Monday, March 31, 2008

Polarized America

Polarized America and the VoteView Project;
With few exceptions, roll call voting throughout American history has been simply structured. Only two dimensions are required to account for the great bulk of roll call voting. The primary dimension is the basic issue of the role of the government in the economy, in modern terms liberal-moderate-conservative. The second dimension picked up regional differences with the United States -- first slavery, then bimetalism, and after 1937, Civil Rights for African-Americans. With the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and the 1967 Open Housing Act, this second dimension slowly declined in importance and is now almost totally absent. Race related issues - affirmative action, welfare, Medicaid, subsidized housing, etc. - are now questions of redistribution. Voting on race related issues now largely takes place along the liberal-conservative dimension and the old split in the Democratic Party between North and South has largely disappeared. Voting in Congress is now almost purely one-dimensional - a single dimension accounts for about 92 percent of roll call voting choices in the 109th House and Senate - and the two parties are increasingly polarized.

Polarization declined in both chambers from roughly the beginning of the 20th Century until World War II. It was then fairly stable until the late 1970s and has been increasing steadily over the past 20 years. Our (Poole and Rosenthal, 1997) original D-NOMINATE estimation ended with the 99th Congress. Interestingly, Congresses 100- 109, if anything, mark an acceleration of the trend (especially in the House). Note, however, that the acceleration is smooth and does not show a particular jump in polarization induced by the large Republican freshman class elected in 1994. Polarization in the Senate is now at the highest level since the end of Reconstruction. The level of Polarization in the 109th House is exceeded only by the Houses of 1895-96 and 1905-06.

The Economist Has No Clothes

It's so long overdue that this framework of systematized just-so storytelling gets a richly deserved debunking. In the April edition of Scientific American; The 19th-century creators of neoclassical economics—the theory that now serves as the basis for coordinating activities in the global market system—are credited with transforming their field into a scientific discipline. But what is not widely known is that these now legendary economists—William Stanley Jevons, Léon Walras, Maria Edgeworth and Vilfredo Pareto—developed their theories by adapting equations from 19th-century physics that eventually became obsolete. Unfortunately, it is clear that neoclassical economics has also become outdated. The theory is based on unscientific assumptions that are hindering the implementation of viable economic solutions for global warming and other menacing environmental problems.

City Subpoenas Creator of Text Messaging Code

Now see, it wasn't necessary to bring Kwame into the mix, but I just couldn't help myself;
the idea for TXTmob evolved from conversations about how police departments were adopting strategies to counter large-scale marches that converged at a single spot.

While preparing for the 2004 political conventions in New York and Boston, some demonstrators decided to plan decentralized protests in which small, mobile groups held rallies and roamed the streets.

“The idea was to create a very dynamic, fluid environment,” Mr. Hirsch said. “We wanted to transform areas around the entire city into theaters of dissent.”

Organizers wanted to enable people in different areas to spread word of what they were seeing in each spot and to coordinate their movements. Mr. Hirsch said that he wrote the TXTmob code over about two weeks. After a trial run in Boston during the Democratic National Convention, the service was in wide use during the Republican convention in New York. Hundreds of people went to the TXTmob Web site and joined user groups at no charge.

As a result, when members of the War Resisters League were arrested after starting to march up Broadway, or when Republican delegates attended a performance of “The Lion King” on West 42nd Street, a server under a desk in Cambridge, Mass., transmitted messages detailing the action, often while scenes on the streets were still unfolding.

Messages were exchanged by self-organized first-aid volunteers, demonstrators urging each other on and even by people in far-flung cities who simply wanted to trade thoughts or opinions with those on the streets of New York. Reporters began monitoring the messages too, looking for word of breaking news and rushing to spots where mass arrests were said to be taking place.

And Mr. Hirsch said he thought it likely that police officers were among those receiving TXTmob messages on their phones.

It is difficult to know for sure who received messages, but an examination of police surveillance documents prepared in 2003 and 2004, and unsealed by a federal magistrate last year, makes it clear that the authorities were aware of TXTmob at least a month before the Republican convention began.
Text is forever...,

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Sociometric Reality Mining

Within the next few years, Pentland predicts, reality mining will become more common, thanks in part to the proliferation and increasing sophistication of cell phones. Many handheld devices now have the processing power of low-end desktop computers, and they can also collect more varied data, thanks to devices such as GPS chips that track location. And researchers such as Pentland are getting better at making sense of all that information.

To create an accurate model of a person's social network, for example, Pentland's team combines a phone's call logs with information about its proximity to other people's devices, which is continuously collected by Bluetooth sensors. With the help of factor analysis, a statistical technique commonly used in the social sciences to explain correlations among multiple variables, the team identifies patterns in the data and translates them into maps of social relationships. Such maps could be used, for instance, to accurately categorize the people in your address book as friends, family members, acquaintances, or coworkers. In turn, this information could be used to automatically establish privacy settings--for instance, allowing only your family to view your schedule. With location data added in, the phone could predict when you would be near someone in your network. In a paper published last May, ­Pentland and his group showed that cell-phone data enabled them to accurately model the social networks of about 100 MIT students and professors. They could also precisely predict where subjects would meet with members of their networks on any given day of the week.

The Journal of Social Structure

As above, so below, as within, so without;
Social Network Analysis [1] is an approach to studying organisations focusing on analysing the networks of relationships between people and/or groups as the most important aspect. Going back at least to the 1950's, it is characterised by adopting mathematical techniques especially from graph theory [2, 3]. It has applications in organisational psychology, sociology, and anthropology. An excellent overview of the field is given by Wasserman and Faust [1].

Social Network Analysis provides an avenue for analysing and comparing formal and informal information flows in an organisation, as well as comparing information flows with officially defined work processes. We are interested in applying Social Network Analysis to military organisations, and especially to military headquarters ranging from brigade to national strategic levels.

An important aspect of Social Network Analysis is the visualisation of communication and other relationships between people and/or groups, by means of diagrams. Visualisation of Social Networks has a long tradition, and an excellent historical survey is given by Freeman [4]. Visualisation of Social Networks is important because of the complexity of organisational structure, and the need for good visual representations of how an organisation functions.

