Sunday, July 15, 2018

What To Make Of Mueller's Hacking Indictment

moonofalabama |  Assessment:
  • It is not by chance that this indictment was published now,  a few days before the first summit between Donald Trump and the Russian President Vladimir Putin and shortly before the successful soccer world championship in Russia ends. The release intends to sabotage the talks.
  • The indictment describes a wide ranging operation but includes zero proof of anything it alleges.
  • Mueller likely hopes that the indictment will never come in front of a court. The alleged stuff would be extremely difficult to prove. Any decent lawyer would ask how the claimed information was gained and how much of it was based on illegal snooping by the NSA. Something the U.S. would hate to reveal.
  • It is unlikely that there will ever be a trial of these cases. The indicted persons are all Russians in Russia and none of them is likely to be stupid enough to follow an invitation to Las Vegas or to Disney World.
But who knows?

lawfareblog |   Before turning to what the indictment alleges, and what we can learn from it, it’s worth zooming out to an important macro point about the investigation that led to this action: This was the investigation over which the president of the United States fired James Comey as FBI director.

This is the investigation Comey confirmed on March 20, 2017, when he told Congress, “I have been authorized by the Department of Justice to confirm that the FBI, as part of our counterintelligence mission, is investigating the Russian government's efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.”

This was also the investigation that multiple congressional committees have spent more than a year seeking to discredit—most recently Thursday, when two House panels hauled the former deputy assistant director of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Department, Peter Strzok, a career FBI agent who worked on the Russia probe, up to Capitol Hill for 10 hours of public, televised, abusive conspiracy theorizing. When the president of the United States derides the Mueller investigation as a “witch hunt,” and when congressional Republicans scream at FBI agents, this is the investigation they are trying to harass out of existence.

It is, therefore, fitting that this indictment comes less than one day after the astonishing display House Republicans put on in the Strzok hearing. If Mueller had been trying to remind the public of what the investigation is really about and what the stakes are in it, if he had been trying to make a public statement in response to the Strzok hearing, he could not have timed this action better.

The Peter Principle: Top People - Thought Leadership

consortiumnews |  If FBI agent Peter Strzok were not so glib, it would have been easier to feel some sympathy for him during his tough grilling at the House oversight hearing on Thursday, even though his wounds are self-inflicted. The wounds, of course, ooze from the content of his own text message exchange with his lover and alleged co-conspirator, Lisa Page.
Strzok was a top FBI counterintelligence official and Page an attorney working for then-FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.  The Attorney General fired McCabe in March and DOJ has criminally referred McCabe to federal prosecutors for lying to Justice Department investigators.

On Thursday members of the House Judiciary and Oversight/Government Reform Committees questioned Strzok for eight hours on how he led the investigations of Hillary Clinton’s unauthorized emails and Donald Trump’s campaign’s ties with Russia, if any.

Strzok did his best to be sincerely slick.  Even so, he seemed to feel beleaguered — even ambushed — by the questions of Republicans using his own words against him. “Disingenuous” is the word a Republican Congresswoman used to describe his performance.  Nonetheless, he won consistent plaudits from the Democrats. He showed zero regret for the predicament he put himself into, except for regret at his royal screw-up in thinking he and Lisa could “talk about Hillary” (see below) on their FBI cellphones and no one would ever know.  One wag has suggested that Strzok may have been surreptitiously texting, when he should have been listening to the briefing on “Cellphone Security 101.”

In any case, the chickens have now come home to roost.  Most of those chickens, and Strzok’s predicament in general, are demonstrably the result of his own incompetence.  Indeed, Strzok seems the very embodiment of the “Peter Principle.” FBI agents down the line — that is, the non-peter-principle people — are painfully aware of this, and resent the discredit that Strzok and his bosses have brought on the Bureau.  Many are reportedly lining up to testify against what has been going on at the top.

It is always necessary at this point to note that the heads of the FBI, CIA, NSA and even the Department of Justice were operating, as former FBI Director James Comey later put it, in an environment “where Hillary Clinton was going to beat Donald Trump.”  Most of them expected to be able to stay in their key positions and were confident they would receive plaudits — not indictments — for the liberties that they, the most senior U.S. law enforcement officials, took with the law.  In other words, once the reality that Mrs. Clinton was seen by virtually everyone to be a shoo-in is taken into account, the mind boggles a lot less.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Mueller's Harebrained Indictment of Russians Is Pure Political Theater...,

TCTH  |  The indictment is a grand exposition in explaining something without a single citation of factual evidence for how they arrived at the multitude of conclusions.
Consider this takeaway from a left-wing group who love the indictment:
“The indictment is impressive in its detail and the specificity of its allegations. It shows that Mueller has developed extremely good evidence. Where is it coming from?” 
You see, that’s the rub…. there is not a single piece of information explaining how Robert Mueller’s team arrived at their indictment conclusion.   Just lots of conclusions.

Again, I repeat: the FBI was never allowed access to the DCCC, DNC and Clinton Campaign servers?

Obviously, it helps when the listed names on the indictment will never actually be indicted or come before a U.S. court to challenge the assertions.  It’s very convenient for the DOJ to be able to make claims, knowing: A) no-one in media will demand the source evidence; and B) none of the accused will ever show up to be tried.

This announcement, and the indictment itself, is pure propaganda.

The entire narrative is based on a story; and it is a story; that can never be proved.

The biggest “risk” to the deep state is any entity who focuses on the DOJ and FBI abuse of the NSA and FBI database in 2015 and 2016.  They were conducting political opposition research using FISA-702(16)(17) searches of collected information.

Along with FBI compartmented SCIF’s, the DOJ-NSD was the hub for the corrupt officials doing those illegal searches.  This is not in question.  It happened:

It's Written All Over Your Face - You Don't Have To Say A Word...,

Friday, July 13, 2018

Optimizing the Human Supply Chain

nakedcapitalism |  No, though this is about as good — and as neoliberal — as it gets (even though the phrase “human supply chain” is not used). I don’t agree that “The key to any market correctly operating is information.” For one thing, “correctly” is doing a lot of work in that sentence. For another, the key to the way markets operate is not information, but power. I mean, does Prepscius really believe that “reputational enhancement…, risk mitigation[,] and workforce retention” pose “significant business value” when put beside profit?

