Sunday, March 9, 2008

Mechanistic vs Holographic Universe

Chopra argues that for hundreds of years, science mistakenly set in stone distinctions between the biological organism and the environment which don't really exist. “We are not 'biological organisms contained in an environment', that's a fundamental misperception,” he points out. “The biological organism, whether it's a sentient human being, or a sentient mosquito, a sentient bacterium, is not separate from the environment. Both the biological organism and what we call the environment are differentiated patterns of behaviour of a single reality, whether you call that reality 'Gaia', or 'Planet Earth', or even if you wish, the 'sentient universe'.” Ok, I'm thinking, if that's the case then what does this shift in perception imply in terms of action? “So you don't look at that tree and say, 'oh that tree's the environment', that tree's your lungs, if it didn't breathe, you wouldn't breathe”, explained Chopra. “The Earth is your body. The rivers and waters of our planet are your circulation, if you pollute them, you pollute your circulation. The air is your breath. We need to start thinking of the world as our universal body. Because our survival as human beings is equally dependent on our personal bodies, as well as our universal body.”

[ ... ]

At first, I was rather sceptical of the relevance, to questions about social change and global crisis, of a field as seemingly obscure and technical as quantum mechanics. Butmy bemusement quickly turned to fascination, and then conviction, after discovering one of the pioneers of this revolutionary perspective, Dr. Fritjof Capra, a physicist who teaches and researches theoretical high-energy physics at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory and the University of California, Berkeley. Capra has written widely on the philosophical implications of modern science, and his first book, The Tao of Physics, argued controversially that Western science was now confirming the same fundamental propositions about reality found in Eastern mysticism. When Capra first started work on the manuscript in the 1972, he was spurred on by the realisation that two of his colleagues, both senior physicists who had made paradigm-shifting breakthroughs in the field, agreed with his views.

~ from The Crisis of Perception ~

'Enjoy life while you can'

Climate science maverick James Lovelock believes catastrophe is inevitable, carbon offsetting is a joke and ethical living a scam. So what would he do?

~ read on... ~


"The media should not know when or where we meet or who takes part in our programs, before or after a meeting"

Usually, political groups trip over one another to try and gain public notoriety and attention. The Council for National Policy, meanwhile, would be perfectly happy if the public didn't even know it exists. (I've long believed the easiest job on Earth would be to serve as this group's press secretary.)

The CNP is made up of many heavy-hitters from the religious right and conservative movement in general, and they meet periodically to plot and scheme. It may sound excessively cloak-and-dagger of the group, but the CNP has a list of formal rules, one of which reads, "The media should not know when or where we meet or who takes part in our programs, before or after a meeting.”

Fortunately, details routinely leak. Today in New Orleans, for example, the CNP will gather and hear from none other than John McCain. (You know, the one who “refuses to pander” to anyone.)

~ read on... ~

"Members of Congress that the war party in this country has sought to intimidate"

delivered 6 Oct 1917 Washington, DC

" ... I find other Senators, as well as myself, accused of the highest crimes of which any man can be guilty -- treason and disloyalty -- and, sir, accused not only with no evidence to support the accusation, but without the suggestion that such evidence anywhere exists. It is not claimed that Senators who opposed the declaration of war have since that time acted with any concerted purpose, either regarding war measures or any others. They have voted according to their individual opinions, have often been opposed to each other on bills which have come before the Senate since the declaration of war, and, according to my recollection, have never all voted together since that time upon any singe proposition upon which the Senate has been divided.

I am aware, Mr. President, that in pursuance of this campaign of vilification and attempted intimidation, requests from various individuals and certain organizations have been submitted to the Senate for my expulsion from this body, and that such requests have been referred to and considered by one of the committees of the Senate.

If I alone had been made the victim of these attacks, I should not take one moment of the Senate's time for their consideration, and I believe that other Senators who have been unjustly and unfairly assailed, as I have been, hold the same attitude upon this that I do. Neither the clamor of the mob nor the voice of power will ever turn me by the breadth of a hair from the course I mark out for myself, guided by such knowledge as I can obtain and controlled and directed by a solemn conviction of right and duty.

