Thursday, March 31, 2016

F-35 The Jet that Ate the Pentagon

BI |  America's most expensive weapons system ever has hit several snags on its march to combat readiness.

$391 billion (and counting) F-35 Lightning II still faces delays in software development and a complex computer-based logistics system, photos released by Lockheed Martin show a helmet that more than matches the stealth fighter jet's reputation for sophistication.

According to Lockheed Martin, every F-35 pilot wears the Generation III helmet for each training exercise and operational mission.

The F-35's Distributed Aperture System (DAS), gives pilots the ability "look through" the airframe of the jet thanks to six infrared cameras mounted around the aircraft.

Pilots can also read their airspeed, altitude, targeting information, and threat warnings on the helmet's visor, giving them "unprecedented situational awareness," according to Lockheed Martin. What's more, the helmet also gives pilots night vision via an integrated camera.

SEE ALSO: The F-35 relies on a $400,000 helmet that's had its own share of problems

the bribe factory

theage |  A massive leak of confidential documents has for the first time exposed the true extent of corruption within the oil industry, implicating dozens of leading companies, bureaucrats and politicians in a sophisticated global web of bribery and graft.

After a six-month investigation across two continents, Fairfax Media and The Huffington Post can reveal that billions of dollars of government contracts were awarded as the direct result of bribes paid on behalf of firms including British icon Rolls-Royce, US giant Halliburton, Australia’s Leighton Holdings and Korean heavyweights Samsung and Hyundai.

The investigation centres on a Monaco company called Unaoil, run by the jet-setting Ahsani clan. Following a coded ad in a French newspaper, a series of clandestine meetings and midnight phone calls led to our reporters obtaining hundreds of thousands of the Ahsanis’ leaked emails and documents. 

The trove reveals how they rub shoulders with royalty, party in style, mock anti-corruption agencies and operate a secret network of fixers and middlemen throughout the world’s oil producing nations.

Corruption in oil production - one of the world's richest industries and one that touches us all through our reliance on petrol - fuels inequality, robs people of their basic needs and causes social unrest in some of the world's poorest countries. It was among the factors that prompted the Arab Spring.
Fairfax Media and The Huffington Post today reveal how Unaoil carved up portions of the Middle East oil industry for the benefit of western companies between 2002 and 2012.

In part two we will turn to the impoverished former Russian states to reveal the extent of misbehaviour by multinational companies including Halliburton. We will conclude the three-part investigation by showing how corrupt practices have extended deep into Asia and Africa.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

watching worms turn for Granny Goodness like a scene out of a horror movie...,

counterpunch |  Obama was never antiwar. On the contrary, like all American presidents, he was pro-war. He had voted for George W. Bush’s funding of the slaughter in Iraq and he was planning to escalate the invasion of Afghanistan. In the weeks before he took the presidential oath, he secretly approved an Israeli assault on Gaza, the massacre known as Operation Cast Lead. He promised to close the concentration camp at Guantanamo and did not. He pledged to help make the world “free from nuclear weapons” and did the opposite.

As a new kind of marketing manager for the status quo, the unctuous Obama was an inspired choice. Even at the end of his blood-spattered presidency, with his signature drones spreading infinitely more terror and death around the world than that ignited by jihadists in Paris and Brussels, Obama is fawned on as “cool” (the Guardian).

On March 23, CounterPunch published my article, “A World War has Begun: Break the Silence”.  As has been my practice for years, I then syndicated the piece across an international network, including, the liberal American website.  Truthout publishes some important journalism, not least Dahr Jamail’s outstanding corporate exposes.

Truthout rejected the piece because, said an editor, it had appeared on CounterPunch and had broken “guidelines”.  I replied that this had never been a problem over many years and I knew of no guidelines.

My recalcitrance was then given another meaning. The article was reprieved provided I submitted to a “review” and agreed to changes and deletions made by Truthout’s “editorial committee”. The result was the softening and censoring of my criticism of Hillary Clinton, and the distancing of her from Trump. The following was cut:
Trump is a media hate figure. That alone should arouse our scepticism. Trump’s views on migration are grotesque, but no more grotesque than David Cameron. It is not Trump who is the Great Deporter from the United States, but the Nobel Peace Prize winner Barack Obama … The danger to the rest of us is not Trump, but Hillary Clinton. She is no maverick. She embodies the resilience and violence of a system … As presidential election day draws near, Clinton will be hailed as the first female president, regardless of her crimes and lies– just as Barack Obama was lauded as the first black president and liberals swallowed his nonsense about “hope”.
The “editorial committee” clearly wanted me to water down my argument that Clinton represented a proven extreme danger to the world.  Like all censorship, this was unacceptable. Maya Schenwar, who runs Truthout, wrote to me that my unwillingness to submit my work to a “process of revision” meant she had to take it off her “publication docket”.  Such is the gatekeeper’s way with words.

Granny Goodness less to women than the Hon.Bro.Preznit been to black folks...,

counterpunch |  I immediately reacted to Anthony’s ingenuity in recognizing Ms. Clinton’s embodiment of the power and authority of a patriarchal empire. I responded to his stark criticism of Ms. Clinton’s self proclamation as a “feminist,” a claim she makes while subjecting countless people, including women, across the globe to her violent foreign policy as a Secretary of State. Her actions have cost millions of deaths, many more injuries, far more people being dislocated and yet more of them experiencing broken up families, communities and countries.

If you are not familiar with Ms. Clinton’s record on corporatism, colonialism and militarism, this is a good place to start.

I saw the image as a clear statement of protest against patriarchy and Ms. Clinton’s disingenuous position as a feminist.  However, I had quite a few people complaining that the image is misogynistic, basically saying that it degrades women seeking power and implies hatred against them by depicting her as a man, a fat ugly man.

This view of the image is a stark reminder that Ms. Clinton has successfully presented herself as a successful female in a world dominated by men.  To her supporters, she symbolizes the power of women just as President Obama has represented the power of Black people to his.

