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Animal’s Daily News

Excellent BearThis just in from the always-worth-reading Dr. Victor Davis Hanson:  When The Law Is A Drag.  Excerpt:

In the Ferguson disaster, the law was the greatest casualty. Civilization cannot long work if youths strong-arm shop owners and take what they want. Or walk down the middle of highways high on illicit drugs. Or attack police officers and seek to grab their weapons. Or fail to obey an officer’s command to halt. Or deliberately give false testimonies to authorities. Or riot, burn, and loot. Or, in the more abstract sense, simply ignore the legal findings of a grand jury; or, in critical legal theory fashion, seek to dismiss the authority of the law because it is not deemed useful to some preconceived theory of social justice. Do that and society crumbles.

In our cynicism we accept, to avoid further unrest, that no government agency will in six months prosecute the looters and burners, or charge with perjury those who brazenly lied in their depositions to authorities, or charge the companion of Michael Brown with an accessory role in strong-arm robbery, or charge the stepfather of Michael Brown for using a bullhorn to incite a crowd to riot and loot and burn. We accept that because legality is becoming an abstraction, as it is in most parts of the world outside the U.S. where politics makes the law fluid and transient.

While Dr. Hanson makes some excellent points, one has to wonder how much of the callous disregard for the rule of law has to do with the penchant of various levels of government have for passing laws they know are unenforceable, laws that will be routinely ignored, laws that will only be enforced when some elected or appointed official sees a chance to advance some agenda by so doing?

Case in point:  Our own Colorado’s recently-enacted magazine ban.  Recently a county sheriff in a press conference held up two 30-round AR-15 magazines.  “One of these,” he said, “has been in the state for a year.  The other was brought in from Wyoming this morning.  Can you tell the difference?”

No.  Nobody can.  That’s why this catastrophically stupid law is unenforceable, why it will be ignored, and because of that it cheapens the law as a whole.

Yes-YOU-bearDr. Hanson points out that in his own California Central Valley, he must “…accept that if I burn a single old grape stake that has been treated with a copper-based preservative, I will be facing huge fines by environmental protection agencies, whose zeal will not extend to nearby residents who have created illegal compounds of rental Winnebagos with jerry-rigged wiring and stop-gap sewage or who dump wet garbage along the side of the road.”

There can be no respect for the law when it is capricious and arbitrary.  The law should be two things:  Impartial and absolute.  In the United States today it is neither, and recent actions by the Imperial Federal government are accelerating that trend.

Nothing about this will end well.

Goodbye, Blue Monday

Goodbye, Blue Monday!
Goodbye, Blue Monday!

Another Thanksgiving come and gone, and on this first day of December we all probably are wondering where the hell 2014 went.

Before we begin, once more we give our thanks to for the Rule Five links!  Aficionados of the Feminine Aesthetic should check out Wombat-socho’s extensive compilation of links.

An interesting data point noticed in our Thanksgiving travels was the drop in gasoline prices.  Some of the reasons for that are the explosion of gas and oil development in the Dakotas and Canada, but another explosion is taking place in the Utica Shale formation of  eastern Ohio.  Excerpt:

The Utica Shale is coming on strong as the nation’s second-fastest natural gas formation, right behind the Marcellus. The Utica lies just beneath the Marcellus and extends all the way from central Ohio to tiny slivers of Maryland and New Jersey (not shown). Production in the Utica has risen tenfold since the field was opened in 2012, from 155 million cubic feet per day to 1.3 billion.

Until recently, regular unleaded gasoline was well over $3 a gallon here in Colorado.  It was over $3 in Indiana for all of the year and three months I recently spent there.  When we traveled yesterday across Iowa, Nebraska and eastern Colorado, the highest we paid for petrol was $2.67.

Smiling BearSupply and demand works, True Believers.  Adam Smith figured that out 240 years ago, even if Congress and the other denizens of the Imperial City haven’t yet.

So why has the Senate not approved the Keystone pipeline, which will add 800 miles of pipeline to the well over 2 million already in everyday use around the lower 48?  The environmental lobby has had their say, but their argument is based on a sham; that oil will be extracted and sold, either to the U.S. or to China.  While the price of oil, a fungible commodity, is a global price, and that price will continue to drop as supply increases, it would be a far more efficient use of the resource to refine and use it closer to the point of origin.

And why not send U.S. energy dollars to a nation that is not only our neighbor but also our close friend and ally, rather than to Middle Eastern sponsors of terror, run by either thug-dictators or cabals of 7th century barbarians?

The recalcitrance of the Obama Administration on this issue is mind-boggling.

Rule Five Friday

2014_11_28_Rule Five Friday (1) (853x1280)Are we on the brink of creating artificial life?  Excerpt:

With 100 billion neurons and 37 trillion cells, the human body is simply too complex to be artificially designed by modern computers.

