Saturday, July 23, 2011

a right-wing christian fundamentalist

CNN | As Norway struggles to come to terms with its greatest loss of life in decades, all eyes are on the man charged in the explosion in central Oslo and the deadly shooting rampage at a youth camp.

While police have not officially named him, Norwegian television and newspaper reports have identified the suspect as 32-year-old Anders Behring Breivik, of Norwegian origin.

A picture is emerging, gleaned from official sources and social media, of a right-wing Christian fundamentalist who may have had an issue with Norway's multi-cultural society.

Norwegian and international news outlets have run photographs of a blond man with blue-green eyes and chiseled features, dressed in a preppy style.

A victim who was shot during the attack at the youth camp on Utoya island told CNN Saturday that he had seen pictures of Breivik taken from what is believed to be his Facebook page and shown on NRK and TV2. The victim said he recognized the man from the news reports as the gunman.

Breivik is a member of the Oslo Pistol Club and has three weapons registered in his name, according to leading Norwegian newspaper VG, citing Norway's official weapons register. They are a Glock pistol, a rifle and a shotgun, VG reported.

A post in Breivik's name on an online forum,, from December 2009, talks about non-Muslim teenagers being "in an especially precarious situation with regards to being harassed by Islamic youth."

"I know of many hundred occasions where non-Muslims have been robbed, beaten up and harassed by Islamic gangs," the post reads. "I had a best friend between the ages of 12-17 who was a Pakistani, so I was one of the many protected, cool 'potatoes' that had protection. But this also made me see the hypocrisy up close and personal and made me nauseous."

A Twitter account attributed to Breivik by Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten has only one message, dated July 17. "One person with a belief is equal to the force of 100,000 who has only interests," it says, adapting a quote from 19th-century British philosopher John Stuart Mill.

how the other side roles...,

Video - BBC report on right wing mass-murder atrocity in Norway.

CBSNews | A home-grown terrorist set off an explosion that ripped open buildings in the heart of Norway's government Friday, then went to a summer camp dressed as a police officer and gunned down youths as they ran and even swam for their lives, police said Friday.

As of early Saturday, police say at least 80 people were killed in a shooting spree at the youth camp of Norway's Labor Party. Police told reporters they had discovered many more victims after initially reporting the death toll at 10.

A police official said the 32-year-old ethnic Norwegian suspect arrested at the camp on Utoya island appears to have acted alone in both attacks, and that "it seems like that this is not linked to any international terrorist organizations at all." The official spoke on condition of anonymity because that information had not been officially released by Norway's police.

"It seems it's not Islamic-terror related," the official said. "This seems like a madman's work."

The official said the attack "is probably more Norway's Oklahoma City than it is Norway's World Trade Center." Domestic terrorists carried out the 1995 attack on a federal building in Oklahoma City, while foreign terrorists were responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

The official added, however, "it's still just hours since the incident happened. And the investigation is going on with all available resources."

TV2 Norwegian TV reported that the shooting suspect in custody has links to right wing extremism

Friday, July 22, 2011


"The Plan" 1 year. 3 phases. A world of change.

Share this message with everyone you can.

PHASE 1: Better yourself. Spread the message. Be the message.

*Educate yourself on the depths of the system, the functions put it place to inhibit true freedom as well as the mechanisms within the system that motivate the masses to subconsciously accept giving up those freedoms. The structures within the system that promote division within the people of the countries of this world and the injustices that are placed upon the people.

*Spread the message. Share this video and the website with everyone you can. Make your own videos, songs, art, graffiti etc... spreading the word that we are here, the movement is taking hold. Expect us.

*Learn ways that will allow you to break free from the system. Start small and implement them in your daily lives. This will be implemented as a focus of Phase 2 as well, escalating what you have learned.

*ANON hackers - begin supporting the movement. This is a calling to all of you for the aid of this movement. Low-priority targets are your engagement. Assist with the movement and spread the message of "The Plan".

The resistance is here.
Expect us.

the murdochs: power without responsibility

Video - Rupert and James kinda/sorta testify...,

The Nation | What did we learn from the Murdochs’ testimony [1]? That, at 80, Rupert Murdoch is losing his grip—or wants to appear that way. The billionaire tyrant’s saurian response to his tormentors on the parliamentary select committee showed a man who struggled with names, dates and details, and who needed to be rescued by his son James (who seemed almost pathetically eager to do so). But the picture that emerged of a father far too busy struggling (and by yesterday’s evidence, failing) to keep track of a global media empire to have any knowledge of what his underlings’ underlings were up to on one lowly British tabloid was profoundly at odds not only with Murdoch’s track record as a manager in total command of every detail of his empire, but even with portions of his own testimony yesterday. When MP Tom Keen tossed him a softball: “You’ve been kept in the dark, Rupert Murdoch,” he blasted it right back: “Nobody kept me in the dark. Anything that’s seen as a crisis comes to me.”

James Murdoch’s portrayal of the dutiful son who arrived on the scene too late to have been involved in any wrongdoing—but just in time to sign off on the multimillion-pound payoffs to a handful of hacking victims—was more convincing. Though here too it is worth noting that the legal opinion from Harbottle & Co., the high-priced London firm that News International used to handle the invasion of privacy claims, which James waved around like a doctor’s note getting out of a particularly unpleasant school trip, has been undercut by the firm’s statement yesterday [2] that its advice had been wrongly summarized, but that the firm’s request to be released from confidentiality to explain exactly how had been turned down by News International.