But, sir, it is not alone Members of Congress that the war party in this country has sought to intimidate. The mandate seems to have gone forth to the sovereign people of this country that they must be silent while those things are being done by their Government which most vitally concern their well-being, their happiness, and their lives. Today, and for weeks past, honest and law-abiding citizens of this country are being terrorized and outraged in their rights by those sworn to uphold the laws and protect the rights of the people. I have in my possession numerous affidavits establishing the fact that people are being unlawfully arrested, thrown into jail, held incommunicado for days, only to be eventually discharged without ever having been taken into court, because they have committed no crime. Private residences are being invaded, loyal citizens of undoubted integrity and probity arrested, cross-examined, and the most sacred constitutional rights guaranteed to every American citizen are being violated. ... "


~ from Robert M. La Follette: Free Speech in Wartime (Abridged) ~

Another Blake quote

Prisons are built with stones of law,
brothels with bricks of religion.

Excerpted from The Marriage of Heaven and Hell by William Blake

Nuclear proliferation alive and well

News Analysis: U.S. general's call for new nuclear weapons raises concerns over arms race

A senior U.S. military official's clamor Tuesday for the development of a new, modern arsenal of nuclear weapons may trigger another international arms race, analysts warned.

"So long as there are other countries in the world that possess enough nuclear weapons to destroy the United States of America and our way of life, we will have to deter those types of countries," said Air Force Gen. Kevin Chilton, head of the military's Strategic Command.

As a deterrent to attacks from other nations in the 21st century, the U.S. Defense Department should develop an improved nuclear weapon to reduce the number of warheads it keeps on hand, he told reporters.

According to Chilton, the United States' existing warheads inventory is "too big, bigger than they need to be," although the number of nuclear weapons has been significantly reduced.

He estimated that the number would continue to decline to 25 percent of the total during the Cold War by 2012.

As the threat is different from that of the Cold War, the deterrent must also be more diverse, ranging from nuclear warheads to conventional weapons and cyber warfare capabilities, Chilton said.

Analysts said that if the Unites States develops a new arsenal of nuclear or space weapons, other countries will also follow suit, which will possibly lead to a new arms race and a rush by other countries to develop more effective and usable nuclear weapons.

[ ... ]

U.S. President George W. Bush's administration has requested 10million dollars for a development program of new nuclear weapons in its 2009 budget proposal, although Congress turned down a similar request in its previous budget submission.

It is also seeking 100 million dollars for a plant to make nuclear triggers for the new weapons.

The program is controversial in part as it runs counter to the U.S. obligation under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to work toward bringing its stockpile to zero.

The 2002 Moscow Treaty requires that Washington reduce its operationally deployed warheads to 1,700-2,220 by December 2012. In an exchange of data early last year, Russia claimed to have 4,162 strategic warheads and the United States 5,866 in its arsenal.

In January, Yuri Baluyevsky, chief of the general staff of the Russian armed forces, also sent a similar signal to the world, saying Russia may use nuclear weapons for the protection of the country and its allies.

Nuclear States' Double Standards
Most of us learn early in our lives that if we expect rules that we set to be respected, we cannot promulgate the rule and, at the same time, grant ourselves a permanent exception.

The main treaty that deals with nuclear weapons, the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, has a very different and fundamentally flawed structure.

This treaty specifically permits five states ― China, France, Russia, the U.K. and the U.S. ― to retain nuclear weapons, but any other party to the treaty must agree to forgo the acquisition of nuclear weapons.

States that refuse to ratify the treaty, such as Cuba, Pakistan, India and Israel are free to acquire such weapons, and three of them have done so.

Why are states and other entities so eager to retain or acquire nuclear weapons? The motive is the same whether a state already has such weapons or hopes to acquire them. Nuclear weapons are perceived as giving the possessor a huge military advantage.

