democracy and dim lights, first sketch of dna double helix, fantasy and reality – a tale

People Aren’t Smart Enough for Democracy to Flourish, Scientists Say. Despite the fact that there are more democracies in the world then ever.

The democratic process relies on the assumption that citizens (the majority of them, at least) can recognize the best political candidate, or best policy idea, when they see it. But a growing body of research has revealed an unfortunate aspect of the human psyche that would seem to disprove this notion, and imply instead that democratic elections produce mediocre leadership and policies.

The research, led by David Dunning, a psychologist at Cornell University, shows that incompetent people are inherently unable to judge the competence of other people, or the quality of those people’s ideas. For example, if people lack expertise on tax reform, it is very difficult for them to identify the candidates who are actual experts. They simply lack the mental tools needed to make meaningful judgments.

As a result, no amount of information or facts about political candidates can override the inherent inability of many voters to accurately evaluate them. On top of that, “very smart ideas are going to be hard for people to adopt, because most people don’t have the sophistication to recognize how good an idea is,” Dunning told Life’s Little Mysteries.

Obviously an anecdotal test, but half the comments at the site confirm the research. Some previous studies that made the blog rounds that show despite 24/7 cable and the internets, people are no more well informed now than fifty years ago. They even seem to be getting worse. It might be, i do not have a good study to point to, that the complexity of society is outpacing the capacity to keep. news overload also tends to make people mentally tune out. They seek out programming or web sites that distract them from the hard cold realities. I can understand the need to save one’s sanity from the world playwright Paddy Chayesfy ‘s prescient movie Network showed us. Much of what comes over the media is not real. Even the very real parts seem like a nightmare in slow motion. Too much for us to apprehend much beyond shock – wars, mass killings, natural disasters. You look away thankful it was not you. We get a daily diet so some outrage fatigue sets in. We are blessed and cursed with the ability to distract ourselves. The facts pour in – there are dogs to feed, kids to put to bed, bills to pay. It seems that indeed “We’ve always been at war with Eastasia”, a house is always burning down, the schools are never doing a good enough job, the students are never paying attention, there are double-decker layers of the next boogeyman hiding and waiting to get us. Trying to understand, find solutions, seeing beneath the plastic wrapped broadcast news pabulum only gets you labeled an elitist.

Sketch of the DNA Double Helix by Francis Crick


The iconic image of the double helix–the twisted ladder that carries the codes for earth’s huge variety of life forms–goes back to 1953 and the homemade metal model created by the British scientist Francis Crick and his American collaborator, James Watson. Determined to solve the puzzle posed by the research evidence at the time, they obtained new insights by visualizing the structure of the complex molecule through a physical model. This pencil sketch of DNA was made by Crick and forms part of the extensive Crick Archive at the Wellcome Library. It illustrates several structural features of the double helix: it is right-handed, with the two strands running in opposite directions; the nucleotides, the building blocks of the strands, have a part that forms the backbone and a part (the base) that projects into the middle of the helix; and the internally projecting bases in one strand are aligned so that they can pair with a base from the opposite strand. This last feature is essential for DNA to be able to perform its function of passing genetic information from one generation to the next. It is not known whether Crick drew this sketch before or after he and Watson made the famous model, but the drawing demonstrates the role that simple illustrations can play in helping to conceptualize complex problems.

Contrary to an otherwise nice movie about the discovery of DNA’s structure, in their original publication of their findings Watson and Crick did give credit to Rosalind Elsie Franklin and her X-ray diffraction images in helping them unravel the mystery.


crocodile – i’ve got my eye on you

There is Not as Much Contradiction Between Evolution and Divine Creation as Many Would Have Us Believe. Darwin was a minister. The cultural conflict has been exaggerated for earnest if ignorant, reasons among some. That in turn has been exploited by the for profit preachers and mullahs.

More Americans use the ER for dental care: study. If we cannot have a rational national debate about health care reform it makes sense that dental health hardly makes the national radar.

the miracle of 20/20 hindsight, Rep. Issa Concedes His All-Male Anti-Contraception Hearing Was Not ‘My Greatest Success’


A touching story in which fantasy and reality merge to make dreams come true. How determining can reality be, and how can fantasy unleash an unexpected freedom? Can a fragile world of lights and shadows show us more than a silhouette drawn against the sunlight? A mixed-technique animated short film, by Director Carlos Lascano



advertising and deceptive narratives, when painting becomes sculpture, romney health care advisor gives boost to obamacare

