Tuesday, May 31, 2011

the man-child born of a virgin

TSMATC | Describing the growth of the mushroom ( boletos), Pliny says: “the earth produces first a ‘womb’ (vulva) . . . and afterwards (the mushroom) itself inside the womb, like a yolk inside the egg; and the baby mushroom is just as fond of eating its coat as is the chicken. The coat cracks when (the mushroom) first forms; presently, as it gets bigger, the coat is absorbed into the body of the footstalk (pediculi) . . . at first it is flimsier than froth, then it grows substantial like parchment, and then the mushroom. • is born. 1 More prosaically, perhaps, the process is thus described by a modern mycologist: “In the genus Amanita a membrane surrounds the young fungus. In addition to this wrapper or volva there is another membrane, stretching from the margin of the cap and joined to the stem, as in the mushroom. Thus it is as if the “button stage” were surrounded by an outer skin. As the fungus develops this is torn apart. If its texture is sufficiently tenacious to hold it together, it is left as a cup at the base of the stem . . . With growth the membrane covering the gills tears and is left as a ring on the stem.” Of the Amanita phalloides, the writer adds: “Before the volva breaks the fungus looks somewhat like a pigeon’s egg half-buried, or like a small phallus ‘egg’. It is common in glades in woods and adjoining pastures after the first summer rains, and continues through early autumn.”2 It was the fertilization of the “womb” that most puzzled the ancients, and remained a mystery until the end of the last century. To Pliny the fungus had to be reckoned as one of the “greatest of the marvels of nature”, since it “belonged to a class of things that spring up spontaneously and cannot be grown from seed”.3 It was surely “among the most wonderful of all things” in that it could “spring up and live without a root”.4 Until the invention of the microscope the function of the spore, produced by each fungus in its millions, could not be appreciated. The mushroom has, indeed, no seed in the accepted sense, germinating and giving out a root and later a stem apex with or without seed leaves. The walls of each minute spore extrude to form thread-like tubes which branch further until all mass together to form the spongy flesh of the fungus. The result is neither animal nor vegetable, and the mystery of its proper classification persisted until relatively modern times. Thus a sixteenth-century naturalist wrote: “They are a sort of intermediate existence between plants and inanimate nature. In this respect fungi resemble zoophytes, which are intermediate between plants and animals.”5 One explanation for the creation of the mushroom without apparent seed was that the “womb” had been fertilized by thunder, since it was commonly observed that the fungi appeared after thunderstorms. Thus one name given them was Ceraunion, from the Greek keraunios, “thunderbolt”. Another was the Greek hudnon, probably derived from Sumerian *UD_NUN, “storm—seeded”.6 It was thus uniquely-begotten. The normal process of fructification had been by-passed. The seed had not fallen from some previous plant, to be nurtured by the earth until in turn it produced a root and stalk. The god had “spoken” and his creative “word” had been carried to earth by the storm-wind, angelic messenger of heaven, and been implanted directly into the volva. The baby that resulted from this divine union was thus the “Son of God”, more truly representative of its heavenly father than any other form of plant or animal life. Here, in the tiny mushroom, was God manifest, the “Jesus” born of the Virgin “the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation • . in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell . . .“ (Col I:15ff.). The phallic form of the mushroom matched precisely that of his father, whom the Sumerians called ISKUR, “Mighty Penis”, the Semites Adad, or Hadad, “Big—father”, the Greeks Patër-Zeus, and the Romans Jupiter, “Father-god”.7 To see the mushroom was to see the Father, as in Jesus the uncomprehending Philip was urged to look for God: “He who has seen me has seen the Father. . . Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in me?” (John 14:9ff.). Even the detutns recognized him as “the Holy One of God” (Mark 1:24), and it was as “the Holy Plant” that the sacred fungus came to be known throughout the ancient world. The slimy juice of the mushroom which, in some phalloidic species, spills over the “glans” and clown the stem, seemed to the ancients like the viscous exudation of the genital organs prior to coitus and the seminal discharge at orgasm. The Hebrew word for “smooth, slimy” derives from a Sumerian phrase meaning “semen running to waste”,8 and figures in a number of biblical allusions to the mushroom.9 It was otherwise known as “spittle”, and Job asks if there is any taste in the “spittle of the mushroom” (as we should now read the name of that plant) (Job 6:6).10 To have “spittle in the mouth” was a euphemism in the Jewish Talmud for “semen in the vagina”, ll and the close relationship between the two fluids resulted in the very widespread belief that spittle had strong curative and prophylactic properties. Thus, as human semen was a cure for scorpion stings, according to Pliny,12 spittle was a repellent to snakes and an antidote to snake venom.13 Jesus is pictured making a clay poultice to lay over the eyes of the man born blind (John 9:6), mixing his spittle with dust, as Pliny reports that saliva used each morning as an eye ointment cured ophthalmia.14 Rain, the semen of the god, was spurted forth from the divine penis at his thunderous orgasm in the heavens, and was borne as “spittle” from the lips of the glans to earth on the storm wind.15 It was a unique concentration of this powerful spermatozoa in the juice of the “Holy Plant” that the Magi believed would give anyone anointed with it amazing power. They could “obtain every wish, banish fevers, and cure all diseases without exception”.16 So the Christian, the “smeared or anointed one”, received "knowledge of all things” by his “anointing from the Holy One” (I John 2:20). Thereafter he had need of no other teacher and remained for evermore endowed with all knowledge (v. 27). Whatever the full ingredients of the Christian unction may have been, they would certainly have included the aromatic gums and spices of the traditional Israelite anointing oil: myrrh, aromatic cane, cinnamon, and cassia, all representing the powerful semen of the god. Under certain enclosed conditions, a mixture of these substances rubbed on the skin could produce the kind of intoxicating belief in self-omniscience referred to in the New Testament. Furthermore, the atmosphere of the oracular chamber would be charged with reek of sacred incense consisting of “sweet spices, stacte, and onycha, and galbanum, sweet spices with pure frankincense . . .“ (Exod 30:34), giving the kind of overpowering hypnotic effect referred to by an early Christian writer when he speaks of “the frenzy of a lying soothsayer” as a “mere intoxication produced by the reeking fumes of sacrifice”.17 That these ingredients formed only part of the sacred incense formula is well known. Josephus says there were thirteen elements,18 and the Talmud names eleven, plus salt, and a secret “herb” which was added to make the smoke rise in a vertical column before spreading outwards at the top.19 With the characteristic shape of the mushroom in mind, we can hazard a fair guess now at this secret ingredient. Knowledge and healing were two aspects of the same life-force. If to be rubbed with the “Holy Plant” was to receive divine knowledge, it was also to be cured of every sickness. James suggests that anyone of the Christian community who was sick should call the elders to anoint him with oil in the name of Jesus (Jas 5:14). The Twelve are sent out among their fellow-men casting out demons and anointing the sick with oil (Mark 6:13). Healing by unction persisted in the Church until the twelfth century,20 and the anointing of the dying, the so-called “extreme unction” has persisted in the Roman Catholic Church to this day.21 The principle behind this practice remains the same: the god’s “seed—of— life”, semen, found in spring or rain water, in the sap or resins of plants and trees, and above all in the slimy mucus of the mushroom imparts life to the ailing or the dead.

who was jesus?

Video - Jesus/Yehoshua/Joshua: "The Teacher of Righteousness" an Essene Healer crucified in 88 BCE

JohnAllegro.org | John Marco Allegro (born in London 17 February 1923, died 17 February 1988) was a freethinker who challenged orthodox views on the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Bible and the history of religion.

After service in the Royal Navy during World War II, Allegro started to train for the Methodist ministry but transferred to a degree in Oriental Studies at the University of Manchester. In 1953 he was invited to become the first British representative on the international team working on the recently discovered Dead Sea Scrolls in Jordan. The following year he was appointed assistant lecturer in Comparative Semitic Philology at Manchester, and held a succession of lectureships there until he resigned in 1970 to become a full-time writer. In 1961 he was made Honorary Adviser on the Dead Sea scrolls to the Jordanian government.

