Friday, March 20, 2009


It's been over a year since we invoked the name of former Comptroller General of the U.S. David Walker. I.O.U.S.A. boldly examines the rapidly growing national debt and its consequences for the United States and its citizens. Burdened with an ever-expanding government and military, increased international competition, overextended entitlement programs, and debts to foreign countries that are becoming impossible to honor, America must mend its spendthrift ways or face an economic disaster of epic proportions.

Throughout history, the American government has found it nearly impossible to spend only what has been raised through taxes. Wielding candid interviews with both average American taxpayers and government officials, Sundance veteran Patrick Creadon (Wordplay) helps demystify the nation's financial practices and policies. The film follows former U.S. Comptroller General David Walker as he crisscrosses the country explaining America's unsustainable fiscal policies to its citizens.

Thursday, March 19, 2009


Physorg | New search engine can be used for creative discovery. When you ask a supercomputer to tell a story, you might not expect a creative outcome – or any. But a group of Virginia Tech researchers are using System X, the university’s supercomputer, to test a new search program that can tell the stories of life – the connections between gene sets, for instance, or the connections between discoveries reported in biomedical articles on the U.S. National Library of Medicine PubMed database.

We are all familiar with search engines that provide a list of hits on the terms we enter. Researchers in computer science and biochemistry at Virginia Tech have created a search capability that they call Storytelling that will discover connections between information that appears dissimilar. It discovers a sequence of events or relationships to create a chain of concepts between specified start and end points. Imagine, for instance, asking for a connection from the concept “traveling in London,” to the concept “places popes are interred.” The Storyteller might postulate “the history of codes” as an intermediary and find the Da Vinci Code – if it existed.

“The stories are pieced together by analyzing large volumes of text or other data” said Naren Ramakrishnan, associate professor of computer science at Virginia Tech who works with life scientists to create software for data mining and information analysis tasks arising in biology. The aim is to help scientists make connections in the complex, burgeoning world of scientific discovery. “Everyday, there are new research results reported in the literature and there are discoveries waiting to be made by exploring connections,” said Ramakrishnan.

“Our minds cannot correlate all available datasets efficiently and with any high degree of confidence without the aid of computational biology,” said Richard Helm, associate professor of biochemistry. “Attempting to find significant correlations within the ocean of online datasets is daunting. However, there may be experiments that have been published in the literature that look at particular subsets of a biological process. The storytelling algorithm links ‘distant’ objects by finding these closer connections and drawing them together in a storyline. Evaluation of these stories can provide hypotheses that can be tested at the bench, potentially resulting in new insights into the role of a particular molecular event in the process you are interested in.”

The design of the storytelling algorithm is modeled after large scale search engines such as Google. Each “node” in System X, an 1100 Apple Xserve G5 cluster supercomputer, is responsible for indexing a portion of the biological literature and the nodes exchange information among each other to help define links and make connections. “Some of our larger storytelling runs process hundreds of thousands of papers and work with up to 200 nodes simultaneously,” said Ramakrishnan.

mexico city's rainwater

Bloomberg | Mexico plans to tackle a chronic shortage of clean water by building an $800 million purification plant for its sprawling capital city of 20 million inhabitants.

The facility to treat 23 cubic meters (6,076 gallons) of rain and runoff each second will be announced for bid on March 31 by Conagua, the nation’s water authority, General Manager Jose Luis Luege Tamargo said in an interview yesterday.

The world’s supply of fresh water has shrunk as aquifers and waterways, including the Colorado River in the U.S., are drawn down by farmers, parched cities or water-intensive industries such as mining. The Mexican economy, Latin America’s second- largest, has failed to keep pace, and its water supplies per inhabitant have dropped by more than 75 percent since 1950.

“We are investing all we can to manage this resource,” Tamargo said in Istanbul where he attended the international World Water Forum. “Saving water is a priority.”

The triennial conference, run by the Marseille, France-based World Water Council, brings together officials from environmental groups, governments, academia and water agencies for a week of debate on solutions to water issues.