Narratives are at least as old as human language. We started sketching things on rocks and cave walls that reflected what we did and the stories we told each other. The narratives became more complicated as we tried to explain the seasons and death. Those narratives have always had an element of deception because they reflected individual truths, not rational empirical facts. That came much later and even today the tendency is toward what on the surface at least, seems more colorful. Even in retelling facts in casual conversations we like to embellish because other people enjoy it. Being social animals our little embellishments are rewarded. Those fragments of untruths in our stories are a kind of deception – fragments of white lies, and a little bit of art, when they are judged to be good deceptions. If we reward something socially he is not much of a leap to reward something commercially. Popular music is a narrative embellished for popular appeal – at least most artists hope so. fact based films dramatize the real, collapse time, heighten visuals and accent select pieces of dialogue. They are lies, the truth and art. We’re not only comfortable with that, we have made it a mulch-billion dollar industry. Advertising is narrative. It is always a lie, sometimes it contains some truth and sometimes it is art. Study Shows How The Brain Responds To Deceptive Advertising

“What’s interesting here is that the moderately deceptive ads cause more activity during this second stage,” Wood says. That may be because highly deceptive ads are screened out more quickly and discarded as not meriting further attention.

Overall, when looking at both stages of brain response, researchers found there was greater brain activation when participants were exposed to moderately deceptive ads. But, if moderately deceptive ads stimulate more brain activity, does that make us more susceptible to the sales pitch in ads that trigger just a pinch of skepticism?

Apparently not. In a follow-up, behavioral component of the study, researchers interfered with the ToM stage, making it more difficult for participants to determine the intention behind the ads. As a result, participants more frequently believed moderately deceptive advertising. This suggests that the second stage is an important step that helps protect consumers by allowing them to better discriminate and screen out deceptive ads.

“Now that we’ve identified these stages of brain response, it may help future researchers identify underlying neural reasons why some populations are more prone to fall prey to deceptive ads,”

Ads where the first impression they were highly deceptive were tuned out very quickly. People may see or hear them, but the brain pretty much stops processing the information. The bad news is that plausible thought still deceptive advertising or any narrative for that matter gets some attention. The viewer entertains the possibility that this drink may make me loss weight and I will not have to exercise or this candidate has found a way to run a civilized society without ever paying taxes.

“Goldfish Salvation” Riusuke Fukahori

When struggling with artistic vision, Fukahori’s pet goldfish became his inspiration and ever since his passion and lifelong theme. His unique style of painting uses acrylic on clear resin which is poured into containers, resulting in a three-dimensional appearance and lifelike vitality.

This video gives you a glimpse of his amazing painting process.

This photo is from a slide show at flickr – Riusuke Fukahori
– Goldfish Salvation at ICN. The only things real are the ladle and the wooden tub.

Artist Riusuke Fukahori’s London debut exhibition “Goldfish Salvation” was held at ICN gallery from 1 December 2011 – 11 January 2012.

Agency: Bergman inc.
Production: Hexaproject inc.
Sound: “Early Morning Movabillity”, Jemapur

Fukahori paints every layer. Adds a new layer of resin, paints some more, repeating the process until completion. He seems to have some freakish M.C. Escher like math abilities built in to the way he sees space. He has to be able to anticipate down to the millimeter how the colors will form the final 3D effect.

black and white branches wallpaper. the center has a drop shadow to create some depth.

Senior Romney Health Adviser Admits Obamacare Can Move Health Care System In The Right Direction

Leavitt’s consulting firm, Leavitt Partners, is also heavily invested in the health law’s exchanges and “has been advising companies and state legislatures” on how to build the new marketplaces. He has also said that companies and states will likely implement the measure despite the GOP’s efforts to unravel the law, arguing that “they recognize that individual insurance shoppers and small businesses have long been at a disadvantage, lacking the negotiating power of large companies that can demand better prices.”

Romneycare is going to haunt Mittens no matter how far to the extreme Right he is running now. The Affordable Care Act is still a government death machine according to the Fox News and Palin crowd.

Norah Jones, “Happy Pills” from the Little Broken Hearts album. Release date 5-1-12.

trickle on america economics, redesigned people, road trip with music

Historian and musician Doug  Harvey could have stopped at the title for this essay and many of us would have understood the deeper meaning of a snippet of found poetry – “Trickled On” Economics. There have been posts with similar themes here. Paul Krugman’s regular posts and columns are perhaps the most famous of the anti-Trickle punditry. This much under appreciated blog also regularly tackles the subject – Perrspectives, so I’ll just leave it with a short excerpt,

The so-called “debt crisis” currently providing rationale for cutting social programs was created by capitalists manipulating the housing and financial markets for short-term profit, a scheme that crashed the global economy.  While they were doing that, working class people struggled with a steady decline in income resulting from off-shoring American manufacturing, union sell-outs, and outright union-busting.  To make up for this decline, they were handed credit cards, deregulated during the Reagan years, and usurious lending became the order of the day.  In addition, instead of providing education for its citizens as some social welfare states of western and northern Europe have done, the student loan industry was created, with student loan giant Sallie Mae becoming a for-profit corporation by 1995.  As if this was not enough (it never is), for-profit health care, starring Big Pharma, has become ensconced in Congress, K-Street, and Wall Street.


