Category Archives: Reason

FRED REED: ‘Say, Mr., Can You Spare a Little Thorazine?’

America, Argument, Conspiracy, COVID-19, FRED REED, Government, Homeland Security, Intelligence, Logic, Reason

“Conspiracy theorists routinely evince this curious lack of interest in facts, data, corroboration. ” Oh, and “Buy Fred’s Books! Tutankhamen didn’t, and He’s Dead. Coincidence?”

BY FRED REED

To me fascinating is a curious fragmentation of thought, as if clusters of neurons were not communicating with others. For example, the hundred concentration camps of FEMA would require many personnel, towns to supply food, roads going to them, and so would be easily found. CTs neither say where these camps are, nor take a weekend and find one, nor show any interest in the question. Conspiracy theories say that the airliner, AA 77, that hit the Pentagon was actually a missile. In that case either AA77 landed safely in LA, its destination, easily checked with a few phone calls, or it never existed, as any travel agency would know. A newspaper reporter would think of these things. CTs don’t and become angry if others do.

Oh God, oh God, oh God, I knew it would happen. It did. The anniversary of Nine-Eleven just passed and swarms of conspiracy loons have erupted forth to holler about inside jobs and Israeli demolitions squads and collusion thicker than mayonnaise on Mom’s picnic ham sandwiches and holographic projections and nanoparticles. (Wait. I think nanoparticles are what are in covid vaccines to alter your DNA and make you into a robot. Maybe it’s nanothermite that blows up buildings, or maybe nanotermites that gnaw them down, or something)  All swathed in darkling clouds of subclinical paranoia. There is something mildly wrong with these people. I figure they’ve been sniffing bad glue. The astute John Derbyshire has said that conspiracy theorism is a minor psychic condition like obsessive-compulsive disorder. Sounds about right.

You have to understand about conspiracy theories. They seem almost deliberately squirrelly, lacking substance and checkable specificity. For example, Nine-Eleven theory says that the buildings were demolished by an unspecified number of demolition experts of unspecified origin recruited by unspecified means to place an unspecified quantity of explosives of unspecified origin in an unspecified number of unspecified locations on an unspecified number of floors over an unspecified number of days, weeks, or months, these activities being hidden from notice by a massive workforce by unspecified means.

Is that clear, or what? It’s blank ignorance but it confers theoretic maneuvering room. When you know nothing, you can believe anything.

Conspiracy theorists are intriguing rather than harmful, only borderline nuts, usually able to dress themselves. Some are quite intelligence. Maybe to be truly twisted you need to start with enough string.  It may just be inner-directed anxiety disorder. They don’t care whether there is substance to their theories, ore even whether they really have a theory. Maybe it’s just the of the spirit of the thing.

But it’s exasperating to a former reporter. I listen to this balmy soup and think  ”Ye gods and little catfish, they don’t know anything about their own theory. Or demolitions. Or journalism.”

Curiously, the faithful show no interest in how the Towers were blown up, or whether  they could have been these being details. They are sure they were blown up, though. None of the foregoing unspecified can be evaluated since there really is no theory, just repeated assertion of conspiracy. A reporter cannot fact-check the story because there are no facts to check. Conspiracy theorists routinely evince this curious lack of interest in facts, data, corroboration. For example, they insist that explosions were heard—passive voice—when the buildings came down, but do not wonder why the many video recordings do not contain these explosions. If asked about this absence, some will say that the sounds were edited out. Israeli audio editors presumably.

If you want to blame the Towers  on Israel, come up with a story I can believe. For example, Arabic speaking Mossad agents talked a bunch of Saudis in a bar in Bangkok into doing it. This doesn’t involve lunacy or physical impossibility. It is a serviceable tale of universal applicability. Today we could substitute Russians, Chinese, Trump supporters or Iranians with no loss.

Conspiracy theorists everywhere sense the Hidden Hand, sense dark and malevolent forces invisible to most but detected by those in the know. Typically a government of corporate, and malevolent agents, lurk behind visible events and are often responsible for things that don’t even  exist. For example, FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, has a hundred concentration camps fully manned and ready to be filled with patriots when the country is taken over by whoever is going to take it over.

