Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Dismantling America

Thomas Sowell from 2010:

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Of Heavens Above and Stories

Back in 2014, I put my own interpretation of Judaculla Rock on canvas and posted the result here.  Who would have guessed that the image would reach a blogger in Pakistan who reflected on that star-map view. Zeeshan Ahmed posted this on September 26, 2015:

As I looked at the celestial objects, up-close, I wondered. I wondered of all the ages, and the people, who had seen it before. I thought of the prehistoric times, when the heavens were brightly lit, and had no artificial, manufactured light to pollute them. I thought of the people who looked above and wondered. They imagined all these fantastic stories, and attempted to give a meaning to everything they saw above. They saw the whole sky as a canvas on which there were these lights, and strange mists. They moved, every night, until the sun came up. The giant, yellow ball of light, hid everything else, until it disappeared and gave way to the celestial painting again.

Not all of them wondered about the heavens, I believe. Like today, there were these people, storytellers, if you will, who wanted to come up with the reason why the ceiling was the way it was, and why it was there. And why this ceiling anyway, which is such a wonderful sight, and not mere emptiness? Oh, imagine if there was nothing above, and just plain darkness. Of course, if that had been the case, we wouldn’t have come up with all these glorious myths, the kind we know of today. There would have been some other kind. These storytellers, I tell you, always find a way to come up with truly amazing tales.

So, if a storyteller belonging to those early days, were here, what would he say? Of course, he would be really surprised at the current state of the world, and its inhabitants. But I will try to keep him far away from the modern world, and ask him questions. I will ask him what he saw in the night sky and what fascinated him. Perhaps, he will tell me that the shimmering dots had their own tales. How some were grouped together, and some were far away. How that misty, hazy pathway above was a gateway to some other world. Then, he might get excited and tell me about these streaks of light which appear, and then vanish. He would perhaps tell me that these were little wanderers who jumped from here and there. They travelled quickly and left behind this wonderful trail of light. At that moment, I will think of these ‘streaks of light’ and think of him, and other such storytellers. Who keep jumping between stories, and worlds, and always have a lot to share with rest of the people. Oh, how fascinating indeed!  

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Ravi Zacharias, 1946-2020

“Love is a command, not just a feeling. Somehow, in the romantic world of music and theater we have made love to be what it is not. We have so mixed it with beauty and charm and sensuality and contact that we have robbed it of its higher call of cherishing and nurturing.”

“God often reinforces our faith after we trust Him, not before.”

“Teaching at best beckons us to morality, but it is not in itself efficacious. Teaching is like a mirror. It can show you if your face is dirty, but it the mirror will not wash your face.”

“Without God, you take man to be God, your body to be a soul, and time to be eternity.”

“Historic figures have homes to visit for posterity; the Lord of history left no home. Luminaries leave libraries and write their memoirs; He left one book, penned by ordinary people. Deliverers speak of winning through might and conquest; He spoke of a place in the heart.”

“We are commanded by God to love our fellow human being no matter how much we disagree with them.”

“An argument may remove doubt, but only the Holy Spirit can convict of truth.”

“We all want Canaan without going through the wilderness.”

“Television has been the single greatest shaper of emptiness.”

“Justice is the handmaiden of truth, and when truth dies, justice is buried with it.”

“Humor aside, I think the reason we sometimes have the false sense that God is so far away is because that is where we have put him. We have kept him at a distance, and then when we are in need and call on him in prayer, we wonder where he is. He is exactly where we left him.”

“Unless I understand the Cross, I cannot understand why my commitment to what is right must be precedence over what I prefer.”

“It was not the volume of sin that sent Christ to the cross; it was the fact of sin.”

“It is easier to hide behind philosophical arguments, heavily footnoted for effect, than it is to admit our hurts, our confusions, our loves, and our passions in the marketplace of life's heartfelt transactions.”

“There is no greater discovery than seeing God as the author of your destiny.”

“Truth has been relegated to subjectivity; beauty has been subjugated to the beholder; and as millions are idiotized night after night, a global commune has been constructed with the arts enjoying a totalitarian rule.”

“Many Christians have so busied themselves with programs and activities that they no longer know how to be silent and meditate on God’s word or recognize the mysteries that are in the Person of Christ.”

“If you believe in subjective morality, why do you lock your doors at night?”

“Redemption is prior to righteousness. You cannot be righteous until you are first redeemed.”

“The loneliest moment in life is when you have just experienced the ultimate, and it has let you down.”

“In naturalism, man is actually very insignificant, but arrogates to himself stupendous power. In Christianity, man is actually the apex of created significance, but is called to see it in abject humility.”

“Jesus said, ‘Greater things of these you shall do…’ Become a peace builder, a bridge builder, not a destroyer, and the way you do that is through friendships and relationships, and through authentic character.”

“Beginning well is a momentary thing; finishing well is a lifelong thing.”

“A man rejects God neither because of intellectual demands nor because of the scarcity of evidence. A man rejects God because of a moral resistance that refuses to admit his need for God.”

Thursday, April 16, 2020

"What Failure Looks Like"

"Globalization and the increasing availability of knowledge required to develop biothreats, coupled with declining computing costs, work together to dramatically increase the likelihood of biological weapon proliferation over the next 25 years. Given a future proliferation of biological weapons to terrorist groups, facilitated by globalization and rapidly increasing technological advancements, can a bureaucracy develop an effective network of countermeasures to bioterrorism?" 
 - Lt. Col. Stephen G. Hoffman

Papers from the United States Air Force – Air War College gives us a peek behind the curtains obscuring current and future events.

Case in point – an October 2012 paper by Lieutenant Colonel Stephen G. Hoffman – Bureaucracy versus Bioterrorism, Countering a Globalized Threat.

Hoffman discusses how rapid advancements in technology will make it easier and easier for malcontents to become powerful bioterrorists:

Three key developing technologies underlying the biothreat environment are genome sequencing, synthetic biology, and nanotechnology….

One consequence of increasingly cost-efficient computing power coupled with advances in genomics, synthetic biology, and nanotechnology is that do-it-yourself (DIY) genetic engineering is entering the realm of the possible. Barry Pallotta and Michael Finnin at the Institute for Defense Analyses detailed how DIY biologists can use everyday items [such as jewelry cleaners, coffee grinders pressure cookers and household chemicals] to attain rudimentary biological engineering capabilities….

Failure of bureaucracy to develop a novel network of countermeasures against DIY scientists and would-be bioterrorists, who can wage warfare from Wal-Mart, is foolhardy….

Hoffman relies on the work of one defense policy analyst to describe “What Failure Looks Like:” 

If the bureaucracy can ever hope to develop an effective network of countermeasures to bioterrorism, then certainly the first step in that development is an accurate assessment of the consequences of what failing to do so would have on the United States. Andrew Krepinevich, in the “Pandemic” chapter of his 2009 book, 7 Deadly Scenarios, provides a glimpse of how that failure might look.