A second aspect is the study of factors which influence relationships, for example the age, background, and training of the people involved. Studying the correlations between relationships is also important, since it offers insights into the reasons why relationships exists. These studies can be done using traditional statistical techniques such as correlation, analysis of variance, and factor analysis, but also require appropriate visualisation techniques.

The ultimate goal of Social Network Analysis is often to draw out implications of the relational data, in order to make recommendations to improve communication and workflow in an organisation. This is the major motivation for our Social Network Analysis programme. In previous work [5, 6, 7], we have applied Social Network Analysis to military organisations. In the course of this work, we have found conceptual distance to be the most useful construct in explaining relationships. This is partly because the human brain is skilled at thinking about and visually judging distances. In this paper we argue the benefits of using conceptual distance for analysing Social Networks, and demonstrate how to do so using a case study.
Table of Contents for the Journal in its entirety.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Gurdjieff's Theory of Laughter

This is about Jill Bolte Taylor, Shirley Q. Liquor, Cognitive Dissonance, and the American Tradition.

What It Do;
Gurdjieff offers us a theory of laughter, independent of any state of amusement (= humor), that nevertheless distinguishes between laughter as a physiological response and the organismic cause of it, which he also calls “laughter.” This organismic variable (O), though not necessarily the same as humor, is shown to be a complex structure that is radically different from the visible laughter that results from it. Since his conception of O, though outlined in a most rudimentary and concise form, provides us the basis of the most viable theory of humor that we have been able to elaborate and immediately brings into relief some of the most conspicuous features of this humor-theory, we find it both convenient and opportune to begin with his succinct formulation of the structure of the organismic variable responsible for both humor and laughter. The passage on laughter is reproduced below in full and much of this thesis may be considered to be a systematic interpretation of his theory of laughter, its integration into a general theory of humor, and a sustained exploration of its consequences in various domains. We shall ignore his references to other aspects of his system such as his theory of yawning, of accumulators, centers, and so on, except insofar as they are relevant to our proper understanding of humor.
The framed web presentation is very cumbersome, but the analysis is on point and is the likes of which you will never encounter in the ordinary literature....,

Gurdjieff’s Theory of Laughter

1. Though only a theory of laughter, and not of humor, it distinguishes between the binary-structured organismic variable (O) and its physiological resolution (R). O provides the basis of the most viable theory of humor even while preserving its link with laughter (R).

2. R is the discarding of superfluous energy due to O: an unstable structural opposition between two sharply contrasting simultaneous impressions, positive and negative, of a single stimulus (S). It is not the particular contents—cognitive, affective or motor—but the binary structure of the mutual neutralization that determines O.

3. R is pleasurable due to relief from tension and not due to amusement (as in humor); O may nevertheless have a painful element.

4. Though the convulsion O may be unerringly registered by the subject, the constituents and even structure of O may remain unspecifiable.

5. This laughter mechanism releases possibly pre-existing negative emotions through the negative component of O. Thus, culturally it is a ‘luxury reflex,’ simultaneously valorized for the relative freedom from fundamental biological instincts it provides and also devalorized for its necessary dependence on the same. Marks the ambivalent threshold between nature and culture.

6. Laughter being infectious, R in another can act independently of S for one’s own laughter (parastha-hâsa). Similarly, another’s laughter induces one to perceive the real S in terms of O.

7. The possibility and frequency of O’s occurrence is doubly determined: both by the effectiveness of the stimulus (S) and the subjective state of the individual (also his psychic constitution).

8. [61] Gurdjieff’s ‘behaviorizing’ theory of the psychology of the ordinary modern man is perfectly compatible with the traditional ‘psychology’ underlying brahmanical philosophy; just as the reversal of the ‘behavioral circuit,’ the finality of his system, is the counterpart of the ‘autonomy’ (svâtantrya) of the Trika ‘metapsychology.’ It is within this combined theoretical framework that humor-and-laughter, hâsa-and-hâsya, will be investigated in their universality.

9. Hâsa classified as a pleasant emotion despite the neutral character of O, because the resulting laughter (R) is pleasant.

10. Reduction of Freud’s ‘comic of movement’ to Gurdjieff’s ‘laughter in the moving-instinctive center.’

Stop Alien Abductions

The thought screen helmet

The thought screen helmet has effectively stopped several types of aliens from abducting or controlling humans. Only two failures from standard thought screen helmets have been reported since 1998 for people being abducted by aliens themselves. A third failure in 2005 was from a cloth helmet with a smaller area of Velostat which had a Velcro strap which was easily removed by an alien-human hybrid.

A fourth failure was with a frail woman who had her helmet removed by two alien-human hybrids who snuck up behind her, tackled her and forcedly removed it. The helmet still works for people being abducted by aliens, but not by their alien-human hybrids who are now integrating into our societies. blocks telepathic communication between aliens and humans. Aliens cannot immobilize people wearing thought screens nor can they control their minds or communicate with them using their telepathy. When aliens can't communicate or control humans, they do not take them.

Cognitive Dissonance Incompatible With Collective Psychology

Cognitive dissonance is a psychological state that describes the uncomfortable feeling between what one holds to be true and what one knows to be true. Similar to ambivalence, the term cognitive dissonance describes conflicting thoughts or beliefs (cognitions) that occur at the same time, or when engaged in behaviors that conflict with one's beliefs. In academic literature, the term refers to attempts to reduce the discomfort of conflicting thoughts, by performing actions that are opposite to one's beliefs.

In simple terms, it can be the filtering of information that conflicts with what one already believes, in an effort to ignore that information and reinforce one's beliefs. In detailed terms, it is the perception of incompatibility between two cognitions, where "cognition" is defined as any element of knowledge, including attitude, emotion, belief, or behavior. The theory of cognitive dissonance states that contradicting cognitions serve as a driving force that compels the mind to acquire or invent new thoughts or beliefs, or to modify existing beliefs, so as to reduce the amount of dissonance (conflict) between cognitions. Experiments have attempted to quantify this hypothetical drive. Some of these have examined how beliefs often change to match behavior when beliefs and behavior are in conflict.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Shirley Q. Liquor

Charles Knipp is a self-described forty-five-year-old, fat, gay white man who believes he's on a mission from God. A mission that involves mimicking Black women as his alter ego character Shirley Q. Liquor.

