2018 Graduation Music

This message from the Eagles goes out to all those social justice warriors on campus.

Jordan Peterson: “So the first thing that you might want to know about Postmodernism is that it doesn’t have a shred of gratitude — and there’s something pathologically wrong with a person that doesn’t have any gratitude, especially when they live in what so far is the best of all possible worlds. So if you’re not grateful, you’re driven by resentment, and resentment is the worst emotion that you can possibly experience, apart from arrogance. Arrogance, resentment, and deceit. There is an evil triad for you.”

https://rclutz.wordpress.com/2017/06/06/perverse-postmodern-climate-retreat-from-reason/

Alternative song for sending off graduates comes from Bob Dylan:

 

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Seeing What We Presume

This remarkable arrow was designed by a scientist specializing in optical illusions.  In this case, no matter what you do, you can not make your brain see anything other than an arrow pointing right.  The reason is your brain processes the patterns on the object with only that perception possible.

It is the creation of Professor Kokichi Sugihara at Meiji University in Tokyo.  Professor Sugihara has a long history of designing mind-bending objects.  The mathematician provides some complex equations in his paper explaining how such an illusion is possible, but all you really need to know is that the always-right arrow uses forced perspective to exploit your brain’s penchant for finding right angles where there aren’t any.  It may seem like magic, but it’s really just your brain being too efficient in its quest to make order out of chaos.

This is a fun example, but it reminds us of the climate wars where perception bias is also hardwired. And it reminds us that any observer adds a frame of reference on top of objective reality.

Game Changer? Brewing Fuel

There’s been a lot of crazy talk regarding energy coming from the Golden State, but there are also serious scientists in California, especially at Cal Tech, where Steven Koonin studied, taught and served as Provost.  This recent announcement caught my eye: Scientists breed bacteria that make tiny high-energy carbon rings.  Text below with my bolds

Caltech scientists have created a strain of bacteria that can make small but energy-packed carbon rings that are useful starting materials for creating other chemicals and materials. These rings, which are otherwise particularly difficult to prepare, now can be “brewed” in much the same way as beer.

Brewing equipment. Pike Microbrewery, Seattle. Source: Lonely Planet

The bacteria were created by researchers in the lab of Frances Arnold, Caltech’s Linus Pauling Professor of Chemical Engineering, Bioengineering and Biochemistry, using directed evolution, a technique Arnold developed in the 1990s. The technique allows scientists to quickly and easily breed bacteria with the traits that they desire. It has previously been used by Arnold’s lab to evolve bacteria that create carbon-silicon and carbon-boron bonds, neither of which is found among organisms in the natural world. Using this same technique, they set out to build the tiny carbon rings rarely seen in nature.

Familiar energetic organic compounds found in nature.

“Bacteria can now churn out these versatile, energy-rich organic structures,” Arnold says. “With new lab-evolved enzymes, the microbes make precisely configured strained rings that chemists struggle to make.”

In a paper published this month in the journal Science, the researchers describe how they have now coaxed Escherichia coli bacteria into creating bicyclobutanes, a group of chemicals that contain four carbon atoms arranged so they form two triangles that share a side. To visualize its shape, imagine a square piece of paper that’s lightly creased along a diagonal.

Source: Wikipedia

Bicyclobutanes are difficult to make because the bonds between the carbon atoms are bent at angles that put them under a great deal of strain. Bending these bonds away from their natural shape takes a lot of energy and can result in unwanted byproducts if the conditions for their synthesis aren’t just right. But it’s the strain that makes bicyclobutanes so useful. The bent bonds act like tightly wound springs: they pack a lot of energy that can be used to drive chemical reactions, making bicyclobutanes useful precursors to a variety of chemical products, such as pharmaceuticals, agrochemicals, and materials. When strained rings, like bicyclobutanes, are incorporated into larger molecules, they can imbue those molecules with interesting properties—for example, the ability to conduct electricity but only when an external force is applied—making them potentially useful for creating smart materials that are responsive to their environments.

Unlike other carbon rings, such as cyclohexanes and cyclopentanes, bicyclobutanes are rarely found in nature. This could be due to their inherit instability or the lack of suitable biological machineries for their assembly. But now, Arnold and her team have shown that bacteria can be genetically reprogrammed to produce bicyclobutanes from simple commercial starting materials. As the E. coli cells go about their bacterial business, they churn out bicyclobutanes. The setup is kind of like putting sugar and letting it ferment into alcohol.

“To our surprise, the enzymes can be engineered to efficiently make such crazy carbon rings under ambient conditions,” says graduate student Kai Chen, lead author on the paper. “This is the first time anyone has introduced a non-native pathway for bacteria to forge these high-energy structures.”