To me fascinating is a curious fragmentation of thought, as if clusters of neurons were not communicating with others. For example, the hundred concentration camps of FEMA would require many personnel, towns to supply food, roads going to them, and so would be easily found. CTs neither say where these camps are, nor take a weekend and find one, nor show any interest in the question. Similarly, conspiracy loons say that the airliner, AA 77, that hit the Pentagon was actually a missile. In that case either AA77 landed safely in LA, its destination, easily checked with a few phone calls, or it never existed, as any travel agency would know. A newspaper reporter would think of these things. CTs don’t and become angry if others do.

Here we encounter another characteristic of the genre: the multiplication of hypotheses. To protect the theory, they expand it. Explosions in New York were not recorded because the media were in on the plot. The FBI didn’t investigate because it was in on the plot. The white House didn’t…on and on. It doesn’t occur to them that the media don’t cover nonsensical theories because they are nonsensical. No, they are in on it. This intensifies the delicious satisfactions of seeing the Hidden Hand.

Oddly, CTs lack emotional response to horrendous crimes.  It is as if they both believe but simultaneously don’t.  If you, the reader, thought that the Israelis had murdered three thousand Americans, would you not be angry? Yet in reading volumes and in conversation with leading Israel-did-its, I have not heard an angry word at the Israelis doing it. I have been the object of fury for saying they didn’t.

Or, if an Air Force F-16 had killed a large number of people at the Pentagon with a missile, would you not want to investigate and bring the scoundrels to justice? It would be easy enough. For reasons obvious to anyone familiar with the Armed forces, such an attack would involve many people and leave major evidentiary trails. Yet the faithful do not think of this, evince no outrage, demand no investigation. Huh? Conspiracying seems a sort of psychic hobby, maybe, for people who really want to live in a comic book.

Conspiracy theorists seem politically conservative. Liberals have their own mental dislocations, inventing an imaginary world they would like to exist and then trying to move into it, resulting in policies unrelated to observable reality. But they don’t see strange shapes twisting at the verge of vision. The conservative’s is a darker view of life, more realistic and grimmer. I think of liberals as tweeters and conservative as woofers, but maybe that’s just me.

Conspiracy wackos also are overwhelmingly male. Someone once said that men, always wanting to slay dragons, wreck cars, or  conquer empires, are romantics pretending to be realists and that women are realists pretending to be romantics. Well, it fits.

Then there is the Blob Mind, the aggregation of hundreds, sometimes many hundreds, of people into agglomerations all of whose minds apparently are connected into one entity. Consider the Navy ships that decades ago were said to have shot down an airliner leaving New York. At least five hundred anarchic and voluble sailors would know of this and tell their families and everybody in every bar for fifty miles around. CTs say “the Navy” suppressed the truth, as if all military personnel had their minds connected by invisible wires and appropriate thought pumped in from some underground control room. In many conspiracies, “the media”, similarly wired, hide the truth. Do the owners of thousands of publications tell their section editors who tell their vast swarms not to cover a story which any of them would kill his grandmother to break—“Don’t cover the biggest story in fifty years”? These large groups all act as multicellular, unvolitional beings under remote control.

Covid spawns conspiracy theories like oyster spawn eggs, bathing the world in subtreatable paranoia. On the same website you can read that it doesn’t exist, being just the seasonal flue and that it is a plot to depopulate the earth; that the vaccines contains nanoparticles, microchips, and substances to reprogram your genome; that the government (I think) is hiding miracle cures such as hydroquinone (an antiplasmodial, vitamin D, zinc, and a worm poison; hospitals are lying about the number of deaths, some exaggerating and others minimizing them. How you depopulate the earth with a disease that doesn’t exist isn’t clear. They don’t ask, so it doesn’t matter. There seems to be a tacit gentlemen’s agreement, or honor among cracked pots, holding that I won’t criticize your theory if you won’t criticize mine, though they are mutually contradictory

Further, a CT mindset exists. A normal person might believe in one Conspiracy through limited investigation and interest, but people who believe in one Conspiracy almost always believe in several.