Meanwhile, as the United States increasingly resembles a vast collection of semi-ghost towns, to the south literally millions of peoples are on the move. . . . This mass of Mexicans, now estimated at nearly eight million, has no organizing force directing it, yet all its participants are unified toward one goal: crossing the border into the United States, in hope of gaining access to this country’s medical system—which ironically in many ways has simply ceased functioning in any meaningful way. This mass migration is . . . driving Mexico’s population north—a human tidal wave about to crash across America’s borders.10

A bioterrorist attack on the United States could take the form of an introduction of a mutated avian flu virus, capable of being passed human-to-human into unsanitary villages in Mexico. Poor surveillance by the World Health Organization, coupled with typical American disbelief of vulnerability to a pandemic, would likely permit early reports of 10, 20, or 50 deaths scattered across Mexican villages to go largely unnoticed in the United States. One characteristic of viral growth is its exponential increase, so these seemingly small and scattered deaths could, within weeks, ramp into millions of cases of avian flu. Even though the Spanish influenza of 1918 killed 675,000 Americans and estimates of an avian flu pandemic are that 2,000,000 could die, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has failed to develop sufficient antivirus stockpiles.

“The combination of the pandemic, the lack of government preparedness, and sensationalist media [would diminish American’s] confidence and trust in their government.”11 

Furthermore, the second and third order effects of a pandemic, coupled with global mobility, may be increased gang activity, looting, and violent crime worldwide such that implementation of martial law may be required. Overwhelmed governments may attempt to clamp down on individual rights to free speech and assembly if mob violence were to spontaneously erupt anywhere social networks indicated medical supplies existed. In the United States, the president could nationalize all antiviral treatments under the direction of the CDC, Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Defense. 

Since “95 percent of the world’s vaccine is produced by countries comprising only about 10 percent of the world’s population,”12 minority groups may characterize the president’s nationalization of medical supplies as nothing more than opportunistic ethnic cleansing. In light of these global implications to bioterrorism, it is imperative that the United States show leadership in propagating ethical norms of responsible conduct.

10. Andrew F. Krepinevich, Seven Deadly Scenarios: A Military Futurist Explores War in the 21st Century (New York, NY: Bantam Dell, 2009), 92.
11. Ibid., 99.
12. Ibid., 113.

In his conclusion, Hoffman considers possible countermeasures to such a scenario:

Even in a future where biological weapons are proliferated to terrorists through globalization and technological advancements, a bureaucracy can develop an effective network of countermeasures to bioterrorism.

The first aspect of this network is professional policing among life science professionals through development of an oath of ethical actions. A life science oath would “reinforce norms of safe and responsible conduct” while creating ethical standards within the profession.

The second aspect in this network is a nanotechnology detection capability to permit unambiguous attribution of bioterrorist activity. For example, this attribution capability may strip anonymity from bioterrorists and coerce them toward civil behavior through the use of fluorescing nanotaggants….

The third aspect of this network is mitigation of the consequences of terrorists’ desires though development of quick response teams capable of rapidly identifying pathogens, treating the infected, and inoculating the masses through nanovector delivery techniques.

Through the use of nanotechnology and improved implementation of international life science laws and treaties, an increased likelihood of punishment to bioterrorists may be realized. Neither the reduction of reward nor increase of risk must be perfect; merely disincentivizing the economics of biological weapon use may discourage would-be terrorists from investing effort in this area….

Effective Air Force participation in this proposed bureaucratic network of countermeasures requires a few foundational questions be answered. To reduce risks of a 2035 biothreat and better support the 2010 National Security Strategy, the Air Force must (1) determine the proper level of scientific personnel required; (2) institutionalize cross-functional communication across the intelligence, scientific, acquisition, and medical functional communities; and (3) develop an industry accepted certification program for life science officers. Amid a rapidly changing technological environment, accomplishing these actions now will decrease future risk in the president’s overall biothreat strategy by systematically increasing American credibility, capability, and communication.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

WHO Are You?

In Progressive Utopia America, “happy easter” is when the churches are closed and the liquor stores are open. 

It is OK for everybody in town to flock to the supermarket, the supercenter, and the home improvement store, but religious observances are something else. Who would dare to call them essential, when LIVES are at stake?

From Kentucky, a WHAS News report explains how religious persecution is for your own good:

Kentucky governor: Anyone at mass gatherings this weekendmust quarantine, WHAS News 11, April 10, 2020, by Taylor Weiter, Jessie Cohen.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said the state will require people who participate in mass gatherings this weekend to quarantine for 14 days.

In his Friday press briefing, Beshear said the state will record the license plates of any people at a mass gathering, including in-person church services this weekend, and give the information to local health departments, who will order people to quarantine for 14 days.

"Even on a weekend like this, we cannot have any in-person gatherings of any type," Beshear said.

Beshear said there are about seven churches in Kentucky who will not comply with the recommendations to not host in-person services….

In his Friday briefing, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said he recommends no gatherings for Easter this year, saying people should not gather in homes, public spaces or houses of worship.

“It hurts me to say again that, in order to save lives, we must not gather for Easter this year," Fischer said. "Not in groups in our homes. Not in public spaces. And we can’t gather in our houses of worship, either.”

Fischer said the local agency will be involved as well. "Metro police department will be there on Sunday handing out information detailing the health risks involved and I've asked LMPD to also record license plates of all vehicles in attendance," Fischer said.

People of faith need not feel singled out, though.  Infringement of civil liberties is liable to affect every American, even if the coronavirus doesn’t.  A March 23, 2020 article in Forbes considers the long-term risk:

Forbes, March 23, 2020, by Simon Chandler

...Even the surveillance of general activity levels is harmful to privacy and civil liberties. Firstly, data on general activities and activity levels will still enhance the ability of governments to manipulate and control populations, and this may not always be desirable (at the very least, a government telling you how to act usually reduces your input into your own behaviour). Secondly, it may enable mission creep, providing one slippery step towards even more invasive forms of data gathering and surveillance.

More generally, the coronavirus pandemic brings another trend that could potentially impact privacy and civil liberties long term. Namely, surveillance capitalist corporations such as Facebook, Google and Microsoft have assumed a much greater 'public service' role in the wake of COVID-19's dissemination throughout the globe. And by increasingly acting like public services (that operate for private profit), they'll potentially increase not only their reach, but their respective abilities to extract and exploit personal data….

An opinion piece in the University of Connecticut student newspaper is more specific about the erosion of civil liberty in the name of “health:”

The Daily Campus, March 27, 2020, by Nidhi J Nair 

Should we sacrifice privacy in the face of a global pandemic? Can we use our technology effectively, and not destroy our liberties? During an international crisis like this, suspending fundamental rights may seem comforting, because people feel relieved to hand over control to big government, instead of facing immense uncertainty. However, this should never be the first solution to global crises.

The increased surveillance we endure during this pandemic could have lasting effects after the world comes back to normal. In China, the virus has given the government an opportunity to increase surveillance as citizens install self-monitoring apps for their own good. Facial recognition technology is also being used to detect heightened temperatures or raise concerns about particular civilians.

An egregious example of this is an app called HealthCode, which dictates freedom of movement, whether people should be quarantined, or even allowed into public spaces, while also sharing location data with police. What makes this worse is that there is absolutely no transparency about how these apps function, what data it collects and where it sends the data—and there’s no sign of this technology disappearing even when the pandemic ends....

