Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Occupy Wall Street as a Node of Resonance

spaceandpolitics | The North American insurrection began when a handful of people occupied public space and began producing resonance. This is the material force that toppled three political regimes in North Africa and can only be produced by multitudes coming together on the streets. Liberty Square became a human assemblage that debates, eats, sings, drums, marches, sleeps, and dreams together and, in doing so, turns space into a machine of resonance generation. This resonance is embodied in the human mic that makes bodies speak in unison and vibrate together. The node of resonance in New York has radiated its force in all directions and precipitated the emergence of a continental political movement whose spatial form is the rhizome: a de-centered, horizontal, multi-sited assemblage of myriad other nodes interconnected with each other and recognizing no authority other than the collective power generated by the nodes.

The temporality of this spatial form, also generated in Tunisia and Egypt, seems historically unique and deserves closer scrutiny. In what follows I seek to examine the shifting spatial form and affective pulsations of the nodes that make up the local articulations of a leaderless anti-capitalist network.

Nodes of resonance expand by affecting people elsewhere and making them resonate. But this expansion only takes place if it involves receptive audiences. Countless nodes of resonance dissipate because they encounter a limit in audiences that are not affected, or are affected negatively. In North America, the inspiration created by the node of resonance on Tahrir Square and the despair generated by Obama’s unapologetic embrace of the capitalist looters finally created a more receptive political topography, a fertile ground for the expansion and multiplication of anti-systemic spatial nodes.

Decagonal and Quasi-Crystalline Tilings in Medieval Islamic Architecture

Peter Lu | The conventional view holds that girih (geometric star-and-polygon) patterns in medieval Islamic architecture were conceived by their designers as a network of zigzagging lines, where the lines were drafted directly with a straightedge and a compass. We show that by 1200 C.E. a conceptual breakthrough occurred in which girih patterns were reconceived as tessellations of a special set of equilateral polygons (girih tiles) decorated with lines. These tiles enabled the creation of increasingly complex periodic girih patterns, and by the 15th century, the tessellation approach was combined with self-similar transformations to construct nearly perfect quasi-crystalline Penrose patterns, five centuries before their discovery in the West.

magic trip: ken kesey's search for a cool place

In 1964, Ken Kesey, the 29-year-old author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, gathered a group of friends for a freewheeling cross-country road trip. They painted a school bus psychedelic colors (a first), dropped acid, and shot the whole thing on 16mm...

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

a truly great loss indeed...,

The Scientist | Evolutionary biologist Lynn Margulis died last week (November 22) at the age of 73. She was best known for proposing the theory of endosymbiosis, which states that rather than evolving via genetic mutation, new species were more likely to have come about via parasitic or symbiotic relationships that became permanently inter-dependent over time.

“She was always stimulating; she always had a new idea, some new connection she had seen and she couldn’t wait to tell you about,” Steve Goodwin, Dean of the College of Natural Resources
 and the Environment told

Margulis showed early aptitude in science, enrolling at the University of Chicago and earning her bachelor’s degree in zoology by the age of 18. Shortly thereafter she married her first husband, the astronomer Carl Sagan. The marriage ended by the time she got her doctorate in genetics from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1965.

She developed her ideas on symbiosis in the late 1960s, and tried to publish her ideas in 15 journals before finally being accepted by the Journal of Theoretical Biology, according to The New York Times. Though it was highly controversial at the time, serial symbiosis is widely accepted among evolutionary scientists today.

In the 1970s, she became a supporter of James Lovelock’s Gaia hypothesis, which proposed that the earth could be thought of as a complex system whose atmospheric and mineral components existed in symbiosis with living organisms, allowing biota as a whole to self-perpetuate.

She taught evolutionary biology for nearly 40 years, first at the Boston University and then at the University of Massachusetts, where I had the opportunity to experience her carefully crafted course. I came to the class expecting Margulis to expound on the theories that she had championed. Instead, she exposed our small seminar class to the experiments of many researchers whose work provided evidence for her ideas, and invited us to make own conclusions.

“If science doesn’t fit in with the cultural milieu, people dismiss science—they never reject their cultural milieu!” said Margulis in the book The Third Culture: Beyond the Scientific Revolution. In the same chapter, Richard Dawkins wrote: “I greatly admire Lynn Margulis’s sheer courage and stamina in sticking by the endosymbiosis theory, and carrying it through from being an unorthodoxy to an orthodoxy.”

According to The New York Times, Margulis died from a stroke. She is survived by a daughter Jennifer Margulis and three sons Dorion Sagan, Jeremy Sagan, Zachary Margulis-Ohnuma.

williams syndrome may hold clues to autism, other disorders

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

MSNBC | Researchers have puzzled over that extreme friendliness for decades, pondering the causes and complicated traits that go with the syndrome that affects 1 in every 10,000 people, says Ursula Bellugi, a researcher at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, Calif., who has studied the disorder for a quarter-century.

They've come to believe that Williams syndrome, which is characterized by unique genetic markers and distinct behaviors, may actually hold the secrets to understanding other better-known disorders — including autism.

'Brink of a whole new world'
“We’re on the brink of a whole new world,” says Bellugi, 80, a professor and director of Salk’s Laboratory for Cognitive Neuroscience.

Now, thanks to a $5.5 million grant from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Bellugi and team of prominent scientists are poised to use Williams syndrome to decode the ties between human genes and the way people act.

"We want to know: Are there links across the levels from the genes to behavior?" said Bellugi, who is leading a five-project program.

related to the microsychronization of body language hypothesis...,

Video - Paul Eckman talks about the genuine smile.

BBCNews | Researchers say people can spot whether a complete stranger has a certain "social gene" in just 20 seconds.

Two variants of the "oxytocin receptor gene" have been linked with social traits.

People judging the empathy of strangers - by studying the way they listened to people - predicted the genetic variant, a University of Toronto study showed.

The hormone oxytocin has a role in birth, production of milk and bonding between mother and baby.

It also seems to have a role in social skills and has variously been called the "love" or "cuddle" chemical.

Two variants of the oxytocin receptor gene - termed G and A - have been linked to social behaviour.

Studies have shown that people with two copies of G, compared with one of each or two of A, are at lower risk of autism and report higher levels of empathy, positive emotions and said they were more social.
Silent movie

Twenty three couples were filmed for the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences study. One described a moment of personal suffering while their partner listened.

Strangers then watched a 20 second silent recording of the exchange and scored the listener for their "prosocial traits", such as a caring nature or empathy.

GG people were found to be more prosocial than AG or AA people.

In the top 10 most trusted people, six were GG. In the 10 least trusted people, nine had at least one copy of A.

One of the researchers, Dr Aleksandr Kogan from the University of Toronto, said: "Our findings suggest even slight genetic variation may have tangible impact on people's behaviour, and that these behavioural differences are quickly noticed by others.

"Our study asked the question of whether these differences manifest themselves in behaviours that are quickly detectable by strangers, and it turns out they did."

Prof Sarina Rodrigues Saturn, from Oregon State University, said: "It was amazing to see how the data aligned so strongly by genotype.

"It makes sense that a gene crucial for social processing would yield these findings; other studies have shown that people are good at judging people at a distance and first impressions really make an impact." Fist tap Dale.

psychopaths have brain issues

Video - Paul Eckman talks about microexpressions in lie detection.

Newswise | Images of prisoners’ brains show important differences between those who are diagnosed as psychopaths and those who aren’t, according to a new study led by University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers.

The results could help explain the callous and impulsive anti-social behavior exhibited by some psychopaths.

The study showed that psychopaths have reduced connections between the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC), the part of the brain responsible for sentiments such as empathy and guilt, and the amygdala, which mediates fear and anxiety. Two types of brain images were collected. Diffusion tensor images (DTI) showed reduced structural integrity in the white matter fibers connecting the two areas, while a second type of image that maps brain activity, a functional magnetic resonance image (fMRI), showed less coordinated activity between the vmPFC and the amygdala.

