food seeds and patents, farmland storm wallpaper, the contrast of beauty and loneliness

World population will likely pass the 7 billion milestone this year. That’s a lot of people and they all need to eat. Dictated human carnivores barely follow the issue. They are quick to get outraged in forums on healthy eating or vegetarianism, but healthy eating advocates and vegetarians are not much of a threat to their favorite source of fat and cholesterol (I’m not a vegetarian). Costs is the biggest threat to a meat centered diet. Global warming is most likely occurring despite the recent publication of a paper by a well known libertarian crank to the contrary. Monsanto, genetically engineered seeds and animals aside for the moment, the best hope of supplying grains for humans or livestock is having plants species that are tolerant of extreme weather conditions, Soybean Genetic Treasure Trove Found in Swedish Village

The first screening by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists of the American ancestors of soybeans for tolerance to ozone and other stresses had an eye-opening result: The world superstars of stress resistance hailed from a little village in far northern Sweden, called Fiskeby.

[  ]…After analyzing thousands of soybean types to generate the family tree of North American soybeans, Carter found 30 ancestors, which together account for 92 percent of the genetic material in North American soybeans. He screened these ancestors first for salt tolerance. Two lines of vegetable soybeans, Fiskeby 840-7-3 and Fiskeby III, were the most salt tolerant.

Carter screened for aluminum tolerance, and again the Fiskeby plants stood out—and the same thing happened when he screened for tolerance to drought and high ozone levels. The Fiskeby plants also were found to be resistant to iron deficiency and toxic soil aluminum.

The scientists searched breeder pedigree records and found that only a few U.S. cultivars trace their ancestry to the Fiskeby stress-tolerant types. This indicates that there is great potential to increase tolerance to ozone and other stresses in North American soybeans by adding genes from Fiskeby.

Burkey, Carter and Jim Orf, a geneticist at the University of Minnesota at St. Paul, have crossed Fiskeby III with ozone-susceptible Mandarin Ottawa soybeans and developed 240 breeding lines from the offspring.

I buy and like some organic food, but when it comes to feeding the whole world organic might not be an option. To back up for second. If someone thinks of organic as a grain that does not come from genetically modified seed, then there is no such thing as organic grain, fruit or vegetables. Breeding is a form of genetic manipulation and humans have been playing around with breeding for thousands of years. In this lengthy article it reminds us that the discoverer of genetic traits, the monk Gregor Mendel, mixed pea plants with different traits to document which traits were passed from one generation to the next. And that your dog or cat is hardly the wolf or lion from which they originated – Passing Judgment on Genetically Modified Foods

Tomatoes, Romaine lettuce, pineapple, corn, watermelon and almost all other modern produce have their origins in nature, of course, but as eaten today are decidedly products of careful, selective breeding. This can at times simply involve selecting the plants with favored traits, but may involve hybridization as well — the fusion of parts of one plant with another in order to get offspring with the desired traits of both. We owe many of our fruits and vegetables, along with our most beautiful flowers (e.g., “hybrid” roses), to such methods.

Seedless grapes are a product of willful genetic modification. Nectarines are the result of careful culling of a recessive gene in peaches that eliminates their eponymous fuzzy skin. Ever try a tangelo? It is the hybrid offspring of a tangerine and grapefruit. Genetic modification, to be sure.

Dr. Katz documents and acknowledges that while not always done is a lab, genetic breeding is here and in most cases we’re better off for it. It also makes the case that there is a point beyond which we might want to think long and hard about the risks and benefits.

Genes introduced into crops may result in compounds that are directly toxic to humans, producing consequences from infertility, to cancer — to who knows what else.

And that’s the point. We are playing with fire when we take the genetic makeup of foods directly into our own hands. We have the scientific acumen, but not the wisdom, to “play God” in this manner. High rates of fatigue, attention deficit disorder, gluten intolerance, chronic pain, irritable bowel syndrome and affective disorders may all relate in part to our manipulation of the food supply. These are chances we should not be taking.

Can we reach a verdict?

Honestly, I don’t think so.

I gave the Defense more ink not because it’s the more important case, but because it’s the less obvious one. Concerns about genetic modification prevail — so the Prosecution argument tends to be the better known.

Both arguments are valid. Modern methods of genetic modification are encumbered by the law of unintended consequences. Those opposed to genetically modified foods may derive strong support from the precautionary principle, which puts the burden of proof on the defense. Until we know that genetic modification is safe, we should presume it to be dangerous.

But we can’t let it go at that, because by one means or another, almost our entire food supply is already the product of genetic modification. We are now a global population of 7 billion and rising, and in the absence of genetically modified crops, we would already be unable to feed ourselves. In some cases, of course, we already fail to do so. (As an aside, I encourage all those adamantly opposed to genetically modified foods to be as adamantly supportive of family planning and birth control.)

Good article in which he tackles a lot of issues related to genetic modification, but not all of them. Can you patent and thus own a genetic modification. Certain genes have been patented in the past. It has been done for certain strains of animals used in labs for instance. But that has little effect on the food we eat or grow. Monsanto has patented seeds that grow plants which are resistant to its herbicide Roundup. There are lots of issues related to that – the environmental and health effects of Roundup for one. The other is Monsanto’s zeal in what it views as protection of its patent on the seeds of the herbicide resistant crops (a Roundup resistant alfalfa seed was recently approved by the government. There is already resistant strains of corn wheat and sugar beets). What if you’re the farmer next door or even miles down the road and you prefer another strain of seeds. maybe you’re an organic farmer who does not believe in using any kind of chemical pesticides or herbicides. Seeds and their pollen are blown around by the wind. Suddenly you’re using Monsanto seeds whether you want to or not. To add insult to injury Monsanto knocks on your door and says they’re going to sue you for using their patented seeds without paying for them. This was not even issue until Monsanto introduced the first commercial genetic seed it developed in the late 1980s. Previous to that Joe’s corn pollen got into Maria’s corn and who cared ( sounds sexier than it probably was). Many farmers do not like Monsanto products and do not want to use them. Because fighting Monsanto lawsuits in court can and has literally driven some farmers into the poor house, they’re forced into situations like this – Monsanto Seed Patents

PUBPAT filed suit on behalf of 60 family farmers, seed businesses and organic agricultural organizations against Monsanto Company to challenge the chemical giant’s patents on genetically modified seed. The organic plaintiffs were forced to sue preemptively to protect themselves from being accused of patent infringement should they ever become contaminated by Monsanto’s genetically modified seed, something Monsanto has done to others in the past. The case, Organic Seed Growers & Trade Association, et al. v. Monsanto, was filed in federal district court in Manhattan and assigned to Judge Naomi Buchwald. In June, 2011, 23 additional plaintiffs were added to the suit, bringing the total number to 83.