All of which brings me to the single, solitary on-point source I was able to find: Fordham’s Jennifer Gordon’s “Regulating the Human Supply Chain,” 446 Iowa Law Review, Vol. 102:445-503 (pdf)[5]. I highly recommend that anybody who has read this far give Gordon a look. From the abstract:
In 2015, the number of migrant workers entering the United States on visas was nearly double that of undocumented arrivals—almost the inverse of just 10 years earlier. Yet notice of this dramatic shift, and examination of its implications for U.S. law and the regulation of employment in particular, has been absent from legal scholarship.
This Article fills that gap, arguing that employers’ recruitment of would-be migrants from other countries, unlike their use of undocumented workers already in the United States, creates
a transnational network of labor intermediaries—the “human supply chain”—whose operation undermines the rule of law in the workplace, benefitting U.S. companies by reducing labor costs while creating distributional harms for U.S. workers, and placing temporary migrant workers in situations of severe subordination. It identifies the human supply chain as a key structure of the global economy, a close analog to the more familiar product supply chains through which U.S. companies manufacture products abroad. The Article highlights a stark governance deficit with regard to human supply chains, analyzing the causes and harmful effects of an effectively unregulated world market for human labor.
That’s the stuff to give the troops! And here is a worked example, from page 472 et seq. I apologize for the length, but it’s lovely because all of the links in the chain are displayed:
Apple Fresh is a (fictitious) apple cider maker in Washington State…. Like all employers, Apple Fresh is responsible for ensuring that its employees’ wages, benefits, and working conditions comport with legal and contractual minimums. It must also pay social-security premiums on its employees’ behalf and cover their unemployment and workers’ compensation insurance. … As part of its effort to meet those demands, Apple Fresh decides to outsource its apple pressing to one of several food processors in the market, Presser Inc., which can produce the cider more cheaply and efficiently. Once it signs a contract with Presser, Apple Fresh is released from responsibility for the social insurance and many of the working conditions of the workers who press its apples, because it is no longer their employer. Presser now bears those obligations. …
In year two of the contract, Presser decides to try to decrease turnover and increase its profit margin by using temporary migrant workers to staff its plant. Its owner had been contacted not long before by the U.S. agent of a labor-recruitment firm in Mexico City…
Oooh, lookie. Rent-seeking intermediaries!

The Future of Humankind

medium |  Okay, so we’re not talking about entire brain transplants. There’s a joke that the only organ that’s better to donate than to receive is the brain.

No, no, no, just pieces.

Might people add brain tissue for extra IQ points?

For it to be used in healthy people, it has to be exceptionally safe. But I could imagine that being quite safe.
I think doing experiments on humanlike artificial intelligence would be unethical.

Are there applications of these brain organoids to artificial intelligence?

Oh, that’s the fourth category. The human brain is pretty far ahead of any silicon-based computing system, except for very specialized tasks like information retrieval or math or chess. And we do it at 20 watts of power for the brain, relative to, say, 100,000 watts for a computer doing a very specialized task like chess. So, we’re ahead both in the energy category and in versatility and out-of-the-box thinking. Also, Moore’s law is reaching a plateau, while biotechnology is going through super-exponential growth, where it’s improving by factors of 10 per year in cost/benefit.

Currently, computers have a central processing unit (CPU), often accompanied by specialized chips for particular tasks, like a graphical processing unit (GPU). Might a computer someday have an NPU, or neural processing unit — a bit of brain matter plugged into it?

Yeah, it could. Hybrid systems, such as humans using smartphones, are very valuable, because there are specialized tasks that computers are very good at, like retrieval and math. Although even that could change. For example, now there’s a big effort to store information in DNA. It’s about a million times higher-density than current silicon or other inorganic storage media. That could conceivably in the future be something where biological systems could be better than inorganic or even hybrid systems.

At what size should we think about whether lab brains deserve rights?

All of these things will at some point be capable of all kinds of advanced thinking. I think doing experiments on humanlike artificial intelligence would be unethical as well. There’s this growing tendency of computer scientists to want to make them general purpose. Even if they’re what we would call intellectually challenged, they would have some rights. We may want ways of asking them questions, as in a Turing test, but in this case, to make sure we’re not doing something that would cause pain or anxiety.

Will we ever develop into something that calls itself a new species? And could there be branching of the species tree?

It’s a little hard to predict whether we’ll go toward a monoculture or whether we’ll go toward high diversity. Even if we go toward high diversity, they could still be interbreedable. You look at dogs, for example. Very high diversity, but in principle, any breed of dog can mate with any other dog and produce hybrid puppies. My guess is that we will go toward greater diversity and yet greater interoperability. I think that’s kind of the tendency. We want all of our systems to interoperate. If you look into big cities, you’re getting more and more ability to bridge languages, to bridge cultures. I think that will also be true for species.

Do you think your greatest contribution to humanity will be something you’ve done, or something you’ve yet to do?

Well, I hope it’s something I have yet to do. I think I’m just now getting up to speed after 63 years of education. Aging reversal is something that will buy me and many of my colleagues a lot more time to make many more contributions, so you might consider that a meta-level contribution, if we can pull that off. The sort of things we’re doing with brains and new ways of computing could again be a meta thing. In other words, if we can think in new ways or scale up new forms of intelligence, that would lead to a whole new set of enabling technologies.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Survival of the Richest

Grinnell |  Officially, the eugenics movement ended for the most part by the end of the Baby Boom, as proven by the closure of most official eugenics organizations. Unfortunately, the eugenics movement has been replaced by a slightly modified neo-eugenics movement, which also believes that characteristics or traits such as poverty, criminality, and illegitimacy are signs that a person is unfit to reproduce. The difference is that neo-eugenicists believe that these traits are passed on not genetically, but through culture and environment. This movement recognizes that traits like poverty and illegitimacy are not actually included in the genetic code, but it has many of the same effects as the original eugenics movement.

