blame and shame culture is not new, van Gogh’s anniversary, an unconstitutional arrest

Spring by Nicolas Lancret 1738.

Blaming and Shaming in Whores’ Memoirs by Julie Peakman

*Sex, scandals and celebrity were all part of a blame and shame culture that existed in the 18th century, one that often fed off the misfortune of women at the hands of men. Julie Peakman looks at how prostitutes, courtesans and ladies with injured reputations took up the pen in retaliation.

* Early remonstrations of irate deserted wives also contributed to the genre of whore biography. A number of men who accused their wives of sexual philandering had in fact been adulterous themselves. During the 18th century, women whose reputations had been called into question by their spouses or ex-lovers gradually began to write their autobiographies. In telling their stories, not only would women generate much needed income but the memoirs would provide them with a platform to reveal their paramours for what they really were.

One of the earliest of these women was Laetitia Pilkington (c.1709-50)

*Around the same time that Pilkington’s autobiography appeared, the courtesan Constantia Phillips (1709-65) also published a biographical account, An Apology for the Conduct of Mrs Teresia Constantia Phillips. She had begun her life as a kept woman more than quarter of a century before with a man she identified as ‘Thomas Grimes’. He is thought to have been either Philip Dormer Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield, or (more likely) Thomas Lumley, who would later become 3rd Earl of Scarborough.

History buffs will enjoy the minutiae of all these seemingly small events in history. I tend to think what usually passes for mainstream history are the big events that frequently fail to factor in the scandals, the empty stomachs, the petty vindictiveness, the clash of social and economic classes. How history at anyone one moment could have turned out differently if an affair went undiscovered, if a philanderer had not felt compelled to gossip or his now homeless lover didn’t suddenly need income.

I wish that Peakman had avoided the comparison to modern celebrities. If a a singer or actor has an affair it might be interesting – though most often not, but in the context of modern society there are not large cultural shifts as a consequence.

Wheatfield with Crows July 1890 painting by Vincent van Gogh. July 29 was the anniversary of van Gogh’s death in 1890. He committed suicide the same month as he created this painting, but it was not his last work. The crows are now a classic bit of symbolism for foreboding or death.

The Siesta December 1889 January 1890. Not a completely original work, a fact van Gogh was happy to acknowledge. He admired the French painter Millet and based the painting on one of Millet’s sketches called Four Moments in the Day. Its one of my favorites even though the man’s face and the absence of features is disturbing. Note that the female figure has a mouth, nose and eyes. Van Gogh painted this while he was at a mental asylum in Saint-Rémy de Provence. Just a personal theory, I think that the male is van Gogh and said something about how he perceived himself at the time.

A take on Professor’s Gates arrest mostly from a Constitutional POV, Prof. Gates’ Unconstitutional Arrest by Harvey A. Silverglate Attorney at law.

Indeed, Crowley did not arrest Gates for breaking and entering, for by then he was clearly convinced that the professor did live in the building. (For one thing, Harvard University Police officers had by that time arrived at the scene, and they easily could have checked not only that Gates was on the faculty, but that he lived in the Harvard-owned residential building. Gates is one of the most widely known faces in the Harvard community.) Instead, Crowley arrested the diminutive and disabled professor (he uses a cane to walk and bears a passing resemblance to the French painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec) for disorderly conduct–the charge of choice when a citizen gives lip to a cop.

By longstanding but unfortunate (and, in my view, clearly unconstitutional) practice in Cambridge and across the country, the charge of disorderly conduct is frequently lodged when the citizen restricts his response to the officer to mere verbal unpleasantness.

