Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Wikipedia | The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which "people reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices but their incompetence robs them of the metacognitive ability to realize it". The unskilled therefore suffer from illusory superiority, rating their own ability as above average, much higher than in actuality; by contrast the highly skilled underrate their abilities, suffering from illusory inferiority. This leads to a perverse result where less competent people will rate their own ability higher than more competent people. It also explains why actual competence may weaken self-confidence because competent individuals falsely assume that others have an equivalent understanding. "Thus, the miscalibration of the incompetent stems from an error about the self, whereas the miscalibration of the highly competent stems from an error about others."
The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt. — Bertrand RussellWhen the Music's Over - The Doors.
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
The apocalyptic predictions then, like those about health care now, were all framed in constitutional pieties, of course. Barry Goldwater, running for president in ’64, drew on the counsel of two young legal allies, William Rehnquist and Robert Bork, to characterize the bill as a “threat to the very essence of our basic system” and a “usurpation” of states’ rights that “would force you to admit drunks, a known murderer or an insane person into your place of business.” Richard Russell, the segregationist Democratic senator from Georgia, said the bill “would destroy the free enterprise system.” David Lawrence, a widely syndicated conservative columnist, bemoaned the establishment of “a federal dictatorship.” Meanwhile, three civil rights workers were murdered in Philadelphia, Miss.
That a tsunami of anger is gathering today is illogical, given that what the right calls “Obamacare” is less provocative than either the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or Medicare, an epic entitlement that actually did precipitate a government takeover of a sizable chunk of American health care. But the explanation is plain: the health care bill is not the main source of this anger and never has been. It’s merely a handy excuse. The real source of the over-the-top rage of 2010 is the same kind of national existential reordering that roiled America in 1964.
In fact, the current surge of anger — and the accompanying rise in right-wing extremism — predates the entire health care debate. The first signs were the shrieks of “traitor” and “off with his head” at Palin rallies as Obama’s election became more likely in October 2008. Those passions have spiraled ever since — from Gov. Rick Perry’s kowtowing to secessionists at a Tea Party rally in Texas to the gratuitous brandishing of assault weapons at Obama health care rallies last summer to “You lie!” piercing the president’s address to Congress last fall like an ominous shot.
If Obama’s first legislative priority had been immigration or financial reform or climate change, we would have seen the same trajectory. The conjunction of a black president and a female speaker of the House — topped off by a wise Latina on the Supreme Court and a powerful gay Congressional committee chairman — would sow fears of disenfranchisement among a dwindling and threatened minority in the country no matter what policies were in play. It’s not happenstance that Frank, Lewis and Cleaver — none of them major Democratic players in the health care push — received a major share of last weekend’s abuse. When you hear demonstrators chant the slogan “Take our country back!,” these are the people they want to take the country back from.
Members of the Hutaree -- including a Michigan couple and their two sons -- conspired to oppose by force the authority of the U.S. government, according to a release by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit.
The indictment unsealed in U.S. District Court today claims that the Hutaree planned to kill an unidentified member of local law enforcement and then attack the law enforcement officers who gather in Michigan for the funeral. According to the plan, the Hutaree would attack law enforcement vehicles during the funeral procession with improvised explosive devices rigged with projectiles, which constitute weapons of mass destruction, according to the announcement by U.S. Attorney Barbara L. McQuade.
“Because the Hutaree had planned a covert reconnaissance operation for April which had the potential of placing an unsuspecting member of the public at risk, the safety of the public and of the law enforcement community demanded intervention at this time," McQuade said in the announcement. “Hutaree members view local, state, and federal law enforcement as the ‘brotherhood,’ their enemy, and have been preparing to engage them in armed conflict.”
Alleged Hutaree members indicted are David Brian Stone, 45; his wife, Tina Stone, 44; his son, Joshua Matthew Stone, 21, of Clayton, Mich.; and his other son, David Brian Stone Jr., 19, of Adrian; Joshua Clough, 28, of Blissfield; Michael Meeks, 40 of Manchester; Thomas Piatek, 46, of Whiting, Ind.; Kristopher Sickles, 27, of Sandusky, Ohio, and Jacob Ward, 33, of Huron, Ohio.
Joshua Stone is the only alleged Hutaree not in custody. Anyone with information about Stone should contact the Federal Bureau of Investigation at 313- 965-2323.
"They tried it here in Arkansas in '57 and it didn't work," Gov. Mike Beebe (D) told reporters recently. "I think you got to tell people the truth. And if I understand the law, the truth is the federal government can't just be defied by the state governments."
There are memorials here to the events of 1957, when a previous Arkansas governor rejected federal authority and tried to prevent nine black students from attending all-white Little Rock Central High School. It took U.S. soldiers to protect the students, who made history during an epic struggle over racism and federal power.
To Beebe and Attorney General Dustin McDaniel (D), the lawsuits filed last week and a states'-rights measure proposed for the November ballot are unwelcome echoes. In the face of an implicit request from 33 Republican state legislators to enlist in the court fight, McDaniel remains unmoved.
"I would be abusing my office to bring a suit that I believe to be constitutionally frivolous," McDaniel said in a telephone interview. "State budgets are tight enough right now without bringing actions that are entirely driven by political motivation rather than sound legal justification."
The Arkansas experience in the 1950s rubbed the state raw and delivered a resounding defeat to segregationists, who made arguments similar to the ones launched by opponents of the Democratic-led health-care overhaul.
The central issues, according to many "tea party" protesters and Republican lawmakers, are personal freedom and state sovereignty and the role of the federal government in both spheres.
As Virginia legislators debated a law making it illegal for Congress to require the purchase of health insurance, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II (R) called Obama's proposals an "onslaught on our liberty."
