Wednesday, August 12, 2015

this is a modok thing, boris badenov couldn't possibly understand....,

wikipedia |  MODOK (also written as M.O.D.O.K.; acronym for Mental/Mobile/Mechanized Organism Designed Only for Killing) is a fictional supervillain that appears in comic books published by Marvel Comics. The character first appeared in Tales of Suspense #93 (September 1967), and later made his first full appearance in Tales of Suspense #94. He was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.

Debuting in the Silver Age of Comic Books, MODOK has appeared in over four decades of Marvel continuity, also starring in the limited series Super-Villain Team-Up: MODOK's Eleven #1–5 (September – December 2008) and a self-titled one-shot publication MODOK: Reign Delay #1 (November 2009).

George Tarleton is a technician for the organization Advanced Idea Mechanics (AIM). He was born in Bangor, Maine. Having recently created the artifact the Cosmic Cube, the AIM scientists use advanced mutagenics to alter Tarleton and create the super intelligent MODOC (acronym for Mental Organism Designed Only for Computing) to study and improve the object. MODOC, however, becomes ambitious and kills its former masters and takes control of AIM. Calling itself MODOK (Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing), it comes into conflict with the hero Captain America, who is intent on rescuing SHIELD agent Sharon Carter from AIM.[3]

MODOK becomes a recurring foe for Captain America, battling the hero on three more occasions, with the last encounter revealing the villain's origin.[4] MODOK also battles Namor the Sub-Mariner and Doctor Doom, who is intent on claiming the Cosmic Cube.[5]

MODOK reappears and kidnaps Betty Ross, changing her into the mutant Harpy in a bid to destroy the Hulk. The character follows the Hulk and the Harpy to a floating aerie, where the Hulk's alter ego Bruce Banner cures Ross of her condition. MODOK and an AIM team arrive in time to kill the creature the Bi-Beast, the guardian of the aerie, but not before activating a self-destruct mechanism, forcing the characters to flee.[6] MODOK also accepts the offer of the other-dimensional being the Black Lama and participates in the "War of the Supervillains", but fails to capture the prize when defeated by Iron Man.[7]

AIM becomes dissatisfied with the lack of scientific advancement and MODOK's obsession with seeking revenge against metahumans, ousting him from power. MODOK attempts to regain control of the organization and prove his worth by unleashing a nerve agent on New York City, which is prevented by Ms. Marvel and the Vision.[8] MODOK seeks revenge against Ms. Marvel, attempting to mind control the heroine[9] and then hire assassin Deathbird to kill her;[10] Ms. Marvel overcomes these obstacles and finally defeats MODOK.[11]

MODOK's ambitions grow and he seeks world domination, but is thwarted by Iron Man and superhero team the Champions.[12] After an attempt to plunder the resources of the Savage Land and a battle with the savage Ka-Zar and the Hulk,[13] the character develops a new biological agent called Virus X. MODOK's attempts to test the agent on the homeless is prevented by the Thing, Sub-Mariner, and Captain America, although the villain escapes and the Thing almost dies when exposed to the virus.[14]

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

what trump supporters are really thinking in their own words...,

WaPo |  The media loves Donald Trump. And who can blame them? In an era when political candidates present the blandest, safest, focus-grouped versions of themselves to the public, Trump's brash antics -- "pure political id," as my colleague Chris Cillizza says -- guarantee, if nothing else, an interesting read.

But because Trump is such a larger-than-life character, we tend to overlook the most interesting part of his candidacy -- the millions of Republican primary voters with whom his message resonates so strongly. The rise of Trump isn't really about Trump, but rather the political moment we find ourselves in, where a foul-mouthed businessman and reality TV star with no political experience is a front-runner for the highest office in the land.

This weekend a fascinating reddit thread opened a window into the minds of a certain type of Trump supporter. In the popular AskReddit section of the site, a Redditor asked Trump supporters to explain what they saw in the guy. And they did -- the thread has generated nearly 13,000 comments so far. Here's what some of them said.

trump knows and has been very open about the real unemployment rate for a long time now...,

forbes |  After Donald Trump announced his latest bid for the presidency, I reached out to get details on Trump’s plan to replace Obamacare, and posted that interview on FORBES last week. But for many FORBES readers, the most eye-catching part of the interview wasn’t Trump’s plan for health care.

It was what the Trump campaign said about unemployment.

“Mr. Trump believes that the real unemployment rate is over 18%, not the reported 5.5%,” a spokesperson told me.

Trump’s distrust of the government’s job statistics isn’t new. In July, he even suggested that the U.S. unemployment rate could be as high as 40% — well above what the Bureau of Labor Statistics has found.

Monday, August 10, 2015

u.s. corporate press desperate to marginalize donald trump...,

slate | To understand the rise of Donald Trump, you’d do well not to fixate on the fact that he’s running under the Republican banner. During Thursday night’s Fox News debate, Trump made it clear that failing to secure the GOP nomination wouldn’t stop him from exploring an independent candidacy. And honestly, he’d be crazy not to. Trump is very far from a Republican regular. He represents an entirely different phenomenon, one that bears little resemblance to garden-variety American conservatism. That’s why Republicans shouldn’t fool themselves into believing that one lackluster debate performance will send him packing.

