conservatism is the inability to put the pieces together, romney buys florida, black and silver textures wallpaper

How anti-tax zealots fail to see the connection between reasonable taxes and the overall health of society.

Beyond some point, there seems to be little gain in satisfaction from bolstering your private spending. When mansions grow to 15,000 square feet from 10,000, for instance, the primary effect is merely to raise the bar that defines an adequate home among the superwealthy.

By contrast, higher spending on many forms of public consumption would produce clear gains in satisfaction for the wealthy. It’s reasonable to assume, for example, that driving on well-maintained roads is safer and less stressful than driving on pothole-ridden ones.

But that raises an obvious question: If wealthy taxpayers would be happier to drive slightly less expensive vehicles on better roads, why are so many of them vehemently opposed to the higher taxes needed for improved infrastructure?

One possible explanation is that they suffer from a simple cognitive illusion when they think about how higher taxes would affect them.

Continuing the benefits of paying for well paved roads, but an example of what conservatives should think if they genuinely value the concept of the stable family and a society in which crime is low. It is a proven that the more education a society has, the lower the crime rate. That applies to groups of people. If you find a suburb with a lower than average crime rate, regardless of race, religion or immigrant status, you’ll find people with more post secondary education than the national average. Thus if you want stable families, which those neighborhoods tend to have and you want to live in a society where it is generally safe to walk down the street, you should want to take the necessary steps to have  society, the nation, move towards accomplishing that goal. Yes it costs money, but as with any thing of value, you have to pay for it – unless you’re some kind of dirty hippie socialist or the kind of conservatives and rightie libertarians we have now. Let’s assume that conservatives and libertarians are sincere in their desire to have a stable prosperous and safe society. If they are and are still against paying reasonable taxes, than they would seem to have the very same attitude of the welfare queens that live on in the fetid imagination of the far Right. They want something for nothing, they want a free ride.

What a Drag – Here’s one reason we’re stuck in slow growth mode: the budget crunch among state and local governments. All governors are making cutbacks. Conservative governors are making the cutbacks including hundreds of thousands of laid-off employees and then shouting – see – the economy sucks. Part of the reason it still sucky, to some degree, is because thanks to these governors and the belief in the great mythical gods of austerity, there are fewer people with pay checks to buy stuff.

Sneaker Pimps – 6 Underground, from the 90s. The beginning of blending sounds – rap, jazz, lounge, nu-jazz.

black and silver textures wallpaper


Would you like a shot of hazelnuts with that insanity: Romney and super PAC spent over $15 million in Florida. Gingrich and his backers spent $4 million.


We need to get this ten-year old one of those Newt Gingrich janitorial jobs than she would not be so poor.


White Shoulders

YOUR white shoulders
I remember
And your shrug of laughter.

Low laughter
Shaken slow
From your white shoulders.

by Carl Sandburg (1878–1967).  Chicago Poems.  1916.



brain boosting may shift the way we think of intelligence, happy birthday FDR, sustainable architecture

The ethics of brain boosting

The idea of a simple, cheap and widely available device that could boost brain function sounds too good to be true.

Yet promising results in the lab with emerging ‘brain stimulation’ techniques, though still very preliminary, have prompted Oxford neuroscientists to team up with leading ethicists at the University to consider the issues the new technology could raise. They spoke to Radio 4’s Today programme this morning.

Recent research in Oxford and elsewhere has shown that one type of brain stimulation in particular, called transcranial direct current stimulation or TDCS, can be used to improve language and maths abilities, memory, problem solving, attention, even movement.

Critically, this is not just helping to restore function in those with impaired abilities. TDCS can be used to enhance healthy people’s mental capacities. Indeed, most of the research so far has been carried out in healthy adults.

TDCS uses electrodes placed on the outside of the head to pass tiny currents across regions of the brain for 20 minutes or so. The currents of 1–2 mA make it easier for neurons in these brain regions to fire. It is thought that this enhances the making and strengthening of connections involved in learning and memory.

The technique is painless, all indications at the moment are that it is safe, and the effects can last over the long term.

Ritalin does not work in exactly the same way though it is thought that by increasing brain levels of dopamine and norepinephrine ( especially the latter) the effect is to boost brain process much in the way amphetamines or cocaine do. Just because transcranial direct current stimulation or TDCS is not ingested does not mean the effects on nerve cells are any less powerful or safer – the human body being one big electro-chemical vat – or as Sarah Silver says, you’re just molecules honey. Some of the most effective science fiction from my point of view are like the movie Limitless. They took what we know about the mood enhancing effects of cocaine and the enhanced concentration effects of Ritalin or methylphenidate ( which is also approved to treat cognitive dysfunctions) and imagined a future drug that improved on those enhancements with added intelligence. The ethics of Ritalin and TDCS are still up for debate, but there is no putting these genies back in the bottle. It is more likely that the major parts of the debate will be whether the average person will have to get treatments from a licensed professional or you’re be able to order your own TDCS from Amazon. Or whether it is appropriate for children.

