obama should apologize for killing terrorists or something like that, black and white cabbage wallpaper

Is The National Review’s Andrew McCarthy Secretly A Genius?

Jonathan Bernstein looks at Andy McCarthy’s bizarre conspiracy theory that the president is only attacking al-Qaeda to serve the larger cause of Islamic world domination, and senses brilliance:

This isn’t stupid; it’s genius. McCarthy’s plan is foolproof; it covers not only a lucky shot that hits bin Laden, but a complete victory over al-Qaeda. All part of Barack Obama’s treasonous treachery. Notice, by the way, that it’s only a “vibrant debate in Islamist circles.” Nice touch; if by some chance Obama curtails the drone strikes, or is in any way defeated by bin Laden, then that will presumably prove that the “vibrant debate” was decided in favor of al-Qaeda, and Obama acted accordingly.

To assume that this is genius rather than idiocy, you have to assume that McCarthy is proposing this scenario as political strategy and not as, you know, non-fiction. But since McCarthy is the kind of guy who believes Obama might be an Indonesian citizen and draws parallels between Obama and Iranian President Mahmoud Amadinejad because sometimes Obama doesn’t wear a tie (cough), and thinks William Ayers wrote Obama’s autobiography, the more plausible explanation is that he’s a conspiracy theorist laboring to keep pace with the hamster wheel of his own logic.

For some more context some of the original interview with McCarthy,

Marc Theissen and others are right to worry that we are killing people we could be capturing and interrogating — denying ourselves the intel that would improve the effectiveness of our combat operations. But those are quibbles. I said during the campaign that I thought Obama’s position — namely, his promise to attack al-Qaeda safe havens even in Pakistan — was considerably superior to that of McCain (who foolishly regarded Pakistan as a great ally and tried to paint Obama as reckless). My only hesitation was that I believed Obama wasn’t serious — I thought he was just engaging in campaign rhetoric to make himself look stronger and that he’d never actually follow through. He’s proven me wrong on that one, and I’m glad of it.

[ ]….Of course, the “Why is he doing it?” is the intriguing part. Some of the explanation is domestic politics. But the interesting part goes to the heart of what I’m talking about in the book.

These days, the vibrant debate in Islamist circles — the circles Obama has courted assiduously — is over whether al-Qaeda has outlived its usefulness, at least when it comes to attacking our homeland. Many Islamist thinkers believe the Islamist movement is making such progress marching through our institutions (and Europe’s) that terrorist attacks at this point are a tactical blunder. They cause a blowback effect that retards the progress of what Robert Spencer aptly calls the “stealth jihad.”

Two conservative thinkers sit’n round think’n, Monsieurs McCarthy and Theissen think the assigned task of the military and CIA is to make capture, not killing, terrorists, standard operating procedure. A tactical burden the details of which and the successful completion of,  is left unexplained. In and out of the military that is called the just do it approach. Usually assigned by people that will be jockeying a desk. The causalities to our military and intelligence services are, apparently, not worth the effort to parse. If President Obama and Defense Secretary Gates continue this madness of making kills a priorities over captures it means they are conspiring to play right into al-Qaeda’s clever plot for the “stealth jihad” and the world wide caliphate of the Right’s morbid wet dreams. In their own way McCarthy and Theissen sound like warped fun house mirrors of Quaker peace activists. We’ve had conservatives state that president Obama should apologize to BP and now we have conservatives claiming Obama should apologize for killing terrorists. Maybe we are all in a glass jar in a universe on the edge of some god’s desk. I just hope they’re enjoying the show.

black and white cabbage wallpaper

The Beta Band – (Video) Dry The Rain

If your ISP goes down or your copy of Photoshop crashes – How to make upcycled art with old books

On June 21, 1788 the U.S. Constitution went into effect as New Hampshire became the ninth state to ratify it.


your brain’s ventral striatum may contain the wisdom of crowds or not, autumn leaves wallpaper

Brain study shows that the opinions of others matter

Researchers at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging at UCL (University College London) in collaboration with Aarhus University in Denmark have found that the ‘reward’ area of the brain is activated when people agree with our opinions. The study, published today in the journal ‘Current Biology’, suggests that scientists may be able to predict how much people can be influenced by the opinions of others on the basis of the level of activity in the reward area.

