Saturday, January 13, 2018

Fifty Shades of Gov. Smackahoe Greitens...,

LATimes  |  The Missouri political establishment seemed surprised when the story broke.

In an audio recording broadcast Wednesday by KMOV-TV in St. Louis, a hairstylist told her ex-husband that she’d had an affair in 2015 with Eric Greitens — then philanthropist, now governor — and that he had tied her to home exercise equipment, taken a photo of her naked and threatened to publicly release it if she ever told anyone about him. She said Greitens later apologized and said he’d deleted the photo.

Greitens, 43, who has been married since 2011, acknowledged having an affair but denied blackmailing or abusing the woman.

The news raced across the internet and through the state’s halls of power. Several of Greitens’ fellow Republicans expressed serious concern about the allegations and urged the governor to be honest about his conduct; some Democrats said he should resign. St. Louis Circuit Atty. Kimberly Gardner said Thursday that she was launching an investigation.

But maybe the biggest surprise is how long it took for the story to go public.

Behind the scenes, many state political figures and journalists had been aware of rumors about Greitens’ affair with the woman, some of them for months and even more than a year.

“This is the worst-kept secret in the world,” said St. Louis attorney Albert S. Watkins. He represents the woman’s ex-husband, who made and released the recording.

"National media outlets, local media, local newspapers … political operatives calling,” Watkins said. “It became clear that this was a story that was going to get out at some point.”

A Shithole Is The Opposite Of A Vacation Destination

Have you ever noticed how the Cathedral insincerely and hypocritically uses language to enforce its orthodoxies and control the free speech and actions of its political opponents?

What is the best way for this tactic to be effectively fought?

The only methods I can think of right now are words, votes, or bullets.  Are there other ways?

cbsnews | Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, refuted President Trump's tweeted denials that he used the phrase "sh*thole countries" when discussing legal protections for immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and African countries.  Durbin, who was in the meeting with the president when he made the remarks, said of Mr. Trump's denial,  "It's not true. He said those hateful things, and he said them repeatedly."
Durbin attended an event in Chicago Friday and then held a press conference on the president's comments afterward. He told reporters how the issue came up:
When the question was raised about Haitians, for example, we have a group that have temporary protected status in the United States because they were the victims of crises and disasters and political upheaval. The largest group is El Salvadoran. The second is Honduran and the third is Haitian, and when I mentioned that fact to him, he said 'Haitians? Do we need more Haitians?' And then he went on and started to describe the immigration from Africa that was being protected in this bipartisan measure. That's where he used these vile and vulgar comments, calling the nations they come from "sh*tholes" -- the exact word used by the president not just once, but repeatedly.
Mr. Trump on Friday morning tweeted that he had used "tough language" but denied he had used the profane phrase.

And he also denied he had said anything insulting about Haitians, tweeting that he "Never said anything derogatory about Haitians other than Haiti is, obviously, a very poor and troubled country. Never said "take them out." Made up by Dems. I have a wonderful relationship with Haitians. Probably should record future meetings - unfortunately, no trust!"

Durbin said he tried to explain to him why it was he shouldn't use the phrase "chain migration," which refers to the process by which immigrants bring their extended family into the U.S. "When it came to the issue of 'chain migration,' I said to the president, 'Do you realize how painful that term is to so many people?'" Durbin recalled. "'African-Americans believe they migrated to America in chains and when you talk about chain migration, it hurts them personally.' He said, 'Oh, that's a good line.'"

Friday, January 12, 2018

Decision Neuroscience (REDUX Originally Posted 11/24/08)

This will not be the first time you've heard this from me, I've variously addressed it hereabouts under the rubrics neuroeconomics or dopamine hegemony - but this morning my very good friend Arnach hit me up back channel with a morsel supportive of the theory that global human governance boils down to the science of stimulating and controlling dopaminergy in the individual brain.

From the Stanford Storybank we have This is Your Brain on Bargains.
Scientific inspiration can derive from the most mundane experience. Archimedes was said to have figured out how to compute volume in his bathtub. When Uzma Khan had her eureka moment, she was sprawled on her couch, just back from a shopping mall where she had gone to avoid working on her dissertation.

Khan—then at Yale, now an assistant professor of marketing at the Graduate School of Business—knew all about the supposed levers of consumer behavior: supply, demand, advertising, discounting. Traditionally, business theorists described consumer behavior as being based on rational decisions about value and price. But as Khan looked at the shopping bags strewn around her apartment she realized that the conventional wisdom was, well, bankrupt. She was sure that her buying decisions had much less to do with price than they did her frayed nerves. She had gone shopping to feel better. Once home, the thrill was gone. “I looked at all that stuff, all those bags, and I thought, 'I don't need this stuff. I'm going to take most of it back. What was I thinking?'”

Khan's professional focus today is answering that question—what are we thinking when we go shopping? She is one of a growing number of researchers at Stanford and elsewhere working on consumer mysteries: Why are our needs and wants so disconnected? Why do people dig themselves into debt from foolish spending? Why do our brains perceive expensive products as superior? And what are the biological bases for the pleasures that shopping or even the anticipation of shopping can unleash?
So simple, elegant, and obvious. Selective governance via the natural tendency of the brain's neuronal circuits to Do What They Do..., what could be easier, more powerful, and more durable than that? The basic fact is that humans are routinely exploited by those with the wherewithal to "engineer" values in the outside world and a little knowledge of the workings of the "inside" world. - This takes us then to the meatus of the economic beatus - which isn't quantum mechanics - but a depth psychology informed by an expansive understanding fractal unfolding and the poised realm what that knowledge is and where exactly it came from.