The character is a favorite among his core audience whom Knipp describes as being “gay men, their moms, and rednecks.”

Some say this is not racist. Some say it's racist and are working to have it banned. It's clearly part of an American tradition going back generations.

What say you?

Fist tap to UCBM for posting on the American Tradition

The Krell

The Krell were natives of the planet Altair IV in the science fiction film Forbidden Planet. Two thousand centuries ago, their race died out when they completed their project to gain freedom from "instrumentality" - that is, freedom from the use of tools and devices. A Great Machine would instead, read their thoughts and instantly make them into reality. Unfortunately, the 8,000 cubic mile (33,000 km³) machine they created for this purpose also gave physical form to all of their subconscious hatreds - unfamiliar emotions that had seemingly been eradicated from their society, monsters from the id, and killed them all in the space of a single night. The unstoppable machine committed genocide.

The Krell were highly intelligent and cultured and their culture long-lived, having even visited Earth long before Man became a tool-user.

Unfortunately, eons of peaceful existence made them forget their baser selves, which ultimately destroyed a great civilization as it was about to achieve its apex.

Human history is littered with analogs to Krell self-destruction. Our present moment is one such instance, amplified by the industrial scale power of modern human civilization.

The Right Brain vs Left Brain Test ...

I'm not sure this is valid, but I'm curious just the same. Please click on the image and go to the source article where the animated .gif works (unlike here at blogger)

Do you see the dancer turning clockwise or counter-clockwise?

Come back here and report your results. Thanks.

If clockwise, then you use more of the right side of the brain and vice versa.

Most of us would see the dancer turning anti-clockwise though you can try to focus and change the direction; see if you can do it.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Forbidden Planet

Synopsis; An expedition is sent from Earth to Altair in the constellation of Aquilae (some 17 light years from Earth) to discover what happened to a colony of settlers on its fourth planet, Altair-4. What they discover is how and why an alien race of geniuses (The Krell) destroyed itself overnight while leaving their technology intact at some point in the distant, distant past.

This is of course one of the greatest movies of all time. Forbidden Planet and The Day the Earth Stood Still set the mold for much else that would follow in the sci-fi genre. Both films set the bar very, very high for storytelling in the realm of humankind's possible psychological development.

It's a Heat Up...,

Mark Morford in the SF Gate;

So maybe the real question is not can we return to our former ill-gotten superpower glory, insular and unparalleled and reckless and arrogant, or even peaceful and defensive and ironclad. The true question is,
Some say this pain, this fiscal crisis, this enormous instability will last a few years. Some say no way, it will be at least a generation or two before we can right this ship of state again, so deep are the wounds and so insane is our national debt and so violent the damage to our reputation, our identity, our enfeebled infrastructure. But I'm more with those who say, no, the truth is we will never truly recover, that America's former ranking as Gilded and Irreproachable Empire No. 1 is dead and gone. India and China are dramatically changing the game, peak oil is nigh, fresh water is the new gold, the planet itself is in paroxysm, Mother Nature is quickly revealing her hand — or rather, maybe just that one big, stormy middle finger.

But maybe this is the best news of all. Because the sort of gluttonous empire Bush so disgustingly represented was doomed to failure. The center could not hold. Dubya may not have hastened the apocalypse like the evangelicals desperately prayed he would, but he certainly is hastening the end of the bloviated American ego.
and there I had the audacity to hope that my dissenting critique was at least a little bit radical...,

fist tap to UCBM for the banging atomic bird graphic.

Subreal to Hypereal

My man E.C. Hopkins tugged my sleeve last night about a NPR story on Moises Naim “Can the World Afford a Middle Class?”The interview is online at NPR. We introduced Moises Naim's thesis hereabouts on February 9th.

This morning, I was made aware that the Wall Street Journal saw fit on Monday to grudgingly make its readers aware of what's around that signpost just up ahead;
Today the old fears are back.

Although a Malthusian catastrophe is not at hand, the resource constraints foreseen by the Club of Rome are more evident today than at any time since the 1972 publication of the think tank's famous book, "The Limits of Growth." Steady increases in the prices for oil, wheat, copper and other commodities -- some of which have set record highs this month -- are signs of a lasting shift in demand as yet unmatched by rising supply.

As the world grows more populous -- the United Nations projects eight billion people by 2025, up from 6.6 billion today -- it also is growing more prosperous. The average person is consuming more food, water, metal and power. Growing numbers of China's 1.3 billion people and India's 1.1 billion are stepping up to the middle class, adopting the high-protein diets, gasoline-fueled transport and electric gadgets that developed nations enjoy.

The result is that demand for resources has soared. If supplies don't keep pace, prices are likely to climb further, economic growth in rich and poor nations alike could suffer, and some fear violent conflicts could ensue.
Given the market's dependence on psychology, I can understand their reticence to report reality, but in this case, the reality correction comes long after some painful market corrections with many more such shocking jolts yet to come.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Much More Than Race: What Makes a Great Speech Great

Cognitive Scientist George Lakoff weighs in on the subrealist artistry of Barack Obama's conciliatory Rev. Wright speech.
As a linguist, I am tempted to describe the surface features: the intonation, the meter, the grammatical parallelisms, the choice of words. These contribute to eloquence. I'm sure the linguistics community will jump in and do that analysis. Instead, I want to talk about the structure of ideas.

Any framing study begins with communicative framing, the context. Contextual frames carry ideas. Senator Obama is patriotic, and had to communicate not only the fact of his patriotism, but also the content of it. And he had to do it in a way that fit unquestionable and shared American values. Where did he give his speech kicking off his Pennsylvania campaign? Not in Scranton or Pittsburgh or Hershey, but in Philadelphia, home of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, and at once home of one of America's largest African American communities. What building was it in? Constitution Hall. How did he appear onstage? Surrounded by flags. He is tall and thin, as were the flagstaffs, which were about the same height. He was visually one with the flag, one with America. No picture of him could be taken without a flag shaped like him, without an identification of man and country.
This is the first of a series by George Lakoff on The New Politics. Barack Obama's March 18, 2008 speech was about much more than race. It outlined a new politics that many Americans-candidates at all levels, activists, and ordinary citizens-have been speaking and writing about, and yearning for, for years. It is a politics that goes beyond the electoral horserace to the deepest questions about what America is as a nation and who we Americans are as people.

