Saturday, May 31, 2014

understanding creationism

pandasthumb |  In this short series, David MacMillan explains how misinformation and misconceptions allow creationists to maintain their beliefs even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. A former creationist blogger and writer, Mr. MacMillan earned his BS degree in physics from the University of North Alabama and now works as a technical writer when he isn’™t frequenting the PT comment boards. Since leaving creationism, he has written several columns discussing the public dialogue between creation and evolution. This series will outline the core beliefs creationists use as the basis for their reasoning while pointing out the challenges faced in re-educating against creationist misconceptions.

1. Introduction and overview: Philosophy of pseudoscience
During my tenure as an active young-earth creationist, I never once heard other creationists accurately describe what evolutionary theory is or how it is supposed to work. Nor did I understand it myself. Creationists often seem familiar with a lot of scientific terminology, but their understanding is filled with gross misinformation. Thus, a host of misconceptions is believed and taught throughout creationist circles, making it almost impossible for actual evidence to really sink in.

There are plenty of comprehensive lists of creationist claims with exhaustive refutations, such as the TalkOrigins archive. Rather than try to replicate those, I will attempt to explain why creationist claims persist in the face of contrary evidence, even when individuals are otherwise well-educated. To do so, I’m going to go over the major areas where creationists get the science itself completely wrong. My list doesn’t represent all such misconceptions, of course. These are the misconceptions I personally recall hearing or using myself. I’ve chosen not to provide specific examples of each misconception from the creationist literature, though they are all easy to find. Citations for my explanations can be found online by anyone who wants to see them; this series is not about any particular facts so much as it’s about how false beliefs are used to support false conclusions.

We understand the theory of evolution to be a series of conclusions drawn from over a century of research, predictions, and discoveries. This theory allows us to understand the mechanisms in biology and make further predictions about the sort of evidence we will uncover in the future. Its predictive power is vital to success in real-life applications like medicine, genetic engineering, and agriculture.
However, creationists don’t see it the same way. Creationists artificially classify medicine, genetic research, and agriculture as “operational science,” and believe that those disciplines function in a different way than research in evolutionary biology. They understand the theory of evolution, along with mainstream geology and a variety of other disciplines, as a philosophical construct created for the express purpose of explaining life on Earth apart from divine intervention. Thus, they approach the concept of evolution from a defensive position; they believe it represents an attack on all religious faith.

This defensive posture is reflected in nearly all creationist literature, even in the less overt varieties such as intelligent-design creationism. It dictates responses. When creationists see a particular argument or explanation about evolution, their initial reaction is to ask, “How does this attack the truth of God as Creator? What philosophical presuppositions are dictating beliefs here? How can I challenge those underlying assumptions and thus demonstrate the truth?” Recognizing this basis for creationist arguments is a helpful tool for understanding why such otherwise baffling arguments are proposed.

In reality, we understand that although various philosophical implications may be constructed around evolution, it is not driven by any atheistic philosophy. The fundamental principle undergirding the theory of evolution is the same as the fundamental principle behind all science: that hypotheses can be tested and confirmed by prediction. But creationists instead insist that evolution arises out of explicitly atheistic axioms. This series will look at the arguments and objections which flow from this worldview in six different areas.

Creationists accept certain aspects of variation, adaptation, and speciation, but they artificially constrain the mechanism for adaptation to produce an imagined barrier between “œmicroevolution” and “œmacroevolution” (Part 2). They conceptualize evolutionary adaptation as a series of individual changes, missing the entire mechanism provided by the population as a whole (Part 3). They make the extraordinary claim that no transitional fossils exist, simply by redefining “transitional” into something that could not possibly exist (Part 4). Creationists attempt to rewrite the last two centuries of scientific progress in order to avoid dealing with the multiple lines of evidence all independently affirming common descent and deep time (Part 5). They have far-reaching misapprehensions concerning microbiology and DNA (Part 6). On top of all this, they assign ethical and moral failings to evolutionary science in order to make evolution seem dangerous and anti-religion (Part 7). I will address each of these topics in the coming posts.

dna doesn't determine race, society does...,

psmag |  Genes certainly reflect geography, but unlike geography, human genetic differences don’t fall along obvious natural boundaries that might define races. As my Washington University colleague Alan Templeton has shown, by objective genetic definitions of race, human races don’t exist. Writing in Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, Templeton notes that “Human populations certainly show genetic differences across geographical space, but this does not necessarily mean that races exist in humans.” For an objective, biological definition of race, this genetic differentiation has to occur “across sharp boundaries and not as gradual changes.” Templeton examined two genetic definitions of race that are commonly applied by biologists to vertebrate species. In both cases, races clearly exist in chimpanzees, our nearest relatives, but not in humans.

One natural definition of race is a group whose members are genetically much more similar to each other than they are to other groups. Putting a number on what counts as “much more” is a somewhat arbitrary exercise, but Templeton found that the genetic differentiation between populations of chimpanzees is over seven times greater than the genetic differentiation between broad geographical populations of humans. Furthermore, the level of genetic differentiation between human populations falls well below the threshold that biologists typically use to define races in non-human species.

Races could also be defined by genetic branches on the family tree. For most of us, this is the most intuitive definition of race. It’s one that, at first glance, is consistent with recent human evolution: After originating in Africa, part of our species branched out first into Asia and Europe, and then to the rest of the world. We should thus expect different geographical populations to be distinct genetic limbs on our species’ recent evolutionary tree.

But as it turns out, our species’ family history is not so arboreal. Geneticists have methods for measuring the “treeness” of genetic relationships between populations. Templeton found that the genetic relationships between human populations don’t have a very tree-like structure, while chimpanzee populations do. Rather than a family tree with distinct racial branches, humans have a family trellis that lacks clear genetic boundaries between different groups.

These findings reflect our unusual recent evolutionary history. Unlike the distinct populations of chimps, humans continued to exchange both goods and genes with each other even as they rapidly settled an enormous geographical range. Those ongoing contacts, plus the fact that we were a small, genetically homogeneous species to begin with, has resulted in relatively close genetic relationships, despite our worldwide presence. The DNA differences between humans increase with geographical distance, but boundaries between populations are, as geneticists Kenneth Weiss and Jeffrey Long put it, “multilayered, porous, ephemeral, and difficult to identify.” Pure, geographically separated ancestral populations are an abstraction: “There is no reason to think that there ever were isolated, homogeneous parental populations at any time in our human past.”

the gene is obsolete...,

psmag | In the aftermath of the Human Genome Project, biologists are struggling with the definition of a gene, but why should this matter to anyone else? It matters because the molecular concept of the gene that has dominated biomedical research for the last half-century is increasingly ill-suited for our efforts to understand the role of genetics in human biology. Giving a physical meaning to the concept of a gene was a triumph of 20th-century biology, but as it turns out, this scientific success hasn’t solved the problems we hoped it would.