On the whole, the Murdoch strategy of running out the clock was successful—even before the doubtless unpleasant distraction of wiping a shaving cream pie off Murdoch senior’s face, which cost Murdoch a small portion of his majesty but also kept Tom Watson, by far the most dangerous member of the panel, from being allowed to ask a concluding set of questions. There were two small but genuine revelations: that News International continued paying the legal fees for Glenn Mulcaire, the private investigator jailed in 2007 for hacking into mobile phones belonging to members of the British royal family (and who also hacked into the voice messages of the murdered school girl Milly Dowler) long after his conviction, and that Rupert Murdoch himself never even considered resigning or in any way accepting responsibility for the illegal actions of his employees.

What happens next? There are currently at least ten separate British investigations, including an independent inquiry headed by a judge, police investigations into both phone hacking (“Operation Weeting”) and the issue of police corruption and illegal payments to police officers by Murdoch’s newspapers and other British press organizations (“Operation Elveden”), as well as an examination by the media regulator Ofcom about whether the actions of Murdoch employees on the News of the World throws into question the family’s fitness to retain control of its British broadcast operations.

An optimist might think that with so much smoke surely a barbecue is in the offing. But the adage about too many cooks is probably just as relevant. One problem facing any regulator or national legislature genuinely trying to come to grips with Murdoch is that News Corporation is a truly global company. The most recent GAO report shows the company operating 782 foreign subsidiaries—of which 182 are in such notorious tax havens as the British Virgin Islands (sixty-two), the Cayman Islands (thirty-three) and Luxembourg (four). The career of Les Hinton—or indeed James Murdoch—demonstrates the ease with which Murdoch shuffles managers from continent to continent. Tracking the flow of News Corporation assets around the world is far more difficult.

And as I’ve said before [3], News Corporation is no ordinary business enterprise. The thousands of journalists on the company’s books—and the untold number of private investigators, “blaggers” and other practitioners of journalism’s black arts paid off the books—mean that in addition to men and money, News Corp. also has global reach in amassing information, particularly the kind of titillating personal information that can put a troublesome regulator or meddlesome legislator on Page Six of the New York Post or the front page of the Sun. That’s why the most significant comment on the scandal before Nick Davies managed to get the British public to pay attention was from the anonymous MP who, when asked why Parliament kept allowing Rebekah Brooks to refuse repeated invitations to testify, replied that they felt too intimidated [4] by the threat of what might be done to them by News International journalists if they insisted. Combine that threat with a corporation whose unabashed largesse to its friends—from the £ 5 million Harper Collins paid for Margaret Thatcher’s memoirs to the $4.5 million the company offered to pay Newt Gingrich to the $1.25 million paid to Sarah Palin for Going Rogue [5]—seems to transcend business logic and you have assembled a powerful set of incentives for accommodation.

Really getting to the bottom of News Corporation would require a global effort, with global focus—and far more determination than anything shown either by Attorney General Eric Holder’s tepid assurance that the Justice Department would look at any evidence of phone hacking in the United States or David Cameron’s government, whose links with News Corporation go far beyond sharing the occasional egg nog at Christmas.

wage slaves in the warehouse

Video - Capitalism vs. Socialism - which is more productive?

DeclineoftheEmpire | In our Capitalist Utopia, wage slaves are not allowed to talk. They might say stuff like "wow, it's really hot in here" or "let's go upstairs and kill all the big guys in the suits." No cell phones either—if there's an medical emergency in the family, your phone will be confiscated.
A few days later, I had breakfast with someone who coincidentally works with the CEOs of logistics companies. Telling him about the conditions and the sterility and the mind-numbing sadness of the warehouse made him almost too bummed to eat his oatmeal.

"Somebody did studies and spreadsheets and crunched those numbers," he said, "and figured out that the cheapest way to get that job done is to treat people like that." Which is important, he explained, because "the profit margins on those contracts are razor thin." Of course. A lot of the Internet retailers' merchandise is nearly worthless—ice princess star-shaped ice cube trays, cheap sunglasses, anthropomorphic stuffed bacon toys—and is sold for nearly nothing, often with free or reduced-price shipping.

Susie told me it's pretty dispiriting to act as though her workers are as disposable as the products they're shipping. But that's just the way it is, she said. The logistics clients aren't interested in spending money on a better or more sustainable work culture. Nor do they need to. There are 100 people employed in the warehouse I visited, and Susie could fire every one of them today without costing her bosses a dime of lost profits. She has applications from hundreds of people ready to take the job.
There's your vaunted job market flexibility. This, too, will make America more competitive. Disposable workers can be fired in a New York minute for talking, or taking too many breaks, or otherwise displaying a bad attitude. Ungrateful sons of bitches. Firing these SOBs is just like taking out the trash. After all, there are hundreds of people waiting to take their place. The working wage slaves are the lucky ones.

It's a Capitalist's wet dream. Is this a great country or what? Fist tap Dale.

