Saturday, April 10, 2010

total connection under reality...,

Wired | Entanglement is one of the strangest consequences of quantum mechanics. After interacting in a certain way, objects become mysteriously linked, or entangled, so that what happens to one seems to affect the fate of the other. For the most part, researchers have only found signs of entanglement between tiny particles, such as ions, atoms and photons.

John Martinis and colleagues at the University of California, Santa Barbara looked for entanglement between two superconductors, each less than a millimeter across. These superconducting circuits, made of aluminum, were separated by a few millimeters on an electronic chip. At low temperatures, electrons in the superconductors flow collectively, unfettered by resistance.

Despite each superconductor’s relatively large size, the electrons within move together in a naturally coherent way. “There are very few moving parts, so to speak,” Girvin says, which helped the scientists spot evidence of entanglement. “It’s a general fact that the larger an object is, the more classical it is in its behavior, and the more difficult it is to see quantum mechanical effects.”

In the new study, researchers used a microwave pulse to attempt to entangle the electrical currents of the two superconductors. If the currents were quantum-mechanically linked, one current would flow clockwise at the time of measurement (assigned a value of 0), while the other would flow counterclockwise when measured (assigned a value of 1), Martinis says. On the other hand, the currents’ directions would be completely independent of each other if everyday, classical physics were at work.

After attempting to entangle the superconducting circuits, Martinis and his team measured the directions of the currents 34.1 million times. When one current flowed clockwise (measured as a 0), the team found, the other flowed counterclockwise (measured as a 1) with very high probability. So the two were linked in a way that only quantum mechanics could explain.

“It has to be in this weird quantum state for you to get those particular probabilities that we measure,” Martinis says. “The percentages of those different things are not something that you can classically predict.”

Finding entanglement between superconductors is “a fairly important milestone,” comments Anthony Leggett of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The new study “does seem to be rather unambiguous evidence for entanglement.”

total disconnection from reality

Wikileaks leaked video of civilians slaughtered in Baghdad. Fist tap Dale.

CounterPunch | Leave the last word to a retired U.S. Army man, answering the email from the retired U.S. Marine quoted above:
“The damage this incident and its video evidence will do is immense … it will irrefutably confirm for many that large chunk of anti-American propaganda which insists the American flyers are just playing computer shoot-em-up games using real flesh and blood as a proxy for the digital figures they usually slaughter only in the arcades.

“How much is simulator training responsible for the disconnection from reality demonstrated in this incident? The crew was detached from reality … How [is] the Army … producing crews that, having the potential for such incompetence, cannot detect it among themselves. If anyone in that crew had paused and asked if the action being taken was correct, surely it would have been aborted … The Army has to find out why.”

more real talk...,

Friday, April 09, 2010

real talk

New Tiger Woods Nike Commercial Parody
Uploaded by fatawesome. - See more comedy videos.

garage biology

synthesis | I recall giving a talk in DC in 2003 or so wherein I made this point to a room full of intelligence types (domestic and foreign), and only about half of them -- predominantly the younger ones -- understood that information was their only tool in this game. The notion that you could effectively produce safety through prohibiting garage biology and related efforts is the height of folly. See, for example, "And the Innovation Continues...Starting with Shake and Bake Meth!" for the latest on the effectiveness of domestic prohibition of methamphetamine production. The effect is -- surprise!!! -- more innovation. Just like it always is. However much garage biology we wind up with, we will be much safer if practitioners are willing to discuss what they are up to without worrying about misdirected badges, search warrants, and guns.

To be sure, I don't have reason to suspect anything but good intentions and productive work originating from the garage lab shown above. Nor is a drug screening project likely to result in something scary. But I certainly can't know they won't make a mistake. I would feel more comfortable if they, in turn, didn't feel like they had to keep a low profile so that there could be open discussion of potential missteps. This applies to individuals and governments alike: "Above all else, let us insist that this work happens in the light, subject to the scrutiny of all who choose to examine it." (PDF) And I am waaay more concerned about what the government might get up to behind closed doors than I am about activities of individuals.

Next week I am headed to DC for another biosecurity/bioterrorism discussion, which will be interesting in light of the recent "F" grade given to US biopreparedness by the President's Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism. See also my earlier analysis of the report. I mention this here because the US Government still doesn't get the role of garage biology in much needed innovation (see the slides above from the talk to the CA Assembly Committee for a list of important technical advances from small businesses and individuals -- this discussion is also in the book). Nor has the US Government clued into the PR job they have ahead of them with students who are gaining skills and who want to practice them in the garage. Both the FBI and the Biological Weapons Commission Convention (sorry, Piers!) had a presence at iGEM in 2009 -- as liasons to students the FBI sent Agents whose cards read "Weapons of Mass Destruction Coordinator". !!!Calling Chiat\Day!!!

There continues to be a prominent thread of conversation in Washington DC that "biohacking" is somehow aberrant and strange. But apparently DIYBio, you'll be happy to hear, is a group composed of the Good Guys. Everyone should feel happy and safe, I guess. Or maybe not so much, but not for the reasons you might think.

The creation of a false dichotomy between "DIY Biotech" (good guys) and "Biohacking" (bad guys) lends unfortunate credence to the notion that there is an easily identifiable group of well-meaning souls who embrace openness and who are eager to work with the government. On the contrary, in my experience there are a number of people who are actively hacking biology in their garages who intentionally keep a low profile (I am not certain how many and know of no existing measure, but see discussion above). This tally included me until a little over a year ago, though now my garage houses a boat under restoration. These people often consider themselves "hackers", in the same vein as people who hack computers, boats (!), cars, and their own houses. Yes, it is all hacking, or Making, or whatever you want to call it, and not only is it generally innocuous but it is also the core of technological innovation that drives our economy. And without direct interaction, I do not believe it is practical to ascribe motivation or intent to an individual - including and especially an incorporated individual - operating in a garage. Thus, I strongly object to the establishment of a conversation related to biosecurity in which the term "biohacker" has any pejorative connotations precisely because it perpetuates the misconception that i) this group is quantifiable; ii) that the group has any unified motivations or identifiable ethical norms (or anti-norms); iii) that it can realistically be currently addressed (or assessed) as a "group". Fist tap Dale.

gut bacteria are what we eat

The Scientist | Japanese people regularly consume sushi wrapped in seaweed, which carries with it marine bacteria that produce porphyranases. "It was directly obvious for us that this was horizontal gene transfer from the ocean to the Japanese gut," Hehemann said. "As far as I know, there has not before been an example of horizontal gene transfer between different ecosystems."

