Tuesday, January 31, 2012

ta loco..., self-guided bullets on top of autonomous drones...,



io9 | There was a time when increasing the distance between yourself and a sharp shooter bent on your extermination would significantly improve your chances of survival. But that time is coming to an end.

Government engineers have designed a bullet that can aim itself, correcting its own path mid-flight in order to connect with targets over a mile away. Is this the future of armed warfare?

The formidable projectile was designed by engineers Red Jones and Brian Kast of Sandia National Laboratories. And while this bullet is technically a prototype, preliminary tests cleary demonstrate that it has the potential to revolutionize the design of smart ammunition. Here's how it works:

Your traditional small-caliber projectile has grooves — called "rifling" — that cause it to spin and fly true as it passes through the air. The physical principles behind this behavior are the same ones governing the flight of a spiral pass in a game of football. Fist tap John.

american jews confront internal rancor over israel



CNN | When the editor of a Jewish newspaper here wrote this month that the Jewish state might consider assassinating an American president, his column made national headlines and provoked a Secret Service inquiry.

The most striking criticism came from the Jewish community itself, which collectively held its nose and harshly denounced the column by Andrew Adler, who is also the owner of the weekly paper, the Atlanta Jewish Times. Anti-Defamation League national director Abraham Foxman called Adler's words "irresponsible and extremist."

Adler apologized and resigned as editor, but some see the episode as the latest example of an increase in divisive, over-the-top rhetoric within American Jewish communal life, revolving largely around the hot-button issue of Israel and its policies toward the Palestinians.

The tensions have provoked Jewish groups across the country to launch programs aimed at lowering the political temperature in their own religious communities.

Israel is not "one of the great unifying factors" that it once was in the Jewish community, said Samuel Freedman, author of "Jew vs. Jew: the Struggle for the Soul of American Jewry.”

"Since the Lebanon invasion and the First Intifada, it has become a dividing line,” he said, referring to the Palestinian uprising against the Israeli occupation in the late 1980s. “It's probably deeper now than I've ever seen it."

Tensions within American Judaism are rising as some Jews detect an "existential threat" to Israel, with Iran's nuclear aspirations and Islamist parties coming to power during the Arab uprisings, he says.

Freedman also sees broader trends at work, including the fading line between private and public talk dissolving in the era of blogging and tweeting. The Atlanta Jewish Times incident, he says, is a reminder that words that sound bold in private will "resonate really differently when they are out in public."

Ethan Felson, vice president of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, says emotions have been much more "intense and destructive" lately as ideological camps within the American Jewish community harden their views over the contentious U.S. presidential campaign, tensions between Israel and Iran, and issues from health care to marriage.

"This is going to be a brutal year," he says. "We're looking at a scorched earth political environment."

it suits israel that we never forget nuclear iran...,



The Independent | Turning round a story is one of the most difficult tasks in journalism – and rarely more so than in the case of Iran. Iran, the dark revolutionary Islamist menace. Shia Iran, protector and manipulator of World Terror, of Syria and Lebanon and Hamas and Hezbollah. Ahmadinejad, the Mad Caliph. And, of course, Nuclear Iran, preparing to destroy Israel in a mushroom cloud of anti-Semitic hatred, ready to close the Strait of Hormuz – the moment the West's (or Israel's) forces attack.

Given the nature of the theocratic regime, the repulsive suppression of its post-election opponents in 2009, not to mention its massive pools of oil, every attempt to inject common sense into the story also has to carry a medical health warning: no, of course Iran is not a nice place. But ...

Let's take the Israeli version which, despite constant proof that Israel's intelligence services are about as efficient as Syria's, goes on being trumpeted by its friends in the West, none more subservient than Western journalists. The Israeli President warns us now that Iran is on the cusp of producing a nuclear weapon. Heaven preserve us. Yet we reporters do not mention that Shimon Peres, as Israeli Prime Minister, said exactly the same thing in 1996. That was 16 years ago. And we do not recall that the current Israeli PM, Benjamin Netanyahu, said in 1992 that Iran would have a nuclear bomb by 1999. That would be 13 years ago. Same old story.

In fact, we don't know that Iran really is building a nuclear weapon. And after Iraq, it's amazing that the old weapons of mass destruction details are popping with the same frequency as all the poppycock about Saddam's titanic arsenal. Not to mention the date problem. When did all this start? The Shah. The old boy wanted nuclear power. He even said he wanted a bomb because "the US and the Soviet Union had nuclear bombs" and no one objected. Europeans rushed to supply the dictator's wish. Siemens – not Russia – built the Bushehr nuclear facility.

And when Ayatollah Khomeini, Scourge of the West, Apostle of Shia Revolution, etc, took over Iran in 1979, he ordered the entire nuclear project to be closed down because it was "the work of the Devil". Only when Saddam invaded Iran – with our Western encouragement – and started using poison gas against the Iranians (chemical components arriving from the West, of course) was Khomeini persuaded to reopen it.

All this has been deleted from the historical record; it was the black-turbaned mullahs who started the nuclear project, along with the crackpot Ahmadinejad. And Israel might have to destroy this terror-weapon to secure its own survival, to ensure the West's survival, for democracy, etc, etc.

For Palestinians in the West Bank, Israel is the brutal, colonising, occupying power. But the moment Iran is mentioned, this colonial power turns into a tiny, vulnerable, peaceful state under imminent threat of extinction. Ahmadinejad – here again, I quote Netanyahu – is more dangerous than Hitler. Israel's own nuclear warheads – all too real and now numbering almost 300 – disappear from the story.

fighting sanctions with sanctions



Reuters | Fighting sanctions with sanctions in a test of strength with the West over its nuclear ambitions, Iran warned on Friday it may halt oil exports to Europe next week in a move calculated to hurt ailing European economies.

The Tehran government grappling with its own economic crisis under Western trade and banking embargoes, will host a rare visit on Sunday by U.N. nuclear inspectors for talks that the ruling clergy may hope can relieve diplomatic pressure as they struggle to bolster public support.

Since the U.N. watchdog lent independent weight in November to the suspicions of Western powers that Iran is using a nuclear energy program to give itself the ability to build atomic bombs, U.S. and EU sanctions and Iranian threats of reprisal against Gulf shipping lanes have disrupted world oil markets and pushed up prices.

Amid forecasts Iran might be able to build a bomb next year, and with President Barack Obama facing re-election campaign questions on how he can make good on promises - to Americans and to Israel - not to tolerate a nuclear-armed Islamic Republic, a decade of dispute risks accelerating towards the brink of war.

The U.S. Treasury Department said on Friday it would send its undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, David Cohen, to Britain, Germany and Switzerland next week to talk about how to enforce sanctions against Iran's central bank. Fist tap Dale.

massive ordinance penetrator: not so much...,



AFP | The US military has concluded that its largest conventional bomb is not capable of destroying Iran's most heavily fortified underground facilities suspected to be used for building nuclear weapons, according to The Wall Street Journal.

But citing unnamed US officials, the newspaper said the military was stepping up efforts to make it more powerful.

The 13.6-ton "bunker-buster" bomb, known as the Massive Ordnance Penetrator, was specifically designed to take out the hardened fortifications built by Iran and North Korea, Friday's report said.

But initial tests indicated that the bomb, as currently configured, would not be capable of destroying some of Iran's facilities, either because of their depth or because Tehran has added new fortifications to protect them, the paper noted.

In a report issued in November, the International Atomic Energy Agency said intelligence from more than 10 countries and its own sources "indicates that Iran has carried out activities relevant to the development of a nuclear device."

It detailed 12 suspicious areas such as testing explosives in a steel container at a military base and studies on Shahab-3 ballistic missile warheads that the IAEA said were "highly relevant to a nuclear weapon programme."

Iran, which has come under unprecedented international pressure since the publication of the report, with Washington and the EU targeting its oil sector and central bank, rejected the dossier as based on forgeries.

Meanwhile, doubts about its bomb's effectiveness prompted the Pentagon this month to secretly submit a request to Congress for funding to enhance the bomb's ability to penetrate deeper into rock, concrete and steel before exploding, The Journal noted.

