Wednesday, March 24, 2010

antarctica shelters abundant microbial life

WaPo | Antarctica makes up more than 10 percent of the world's land mass, but it was long assumed that -- except for some hardy penguins -- it had virtually no life. With ice and snow blanketing virtually the entire continent, the environment was believed to be just too harsh and barren to support anything beyond occasional human visitors.

Antarctica remains as foreboding as ever, but scientists have in recent years learned they were spectacularly wrong about its inhabitants. While the life might not be visible, it is most definitely there: in the snow, in the ice, in the lakes and streams under the ice, and in the waters under the ice sheet.

It is the kingdom of microbes, of tiny bacteria and other microscopic organisms that in some Antarctic regions eke out a bare existence, and in others are almost flourishing. They are extremely small, but one Antarctic researcher has calculated that the mass of living cells in Antarctica equals or exceeds all the living creatures in the freshwater lakes, rivers and streams elsewhere on Earth.

"There was this idea until not very long ago that Antarctica was a place frozen in time, without life," said Chuck Kennicutt, an oceanographer and co-chair of a conference held last week in Baltimore on subglacial Antarctic research.

"Every field season we learn how dynamic and alive it actually is," he said, referring to period between October and February, when the continent is its warmest and research activity is greatest. "When it comes to understanding our planet, Antarctica is about the last frontier."

The conference, which drew 100 scientists from around the world, was called at an especially auspicious time for those interested in life and subglacial systems on "The Ice," as the continent is often called.

That's because three major projects are underway that, over the next five years, will greatly expand and refine our knowledge about hidden worlds that only recently were discovered.

epigenetics drives phenotype?

The Scientist | Researchers have identified a possible mechanism by which DNA regions that don't encode proteins can still determine phenotypic traits such as a person's height or susceptibility to a particular disease, researchers report online in Science today.

The scientists found that certain chromatin modifications often considered to be epigenetic -- meaning, regulated by factors other than genetic sequence -- are in fact determined by a person's DNA.

Moreover, they found that this chromatin variation is associated with distinct single nucleotide polymorphisms, suggesting that the variation may serve as a platform to enable these SNPs -- often found in non-coding regions of DNA -- to influence phenotype.

"This is quite novel," said Emmanouil Dermitzakis, a geneticist at the University of Geneva Medical School, who was not involved in the study. "Epigenetics has been used as a term that is orthogonal to genetics. This study clearly shows it's not."

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

the party of cruelty

Kunstler | At least this once a workable majority in the government has stood up to the forces of cruelty and injustice, and whatever else happens to us in the course of this long emergency, it will be a good thing if the party of fairness and justice identifies its adversaries for what they are: not "partners in governing," or any such academical-therapeutic bullshit, but enemies of every generous impulse in the national character.

I hope that Mr. Obama's party can carry this message clearly into the electoral battles ahead, painting the Republican opposition for what it is: a gang of hypocritical, pietistic sadists, seeking pleasure in the suffering of others while pretending to be Christians, devoid of sympathy, empathy, or any inclination to simple human kindness, constant breakers of the Golden Rule, enemies of the common good. In fact, the current edition of the Republican party has achieved something really memorable in the annals of collective bad intentions: they have managed to create a sense of the public interest whose main goal is the destruction of the public interest.

This is exactly what the Republican majority on the Supreme Court did earlier this year by deciding that corporations -- which are sociopathic by definition in being answerable only to their shareholders and nothing else -- should enjoy the same full privileges in election campaign contributions as human persons, who are assumed to have obligations, duties, and responsibilities to the common good (and therefore to the public interest). This shameful act by the court majority only underscores the chief defining characteristic of Republicans in their current incarnation: an inability to think. And so, naturally Republicans gravitate toward superstition and the traditional devices of improvident religious authorities -- persecution of the weak, torture, denial of due process, and dogmas designed to spread hatred. Fist tap Dale.

psychopathic neurosis

Neurological Correlates | What makes Nazis or the BTK killer or the psychopath-guy-the-army-put-in-charge-of-anthrax-research unspeakably cruel to selected targets but otherwise social norm compliance with the rest of their lives?

Short answer: Authoritarian + neurosis = psychopathic neurosis, a new category of evil.

