Adonis Diaries

Water on Mars?

Mars has liquid water just below its surface, according to new measurements by Nasa’s Curiosity rover.

Until now, scientists had thought that conditions on the red planet were too cold and arid for liquid water to exist, although there were known to be deposits of ice.

Prof Andrew Coates, head of planetary science at the Mullard Space Mullard Space Science Laboratory, University College London, said: “The evidence so far is that any water would be in the form of permafrost. It’s the first time we’ve had evidence of liquid water there now.”

The latest findings suggest that Martian soil is damp with liquid brine, due to the presence of a salt that significantly lowers the freezing point of water.

When mixed with calcium perchlorate liquid, water can exist down to around -70C, and the salt also soaks up water vapour from the atmosphere.

New measurements from the Gale crater show that during winter nights until just after sunrise, temperatures and humidity levels are just right for liquid brine to form.

Morten Bo Madsen, a senior Mars scientist at the University of Copenhagen and a co-investigator on the Curiosity rover, said: “The soil is porous, so what we are seeing is that the water seeps down through the soil. Over time, other salts may also dissolve in the soil and now that they are liquid, they can move and precipitate elsewhere under the surface.”

Liquid water is traditionally considered an essential ingredient for life as we known it, but Mars remains hostile for other reasons, the scientists said. The latest findings are unlikely to change the view that if life ever blossomed on Mars, it probably died out more than a billion years ago.

“There are organisms on Earth, halophiles, that can survive in salty environments, but if it’s also very cold and very dry that’s a problem” said Madsen. “The radiation on Mars nails it – that environment is very hostile.”

Prof Coates agreed: “Liquid water is one of the conditions you need for life, it’s not all of them.”

On Earth, the global magnetic field protects the atmosphere from being degraded by harmful cosmic radiation from the Sun. In the past, scientists believe that Mars had a similar magnetic field and thicker atmosphere, but that the field was lost around four billion years ago.

Today, cosmic radiation penetrates at least one metre into the Martian surface and would kill even the most robust microbes known on Earth.

Surface temperatures on Mars range from around 20C at noon, at the equator, down to lows of around −153C at the poles.

The presence of perchlorate salts was discovered in 2008, but until now if was not known whether temperatures and humidity would be high enough to produce liquid brine.

The latest paper, published in Nature, analyses humidity and temperature data for a full Martian year, showing that liquid brine ought to form. Instruments on-board Curiosity also measured estimates of subsurface water concentration, which suggested that water was indeed being absorbed from the air and the surface frost by the salty soil.

The water would be present in tiny quantities between the grains of soil, rather than in droplet form. “If you dug a trench you might see that the soil at the base was a bit darker,” said Madsen.

Curiosity landed on Mars in 2012 in the large crater, Gale, located just south of the equator. The giant crater is 154 kilometres in diameter and the rim of the crater is almost five kilometres high.

In the middle of the crater lies Mount Sharp, which Curiosity is currently ascending.

Observations by the Mars probe’s stereo camera have previously shown areas characteristic of old riverbed, with rounded pebbles that indicate there were flowing rivers up to one metre deep in the past.

The latest close-up images show slanting expanses of sedimentary deposits, lying one above the other. “These kind of deposits are formed when large amounts of water flow down the slopes of the crater and these streams of water meet the stagnant water in the form of a lake,” said Madsen.

Patsy Z shared this link. 14 hrs ·

And then there was water! smile emoticon

New measurements from the Gale crater contradict theories that the planet is too cold for liquid water to exist, but Mars still considered hostile to life|By Hannah Devlin

How persuasive is your presentation? What kinds of feedbacks are you expecting and from whom?

Stepping onto the TED or TEDx stage — or speaking in front of any group of people, for that matter — is truly nerve-wracking.

Will you remember everything you wanted to say, or get so discombobulated that you skip over major points?

Will the audience be receptive to your ideas, or will you notice a guy in row three nodding off to sleep?

A Q&A with Nancy Duarte

Posted by: October 31, 2012

Presentation expert Nancy Duarte, who gave the TED Talk “The secret structure of great talks,” has built her career helping people express their ideas in presentations.

The author of Slide:ology and Resonate, Duarte has just released a new book through the Harvard Business Review: The HBR Guide to Persuasive Presentations.

The TED Blog talked with Duarte in her California office about what makes a killer presentation, as well as about how giving her own TED Talk shaped her thoughts on presenting.

What would you say are the three keys to giving a great presentation?

The number one thing is to be audience-centric. To take the time to think through who the audience is and develop all your material from a place of empathy toward them. You’re asking them to adopt your idea, which means they may have to abandon a belief they hold as true — and that’s hard. So, know your audience — take a walk in their shoes. What keeps them up at night? How are they wired to resist your message?