‘We ask: should we use brain stimulation to enhance cognition, and what are the risks?’ explains Roi. ‘Our aim was to look at whether it gives rise to new ethical issues, issues that will increasingly need to be thought about in our field but also by policymakers and the public.’

‘This research cuts to core of humanity: the capacity to learn,’ says Professor Julian Savulescu. ‘The capacity to learn varies across people, across ages and with illness. This kind of technology enables people to get more out of the work they put into learning something.’

He adds: ‘This is a first step down the path of maximizing human potential. It is a very exciting development but we need to control the release of the genie. Although this looks like a simple external device, it acts by affecting the brain. That could have very good effects, but unpredictable side effects.’

One of the most obvious uses of brain stimulation techniques is in children as an educational or learning aid. The researchers believe that their use in children would be warranted, and that we should begin research to understand how TDCS might be used in children.

Roi notes that: ‘Parents will often send their child to piano lessons or to football lessons, wanting them to do well.’ He considers that providing people with ways of fulfilling their potential is not a bad thing.

The researchers consider whether brain stimulation could be thought of as cheating, with the idea that we can get extra cognitive abilities for no effort. Here they offer a resounding ‘No’.

The technique seems to boost the learning process in conjunction with standard education or training. There is no free ride here – people still need to work at learning a new skill or language themselves. ‘It won’t be possible to go to sleep at night with the electrodes on, wake up the next day and pass all your exams,’ says Roi.

The professors note that the device should be cheap to produce that available to pretty much everyone. Like an  iPod. Let’s assume students will be using TDSC and that it will be available to everyone. memory enhancement alone will boost scores in history and chemistry courses where memorizing some core data and concepts are essential to the tests. What if some students abject to suing the enhancements on ethical grounds , they’re organic intelligence crowd. Or some younger students have parents who fell the same way. It will not take long for testing scores to skew toward a new Bell curve. The students who do not use any electrical or chemical enhancements will start off perhaps equal based on test preparation alone. In the long term, as tests are adjusted to the new curve, the organic crowd will, on average, fall behind.  Such a huge shift in the paradigm of averages will exert tremendous pressure to adapt enhanced math and language abilities, and memory, problem solving, attention levels as the new norm.

Happy birthday Franklin D. Roosevelt 32nd President of the United States

Franklin D. Roosevelt as a child

Loved the whole Social Security, Civilian Conservation Corps, bringing down the Tammany thugs, winning two world wars, the use of Keynesian economics, victory gardens, Eleanor,  the Fair Labor Standards Act and lots of other stuff. The internment camps not so much.

Not usually my venue, but some very good graphic art here – Fashion Week posters. Why they have so many classic art posters at this event remains a mystery to me.

neo-realism and post war italian cinema from the link above.

Climate Deniers Hit New Low With Vicious Attacks on Scientists. Maybe this time will be different, but judging from the general drift of history, thugs lose. They have given up any claim to the moral high-ground. Of course they lost that when they started a concerted campaign of lies and distortions. Having gone that route maybe they figured why not roll around in the gutter.

Radical Nature – Sustainable Architecture

hedy lamar’s brain and spread spectrum radio, in wingnuttia its still race baiting time, using nature’s genius in architecture

Hedy Kiestler (November 9, 1913 – January 19, 2000), better known as actress Hedy Lamar helped win WW II in her spare time, How the “Most Beautiful Woman in the World” Invented a System for Remote-Controlling Torpedoes

When Antheil met Hedy, now bona fide movie star, in the summer of 1940 at a dinner held by costume designer Adrian, they began talking about their interests in the war and their backgrounds in munitions (Antheil had been a young inspector in a Pennsylvania munitions plant during World War I.) Hedy had been horrified by the German torpedoing of two ships carrying British children to Canada to avoid the Blitz, and she had begun to think about a way to control a torpedo remotely, without detection.

Hedy had the idea for a radio that hopped frequencies and Antheil had the idea of achieving this with a coded ribbon, similar to a player piano strip. A year of phone calls, drawings on envelopes, and fiddling with models on Hedy’s living room floor produced a patent for a radio system that was virtually jam-proof, constantly skipping signals.

The patent filed in 1941 by Hedy and Antheil for a ‘secret communication system’

Hedy Lamar portrait. From my personal collection, not from the link, though they also have a nice photograph.

There is a hand drawn schematic for the Spread Spectrum (Frequency Hopping type only) device at the link. There is also a snip of one of the last interviews that Hedy gave in 1997 where she said ‘my beauty was my curse, so-to-speak, it created an impenetrable shield between people and who I really was’. Her lament that people only saw her for her beauty. While I sympathize a little, it is just a little. She had great beauty, brains, the kind of independence that few women of her generation enjoyed and she made a lot money that afforded her a very comfortable lifestyle. The rest of us mortals should be so cursed.

dirt road wheat wallpaper


Is it 2012 or 1968. You Can Hardly Tell By The Conservative Republican Candidates and Their Race Baiting

It’s commonplace to note that Newt Gingrich’s dog-whistle appellation that Barack Obama is the “food stamp president” is both racist and politically cynical. But the stereotyping of black government dependency also serves the strategic end of discrediting the entire social safety net, which most Americans of all races depend on. Black people are subtly demonized, but whites and blacks alike will suffer.

