supporting any Basij-like organisations to suppress or prevent peaceful protest.

Oh, but that's the beauty of it. We have nothing but admiration for the trade craft used on such entities. And by admiration, we mean eternal enmity and so forth. (Note to the 'Invasive' Gallery pulling stunts and EM stuff: Not a smart move, not a smart move at all, it's all part of the plan, A-Team style).

There's an extremely good book to be written about official disruption of left and environmental groups just drooling to be written. Suffice to say, all you really need to do is correlate the #time on prison sentences for those opposing the petrol-chemical industries compared to say, manslaughter.

It should open your EyEs, unless you're BliND. Let me introduce to a friend of a friend called: "Everyone does it, only the Culture surrounding it changes the tonal registers".

McCain - Osborne - Lebedev

Pro-tip: Oligarchy and DAVOS aren't exactly mutually exclusive clubs. The Myth that's going around about the Great Blue Dems protecting yadda yadda yadda is bullshit.

But anyhow, you need your illusions, so dream on. Just don't think too hard about hiking, Iraq War, heart-attacks and Robin Cook. Or John Smith, for that matter (quite the timing for Blair). I mean, coincidences occur and it's so stressful being a politician...

No, you don't need the Basij when there are real pros running the Game.

[1] Just assume that, just like computers, if there's a H.S.S driven designed model, there's already a much sleeker, faster smarter version out there.


Moral of this story: assuming someone else shares your beliefs...

We always assume the opposite. Because, quite literally, no-one does.

I'll tell you this...
No eternal reward will forgive us now
For wasting the dawn.

Back in those days everything was simpler and more confused
One summer night, going to the pier
I ran into two young girls
The blonde one was called Freedom
The dark one, Enterprise
We talked and they told me this story
Now listen to this...
I'll tell you about Texas radio and the big beat
Soft driven, slow and mad
Like some new language
Reaching your head with the cold, sudden fury of a divine messenger
Let me tell you about heartache and the loss of god
Wandering, wandering in hopeless night
Out here in the perimeter there are no stars

Out here we is stoned

Stoned ImmaculateYT, Jim Morrison, 1:33


Since we once carved shapes on rocks down under:

Barnaby Joyce holds a lump of coal in the House of Representatives ABC, 9th Feb, 2017. Does that man look sane?

Ms Ley stood aside as Health Minister on Monday morning pending the outcome of an investigation into her travel claims, following revelations she bought an $800,000 apartment on a taxpayer-funded trip to Gold Coast and has taken 27 flights in and out of the area in recent years, including two for New Year's Eve engagements.

Socialism 'on the march' to blame for Sussan Ley standing down over expenses controversy: Bronwyn Bishop Newcastle Herald, 31st March, 2017 (Australian paper). Bronwyn Bishop enjoys a $350,000 / annum pension for her time "served".

Literally should be removing them.


If you want a real answer about the G_D ZONE of the Brain, you won't like the answer[1]. Icelanders have a little mythos all about 'those ridden by Elves' and there's always the Loa etc. Since H.S.S are so very bad at ecology, who could explain the M3/4 levels of ecology that swarm around in such zones? No Man is an Island, but you're all just little fishies in a Greater Ocean.

[1] Remember the dendrites? Trump's EPA Just Greenlighted a Pesticide Known to Damage Kids' Brains Motherjones, 27th March, 2017. Just saying.


I still haven't found an e-reader that conforms with my base requirement of being a comfortable fit in my hand(s).


E-Ink or LCD?

I mostly use my phone, now. Actually I haven't looked at my Kobo in months, because my phone, or tablet, are more often to hand, have crisper, higher resolution screens capable of rendering much smoother text.

Text that can be just the right size, justification, spacing and colour, (mostly) regardlesss of the publisher's intent. With the right software anyway. I like FBReader, but there are others out there.

Perhaps start with a nice-feeling android device, and go from there?


Irrelevant; my issues are with the width of devices, placement of controls, and how little text can be displayed in a size that suits my eyes compared with an actual dead tree.


The British sailors caught by the Iranians in Iranian waters were treated nicely and released after a couple of days once their story about "getting lost" was accepted (this seems to happen a lot...). Whether they were in fact an SBS team or similar carrying out intel work in the area (planting sonar buoys, probing radar envelopes, eavesdropping on Iranian military radio comms etc.) is not certain.

As for the list of grievances, you did miss out the shooting down of a civilian Iranian airliner in July 1988 by the USS Vincennes as revenge for the embassy hostage taking incident in 1979. The captain even got a special award from President Bush when he got back home. The Iranians got their own revenge with the downing of PanAm 103 six months later and since then the US has been less belligerent and trigger-happy in the region (apart from placing two large military forces on the borders of Iran in the interim).


[ DELETED BY MODERATOR because blog owner doesn't have time for idiocy like this. Shorter version: lots of things wrong with Iran, lots of things wrong with Russia, China, and USA too — or had you forgotten the quarter-to-half-a-million civilian dead in the war of aggression against Iraq, or the US Gulag, the world's largest slave labour system? — not to mention the UK's history of genocide. Fin. — cs. ]

I don't see the British Government supporting any Basij-like organisations to suppress or prevent peaceful protest.
40 years ago the Shah's secret police were in full swing.
Unlike Iran, Russia doesn't stone women to death for being raped
Neither does Iran. Surprise! "The Islamic world" is not a monolith.

As for the list of grievances, you did miss out the shooting down of a civilian Iranian airliner in July 1988 by the USS Vincennes as revenge for the embassy hostage taking incident in 1979.

You are overstating your case to the point of self-parody.

Iran has stated their belief that it was an intentional attack, because of course they do. Their people were killed and they were pissed; that's a natural human reaction. That doesn't mean they're correct. There is literally no evidence that this was a pre-planned operation, as revenge would be, unless you think a captain of the US Navy decided to jeopardize his country's standing in the world to avenge the decade old killings of someone else's athletes, and decide to do all of this on the spur of the moment.

You want to point out the incompetence and over aggressiveness of the captain, who had entered Iranian waters, who failed to properly monitor civilian ATC channels, who didn't notice or didn't care that his target was IFF squawking as a civilian, that's all fair. (And giving awards to people who fuck up is a traditional way to save face.) But suggesting it was deliberate "revenge" for an offense which had occurred a decade prior is stupid. So is suggesting that improved competence in the wake of the attack--no more downed airliners!--somehow shows the US as chastened and admitting that it overstepped rather than, you know, just not fucking up again.


The British sailors caught by the Iranians in Iranian waters were treated nicely and released after a couple of days once their story about "getting lost" was accepted (this seems to happen a lot...)

I assume that you're thinking of the 2004 incident; although "mock executions" isn't really "treated nicely"...

I was actually thinking of the 2007 incident (which was a complete gift to the Army, who spent the next year asking matelots whether the nasty man had taken their iPod):

The difference between "these waters are mutually agreed to be yours/ours" and "these waters are disputed" is significant... in the 2007 case, it appears to have been a planned move to capture an RN boarding party (as had been attempted with the RAN in 2004). I have no idea whether the career of the CO of HMS Cornwall came to a sudden stop afterwards.

The ">(lightly) redacted UK report on the incident makes for interesting reading.


The shooting down of Iran Air 655 was during the Wild West period of the Reagan presidency when all sorts of crazy shit went down. The Iranians believe to this day it was deliberate, after all the US Navy did so much to make it happen so, they figure, it must have been ordered by the US government. At best it was an act of mass manslaughter (i.e. careless actions that lead to death) for which no-one was punished or even reprimanded, further evidence for them that it was deliberate. Saying that the US is very protective of its military when it screws up and kills non-combatants in accidents even when they fuck up royally but they're the US military, they don't have to say sorry.

Pan Am 103 was the Iranian response, not an accident but it put the US on notice that any future acts of manslaughter or deliberate murder of Iranians would have a cost. Since then things have been quiet-ish in the Gulf.


Apologies - didn't preview before hitting submit... that should read:

The (lightly) redacted UK report on the incident makes for interesting reading.


Apologies for allowing ambiguity :) I'll rephrase :)

I don't see the British Government supporting any Basij-like organisations to suppress or prevent peaceful protest in the UK, as the Iranian Government does in Iran.

Nor do we have the tradition of the Angry Shouty Rentamob appearing (on cue, as if by magic, totally spontaneously) outside the relevant Embassy any time the world doesn't work the way that our politicians want.


I don't see the British Government supporting any Basij-like organisations to suppress or prevent peaceful protest in the UK, as the Iranian Government does in Iran.

Miner's strike, 1980s?


once their story about "getting lost" was accepted (this seems to happen a lot...)

Indeed. For example, Iranian military getting captured deep in Iraq (heck of a "getting lost"); there was a suggestion that the RN party was grabbed to provide leverage for the release of the Iranians that the US was holding. Or even the Turkish military teams, getting caught deep in Iraqi Kurdistan. Or the GRU types found deep inside Ukraine.

Sailing along an unclear and unagreed line in the water is somewhat different by comparison. For equality, I'll throw in those British Army patrols who suddenly realised they were now patrolling a few hundred yards inside the Republic of Ireland; and (allegedly) a student patrol at the NATO ILRRP school who accidentally crossed into Switzerland, and had to sneak out again before anyone noticed.

The slight difference is that while the IRGC were active inside Iraq, there's a difference between deep reconnaissance / intelligence gathering, or providing support for the local (and occasionally lethal) yahoos - and sending formed units of the Russian Army into another country to conduct offensive operations, in an attempt to take land by force and move an international border in Russia's favour. The big hint is that if you're firing artillery and tank main armament, you've invaded.


Not sure how you mean that one - it wasn't the Police threatening, abusing, and in one case killing, anyone who crossed a picket line.

Unless you mean that the NUM had its own Basij in the form of Flying Pickets (no, not the acappella group)... but that's not UK Government.

Apocrypha: in the 90s, we had a strike at the factory where I worked; rather than "all out", it was "strike every Wednesday". For the first few weeks, most non-union members of staff decided to book a day's leave the following Wednesday.

Anyway, about three or four weeks in, I eventually had to cross a picket line. One of the young shop stewards (known as Zippy, for the nice large scar down his cheek where he had come second in a fight) decided that this was grounds for aggression, pointing, and swearing. Mild stuff for a twenty-something male, but at least the restrictions introduced on secondary picketing meant that we weren't going through a mob.

Nor do we have the tradition of the Angry Shouty Rentamob appearing (on cue, as if by magic, totally spontaneously) outside the relevant Embassy any time the world doesn't work the way that our politicians want.
Yeah, it's not like an angry mob burning down an embassy has happened in these isles within living memory.

If you want a real answer about the G_D ZONE of the Brain, you won't like the answer[1]. Icelanders have a little mythos all about 'those ridden by Elves' and there's always the Loa etc.
Am pretty sure I want your answer to this (perhaps post 300), though that's unquenchable curiosity speaking. (FWIW haven't dived into the genetic circuits material yet; poked at another until-now-unread cluster of neuroscience papers first.)

Re Trump's EPA Just Greenlighted a Pesticide Known to Damage Kids' Brains

The Columbia University study in particular is inducing a new round of additional rather negative feelings about the new EPA chief and his staff. (Haven't looked yet to see how the science is being dismissed.) Thanks for the outrage, I think. (And good for for all the links.)
For the rushed, Seven-Year Neurodevelopmental Scores and Prenatal Exposure to Chlorpyrifos, a Common Agricultural Pesticide (2011)
figure 1 (tif; those who are not trusting can see it in the pdf)
Conclusions: We report evidence of deficits in Working Memory Index and Full-Scale IQ as a function of prenatal CPF exposure at 7 years of age. These findings are important in light of continued widespread use of CPF in agricultural settings and possible longer-term educational implications of early cognitive deficits.

(and also seen while browsing google scholar: Persistent Associations between Maternal Prenatal Exposure to Phthalates on Child IQ at Age 7 Years )


Re: '... mis-representing the actual "position on the ground" in Iran'

Thanks - but I still haven't a clue what this refers to. Please provide examples or rephrase.

Did visit Amnesty International's section on Iran as per Robert's post. Poked around and noticed that they've drafted a petition they want presented to the UN. (I know only a bit about the AI -- not enough to know how successful their efforts on such matters are. Generally am supportive of anti-brutality efforts though.)


Re: ' .... sex specific element to high UV, namely folate depletion due to high UV ... leads to children with, inter alia, spina bifida.'

Folate deficiency also occurs from eating raw/uncooked egg whites. Have even heard that raw egg white in facial masks could deplete key nutrients from the skin thereby thinning the skin.

Problem with minimizing UV exposure in order to not deplete folate is that exposure to sunlight is still the best way of getting enough VitD - also a critical ingredient in bone formation. Hopefully someone has figured out optimal levels and trade-offs for both.


Thanks - have saved the doc for later. (Have 800 or so other pages I need to read on another subject first.)


As dearly as I love and miss my late father, there are a number of things I do in reaction to the way he was, and books are #1. ALL of mine (ok, not my late wife's mysteries, I have to find a place for them) are on shelves, built explicitly for mass-market, and ALL are not stacked, but properly shelved (except for the few trade paper, on their sides).

And re 257: I believe I'm closer to 4000 than 3000 sf&f paperbacks. Which, btw, by librarian standards, makes it a special collection (> 3k on a given subject, etc).



And, for everyone here's amusement, a headline in Vanity Fair: "Nigel Farage, International Man of Mystery, Finds a Home in Trump’s America"

For a man who made his name by being stridently anti-immigration, Nigel Farage is nestling quite nicely into the bosom of the international community.
--- end excerpt ---

But does he have a cat to carry around?


I hit 4000 books, but realized I was rereading very few of them. So I gave most of them away (my nephew got the 30-year Analog collection and virtually all my SF). I've now acquiring fiction in ebook form to save space.

I plan to downsize when I retire, and books were a major impediment to that.


The shooting down of Iran Air 655 was during the Wild West period of the Reagan presidency when all sorts of crazy shit went down. The Iranians believe to this day it was deliberate, after all the US Navy did so much to make it happen so, they figure, it must have been ordered by the US government.

Perhaps surprisingly, this belief is espoused both by cranky Iranians and the American right wing fringe. Needless to say they both blame the other side; it may be as simple as thinking “Something unpleasant happened, therefore those people we don't like must have planned it.” I've never talked to an Iranian about it but the far-right scenarios become ever more fanciful when someone starts asking inconvenient questions.


Back to religion ...

I think we're missing an important part of the question: Why have religion if we already have political power and martial/brute power?

Anyone here familiar with Ken Binmore (Evolution of Fairness Norms)? He's a UK economist who's been studying the development of fairness in human society. If you're familiar with his work, I'm curious as to what points you agree/disagree because I feel that what he's saying is relevant to why religions developed and why they might continue to exist. Also - I've just started reading a bit about his work - but from what I've read/watched - I like that he prefers to actually survey/talk to humans when coming up with his theories and models. (Less metaphysical and more biological/psychological and statistical in his approach.)


I was going to respond to the misrepresentations of and omissions in #255 but, in the light of your posting, I won't.


Not familiar with Ken Binmore. That's a large body of work; does anyone recommend an entry point, or one or more alternative bodies of work?


It is hard to avoid the conclusion that the commander of the USS Vincennes had been told to provoke a military response from Iran, and shoot down one of its military aircraft.


A similar alternative is that the crew made (as claimed) a 'scenario fulfillment' mistake due to multiple failures, but that they were originally ordered to the area and ordered to behave aggressively to increase the odds of an incident.


(Pre-300, but my religion, if any, is science. :-)
Perhaps interesting to some; still digesting the intuitions but looks promising.
I'm a fan of papers that attempt to draw from biology, even if the biology or analogy or suspect.
Biologically inspired protection of deep networks from adversarial attacks
via arXiv "Neurons and Cognition"
Inspired by biophysical principles underlying nonlinear dendritic computation in neural circuits, we develop a scheme to train deep neural networks to make them robust to adversarial attacks. Our scheme generates highly nonlinear, saturated neural networks that achieve state of the art performance on gradient based adversarial examples on MNIST, despite never being exposed to adversarially chosen examples during training. Moreover, these networks exhibit unprecedented robustness to targeted, iterative schemes for generating adversarial examples, including second-order methods


Could also be stupidity combined with bad luck:

'According to the same reports, Vincennes tried unsuccessfully to contact the approaching aircraft, seven times on the military emergency frequency and three times on the civilian emergency frequency, but never on air traffic control frequencies. This civilian aircraft was not equipped to pick up military frequencies and the messages on the civilian emergency channel could have been directed at any aircraft. More confusion arose as the hailed speed was the ground speed, while the pilot's instruments displayed airspeed, a 50-knot (93 km/h) difference.[27]'

Recall a similar story about a near-disaster when Canada switched from imperial to metric.

'The subsequent investigation revealed a combination of company failures and a chain of human errors that defeated built-in safeguards. The amount of fuel that had been loaded was miscalculated because of a confusion as to the calculation of the weight of fuel using the metric system, which had recently replaced the imperial system for use with the 767.[2]'


"That aim being the prosperity & well being of London, including "The City" but all of London, actually.
Having the place prosperous & healthy is important & the Corp. will always back that against other forces"

Despite all its flaws, this same type of corporate mentality might be what kept Republicans from pulling the trigger on 20 million Americans' health insurance.