Go to almost any European democracy and you will find that the parties of the center-right and center-left that have dominated the political scene since the Second World War are losing ground to new political movements. What these movements have in common is that they manage to blend populism and nationalism into a potent anti-establishment brew. One of the first political figures to perfect this brand of politics was the very Trumpian Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian media tycoon who rose to power as part of a coalition of right-of-center parties in the mid-1990s, and who has been in and out of power ever since, dodging corruption charges and worse all the while. More recently, the miserable state of Europe’s economies has fueled the rise of dozens of other parties. Britain’s Labour Party has been devastated by the rise not only of the leftist Scottish National Party, but also by UKIP, a movement of the right that has been growing at Labour’s expense by campaigning against mass immigration, and by largely abandoning what had been its more libertarian line on the welfare state. UKIP’s leader, Nigel Farage, has a penchant for bombast that endears him his working-class base, which might sound familiar to you.

u.k. corporate press betrays electorate and goes to work marginalizing popular labor mp

medialens |  In May, voters grasped Spanish political orthodoxy and shook it like a rag doll:
'The anti-austerity party Podemos claimed its biggest victory in Barcelona, where activist Ada Colau seized control of the city hall. Podemos and Ciudadanos... made advances across the country that will give them a chance to shape policy for the first time.'
Podemos also backed the campaign of Manuela Carmena, a 71-year-old labour-rights lawyer, who ended 24 years of rule by Spain's hard-right Popular party in the capital, Madrid. These were major triumphs in the face of fierce and united corporate media opposition. Jose Juan Toharia, president of polling firm Metroscopia, said:
'Tomorrow's Spain doesn't feel identified with the establishment parties.'
A Guardian leader commented:
'Together, the two traditional parties have seen their support shrink from two-thirds of the poll in 2011, to just over half. Podemos and Ciudadanos have filled the void. The two-party system that had dominated Spain since the end of dictatorship in 1978 is crumbling.'
MP Jeremy Corbyn, reportedly 'far ahead of his rivals in the Labour leadership election', has explicitly called for Labour to learn from Greece's Syriza, Spain's Podemos and the Scottish National Party by campaigning against 'austerity'. Corbyn said:
'I have been in Greece, I have been in Spain. It's very interesting that social democratic parties that accept the austerity agenda and end up implementing it end up losing a lot of members and a lot of support. I think we have a chance to do something different here.'
This echoes a comment made by Podemos' leader Pablo Iglesias in an interview with Tariq Ali. Iglesias suggested that Podemos and Syriza offered potent examples that had already been followed in Scotland:
'We saw this in the UK. The Scottish National Party [SNP] really beat the Labour Party by criticising austerity and criticising cuts, which are related to the failure of the "third way" policies of Tony Blair and Anthony Giddens.'
One might think that, in discussing the popularity of Corbyn's leadership bid, a rational media would give serious attention to the visions, strategies and success of Podemos, Syriza and the SNP. For example, we can imagine in-depth interviews with Iglesias and Colau on Corbyn's prospects. We can imagine discussions of how a weakening of the two-party grip on Spanish politics might be repeated outside Scotland in the UK, where similarly moribund political conditions apply. As former ambassador, Craig Murray, has observed:
'[I]f the range of possible political programmes were placed on a linear scale from 1 to 100, the Labour and Conservative parties offer you the choice between 81 and 84.'
And yet, we have not seen a single substantive discussion of these issues in any UK national newspaper. The Lexis media database records 1,974 articles mentioning Corbyn over the last month.

Of these, just 29 mentioned Podemos. Our search of articles mentioning both 'Corbyn' and 'Pablo Iglesias' yielded zero results, as did our searches for 'Corbyn' and 'Ada Colau', and 'Corbyn' and 'Manuela Carmena'. Lexis found 133 Guardian articles mentioning Corbyn over the last month, with three of these containing mentions in passing of SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon. The Independent had 47 hits for Corbyn, with one article mentioning Sturgeon.

These would appear to be natural sources and comparisons, particularly given Corbyn's explicit references to them. Instead, we found complete indifference combined with a ruthless and relentless campaign to trash Corbyn across the so-called media 'spectrum'.

Sunday, August 09, 2015

consciousness began when the gods stopped speaking..., |  The book sets its sights high from the very first words.  “O, what a world of unseen visions and heard silences, this insubstantial country of the mind!” Jaynes begins. “A secret theater of speechless monologue and prevenient counsel, an invisible mansion of all moods, musings, and mysteries, an infinite resort of disappointments and discoveries.”

To explore the origins of this inner country, Jaynes first presents a masterful precis of what consciousness is not. It is not an innate property of matter. It is not merely the process of learning. It is not, strangely enough, required for a number of rather complex processes. Conscious focus is required to learn to put together puzzles or execute a tennis serve or even play the piano. But after a skill is mastered, it recedes below the horizon into the fuzzy world of the unconscious. Thinking about it makes it harder to do. As Jaynes saw it, a great deal of what is happening to you right now does not seem to be part of your consciousness until your attention is drawn to it. Could you feel the chair pressing against your back a moment ago? Or do you only feel it now, now that you have asked yourself that question?

Consciousness, Jaynes tells readers, in a passage that can be seen as a challenge to future students of philosophy and cognitive science, “is a much smaller part of our mental life than we are conscious of, because we cannot be conscious of what we are not conscious of.” His illustration of his point is quite wonderful. “It is like asking a flashlight in a dark room to search around for something that does not have any light shining upon it. The flashlight, since there is light in whatever direction it turns, would have to conclude that there is light everywhere. And so consciousness can seem to pervade all mentality when actually it does not.”

Perhaps most striking to Jaynes, though, is that knowledge and even creative epiphanies appear to us without our control. You can tell which water glass is the heavier of a pair without any conscious thought—you just know, once you pick them up. And in the case of problem-solving, creative or otherwise, we give our minds the information we need to work through, but we are helpless to force an answer. Instead it comes to us later, in the shower or on a walk. Jaynes told a neighbor that his theory finally gelled while he was watching ice moving on the St. John River. Something that we are not aware of does the work.

The picture Jaynes paints is that consciousness is only a very thin rime of ice atop a sea of habit, instinct, or some other process that is capable of taking care of much more than we tend to give it credit for. “If our reasonings have been correct,” he writes, “it is perfectly possible that there could have existed a race of men who spoke, judged, reasoned, solved problems, indeed did most of the things that we do, but were not conscious at all.”