It is possible for two basically descent people to have a run in. In the glaring light of media attention both parties dig in and stick to their initial framing of events. Gates claiming racism where it was probably more a clash of class animus ( more on that angle here, though it seems a little overstated. Class animus and claims of privilege exists in every American institution from corporate boardrooms to loading docks. Even in 21st century America people are still very concerned with social status. We do not act much different in that regard then 17th century villagers and native tribes). Then Officer Crowley probably over reacted to a little verbal abuse – otherwise why ask the professor to step outside – were the acoustics in the house that bad – related is this excerpt from a a sociologist who has studied the use of disorderly conduct charges as a way to use one’s authority to punish those that have not shown correct deference to a police officer. My interests here is predominately the Constitutional aspect. As groups go I like the police and college professors, and have friends in both professions.


the beltway is sacred, brush, genes are selfish and at war

So I’m reading Glenn Greenwald’s post on Politico – Politico announces again: GOP is resurgent! – Glenn, as usual rips apart Politico’s substance free conclusion with one hand tied behind his back. Another typical day for the Glennzilla. Toward the end of the post he notes this piece by Michael Massing about net journalism, otherwise known as bloggers. Glenn gives Massing credit for much of the piece that praises such bloggers as Josh Marshall  and Marcy Wheeler, among others. Massing also gets in a few jabs and probably over praises in places, but then suddenly loses focus and ends up contradicting himself. First the Greenwald post that Massing tears into,

In June [2009 Glenn Greenwald] wrote:

The steadfast, ongoing refusal of our leading media institutions to refer to what the Bush administration did as “torture”—even in the face of more than 100 detainee deaths; the use of that term by a leading Bush official to describe what was done at Guantánamo; and the fact that media outlets frequently use the word “torture” to describe the exact same methods when used by other countries—reveals much about how the modern journalist thinks.

Massing writes,

For the press, Greenwald added, “there are two sides and only two sides to every ‘debate’—the Beltway Democratic establishment and the Beltway Republican establishment.” In so vigilantly watching over the press, Greenwald has performed an invaluable service. But his posts have a downside. After reading his harsh denunciations of Obama’s decision not to release the latest batch of torture photos, I began to lose sight of the persuasive arguments that other commentators have made in support of the President’s position. As well-argued and provocative as I found many of Greenwald’s postings, they often seem oblivious to the practical considerations policymakers must contend with. This points to some of the more troubling features of the journalism taking shape on the Web. The polemical excesses for which the blogosphere is known remain real…(bold mine)

In other words there is the flat earthers, the round earthers and people for whom the round earth theory creates political difficulties so real journalists are correct in not embracing the truth. Massing does quite a walk back from saying in the same piece “the Web has helped open up entire subjects that were once off-limits to the press”. Glenn’s work seems to have hit a nerve. While Glenn has praised some journalists he regularly takes on  the Beltway establishment. Massing might want to set aside his false pride and do a little soul searching about what constitutes the circumstances under which the truth becomes negotiable and does so often. He might find that Greenwald is more often right then wrong. Washington D.C. is not sacred territory as far as I’m aware, coverage of which is only allowed by select insiders. Those photos and the issue of torture are part of some very high stakes Constitutional issues involving executive power, responsibility and the rule of law. Massing would rather not be bothered. It seems like I’ve heard that before and from the same crowd.

brush. i used to know a avid amateur photographer that specialized in everyday objects.

Maternal, paternal genes’ tug-of-war may last well into childhood Analysis suggests human development is set by ongoing interplay of parent and offspring genes

Previous research has offered evidence of a genetic struggle for supremacy only during fetal development: In the womb, some genes of paternal origin have been shown to promote increased demands on mothers, leading to fetal overgrowth, while genes of maternal origin tend to have the opposite effect. This new work suggests maternal and paternal genes continue to engage in internal genetic conflict past childbirth.

“This analysis suggests that human life history, and especially humans’ unusual extended childhood, may reflect a compromise between what’s best for mothers, fathers, and the offspring themselves,” Haig says.

The way these gene battles work out are in tendencies toward behavior changes and are sometimes the cause of medical disorders.

another black and white flower

head first or emotions first, ocean view wallpaper, germ theory denial

If it were not for articles similar to this one – Should you go with your head or your heart? – we would surely be buying many magazines just to look at the pictures. They not only mean well, but if one can follow the advice, given what we know from everyday experience the advice might pay off.