"In seeking to protect the liberties guaranteed by the Constitution," Cuccinelli wrote in this month's American Spectator, "we are vigorously pursuing freedom for our citizens in the face of a government that, no matter how well intentioned, seeks to expand its power at citizens' expense."
In 1956, two years after the Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education overturned the concept of separate but equal, every member of the Arkansas congressional delegation signed "The Southern Manifesto." It declared that the court had abused its power and encroached "on rights reserved to the states and the people."
Parents, the manifesto said, "should not be deprived by government of the rights to direct the lives and education of their own children." The changes were happening "without regard to the consent of the governed" -- a mantra of tea party protesters and Republican members of Congress who voted against the Democrats' health-care bills.
Also in 1956, Gov. Orval E. Faubus (D) was quoted as saying that "neither the state of Arkansas nor its people delegated to the federal government . . . the power to regulate or control the operation of the domestic institutions of Arkansas."
The Daily Caller website posted the details from Federal Election Commission filings that the party is obliged to report. It noted:
A February RNC trip to California, for example, included a $9,099 stop at the Beverly Hills Hotel, $6,596 dropped at the nearby Four Seasons, and $1,620.71 spent [update: the amount is actually $1,946.25] at Voyeur West Hollywood, a bondage-themed nightclub featuring topless women dancers imitating lesbian sex.FEC filing by Republican National Committee The RNC's declaration of spending at West Hollywood strip club Voyeur. Under "purpose of disbursement," Republican officials put: "Meals".
RNC trips to other cities produced bills from a long list of chic and costly hotels such as the Venetian and the M Resort in Las Vegas, and the W (for a total of $19,443) in Washington. A midwinter trip to Hawaii cost the RNC $43,828, not including airfare.
Voyeur West Hollywood is, according to the Los Angeles Times, modelled on sex scenes in the awful Stanley Kubrick/Tom Cruise/Nicole Kidman porn film Eyes Wide Shut. It describes the scene:
The dark, leather-heavy interior is reminiscent of the masked orgy scene from the movie. The reference is taken a step further with impromptu bondage and S&M "scenes" being played out on an elevated platform by scantily clad performers throughout the night – not presented as "shows," like they are in clubs such as Playhouse Hollywood. There is also a heavy net suspended above the club's lounge area where performers writhe above the heads of clubgoers. Even more provocative scenes are played out in an enclosed glass booth area adjacent to the club's dance floor area.A recent reviewer on the Yelp website wrote: "There are topless 'dancers' acting out S&M scenes throughout the night on one of the side stages, there's a half-naked girl hanging from a net across the ceiling and at one point I walked to the bathroom and pretty much just stopped dead in my tracks to watch two girls simulating oral sex in a glass case. Really understated elegance here."
"It's pretty ... intense," clubgoer Lee Stone admitted on opening night as one female performer with a horse's bit in her mouth was being strapped to the wall by another just behind the booth he was sharing with friends. His friend was more intrigued by the action. "I wonder if I would get in trouble for joining them?" she joked.
Classy. According to the Daily Caller's piece: "Steele himself declined numerous interview requests, though his defenders point out that luxurious accommodations are sometimes necessary to attract big-time donors, especially since Republicans remain in the minority in Washington."
Monday, March 29, 2010
Freep | Federal agents conducted raids over the weekend in Lenawee and Wastenaw counties that reports say may be related to some members of Hutaree, a Christian-militia group in Michigan.
"We can confirm that there were law enforcement activities in the Lenawee/Washtenaw County area," said Detroit FBI Special Agent Sandra Berchtold. But she added that "the federal warrants are sealed and we can not comment at this time."
The website for Hutaree says that it is "preparing for the end time battles to keep the testimony of Jesus Christ alive." The group's logo is a cross with the initials CCR, Colonial Christian Republic. In one of its videos, a group of men in military gear take down a burning United Nations flag and replace it with their flag, which has a cross.
Other militia groups said they have nothing to do with the federal raids.
"Neither MICHIGANMILITIA.COM nor the SMVM (Southeast Michigan Volunteer Militia) have been raided by the FBI. We do nothing illegal." reads a statement on michiganmilitia.com
On the Hutaree website, it warns of an anti-Christ. "As christians we all are a part of the Souls of the Body of Christ, the one true church of Christ. Not any specific man made building or any man controlled organization. This is the belief of the Hutaree soldier, as should the belief of all followers in Christ be. We believe that one day, as prophecy says, there will be an Anti-Christ. All christians must know this and prepare, just as Christ commanded."
The group's message boards contained messages expressing concern about the raids.
A member of Hutaree could not be immediately reached for comment.
Post Carbon Institute | The contagion of fear and anger can infect those you might least expect. Take the case of Chris Reichert who became an Internet sensation when he threw dollar bills hostilely at a man suffering from Parkinson’s Disease (video here: 1:15 mark). In the days following the incident, Reichert struggled to make sense of what he had done. He finally came forward to issue an apology.
"I snapped. I absolutely snapped and I can't explain it any other way… He's got every right to do what he did and some may say I did too, but what I did was shameful," Reichert said. "I haven't slept since that day... I made a donation (to a local Parkinson's disease group) and that starts the healing process."Thanks to the massive reach of television and radio talk show hate-mongers, and the untold number of websites calling for violence and sedition, these days you don't even have to leave your house to join a mob. The mob will come to you.
Reichert said he is not politically active. He said he heard about the rally on the radio and a neighbor invited him to attend. "That was my first time at any political rally and I'm never going to another one," Reichert said. "I will never ever, ever go to another one."
And don't fool yourself in thinking that this is all just uncontrolled, and unorganized, populist rage. When nested fears meet vested interests, a cloud of discontent can turn into a raging storm. It's instructive to look at the role that corporate-minded special interest groups like Americans for Prosperity have played in the healthcare debate.