Most presenters are consumed with preparing their content rapidly, which makes the material about their own narrow perspective. By flipping that paradigm to an audience-centric approach, your material will resonate and the audience can feel a deeper connection to you and your material.

Number two, you need to understand your role in the presentation. So many people feel like they’re the central figure — kind of like the hero of the story — because they’re the one talking the most. But in reality, your role is that of a mentor — you should be giving the audience a magical gift or a special tool, or helping them get unstuck in some way. You have to defer to your audience.

When you put your idea out there for an audience to contend with — if they reject your idea, your idea will die. You have to think of it as, “The speaker needs the audience more than the audience needs the speaker.” Then you’ll start to approach a material with your audience in mind – you’ll have more of a stance of humility than one of arrogance. That will help you create the kind of movement needed to get your idea to spread.

And then the third thing wrap your content in story. A story serves like the sugarcoating on the outside of a pill in some ways — it just makes it go down easier. If you look at preliterate generations for thousands and thousands of years, stories would pass down for generation after generation after generation — and stay almost completely intact.

Yet, a lot of people can’t remember the last presentation they sat through. So, using principles of story — the tension and release that happens in a story — that’s what will help persuade the audience toward your idea.

What do you feel like you learned from giving your own TED Talk?

Being the “Presentation Lady,” I knew I couldn’t suck at it. The hardest part was getting [my talk] to fit within this finite amount of time. So I trimmed and trimmed, keeping in mind that you still have to nail why this is important to the audience. I had a person coach me and point out places where I could trim. “You took too long here, and that made this part of emphasis too long.”

I worked with the timer counting up until I knew I was within the time window — then what I did was work with the timer counting down so I’d know, “When I’m a fourth of the way through, I should be on this slide. When I’m halfway through, I need to be on this slide.”

I created markers in my mind so I would know how I was running on time. Sure enough, I finished the talk and I had six seconds left on the clock.

It was a great experience for me because I hadn’t gone through it myself. I’d coached people through it but — wow — to actually be a victim was interesting. I learned the power of rehearsing. If you rehearse really, really, really well — it looks improvisational.

Some people rehearse to a point where they’re robotic, and they sound like they have memorized their presentation and didn’t take it to the next level. Going from sounding memorized and canned to sounding natural is a lot of work.

What Comes After Aleppo Falls?

Note: This is a typical article as the Syrian army was set to liberate and re-conquer East Aleppo from the Islamic terrorists

The battle for eastern Aleppo will be over soon, but tens of thousands of Syrians there will find little peace.

The victory for the government of President Bashar al-Assad will open another violent, disorienting chapter in their lives, and a dangerous one for the opposition.

Soon, civilians and rebel fighters alike will either be punished or have to flee the city and join the many thousands of others displaced by President Assad and his Iranian and Russian allies — part of a plan to break the insurgency, and change Syria forever.

In a recent interview, Mr. Assad said that taking Aleppo, which has been the site of fighting for years, “won’t mean the end of the war in Syria, but it will be a huge step toward this end.” He’s right on both counts.

It would certainly be the most notable in a string of recent victories by his forces, along with those of Russia, Iran and other allied militia groups. The aftermaths of these victories show what’s in store for the civilians and rebel fighters in Aleppo: Surrender might save them from bombs, siege and starvation, but other calamities await. (Like what? After the horrors the citizens experienced?)

The history of what Mr. Assad’s government once called “truces” — but now more honestly promotes as military victories — is dark. (Most cities were cleared from terrorist rebels by such negotiated truces, where the militants and families are relocated to Edleb or northern regions of their choices)

In 2014, Mr. Assad’s forces detained hundreds of young men in the opposition who had agreed to surrender in the Old City of Homs, a center of the uprising that was eventually bombed and starved into submission. Many were promised amnesty, only to be conscripted into the very military that had killed their families. (By their own signed agreement in order to re-integrate their communities)

Residents were eventually allowed to leave to other opposition areas carrying a single bag each. (Fighters could take one personal weapon.) Displacing or detaining populations has become business as usual in areas retaken by the regime.

Two years later, Mr. Assad is even less compromising. Today he claims the chance of a truce in Aleppo is “practically nonexistent.” His confidence is buoyed by a series of rebel defeats in 2016, after which populations were forced from besieged areas to Idlib Province in northwestern Syria.

Today, as one Aleppo district after another falls, the rebels know resistance is futile; Mr. Assad knows that they know. His forces will make opposition areas unlivable, isolate fighters from civilians, and force both to surrender or leave.