Jaynes believes that language needed to exist before what he has defined as consciousness was possible. So he decides to read early texts, including The Iliad and The Odyssey, to look for signs of people who aren’t capable of introspection—people who are all sea, no rime. And he believes he sees that in The Iliad. He writes that the characters in The Iliad do not look inward, and they take no independent initiative. They only do what is suggested by the gods. When something needs to happen, a god appears and speaks. Without these voices, the heroes would stand frozen on the beaches of Troy, like puppets.

Speech was already known to be localized in the left hemisphere, instead of spread out over both hemispheres. Jaynes suggests that the right hemisphere’s lack of language capacity is because it used to be used for something else—specifically, it was the source of admonitory messages funneled to the speech centers on the left side of the brain. These manifested themselves as hallucinations that helped guide humans through situations that required complex responses—decisions of statecraft, for instance, or whether to go on a risky journey.

The combination of instinct and voices—that is, the bicameral mind—would have allowed humans to manage for quite some time, as long as their societies were rigidly hierarchical, Jaynes writes. But about 3,000 years ago, stress from overpopulation, natural disasters, and wars overwhelmed the voices’ rather limited capabilities. At that point, in the breakdown of the bicameral mind, bits and pieces of the conscious mind would have come to awareness, as the voices mostly died away. That led to a more flexible, though more existentially daunting, way of coping with the decisions of everyday life—one better suited to the chaos that ensued when the gods went silent. By The Odyssey, the characters are capable of something like interior thought, he says. The modern mind, with its internal narrative and longing for direction from a higher power, appear.

Saturday, August 08, 2015

race-baiting 101

There is a deep commonality between the vilification of police and teachers.  Interestingly, police and teachers have two things in common. First, they are largely from the same social class, the lower-middle or working class. Second, in overwhelming majority, they are drawn from the population of working class whites. 

Ever since the sixties, these heavily unionized and politically active working class whites have been tasked with keeping the largely Black and Hispanic underclass under control. This is an impossible task for them. They lack the personal, professional, cultural, and psychic resources to accomplish this task. 

At the very least, they're drawing a paycheck for trying and failing, and to that extent, they have been spared the indignities of membership in the underclass themselves. 
All kinds of "solutions" for the "problems" of the police and teachers have been and are being proposed. None of these solutions will work.

I am calling attention to the socio-economic and racial demographic fact that the composition of the public school teacher and urban overseer cadres are the same, and that these represent a continuation of an American Original divide and conquer strategy of intentional race-baiting.

Friday, August 07, 2015

jobs lost in the u.s. since 2007

zerohedge |  Who says America has a jobs problem? As the chart below shows, the "New Economy" may pay abysmally, but at least it promises a little to everyone (or to paraphrase a famous phrase "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need"). Nowhere is that more obvious than in the chart showing the monthly change in waiter and bartender jobs.

Here is the bottom line: in the past 65 months, or nearly five and a half years starting with March 2010, or when the jobs "recovery" really kicked in, jobs for waiters and bartenders (aka food service and drinking places) have declined just once.

This is a statistically abnormal hit rate of nearly 99%, and one which we assume has everything to do with the BLS' charge of not so much reporting reality as finding loopholes in the goalseeked model to report that the US keeps adding over 200,000 jobs every month or bust.

Putting this number in context, the US has allegedly added 376K bartenders in the past year, and 3 million since March 2010.

roughly 60% of the civilian work force is fully employed and 40% are marginally employed or unemployed

zerohedge |  Officially, the unemployment rate in the U.S. is 5.6%, meaning 5.6% of the work force is temporarily out of a job and actively seeking another one. This low number reflects nearly full employment, as 3% to 4% of the work force is typically in the process of quitting/being laid off and finding another job.

Typically, periods of nearly full employment are economically good times, as household income is bolstered and employers have to pay a bit more to hire workers when the labor market is tight.
But these do not feel like good times for most households, despite the low unemployment rate. Earnings are stagnant for 90% of the work force, and employers are only paying a competitive premium for workers in very select fields (programmers adept at Python and mobile user interfaces, etc.)

This creates a cognitive dissonance between the low official unemployment rate and the real economy, which is behaving like an economy with much higher rates of unemployment, i.e. sluggish hiring, stagnant wages, difficulty in finding jobs, and very little pressure on employers to pay more for typical jobs.

Let's start by trying to calculate the work force--the number of people who could get a job if they wanted to. This isn't quite as straightforward as we might imagine, because the two primary agencies that compile these statistics use slightly different categories.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) calculates the civilian noninstitutional population as everyone 16 and older who is not in active-duty military service or in prison. The BLS reckons this to be about 250 million people, out of a total population of about 317 million residents: Household Data (BLS)
The BLS subtracts 93 million people who are not in the labor force, leaving about 157 million people in the civilian work force--roughly half the nation's population.

Of these, 148.8 million have a job of some sort and 8.6 million are unemployed.

The Census Bureau calculates the civilian noninstitutional population as everyone who is not in active-duty military service or in prison. (You can download various data on the U.S. population on this Census Bureau website: Age and Sex Composition in the United States: 2012. I am using Table 1 data.)

The Census Bureau places the civilian noninstitutional population at 308.8 million in 2012. Since roughly 4 million people are born and 2.6 million die in the U.S. each year, we can adjust this upward by roughly 3.5 million to bring it up to date (mid-2015) to 312 million.

inflation is far higher and gdp is far lower...,

zerohedge |  Statistics have become very misleading: in particular we are being badly misled into believing that the US is teetering on the edge of price deflation, because the US official rate of inflation is barely positive, a level that US bonds and therefore all other financial markets have priced in without accepting it is actually significantly higher.