I suspect Doug knows this as well as I do, but proceeds to point out the obvious and by now repetitive point that something needs to be done. One of the supreme difficulties is a sizable portion of the U.S. public has a tremendous capacity for abuse. Some even vote for it with pride and some prattle about patriotism. I fail to see the patriotism in turning the U.S. into Pottersville replete with hopeless wage slaves. As soon as anyone makes the slightest move, hell, hints at fixing the system so that it is oriented towards rewarding labor, rather than lavishing wealth on top of wealth, you’re demonized for creeping socialism or communism.

Apropos of that demonizing: Critical thinking Part 3: The Man who was made of straw

Pop quiz. How long do you think a fresh shared new link lasts online before people stop clicking on it? Since I have been posting on this blog for so long I know that if links were currency I’d be living in a ditch. Not a bad thing necessary unless you are a blogger who enjoys or would like to enjoy the reputation for breaking news. What becomes hot or interesting – frequently two separate things – gets around fast. That is just the nature of the web.

black and white city street at night

I was outside doing some sky gazing and day dreaming the other night and was thinking about neural enhancement. For some reason it occured to me that I put a higher priority on mental enhancment than cosmetic. If the choice was between gaining 20% better memory or intelligence or 20% more attractive, its hands down better memory and intelligence. I’m not badly scared, don’t have have burn wounds and I’m not severely disabled so that does make the choice easier. Enhancements of various kinds are coming, ready or not –  Redesigning People: How Medtech Could Expand Beyond the Injured

Other portents include first-generation machines and treatments that range from deep brain implants that can stop epileptic seizures to stem cells that scientists are using experimentally to repair damaged retinas.

No one would deny that these technologies, should they fulfill their promise, are anything but miraculous for Paul Thacker and others who need them. Yet none of this technology is going to remain exclusively in the realm of pure therapeutics. Even now some are breaking through the barrier between remedies for the sick and enhancements for the healthy.

Would you take a daily pill that not only stimulated your brain to help you do your best on a test, but also boosted memory?

Take the drug Adderall. A highly addictive pharmaceutical prescribed for patients with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), the drug works as a stimulant in people without ADHD — and is now used by at least one out of five college students to bump up their energy and attention when they want to perform well on tests or pull all-nighters.

Saying that college students are popping pills is like Claude Rains in Casablanca saying to Humphrey Bogart: “I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here.” Yet the widespread use — and acceptance — of Adderall and other stimulants by students to enhance their academic performance is bumping up against something new. It’s pushing us into a realm where taking powerful pharmaceuticals that boost, say, attention or memory is becoming acceptable beyond pure recreation.

Can we be too far from a greater acceptance of surgically implanted devices that increase our ability to hear or see? Or new legs that allow us to run like cheetahs and scramble up walls like geckos?

Physical enhancements beyond making it possible for a paraplegic to walk normally for instance are where the ethical issues arise and the ensuing consequences for society. If everyone else has twenty-ten vision are you really going to opt to stay 20-20. If your co-workers are bringing this well researched projects that make them look great and increase company profits by 2% are you really not going to take the same medication they’re taking. Along with these advances there is going to be a lot of peer and societal pressure to step up and be the new you.

One from a series of photos called ONCE UPON A STONE by ADDMINIMAL STUDIOS

ocean, beach, evening light

wales seashore light wallpaper

Be prepared for the blood curdling scream at the beginning, Elsewhere by Mathy & Fran

Two ‘lovers on the run’ head into the middle of nowhere, armed only with strange trinkets and a silver boombox.

A short film by Mathy & Fran, starring Aneurin Barnard and Jessica Raine. Featuring music by Kurt Vile, Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti, High Places and Lucky Dragons.

Supported by Film London, UK Film Council and the British Council.

urban nightlife reflections wallpaper, the selfish benefits of learning self-control, conservatives who mentally live in the dark ages

urban nightlife reflections wallpaper


Building Self-Control, the American Way

Effective approaches for building self-control combine fun with progressively increasing challenges. Rather than force activities onto an unwilling child, take advantage of his or her individual tendencies. When children develop self-control through their own pursuit of happiness, no parental hovering is required. Find something that the child is crazy about but that requires active effort. Whether it’s compiling baseball statistics or making (but not passively watching) YouTube videos, passionate hobbies build mental staying power that can also be used for math homework.

Play allows children to practice skills that are useful in adult life. Young children build self-control through elaborate, imaginative games like pretending to be a doctor or a fireman. Preschool teachers can promote self-control with simple techniques — for example, handing a child a drawing of an ear to remind him that it’s his turn to listen. Frequent practice is crucial. Montessori preschool instruction, which has been shown to lead to strong academic achievement, incorporates self-control into daily activities.