And now I must run, to find a hotel room downtown. The CIA is burrowing a tunnel under my house, coming from Roswell, and I don’t want to be here when the collapse comes.

Buy Fred’s Books! Tutankhamen didn’t, and He’s Dead. Coincidence?

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FRED REED describes himself as [previously] a “Washington police reporter, former Washington editor for Harper’s and staff writer for Soldier of Fortune magazine, Marine combat vet from Viet Nam, and former long-haul hitchhiker, part-time sociopath, who once lived in Arlington, Virginia, across the Potomac River from the Yankee Capital.”
His essays “on the collapse of America” Mr. Reed calls “wildly funny, sometimes wacky, always provocative.”
“Fred is the Hunter Thompson of the right,” seconds Thomas E. Ricks in Foreign Policy magazine. His  commentary is “well-written, pungent political incorrectness mixed with smart military commentary and libertarian impulses, topped off with a splash of Third World sunshine and tequila.”

FRED’S BOOKS ARE ON AMAZON, HERE

FRED’S ARTICLES ARCHIVE

Killer Kink

Hardboiled is back! (The exclamation point is to arouse wild enthusiasm in the reader, a boiling literary lust.) Gritty crime fiction by longtime police reporter for the Washington Times, who knows the police from nine years of riding with them. Guaranteed free of white wine and cheese, sensitivity, or social justice.

NEW COLUMN: Conservation IS Conservative: BLM? Black-And-Yellow Lives Matter

Argument, Conservatism, Environmentalism & Animal Rights, Left-Liberalism And Progressivisim, Reason

NEW COLUMN: “Conservation IS Conservative: BLM? Black-And-Yellow Lives Matter.” It’s a feature on WND.COM, The Unz Review and The New American.

Excerpt:

… For the Left, love of the environment amounts to an anti-intellectual, atavistic ritual, the kind performed by Homo species, say, when lightning struck. Primitive man would have looked to the heavens, and promised a sacrifice, to appease the particular god in control. In our times, the pagan pantheon has been replaced with the Almighty God of Climate Change.

What about conservatives? Conservation is conservative. At least it ought to be.  But are conservatives better custodians of nature than progressives?

Everywhere you look conservatives are rejoicing that the world population count broke 8 billion this month. Population explosion is to be celebrated! You can never have too many people, for people, in conservative thinking, are only ever a positive sum; never zero sum. Resources are endless—or, so conservatives seem to assume.

Animal life and habitat? Who cares? Kill the good-for-nothing critters. Deforestation? Bring it on. Forests are overrated. Ditto oxygen. Besides, we are on our way to being an anaerobic species. Ask Mr. AI (Artificial Intelligence). He was on “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” so he knows. (By the way, it’s beyond silly to believe in the autonomy of artificial intelligence. Artificial intelligence is nothing more than meta-programing by mega-programmers.)

And, of course, the most populated places on earth are also heaven on earth. Oh, for the glories of Calcutta, Cairo and Gaza, already upon your little American hamlet.

The conservative overpopulation enthusiast could easily borrow the utilitarian arguments advanced by the open-border crowd, when touting the advantages of high-population density. …

… READ THE REST. “Conservation IS Conservative: BLM? Black-And-Yellow Lives Matter” is a feature on WND.COM, The Unz Review and The New American.

 

 

 

Tucker Carlson Gets Into Tiktok Mode, Blames China For Pervasive American Decadence

China, Communism, Conservatism, Logic, Pop-Culture, Reason, Sex, The Zeitgeist

Notice the theme on the Tucker Carlson Show today, July 18?

Tucker mindlessly blames China for, among other things, America’s gutter culture, as acted out on Tiktok. Accordingly, the Chinese made Americans worship hip hop and rap and twerk. The Chinese made American hos disrobe and simulate sex on TikTok. The Chinese made American Tiktokers privilege Ebonics over English.

