Sunday, September 30, 2007

Annexation of Mexico

Most of us are frustrated by the illegal immigrant problems we face here in the United States and the unwillingness of our government to solve it. Most of us will agree that the problems are many, complex, and political. They may be unsolvable; I suspect they will never be solved. So just for the fun of it, and trying to think out of the box, consider the following - could this be feasible?

It is 2025, five years ago the United States, unable to solve illegal migration through the Mexican border, and the government of Mexico, despairing of its ability to provide adequate opportunity for its people reached an agreement to annex the State of Mexico as a commonwealth of the United States as outlined below with a five year transition phase.

The nation of Mexico agrees to annex as a commonwealth of the United States with the following conditions:

The Mexican commonwealth government will continue to govern its several states. These states will be considered as independent states as are the states of the United States. They will remain under the authority of the Mexican commonwealth until and if they are annexed as states of the United States. The Mexican government (hereafter the Commonwealth) further agrees to abide by the constitution of the United States and the federal laws of the United States.

The Commonwealth will have a forum within the United States federal government in a form to be decided later during the transition.

The individual states that border the United States will have the opportunity to request US statehood after the five year transition phase. The remaining states will remain within the Commonwealth under this agreement until they apply for annexation and the United States and Commonwealth agree to the transition. (It may be impractical for Commonwealth states to become states of the United States if other Commonwealth states lay between them and the United States).

Interstate commerce between the Commonwealth states and the states of the US will be governed as is now applicable within the United States.

The Commonwealth may retain Spanish as its legal language however the individual states, upon annexation to the United States must select English as their legal language. The Commonwealth and its several states may retain their own culture even upon acceptance into the Unites States. The Commonwealth’s flag may be flown within the Commonwealth as the predominant flag.

The Commonwealth may have its own military force to protect itself, however it will be for defense purposes only and subject to the United States federal authority. (Similar to our states national guard.)

During the transition phase, U.S. federal courts will be established within the individual Commonwealth states. However, appeal to these courts will be limited allowing the Commonwealth’s federal courts to make the transition to our federal court system. At the end of the transition period, the duties of the Commonwealth federal courts will be merged and fall under the jurisdiction of the US federal court system. The Commonwealth federal court system will remain in effect as superior court of the Commonwealth court system. Appeals may be made to the United States Supreme Court; the principle argument for appeals to the United States Supreme Court from the Commonwealth states is that the Commonwealth Supreme Court is in violation of the United States constitution.



1. There will be mass movements of Commonwealth citizens into the United States when all barriers are removed. During the transition this will be true but not to a large extent. Once that mass movement has been assimilated the problem will no longer exist. The mass migration is already taking place and is being felt in all states and we are incapable of stopping it. Further, we have had many previous mass migrations. The Midwestern migration to California during the thirties. The several mass migrations from the European nations during the 1800s.

2. This will place a great tax burden on the people of the United States with the migration. This is true but is it any different than the burden we are now faced with? With Commonwealth citizens moving to the U.S. they will be paying taxes rather than the under the table economy that exists today.

3. The increase of the Spanish population of the United States will affect the dynamics of our elections.

4. The additional states will be a burden on our Supreme Court, requiring a change in the size and function of the court.


1. Corporations will be able to freely move to Mexico for the cheap labor. This will also reduce the migration to the current United States when adequate jobs are provided within the Commonwealth.

2. The cost of trying to limit mass immigration will be removed or greatly reduced.

3. It will be harder for drug traffic to move across the borders of the Commonwealth and into the United States

4. The natural resources of Mexico can be better developed when trade flows freely between the Commonwealth and the United States.

5. The corrupt government of Mexico and its several states will be reduced and/or eliminated when US federal laws take effect.

2030. The transition has been successful.

Several Commonwealth states have applied for American statehood and been accepted. The United States now consists of 54 states. English is now the legal language of the United States. Those Commonwealth states that have been accepted into the United States are prosperous. The Commonwealth and states remaining therein within are developing their own resources with the aid of the U.S. With aid from the United States the average living standards of the Commonwealth people has improved remarkably.

John Sullivan

Monday, September 24, 2007

Morality and NeuroScience

If you click on the link above you will go to a very interesting article which, in addition to discussing some moral/ethical scenarios, presents evidence of how brain functionality and moral precepts may be related. It shows how a Utilitarian is more dispassionate than say a Kantian. If we reach a point in our research where we can map the brain areas to emotions and moral views what will we do with this information? Will this negate the idea of free will and leave us with a bleak determinism?