But what did president Obama do with his power?  The power he held as he was sworn in to the presidency with his hand on Martin Luther King Jr.’s bible?  Dr. King called the US government “the greatest purveyor of violence.”  He fought against it and he died for his cause.  Conversely, President Obama started seven new wars and greatly expanded the drone war, personally overseeing what has become the killing of thousands.  President Obama did not expand MLK’s dream for humanity.  He has deceptively herded people into imperial agendas serving the white patriarchy.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

gail the actuary writes truth, jorge the labor-leader spouts nonsense...,

ourfiniteworld |  We are using renewable resources faster than they replenish and continue to use non-renewable resources. The workarounds to fix these problems take an increasing share of the total output of the economy, leaving less for what I have called “ordinary workers.” The problems we encounter include the following:
  • Pollution control. Pollution sinks are already full. Continuing to use non-renewable resources (including burning fossil fuels) adds increased pollution. Workarounds have costs, and these take an increasing share of the output of the economy.
  • Energy used in energy production. When we started extracting energy products, the cheapest, easiest-to-extract energy products were chosen first. The energy products that are left are higher-cost to extract, and thus require a larger share of the goods the economy produces for extraction.
  • Water, metals, and soil workarounds. These suffer from deteriorating quantity and quality, leading to the need for workarounds such as desalination plants, deeper mines, and more irrigated land. All of these take an increasingly large share of the output of the economy.
  • Interest and dividends. Capital goods tend to be purchased through debt or sales of stock. Either way, interest payments and dividends must be made, leaving less for workers.
  • Increasing hierarchy. Companies need to be larger in size to purchase and manage all of the capital goods needed to work around shortages. High pay for supervisors reduces funds available to pay lower-ranking employees.
  • Government funding and pensions. Government programs grow in size in good times, but are hard to cut back in hard times. Pensions, both government and private, are a particular problem because the number of elderly people tends to grow.
It should be no surprise that this type of continuing pattern of eroding wages for ordinary workers leads to great instability. If nothing else, workers become increasingly disillusioned and want to change or overthrow the government.

It might be noted that globalization also plays a role in this shift toward lower wages for ordinary workers. Part of the reason for globalization is simply to work around the problems listed above. For example, if pollution becomes more of a problem, globalization allows pollution to be shifted to countries that do not try to mitigate the problem. Globalization also allows businesses to work around rising the rising cost of oil production; production can be shifted to countries that instead emphasized coal in their energy mix, with much lower energy used in energy production. With increased globalization, people who are primarily selling the value of their own labor find that wages do not keep up with the rising cost of living.

paying criminals not to kill?

WaPo |  The odds were good that Lonnie Holmes, 21, would be the next person to kill or be killed in this working-class suburb north of San Francisco.

Four of his cousins had died in shootings. He was a passenger in a car involved in a drive-by shooting, police said. And he was arrested for carrying a loaded gun.

But when Holmes was released from prison last year, officials in this city offered something unusual to try to keep him alive: money. They began paying Holmes as much as $1,000 a month not to commit another gun crime.

Cities across the country, beginning with the District of Columbia, are moving to copy Richmond’s controversial approach because early indications show it has helped reduce homicide rates.

But the program requires governments to reject some basic tenets of law enforcement even as it challenges notions of appropriate ways to spend tax dollars.

In Richmond, the city has hired ex-convicts to mentor dozens of its most violent offenders and allows them to take unconventional steps if it means preventing the next homicide.

For example, the mentors have coaxed inebriated teenagers threatening violence into city cars, not for a ride to jail but home to sleep it off — sometimes with loaded firearms still in their waistbands. The mentors have funded trips to South Africa, London and Mexico City for rival gang members in the hope that shared experiences and time away from the city streets would ease tensions and forge new connections.

And when the elaborate efforts at engagement fail, the mentors still pay those who pledge to improve, even when, like Holmes, they are caught with a gun, or worse — suspected of murder.

a culture of sensitivity

thecrimson |  I used to believe that open discourse was a value all Americans hold dear. I presumed that when asked about what makes America so unique, many Americans would respond that our pluralistic society is the foundation of so much of our success. That it was understood that without a marketplace of ideas, our society simply could not flourish. 

But then I started college.

Since the beginning of my freshman year, I have come to believe that a more fitting way to describe the current culture on college campuses is a culture defined not by open expression—but by sensitivity. This undue focus on feelings has caused the college campus to often feel like a place where one has to monitor every syllable that is uttered to ensure that it could not under any circumstance offend anyone to the slightest degree. It sometimes feels as though pluralism has become an antiquated concept. Facts and history have been discarded, and instead feelings have been deemed to be the criteria that determine whether words and actions are acceptable.

It is important to have organizations and movements on college campuses that work toward protecting individuals’ identities. The past few decades have witnessed an explosion of new identities, and students should become aware of and respect the plethora of new identities that have recently emerged. But many of these movements have gone too far.

Take the University of New Hampshire’s “Bias-Free Language Guide.” The list was compiled to inform students of words that are considered offensive in conversation. According to the guide, which was removed from the school’s website a few months ago after it incited controversy, the word “American” is unacceptable, for it fails to recognize people of South American origin. “American,” it argues, should be replaced with “resident of the U.S.” The words “senior citizens,” “older people,” and “elders” should also be eliminated, and instead replaced with “people of advanced age” and “old people.” If we’re at a point where it is offensive to say that your 90-year-old grandparent is a senior citizen, it seems that pretty soon, there may not be any neutral words left.

Monday, March 28, 2016

"Do you recall visiting prostitutes? Mr Cruz?"

how the GOP elite lost its voters to Donald Trump

NYTimes |  Last March, Republican members of the House Ways and Means Committee filed into a Capitol Hill conference room to discuss trade. The Obama administration, negotiating a trade pact with Pacific Rim nations, was seeking congressional approval to fast-track the deal. Opposition was intense not only among labor unions, but among many Republican voters, while the party’s leadership, atypically, was supporting Mr. Obama’s effort.

For help, the lawmakers turned to Frank Luntz, the Republican messaging guru. For two decades, Mr. Luntz had instructed Republicans on how to talk about thorny issues. Do not say “estate tax.” Say “death tax.” Do not privatize Social Security. “Personalize” it.

Few issues were now as dangerous to them as trade, Mr. Luntz told the lawmakers, especially a trade pact sought by a president their voters hated. Many Americans did not believe that the economic benefits of trade deals trickled down to their neighborhoods. They did not care if free trade provided them with cheaper socks and cellphones. Most believed free trade benefited other countries, not their own.