CIA exhales: 99 out of 101 torture cases dropped...,

Wired | This is how one of the darkest chapters in U.S. counterterrorism ends: with practically every instance of suspected CIA torture dodging criminal scrutiny. It’s one of the greatest gifts the Justice Department could have given the CIA as David Petraeus takes over the agency.

Over two years after Attorney General Eric Holder instructed a special prosecutor, John Durham, to “preliminar[ily] review” whether CIA interrogators unlawfully tortured detainees in their custody, Holder announced on Thursday afternoon that he’ll pursue criminal investigations in precisely two out of 101 cases of suspected detainee abuse. Some of them turned out not to have involved CIA officials after all. Both of the cases that move on to a criminal phase involved the “death in custody” of detainees, Holder said.

But just because there’s a further criminal inquiry doesn’t necessarily mean there will be any charges brought against CIA officials involved in those deaths. If Holder’s decision on Thursday doesn’t actually end the Justice Department’s review of torture in CIA facilities, it brings it awfully close, as outgoing CIA Director Leon Panetta noted.

“On this, my last day as Director, I welcome the news that the broader inquiries are behind us,” Panetta wrote to the CIA staff on Thursday. “We are now finally about to close this chapter of our Agency’s history.”

Thursday, July 21, 2011

oligarchy in the united states?

Cambridge | We explore the possibility that the US political system can usefully be characterized as oligarchic. Using a material-based definition drawn from Aristotle, we argue that oligarchy is not inconsistent with democracy; that oligarchs need not occupy formal office or conspire together or even engage extensively in politics in order to prevail; that great wealth can provide both the resources and the motivation to exert potent political influence. Data on the US distributions of income and wealth are used to construct several Material Power Indices, which suggest that the wealthiest Americans may exert vastly greater political influence than average citizens and that a very small group of the wealthiest (perhaps the top tenth of 1 percent) may have sufficient power to dominate policy in certain key areas. A brief review of the literature suggests possible mechanisms by which such influence could occur, through lobbying, the electoral process, opinion shaping, and the US Constitution itself.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

compare and contrast with wikileaks...,

the hell you say?!?!?!?!

Video - Murdoch's doxie stands by her man.

WSJ | How does this year's phone hacking scandal at the now-defunct British tabloid News of the World—owned, I hardly need add, by News Corp., the Journal's parent company—compare with last year's contretemps over the release of classified information by Julian Assange's WikiLeaks and his partners at the New York Times, the Guardian and other newspapers?

At bottom, they're largely the same story.

In both cases, secret information, initially obtained by illegal means, was disseminated publicly by news organizations that believed the value of the information superseded the letter of the law, as well as the personal interests of those whom it would most directly affect. In both cases, fundamental questions about the lengths to which a news organization should go in pursuit of a scoop have been raised. In both cases, a dreadful human toll has been exacted: The British parents of murdered 13-year-old Milly Dowler, led to the false hope that their child might be alive because some of her voice mails were deleted after her abduction; Afghan citizens, fearful of Taliban reprisals after being exposed by WikiLeaks as U.S. informants.

Both, in short, are despicable instances of journalistic malpractice, for which some kind of price ought to be paid. So why is one a scandal, replete with arrests, resignations and parliamentary inquests, while the other is merely a controversy, with Mr. Assange's name mooted in some quarters for a Nobel Peace Prize?

The easy answer is that the news revealed by WikiLeaks was in the public interest, whereas what was disclosed by News of the World was merely of interest to the public. By this reckoning, if it's a great matter of state, and especially if it's a government secret, it's fair game. Not so if it's just so much tittle-tattle about essentially private affairs.

You can see the attraction of this argument—particularly if, like Mr. Assange, you are trying to fight extradition to Sweden on pending rape charges that you consider unworthy of public notice.

You can also see its attraction to anybody who claims to know what the public interest ought to be and is in a position to do something about it.

The New York Times Questions The Journal's Integrity

The Atlantic | The Players: The New York Times vs. The Wall Street Journal

The First Serve: Yesterday, David Carr of The New York Times wrote a column questioning the future of Rupert Murdoch and News Corps. "The News Corporation may be hoping that it can get back to business now that some of the responsible parties have been held to account — and that people will see the incident as an aberrant byproduct of the world of British tabloids," he wrote. "But that seems like a stretch. The damage is likely to continue to mount, perhaps because the underlying pathology is hardly restricted to those who have taken the fall."

Carr also pointed to Murdoch's strategy of burying problems: "And the money the company reportedly paid out to hacking victims is chicken feed compared with what it has spent trying to paper over the tactics of News America in a series of lawsuits filed by smaller competitors in the United States."