Allegro’s thirteen books include The Dead Sea Scrolls (1956), The Treasure of the Copper Scroll (1960), The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross (1970) and The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Christian Myth (1979) as well as Discoveries in the Judaean Desert of Jordan vol. V (1968) and numerous articles in academic journals such as the Journal of Biblical Literature, Palestine Exploration Quarterly and Journal of Semitic Studies, and in the popular press.

Four main issues brought Allegro into contention with other scholars:

Access to the scrolls
The Copper Scroll
What the scrolls reveal about the origin of Christianity
Controversial ideas about language, religion and mythology.


John Allegro understood from the start that the job of the editing team was to make the Dead Sea scroll texts available to scholars everywhere, and he believed their message mattered to everyone.

The scrolls had been written around or shortly before the time of Jesus. They give insight into the religious life and thought of a Jewish sect based at Qumran by the Dead Sea and usually identified as Essenes. Allegro believed the scrolls could help us understand the common origin of three religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam. He hoped they might be able to bring together scholars of each tradition in studying their common heritage without the barriers of religious prejudice.

This would mean making the texts accessible to all. Allegro had published the sections of text allotted to him in academic journals as soon as he had prepared them, and his volume (number five) in the official series Discoveries in the Judaean Desert of Jordan was ready for the press by the early 1960s. He continually campaigned for the publication of all scroll texts. However, his colleagues took a different approach, and little else appeared until 1991.

Allegro saw himself as a publicist for the scrolls. His books, talks and broadcasts promoted public interest in the scrolls and their significance. At first, the rest of the team encouraged his efforts, which after all were intended to help fund their research. But they thought he went too far in raising questions about the parallels between Essenism and Christianity, and doing so in public. He was accused of stirring up controversy at the expense of scholarship.


The controversy over the Copper Scroll deepened the rift between Allegro and the team. At the request of the authorities, Allegro had arranged for the scroll to be cut open in Manchester over the winter of 1955/56. He supervised the opening and made a preliminary transcription and translation of the contents. He found it to be a list of Temple treasure hidden at various locations around Qumran and Jerusalem, most probably after the sack of Jerusalem in AD 70. Initial excitement turned to poison when the team falsely accused Allegro of leaking information to the Press and later of pre-empting the official translation by publishing his own version first. In fact the team had already issued a preliminary translation, and Allegro held his book back to let the official version take precedence. But he could not in honesty support the official interpretation of the Copper Scroll as a work of fiction, and later scholars have endorsed his view that the treasure was real.


John Allegro believed that Essenism was the matrix of Christianity. There were so many correspondences between the scroll texts and the New Testament – words and phrases, beliefs and practices, Messianic leadership, a teacher who was persecuted and possibly crucified – that he thought the derivation obvious. This brought him into conflict with the Catholic priests on the editing team, and with most church spokesmen, who maintained the orthodox assumption that the arrival of Jesus was the unique, historical, god-given event described in the Gospels. Allegro suggested it might be less unique and miraculous than they said. He also started to look in more depth at the way the New Testament appeared to weave together a mix of folklore, myth, incantation and history, and to ask why.


As a philologist, Allegro analysed the derivations of language. He traced biblical words and phrases back to their roots in Sumerian, and showed how Sumerian phonemes recur in varying but related contexts in many Semitic, classical and other Indo-European languages. Although meanings changed to some extent, Allegro found some basic religious ideas passing on through the genealogy of words. His book The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross relates the development of language on our continent to the development of myths, religions and cultic practices in many cultures. Allegro believed he could prove through etymology that the roots of Christianity, as of many other religions, lay in fertility cults; and that cultic practices, such as ingesting hallucinogenic drugs to perceive the mind of god, persisted into Christian times.

The reaction to The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross ruined Allegro’s career. The church found his theory so shocking that the book received instant condemnation instead of scholarly appraisal.

Allegro went on to write several other books exploring the roots of religion; notably The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Christian Myth, which relates Christian theology to Gnostic writings, classical mythology and Egyptian sun-worship in the common quest for divine light.

To sum up, John Allegro believed the Dead Sea Scrolls raised issues that concerned everyone. It wasn’t just a matter of dusty manuscripts and disputed translations – the story of the scrolls raised questions about freedom of access to evidence, freedom of speech, and freedom to challenge orthodox religious views. He believed that through understanding the origins of religion people could be freed from its bonds to think for themselves and take responsibility for their own judgements.

[Sourced from: John Marco Allegro, the Maverick of the Dead Sea Scrolls by Judith Anne Brown; pb. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, 2005.]

jesus was a mushroom?

Video - Allegro (RIP) was one of the chaps who completely translated and released documents granted to him called The Dead Sea Scrolls.

Wikipedia | As a philologist, Allegro analysed the derivations of language. He traced biblical words and phrases back to their roots in Sumerian, and showed how Sumerian phonemes recur in varying but related contexts in many Semitic, classical and other Indo-European languages. Although meanings changed to some extent, Allegro found some basic religious ideas passing on through the genealogy of words. His book The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross relates the development of language on Eurasia to the development of myths, religions and cultic practices in many cultures. Allegro believed he could prove through etymology that the roots of Christianity, as of many other religions, lay in fertility cults; and that cultic practices, such as ingesting hallucinogenic drugs to perceive the mind of god, persisted into Christian times.

The reaction to The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross ruined Allegro's career.[3] His detractors considered his somewhat sensationalist approach deplorable and his arguments somewhere between unconvincing and ludicrous. Prof J. N. D. Anderson observed that the book was "dismissed by ... experts...as not being based on any philological or other evidence that they can regard as scholarly."[4] Sumerian expert Anna Partington summarized some of the problems, stating that The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross "uses a number of hypothetical Sumerian words not attested in texts. These are marked with an asterisk following philological convention. This is akin to proposing there is a word in the English language 'bellbat' because the individual words 'bell' and 'bat' are known to exist separately. Then again words of different languages are gathered together without the type of argument which would be expected in order to demonstrate possible relationship."[5]

However, Allegro's work has been adopted by some alternative authors. In May 2006, Michael Hoffman of egodeath.com and Jan Irvin wrote an article for The Journal of Higher Criticism[6] entitled Wasson and Allegro on the Tree of Knowledge as Amanita [7] that suggested that Allegro's work should be evaluated on its merits like that of any other scholar and not dismissed merely because its arguments fall outside the mainstream. In 2008 Prof. John Rush of Sierra College published Failed God [8] that also gives heavy support for Allegro's theories. In November 2009 The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross was reprinted in a 40th anniversary edition with a preface by Jan Irvin, a foreword by Judith Anne Brown, and a 30 page addendum by Prof. Carl A.P. Ruck of Boston University with new linguistic evidence that supports Allegro's theories.[9]

"The concerted and biased attempts to destroy Allegro's discoveries have failed. The confirmatory evidence is mounting in his favor. The critics can now raise their voices again. Let us hope that they do, since the matter is not settled, but they should be advised to do so with more careful consideration. This book that many have prized in secret is now available again. It demands the serious consideration of theologians, mythologists, and students of religion. No account of the history of the Church, both West and East, can afford to leave the poor despicable fungus unconsidered, nor the role that entheogens in general have played in the evolution of European civilization." ~ Professor Carl A. P. Ruck, Boston University

Allegro went on to write several other books exploring the roots of religion; notably The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Christian Myth, which seek to relate Christian theology to Gnostic writings, classical mythology and Egyptian sun-worship in the common quest for divine light.

Allegro believed the Dead Sea Scrolls raised issues that concerned everyone. It wasn't just a matter of dusty manuscripts and disputed translations. Rather, the story of the scrolls raised questions about freedom of access to evidence, freedom of speech, and freedom to challenge orthodox religious views.

"... with the unhappy record of the church for destroying documents and whole libraries of which it disapproved, as well as its predeliction for controlling the reading habits and opportunities of the faithful, one can only continue to be apprehensive about the church's attitude when religiously sensitive information comes into its hands,..." [10]

Allegro believed that through understanding the origins of religion people could be freed from its bonds to think for themselves and take responsibility for their own judgments.

Monday, May 30, 2011

little pigs, little pigs, hide'ya gold...,

Video - Max Keiser on the gold confiscators eyeing Greece, Portugal, Spain and Italy.

i love the smell of napalm in the morning...,

Video - Colonel Kilgore's hellicopter attack on a Vietnamese village

RoofbrainChatter | Most of my writing, like that of some others, is not addressed to what things mean, but to issues involved in the fact that no amount of clarity regarding what things mean can take one across the gap separating one how things mean from another how things mean.