“I told them to stop calling it free trade, and start calling it American trade,” Mr. Luntz said in an interview. “American businesses, American services — American, American, American!”

While Republicans debated rhetorical approaches, Mr. Trump took a radically different tack. Announcing his campaign a few months later, he spun a tale of unfair trade deals hashed out by lobbyists, backscratchers and incompetent presidents who were stealing jobs from Americans. He would stop the flow of jobs over the border with Mexico, Mr. Trump promised, and build a wall to stop the flow of people.

That message has resonated with lower-income voters, and helped drive Mr. Trump’s string of successes. In Mississippi and Michigan, both of which Mr. Trump won, six in 10 Republican primary voters said that free trade cost the country more jobs that it produced, exit polls showed.

Granny Goodness and Crudz INFINITELY more dangerous than Donald Trump

democracynow |  What we’ve seen in Brussels is the same exact pattern as we’ve seen, essentially, for the last 15 years each time there is one of these attacks. There is never any sense at all that there’s some balance needed between security, on the one hand, and civil liberties and privacy and a constrained budget for our military and intelligence, on the other. Every single time there’s a terrorist attack—every single time—politicians like Hillary Clinton and Ted Cruz come forward and say we need more of everything we’ve been doing. We need more money for intelligence, more surveillance authorities, more military presence, more security. You know, imagine if every single time there were a fatal car accident, every single time, in response, someone said not, "Well, we accept the fact that in exchange for having roads, we know there’s going to be some fatalities," but instead, every time, said, "We need more safety regulations for cars. We need to lower the speed limit even further." The reality is, in an open society, especially if you have a government that is constantly bombing people around the world, there are going to be people who want to bring back violence to you and who are going to succeed in doing it. You can’t stop people in every case. And it’s not necessarily the case that each time there’s a terrorist attack it means that you need more security measures, more intelligence gathering, and more security and military adventures in the way that politicians just almost reflexively call for.

I think it’s really important to note a couple things about Brussels. Number one is, the Brussels attack is now the fourth straight attack, after Boston, the Charlie Hebdo massacre and then the Paris attacks, where siblings, brothers, were at the heart of the planning. And just like in those three previous attacks that I just referenced, the attacks were carried out by people who live in the same communities, who live very close to one another, and who almost certainly met in person in order to plan them. And yet, the exploitive mindset of Western politicians is to say, every time there’s a successful attack carried out, it means we need to wage war on encryption, we need greater surveillance, we need more police in these communities. But the reality is, if people are meeting in person, if you’re talking about siblings and cousins and family members and people who go to the same mosques, who are meeting in person to plan the attacks, none of that will actually help detect the attack.

What’s amazing is that if you listen to the media narrative about how these attacks get discussed—and I had the misfortune of listening to hours of CNN coverage and MSNBC coverage, because I’m traveling, about these attacks—the one question that’s never asked is "What is the motive of the attackers? Why are people who are in their twenties and thirties willing to sacrifice their lives to kill innocent people in this really horrific way?" And ultimately, it’s not hard to figure out. They say what it is, and it’s really not that difficult, which is the countries that they’re targeting—France and Belgium and the United States and others—are in Iraq and Syria bombing ISIS. And so, of course, it’s just natural to expect—doesn’t mean it’s justified; it’s never justified to target civilians, but it’s natural to expect—that countries that go and bomb ISIS, ISIS is going to want to bomb and attack back, just as the United States, for 15 years, has been declaring itself at war and bombing multiple countries and then acts surprised when people want to come and attack us back.

And so I think, more than saying we need more intelligence and more surveillance and wage war on encryption and more bombing campaigns, we need to be asking whether there are things that we can be doing that reduce the incentive for people to want to kill us—and in the process, kill themselves—and especially the support infrastructure that they get because of the anti-American and anti-European sentiment that gets generated when we engage in all of this violence in the world.

And here, in the context of US foreign policy, is Greenwald's curious take on the distinction between Cruz and Trump:

I do get a little bit disturbed by this widespread notion on the part of a lot of well-intentioned people that Donald Trump is somehow so far outside of what we regard as what had been previously acceptable within American political discourse. I mean, if you look at what Ted Cruz has actually been saying and what he’s been doing, you could certainly make the case—and I would be someone who agrees with this—that Ted Cruz is, in many respects, maybe most respects, more dangerous than Trump. I mean, Ted Cruz is this true evangelical believer who seems to be really eager to promote this extremist religious agenda. You have him constantly expressing animosity toward Islam and toward Muslims in a way that’s sort of redolent of almost a religious-type war. He holds himself out as this constitutional scholar and small-government conservative and yet advocates some of the most extremely unconstitutional measures you could possibly imagine, like targeting American communities filled with Muslims with additional police patrolling and monitoring and surveillance and scrutinizing.

And as far as Donald Trump is concerned, you know, when he comes out and says, "I want to do waterboarding and worse," and we all act so shocked, I mean, as you just said, you know, he almost deserves credit for what he’s saying, in the sense that he’s being more honest. The United States for 10 years did engage in torture. We did use not only waterboarding, but techniques far worse. And the reason why that’s still part of the debate is because the current administration, under President Obama, made the choice not to prosecute any of the people who implemented those techniques and who used to them, despite the fact that we’re parties to treaties requiring their criminal prosecution. And when he did that, he turned torture into nothing more than just a standard partisan political debate.

And that’s why people like Donald Trump are able to stand up without much repercussion and advocate that we use those techniques. But we shouldn’t act all that shocked. The U.S. government did exactly what Donald Trump is advocating as recently as seven or eight years ago.