A statement from the Brennan Center for Justice provides some historical context for current efforts to invade the privacy of individual citizens:

The rise of mass surveillance after 9/11 offers a cautionary tale for using tech to keep tabs on people during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The impulse to turn to high-tech tools in this time of crisis is understandable — and some such tools might indeed be a useful part of our response to Covid-19. At the same time, history offers ample reason to proceed with caution. Before embracing new forms of surveillance to address the coronavirus, we must ensure that any such responses are proportionate and grounded in evidence.

Our experience with expanded surveillance after 9/11 provides an object lesson. With the laudable-sounding goal of preventing the next terrorist attack, the government secretly undertook new dragnet surveillance programs that violated Americans’ privacy rights. The hasty rollout also sacrificed necessary assessments of whether these programs were likely to work.

Years later, government analyses found that mass data collection for counterterrorism purposes was ineffective. The Department of Defense, for example, found that machine learning systems were unable to “accurately anticipate” terrorist threats. Furthermore, this data collection was actually counterproductive, because it ended up burying useful intelligence. Even with a dismal success rate, many of the post-9/11 surveillance programs are still active today, nearly two decades after the emergency that was used to justify their inception....

On April 3, 2020, Democracy Now (not known for disseminating “right-wing conspiracy theories”) shared some clever uses of technology during the current hubbub:

Democracy Now, April 3, 2020 

In San Francisco, the founder and CEO of the videoconferencing company Zoom apologized Wednesday over software flaws that have allowed hackers to steal passwords, to join private calls and even to hijack Mac users’ webcams and microphones. Zoom has seen a sudden surge of nearly 200 million daily users working and studying remotely.

In Tunisia, police are remotely operating robots — equipped with cameras, microphones and loudspeakers — to check residents’ IDs while enforcing a lockdown in the capital Tunis.

Indonesian authorities are using drones to spray disinfectant in some residential neighborhoods, raising concerns over privacy and toxic chemicals.

South Korea’s government has collected massive amounts of cellphone data to create a public map warning residents if they’ve come into contact with someone who has COVID-19.

In Israel, the high-tech firm NSO Group is promoting software that would assign every person a 1-to-10 ranking of how likely they are to carry the virus. NSO Group previously developed spyware known as Pegasus, which allows hackers to turn on a cellphone’s camera and microphone and to trawl through personal data and messages. NSO Group is being sued by WhatsApp after the malware was discovered on the phones of human rights activists and journalists, including a Saudi dissident close to murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi….

When I began to investigate Technocracy, I thought lefties might share some of my concerns, but I was wrong.  As one progressive sage put it: “Technocracy means that the smart people are running things.”  


Generally, though, leftists embrace the potential of technology to bring about the happy world described in that old song, “Imagine” – no religion, no borders – just multi-cultural bliss. 

A great example of what you get when the so-called smart people try to run things is the ID2020 Alliance.  What sorts of people are inspired by the gobbledegook emitted by this outfit:

The ID2020 Alliance Announces New Partners in Digital Identity Initiative, ID2020 Alliance News Release, January 22, 2018

At the World Economic Forum, Microsoft, Mercy Corps, Hyperledger and the UN International Computing Center join Accenture in a public-private partnership committed to improving lives through digital identity.

The ID2020 Alliance is committed to developing digital identity solutions that are personal, private, persistent and portable. With its focus on user-control and privacy, Alliance partners are considering the potential of blockchain technologies to give individuals direct ownership of, and control over, their personal information. User-owned digital identity would be complementary with existing identity management systems, including forms of legal identification issued by a government.

The digital identity provides a backbone to which any sort of credentials, including state-issued ones, can be associated, allowing a seamless authentication process for individuals and simplified interoperability for institutions. Just last summer, Accenture and Microsoft unveiled a blockchain-based digital identity prototype for the ID2020 Alliance at the ID2020 Summit held at the United Nations in New York….

The ID2020 Alliance is also focused on the non-technical elements of bringing secure digital identity to scale. Launched with an initial grant from the Rockefeller Foundation, the alliance is focused on a market-based approach, leveraging the diverse capabilities and broad reach of its partners in a coordinated manner. The ID2020 Alliance's transparent, multi-stakeholder governance model is unique among initiatives focused on digital identity – partner organizations jointly manage a pooled fund, used to implement pilot projects, and work jointly to develop user-centric technical requirements and data privacy standards. In the coming year, the group plans to launch pilots focusing on refugee populations and childhood immunization…

Ironic that a Tech Titan who raked in billions of dollars selling us computer products that are always vulnerable to devastating “virus” attacks has gone on a mission to vaccinate the whole world.  But criticize the actions of Bill Gates these days and the fact-checking websites will chide you for spreading “unfounded” rumors.  There is no disagreement, though, that Gates helped establish ID2020.

Who needs church services in their future when they can look forward to “a seamless authentication process for individuals and simplified interoperability for institutions?”  That’s what I call “essential.”  And there’s nothing like a pandemic to make it essential for everyone. 

OK, so the language from ID2020 is a bit vague.  What might digital identity actually look like?  One piece of the puzzle is found in a December 19, 2019 news release from Rice University.

Rice University News Release, December 18, 2019, by Mike Williams

Rice bioengineer reveals dissolving microneedles that also embed fluorescent medical info

Keeping track of a child’s shots could be so much easier with technology invented by a new Rice University professor and his colleagues.

Kevin McHugh, an assistant professor of bioengineering at Rice since this summer, and a team at his previous institution, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, report in a cover story in Science Translational Medicine on their development of quantum-dot tags that fluoresce with information after they’re injected as part of a vaccination.

A pattern of 1.5-millimeter microneedles that contain vaccine and fluorescent quantum dots are applied as a patch. The needles dissolve under the skin, leaving the encapsulated quantum dots. Their pattern can be read to identify the vaccine that was administered. The project was co-led by Rice University bioengineer Kevin McHugh during his time at MIT.  

The tags are incorporated in only some of the array of sugar-based microneedles on a patch. When the needles dissolve in about two minutes, they deliver the vaccine and leave the pattern of tags just under the skin, where they become something like a bar-code tattoo.

Instead of ink, this highly specific medical record consists of copper-based quantum dots embedded in biocompatible, micron-scale capsules. Their near-infrared dye is invisible, but the pattern they set can be read and interpreted by a customized smartphone.

The two-year project is aimed at the 1.5 million preventable deaths that result from a lack of vaccinations, primarily in developing nations.

“The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation came to us and said, ‘Hey, we have a real problem — knowing who’s vaccinated,’” said McHugh, who was recruited to join Rice with funding from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas. 

“They said, ‘We go on vaccination campaigns where people get into Hummers, drive to a rural village, set up a tent and start immunizing people, but they don’t always know who’s been immunized before and what vaccines are still needed.”

Parents often don’t know their children’s vaccination histories, McHugh said. “So our idea was to put the record on the person,” he said. “This way, later on, people can scan over the area to see what vaccines have been administered and give only the ones still needed....