Neuroeconomics: Dopaminergy In The Individual Brain (REDUX Originally Posted 01/26/08)

A couple months ago, I introduced the concept of neuroeconomics in the context of collective psychology. It's time to take that a step further - a la the philosopher Daniel Dennett, channeling the late ATL Gurdjieffian prankster Jan Cox.
Several people have sent me notes about their problems and apparent failures, and have attempted to attribute a psychological basis to them. This is one of the great cutoff points. It is an immediate slap in the intellectual face: to a Revolutionist there is no such thing as "psychological." It is a flawed piece of data. It is as outmoded to a Revolutionist alive today as is the idea of a "capital-g" god. What is called "psychological" is serving, and has served, a purpose with some people. But you must see that any apparent psychological pressures arising from influences apparently "out there" -- your boss, your mother, your mate -- have to enter in through the five senses. Always stop and remind yourself of that even if you can't do anything else. If one or all of your senses were knocked out, you would not be suffering this "psychological pressure." You have to face up to that. Whatever is going on in you is chemical. There are really no such things as drunks; it is people with an alcohol deficiency. Absolutely religious people have a chemical deficiency. The same with people who have phobias, as they are called. It is a chemical imbalance outside the normal bell curve of the populace at their time and place. Jan Cox
From that earlier article I stated that "For decades it has been known that these neurons and the dopamine they release play a critical role in brain mechanisms of reinforcement. Many of the drugs currently abused in our society mimic the actions of dopamine in the brain. This led many researchers to believe that dopamine neurons directly encoded the rewarding value of events in the outside world."

Today's post is one of those hidden in plain sight elaborations on that theme, this time addressing the rewarding value of events in the INSIDE WORLD, the world comprised of the neurons making up your brain. Think about it. That's all I ever ask you to do, and in the process, you will inevitably be led to draw your own validating conclusions. Here's Dennett;
brain cells — I now think — must compete vigorously in a marketplace. For what?

What could a neuron "want"? The energy and raw materials it needs to thrive–just like its unicellular eukaryote ancestors and more distant cousins, the bacteria and archaea. Neurons are robots; they are certainly not conscious in any rich sense–remember, they are eukaryotic cells, akin to yeast cells or fungi. If individual neurons are conscious then so is athlete’s foot. But neurons are, like these mindless but intentional cousins, highly competent agents in a life-or-death struggle, not in the environment between your toes, but in the demanding environment of the brain, where the victories go to those cells that can network more effectively, contribute to more influential trends at the virtual machine levels where large-scale human purposes and urges are discernible.

I now think, then, that the opponent-process dynamics of emotions, and the roles they play in controlling our minds, is underpinned by an "economy" of neurochemistry that harnesses the competitive talents of individual neurons. (Note that the idea is that neurons are still good team players within the larger economy, unlike the more radically selfish cancer cells. Recalling Francois Jacob’s dictum that the dream of every cell is to become two cells, neurons vie to stay active and to be influential, but do not dream of multiplying.)

Intelligent control of an animal’s behavior is still a computational process, but the neurons are "selfish neurons," as Sebastian Seung has said, striving to maximize their intake of the different currencies of reward we have found in the brain. And what do neurons "buy" with their dopamine, their serotonin or oxytocin, etc.? Greater influence in the networks in which they participate.
So simple, elegant, and obvious. Selective governance via the natural tendency of the brain's neuronal circuits to Do What They Do..., what could be easier, more powerful, and more durable than that. The lengths to which some folks will go to furnish elaborate post hoc rationalizations of What It Do - and how that basic fact is exploited by those with the wherewithal to "engineer" values in the outside world - just crack me up.

Neuroeconomics - Dopamine Hegemony (REDUX Originally Posted 12/02/07)

For decades it has been known that these neurons and the dopamine they release play a critical role in brain mechanisms of reinforcement. Many of the drugs currently abused in our society mimic the actions of dopamine in the brain. This led many researchers to believe that dopamine neurons directly encoded the rewarding value of events in the outside world.

That last one is a gem. Even though the discipline is barely aborning, it's already become value-laden and placed in the service of a political agenda.

Neuroeconomics has been described as:

  • "an emerging transdisciplinary field that uses neuroscientific measurement techniques to identify the neural substrates associated with economic decisions” (Zak, 2004, p. 1737)
  • “Economics, psychology and neuroscience are converging today in to a single unified discipline with the ultimate aim of providing a single, general theory of human behavior. (…) The goal of this discipline is thus to understand the processes that connect sensation and action by revealing the neurobiological mechanisms by which decisions are made". (Glimcher & Rustichini, 2004, p. 447)
  • “the program for understanding the neural basis of the behavioral response to scarcity” (Ross, 2005, p. 330)
Money's effect on the brain is faster than language processing or face recognition. Money is ancient tricknology and not the human cultural artifact we commonly take it for granted as being..., when you study money, you're studying biology - not culture.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

French Women Not Beings "Apart" or Children With Adult Faces

LeMonde |  Rape is a crime. But insistent or clumsy drag is not a crime, nor is gallantry a machismo aggression.

As a result of the Weinstein affair, there has been a legitimate awareness of sexual violence against women, particularly in the workplace, where some men abuse their power. She was necessary. But this liberation of speech turns today into its opposite: we are intimate to speak properly, to silence what is angry, and those who refuse to comply with such injunctions are regarded as treacherous, accomplices!

But it is the characteristic of Puritanism to borrow, in the name of a so-called general good, the arguments of the protection of women and their emancipation to better bind them to a status of eternal victims, poor little things under the influence of demon phallocrats, as in the good old days of witchcraft.

