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United Nations Report On Climate Change

Michael has passed through and gone out into the North Atlantic and is disintegrated. We can relax and feel safe for a while,  confident that we survived and can ride out future storms.  That is what I thought unti I read about a United Nations scientific panel report that was published on October 8. The report was from an Intergovernmental panel on climate change. This report does not have the candy coating that prior climate change  reports have had.

This  report is much more pessimistic than prior reports. According to sources, it is much more honest and realistic. There is no holding back or displaying the facts in order to prevent panic as did prior published reports by various scientific studies. The report gives s pretty sober prediction of the future of climate change. It also lays out some plans that we can go to reduce the effects. But it says these plans must be implemented beginning as soon as possible and will entail great and fundamental changes in lifestyles, energy use and basic structure of society and civilation. The lives of hundreds of millions of people are under risk in the next century unless these changes are made start immediately. We don’t have much time.

The reports states that if we continue as we are that sea levels will rise as much as two hundred feet by the next century.  This will be devestating. Weather system s will change and severely change our way of like and possibly civilization itself.

The panel warns that we should respond with a massive effort similar to the effort we made in World War II in order to prevent the expected rise in temperature.

The time for relaxing and feeling safe and confident about our future and the future of our children, grandchildren and future generations is over.






Hurricanes and Storms

A hurricane is on the way. It’s name is Michael. I like that name. It to me signifies peace and tranquility. I think the hurricane is misnamed. It should have a name signifying destruction and danger. Because that is what it will bring. I live in North Georgia, in Metro Atlanta. Storms like Michael that hit the Florida panhandle often find their way here. They bring a lot of wind and rain with them. In varying amounts. Some are not too bad. Others are. The last bad one was named Opal. It hit in 1995. A tree in my neighbor’s front yard blew down. As I was helping him clean up I almost stepped one a dead squirrel. Newly dead. The squirrel probably thought he was safe up in the tree next to the trunk. But he was not. That happens sometimes. Just when you think all is well with the world and you are most content. But that is another story. A Christmas Story, in fact. The squirrel had chosen to find safety in a  Bradford pear tree my neighbor had planted years before. They are lovely in the spring when they bloom. And they bloom early. But their limbs trunk are fragile and brittle and they break and blow over easily. My neighbor and the squirrel had bad judgment in choosing a Bradford pear in metro Atlanta.  An oak would have been safe. The oaks are the strongest. I did not lose a tree but I lost shingles off my roof from the wind. And water damage to the ceiling from the rain that came in after the shingles were blown away. The wind was strong. Pine trees were snapped by the wind and were blown around in the streets. Power lines were down. Power was out for days for some, longer for others. There was flooding down by the creeks and streams and water damage. I live on a ridge. Higher than the surrounding land, at the top of a hill. I have lightening and wind to worry about here. A lot of trees have been snapped by the wind since I have lived here. I saw one of them snap and fall. It was a pine tree. It snapped and was down in a split second. Bam. No swaying, no leaning, no warning. Just pop and down. Sometimes the trees fall on houses or cars and people are trapped or killed. That happens a few times a year here. Atlanta is sometimes called the city of trees. And trees are often snapped or blown own. I saw lightning strike the ground once. It hit my neighbor’s yard across the street. It hit the ground with a loud bang. Grass and dirt flew upward. I saw it from my car port where I was looking at the storm and the wind.

I hope the people in Florida whether the storm in safety without property damage. But I know they will not. And I hope the same for the Metro area where I live. I dread the storm. There will probably be property damage, with fallen trees and power lines down and people trapped or killed and some squirrel may be thrown out of his safe haven. But I can hope not. I can and I do.


Madness in Washington

I woke up this morning after a good night’s sleep. Had my cheese danish and coffee to start off what looked like would be a good day, even though it was cloudy outside.  Then turned on the news and it all went downhill. Deputy attorney general on the way to the White House about to be fired or resign. News media spoke and discussed on and on about that speculating and guessing from every angle. I wondered what else was going on. Surely there was something else to discuss. Then they started discussing something else and it got worse. More details about the nominee to the Supreme Court. More details than I wanted to hear.

I was in a fraternity at a private school in the sixties. Nothing I ever  saw there or in high school compared to anything I have heard in the stories about the nominee. Things that they are reporting as happening when the nominees was in high school and college could not have possibly been that bad. Or so I would have thought. But apparently I would  have thought wrong.

The main issue I am asking myself is what talent does the president have that results in him creating such madness around him. Prior administrations were nothing like this. What process could have created this president.

I blame the Citizens United decision for putting us where we are. Since that decision congressmen and even officials st the state level are so dependent on the vast amounts of money and support from the top one half of one per cent that they are frozen from acting in anything but an extreme partisan manner. I don’t see how this is going to get any better. I hope I am wrong and it does get better.