GI's and the Great Depression

The Bonus Army was an assemblage of about 17,000 World War I veterans, accompanied by their families and other affiliated groups, who demonstrated in Washington, DC, during the spring and summer of 1932. The marchers were seeking immediate cash payment of Service Certificates granted eight years previously by the Adjusted Service Certificate Law of 1924. Each Service Certificate issued to a qualified soldier bore a face value equal to the soldier's promised payment plus interest. The sticking point was that the certificates, similar to bonds, were set to mature a full 20 years from the date of their original issue. Thus, under existing law, the certificates could not be redeemed until 1945.

The Bonus Army veterans were led by Walter W. Waters, a former Army sergeant, and were encouraged in their demand for immediate monetary payment by an appearance from retired Marine Corps Major General Smedley Butler, one of the most popular military figures of the time. The marchers were cleared and their camps were destroyed by the 12th Infantry Regiment from Fort Howard, Maryland, and the 3rd Cavalry Regiment under the command of Major George S. Patton from Fort Myer, Virginia, under the overall command of General Douglas MacArthur. The Posse Comitatus Act, prohibiting the U.S. military from being used for general law enforcement purposes in most instances, did not apply to Washington, DC, because it is one of several pieces of federal property under the direct governance of the U.S. Congress (United States Constitution, Article I. Section 8. Clause 17). Dwight D. Eisenhower, as a member of MacArthur's staff, had strong reservations about the operation. Troops carrying rifles with unsheathed bayonets and tear gas were sent into the Bonus Army's camps. President Hoover did not want the army to march across the Anacostia River into the protesters' largest encampment, but Douglas MacArthur felt this was a communist attempt to overthrow the government. Hundreds of veterans were injured, several were killed, including William Hushka and Eric Carlson; a wife of a veteran miscarried, and other casualties were inflicted. The visual image of U.S. armed soldiers confronting poor veterans of the recent Great War set the stage for Veteran relief and eventually the Veterans Administration.

About Smedley Butler

Smedley Darlington Butler (July 30, 1881 – June 21, 1940), nicknamed "The Fighting Quaker" and "Old Gimlet Eye," was a Major General in the U.S. Marine Corps and, at the time of his death, the most decorated Marine in U.S. history.

During his 34 years of Marine Corps service, Butler was awarded numerous medals for heroism including the Marine Corps Brevet Medal (the highest Marine medal at its time for officers), and subsequently the Medal of Honor twice. Notably, he is one of only 19 people to be twice awarded the Medal of Honor, and one of only three to be awarded a Marine Corps Brevet Medal and a Medal of Honor, and the only person to be awarded a Marine Corps Brevet Medal and a Medal of Honor for two different actions.

In addition to his military career, Smedley Butler was noted for his outspoken anti-interventionist views, and his book War is a Racket. His book was one of the first works describing the workings of the military-industrial complex and after retiring from service, he became a popular speaker at meetings organized by veterans, pacifists and church groups in the 1930s.

In 1934, he informed the United States Congress that a group of wealthy industrialists had plotted a military coup known as the Business Plot to overthrow the government of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

War on Culture

The contrived Wright-Obama controversy mirrors - in domestic microcosm - a much larger and deadlier war in which the west has gotten itself embroiled. It is an intrinsically evil war which cannot be won in conventional terms.

Alastair Crooke in the Guardian;Calls for the west to use force to restore its values in the face of radical Islam reveal a profound detachment from reality.
Once, a man was held to be mad if he strayed from this discourse - even if his utterings were credited with revealing some hidden truth. Today, he is called "naive", or accused of having gone "native". Recently, the Royal United Services Institute (Rusi) marshalled former senior military and intelligence experts in order to assert such limits to expression by warning us that "deference" to multiculturalism was undermining the fight against Islamic "extremism" and threatening security.

Former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger, in a recent interview with a German magazine, embellished Rusi's complaints of naivety and "flabby thinking". Radical Islam won't stop, he warned, and
the "virus" would only become more virulent if the US were to withdraw from Iraq.

The charge of naivety is not limited to failing to understand the concealed and duplicitous nature of Hamas and Hizbullah, Iran and Syria; it extends to not grasping the true nature of the wider "enemy" the west is facing. "I don't like the term 'war on terror' because terror is a method, not a political movement; we are in a war against radical Islam," says Kissinger. But who or what is radical Islam? It is those who are not "moderates", he explains. Certainly, a small minority of Muslims believe that only by "burning the system" can a fresh stab at a just society be made. But Kissinger's definition of "moderate" Islam sounds no more than a projection of the Christian narrative after Westphalia, by which Christianity became a private matter of conscience, rather than an organisational principle for society.

If radical Islam, with which these experts tell us we should be at war, encompasses all those who are not enamoured of secular society, and who espouse a vision of their societies grounded in the values of Islam, then these experts are advocating a war with Islam - because Islam is the vision for their future favoured by many Muslims.

Mainstream Islamists are indeed challenging western secular and materialist values, and many do believe that western thinking is flawed - that the desires and appetites of man have been reified into representing man himself. It is time to re-establish values that go beyond "desires and wants", they argue.

Many Islamists also reject the western narrative of history and its projection of inevitable "progress" towards a secular modernity; they reject the western view of power-relationships within societies and between societies; they reject individualism as the litmus of progress in society; and, above all, they reject the west's assumption that its empirical approach lends unassailability and objective rationality to its thinking - and universality to its social models.
People may, or may not, agree, but the point is that this is a dispute about ideas, about the nature of society, and about equity in an emerging global order. If western discourse cannot step beyond the enemy that it has created, these ideas cannot be heard - or addressed. The west's vision for society holds power only so long as people believe it holds power. Do we really think that if force has not succeeded, that only more and greater force can restore belief in the western vision?

Monday, March 24, 2008

The Political Assassination of Eliot Spitzer?