[  ]…If some whites reap some cold comfort from Gingrich’s performance, the racial hostility on display comes at a much higher cost to the American people as a whole. We have long since traded the possibility of a decent society for fear and resentment. So watch out for the next attack on “the food stamp president.” The entitlement they end might be your own.

I do not know, it might even or probably is, statistically impossible not to know someone who collects some kind of government benefit, gets some kind of subsidy or tax incentive. As one might expect in the South I am surrounded by people in civil service jobs that complain about welfare ( that no longer exists – it is work program and help feed poor children program). there are white senior citizens collecting Medicare and Medicaid who complain about those other people leeching off the system. The veterans who complain about the retirement benefits of the civil service workers and the pension plans of older generation auto and mine workers, but would scream bloody murder if you took away their well deserved benefits. It does seem as though there is a racial element or the nebulous others element to entitlements, and the resentments that follow. They’re for me, not those other people over there. Federal taxes are the lowest they’ve been since 1958. Though by way of a visit to a right-wing blog you’d think the tax rate was 60%. How can you have an honest debate with people who not only ignore the facts, they embrace falsehoods because it serves their agenda.

The other day I was writing about narcissistic extroverts. Here is an example that does not come up very often. It was his b-day January 27 – Kaiser Wilhelm II (27 January 1859 – 4 June 1941)

Arrogant, extremely vain, and always seeking praise, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany enjoyed a life of frivolity. His former chancellor, Otto von Bismarck, once remarked that the Kaiser would have liked every day to be his birthday.

[  ]..Born with a paralyzed left arm, considerably shorter than the right, Wilhelm needed help with eating and dressing throughout his life, and went to great lengths to hide his disability. He had, for example, a specially made fork to help him with his food. He owned over 30 castles throughout Germany and would visit them all occasionally, indulging in hunting – he was capable of killing a thousand or more animals in the course of a week-end’s hunt.

A lover of all things military and a collector of uniforms (he owned 600, many he designed himself), Wilhelm’s knowledge of military matters was little more than that of an overenthusiastic schoolchild. His knowledge of political matters was equally shallow, having neither the enthusiasm or attention-span to read lengthy or detailed reports.

Wilhelm’s power, he firmly believed, was God-given. Any criticism of him or his policies was, in effect, an act of blasphemy. Germany, he said, ‘must follow me wherever I go.’

Gosh, he kinda reminds me of the mentality of a few people, a whole movement in the U.S. Its on the tip of my brain.

The International Club of Cynics is probably going to cancel my membership, but I found this TED talk very inspiring – Michael Pawlyn: Using nature’s genius in architecture

How can architects build a new world of sustainable beauty? By learning from nature. At TEDSalon in London, Michael Pawlyn describes three habits of nature that could transform architecture and society: radical resource efficiency, closed loops, and drawing energy from the sun.

Pawlyn is not talking about some distant future possibilities, but used real world examples that have already been built.

18th century lust and punishment, harriet taylor mill, illustrated wallpaper

The lede to this article ( based on a book written by the same writer) sounds like such an appeal to the sensational I almost did not read it. I gave the first paragraph a shot and it turned out to be well grounded in history and sociology – The first sexual revolution: lust and liberty in the 18th century

The reformation brought a further hardening of attitudes. The most fervent Protestants campaigned vigorously to reinstate the biblical death penalty for adultery and other sexual crimes. Wherever Puritan fundamentalists gained power, they pursued this goal – in Geneva and Bohemia, in Scotland, in the colonies of New England and in England itself. After the Puritans had led the parliamentary side to victory in the English civil war, executed the King and abolished the monarchy, they passed the Adultery Act of 1650. Henceforth, adulterers and incorrigible fornicators and brothel-keepers were simply to be executed, as sodomites and bigamists already were.

If you look closely enough many notorious groups in history you can usually find something good. I happen to have tremendous respect for people with a strong work ethic – people in everyday jobs – frequently referred to as the nameless faceless masses – who take pride in their work are the under appreciated force that keeps everything brace up the thin veneer of what we call civilization. So if you’re looking to find something positive about Puritans you could start with their work habits. It kind of ends there as well.

