Saturday, August 18, 2018

Left & Right August 15, 2018

Gino Funicella is back in the "left" chair for this episode. The producer asks our opinion on Trump's proposed Space Force. Gino is against it and I support it as another way of administering space-based weapons, which are now administered cross branches. From here, Gino criticizes Trump's proposed increase in the military budget. I support it. Gino brings up Afghanistan. I make a case for ending that war as unwinnable. Gino says "they owe us," but I don't comprehend his point. Gino brings up Alex Jones and supports his ouster from social media platforms. I contend that it's viewpoint discrimination against conservatives while leftist whackoes like Louis Farrakhan and Al Sharpton are tolerated and they're more extremist than Jones. Then there are ANTIFA and the Southern Poverty Law Center who are extremists with social media platforms. ANTIFA and Black Lives Matter violence over the weekend. Thousands of them demonstrated against only thirty "Unite The Right" white supremacists. Both groups were violent against police and media, but it was ignored by mainstream media which referred to them "anti-hate" demonstrators. I offer several examples of violence by the above groups over the weekend who claim to be against fascism while acting like classic fascists themselves. Gino makes his case against Trump's tariffs. I support the president's efforts to renegotiate trade agreements leveraging those efforts with tariffs. Sarah Jeong's racist tweets overlooked by the New York Times which hired her as an editorial assistant. She's okay as long as she tweets racist statements against white people whom she hates. Gino brings up Manafort trial, pointing out that the Meuller team's star witness is crooked himself. The jury is still out as of this writing. Gino criticizes several members of Trump's cabinet and conservative members of Congress. Gino brings up election hacking by eleven-year-olds this week and suggests going back to paper ballots. The producer asks our opinion of Trump campaigning for Republicans prior to the midterm election. We agree that it will be up to individual candidates.

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Surrogate Humans?

Elderly Japanese want to be grandparents, but few of the children they raised are having children of their own. There’s an acute grandchildren shortage and robots are filling the gap. According to “More than ten thousand of them are in homes and businesses across Japan. They’re purchased on payment plans, much like a cell phone.”

I first learned of this ten years ago when reading about demographic problems in Japan, and I thought the robot-grandchildren phenomenon very strange. It’s one thing for little girls to have talking dolls; I remember my sisters being thrilled with their “Chatty Cathy” dolls sixty years ago. The dolls had a little ring in the back of the neck so that if you pulled it and let go, it would say something childlike. But these are mature Japanese adults essentially playing with 21st century robotic dolls.

As with reading a novel, it would seem that a suspension of disbelief is necessary to “play” with a robotic grandchild. Children have little difficulty achieving this with their dolls and action figures, but it feels unhealthy for adults. I like novels, and I can suspend disbelief while reading, but I know the author is human and has created characters based on actual people — in part at least. Well-written novels can be realistic, but talking to a robot on a feeling level? I could never suspend disbelief enough to accomplish that.

I talk to Siri on my iPhone, to Alexa on my Amazon devices, and to robotic answering services on technical support lines, but I know they’re all disembodied automatons. There’s nothing human about them and I cannot imagine relating to them as if there were. An increasing number of people are though; some are even having sex with robots. Researching for this column I watched videos of people talking to sex robots about vaguely sexual subjects and I was surprised at the sophistication of the technology involved in creating these “sexbots.”

So far, the only sexbots I’ve seen are made to look female. Evidently, some males are so hyper-libidinous that a machine does the trick for them, and there are places they can go now to use robots for sex. A article reported robot brothels gaining popularity in Europe. At one Austrian brothel, many customers prefer a particular robot over real women and a Barcelona operation is looking to expand worldwide. Customers pay between $87 and $108 for an hour with a sexbot. Some are paying $10,000 — $15,000 to purchase one.

Sexbot brothel owners report that customers act out lurid fantasies with sexbots that they wouldn’t do with human females. This sounds dangerous, but even more dangerous are childlike robots for sex. While some think child sexbots are safe outlets for pedophiles, others suspect they’re not safe at all because they’re likely to heighten perverted desires in those who use them. Some countries ban them, but so far they’re legal in the United States. According to NBCNews: “Representative Dan Donovan (R-NY) introduced legislation that would ban the importation and distribution of child sex dolls and child sexbots.”