Wikipedia has a very balanced entry on Monsanto. Even with that balance, if you think Microsoft or BP is evil, new candidate for the title of most evil. Monsanto was and still is the maker of DDT and Agent Orange(along with Dow Chemical). The corporation in the movie Michael Clayton was inspired by Monsanto.

american landscapes, rural landscape, storms

farmland storm wallpaper

LUST AND LONELINESS

The current exhibit of Laurel Nakadate’s work at MoMA PS1 raises more questions than it answers. This may be what this artist needs right now, considering how even the praise she has received tends to focus on the least challenging aspects of her work. For several years she made videos featuring lonely older men who started conversations with her in grocery stores and parking lots; she would agree to go home with them as long as they allowed her to film what happened, which would usually turn out to be a scenario of her choosing. In some cases this meant a pretend birthday party (we see the man eating a slice of cake and then singing to her) or a pretend music video (we watch her dance to “Oops, I Did It Again”, Britney Spears’s paean to inadvertent seduction). Ms Nakadate, who was 25 when she started to make these videos in 2000, would often film herself gyrating in flimsy camisoles while the men looked on.

I was in a fairly good mood when I started reading this review of Nakadate’s work  and looked at the photo above. I want to be fair in evaluating any art, so I’m careful to take mood into account. Looking at the photo depressed me. Feeling badly for them both. I’m not sure of all the reasons. They both seem lonely, they are both exploiting and being exploited – though I always approach accusations of exploitation with some skepticism. I cannot read minds and exploitation of and by adults is to some degree a question about mental state. There is to me an obvious contrast between ugly and pretty. Both qualities beyond the conscious control of either. In that contrast is something of art’s duty to be honest even if part of the subject may suffer by comparison. In the larger frame of things there is also a young life still unfolding and reaffirming the arrogance of the young, and a life on the down side.

But neither view conveys how uncomfortable it is to watch Ms Nakadate’s work. However pleasing the sight of a young woman’s body may be, the stubborn presence of her dishevelled male co-stars thwarts any possibility of eroticism. What makes videos such as “I Want To Be the One To Walk In the Sun” (2006) truly strange is less the presence of a half-nude Nakadate and more the way in which we are forced to pay attention to these men, who would otherwise be invisible. We watch them watch her: images of nubile women are everywhere in our culture; images of titillated middle-aged shut-ins are not.

In a slightly different vain, but very close to the consciousness and observation of the contrast between the ugly and beautiful was the most recent episode of Louie. Louie is on the subway platform waiting for his subway. There is a beggar violinist playing with incredible feeling. The beauty of it stark just considering the surroundings. Louie and probably most of the audience is mesmerized by this beautiful scene. A homeless man dressed mostly in trash bags walks within a few yards of the violinist. He strips off his shirt and starts washing with a bottle of water.

scene from louie season 2 episode 6

Paris Review did a profile of Nakadate where you can see more of her work..

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fighting extremism with democracy, ocean steps giant’s causeway wallpaper, drug helps with leber’s blindness

Glenn Greenwald on Norway’s response to the terror attacks of right-wing Christian conservative Anders Behring Breivik, An un-American response to the Oslo attack

Over the last decade, virtually every Terrorist plot aimed at the U.S. — whether successful or failed — has provoked greater security and surveillance measures.  Within a matter of mere weeks, the 9/11 attacks infamously spawned a vast new surveillance statute (the Patriot Act), a secretly implemented warrantless eavesdropping program in violation of the law, an explosion of domestic surveillance contracts, a vastly fortified secrecy regime, and endless wars in multiple countries.  As it turned out, that massive over-reaction was not a crisis-driven anomaly but rather the template for future actions.

The failed Christmas Day bombing over Detroit led to an erosion of Miranda rights and judge-free detentions as well as a due-process free assassination program aimed at an Muslim American preacher whose message allegedly “inspired” the attacker.  The failed Times Square bombing was repeatedly cited to justify reform-free extension of the Patriot Act along with a slew of measures to maximize government scrutiny of the Internet.  That failed plot, along with Nidal Hasan’s shooting at Fort Hood, provoked McCarthyite Congressional hearings into American Muslims and helped sustain a shockingly broad interpretation of “material support for Terrorism” that criminalizes free speech.  In sum, every Terrorist plot is immediately exploited as a pretext for expanding America’s Security State; the response to every plot: we need to sacrifice more liberties, increase secrecy, and further empower the government.

The reaction to the heinous Oslo attack by Norway’s political class has been exactly the opposite: a steadfast refusal to succumb to hysteria and a security-über-alles mentality.  The day after the attack — one which, per capita, was as significant for Norway as 9/11 was for the U.S. — Oslo Mayor Fabian Stang, when asked whether greater security measures were needed, sternly rejected that notion:  “I don’t think security can solve problems. We need to teach greater respect.”

 

I Like the response of Norwegian prime minister Jens Stoltenberg who swore that Norway would not be “bombed into silence” after the attacks. Furthermore that “You will not destroy us. You will not destroy our democracy or our ideals for a better world,”. A truly unique and non-American answer to anyone that would seek to destroy democracy. Glenn’s post is good, but something of an echo of some pundits after 9-11, who on observing the deep erosion of civil liberties said that to at least some degree al-qaeda had won. Isn’t a large part of the agenda of al-qaeda to push back against the modern western style democratic state with all its modernity, freedom, and privacy. No wonder conservatives and conservative Democrats went along with the erosion of those rights. In a bit of serendipity the modernity that pissed off al-qaeda is also what pisses off American and European conservatives who would like to push much of our culture back to pre-Enlightement days.