In a commentary accompanying the study, Sonnenburg compared the gene transfer event to giving human gut bacteria a "new set of utensils" -- likely providing them the ability to digest specific foods prevalent in different regional diets. "I think there's a good bet that you'll see diet match microbiota functionality over and over and over again," he said. "That's exactly what we see in this study."

But the food purification and sterilization techniques commonly used throughout the industrialized world might affect the environmental tuning of the human gut biome function suggested by the study, Sonnenburg added. Removing many harmful bacteria from foods has dramatically reduced food-borne diseases in recent decades, he said, "but I think there's a likely cost -- the loss of microbes that are not harmful." Such microbes may transfer seemingly beneficial genes to the gut biome, increasing its ability to adapt to changes in diet, as well as fine-tune the immune system, such that "if you begin to eradicate microbes with which we have coevolved, that has the potential [to disrupt] homeostasis," Sonnenburg said.

"It shows how we rely on biodiversity that is surrounding us," Hehemann agreed. "Maybe that's the natural way -- that there is a frequent update of our gut microbiome [through] gene transfer to increase gene diversity. Obviously when we eat these highly processed foods, that's not going to happen."

How exactly this gene transfer helps the host, however, is still unclear, said Hehemann, who is currently looking into the benefits porphyranase genes provide gut bacteria in his new lab at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada. It's possible that when the bacteria break down marine algae polysaccharides, it benefits the host through the production of short chain fatty acids, the end product of bacterial metabolism, which can be taken up by the host in the form of calories, Sonnenburg said. "Those are calories that, in the absence of this capability, go totally unrealized."

antibacterial really isn't....,

Reuters | The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said on Thursday it was reviewing the safety of triclosan, a widely used antibacterial agent found in soap, toothpaste and a range of other consumer products.

The agency stressed there are no grounds to recommend any changes in the use of triclosan but said some recent studies merited a closer look.

One member of Congress, Massachusetts Democrat Edward Markey, called for strict limits.

"Despite the fact that this chemical is found in everything from soaps to socks, there are many troubling questions about triclosan's effectiveness and potentially harmful effects, especially for children," Markey said in a statement.

"I call upon the federal government to ban the use of triclosan in consumer soaps and hand-washes, products intended for use by children, and products intended to come into contact with food. In addition, I will soon introduce legislation to speed up the government's efforts to evaluate and regulate other substances that may pose similar public health concerns."

The FDA noted that there was no evidence that triclosan could be harmful to people but noted that an animal study showed the chemical may alter hormone regulation and several other lab studies showed that bacteria may be able to evolve resistance to triclosan in a way that can help them also resist antibiotics.

Other studies have shown no evidence this has actually occurred in nature, however. Nonetheless, the Environmental Protection Agency has said it will speed up its planned review of triclosan.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

exile nation

Reality Sandwich | Exile Nation is a work of "spiritual journalism" that grapples with the themes of drugs, prisons, politics and spirituality through Shaw's personal story. It is a memoir of his life as a writer, addict, activist, prisoner, and spiritual seeker, a mosaic of his descent into shadow, his personal reckoning, and the long slow crawl back out to reclaim his life, heal the past, and start over. Exile Nation is an archetypal story of self-discovery, a "Hero's Journey" metaphor for the political and spiritual awakening process that so many are experiencing at this crucial point in human evolution. In between the themes, it is an insider's look at the forgotten or excluded segments of our society, the disenfranchised lifestyles and subcultures existing in what Shaw calls the "exile nation." They are those who have lost some or all of their ability to participate in the full opportunities offered by life in advanced industrial societies because of an arrest or conviction for a non-violent, drug-related, or "moral" offense, those who cannot participate in the credit economy, and those with lifestyle choices that involve radical politics and sexuality, cognitive liberty, and unorthodox spiritual and healing practices. Together they make up the new "evolutionary counterculture" of the most significant epoch in human history.

"The issues this book discusses are relevant now. The drug war is destabilizing major segments of the globe and threatening to collapse whole nations. The United States jails, imprisons, and “correctionally monitors” (supervision, probation, parole) more people than any other nation in the world, around 6 million, or 1 out of every 50 Americans. Most are for non-violent drug offenses. This “correctional economy” which comprises the police, courts, and prisons, account for millions of jobs and billions of dollars. At the same time, state budgets are so overwhelmed they can’t afford to hold all the prisoners they have jammed into their systems like animals on a factory farm. Marijuana, on the verge of legalization, is the #1 cash crop in America. FDA-approved clinical trials of psychedelic therapies for some of life’s most debilitating illnesses are again underway after a 40-year lockdown, and alongside that, a shamanic revolution in consciousness is unfolding, reconnecting us with our spiritual selves and the earth that has supported us for so long. Surrounding all of this and providing context is the knowledge that we are in a time of profound and systemic change, everywhere: to the Earth and its ecosystem, to technology, to populations and politics, to energy, to consciousness, and to our very beings. The time is now!”

sex and fascism in an unconscious america

RigInt | I read Thomas Frank's book, What's The Matter With Kansas, unsatisfied, wishing it went "all the way."

I devoured it upon publication, agreeing totally with his thesis: that "red staters" vote Republican at their economic peril. But, I turned every page believing the next would reveal what lies at the heart of Kansas; what's the secret explanation for their peculiar "normality."

I got nothing. Just one story after another about "chronically outraged," midwesterners "offended by everything...convinced that they are powerless to change the world."

WHY are Red Staters "chronically outraged'? WHY the "imagined persecution" and "hate" toward the left? HOW can a "taste for authoritarian leadership" blind them to real oppression? They weren't just born this way. It's not biological. These are psychological "units": hate, outrage, perceived persecution. Since 82 percent self-identify as white and christian, it's easy to imagine a sociological explanation, based on religiosity (degree of devotion). But there's something beyond Sunday sermons -- something in the fabric of their existence. Something essential, psychological. I believe Kansans are psychologically conditioned to these affects. It's not geography. It's not farming. Otherwise we'd be talking about ALL midwesterners. Iowans don't exhibit this psychology. How come they aren't our national symbol for conservatism?

"Kansas" has been used as a symbol for family paradise by everyone from Ann Coulter to Frank Baum. We imagine toe-headed boys at afternoon little league and fall festivals at the church. "Family" lies at the heart of the symbol. What is it in the psychology of these particular midwestern families, that predisposes them to paleo-conservatism? Why does the idea of family "equal" authoritarianism?