“This is the first study to show both structural and functional differences in the brains of people diagnosed with psychopathy,” says Michael Koenigs, assistant professor of psychiatry in the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. “Those two structures in the brain, which are believed to regulate emotion and social behavior, seem to not be communicating as they should.”

The study, which took place in a medium-security prison in Wisconsin, is a unique collaborative between three laboratories,

UW-Madison psychology Professor Joseph Newman has had a long term interest in studying and diagnosing those with psychopathy and has worked extensively in the Wisconsin corrections system. Dr. Kent Kiehl, of the University of New Mexico and the MIND Research Network, has a mobile MRI scanner that he brought to the prison and used to scan the prisoners’ brains. Koenigs and his graduate student, Julian Motzkin, led the analysis of the brain scans.

The study compared the brains of 20 prisoners with a diagnosis of psychopathy with the brains of 20 other prisoners who committed similar crimes but were not diagnosed with psychopathy.

“The combination of structural and functional abnormalities provides compelling evidence that the dysfunction observed in this crucial social-emotional circuitry is a stable characteristic of our psychopathic offenders,’’ Newman says. “I am optimistic that our ongoing collaborative work will shed more light on the source of this dysfunction and strategies for treating the problem.”

Newman notes that none of this work would be possible without the extraordinary support provided by the Wisconsin Department of Corrections, which he called “the silent partner in this research.” He says the DOC has demonstrated an unprecedented commitment to supporting research designed to facilitate the differential diagnosis and treatment of prisoners.

The study, published in the most recent Journal of Neuroscience, builds on earlier work by Newman and Koenigs that showed that psychopaths' decision-making mirrors that of patients with known damage to their ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC). This bolsters evidence that problems in that part of the brain are connected to the disorder.

“The decision-making study showed indirectly what this study shows directly – that there is a specific brain abnormality associated with criminal psychopathy,’’

Monday, November 28, 2011

schwaller de lubicz foretold the stygian depths of this evil...,

Video - Chris Busby on the abyssal reaches of the unspeakable.

ConflictandHealth | Background - Recent reports have drawn attention to increases in congenital birth anomalies and cancer in Fallujah Iraq blamed on teratogenic, genetic and genomic stress thought to result from depleted Uranium contamination following the battles in the town in 2004. Contamination of the parents of the children and of the environment by Uranium and other elements was investigated using Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry. Hair samples from 25 fathers and mothers of children diagnosed with congenital anomalies were analysed for Uranium and 51 other elements. Mean ages of the parents was: fathers 29.6 (SD 6.2); mothers: 27.3 (SD 6.8). For a sub-group of 6 women, long locks of hair were analysed for Uranium along the length of the hair to obtain information about historic exposures. Samples of soil and water were also analysed and Uranium isotope ratios determined.

Levels of Ca, Mg, Co, Fe, Mn, V, Zn, Sr, Al, Ba, Bi, Ga, Pb, Hg, Pd and U (for mothers only) were significantly higher than published mean levels in an uncontaminated population in Sweden. In high excess were Ca, Mg, Sr, Al, Bi and Hg. Of these only Hg can be considered as a possible cause of congenital anomaly. Mean levels for Uranium were 0.16 ppm (SD: 0.11) range 0.02 to 0.4, higher in mothers (0.18 ppm SD 0.09) than fathers (0.11 ppm; SD 0.13). The highly unusual non-normal Fallujah distribution mean was significantly higher than literature results for a control population Southern Israel (0.062 ppm) and a non-parametric test (Mann Whitney-Wilcoxon) gave p = 0.016 for this comparison of the distribution. Mean levels in Fallujah were also much higher than the mean of measurements reported from Japan, Brazil, Sweden and Slovenia (0.04 ppm SD 0.02). Soil samples show low concentrations with a mean of 0.76 ppm (SD 0.42) and range 0.1-1.5 ppm; (N = 18). However it may be consistent with levels in drinking water (2.28 μgL-1) which had similar levels to water from wells (2.72 μgL-1) and the river Euphrates (2.24 μgL-1). In a separate study of a sub group of mothers with long hair to investigate historic Uranium excretion the results suggested that levels were much higher in the past. Uranium traces detected in the soil samples and the hair showed slightly enriched isotopic signatures for hair U238/U235 = (135.16 SD 1.45) compared with the natural ratio of 137.88. Soil sample Uranium isotope ratios were determined after extraction and concentration of the Uranium by ion exchange. Results showed statistically significant presence of enriched Uranium with a mean of 129 with SD5.9 (for this determination, the natural Uranium 95% CI was 132.1 < Ratio < 144.1).

Whilst caution must be exercised about ruling out other possibilities, because none of the elements found in excess are reported to cause congenital diseases and cancer except Uranium, these findings suggest the enriched Uranium exposure is either a primary cause or related to the cause of the congenital anomaly and cancer increases. Questions are thus raised about the characteristics and composition of weapons now being deployed in modern battlefields.

UH-UNH!!! that deadly radioactive waste y'alls now!!!

AsahiShimbun | During court proceedings concerning a radioactive golf course, Tokyo Electric Power Co. stunned lawyers by saying the utility was not responsible for decontamination because it no longer "owned" the radioactive substances.

“Radioactive materials (such as cesium) that scattered and fell from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant belong to individual landowners there, not TEPCO,” the utility said.

That argument did not sit well with the companies that own and operate the Sunfield Nihonmatsu Golf Club, just 45 kilometers west of the stricken TEPCO plant in Fukushima Prefecture.

The Tokyo District Court also rejected that idea.

But in a ruling described as inconsistent by lawyers, the court essentially freed TEPCO from responsibility for decontamination work, saying the cleanup efforts should be done by the central and local governments.

Although the legal battle has moved to a higher court, observers said that if the district court’s decision stands and becomes a precedent, local governments' coffers could be drained.

The two golf companies in August filed for a provisional disposition with the Tokyo District Court, demanding TEPCO decontaminate the golf course and pay about 87 million yen ($1.13 million) for the upkeep costs over six months.

TEPCO's argument over ownership of the radioactive substances drew a sharp response from lawyers representing the Sunfield Nihonmatsu Golf Club and owner Sunfield.

“It is common sense that worthless substances such as radioactive fallout would not belong to landowners,” one of the lawyers said. “We are flabbergasted at TEPCO’s argument.”

koch bros got a "first call" from mf global...,

Video - Max Keiser on MF Global and a Koch Bros/MF Global hook-up

Sunday, November 27, 2011

frank miller and the rise of cryptofascist hollywood

Guardian | The film 300, directed by Zack Snyder, based on a Frank Miller graphic novel of the same name, is just what you would expect from the heavily freighted right-wing filmic propaganda of the post-9/11 period: the Greeks, from which our own putative democracies are descended, must fight to the death against a vast but incompetent army of Persians (those hordes of the Middle East), who are considered here unworthy of characterisation – in fact, every character in the film is unworthy of characterisation – and the noble Spartans (the Greeks in question) achieve heroism despite their glorious deaths on the field at Thermopylae, by virtue of the moral superiority of their belief system and their unmatched courage. Ruthless enemy! From the Middle East! Heroic, rugged individualists! A big, sentimental score! Lots and lots of blue-screen! Endless amounts of body parts spewing theatrical blood!

It's a barely watchable film, but what from Hollywood these days is not similarly unwatchable, when so many high-profile releases are based on a medium, the comic book, made expressly to engage the attentions of pre- and just post-pubescent boys. At least comic books themselves are so politically dim-witted, so pie-in-the-sky idealistic as to be hard to take seriously. But in the films of this era, the Marvel and DC era of Hollywood, even when the work is not self-evidently shilling for large corporations (with product placement) or militating for a libertarian and oligarchical political status quo (which makes a fine environment for large, multinational corporations), the work is doing nothing at all to oppose these things. Paying your $12.50, these days, is not unlike doing a few lines of cocaine and pretending you don't know about the headless bodies in Juarez.