How about Ken Binmore (1996), "Evolution of Fairness Norms", Nordic Journal of Political Economy, open access version here:

If you like this kind of economics, and you like book-length format, I can also recommend:

Sam Bowles and Herb Gintis (2011), A Cooperative Species: Human Reciprocity and its Evolution, Princeton University Press

Paul Seabright (2010, 2nd ed), The Company of Strangers: A Natural History of Economic Life, also PUP.


It is hard to avoid the conclusion that the commander of the USS Vincennes had been told to provoke a military response from Iran, and shoot down one of its military aircraft.

Actually, it's rather easy to avoid it - go for cockup over conspiracy, rather than (I've used this before) "hear hooves and think zebras". Incompetence and aggression. No need for conspiracy.

The USS VINCENNES was aggressive. Notably so; among the other USN vessels, the ship was known as "Robocruiser" (not in a good way). Captain Rogers was repeatedly ordered back to avoid confrontation, not provoke it.

For instance, he sent his helicopters towards some IRGC speedboats in Iranian waters; they allegedly shot at it (most probably warning shots). Do you: a) pull the helicopter back at 100kts+, having noted its position, or b) drive your 10,000t cruiser at 30kts towards the gunboats, inside the 12-mile limit? While aware that the Iranians have got minefields, and you're entering their territorial waters (but don't care)? Captain Rogers was a moron.

The USS VINCENNES was incompetent. This is an air defence vessel, where the system operators were so undertrained that they couldn't tell a climbing aircraft from a diving one; and took multiple attempts to actually launch their missiles. The other two USN ships in the area did not classify Track 4131 (Iran Air 655) as a threat - they assumed that VINCENNES, as the shiny modern AEGIS ship, had better-quality data.

The most damning indictment of Captain Rogers' behaviour IMHO is that of the CO of the USS Sides, who watched the whole tragedy unfold. He wrote a letter to the US Naval Institute's "Proceedings" (effectively the professional journal of the USN) which is clear and detailed, and pulls no punches.

Before you spout conspiracy theories, you should read that letter (linked from the Wikipedia page); you're looking for "The Vincennes Incident" on the third to sixth extracted pages.

For further evidence, the 2004 HCI study by Craig, Morales, and Oliver notes:

"Lt Clay Zocher was the boss of Air Alley, which was responsible for air warfare, but he had only stood watch at that post twice before and had never fully learned and mastered the console routines. In fact, when he was finally given the green light to fire upon the incoming aircraft, he pressed the wrong keys 23 times, until a veteran petty officer leaned over and hit the right ones."

"The tactical officer for surface warfare, Lt Cmdr Guillory, knew so little that he routinely used his computer screens as a surface for sticky notes instead."


Is it that important? Surely the question is why shouldn't it exist if it's another route to power? And historically and potentially still today a more complete and heady sort of power than mere political power.

Nearly all politicians have to compromise to meet their aims, all a religious leader has to do is to ask the true believers to do it for him.


The USS VINCENNES was aggressive. Notably so; among the other USN vessels, the ship was known as "Robocruiser" (not in a good way). Captain Rogers was repeatedly ordered back to avoid confrontation, not provoke it.
Did not know that, thanks. (And also for the links.)


I'm well past 5k books, but only about 850 are SF. I'm finding it harder to find SF I want to read these days, because so many stories seem the same.
A similar number of books are fantasy and normal fiction, but the rest are non-fiction. The thing about non-fiction is that I can buy a book thinking it looks interesting, but not read it for years, then I'll have a desire to know about some topic, and lo and behold, there is the book I need.
I have catalogued them all on librarything.


Since we can't edit our posts, I feel obliged to add that the publishers are reducing their chances of selling to me by producing the huge trade paperback books, because they are too fucking big, I like nice neat packages which line up on shelves, not oversized lumps that are too big to neatly arrange. The tighter I can pack the books the better. Yes, I know ebook readers exist, but it took them a while to get to the mature tech stage where I might want to get one, and then I can't be bothered to go through the hassle of replicating my library, unless it is really simple, but I have other things to think about.


I use my old iPad 3 mostly as an ereader. I also have a Kobo, which I take on camping trips because the battery lasts longer, but it's only good for linear reading (e-ink has very slow refresh rates) while the iPad works much better for highlighting, moving back and forth, looking at images, etc.

I didn't bother replicating most of the fiction I gave away as epub files. A few old favourites, but my e-fiction collection is mostly new stuff. In fact I'm reading more fiction than I did for quite a while, as it's easier to read at odd moments with the iPad (which I usually have with me).

(Another advantage is I can set the print size. Makes a big difference for sustained reading. And no one makes MMBs in large print.)


"huge trade paperback books, because they are too fucking big"

I don't even know what this means. The term "trade paperback" was applied to the UK version of Empire Games; does that count as a "huge trade paperback"? It is a little larger in height and width than the omnibus volumes of the preceding books in the series, but I didn't notice until I put it next to them. On the shelf above is a copy of "The Western's Hydraulics" by JK Lewis; that is what I would call "huge", because it is bigger (in height and width) than the Haynes manual next to it, and it is difficult to find space to open it out to read it.

The idea of a shelf of books which are all the same size is bizarre. Mine are all sorts of different sizes, covering easily a 3:1 range. A lot of them are in piles on the floor which owe much of their stability to that circumstance allowing for the piles to take a roughly pyramidal shape.

What does annoy me about the physical aspect of books is that the binding is not fit for purpose: it may answer the purpose of display, but books aren't for display, they are for reading. And for that purpose all common forms of binding - paperback or hardback - fail dismally. A new book needs to be actually damaged before it is even read, by brutally flexing the spine back on itself every 20 pages or so, to discourage it from constantly trying to close itself at least to the extent that the size of the weight needed to hold it open can be chosen to respect the requirement of not obscuring the text. A book is an essential distraction to alleviate the tedium of eating, and I also read while smoking, doing repetitive soldering, or doing other things that engage the hands but not the mind. Or even that do engage the mind, when the engagement takes the form of putting the information contained in the book to practical use. It is surprising how large a screwdriver or spanner is needed to prevent a book from closing itself. Larger books definitely have the advantage here, as the weight of the pages itself helps keep them open.

For reading while sitting in a comfy chair, it would be useful if the bottom edges of the pages were shaped to a semicircular profile instead of a right-angled edge which is distinctly unpleasant after it's been digging into my finger for a while.

Books in electronic form? I do use sites like Project Gutenberg to read Victorian novels on a full-size CRT, but when it comes to buying books, I'll buy them on paper or not at all.


"Why have religion if we already have political power and martial/brute power?"

Excluding the cases where they're the same thing? Efficiency. It's much easier to make people do what you want by fucking with their heads than by threatening to bang them up or stick pointy things in them, and it also makes them a lot less likely to start plotting how to get you back. Works just as well whether you call it "God" or call it "the economy".


One of the key failings in the Gimli Glider 767 incident was really bad technical writing: in the Air Canada fueling manual, a number greater than 1 was identified as the "specific gravity" of jet fuel. It was actually the density of the fuel in some set of imperial units. If the people doing the fueling calculations had understood "specific gravity", and remembered that fuel floats on water, they'd had raised a flag.
The other issue was diverse and conflicting "Minimum Equipment" Lists; one said that fuel gauges were not required. This led to dipping the tanks and computing the fuel available - using the bad number for density/specific gravity.
I can't locate my book on the incident, or I'd have the exact number to hand.


That's a better way of putting it, yes. It's a very common form of human behaviour. At what point knowingly setting up the conditions for a cock-up becomes deliberate action is unclear. I regard it as hypocritical to claim that a clearly predictable event that is the result of deliberate negligence is simply an accident, and no blame should be assigned.

Martin is, as usual, disingenuous. Yes, of course, there were arse-covering orders and whitewashes - there always are. But, if the captain had disobeyed not merely the letter but the spirit of his orders, would he really have got the Order of Merit?


Trade paperback is a term used, seemingly from America, for the ones that are large format like hardbacks but are paperback. For instance, I have a number on my shelves, one of the most recent is 235 by 155mm in size. This contrast massively with the standard paperback size of 108 by 178mm.

In order to stack books most efficiently on shelving, you need a uniform size. When it comes to SF and other fiction paperbacks, this is achieved best with the smaller size (which book is also cheaper than the trade paperback). MOreover, if you have Ikea billy bookcases, you can arrange the shelving to get 4 shelves of standard paperbacks with a gap enough to cram some more in on top lying flat. One or two of the shelves can be bigh enough to take trade paperbacks, but then it messes up attempts to keep it all tidy and tightly packed.

I can read books fine without damaging them like you claim to need to do so.


The reason I don't buy hardbacks is that they are even bigger, and one of the reason is that modern books use fonts of a size that I have not needed since primary school (which I left at 7). Indeed, I will often choose a mass-market paperback over a trade one for the same reason. A century ago, books were far more compact, and I would dearly love ones corresponding to the pocket editions of that era. You can still get new versions of some classics like that, but that's all.


That's true, so many hardback fiction books have huge type, it would be much easier if they were smaller.
The other reason I like to have normal paperback books is that it means I can fit the fiction onto the smaller shelves, freeing up the bigger ones for the non-fiction, which really does come in all shapes and sizes. The most common large size is around A4, but I have some even bigger, such as the collection of maps of Edinburgh published a few years ago.


Oh, I forgot to mention that the USA navy also had consderable 'form' at arranging such incidents, which continued after Iran 655. Yes, of course, the other side has to do its part, but no independent observer believed that this incident wasn't set up.


Trade paperback is a term used, seemingly from America, for the ones that are large format like hardbacks but are paperback. For instance, I have a number on my shelves, one of the most recent is 235 by 155mm in size. This contrast massively with the standard paperback size of 108 by 178mm.

I don't know about over there, but in the last several years US publishers have started putting out thick paperbacks that are the same width as mass market editions, but are a half-inch or so taller, calling them trade paperbacks and increasing the price a couple dollars. A bit of a nuisance if you have shelves adjusted to the old paperback height.

I have different Ikea bookcases with non-adjustable shelves. I cut up the boxes they came in to make extra shelves in the back, so that I can fit two rows of paperbacks, the rear above the front. I had drilled holes to add wood shelves and the cardboard was going to be temporary, but it's worked out well enough that I'm not going to bother with making more shelves.


They always seem to do it on the third or fourth book of a series too. I dislike them to the extent that the format is a deal breaker.

There are always plenty of other books to read.


Yes, I agree there are a variety of forms of power and that sometimes they intersect. How they intersect seems to also vary but I'm not sure how or under what circumstances on an individual, group or national basis. Types or flavors of power would seem an appropriate application of Kurt Lewin's Field Theory (aka topological and vector psychology) given current massive computing power access combined with unobtrusive subject observation (social media) and ability to match observed vs. self-reported states. Haven't found anything recent that talks about this though.

Despite the adage that 'the proper study of mankind is man', 'know thyself', etc., a large chunk of the population is uninterested in -- and even makes efforts to avoid -- learning much about themselves meanwhile allowing others to do so regardless of those others' motives, abilities and potential benefits/harms to themselves or others. (Yeah I know, 'authoritarianism' covers this but that's not a sufficiently comprehensive model.)


Maybe RR needed some filler for his goodbye speech.


That is very possible, but improbable. I think that the USA was just getting pissed off with Iran.


As I understand it, most of the sex stuff in the Bible was an attempt to prevent pagan rituals that involved sex. The Canaanites were a settled people whose population had reached the carrying capacity of the land, so they were finding ways to satisfy urges without making babies. Meanwhile, the Hebrews, having recently committed genocide, found themselves in an empty land surrounded by enemies, so they found it important to prevent all that low tech birth control. And of course all this had to be couched in mumbo jumbo.

The truth of it is that the deity's plan of using mankind to efficiently transform the universe (originally imperfect due to the imperfection inherent in the mass production process used to create it) with minimum divine effort is best served by those who focus on brass tacks rather than hedonism, regardless of what form that hedonism may take. On the other hand, while slacking off and playing is not optimal, there are worse things. It's all about how your breaks contribute to refreshing you for return to the war effort.


Re: Old time religion & sex

Believe that Judaism 1.0 (aka Old Testament) recognizes that a woman's sexual satisfaction is part of a good marriage and that lack of same is justification for divorce. So, not a blanket anti-sex dogma.

Think most religions stall at whatever their official founder was most associated with. I'm guessing that devout Judaism became: 'What would Abraham do?'. Abraham married his half-sister who persuaded him to use a pagan slave as his sperm receptacle, so 'barbaric/evil sex' practices from his POV might be kinda on the iffy side in contemporary times. Then there's also that story about him agreeing to the voice in his head that urged him to sacrifice his only son on an altar. (And, yes, I'm aware of various interpretations including this was as much a test of God as of Abraham, i.e., the religious version of a game of chicken.) So, not exactly my go-to guy when it comes to discussing family relationships.


Ken Binmore (1996), "Evolution of Fairness Norms"
Thanks, will start with that (24 pages), then look for critiques that cite it.
So many PDFs! [1] (Plus trying to track the USA political show.)

[1] Any suggestions (anyone) for PDF viewers (Windows and Linux; firejail or apparmor (or similar) profile a plus for Linux, 'cause PDFs can be non-benign) other than Acrobat Reader? (It has an annoying limit of 50 tabs and does not have an obvious setting to reopen pdfs that were open before a restart.) qpdfview seems OK and has a setting to remember tabs; haven't used it enough yet recommend it.


Believe that Judaism...recognizes that a woman's sexual satisfaction is part of a good marriage and that lack of same is justification for divorce.

That's actually still written into the religious marriage contract, a Ketubah. It's one of the very few reasons that a woman can get a religious divorce, a Get, in the ultra-orthodox world. Unfortunately most of the power is in the hands of the husbands and Rabbinate, which can lead to abuse of the system. There have been plenty of cases of men refusing to give a Get, while they go about philandering.

I think the Talmud has a prescription as to how often a man is obligated to have sex with his wife depending on what he does for a living. Once a month with a camel-driver is one example, not sure if that's because he's travelling, or because he smells (though that may be a joke).

Modern Judaism has more to do with what Moses, or maybe Aaron, would do than Abraham. Abraham is important as a forefather, but it's through Moses that the Mitzvot came down. Also we named ourselves after Judah, (Yehudah-Yehudim), rather than Avrahamim.

And, I agree with the idea that the Torah sex prohibitions are about what the neighbors were doing sex-ritual wise in their own religions.


North America has also seen a increase in the height of the standard mass market edition in recent years.

A vintage 1982 North American Laurel paperback is 105x175mm, similar to Wikipedia's "A" size; a more recent mass-market Penguin is 115x190mm. The additional 15mm is trouble for fixed height shelving. My old vintage orange-spined Penguin paperbacks are about the same size.

A North American "Grand Central Publishing" trade paperback is 132x203mm. A Harper Collins trade is 135x203mm,


If you want to see some back-and-forth, there was a special issue of Politics, Philosophy and Economics in 2006 with commentaries by Gintis and Seabright on a Binmore book (Natural Justice) with a response by Binmore. All article-length so a low-cost way into the debate, and available on the net in various places:

These are links to author copies so safe to link to here. With a bit of googling you should be able to find the Binmore rejoinder as well.


You are proposing a conspiracy theory that has no evidence to back it, against a large amount of evidence that points to the danger of allowing incompetents to command a warship. I'm more surprised that you didn't use the Gulf of Tonkin as support for your theory...

The Gulf of Sidra incident was the Libyans actively trying to pick a fight, not the Americans - unless you accept the Libyan position that the Gulf of Sidra was theirs, that their "line of death" was valid, and that international waters didn't apply there.

If you read the letter to USNI proceedings that I linked above, Commander Carlson quite clearly expresses his position that the Iranians were professional and considered in their dealings with his ship (Tanker War notwithstanding). This was not the case with the Libyans.

After the 1973, 1980, and 1981 Gulf of Sirte incidents (Libyan planes firing at USN aircraft) the USN wasn't exactly going to give the benefit of the doubt to a pair of armed Libyan fighter aircraft turning into an engagement (multiple times) against a USN pair that kept turning away.

Remember the context in the years before this happens:

Libya were undeniably funding, training, and arming terrorists, from the 1970s onwards. Gaddafi ended up getting (some of) what he deserved.

So, a question: do you think that the Libyan fighters in that 1989 Gulf of Sidra incident were attacking, or merely posturing?


It being that time of the year (and host linked an arXiv paper on twitter),
On the Impossibility of Supersized Machines


Somehow, I believe your theory that the USA navy and executive conspired to (a) promote an incompetent to command, (b) select him for particularly sensitive duty, and (c) award a medal for making a balls of it, a trifle implausible. You probably still think that the dodgy dossier was 'a well-sourced piece of intelligence'!

I am fully aware of the details of the Sirte incidents, but you have omitted the ones that (in the 1989 one) the roster was changed that morning to put the two most skilled pilots on duty, and the F14s' armaments were changed from their normal load. You have also omitted that the hassling (of USA vessels and aircraft) had been going on for some days, and for some time before the F14's went for the kill. Their very own reports indicate that they did not feel particularly threatened.