Learning a second language strengthens mental flexibility, an aspect of self-control, because the languages interfere with each other and because children must determine which language the listener will understand. Bilingual children do well on tasks that require them to ignore conflicting cues, for example reporting that a word is printed in green ink even though it says “red.” Bilingual children are better at learning abstract rules and reversing previously learned rules, even before their first birthday. People who continue to speak both languages as adults show these benefits for a lifetime.

My best arguments for learning my control are selfish ones, though they do ultimately benefit others both in the way of being a social being in the community or by providing others the benefit of my learning and productivity . To have as much control over my life as possible and to do as much as I can considering my physical and financial limitations, and sometimes the limitations imposed on me by society – which are of arguable merit. The more I can show a little self-discipline the more I can learn and experience. All of that becomes grist for my mind. It becomes part of a massive puzzle where I can move around the pieces. In my mind I can step onto  one of those movie cranes where the camera can move around and look at things from as many angles as possible. People generally hate and complain about rote memorization, but for me, it has paid off. Even stuff that I forget for lack of use. There always comes a time that I need to recall that information. If I can recall fragments that it is enough to push me in the right direction to research whatever it is and refresh my memory. The more I commit to memory the more I can call on to associate with the new to incorporate that into long-term memory. Every piece is potentially a tool to figure out something else. One point on which I differ with the authors of the article is the learning as fun bit. Maybe for very young children. Children are going to reach a point where there is something they need to learn and there probably is not a way to make it fun. You can make the study process less tedious with scheduled breaks, little rewards like listening to a few minutes of music while you eat a few strawberries, but the learning itself is going to be difficult.

standing woman in a green shirt by egon schiele. note the tendency towards the triangular. schiele (June 12, 1890  – October 31, 1918) was a protegé of Gustave Klimt who had a similar approach, using angularity to create a dramatic tension. schiele was also not one to overly romanticize. there are remnants of impressionism, though just barely, shiele was clearly in the expressionist school.

At this point I wonder if these videos find me as much as I find them – Some body paint that changes colors as the video progresses – Lady Strangelove || Sweet Exchange (UNCUT). Not safe for work.

LADY STRANGELOVE are AZZ SHAW – Bass / Keyboards, JOSH VAN LOOY – Guitars, BRENDON SHAW – Vocals / Harmonica and FOX FAEHRMANN – Drums.

Make Up & Bodypaint Artists – Anita Rutter, Rebecca Burrato, Foliage Howlett
Production Assistants – Kabelo Sebesho, Levon Hudson

Model – Alisa Marie

fighter by egon schiele. again in this painting the impact is more about drama and tension than perfect physical representation. it also contains a little commentary about man’s animal nature.

If you set up video cameras everywhere you’re going to get a lot of helpful geographical information, along with people caught in the act of being themselves – legal and not so – The street views Google wasn’t expecting you to see – in pictures

The Tree of Diversification (or why the March of Progress is wrong) by David Winter. I love the march of progress. The problem is that the ape slowly turning into man is not the best representation of human-like diversification. Dave’s tree is nice, but perhaps if someone could make a tree that is a little more artistic, it might help in terms of visual appeal.

In addition to the time travel via human wormholes suggested by Jason Kottke I may have found another form of time travel. Admittedly an obvious discovery, but just in case some of us have not noticed. There seems to be a number of Americans who live in the 18th or 16th or even 15th century inside their heads. They see women as property, every gamete as sacred, believe church dogma beliefs trumps enlightened rational thought and freedom to worship as one chooses. I wonder if the locked metal chastity belts and tin-foil helmets poses a problem at TSA check points – How Conservative Lawmakers Lost Their Sense Of Shame

Connie Johnson is not afraid to be outrageous. The Democratic state senator from Oklahoma has watched in frustration for several years now as colleagues have rammed through bills limiting women’s reproductive rights.

She tried debating and making speeches. Finally, earlier this month, she thought of something that made her point more clearly, or at least more graphically.

She introduced an amendment that would define life as beginning not at conception, but at “ejaculation.”

“It wasn’t until I got graphic that people finally heard what I was saying,” Johnson says. “It was wonderful. If this is what it took to draw attention — to draw the world’s attention to Oklahoma — I’m willing to do it.”

Other legislators have used similarly provocative means to underline their point that bills addressing reproduction seem to be targeting women unfairly.

The Virginia Senate, for instance, last month rejected by two votes a measure, offered by Democrat Janet Howell, that would have required men to undergo a rectal exam and a cardiac stress test before they could be prescribed drugs for erectile dysfunction. Howell’s measure may have been a stunt, but it was also intended as a serious comment on the underlying measure being debated, which would have required women to undergo an intravaginal ultrasound exam prior to an abortion.

If conservatives really want to get medieval they might want to have a long talk with themselves on whether they could truly handle that type of culture.

The Third & The Seventh. Have you ever wished you could rediscover the world the way you discovered it as a child. To see objects and structures in a fresh way. This video might help.

A FULL-CG animated piece that tries to illustrate architecture art across a photographic point of view where main subjects are already-built spaces. Sometimes in an abstract way. Sometimes surreal.