Recently brought to my attention is an exceptional piece of research and writing by the Japanese scholar, Shigehisa Kuriyama working at the Nomura Institute for Studies in the History of Medicine located in Tokyo (apparently written in English, based on original sources in ancient Greek, Chinese and Japanese: THE EXPRESSIVENESS OF THE BODY and the Divergence of Greek and Chinese Medicine. N.Y.: Zone Books, 1999). In sections entitled Styles of Touching, Styles of Seeing, and Styles of Being, he explores the extraordinary differences in perception of the body, the world, and the selfhood in interplay with evolving medical models by consideration of medical palpation, presence or absence of symptom reference to muscles, and so on. The period of reference is about 400 BC to 200 AD in both China and Greece (including the Mawangdui medical texts unearthed in 1993 in a Western Han tomb which are the earliest known and date to the period before emergence of acupuncture in Chinese medicine).

Mostly, this book would be interesting particularly to those who are into studying details of Chinese medical model and traditional modes of thought and awareness. One of the footnotes, I found particularly interesting and confirmatory of suspicions I have voiced, but have been unable to document.

Quoting No. 102, p. 300: “Albrecht Dihle thus notes that the Homeric term menos comes ‘indeed very near to the modern notion of will,’ but adds that menos ‘does not belong to the normal or natural equipment of man according to Homeric psychology.’ It comes from the gods, as ‘an additional gift, provided only on a special occasion and not supposed to become a lasting part of the person…’ (THE THEORY OF THE WILL IN CLASSICAL ANTIQUITY [Berkeley: U.C. Press, 1982, p.34]). We may recall in a related vein, how Homer's Agamemnon blames his tragedy not on any personal decisions or actions, but on ate, a distinctly impersonal clouding of the mind. E. R. Dodds (THE GREEKS AND THE IRRATIONAL [Berkeley: U.C. Press, 1951, pp.15-16]) interprets this not as a self-justifying evasion, but as a reflection of the fact that the Homeric Greeks had no concept of a unified personality. Bruno Snell, to whom Dodds refers, famously argued, indeed, that the Greeks in Homer's time didn't even ‘yet have a body in the modern sense of the body’ did not, that is, ‘know it qua body, but merely as the sum total of his limbs.’ (THE DISCOVERY OF THE MIND IN GREEK PHILOSOPHY AND LITERATURE [N.Y.: Dover, 1982; German edition, 1948, pp.6-8]). [[Not surprising, a German author!]] For a critique of Snell's position see Bernard Knox, THE OLDEST DEAD WHITE EUROPEAN MALES (N.Y.: W.W. Norton, 1993, pp.37-41.)” [[Not surprising, author with a British name!]]

I would go further. This is not, for me, a mere matter of archaicizing “body image”, but whether or not IBEs (in-the-body experiences) were commonplace. Surveying history, not only was there little experience of “passing time” even in pre-Renaissance Western Europe (much evidence of this in medieval art, architecture, and early polyphony), the vast majority of human beings who existed on this planet never experienced a habitated physical body sensed as distinct from the non-body, distinct, that is, from the “other” or the “object”. In the right circumstance, there was no perceptual distinction makeable between “my” foot and “your” foot, between something happening to your foot as distinct from something happening to my foot. Your foot is my foot in immediate proprioceptive awareness (a suggestion of this actual awareness is had in inability to localize the limb in emergence from local anesthesia: which I first experienced at age 14 in surgery on my left big toe). There were “right circumstances” for every other imputed part of the imputed anatomy. When translators of treatises on Chinese medicine assume human physical body distinct from trees, streams, and winds, they undoubtedly error greatly, for in states of identity-transparency no such is actually registered (gardening, geomancy, chronomancy, and medicine were actually just one thing). The notions of “functional correspondences” of “correspondence between a macrocosm and a microcosm” misrepresent the case: the distinguished structures to which functional correspondences are mapped are distinct identities only after the Western or modernizing cultural fact of enculturated IBE habituation, and CORRESPOND to nothing in the actual case. The not-experienced distinction has later in history been imputed to be a correspondence. Perceptual-set determines even the structures experimentally identified. Perceive through the filter of an either/or logic and you will discover and verify 2-structures everywhere in the world around you, and within the physical body you consensually construct with your EMERGENT PROPERTY as being distinct from the “flow” the “mo” the Tao, the meeeeeeeow.

I think such imputations have not been mere matters of changing styles of touching and seeing. These imputations have proceeded by holocausts: the 30 million Chinese who died in the 8th century Tibetan invasion of China; the similar number who died in the 17th to 19th centuries North American holocaust; the 4 million Cambodians who died as a result of the 20th century American bombing/invasion of Cambodia: three particularly pointed thematically-related instances. The list of holocausts is a long one: there has been a cognitive (and accompanying neurological) implosion within the human species transpiring since collapse of the “Bicameral Mind”, which has removed more and more categories of subjective cognitive capacity. Even in the span of one lifetime, onset of major cognitive deficits can be “witnessed”. The truncation of the Japanese female voice-throw range in the lower register (indicating collective loss of certain categories of emotional and perceptual experience); the huge expansion of “minimal permissible distance” in Japanese personal space and associated changes in public touching conventions (indicating a diminished intersubjectivity): these are two instances of cognitive implosion which reached cusp essentially in a decade in Japan, the 1960s. The same type of transition is currently seen in Thailand, with displays of personal behaviors startling in their similarity to those seen in 1960's Japan. And there is little or no CONSCIOUS registration of the intergenerationally imposed cognitive deficit. This is globalization, folks!

Regarding the first question you raise: In the late-70s, I had lengthy discussions with a Japanese psychiatrist with much experience treating acute schizophrenics. Almost without exception, his patients, largely of urban experience, exhibited in their abreactions archetypal themes filled with Shinto reference: village shrines, sacred trees, totem animals, spirit entities of every sort. The generation under 40, it seems to me, may have little or no experience of traditional rural Japanese life, and they may have little knowledge of concrete detail concerning “how life was then”, but on a subliminal level the Japanese mind remains deeply animistic -- even if given individuals consciously deny such beliefs.

Western anthropology pretty much equates animism with spirit belief. I think this is mistaken. Spirit belief is not necessary to, and, when present, is only a superficial expression of, animism, which is more accurately viewed, I believe, as an expression of “identity transparency”. I prefer this term to “participation mystique” which has a connotation of primitivism not at all justified -- given that subject-subject and subject-object empathic fusion requires access to elaborate simultaneous awareness states of consciousness not easily experienced by the uncultivated awareness.

Urban versus rural may not be the real issue. Explicit animism in Japan has probably fallen into abeyance due mostly to the fact that the traditional arts, crafts, and inner disciplines are no longer being practiced as widely or as authentically as they were only one or two generations ago. The relative absence of analogical and metaphorical reference in contemporary Japanese architecture (compared to the traditional) may well be another factor promoting conscious abeyance of animism (which abeyance, I believe, has unconsciously been psychologically compensated for by the flood of highly fetishized pornography which came on the scene beginning in the early-1970s).

Regarding the second question you raise: I think Schrödinger must certainly have had quite elaborate experience of “identity transparency” (and thus of animism) and that this played a significant role in the production of his famous wave equation. I also think it played a role in his refusal to embrace the probability interpretation of his equation. Indeed, I view much of the problematics associated with quantum theory as being the result of an absence of animistic experience on the part of those doing the interpreting.

At the beginning of this 21st century, the monoculture use to which the evolving techno-base is being put is imposing a uniformization and subjective-intersubjective cognitive and neurologic deficit omniculturally on such an unprecedented scale, that, given the history of holocausts associated with this millennia-long cognitive implosion, one would have to be oblivious to human history to believe THE NEW WORLD ORDER will be imposed absent holocausts of unprecedented scale. It's a ridiculous notion entertained only by those with huge neurologic lacunae.

Being uninformed is not only a mark of distinction in America, it is a matter of national pride.

Cell phones will be to the present generation what cigarettes were to the WWII generation.

It has been a long time since there were students in American universities; now, there are only trainees.