The Human Genome Project was conceived as part of a research program to develop a set of clear molecular explanations for our biology. The idea was to inventory all of our genes and assign each of them a function; with this annotated inventory in hand, we would possess a molecular explanation of our genetic underpinnings and discover druggable target genes for specific diseases. While this gene-focused approach has been successful in many cases, it’s increasingly clear that we will never understand the role of genetics in our biology by merely making an annotated inventory of those DNA entities that we call genes.

Life isn’t so simple, and perhaps Wilhelm Johannsen’s more agnostic definition of a gene is a better match to the mixed bag of genetic elements in our genomes. The molecular concept of a gene was supposed to explain the influence of our DNA on our biology, our behaviors, and our ailments. That explanation is much more elusive than we hoped, and the role of DNA in our lives is more complex and subtle than we expected.

Friday, May 30, 2014

inclusive banksterism...,

NYTimes |  Guildhall at the heart of the City can be a lulling sort of place after a long day. The statuary and vaulted timber ceiling of the medieval great hall lead the eye to wander and the mind to muse on Britain’s strangest quirk — its centuries of continuity. Grace is said, claret is served, glasses clink and dreaminess sets in. A keynote speech from a central banker is all that is required to complete the soporific effect.

Or so one would think, until Mark Carney, the Canadian governor of the Bank of England, lays into unfettered capitalism. “Just as any revolution eats its children,” he says, “unchecked market fundamentalism can devour the social capital essential for the long-term dynamism of capitalism itself.”

All ideologies, he continues, are prone to extremes. Belief in the power of the market entered “the realm of faith” before the 2008 meltdown. Market economies became market societies. They were characterized by “light-touch regulation” and “the belief that bubbles cannot be identified.”

Carney pulls no punches. Big banks were too big to fail, operating in a “heads-I-win-tails-you-lose bubble.” Benchmarks were rigged for personal gain. Equity markets blatantly favored “the technologically empowered over the retail investor.” Mistrust grew — and persists.

“Prosperity requires not just investment in economic capital, but investment in social capital,” Carney argues, having defined social capital as “the links, shared values and beliefs in a society which encourage individuals not only to take responsibility for themselves and their families but also to trust each other and work collaboratively to support each other.”

A stirring through the hall, a focusing of gazes — Carney has the attention of the chief executives, bankers and investors gathered here for a conference on “Inclusive Capitalism.” His bluntness reflects the fact that, six years after the crisis, the core problem has not gone away: The deep unease and anger in developed countries about the ways globalization and technology magnify returns for the super-rich, operating in a world of low taxation and lax regulation where short-term gain becomes a guiding principle, even as societies become more unequal, offering diminished opportunities to the young, less community and a growing sense of unfairness.

Anyone seeking the source of the anger behind populist movements in Europe and the United States (and the Piketty fever) need look no further than this. Anti-immigration, anti-Europe movements won in European elections because people feel cheated, worried about their children. As Bill Clinton noted a couple of hours before Carney’s speech, the first reaction of human beings who feel “insecure and under stress” is the urge to “hang with our own kind.” And the world’s greatest challenge is defining “the terms of our interdependence.”

of course the uk gettin it in...,

telegraph |  Illegal drugs and prostitution are worth 0.7pc of GDP, which is roughly the same proportion as agriculture, gambling and accommodation services which includes hotels, bed and breakfasts and caravan parks. 

They are worth more than advertising, which is 0.5pc of GDP, and double the contribution of real estate activities, at 0.35pc. 

“In terms of the new concepts coming in, illegal activities is the biggest,” said Graeme Walker, head of national accounts at the ONS. 

“For the rest of GDP we do things like sending questionnaires to businesses, asking them how much they have earned. 

“We don’t think it would be right to directly collect information on [illegal drugs and prostitution] and we have no plans to contact people involved in these activities. 

"We think our data fits the purpose for giving people an idea of the size of illegal activity.”

The contribution of prostitution to GDP was calculated using a number of estimates, including the clients per prostitute per week based on Dutch practise, the average price per visit and the cost of room rental and clothing. 

Meanwhile the contribution of cannabis to GDP was calculated using estimated figures including sales, number of users, street price and imports. 

For drugs other than cannabis, estimates are based on figures such as sales, import price and value, purity from police seizures and street price. 

As a first estimate, the ONS says that from 1997 to 2009 the impact of the illegal drugs and prostitution on GDP ranges from £7bn to £11bn. 

The national accounts, published in September 2014, will include the import, production and sale of illegal drugs as well as the provision of prostitution services.

The ONS say that the figures “will be based on a variety of sources and assumptions” and add that there are “significant limitations in the availability of data”. 

This is part of a raft of changes being made to the national accounts that will increase the level of GDP in 2009 by between 4pc and 5pc. 

This will include the contribution of “non-profit institutions serving households” such as charities, universities and trade unions, which is the ONS have valued at £24bn, or 1.7pc of GDP.
People who build their own homes will also be included as a category, which contributes £4bn, or 0.3pc to GDP.


businessweek | The Italians have a word for it: sprezzatura, or studied nonchalance. The news that Italy plans to include prostitution and illegal drugs in gross domestic product sounds like a joke. But it’s not just an Italian initiative. New European Union rules require member states to include in GDP the value of all income-producing activities, including prostitution, the production and consumption of illegal drugs, and black market sales of cigarettes and alcohol.

The beauty? By counting prostitution and drugs in output, Italy will raise its GDP and thereby lower the ratio of debt to GDP, which will make it easier to comply with European Union rules on indebtedness. The same will go for other countries. That’s sprezzatura.

Governments of European Union members are not supposed to let their annual deficits exceed 3 percent of GDP or accumulated debt exceed 60 percent of GDP.

This pyramid portrays the detailed process that the European Union has established to deal with countries that fall out of compliance. On paper, the penalty is a fine of 0.2 percent of GDP, plus a “variable component” that can range up to 0.5 percent of GDP annually as long as the breach continues. 

In reality, the European Union’s bark is worse than its bite. A fine would only make a country’s deficit worse. At the moment 17 member countries are being monitored under what the EU calls “excessive deficit procedures,” while another nine (Italy among them) have emerged from excessive deficit procedures. Only two member countries, Estonia and Sweden, have never had excessive deficit procedures.