Delve into ancient history, say the year 2010, and nifty little tricks like quantum-dot tattoos were the stuff of science fiction. 

CNN, May 3, 2010, by John D. Sutter

Palo Alto, California (CNN) -- In the 1990s, a researcher named Kris Pister dreamed up a wild future in which people would sprinkle the Earth with countless tiny sensors, no larger than grains of rice.
These "smart dust" particles, as he called them, would monitor everything, acting like electronic nerve endings for the planet. Fitted with computing power, sensing equipment, wireless radios and long battery life, the smart dust would make observations and relay mountains of real-time data about people, cities and the natural environment.

Now, a version of Pister's smart dust fantasy is starting to become reality.

"It's exciting. It's been a long time coming," said Pister, a computing professor at the University of California, Berkeley.

"I coined the phrase 14 years ago. So smart dust has taken a while, but it's finally here."

Maybe not exactly how he envisioned it. But there has been progress.

The latest news comes from the computer and printing company Hewlett-Packard, which recently announced it's working on a project it calls the "Central Nervous System for the Earth." In coming years, the company plans to deploy a trillion sensors all over the planet.

The wireless devices would check to see if ecosystems are healthy, detect earthquakes more rapidly, predict traffic patterns and monitor energy use. The idea is that accidents could be prevented and energy could be saved if people knew more about the world in real time, instead of when workers check on these issues only occasionally.

HP will take its first step toward this goal in about two years, said Pete Hartwell, a senior researcher at HP Labs in Palo Alto. The company has made plans with Royal Dutch Shell to install 1 million matchbook-size monitors to aid in oil exploration by measuring rock vibrations and movement, he said. Those sensors, which already have been developed, will cover a 6-square-mile area.

That will be the largest smart dust deployment to date, he said.

"We just think now, the technology has reached a point where it makes basic sense for us ... to get this out of the lab and into reality," Hartwell said.

Smart dust (minus the 'dust')

Despite the recent excitement, there's still much confusion in the computing industry about what exactly smart dust is.

For starters, the sensors being deployed and developed today are much larger and clunkier than flecks of dust. HP's sensors -- accelerometers like those in the iPhone and Droid phone, but about 1,000 times more powerful -- are about the size of matchbooks. When they're enclosed in a metal box for protection, they're about the size of a VHS tape.

So what makes a smart dust sensor different from a weather station or a traffic monitor?
Size is one factor. Smart dust sensors must be relatively small and portable. But technology hasn't advanced far enough to manufacture the sensors on the scale of millimeters for commercial use (although Berkeley researchers are trying to make one that's a cubic millimeter).

Wireless connections are a big distinguisher, too. A building's thermostat is most likely hard-wired. A smart dust sensor might gauge temperature, but it would be battery-powered and would communicate wirelessly with the internet and with other sensors.

The sheer number of sensors in the network is what truly makes a smart dust project different from other efforts to record data about the world, said Deborah Estrin, a professor of computer science at the University of California, Los Angeles, who works in the field.

Smart dust researchers tend to talk in the millions, billions and trillions.

Some say reality has diverged so far from the smart dust concept that it's time to dump that term in favor or something less sexy. "Wireless sensor networks" or "meshes" are terms finding greater acceptance with some researchers.

Estrin said it's important to ditch the idea that smart dust sensors would be disposable.

Sensors have to be designed for specific purposes and spread out on the land intentionally -- not scattered in the wind, as smart dust was initially pitched, she said.

'Real-world web'

Despite these differences, researchers say the smart-dust theory that monitoring everything will benefit humanity remains essentially unchanged.

And there are a number of real-world projects that, in one way or another, seek to use wireless sensors to take the Earth's vital signs.

Wireless sensors currently monitor farms, factories, data centers and bridges to promote efficiency and understanding of how these systems work, researchers said in interviews.

In all of these cases, the sensor networks are deployed for a specific purpose.

For example, a company called Streetline has installed 12,000 sensors on parking spots and highways in San Francisco. The sensors don't know everything that's going on at those parking spots. They are equipped with magnetometers to sense whether or not a huge metal object -- hopefully a car -- is sitting on the spot.

That data will soon be available to people who can use it to figure out where to park, said Tod Dykstra, Streetline's CEO.

It also tells the cities if the meters have expired.

Other sensors are equipped to measure vibration in factories and oil refineries to spot machine problems and inefficiencies before they cause trouble. Still others might pick up data about temperature, chemistry or sound. Tiny cameras or radars also can be tacked onto the data-collecting network to detect the presence of people or vehicles.

The power of these networks is that they eventually can be connected, said David Culler, a computer science professor at UC Berkeley.

Culler says the development of these wireless sensor networks is analogous to the creation of the World Wide Web. What's being created with the smart dust idea is a "Real World Web," he said.

But he said we're still early on in that progression.

"Netscape [for the wireless sensor network] hasn't quite happened," he said.

Big Brother effect

Even when deployed for science or the public, some people still get a Big Brother feeling -- the uncomfortable sense of being under constant, secret surveillance -- from the idea of putting trillions of monitors all over the world.

"It's a very, very, very huge potential privacy invasion because we're talking about very, very small sensors that can be undetectable, effectively," said Lee Tien, an attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a privacy advocate.

"They are there in such numbers that you really can't do anything about them in terms of easy countermeasures."

That doesn't mean that researchers should stop working on smart dust. But they should be mindful of privacy as the work progresses, he said.

Pister said the wireless frequencies that smart dust sensors use to communicate -- which work kind of like Wi-Fi -- have security built into them. So the data is public only if the person or company that installed the sensor wants it to be, he said.

"Clearly, there are security concerns and privacy concerns," he said, "and the good news is that when the radio technology was being developed for this stuff, it was shortly after all of the big concerns about Wi-Fi security. ... We've got all the security tools we need underneath to make this information private."

Further privacy concerns may arise if another vision for smart dust comes true. Some researchers are looking into making mobile phones into sensors.

In this scenario, the billions of people roaming the Earth with cell phones become the "smart dust."

Bright future

Smart dust researchers say their theory of monitoring the world -- however it's realized -- will benefit people and the environment.

More information is better information, Pister said.

"Having more sensors improves the efficiency of a system and reduces the demand and reduces waste," he said. "So all of that is just straight goodness."

Hartwell, the HP researcher, says the only way people can combat huge problems like climate change and biodiversity loss is to have more information about what's going on.

"Frankly, I think we have to do it, from a sustainability and environmental standpoint," he said.

Even though the first application of HP's "Central Nervous System for the Earth" project will be commercial, Hartwell says the motives behind smart dust are altruistic.

"People ask me what my job is, and I say, well, I'm going to save the world," he said.

Well, if post-pandemic, post-Christian America is looking for a Savior, it sounds like Pete Hartwell is the man for the job, what with his endless supply of omnipresent, omniscient Smart Dust.  After all, don’t forget what was written in the book of Genesis:  

For you are dust, and to dust you shall return. 

Monday, April 6, 2020

Twelve Things to Remember

Marshall Field (1834-1906) was an American entrepreneur and wildly successful retailer.  