With this in mind, an honest recognition of cinematic propaganda, we shouldn't be shocked by Frank Miller's comments about Occupy Wall Street. It is naive to be shocked by them. But let's evaluate the particulars of his remarks just the same. Miller tries to repel the OWS message ("Maybe, between bouts of self-pity and all the other tasty titbits of narcissism you've been served up in your sheltered, comfy little worlds, you've heard terms like al-Qaeda and Islamicism") by reminding us that we are at war. This despite the fact that OWS is focused primarily on income inequality, and thus mainly taken up with domestic politics, such that OWS doesn't really take a position on the "ruthless enemy" and doesn't need to. Miller's particular approach, the warmongering approach, is self-evidently reminiscent of the Bush/Cheney years, in which any domestic reversal was followed by an elevated level on the colour-coded risk-assessment wheel. But in this post-Iraq war moment – when the most aggravated conspiracies we seem to have in New York City involve, for example, a lone Dominican guy who advertises his hatred of the government on Facebook and who may have been entrapped by local police – our "ruthless enemy" just doesn't seem quite as numerous as Miller's Persian hordes.

Beyond Bush-Cheney fear-mongering, Miller's further complaint seems to be that people who camped outdoors in Zuccotti Park for two months were not terribly clean. (The Spartans were no doubt tidier in Thermopylae.) But if the crowd of 32,000 who turned up to march in NYC last Thursday – after the "pond scum" had been ejected from the park – are any indication, this hygiene issue is no longer a reliable talking point for Miller (or for Newt Gingrich, the rightwing posterboy of the late 80s who has now entered the race for the Republican presidential noimination). The 32,000 included some professional types, at least one retired police officer and lots of elderly people, many of whom had recently showered. Same thing at UC Davis, and at Berkeley. Those college kids usually have showers in their dorms.

Miller also accuses the OWS protesters of being too technologically savvy. For example, he accuses them of playing Lords of Warcraft. Now, I admit it, I know nothing of multiplayer online role-playing games, nor do I own an iPhone nor an iPad. Nevertheless, I maintain I am correct in imagining that what Miller actually means here is World of Warcraft. This superficial mistake (suggests what should be plain: that Miller wrote his jeremiad quickly, perhaps late at night, when a lack of restraint is often linked with the onset of unconsciousness. He didn't bother to reread it. He therefore overlooks at least one obvious point. Namely, no one is more likely to play World of Warcraft than the kind of adolescent boy who also thinks 300 is quality cinematic product.

Miller's hard-right, pro-military point of view is not only accounted for in his own work, but in the larger project of mainstream Hollywood cinema. American movies, in the main, often agree with Frank Miller, that endless war against a ruthless enemy is good, and military service is good, that killing makes you a man, that capitalism must prevail, that if you would just get a job (preferably a corporate job, for all honest work is corporate) you would quit complaining. American movies say these things, but they are more polite about it, lest they should offend. The kind of comic-book-oriented cinema that has afflicted Hollywood for 10 years now, since Spider-Man, has degraded the cinematic art, and has varnished over what was once a humanist form, so Hollywood can do little but repeat the platitudes of the 1%. And yet Hollywood tries still not to offend.

Does that make American cinema cryptofascist? Is "cryptofascist" a word that you can use in an essay like this? I keep trying to find a space somewhere between "propagandistic" and "cryptofascist" to describe my feelings about Miller's screed. But perhaps it's more accurate to say the following: whatever mainstream Hollywood cinema is now, Frank Miller is part of it. And Frank Miller has done Occupy Wall Street a service by reminding us that our allegedly democratic political system, which increases inequality and decreases class mobility, which is mostly interested in keeping the disenfranchised where they are, requires a mindless, propagandistic (or "cryptofascist") storytelling medium to distract its citizenry. We should be grateful for the reminder. And we might repay the favor by avoiding purchase of tickets to Miller's films.

surplus labor and the inevitability of the cull...,

NYTimes | AMERICA, like other modern countries, has always had some surplus workers — people ready to work but jobless for extended periods because the “job creators,” private and public, have been unable or unwilling to create sufficient jobs. When the number of surplus workers rose sharply, the country also had ways of reducing it.

However, the current jobless recovery, and the concurrent failure to create enough new jobs, is breeding a new and growing surplus pool. And some in this pool are in danger of becoming superfluous, likely never to work again.

The currently jobless and the so-called discouraged workers, who have given up looking for work, total about 15 percent of the work force, not including the invisible discouraged workers the government cannot even find to count.

In the old days — before Social Security, welfare and Medicaid — poverty-caused illnesses killed off or incapacitated some of the people who could not find jobs. Even earlier, some nations sold their surplus workers as slaves, while the European countries could send them to the colonies.

In addition, wars were once labor-intensive enterprises that absorbed the surplus temporarily, and sufficient numbers of those serving in the infantry and on warships were killed or seriously enough injured so that they could not add to the peacetime labor surplus.

The old ways of reducing surplus labor are, however, disappearing. Decades of medical and public health advances, as well as Medicare and Medicaid, have reduced the number of poverty-related deaths. The Iraq and Afghanistan wars have left many more service members injured than killed.

Over the past quarter-century, one very costly way of decreasing the surplus has been the imprisonment of people, mostly dark-skinned men, for actual and invented offenses. Felons are not often hired when they leave prison. Many, at least those who do not become recidivists, become surplus and then superfluous labor. As incarceration becomes less affordable for financially strapped states, inmates will reach surplus or superfluous status at a younger age.

Meanwhile, new ways of increasing surplus labor have appeared. One is the continued outsourcing of jobs to low-wage countries; the other is the continuing computerization and mechanization of manufacturing and of services not requiring hands-on human contact. Continuing increases in worker productivity add yet more to the surplus. So does the unwillingness of employers to even consider hiring people who have been unemployed for a long time.

When the jobless recovery ends and the economy is restored to good health, today’s surplus will be reduced. New technology and the products and services that accompany it will create new jobs. But unless the economy itself changes, eventually many of these innovations may be turned over to machines or the jobs may be sent to lower-wage economies.

In fact, if modern capitalism continues to eliminate as many jobs as it creates — or more jobs than it creates — future recoveries will not only add to the amount of surplus labor but will turn a growing proportion of workers into superfluous ones. Fist tap Nana.

the poor, the near poor, and you...,

NYTimes | What is it like to be poor? Thankfully, most Americans do not know, at least not firsthand. And times are tough for the middle class. But everyone needs to recognize a chilling reality: One in three Americans — 100 million people — is either poor or perilously close to it.

The Times’s Jason DeParle, Robert Gebeloff and Sabrina Tavernise reported recently on Census data showing that 49.1 million Americans are below the poverty line — in general, $24,343 for a family of four. An additional 51 million are in the next category, which they termed “near poor” — with incomes less than 50 percent above the poverty line.

As for all of that inspirational, up-by-their-bootstrap talk you hear on the Republican campaign trail, over half of the near poor in the new tally actually fell into that group from higher income levels as their resources were sapped by medical expenses, taxes, work-related costs and other unavoidable outlays.

The worst downturn since the Great Depression is only part of the problem. Before that, living standards were already being eroded by stagnating wages and tax and economic policies that favored the wealthy.

Conservative politicians and analysts are spouting their usual denial. Gov. Rick Perry and Representative Michele Bachmann have called for taxing the poor and near poor more heavily, on the false grounds that they have been getting a free ride. In fact, low-income workers do pay up, if not in federal income taxes, then in payroll taxes and state and local taxes.