Credits: Modelling – Texturing – Illumination – Rendering by Alex Roman

Sound Design by Alex Roman

Based on original scores by: Michael Laurence Edward Nyman. (The Departure)
Charles-Camille Saint-Saëns. (Le Carnaval des animaux)

math and architecture meets the intricate designs of botany, dr grordbort presents: the deadliest game

An architecture graduate constructs intricate botanical illustrations using the computer graphics programs intended to design buildings

What’s the difference between a 100-story skyscraper towering over a bustling metropolis and a 2-inch flower blooming in the countryside? To architecture-student-turned-artist Macoto Murayama, not a whole lot.

“[The flower] is organic and is rather different from architecture [in that way],” Murayama writes in an email (translated by Rodion Trofimchenko, a curator at the Frantic Gallery in Tokyo, Japan, where Murayama shows his work). “[But] when I looked closer into a plant that I thought was organic, I found in its form and inner structure, hidden mechanical and inorganic elements.”

Intrigued, Murayama began applying the computer graphics programs and techniques he had learned while studying architecture at Miyagi University of Education in Sendai to illustrate, in meticulous detail, the anatomy of flowers. After choosing a flower, purchased at the flower shop or picked up on the side of a road, he carefully dissects it, cutting off its petals with a scalpel and extracting the ovary and other internal structures. He then sketches what he sees, photographs it, and models it on the computer using 3dsMAX software, a program typically used by architects and animators. Finally, he creates a composition of the different parts in Photoshop, and uses Illustrator to add measurements and other labels.

Satsuki azalea by Macoto Murayama

There is a slide show featuring seven of Macoto’s amazing works at the link. The idea that flowers are structural models whose shapes follow a mathematical pattern is not new. Most flowers follow a distinct pattern. A rose for instance:  rhodonea curve is a sinusoid plotted in polar coordinates. Up to similarity, these curves can all be expressed by a polar equation of the form

  • 2k petals if k is even, and
  • k petals if k is odd.

When k is even, the entire graph of the rose will be traced out exactly once when the value of θ changes from 0 to 2π. When k is odd, this will happen on the interval between 0 and π. (More generally, this will happen on any interval of length 2π for k even, and π for k odd.)

If k ends in 1/2 (ex: 0.5, 2.5), the curve will be rose shaped with 4k petals.

If k ends in 1/6 or 5/6 and is greater than 1 (ex: 1.16666667, 2.8333333), the curve will be rose shaped with 12k petals.

Rose curves defined by r = sin kθ, for various values of k=n/d.

Seeing the numbers or patterns in the life around us is not some kind of sterile reductionism. At least not to me. The patterns and figuring them out adds some mystery. The numbers or equations themselves are hidden. To recognize the pattern and find an equation that describes it is like taking a journey. As often happens with journeys the best part is not always arriving at the destination, but the journey itself.

This video fits in with the flower story. Dr Grordbort Presents: The Deadliest Game. Some fun live action combined with animation reminiscent of the kind of old B-movies that Indian Jones was based on. This one features a comic version of the worse of 19th century British upper-class mentality, a mix of imperialism and taking nature specimens without much much regard for life or consequences.

A short film from Media Design School based on the sci-fi world of Dr Grordbort created by writer and artist Greg Broadmore from Weta Workshop.

The live action/CGI film was created by 11 students over 22 weeks under the direction of 3D animation program leader James Cunningham.

when moral identity standard is set on low, public education is worth saving, copelia title sequence

One of the great dilemmas, for me anyway, some people do not seem to give it much thought, is the degree to which a person can be themselves versus conforming to societal norms and expectations. Many people seem to buy into the east labeling – with cultural icons and their persona used as convenient shorthand. A new  actor is a rebel, the new James Dean. Someone recently besides right-wing conservative Catholic Rick Santorum as a rebel – willing to “tell it like it is”. It does seem the Rick is willing to push aside over 300 years of human progress in science, personal liberty, individual rights for women and people of color, the use of logic and reason to parse out some essential truths. In some circles that does indeed pass for being an insurgent. A rebel with a cause of dubious morality, but still a rebel. Others might look back and review the injustices of systems of government and thinking and he him as a tired relic of the worse of humanity’s past. There is a place for using the pressure of social norms to get people to do the right thing. There is that old saying, live and let live as long as whoever it is does no evil. That last bit about evil is much larger in reality than it’s small  space in a sentence would signify. If there were absolutely clear, unmistakable lies between good and evil, doing away with evil or just plain bad behavior might not be easy, but at least having societal codes in place would be. How have we gotten as far as we have – in western democracies we would not threaten someone with torture on the rack if they claimed the earth, despite official edits otherwise, does indeed revolve around the sun, not vice versa. We have arrived at this place in our cultural progress through critical thinking. We mentally test statements to see if they are true based on knowledge, lessons from history and experimentation. If we have decided on ethical norms based on knowledge we enforce them through social pressure – the opinions and good thoughts of our cohorts: family, co-workers, friends or people who we may not know, but are experts we respect…and our own toolbox of analytical tools – some people do not have much of a tool box, but they do use what they have. While bullying can be the dark side of what our cohort thinks, keeping us from stealing lunch money from poor children, stopping us from dumping toxic chemicals in the local river, not listing ourselves as killers for hire on Craigslist are among the up sides. Study Posits a Theory of Moral Behavior

