June 25, 2015 archive

Why is it called the “Moops” Doctrine?

GOP’s George Costanza moment: The “Moops” doctrine and the war on Obamacare

by Simon Maloy, Salon

Wednesday, Jul 23, 2014 10:59 AM EST

I’ve been trying to figure out how to best characterize and/or mock the legal reasoning at play behind the Halbig decision, and I think it can be boiled down to one word: Moops.

I’m referring, of course, to George Costanza’s famous game of Trivial Pursuit against the Bubble Boy, in which Costanza tries to cheat his way out of losing by taking advantage of a misprint on the answer card: “Moops” instead of “Moors.”

“That’s not ‘Moops,’ you jerk. It’s Moors. It’s a misprint,” the Bubble Boy explains, accurately presenting the game manufacturer’s intent in spite of the minor technical error.

“I’m sorry, the card says ‘Moops,'” Costanza replies, adopting an absurdly narrow and nonsensical interpretation of the rules that furthers his own interests. It’s a pretty good match on the logic, and the happy coincidence that the situation pits a whiny, lying jerk against a person in need of substantial medical care only bolsters its relevance.

(h/t Simon Maloy @ Salon)

Debtor’s Prison

Jailed for Being Broke

By Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone

June 23, 2015

It’s not easy to get the public to care about bail. It’s particularly hard for people with little exposure to the criminal justice system to sympathize with those who get arrested, particularly for crimes of violence.

What people forget is that those who’ve merely been charged with crimes aren’t officially guilty yet. And not-yet-guilty people aren’t supposed to go to the hole, except under very narrowly defined sets of circumstances – for flight risks or for threats to the community. It’s certainly not supposed to be a punishment for not having $500.

In the wake of Ferguson and Baltimore, there’s been a lot of attention focused on police violence, as a symbol of the unfairness baked into our justice system. But when it comes to civil rights issues and the Wealth Gap, bail is where the rubber meets the road. You can walk into any arraignment court, anytime, and see how bad it is. Is it really that hard to fix?


The Breakfast Club (Lucky Us)

breakfast beers photo breakfastbeers.jpgSometimes the Science section scares me and I have a hard time coming to grips with issues that are more immediately and politically important like Climate Change and the Environment, instead favoring those that are more esoteric and intellectual.

This is one of those weeks where the news in general has been uniformly depressingly bad and the only place we seem to be making any progress at all is on the silly issue of whether the Battle Flag of the Army of Northern Virginia represents racism and should be removed from government sponsorship.

Of course it does.

But it is just another in the litany of Social Issues the Plutocrat thieves and their NeoLib minions use to divide and distract us from the fact they are robbing us blind and destroying the Environment, the Economy, and Peace and Freedom in the process.

I like to think as a writer I’m a positive and cheerful person (and what you think doesn’t really matter to me, I write for myself) so I make an effort to select good news and there is just not as much of it as I had hoped today.

So instead of pointing out how Genetically Modified Organisms are likely to create a world full of health problems and unintended consequences (add ‘Space Germs’ to your reading list), and the pettiness of Scientists (see ‘Jellyfish Gene’ and ‘Sexism in Science’); or talking about the destruction of our environment for marginal monetary gain and the determination of our government to strip us of our last scrap of privacy, freedom, and dignity; I have chosen instead today to focus on just how lucky we are.

Some physicists consider it a puzzle that certain constants they have discovered have the particular values they do because they seem random and arbitrary.  Those who argue this way are fond of pointing out that should any of the values vary the Universe as we know it wouldn’t exist.

There are 3 main camps of thought on this issue.  The first is called ‘Weak Anthropomorphism’ and basically contends the Universe is a fluke and we should all just be happy it is the way it is.  The second is called ‘Strong Anthropomorphism’ which says the Universe responds to observation like the Quantum State of Schrodinger’s cat.

The third, and this is the one to which I subscribe, says simply that if the values were different the Universe would be different.  Everyone pretty much accepts now the idea that the Universe will keep expanding until all the energy in the system is equal and after that nothing much will happen.  It’s called the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

It was fashionable for a time to think this would not occur, that a limit would be reached where the energy expanding the Universe would be overcome by Gravity and it would collapse on itself in another Big Bang.  Indeed for quite a while the existence of a Big Bang was denied entirely and a Steady State Universe was proposed where everything was always the same.