If we want to take the country back in one piece, we need to know what lurks in the hearts and minds of Red Staters that makes them prone to pushing this country toward fascism. HOW does it work that these folks can be herded into war and economic dire straits and take us with them?

Frank observes that Red Staters respond to identity politics, ironically, despite their "railing against" identity politics as it applied to gays and people of color in the late 80s and early 90s. They LOVE identity politics when it applies to THEIR identity, i.e. suburbs, SUVs and super churches. Frank digs deep into this "identity," asserting it's a Christ-like persona they affect -- a "humility to service," evident in their sacrifice of economic interest for the good of the culture. Abortion, homosexuality and sex education will be extinguished. Economic security will come later, I suppose in the thousand-year paradise on earth. This is their myth. What is their essence?

TO BE CLEAR, Bush DID NOT win either election. We have a problem with election fraud and this needs to be fixed. But I do think the acquiescence to authority throughout middle America most certainly ENABLED the stealing of the last two elections. Apathy toward authority (respect?) was reinforced by a mainstream media whose mission is limited by pandering to this demographic. If this country didn't have a malignant attitude toward "authority," Bush would have been impeached many times over. Now think about Clinton. He represented authority too. What's the difference?


LETS UNPACK the mind of the Red Stater. Lets separate their individual and social consciousness and get to the bottom of the Red Staters' problem with SEX. Religious devotion requires servitude to authority and suggests limits to sexual behavior, but not all religious people crave unquestioning authoritarianism the Red Staters do (suicide bombers notwithstanding). There's something deeper the Red Stater psyche that drives them to church in the first place. Something deeper drives them to the particular forms of religion they choose. This "deeper something" REINFORCES social and religious conditioning. This quality renders the Red Stater powerless to authority.

If we can identify what, in the individual consciousness of a Red Stater, makes them prone to exploitation from authority, we will have the key to dismantling the mechanism of our creeping fascism.

Frank mentions a "Christ-like" sacrifice in their swapping economic issues for social issues, and yet he contends they aren't aware of how they are ripped-off in the trade. This is a very odd contention. They aren't AWARE of their exploitation? I usually know when I'm getting screwed. What's their problem? Perhaps we need for more blue collar spokesmen like Ed Schultz. But, how can we assume they will become aware of their sacrifice when they can't even see their setbacks or failures? Their political life seems entirely unconscious and beyond our reach.

In the individual consciousness of the Red Stater lurks a pre-modern world of Gods and monsters; good and evil.

Deep in the unconscious, it's S-E-X that separates the good from the evil.

Red Staters are OBSESSED with sex (and death, it's ugly sister). The struggle of good vs evil manifests in the bedroom. It's the same for everyone, no matter how low your knuckles drag. Sex animates our world and death sets it's limits. Advertising works because our unconscious psyches are fertile ground for symbolic conditioning. The difference between a Red Stater and a Blue Stater is the dominant myth that is used to unconscious desire. In the dominant myth of the Red Stater, the world is falling into social chaos and sex is to blame. This is convenient because ostensibly, we can CONTROL sex. Can't we?

The Red Stater can't just mind their own beeswax when it comes to sex, because if someone is getting a blow job, like the tsunami-causing Chinese butterfly -- they will feel it. They mean well. They are Do-Gooders at heart -- believing only "they" see the problem and only "they" can save us.

They are AGAINST sex education. "If kids knew what all that was down there, it would be like telling them, 'it's okay.' We can't have that."
They are AGAINST pre-marital sex -- "My parents waited. I waited. You can too." No wonder they are chronically outraged.
They are AGAINST abortion -- "If she wasn't ready for children she shouldn't have spread her legs."
They are AGAINST homosexuality. "Because that's just disgusting -- the thought of two men together."

sidebar -- funny they don't identify pedophilia as an urgent moral issue:

what does virginia's governor really believe?

Confederate States of America Commercial

WaPo | "There was a right side and a wrong side in the late war, which no sentiment ought to cause us to forget." -- Frederick Douglass, 1878.

Although he acted only under severe pressure, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell was obviously right Wednesday afternoon to admit a major mistake, issue an apology and add a vital new paragraph clarifying his original proclamation of Confederate History Month.

But the episode raises concerns about what McDonnell really believes and what Virginia's Republican Party stands for when it comes to the state's African Americans and other minorities.

McDonnell (R) is still stuck with having made the astonishing blunder of issuing a formal statement Friday that effectively endorsed the South's cause in the Civil War.

He didn't quite say it explicitly. But there was no other way to interpret it.

The first paragraph said "the people of Virginia" joined the Confederacy in a war "for independence."

It said they "fought for their homes and communities and Commonwealth." It urged reflection on their "sacrifices." It implied it was too bad they were "ultimately overwhelmed" by the North's "insurmountable" resources.

Nowhere did the original statement condemn or even acknowledge the fact that the South was fighting primarily to defend a society based on slavery, as the Confederacy's own leaders said at the time. It neglected to mention that the state joined the Lost Cause without consulting the one-fourth of Virginians in bondage because of their race.

When asked by reporters on Tuesday to explain why slavery wasn't included, McDonnell said it wasn't "significant" enough.

Confederate States of America Commercial.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

piercing sovereign immunity

NPR | At the heart of two lawsuits that are working their way through the federal courts lies one question: Does the Vatican control its Catholic bishops?

The answer could determine whether the Vatican can be sued in U.S. courts and be forced to open up its secret archives.

A Decentralized Church?
The Vatican's relationship with its bishops surfaced again this week in the case of the Rev. Joseph Jeyapaul, an Indian priest who served in northern Minnesota in 2004 and 2005. After the priest returned to India, two teenage girls from Minnesota accused him of molesting them. Now the local prosecutor wants him back in the U.S. to face charges.

According to documents and interviews, the Vatican wrote Jeyapaul's bishop in India and asked that "Father Jeyapaul's priestly life be monitored so that he does not constitute a risk to minors and does not create a scandal."

Mike Finnegan, the attorney for one of the young women, says Jeyapaul is now overseeing 40 schools in the diocese. He says the Vatican should have removed him from ministry.

"Pope Benedict has absolute power and control over that bishop in India," Finnegan says. "And if Pope Benedict wanted something done and told this bishop to do it, the bishop would absolutely have to do it."

