Friday, April 29, 2011

Skepticism versus Faith

[From Joel] We had an excellent presentation at our philosophy club (The Villages, FL) this afternoon. However, the account of history from the time of the ancient Minoans to modern times sounded a little too much like feminist propaganda to me. I was suspicious. I questioned whether there was sufficient evidence for the belief in a garden-of-Eden-like world presided over by female goddesses and a female dominated society, but the speaker was unequivocal in his belief that the archeological evidence supported such a conclusion.

My search of the internet revealed that some skepticism would be appropriate. There is much disagreement over the meaning of the ancient remains found in Crete. As just one example, here's a review of a book which disputes the feminist theory of gender dominated history.

From Library Journal

According to the myth of matriarchal prehistory, there was a time in social development before written records when women were the central controlling forces in community life. Goddesses were the primary objects of worship, and peace reigned between the sexes. In a systematic analysis of the underpinnings of this popular theory, independent scholar Eller (Living in the Lap of the Goddess), who is affiliated with Princeton University, applies both logic and common sense to what has become a highly emotional argument for some feminists and New Age partisans. Pointing out that much of the physical evidence upon which the hypothesis rests is open to various interpretations, she warns that adherents of the myth may be seeing what they want to see: that by relying on biological distinctions they are creating stereotypes as insidious as the patriarchal ones they abhor. While immersion in this myth may raise gender self-esteem, only hard work will change the reality-based biases of modern life. This well-structured, lucid argument is recommended for academic libraries and public libraries where interest in the subject is high.


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Florida Gator Time

I've taken more than a dozen people kayaking on the Rainbow River to give them a good, easy taste of Florida kayaking.

"There are no gators because the water is so clear," I have always told them.

Well, it aint so! Today we were out on the river not far from Rainbow Springs State Park and another kayaker told us there was a big gator in a cove so we went in. Sure enough, we saw this 8-foot thing that I was convinced was a plastic replica because it was not moving and it was on such a clear river. My friend Bernie took this photo of me with it.

Well, as we paddled back, our other friends wanted to see it so we went back into the cove. This time, I saw the gator open its mouth and move its head! WOW! I would never have paddled so close had I known it was alive and real. Another kayaker told us she had also seen some turtles swimming in the river neaby and that there was a smaller gator with them. So, it seems, we have a growing family of gators in the Rainbow River.

For a great video of a kayak adventure with a "Ditsy Brit" on the Rainbow River click >>>

Ira Glickstein

Saturday, April 16, 2011

QR Code - Scan Me!

Wikipedia has a good entry on Quick Response (QR) codes.

OK, your smart phone or iPad has the ability to scan QR codes? You can add me and this Blog to your Contact list by scanning the first image, and add some text information by scanning the second.

These QR codes were generated free at

You are already seeing these QR codes appearing in magazines and billboards. I plan to put one on my business card. Anyone with a QR-code reader on their photo device can scan the code and go to a specified website, send an email to a specified address, and/or add name, phone, and address information to their Contact list.

Ira Glickstein

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The First "Canary in the Coalmine"?

[From Don Hess. The proprietor of this blog does not necessarily agree with the material in this posting.]

Has the first canary in the coal mine showed up? This past Sunday, two days ago, the Villages Daily Sun featured an article on page A 19 about a disease that's selectively hitting genetically modified crops. It's called Sudden Death Syndrome (SDS), and for the past two years has been devastating soybean crops across several states, Iowa being the worst hit.

The story begins with an Iowa farmer whose soybean fields, "where he used seeds developed by Monsanto, and sprayed with its popular glycophosphate weed killer Roundup Ready <(sic), were littered with yellow leaves and dead plants. Four days earlier, the plants had been waist high and emerald green." "Nearby, in fields where he had planted seeds that weren't genetically engineered and didn't use glycophosphates, the soybeans were healthy and lush."

The article goes on to opine that SDS and its supposed cause, a fungus called fusarium solani f.sp. glycine, have been around since the 1970s, but that "last year, after a chilly spring and wet summer, soybean sudden death syndrome raced across the midwest." - and, strongly suggested by the article, singled out those plants produced from Monsanto's seeds. An expert on the disease at Iowa State University, Xiao Bing Yang, "estimated last summer that up to half the state's fields might be infected in varying degrees."

