Thursday, May 21, 2015

when the gangbangers are white, it doesn't hit "our" dopamine receptors the same way...,

themarshallproject |  If you thought violent biker gangs were a relic of the Altamont era, Sunday’s shootout at a Waco, Texas restaurant might have come as a shock. A long simmering beef between the Bandidos and Cossacks boiled over into gunfire. When police arrived at the scene, gang members shot at them, too, leaving nine bikers dead, 18 people injured, and 170 suspects in police custody. Over 100 weapons have been confiscated. 

The scale of this incident dwarfs a typical urban gang confrontation, says Harold Pollack, co-director of the University of Chicago Crime Lab and an expert on gangs and guns. We talked to Pollack about why biker gang violence typically gets so little attention. He believes the Waco incident confounds our expectations regarding the race and geographic location of people who perpetrate crime, causing us to see biker gangs as more of a “curiosity” than a threat. 

How does the shootout in Waco differ from the gang violence you study in Chicago?
I have never encountered a gang incident in Chicago remotely like this. The number of perpetrators involved — not to mention the nine deaths — far exceed the typical urban gang-related shooting. Maybe there was some gang incident in Chicago like this decades ago. But this sort of pitched battle? I’ve never heard of anything like it. If these biker gang members were non-white, I think this would cause a national freak out.

One of the shocking parts of this incident is that after the police arrived, there was a gunfight between the gang members and the authorities.
Urban gangs and criminal organizations very rarely get into gun battles with police. They certainly have access to powerful weaponry. Police around the country periodically capture large caches of AR-15s and other weapons in cities. Yet when they break down the door to a gang safe house or a drug location in a city, whatever weapons might be piled on a mattress in the adjoining room are left where they are. They aren’t picked up and used to attack the police. The people who do attack police are typically cornered individuals or people with serious mental health problems.

These biker gangs have a long history in organized crime. They began with restless, traumatized veterans returning home after World War II. Today, biker gangs still act as a sort of private militia that police can’t always control, patrolling festivals and other events. Why don’t we pay more attention to them?
Geography may be part of the answer. There are not a lot of outlaw biker gangs in gentrifying Brooklyn and other key media centers. Of course, the number of deaths is lower overall with these groups. You don’t have the daily deluge of homicides the way we would in Chicago. But I do think that our views about urban crime are so framed by race and inequality in a variety of ways. When criminal activity seems unrelated to these factors, it doesn’t hit our national dopamine receptors in quite the same way. People tend to view these motorcycle gangs as a kind of curiosity.

what has america come to when its third-world hoochies cain't even sell tail to feed their kids?

dailymail |  The waitresses who were working at a Texas restaurant when a massive gunfight broke out over the weekend are revealing the terror they felt as bullets began to fly.

The women, all employees at Twin Peaks sports bar in Waco, have taken to social media to share stories of hiding in freezers, running in fear and their belief that this tragedy could have possibly been prevented in the first place.

And now, after enduring this horrific scene, they all find themselves unemployed.

'What we went through Sunday was scary as s**t,' wrote Alicia Ortiz on her Facebook page. 

'I wouldn’t want to have gone through it with anyone else. Being in that freezer with y’all made me see how much of a family we really are.'

She also bemoaned the fact that the restaurant has been closed down in the wake of the incident, and what that means for the staff.

'So the whole restaurant needs to be shut down because of bad management? Peoples jobs need to be lost because of bad management?' she wrote

'We are getting the short end of the stick. And people are blaming all of Twin Peaks like we knew what was going to happen.'

Another employee, Sara Violet Parker, seemed to echo Ortiz's comment, writing on her Facebook; 'Twin Peaks is not to blame, my heart is so heavy for all of my friends who were scared for their lives. Now we are worried none of us have jobs, with bills to pay and some have children to provide for.'

waco overseers dealt directly with breastaurant management, not the breastaurant community...,

WaPo |  Two days after nine people were shot and killed at the Twin Peaks restaurant here, Oddissie Garza can’t seem to shake a single, unnerving thought:

“I was supposed to be there,” she told The Washington Post on Tuesday as she lingered on her porch in a solemn mood. “That keeps running through my mind. I was supposed to be right there at the front where all the fighting was.”

Garza, an easygoing 18-year-old with a shock of pink hair, was often the first person customers saw when they walked into Twin Peaks. She began working at the new restaurant in September as a waitress and was promoted to hostess five months later, placing her just past the front door at the restaurant.

“It was my first job and I was nervous in the beginning, but I found out I had a bunch of sisters in plaid,” she said, referring to the servers’ infamous uniform. “After I got pregnant, I kept this job because of the other girls.”

When she thinks about Sunday’s violence she is less concerned with her own safety than the person she would have been carrying with her. Garza is eight months pregnant with a baby boy, a fact that may have saved her life, she said.