There are two possible approaches to assessing the true rate of price inflation. You can either reverse all the tweaks government statisticians have implemented over the decades to reduce the apparent rate, or you can collect a statistically significant sample of price data independently and turn that into an index. John Williams of is well known for his work on the former approach, but until recently I was unaware that anyone was attempting the latter. That is until Simon Hunt of Simon Hunt Strategic Services drew my attention to the Chapwood Index, which deserves wider publicity.

This is from the website: "The Chapwood Index reflects the true cost-of-living increase in America. Updated and released twice a year, it reports the unadjusted actual cost and price fluctuation of the top 500 items on which Americans spend their after-tax dollars in the 50 largest cities in the nation." It is, therefore, statistically significant, and it consistently shows price inflation to be much higher than that indicated by the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

Thursday, August 06, 2015

the war on drugs corrupted american policing and the rule of law beyond repair...,


theatlantic |  The 2012 documentary The House I Live In critically examines the War on Drugs, deeming it a failure that has bloated American prisons and led to an adoption of flawed policing policies. Now, Congress seems poised to seriously amend these tough federal sentencing laws that caused a huge increase in the number of Americans who are incarcerated—especially addressing the high incarceration rate of minority drug offenders. In this clip from the documentary, The Wire's creator, David Simon, describes how the strategies behind the War on Drugs have actually destroyed law enforcement's power of deterrence and increased cynicism among enforcement agents. 

For more information, visit the Independent Lens website. The full film can be purchased at

criminal overseers gone wild and their corrupt union gone even wilder...,

theatlantic |  On-duty police officers appear to be eating edible pot products—OC Weekly transcribes words they spoke while egging one another on. (“Those candy bars are pretty good,” one said. “I kinda feel light-headed though.”) Other dialogue offers a number of insights into the subculture of this narcotics unit. Take the woman with an amputated leg that police encountered on entering the dispensary. “Did you punch that one-legged old benita?” one police officer asks another. The other cop laughingly replied, “I was about to kick her in her fucking nub.” These are people Santa Ana taxpayers empower to use lethal force at their discretion.

Later, OC Weekly got access to a fuller version of the footage. They marvel at what it contains:
Hon. Jonathan Fish has been an Orange County Superior Court Judge since 2008, but before that he was a prosecutor with the district attorney’s office who specialized in narcotics cases.
In the footage, an unidentified Santa Ana Police officer is talking to another cop as they wrap up their raid on the marijuana dispensary.
“You ever work with John Fish, the DA?” the officer asks.
“He was just in when I got there,” his partner responds.
“He's the judge that signed our warrant,” the first officer continues, adding that he had just spoken with Judge Fish and had enjoyed a good laugh with him about their old times together. “He's the fucker that pulled into a gas station on our way to the Staples Center and goes, ‘Let's buy some beers and drink 'em out of a red cup.’ I go, ‘That’s not going to be obvious.’ There we are at an am/pm getting styrofoam cups and pouring our beers into them. That fucking blew me away.”
That is all part of the backstory.

What’s new is the way that the cops caught misbehaving on camera and the police union that represents them have responded to an internal police investigation—not with embarrassment, contrition, and public apologies, as would befit trustworthy people of good character, but with shameless, discrediting chutzpah: They’ve sued to keep now public video of their indefensible behavior from their overseers!

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

apartheid - the repressed

thisamericanlife |  Right now, all sorts of people are trying to rethink and reinvent education, to get poor minority kids performing as well as white kids. But there's one thing nobody tries anymore, despite a lot of evidence that it works- desegregation. This week, Nikole Hannah-Jones looks at a district in Missouri that, just a few years ago, accidentally launched a desegregation program. It's the first of a two-part series.

school segregation - nothing changed...,

propublica |  News reports in the days and weeks after Brown’s death often noted his recent graduation and college ambitions, the clear implication that the teen’s school achievements only deepened the sorrow over his loss.

But if Brown’s educational experience was a success story, it was a damning one.

The Normandy school district from which Brown graduated is among the poorest and most segregated in Missouri. It ranks last in overall academic performance. Its rating on an annual state assessment was so dismal that by the time Brown graduated the district had lost its accreditation. 

About half of black male students at Normandy High never graduate. Just one in four graduates enters a four-year college. The college where Brown was headed is a troubled for-profit trade-school that a U.S. Senate report said targeted students for their “vulnerabilities,” and that at one time advertised itself to what it internally called the area’s “Unemployed, Underpaid, Unsatisfied, Unskilled, Unprepared, Unsupported, Unmotivated, Unhappy, Underserved!” 

A mere five miles down the road from Normandy is the wealthy county seat where a grand jury recently decided not to indict Darren Wilson, the officer who killed Brown. Success there looks drastically different. The Clayton Public Schools are predominantly white, with almost no poverty to speak of. The district is regularly ranked among the top 10 percent in the state. More than 96 percent of students graduate. Fully 84 percent of graduates head to four-year universities.

Brown’s tragedy, then, is not limited to his individual potential cut brutally short. His schooling also reveals a more subtle, ongoing racial injustice: the vast disparity in resources and expectations for black children in America’s stubbornly segregated educational system. 

As ProPublica has documented in a series of stories on the resegregation of America’s schools, hundreds of school districts across the nation have been released from court-enforced integration over the past 15 years. Over that same time period, the number of so-called apartheid schools — schools whose white population is 1 percent or less — has shot up. The achievement gap, greatly narrowed during the height of school desegregation, has widened.

“American schools are disturbingly racially segregated, period,” Catherine Lhamon, head of the U.S. Education Department’s civil rights office, said in an October speech. “We are reserving our expectations for our highest rigor level of courses, the courses we know our kids need to be able to be full and productive members of society, but we are reserving them for a class of kids who are white and who are wealthier.”

with like-minded individuals where it's not a mixing-pot...,

newyorker |  The Justice Department also released a broader assessment of the police and the courts in Ferguson, and it was scathing. The town, it concluded, was characterized by deep-seated racism. Local authorities targeted black residents, arresting them disproportionately and fining them excessively. Together, the two reports frustrated attempts to arrive at a clean moral conclusion. Wilson had violated no protocol in his deadly interaction with Brown, yet he was part of a corrupt and racist system.