These cleansings reflect a pattern, but the strategy behind them is still unclear. Maybe Mr. Assad believes that if these people remain, they will pose a permanent threat to nearby areas under his control.

Maybe he doesn’t want to spend government money on them. Or maybe his minority-led regime (that’s past history: Most of the army is constituted of Sunnis and Christians) just wants to push disloyal Sunnis out of its heartland in western Syria (dominated by Daesh and still supported by USA).

Whatever the logic, this ominous pattern — sometimes called the “green bus” strategy after the vehicles used to transport the displaced — paints a grim picture of what the people of Aleppo can expect. (Turned out Not to be grim, but a joyous end from slavery and famine)

Notes and comments on FB and twitter. Part 33

“Agency status”: Obeying a small order without much inquiry because the order doesn’t feel harmful

If you fail to develop your perception that guides you to ask pertinent questions, all the knowledge will Not shield you from being suckered into obeying subtle orders that lead to dangerous deeds

The puppet master develop lists of short orders to be distributed to recruited agents for activating his grand plan  

Being cognizant of the bad deeds we are about to commit, but lacking the necessary imagination of  what despair and pains are being inflicted, is Never an excuse Not to be punished as war criminal

Two critical weeks for Lebanon: Either a purely proportional election law, or a Referendum on the popularity of the civil war Warlords 

La vie est jeune. En vieillisant, la vie n’a plus rien a donner. On cherche des visages jeunes qui nous rappellent des camarades disparus

Avec le temps, on est tous vaincus, et on le sait sincérement. Mais avec dificulté on comprend qu’on n’ a rien appris qui vaille.

Tout ce qui reste en moi de vivant appartient aux martyres. Et je vis par politesse.

Je revois rarement les survivants: tous ce que nous avions a nous dire a été tué.

Elle souflait dans ses lettres non datées, une volonté plus grande que la mienne. Et communiqait une vaillance d’un coeur trempé mieux que le mien.

La vie est un genre litteraire. A toi de le choisir et la manipuler

“Who are the terrorists?” 308 actions were conducted by Zionists terror organizations (Palmach, Irgun and Stern) against civilian Palestinians before and after recognition of Israel

Le patriotism des Palestiniens s’exprime a travers des choses concretes: une maison, un champ, un jardin, un village

Le problem était que la Palestine était introuvable en consultant une carte geographique. La Palestine éatit un mouchoir de poche

Les cannoniéres Israeliennes se sont données a coeur joie, bombardant le camps Palestinien de Rashidiya. Elles auraient pu bombarder toute une journée, mais la politique limite le nombre des victims.

Late Polish journalist Ryszard Kapuscinsk wrote in 1974: Quand on traverse la Syrie, la Jourdanie ou le Liban, tout est beauté, ordre et harmonie. On est dans un paradis de vergers d’orangiers, de citronniers, d’oliviers et d’apricotiers. Ce sont les camps Palestiniens qui ressemblent a un immense patchwork d’argile, de tole rouillés, de vieux chiffons… et des nuées de mouches

L’homme qui se prend pour un sauveur est fatigant pour son entourage et dangereux quand il le peut

Traditionellement, la piéte Islamique n’a rien de chauvin ni de bigot. Ne croit pas en Dieu mais ne le dit pas publiquement.

Seuls les Wahhabites sont fanatiques d’une mission investie de détruire tous les lieux de cult de Saints et shrines

Il etait un mauvais joueur, même après avoir recu l’extréme-onction. I refusait de signer au bas de l’acte que les dieux lui tendaient.

Il avait l’air de tenir a la vie: il faisait des pieds et des mains. Il manquait d’élegance et de bonne grace face a la mort

Tous les militaires étrangers payaient les entraineuses Hongroises en Egypte, sauf les Francais. Meme après la defaite honteuse, la France conservait tout son prestige.

Elle avait des yeux oú il faisait si bon vivre que je n’ai jamais su oú aller depuis.

Une démarche comme si rien ne pouvait vous arriver, une beauté de la vie adolescente, les seins nus, et elle portrait sur la téte une corbeille de fruits

For 6 months now, Turkey claims it entered the Syrian village of Al Baab. Turkey is totally confused where this Baab is located

Aicha, the most beloved wife of prophet Muhammad, is the most prominent leader, scholar and imam that Islam experienced.

Aicha valiantly and stubbornly, secured the rights of women against all biases and falsehoods in the hadith. Muhammad, and two first caliphs Abu Bakr and Omar were buried under her bed.