[ ... ]

Surely nuclear weapons, including the so-called ``low-yield" nuclear weapons, carve out a far more destructive path than all of the weapons previously coming under the regime of a total ban.

Nuclear weapons certainly need to be prohibited, but they must be prohibited for all states and all entities. Article 6 of the Non-Proliferation Treaty requires all states party to the treaty ``to pursue negotiations on nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control."

The International Court of Justice has described this as a binding treaty obligation.

As long as some states, including the U.S. and China, insist on their right to retain nuclear weapons, other states will wish to own such weapons and will work out ways to acquire them, even if it means violating treaty obligations.

India to build thorium-based reactor: Kakodkar
India would build a 300 MW thorium-based Advance Heavy Water Reactor (AHWR) that would serve as a platform for developing and demonstrating technologies for largescale thorium utilisation, Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Anil Kakodkar said on Monday.

Power potential from thorium reactors is very large and availability of Accelerator Driven System (ADS) can enable early introduction of thorium on a largescale, he said, while inaugurating a training programme on Energy Security and Management, organised by the National Institute of Advanced Studies here.

N.M. among sites considered for uranium enrichment factory
A company is considering building a $2 billion uranium enrichment factory in southern New Mexico, the same general area where another company already is building one.

The proposed factory would enrich uranium provided by utilities to fuel their commercial nuclear reactors, said Nancy Lang, external communications manager of Areva Inc., based in Bethesda, Md.

Areva Inc., a subsidiary of Paris-based Areva, also is mulling possible sites in Idaho, Ohio, Texas and Washington state, she said Friday.

Iran claiming victory despite sanctions
Despite a new round of UN sanctions over its nuclear activities, Iran still thinks it is ahead. The sanctions, passed by the Security Council on Monday, extend the two previous tranches to tighten the economic and trade squeeze on Iran.

The Security Council wants Iran to suspend the enrichment of uranium and to stop construction of a heavy water reactor that could produce plutonium. Highly enriched uranium and plutonium are both key ingredients for a nuclear bomb.

Iran says it is simply exercising its right to enrichment under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Embassy calls UN resolution illegal
The Iranian embassy in Paris has profoundly rejected the Security Council’s new sanctions resolution against Tehran, calling it ‘illegal.’

A statement issued by the embassy was referring to the recent report by the International Atomic Energy Agency director general which clearly endorsed the full implementation of the Iran-IAEA agreement in clarifying all the remaining ambiguities surrounding Iran’s nuclear program.

“So the issuance of a new UN Security Council resolution against Iran is irrational and lacks legitimacy,” the statement added.

It also criticized the council’s verdict which is aimed to deprive Iran of its legal rights to use nuclear technology for civilian purposes.

It also condemned the initiators’ unfounded move against Iran, saying they have even discredited the image of the Security Council and making the international body a tool of convenience.

A World Free of Nuclear Weapons: An Interview With Nuclear Threat Initiative Co-Chairman Sam Nunn
ACT: START I expires at the end of 2009. How mechanically and diplomatically do you think the two sides can pursue the reductions that you are describing? Is it in the context of the SORT and START processes or through unilateral reciprocal initiatives? How do you see future reductions being pursued?

Nunn: All of the above. I do not think it’s either arms control treaties or things beyond arms control treaties. I think it is both.

It would be folly to allow the START verification provisions to expire. I think reconstructing them would be a whole lot harder than having this administration and the Russians agree on [extending] them.

I also think SORT needs to be fulfilled. When it first came up, I called it a “faith-based treaty.” It expires the same day that the limits take effect. I think that is absurd. The next administration has to do something about that. Obviously, this one will not. The next administration will have to tie verification provisions to SORT.[11]

I think the arms control treaty process is important. Obviously, you want to reach agreements. But the dialogue, the conversations, the people getting to know each other, and the realization of the fears and seeing where the fears coincide are important. That is where I differ so much from this administration. Sure it is frustrating and takes a long time.

We have a lot of things that we can do without treaties. Warning time, for instance, I don’t think lends itself to a treaty approach.