Countries outside the European Union that want to make their economies look larger may want to follow suit. Italians have no monopoly on drugs and prostitutes. According to research by two Turkish economists, Ceyhun Elgin and Oguz Oztunali of Bogazici University in Istanbul, the shadow economy (not just drugs and prostitution) averages just under 18 percent of GDP in OECD and EU countries. It’s 42 percent in Latin America, 37 percent in post-socialist countries, 32 percent in the Middle East-North Africa region, 43 percent in sub-Saharan Africa, and 33 percent in Asia, by their estimates.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

in most countries, theft is the primary driver of inequality...,

theatlantic | As I wrote last week, the profound impact of Piketty’s book is largely a result of the fact that it was published at a time when growing economic inequality has become an American preoccupation. Since the United States has proven so adept at globalizing its anxieties and exporting its policy debates, the Piketty phenomenon is extending to places where inequality has been pervasive for so long that the public seemed inured to it and resigned to passively accept it. Now, members of many of these societies are actively debating how to bring inequality down.

In order for this discussion to be valuable, however, the problem requires a more complete diagnosis. It is not accurate to assert that in countries like Russia, Nigeria, Brazil, and China, the main driver of economic inequality is a rate of return on capital that is larger than the rate of economic growth. A more holistic explanation would need to include the massive fortunes regularly created by corruption and all kinds of illicit activities. In many countries, wealth grows more as a result of thievery and malfeasance than as a consequence of the returns on capital invested by elites (a factor that is surely at work too).

To channel Piketty, inequality will continue to rise in societies where “c > h.” Here, “c” stands for the degree to which corrupt politicians and public employees, along with their private-sector cronies, break laws for personal gain, and “h” represents the degree to which honest politicians and public employees uphold fair governing practices. Corruption-fueled inequality flourishes in societies where there are no incentives, rules, or institutions to hinder corruption. And having honest people in government is good, but not enough. The practices of pilfering public funds or selling government contracts to the highest bidder must be seen as risky, routinely detected, and systematically punished. 

Most of the roughly 20 nations from which Piketty forms his analysis classify as high-income countries and rank among the least-corrupt in the world, according to Transparency International. Unfortunately, most of humanity lives in countries where “c > h” and dishonesty is the primary driver of inequality. This point has not attracted as much attention as Piketty’s thesis. But it should.

planet-scouring trajectory of unsustainable compound "growth"...,

guardian | Economic growth is an artefact of the use of fossil fuels. Before large amounts of coal were extracted, every upswing in industrial production would be met with a downswing in agricultural production, as the charcoal or horse power required by industry reduced the land available for growing food. Every prior industrial revolution collapsed, as growth could not be sustained. But coal broke this cycle and enabled – for a few hundred years – the phenomenon we now call sustained growth.

It was neither capitalism nor communism that made possible the progress and pathologies (total war, the unprecedented concentration of global wealth, planetary destruction) of the modern age. It was coal, followed by oil and gas. The meta-trend, the mother narrative, is carbon-fuelled expansion. Our ideologies are mere subplots. Now, with the accessible reserves exhausted, we must ransack the hidden corners of the planet to sustain our impossible proposition.

On Friday, a few days after scientists announced that the collapse of the west Antarctic ice sheet is now inevitable, the Ecuadorean government decided to allow oil drilling in the heart of the Yasuni national park. It had made an offer to other governments: if they gave it half the value of the oil in that part of the park, it would leave the stuff in the ground. You could see this as either blackmail or fair trade. Ecuador is poor, its oil deposits are rich. Why, the government argued, should it leave them untouched without compensation when everyone else is drilling down to the inner circle of hell? It asked for $3.6bn and received $13m. The result is that Petroamazonas, a company with a colourful record of destruction and spills, will now enter one of the most biodiverse places on the planet, in which a hectare of rainforest is said to contain more species than exist in the entire continent of North America.

The UK oil firm Soco is now hoping to penetrate Africa's oldest national park, Virunga, in the Democratic Republic of Congo; one of the last strongholds of the mountain gorilla and the okapi, of chimpanzees and forest elephants. In Britain, where a possible 4.4 billion barrels of shale oil has just been identified in the south-east, the government fantasises about turning the leafy suburbs into a new Niger delta. To this end it's changing the trespass laws to enable drilling without consent and offering lavish bribes to local people. These new reserves solve nothing. They do not end our hunger for resources; they exacerbate it.

The trajectory of compound growth shows that the scouring of the planet has only just begun. As the volume of the global economy expands, everywhere that contains something concentrated, unusual, precious, will be sought out and exploited, its resources extracted and dispersed, the world's diverse and differentiated marvels reduced to the same grey stubble.

peak oil, climate change, food costs, debt - thai militarization a symptom of political system failure...,

guardian |  Military coups in Thailand are nothing new. But the latest seizure of power by army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha underscores the risks to democracy when governments consistently fail to deal adequately with the complex convergence of systemic crises.

Although Chan-ocha has said he is merely seeking to "restore order" in reaction to escalating protests that have seen the deaths of 28 and injury of 700, informed observers point out that the declaration of martial law appears to have been calculated to benefit the coup instigators.

Whatever the case, the opportunity to impose authoritarian rule has emerged in the context of escalating political instability. But few recognise that the driving force of this instability is not simply 'political infighting', but the inexorable intersection of global trends that affect us all.

Three years ago, a prescient editorial in Thailand's English language daily, The Nation, noted that global economic growth was indelibly tied to the abundant availability of cheap oil. Pointing out the links between domestic oil scarcity in countries like Egypt beset with surging social upheaval, the editorial diagnosed the problem as follows:
"The recent sharp rise in food prices has triggered riots in Egypt and other less-developed countries. Higher energy prices have also added on to the inflationary pressure. The poor are the most vulnerable sector to fluctuations in food and energy prices. Governments thus have to come up with subsidy measures for food and energy."
What does this imply for Thailand? The editorial continued:
"The Thai inflation rate is very sensitive to higher oil prices, which will drive up local transport and production costs. As a heavy importer of energy, the rising oil price could derail the Thai economy and drain our reserves if we're not careful."
Indeed, Thailand is a net energy importer. As Southeast Asia's second-largest consumer of energy, with total domestic consumption at 108.7 million tonnes of oil equivalent (TOE), the slow demise of cheap energy sources exacerbated by rising demand from India and China has posed a growing challenge. 

Thailand's Ministry of Energy has not been entirely asleep at the wheel. In 2003, a government report acknowledged that the country's "high dependency on imported energy will make Thailand at risk of energy supply disruption and volatility of energy prices, apart from a substantial foreign currency loss for the imports of energy." The report urged the government to embark on a strategy to diversify energy supply sources and ramp up domestic renewable energy investment.