The various factions among Shias and Sunnis have always been political in nature: positions according to power-to-be. The Sunnis sided with the Caliph, regardless of Umayyad, Abbasid, or Fatimid… The Shias were considered the heretic opposition factions.

Limits of Discourse: Discussion of Noam Chomsky and Sam Harris

For decades, Noam Chomsky has been one of the most prominent critics of U.S. foreign policy

The further left one travels along the political spectrum, the more one feels his influence. Although I agree with much of what Chomsky has said about the misuses of state power, I have long maintained that his political views, where the threat of global jihadism is concerned, produce dangerous delusions.

In response, I have been much criticized by those who believe that I haven’t given the great man his due.

Last week, I did my best to engineer a public conversation with Chomsky about the ethics of war, terrorism, state surveillance, and related topics.

As readers of the following email exchange will discover, I failed. I’ve decided to publish this private correspondence, with Chomsky’s permission, as a cautionary tale.

Clearly, he and I have drawn different lessons from what was an unpleasant and fruitless encounter. I will let readers draw lessons of their own.


April 26, 2015
From: Sam Harris
To: Noam Chomsky

Noam —

I reached out to you indirectly through Lawrence Krauss and Johann Hari and was planning to leave it at that, but a reader has now sent me a copy of an email exchange in which you were quite dismissive of the prospect of having a “debate” with me.

So I just wanted to clarify that, although I think we might disagree substantially about a few things, I am far more interested in exploring these disagreements, and clarifying any misunderstandings, than in having a conventional debate.

If you’d rather not have a public conversation with me, that’s fine. I can only say that we have many readers in common who would like to see us attempt to find some common ground.

The fact that you have called me “a religious fanatic” who “worships the religion of the state” makes me think that there are a few misconceptions I could clear up. And many readers insist that I am similarly off-the-mark where your views are concerned.

In any case, my offer stands, if you change your mind.



April 26, 2015
From: Noam Chomsky
To: Sam Harris

Perhaps I have some misconceptions about you.  Most of what I’ve read of yours is material that has been sent to me about my alleged views, which is completely false.  I don’t see any point in a public debate about misreadings.  If there are things you’d like to explore privately, fine.  But with sources.


April 26, 2015
From: Sam Harris
To: Noam Chomsky

Noam —

Thanks for getting back.

Before engaging on this topic, I’d like to encourage you to approach this exchange as though we were planning to publish it. As edifying as it might be to have you correct my misreading of you in private—it would be far better if you did this publicly.

It’s not a matter of having a “debate about misreadings”; it’s a matter of allowing our readers to see that conversation on difficult and polarizing topics can occasionally fulfill its ostensible purpose. If I have misread you, and you can show me where I’ve gone wrong, I would want my readers to see my views change in real time. (I doubt we can change our view in real time)

It would be far less desirable for me to simply report that you and I clarified a few things privately, and that I have now changed my mind about X, Y, and Z.

Beyond correcting our misreadings, I think we could have a very interesting conversation about the ethical issues surrounding war, terrorism, the surveillance state, and so forth. I’d be happy to do this entirely by email, or we could speak on the phone and have the audio transcribed.

In either case, you would be free to edit and refine your contributions prior to publication. My only request would be that you not go back and make such sweeping changes that I would have to totally revise my side of things.

While you’re thinking about that, I’d like to draw your attention to the only thing I have ever written about your work. The following passages appear in my first book, The End of Faith (2004), which was written in response to the events of 9/11.

Needless to say, the whole discussion betrays the urgency of that period as well as many of the failings of a first book. I hesitate to put it forward here, if for no other reason than that the tone is not one that I would have ever adopted in a direct exchange with you.

Nevertheless, if I’ve misrepresented your views in writing, this is the only place it could have happened. If we’re going to clarify misreadings, this would seem like a good place to start.

Leftist Unreason and the Strange Case of Noam Chomsky

Nevertheless, many people are now convinced that the attacks of September 11 say little about Islam and much about the sordid career of the West—in particular, about the failures of U.S. foreign policy. The French philosopher Jean Baudrillard gives these themes an especially luxuriant expression, declaring that terrorism is a necessary consequence of American “hegemony.” He goes so far as to suggest that we were secretly hoping that such devastation would be visited upon us:

At a pinch we can say that they did it, but we wished for it. . . . When global power monopolizes the situation to this extent, when there is such a formidable condensation of all functions in the technocratic machinery, and when no alternative form of thinking is allowed, what other way is there but a terroristic situational transfer.