Bankers, stock brokers, and mortgage lenders who caused the recession were able to act as they did, without shame or guilt, perhaps because their moral identity standard was set at a low level, and the behavior that followed from their personal standard went unchallenged by their colleagues, Stets explained.

“To the extent that others in a situation verify or confirm the meanings set by a person’s identity standard and as expressed in a person’s behavior, the more the person will continue to engage in these behaviors,” Stets said of the theory of moral identity she and Carter advance. “One’s identity standard guides a person’s behavior. Then the person sees the reactions of others to his or her behavior.  If others have a low moral identity and others do not challenge the illicit behavior that follows from it, then the person will continue to do what he or she is doing. This is how immoral practices can emerge.”

One of the reason that Rick Santorum and other conservatives not only embrace immoral behavior, but believe it to be moral is because they live inside the echo chamber of their peers. That alone would not always be enough, but add in the deep lack of critical thinking skills and you have an historically great recipe for vile behavior wearing the mask of morality.


golden park leaves wallpaper 1440×900

Public education is a great ideal. I could probably do as well as the most viscous critics on the far Right in detailing how it good be better. We would only differ in the details. Still as an institution it is one with a accomplished history and one worth saving. The way the Right looks at public education is a head spinner in light of how they view the perfection of organized religion – their organized religion anyway ( Santorum thinks mainstream Protestants are accessories to evil). I would suggest they go to the used book section of their local university book store and read about the history of organized religion in the west. That history is bloody, cruel frequently dictated to the worse impulses of mankind. Rick can just skip to the history of Catholicism if he likes. It reads like a Blood curdling horror story. There is some good in there as well. An objective evaluation would say that Catholicism or Protestantism or Islam is a mixed bag of good and evil at best. If religious conservatives can look back at their unvarnished history ( I remember that Fox wing-nut in residence Michelle Malkin dismissed the deaths caused by the Salem Witch Trials as no big deal) and still think they believe in something worth preserving why can’t they look at the admittedly flawed public education system – which has much less blood on its hands – and think there is something essentially good there worth saving. Who Needs Public Education?

At a weekend appearance in Ohio, Rick Santorum said this about public education, according to the New York Times:

[T]he idea that the federal government should be running schools, frankly much less that the state government should be running schools [italics mine], is anachronistic. It goes back to the time of industrialization of America when people came off the farms where they did home-school or have the little neighborhood school, and into these big factories, so we built equal factories called public schools. And while those factories as we all know in Ohio and Pennsylvania have fundamentally changed, the factory school has not.

Where to begin? The idea that the government should be running schools goes back to the nation’s founding. Its principal advocate was Thomas Jefferson, who proposed (in Notes on the State of Virginia) that every child be entitled to three years of schooling free of charge (after that, parents had to pay). Horace Mann acted and expanded on Jefferson’s idea starting in the 1830s through his energetic advocacy of publicly-funded education. Mann was appalled by the quality of the “little neighborhood schools” that Santorum rhapsodizes about and he fought to raise standards for the teaching profession and to abolish religious sectarianism from public schools. Prior to the 20th century more than 90 percent of American teenagers didn’t go to high school, and whatever “home schooling” they received on the farm was typically limited to learning how to tend animals and plant and harvest crops.
The spread of government-funded high schools during the first half of the 20th century, far from violating some pastoral ideal of the little red schoolhouse, made it possible for the first time for most Americans to receive any kind of education at all. With electrification and the rise of other technologies, a high school education became essential not only to holding many factory jobs but also, with the rise of new agricultural techniques, to managing a farm.

Compared to some other western countries the U.S. was not doing terribly in term of literacy – most estimates – like the one cited in that article put adult illiteracy at about 20%. Considering that Native Americans were generally not allowed in what schools there were and slaves were usually not taught to read, as a nation we were not doing all that bad. Still to claim there has been no progress from the late 1800s in terms of reading comprehension and analysis, math, science, technology, familiarity with U.S. and world history, most high schools now require an introduction into formal logic – well Rick is factually challenged. Also a little insulting to millions of Americans. here again we have a conservative – America can do no wrong according to conservatives – except the wrongs they point out. Which do not seem to follow any path of thought which does not eventually curl back around to eat its own tale. If the Right would care to check the stats we would be in awful shape in terms of being an advanced civilization if we only relied on $40k a year private colleges to produce our professional class – dentists, engineers, programmers, biologist, teachers, etc.