Neo-eugenics developed during the Civil Rights Movement, a time when white privilege was clearly threatened in the United States.[3] These neo-eugenicists were concerned with preserving the white race, which ironically now included southern and eastern Europeans, who had earlier been considered the greatest threat to the purity of white America. Currently, neo-eugenics rarely targets white women, regardless of their socioeconomic status, but instead focuses its attention on recent immigrants, blacks, and Mexicans, among others.

In the 1970s, the eugenics movement began to focus its attention on other underprivileged groups of people. Physicians employed by the Indian Health Service, who were supposed to be providing medical care for Native American women, forcibly sterilized somewhere between 25 and 42 percent of Native American women of childbearing age. At the same time, women on welfare who had an illegitimate child were often punished by forced sterilizations immediately after giving birth. The eugenicists and physicians who performed this procedure justified it by saying that “those who accepted government assistance should submit to government oversight and conform to mainstream, white middle-class values and gender roles.”[4] Anyone who did not follow the social rules of middle-class white men could be subject to forced sterilization.

Unfortunately, the neo-eugenics movement has not disappeared from the American consciousness. Between 2006 and 2010, 148 women incarcerated in California prisons were illegally and forcibly sterilized through the use of tubal ligations.[5] Only since 1979 have forced sterilizations been forbidden in California, and although these women were clearly wronged, there are still many supporters of these practices for women in prison.[6]

Despite the fact that eugenic ideas still permeate much of American society, statistics show that fertility levels are declining in most of the world. If current trends continue, in the near future half of the human population will be at the replacement level of fertility, or 2.1 children per set of parents.[7] If all humans eventually began to reproduce at exactly the replacement level of fertility, the entire world population would stabilize and we would not see the exponential human population growth that we are currently experiencing. The United States is currently at almost exactly the replacement level of 2.1 children per family, and any increases in the national population are due almost exclusively to immigration and higher life expectancies, not incredibly high birth rates.

Also Sprach Zarathustra

jstor |  Eugenics straddles the line between repellent Nazi ideas of racial purity and real knowledge of genetics. Scientists eventually dismissed it as pseudo-scientific racism, but it has never completely faded away. In 1994, the book The Bell Curve generated great controversy when its authors Charles Murray and Richard J. Herrnstein argued that test scores showed black people to be less intelligent than white people. In early 2017, Murray’s public appearance at Middlebury College elicited protests, showing that eugenic ideas still have power and can evoke strong reactions.

But now, these disreputable ideas could be supported by new methods of manipulating human DNA. The revolutionary CRISPR genome-editing technique, called the scientific breakthrough of 2015, makes it relatively simple to alter the genetic code. And 2016 saw the announcement of the “Human Genome Project–write,” an effort to design and build an entire artificial human genome in the lab.

These advances led to calls for a complete moratorium on human genetic experimentation until it has been more fully examined. The moratorium took effect in 2015. In early 2017, however, a report by the National Academies of Sciences and National Academy of Medicine, “Human Genome Editing: Science, Ethics, and Governance,” modified this absolute ban. The report called for further study, but also proposed that clinical trials of embryo editing could be allowed if both parents have a serious disease that could be passed on to the child. Some critics condemned even this first step as vastly premature.

Nevertheless, gene editing potentially provides great benefits in combatting disease and improving human lives and longevity. But could this technology also be pushing us toward a neo-eugenic world?

As ever, science fiction can suggest answers. The year 2017 is the 85th anniversary of Brave New World, Aldous Huxley’s vision of a eugenics-based society and one of the great twentieth-century novels. Likewise, 2017 will bring the 20th anniversary of the release of the sci-fi film Gattaca, written and directed by Andrew Niccol, about a future society based on genetic destiny. NASA has called Gattaca the most plausible science fiction film ever made.

In 1932, Huxley’s novel, written when the eugenics movement still flourished, imagined an advanced biological science. Huxley knew about heredity and eugenics through his own distinguished family: His grandfather Thomas Huxley was the Victorian biologist who defended Darwin’s theory of evolution, and his evolutionary biologist brother Julian was a leading proponent of eugenics.
Brave New World takes place in the year 2540. People are bred to order through artificial fertilization and put into higher or lower classes in order to maintain the dominant World State. The highest castes, the physically and intellectually superior Alphas and Betas, direct and control everything. The lower Gammas, Deltas, and Epsilons, many of them clones, are limited in mind and body and exist only to perform necessary menial tasks. To maintain this system, the World State chemically processes human embryos and fetuses to create people with either enlarged or diminished capacities. The latter are kept docile by large doses of propaganda and a powerful pleasure drug, soma.
Like George Orwell’s 1984, reviewers continue to find Huxley’s novel deeply unsettling. To Bob Barr, writing in the Michigan Law Review, it is “a chilling vision” and R. S. Deese, in We Are Amphibians, calls its premise “the mass production of human beings.”

Genetic Analysis Of Social Class Mobility

pnas |  Our analysis suggests three take-home messages. The first take-home message is that genetics research should incorporate information about social origins. For genetics, our findings suggest that estimates of genetic associations with socioeconomic achievement reflect direct genetic effects as well as the effects of social inheritance correlated with genetics. Future genetic studies of social attainment can refine inferences about direct genetic effects by including measures of social origins in their study designs. The same is true for genetic studies of other phenotypes, because childhood socioeconomic circumstances are implicated in the etiology of many different traits and health conditions (5456). Such analysis will help clarify interpretation of studies that analyzed GWAS data and found evidence of genetic overlap between educational attainment and several biomedical phenotypes (57, 58). The advent of national biobanks and other large genetic datasets is increasing the power of GWAS to map genetic risks. Research to investigate how much of the genetic risk measured from GWAS discoveries arises within a single generation and how much accrues from social inheritance correlated with genetics across successive generations is needed.

The second take-home message is that social science research should incorporate information about genetic inheritance. For the social sciences, our findings provide molecular evidence across birth cohorts and countries of genetic influence on social attainment and social mobility. This evidence supports theory in the social sciences that frames genetics as one mechanism among several through which social position is transmitted across generations (9, 20, 21, 59). These theories imply that genetic factors can confound estimates of social environmental effects. However, because genetics have been difficult to measure, studies addressing these theories have had to estimate genetic contributions to attainment indirectly, while other social science research has simply ignored the problem. Now, genetically informed theories of social attainment and mobility can be revisited, tested, and elaborated using molecular genetic data available in an ever-growing array of genetically informed social surveys and longitudinal cohort studies.