Full text available: Cotter P (2010) The path to extreme violence: Nazism and serial killers. Front. Behav. Neurosci. 3:61. doi: 10.3389/neuro.08.061.2009

Finally, someone is attempting to deconstruct those who are selective about their proactive aggression. As with domestic violence, this involves selective aggression — not global or generalized (although apparently it can spiral down this way). And this is the puzzle — what makes people only selectively hateful?

About the closest reading that attempts to develop a systematic, organized response including biology is, “Evil Genes: Why Rome Fell, Hitler Rose, Enron Failed and My Sister Stole My Mother’s Boyfriend” .

The Cotter paper out of Geneva combines

(a) psychohistory (how come Nazis are that way, and what’s the difference between a Nazi and a serial killer? Answer: Nazis are cognitively more able to construct a world view, “Weltanschauung,”),

(b) the Authoritarian Personality (Adorno et al. 1969 but there are a number of version, one’s up in the Amazon box — this was a study of people to see what authoritarians (e.g., similar to Nazis) think about, versus what more “liberal” (e.g., more egalitarian) people — if you read it your worst suspicions are confirmed);

(c) psychopathy classic research from Cleckley, and

(d) FBI profiling research.

Here is the tee-up for a new category of evil — psychopathic neurosis. Fist tap Dale.

Monday, March 22, 2010

what change looks like...,

President Obama on healthcare legislation.

democrats could pay a political price

WaPo | Regardless of the political fallout, historians say health-care reform will take its place in the same category as the enactment of Social Security in 1935 and Medicare in 1965, and only a rung or two below passage of the major civil rights bills of the 1950s and 1960s. In addition to the bill's providing coverage for more than 32 million uninsured Americans, people would no longer be denied coverage because of preexisting conditions. The "doughnut hole" for Medicare prescriptions would eventually be eliminated, and young people could stay on their parents' insurance plan through age 26.

"I think this will be seen as a really major reform initiative," said presidential historian Robert Dallek. "How it plays out remains to be seen. But if Social Security and Medicare and civil rights are any preludes to this initiative, then I think it will become a fixed part of the national political/social/economic culture."

former Republican House speaker Newt Gingrich said Obama and the Democrats will regret their decision to push for comprehensive reform. Calling the bill "the most radical social experiment . . . in modern times," Gingrich said: "They will have destroyed their party much as Lyndon Johnson shattered the Democratic Party for 40 years" with the enactment of civil rights legislation in the 1960s.

No one doubts that Johnson was right to push for those civil rights measures. And he was well aware of the potential damage they would do to a Democratic Party that was then a coalition including whites and African Americans, liberals from the North and conservative segregationists from the South.

Those battles over civil rights set off a political realignment that played out over decades and led eventually to a Republican domination of the South that continues to this day.

Still, the health-care battle has divided the country in ways that the Medicare debate of the 1960s did not. One reason is that partisanship and political polarization are measurably worse today. Another factor is that trust in government is far lower than in the 1960s. Finally, the political parties are far more homogenous, particularly the Republican Party, whose members decidedly identify themselves as conservative or very conservative.

a detention bill warranting additional scrutiny

The Atlantic | Why is the national security community treating the "Enemy Belligerent, Interrogation, Detention, and Prosecution Act of 2010," introduced by Sens. John McCain and Joseph Lieberman on Thursday as a standard proposal, as a simple response to the administration's choices in the aftermath of the Christmas Day bombing attempt? A close reading of the bill suggests it would allow the U.S. military to detain U.S. citizens without trial indefinitely in the U.S. based on suspected activity. Read the bill here, and then read the summarized points after the jump.

According to the summary, the bill sets out a comprehensive policy for the detention, interrogation and trial of suspected enemy belligerents who are believed to have engaged in hostilities against the United States by requiring these individuals to be held in military custody, interrogated for their intelligence value and not provided with a Miranda warning.

(There is no distinction between U.S. persons--visa holders or citizens--and non-U.S. persons.)

It would require these "belligerents" to be coded as "high-value detainee[s]" to be held in military custody and interrogated for their intelligence value by a High-Value Detainee Interrogation Team established by the president. (The H.I.G., of course, was established to bring a sophisticated interrogation capacity to the federal justice system.)