But in the quest to create artificial life, what if we started a lot smaller? That’s what team of scientists has done, creating a replica of the simplest form of life we know.

The worm Caenorhabditis elegans has just 300 neurons and around 1,000 cells – and now a robot has been created that mimics the actions of this simple organism.

2014_11_28_Rule Five Friday (2) (861x1280)The OpenWorm project, a global effort including researchers from the US and UK, is attempting to create the world’s first digital animal.

Earlier this year they ran a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund the creation of a worm you can download onto your computer.

There are a couple of ways of looking at this.  First, the implications of digitizing a worm brain are far, far different than the implications of digitizing a human brain.  Ditto for the moral and ethical implications.

2014_11_28_Rule Five Friday (3) (1280x845)Fortunately, the complexity of a human brain is also far more involved than a worm brain, making the differences in the project probably more of kind than of degree.

But what if we could do it?

That’s where the two ways of looking at this come in, here where humans are concerned.  You could use the process to make a copy of your own brain – a back-up, as it were, to be activated on physical death.  On the other hand, what if you could eschew physicality altogether, and go completely digital?  A disembodied sprite, wandering the Intarwebs.  Would you be an odd sort of living virus?  2014_11_28_Rule Five Friday (4) (862x1280)Would you be able to interact with the living?  With other cyber-beings?  Would you still have rights, obligations, responsibilities?

I’m inclined to answer “no,” to those last three, because the copy of you would not be you – it would only be a programmed simulacrum of you.  It’s hard to see how a purely digital “person” could in fact be a person in any legal, moral or ethical sense.

But back to the worm; the linked article concludes:

The robot is very basic for now, and does not possess the ability to perform more complex functions such as eating.

It’s an important step, though, to creating artificial life that can think for itself.

2014_11_28_Rule Five Friday (5) (861x1280)While this worm is a very basic form of life, it may be a precursor to making much more complex animals.

This will be a huge undertaking, though – even a mouse has 22 million neurons in its brain.

‘The mere act of trying to put a working model together causes us to realise what we know and what we don’t know,’ John Long, a roboticist and neuroscientist at Vassar College in New York State, told New Scientist.

In other words, creating a simulation of any mammal brain, much less a human brain, is a long, long ways off.  Still the stuff of science fiction (of which, as all True Believers may know, yr. obdt. is a fan and an author.)

But while it may be a long ways off, it may not be too soon to start thinking about the implications.  Besides, it’s entertaining.

2014_11_28_Rule Five Friday (6) (1280x844)

Animal’s Hump Day News

Happy Hump Day!
Happy Hump Day!

Time and family presses, so we’ll just have a few quick notes  and items of interest on this pre-Thanksgiving Hump Day.

Complex Life May Be Possible In Only 10% of Galaxies.  Ours, obviously, would be in that 10%, although the jury is still out on the possibility of intelligent life in Congress.

The Delicious Science of Chinese Buffets.  We have one in the Denver area we favor, the Great Wall buffet in Lakewood, where it is not only possible but probable to eat entirely too much.  Too many Chinese buffets serve up a menu where everything tastes like it was dumped out of a can and heated, but the Great Wall serves up a wide variety of food that is obviously freshly made and piping hot.

But oh, the calories.

bears-cute-awesome1-11Breaking the boundaries of established science; what happens when you put a snail in the microwave?  Yes, really.

Finally:  Did Ben Franklin Want the Turkey As Our National Symbol?  Perhaps not, although these days one wonders if the chicken would be more appropriate.

On that note, we return you to your pre-Thanksgiving Wednesday, already in progress.

Animal’s Daily News

Silver BearNote:  There will be no post on Thursday, Thanksgiving Day.  Rule Five Friday and the Saturday Gingermageddon will be posted as per usual.

Take a look at what the FDA proposes for rules for restaurant food.  Excerpt:

The Food and Drug Administration plans new rules requiring chain restaurants, movie theaters and other retailers that sell prepared foods to put calorie labels on menus and menu boards. The rules will only apply to establishments that have 20 or more locations.

The rules will be announced on Tuesday.

A sampling of what will be labeled with calorie information — and what won’t — under the new rules:

— Menu items at chain restaurants, including drive-through and take out boards

— Drinks on menus, and soda dispensers

— Some alcoholic beverages on menus

— Most prepared foods in supermarkets, convenience stores

— Concessions at movie theaters, amusement parks that are part of larger chains

— Displays of food, such as pastries, at coffee chains like Starbucks

— Food prepared on site at large retail outlets, such as Target and Costco

Can someone – anyone – point out in the Constitution where the Imperial Federal government is authorized to place these restrictions on privately owned businesses?  All too many seem to forget the Tenth Amendment:

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

Angry-BearIn simple English:  If the Constitution does not specifically authorize the Imperial Federal government to take a certain action, they may not take said action.  And this kind of meddling in the affairs of privately owned businesses is nowhere to be found.