Heavily into non sequitur mode, for the cultural trends Tucker blamed on China are mainstream American culture (Laura Ingraham loves rap by admission)–Tucker presented the proof to his blame-China thesis: Chinese Tiktokers are seen practicing piano, manners and magic cube mental skills, whereas Americans are seen doing what they do on TV, in movies, on reality shows, and on political panels.

Say no more. I’ve proved my point. QED.

China’s culture until communism was Confucianism, which is high-minded and genteel. And, contra ConOink, China is reactionary, returning to Confucianism; not Communism:

CNN’s Sinophobic Zakaria Is Clueless: China Is Reactionary, Returning To Confucianism; Not Communism

Enabled by indulgent and permissive parents and pedagogues, America’s youth have become increasingly licentious, lippy and libertine. Most are ignorant and lousy at writing, reasoning, and conversing coherently about anything other than raaaaaacism. They have also become un-moored from their finest traditions. The Chinese—who seem to know what’s good—are returning to things classical, traditional and eternally and universally beautiful.

Having banned corrupt hip-hop culture, China has a new export: Western classical music. “Once, classical music generally traveled from the West to the rest,” marvels the Economist. “Now China is reversing the exchange, not merely performing Western classical music in China, but exporting it. …

 

FRED REED: Toward a Theory of Impossibility: Column Upends Science

Argument, FRED REED, Logic, Pseudoscience, Reason, Science

FRED’S in the house. You heard the Man. If seen, do not approach. Call your local taberna instead

BY FRED REED

In today’s column, we will revolutionize science, and establish that much of what we believe, at least regarding living things, is at best improbable and likely impossible. Science won’t notice, so no harm will be done.

As we explicate the Theory of Impossibility, we must begin with particle physics. This will give the column a touch of class. Specifically, the Fundamental Theorem of Quantum Mechanics states, “If a thing makes no sense at all, wait until you get used to it, and then it will.” For example, the idea that a particle can simultaneously be a wave is absurd, but is now everywhere accepted, like potatoes. The EPR effect, holding that if one of a pair of entangled photons, in Scarsdale, changes polarity, its entangled partner, in Alpha Centauri, will simultaneously change polarity, is ridiculous. How would it know?  Neither of these things can happen. But they do, so we regard them as reasonable. Here we enunciate and underlying principle: A thing is not necessarily possible merely because it happens.

Unless something is going on that we do not know about.

Scientists see the universe as if it were a gigantic crossword puzzle. Crosswords are inherently solvable. While the great puzzle of life and existence has not been entirely elucidated, we assume that it can be, given time and effort. We may not know a five-letter word ending in Q that means “seventh-century Persian coin,” but we assume that it exists and can one day be found. But…is this so?

This reminds me that when I was in college, before the invention of fire, sophomores quoted Gödel’s Theorem as saying that in a logical system of sufficient complexity, there were questions that could not be answered within the system. Whether the theorem actually says this, I forget, but we said it said it, and felt very wise.

Here we come to one of my favorite clichés, by the British biologist J.B.S. Haldane, “The world is not only queerer than we think, but queerer than we can think.” Just so. Perhaps there are questions that can’t be answered, and therefore won’t be. This cannot be a comforting thought to a new-minted chemist as he rushes forth from CalTech, which may be why anything suggesting inherent unanswerability is rejected. But it may be that we just aren’t smart enough to understand everything, or maybe even much of it. Here we come to another cliché by my favorite philosopher (me): The smartest of a large number of hamsters is still a hamster.

Now, impossibility. Suppose I showed you a pair of tiny gears and said, “See? When I turn this one, it meshes with the other and makes it turn too.” You would respond with a lack of surprise. Suppose I then showed you fifty such little gears in an old-fashioned Swiss watch in which they all turned to make the hands move. You might say, “Isn’t that ingenious.” Suppose that I then told you that someone had assembled, literally, a cubic mile of such tiny gears and that they meshed perfectly for fifty years to do many complex things. You would ask me what I was smoking.