In early November, thousands of protesters descended on Capitol Hill to hear Representative Michele Bachmann decry House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s “takeover’’ of health care. As they disembarked from their buses, they were greeted with doughnuts and coffee, and handed protest signs and talking points about socialized medicine. Few of the protesters were aware that a right-wing billionaire had paid for the meals, buses, or salaries of the helpful guides...David Koch is the ninth wealthiest person in the United States, worth an estimated $14 billion. How did his family make all that money? Oil and gas, of course.
Across the New York social circuit, Koch is hailed for his donations to reputable causes, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art. But for years, Koch has also been funneling tens of millions of dollars to more subterranean efforts that reflect his conservative politics. His flagship group, Americans for Prosperity, sponsored Bachmann’s rally against health care reform.
If Koch and others are feeding fear to protect the profits of health insurers, just imagine the kind of fomenting we'll see when the stakes are even higher—when the energy and climate crises come front and center in the national debate. For a glimpse of what we could be dealing with, consider this: in 2008, just ten percent of the profits of ExxonMobil, the world's largest energy company, could have funded the campaigns of every single Congressional, Senate, and Presidential candidate. By that I mean every candidate.
Forget coffee and doughnuts for rent-a-crowds. Forget the signs littering the Capitol Mall and the halls of Congress comparing healthcare reform to laws in Nazi Germany. The battle over our energy future could make all this furor look like a real tea party.
Sunday, March 28, 2010
JanCox | New Intelligence does not come about through more reading or more studying, but through more thinking -- all the time, and flexibly at that. If you were to try to explain this to someone at the ordinary level, in ordinary terms, it would sound ridiculous. If anyone listening at the ordinary level were to hear that there is something like New Intelligence, they would think that it came about through some sort of studying. Ordinary consciousness would ask how to get New Intelligence, and after hearing the explanation, would start to study it. In fact, a busy person might ask for something to read so that they could reference it later and then study it.
New Intelligence will not be developed by reading or studying of any sort. NO WAY! The approach is simply to THINK MORE. To this statement, good old ordinary intelligence would reply, "But I think all the time as it is!" We're not going to question ordinary 3-Dimensional judgements about measuring the quantity of time spent thinking, but it is important to remember that there is as much quantity as there is space. There are no empty places, no empty spaces. Everywhere that ordinary 3-D consciousness can look there is stuff filling up space.
Although it appears otherwise to 3-D consciousness, there is no sense saying, quantitatively speaking, that there are no empty spaces in one's thinking schedule. It simply is not the case that there are no empty thinking spaces. Even if that were true, you've got to think more -- you've got to think all the time. Every moment you have to think more. All right, you believe you're thinking all the time -- but you've got to think some more. Once you try to think more, you will find out that you can take whatever space seems to be filled up, and put in more.
It is part of the illusionary reality of the 3-D world that more can be put into whatever space appears to be already filled up. (Ordinary consciousness does not want to put in more, though, because that would mean "playing in the key of CHANGE," which everyone fears and dreads.) The forced new additional thinking has got to be done all the time, and it must be flexible. Then you are on the way to developing a new kind of intelligence.
Whatever is going on, you should be thinking, involved in a continual asking of yourself, "Why -- to what end from a 4-D level -- is such-and-such going on?" You must think with a sweeping, omnidirectional sort of consciousness. For instance, first thing in the morning as you are getting ready, think about everything you have to do that day (not in a worrisome manner), while simultaneously brushing your teeth, combing your hair, keeping your eye on the clock, listening to the radio to check their time against the clock time, listening to whether the coffee is perking yet, thinking of all that you might do today if you have time, and so on. Don't think of things linearly, in sequence, but in a nonordinary way; think of them all together, at the same time, continually, all the time.
JoeBageant | Money, violence and politics, the three jackals that hunt together, and feast on society's craving for prohibited commodities, alcohol in the thirties and cocaine today. The politicians run the perimeter of the human herd, guiding it this way and that through speeches and legislation, providing distraction, the killers enforce the code of the pack, assuring that the money always flows in the direction of the jackal pack. The jackals are a permanent fixture of global life now, whether the commodity is crude oil under indigenous people's soil, or soil itself upon which to grow palm oil trees in Indonesia.
Theater of Jackals
Narco-trade money/violence/politics depress and frighten everyone on both sides of the border. Mexicans are depressed that their country never seems to escape these things. Americans are frightened that the soft psychological violence of their corporate state could be overshadowed by hard border style violence, that it will somehow seep across like all those brown people seem to have done over the years.
Meanwhile, the corporations drive the politicians who manage America's political consciousness, steering it around a thousand truths toward extraction of maximum profit from the American herd. The herd, honestly speaking, regards politics mostly as spectacle -- some emotionally, others as entertainment, if they think about it at all. Let's not mistake the Tea Party noise or yammer about sham healthcare "reform," both of which are theater state productions, for political involvement by "the people."
Those Americans who seldom give politics (or anything else) serious thought, simply accept whatever is spoon-fed by media and The Complex, an entity so omniscient as to be beyond their comprehension. This is quite OK with most working class Americans. They have much in common with the average working Mexican, who simply ignores politics, out of disgust, and/or semi-illiteracy. Unlike Americas who have not awakened to the slow motion coup that successfully overthrew their government decades ago, working class Mexicans here understand such defeat. They've had it for breakfast, lunch and dinner for over a hundred years. I have never met anyone here who did not grasp that drug money and elite business cartels own the government because they paid cash for it. Dope and business elites pay for candidates' campaigns and the politicians in office, the same as corporate cartel money buys our Congress.