While I know that right cortical hemispheres have ways and means of signalling and collaborating with one another, somewhat unbeknownst to left hemispheric narratization, I tend to be somewhat of a conspiracy skeptic. F'zample, in the matter of the disgrace of former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, I have commented elsewhere that if that reflected a plan, it was a plan executed exclusively at the level of his bank which pretended to value its stringent regulatory compliance over its lucrative relationship with a prestigious, very high net worth banking client. Once Spitzer's bank threw it's report over the fence to the IRS, it was all downhill from there - as the IRS criminal investigation division is systemically incented to respond to a report of this nature. What do you think?

Black Swans Everywhere

Black swan theory - In Nassim Nicholas Taleb's definition, a black swan is a large-impact, hard-to-predict, and rare event beyond the realm of normal expectations. Taleb regards many scientific discoveries as black swans—"undirected" and unpredicted. He gives the September 11, 2001 attacks as an example of a Black Swan event.

The term black swan comes from the ancient Western conception that 'All swans are white'. In that context, a black swan was a metaphor for something that could not exist. The 17th Century discovery of black swans in Australia metamorphosed the term to connote that the perceived impossibility actually came to pass.

James Howard Kunstler brings the hard-line on what's beyond that signpost up ahead;
It's too bad the current presidential candidates have been unable to address the unfolding economic nightmare. Their collective silence on the matter suggests that they don't have a clue what to say about it. As the nightmare plays out and black swans flock in to blot out the sun, and the hedge funds come a'tumbling down, and more big banks blunder into black holes, and businesses big and small across the land shutter up their operations, and the unemployment rolls swell, and families are thrown out of their houses even when bailouts are supposed to be saving them (but the bureaucracy can't get the paperwork done in time) -- well now, they are going to be one pissed off bunch of people. What will they do at the conventions? Our outside the conventions?

In the deeper background of all this is the all-important oil story that nobody in politics or the media wants to pay attention to. Notice that in the fervid unloading of assets this past week, as investors dumped their positions in the commodities markets, the price of oil remained stubbornly above $100-a-barrel when it was all over on Thursday afternoon.
Brace yourselves friends, Kunstler doesn't pull any punches. If you don't want to know what's going on, don't click the link and read his essay. I echo his concluding sentiment, however "It will be interesting to see what new machinations are unveiled this week. Whatever else this catastrophe is, it's a good show from the cheap seats."

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Power Struggles in Tehran and Washington

Current Dar Al Hayat Analysis;
Who is, politically, in better shape? Iran's President Mahmud Ahmadinejad or his implacable opponent, U.S. President George W Bush? Both leaders are conservative hawks. Both have recently crushed dissent at home and imposed their authority. But both face very considerable difficulties - political, economic and strategic.[...]One way and another, Iran seems better placed than the United States to retain and exercise long-term influence in the Gulf region. Once America's troops return home, and its calamitous neo-colonial adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan are brought to a close - as they must be sooner or later -- Iran will be the neighbour with whom the Arabs will have to live, trade, work and coexist. Geography cannot be denied.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Fueling the Fourth Reich

I've been tricked, duped, hoodwinked and bamboozled. Back in February, I suffered a momentary lapse of judgement. Without following the hype to its ultimate source, I erroneously surmised that perhaps the USAF was on the cusp of a new era of conservation and alternative energy development. I was mistaken. Instead of charting a new course for the future of American energy security, the USAF is mining the ignominious past to bring Nazi and apartheid South African coal gasification into peak production as the mainstay of American energy security. The USAF is going to further enrich Sasol and set a grim mold for future American energy security. It is an endless and profound irony that the American military - and by extension America itself - is compelled to stake its energy future on methods devised and depended upon by the world's most evil and hated regimes.
It's not at all hyperbolic to observe that the apartheid regime picked up where the Nazis left off when it came to producing gasoline from coal. Nazism, apartheid, and international sanctions created a fuel source that might never have existed in a better world.

The circuitous travels of the Fischer-Tropsch process, a chemical technique to convert natural gas and coal into liquid fuels, provide an object lesson in historical irony. Used by the Nazis to make oil from coal during World War II, it was commercialized by the century's second-most-odious racial supremacist regime in the 1950s through South Africa's state energy company. Now, that privatized company, Sasol, may help liberate Western democracies (and non-Western ones, like India) from the grip of crude oil produced largely by loathsome authoritarian regimes.

Sasol is the ExxonMobil of South Africa, though its annual sales of about $10 billion are around what Exxon Mobil does in about 10 days. With 30,000 employees, including the largest number of Ph.D.s of any company in the Southern Hemisphere, Sasol is one of South Africa's largest employers. It produces about 38 percent of South Africa's fuel needs and accounts for about 4.4 percent of the country's GDP.
As the US Air Force continues engine testing in a drive to quench its huge thirst for fuel with synthetic blends, pioneering energy company Sasol of South Africa is nearing approval of a 100% synthetic jet fuel. Airlines are looking to coal-to-liquid and gas-to-liquid fuels as drop-in replacements for expensive and finite petrol­eum, and global development of facilities to produce these alternative jet fuels is well underway. Coal - the jet fuel of the future.....,

Friday, March 21, 2008

Are Jeremiah Wright's Sermons Blameworthy?

Considered in context, are Rev. Jeremiah Wright's sermons blameworthy in the manner warranting Barack Obama's disavowel of his words and distancing of himself from the man?

Jeremiah Wright..,

Truth beats the hell out of fiction EVERY SINGLE TIME....,

Hat tip to Truth About Trinity United Church of Christ

When Reality is Too Much

We humbly yield the floor to Manuel Garcia Jr.

Obama and the Psychic Auto-Shrink-Wrapping Called Race in America

Garcia has eviscerated the entire ersatz spectacle of political theater with such clinical aplomb - that everything else is reduced to mere conversation. The situation has gotten so deep and so orthogonal to our normative routine, that I feel obliged to provide the following complicated disclaimer;

(Though Garcia is sharply critical - I remain an Obama supporter because I find the folly of war with Iran, and, the sheer moral horror of what the Clintons may be fronting, far more radically repellent than business as usual. Having asserted throughout the democrat nominating process that Obama's primary value is as a psychological rorschach test for America, I believe that this dimension of his candidacy exhibits an emergent vector of an unanticipated magnitude. I am keenly interested in seeing where this emergent vector leads.)
commentary on racism is most incisive when it keeps its focus on the economic dimension -- which I believe is central -- rather than the emotionalism about "hate" wallowed in to excess by infotainment for the unthinking. It is better to focus on the intent and the purposes of the racism, which are to create and maintain economic disparities. From such focal points, one can advance policy and law enforcement arguments to eliminate these imbalances. Then, you are speaking about the here and now in a clear, unvarnished and rational manner. This can be extremely hard-hitting without being pitiful and cloying. This is in the spirit of Malcolm X and Frantz Fanon, and that is momentum, that is self-respect, that is pride. If we got enough of this, it might also be revolution.

