Archive for September, 2009

You Just Can’t Trust the Hawks

September 29, 2009

Glenn Greenwald:

What people like David Brooks were saying back then was so severe — so severely wrong, pompous, blind, warmongering and, as it turns out, destructive — that no matter how many times one reviews the record of the leading opinion-makers of that era, one will never be inured to how poisonous they are.

All of this would be a fascinating study for historians if the people responsible were figures of the past.  But they’re not.  They’re the opposite.  The same people shaping our debates now are the same ones who did all of that, and they haven’t changed at all.  They’re doing the same things now that they did then.  When you go read what they said back then, that’s what makes it so remarkable and noteworthy.  David Brooks got promoted within our establishment commentariat to The New York Times after (one might say:  because of) the ignorant bile and amoral idiocy he continuously spewed while at The Weekly Standard.  According to National Journal’s recently convened “panel of Congressional and Political Insiders,” Brooks is now the commentator who “who most help[s] to shape their own opinion or worldview” — second only to Tom “Suck On This” Friedman.  Charles Krauthammer came in third.  Ponder that for a minute.

Just read some of what Brooks wrote about Iraq.  It’s absolutely astounding that someone with this record doesn’t refrain from prancing around as a war expert for the rest of their lives.  In fact, in a society where honor and integrity were valued just a minimal amount, a record like this would likely cause any decent and honorable person, wallowing in shame, to seriously contemplate throwing themselves off a bridge:

David Brooks, Weekly Standard, February 6, 2003:

I MADE THE MISTAKE of watching French news the night of Colin Powell’s presentation before the Security Council. . . . Then they brought on a single “expert” to analyze Powell’s presentation. This fellow, who looked to be about 25 and quite pleased with himself, was completely dismissive. The Powell presentation was a mere TV show, he sniffed. It’s impossible to trust any of the intelligence data Powell presented because the CIA is notorious for lying and manipulation. The presenter showed a photograph of a weapons plant, and then the same site after it had been sanitized and the soil scraped. The expert was unimpressed: The Americans could simply have lied about the dates when the pictures were taken. Maybe the clean site is actually the earlier picture, he said. That was depressing enough. Then there were a series of interviews with French politicians of the left and right. They were worse. At least the TV expert had acknowledged that Powell did present some evidence, even if he thought it was fabricated. The politicians responded to Powell’s address as if it had never taken place. They simply ignored what Powell said and repeated that there is no evidence that Saddam has weapons of mass destruction and that, in any case, the inspection system is effective. This was not a response. It was simple obliviousness, a powerful unwillingness to confront the question honestly. This made the politicians seem impervious to argument, reason, evidence, or anything else. Maybe in the bowels of the French elite there are people rethinking their nation’s position, but there was no hint of it on the evening news. Which made me think that maybe we are being ethnocentric. As good, naive Americans, we think that if only we can show the world the seriousness of the threat Saddam poses, then they will embrace our response. In our good, innocent way, we assume that in persuading our allies we are confronted with a problem of understanding. But suppose we are confronted with a problem of courage? Perhaps the French and the Germans are simply not brave enough to confront Saddam. . . . Or suppose we are confronted with a problem of character? Perhaps the French and the Germans understand the risk Saddam poses to the world order. Perhaps they know that they are in danger as much as anybody. They simply would rather see American men and women–rather than French and German men and women–dying to preserve their safety. . . . Far better, from this cynical perspective, to signal that you will not take on the terrorists–so as to earn their good will amidst the uncertain times ahead.

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Project Gaydar

September 29, 2009

Using online information to accurately assess sexual orientation:

Using data from the social network Facebook, they made a striking discovery: just by looking at a person’s online friends, they could predict whether the person was gay. They did this with a software program that looked at the gender and sexuality of a person’s friends and, using statistical analysis, made a prediction. The two students had no way of checking all of their predictions, but based on their own knowledge outside the Facebook world, their computer program appeared quite accurate for men, they said. People may be effectively “outing” themselves just by the virtual company they keep.

The work has not been published in a scientific journal, but it provides a provocative warning note about privacy. Discussions of privacy often focus on how to best keep things secret, whether it is making sure online financial transactions are secure from intruders, or telling people to think twice before opening their lives too widely on blogs or online profiles. But this work shows that people may reveal information about themselves in another way, and without knowing they are making it public. Who we are can be revealed by, and even defined by, who our friends are: if all your friends are over 45, you’re probably not a teenager; if they all belong to a particular religion, it’s a decent bet that you do, too. The ability to connect with other people who have something in common is part of the power of social networks, but also a possible pitfall. If our friends reveal who we are, that challenges a conception of privacy built on the notion that there are things we tell, and things we don’t.

They Might Be Giants

September 28, 2009

Hard at work teaching our kids about science.  Great collection of their recent work here:

Activism

September 28, 2009

Fantastic cartoon in Harpers:

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Nabokov’s Final Work

September 28, 2009

Not burnt after all.

Knopf is publishing the book in an intriguing form: Nabokov’s handwritten index cards are reproduced with a transcription below of each card’s contents, generally less than a paragraph. The scanned index cards (perforated so they can be removed from the book) are what make this book an amazing document; they reveal Nabokov’s neat handwriting (a mix of cursive and print) and his own edits to the text: some lines are blacked out with scribbles, others simply crossed out. Words are inserted, typesetting notes (“no quotes”) and copyedit symbols pepper the writing, and the reverse of many cards bears a wobbly X. Depending on the reader’s eye, the final card in the book is either haunting or the great writer’s final sly wink: it’s a list of synonyms for “efface”—expunge, erase, delete, rub out, wipe out and, finally, obliterate. (Nov.)

Cure cancer. Eat no meat.

September 28, 2009

Very interesting research indeed.