The Defense Department has spent about $330 million so far to develop about 20 of the bombs, which are built by Boeing Co., the report pointed out.

The Pentagon is seeking about $82 million more to make the bomb more effective, The Journal said.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, in an interview with The Journal Thursday, acknowledged the bomb's shortcomings against some of Iran's deepest bunkers.

He said more development work would be done and that he expected the bomb to be ready to take on the deepest bunkers soon.

"We're still trying to develop them," Panetta said.

keeping work wet worldwide

Guardian | Iran's nuclear scientists are not being assassinated. They are being murdered. Killing our enemies abroad is just state-sponsored terror – whatever euphemism western leaders like to use. On the morning of 11 January Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, the deputy head of Iran's uranium enrichment facility at Natanz, was in his car on his way to work when he was blown up by a magnetic bomb attached to his car door. He was 32 and married with a young son. He wasn't armed, or anywhere near a battlefield.

Since 2010, three other Iranian nuclear scientists have been killed in similar circumstances, including Darioush Rezaeinejad, a 35-year-old electronics expert shot dead outside his daughter's nursery in Tehran last July. But instead of outrage or condemnation, we have been treated to expressions of undisguised glee.

"On occasion, scientists working on the nuclear programme in Iran turn up dead," bragged the Republican nomination candidate Rick Santorum in October. "I think that's a wonderful thing, candidly." On the day of Roshan's death, Israel's military spokesman, Brigadier General Yoav Mordechai, announced on Facebook: "I don't know who settled the score with the Iranian scientist, but I certainly am not shedding a tear" – a sentiment echoed by the historian Michael Burleigh in the Daily Telegraph: "I shall not shed any tears whenever one of these scientists encounters the unforgiving men on motorbikes."

These "men on motorbikes" have been described as "assassins". But assassination is just a more polite word for murder. Indeed, our politicians and their securocrats cloak the premeditated, lawless killing of scientists in Tehran, of civilians in Waziristan, of politicians in Gaza, in an array of euphemisms: not just assassinations but terminations, targeted killings, drone strikes.

Their purpose is to inure us to such state-sponsored violence against foreigners. In his acclaimed book On Killing, the retired US army officer Dave Grossman examines mechanisms that enable us not just to ignore but even cheer such killings: cultural distance ("such as racial and ethnic differences that permit the killer to dehumanise the victim"); moral distance ("the kind of intense belief in moral superiority"); and mechanical distance ("the sterile, Nintendo-game unreality of killing through a TV screen, a thermal sight, a sniper sight or some other kind of mechanical buffer that permits the killer to deny the humanity of his victim").

the future of warfare

globalguerillas | Here's the future. Courtesy of Northrop Grumman. It's an autonomous aircraft/drone that has a full weapons bay (4,500 lbs). Say that word again: autonomous. That's the breakthrough feature. This also means:

It can make its own "kill decision." Again and again and again. That decision is going to get better and better and cheaper and cheaper (Moore's law has made insect level intelligence available for pennies, rat intelligence is next).

It isn't vulnerabe to a pilot in Nevada directing it to land in Iran. Oops.

It will eventually (sooner than you think) be the "Queen," making decisions for thousands of smaller swarmed (semi-autonomous) drones it lays on a battle zone (aka "city").

In sum: It allows an unprecedented automation of conventional violence.

Granted, it will be possible for small groups to put together systems like this on the cheap. For offensive or defense reasons.

However, I'm much more worried about their ability to automate repression, particularly if combined with software bots that sift/sort/monitor all of your data 24x7x365 (already going on).

the mixtape of revolution

NYTimes | DEF JAM will probably never sign them, but Cheikh Oumar Cyrille Touré, from a small town about 100 miles southeast of Dakar, Senegal, and Hamada Ben Amor, a 22-year-old man from a port city 170 miles southeast of Tunis, may be two of the most influential rappers in the history of hip-hop.

Mr. Touré, a k a Thiat (“Junior”), and Mr. Ben Amor, a k a El Général, both wrote protest songs that led to their arrests and generated powerful political movements. “We are drowning in hunger and unemployment,” spits Thiat on “Coup 2 Gueule” (from a phrase meaning “rant”) with the Keurgui Crew. El Général’s song “Head of State” addresses the now-deposed President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali over a plaintive background beat. “A lot of money was pledged for projects and infrastructure/Schools, hospitals, buildings, houses/but the sons of dogs swallowed it in their big bellies.” Later, he rhymes, “I know people have a lot to say in their hearts, but no way to convey it.” The song acted as sluice gates for the release of anger that until then was being expressed clandestinely, if at all.

During the recent wave of revolutions across the Arab world and the protests against illegitimate presidents in African countries like Guinea and Djibouti, rap music has played a critical role in articulating citizen discontent over poverty, rising food prices, blackouts, unemployment, police repression and political corruption. Rap songs in Arabic in particular — the new lingua franca of the hip-hop world — have spread through YouTube, Facebook, mixtapes, ringtones and MP3s from Tunisia to Egypt, Libya and Algeria, helping to disseminate ideas and anthems as the insurrections progressed. El Général, for example, was featured on a mixtape put out by the dissident group Khalas (Enough) in Libya, which also included songs like “Tripoli Is Calling” and “Dirty Colonel.”

Why has rap — an American music that in its early global spread was associated with thuggery and violence — come to be so highly influential in these regions? After all, rappers are not the only musicians involved in politics. Late last week, protests erupted when Youssou N’Dour, a Senegalese singer of mbalax, a fusion of traditional music with Latin, pop and jazz, was barred by a constitutional court from pursuing a run for president. But mbalax singers are typically seen as older entertainers who often support the government in power. In contrast, rappers, according to the Senegalese rapper Keyti, “are closer to the streets and can bring into their music the general feeling of frustration among people.”

Another reason is the oratorical style rap employs: rappers report in a direct manner that cuts through political subterfuge. Rapping can simulate a political speech or address, rhetorical conventions that are generally inaccessible to the marginal youth who form the base of this movement. And in places like Senegal, rap follows in the oral traditions of West African griots, who often used rhyming verse to evaluate their political leaders. “M.C.’s are the modern griot,” Papa Moussa Lo, a k a Waterflow, told me in an interview a few weeks ago. “They are taking over the role of representing the people.”

Monday, January 30, 2012

the 99% declaration

incarceration (NOT EDUCATION) acts as a hidden foundation for this country...,

NewYorker | A prison is a trap for catching time. Good reporting appears often about the inner life of the American prison, but the catch is that American prison life is mostly undramatic —the reported stories fail to grab us, because, for the most part, nothing happens. One day in the life of Ivan Denisovich is all you need to know about Ivan Denisovich, because the idea that anyone could live for a minute in such circumstances seems impossible; one day in the life of an American prison means much less, because the force of it is that one day typically stretches out for decades. It isn’t the horror of the time at hand but the unimaginable sameness of the time ahead that makes prisons unendurable for their inmates. The inmates on death row in Texas are called men in “timeless time,” because they alone aren’t serving time: they aren’t waiting out five years or a decade or a lifetime. The basic reality of American prisons is not that of the lock and key but that of the lock and clock.

That’s why no one who has been inside a prison, if only for a day, can ever forget the feeling. Time stops. A note of attenuated panic, of watchful paranoia—anxiety and boredom and fear mixed into a kind of enveloping fog, covering the guards as much as the guarded. “Sometimes I think this whole world is one big prison yard, / Some of us are prisoners, some of us are guards,” Dylan sings, and while it isn’t strictly true—just ask the prisoners—it contains a truth: the guards are doing time, too. As a smart man once wrote after being locked up, the thing about jail is that there are bars on the windows and they won’t let you out. This simple truth governs all the others. What prisoners try to convey to the free is how the presence of time as something being done to you, instead of something you do things with, alters the mind at every moment. For American prisoners, huge numbers of whom are serving sentences much longer than those given for similar crimes anywhere else in the civilized world—Texas alone has sentenced more than four hundred teen-agers to life imprisonment—time becomes in every sense this thing you serve.