To Testify or Not to Testify

This week we may see some testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee about an incident alleged to have happen almost forty years ago. Most people I know, read on the blogs and see on the news have already made their minds up based mostly on their party affiliation. The affiliation to the left or right forms their bias and their basis informs whether or not they believe the accusations. This applies even to the senators who are on the committee.  I see very few prospects of any senator’s mind or decision on how they will vote being changed by the upcoming testimony.

There are ways to overcome bias. In the legal world they round up twelve citizens of upstanding citizens and make them sit together in a box, whether they want to or not, and listen to the evidence as presented by both parties. Then they are forced to take a vote and render a verdict. This works fairly well but is not perfect.  I could recite instances where the bias was not overcome by the evidence and wrong decisions were returned. Guilty people have been set free just because the bias of the jury could not be overcome by even overwhelming facts. Innocent people have been convicted for the same reason.

In politics biases are overcome by speeches and intense advertising campaigns. We are driven to distraction by television commercials and robo calls increasing in frequency as the elections approach. Different approaches are studied using polls to determine the best ways to overcome the bias and gather votes and turnout the voters.

So why should the woman in question brother to testify if the chances of her changing the vote may be small.  According to her, she is going to testify because it is her duty to do so. She says the senators who are going to decide who our next Supreme Court Justice will be should have as much information about the candidate as possible. I agree with her.

Another woman has now come forward with allegations of sexual misbehavior by the nominee. There may be more. More information for the senators to consider before the vote. The question remains to be decided. By votes of a few selected people. No one has yet found a better way to come to a decision.

Defining Insanity

Ages ago back in the sixties when I was in college I took a course on the normal personality. We discused terms like self actualization and normal behavior. We also discussed how to determine whether someone was sane or crazy. The conclusion defined normal as behavior within the norms of society, that one whose behavior was outside the boundaries of what was considered normal was considered crazy.

The quarter ended and I moved on. But I never forgot the discussions and conclusions. That question continued to come up. Later I went to law school and took criminal law. There we dealt with the legal concepts and definition of insanity. The legal term for crazy. Insanity was a better word. It sounded more professional and even scientific. To find someone not guilty by reason of insanity was better than finding someone not guilty by reason of being crazy.

And what was st the bottom of the legal reasoning to reach that conclusion. Most jurisdictions hold that if a person knew right from wrong at the time on the act he was sane. Some juristdictions followed the irresistible impulse theory or other theories. Whether or not those conditions were met were answered by analyzing the person’s behavior.The question was put to a jury to look at the behavior and determine if the person was sane. Twelve people randomly selected from the community. The object was to find someone who could be designated as the authority to make the decision. In medicine it is the doctor. At law, it is the jury. Someone had to decide. No one wants to, but someone has to.
Things have changed since the sixties. Research has identified some genes that appear to be associated with some mental disorders. Brain scans have some that certain parts of the brain light up and appear to be active or not active in individuals with mental disorders. Some individuals with normal behavior have had brain scans that show areas that are not active in the same areas as the scans of serial killers. Scientists know more now about the functions of some of the different parts of the brain. They know if one of these parts is overactive or under active it will cause a difference in the individuals behavior and they know in what way the behavior will change. But that only applies to a few parts in limited ways.

Notwithstanding those advances we are still on many ways where we were in the sixties. We look at the behavior and determine from the behavior whether the person is crazy, insane, suffering from a brain disorder or normal. We base this on our expectations of normal behavior.

The debate goes on. What causes abnormal or deviant behavior and how can it be predicted. The jury is still out.




Personality Development

I spend a lot of my time now reading. I cover a lot of subjects but like to stay with non fiction in the social sciences and humanities. Things like history, sociology, economics, psychology, and anthropology. I also read books on politics and geopolitics. One field tends to blend into another with concepts and overlaps between fields. One subject that keeps popping up somehow in all fields is personality. After readings in psychology and neurology and then turing to history or politics I find myself looking at the personalities of the people involved and wondering about motivation and what influences may have caused the people to have acted the way they did.

Since psychology branched off as a separate field psychologists have been trying to answer the questions of motivation and causes of behavior.  Different theories have been popular over the last hundred years and fifty years or more. Most of the debate has been over have much of our personality is set by our DNA and how much by the environment. They used to call this a debate between nature and nuture. The terms have changed and varied over the years. I like to use the terms DNA and environment. Those terms seem to be more current and up to date, which is where we all want to appear to be. Some studies indicates that we would rather appear to be up to date than be up to date, that we place a high value on our standing and reputation. But that is a dicussion to be left for another day. But back to DNA and environment. In the early 1900’s the environmentalists ruled. We were thought to be born with brains as blank states which could be shaped and formed as we grew so that any of us could become anything depending on our education and other influences. The prevailing view was that our personalities developed as we grew depending on the environment and our choices.  Later on in the century some psychologists and neurologists began to disagree. They felt that genetics and hereditary had more of an influence. As brain research progressed the nature side began to win out. Then as the century went in the nature theory began to lose out and the blank state theories again had more influence. The nature theory became politically incorrect. The argument  that people could be born with different abilities, traits or talents became unacceptable.