If life is just a series of decisions, then making smart ones is paramount, especially now. But unless you’re in bankruptcy law, box-wine production, or the sadly recession-proof business of cold storage, chances are you’ve also met the workplace demon: brute, base fear. Fear has a way of leading to dubious decisions, sloppy mistakes, and serious brain fog when it comes to figuring out a master plan for your career and all the major things it’s connected with, from finances to relationships. (“Love and work,” Freud said, “are the cornerstones of our humanness.”)

Trouble is, fear—the ancient, amygdala-driven response to threat—is literally paralyzing.

Given this set of not unfamiliar circumstances, with the writer throwing in some studies on human physiology to back up what her premise, we’re caught in a conundrum. Stressed out, our prefrontal cortex consumed with dealing with fear, anxiety etc – stop. Start thinking your way through to not being the one laid off or that misses the promotion or a better opportunity. Then, consult with your work peers about new ideas. Show that you’re open and can cultivate an atmosphere of brainstorming and flexibility. Only once those fears set in, its a little difficult to see outside of ourselves. Having a plan or developing a plan might keep that fear from becoming all consuming. This might be where the athletic shoe philosophy sets in. Don’t think too hard about what needs to be done, just do it. That shoe company tag line is not original. It comes from some a kind of psychological therapy called Morita Therapy. The idea is not to stop thinking, but to not let negative thoughts stop you from doing what needs to be done. Acknowledge that things look bleak or maybe simply less great then you’re used to. Feel whatever, but still create the design that needs to be done, make the sale that needs to be made or write the program that needs to be written. Action takes precedence over not felling like doing it. In terms of the physical world if a tree fell across the path you usually take on your walk, you wouldn’t stop and wait for someone to move the tree. You would walk over or around it to finish your walk. Morita is tough love for the self. It puts a big emphasis on accomplishing even small daily goals – shower, breakfast, work, leisure activity first – staying in the moment instead of living in expectations or trying too hard to have immediate solutions for events outside our control. From what I’ve read through a westernized version of Morita created by David Reynolds its not unusual for people new to this type of approach to think of it is harsh and be resistant. (Western existential philosophers beat both Morita and Reynolds to the concept that actions precede essence) In  western physiological therapy there is a lot of emphasis put on understanding or figuring out problems first. Which brings up the caveats. Some people are going to have deeply complex or organic problems that requires professional help. A magazine article or blog is not an appropriate substitute for them. One last snip from M’s Kamps,

Be Kind to Your Mind—Unwind

Stepping away from a thorny problem, or slightly shifting your perspective on it, is often all it takes for solutions to mental logjams to spring to mind.

ocean view wallpaper

Bill Maher can be a disappointment sometimes, Is Bill Maher really that ignorant?

“I would never get the flu on an airplane.” (To which an exasperated Bob Costas retorts brilliantly, “Oh, come on, Superman!” I think that’ll be my retort to Maher whenever I hear his germ theory denialism rants.)

“The model you have is wrong. You’re thinking that the problem is the mosquitos, not the swamp. If there’s no swamp, the mosquitos can’t take root.” (I’ve written about Maher’s denialism of the germ theory of disease before.) – ( emphasis mine)

I wonder if Maher isn’t just being provocative for the shock value the blogger, who is a scientist, seems to think Bill is sincere. To me its like having a friend that is generally rational, but thinks aliens have visited the earth and experimented on a cow or good old boy on occasion. I just don’t bring up the subject. Though its a little difficult not to talk about the next wave of flu virus or pretend I do not have a cold.

Robert Koch was the first scientist to devise a series of proofs used to verify the germ theory of disease. Koch’s Postulates were published in 1890, and derived from his work demonstrating that anthrax was caused by the bacterium Bacillus anthracis. These postulates are still used today to help determine if a newly discovered disease is caused by a microorganism.