But the pace of transition has been too slow, with "little change to the status quo" - and so far the poor, especially rural farmers who have played an increasing role in recent protests, have been most affected. 

We need to call a spade a spade: Thailand's deteriorating economy is driven significantly by its fossil fuel dependence. In 2013, the International Energy Agency (IEA) warned that Thailand's economy was especially vulnerable to external shocks, disruptions to its energy supplies and oil price escalation. High international oil prices would push up the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

a crumb of lucidity on the collective inanity buffet....,

cherispeaks | Because Elliot had threatened his own life and that of others in those April videos there was probable cause for 72-hour metal health hold. By all intents and purposes Elliot’s family, therapist and the ensuing mental health experts that were called all had done the right thing, but it was the Santa Barbara Sheriffs that let him slip through the cracks.

It seems clear there is indeed plenty of documentation of Elliot’s “mental health history” and when you combine that with the nature of the video content for which the cops had been called, one would think the authorities would have done more than stand outside the door chit-chatting.  Had they taken his video messages more seriously, looked into his mental health history and entered the apartment for a safety-check they may have discovered 3 semi-automatic handguns, more than 400 rounds of ammo, knives and the working draft of his “manifesto”. The Isla Vista Massacre by the baby-faced killer may have never happened.

Sgt. Mark Williams of the sheriff’s office is quoted in that same Washington Post piece as saying,

He had some emotional trouble. He was upset. We all get upset sometimes. . . . We have to have a pretty strong belief to take someone’s rights away — the right to bear arms, the freedom.”

It is unclear why Sgt. Williams mentioned a “right to bear arms” unless they had [in April] run a check and discovered Elliot Rodger was a registered gun owner. If they did, then why would they have been so casual after knocking on his door?

Until the time came that Elliot had actually used them, no one, but the shop owners who sold them, knew Elliot had a gun…let alone 3 of them.

Are politics — personal or otherwise, already playing a role in the investigation and aftermath of this tragedy? Is that why Sgt. Mark Williams mentioned Elliot’s “right to bear arms”? This writer can see no other reason why.

While the gun debate rages on with both sides having valid points, it is still only a debate of vitriol while in reality nothing is being done to stop gun violence in America. The NRA, with all of their power and Lobbying money, may not be responsible for the acts themselves, but their rigidity and unwillingness to change is a part of what allowed Elliot Rodger to be able to legally buy the guns that killed 4 people and injured 7 others.

fox news correspondence school psychologist spanked for saying "teh geh"...,

WaPo | On her bio, Ludwig calls herself a “regular contributor to the Today Show as well as CNN, Headline News, The Fox News Channel and TruTv where she talks about psychological/lifestyle issues as well as the criminal mind.” Her use of the term “contributor” appears to be colloquial. In the TV industry, it generally means a paid commentator with steady appearances on air. CNN and NBC News tell the Erik Wemple Blog that she is not that kind of contributor, and Fox News has made the same point. Also in her bio, Ludwig claims to have earned her doctorate in psychology from the Southern California University for Professional Studies, “a traditional correspondence school.”

The missteps in this minor dustup are the property of cable news: People with not enough information were talking in some detail about a breaking news event and focusing on a question that was impossible to answer. Pirro’s inquiry to Ludwig, verbatim: “What’s going on in this kid’s head?” A good response from Ludwig would have been: I don’t know.

Meanwhile, the real estate world has been rocked by this television appearance. Prior to her comments to Pirro, Ludwig had served as the “lifestyle real estate correspondent” for Coldwell Banker, a position whose existence the Erik Wemple Blog couldn’t have fathomed. In that capacity, Ludwig apparently participated in articles like this one on the U.S. News & World Report site: “Should Kids Make Big Money Decisions?” Not really, concluded Ludwig: “They are kids — they are just thinking about themselves in the immediate now, and no good decision can be made that way. That’s where the adults come in. It’s really giving away your job as the adult in the family [to let kids make those decisions]. That’s not healthy, and it’s not fair,” she says.

No more insights of that sort from the Coldwell Banker correspondent. The company said in a Facebook posting today: “Dr. Robi’s comments on the tragedy in Santa Barbara do not represent the opinions of Coldwell Banker. Therefore at this time we feel it best to part ways with her as our lifestyle real estate correspondent.”

rodgers rorschachian: what do you see?

forbes |  Rodger also authored a 141-page autobiography titled “My Twisted World,” which was sent to a local news station. He describes the events of his life since birth, blaming an obsession with World of Warcraft for lack of social development in middle and early high school; blaming his father for not teaching him how to woo women; blaming his mother for not re-marrying into the rich, upper class after his parents separated; and blaming his own social awkwardness for getting in the way of his making friends and meeting women. Despite his seemingly-affluent lifestyle, he felt less rich than and inferior to others in the circles in which he traveled, lamenting that his father was not a more successful director. In college, he starts playing the Megamillions Lottery obsessively, spending hundreds of dollars at a time in the hopes of becoming a multi-millionaire, which he thinks will allow him to finally “get a woman.” He visited a shooting range for the first time at age 21 after he failed to win the lottery when there was a $120 million jackpot.

He expresses jealousy of people in sexual relationships; he seems more hateful of and angry at specific men — friends and social acquaintances — than at particular women. Women are vaguer to him, objects of desire; he sees them as both superior to him and inferior at the same time. The jealousy gets more and more deranged as the manifesto goes on. As he becomes a fan of Game of Thrones, he expresses a desire to a friend to “flay” a couple he sees in a mall food court; he seems especially enraged when men of other races are dating white women. (This despite his being of a mixed background; his father is British and his mother is Malaysian).

He feels the jealousy and sadness that all of us feel at some point when we are alone, without a romantic partner, except his loneliness manifests as a desire to cause violence for people who are happy. He starts acting out by spilling beverages on people he dislikes: coffee on a couple making out in a Starbucks, ice tea on a couple he saw in a mall whom he followed with his car. When he was 20, after two women at a bus stop didn’t smile back at him when he drove by, he turned his car around and splashed them with his Starbucks latte, taking pleasure in it staining their jeans, driving away quickly before they could get his license plate. And months later, when he spotted a happy group of “popular college kids” — “typical fraternity jocks, tall and muscular” and “beautiful blonde girls” — playing kickball in a park, he went to a K-mart and bought a Supersoaker, which he filled with orange juice and sprayed them, driving away when they chased him, an ominous foreshadowing of the devastation he would wreak later with a real gun.

