The end of American democracy—November 2020

February 10, 2021- This is one time I am glad to have been wrong. Thankfully, Trump thought his continuous lying about the election being “stolen” would carry the day. His attempts at a coup failed, though it cost five people their lives. Thank God for Trump’s incompetence.

March, 2020- Two scenarios: One, Trump wins reelection, the nation’s administration continues its slide into corruption fed from the top down, affecting almost all aspects of American life as free speech, free press, and other civil liberties are limited and curtailed by a Justice Department not constrained by the rule of law. Further, public lands and National Park lands will be sold, or mineral rights leases made available to the highest briber without regard for natural beauty or Native American rights. Elimination of federal regulations will allow air and water pollution to an extent not seen since the early years of the industrial age.

Scenario Two: Trump loses the election; declares the election rigged, SCOTUS agrees and terms the election invalid, Trump continues his corrupt regime. Alternatively, SCOTUS says Trump lost, Trump declares a state of emergency and determines he should stay in power. Who can tell him otherwise? His Justice Department under William Barr will go along with this. If the Justice Department will not tell Trump to leave office, who will? Anti-Trump demonstrations will prove about as effective as the Hong Kong demonstrations. Trump will simply say the demonstrations are why he should declare martial law. The Armed Services now being led by sycophantic Trump toadies, they will move troops to disperse demonstrations.

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It will come out that Trump’s fortune is backed by loans from Russian oligarchs, laundered by Deutsche Bank , but no consequences will be forthcoming, again because of William Barr. The strong support of Trump by Vladimir Putin will be hidden by Barr and by the intelligence services, again because of top-down corruption. This will lead to Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, which will be ok with Trump, again because of his indebtedness to Russian oligarchs. An emboldened Putin will set his sights on re-occupying eastern European countries, while Trump distracts NATO by talking about expanding NATO into the Middle East, which would of course be difficult, since every European nation realizes the U.S. could not be counted on for support of any resistance to external (to NATO) threats.

With the U.S. occupied with internal strife, China will declare its rule over the South China Sea, restricting shipping and energy development by other countries in the area. The U.S. will make no attempt to moderate this power grab by China, further reducing U.S. influence in world affairs. See “The South China Sea in Strategic Terms” by Marvin Ott. Remember that limitations on Japan’s ability to get oil through or from the South China Sea was one of the causes of World War II. (Hickman, Kennedy. “Heading Toward World War II in the Pacific.” ThoughtCo, Feb. 11, 2020,).

 In general, Trump turning the U.S. into a dictatorship will have far-reaching consequences, both at home and abroad.

I despair for our future

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The Origin of Thought/

We all live in the world of our perceptions; physicists may hypothesize a world with eleven or more dimensions, but we can only sense height, width, depth… and time.

Are we the only organisms that think? What is thinking? How could we determine if another species “thinks”? Another part of the question often comes up in science fiction stories, and that is what comes under the heading of a “sentient  species”; all goes to the definition of thought.

My thesis here is that thought originated with organisms discovering that particular actions resulted in particular consequences, and just the natural evolutionary process, over eons of time, is all that is required for some random species to develop some form of intelligence that results in unusual consequences; I think it’s kind of nice that the species that wound up with abilities in language, thought and logic (that allows me to write this) evolved in our species.

Probably the first organisms to actually make use of a cause-effect paradigm would have been sea life, before land life evolved; this is quite open to argument, but at some point groups of atoms became structures we would call proteins, and some proteins developed into cells, and cells aggregated into organisms. These early organisms would have developed into the first time-binders, organisms that discovered a certain action resulted in better survival abilities. There seems to me to be no means of proving this hypothesis, but to some extent we can say it would be self-evident—an organism near a nutrient, if it can by some means move toward that nutrient, will have a greater survival value than an organism that cannot sense, and move toward its nutrient. Eventually, better senses, better movements, results in better survival. But an important point to keep in mind is that the sensing of, and seeking to acquire, develops along a cause-effect time-line. Sensing to be followed by an action, takes place over a period of time, inherently due to delays in chemical or electrical actions occurring in the organism. Thus, such organisms are, from the first, genuine time-binders.

As organisms develop in complexity, the simple cause-effect paradigm becomes much more highly developed. A worm’s behavior adapts to its environment; surely a worm on a concrete sidewalk does not think “where’s my dirt?” but it does have a sense to move off of the concrete.

More highly developed organisms come to have brain structures that can allow and in some sense, “understand” time. That understanding of time is again expressed in cause-effect behavior. The cat has seen or perhaps smelled a mouse behind the mousehole. It knows (whatever we might mean by “knowing”) that if it waits beside the mousehole, it probably will be able to catch a mouse sooner or later.

What is a dog “thinking” when it looks up at you and wags its tail? We tend to ascribe human emotions and thought patterns as a means of predicting the behavior of animals, and we can expect based on past observations of animal behavior, that a dog wagging its tail probably is not angry and not likely to attack. Of course, we can never know for sure what is going on in the brain of our animal companions, but we can lay out some likely scenarios, such as that the animal has come to expect a reward (the effect) as a result of the complex set of environmental factors then present (the cause), to wit, your past behavior of feeding or petting the animal, its sense (again, the time-binding) that you may repeat the actions that were previously rewarding to the animal. We can assume, based on our general understanding of physiology that actions are occurring in the dog’s brain governing its behavior. Because we believe such animals to generally not have a capability for self-reflection, rather than saying the animal “thinks”, we might see the behavior as reflexive. The animal senses the circumstances (the cause) and behaves in a certain way (the effect).

What about the instances where animals have been observed to appear sad, to have an emotional response we would almost describe as “human-like”? Recently, a television program described a study of a group of chimpanzees. A female chimp gave birth to a baby chimp, which lived with the tribe for a short while, then died. The mother chimp, for a while, carried the dead baby around with her, as though she were unable to accept the fact of the baby’s death. Is the mother’s behavior representative of an emotional response that we might liken to human feelings? And why should we consider these responses separately from “thought” or “thinking processes”?

If thought, then, simply is an enhancement of cause-effect reasoning, which can also be stretched out in time, then why should emotions be conceived as something different? We understand, and do not minimize, the mental anguish that can come with emotional loss, or the euphoria of anticipation of some triumph of some type. Yet why should we think that the complexity of human thought is something of a qualitative difference from the stimulus-response, the cause-effect of beginning thought, proto-thought of organisms much simpler than humans? All one has to do is gaze at a night sky or ponder the number of neurons and synapses in the human brain to imagine that the human thought process could be just a much more elaborate collection of cause-effect thought elements.

It may be worth pointing out that the brain, in both animals and humans, affords the capacity to plan, to set up the “cause” in order to produce the “effect”, and when the situation results in the failure to produce the “effect”, generally the initial behavior will occur less and less frequently. We do know, going back to the experiments of B.F. Skinner, that intermittent success will reinforce behavior, hence in humans, possibly creating gambling and other addictions.

This analysis doesn’t really tell us much about the complex dynamics of human behavior. Nor does it address the arguments over the hereditary-environment dichotomy (my view is that both are operative, and it’s probably not useful to argue that one or the other is most influential).

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