It would be taking political correctness to the heights of absurdity to not acknowledge there are radical homicidal Muslims among the world’s 1.2 billion Muslims. equally absurd is professional Isalmophobe Pamela Geller’s assertion, after the Norway attacks and the news that she among others were part of Breivik’s reading material, “If anyone incited him to violence, it was Islamic supremacists,” she wrote. Geller and others strongly imply that no one can commit acts of terror except Muslims even when they are not committing, their mere presence, their words give people no other choice but to grab a gun and murder children. If one gets on the net and reads nothing but Geller’s Atlas Shrugged (as her blog title suggests she apparently has no sense of irony), Gates of Vienna or Jihad Watch one easily get the impression the only groups of people committing terrorism in Europe are Muslim. The EU TERRORISM SITUATION AND TREND REPORT(pdf) says otherwise: In 2009 out of a total of 294 failed, foiled or successfully executed attacks 1 was Islamist, 237 were Separatist, 40 were extreme Leftist, 4 were Right-wing, 2 were single issue based and 10 were unspecified. Of the number of arrested suspects in 2009 per 13 European members states reporting 100 arrests were Islamist, 413 were Separatists, 29 were extreme Left, 22 were extreme Right, 2 were single issue, 11 not specified for a total of 587 arrests. The total number of terror related attacks and arrests have declined every year 2007 through 2009. Decreasing from 581 attacks in 2007 to 204 in 2009.

I’m not a particularly big fan of organized religion and its inherent dogma and orthodoxy. In the mind of the right person much of what they teach can and has provided the basis for violence directly or by proxy. It is also true that the majority of the time especially since the Age of Enlightenment, individuals have acted on their own and should be held responsible for the choices they make. In free market ountires bsuinesse are free to sell fat laden hamburgers, fires and sugary drinks. Both have been shown to have addictive qualities. When people become addicted to this food it is their fault. They made the choice. But because the food is addictive and the large chains that sell it know this, they bear at least a little responsibility to do better. To act a little more ethically in their business practices. Freedom doesn’t mean to toss out the social contract as just so much baggage. The same is true for the far Right pundits who paint this very dire, threatening, one dimensional portrait of Islam – or for that matter liberals, feminists, Latinos, or anyone else that flies into their eliminationist radar.

ocean steps giant’s causeway wallpaper. the Unwitting Traveler has a collection of photos and some background on the geological history of the Giant’s Causeway here – The Giant’s Causeway: Part Geology – Part Mythology

Solar Energy Is the Fastest Growing Industry In the US

Hugh Pickens writes “According to Rhone Resch, the last three years have seen the U.S. solar industry go from a start-up to a major industry that is creating well-paying jobs and growing the economy in all 50 states, employing 93,000 Americans in 2010, a number that is expected to grow between 25,000 to 50,000 this year (PDF).

 

We might be parsing some semantics but I think the health care industry ( hospitals, clinics, pharmaceuticals, technical medical professionals, lab techs, nursing homes)  is actually the fastest growing segment of the economy.

warm and cool autumn wallpaper

Daily drug restores sight to hereditary blind

A hereditary form of blindness has been delayed or reversed for the first time by a daily drug treatment. The drug is the first to benefit people with a disease of their mitochondria, the energy powerhouses of cells.

There had been no way to halt the rapid onset of blindness in people with the most common mitochondrial disease, called Leber’s hereditary optic neuropathy. It strikes men in their twenties, leading to total blindness within three to six months of the first symptoms appearing.

The drug is called idebenone. It should not be considered a cure, but if caught early enough, such as confined to one eye, the chances of vision improvement are greatly increased.

far right zealots victims of their own propaganda techniques, blue beach wallpaper, conservative debt still affects economy

Fox News Has Mainstreamed Pam Geller’s Islamophobic Hate Speech

In the aftermath of the tragic shooting in Oslo, Norway, the manifesto of accused killer Anders Behring Breivik is being examined, and commenters are noting that he frequently cited fringe, so-called “antijihad” writers including Atlas Shrugs blogger Pamela Geller. Geller has long been a reliable source for Fox when the network needs or wants to highlight far-right, fringe, and extremist opinions — and Geller has only benefited from the exposure. And now that the opinions Geller proudly holds have been connected to a horrific act of violence, Fox News’ role in mainstreaming Geller and her brand of Islamophobic activism should be put under the microscope.

Some other people and sites that influenced Anders Behring Breivik include Robert Spencer, Jihad Watch, Front Page, Islam Watch, right-wing gay conservative Bruce Bawer( who is shocked to learn that his hate speech influenced anyone) and Unibomber  Ted Kaczynski. It is also know that Breivik had contact with the anti-Islamic right-wing English Defense League(a group praised by Gellar and Spencer). Breivik claimed there are no moderate Muslims. Sentiments echoed by Gellar, “I have long derided the ‘moderate Islam’ meme as a theory with no basis in reality or history.” All of the groups and persons mentioned that are associated with Breivik engage in the kind of slanted propaganda that Matt Drudge uses against African-Americans. They select acts of violence or hate speech and slam entire religions and races based on those stories. Hate Catholics? They’re an easy target. All you have to do is run stories about the Catholic Church and child molesters, child abuse and other aberant behavior by the preisthood. Against women’s rights. It is easy to make a case against women’s rights by taking a laser-like focus on situations in the work place, the armed forces or the home where a woman did something incompetent, dangerous or violated some social norm. Groups of people that share a common religion, races, cultural heritage, set of political beliefs are easy to demonize because all groups of people are going to have flaws just as individuals do. certainly some people, especially those who have made a pact for a common cause deserve their reputations – Stalinists, the Taliban, America’s white Christian Oath Keepers, The KKK, Ireland’s IRA, radical Hindus in India, The Third Reich and so forth. Gellar and others mentioned in articles acorss the net are now really pissed that that they are being mentioned. Geller is saying everyone is accusing her of being responsible for pushing Breivik over the edge. I have not read any major publication that has said Geller used the words that made Breivik pull the trigger. That does not mean that some misguded individuals here and there have not made that accusation, only it is primarily Geller reading the accusation into simply being listed as someone who Breivik admired. Geller and her defenders are generally just accusing the “media”. If said media has made such an accusation it should be easy to pull some quotes to support her claims to victim hood as in this article defending Geller at The right-wing Daily Caller Pamela Geller strikes back at NY Times for tying her to Oslo shooter

Moving forward, Geller hopes other Americans recognize what she says she has observed in the mainstream media. “This to me is naked agenda bias,” Geller said. “Clearly the media is no longer taking a passive role, or even objective reporting. The media has become an activist voice for supremacists and the far left.”