As a member of the Jekyll Island (GA) Club, he rubbed elbows with the Morgans, Rockefellers and Vanderbilts.  His “Twelve Things to Remember” was frequently circulated among the staff of his department store and, later, among the general public:


The value of time

The success of perseverance

The pleasure of working

The dignity of simplicity

The worth of character

The power of kindness

The influence of example

The obligation of duty

The wisdom of economy

The virtue of patience

The improvement of talent

The joy of originating.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Baron Rothschild's Maxims

Considering the questionable reputation of the Rothschild family, I was surprised to find an inspirational piece connected with one of the family members.  Dated 9 Sept 1911, it is a handwritten alphabetical list of humorous good advice, entitled 'Baron Rothschild's Maxims, framed and hung in the Bank, recommended to young men who wished to get on'. And an admirable list it is.

However, it was probably the work of clerks of the London bank, rather than Nathaniel, 1st Lord Rothschild (1840-1915), who was then senior partner, N M Rothschild & Sons.

Attend carefully to details of your business.
Be prompt in all things.
Consider well, then decide positively.
Dare to do right; fear to do wrong.
Endure trials patiently
Fight life’s battles bravely, manfully.
Go not into the society of the vicious.
Hold integrity sacred.
Injure not another’s reputation, or business.
Join hands only with the virtuous.
Keep your mind from evil thoughts.
Lie not for any consideration.
Make few acquaintances.
Never try to appear what you are not.
Observe good manners.
Pay your debts promptly.
Question not the veracity of a friend.
Respect the counsel of your parents.
Sacrifice money, rather than principle.
Touch not, taste not, handle not intoxicating drink.
Use your leisure time for improvement.
Venture not upon the threshold of wrong.
Watch carefully over your passions.
Xtend to everyone a kindly salutation.
Yield not to discouragement.
Zealously labour for the right. 

Friday, March 27, 2020

Freeman Dyson, 1923-2020

The physicist Freeman Dyson had the ability to think for himself.  

Hence, he ran afoul of the so-called consensus when he joined 700 other scientists as a signatory to the World Climate Declaration which declared that there is NO “Climate Emergency.”   According to this heretical document:

Climate science should be less political, while climate policies should be more scientific. In particular, scientists should emphasize that their modeling output is not the result of magic: computer models are human-made. What comes out is fully dependent on what theoreticians and programmers have put in: hypotheses, assumptions, relationships, parameterizations, stability constraints, etc. 
Unfortunately, in mainstream climate science most of this input is undeclared.

To believe the outcome of a climate model is to believe what the model makers have put in.  This is 
precisely the problem of today’s climate discussion to which climate models are central. Climate science has degenerated into a discussion based on beliefs, not on sound self-critical science. We should free ourselves from the na├»ve belief in immature climate models. In future, climate research must give significantly more emphasis to empirical science.

Natural as well as anthropogenic factors cause warming
The geological archive reveals that Earth’s climate has varied as long as the planet has existed, with natural cold and warm phases. The Little Ice Age ended as recently as 1850. Therefore, it is no surprise that we now are experiencing a period of warming.

Warming is far slower than predicted
The world has warmed significantly less than predicted by IPCC on the basis of modeled anthropogenic forcing. The gap between the real world and the modeled world tells us that we are far from understanding climate change.

Climate policy relies on inadequate models
Climate models have many shortcomings and are not remotely plausible as global policy tools. They blow up the effect of greenhouse gases such as CO2. In addition, they ignore the fact that enriching the atmosphere with COis beneficial.

CO2 is plant food, the basis of all life on Earth
CO2 is not a pollutant. It is essential to all life on Earth. Photosynthesis is a blessing. More CO2 is beneficial for nature, greening the Earth: additional CO2 in the air has promoted growth in global plant biomass. It is also good for agriculture, increasing the yields of crops worldwide.

Global warming has not increased natural disasters
There is no statistical evidence that global warming is intensifying hurricanes, floods, droughts and suchlike natural disasters, or making them more frequent. However, there is ample evidence that CO2-mitigation measures are as damaging as they are costly.

Climate policy must respect scientific and economic realities
There is no climate emergency. Therefore, there is no cause for panic and alarm. We strongly oppose the harmful and unrealistic net-zero CO2 policy proposed for 2050. If better approaches emerge, and they certainly will, we have ample time to reflect and re-adapt. The aim of global policy should be ‘prosperity for all’ by providing reliable and affordable energy at all times. In a prosperous society men and women are well educated, birthrates are low and people care about their environment.

My first heresy says that all the fuss about global warming is grossly exaggerated. Here I am opposing the holy brotherhood of climate model experts and the crowd of deluded citizens who believe the numbers predicted by the computer models. Of course, they say, I have no degree in meteorology and I am therefore not qualified to speak.

But I have studied the climate models and I know what they can do. The models solve the equations of fluid dynamics, and they do a very good job of describing the fluid motions of the atmosphere and the oceans. They do a very poor job of describing the clouds, the dust, the chemistry and the biology of fields and farms and forests. They do not begin to describe the real world that we live in.
The real world is muddy and messy and full of things that we do not yet understand. It is much easier for a scientist to sit in an air-conditioned building and run computer models, than to put on winter clothes and measure what is really happening outside in the swamps and the clouds. That is why the climate model experts end up believing their own models.

1. The Need for Heretics
In the modern world, science and society often interact in a perverse way. We live in a technological society, and technology causes political problems. The politicians and the public expect science to provide answers to the problems. Scientific experts are paid and encouraged to provide answers. The public does not have much use for a scientist who says, “Sorry, but we don’t know”. The public prefers to listen to scientists who give confident answers to questions and make confident predictions of what will happen as a result of human activities. So it happens that the experts who talk publicly about politically contentious questions tend to speak more clearly than they think. They make confident predictions about the future, and end up believing their own predictions. Their predictions become dogmas which they do not question. The public is led to believe that the fashionable scientific dogmas are true, and it may sometimes happen that they are wrong. That is why heretics who question the dogmas are needed.

As a scientist I do not have much faith in predictions. Science is organized unpredictability. The best scientists like to arrange things in an experiment to be as unpredictable as possible, and then they do the experiment to see what will happen. You might say that if something is predictable then it is not science. When I make predictions, I am not speaking as a scientist. I am speaking as a story-teller, and my predictions are science-fiction rather than science. The predictions of science-fiction writers are notoriously inaccurate. Their purpose is to imagine what might happen rather than to describe what will happen. I will be telling stories that challenge the prevailing dogmas of today. The prevailing dogmas may be right, but they still need to be challenged. I am proud to be a heretic. The world always needs heretics to challenge the prevailing orthodoxies. Since I am heretic, I am accustomed to being in the minority. If I could persuade everyone to agree with me, I would not be a heretic.

We are lucky that we can be heretics today without any danger of being burned at the stake. But unfortunately I am an old heretic. Old heretics do not cut much ice. When you hear an old heretic talking, you can always say, “Too bad he has lost his marbles”, and pass on. What the world needs is young heretics. I am hoping that one or two of the people who read this piece may fill that role.
Two years ago, I was at Cornell University celebrating the life of Tommy Gold, a famous astronomer who died at a ripe old age. He was famous as a heretic, promoting unpopular ideas that usually turned out to be right. Long ago I was a guinea-pig in Tommy’s experiments on human hearing. He had a heretical idea that the human ear discriminates pitch by means of a set of tuned resonators with active electromechanical feedback. He published a paper explaining how the ear must work, [Gold, 1948]. 