But Vatican lawyer Jeffrey Lena says the church cooperated with U.S. authorities, supplying them with Jeyapaul's address so that they could try to extradite him. He adds that people do not realize how administratively decentralized the Catholic Church is.

"The pope is not a five-star general ordering troops around," Lena says. "He is not Louis XIV telling his minions what to do. The 'military command center' or 'absolute authority' models of the church in which Rome dictates orders by royal fiat is just wrong."

Lena says it is the bishop who controls his diocese and is responsible to operate it within the framework of canon law.

That dispute — is a bishop an employee of the Vatican or not? — is the central issue raised by two lawsuits in U.S. federal court. One case involves the Rev. Andrew Ronan, a Servites order priest who was moved from Ireland to Chicago to Portland, Ore., and who admitted abusing minors in each place. Ronan has died, but an alleged victim sued not only the order but also the Vatican.

"The Ronan case, because it involves the international movement of the priest and a documentary trail that goes from the priest through the superiors to Rome, looked like our best shot to get to the Vatican," says Jeffrey Anderson, who represents the plaintiff.

Piercing Sovereign Immunity
That will be no easy task, as the Vatican is considered a sovereign state, and U.S. courts are reluctant to claim jurisdiction over foreign countries. To pierce the sovereign immunity, Anderson must show that the priest abused the victim in his capacity as an employee of the Vatican. Under Oregon's law — which is far more liberal than that of other states — the Vatican might be held liable for the priest's actions.

pope ratzinger's swan song

dissidentvoice | Pope Benedict should do everyone a favor and resign. By hanging on, he’s just making matters worse. Who does he think he’s fooling anyway? Everyone knows that he was involved in the sex-scandal cover up. Does he really think that a few papal apologies will make a difference? He was in charge and knew everything that was going on. That makes him responsible. His best option now is to “man up” and face the consequences. He needs to arrange a press conference, tell the truth, and resign. End of story.

It’s clear that the problem isn’t going to go away. In the last week, three more incidents have surfaced adding more fuel to the fire. In Wisconsin, Father Lawrence Murphy abused as many as 200 boys at a Milwaukee school for the deaf. One of the victims, Arthur Budzinski, has been all-over TV telling his story and blaming the pope. It’s pretty heart-wrenching stuff too. According to Budzinski’s daughter Gigi:

“The pope knew about this. He was the one who handled the sex abuse cases. So, I think he should be accountable, because he did nothing.”

This is bad. Anyone can see that the Vatican was shuffling predators from one spot to another trying to keep the details out of the news. Maybe Benedict thought he was doing the right thing? Maybe he thought he was just being loyal or protecting the church from litigation? Who knows what he thought; it’s beside the point. The bottom line is that people’s lives have been ruined and someone has to pay.

Naturally, the Vatican has circled the wagons and is lashing out at the media. But it’s a hopeless cause. As the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Ratzinger (as Benedict was known at the time) took steps to silence priests who wanted to reveal what they knew. In a 2001 letter to the bishops, Benedict “ordered them to keep sexual abuse allegations secret under threat of excommunication — updating a noxious church policy… that both priests accused of sex crimes and their victims “observe the strictest secret” and be “restrained by a perpetual silence.”2

This is obstruction of justice, and Benedict should be prosecuted.. No man is above the law; not even the pope. Religious freedom isn’t license to rape children.

Benedict’s letter helps to illustrate a larger point too. It shows that the sex abuse scandal isn’t really about sex abuse at all. It’s about the people in positions of authority who violated the public’s trust. That’s the real story. It’s about people who pretend to be “spiritual advisers”, but don’t even do the right thing when a child is sexually molested. And these are the people who are giving advice on issues like homosexuality and birth control?

vatican priest likens child-abuse furor to anti-semitism

NPR | Pope Benedict XVI's personal preacher on Friday likened accusations against the pope and the Catholic church in the sex abuse scandal to "collective violence" suffered by the Jews.

Reaction from Jewish groups and victims of clerical sex abuse ranged from skepticism to fury.

The Rev. Raniero Cantalamessa said in a Good Friday homily with the pope listening in St. Peter's Basilica that a Jewish friend wrote to him to say the accusations remind him of the "more shameful aspects of anti-Semitism."

The 82-year-old pontiff looked weary as he sat near the central altar during the early evening prayer service before he was scheduled to take part in a candlelit Way of the Cross procession near the Colosseum that commemorates Christ's suffering before his crucifixion.

The Vatican later officially distanced itself from Cantalamessa 's Good Friday remarks.

Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi contacted The Associated Press in Rome to say such parallelism can lead to misunderstandings. He said the comments did not represent the position of the Church and that Cantalamessa was not speaking as a Vatican official.

Thousands of Holy Week pilgrims were in St. Peter's Square as the church defends itself against accusations that Benedict had a role in covering up sex abuse cases.

The "coincidence" that Passover falls in the same week as Easter celebrations prompted Cantalamessa to think about Jews, said the preacher, a Franciscan who offers reflections at Vatican Easter and Advent services.

"They know from experience what it means to be victims of collective violence and also because of this they are quick to recognize the recurring symptoms," the preacher said.

pope benedict xvi and islam

ZOA | New York -- The New York Times reported that Pope Benedict XVI spoke at the University of Regensburg in Germany stating that "violence embodied in the Muslim idea of Jihad, or holy war, is contrary to reason and G-d's Plan." Ian Fisher, NY Times reporter, wrote "the speech seemed to reflect the Vatican's struggle over how to confront Islam and terrorism, as the 79-year old Pope pursues what is often considered a more provocative, hard-nosed and skeptical approach to Islam than his predecessor, John Paul II…it distilled many of Benedict's longstanding concerns, about…Islam and its relationship to violence, only he used language open to interpretations that could inflame Muslims."

The New York Times wrote, "He began his speech, by quoting a 14th-century Byzantine emperor, Manuel 11 Paleologus, in a conversation with a 'learned Persian' on Christianity and Islam — 'and the truth of both.'"

“Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread the sword by the faith he preached,” the pope quoted the emperor, in a speech to 1,500 students and faculty.

The Times continued, "He went on to say that violent conversion to Islam was contrary to reason and thus 'contrary to God's nature.'"

"Renzo Guolo, a professor of the sociology of religion at the University of Padua, who often writes about the church and Islam, said he was struck, by the suggestion of Islam as distant from reason.

'This is maybe the strongest criticism because he doesn't speak of fundamentalist Islam but of Islam generally,' he said, 'Not all Islam, thank God, is fundamentalist.'"