Intergenerational memory of inner states is far poorer than the famed limitations of institutional memory: collective amnesia is endemic to the human species.

Anyone with a voice at this juncture is not doing any good. If the person were doing good, knee-jerk nesting instinct protecting the current institutionalization would not allow him or her a voice.

When U.S. officials responsible for causing the Cambodian holocaust were not held legally culpable for their acts -- indeed, one even received the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts -- who could possibly imagine U.S. officials being held responsible for their acts in the Waco deaths? They were not held responsible for the Hansford irradiation; the production of Agent Orange at a location on the waterfront in Alexandria, Virginia, at the time surrounded by a densely populated ghetto community, which, when gentrified to upper-middle class, the City Public Works Department required 12 feet of dirt removed, a plastic shield placed, 12 feet of new dirt installed before building could proceed; the testing of electromagnetic pulse weapons for well over a decade in upper-middle class suburban Virginia and Maryland, which, in all likelihood, was involved in triggering or inducing fulminations of SLE and other radiation-sensitive degenerative autoimmune and demyelinating diseases; and so on; and so on.

Nothing significant will be done until the wave moving from the periphery to the power centers begins to break. All sorts of interest will arise at that point, but only the most meager of undertakings will then be possible.

The current hiatus in physics, with its 100-year-long arguments about how many quantum angels can sit on the head of a nonlocal pinpoint, will not be resolved by any scientific discovery, experimental demonstration, or superlatively argued grand unification theory; it will be transcended by an act of intention in the area of monetary systematics. That is one of the hidden agendas of my proposal concerning m-valued currencies.

As I have been working on these ideas for over twenty years and have discussed them with many people of diverse backgrounds, your recent response has been valuable in focusing my attention. Perhaps you will permit me a brief second stab at a succinct explanation.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

conscious states a crosstalk mechanism for a subset of brain processes

Journal of Cosmology There is a consensus that conscious states are associated with only a subset of the many sophisticated processes that have been identified in the human nervous system (Baars, 2002; Crick & Koch, 2003; Dehaene & Naccache, 2001; Gray, 2004; Merker, 2007; Morsella, Krieger, & Bargh, 2010). By 'conscious state' we are referring to the most basic form of consciousness, the kind of consciousness that has fallen under the rubrics of 'basic awareness,' 'sentience,' and 'phenomenal state.' This most basic form of consciousness has been defined best by the philosopher Nagel (1974), who claimed that an organism has phenomenal states if there is something it is like to be that organism--something it is like, for example, to be human and experience pain, love, breathlessness, or yellow afterimages.

The conscious state is 'everything' to us, because it encompasses the totality of our human experience. However, knowledge of nervous function reveals that, normally unbeknownst to us, many of the complicated functions in the nervous system are carried out beneath the horizon of basic consciousness. For example, unconscious processes include (a) low-level perceptual processing, such as the putting together of perceptual features both within and across sensory modalities (e.g., vision and touch), and (b) motor control, as in the control of the impulses that contract some muscle fibers but not others when carrying out an action. Moreover, sophisticated processes such as those constituting that syntax and the parsing of sentences are largely unconscious. Appreciating all that can be achieved unconsciously in the brain leads one to the question, What do conscious states contribute to nervous function? To begin to answer this question, it is helpful as a first step to isolate the cognitive/brain processes that seem to be most intimately associated with conscious states.

We will first present the results of investigations seeking to isolate the cognitive processes that are most associated with consciousness; then we will review data isolating consciousness to a subset of brain processes, and, through this process of elimination, isolate the cognitive mechanisms (and underlying neural mechanisms) that are intimately associated with conscious states. The approach reveals that, consistent with the integration consensus (i.e., that conscious states permit for otherwise independent information processing in the brain to be integrated for adaptive action), conscious states establish a form of intra-brain communication for only a subset of the many kinds of crosstalk within the brain. The form of crosstalk associated with these elusive states seems to be intimately related to the control of voluntary action and the skeletal muscle output system.

consciousness, language, egocentric speech and the multiplicity of mind

Video - Primer on egocentric and socialized speech.

Journal of Cosmology | Consciousness is not a singularity, but a multiplicity. It is this multiplicity which makes self-consciousness (consciousness of consciousness) possible, and which provides the foundation for the development of thought which originates outside of consciousness. Thinking serves as a form of deduction and self-explanation, where one aspect of the mind explains its thoughts to another realm of mind. Thinking can be visual, imaginal, tactile, musical, or take the form of words strung together as a train-of-thought. Insofar as thoughts are verbal, this indicates that one region of the brain is organizing and explaining these verbal thoughts to another region of the mind which comprehends these verbal thoughts. Verbal thinking utilizes the same neural pathways and structures as spoken language; and Broca's expressive and Wernicke's receptive speech areas participate in the expression and comprehension of verbal thoughts. Because these neural pathways and language structures are immature for the first several years of life, and are limited in their ability to communicate within the brain, children initially think out-loud, using a form of language referred to as egocentric speech. As the brain matures, egocentric speech eventually becomes internalized as thought, such that by ages 5 to 6, children have completely internalized egocentric thought production, and think their thoughts in the privacy of their head. However, because the mind is a multiplicity with different tissues of the mind processing different forms of information, the dominant streams of consciousness associated with vision and language, often do not have access to information which might explain the motives for their actions, or how they arrived at certain conclusions or judgments. Because the mind is a multiplicity, in the final analysis, we knowers, remain unknown to ourselves.

two brains - two minds

Video - Dr. Strangelove survival plan and split-brained body misbehavior.

Journal of Cosmology | It is commonly supposed that consciousness has mental unity which is supported by the brain. However, it has been demonstrated that consciousness is actually a multiplicity which includes a duality maintained by the right and left half of the brain. In the normal brain it has sometimes been supposed that mental unity is supported and maintained via the extensive bridge of nerve fibers which interconnect the right and left cerebral hemispheres; i.e. the corpus callosum, and that only in conditions such as following callosotomy, does something akin to a splitting of the mind occur. Split-brain functioning following sectioning of the corpus callosum is discussed and a case study is presented. However, surgery provides only the most dramatic examples of this duality. Split-brain functioning is also characteristic during early childhood, and the results from experiments demonstrating this duality are presented. Further, partial splitting of the mind is evident even in the normal brain. It often occurs that people will express certain behaviors, act on various impulses, make "thoughtless", embarrassing statements or a "slip of the tongue" and "have no idea" as to "what came over" them. In some instances they may even fail to become aware that anything unusual or objectionable has resulted, or conversely, conjure up explanations for their actions. Similar anomolies confront us in regard to certain emotions, desires, impulses, and conflicts --the origins and source of which are seemingly submerged and hidden; at least from the language dominant hemisphere which maintains the language-dependent aspects of consciousness (i.e. in most instances the left). Because each half of the brain subserves unique (albeit overlapping) functions, such that functional lateralization is characteristic, in some situations one brain half may have little or no knowledge as to what is occurring in the other. Some forms of information cannot be transferred or even recognized by the opposite hemisphere. Functional lateralization also leads to the experience of forgotten dreams; and this is because it is the right hemisphere which produces much of the imagery experienced during the dream, whereas it is the left hemisphere which forgets the dream upon wakening. When the left hemisphere is denied access to information retained or processed by the right, and/or is unable to learn why a certain behavior or action was initiated, it typically makes up explanations (which it believes) or engages in active denial. These dualities are most evident following split-brain surgery, but can also explain some of the unique mental characteristics of childhood and the emotional difficulties experienced by the normal brain and the conscious mind.

inside the infant mind

MITNews | Over the past two decades, scientists have shown that babies only a few months old have a solid grasp on basic rules of the physical world. They understand that objects can’t wink in and out of existence, and that objects can’t “teleport” from one spot to another.

Now, an international team of researchers co-led by MIT’s Josh Tenenbaum has found that infants can use that knowledge to form surprisingly sophisticated expectations of how novel situations will unfold.

Furthermore, the scientists developed a computational model of infant cognition that accurately predicts infants’ surprise at events that violate their conception of the physical world.

The model, which simulates a type of intelligence known as pure reasoning, calculates the probability of a particular event, given what it knows about how objects behave. The close correlation between the model’s predictions and the infants’ actual responses to such events suggests that infants reason in a similar way, says Tenenbaum, associate professor of cognitive science and computation at MIT.