He described how the vibrations of the inner ear must be converted into electrical signals which feed back into the mechanical motion, reinforcing the vibrations and increasing the sharpness of the resonance. The experts in auditory physiology ignored his work because he did not have a degree in physiology. Many years later, the experts discovered the two kinds of hair-cells in the inner ear that actually do the feedback as Tommy had predicted, one kind of hair-cell acting as electrical sensors and the other kind acting as mechanical drivers. It took the experts forty years to admit that he was right. Of course, I knew that he was right, because I had helped him do the experiments.

Later in his life, Tommy Gold promoted another heretical idea, that the oil and natural gas in the ground come up from deep in the mantle of the earth and have nothing to do with biology. Again the experts are sure that he is wrong, and he did not live long enough to change their minds. Just a few weeks before he died, some chemists at the Carnegie Institution in Washington did a beautiful experiment in a diamond anvil cell, [Scott et al., 2004]. They mixed together tiny quantities of three things that we know exist in the mantle of the earth, and observed them at the pressure and temperature appropriate to the mantle about two hundred kilometers down. The three things were calcium carbonate which is sedimentary rock, iron oxide which is a component of igneous rock, and water. 

These three things are certainly present when a slab of subducted ocean floor descends from a deep ocean trench into the mantle. The experiment showed that they react quickly to produce lots of methane, which is natural gas. Knowing the result of the experiment, we can be sure that big quantities of natural gas exist in the mantle two hundred kilometers down. We do not know how much of this natural gas pushes its way up through cracks and channels in the overlying rock to form the shallow reservoirs of natural gas that we are now burning. If the gas moves up rapidly enough, it will arrive intact in the cooler regions where the reservoirs are found. If it moves too slowly through the hot region, the methane may be reconverted to carbonate rock and water. The Carnegie Institute experiment shows that there is at least a possibility that Tommy Gold was right and the natural gas reservoirs are fed from deep below. The chemists sent an E-mail to Tommy Gold to tell him their result, and got back a message that he had died three days earlier. Now that he is dead, we need more heretics to take his place.

2. Climate and Land Management
The main subject of this piece is the problem of climate change. This is a contentious subject, involving politics and economics as well as science. The science is inextricably mixed up with politics. Everyone agrees that the climate is changing, but there are violently diverging opinions about the causes of change, about the consequences of change, and about possible remedies. I am promoting a heretical opinion, the first of three heresies that I will discuss in this piece.

My first heresy says that all the fuss about global warming is grossly exaggerated. Here I am opposing the holy brotherhood of climate model experts and the crowd of deluded citizens who believe the numbers predicted by the computer models. Of course, they say, I have no degree in meteorology and I am therefore not qualified to speak. But I have studied the climate models and I know what they can do. The models solve the equations of fluid dynamics, and they do a very good job of describing the fluid motions of the atmosphere and the oceans. They do a very poor job of describing the clouds, the dust, the chemistry and the biology of fields and farms and forests. They do not begin to describe the real world that we live in. The real world is muddy and messy and full of things that we do not yet understand. It is much easier for a scientist to sit in an air-conditioned building and run computer models, than to put on winter clothes and measure what is really happening outside in the swamps and the clouds. That is why the climate model experts end up believing their own models.

There is no doubt that parts of the world are getting warmer, but the warming is not global. I am not saying that the warming does not cause problems. Obviously it does. Obviously we should be trying to understand it better. I am saying that the problems are grossly exaggerated. They take away money and attention from other problems that are more urgent and more important, such as poverty and infectious disease and public education and public health, and the preservation of living creatures on land and in the oceans, not to mention easy problems such as the timely construction of adequate dikes around the city of New Orleans.

I will discuss the global warming problem in detail because it is interesting, even though its importance is exaggerated. One of the main causes of warming is the increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere resulting from our burning of fossil fuels such as oil and coal and natural gas. To understand the movement of carbon through the atmosphere and biosphere, we need to measure a lot of numbers. I do not want to confuse you with a lot of numbers, so I will ask you to remember just one number. The number that I ask you to remember is one hundredth of an inch per year. Now I will explain what this number means. Consider the half of the land area of the earth that is not desert or ice-cap or city or road or parking-lot. This is the half of the land that is covered with soil and supports vegetation of one kind or another. Every year, it absorbs and converts into biomass a certain fraction of the carbon dioxide that we emit into the atmosphere. Biomass means living creatures, plants and microbes and animals, and the organic materials that are left behind when the creatures die and decay. 

We don’t know how big a fraction of our emissions is absorbed by the land, since we have not measured the increase or decrease of the biomass. The number that I ask you to remember is the increase in thickness, averaged over one half of the land area of the planet, of the biomass that would result if all the carbon that we are emitting by burning fossil fuels were absorbed. The average increase in thickness is one hundredth of an inch per year.

The point of this calculation is the very favorable rate of exchange between carbon in the atmosphere and carbon in the soil. To stop the carbon in the atmosphere from increasing, we only need to grow the biomass in the soil by a hundredth of an inch per year. Good topsoil contains about ten percent biomass, [Schlesinger, 1977], so a hundredth of an inch of biomass growth means about a tenth of an inch of topsoil. Changes in farming practices such as no-till farming, avoiding the use of the plow, cause biomass to grow at least as fast as this. If we plant crops without plowing the soil, more of the biomass goes into roots which stay in the soil, and less returns to the atmosphere. If we use genetic engineering to put more biomass into roots, we can probably achieve much more rapid growth of topsoil. I conclude from this calculation that the problem of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is a problem of land management, not a problem of meteorology. No computer model of atmosphere and ocean can hope to predict the way we shall manage our land.

Here is another heretical thought. Instead of calculating world-wide averages of biomass growth, we may prefer to look at the problem locally. Consider a possible future, with China continuing to develop an industrial economy based largely on the burning of coal, and the United States deciding to absorb the resulting carbon dioxide by increasing the biomass in our topsoil. The quantity of biomass that can be accumulated in living plants and trees is limited, but there is no limit to the quantity that can be stored in topsoil. To grow topsoil on a massive scale may or may not be practical, depending on the economics of farming and forestry. It is at least a possibility to be seriously considered, that China could become rich by burning coal, while the United States could become environmentally virtuous by accumulating topsoil, with transport of carbon from mine in China to soil in America provided free of charge by the atmosphere, and the inventory of carbon in the atmosphere remaining constant. We should take such possibilities into account when we listen to predictions about climate change and fossil fuels. If biotechnology takes over the planet in the next fifty years, as computer technology has taken it over in the last fifty years, the rules of the climate game will be radically changed.