Beyond theory, integration of measured genetic inheritance into research on social mobility can add value in at least three ways. First, genetic controls can improve the precision of estimates of environmental effects (11, 14), e.g., of how features of parents’ social circumstances shape children’s development. Second, genetic measurements can provide a starting point for developmental investigations of pathways to social mobility (16, 60), e.g., to identify skills and behaviors that can serve as targets for environmental interventions to lift children out of poverty. Third, genetic measurements can be used to study gene–environment interplay; e.g., how policies and programs may strengthen or weaken genetic and nongenetic mechanisms of intergenerational transmission (61). In our analysis, modeling effects of social origins attenuated genetic-effect sizes by 10–50%, depending on the outcome and cohort. This variation is consistent with evidence that genetic influences on individual differences may vary across cultures and cohorts and across stages of the life course (62, 63). Research is needed to understand how molecular genetic effects on socioeconomic attainment may operate differently across environmental, historical, or economic contexts and the extent to which they may wax or wane across adult development.

The third take-home message is that genetic analysis of social mobility can inform programs and policies that change children’s environments as a way to promote positive development. The genetics we studied are related to socioeconomic attainment and mobility partly through channels that are policy-malleable. Personal characteristics linked with the attainment-related genetics we studied involve early-emerging cognitive and noncognitive skills, including learning to talk and read, act planfully, delay gratification, and get along with others (10, 16). These skills represent intervention targets in their own right, for example by policies and programs that safeguard perinatal development and provide enriching, stable family and educational environments (64). A significant contribution of our study is that the nongenetic social and material resources children inherit from their parents represent a further mechanism linking genetics and attainment over the life course. Policies and programs cannot change children’s genes, but they can help give them more of the resources that children who inherit more education-linked genetics tend to grow up with. Our findings suggest that such interventions could help close the gap. The next step is to find out precisely what those resources are.

A long-term goal of our sociogenomic research is to use genetics to reveal novel environmental intervention approaches to mitigating socioeconomic disadvantage. The analysis reported here takes one step toward enabling a study design to accomplish this. We found that measured genetics related to patterns of social attainment and mobility, partly through direct influences on individuals and partly through predicting the environments in which they grew up. Specifically, parents’ genetics influence the environments that give children their start in life, while children’s own genetics influence their social mobility across adult life. As we learn more about how genetics discovered in GWAS of education influence processes of human development that generate and maintain wealth and poverty, we can identify specific environments that shape those processes. Ultimately, this research approach can suggest interventions that change children’s environments to promote positive development across the life-course.

California's Number One Citizen Was A White Supremacist

timeline |  Charles M. Goethe invested a lot of money and philanthropy into Northern California. His environmental work earned him a prestigious park in his name, not to mention a school and some shiny plaques. He did good. He also believed white people were the superior race and needed to biologically quarantine themselves from diseased, delinquent Mexicans. If he could prevent brown people from procreating all together, even better.

At the time, this version of white supremacy didn’t stop politicians, educators, and community leaders from singing his praises. In fact, by mid century, Goethe’s name (pronounced “gay-tee”) was everywhere, enshrined in public parks and schools around the state capital. But after his death, and after decades of sanitizing the past, Goethe’s troubling legacy tumbled out.

American eugenics simmered in the early 20th century, then boiled into the 1920s and 1930s. Goethe was a strong force in advancing the conversation. He feared that Nordic people’s historical “contributions to all mankind” were under threat by “the coming of heterogeneity.” Under a guise of protecting this group, who, in California he interpreted as the state’s earliest pioneers, he founded the Immigration Study Commission in the early 1920s. Its target was “low powers,” otherwise known as Mestizos and Mexicans, that were infecting the nation’s “germ plasm,” according to Eugenic Nation: Faults and Frontiers of Better Breeding in Modern America (2015).

In 1927, he wrote to the Santa Cruz Sentinel, “The Anglo-Saxon birthrate is low. Peons multiply like rabbits….If race remains absolutely pure, and if an old American-Nordic family averages three children while an incoming Mexican peon family averages seven, by the fifth generation, the proportion of white Nordics to Mexican peons descended from these two families would be as 243 to 16,807.”

Goethe lobbied to close the border and instructed his real-estate brokers not to sell to Mexican people, who he viewed as sub-intelligent criminals.

Eugenics gave “the more suitable races or strains of blood a better chance of prevailing speedily over the less suitable,” according to one of its founders, Francis Galton. Eugenicists inferred that heredity proved humans were inherently unequal, and race was the primary marker of not only inferior and superior genes but also of social supremacy. Leaders in the movement claimed brown and black populations suffered from inferior health due primarily to intrinsically flawed biology. But the wealth and social influence enjoyed by Anglo-Saxon populations was proof of a vast intellectual edge, too. To protect whites from “contamination” was considered, by eugenicists, a noble cause in the purification of the human race.

Already a member of several influential eugenics organizations, in 1933 Goethe organized and funded the Eugenics Society of Northern California. Over two decades, he lectured and lobbied with the goal of “reducing biological illiteracy.” During this time, he invested an estimated $1 million to publish pamphlets on racial superiority, family planning, tantrums against racial diversity, and other topics he considered related. In a 1936 presidential address to the national Eugenics Research Association, Goethe publicly defended Nazi Germany’s “honest yearnings for a better population” and proclaimed the country’s sterilization strategy as “administered wisely, and without racial cruelty.” (Two years earlier, Germany had sterilized roughly 5,000 people per month. Hitler praised America’s forced sterilization campaigns, such as Goethe’s, for the idea.) In his speech, Goethe emphasized the duty of Nordic nations to sterilize the “markedly social inadequate, such as those insane, blind, criminal by inheritance.” Between 1907 and 1940, tens of thousands of mostly poor women were involuntarily sterilized in the U.S. At least 20,000 Californians residing in state prisons and hospitals were sterilized before 1964, with laws supported by Goethe.