“Real intelligence is about finding yourself in situations that you’ve never been in before but that have some abstract principles in common with your experience, and using that abstract knowledge to reason productively in the new situation,” he says.

The study, which appears in the May 27 issue of Science, is the first step in a long-term effort to “reverse-engineer” infant cognition by studying babies at ages 3-, 6- and 12-months (and other key stages through the first two years of life) to map out what they know about the physical and social world. That “3-6-12” project is part of a larger Intelligence Initiative at MIT, launched this year with the goal of understanding the nature of intelligence and replicating it in machines. Fist tap Dale.

the puzzle of optimism

Time | While the past few years have seen important advances in the neuroscience of optimism, one enduring puzzle remained. How is it that people maintain this rosy bias even when information challenging our upbeat forecasts is so readily available? Only recently have we been able to decipher this mystery, by scanning the brains of people as they process both positive and negative information about the future. The findings are striking: when people learn, their neurons faithfully encode desirable information that can enhance optimism but fail at incorporating unexpectedly undesirable information. When we hear a success story like Mark Zuckerberg's, our brains take note of the possibility that we too may become immensely rich one day. But hearing that the odds of divorce are almost 1 in 2 tends not to make us think that our own marriages may be destined to fail. (See "A Primer for Pessimists.")

Why would our brains be wired in this way? It is tempting to speculate that optimism was selected by evolution precisely because, on balance, positive expectations enhance the odds of survival. Research findings that optimists live longer and are healthier, plus the fact that most humans display optimistic biases — and emerging data that optimism is linked to specific genes — all strongly support this hypothesis. Yet optimism is also irrational and can lead to unwanted outcomes. The question then is, How can we remain hopeful — benefiting from the fruits of optimism — while at the same time guarding ourselves from its pitfalls?

Saturday, May 28, 2011

the funeral will not be televised...,

Video - Gil Scott Heron's most memorable poem.

father just wants young boys with issues...,

Time | The latest sex-abuse case to rock the Catholic Church is unfolding in the archdiocese of an influential Italian Cardinal who has been working with Pope Benedict XVI on reforms to respond to prior scandals of pedophile priests.

Father Riccardo Seppia, a 51-year-old parish priest in the village of Sastri Ponente, near Genoa, was arrested last Friday, May 13, on pedophilia and drug charges. Investigators say that in tapped mobile-phone conversations, Seppia asked a Moroccan drug dealer to arrange sexual encounters with young and vulnerable boys. "I do not want 16-year-old boys but younger. Fourteen-year-olds are O.K. Look for needy boys who have family issues," he allegedly said. Genoa Archbishop Angelo Bagnasco, who is the head of the Italian Bishops Conference, had been working with Benedict to establish a tough new worldwide policy, released this week, on how bishops should handle accusations of priestly sex abuse.

According to investigators, Seppia told a friend — a former seminarian and barman who is currently under investigation — that the town's malls were the best places to entice minors. In tapped phone conversations the two cursed and swore against God. The priest is charged with having attempted to kiss and touch an underage altar boy and of having exchanged cocaine for sexual intercourse with boys over 18.

Seppia's defense lawyers are expected to argue that those conversations — monitored since Oct. 20, 2010 — were just words, sex games that were played by adults. It was just a game even when he claimed to have "kissed on the mouth" a 15-year-old altar boy, according to the defense. Fist tap Dale.

father just wants the little children to get to heaven...,

KCStar | The principal of a Catholic school warned a top official of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph more than a year ago that parents and teachers found the Rev. Shawn Ratigan’s behavior toward children troubling, including the hundreds of pictures the priest took.

The warning came more than six months before the diocese was alerted to questionable images of children on Ratigan’s computer.

Ratigan, 45, of Kansas City, North, was charged last week with possessing pornographic photos of children taken around churches and schools where he had worked in the diocese. Ratigan pleaded not guilty Monday in Clay County Circuit Court.

Ratigan’s attorney, John P. O’Connor, declined to comment about the letter.

Diocese officials learned in December about images on Ratigan’s computer, but they did not file a formal report with police until this month.

But a year ago, Julie Hess, principal of St. Patrick School in Kansas City, North, detailed her concerns in a May 19, 2010, letter to diocese Vicar General Robert Murphy.

“I seek to fulfill my responsibility as school principal in relaying a growing body of parent and teacher concerns regarding Pastor Shawn Ratigan’s perceived inappropriate behavior with children,” Hess wrote.

She could not be reached for comment Thursday. The Kansas City Star independently confirmed the letter’s authenticity.

Friday, May 27, 2011

why are spy researchers building a metaphor program?

The Atlantic | A small research arm of the U.S. government's intelligence establishment wants to understand how speakers of Farsi, Russian, English, and Spanish see the world by building software that automatically evaluates their use of metaphors.

That's right, metaphors, like Shakespeare's famous line, "All the world's a stage," or more subtly, "The darkness pressed in on all sides." Every speaker in every language in the world uses them effortlessly, and the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity wants know how what we say reflects our worldviews. They call it The Metaphor Program, and it is a unique effort within the government to probe how a people's language reveals their mindset.

"The Metaphor Program will exploit the fact that metaphors are pervasive in everyday talk and reveal the underlying beliefs and worldviews of members of a culture," declared an open solicitation for researchers released last week. A spokesperson for IARPA declined to comment at the time.

IARPA wants some computer scientists with experience in processing language in big chunks to come up with methods of pulling out a culture's relationship with particular concepts."They really are trying to get at what people think using how they talk," Benjamin Bergen, a cognitive scientist at the University of California, San Diego, told me. Bergen is one of a dozen or so lead researchers who are expected to vie for a research grant that could be worth tens of millions of dollars over five years, if the team scan show progress towards automatically tagging and processing metaphors across languages.

"IARPA grants are big," said Jennifer Carter of Applied Research Associates, a 1,600-strong research company that may throw its hat in the Metaphor ring after winning a lead research spot in a separate IARPA solicitation. While no one knows the precise value of the rewards of the IARPA grants and the contracts are believed to vary widely, they tend to support several large teams of multidisciplinary researchers, Carter said. The awards, which would initially go to several teams, could range into the five digits annually. "Generally what happens... there will be a 'downselect' each year, so maybe only one team will get money for the whole program," she said.*

All this to say: The Metaphor Program may represent a nine-figure investment by the government in understanding how people use language. But that's because metaphor studies aren't light or frilly and IARPA isn't afraid of taking on unusual sounding projects if they think they might help intelligence analysts sort through and decode the tremendous amounts of data pouring into their minds.

In a presentation to prospective research "performers," as they're known, The Metaphor Program's manager, Heather McCallum-Bayliss gave the following example of the power of metaphors in political discussions. Her slide reads:
Metaphors shape how people think about complex topics and can influence beliefs. A study presented participants with a report on crime in a city; they were asked how crime should be addressed in the city. The report contained statistics, including crime and murder rates, as well as one of two metaphors, CRIME AS A WILD BEAST or CRIME AS A VIRUS. The participants were influenced by the embedded metaphor...
McCallum-Bayliss appears to be referring to a 2011 paper published in the PLoS ONE, "Metaphors We Think With: The Role of Metaphor in Reasoning," lead authored by Stanford's Paul Thibodeau. In that case, if people were given the crime-as-a-virus framing, they were more likely to suggest social reform and less likely to suggest more law enforcement or harsher punishments for criminals. The differences generated by the metaphor alternatives were "were larger than those that exist between Democrats and Republicans, or between men and women," the study authors noted. Fist tap Dale.

the pernicious impact of your "ism"...,

NYTimes | THE GIST Being socially rejected doesn’t just feel bad. It hurts.

THE SOURCE “Social Rejection Shares Somatosensory Representations With Physical Pain,” by Ethan F. Kross, Marc G. Berman, Walter Mischel, Edward E. Smith and Tor D. Wager; published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

NOBODY would deny that being ostracized on the playground, mocked in a sales meeting or broken up with over Twitter feels bad. But the sting of social rejection may be more like the ouch! of physical pain than previously understood.