Fellow columnist Roger Cohen, who had previously defended Murdoch, furthered the conversation in a column that appeared on The Times's site yesterday (and appears in the International Herald Tribune, a Times company, today) which questions Murdoch's character. "Murdoch is a flawed genius whose very ruthlessness has now led him to his comeuppance," he wrote. "He knew, more viscerally than anyone, what postmodern societies wanted to satisfy their twisted appetites and he provided that material in all its gaudiness. I don’t think he created those appetites. But he sure fed them"

Meanwhile, Monday The Wall Street Journal published an editorial defending its owner and its integrity (and was met with a chorus of social media jeers--covered here). The board did not stop there and took the opportunity to lob barbs at The New York Times and The Guardian.
"We also trust that readers can see through the commercial and ideological motives of our competitor-critics. The Schadenfreude is so thick you can't cut it with a chainsaw. Especially redolent are lectures about journalistic standards from publications that give Julian Assange and WikiLeaks their moral imprimatur. They want their readers to believe, based on no evidence, that the tabloid excesses of one publication somehow tarnish thousands of other News Corp. journalists across the world."
The Return Volley: Schadenfreude? Chainsaws? Joe Nocera of the The Times responded to the WSJ's allegation of schadenfreude. "Well, yes, the schadenfreude is pretty darn thick," he writes in today's column. "Who would deny it? The whole thing reminds me a little of the ending of Ian McEwan’s wonderful novel “Solar,” in which the many awful things the central character has done in his long life suddenly come together to bury him in an avalanche of comeuppance. I’m O.K. with that."

fox news cackling over anonymous roundup

Video - RT stirs to pot over a bit of lulzsec mischief

Forbes | The international wave of alleged hacker arrests associated with the digital vigilante movement Anonymous continued Tuesday, and this time on American soil. Fox News reports more than a dozen arrests across California, Florida and New Jersey, as well as FBI interviews and searches in Long Island and Brooklyn, New York.

Those police actions follow others in England, where an Anonymous-related hacker named Ryan Cleary was arrested last month in Essex, followed by more than 45 other arrests in Spain, Italy, Switzerland, and Turkey.

U.S. law enforcement have yet to reveal exactly what hacking charges those newly-arrested American suspects will face. Update: An FBI press release states that there are 14 suspects, and that they’ll be charged with “various counts of conspiracy and intentional damage to a protected computer” related to attacks on Paypal in December following the company’s decision to cut off service to WikiLeaks.

Within the hacker community, many are watching the fate of one individual who goes by the handle “Sabu” and who is suspected of involvement in multiple operations including the attacks on HBGary and later the hacking spree perpetrated by the Anonymous spinoff group LulzSec. Sabu has claimed involvement in yesterday’s hacking of the British newspaper The Sun, and wrote on his Twitter feed that LulzSec will soon release stolen emails from the News Corp-owned tabloid.

Sabu claimed Tuesday on Twitter that he was not involved in the day’s police operations, despite several attempts by hackers in opposition to Anonymous to publicly identify him. One hacker who goes by the name th3j35t3r recently published a suspected name and Portugese address for Sabu on his blog. The LulzSec hacker responded Tuesday by taunting th3j35t3r over the arrests: “Damn, it must hurt you emotionally that I was not part of that.”

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

why we are all different (and not all religious)

epiphenom | So, on to the paper by Robert Rowthorn, which I see now has even been picked up by the Denver Post!

Just to explain a bit of the background. Rowthorn is an economist, and his paper is basically a model of what would would happen if you have a gene (strictly speaking [and for Bjørn's benefit], an allele) that predisposes for membership of a group, and if that group has high reproduction.

What he shows is that the gene spreads incredibly quickly - just 10 generations after it appears, 80% of the population have it. After 20 generations, 95% have it, and it keeps increasing until that figure reaches 100%.

Because the gene spreads, membership of the group increases. It starts off a little slower, and never quite reaches 100% (because even gene carriers can opt out in this model).

Since there is a gene for religion, and the religious (especially the ultra-conservatives) have more kids, you can easily see how this model directly relates to the real world.

And that, Dear Reader, is why 95% of the world's population are Orthodox Jews!

Oh. Alright there is clearly something wrong with the model, but that's OK. Models are usually wrong, and the fun part comes in trying to figure out why. And this model is particularly interesting because it touches on a number of popular misconceptions.

Some are specific to this model but there's also a much bigger issue underlying all this: just why is there so much variation in how religious people are, if (as some theorists will have you believe) religion is so beneficial?

But first, let's look at some specific problems with the assumptions in this model. First off, it isn't really a model of religion, despite the title of the paper. It's a model of conservatism.

Rowthorn starts from some basic assumptions. That global birthrates have fallen, but they have fallen more slowly among the most religious (and not at all among certain sects like Orthodox Jews and the Amish). That conservatism and religion are inextricably linked (and that they have a simple genetic basis). And that religion is inextricably linked to high birth rates.

A quick survey just of European history will quickly show that the last two assumptions don't hold. There have been countless examples of religious anti-conservative movements - the Protestant reformation is just the most obvious example, but there are numerous others, like the anti-slavery movement and the 12th century reformation.

Religion is invented by people, and religion can be radical and innovative - according to their needs.

man-made god(s)

LATimes | Before John Lennon imagined "living life in peace," he conjured "no heaven … / no hell below us …/ and no religion too."

No religion: What was Lennon summoning? For starters, a world without "divine" messengers, like Osama bin Laden, sparking violence. A world where mistakes, like the avoidable loss of life in Hurricane Katrina, would be rectified rather than chalked up to "God's will." Where politicians no longer compete to prove who believes more strongly in the irrational and untenable. Where critical thinking is an ideal. In short, a world that makes sense.

In recent years scientists specializing in the mind have begun to unravel religion's "DNA." They have produced robust theories, backed by empirical evidence (including "imaging" studies of the brain at work), that support the conclusion that it was humans who created God, not the other way around. And the better we understand the science, the closer we can come to "no heaven … no hell … and no religion too."