Good for him, I say. Think of sexbots as three-dimensional pornography. If watching two-dimensional porn is a major cause of divorce — and research seems to confirm that it is, one would think the three-dimensional variety would be even more damaging to marriages. Two-dimensional porn, however, involves images of real human beings. Sexbots are not human, but I would think users of them must, at least temporarily, believe they are. Will robot patrons declare a constitutional right to machine sex? Will an R be added to LGBTQ?

Taking a long view of all these phenomena, they amount to a further separation of the sex act from its primary purpose: reproduction. When the birth control pill started being used widely in the 1960s, it gave impetus to the sexual revolution. Sex outside of marriage lost its stigma and the results are obvious to anyone old enough to remember how it used to be. Conservatives tend to believe the results are disastrous. Liberals, however, are inclined to celebrate them as liberating.

Maybe it’s impossible to ever put the toothpaste back in the tube, but I choose to hold out hope. I don’t expect to see a turn-around in my lifetime; the nuclear family is on the ropes and being pummeled every day. The very terms “father” and “mother” are slowly being outlawed by the left. US passport applications now substitute “parent 1” and “parent 2” for those old, outdated, soon-to-be-obsolete words.

The rules of society have changed drastically over the past half-century, but Natural Law has not. It is my expectation that the latter will win out eventually, but not before we Americans experience considerably more societal suffering — and long after I’m dead.

Saturday, August 04, 2018

Left & Right August 1, 2018

Newspaper publisher Mark Guerringue sits in the "Left" chair. We discuss 3-D printed guns and federal ban of blueprints for them.

Again we discuss media bias against conservatives and their ideas, manifested by contrasting coverage of Obama vs Trump. Mark still insists there is no left-wing bias in mainstream media. I'm not persuaded.

We discuss the Manafort trial just beginning. Mark relates a theory about why Trump threatens to shut down government before the midterm election.

Mark contends that Trump has made no progress with North Korea, and has given up more than he's gotten. I disagree.

We discuss homelessness in San Francisco. I contend that providing extensive services for homeless people may actually increase homelessness. Mark disagrees.

We discuss addiction treatment forty years ago compared to today and agree that it was perhaps more effective then.

We look at social media and the risk that it can be used by foreign agents from places like Russia to affect our elections. I'm not worried. Mark is mildly concerned.

Supreme Court ruling that government entities may not take money from paychecks of non-union members to cover collective bargaining costs. Loss of revenue for Democrats.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Viking Ships in Casco Bay

“Do you think an earlier Viking ship looking like that one may have sailed in here a thousand years ago?” I asked the old man sitting next to me on a bench in Bug Light Park last Friday.

“Could have,” he said.

Bug Light Park looks out at islands in Casco Bay and sits at the southern boundary of Portland Harbor where the Fore River emerges into the bay. We were looking at a 115-foot replica of a Viking ship called “Draken Harald Hargagre” out near Fort Gorges a few hundred feet away. It had sailed from Norway in 2016 and I’d hoped it would come into the harbor under sail or see rows of oars sticking out each side propelling it, but it didn’t. The old man told me it had twin diesels. Seeing ships like that on the horizon panicked Europeans for centuries beginning around 800 AD when Vikings raided virtually every coastal and riverine settlement on the continent.

From Portland Press Herald
 We know about Eric the Red settling in Iceland and then Greenland in 985 AD. We know his son, Leif sailed further south, probably to the northern tip of Newfoundland where remains of a Viking settlement were discovered in 1960 at a place called L’Anse aux Meadows. Excavations around the L’Anse aux Meadows site revealed two discoveries that indicate travel to or trade with areas to its south. Two pieces of jasper were found that came from Notre Dame Bay on the island of Newfoundland and were likely used as fire starters by striking them against steel to produce sparks. The other discovery was of butternuts, found in trenches dug into an adjacent boggy area and corresponding in time to the Viking settlement there.