But, to forestall your misrepresentation, I do NOT regard the Sirte incidents as unjustified (on the part of the USA). I am merely pointing out the USA navy's record of arranging such incidents - as I say, 'form'.


Yeah the UK market is rapidly shifting across the board to B format paperbacks - 130x198mm. The main argument I've had from publishers is status based.
Basically the standard small A format is seen as a cheap disposible paperback. The larger B format is seen as being Literary, and higher status so authors prefer them.
This also means it can sell for a few dollars more, while costing pennies for paper. I'm sure that has no influence.

C format trade paperbacks are much larger again, the softcover version of a standard hardback. No one seems like them much - too big for readers and not durable enough for libraries.


Mass market paperbacks (MMPBs) are not returnable but the bookstore/seller can get a credit from the publisher/supplier by ripping off the front covers and returning them. That's why there's boilerplate text on the copyright saying the books can't be sold etc. without their covers and why there's a barcode printed on the inside of the front cover, to be scanned on return for credit accounting purposes.

Trade paperbacks ARE returnable and not subject to the "rip off the front cover" deal so they cost more to process on returns. They are usually printed from hardback publishing files (fonts, layouts etc.) but in a cheaper binding. Basically they fit into the gap between MMPBs and hardbacks with their own pricepoint between the two.


Mass market paperbacks (MMPBs) are not returnable but the bookstore/seller can get a credit from the publisher/supplier by ripping off the front covers and returning them.

Not in the UK. The mass market distribution channel — which is what it is; it's about supply chains, not book size, the book's physical size is just a handy reminder — collapsed in the UK circa 1991 and never recovered. Today, all books sold in the UK are sold as trade and the "small" paperbacks are merely sold that way because people expect them.

The mass market started in the 1930s with cheap paperbacks being shipped and the covers stripped and returned via the same distribution channel as pulp digest magazines. It's now collapsing in the USA, with only best sellers getting true mass market editions (as opposed to smaller trade paperbacks). I used to get mass market editions, but my sales dropped by 60-75% over the past six years and I've fallen out of mass market as of 2016. On the other hand, the cheap disposable reading niche has been colonized by ebooks, so I'm not necessarily any worse off.


Ingersoll for all his faults makes for an interesting read on these points too.


What makes religion evil is that it elevates faith above rational evidence-based thinking and creates the space where craziness like anti-vaxxers, climate-change denialism, human rights for zygotes and suchlike flourishes. It doesn't matter that some particular religion is fluffy bunnies and feeding the poor, it's still evil because it legitimises faith-based thinking which is an existential threat. The answer to the Fermi Paradox is religion.


Somehow, I believe your theory that the USA navy and executive conspired to (a) promote an incompetent to command, (b) select him for particularly sensitive duty, and (c) award a medal for making a balls of it, a trifle implausible.

That's exactly what happened, though.

You really can't tell -- you can suspect, but you can't tell -- who functions well as a combat captain before you put them in combat. (Same with any other commander. History is rife with examples.) If an officer gets good evaluations (because the inventory is always up to date and they never screw up in an obvious way) they can easily wind up being promoted to a captaincy without being able to command in combat. Enough politics in the command structure and the right aggressive noises will play well. (Political patronage doesn't hurt; Bull Halsey was a flaming incompetent as an admiral, but for various propaganda reasons (some of which was the US Congress believing the propaganda...) the Navy couldn't say so or do much about it.)

Once the captain is in a position to massively screw up, well, let's consider this specific screw up. If the US admits it, they've committed a war crime. A big, public, war crime. They emphatically owe Iran major compensation and they are in no ambiguous way Not The Good Guys. Their regional attempt to sell Iran as the Bad Guys falls down hard because Iran followed all the rules and had a civilian air liner shot down by a USN ship which was NOT following the rules.

Can't admit that; admitting that is expensive. So you do the traditional thing that goes with not admitting it and give the captain a medal to make clear how completely you consider the other side's version of the facts to be lies and propaganda.

And then the sane-and-factual faction inside the USN officer's corps has to spend the next couple decades carefully getting the facts into the record in such a way as to make clear that yeah, no, this was an epic screwup of which we are not proud.


Y'all are mostly being cabbages about religion. Nothing purely-harmful is going to persist over long spans of generational time.

What does religion tell you?

No, no, NOT "conform or die". Not "do what I say or else". Religion's basic message is "there's a plan"; "this all makes sense to someone"; "you have the option of making things better for yourself"[1]; "you are loved and valued".

It's insecurity management; just because the world and your life don't make sense to you doesn't mean it doesn't make sense! Belief isn't much of an effort most of the time, and you can stop struggling with incomprehension and go about your customary day. For the great majority of believers the great majority of the time, you get less effort, consistent social context, and less doubt. People hate doubt. The effort of not knowing is a whole lot more than it is widely practical to make.

(Actual skepticism or scientific inquiry is hard work. You generally can't if you're not, by world-historical-standards, extremely well off. You haven't got the time or the resources.)

It's being implemented by humans so of course the usual failure modes around success-or-control (you can't have both) and expectations of conformity to the system come into play. (You'll look long and hard and fail, trying to find a social system that doesn't have expectations of conformity; it's part of the way the idea is defined.)

Now, religion will inevitably act to suppress change because whoever is in charge benefits from the way things are now, but that statement is just as factual with "capitalism" in place of "religion". Incumbents hate change.

So it's difficult to find a failure mode unique to religion; the basic problem is that the world is way more complicated than a human brain can deal with.

[1] not necessarily here and now; next life, afterlife, escape from the wheel of dharma, there's a lot of options here.

Nothing purely-harmful is going to persist over long spans of generational time.

That's fine while the ability of people to cause harm is limited. But once you have nukes and global-warming denialism it's a new game.


You seem to have completely missed my point. Obviously, there was no intent to shoot down a civilian airliner, any more than there was in Ukraine - THAT aspect was pure cock-up. Your explanation is correct, except that it applies equally well to the covering up after an arranged incident went wrong, WHETHER OR NOT that was done by the captain against HIS orders.

As an aside, it is SOP for there to be verbal orders in addition to recorded ones ("This is how I want you to interpret the orders"). But it is doubtful whether even those included the order to arrange the conditions for an incident - the captain was quite capable of doing that on his own, given his previous reputation. Indeed, it is quite possible that his doing so is the reason that the 1989 Sirte captain asked permission to arrange that incident. And THOSE orders probably included the rider "For God's sake don't do a Rogers."


Nothing purely-harmful is going to persist over long spans of generational time.

Ecological Destruction (from the soil saltification of Babylon onwards)

You get the point. 'Failing upwards' is much easier if you squish everyone competing against you (looking @ you, Donny-Boy).

So it's difficult to find a failure mode unique to religion; the basic problem is that the world is way more complicated than a human brain can deal with.

Actually, there's a far more interesting question to be asked (dendrites, hint hint).

What do the following all have in common (note: this ties into 'fake news' etc):

Religion (capital R)
Ideology (capital I)
Brands (capital B)
Beliefs (capital B)

Hint: it's a particular part of your Brain. And if it's filled with the above, it can't get used by [redacted].


Oh, and proof that 2017 isn't my Time-line:

White Power Skittles Twitter, 30th March, 2017 (scroll down, it gets funnier and weirder as you go... and yes, it's real)

Oh, and a freebie (related to the above question over RIBBs): Remember that Poppy thing (the one which freaked Greg out) - yep, just stepped into Gremlin #2 land, Alt-Right meme ahoy. This Red Pill YT, "Poppy", 0:39 March 21st 2017.

Knew it / Told you so / Spotted it a mile away.


(This was for host - twitter is blowing up over this and more than a few anarc / lefties are missing a whole lot of edge to it. Breibart / Milo etc lead with the White Pride angle to skittles two days ago, it's been weaponized into various strands already. I can spot someone ignorantly responding to the troll bait "LGBT stole the rainbow" without knowing it's an Alt-Right KeK drive).

*Herds cats to protect them*


Interesting article - thanks for posting.

Learned arguments were also made about the impossibility of bumble bees flying - yet they do. Because of the bee thing, won't be surprised if someone breaks the 'largeness' barrier for machines.

What I'd like to know though is how the largeness of a network is measured ... I'm assuming a network can be classified as a machine. This is not the same animal/thing as the girth/sweater argument in that individual components might stay more or less the same size, but over time some specialize (speciate) and even when this happens, they are all still able to form networks of diverse yet interoperable components (e.g., society, human brain). So the 'machine' grows by a type of accretion. Compare the first knife ever made vs. today's Swiss Army knife: both are 'knives', yet quite different.

Never understood Godel's theorem. Even now I wonder whether this theorem says what it says because it assumes identical properties across all calculable variables instead of recognizing that many things/variables have 'limits' (specific properties re: size/reach/energy) and that such 'limits' vary as stuff develops and/or speciates. (Still like the 'non-commutative' stuff though: some things cannot be undone. Wonder if time is the most fundamental of non-commutative 'elements'.)

(And I'll probably get responses pointing out my blatant ignorance of maths. That's cool, I'm fine with being a life-long learner.)


Patriarchy as an organizational structure is how you avoid becoming a victim of conquest. (And how you greatly reduce the reproductive insecurity of a big slice of the male population.)

Empires always start because they're making a profit. They don't keep making a profit, but they start out to preserve increases in prosperity brought about by trade.

I can't think of anybody who _sets out_ to practice ecological destruction; the specific instances are always someone making themselves more prosperous in the short term.

Genocide as policy gets you a whole lot of land area you didn't have before. It's absolutely widespread throughout human history and it unquestionably advantages those practicing it. (No member of the Anglo NorAm settler population is in any kind of moral position to dispute this!)

There's a very substantial difference between "not optimal" and "doesn't work". Things that human cultures keep copying into the future aren't optimal, but the copying into the future is the definition of "works". Anywhere nice to live has to win fights with systems optimized to win fights or it ... doesn't get copied into the future.


The USN doesn't and didn't ever want to fight in the Persian Gulf. They _really_ didn't want to do so in 1988, when it was even more of a deathtrap for a blue-water navy.

1988 is late Reagan. Everyone in Washington knows he's at least moderately gaga; the Democrats have a strong Congressional majority, remember being rolled on the Gulf of Tonkin, and have no appetite for war. (There wasn't one in official circles during the Iranian Hostage Crisis.) The idea that you don't really need Congressional approval has not yet been created. George Herbert Walker Bush isn't -- just after Iran-Contra wraps up -- in a position to do much of anything.

How is "Rogers should never have had a combat command" not the least hypothesis? What material evidence (that is, base stocking, ship movements, topping up the fuel farm at Diego Garcia, or any other preparations) is there for an intent to provoke?


You are now joining Martin in misrepresenting me. I never said that Raygun or the Pentagon had given such orders. "Rogers should never have had a combat command" is a perfectly good hypothesis, yes, and is completely compatible with the hypothesis that he set up the conditions for an incident. In THIS case, there is no material evidence for an intent to provoke, but there is equally well no material evidence for any OTHER cause of HIS behaviour. Just asserting that the commander is an arsehole does NOT mean that you can claim that any actions of his are pure accident.


You're somewhat missing the point of my response, so:

Nothing purely-harmful is going to persist over long spans of generational time.

In generational time spans, all of these things mentioned are "purely harmful":

Name a patriarchy that didn't crash and burn (either due to the Harem issue where lower caste males were cut out of the pie, a la chan / MRA / Red pillers these days or look to Egypt / Saudi currently or due to various other conditionals, usually of the short-lived but always available Lysistrata option).

Name an Empire that didn't crash and burn.

Ecological destruction is baked in if you don't actively ward against it.

Genocide is only viable if M.A.D never gets triggered.

Do you see the point I was making yet?

Anyhow, you skipped the interesting bit.


Think back to a discussion about Steam Punk, Bronze working and Energy (specifically coal). The French got locked into a dependency for a lot of reasons, but once that choice was made, the outcome was sealed.

That's the point I was making.

Or, let's put it a little more bluntly before bringing out the big guns (locals are playing silly buggers): humans are shit at predicting outcomes. And even when they know the outcomes, they're shit at taking the long term view instead of taking the short term gain.

Or, to modify the statement: Everything purely-harmful is going to persist over long spans of generational time until the environment stops it. (Where "environment" includes socio-ecomic-military-geopolitical spheres as well as actual energy / ecology).


So, discuss.

RIBBs is much more fun, and I saw a fox in the sky two days ago.


There's three kinds of "incident".

One kind -- "they've shot the Archduke!" -- is a small number of what might as well be chaos cultists doing something shocking that demands a diplomatic response. (And thus maybe a military response.) It's a surprise to just about everyone except the chaos cultists. It involves actors external to the mechanisms of power. (Generally rather marginalized ones, because having anything to lose keeps you from considering this sort of thing a good idea.)

Another kind is a pure old fashioned mistake; the USS MAINE blowing up in Havana harbor is probably the purest example. No one expects it; it takes a good long while to form a response, and there's no logistical support in place for the response. That's how you can tell it was really a surprise. Telling these from the first kind is sometimes difficult, but if you don't know there are any external actors involved this is the safe bet.

The third kind is a lie; someone has carefully set this up to get a policy result and they've put logistical preparation in place to take advantage of the policy response they expect to get. (Gulf of Tonkin, but also the Austria-Hungarian ultimatum to the Serbs after the Archduke got shot. Many, many historical examples.)

9/11 ought not to have been but was effectively the first sort. Korean Airlines Flight 007 was the second sort. Gulf of Tonkin was the third sort.

I think -- and could be confused -- that you're arguing that the VINCENNES incident was the third kind, rather than the second kind.

I don't think there's anything available to support that position. I remember anonymous serving USN opinion at the time as being absolutely scathing and listing off long lists of procedures that hadn't been correctly followed and a general view that Rogers should have hung. I don't know of anything that supports the view that there was a policy goal, not even at the level of preceeding think pieces advocating for a policy of direct confrontation with Iran. Certainly not at the level of logistical preparation for escalation of the conflict.



No, there's many more kinds. You can tell when Old Men get Old:

In it I affirmed that the 1980 Reagan-Bush campaign bargained secretly with Iranian radicals for the postponement of the liberation of 52 Americans that they were holding hostage. These hostages were employees of the US embassy in Iran’s capital city of Teheran, which had been stormed by militants loyal to the Ayatollah Khomeini in November 1979. This secret deal, known as the October Surprise, frustrated the attempts of US president Jimmy Carter to obtain the hostages’ release in time for the elections in November. This failure cost Carter his reelection, and swept Republican candidate Ronald Reagan into the presidency. Polls carried out before the election showed that the hostage issue was of top importance in the minds of the American electorate.

The Republican campaign’s main negotiators in this deal were George H. W. Bush, vice presidential candidate and former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director, and William Casey

The October Surprise Was Real Counterpunch, July 2014

5 takeaways from Comey’s October surprise Politico, 29th Oct 2016 (and we all know how that one panned out, don't we?)


RIBBs is far more important: you've spent the last 100 years stripping out the Humanity from your minds, psychopathic fucks.


Everything we've done has crashed and burned at some point, but looking back at the historical record, Empires have done fairly well for their people once they stabilised at the point that the actual person in charge is less important than the position itself is.

Whether the person got there by heredity, nomination, appointed by their guards, was born with the right birthmark ... it doesn't matter - as far as the Empire itself was concerned, life went on.

Look at Rome, China, or the Holy Roman Empire - each new set of bastards coming in claimed lineage to the ones before - descended from Charlemagne, Mandate of Heaven, even the Aztecs claimed inheritance from the Toltecs who are linked to the Maya - it didn't matter, it was a suitable figleaf for the people living in the Empire to accept.

Failure states: Mongols - too young, still thinking in tribal succession terms. Tang China, eventual civil war exterminated a third of the population. Byzantium - sacked by its own side. Central America - outside context problem.


Hint: it's a particular part of your Brain. And if it's filled with the above, it can't get used by [redacted].

OK, so (and mentioning dendrites) you're saying one specific brain region. (Sorry, hadn't poked at the god zone hints much.) So, I'll embarrass myself as a definitely-not-a-neuroscientist in hope of a response, or at least more hints. (Apologies if these have already been linked. Grep suggests not.)

There is of course the M.A. Persinger temporal lobe God-helmet work
but the temporal lobe is pretty complicated. (Has anyone here tried this? I have not.)

More recently, Reward, salience, and attentional networks are activated by religious experience in c (11 Nov 2016) suggests
activation in nucleus accumbens, ventromedial prefrontal cortex, and frontal attentional regions,
in particular
Nucleus accumbens activation preceded peak spiritual feelings by 1–3 s and was replicated in four separate tasks.
The nucleus accumbens (it and the olfactory tubercle are the ventral striatum) is mostly Medium spiny neurons
The medium spiny neurons are medium-sized neurons (~15 microns in diameter, ~12-13 microns in the mouse) with large and extensive dendritic trees (~500 microns in diameter)

I saw a fox in the sky two days ago. ? :-)


I teach this incident (as part of a postgrad course) and yes, the evidence is overwhelming that this was (in large part) first a command screw up, i.e taking the ship into danger for no good tactical reason, combined with organisational, personnel and technological failures of a man/machine system under stress. I'd call it a comedy of errors except it wasn't very funny when the expanding rod warheads chopped that passenger airliner into tinfoil. Notes at the link, apologies if you've already seen some or all of the material.