Asked about the new census data, Robert Rector, an analyst at the conservative Heritage Foundation told The Times that the “emotionally charged terms ‘poor’ or ‘near poor’ clearly suggest to most people a level of material hardship that doesn’t exist.” Heritage has its own, very different ranking system, based on households’ “amenities.” According to that, the typical poor household has roughly 14 of 30 amenities. In other words, how hard can things be if you have a refrigerator, air-conditioner, coffee maker, cellphone, and other stuff?

The rankings ignore the fact that many of these are requisites of modern life and that things increasingly out of reach for the poor and near poor — education, health care, child care, housing and utilities — are the true determinants of a good, upwardly mobile life.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

the truth about the crackdown on Occupy

Guardian | The violent police assaults across the US are no coincidence. Occupy has touched the third rail of our political class's venality. US citizens of all political persuasions are still reeling from images of unparallelled police brutality in a coordinated crackdown against peaceful OWS protesters in cities across the nation this past week. An elderly woman was pepper-sprayed in the face; the scene of unresisting, supine students at UC Davis being pepper-sprayed by phalanxes of riot police went viral online; images proliferated of young women – targeted seemingly for their gender – screaming, dragged by the hair by police in riot gear; and the pictures of a young man, stunned and bleeding profusely from the head, emerged in the record of the middle-of-the-night clearing of Zuccotti Park.

But just when Americans thought we had the picture – was this crazy police and mayoral overkill, on a municipal level, in many different cities? – the picture darkened. The National Union of Journalists and the Committee to Protect Journalists issued a Freedom of Information Act request to investigate possible federal involvement with law enforcement practices that appeared to target journalists. The New York Times reported that "New York cops have arrested, punched, whacked, shoved to the ground and tossed a barrier at reporters and photographers" covering protests. Reporters were asked by NYPD to raise their hands to prove they had credentials: when many dutifully did so, they were taken, upon threat of arrest, away from the story they were covering, and penned far from the site in which the news was unfolding. Other reporters wearing press passes were arrested and roughed up by cops, after being – falsely – informed by police that "It is illegal to take pictures on the sidewalk."

In New York, a state supreme court justice and a New York City council member were beaten up; in Berkeley, California, one of our greatest national poets, Robert Hass, was beaten with batons. The picture darkened still further when Wonkette and reported that the Mayor of Oakland acknowledged that the Department of Homeland Security had participated in an 18-city mayor conference call advising mayors on "how to suppress" Occupy protests.

To Europeans, the enormity of this breach may not be obvious at first. Our system of government prohibits the creation of a federalised police force, and forbids federal or militarised involvement in municipal peacekeeping.

I noticed that rightwing pundits and politicians on the TV shows on which I was appearing were all on-message against OWS. Journalist Chris Hayes reported on a leaked memo that revealed lobbyists vying for an $850,000 contract to smear Occupy. Message coordination of this kind is impossible without a full-court press at the top. This was clearly not simply a case of a freaked-out mayors', city-by-city municipal overreaction against mess in the parks and cranky campers. As the puzzle pieces fit together, they began to show coordination against OWS at the highest national levels.

Why this massive mobilisation against these not-yet-fully-articulated, unarmed, inchoate people? After all, protesters against the war in Iraq, Tea Party rallies and others have all proceeded without this coordinated crackdown. Is it really the camping? As I write, two hundred young people, with sleeping bags, suitcases and even folding chairs, are still camping out all night and day outside of NBC on public sidewalks – under the benevolent eye of an NYPD cop – awaiting Saturday Night Live tickets, so surely the camping is not the issue. I was still deeply puzzled as to why OWS, this hapless, hopeful band, would call out a violent federal response.

That is, until I found out what it was that OWS actually wanted.

When I saw this list – and especially the last agenda item – the scales fell from my eyes. Of course, these unarmed people would be having the shit kicked out of them.

For the terrible insight to take away from news that the Department of Homeland Security coordinated a violent crackdown is that the DHS does not freelance. The DHS cannot say, on its own initiative, "we are going after these scruffy hippies". Rather, DHS is answerable up a chain of command: first, to New York Representative Peter King, head of the House homeland security subcommittee, who naturally is influenced by his fellow congressmen and women's wishes and interests. And the DHS answers directly, above King, to the president (who was conveniently in Australia at the time).

In other words, for the DHS to be on a call with mayors, the logic of its chain of command and accountability implies that congressional overseers, with the blessing of the White House, told the DHS to authorise mayors to order their police forces – pumped up with millions of dollars of hardware and training from the DHS – to make war on peaceful citizens.

But wait: why on earth would Congress advise violent militarised reactions against its own peaceful constituents? The answer is straightforward: in recent years, members of Congress have started entering the system as members of the middle class (or upper middle class) – but they are leaving DC privy to vast personal wealth, as we see from the "scandal" of presidential contender Newt Gingrich's having been paid $1.8m for a few hours' "consulting" to special interests. The inflated fees to lawmakers who turn lobbyists are common knowledge, but the notion that congressmen and women are legislating their own companies' profitsis less widely known – and if the books were to be opened, they would surely reveal corruption on a Wall Street spectrum. Indeed, we do already know that congresspeople are massively profiting from trading on non-public information they have on companies about which they are legislating – a form of insider trading that sent Martha Stewart to jail.

Since Occupy is heavily surveilled and infiltrated, it is likely that the DHS and police informers are aware, before Occupy itself is, what its emerging agenda is going to look like. If legislating away lobbyists' privileges to earn boundless fees once they are close to the legislative process, reforming the banks so they can't suck money out of fake derivatives products, and, most critically, opening the books on a system that allowed members of Congress to profit personally – and immensely – from their own legislation, are two beats away from the grasp of an electorally organised Occupy movement … well, you will call out the troops on stopping that advance.

So, when you connect the dots, properly understood, what happened this week is the first battle in a civil war; a civil war in which, for now, only one side is choosing violence. It is a battle in which members of Congress, with the collusion of the American president, sent violent, organised suppression against the people they are supposed to represent. Occupy has touched the third rail: personal congressional profits streams. Even though they are, as yet, unaware of what the implications of their movement are, those threatened by the stirrings of their dreams of reform are not.

Sadly, Americans this week have come one step closer to being true brothers and sisters of the protesters in Tahrir Square. Like them, our own national leaders, who likely see their own personal wealth under threat from transparency and reform, are now making war upon us.

you're already in the Greatest Depression...,

Video - Steve Keen: Government should print money to pay off our debts

BBCNews | Economist Steve Keen is one of the few economists to have predicted the global financial crisis and now he says we are already in a Great Depression. He says the way to escape it is to bankrupt the banks, nationalise the financial system and pay off people's debt.

He admits what he is advocating is radical but says it is time governments gave money to debtors to pay down debt instead of to creditors such as banks who have held onto it.

occupy democracy

Video - Robert Reich; The Real Public Nuisance

MovetoAmend | On January 21, 2010, with its ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the Supreme Court ruled that corporations are persons, entitled by the U.S. Constitution to buy elections and run our government. Human beings are people; corporations are legal fictions.

We, the People of the United States of America, reject the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Citizens United, and move to amend our Constitution to firmly establish that money is not speech, and that human beings, not corporations, are persons entitled to constitutional rights.

The Supreme Court is misguided in principle, and wrong on the law. In a democracy, the people rule. We Move to Amend.

Read our proposed amendment.

January 20, 2012: Move to Amend Occupies the Courts!

Inspired by our friends at Occupy Wall Street, and Dr. Cornel West, Move To Amend is planning bold action to mark the second anniversary of the infamous Citizens United v. FEC decision!

Occupy the Courts will be a one day occupation of Federal courthouses across the country, including the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on Friday January 20, 2012.

Move to Amend volunteers across the USA will lead the charge on the judiciary which created — and continues to expand — corporate personhood rights.