The northern limit of butternut trees is New Brunswick, 800 miles to the south. Wild grapes grow there too, and the presence of many grapes led to Leif Ericsson calling the new place he discovered “Vinland.” No grapes or butternuts ever grew in Newfoundland, botanists insist. While such blanket statements are risky, it’s probably safe to say that no evidence of them has been found. Vikings living at L’Anse aux Meadows likely brought them back from New Brunswick, Quebec, Maine, or areas even further south.

More recently, a Maine archaeologist named Sarah Parcak discovered what was thought to be another Viking site in Newfoundland at Point Rosee, but two years of excavations found nothing conclusive. Parcak had examined satellite photos indicating possible subsurface remains of a Viking longhouse, but nothing like that was found and research has been terminated.

According to a 2010 article in National Geographic, about eighty people then living in Iceland “with a genetic variation similar to one found mostly in Native Americans,” and “This signature probably entered Icelandic bloodlines around A.D. 1000,” which is about when Leif discovered Vinland.

In 1958, an 11th century Viking coin was found during a Brooklin, Maine archaeological dig at an Indian site. Most believe it got there through an Indian trading network since no other Viking evidence emerged. There have been scattered reports of “runes” carved into rocks in several New England locales, but none has ever been verified. Runes are Greek or Roman characters modified by Scandinavians.

Several years ago I found an Indian artifact near the Old Saco in North Fryeburg that senior Maine archaeologist Art Speiss told me was made of Ramah Chert. According to geologists, there’s only one source of Ramah Chert and that is in northern Labrador, fifteen hundred miles north of Fryeburg. Ramah Chert has been found as far south as Connecticut on the shore of Long Island Sound. What would account for this?

There are at least two possible explanations. Indians in New England and elsewhere were more capable of sea travel than previously believed and could have built vessels capable of very long sea voyages. The other explanation would be that their trading networks were very extensive. Possibly both are true. Those formerly called Red Paint people are now called Maritime Archaic and they lived five millennia ago on the Maine coast as far south as the Androscoggin River. They used Ramah Chert, and also hunted swordfish.

Hunting swordfish is no easy matter. Maine archaeologist Bruce Bourque is probably the foremost expert on the Maritime Archaic, and he says: “Swordfish are among the fastest and perhaps the most dangerous fish in the ocean. Those found in the Gulf of Maine were huge, some topping 1,000 pounds…Once struck by a harpoon… they often unleash their devastating power upon their assailants, darting away, then arcing back to drive their sword through even the thickest wood ship planking.”

Both intrepid voyagers, the Red Paint People disappeared from the Maine coast and the Vikings disappeared from Newfoundland, but it’s likely both navigated all up and down the northeastern coast of North America in their day. So, is it quite possible the “Draken Harald Hargagre” wasn’t the first ship of its kind to appear in Portland Harbor.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Left & Right July 18, 2018

We have a guest filling in for Gino: Tony Zore, an on-air personality at WMWV, our local radio station. He's a Libertarian and well-spoken.

We start with Trump/Putin press conference and comment on John McCain's put-down of Trump's performance. Tony thinks McCain and most media reaction is overblown. I agree.

Is Trump more anti-Russian than Obama, Bush, Clinton, etc.? I think yes, Tony too. He thinks NATO's effectiveness is diminished as France's and Germany's military preparedness has gone fallow.

Tony questions the wisdom of almost any US involvement in the Middle East. Trump's intervention against ISIS was wrong-headed because we shouldn't get involved when our enemies are fighting each other.

He predicts Turkey will be the biggest problem in the region for the United States and states his reasons.

We further discuss the complicated ethnic/religious conflicts within Islam but also the geography of the Middle East.

I bring up American's deepening divisions. I'm afraid it will get beyond words and so is Tony. I invite him to speculate on why. He gets into two different views of rights: individual rights vs what's good for the group -- society. As the national government amasses more power, the danger of civil war increases. He advocates returning federal power to states.

Tony thinks rising property taxes are the biggest issue facing the Mount Washington Valley. Also, balancing development with preservation of natural resources and scenic areas.