After a long shift on her feet Saturday night, Garza’s legs were swelling and she asked a co-worker if they could trade shifts the next morning.

Her co-worker agreed. The next time she heard from anyone at the restaurant was when they were locked in a freezer as gunfire erupted. Garza got a call from her mother saying something — possibly a shooting — had occurred at work. She immediately texted her friends at Twin Peaks, hoping the rumor was some sort of joke.

why are white gang members destroying their own community?

HuffPo |  Rival biker gangs clashed violently in Waco, Texas, on Sunday afternoon, in a brawl that ultimately left nine gang members dead and at least 18 others injured. As the fight spilled out of a local restaurant and into the parking lot, participants reportedly used fists, chains, knives and later firearms to attack one another. Eventually they exchanged gunfire with police. Waco law enforcement announced Monday that 170 people had been arrested and will be charged with engaging in organized crime.

The brutality terrorized the surrounding community, leading to large-scale evacuations, closed businesses and ongoing fears, though remarkably no physical harm to bystanders.
The incident has temporarily shoved biker gangs and their overwhelmingly white membership into the national spotlight. But these groups -- which the FBI labels outlaw motorcycle gangs, or OMGs -- typically receive far less media attention than urban street gangs, though the biker gangs' criminal networks reach across the country and have erupted violently before.

Sunday's bloodshed reportedly began inside the bathroom of a local Twin Peaks "breastaurant" that has catered to bikers in the past. Between 150 and 200 gang members were apparently inside at the time, and one witness said that as many as 30 gang members were shooting at each other at the height of the battle.

Police have accused the Waco restaurant of being uncooperative in earlier attempts to scale back large and often contentious biker gatherings, and now its clientele has led to serious consequences for management. On Monday, the Twin Peaks corporate office revoked the establishment's franchise, stating that "the management team of the franchised restaurant in Waco chose to ignore the warnings and advice from both the police and our company, and did not uphold the high security standards we have in place to ensure everyone is safe at our restaurants." The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission had already closed the restaurant for a week in order to avoid further possible violence.
Nearby businesses that fell within the police perimeter were also put on lockdown or evacuated following the initial melee. Walmart reportedly closed early Sunday after being cleared. Best Buy, Cabela's and other stores in the Central Texas Marketplace -- the shopping center that contains the Twin Peaks restaurant -- remained closed Monday as the investigation continued.

The manager of a local Denny's told the Austin American-Statesman that a "huge" group of bikers came into her restaurant a few hours after the shooting. Many were served but left abruptly a short time later, some without paying their checks. The manager said a SWAT team showed up minutes after the bikers departed, leaving her and other patrons rattled.

The Waco Tribune reported that "other local dining and drinking establishments" closed early Sunday amid fears that gang members might be looking to resume the violence.

Law enforcement officials in Texas said they've received numerous retaliatory threats from biker gangs following Sunday's incident and have gone on high alert in case of any backlash.
Biker gang violence is not unusual in Central Texas. OMGs play a key role in methamphetamine and marijuana trafficking throughout the region. The FBI says they're involved in cross-border drug smuggling as well as domestic drug trafficking, prostitution, human trafficking and other criminal enterprises. Police said that five OMGs took part in the violence on Sunday, though authorities haven't identified the organizations by name. Fist tap Rohan.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

why criminal threat tiers 1, 2, and 3 must be terminated with extreme prejudice

questioneverything |  One could reasonably argue that I am, after all, biased and will tend to ignore evidence against my basic hypothesis, that civilization must necessarily collapse due to the decline of net free energy (i.e. peak oil combined with declining energy return on investment — EROI — and still growing populations). I am probably not immune to such selective bias. Thus I put it to you, the readers, to let me know of any evidence of some reasonably impactful institutions or organizations that seem to be working and contributing positively to human happiness (please also include estimates of the magnitude of such impact). As I was writing this one possible example did come to mind, if I allow that some kinds of religious experiences are positive (and I do even if I do not believe in most of what religions teach about an ethereal world). The current Pope of the Catholic faith (Francis), it seems to me, has done some worthwhile things that could have a positive impact on the followers of that religion, if not on other states owing to their leaders paying deference to what the Holy See says (e.g. calls for peace). But I reserve judgment of the effectiveness of his reign on the Church. For example, will he ferret out gross behaviors like child sex abuses or financial corruption in the Vatican's dealings? 

If you have any contributions please make them in comments here. Let's see what sort of list we come up with. But please do not post examples of dysfunction. We already know so many it would be an act of waste of bandwidth.