In fact, #metoo has led in the press and on social networks a campaign of public denunciations and impeachment of individuals who, without being given the opportunity to respond or defend themselves, were put exactly on the same level as sex offenders. This expeditious justice already has its victims, men sanctioned in the exercise of their profession, forced to resign, etc., while they were only wrong to have touched one knee, tried to steal a kissing, talking about "intimate" things at a business dinner, or sending sexually explicit messages to a woman who was not attracted to each other.

This fever to send "pigs" to the slaughterhouse, far from helping women to empower themselves, actually serves the interests of the enemies of sexual freedom, religious extremists, the worst reactionaries and those who believe name of a substantial conception of the good and Victorian morality that goes with it, that women are beings "apart", children with an adult face, demanding to be protected.

Shitty Media Men

thecut |  In October, I created a Google spreadsheet called “Shitty Media Men” that collected a range of rumors and allegations of sexual misconduct, much of it violent, by men in magazines and publishing. The anonymous, crowdsourced document was a first attempt at solving what has seemed like an intractable problem: how women can protect ourselves from sexual harassment and assault.

One long-standing partial remedy that women have developed is the whisper network, informal alliances that pass on open secrets and warn women away from serial assaulters. Many of these networks have been invaluable in protecting their members. Still, whisper networks are social alliances, and as such, they’re unreliable. They can be elitist, or just insular. As Jenna Wortham pointed out in The New York Times Magazine, they are also prone to exclude women of color. Fundamentally, a whisper network consists of private conversations, and the document that I created was meant to be private as well. It was active for only a few hours, during which it spread much further and much faster than I ever anticipated, and in the end, the once-private document was made public — first when its existence was revealed in a BuzzFeed article by Doree Shafrir, then when the document itself was posted on Reddit.

A slew of think pieces ensued, with commentators alternately condemning the document as reckless, malicious, or puritanically anti-sex. Many called the document irresponsible, emphasizing that since it was anonymous, false accusations could be added without consequence. Others said that it ignored established channels in favor of what they thought was vigilantism and that they felt uncomfortable that it contained allegations both of violent assaults and inappropriate messages. Still other people just saw it as catty and mean, something like the “Burn Book” from Mean Girls. Because the document circulated among writers and journalists, many of the people assigned to write about it had received it from friends. Some faced the difficult experience of seeing other, male friends named. Many commentators expressed sympathy with the aims of the document — women warning women, trying to help one another — but thought that its technique was too radical. They objected to the anonymity, or to the digital format, or to writing these allegations down at all. Eventually, some media companies conducted investigations into employees who appeared on the spreadsheet; some of those men left their jobs or were fired.

None of this was what I thought was going to happen. In the beginning, I only wanted to create a place for women to share their stories of harassment and assault without being needlessly discredited or judged. The hope was to create an alternate avenue to report this kind of behavior and warn others without fear of retaliation. Too often, for someone looking to report an incident or to make habitual behavior stop, all the available options are bad ones. The police are notoriously inept at handling sexual-assault cases. Human-resources departments, in offices that have them, are tasked not with protecting employees but with shielding the company from liability — meaning that in the frequent occasion that the offender is a member of management and the victim is not, HR’s priorities lie with the accused. When a reporting channel has enforcement power, like an HR department or the police, it also has an obligation to presume innocence. In contrast, the value of the spreadsheet was that it had no enforcement mechanisms: Without legal authority or professional power, it offered an impartial, rather than adversarial, tool to those who used it. It was intended specifically not to inflict consequences, not to be a weapon — and yet, once it became public, many people immediately saw it as exactly that.

Recent months have made clear that no amount of power or money can shield a woman from sexual misconduct. But like me, many of the women who used the spreadsheet are particularly vulnerable: We are young, new to the industry, and not yet influential in our fields. As we have seen time after time, there can be great social and professional consequences for women who come forward. For us, the risks of using any of the established means of reporting were especially high and the chance for justice especially slim.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

But How Will We Pay For It?

truth-out |  One of the theoretical forerunners and bases of MMT is chartalism, an economic theory which argues that money is a creature of the state designed to direct economic activity. The theory has recently been popularized by David Graeber's book Debt: The First 5,000 Years, a wide-ranging work that touches upon issues ranging from gift economies, the linkage between quantification and violence, and the relationship between debt and conceptions of sin. In charting out the history of money, Graeber notes that, despite anthropological evidence to the contrary, economists have long clung to the myth of barter. 

However, money does not emerge from barter-based economic activities, but rather from the sovereign's desire to organize economic activity. The state issues currency and then imposes taxes. Because citizens are forced to use the state's currency to pay their taxes, they can trust that the currency will carry value in day-to-day economic activities. Governments with their own currency and a floating exchange rate (sovereign currency issuers like the United States) do not have to borrow from "bond vigilantes" to spend. They themselves first spend the money into existence and then collect it through taxation to enforce its usage. The state can spend unlimited amounts of money. It is only constrained by biophysical resources, and if the state spends beyond the availability of resources, the result is inflation, which can be mitigated by taxation. 

These simple facts carry radical policy implications. Taxes are not being used to fund spending, but rather to control inflation and redistribute income (and Trump's tax plan is certainly continuing the redistribution of income upward). Thus, we can make the case for progressive taxation from a moral standpoint concerned with social justice: We should tax rich people because their wealth is the product of exploitation and an affront to any truly democratic society, not because our transitional political program depends upon it. Congress can simply authorize the Treasury and the Federal Reserve to spend the money necessary for single-payer health care.