For most privileged, professional people, the experience of confinement is a mere brush, encountered after a kid’s arrest, say. For a great many poor people in America, particularly poor black men, prison is a destination that braids through an ordinary life, much as high school and college do for rich white ones. More than half of all black men without a high-school diploma go to prison at some time in their lives. Mass incarceration on a scale almost unexampled in human history is a fundamental fact of our country today—perhaps the fundamental fact, as slavery was the fundamental fact of 1850. In truth, there are more black men in the grip of the criminal-justice system—in prison, on probation, or on parole—than were in slavery then. Over all, there are now more people under “correctional supervision” in America—more than six million—than were in the Gulag Archipelago under Stalin at its height. That city of the confined and the controlled, Lockuptown, is now the second largest in the United States.

The accelerating rate of incarceration over the past few decades is just as startling as the number of people jailed: in 1980, there were about two hundred and twenty people incarcerated for every hundred thousand Americans; by 2010, the number had more than tripled, to seven hundred and thirty-one. No other country even approaches that. In the past two decades, the money that states spend on prisons has risen at six times the rate of spending on higher education. Ours is, bottom to top, a “carceral state,” in the flat verdict of Conrad Black, the former conservative press lord and newly minted reformer, who right now finds himself imprisoned in Florida, thereby adding a new twist to an old joke: A conservative is a liberal who’s been mugged; a liberal is a conservative who’s been indicted; and a passionate prison reformer is a conservative who’s in one.

The scale and the brutality of our prisons are the moral scandal of American life. Every day, at least fifty thousand men—a full house at Yankee Stadium—wake in solitary confinement, often in “supermax” prisons or prison wings, in which men are locked in small cells, where they see no one, cannot freely read and write, and are allowed out just once a day for an hour’s solo “exercise.” (Lock yourself in your bathroom and then imagine you have to stay there for the next ten years, and you will have some sense of the experience.) Prison rape is so endemic—more than seventy thousand prisoners are raped each year—that it is routinely held out as a threat, part of the punishment to be expected. The subject is standard fodder for comedy, and an uncoöperative suspect being threatened with rape in prison is now represented, every night on television, as an ordinary and rather lovable bit of policing. The normalization of prison rape—like eighteenth-century japery about watching men struggle as they die on the gallows—will surely strike our descendants as chillingly sadistic, incomprehensible on the part of people who thought themselves civilized. Though we avoid looking directly at prisons, they seep obliquely into our fashions and manners. Wealthy white teen-agers in baggy jeans and laceless shoes and multiple tattoos show, unconsciously, the reality of incarceration that acts as a hidden foundation for the country.

is magical thinking rooted in fear of death?


The full documentary can be viewed here.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

the fire of the sun (my 5000th post!)

Scribd | There were others who have claimed to have met Fulcanelli. First of all there is Jacques Bergier (1912-1978). Bergier, together with Louis Pauwels, is in fact the creator of the whole Fulcanelli legend of modern times. The legend began with the publication of "Le Matin des Magiciens" ('Morning of the Magicians', in English published as "The Dawn of Magic"), written by Bergier and Pauwles andpublished in 1960. In this book, of which it is said that it single-handedly started the New Age Movement, Fulcanelli is described as an Alchemical Adept who warns of the evils of atomic energy. As a matter of fact, Bergier identified the alchemist as Fulcanelli (in all probability) in a work entitled "Faire del'Or", Bergier claims that in the summer of 1937 he was visited in a Parisian laboratory at the offices of the Gas Board in Paris by a mysterious stranger. From 1934 to 1940 Jacques Bergier worked with André Helbronner, a brilliant physicist - on researching nuclear physics. Helbronner -with the help of several industrialists- had created a nuclear research laboratory. The visitor immediately had identified himself as an alchemist.

The following account is taken from The Morning of the Magicians , published in London in 1971:“M. André Helbronner, whose assistant I believe you are, is carrying out research on nuclear energy. M.Helbronner has been good enough to keep me informed as to the results of some of his experiments,notably the appearance of radio-activity corresponding to plutonium when a bismuth rod is volatilized byan electric discharge in deuterium at high pressure. You are on the brink of success, as indeed are several other of our scientists today. May I be allowed to warn you to be careful? The research in which you and your colleagues are engaged is fraught with terrible dangers, not only for yourselves, but for the whole human race. The liberation of atomic energy is easier than you think, and the radio-activity artificially produced can poison the atmosphere of our planet in the space of a few years. Moreover, atomic explosives can be produced from a few grammes of metal powerful enough to destroy whole cities. I am telling you this as a fact: the alchemists have known it for a very long time.”Bergier was warned by the unknown alchemist against the dangers of nuclear energy, eight years before the first atomic tests that were carried out at Los Alamos, New Mexico. Until the hour of his deathin 1978 Bergier remained convinced that the enigmatical visitor was no other than Fulcanelli (Robert Amadou claimed that Bergier identified Fulcanelli in 1983 as Schwaller de Lubicz - see "L'Enquete deRobert Amadou" p10 -) . Following the experiments of Bergier and Helbronner, it is claimed that the American "Office of Strategic Services" (O.S.S., forerunner of the C..I.A.), established in 1942 under Roosevelt, tried to find and locate Fulcanelli at the end of the War. The Americans, as well as other allied intelligence agencies, wanted to gather as many expert scientists as possible to prevent them from passing to the enemy, the Sovjet Union. This claim is allegedly confirmed by Canseliet. For these agencies Fulcanelli seems to have been a real person at the end of the War in 1945. But he remained untraceable….

Then there is the account of Frater Albertus, the German alchemist Albert Richard Riedel, who had information which descended from independent sources on an alleged alchemical transmutation performed by Fulcanelli in 1937! The transmutation supposedly had been performed in Bourges in the presence of Ferdinand de Lesseps II and the famous physicist Pierre Curie (Together with his wife, Marie, they were awarded half of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1903 on account of their study into the spontaneous radiation discovered by Becquerel, who was awarded the other half of the Prize.) This information descends from Jay Weidner and Vincent Bridges, from the article "The Fulcanelli Mystery". There's something wrong about this story since Ferdinand de Lesseps II died in1894 and Pierre Curie in 1906. Weidner and Bridges furthermore state that Frater Albertus "does not supply us with the source of his information." When Canseliet was asked to confirm Albertus' claim heclaimed to know knothing of the incident. Canseliet stated that he only knew that both De Lesseps and Curie belonged to Fulcanelli's large circle of friends (Canseliet in an interview with Frater Albertus in1976). Finally, I want to refer to page 3 - without any further comment - where it is stated that Jean-Julien Champagne was a friend of Ferdinand Jules De Lesseps, one of the sons of the famous Ferdinand Marie De Lesseps, builder of the Suez-Canal. Ferdinand Jules was an alchemist.

"According to the thread skilfully left by Eugene Canseliet who was the unique disciple of FULCANELLI, we devoted ourselves here to a true investigation which led us to inquire into the alchemical but also into the scientific spheres of the years 1880-1920. It appeared slowly but clearly that the one who was dissimulated behind the pseudonym of FULCANELLI, was also a prestigious member of the Institute. Indeed, a great number of his reports and communications were retained by the Academy of Science. It is thus by no means surprising that he was in contact, according to the own testimony of Eugene Canseliet, with the scientists of his time, such as the elderly Chevreul, Marcellin Berthelot or even Pierre Curie, but also with the popular politicians of his time, whom he was meeting at his friend's Ferdinand de Lesseps, the man at the origin of the famous Suez Canal!" Patrick Rivière - "Fulcanelli Sa véritable identité enfin révélée" - Both claims indicate that Fulcanelli was still on the scene in the late 1930's, which would suggest that Jules Boucher was right ….. And so the Fulcanelli phenomenon continues, "his"works venerated by an audience which seem to read his writings from a reverential perspective. And don't we all just love a mystery?

pseudoscience in naziland

Propagander | The Nazis did accomplish a remarkable series of scientific advances. Willy Ley explains, in part, how come. Nazi research science to have been strictly on the shotgun technique; if you shoot enough holes in the unknown, something's apt to drop in your lap. And the Nazis tried everything—anything, no matter how wild!

