Nikki Haley is not a moderate

Today is the day of the South Carolina Republican primary where Nikki Haley is expected to lose handily to serial sex abuser Donald Trump (SSAT).

The Daily Show‘s Desi Lydic says that the media is describing Haley as a moderate when she is as extreme, and on some issues even more so, than SSAT. She even boasts of the fact that she is so conservative.

So. why is the media so quick to label her a moderate? Lydic says that nowadays to acquire the label of moderate in the Republican party is to merely acknowledge the obvious, that Joe Biden won the 2020 election. Of course, that does not make you a moderate. It only means that you are not delusional.

Converting text into realistic video

When I was watching the documentary series Life On Our Planet, I was struck by how realistic the CGI was. The prehistoric animals wandering through nature seemed as if they were being actually filmed, with both them and background details finely portrayed. I wondered how much time and effort had gone into getting it to look like that.

Life on Our Planet takes advantage of modern CGI and photography techniques that mean film shot in natural habitats, footage of animals that are real but have been transferred to a studio and sequences conjured from scratch on a computer are nearly indistinguishable. Some of the extinct land-based animals digitally brought back to life look a little like they’re hovering across the ground as they walk, and there are a few scenes where implausible numbers of dinosaurs have gathered on the same landscape for a nice photo, but we largely move smoothly between then and now.

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Trump’s vice-presidential shortlist

It has long been standard practice for presidential candidates to provide teasers about who they might pick to be their running mates. This gives them the chance to pander to various constituencies by suggesting that the final choice might represent them, while also encouraging those who think they have a shot at it to stay loyal and support them.

Serial sex abuser Donald Trump (SSAT) has followed that pattern. He has said that there are at least six people on his list: Sen. Tim Scott, Rep. Byron Donalds, former Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, Gov. Kristi Noem, Vivek Ramaswamy, and Ron DeSantis. There are two Black men (Scott, Donalds), two women (Gabbard, Noem), two Asians (Ramaswamy, Gabbard), one white man (DeSantis), and one white woman (Noem). There is no Hispanic person, surprisingly, considering how large that voting bloc is, unless one of them also has that heritage that I am not aware of.
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The Raelian cult

In 1974, a 28-year old Frenchman Claude Vorilhon said that while on a hike by himself in a remote area, an alien spaceship landed near him and an extraterrestrial being emerged from it and conversed with him. The aliens were like us physically but much more advanced technologically and were called the Elohim. On another occasion, they took him to their home planet which he said was idyllic and that he was able to mingle with other prophets like Jesus, Moses, Buddha, and Muhammad. He said that the Elohim were wonderful people and had mastered DNA technology and used that to create all the living things on Earth. They appointed Vorilhon as their ambassador on Earth and gave him the name Rael. They told him to prepare the people on Earth for when they would return and reveal themselves to everyone.

I wrote about this weird story in my book The Great Paradox of Science (p.191-193).

Raelians argue that Darwin’s theory of evolution and descent with modification (using the mechanism of random mutation and natural selection) is wrong because life on Earth is too complex to have evolved that way and must have been designed. This same argument is also advanced by theists but for Raelians their designer is not a god. Instead it is a race of extraterrestrials. According to Raelians, on a distant planet there live a highly advanced alien community called the Elohim that long ago had reached an advanced stage of scientific and technical knowledge and developed powerful biological engineering techniques that enabled them to make living cells and to tinker and modify them. They were naturally fearful about letting loose these experimental organisms into their own environment because of the harm they could do, so they looked for a planet that they could use as a laboratory to field test their genetic engineering, to create a home for all their creations so that they could safely see what worked and what didn’t. They chose Earth to use as their vast laboratory. They took the then lifeless planet and set about building life on it. Starting with simple cells, they proceeded to create seeds, grasses and other vegetation and progressed to plankton, small fish, then larger fish, then dinosaurs, sea and land creatures, herbivores and carnivores before they tackled the big project, creating beings like themselves. Thus came homo sapiens. This, according to Raelians, is how the Earth became populated with all the life forms we see around us.

Most people, if they had heard of the Raelian mythology at all, did not take this fanciful scenario seriously but treated it as good, clean, fun.

But not everyone laughed. Vorilhon was able to get quite a bit of media attention for this fanciful tale and and while some interlocutors expressed skepticism, enough viewers were attracted by this bizarre story to join up with Vorilhon and set up a commune, calling themselves Raelians. The cult bought a large piece of land that they called Eden that had a large house with a swimming pool.
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Don’t blame me, blame the bot!

The increased sophistication of AI systems has enabled an entirely new way of not accepting responsibility for one’s actions. One can say that one was a victim of a malicious AI attack that mimicked you either in video or voice and proving otherwise would be hard.

But there is another kind of excuse that is evidenced in this case.

Canada’s largest airline has been ordered to pay compensation after its chatbot gave a customer inaccurate information, misleading him into buying a full-price ticket.

