Saturday, September 10, 2016

the road to jail is paved with good intentions...,

chicagomag |  JAMES MONTGOMERY VIVIDLY RECALLS THE first time he met Jeff Fort. The year was 1971. Richard Nixon was in the White House and the U.S. attorney for northern Illinois was a young, ambitious Republican named James R. Thompson. The War on Poverty was over; the war on the Left was in full swing. Just two years earlier, Senator Charles Percy had praised Jeff Fort as a bright young man who should enter politics and had invited him to Nixon’s inauguration. (Fort sent two lieutenants in his place.) But by 1971, the party was over.

Montgomery would later serve as Mayor Harold Washington’s corporation counsel, but in 1971 he was a young lawyer in what he calls his “black rage” days, defending Black Panthers and civil rights leaders. One day, Montgomery recalls, he held an impromptu press conference on the courthouse steps, lashing out at the white Establishment. Afterwards, he was approached by two young black men.

“Jim, you hate those motherfuckers as much as we do,"]eff Fort said. “Why don’t you represent us?”
Fort needed a good lawyer. The TWO job training program had turned into a scandal, and in March, Jim Thompson had indicted Fort and 23 Stones on conspiring to defraud the U.S. Government. Montgomery was intrigued by the government’s case. It read like a blueprint for a right-wing counterattack on the liberalism of the 1960s: Destroy one of the last vestiges of the War on Poverty and put away a young man who posed a threat to Mayor Daley’s tight rein on black Chicago—all in one neat, orderly showcase of a trial.

THE TWO PROGRAM WAS IN TROUBLE FROM the start. Mayor Daley, reportedly furious that the Feds had bypassed City Hall and funded TWO directly, refused to approve the organization’s choice of a director.

“Daley knew how gangs operated. He had been in one himself,” says Kenneth Addison, an associate professor of education at Northeastern Illinois University and an expert on Chicago gangs. “Fort had circumvented the Machine. Daley knew the threat Fort and his followers represented, so he stayed on their asses.”

Daley’s strategy was to harass the gangs at every turn and jail their leaders. The Gang Intelligence Unit staged repeated raids on TWO’s training centers. Fort was arrested for murder and kept in jail for five months, until March 1968, when the charges against him were dropped.

More important, in December 1967, the Chicago Tribune, acting on a police tip, charged TWO with mismanagement and the Blackstone Rangers with extortion. The stories scared off corporations that had pledged to hire the program’s trainees, its supporters say.

In the summer of 1968, Senator John McClellan (D-Arkansas) held dramatic hearings on the TWO program. When Fort was called as a witness, his attorney, Marshall Patner, advised him not to testify. Fort rose, clenched his fist, and stalked out of the room. He was cited for contempt of Congress, and later convicted.

Criminal charges seemed imminent. But in fact it took nearly four years and a Republican administration to indict anybody. And then the grand jury brought charges only against Blackstone Rangers. Some of the East Side Disciples became key witnesses for the prosecution.

NO ONE REALLY DISPUTED THE ALLEGATION that the Rangers had been pocketing government money. That was the point of the program, Montgomery argued. Gang bangers were being paid to stay off the streets and to stop killing one another, he said at the trial. How can you charge the gangs with extortion when the program intended all along to transfer money from the Feds to the gang? Assistant U.S. attorney Samuel K. Skinner, a protégé of Jim Thompson, argued otherwise. He produced evidence that gang members had falsified attendance sheets and turned over stipend l checks to their leaders. Little if any learning had taken place in TWO’s training centers, Skinner said. In fact, many gang members were placed in decent jobs, and many more would have i been helped if the city had not been so hellbent on discrediting TWO, says Anthony Gibbs who served as TWO’s acting director of the training program. (He is now an aide to Acting Mayor Eugene Sawyer.)

“We knew what we were dealing with,” Gibbs says. “This was no Sunday-school class. The way to destroy the gang was to wean the members away from the gang. That was my philosophy. And the way to do that was to provide them with another alternative. Not say, ‘Be a nice little boy and go back to high school and get your GED.’ No, we’re gonna get you a J-O-B, ’cause this little training stipend I’m giving you, $45 a week, ain’t shit. I’m going to get you a job that makes you $150 a week and will buy you a new pair of shoes, sweater, everything. You’l1 get used to that, and you won’t have time for no gang.”

Others say the flood of grant money overwhelmed the gang.

“The money was coming so fast and so rapidly, the Rangers couldn’t sort out the good offers from the bad,” says Dan Swope, the former Boys Club director. “Ultimately, by not having that kind of guidance, they began to make their own choices, and they obviously made bad ones.

“People were fighting over them for grants. Jeff Fort and his group became ‘tough guys’ for hire. People made all kinds of offers, and they learned how to get everything they wanted. That’s what corrupted them, so much money being available. Everyone wanted to save the poor. Everyone had the perfect answer.”

In the Historical Vacuum of BeeDee-ism - Chicago is "BLM Consequences"

Hot off the BD brainpan this morning:

Excerpt near the bottom:
"Every cop saw that video," O'Connor said. "One big difference is that now, on the street, there is no fear. Even in the '90s, with all the killing, the gangs feared the police. When we'd show up, they'd run. But now? Now they don't run. Now, there is no fear."

Until recently, the ability of cops, to freely delete an occasional low-life extreme street scum, has been necessary to preserve polite society.  Now, (BodyCams, Dashcams, BLM, big settlement$$$) nobody is safe....

chicagotribune |  Manpower shortages combined with too much overtime lead to exhaustion. And loss of morale from the mayor's botched handling of the Laquan McDonald fiasco have wreaked havoc with command, with street stops down markedly. Yet taxpayers don't have a true picture of how thin that thin blue line has become.

All these problems have deep roots. Daley was at war with his Police Department and demanded a thorough house cleaning. There was a purge of district commanders and other leaders under former police Superintendent Jody Weis, and that created havoc throughout the command structure.

Earlier, the large gang crimes units — south, west and north — which provided valuable human intelligence and interaction with the gangs, were disbanded and remade.

A common theme recently is that people in the most violent neighborhoods don't cooperate with police, but the fact is they won't talk to cops they don't know. And they won't talk with others listening.

The gang members, and their families, knew officers in the old gang crimes units.