Mark Twain Captured on Film by Thomas Edison (1909)

The great inventor Thomas Edison visited the home of Mark Twain in 1909, and captured footage of “the father of American literature” (says Faulkner) walking around his estate and playing cards with his daughters, Clara and Jean. The film is silent and deteriorated. But it’s apparently the only known footage of the author who gave us Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer. Twain would die the next year. Quite the find by @ebertchicago

COPELIA (Main Titles). This is another movie title sequence that I especially liked.

The opening for Momoco’s 21 minute film which featured in 10 international festivals. This multi-award winning dark but beautiful fantasy stars Ralph Brown, Vincent Regan, John Standing and Olivia Williams. Designed & Directed by Nic Benns

wealth is like crack, society’s blunders, in 1979 the bible suddenly changed

Why it matters that our politicians are rich

Politicians would like us to believe that all this money doesn’t matter in a deeper sense—that what matters is ideas, skills, and leadership ability. Aside from a little extra business savvy, they’re regular people just like the rest of us: They just happen to have more money.

But is that true? In fact, a number of new studies suggest that, in certain key ways, people with that much money are not like the rest of us at all. As a mounting body of research is showing, wealth can actually change how we think and behave—and not for the better. Rich people have a harder time connecting with others, showing less empathy to the extent of dehumanizing those who are different from them. They are less charitable and generous. They are less likely to help someone in trouble. And they are more likely to defend an unfair status quo. If you think you’d behave differently in their place, meanwhile, you’re probably wrong: These aren’t just inherited traits, but developed ones. Money, in other words, changes who you are.

As with all these studies of large groups they are noting trends, not absolutes in terms of individual behavior. They mention Sen. John Kerry (D-MA). Who knows what he is like on a personal level. In terms of public policy he is a fairly progressive politician – supports the social safety net, environmental regulation, public education and universities, women’s rights and is pro science. It is possible to have money and still retain empathy for others. It just seems that in many instances wealth becomes all about keeping wealth – even though in western free market societies all wealth can be traced back to labor. On of the more offensive perceptions of Romney – that he has of himself and his supporters have of him – is that of entrepreneur. Someone who had some kind of dream, worked hard, created a product or service that benefited a lot of people and created wealth. Modern financial machinations made Romney’s and the wealth of the investment bankers like Goldman Sachs possible. Not inventions or hard work. They leeched off the capital created by the labor of millions. In very typical modern crony capitalism fashion – they are the vultures who suck the value out of what others create. A phenomenon made possible by deregulation of the banking and financial sector. There are delusional Romney clones everywhere. They believe that they have created wealth. Since they are wealthy, the wealth itself is proof that how they behalf, what they do, is good and they are special. The conservative-libertarian Koch brothers really do imagine themselves real life John Galts. Most of the Kock brothers products are paper products like paper towels, paper plates and synthetic fibers made from petroleum. They are hardly new age innovators. Neither they or Romney are modern success stories – starting with nothing, they created a new technologies that made the world a better place and made millions while doing so. They started wealthy and despite any depth of intelligence, wisdom, hard work or genuine virtue – they parlayed that wealth into more wealth. Gosh, that is almost a miracle, right? If they simply enjoyed their wealth and went about their lives most Americans would be fine with that, regardless of whether the wealth was truly earned or not. Some people are just lucky. The problem with the Romneys and the Koch brothers is they are not satisfied with just having more collective wealth than half of working class America. They want the power to shove their public policy down everyone’s throat –  Conservative Libertarian plantation owners don’t want labor to get too uppity – David Koch Admits Big Spending to Help Scott Walker Bust ‘Union Power’

Like their father before them, David Koch and his brother Charles are longtime champions of extreme right-wing causes. And Walker’s militant anti-labor policies coupled with a willingness to cut funding for public education and public services have made him a hero of conservative hardliners like the Kochs.

[  ]…Even as Walker struggles to explain why Wisconsin is shedding jobs while the rest of the country is gaining them, conservative groups funded by Charles and David Koch, such as Americans for Prosperity, are filling the state’s television airwaves with ads that claim Walker’s policies are “working.” According to Reuters, “a $700,000 advertising campaign sponsored by Americans for Prosperity (AFP), a foundation funded by conservative billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch of oil and gas conglomerate Koch Industries, hit the Wisconsin airwaves, the latest phase of its ‘Stand with Walker’ campaign.”

[  ]…The IRS is explicit in this regard: “Under the Internal Revenue Code, all section 501(c)(3) organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office. Contributions to political campaign funds or public statements of position (verbal or written) made on behalf of the organization in favor of or in opposition to any candidate for public office clearly violate the prohibition against political campaign activity. Violating this prohibition may result in denial or revocation of tax-exempt status and the imposition of certain excise taxes.”