Americans across the country are on the march, and they are marching OUR way. They carry signs that say, “Corporations are NOT people! Money is NOT Speech!” And they are chanting those truths at the top of their lungs! The time has come to make these truths evident to the courts.

Join us Friday, January 20, 2012 at a Federal Court building near you!

when they came after ward churchill

Video - Documentary in Ward Churchill and the little Eichmanns controversy.

Wikipedia | Ward Churchill, former ethnic studies professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder, wrote an essay in September 2001 titled Some People Push Back: On the Justice of Roosting Chickens about the September 11, 2001 attacks, in which he argued that American foreign policies provoked the attacks. He described what he called the "technocratic corps at the very heart of America's global financial empire" in the World Trade Center as "little Eichmanns," i.e. as those who banally conduct their duties in the service of evil.

In response to 2005 publicity from the mass media and in weblogs, Churchill was both widely condemned and widely defended. Some defenders who did not agree with Churchill's analysis and/or with his inflammatory phrasing nonetheless felt that the attacks on Churchill represented efforts at intimidation against academic discourse and suppression of political dissent.

At the height of the controversy, the University ordered an inquiry into Churchill's research, and then fired him on July 24, 2007, leading to a claim from some scholars that he was fired over the ideas he expressed. Churchill filed a lawsuit against the University of Colorado for unlawful termination of employment. In April 2009 a Denver jury found that Churchill was wrongly fired, awarding him $1 in damages. On July 7, 2009, Judge Larry Naves vacated the ruling and determined that the university does not have to rehire or pay Churchill.

Friday, November 25, 2011


Video - Excavating an ant megalopolis

organelle | “The kingdom of the insects on Earth dwarfs our human population to insignificance. Although we share the same surface area, insects are barely aware of human presence unless we swat them, cropdust, step on an ant mound, or examine them under our microscopes. As far as the vast insect world is concerned, contact with humans is a rare and usually traumatic occurrence. Such is the narrow focus of insects.

Likewise, perhaps a species of greater intelligence, greater technology, and much smaller population coexists with us on Earth, living who-knows-where, and only infrequently do they step on our "nests" of humanity, or examine us under their microscopes. Perhaps we cannot even recognize the presence of the "Others" unless it's a case of deliberate interference on their part, a rare and traumatic occurrence. Such is the narrow focus of humans.” — Charles Miller, from Home Field Advantage, The Anomalist: 8, Spring 2000

My own experience is that even a single instance of what we call ‘an insect’ is ‘more than any alien we could invent’, and so are the animals and plants, funguses, bacteria, etc. The unified body of the insectoid intelligence of Terra is so far beyond anything we can model it puts the sum of our fantastic fictions to shame. The problem around Earth is not ‘where are the aliens?’, it’s the opposite: Why is everything everywhere swimming in aliens whose intelligence and prowess we cannot credential?

Allow me to suggest that as a species, humanity is ‘missing a crucial idea’ from our lexicons of ‘what stuff is’. The crucial idea is simple: the game is about transtemporally distributed multi-sentience. Forget competition, that’s a token standing in the way of us seeing what’s actually going on around here.

Now, and for the last 4.5 billion years, the only game in town has been this: pure alien. The unfortunate cause for the ignorance and isolation of our species from each other and our potentials is simple: we’re taught to be xenophobic, and to have hysterically violent responses to novelty. As a species, we enact these ‘ways of knowing’ catastrophically, such that our intelligence actually inverts and becomes a sophisticated mimetic momentum which we are bound to feed and accomplish in our minds and world. The ‘opposite of knowing’ — omnicide.

It is crucial that we understand: we live right now in a universe where a local life-form as ‘simple’ as a slug is already billions of ‘times’ more elegant than the sum of technology our species will ever produce. It’s hard to explain how significant this is, because understanding it clearly changes what a human mind is and may become. The truth of our planet is so beyond our understanding that we must find a way to step outside all of what we’ve come to know, before we can have any hope of glimpsing what is right here, now, accessible and present. We don’t have to discard what we believe we’ve learned, but we do need to be able to set all of it completely aside, and go look — together, in person, at what and who is actually going on around here. It’s nothing like the models we’ve been pretending around. At all.

the arch of metahistory: eternal conflict

Video - Prehistoric figurations of Quetzalcoatl and Tezcatlipoca

metahistory | Both myth and science seem to agree on an ontology in which the universe is catastrophically transformative, from the supernova to the binary star to the Cretaceous Extinction. If science is telling us the truth, then myth has not been lying to us about the war in heaven — William Irwin Thompson, Imaginary Landscape

To create society within the setting of a natural habitat raises many complex issues regarding how human needs may conflict with the environment or harmonize with it. Stories of an original paradisical state or Golden Age may be more than mere fantasies about the mysterious past of humanity. These myths encode the belief that humankind lived without conflict when it was totally immersed in the bond with Sacred Nature. (Basic Reading: Memories and Visions of Paradise)

When it departs from that bond, everything changes.

In the arch of metahistory, the left-hand side represents the long passage from evolutionary roots in prehistory to the recorded origins of civilization. Long before the first evidence of historical origins — for instance, the earliest traces of the first Dynasty in Egypt, dated to around 3400 BCE — the human species had been engaged in defining itself as distinct from nature, forming settlements and societies, introducing culture. The “struggle for survival” involves conflict with nature, but socialization introduces other kinds of conflict. The complexities of power-sharing and the differentiation of individuals according to their capacities present many occasions for strife and confusion. The necessity of leadership in any social order introduces the possibility of conflict over who will assume that role. Conflicts that arise within society are initially assessed and resolved by trial and error, but gradually a sense of order emerges, rules and norms of behavior are established, and society becomes (ideally) a self-regulating organism. This development reflects the theme of Moral Design whose position across the arch is complementary to Eternal Conflict.

Eternal Conflict may be inherent to the cosmos at large, but is it endemic to human nature?

The origin of violent and destructive behavior in the human species has been widely debated through the ages. Renegade psychologist Wilhelm Reich (Suggested Reading) proposed a theory that has recently been upgraded by James DeMeo. According to Reich, “character armoring” is a form of blocked behavior that reverses the life-force (which he called orgone), thus producing a drive toward death and destruction. DeMeo attributes armoring to traumatic stress that occurred in the Old World around 4000 BC due to severe changes in climate. His theory is comprehensively argued in Saharasia, an historical application of Reichian theory that covers 6 millennia of human experience. Like Reich, DeMeo refutes the argument that violence is a tragic flaw innate to homo sapiens. In his view, climatic trauma and territorial loss are enough to provoke intrahuman conflict on a vast scale. [See]

For years, historians assumed that warfare was the primary motive behind civilization, but recent discoveries at the “mother city” of Caral in Peru challenge that theory. (SIDEBAR on Caral). We know precious little about how prehistorical civilized societies managed conflict, but it is fairly certain that War Gods did not appear until full-blown civilization arrived. Hence warfare may not have been so much the catalyst for civilization as a consequence of it. If homo sapiens is truly a social animal, social order could have emerged without the need for violent force to control and subdue human energies. Once it was established, however, stability and continuity might well have become problematic. War and strife could have arisen over the transfer of power consolidated in the social order. This development is reflected in the origin myths of many cultures, stories of war and strife among the Gods or between Gods and humans. The founders of nations are often twins who compete to the death: Horus and Set in Egypt, Romulus and Remus in Italy. Even the creation of the world often begins with a scenario of warring twins. Twinning is a universal mytheme applied in countless instances to describe Eternal Conflict.

In Greek mythology battles between generations of Gods were recorded in the poetic cosmogony of Hesiod: Celestial Gods versus Titans versus Olympians. The script suggests that conflict is generational, a belief restated in the Old Testament in the notion that the sins of the parents are visited on the children. The shift from an earlier generation to a later one exemplifies the transfer of power. The shift is constant, and so the conflict it introduces will be perpetual although the nature of the conflict will change as the generations evolve.