Personally, I like the mystical view that we don't stop at our skins and are connected to everything else in the universe. And of course so is everything else so that we are all one flowing, unfolding thing. If one adopts this premise then the question of free will vs. determinism is not even a valid question anymore because that question only makes sense if everything is separate and has a separate will. Of course we think therefore we think we are separate and this leads us to questions like: do we have free will? Makes me think we shouldn't be spending quite so much time thinking so much and instead emulate the great god Nike who spake thus: "Just do it."

More importantly will this convoluted and rambling post get me kicked out of this blog?


Friday, September 21, 2007


In Brave New World, "soma" is a drug which is used by the general population to provide pleasure and to neutralize any negative emotions. It has none of the deleterious side effects of actual drugs. Let's suppose such a drug exists. With what we know currently about neuro-chemistry, we can see that the pleasure that is achieved by productive acts is no different than pleasure produced by chemistry.

Let's ask the question of whether or not we would object to such artificial pleasure. Keep in mind that in the book "Brave New World" the use of soma doesn't have negative effects on productivity of the individual. The drug is freely available and does not distract the individual from his or her assigned tasks. Being rather Victorian in my outlook on morality, I would intuitively object to the use of soma except for pathological cases. However, I have difficulty in rationalizing my objections. From an evolutionary point of view, pleasure has been necessary in a goal-driven creature. However, natural evolution is a much less important force in our time. Society as a whole is now less dependent on large numbers of goal-seeking individuals and artificial pleasure would seem justifiable. If a gram of soma plus a Big Mac produce the same pleasure as a filet mignon, why not? If bicycling through a local neighborhood plus a gram of soma produce the same pleasure as bicycling along the Loire, why not?

Monday, September 17, 2007

Operation Iraqi Liberation (OIL)

Alan Greenspan', in his new book "The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World" reignites the issue of the objectives of the Iraq War.

He writes, in part: "The Iraq war is largely about oil,"


In an earlier thread, (fourth Comment down) I Wrote:

However, let me agree with Howard that the administration should have been more upfront with the American public about Iraq. This *is* about OIL. They should have called it "Operation Iraqi Liberation - OIL", rather than "Operation Iraqi Freedom - OIF".

Joel provided a rationale for oil as a strategic material in his Topic He wrote:

[T]here is a war between the forces of despotic theocracy and individual freedom. Oil is a strategic material which can be (and has been) used as a weapon by despots to coerce democracies. For me, 'all' means that a free worldwide market for oil is crucial'.

Alan Greenspan, former Federal Reserve Chairman, in his new book (see LA Times story:,1,553323.story?coll=la-news-a_section) says:

"The Iraq war is largely about oil ... I'm saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows. ... Whatever their publicized angst over Saddam Hussein's 'weapons of mass destruction,' American and British authorities were also concerned about violence in an area that harbors a resource indispensable for the functioning of the world economy."

The LA Times continues:

Greenspan clarified his remarks in an interview with the Washington Post, telling the newspaper that although securing global oil supplies was "not the administration's motive," he had presented the White House with a case for why removing Hussein was important for the global economy."I was not saying that that's the administration's motive," Greenspan said. "I'm just saying that if somebody asked me, 'Are we fortunate in taking out Saddam?,' I would say it was essential."He said that in his discussions with President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, "I have never heard them basically say, 'We've got to protect the oil supplies of the world,' but that would have been my motive."Greenspan said that he made his economic argument to White House officials and that one lower-level official, whom he declined to identify, told him, "Well, unfortunately, we can't talk about oil."


Well, it turns out they WERE!

In a news conference, the text of which is still available on the WHITE HOUSE WEBSITE,, way back on March 24, 2003, Ari Fleisher, the President's Press Secretary said:

The President this morning has spoken with three foreign leaders. He began with Prime Minister Blair, where the two discussed the ongoing aspects of Operation Iraqi liberation. [Emphasis added]

Ira Glickstein

Friday, September 14, 2007

Back to Basics of Causality

It seems to me that our discussion of determinism needs a little context and history. The concept of causality can be traced back the the philosopher Thales several hundred years before Plato. What it meant then was a revolt against the idea of the gods controlling our destinies. Let's remember that a lot of propitiating was going on. Sacrifices to the gods for a good harvest, victory in battle and a fruitful marriage were common. Homer's tales were taken to be historical along with their plots based upon the human relationship with protective or destructive gods and godesses. The idea that these events were the result of the law cause and effect and not the meddling of a slighted or mollified deity was new. Skipping forward a few thousand years, we find the philosopher David Hume arguing that there is no such thing a Divine Providence or even chance. There is only ignorance of the laws and circumstances that intervene between cause and effect. This was meant as an argument against an interventionist god and the efficacy of prayer, indulgences, etc. If Hume were alive today, he might be as unhappy as Einstein was, from an esthetic point of view, with the notion of quantum uncertainty, but he would not feel threatened. Quantum uncertainty does not call for pleas to interventionist gods.