"They'd catch a two-time loser with a gun, put the cuffs on, and he'd know what to do," said Bob Angone, who spent 30 years as a street cop, as a tactical lieutenant and commander of the hostage barricade team.

"That loser will say, I know who shot victim so-and-so. They'll give you information, but they'll only tell the police they trust, the specialists, because they know they'll get their break in court, that the specialists would keep your word. That's how it's done. And the city lost a lot when we lost the gang crimes units."

There is another thing to consider about the differences between August 1991 and now. It isn't quantifiable; it won't fit on a mayoral white paper, there are no numbers to it.

But it was reported, with a video, by Tribune journalists Megan Crepeau and Erin Hooley a few days ago under the headline: "Heckling and gunfire as police investigate shooting: 'We're just playing.'"
Police were investigating reports of a shooting in bloody Englewood when about 10 young men confronted them, harassed them, mocked them on the street, hurling epithets, angry, defiant.

Friday, September 09, 2016

nah, just go straight to the purge...,

abcnews |  Two men are still on the loose in Chicago today after robbing and shooting a senior citizen in broad daylight as the man was watering his front lawn.

A recording of the incident caught by a neighbor's security camera shows two men riding bicycles past 71-year-old Federico LaGuardia as he watered the lawn of his Marquette Park neighborhood home police said. 

Shortly after the men pass, one of them turns around, wrestles LaGuardia to the ground and shoots him once in the abdomen after he fell to the ground. The man then rifles through LaGuardia’s pockets and takes his wallet before fleeing on his bike. 

Despite his injuries, LaGuardia was able to stagger to his neighbor’s door and call for help. He was taken to Holy Cross Hospital and then transferred to Mount Sinai Hospital where he underwent surgery. Police said he is in fair condition but remains in intensive care. 

"I heard the gunshot and I ran out here and he was, like, dazed in the street," said neighbor Lois Walker. 

This is the latest attack in Chicago's deadliest summer in two decades, and community activists and members of the public are outraged. 

"It's just absolutely ridiculous, you're not even safe in your own yard," said neighbor Teryeyah Griggs.

target hood extremists with this in parallel with stockpiling body bags for the purge...,

theintercept |  A Google-incubated program that has been targeting potential ISIS members with deradicalizing content will soon be used to target violent right-wing extremists in North America, a designer of the program said at an event at the Brookings Institution on Wednesday.

Using research and targeted advertising, the initiative by London-based startup Moonshot CVE and Google’s Jigsaw technology incubator targets potentially violent jihadis and directs them to a YouTube channel with videos that refute ISIS propaganda.

In the pilot program countering ISIS, the so-called Redirect Method collected the metadata of 320,000 individuals over the course of eight weeks, using 1,700 keywords, and served them advertisements that led them to the videos. Collectively, the targets watched more than half a million minutes of videos.

The event at Brookings was primarily about the existing program aimed to undermine ISIS recruiting. “I think this is an extremely promising method,” said Richard Stengel, U.S. undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs.

Ross Frenett, co-founder of Moonshot, said his company and Jigsaw are now working with funding from private groups, including the Gen Next Foundation, to target other violent extremists, including on the hard right.

“We are very conscious as our own organization and I know Jigsaw are that this [violent extremism] is not solely the problem of one particular group,” Frenett said.

“Our efforts during phase two, when we’re going to focus on the violent far right in America, will be very much focused on the small element of those that are violent. The interesting thing about how they behave is they’re a little bit more brazen online these days than ISIS fan boys,” Frenett said.
He noted that this new target demographic is more visible online.

Thursday, September 08, 2016

the climate crisis is a reproductive crisis...,

npr |  As we just discussed, Zika is a serious concern for expectant mothers living in places where they might be exposed. But there's another threat that's making some people think hard about starting a family, and that's the changing climate. NPR's Jennifer Ludden has this story.

JENNIFER LUDDEN, BYLINE: In Keene, N.H, a dozen people have scooched folding chairs into a circle in the spare office of an environmental group. The meeting's organized by a nonprofit called Conceivable Future, one of more than a dozen such meetings across the country. The topic? It's not melting ice sheets or solar power. It's something deeply personal. This group has gathered to ask - with a climate crisis looming, is it a good idea to have children?

MEGHAN KALLMAN: I've probably been thinking about it as long as I've been thinking seriously about having a family.

LUDDEN: Meghan Kallman is 32. A year and a half ago, she co-founded this group with Josephine Ferorelli, 33. Both are in committed relationships. Both worry that any children they have would live long enough to see devastating climate impacts from flooding coastal cities to more intense super storms to shortages of fresh water.

JOSEPHINE FERORELLI: If you're in your 20s or 30s, thinking about maybe having a kid, digging into the science and understanding what we're looking at - like, it's not an intellectual problem at that point. It's really a life problem, like a heart problem.

LUDDEN: Though not a problem likely to come up in casual conversation or one that many with pressing daily struggles may feel able to focus on. But for those here steeped in scary science, passionate about the environment, it's a relief to know they're not alone.

MEGHAN HOSKINS: It's kind of, you know, emotionally difficult to deal with.

a world unprepared...,

post-gazette |  While countries across Europe and East Asia grapple with declining birthrates and aging populations, societies across the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia face youth booms of staggering proportions: More than half of Egypt’s labor force is younger than age 30. Half of Nigeria’s population of 167 million is between the ages of 15 and 34. In Afghanistan, Angola, Chad, East Timor, Niger, Somalia and Uganda, more than two-thirds of the population is under the age of 25.

How well these young people transition to adulthood — and how well their governments integrate them economically, politically and socially — will influence whether their countries thrive or implode. Surging populations of young people will drive political and social norms, influence modes of governance and the role of women in society, and embrace or discredit extremist ideologies. They are the fulcrum on which the future rests.

These young people could transform entire regions, making them more prosperous, more just and more secure. Or they could unleash a flood of instability and violence. Or both. And if their countries are unable to accommodate their needs and aspirations, they could generate waves of migration for decades.

In the face of this deluge of young people, world leaders should be steering us all toward the former and away from the latter. But as serial acts of global terrorism, large-scale humanitarian disasters, perplexing political trends in Europe such as Brexit and persistent economic fragility demand urgent attention, the question emerges:

Is anyone even paying attention?

Consider India. More than 300 million Indians are under the age of 15, making India home to more children than any country, at any time, in all of human history. If these children formed a country, it would be the fourth-largest in the world.