Branding the brain: A critical review and outlook Journal of Consumer Psychology January 2012. 19 pages, PDF. Legal.

Useful for the meta-links (paper has embedded links to most of the papers these people are using) and for the fun of looking at the boys making sandcastles on the shore pawing over their fMRI entrails.

I saw a fox in the sky two days ago

You'll have to find the image referenced that is current: A fox in a Brain (a la Creación de Adán) with its foot in a steel trap, surrounded by Crows who are outside the Brain. It's barking at them.

If you can find that picture, I'd be impressed (the context is important, as is the reversal of the fable).


Learned arguments were also made about the impossibility of bumble bees flying by conventional aerodynamicists.

Bumble bees (well all insects actually) use an alternative model for generating lift, which is actually more efficient at low speeds, hence bees generate adequate lift from a much smaller wing area than conventional aerodynamics predict.


You may have missed it, so I'll spell it out: the article linked by Bill Arnold was not a learned argument, but an April's fool joke. (Note the publication date on the PDF and the date of posting it here!)


You haven't understood me AT ALL. Nor, probably, has MS (#343). Yes, OF COURSE, this was a cock-up, and the fact that it killed a large number of civilians was due to a catalogue of negligence and incompetence, not deliberate action. But your category of incidents is seriously flawed (especially ethically). The point is that the second category is actually multiple categories rolled into one.

You may have heard the expressions "gone out looking for trouble" and "spoiling for a fight". There is a gradation from a purely unpredictable accident, through one caused by ordinary negligence or incompetence, through one caused by deliberate negligence or incompetence, up to what is often described as "accidentally on purpose". And one of the characteristics of even the last category is precisely that they DON'T have the preparation you mention for your third category so that they are quite like to go wrong, and nobody knows what to do when they do.

It's not quite comparable, but look at the responses of the police (and the unspeakable PCC) after the killings of Jean Charles de Menezes and Mark Duggan. Complete headless chicken mode, in both cases, involving spewing packs of contradictory lies out to the press, though both incidents had been prepared for. Note that I am NOT saying that they had prepared for a killing in either case, but that they HAD prepared for some kind of incident.


humans are shit at predicting outcomes. And even when they know the outcomes, they're shit at taking the long term view instead of taking the short term gain.

Not all humans, but ...

I am reminded of an anecdote about R. Buckminster Fuller. Circa 1970, Fuller delivered a lecture at a university. When the time came for questions, hands went up, and a member of the audience asked, somewhat sarcastically: "this stuff about saving the Earth is all well and good, but if you're so smart, how come you went bust repeatedly when you were trying to mass-produce something as simple as houses?" (Hint: if you haven't heard of the Dymaxion House, click the link.)

Fuller reportedly turned bright red, stuttered for a minute, then explained: "I was trying to mass-produce modular, affordable, human-friendly housing using state of the art technology, on a production line. The design life of a home is on the order of 25 years, and the development cycle for a new technological product is also measured in years. However, I was forced to demonstrate profitability using an accounting cycle designed for extracting taxes from bronze-age Sumerian subsistence farmers—driven by the four seasons."

Which is why we aren't all living in Dymaxion houses today (that and, well, we could do a lot better these days if we weren't so hung up on living in structures designed to ape the historic preferred residential styles of the rich and famous).

The broader point, however, is path-dependency: exchangeable money (as opposed to tokens for internal temple accounting) emerged as an indirection layer for taxation in lieu of physical goods, and caught on because it made feeding an army on home territory a lot easier (quartermaster: buys food from peasants using coins; tax farmer: extracts coins from peasants in lieu of grain: army gets fed without pillaging the countryside, king is happy). But once you've got that system running it takes on a life of its own and you end up with projects with long-term setup costs becoming difficult to fund unless you invent complex work-arounds (interest-bearing loans, bonds, other financial instruments that compensate for the risk of non-fulfillment).

Once you get locked into, say, financialization, it's hard to look at the world without assessing everything in terms of quarterly profit-and-loss. Which in turn screws you badly when you're dealing with longer term processes that don't deliver a near-term payoff, much less generational problems that won't show a downside until you're safely dead.

Donald Trump is 70. I think we can safely say that, barring a breakthrough in life prolongation medicine, he will definitely be dead by age 125, i.e. by 2071. More reasonably, he'll probably be dead by 90, i.e. by 2037. Realistically, anything happening after 2037 is therefore vanishingly unlikely to affect him personally, and after 2071 it will definitely not affect him personally — or, likely as not, his inner circle (Steve Bannon is 63; Jared Kushner, at 37, will be 92 if he makes it to 2071; etc). So any talk of climate change fucking up the planet on a huge scale by 2200 is just so much quacking as far as these guys are concerned. They'll be dead; if it happens at all, it's somebody else's problem.


I am NOT saying that they had prepared for a killing in either case, but that they HAD prepared for some kind of incident.

There is an interesting failure mode of authoritarian personalities under pressure: they receive some sort of insult to their sense of how the world works (e.g. police in the wake of a successful terrorist attack), so they feel compelled to respond in some manner that will reaffirm the correct working of the world (terrorists: PUNISH). However, there's no clear target (the terrorists were suicide bombers, so: already dead). Thus, they experience a free-floating anxiety due to their inability to respond to the original insult. Then something else happens (e.g. a Brazilian plumber who looks a bit like a not-suicided suspect enters a tube station) and they respond with maximal force as if they were facing the original threat, in an attempt to rectify the source of cognitive dissonance. Which is how excessive-use-of-force cockups happen.

But then we get the even more interesting failure mode of a management structure staffed by authoritarian personalities — you don't get promoted within a police organization by being particularly forgiving of infractions — dealing with the even worse cognitive dissonance of recognizing that they — the organization — Did The Bad Thing. People identify personally with organizations of which they are members: the words we use, "identify"/"identity", "members", are freighted with indicators of personal investment. Admitting that an organization in which one is an agency-wielding leader responded inappropriately implies accepting that ones own identity is implicated in responsibility for The Bad Thing. So there's an intense desire to distance onesself from the event by projecting responsibility onto some outside entity: blame the victims, in other words. (See the Hillsborough disaster for a classic example.)

It takes time or lots of training for people to get over the initial insult-reaction to a threat and assess it rationally: by which time the institutional response is in full flood and it's really hard for an organization staffed by authoritarian personalities to reverse itself (a large subset of staff will be incredibly resistant to change). Hence the way these events unfold.


Yes. I rather agree with the multinominal one, though - those of us who are fairly good at predictions are generally regarded as being some form of alien ....

The short-termism in UK politics was clearly developing by the 1960s, as the consensus politics of World War II broke down, as was the way the UK was being increasingly sold out to the USA military-industrial machine. It wasn't hard to predict, even in the 1970s, the political malaise and social and economic hole that we are in now. Brexit, of course, is a mere symptom.

But your point about financial timescales isn't entirely right. I remember when it wasn't as dominant in the UK as it is now, and it is less dominant in (for example) the Japan of today than it was in the UK of half a century back. The key financial factor seems to be the dogma that risk must necessarily be compensated for by interest rates.


Yes. And it's an extremely hard ethical problem to know where on the accidental / deliberate spectrum to assign such incidents. One of the reasons that I am at loggerheads with other people is that I regard negligence as being potentially as culpable as deliberation. Note "potentially" - there are more reasonable excuses for it.


At least for energy, there are arguments besides "It's good for the planet", like a potentially healthier domestic economy and independence from the restraints of petroleum based energy. A good thing to, because if a sensible energy policy is ever put in place, it needs to be a better deal for most people or it will be abandoned. FWIW, even from the perspective of an old guy in western Missouri, renewable and low carbon energy looks like a step up, potentially.

So any talk of climate change fucking up the planet on a huge scale by 2200 is just so much quacking as far as these guys are concerned.

Slightly rhetorical question - how do these guys reconcile those thoughts with their perennial and overt nepotism? They may not see the consequences but their descendants will.


Yep - missed the April Fools bit completely. Can't tell with some tech reports whether it's foolery on the part of the author or ignorance on the part of the reader.

[Jots down Bill Arnold's name in calendar for next year ...]


You are now joining Martin in misrepresenting me. I never said that Raygun or the Pentagon had given such orders.

Errr... when you accuse me of being "as usual, disingenuous" (@302) and "misrepresenting you" (@336), I'm curious as to how I've done so.

Your @287 "It is hard to avoid the conclusion that the commander of the USS Vincennes had been told to provoke a military response from Iran, and shoot down one of its military aircraft."

Your @288 "A similar alternative is that the crew made (as claimed) a 'scenario fulfillment' mistake due to multiple failures, but that they were originally ordered to the area and ordered to behave aggressively to increase the odds of an incident."

Your @306 "Oh, I forgot to mention that the USA navy also had consderable 'form' at arranging such incidents, which continued after Iran 655."

You seem convinced that Iran Air 655 was a cockup on the back of orders to provoke; and yet, the other USN ships in the area were obviously not ordered to behave in the same way, and the VINCENNES was ordered to back off on other occasions.

Why are you so determined to assert the existence of "orders to provoke", instead of accepting that the CO was an incompetent, atypical of his peers, and overly aggressive? Why can't it just be a complete cockup / tragedy / lethal negligence and incompetence, as all the evidence suggests?


There are layers of command between a mere captain and the Pentagon, you know. I will accept that I wasn't clear enough in distinguishing various forms of intent to provoke.


I read less, and buy few books than I did 20 years ago. Partly, I waste, er, spend serious amounts of time on soli, er, important stuff (which is a response to long term situational depression).

One reason, though, is it's gotten freaking hard to find *science fiction*. Last Worldcon, after the Tor show, I spoke with Patrick Nielsen-Hayden, and asked, since I was looking to submit an sf novel (I've currently been waiting to hear back from an agent who got the mss in, um, early Dec). He told me that new authors look at what sells, and it's 2-1 fantasy, followed by military sf, and so straight sf might be easier to get in (was my take).

Of course, some of that's a vicious circle -they get less, they sell less, less is submitted.



And yet I can see religion have some place. It's not ego to say that I don't think most people are as internally tough as I am - my late wife dropped dead at 43 for no fucking reason, with no symptoms, and yet, who is there to blame? Her body, for betraying her? The universe, for a fucking stray Cozmic Ray?

Most folks can't deal with that, so they need to find some kind of comfort. Remember, the *fuller* verions of the old quote from Marx is "religion is the opiate of the people, the heart in a heartless world." So they find some comfort in some One knowing, and afterlives, etc.

I've got an urn big enough for two, when the time comes.



I think they're simply too stupid to think it through. Or they assume they can make out like bandits in the short term and buy berths aboard the L5 colony/ocean-going city the uber-rich will retreat to when somebody else builds it.





I will accept that I wasn't clear enough in distinguishing various forms of intent to provoke.

"Who will rid me of this turbulent priest?" Writ large in the post-Westphalian world (small angry nations instead of disobedient clergy).

Some eager over-achiever bucking for promotion within the Navy decides that the rhetoric coming out of DC would best be served by moving some aggressive young captains into the likely theater of engagement. They're aiming to please the boss by following the mood music in the public discourse, rather than by using their heads. Repeat all the way down the pyramid for as many levels as necessary, until tragedy ensues.


A few years back, Russia declassified some KGB files, and they had an agent IN THE ROOM when Bush, Sr. was making the (treasonous) arms-for-hostages deal that set that up.



Charlie wrote: "once you get locked into, say, financialization, it's hard to look at the world without assessing everything in terms of quarterly profit-and-loss."

It didn't used to be *that* bad. But one of the things I vehemently hold against the corporatists and the GOP, their tools, is just that: they've stolen our children's dreams, other than "must get rich, NOTHING else matters".

I have SO much ammunition, esp. if I do decide to run for Congress next year.... (And if I do, least best result is one of Faux News' talking heads dies on the air from apoplexy.)



You know this, but the the thing that makes me stressed about "oh, it's in the future, I don't care" is that, no, no, climate change is having massive-and-obviously-trending-up costs now. The "oh, not until I'm dead" is 100% pure quill organic stone-ground wishful thinking, and it's not ethically sourced in any respect.



Ok, got your point now.

Militaries are social machines to force submission by making the alternatives to submission worse. (Police start to fail catastrophically when forcing submission is, or becomes, their objective[1], but I don't know of anywhere with functional police at the present time. LOTS of police currently having that failure mode.)

If you want a working military, it has this failure mode. If you haven't got a working military, you've been forced to submit. (I would welcome counterexamples.) Minimizing the expression of the failure mode is one of those really really difficult things because you promote based on effectiveness which means ability to force submission and "bad judgement at when to be good at your job" is inevitably an after-the-fact call. It's important and an effective military will work at it. (If your objectives aren't conscious, you're not an effective organization.) So if you're arguing that the presence of the USN there and then was increasing the likelihood of an atrocity, absolutely. Not having a military isn't a way to avoid those atrocities because militaries are about the only way to avoid the whole slew of atrocities attached to being forced to submit. Being very very careful about who you assign to what never holds because diminished returns inside the organization itself eats the care alive in short order.

It would be great if we had some social machinery that was better at this. It's obviously possible and it's equally obvious that the simpler, worse versions persist better and that the complex better versions tend to fail into awful things.

[1] there is a crucial difference between "submit" and "stop that" and it's a lot of work to maintain it as a widely understood sharp demarcation in propriety.


What's your definition of hard SF? Andy Weir's The Martian is considered hard SF (i.e., scientifically and technologically accurate) and sold tons!


Yes. As usual, OGH put the failure mode I was referring to better than I did (in 361). Most bureaucratic and hierarchical organisations (The USN? Surely not!) rely on people near the coal face interpreting the rules 'creatively', to avoid the arse-covering at higher levels from causing complete ossification. And, at the time, the USN's fantastically powerful vessels were being made to look impotent by the Iranian gunboats behaving much like Scottish midges.


Yes. OGH's comment in #359 seems the only plausible explanation.


The "oh, not until I'm dead" is 100% pure quill organic stone-ground wishful thinking


Unfortunately it appeals to elderly authoritarians who formed their world-view before the world began to change rapidly along the axis of habitability, and the sunk cost fallacy also applies to world-views.


One of the things that worries me about the US military is the one-way (not revolving) door between those holding high ranks in the services and the supposedly civilian government. The number of high-ranking appointees in any administration with a first name of "General" or "Admiral" is not a good thing for a supposedly-civilian government. Having a combat general with twenty years experience of telling people to do what he says or else running the diplomatic service of the nation (Colin Powell running the State department, frex) leads to, well, diplomacy using cruise missiles and open threats of invasion and fuck-ups like Iraq.

I could not, for the life of me, name a senior British military figure of the past twenty years or so. In the US a flag rank Admiral or 3-star general will have a personal publicist and biographer on his or her payroll. Guys, this is a Bad Thing.


Unfortunately it appeals to elderly authoritarians who formed their world-view before the world began to change rapidly along the axis of habitability, and the sunk cost fallacy also applies to world-views.

Also to them who think they can use their wealth to avoid the effects, and to them who can afford not to see the problems.


And they don't see it affecting them or anyone they know, so it isn't real to them.

One of my friends used to be friends with an American executive and his wife, who apparently didn't see US health care as a problem because everyone they knew had health insurance, so where were those uninsured people they sometimes heard about? Couldn't be that big a problem or they'd know some…

Whether this was willful blindness or an honest lack of thinking things through I don't know. My friend can't ask because when Bush give his "with us or with the terrorists" speech my friend questioned Iraq having anything to do with the 9/11 attacks and that was it: a friendship of decades was over.


Colin Powell was an example of a military leader who was considerable more thoughtful, cautious and liberal than his non-military colleagues. Eisenhower was another ....


Because The Martian was such a success, maybe someone will finally write an SF story that seriously discusses having and raising a child on a space station without gravity.

Some potential problems: birth - whoosh out comes baby and the after-birth gets splattered everywhere. Newborn flails about thus propelling itself who-knows-where. A couple of months later, the infant flails directly at Mom to suckle whenever he/she gets hungry. Changing nappies (Newton's First Law) and watching as undiapered space baby whizzes (both senses of the word) around the cabin. Ditto when baby burps or gets gassy. And meanwhile, there's the science of getting rid of pee/poop on reusable diapers in a no gravity environment*. Option of sending and then getting rid of a mountain of smelly soiled diapers over a 24-36 month period gets reviewed about here. Then we get to the crawling stage .. watch as baby crawls up, down, across ceiling, into cabinets, vent systems, etc. (How to baby-proof a space ship key points here.) Infants at this stage are explorers and also like to handle everything their chubby fingers (and sometimes, mouths) can grab hold of. Guessing what and how much to feed a baby whose metabolism is not using nutrients in the same way as in gravity could be problematic. Same with exercise and sleeping patterns.

Then there's the bio-psych aspect of babies on other crew members. In a completely closed environment the mother's hormones esp. oxytocin would tend to hang around for longer in greater concentrations. Males can and do get affected by this hormone too, physiologically and psychologically.