At 21, he called his parents ranting about his loneliness and virginity. They insisted he see a psychiatrist. The next month, he bought his first gun.

lol@"the manosphere"

WaPo | And so, while some of Rodger’s companions on PUAhate have praised his gruesome spree — Josh Glasstetter at SPLC points out that he was almost seen as some kind of “incel revolutionary” — the rest of the manosphere has worked hard to distance themselves from him.

“Rodger pings some operational gaydars,” mocks Heartiste.

“A lot of loneyy beta males will identify with him,” Roosh followed up. (Notice that he calls Rodger a beta, despite Rodger’s videotaped insistence that he was “an alpha male.”)

Rodger blames women. Women blame misogyny. Misogynists blame feminists. This is a fascinating, weird cycle — and it actually repeats after most national tragedies  in which a man kills a woman or women. In 2009, when George Sodini killed three women at an L.A. Fitness outside of Pittsburgh, Heartiste was quick to postulate that, had Sodini “learned game,” he never would have developed negative feelings toward women or become violent.

Meanwhile, a guest blogger on Return of Kings theorized in December that 18-year-old Karl Halverson Pierson killed a girl at his school because he was “sexually frustrated.” Another post on the site, published about the same time, blamed a “lack of game” for brutal murders everywhere from Baltimore to Southern California.

But Return of Kings’ latest post really takes the cake. “No one would have died if PUAHate killer Elliot Rodger learned game,” promises the ever-aggrandizing Roosh V, who then goes on to promise that “if Rodger came to me, he would have received actionable and effective advice.” (A sampling of recent advice from the site, presented without comment: “all women are nymphomaniacs who crave rough sex”; “if your girlfriend insists on a big wedding, dump her.”)

A moment of awakening for the manosphere, this incident is not. And in some ways, that should be just as disturbing as Rodger’s videotaped rant.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

clever memetic engagement with/for doing something about it...,

resistcomics |  What is resistcomics? The summer of 2013 saw one of the greatest mass uprisings in the history of Turkey. What started out as a small scale environmentalist demonstration became a defiant outcry in the face of an increasingly authoritarian, conservative, neoliberal government.

The resistance became associated with creativity and humour of the protesters from early on, as they tackled the violent oppression of the state with a cheerful attitude of subversion. #diren (#resist) became a hashtag mantra in social media and on the streets. 

#ResistComics has been inspired by the intelligence of the protesters and the sense of solidarity and collaboration in the air. We wanted to capture the spirit of the resistance in our words and pictures. We wanted to make a political statement without being didactic. We wanted to tell good stories about the resistance in different genres. 

#ResistComics anthology contains 96 pages of comics, illustrations, a short story and an article on comics and politics. We would like to entertain, inform and inspire our readers through this anthology.

Who are we? We are an international group of writers, artists, academics and critics. We are based in different parts of the world, including Turkey, France, Germany and Australia. In the early days of the resistance, we organised online to collaborate on a comics anthology. We used online tools to workshop scripts and artwork, and to exchange ideas. As we all have day jobs and other responsibilities (some of us became parents in the last year), it took us a while to bring our project to life. 

We embrace a punk/DIY approach, and have been involved in every stage of production and we would like to self-publish our anthology through the support of our Kickstarter backers. 

We are supporters of indie art and the comics scene and some of us have been involved with independent comics projects before. Some of us are professional comic artists and cartoonists published internationally, while others are first timers. We bring an eclectic range of styles and diverse stories.

muted memorial day: shinseki an'em put the lie to fraudulent fawning over expendables...,

kunstler | This Memorial Day the usual pieties are noticeably muted. Few politicians dare to utter sanctimonies about our brave soldiers maimed on far-flung battlefields, when so many of them are stuck waiting alone in dark rooms with only their wounds and phantom limbs for company. If regular civilian medicine is a cruel, hopeless, quasi-criminal racket, imagine what medicine for army veterans must be like — all that plus an overlay of profound government ineptitude and institutionalized ass-covering

Even the idle chatter about American Dreaming has faded out lately, because too much has happened to families and individuals to demonstrate that people need more than dreams and wishes to make things happen. It’s kind of a relief to not have to listen to those inane exhortations anymore, especially the idiotic shrieking that “We’re number one!”

Others have got our number now. They are going their own way whether we like it or not. The Russians and the Chinese. The voters in Europe. The moiling masses of Arabia and its outlands. The generals in Thailand. Too bad the people of Main Street USA don’t want to do anything but sit on their hands waiting for the rafters to tumble down. My guess is that nothing will bestir us until we wake up one morning surrounded by rubble and dust. By then, America will be a salvage operation.

There’s a long and comprehensive To-Do list that has been waiting for us since at least 2008, when the nation received one forceful blow upside its thick head. We refuse to pay attention. First item on the list: restructure the banks. Other items: reinstate the Glass-Steagall Act; disassemble the ridiculous “security” edifice under the NSA; upgrade the US electric grid; close down most of our military bases overseas (and some of our bases in the USA); draw up a constitutional amendment re-defining the alleged “personhood” of corporations; fix the passenger railroad system to prepare for the end of Happy Motoring; rebuild Main Street commerce to prepare for the death of WalMart and things like it; outlaw GMO foods and promote local food production; shut down casino gambling.
That’s just my list. What’s yours? And when will you step out of this rotting house into the sunshine?

treating peasant mass-violence like an infectious disease?

csmonitor | In a 2010 article, James Knoll, director of forensic psychiatry at the State University of New York's Upstate Medical University, wrote that mass killers are " 'collectors of injustice' who nurture their wounded narcissism."

Others have pointed to a narcissistic streak in Rodger. Forbes's Kashmir Hill writes:
Rodger’s Facebook page is full of selfies and photos of his rich but lonely life. There are photos of him, by himself, flying first class and attending a private Katy Perry concert, and with his parents, at the Hunger Games premiere in 2012; his father was an assistant director of the film. Friends are generally absent from the photos and make few comments; he likes many of his own photos, and is usually the only one to do so. He was obsessed with himself and with putting his opulent lifestyle on display, and Facebook was the perfect outlet for it.
A mass killing, then, becomes a plea for attention – an attempt by the chronically overlooked to be heard, and feared. To Mr. Schulman, that means the particulars of each case – looking at motive, mental health, or misogyny – are less important than the way society reacts. When the media spread fear, broadcast a killer's manifesto, and endlessly show his photos, they fuel the next round of potential mass killers by helping the last one accomplish his goals.

Mass killings, he suggests, are contagious. He likens them with suicides, noting a rash of suicides on the subway system in Vienna in 1984. Suicides fell by 75 percent after a group of researchers at the Austrian Association for Suicide Prevention persuaded local media to change their coverage "by minimizing details and photos, avoiding romantic language and simplistic explanations of motives, moving the stories from the front page and keeping the word 'suicide' out of the headlines."