Greenwald's punchline on Trump:

I think if you look at the reaction to Donald Trump and this kind of horror that even Republican elites and conservatives are expressing when reacting toward him, to call it hypocritical is really to be generous. It is true that he doesn’t use the language of political diplomacy. He doesn’t really use euphemisms. He speaks like ordinary people speak when talking about politics at their dining room table, which is one of the reasons for his appeal. And in that sense, he actually provides an important value, which is he’s stripping away the pretense of what the American political system and American political culture have become and describing it in a much more honest way. And that’s the reason that so many Republican elites and other media figures, who have no problem with Republican politicians or even Democratic politicians who advocate similar policies, why they’re so offended by Donald Trump, because he sort of renders the entire system nakedly candid about what it actually is.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

erasure from consensus reality is a requirement for being Left Behind...,

theintercept |  FOR DAYS NOW, American cable news has broadcast non-stop coverage of the horrific attack in Brussels. Viewers repeatedly heard from witnesses and from the wounded. Video was shown in a loop of the terror and panic when the bombs exploded. Networks dispatched their TV stars to Brussels, where they remain. NPR profiled the lives of several of the airport victims. CNN showed a moving interview with a wounded, bandage-wrapped Mormon American teenager speaking from his Belgium hospital bed.

All of that is how it should be: That’s news. And it’s important to understand on a visceral level the human cost from this type of violence. But that’s also the same reason it’s so unjustifiable, and so propagandistic, that this type of coverage is accorded only to Western victims of violence, but almost never to the non-Western victims of the West’s own violence.

A little more than a week ago, as Mohammed Ali Kalfood reported in The Intercept, “Fighter jets from a Saudi-led [U.S. and U.K.-supported] coalition bombed a market in Mastaba, in Yemen’s northern province of Hajjah. The latest count indicates that about 120 people were killed, including more than 20 children, and 80 were wounded in the strikes.” Kalfood interviewed 21-year-old Yemeni Khaled Hassan Mohammadi, who said, “We saw airstrikes on a market last Ramadan, not far from here, but this attack was the deadliest.” Over the past several years, the U.S. has launched hideous civilian-slaughtering strikes in Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Syria, Somalia, Libya, and Iraq. Last July, The Intercept published a photo essay by Alex Potter of Yemeni victims of one of 2015’s deadliest Saudi-led, U.S.- and U.K.-armed strikes.

You’ll almost never hear any of those victims’ names on CNN, NPR, or most other large U.S. media outlets. No famous American TV correspondents will be sent to the places where those people have their lives ended by the bombs of the U.S. and its allies. At most, you’ll hear small, clinical news stories briefly and coldly describing what happened — usually accompanied by a justifying claim from U.S. officials, uncritically conveyed, about why the bombing was noble — but, even in those rare cases where such attacks are covered at all, everything will be avoided that would cause you to have any visceral or emotional connection to the victims. You’ll never know anything about them — not even their names, let alone hear about their extinguished life aspirations or hear from their grieving survivors — and will therefore have no ability to feel anything for them. As a result, their existence will barely register.

man-made hell of the nakedly, unequivocally, and medievally left behind...,

antimedia |  A British television crew recently filmed an undercover documentary in Saudi Arabia in an attempt to penetrate the world’s most secretive and murderous regime. Working with a team of undercover Saudi cameramen, the one hour eye-opener, Exposure: Saudi Arabia Uncovered, was broadcast by ITV on March 22. It reveals the hidden side of the regime, which buys billions of pounds worth of British arms, accepts training from British security forces, sells oil back to the U.K., and enjoys nothing less than red carpet treatment from the British royal family.

After setting up a fake company, the crew flew into Riyadh posing as businessmen, wielding carefully concealed hidden cameras. For cover, they said they were in the country to attend a business conference on cyber-security. What they discovered was a state that beheads — and even crucifies — its citizens; where women lack basic human rights and its children are indoctrinated. Patrolled by religious police, citizens are tortured, imprisoned, and sentenced to death for writing blogs and questioning authority. It sounds like the Islamic State, but it’s not — it’s the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. And it is fully propped up by Europe and the United States.

The mind-boggling documentary reveals how Saudi Arabia’s money and Wahhabi ideology has helped drive terrorism around the world. Shining a light on Britain’s shoulder-rubbing with the ruling royals, the production has pushed the U.K. government to admit they have provided more than 300 Saudi police officers with training since 2012.

“A necessary evil”
In January 2015, the Union Jack flew at half-mast at Westminster as a mark of respect for the death of Saudi ruler, King Abdullah. During the same month, young Saudi blogger Raif Badawi received 50 lashes in public. Convicted of insulting Islam after blogging about his government and religion, quoting Albert Camus, he wrote:

“The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.” 

Comments like this earned the father of three 1,000 total lashes and ten years in prison.

can social investment mollify the Left Behind?

Time |  Part of the response to terrorism must be security-based. A strike against Daesh is needed; those who belong to it must be stopped. But we also have to think about the political context of the violence, about the humiliations and injustices that allow this movement to enjoy significant support in the Middle East and call forth bloody actions in Europe. Ultimately the real stakes are about creating an equitable model of social development, over there and over here.

There’s no question: terrorism is fueled by the inegalitarian powder keg of the Middle East, which we largely helped to create. Daesh, “the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant,” is a direct product of the disintegration of the Iraqi regime, and more generally the collapse of the system of regional borders established in 1920.

After Iraq’s annexation of Kuwait in 1990–91, the united great powers sent their troops to restore the oil to the emirs—and to Western companies. Meanwhile, a new cycle of asymmetric and technological wars was launched—a few hundred dead in the coalition to “liberate” Kuwait versus tens of thousands on the Iraqi side. This logic was pushed to its limit in the second Iraq War, between 2003 and 2011: roughly 500,000 Iraqi dead versus 4,000 American soldiers killed, all to avenge the 3,000 who died on Sept. 11, though that had nothing to do with Iraq. Today this reality, amplified by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with its extreme asymmetry of human costs and its lack of a political horizon, serves as justification for every atrocity perpetrated by the jihadists. Let’s hope that France and Russia, on the move since the American fiasco, do less damage and bring forth fewer bloody actions.

Beyond the clash of religions, the concentration of oil resources within small, unpopulated territories shapes and undermines the region’s whole political and social system. Looking at the zone that stretches from Egypt to Iran, and running through Syria, Iraq and the Arabian Peninsula, a population of 300 million, we find that the oil monarchies hold a combined 60% to 70% of regional GDP, for barely 10 percent of the population, which makes the region the most unequal on the planet.