None of the SF I've read ever addressed this even the novels that claimed to be about multi-generational space flight.

* Have wondered whether just briefly putting the soiled diapers outside the space ship would do the job which would mean a discussion of biological space contamination (panspermia is actually panpoopia) plus assorted ethical issues.


Pretty sure there's a strong consensus that placental reproduction won't work in freefall.


Colin Powell was an example of a military leader who was considerable more thoughtful, cautious and liberal than his non-military colleagues

Just to be sure, that's GENERAL Colin Powell who was in charge of US diplomacy when the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq kicked off, the one that waved a fake vial of anthrax at the UN to convince the rest of the world that Hussein was an existential threat to the entire planet, the one that ignored state torture and approved rendition of suspects to the offshore oubliette of Guantanamo Bay? That Colin Powell, or were you referring to some other Powell who wasn't an inexperienced blunderer who got his position at State because of his first name and no other reason like, say, a couple of decades experience in civilian government?

Folks who served with him regarded him as an unexceptional officer, unwilling to make waves and discomfit the brass and the civilian administrations, burying bad news and letting scandals fester while he climbed the greasy pole.


Ike's the "certain entirely voluntary restrictions" President, no?

That wasn't an especially thoughtful or cautious thing to do. (Expedient, yes.)


Pretty sure that experiment is still running, fyi: Space Pup! NASA, 12.07.16. And yes, that's real. And yes, that's also the real (shortened) name.

Anyhow, you're all soooo maaale / non-breeding, it's hilarious.

Look: you design the environment around the baby, not vice-versa. You engineer an entire ecology that thrives on floating particles of pee, poo, vomit, sweat, skin (babies grow fast, lots of dead cells) and so on.

The baby isn't a problem, it's a little bio-factory producing nutrients for your secondary biome.

Engineers / Scientists / MEN.


Just to be sure, that's GENERAL Colin Powell who was in charge of US diplomacy when the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq kicked off

That's the one. Who was Bush Pere's Chairman of the Joint Chiefs during DESERT STORM, and who made it quite clear to the politicians that the US shouldn't get involved in foreign wars without a very well-understood end state. Which meant stopping once Kuwait was liberated, and not getting involved in any of that messy regime change stuff.

Whereas the person in the same position twelve years later, didn't make any such fuss, and couldn't persuade President CheneyBush not to make a complete arse of things.

So, while I don't know how he was regarded by his peers, I'd suggest that as a General, when push came to shove, he made the right call in 1991.


That's just radiation.

No gravity is going to screw up bone density, condensation order as fetal tissue differentiates, nutrient diffusion, and fetal orientation during gestation. Then there's known issues with testicular function, thyroid function, mechanical aspects of fertilization, and all the stuff no one has found yet.

Reproduction in space is a *long* project even if you don't have an ethics committee.


Some/many of those are engineering problems eg. babyproofing. (In other words, solvable with existing tech.)

I'd be more worried about fetal/childhood development in zero- or micro-gravity. A lot of development interacts with the environment, and when that is so different a lot can go wrong.

Here's an old paper on the subject which lists some of them:

Look at simulated zero-G environment (using a clinostat):

These results suggest for the first time that fertilization can occur normally under µG environment in a mammal, but normal preimplantation embryo development might require 1G.

Wakayama (Riken Centre, same chap from previous link) is looking at the effects of radiation on mouse pups:

Sustaining life beyond Earth either on space stations or other planets requires a clear understanding of how the space environment affects key phases of mammalian reproduction. So far only non-mammals have been used in reproductive studies in space. Studies using simulated microgravity on Earth showed birth rates due to poor placental development, indicating that microgravity has an adverse but unknown role in fertilization and gestation. Space Pup will help isolate radiation as a factor in long-term studies.

And we know that microgravity inhibits stem cell differentiation:

TLDR: the biology is likely to be way more challenging than the engineering. Larry Niven's Confinement Asteroid might be required for more than muscle development.


Cheaper still than all that baby-centric engineering might be installing a condom dispenser or four. (Has there been any study into altered thromboembolic risk in microgravity with long term oral contraceptive use?)


Or: if you think you're getting on board my ridiculously expensive space station that lacks any neonatal support facilities whatsoever (let alone the Level 6 NICU it would take to keep your cosmic ray-bombarded, intrauterine microgravity-stunted monster babies alive) without a long acting progesterone implant, you're dreaming.


OR: sorry, we are only accepting applications from infertile/post-menopausal/gay/asexual candidates at this time. Thank you for your interest in this position and please don't hesitate to apply for one of our ground-based roles!


No, I think I do understand what your point was.

However if you ask me to choose between the likelihood that this was an act of gross negligence/wilful disregard that came about because of a confluence of events (including revising the RoE) and alternatively the likelihood that this was due to a covert intent to act provocatively (in whatever form, at whatever level) combined with incompetent execution at the sharp end then my judgement would be that the first is more likely. In this specific case.

After the USS Stark this is what Reagan said, "From now on, if aircraft approach any of our ships in a way that appears hostile, there is one order of battle: defend yourselves, defend American lives", this was then repeated by Weinberger and Baker. Message to the fleet, don't take the first hit. Message to Iran, we are not a soft target. After Stark the RoE were revised to allow greater flexibility and deconfliction rules were put in place (local NOTAM and NOTSM were also published). And all this was quite overt. So Rogers acted within the RoE (regarding the air track) BUT he also placed his ship under a known COMAIR route, thereby causing a breakdown of deconfliction. His other egregious actions on the day and prior to it tend to obscure this key point.

Ethically that is the gross negligence part, if your RoE legally require you to engage what you believe is a threat (and the Captain of the Stark was court martialed for failing to do so) then you also have a duty of care to not get yourself in a situation where you can't easily deconflict civilian traffic from threats.


If it is a ridiculously expensive space station it should have at least be spinning, in which case baby proofing consists of putting controls at a level where adults can use them.

One of my friends used to be friends with an American executive and his wife, who apparently didn't see US health care as a problem because everyone they knew had health insurance, so where were those uninsured people they sometimes heard about? Couldn't be that big a problem or they'd know some…

Whether this was willful blindness or an honest lack of thinking things through I don't know.

There's a gentleman of my acquaintance who was one of Cameron's SPADs back when Cameron was still a thing. The gentleman in question still does some mildly distasteful work for the home office, I believe. He lives in an expensive house in a nice neighbourhood and brushes shoulders with quite a lot of wealthy and powerful people and had a hand in shaping Cameron's opinions about various important domestic matters and it is fucking terrifying how naive he is about the realities of life in his own country. He couldn't really comprehend the idea of people who earned less than £50000 a year, let alone people who somehow survived on even less than that. He had a total blindspot for the service staff he interacted with every day, and hadn't even given the slightest moment of thought to how much cleaners and baristas working in the city earned, or the issues they might have with living anywhere near their place of work.

He's not particularly unusual. Its been a problem of government and management since time immemorial. It is pretty much why we're in the mess we are in now.


it is fucking terrifying how naive he is about the realities of life in his own country. He couldn't really comprehend the idea of people who earned less than £50000 a year, let alone people who somehow survived on even less than that.

About ten years ago Senator-for-life McCain was speaking at an open townhall meeting about immigration -- at the time he was mostly for the idea of regularising the status of Mexicans and others who had entered the country illegally to work. He explained to the incredulous audience that Americans weren't willing to work in the fields picking produce for what the immigrants earned, $30 an hour or so. That's what he believed they got for their stoop labour because the idea that someone might cross the border to do this sort of work for a fifth of that amount or less just didn't occur to him.


Yes. He was also the one who did NOT authorise a pre-emptive nuclear strike on the USSR, despite pressure to do so. Note that I am not saying that either Eisenhower or Powell were western equivalents of the Dalai Lama, but they WERE better than many (possibly most) of their civilian peers.


You are definitely missing my point, by your remark that the COMAIR route was key, because I accept that aspect (and the shotting down of an AIRLINER) was the purest of incompetence, and it is irrelevant to my point. However, I am not going to pursue it further.

And yet I can see religion have some place. [...] Remember, the *fuller* verions of the old quote from Marx is "religion is the opiate of the people, the heart in a heartless world." So they find some comfort in some One knowing, and afterlives, etc.

I think it would be less harmful if the opiate of the people were actual opiates.


As has been demonstrated many times, radiation is not as catastrophic as it is made out to be my the media, and mammals are reproducing successfully close to Chernobyl. But, as you say, variation in gravity from earth norm is far more serious than anyone expected, and no gravity is really, really bad news for mammalian metabolisms. It appears that even continual high gravity, which is normally fairly harmless, seriously affects reproduction in rats.


RE Splitting California, not gonna happen;

There was a discussion on Daily Kos a couple of days ago, American Republican operatives want to create another safe "Red" state (Two more senators, Electoral College, etc.).

Taking clues from the principals behind Brexit? Right, about the level of "thought" you get in the modern American Republican Party.

A Peoples Republic of California only works if they use the National Guard (The Water Knife effect?) to annex at least Nevada, so they have control of more of the Colorado River; Utah and Arizona are solidly red, while New Mexico and Colorado (and El Paso, the far western tip of Texas) are relatively blue; The Geography is messy.

Nothing has replaced "Cadillac Desert" (1988!) for the basic background on the water issues.


Pretty sure there's a strong consensus that placental reproduction won't work in freefall.

While rats and humans are very different metabolically, structurally they're both vertebrate mammals; if it doesn't work for rats it almost certainly won't work for humans, and I'm surprised that experiment hasn't already been run to completion on the ISS (ideally a full 18 month rodent lifespan, with 2nd generation offspring if possible).

If it ever becomes an issue for humans, I foresee a revival of the old Victorian term "confinement" — that is, confinement of pregnant women (or uterine replicators) to a centrifuge for the duration. The question then becomes one of how long you need to keep the kid under spin gravity, and how much of it, and how to provide the necessary developmental stimuli (in a permanent indoor environment with no significant line-of-sight, I'd expect severe myopia to be almost universal).


If it ever becomes an issue for humans, I foresee a revival of the old Victorian term "confinement" — that is, confinement of pregnant women (or uterine replicators) to a centrifuge for the duration.

Niven's Belter civilisation had maternity-hospital asteroids which had been dug out and spun up to provide reliable constant pseudogravity for pregnant women. They also had a lot of rock and ice shielding to reduce the radiation load on the growing fetus.


Actually, our metabolisms are pretty similar, too, at the basic level and some of the other levels. I quite agree with your points, of course. In 18 months, one could get 3-4 generations (though the last might still be infants), but one could do the same in 6 months using mice. A year of mouse breeding would give some pretty solid data.


Metabolisms are pretty similar, but the exact mode of placentation is extremely variable amongst different mammalian lineages, even closely-related ones like humans and rats. Humans and rodents are both haemochorial (the most invasive type), for instance, but they vary in, e.g., number of cell layers separating the fetus from the mother, which affects oxygen and nutrient perfusion. And it gets worse, some much closer animals like macaques that you'd think would make better models seem to have drifted back to less invasive epitheliochorial placentation (or is it us who became more rodent-like?) is a good primer on the wide divergence in placental evolution, and the difficulties that causes trying to model the organ.


Wubba, wubba! What more can one say? Thank you - I am now both more informed and more confused. The new taxonomy of mammals is most interesting, too.


The retrogression to yet another antebellum US strategy for keeping the slaveocracy in power of the federal government!

That's why the argument, debate -- battle! -- over the admittance of Texas and California as states were so long, so bitter and bloody. Breaking them up into multiple new states, all slave, was the objective of the southern senator, and equally not the objective of the north, voters and senators alike.

The north knew what this was about -- just like the constant drumbeat to annex Cuba as a state of the USA -- was about this.

Additionally all those new slave territories / states allowed all those who had slaves of the age of breeding to profit enormously in expanded credit and bank accounts. All those new slave soil territories would need enslaved labor -- and places like Cuba which ran on sugar, needed to replace the labor force every 8 - 10 years, as they were worked to death within that time (yes, the capitalist logic -- more profitable to work slaves to death and replace them every 8 years than feed, clothe and house them, or allow them to sleep during the harvest months).


People want to live forever. It's far from clear that this opportunity will be the case even to the most faithful. This leads to significant motivation to adopt some seriously wanked ideas about the authority of the universe.


It's a shame it doesn't instead act as motivation to consider the concept of living for ever in realistic rather than idealistic terms, and arrive at the realisation that the one thing worse than dying would be not dying.


in a permanent indoor environment with no significant line-of-sight, I'd expect severe myopia to be almost universal

That may depend more on light levels than sightless.

The leading hypothesis is that light stimulates the release of dopamine in the retina, and this neurotransmitter in turn blocks the elongation of the eye during development. The best evidence for the 'light–dopamine' hypothesis comes — again — from chicks. In 2010, Ashby and Schaeffel showed that injecting a dopamine-inhibiting drug called spiperone into chicks' eyes could abolish the protective effect of bright light.

Retinal dopamine is normally produced on a diurnal cycle — ramping up during the day — and it tells the eye to switch from rod-based, nighttime vision to cone-based, daytime vision. Researchers now suspect that under dim (typically indoor) lighting, the cycle is disrupted, with consequences for eye growth. “If our system does not get a strong enough diurnal rhythm, things go out of control,” says Ashby, who is now at the University of Canberra. “The system starts to get a bit noisy and noisy means that it just grows in its own irregular fashion.”

Yet more evidence that developmental biology is complicated.


Really good info, thanks folks! Have also wondered what would happen to the infant's head which is made up of many floating bones that eventually fuse into a skull (overall appearance/proportions of human body). Ditto for how would the bones in the inner ears (sense of body position/movement), knee caps (protects ends of bent major weight-bearing and movement bones) and hyoid (speech) develop. The knee caps may not be a big deal in a no gravity environment, but the other mentioned bones?

Traditional pearl divers and 'sea gypsies' show some accommodation over the generations developmentally re: eyesight in deep, higher pressure environment. Not sure to what extent the reverse (accommodation to less pressure) would occur.

Superior Underwater Vision in a Human Population of Sea Gypsies


That hypothesis looks implausible, at least on its own, because it does not fit with the epidemiological data, especially those from the tropics and circumpolar regions. I.e. Ian Flitcroft makes much more sense.


I think you misread me - hard sf is great, but I said it was hard to *find* SF, in the mass of fantasy and military SF (which is mostly more fantasy).

I mean, for a few off-the-top-of-my-head examples, I really like Bujold, for example. But I don't see much in the way of younger authors in that vein, or Vinge (either one), etc. Or Zelazny. Or Brunner. Or I could easily start a list 100 or 200 authors long (including, of course, OGH), but I think you get the idea.

Much I'm missing is the damn sensawonder of the universe.



You're not the only one worried. I've been anti-military, well, since I was in my teens, and resisting the draft, and 'Nam.

Right now, with Trumpolini, my *only* hope are the ones who do *not* just view their Oath of Office (or service) as just a bunch of words.

And I'm hoping, let's see, titles for books: Slouching Towards Impeachment? Or the one that several co-workers like, A Tweet Too Far (the bunch the Sunday before last looks like they were - the entire media has turned, tired of hearing "WOLF!!!", and are responding to them by "Oh, that's interesting, as we were saying about Russia....")



You mean this?

The complex interactions of retinal, optical and environmental factors in myopia aetiology.

'Recent animal studies, backed by observational clinical studies, have revealed that the mechanisms of optically guided eye growth are influenced by the retinal image across a wide area of the retina and not solely the fovea.'

What the Nature article doesn't mention is the relationship between the eyes and environmental factors related to industrialization esp. in China such as much greater air pollution plus a shift to a western diet. (Obesity, high blood pressure, type II diabetes have also increased there and are also linked to eye/vision problems.)

As we're continually discovering: life is very complex so 'all of the above' may be correct (relevant).

Back to the mouse study (NASA Pups) ... would prefer lab mammals that spent most of their time moving and orienting themselves while in a vertical upright position because that's what humans do. Maybe use meerkats instead? Meerkats can also (like humans) reproduce any time of year, so another human-relevant aspect could be studied.


Ideally it would be more like Soma, since the actual opiates thing turns out to be quite dangerous, e.g. in the USA:


Most military SF is as close to porn as fantasy, but let's skip that. Part of the problem is the way that 'the modern world' has been closing down possibilities, and people are looking for a way out. Hence the preference for fantasy, Trump, Brexit and other substitutes for reality.

Physics has been doing that, too, so an increasing proportion of 'hard' SF simply has to ignore known laws, and usually chooses economic or ecological ones as well as Uncle Albert - and is then essentially fantasy. While I don't actually believe in many of the physicists' current speculations (nor do I disbelieve them), there aren't any obvious boundaries that would lead to technologically interesting SF that doesn't break one of the known limits.

That doesn't apply to social and biological 'hard' SF, but few people understand the areas well enough to be both radically different and not drift off into something that is clearly (to an expert) nonsense. I don't claim to be an expert, but know enough to wince at most SF that tackles these areas. And, if you are doing that, why not go the whole way and be fantastic?