When things get so tough that there seems to be no way out, the Russian embraces the vodka bottle, the Frenchman a woman and the American the Bible.

The German tends to resort to magic, to some nonsensical belief which he tries to validate by way of hysterics and physical force. Not every German, of course. Not even a majority, but it seems to me that the percentage of people so inclined is higher in Germany than in other countries. It was the willingness of a noticeable proportion of the Germans to rate rhetoric above research. and intuition above knowledge, that brought to power a political party which was frankly and loudly anti-intellectual. The Nazis not only burned books they disliked, they also classified theoretical physicists with "Jews and Marxists."

Small wonder the pseudoscientists experienced a heyday under such a regime — but it would be a mistake to believe that these pseudosciences which l am going to describe, originated with the Nazis. They existed, and to some extent even flourished, before Hitler. But then they were hemmed in by the authority of the scientists—after Hitler had become Führer it was almost the other way round.

When speaking about German pseudoscience I am not thinking so much of the usual run of astrologers, fortune tellers, theosophers and devotees to occultism. Of course there was a theosophical society—or rather a few branches hurling noncompliments at one another—there were astrological magazines and presumably astrological societies. There were struggling clairvoyants, mostly struggling among themselves by way of the printed word and resulting lawsuits—I won't judge, but I should think that they should have known the outcome — and there was an occultistic magazine vainly trying to make peace and "advance the cause."

Representatives of all these groups existed in Germany before World War I and began to flourish during World War I. They kept flourishing during the inflationary period, received a slight setback during the few years of mild prosperity in the Twenties, and flourished again dur­ing the years leading up to Hitler. Under Hitler they did not do so well and some groups were even outlawed. If my information is correct, the astrologers found themselves among the outlawed groups, although everybody inside Germany as well as outside knew that Hitler and Himmler had a personal astrol­oger, reportedly a man whose name happened to be Führer, a Dr. W. Führer who also was "Plenipotentiary for Mathematics, Astronomy and Physics."

The pseudosciences I have in mind are not these internationally distributed permanent fads, but some which originated in Germany and while not completely unknown elsewhere, had a special appeal to Germans in about the same sense in which it might be said that the pyramidologists are a British prerogative.

Much of their appeal must have been based on semantic connotations; it is difficult even to translate the names of these "sciences" properly.

The most important of them were Pendelforschung — Pendulum Re­search, Hohlweltlehre — Hollow Earth Doctrine, and Welteislehre — usually abbreviated as WEL, translatable approximately as World Ice Doctrine. But before devoting any space to these more outstanding "achievements" I have to clean up a few minor but not less surprising matters.

In the days before the Nazis became important the term "Ariosophy" could be seen occasionally in some newspapers. Then, one day, there was a small ad, announcing a lecture on Ariosophy by a man whose name I forget. It was stated that he was a disciple of the founder of Ariosophy, Dr. Jörg Lanz von Liebenfels. It was also stated that priests would not be admitted to the lecture.

The lecturer, who tried hard to look like Albrecht Dürer, the famous but long-dead German painter, began his lecture with the Statement that there were several human races but that skin color is not the most important criterion for distinguishing the races. Then he launched into an explanation of the hidden importance of language, saying that figures of Speech contain deep truths which, in everyday usage, are usually overlooked. People say, for example, "I can't stand that man's smell — remember, the lecture was in German, where that figure of Speech is used to express personal dislike for somebody, a dislike lacking specific rational reasons — well, that just indicates the otherwise forgotten fact that the various races have different smells, in short it ex-presses revulsion at the other man's race.

By that time the lecture had got around to the word Man —- in Ger­man Mensch — and he pointed out that there was a rare word manschen which means to mix—something unsavory—and with a long Jump from linguistics into the Bible manschen and Mensch were connected. Humanity, it turned out, was the result of a—forbidden—mixture of angels and animals. Each person has a small percentage of angel and a large percentage of animal. The races indicate roughly what the percentages are, a "true race" consists of indi­viduals of about the same percentage which seek each other out. Obviously any small Community is apt to harbor individuals of about the same "race"; pure Aryans, like, for exam­ple, the inhabitants of mountain villages in Norway, may. be as high as one per cent angel.

You can easily see how and where such dream-reasoning fitted into the Nzai philosophy; to my surprise no Party Group or Nazi Community ever erected a statue in honor of Dr. Jörg Lanz von Liebenfels — whose real name may have been Ignaz Donnerwetter.

The Ariosophers could at least quote a few Biblical passages in sup-port of their ideas—they stated that their founder had been a Catholic priest before "he saw the light." The next group was literally founded upon a novel. That group which I think called itself Wahrheitsgesellschaft — Society for Truth — and which was more or less localized in Berlin, devoted its spare time looking for Vril. Yes, their convictions were founded upon Bulwer-Lytton's "The Corning Race." They knew that the book was fiction, Bulwer-Lytton had used that device in order to be able to tell the truth about this "power." The subterranean humanity was nonsense, Vril was not, Possibly it had enabled the British. who kept it as a State secret, to amass their colonial empire. Surely the Romans had -had it, inclosed in small metal balls, which guarded their homes and were referred to as lares. For reasons which I failed to penetrate, the secret of Vril could be found by contemplating the structure of an apple, sliced in halves.

No, I am not joking, that is what I was told with great solemnity and secrecy. Such a group actually existed, they even got out the first issue of a magazine which was to proclaim their credo. (I wish I had kept some of these things, but I had enough books to smuggle out as it was.)

nazis: the occult conspiracy

black sun rising



vril hanebu





Vril, the Power of the Coming Race is a 1871 science fiction novel by Edward Bulwer-Lytton, originally printed as The Coming Race. Many early readers believed that its account of a superior subterranean master race and the energy-form called "Vril" was accurate, to the extent that some theosophists accepted the book as truth. A 1960 popular book speculated on a secret Vril Society in pre-Nazi Berlin.

The Coming Race by Baron Edward Bulwer Lytton

Friday, January 27, 2012

Why I Hope the Search for Extraterrestrial Life Finds Nothing - REDUX

Where Are They? Nick Bostrum in the current Technology Review;

What could be more fascinating than discovering life that had evolved entirely independently of life here on Earth? Many people would also find it heartening to learn that we are not entirely alone in this vast, cold cosmos.

But I hope that our Mars probes discover nothing. It would be good news if we find Mars to be sterile. Dead rocks and lifeless sands would lift my spirit.

Conversely, if we discovered traces of some simple, extinct life-form--some bacteria, some algae--it would be bad news. If we found fossils of something more advanced, perhaps something that looked like the remnants of a trilobite or even the skeleton of a small mammal, it would be very bad news. The more complex the life-form we found, the more depressing the news would be. I would find it interesting, certainly--but a bad omen for the future of the human race.

How do I arrive at this conclusion? I begin by reflecting on a well-known fact. UFO spotters, Raëlian cultists, and self-­certified alien abductees notwithstanding, humans have, to date, seen no sign of any extraterrestrial civilization. We have not received any visitors from space, nor have our radio telescopes detected any signals transmitted by any extraterrestrial civilization. The Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) has been going for nearly half a century, employing increasingly powerful telescopes and data-­mining techniques; so far, it has consistently corroborated the null hypothesis. As best we have been able to determine, the night sky is empty and silent. The question "Where are they?" is thus at least as pertinent today as it was when the physicist Enrico Fermi first posed it during a lunch discussion with some of his colleagues at the Los Alamos National Laboratory back in 1950.[...]

