Archive for the ‘Mental Irrationality’ Category

Privatize profit, socialize debt…

Thursday, October 24th, 2013

“Privatize profit, socialize debt… and risk… and pretty much everything else.  This is the current global system and the pattern is apparent everywhere.  If many sectors of the economy actually had to pay their way they would not be profitable at all.  The state of ecosystems around the world stands as testimony.”

Kierin Mackenzie – seen on Facebook, 24 October 2013

– Kierin’s a friend of mine and a tireless worker for all sort of issues.  This quote of his captures, in such a succinct way, the state of the world today as the corporate takeover of government proceeds apace and the world’s public sleeps through the event.

– dennis


The most depressing Discovery about the Brain, Ever

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013

“It turns out that in the public realm, a lack of information isn’t the real problem.  The hurdle is how our minds work, no matter how smart we think we are.  We want to believe we’re rational, but reason turns out to be the ex post facto way we rationalize what our emotions already want to believe.”

– Makes sense to me.  So many decisions I see being made in our world seem so inexplicable.   As Paul Simon wrote in his song, “The Boxer”:

“A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.”

– dennis

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Educating monkeys

Say goodnight to the dream that education, journalism, scientific evidence, or reason can provide the tools that people need in order to make good decisions.

Yale law school professor Dan Kahan’s new research paper is called “Motivated Numeracy and Enlightened Self-Government,” but for me a better title is the headline on science writer Chris Mooney’s  piece about it in Grist:  “Science Confirms: Politics Wrecks Your Ability to Do Math.”

Kahan conducted some ingenious experiments about the impact of political passion on people’s ability to think clearly.  His conclusion, in Mooney’s words: partisanship “can even undermine our very basic reasoning skills…. [People] who are otherwise very good at math may totally flunk a problem that they would otherwise probably be able to solve, simply because giving the right answer goes against their political beliefs.”

In other words, say goodnight to the dream that education, journalism, scientific evidence, media literacy or reason can provide the tools and information that people need in order to make good decisions.  It turns out that in the public realm, a lack of information isn’t the real problem.  The hurdle is how our minds work, no matter how smart we think we are.  We want to believe we’re rational, but reason turns out to be the ex post facto way we rationalize what our emotions already want to believe.

For years my go-to source for downer studies of how our hard-wiring makes democracy hopeless has been  Brendan Nyhan, an assistant professor of government at Dartmouth.

Nyan and his collaborators have been running experiments trying to answer this terrifying question about American voters: Do facts matter?

The answer, basically,  is no.  When people are misinformed, giving them facts to correct those errors only makes them cling to their beliefs more tenaciously.

– More:
– Thanks to Gus H. for a correction to my Boxer quote.

Human irrationality

Friday, August 30th, 2013

I’ve cited three things that are illustrative of humanities irrationality:

1. Near vs far

2. Now vs. future

3. Concrete vs abstract

Humans irrationally favor near, now and concrete over far, then and abstract and because of this bias, they make bad decisions.

Now, add a fourth: Personal vs. Them as in me and mine and they and theirs.

But, the deep truth that shows the irrationality of all of these biases is the simple fact that everything in this world is ‘one’.


Paris notes: 5 August 2013

Thursday, August 8th, 2013

I have to say that sometimes the news brings me down so badly.

I’ve been thinking about and advocating the idea that until humanity decides that its highest priority is to maximize the quality of life for all, we will inevitably fall victim to the default alternative which is that every individual’s highest priority is to look out for themselves.

And, by themselves, I mean both individual people and corporations.

Today, I read the August 5th copy of the International Herald Tribune and there was this:

In need of a new hip, but priced out of the U.S.” – A man went to Belgium and had his hip replaced for $13,600 USD. You’ll have to read the article to see how much it would have cost him in the U.S., and why.

I warn you, it’s going to be all about profits over the welfare of people.

And then this:

Nuclear scandal snowballs in S. Korea” – A story about how many of the tests and inspections that were intended to ensure the safety of S. Korean nuclear plants has been discovered to have been faked by the testing companies and the nuclear plant designers.

I warn you, it’s going to be all about profits over the welfare of people.