The working class folks in my neighborhood here deal with the politics of drugs and government corruption through obliviousness, either purposeful or genuine. Generations of disillusionment with politics seem to have the same effect on poor and working people everywhere, whether it is the black ghetto, the shacks of Appalachia or the hardscrabble neighborhoods of Mexico -- Apathy. Voting is compulsory in Mexico, but there is no enforcement whatsoever, lest an angry turnout affect the status quo in times of crisis, of which there are many.
American politicians have traditionally been happy with the American underclass' allergy to the voting booth. Yet some pretense of democracy must be maintained, some false flag of popular consensus held aloft, if the engines of profit are to be kept fueled and running. Which means marketing some pretty unsavory stuff as being part of what is brave, good and right about America? In hyper capitalist American culture, everything, be it cars, cancer or war, every activity, legal or illegal, must turn a corporate profit. That includes even the nastiest activities, such as drug distribution and addiction. So the far-flung network of profitable state sanctioned industries, from prisons and police battalions, to rehabilitation, are marketed as necessary fixtures of the "drug war." The term Drug War is an empty term to anyone who has even for a moment rationally examined it, two words -- like Islamo-fascism -- married incongruously in a shotgun wedding of political theater. However, for most Americans, those two words work well enough. Our attention spans are briefer than a rabbit fuck. Anything in depth is anathema. Only slogans and brands survive. We do not understand much of anything in depth except the football rating system.
But we do understand war, or believe we do, so "War on Drugs" works as a brand. It has been that way ever since the post World War II military industrialization of the country's economy and consciousness -- which are pretty much the same to us. War, of one sort or another, is the solution to most of those things that we are told threaten America -- which is to say American capitalism -- either directly or indirectly. And according to the long running national storyline, they have always come from outside our borders -- Barbary pirates, white slavers, the "Cold War," against anti-capitalist communism, terrorism, Islam, drugs, job loss to Mexicans and to China, swine flu, bird flu. Never-never-never do they result from our own actions, misjudgments or, heaven help us, our own folly.
In much the same way, you can rent people to beat up or kill your enemy or lend their names as signatories for your shady business deals. I’ve often thought of renting another person to write under my name. Then someone else would have to address the drug-related violence, like the killing of an American consulate worker and her husband this month in Ciudad Juárez. Hillary Clinton met with our president, Felipe Calderón, last week to discuss a new counternarcotics strategy. Perhaps the writer impersonating me would be able to muster some enthusiasm about the results.
All of us here are scared of the drug violence, and yet most don’t take it personally. Ordinary citizens feel that this situation barely affects them. Bad things happen to other people ... over there.
It’s as if the whole country were made up of people who rent and people who are rented, as if one half of society has contracted the other to carry out the role of mutilated corpse, hit man, corrupt official or missing woman. There are no victims or criminals — just hired men.
Only by distancing ourselves is it possible to function in a country where there can be 24 men found lying on the side of a highway, each one with a bullet in his head, or where the corpses of kidnapped people can be found to have their mouths stuffed with magnificent bouquets of yellow flowers.
Amazingly, people here are not shocked by such images. They are not novel. Today’s violence is indistinguishable from all of the violence of our history. The victims of drug gangs take the place of the hundreds of women murdered in Juárez in the last decades, of massacred indigenous people and of the plague of kidnappings and torture from the southern to the northern border.
Perhaps we’ve managed to forget, as we buy and sell one another so extravagantly, that death’s deals alone are permanent.
Saturday, March 27, 2010
Scotty and the Haggis.
PubMed | The normal microflora of the skin includes staphylococcal species that will induce inflammation when present below the dermis but are tolerated on the epidermal surface without initiating inflammation. Here we reveal a previously unknown mechanism by which a product of staphylococci inhibits skin inflammation. This inhibition is mediated by staphylococcal lipoteichoic acid (LTA) and acts selectively on keratinocytes triggered through Toll-like receptor 3(TLR3). We show that TLR3 activation is required for normal inflammation after injury and that keratinocytes require TLR3 to respond to RNA from damaged cells with the release of inflammatory cytokines. Staphylococcal LTA inhibits both inflammatory cytokine release from keratinocytes and inflammation triggered by injury through a TLR2-dependent mechanism. To our knowledge, these findings show for the first time that the skin epithelium requires TLR3 for normal inflammation after wounding and that the microflora can modulate specific cutaneous inflammatory responses.
What is riveting here is their elucidation of not only the importance of host cellular responses to self-RNA in the context of wound repair but also the intriguing overlay of signals to influence this process from the colonizing microbiota that normally inhabit the skin.
Novel findings of this study have revealed the ability of keratinocytes to readily detect RNA released from dying cells during injury via Toll-like receptor 3 (TLR3), which triggers an acute inflammatory response contributing to wound repair. I find the second theme of the investigation by Lai et al. especially intriguing. Lipoteichoic acid produced by Staphylococcus epidermidis, bacteria that commonly inhabit the skin, can substantially attenuate this keratinocyte response through a TLR2-dependent inhibition of the TLR3 signaling via TNF receptor-associated factor 1 (TRAF1). Given that innate immunity mediates a delicate balancing act, this study should serve as a cornerstone to our emerging understanding of the multiple ways the mammalian host utilizes signals from colonizing microbiota to maintain homeostatic balance at surface epithelia. On the one hand, the multifaceted defense mechanisms of innate immunity must be ever ready to effectively deal with assault by noxious pathogens. On the other hand, the extent (or trigger point) for these proinflammatory responses may require attenuation to maintain homeostasis and avoid chronic inflammation. This investigation elucidates multiple molecular mechanisms that contribute to maintaining this balance, and finds that the dialogue between host cells and a prominent member of the colonizing microbiota is key to creating a measured response. From a different angle, the ability of several, but not all, lipoteichoic acid isoforms to inhibit keratinocyte responses, as shown here, might provide some pathogenic bacteria with a mechanism to subvert homeostatic pathways. The implications of the new findings established in this investigation will likely have relevance not only for understanding cutaneous wound repair, infection and chronic inflammatory disease but also for the biology of other mucosal surfaces.