From these two facts it follows that the evolutionary path to life-forms capable of space colonization leads through a "Great Filter," which can be thought of as a probability barrier. (I borrow this term from Robin Hanson, an economist at George Mason University.) The filter consists of one or more evolutionary transitions or steps that must be traversed at great odds in order for an Earth-like planet to produce a civilization capable of exploring distant solar systems. You start with billions and billions of potential germination points for life, and you end up with a sum total of zero extraterrestrial civilizations that we can observe. The Great Filter must therefore be sufficiently powerful--which is to say, passing the critical points must be sufficiently improbable--that even with many billions of rolls of the dice, one ends up with nothing: no aliens, no spacecraft, no signals. At least, none that we can detect in our neck of the woods.

Now, just where might this Great Filter be located? There are two possibilities: It might be behind us, somewhere in our distant past. Or it might be ahead of us, somewhere in the decades, centuries, or millennia to come. Let us ponder these possibilities in turn. Originally posted May 7, 2008.

Alien Abductions and the End of White People - REDUX

Another oldy but goody. This time from subrealist commentator Annalee Newitz;
Let us consider another, even more widely discredited, theory about UFOs and extraterrestrial intelligence. A few members of the scientific community and certain elements in the UFOlogy community claim that the US Government has been in contact with extraterrestrials since the late 40s. It has been suggested that the government actually possesses alien space craft and has captured aliens who crash-landed. The government is covering up its secret knowledge by ridiculing and threatening those who attempt to make public the existence of these alien 'visitors'. This theory can hardly be proven true or false without further evidence. However, it certainly seems like the kind of thing the US Government would do if confronted with something uncontrollable and highly organized. In other words, just because the aliens may be a hoax doesn't mean the government hasn't lied to us in similar situations. During the civil rights protests of the 50s and 60s, one of the ways the government attempted to quell social unrest was by pretending nothing was going on or claiming that the protesters were just a bunch of crazy children. This strategy backfired when people across the country began receiving images on television of African-Americans being beaten and menaced with firehoses during peaceful protests in the South. People formerly unaware of the civil rights violations endured by African-Americans were galvanized by these images and a national movement was born. What I am trying to point out here is that whenever the social status quo is threatened by a united group, the US Government's position has always been one of official denial. For the government, the civil rights movement was just a 'fantasy' in the minds of a socially isolated group of people until widespread publicity made it 'real'.

In the early 90s, one might say civil rights movements of the late 50s and 60s have had a substantial effect on mainstream politics, culture and the law. A majority of people in the United States would probably agree that slavery and segregation were indeed 'real' abuses of power. While the plight of African-Americans was once accurately called 'invisible' by Ralph Ellison, it is now quite visible and deemed a force to be reckoned with. What I want to suggest at this point is that minority power and multiculturalism, like the old world order, are predicated upon keeping a particular 'invisible' group of people hidden from sight. The group I mean is white people. This is an incredibly unpopular position to take in a time when white people are often blamed for global injustice. Asking a multicultural society to recognize white people as a marginalized group is perhaps as absurd as claiming aliens are abducting Earth people.

Proponents of minority discourse and multiculturalism claim white people spent most of history recognizing themselves and therefore don't need any more recognition; after all, isn't history written by 'dead white men'? I think the problem with the multiculturalist idea that white people must be stopped like this is that it perpetuates the same old problem of center vs. margin, with the margin coming out a bit whiter this time around. We still live in a divided society, but every race gets to be the people in the center. That is, racial minorities get to occupy the same position white people had in the old world order. As long as we tell ourselves that imperialism was the white people's problem, we make the mistake of thinking that somehow non-white people aren't capable of being just as fearful, ignorant and oppressive as those white people on the ships were centuries ago. Therefore when I say we must recognize white people, what I'm really saying is that we need to recognize the 'white people' in all of us. We are all — white and non-white — capable of taking advantage of each other for power or profit; a non-white ruler can be just as cruel and terrifying as a white one. But as long as the white person bears the burden of guilt for the horrors of imperialism, it will be too easy to forget that imperialist oppression can and does exist without white people at all. The invisible white person in the margin reminds us that oppressive power can exist even when non-whites rule the world.
Here ends the subrealist exposition for this morning. While I intended to take on the subject of dopamine hegemony as monster of the id, I got sidetracked a little bit. Ah well, the weekend's still young and we seem to be on a roll, what with cognitive dissonance and imperial dissolution at alltime historical highs. If we are to speak of action directives, it makes sense to look at the situation from the perspective of centuries, rather than decades, from the long view of possible psychological evolution, and from the new physics, rather than the Cartesian-Newtonian blind alley.

If the situation is going to cusp, and I believe that it will, I think that it is in the cusp and only in cusp that the long-term controlling variables reach critical instability. It is those momentarily unstable states within which small nudges can have big effects.

How can the controlling variables be identified? What is distraction and what is real? Originally posted March 29, 2008.

UFO Abductions and Race Fear? - REDUX

Steven Mizrach is an interesting subrealist.
Though UFO abductions do appear to be an international phenomenon, the lion's share of cases seem to come from Anglo-Saxon-rooted countries like the United States, England, South Africa, and Australia. Interestingly, all of these countries face race problems - whether it be with Aborigines, African-Americans, Zulu and Xhosa, or Caribbean blacks from the commonwealth. In the Third World, many people from these First World countries commonly encounter "organ removal" panics. Rumors have spread like wildfire that Americans in Guatemala are kidnapping small children and "harvesting" their organs for transplants. The similarity between these panics and UFO abductions should also be fairly obvious....

The connection between the UFO phenomenon itself (long before the current wave of abductions) and race is curious and bizarre. Many of the first group of UFO "contactees" - who went aboard the flying saucers willingly, to make love to gorgeous Venusians (but never producing offspring) - were loosely affiliated with the "Silver Shirt" movement of the 30s and 40s, a sort of homegrown American fascism which, among other things, opposed Roosevelt and WW II. The 50s contactees seemed to report that the majority of the saucer pilots were "Aryans" - long-haired, blonde, tall beings from Venus or other planets in the solar system. The "Aryans," when not warning humanity about atomic war, often gave messages promoting race harmony, but softly warning against racial intermixture and the "population explosion" of the Third World masses...
What ever became of the New World Order eruptions of the early 90's? Do you remember the vast conspiracy imaginings associated with pre-Katrina FEMA? Oklahoma City, Waco, Black Helicopters, etc.., etc.., etc..? Whatever became of all those folks now that they've had eight years of rule by the other side of the governance duopoly? Originally posted March 29, 2008.

jacques vallee discusses anomalous data - REDUX


Video - Jacques Vallee discusses anomalous data and how and why one might go about studying it.

From a 2007 article on OurStrangePlanet, Vallee writes:
Then there is a third level, the mythological or sociological level. At that level, the physical reality of the actual UFO is totally irrelevant. Proving that Jesus Christ never existed would have little effect on our society in terms of belief systems; at this point, the influence of Jesus would remain even without a historical Jesus.
Important Element: An interesting focus on Jesus Christ throughout his writings, including his earliest books in the 1970s. Originally posted December 19, 2011.

national press club disclosure conference - REDUX


Video - National Press Club witness testimony.

Reuters | Ex-military men say unknown intruders have monitored and even tampered with American nuclear missiles

Group to call on U.S. Government to reveal the facts

WASHINGTON, Sept. 15 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Witness testimony from more than 120 former or retired military personnel points to an ongoing and alarming intervention by unidentified aerial objects at nuclear weapons sites, as recently as 2003. In some cases, several nuclear missiles simultaneously and inexplicably malfunctioned while a disc-shaped object silently hovered nearby. Six former U.S. Air Force officers and one former enlisted man will break their silence about these events at the National Press Club and urge the government to publicly confirm their reality.

One of them, ICBM launch officer Captain Robert Salas, was on duty during one missile disruption incident at Malmstrom Air Force Base and was ordered to never discuss it. Another participant, retired Col. Charles Halt, observed a disc-shaped object directing beams of light down into the RAF Bentwaters airbase in England and heard on the radio that they landed in the nuclear weapons storage area. Both men will provide stunning details about these events, and reveal how the U.S. military responded.