And then this:

As cost of importing food soars, Jamaica turns to the earth” – a little story about how the Jamaican government is now strongly advising people to begin to grow their own food.

I wonder if any of you saw the documentary entitled, ‘Life and Debt’ 10 or 15 years ago? It was about Jamaica, Mon.

It was about the arrival of “Globalization’ and how the low price of imported grain had driven most of the small farmers off their land and into the cities since they could not complete with the price of the grain being dumped into their market.

But, at the time it was explained, ‘Globalization’ was all for the good of all of us long-term.

Now that the Jamaicans don’t grow much food, it’s the time to hike the prices and squeeze them. And so the circle turns.

I warn you, it’s going to be all about profits over the welfare of people.

And that was just one issue of the paper on an apparently normal day.

And then when I tell people that the corporations, looking out for their own best interests, are steadily taking over governments and their regulatory processes – and I see that they think I’m peddling conspiracy theories to them, I’m stunned.

It’s as if I’m watching a line of cows entering the slaughter house and I’m warning them about where they’re going and they all laugh; sure that they are off to a Caribbean vacation.

I haven’t posted much here for awhile since I’ve been traveling.  But, not much need.   Nothing’s changed.


“endorsement of free-market economics predicted rejection of climate science”

Monday, April 29th, 2013


Although nearly all domain experts agree that carbon dioxide emissions are altering the world’s climate, segments of the public remain unconvinced by the scientific evidence. Internet blogs have become a platform for denial of climate change, and bloggers have taken a prominent role in questioning climate science. We report a survey of climate-blog visitors to identify the variables underlying acceptance and rejection of climate science. Our findings parallel those of previous work and show that endorsement of free-market economics predicted rejection of climate science. Endorsement of free markets also predicted the rejection of other established scientific findings, such as the facts that HIV causes AIDS and that smoking causes lung cancer. We additionally show that, above and beyond endorsement of free markets, endorsement of a cluster of conspiracy theories (e.g., that the Federal Bureau of Investigation killed Martin Luther King, Jr.) predicted rejection of climate science as well as other scientific findings. Our results provide empirical support for previous suggestions that conspiratorial thinking contributes to the rejection of science. Acceptance of science, by contrast, was strongly associated with the perception of a consensus among scientists.

– To the original:


Pentagon weapons-maker finds method for cheap, clean water

Thursday, April 4th, 2013

– A-hem.  Yes, it will be very nice if this is true.  And I’d like to believe it is.  But….

– Well, you knew there was going to be a ‘but‘ didn’t you?

– On one hand, the conspiracy theorists (who generally are a bit light on their science education chops) are always telling us how it’s possible to run cars on water or to pull energy straight out of the air and that they know for a fact that a fellow named Bubba in Alabama or Colorado has got it all working in his garage and has showed hundreds of people … but that the government is doing its best to shut him down.  But Bubba’ll sell you a kit quietly for $39 in the mail if you’d like to get in on it all early before the rush.

– But there’s the other side of this phenomenon as well.  And that’s when we see these exciting new discovery announcements like the one I’m blogging about now in relatively reputable publications.


– Do I sound cynical?  

– Well, for me cynicism began all the way back in the early 80’s when I read an article in OMNI magazine that a Dr. Bussard down near San Diego in La Jolla had made a breakthrough in the theoretical physics of nuclear fusion.  Even then, we all knew that if fusion could be made real, it would be a world shaker.   This fellow had, apparently, started a small company, International Nuclear Energy Systems,  in preparation for taking all of this ‘live’.

– I took a day off from work and drove my motorcycle down from Long Beach (100km or so) to find these people.  I was going to beg and cajole my way into working with them – for free, if I had to.  

– I had an address for their company in an industrial park.  But Dr. Bussard wasn’t there when I called so I talked with a receptionist and looked at some flashy pamphlets.  After she said, ‘no’, the boss wasn’t in, I told her how far I’d come, she took pity on me and gave me a home address and told me I might try there.  So, I rode off again and eventually I found a very upscale looking house near the sea also in La Jolla, I think.  

– I knocked on the door and a young woman in her early 20’s answered.  ‘No’, her father, Dr. Bussard, wasn’t home.   I asked if she knew much about his work and told her how impressed I was with what I’d read and why I wanted to meet him.  ‘No’, she knew it was a big deal but she didn’t know a lot about it.