The bullying, threats, and acts of violence following the passage of health care reform have been shocking, but they’re only the most recent manifestations of an increasing sense of desperation.
It’s an extension of a now-familiar theme: some version of “take our country back.” The problem is that the country romanticized by the far right hasn’t existed for some time, and its ability to deny that fact grows more dim every day. President Obama and what he represents has jolted extremists into the present and forced them to confront the future. And it scares them.
Even the optics must be irritating. A woman (Nancy Pelosi) pushed the health care bill through the House. The bill’s most visible and vocal proponents included a gay man (Barney Frank) and a Jew (Anthony Weiner). And the black man in the White House signed the bill into law. It’s enough to make a good old boy go crazy.
Hence their anger and frustration, which is playing out in ways large and small. There is the current spattering of threats and violence, but there also is the run on guns and the explosive growth of nefarious antigovernment and anti-immigrant groups. In fact, according to a report entitled “Rage on the Right: The Year in Hate and Extremism” recently released by the Southern Poverty Law Center, “nativist extremist” groups that confront and harass suspected immigrants have increased nearly 80 percent since President Obama took office, and antigovernment “patriot” groups more than tripled over that period.
Politically, this frustration is epitomized by the Tea Party movement. It may have some legitimate concerns (taxation, the role of government, etc.), but its message is lost in the madness. And now the anemic Republican establishment, covetous of the Tea Party’s passion, is moving to adsorb it, not admonish it. Instead of jettisoning the radical language, rabid bigotry and rising violence, the Republicans justify it. (They don’t want to refute it as much as funnel it.)
There may be a short-term benefit in this strategy, but it’s a long-term loser.
A Quinnipiac University poll released on Wednesday took a look at the Tea Party members and found them to be just as anachronistic to the direction of the country’s demographics as the Republican Party. For instance, they were disproportionately white, evangelical Christian and “less educated ... than the average Joe and Jane Six-Pack.” This at a time when the country is becoming more diverse (some demographers believe that 2010 could be the first year that most children born in the country will be nonwhite), less doctrinally dogmatic, and college enrollment is through the roof. The Tea Party, my friends, is not the future.
You may want “your country back,” but you can’t have it. That sound you hear is the relentless, irrepressible march of change. Welcome to America: The Remix.
Friday, March 26, 2010
Poverty is not simply a matter of ‘bad luck’; it is a result of socio-political-economic factors that allow for very few people in the world to control so much wealth and so many resources, while so many are left with so little. The capitalist world system was built upon war, race, and empire. Malcolm X once declared, “You can’t have capitalism without racism.”
The global political economy is a system that enriches the very few at the expense of the vast majority. This exploitation is organized through imperialism, war, and the social construction of race. It is vitally important to address the relationship between war, poverty and race in the context of the current global economic crisis. Western nations have plundered the rest of the world for centuries, and now the great empire is hitting home. What is done abroad comes home to roost.
Martin Luther King on Malcolm X.
Hillary Clinton In Mexico Pledging U.S. Help In Drug War
ClubOrlov | [One-year update: I posted this a year ago. Right now, the Secretary of State, the Head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and other American top brass are in Mexico City trying to spin this. Let's see if any of what I said a year ago needs to be revisited.]
* The US has lost the "War on Drugs"
* The losing side is usually not the one to decide when a fight is over or how it ends
* Unlike other recent defeats, this lost war is a defeat followed by an invasion
* Mexico is the natural staging area for the invasion (inconvenient though it is for the Mexicans)
* New franchises are being set up to service the North American drug market (which is the biggest in the world)
* The CIA has to eat, and all they know how to do competently is run guns and drugs and control thugs; they get a seat at the table
* The narcs have to eat too, and all they are trained to do is deal (with) drugs; they get a seat at the table too
* As the federales grow weak in the US and Mexico, the battle lines will advance north of the border, leaving Mexico a quiet and largely intact backwater
* This is an inter-US conflict, because Americans are the most avid consumers, sellers, and prosecutors of drugs
* Life in the USA gives everyone a pain that is for many people simply not survivable without drugs: either alcohol, pharmaceuticals or illegal drugs
* Illegal drugs are far more cost-effective than either pharma or alcohol — government-licensed industries which are either excessively lucrative or taxed heavily
* As Americans give up hope, they will need to self-medicate in ever-larger numbers
* They will be far more able financially to afford illegal drugs than either pharma or alcohol.
* Illegal drugs (and moonshine) are two very large post-collapse enrepreneurial opportunities within the fUSA/бСША [Orlov 2005]
* This is no longer a war against drugs; it is now a contest between alternative drug distribution systems Fist tap Dale.
"Everyone is worried, everyone is being careful," Hemet police Lt. Duane Wisehart said. "You get scared a little bit and then you get angry. It keeps happening."
Someone called police around 11:10 p.m. Tuesday to report a fire in the parking lot at Hemet City Hall, located within two blocks of the police department, Police Chief Richard Dana said. No one was hurt.
Police were working with state and federal investigators to determine the cause of the blaze, which sent flames several feet above the trucks in the cab and hood area. The white trucks were for use by code enforcement officers.
Early indications were that some kind of flammable substance was used and not an explosive, Dana said.
Hemet, a traditionally quiet retirement city about 90 miles southeast of Los Angeles, has been rocked by a series of booby trap attacks against police officers in recent weeks.