“Virtually any of the big Spanish construction companies could do this job,” said Rafael Fernandez, an analyst at Caja Madrid Bolsa in Madrid. “They all have the expertise,” he said, adding France’s Veolia Environnement SA to the group. A spokesman for the Paris-based company declined to comment.

who owns the rain?

LATimes | Every time it rains here, Kris Holstrom knowingly breaks the law.

Holstrom's violation is the fancifully painted 55-gallon buckets underneath the gutters of her farmhouse on a mesa 15 miles from the resort town of Telluride. The barrels catch rain and snowmelt, which Holstrom uses to irrigate the small vegetable garden she and her husband maintain.

But according to the state of Colorado, the rain that falls on Holstrom's property is not hers to keep. It should be allowed to fall to the ground and flow unimpeded into surrounding creeks and streams, the law states, to become the property of farmers, ranchers, developers and water agencies that have bought the rights to those waterways.

What Holstrom does is called rainwater harvesting. It's a practice that dates back to the dawn of civilization, and is increasingly in vogue among environmentalists and others who pursue sustainable lifestyles. They collect varying amounts of water, depending on the rainfall and the vessels they collect it in. The only risk involved is losing it to evaporation. Or running afoul of Western states' water laws.

Those laws, some of them more than a century old, have governed the development of the region since pioneer days.

"If you try to collect rainwater, well, that water really belongs to someone else," said Doug Kemper, executive director of the Colorado Water Congress. "We get into a very detailed accounting on every little drop."

Frank Jaeger of the Parker Water and Sanitation District, on the arid foothills south of Denver, sees water harvesting as an insidious attempt to take water from entities that have paid dearly for the resource.

"Every drop of water that comes down keeps the ground wet and helps the flow of the river," Jaeger said. He scoffs at arguments that harvesters like Holstrom only take a few drops from rivers. "Everything always starts with one little bite at a time."

bleak, bleaker, bleakest...,

Last I saw of Lovelock, his pronouncements, while bleak, had not reached the present level of bleakness.

Reuters | Climate change will wipe out most life on Earth by the end of this century and mankind is too late to avert catastrophe, a leading British climate scientist said.

James Lovelock, 89, famous for his Gaia theory of the Earth being a kind of living organism, said higher temperatures will turn parts of the world into desert and raise sea levels, flooding other regions.

His apocalyptic theory foresees crop failures, drought and death on an unprecedented scale. The population of this hot, barren world could shrink from about seven billion to one billion by 2100 as people compete for ever-scarcer resources.

"It will be death on a grand scale from famine and lack of water," Lovelock told Reuters in an interview on Wednesday. "It could be a reduction to a billion (people) or less."

By 2040, temperatures in European cities will rise to an average of 110 Fahrenheit (43 Celsius) in summer, the same as Baghdad and parts of Europe in the 2003 heatwave.

"The land will gradually revert to scrub and desert. You can look at as if the Sahara were steadily moving into Europe. It's not just Europe; the whole world will be changing in that way."

Attempts to cut emissions of planet-warming gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2) in an attempt to reduce the risks are probably doomed to failure, he added.

Even if the world found a way of cutting emissions to zero, it is now too late to cool the Earth.

"It is a bit like a supertanker. You can't make it stop by just turning the engines off," he said before the release of a new book on climate change.

the age of stupid

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

an army of jacks

Reality Sandwich | In fairy tales, humans can possess exterior souls, things magically containing or embodying individual life force -- stone, egg, ring, bird or animal, etc. If the thing is destroyed, the human dies. But while the thing persists, the human enjoys a kind of immortality or at least invulnerability.

Money could be seen as such an exteriorized soul. Humans created it, in some sense, in order to hide their souls in things that could be locked away (in tower or cave) and hidden so their bodies would acquire magical invulnerability -- wealth, health, the victoriousness of enjoyment, power over enemies -- even over fate.