Truthfully, I think she found me of more interest than the fusion stuff and she asked me in to visit which rather amazed me.  But, I digress.

– I left my contact data and as much of my enthusiasm as I though I could convey through her and I departed back to Long Beach no wiser than I’d come.

– Well, nothing ever happened from any of this.  The world was not shaken by a new fusion technology and, other than that magazine article, I never heard of any of these folks again until I stopped this evening to do a bit of long-after-the-fact research.  

– You can read about some of what I found here and here. 

The fellow’s name was Robert Bussard and he was, in fact, quite a famous scientist and he was the inventor of the Bussard Ram Jet.  But his fusion ideas were, apparently not to be.

– Then, we can all remember the fiasco over cold fusion, yes?  

– And then, as well, a few months ago, I read that a new way of storing energy had been discovered and it was going to revolutionize the world.  Because now we could gather up sunlight power all day, store it and then release it at night.   All they needed was a few months to perfect the process.

– And look!  Here’s another.   In this one, we’re going to store the energy in a certain semi-magical molecule.  We’ll be able to just carry this chemical around quite safely and then, when we need the energy back, it’ll just ‘pop’ out in the form of heat.   Is that cool or what?  Yeah, right.   Just a few months or years away.


– So now, in this article, we have a new way to make cheap, clean water?   Well, maybe.  I mean I am hopeful but so many of these breakthroughs seem to, in the end, go pfffff to nowhere.

– I had a female friend years ago that loved to give me a bad time about things in general,  And she just loved to say to me that, “I was always patting the bed and telling folks how good it was going to be but that nothing ever happened.”   And then she’d laugh and laugh (smile).   Somehow, that anecdote seems appropriate.

– Anyway, please enjoy the article.  

– I’m going to go off now and see if they’ve found pieces of the Ark on top of Mount Ararat (again).  It’s an exciting quest.   You can follow along here:  ,   or  

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* Filter could sharply cut energy needed to remove salt from water

* Officials say firm has patented process, looking for partners

* Cheaper seawater purification could help ease water security fears

A defense contractor better known for building jet fighters and lethal missiles says it has found a way to slash the amount of energy needed to remove salt from seawater, potentially making it vastly cheaper to produce clean water at a time when scarcity has become a global security issue.

The process, officials and engineers at Lockheed Martin Corp say, would enable filter manufacturers to produce thin carbon membranes with regular holes about a nanometer in size that are large enough to allow water to pass through but small enough to block the molecules of salt in seawater. A nanometer is a billionth of a meter.

Because the sheets of pure carbon known as graphene are so thin – just one atom in thickness – it takes much less energy to push the seawater through the filter with the force required to separate the salt from the water, they said.

The development could spare underdeveloped countries from having to build exotic, expensive pumping stations needed in plants that use a desalination process called reverse osmosis.

“It’s 500 times thinner than the best filter on the market today and a thousand times stronger,” said John Stetson, the engineer who has been working on the idea. “The energy that’s required and the pressure that’s required to filter salt is approximately 100 times less.”

– More…  

– Research thanks to Tony H.


The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food

Saturday, February 23rd, 2013

– I rave a lot about the evil that multinational corporations are in our world.  The central complaint is that these hugely powerful entities (of the 100 largest economies in the world today, 53 are corporations) have only a single goal and that is to maximize the return on investment for their share-holders.  

– You’ll need to think about that for awhile to realize just how deeply dysfunctional that is for our world.  

– If you want to see how it works in detail in just one domain; food, then reading this will provide you with an excellent and sobering education.

– dennis

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On the evening of April 8, 1999, a long line of Town Cars and taxis pulled up to the Minneapolis headquarters of Pillsbury and discharged 11 men who controlled America’s largest food companies. Nestlé was in attendance, as were Kraft and Nabisco, General Mills and Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola and Mars. Rivals any other day, the C.E.O.’s and company presidents had come together for a rare, private meeting. On the agenda was one item: the emerging obesity epidemic and how to deal with it. While the atmosphere was cordial, the men assembled were hardly friends. Their stature was defined by their skill in fighting one another for what they called “stomach share” — the amount of digestive space that any one company’s brand can grab from the competition.

