Monday, February 29, 2016

Preznit Trump would have no authority the Deep State is bound to acknowledge...,

WaPo |  Former CIA director Michael Hayden believes there is a legitimate possibility that the U.S. military would refuse to follow orders given by Donald Trump if the Republican front-runner becomes president and decides to make good on certain campaign pledges.

Hayden, who also headed the National Security Agency from 1999 to 2005, made the provocative statement on Friday during an appearance on HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher.” Trump, fresh off a string of primary victories, has yet to secure his party’s nomination, but Hayden said the candidate’s rhetoric already raises troubling questions.

“I would be incredibly concerned if a President Trump governed in a way that was consistent with the language that candidate Trump expressed during the campaign,” Hayden said during the interview with Maher.

Earlier this month, Trump told a South Carolina retirement community that he supports waterboarding and similar interrogation techniques because “torture works” when it comes to extracting vital information from terrorists.

Deeming waterboarding “torture,” President Obama’s administration discontinued its use during his first term in office. Proponents of the controversial practice, as The Washington Posts Jenna Johnson noted, avoid labeling it as torture, which would violate various international laws and treaties. Trump, meanwhile, has not only pledged to reinstate waterboarding, but also introduce other methods of interrogation that are “so much worse” and “much stronger.”

“Don’t tell me it doesn’t work — torture works,” Trump told the Sun City retirement community. “Okay, folks? Torture — you know, half these guys [say]: ‘Torture doesn’t work.’ Believe me, it works. Okay?”

Trump has also said on multiple occasions that the United States should kill the family members of terrorists.

“That will make people think. Because they do not care very much about their lives, but they do care, believe it or not, about their family’s lives,” Trump said during a debate of Republican presidential candidates in December.

Politifact has pointed out that targeting terrorists’ family members is barred by the Geneva Conventions.

During his appearance on “Real Time,” Hayden cited Trump’s pledge to kill family members as being among his most troubling campaign statements.

“That never even occurred to you, right?” Maher asked.

“God, no!” Hayden replied. “Let me give you a punchline: If he were to order that once in government, the American armed forces would refuse to act.”

anthropobotics and the world-sized web...,

schneier |  The Internet of Things is the name given to the computerization of everything in our lives. Already you can buy Internet-enabled thermostats, light bulbs, refrigerators, and cars. Soon everything will be on the Internet: the things we own, the things we interact with in public, autonomous things that interact with each other.

These "things" will have two separate parts. One part will be sensors that collect data about us and our environment. Already our smartphones know our location and, with their onboard accelerometers, track our movements. Things like our thermostats and light bulbs will know who is in the room. Internet-enabled street and highway sensors will know how many people are out and about -- and eventually who they are. Sensors will collect environmental data from all over the world.

The other part will be actuators. They'll affect our environment. Our smart thermostats aren't collecting information about ambient temperature and who's in the room for nothing; they set the temperature accordingly. Phones already know our location, and send that information back to Google Maps and Waze to determine where traffic congestion is; when they're linked to driverless cars, they'll automatically route us around that congestion. Amazon already wants autonomous drones to deliver packages. The Internet of Things will increasingly perform actions for us and in our name.

Increasingly, human intervention will be unnecessary. The sensors will collect data. The system's smarts will interpret the data and figure out what to do. And the actuators will do things in our world. You can think of the sensors as the eyes and ears of the Internet, the actuators as the hands and feet of the Internet, and the stuff in the middle as the brain. This makes the future clearer. The Internet now senses, thinks, and acts.

We're building a world-sized robot, and we don't even realize it.

I've started calling this robot the World-Sized Web.

the new middle ages...,

sunweber |  The Middle Ages have been given somewhat of a bad rap. Yes, there was little buffer from year to year for the bulk of humanity against hunger and famine. Medicine was primitive and poorly conceived. Hygiene was not understood. And yes, there were the rich that controlled and took from the poor. Most of humanity worked very hard to make daily living work. 

However, let me suggest that this future without fossil fuels may not be significantly different from present once we work through the inevitable losses and grieving. In an Excel spread sheet I created in 2000 looking at the per capita use by country of petroleum, natural gas and electricity, some 75 to 80 per cent of the population had very little use of fossil fuels. Many people today work hand to mouth and lived on the edge with hunger, low energy accessibility, poor water resources and fragile shelter.