What made Goethe unique at the time wasn’t necessarily his white supremacist beliefs; it was the fact that he interwove racial pseudoscience with progressive tentpole issues, such as conservation and public education. Throughout his lifetime, he designated several redwood preserves, built playgrounds, financed an orphanage, established ranger programs, contributed to San Francisco’s Academy of Sciences planetarium, and, with his wife Mimi, was considered the founder of the interpretive parks movement. Each of these he considered a step toward the purification of a safer, cleaner, more wholesome, and white America.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Admit You Don't Like Poor People...,

medium |  In the sociological literature on poverty, there are ample studies and papers about the ways that being poor impacts the brain. Stress, malnutrition, and exposure to the kinds of environmental contaminants that often accompany lower-income neighborhoods (Flint’s lack of clean water or the poor air quality in schools around highways) can have serious neurological impacts on people living on the economic margins.

Less studied, however, is the impact that poverty—seeing it, knowing about it, thinking about it—has on the brains of people who are not poor.

This is also an important area of study, though, particularly as cities and states attempt to maneuver unprecedented wealth inequality and homelessness. Perceptions of poverty (and, as a result, perceptions of scarcity) have substantial impacts on the way we collectively think, act, vote, and legislate.

And often, we don’t bother to examine them.

This is clear in community meetings about new affordable housing or homeless shelters, wherein self-proclaimed “concerned” neighbors begin every testimony with something along the lines of “I care about the homeless! I really do! But…” and then follow their opener with something that expresses an unfounded bias about people living in poverty.

“…I’m worried about increases in crime.”
“…why do we have to pay for their housing?”
“…they’ll just trash it!”
“…how will I explain them to my children?”

These sentiments — which assume that homeless individuals are criminals, that they’re freeloaders, that their very existence is somehow damaging to children — are not based in research, nor do they account for the complexity of socioeconomic status. They are, instead, based on a reaction to poverty and scarcity that is intimately linked to our own survival mechanisms.

Just as humans grapple with implicit biases with regard to race, gender, size, and a host of other differences, it’s clear from the research that does exist, as well as the anecdotal evidence playing out in communities around the country right now, that witnessing poverty and perceiving scarcity creates biases in people who are not poor.

But again, like racial- and gender-based discrimination, cognitive reactions aren’t an excuse for acting on those biases.

Mammy's Little Baby Loves Quesadillas...,

nakedcapitalism |  In our last post on “illegals,” we looked at the odd refusal, by the press, to call the capitalist employers of illegal migrants “illegals.” Today, I want to work out a similar kink in the discourse by looking at the nannies who are employed by the professional class on up (that is, by the 0.1% and the 9.9%). The supply chain and labor market for migrants, illegal or not, is insanely complicated, and so I’m only going to look at nannies, and not at yard men, construction workers, restaurant workers, factory workers, etc. The complexity also makes solid numbers hard to come by. But there are generalizations that we can make, as we shall see. After making those generalizations, we’ll conclude with some telling anecdotes.

“Nannies” were first weaponized in political discourse during the Clinton administration (as retrospectively we might expect, since Clinton represented and embodied the then fresh ascendancy of the professional classes (the 9.9%) in the Democrat Party). “NannyGate” derailed Clinton’s nominations of corporate lawyer Zoë Baird and Federal Judge Kimba Wood for Attorney General, Baird because she employed an illegal migrant after it was illegal to employ them and didn’t pay the nanny’s taxes, Wood because she employed an illegal migrant even though when she did it was legal to do so. “The Nannygate matter caused wealthy Americans to ask each other if they too had a ‘Zoë Baird problem’, as the hiring of illegal aliens and the paying of household help off the books were both commonplace.” And so — speculating freely — we have solved that potential optics problem with the ubiquituous nanny brokers (“agencies”) of today, chat boards that share tips for explain the risks of hiring nannies, all of which are filled with “I don’t, but I have heard that others do” comments. 

As far as the class angle goes, the median hourly wage for all nannies in the United States is $14.59 an hour (in New York, $17.63). The median hourly wage (pause for toothgrinding calculation) for all occupations is $18.12. Taking income as a proxy for class, and assuming that being a nanny is a full time job, it seems reasonable to conclude that the working class (the 90%) isn’t hiring nannies (except perhaps for labor aristocrats)[1]. That means that the labor market for nannies is made by the 9.9% and the 0.1%; they are the ones doing the hiring.

So let’s take a look at that labor market. It would not be fair to say that all, or even most, nannies are illegal migrants. (The illegality comes in at another angle, which I’ll get to.) From GTM Payroll Services in 2015, and taking “maids and housekeepers” as a proxy for nannies:
According to a Pew Research Center study published last year, there were 8.1 million unauthorized immigrants either working or looking for work in 2012. The study also shows that the largest number of unauthorized immigrant workers are found in service occupations, which include maids, cooks, or groundskeepers. In fact, maids and housekeepers account for 25% of undocumented workers within those occupations. These employees make up a critical part of our economy.
We have no numbers for nannies hired illegally by the 0.1%, but we do have telling anecdotes, as of this from Hollywood actress and producer Amber Heard. (The median yearly salary for a Hollywood produder is “just $66,121.”) From TMZ:
The actress took to Twitter just after midnight on Tuesday and said, “Just heard there’s an ICE checkpoint in [H]ollywood, a few blocks from where I live. Everyone better give their housekeepers, nannies and landscapers a ride home tonight.”
“Everyone,” eh? Some in the 0.1% (those who don’t hire elite nannies) might actually prefer hiring nannies illegally, since that gives them more leverage. Reading between the lines:

Truth is Treason in the Empire of Lies

theburningplatform |  The forces of tyranny are winning. Our banking, financial, political, and media structures are wracked by corruption and controlled by a “few” insiders for the benefit of themselves and their cronies. Smedley Butler said war was a racket, but every institution is now a racket, with a corrupt powerful cadre of evil men reaping riches at the expense of the many. Their rackets are based upon nothing but lies and the continued blissful ignorance of the masses to their flagrant criminal activities.