I have been working closely recently with a few extraordinary nutritional researchers, and I find that the information they have compiled is quite eye opening. Interestingly, what these highly esteemed doctors are saying is just beginning to be understood and accepted, perhaps because what they are saying does not conveniently fit in with or support the multi-billion dollar food industries that profit from our “not knowing”. One thing is for sure: we are getting sicker and more obese than our health care system can handle, and the conventional methods of dealing with disease often have harmful side effects and are ineffective for some patients.

As it is now, one out of every two of us will get cancer or heart disease and die from it – an ugly and painful death as anyone who has witnessed it can attest. And starting in the year 2000, one out of every three children who are born after that year will develop diabetes–a disease that for most sufferers (those with Type 2 diabetes) is largely preventable with lifestyle changes. This is a rapidly emerging crisis, the seriousness of which I’m not sure we have yet recognized. The good news is, the means to prevent and heal disease seems to be right in front of us; it’s in our food. Quite frankly, our food choices can either kill us – which mounting studies say that they are, or they can lift us right out of the disease process and into soaring health.

In the next few months, I will share a series of interviews I’ve conducted with the preeminent doctors and nutritional researchers in the fields of their respective expertise. And here it is straight out: they are all saying the same thing in different ways and through multiple and varying studies: animal protein seems to greatly contribute to diseases of nearly every type; and a plant-based diet is not only good for our health, but it’s also curative of the very serious diseases we face .

Hella-awesome.

September 28, 2009

I’m an unabashed crypto-dork.

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and lots, lots more.  Great job.

Laffer on Money Supply and Taxes

September 28, 2009

I don’t really believe that the big danger is tax increases (I just don’t see any evidence of this at a federal level), I worry more about the short- and long-term stability of the dollar.  Emphasis mine…

The 1930s has become the sole object lesson for today’s monetary policy. Over the past 12 months, the Federal Reserve has increased the monetary base (bank reserves plus currency in circulation) by well over 100%. While currency in circulation has grown slightly, there’s been an impressive 17-fold increase in bank reserves. The federal-funds target rate now stands at an all-time low range of zero to 25 basis points, with the 91-day Treasury bill yield equally low. All this has been done to avoid a liquidity crisis and a repeat of the mistakes that led to the Great Depression.

Even with this huge increase in the monetary base, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke has reiterated his goal not to repeat the mistakes made back in the 1930s by tightening credit too soon, which he says would send the economy back into recession. The strong correlation between soaring unemployment and falling consumer prices in the early 1930s leads Mr. Bernanke to conclude that tight money caused both. To prevent a double dip, super easy monetary policy is the key.

While Fed policy was undoubtedly important, it was not the primary cause of the Great Depression or the economy’s relapse in 1937. The Smoot-Hawley tariff of June 1930 was the catalyst that got the whole process going. It was the largest single increase in taxes on trade during peacetime and precipitated massive retaliation by foreign governments on U.S. products. Huge federal and state tax increases in 1932 followed the initial decline in the economy thus doubling down on the impact of Smoot-Hawley. There were additional large tax increases in 1936 and 1937 that were the proximate cause of the economy’s relapse in 1937.


Project Censured 2010

September 24, 2009

It’s always worth knowing what the mainstream media isn’t telling you:

Top Censored Stories of 2009/2010

1. US Congress Sells Out to Wall Street
2. US Schools are More Segregated Today than in the 1950s
3. Toxic Waste Behind Somali Pirates
4. Nuclear Waste Pools in North Carolina
5. Europe Blocks US Toxic Products
6. Lobbyists Buy Congress
7. Obama’s Military Appointments Have Corrupt Past
8. Bailed out Banks and America’s Wealthiest Cheat IRS Out of Billions
9. US Arms Used for War Crimes in Gaza
10. Ecuador Declares Foreign Debt Illegitimate
11. Private Corporations Profit from the Occupation of Palestine
12. Mysterious Death of Mike Connell—Karl Rove’s Election Thief
13. Katrina’s Hidden Race War
14. Congress Invested in Defense Contracts
15. World Bank’s Carbon Trade Fiasco
16. US Repression of Haiti Continues
17. The ICC Facilitates US Covert War in Sudan
18. Ecuador’s Constitutional Rights of Nature
19. Bank Bailout Recipients Spent to Defeat Labor
20. Secret Control of the Presidential Debates
21. Recession Causes States to Cut Welfare
22. Obama’s Trilateral Commission Team
23. Activists Slam World Water Forum as a Corporate-Driven Fraud
24. Dollar Glut Finances US Military Expansion
25. Fast Track Oil Exploitation in Western Amazon

Unidentified Flying Objects

September 24, 2009

I like Mac’s perspective on UFOs.   I find the issue intriguing, but much of the literature and discussion full of unadulterated bullshit, speculative conjecture, and undue skepticism.  His emphasis on agnosticism is much appreciated.  Here’s a metapost of his that discusses various aspects of the issue:

The problem with the above scenarios is the unwelcome (and often deliberately ignored) complexity of the UFO phenomenon. We seem to be dealing with an intelligence every bit as “paranormal” as it is “technological” — but then again, isn’t that what we might realistically expect from beings thousands or perhaps millions of years more advanced than us?

Discerning UFO researchers have noted the failure of “nuts and bolts” hypotheses to adequately address the weirdness that accompanies so many UFO-related events, calling the conventional interpretation of UFOs as spacecraft into serious question. Sizing up the phenomenon from the early 21st century, it would seem that visiting ETs could do a much better job at concealing their presence if they truly desired. Far from constituting a paradox, this begs us to reconsider the motives of a truly alien intelligence, even is that means casting away much of the ufological conventional wisdom (to say nothing of SETI dogma) in the process.