New research suggests that the same areas in the brain that signify physical pain are activated at moments of intense social loss. “When we sat around and thought about the most difficult emotional experiences, we all agreed that it doesn’t get any worse than social rejection,” said the study’s lead author, Ethan F. Kross, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Michigan.

your "ism" is not my heredity

Video - Pokemon Black or White Black Nerd Rant.

Scientific American | Nothing about the field of IQ studies is free of political influence. It's naive to believe that any kind of research on a purported measure of individual merit could be politics-free in a self-proclaimed meritocracy with wide inequalities. Binet's original work was meant to determine which children should have access to additional educational resources. IQ scores are used occasionally to sort out "inappropriate" candidates for various jobs, including those whose IQs are too high for a role. IQ as a proxy for merit is used to argue that a group does or does not face discrimination in educational or career opportunities. This is all terribly political.

The question isn't whether there are politics surrounding this issue or where. They're everywhere. The question is where does the politics get in the way of the science? Again, the answers don't favor Pinker's view of a fatwa against genetic explanations of individual differences.

No one is pretending BGI Hong Kong doesn't exist or that it isn't looking for genes associated with variability in IQ scores. No one is issuing fatwas to stop them or even protesting their work. Some people are questioning IQ as a proxy for intelligence, but no one is saying the work shouldn't go forward until a better proxy is found. Similarly, no one is pretending that Paul Thompson isn't doing some fascinating work in brain imaging and variability in brain structure.

What is in dispute is the likelihood that genes will be found that account for any significant fraction of the variability found in human intelligence and whether the current literature on the topic is sufficient to predict that. Here is where disagreement with Thompson comes into play. He has published a number of papers with "genetics" in the title ("Genetic influences on brain structure," "Genetics of brain structure and intelligence," "Genetics of brain fiber architecture and intellectual performance") that involve no genetic testing whatsoever.

Instead, these studies rely on degree of relatedness (usually between identical and fraternal twins) as a measure of shared genes. This sounds reasonable, and to a degree it is. However, unless researchers can measure or control for the way genes unrelated to intelligence interact with the environment, these studies can't tell us how much variation in brain structure is due to shared genes that code for intelligence and shared genes that code for something else, such as illness that limits time in school. Until these studies are designed to look for genetic influences in addition to environmental influences, these studies are useless for their intended purpose. Fist tap Arnach.

no numbers above four and no concept of time...,

Time | While you're rushing to meet deadlines and trying to make it to places on time, there's one tribe in the Amazon that doesn't have that problem.

Researchers from the University of Portsmouth and the Federal University of Rondonia in Brazil have found that the Amazonian tribe Amondawa, has no abstract concept of time. “In English we say things like, her birthday is coming up, or he worked through the night,” researcher Chris Sinha told NewsFeed. “But they (the Amondawa) don't use such expressions of movement in space to metaphorically talk about time."

The study was carried out via interviews, observations, questionnaires and experiments, and the results came as a surprise to the researchers, because it's the first language in which it's been established that space to time mappings don't occur.

But although the Amondawa, who were first contacted by the outside world in 1986, don't have anything like a clock, they do talk in time periods. “They're just not as strict,” says Sinha. That means that if two members of a tribe were to meet up, they'd say something like "We'll meet in the afternoon," or "we'll meet tomorrow morning." This is also explained by the fact that they have a small number system which only goes up to four.

The Amondawa doesn't have a calendar either; They don't have a word for year, month or week. Rather, they refer to the “dry” or “rainy” season.

So what does this say of their lifestyle? “They're more laid back in the sense that they're not ruled by time,” says Sinha. “There's excitement in their lives, but it's of a different kind.”

The Amondawa have no trouble in picking up notions of time in Portuguese, their second language. “This tells us that we have become so embedded in a world that is governed by the measurement of time, that we find it difficult to understand what it might be like to live in a world that is not governed that way,” says Sinha. Fist tap Nana.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

how to spot a psychopath

A Clockwork Orange - Singin' in the rain

Guardian | It was the French psychiatrist Philippe Pinel who first suggested, early in the 19th century, that there was a madness that didn't involve mania or depression or psychosis. He called it "manie sans délire" – insanity without delusions. He said sufferers appeared normal on the surface, but they lacked impulse controls and were prone to outbursts of violence. It wasn't until 1891, when the German doctor JLA Koch published his book Die Psychopathischen Minderwertigkeiten, that it got its name: psychopathy.

The consensus from the beginning was that only 1% of humans had it, but the chaos they caused was so far-reaching, it could actually remould society. And so the urgent question became, how could psychopaths be cured?

In the late 1960s, a young Canadian psychiatrist believed he had the answer. His name was Elliott Barker and he had visited radical therapeutic communities around the world, including nude psychotherapy sessions occurring under the tutelage of an American psychotherapist named Paul Bindrim. Clients, mostly California free-thinkers and movie stars, would sit naked in a circle and dive headlong into a 24-hour emotional and mystical rollercoaster during which participants would scream and yell and sob and confess their innermost fears. Barker worked at a unit for psychopaths inside the Oak Ridge hospital for the criminally insane in Ontario. Although the inmates were undoubtedly insane, they seemed perfectly ordinary. This, Barker deduced, was because they were burying their insanity deep beneath a facade of normality. If the madness could only, somehow, be brought to the surface, maybe it would work itself through and they could be reborn as empathetic human beings.

And so he successfully sought permission from the Canadian government to obtain a large batch of LSD, hand-picked a group of psychopaths, led them into what he named the "total encounter capsule", a small room painted bright green, and asked them to remove their clothes. This was truly to be a radical milestone: the world's first ever marathon nude LSD-fuelled psychotherapy session for criminal psychopaths.

Barker's sessions lasted for epic 11-day stretches. There were no distractions – no television, no clothes, no clocks, no calendars, only a perpetual discussion (at least 100 hours every week) of their feelings. Much like Bindrim's sessions, the psychopaths were encouraged to go to their rawest emotional places by screaming and clawing at the walls and confessing fantasies of forbidden sexual longing for each other, even if they were, in the words of an internal Oak Ridge report of the time, "in a state of arousal while doing so".

My guess is that this would have been a more enjoyable experience within the context of a Palm Springs resort hotel than in a secure facility for psychopathic murderers.

Barker watched it all from behind a one-way mirror and his early reports were gloomy. The atmosphere inside the capsule was tense. Psychopaths would stare angrily at each other. Days would go by when nobody would exchange a word. But then, as the weeks turned into months, something unexpected began to happen.

The transformation was captured in an incredibly moving film. These tough young prisoners are, before our eyes, changing. They are learning to care for one another inside the capsule.

We see Barker in his office, and the look of delight on his face is quite heartbreaking. His psychopaths have become gentle. Some are even telling their parole boards not to consider them for release until after they've completed their therapy. The authorities are astonished.

Back home in London, I felt terribly sorry for Tony. So many psychopathic murderers – fortunate to have been under Barker's radical tutelage – had been declared cured and freed. Why couldn't Broadmoor adopt some of his ideas? Of course, they seemed dated and naive and perhaps overly reliant on hallucinogenics, but they were surely preferable to locking someone up for ever because he happened to score badly on some personality checklist.

Then I learned that two researchers had in the early 90s undertaken a detailed study of the long-term recidivism rates of psychopaths who'd been through Barker's programme and let out into society. In regular circumstances, 60% of criminal psychopaths released into the outside world go on to reoffend. What percentage of their psychopaths had? As it turned out: 80%.

The capsule had made the psychopaths worse.

"They had psychopaths naked and talking about their feelings!" Bob Hare laughed, shaking his head at the idealism of it all. It was an August evening and we were drinking in a hotel bar in rural Pembrokeshire, west Wales, at one of Hare's three-day residential courses for psychiatrists, care workers and criminal profilers. It was exciting finally to meet him. While names such as Elliott Barker have all but faded away, Hare is influential. Justice departments and parole boards all over the world have accepted his contention that psychopaths are quite simply incurable and everyone should concentrate their energies instead on learning how to root them out using his PCL-R (Psychopathy Checklist-Revised), which he has spent a lifetime refining.

debtors prison 2011

WSJ | Some lawmakers, judges and regulators are trying to rein in the U.S. debt-collection industry's use of arrest warrants to recoup money owed by borrowers who are behind on credit-card payments, auto loans and other bills.