Speaking of mass killings, Schulman added: "Whatever the witch's brew of influences that produced this grisly script, treating mass killings as a kind of epidemic or contagion largely frees us from having to understand the particular causes of each act. Instead, we can focus on disrupting the spread."

Monday, May 26, 2014

the science behind the one-inch punch

popularmechanics |  Forget all those broken boards and crumbled concrete slabs. No feat of martial arts is more impressive than Bruce Lee’s famous strike, the one-inch punch. From a single inch away, Lee was able to muster an explosive blow that could knock opponents clean off the ground. Lee mastered it, fans worldwide adored it, and Kill Bill "borrowed" it. But if you’re like us, you want to know how it works.

While the biomechanics behind the powerful blow certainly aren’t trivial, the punch owes far more to brain structure than to raw strength.

Biomechanical Breakdown
To understand why the one-inch punch is more about mind than muscle, you first have to understand how Bruce Lee delivers the blow. Although Lee’s fist travels a tiny distance in mere milliseconds, the punch is an intricate full-body movement. According to Jessica Rose, a Stanford University biomechanical researcher, Lee’s lightning-quick jab actually starts with his legs.

"When watching the one-inch punch, you can see that his leading and trailing legs straighten with a rapid, explosive knee extension," Rose says. The sudden jerk of his legs increases the twisting speed of Lee’s hips—which, in turn, lurches the shoulder of his thrusting arm forward.

As Lee’s shoulder bolts ahead, his arm gets to work. The swift and simultaneous extension of his elbow drives his fist forward. For a final flourish, Rose says, "flicking his wrist just prior to impact may further increase the fist velocity." Once the punch lands on target, Lee pulls back almost immediately. Rose explains that this shortens the impact time of his blow, which compresses the force and makes it all the more powerful. 

hacking the nervous system

NYTimes | One morning in May 1998, Kevin Tracey converted a room in his lab at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in Manhasset, N.Y., into a makeshift operating theater and then prepped his patient — a rat — for surgery. A neurosurgeon, and also Feinstein Institute’s president, Tracey had spent more than a decade searching for a link between nerves and the immune system. His work led him to hypothesize that stimulating the vagus nerve with electricity would alleviate harmful inflammation. “The vagus nerve is behind the artery where you feel your pulse,” he told me recently, pressing his right index finger to his neck.

The vagus nerve and its branches conduct nerve impulses — called action potentials — to every major organ. But communication between nerves and the immune system was considered impossible, according to the scientific consensus in 1998. Textbooks from the era taught, he said, “that the immune system was just cells floating around. Nerves don’t float anywhere. Nerves are fixed in tissues.” It would have been “inconceivable,” he added, to propose that nerves were directly interacting with immune cells.

Nonetheless, Tracey was certain that an interface existed, and that his rat would prove it. After anesthetizing the animal, Tracey cut an incision in its neck, using a surgical microscope to find his way around his patient’s anatomy. With a hand-held nerve stimulator, he delivered several one-second electrical pulses to the rat’s exposed vagus nerve. He stitched the cut closed and gave the rat a bacterial toxin known to promote the production of tumor necrosis factor, or T.N.F., a protein that triggers inflammation in animals, including humans.

“We let it sleep for an hour, then took blood tests,” he said. The bacterial toxin should have triggered rampant inflammation, but instead the production of tumor necrosis factor was blocked by 75 percent. “For me, it was a life-changing moment,” Tracey said. What he had demonstrated was that the nervous system was like a computer terminal through which you could deliver commands to stop a problem, like acute inflammation, before it starts, or repair a body after it gets sick. “All the information is coming and going as electrical signals,” Tracey said. For months, he’d been arguing with his staff, whose members considered this rat project of his harebrained. “Half of them were in the hallway betting against me,” Tracey said.

Inflammatory afflictions like rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s disease are currently treated with drugs — painkillers, steroids and what are known as biologics, or genetically engineered proteins. But such medicines, Tracey pointed out, are often expensive, hard to administer, variable in their efficacy and sometimes accompanied by lethal side effects. His work seemed to indicate that electricity delivered to the vagus nerve in just the right intensity and at precise intervals could reproduce a drug’s therapeutic — in this case, anti-inflammatory — reaction. His subsequent research would also show that it could do so more effectively and with minimal health risks.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

huff whoops wade like he stole something..., MUCH more impressed with this chick than I am with myself!

violentmetaphors |  To begin with, Wade can’t provide a clear definition of “race.” He tries to rely instead on loose associations rather than definitive characteristics, which forces him to conclude both that physical traits define race but that the traits can vary from person to person: “races are identified by clusters of traits, and to belong to a certain race, it’s not necessary to possess all of the identifying traits” (p. 121).

With such a shifty, casual footing, it’s no surprise that Wade’s conclusions are unsound. He can’t keep the number of races straight:

Wade can’t settle on a definite number of races because he can’t come up with a consistent, rigorous definition of what “race” means. He uses terms like “major race”, “race”, “subrace”, “group”, or “population,” but doesn’t provide any serious, objective ways to distinguish between these terms for arbitrary groupings of people arbitrary groups.

Rather than just announcing his subjective opinions about race, Wade wants to ground them in science. He tries to use genetics: “Such an arrangement, of portioning human variation into five continental races, is to some extent arbitrary. But it makes practical sense. The three major races are easy to recognize. The five-way division matches the known events of human population history. And, most significant of all, the division by continent is supported by genetics.” (p. 94)

To support his claim, Wade relies heavily on a 2002 paper (by Rosenberg et al.) that used a program called structure to group people based on similarities in markers distributed across the genome. He notes that the program identified five major clusters in this 2002 study, which corresponded to the major geographic regions (Africa, Eurasia, East Asia, Oceania, and America) of the world. Therefore, Wade argues, these results clearly show that humans are divided up into racial categories that match continents.

Charles Murray, author of The Bell Curve, who recently reviewed Wade’s book in the Wall Street Journal, agrees:
A computer given a random sampling of bits of DNA that are known to vary among humans—from among the millions of them—will cluster them into groups that correspond to the self-identified race or ethnicity of the subjects. This is not because the software assigns the computer that objective but because those are the clusters that provide the best statistical fit.
But Wade and Murray are both wrong. Structure didn’t simply identify five clusters. It also identified two, three, four, six, and seven clusters. (Rosenberg et al. 2002 actually identified up to 20 divisions, but 1-7 are the primary ones they discussed. They also divided their worldwide sample up into regions, and then ran structure within those regions, to look at more fine-scale population structure.)