The problem with her portrayal of herself is what the NYT actually wrote,

Mr. Breivik frequently cited another blog, Atlas Shrugs, and recommended the Gates of Vienna among Web sites. Pamela Geller, an outspoken critic of Islam who runs Atlas Shrugs, wrote on her blog Sunday that any assertion that she or other antijihad writers bore any responsibility for Mr. Breivik’s actions was “ridiculous.”

Apparently what would make geller and the others mentioned in the NYT piece is that the newspaper and Norwegian authorities leave out information about who Breivik read and admired. Leaving out information like that is one of the things Geller and the Right constantly accuse the media of doing when it comes to violence that may or may not have been committed by radical jihadists. If Geller is guilty by association – her concern – that is only because of the incredible number of simple-minded people in the world. Geller does make a good point here (also from the Caller piece),

Conservative blogger and anti-jihadist Pamela Geller told The Daily Caller it’s “outrageous” that she’s been “assign[ed] blame” for Oslo shooter Anders Behring Breivik’s actions.

“It’s like equating Charles Manson, who heard in the lyrics of Helter Skelter a calling for the Manson murders,” Geller said in an exclusive phone interview. “It’s like blaming the Beatles. It’s patently ridiculous.”

 

Telling the public what Anders Behring Breivik liked, read or believed in does tell us about his ideology. It does not tell us why he committed such horrid acts. He might not even know. A lot of people are, as is usual in mass murders, calling Breivik a psychopath. That is probably not the case. he methodically built up his belief system over the last twenty years. he gave careful thought to what he was doing. he seems conscious of the difference between reality and fantasy and between right and wrong. I does seem as though he was yet another empty vessel. or mostly empty. he had some of the simmering resentments we all have toward some individual or group of people who have done us a wrong or injustice. He found a system of beliefs, of fears, of half baked thoughts and justifications among mostly writers on the far Right (though he is said to have hated Hitler and admired John Locke. He will not be the first or last person to corrupt Locke. Pundits on the conservative and libertarian Right frequently do. They carry him to the nonsensical level where you can’t object to anything they do because Locke said we all have personal rights. Not stopping where your rights began – they have a god given right to dump their toxic waste where they want. You are a tyrant for trying to stop them. Balance is hard.) While I sympathize with Geller’s cause and effect argument, it also creates quite the conundrum for Geller, the Islamophobic hate mongers – Sarah Palin, Tim Pawlenty, Rep. Pete King(R-NY) ,the Matt Drudge acolytes and much of the far Right in the US and Europe. They do not want to be treated to the same kind of paranoid, superstition based, xenophobic scatter-shot propaganda to which they subject all Muslims.

summer sands beach

striated blue beach wallpaper

How the Deficit Got This Big

With President Obama and Republican leaders calling for cutting the budget by trillions over the next 10 years, it is worth asking how we got here — from healthy surpluses at the end of the Clinton era, and the promise of future surpluses, to nine straight years of deficits, including the $1.3 trillion shortfall in 2010. The answer is largely the Bush-era tax cuts, war spending in Iraq and Afghanistan, and recessions.

 

Some of the usual suspects mentioned above also have less than consistent standards on history. They claim that all the debt on the books is Obama’s fault because Bush is gone and damn it he has to take responsibility because if he doesn’t it makes them look bad. Anyone out there still making rent or mortgage payments on a contract you signed years ago. Y, i thought so. Debts are like that. On the other hand those suspects think all living Muslims should be held to account for their historical violence – which they as expected inflate. History matters, history doesn’t matter. Hard to keep up with all these ever sifting rules.

The conservative legacy of debt

asian autumn country road wallpaper, some other links and stuff

asian autumn country road wallpaper

I’ve written about ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) before. One doesn’t need Glenn Beck’s chalkboard, imagined plots, or individuals with highly inflated powers to find a group that is doing so much to undermine of spirit and the republican foundations of the U.S. Few people have heard of ALEC, but they and their agenda are not hard to find, ALEC Exposed: The Koch Connection

ALEC and the Kochs often pursue parallel tracks. Just as ALEC “educates” legislators, Koch funding has helped “tutor” hundreds of judges with all-expenses-paid junkets at fancy resorts, where they learn about the “free market” impact of their rulings. But ALEC also operates like an arm of the Koch agenda, circulating bills that make their vision of the world concrete. For a mere $25,000 a year, Koch Industries sits as an “equal” board member with state legislators, influencing bills that serve as a wish list for its financial or ideological interests.

It’s a pittance for the Kochs but far out of the reach of working Americans. Ordinary citizens rely on our elected representatives’ efforts to restore what’s left of the American Dream. But through ALEC, billionaire industrialists are purchasing a version that seems like a real nightmare for most Americans.

Anyone who has followed Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s radical agenda – cutting education funding while cutting corporate taxes – knows how effective ALEC and the Koch brothers can be.

sleeping head by Lucian Freud. Freud died on Wed. July 20. Lucian Freud, Who Recast Art of Portraiture, Dies at 88

In paintings like “Girl With Roses” (1947-48) and “Girl With a White Dog” (1951-52), he put the pictorial language of traditional European painting in the service of an anti-romantic, confrontational style of portraiture that stripped bare the sitter’s social facade. Ordinary people — many of them his friends — stared wide-eyed from the canvas, vulnerable to the artist’s ruthless inspection.