Air Canada came under further criticism for later attempting to distance itself from the error by claiming that the bot was “responsible for its own actions”.

In 2022, Jake Moffatt contacted Air Canada to determine which documents were needed to qualify for a bereavement fare, and if refunds could be granted retroactively.

According to Moffat’s screenshot of a conversation with the chatbot, the British Columbia resident was told he could apply for the refund “within 90 days of the date your ticket was issued” by completing an online form.

Moffatt then booked tickets to and from Toronto to attend the funeral of a family member. But when he applied for a refund, Air Canada said bereavement rates did not apply to completed travel and pointed to the bereavement section of the company’s website.

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Parents who abuse children

One never really knows what goes on inside other people’s homes and families. I have lived long enough to learn that families that seem to live serene, if not idyllic, lives can harbor some unpleasant secrets. Because of that, I try not to be too judgmental when I hear that families have troubles because one can never know what stresses people might be experiencing that cause them to behave in ways that are not seen by others.

But the thing that I find hardest to understand is when parents abuse their children. It seems like such a perverse distortion of the basic impulse among mammals to take care of their children until that they can go out alone and make their way in the adult world.

The case of Ruby Franke is the cruelty to her children on display. She and her business partner Jodi Hildebrandt gave parenting advice on a popular YouTube channel using her children as props. There are many such sites that use children this way, raising concerns that the children’s privacy is being invaded by their parents without their consent.
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Review: Life On Our Planet (2023)

This new documentary being shown on Netflix consists of eight parts, each about 50 minutes long. It tells the story of the evolution of life, starting with the emergence of the very first cell around 3.8 billion years ago and going through various cycles of flourishing and mass extinctions until we got to where we are today. The series is narrated by the Morgan Freeman who seems to have become the go-to person when you need someone to ooze gravitas and convey authority. I felt that he was too unrelentingly solemn and portentous and could have lightened up the Voice of God tone from time to time.

The documentary describes the five major mass extinctions that have occurred.
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How figleaves are replacing dogwhistles to hide ugly sentiments

Overtly racist sentiments tend to be viewed negatively. Even racists tend to shy away from them because they know that they will elicit a negative reaction in many people. who might be reachable with softer language. So for a long time, racists would use what we have come to call ‘dogwhistles’, language that is code for what they feel they cannot say openly.

Jennifer Saul says that people are still using that term to explain racist sentiments when the rhetoric has shifted to the extent that the racism is much more overt, so that it is fairly obvious. She points to the example of how with serial sex abuser Donald Trump (SSAT), racist sentiments became much less subtle.

With Donald Trump on the political scene in the US, the racism became much less subtle, with the candidate and then president calling Mexicans ‘rapists’, advocating a ban on Muslims entering the US, and using phrases like ‘shithole countries’.

Clearly these racist sentiments did not do him much harm and may well have helped him with his supporters. So why did so many of his listeners not see that his words clearly showed that he was being racist?
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SSAT is looking at coughing up real money

Judge Arthur Engoron handed down his judgment in the New York civil fraud trial of serial sex abuser Donald Trump (SSAT) brought by New York state attorney general Letitia James alleging that SSAT, his sons Donald Jr. and Eric, and his company indulged in fraudulent business practices. They had already been found guilty of fraud in an earlier trial and this part of the process was to determine the extent of the fraud and what fines, if any, they would pay.

It was hefty.

James had asked for $370 million and Engoron awarded $364 million. Engoron also “barred SSAT and and two other executives from serving as officers or directors of any corporation or entity in New York for three years. His sons, Eric and Donald Trump Jr, were banned for two years.” He is also “ordering the appointment of two court monitors to oversee the business: former judge Barbara Jones, and an independent compliance director to ensure “good financial and accounting practices””.

The judge was scathing in his opinion.
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Leapfrogging technology

With rapid advances in wireless technology and mobile devices, we are seeing an interesting development in which some developing countries are moving faster than the developed ones. This is because in the developed world, there exist legacy systems of hardwired connectivity that hinders the adoption of the more flexible wireless systems. Hence many parts of the world that lagged behind in building the hardwired infrastructure because of the cost are bypassing that stage and leapfrogging into the newer, cheaper, and more flexible wireless forms.

For example, I went on a visit to Sri Lanka some time ago, before the use of mobile phones became widespread in the US. I was amazed to see that they were ubiquitous in that country, with so many people of lower socio-economic backgrounds, including street vendors, drivers of the three-wheeler taxis, and others all having cell phones. This was because landline phones were very hard to get and expensive and thus available to only a select few such as businesses and well-to-do people, so when mobile phone technology became available, those who had been shut out of having phones seized on the opportunity because they could easily get one. It is the same with electricity. Many rural parts of the world are going straight to solar-powered electricity generation because the cost of running power grids from generating stations to remote areas is so prohibitive.
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