Why? Researchers using structure have to define the number (K) of clusters in advance, because that’s what the program requires. The program was designed to partition individuals into whatever pre-specified number of clusters the researcher requests, regardless of whether that number of divisions really exists in nature. In other words, if the researcher tells structure to divide the sampled individuals into 4 clusters, structure will identify 4 groups no matter what–even if there is really only 1 group, or even if there are really 14 groups.

So, when Rosenberg et al. (2002) told structure to use K=6? They got six clusters, with the sixth corresponding to a northwestern Pakistani group, the Kalash. Does this make the Kalash a separate race? Wade doesn’t think so. When they told structure to use K=3? They got three clusters back, corresponding to Africa, Europe/Middle East/South Asia, and East Asia/Oceania/Americas. So are Native Americans and Australians not separate races? Rosenberg et al. never published any statistical evidence that justifies picking 5 races instead of 7, or 4, or 2 (although such methods do exist–see Bolnick et al. 2008). Wade seems to like K=5 simply because it matches his pre-conceived notions of what race should be:
“It might be reasonable to elevate the Indian and Middle Eastern groups to the level of major races, making seven in all. But then many more subpopulations could be declared races, so to keep things simple, the five-race, continent-based scheme seems the most practical for most purposes.” (p. 100)
Practical. Simple. Wade wants us to cut up human diversity into five races not because that’s what the statistical analyses show, but because thinking about it as a gradient is hard.

Wade isn’t even using the tools of genetics competently. The authors of the paper he relied on, as well as subsequent studies, showed that different runs of the program with the same data can even produce different results (Bolnick, 2008). Structure’s results are extremely sensitive to many different factors, including models, the type and number of genetic variants studied, and the number of populations included in the analysis (Rosenberg et al. 2005). When Rosenberg et al. (2005) expanded the 2002 dataset to include more genetic markers for the same population samples, they identified a somewhat different set of genetic clusters when K=6 (Native Americans were divided into two clusters and the Kalash of Central/South Asia did not form a separate cluster). In fact, Rosenberg et al. (2005) explicitly said:
“Our evidence for clustering should not be taken as evidence of our support of any particular concept of ‘biological race.’”
Finally, the creators of structure themselves caution that it will produce rather arbitrary clusters when sampled populations have been influenced by gene flow that is restricted by geographic distance (i.e. where more mating occurs between members of nearby populations than between populations that are located farther apart, a pattern we geneticists refer to as isolation by distance). As this pattern applies to the majority of human populations, it makes the results of structure problematic and difficult to interpret in many cases. These limitations are acknowledged by anthropological geneticists and population biologists, who interpret the results of structure cautiously. It’s very telling that Wade, a science reporter, chose to ignore the interpretations of the experts in favor of his own.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

the spook who sat by the door is no more...,

WaPo |  Sam Greenlee was underappreciated, disgruntled, professionally disemboweled and perpetually agitated.

His sudden death at the age of 83 offers opportunity for reflection on a man trapped in the suspended animation of one great work that briefly elevated, then haunted, him into his last days. An apprehensive and highly educated foreign service officer who abruptly quit the business of American global dominance in anguished pursuit of a lifetime in written word, Greenlee spawned like a lost child of Ralph Ellison.

He will not be forgotten, but he will also be remembered in the starting lineup of a tortured lineage of creative black literary minds way ahead of their time. From George Schulyer (Black Empire) to Ellison (Invisible Man) to Chester Himes (If He Hollers Let Him Go), hard shift to Greenlee and then John Edgar Wideman (Philadelphia Fire), to Brent Wade (the Company Man genius who just … went missing) and now Todd Craig (Tor’cha), they and others are temporary flashes of a fire of brilliant black men’s acrimony shared through risky, genre-bending books. 
For Greenlee, risky was an understatement. To write, screenplay and release a film adaptation of a novel deconstructing the global white supremacy pyramid scheme was dangerous at that time, and he invited his own ostracism from the social grid. Few in this day and age of grainy, elevator-security-camera fight videos, overpriced designer headphones and LeBron James Android apps will celebrate the name, much less recall it. But Greenlee was the godfather of black rage long before The Boondocks’ creator, Aaron McGruder, became his stylish stepson—merely channeling select nuggets of Greenlee’s seminal The Spook Who Sat by the Door because, against the visceral boom bap and fading Africa emblems of Generation X, it was cool like that.

There were those of us who spoke of Spook as if speaking in a special, uniquely branded tongue of black revolutionary cryptography. You did not understand the rugged totality of modern black existence unless you were schooled in it, and suddenly we were all aspiring Dan Freemans in training. Greenlee’s semiautobiographical tour de force managed to tap into dark, revenge-filled fantasies of bold, brainy brothers outwitting The Man. 

Mr. Greenlee joined the U.S. Information Agency in 1957 and was among the its first black officials to serve overseas. He was stationed in Iraq, Pakistan, Indonesia and Greece before quitting in 1965 to focus on writing. 

In his novel, Mr. Greenlee drew on his work with USIA but transformed the central character in “The Spook Who Sat by the Door,” Dan Freeman, into a black CIA officer who quits the spy agency in disgust. Freeman returns to his native Chicago, where he puts his CIA training to use by organizing street gangs into a paramilitary black revolutionary movement that spreads nationwide. 

“My experiences were identical to those of Freeman in the CIA,” Mr. Greenlee told The Washington Post in 1973. “Everything in that book is an actual quote. If it wasn’t said to me, I overheard it.”
Mr. Greenlee’s novel was first published in England in 1969, after, he said, it was rejected by dozens of mainstream publishers in the United States.

glenn greenwald: the state targets dissenters, not bad guys...,

guardian |  A prime justification for surveillance – that it's for the benefit of the population – relies on projecting a view of the world that divides citizens into categories of good people and bad people. In that view, the authorities use their surveillance powers only against bad people, those who are "doing something wrong", and only they have anything to fear from the invasion of their privacy. This is an old tactic. In a 1969 Time magazine article about Americans' growing concerns over the US government's surveillance powers, Nixon's attorney general, John Mitchell, assured readers that "any citizen of the United States who is not involved in some illegal activity has nothing to fear whatsoever".

The point was made again by a White House spokesman, responding to the 2005 controversy over Bush's illegal eavesdropping programme: "This is not about monitoring phone calls designed to arrange Little League practice or what to bring to a potluck dinner. These are designed to monitor calls from very bad people to very bad people." And when Barack Obama appeared on The Tonight Show in August 2013 and was asked by Jay Leno about NSA revelations, he said: "We don't have a domestic spying programme. What we do have is some mechanisms that can track a phone number or an email address that is connected to a terrorist attack."