Every month until 2030, one million Indians will turn 18 years old, observes Somini Sengupta, the author of a compelling new book, “The End of Karma: Hope and Fury Among India’s Young.” These young people will need education and jobs in a global economy that will feature more automation and fewer of the semi-skilled manufacturing jobs that absorbed earlier youth surges in Asia. India’s demographic bonanza nevertheless holds the potential to create unprecedented economic growth — or it could rock the world’s largest democracy and second-largest population with sustained instability.

Africa’s population of 200 million young people is set to double by 2045. In the Middle East, a region of some 400 million people, nearly 65 percent of the population is younger than 30 — the highest proportion of youth to adults in the region’s history.

In Pakistan, two-thirds of the population is under 30. Many of these young people will grow up in a Pakistan that appears to be growing more democratic but that also is rife with corruption, extremist violence and dire shortages of energy and water.

In Iran, two-thirds of the population is under 35. These young people are educated, tech savvy and full of potential. Whereas the Islamic revolution will be something they learned about in school, many will remember Iranians pouring into the streets during the Green Movement or to celebrate the nuclear deal with the United States. And they will watch to see whether engagement with the West benefits them or not.

Will young Iranians and Pakistanis uplift or splinter the politics, economies, cultures and security of their countries? Will they engage the world productively and peacefully, turn inward or pick fights with neighbors? Given the size, strategic position and military capabilities of these two geopolitical heavweights, the answers will determine whether they export vitality or violence.

Unfortunately, the countries with most of the world’s young people are the ones most ill-equipped to grapple with their needs, ambitions, expectations and inevitable frustrations — let alone capitalize on their potential. Developing countries are home to 89 percent of the world’s 10- to 24-year-olds; by 2020, they will be home to nine out of every 10 people globally.

Given these conditions, it is easy to conjure a dystopic future, a Hollywood caricature of lawless developing countries dominated by gangs of young men brandishing firearms.

But what if the world invests in these young people? These countries are capable of pulling themselves out of poverty and instability within a generation — the way China did, the way India might. But if the international community fails to act now, we will all suffer the consequences.

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

why young men become terrorists and join _______________? (to get laid)

socialethology |  There is a hypothesis according to which the lack of accessible women for sexual relationships and marriage in Moslem polygamous societies would be one of the causes of the spread of suicidal terrorism’s phenomenon in our times.

A lot of young men who have an insufficiently high status to get women chose the path of suicidal terrorism, because they have the conviction that, after their death, according to the Quran, they would get into Heaven, where they would enjoy the company of 72 virgins. Given the fact that a lot of men are practically excluded from the reproductive process, even a vague promise regarding the access to women, as that from the Islamic precepts is, is pretty persuasive.

Our brains are designed to work after the same principles as they were 100.000 years ago, when there were only real things; today, when we have to face abstract or artificial things, our brains keep perceiving them as being real and touchable. This is why the abstract promise of the life to come is perceived as being realistic and those 72 virgins are seen as an authentic war trophy that is offered to the bravest martyrs [ibid., p. 12].

It is curios the fact that the terrorist organization Al Qaeda has had the greatest support in the most polygamous countries: Afganistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, but not in Turkey, where polygamy is forbidden since 1920. It is considered that one way to diminish the support for terrorism in those countries is to emancipate the women and to gradually liquidate polygamy, in order to reduce the number of men who are excluded from the reproductive process [4].

The mayor of London, Boris Johnson, made once an eccentric comment, is his unique way, as regarding the factors that motivate young men to become terrorists. Referring to the fighters for the Islamic State (ISIS), Johnson said that, if one were to study carefully the psychological profile of jihadis (presented in a report from British secret service MI5), one would notice that they are obsessed with pornography.

Johnson said: “If you look at all the psychological profiling about bombers, they typically will look at porn. They are literally wankers. Severe onanists”. He continued: “They are just young men in desperate need of self-esteem who do not have a particular mission in life, who feel that they are losers and this thing makes them feel strong – like winners.” [5].

In general, the role of sexual frustration in the genesis of terrorist behavior is intensely analyzed in the writings of evolutionary psychology and they will produce a change of perspective in assessing the phenomenon of terrorism [Thayer, Hudson, 2010; Caluya, 2013].

terrorist and criminal networks more connected than you think...,

thomsonreuters |  According to our new study, released in conjunction with The Combating Terrorism Center (CTC) at West Point, connectivity between terrorist and criminal activity is highest in developed, resource-rich countries, and those with policies actively supporting criminal elements, countering previous assumptions.

The study, Risky Business: The Global Threat Network and the Politics of Contraband, uses information from our Thomson Reuters World-Check database to examine the relationships of those who produce and profit from illicit activities that include terrorism, the illegal narcotics trade, organized crime, human smuggling and political corruption. The network analysis includes 2,700 individuals linked by 15,000 relationships spanning 122 countries.

Key findings include:
  • Connectivity among actors within the illicit marketplace is relatively high. This should not be construed to say that the network is a cohesive organizational entity. Rather, the phenomenon is a self-organizing complex system built through social connections from the bottom up.
  • By most measures of connectivity, terrorists are more interconnected than almost all other types of criminals, second only to narcotics smugglers. The transnational nature of terrorist actors allows them to link disparate criminal groups.
  • An analysis of social connections shows that 35 percent of the links that criminals and suspicious individuals maintain cross into terrorism.
  • Connectivity between terrorists and criminals is highest in resource-rich countries. This challenges conventional wisdom that assumes this is a product of failed or economically poor states. However, the study found there is connectivity among poor countries that use criminality as an economic or national security tool.
  • Identifying financial irregularities is critical to tracking dirty money, questionable transactions and illicit actors. Many government agencies are not training analysts in the intelligence or defense communities to think about the convergence of commerce, economics and threats. This skill gap represents a challenge confronting law enforcement and national security authorities.

gamma-male rescuers with rifles go vigilante on brock turner

guardian |  About a dozen armed protesters have shown up to the house of convicted sex offender Brock Turner with signs calling for the castration and killing of rapists, and some say they plan to frequently return to make him “uncomfortable in his own home”.

Turner, who was released from California jail on Friday after serving three months for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman at Stanford University, has returned to his family’s home in Bellbrook, Ohio, where some activists with assault rifles have gathered to criticize the light punishment.