The violation of our loophole filled campaign expenditure laws is disturbing. Even more so is the philosophy behind the campaign against unions, and at its core the campaign against the rights and dignity of everyone that works as an employee. The conservative-libertarian fantasy is to have a workplace where workers have no rights. That workers should not be allowed to speak up about wages, working conditions, discrimination, employers ethics violations or any other issue that workers face everyday. Imagine that the UAW or USW came out tomorrow with a statement saying they were dictated to a future America where employers had no rights. That employees would decide all company policy, behavior and rules. As pro labor as I am I would find that shocking. Any political philosophy that works towards making labor or capital powerless is a political movement in favor of tyranny. In some ways the plantation owners slowly but surely over the years have finally gotten their way. We have an economy based to some degree on the plantation model – with the masters – those with wealth and power at the top and the increasingly powerless wage slaves at the bottom.

railroad tracks sunset

A list called “the seven blunders that human society commits, and that cause all the violence.” In the U.S. you could substitute: poverty, health problems, misery, destruction of the middle-class.

Wealth without work.

Pleasure without conscience.

Knowledge without character.

Commerce without morality.

Science without humanity.

Worship without sacrifice.

Politics without principles.

What does Lisbeth Salander ( The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) really look like? (VIDEO). A BBC report on using composite software to create sketches of literary characters.The report is based on the work of this web site: THE COMPOSITES 

Daisy Buchanan from The Great Gatsby


This is interesting as a sociological phenomenon as much as it is in how changing beliefs have shaped public policy – The ‘biblical view’ that’s younger than the Happy Meal

Ask any American evangelical, today, what the Bible says about abortion and they will insist that this is what it says. (Many don’t actually believe this, but they know it is the only answer that won’t get them in trouble.) They’ll be a little fuzzy on where, exactly, the Bible says this, but they’ll insist that it does.

That’s new. If you had asked American evangelicals that same question the year I was born you would not have gotten the same answer.

For example, one article by a professor from Dallas Theological Seminary criticized the Roman Catholic position on abortion as unbiblical. Jonathan Dudley quotes from the article in his book Broken Words: The Abuse of Science and Faith in American Politics. Keep in mind that this is from a conservative evangelical seminary professor, writing in Billy Graham’s magazine for editor Harold Lindsell:

God does not regard the fetus as a soul, no matter how far gestation has progressed. The Law plainly exacts: “If a man kills any human life he will be put to death” (Lev. 24:17). But according to Exodus 21:22-24, the destruction of the fetus is not a capital offense. … Clearly, then, in contrast to the mother, the fetus is not reckoned as a soul.

Christianity Today would not publish that article in 2012.

Withered as an autumn leaf

The text is from this poem: Turn Me to My Yellow Leaves by William Stanley Braithwaite (The Book of American Negro Poetry.  1922. James Weldon Johnson, ed. (1871–1938).)

TURN me to my yellow leaves,
I am better satisfied;
There is something in me grieves—
That was never born, and died.
Let me be a scarlet flame
On a windy autumn morn,
I who never had a name,
Nor from breathing image born.
From the margin let me fall
Where the farthest stars sink down,
And the void consumes me,—all
In nothingness to drown.
Let me dream my dream entire,
Withered as an autumn leaf—
Let me have my vain desire,
Vain—as it is brief.

Goldman Sachs Admits Record Speculation To Blame For Skyrocketing Gas Prices. A small group of people make the profits sweating mightily over an electronic spreadsheet in a leather bound chair, and working class Americans pay the price.

This sounds like something in a tabloid from the 1960s next to the story about Martians kidnapping a farmer’s cow. It just happens to be the new reality, Honest Defenders of Forced Penetration

So far, it’s been a little odd to read defenses of the bill—passed by the Virginia House of Delegates last week—to require “trans-vaginal ultrasounds” for women seeking abortions. Supporters conscious of public opinion argue that it is strictly a means to provide information and guarantee the safety of the mother. “The only way that they can determine the age of the fetus at an early age is by performing a trans-vaginal ultrasound,” said Delegate Kathy J. Byron, the Republican lawmaker who sponsored the House version of the legislation.

This, of course, isn’t the point. Whether or not a trans-vaginal ultrasound is medically necessary is separate from the fact that this is an involuntary procedure, forced by the state, and performed for political reasons. The issue here is consent, and the simple fact is that the state should not be allowed to stick something inside your body for the sake of preventing a legal and legitimate medical procedure. This doesn’t come as a big surprise, but it’s been the most right-wing members of the Virginia legislature who have been honest about their intentions:

Delegate Bob Marshall, a Republican who plans to vote for the bill, contends that the argument does not ring true because the abortion itself is far more invasive.

“The intrusion is already taking place,” he said.

In other words, once you’ve been penetrated, you are fair game for anyone who comes along, including the government.

So ladies since you might have been raped once, might as well let the state do it too.

Andrew Belle – Open Your Eyes