Even though each step in a cubic-mile process could be shown to be possible—gear A turns gear B, which turns gears C and D—you would sense that the entire complex wouldn’t work, however plausible each sub-process might be. You would be unconsciously applying the law that the improbability of the whole is greater than the sum of the improbabilities of the parts. The improbability is not a linear function of the number of parts but increases without limit as the number of parts goes above, say, one thousand.

Does that sound dreadfully portentous, or what? One day it will be the foundation of ponderous overpriced textbooks to extract money from sophomores. At least I hope so. I could use the money.

To a neophyte of biochemistry, the textbook description of a cell seems the mapping of a robotic Japanese factory onto a swamp. For example, in what sounds like a computer-controlled assembly line, enzymes uncoil the DNA, others unzip it, complementary nucleotides snap into place, a zipper-upper enzyme glues them together, click, click, click, whereupon the mRNA rushes purposefully off to a ribosome where, click, click, click. This is probably AP biology in decent high schools, if any, and has been verified thousands of times by biochemists. But…it sounds like mechanical engineering, not mindless undirected glop in solution.

You say, “But Fred, you don’t know anything about biochemistry.” True, but so what? You don’t have to know anything about it to know that it is impossible. Too many little wheels. You’ve got mRNA and microRNA and rRNA all rushing about, or sometimes holding still, and doing complex and purposeful things, and tRNA codons and anticodons coupling like drunken teenagers, and busybody enzymes editing this or that on the fly in the manner of bioschoolmarms or splicing this and some other thing and ribosomes and lysosomes and spliceosomes and palindromes and maybe aerodromes and really twisty long molecules with names like 2,4-diethyl-polywannacrackerene—and all of this is said to run with the efficiency of a Mexican drug cartel. All of this in a tiny space where everything ought to bang into everything else and just lie there in smoking rubble.

To us barbarians on the outside, the cell looks like a microscopic globule of goop with sticky stuff diffusing mindlessly about. I do not doubt that biochemists, whom I respect, have shown all of this to happen by careful experiments. I just don’t believe it. It’s the cubic mile of gears again. You have hundreds of reactive species in close proximity doing extraordinarily complicated things for sometimes a hundred years with what sounds like precisely coordinated purposefulness–instead of congealing immediately into a droplet of disagreeable mush. I do not doubt that lab folk have proved that it happens. I just don’t think it is possible. Unless something is going on that we don’t understand.

The foregoing is not orthodox biochemistry and may encounter initial resistance in the trade.

A problem of biology for years has been the inability of evolutionists to explain how life or many of its manifestations can have evolved, irreducible complexity and all that, the usual response being ok, we aren’t sure, but any day now we will have the answer. The check is in the mail. But in fact the inexplicability grows ever greater year on year as more and more complexity is discovered, such as epigenetics, and the more complexity, the less likelihood of coming about by chance. But we advocates of Impossibility Theory assert that not only can living things not have evolved, but also that they can’t function. Too many little gear wheels. Therefore life doesn’t exist.

Consider the retina, a very thin membrane consisting of ten distinct sublayers engaging in appallingly complex biochemistry, somehow maintaining position and function for, occasionally, a hundred years. These layers consist of millions of cells doing the impossibly tricky chemical dance mentioned above, more or less perfectly. In the rest of the eye you have the three layers of the eyeball, sclera, choroid, retina, and the five layers of the cornea, epithelium, Bowman’s membrane, stroma, Descemet’s membrane, and posterior lamina. And a lens consisting of a proteinaceous goop contained in a capsule, attached to the muscular ciliary body by suspensory ligaments, and an iris of radial and circumferential fibers innervated competitively by the sympathetic and parasympathetic subsystems of the autonomic nervous system. No way exists of explaining how this purportedly evolved—or how it works for many years without the layers of intricacy, biochemical through mechanical, collapsing. (I know this stuff because I have eye problems connected with Washington’s foreign policy.)