"We are operating under the theory (the fire) is connected to the other assaults," Dana said. Fist tap Dale.
Legislators in Rhode Island are considering a plan to decriminalize pot, and a group in Nevada is pushing an initiative that marks the state's fourth attempt in a decade to legalize the drug.
Lawmakers in Washington state recently killed a plan to legalize the sale and use of marijuana, though lawmakers there did expand the pool of medical professionals who could prescribe the drug for medicinal use.
The ballot measure in California would allow people 21 years and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana, enough for dozens of joints. Residents also could grow their own crop of the plant in gardens measuring up to 25 square feet.
The proposal would ban users from using marijuana in public or smoking it while minors are present. It also would make it illegal to possess the drug on school grounds or drive while under its influence.
Proponents of the measure say legalizing marijuana could save the state $200 million a year by reducing public safety costs. At the same time, it could generate tax revenue for local governments.
Law enforcement officials are promising a vigorous fight to ensure that marijuana never becomes legal in California. They believe legalized marijuana would increase crime and violence, deepen the nation's drug culture and lead teenagers to abuse pot.
The California Police Chiefs Association, Mothers Against Drunk Driving and groups such as the youth-oriented Drug Abuse Resistance Education also plan to oppose the idea.
Not everyone in law enforcement is opposed to the measure, however.
"We believe by voting for that initiative you can actually save lives," Cole said.
Thursday, March 25, 2010
Keep in mind, the U.S. economy is mired in a recession, with large rates of growing poverty, unemployment, consumer debt and state and federal deficits. In some states, public schools are shutting, public health services are being slashed, and universities are increasing tuition while also cutting programs. Even state government buildings are being sold off.
Under U.S. law, military sales to Israel cannot be used for offensive purposes, only for “legitimate self-defense.” Nonetheless, there have been numerous violations of the Arms Export Control Act by Israel. Even the indifferent State Department has found, from time to time, that munitions such as cluster bombs were “likely violations.”
Violations would lead to a cut-off in aid but with the completely pro-Israel climate in Washington, the White House has never allowed such findings to be definitive.
The same indifference applies to violations of the U.S. Foreign Assistance Act that prohibits aid to countries engaging in consistent international human rights violations. These include the occupation, colonization, blockades and military assaults on civilians in the Palestinian West Bank and Gaza, regularly documented by the highly regarded Israeli human rights group B’Tselem as well as by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.
This week, Prime Minister Netanyahu visits President Barack Obama after the recent Israeli announcement of 1,600 new housing units in East Jerusalem made while Vice President Joe Biden was visiting that country.
The affront infuriated New York Times columnist, Tom Friedman, who wrote that Mr. Biden should have packed his bags and flown away leaving behind a scribbled note saying “You think you can embarrass your only true ally in the world, to satisfy some domestic political need, with no consequences? You have lost total contact with reality.”
Friedman, a former Times Middle East correspondent, concluded his rebuke by writing: “Palestinian leaders Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad are as genuine and serious about working toward a solution as any Israel can hope to find.”
But until a few days ago, the U.S. government had no levers over the Israeli government. Cutting off aid isn’t even whispered in the halls of Congress. Raising the issue would further galvanize Israel’s allies, including AIPAC.
The only lever left for the U.S. suddenly erupted into the public media a few days ago. General David Petraeus told the Senate that resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has foreign policy and national security ramifications for the United States.
He said that “The conflict foments anti-American sentiment, due to a perception of U.S. favoritism for Israel. Arab anger over the Palestinian question limits the strength and depth of U.S. partnerships with governments and peoples in the Area of Responsibility…Meanwhile, Al-Qaeda and other military groups exploit that anger to mobilize support.”
A few days earlier, Vice President Joe Biden told Prime Minister Netanyahu in Israel that “what you’re doing here undermines the security of our troops who are fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.”
What Obama’s people are publically starting to say is that regional peace is about U.S. vital interests in that large part of the Middle East and, ultimately, the safety of American soldiers and personnel.
As one retired diplomat commented “This could be a game-changer.”
Lately, the ultra-right government in Jerusalem has started to treat President Barack Obama with thinly veiled contempt. The fears that arose in Jerusalem at the beginning of his term have dissipated. Obama looks to them like a paper black panther. He gave up his demand for a real settlement freeze. Every time he was spat on, he remarked that it was raining.
Yet now, ostensibly quite suddenly, the measure is full. Obama, his Vice President and his senior assistants condemn the Netanyahu government with growing severity. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has submitted an ultimatum: Netanyahu must stop all settlement activity, East Jerusalem included; he must agree to negotiate about all core problems of the conflict, including East Jerusalem, and more.
The surprise was complete. Obama, it seems, has crossed the Rubicon, much as the Egyptian army had crossed the Suez Canal in 1973. Netanyahu gave the order to mobilize all the reserves in America and to move forward all the diplomatic tanks. All Jewish organizations in the US were commanded to join the campaign. AIPAC blew the shofar and ordered its soldiers, the Senators and Congressmen, to storm the White House.
It seems that the decisive battle has been joined. The Israeli leaders were certain that Obama would be defeated.
And then an unusual noise was heard: the sound of the doomsday weapon.
* * *
THE MAN who decided to activate it was a foe of a new kind.
David Petraeus is the most popular officer of the United States army. The four-star general, son of a Dutch sea captain who went to America when his country was overrun by the Nazis, stood out from early childhood. In West Point he was a “distinguished cadet”, in Army Command and General Staff College he was No. 1. As a combat commander, he reaped plaudits. He wrote his doctoral thesis (on the lessons of Vietnam) at Princeton and served as an assistant professor for international relations in the US Military Academy.