If we apply MMT to Medicare for All, the aforementioned "viability" debate and ungrounded fears about "printing money" fades into the background. Rather, our concerns shift toward examining our available resources and thinking about how to best provision them in such a way to as to advance social justice. This means training doctors, nurses and other medical practitioners. And it also means medical facilities being supplied with the necessary instruments, tools and technologies to provide care and treatment to patients and their communities. 

This carries implications for policymaking beyond Medicare for All. If money belongs to the public, then questions about who and what the public is will arise. By extension, money, financing and investment should be subject to popular control through directly democratic participatory processes.

Money As Tool, Money As Drug: The Biological Psychology of a Strong Incentive |  Why are people interested in money? Specifically, what could be the biological basis for the extraordinary incentive and reinforcing power of money, which seems to be unique to the human species? We identify two ways in which a commodity which is of no biological significance in itself can become a strong motivator. The first is if it is used as a tool, and by a metaphorical extension this is often applied to money: it is used instrumentally, in order to obtain biologically relevant incentives. Second, substances can be strong motivators because they imitate the action of natural incentives but do not produce the fitness gains for which those incentives are instinctively sought. The classic examples of this process are psychoactive drugs, but we argue that the drug concept can also be extended metaphorically to provide an account of money motivation. From a review of theoretical and empirical literature about money, we conclude that (i) there are a number of phenomena that cannot be accounted for by a pure Tool Theory of money motivation; (ii) supplementing Tool Theory with a Drug Theory enables the anomalous phenomena to be explained; and (iii) the human instincts that, according to a Drug Theory, money parasitizes include trading (derived from reciprocal altruism) and object play.

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

The Age of Oprah: Cultural Icon For The Neoliberal Era

WaPo |  America woke up Monday with a crazy idea in its addled brain: Oprah Winfrey could be the next president of the United States.

The notion has tugged at the imagination for as long as Winfrey has been famous, but her barnstorming speech at the Golden Globes on Sunday electrified much of the 56 percent of the populace that disapproves of her fellow television personality, President Trump. The possibility of a Winfrey campaign, on Monday at least, seemed capable of uniting both ends of the political spectrum.

“I want her to run for president,” Meryl Streep told The Washington Post just after the Globes ceremony. “I don’t think she had any intention [of declaring]. But now she doesn’t have a choice.”
“Oprah. #ImWithHer,” tweeted Bill Kristol, scion of neoconservatism and the original promoter of Sarah Palin, whose tongue-in-cheek declaration gave way to an objective case for her candidacy: “Understands Middle America better than Elizabeth Warren,” he tweeted. “Less touchy-feely than Joe Biden, more pleasant than Andrew Cuomo, more charismatic than John Hickenlooper.”

The question lingering under this surprising groundswell: Are we now at a point where we believe celebrity is a prerequisite for winning (let alone governing)? Jokes about Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson being so widely likable that he, too, could run for president have recently morphed into something like actual candidate buzz; the wrestler-turned-actor recently said he’s “seriously considering” a run.

“Arguably Donald Trump is the most famous man in the world,” said GOP strategist Rick Wilson, a never-Trump Republican. Under the new rules of political engagement, “maybe you can only beat a celebrity with another celebrity.”

Her chances of winning? “One hundred percent,” said another Republican strategist who has worked on presidential campaigns and who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speculate brazenly. “If she runs for the Democratic nomination, I think it’s over.”

Pure Identity Politics (REDUX Originally Posted 8/30/08)

Three and a half years ago, I anticipated and wrote about what's now unfolding in the presidential election. Over the next few weeks, there'll be a lot of mendacious talk about everything on the periphery of what just happened. But let me spell out the truth of the matter very simply and directly here and now.

John McCain's campaign Policy and People-Centric Leadership Challenged DNC Corporate Elites have just dropped an immense turd into the American political punchbowl. (no offense intended to Sarah Palin Oprah Winfrey who is just being ruthlessly exploited for GOP DNC political gain) So how do I know this? Up until a couple days ago, McCain had only ever had one telephone conversation with Palin over the prior 18 months! It's not as if he even knows her or cares to - instead - Palin Oprah is merely a convenient cog in the bottom-scraping GOP DNC political calculus.

The McCain campaign is Corporate Elites and the Deep State are categorically NOT about issues anymore, at all. Instead, it is a desperate and impulsive fin d'siecle crapshoot rooted in pure identity politics. The writing has been on the wall for a minute concerning the GOP DNC endgame, starting with McCain's  attack on Obama's "celebrity". Here now is the gist of what I wrote few years ago, and a couple of very important links that may serve to better illuminate EXACTLY what the GOP strategists Corporate Elites and Deep State are attempting to do with the selection of Palin as McCain's running mate Oprah for Celebrity Clash of the Titans 2020.
First, everyone should read A Guide to the White Trash Planet for Urban Liberals. It is an eye-opening view into the next big job for Americans of good faith. Not only must we Work hard on increasing and enriching the level of interpersonal engagement within our own communities, the next evolutionary push will have to involve education, outreach, and socialization - interpersonal communion - with and among the masses of the poor, white, and pissed. This will not be easy. But it is most definitely necessary.
Not only will this enrich both our respective communities, it will comprise a bulwark against the genuinely evil predations that the backers of the present administration have in store for America. Second, folks need to read The Full Blown Oprah Effect, Reflections on Color, Class, and New Age Racism. This article drives home the necessity of enlarged, renewed, and full engagement on multiple fronts for any genuinely interested in seeing America politically work its way back out of the regressive nosedive engineered by the GOP.
Bottomline - we have all GOT to Work toward being on the same side, or, we will all surely lose in ways and to an extent never previously imagined.