In January, Don M. Huber, an emeritus professor at Purdue University wrote a letter to Tom Vilsack, head of the USDA, asking the Department of Agriculture to investigate. and stating that the threat should be treated as an emergency. As of this last Friday, the Department's reply was that Huber's letter was "forwarded to the correspondence office." The article goes on to state that Huber's letter, which surfaced on the internet in February, starting a "firestorm" of controversy, "has intensified the battle between those who believe technology is the only way to feed a balooning global population, and those who are increasingly fearful that biotechnology is resulting in food that is nutritionally lacking and environmentally dangerous." The article goes on to detail a battle between Monsanto and the biotech "industry" on one side, and scientists, on the other, whose reputations and funding (increasingly sponsored by the industry itself as public funding has dried up in the current economic climate) are threatened by intimidation through industry ridicule, ostracism and loss of funds if they publish research articles which are - to put it euphemistially - "unflattering" to the industry.

In my op-ed piece, "Another view...", last week, I asserted that Monsanto's products were creating a "monoculture" of crops in the U.S. that could subject this nation to famine conditions if one or two diseases appeared that would attack Monsanto produced plants. It appears that this article could be describing the beginning of a pandemic of selective vulnerability that could wipe out those crops and potentially our future food supply. Could the crop failure among soy beans of the past two years be figuratively the first "canary in the coalmine" with regard to the vulnerabilities of biotechnically produced seeds. Read the article for yourself. You decide.

Don Hess

Monday, April 11, 2011

A Heap of Consciousness

Ira brought up his concept at our recent Philo Club meeting, which he claims he shares with Einstein and Spinoza, that the sum of many consciousnesses is another super consciousness. He uses the fact that the sum of a multitude of neurons constituting the entire brain add up to a consciousness as a proof by analogy.

The trouble with this approach is that it produces the "Problem of the Heap." If there is a heap of grains and one grain is subtracted, does one still have a heap? If the answer is yes, and one keeps subtracting grains, at what point does one cease to have a heap? If one assumes there is a super consciousness, and one subtracts individuals, at what point does the super consciousness disappear? Both problems are born in the concept of vagueness. A heap is a vague concept and so is consciousness.


