Monthly Archives: April 2017

Science marches on – challenging chaos and supersistion

Tami Carlow and Kristen Swanson at the rainy Science March

Tami Carlow and Kristen Swanson at the rainy Science March

Tami Carlow said, “Rain will not stop Kristen Swanson and I from marching for Science in Washington, D.C.”

Tami is a gardener with undergraduate and graduate degrees in biology, concentrating in entomology.  “Ever since I was little, I was fascinated by insects.”  Tami has published papers on the flightless weevil (Eisonyx Crassipes) and parasitic wasps on the backs of dragon flies.  Little wonder that she was a taxonomist, studying weevils at the Natural History museum in DC.  Also little wonder that she would join the Science March on Washington this past Saturday.



Science March on Washington

Science March on Washington

Kristen K. Swanson, of Lovettsville, is an artist but her technique requires some craft at science.  Kristen takes a soft lump of stoneware clay, thrown on a potter’s wheel (if not made from clay slabs), shapes the clay by hand, paints or “carves” designs on the clay body, and fires the clay twice, the second time at 2,300 degrees Fahrenheit.  Kristen received her Bachelor of fine Arts in Ceramic Art in 1998 from the Virginia Commonwealth University.

Tami and Kristen joined thousands in Washington DC on Earth Day and many others in 600 cities on 6 continents including research scientists in Antarctica.

There are many instances to insist on science as your guide this year.  The Science March itself was inspired by the Women’s March, and has been characterized by the slogan, “There is no Planet B.” Continue reading

Killing innocents

Jail_barsWe struggle with the question of how to kill those convicted of killing others.

Arkansas apparently is struggling to win the indoor record for killing the most on death row in the shortest period of time, 8 persons in 10 days.

Some people on death row are saved by the bell.

Eight men on death row in Arkansas have been saved by midazolam – at least for awhile.

The current death cocktail requires that the person be put asleep with midazolam so that he is not awake when two other drugs suffocate and kill him.

So what’s the hold up?

Midazolam doesn’t always work.

A federal judge, Kristine Baker, wrote an 101 page decision concerned that the drug doesn’t work, thus stopping the executions.

Our society is in a bad place when we talk about how we kill inmates instead of whether we should at all.

Arkansas is so anxious to kill they intend to appeal the judge’s ruling.

There are plenty of good reasons not to execute anyone.

The best reason is that the so-called judicial system doesn’t get it right; it convicts innocents.

Damien Echols was convicted as a teenager in Arkansas with two friends for murdering three boys.  They suspected he was part of a satanic cult.  He spent about two decades on death row waiting for his execution.  DNA proved he did not commit the crime.

Some people believe that if Virginia had better-paid criminal defense lawyers with more administrative and investigative resources, it would have a better criminal justice system.

That’s just not the case. Continue reading

Fight for your rights – or lose them!

Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms – lost to Americans?

Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms – lost to Americans?

Mr. Donald Trump is hell bent on resisting individual rights and freedoms.

Mr. Trump would isolate us from the world with a wall.

Mr. Trump leans on local police forces to extend federal police powers into our local communities on the claimed need to rid the nation of immigrants.

Mr. Trump suffers from a too sensitive egg-shell-thin temperament and an itchy finger for tweet lies and a growing urge to war clumsily and unconstitutionally in the mid-East.

Regrettably, we have a government of plutocrats and warmongers who pretend empathy but prefer misery.

It’s quite a dystopic picture but to many overseas and here, this is America.

No longer is our nation perceived as the land of the free and the home of the brave.

On January 8, 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt praised how our citizens had “forgotten points of the compass.”

Mr. Trump insists our citizens are not all equal and thus does he divide the nation.

President Roosevelt said this nation was bound to resist “any attempt to lock us in behind an ancient Chinese wall.”

Mr. Trump is obsessively bound to build a multi-billion dollar wall to lock in our southern border and keep “those people” out from the south and across the Atlantic.

President Roosevelt condemned “one-way international law.”  Mr. Trump, on the other hand just committed an act of war in Syria in defiance of UN protocols, State Department utterances, and absent any congressional declaration of war.  China charges Mr. Trump did this because his popularity is falling like a stone and he wants to prove he’s independent of Russia.

President Roosevelt insisted our armed forces drew their strength from the “unshakeable belief in the manner of life which they are defending.”  Mr. Trump has relentlessly run down this nation’s finest qualities and persists since his election in compromising and destroying what many at home and abroad believed was best about our nation.

Mr. Trump has contravened President Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms: Continue reading


Some mistake shadows for truth

Some mistake shadows for truth

We do not need to read the philosophy of Wittgenstein or Socrates to know what is true or false.

But perhaps we need to review what goes awry in human psychology when a person with a seemingly right functioning mind defies what is known to be transparently true and argues instead for what is patently false.

Some clearly suffer an impaired cognitive function when their operative principle is that they wouldn’t see it — if they didn’t already believe it.

Plato devised an allegory of citizens in a cave, locked in position, looking forward, seeing only the reflected shadows before them on a wall projected by unseen actors behind them; shadows were their reality.

Others know very well what is true but they lie as a means to an unworthy end.

Daily, more of our family, friends and neighbors indulge a vacation from what’s true in order to persuade others that something is true that they know to be false.

When I was young, I read a book, titled, “You can trust the communists to be communists.”

This meant that “truth,” as defined for the communists, was whatever was necessary to manipulate the public.

The study of rhetoric to deceive and manipulate a people originated with the sophists of ancient Greece.  Socrates spoke against their machinations, insisting they caused social instability.  We are presently challenged with instability in our government and our policies because of these same rhetorical pirouettes, and we must succeed where Socrates failed lest our nation sip the deadly hemlock that took Socrates.

George Orwell said, “In a time of universal deceit – telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”

We are not yet “in [that] time of universal deceit” but deceit has intrusively implicated itself in our public dialogue and its disabling effects are manifest.

Some optimists say our nation has survived worse.

Sir Francis Bacon warned that our minds are wired to deceive us and we should “[b]eware the fallacies into which undisciplined thinkers most easily fall” for these fallacies are “the real distorting prisms of human nature” and the worst may be the assumption that there is “more order than exists in chaotic nature.”

The fallacy of inductive thinking is the notion that because something happened in the past that it will happen in the future; this fallacy is explored exhaustively in a marvelous book, the Black Swan, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.  Continue reading