So pervasive was this ideology that even those who paid with their lives for defying it could not escape its hold over their minds and actions. When the Massachusetts settler James Britton fell ill in the winter of 1644, he became gripped by a “fearful horror of conscience” that this was God’s punishment on him for his past sins. So he publicly confessed that once, after a night of heavy drinking, he had tried (but failed) to have sex with a young bride, Mary Latham. Though she now lived far away, in Plymouth colony, the magistrates there were alerted. She was found, arrested and brought back, across the icy landscape, to stand trial in Boston. When, despite her denial that they had actually had sex, she was convicted of adultery, she broke down, confessed it was true, “proved very penitent, and had deep apprehension of the foulness of her sin … and was willing to die in satisfaction to justice”. On 21 March, a fortnight after her sentence, she was taken to the public scaffold. Britton was executed alongside her; he, too, “died very penitently”. In the shadow of the gallows, Latham addressed the assembled crowds, exhorting other young women to be warned by her example, and again proclaiming her abhorrence and penitence for her terrible crime against God and society. Then she was hanged. She was 18 years old.

Let’s stand and cheer for the role of organized religion in early American history. The Puritans were as tolerant of the religious beliefs of others as they were of their personal behavior. Run by Puritans, the Massachusetts Bay Colony executed three founders of the Quaker religion (Society of Friends) Marmaduke Stephenson, William Robinson and Mary Dyer by hanging. Other members of the Quaker faith were merely horse whipped.

The full article contains a lot more history of the history of sexual attitudes. The subject is so vast that it was bound to not include some perspectives. One is that it does not go back to Ancient Greece and the relatively tolerant traditions of that society. Also the birthplace of the concept of democracy. It also comes at the subject from a western civilization centric view. Thus leaving out the history of social and sexual attitudes as they have developed throughout Asia and north Africa. Asia and India in particular with have made interesting additions. While many of the west’s hypocritical, often bizarre and repressive attitudes can only be understood in terms of religion and its emphasis on a masculine centered society, what happened to India ( and what is now Pakistan and Afghanistan). For centuries India has a stronger matriarchal element to their culture than the west. To this day many Hindu goddesses are considered very powerful and venerated along side male gods. Yet India has its own brand of Puritanism and struggles with women’s rights, especially towards the lower caste.

illustrated lilly wallpaper

That article lead me to wondering about Harriet Taylor, who was mentioned in one of several recounting of famous scandals. She might be better known to some as Harriet Taylor Mills (1807 – 1858),

Harriet Hardy was born in October 1807 in Walworth, south London, the daughter of a surgeon. Educated at home, she enjoyed writing poetry. In 1826, she married John Taylor, a prosperous merchant and together they had three children. The Taylors became active in the Unitarian Church and in 1830 a Unitarian minister introduced Harriet to the philosopher John Stuart Mill. Their affair was to last for more than 20 years, and was generally tolerated by Harriet’s husband. From 1833, the couple largely lived apart, enabling Harriet to see Mill more easily. Their behaviour scandalised society and as a couple they were socially isolated. But they inspired each other intellectually and often worked together.

Mills’ ‘The Principles of Political Economy’ (1848) has a chapter attributed to Harriet called ‘On the Probable Future of the Labouring Classes’ in which she argues for the importance of education for all in the future of the nation, both economically and socially. Her essay, ‘The Enfranchisement of Women’ (1851), considered one of her most important works, was published under Mills’s name. The essay strongly advocated that women be given access to the same jobs as men, and that they should not have to live in ‘separate spheres’ – views more radical than those of Mills himself.

Mill and Taylor were only married briefly before she died of complications due to tuberculous. In a letter written by John Stuart Mill in 1854 he seems to point to the contributions ( real written ones, not just inspiration) that Taylor was responsible for, “I shall never be satisfied unless you allow our best book, the book which is to come, to have our two names on the title page. It ought to be so with everything I publish, for the better half of it all is yours”. There is no doubt that Taylor made some contributions, but some scholars have suggested that John may have been overly sentimental and thus anxious to give Taylor too much credit. That said there is no doubt that she made significant contributions of her own, not just in the way of women’s rights, but what we think of today as basic human rights.

I mentioned Ralph Waldo Emerson as being a paleo-99 percenter recently. John Stewart Mill wasn’t just a progressive liberal, he was one of the founders.

Mill’s On Liberty addresses the nature and limits of the power that can be legitimately exercised by society over the individual. One argument that Mill develops further than any previous philosopher is the harm principle. The harm principle holds that each individual has the right to act as he wants, so long as these actions do not harm others. If the action is self-regarding, that is, if it only directly affects the person undertaking the action, then society has no right to intervene, even if it feels the actor is harming himself. He does argue, however, that individuals are prevented from doing lasting, serious harm to themselves or their property by the harm principle. Because no-one exists in isolation, harm done to oneself also harms others, and destroying property deprives the community as well as oneself.

The careful weighing of personal liberty against harm is why conservatives and libertarians tend to poach a half and idea here and there, than lay claim to be the true representatives of liberty. Mill did not get everything right, conservatives have embraced his defense of capital punishment in their sweaty little hands and rung it dry.