What is in process is the great leveling of globalization. Many of us will be joining the peasant class.
Through history there seems to be a distribution of wealth and privilege that looks something like:
  1. 0.1% Dynastic Oligarchs
  2. 1% Administrators (in today’s world - CEOs, Presidents, Fed chairman, etc.)
  3. 10 to 15% Functionary Workers (this would be most who are reading this now)
  4. 80 to 90% Peasants (Wage Slaves in debt-bondage)
Today is no different. As I indicated globalization is the new leveling and pathway to peasanthood given the peaking and ultimate depletion of fossil fuels and other resources.

watch five years of oil drilling collapse in seconds

Source: Bloomberg

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Love, in self-remembering

I Corinthians 13 | If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Ardue University | Consciousness
On one occasion while talking with Gurdjieff, I asked him whether he considered it possible to attain 'cosmic consciousness', not for a brief moment only but for a longer period. I understood the expression 'cosmic consciousness' in the sense of a higher consciousness possible for Man in the same way in which I had previously written about it in my book Tertium Organum.
"I do not know what you mean by 'cosmic consciousness'" said G. "It is a vague and indefinite term; anyone can call anything he likes by it. In most cases what is called 'cosmic consciousness' is simply fantasy, associative day-dreaming connected with intensified work of the emotional centre. Sometimes it comes near to ecstasy, but most often it is merely a subjective emotional experience on the level of dreams. But even apart from all this, before we can speak of 'cosmic consciousness' we must define in general what consciousness is. How do you define consciousness?"

"Consciousness is considered to be indefinable", I said, "and indeed, how can it be defined if it is an inner quality? With the ordinary means at our disposal it is impossible to prove the presence of consciousness in another man. We know it only in ourselves."

"All this is rubbish", said G., "the usual scientific sophistry. It is time you got rid of it. Only one thing is true in what you have said: that you can know consciousness only in yourself. Observe that I say 'you can know', for you can know it only when you have it. And when you have not got it, you can know that you have not got it — not at that very moment, but afterwards. I mean that when it comes again you can see that it has been absent a long time, and you can find or remember the moment when it disappeared and when it reappeared.

"You can also define the moments when you are nearer to consciousness and further away from consciousness. But by observing in yourself the appearance and the disappearance of consciousness you will inevitably see one fact which you neither see nor acknowledge now, and that is that moments of consciousness are very short and are separated by long intervals of completely unconscious, mechanical working of the machine.

"You will then see that you can think, feel, act, speak, work, without being conscious of it. And if you learn to see in yourselves the moments of consciousness and the long periods of mechanicalness, you will as infallibly see in other people when they are conscious of what they are doing and when they are not.

"Your principal mistake consists in thinking either that that you always have consciousness, and in general, either that consciousness is always present or that it is never present. In reality consciousness is a property which is continually changing. Now it is present, now it is not present. And there are different degrees and different levels of consciousness. Both consciousness and the different degrees of consciousness must be understood in oneself by sensation, by taste.

"No definitions can help you in this case and no definitions are possible so long as you do not understand what you have to define. And science and philosophy cannot define consciousness because they want to define it where it does not exist. It is necessary to distinguish consciousness from the possibility of consciousness. We have only the possibility of consciousness and rare flashes of it. Therefore we cannot define what consciousness is."

an oldie but goodie - very apropos in our current flurry of political distractions...,

cluborlov |  Some people enjoy having the Big Picture laid out in front of them—the biggest possible—on what is happening in the world at large, and I am happy to oblige. The largest development of 2014 is, very broadly, this: the Anglo-imperialists are finally being forced out of Eurasia. How can we tell? Well, here is the Big Picture—the biggest I could find. I found it thanks to Nikolai Starikov and a recent article of his.

Now, let's first define our terms. By Anglo-imperialists I mean the combination of Britain and the United States. The latter took over for the former as it failed, turning it into a protectorate. Now the latter is failing too, and there are no new up-and-coming Anglo-imperialists to take over for it. But throughout this process their common playbook had remained the same: pseudoliberal pseudocapitalism for the insiders and military domination and economic exploitation for everyone else. Much more specifically, their playbook always called for a certain strategem to be executed whenever their plans to dominate and exploit any given country finally fail. On their way out, they do what they can to compromise and weaken the entity they leave behind, by inflicting a permanently oozing and festering political wound. “Poison all the wells” is the last thing on their pre-departure checklist.

• When the British got tossed out of their American Colonies, they did all they could, using a combination of import preferences and British “soft power,” to bolster the plantation economy of the American South, helping set it up as a sort of anti-United States, and the eventual result was the American Civil War.

• When the British got tossed out of Ireland, they set up Belfast as a sort of anti-Ireland, with much blood shed as a result.

• When the British got tossed out of the Middle East, they set up the State of Israel, then the US made it into its own protectorate, and it has been poisoning regional politics ever since. (Thanks to Kristina for pointing this out in the comments.)

• When the British got tossed out of India, they set up Pakistan, as a sort of anti-India, precipitating a nasty hot war, followed by a frozen conflict over Kashmir.

• When the US lost China to the Communists, they evacuated the Nationalists to Taiwan, and set it up as a sort of anti-China, and even gave it China's seat at the United Nations.