Sunday, March 21, 2010

reading and the web....,

NYTimes | Nor is it simply a question of experts and professionals being challenged by an increasingly democratized marketplace. It’s also a question, as Mr. Lanier, 49, astutely points out in his new book, “You Are Not a Gadget,” of how online collectivism, social networking and popular software designs are changing the way people think and process information, a question of what becomes of originality and imagination in a world that prizes “metaness” and regards the mash-up as “more important than the sources who were mashed.”

Mr. Lanier’s book, which makes an impassioned case for “a digital humanism,” is only one of many recent volumes to take a hard but judicious look at some of the consequences of new technology and Web 2.0. Among them are several prescient books by Cass Sunstein, 55, which explore the effects of the Internet on public discourse; Farhad Manjoo’s “True Enough,” which examines how new technologies are promoting the cultural ascendancy of belief over fact; “The Cult of the Amateur,” by Andrew Keen, which argues that Web 2.0 is creating a “digital forest of mediocrity” and substituting ill-informed speculation for genuine expertise; and Nicholas Carr’s book “The Shallows” (coming in June), which suggests that increased Internet use is rewiring our brains, impairing our ability to think deeply and creatively even as it improves our ability to multitask.

Unlike “Digital Barbarism,” Mark Helprin’s shrill 2009 attack on copyright abolitionists, these books are not the work of Luddites or technophobes. Mr. Lanier is a Silicon Valley veteran and a pioneer in the development of virtual reality; Mr. Manjoo, 31, is Slate’s technology columnist; Mr. Keen is a technology entrepreneur; and Mr. Sunstein is a Harvard Law School professor who now heads the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. Rather, these authors’ books are nuanced ruminations on some of the unreckoned consequences of technological change — books that stand as insightful counterweights to early techno-utopian works like Esther Dyson’s “Release 2.0” and Nicholas Negroponte’s “Being Digital,” which took an almost Pollyannaish view of the Web and its capacity to empower users.

THESE NEW BOOKS share a concern with how digital media are reshaping our political and social landscape, molding art and entertainment, even affecting the methodology of scholarship and research. They examine the consequences of the fragmentation of data that the Web produces, as news articles, novels and record albums are broken down into bits and bytes; the growing emphasis on immediacy and real-time responses; the rising tide of data and information that permeates our lives; and the emphasis that blogging and partisan political Web sites place on subjectivity.

political culture 2.0?

NYTimes | The virtual image is as mesmerizing as it is creepy. Meg Whitman, the leading Republican candidate for governor of California and the former chief executive of eBay, stands in front of a private jet, her lips peeled back from thick gums, and virtually snorts into the camera, “California, let me take you for a ride.”

Anyone who knows Ms. Whitman’s face — or the tangy lilt in her voice — would easily recognize her in this political attack advertisement. But the ad does not actually feature Ms. Whitman at all, but rather a technically impressive avatar of the candidate, talking trash about herself.

A new chapter of campaign attacks is unfolding in California this election season, in which highly sophisticated, fairly low-cost technology is being used to create nasty — and just plain weird — ads and videos that are intended to shock and draw large audiences on Internet sites like YouTube and Facebook.

It began last month, when Carly Fiorina, a Republican running for the Senate, released a Web video portraying her main opponent in the June primary, Tom Campbell, as a demon sheep. It was an instant Web hit. The Fiorina campaign followed up with another video, more than seven minutes long, depicting Senator Barbara Boxer, the Democratic incumbent, as a crazed blimp, floating across the country.

“If you can make something go viral,” said Evan Tracey, president of the Campaign Media Analysis Group and an expert on political advertising, “and make these ads unique, then they get this whole second life.”

trust underwater

NYTimes | As Grace, a nonnative speaker, recalled it, the man at the bank appeared to be saying, ‘‘Congratulations, you've won a house!'' And since all the people around her seemed to be scoring their own piece of real estate, nothing about this struck her as preposterous. Only now the loan was eating up something like 75 percent of her income, and the rate on her second trust was about to double, and she didn't how she could continue to keep up with the payments. She hadn't understood that her house could plummet in value while the interest rate on her loan soared toward oblivion. No one ever explained that part.