"Marco Politi, the Vatican expert for the Italian newspaper La Republica, said that 'the text reveals his deep mistrust regarding the aggressive side of Islam.'"

"Once he became pope, Benedict's new approach was apparent quickly: in his first trip outside Italy, he met with Muslim leaders in Cologne, Germany, and politely but clearly told them they had the responsibility to teach their children against terrorism, which he called 'the darkness of a new barbarism.'"

pope benedict xv and judaism

Wikipedia | The relations between Pope Benedict XV and Judaism were marked by two significant historical events : the emigration of Eastern European Jewish communities due to the Great War and to pogroms, and the development of Zionism in the Middle East and its effects on local Levantine, Greek-Catholic and Arab Christian communities.

Requests in favour of Polish Jews
In 1916, in the midst of the First World War, American Jews petitioned Pope Benedict XV on behalf of the Polish Jews. To this the pontiff responded in a private letter, also published in the Jesuit journal "Civilta Cattolica", denouncing antisemitism:
The Supreme Pontiff.... as Head of the Catholic Church, which, faithful to its divine doctrines and its most glorious traditions, considers all men as brothers and teaches them to love one another, he never ceases to indicate among individuals, as well as among peoples, the observance of the principles of the natural law, and to condemn everything that violates them. This law must be observed and respected in the case of the children of Israel, as well as of all others, because it would not be conformable to justice or to religion itself to derogate from it solely on account of divergence of religious confessions.
Effects of the letter
The letter had asked the Pope to exert his authority to halt the mistreatment of Jews throughout the world, in particular the pogroms on the Russian front. The Pope declined to do so since he said he had no way of confirming the facts claimed in the letter. The Pope's letter said nothing about equality in civil rights nor any rejection of social, political, or legal restrictions on Jews (so long as such restrictions did not violate natural law) that aimed at limiting “harmful” Jewish influences on society.

first u.s. citizen added to cia hit list

WaPo | A Muslim cleric tied to the attempted bombing of a Detroit-bound airliner has become the first U.S. citizen added to a list of suspected terrorists the CIA is authorized to kill, a U.S. official said Tuesday.

Anwar al-Aulaqi, who resides in Yemen, was previously placed on a target list maintained by the U.S. military's Joint Special Operations Command and has survived at least one strike carried out by Yemeni forces with U.S. assistance against a gathering of suspected al-Qaeda operatives.

Because he is a U.S. citizen, adding Aulaqi to the CIA list required special approval from the White House, officials said. The move means that Aulaqi would be considered a legitimate target not only for a military strike carried out by U.S. and Yemeni forces, but also for lethal CIA operations.

"He's in everybody's sights," said the U.S. official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the topic's sensitivity.

CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano said: "This agency conducts its counterterrorism operations in strict accord with the law."

The decision to add Aulaqi to the CIA target list reflects the view among agency analysts that a man previously regarded mainly as a militant preacher has taken on an expanded role in al-Qaeda's Yemen-based offshoot.

"He's recently become an operational figure for al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula," said a second U.S. official. "He's working actively to kill Americans, so it's both lawful and sensible to try to stop him." The official stressed that there are "careful procedures our government follows in these kinds of cases, but U.S. citizenship hardly gives you blanket protection overseas to plot the murder of your fellow citizens."

Aulaqi corresponded by e-mail with Maj. Nidal M. Hasan, the Army psychiatrist accused of killing 12 soldiers and one civilian at Fort Hood, Tex., last year. Aulaqi is not believed to have helped plan the attack, although he praised Hasan in an online posting for carrying it out.

Concern grew about the cleric's role after he was linked to the Nigerian accused of attempting to bomb a U.S. airliner on Christmas Day by detonating an explosive device he had smuggled in his underwear. Aulaqi acknowledged teaching and corresponding with the Nigerian but denied ordering the attack.

The CIA is known to have carried out at least one Predator strike in Yemen. A U.S. citizen, Kamal Derwish, was among six alleged al-Qaeda operatives killed in that 2002 operation but was not the target.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

to sinead o'connor - pope's apology is hollow

Sinead's Actual Pope Ripping SNL Version (embedding disabled)

WaPo | Benedict's apology gives the impression that he heard about abuse only recently, and it presents him as a fellow victim: "I can only share in the dismay and the sense of betrayal that so many of you have experienced on learning of these sinful and criminal acts and the way Church authorities in Ireland dealt with them." But Benedict's infamous 2001 letter to bishops around the world ordered them to keep sexual abuse allegations secret under threat of excommunication -- updating a noxious church policy, expressed in a 1962 document, that both priests accused of sex crimes and their victims "observe the strictest secret" and be "restrained by a perpetual silence."

Benedict, then known as Joseph Ratzinger, was a cardinal when he wrote that letter. Now that he sits in Saint Peter's chair, are we to believe that his position has changed? And are we to take comfort in last week's revelations that, in 1996, he declined to defrock a priest who may have molested as many as 200 deaf boys in Wisconsin?

Benedict's apology states that his concern is "above all, to bring healing to the victims." Yet he denies them the one thing that might bring them healing -- a full confession from the Vatican that it has covered up abuse and is now trying to cover up the cover up. Astonishingly, he invites Catholics "to offer up your fasting, your prayer, your reading of Scripture and your works of mercy in order to obtain the grace of healing and renewal for the Church in Ireland." Even more astonishing, he suggests that Ireland's victims can find healing by getting closer to the church -- the same church that has demanded oaths of silence from molested children, as occurred in 1975 in the case of Father Brendan Smyth, an Irish priest later jailed for repeated sexual offenses. After we stopped laughing, many of us in Ireland recognized the idea that we needed the church to get closer to Jesus as blasphemy.

To Irish Catholics, Benedict's implication -- Irish sexual abuse is an Irish problem -- is both arrogant and blasphemous. The Vatican is acting as though it doesn't believe in a God who watches. The very people who say they are the keepers of the Holy Spirit are stamping all over everything the Holy Spirit truly is. Benedict criminally misrepresents the God we adore. We all know in our bones that the Holy Spirit is truth. That's how we can tell that Christ is not with these people who so frequently invoke Him.

Irish Catholics are in a dysfunctional relationship with an abusive organization. The pope must take responsibility for the actions of his subordinates. If Catholic priests are abusing children, it is Rome, not Dublin, that must answer for it with a full confession and in a criminal investigation. Until it does, all good Catholics -- even little old ladies who go to church every Sunday, not just protest singers like me whom the Vatican can easily ignore -- should avoid Mass. In Ireland, it is time we separated our God from our religion, and our faith from its alleged leaders.