More than a third of all U.S. states allow borrowers who can't or won't pay to be jailed. Judges have signed off on more than 5,000 such warrants since the start of 2010 in nine counties with a total population of 13.6 million people, according to a tally by The Wall Street Journal of filings in those counties. Nationwide figures aren't known because many courts don't keep track of warrants by alleged offense. In interviews, 20 judges across the nation said the number of borrowers threatened with arrest in their courtrooms has surged since the financial crisis began.

The backlash is a reaction to sloppy, incomplete or even false documentation that can result in borrowers having no idea before being locked up that they were sued to collect an outstanding debt. The debt-collection industry says such errors are extremely rare, adding that warrants usually are sought only after all other efforts to persuade borrowers to pay have failed.

Earlier this month, Washington state's House of Representatives passed by a 98-0 vote a bill that would require companies to provide proof a borrower has been notified about lawsuits against them before a judge could issue an arrest warrant. All 42 Republicans voted for the legislation, which is expected to pass the state's Senate and be signed into law by the governor. A trade group representing debt collectors supports the bill and says the changes are needed because some companies are abusing Washington's existing law by improperly arresting borrowers.

In Florida, training this week for dozens of new judges and sitting judges who are moving to courts with the power to lock up borrowers includes a session about potential abuses of debt-related warrants. "Before we take away a person's freedom, we want to ensure that there are procedural safeguards," said Peter Evans, a Palm Beach County, Fla., state-court judge who proposed the session.

Some judges elsewhere are issuing fewer debt-related arrest warrants because law-enforcement officials complained those cases gobble up resources needed to pursue violent offenders.

Illinois regulators are investigating the use of warrants by debt collectors and other financial firms doing business in that state. In September, the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation issued an order seeking to revoke the license of Easy Money Express Inc. The Paducah, Ky., payday lender won arrest warrants against at least four customers. One spent five days in a Carbondale, Ill., jail last March after failing to pay a $275 debt, court filings show. The lender "exploited the court system to obtain the arrest and incarceration of its customers," said Sue Hofer, a spokeswoman for the agency. The company declined to comment but is fighting the state's proposed ban.

debtors prison: could it happen to you?

Gothamist | Today the Wall Street Journal published a troubling article about people in debt getting arrested and jailed, just like in the olde days. Debtors' prisons were finally abolished in the U.S. in 1833, but just like pre-Prohibition cocktails and straight razor shaving, they're back in style! More than a third of all U.S. states allow borrowers who can't or won't pay to be jailed, and there are numerous examples of people getting arrested, including one woman who was collared at her mom's house because she missed a court hearing concerning the $1,159.87 in credit card debt she owed Capital One. Which got us thinking—could we be next?

We got in touch with Nasoan Sheftel-Gomes, a staff attorney at the Urban Justice Center. She reassured us that in New York State, you cannot be jailed for not paying a debt. But that doesn't stop debt collectors from threatening people with jail, regardless of the law. J. Brandon Black, the president of America's largest debt-buying firm, tells the Journal he stopped threatening borrowers with jail "because the practice made his company look bad." Sheftel-Gomes thought that was pretty rich.

scotus orders massive california inmate release

Video - California has to clean up its jail overcrowding problem.

LATimes | The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that California must remove tens of thousands of inmates from its prison rolls in the next two years, and state officials vowed to comply, saying they hoped to do so without setting any criminals free.

Administration officials expressed confidence that their plan to shift low-level offenders to county jails and other facilities, already approved by lawmakers, would ease the persistent crowding that the high court said Monday had caused "needless suffering and death" and amounted to cruel and unusual punishment.

Gov. Jerry Brown's transfer plan "would solve quite a bit" of the overcrowding problem, though not as quickly as the court wants, said Matthew Cate, secretary of California's Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. "Our goal is to not release inmates at all.''

But the governor's plan would cost hundreds of millions of dollars, to be paid for with tax hikes that could prove politically impossible to implement. And at present, Brown's plan is the only one on the table.

The governor issued a muted statement calling for enactment of his program and promising, "I will take all steps necessary to protect public safety."

The court gave the state two years to shrink the number of prisoners by more than 33,000 and two weeks to submit a schedule for achieving that goal. The state now has 143,335 inmates, according to Cate.

Monday's 5-4 ruling, upholding one of the largest such orders in the nation's history, came with vivid descriptions of indecent care from the majority and outraged warnings of a "grim roster of victims" from some in the minority.

In presenting the decision, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, a Sacramento native, spoke from the bench about suicidal prisoners being held in "telephone booth-sized cages without toilets" and others, sick with cancer or in severe pain, who died before being seen by a doctor. As many as 200 prisoners may live in a gymnasium, and as many as 54 may share a single toilet, he said.

Kennedy, whose opinion was joined by his four liberal colleagues, said the state's prisons were built to hold 80,000 inmates, but were crowded with as many 156,000 a few years ago.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

all watched over by machines of loving grace

Video - Part 1 of 5 of Adam Curtis new documentary - this series of films investigates how people have been colonised by the machines they have built.

Video - Part 2 of 5 - Although they may not realise it, the way many people see everything in the world today is through the eyes of the computers. Not just politics and the economy -- but also in the way bodies, minds, and even the whole of the natural world are perceived.

Video - Part 3 of 5 - The underlying argument is that people have given up a dynamic political model of the world -- the dream of changing things for the better -- for a static machine ideology that says everyone is a component in a system, and that the aim is to manage these systems and keep them stable.

Video - Part 4 of 5 - From the utopian visions of the worldwide web to the idea of an interconnected global economic system, to the dream of balanced ecosystems, all these ideas share an underlying machine vision of organisation and order.

Video - Part 5 of 5 - The series argues that by embracing this new machine ideology something very precious has been given up: the idea of progress and political struggle to change the world for the better.

adam curtis: the rise of the machines

Video - Trailer for Adam Curtis' new documentary All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace.

The Register | Adam Curtis: I've always wanted to make a film about managerialism. It's impossible, because with managers nothing really happens. What I'm dealing with here is the ideology behind managerialism. Behind all this, behind the flipchart, is the idea that you're nodes in a system, and 'our job' is to keep things stable.

Basically I've touched on technocratic ideas of organisation, and machine ideas of organisation a lot before, but never really done them big. Ever since the 1990s we've had this idea of connectivity - we're all connected. You meet in all sorts of areas. You meet it in talks about the global economy, we're all connected in a global world. You meet it in talks about nature - we're all interconnected in our world. And you meet it in utopian theories about the web.

These were really new ways of organising the world without power. There weren't any hierarchies in nature, everyone was a little node connected in an ecosystem. We wouldn't run it, we all ran it together, helped by computers.

I was suspicious of it because I hadn't noticed power had disappeared. The real bastions of power are as they were, and are more concentrated. So I decided to trace those ideas back to their source. It leads you back to an absolutely fascinating area, which you can loosely call cybernetics, and also information theory.

What links them all is a machine idea of organisation of order, based on information flowing around systems. It really began to come together post-war years with computers - you could organise these systems mathematically and predict [their behaviour].

So I've traced how fundamentally, an idea like that, which is fine as an engineering concept, and then a computer information concept, and an ordering principle - are then taken up by powerful people, by technocrats, and by us as models for wider ideas about how to organise society.

That's the story I try and tell - when you try and apply systems ideas in a wider area you can't deal with power. They get distorted, used and abused, they bring a naivety about human society which the powerful in the world find quite useful to extend their power a bit.

the original death of the dollar

Video - Max Keiser: The original death of the dollar.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

umm....., YES!!!!!

Video - American Psycho re-imagined as a romantic comedy.

Alternet | In recent days the political news has been like an episode of some TV drama about high-level corruption – call it Criminal Minds meets The West Wing. The head of the International Monetary Fund – the global financial organization that sets terms for development aid -- was jailed in New York for allegedly assaulting a housemaid sexually at his hotel. Meanwhile, in California news broke that the state’s movie-star governor – known as both the Terminator and the Gropinator – fathered a love-child almost a decade ago and it didn’t come out until he was about to leave office.

Then, of course, there’s the presidential campaign of Newt Gingrich, a poster child for bad behavior, launched last week with a series of disastrous missteps and rationalizations.