A turning point came with identical twin studies. Identical twins are the only people who are born with identical DNA. Studies were done with identical twins opposed to fraternal twins both raised together and raised separately in similar and diverse circumstances. The results of the research and studies were that identical twins were more alike than chance would predict. Neurologists discovered DNA differences by gene and gene mutations could affect development and brain development. Personalities and other traits did show they were inheritable. Not everyone has accepted those studies and their results. So the debate goes on. How much of our personality is set by our DNA and how much is set by our environment.

The current consensus seems to allow for a combination of the two.  The DNA is like a blueprint drawn by an architect to build a building. The blueprint is given to the builders who construct the building. They follow the blueprint but for different reasons may make changes and deviate from the original blueprint.

The above is far from a perfect analogy.  A person is not a building but I believe we can conclude there are flaws in the DNA argument. But the  adult is not necessarily going to be the same as his DNA would have prescribed any more that a completed building will necessarily be as shown on the original blueprint. Identical  twins are not perfectly alike as adults but in the beginning their DNA was the same. They are more alike than would be expected by the blank state theory. The studies have shown that both DNA and environment play roles.

Personalities of most people fall within a what is called a normal range. No two people are just alike but are similar in there behavior and in their emotional states. Some individuals are different are are outside the normal range.  These people are sometimes called eccentric. Psychologists would say they have personality disorders. There are s smaller number further outside the normal range that are said to be mentally ill. The question for debate is what causes those individuals to behave differently, outside the normal bounds of behavior. Researchers have discovered certain gene mutations that appear in many of those individuals. Research also is ongoing on environmental factors that may cause these differences. More study and thought hopefully will bring us a greater understanding of how humans develop and become who they are. Or rather how we develope and become who we are.

Personality Disorders and President Trump

Since Trump became President the question of personality disorders mental health have been topics of concern, or more accurately there has been a lot of discussion of the mental health of the president. I majored in psychology in college and have maintained an interest in the field. It is an interesting field of study. More interesting is how the acceptable concepts in the field of psychology have changed over the years due not to developments in the field itself but due to changes on the political concepts of what is fashionable or acceptable at the time. For a while the trend was toward the thought that our brain growth and behavior was governed by our DNA. That lead to some conflicts with fashionable political thought and political correctness. The prevailing thought was that our behavior was independent of our DNA and was the result of our environment, culture and training. Now the trend is back in the other direction, emphasizing a combination of DNA and environmental factors.

When I was in college in the early sixties very little was known about the workings of the brain. I took a course in brain anatomy and learned the names of the different parts of the brain but not much about what each part did. There was some knowledge but it was limited. Almost sixty years later that has changed to a considerable degree. Most of the additional knowledge is based on brain images and brain scans. We now know much more about the working of different parts of the brain and to a large extent how the degree of functioning of different parts of the brain contribute to our overall behavior.

In my college classes we learned about different types of behaviors of normal personalities and then learned about the behaviors of people with abnormal personalities. We had discussions on definitions of normal personalities versus abnormal personalities. There were divisions and disagreements among psychologists on whether mental illness was a disease or a differential adaptation of behavior. Mental illness was defined as a behavior that deviated from normal behavior as defined by society. People who acted strange or different were considered mentally ill and in those days could be locked up for years in large mental hospitals, sometimes for like with little treatment or expectiom of release.

Sometime shortly after I graduated  the decision was made to close those large hospitals and release the patients back to the local communities where they could get better care and treatment. Unfortunately the local care and treatment was never funded or provided and many people with mental health issues are now homeless or confined in our prisons with the general inmate population and getting little care or treatment. To a large extent prisons function as the asylums did in the past.

Now let’s go back to President Trump. His behavior is certainly outside the boundaries of normal. He has problems with impulse control and anger management. He does not see any reason to be bounds by normal ethical behavior. He does not see the need to tell the truth and instead appears to state facts as he would like them to be rather than what they are. I don’t know if he believes what he is saying or says things as exaggerations that he hopes other people will believe or that they want to hear and believe. He is ruthless in taking revenge on people who have opposed him. He does not recognize the boundaries he normal behavior. That leads me  to wonder what has caused him to behave the way he does. I have read summaries of his behavior and articles about his parents and influences on his development. I wonder if there is something in his DNA that is the problem or if his early interaction with his parents has been the defining influence. Psychologists notwithstanding the advances they have made in the last fifty years still disagree. The latest thought that nears a consensus among psychologists seems to be that we are born with our DNA that acts as a blueprint for brain growth and our behavior development but that as we develop we are affected by factors around us which also influence how our brain grows and thus our behavior develops. The thought now is that a combination of factors lead us to develop into the persons we become.

As to whether he is crazy there is no definition of crazy other than acting in ways that have no apparent basis in reason or rationality. Trump’s behavior fits into those parameters. He does things for no apparent sane reason. That is not to say he is mentally ill or fits into any of the definitions of known mental illness or disorders. Psychologists still have a probem in defining behavior or personality disorders or in understanding their causes. There is still a ways to go in understanding human behavior.