Whether Freud( grandson of Sigmund) started it or it was just one of those turning points in art like the Impressionists, Freud was at the front of a peculiar British movement of garish unsentimentalized nudes. If your artistic point of view has been strongly shaped by Renaissance artists, Rococo art, neo-classical or the Impressionist you’ll find many of Freud’s jarring to your sensibilities. They are more about accuracy and mood rather than hazy romantic interpretation. An interesting starting point for asking oneself about perception is why Freud’s nudes seem almost in your face, yet similar figures painted with their clothes seem almost childlike, as though they would make good illustrations for a children’s book. There is a slide-show at the link.

Richard M. Hoe's rotary-type printing press

On this day in 1847 ( or at least by late July) Richard M. Hoe patented the rotary-type printing press.

In 1843, Richard invented a lithographic rotary printing press that placed the type on a revolving cylinder, a design much faster than the old flatbed printing press. It received U.S. Patent 5,199 in 1847, and was placed in commercial use the same year. In its early days, it was variously called the “Hoe lightning press,” and “Hoe’s Cylindrical-Bed Press,” and was later developed into the “Hoe web perfecting press.”

Fans or the simply curious might find this article on Marshall McLuhan interesting – Why Bother with Marshall McLuhan?” There are reasons not to. He did like to talk and some of what he said was babbling at best. Conversely he also managed to predict the invention of the internet.

This lesson too was not lost on McLuhan. Everything he wrote that would make him famous he wrote as a professor of English literature, rooted as a scholar in the technological, scientific, and religious upheavals of the early-modern world, and fascinated as a thinker by the immensely ambitious attempts of the great Modernists to use the resources of the past to respond, critically but constructively, to the twentieth century. Perhaps the best way to think of McLuhan is as a belated Modernist: born a generation or so later than Eliot, Pound, and Joyce, and working in a different intellectual medium than they worked in, but one with them in interest and ambition. The Gutenberg Galaxy is as much a document of magisterial Modernism as Ulysses, the Cantos, or The Waste Land.

This idea of the past mixing with the present still seems important. Why do people behave, believe and have particular ambitions for the future, Not because those thoughts appeared as unique apparitions in the person’s mind, but because they were issues to Plato and Lincoln and their grandmother. Ideas about morality, intellect, family life, individual rights, work, compensation, justice, revenge, forgiveness and so on goes back centuries. Individuals tend to have the same conversations over and over again, but humanity’s history is one long conversation involving the same issues and personal concerns. Only the technology seems to change.

This image is from Portraiture by Tomek Jankowski.

Much of the media heard about the terror attacks in Norway and immediately jumped to the preliminary conclusion that it was done by Muslim radicals. Jennifer Rubin at WaPo was one of the offenders ( Nancy Grace syndrome may not be contagious as much as a deeply ingrained psychological and sociological issue). Michelle Malkin jumped on the bandwagon. Understandable since Malkin long ago established her credentials as an ideological sheep. To her credit she admitted she was wrong, but proceeds to bury her apology in the others are worse/they did it too/ and up yours with a rubber hose anyway rant. In said rant she gets her facts wrong. James Fellows writing at the Atlantic says Rubin should apologize for calling Rubin out. Whether Rubin, the NYT or other media outlets should apologize is worth some discussions among the editors at those outlets. Once again, even having had time to reflect and gather more facts Malkin either lies or did not bother to do some reading and check time stamps. She defends Rubin sans fact checking,

Atlantic editor James Fallows — in a prominent rant — is now clamoring for the Post to “apologize to the world” for Rubin’s post and fumes that the post has not been updated. There may be any number of reasons for her not updating yet and being offline — family obligations, Sabbath, etc. I’m pretty sure the reason is NOT that she’s purposely ignoring or misleading her readers or intentionally insulting/smearing “the world,” as Fallows seems to suggest.

No, Rubin has since written other posts – no family obligations or religious reasons stopped her, and no correction to the original. Rubin uses the acts of one right-wing Christian to claim, hold on for the sharp turn in logic and the threadbare connection to defense spending,

In our own debates about national security, conservatives argue that national security spending is deserving of a higher priority than other expenditures. The defense budget is not numbers on a balance sheet as some of those on the left and right insist. Cutting defense spending is not the same as cutting domestic spending. That light rail project can wait, or states can do it, or we can decide it’s a boondoggle not worth doing even if we had the money. But national security is solely a federal function, and it can’t be put off.

We already live in the never-ending surveillance state. Obama has increased defense spending to yet another new record as a percentage of GDP. How will building another aircraft carrier or intensifying domestic spying prevent a jihadist or a right-wing nut from perpetrating another terror attack in Norway, or here. At what point will military spending as a percent of GDP be enough. Defense spending is necessary, but considering that spending on defense not only costs on the front end, it cost the economy in total jobs created as well. There has to be some logical cut off point. Everyone, including conservatives gets upset when someone is hurt by a terrorist. The problem with zeroing in on violence as the worse that can happen is that it leaves death by other means begging. Which is worse to die by the hand of a terrorist or a lingering death by way of being malnourished –  Senior Hunger In America: Shocking Facts Vs. Popular Myths. I have some expertise in human physiology and I can say without doubt that whether a person dies from starvation or a terror attack they’re just as dead either way. So if you want to maximize life saving in the USA one way to do that is to trim the substantial fat off the defense budget and put more into food security for seniors and children.

Besides repealing health care reform, the 2010 midterms were all about conservatives creating jobs. GOP’s First 200 Days: No Jobs Bills

Tomorrow marks 200 days of Republican control of the House of Representatives–House Republicans have passed 81 measures, none of which create jobs, and some that actually destroy jobs. The GOP has instead focused on divisive bills and their budget to end Medicare, while providing tax breaks to Big Oil and companies that ship jobs overseas.