What modern science understands to be opposing principles in nature, such as gravitation and centrifugal force, was commonly represented in ancient myth by battling gods, such as Quetzalcoatl and Tezcatlipoca in MesoAmerican traditions. The traits of these warring deities were often complex, because they simultaneously reflected both forces operating both in nature and in the human psyche. (Aztec Codex)

remember this as you listen to those seeking elective office...,

Video - Complete Thanksgiving Faith and Family Forum in Iowa

Guardian | In most pre-modern cultures, there were two recognised ways of attaining truth. The Greeks called them mythos and logos. Both were crucial and each had its particular sphere of competence. Logos ("reason; science") was the pragmatic mode of thought that enabled us to control our environment and function in the world. It had, therefore, to correspond accurately to external realities. But logos could not assuage human grief or give people intimations that their lives had meaning. For that they turned to mythos, an early form of psychology, which dealt with the more elusive aspects of human experience.

Stories of heroes descending to the underworld were not regarded as primarily factual but taught people how to negotiate the obscure regions of the psyche. In the same way, the purpose of a creation myth was therapeutic; before the modern period no sensible person ever thought it gave an accurate account of the origins of life. A cosmology was recited at times of crisis or sickness, when people needed a symbolic influx of the creative energy that had brought something out of nothing. Thus the Genesis myth, a gentle polemic against Babylonian religion, was balm to the bruised spirits of the Israelites who had been defeated and deported by the armies of Nebuchadnezzar during the sixth century BCE. Nobody was required to "believe" it; like most peoples, the Israelites had a number of other mutually-exclusive creation stories and as late as the 16th century, Jews thought nothing of making up a new creation myth that bore no relation to Genesis but spoke more directly to their tragic circumstances at that time.

Above all, myth was a programme of action. When a mythical narrative was symbolically re-enacted, it brought to light within the practitioner something "true" about human life and the way our humanity worked, even if its insights, like those of art, could not be proven rationally. If you did not act upon it, it would remain as incomprehensible and abstract – like the rules of a board game, which seem impossibly convoluted, dull and meaningless until you start to play.

Religious truth is, therefore, a species of practical knowledge. Like swimming, we cannot learn it in the abstract; we have to plunge into the pool and acquire the knack by dedicated practice. Religious doctrines are a product of ritual and ethical observance, and make no sense unless they are accompanied by such spiritual exercises as yoga, prayer, liturgy and a consistently compassionate lifestyle. Skilled practice in these disciplines can lead to intimations of the transcendence we call God, Nirvana, Brahman or Dao. Without such dedicated practice, these concepts remain incoherent, incredible and even absurd.

But during the modern period, scientific logos became so successful that myth was discredited, the logos of scientific rationalism became the only valid path to truth, and Newton and Descartes claimed it was possible to prove God's existence, something earlier Jewish, Christian and Muslim theologians had vigorously denied. Christians bought into the scientific theology, and some embarked on the doomed venture of turning their faith's mythos into logos.

It was during the late 17th century, as the western conception of truth became more notional, that the word "belief" changed its meaning. Previously, bileve meant "love, loyalty, commitment". It was related to the Latin libido and used in the King James Bible to translate the Greek pistis ("trust; faithfulness; involvement"). In demanding pistis, therefore, Jesus was asking for commitment not credulity: people must give everything to the poor, follow him to the end, and commit totally to the coming Kingdom.

By the late 17th century, however, philosophers and scientists had started to use "belief" to mean an intellectual assent to a somewhat dubious proposition. We often assume "modern" means "superior", and while this is true of science and technology, our religious thinking is often undeveloped. In the past, people understood it was unwise to confuse mythos with logos, but today we read the mythoi of scripture with an unparalleled literalism, and in "creation science" we have bad science and inept religion. The question is: how can we extricate ourselves from the religious cul-de-sac we entered about 300 years ago?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

DHS can't afford to operate the drones "gifted" to them by congress...,

Wired | It was a really thoughtful gesture, but officials with the Department of Homeland Security kinda wish Congress had held onto the gift receipt for those spy drones.

In a gift-giving mix-up that outdoes any of your worst Christmas sweater stories, Congress this past August approved a very generous $32 million appropriation to the DHS for the acquisition of three new Predator drones, meant to bolster the Department’s border-monitoring efforts.

Department officials were surprised, to say the least. See, new Predators weren’t exactly on their surveillance gear wish list.

“We didn’t ask for them,” an unnamed official told the Los Angeles Times.

DHS is already struggling to operate their seven existing drones. Officials acknowledge that they are short on pilots and maintenance — right now, they can only pay to fly the drones five days a week. So now DHS is in a mad scramble trying to figure out how they can successfully incorporate three more vehicles into the roster.

That means more than just pilots: Each drone also requires a maintenance crew, intelligence analysts and pricey satellite bandwidth.

“That is year-by-year, hand-to-mouth living,” another unnamed official said of hard-knock times at the department, which has been forced to move money from other projects just to keep their surveillance initiative, which will eventually boast 18 to 24 drones monitoring U.S. borders and waterways for everything from illegal immigrants to drug runners, operational.

One of the drones is scheduled to be delivered to Corpus Christi, TX today. The other two will be dropped off in Arizona and Florida later this year.

The DHS might not be happy, but the drone endowment will no doubt have some parties squealing with delight: The appropriation was the result of ongoing lobbying from the so-called “Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Caucus,” a group of several dozen congressmen, many of whom hail from Southern California — a hot-bed of drone development and home to General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, the company that makes the Predator drone in question.

Already, General Atomics has scored $240 million from DHS’ Customs and Border Protection since 2005 for the manufacture of the unmanned aerial vehicles — and generously enough, they’ve handed $1.6 million of it over to the campaign funds of several Congressional members on the drone caucus.

“This is a symptom of how surveillance technology is spreading around the U.S.,” Jay Stanley, a senior privacy and technology analyst with the American Civil Liberties Union, said. “A lot of times it is not being pulled by people on the ground. It is being pushed from above by people who want to sell it.”

"it's like a hidden world"...,

WaPo | Hundreds of financially strained military families in the Washington area are lining up for turkeys and free groceries this holiday season, depending on the USO to help put food on the table.

The USO of Metropolitan Washington, the organization’s largest national chapter, has launched food pantries at Fort Meade and Fort Belvoir this year and is planning mobile pantries at other installations. This Thanksgiving, the USO had to cap its annual “turkeys for troops” giveaway at 1,400 families, up from 150 before the economic downturn, a USO spokesman said.

Although military pay is at an all-time high, the stress of the recession and high unemployment among troops’ spouses have sparked a need among active-duty and reservist families, say the USO and other nonprofit groups that help the military. Bread lines have become an unlikely sight on and around military bases.

“It’s like a hidden world,” said Army wife Amy King, 36, who lives at Fort Belvoir. “People automatically assume because we are in the military we have it good, with everything given to us. They don’t understand we have to struggle just like everybody else does.”

Lynn Brantley, president and chief executive of the Capital Area Food Bank, said that her organization decided to reach out to local military families last year after getting desperate calls from soldiers on its emergency hunger hotline. Overall, calls for help to the hotline are up 27 percent this year from last year, Brantley said.

In teaming with the USO, the food bank, the Washington region’s central resource for food for 700 agencies, distributes 6,000 to 8,000 pounds of fresh produce and other items to about 300 families at Fort Belvoir once a month. Some people stand in line for hours beforehand, camping out on lawn chairs and blankets.

Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, military pay has risen faster than pay in the private sector — by 42 percent, compared with 32 percent, according to the Defense Department. In some ways, soldiers, who get good medical benefits and housing allowances, have been more insulated from the poor economy than the general public.