The goal is always the same: if they can't have the run of the place, they make sure that nobody else can either, by setting up a conflict scenario that nobody there can ever hope to resolve. And so if you see Anglo-imperialists going out of their way and spending lots of money to poison the political well somewhere in the world, you can be sure that they are on their way out. Simply put, they don't spend lots of money to set up intractable problems for themselves to solve—it's always done for the benefit of others.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Afrodemic Apocalypse: MHP served her purpose but has now become a trivially expendable liability...,

medium |  As you know by now, my name appears on the weekend schedule for MSNBC programming from South Carolina this Saturday and Sunday. I appreciate that many of you responded to this development with relief and enthusiasm. To know that you have missed working with me even a fraction of how much I’ve missed working with all of you is deeply moving. However, as of this morning, I do not have any intention of hosting this weekend. Because this is a decision that affects all of you, I wanted to take a moment to explain my reasoning.

Some unknown decision-maker, presumably Andy Lack or Phil Griffin, has added my name to this spreadsheet, but nothing has changed in the posture of the MSNBC leadership team toward me or toward our show. Putting me on air seems to be a decision being made solely to save face because there is a growing chorus of questions from our viewers about my notable absence from MSNBC coverage. Social media has noted the dramatic change in editorial tone and racial composition of MSNBC’s on-air coverage. In addition, Dylan Byers of CNN has made repeated inquiries with MSNBC’s leadership and with me about the show and what appears to be its cancellation. I have not responded to reporters or social media inquiries. However, I am not willing to appear on air in order to quell concerns about the disappearance of our show and our voice.

Here is the reality: our show was taken — without comment or discussion or notice — in the midst of an election season. After four years of building an audience, developing a brand, and developing trust with our viewers, we were effectively and utterly silenced. Now, MSNBC would like me to appear for four inconsequential hours to read news that they deem relevant without returning to our team any of the editorial control and authority that makes MHP Show distinctive.

The purpose of this decision seems to be to provide cover for MSNBC, not to provide voice for MHP Show. I will not be used as a tool for their purposes. I am not a token, mammy, or little brown bobble head. I am not owned by Lack, Griffin, or MSNBC. I love our show. I want it back. I have wept more tears than I can count and I find this deeply painful, but I don’t want back on air at any cost. I am only willing to return when that return happens under certain terms.

lol, if Trump elected, Al Sharpton will flee the country..., (bye Felicia!)

zerohedge | The person most surprised by Donald Trump’s political success is Donald Trump, Al Sharpton says.
“[He’s a] prisoner of this wave that could go all the way if there is not a counter-wave,” the reverend told an audience at a Center for American Progress Action Fund event on Friday.
Sharpton discussed a variety of issues, including the “super predator” comments made by Hillary Clinton in 1996 when the former First Lady was stumping for her husband’s tough-on-crime bill. 
Those rather incendiary comments prompted one young lady to interrupt a Clinton event on Wednesday evening in protest. "I think that people have the right to raise that because it’s an issue that’s disturbing," Sharpton told The Huffington Post about the protesters confronting Clinton. "But I think it is something she has to deal with as many times as it’s raised, as we raised it. It’s a legitimate question."
But the highlight came when Sharpton discussed what would happen should America witness a Trump triumph, as it were. "If Donald Trump is the nominee ... I'm also reserving my ticket to get out of here if he wins. Only because he’d probably have me deported anyhow," Sharpton said, in what was apparently meant as a joke.
As for who is best positioned on the Democratic ticket to provide the "counter-wave" Sharpton says America needs to prevent the Teflon Don from steamrolling his way into the White House, Sharpton was non-committal. 
“It’s good for them to say ‘yes, the country has an illness.’ Now, how are we going to heal it? Specifically, not slogans," Sharpton said addressing the choice between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. "I don’t need people to tell me ‘yep, you are right, it’s unfair.’ Tell me what you are going to do about it.”

Friday, February 26, 2016

granny goodness can't even pretend to apologize for the mass incarceration state she helped create...,

salon |  According to a Feb. 16 CNN/ORC poll, a whopping 65 percent of South Carolinian black voters are planning to support Hillary Clinton in Saturday’s primary, while only 28 percent are planning to support Bernie Sanders.
The furor that broke out last night, however, may just shift the political winds.

In the middle of a $500-per-person Clinton fundraising event in Charleston on Wednesday evening, a young Black Lives Matter activist stepped out in front of the former secretary of state, turned toward the small audience, and held aloft a banner emblazoned with the phrase, “We need to bring them to heel.”

The protester, as she later explained, “wanted to make sure that black people are paying attention to [Clinton’s] record” by drawing attention to the racist rhetoricClinton used in 1996, when she, as first lady, strongly supported the “tough on crime” method of governance, and successfully lobbied for a bill based on that method to be passed into law.

“They are not just gangs of kids anymore,” Clinton warned the public at the time. “They are often the kinds of kids that are called ‘super-predators.’ No conscience, no empathy. We can talk about why they ended up that way, but first we need to bring them to heel.”