Yes, there is White-on-Black racism (along with many other forms), but its root is not primarily simple emotional hatred, rather it is both fear (of two kinds: xenophobia and the historical guilt over slavery that Thomas Jefferson admitted to) and greed. The mania for control is driven by greed, and the essential fear is the anxiety over the loss of that control. Ascribing White-on-Black racism to simple emotional hatred is the most comfortable overt explanation, as is clear from its prominence in the depictions of racism in popular culture (e.g., movies). The dominant culture finds it comforting to imagine that racism is confined to people with ungovernable hatreds and undisciplined minds. This relieves the majority who are comfortable with inequitable economic arrangements from any responsibility for the inevitable consequences of those arrangements; and even from any reproach in the eyes of recognized public opinion.

Racism is an instinctive tool to capture resources and deny them to competitor "species." This is why Obama is backed by the Wall Street bankers. To them, he is a tool to safeguard their fortunes against the rising tide of public resentment. They are excellent psychologists, and psychic abusers of the popular Black mind. They know, through their experts in PR (advertising and the management of the public mind), how the popular Black mind pines for symbols of "hope," for action heros on basketball courts and on the big screen -- Will Smith saving the fantasy worlds Hollywood conjures with smoke and mirrors. Any hero in any arena can be produced to distract and quell the masses, so long as it is not an actual hero in any arena of actual power.

Look at our Black "symbols" in those real arenas today: Clarence Thomas, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell; they've done precious little for Blacks in America, and have cashed in handsomely for precisely that reason. Most blacks are "supporting" (deluding themselves over) Obama for the same reason that older spoiled whiney white women are "supporting" Hillary: identification, they want what they see in the mirror to be honored, to be loved, to get attention, to be in control.

Obama may have some decent intentions beyond his blatant careerism, but clearly the careerism is primary, and for that he must reassure his sponsors that he can quell the public. The job he is applying for is to keep public affairs calm enough so the same select businesses and the same select gamesters can continue to make the same government-backed mega-profits. In business circles, this is called "maintaining a stable business environment." Obama says "change" but his sponsors know this to mean "stability." "Change" is what we'll get from the billions we are forced to pay into taxes and inflated prices that profit all too few.
It can appear to get very heated out here in the blogosphere. But fret not, that heat you think you feel is purely an artifact of your imagination. This is only text. As you read it, that voice you hear in your head is your own. If what it says to you makes you feel an uncomfortable friction, good. Use that friction and its accompanying heat to light up your own "work" toward understanding the reality of the situation in which we are embedded.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Projection, Denial, Hypocrisy - The Roots of Division....,

Obama's Minister Committed "Treason" But When My Father Said the Same Thing He Was a Republican Hero
When Senator Obama's preacher thundered about racism and injustice Obama suffered smear-by-association. But when my late father -- Religious Right leader Francis Schaeffer -- denounced America and even called for the violent overthrow of the US government, he was invited to lunch with presidents Ford, Reagan and Bush, Sr.

Every Sunday thousands of right wing white preachers (following in my father's footsteps) rail against America's sins from tens of thousands of pulpits. They tell us that America is complicit in the "murder of the unborn," has become "Sodom" by coddling gays, and that our public schools are sinful places full of evolutionists and sex educators hell-bent on corrupting children. They say, as my dad often did, that we are, "under the judgment of God." They call America evil and warn of immanent destruction. By comparison Obama's minister's shouted "controversial" comments were mild. All he said was that God should damn America for our racism and violence and that no one had ever used the N-word about Hillary Clinton.
I spent my junior high and high-school years in the very heart and origin of American dominionism - going to a school operated and controlled by founders/funders of this movement. Having listened to countless hours of Schaeffer and his disciple ideologues, I know precisely whereof his son speaks. That the son has repudiated the teachings of the father speaks volumes to the hypocrisy and falsity of the ethnonationalist memetic assault on Barack Obama via the proxy of his former minister Jeremiah Wright. Control of the mental and lexical space in which every voice not approved by Bill O'Reilly is divisive, multi-cultural, and treasonous - is the ultimate expression of cognitive and cultural supremacy and the root cause of division and discontent in America.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Obama Supporter Talking Point

My man PTCruiser posted something truthy and very humanizingly real over at Prometheus6 - well worth passing along. (I tend to pass along a lot of what PT writes anyway);

Many of the alleged pundits and so-called analysts who appeared on television and radio yesterday to offer their interpretation of Obama's speech were quick, in fact, too quick, to decry the analogy that Obama drew between his relationship with his maternal grandmother and his relationship with Rev. Wright. Many of the talking heads and far, far too many of the black males and females who appeared on these programs dismissed this connection because, as they stated, one can easily choose to find another minister as opposed to finding a replacement grandmother.

This line of argument has a certain logical appeal because the church one chooses to join is a matter of choice. That is, one can choose to belong to this church or that church or no church at all. Whereas one has no choice over selecting one's grandmother. People are continually born into a world that is always older than they are and they have no choice as to who is their grandmother. Natality and chance rule over this process.

The problem here is that this way of looking at Obama's decision tree ignores the very specific circumstances of his life and biography. When Obama likens Rev. Wright to an uncle and describes him as being a member of his family he is quite sincere and, more importantly, he is, psychologically speaking, correct. Obama's biological father was entirely absent during his formative years and he was dead by the time Obama became an adult. In addition, Obama had no contact with his father's male siblings and adult male cousins. In other words, he had no older adult black males in his life with whom he could form close and enduring bonds until he met Rev. Wright.