What changed?

Well, as we checked out the values of specific items predicted by each of the discarded theories we found out they weren’t that, they were something else.

But if they were that then that’s the kind of Universe it would be.

Now those who subscribe to the first two camps (and indeed physicists who insist this is a very important question) tend to dismiss this attitude as a mere multiverse cop out, but it’s much more subtle than that.

In complex equations there are often more than one right answer and their very nature frequently depends on the results of the previous ones.

Our mathematical structure is fundamentally arbitrary and derives it’s validity from internal consistency and practical use.  That means it’s not impossible to imagine a different mathematical structure.

Humankind’s Existentially Lucky Numbers

by George Johnson, The New York Times

JUNE 22, 2015

Rejecting the possibility that this was nothing more than a lucky accident, physicists have been looking for some underlying principle – a compelling explanation for why everything could only have unfolded in this particular way.

But physics isn’t played that way: If a number called alpha, which governs the strength of electromagnetism, were infinitesimally larger or smaller, stars could not have formed, leaving a lifeless void.

Alpha’s value seems no more predictable than digits randomly spit out by a lottery machine: 0.0072973525698.

Other values, like the mass of the Higgs, or the strength of the force that binds together the cores of atoms, appear to be just as finely tuned. Bump the dials just barely, and nothing like our universe could exist.

Finally there are followers of a middle path, who seek to prove that the universe is not accidental but inevitable, with its set of defining numbers as constrained and mutually consistent as the solution to a Sudoku puzzle.

That was the goal of string theory when it rose to prominence three decades ago. The mathematics, with its extra dimensions and pretzel geometries, was so mesmerizing that the theory seemed almost certain to be true – a tightly woven description, when ultimately deciphered, of a universe just like our own.

Instead, string theory spiraled off in another direction, predicting a whole multitude of other universes, each with a different physics and each unobservable except for our own. Maybe some of the other universes have spawned different kinds of conscious beings, made from something other than atoms and just as puzzled (in some unfathomable equivalent of puzzlement) as we are.

What fundamentaly drives this issue is our collossal, egotistical, anthropomorphism that insisted for centuries that the world is flat and the Sun revolves around us.

Plenty of multiverse skeptics remain open to some version of string theory, one that doesn’t require redefining what counts as real. Maybe, lurking still hidden in the thicket, is a magic equation, showing that this universe is, after all, the only one that can be.

See?  It’s the same attitude that faced Copernicus.  What doesn’t change is people and their self centered ignorance.

Science Oriented Video

The law that entropy always increases holds, I think, the supreme position among the laws of Nature. If someone points out to you that your pet theory of the universe is in disagreement with Maxwell’s equations – then so much the worse for Maxwell’s equations. If it is found to be contradicted by observation – well, these experimentalists do bungle things sometimes. But if your theory is found to be against the second law of thermodynamics I can give you no hope; there is nothing for it but to collapse in deepest humiliation.

Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington, The Nature of the Physical World (1927)

Science News and Blogs

Obligatories, News and Blogs below.

On This Day In History June 25

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

Click on images to enlarge.

June 25 is the 176th day of the year (177th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 189 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1876, Native American forces led by Chiefs Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull defeat the U.S. Army troops of Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer in a bloody battle near southern Montana’s Little Bighorn River.


In 1875, Sitting Bull created the Sun Dance alliance between the Lakota and the Cheyenne, a religious ceremony which celebrates the spiritual rebirth of participants. One had taken place around June 5, 1876, on the Rosebud River in Montana, involving Agency Native Americans who had slipped away from their reservations to join the hostiles. During the event, Sitting Bull reportedly had a vision of “soldiers falling into his camp like grasshoppers from the sky.” At the same time, military officials had a summer campaign underway to force the Lakota and Cheyenne back to their reservations, using infantry and cavalry in a three-pronged approach.