The IT area is interesting. We haven't hit the limits of what could be done, but (in many respects) we have hit the limits of where we can go following the current approaches. And that's in real life, as well as SF. The burgeoning 'AI' activities are not technically all that interesting - what they are is social and economic sweating dynamite. Now, if I were to be appointed Minister for Sky Blue IT in a newly independent Scotland, something might be done about this - but we're back to fantasy again :-)


No, but that's relevant. I was referring to the fact that the Inuit referred to in that paper will NEVER have had a strong diurnal change for much of the year, but used to be not myopic, and that the earlier increase in myopia was associated with the spread of literacy, even in people who spent several hours outside in the topics as children (and without artificial light).


Anti-military, or anti-militarism? :) I can certainly agree with the latter :)

Nojay @370 Having a combat general with twenty years experience of telling people to do what he says or else

Is not IMHO how militaries tend to work; the "do what I say or else" school of leadership is fundamentally limited, and doesn't scale well outside a tyranny. Certainly, different leadership styles are required as an officer progresses up the greasy pole. This definitely demands negotiation and diplomacy skills above about Captain, and definitely well before General rank... [1]

There's a recurring meme in US fiction that "the military is looking for soldiers who will just obey orders" (see "Universal Soldier" et al). That's not a surprise, because the bulk of documentary filming is based around initial training - it's easy to film, and lends itself to interviews with staff / some "who will make the grade" melodrama / physically demanding but artificially limited test activities [2]. It can also suffer from a focus on the "characters" who make for "good TV"[3]. However, it's not a true reflection of what happens in the military after initial training; it would be like imagining a profession based on an undergraduate degree, or corporate life based on the induction course.

It's rather more difficult to document militaries doing their boring peacetime training; doubly so for militaries doing their job on operations. Molly Dineen did a better-than-average British documentary dealing with a Guards unit on rural operations in Northern Ireland - "In the Company of Men", might be available on Youtube; and Audrey Gillan did some excellent written reportage as an embedded journalist for The Guardian back in 2003/4 (it was fascinating seeing her interviews of soldiers that I knew, involved around Al-Amarah and CIMIC House).

The British system has some weaknesses at the unit level - there's a culture of "what the boss says, goes" which is fine when the boss is competent, but bad when they're a muppet. I can't really comment on the US system, but my understanding is that the desire to "measure and compare" has led to a more zero-defect mentality (there's an excellent if dated critique out there by a Colonel Donald Vandergriff) although the US Armed Forces are incredibly impressive in their ability to actually learn, and then roll out the results of that learning.

[1] One irritant is the inevitable focus on bayonet training, as it's perhaps a couple of hours in a three month course, but an absolute magnet to the aspiring Eisenstein.

[2] That's not to say militaries are any better than other corporate organisations; certainly, there are some cultural issues in the British Army (anti-intellectualism, for a start) so while there are ruthless back-stabbing self-serving careerists and all-round sh1ts [4], I would suggest that there are slightly fewer than in any environment where there are salary bonus payments to be had. The ultimate insult for an officer in most teeth units, is "they're no good with the soldiers".

[3] There was a recent documentary on officer training at RMAS Sandhurst; it reassuringly appeared to burst several caricatures (e.g. the Army doesn't care what school you went to, and you don't need a private income to join the Household Division), but couldn't resist the slightly unfit but plummy-voiced son-of-the-regiment. "Sandhurst 2012 doc" might find you it on a search engine. Watch the first few minutes, and ask yourself whether the implicit message is "do what I say or else"...

[4] There's another saying that "all the best officers leave at the rank of Captain"...

[5] If you read this far, here is the work of a comedy genius (aka Belushi) when describing a leadership short course at Sandhurst...


Damn, got the order of my footnotes muddled. Sorry. You'll figure it out :)


“Because The Martian was such a success, maybe someone will finally write an SF story that seriously discusses having and raising a child on a space station without gravity.”

A PG-13 SF movie that came out in February called “The Space Between Us” deals with this very issue of being born in low gravity and the consequences. A mission to colonize Mars in fact. An astronaut discovers she is pregnant and after landing she dies from complications while giving birth to the first human born on Mars. Her son, Gardener, survives and grows up on Mars. At age 16 Gardener wants to visit Earth, but there is a complication, he is physically adapted for Mars gravity but not Earth gravity.

About the movie:

The trailer:


Thanks - I'll watch it when it shows up on Netflix.


''the "do what I say or else" school of leadership is fundamentally limited, and doesn't scale well outside a tyranny.''

Which doesn't mean that it isn't used, especially in peacetime. While I accept that most peacetime militaries are somewhat better than commercial hierarchical bureaucracies, they do seem to have many of the same failure modes. However, MY point was that a significant proportion of senior military officers *** who have been involved in military action *** realise that force is a bloody bad way to solve political problems, as often as not causes more harm than it prevents, and are rather better pragmatic pacifists than the politicians who have never been in action. I accept whitroth's and Nojay's point that a rather larger proportion of peacetime soldiers are the converse :-(


There's also an expectation among Western civilians that anyone in the military will automatically and unquestioningly obey a civilian, and that when a western government decides to employ its military in reaction to a problem this means they're okay with firing bullets.

This author (Lt-Gen Romeo Dallaire, Ret'd - CDN) is a notable exception. He's best known for his books about the Rwanda genocide (Shake Hands with the Devil) and child-soldiers (They Fight Like Soldiers, They Die Like Children: The Global Quest to Eradicate the Use of Child Soldiers). Plus, he's brought considerable attention to the problem of PTSD in the military.

Note: These books are based on very ugly and nightmare-inducing facts/events. Be prepared to get very upset.


I think you missed the point of what he, and I, were saying. The world is a fucking hard place. Some of it the universe - as I mentioned about my late wife. Other of it is what people do to each other. The opiate is to dull the pain of the first; certainly, Marx was pushing people to *do* something about the second, at least in terms of making government something that helped most people, not just the rich.

Is that any clearer?

Let me add my line: the universe isn't fair. Fair is a human (or perhaps, given what we see of animals, is more widespread than that) idea, and only we can try to *make* things fair, or at least fairer.



I will note that the bloodthirstiest prime ministers the UK has had since Churchill[*] had zero military background — Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair. (Gordon Brown inherited Blair's messes, and David Cameron had no idea about foreign policy and also inherited a badly run-down military machine. John Major was in Number 10 from 1991-97, and wasn't asked to do much aside from the UK's involvement in Yugoslavia along with everybody else.)

Prior to Thatcher you'd have to go back to the 1930s to find a non-soldier/sailor among the residents. Some were more militant than others, but I'm willing to give a 1950s PM dealing with decolonization wars more of a pass than Blair (no fucking clue, just wanted to leave his mark on the history books).

[*] Churchill, of course, rode along on the last great charge of a British cavalry force at Omdurman. And commanded a battalion on the western front during the Great War. Both voluntarily, and the latter at a time when he was old enough to know better: "bloodthirsty" is probably the right word to describe him and the only reason anyone remembers him fondly is because of who he stood up against in 1940.


I think I've nodded in agreement with all of your posts on this particular subject...

However, MY point was that a significant proportion of senior military officers *** who have been involved in military action *** realise that force is a bloody bad way to solve political problems, as often as not causes more harm than it prevents, and are rather better pragmatic pacifists than the politicians who have never been in action.

Exactly - see Rupert Smith's "The Utility of Force", Frank Kitson's "Bunch of Five", Shan Hackett's "The Third World War".

Then look at the last generation of UK politicians who served - Denis Healey (Beachmaster at Anzio, and an MBE), Jim Callaghan (wartime RN), Ted Heath (Royal Artillery, MiD) William Whitelaw (Guards Armoured, and an MC) Francis Pym (Lancers, and an MC). There was even an Archbishop of Canterbury who saw hard action; Robert Runcie (Guards Armoured, and an MC).

AIUI we started no wars with them in charge (got dragged into a few, but to his credit Harold Wilson kept us well clear of Vietnam).

You could suggest that it was the generation of politicians who had not served, and whose parents had not served in wartime, who were the least conditioned against it. Margaret Thatcher's parents took in a German Jewish refugee in 1938, and she had a Cabinet full of war-service types; Major's father had served in an Uruguayan militia. Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, David Cameron, and Theresa May have no such immediate connection.

I accept whitroth's and Nojay's point that a rather larger proportion of peacetime soldiers are the converse :-(

Ahhh, but here's the question. After fifteen years of rather active war (Iraq and Afghanistan), where will you find any peacetime soldiers in the US Army? When you consider Northern Ireland and the Balkans before that, where will you find a British Regular soldier who is peacetime-only?

In fact, look around the Territorial Army as was, Army Reserve as it is now. Next Remembrance Sunday, go to your local War Memorial, and look for the Reservists. Count how many of the NCOs now wear operational medals (it was few in my era, nearly all of them now).

I still maintain that "Do as I say or else" is a failure mode, far less common in actuality than in myth, and a signature of the incompetent and insecure leader. It has (too) slowly been ironed out of the Initial Training Group, and will still exist among a few; it will occasionally be found among the plausible but insecure in the Army at large.


My point is that, as a source of comfort, religion is more dangerous than drugs or smoking or base jumping or juggling chainsaws because those activities only carry individual risk whereas the promotion of the religious mindset, the normalisation of faith-based thinking, is an existential threat to the survival of the human race and life on Earth.


Faith-based thinking is the norm. It's only comparatively recently that rational thinking has become at all widespread, and "widespread" is also a comparative term; it is still a minority habit even among so-called "educated" societies. I believe this is a more or less inevitable consequence of the human brain being wired to be good enough at heuristic guessing to provide a simulation of intelligence which suffices to remove the selective pressure for improvement.


bloodthirstiest prime ministers the UK has had ... Margaret Thatcher

While I'm not a fan of hers, I should point out that "bloodthirsty" is hardly her thing. What wars did she commit the UK to?

The Falklands War wasn't of her choosing; and having a Jewish refugee in the house in 1938 might well have coloured her judgement in terms of "what to do when a Fascist junta invades British territory".

Consider Northern Ireland. Right up until the Grand Hotel in Brighton was bombed by the IRA in 1984, the effort was to portray PIRA / INLA as criminals and deal with them through the legal system and prison. If you look at Mark Urban's excellent analysis "Big Boys' Rules", the rate at which terrorists were killed rather than arrested rose sufficiently to be a policy change - but only if they were carrying a gun or a bomb at the time (Gibraltar was an outlier, but no-one seriously denies that the three terrorists had a bomb and were planning to use it to commit mass-murder; they just didn't have it with them when they were shot). There was no "mowing the lawn" as done by the Israelis.


....Actually, everyone in America is ON Opiates, and religion is on a downswing this decade.

....So far, I don't think this decade is considerably better than the last. (....Although the last was PFB)


A situation not helped by how some of the "ostensibly hard SF" proves to actually be military SF with a veneer of stunt writing? There's one example (names omitted to protect the guilty ;-) ) that is on the verge of being about the 4th book I've given up completely on in 50 years since I taught myself to read.


One of the best parts of KSR's Aurora is the bit where the generation ship colonists finally set down on their destination planet and discover the middle distance--a concept they had to look up in the ship's archives. A popular thing to do becomes staring at the horizon, which is neither close, nor at the infinity point the way the stars outside the ship are.


While I'm not a fan of hers, I should point out that "bloodthirsty" is hardly her thing. What wars did she commit the UK to?

Miners Strike. Poll tax riotviolently-suppressed demonstration. Falklands War.

She never backed down from a perceived provocation, escalating every time. The Falklands was botched from the start, at a diplomatic level (I assume you're familiar with the background that came out under the 30 year rule, to do with the Thatcher government first offering the Falklands to Argentina then back-pedaling when the islanders wanted nothing to do with it, leading the Junta to assume treacherous dealing and react?), and in the case of the miners strike she deliberately set up a confrontation that led to mass hardship and violence up to and including police cavalry charges against strikers.


Grrk. The Falkland's offer is new to me. But, purely from public sources, I knew that they were testing the waters in South Georgia, and knew the invasion was imminent a fortnight beforehand. Also, it came out afterwards that the MP for Finchley was told where they were collecting their naval task force six weeks ahead of the invasion.

You are unfair on Churchill. He was pretty ruthless, yes, and gave genuinely bloodthirsty shits like Harris and those that suppressed the Mau Mau uprising a free hand, but he was far more liberal than any prime minister we have had since Callaghan. Inter alia, he accepted the welfare state and was a prime mover in founding the ECHJ. He would NOT have supported May!


There is a hell of a difference between fighting a war between armies, and enforcing one country's political and economic control on an unwilling one that is incapable of defending itself conventionally. Not to say that some of the groups in those countries are truly barbaric, though nothing like as many as this country designates as terrorists. Unlike conventional war, such political suppression (especially against really nasty opponents) tends to brutalise those doing the suppression.


Arising out of the Thatcher debate, something I should be interested in is a serious comparison by a political historian of the treatment of political dissent in the UK in World War II and today. The laws, the policing, the sentencing, the (government) surveillance etc. I don't know any personally, so can't ask one for any pointers.

Faith-based thinking is the norm.

I'm not arguing that it isn't the norm, I'm arguing that the human race has reached a point of risk (nuclear weapons, global warming, antibiotic resistant disease, AI, genetic engineering...) where it continuing to be the norm it is an existential risk. There is a global warming denier as president of the USA who is rolling back climate-change mitigation, the vice-president is a fruitcake who thinks the Apocalypse is a desirable event.

good enough at heuristic guessing to provide a simulation of intelligence

is fine for people who don't have the capacity to destroy most life on Earth, especially human, through wrong decisions.


Stalin was also pretty fond of welfare states, and he killed so many of his own people that the Soviets made a big point of "de-Stalinizing" their government after he died. A leader's position on the economic spectrum does not at all correlate with their respect for human life.


John Major was in Number 10 from 1991-97, and wasn't asked to do much

Gulf War 1 wasn't much?


there was a previous falklands crisis in the 1970s.. that was solved by the Argentinians getting a phone call.. something along these lines ' I hear you have a task force operating near Our Falkland islands, coincidentally we have a submarine in the same area! Nice aircraft carrier you have, shame if something were to happen to it....'
and what do you know. the Argentinians decided that port was a much better place to be.

thatcher was up for nuking Buenos ares


However, a more serious confrontation occurred in 1977 after the Argentine Navy cut off the fuel supply to Port Stanley Airport and stated they would no longer fly the Red Ensign in Falklands waters. (Traditionally ships in a foreign country's waters would fly the country's maritime flag as a courtesy.) The British Government suspected Argentina would attempt another expedition in the manner of its Southern Thule operation. James Callaghan, the British Prime Minister ordered the dispatch of a nuclear submarine, HMS Dreadnought and the frigates Alacrity and Phoebe to the South Atlantic, with rules of engagement set in the event of a clash with the Argentine navy. The British even considered setting up an exclusion zone around the islands, but this was rejected in case it escalated matters. These events were not made public until Parliamentary debates in 1982 during the Falklands War


a serious comparison by a political historian of the treatment of political dissent in the UK in World War II and today

It depends on what you mean by "political dissent": does it include civil rights issues? For example consider the role of the Obscene Publications Act and the BBFC (and the OPA's predecessors) in suppressing LGBTQ+ voices right up until very recent times: is being a feminist or a queer activist "political dissent" in the same way as being a spokesperson for Sinn Fein in the 1980s was, or a spokesman for the British Union of Fascists in 1940?

We still have political censorship, and lots of it — but in peacetime and in times of diverse media the permissible limits are deliberately obscured (to deter transgression) and it is usually self-enforcing via the manufacture of consent in the major media and the amplification of those consenting voices via social media (think twitter and facebook trollbots and their tendency to shout down anyone who doesn't support the consensus view of reality).


I forgot GW1. However, Major didn't exactly start it — he just got dragged along in the undertow of the US response to Saddam's invasion of Kuwait.


That's why it needs a serious analysis by a political historian, not a glib comparison (even by someone with no axe to grind). Basically, I know enough to know that I am out of my depth.


Really? Stalin's approach to welfare was like Labour's in the 1960s, only even worse. Don't confuse claims with reality, nor confuse the economic and humanitarian spectrums, or believe the neo-conservative polemic. Your point is correct in principle (vide the Terror in France), but Churchill supported what was a genuine attempt at respecting the UK population's quality of life, irrespective of their situation or who they supported politically. The same cannot be said of Stalin or even Lenin. The UK welfare system went downhill later, but Churchill was long gone by then.


Interesting. I missed that. That is what I and others said should be done following the occupation of South Georgia and, until things got out of hand, assumed HAD been done. Someone told me "all our submarines are fully committed", but I responded that there was no need for them to be there more than intermittently provided that Argentina was told that they would be present.


Also, later parts of The Expanse series mention Belter women (who spend large parts of their lives in zero-G) going to the agri-dome settlement on Ganymede or the port city of Ceres when they become pregnant.

As far as I can tell the only liberty taken with human tech there is the high-efficiency fusion drive that makes settlement on the solar system possible. It's the alien tech in the setting that's weird. Although I'm no scientist and am quite prepared to be told I'm wrong.