He made his mark in Iraq, when he commanded the forces in Mosul, the most problematical city in the country. He concluded that in order to vanquish the enemies of the US he must win over the hearts of the civilian population, acquire local allies and spend more money than ammunition. The locals called him King David. His success was considered so outstanding that his methods were adopted as the official doctrine of the American army.
His star rose rapidly. He was appointed commander of the coalition forces in Iraq and soon became the chief of the Central Command of the US army, which covers the whole Middle East , except Israel and Palestine (which “belong” to the American command in Europe).
When such a person raises his voice, the American people listen. As a respected military thinker, he has no rivals.
* * *
THIS WEEK, Petraeus conveyed an unequivocal message: after reviewing the problems in his AOR (Area Of Responsibility) – which includes, among others, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq and Yemen – he turned to what he called the “root causes of instability” in the region. The list was topped by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In his report to the Armed Services Committee he stated: “The enduring hostilities between Israel and some of its neighbors present distinct challenges to our ability to advance our interests in the AOR…The conflict foments anti-American sentiment, due to a perception of U.S. favoritism for Israel. Arab anger over the Palestinian question limits the strength and depth of U.S. partnerships with governments and peoples in the AOR and weakens the legitimacy of moderate regimes in the Arab world. Meanwhile, al-Qaeda and other militant groups exploit that anger to mobilize support. The conflict also gives Iran influence in the Arab world through its clients, Lebanese Hizballah and Hamas.”
Not content with that, Petraeus sent his officers to present his conclusions to the Joint Chiefs of Staff,
In other words: Israeli-Palestinian peace is not a private matter between the two parties, but a supreme national interest of the USA. That means that the US must give up its one-sided support for the Israeli government and impose the two-state solution.
Others point to the nationally televised speech on September 12, 1991 of the first President Bush, who, upon realizing that AIPAC had secured enough votes in both houses of Congress to override his veto of Israel’s request for $10 billion in loan guarantees, went before the American public depicting himself as “one lonely little guy” battling a thousand lobbyists on Capitol Hill. A national poll taken immediately afterward gave the president an 85 per cent approval rating which sent the lobby and its Congressional flunkies scuttling into the corner but not before AIPAC director, Tom Dine, exclaimed at that date, Sept. 12, 1991, “would live in infamy.” Following the election of Yitzhak Rabin the following year and up for re-election himself, Bush relented and approved the loan guarantee request.
There are those who, while aware of what happened to Ford and of the subsequent humiliations visited by Israel upon American presidents and secretaries of state, view the Biden affair as a charade designed to placate the heads of Arab governments as well as their respective peoples and give the impression that there is a space between Israel and the US when it comes to resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict when, they assert, none exists.
Viewing the unrelenting expansion of Jewish settlements and settlers in the West Bank through one US administration after another for the past four decades they would appear to have a solid argument. It is undermined, however, by one obvious fact: while the rest of the world considers the Israel-Palestine conflict to be a foreign policy concern, for Washington and both Democrats and Republicans it has been and remains primarily a domestic issue. In that arena there is only one player, the pro-Israel “lobby” which is represented by a multitude of organizations, the most prominent of which is AIPAC.
As if it needed more help, flocking to Israel’s side in increasing numbers over the past several decades have come the majority of America’s Christian evangelicals whose doomsday theology fits in nicely with that of Israel’s ultra right wing settler movement. The result is that in each election cycle anyone with any hope of being elected to a national political office, be it in the White House or Congress, whether incumbent or challenger, feels obligated to express his or her unconditional loyalty to Israel by shamelessly groveling for handouts from Jewish donors and the nod from Jewish voters who make up critical voting blocs in at least six states.
This being the case, it is not so strange that a string of leading elected American officials would willingly submit to public humiliation by a country so politically and militarily dependent on the U.S. and whose population is less than that of New York City or Los Angeles County, even when doing so has made the U.S. seem weak in the eyes of a world in which Washington has other, more pressing interests, than pleasing Israel. There is no better example of this phenomenon than Barack Obama whose stature as leader of “the world’s only superpower” has been severely undercut by repeated verbal face-slappings at the hands of Netanyahu and his cabinet ministers.
It clearly has been in the US interest that the Israel-Palestine conflict be peacefully resolved. There is nothing in the proposed “two-state solution” that would interfere with Washington’s regional objectives. On the contrary, the creation of a truncated Palestinian statelet, allied and dependent, politically and financially on the US, as it most certainly would be, would be a boon to US regional interests and ultimately viewed as a setback for anti-imperialist struggles worldwide. It was not just to expend some US taxpayers’ money that the GW Bush administration built a four story security building for the PA in Ramallah (that Sharon later destroyed), brought PA security personnel to Langley, VA for training with the CIA, and had Gen. Dayton build a colonial army to maintain order.
Israeli officials view all of this from a very different perspective, as should be obvious, and will do everything they can to prevent any kind of a Palestinian entity from coming into existence since this would interfere not only with its expansion plans but would also create a junior competitor for US favors in the region. This was why Sharon targeted the US built institutions on the West Bank and the CIA trained personnel during the Al-Aksa Intifada despite the fact that they were non-participants, which raised the hackles at CIA headquarters, as reported at the time in the Washington Post.
What the insult to Biden was clearly designed to do, as were the previous humiliations, was to remind the current and future occupants of the White House that when it comes to making decisions concerning the Middle East, it is Israel that calls the tune. As Stephen Green spelled it out in "Taking Sides: America's Secret Relations with Militant Israel" (Morrow, 1984) a quarter century ago, "Since 1953, Israel, and friends of Israel in America, have determined the broad outlines of US policy in the region. It has been left to American presidents to implement that policy, with varying degrees of enthusiasm, and to deal with tactical issues."