The dark side of human nature has been on full display as the country has been hijacked by organizations run by psychopaths like Brennan, Clapper, Comey, Soros, Dimon, Bernanke, Paulson, Rubin, Zuckerberg, Bezos and a multitude of lesser known, but equally dangerous, psychopaths infecting government, business and the media.

Those pulling the strings of our ever-degrading society share many of the same traits – superficially charming, pathologically deceitful, manipulative, accepting no responsibility for their actions, lacking empathy, absence of guilt, no humility, dishonest, treacherous, having a grandiose sense of self-worth, and prone to dangerous destructive risk taking. These are the people who rise to power when citizens become lazy, disinterested, willfully ignorant, distracted by social media, dumbed down by government run education, and easily led to believe falsehoods peddled by a media doing the bidding of the psychopaths in power.

Just listen to Brennan or Clapper on fake news CNN or MSNBC to get a glimpse of psychopaths in action. It’s almost as if they believe their own lies. The faux journalist millionaires questioning these scumbags aren’t paid by their corporate masters to uncover the truth, but perpetuate the narrative of lies.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Ate El Salvadoran Twice This Past Weekend - Oh My Gawd....,

Counterpunch |  U.S. pundits and politicians just discovered, it seems, that Washington’s decisions harm Central American families. For the New York Times, “separating families…is something new and malicious,” reflecting Trump’s “heartlessness” and violating “fundamental American values.” “This, apparently, is how you turn off the idea of America,” Alex Wagner (The Atlantic) added. The Los Angeles Times thinks “the administration’s cold-hearted approach to enforcement has crossed the line into abject inhumanity,” departing– so we’re to believe– from past practice.

These are half-accurate charges: Trump’s policy is malicious, heartless, cold-hearted. But it isn’t new. Both in Central America and along its Mexican border, Washington has helped rip apart families for decades, forcing children to endure a world without their parents, mothers to cope with their children’s sickening ends. Abject inhumanity, in other words, is a U.S. foreign policy hallmark.

Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras– review their histories. You’ll be crushed by evidence revealing which values shape Washington’s conduct, which norms govern its behavior in a region where it enjoys immense influence. And you’ll begin to understand why many had to flee these countries. Start with Guatemala. Ríos Montt, the dictator the U.S. funded, armed, and encouraged, oversaw the Mayan genocide there. In one episode, on April 3, 1982, the Guatemalan army overran the village of Chel, slaughtering its residents and orphaning Pedro Pacheco Bop, whose great-grandfather, parents, and five siblings (aged two to 14) were all murdered, their blood draining into the Chel River where the troops hurled the dead. Tomas Chávez Brito was two years old when the army fell upon his village, Sajsibán, seven months later, torching his home with his mother, sisters, and other family members inside. In the mountains, where Tomas hid for the following year eating plants to survive, one can only imagine how the idea of orphanhood, his new reality, settled in his mind. Margarita Rivera Ceto de Guzmán’s family separation was quicker. Soldiers knifed her in the stomach, killing her unborn child.

Egla Martínez Salazar, addressing this genocide, explains that assaults on Maya households conveyed “the message that Mayas did not live in ‘real’ families, but rather in ‘living arrangements’ that constituted breeding spaces for ‘international communist indoctrination.’” Erasing these spaces required “the mass murder of children,” plus “the forced transfer of surviving Maya children to military and paramilitary families,” tactics Salvadoran forces also adopted in the 1980s. Apart from killing most of the 75,000 slain there from 1980-1992– the stretch when Carter, Reagan, and Bush I funneled $6 billion into the country– “soldiers [also] abducted children in what an international court says was a ‘systematic pattern of forced disappearances.’” 

Why Isn't The Law Being Enforced On Replacement Negroe Lovers?

nakedcapitalism |  As readers know, I deprecate the (informal: disparaging and dffensive) noun “illegals,” not only because it’s a slippery slope to “frugals,” “orals,” “regals,” and so forth, but because I can’t think of a good reason to insult people who are, often courageously, trying to improve their own lives and those of their families. (“Scab,” of course, is another pejorative for people with similar motives. So, for that matter, is “banker.” It’s complicated!) In any case, it’s these migrants[1] presence that’s illegal, not they themselves, so, heck, maybe it’s all just an innocent case of metonymy…. In this post, I want to straighten out not these, but another small kink in our political discourse, which shows up when you read this story from the Times carefully. The headline:
An ICE Raid Leaves an Iowa Town Divided Along Faith Lines
Parenthetically, and just for the record, allow me to insert this photo of a church congregation that became a crossroads for families and supporters of the men detained in the workplace raid in that small town:
I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I have the nagging feeling there’s something about that picture inconsistent with an important liberal Democrat construct, identity politics. Close parenthesis.

Immediately I asked, as one should ask, why is faith the chosen dividing line? After all, you can slice and dice a human population as many ways as you can a pineapple, or a cake. Could it be that there’s another, more interesting “divide” that the reporter’s choice elides?

The reporter, slicing the pineapple by faith, ignores the question of law. We know who is subject to the law: The migrants, caught up in the raid. Is there anybody in the story who is not subject to the law? Why, yes. Yes, there is:
No charges have been filed against the owners of the Midwest Precast Concrete plant in Mount Pleasant that was raided. An ICE spokesman declined to comment, citing a continuing investigation.
So, the elite have impunity when they break the law; et in Mount Pleasant ego. We know this, of course, from the Crash, so no surprises here. Oddly, or not, the reporter, when interviewing business owners, doesn’t raise this point:

Monday, July 09, 2018

A Crisis of Humanity

Medium |  Last year, I got invited to a super-deluxe private resort to deliver a keynote speech to what I assumed would be a hundred or so investment bankers. It was by far the largest fee I had ever been offered for a talk — about half my annual professor’s salary — all to deliver some insight on the subject of “the future of technology.”

I’ve never liked talking about the future. The Q&A sessions always end up more like parlor games, where I’m asked to opine on the latest technology buzzwords as if they were ticker symbols for potential investments: blockchain, 3D printing, CRISPR. The audiences are rarely interested in learning about these technologies or their potential impacts beyond the binary choice of whether or not to invest in them. But money talks, so I took the gig.