Consequently, when Obama says that Rev. Wright is like an uncle to him and that he could no more disown him than he could disown his maternal grandmother he is expressing a deeply felt and psychological true statement. Rev. Wright may or may not be crazy (I don't believe that he is crazy or intemperate although I disagree with him about the origins of the AIDS epidemic.) but he is someone who Obama has chosen to be his uncle.

What Obama did is no different from what tens of thousands of gays and lesbians have had to do when they were rejected by their families because of their sexual preferences. They went out and over time created their own families. I met a young sister, for example, in graduate school who later came out to me. She and I became very close friends and when she unexpectedly died several years ago I felt as if I had lost one of my own biological sisters. I miss her a great deal. She considered me to be a member of her family because her own family looked askance at her sexual preferences. The human need for familial association and acceptance is an evolutionary fact.

Obama's relationship with Rev. Wright should and must be seen in this context instead of through the superficial and grossly over simplified choice of simply switching ministers. His bond was with Rev. Wright and the community he found at Trinity United Church. Expecting or demanding him to sever those bonds would be tantamount to asking him to exile himself. Cutting off all of his ties to Rev. Wright would be exactly like asking him to kill his maternal grandmother. Blood may be thicker than mud but the ties that are created when you choose to call someone family are no less thick and lasting.
As many years as I've been estranged from my caucasian mother and her entire clan, people who've never had anything of consequence to do with me, I'd say this is right on time. Often as not, family is right where you make it.

The Raw Material for Medical Research

WOW, just wow......,

I am guilty of a profound dereliction of duty. Caught up in the superficial machinations of the Obamamandius saga - I've managed to miss out on a timely intersection with profundity.

My man T3 has descended into the furthest reaches of human experience
- and I'm at least a day late to the excursion;
It is clear from this account and the historical records of elite scientists and the institutions who funded them that children in these institutions were used to serve a larger purpose. There can be no question that the gross violations of human rights within the United States was so appalling that the notion a similar violation could NOT have happened in the Congo is ridiculous on its face.
If you haven't been following the series, get caught up now. Pass it along to everybody you know, cause it's not often that we get to witness unauthorized disclosure of that whole other level of the game....,

Identity Politics and Bill O'Reilly's Memetic Assault on Obama

Conservatism is not fundamentally about ideology, but about the preservation of elite power, maintained as a form of identity politics. Elites then claim "natural" leadership, in the name of protecting, defending and exemplifying the group identity against evil, enemy "others." Ideology matters to the conservative project solely as a means for justification, including identity formation. It supports the forms of policies, practices and institutions that preserve group identity and power--and, thereby, elite rule. Consistency matters to this ideology only insofar as it proves necessary. Therefore, "the abandonment of conservative principles" is to be expected when those principles no longer serve those in power.

America's history of racism provides examples of how conservatism adapts, responding to repeated movements for social justice, which profoundly alter the relationships of radical, liberal and conservative forces. Inconsistencies are generated at multiple levels whenever this happens.
How Racism Changes Form--Conservatism As Identity Politics

O'Reilly spent the entirety of today's radio factor show making threats about the dire consequences to non-whites of continuing to call what he and his fellow ethnonationalists preach and practice "racism". He also excoriated Media Matters and liberal commentators who have labeled his pattern and praxis racist. At no time has the audacious scope and breadth of O'Reilly/Roger Ailes/Rupert Murdoch's propagandistic ambitions been more clearly evident than over the months during which O'Reilly has mounted a tragically effective, racially motivated and perpetrated campaign to damage Barack Obama's political prospects.

We are to disregard O'Reilly's clearly stated priorities, aims, funding sources etc.., and imagine that all the good works of Trinity United Church of Christ and pastor Jeremiah Wright are as nothing when compared and contrasted with the fiery 30 seconds of decontextualized dissent culled from a decade of his sermonizing? We need'nt decontextualize O'Reilly in any manner, form, or fashion in order to see precisely what he is and what he represents.

About that Roger Ailes; Roger Eugene Ailes (born May 15, 1940) is the president of Fox News Channel and chairman of the Fox Television Stations Group. He was a media consultant for Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George H. W. Bush, as well as Rudy Giuliani’s first mayoral campaign in 1989.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Lucifer Rising

"A generation would soon be born that had never known a world without Lucifer." Best selling author and world renowned scientist, Arthur C. Clarke, penned these words in his science fiction masterpiece, 2010: Odyssey Two–a book/movie sequel to his ground breaking 1968 work, 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Unknown to those who only watched 2010, there was a major difference between the motion picture and the novel. Eerily, the book contained a section titled "Lucifer Rising."

In Clarke’s Lucifer Rising story line, the hydrogen atmosphere on the planet Jupiter is ignited. The ensuing new "little" sun is dubbed "Lucifer" and illuminates the earth with its light. The result: darkness no longer existed. Fear, suspicion, and crimes of the night disappear. Mankind has become illuminated through the light of Lucifer.

To occultists, the symbology of Arthur C. Clarke’s writing was unmistakable. Lucifer, the "light bearer" shines his knowledge (occult "truth") upon all humanity, chasing away fear and ignorance, and providing mankind with the opportunity to discover his own intellect.

Lucifer - Where did the Word come from and what is its True Meaning?

Visionary Arthur C. Clarke - RIP

Arthur C. Clarke, a visionary science fiction writer who co-wrote "2001: A Space Odyssey" and won worldwide acclaim with more than 100 books on space, science and the future, died Wednesday, an aide said. He was 90.

Co-author with Stanley Kubrick of Kubrick's film "2001: A Space Odyssey," Clarke was regarded as far more than a science fiction writer.

He was credited with the concept of communications satellites in 1945, decades before they became a reality. Geosynchronous orbits, which keep satellites in a fixed position relative to the ground, are called Clarke orbits.

His greatest book IMOHO - was Childhood's End.

The 1953 edition of the story begins when enormous alien spaceships one day appear above all of the Earth's major cities. The aliens, who become known as the Overlords, quickly communicate by radio, announcing benign intention and desire to help mankind. They quickly end the arms race and colonialism. They also arrange personal, though not face-to-face, meetings between Secretary General of the United Nations Rikki Stormgren and Karellen, the Overlord leader, albeit via one-way mirror, so that the earthman cannot see the extraterrestrial alien. Karellen has a special relationship with Stormgren, though short of traditional friendship. The Overlords promise to reveal themselves in fifty years, after which time mankind will have lost their prejudice, becoming comfortable with their presence.