The federal government’s findings did little to soothe the raw emotions stirred by Brown’s death. Many Americans believe that Wilson need not have killed Brown in order to protect himself, and might not have resorted to lethal force had Brown been white. Ta-Nehisi Coates, in his new book, “Between the World and Me,” writing of the psychological impact of incidents like the Brown shooting, says, “It does not matter if the destruction is the result of an unfortunate overreaction. It does not matter if it originates in a misunderstanding.” Coates also notes, “There is nothing uniquely evil in these destroyers or even in this moment. The destroyers are merely men enforcing the whims of our country.”

Many police officers have defended Wilson, pointing out that cops patrolling violent neighborhoods risk their lives. Some right-wing publications have lionized him. In The American Thinker, David Whitley wrote that Wilson “should be thanked and treated as a hero!” Supporters raised nearly half a million dollars on behalf of the Wilsons, allowing them to move, buy the new house, and pay their legal expenses. But, as Wilson knows, such support has only deepened the resentment of people who feel that he deserves punishment or, at the very least, reprimand.

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

why can we see any stars at all?

NYTimes |  You might think the discovery of microbes on Mars or fish in the oceans of Jupiter’s moon Europa would have scientists dancing in the streets. And you would probably be right.

But not everyone agrees that it would be such good news. For at least one prominent thinker, it would be a “crushing blow.”

That would be Nick Bostrom, a philosopher at the University of Oxford and director of the Future of Humanity Institute there, one of the great pessimists of this or any other age.

In an article published in Technology Review in 2008, Professor Bostrom declared that it would be a really bad sign for the future of humanity if we found even a microbe clinging to a rock on Mars. “Dead rocks and lifeless sands would lift my spirit,” he wrote.

It goes back to a lunch in 1950 in Los Alamos, N.M., the birthplace of the atomic bomb. The subject was flying saucers and interstellar travel. The physicist Enrico Fermi blurted out a question that has become famous among astronomers: “Where is everybody?

The fact that there was no evidence outside supermarket tabloids that aliens had ever visited Earth convinced Fermi that interstellar travel was impossible. It would simply take too long to get anywhere.

The argument was expanded by scientists like Michael Hart and Frank Tipler, who concluded that extraterrestrial technological civilizations simply didn’t exist.

The logic is simple.

energy - the repressed...,

resourceinsights |  Jeremy Rifkin announced the end of work in a book by that title in 1995. Today, we are once again being told that the end of work is nigh. The Atlantic Monthly tells us so in a piece entitled, "A World Without Work." Automation and computer technology will bring unimaginable change and prosperity--and result in the loss of millions of jobs that will not be replaced.
I heard this before when I was young. In the 1960s there was talk of a three-day workweek for similar reasons. Obviously, it didn't work out.

My purpose here is not to provide a detailed critique of such prognostications. Rather, I ask the same question I ask when I see a science-fiction film depicting widespread space travel and planetary colonization. Where are they getting all the energy to do these things?

In the Atlantic piece--a clever and rather more subtle discussion of the post-work world than I've seen elsewhere--the word "energy" appears exactly zero times. It is assumed that humans will somehow extract enough energy to run all the new machines that will serve (or run?) us. It is assumed that climate change will not be so disruptive as to make our current technical civilization crumble or at least falter significantly. It is assumed that the modeled effects of climate change on the world's major grain growing areas--lots of drought--won't change our priorities drastically toward growing more food in more places. In short, the future is just the past with a lot more energy-guzzling gadgets and apparently a lot more playtime.

Victorian culture repressed sex, not the act itself--population rose briskly in 19th century Britain--but discussion of sex, examination of it. Today, one can walk into any decent-sized bookstore and get an illustrated manual on sexual positions. Today, people get therapy to improve their sex lives, brag openly about their sexual conquests, and have frank discussions with one another about each other's sexual preferences. That repression is over--to the dismay of some and to the delight of others.
Today, a new psychological repression hides in plain sight. It is the servant of a modern ideology, a religion really, that says the material world is soulless and merely fodder for economic growth. This repression prevents most from seeing our ecological predicament and therefore from understanding it or acting in response to it. This repression is of the very physical world about us and the vast and complex interconnections which govern our lives and the life of the planet.

Our psyche is now programmed to register the physical world as a substrate for our fantasies of dominion and mastery, but rarely as a master to us. The fantasy is that humans are in one category and nature in another, a nature that is very much subservient to our wishes.

A subset of this repression is the difficulty in talking about the vulnerability of an energy system that relies for more than 80 percent of its energy on finite fossil fuels. A friend of mine related a conversation with an engineer who disputed that oil is a finite resource. My friend being clever and patient got the engineer to agree that the Earth is a sphere and that it has a calculable volume. He then got the engineer to agree that that volume is finite, and that oil, being a subset of the Earth's volume, must also be finite.

Monday, August 03, 2015

under its GWOT the U.S. has killed ~4 million muslims...,

mintpressnews |  A study released earlier this year revealed the shocking death toll of the United States’s “War on Terror” since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, but the true body count could be even higher.
Published in March by Physicians for Social Responsibility, the study, conducted by a team that included some Nobel Prize winners, determined that at least 1.3 million people have died as a result of war since Sept.11, 2001, but the real figure might be as high as two million. The study was an attempt to “close the gaps” in existing research, including studies like the Iraq Body Count,” which puts the number of violent deaths in that country at about 219,000 since 2003, based on media reports of the time period.