Like our physiological DNA, the psychological mechanisms behind faith evolved over the eons through natural selection. They helped our ancestors work effectively in small groups and survive and reproduce, traits developed long before recorded history, from foundations deep in our mammalian, primate and African hunter-gatherer past.

For example, we are born with a powerful need for attachment, identified as long ago as the 1940s by psychiatrist John Bowlby and expanded on by psychologist Mary Ainsworth. Individual survival was enhanced by protectors, beginning with our mothers. Attachment is reinforced physiologically through brain chemistry, and we evolved and retain neural networks completely dedicated to it. We easily expand that inborn need for protectors to authority figures of any sort, including religious leaders and, more saliently, gods. God becomes a super parent, able to protect us and care for us even when our more corporeal support systems disappear, through death or distance.

Scientists have so far identified about 20 hard-wired, evolved "adaptations" as the building blocks of religion. Like attachment, they are mechanisms that underlie human interactions: Brain-imaging studies at the National Institutes of Health showed that when test subjects were read statements about religion and asked to agree or disagree, the same brain networks that process human social behavior — our ability to negotiate relationships with others — were engaged.

Among the psychological adaptations related to religion are our need for reciprocity, our tendency to attribute unknown events to human agency, our capacity for romantic love, our fierce "out-group" hatreds and just as fierce loyalties to the in groups of kin and allies. Religion hijacks these traits. The rivalry between Sunni and Shiite Muslims, for example, or the doctrinal battles between Protestant and Catholic reflect our "groupish" tendencies.

In addition to these adaptations, humans have developed the remarkable ability to think about what goes on in other people's minds and create and rehearse complex interactions with an unseen other. In our minds we can de-couple cognition from time, place and circumstance. We consider what someone else might do in our place; we project future scenarios; we replay past events. It's an easy jump to say, conversing with the dead or to conjuring gods and praying to them.

Morality, which some see as imposed by gods or religion on savage humans, science sees as yet another adaptive strategy handed down to us by natural selection.

Yale psychology professor Paul Bloom notes that "it is often beneficial for humans to work together … which means it would have been adaptive to evaluate the niceness and nastiness of other individuals." In groundbreaking research, he and his team found that infants in their first year of life demonstrate aspects of an innate sense of right and wrong, good and bad, even fair and unfair. When shown a puppet climbing a mountain, either helped or hindered by a second puppet, the babies oriented toward the helpful puppet. They were able to make an evaluative social judgment, in a sense a moral response.

magical-thinking brand management...,

The Atlantic | Michele Bachmann is practically synonymous with political controversy, and if the 2008 presidential election is any guide, the conservative Lutheran church she belonged to for many years is likely to add another chapter due to the nature of its beliefs--such as its assertion, explained and footnoted on this website, that the Roman Catholic Pope is the Antichrist.

Bachmann was a longtime member of the Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church in Stillwater, Minn., which belongs to the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS), a council of churches founded in 1850 that today comprises about 400,000 people. WELS is the most conservative of the major Lutheran church organizations, known for its strict adherence to the writings of Martin Luther, the German theologian who broke with the Catholic Church and launched the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century. This includes endorsing Luther's statements about the papacy. From the WELS "Doctrinal Statement on the Antichrist":

Since Scripture teaches that the Antichrist would be revealed and gives the marks by which the Antichrist is to be recognized, and since this prophecy has been clearly fulfilled in the history and development of the Roman Papacy, it is Scripture which reveals that the Papacy is the Antichrist.

During the 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama's relationship with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright nearly derailed his quest for the Democratic nomination after video surfaced of Wright's extreme pronouncements. Similarly, the views of Bachmann's church toward the papacy--which are well outside the mainstream of modern political discourse--could pose a problem as she pursues the Republican nomination.

Seeking to better understand WELS theology and how voters should regard it, I called the Rev. Marcus Birkholz of Salem Lutheran Church in Stillwater. When I identified myself, he hung up. Turning the other cheek, I called WELS and had slightly better luck. While I didn't get to speak to a pastor, as I'd hoped, Joel Hochmuth, the communications director, did his best to oblige. On the matter of the Antichrist, he said, "Some people have this vision of a little devil running around with horns and red pointy ears. Luther was clear that by 'Antichrist' [he meant] anybody who puts himself up in place of Christ. Luther never bought the idea of the Pope being God's voice in today's world. He believed Scripture is God's word." Hochmuth hastened to add that despite the lengthy doctrinal statement, the belief that the Pope is the Antichrist "has never been one of our driving principles."

Hochmuth also revealed that Bachmann is no longer a member of the WELS congregation. "I do know that she has requested a release of her membership," he said, adding that she took the unusual step of formally requesting that release in writing. "She has not been an active member of our fellowship during the last year." Hochmuth wouldn't speculate on whether her presidential ambitions factored in this decision -- the nation's 70 million Catholics (who lean Republican) might not respond kindly to the Pope-as-Antichrist stuff -- but he did emphasize that "it's not something you're going to hear preached from our pulpits every Sunday."

like scientology - tanakh and koran are total frauds as well...,

HuffPo | Since the early years of Christianity, various myths, legends, and even conspiracy theories about the origins of the Bible have enjoyed wide circulation. The discovery in recent decades of many books that were not accepted into the Christian canon has only added to this speculation, spawning numerous best-sellers and television programs. Though the number of theories has grown, however, the three most popular are sufficiently well defined that we can consider them as we might various options on a multiple-choice quiz. So read carefully and then make your selection.