And now to the other emotions this mortgage process had provoked in me — self-doubt, persecution, self-righteousness — I had to add some amount of shame, as well. I had been blaming other, less conscientious borrowers for our predicament, but of course Grace hadn't been greedy. She had been duped by a guy in a suit, even if she should have asked more questions than she did. And now when I called brokers to check the rates or float some new financing idea, I found myself seething. It wasn't that they wouldn't lend me all the money I wanted - it was the utter sobriety they seemed bent on projecting, the way I could almost hear their shirt collars rustle as they knowingly shook their heads at me across the telephone line. After all, I reasoned, they were the ones who had gone and exploded a yawing hole in the American economy, not me or Grace, by pushing on unqualified buyers the kinds of gimmicks the brokers barely understood themselves. And yet, the bankers seemed to regard themselves now as passive casualties in our national train wreck.

They taught us, back in my freshman-year economics class, that financial catastrophes were crises of faith, and this is a theory held by the most influential economic advisers in Washington. The national engine sputters and fails, the thinking goes, when consumers no longer trust in the value of the currency or the banks that stockpile it. What they never explained, though, and maybe what a lot of us are learning now, is the way such once-in-a-century implosions erode our faith in one another, too, and in the institutions we grew up with and even in ourselves. The collapse of the housing market and the contraction of credit go right to the core of our national identity, forcing us to readjust our expectations for what we can attain and what we deserve. And when we come to understand that we may never really be able to afford even a modest row house or that those of us who live more comfortably will never be comfortable enough to buy into the perfect school district or to add that cottage by the beach, then we cast our anxious glances around for someone to blame. Culprits aren't hard to find. We are, most of us, responsible, if only because we wanted so badly to believe.

Not long ago, my wife and I finally settled on a new house in a close-in suburb, along with exactly the loan I probably should have had all along: a no-frills, 30-year fixed-rate relic, the same dependable model our parents always had. The house itself is a spacious, if deteriorated split-level with an extra room for Grace, should it turn out that she needs somewhere to stay for a while. We like having her around, and it might serve as good reminder that there are worse fates for an American homeowner than having to live with orange Formica countertops or not being able to add the turret of your dreams.

a little predictive climate setting?

NYTimes | At a certain point last summer, when snipers on rooftops began picking off police officers, Col. Mukhtar Mukhtarov’s wife blocked the door with her body and refused to let him leave home in his uniform.

For 25 years, it had been one of the great joys of Colonel Mukhtarov’s life to walk the streets in his red-striped police cap. But by last summer all that had been turned so thoroughly on its head that he quietly went back to his bedroom to change into civilian clothes.

His son Gassan, a 20-year-old beat officer, has known the job only this way, thick with fear. He changes in his car outside the station house. Aware that militants often follow police officers for days before killing them — his neck sometimes prickling with the sense of being watched — Gassan Mukhtarov swaps license plates with friends to make himself harder to track. He is still not safe. He knows that.

“They’ve known who I was from the first day,” he said.

It is all a measure of how thoroughly order has broken down in the Russian region of Dagestan, in the North Caucasus. Fifty-eight police officers were killed in attacks here last year, according to the republic’s Interior Ministry, many of them while running errands or standing at their posts. Last month alone, according to press reports, 13 officers were killed in bombings and gangland-style shootings.

The gunmen — some combination of Islamist militants, alienated young people, ordinary criminals and foot soldiers in private armies — just melt back into the city, to be described in the next day’s news reports as “persons unknown.”

As the number of attacks doubled, to 201 last year from 100 in 2008, the authorities tried to offer relief. The blue stripes were removed from most police cars and officers were told they no longer had to wear uniforms on the way to work. In a weird touch, every traffic officer in Makhachkala (pronounced ma-HACH-ka-la), the capital city, is now backed up by a riot policeman in camouflage, Kalashnikov assault rifle at the ready.

Even so, recruits are under pressure from friends and relatives to quit, said Gassan Mukhtarov, who is a lieutenant. He said he could not really blame them.

“If you had a son, would you let him work as a policeman?” he asked. “I wouldn’t let my own son do it.”

The police occupy a miserable place in Russian society, where many citizens see officers as so corrupt and brutal they prefer to settle their disputes alone. But no environment is more hostile than the North Caucasus, where occasional clashes with militants have intensified into something closer to guerrilla warfare.

cooke county cop collapse

FoxNews | A sheriff's department in suburban Chicago has been shocked to find a roomful of evidence left behind by a village police department that shut down two years ago -- including a moldy sexual assault kit that authorities said linked a man to the 2006 rape of a 13-year-old girl, nearly 200 guns and hundreds of bags of narcotics, officials said Friday.

