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Archive for December, 2008

Science’s Most Hated Man

Posted by heyrandy on December 8, 2008

The Velikovsky Affair, 1966, 1978, Alfred de Grazia, ed. available on line free

There is in all the branches of science no name more despised than that of Emmanuel Velikovsky.  Velikovsky’s problem was he was not one of the establishment scientists.  Velikovsky was an outsider, a man who trespassed upon the sacred land of the specialist, an intruder in the temple of Scientism.  For these transgressions he will always be reviled, derogated, and dismissed as a crank.  His successes will never be properly acknowledged.

Velikovsky’s big heresy was to express a view of the cosmos that was not the establishment’s received wisdom of uniformitarianism.  It was Veikovsky’s view that ancient upheavals, worldwide in scope, affected the solar system and earth in particular and that these upheavals caused permanent, radical changes.

The book is a series of essays by Velikovsky supporters and one essay by Velikovsky.  While the book does tell of Velikovsky’s  many correct scientific predictions, the real story is in the revelation of the details of the scientific establishment’s treatment of Veikovsky:  it can’t be true because it was not discovered or predicted here by one of us.  It is the story of the seekers of truth rejecting truth because they are jealous of the one who found it.

The book reveals more than a little personal animosity by supposedly dispassionate scientists.  Velikovsky’s first book, Worlds in Collision, was given a hatchet job treatment by many of its establishment reviewers.  The reviews seem to have focused on denial rather than on evaluation of the evidence and reasoning.  This is not unusual; the establishment has a long history of using this tactic against mavericks.  However, more than one critic was embarrassed when they were forced to admit that they criticized the book without actually first reading it.  The old boy net in action.

This treatment backfired on the establishment.  The storm of criticism cause a great public curiosity about the book.  Sales exploded.   Velikovsky’s next book, Ages in Chaos, was ignored by the critics.  You can’t say scientists are not able to learn.

This is the real lesson of the book.  I do not have the expertise to evaluate Velikovsky’s as yet unproven claims, but it does not take a genius to see the injustice in Velilovsky’s treatment at the hands of “the impartial” scientific community.  Interlopers, beware.

It is important to realize that Velikovsky made his predictions without the aid research grants; expensive, exotic equipment; or even with any academic help.  This proved to be a real source of embarrassment to those who would later be Velikovsky’s critics.  The evidence Velikovsky marshals was available to all, but was ignored.  Velikovsky made his theories based upon ancient literary sources ignored by the professionals.  This all the more enraged the establishment .  This use of ancient sources has revealed a deep seated bigotry in the science establishment.  After all, what do those primitive people know?

Other critics dismiss Velikovsky’s success by saying that he made so many guesses that he was bound to  be right some of the time.  Those critics do not point to any Velikovsky failures.  Neither do the critics have much success with their own guessing.

Read the book and you just may love science’s most hated man.

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The House Always Wins

Posted by heyrandy on December 6, 2008

The Money and the Power   The Making of Las Vegas and Its Hold on America 1947-2000, Sally Denton and Roger Morris, Alfred A. Knopf, 2001.  479 pages, index, end notes.

“Don’t run for public office.  We own the politicians.”  Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel to one of his men.  This is really the story of Las Vegas.  Politicians owned by the casino operators.  This fact enabled the little dusty town on the road from Los Angeles to Salt Lake City to become the center of much of America.  Known for its gambling, Las Vegas’ influence is felt through the country.  Little stands in the way of Las Vegas;  whatever Vegas wants, Vegas gets.

The book is a history of the city, but it is really a collection of portraits of its operators, the men who founded the now massive gambling empires and the politicians that were paid to help and protect them.  It is an amazing collection:  immigrant eastern European Jews, Italians, Irishmen, an eccentric millionaire industrialist, and a French Basque.  The CIA would also use the city and its casinos for its own purposes.

The authors cut through much of the mystique of the city.  It was not all Italian Mafioso in flashy suits and gaudy jewellery that started the empires.  It was a couple of Jewish thugs.  It all began with the Bugs and Meyer gang.  The first hotel/casino was built by Siegel and Lansky.  It eventually cost Siegel his life once it was found out that Siegel was skimming money from the construction funds, but the hotel and casino were a success, if not initially, that inspired many to follow.  It seemed that it is impossible to loose money in Las Vegas unless you make a bet.

Siegel’s murder was an aberration, at least in the early days.  The Syndicate  (the authors’ preferred term, and probably a better one considering the multi-ethnic character of the hoodlums in control) declared that Las Vegas would be an open city to all comers.  There would be no turf battles.  This caused the rapid growth of the “gaming industry.”  Murders would come soon.