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Leafcutter ants make unbelievable nest structures. They have castles underground that go eight meters deep, that have a surface of about 50 square meters, and all sort of channels, chambers. It’s a beautifully constructed piece of art, and not one ant would be able to do this; this is an emergent structure of interactions that follow certain rules of thumb that we don’t understand yet. Almost as complicated as the brain. Put a couple million individuals — tiny little brains — together, and they interact according to certain rules that create an emergent pattern. The end result is these fantastic nests. And not only that, these collectives of little brains — if you take a picture of the brain, a brain consists of a couple million or billion neurons. The members of an ant colony [are neurons that form] a little brain. These are millions of brains connected in a way we don’t understand yet.
It’s as exciting as understanding the pattern of a brain. We try to understand the connections of these millions of ants that creates this caste system, complex communicaiton and foraging and territorial strategies, and it’s all done by these interactions. When you look at these things, you can’t avoid saying, at this stage an insect colony functions like an organism. A superorganism. And you can go forward and say, this is an extended phenotype: selection doesn’t work on individual level, but on the whole colony.
If you have in a population many colonies of same species, they compete with each other like solitary animals competing with one another. The colony which has a slightly better communication system to bring in limited resources, and if this slight difference has a genetic basis, that colony will reproduce faster than the neighboring colony, and the gene — the allele that codes for a slightly better communication system — will spread faster than the alleles of the neighboring colony. The phenotype is the colony, shaped by this selection. Of course, it is in the end the gene carried by the queen, the male, that spreads, and the workers are the extended phenotype which, because of their particular adapatation, will affect the spread of these genes.
When we look at how selection shapes things, we had to realize that it didn’t help us to take a purely gene perspective, like Richard Dawkins. Not that he’s wrong, but it doesn’t say as much about how selection works. Multi-level selection isn’t new, it was already proposed in the seventies, but we’ve worked it out more. The colony in the leafcutter or army ants is a major target of selection.
Not all ant societies are like this. They’re not full superorganisms. Ed Wilson sees this for all ants; I don’t. There are phylogenetically primitive ants, not so evolved as leafcutters, and they have internal friction — fights for reproduction privileges. They have superorganism traits, but I wouldn’t call them true superorganisms, as there’s a lot of selection going on at the individual level in the community. They haven’t reached point where in-colony conflict is gone and it’s now between-colony.
People ask, why aren’t all ants now superorganisms? Why do they all still show these ancestral traits? Very simple: they haven’t changed much. They fit into a particular niche.
So do we learn from this about humans? I’m very careful, because human society is a society built on a cultural fundamental basis. But there are biological rules to our social behavior: no question. We are one of the few species to evolve social systems. What is common in all these social systems is a division of labor; and once this was evolutionarily rendered, it became incredibly successful. This is true for almost any society: once they reach a high division of labor, they have enormous successes due to division of labor. And the second thing, once a society becomes almost like an organism, it becomes very tightly interconnected.
In our early past, in our still-biological past, 15,000 years ago we were hunter gatherers. We showed group cohesiveness and discrimination against other groups. It was adaptive. It was quite understandable that we evolved traits of group recognition, and making sure we recognized foreigners. This is my conviction that this is probably the early basis for our unfortunate xenophobic behavior that is still in us. It’s a behavior that is now terribly maladaptive. I keep always citing David Hume — that just because there is an atavistic trait in us, it doesn’t justify that we live it.
That conundrum is posed by the leafcutter ant, which harvests more greenery than any other South American animal and uses the vast plantfall to feed the fungi gardens on which they subsist.
But while other ant farmers plant a variety of fungus species, leafcutters sow just one, and they propagate it through cloning. That seems to contradict a tenet of sustainable farming: monocultures are bad, as their lack of genetic diversity leaves them vulnerable to disease and disruption.
How have leafcutters managed this trick? And could they teach us how to make our own agriculture sustainable?
At present, the land provides us with enough to eat — but that might not last. Many agronomists say the clock is ticking on the bounties of the Green Revolution, which depended on fossil fuel-fueled pesticides and fertilizers, as well as soil-wearying techniques and the establishment of vast monocultures.
With the Earth’s population booming and nearly every farm-friendly acre already exploited, keeping our farms running is a looming concern. And for inspiration, says Smithsonian Institution entomologist Ted Schultz, we might look to the leafcutter ant, which despite its reliance on a single crop represents the apex of ant agriculture.
I talked this morning with Schultz, who co-authored a recent Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences paper on the evolutionary history of ant farming. Schultz described a complex evolutionary dance: the leafcutter fungi is constantly threatened by disease. At the same time, bacteria living on ant exoskeletons produces a disease-killing antibiotic. But somehow the system has stabilized, preventing pathogens from ever raging out of control.
“What humans do for nitrogen is mine it from other sources, and dump it on our crops,” said Schultz. But this leads to waste and pollution, “and the ants accomplish it through microbes. Who knows? Maybe humans could do something similar, and cultivate microbial communities in the soil around our crops.”
And this isn’t the only trick farmers might learn from the ants. In March 2008, Schultz showed that leafcutters also use antibiotic-producing microbes to keep their gardens pest-free.
Currie is studying whether nitrogen-fixing bacteria help break down the ants’ leaf cuttings into a fungally-digestible form. If so, the bacteria may suggest better ways of turning plants into biofuels. “We need to discover new enzymes, new processes, to convert plant cell walls into simple sugars that can be converted into ethanol,” he said. “Ants have been converting plant biomass into energy for millions of years.”
Currie added that leafcutter ants are the subject of thousands of papers authored over the last century, “yet this critical aspect of their success was completely unknown.”
“This is a well-studied natural system, and we’re still learning who the players are,” he said. “What does that say about most of the natural world, where mutalisms and associations haven’t been studied?”