Many in the public are ready and willing to pounce upon the slightest ripple of uncertainty in scientific causality to promote superstition. As an example, consider the followers of Feng Shui (the encoragement of good luck via visual design). I had a friend in Honolulu who made a good living by telling businesses how to decorate for maximum good fortune. To me, this is a good example of what may be an effective cause and effect relationship dressed in mysticism. For example, certain colors actually may put some customers in a better mood to make purchases, but the explanation for "why" lies in the psychological not the mystical. We are over two thousand years separated from Thales, but we are still in combat against superstition.

I think that the "particle in a box) problem is a good way of putting quantum uncertainty in perspective. You'll probably remember that if one solves Schroedinger's Equation for the case of a one dimensional world in which a single particle is trapped in a box, one gets a probability wave function which has high values inside the box and smaller values outside the box. This occurs even though the particle has insufficient energy to penetrate the walls of the box. These values outside the box seemed an error, until it was found that electrons could in fact penetrate electrical barriers for which they seemed to have insufficient energy. The practical result was a device called the "tunnel diode." The significance for me is that this is a clear boundary between the macro view of the world and the micro view. The electrical designer may benefit from the design opportunities afforded by a quantum view of the world, but no prison warden needs to make provisions for an escape due to one of his human "particles" escaping from his stone box by declaring his faith in Arnold Schroedinger. There is a finite probability that the prisoner outside the walls, but in this case improbability is as good as impossibility. With respect -Joel

Friday, September 7, 2007

Causal Determinism (was "God's Warriors")

This started out as a tangent from "the God's Warrior's" main Topic thread. Perhaps all has been said in the many cross-Comments there. However (at Joel's suggestion), here is my new Topic on determinism. Although Spinoza and Einstein cannot speak for themselves, having passed away, I believe I have inherited some measure of their "spirit" and they would agree with most of my views. (Other Spinoza/Einstein fans might disagree :^)

The best and most readable scholarly treatment I've found on the topic may be found in the online Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy at:

DEFINITION (from Stanford):

Causal determinism is, roughly speaking, the idea that every event is necessitated by antecedent events and conditions together with the laws of nature. The idea is ancient, but first became subject to clarification and mathematical analysis in the eighteenth century. Determinism is deeply connected with our understanding of the physical sciences and their explanatory ambitions, on the one hand, and with our views about human free action on the other.

Given the "initial conditions" of the world, and the laws of nature, everything that has happened and everything that will happen, have been and are destined to occur. However, that does not imply either perfect predictability of the future (at least not by humans) nor what is ususally meant by "fate".

"Fate" is a mystical concept and sometimes the subject of fiction: Person A is "fated" to die in a certain way or on a certain date, he or she learns of that "fate" and tries to avoid it, but it happens anyway. For example, Macbeth thinks he is safe from being killed by Macduff because his "fate" is that he "cannot be killed by woman borne". Macduff tells him he was born by Cesarian section, and kills Macbeth! Or, in a modern context, a person learns he is to die on a certain day and it turns out he has airplane tickets for that day. So, he cancels his flight and stays in his apartment, only to die of an explosion due to a gas leak! The airplane on which he was scheduled to fly lands safely.

Perfect predictability depends not only upon the universe being causally deterministic (which I happen to believe it is), but also on perfect knowledge of all the laws and forces of nature and positions and velocities of all objects (which, other than in certain limited domains, is impossible for humans, even with the aid of computers, to achieve.) The Stanford link provides an 1820 quotation from Laplace that "the perfection [of] the human mind ... affords but a feeble outline of such an intelligence."

When Joel speaks of the "predictability" at the heart of the scientific method, I believe he is refering to highly controlled experiments where extra care is given to isolate the experimental chamber from the rest of the universe. If an earthquake or lightning or a clumsy assistant causes the beaker to shatter, the results are discarded and the experiment must be repeated.