The humans will never lose their prejudice, the stars are not for them......,

Baraka's City of Brotherly Love

Obama's speech this morning took race baiting off the table as a continuing tactic in American campaigns and elections methodology. Oh, there will be knuckle dragging ethnonationalist throwbacks who continue to try it - because it's all they know or ever can be. Most of them got caught in the honeypot, however, and were weeping and gnashing their teeth on the radio in the aftermath of today's anointed remarks. But from this point forward, we have been shown the Baraka of a possible American future.
In 1980 Ronald Reagan kicked off his general campaign for president of the United States in Philadelphia, announcing at the annual Neshoba County Fair, "I believe in states' rights ... [I] believe we have distorted the balance of our government today by giving powers that were never intended to be given in the Constitution to that federal establishment." He went on to promise to "restore to states and local governments the power that properly belongs to them".

Reagan's speech marked the continuation of the successful Republican "Southern strategy"; this was supposedly evidence of Reagan's libertarian belief in federalism and a greater role for states in determining their own policies. However, given the history of Philadelphia, and Reagan's use of the words "states' rights", often interpreted as a desire to return to pre-Civil War laws regarding segregation, many felt that Reagan was at least insensitive to the concerns of blacks, or that he even was using this location and these words as a cynical appeal to the white racist vote.
Ethnonationalist political gamesmanship has experienced a mortal blow and an extinction level event. Let's watch now and see how long it takes for that vast and diseased reptilian body to "realize" that it's little walnut-sized brain has been annihilated.

Monday, March 17, 2008

America was conned - who will pay?

The US has just had its weakest period of expansion since the 1950s. Consumption growth has been poor. Investment growth has been modest. Exports have been sluggish. But if you are at the top of the tree, the years since the last recession in 2001 has been a veritable golden age. Salaries for executives have rocketed and profits have soared, because the productivity gains from a growing economy have been disproportionately skewed towards capital.[...]For ordinary Americans, though, it has been a different story. Real wages have been growing slowly; at just 1.6% a year on average over the latest upswing, well down on the experience of earlier decades. Business, of course, needs consumers to carry on spending in order to make money, so a way had to be found to persuade households to do their patriotic duty. The method chosen was simple. Whip up a colossal housing bubble, convince consumers that it makes sense to borrow money against the rising value of their homes to supplement their meagre real wage growth and watch the profits roll in.

As they did - for a while. Now it's payback time and the mood could get very ugly. Americans, to put it bluntly, have been conned. They have been duped by a bunch of serpent-tongued hucksters who packed up the wagon and made it across the county line before a lynch mob could be formed.

The debate now is not about whether the US is in recession but how deep and long that recession will be. Super-bears have started to say that this is perhaps "The Big One", by which they mean the onset of a new Great Depression.
The South Sea Bubble ended in riots as trust was lost. Wall Street also duped the public. America was conned - who will pay?

Fact Check: Barack Obama's Church

In computer terminology, a honeypot is a trap set to detect, deflect, or in some manner counteract attempts at unauthorized use of information systems. Generally it consists of a computer, data, or a network site that appears to be part of a network but which is actually isolated, (un)protected, and monitored, and which seems to contain information or a resource that would be of value to attackers. A honeypot that masquerades as an open proxy is known as a sugarcane.

A honeypot is valuable as a surveillance and early-warning tool. While often a computer, a honeypot can take on other forms, such as files or data records, or even unused IP address space. Honeypots should have no production value and hence should not see any legitimate traffic or activity. Whatever they capture can then be surmised as malicious or unauthorized. One very practical implication of this is that honeypots designed to thwart spam by masquerading as systems of the types abused by spammers to send spam can categorize the material they trap 100% accurately: it is all illicit.

Honeypots can carry risks to a network, and must be handled with care. If they are not properly walled off, an attacker can use them to break into a system.

The Ethno Nationalist Double Standard

Though it would be entirely unnatural for him to do so, no political liability would attach to Obamamandius' adoption of the hateful rhetorical drag so easily, lightly, and uncritically worn by the spiritual guides and advisors of his opponent in the general election. It is however, widely considered unpatriotic and seditious for the now retired Jeremiah Wright and the late Martin Luther King to have called out this cancerous and thanaturgic element within the American body politic. It's not enough to simply remain silent about this phenomenon as the DLC and other so-called "centrists" have historically tended to do. Let's hope that Keith Olbermann isn't alone for long in calling attention to this collective psychopathology which has thus far managed to escape much in the way of vigorous or sustained scrutiny.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Obamamandius - Unifying America

Obama has pegged his Jeremiah Wright response to the speech delivered by Bobby Kennedy in the aftermath of Martin Luther King's assassination;
Kennedy was the first to inform the audience of the death of Martin Luther King, causing some in the audience to scream and wail. Several of Kennedy's aides were even worried that the delivery of this information would result in a riot. Once the audience quieted down Kennedy acknowledged that many in the audience would be filled with anger, especially since the assassin was believed to be a white, and that he had felt the same when his brother John F. Kennedy had been assassinated. These remarks surprised Kennedy aides, who had never heard him speak of John Kennedy's death. Kennedy continued, saying that the country had to make an effort to "go beyond these rather difficult times," and then quoted a poem by the Greek playwright Aeschylus. To conclude Kennedy said that the country needed and wanted unity between blacks and whites, asked the audience members to pray for the King family and the country, and once more quoted the ancient Greeks. Despite rioting in other major American cities, Indianapolis was calm the night after Kennedy's remarks, which is believed to have been in part because of the speech. The speech itself has been listed as one of the greatest in American history, ranked 17th on American Rhetoric's Top 100 speeches in the 20th century. Former US Congressman and media host Joe Scarborough said that it was Kennedy's greatest speech, and was what prompted him into entering into public service. Journalist Joe Klein has called it "politics in its grandest form and highest purpose," and said that it "marked the end of an era" before American political life was taken over by consultants and pollsters. It is also featured as the prologue of his book, Politics Lost.
It's a fascinating tactical maneuver. I'm somewhat impressed. What say you?