Shortly after I got married, my wife and I were walking Granville Street’s “mall”… an area that is largely traffic free and attracts all sorts: drug dealers, buskers and god-squaders.
On one corner, a street preacher had set himself up. He had a car battery, bull horn, and about a dozen shills handing out pamphlets. It was a real challenge for the two of us to wend our way through the crowd to get to the theatre we were aiming for. A woman, about sixty, blocked us, handed us a brochure and said “Have you been born again?” (or some such rubbish… it was a long time ago). Proselytizers annoy me. So I replied and a loud booming voice “Fuck off!”. We were not asked again.
I caught a lot of flak from my wife. She thought I was rude. I though quite the reverse. I also thought it was funny as hell. The look on the woman’s face alone was worth the price of admission. And upon reflection, my position only solidified.
A few days ago, I was watching the always funny, always brilliant, Christopher Hitchens on Youtube. In it, a woman, also about sixty, asked what he would recommend she say when people ask her a similar question. Hitch though for a second and said “I would tell them to Fuck Off!” and then gave a very concise reason as to why.
Left and right are obvious words, with obvious meanings, right? Wrong..
Look up “left” in the dictionary, and it will say something like: Face north; your left arm is the one to the West. This just displaces the definition from “left” to “north”. Not very helpful. If you are standing next to someone when they ask “Which side is ‘left?”, it is easy. All you need do is point. Or point out that their heart is on the left side of their body. Easy to understand, but self-referential. Have you ever tried to describe left versus right to someone on the phone? It is still pretty easy. You might answer “Look at a clock. Nine o’clock is on the left. But again, you cheated. Effectively, you just pointed again by referring to an object you both understand.
Now suppose you are talking to an alien on the other side of the universe. You gave agreed on and defined hundreds of words until you get to “left”. Is it possible to tell that alien which side is “left”? You might say “Sure! I will send a bitmap picture of something and point out that this or that bit of the image is on the left. But how did they get the bit-map? They had to print it out in some sense, and when they do, they have to decide whether to print from the left to right or right to left. If they pick wrong, their “left” and yours will not be the same, and the image they look at will be a mirror image. It turns out that it cannot be done… at least not by mere mortals like you or I.
Physics and biology are full of left and right hand rules. If you point your right thumb up (north) and curl your fingers, you have just used the right hand rule to determine, for example, the direction of the Earth’s rotation (counter-clockwise), or the direction of a magnet field around a conductor (where thumb points in the direction of the current), or the direction of the spiral in DNA. Simple sugar comes in two versions: a left-handed isomer and right-handed isomer. In our bodies, and all other critter’s bodies, we all use just the one isomer and ignore the other. Once biology made its choice, it was stuck with it.
The labels of left and right are (almost) completely arbitrary. If we were to redefine right as left and vise versa, some interesting things must happen, including relabeling the poles of a magnet (north becomes south), and redefining “clock-wise” too.
A mirror image universe would be almost indistinguishable from our own.
I said “almost”…
Physicists often speak of CPT conservation. The C is for charge. Charge is always conserved. The T is for time, and implies that the laws of physics are the same regardless of whether you run time forward or backward. The P is for Parity, and it essentially says that laws of physics are the same for a mirror interaction. However, a few decades ago, it turned out that P is not conserved and that some physical interactions differ from their mirror images! That is weird. The universe cares about the difference between left and right. It turns out that Parity is not always conserved ( see the Wu Experiment for more). So, as I said, for us mere mortals, telling an alien race on the other side of the universe what direction left is is not possible. But if you are a physicist, you could tell the aliens to “go like this, then do that, and you will see such and such, you will find that certain things tend to do one way rather than the other, and that direction is ‘left’ and the opposite ‘right’.”
Trumpocracy: The Corruption of the American Republic; David Frum; 2018; Harper Collins; 235 pgs; notes, index
David Frum is a name you might find familiar. He is the son of Barbara Frum (the internet does not mention his father), a Canadian journalist that I recall for her raised eye brow and her tenacity.
David Frum is a conservative, and he sees Trump as an idiot. DJT has no idea what real conservatism means. I liked Barabara Frum and I like David Frum, who regularly appears on MSNBC and shows like Bill Mahar. I learned a thing or two about conservative politics from the book, but that was not its point.
Every critic, every detractor, will have to bow down to President Trump… the most powerful man in the universe. -- Omarosa Manigault
Omarosa is a whore (in the political sense). Once she was physically ejected from the White House, she jumped to the "detractor" ship in a nanosecond. The quote speaks not just to her sycophancy, but the whole, disreputable, in many cases felonious, cast of slobbering ring-kissers he has surrounded himself with.
I liked this book, because it took no sides that I can see. Frum called out Democrats, as well as Trump-ites and Republicans, when he had to… but mostly the latter. He sees Trump as destroying not only the country but the ideals of his party.
The book is a quick read. After all, the Trump story is only half way in. But the leading is loose and the 235 pages go by quickly. It is broken into chapters that discuss how he got there, who helped and why, and what the result was. Spoiler alert: its not good.
He discusses the history from birther BS through to Republicans hating him, to their come-to-Jesus moment when he won. Now it seems he can do no wrong in Republican eyes. Who can forget the "thank you for the honor of licking your boots Mr Trump" meeting he had on air to feed his ego. The chapter called Plunder speaks for itself. Trump's in-your-face lies and self enrichment never cease to amaze me. He is conning the public in the least subtle way one can imagine, and they just take it.
Trump's golfing-loving lifestyle has a already cost the American people more in one year than Obama burned in eight. The Kushners have two agendas, get out from under 666 Park Place, and get richer.
Read the book if only to discover the good news, according to Frum. The good news is that post-Trump America will probably put a leash on the powers of the president and that a better, sounder democracy will emerge from the wilderness. They can start by making it law that the president must submit his taxes.
Fun facts from the book...
We all know Trump refused to release his taxes, but he also funneled campaign funds into his own businesses. The book reports that DJT's companies do not generate P&Ls and balance sheets because no one in the family reads them. DJT ignorance of world affairs allows him to cling to a belief that the US has a trade deficit with Germany and that Germany believes it is under trade restrictions. They are. Germany is part of the EU, which is the entity Trump should be talking to.
I recommend this book as a good read, especially because it comes from a conservative.
Lee Moller is a life-long skeptic and atheist and the author of The God Con.