Investigative journalist Nafeez Ahmed, writing in April for Middle East Eye, explained some of the ways the previous figures fell short, according to the physicians’ research:

“For instance, although 40,000 corpses had been buried in Najaf since the launch of the war, IBC [Iraq Body Count] recorded only 1,354 deaths in Najaf for the same period. That example shows how wide the gap is between IBC’s Najaf figure and the actual death toll – in this case, by a factor of over 30.

Such gaps are replete throughout IBC’s database. In another instance, IBC recorded just three airstrikes in a period in 2005, when the number of air attacks had in fact increased from 25 to 120 that year. Again, the gap here is by a factor of 40.”

120 degrees and no relief, looting and mismanagement cripple the power grid in Iraq

NYTimes |  Iraqis have been complaining about electricity at least since the United States toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003. In the resulting security vacuum, widespread looting, which American troops had no orders to prevent, dismantled much of what had been left of the electricity grid, already eroded by years of sanctions and war.

“Maku kahraba! Maku amn!” were the complaints leveled by pretty much all Iraqis to any American they came across back in those first days of the American occupation. “There is no electricity. There is no security.” In that order.

Iraqis in Baghdad had been used to a fairly reliable supply of electricity. Mr. Hussein had kept the capital disproportionately supplied, with few power failures. It was different in the southern provinces, where residents are predominantly from the oppressed Shiite majority, which had risen up against Mr. Hussein in 1991 and was brutally suppressed. Many areas there got only a few hours of power a day.

American occupation officials evened out the supply all over the country — making it more equitable but also shocking residents of Baghdad who were suddenly subjected to the long powerless days that other Iraqis had been used to. The cuts were also new and enraging to people in the Sunni heartland in the north and west, the fulcrum of Mr. Hussein’s residual support and of the brewing insurgency against the occupation.

Among the failures of the American administration of Iraq was the inability to meet repeated promises to get the electricity back up to the levels under Mr. Hussein. Occupation officials put out charts trumpeting modest improvements.

But a combination of insurgent attacks, incompetence and corruption kept the system struggling, both then and after political power was nominally handed to an Iraqi government in 2004. The problems have continued since American troops left in 2011.

More than once, Iraqis sleeping on their rooftops to keep cool have been killed by stray gunfire.
Many Iraqis have air-conditioners in their homes, but during power cuts only some can afford to pay for generators. Those who can must often scale back to fans and simple air coolers because there is not enough power for air-conditioners while on generator power, and sometimes even when on the regular grid.

So the lucky ones drive around in their cars with the air-conditioning on, visit shopping malls, or wait for the air coolers to switch on and huddle around them in a single room. Those without that wherewithal find cool where they can, sometimes swimming in dirty, sewage-tainted pools and canals.

Help is on the way, though, from Iran, which gained significant influence in Iraq after the fall of Mr. Hussein and the end of the troubled American involvement.

According to Iran’s state-run Press TV, in the country’s biggest engineering services deal ever, an Iranian company recently signed a deal to add 3,000 megawatts to the grid by building a $2.5 billion power plant in Basra. It will be supplied by a pipeline carrying Iranian natural gas.

how's that climate change working out for alaska...

2015/07/30 at 12:56:17 PM
Climate Central | Monitor wildfires with our interactive wildfires map (above). The flame icons represent wildfires currently active in the lower 48 states and Alaska. Hover over a given fire to see its name, and if you zoom in you’ll be able to see the outline of the area that’s burning — the so-called fire perimeter. If you click within the perimeter, a window pops up showing the fire’s size in acres, the amount by which the perimeter has grown or shrunk over the past 24 hours, the fraction of the fire that has been contained and other data. There’s also a link to an even more detailed report.

[follow the link to see the up-to-date map]

don't blame babies for energy consumption and climate change...,

guardian |  The United Nations has published its latest projections for world population. It predicts that the current 7.3bn people on the planet will reach 8.5bn in 2030, and could be 11.2bn at the end of the century. India is expected to overtake China as the most populous country.

The annually updated forecasts are fuel for a strengthening argument that growing population is a critical environmental issue. The logic is simple: increasing numbers of people multiplied by higher average consumption from wood fuel to mobile phones and intensively farmed meat is a double whammy for the environment. The results are depleted raw materials and polluted soil, water and air. Greenhouse gas emissions causing climate change, specifically carbon dioxide, are the common measurement of this relationship. So persuasive is the strand of thought that it has attracted backing from respected public figures such as Sir David Attenborough, Jonathon Porritt and Chris Packham. But it is flawed.

If expanding population is a problem, campaigners on the subject advocate action to slow and stop the rise, if not reverse it. (The UK group Population Matters, for example, says it is “responsible” to have one or two children – below the replacement rate at which population would be stable.) This presents challenges. The first is that much of the rise in population is due to people living longer. Nobody is credibly suggesting that society should cease trying to find cures for disease or stop stepping into disaster zones to save lives.

Any reduction in population rates, therefore, falls on women having fewer children. This has happened – average fertility has been falling for years, even in Africa, which continues to have the highest number of children per woman. But the second challenge for population campaigners is that biodiversity loss and pollution continue apace.

The fact is that it is in the very poorest countries where women have the most children, on average. And where population growth slows, generally economic growth speeds up, and carbon emissions rise faster. This happens on a global scale and even within countries – certainly within the poorer ones where there is most scope for population control, and where, also, the potential for industrialisation is greatest. It is unclear which is cause and which is effect: it is likely that they play off each other. And in some cases, perhaps, population policies go hand in hand with economic reforms. Only in the wealthiest countries, though, which already have lower fertility rates, are these links weakened or even broken.