Friday, April 8, 2011

The Blogosphere - Millions of Citizen Journalists

[Based on a presentation by Ira Glickstein to the Philosophy Club, The Villages, FL, 08 April 2011. Powerpoint slides are available HERE]
What if everybody had a printing press with worldwide reach at essentially zero cost? Well we do!
The Blogosphere
is a growing, multi-million person army of citizen journalists. Anyone can create a blog that can be read by anyone else, instantaneously and worldwide, at essentially no cost.
Technological developments in the past decades have diluted the ownership of the press from a monopoly of the professional, connected, monied elite to a more balanced playing field where ordinary people can reach extraordinary audiences. The elite no longer choose what is "the news of the day".
As the left-hand panel of the graphic indicates, the traditional model has professional authors and reporters, who are assigned by and work for media conglomerates, gathering and reporting the news of the day. Their work is funnelled through the editorial and publications processes of the media conglomerates and is then flushed down upon the people, who the media elite regard as "The Great Unwashed Public". We poor souls at the bottom have no choice but to lap it up. (Yes, there are "Letters to the Editor" and call-ins on Talk Radio, but these are screened and selected by the same media elite who published and broadcast the original stories, so effective views that happen to be contrary may not see the light of day.)
We, now do have a choice. The new model, shown in the right-hand panel, consists of literally hundreds of millions of non-professionals who run blogs out of their homes, and billions of blog readers who may become commenters at the flip of the switch on their PCs and laptops. Bloggers interact with each other on a peer-to-peer basis. Of course there are some blogs with greater readership and influence than others, but it is an almost pure meritocracy. My blog -and yours- is just as convenient to bring up on any computer as the most influential blog in the world!
We are fortunate enough to know the exact moment of truth when the media elite decline began. It was late one Saturday night back in January 1998, when, at precisely 11:32:47 PM, Pacific Standard Time, in the kitchen of his apartment in Hollywood, CA, a strange looking fellow named Matt Drudge posted an item to his news aggregation blog. His scoop was the fact that Newsweek Magazine had just spiked a story by veteran reporter Michael Isikoff, apparently for political reasons, because the story was about the then President of the United States and his sexual affair with a young intern named Monica Lewinsky.
Quoting This Day in Tech History: "Almost overnight it seems, traditional news media, especially newspapers, began to lose ground to Internet news sources."
The Drudge Report continues to be one of the most popular websites in the world. I visit it a couple times a day to check on the latest news. Unlike other popular websites, the Drudge Report continues its "plain Jane" style (or lack thereof), linking major media reoports of the news stories I most want to read and sometimes breaking new stories of its own.
I've had a blog since the mid-1900's. The first one I had to code in raw HTML because there were no editors available to me at the time. It is still online at, frozen in time because I have not had access to it for about seven years.
I currently have four Google Blogs, the one you are reading now, The Vitual Philosophy Club, plus Curb Your Enthusiasm - Fantasy Episodes, 2052 - Life, Liberty and Technology - predictions for the second half of the 21st Century, and 2052-The Hawking Plan, my free online novel.
I also have a dozen Google Knols to my credit, and here is the list. Knols (bits of knowledge) are Google's answer to Wikipedia. Ironically, I started writing Knols after Wikipedia rejected a scholarly item I wrote about Optimal Span. I made the mistake of mentioning that it was based on my PhD Dissertation and one of the Wikipedia volunteer reviewers thought that was inappropriate. It turns out that Wikipedia has a formal review process. My item was challenged, I made changes and appealed the challenge, and some comittee voted and excised my item.
Even though I think their process misfired in my case, overall this experience enhanced my respect for the integrity of Wikipedia items on important topics. Yes, anyone can post misinformation to Wikipedia on unimportant topic areas, but they do have dedicated volunteer reviewers for domains of importance. So, rejected by Wikipedia, I went to Google Knols and posted my Optimal Span item there. (A great example of the efffectiveness of competition in increasing the freedom of choice of writers and audiences!)
Over the past few years, I have posted a dozen Knols on many topics, and they have garnered over 20,000 page views.
Back in December of last year, I became a Guest Contributor at the world's most viewed climate website, Watts Up With That?, which this year was voted Best Science Blog. Since December, I have posted 16 topics, garnering over 90,000 page views, and a few thousand comments. It is quite thrilling, and a bit humbling, to post an item and, within 24 hours, have a few thousand page views and a one- or two-hundred comments!
I'm doing my share promoting the citizen's army of journalists. And by reading (and commenting) on this, you are too!

Ira Glickstein

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Another View on the Genetically Modified Food "Controversy"

[From Don Hess. The proprietor of this Blog does not necessarily agree with this material.]

Friends of the Philosophy Club, Although I wasn't present for Deardra's presentation, I did help her "vet" the slides, and am familiar with her talk. Because of the complexity of the subject and the time constraint on any club presentation, I decided to add this view to fill in a few of what I thought were the "gaps" in Deardra's short prentation.

For those who are truly interested, and who would like some very well presented information, there are four DVD presentations on the dangers GMOs present, and on Monsanto's political revolving door with the USDA, FDA, EPA and Supreme Court.

The swapping of personnel positions between their Monsanto employ and the various agencies of government, including Clarence Thomas on the Supreme Court, is a matter of record; there is no disputing it. The chronology of the swings in the revolving door is far too synchronized with important decisions made by these bodies to be coincidental.

The DVDs are "The Future of Food", "Food, Inc.", "The World According to Monsanto", and "David Versus Monsanto". If you choose to view them, you will get an understanding of Monsanto's monstrous activites and their destruction of animal and human lives and of the environment.

I presume any personal bias against belief and tendency to dismiss the dangers, the politics, or Monsantos destructive activities might stem from a belief in the benign character of capitalism and the self-policing potential of the "free" market.