Off My Current Arc, But You Knew Yvette Would Slap The Black Off Oprah Tonite!

visioncircle |  For the past couple weeks I've been indulging a guilty pleasure - no holds barred textual street fighting. It's what invariably happens when I go to visit a sleeply little listserve with an established pecking order and protectionist orthodoxy. Think Vin Diesel's character in Knockaround Guys, and you have a pretty clear picture of what I'm talking about. I'll watch the list flow for a minute, identify the toughest poster(s) - whose self-appointed job it is to enforce aggregate status quo by challenging and discouraging potentially upsetting ecclexia.

Posting something certain to draw a response from the local toughs, I then proceed to share with these hapless rubes (it's always doods too) the hard-earned monstrousness I've amassed over the course of the preceding 2000 textual brawls.

Just like your local divey tavern, listserves exist for socialization, validation, and transaction. Both lurkers and active posters alike are embarked on individual quests for *something*. Whether the urge to socialize, or, the basic shameful human primate propensity for rubbernecking gory altercations, the listserve ecology hosts no innocents - just experience and objective gradients running the gamut from newbie to seasoned regular.

My objective is twofold, first, I enjoy the mayhem. If I ever even attempt to say otherwise, I'm lying like a dog. Second, and more importantly, I long ago discovered the developmental value of friction. Basically, if you put somebody's beliefs and ego to the test, they'll either duck and fold, or, actually step up with their A-game and yield some deep thought you'd otherwise never hear in a thousand years of *civil* conversation. THATis the scarce and precious commodity I'm trawling lists to harvest in the first place.

Ideally, the fight isn't staged simply to wreak devastation. Rather, the goal is to call out the resident champion of an aggregate pov and elicit from that individual the ideative first fruits of the collective he exemplifies. Every Fallujah I've left in my wake is a zero-sum game both literally and figuratively. [and a superb illustration of the absurdity of neocon mentality and policy to boot]

Having temporarily abandoned my afrostocratic haunts in favor of a little good old red-state neocon slumming and brawling - I'll admit I've left a few Fallujah's scattered across the digital countryside. I thought I was embarked on yet another one until yesterday, when a pitched battle finally resulted in pacification of a sizeable enforcer clique and a tentative detente with its champion. Make no mistake, it wasn't "hail and well met" it was straight up ugly and savage until the bell rang and my adversary said "no mas".

After vetting my old school conservative credentials, this individual shared the following gem with me - A Guide to the White Trash Planet for Urban Liberals. It is an eye-opening view into the next big job for Americans of good faith.
Not only must we Work hard on increasing and enriching the level of interpersonal engagement within our own communities, the next evolutionary push will have to involve education, outreach, and socialization - interpersonal communion - with and among the masses of the poor, white, and pissed. This will not be easy. But it is most definitely necessary.

Not only will this enrich both our respective communities, it will comprise a bulwark against the genuinely evil predations that the backers of the present administration have in store for America.

The Full Blown Oprah Effect, Reflections on Color, Class, and New Age Racism really drove home to me the necessity of enlarged, renewed, and full engagement on multiple fronts for any genuinely interested in seeing America politically work its way back out of the regressive nosedive that the neocons have engineered. We have all GOT to Work toward being on the same side, or, we will all surely lose.

"Covert racism may actually be deepened by these civil rights victories and by related partial black upward mobility into the middle and upper classes insofar as those victories and achievements have served to encourage the illusion that racism has disappeared and that the only obstacles left to African-American success and equality are internal to individual blacks and their community – the idea that, in Derrick Bell’s phrase, “the indolence of blacks rather than the injustice of whites explains the socioeconomic gaps separating the races.”


Monday, January 08, 2018

Subtitled: I Don't Know - But Here's One Helluva Gish Gallop!!!

babylonsbanksters | “Modern fiat money and reserve banking is indeed a manifestation of the transmutative ‘nothingness’ of the Philosophers’ Stone, for from the creation of credit out of nothing, gold is produced.” By nationalizing that money and credit-creating institution “and wresting it from private, secretive hands, and using it to fund the alchemical physics it was beginning to develop as the ultimate energy source, as the ultimate power to transport mankind, and as the ultimate power for destruction on a doomsday scale, the Nazis indicated that they had understood the nature of the (Philosophers’) Stone. They had seen, and fully understood, the connection between alchemical physics, and alchemical finance. And they were willing to put it to supremely evil uses.

“But that connection between alchemical physics and alchemical finance is, perhaps, a relationship that requires its own exposition….

The Philosophers’ Stone: Alchemy and the Secret Research for Exotic Matter. The reader may have inferred from these quoted remarks that there was much more of the story — both from the standpoint of physics and finance, and from that of history — to tell, and that it would require yet another study or book to do so. If the reader made such inferences, he is correct on both counts: there is much more of the story of the relationship between physics and finance to tell.

The thesis of this book is both simple to state, and difficult to understand, and that is that, since ancient times and with more or less uninterrupted constancy, there has existed an international money power which seeks by a variety of means — including fraud, deception, assassination, and war — to usurp the money- and credit-creating power of the various states it has sought to dominate, and to obfuscate and occult the profound connection between that money-creating power and the deep “alchemical physics” that such power implies.

Accordingly, I do not argue that case comprehensively in this book, since to do so would require an extended series of books, each devoted to a particular historical period, and each burying the reader in a blizzard of footnotes to the extent that the main thesis would itself become obscured. Rather, I assume this model as a given, as an interpretive paradigm by which to view certain events and data. In so doing, that case is indeed argued, but in synoptic form rather than comprehensively. In doing so, I hope to keep before the reader’s attention that deep and profound connection between physics and finance and to show why it is that the private and international money power must always seek to suppress not only certain types of state financial policy, but also certain types of physics, for both indeed spring from a common conceptual root.