Captain Salas notes, "The U.S. Air Force is lying about the national security implications of unidentified aerial objects at nuclear bases and we can prove it." Col. Halt adds, "I believe that the security services of both the United States and the United Kingdom have attempted—both then and now—to subvert the significance of what occurred at RAF Bentwaters by the use of well-practiced methods of disinformation."

The group of witnesses and a leading researcher, who has brought them together for the first time, will discuss the national security implications of these and other alarmingly similar incidents and will urge the government to reveal all information about them. This is a public-awareness issue.

Declassified U.S. government documents, to be distributed at the event, now substantiate the reality of UFO activity at nuclear weapons sites extending back to 1948. The press conference will also address present-day concerns about the abuse of government secrecy as well as the ongoing threat of nuclear weapons.

WHO: Dwynne Arneson, USAF Lt. Col. Ret., communications center officer-in-charge

Bruce Fenstermacher, former USAF nuclear missile launch officer

Charles Halt, USAF Col. Ret., former deputy base commander

Robert Hastings, researcher and author

Robert Jamison, former USAF nuclear missile targeting officer

Patrick McDonough, former USAF nuclear missile site geodetic surveyor

Jerome Nelson, former USAF nuclear missile launch officer

Robert Salas, former USAF nuclear missile launch officer

WHAT: Noted researcher Robert Hastings, author of UFOs and Nukes: Extraordinary Encounters at Nuclear Weapons Sites, will moderate a distinguished panel of former U.S. Air Force officers involved in UFO incidents at nuclear missile sites near Malmstrom, F.E. Warren, and Walker AFBs, as well as the nuclear weapons depot at RAF Bentwaters. Originally posted September 30, 2010.

WHEN: Monday, September 27, 2010

12:30 p.m.

WHERE: National Press Club

Holeman Lounge

Event open to credentialed media and Congressional staff only

SOURCE Former U.S. Air Force Officer Robert Salas, and Researcher Robert Hastings

Chapter 13 - REDUX

The Fire Officer's Guide To Disaster Control by William M. Kramer, Ph.D. and Charles W. Bahme, J.D. is a totally serious book which is found in all fire and police department libraries across the United States. In June 1993, a new chapter (pp.458-473) was added to this book. Bahme himself saw "UFOs" fly over Los Angeles on Aug. 26, 1942, and they were subsequently fired upon by ground defenses which killed nine people. During the Korean War, Bahme was Security Coordinator for the Chief of Naval Operations. The Guide is published by the Delaware State Fire School and made available through the Fire Engineering Book Service at 800-752-9768.

The Fire Officer's Guide To Disaster Control can be found in US local libraries. The Dewey Decimal number is 363.378. The ISBN # is 0-912212-26-8. Fire Officer's Guide to Disaster Control includes information on:


* training
* planning and procedures
* communication
* handling casualties
* infrastructure assessment
* recovery operations
* stress debriefing

Contents

1. Disaster Planning
2. Historical Lessons
3. Organizational Structure and Incident Command
4. Resource Management and Augmentation
5. Training and Preparation
6. Communications and Information Management
7. Catastrophic Fires
8. Civil Disorders and Riots
9. Weather-Related Natural Disasters
10. Terrain-Based Natural Disasters
11. Transportation Disasters
12. Hazardous Materials Incidents
13. Enemy Attack and UFO Potential
14. Mass Casualties and Mass Evacuation
15. Aftermath and Recovery

On March 30th, Chapter 13 was published on the Cleveland Tremonter. Interestingly, it's not there anymore. Originally posted April 5, 2008.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

indian government: no comment...,



Times of India | A reputed Israeli intelligence website has claimed that India is opting for gold to repay crude oil supplies from Iran. Given the US and EU embargo on Iran, payment in hard currency, such as the US dollar or euro, is very difficult; hence, this barter.

The website, Debkafile, said the transaction will be routed through UCO Bank, the Kolkata-based public sector lender. However, when contacted, a senior bank executive said he had not heard of any plans to settle oil payments in gold. A senior finance ministry official said he did not wish to comment on the issue. When reached over the phone, economic affairs secretary R Gopalan, who has been leading the talks with Iran, said he was busy in a meeting and did not respond to a text message.

The report on the Israeli website coincides with the visit of an Indian official delegation to Tehran last week to find ways to continue the bilateral trade between Iran and India in spite of the sanctions imposed for forcing Iran to forsake its alleged plans for developing nuclear weapons.

While the use of gold as currency may help India get around the proposed freeze on Iranian central bank's assets and the oil embargo that the EU foreign ministers have agreed to impose on Monday, any outflow of sovereign gold will not go undetected, bringing in the political consequences of flouting the West-imposed embargo.

Keeping the Iran crude oil tap running is crucial for India which depends on imports to meet around 80% of its oil requirements. Iranian crude accounts for a 12% share in India's total oil imports and any threat to this would have grave implications for the Indian economy.

On Wednesday, petroleum minister S Jaipal Reddy made clear India's stance on the sanctions and said that New Delhi would continue to explore "options" for paying oil from Iran. He added that India would abide only by UN sanctions, and not those imposed by a group of countries.

Officials said another option that the government was looking at was to pay with the Indian currency (India has had a rupee-rouble agreement with Russia). According to the mechanism discussed with Iran, the exports and imports will be netted out and India will pay in rupees through Uco Bank. India is a net importer due to crude from Iran.

India and Iran have been negotiating a payment settlement mechanism for over a year but a stable tool is yet to emerge. Under the last deal, payments by Indian oil firms were routed through Union Bank of India which transferred funds to a Turkish bank.

india to pay gold instead of dollars for iranian oil?



debka | India is the first buyer of Iranian oil to agree to pay for its purchases in gold instead of the US dollar, debkafile's intelligence and Iranian sources report exclusively. Those sources expect China to follow suit. India and China take about one million barrels per day, or 40 percent of Iran's total exports of 2.5 million bpd. Both are superpowers in terms of gold assets.

By trading in gold, New Delhi and Beijing enable Tehran to bypass the upcoming freeze on its central bank's assets and the oil embargo which the European Union's foreign ministers agreed to impose Monday, Jan. 23. The EU currently buys around 20 percent of Iran's oil exports.

The vast sums involved in these transactions are expected, furthermore, to boost the price of gold and depress the value of the dollar on world markets.
Iran's second largest customer after China, India purchases around $12 billion a year's worth of Iranian crude, or about 12 percent of its consumption. Delhi is to execute its transactions, according to our sources, through two state-owned banks: the Calcutta-based UCO Bank, whose board of directors is made up of Indian government and Reserve Bank of India representatives; and Halk Bankasi (Peoples Bank), Turkey's seventh largest bank which is owned by the government.

An Indian delegation visited Tehran last week to discuss payment options in view of the new sanctions. The two sides were reported to have agreed that payment for the oil purchased would be partly in yen and partly in rupees. The switch to gold was kept dark.

India thus joins China in opting out of the US-led European sanctions against Iran's international oil and financial business. Turkey announced publicly last week that it would not adhere to any sanctions against Iran's nuclear program unless they were imposed by the United Nations Security Council.

The EU decision of Monday banned the signing of new oil contracts with Iran at once, while phasing out existing transactions by July 1, 2012, when the European embargo, like the measure enforced by the United States, becomes total. The European foreign ministers also approved a freeze on the assets of the Central Bank of Iran which handles all the country's oil transactions.

However, the damage those sanctions cause the Iranian economy will be substantially cushioned by the oil deals to be channeled through Turkish and Indian state banks. China for its part has declared its opposition to sanctions against Iran.

debkafile's intelligence sources disclose that Tehran has set up alternative financial mechanisms with China and Russia for getting paid for its oil in currencies other than US dollars. Both Beijing and Moscow are keeping the workings of those mechanisms top secret.

saving the "world" economy from Gaddafi - REDUX


Video - Russia Today - Saving the world economy from Gaddafi



Video - Gold dinar silver dirhan

originally posted May 25, 2011

RT | Some believe it is about protecting civilians, others say it is about oil, but some are convinced intervention in Libya is all about Gaddafi’s plan to introduce the gold dinar, a single African currency made from gold, a true sharing of the wealth.