Economists' View the “New Normal”

Meanwhile if we just examine the state and trends of the global economy we get a basic picture of the developing collapse. An article in today's New York Times Business section by Tyler Cowen, a professor of economics at George Mason University “Signs of a Shakier New Normal”, May 17, 2015, brought into focus a variety of comments made by a number of neoclassical economists of late (including, from time to time, the titular representative of ‘liberal’ economists, Paul Krugman) that we have entered a new kind of economic situation that they don't quite understand but have labeled “the new normal.” I suppose they are trying to subtly say that they expect the current set of conditions to continue indefinitely into the future. But, their reasons for saying so have nothing to do with their understanding the dynamics of the real economy and making predictions based on their bogus models. They are just tacitly admitting that something unusual is happening and it has persisted long enough now to be acknowledged as possibly permanent. 

While the US government and a variety of media talking heads are hailing the “recovery” the reality of life for the vast majority of Americans does not demonstrate recovery. They continue to grow poorer, budgets are stretched even for those who have jobs, the real cost of living is still going up even in spite of the recent relief in energy costs, in short for most people there is no recovery. And that is what these economists are referring to (academically) as the new normal.

put the three day weekend to good use and start with the tier 1 and 2's already locked up...,

NYTimes |  The difficulties facing the police and prosecutors were foreshadowed by the last mass arrest of bikers in the United States. In that case, in 2002, three motorcycle gang members were killed and about a dozen others were injured in a shooting and knifing brawl in Laughlin, Nev. The brawl broke out at Harrah’s Casino and Hotel between the Hells Angels and the Mongols, all of whom were attending an annual motorcycle rally. About 120 people were detained by law enforcement. A total of 44 Hells Angels were indicted in federal court, but only seven were convicted. Six Mongols members pleaded guilty to state charges.

“Oftentimes, these mass prosecutions fail because of the overreach,” said Robert Draskovich, a Las Vegas criminal defense lawyer who represented a member of the Hells Angels in the Laughlin case. The charges against his client were dropped. In the Waco case, Mr. Draskovich predicted, “the majority of these people will walk.”

Officials, however, have defended their handling of the arrests and the $1 million bonds. “I set that bond because there was nine people killed, and I felt that was appropriate for the incident that occurred,” said Walter H. Peterson, the justice of the peace in McLennan County who made the decision.

Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton, a spokesman for the Waco Police Department, said the three bikers who had been released — Juan Garcia, Drew King and Jim Harris, all of Austin — were back in custody. The three men were arrested Sunday after they rode up to the scene carrying weapons and wearing motorcyle-gang colors, Sergeant Swanton said. After their release, new arrest warrants were issued for them, and bond was set at $1 million for each, he said.

“They were not mistakenly released,” he added.

Law enforcement officials and gang experts said conflicts between two motorcycle groups, the Bandidos and the Cossacks, had led to the shooting outside a Twin Peaks restaurant in south Waco on Sunday. The shooting, which left nine bikers dead and 18 others wounded, stemmed from both petty disputes and broader tensions over the smaller group, the Cossacks, failing to pay respect, and money, to its larger rival, the Bandidos, officials said.

national security epiphany: suspend due process and liquidate all tier 1 and 2 threats immediately |  The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) has released the updated Texas Gang Threat Assessment, which was developed to provide a broad overview of gang activity in the state of Texas. 

“Gang violence and crime are a chief threat to public safety in Texas, and protecting our communities from these criminals remains a top priority,” said DPS Director Steven McCraw. “This assessment provides detailed information about the gangs operating in our state, which will enhance the ability of law enforcement to combat these dangerous organizations and their associates.” 

The Texas Gang Threat Assessment was developed according to statute, which requires an annual report to be submitted to the governor and Texas Legislature assessing the threat posed by statewide criminal gangs. The report is based on the collaboration between multiple law enforcement and criminal justice agencies across the state and nation, whose contributions were essential in creating this comprehensive overview of gang activity in Texas. 

“Gangs represent one of the top organized-crime threats to public safety,” said Sen. Craig Estes, chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Rural Affairs and Homeland Security. “The Texas Gang Threat Assessment will serve as a critical tool to assist law enforcement agencies in developing and executing strategies to protect Texans, and I applaud the Texas Department of Public Safety for its efforts in combating this critical threat.”

“The most effective tool in fighting any threat is understanding the enemy. This intelligence report amasses information about gang trends and their relationships that is critical to effectively targeting and disrupting these criminal organizations,” said Rep. Joe Pickett, chair of the House Committee on Homeland Security and Public Safety.