But these exterior souls need not be hidden away -- they can be divided almost indefinitely and circulated, exchanged for desire, passed on to heirs like an immortal virus, or, rather like a dead thing that magically contains life and "begets" itself endlessly in usury. It constitutes humanity's one really totally successful experiment in magic: no one calls the bluff and after 6000 years, it seems like Nature. (In fact, an old Chinese cosmogonic text claimed the two basic principles of the universe are Water and Money.)

It's worth noting that in marchen, folk tales, the characters with external souls are often the villains. Clearly, the practice must appear uncanny to any normal society -- in which magic (call it collective consciousness in active mode) is channeled through ritual and custom to the life of all -- not the aggrandizement of one against all (black magic or witchcraft). In the form of money, the exterior soul, shattered into fragments, so to speak, can be put into circulation but also stolen, monopolized, guarded by dragons, so that some unlucky humans can be stripped of all soul, while others gorge or hoard up soul-bits of ancestors and victims in their goulish caves or "banks," etc.

The beloved in the tale may also have an exterior soul. It falls into the grasp of the evil sorcerer or dragon and must be rescued. In other words, desire, which is alienated in the form of a symbolic object (reified, fetishized), can only be restored to its true fate (love) by re-appropriation from the expropriator, stealing it back from the wizard. The task falls to "Jack," the third and youngest, sometimes an orphan or disinherited, possibly a fool, a peasant with more heart than any prince, generous, bold, and lucky.

Exactly the same story can be seen acted out in every honest ethnographic report on the introduction of money into some pre-monetary tribal economy. Even without the usual means of force, terror, oppression, colonialist imperialism or missionary zeal, money alone destroys every normal culture it touches.

efforts against cartels lacking?

Washington Post | "We are not winning the battle," Goddard told members of the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on crime and drugs. Lawmakers joined Goddard in calling for a stronger federal response, including heightened efforts to stanch the illicit stream of thousands of American guns and billions of dollars in cash annually flowing southward across the border.

"Mexican drug cartels . . . pose a direct threat to Americans," said Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), the subcommittee chairman, noting that they now operate in at least 230 U.S. cities, up from about 50 in 2006.

But their joint alarm over the rising drug-related violence in northern Mexico -- where more than 1,000 people have been slain since the beginning of the year -- was not shared by officials at the hearing from the three principal agencies responsible for helping the Mexican government: the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement branch of the Department of Homeland Security.

Anthony P. Placido, the DEA's top intelligence official, said his agency believes that Mexican President Felipe Calderón is still "making important strides" against the cartels. The recently increasing violence mostly reflects the criminal networks' "desperate effort to resist," he said.

"The violence we see is actually a signpost of success," Placido said.

A darker picture was presented by Denise Dresser, a Princeton-educated professor of political science in Mexico City, who warned that recent U.S. assistance in fighting drug trafficking has had only mixed success. Cocaine traffickers now spend more than twice the attorney general's budget just for bribes; 450,000 citizens are involved in the drug trade; and more than 2,000 weapons a day are smuggled south to fuel the battle between cartels and against the Mexican government, she said.

"Mexico is becoming a country where lawlessness prevails, where more people died in drug-related violence last year than those killed in Iraq, where the government has been infiltrated by the mafias and cartels it has vowed to combat," Dresser said. "Although many believe that Obama's greatest foreign policy challenges lie in Pakistan or Iran or the Middle East, they may in fact be found in the immediate neighborhood."

los tios

NYTimes | First the soldiers came to Río Seco, a coca-growing village in the lush mountain jungles of southern Peru. “They called us subversives and they opened fire,” said Benedicto Cóndor, 55, a coca farmer. They shot dead four people at close range, including a woman who was five months pregnant, witnesses said. Two children, ages 6 and 1, disappeared and are believed dead.

Four months later, the guerrillas arrived, accusing the villagers of helping the military. They abducted the village leader, who has not been seen since.

The harrowing tales of violence trickling out of the jungle as dozens of families have fled their villages in recent months raise an ominous specter: a brutal war that terrorized the country for two decades may be sparking back to life.