It was the system itself which created the objective conditions for this brutal retaliation. . . This is terror against terror—there is no longer any ideology behind it. We are far beyond ideology and politics now. . . . As if the power bearing these towers suddenly lost all energy, all resilience; as though that arrogant power suddenly gave way under the pressure of too intense an effort: the effort always to be the unique world model.40

If one were feeling charitable, one might assume that something essential to these profundities got lost in translation. I think it far more likely, however, that it did not survive translation into French.

If Baudrillard had been obliged to live in Afghanistan under the Taliban, would he have thought that the horrible abridgments of his freedom were a matter of the United States’s “effort always to be the unique world model”?

Would the peculiar halftime entertainment at every soccer match—where suspected fornicators, adulterers, and thieves were regularly butchered in the dirt at centerfield—have struck him as the first rumblings of a “terroristic situational transfer”?

We may be beyond politics, but we are not in the least “beyond ideology” now. Ideology is all that our enemies have.41

And yet, thinkers far more sober than Baudrillard view the events of September 11 as a consequence of American foreign policy. Perhaps the foremost among them is Noam Chomsky.

In addition to making foundational contributions to linguistics and the psychology of language, Chomsky has been a persistent critic of U.S. foreign policy for over three decades. He has also managed to demonstrate a principal failing of the liberal critique of power.

He appears to be an exquisitely moral man whose political views prevent him from making the most basic moral distinctions—between types of violence, and the variety of human purposes that give rise to them.

In his book 9-11, with rubble of the World Trade Center still piled high and smoldering, Chomsky urged us not to forget that “the U.S. itself is a leading terrorist state.” (All surveys admit this premise)

In support of this claim he catalogs a number of American misdeeds, including the sanctions that the United States imposed upon Iraq, which led to the death of “maybe half a million children,” and the 1998 bombing of the Al-Shifa pharmaceuticals plant in Sudan, which may have set the stage for tens of thousands of innocent Sudanese to die of tuberculosis, malaria, and other treatable diseases.

Chomsky does not hesitate to draw moral equivalences here: “For the first time in modern history, Europe and its offshoots were subjected, on home soil, to the kind of atrocity that they routinely have carried out elsewhere.”42

Before pointing out just how wayward Chomsky’s thinking is on this subject, I would like to concede many of his points, since they have the virtue of being both generally important and irrelevant to the matter at hand.

There is no doubt that the United States has much to atone for, both domestically and abroad. In this respect, we can more or less swallow Chomsky’s thesis whole.

To produce this horrible confection at home, start with our genocidal treatment of the Native Americans, add a couple hundred years of slavery, along with our denial of entry to Jewish refugees fleeing the death camps of the Third Reich, stir in our collusion with a long list of modern despots and our subsequent disregard for their appalling human rights records, add our bombing of Cambodia and the Pentagon Papers to taste, and then top with our recent refusals to sign the Kyoto protocol for greenhouse emissions, to support any ban on land mines, and to submit ourselves to the rulings of the International Criminal Court. The result should smell of death, hypocrisy, and fresh brimstone.

We have surely done some terrible things in the past. Undoubtedly, we are poised to do terrible things in the future.

Nothing I have written in this book should be construed as a denial of these facts, or as defense of state practices that are manifestly abhorrent.

There may be much that Western powers, and the United States in particular, should pay reparations for. (With over $20 trillion in sovereign debt, the USA is blackmailing other States for reparation for defending their independence and sovereignty)

And our failure to acknowledge our misdeeds over the years has undermined our credibility in the international community. We can concede all of this, and even share Chomsky’s acute sense of outrage, while recognizing that his analysis of our current situation in the world is a masterpiece of moral blindness.

Take the bombing of the Al-Shifa pharmaceuticals plant: according to Chomsky, the atrocity of September 11 pales in comparison with that perpetrated by the Clinton administration in August 1998.

But let us now ask some very basic questions that Chomsky seems to have neglected to ask himself: What did the U.S. government think it was doing when it sent cruise missiles into Sudan? (Or lately into Syria?)

Destroying a chemical weapons site used by Al Qaeda. Did the Clinton administration intend to bring about the deaths of thousands of Sudanese children? No.

Was our goal to kill as many Sudanese as we could? No. Were we trying to kill anyone at all? Not unless we thought members of Al Qaeda would be at the Al-Shifa facility in the middle of the night. (You mean a very few Al Qaeda members?)

Asking these questions about Osama bin Laden and the nineteen hijackers puts us in a different moral universe entirely.

If we are inclined to follow Chomsky down the path of moral equivalence and ignore the role of human intentions, we can forget about the bombing of the Al-Shifa plant, because many of the things we did Not do in Sudan had even greater consequences.

What about all the money and food we simply never thought to give the Sudanese prior to 1998?