Sunday, August 02, 2015

partial ectogenesis exists..., let the pearl-clutching and vapor-catching begin

geneticliteracyproject |  Scientifically, it’s calledectogenesis, a term coined by J.B.S. Haldane in 1924. A hugely influential science popularizer, Haldane did for his generation what Carl Sagan did later in the century. He got people thinking and talking about the implications of science and technology on our civilization, and did not shy away from inventing new words in order to do so. Describing ectogenesis as pregnancy occurring in an artificial environment, from fertilization to birth, Haldane predicted that by 2074 this would account for more than 70 percent of human births. 

His prediction may yet be on target.
In discussing the idea in his work Daedalus–a reference to the inventor in Greek mythology who, through his inventions, strived to bring humans to the level of the gods–Haldane was diving into issues of his time, namely eugenics and the first widespread debates over contraception and population control.
Whether Haldane’s view will prove correct about the specific timing of when ectogenesis might become popular, or the numbers of children born that way, it’s certain that he was correct that tAt the same time, he was right that the societal implications are sure to be significant as the age of motherless birth approaches. They will not be the same societal implications that were highlighted in Daedalus, however. 
Technology developing in increments
Where are we on the road to ectogenesis right now? To begin, progress has definitely been rapid over the last 20-30 years. In the mid 1990s, Japanese investigators succeeded in maintaining goat fetuses for weeks in a machine containing artificial amniotic fluid. At the same time, the recent decades have seen rapid advancement in neonatal intensive care that is pushing back the minimum gestational age from which human fetuses can be kept alive. Today, it is possible for a preterm fetus to survive when removed from the mother at a gestational age of slightly less than 22 weeks. That’s only a little more than halfway through the pregnancy (normally 40 weeks). And while rescuing an infant delivered at such an early point requires sophisticated, expensive equipment and care, the capability continues to increase.
A comprehensive review published by the New York Academy of Sciencesthree years ago highlights a series of achievements by various research groups using ex vivo (out of the body) uterus environments to support mammalian fetuses early in pregnancy. Essentially, two areas of biotechnology are developing rapidly that potentially can enable ectogenesis in humans, and, along the way, what the authors of the Academy review callpartial ectogenesis.

meticulously planned parenthood WILL NOT be taken slowly because tards are scared of it...,

SA |  The official policy of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine is as follows: “Whereas preimplantation sex selection is appropriate to avoid the birth of children with genetic disorders, it is not acceptable when used solely for nonmedical reasons.” Yet in a 2006 survey of 186 U.S. fertility clinics, 58 allowed parents to choose sex as a matter of preference. And that was seven years ago. More recent statistics are scarce, but fertility experts confirm that sex selection is more prevalent now than ever.

“A lot of U.S. clinics offer non-medical sex selection,” says Jeffrey Steinberg, director of The Fertility Institutes, which has branches in Los Angeles, New York and Guadalajara, Mexico. “We do it every single day. We did three this morning.”

In 2009 Steinberg announced that he would soon give parents the option to choose their child’s skin color, hair color and eye color in addition to sex. He based this claim on studies in which scientists at deCode Genetics in Iceland suggested they could identify the skin, hair and eye color of a Scandinavian by looking at his or her DNA. "It's time for everyone to pull their heads out of the sand,” Steinberg proclaimed to the BBC at the time. Many fertility specialists were outraged. Mark Hughes, a pioneer of pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, told the San Diego Union-Tribune that the whole idea was absurd and the Wall Street Journal quoted him as saying that “no legitimate lab would get into it and, if they did, they'd be ostracized." Likewise, Kari Stefansson, chief executive of deCode, did not mince words with the WSJ: “I vehemently oppose the use of these discoveries for tailor-making children,” he said. Fertility Institutes even received a call from the Vatican urging its staff to think more carefully. Seifert withdrew his proposal.

But that does not mean he and other likeminded clinicians and entrepreneurs have forgotten about the possibility of parents molding their children before birth. “I’m still very much in favor of using genetics for all it can offer us,” Steinberg says, “but I learned a lesson: you really have to take things very, very slowly, because science is scary to a lot of people.” Most recently, a minor furor erupted over a patent awarded to the personal genomics company 23andMe. The patent in question, issued on September 24th, describes a method of “gamete donor selection based on genetic calculations." 23andMe would first sequence the DNA of a man or woman who wants a baby as well as the DNA of several potential sperm or egg donors. Then, the company would calculate which pairing of hopeful parent and donor would most likely result in a child with various traits.

Illustrations in the patent depict drop down menus with choices like: “I prefer a child with Low Risk of Colorectal Cancer; “High Probability of Green Eyes;” "100% Likely Sprinter;" and “Longest Expected Life Span” or “Least Expected Life Cost of Health Care." All the choices are presented as probabilities because, in most cases, the technique 23andMe describes could not guarantee that a child will or will not have a certain trait. Their calculations would be based on an analysis of two adults’ genomes using DNA derived from blood or saliva, which does reflect the genes inside those adults’ sperm and eggs. Every adult cell in the human body has two copies of every gene in that person’s genome; in contrast, sperm and eggs have only one copy of each gene and which copy is assigned to which gamete is randomly determined. Consequently, every gamete ends up with a unique set of genes. Scientists have no way of sequencing the DNA inside an individual sperm or egg without destroying it.

“When we originally introduced the tool and filed the patent there was some thinking the feature could have applications for fertility clinics. But we’ve never pursued the idea, and have no plans to do so,” 23andMe spokeswoman Catherine Afarian said in a prepared statement. Nevertheless, doctors using PGD can already—or will soon be able to—accomplish at least some of what 23andMe proposes and give parents a few of the choices the Freemans made about their second son.

the idiotic celebration of unplanned parenthood...,

theatlantic |  Following the release a series of pro-life sting videos targeting Planned Parenthood, Republican senators are threatening to defund the family-planning provider. A vote on their bill to strip Planned Parenthood of federal funding—which accounts for 40 percent of the organization’s budget—could come as early as Monday.

On Twitter, pro-life advocates are trying to help it along, popularizing the hashtag #UnplannedParenthood on Wednesday. Many of the tweets come from people who purport to have been, or have had, accidental children.