James Behnke, a 55-year-old executive at Pillsbury, greeted the men as they arrived. He was anxious but also hopeful about the plan that he and a few other food-company executives had devised to engage the C.E.O.’s on America’s growing weight problem. “We were very concerned, and rightfully so, that obesity was becoming a major issue,” Behnke recalled. “People were starting to talk about sugar taxes, and there was a lot of pressure on food companies.” Getting the company chiefs in the same room to talk about anything, much less a sensitive issue like this, was a tricky business, so Behnke and his fellow organizers had scripted the meeting carefully, honing the message to its barest essentials. “C.E.O.’s in the food industry are typically not technical guys, and they’re uncomfortable going to meetings where technical people talk in technical terms about technical things,” Behnke said. “They don’t want to be embarrassed. They don’t want to make commitments. They want to maintain their aloofness and autonomy.”

– to the original:

– research thanks to Rolf A.



Who do you trust on Climate Change?

Sunday, December 2nd, 2012

It’s a valid question.  We all know that there are climate change deniers and climate change proponents out there.  And they each seem to be deeply convinced of their point of view.

One could get cynical and jaded regarding the issue and it’s easy to believe that these ongoing arguments are just the same old arguments being hashed out over and over again with neither side budging year after year.

But is it a static and unchanging argument?

Well, I’m going to tell you that it is not.  And I’m going to give you the proof.  And afterwards, you can ask yourself if,  perhaps, you’ve been a bit too lackadaisical about all of this.

Who loves you, Baby?

When it comes TIME to put your money and your belief down on a issue like this, who would you trust?

Would you trust the tree-huggers who seem to go on and on about saving nature – with seemingly no regard for preserving our jobs, our communities and our way of life?

Or would you trust the big oil, gas and coal corporations who tell us there’s nothing to worry about but whose profits are deeply dependent on all of us continuing to burn the fossil fuels they produce and sell to us?

Well, that’s a tough choice and it’s one we’ve been looking at for some time now.

New boys in town

But there are new players in this game now.  And these new folks have some very serious money and responsibilities on the table.  So, it is worth waking up again on this issue and seeing what they have to say.

Among these new players are the U.S. Pentagon, Lloyd’s of London and The World Bank, to name a few.  I think you’d agree that in a world full of monkey’s, these are some of the gorillas.

All of them have decided that the threat of Global Climate Change sounds serious enough that they’ve commissioned major studies to get at the truth of the matter for their own good.  And it is not surprising that they would.

The World Bank makes huge investments around the world and the success or failure of these investments may hinge on whether the threat of Global Climate Change is real.

Lloyd’s of London sells insurance. And when they do so, they are making a bet that they know what the odds are that a disaster might happen.   The fact that they’ve been in business for centuries, and that they are one of the world’s largest insurance firms, says that they know what they are doing when it comes to estimating risk.

And, of course, the U.S. Pentagon has the enormous responsibility of making sure that United States is, and remains, secure in the face of a changing world.

The studies they’ve commissioned have all come back saying that we, as a world, are proceeding into some very deep and serious problems.  These studies have confirmed what the environmentalists and the climate scientists have been trying to tell us for more than twenty plus years now.

Read it all for yourself

But don’t trust what I have to say on all of this.   Read it for yourself.  Here are the direct links:

The World Bank:

Lloyd’s of London:  http:


U.S. Pentagon:

The Central Point

The central point in all of this is that Global Climate Change is real and it is a MAJOR threat to all of our futures.

That said, the worst aspects of these threats may still be a decade or two away.   Many of us are old enough (myself included) to think that none of this may matter to us.

But reflect for a moment on those you love.   Your sons, your daughters, your grandchildren and your relatives and their families and all the other folks you care about.

Just imagine the kind of a world we are on the brink of bequeathing them if all of this is true.  I know that none of you would willingly leave your dependents in dire straits.   So, you owe it to yourself and to them to open your mind and take a good look at these issues again, my friends.

A few samples from the reports

Here we’re going to learn that the world is well on its way to being 4°C [7.2°F] warmer by the end of the century.