How many children did we kill (that is, not save) just by living in blissful ignorance of the conditions in Sudan?

Surely if we had all made it a priority to keep death out of Sudan for as long as possible, untold millions could have been saved from whatever it was that wound up killing them. We could have sent teams of well-intentioned men and women into Khartoum to ensure that the Sudanese wore their seatbelts.

Are we culpable for all the preventable injury and death that we did nothing to prevent? We may be, up to a point.

The philosopher Peter Unger has made a persuasive case that a single dollar spent on anything but the absolute essentials of our survival is a dollar that has some starving child’s blood on it.43 Perhaps we do have far more moral responsibility for the state of the world than most of us seem ready to contemplate. This is not Chomsky’s argument, however.

Arundhati Roy, a great admirer of Chomsky, has summed up his position very well:

[T]he U.S. government refuses to judge itself by the same moral standards by which it judges others. . . . Its technique is to position itself as the well-intentioned giant whose good deeds are confounded in strange countries by their scheming natives, whose markets it’s trying to free, whose societies it’s trying to modernize, whose women it’s trying to liberate, whose souls it’s trying to save. . . .

[T]he U.S. government has conferred upon itself the right and freedom to murder and exterminate people “for their own good.”44

But we are, in many respects, just such a “well-intentioned giant.” And it is rather astonishing that intelligent people, like Chomsky and Roy, fail to see this.

What we need to counter their arguments is a device that enables us to distinguish the morality of men like Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein from that of George Bush and Tony Blair. It is not hard to imagine the properties of such a tool. We can call it “the perfect weapon.” (Like using weapons of mass destruction on Iraqi people)

Perfect Weapons and the Ethics of “Collateral Damage”

What we euphemistically describe as “collateral damage” in times of war is the direct result of limitations in the power and precision of our technology. (Bullshit)

To see that this is so, we need only imagine how any of our recent conflicts would have looked if we had possessed perfect weapons—weapons that allowed us either to temporarily impair or to kill a particular person, or group, at any distance, without harming others or their property.

What would we do with such technology? Pacifists would refuse to use it, despite the variety of monsters currently loose in the world: the killers and torturers of children, the genocidal sadists, the men who, for want of the right genes, the right upbringing, or the right ideas, cannot possibly be expected to live peacefully with the rest of us.

I will say a few things about pacifism in a later chapter—for it seems to me to be a deeply immoral position that comes to us swaddled in the dogma of highest moralism—but most of us are not pacifists.

Most of us would elect to use weapons of this sort. A moment’s thought reveals that a person’s use of such a weapon would offer a perfect window onto the soul of his ethics. (What is that crap again?)

Consider the all too facile comparisons that have recently been made between George Bush and Saddam Hussein (or Osama bin Laden, or Hitler, etc.)—in the pages of writers like Roy and Chomsky, in the Arab press, and in classrooms throughout the free world.

How would George Bush have prosecuted the recent war in Iraq with perfect weapons? Would he have targeted the thousands of Iraqi civilians who were maimed or killed by our bombs?

Would he have put out the eyes of little girls or torn the arms from their mothers?

Whether or not you admire the man’s politics—or the man—there is no reason to think that he would have sanctioned the injury or death of even a single innocent person.

What would Saddam Hussein or Osama bin Laden do with perfect weapons? What would Hitler have done? They would have used them rather differently.

It is time for us to admit that not all cultures are at the same stage of moral development. (They didn’t develop nasty weapons in order to confront USA ethical challenges)

This is a radically impolitic thing to say, of course, but it seems as objectively true as saying that not all societies have equal material resources. We might even conceive of our moral differences in just these terms: not all societies have the same degree of moral wealth. (You mean Moral Entities as in multinationals?)

Many things contribute to such an endowment. Political and economic stability, literacy, a modicum of social equality—where such things are lacking, people tend to find many compelling reasons to treat one another rather badly.

Our recent history offers much evidence of our own development on these fronts, and a corresponding change in our morality. A visit to New York in the summer of 1863 would have found the streets ruled by roving gangs of thugs; blacks, where not owned outright by white slaveholders, were regularly lynched and burned.

Is there any doubt that many New Yorkers of the nineteenth century were barbarians by our present standards?

To say of another culture that it lags a hundred and fifty years behind our own in social development is a terrible criticism indeed, given how far we’ve come in that time.

Now imagine the benighted Americans of 1863 coming to possess chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons. This is more or less the situation we confront in much of the developing world. (Exported by the developed colonial powers?)