On the level you’re a little devil (But I’ll soon make an angel of you) [music] / words by Joe Young ; music by Jean Schwartz


introverts our under utilized resource, winter western snow wallpaper, title sequence girl with the dragon tattoo

This brings up one of my long cherished armchair beliefs that cultural and political power leans a certain way because of certain types of personalities and how society rewards those types – The Power of Introverts: A Manifesto for Quiet Brilliance

Do you enjoy having time to yourself, but always feel a little guilty about it? Then Susan Cain’s “Quiet : The Power of Introverts” is for you. It’s part book, part manifesto. We live in a nation that values its extroverts – the outgoing, the lovers of crowds – but not the quiet types who change the world. She recently answered questions from Mind Matters editor Gareth Cook.

[  ]…Cook: How does this cultural inclination affect introverts?

Cain: Many introverts feel there’s something wrong with them, and try to pass as extroverts. But whenever you try to pass as something you’re not, you lose a part of yourself along the way. You especially lose a sense of how to spend your time. Introverts are constantly going to parties and such when they’d really prefer to be home reading, studying, inventing, meditating, designing, thinking, cooking…or any number of other quiet and worthwhile activities.

According to the latest research, one third to one half of us are introverts – that’s one out of every two or three people you know. But you’d never guess that, right? That’s because introverts learn from an early age to act like pretend-extroverts.

Cook: Is this just a problem for introverts, or do you feel it hurts the country as a whole?

Cain: It’s never a good idea to organize society in a way that depletes the energy of half the population. We discovered this with women decades ago, and now it’s time to realize it with introverts.

This also leads to a lot of wrongheaded notions that affect introverts and extroverts alike. Here’s just one example: Most schools and workplaces now organize workers and students into groups, believing that creativity and productivity comes from a gregarious place. This is nonsense, of course. From Darwin to Picasso to Dr. Seuss, our greatest thinkers have often worked in solitude, and in my book I examine lots of research on the pitfalls of groupwork.

Generally when we think about history and great upheavals, revolutions, great shifts in culture we blame fascism, anarchism, monarchical rule, communism, some political theory. Let’s pretend for a moment those political labels do not exist. We get down to the human capacity behind them. All those movements and their iterations were generally driven by personalities. They had to have some support at crucial stages to succeed even if temporarily. That support has been, in modern times especially, called the cult of personality. What did the personalities that lead the movements, swayed so many people, generally cause considerable loss of life and economic calamity have in common. They were all narcissistic extroverts ( to be fair to extroverts, obviously not all extroverted personalities become zealots). I’m most familiar with politics in the U.S. so U.S. politicians make the best example for me. Very few are introverts ( being an introvert does not automatically equal virtuous just as extroverted personalities are always bad) are in U.S. politics. Off the top of my head the only example I can think of by name is Bernie Sanders(I-VT). I’ve seen some Congressional representatives that seem somewhere in the middle. Maybe not our culture so much because so many writers – novelists, script writers for movies and television, artists, poets, song writers, but our politics seem lacking in the front line participation of introverts. In the article they make a distinction between shy and introverted, though acknowledge they are frequently related. So other than voting, now do we get more introverts – the thoughtful creative, insightful, outside the box minds to participate in how public policy is directed. I do have this perhaps over sunny view that there are Darwins, Dr. Seusses, David Foster Wallaces, Mary Shelleys and Barbara McClintocks out there that want nothing to do with the circus that is American politics. All the examples seemed to have participated as average citizens do. I doubt any of them could be elected to public office in the U.S. Not so much because of what they stood for, but because if they could have been convinced to run they would have run on their ideas not how folksy they could be on TV. While many introverts are more than capable of the memorable quip, that is different from selling yourself with bumper sticker style soundbites. As I am writing I am thinking that there are many introverts behind the scenes in campaigns – some political consultants and speech writers tends towards introversion. So my coffee-house theory admittedly has lots of holes. Though I am thinking not just about front line leadership, introverts would be good for the nation in terms of backing away from the dominance of the loud and angry narrative perpetuated by Hate pundits on AM radio and Fox. I get the impression from talking to and reading introverts they have lots of good ideas but those ideas get drowned out in a political culture where he who yells the loudest wins.

the power of introverts. will anyone get the visual irony.


Good example in the latest science news of what I was talking about in trying to see over hills at the future of physics – Physicists Squeeze X-Ray Laser Light Out of Atoms

The new atomic x-ray laser won’t replace the LCLS and other accelerator-based systems. In fact, to make the atomic laser work, researchers blasted neon atoms with x-rays from the LCLS itself. Still, the results mark a conceptual triumph, fulfilling a 45-year-old prediction that such an atomic x-ray laser is possible. “Nobody had done this before, and everybody knew that somebody had to go out and do this,” says Philip Bucksbaum, director of SLAC’s PULSE Institute for Ultrafast Energy Science in Menlo Park, California, who was not involved in the work. “So this is great.”

winter western snow wallpaper

@SteveMartinToGo Steve Martin
Uploaded photo of myself in Speedo to comply with Google’s new privacy policy.