Ironically, twenty years ago in 1992, the climate scientists who met in Rio then warned that the world could simply not sustain a temperature increase of more than 2°C with out major consequences.

Of that 2°C, we’ve now risen .8°C.


The World Bank Report says:

A 4°C warmer world can, and must be, avoided – we need to hold warming below 2°C.  Lack of action on climate change threatens to make the world our children inherit a completely different world than we are living in today. Climate change is one of the single biggest challenges facing development, and we need to assume the moral responsibility to take action on behalf of future generations, especially the poorest.

A 4°C [7.2°F] warmer world would also suffer more extreme heat waves, and these events will not be evenly distributed across the world, according to the report.

Sub-tropical Mediterranean, northern Africa, the Middle East, and the contiguous United States are likely to see monthly summer temperatures rise by more than 6°C [10.8°F]. Temperatures of the warmest July between 2080-2100 in the Mediterranean are expected to approach 35°C [95°F]– about 9°C [16.2°Fwarmer than the warmest July estimated for the present day. The warmest July month in the Sahara and the Middle East will see temperatures as high as 45°C [113°F], or 6-7°C [10.8-12.6°F] above the warmest July simulated for the present day.

Hotter weather could in turn lower crop yields in a 4°C [7.2°F] world—raising concerns about future food security. Field experiments have shown that crops are highly sensitive to temperatures above certain thresholds. One study cited in the report found that each “growing degree day” spent at a temperature of 30°C [86°F] degrees decreases yields by 1% under drought-free rain-fed conditions.

The report also says drought-affected areas would increase from 15.4% of global cropland today, to around 44% by 2100. The most severely affected regions in the next 30 to 90 years will likely be in southern Africa, the United States, southern Europe and Southeast Asia, says the report. 

The Lloyd’s of London Report says:

If the sea level were to rise just four meters due to climate change, almost every coastal city in the world would be inundated.

In publishing this report, it is not Lloyd’s intention to take a particular position, or to support a specific scenario. We simply aim to present the facts from the most reliable sources in a way which we hope will be helpful for those who trade in, and with, our market. We also want to generate debate about the specific steps which we might take as an industry to prepare for the increasing volatility of the climate.

Although debate continues, the growing body of evidence on greenhouse gases suggests that significant climate change is inevitable. Even if we stopped producing greenhouse gas emissions immediately, we would still experience rising temperatures for decades to come and sea temperatures will continue to rise for many centuries, due to inertia in the climate system.

We might hope that extreme ‘tipping points’ – the point beyond which change cannot be reversed – can be avoided. However, evidence so far must lead us to conclude that some level of change has already occurred and that it will continue to occur, perhaps at a higher level than previously thought.

One recent paper in Nature warns starkly: “Global warming may proceed at or even above the upper extreme of the range projected by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.”

The Pentagon Report says:

Projected climate change poses a serious threat to America’s national security. The predicted effects of climate change over the coming decades include extreme weather events, drought, flooding, sea level rise, retreating glaciers, habitat shifts, and the increased spread of life-threatening diseases. These conditions have the potential to disrupt our way of life and to force changes in the way we keep ourselves safe and secure.

The nature and pace of climate changes being observed today and the consequences projected by the consensus scientific opinion are grave and pose equally grave implications for our national security. Moving beyond the arguments of cause and effect, it is important that the U.S. military begin planning to address these potentially devastating effects. The consequences of climate change can affect the organization, training, equipping, and planning of the military services. The U.S.
military has a clear obligation to determine the potential impacts of climate change on its ability to execute its missions in support of national security objectives.

In the national and international security environment, climate change threatens to add new hostile and stressing factors. On the simplest level, it has the potential to create sustained natural and humanitarian disasters on a scale far beyond those we see today. The consequences will likely foster political instability where societal demands exceed the capacity of governments to cope.

Unlike most conventional security threats that involve a single entity acting in specific ways and points in time, climate change has the potential to result in multiple chronic conditions, occurring globally within the same time frame.  Economic and environmental conditions in already fragile areas will further erode as food production declines, diseases increase, clean water becomes increasingly scarce, and large populations move in search of resources. Weakened and failing governments, with an already thin margin for survival, foster the conditions for internal conflicts, extremism, and movement toward increased authoritarianism and radical ideologies.