Almost 18 years ago, I tore up a picture of Pope John Paul II on an episode of "Saturday Night Live." Many people did not understand the protest -- the next week, the show's guest host, actor Joe Pesci, commented that, had he been there, "I would have gave her such a smack." I knew my action would cause trouble, but I wanted to force a conversation where there was a need for one; that is part of being an artist. All I regretted was that people assumed I didn't believe in God. That's not the case at all. I'm Catholic by birth and culture and would be the first at the church door if the Vatican offered sincere reconciliation.

As Ireland withstands Rome's offensive apology while an Irish bishop resigns, I ask Americans to understand why an Irish Catholic woman who survived child abuse would want to rip up the pope's picture. And whether Irish Catholics, because we daren't say "we deserve better," should be treated as though we deserve less.

pope apologized but offered no change in vatican policy

WaPo | The pope did recognize failings on the church's part, but he placed them at the national level of the church in Ireland. In the letter, he noted "inadequate procedures for determining the suitability of candidates for the priesthood and the religious life," "insufficient human, moral, intellectual and spiritual formation in seminaries and novitiates" and "a tendency in society to favour the clergy and other authority figures." He also condemned "a misplaced concern for the reputation of the Church."

But critics in Ireland who had called for bishops to be punished were disappointed. "What the Irish people are saying is, these were crimes, and they need to be reported before the courts," said James Kelly, lecturer in theology at Trinity College in Dublin.

Last year, two government-backed reports offered accounts of abuse scandals in Ireland. In May, a report catalogued abuses by priests and nuns of thousands of orphans and foster children, and in November, a second scathing report looked at how bishops in Dublin and the Irish police colluded in covering up abuses by Dublin priests.

It remained unclear Saturday how and whether the Vatican would hold church officials accountable. Benedict called for abusers to answer for their crimes "before Almighty God and before properly constituted tribunals" but did not say whether the church would discipline high-level authorities for mishandling cases, including those in which pedophilic clergy were permitted to go back to ministering.

"We're very disappointed the pope missed a historic opportunity in not acknowledging the cover-up that goes right back to the Vatican, and instead focused only on the Irish failings," said Maeve Lewis, head of the Irish victims' group One in Four. "The pope's solution lies in spiritual renewal, and he doesn't propose any practical framework for the way forward."

Although Benedict apologized when he met with several victims while visiting the United States early in his papacy, the Rev. Thomas Doyle, a canon lawyer from Virginia who advises abuse victims, described it as a "token" effort that had little impact because the church hierarchy was not held responsible. He noted, however, that Pope John Paul II did even less -- making statements that focused blame only on individual abusers and on American culture.

"At no time did John Paul ever acknowledge that the institutional church had any role in this problem," Doyle said.

That distinction was lost on Mark Serrano, a victim of clerical abuse who lives in Leesburg.

"We're merely in some new shades of gray -- John Paul was 10 miles from the water's edge, and Ratzinger is eight miles," he said, referring to Benedict, the former Joseph Ratzinger. "Isn't it interesting to see what a low standard people apply to this church leadership? What other institution on the face of the Earth has been proven to hide criminal sex offenders for years?"

priest charged in u.s. still serving in india

NYTimes | A Catholic priest who has been criminally charged with sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl in Minnesota six years ago is still working in his home diocese in India despite warnings to the Vatican from an American bishop that the priest continued to pose a risk to children, according to church documents made public on Monday.

The documents show that the American bishop warned the Vatican that the priest was accused of molesting two teenage girls whose trust he gained by promising to discuss their interest in becoming nuns.

A county attorney in Minnesota is seeking to extradite the priest from India in a criminal case that involves one of the girls, who said the priest had forced her to perform oral sex and had threatened her and her family.

The case took place during the papacy of Pope Benedict XVI, who has recently come under fire for his role in cases of sexually abusive priests in Germany and Wisconsin.

The case was handled after the Vatican clarified and streamlined its procedures in 2001 to respond to accusations of sexual abuse by priests. In the midst of a growing scandal, the Vatican has sought to defend the pope by pointing out that he was both an architect and a promoter of these procedures.

But the Vatican also says it defers to local bishops to decide how to treat accused priests, leaving it exposed to criticism that the church is not doing enough to rein in sexually abusive priests.

In 2006, the Vatican recommended that the priest simply be monitored, a document shows. A lawyer for the Holy See said in a statement that the Vatican had recommended that the priest be defrocked, but that canon law specifies that the decision rests with the local bishop. The bishop in India sentenced the priest to a year of prayer in a monastery rather than seeking his removal from the priesthood, according to documents and interviews. Roman Catholic Church Sex Abuse Cases - Times Topic.

ireland child sex abuse scandal

SkyNews | An investigation into decades of alleged abuse at schools and orphanages run by the Catholic Church in Ireland has described how children were "terrorised" by nuns and priests. Around 2,500 men and women who were abused in schools and institutions across the Republic gave evidence to the government-backed Commission, led by Justice Sean Ryan at a total cost of £65m.

Victims had hoped the publication of its 2,500 pages would finally reveal the truth about the hidden torture they suffered as children. The Child Abuse Commission detailed a catalogue of disturbing and chronic sexual, physical and emotional abuse inflicted on thousands of disadvantaged, neglected and abandoned children over the last 70 years.

The church was aware long-term sex offenders were repeatedly abusing children, the damning report revealed. The inquiry found that paedophiles were moved from school to school each time their behaviour was uncovered.

"Sexual abuse was endemic in boys' institutions," said the long-awaited official report. It was known to religious authorities to be a "persistent problem in male religious oganisations", it went on. Nevertheless, each instance of sexual abuse was treated in isolation and in secrecy by the authorities and there was no attempt to address the underlying systemic nature of the problem."

The leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland, Cardinal Sean Brady, apologised for the abuse and said he was ashamed by what the report had found. "It documents a shameful catalogue of cruelty, neglect, physical, sexual and emotional abuse, perpetrated against children," he said.

"I am profoundly sorry and deeply ashamed that children suffered in such awful ways in these institutions." Fist tap BTx3.

Monday, April 05, 2010


the drone wars....,

NYTimes | By all reports, the bombardment of North Waziristan, and to a lesser extent South Waziristan, has become fast and furious since a combined Taliban and Qaeda suicide attack on a C.I.A. base in Khost, in southern Afghanistan, in late December.