“With an extremely lenient sentence, he can think ‘I can get away with this,’” Daniel Hardin, who carried an M4 assault rifle, said in an interview. “The message we want to send is … ‘If you try this again, we will shoot you.’”

Turner, a 21-year-old former swimmer at the elite northern California university, was caught assaulting a woman by a dumpster outside a fraternity party in January 2015. After a jury convicted him of multiple felonies, Judge Aaron Persky decided in June not to send him to prison, instead sentencing him to six months in a county jail.

The ruling, along with the victim’s powerful impact statement, sparked national outrage and a high-profile campaign to recall the judge, who has since removed himself from criminal cases.

When Turner was released early on Friday for good behavior, a standard practice in California, he rushed past a mob of news cameras without commenting.

Back in Ohio, the former athlete also faced crowds of reporters at the localsheriff’s office when he showed up on Tuesday to register as a sex offender, a requirement of his sentence.

Jaimes Campbell, who brought an AR-15 rifle to the rally outside the family’s home and helped organize the action, said he wanted the protests to impede Turner’s life. 

gamma-male rescuer with braids found shot and burnt to a crisp...,

NYTimes |  The body of an activist from St. Louis who led protests about the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., in 2014 was found with a gunshot wound in the charred remains of a vehicle on Tuesday morning, according to the police and news accounts.

The activist, Darren Seals, 29, was found inside the vehicle on Diamond Drive in Riverview in St. Louis County around 1:50 a.m., the St. Louis County Police Department said in a statement. The vehicle had been on fire and he was found after the flames were extinguished.

The police said Mr. Seals had lived at an address on Millburn Drive in St. Louis, about 12 miles from where his body was found. The case is being investigated as a homicide by the department’s Bureau of Crimes Against Persons. The motive for the killing was unknown.

The police identified Mr. Seals as Daren Seals, although other records listed the spelling of his first name as Darren, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

On his Twitter account, Mr. Seals described himself as a businessman, revolutionary, activist and “Unapologetically BLACK, Afrikan in AmeriKKKa, Fighter, Leader.”

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

shaming at scale?

edge |  My own view on guilt is that it's highly dependent on how much time you get to spend alone. I think that when you have zero chance of spending any time alone in your society, you're very unlikely to have strong feelings of guilt every day, in part because I view guilt as defined—and there are lots of arguments, and you all know these better than I do, definitions about what guilt or shame really mean—but guilt is internalized, and the only person you're answering to is your own self. I view guilt as the cheapest form of punishment there is. It's self-punishment, and you prevent the group from having to punish you by either cutting yourself off from doing the act, to begin with, or paying some sort of penance afterward.

Shakespeare used the word "guilt" only 33 times. He used the word "shame" 344 times. So when we start thinking that it's just a Western thing, we should also note that it's even more modern than just being a Western phenomenon. My own particular interest is in environmental guilt, which I see this rising a lot, basically beginning in the 1980s, and I tie this to a switch from a system that was focused on changing a supply chain and production of chemicals or bad products, to more a demand-focused side strategy.

With that demand focus strategy, the focus on the individual, guilt was an easy low-hanging way of getting people to engage with the issues. Of course, there's a big threshold problem there. Because it's linked to a switch from the focus on supply to the focus on demand, it means that its power is very limited.

If you ask does this behavior scale, I would argue, no it doesn't scale. Does the U.S. feel guilty for doing something? Does BP feel guilty for the Gulf Oil spill? By the very definition of what guilt is—an internal regulation of one's own conscience—it implies, at least to me, that it does not scale to the group level; although, you have these trends, like survivor guilt or collective guilt, that call this into question.

I am interested in social problems, so maybe we should focus on the types of social emotions that might scale, and not just social emotions, but social tools, and that's why I got interested in shame as a tool, which is separate from shame as an emotion. We could all disagree here about what shame is as an emotion. A lot of people agree that it requires some sort of audience, but some don't. Some people argue it's a sense of your whole self, or as guilt is just based on the transgression itself. But I want to focus on shame as a tool, as a punishment, and situate it within a larger body of punishment.

I would like to distinguish shame, starting off, from transparency. A lot of people confuse them in the popular media, thinking that they're the same thing. Transparency exposes everyone in a population, regardless of their behavior, whereas shame exposes only a minority of players, and this is an important distinction. Both shame and transparency are obviously only interesting if the distribution is not uniform. So we have to have some variability in there; otherwise, we're really not interested in the behavior. I want to argue, too, and one of the points I make in some recent work, is that shame is more effective the larger those gaps are, not just between existing behaviors, but between what we think should happen and what is actually happening.

the problem is not Colorado’s law, it’s the fact that other states don’t have Colorado’s law

bostonglobe |  Yet Mason Tvert, a key Colorado and national legalization advocate, said the idea of eliminating a legal, regulated market as a way to undermine the black market is logically unsound.
.  .  .
With rain on the horizon, dozens of shoppers headed for the Safeway in Pueblo West one evening last week. Residents were split on whether to embrace the marijuana repeal — and it’s not clear how the vote will shake out.

Shannon McPherson, a social worker, said marijuana legalization has “been bad for the whole Pueblo community.”

The 47-year-old, who works at a hospital, said “we see a lot more homeless people — we see a lot of people that have come without resources, that end up tapping our resources.”

Jason White, 44, owns a property management company and expressed frustration he has had to deal with marijuana-smoking squatters in some of his properties.

“We’ve got more crime. We’ve got more people on the street. Our hospitals are filled with people,” he said. And what of the economic benefits? It’s a net negative, he insisted. The extra revenue that comes in, “all it’s doing is going to the overwhelmed homeless shelters, hospitals, and the police.”

Davis Dossantos, 43, said he’s seen an uptick in vagrancy and panhandling since legalizatio But, walking out of the grocery store, Dossantos said he would vote against the ballot initiative because, he indicated, people will still use marijuana but will probably not drive somewhere else to buy it legally.

“You’re not really tackling the issue,” he said, shaking his head. “You’re forcing the individuals to go back to the drug dealers, and the black market will flourish even more.”

Monday, September 05, 2016

give industrial and agricultural ecosystems fossil fuels and they become unsustainably productive

NYTimes |  What, then, caused this Great Enrichment?