So, what do you do with all of this?

You might wonder why I am writing this?  What do I expect you, my readers, to do with this information?  Maybe you suspect that I am hoping that all of you will undergo a sudden conversion and become rabid tree-huggers?

Nope, it is none of those and this is not a partisan based appeal either.   This is decidedly not about Conservative vs. Liberal or Religious vs. Secular.

It may be true, in general, that Liberals have been quicker than Conservatives to embrace a belief in Global Climate Change. But, in truth, neither side’s response to these problems has been anything other than tepid and lukewarm.  The best you can say for the Liberals is that they are still willing to “talk” about it though they’ve showed no serious signs of engaging it.   And with the Conservatives, it’s even worse as they are seeming moving away from the issues.

In 2008 the Republican party platform at least included language that called for a “decrease in emissions, reduction of excess greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and mitigation of the impact of climate change“.

By this most recent election cycle, there was a major shift away from this point-of-view.  The Republican 2012 platform eliminated any reference to climate change with the exception of prohibiting the “EPA from moving forward with new greenhouse gas regulations.”  Their platform also supported vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan’s accusation that climatologists use “statistical tricks to distort their findings and intentionally mislead the public on the issue of climate change.”

It is deeply scary that the Republican Party, that represents half of the American population, is in active denial of Global Climate Change.  And it is only slightly better that the Democrats at least still profess to still “believe” in the issue.  But all President Obama has really offered up in terms of improving things is to implement some better mileage requirements for cars.  In truth, he’s literally just messing with the deck furniture while the Titanic sails on to its appointment with an iceberg called Global Climate Change.

Folks, I’ll repeat myself.   This isn’t a partisan rant, this isn’t about Republicans vs. Democrats.  The  issues we’re talking about here cut a lot deeper than any of that.

What this is about is trying to convince you that these threats are terrifying and real,  And that they are going effect everyone and everyplace on this planet before long and that some of the biggest power players and smartest people on the planet are coming to that profound realization.

Vote – that’s what it’s about

This is about getting you to think about who you vote for because that is the leverage that each of us in a democratic society has to affect things.  Political parties don’t lead.   They simply reflect the beliefs of those whom they consider their electorate.  You, the voters, have to change and your parties will follow.  Show your change by who you vote for.

I urge you to vote for people, regardless of whether they are conservative or liberal, who’ve

A. Shown that they understand the issues around Global Climate Change.

B. And shown that they believe the issues are real and hugely important.

C. And shown that they are motivated to do something about it.

Many of our current politicians on both sides of the aisle  just cannot seem to see that the world is changing around us in dangerous ways.  For whatever reason, many of our current politicians are in serious denial about the coming consequences of Global Climate Change.

And in their denial they are frittering away all of our futures.  And most especially they are frittering away the futures of our children.

If you still have doubts about all of this, then go back and reread the reports I’ve referenced by the Pentagon, The World Bank and Lloyd’s of London again.  And then reflect on who these organizations are.  They are not tree-huggers or environmental destroyers.  And they most definitely are not here with ulterior motives to pull the wool over our eyes.

And these three organizations are not the only ones.  Governments and major business organizations all over the world are beginning to worry about what’s coming.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could get the people we elect to wake up  and smell the coffee too?



Indonesia heads for the 13th century

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

– In a recent article, I lambasted the Islamic Fundamentalist Taliban for wanting to take us back to the 13th century.

– I also cited how big Islam is here on Earth:

If you look up Islam on the web, you will learn that 50 countries have Muslim majorities.  23% of the world’s population is Muslim.   Islam is the second largest religion in the world after Christianity.  And, Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world.

– Let’s add to that the fact that the most populous Islamic nation is Indonesia.

– So, it comes as more than a bit worrying that Indonesia’s Education and Culture Ministry is planning on changing the curriculum for Indonesia primary students.  See these links:    , , and 

– They are going to emphasize religious and Indonesian nationalist studies and eliminate Science and English studies.

– dennis

The U.S. Economic situation – some eye popping numbers…

Sunday, October 28th, 2012

Click here: for the U. S. Debt Clock numbers.

– Research thanks to Alex C.