Consider the horrors that Americans perpetrated as recently as 1968, at My Lai:

Early in the morning the soldiers were landed in the village by helicopter. Many were firing as they spread out, killing both people and animals. There was no sign of the Vietcong battalion and no shot was fired at Charlie Company all day, but they carried on. They burnt down every house. They raped women and girls and then killed them.

They stabbed some women in the vagina and disemboweled others, or cut off their hands or scalps. Pregnant women had their stomachs slashed open and were left to die. There were gang rapes and killings by shooting or with bayonets.

There were mass executions. Dozens of people at a time, including old men, women and children, were machine-gunned in a ditch. In four hours nearly 500 villagers were killed.45

This is about as bad as human beings are capable of behaving. But what distinguishes us from many of our enemies is that this indiscriminate violence appalls us. (Because a few media displayed and covered the story?)

The massacre at My Lai is remembered as a signature moment of shame for the American military. Even at the time, U.S. soldiers were dumbstruck with horror by the behavior of their comrades.

One helicopter pilot who arrived on the scene ordered his subordinates to use their machine guns against their own troops if they would not stop killing villagers.46 As a culture, we have clearly outgrown our tolerance for the deliberate torture and murder of innocents. (What about Guantanamo torture and detained people in other countries by order of the US administration?)

We would do well to realize that much of the world has not.

Wherever there are facts of any kind to be known, one thing is certain: not all people will discover them at the same time or understand them equally well. Conceding this leaves but a short step to hierarchical thinking of a sort that is at present inadmissible in most liberal discourse.

Wherever there are right and wrong answers to important questions, there will be better or worse ways to get those answers, and better or worse ways to put them to use. Take child rearing as an example: How can we keep children free from disease?

How can we raise them to be happy and responsible members of society? There are undoubtedly both good and bad answers to questions of this sort, and not all belief systems and cultural practices will be equally suited to bringing the good ones to light.

This is not to say that there will always be only one right answer to every question, or a single, best way to reach every specific goal. But given the inescapable specificity of our world, the range of optimal solutions to any problem will generally be quite limited.

While there might not be one best food to eat, we cannot eat stones—and any culture that would make stone eating a virtue, or a religious precept, will suffer mightily for want of nourishment (and teeth).

It is inevitable, therefore, that some approaches to politics, economics, science, and even spirituality and ethics will be objectively better than their competitors (by any measure of “better” we might wish to adopt), and gradations here will translate into very real differences in human happiness.

Any systematic approach to ethics, or to understanding the necessary underpinnings of a civil society, will find many Muslims standing eye deep in the red barbarity of the fourteenth century. (And what of the 1,000 years they shined civilization to Europe?)

There are undoubtedly historical and cultural reasons for this, and enough blame to go around, but we should not ignore the fact that we must now confront whole societies whose moral and political development—in their treatment of women and children, in their prosecution of war, in their approach to criminal justice, and in their very intuitions about what constitutes cruelty—lags behind our own.

This may seem like an unscientific and potentially racist thing to say, but it is neither. It is not in the least racist, since it is not at all likely that there are biological reasons for the disparities here, and it is unscientific only because science has not yet addressed the moral sphere in a systematic way.

Come back in a hundred years, and if we haven’t returned to living in caves and killing one another with clubs, we will have some scientifically astute things to say about ethics.

Any honest witness to current events will realize that there is no moral equivalence between the kind of force civilized democracies project in the world, warts and all, and the internecine violence that is perpetrated by Muslim militants, or indeed by Muslim governments. Chomsky seems to think that the disparity either does not exist or runs the other way.

Consider the recent conflict in Iraq: If the situation had been reversed, what are the chances that the Iraqi Republican Guard, attempting to execute a regime change on the Potomac, would have taken the same degree of care to minimize civilian casualties? (None?)

What are the chances that Iraqi forces would have been deterred by our use of human shields? (What are the chances we would have used human shields?) What are the chances that a routed American government would have called for its citizens to volunteer to be suicide bombers? (They would have)

What are the chances that Iraqi soldiers would have wept upon killing a carload of American civilians at a checkpoint unnecessarily? You should have, in the ledger of your imagination, a mounting column of zeros.

Nothing in Chomsky’s account acknowledges the difference between intending to kill a child, because of the effect you hope to produce on its parents (we call this “terrorism”), and inadvertently killing a child in an attempt to capture or kill an avowed child murderer (we call this “collateral damage”).

In both cases a child has died, and in both cases it is a tragedy. But the ethical status of the perpetrators, be they individuals or states, could hardly be more distinct.

Chomsky might object that to knowingly place the life of a child in jeopardy is unacceptable in any case, but clearly this is not a principle we can follow. The makers of roller coasters know, for instance, that despite rigorous safety precautions, sometime, somewhere, a child will be killed by one of their contraptions.