After I arrived, I was ushered into what I thought was the green room. But instead of being wired with a microphone or taken to a stage, I just sat there at a plain round table as my audience was brought to me: five super-wealthy guys — yes, all men — from the upper echelon of the hedge fund world. After a bit of small talk, I realized they had no interest in the information I had prepared about the future of technology. They had come with questions of their own.

They started out innocuously enough. Ethereum or bitcoin? Is quantum computing a real thing? Slowly but surely, however, they edged into their real topics of concern.

Which region will be less impacted by the coming climate crisis: New Zealand or Alaska? Is Google really building Ray Kurzweil a home for his brain, and will his consciousness live through the transition, or will it die and be reborn as a whole new one? Finally, the CEO of a brokerage house explained that he had nearly completed building his own underground bunker system and asked, “How do I maintain authority over my security force after the event?”

The Vast Fortune Behind Trump's Immigration Regime

splinternews |  Tanton’s individual persistence was at bottom made possible by the greater persistence of wealth across generations in the United States, coming to fruition in the hundreds of millions of dollars that Cordelia Scaife May left to the Colcom Foundation when she died. What endures is not any individual or personality but capital and institutions. Tanton’s best political skill was not his analysis or his rhetoric but his ability to flatter wealthy racists. He was not a great theoretician or leader or organizer, but an adroit servant of capital’s class interests, for this is how the capitalist class exerts power—not by engaging in democratic politics, but by creating a bulwark against it.

Ironically, Tanton recognized this dynamic himself, however accidentally, in his striving for an essentially American identity. “I think there is such a thing as an American culture, however difficult it may be to define,” he once mused. “For instance, the United States is the most philanthropic society on the face of the earth, and most of the work that FAIR and our opponents do is supported by philanthropy. Few, if any, other cultures have developed the idea of public philanthropy as strongly as we have here.”

What he failed to recognize is that the very idea of public philanthropy as it is practiced in the United States of America is wholly the creation of the American plutocracy—wealthy industrialists and corporate scions seeking ways to consolidate and protect their money over time. While the practice of establishing private family trusts and foundations and of spending copious amounts of money on ostensibly philanthropic (though in fact political) causes is now commonplace among the capitalist class, it was not always so. The first of these, the Rockefeller Foundation, was formed in 1913; a century later, according to political scientist Robert Reich, there were over 100,000 private foundations in the United States, controlling over $800 billion. “The tax code turned many extraordinarily wealthy families, intent upon preserving their fortunes, into major forces in America’s civic sector,” Jane Mayer writes in Dark Money. “In order to shelter themselves from taxes, they were required to invent a public philanthropic role.”

Scaife, were the beneficiaries of two charitable trusts of $50 million each, structured such that, after 20 years of donating all net income from the trusts to nonprofit charities, the siblings would receive their $50 million principals. Their mother did the same in 1961, setting up a pair of $25 million trusts, and again in 1963, setting up another $100 million in trusts for her grandchildren. Mellon Scaife, who once called a reporter for the Columbia Journalism Review a “fucking Communist cunt,” would go on to make some $1 billion in political and philanthropic contributions over a 50-year period, anticipating the Koch brothers’ current reign and shaping the right-wing of American politics for half a century. In a secret memoir, obtained by Mayer, Mellon Scaife gloated, “Isn’t it grand how tax law gets written?”

There is deep and horrible irony in Mellon family money, which powered American imperialism in Central and South America and which grew as a result of that imperial expansion, now being spent to denigrate and punish the children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the men and women whose countries the Mellons helped to colonize, who now come to the United States seeking respite from their nations’ ruin. For people like Tanton and Scaife May or organizations like FAIR and CIS, the point is not to purge the United States of immigrants wholly but to ensure the continued immiseration and suffering of the poor and the dispossessed—the most destitute of whom, it is no accident, are mostly people of color.

The activity of the Tanton network and the support it has received from one of America’s oldest imperial families shows above all how one faction of the ruling class, at least, imagines it can create a permanent underclass from which to extract value: first, by dehumanizing migrants in the minds of the citizens; then, by allowing them to sell their labor to employers across the country; and finally, in the prisons and detention centers where they are housed until deportation, and the cycle begins anew. In turn, this contributes to the continued creation of a massive population of surplus labor, which puts downward pressure on wages for all workers.

Sunday, July 08, 2018

Highly Regarded Incompetent Democrat Negroe Stooge Politician

Guardian |  Kansas City is booming. Employers and investors have poured into the midwestern city since the recession. At least $1bn has gone into its sparkling new downtown, revitalized arts district and shiny new condos. So why is Sly James, its highly regarded outgoing mayor, so unhappy?

James, who steps down in July 2019, is leaving office with a sense of disappointment that despite Kansas City’s obvious accomplishments, the city’s recovery has left one large section of society behind: African Americans.

About 30% of Kansas City’s population is black. Every month, seemingly, Donald Trump uses Twitter to trumpet how well black people have done under his presidency. Nationwide African American unemployment is now 6.5%, down from a peak of 16.8% at the height of the recession.
But national numbers in a country as big as the US can be misleading. For many African Americans in the Kansas City area, the spoils of a roaring recovery have passed them by.

“The impact of all things racial has left neighborhoods divided and segregated and that leads to a perpetuation of things like poverty and lack of opportunity,” says James, adding he would “have to disagree [with anyone] who says that the real African American unemployment situation is 5.9%”.

Kansas City may boast an unemployment rate of 3.6%. But take the city’s Blue Hills neighbourhood. Blue Hills is 91% African American and the unemployment rate is 17%. Neighbouring Ivanhoe is 86% African American and the unemployment rate is even higher, at 26%.

Saturday, July 07, 2018

Failure Migration

unz  |  The victory of Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) in the recent Mexican presidential election likely means an increase in immigration to the United States. AMLO has called immigration a “human right that we will defend” and will probably continue the Mexican government’s meddling in American affairs. AMLO has also reportedly promised to demand “respect” from President Trump and the United States, which probably means less cooperation in stopping Central American migrants from moving through the country. [Mexican populist Lopez Obrador triumphs in presidential race, by Sabrina Rodriguez, Politico, July 1, 2018] If Mexico continues its decline into lawlessness or goes into recession, immigration from Mexico itself will sharply increase.