The war against the Shining Path rebels, which took nearly 70,000 lives, supposedly ended in 2000.

But here in one of the most remote corners of the Andes, the military, in a renewed campaign, is battling a resurgent rebel faction. And the Shining Path, taking a page from Colombia’s rebels, has reinvented itself as an illicit drug enterprise, rebuilding on the profits of Peru’s thriving cocaine trade.

The front lines lie in the drizzle-shrouded jungle of Vizcatán, a 250-square-mile region in the Apurímac and Ene River Valley. The region is Peru’s largest producer of coca, the raw ingredient for cocaine.

As the military and the rebels skirmish for control of isolated coca-producing hamlets, the reports of rising body counts and civilians killed in the cross-fire, still far lower than the carnage at the height of the Shining Path war in the 1980s and early 90s, are rousing ghosts most Peruvians thought were long dead.

washington's war on narco-terrorism

Global Research | NAFTA is in fact more than a trade agreement, it’s a trade bloc, the size of which rivals the European Union as the world’s largest. A trade bloc is essentially an agreement between countries on economic integration, which inevitably includes varying levels of political and military agreements. Also, every trade bloc has a dominant member — which in NAFTA’s case is the U.S.

When NAFTA was enacted, a new flood of U.S. corporate and private investment flooded into Mexico, requiring that this money be well protected. For the international investor, political instability of any kind is bad for business. This is in fact why NAFTA was extended into the “Security and Prosperity Agreement,” which provides U.S. security (military) aid to protect the NAFTA-created prosperity (investments) inside of Mexico.

In speaking of security and foreign investment, The World Bank’s website says:
“We act as a potent deterrent against [foreign] government actions that may adversely affect investments. And even if disputes do arise, our leverage with host governments frequently enables us to resolve differences to the mutual satisfaction of all parties.” Such security is ultimately guaranteed by the U.S. military.

U.S. investors had a valid fear that their investments in Mexico needed extra protecting. Social inequalities in the country have been intensifying for years, and the poor’s standard of living has continued to deteriorate. This deterioration promised to continue because of the extremely fragile Mexican economy, which was especially vulnerable for the following reasons:

1) Commodities coming in from the U.S. because of NAFTA promised to out-compete and destroy Mexican farmers and businesses.
2) Mexico is highly dependent on high oil prices that have since plummeted.
3) Mexico is highly dependent on U.S. foreign investors whose investments have tapered off (because of the recession)
4) Mexican exports to the U.S. – 80% of its total exports — have sharply declined because of U.S. workers’ inability to consume them.
5) Remittances from Mexicans living in the U.S. have dropped sharply due to the recession.

This economic situation promised that the Mexican working class would be pushed into desperation, and that police-state measures would be needed to control them, since they might demand that U.S. owned corporations in Mexico should instead be used for ordinary Mexicans. Those who didn’t emigrate to escape the crumbling economy would likely rise up.

feds to combat border violence

AP | The Obama administration plans to send reinforcements to the Southwest border to help contain the rampant violence of the Mexican drug cartel wars.

Thirty-seven agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms are being deployed to the region. An official familiar with the plan said the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency is considering reassignment of at least 90 officers to the border.

The official requested anonymity because the plan has not yet been announced.

The deployments are part of President Barack Obama's first moves to boost federal security sources on the U.S. side of the border.

The additional immigration agents would double the size of an ongoing ICE task force that has been working with other federal agencies to fight the criminal organizations contributing to the border violence.

The ATF agents will be added to anti-gunrunning teams in McAllen, Texas, El Centro, Calif., and Las Cruces, N.M., as well as to U.S. consulates in Juarez and Tijuana. Some of the reinforcement costs will be covered with economic recovery money recently approved by Congress.

The U.S.-Mexico border has been a different problem for Obama than it was for his predecessor, George W. Bush. While Bush sent National Guard troops to stem the flow of illegal immigrants, Obama's first moves are designed more to keep violence from spilling across the border.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

quit or commit suicide

Politico | Sen. Charles Grassley is so angry over AIG bonuses that he says the executives should resign or kill themselves.