In all, seven rape kits had been left rotting in an unplugged refrigerator in the former Ford Heights Police Department, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said. The guns had not been registered with the state as having been seized by police, and Dart's spokesman Steve Patterson said none of the DNA evidence found matches anyone in the state's database.

"You're not talking about ineptness, neglect, you're talking about outrageous conduct of a police department that didn't care about the residents out there," Dart said.

His deputies have been patrolling Ford Heights for the past few years after financial problems forced the village to lay off most of its 16 police officers. The sheriff's department took over completely in 2008, after two years of sharing duties with what was left of the police department, because the last few Ford Heights officers simply stopped showing up for work, Dart said.

"They just vanished," he said. Cook County deputies didn't use the police department's headquarters, because the former chief, Earl Bridges, continued working in some capacity regarding code enforcement. But Dart said he became uncomfortable with Bridges remaining in the building after it became clear the sheriff's department would be handling law enforcement in Ford Heights for the foreseeable future. Fist tap Dale.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

race and mythology in drug laws

NYTimes | Congress is trying to undo some of the damage it inflicted more than two decades ago with its frenzied mandating of longer prison sentences for abusers of crack cocaine than for those who abuse the powder version.

The result has been disproportionately harsher punishment for crack offenders in black neigborhoods.

The law is built on a scientifically indefensible 100-to-1 ratio, which means the same prison term (a minimum of five years) for 5 ounces of crack as for 500 ounces of the powder kind.

A compromise reform of the law approved this week by the Senate would repeal mandated sentences for simple possession and reduce the ratio to 18-to-1 for trafficking in crack versus powder cocaine.

This standard is still irrational, if significantly less so than current law. It’s imperative for the House to fight for the 1-to-1 ratio when it takes up the issue. Otherwise, the law will remain tinged with racism even if relative harshness is cut back.

The sentencing disparity was enacted amid a wave of crack use and hyperbolic warnings that crack — cocaine cooked in baking soda — was more addictive than powder cocaine.

That has since been disproved by scientific studies. That hasn’t stopped tens of thousands from being sentenced unfairly under the skewed law. Recent studies showed that while blacks make up 30 percent of crack users, they compose more than 80 percent of those convicted under the federal law.

After pressing for the 1-to-1 ratio, Senator Richard Durbin, a Democrat of Illinois, says he accepted the 18-to-1 compromise with Republican opponents because it is the best available chance to “ensure that every year thousands of people are treated more fairly in our criminal justice system.”

The senator can be commended for his efforts. Now it’s up to the House to totally end the disparity and the severe injustice it has wrought.

can broke states maintain their unbeaten record?

Salon | Police in this picturesque city in rural Riverside County have been on edge in recent weeks. Someone is trying to kill them.

First, a natural gas pipe was shoved through a hole drilled into the roof of the gang enforcement unit's headquarters. The building filled with flammable vapor but an officer smelled the danger before anyone was hurt.

"It would have taken out half a city block," Capt. Tony Marghis said. Then, a ballistic contraption was attached to a sliding security fence around the building. An officer opening the black steel gate triggered the mechanism, which sent a bullet within eight inches of his face.

In another attempted booby trap attack, some kind of explosive device was attached to a police officer's unmarked car while he went into a convenience store.

"There's a person or people out there, a bunch of idiots, trying to do damage to us," Hemet Police Chief Richard Dana said. "We can't expect our luck to hold up, we need help."

Since New Year's Eve, there have been several other booby trap attempts to kill officers, Dana said.

"The only reason they haven't killed an officer yet is because we've been observant enough to see devices planted around the station and in cars and different places," he said.

Gang enforcement officers appear to be the target of the assassination attempts, though Dana noted the devices were indiscriminate by nature and could have killed any police or law enforcement officer.

The incidents have shaken a close-knit police department already demoralized by steep budget cuts that last year saw its officer numbers slashed by a quarter to 68. Officers are checking under cars for bombs and scouting for other potential hazards.

"I would call the mood tense," Capt. Marghis said. "Everyone is being very vigilant about their surroundings and the environment."