What the three men have in common, aside from wielding more influence than they can handle or deserve, is that their serial misbehavior went unchecked for years. In fact, it was rationalized as mere exuberance, frequently excused in “exceptional” people, when it actually demonstrated something else – ruling class impunity.

Ask yourself: Is it possible that these were isolated lapses in judgment? In other words, was this the only time Dominique Strauss-Kahn went after the help, or the only instance of Arnold Schwarzenegger cheating on his wife and exploiting those beneath him? Not too likely. And it’s surely not the only time Gingrich has excused his own bad behavior as a side effect of patriotism – while simultaneously trashing the basic humanity of a political opponent.

If these are patterns, why are millions so fascinated, often even seduced, by people whose behavior actually points to pathology? Perhaps we are wired to be attracted by psychopaths, sociopaths, narcissists, people so focused on their own central role in whatever takes place that the rest of us are sucked into their reality.

Think about entering a portal and emerging into the head of Donald Trump. What could that level of self-absorption be like? Begin by imagining a complete lack of empathy, one of the tell-tale signs of the psychopath.

Is Trump a psychopath? Well, he does score well on a 20 item checklist. And are there more psychopaths around us than we think? Not just serial killers and the violent type, but successful, powerful psychopaths who will do anything to win and affect our lives in profound ways?

what makes powerful men behave so badly? (rotflmbao...,)

Time | When her husband Dominique Strauss-Kahn was preparing to run for President of France five years ago, Anne Sinclair told a Paris newspaper that she was "rather proud" of his reputation as a ladies' man, a chaud lapin (hot rabbit) nicknamed the Great Seducer.

"It's important," she said, "for a man in politics to be able to seduce."

Maybe it was pride that inspired French politicians and International Monetary Fund officials to look the other way as the rumors about "DSK" piled up, from the young journalist who says Strauss-Kahn tried to rip off her clothes when she went to interview him, to the female lawmaker who describes being groped and pawed and vowed never to be in a room alone with him again, to the economist who argued in a letter to IMF investigators that "I fear that this man has a problem that, perhaps, made him unfit to lead an institution where women work under his command." Maybe it was the moral laziness and social coziness that impel elites to protect their own. Maybe it was a belief that he alone could save the global economy. Maybe nothing short of jail is disqualifying for certain men in certain circles.

But in any event, the arrest of Strauss-Kahn in New York City for allegedly trying to rape a hotel maid has ignited a fierce debate over sex, law, power and privilege. And it is only just beginning. The night of Strauss-Kahn's arraignment, former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger admitted that the reason his wife Maria Shriver walked out earlier this year was the discovery that he had fathered a child more than a decade ago with a former member of the household staff. The two cases are far apart: only one man was hauled off to jail. But both suggest an abuse of power and a betrayal of trust. And both involve men whose long-standing reputations for behaving badly toward women did not derail their rise to power. Which raises the question: How can it be, in this ostensibly enlightened age, when men and women live and work as peers and are schooled regularly in what conduct is acceptable and what is actionable, that anyone with so little judgment, so little honor, could rise to such heights?

deepening the self-destruction...,

Video - KRS-1 Self-Destruction

MorrisBerman | We are at a point in American history where, to paraphrase Blake, Bad is Good. This is why I’m rooting for a Palin presidency: if anyone can deepen our self-destruction, it’s Sarah. Meanwhile, two articles just appeared documenting the process even further, so I’d like to share them with you. The first is by my hero and yours, Chris Hedges: “Why the United States Is Destroying Its Education System,” which he posted yesterday on truthdig.com. The second is by Nobel laureate Joe Stiglitz, titled “Of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%,” which you can find at vanityfair.com.

To start w/Chris, then: He points out that the American educational system “celebrates rote vocational training and the singular, amoral skill of making money. It churns out stunted human products, lacking the capacity and vocabulary to challenge the assumptions and structures of the corporate state.”

[What we have in this country by now, of course, are nearly 310 million stunted human products. Not exactly the best raw material for turning the system around, I’m guessing.]

Talking about the NYC school system, Chris goes on: “In the past 10 years we’ve had the emergence of both Mike Bloomberg’s Leadership Academy and Eli Broad’s Superintendents Academy, both created exclusively to produce instant principals [without principles, one might note] and superintendents who model themselves after CEOs.” The problem, he says, is that “To truly teach is to instill the values and knowledge which promote the common good and protect a society from the folly of historical amnesia. The utilitarian, corporate ideology embraced by the system of standardized tests and leadership academies has no time for the nuances and moral ambiguities inherent in a liberal arts education. Corporatism is about the cult of the self. It is about personal enrichment and profit as the sole aim of human existence.” [Sound like any country you know of?]

But there’s more: “The truly educated become conscious. They become self-aware. They do not lie to themselves. They do not pretend that fraud is moral or that corporate greed is good. They do not claim that the demands of the marketplace can morally justify the hunger of children or denial of medical care to the sick. They do not throw 6 million families from their homes as the cost of doing business.” And they know that “moral independence is the only protection from the radical evil that results from collective unconsciousness.” For “Once justice perishes…life loses all meaning.” As Hannah Arendt put it, “The greatest evil perpetrated is the evil committed by nobodies, that is, by human beings who refuse to be persons.”

“Unconscious civilizations,” Chris concludes, “become totalitarian wastelands.”

Of course, with 310 million nobodies (stunted human products), what other future is there for the US? Rhetorical question. Let’s turn to Joe Stiglitz.

bank foreclosure holdings crushing housing sales

NYTimes | The nation’s biggest banks and mortgage lenders have steadily amassed real estate empires, acquiring a glut of foreclosed homes that threatens to deepen the housing slump and create a further drag on the economic recovery.

All told, they own more than 872,000 homes as a result of the groundswell in foreclosures, almost twice as many as when the financial crisis began in 2007, according to RealtyTrac, a real estate data provider. In addition, they are in the process of foreclosing on an additional one million homes and are poised to take possession of several million more in the years ahead.

Five years after the housing market started teetering, economists now worry that the rise in lender-owned homes could create another vicious circle, in which the growing inventory of distressed property further depresses home values and leads to even more distressed sales. With the spring home-selling season under way, real estate prices have been declining across the country in recent months.

“It remains a heavy weight on the banking system,” said Mark Zandi, the chief economist of Moody’s Analytics. “Housing prices are falling, and they are going to fall some more.”

Over all, economists project that it would take about three years for lenders to sell their backlog of foreclosed homes. As a result, home values nationally could fall 5 percent by the end of 2011, according to Moody’s, and rise only modestly over the following year. Regions that were hardest hit by the housing collapse and recession could take even longer to recover — dealing yet another blow to a still-struggling economy.

Although sales have picked up a bit in the last few weeks, banks and other lenders remain overwhelmed by the wave of foreclosures. In Atlanta, lenders are repossessing eight homes for each distressed home they sell, according to March data from RealtyTrac. In Minneapolis, they are bringing in at least six foreclosed homes for each they sell, and in once-hot markets like Chicago and Miami, the ratio still hovers close to two to one.

Before the housing implosion, the inflow and outflow figures were typically one-to-one.

the great EU debt write-off

eudebtwriteoff | Welcome to the great EU debt write off - This website presents the results of a simulation conducted by students at ESCP Europe Business School. The aim was to uncover the amount of interlinked debt between Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, Spain, Britain, France, and Germany; and then see what would happen if they attempted to cross cancel obligations.
The results were astounding:
  • The countries can reduce their total debt by 64% through cross cancellation of interlinked debt, taking total debt from 40.47% of GDP to 14.58%
  • Six countries – Ireland, Italy, Spain, Britain, France and Germany – can write off more than 50% of their outstanding debt
  • Three countries - Ireland, Italy, and Germany – can reduce their obligations such that they owe more than €1bn to only 2 other countries
  • Ireland can reduce its debt from almost 130% of GDP to under 20% of GDP
  • France can virtually eliminate its debt – reducing it to just 0.06% of GDP

Did You Humans Crack This Isht And Then Hide It From Yourselves 70 Years Ago?

airplanesandrockets  |   By far the most potent source of energy is gravity. Using it as power future aircraft will attain the speed of li...