Rescue Etiquette from Mark Twain

 In assisting at a fire in a boarding house, the true gentleman will always save the young ladies first—making no distinction in favor of personal attractions, or social eminence, or pecuniary predominance—but taking them as they come, and firing them out with as much celerity as shall be consistent with decorum. There are exceptions, of course, to all rules; the exceptions to this one are:

Partiality, in the matter of rescue, to be shown to:

1. Fiancées.
2. Persons toward whom the operator feels a tender sentiment, but has not yet declared himself.
3. Sisters.
4. Stepsisters.
5. Nieces.
6. First cousins.
7. Cripples.
8. Second cousins.
9. Invalids.
10. Young-lady relations by marriage.
11. Third cousins, and young-lady friends of the family.
12. The Unclassified.

There is a second half entitled   Other material in boarding house is to be rescued in the following order: which you’ll have to click over for so I don’t steal all that blogger’s thunder. If you don’t appreciate dark or ironic humor just skip it.


Whether or not you liked the books or movie version this title sequence is astounding: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Done by this special video effects company called Blur.

charles dickens’ secret love, science and the philosophy of consciousness, ron paul and reparations for slave owners

Dickens’ Secret Affair – Biographer Claire Tomalin’s literary sleuthing revealed the untold story of the famed author’s “invisible woman”

Ternan met Dickens in 1857, when she, her mother and sisters were actors in a play he was producing. Dickens was 45; Ternan was 18. Anxious to preserve his image as a pillar of Victorian morality, Dickens purchased a house for her near London, where he visited her secretly. Dickens seemed both to revel in and regret the affair.

Dickens and Ternan apparently destroyed all correspondence between them. The “lack of the letters was heartbreaking,” Tomalin says, but “there was plenty of material,” including details about Ternan in missives by Dickens’ children: Both his son Henry and daughter Katey, for example, “confirmed that [the couple] had a child, and it died.” Tomalin believes that Nelly and the child, said to be a boy who did not survive infancy, had been sequestered in France.

Ellen “Nelly” Ternan

Claire Tomalin says that Dickens’ felt guilty about the affair partly because he felt he would ruin his reputation as a champion of the people. I don’t think it does especially diminish the depth of his ideals. The age difference, Dickens was 45 and Ternan was 18 when they meet was not all that shocking in the reality of 1857. Upper class gentleman having affairs was fairly common. Visits to prostitutes ( there was an estimated 80,000 in London during the Victorian era)  among the titled elite was a given. The revelation of Dickens’ adultery would have meet with the similar hypocrisy with which society views such news today. The big difference in 1857 is that Dickens would have come out of it relatively unscathed whereas Ternan would have been viewed as the fallen woman, the temptress that preyed on the great man.

black and white rain drops on waxy leaves


The subject of neruoscince and eovlutionary pyschology versus the philsophy of mind is, as one might expect complicated. This is the second post in the last week in which I tend toward a mixed view. I have not decided to stake out some middle ground as some kind of consulatory jesture in either case ( the other was physic versus philsophy). It seems that hard science and phiolsophy can and do complement each other. To stake out hard lines in the sand on either side seems counterproductive if your goal is being able to grasp and have a deeper understanding of, in today’s case, what constitutes the thinking conscience mind. One of the things that bothers me about the neuroscience versus philosophy issue is similar to what bothers me about the physics versus philosophy issue – to take some gaps in scientific knowledge and fill them, especially in the case of neuroscience – with the near if not mythical beliefs in some ill defined “specialness”. There is a difference between thinking human conscientiousness is an amazing phenomenon, thus special in the sense that tress do not seem to possess that quality yet have lived for millions of years – long before large brained mammals came along. It is not special in the way that say the NYT’s David Brooks sees special, like some softly glowing special effect from a movie depiction of conscientious rising out of the body and floating towards the heavens. When philosophers start even hinting at that kind of mysticism it bothers me. It means they are ignoring modern analytical logic. Which might not prove the pure science right, but shoots holes through mythic based arguments. Aping Mankind: Neuromania, Darwinitis and the Misrepresentation of Humanity by Raymond Tallis

In the case of neurology, he attacks several types of exaggerated claim: for example, those surrounding fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) scans. He points out that these only show relative levels of blood flow or oxygen consumption in different areas of the brain. They do not spell out exactly what the areas of higher activity are doing, nor do they preclude the possibility that the areas of lower consumption are still doing something related and important. Therefore studies which use this technique show much weaker evidence for the localised (or modularised) models of brain function than is usually assumed by the media.