Most of my books, as readers familiar with them already know, inhabit a strange region where alternative physics interfaces with history to reveal the latter’s hidden motivations, secrets, and players. This book is no different, save for the fact that I have obviously added a new conceptual player: finance and economics. And along the way, we shall encounter other major conceptual scenery that readers of my books have encountered before: alchemy, astrology, astronomy, torsion, Egypt, Babylon, Nazis, ancient texts and tomes and modern mathematical gurus speaking the arcane language of statistical and topological lore.

In fact, in one of those odd synchronicities that seem to increase in modern life, as this book was being researched and written, decades — if not centuries or even millennia — of corruption and intellectual flaccidity in the financial, banking, and corporate sectors of the world came to an ugly head with the collapse of the housing and derivatives bubble, and the appearance of some of those responsible for the meltdown before the United States House of Representatives, hands extended, asking for a bailout of their malfeasance and irresponsibility at the expense of the American taxpayer, and demanding no oversight to boot, as if they were being forced to pay some hidden blackmailer, and were afraid that oversight might disclose this fact.

But why call it “irresponsibility” and not simply “criminality”? In the answer to that question there lies a tale, and it is a tale I did not originally intend to go into when I conceived the plan for this series of books many years ago, much less the plan for this one. Recent financial events, however, have contrived to place the story I intended to tell after completing The Nazi International and The Philosophers’ Stone into a rather different context. As will become apparent to the reader in the main text, I do believe there is criminality and conspiracy involved in the story of the complex relationship of physics and finance throughout history. And paradoxically, the farther back one pursues this relationship, the closer together physics, finance, and all those other themes enunciated above as the conceptual scenery, draw together, and the more apparent the odor of a long-standing conspiracy becomes.

But in and of itself the contemporary financial meltdown is both a story of conspiracy as well as a case of galloping stupidity and colossal intellectual, political, and economic irresponsibility proportional to the aforesaid stupidity. It is nonetheless a story with its own deep connections to the story of the main text, and it is as good an entry into the subject as any.

So, as a way of entering into the discussion of the themes that preoccupy the main text, one may examine two salient modern examples that arose to challenge the reigning financial and physical assumptions of that money power.

Those examples are Communist China and Nazi Germany.

Economics Which Models Itself After 19th Century Physics Is Overdue For An Update

aeon |  The price theory assumes that there exist fixed and independent curves that describe supply and demand, but the reality is that these forces are coupled and in flux – and the idea that they lead to a stable and optimal equilibrium seems more than a little wobbly.

Even stranger, though, is that in answering these basic questions money hardly seems to be mentioned – despite the fact that one would think money is at the heart of the subject. (Isn’t economics about money? Aren’t prices set by using money?) If you look at those textbooks, you will find that, while money is used as a metric, and there is some discussion of basic monetary plumbing, money is not considered an important subject in itself. And both money and the role of the financial sector are usually completely missing from economic models, nor do they get paid lip service. One reason central banks couldn’t predict the banking crisis was because their models didn’t include banks.

Economists, it seems, think about money less than most people do: as Mervyn King, the former governor of the Bank of England, observed in 2001: ‘Most economists hold conversations in which the word “money” hardly appears at all.’ For example, the key question of money-creation by private banks, according to the German economist Richard Werner, has been ‘a virtual taboo for the thousands of researchers of the world’s central banks during the past half century’. And then there is the mass of complex financial derivatives, whose nominal value was estimated in 2010 at $1.2 quadrillion, but which is nowhere to be found in conventional models, even though it was at the root of the crisis.

To sum up, the key tenets of mainstream or neoclassical economics – including such things as ‘utility’ or ‘demand curves’ or ‘rational economic man’ – are just made-up inventions, no more real than the crystalline spheres that Medieval astronomers thought suspended the planets. But real things like money are to a remarkable extent ignored.

In physics, the quantum revolution was born when physicists found that at the subatomic level energy was always exchanged in terms of discrete parcels, which they called quanta, from the Latin for ‘how much’. Perhaps we need to follow the quantum lead, and look at transactions between people. In economics, the equivalent would be exchanges of money – like when you go into a shop, point at something, and ask: How much? Or, if you’re in Italy, Quanto?, which makes the connection a little clearer.

Sunday, January 07, 2018

What Cultural Question/Problem Is Answered By Marijuana?

aeon |  Clearly, the causal motion swings both ways. Cultural questions can popularise certain drugs; but sometimes popular drugs end up creating our culture. From rave culture booming on the back of ecstasy to a culture of hyper-productivity piggybacking on drugs initially meant to help with cognitive and attention deficits, the symbiosis between chemical and culture is evident.
But while drugs can both answer cultural questions and create entirely new cultures, there is no simple explanation for why one happens rather than the other. If rave culture is created by ecstasy, does that mean ecstasy is also ‘answering’ a cultural question; or was ecstasy simply there and rave culture blossomed around it? The line of causality is easily blurred.

A corollary can be found in the human sciences where it is extraordinarily difficult to categorise different types of people because, as soon as one starts ascribing properties to groups, people change and spill out of the parameters to which they were first assigned. The philosopher of science Ian Hacking coined the term for this: ‘the looping effect’. People ‘are moving targets because our investigations interact with them, and change them,’ Hacking wrote in the London Review of Books. ‘And since they are changed, they are not quite the same kind of people as before.’