By the numbers:

200: Number of days GOP has been in charge (Saturday, July 23, 2011)

2 Million: Jobs potentially destroyed by GOP legislation that’s passed the House

0: GOP jobs bills

10: GOP votes against Democratic jobs bills

House Republicans have passed bills that destroy nearly 2 million jobs and create economic uncertainty:

HR 1 – The House-passed GOP ‘So Be It’ spending bill destroys 700,000 jobs, stalls our economic recovery, and protects subsidies for Big Oil.

HR 2 – The GOP Patients’ Rights Repeal bill puts insurance companies back in charge and repeals the Affordable Care Act, thereby destroying more than 300,000 jobs.

Republican Budget (H.Con.Res. 34) – On top of ending Medicare as we know it to pay for tax breaks for Big Oil, millionaires and corporations shipping jobs overseas, the Republican-passed budget cuts key investment to our economic future like education, college aid, life-saving medical research, infrastructure, and clean energy.  This will cost Americans 1.7 million jobs by 2014, with 900,000 jobs lost next year, according to Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics.

Second Vote on GOP Budget — House Republicans doubled down on ending Medicare by passing a Rule on the Homeland Security Appropriations bill which “deems” that the Republican budget, with its cuts in Medicare and investment in our economic future is passed. House Democrats unanimously opposed the Rule.

Third Vote on GOP Budget/Cut, Cap, and End Medicare (H.R. 2560) — Just this week, the House passed a measure that incorporates the House GOP Budget Plan that ends Medicare and destroys jobs, and then calls for deeper cuts with a constitutional amendment.   Republicans even rejected a Democratic effort to prohibit any provision in the bill from going into effect if it would result in the loss of jobs or slow economic growth, but Republicans voted NO.

HR 658 — The House Republican FAA Reauthorization and Reform Act will destroy 70,000 jobs, undermine our nation’s infrastructure, and jeopardize runway safety and improvements.

In addition, Republicans have also unveiled a proposal to slash critical investments in rebuilding our roads, transit, and bridges in this county that will cost us more than 600,000 jobs.

ritualized behavior and risks, blue dance, corporate sunshine patriots

Otherwise rational people can find themselves buying into superstitious behavior without seeing themselves as giving into something irrational. This might be connected to something almost Pavlovian. Certain actions are associated with rewards. I wore this shirt and the Red Sox won their first game after a four game losing streak. I won a hundred dollars on the office pool the last time I wore these high heels. They don’t believe in luck per se, but why take any chances and wear another shirt or pair of shoes.If the behavior is rewarded even a percent or more above what probability dictates, the self told rationalizations only take a second to justify continuing to do whatever brought about the reward. Washing Away Good and Bad Luck

In the second experiment, students and staff from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, where Zwick formerly taught, were given HK $100 (US$1 = HK$7.8) to gamble with. They were told this was “for real” money that they would keep at the end. Indeed, they were paid based on their decisions and luck.

The experimenters showed participants a pink ball and a green ball and placed them in a bag. Participants selected one of the colors as their “winning” color and blindly picked a ball from the bag. If they picked the winning color they won HK$50. If not, they lost HK$50. They repeated the task until they lost their HK$100, won an additional HK$100 or completed four rounds.

Next, an ostensibly unrelated product evaluation study served as a cover story for the hand-washing manipulation. Participants evaluated organic soap. Half were told to wash their hands with the soap. The other half were told not to use the soap.

Finally, participants did a second round of gambling. They received HK$50 and were told they could bet any amount from nothing to HK$50.It was the same game as last time, but with only one round.

Researchers found participants who had good luck in the initial round bet more money in the second round than participants who had bad luck.

However, participants who had bad luck in the first round bet more money in the second round if they washed their hands. The difference was an average of HK$31.15 versus HK$17.47.

Shirts, shoes, a charm, a lucky coin we can relate to and will generally confess to, but that behavior can also be part of ritualized behavior or the ritualized behavior – hand washing – all by itself. Rational, front of the cerebral cortex thinking has pretty much handed things off to the insula. Handed off is probably going too far. One can imagine the analytical cortex fighting it out with the impulses in the insula to justify taking risks, how big a risk or not taking a risk at all. Because we are such reward centered animals and in general pain avoiding animals, the hand washing or some similar ritual must complete a circuit of sorts. Instead of making five widgets and getting five dollars, you wash your hands, pick a winning color or team or belief system. If the rewards are coming in a rate that can approximate our expectations than the belief is reinforced and the downside or losing times, can be explained away by those ever so accommodating voices we hear inside our heads.

blue dance

Taking things, money, even that do not belong to you is wrong. Conservatives and progressives agree there is a point at which taxes can be unreasonable. That is the point at which taxes are said to be confiscatory. We have a well established language to describe that phenomenon. The ever so accommodating media has been kind enough to help erect, maintain and propagate the way we frame taxes and fairness. Its Right of center framing that never considered all national infrastructure – from street lights to public universities – that makes owning a business possible and thus makes profits possible – no business operates in a self-sustaining Randian bubble. Where the value comes from that makes business possible and thus the need for taxes to expand and maintain that infrastructure ( both real and psychological) is never discussed much beyond Bill Moyer or maybe Rachel Maddow.With that reasoning in mind, what is it called then when Corporate America’s Sunshine Patriots Takes Most of The Capital Produced By Labor

In June, a report from Northeastern University’s Center for Labor Market Studies found that since the economic recovery began two years ago, “Corporate profits captured 88 percent of the growth in real national income while aggregate wages and salaries accounted for only slightly more than one percent.” It goes on to declare, “The absence of any positive share of national income growth due to wages and salaries received by American workers during the current economic recovery is historically unprecedented. The lack of any net job growth in the current recovery combined with stagnant real hourly and weekly wages is responsible for this unique, devastating outcome.”

The report concludes that in this jobless, wageless recovery, “The only major beneficiaries of the recovery have been corporate profits and the stock market and its shareholders.”

A new study conducted for The New York Times by the executive compensation data firm Equilar found that the median pay for top executives at “200 big companies” last year was $10.8 million: “That works out to a 23 percent gain from 2009.” The richest one percent makes almost 25 percent of the nation’s income.