Not exploitation of the poor, not investment, not existing institutions, but a mere idea, which the philosopher and economist Adam Smith called “the liberal plan of equality, liberty and justice.” In a word, it was liberalism, in the free-market European sense. Give masses of ordinary people equality before the law and equality of social dignity, and leave them alone, and it turns out that they become extraordinarily creative and energetic.

The liberal idea was spawned by some happy accidents in northwestern Europe from 1517 to 1789 — namely, the four R’s: the Reformation, the Dutch Revolt, the revolutions of England and France, and the proliferation of reading. The four R’s liberated ordinary people, among them the venturing bourgeoisie. The Bourgeois Deal is, briefly, this: In the first act, let me try this or that improvement. I’ll keep the profit, thank you very much, though in the second act those pesky competitors will erode it by entering and disrupting (as Uber has done to the taxi industry). By the third act, after my betterments have spread, they will make you rich.

And they did.

You may object that ideas are a dime a dozen and that to make them fruitful we must start with adequate physical and human capital and good institutions. It’s a popular idea at the World Bank, but a mistaken one. True, we eventually need capital and institutions to embody the ideas, such as a marble building with central heating and cooling to house the Supreme Court. But the intermediate and dependent causes like capital and institutions have not been the root cause.

The root cause of enrichment was and is the liberal idea, spawning the university, the railway, the high-rise, the internet and, most important, our liberties. What original accumulation of capital inflamed the minds of William Lloyd Garrison and Sojourner Truth? What institutions, except the recent liberal ones of university education and uncensored book publishing, caused feminism or the antiwar movement? Since Karl Marx, we have made a habit of seeking material causes for human progress. But the modern world came from treating more and more people with respect.

Ideas are not all sweet, of course. Fascism, racism, eugenics and nationalism are ideas with alarming recent popularity. But sweet practical ideas for profitable technologies and institutions, and the liberal idea that allowed ordinary people for the first time to have a go, caused the Great Enrichment. We need to inspirit masses of people, not the elite, who are plenty inspirited already. Equality before the law and equality of social dignity are still the root of economic, as well as spiritual, flourishing — whatever tyrants may think to the contrary.

gutless political theatre opts for pearl clutching and vapor catching instead of dealing with fundamental issues...,

counterpunch |  It’s the robots, stupid.

The rabid anti-immigrant campaign of Donald Trump mirrors the racist vitriol of right-wing politicians across much of the developed world. But totally absent from what passes for political debate in the U.S. and abroad is what’s really driving those ever more incendiary movements.

They are fueled by fear. There’s the dread of terrorist attacks, to be sure. But much more pervasive is the unremitting, anxiety of hundreds of millions in the developed world that they are threatened by change, by dark forces they neither understand nor control—by rampant unemployment, a diminished standard of living. They have been brought up to believe that hard work and sacrifice would bring a better life. No longer.

Donald Trump tells them hordes of immigrants, illegal aliens and disastrous trade pacts are to blame. But Trump—as well as those excoriating him–are totally missing the point.

The major force impacting our society is the spectacular advance of technologies —robotics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning. The dizzying pace of change is only going to accelerate: a chain reaction as we hurtle to warp speed.   (See my previous blog)

Why is this phenomenon not the urgent focus of our political debates? Why are we instead obsessed with illegal aliens and Hillary’s emails?

It used to be that we welcomed advances in technology. We were assured they ultimately create more jobs than they destroy. No longer.

Estimates are that close to half the jobs in the United States are likely to be wiped out or seriously diminished by technological change within the near future. These are not just factory workers, receptionists, secretaries, telephone operators and bank tellers. Sophisticated algorithms will soon replace some 140 million full-time “knowledge workers” worldwide. Those threatened range from computer programmers, to graphic artists to lawyers, to financial analysts and journalists.

braiding business pioneer upsets vapor-catchers and pearl-clutchers by including dolezal...,

dailymail |  'My intention is to support Isis and the braid freedom movement in whatever way it will be most helpful,' Dolezal told The Daily Beast.

'I don't want to be a liability for anyone. It's a justice issue and I've been a social justice activist for years. It's really that simple.'

Brantley, a Dallas hair braider and owner of the nation's first hair-braiding school, faced a backlash on social media after announcing Dolezal would be joining the event rallying for braiders' rights.

'This woman lied and not only that, she filed a reverse discrimation (sic) lawsuit as a WHITE woman while she was at a Black college,' one person wrote on Facebook. 

'How is this ancestral u not see how u just gave someone and every other stealer a cultural stealer a pass for cultural misrepresentation, cultural stealing, and cultural appropriation.'

Another called Dolezal out for not having the 'culture or hair texture of Ancestral braiders.'

However, some cut Dolezal some slack and said critics should not get mad at her.

'Why get mad at her for admiring our beautiful culture,' one person wrote in the comments.

'She is a civil rights activist, and besides her and one brother her other brothers are African-American, through the love of adoption.

'Not all Caucasian people are bad people some of them I don't even see them as stealing things from us, I believe some of them really see our culture for what it is and the beauty that is in it, and just want to be a part of it!!!'

In a response to one the critics, Brantley said 'not a one of my people have ever joined this movement yet and it's been going on for 20 years now.'

'I'm so sorry you all feel this way I'm focusing on the braid freedom movement not what America and her children are doing to us,' she wrote.

Sunday, September 04, 2016

Turing Learning Means Machines Don't Need Our Help

futurity |  Researchers working with swarm robots say it is now possible for machines to learn how natural or artificial systems work by observing them—without being told what to look for.
This could lead to advances in how machines infer knowledge and use it to detect behaviors and abnormalities.
“Unlike in the original Turing test, however, our interrogators are not human but rather computer programs that learn by themselves.”
The technology could improve security applications, such as lie detection or identity verification, and make computer gaming more realistic.
It also means machines are able to predict, among other things, how people and other living things behave.

The discovery, published in the journal Swarm Intelligence, takes inspiration from the work of pioneering computer scientist Alan Turing, who proposed a test, which a machine could pass if it behaved indistinguishably from a human. In this test, an interrogator exchanges messages with two players in a different room: one human, the other a machine.

Saturday, September 03, 2016

is liberal democracy threatened by recursively self-improving technology?

guardian |  The BBC Reith Lectures in 1967 were given by Edmund Leach, a Cambridge social anthropologist. “Men have become like gods,” Leach began. “Isn’t it about time that we understood our divinity? Science offers us total mastery over our environment and over our destiny, yet instead of rejoicing we feel deeply afraid.”