Back in 2000, Freeman Dyson received the Templeton Prize.  Following are excerpts from his acceptance speech,Progress in Religion:

  • My personal theology is described in the Gifford lectures that I gave at Aberdeen in Scotland in 1985, published under the title, Infinite In All Directions. Here is a brief summary of my thinking. The universe shows evidence of the operations of mind on three levels. The first level is elementary physical processes, as we see them when we study atoms in the laboratory. The second level is our direct human experience of our own consciousness. The third level is the universe as a whole. Atoms in the laboratory are weird stuff, behaving like active agents rather than inert substances. They make unpredictable choices between alternative possibilities according to the laws of quantum mechanics. It appears that mind, as manifested by the capacity to make choices, is to some extent inherent in every atom. The universe as a whole is also weird, with laws of nature that make it hospitable to the growth of mind. I do not make any clear distinction between mind and God. God is what mind becomes when it has passed beyond the scale of our comprehension. God may be either a world-soul or a collection of world-souls. So I am thinking that atoms and humans and God may have minds that differ in degree but not in kind. We stand, in a manner of speaking, midway between the unpredictability of atoms and the unpredictability of God. Atoms are small pieces of our mental apparatus, and we are small pieces of God's mental apparatus. Our minds may receive inputs equally from atoms and from God. This view of our place in the cosmos may not be true, but it is compatible with the active nature of atoms as revealed in the experiments of modern physics. I don't say that this personal theology is supported or proved by scientific evidence. I only say that it is consistent with scientific evidence.
  • I do not claim any ability to read God's mind. I am sure of only one thing. When we look at the glory of stars and galaxies in the sky and the glory of forests and flowers in the living world around us, it is evident that God loves diversity. Perhaps the universe is constructed according to a principle of maximum diversity.
  • The principle of maximum diversity says that the laws of nature, and the initial conditions at the beginning of time, are such as to make the universe as interesting as possible. As a result, life is possible but not too easy. Maximum diversity often leads to maximum stress. In the end we survive, but only by the skin of our teeth. This is the confession of faith of a scientific heretic. Perhaps I may claim as evidence for progress in religion the fact that we no longer burn heretics.
  • All through our history, we have been changing the world with our technology. Our technology has been of two kinds, green and grey. Green technology is seeds and plants, gardens and vineyards and orchards, domesticated horses and cows and pigs, milk and cheese, leather and wool. Grey technology is bronze and steel, spears and guns, coal and oil and electricity, automobiles and airplanes and rockets, telephones and computers. Civilization began with green technology, with agriculture and animal-breeding, ten thousand years ago. Then, beginning about three thousand years ago, grey technology became dominant, with mining and metallurgy and machinery. For the last five hundred years, grey technology has been racing ahead and has given birth to the modern world of cities and factories and supermarkets.
    The dominance of grey technology is now coming to an end.
  • After sketching his program for the scientific revolution that he foresaw, Bacon ends his account with a prayer: "Humbly we pray that this mind may be steadfast in us, and that through these our hands, and the hands of others to whom thou shalt give the same spirit, thou wilt vouchsafe to endow the human family with new mercies". That is still a good prayer for all of us as we begin the twenty-first century.
  • Science and religion are two windows that people look through, trying to understand the big universe outside, trying to understand why we are here. The two windows give different views, but they look out at the same universe. Both views are one-sided, neither is complete. Both leave out essential features of the real world. And both are worthy of respect.
  • In the little town of Princeton where I live, we have more than twenty churches and at least one synagogue, providing different forms of worship and belief for different kinds of people. They do more than any other organizations in the town to hold the community together. Within this community of people, held together by religious traditions of human brotherhood and sharing of burdens, a smaller community of professional scientists also flourishes.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

The Philosophy of Failure

Socialism is the philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy.
-Winston Churchill, 1948

The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings. The inherent virtue of Socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.
— Winston Churchill, 1945

1936...Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who had recently accepted the Democrat nomination leading up to his second term as president, was steering away from conventional interpretations of the Constitution with his New Deal programs. In England, Winston Churchill was compelled to write an article defending America’s founding document. “What Good’s a Constitution?” was published in August 1936:

No one can think clearly or sensibly about the vast and burning topic without in the first instance making up his mind upon the fundamental issue: Does he value the State above the citizen, or the citizen above the State? Does a government exist for the individual, or do individuals exist for the government? One must recognize that the world today is deeply divided upon this....

All nations agree that in time of war, where the life and independence of the country are at stake, every man and woman must be ready to work and, if need be, die in defense of these supreme objects; and that the government must be empowered to call upon them to any extent. But what we are now considering is the existence of this principle in times of peace and its erection into a permanent system to which the life of great communities must be made to conform. The argument is used that economic crises are only another form of war, and as they are always with us, or can always be alleged to be with us, it is claimed that we must live our lives in a perpetual state of war, only without actual shooting, bayoneting, and cannonading. This is, of course, the Socialist view....

Once the rulers of a country can create a war atmosphere in time of peace, can allege that the State is in danger and appeal to all the noblest national instincts, as well as its basest, it is only in very solidly established countries that the rights of the citizens can be preserved....

Churchill elaborated on the damages inflicted on freedom when socialist policies were imposed on the people of Germany and Russia.

In the United States, also, economic crisis has led to an extension of the activities of the Executive and to the pillorying, by irresponsible agitators, of certain groups and sections of the population as enemies of the rest. There have been efforts to exalt the power of the central government and to limit the rights of individuals. It has been sought to mobilize behind this reversal of the American tradition at once the selfishness of the pensioners, or the would-be pensioners of Washington, and the patriotism of all who wish to see their country prosperous once more.

It is when passions and cupidities are thus unleashed and, at the same time, the sense of public duty rides high in the hearts of all men and women of good will that the handcuffs can be slipped upon the citizens and they can be brought into subjugation to the executive government. Then they are led to believe that, if they will only yield themselves, body, mind, and soul, to the State, and obey unquestioningly its injunctions, some dazzling future of riches and power will open to them....

I take the opposite view. I hold that governments are meant to be, and must remain, the servants of the citizens; that states and federations only come into existence and can only be justified by preserving the 'life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness' in the homes and families of individuals. The true right and power rest in the individual. He gives of his right and power to the State, expecting and requiring thereby in return to receive certain advantages and guarantees....

One of the greatest reasons for avoiding war is that it is destructive to liberty. But we must not be led into adopting for ourselves the evils of war in time of peace upon any pretext whatever....

Civilization means that officials and authorities, whether uniformed or not, whether armed or not, are made to realize that they are servants and not masters. Socialism or overweening State life, whether in peace or war, is only sharing miseries and not blessings. Every self-respecting citizen in every country must be on his guard lest the rulers demand of him in time of peace sacrifices only tolerable in a period of war for national self-preservation.

A very young Winston Churchill

Decades earlier, Churchill had confronted socialism. These excerpts are from a speech he delivered at Kinnaird Hall, Dundee in May 1908, while seeking election to Parliament:

To the revolutionary Socialist I do not appeal as the Liberal candidate for Dundee. I recognise that they are perfectly right in voting against me and voting against the Liberals, because Liberalism is not Socialism, and never will be. [Cheers.]