He endorses land trusts buying up development rights rather than government passing restrictive ordinances.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Deepening Divide

He has become the symbol of a divided America. Donald Trump has saturated news for almost three years, but few in media ever expected him to win. They were shocked when he did, and coverage has been overwhelmingly negative ever since. In spite of that, his favorability ratings remain steady and even rise. Half of America supports him; half hates his guts. Our country is divided, and the split is widening.

Half of America believes Russians interfered with our election to stop Hillary and help Trump win. Though no evidence has emerged after two years of investigation by the FBI and the Justice Department, they insist it will eventually. The other half believes the FBI and the DOJ have themselves interfered with the election to help Hillary Clinton and stop Trump — and are still trying to bring Trump down with a phony investigation. Evidence for that continues to grow.

In the interest of full disclosure let me state that I voted for Trump, and if present trends continue I probably will again.

Never before was I reluctant to discuss politics with anyone, anywhere, but lately I’ve become reticent in certain circles. Conversation gets emotional when his name comes up and rational discourse becomes difficult. Many in western Maine and eastern New Hampshire know me as a conservative columnist, but not many in the Portland area know that. Down there I’m a closeted conservative.

My closet door stays shut but I keep a peephole open. Sometimes I feel like anthropologist Jane Goodall observing the behavior of a related species from behind a screen. There are very few Trump stickers in South Portland where I spend a few days per week, and no “Make America Great Again” hats. Bernie stickers, Hillary stickers, and Obama stickers are everywhere. Also proliferating are rainbow flags as well as “=” signs of the Human Rights Campaign — the nation’s biggest homosexual lobbying group.

Every two months, a writers’ group would meet at the Salt Water Grille down the street from our house. At the first meeting after the election, the discussion was exclusively about President-elect Donald Trump — none of it positive. I was quiet until faces turned to me and I said, “ I voted for Trump.” Immediately, the guy sitting next to me said, “You’re an a**hole!”

There was a time I would have reflexively responded, “Oh yeah? Why don’t we go outside and discuss it further?” That night, however, I just turned ninety degrees and looked at him. No one in the room talked for five seconds, but his outburst and my response made it clear who the a**hole was. His apology broke the silence. I kept looking at him for a few more seconds before saying, “Okay. I accept.”

My Hillary interview

Then I told the group I had a fifteen-minute interview with Hillary Clinton before the New Hampshire primary — and that she lied all the way through, so I couldn’t possibly vote for her. For the rest of the evening, I had a rational conversation about Trump with a retired art professor seated on my other side.

People capable of emotional detachment in political discussions report increased quarreling and less rational discourse. I’ve avoided talking politics with certain family members and the list got longer after the election. Like-minded relatives who are professionals report increasing polarization at their workplaces where they, too, stay closeted. We agree that Trump is a reflection of America’s divide rather than a cause of it.

Establishment Republicans like John McCain, Paul Ryan, Jeff Flake, Bob Corker, and several others share a disdain for Trump with the entire Democrat Party and mainstream media. All shunned the Tea Party when it emerged eight years ago, though congressional Republicans pretended to accept new members elected by the Tea Party. After Congress absorbed what became the “Tea Party Caucus” without changing very much, middle America looked around for stronger medicine.

That set the stage for Trump’s run. Democrats and media at first disguised their scorn for him and his supporters, but after Trump got the Republican nomination Hillary Clinton famously said: “You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic—you name it.” After Trump won, media dropped their pretense as well. What did Trump supporters do? They purchased “deplorable” T-shirts and wore them proudly.

Former Tea Party activists who had become “deplorables” always knew elite politicians and media figures harbored scorn for them and were okay to finally have it out in the open. Lately, media calls them “a cult,” and reminiscent of mass suicides at Jonestown, Establishment Washington, and the coastal elites have escalated their divisive rhetoric, but none of it diminishes support for Trump.

