Wednesday, May 28, 2008

POEM: The Innocent do not Rest

The unknowing yet innocent still believe what they will.
Only the guilty understand what innocence cannot comprehend
    – mortals are we all, yet some must strive for less.

Keep the shadow a shadow only in your mind
    – refuse to look into the darkness.
Now is not the time to listen to the wind,
Omniscient is the barren broken soul that releases
With a gasping dying breath, an existence ceases

Mortal men with souls immortal are the ones that face their beasts
Eternity in darkness is the only final peace.

* Copyright 1991-1992 Adisak Pochanyon

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Global Warming ?

So we're having unseasonably cool weather here in Chicago. Downright cold if you consider having temps in the 40's a few days before June. And over lunch I heard the whole, "How can we be having global warming if it's getting colder here and in other places as well?"

Well, climate is complex and there's no easy answer to that.

Global climate is a chaotic system that is currently in a temporary stable localized homeostasis. Certain factors influence the climate in well known ways -- for example, the length of days corresponding to temperature and seasons. The climatic system as a whole in general terms system usually bounces between fairly well established norms, displaying a partially predictable hysteresis response to influences.

The vast number of inputs and varying responses make predicting detailed climate response to specific events impossible. This is why we can predict winter and summer in advance (the seasons in general terms) but we have close to zero ability to accurately predict if it's going to rain the second tuesday of next month.

The reason most educated people are at least concerned about "Global Warming" is that nearly all locally stable chaotic systems have what is known as a "tipping point". You push them a little and they will come back to "center" with some minor random variations in between -- taking a partially unpredictable path trending back towards a predictable destination. However, if you push them past the "tipping point" -- all bets are off -- the system can fly off in any direction and run away chaotically or it could just as easily come back to rest in the same localized homeostasis or it may find a new stable locale.

That's why a little carbon emission might predictably cause a corresponding global warming but a lot of carbon emission might cause everything from an ice age to a long dry period of sprawling hot deserts -- or it might not cause any problems at all. One can honestly say that the best educated guess is we have no idea at all what will happen -- However, we can state at the same time that lots of carbon emissions are *MORE LIKELY* to push us into either an age of Deserts / Ice (something other than our current localized stable state) and the fact is that research or computer simulations can show both of those happening depending how they try to represent the climate system.

We can never hope to fully understand a truly chaotic system since by definition, it is random in response to certain inputs and beyond our complete understanding. However, we can understand issues like the "tipping point" and smaller effects on the system and try to avoid doing anything genuinely catastrophic. Reducing carbon emissions and anything else that is possible of influencing the climate is more likely to keep us in the stable locale we currently occupy (i.e. a habitable planet) not to mention that lessened dependence on fossil fuels has plenty of other economic and political benefits that are much better understood so we should pursue them anyhow.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Can the "will of the people" ever be wrong?

The "will of the people" is not always correct. In a state where the rights of only the majority are respected, minorities are oppressed. If you want to see what happens in a place where the majority is always "right", imagine moving to a Muslim country with Shariac Law in the Middle East as a Christian minority.

Protection of minorities is essential in a Free State and Democracy. That's why the U.S. Constitution grants us rights such as the freedom of speech, freedom of religious choice, and the right to vote. We are granted further inalienable rights such as the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

When the "will of the people" is to quash these inalienable rights by passing laws which remove the rights of a class of minorities, the Constitution must step in to protect us. Equal rights for all citizens outweigh any "popular vote" of opinion.

Let us turn back the clock a few mere decades to see how the "will of the people" can be wrong.

In 1967, a Gallup pool showed 96 percent of white Americans disapproved of interracial marriage. Sixteen states had laws making it illegal for Blacks to marry Whites. These states included Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia. Furthermore, some of the laws prevented Asians, Native Americans, Filipinos, or all non-Whites to marry Whites.

In the same year, when the U.S. Supreme Court declared unconstitutional these anti-miscegenation laws there was a public outrage in many of these states. Opponents of mixed-race marriages decried the union of loving interracial couples, claiming that such marriages would destroy our traditions and undermine the moral foundation of America.

But before the defeat of all anti-miscegenation laws in the US Supreme Court, there were smaller skirmishes in various state supreme courts.

Some of these skirmishes went for the segregationists.

In 1958, Richard and Mildred Loving, a mixed couple in Virginia had gone to D.C. to get married where interracial marriages were legal. They returned to Virginia and were arrested for living together as an interracial couple. They were found guilty and were sentenced to jail terms for merely "Loving" each other. Judge Leon Bazile suspended their sentence on the condition that the Lovings would leave Virginia and not return for 25 years.

So the Lovings were banished from the state and moved to D.C. Five years later they tried to appeal this decision but the judge replied:

"Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix."

Other skirmishes went to committed couples who fought the "popular vote" to be together -- For example, the 1948 ruling in California's Supreme Court which overturned the state's 98 year old "tradition" of outlawing mixed-race marriages.

The issue of interracial marriages had been supposedly "settled" by state laws prior to the 1967 US Supreme Court ruling. In the end, though, the issue was decided in the courts (both federal and states) where some brave judges upheld that fundamental rights the Constitution grants us for the pursuit of happiness overrule any mere law passed by Legislators following the shouts of the majority.

These judges were merely doing their job making America a better place by insuring her citizens were granted equal rights. They were not "activist judges" although perhaps that's what they would be called today. They were certainly called worse names back in the day.

Does this sound familiar today?

Ask yourself if you would be denied the right to love before you ask another to give up that right.

Please pass this on. Thanks.