One of the elements of the enormous amounts of money being made by hedge fund managers and is that for the most part they are placing bets with other people’s money. Their returns are not based on the work they do. The returns are based on the work done by others once removed. Corporate executives are also making enormous sums. Where does that money come from. The value added to the product or service by workers. Lets say that value is made of value units. Executives are saying, along with certain political movements, that they deserve a bigger share of value units for all the value produced than the workers. Not just a little more because as we all know all executives are smarter, harder working and more virtuous than the serfs, but substantially more. To the point of being confiscatory in regards to wages and benefits. This situation doesn’t exist because there are sound reasons spelled out in the Big Book of Capitalism ( where it says something about pay, work and merit being connected). The situation exists because it has become a belief that this is the way things should be. Shorting labor has become a deeply ingrained dogma and anyone who challenges it is a heretic.

Makah tribal art. the Makah are a north-western tribe. the name Makah means – People of the Cape.

In WTF news, Cops: McDonald’s boss punches mom with service dog

A McDonald’s manager in the Atlanta area is accused of punching a mother after she brought her autistic children and a service dog inside the restaurant, authorities said.

Tiffany Denise Allen is charged with simple battery, simple assault and disorderly conduct, according to a Cobb County warrant.

Jennifer Schwenker entered the McDonald’s in Marietta with her twins and service dog on July 12. Allen, who was off-duty at the time, became angry that the dog was inside, the warrant states. Police say Allen followed the mother around the restaurant, then punched her in the face in the parking lot.

Surveillance video shows McDonald’s employees trying to restrain their co-worker, police wrote in the warrant.

Tiffany Denise Allen is no longer employed at that restaurant. She may have had one too many Happy Meals.

New Firefox Add-on Warns You About The Dangers Of The Murdoch Propaganda Machine. There is also something similar available for Chrome. I’ll be ignoring it when I go to National Geographic, but other than that a good idea.

insect has a nuts and bolts leg, for justice system one down 91 to go, black and white fan

It is only fitting that animals and plants be described as marvels of engineering. Humanity, when not infatuated with its own anatomy and physiology, has long studied animals for insights into how and why the parts and the whole work. With modern hindsight clouded by the automobile and the train  some students of evolution have wondered why humans did not evolve wheels. The wheel has been around for thousands of years. It was not particularly efficient for moving people or their stuff until relatively recent history. Wheels roll but they are subject to the same forces of drag that burdens everything that moves under the force of gravity. It is much easier with the fairly well adapted bipedal motion of Homo sapiens to over come the drag and obstacles of any terrain compared to the wheel. Setting aside the assistance of modern technology, the evolution of bipedal locomotion fits in with the evolutionary tendency for land animals to obtain higher speeds. Compare crawling animals like snakes to quadrupeds like horses and bipeds like kangaroos. Animals have evolved wheels to use for locomotion, just not higher animals. Richard Dawkins explains in Why don’t animals have wheels?pdf

Many bacteria swim using threadlike spiral propellors, each driven by its own continuously rotating propellor shaft. It used to be thought that these ‘flagella’ were wagged like tails, the appearance of spiral rotation resulting from a wave of motion passing along the length of the flagellum, as in a wriggling snake. The truth is much more remarkable. The bacterial flagellum is attached to a shaft which, driven by a tiny molecular engine, rotates freely and indefinitely in a hole that runs through the cell wall.

The fact that only very small creatures have evolved the wheel suggests what may be the most plausible reason why larger creatures have not. It’s a rather mundane, practical reason, but it is nonetheless important. A large creature would need large wheels which, unlike manmade wheels, would have to grow in situ rather than being separately fashioned out of dead materials and then mounted. For a large, living organ, growth in situ demands blood or something equivalent. The problem of supplying a freely rotating organ with blood vessels (not to mention nerves) that don’t tie themselves in knots is too vivid to need spelling out!

Just as whole advanced organisms are slaves to oxygen so are organism dependent on blood for their parts to function. This is likely the major reason we have legs instead of wheels and also the reason we are not a steam-punk fantasy creature fashioned from rugged snugly fitting nuts, bolts, levers and flywheels – Nature Uses Screws and Nuts

A musculoskeletal system so far unknown in the animal world was recently discovered in weevils. The hip of Trigonopterus oblongus does not consist of the usual hinges, but of joints based on a screw-and-nut system. This first biological screw thread is about half a millimeter in size and was studied in detail using synchrotron radiation. The discovery is reported by the current issue of the Science magazine.

“Such a construction for animal leg movement is quite unusual, as large areas of skeletal parts move on top of each other. Supply of the leg takes place via a very small opening in the center of the screw,” Thomas van de Kamp from Karlsruhe Institute of Technology says. In nature, hips and shoulders usually are based on ball-and-socket systems or hinges that can be operated more easily by organisms. Screws and nuts are known from engineering and used for the fixed connection of components. “Now, we found that nature was first in inventing screws and nuts, because weevils have been using this construction for about 100 million years already,” Alexander Riedel from the Karlsruhe State Museum of Natural History says.

Weevils are widely distributed and rich in species. The different, partly exquisitely colored species all have a thorn-shaped extension of their head. Credit: Source: Karlsruhe State Museum of Natural History
Both parts of the weevil’s hip joint fit like screw and nut. This increases the mobility of the leg. Credit: Source: KIT

Senate Okays Gay Judge, but Native Americans Still Need Not Apply

“As the first openly gay man(J. Paul Oetken) to be confirmed as a federal judge,” Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) crowed from a Senate microphone, Oetken “will be a symbol of how much we have achieved as a country in just the last few decades. And importantly, he will give hope to the many talented young lawyers who until now thought their paths might be limited because of their sexual orientention.”

It’s a good thing that Oetken was appointed. That said only 170 or so black judges have been appointed to the federal bench in our history. The only good thing about that figure is it does look good compared to the number of openly gay judges and Native Americans appointed to the federal courts. Only two Native Americans have ever been confirmed by the Senate for a job on the federal bench.