The crime bill that Clinton advocated for is now widely regarded as a “terrible mistake,” and the demonizing language that she used to describe young people who belong to gangs (a group that, because of institutionalized racism and oppression, is majority black and Latino/a) would now be political suicide.

Since the ’90s, the Democratic Party — and Hillary Clinton along with it — has morphed from voicing demagogic, dangerous ideas about black children and supporting catastrophic crime policies to, today, speaking of how “we have allowed our criminal justice system to get out of balance,” and promising an end to the decades-long era of mass incarceration, which, of course, they hold much responsibility for creating.

But, despite Clinton’s sudden populist transformation, the memory of the American people isn’t quite so short and fleeting.

it didn't occur to Bill that the terms P (population) and S (services) are negotiable?

declineofempire |  Bill Gates recently wrote his annual letter and it's getting some attention because he addressed the climate problem this year (a Vox interview with Ezra Klein). The target audience was high school students. The letter contained a simple mathematical formula describing why solving the climate problem is very hard. Here it is, with Bill's explanation.
Bill Gates: Yeah, it's important for people who care about climate to not think it's easy to solve.
The equation is: How many people are there? And that's P, which today is about 7 billion, and will grow to be bigger than 9 billion.
Then you take how many energy-related services each person takes advantage of — that's heating, cooling, transport, lighting. We call that S, and that will go up quite a bit as poor people in India are getting lighting, air conditioning, refrigeration. The average number of services used by a person will increase, and it should — that's a very good thing.
Then you have E, the energy used per service. In some areas, like lighting, that number can go down a lot. In some, like transport, planes, making fertilizer — those processes are extremely optimized, and so there's not that much room to innovate on the energy-per-service front. Even if you're optimistic about that, maybe you'll get to 0.6. That is, 40 percent more efficient across all services.
And so if we take these first three factors — 7 billion going to 9 billion, double the services per person, and efficiency at about 0.6, that's increasing [emissions].
The last factor is C, the carbon per unit of energy. And so if you multiply today, you get 36 billion tons. And if you multiply in the future, you need to get zero.
And so the first three factors are not going [to change] — the first one is going up; the second one, hopefully, is going up; the third one is going down, but not enough to offset those other two.
You have to take transport, industry, household, electricity — and, at least in the middle income and rich countries, put it into a zero emission mode.
Gates believes we need a "miracle" to get to zero carbon emissions in a world of 9 billion people, most of whom are wealthier (a doubling in terms of services S) than they are now.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

skynet, drones, and clones...,

WaPo |  Little noticed amid the daily news bulletins about the Islamic State and Syria, the Pentagon has begun a push for exotic new weapons that can deter Russia and China.
Pentagon officials have started talking openly about using the latest tools of artificial intelligence and machine learning to create robot weapons, “human-machine teams” and enhanced, super-powered soldiers. It may sound like science fiction, but Pentagon officials say they have concluded that such high-tech systems are the best way to combat rapid improvements by the Russian and Chinese militaries.
These potentially revolutionary U.S. weapons systems were explained in an interview last week by Robert Work, the deputy secretary of defense, and Air ForceGen. Paul Selva, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Their comments were the latest in a series of unusual recent disclosures about what, until a few months ago, was some of the military’s most secret research.
“This is how we will make our battle networks more powerful, hopefully, and inject enough uncertainty in the minds of the Russians and the Chinese that, you know, if they ever did come to blows with us, would be able to prevail in a conventional [non-nuclear] way. That, for me, is the definition of conventional deterrence,” Work explained.
Within the Pentagon, this high-tech approach is known by the dull phrase “third offset strategy,” emulating two earlier “offsets” that checked Russian military advances during the Cold War. The first offset was tactical nuclear weapons; the second was precision-guided conventional weapons. The latest version assumes that smart, robot weapons can help restore deterrence that has been eroded by Russian and Chinese progress.