Makers of automobiles know this as well. So do makers of hockey sticks, baseball bats, plastic bags, swimming pools, chain-link fences, or nearly anything else that could conceivably contribute to the death of a child.

There is a reason we do not refer to the inevitable deaths of children on our ski slopes as “skiing atrocities.” But you would not know this from reading Chomsky. For him, intentions do not seem to matter. Body count is all.

We are now living in a world that can no longer tolerate well-armed, malevolent regimes. Without perfect weapons, collateral damage—the maiming and killing of innocent people—is unavoidable.

Similar suffering will be imposed on still more innocent people because of our lack of perfect automobiles, airplanes, antibiotics, surgical procedures, and window glass.

If we want to draw conclusions about ethics—as well as make predictions about what a given person or society will do in the future—we cannot ignore human intentions. Where ethics are concerned, intentions are everything.

(Sounds like a mea culpa of Sam Harris for publishing his book and wanting Chomsky to forgive him by forcing upon him a re-edited version that is worse than the original?)

Andrew Bossone  shared and commented on this link.

A very interesting non-exchange, though the title given by one of the authors involved may be misleading:

rather then the “limits of discourse”, why not “the limits my own thinking when moralising others”?

Sam Harris and Noam Chomsky attempt to have a conversation about the ethics of war, terrorism, state surveillance, and related topics–and fail.|By Sam Harris

Three ways to add value

Tasks (doing), decisions (choosing), and initiation (starting something out of nothing?)

Each of the three adds value, but one is more prized than the others.

Tasks are set up for you. Incoming. You use skill and effort to knock them down one at a time and move to the next one.

Decisions often overlap with tasks. There are alternatives, and you use knowledge and judgment to pick the best one.

And initiation is what happens when you start something out of nothing, break the pattern, launch the new thing and take a leap.

When we think about humans who have made change happen, institutions who have made a difference, cultural shifts (paradigm shift) that have mattered, we must begin with initiation

Posted by Seth Godin on May 19, 2017

Trump’s voters planning to oust him

A petition is being circulated and signed by disappointed Trump’s voters.  It says:

“We strongly believed Donald’s promises that his first priority in his 100 days will be to secure for us decent jobs and a better standard of living.

We feel appalled of the priorities of Trump in his 100 days.

He side-tracked our everyday frustrations and living conditions to launch stupid wars and venomous rhetoric for pre-emptive wars.

All that Trump did so far is abolishing every gains to the people during Obama tenure

He fired most of his early ministers in a record time and number that destabilized the institutions.

He tends to dismiss his advisors’ opinion and hard work. They were overshadowed by the interests and idiosyncrasies of his closest relatives and harem. Those relatives who are totally indifferent to our plights and opportunities to better our lives

We were totally pissed off when Hillary characterized us as “Basket of Deplorable“, ignorant idiots, hillbillies, knock heads.

The first 100 days of Trump’s activities and “achievements” are making us ruminate on Hillarys claim that she may Not be that off the mark

We are disgusted with Donald copulating with Saudi monarch and his 6,000 Wahhabit princes. Those who attacked our Twin Towers and are still funding scores of terrorist organizations like Daesh and Al Nusra. Those who are still erecting religious schools Madrassat all over the Islamic world to indoctrinate Moslems to hate us, despise us and be readiness to slaughter us as Infidels.

His mania of insisting on twitting on the spot, prior to listening to opinions of his advisors, is showing behaviors of someone who abhors reflections and wise inputs.

Twitting is a dangerous habit for a President and has been totally confusing us, demoralizing us and demonstrating that he lacks the capacity for a level-headed President.

We are willing to extend to Trump another 100 days to prove that he cares for us instead of the multinationals and the richest elite classes.

Otherwise, we declare that we are ready to be the staunchest basket of people to sign off on his impeachment, as Not fit to lead the most powerful of nations.

We feel kind of ready to apologize for our decision to vote Trump on the basis of anger and frustration.

Note 1: For the time being, this petition is “false news“. But the intention of circulating it in the next 100 days is substantiated

Note 2: Donald mixed up in the Sword Dance with the Saudi monarch. He blackmailed this terrorist Kingdom for $450 bn, $110 of them going to purchase weapons that will be used in Yemen and Syria. The remaining $350 bn will go to the richest US companies to improve the infrastructure, while 25% of the Saudi live under poverty level.

Note 3: Trump will Not visit the Christian church in Bethlehem because the 1,800 Palestinian families of the Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike have been setting their tents in the last 35 days.




May 2017
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