Chen and his colleagues, postdocs Xiongyi Huang, Jennifer Kan, and graduate student Ruijie Zhang, did this by giving the bacteria a copy of a gene that encodes an enzyme called cytochrome P450. The enzyme had previously been modified through directed evolution by the Arnold lab and others to create molecules containing small rings of three carbon atoms—essentially half of a bicyclobutane group.

“The beauty is that a well-defined active-site environment was crafted in the enzyme to greatly facilitate formation of these high-energy molecules,” Huang says.

The precision with which the bacterial enzymes do their work also allows the researchers to efficiently make the exact strained rings they want, with a precise configuration and in a single chiral form. Chirality is a property of molecules in which they can be “right-handed” or “left-handed,” with each form being the mirror image of the other. It matters because living things are selective about which “handedness” of a molecule they use or produce. For instance, all living things exclusively use the right-handed form of the sugar ribose (the backbone of DNA), and many chiral pharmaceutical chemicals are only effective in one handedness; in the other, they can be toxic.

Chiral forms of a molecule are difficult to separate from one another, but by changing the genetic code of the bacteria, the researchers can ensure the enzymes favor one chiral product over another. Mutation in the genes tuned the enzymes to forge a broad range of bicyclobutanes with high precision.

Kan says advancements like theirs are pushing chemistry in a greener direction.

“In the future, instead of building chemical plants for making the products we need to improve lives, wouldn’t it be great if we could just program bacteria to make what we want?” Kan says.

The paper, titled “Enzymatic Construction of Highly Strained Carbocycles,” appears in the April 5 issue of Science.

 

Fools, Idealists and Cynics

As recent posts have shown, the climate movement is mounting a cynical legal maneuver modeled after the tobacco lawsuit strategy decades ago.  This post on April 1 provides some quotations for insight into the linkage between foolishness, idealism and the endpoint of cynicism.

 

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Footnote:

This post was inspired by Pointman’s blog post THE SECOND GREAT EXTINCTION OF THE LIBERAL DREAM.

Some tidbits that resonated:

There was something which happened in the 1980s which was variously labeled the death of the liberal dream or the great extinction of the liberal dream. It was much discussed at the time, but you’ll rarely hear of it in any political discussion nowadays. In essence, it was a seismic and global shift away from the statist, left-wing ideas that had held sway in government circles through most of the 70s. The entire world seemed to be moving towards the right and any surviving liberal ideals became the exclusive province of raggedy assed hippies moving into middle-age or embittered politicians who were also products of the 60s, but were now severely out of touch with the modern Zeitgeist.

By the dawn of the 80s, the world was ready, if not desperate, for practical, effective politicians like Reagan and Thatcher, both of whom never sat well with their own political establishment, but would go on to do a job of societal re-engineering that brought back prosperity and culminated in the political grand slam of the Berlin wall coming down in 89, which marked the effective demise of the Soviet Union and a half century long ideological battle.

If any of that lot sounds familiar, then welcome to 2016 and the supposedly massive surprise of Trump being elected.

It’s a return to respecting traditional values which actually never went away, because without them, any civilisation would implode. Country, family, responsibility and common decency. There’s an old saying – comes the day, comes the man, and America in it’s relatively short history, has been inordinately fortunate in that respect. In its hour of need, it seems to cough up just the right man. Trump is smart, tough and always up for a scrap. I’ve no doubt he has his flaws, but his visceral support for those values and his intention to move them back into the centre of American life is the basis of his appeal to his electorate.

Mueller Indictment Implications

The ramifications of the recent indictments are explored by California attorney Robert Barnes writing Feb. 17 in the journal Law and Crime Does Mueller Indictment Mean Clinton Campaign Can Be Indicted for Chris Steele? Text below with my bolds.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted foreign citizens for trying to influence the American public about an election because those citizens did not register as a foreign agent nor record their financial expenditures to the Federal Elections Commission. By that theory, when will Mueller indict Christopher Steele, FusionGPS, PerkinsCoie, the DNC and the Clinton Campaign? Mueller’s indictment against 13 Russian trolls claimed their social media political activity was criminal because: they were foreign citizens; they tried to influence an election; and they neither registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act nor reported their funding to the Federal Elections Commission.

First, if Mueller’s theory is correct, three things make Steele a criminal: first, he is a foreign citizen; second, he tried to influence an election, which he received payments to do (including from the FBI itself); and third, he neither registered as a foreign agent nor listed his receipts and expenditures to the Federal Election Commission. Also, according to the FBI, along the way, Steele lied…a lot, while the dossier he disseminated contained its own lies based on bought-and-paid for smears from foreign sources reliant on rumors and innuendo.