In a study of 28 volunteers in the UK, Professor Chris Frith and colleagues examined the effect that having experts agree with a person’s opinions has on activity in their ventral striatum, the area of the brain associated with receiving rewards. Expert opinions about a piece of music produced more activity in this brain area when the subject shared the opinion. Expert opinions could also alter the amount of ventral striatum reward activity that receiving the music could produce – depending on how likely the person was to change his or her mind on the basis of those opinions.

Before the task, each volunteer was asked to provide a list of 20 songs that they liked, but did not currently own. They were asked to rate the songs on a scale of one to ten depending on how much they wanted the song (a score of ten indicating that they wanted the song very much).

The subjects were then placed in a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanner, which records brain activity by measuring related changes in blood flow. They were shown, one of the songs they had requested and one from a set of the previously unknown songs by Canadian and Scandinavian artists and were asked to indicate a preference between the two. The researchers then revealed to the volunteer which of the two songs the two ‘experts’ preferred.

When the reviewers agreed with the subject’s own choice, the team found that the subject’s ventral striatum, the area of the brain associated with rewards, became active. Activity in this area tended to be strongest when both reviewers agreed with the subject.

The researchers confirmed the role of the ventral striatum by randomly assigning tokens to the songs and measuring its effect on brain activity; the ventral striatum was most active when a token was awarded to a song chosen by the subject. (At the end of the task, the subject knew that they would receive the ten songs with the most tokens.)

“We all like getting rewards and this is reflected in brain activity in the ventral striatum,” says first author Dr Daniel Campbell-Meiklejohn from the Centre of Functionally Integrative Neuroscience, Aarhus University, Denmark. “Our study shows that our brains respond in a similar way when others agree with us. One interpretation is that agreement with others can be as satisfying as other, more basic, rewards.”

Once out of the fMRI scanner, the subjects were asked to rate their choices of songs again. The researchers found that the majority of people had changed their opinions dependent on the experts’ views.

Seven people changed their opinions opposite to the reviewers – in other words, if the reviewers agreed with their choice, they tended to rate the song lower and vice versa.

However, most subjects appeared to be positively influenced – they were more likely to increase the rating of one of their songs if the reviewers also liked it and decrease the rating if the reviewers disliked it. In these subjects, the researchers found a link between activity in their ventral striatum when receiving the song as a reward and the opinions of reviewers: the more positively the song was reviewed, the greater the activity when receiving the song.

“It seems that not only are some people more influenced by the opinions of others, but by looking at activity in the brain, we can tell who those people are,” says Professor Frith.

It is strange the degree to which people will be influenced by others. Sometimes social pressure is a good thing and as long as there is not extreme lengths involved such as bullying, it can be an effective and less draconian way to correct anti-social behavior than institutional coercion via rules and regulations. On the other hand there is group think or the mob mentality where the majority view is wrong, ill informed, misguided or destructive. Any or all of these tendencies can be combined with a strong resistance to listening to reason or new evidence. Some people also seem to stick to their opinion or change it  to spite those seen as experts. History and major societal changes tends to be a series of all these opposing forces. It’s not surprising that some people tend to reason things our for themselves while others are eager to please those seen as authority figures. That the process has organic roots makes persuasion a difficult process despite having the best arguments on your side.

autumn leaves wallpaper

Author and astronomer Marcus Chown  on the early history of the universe, quantum reality, and the origins of information.

In Song of Myself, Walt Whitman wrote: “Let your soul stand cool and composed before a million universes.” Of course, he never meant it literally; he was using poetic license. But, remarkably, today, we know it is actually possible to stand cool and composed before a million universes. In my hand I am holding a 1-gigabit flash memory drive. You will have to trust me about that! A moment ago I fished it from my pocket and now it dangles on my key-ring. Believe it or not, it has the capacity to store the information for 1 million universes.

You’ll have to click over to see how a million universes fit on a flash drive.

Some retro alternative – The Smithereens – Blood And Roses .