The ironic result of all this: the worse Mexico performs, the more powerful that nation becomes. Many nominal American citizens believe their first loyalty is with Mexico. Though they don’t want to live there, they don’t want to surrender their identity. [Not a country, not even a team, by Gregory Hood, American Renaissance, June 26, 2018] Exporting its underclass to the U.S. spares Mexico and other Latin American countries the need for internal reform. As Tucker Carlson recently put it: “America is now Mexico’s social safety net, and that’s a very good deal for the Mexican ruling class”. [Mexican presidential candidate calls mass migration to US a “human right,” by Dominic Mancini, Daily Caller, June 22, 2018]

Furthermore, Mexico and other Latin American countries continue to benefit from the endless flow of remittances from the U.S. America is literally paying welfare benefits to illegal aliens (if only for their anchor babies), some portion of which they then proceed to send home [Cutting welfare to illegal aliens would pay for Trump’s wall, by Paul Sperry, New York Post, March 10, 2018].

This phenomenon should be termed “Failure Migration.” The lower a people’s level of civilizational accomplishment, the more that people is able to expand its influence.

Law and Order is Sympathetic to Profit

Counterpunch |  To reverse angles, one need not be a self-affirmed racist to have complied with ‘red-lining’ or ‘white-flight’, only protecting your home value as banks and tax codes made fit.  In fact, a recent survey on immigration found Americans (along with Canadians) the mosttolerant among 27 polled countries, of non-native speakers, the unemployed, felons, radicals, or ethnic groups, so long as they’re citizens.  I’m not altogether sold, but we might not be the irreparable bigots we seem. According to the findings, ‘the US has a very legalistic vision of what it is to be an American’.[i]  (Of course, Nikki Haley stood it on its head when she told the UN it was ‘ridiculous to look at poverty in the world’s richest nation’.  Apparently just as citizenship welcomes our most-poor, it denies them outside protection.)

Thus it’s pertinent to ask, in both cases, should we be looking at conceptions of race and poverty, or of law enforcement and state-power to understand mass-incarceration or the police’ rising body count?

Consider the FBI memo that invented ‘Black Identity Extremism’ (BIE) the same time it granted them right to oppress it. ‘Racism’, in which case, is literally a state-authored fiction, as the group only exists on FBI records. Moreover, as with the ‘blue lives matter’ bill which makes resisting arrest a hate crime, their (straw) premise is that racism ‘goes both ways’.  I’d prefer that were true, since, as stray individuals, we’d have limited ability to act on it.  But it’s not. Racism has a definition: prejudice plus power.

Unlike BIE, ‘SIR’ (state-invented racism) and ‘CRP’ (capitalist-powered racism) have been the constant since answering the mixed ranks of poor in Bacon’s Rebellion with the 1705, Virginia Slave Codes, our first official color-line.  Since then, occasionally its been lifted due to public reckoning.  But it’s never been imposed without the help of some authority, be it state, judicial, or investment capital.  ‘Law and order’ is sympathetic to profit.  The Slave-trade launched our banking system, and the plantation supplied the organizational model for the corporate firm.ii  Post-slavery, fomenting racism was and remains an indispensable strike-breaker.

This doesn’t apply only to blacks.  Today, corporations open our borders to cheap, bracerolabor that it can throw away when its worn, or dares lift its head, while coaxing us to blame the workers.  Or stuff them in jail, along with 1 in 10 African-Americans.  After all, wrenching kids from their parents precedes our deranged president.

It’s ironic though, that the free-market is putting labor in cages, like the slave-market did.

Friday, July 06, 2018

Retail Zombie Apocalypse Exponentially Greater Than Vacancy Rates Indicate

WolfStreet |  Another regional long-established department-store chain bites the dust. One in an endless series. The 16 Magic Mart stores in West Virginia, Virginia, and Kentucky, plus a distribution center and the company’s headquarters will be closed and liquidated, according to Ammar’s, Inc., a family-owned company that owns the stores and started with its first store 97 years ago.

In a letter to employees, the company blamed “continued inadequate sales leading to substantial financial losses,” and “difficult economic conditions that continue to persist in the markets we operate.” All locations will be closed “sometime around November 1.”

And then those stores, many of them located in less than booming environments, will become vacant.

Department stores have been hardest hit by online retail. Among them, regional chains have been hardest hit. Bon-Ton Stores – which operates department stores in 23 states under the brands of Bon-Ton, Bergner’s, Boston Store, Carson’s, Elder-Beerman, Herberger’s, and Younkers – is now in the process of being liquidated. 24,000 employees are losing their jobs. Numerous smaller chains have shut their doors. Among the national chains, store closures have been widespread: Macy’s, Sears, Kmart, J.C. Penney, etc. have closed thousands of large stores over the past few years. Smaller stores and specialty stores are shutting down across the country. And these stores become vacant.

Landlords have to find other tenants in this environment, or find another purpose, such as redeveloping them for use by chain restaurants, or bulldozing them and building office buildings or apartment buildings or whatever on the land.

Bon-Ton combined with Toys ‘R’ Us – which closed its remaining stores on Friday – occupied nearly 60 million square feet of retail space. Every square inch is now being vacated.

And there’s some handwringing about the so-called “vacancy rate” in the retail sector – a deceptively low measure for reasons that we’ll get to in a moment.

The retail vacancy rate rose to 8.6% in Q2, the highest since 2012, according to data from real-estate research firm Reis Inc., cited by MarketWatch. By comparison, the peak since the Financial Crisis was 9.4% in Q3 2011:
The impact is especially severe among strip malls and other neighborhood and community shopping centers, which suffered their worst quarter in nine years. About 3.8 million square feet of space was emptied from April to June, pushing the vacancy rate for this type of mall up to 10.2%, Reis said.
Note the magnitude: 3.8 million square feet were “emptied out.” This is tiny compared to the 60 million square feet emptied out by just Bon-Ton and Toys ‘R’ Us.

This is why the “vacancy” data, as unappetizing as they may be, aren’t in a steep swoon, though you’d expect them to be, given the rampant store closures.