Science is not there yet in terms of these MRI scanning data. They still need to get down to the proteins, how they are folded and than the macromolecules. How are these forms of matter created and related to consciousness or unconscious thought. Its going to be tough, but that does not mean finding a localized spot of the brain where certain activity takes place is a wothless pursuit. Mr. Tallis is correct in being suspicious of the neurosciencentist ( it is perplexing that Tallis used to be a scientist and does not follow a better train of logic) he cites as having the final answer today. An analogy of the story of inherited traits might work to explin where we are in studying the mind ( not just the brain). First someone had to suspect that biological traits were passed from one generation to the next or they were not. Gregor Mendel discovered that general principle. He did not know exactly how those traits were distributed between generations of pea plants, but he knew they were. He could bred for them. Just as farmers had been unscientifically experimenting with and breeding dogs and cattle. It would be almost a century – a century, before someone would discover the DNA double helix. We’re somewhere around the Mendel stage in neuroscience and understanding the mind. So certainly there are going to be lots of gaps in knowledge. By all means critique the hell out of experiments that show that square millimeter of the brain is deciding whether green or rust are someone’s favorite colors. They still might be on to the integral biochemical factor involved in those kinds of preferences. And yes those chemicals can be influenced by the environment. That means something might be complicated, not absolutely on the wrong track. The investigation into the brain and featuring out consciousness is not an esoteric pursuit. Along the way it might help figure out neurologically caused blindness or speech impairments or why we have sociopaths.

I’ve already written more than I planned. Tallis makes some good points about overly simplistic reductionism. For that alone it is worth a read.

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Libertarians and conservatives, thanks to Ron Paul, have been on a tear lately trying to make the argument the Civil War could have easily been prevented if the Abolitionists had simply offered to reimburse white slave owners.. Ta-Nehisi Coates takes a look at the math and the general ridiculousness of that argument – Compensation

Ron Paul’s argument is essentially that it would have been better for the government to bail out slave-holders by effecting a mass purchase of blacks. This would have saved a lot of money, as well as the lives and limbs of a lot of white people. I do not believe that saving lives and limbs of any people–white or black–to be a disreputable goal. But I refuse to lose sight of the fact that slavery was, itself, war. And the lives and limbs of black people were perpetually at stake for centuries. From 1860 to 1865 the rest of the country received a concentrated dose of that medicine which black people had been made to quaff for over two and a half centuries. It is now a century and a half later, but still in some corners of white America it is fashionable to remain embittered.

Nevertheless, the saving of people is, indeed, a noble goal, and Paul is not without at least the rudiments of a case. Enslaved black people were constructed into an interest representing $3 billion. ($70-75 billion in 21st century money.) But including expenditures, loss of property, loss of life (human capital,) the war, according to Ransom, costs $6.6 billion.

The numbers are clear–the South’s decision to raise an army, encourage sedition among its neighbors, and fire on federal property, was an economic disaster for white America. Moreover, the loss of 600,000 lives, in a war launched to erect an empire on the cornerstone of white supremacy and African slavery, was a great moral disaster for all corners of America.

If one assumes that white slave owners would have given up slavery entirely and settled for one lump sum payment than Ron Paul and his sycophants are also arguing that the U.S. would have had to rise revenue that exceeded the GDP of the early 1860s. So small government folks would greatly expanded government,  have passed the largest tax increase in our history to that date, which would have taken three or more generations to pay off. What tangled arguments they weave.

Tim Burton’s The World of Stainboy: Watch the Complete Animated Series. I’m just posting the first chapter in the series. You can catch some of the others here and read some more on the background of the film and how the story came about.

In his 1997 book of drawings and verse, The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy & Other Stories, Tim Burton imagines a bizarre menagerie of misfits with names like Toxic Boy, Junk Girl, the Pin Cushion Queen and the Boy with Nails in his Eyes.

“Inspired by such childhood heroes as Dr. Seuss and Roald Dahl,” writes James Ryan in the New York Times, “Mr. Burton’s slim volume exquisitely conveys the pain of an adolescent outsider. Like his movies, the work manages to be both childlike and sophisticated, blending the innocent with the macabre.”

row boats lake dock wallpaper, arguments guided by rules of philosophy are great if everyone plays by the rules, get to know the working poor – conservatives pretend they do not exist

Interesting read from a philosopher even if you find conservative arguments frequently dishonest and disingenuous – How to Argue About Politics

As a philosophy professor, I spend much of my time thinking about the arguments put forward by professional philosophers. As a citizen (and an occasional columnist for The Stone), I also spend lots of time thinking about the arguments put forward by Democrats and Republicans on currently disputed political issues. Of course, there are differences in logical sophistication and complexity between the philosophical and the political arguments. But, allowing that popular political arguments require shortcuts from full academic rigor, there is not, I think, that much difference between the logical acumen of politicians and philosophers.

Envisioning a ‘charitable’ but rigorous approach to political debate.

But there is one respect in which philosophers’ arguments are far superior to those of politicians. To be taken seriously, a philosophical argument has to begin from a thorough understanding of an opponent’s’ position and formulate the position so that it is as plausible and attractive as possible. Politicians, by contrast, typically load the dice by attacking the weakest versions of their opponents’ views they can find.

