On free will (again)

In 1929, Albert Einstein, at that time living in Berlin, gave a wide-ranging interview to George Sylvester Viereck that was published in the Saturday Evening Post. The interviewer seemed like a star-struck teenager and was unduly fawning but nevertheless obtained some interesting quotes from Einstein. One of them (“Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”) was been widely circulated.

Einstein’s views on free will are also interesting.

I am a determinist. As such, I do not believe in free will.

I believe with Schopenhauer: We can do what we wish, but we can only wish what we must. Practically, I am, nevertheless, compelled to act as if freedom of the will existed. If I wish to live in a civilized community, I must act as if man is a responsible being.

I know that philosophically a murderer is not responsible for his crime; nevertheless I must protect myself from unpleasant contacts. I may consider him guiltless, but I prefer not to take tea with him.

My own career was undoubtedly determined, not by my own will but my various factors over which I have no control – primarily those mysterious glands in which Nature secretes the very essence of life, our internal secretions.

I claim credit for nothing. Everything is determined, the beginning as well as the end, by forces over which we have no control. It is determined for the insect as well as for the star. Human beings, vegetables, or cosmic dust, we all dance to a mysterious tune, intoned in the distance by an invisible player.

[Read more…]

Things are looking increasingly bad for Trump

Thanks to the revelations about the material found at Mar-a-Lago, I have learned more about the arcane bureaucratic processes involving the various levels of classification and the processes by which they can be declassified than I ever wanted to know. This is because since classified documents were found on the premises, the initial defenses by Trump’s supporters, that the search was done as a form of harassment of a totally innocent person who had done nothing wrong, have collapsed and have kept shifting to more technical arguments.

This article explains what is going on, starting with the three kinds of classified documents found by the FBI.

FBI agents seized 11 sets of documents from Trump’s Palm Beach club on Monday, including documents  identified as “Various classified/TS/SCI documents,” according to the inventory unsealed Friday. The list of items taken also notes that agents carted away four sets of documents marked “top-secret,” three sets of documents marked “secret” and three sets documents marked “confidential.”

These sets of documents range in classification levels, depending on the degree of their significance to U.S. national security. According to the federal regulations governing classification, “confidential” denotes the lowest rung. Information at this level could, if wrongly disclosed, cause “identifiable damage” to national security.  “The next level, “secret” information, could cause serious damage to national security if wrongly disclosed. The “top secret” designation is reserved for material whose unauthorized disclosure could cause “exceptionally grave damage” to national security.

The “SCI” designation is an abbreviation for “Sensitive Compartmented Information” and refers to classified information involving sensitive intelligence sources, methods or analytical processes, and which can only be discussed within a “SCIF” — a “Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility” — a secure room or building limited to government officials with a corresponding security clearance. 

[Read more…]

Is Trump even stupider than I thought?

Some details of the search of Trump’s Florida residence have been released. It appears that FBI agents did find documents marked ‘Top Secret’ after all at Mar-A-Lago.

The most sensitive set of documents removed from Trump’s post-presidency home in Florida were listed generically as “Various Classified/TS/SCI” – the abbreviation for top secret/sensitive compartmented information – the warrant shows.

FBI agents retrieved a total of 11 sets of classified documents, some of which were marked top secret, the Wall Street Journal first reported. Federal agents also took away four sets of top secret documents, three sets of secret documents, and three sets of confidential documents, the receipt showed.

The search warrant receipt did not provide any further detail about the substance of the classified documents. Other materials removed from Mar-a-Lago included binders of photos, information on the “President of France”, and a grant of clemency for the Trump political operative Roger Stone.

Caught at the center of a rapidly escalating controversy, Trump lashed out at the justice department on Friday, saying in a statement that he had declassified all of the records in question. “It was all declassified,” Trump asserted.

[Read more…]

Jordan Klepper visits MAGAland again

This time he goes to Waukesha, Wisconsin that held its primary elections on Tuesday. He seems to never run out of total nutters who are willing to go on TV and say the most outlandish things. Of course, they themselves clearly think they are being perfectly logical and factual.

By now, any reasonably politically conscious person would be aware of Klepper and that they would look foolish when the clip is broadcast. My guess is that they only read and watch right-wing media and hence still have no idea who he is or what he does. But you would think that word would have at least spread through the MAGA grapevine to avoid talking to the very tall comedian who is not Conan O’Brien and who is followed by a camera crew

This time he spoke at some length to a woman who seemed enamored of something called Gematria in order to interpret political events. I had not heard of this before and so looked it up. It seems to be a species of numerology.

Gematria is the practice of assigning a numerical value to a name, word or phrase according to an alphanumerical cipher. A single word can yield several values depending on the cipher which is used.

Hebrew alphanumeric ciphers were probably used in biblical times, and were later adopted by other cultures. Gematria is still widely used in Jewish culture. Similar systems have been used in other languages and cultures: the Greeks isopsephy, and later, derived from or inspired by Hebrew gematria, Arabic abjad numerals, and English gematria.

Here is Klepper.