This assessment details the state’s systematic approach to evaluating and classifying gangs in order to identify which organizations represent the most substantial threat. The report reveals that current gang membership across the state may exceed 100,000 individuals.
Additional significant findings include:
  • Gangs continue to pose a substantial threat to public safety in Texas and are responsible for a disproportionate amount of crime in our communities.
  • Many gangs in Texas continue to work with Mexican cartels to smuggle drugs, weapons, people and cash across the border. The relationships between some gangs and cartels have evolved over the past year due in part to volatility and changes in cartel structures and relationships in Mexico.
  • Of the incarcerated members of Tier 1 and Tier 2 gangs, more than half are serving a sentence for a violent crime, including robbery (25 percent), homicide (13 percent), and assault/terroristic threat (15 percent).
  • Texas-based gangs, gang members and their associates are active in both human smuggling and human trafficking, which often includes sex trafficking and compelling prostitution of adult and minor victims. Gangs will continue to operate in human trafficking due to the potential for large and renewable profits and the assumed low risk of detection by law enforcement.
  • Tango Blast remains the state’s most significant gang threat. The Tier 1 gangs in Texas are: Tango Blast and Tango cliques (more than 8,200 members); Texas Syndicate (more than 4,400 members); Texas Mexican Mafia (more than 5,500 members), and Barrio Azteca (more than 2,000 members).

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

please tell me where I can find the blacks who followed Malcolm X?

NYTimes |  A Duke University professor criticized for an online post comparing blacks and Asians said Monday that it's not racist to discuss what he sees as differences in how the groups have performed in the U.S. over the past few decades.

Political science professor Jerry Hough has been sharply criticized for a response he posted in the online comments section of the New York Times editorial "How Racism Doomed Baltimore," dated May 9. The 80-year-old professor, who is white, has been on an unrelated academic leave for the past school year.

In his online comments, Hough wrote that Asians have been described as "yellow races" and faced discrimination in 1965 at least as bad as blacks experienced. Of Asian-Americans, he wrote: "They didn't feel sorry for themselves, but worked doubly hard."

The posting goes on to say: "I am a professor at Duke University. Every Asian student has a very simple old American first name that symbolizes their desire for integration. Virtually every black has a strange new name that symbolizes their lack of desire for integration."

In an email Monday to The Associated Press, Hough defended his comments but said it's difficult to be subtle in a post on a newspaper's comments section with a limited word count.

"I only regret the sloppiness in saying every Asian and nearly every black," he wrote in the email. "I absolutely do not think it racist to ask why black performance on the average is not as good as Asian on balance, when the Asians started with the prejudices against the 'yellow races' shown in the concentration camps for the Japanese."

Hough described himself as a disciple of Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1950s who supported integration. In his lifetime, he said, he's observed prejudice ranging from the World War II-era internment camps for Japanese-Americans to segregation in the South, and he's dismayed that more progress hasn't been made.

"My purpose is to help achieve the battle of King's battle to overcome and create a melting pot America," he said.

andrea tantaros keeps forgetting why roger ailes has her on the fauxnews couch...,

dailymail | reported Monday that on February 25, Ms Chamberlin went on a public Facebook thread and weighed in on a controversial article posted on condemning Patricia Arquette's Oscar speech, in which she famously said that women deserve to get equal pay for equal work.

The author of the opinion piece, writer and filmmaker Blue Telusma, who is black, argued that African-Americans and members of the LGBTQ community do not owe white women any assistance.

‘I LITERALLY cry and lose sleep over this,’ Ms Chamberlin wrote in reaction to the op-ed, revealing that she had been raped as a child. ‘What this article did was tell me that I'm not aloud [sic] to ask for help… Because I am a WHITE woman… So when I read this article… you do understand what that does to me, right? It kills me…’

In response, a commenter by the name Sai Grundy, who used the same photo as the BU professor on her now-private Twitter account, poked fun at the married mother of two, writing: ‘I literally cry… While we literally die.’

When Mrs Chamberlin replied that she ‘got’ Grundy’s message and assured her that she can now take her ‘claws’ out, the African-American studies professor unleashed a torrent of vitriol in the form of a foul-mouth message partially written in caps.

‘^^THIS IS THE S**T I AM TALKING ABOUT. WHY DO YOU GET TO PLAY THE VICTIM EVERY TIME PEOPLE OF COLOR AND OUR ALLIES WANT TO POINT OUT RACISM. my CLAWS?? Do you see how you just took an issue that WASNT about you, MADE it about you, and NOW want to play the victim when I take the time to explain to you some s**t that is literally $82,000 below my pay grade? And then you promote your #whitegirltears like that’s some badge you get to wear… YOU BENEFIT FROM RACISM. WE’RE EXPLAINING THAT TO YOU and you’re vilifying my act of intellectual altruism by saying i stuck my “claws” into you?’

Chamberlin tried to extricate herself from the tense exchange by writing to Grundy: ‘'I am choosing to "exit" this conversation, You don't know me. I don't know you. It's really as simple as that.' 

But Grundy continued piling on and ended up having the last word in the heated back-and-forth.

'^^YOU DONT HAVE TO KNOW ME. what you SHOULD know is that you don't know more about this issue than margenalized women. And instead of entering this conversation with an iota of humility about that, you have made it a celebration of your false sense of victimization. no [sic] go cry somewhere. snce that's what you do.'