That was nearly half a century ago, and yet Leach’s opening lines could easily apply to today. He was speaking before the internet had been built and long before the human genome had been decoded, and so his claim about men becoming “like gods” seems relatively modest compared with the capabilities that molecular biology and computing have subsequently bestowed upon us. Our science-based culture is the most powerful in history, and it is ceaselessly researching, exploring, developing and growing. But in recent times it seems to have also become plagued with existential angst as the implications of human ingenuity begin to be (dimly) glimpsed.

The title that Leach chose for his Reith Lecture – A Runaway World – captures our zeitgeist too. At any rate, we are also increasingly fretful about a world that seems to be running out of control, largely (but not solely) because of information technology and what the life sciences are making possible. But we seek consolation in the thought that “it was always thus”: people felt alarmed about steam in George Eliot’s time and got worked up about electricity, the telegraph and the telephone as they arrived on the scene. The reassuring implication is that we weathered those technological storms, and so we will weather this one too. Humankind will muddle through.

But in the last five years or so even that cautious, pragmatic optimism has begun to erode. There are several reasons for this loss of confidence. One is the sheer vertiginous pace of technological change. Another is that the new forces at loose in our society – particularly information technology and the life sciences – are potentially more far-reaching in their implications than steam or electricity ever were. And, thirdly, we have begun to see startling advances in these fields that have forced us to recalibrate our expectations.

A classic example is the field of artificial intelligence (AI), defined as the quest to enable machines to do things that would require intelligence if performed by a human. For as long as most of us can remember, AI in that sense was always 20 years away from the date of prediction. Maybe it still is. But in the last few years we have seen that the combination of machine learning, powerful algorithms, vast processing power and so-called “Big Data” can enable machines to do very impressive things – real-time language translation, for example, or driving cars safely through complex urban environments – that seemed implausible even a decade ago.

And this, in turn, has led to a renewal of excited speculation about the possibility – and the existential risks – of the “intelligence explosion” that would be caused by inventing a machine that was capable of recursive self-improvement. This possibility was first raised in 1965 by the British cryptographer IJ Good, who famously wrote: “The first ultraintelligent machine is the last invention that man need ever make, provided that the machine is docile enough to tell us how to keep it under control.” Fifty years later, we find contemporary thinkers like Nick Bostrom and Murray Shanahan taking the idea seriously.

Friday, September 02, 2016

Presstitutes Have Become Nose-Blind to The Fascist Brothel's Stench...,

truth-out |  Earlier this week, an Associated Press (AP) story showed that a disproportionate number of Clinton's meetings with private citizens at the State Department were with large donors to the Clinton Foundation. At the very least, these stories ought to spark a serious media conversation about money, politics and philanthropy. Instead, much of the media, especially the wide array of Clinton loyalists all over the industry, have been quick to dismiss the story as part of an anti-Clinton agenda.

The media industry, which many claim is out to get Clinton, is actually made up mostly of donors to the Clinton Foundation. These donors are also actively supporting Clinton's campaign with donations and even fundraising. Indeed, while Clinton's potential conflicts of interest at the State Department are thought-provoking, her financial ties to Big Media are a concern in their own right. These close ties are especially unsettling on the heels of a primary season in which the corporate media attacked Bernie Sanders constantly, and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) was caught manipulating the media on Clinton's behalf.

It is understandable that many want to avoid criticizing Clinton, out of fear of giving the reckless, racist, authoritarian Donald Trump fodder to attack her. However, this type of suspension of critical thinking will not prevent a Trump presidency; Trump will attack Clinton no matter what "fodder" is or isn't provided. However, the backlash against any critique of Clinton's donor relationships may have long-term political consequences. Every time liberals do cartwheels trying to defend Clinton on this issue, they are undercutting their own fundamental arguments against Citizens United and the influence of the likes of the Koch brothers.

Consider a recent op-ed by Joy Ann Reid in the Daily Beast, in which Reid claims the AP's reporting on the Clinton Foundation is just another "fake scandal" and a product of the "media's general Hillary Clinton loathing." There is no story, she argues -- just a spiteful media with an anti-Clinton agenda.

Reid's claims about Clinton being treated unfairly by the press are hard to accept. Reid -- one of her biggest advocates -- has been able to, within a five-day window, make this very case on the most recent episode of Meet the Press, during her own Sunday morning television show on MSNBC and in her aforementioned column. Reid's media appearances are just one example of how members of the media have come out to defend Clinton against every critique she has faced. Paul Begala, a former staffer for Bill Clinton, argued on CNN that the media has a "different standard for Clinton" and that the story was "politics at its worst." James Carville, another former staffer for President Bill Clinton suggested on MSNBC that "someone is going to hell," for criticizing the Clinton Foundation.

Clinton's "media problem" is not that the relationship is too adversarial, but that it is too compromised. How can we trust the dominant media to cover Clinton's potential conflicts of interest, when they are complicit in their own conflict of interest with the candidate? It is no wonder the "pay for play" allegations against Clinton at the State Department have largely been dismissed by pundits as, to quote Chuck Todd, just the way "American politics" works.

Tell Me With Whom You Walk, and I Will Tell You Who You Are...,

thiscantbehappening |  The Times editorial notably does not recognize the American “version” of dynasty now being played out in the carnival of this election season, the Clinton Dynasty. The editorial alludes to something fishy about Ortega’s wife, Rosario Murillo, being named the vice presidential candidate in the upcoming November elections. Murillo is an internationally recognized poet and author; she speaks four languages and does a popular daily radio show. In the 1970s, she was an assistant to La Prensa editor Pedro Joaquin Chamorro assassinated by dictator Somoza. Given Ms. Clinton’s role vis-à-vis her husband and given the Kirchners in Argentina, is such a woman as vice president a sign of corruption or a sign of the times?

The Times editorial’s hypocrisy and its inadequate representation of history blunts any legitimate criticism the editorial may raise. The charge that President Ortega has lined up his ducks un-democratically for his November re-election campaign is hard to take seriously when, here in the mecca of fair democracy, we witnessed the dynastic Clinton machine and its mainstream media stooges like Chris Matthews run over the Bernie Sanders insurgency with the equivalent of tanks. Power tends to protect and promote itself everywhere.