But spouses of relocating troops have had trouble finding jobs; the 26 percent unemployment rate for military spouses is more than twice the national average. Others have quit jobs to stay at home with children when their spouses are deployed. Some National Guard members and reservists have returned to find their positions eliminated, or they lost chances at promotions after multiple deployments.

The strain is beginning to show. Service members and their families, including veterans, retirees and reservists, have used $88 million in food stamps at U.S. commissaries this year, according to the Defense Commissary Agency. That is triple the amount used before the recession.

How Egypt Justifies Its Brutal Crackdown: Occupy Wall Street

Gawker | Two people were killed in Cairo and Alexandria this weekend as Egyptian activists took the streets to protest the military's attempts to maintain its grip on power. And guess how the state is justifying its deadly crackdown.

"We saw the firm stance the US took against OWS people & the German govt against green protesters to secure the state," an Egyptian state television anchor said yesterday (as translated by the indispensable Sultan Sooud al Qassemi; bold ours).

Yeah—it gets harder and harder to maintain a moral high ground when videos like this and pictures like this are unavoidable. But American police haven't killed anyone! Indeed! That's definitely something worth bragging about: so far, cops here have only sent a single person to the hospital with brain damage. U.S.A.! U.S.A.!

Meanwhile, in Egypt, the protesters—mostly young liberal activists and Islamists—are engaging in "running street battles" with police after shutting down Cairo's busiest square. In particular, they're protesting the proposed principles for a new constitution—under which "the military [and its budget] would be exempted from civilian oversight."

Update: Just as we hit "publish" on this post, authorities launched a major assault on Tahrir Square in an attempt to evict it of protesters. Al-Jazeera has a live feed here.

u.c. davis one-time a HUGE gift to the chinese government..,

The Atlantic | Just now from an American living in China:
I've been following the coverage of the UC Davis Pepper Spray incident and I just wanted to bring up another angle.

I first learned about the incident while sitting on the Hong Kong MTR [mass transit system, which of course is superb] en route to Shenzhen (I was flying back to Chengdu where I currently live.) The Hong Kong metro has tv screens, which happened to be showing the news, and my first thought when I saw the video of the policeman pepper-spraying the students was that I must be mis-reading the Chinese subtitles at the bottom of the screen, because there is no way this could be taking place in America.

But my second and longer-lasting impression, was an amazement of how quickly this video had spread had spread throughout the world and how detrimental it was for the US's image. The UC Davis' policeman's actions are a huge gift to the Chinese government, because this gives the Chinese government added ammunition to build a moral equivalency argument between itself and the US (not to the world but to it's own people.) I only speak from experience in China, but I'm sure in many countries, the reaction will be the same. Just another aspect in which this horrible event is a tragedy.
Of course I recognize the hypocrisy of Chinese officials harping on police brutality, when they spend half their time trying to suppress online videos of their police, Chengguan, and riot squads doing the same thing, and much worse, around the country. But as the reader says, that's the point: since when do we benchmark our standards of civil liberties, tolerance for protest, and police-public interactions on those of a one-party Communist state?

More on this in a few hours. For the moment, a reminder that the connectedness of the world and the instantaneous global spread of images have consequences that are unfolding more quickly than anyone can anticipate or make sense of.

the HIDDEN logic of the Occupy Movement

globalguerillas | This is what happens when authority is unaccountable and has lost any sense of human connection to a subject population James Fallows, the celebrated American author and columnist.

It appears that Occupy's extreme non-violence/passivity has finally generated a social system disruption. Videos and pictures showing policemen using violence against passive protesters have gone viral (UC Berkeley students, Grandma, and open mouth were the leading examples). Stories about this violence are now sweeping the media (7,910 news stories over the last 24 hours). Is this going to have a strategic effect?

Let's look at this from the late, great American strategist John Boyd's perspective. The dynamic of Boyd's strategy is to isolate your enemy across three essential vectors (physical, mental, and moral), while at the same time improving your connectivity across those same vectors. It's very network centric for a pre-Internet theoretician. Here's more detail what disconnection looks like:

  • Physical isolation is accomplished by severing communications both to the outside world (ie. allies) and internal audiences (ie. between branches of command and between the command organization and its supporters).

  • Mental isolation is done through the introduction of ambiguous information, novel situations, and by operating at a tempo an enemy cannot keep up with. A lack of solid information impedes decision making.

  • Moral isolation is achieved when an enemy improves its well being at the expense of others (allies) or violates rules of behavior they profess to uphold (standards of conduct). Moral rules are a very important reference point in times of uncertainty. When these are violated, it is very hard to recover.
Was it effective?

Using John Boyd's framework as a guide, this media disruption did have an effect across all three vectors:

  • Physical. No isolation was achieved. The physical connections of police forces remained intact. However, these incidents provided confirmation to protesters that physical filming/imaging of the protests is valuable. Given how compelling this media is, it will radically increase the professional media's coverage of events AND increase the number of protesters recording incidents.

  • Mental. These incidents will cause confusion within police forces. If leaders (Mayors and college administrators) back down or vacillate over these tactics due to media pressure, it will confuse policemen in the field. In short, it will create uncertainty and doubt over what the rules of engagement actually are. IN contrast, these media events have clarified how to turn police violence into useful tools for Occupy protesters.

  • Moral. This is the area of connection that was damaged the most. Most people watching these videos feel that this violence is both a) illegitimate and b) excessive. Watch this video UC Davis Chancellor Katehi walking from her building after the incident. The silence is eerie.
This can be counted as a win for Occupy and a loss for totalitarianism. However, we've been sliding towards totalitarianism for decades (from caged protest zones, storm trooper attire, urban tanks, bans on pictures in public spaces, a plethora of laws/regulations against assembly, Presidential assassination lists, closed courts, no warrant searches, CCTV coverage, attempts to ban private ownership of weapons, SWAT for even tiny cities, indefinite detention, rendition, etc.). So, in relative terms, this is a very small win.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

a uniter, not a divider...,

Townhall | Diversity never held anyone together because people usually bond over their commonalities, not their differences. At one little state-run university, diversity is starting to cause a great campus divide. It all started when the university decided to merge the Physics and Physical Oceanography Department with the Geography and Geology Department. The move will undoubtedly hurt the prestige of the university. But that isn’t the only thing that has people angry. They are also mad because the merger occurred on the heels of an expansion of diversity initiatives and right during the middle of an expansion of the campus recreation center.

This is a touchy topic for me to write about in the midst of a budget crisis. But everyone knows I’m a uniter, not a divider. So, I’ll try to offer some positive solutions free of sarcasm and ridicule. I hate sarcasm and ridicule. I really mean that.

Currently, UNC-Wally World (pseudonym, hereafter: UNCW), has the following offices, which are overseen by the Associate Provost of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion:

1. The Upperman African American Cultural Center;

2. El Centro Hispano;

3. The Women’s Studies and Resource Center;

4. The Multicultural Affairs Office; and

5. The LGBTQIA Office.

My simple plan to save the tax payers money, without ruining the academic reputation of the university, begins with four simple steps:

1. I would merge the Upperman Center with El Centro Hispano and call it El Centro for Racial Unity. There is no need for blacks and Hispanics to be segregated.

2. I would rename the LGBTQIA Office the LGBTQIAX Office. The “X” would stand for ex-gays – a group currently excluded from the list of gender and sexuality minorities.

3. I would merge the LGBTQIAX Office with the Women’s Studies and Resource Center. It would then be called the Gender and Sexuality Studies and Resource Center.

4. I would then merge the three existing centers a) El Centro for Racial Unity b) the Gender and Sexuality Studies and Resource Center and c) the Multicultural Affairs Office. The new office would simply be called The Diversity Office, or El Diversity Office, whichever sounds more welcoming.