The Big Three

A: Holy Dictation. Promoted by conservative Christians, this view stresses the inerrancy -- that is, the factual accuracy in all matters of faith, history, and science -- of the Bible. Authors, in the grip of the Holy Spirit, received a divine revelation directly from God that they transcribed without error. So while the biblical authors may have written in their own voice and style, the contents of their compositions were nevertheless divinely inspired and controlled. For this reason, there are no errors of any kind in the Bible; hence, if the Bible says the world was created in seven days then, indeed, it was created in seven days.

B: Imperial Decree. Popularized by historical works like The Gnostic Gospels and fictional books like The Da Vinci Code, this view suggests that the official and final contents of the Bible were established by ecclesial councils ordered by Emperor Constantine and his successors. The intent of these councils was both to provide theological unity to the fledgling Christian empire and to stamp out the rise of feminism and other movements in the heavily patriarchal and increasingly orthodox early Christian church. According to Elaine Pagels, divergent theologies like Gnosticism were a threat to the unity and power of the imperial-backed ecclesial authorities, while for Dan Brown there existed a conspiracy to suppress the "true" story of Jesus' romantic relationship with Mary Magdalene, their unrecognized child, and Mary Magdalene's significant influence in the early church.

C: Forgeries & Falsehoods. Who wrote the Bible? All too often, this view suggests, it wasn't who the actual authors purported to be. Rather, much of the New Testament was written either by persons whose identity remains irrecoverably anonymous or by frauds impersonating famous and powerful Christians of an earlier generation. While the gospels represent the former case, many of the letters attributed to the Apostle Paul as well as those attributed to Peter and others represent the latter. As Bart Ehrman has recently argued, the checkered history of the composition of these books undermines the integrity of the New Testament as a whole.

So what do you think -- did you find a satisfactory answer? If not, it will help to remember that multiple-choice tests often offer a fourth choice, "D: None of the Above." As it happens, that choice would be the better answer for this question, as each of the first three possibilities is flawed. For instance, while Mormons have a story that describes the divine transmission of their holy book, Christians by and large have rarely made such claims. In fact, the theory of inerrancy -- a word never used in the Bible -- was only coined only a century ago by fundamentalist Christians seeking to defend the Bible from recent discoveries about its historical origins and fallible conclusions in the realms of history and science.

Monday, July 18, 2011

a clockwork chemistry

Video - Aldous Huxley on history's lesson

Project-Syndicate | Of course, no one is developing a “moral pill” that will transform us into saints. But the research is advancing fast, and it is almost certain to suggest new ways to reshape our moral intuitions, sentiments, and motivations.

Should we use our growing scientific understanding of the basis of human morality to try to make people morally better?

A Clockwork Orange was accused of glorifying violence, and some of its scenes are still hard to watch. But as Burgess himself argued, the novella has an almost Christian message: what makes us human is our freedom to choose both good and evil, and for society to crush individuals into servile conformity is as wicked as, and perhaps even worse than, the sadism of psychopaths like Alex.

I suspect that many will agree with this view. They will agree that our ability to distinguish right from wrong is something precious that we should safeguard, not a broken clock that scientists should fix.

Of course, most of us don’t need to be conditioned to feel repulsed by rape or torture. But this does not mean that we are morally good, or good enough. As you read this, perfectly ordinary people somewhere in the world are doing unspeakable things to others. Even in the most advanced and affluent societies, a vast concentrated effort is needed to preserve even minimal decency: think of locks, security alarms, police, courts, and prisons. And it is doubtful that we really care enough about others, or give enough to the less fortunate.

Humans are born with the capacity to be moral, but it is a limited capacity which is ill equipped to deal with the ethical complexities of the modern world. For thousands of years, humans have relied on education, persuasion, social institutions, and the threat of real (or supernatural) punishment to make people behave decently. We could all be morally better, but it is clear that this traditional approach cannot take us much further. It is not as if people would suddenly begin to behave better if we just gave them more facts and statistics, or better arguments.

So we shouldn’t be too quick to dismiss the suggestion that science might help – in the first instance, by helping us design more effective institutions, more inspiring moral education, or more persuasive ethical arguments. But science might also offer more direct ways of influencing our brains.

Science fiction sometimes limits rather than expands our sense of what is possible. It would be self-defeating, or worse, to try to promote morality through brutal coercion. Governments must not be given the power to control its citizens’ moral code – we know that if they had such power, they would misuse it.

It would be ideal if individuals could freely explore different ways to improve themselves, whether by practicing mindfulness, reading moral philosophy, or, yes, by taking a ’morality’ pill. But it is also true that although some people are eager to take pills that make them feel better or think faster, it is not so obvious that people would really want to take pills that would make them morally better. It is not clear that people really want to be morally better. And those who, like the psychopathic Alex, need the most help are probably those who would want it least.