Finally, there’s Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s after-the-fact full acceptance of the 2009 military coup that overthrew duly-elected, left-leaning President Manuel Zelaya in Honduras. Benghazi was a debacle; this was a cynical decision [2] that harked back to the past and supported wealthy, oppressive elements in Honduras. The coup was followed by a huge rise in murder and violence aimed at the poor and the left, including the assassination of well known environmental activist Berta Caceres and others. This is infuriating for those of us aware of, or tangentially involved in, the politics of Central American in the 1980s.

The Times editorial's final sentence amounts to a classic imperial threat. Remember, before the Contras, in the 1920s and 1930s it was the US Marines. Here's their threat: "The course of Mr. Ortega's own political history should serve as reminder that overthrowing a government can be the citizens' response when all other avenues for dissent are shut." Beware! With a little help from friends in Washington and Miami, the ghost of Ronald Reagan could rise like a shining city on a hill. Again, raising the hypocrisy factor, more and more frustrated elements feel we're arriving at an analogous quandary of shrinking avenues for effective dissent here against out-of-control militarism in the cacophonous, first-world culture of the USA.

Courting the Right, Smearing the Left, the Ethos of Granny Goodness Unmistakable Fascism

commondreams |  Last month, adding to the archive of left-punching, conservative writer and ardent Clinton supporter James Kirchick enthusiastically denounced those he called "the Hillary Clinton-loathing, Donald Trump-loving useful idiots of the left."

"In this weirdest year," Kirchick wrote, "there may be no weirder phenomenon than the rise of the progressive Donald Trump supporter."

Among those apparently deserving of the label "progressive Trump fan" are Glenn Greenwald, Rania Khalek, Zaid Jilani, Julian Assange, Jill Stein, and Katrina vanden Heuvel, all of whom, according to Kirchick, are "captive to a crude and one-dimensional anti-Americanism."

The one sin that unites these progressive commentators, journalists, and political figures with Trump is, in other words, that they all dare to question the morality of America's use of force abroad.
By linking left-wing criticism of American foreign policy with Trumpism, Kirchick is attempting, as Eric Levitz has noted, to delegitimize ideas without having to put forward anything resembling a coherent argument. Instead, Kirchick dubiously portrays Trump as an anti-imperialist (which he's not) to smear actual anti-imperialists.

"For champions of the bipartisan consensus on issues of national security and globalization," Levitz writes, "Trump is an awfully convenient figurehead for challenges to the status quo."

Far from innovative, Kirchick's tactic of using Trump to dismiss legitimate critiques of Hillary Clinton has become commonplace within American political discourse. And shamefully, the so-called progressive wing of the Democratic Party has silently capitulated to this framework.

Such a state of affairs is immensely revealing, in several ways.

First, it demonstrates clearly the striking ideological bankruptcy of the Democratic establishment. As Neera Tanden, a long-time Clinton confidante, made clear in a recent interview with Politico's Glenn Thrush, loyal partisans are not at all concerned with addressing—or even acknowledging—the critiques of Hillary Clinton offered by independent progressives. Instead, they are concerned primarily with optics and deflection.

Tanden, while acknowledging that Sanders "brought a lot of really important issues to the floor," lamented that "Sanders was prosecuting a much tougher character attack" than the one Clinton faced in 2008. She also observed—contradicting the facts—that Sanders's attacks did "significant damage to Hillary's negatives," implying that Sanders is responsible for the perception that Clinton is dishonest and untrustworthy.

Of course, as Ben Spielberg has observed, "If legitimate critiques damage a candidate's approval rating, the problem isn't the person making the critiques."

But Tanden's narrative is consistent with the message put forward by the Clinton campaign throughout the primary: The very act of pointing to Clinton's record, the story goes, is tantamount to, as Clinton herself put it, "an artful smear."

A Generation of Fascism Feebly Pretending at Democratic Political Governance

HuffPo |  The financial calamity of 2008 laid bare ugly problems in the global economic order. The mess has now festered into a political crisis that jeopardizes the link between market-driven economies and representative democracy.

So argues Martin Wolf, the most influential living British economics writer, in a Wednesday column for the Financial Times titled “Capitalism and Democracy: The Strain is Showing.” Fixing the economic norms most English-speaking people refer to as “capitalism,” Wolf argues, will be difficult. But a first step requires rethinking what elites have referred to for three decades as “free trade” or “globalization.”

“Those of us who wish to preserve both liberal democracy and global capitalism must confront serious questions,” Wolf writes. “One is whether it makes sense to promote further international agreements that tightly constrain national regulatory discretion in the interests of existing corporations. My view increasingly echoes that of Prof Lawrence Summers of Harvard, who has argued that ‘international agreements [should] be judged not by how much is harmonised or by how many barriers are torn down but whether citizens are empowered.’ Trade brings gains but cannot be pursued at all costs.” 

The global economic order of the past three decades has privileged a few elites ― who have seen their incomes and political power expand ― at the expense of a far greater number of working people ― who have seen their incomes stagnate and their political influence wane. Global economic rules allow jobs to be offshored and capital to be reallocated in ways that do not benefit the vast majority of people who vote in elections. The idea that markets promoting individual choice are compatible with democratic forms of government has become an open question, according to Wolf.

These words are an intellectual assault on the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership ― two major international pacts spearheaded by President Barack Obama. Public controversy surrounding TTIP is largely constrained within the European Union at the moment, but the TPP has become one of the most important issues of the 2016 U.S. presidential election ― though it rarely receives coverage on cable news. 

The TPP is modeled on the North American Free Trade Agreement and World Trade Organization treaties that preceded it. The deal would grant corporations the right to challenge the laws and regulations of sovereign governments before a secretive international tribunal. Labor unions, environmental activists and other representatives of civil society would not be afforded the same privilege. The agreement is widely viewed as an effort to give multinational corporations greater influence over political decision-making.

Thursday, September 01, 2016

why is populism here to stay? ISDS investor-state dispute settlement

buzzfeed |  Imagine a private, global super court that empowers corporations to bend countries to their will.

Say a nation tries to prosecute a corrupt CEO or ban dangerous pollution. Imagine that a company could turn to this super court and sue the whole country for daring to interfere with its profits, demanding hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars as retribution.