Chamberlin signed off with the words: 'Will do.'

Ms Grundy wrote in a separate comment in the thread: 'am I mocking her tears or am I saying that her tears are meaningless displays of emotions because they don't reflect at ALL an intention to understand the issue from the prospective [sic] of women of color and queer women.'

The entire conversation has since been removed from Facebook, along with Saida Grundy's social media account.

Monday, May 18, 2015

bout time somebody open-sourced the guts of a cell phone for cheap...,

WaPo |  For $9, you will soon be able to buy an insanely cheap computer the size of a credit card that runs Linux and comes with a 1 GHz processor, 512 MB RAM, 4 GB storage, and built-in WiFi and Bluetooth. While that’s enough computing power to surf the Web, play video games, check e-mail and use word processing software, the real potential is what DIY innovators, hackers and inventors will do with this cheap computing platform once they integrate it into other projects.

The world’s first $9 computer — known as C.H.I.P. — won’t be available for shipping until early 2016. For now, it’s still only a Kickstarter project with nearly a month to go – but the promise and potential of a crazy cheap computer is so alluring that the Oakland, Calif. company behind the project – Next Thing Co. – has already raised more than $925,000 from more than 18,000 backers in just a few days, easily blowing past the $50,000 they had hoped to raise via Kickstarter.

C.H.I.P. comes from the same innovation oeuvre as the $35 Raspberry Pi — a credit-card size computer that is cheap, portable, highly programmable and highly connectable. So if Raspberry Pi has managed to attract a worldwide user community at a price point of $35, you can just imagine what the lower-cost, more powerful C.H.I.P. might be able to do once it attracts a critical mass of users.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

quantum computing fitna _______________?

WaPo |  There is a race to build quantum computers, and (as far as we know) it isn’t the NSA that is in the lead. Competing are big tech companies such as IBM, Google, and Microsoft; start-ups; defense contractors; and universities. One Canadian start-up says that it has already developed a first version of a quantum computer. A physicist at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, Ronald Hanson, told Scientific American that he will be able to make the building blocks of a universal quantum computer in just five years, and a fully-functional demonstration machine in a little more than a decade.

These will change the balance of power in business and cyber-warfare.  They have profound national-security implications, because they are the technology equivalent of a nuclear weapon.
Let me first explain what a quantum computer is and where we are.

In a classical computer, information is represented in bits, binary digits, each of which can be a 0 or 1.  Because they only have only two values, long sequences of 0s and 1s are necessary to form a number or to do a calculation. A quantum bit (called a qbit), however, can hold a value of 0 or 1 or both values at the same time — a superposition denoted as “0+1.”  The power of a quantum computer increases exponentially with the number of qubits. Rather than doing computations sequentially as classical computers do, quantum computers can solve problems by laying out all of the possibilities simultaneously and measuring the results.

Imagine being able to open a combination lock by trying every possible number and sequence at the same time. Though the analogy isn’t perfect — because of the complexities in measuring the results of a quantum calculation — it gives you an idea of what is possible.

There are many complexities in building a quantum computer: challenges in finding the best materials from which to generate entangled photon pairs; new types of logic gates and their fabrication on computer chips; creation and control of qubits; designs for storage mechanisms; and error detection. But breakthroughs are being announced every month. IBM, for example, has just announced that it has found a new way to detect and measure quantum errors and has designed a new qubit circuit that, in sufficient numbers, will form the large chips that quantum computers will need.
Most researchers I have spoken to say that it is a matter of when — not whether — quantum computing will be practical. Some believe that this will be as soon as five years; others say 20 years.  IBM said in April that we’ve entered a golden era of quantum-computing research, and predicted that the company would be the first to develop a practical quantum computer.

first computational genomics, now computational ethology...,

academia |  Abstract: For the past two decades, it has widely been assumed by linguists that there is a single computational operation, Merge, which is unique to language, distinguishing it from other cognitive domains. The intention of this paper is to progress the discussion of language evolution in two ways: (i) survey what the ethological record reveals about the uniqueness of the human computational system, and (ii) explore how syntactic theories account for what ethology may determine to be human-specific. It is shown that the operation Label, not Merge, constitutes the evolutionary novelty which distinguishes human language from non-human computational systems; a proposal lending weight to a Weak Continuity Hypothesis and leading to the formation of what is termed Computational Ethology. Some directions for future ethological research are suggested.

 Keywords: Minimalism; Labeling effects; cognome; animal cognition; formal language theory; language evolution

Saturday, May 16, 2015

kwestins for these humans...,

Why are you humans mesmerized by the lurid compelling pictures, the practical, pretend, and photoshopped other-worldliness of the demi-humans in the pantheon of celebrity?