I also would like to see [command and control] updated in light of the huge technological changes, particularly the cyber world. I don’t think we have explored anywhere near adequately the danger of command and control being penetrated by people in the cyber world, whether it’s a third country or a very clever hacker. There are horrors out there when you see the stakes involved. That’s why I go back to my big pet rock. If everyone had the posture where they could not shoot for a week, it would be a different world. That would make nuclear weapons less relevant, and the discussion about how many you need takes on a different flavor. That is in no way in opposition to reducing numbers, but it is saying that reducing numbers is not the be all and end all.

Iran wants world ban on nuclear weapons
IRAN wants to ban all nuclear weapons through an international treaty, the country's foreign minister said at the UN's Conference on Disarmament.

"The time has come to ban and eliminate all nuclear weapons," Manouchehr Mottaki told the conference.

The UN Security Council on Monday slapped another round of sanctions on Iran over its refusal to suspend nuclear enrichment activities, while in Vienna, the International Atomic Energy Agency attempted to convince Tehran to cooperate.

Western states have accused Tehran of pursuing a nuclear program under cover of energy production, a charge it has firmly denied.

Iran's foreign minister said during Tuesday's meeting in Geneva that it is necessary to "start negotiations to reach a convention on the ban of stocks and the production of nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction".

During the conference, he questioned the right of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council to possess nuclear arms.

"The winners of the Second World War have claimed this right and imposed it on the international community," he said.

"Today, the right of veto and the right to possess nuclear arms has become a monetary exchange to obtain illegitimate rights," he added.

Nuclear dictatorship, mega-terrorism or Britney Spears?

There is a lot of talk about the risks of nuclear proliferation. There is virtually no public discussion anymore about the existence of these weapons, the doctrine development and the urgent need for nuclear abolition.

Media and politicians chase nuclear weapons where there are none. Conveniently, they hardly ever focus on the daily threat we all live under: the malfunctioning or deliberate use of nuclear weapons by those who have by far the greatest number and the most sophisticated weapons: the West.

How ridiculoulsy irrelevant to take all kinds of measures - that invariably reduce respect for democracy, human rights, and individual integrity/privacy - to guard ourselves against small-scale terrorism while turning the blind eye on the nuclear-weapons states who all maintain plans for the destruction of the world go unnoticed!

Since nuclear policies and doctrines by definition involve the deliberate targetting of millions of innocent civilians, it is terrorism: Mega-terrorism and omnicide (the killing of everything). "War" is much too kind a word for it!

You can read the singularly most destabilizing and dangerous-for-the-world doctrine here:
[zfacts.com]

It breaks fundamentally with the nuclear deterrence doctrine - or balance of terror - that has been in operation since 1945.

Recently another piece of madness and irresponsibility was released by five former Defence Chief of Staff from NATO countries - "A New Model-NATO"
[www.project-syndicate.org]

Here is a short and precise comment from the Guardian by Ian Traynor
[www.guardian.co.uk]

Please read these documents and ask yourself whether Iran is the biggest threat to the world! Who has an interest in getting the world to fear Iran instead of Western nuclearism?

Most media people either don't understand the issues or their importance. They abdicate their responsibility to inform the public - public service! Instead they tell us everything about, say, Britney Spears or David Beckham!

And here is the excellent Middle Powers Initiatives argument that it is the duty of NATO to disarm its nuclear weapons and scrap first-strike doctrine
[www.middlepowers.org]

TFF Associate David Krieger outlines how to avoid a nuclear catastrophe
[www.wagingpeace.org]

Read also TFF Associate Michel Chossudovsky's
The US-NATO Preemptive Nuclear Doctrine: Trigger a Middle East Nuclear Holocaust to Defend "The Western Way of Life"
[www.globalresearch.ca]

Western democratic governments never dared to hold a referendum about their doomsday weapons.

Do you know that both Americans and Russians want nuclear abolition - but survey like this
[www.worldpublicopinion.org]
- never hit the headlines. Why?