Dana said officers have seen gang members carrying out counter-surveillance, studying police behavior. He often looks in his rear view mirror when he drives home at night to make sure he is not being followed. Fist tap Dale.

number of people living on n.y.c. streets soars

NYTimes | The Bloomberg administration said Friday that the number of people living on New York’s streets and subways soared 34 percent in a year, signaling a setback in one of the city’s most intractable problems.

Appearing both startled and dismayed by the sharp increase, a year after a significant drop, administration officials attributed it to the recession, noting that city shelters for families and single adults had been inundated.

Robert V. Hess, the commissioner of homeless services, said in a subdued news conference that the city began feeling the increase in its vast shelter system more than two years ago. “And now we’re seeing the devastating effect of this unprecedented poor economy on our streets as well,” Mr. Hess said.

Friday, March 19, 2010

one classroom from sea to shining sea

NYTimes | AMERICAN public education, a perennial whipping boy for both the political right and left, is once again making news in ways that show how difficult it will be to cure what ails the nation’s schools.

Only last week, President Obama declared that every high school graduate must be fully prepared for college or a job (who knew?) and called for significant changes in the No Child Left Behind law. In Kansas City, Mo., officials voted to close nearly half the public schools there to save money. And the Texas Board of Education approved a new social studies curriculum playing down the separation of church and state and even eliminating Thomas Jefferson — the author of that malignant phrase, “wall of separation” — from a list of revolutionary writers.

Each of these seemingly unrelated developments is part of a crazy quilt created by one of America’s most cherished and unexamined traditions: local and state control of public education. Schooling had been naturally decentralized in the Colonial era — with Puritan New England having a huge head start on the other colonies by the late 1600s — and, in deference to the de facto system of community control already in place, the Constitution made no mention of education. No one in either party today has the courage to say it, but what made sense for a sparsely settled continent at the dawn of the Republic is ill suited to the needs of a 21st-century nation competing in a global economy.

Our lack of a national curriculum, national teacher training standards and federal financial support to attract smart young people to the teaching profession all contribute mightily to the mediocre-to-poor performance of American students, year in and year out, on international education assessments. So does a financing system that relies heavily on local property taxes and fails to guarantee students in, say, Kansas City the same level of schooling as students in more affluent communities.

states rights is rallying cry for lawmakers

NYTimes | Whether it’s correctly called a movement, a backlash or political theater, state declarations of their rights — or in some cases denunciations of federal authority, amounting to the same thing — are on a roll.

Gov. Mike Rounds of South Dakota, a Republican, signed a bill into law on Friday declaring that the federal regulation of firearms is invalid if a weapon is made and used in South Dakota.

On Thursday, Wyoming’s governor, Dave Freudenthal, a Democrat, signed a similar bill for that state. The same day, Oklahoma’s House of Representatives approved a resolution that Oklahomans should be able to vote on a state constitutional amendment allowing them to opt out of the federal health care overhaul.

In Utah, lawmakers embraced states’ rights with a vengeance in the final days of the legislative session last week. One measure said Congress and the federal government could not carry out health care reform, not in Utah anyway, without approval of the Legislature. Another bill declared state authority to take federal lands under the eminent domain process. A resolution asserted the “inviolable sovereignty of the State of Utah under the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution.”

Some legal scholars say the new states’ rights drive has more smoke than fire, but for lawmakers, just taking a stand can be important enough.

“Who is the sovereign, the state or the federal government?” said State Representative Chris N. Herrod, a Republican from Provo, Utah, and leader of the 30-member Patrick Henry Caucus, which formed last year and led the assault on federal legal barricades in the session that ended Thursday. Fist tap Nana.

the broken society

NYTimes | The United States is becoming a broken society. The public has contempt for the political class. Public debt is piling up at an astonishing and unrelenting pace. Middle-class wages have lagged. Unemployment will remain high. It will take years to fully recover from the financial crisis.

This confluence of crises has produced a surge in vehement libertarianism. People are disgusted with Washington. The Tea Party movement rallies against big government, big business and the ruling class in general. Even beyond their ranks, there is a corrosive cynicism about public action.

But there is another way to respond to these problems that is more communitarian and less libertarian. This alternative has been explored most fully by the British writer Phillip Blond.

He grew up in working-class Liverpool. “I lived in the city when it was being eviscerated,” he told The New Statesman. “It was a beautiful city, one of the few in Britain to have a genuinely indigenous culture. And that whole way of life was destroyed.” Industry died. Political power was centralized in London.