Today, the Senate has before it the nomination of a man named Arvo Mikkanen, who is partially of Native American descent. Mikkanen went to Dartmouth College and Yale Law School, clerked for two federal judges, and has been a federal prosector for nearly two decades. He received a “unanimously qualified” rating from the American Bar Association. President Barack Obama nominated him to fill a seat on the federal trial bench in Oklahoma.

Yet there have been no speeches in the well of the Senate on behalf of Mikkanen. No senators have patted themselves on the back for breaking through another barrier of bias and bigotry. Instead, the Mikkanen nomination languishes in silence, six months after the President first put it into play.

My first thought after J. Paul Oetken was appointed was hell maybe what all the current nominees to the federal bench need to do is claim they’re gay (the National LGBT Bar Association, noted the president’s efforts to diversify the judiciary). If that is what will shame conservatives from backing off their judicial activism/judicial obstructionism then be gay for a while. Here’s the problem or at least the tip of the iceberg, the Democratic majority in the Senate reduced vacancies from 110 to 60 in President Bush’s first two years, judicial vacancies still number 91 two and a half years into President Obama’s term. Why is the entire nation being denied justice by way of empty and backlogged courts. Wisconsin’s newest senator is a good example. Ron Johnson (R-WI) opposes and has a hold on the appointment of Victoria Nourse to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. First he used a set of procedural objections. Now he says, “Victoria Nourse really has very little connection to the state of Wisconsin, and nobody in the legal community in Wisconsin knows anything about her.” Johnson deserves a one fingered Orwellian salute with that raft of meaningless verbage. Nourse is the Burrus-Bascom Professor of Law at the University of Wisconsin School of Law. Nourse has been with the University of Wisconsin Law School since 1993. Before that she worked for the Senate Judiciary Committee under Joe Biden when the vice president served in the Senate from Delaware. Her  father-in-law is  nationally recognized federal appeals court Judge Richard Cudahy. This might be what is really holding things up, besides just malicious opposition to anyone Obama nominates – Nourse also worked in the late ’80s for the Senate committee that investigated the Iran-contra affair. You know where Saint Ronnie was going to sell weapons to Iran with drug money supplied by Ollie North. Johnson is not exactly a champion of justice. He blocked children and families who had been victims of sexual molestation by the Catholic church from getting compensation for damages. It was Johnson’s opinion that child molesters not be held liable for their actions.

In his testimony before the Wisconsin legislature, he said it was “extremely important to consider the economic havoc…and the other victims” that the new law would “likely create” — ridiculously comparing child abuse victims to the economic damages faced by employers being sued.

 

By that logic why prosecute anyone for any wrong doing, many arrests cause economic harm to the perpetrator.

art photography

black and white fan

 

fox news could lose broadcast license, zen pond wallpaper, some linkage

If News Corp hacked the phones of 9/11 families, Fox News is finished

The FBI investigation into the News Corp 9/11 hacking allegations could endanger the company’s broadcast licences in the US

There are few universally sacred cows in American politics these days, but the families of the victims of 9/11 are among them – conservative pundits Ann Coulter and Glenn Beck notwithstanding.

So with the bombshell that News of the World reporters may have sought not only to hack into their cell phone records and voice mails but to bribe a former NYPD officer to help, the US government finally got engaged in doing more than posturing.

Of course, a fair bit of posturing – some of it deserved – was clearly going to be the end result of the News Corp scandal here, even if the scandal itself remained confined to British soil. After all, News Corp is the parent company of the politically-divisive Fox News, and any whiff of scandal was going to be red meat for an exhausted and increasingly demoralised Democratic base in need of something else to think about.

And from early adopters Senator Jay Rockefeller (Democrat, West Virginia) to Senator Frank Lautenberg (Democrat, New Jersey) to the plethora of House Democrats who joined in the chorus to investigate News Corp for hacking Americans, violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (which prohibits the payment of bribes abroad by any company with any American operations) and for possiblly violating the accounting rules of the Securities and Exchange Commission (by paying bribes abroad and covering them up), it was clear that the interest had far more to do with News Corp. (and its subsidiary Fox News) than any real interest in the virtually unknown-to-Americans News of the World.

 

Everyone thought they had Karl Rove and Dick Cheney for revealing the name of a NOC CIA agent who happened to specialize in Middle-East WMD, Scooter Libby came to the rescue and lied to a grand jury to protect them. After he was found guilty Bush commuted his sentence. Conservatives have a well deserved reputation for their zombie like ability to rise from the dead. So while this scandal deeply immoral and illegal series of events looks bad for Fox and Murdoch now, it ain’t over till they lock the cell doors.

zen pond wallpaper

Slide show – The Golden Age of Train Travel

For a relatively brief, shining period in history, there was no posher way to get from point A to point B than to go by train. Almost more moving hotels than industrial conveyances, passenger trains offered luxuries from the finest chefs to comfortable beds to on-side tailoring.

First slide up the Orient Express returns to the Gare d’Austerlitz, Paris, in 1978.

Be impulsive, be a fun spontaneous person, or maybe not. Depends on how big your clothes allowance is  – Personality Plays Role in Body Weight: Impulsivity Strongest Predictor of Obesity.

People with personality traits of high neuroticism and low conscientiousness are likely to go through cycles of gaining and losing weight throughout their lives, according to an examination of 50 years of data in a study published by the American Psychological Association.

Impulsivity was the strongest predictor of who would be overweight, the researchers found. Study participants who scored in the top 10 percent on impulsivity weighed an average of 22 lbs. more than those in the bottom 10 percent, according to the study.

 

Herman Cain doesn’t need pot. He’s on his own brand of psychogenic drugs – Cain In May 2008: The Economy Is Not In Recession, Liberals Just Want You To Think It Is

Even if you’re not especially into tech or cyber security this reads like a good mystery. A complete back story of the virus that infected Iran’s nuclear material processing plant – How Digital Detectives Deciphered Stuxnet, the Most Menacing Malware in History. The mystery continues since there is part of the code in Stuxnet that has not been deciphered.