era of u.s. aircraft carrier supremacy coming to an end...,

WaPo |  The United States’ aircraft carriers have always been an almost untouchable deterrent, steel behemoths capable of projecting the full weight of the U.S. military wherever they deploy. Yet while many militaries could never hope to match the U.S. carrier fleet in size and strength, countries such as China, Iran and Russia have spent recent years adjusting their forces and fielding equipment designed to counter one of the United States’ greatest military strengths.
A report published Monday by the Center for a New American Security, a D.C.-based think tank that focuses on national security, claims that the Navy’s carrier operations are at an inflection point. Faced with growing threats abroad, the United States can either “operate its carriers at ever-increasing ranges … or assume high levels of risk in both blood and treasure.”
The report, titled “Red Alert: The Growing Threat to U.S. Aircraft Carriers,” focuses on China’s burgeoning military posture in the Pacific and on a term that is starting to appear with increasing urgency in defense circles: anti-access/area denial, or A2/AD. The term A2/AD refers to a concept that has long existed in warfare: denying the enemy the ability to move around the battlefield. Currently A2/AD strategy is much the same as it was when moats were dug around castles, except that today’s moats are an integrated system of surface-to-air missiles, anti-ship cruise missiles, submarines, surface ships and aircraft — all designed to push enemy forces as far away as possible from strategically important areas.
The report highlights China’s capabilities because of its “emphasis on long-range anti-ship missile procurement.” This, coupled with its growing tech base, qualifies China as the “pacing threat” to the U.S. military. China, however, is not the sole architect of an A2/AD strategy designed to deter U.S. operations. In the Baltic, Russia’s naval base in Kaliningrad is known to house a sophisticated air defense network and anti-ship missiles. NATO commanders also have warned of Russian A2/AD buildup around Syria, as Russia has moved advanced surface-to-air missiles into its airbase there as well as a flotilla of ships with robust anti-air capabilities.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

frankly I'm elated to see elites coming together to work out fundamental problems...,

politico |  IT WAS SOMETHING OF A SURREAL MOMENT. CHARLES DE Ganahl Koch, the nerdy multibillionaire from Wichita who has become known as the Rasputin of the American Right, was trying to explain to me why he was getting into bed—politically speaking—with people like George Soros, his progressive archrival in the big­moneyand­politics set, and Cory Booker, the liberal black senator and former mayor of beleaguered (and very Democratic) Newark, New Jersey. 

The vast apparatus of foundations, advocacy groups, corporations and think tanks that Koch oversees and supports—what his critics darkly call the “Kochtopus”—was busy this winter launching programs and initiatives aimed at reeling in the worst excesses of one of the few industries larger than his own: the criminal justiceindustrial complex. Koch had decided to help pull together a new coalition of leftright advocacy groups in Washington, including the Hillary Clinton­aligned Center for American Progress, to fight what he calls the “overcriminalization of America.” He was underwriting a documentary screening at the Newseum about Weldon Angelos, a marijuana dealer serving a 55­year sentence that even Angelos’ judge called “unjust” and “cruel”—and helping to train attorneys to aid poor people across the country. In March, Koch’s general counsel, Mark Holden, plans to join with Van Jones, a former Obama administration official who took the liberal side on CNN’s since­canceled “Crossfire,” in mounting the #Cut50 Bipartisan Summit, which will explore strategies for reducing America’s incarcerated population by 50 percent over the next 10 years. (Jones’s old CNN adversary, Newt Gingrich, is also involved.) 

A passionate prairie libertarian who as a young man reportedly wouldn’t permit a friend to bring an Ernest Hemingway novel into his house because “ Hemingway was a communist” (the friend had to leave the book on the stoop, though Koch denies this happened), the 79­year­old Koch now evinces a much more relaxed attitude toward joining up with Soros and other liberals. “The more the merrier,” he told me. “One of my heroes was Frederick Douglass. He said, ‘I would unite with anyone to do right and with nobody to do wrong.’ We’ve worked with unlikely bedfellows. … But I would say we have gotten the most support in criminal justice reform.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

money is sleep, broken machinery, and the death of our civilization and species....,

TED |  00:11 I want you to, for a moment, think about playing a game of Monopoly, except in this game, that combination of skill, talent and luck that help earn you success in games, as in life, has been rendered irrelevant, because this game's been rigged, and you've got the upper hand. You've got more money, more opportunities to move around the board, and more access to resources. And as you think about that experience, I want you to ask yourself, how might that experience of being a privileged player in a rigged game change the way that you think about yourself and regard that other player?

00:53 So we ran a study on the U.C. Berkeley campus to look at exactly that question. We brought in more than 100 pairs of strangers into the lab, and with the flip of a coin randomly assigned one of the two to be a rich player in a rigged game. They got two times as much money. When they passed Go, they collected twice the salary, and they got to roll both dice instead of one, so they got to move around the board a lot more. (Laughter) And over the course of 15 minutes, we watched through hidden cameras what happened. And what I want to do today, for the first time, is show you a little bit of what we saw. You're going to have to pardon the sound quality, in some cases, because again, these were hidden cameras. So we've provided subtitles. Rich Player: How many 500s did you have? Poor Player: Just one.

01:41 Rich Player: Are you serious. Poor Player: Yeah.

01:42 Rich Player: I have three. (Laughs) I don't know why they gave me so much.

01:46 Paul Piff: Okay, so it was quickly apparent to players that something was up. One person clearly has a lot more money than the other person, and yet, as the game unfolded, we saw very notable differences and dramatic differences begin to emerge between the two players. The rich player started to move around the board louder, literally smacking the board with their piece as he went around. We were more likely to see signs of dominance and nonverbal signs, displays of power and celebration among the rich players.