By the time 1982 came round the Junta in Argentina were getting desperate and they needed a Short Victorious War to distract their population from the shitty economic situation they were in, never mind the Disappearances, and attempting to liberate the Malvinas from British domination was an easy sell. They had a good idea they would lose if Britain actually exerted itself militarily to respond to their invasion but they rolled the dice because the situation at home was becoming untenable for them. The tripwire British military presence already on the islands was no deterrent so it's doubtful that even having a nuclear sub in the area would have prevented the initial invasion this time round.


"Not backing down" is not the same as "bloodthirsty" or "escalating"; at most, she responded with an equivalent and appropriate level of force. There were only three civilian deaths in the entire Falklands War; IIRC, only one death in the Miners' Strike. Rather better figures than Blair, Cameron, or May.

Miners Strike. Poll tax riot / violently-suppressed demonstration. Falklands War. She never backed down from a perceived provocation, escalating every time

Sorry, I'd say she's clear on the Falklands War. The only escalation that mattered came with sailing a warship into Grytviken and landing armed troops. In the Falklands, it came once the Argentinian special forces did a silent night attack on Moody Brook Barracks (HE and WP employed, fortunately nobody was home). And landed on the island with armoured vehicles. And sent armed men into the radio station, ordering the broadcasters off with threats of force. That isn't "perceived provocations", by any stretch of the imagination.

While the Foreign Office may have screwed up negotiations, while they may have ignored all of the signals coming from the DA in Buenos Aires, all of the bloodthirstiness was coming out of the Junta - primarily from Admiral Anaya who had been planning the invasion for some time.

Here's an analysis by a serving Argentinian officer. No mention of "treacherous dealings", because this was largely irrelevant to Argentinian thinking. From their PoV, the Malvinas were part of Argentina, and the use of force to recover them was purely because they weren't getting their own way diplomatically... (interesting to also see the repeated claim that HMS Invincible was hit by Exocet, but that the RN somehow covered it up; bit of a touchstone for your conspiracy-minded Argentinian)

As for any "escalation" caused by the sinking of the Belgrano, consider that her Captain considered it a reasonable act, and that his orders were to attack any RN vessels he found; that the RN knew this, courtesy of GCHQ; and that the Argentinians already had a sabotage team sat in Spain, waiting for a chance to sink RN vessels in Gibraltar.

in the case of the miners strike she deliberately set up a confrontation that led to mass hardship and violence up to and including police cavalry charges against strikers.

Sorry, doesn't wash. The Police don't turn up with cavalry just because they want to start a fight - they do that kind of stuff as a response. Contrast the Scottish NUM - picketing was largely non-violent, and AIUI the Scottish police never put on riot gear. It wasn't the Police throwing bricks at buses carrying miners into work, it wasn't the Police dropping breeze blocks onto taxis and killing the driver, it wasn't the Police breaking into peoples' homes and beating them with baseball bats. "A heavy Police presence forced me to beat up a scab / throw rocks at their vehicles" isn't a very good justification.

It was Arthur Scargill doing the escalation in 1984/85, not Thatcher (we got a better idea of the kind of man he is with the recent court case over his residence in the Barbican). No national ballot for a national strike? Contrast Scargill with Mick McGahey or Jimmy Reid. Scargill was aiming for another 1972 or 1974 "hold the nation to ransom" strike, victory, and adulation; instead, he cocked it up and lost.


Not quite - it was the landing of Argentinian military on Southern Thule that triggered Operation Journeyman.

The response was known about before the 30-year stuff emerged from the Public Records Office, just not "well-known". Hard to hide a Task Force sailing south, even a small one... Anyway, the British desire to resolve the occupation diplomatically, and the desire not to use force, may have been the more significant "lesson" for Argentina.


The undetectable stealth spaceships were a bit of a stretch (see ) and I'm also more than a bit dubious about the idea of massively increasing acceleration tolerance through the use of drugs too...

That said, The Expanse taxes both my ability and willingness to suspend disbelief an awful lot less than most space opera, it does at least give a nod in the vague direction of physics rather than ignoring it altogether...


thatcher was up for nuking Buenos ares

Utter rubbish, and no serious commentator will back you up on that.


"Sorry, I'd say she's clear on the Falklands War." Yer, whaa? She caused it, almost as much as Galtieri, by her combination of arrogance, incompetence and negligence. See #428 and #435. Look, if I (yes, ME), as Joe Public, knew all the invasion in time to take preventing action, she bloody well should have done so - but it came out later that she had made it clear that she didn't want any 'negative thinking' in regard to her policies. Vide the Poll Tax later, as well as some of her other catastrophic policies.

The Belgrano row was more of the same - I was waiting for an announcement that any Argentine military vessel more than 12 miles offshore would be deemed to be hostile if any British one felt endangered - if she had JUST done that, she would have covered us under international law, and the whole row would never have arisen. Oh, yes, she did that AFTER the Belgrano was sunk, but - fer chrissake! - she was justified in knowing less international law than me?

What I heard about using nuclear weapons is that it was mentioned in a planning paper, and was ruled out immediately (either in the paper or by saner minds). Now, THERE I will acquit her.

And, while Scargill was doing the escalation, Thatcher had very carefully set up the battlefield for the confrontation. Inter alia, when the Chief Constables initially refused to exceed their powers to suppress dissent, she both bribed them and did something behind the scenes - I don't know what, as it never came out, as far as I know. She also refused to do any serious negotiation, or even consider any support for the communities whose income would be removed, which meant that even the moderate miners reluctantly backed Scargill; Germany did both, which is why they resolved their comparable situation pretty well.


There was some speculation that Argentina had a couple of nuclear weapons, something akin to the South African weapons programme and there was consideration given to a response if the junta was willing to use them on, say, the British flotilla. I believe the decision would be to nuke one of Argentina's military bases (probably a port) in response. Cities were not on the target list.


She also refused to do any serious negotiation, or even consider any support for the communities whose income would be removed, which meant that even the moderate miners reluctantly backed Scargill;

There was no negotiation after a position paper was presented by the government that laid out the situation of Britain continuing to dig out deep-mined expensive coal and trying to sell it into markets being fed by cheap and heavily-mechanised surface-mined coal from elsewhere wasn't going to succeed even with heavy subsidies. All the easy-to-get coal in Britain had already been mined, what was left was difficult to access in terms of time, money and lives (deep coal mines are dangerous places). Scargill predictably went off as soon as the report was published and the results weren't pretty. The coal mines were doomed by reality, not by Thatcher.

Germany did both, which is why they resolved their comparable situation pretty well.

Germany is closing their last deep black-coal mine in the next couple of years but they've got billions of tonnes of lignite and brown coal close to the surface they can continue to dig up and burn for the next century and more. Britain doesn't have that sort of resource to hand.


"The coal mines were doomed by reality, not by Thatcher." While that is true, she refused to do ANY serious negotiation, including into aspects such as providing graduated closedowns, training for other skills, arranging alternative employment, or community support. She wasn't even prepared to talk to Scargill unless he withdrew all threat of strikes, unconditionally and for the future. She just said "Shut up, peasants, and do what you are told." How much of that was her nature and how much a deliberate attempt to force a confrontation with Scargill, I don't know. We DO know that she wanted a winnable confrontation with a major union, had had to back down (i.e. compromise) at least once before, and was very unhappy about it.


The report actually specified a staggered shutdown, investment and development of some areas such as Derby which still had coal reserves worth extracting, funding for retraining and inward investment in mining areas etc. Basically the writing was on the wall for coal in Britain no matter how much effort and money was pumped into it -- it's an extractive industry and eventually they decline and fail when there's nothing left worth extracting.

Coal fuelled the Industrial Revolution but that was two hundred years ago and all of the good coal was gone, what was left in places like Yorkshire was thin faulted seams of low-grade coal and shale with lots of overburden to cut, with the ever-present risk of gas and flooding. After the miners went back, thanks to Scargill's opposition to maintenance work being carried out during the strike a lot of the pits were flooded out or had roof collapses and couldn't be re-opened for even a few more years of operation.

That's ignoring the cost in lives and health coal mining caused, disasters that killed and sickness like blacklung that killed although more slowly. The NUM's pension scheme was one of the best-funded in the nation, in part because a lot of mineworkers never lived long enough to claim from it (my father did but he was an engineering fitter and didn't go underground that often. He also retired early when the pit he worked in, Cardowan, was slated for closure and the workforce downsized with generous financial packages).


For the third time, the fact that the writing was on the wall is IRRELEVANT. It is what the miners were actually offered was nothing like enough to give them any cause for hope - outside a few places like Derby, they were faced with a destruction of their communities and a completely intransigent government. Unlike for the comparable closures in Germany.


the fact that the writing was on the wall is IRRELEVANT.

There was no miracle solution that would have kept British miners employed cutting coal absent billions of pounds a year subsidies. The coal-mining communities were going to be trashed because their employment depended exclusively on an industry that was going extinct because the resource they extracted was exhausted. Pretending otherwise is IRRATIONAL. (I have a caps lock key too, see?) Hope is not a way to pay the rent.

In the end the Evull Tory Government did pay miners to sit around and do nothing with generous redundancy and early retirement packages but there was not going to be a coal mining industry left for their sons to get maimed and killed in for a paypacket because there would not be any viable coal to dig out of the ground.

As I recall, around the time of the strike British-mined coal cost about £80 a tonne at the minehead with productivity around 1.5-2 tonnes per man-shift. At the same time industry and the power stations could buy foreign-sourced coal for about £40-45 per tonne delivered to coaling ports. The imports were only prevented from taking the entire market by Government fiat (i.e Thatcher and co.) to support the British coal industry. Coal has gotten cheaper in real terms as the big surface coal mines in Australia and elsewhere have expanded and mechanised even more and nearly all deep mined coal operations around the world have shut down. Gas has taken the rest of the thermal electricity generation market.


Nojay wrote:
There was no negotiation after a position paper was presented by the government that laid out the situation of Britain continuing to dig out deep-mined expensive coal and trying to sell it into markets being fed by cheap and heavily-mechanised surface-mined coal from elsewhere...

Any idea where that coal from elsewhere was coming from? Perhaps the US, where the companies have been waging a "war on coal *miners*" since not long after WWII?

But then, they beyond loathed the UMWA and other unions, and when the means - mountaintop removal, etc - became available, they invested very heavily... with the result that the US coal industry employs about 10% of what it did 50 years ago.

One thing I don't know - was UK coal government-owned? If not, how did the gov't start shutting down the mines?



Excellent paper, this ... thanks very much for posting. And if you happen upon any similar review papers re: immune system development* please post. So, guess we should send up a few guinea pigs.

I've read a few papers re: maternal and offspring behavior and development that used rats or mice as test subjects. None have commented on what type/size molecule can or cannot travel through the placenta. (Think there'd be more than ample material for a PhD dissertation or two on this topic.)

* Most of my family have allergies. All were born/raised/worked on farms surrounded by a pretty large number and variety of flora and fauna but on a different continent. (So the 'allergy-hygiene hypothesis' is clearly false in their situation.) During a few visits back to the old country, they had no allergy symptoms at all. When they returned back to their new home, allergies flared up again. Based on this, how can anyone not born on Earth survive more than a few minutes without suffering a serious allergic reaction (i.e., not being able to breathe). Then there's foodstuffs: as per recent findings/papers, most of our digestion is outsourced to various types of bacteria. Bacteria have pretty short life cycles, therefore subject to pretty high/fast mutation. What are the odds that bacteria in vastly different environments would mutate in the same direction?


Your claim that the packages were generous could have, and probably did, come straight out of the Conservative press. It was bollocks, as far as their COMMUNITIES went (which included their families' futures, and their hope of any form of employment after retirement). In some communities, the total income dropped by 70% or more, which then caused most of the shopkeepers etc. to lose their jobs - and THEY got nothing. The retraining was similarly unacceptable. The miners were not the idiots that the Conservative press readers were, and realised the consequences of accepting her offer. Most of them didn't want to back Scargill, but couldn't see any alternative that wasn't worse.

At the time, I agreed that she had no option but to close the mines - and, for the FOURTH time, that is not the point. It was the way she went about it and, again at the time, it was clear that she was manipulating the NUM into a head-on clash so she could win a great victory over the evil miners and make the NUM into a horrible example for any union that might dare to defy her. Which she did.


When did national governments include saving their prime industries as part of their mandates via tax concessions, tax exemptions with or without duties on rival/competitive foreign goods, etc.? (Not saying it's good, but it's been around a long long time.)


Coal was nationalised by the Labour government after the war, under the National Coal Board. In the late 1940s once the troops had been demobbed (including my father who served in the Royal Navy as an artificer and later an engineering Warrant Officer) coal mining employed about a million people, nearly all living in tight-knit communities near the pit-heads.

By the time of the strike in the mid-80s there were maybe 80,000 coal miners left, producing about a half of the amount of coal per year that the post-war workforce produced thanks mainly to automation but the communities were still there, around pits that had often been producing for fifty years and more. At Cardowan where my father worked before he retired the galleries and tunnels to the coalface ran for miles and it could take workers half an hour on a man-riding train to get to the productive faces from the shaft bottom.

The coal being imported in the 1980s came from places like Poland where labour costs were lower and the mines were fresher. I don't think much of it came from the US. We import very little coal today, burning gas instead for heating and electricity thanks to renewables and the dawning realisation that coal is a filthy fuel to burn anywhere near where anyone lives such as Minneapolis, home to the Labadie power station complex.


Decided to look up the UK definition of 'Prime Minister' in case its primary meaning was 'dictator' on your side of the pond. Nope .. but the search did lead me to Robert Walpole - Britain's first Prime Minister and probably Thatcher's role-model.


Don't hold your breath. I have a friend who is a professor of immunology, and we had a very interesting conversation on this very topic about a year ago. When I said "Is it another of those areas where, if you think you understand it, you don't?" - he grinned and said "Yes". I got psychosomatic hay fever, suddenly, some 25 years back (for known reasons), which has gradually faded after the cause was removed. But few people can identify the triggers, and it is clear that there are a large number of factors involved, genetic, epigenetic, developmental and other.


You might be surprised by how close the powers of a prime minister are to those of a dictator. USA presidential powers are feeble by comparison.


Again, I suggest wibble (or at least, "speculation by those without clue"). It fails the credibility test - not least because with a nuke, the Junta would have been telling the Chileans where to get off...

Next question, given that the UK knew (courtesy of the extremely helpful French and M. Mitterand, who couldn't have done any more to assist) exactly what the operational state was of the Super Etendards, and how many air-launched Exocet had been supplied. How, exactly, would Argentina have delivered these nuclear weapons? Or hidden the fact that they were trained and equipped to do so?

Nothing I have seen or heard in the years since, from any credible source, suggests that this was ever a serious planning consideration when it came to Operation CORPORATE. The whole "Britain wanted to launch Polaris at Buenos Aires" claim is full-on tinfoil hat territory, right up there with the "HMS Invincible was sunk by Exocet and bomb, and the RN covered it up by replacing it with HMS Illustrious" theory beloved of your more fanatical type...


Off the top of my head I can think of at least one delivery system for an Argentinian nuke to attack the fleet which would probably work, although it would be crude and risky. Such an attack was a consideration given that back then a number of states were rumoured to have active bomb development programs, mostly covert (Sweden, for example did some work on developing a nuke but abandoned the effort after a while and South Africa's covert program ran to completion as confirmed publicly after the weapons were dismantled and destroyed). The British response was supposed to be measured and proportionate if the scuttlebut was correct, nuking a military target rather than targetting a civilian population centre like Buenos Aires. There was no consideration to a first-strike option that I've heard of -- even the Black Buck attack only bombed the airfield at Port Stanley rather than Punto Aereas on the mainland.


SFreader @366 said: Andy Weir's The Martian is considered hard SF (i.e., scientifically and technologically accurate) and sold tons!

This is a late comment, so ignore it if you like.

I've read close to 10k books over the past 50+ years, so forgive me if I express an opinion on what SF is.

_The Martian_ is a fun romp. It is Science Fantasy. The only people who write actual Science Fiction are those who write Techno-thrillers, where they use existing tech in interesting ways(i.e., scientifically and technologically accurate). Even the work of Arthur C. Clarke was Science Fantasy.

The so called "Hard SF" is simply presenting the illusion of exlaining the "nuts and bolts". They are following the tradition of Verne, Wells, E.E. "Doc" Smith in describing fictional "nuts and bolts" to hang the story on.

Read the _Mars_ series by Kim Stanley Robinson. Beautiful books, but pure Science Fantasy. Any Civil Engineer, or Navy Seabee can take the fictional "nuts and bolts" apart in minutes, but it does not detract from the romance of the story.


whitroth @357 said:Of course, some of that's a vicious circle -they get less, they sell less, less is submitted.

This is a late comment, so ignore it if you like.

You really need to look at Indy publishing vs Legacy. Read the stuff that Dean Wesley Smith wrote, to get you started. At the top of his home page there are lists of article series you can read "Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing" will get you started.

- deanwesleysmith dot com

Jump in the, water is fine. Check out the reports on Author Earnings to see how Indy is changing publishing.

- authorearnings dot com

Remember, the money flows to the writer, so if someone offers to do everything for you, for just a few thousand dollars, run away. HA!