In a comment aired this afternoon on WMT, an Iowa radio station, Grassley (R-Iowa) said: “The first thing that would make me feel a little bit better towards them if they’d follow the Japanese model and come before the American people and take that deep bow and say I’m sorry, and then either do one of two things — resign, or go commit suicide.”

Obama squanders political capitol over AIG payouts. A tidal wave of public outrage over bonus payments swamped American International Group yesterday. Hired guards stood watch outside the suburban Connecticut offices of AIG Financial Products, the division whose exotic derivatives brought the insurance giant to the brink of collapse last year. Inside, death threats and angry letters flooded e-mail inboxes. Irate callers lit up the phone lines. Senior managers submitted their resignations. Some employees didn't show up at all.

President Obama's apparent inability to block executive bonuses at insurance giant AIG has dealt a sharp blow to his young administration and is threatening to derail both public and congressional support for his ambitious political agenda.

The Obama administration was already facing a skeptical public and members of Congress critical of the huge sums of money the government has allocated to shoring up the devastated financial system.

News of the latest AIG bonuses only compounded the political problems that the huge expenditures pose for the president. The administration has tried to manage the public anger by expressing empathy with the outrage over the large outlays to financial firms, while explaining that they are necessary to stabilize the economy.

What's most amusing and most instructive in all the ballyhoo about AIG bonus payouts, however, is the fact that news of the bonus payouts has completely overshadowed news of the $50 Billion paid out to foreign owned banks. When it emerged on Sunday that foreign banks had received more than $50bn of US federal funds as part of the AIG bail-out, big beneficiaries such as Deutsche Bank and Société Générale must have braced themselves for an outcry in Washington.

Instead, the reaction has been muted as US politicians focus instead on revelations about the $165m of bonus payments to AIG employees in spite of the insurance group’s multi-billion dollar losses.

Barney Frank, chairman of the House financial services committee, said questions would be raised about the payments to foreign banks at a planned hearing on AIG on Wednesday.

But he acknowledged that anger about taxpayer money flowing overseas had been “displaced” by the bonus issue. More than 20 banks in Canada and seven European countries benefited from the bail-out as counterparties to derivatives contracts and financial deals with AIG. The biggest winners were French banks, with Société Générale receiving $11.9bn and BNP Paribas $4.9bn. Deutsche Bank of Germany received $11.8bn and Barclays of the UK $8.5bn.

Most prominent figures on Capitol Hill appeared to accept that the payments were unavoidable given how interwoven AIG was in the global financial system.

hive mind fundamentals...,

Fist tap Denmark Vesey...,

roof-brain chatter

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

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

please release me...,

language extinction...,

Washington Post | Half of the world's almost 7,000 remaining languages may disappear by 2100, experts say.

A language is considered extinct when the last person who learned it as his or her primary tongue dies. Last month, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) launched an online atlas of endangered languages, labeling more than 2,400 at risk of extinction.

Michael Blake, an associate professor of philosophy and public policy at the University of Washington, said languages have always changed and disappeared over time, and he argues against the idea that all languages should be preserved.

"When we have indigenous languages in danger because of what we've done to these communities, that's the real reason" behind preservation pushes, he said. "But it's a much more complicated argument. It doesn't mean every language now has the right to be immortal."

Preservation proponents say there are cultural and pragmatic reasons to save dying languages. Many indigenous communities have in their native tongues vast repositories of knowledge about medicinal herbs, information that could provide clues to modern cures. The Kallawaya people in South America have passed on a secret language from father to son for more than 400 years, including the names and uses of medicinal plants. It is now spoken by fewer than 100 people. Preserving languages is also key to the field of linguistics, which could offer a window into the workings of the brain.