This holds true for the relationship between drugs and culture as well. ‘Every time a drug is invented that interacts with the brains and minds of users, it changes the very object of the study: the people who are using,’ says Henry Cowles, assistant professor of the history of medicine at Yale. On this reading, the idea that drugs create culture is true, to an extent, but it is likewise true that cultures can shift and leave a vacuum of unresolved desires and questions that drugs are often able to fill. 

Take the example of American housewives addicted to barbiturates and other drugs. The standard and aforementioned causal argument is that they were culturally repressed, had few freedoms, and so sought out the drugs as a way to overcome their anomie: LSD and later antidepressants were ‘answer drugs’ to the strict cultural codes, as well as a means to self-medicate emotional pain. But, Cowles argues, one might just as easily say that ‘these drugs were created with various sub-populations in mind and they end up making available a new kind of housewife or a new kind of working woman, who is medicated in order to enable this kind of lifestyle’. In short, Cowles says: ‘The very image of the depressed housewife emerges only as a result of the possibility of medicating that.’

Such an explanation puts drugs at the centre of the past century of cultural history for a simple reason: if drugs can create and underscore cultural limitations, then drugs and their makers can tailor-make entire socio-cultural demographics (eg, ‘the depressed housewife’ or ‘the hedonistic, cocaine-snorting Wall Street trader’). Crucially, this creation of cultural categories applies to everyone, meaning that even those not using the popularised drugs of a given era are beholden to their cultural effects. The causality is muddy, but what is clear is that it swings back and forth: drugs both ‘answer’ cultural questions and allow for cultures to be created around themselves.

Looking at the culture of today, perhaps the biggest question answered by drugs are issues of focus and productivity – a consequence of the modern ‘attention economy’, as termed by the Nobel Prize-winning economist Herbert Alexander Simon.

Saturday, January 06, 2018

President Trump is The Most Pro-life, Pro-religious Liberty, Pro-Israel President in History

DallasObserver |  Robert Jeffress, pastor at First Baptist Dallas, committed himself to Donald Trump and his presidency in 2016, positioning himself as the evangelical face of Trumpism. This year, for better and worse, Jeffress has reaped the consequences of that commitment, repeatedly finding himself at the center of the Trump universe because of his words, decisions or sheer proximity to the president. He has more access to the president and the White House than any other religious leader in the country. 

As the first installment of America: The Trump Years winds down, let's take a look at all the fun Jeffress had in 2017.

RightWingWatch |  Robert Jeffress, a faith adviser to and staunch supporter of President Trump, told Religious Right radio host Janet Mefferd yesterday that Trump’s presidency has exposed a divide among evangelicals between those “who take the Bible seriously and those who don’t,” saying that Trump’s critics among the “evangelical elite” don’t embrace the true values of the faith.

During yesterday’s episode of “Janet Mefferd Live” on American Family Radio, Mefferd spoke with Jeffress about articles that have documented how the “evangelical divide” has intensified under Trump. Jeffress denied that Trump created the schisms in the evangelical community, saying that the “evangelical elite” had already been distancing itself from biblical values.

“Look, poor President Trump gets blamed for everything from the melting of the polar ice caps to now the evangelical crisis. And you know, that word ‘crisis’ means ‘divide.’ And I will admit there is a divide going on among evangelicals. President Trump didn’t cause the divide, but he has exposed it,” Jeffress said. “It’s been a growing divide, Janet, between evangelicals who take the Bible seriously and those who don’t. I call them the ‘evangelical elite’—the ‘Christianity of the day’ crowd.”

Jeffress continued, “And here’s where it comes down to—think about this. President Trump is the most pro-life, pro-religious liberty, pro-Israel president in history. So why do we have this resistance among the evangelical elite while the mass of evangelicals in the pews support him? And what it comes down to is the evangelical elite really don’t embrace these values.”

Narrative Redirection Away From Israel Collusion and Origins of Russiagate

WaPo |  Author Michael Wolff bolstered President Trump's effort to discredit the new book “Fire and Fury” on Friday when he acknowledged in a “Today” show interview that he had been willing to say whatever was “necessary” to gain access at the White House.

Wolff's admission does not directly undermine the veracity of his reporting, but it creates the appearance that he might have approached some members of the president's team under false pretenses, leading sources to believe that when they opened up they were speaking to a sympathetic ear. That's a bad look — one which the White House can use to impugn Wolff's integrity and, perhaps unfairly, cast doubt on whichever elements of his work the president doesn't like.

Here's Wolff's exchange with “Today” show co-host Savannah Guthrie:
GUTHRIE: Your former editor at Vanity Fair, Graydon Carter, said he wasn't surprised you'd written this explosive book; he was surprised they let you in the door at the White House. Are you surprised?
WOLFF: You know, um, no. I'm a nice guy. I go in . . .
GUTHRIE: Did you flatter your way in?
WOLFF: I certainly said what was ever necessary to get the story.
It's easy to find examples of Wolff saying things that would please Trump and his team — a theme being that other journalists are unfair.

On the morning after Trump's election, Wolff wrote in the Hollywood Reporter that “the media turned itself into the opposition and, accordingly, was voted down as the new political reality emerged.” He scolded New Yorker editor David Remnick for calling Trump's win an “American tragedy” and wrote that “awe might have been in order.”

A short time later, Wolff addressed fellow reporters in an interview with Digiday. “Let me send the message: stenographer is what you're supposed to be,” he said.

After Trump's inauguration, Wolff accused the press of waging a campaign to take down the president. “The media's holy grail is, as it's been for much of the campaign, about what will stick,” he wrote in Newsweek. “Of the myriad likely damaging possibilities, which one will be so prima facie damaging (pay no attention to the many instances that many people already thought were, or would be) or so shocking and insulting to the body politic that it will be the end, or at least the beginning of the end, of Trump? Nothing counts but delivering a mortal wound, so everything is delivered as though it is a mortal wound.”