02:22 We had a bowl of pretzels positioned off to the side. It's on the bottom right corner there. That allowed us to watch participants' consummatory behavior. So we're just tracking how many pretzels participants eat.

02:34 Rich Player: Are those pretzels a trick?

02:36 Poor Player: I don't know.

02:38 PP: Okay, so no surprises, people are onto us. They wonder what that bowl of pretzels is doing there in the first place. One even asks, like you just saw, is that bowl of pretzels there as a trick? And yet, despite that, the power of the situation seems to inevitably dominate, and those rich players start to eat more pretzels.

03:02 Rich Player: I love pretzels.

03:05 (Laughter)

03:08 PP: And as the game went on, one of the really interesting and dramatic patterns that we observed begin to emerge was that the rich players actually started to become ruder toward the other person, less and less sensitive to the plight of those poor, poor players, and more and more demonstrative of their material success, more likely to showcase how well they're doing. Rich Player: I have money for everything. Poor Player: How much is that? Rich Player: You owe me 24 dollars. You're going to lose all your money soon. I'll buy it. I have so much money. I have so much money, it takes me forever. Rich Player 2: I'm going to buy out this whole board. Rich Player 3: You're going to run out of money soon. I'm pretty much untouchable at this point.

03:57 PP: Okay, and here's what I think was really, really interesting, is that at the end of the 15 minutes, we asked the players to talk about their experience during the game. And when the rich players talked about why they had inevitably won in this rigged game of Monopoly -- (Laughter) — they talked about what they'd done to buy those different properties and earn their success in the game, and they became far less attuned to all those different features of the situation, including that flip of a coin that had randomly gotten them into that privileged position in the first place. And that's a really, really incredible insight into how the mind makes sense of advantage.

04:50 Now this game of Monopoly can be used as a metaphor for understanding society and its hierarchical structure, wherein some people have a lot of wealth and a lot of status, and a lot of people don't. They have a lot less wealth and a lot less status and a lot less access to valued resources. And what my colleagues and I for the last seven years have been doing is studying the effects of these kinds of hierarchies. What we've been finding across dozens of studies and thousands of participants across this country is that as a person's levels of wealth increase, their feelings of compassion and empathy go down, and their feelings of entitlement, of deservingness, and their ideology of self-interest increases. In surveys, we found that it's actually wealthier individuals who are more likely to moralize greed being good, and that the pursuit of self-interest is favorable and moral. Now what I want to do today is talk about some of the implications of this ideology self-interest, talk about why we should care about those implications, and end with what might be done.

Peacocks, Porsches, and Thorstein Veblen: Conspicuous Consumption as a Sexual Signaling System

researchgate |  Conspicuous consumption is a form of economic behavior in which self-presentational concerns override desires to obtain goods at bargain prices. Showy spending may be a social signal directed at potential mates. We investigated such signals by examining (a) which individuals send them, (b) which contexts trigger them, and (c) how observers interpret them. Three experiments demonstrated that conspicuous consumption is driven by men who are following a lower investment (vs. higher investment) mating strategy and is triggered specifically by short-term (vs. long-term) mating motives. A fourth experiment showed that observers interpret such signals accurately, with women perceiving men who conspicuously consume as being interested in short-term mating. Furthermore, conspicuous purchasing enhanced men's desirability as a short-term (but not as a long-term) mate. Overall, these findings suggest that flaunting status-linked goods to potential mates is not simply about displaying economic resources. Instead, conspicuous consumption appears to be part of a more precise signaling system focused on short-term mating. These findings contribute to an emerging literature on human life-history strategies.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Mr. Miracle provoking previously unseen levels of pearl-clutching and vapor-catching in the Cathedral...,

WaPo | Like any number of us raised in the late 20th century, I have spent my life perplexed about exactly how Hitler could have come to power in Germany. Watching Donald Trump’s rise, I now understand. Leave aside whether a direct comparison of Trump to Hitler is accurate. That is not my point. My point rather is about how a demagogic opportunist can exploit a divided country.

To understand the rise of Hitler and the spread of Nazism, I have generally relied on the German-Jewish √©migr√© philosopher Hannah Arendt and her arguments about the banality of evil. Somehow people can understand themselves as “just doing their job,” yet act as cogs in the wheel of a murderous machine. Arendt also offered a second answer in a small but powerful book called “Men in Dark Times.” In this book, she described all those who thought that Hitler’s rise was a terrible thing but chose “internal exile,” or staying invisible and out of the way as their strategy for coping with the situation. They knew evil was evil, but they too facilitated it, by departing from the battlefield out of a sense of hopelessness.