When will Congress and the Imperial judiciary rediscover the Tenth Amendment?  When they do, maybe we can broach the subject of an alphabet soup of unConstitutional agencies that have been set up in the Imperial City in recent years.

Goodbye, Blue Monday

Goodbye, Blue Monday!
Goodbye, Blue Monday!

This just in from the always-worth-reading Dr. Victor Davis Hanson:  Explaining Away Obama.  Excerpt:

The only mystery about the last six years is how much lasting damage has been done to the American experiment, at home and abroad. Our federal agencies are now an alphabet soup of incompetence and corruption. How does the IRS ever quite recover? Will the Secret Service always be seen as veritable Keystone Cops? Is the GSA now a reckless party-time organization? Is the EPA institutionalized as a rogue appendage of the radical green movement with a director who dabbles in online pseudonyms? Do we accept that the Justice Department dispenses injustice or that the VA can be a lethal institution for our patriots? Is NASA now a Muslim outreach megaphone as we hire Russia, the loser of the space race, to rocket us into orbit?

Explaining away Barack Obama isn’t that hard.  He was a child of wealth and privilege, who was never held to account or expected to actually run any organization until he was suddenly elected President.

Out on a limb.
Out on a limb.

In 2008, when he initially announced his intention, it’s very probable that he didn’t expect to gain the nomination, much less win the election.  In the considered opinion of yr. obdt, he was at that time just launching  himself into the national perception with the intent of a later candidacy.

But he won, and once he had, he was like the car-chasing dog who has actually caught one, and now is unsure what to do with it.  And after six years in the Imperial Mansion, he still doesn’t know.  His administration has been marked mostly by arrogant condescension, indecisiveness, buck-passing and blaming his predecessor.

Dr. Hanson concludes:  We have had storytellers and fabulists in the White House before, but rarely a president who is energized to distort the truth by the very contempt that he holds the people in.

As usual, Dr. Hanson is correct.

Rule Five Friday

2014_11_21_Rule Five Friday (2)An interesting tidbit from the Left Coast:  Crime-Fighting Robots Go On Patrol in Silicon Valley.  Excerpt:

A new kind of security guard is on patrol in Silicon Valley: crime-fighting robots that look like they’re straight out of a sci-fi movie.

At first glance, the K5 security robot looks like a cartoonish Star Wars character.

“The vast majority of people see it and go, ‘Oh my God, that’s so cute.’ We’ve had people go up and hug it, and embrace it for whatever reason,” said Stacy Stephens, co-founder of Knightscope, headquartered in Mountain View.

2014_11_21_Rule Five Friday (1)They are unarmed, but they are imposing: about 5 feet tall and 300 pounds, which very likely will make someone think twice before committing a crime in their presence.

“The first thing that’s going to happen is the burglar is going to spot the robot. And unfortunately, criminals are inherently lazy. They’re not looking for something that’s going to be confrontational, they’re looking for something that’s going to be an easy target,” said Stacy Stephens, co-founder of Knightscope. “They see the robot and maybe they move down to the next place down the street.”

Or they will knock it over.  Or throw a blanket over it.  Or spray-paint over its optical sensors.

2014_11_21_Rule Five Friday (3)Or, they will just steal the robot.

Seriously, as described this just doesn’t seem like a terribly bright idea.  The designers of RoboCop Mk I may get away with this in Silicon Valley, but how about Newark?  Chicago?  Detroit?  Right down I-5 in Los Angeles?

In any of those locales as well as dozens of others, the response from the local criminal element is certain to be laughter.

If someone messes with the robot, apparently this happens:

2014_11_21_Rule Five Friday (4)If someone decides to attack the robot, it could get uncomfortable. When first confronted, they let out a loud chirp and notify the control center. The chirps will get louder and louder as the threat persists.

“A very, very loud alarm,” said Stephens. “Think of a car alarm but much more intense.”

Oh dear.  Loud chirps.  That’s certain to put off a criminal.  And how far away is this control center?  How far away are any actual humans who would be able and equipped to respond to RoboCop Mk I’s chirps of alarm?

The very real concern here is that the robot will be used as justification for reducing human police presence in any given area, 2014_11_21_Rule Five Friday (5)which is a catastrophic mistake.  Until we have autonomous robots capable of intervening in crimes-in-progress – and this, mind you, requires robots capable and programmed in the use of force (violating the Three Laws of Robotics?) then these are just expensive, fancy mobile security cameras.

Also:  Can they go up curbs?  Stairs?  Enter buildings?  Open doors?

The linked article concludes:

The makers of the robot said they have a long waiting list of about four dozen companies waiting for a K5. They expect to put many more of these robots in place sometime next year.

Privately  owned companies may spend their money however they wish, but one hopes that no tax dollars at any level are spent on these.

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