Monday, March 16, 2009

time travel in the brain

Time | What are you doing when you aren't doing anything at all? If you said "nothing," then you have just passed a test in logic and flunked a test in neuroscience. When people perform mental tasks--adding numbers, comparing shapes, identifying faces--different areas of their brains become active, and brain scans show these active areas as brightly colored squares on an otherwise dull gray background. But researchers have recently discovered that when these areas of our brains light up, other areas go dark. This dark network (which comprises regions in the frontal, parietal and medial temporal lobes) is off when we seem to be on, and on when we seem to be off. If you climbed into an MRI machine and lay there quietly, waiting for instructions from a technician, the dark network would be as active as a beehive. But the moment your instructions arrived and your task began, the bees would freeze and the network would fall silent. When we appear to be doing nothing, we are clearly doing something. But what?

The answer, it seems, is time travel.

The human body moves forward in time at the rate of one second per second whether we like it or not. But the human mind can move through time in any direction and at any speed it chooses. Our ability to close our eyes and imagine the pleasures of Super Bowl Sunday or remember the excesses of New Year's Eve is a fairly recent evolutionary development, and our talent for doing this is unparalleled in the animal kingdom. We are a race of time travelers, unfettered by chronology and capable of visiting the future or revisiting the past whenever we wish. If our neural time machines are damaged by illness, age or accident, we may become trapped in the present. Alzheimer's disease, for instance, specifically attacks the dark network, stranding many of its victims in an endless now, unable to remember their yesterdays or envision their tomorrows.

Why did evolution design our brains to go wandering in time? Perhaps it's because an experience is a terrible thing to waste. Moving around in the world exposes organisms to danger, so as a rule they should have as few experiences as possible and learn as much from each as they can. Although some of life's lessons are learned in the moment ("Don't touch a hot stove"), others become apparent only after the fact ("Now I see why she was upset. I should have said something about her new dress"). Time travel allows us to pay for an experience once and then have it again and again at no additional charge, learning new lessons with each repetition. When we are busy having experiences--herding children, signing checks, battling traffic--the dark network is silent, but as soon as those experiences are over, the network is awakened, and we begin moving across the landscape of our history to see what we can learn--for free.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

so much for the "culture wars"...,

NYTimes | Even were the public still in the mood for fiery invective about family values, the G.O.P. has long since lost any authority to lead the charge. The current Democratic president and his family are exemplars of precisely the Eisenhower-era squareness — albeit refurbished by feminism — that the Republicans often preached but rarely practiced. Obama actually walks the walk. As the former Bush speechwriter David Frum recently wrote, the new president is an “apparently devoted husband and father” whose worst vice is “an occasional cigarette.”

Frum was contrasting Obama to his own party’s star attraction, Rush Limbaugh, whose “history of drug dependency” and “tangled marital history” make him “a walking stereotype of self-indulgence.” Indeed, the two top candidates for leader of the post-Bush G.O.P, Rush and Newt, have six marriages between them. The party that once declared war on unmarried welfare moms, homosexual “recruiters” and Bill Clinton’s private life has been rebranded by Mark Foley, Larry Craig, David Vitter and the irrepressible Palins. Even before the economy tanked, Americans had more faith in medical researchers using discarded embryos to battle Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s than in Washington politicians making ad hoc medical decisions for Terri Schiavo.

What’s been revealing about watching conservatives debate their fate since their Election Day Waterloo is how, the occasional Frum excepted, so many of them don’t want to confront the obsolescence of culture wars as a political crutch. They’d rather, like Cantor, just change the subject — much as they avoid talking about Bush and avoid reckoning with the doomed demographics of the G.O.P.’s old white male base. To recognize all these failings would be to confront why a once-national party can now be tucked into the Bible Belt.