One can see both of these phenomena unfolding now. The first shows itself, for instance, when journalists cover every crude and cruel thing that comes out of Trump’s mouth and thereby help acculturate all of us to what we are hearing. Are they not just doing their jobs, they will ask, in covering the Republican front-runner? Have we not already been acculturated by 30 years of popular culture to offensive and inciting comments? Yes, both of these things are true. But that doesn’t mean journalists ought to be Trump’s megaphone. Perhaps we should just shut the lights out on offensiveness; turn off the mic when someone tries to shout down others; reestablish standards for what counts as a worthwhile contribution to the public debate. That will seem counter to journalistic norms, yes, but why not let Trump pay for his own ads when he wants to broadcast foul and incendiary ideas? He’ll still have plenty of access to freedom of expression. It is time to draw a bright line.

One spots the second experience in any number of water-cooler conversations or dinner-party dialogues. “Yes, yes, it is terrible. Can you believe it? Have you seen anything like it? Has America come to this?” “Agreed, agreed.” But when someone asks what is to be done, silence falls. Very many of us, too many of us, are starting to contemplate accepting internal exile. Or we joke about moving to Canada more seriously than usually.

too much utility maximization...,

zerohedge | One week ago, when we commented on the latest weekly update from Credit Suisse's very well hooked-in energy analyst James Wicklund, one particular phrase stuck out when looking at the upcoming contraction of Oil and Gas liquidity: "while your borrowing base might be upheld, there will be minimum liquidity requirements before capital can be accessed. It is hitting the OFS sector as well. As one banker put it, "we are looking to save ourselves now."
In his latest note, Wicklund takes the gloom level up a notch and shows that for all the bank posturing and attempts to preserve calm among the market, what is really happening below the surface can be summarized with one word: panic, and not just for the banks who are stuck holding on to energy exposure, or the energy companies who are facing bankruptcy if oil doesn't rebound, but also for their (now former) employees. Curious why average hourly earnings refuse to go up except for those getting minimum wage boosts? Because according to CS "It is estimated that ~250,000 people have lost their jobs in the industry in the last 18 months."
Which is bad news: as we reported late last week, the restaurant "recovery" is now over, so as these formerly very well-paid and highly skilled workers scramble to find a job, any job, they'll find that even the "backup plan" has failed, with not even the local McDonalds suddenly hiring.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

the u.s. economy has not recovered and will not recover...,

unz |  The US economy died when middle class jobs were offshored and when the financial system was deregulated.
Jobs offshoring benefitted Wall Street, corporate executives, and shareholders, because lower labor and compliance costs resulted in higher profits. These profits flowed through to shareholders in the form of capital gains and to executives in the form of “performance bonuses.” Wall Street benefitted from the bull market generated by higher profits.
However, jobs offshoring also offshored US GDP and consumer purchasing power. Despite promises of a “New Economy” and better jobs, the replacement jobs have been increasingly part-time, lowly-paid jobs in domestic services, such as retail clerks, waitresses and bartenders.
The offshoring of US manufacturing and professional service jobs to Asia stopped the growth of consumer demand in the US, decimated the middle class, and left insufficient employment for college graduates to be able to service their student loans. The ladders of upward mobility that had made the United States an “opportunity society” were taken down in the interest of higher short-term profits.
Without growth in consumer incomes to drive the economy, the Federal Reserve under Alan Greenspan substituted the growth in consumer debt to take the place of the missing growth in consumer income. Under the Greenspan regime, Americans’ stagnant and declining incomes were augmented with the ability to spend on credit. One source of this credit was the rise in housing prices that the Federal Reserves low inerest rate policy made possible. Consumers could refinance their now higher-valued home at lower interest rates and take out the “equity” and spend it.
The debt expansion, tied heavily to housing mortgages, came to a halt when the fraud perpetrated by a deregulated financial system crashed the real estate and stock markets. The bailout of the guilty imposed further costs on the very people that the guilty had victimized.

protectionism, shaky debt, and weak banking systems have consequences

marketwatch |  One view of what caused the Great Depression in the 1930s is that the Federal Reserve failed to prevent a collapse in the money supply.
This is the famous thesis of Milton Friedman’s and Anna Schwartz’s A Monetary History of the United States, 1867-1960, and it was, more or less, the view of Ben Bernanke when he was chairman of the Federal Reserve.
The global economy today resembles that of the 1930s in several ominous ways.
Financial author Edward Chancellor recently called attention to a paper written by Claudio Borio, head economist at the Bank of International Settlements, that provides a fuller picture of the causes of the Great Depression. The paper also draws parallels between global economic conditions that led to the rise of protectionism in the 1930s and our situation now.
The paper’s thesis is that “financial elasticity” characterizes both the pre-Depression global economy and today’s global economy.  Elasticity refers to the buildup of capital imbalances such as money flows into emerging markets because of low rates in developed markets.

one nation, under water...,

dailyimpact | I was there when a furniture-store owner I’ll call Chuck introduced, to a certain British-ruled, sub-tropical, behind-the-times island, the concept of hire-purchase — or, in American, rent-to-own. He started selling furniture on credit, for a small down payment and a contract to repay the balance at an astronomical interest rate. His policy scandalized everyone on the island who was rich enough not to need credit for such purposes; and was insanely popular with everyone else.