But this rogue organization has thwarted all the processes designed to promote the safety of the food that sustains our lives - to the extent of buying up all of its seed competition, intimidating farmers by suing them for "breach of patent" when wind-blown GM seed contaminates their fields planted with organic crops. These processes thwart the normal "market function" (and consumer protection) of "fair" competition. Monsanto has even gone to the extent of inserting policy written by their shills (see below) at the FDA, prohibiting labelling that would allow the consumer a choice to abandon their products.

Currently polls show that more than 53% of consumers would not buy products that included genetically modified (GM) crops IF they KNEW they were present. These crops are now present in 70% of the products in supermarkets, including everything from breakfast cereals to catsup, processed cheeze, peanut butter, salad dressing, soy milk and jelly. The major marketers of milk abandoned milk from cows fed rGBH (also known as rBST) when only 5% of their customers declined to buy it. Without labelling that informs consumers of the presence of genetically modifified grain content, consumers cannot "vote with their feet" and another normal market function is thwarted.

Michael Taylor was one of the FDA's Directors and wrote the policy, still extant today, that prevents labelling of GM products in the USA. Today he occupies a position as "special advisor" in this area to President Obama. The current head of the Department of Agriculture is Tom Vilsack, also a former Monsanto executive. All together about ten of Monsanto's previous officers have also inhabited offices in the various branches of government with decision power in this area.

Monsanto has also attempted to suppress pretigious independent lab studies of the effects of their crops on rats and mice in England (Arpad Pustai) and Russia, and had the research scientists involved fired and muzzled through non-disclosure agreements. Fortunately, Dr. Pustai was released from his agreement after seven months, and within a month and a half after his disclosures on the health of rats fed GM potatoes, most of Europe abandoned the consumption of products containing GM crops.

Monsanto's suits of farmers and their patents on "terminator seeds" - seeds that will NOT germinate to produce the next generation of crops - belie their "benign" image and expose their intentions to force control of the world food supply and its pricing through monopoly. These activities arise from the corporation that has given the world PCBs, DDT, Agent Orange, Dioxin, Aspartame, rBST (bovine growth hormone) and now genetically modified soy, corn, canola, cotton, papayas, zuchinni and sugar beets, and is now attempting to introduce GM alfalfa, which will contaminate organically grown alfalfa within 5 miles of any field containing the GM brand. Can we count on the moral goodwill of such a corporation to protect our food supply?

Currently, there are two bills before Congress for reconciliation, HR 475 and S 510, which attempt to criminalize organic farming and prohibit private gardening. HR 475 was introduced by a House member whose husband is patently employed by a lobbying firm with Monsanto as a client. Monsanto denies any connection with the Senate bill. Fortunately for the possible outcome of reconciliation, an amendment sponsored by Sen. Jon Tester of Montana would limit the provisions to farms of more than $500 thousand gross a year. But the insideous attempt toward creating monopoly is apparent in Monsanto's interest in these bills.

Monsanto has contributed to the deaths of over 125,000 small Indian cotton growers by buying up all of the competing organic seed suppliers, witholding all that seed from the market, forcing the farmers to buy Monsanto's seed and then jacking up the prices fourfold, causing small farmer bankruptcies, despair and suicides.

Thank God much of Europe and Japan have outlawed their products for human consumption. Those countries will provide a safe repository for seed varieties when this rogue corporation destroys plant diversity to an extent that one or two crop blights in this country will destroy the entire monoculture food producing capacity of this nation - much like the wheat failure several years ago in Russia and the potato famine in Ireland.

It is up to you to draw your own conclusions about this monstrously destructive rogue corporation, but I urge you NOT to do that on the basis of ignorance. You owe it to yourselves to view the information necessary to make sensible judgements. Efforts are underway today, through hearings, to require the Justice Department to break up the monopoly Monsanto holds over the industry. Please take the opportunity to join them if you are persuaded by the information I'm offering here.

Three of the DVDs are available, full lenth, on You Tube under the exact titles I've listed above. Start with the four DVDs above and then investigate further via the internet.

It is YOUR health and YOUR future that are as stake if you are one who permits this organization to continue its evil activities without objection or resistance.

Don Hess