What purpose is served by these larger, more perfect, and more colorful avatars that cycle above your  pedestrian peasant lives?

Is celebrity-worship a sign of the downfall of western civilization, or, more of the same augmented by new, pervasive, and not entirely understood cognitive distributive media?

Do celebrities serve the same purpose in fin d'siecle western culture as the pantheon of gods did in Greek and Roman culture and the saints did in Roman Catholic culture?

Friday, May 15, 2015

know thyself BD....,

hbdchick |  you will never understand human biodiversity without first turning an hbd-eye on yourself.

before i elaborate on that, a small exercise. indulge me.

at the end of this sentence, when i ask you to, i want you to raise your eyes from your monitor (or smartphone or tablet or whatever device you’re using), glance around for a few seconds, and then come back here. okay: go!

back? great.

now, i don’t know exactly what you saw during your brief adventure away, but what i do know is that when you looked around your room or office or the coffee shop or your own private tropical island (d*mn you!), you experienced seeing a smooth, undisturbed, flowing picture of your surroundings — it was a video-like experience (hopefully not a shaky cam-like one! if so, get to a doctor, quick!). that experience is a false one, created by your brain to make life easier for you. what happens, in fact, is that each and every time we move our gaze from one object or scene to another, in the intervening nanoseconds, we are effectively blind. we don’t “see” anything for those split seconds. the reason we don’t experience what would presumably be a very disturbing and confusing one — the lights going off and on all day long! — is because our brains fool us. the brain interpolates the visual data captured via eyeballs, etc., and presents it all to its owner (user?) in a nice, even — but unreal — picture of what that individual “sees.”

cool, huh? yeah.

the reason i bring this up is just to illustrate how our brains are not really to be trusted. fantastic, wonderful, unfathomable organ! — but one that fools us. a lot! it deceives us so that we don’t go around bumping into things all day long (the saccadic masking mentioned above). it deceives us (deceives itself!) so that we can decieve others. it probably fools each of us into believing that we are discrete individuals — that we are or have “selves.” h*ck! it even looks like our consciousness is not a stream but more like rhythmic pulses. all for good evolutionary reasons, of course. but, still, there it is: the brain is a trickster.

once you realize this about the human brain — that it’s an indispensible but untrustworthy organ — all of the cognitive biases and dissonances that we suffer from start to make sense. humans are not rational creatures. we are capable of some amount of logic and rational thought (some more than others), but more often than not, our “reason” serves as an excuse generator for our innate drives, desires, and proclivities.

the next thing you need to know — and you really have to internalize this — is that all of those drives and desires and proclivities are innate. all behavioral traits are heritable to some degree or another, which means that genes are behind them, and which means that there’s not much any of us can do to change our natures. for instance, there prolly aren’t specific genes that will make a person a christian versus a muslim, but there are definitely genes “for” religiosity. which religion a person with “genes for” religious belief follows will obviously depend to a large degree on the culture in which he is immersed, but persons with “genes for” religious belief will tend to be religious or spiritual somehow.
all behavioral traits are heritable. and, so, you cannot change people or peoples — not fundamentally. people are what they are. you are what you are, and so most of your thoughts and conclusions and feelings about life and the world around you are expressions of your innate traits. mine, too. (don’t worry. i’ll get to that.) and let’s be honest: innate traits and a deceiving brain are no foundations for uncovering the truth. we cannot rely on our gut instincts in trying to uncover the facts about reality or to (consciously) understand how the world works. the only way around this problem of our lyin’, cheatin’, no-good brains is to rely on science and its finding. of course, since science is conducted by humans, we run into all those cognitive biases, etc., again. but with enough effort, i think we can eventually discover some truths. either that or space stations will some day start falling out of the sky, and we’ll know we’re doing it wrong.

macrocognition a theory of distributed minds and collective intentionality |  The idea that groups have minds was popular in the late-19th and early-20th centuries. The group mind was posited as a force that influenced and dominated individual agency and provided an explanation for various types of human behavior. But such explanations were deemed mysterious, and, with the rise of behaviorism and operationalism, the idea fell out of favor. But interest in group mentality has experienced a rebirth over the past few decades. Within philosophy, Margaret Gilbert's work (e.g., 1989, 2004, 2013) has done a great deal to bring attention to the ways in which individuals might form a single unit of intentional agency, and Christian List and Philip Pettit's recent book Group Agency (2011) argues that there are genuine group mental states that cannot be reduced to the mental states of individuals within the group. Outside of philosophy, the study of distributed cognition is a growing area of research in cognitive science, and the hypothesis of group mind is gaining traction in economics, social psychology, organizational theory, and politics. Recent theories of group mentality, however, are thought to be just as mysterious as their 19th and early-20th century ancestors. Macrocognition goes a long way to demystifying the idea. It provides the most sustained and detailed defense of group minds available in the literature today.  Macrocognition