Imagine that this court is so powerful that nations often must heed its rulings as if they came from their own supreme courts, with no meaningful way to appeal. That it operates unconstrained by precedent or any significant public oversight, often keeping its proceedings and sometimes even its decisions secret. That the people who decide its cases are largely elite Western corporate attorneys who have a vested interest in expanding the court’s authority because they profit from it directly, arguing cases one day and then sitting in judgment another. That some of them half-jokingly refer to themselves as “The Club” or “The Mafia.”

And imagine that the penalties this court has imposed have been so crushing — and its decisions so unpredictable — that some nations dare not risk a trial, responding to the mere threat of a lawsuit by offering vast concessions, such as rolling back their own laws or even wiping away the punishments of convicted criminals.

This system is already in place, operating behind closed doors in office buildings and conference rooms in cities around the world. Known as investor-state dispute settlement, or ISDS, it is written into a vast network of treaties that govern international trade and investment, including NAFTA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which Congress must soon decide whether to ratify.

These trade pacts have become a flashpoint in the US presidential campaign. But an 18-month BuzzFeed News investigation, spanning three continents and involving more than 200 interviews and tens of thousands of documents, many of them previously confidential, has exposed an obscure but immensely consequential feature of these trade treaties, the secret operations of these tribunals, and the ways that business has co-opted them to bring sovereign nations to heel.

The BuzzFeed News investigation explores four different aspects of ISDS. In coming days, it will show how the mere threat of an ISDS case can intimidate a nation into gutting its own laws, how some financial firms have transformed what was intended to be a system of justice into an engine of profit, and how America is surprisingly vulnerable to suits from foreign companies.

The series starts today with perhaps the least known and most jarring revelation: Companies and executives accused or even convicted of crimes have escaped punishment by turning to this special forum.

face the facts - populism is here to stay...,

theconversation |  We are witnessing what I have termed The Global Rise of Populism. Populism, once seen as a fringe phenomenon relegated to another era or only certain parts of the world, is now a mainstay of contemporary politics across the globe, from the Americas to Europe, from Africa to the Asia Pacific.

Populism – a political style that features 1) an appeal to “the people” versus “the elite”; 2) the use of “bad manners” that are allegedly “unbecoming” for politicians; and 3) the evocation of crisis, breakdown or threat – isn’t going anywhere. It is here to stay. The sooner we acknowledge this, the sooner we can do something about it.

First, “the elite” is on the nose in many parts of the world. Mainstream parties are increasingly seen as incapable of channelling popular interests, governments are viewed as being in thrall to global finance, and experts are increasingly distrusted and questioned. In many cases, this cynicism is justified.

Populists posit themselves as representing a break from the status quo. They claim to be able to return power to “the people”. This message has great resonance at this particular historical juncture, where faith in institutions has been badly shaken.

Second, the shifting media landscape favours populists. In a time of communicative abundance, populists deliver a simple, often headline-grabbing message that plays to mass media’s desire for polarisation, dramatisation and emotionalisation.

This allows them to “break through” the constant noise and grab free media attention. There is no better example of this than Trump, whose single tweets inspire media frenzy, or, on a local level, the Australian media’s willingness to report every utterance of Hanson since her election.

Also, many populists have been at the forefront of using social media to communicate “directly” with their followers. The examples of Italy’s Five Star Movement, the US Tea Party and Hungary’s Jobbik are instructive here. This type of engagement is something on which mainstream parties have tended to be woefully behind the times.

Third, populists have become more savvy and increased their appeal in the past decade. In fields of candidates who often seem to be cut from a very similar cloth, populists stand out by offering a performance that seems more authentic, more appealing and often downright more entertaining than other politicians.

New DNC Chair Says Outrage Over Clinton's Pay-To-Play Is "Attempt To Criminalize Normal Behavior"

zerohedge |  Donna Brazile, the new DNC Chair, appeared on ABC's "This Week" and declared that pay for play like "someone who is a donor...saying I want access" is just an attempt to "criminalize behavior that is normal."  Specifically, when asked about pay for play allegations against the Clinton Foundation, Brazile responded as follows:
"First of all, Martha, the way I look at it, I’ve been a government official. So, you know, this notion that, somehow or another, someone who is a supporter, someone who is a donor, somebody who’s an activist, saying I want access, I want to come into a room and I want to meet people, we often criminalize behavior that is normal. And I don’t see what the smoke is."
Brazile also took the opportunity to ramp up the rhetoric against Julian Assange saying that the DNC was a "victim of a cyber crime led by thugs" seeking to "destabilize our democracy."  
"There was Russian involvement in this to destabilize not just our institution, the Democratic Party, but our democracy itself."
When asked whether she was concerned about recent TV interviews where Julian Assange had promised additional Hillary disclosures, Brazile said:
"The smoking gun is that we're interviewing somebody who's involved in a cyber crime and not calling him a criminal."
Just to clarify Brazile's position, trading "access" to the Secretary of State in return for donations from questionable international characters and misappropriating DNC funds is in no way criminal but revealing such information to the public is.  So as long as we're kept in the dark there is no crime.  Got it.  Thanks.

swole patrol say "examine what Trump said, re-examine the relationship"

shtfplan |  It seems that Donald Trump’s recent speech urging black Americans to vote for him because of failing Clinton and Obama policies has not fallen on deaf ears.

African Americans, who have for decades voted en masse for democrat party candidates to the tune of 90% support or more, have finally realized that just because a politician says he or she is going to do something doesn’t mean it will actually happen.

We’re sure you remember Obama’s promises of free health care, free education, more jobs and better communities. That not even the first black American President was able to improve the lives of minorities may have finally woken some people up.

The following interview with New Black Panther Quanell X requires no further commentary – he breaks it down quite succinctly:
Let me say this to the brothers and sisters who listened and watched that speech… We may not like the vessel [Donald Trump] that said what he said, but I ask us to truly examine what he said.
Because it is a fact that for 54 years we have been voting for the Democratic Party like no other race in America. And they have not given us the same loyalty and love that we have given them. We, as black people, have to reexamine the relationship. We’re being pimped like prostitutes and they’re the big pimps pimping us politically… promising us everything and we get nothing in return. We gotta step back now as black people and we gotta look at all the parties and vote our best interests.

I want to say and encourage the brothers and sisters… Barack Obama, our president, served two terms… the first black president ever… but did our condition get better?  Did financially, politically, academically with education in our community… did things get better? Are our young people working more?
The condition got worse.