Koch also won the Nobel prize in 1905.

mining new energy, the people who own the dark

Mines Could Provide Geothermal Energy

The study looks into geothermal exploitation of a two-kilometre-long mine shaft, in which the temperature of the rocks 500m below the surface is around 30º C. This is typical of many of the mining areas in Asturias, although it could also be applied to other parts of the world. Water could be forced in through tubes at 7º C and return at 12º C, a big enough heat gain to be of benefit to towns located above the mines.

[   ]…Using geothermal energy also helps to reduce CO2 emissions, and is not dependent upon climatic conditions (unlike other renewable energies such as solar or wind power). Other advantages are that these facilities make use of a country’s own resources, do not require new developments on large sites, do not pollute the immediate environment, and are believed to be profitable over the long term.

The assertions made by two engineers from the University of Oviedo are thus far supported by part mathematical models and part experimental. While we wait for a full scale trial it doesn’t seem too unreasonable to think such a system might work, but in the U.S. and elsewhere some mines are already environmental hazards. The Oviedo researchers did specially point to recently abandoned mines, which one assumes did not pose any imminent environmental hazards while in operation. Environmental complications can include contamination of underground aquifers and surface spillage containing toxins like lead and mercury that drains into rivers and lakes. Then there is the infrastructure that would be tied to creating reliable extraction of the geothermal heat and years of subsequent maintenance. Once the obstacles are considered, geothermal energy from old mines could provide some financial and political incentive to do something with America’s 200,000 to 500,000 abandoned  mines ( estimate via Earthworks, see report at bottom). Earthworks estimates the costs to do cap and clean up these old mines would take over $30 billion dollars.

home exhibit 2

A few short takes: And the Rand Played OnThe Going Galt movement protests Obama with a collective shrug.

A Russian émigré who came to America hoping to work in Hollywood, Rand rejected communism but adopted its utopian, dominating aesthetic.

Nothing personal against Rand, I enjoyed The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged as a fantasy novels, but using them as a template for a society would be a dystopian nightmare.

In Parting, Palin Decries Federal Largesse She Accepted for Alaska

She warned listeners of “enslavement to big central government” and the need to “be wary of accepting government largesse.”

[  ]…The data for Sarah Palin’s Alaska is particularly telling. Back in the early 1980’s, Alaska was a net contributor of tax revenue to the federal government in Washington, DC. But in recent years, the state has been the beneficiary of a massive geographic transfer of wealth from the Lower 48. By 2005, Alaska ranked third in feeding at the federal trough, taking in $1.84 from Washington for each dollar sent there. That performance puts Sarah Palin between fellow stimulus refuseniks Haley Barbour of Mississippi ($2.02 payback on each dollar) and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana ($1.78) atop the charts.

I wish that people that live an unhealthy part of their intellectual lives in Lalaland would stop telling other people to stop making things up. Palin is not going to stop seeing herself as the beleaguered martyr anytime soon, which goes hand in hand with her apparent inability to accept the guilt of her hate mongering.

the people who own the dark

The Cheney Plan To Undermine Fundamental Constitutional Protections

Though it received very little press attention, it is not hyperbole to observe that this October 23 Memo was one of the most significant events in American politics in the last several decades, because it explicitly declared the U.S. Constitution — the Bill of Rights — inoperative inside the U.S., as applied to U.S. citizens.  Just read what it said in arguing that neither the Fourth Amendment — nor even the First Amendment — can constrain what the President can do when overseeing “domestic military operations” (I wrote about that Memo when it was released last March and excerpted the most revealing and tyrannical portions:  here).

maybe being alone in the universe is a good thing, “soulless vampires making money off human pain”

Stephen Hawking: Why Isn’t the Milky Way “Crawling With Self-Designing Mechanical or Biological Life?”.

Intelligence, Hawking believes contrary to our human-centric existece, may not have any long-term survival value. In comparison the microbial world, will live on, even if all other life on Earth is wiped out by our actions. Hawking’s main insight is that intelligence was an unlikely development for life on Earth, from the chronology of evolution:  “It took a very long time, two and a half billion years, to go from single cells to multi-cell beings, which are a necessary precursor to intelligence. This is a good fraction of the total time available, before the Sun blows up. So it would be consistent with the hypothesis, that the probability for life to develop intelligence, is low. In this case, we might expect to find many other life forms in the galaxy, but we are unlikely to find intelligent life.”