It must be made clear that a minority of the population in the oil kingdoms appropriate a disproportionate share of this bounty, while large groups (women and immigrant workers, especially) are kept in semi-slavery. And it’s these regimes that are militarily and politically supported by the Western powers, which are only too happy to get back a few crumbs to finance their football teams or through weapons sales. It’s not surprising that our sermons on democracy and social justice count for little among the youth of the Middle East.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

do white trash lives matter?

unz |  The white underclass are the aborigines of the post-industrial age. It’s absurd for Kevin Williamson to tell them to get a U-Haul and move out of their dying communities. They’ll just be underclass whites somewhere else, with lives just as empty. There is no solution for them, any more than there is for Eskimos or aborigines, other than the one they’ve found in drink, drugs, and despair. The smart, capable, and energetic ones will escape and get lives, as always happens; the rest will sink into squalor.

Charles Murray, who wrote about the problems of the white underclass in his 2012 book Coming Apart, is more honest about this than is Kevin Williamson. Last July, I reviewed three social science books in a column for VDARE: one of them was Murray’s Coming Apart, another was Robert Putnam’s Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis. I linked to a televised debate between Murray and Putnam, where Murray says this (click here to go to 43:24):

Bob has already referred to my take-away from all this with the ways in which we really need a civic Great Awakening. However, I’ve got to say that the fact is, civic Great Awakenings have about as much chance of transforming what’s going on as a full implementation of Bob’s “purple” programs does.
The parsimonious way to extrapolate the trends that Bob describes so beautifully in the book is to predict an America permanently segregated into social classes that no longer share the common bonds that once made this country so exceptional; and the destruction of the national civic culture that Bob and I both cherish. I hope for a better outcome: I do not expect it.
The American dream in crisis? A discussion with Robert Putnam and Charles Murray,Streamed live on Jun 22, 2015
And if you think that’s the bad news, talk to an AI alarmist—one of those people, I mean, and the category includes some very smart people indeed, like Elon Musk and Steven Hawking—one of those people who think that Artificial Intelligence will advance to a point where all of us, our entire species, is the aborigines, our culture superseded by one much more advanced, Homo sapiens shuffled off into reservations to drink ourselves to death.

Yesterday, the Eskimos and Apaches; today, the white underclass; tomorrow perhaps you and me. Who knows?

Like Charles Murray, I hope for a better outcome, but I do not expect it.

elites lionize Grove but demonize Trump for saying the same thing...,

NYTimes |  The praise this week for Andy Grove, who died on Monday at age 79, has been wrapped up in praise for Silicon Valley, where he was a towering figure in the semiconductor revolution and the longtime leader of Intel, the world’s biggest supplier of microprocessors.

Lost in the lore is Mr. Grove’s critique of Silicon Valley in an essay he wrote in 2010 in Bloomberg Businessweek. According to Mr. Grove, Silicon Valley was squandering its competitive edge in innovation by failing to propel strong job growth in the United States.

Mr. Grove acknowledged that it was cheaper and thus more profitable for companies to hire workers and build factories in Asia than in the United States. But in his view, those lower Asian costs masked the high price of offshoring as measured by lost jobs and lost expertise. Silicon Valley misjudged the severity of those losses, he wrote, because of a “misplaced faith in the power of start-ups to create U.S. jobs.”

Mr. Grove contrasted the start-up phase of a business, when uses for new technologies are identified, with the scale-up phase, when technology goes from prototype to mass production. Both are important. But only scale-up is an engine for job growth — and scale-up, in general, no longer occurs in the United States. “Without scaling,” he wrote, “we don’t just lose jobs — we lose our hold on new technologies” and “ultimately damage our capacity to innovate.”

And yet, an all-out commitment to American-based manufacturing has not been on the business agenda of Silicon Valley or the political agenda of the United States. That omission, according to Mr. Grove, is a result of another “unquestioned truism”: “that the free market is the best of all economic systems — the freer the better.” To Mr. Grove, that belief was flawed.

The triumph of free-market principles over planned economies in the 20th century, he said, did not make those principles infallible or immutable. There was room for improvement, he argued, for what he called “job-centric” economics and politics. In a job-centric system, job creation would be the nation’s No. 1 objective, with the government setting priorities and arraying the forces necessary to achieve the goal, and with businesses operating not only in their immediate profit interest but also in the interests of “employees, and employees yet to be hired.”

the minimal cell

theatlantic |  In 2010, a team of scientists announced that they had created a synthetic living cell. The team, led by Nobel laureate Ham Smith, microbiologist Clyde Hutchison III, and genomics pioneer Craig Venter, fashioned the full genome of a tiny bacterium called Mycoplasma mycoides in their lab, and implanted the DNA into the empty cell of another related microbe. They nicknamed it Synthia. Some news sources claimed that the team had, for the first time, created artificial life.Others noted that they had merely photocopied life, putting an existing genome into a new chassis, like a “hermit crab taking up residence in an abandoned shell.”

But amid the hyperbole and skepticism, the team continued working. “The 2010 paper was basically the control experiment,” says Venter. Their true mission was to create a cell with a minimal genome.

All living things evolved from a common ancestor, so despite our grand variety, we all share genes that are essential for our survival. They’re at the core of our operating systems: the fundamental software without which we would die. Smith, Hutchinson, Venter, and their colleagues wanted to create an organism with just these essential genes—only those it needed to survive, and nothing more. A minimalist microbe. Kondococcus, perhaps.

Why bother? Because they ultimately want to intelligently design new life-forms from scratch—say, bacteria that can manufacture medical drugs, or algae that churn out biofuels. And creation requires understanding. “We had to start with a system where we knew and understood all the components, so that when we added specific ones to it, we could do so in a logical design way,” Venter says. They needed a minimal genome—a vanilla model that they could later kit out with deluxe accessories.

And they’ve done it. Six years after Synthia, they’ve finally unveiled their bare-bones bacterium. And in piecing together its components, they realized that they’re nowhere close to understanding them all. Of the 473 genes in their pared-down cell, 149 are completely unknown. They seem to be essential (and more on what that means later). Many of them have counterparts that are at work in your body right now, probably keeping you alive.
And they’re a total mystery.

“We’ve discovered that we don’t know a third of the basic knowledge of life,” says Venter. “We expected that maybe 5 percent of the genes would be of unknown function. We weren’t ready for 30 percent. I would have lost a very big bet.”