The religious right is even more in denial than the Republicans. When Obama nominated Kathleen Sebelius, the Roman Catholic Kansas governor who supports abortion rights, as his secretary of health and human services, Tony Perkins, the leader of the Family Research Council, became nearly as apoplectic as the other Tony Perkins playing Norman Bates. “If Republicans won’t take a stand now, when will they?” the godly Perkins thundered online. But Congressional Republicans ignored him, sending out (at most) tepid press releases of complaint, much as they did in response to Obama’s stem-cell order. The two antiabortion Kansas Republicans in the Senate, Sam Brownback and Pat Roberts, both endorsed Sebelius.

apocalypse as advisor...,

Stormy Weather | it is not the number of humans that is creating intolerable pressure upon the Earth biosystem but the system which we currently depend upon. My response was that you cannot separate the two. The greater the number of people on this planet, the more confusion and disorder prevails, and the more expedient some sort of external system of control such as capitalism, tyranny, elite manipulation, etc. But there is also a deeper factor to consider, and it is this: consciousness is proportionally lowered according to the size of a group.

Jung put it fairly well: “Don’t you know that if you choose one hundred of the most intelligent people in the world and get them all together, they are a stupid mob? Ten thousand of them together would have the collective intelligence of an alligator. Haven’t you noticed that at a dinner party the more people you invite the more stupid the conversation? In a crowd, the qualities which everybody possesses multiply, pile up, and become the dominant characteristics of the whole crowd. Not everybody has virtues, but everybody has the low animal instincts, the basic caveman suggestibility, the suspicions and vicious traits of the savage. The result is that when you get a nation of many millions of people, it is not even human. It is a lizard or a crocodile or a wolf. . .
(C. G. Jung Speaking: Interviews and Encounters, editor: William McGuire and R.F.C. Hull. London: Pan Books, 1980, pg. 139)

There is an exception to this rule, but it is an extremely rare one; it entails the forging of a "group mind" whereby individuals in a given collective are no longer independent but act as a single organism, a "hive." It's feasible that the Earth could support ten billion humans, but ONLY if they all partook of such a group mind - which would in effect be the consciousness of the Earth herself. I don't see any way that six billion humans will ever get sufficiently "enlightened" to fuse at such a profound level as this. As I see it, the only way is for humanity to be reduced drastically in numbers and then to come together and form a new arrangement, at which point a new race could be birthed directly into this enlightened state or group mind. I know how unpalatable such ideas are to many people. But despite this I find myself going out on a limb to convey them.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

stewart didn't just wreck cramer...,

Sanity Check | Everyone needs to watch these three segments of the Jon Stewart show. They are remarkable, because they show an intelligent, reasoned man confronting the intellectual dishonesty, if not larceny, that is financial reporting in America.

What makes them so remarkable is that Stewart is not a top economist, nor a seasoned DA, nor an expert on financial markets, nor a skilled attorney. He's a comedian. He makes funny remarks about things, and mocks the world, and is generally hysterically funny in his efforts.

And yet, this guy can sit down, and in a few minutes, articulate the obvious - that CNBC, and Jim Cramer, are a touting mechanism for the Wall Street interests that have ruined the American capital markets. And that further, they don't do any real reporting, they just parrot whatever the line of the day is from Wall Street. In other words, they sell a fiction - one of a safe market where your money will grow over time - when they KNOW that reality is the large special interests that spend billions lobbying for their agendas use the markets exclusively as a mechanism to remove wealth from the population and transfer it to Wall Street.

I love the clips he plays of what appears to me to be Cramer describing precisely how he engaged in market manipulation. Now, of course, Cramer claims "he misspoke" and never actually did any of these bad things himself. But the clips come across a whole lot differently.

My point isn't that Cramer is a crook or a liar or a sociopath or an angel. My point is that Stewart correctly says that the financial media are active in selling a lie that they know to be untrue. A lie of a safe, regulated market where a Chanos can't get analyst reports and frontrun them for profit, or where a Bear or a BofA can't be run into the toilet via rumors and manipulation and options shenanigans; rather than the true one where this type of thing is a daily occurrence. What the nation has taken away from the current financial maelstrom is that the carefully disseminated fiction is clearly a lie, and those entrusted with covering Wall Street are part of the problem of propagating the lie, not exposing it. Jon just says it simply and clearly. Good for him.

What is astounding to me is that this sort of interview was even allowed to happen. It's rather shocking, actually, and likely only slipped through because it's a comedy network, and not one of the primary delivery systems for Wall Street's agenda.