Attorney General tries to counter Mar-a-Lago search paranoia

We are living at a time when conspiracy theories abound and where over-the-top reactions to the most routine of events have become the norm. A perfect example of this has been the reaction among Trump supporters to the execution by the FBI of a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago, the current home of Donald Trump. While searching of the home of a former president is undoubtedly unprecedented, everything else about the process was perfectly ordinary. In fact, the department of justice seemed to have gone out of its way to do this by the book because of the its unprecedented nature.

The FBI first went all the way to the top and got approval from the Attorney General to ask for the warrant and then went, as required, to a federal judge claiming that they had probable cause for the search. You ca be sure that since a former president was involved, there was a high bar that had to be cleared in order to get the warrant. They then carried out the search with little fuss and with the cooperation of the Secret Service agents guarding the premises and with the president’s representatives apparently also present. There was no raid, no pre-dawn breaking down of the doors by armed agents, and the other kinds of things that ordinary people might be subjected to at the hands of law enforcement. In fact, no one knew about the search until Trump blasted out the news in his usual hyperbolic fashion that he was being persecuted. And as usual in their knee-jerk reaction, his loyal cult members in Congress and the nation at large responded hysterically, comparing this action to Nazi Germany and the Gestapo. They have even gone to the extent of suggesting that the FBI planted evidence at the site, a charge that they will repeat if any damning evidence is revealed. Planting of evidence by law enforcement undoubtedly happens but it seems unlikely in this case.
[Read more…]

Car sounds

When I get into my car and shut the door, its closing makes a solid kind of sound. I had never given much thought to it, thinking that the sound of closing was an incidental byproduct of the door’s design and manufacture. It appears that I was mistaken. In an article on the sounds that cars make, John Seabrook writes that much thought goes into creating that particular sound.

The engine’s sound isn’t the only thing that the engineers work on. Many prospective buyers’ first experience of a car or a truck is the CLICK ker-CHUNK that the driver’s-side door makes when they close it, followed by a faint harmonic shiver given off by the vehicle’s metal skin. The door’s weight, latches, and seals are carefully calibrated to create a psychoacoustic experience that conveys comfort, safety, and manufacturing expertise.

Who knew?
[Read more…]

Horrific crash in Los Angeles

A driver ran right through a red light at a busy city intersection at a speed estimated at possibly 60 mph or even higher, resulting in a fiery crash that killed six people. The video of the crash is disturbing. The driver is going so fast that you barely see the car before it enters the intersection and the crash occurs.

What astonishes me is how anyone could be driving so fast in a city. This did not look like mere distracted driving because of texting or speaking on the phone or other reasons. The car did not do anything to avoid a collision, such as swerve or brake, right up to the impact. It looked like the car was set on cruise control at that high speed which is implausible. To get up to such a high speed in city traffic, you have to be conscious of what you are doing. Even if she was on drugs, I cannot see why she would be going so fast. The only possibility I can think of is that she lost consciousness while her foot was on the accelerator. But surely you cannot press your foot down if you are unconscious? We will have to await an analysis of the blood that was taken from her in hospital.

Another astonishing thing is that her own injuries are described as ‘moderate’. How she even survived the. crash is astonishing. Her car was a Mercedes Benz and maybe they have very good protection for occupants.

Puzzles over the FBI search of Trump’s home

As is almost always the case with Trump, he exaggerates things. On Monday evening, he announced that his Mar-a-Lago home “is currently under siege, raided, and occupied by a large group of FBI agents”. It is not clear if this was, in actual fact, an FBI ‘raid’ in the usual sense. Those usually occur in the pre-dawn hours where armed agents break into a house, the surprise supposedly necessary to prevent the destruction of evidence. According to this report, what happened was far less dramatic.
[Read more…]

Alex Jones text circus goes on

During Alex Jones’s trial, it was revealed that his lawyers had inadvertently sent all the text messages on his cell phone over a two-year period to the lawyers of the people who were suing him. The texts revealed that Jones had lied while under oath during a deposition.

I wondered at that time what other damaging information might be on those texts, given Jones’s reckless nature. It seems that he had also sent nude photos of his wife to Trump advisor Roger Stone. It is not clear if his wife had consented to this act. If she did consent, then the story ends there. If she didn’t, she can take action against Jones depending on local laws since it is a crime in some states to disclose intimate photos of someone without that person’s consent. In 2021, his wife was arrested for domestic violence against him so the relationship seems fraught.

Jones is not happy about this latest development.

And now that his lawyer in these current legal issues appeared to have accidentally released two years’ worth of information from his phone, Alex thinks she is going to use it against him with his kids.

“I know the texts and information on his phone will be evidence of all the nefarious, truly conspiratorial things said between him and his employees in their plans to keep my kids from me,” Alex told Insider, per Yahoo! News. “It’s not even about my kids, it’s about control. Controlling me.”

It is a bit rich for Jones, the baseless conspiracy king, to complain that these texts will be used to create ‘nefarious’ conspiracy theories about him.

The congressional committee investigating the events of January 6, 2021 has requested the Jones text dossier as part of its work so now all this information will be in their hands as well. Jones’s ex-wife is also suing him over custody of the three children they had together and she may seek these texts as well to support her claim that he is unstable and should not have custody.

I suspect that it is only a matter of time before these texts leak to the media. I hope they do not publish the photos of Jones’s wife. They have no value other than to satisfy prurient interests.