black and white hill and sky wallpaper, from denial to torture pride, losing our democracy

black and white hill and sky wallpaper

About those claims you can electrocute yourself into being a math genius, Can electrical brain stimulation really make you better at math–and is it less painful than learning calculus?

What about those of us who just feel so-so about our competence with calculus? Is an appointment with a magic math-skills stimulator going to be an option for us—or our offspring? It is unclear if this procedure can improve the everyday math skills of average adults. In fact, when the researchers tested the subjects’ real-number manipulation abilities on the last day of TDCS-boosted training, they found no change in any of the groups. So the cranial charge might best address the most basic apprehension of number relationships, rather than zapping a normal student to Newton-level numeracy.

If you can already handle basic math up through beginning algebra and an introduction to statistics you probably will not realize much if any gain. They did boost a healthy adults’ ability to learn and use new numerical symbols. In other words math which one was not already familiar with. The role of electrical stimulation  appearing to speed up processing new information is interesting since higher math abilities have been correlated with a higher than average density of glial cells. The electricity would make synapses between cells fire off faster, but faster does not necessarily produce better specialized cognitive skills.

G.W. Bush said in 2005 ” We do not torture terror suspects”. In 2010 he says, ‘Damn right’ I personally ordered waterboarding

In his book, “Decision Points,” Bush asserts that he was asked by the Central Intelligence Agency whether he would support the agency’s waterboarding of Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the alleged 9/11 mastermind.

“Damn right,” Bush says that he said.

The Washington Post’s R. Jeffrey Smith avers that a source close to Bush says he would have done the same thing again “to save lives,” though there’s been no proof produced that the torture technique has.

It seems odd that he would be proud of something in 2010 which he denied in 2005. This makes Bush guilty of war crimes since the United Nations Convention Against Torture are part of U.S. law (Article II, Section 2, Clause 2 of the United States Constitution). In addition it appears  Bush, Dick Cheney, Condi Rice, Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and his former Undersecretary Paul Wolfowitz were complicit in putting U.S. military personnel at additional and unnecessary risk. Bush’s assertion that he would do it again is nonsensical since no actionable intelligence was ever produced under torture. Bush is sicking to the right-wing myth K.S.M. and Abu Zubaydah gave up actionable information under torture. Simply not true. No one has produced any evidence to date that either suspect gave up valuable information after torture started ( Dick Cheney promised to produce documentation in 2009 but never did). K.S.M. had given some information to interrogators before he was tortured. Once torture started he made up stories to make his interrogators stop – just as the British had warned.

• FBI Director Robert Meuller: Enhanced techniques haven’t prevented any attacks.
“So far as he is aware, have any attacks on America been disrupted thanks to intelligence obtained through what the administration still calls ‘enhanced techniques’? ‘I’m really reluctant to answer that,’ Mueller says. He pauses, looks at an aide, and then says quietly, declining to elaborate: ‘I don’t believe that has been the case.’” [Vanity Fair, 12/16/08]

aged graphic art

writing wabbit

The new barbarism: Keeping science out of politics – Climate skeptics reach a new low. Their goal: Don’t let scientists influence policy, period.

Watching one Republican candidate for office after another declare outright that they do not believe humans are causing climate change is befuddling enough. But to flat-out reject science as a guide to policy is beyond medieval. It’s a retreat to pure superstition, a surrender to barbarism. We might as well be reading omens in the entrails of sacrificial animals. Our wealth as a country, our incredible technological wonders — the Industrial Revolution! — were built upon scientific discovery.

Should the FDA reject clinical test results in deciding whether to approve a drug? Should the U.S. Corp of Engineers ignore physics when building dams and levees? Scientists say asbestos is dangerous to human health and cigarette smoking causes cancer. Who cares? Let’s continue to build public schools packed with the fire-retardant material and give free Camel nonfilters to teenagers!

Conservatives could consult their crystal balls but they are a little more clever than that. They buy reports that sound sciencey. They have papers to flip through at hearings and it makes for some sorry amateur theater, but it seems to be enough to convince zealots like James Inhofe(R-OK), Rand Paul (R),  and everyone at Fox News.


Bill Moyers: “Welcome to the Plutocracy!”

Here we are now, on the verge of the biggest commercial transaction in the history of American elections. Once again the plutocracy is buying off the system. Nearly $4 billion is being spent on the congressional races that will be decided next week, including multi millions coming from independent tax-exempt organizations that can collect unlimited amounts without revealing the sources. The organization Public Citizen reports that just 10 groups are responsible for the bulk of the spending by independent groups: “A tiny number of organizations, relying on a tiny number of corporate and fat cat contributors, are spending most of the money on the vicious attack ads dominating the airwaves” – those are the words of Public Citizen’s president, Robert Wiessman. The Federal Election Commission says that two years ago 97% of groups paying for election ads disclosed the names of their donors. This year it’s only 32%.

Socrates again: To remember a thing, you must first name it. We’re talking about slush funds. Donors are laundering their cash through front groups with high-falutin’ names like American Crossroads. That’s one of the two slush funds controlled by Karl Rove in his ambition to revive the era of the robber barons. Promise me you won’t laugh when I tell you that although Rove and the powerful Washington lobbyist who is his accomplice described the first organization as “grassroots”, 97% of its initial contributions came from four billionaires. Yes: The grass grows mighty high when the roots are fertilized with gold.

Rove, other conservative groups and the Chamber of Commerce have in fact created a “shadow party” determined to be the real power in Washington just like Rome’s Opus Dei in Dan Brown’s “The DaVinci Code.” In this shadow party the plutocrats reign. We have reached what the new chairman of Common Cause and former Labor Secretary Robert Reich calls “the perfect storm that threatens American democracy: an unprecedented concentration of income and wealth at the top; a record amount of secret money, flooding our democracy; and a public becoming increasingly angry and cynical about a government that’s raising its taxes, reducing its services, and unable to get it back to work. We’re losing our democracy to a different system. It’s called plutocracy.”

The public does have a record of always voting against the party of the president in power. That said would conservatives have picked up so many seats if this election cycle was a battle of ideas instead of a battle of media ad buys. It is an unfortunate aspect of human nature that a lie or smear repeated often enough becomes the truth for some. Now that they bought themselves an election, Republicans will be responsible for every spending bill. What’s that old saying – be careful what you wish for. Conservatives outspent liberals $97 million to $15.7 million


Video – Carry Me , Ohio – Sun Kil Moon