Another possibility is that there is a reasonable probability for life to form, and to evolve to intelligent beings, but at some point in their technological  development “the system becomes unstable, and the intelligent life destroys itself. This would be a very pessimistic conclusion. I very much hope it isn’t true.”

Hawking’s suggestion that intelligence may reach a tipping point of sorts in which an intelligent group of beings does not develop a sense of wisdom that parallels their intellectual capacity, is the first time I’ve heard that used as an explanation of why there might not be much intelligent life in the universe. As far as mother nature is concerned she could proceed well enough without any creature being capable of splitting the atom.

If there are other life forms out there we might be lucky as Hawking suggests they have not found us. He even warns that if we do pick up some communication that we not answer back. Its fun to imagine an E.T. out there, but they could be some very intelligent giant leeches.

Maybe its that intelligent life is just very rare. It probably has to be carbon based and intelligent life is only possible within a very narrow spectrum of environmental conditions. The universe is huge, too huge to really imagine. The earth viewed from the edge of our small solar system is an unrecognizable pin dot to the naked eye. Go out further and our entire solar system becomes a dot of light. Further still and you cannot see the tiny bit of light without a very strong telescope. In terms proportion and size of the universe the earth is smaller and more difficult to find then a specific grain of sand in the Sahara Desert. Its difficult to find an earth-like planet. We do not even know if one exists in our corner of the Milky Way. So maybe if there is life out there we just can’t find each other.

planet hawking

A few snips from Bill Maher’s New Rule: Not Everything in America Has to Make a Profit

*Did you know, for example, that there was a time when being called a “war profiteer” was a bad thing? But now our war zones are dominated by private contractors and mercenaries who work for corporations.

*Prisons used to be a non-profit business, too. And for good reason –­ who the hell wants to own a prison? By definition you’re going to have trouble with the tenants. But now prisons are big business. A company called the Corrections Corporation of America is on the New York Stock Exchange, which is convenient since that’s where all the real crime is happening anyway. The CCA and similar corporations actually lobby Congress for stiffer sentencing laws so they can lock more people up and make more money.

*Because medicine is now for-profit we have things like “recision,” where insurance companies hire people to figure out ways to deny you coverage when you get sick, even though you’ve been paying into your plan for years.

*If conservatives get to call universal health care “socialized medicine,” I get to call private health care “soulless vampires making money off human pain.” The problem with President Obama’s health care plan isn’t socialism, it’s capitalism.

hollywood and science, be prepared, health-care and jobs

This article was published in 2007. In internet time that makes it about 176 years old, though it still might be relevant, UCF physicist says Hollywood movies hurt students’ understanding of science

“Students come here, and they don’t have any basic understanding of science,” he said. “Sure, people say everyone knows the movies are not real, but my experience is many of the students believe what they see on the screen.”

Some Hollywood effects, especially in the context of a somewhat realistic movie such as Speed ( as compared to the Transformer movies) are so seamlessly executed I can understand where some teens might think its possible for a bus to leap a 50 ft gap. Though special effects to tend to inflate one’s expectations of what is possible and diminish appreciation for how difficult scientific break throughs are in the real world. Learning cannot always be fun and professors can get frustrated with students that do not share their enthusiasm. Professor Efthimiou didn’t give up,

Efthimiou spends hours watching hundreds of films to find scenes that illustrate the physics concepts he needs to teach. For example, he uses a scene from Superman when the hero flies around the earth an in effort to reverse time and save Lois Lane from death. When students show up to class, they dissect the scenes and learn the real laws of physics. In the Superman example, he explains the real way angular momentum works.

“It’s a lot of work, but it is worth it,” he said. “It’s a way to get them science literate.”