Your Views On Marijuana Legalization?

WaPo |  Jeff Sessions hates marijuana. Hates it, with a passion that has animated almost nothing else in his career. “Good people don’t smoke marijuana,” he has said. He even once said about the Ku Klux Klan, “I thought those guys were okay until I learned they smoked pot.”

He says that was a joke, but even so, it still says something about where he’s coming from.

So if you’re wondering why Sessions has endured the humiliation of being demeaned and abused by President Trump and stayed on as attorney general, one big answer is the policy change he announced this week, that he is rescinding an Obama-era directive that instructed federal prosecutors not to prioritize prosecuting businesses like dispensaries in states that had legalized cannabis. Sessions is finally getting the chance to lock up all those hippies, with their pot-smoking and their free love and their wah-wah pedals and everything immoral they represent. He’ll show them.

WaPo |  Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Thursday that he will rescind a Justice Department memorandum — known as the Cole Memo — that granted protection to state-legal and regulated marijuana companies. In doing so, Sessions has not only brushed aside science, logic and the prevailing public opinion, but he has also contradicted the opinion of the president he serves and his own party’s governing values.

Sessions’s decision empowers U.S. attorneys to begin prosecuting an industry that has complied with state laws and regulations and has, since 2013, been granted an effective waiver from federal intervention. During this time, the legal marijuana industry has become a multibillion-dollar venture, employing tens of thousands of Americans from coast to coast.

This decision to reignite the drug war comes as little surprise. Sessions once said that “good people don’t smoke marijuana.” He has shown a deep ignorance of the realities of the drug war, which has been ineffective and costly and has disproportionately affected minority communities. And he has committed to numerous claims that have been dispelled by science, such as cannabis’s gateway effect and the idea that marijuana is “only slightly less awful” than heroin.

Friday, January 05, 2018

Luxturna Is An Apt Name For An $850,000 Drug...,

technologyreview |  The $850,000 price of a newly approved gene therapy for blindness stunned patient advocates, but the sticker shock could quickly wear off.

Many costly drugs need to be purchased year after year. But gene therapies are given only once, with potentially permanent effects.

Mark Trusheim, who directs MIT’s New Drug Development Paradigms program, says gene therapies are moving medicine from a model of “renting” treatments to one of “buying” long-term health improvements.

“The challenge is like going from being an apartment renter to a condo buyer and being shocked at [the] purchase price,” he says.

Philadelphia-based Spark Therapeutics said yesterday that it planned to charge $425,000 per eye for Luxturna, the first gene therapy for an inherited disease to reach the U.S. market.

David Mitchell, founder and president of the advocacy group Patients for Affordable Drugs, is concerned that the treatment will be out of reach for people with high-deductible health plans and would bankrupt those without insurance.

Purity of Blood?

atlasobscura |  The phrase limpieza, “purity of blood,” came into common use in the sixteenth century. The phrase was understood literally, not metaphorically: Medical belief held that blood was the principal of four humors in the body, because it circulated the other humors. Blood therefore played an essential role in establishing a person’s character.

The most important conflict over limpieza discrimination came in the mid-16th century. The Toledo archbishop, Juan Martínez Silíceo, limpieza’s strongest proponent, recommended imposing purity-of-blood restrictions in his archdiocese.

The most prominent cleric to resist this was Ignacio de Loyola, founder of the Jesuit order. Loyola befriended Spanish conversos at the University of Paris, who eventually became some of the founding members of the Jesuits. Diego Lainez, a converso, succeeded Loyola as the order’s superior general.

The prominence of conversos within the Jesuits meant it was inevitable that the order would come into conflict with Archbishop Silíceo. Silíceo banned members of the order from acting as priests without first being personally examined by him. Jesuits could only win Silíceo’s favor by adopting limpieza, and Loyola refused to comply. This significantly impeded the growth of the order in Spain.

But the resonances of Spanish limpieza restrictions went far beyond their effect on the Jesuit order. Iberian initiatives—African race slavery, the discovery of America, the development of plantation agriculture—made limpieza a force in the development of anti-black racism.

Beginning in the 1440s, Spain and Portugal entered the African slave trade, formerly dominated by Islamic countries. The discovery of America and the development of plantation agriculture considerably expanded African slavery. Between 1500 and 1580 Spain shipped approximately 74,000 African people to America; this number increased to approximately 714,000 between 1580 and 1640.

Along with slavery, Spain exported limpieza. In 1552, the Spanish Crown decreed that emigrants to America must furnish proof of limpieza. The Spanish deployed limpieza throughout Spanish America and the Portuguese adopted it in Brazil. In its new environment, limpieza began to mutate, beginning to refer to an absence of black blood as well as an absence of Jewish blood.

In both cases, the idea was that “impure” blood could taint a person’s character. In 1604, historian Fray Prudencio de Sandoval compared the impure natures of blacks and Jews: “Who can deny that in descendants of Jews there persists and endures the evil inclination of their ancient ingratitude and lack of understanding, just as in the Negroes [there persists] the inseparability of their blackness. For if the latter should unite themselves a thousand times with white women, the children are born with the dark color of the father. Similarly, it is not enough for the Jew to be three parts aristocrat or Old Christian, for one Jewish ancestor alone defiles and corrupts him.”

The main target of limpieza in the Americas was black blood. Limpieza was used to discriminate against Africans both to justify race slavery and to enforce the distinctions that a race slave system required.