In the first six weeks of this year, more than a dozen strikes killed up to 90 people suspected of being militants, according to Pakistani and American accounts. There are now multiple strikes on some days, and in some weeks the strikes occur every other day, the people from North Waziristan said.

The strikes have become so ferocious, “It seems they really want to kill everyone, not just the leaders,” said the militant, who is a mid-ranking fighter associated with the insurgent network headed by Jalaluddin and Sirajuddin Haqqani. By “everyone” he meant rank-and-file fighters, though civilians are being killed, too.

Tactics used just a year ago to avoid the drones could not be relied on, he said. It is, for instance, no longer feasible to sleep under the trees as a way of avoiding the drones. “We can’t lead a jungle existence for 24 hours every day,” he said.

Militants now sneak into villages two at a time to sleep, he said. Some homeowners were refusing to rent space to Arabs, who are associated with Al Qaeda, for fear of their families’ being killed by the drones, he said.

The militants have abandoned all-terrain vehicles in favor of humdrum public transportation, one of the government supporters said.

The Arabs, who have always preferred to keep at a distance from the locals, have now gone further underground, resorting to hide-outs in tunnels dug into the mountainside in the Datta Khel area adjacent to Miram Shah, he said.

“Definitely Haqqani is under a lot of pressure,” the militant said. “He has lost commanders, a brother and other family members.”

While unpopular among the Pakistani public, the drone strikes have become a weapon of choice for the Obama administration after the Pakistani Army rebuffed pleas to mount a ground offensive in North Waziristan to take on the militants who use the area to strike at American and NATO forces in Afghanistan.

karzai threatening to go native...,

NYTimes | At the meeting, Mr. Karzai stepped up his anti-Western statements, according to a Parliament member who attended but spoke on condition of anonymity.

“If you and the international community pressure me more, I swear that I am going to join the Taliban,” Mr. Karzai said, according to the Parliament member.

A spokesman for Mr. Karzai, Waheed Omar, could not be reached for comment on Sunday.

In a speech in Kandahar on Sunday, Mr. Karzai promised local tribal elders that coalition military operations planned for the area this summer would not proceed without their approval.

“I know you are worried about this operation,” he said, adding: “There will be no operation until you are happy.”

Given his tone in the last few days, it was unclear whether he was literally extending the elders veto power over the offensive, or merely trying to quell their fears and bring them on board.

Interviews with diplomats, Afghan analysts and ordinary Afghans suggest that the United States and other Western countries have three options: threaten to withdraw troops or actually withdraw them; use diplomacy, which so far has had little result; and find ways to expand citizen participation in the government, which now has hardly any elected positions at the provincial and district levels.

Threatening to withdraw, which Stephen Biddle, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, called the “nuclear deterrent” option, would put the United States and other Western countries in the position of potentially having to make good on the promise, risking their strategic interest in a stable Afghanistan. Few experts think the country would remain peaceful without a significant foreign force here. Moreover, withdrawal could open the way for the country to again become a terrorist haven.

Some Western critics of Mr. Karzai believe that the West has no choice but to threaten to leave.

calling afghanistan what it is - a drug war

Salon | In the late 1990s, the Taliban, which had taken power in most of the country, lost any chance for international legitimacy by protecting and profiting from opium -- and then, ironically, fell from power only months after reversing course and banning the crop. Since the U.S. military intervened in 2001, a rising tide of opium has corrupted the government in Kabul while empowering a resurgent Taliban whose guerrillas have taken control of ever larger parts of the Afghan countryside.

These three eras of almost constant warfare fueled a relentless rise in Afghanistan's opium harvest -- from just 250 tons in 1979 to 8,200 tons in 2007. For the past five years, the Afghan opium harvest has accounted for as much as 50 percent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP) and provided the prime ingredient for over 90 percent of the world's heroin supply.

The ecological devastation and societal dislocation from these three war-torn decades has woven opium so deeply into the Afghan grain that it defies solution by Washington's best and brightest (as well as its most inept and least competent). Caroming between ignoring the opium crop and demanding its total eradication, the Bush administration dithered for seven years while heroin boomed, and in doing so helped create a drug economy that corrupted and crippled the government of its ally, President Karzai. In recent years, opium farming has supported 500,000 Afghan families, nearly 20 percent of the country's estimated population, and funds a Taliban insurgency that has, since 2006, spread across the countryside.

To understand the Afghan War, one basic point must be grasped: In poor nations with weak state services, agriculture is the foundation for all politics, binding villagers to the government or warlords or rebels. The ultimate aim of counterinsurgency strategy is always to establish the state's authority. When the economy is illicit and by definition beyond government control, this task becomes monumental. If the insurgents capture that illicit economy, as the Taliban have done, then the task becomes little short of insurmountable.

Opium is an illegal drug, but Afghanistan's poppy crop is still grounded in networks of social trust that tie people together at each step in the chain of production. Crop loans are necessary for planting, labor exchange for harvesting, stability for marketing, and security for shipment. So dominant and problematic is the opium economy in Afghanistan today that a question Washington has avoided for the past nine years must be asked: Can anyone pacify a full-blown narco-state?

Saturday, April 03, 2010

how come?



Vatican - Niche of the Pinecone


the new language of the tea party movement

Guardian | Along with the Tea Party has risen not only an incoherent political movement but exciting and refreshing variations on the English language. Now Flickr user Pargon has collected together many fine examples of "Teabonics", the curious pidgin that has emerged on the simple signs and crude posters handcrafted by the modern-day Poujadists:
These are signs seen primarily at Tea Party Protests. They all feature "creative" spelling or grammar. This new dialect of the English language shall be known as "Teabonics."
This being the Guardian, we take a liberal view of the uses and abuses of English, and we'd be fools to pretend otherwise. There but for the grace of god, and so on. Obviously, signs like the one above – "Don't mortage my childs future" – are amusing enough for the mis-spelling. But signs such as these below, with one saying "Honk for English" and another next to it saying "No Amnety" – something to do with immigration – are even more delightful:

Friday, April 02, 2010

elite agenda for social transformation

RKMoore | In a non-growth economy, the mechanisms of production will become relatively static. Instead of corporations competing to innovate, we’ll have production bureaucracies. They’ll be semi-state, semi-private bureaucracies, concerned about budgets and quotas rather than growth, somewhat along the lines of the Soviet model. Such an environment is not driven by a need for growth capital, and it does not enable a profitable game of Monopoly.