Since one office is more manageable than five, we could fire Jose Hernandez, our current Diversity czar, and save his salary. We could replace him with the most competent leader among the departments just eliminated. There would be no need for a high-level administrator to oversee my leaner, but not meaner, El Diversity Office. We could get rid of the six-digit salary Hernandez pulls in – not to mention those of the other four directors we would let go. That would amount to several hundred thousand dollars in savings to the taxpayer. That is more than the paltry $80,000 UNCW plans to save with the controversial Physics, Oceanography, Geography, Geology merger.

Having eliminated four departments, we may now cancel the planned academic merger and expand by making the two existing departments (Physics and Physical Oceanography Department, Geography and Geology Department) into these four departments:

1. Physics Department;

2. Physical Oceanography Department;

3. Geography Department; and

4. Geology Department.

Creating two departments and eliminating four is a net savings for taxpayers. Best of all, it would actually enhance our academic prestige by creating new academic departments where people study real problems instead of “celebrating” imaginary differences.

During the current budget crisis, we have shut the library down for four hours per night in order to save money on lighting and to cut employee payroll. I would end that practice and make the savings up by shutting down El Diversity Office for four hours a day. Some may not like it but that is El Tough Lucko. Our state is in a budget crisis and we need money so we can feed and educate our illegal aliens.

Of course, the remaining issue is where to put the two academic departments formed under my new proposal. I say we make the student recreation center the new home for both. After all, this is a university, not an amusement park. Fist tap Big Don.

diversity a code word for narcissism?

City Journal | California’s budget crisis has reduced the University of California to near-penury, claim its spokesmen. “Our campuses and the UC Office of the President already have cut to the bone,” the university system’s vice president for budget and capital resources warned earlier this month, in advance of this week’s meeting of the university’s regents. Well, not exactly to the bone. Even as UC campuses jettison entire degree programs and lose faculty to competing universities, one fiefdom has remained virtually sacrosanct: the diversity machine.

Not only have diversity sinecures been protected from budget cuts, their numbers are actually growing. The University of California at San Diego, for example, is creating a new full-time “vice chancellor for equity, diversity, and inclusion.” This position would augment UC San Diego’s already massive diversity apparatus, which includes the Chancellor’s Diversity Office, the associate vice chancellor for faculty equity, the assistant vice chancellor for diversity, the faculty equity advisors, the graduate diversity coordinators, the staff diversity liaison, the undergraduate student diversity liaison, the graduate student diversity liaison, the chief diversity officer, the director of development for diversity initiatives, the Office of Academic Diversity and Equal Opportunity, the Committee on Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation Issues, the Committee on the Status of Women, the Campus Council on Climate, Culture and Inclusion, the Diversity Council, and the directors of the Cross-Cultural Center, the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Resource Center, and the Women’s Center.

It’s not surprising that the new vice chancellor’s mission is rather opaque, given its superfluity. According to outgoing UCSD chancellor Marye Anne Fox, the new VC for EDI “will be responsible for building on existing diversity plans to develop and implement a campus-wide strategy on equity, diversity and inclusion.” UCSD has been churning out such diversity strategies for years. The “campus-wide strategy on equity, diversity and inclusion” that the new hire will supposedly produce differs from its predecessors only in being self-referential: it will define the very scope of the VC’s duties and the number of underlings he will command. “The strategic plan,” says Fox, “will inform the final organizational structure for the office of the VC EDI, will propose metrics to gauge progress, and will identify potential additional areas of responsibility.”

What a boon for a taxpayer-funded bureaucrat, to be able to define his own portfolio and determine how many staff lines he will control! UC Berkeley’s own vice chancellor for equity and inclusion shows how voracious a diversity apparatchik’s appetite for power can be. Gibor Basri has 17 people working for him in his immediate office, including a “chief of staff,” two “project/policy analysts,” and a “director of special projects.” The funding propping up Basri’s vast office could support many an English or history professor. According to state databases, Basri’s base pay in 2009 was $194,000, which does not include a variety of possible add-ons, including summer salary and administrative stipends. By comparison, the official salary for assistant professors at UC starts at around $53,000. Add to Basri’s salary those of his minions, and you’re looking at more than $1 million a year.

UC San Diego is adding diversity fat even as it snuffs out substantive academic programs. In March, the Academic Senate decided that the school would no longer offer a master’s degree in electrical and computer engineering; it also eliminated a master’s program in comparative literature and courses in French, German, Spanish, and English literature. At the same time, the body mandated a new campus-wide diversity requirement for graduation. The cultivation of “a student’s understanding of her or his identity,” as the diversity requirement proposal put it, would focus on “African Americans, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, Hispanics, Chicanos, Latinos, Native Americans, or other groups” through the “framework” of “race, ethnicity, gender, religion, sexuality, language, ability/disability, class or age.” Training computer scientists to compete with the growing technical prowess of China and India, apparently, can wait. More pressing is guaranteeing that students graduate from UCSD having fully explored their “identity.” Why study Cervantes, Voltaire, or Goethe when you can contemplate yourself? “Diversity,” it turns out, is simply a code word for narcissism. Fist tap Big Don.

intelligence is more important that working hard...,

Business Insider | For 99.9% of you, clicking on this link will be very depressing.

It's a NYT op-ed by professors David Z. Hambrick and Elizabeth J. Meinz which points out what what matters in life isn't effort or hard work: What matters in life is raw intelligence, and either you got it or you don't. Here's the nut of it:

Research has shown that intellectual ability matters for success in many fields — and not just up to a point.

Exhibit A is a landmark study of intellectually precocious youths directed by the Vanderbilt University researchers David Lubinski and Camilla Benbow. They and their colleagues tracked the educational and occupational accomplishments of more than 2,000 people who as part of a youth talent search scored in the top 1 percent on the SAT by the age of 13. (Scores on the SAT correlate so highly with I.Q. that the psychologist Howard Gardner described it as a “thinly disguised” intelligence test.) The remarkable finding of their study is that, compared with the participants who were “only” in the 99.1 percentile for intellectual ability at age 12, those who were in the 99.9 percentile — the profoundly gifted — were between three and five times more likely to go on to earn a doctorate, secure a patent, publish an article in a scientific journal or publish a literary work. A high level of intellectual ability gives you an enormous real-world advantage.
The authors go on to cite their own research conducted on pianists, which showed that when it comes to sight-reading ability, practice doesn't matter as much as "working memory" capacity does.

What's interesting here is how un-popular this idea is. Malcolm Gladwell had a huge hit with his book on outliers, which basically argued that the real key to extreme success was just putting a bunch of hours into the work.

The kind of research also makes people uncomfortable, since it means that not everyone who wants to be great can be, and that there are probably some limits to how far we should go to cultivate talent, etc. Fist tap Big Don.

the role of genetic selection in rising black IQ since 1900

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robertlindsay | Since 1900, Blacks have been selecting for something that is increasing head size and also creating a more progressive phenotype that looks more like White people. The increased head size alone maybe have been due to diet, but maybe not totally. At the same time, there was a dramatic rise in IQ in US Blacks. It’s logical to marry the increased head size and progressive phenotype with increased Black IQ.

There may have been many things going on. This started in the late 1800′s, after the First Black Liberation. Blacks were living in segregation. Black males may have selected Black females with a progressive phenotype who they thought were more attractive. These females were probably also more intelligent for a reason I will relate below.

Black females may have selected Black males with progressive phenotypes for similar reasons. In addition, Black males with more progressive phenotypes were probably more intelligent, since progressive phenotypes are associated with increased IQ.

In addition, in segregation, lighter skilled Black males who looked more White would be more likely to “pass.” In segregated society, the Whiter looking Blacks in color or phenotype were more intelligent and were more likely to rise to the top of segregated Black society, which had plenty of doctors, lawyers and other professionals. Black females may have selected more successful Black males as mates.

All we can see is a selection on the part of either or both sexes of Blacks, for more progressive phenotype, which also no doubt had a higher IQ since the two things relate. Fist tap Big Don.