The intricacy of life is layered. We start with a zygote which, being a cell, is bogglingly complex. This little time bomb develops into a baby, which is impossible. If you don’t think so, try reading a textbook of embryology. The migration of cells, this control gradient, that control gradient, DGRNs, perfect inerrant specialization to form implausibly precise and complex things like incus, malleus, stapes, tympanum in the ear and (very) numerous other examples, all impossible individually and more so in aggregate.

Impossible, at least, unless we can come up with an auxiliary explanation.  Magic seems a good candidate.

All of the organs of the baby are in varying degrees impossibly complicated and, even more impossible, almost always all of them are perfect at once. Everyone knows Murphy’s Law: If something can go wrong, it will. A baby should bring joy to Murphy because the opportunities of disaster are nearly infinite—yet things almost never go wrong. It is like a federal program that actually works.

The functioning of said baby is as mysterious as its formation. Babies grow. Children grow. How does this happen? For example, the baby has various small, hollow bones which grow year after year into large hollow bones. For this to work, cells (osteoclasts) eat away the bone from the inside, making the hollow larger, while other cells (osteoblasts) lay down new bone on the outside. Complex and wildly implausible communication between blast and clast purportedly makes this work. Medical researchers, honest people, no fools, assure me that this happens, and I believe them. Sort of. The idea that this evolved by random mutation is, if I may use a technical term, nuts. So, according to Impossibility Theory, is its precise, inerrant functioning. We come back to magic.

The whole baby does this sort of thing. The skull grows. Kidneys grow. The heart grows. All, with few exceptions, perfectly. Meanwhile, kidneys excrete, endocrine glands secrete, neurons weirdly but correctly link up, skin grows in perfect layers, nervous system deploys—perfectly. Do you believe this? It isn’t possible.

Unless there is something we haven’t figured out, and perhaps can’t.

I don’t know much about anything (readers delight in assuring me of this). However, I don’t know less about computers than I don’t know about biology. I want an engineering information-flow analysis of cells and a baby. Probably there are courses and books about this, and I just haven’t heard of them.

Consider a drill, perhaps in a factory, controlled by a computer. The total information involved in this transaction presumably consists of information flowing from sensors on the drill to the computer, and from the computer to the drill. Digital bits are easy to understand if you have at least two fingers. Cells are dauntingly analog.

A whole lot of things have to happen in a cell at the right time and produce the right amounts of all sorts of stuff. But to my naïve gaze, not only do processes have to produce things in correct amounts, but the systems that tell them how much to produce have to know how much that is, and these interrelationships all have to interrelate with each other. How much is that in gigabytes? Again, I am a barbarian of such things, but I wish a software engineer would reduce the whole shebang to data-flow diagrams, including how it knows when things are wearing out and the information paths needed to repair them. And why everything doesn’t just stick to everything else.

There you have the elements of a theory of impossibility. Doubtless it will rank with general relativity and Watson and Crick. You saw it here first.

https://fredoneverything.org/list/

Read Fred’s Books! Or else. We know where you sleep.

******************************************

FRED REED describes himself as [previously] a “Washington police reporter, former Washington editor for Harper’s and staff writer for Soldier of Fortune magazine, Marine combat vet from Viet Nam, and former long-haul hitchhiker, part-time sociopath, who once lived in Arlington, Virginia, across the Potomac River from the Yankee Capital.”
His essays “on the collapse of America” Mr. Reed calls “wildly funny, sometimes wacky, always provocative.”
“Fred is the Hunter Thompson of the right,” seconds Thomas E. Ricks in Foreign Policy magazine. His  commentary is “well-written, pungent political incorrectness mixed with smart military commentary and libertarian impulses, topped off with a splash of Third World sunshine and tequila.”

FRED’S BOOKS ARE ON AMAZON, HERE

FRED’S ARTICLES ARCHIVE

Killer Kink

Hardboiled is back! (The exclamation point is to arouse wild enthusiasm int the reader, a boiling literary lust.) Gritty crime fiction by longtime police reporter for the Washington Times, who knows the police from nine years of riding with them. Guaranteed free of white wine and cheese, sensitivity, or social justice.