We can already see steps being taken to shift the corporate model towards the bureaucratic model, through increased government intervention in economic affairs. With the Wall Street bailouts, the forced restructuring of General Motors, the call for centralized micromanagement of banking and industry, and the mandating of health insurance coverage, the government is saying that the market is to superseded by government directives. Not that we should bemoan the demise of exploitive capitalism, but before celebrating we need to understand what it is being replaced with.

In an era of capitalism and growth, the focus of the game has been on the production side of the economy. The game was aimed at controlling the means of growth: access to capital. The growth-engine of capitalism created the demand for capital; the bankers controlled the supply. Taxes were mostly based on income, again related to the production side of the economy.

In an era of non-growth, the focus of the game will be on the consumption side of the economy. The game will be aimed at controlling the necessities of life: access to food and energy. Population creates the demand for the necessities of life; the bankers intend to control the supply. Taxes will be mostly based on consumption, particularly of energy. That’s why they’re pushing for carbon taxes and carbon credits.

Already in Britain there is talk of carbon quotas, like gasoline rationing in wartime. It’s not just that you’ll pay taxes on energy, but the amount of energy you can consume will be determined by government directive. Carbon credits will be issued to you, which you can use for driving, for heating, or on rare occasions for air travel. Also in Britain, the highways are being wired so that they can track how many miles you drive, tax you accordingly, and penalize you if you travel over your limit. We can expect these kinds of things to spread throughout the West, as it’s the same international bankers who are in charge everywhere.

In terms of propaganda, this carbon-credit regime is being sold as a solution to global warming and peak oil. The propaganda campaign has been very successful, and the whole environmental movement has been captured by it. In Copenhagen, demonstrators confronted the police, carrying signs in support of carbon taxes and carbon credits. But in fact the carbon regime has nothing to do with climate or with sustainability. It is all about micromanaging every aspect of our lives, as well as every aspect of the economy.

the first exploitive hierarchies

RKMoore | In a hierarchal society there are a few at the top, who make the big decisions — and everyone else, who are obliged to abide by those decisions. If the interests of those at the top are aligned with the interests of the general population, hierarchy can be a somewhat reasonable mode of organization. The few are able to reach coherent decisions efficiently, and the many can get on with the business of society.

In our very first hierarchical societies — herding bands ruled by a warrior chief — we had such an alignment of interests. The chief and the band shared the goals of obtaining the best pastures for their herds, and protecting their territory from competing bands. A strong chief improved their combat prowess, and the system worked well for the chief and band alike.

The chief enjoyed many privileges, compared to the rest of the band, yet his role was essentially beneficial to the band, not exploitive. He got the biggest slice of the pie, and his lieutenants did well too, but overall the pie was divided reasonably equitably.

Our second generation of hierarchical societies emerged when herding bands conquered and enslaved early agricultural societies. The few at the top were now exploiting the majority of the population, and most of the pie was now being shared by the new upper class, the members of the conquering tribe. The slaves did all the hard work and grew the food, and subsisted on crumbs from the pie that their labor created.

From our modern perspective, this was a radically different kind of society than either of its ancestor societies, the herders and the agriculturalists. We can appreciate that this was the beginning of exploitive hierarchy, something that has cursed us ever since. This is a perspective that would have made sense to the slaves of that time as well. They had become slaves on the very lands they had once proudly called their own. For the first time, the interests of those at the top were no longer in alignment with the interests of the general population of the society.

From the perspective of the conquering tribe, however, the new societies were in many ways very similar to the original herding societies. The chief — now king — was still the undisputed ruler, and he still shared the pie more or less equitably with his fellows, the members of the conquering tribe. The difference was that the slaves had now taken the place of the herds.

Throughout history, slaves have always been looked on as subhuman by their masters. To the conquering tribe, this first generation of slaves was simply a better source of food than the herds had been. A greater supply of food could be obtained, and without the need to stay on the move looking for green pastures. Slaves were property, just like the herd animals had been, and they could perform many other kinds of labor as well, besides just food production. The slaves were not people: they were multi-purpose beasts of burden.

From the perspective of the conquerors, the internal structure of society had not changed radically — because the slaves were not part of society. Such was the nature of the early city-states that arose in Mesopotamia. Historians consider these slave-based societies to be the beginning of Western civilization.

the grand story of humanity

RKMoore | Because of language, we are involved in two different complex worlds, the world outside our heads, and the world inside our heads. The outside world is the real world, and I call the inside world the story world. I call it that because it seems to be organized in terms of stories.

Every sentence is a story, where some subject does some action to some object, and every paragraph is a slightly longer story. With Chinese ideograms, each symbol tells a little story. When we have conversations we tell stories to one another. Our dreams come as stories. We learn through stories. When we want to know the truth of current events, we tune in to our favorite channel to get the real story. Even a mathematical proof follows the story form, with a beginning, a middle, and an end, marked by QED, just like amen, the end, or that’s all folks.

Indeed, our very concept of understanding something is being able to tell its story coherently. And our concept of what is true is closely related to the concept of coherent story. A mathematical proof is valid if it tells a coherent story. A suspect appears guilty if he cannot give a coherent story as an alibi. Witnesses are trusted if their story is coherent. Even our concept of being sane is closely linked to being able to speak coherently, which is the same as being able to tell coherent stories.

Because story-processing skills are so central to our understanding, and to our functioning in society, it is not surprising that we get pleasure out of practicing those skills by listening to stories. In general, pleasure is an adaptive mechanism that draws us to what we need. Baby lions love to wrestle, thus learning the moves they will need as adult hunters.

Language and stories are not just about words. The same cognitive machinery supports other modalities. Music is a language, and a tune is a story. Art is a language and a painting is a story. Physics is a language and a theory is a story. Food preparation is a language, and a meal is a story. Each language must be learned before its stories can be told or appreciated.

I suppose all of this can be summed up by saying that we think, understand, create, and communicate in terms of stories, in one mode of language or another. As I write, my concern always is to be telling a coherent story in a coherent sequence. Coherence in a story is like digestibility in a meal.

Because we have specialized in the story way-of-knowing, we don’t feel we understand anything until we know its story. From a very early age we begin asking questions, wanting to hear stories that explain our experience to us. As our experience of the world expands, our need for stories expands. Eventually, we all get to the big questions: What is the meaning of life? and Where did we come from?