­“It’s one of these things that you have to plan almost in secret, because as soon as you say you’re going to change over from the dollar to something else, you’re going to be targeted,” says Ministry of Peace founder Dr James Thring. “There were two conferences on this, in 1986 and 2000, organized by Gaddafi. Everybody was interested, most countries in Africa were keen.”

Gaddafi did not give up. In the months leading up to the military intervention, he called on African and Muslim nations to join together to create this new currency that would rival the dollar and euro. They would sell oil and other resources around the world only for gold dinars.

It is an idea that would shift the economic balance of the world.

A country’s wealth would depend on how much gold it had and not how many dollars it traded. And Libya has 144 tons of gold. The UK, for example, has twice as much, but ten times the population.

“If Gaddafi had an intent to try to re-price his oil or whatever else the country was selling on the global market and accept something else as a currency or maybe launch a gold dinar currency, any move such as that would certainly not be welcomed by the power elite today, who are responsible for controlling the world’s central banks,” says Anthony Wile, founder and chief editor of the Daily Bell.

“So yes, that would certainly be something that would cause his immediate dismissal and the need for other reasons to be brought forward from moving him from power.”

And it has happened before.

In 2000, Saddam Hussein announced Iraqi oil would be traded in euros, not dollars. Some say sanctions and an invasion followed because the Americans were desperate to prevent OPEC from transferring oil trading in all its member countries to the euro.

A gold dinar would have had serious consequences for the world financial system, but may also have empowered the people of Africa, something black activists say the US wants to avoid at all costs.

“The US have denied self-determination to Africans inside the US, so we are not surprised by anything the US would do to hinder the self-determination of Africans on the continent,” says Cynthia Ann McKinney, a former US Congresswoman.

The UK’s gold is kept in a secure vault somewhere in the depths of the Bank of England. As in most developed countries, there is not enough to go around.

But that is not the case in countries like Libya and many of the Gulf States.
A gold dinar would have given oil-rich African and Middle Eastern countries the power to turn around to their energy-hungry customers and say: “Sorry, the price has gone up, and we want gold.”

Some say the US and its NATO allies literally could not afford to let that happen.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

murmuration



Kunstler | On last week's podcast, Duncan and I yakked about an important concept introduced by Nicole Foss at The Automatic Earth blog site. This concept was "the trust horizon," which outlines how legitimacy is lost in the political hierarchy. That is, people stop trusting larger institutions like the federal or state government and end up vesting their interests much closer to home. Thus, life de-centralizes and becomes more local by necessity. Your own trust horizon extends only as far as other persons, businesses, institutions, and authorities immediately around you - the banker who will meet with you face-to-face, the mayor of your small town, the local food-growers. At the same time, distant ones become impotent and ludicrous - or possibly dangerous as they flounder to re-assert their vanishing influence.

It is obvious that we are in the early stages of this process in the USA (and Europe), as giant institutions such as the Federal Reserve, the Executive branch under Mr. Obama, the US Congress (the ECB), the SEC, the Department of Justice, the Treasury Department, and other engines of management all fail in one way or another to discharge their obligations.

The people of the USA, having been let down and swindled in so many ways by the people they placed their trust in, and even freely elected, appear to be in a daze of injury. Maybe this accounts for the obsession with zombies and persons drained of blood - who yet seem to carry on normal lives (at least in TV shows). This odd condition is best defined by the familiar cry from non-zombies: "where's the outrage?" Which brings me to today's point.

Investment guru James Dines introduced another seminal idea on Eric King's podcast last week. Dines's work over the years has focused much more on human mob psychology than technical market analysis - which he seems to regard as akin to augury with chicken entrails. Dines now introduces the term "murmuration" to describe the way that rapid changes occur in the realm of human activities. The word refers to behaviors also seen in other living species, such as the way a large flock of starlings will all turn in the sky at the same instant without any apparent communication. We don't know how they do that. It seems to be some kind of collective cognitive processing beyond our understanding.

Dines goes on to suggest that the political stirrings and upheavals of the past year represent an instance of human "murmuration" that will lead to even greater epochal changes in geopolitical and economic life. Now, I've often said 1) history doesn't repeat, but it rhymes [thank you, Mark Twain], and 2) that these times are like the 1850s. To be more precise today, these two concepts of "the trust horizon" and "murmuration" point to a moment in time that I believe we are now rhyming with: the revolutions of 1848 and the events that grew out of it.

national popular vote?



WaPo | Last Thursday’s GOP presidential debate was a doozy. Some of the commercials weren’t bad, either. My favorite was the ad from the National Popular Vote movement, promoting legislation in the 50 states to guarantee that the people, not the electoral college, choose our president.

Mind you, I’ve always found it kind of fallacious to worry that our current system elevates popular-vote losers to the presidency: that’s because popular votes cast in a state-by-state contest for 270 electoral votes do not reflect the national will. Rather, they reflect the results of a competition in which candidates tailor their messages and deploy their resources according to the rules of the electoral college; they would do everything differently if the goal was a popular-vote majority.

So when Al Gore got about 500,000 votes more than George W. Bush in 2000 but still lost, I was pretty much unmoved. Complaining about that — as opposed to the different issue of the Supreme Court’s decision in Bush v. Gore — was like griping that your basketball team lost even though it made more free throws.

In a contest for popular votes, Bush would have had an incentive to scrounge for every vote in states he had locked up, like Texas, or the ones he had consigned to Gore.

Still, it’s easy to see why the electoral college is so unloved. It is inconsistent with the idea of one-person, one-vote; every 677,000 Californians get one electoral vote, while the 563,000 inhabitants of Wyoming get three. And it gives presidential nominees an incentive to cater to the interests of “swing” states while treating the rest as flyover country.

The National Popular Vote plan would, at least in theory, solve those problems. Instead of trying to abolish the electoral college through a constitutional amendment — which small states might block — National Popular Vote devised a way to get around it: States agree by law to cast all of their electoral votes for the first-place finisher in the national popular vote; and the law becomes operative as soon as it is adopted by enough states to total 270 votes in the electoral college.

So far, nine deep-blue jurisdictions with a total of 132 electoral votes — including Maryland, the District and California, the 55-elector behemoth — have signed on to this proposed interstate compact.

charles murray on cultural inequality - the "new" american divide

WSJ | America is coming apart. For most of our nation's history, whatever the inequality in wealth between the richest and poorest citizens, we maintained a cultural equality known nowhere else in the world—for whites, anyway. "The more opulent citizens take great care not to stand aloof from the people," wrote Alexis de Tocqueville, the great chronicler of American democracy, in the 1830s. "On the contrary, they constantly keep on easy terms with the lower classes: They listen to them, they speak to them every day."

Americans love to see themselves this way. But there's a problem: It's not true anymore, and it has been progressively less true since the 1960s.

People are starting to notice the great divide. The tea party sees the aloofness in a political elite that thinks it knows best and orders the rest of America to fall in line. The Occupy movement sees it in an economic elite that lives in mansions and flies on private jets. Each is right about an aspect of the problem, but that problem is more pervasive than either political or economic inequality. What we now face is a problem of cultural inequality.

When Americans used to brag about "the American way of life"—a phrase still in common use in 1960—they were talking about a civic culture that swept an extremely large proportion of Americans of all classes into its embrace. It was a culture encompassing shared experiences of daily life and shared assumptions about central American values involving marriage, honesty, hard work and religiosity.

Over the past 50 years, that common civic culture has unraveled. We have developed a new upper class with advanced educations, often obtained at elite schools, sharing tastes and preferences that set them apart from mainstream America. At the same time, we have developed a new lower class, characterized not by poverty but by withdrawal from America's core cultural institutions.

To illustrate just how wide the gap has grown between the new upper class and the new lower class, let me start with the broader upper-middle and working classes from which they are drawn, using two fictional neighborhoods that I hereby label Belmont (after an archetypal upper-middle-class suburb near Boston) and Fishtown (after a neighborhood in Philadelphia that has been home to the white working class since the Revolution).