These are, of course, hypothetical questions. We don’t yet know what is possible. But it is better to begin the ethical discussion too early than too late. And even if “moral pills” are just science fiction, they raise deep questions. Will we want to take them if they ever become available? And what does it say about us if we won’t?

that explains my weakness for flawless mature women...,

ScienceDirect | Rats can display a conditioned partner preference for individuals that bear an odor previosuly associated with sexual reward. Herein we tested the possibility that odors associated with the reward induced by social play in prepubescent rats would induce a conditioned partner preference in adulthood. Two groups of 31-day-old, single-housed female rats were formed, and were given daily 30-min periods of social play with scented females. In one group, almond scent was paired with juvenile play during conditioning trials, whereas lemon scent functioned as a novel odor in the final test. The counterbalanced group received the opposite association. At age 42, females were tested for play partner preference with two males, one almond-scented and one lemon-scented. In both groups females displayed a play partner preference only for males scented with the paired odor. They were ovariectomized, hormone-primed, and at age 55 were tested for sexual partner preference with two scented stud males. Females displayed a sexual preference towards males scented with the paired odor as observed with more visits, solicitations, hops & darts, intromissions and ejaculations. These results indicate that olfactory stimuli paired with juvenile play affects later partner choice for play as well as for sex in female rats.

► Neutral odors paired with juvenile play induce an olfactory conditioned play partner preference in prepubescent female rats ► The same conditioned odors (CS+) induce conditioned sexual partner preference in adult female rats. ► Sexual partner preference is observed with more proceptive behaviors directed towards the CS + male, which responds with more mounts, intromissions and ejaculations. ► This conditioned preference may be strong enough to support assortative mating.

Keywords: sexual behavior; conditioning; reward; odors; play; partner preference; copulation

The experimental protocols in this study were approved by a committee of the graduate program in Neuroethology, Universidad Veracruzana Mexico, following the Official Mexican Standard NOM-062-ZOO-1999 (Technical Specifications for the Production, Care and Use of Laboratory Animals).

Sunday, July 17, 2011

everyone is good at maths

Independent | Maths is simple. But to discover this requires travelling to the ends of the earth where an illiterate, chain-smoking fortune teller lives in a room with a double bed and a beehive.

As the sun rises over the hut belonging to Raoke, a 70-year-old witch doctor, a highly pitched din heralds bee rush hour. The insects he keeps shuttle madly in and out through the window.

This bizarre setting, near nowhere in the harsh cactus savannah of southern Madagascar, is where a leading French academic, Marc Chemillier, has achieved an extraordinary pairing of modern science and illiterate intuition.

In his book, Les Mathématiques Naturelles, the director of studies at EHESS (School for Advanced Studies in Social Sciences) argues that mathematics is not only simple, it is "rooted in human, sensorial intuition". And he believes that Madagascar's population, which remains relatively untouched by outside influences, can help him to prove this.

Mr Chemillier argues that children should be encouraged to do maths before they learn to read and write. "There is a strong link between counting and the number of fingers on our hands. Maths becomes complicated only when you abandon basic measures in nature, like the foot or the inch, or even the acre, which is the area that two bulls can plough in a day."

To make his point, Mr Chemillier chose to charge up his laptop computer, leave Paris and do the rounds of fortune tellers on the Indian Ocean island because its uninfluenced natural biodiversity also extends to its human population. Divinatory geomancy – reading random patterns, or sikidy to use the local word – is what Raoke does, when not smoking cigarettes rolled with paper from a school exercise book.

With a low table covered in pieces of wood – each of which has a particular medicinal virtue – Raoke sits on his straw mat and chants as he runs his fingers through a bag of shiny, dark brown tree seeds. "There were about 600 seeds in the bag to begin with but I have lost a few," he says. "They come from the fane tree and were selected for me many years ago. The fane from the valley of Tsivoanino produces some seeds that lie and others that tell the truth so it is very important to test each seed. I paid a specialist to do that," said the father of six.

Raoke pours a random number of seeds on to his mat, then picks them up singly or in twos and lays them in a grid from right to left. Each horizontal gridline has a name – son, livestock, woman or enemy – and each vertical one has a name, too: chief, zebu (cattle), brother and earth. Whether one or two seeds lie at the intersection of two gridlines determines the subject's fortune and informs Raoke as to the cure required, and its price. From the selection of wood pieces on his table, Raoke can mix concoctions to cure ailments, banish evil spirits and restore friendships.

A basic session with the seeds costs 10,000 ariary (£3), then a price is discussed for the cure. It seems there is nothing Raoke cannot achieve for the top price of one or two zebus – Malagasy beef cattle that cost about £300 each – though some remedies are available for the price of a sheep. "A white man came from Réunion with a stomach ailment that the hospitals in France could not cure. I gave him a powder to drink in a liquid. He vomited and then he was cured," said Raoke.

Given the thousands of plant species in Madagascar that are still undiscovered by mainstream medicine, it is entirely possible that Raoke holds the key to several miracle cures. But Mr Chemillier is not interested in the pharmacopaeic aspect of the fortune teller's work.

"Raoke is an expert in a reflexive view of maths of which we have lost sight in the West," says Mr Chemillier. "Even armed with my computer program, I do not fully comprehend Raoke's capacities for mental arithmetic. He can produce 65,536 grids with his seeds – I have them all in my computer now – but we still need to do more work to understand his mental capacity for obtaining the combinations of single seeds and pairs."