Its a rule in debating and the philsophy of logic to assume that your opponent is honest about their arguments. Mr. Gutting proceeds with that old rule in mind. He lays out what the conservative argument is. Assumes their veracity and notes ways to argue with some of the foundational aspects of conservatism. That is fine as far as it goes and something that people who oppose conservatism should learn. That said conservatives are almost always dishonest. Sometimes they believe what they, but just because someone truly believes the earth is fat does not make it so. Sometimes they simply lie. They know they’re lying and thus the weakness in having a rational discourse in the tradition of philosophy. For exampel conservatives honestly belive they stand for a free market economy which rewards hard work and innovation, or both. Just stand back and let it work they claim and everything will be fine. The Great Recession and other economic setbacks say the are wrong. Wrong in glowing blinding neon-sign wrong. Just ignore the billions they spend on lobbying and other forms of political influence to get legislation that serves the needs of a few at the price of the many. The ridiculous belief that those at the top of the income pyramid got there and stay there because they are the most productive. It is the mid and low-level workers in the pyramid that are the producers. The wealthy simply benefit from their work. Slaving over a mahogany desk with a spread sheet hardly counts for producing much value in terms of capital. They simply move capital around. Lots of people – some naive, some good-hearted, some overly idealistic – think you can have rational debates with a conservative or communist or rightie libertarian. You’re wrong. Look around at the crap they push out in their daily propaganda – Huckabee Wants To Know If Obama Got College Loans “As A Foreign Student”. Huckbaee is a grown man with an education and he is spreading an urban myth.  Its something like that everyday. How did Newt come from behind in South Carolina. It was not from speaking the truth it was catering to the deep ethnocentrism and cultural backwardness of the conservative base. I’ll walk back a little of the never, I would grant that arguing the facts is the only tool at the nonconservative’s disposal and they can make a difference around the edges in terms of push back. And sometimes, this also not accounted for in the rulebook, being a pain in the ass to conservative pundits and those who troll internet forums ruins their day. Conservatives may not be convinced by the facts, but the facts sure piss them off.

Sarah van Gelder is much more optimistic than I am – Corporate Rule Is Not Inevitable. 7 signs the corporatocracy is losing its legitimacy … and 7 populist tools to help shut it down.

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This is the kind of phenomenon that just will not penetrate right-wing conservative tin-foil, Working and Poor in the USA

“Our nation, so richly endowed with natural resources and with a capable and industrious population, should be able to devise ways and means of insuring to all our able-bodied men and women, a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.” Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 1937

Millions of people in the US work and are still poor. Here are eight points that show why the US needs to dedicate itself to making work pay.

One. How many people work and are still poor?

In 2011, the US Department of Labor reported at least 10 million people worked and were still below the unrealistic official US poverty line, an increase of 1.5 million more than the last time they checked. The US poverty line is $18,530 for a mom and two kids. Since 2007 the numbers of working poor have been increasing. About 7 percent of all workers and 4 percent of all full-time workers earn wages that leave them below the poverty line.

Two. What kinds of jobs do the working poor have?

One third of the working poor, over 3 million people, work in the service industry. Workers in other occupations are also poor: 16 percent of those in farming; 11 percent in construction; and 11 percent in sales.

Three. Which workers are most likely to be working and still poor?

Women workers are more likely to be poor than men. African-American and Hispanic workers are about twice as likely to be poor as whites. College graduates have a 2 percent poverty rate while workers without a high school diploma have a poverty rate 10 times higher at 20 percent.

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A slide show from the NYT about a dying profession – ‘Wall Dogs’ With Paint

Sign painters — a k a billboard artists or wall dogs — have almost disappeared, their trade strangled by the advent of vinyl sheets. But there is still call for their artistry, skill and pluck, especially in historic districts and on buildings whose oddly shaped facades will not easily be draped in huge sheets.

Trailer for Here Comes The Neighborhood

HERE COMES THE NEIGHBORHOOD is a Short-Form Docuseries exploring the power of Public Art and innovation to uplift and revitalize urban communities. The Pilot Season revolves around the Arts District of Wynwood Miami, featuring an array of internationally acclaimed and locally respected Street Artists, Graffiti Writers and Muralists.

In 2009, Urban Visionary and Placemaker Tony Goldman partnered with Jeffrey Deitch (Deitch Projects Soho and now director of MoCa Los Angeles) to create the Wynwood Walls.What began with a series of parking lots, loading docks, and drab rundown factory buildings, became a curation of high caliber murals from Futura, Shepard Fairey, OS Gemeos, Kenny Scharf and others. The Walls opened for Art Basel 2009, and now two years later the collection has expanded to include over thirty artists from around the world, becoming a “Town Center” in a district that has grown into one of the largest concentrations of commissioned murals in the World.

If you’re into art, photography and reviving neighborhoods this is an amazing video. There are multiple parts available and some of them should come up as links to play at the end of this video.