offloading cognition onto cognitive technology

arvix |  "Cognizing" (e.g., thinking, understanding, and knowing) is a mental state. Systems without mental states, such as cognitive technology, can sometimes contribute to human cognition, but that does not make them cognizers. Cognizers can offload some of their cognitive functions onto cognitive technology, thereby extending their performance capacity beyond the limits of their own brain power. Language itself is a form of cognitive technology that allows cognizers to offload some of their cognitive functions onto the brains of other cognizers. Language also extends cognizers' individual and joint performance powers, distributing the load through interactive and collaborative cognition. Reading, writing, print, telecommunications and computing further extend cognizers' capacities. And now the web, with its network of cognizers, digital databases and software agents, all accessible anytime, anywhere, has become our 'Cognitive Commons,' in which distributed cognizers and cognitive technology can interoperate globally with a speed, scope and degree of interactivity inconceivable through local individual cognition alone. And as with language, the cognitive tool par excellence, such technological changes are not merely instrumental and quantitative: they can have profound effects on how we think and encode information, on how we communicate with one another, on our mental states, and on our very nature.  Cognition Distributed

Thursday, May 14, 2015

faux news and the poor

NYTimes |  This week, during a panel discussion on poverty at Georgetown University, President Obama lambasted the media, and in particular Fox News, for creating false, destructive narratives about the poor that paint them broadly as indolent and pathological.

The president said:
“Over the last 40 years, sadly, I think there’s been an effort to either make folks mad at folks at the top, or to be mad at folks at the bottom. And I think the effort to suggest that the poor are sponges, leeches, don’t want to work, are lazy, are undeserving, got traction.”
He continued:
“And, look, it’s still being propagated. I mean, I have to say that if you watch Fox News on a regular basis, it is a constant menu — they will find folks who make me mad. I don’t know where they find them. [Laughter.] They’re like, I don’t want to work, I just want a free Obama phone — [laughter] — or whatever. And that becomes an entire narrative — right? — that gets worked up. And very rarely do you hear an interview of a waitress — which is much more typical — who’s raising a couple of kids and is doing everything right but still can’t pay the bills.”

MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough took umbrage. After saying that “the arrogance of it all is staggering,” and that he was “a little embarrassed” for the president, Scarborough demanded of his befuddled panel: “What about the specific clip about Fox News calling poor people leeches, sponges and lazy? Have you ever heard that on Fox News?” One panelist responded, “No, I have not.” Then Scarborough opened the question to them all: “Has anybody ever heard that on Fox News?”

Well, yes.

In 2004, Bill O’Reilly, arguably the face of Fox News, said: “You gotta look people in the eye and tell ‘em they’re irresponsible and lazy. And who’s gonna wanna do that? Because that’s what poverty is, ladies and gentlemen. In this country, you can succeed if you get educated and work hard. Period. Period.”

In 2012, O’Reilly listed what he called the “true causes of poverty” including “poor education, addiction, irresponsible behavior and laziness.”

In 2014, during the week that marked the 50th anniversary of L.B.J.’s “War on Poverty,” O’Reilly again said that “true poverty” (as opposed to make-believe poverty?) “is being driven by personal behavior,” which included, according to him, “addictive behavior, laziness, apathy.”

Even though the president didn’t say that Fox News specifically used the words “sponge,” “leeches” and “lazy,” O’Reilly has indeed, repeatedly, called poor people lazy, and the subtext of his remarks is that many poor people are pathologically and undeservedly dependent on the government dole.
Now who should be embarrassed for whom?

needs a payday loan and a tattoo parlor....,

remember back in the good old days when it was just waterheads stealing copper?

accuweather |  With the state of California mired in its fourth year of drought and a mandatory 25 percent reduction in water usage in place, reports of water theft have become common.

In April, The Associated Press reported that huge amounts of water went missing from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and a state investigation was launched. The delta is a vital body of water, serving 23 million Californians as well as millions of farm acres, according to the Association for California Water Agencies.

The AP reported in February that a number of homeowners in Modesto, California, were fined $1,500 for allegedly taking water from a canal. In another instance, thieves in the town of North San Juan stole hundreds of gallons of water from a fire department tank.

myth of the common value system

jayhanson |  THE TRAGEDY OF THE COMMON REVISITED, by Beryl Crowe (1969); reprinted in MANAGING THE COMMONS, by Garrett Hardin and John Baden W.H. Freeman, 1977; ISBN 0-7167-0476-5

"There has developed in the contemporary natural sciences a recognition that there is a subset of problems, such as population, atomic war, and environmental corruption, for which there are no technical solutions.