The way in which he poses questions over the seeds requires the same faculties for mental speculation as might be displayed by a winner of the Fields Medal, which is the top award any mathematician can aspire to, said Mr Chemillier.

Over the years, Mr Chemillier has earned respect from Raoke and other Malagasy fortune tellers. "Initially they thought France had sent me to steal their work in an attempt to become the world's most powerful fortune teller. But once I was able to share grids with them that had been through my computer program, we established a relationship of trust," says Mr Chemillier.

Raoke says God shows him how to position the seeds. He does not understand why "Monsieur Marc", and now this other visiting white person, keeps asking him why he lays the seeds in a certain way. Yet it is clear from a stack of grimy copybooks he keeps under his bed that if indeed God is a mathematician dictating to Raoke, then the Almighty keeps him busy. When not consulting clients, the diminutive fortune teller spends hours with his seeds, laying them in different formations and copying the dots down in pencil. Those grids have value and Raoke sells them to other fortune tellers.

Seeing that pages of the copybooks are being sacrificed to his roll-ups, I offer Raoke a packet of cigarette papers which he accepts with delight, having never seen them before. He buys his tobacco leaf in long plaits from the market. So I offer him a green plastic pouch of Golden Virginia. Raoke cannot read but he recognises the word "danger", written in red at the start of the government health warning. He drops the packet to the floor in shock and disgust.

filius bonacci

NPR | Though generations of schoolchildren have cursed arithmetic, the world was a much more inconvenient place without it. Before the advent of modern arithmetic in the 13th century, basic calculations required a physical abacus.

But then came a young Italian mathematician named Leonardo da Pisa — no relation to da Vinci — who, in 1202, published a book titled Liber Abaci. That's Latin for "Book of Calculation."

And though it doesn't necessarily sound like an overnight best-seller, it was a smash hit. Liber Abaci introduced practical uses for the Arabic numerals 0 through 9 to Western Europe. The book revolutionized commerce, banking, science and technology and established the basis of modern arithmetic, algebra and other disciplines.

Weekend Edition "Math Guy" Keith Devlin tells the story of this arithmetic revolution in his new book, The Man of Numbers. Numerals 0 to 9 had been around in Hindu and Arabic cultures for centuries, but the problem was, Europeans didn't really do business with the numbers.

"They recorded everything in good old Roman numerals and if they wanted calculations, they went down the street to someone who was adept at using a physical abacus," Devlin tells NPR's Scott Simon. "It was actually a board with lines on it on which you moved pebbles around; it was a crude and inefficient way of doing business."

The first edition of Liber Abaci was a dense, detailed book that was hard for the average person to grasp. So da Pisa released a simplified version to reach the traders and commercial people of Pisa — and the result spread around the world.

"Within a few decades of Liber Abaci appearing you've got what may have been 1,000 or more different people writing practical arithmetic textbooks," says Devlin. "Ordinary people who wanted to set up a business — and didn't have a lot of money to pay people to do the accounting for them — could do it for themselves."

The basics of accounting, banking, insurance and double entry bookkeeping all came out of 13th century Pisa, Devlin says. And that was thanks to the new ability to do arithmetic efficiently.

Sure, basic arithmetic may seem a simple thing today, but Devlin says its introduction to the world was comparable to the invention of the computer. Tedious and complicated tasks that required a specialist were suddenly faster and easier — and something you could do for yourself. "[Da Pisa] is Steve Jobs, Bill Gates. It's the computer revolution that we lived through in the 1980s, and the parallels are actually uncanny," says Devlin.

Despite his lasting impact on the modern world, da Pisa is not exactly a household name. But you might recognize him by his nickname: Fibonacci. In addition to writing Liber Abaci, da Pisa also introduced the famous Fibonacci sequence to Western Europe. (Remember that one from high school math? It starts with 0 and then 1, and then every subsequent number is the sum of the two numbers that precede it.) The name was given to him by a historian in the 19th century who read the phrase filius Bonacci — "son of Bonacci" — at the beginning of Liber Abaci and gave da Pisa his moniker.

Although Fibonacci can take credit for practical arithmetic in the Western world, Devlin says that even without him, it's unlikely that people would have had to rely on the abacus forever.

"One of the things about almost all of mathematics is that it will eventually surface and get used," Devlin says. "It's a matter of who does it and when."

low-hanging fruit..., (ok, rotting mush on the ground)

DailyMail | 59-year-old believed he was meeting two 14-year-old girls for sex at motel where police officers arrest him carrying guns, sex toys and Klan paraphernalia.

A former senior member of the Ku Klux Klan has been jailed for attempting to arrange a sexual encounter with two undercover police officers who he believed were underage girls.

Neal Ray Schmidt, a former grand dragon of the Missouri chapter of the Klan, first met the police officers in an online chat room.

The 59-year-old believed he was talking to two 14-year-old girls who claimed they were friends and lived near each other in McDonough, Georgia.

Following a few general exchanges the former delivery man began to steer the conversation towards sex.

According to the, Patrick Crosby, the U.S. Attorney’s spokesman, said: 'Over the ensuing months, in an effort to groom the girls for an eventual sexual encounter, Schmidt sent sexually explicit videos of himself, as well as images and videos of child pornography.'