For many, the argument works. The perception that invasive surveillance is confined only to a marginalised and deserving group of those "doing wrong" – the bad people – ensures that the majority acquiesces to the abuse of power or even cheers it on. But that view radically misunderstands what goals drive all institutions of authority. "Doing something wrong" in the eyes of such institutions encompasses far more than illegal acts, violent behaviour and terrorist plots. It typically extends to meaningful dissent and any genuine challenge. It is the nature of authority to equate dissent with wrongdoing, or at least with a threat.

The record is suffused with examples of groups and individuals being placed under government surveillance by virtue of their dissenting views and activism – Martin Luther King, the civil rights movement, anti-war activists, environmentalists. In the eyes of the government and J Edgar Hoover's FBI, they were all "doing something wrong": political activity that threatened the prevailing order.
The FBI's domestic counterintelligence programme, Cointelpro, was first exposed by a group of anti-war activists who had become convinced that the anti-war movement had been infiltrated, placed under surveillance and targeted with all sorts of dirty tricks. Lacking documentary evidence to prove it and unsuccessful in convincing journalists to write about their suspicions, they broke into an FBI branch office in Pennsylvania in 1971 and carted off thousands of documents.

Files related to Cointelpro showed how the FBI had targeted political groups and individuals it deemed subversive and dangerous, including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, black nationalist movements, socialist and communist organizations, anti-war protesters and various rightwing groups. The bureau had infiltrated them with agents who, among other things, attempted to manipulate members into agreeing to commit criminal acts so that the FBI could arrest and prosecute them.

Those revelations led to the creation of the Senate Church Committee, which concluded: "[Over the course of 15 years] the bureau conducted a sophisticated vigilate operation aimed squarely at preventing the exercise of first amendment rights of speech and association, on the theory that preventing the growth of dangerous groups and the propagation of dangerous ideas would protect the national security and deter violence."

These incidents were not aberrations of the era. During the Bush years, for example, documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) revealed, as the group put it in 2006, "new details of Pentagon surveillance of Americans opposed to the Iraq war, including Quakers and student groups". The Pentagon was "keeping tabs on non-violent protesters by collecting information and storing it in a military anti-terrorism database". The evidence shows that assurances that surveillance is only targeted at those who "have done something wrong" should provide little comfort, since a state will reflexively view any challenge to its power as wrongdoing.

The opportunity those in power have to characterise political opponents as "national security threats" or even "terrorists" has repeatedly proven irresistible. In the past decade, the government, in an echo of Hoover's FBI, has formally so designated environmental activists, broad swaths of anti-government rightwing groups, anti-war activists, and associations organised around Palestinian rights. Some individuals within those broad categories may deserve the designation, but undoubtedly most do not, guilty only of holding opposing political views. Yet such groups are routinely targeted for surveillance by the NSA and its partners.

officials cast wide net in monitoring occupy protests

NYTimes | When the Occupy protests spread across the country three years ago, state and local law enforcement officials went on alert. In Milwaukee, officials reported that a group intended to sing holiday carols at “an undisclosed location of ‘high visibility.’ ” In Tennessee, an intelligence analyst sought information about whether groups concerned with animals, war, abortion or the Earth had been involved in protests.

And in Washington, as officials braced for a tent encampment on the National Mall, their counterparts elsewhere sent along warnings: a link to a video of Kansas City activists who talked of occupying congressional offices and a tip that 15 to 20 protesters from Boston were en route. “None of the people are known to be troublemakers,” one official wrote in an email.

The communications, distributed by people working with counterterrorism and intelligence-sharing offices known as fusion centers, were among about 4,000 pages of unclassified emails and reports obtained through freedom of information requests by lawyers who represented Occupy participants and provided the documents to The New York Times. They offer details of the scrutiny in 2011 and 2012 by law enforcement officers, federal officials, security contractors, military employees and even people at a retail trade association. The monitoring appears similar to that conducted by F.B.I. counterterrorism officials, which was previously reported.

In many cases, law enforcement officials appeared to simply assemble or copy lists of protests or related activities, sometimes maintaining tallies of how many people might show up. They also noted appearances by prominent Occupy supporters and advised other officials about what — or whom — to watch for, according to the newly disclosed documents.

The files did not show any evidence of phone or email surveillance; instead, much of the material was acquired from social media, publicly disseminated information and reports by police officers or others. While a Homeland Security bulletin in October 2011 warned that protests could be disruptive or violent, some civil liberties advocates are concerned about the monitoring of lawful political activities tied to the Occupy movement. Homeland Security officials acknowledged that the movement, which criticized the financial system as undemocratic, was “mostly peaceful.”
 “People must have the ability to speak out freely to express a dissenting view without the fear that the government will treat them as enemies of the state,” said Mara Verheyden-Hilliard of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, which obtained the documents.

The nation’s 78 fusion centers — which have received hundreds of millions of dollars from the Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies, as well as money from state governments — are run by state and local authorities. They were created after the 2001 Qaeda attacks to share information about terrorism or other national security threats, but have provided little of value related to that mission, a Senate subcommittee report concluded in 2012. Many centers, which can involve dozens of officials from police and fire departments, federal agencies and private companies, now focus on more routine criminal activity.

Friday, May 23, 2014

in 15,000 words, ta-nehisi coates demolishes nicholas wade...,

theatlantic |  The politics of racial evasion are seductive. But the record is mixed. Aid to Families With Dependent Children was originally written largely to exclude blacks—yet by the 1990s it was perceived as a giveaway to blacks. The Affordable Care Act makes no mention of race, but this did not keep Rush Limbaugh from denouncing it as reparations. Moreover, the act’s expansion of Medicaid was effectively made optional, meaning that many poor blacks in the former Confederate states do not benefit from it. The Affordable Care Act, like Social Security, will eventually expand its reach to those left out; in the meantime, black people will be injured.

“All that it would take to sink a new WPA program would be some skillfully packaged footage of black men leaning on shovels smoking cigarettes,” the sociologist Douglas S. Massey writes. “Papering over the issue of race makes for bad social theory, bad research, and bad public policy.” To ignore the fact that one of the oldest republics in the world was erected on a foundation of white supremacy, to pretend that the problems of a dual society are the same as the problems of unregulated capitalism, is to cover the sin of national plunder with the sin of national lying. The lie ignores the fact that reducing American poverty and ending white supremacy are not the same. The lie ignores the fact that closing the “achievement gap” will do nothing to close the “injury gap,” in which black college graduates still suffer higher unemployment rates than white college graduates, and black job applicants without criminal records enjoy roughly the same chance of getting hired as white applicants with criminal records.