The establishment railed against what he was doing as somehow immoral, even illegal. Some legislators tried to declare it, and ban it, as “usury” (a quaint, antique sin, now regarded as about as serious as not eating fish on Friday). They decried hire purchase as a practice that would corrupt the moral fiber of poor people, which they seemed to think was somehow improved by not having furniture. They did not feel, however, that the large mortgages they held on their villas had in any way corrupted them.

Despite their disdain, the lower classes got their tables and chairs and Chuck got very rich indeed and was soon a welcome guest in the homes of the island’s rich and famous.

It was hard to follow or to credit the arguments against selling products on credit. Indeed, the upper classes — on the island as elsewhere in the world — soon abandoned all compunctions about selling on credit when they realized that selling things to people who could not afford them made them and their bankers, obscenely rich.

Since the innocent days of yesteryear, when having a mortgage was embarrassing, borrowing money was evidence of a character flaw and declaring bankruptcy was the secular equivalent of eternal damnation, debt in America has become a vast cancerous growth that now threatens the very life of its host. Let’s set aside for now the scary dimensions of public debt  (now $19 trillion and rising) and corporate debt (over $14 trillion and rising) , and focus just on the debt of individual Americans (now over $12 trillion).

Total individual debt is almost back to where it was in late 2008 when the Great Recession began. For five years after the last crash it declined, not because people were paying their debts but because foreclosures and bankruptcies were obliterating them. Since 2013 overall debt has been increasing again, but changing in nature.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

i guess it's going to be foodstamps...,

kansascity |  Dale Dorsey, after working 33 years, is facing a 51 percent cut to his pension. He’s not facing it alone.

He’s married. Dorsey’s mother lives with them. And, having gotten a late start on a family, so do his children, one in the fourth grade and one in the eighth grade.

“This is just going to cripple my family,” said Dorsey, who was one of 750 retirees and workers who attended a town hall meeting Tuesday in Kansas City.

They came to battle massive pension cuts proposed by the Central States Pension Fund, which covers 400,000 participants, 220,000 of them retired. The fund is so short of money, it will go broke in 10 years. 

A controversial 2014 law allowed the pension to propose the cuts, many of them by half or more, as a way to perhaps save the fund.

Some at the session said that allowing the cuts — the first test of the law — meant others would follow. Two much smaller pensions also have sought similar relief under the law, and still more pensions are significantly underfunded.

“What’s happening to us is a microcosm of what’s going to happen to the rest of the pensions in the United States,” said Jay Perry, a longtime member of Teamsters Local 41 who worked for Yellow Freight, now called YRC Worldwide Inc.

For nearly two hours inside the Kansas City Convention Center, 30 speakers took their turns asking for help from Kenneth Feinberg. He’s the noted mediator who distributed billions of dollars to victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and has overseen General Motors’ compensation for accidents from faulty ignition switches.

The U.S. Treasury has named Feinberg special master to decide by May whether the proposal from the Central States Pension Fund meets the 2014 law. He has held seven other public sessions, with Kansas City’s being the last. 

Those who spoke Tuesday asked him to reject the plan at least to give them and others a chance to find a less devastating solution. They said that cuts wouldn’t save the pension, that they’d still be out.
“This pension should be paid out in full until it’s gone,” said Larry Logston Jr., who said he’s among those facing a 50 percent pension cut.

Read more here:

tech-bro calls for final solution for lives devoid of value...,

guardian |  In only the latest cultural altercation between San Francisco’s tech workers and the city’s impoverished population, one tech worker has declared the homeless are “riff raff” whose “pain, struggle and despair” shouldn’t have to be endured by “wealthy” people commuting to work.

It’s a familiar story. A male entrepreneur (some might even call him a “tech bro”) – flush with the sense of self-worth and self-satisfaction that comes from living and working in a city and industry that treats him and his friends as the most important and intelligent human beings ever to grace a metropolitan area with their presence – takes a moment to think about homelessness. Not content to wrinkle his nose and move on with his day, he types those thoughts out. He publishes them on the internet.

And, there, with the click of a button, he enters the pantheon of infamous San Francisco tech bros.
Justin Keller, an entrepreneur, developer and the founder of startup, joined those exalted ranks on 15 February when he published an open letter to San Francisco mayor Ed Lee and police chief Greg Suhr:
I am writing today, to voice my concern and outrage over the increasing homeless and drug problem that the city is faced with. I’ve been living in SF for over three years, and without a doubt it is the worst it has ever been. Every day, on my way to, and from work, I see people sprawled across the sidewalk, tent cities, human feces, and the faces of addiction. The city is becoming a shanty town … Worst of all, it is unsafe.

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