Why would a veteran professor go through all of that trouble” Because he, like many scientists across the United States, is worried that if science and math education doesn’t improve, society will pay the price.

“All the luxuries we have today, the modern conveniences, are a result of the science research that went on in the ’60s during the space race,” Efthimiou said. “It didn’t just happen. It took people doing hard science to do it.”

be prepared

Medical dramas make medicine interesting, but as far as I know there is nothing to be done for heath-care wonkery. That might be why the scare stories are effective at the margins of the debate. Money, savings and jobs on the other hand are issues that everyone can relate to. Health Care Cost Growth and the Economic Performance of U.S. Industries (ESI=employer sponsored insurance)

The study found that excess growth in health care costs has adverse effects on employment, output and value added to GDP in the U.S., and that these effects are greater for industries where high percentages of workers have employer sponsored insurance. For example, the study estimated that a 10% increase in excess health care costs would reduce employment by about 0.24 percent in an industry such as motor vehicles, where about 80% of workers have ESI, compared with about 0.13% percent drop in the retail trade, where about one-third of workers have ESI. Economy-wide across all the 38 industries, a 10% increase in excess health care costs growth would result in about 120,800 fewer jobs, $28 billion in lost revenues, and about $14 billion in lost value added.

Rand used Canada as a comparison because they have nationalized health-care and found they had no corresponding downward pressure on industry growth or jobs as we do with ESI. So as not to confuse the issue, current plans for U.S, health-care reform do not include a nationalized plan similar to Canada, only a public option and the creation of an insurance exchange. Businessweek is running a story citing this research. Strange times.

And related, the crazy horror stories about Canadian health-care debunked here.

wet red shade

For the reader that was looking for the article entitled Lived Space in Architecture and Cinema. I fixed the link on the original post.

art perception, make a wish, post judgment soul manipulation

one perspective

Art, Perception and Indeterminacy

This article considers the phenomenon of visual indeterminacy, which occurs when the sensory data gathered from the visual system cannot be integrated with semantic knowledge.

[   ]…Visual indeterminacy then occurs when we are presented with images that are vivid and detailed yet resist easy or immediate identification, that is, when perceptual data cannot be integrated with cognitive data.

[   ]…It could be argued that at such moments our visual awareness of the world is intensified as we struggle to find extra clues that might resolve the discrepancy between what we see and what we understand.

Aesthetics are frequently if not always difficult. One person’s ugly duck is another person’s swan, or something like that. Even the subdivisions are difficult. What did you just see. Can two or a group of people agree on a color. A shape. If there was movement, was it fluid or abrupt. Whatever meaning one might parse out from the painting or movie is always subject to the filter of the viewers experience. Even in cases where there is little or any ambiguity about the object, the same object aside from any innate qualities it possesses or the intentions of the artist that rendered it, is subject to different degrees of recognition and meaning that are viewer dependent.

make a wish

LDS may have posthumously baptized Obama’s African ancestors

Mormons have not only posthumously baptized President Barack Obama’s mother into their faith, but they may have performed the ritual for the president’s African ancestors as well, including his father, grandfather and great-grandfather, according to researcher Helen Radkey.

[  ]…Mormons believe these proxy baptisms give people in the spirit world a chance to reject or accept LDS gospel. But the practice has created controversy in the past, particularly with Jewish organizations that have objected to the baptisms of Holocaust victims.

If say the three judges of the Greco-Roman Chthonic underworld had meet with a soul and decided the soul’s fate and LDS ceremony would thus supersede the decisions of those judges or any other afterlife deities or authorities. The ethereal plain has always been a complicated place. Post judgment soul manipulation probably isn’t going to simplify matters.

Leader Of GOP Health Care “Solutions Group” Says GOP Won’t Offer Health Care Bill. Mr Sargent, perhaps rightly, seems critical of Republicans taking the low and easy road. Cheap shots have always been easy and solutions difficult, so who hasn’t tried to slide by once in while. It might be pushing their luck for Republicans to rely entirely on the lazy option on most every policy issue.