Col. John Gibbon’s column of six companies of the 7th Infantry and four companies of the 2nd Cavalry marched east from Fort Ellis in western Montana on March 30, to patrol the Yellowstone River. Brig. Gen. George Crook’s column of ten companies of the 3rd Cavalry, five of the 2nd Cavalry, two companies of the 4th Infantry, and three companies of the 9th Infantry, moved north from Fort Fetterman in the Wyoming Territory on May 29, marching toward the Powder River area. Brig. Gen. Alfred Terry’s column, including twelve companies of the 7th Cavalry under Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer’s immediate command, Companies C and G of the 17th U.S. Infantry, and the Gatling gun detachment of the 20th Infantry departed westward from Fort Abraham Lincoln in the Dakota Territory on May 17. They were accompanied by teamsters and packers with 150 wagons and a large contingent of pack mules that reinforced Custer. Companies C, D, and I of the 6th U.S. Infantry, moved along the Yellowstone River from Fort Buford on the Missouri River to set up a supply depot, and joined Terry on May 29 at the mouth of the Powder River.

The coordination and planning began to go awry on June 17, 1876, when Crook’s column was delayed after the Battle of the Rosebud. Surprised and, according to some accounts, astonished by the unusually large numbers of Native Americans in the battle, a defeated Crook was compelled to pull back, halt and regroup. Unaware of Crook’s battle, Gibbon and Terry proceeded, joining forces in early June near the mouth of the Rosebud River. They reviewed Terry’s plan calling for Custer’s regiment to proceed south along the Rosebud, while Terry and Gibbon’s united forces would move in a westerly direction toward the Bighorn and Little Bighorn rivers. As this was the likely location of Indian encampments, all Army elements were to converge around June 26 or 27, attempting to engulf the Native Americans. On June 22, Terry ordered the 7th Cavalry, composed of 31 officers and 566 enlisted men under Custer, to begin a reconnaissance and pursuit along the Rosebud, with the prerogative to “depart” from orders upon seeing “sufficient reason.” Custer had been offered the use of Gatling guns but declined, believing they would slow his command.

While the Terry/Gibbon column was marching toward the mouth of the Little Bighorn, on the evening of June 24, Custer’s scouts arrived at an overlook known as the Crow’s Nest, 14 miles (23 km) east of the Little Bighorn River. At sunrise on June 25, Custer’s scouts reported they could see a massive pony herd and signs of the Native American village roughly 15 miles (24 km) in the distance. After a night’s march, the tired officer sent with the scouts could see neither, and when Custer joined them, he was also unable to make the sighting. Custer’s scouts also spotted the regimental cooking fires that could be seen from 10 miles away, disclosing the regiment’s position.

Custer contemplated a surprise attack against the encampment the following morning of June 26, but he then received a report informing him several hostile Indians had discovered the trail left by his troops. Assuming his presence had been exposed, Custer decided to attack the village without further delay. On the morning of June 25, Custer divided his 12 companies into three battalions in anticipation of the forthcoming engagement. Three companies were placed under the command of Major Marcus Reno (A, G, and M); and three were placed under the command of Capt. Frederick Benteen. Five companies remained under Custer’s immediate command. The 12th, Company B, under Capt. Thomas McDougald, had been assigned to escort the slower pack train carrying provisions and additional ammunition.

Unbeknownst to Custer, the group of Native Americans seen on his trail were actually leaving the encampment on the Big Horn and did not alert the village. Custer’s scouts warned him about the size of the village, with scout Mitch Bouyer reportedly saying, “General, I have been with these Indians for 30 years, and this is the largest village I have ever heard of.” Custer’s overriding concern was that the Native American group would break up and scatter in different directions. The command began its approach to the Native American village at 12 noon and prepared to attack in full daylight.

The Daily/Nightly Show (Waxing Crescent)

California is too dry!

Tonightly?  Who knows, but the panel is Talib Kweli Greene, David Alan Grier, and Bonnie McFarlane.

As a bonus though, you get Poppa Pope-


Today Bobby Jindal, tomorrow Chris Christe and Scott Walker!

Still sure you want to quit Jon?

This week’s guests-

Andrew Napolitano will be on to rave about whatever lunacy he’s into today.

Seth MacFarlane’s web exclusive extended interview and the real news below.