Friday, March 25, 2016


rotflmbao..., stick a fork in this cheeseball, it's finished....,

Fist tap Ken

but the rest of you stinking stem-sacks gotta go, gotta go, gotta go....,

jacobinmag |  As William Gibson famously remarked, “the future is already here; it’s just unevenly distributed.”

But what if resources and energy are simply too scarce to allow everyone to enjoy the material standard of living of today’s rich? What if we arrive in a future that no longer requires the mass proletariat’s labor in production, but is unable to provide everyone with an arbitrarily high standard of consumption? If we arrive in that world as an egalitarian society, than the answer is the socialist regime of shared conservation described in the previous section. But if, instead, we remain a society polarized between a privileged elite and a downtrodden mass, then the most plausible trajectory leads to something much darker; I will call it by the term that E. P. Thompson used to describe a different dystopia, during the peak of the cold war: exterminism.

The great danger posed by the automation of production, in the context of a world of hierarchy and scarce resources, is that it makes the great mass of people superfluous from the standpoint of the ruling elite. This is in contrast to capitalism, where the antagonism between capital and labor was characterized by both a clash of interests and a relationship of mutual dependence: the workers depend on capitalists as long as they don’t control the means of production themselves, while the capitalists need workers to run their factories and shops. It is as the lyrics of “Solidarity Forever” had it: “They have taken untold millions that they never toiled to earn/But without our brain and muscle not a single wheel can turn.” With the rise of the robots, the second line ceases to hold.

The existence of an impoverished, economically superfluous rabble poses a great danger to the ruling class, which will naturally fear imminent expropriation; confronted with this threat, several courses of action present themselves. The masses can be bought off with some degree of redistribution of resources, as the rich share out their wealth in the form of social welfare programs, at least if resource constraints aren’t too binding. But in addition to potentially reintroducing scarcity into the lives of the rich, this solution is liable to lead to an ever-rising tide of demands on the part of the masses, thus raising the specter of expropriation once again. This is essentially what happened at the high tide of the welfare state, when bosses began to fear that both profits and control over the workplace were slipping out of their hands.

If buying off the angry mob isn’t a sustainable strategy, another option is simply to run away and hide from them. This is the trajectory of what the sociologist Bryan Turner calls “enclave society”, an order in which “governments and other agencies seek to regulate spaces and, where necessary, to immobilize flows of people, goods and services” by means of “enclosure, bureaucratic barriers, legal exclusions and registrations.” Gated communities, private islands, ghettos, prisons, terrorism paranoia, biological quarantines; together, these amount to an inverted global gulag, where the rich live in tiny islands of wealth strewn around an ocean of misery. In Tropic of Chaos, Christian Parenti makes the case that we are already constructing this new order, as climate change brings about what he calls the “catastrophic convergence” of ecological disruption, economic inequality, and state failure. The legacy of colonialism and neoliberalism is that the rich countries, along with the elites of the poorer ones, have facilitated a disintegration into anarchic violence, as various tribal and political factions fight over the diminishing bounty of damaged ecosystems. Faced with this bleak reality, many of the rich — which, in global terms, includes many workers in the rich countries as well — have resigned themselves to barricading themselves into their fortresses, to be protected by unmanned drones and private military contractors. Guard labor, which we encountered in the rentist society, reappears in an even more malevolent form, as a lucky few are employed as enforcers and protectors for the rich.

But this too, is an unstable equilibrium, for the same basic reason that buying off the masses is. So long as the immiserated hordes exist, there is the danger that it may one day become impossible to hold them at bay. Once mass labor has been rendered superfluous, a final solution lurks: the genocidal war of the rich against the poor. Many have called the recent Justin Timberlake vehicle, In Time, a Marxist film, but it is more precisely a parable of the road to exterminism. In the movie, a tiny ruling class literally lives forever in their gated enclaves due to genetic technology, while everyone else is programmed to die at 25 unless they can beg, borrow or steal more time. The only thing saving the workers is that the rich still have some need for their labor; when that need expires, so presumably will the working class itself.

geneticists/molecular biologists are indispensible knowledge-workers...,

harvarddesignmagazine |  GC  The synthetic biology revolution is not just about going from reading to writing. Genomics already went from reading single genes to reading multiple genes; now synthetic biology is going from writing single genes to writing whole genomes. Both reading and writing are tangled up in the design process. In many fields, there is a design-build-analyze loop: you build something, and then you look for its failure modes. After living in a building for a while, you notice that it leaks. Then you do another round of design; you radicalize your structures and hold them to stronger standards until they fail. Then you slowly eek your way back to something that works, but works better than before. The same thing is true in synthetic biology. We have design software, like BIOCAD, cadnano, Millstone, and others.

But I see two fundamental differences between synthetic biology and architecture. In architecture, you might start with walls and windows as your standard parts. In biology, our standard parts have been refined by three billion years of evolution, on 1021 liters of soil and water. That’s a lot of debugging. Also, in synthetic biology we have the ability to recreate that refinement process ourselves, on a smaller scale and in a more directed way. We can run our own evolutions. When you do the design-build-analyze loop for buildings, you might make one small prototype, build it, and, if it starts to go wrong, you debug it in real time. Like the John Hancock Tower, in downtown Boston—you know its history, right?


Glass panels mysteriously falling off …


It was being debugged as it was being used. With synthetic biology, we can make a billion or a trillion designs, build them all, test them all, take the winner from that testing, and then do it all again.


What is the timescale for this type of experiment?


It depends on your goal. If your goal is to make a chemical, say, or to build a little factory that makes chemicals, you can design, build, and test a billion things in one day. If your goal is to make a pig, you’re talking more in the order of years. And if you are creating a human pharmaceutical, you’re talking about 10 years just to get it through all the regulatory phases. You might find a clever way of doing billions of prototypes by working with human cells in the lab, but when you want to introduce it into the marketplace, you’re going to be testing one drug at a time, just like you test one building at a time.


You’ve worked on some things that are pretty far removed from our daily concerns—like how to bring the wooly mammoth back to life—but a lot of your work stands to affect our everyday bodily experience. What are you working on that you might want to use to change your own genome?