In some ways, reading through the missives is sort of an upper—a testament to how difficult and unexpected things often work out well in the end.

But probe even slightly further, and the movement becomes disastrously illogical.
First, there is a big difference between an unplanned pregnancy and an unwanted one—and an even bigger gulf between a baby you actively choose to have and one you’re forced to carry because abortion is illegal.

Twitter hashtags aren’t exactly doctoral dissertations. Still, it’s odd how this one seems to celebrate unplanned pregnancy. Let’s recall that women have been desperate for effective birth control for centuries. During the Great Depression, women who wanted to avoid having babies they couldn’t afford used “disinfectant douches” that burned their genitals and didn’t do much to stop conception. The invention of the pill is partly credited with helping women expand their earning potential and achieve greater gender equality. 

Today, reducing unexpected pregnancies is widely considered to be a major public-health imperative. The work of Isabel Sawhill and others has shown that high rates of unplanned births, particularly among poor and unwed mothers, contribute to poverty. When women are offered long-acting reversible contraceptives, like IUDs and implants, they overwhelmingly choose to get them inserted—and both unplanned births and abortions decrease as a result.

Saturday, August 01, 2015

egodeath has value, but mapping the contours of the subconscious would be priceless...,

vox |  I have a profound fear of death. It's not bad enough to cause serious depression or anxiety. But it is bad enough to make me avoid thinking about the possibility of dying — to avoid a mini existential crisis in my mind.

But it turns out there may be a better cure for this fear than simply not thinking about it. It's not yoga, a new therapy program, or a medicine currently on the (legal) market. It's psychedelic drugs — LSD, ibogaine, and psilocybin, which is found in magic mushrooms.

This is the case for legalizing hallucinogens. Although the drugs have gotten some media attention in recent years for helping cancer patients deal with their fear of death and helping people quit smoking, there's also a similar potential boon for the nonmedical, even recreational psychedelic user. As hallucinogens get a renewed look by researchers, they're finding that the substances may improve almost anyone's mood and quality of life — as long as they're taken in the right setting, typically a controlled environment.

This isn't something that even drug policy reformers are comfortable calling for yet. "There's not any political momentum for that right now," Jag Davies, who focuses on hallucinogen research at the Drug Policy Alliance, said, citing the general public's views of psychedelics as extremely dangerous — close to drugs like crack cocaine, heroin, and meth.

But it's an idea that experts and researchers are taking more seriously. And while the studies are new and ongoing, and a national regulatory model for legal hallucinogens is practically nonexistent, the available research is very promising — enough to reconsider the demonization and prohibition of these potentially amazing drugs.

dea and the moronic corrupt conservatard overseers running it are no longer sacrosanct...,

politico |  The day after Leonhart’s appearance before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, when she admitted she didn’t know if the prostitutes used by DEA agents were underage, Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and ranking member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) issued a joint statement expressing no confidence in Leonhart’s leadership. The next day, Leonhart retired, a move Chaffetz and Cummings deemed “appropriate.” That was April.

In May, the Senate made history by voting in favor of the first pro-marijuana measure ever offered in that chamber to allow the Veterans Administration to recommend medical marijuana to veterans. Then when June rolled around, it was time for the House to pass its appropriations bill for Commerce, Justice and Science. That’s when things got interesting. The DEA got its budget cut by $23 million, had its marijuana eradication unit’s budget slashed in half and its bulk data collections program shut down. Ouch.

In short, April was a bad month for the DEA; May was historically bad; but June was arguably the DEA’s worst month since Colorado went legal 18 months ago—a turn of events that was easy to miss with the news crammed with tragic shootings, Confederate flags, Obamacare, gay marriage, a papal encyclical and the Greece-Euro drama. July hasn’t been any different, with the legalization movement only gaining steam in both chambers of Congress.

The string of setbacks, cuts and handcuffs for the DEA potentially signals a new era for the once untouchable law enforcement agency—a sign that the national reconsideration of drug policy might engulf and fundamentally alter DEA’s mission.

“The DEA is no longer sacrosanct,” Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) tells Politico.

state spent $2.4 million jailing residents of just one chicago block...,

dnainfo |  The 4800 block of West Adams and 4,636 other blocks in the city were the focus of Chicago's Million Dollar Blocks, a new data project published Monday. A collaboration between social justice advocates and tech company DataMade, the site features an interactive block-by-block breakdown of how much money the city spent on jailing criminals from 2005 to 2009.

Based on data released by the Chicago Justice Project last year, the site was developed as a way "to see how incarceration affects communities on a local level," according to Dan Cooper, one of the project's leaders.

"All we hear about is how the state is in billions of dollars in debt, and meanwhile we have more than a billion dollars every year pumped into a corrections system that's had a track record of failure," said Cooper, the co-director of Adler University's Institute on Social Exclusion. "We're always hearing about money being spent on development, and here you have this shadow budget pumping tons of money into taking people out of neighborhoods, instead of bringing them in."

Million Dollar Blocks looks at more than 300,000 criminal records, showing what developers called a "conservative estimate" of how much the Illinois Department of Corrections spent on people from each block and neighborhood. Cooper said he and his colleagues assumed the minimum sentence for each offense, when in reality the state likely spends much more.

Developers at DataMade spent months putting together data based on offenders' home addresses, assuming that the state spends an average of $22,000 on each criminal every year. DataMade founder Derek Eder said his team didn't factor in offenders who served more than one sentence, again suggesting that the actual amount spent on incarceration is even larger than what the site projects.
Alongside the map is a brief report breaking down some of the ways mass incarceration impacts local communities, plus suggestions for how the state could more effectively reinvest its corrections budget.

Daryl P., who's lived in Austin his whole life, said the state's incarceration pattern is hardly making the area less dangerous.