There is a great gulf fixed. It is not only a gulf of method, it is a gulf of principle. There are many steps we have to take which our Socialist opponents or friends, whichever they like to call themselves, will have to take with us; but there are immense differences of principle and of political philosophy between the views we put forward and the views they put forward.

Liberalism has its own history and its own tradition. Socialism has its own formulas and its own aims. Socialism seeks to pull down wealth; Liberalism seeks to raise up poverty. [Loud cheers.]

Socialism would destroy private interests; Liberalism would preserve private interests in the only way in which they can be safely and justly preserved, namely, by reconciling them with public right. [Cheers.] Socialism would kill enterprise; Liberalism would rescue enterprise from the trammels of privilege and preference. [Cheers.]

Socialism assails the pre-eminence of the individual; Liberalism seeks, and shall seek more in the future, to build up a minimum standard for the mass. [Cheers.] Socialism exalts the rule; Liberalism exalts the man. Socialism attacks capital; Liberalism attacks monopoly. [Cheers.]

These are the great distinctions which I draw, and which, I think, you will think I am right in drawing at this election between our philosophies and our ideals. Don’t think that Liberalism is a faith that is played out; that it is a philosophy to which there is no expanding future. As long as the world rolls round Liberalism will have its part to play – a grand, beneficent, and ameliorating part to play – in relation to men and States. [Cheers.]

Ah, gentlemen, I don’t want to embark on bitter or harsh controversy, but I think the exalted ideal of the Socialists – a universal brotherhood, owning all things in common – is not always supported by the evidence of their practice. [Laughter.] They put before us a creed of universal self-sacrifice. They preach it in the language of spite and envy, of hatred, and all uncharitableness. [Cheers.]

They tell us that we should dwell together in unity and comradeship. They are themselves split into twenty obscure factions, who hate and abuse each other more than they hate and abuse us. [Hear, hear, and laughter.]

They wish to reconstruct the world. They begin by leaving out human nature. [Laughter.] Consider how barren a philosophy is the creed of absolute Collectivism. Equality of reward, irrespective of service rendered! It is expressed in other ways. You know the phrase – “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” [Laughter.] How nice that sounds. Let me put it another way – “You shall work according to your fancy; you shall be paid according to your appetite.” [Cheers.]

Although I have tried my very best to understand these propositions, I have never been able to imagine the mechanical heart in the Socialist world which is to replace the ordinary human heart that palpitates in our breasts. What motive is to induce the men, not for a day, or an hour, or a year, but for all their lives, to make a supreme sacrifice of their individuality?

What motive is to induce the Scotsmen who spread all over the world and make their way by various paths to eminence and power in every land and climate to make the great and supreme sacrifice of their individuality? I have heard of loyalty to a Sovereign. We have heard of love of country. Ah, but it is to be a great cosmopolitan, republic. We have heard of love of family and wives and children. These are the mere weaknesses of the bad era in which we live.

We have heard of faith in a world beyond this when all its transitory pleasures and perils shall have passed away, a hope that carries serene consolation to the heart of men. Ah, but they deny its existence. [Laughter.] And what then are we to make this sacrifice for? It is for the sake of society.

And what is society? I will tell you what society is. Translated into concrete terms, Socialistic “society” is a set of disagreeable individuals who obtained a majority for their caucus at some recent election, and whose officials in consequence would look on humanity through innumerable grills and pigeon-holes and across innumerable counters, and say to them, “Tickets, please.” [Laughter.] Truly this grey old world has never seen so grim a joke. [Applause.]

Now, ladies and gentlemen, no man can be either a collectivist or an individualist. He must be both; everybody must be both a collectivist and an individualist. For certain of our affairs we must have our arrangements in common. Others we must have sacredly individual and to ourselves. [Cheers.]

We have many good things in common. You have the police, the army, the navy, and officials – why, a President of the Board of Trade you have in common. [Applause.] But we don’t eat in common; we eat individually. [Laughter.] And we don’t ask the ladies to marry us in common. [Laughter.]

And you will find the truth lies in these matters, as it always lies in difficult matters, midway between extreme formulae. It is in the nice adjustment of the respective ideas of collectivism and individualism that the problem of the world and the solution of that problem lie in the years to come. [Applause.]

But I have no hesitation in saying that I am on the side of those who think that a greater collective element should be introduced into the State and municipalities. I should like to see the State undertaking new functions, particularly stepping forward into those spheres of activity which are governed by an element of monopoly. [Applause.]

Your tramways and so on; your great public works, which are of a monopolistic and privileged character there I see a wide field for State enterprise to embark upon. But when we are told to exalt and admire a philosophy which destroys individualism and seeks to replace it by collectivism, I say that is a monstrous and imbecile conception which can find no real foothold in the brains and hearts – and the hearts are as trustworthy as the brains – in the hearts of sensible people. [Loud cheers.]

Thursday, March 19, 2020

What Does It Mean?

A century ago, the world was struggling with a devastating pandemic.  

Visit any old cemetery in Western North Carolina, examine the death dates on the gravestones, and you will recognize the impact of “Spanish Flu” which claimed more American lives than the World War just winding down.

October 1918 had some parallels to March 2020, as the influenza dominated the pages of newspapers.  A Baptist minister in North Carolina shared his perspective on the disease that was sweeping the planet:

Gastonia (NC) Gazette, October 21, 1918

WHAT DOES IT MEAN? To the Editor of The Gazette:

May it not be that the present epidemic sweeping over the country and taking such a large toll of human  lives in the training camps and from the civilian population has been sent upon us to teach us our dependence upon God and to humble us before Him.  It has often been the case in the history of God's dealings with His people, that some scourge or calamity of some kind had to be sent to bring the people to a realization of their dependence upon a higher power.  

Instances of this could be multiplied from the Bible and secular history, and such calamities have always come for the two-fold purpose of rebuking the sin of the people and causing them to turn to God in humble dependence.

Europe had forgotten God;  America was losing sight of Him. The devotees bowing before the goddess of pleasure and the Mammon of this world were Increasing rapidly. The war was sent as a rebuke to the sin or the world. We are Just beginning to feel it in this country, though England, France, and Germany, as well as other countries, have lost the very flower of their young manhood. 
Then the epidemic of Influenza came.  It swept over Europe and is now raging in this country. 

What does it mean?  It is easy enough to say that it is due to the violation of certain physical laws. 

And the atheist will claim that God has nothing to do with it at all.   But many of us can see that God is again rebuking us for our sins, and telling us that we should bow before Him.  Are we going to do it or shall we go on in our sin until this scourge has done its worst?

We do not know what will be sent next.  But undoubtedly something will come, unless the people turn to the Lord.  The prophet Amos tells us how God visited one calamity after another upon the people of Israel, each more severe than the preceding one.

There was "famine, failure of water supply, blasting and mildew," the sword, and last of all they were to meet God In the judgment. The people everywhere should bow before God in confession of sin, and call on Him for pardon. America should be on her face. 

We should pray, and continue to pray until we feel the burden of the world's sin and suffering. And then the light from our Heavenly Father's face will break through the clouds and drive away the mists.

F. M. HUGGINS. Belmont, N. C, Oct. 18, 1918.