There is an APP (amyloid precursor protein) allele that I wouldn’t mind having—it gives an extra 10 years of resistance to Alzheimer’s. That’s something that’s preventative, and it’s something we more or less know how to do. But there are some things we don’t know how to do yet, such as having better memory or making more effective use of the brain. Those would be great. Reversing aging would be nice, too.


Aren’t our inadequacies part of what makes us human? How would it affect the human experience if we could live much longer, for example?


I think what makes us human is mainly our ability to plan and to care for others. Chimpanzees form little cliques, and they certainly care for their families, but I think our ability to imagine scenarios that have never happened—to think of ways to avoid having an asteroid eliminate all life on the planet—is uniquely human. We have an ability to be thoughtful about ourselves and oth- ers over long periods of time. I think that would remain true if we lived longer.

roboticists are crucial knowledge workers...,

theatlantic |  The year is 2016. Robots have infiltrated the human world. We built them, one by one, and now they are all around us. Soon there will be many more of them, working alone and in swarms. One is no larger than a single grain of rice, while another is larger than a prairie barn. These machines can be angular, flat, tubby, spindly, bulbous, and gangly. Not all of them have faces. Not all of them have bodies.

And yet they can do things once thought impossible for machine. They vacuum carpets, zip up winter coats, paint cars, organize warehouses, mix drinks, play beer pong, waltz across a school gymnasium, limp like wounded animals, write and publish stories, replicate abstract expressionist art, clean up nuclear waste, even dream.

Except, wait. Are these all really robots? What is a robot, anyway?

This has become an increasingly difficult question to answer. Yet it’s a crucial one. Ubiquitous computing and automation are occurring in tandem. Self-operating machines are permeating every dimension of society, so that humans find themselves interacting more frequently with robots than ever before—often without even realizing it. The human-machine relationship is rapidly evolving as a result. Humanity, and what it means to be a human, will be defined in part by the machines people design.

“We design these machines, and we have the ability to design them as our masters, or our partners, or our slaves,” said John Markoff, the author of Machines of Loving Grace, and a long-time technology reporter for The New York Times. “As we design these machines, what does it do to the human if we have a class of slaves which are not human but that we treat as human? We’re creating this world in which most of our interactions are with anthropomorphized proxies.”

In the philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel’s 1807 opus, The Phenomenology of Spirit, there is a passage known as the master-slave dialectic. In it, Hegel argues, among other things, that holding a slave ultimately dehumanizes the master. And though he could not have known it at the time, Hegel was describing our world, too, and aspects of the human relationship with robots.

But what kind of world is that? And as robots grow in numbers and sophistication, what is this world becoming?

predictably, anonymous gots no beef with Mr. Miracle...,

Guardian |  The ripple effects of Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy have led to a civil war in the Republican party. But they have also had the unexpected consequence of leading to a subterranean civil war within Anonymous, the mysterious hacking collective.
Most of the political operations targeted by Anonymous – including the Church of Scientology, Isis and the KKK – have instigated some level of internal dispute among people claiming to be part of Anonymous. But when the group announced their next target would be the Trump campaign, it set off the most heated debate yet within the movement – which has no leader and no specific set of aims.
Many disavowed the anti-Trump operation as being counter to Anonymous’s tradition of not taking sides in political contests. (A previous operation against Trump was similarly derailed, albeit on a smaller scale, when another hacker calling himself Black Mafia wrested control of the Twitter account.)

Others have even alleged the movement is being hijacked by either campaign operatives or activists trying to co-opt Anonymous for their own political ends. On 15 March, a video was released. 

“We are feeling deeply concerned about an operation that was launched in our name – the so-called Operation Trump,” says the video, which, in classic Anonymous style, is narrated by a disembodied computerised voice.

“We – Anonymous – are warning you about the lies and deceits pushed under our banner,” the voice continues.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

UCOP doesn't have to listen to protest crap given our panoptic capacity to listen to ALL YOUR CRAP...,

utotherescue |  The San Francisco Chronicle has coverage of an issue that has been circulating on faculty email networks at UC Berkeley for a few days.  The piece, "Cal professors fear UC bosses will snoop on them," is behind a paywall. The first sentence reads, "UC Berkeley faculty members are buzzing over news that University of California President Janet Napolitano ordered the installation of computer hardware capable of monitoring all e-mails going in and out of the UC system."   UC's Chief Operating Officer says "that UC policy “forbids the university from using such data for nonsecurity purposes.”  UC Berkeley's Senate chair replies, "What has upset a lot of the faculty was that the surveillance was put in place without consulting the faculty. In fact, the people installing the system were under strict instructions not to reveal it was taking place."  On the blog's Facebook page, we've had some debate about how new this capability is, with some faculty from various universities saying they've always assumed their university email could be monitored at any time, and others saying this is a new level of intrusion.

Here are two communications from UC Berkeley faculty, one about how faculty there came to know about the program, and the other a timeline of events.

uc regents reject blanket censure of criticism of fascist ruling-class elites...,

LATimes |  University of California regents said Wednesday that anti-Semitism has “no place” on a college campus but declined to issue a broad condemnation of anti-Zionism as a form of discrimination.

Instead, they unanimously approved a report on intolerance that decried only “anti-Semitic forms” of the political ideology, which challenges Israel's right to exist in Palestine.

The move reflects the regents' struggle to balance their desire to combat intolerance with their commitment to protect free speech. The report provides no sanctions for anti-Semitic or anti-Zionist speech, but calls on educators to “challenge” bias.

Israel advocacy groups had pushed for a broad censure of opposition to Zionism, which they said was needed to protect Jewish students from hostile attacks. Last year, a Jewish fraternity house at UC Davis was defaced with a Nazi swastika and students at UCLAquestioned whether a Jewish sophomore should be disqualified from serving on a campus judicial panel because of her religion.

But free-speech advocates said the original, broader version of the statement would have illegally restricted the right to criticize Israel and its actions. If the regents had approved it, they would have become the first governing board of any major U.S. university system to condemn the rejection of Zionism.

speaking out against brazenly abusive members of the fascist ruling-class will soon be hate speech!!!

theintercept |  Adoption of this “anti-Semitism” definition clearly would function to prohibit the advocacy of, say, a one-state solution for the Israel-Palestine conflict, or even the questioning of a state’s right to exist as a non-secular entity. How can anyone think it’s appropriate to declare such ideas off limits in academic classrooms or outlaw them as part of campus activism?