"There is also an increasing recognition among contemporary social scientists that there is a subset of problems, such as population, atomic war, environmental corruption, and the recovery of a livable urban environment, for which there are no current political solutions. The thesis of this article is that the common area shared by these two subsets contains most of the critical problems that threaten the very existence of contemporary man." [p. 53]

"In passing the technically insoluble problems over to the political and social realm for solution, Hardin made three critical assumptions:
a. that there exists, or can be developed, a 'criterion of judgment and system of weighting . . .' that will 'render the incommensurables . . . commensurable . . . ' in real life;
b. that, possessing this criterion of judgment, 'coercion can be mutually agreed upon,' and that the application of coercion to effect a solution to problems will be effective in modern society; and
c. that the administrative system, supported by the criterion of judgment and access to coercion, can and will protect the commons from further desecration." [p. 55]

"In America there existed, until very recently, a set of conditions which perhaps made the solution to Hardin's subset possible; we lived with the myth that we were 'one people, indivisible. . . .' This myth postulated that we were the great 'melting pot' of the world wherein the diverse cultural ores of Europe were poured into the crucible of the frontier experience to produce a new alloy -- an American civilization. This new civilization was presumably united by a common value system that was democratic, equalitarian, and existing under universally enforceable rules contained in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

"In the United States today, however, there is emerging a new set of behavior patterns which suggest that the myth is either dead or dying. Instead of believing and behaving in accordance with the myth, large sectors of the population are developing life-styles and value hierarchies that give contemporary Americans an appearance more closely analogous to the particularistic, primitive forms of 'tribal' organizations in geographic proximity than to that shining new alloy, the American civilization." [p. 56]

"Looking at a more recent analysis of the sickness of the core city, Wallace F. Smith has argued that the productive model of the city is no longer viable for the purposes of economic analysis. Instead, he develops a model of the city as a site for leisure consumption, and then seems to suggest that the nature of this model is such is such that the city cannot regain its health because the leisure demands are value-based and, hence do not admit to compromise and accommodation; consequently there is no way of deciding among these value- oriented demands that are being made on the core city.

"In looking for the cause of the erosion of the myth of a common value system, it seems to me that so long as our perceptions and knowledge of other groups were formed largely through the written media of communication, the American myth that we were a giant melting pot of equalitarians could be sustained. In such a perceptual field it is tenable, if not obvious, that men are motivated by interests. Interests can always be compromised and accommodated without undermining our very being by sacrificing values. Under the impact of electronic media, however, this psychological distance has broken down and now we discover that these people with whom we could formerly compromise on interests are not, after all, really motivated by interests but by values. Their behavior in our very living room betrays a set of values, moreover, that are incompatible with our own, and consequently the compromises that we make are not those of contract but of culture. While the former are acceptable, any form of compromise on the latter is not a form of rational behavior but is rather a clear case of either apostasy or heresy. Thus we have arrived not at an age of accommodation but one of confrontation. In such an age 'incommensurables' remain 'incommensurable' in real life." [p. 59]

"In the past, those who no longer subscribed to the values of the dominant culture were held in check by the myth that the state possessed a monopoly on coercive force. This myth has undergone continual erosion since the end of World War II owing to the success of the strategy of guerrilla warfare, as first revealed to the French in Indochina, and later conclusively demonstrated in Algeria. Suffering as we do from what Senator Fulbright has called 'the arrogance of power,' we have been extremely slow to learn the lesson in Vietnam, although we now realize that war is political and cannot be won by military means. It is apparent that the myth of the monopoly of coercive force as it was first qualified in the civil rights conflict in the South, then in our urban ghettos, next on the streets of Chicago, and now on our college campuses has lost its hold over the minds of Americans. The technology of guerrilla warfare has made it evident that, while the state can win battles, it cannot win wars of values. Coercive force which is centered in the modern state cannot be sustained in the face of the active resistance of some 10 percent of the population unless the state is willing to embark on a deliberate policy of genocide directed against the value dissident groups. The factor that sustained the myth of coercive force in the past was the acceptance of a common value system. Whether the latter exists is questionable in the modern nation-state." [pp. 59-60]

"Indeed, the process has been so widely commented upon that one writer postulated a common life cycle for all of the attempts to develop regulatory policies. The life cycle is launched by an outcry so widespread and demanding that it generates enough political force to bring about establishment of a regulatory agency to insure the equitable, just, and rational distribution of the advantages among all holders of interest in the commons. This phase is followed by the symbolic reassurance of the offended as the agency goes into operation, developing a period of political quiescence among the great majority of those who hold a general but unorganized interest in the commons. Once this political quiescence has developed, the highly organized and specifically interested groups who wish to make incursions into the commons bring sufficient pressure to bear through other political processes to convert the agency to the protection and furthering of their interests. In the last phase even staffing of the regulating agency is accomplished by drawing the agency  administrators from the ranks of the regulated." [pp. 60-61].