To be assigned to Belmont, the people in the statistical nationwide databases on which I am drawing must have at least a bachelor's degree and work as a manager, physician, attorney, engineer, architect, scientist, college professor or content producer in the media. To be assigned to Fishtown, they must have no academic degree higher than a high-school diploma. If they work, it must be in a blue-collar job, a low-skill service job such as cashier, or a low-skill white-collar job such as mail clerk or receptionist.

People who qualify for my Belmont constitute about 20% of the white population of the U.S., ages 30 to 49. People who qualify for my Fishtown constitute about 30% of the white population of the U.S., ages 30 to 49.

I specify white, meaning non-Latino white, as a way of clarifying how broad and deep the cultural divisions in the U.S. have become. Cultural inequality is not grounded in race or ethnicity. I specify ages 30 to 49—what I call prime-age adults—to make it clear that these trends are not explained by changes in the ages of marriage or retirement.

In Belmont and Fishtown, here's what happened to America's common culture between 1960 and 2010.

the greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world

RealitySandwich | This interview is excerpted from Duncan Crary's The Kunstler Cast: Conversations with James Howard Kunstler, from New Society Publishers, available here.

James Howard Kunstler is the author of The Geography of Nowhere, Home From Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, and The Long Emergency. His work addresses the suburban and urban environments, and the challenges posed by the coming permanent global oil crisis, climate change, and other "converging catastrophes of the 21st Century."

Duncan Crary: You have what you call a "Long Emergency" view of where civilization is heading. What is "The Long Emergency?"

James Howard Kunstler: I've labeled this situation we're heading into "The Long Emergency" because I think it's going to be a protracted experience for mankind and for us in the United States in particular. It's really about how we are heading into a period of resource scarcity and the disruption and depletion of our oil supplies. It's about the allocation of this crucial resource all around the world, and the geopolitical implications of those inequities. And how these problems are going to combine with climate change to cause problems with everything we do, from how we produce and distribute our food to how we're going to have trade and manufacturing when Walmart dies. And not least, the destiny of the suburban, car-dependent, happy motoring living arrangement. Which is probably, for me, the biggest part of the equation.

And you don't see good things in store for the suburbs in the Long Emergency?

Suburbia is going to fail a lot worse than it's already failing, because we're not going to have the energy to run it the way it's been designed to run. For that reason I refer to suburbia as the greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world. We took all of our post-world war wealth -- and actually quite a bit of the wealth that we had accumulated for decades before that -- and we invested it in this living arrangement that had no future. And now we're stuck with it. And to make matters worse, we didn't build it very well in the first place. So as it begins to decay it decays very rapidly and becomes a very unrewarding place to live in.

Jim, it seems almost impossible to persuade suburbanites that there's anything wrong with suburbia or that it could ever "fail." I've tried, and it almost feels like arguing with someone about deeply held religious beliefs.

Again, one of the unfortunate repercussions of building suburbia is: now that we've built it, it provides a very powerful psychology of previous investment. Which means that you put so much of your wealth into this system already -- into this structure for daily life with no future -- and you've invested so much of your national identity in it, that you can't even imagine letting go of it or substantially changing it or reforming it. And that, I believe, is what's behind our inability to have a coherent discussion about what we're going to do about our problems in America. Because the psychology of previous investment has got us trapped in a box -- we will not allow ourselves to think about how we're going to do without this crap.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

where did religion come from?

SSRC | I start with Clifford Geertz’s definition of religion in his “Religion as a Cultural System,” which I should give in my abbreviated version to clarify what I mean and don’t mean by religion: “Religion is a system of symbols which, when enacted by human beings, establishes powerful, pervasive, and long-lasting moods and motivations that make sense in terms of an idea of a general order of existence.” I should point out that neither Cliff nor I use the terms gods or God. What Geertz meant by a cultural system is very dependent on his reading of Alfred Schutz, particularly his paper on multiple realities or multiple worlds, terms which Schutz took from William James. Besides what Schutz called the paramount reality, the world of daily life, what Weber called “the everyday,” Schutz distinguished the world of science, the world of religion, and the world of art.

After describing what kind of multiple reality religion is, I wanted to look at the major forms of religious representation, the ways in which people engage in religious action and religious thought. Here I turned to the field of child development, not to look at the ways in which children become religious, though some have worked on that, but to look at the way infants and then children acquire the various capacities to relate to the world. Here was another big field to master, but one in which I have long been interested—especially the work of Jerome Bruner, one of my teachers in graduate school, who is the most important cultural psychologist still living and whose categories for the cognitive development of the child turned out to be remarkably relevant for my purposes. Bruner, himself adapting ideas from Piaget, sees the child as moving from enactive to symbolic to conceptual representations. I prefaced these with the idea of unitive events rooted in the original unity of mother and child but emerging later as religious experiences, usefully described by Alison Gopnik of UC Berkeley’s psychology department in her recent book The Philosophical Baby. So Piaget, Bruner, and Gopnik were my anchors but I looked at a lot of other things as well, particularly the work that links cognitive development in human children with comparable development in the great apes and other mammals.

The major stages of ontogeny turn out to parallel the major stages of phylogeny as described by Merlin Donald in Origins of the Modern Mind: Three Stages in the Evolution of Culture and Cognition. Donald prefaces his three stages by referring to episodic culture which we share with other higher mammals and that I see as analogous to unitive events in ontogeny.

I should note that in both Bruner and Donald stages are never left behind, but are reconfigured in new contexts when subsequent stages emerge, leading to my general rule that “nothing is ever lost,” by which I don’t mean cultural content which is all too easily lost (most of the plays of Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides, for example) but the cultural capacities themselves, which never lose their essential and indispensible nature. Donald’s three stages are mimetic, mythic, and theoretic, paralleling Bruner’s enactive, symbolic, and conceptual.

I want to describe what Merlin Donald means by mimetic culture because it makes intelligible what happened during a long period of human evolution, most likely the period between the appearance of Homo erectus, 1.8 million years ago, and the emergence of our own species, Homo sapiens, during the last two or three hundred thousand years. Mimetic culture involves a kind of bodily communication more elaborate than anything comparable among the other great apes, lacking language but probably involving spoken or sung communication, what some evolutionary musicologists call musilanguage. Mimetic communication almost certainly led to ritual, though as yet without myth, which requires language capacities that were lacking.

In modeling the society itself as well as its constituent roles, mimetic culture provided the necessary resources for moving beyond the rather anarchic chimpanzee band to a larger group capable of controlling in-group aggression such that pair bonding and same-sex solidarity in various contexts could result. In-group solidarity did not mean these mimetic-culture based societies were peaceful. There is every reason to believe that they were not, that there was endemic conflict between groups and probably in-group aggression was only relatively successfully controlled.

The limitations of mimetic culture are evident. Donald writes:

Mimesis is thus a much more limited form of representation than symbolic language; it is slow moving, ambiguous, and very restricted in its subject matter. Episodic event registration continues to serve as the raw material of higher cognition in mimetic culture, but rather than serving as the peak of the cognitive hierarchy, it performs a subsidiary role. The highest level of processing in the mimetically skilled brain is no longer the analysis and breakdown of perceptual events; it is the modeling of these events in self-initiated motor acts. The consequence, on a larger scale, was a culture that could model its episodic predecessors.

It is well to remember that we humans are never very far from basic mammalian episodic consciousness, the awareness of the event we are in. Mimetic culture is an event about an event. Narrative, which is at the heart of linguistic culture is basically an account of a string of events, organized hierarchically into larger event units. But the moment when our predecessors first stepped outside episodic consciousness, looked at it and what was before, around, and would be after it, was a historic moment of the highest possible importance. Other higher mammals, although they are social, are more tightly locked each in their own consciousness. They are, as Donald says, almost solipsists. But humans, once mimetic culture had evolved, could participate in—could share—the contents of other minds. We could learn, be taught, and did not have to discover almost everything for ourselves. Mimetic culture was limited and conservative; it lacked the potential for explosive growth that language would make possible. But it was the indispensable step without which language would never have evolved.