To ban the expression of any political ideas in such a setting would not only be wildly anti-intellectual but also patently unconstitutional. As UC Irvine School of Law Dean Erwin Chemerinsky put it today in an LA Times op-ed: “There unquestionably is a 1st Amendment right to argue against (or for) the existence of Israel or to contend that it should meet (or not have to meet) higher standards of human rights than other nations.” Even the now-retired Executive Director of the Anti-Defamation League Abraham Foxman — while arguing that “the effort to support boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel, is sinister and malicious and is having a negative effect on Jewish students on some campuses and on the wider Jewish community” — acknowledged in May that such bans would be clearly unconstitutional:

Legislation that bars BDS activity by private groups, whether corporations or universities, strikes at the heart of First Amendment-protected free speech, will be challenged in the courts and is likely to be struck down. A decision by a private body to boycott Israel, as despicable as it may be, is protected by our Constitution. Perhaps in Europe, where hate speech laws exist and are acceptable within their own legal frameworks, such bills could be sustained. But not here in America. But none of that seems to matter to Dianne Feinstein and her war-profiteering husband, Richard Blum. Not only is Blum demanding adoption of the State Department definition, despite the fact that (more accurately: because) it would encompass some forms of BDS activism and even criticisms of Israel. 

But, worse, he’s also insisting that it be binding and that students who express the ideas that fall within the State Department definition be suspended from school or expelled. And he’s overtly threatening that if he does not get his way, then his wife 0- “Your Senior Senator” — will get very upset and start publicly attacking the university, a threat that public school administrators who rely on the government for their budgets take very seriously.

This behavior is as adolescent as it is despotic. Does anyone believe that college and post-graduate students should be able to express only those ideas about Israel that Dianne Feinstein and her war-profiteering husband deem acceptable?

It’s no mystery what this is really about. The Israeli government and its most devoted advocates around the world are petrified at the growing strength of the movement to boycott Israeli goods in protest of the almost five-decade occupation. As Foxman conceded, the boycott idea “seems to be picking up steam, particularly on college campuses across the United States. While no universities have yet adopted or implemented BDS, there are a growing number of campuses — now up to 29 — where student organizations have held votes to determine whether they support BDS.” Just this week, the City Council of Reykjavik, the largest city in Iceland,voted to boycott all Israeli goods as long as the occupation persists (days later, the City quickly retracted the vote, citing the unexpectedly intense “backlash” from Israel).

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

A World War Has Begun: Break the Silence

counterpunch |  In the circus known as the American presidential campaign, Donald Trump is being presented as a lunatic, a fascist.  He is certainly odious; but he is also a media hate figure.  That alone should arouse our scepticism.

Trump’s views on migration are grotesque, but no more grotesque than those of David Cameron. It is not Trump who is the Great Deporter from the United States, but the Nobel Peace Prize winner, Barack Obama.

According to one prodigious liberal commentator, Trump is “unleashing the dark forces of violence” in the United States. Unleashing them?

This is the country where toddlers shoot their mothers and the police wage a murderous war against black Americans. This is the country that has attacked and sought to overthrow more than 50 governments, many of them democracies, and bombed from Asia to the Middle East, causing the deaths and dispossession of millions of people.

No country can equal this systemic record of violence. Most of America’s wars (almost all of them against defenceless countries) have been launched not by Republican presidents but by liberal Democrats: Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, Carter, Clinton, Obama.

In 1947, a series of National Security Council directives described the paramount aim of American foreign policy as “a world substantially made over in [America’s] own image”.  The ideology was messianic Americanism. We were all Americans. Or else. Heretics would be converted, subverted, bribed, smeared or crushed.

Donald Trump is a symptom of this, but he is also a maverick. He says the invasion of Iraq was a crime; he doesn’t want to go to war with Russia and China. The danger to the rest of us is not Trump, but Hillary Clinton. She is no maverick. She embodies the resilience and violence of a system whose vaunted “exceptionalism” is totalitarian with an occasional liberal face.

As presidential  election day draws near, Clinton will be hailed as the first female president, regardless of her crimes and lies – just as Barack Obama was lauded as the first black president and liberals swallowed his nonsense about “hope”. And the drool goes on.

Described by the Guardian columnist Owen Jones as “funny, charming, with a coolness that eludes practically every other politician”, Obama the other day sent drones to slaughter 150 people in Somalia.  He kills people usually on Tuesdays, according to the New York Times, when he is handed a list of candidates for death by drone. So cool.

In the 2008 presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton threatened to “totally obliterate” Iran with nuclear weapons.  As Secretary of State under Obama, she participated in the overthrow of the democratic government of Honduras. Her contribution to the destruction of Libya in 2011 was almost gleeful. When the Libyan leader, Colonel Gaddafi, was publicly sodomised with a knife – a murder made possible by American logistics – Clinton gloated over his death: “We came, we saw, he died.”

One of Clinton’s closest allies is Madeleine Albright, the former secretary of State, who has attacked young women for not supporting “Hillary”. This is the same Madeleine Albright  who infamously celebrated on TV the death of half a million Iraqi children as “worth it”.

Among Clinton’s biggest backers are the Israel lobby and the arms companies that fuel the violence in the Middle East.  She and her husband have received a fortune from Wall Street. And yet, she is about to be ordained the women’s candidate, to see off the evil Trump, the official demon. Her supporters include distinguished feminists: the likes of Gloria Steinem in the US and Anne Summers in Australia.

A generation ago, a post-modern cult now known as “identity politics” stopped many intelligent, liberal-minded people examining the causes and individuals they supported — such as the fakery of Obama and Clinton;  such as bogus progressive movements like Syriza in Greece, which betrayed the people of that country and allied with their enemies.

Self absorption, a kind of “me-ism”, became the new zeitgeist in privileged western societies and signaled the demise of great collective movements against war, social injustice, inequality,  racism and sexism.

I Didn't Think This Would Happen Until Tomorrow...,

Live Updates: Biden Drops Out of Presidential Race, Endorses Harris President Biden wrote on social media that he was ending his campaign f...