The elites remain baffled by Trump supporters, never suspecting that maybe “deplorables” understand them quite well. Thus does America’s divide deepen.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Jefferson NH Paleoindian Sites

NH Archaeologist Dr. Richard Boisvert
at one Jefferson site

It’s a risk to say they were the first humans in New Hampshire. Better to qualify and say instead something like: “Evidence indicates they were the first.” Because who knows? Some time in the future evidence of an earlier people may be discovered. I’m referring to those people most archaeologists call “Paleoindians.” At least one archaeologist I’ve spoken to, however, prefers the term “Paleoamericans” because that leaves open the possibility that the first humans in New England may not have been Indians, people whom those the rigidly, politically correct would call Native Americans.

There are relatively recent theories afloat that the first Americans may have come from Europe — across the Atlantic on the southern edge of glaciers that covered both the North American and European continents during earth’s most recent glaciation — the Pleistocene Epoch. The period after which those glaciers retreated from what is now Maine and New Hampshire is called the “Holocene.” which began around 12,000 years ago and still extant. Paleoamericans left evidence that they were here immediately following glacial meltdown.

The most interesting of recent Paleoamerican discoveries I know of are in Jefferson, New Hampshire. Those excavations have taken decades but the most recent was during the summer of 2017. All that can be found after twelve millennia are stones, or “lithics” in archaeological parlance, because the organic material has long dissolved. Sources of the stone preferred by those ancient humans for toolmaking are scattered over Maine and New Hampshire but was mostly local for the Jefferson site at least. Availability of that stone may have been one of the reasons Paleoamericans visited.

The various Jefferson sites are close to Mount Jasper, about which I’d previously written here, and the Jefferson stone closely resembles Mount Jasper rhyolite. Excavations conducted at the various Jefferson sites have been under the supervision of Dr. Richard Boisvert, the soon-to-retire New Hampshire state archaeologist I had a chance to interview in June of last year. Boisvert is especially interested in the paleo period and I am too, so I was thrilled when he agreed to meet with me. I’ve read everything I can find on Maine and New Hampshire sites, some of which he authored.

Boisvert believes those early New Hampshire residents made clothing there. “How do you know that?” I asked, given that he has only stones to study. Well, his team found many artifacts called “gravers” which are flakes of “knappable” stone — stone which can be shaped by skilled artisans who strike it with other stones or with pieces of antler to produce a sharp edge for knives, projectile points, scrapers, and “gravers.” Gravers have a sharp point, not unlike a linoleum knife but smaller, and the point can be used to make the eye of a needle. Bone needles have been found at sites not old enough for organic material to have disintegrated.

The various Jefferson sites had at least one thing in common: they overlooked what was probably a game trail along which caribou traveled (and perhaps now-extinct megafauna as well). The proliferation of gravers indicates needle making which, in turn, indicates clothing manufacture. The proliferation of stone scrapers found there would support that hypothesis because they were used to remove residual flesh inside flensed animal hides.

Dating the artifacts is done by consultation with other scientists such as geologists and botanists. Geologists analyze the post-glacial landscape, some of which had been lake bottom. Enormous amounts of water flowed from melting ice still retreating northwestward at the time and dams sometimes formed in valleys creating lakes. Many were temporary when dams failed and water drained through breaches. In some cases, smaller lakes and ponds remain to the present day and botanists analyze pollen samples from lake-bottom sediments. Thus they can determine climate conditions of 12,000 years ago by what kinds of plants produced the pollen.

Notice central groove or "flute"
The Jefferson sites are forested now, but during the paleo period there were no trees and paleo hunters could have seen migrating herds miles away. They fashioned the distinctive, “fluted” spear points characteristic of the paleo period with which to kill them. Boisvert found other small bits of stone called “channel flakes” which are struck from those points to create the central groove or flute created for hafting. Boisvert said his team found 126 such channel flakes indicated extensive spearpoint manufacture.
My wife and I visited Indian sites in the southwest just before I interviewed Boisvert. Artifacts are plainly visible on the surface there because there’s so little vegetation to obscure them. The first paleo artifacts were first discovered in Clovis New Mexico in 1929 and were dated to about the period of the Jefferson, New Hampshire artifacts. Clovis fluted points have since been found all over North America.