DIY e-books cost nothing to create. DIY paper books through CreateSpace cost a few dollars because you have to buy a physical copy, and do a Quality Check, to make sure nothing blew up in the process.

Basically: If you can use a wordprocessor, you can do the books DIY. I use Word, LibreOffice, GIMP, Inkscape, Blender, any tool that lets me layout the books, create the covers. I use the Draw part of LibreOffice to assemble the cover. It lets you create "layers" so it is easier to manipulate the different parts of the cover, text and image.

If the concept of using many different programs defeats you, then by all means stick with Legacy publishing.

When in doubt, Google phrases like:

- How do I create a book for CreateSpace

- How do I create an ebook for Kindle

- How do I create a book cover

Google is your friend. Read what Google suggests, and build from there. Many things mentioned will be clearly wrong, others will be closer to what you are looking for. Commonsense is the rule.


Hundreds of years. History of economics/ economic history needs to be much more widely known.


Yes. From what I heard at the time, it was mentioned in a planning paper, probably to be discounted as totally insane even as a last resort; such papers sre supposed to consider all options, after all. The more amusing but less likely theory is that it was proposed as an option, caused a short period of gibbering, and the author was reassigned to plan the naval defence of Rutland.


"Sorry, I'd say she's clear on the Falklands War." Yer, whaa? She caused it, almost as much as Galtieri, by her combination of arrogance, incompetence and negligence. See #428 and #435.

Claiming that "[Thatcher] caused it, almost as much as Galtieri"? Nice polemic, third-rate analysis.

In @428 you say that Thatcher knew where the invasion force was assembling "six weeks in advance". Impressive stuff, seeing that the invasion force only made ready a week before the invasion - and that other warning signs were only really emerging in March (four weeks before at most). I suggest faulty recall on that one.

Again, in @428 you say you knew that South Georgia was "testing the waters", but suspecting isn't enough - the first response was a measured "send HMS Endurance to investigate". Argentina promptly brought forward their plans by two months, in order to avoid the possibility of the arrival of SSN in the area. It's 6000nm from Gibraltar to the Falklands - even at twenty-five knots, that transit time of 240 hours is a day longer than the time between 24 March (Alfredo Astiz disembarks his troops to "protect the salvage workers") and D-Day for Operation ROSARIO on 2 April - any attempt to claim an SSN in the area fails the credibility test. IIRC, there was a handover due of Naval Party 8901 (the Royal Marines detachment based at Moody Brook). The outgoing group were held back, so as to double the RM presence in the area from 40-ish to 80-ish.

Charlie is accusing Thatcher of escalating; while you appear to be suggesting that she didn't escalate enough.

Meanwhile, @435 that suggests the 1977 confrontation was down to "the Argentine Navy cut off the fuel supply to Port Stanley Airport and stated they would no longer fly the Red Ensign in Falklands waters." (the wiki source appears to be "A Damn Close-Run Thing" by Russell Phillips - not apparently footnoted).

Whereas the PRO at Kew and the news articles from 2005 suggest that the primary cause for Operation JOURNEYMAN was the 1977 discovery that Argentina had established a military base on Southern Thule, and shortly afterwards that the Argentinian Navy was harrassing fishing vessels within the Falkland Islands' 200-mile fisheries limit. I note that the airport fuel supply was built, filled, and manned by Argentina in the first place...

Everyone notes the "nice carrier, shame if it sank" message allegedly sent by the deployment of an SSN in 1977, everyone forgets the message of "you landed a handful of military personnel on UK territory, so we sent a tiny Task Force that declared an exclusion zone but did nothing about the land forces or the base, then spent the next few years trying to resolve things using diplomacy"

In summary, they might have read the signs better; Lord Carrington certainly felt that he'd screwed up sufficiently to resign; but I'm unconvinced that your assignation of blame holds water.


Some people (G.L. Foster, D.L. Royer, D.J.Lunt) finally did the (obvious in an abstract sense but looks like a lot of interesting work) very scary paper about GHG forcing plus the fact that Sun is warming over time on the main sequence. Used 5 CO2 proxies (including Ginkgo :-) (I don't know of any previous such paper; anyone know of one?)
Future climate forcing potentially without precedent in the last 420 million years
Here we show that the slow ∼50 Wm^2 increase in TSI over the last ∼420 million years (an increase of ∼9 Wm^2 of radiative forcing) was almost completely negated by a long-term decline in atmospheric CO2.
Humanity’s fossil-fuel use, if unabated, risks taking us, by the middle of the twenty-first century, to values of CO2 not seen since the early Eocene (50 million years ago). If CO2 continues to rise further into the twenty-third century, then the associated large increase in radiative forcing, and how the Earth system would respond, would likely be without geological precedent in the last half a billion years.


Not a credible source.

Firstly, the source for the claim about Thatcher's plans to strike Argentina is a book by Mitterrand's psychiatrist. Hearsay of hearsay. Secondly, the quote about how Thatcher was after the secret codes to "make the missiles deaf and blind"? Utter pish. No such codes, for obvious reasons. And if, as claimed, he handed them over, why were Atlantic Conveyor and Glamorgan both struck by Exocet after Sheffield?

Honestly, you'd have thought a newspaper might have run it past a technical adviser before breathlessly repeating a juicy claim...



As we're past 300 comments, hopefully this isn't too off topic...

My good wife was driving home yesterday listening to Radio 4 when the afternoon drama came on and, as a Laundry fan, she was surprised and delighted to hear what sounded like a Laundry story. It featured government agents setting up protective wards on their smartphones, a shadowy government agency indoctrinating those who blunder into their occult domain and case files with labels like CERULEAN BLUE.

She was particularly surprised to find out that it was actually a drama written by Julian Simpson called 'Mythos':

I didn't / haven't had a chance to listen myself yet but just wondered if OGH was aware of this and how you feel about something hewing this close to your series?


Obvious methods, presuming the AAF had access to basic dumb "physics packages":-
1) The A-4 Skyhawk was actually designed to drop small examples.
2) Canberra cruising at ~57kft would be pretty tricky to intercept with a Harrier + Sidewinder combination.


The problem is the size of a Bucket of Instant Sunshine and range.

First-generation devices tend to be large and bulky -- a gun-type U235 bomb is going to weigh several tonnes minimum, ditto for a simple Pu-based implosion weapon -- see Little Boy and Fat Man for worked examples. It takes a lot of development and testing to get a workable "small ball" free-fall nuke that could be fitted into a strike-fighter's carrying capacity, something like the British W87 or similar. It's unlikely that Argentina could build such a device in a hurry without it becoming common knowledge.

The range of an aircraft capable of carrying such a possible weapon is limited -- the A-4 Skyhawks flying over the Falklands only had a few minutes endurance and then they had to turn back to get home before they ran out of fuel. They had no in-flight refuelling capability and no tankers. The British fleet stayed well to the east of the islands for that reason. A one-way suicide attack might have worked but it would need exact information about the fleet's location before it set off since it couldn't be aborted after a certain point.

My thinking about a nuclear attack on the fleet involves using one of Argentina's old but effective diesel subs to deliver a mine attached to the deck into the fleet's location, assuming it could be located. The mine would be released with a timer, staying well below the surface for an hour or so before floating to the surface and then detonating. This would give the sub a chance to escape.


You are misrepresenting again. I said that it was reported that she had been told that it was being collected 6 weeks ahead; that may have been mistaken, as may my memory of the time period. Anyway, if my analysis is third-rate, hers, yours and that paper's cannot be better than fifth-rate. Those were NOT the only signs, I knew that the invasion was imminent a fortnight ahead, and was not at all surprised when it happened. I wasn't the only one, either.

And it's not just a matter of escalation - Thatcher was warned that proposing to withdraw the Endurance, on top of the known Foreign Office scheme to get rid of the islands, would encourage an Argentine invasion, and ignored such 'negative thinking'. Yes, that's in 1981.


"Honestly, you'd have thought a newspaper might have run it past a technical adviser before breathlessly repeating a juicy claim..."

Good God, why? The UK government hasn't done that for years. The Dodgy Dossier, the claims that Iran was arming ISIS, etc.


Having checked up, the South Georgia incident that was so clearly testing the waters was in December 1981, which showed that the Endurance 'negative thinkers' were right, and it is at THAT point that I would have taken preventative action, mainly diplomatic, but also sabre-rattling. The events there from March 21st onwards made it very clear that an invasion of the Falklands would happen shortly; I can't find references to the event that told me it was imminent.


You're right about your possible method; I'd suggest that I'm also not wrong given that there are at least 3 nations that it's a pretty commonly believed have air delivered physics packages and have never built a generation 1 weapon.

The Skyhawk delivery is dodgy yes, because the pilot has to find the fleet, drop the bomb, escape the blast radius, and then find the Falklands and either land at Port Stanley (not possible after Black Buck 1) or eject and land somewhere he could be picked up from.


Remember that Argentina had bought a pair of Type 42 Destroyers (optimised for anti-aircraft warfare) and was well aware of the abilities of the Sea Dart missile system.

Remember also that one Canberra was shot down by Harrier/Sidewinder; but another was shot down by HMS Exeter or HMS Cardiff (some dispute there), and that HMS Exeter also shot down a LearJet trying for some higher-altitude photo recce.

Put yourself within twenty miles of the Task Force, even if you've avoided the AAW picket, and it's "hello Mr. Sea Dart" time - the most successful SAM of the Falklands, and one that was built against a specification of "30,000 yards range and 65k feet altitude targets". Throw in the Sea Wolf-equipped ships in the fleet...


The problem with submarine deployment was that of the four Argentinian submarines, only two were seaworthy; and in the Royal Navy, they were going up against NATO's subject-matter experts on the hunting and killing of submarines.

The GUPPY-class ARA Santa Fe got depth charged and shot up during Operation PARAQUET (the retaking of South Georgia on 25 April).

The Type-209 ARA San Luis spent the whole post-invasion period trying to get a shot off at an RN ship; and the Royal Navy spent the whole war (and presumably the lives of several whales, some wrecks, and that funny noise that spilled my pint, yes you) dropping depth charges and ASW torpedoes on things that they thought were a submarine.

Sailing a nuclear mine-layer into Falkland Sound and then San Carlos? I wouldn't sell that crew any life insurance policy... And even that is still better than trying to find and attack the Carrier Group, while avoiding the SSN that were also trying to hunt down any SSK in transit. I could make some snippy comment about the likelihood of the nuke going off, as it was discovered that the torpedo maintainers had rewired them incorrectly, so that all of the torpedos that the ARA San Luis fired, failed (mentioned in the Wikipedia article).


Firstly, hindsight is 20/20 vision (6/6, seeing as we're European). Just because you called the invasion two weeks beforehand, doesn't mean that UK Govt should have; you might be a truly gifted foreign policy analyst, or you might just have got lucky...

Secondly, the decision to retake the Falklands was apparently only taken by the Junta in December 1981 (with a target date of May 15), so I suspect a correlation / causation issue here. Things only really got worrisome in March, and the main focus was on Davidoff's party in South Georgia - but he'd had the scrap contract with Salvesen's since the 1970s, although he just kept breaking the rules and causing protests. The Junta advanced the timetable because of the UK reaction to their inclusion of troops with Davidoff's party - we had escalated, but not quickly or severely enough.

Wikipedia makes heavy use of Freedman and Gamba's "Senales de Guerra". While it's not on Google Books, Freedman went on to publish an "Official History", including Volume 1 on the origins of the war.

All previous actions by Argentina over thirty years had involved posturing, the raising of flags, and the use of very small parties of troops. All previous actions had been resolved diplomatically (although the Argentinian base on Southern Thule was still there). HMS Endurance was in-theatre, as was a reinforced party of RM, who along with the FIDF should have been able to cope with any of the previous scales of troops involved.

Allegedly, HMS Superb was ordered south on 28 March. Whether true or not, it rather makes my earlier point - that the UK government could have read the alarm bells correctly, but had no chance of providing an effective deterrent unless it reacted in mid-March or earlier. Unfortunately, that's only a week after the sudden appearance of C-130 at Port Stanley Airport, where it is met by an RM party, and assessed by the consulted RAF engineers to be a genuine emergency diversion (Freedman p.150). Overflights were not uncommon, and had been going on for years - they were seen as the Argentinians maintaining their claims of sovereignty. Their rate may have increased, but is that grounds for escalation?

You blame Thatcher for a war that someone else started; do you blame Chamberlain for WW2?


Of course, it's quite impossible that HMG was arrogant, incompetent and negligent and, in the case of the FCO, idle and self-centred as well. As I say, I was not the only person who saw the writing on the wall in December 1981 - dammit, it was even mentioned in the House of Commons but it was ignored. And, OF COURSE, I would have (and assumed that HMG did) order action on March 19th if my (mainly diplomatic) actions of December had failed - it's normal for scrap metal merchants to summon navy vessels as taxis? - fer chrissake!

And Thatcher WAS responsible - though you seem remarkable keen on passing bucks downwards - because she appointed an upper class twit to the FCO who didn't have a clue what the REAL responsibility of a Foreign Secretary was (*), and a docile nonentity to the MOD because she intended to run that herself.

(*) Ensuring that the mandarins at the FCO (a) got off their arses at least one day a week and (b) didn't put their self-interest before that of the country.

"You blame Thatcher for a war that someone else started; do you blame Chamberlain for WW2?"

Now you're being an arsehole; Chamberlain did the best he could, and is unjustly damned for it. No, I blame Baldwin of the British contingent, obviously. Churchill was right.


The target for a submarine carrying a nuclear mine would be the fleet including the two "through deck cruisers" standing off to the north-east of the Malvinas, not the close-in ships which were being successfully attacked by air. That's open deep water, not the most promising area for a diesel sub to operate in but if needs must...

I've heard it said the British Navy efforts to get the San Luis in brown water close to the islands expended most of the fleet's stock of anti-submarine weaponry and they never even scratched the paint. That doesn't say much for them being subject-matter experts other than proving sub-hunting is very very difficult (not something surface ship drivers like to admit). The British SSN on-station would have a lot of water to cover to carry out anti-sub operations -- if I'd been in charge of the mine-laying operation I'd probably have the northern naval group based around the surviving carrier sortie from port to provide a distraction while the San Luis went off to put the mine in place.

There's a lot of stuff that makes this plan unworkable -- frex the planners would need very accurate and up-to-date info on exactly where the fleet was stationed with particular attention to the carriers, the primary target for such an attack. A sea-surface nuke is a lot less effective than a low-level airburst so it would have to be positioned really well to do significant damage to warships even within a few kilometres of splash zero. Over the horizon it would have little effect, and there was a lot of water out there for the fleet to hide in.


Now you're being an arsehole; Chamberlain did the best he could, and is unjustly damned for it. No, I blame Baldwin of the British contingent, obviously. Churchill was right.
Well ISTR hearing that Chamberlain made his "I have...our time" speech at Croydon, then was driven back to No 10, and called an emergency Cabinet which went something like this:-
"Well gentlemen, I think I've bought us a year.

I need to have your plans for re-arming and emergency plans for putting the nation on a war footing at Cabinet next Tuesday."

Does that sound like something you've heard too?


Have read Robinson's Mars series as well as some techno-thrillers. The nuts & bolts in 'hard SF' is important IMO because it defines the technological (extended arm's) reach of that society. How the characters work with and around those abilities and constraints is central to the story. Probably why Asimov is still a good read.

I'm not saying that the tech described has to be already proven in our time/world, but that the tech/science should be theoretically sound.


Leaving eastern European countries to feel that they had been betrayed. No one in the British gov't noticed that Germany had been increasing its military since 1918? (Carl von Ossietzky, the guy who blew the whistle about this in 1931 was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1935 for making this public.)

So the UK could not claim ignorance about Germany's military re-armament back then. Maybe the Falklands was a replay of determined wilful ignorance on the part of Britain.


"Determined Wilful Ignorance: British policy for over a hundred years, and now also available in America!"


Oh, yes, but Chamberlain was in an untenable position. If Britain had declared war in 1938, we would have lost; even in 1939, it was a damn close-run thing, and the UK came within a gnat's whisker of being conquered twice within the first year. Both times, we were saved only by the enemy making the wrong decision.


Hadn't known about Ossietzky before reading up on German re-armament, nor about that govt's overt antipathy toward journalists that predated Hitler's march on Germany's neighbors. (Hmmm ... Upon rethinking the past 4 years of what's been going on in the US, conclusion is that Clio has a limited imagination.)


Indy publishing vs. "traditional". um, thanks, no. I mentioned that the first novel's been sitting with an agent since early Dec, and I'll wait. The most important part is that in the cover letter, I was being REAALLLLY circumspect about my co-author... since that's my late wife. And in my personal life, NOTHING is as important as her finally being a published author, in a way she, and the family and friends would recognize as the real thing.

If I can't get one of the big five to take it, I'm willing to go down to small presses... that have authors that have won awards (y'know, like the Hugo) - NOT lower.

For another, the smallest advertising and distribution any major publisher would give it is orders of magnitude more than any vanity press book.

And it's a damn good yarn, as they used to say.



Quite. Both Lawrence Durrell and Keith Laumer said they didn't have to exaggerate much (Antrobus and Retief, for those who don't know).