Something is a scientific fact if and only if any competent scientist can replicate the experiment under the same or similar controlled conditions.

An Actual Example of Determinism With (and Without) Perfect Predictability

I mentioned my HexLife computer simulation of evolution of life forms in the previous thread. HexLife is a very well-controlled situation and the model for my concept of causal determinism. It is run within a PC and is therefore both finite and discrete.

I make use of the PC "random number generator" to determine when and where genetic mutations and crossovers occur, how much of the "sunlight energy" falls on any given location, and so on. However, I allow the user to select one of a number of pre-set "initial random seeds" (or make up his or her own). Thus, if something interesting happens during a given run, that run can be repeated and will proceed bit-for-bit in the exact sequence to allow the user to analyze and exactly recreate that interesting event. In that sense, HexLife is perfectly predictable, so long as the PC does not malfunction.

In any case, I was quite pleased when my HexLife program turned out to exhibit a logarithmic "power spectrum" of extinctions (many small extinctions, a lesser frequency of moderate extinctions, and few large extinctions) just as Stephen J. Gould ("punctuated equilibrium") says characterizes the evolutionary history of life on earth!

I did not specifically program HexLife to have extinctions. Each simulated organism lives its own life in accordance with the behaviors and asexuality or sexuality set in its genetic code and its interactions with other organisms. It absorbs energy and matter (which are conserved in the total simulation), and reproduces asexually (if it gains enough mass and energy) or sexually (if it gains enough mass and energy and happens to meet a suitable sized mate). It dies when it gets eaten by another organism, or has an accident, or of old age.

Although not specifically programmed to do so, the total living biomass increases as new organisms evolve and become more effective at exploiting the environment and other organisms. The biomass stabilizes as a balance is reached between resources (dead matter and energy available in each location). Then, as yet other organisms evolve, there are extinctions, which are noted as significant reductions in the living biomass. Extinctions are characterized on a logarithmic scale and, amazingly, each increment of the scale eventually gets about the same number of extinctions. That result indicated to me that I had captured, on a very small scale and under controlled conditions, some "true" aspect of evolutionary life.

"God" and His/Her Possible Powers

With respect to HexLife, I am "God" -- having made up all the rules for DNA codes and reproduction and energy and mass distribution and so on, and having written every line of Pascal code. (Therefore, *I* am the closest thing to "God" you may ever meet on earth, so pay attention! :^)

When I start with a different set of initial conditions and/or a different initial random seed, I cannot predict in detail what will occur. Based on prior runs with different conditions, I can predict the general results: if the simulation is started with randomly-generated genetic codes, and if it does not die out early in the run, genetic diversity (number of different genomes in live organisms at any given time) will decrease and morphologic complexity (size and variability of genetic code string) will increase. After a while, these measures will stabilize. Then, there will be an extinction during which genetic diversity will increase a bit and morphologic complexity will decrease a bit. This will go on and on in sequence and there will be a power spectrum of extinctions.

Therefore, for a new run, only the general results are more or less perfectly predictable by me, but the details are not. However, if I have run the same initial conditions before, and kept the data, I know exactly, bit-for-bit, what the detailed results will be. Assuming there is a God of the Universe separate from His/Her Creation (which, as a Pantheist I do not accept), if the Earth has not been "run" before but other biological runs have been done, God only knows the general results. On the other hand, if the Universe has been run before with the same initial conditions, God can perfectly predict each and every event that will happen in full detail.

With HexLife I can intervene during a run, increasing or decreasing the strength of the "Sun". I can also stop the run or revert it to a previous data point and add or subtract organisms and/or change the genetic codes of any organisms. During the development cycle, I rewrote the Pascal code to change the "laws of nature" within the simulation. However, when I did these things with a situation that had been run before, any specific data I had about future events became more or less moot. Thus, if there is a God separate from Creation, and He/She performs a "miracle", God cannot predict the long-term consequences perfectly. Of course, if God has access to multiple Universes, He/She could put our Universe on hold while He/She tests out a "miracle" on a doppleganger Universe and then come back and start our Universe up again with perfect predictability!

Random Number Generators and Enumerability

The random number generator that comes with the PC is pretty good and would pass most statistical tests of "randomness". However, even the best computer random number generators are not "truly random". Digital computers are "finite automata" and have a finite number of possible states. Thus, the random number sequence will, at some point, repeat itself. How often? Well, depending upon the design, it might not repeat for days or years or decades or longer -- but it *will* repeat.