Second, if Mueller’s theory is correct, three things make FusionGPS a criminal co-conspirator: it knew Steele was a foreign citizen; it knew, and paid, Steele to influence an election; and it knew, and facilitated, Steele neither registering as a foreign agent nor reporting his funding from the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign to the Federal Election Commission.

Third, if Mueller’s theory is correct, then three things make PerkinsCoie a potential target: it knew Steele was a foreign citizen; it knew, and paid, Steele to influence an election; and it knew, and facilitated, Steele neither registering as a foreign agent nor reporting his funding from the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign to the Federal Election Commission, by disguising its receipt of payments from the Clinton campaign as a “legal expense.”

Fourth, if Mueller’s theory is correct, then three things make the DNC a potential target: it knew Steele was a foreign citizen; it knew, and paid, Steele to influence an election; and it knew, and facilitated, Steele neither registering as a foreign agent nor reporting his funding from the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign to the Federal Election Commission, by disguising its payments to Steele as laundered legal expenses to a law firm.

Fifth, if Mueller’s theory is correct, three things make the Clinton Campaign a potential target: it knew Steele was a foreign citizen; it knew, and paid, Steele to influence an election; and it knew, and facilitated, Steele neither registering as a foreign agent nor reporting his funding from the Clinton campaign to the Federal Election Commission, by disguising its funding of payments to Steele laundered through a law firm as a “legal expense.”

Don’t expect such an indictment. Mueller chose his targets because he knows they will never appear in court, never contest the charges, and cannot be arrested or extradited as Russian citizens. Mueller’s unprecedented prosecution raises three novel arguments: first, that speaking out about American politics requires a foreign citizen to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act; second, that speaking out about American politics requires a foreign citizen list their source and expenditure of funding to the Federal Election Commission; and third, that mistakes on visa applications constitute “fraud” on the State Department. All appear to borrow from the now-discredited “honest services” theories Mueller’s team previously used in corporate and bribery cases, cases the Supreme Court overturned for their unconstitutional vagueness. The indictment raises serious issues under the free speech clause of the First Amendment and due process rights under the Fifth Amendment.

Robert Barnes is a California-based trial attorney whose practice focuses on Constitutional, criminal and civil rights law.

Summary

Don’t overlook the implication in the final paragraph, namely that expressing opinions about candidates is protected free speech, even for foreigners. Mueller presents indictments he will never have to prove in court to create the appearance of a crime. His circus needs a crime as justification, and to go after targets for conspiring or lying about that “crime”. It is a clever, but flimsy legal fiction, as Barnes shows it could apply to a lot of political discourse.

And social media is an unlikely place to apply some legal standard, since people, robots and puppets say all kinds of things often hiding behind handles.  In case you have forgotten, Dave Chappelle reminds us what the internet is like in the classic video  What if the internet was a real place?

 

 

US Election Rigged, Trump Won Anyway

Details are provided by Ross McKitrick in a background paper: The Nunes Memo and the Horowitz Report: Popcorn  Edition1 Ross McKitrick  January 29, 2018

I find the backstory to be as gripping as any paperback spy thriller. But the plot is
complicated and there are many moving parts. Herein, based on my readings, is my surmise
about what the 4 page Nunes memo contains, and also what a forthcoming report by
Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz will conclude. I have included
some source citations but left many out since there are too many to list.

Chapter 1: Benghazi and Hillary’s Emails

Chapter 2: The Clinton Email Investigation

Chapter 3: Steele Visits the FBI

Chapter 4: The DoJ Inspector General Investigation

Chapter 5: The Trump Tower Wiretap

Chapter 6: Mueller Appointed Special Counsel

Final Chapter: The Two Reports

The Onion weighs in:  

FBI Warns Republican Memo Could Undermine Faith In Massive, Unaccountable Government Secret Agencies

WASHINGTON—Stressing that such an action would be highly reckless, FBI Director Christopher Wray warned Thursday that releasing the “Nunes Memo” could potentially undermine faith in the massive, unaccountable government secret agencies of the United States. “Making this memo public will almost certainly impede our ability to conduct clandestine activities operating outside any legal or judicial system on an international scale,” said Wray, noting that it was essential that mutual trust exist between the American people and the vast, mysterious cabal given free rein to use any tactics necessary to conduct surveillance on U.S. citizens or subvert religious and political groups. “If we take away the people’s faith in this shadowy monolith exempt from any consequences, all that’s left is an extensive network of rogue, unelected intelligence officers carrying out extrajudicial missions for a variety of subjective, and occasionally personal, reasons.” At press time, Wray confirmed the massive, unaccountable government secret agencies were unaware of any wrongdoing for violating constitutional rights.