Initially the funding for the casinos came mostly from drug and prohibition alcohol sales.  Later more legitimate funding would come from such diverse places as the Mormon Church and the the Teamsters’ pension fund.  The diversity of funding ensured the appearance of legitimacy.  It also ensured that a lot of people would be well paid for their services.

The casinos were very successful.  They ensured their continued success by copious contributions to elected officials.  This is the most amazing thing revealed in the book.  Political corruption is not new, but the extent of the corruption spawned by the success of the casinos is enormous.  It is to be expected that the casinos would pay off those directly affecting the casinos, but the money also went to presidential candidates and congressmen.  This effort was repaid in the stymieing of congressional and Justice Department investigations into Las Vegas gambling.  The house always wins.

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But I Still Drive One

Posted by heyrandy on December 1, 2008

Rivethead: Tales From the Assembly Line ,  Ben Hamper, Warner Books, New York, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1991.  234 pages, no index.

It has been said that if you were to know how sausage was made you would never eat any.  I don’t know how sausage is made, but after reading Hamper’s book I know how cars are made.  It is largely a matter of getting enough drunks, drug addicts, and other low life people in a large building full of machinery.  You have to pay the workers much more than they could earn anywhere else.  A great deal more.

The book is mostly autobiography with tales of events that go on inside the General Motors assembly plant in Flint, Michigan.  Hamper, a native of Flint, worked for GM from 1977 to 1988.  In his tenure, Hamper learned to do serious drinking and doping on the job, even while working on the assembly line; escape undetected from the plant during production hours; and write a column for the Flint Voice, the local left wing rag (and later Mother Jones, both were edited by Michael Moore, who also wrote the introduction to Hamper’s book).  In between, he used a rivet gun.

Hamper is (and Moore too) a son of a autoworker.  Hamper calls his tenure at GM to be natural, his birthright.  In a sense it is.  Raised a Catholic, he promptly abandoned his faith once he married his pregnant Catholic high school girl friend.  Hamper make an existence living by being a painter in the apartment complex where he lived with his wife and daughter.  He showed no motivation to try to improve his situation.  He figured he would not get any more money even if he did twice the work, something he says he could have done.  This attitude is tailor made for a unionized assembly line.

Although his family was barely getting by, Hamper routinely spent much of his pay on beer.  It seems drunkenness is a prerequisite for an autoworker.  Here he follows his father:  a long time GM line worker who routinely disappeared for days at a time, drinking and carousing until the floozy got tired of him.  Once Hamper got to GM, his drinking reached professional levels.

It was not just Hamper who drank and used drugs.  The liquor and drugs were pervasive throughout the plant.  It was a way to make the “minute hand move faster.”  The problem even reached into management.  Just after Hamper started, the line worker next to him suggested they “double up.”  This is the trick where one person does two people’s jobs.  This allows one of the two to leave the assembly line (and sometimes the plant).  At first Hamper said no; he was too afraid of getting caught.  The man who suggested it said don’t worry about the line supervisor, “He’s a real alky, and I brought him a six pack.”  Hamper looked down the line; and there, behind some shelves, was the supervisor drinking a beer.  Hamper double up.

Drinking was so widespread that the janitor ran a delivery service.  You just passed word down the line and soon a bottle was delivered to your work bench.  The price was higher than the liquor store across the street, “but no one was complaining.”

The work was mind-numbing dull.  Every day the same.  The line moved at 37 units an hour.  This never varied unless there was and emergency line stoppage.  This happened once when someone was hurt.  A line worker pushed the stop button when the injured worker fell beneath the line.  This stoppage brought out “every necktie in the area, all screaming to get the line moving again.”  The neckties had the right to stop the line, you did not.

This really betrayed the motive of the factory.  Hamper relates the silly promotional episode involving a person in a cat costume:  Quality Cat.  Officially named in a plant wide contest, “Howie Makem” made random appearances.  Some how this was supposed to improve quality.  The only thing this accomplished was to cause the line workers to wonder about the intelligence of those who thought up this nonsense.

Hamper’s writing style is adequate but not exceptional.  His language is execrable, profanity is in every paragraph.  Yes, realism and all, but it is still unnecessarily coarse.  Other than telling us of his dissolute life and the stupid tedium of his work, the book has little to recommend it.  I suggest to all that the book be given a pass.

I still don’t know how sausage is made, but even after reading Hamper’s book, I still drive a car.

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