Therefore, any digital computer random number generator has a sequence that is FULLY DETERMINED and ENUMERABLE. Given any initial state, it is possible to determine the exact sequence of "random" numbers that will follow and you could store each and every "random" number in that sequence on a CD or other storage medium.

Do you ever get the impression that TV programs repeat? Well, it is true. Even if you have the latest digital HDTV "1080p" (1920 x 1080 pixels, each with 12 bits for color), that is "only" about 8 billion different FULLY PRE-DETERMINED and ENUMERABLE instantaneous pictures, most of which would look like confetti and are therefore unlikely to be broadcast. Thus, there is a much smaller number of instantaneous pictures actually broadcast. Of course, there are 50 individual pictures each second and they are presented in different orders, so the number of TV programs is enormously large, but still FULLY PRE-DETERMINED and ENUMERABLE.

It is possible, at least in principle, to enumerate all 30-minute TV programs that could be broadcast in HDTV. That enumeration would include all videos broadcast so far by Osama bin Laden and all future Osama diatribes that will be presented in the future. Of course, it would also include many Osama videos that will never occur in actuality, including the one in which he appologizes for 9/11 and converts to Judiasm :^)

This reminds me of the old thought experiment of the "million monkeys randomly typing on a million typewriters for a million years". They will eventually "randomly" type out all the great literature of the world.

Of course, you would have to get a million language professors to paw through all this stuff to find the gems. Imagine one professor, after years of reading gobbledegook, picking up a sheet that starts: "To be or not to be ..." (But then, it continues: "that is the gribnick? Michan&83( jkjhs nnnneo ...")

Is the Universe Both Finite and Discrete?

Although I am not sure if philosophers have made this point, I believe causal determinism depends upon the Universe being both finite and discrete (and I believe it is).

Here is my reasoning: According to chaos theory, a tiny difference in initial conditions can result in a major difference over the long-term. The example usually given is the "butterfly effect". Imagine an experiment in which the Universe is run twice with absolutely identical conditions, except, in the first run one particular butterfly flaps its wings slightly to the right and in the second slightly to the left. Well, in the first run, six months after that butterfly flap, hurricane Katrina strikes New Orleans, while in the second run, it strikes Miami.

If the Universe is continuous, that tiny difference could be 1/infinity, which, for all practical purposes, is zero. Therefore, with a difference approaching zero, all long-term determinism goes out the window. On the other hand, if the Universe is discrete, the difference must at least one quanta of energy or matter or space or time.

There is an old thought experiment where a donkey is placed exactly midway between some food and some water and it is exactly as hungry as it is thirsty. The donkey will be exactly equally attracted in each direction and will therefore die of thirst and hunger. Of course, that experiment depends upon a level of exactness and constancy that is unlikely in the animal world. The donkey would probably sense the water before the food (or vice-versa) or, after standing motionless, would become thirsty before becoming hungry, etc.

Let's do that thought experiment a bit differently. Take a common plastic straw and stand it upright on a flat table. If there are no strong breezes or gusts, it will remain stationary, falling neither to the left or right, front or back. Now try it with a toothpick! Unless the toothpick has a flattened end, or is poked into a hole in the table, it will fall over no matter how carefully you place it. The slightest waft of air or vibration of the table will knock it over. The difference between a straw and a toothpick? One has an end with a discrete diameter, the other an end with a near-zero diameter.

As I mentioned in the previous thread, we know that energy comes in discrete quanta. Since we also know energy and matter are interchangeable, that would mean matter is also quantized. That leaves only space/time, and I believe they may also come in quanta. Thus, I think it is a good guess that the Universe is discrete.

The second requirement, a finite Universe, is, I believe fairly obvious. I think the current scientific consensus is that the Universe began with a "big bang". (The alternative -- watch your daily newspaper -- is that the consensus will change to "continuous creation" of matter which I believe also entails continuous recycling of matter to keep the balance.) In either case, there is only a limited amount of energy/matter in the Universe.

Furthermore, the Universe is curved in some or all dimensions, which would entail space/time being finite as well. (The surface of a sphere, for 2D "flatlanders" appears infinite in that they can go forever in a given direction without reaching the "end". However, we 3D-ers recognize the sphere as finite, and we explain the delusion of the 2D-ers as being the curvature of their 2D space.) Thus, to us 3D-ers, what appears to be infinite time and space may actually be finite (and would appear so to a 4D-er or higher).

Ira Glickstein