Blond argues that over the past generation we have witnessed two revolutions, both of which liberated the individual and decimated local associations. First, there was a revolution from the left: a cultural revolution that displaced traditional manners and mores; a legal revolution that emphasized individual rights instead of responsibilities; a welfare revolution in which social workers displaced mutual aid societies and self-organized associations.

Then there was the market revolution from the right. In the age of deregulation, giant chains like Wal-Mart decimated local shop owners. Global financial markets took over small banks, so that the local knowledge of a town banker was replaced by a manic herd of traders thousands of miles away. Unions withered.

The two revolutions talked the language of individual freedom, but they perversely ended up creating greater centralization. They created an atomized, segmented society and then the state had to come in and attempt to repair the damage.

uh oh - pitchfork event on the horizon

ComradeSimba | This one really bothers me. I mean reeeeally bothers me. I have stated in the past that he who swabs me (or is holding the gun for the swabber) dies. Sort of my pitchfork take to the streets line in the sand.

Now I’m not knee-jerk for or against the present administration – I fully understand that our gov’t has gotten powerful enough to wield whatever power it feels like implementing so – fair warning – I will delete any comment that points a finger at Obama or any specific individual. This isn’t politics, it’s Endgame and I’m not waving flags or burning flags, I’m simply saying my rubicon has been crossed if “law enforcement” can use any excuse to arrest, and therefore gain a personal DNA sample from me.

What it means is that I enter into a purely defensive posture. I’m not the fool that is going to try to make a difference, or make a statement by doing some headline grabbing antic. To become invisible, unremarkable and unknown sounds like the best course of action available. I don’t get drunk and rowdy in bars so the only foreseeable reason for an arrest would be a less than boot licking attitude towards the cop who stops me for long hair dead taillight, leading to the all purpose “obstruction” charge and out comes the Q-tip. And it’s all about avoiding the Q-tip, so “yassa officer” would be the order of the day if the red lights come on behind me. I can seeth all I want to inside at all the injustice of the world and feel like apiece of shit suck-ass – pansy extraordinaire , but I get to go home where my family is rather than Sing-Sing for being a cop killer.

Wanna know the truth? I’ll move my line further back. Swabbie gets to live if I get Q-tipped. But inside my last shred of concern or care for what little social involvement I still have will just have to r.i.p. The blogs goes, I’ll drop the community group thing, cancel the remaining credit card, cease commercial activity, and lock down into growing food all over the woods, talking to the animals and generally become one with the forest. If our human society isn’t fit to live in well, I’ll just be done with the whole enterprise. Fist tap Dale.

obama supports dna sampling upon arrest

Wired | Josh Gerstein over at Politico sent Threat Level his piece underscoring once again President Barack Obama is not the civil-liberties knight in shining armor many were expecting.

Gerstein posts a televised interview of Obama and John Walsh of America’s Most Wanted. The nation’s chief executive extols the virtues of mandatory DNA testing of Americans upon arrest, even absent charges or a conviction. Obama said, “It’s the right thing to do” to “tighten the grip around folks” who commit crime.

When it comes to civil liberties, the Obama administration has come under fire for often mirroring his predecessor’s practices surrounding state secrets, the Patriot Act and domestic spying. There’s also Gitmo, Jay Bybee and John Yoo.

Now there’s DNA sampling. Obama told Walsh he supported the federal government, as well as the 18 states that have varying laws requiring compulsory DNA sampling of individuals upon an arrest for crimes ranging from misdemeanors to felonies. The data is lodged in state and federal databases, and has fostered as many as 200 arrests nationwide, Walsh said.

The American Civil Liberties Union claims DNA sampling is different from mandatory, upon-arrest fingerprinting that has been standard practice in the United States for decades.

A fingerprint, the group says, reveals nothing more than a person’s identity. But much can be learned from a DNA sample, which codes a person’s family ties, some health risks, and, according to some, can predict a propensity for violence.

The ACLU is suing California to block its voter-approved measure requiring saliva sampling of people picked up on felony charges. Authorities in the Golden State are allowed to conduct so-called “familial searching” — when a genetic sample does not directly match another, authorities start investigating people with closely matched DNA in hopes of finding leads to the perpetrator.

Do you wonder whether DNA sampling is legal?