Have we ever seen an opinion poll that tells us that citizens around the world want to have or be the target of nuclear weapons? No - and the simple reason is that nuclear weapons, not to speak of their use, militates against common sense, ordinary citizens' perception of the good life, decency and ethics and against our human right to a life in peace and freedom.

Britney Spears or nuclear weapons? Choose what is most important for you - it's a free world. And some self-appointed nuclear dictators continue to have the freedom to plan nuclear extinction.

When will the truth about this madness and immoralty dawn upon billions of people?

How much longer shall we let Western democracies practise nuclear dictatorships over the whole world - tacitly supported by media?

How much longer can we boast a free press with nuclerism - these weapons, doctrines, criminality, terrorism and dictatorship - hardly ever mentioned?



TFF
Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research
Transnationella Stiftelsen för Freds- och Framtidsforskning
[www.transnational.org]

Cain and Abel - the perpetual conflict

It's not often that calls for ethnic cleansing relate in any way to human evolution.

[ ... ]

Now, I don't know much about the Kalenjin or the Kikuyu, but I do know that the former have traditionally been pastoralists, or animal herders, and the latter, farmers. I also know that conflicts between animal herders and farmers are nearly as old as the firmament. (Just think of the allegory of Cain, the farmer, and Abel, the shepherd.)

I suspect there's a link between the metonyms the violence-inciting broadcaster used—"people of the milk" and "the weed"—and the social and genetic histories of the two tribes he or she was alluding to.

Around the world, many people (like virtually all other mammals) are unable to drink milk as adults. Lactose intolerance, in a sense, is nature's default state. But lactose tolerance has evolved in many groups of people whose ancestors have herded mammals for centuries. These people have had a long-standing evolutionary incentive, so to speak, to be able to drink milk throughout their lives. So it makes sense that the pastoralist Kalenjins drink milk.

And the "weeds"? Well, that sure sounds like an unsubtle—not to mention offensive—reference to the way the Kikuyus, like Adam and Eve, by the sweat of their brows, learned long ago to coax a living from the soil.

~ from Ethnic Cleansing and Human Evolution ~

"The Road of Excess leading to the Palace of Wisdom" - Immaculate souls rising from depravity

Sudarshan Faakir, the renowned Jalandhar-born poet-lyricist who died recently, was known for his biting wit and immaculate personal integrity, which nevertheless was mixed up with a seemingly limitless zeal for 'bottle-worship'.

The poet who lent words to the great lords and ladies of ghazal such as Begum Akhtar, Mohammad Rafi and Jagjit Singh, once advised a venerable Shaikh “to imbibe but a few drops/ for one had to first know what's good and bad only then could one teach”... He ends the refrain with a plea: “Listen to the heart and keep the cups flowing.”


That paradoxical brand of 'spirituality' is also reflected by Chinese Taoists known as 'Eight Immortals of the Wine Cup' led by the legendary poet Li Bai. Known for his striking Taoist imagery, Li Bai once confessed, “When I am drunk, I lose Heaven and Earth / Motionless, I cleave to my lonely bed. / At last I forget I exist at all, / and at that moment my joy is great indeed.”

[ ... ]

Such ecstatic epiphany is also encountered in the writings of the so-called Left-handed Masters of Siddha Tradition. But appearances can be deceptive. The vamachara practices contain what William Blake once described as “the Road of Excess leading to the Palace of Wisdom”...

~ from Finding purity through impurity ~

'Demarcation between spiritualism and religiosity'

It is time for us to realise and draw the omnipresent distinction between what is spiritual and what is religious. The two terms are almost synonymous, each bearing a striking resemblance to the other, though the dependency of the former over the latter stands in stark contrast to the obverse equation. Only if this consciousness dawns upon us will we be able to become spiritual though not necessarily religious. This is because spiritualism is the movement for the revival of the spirit, consciousness, the inner self and for the mutation of ills and aliments. Though religion essentially carries similar connotations, these days, the distorted picture we are presented with is truly presentable only to convince the external and not to affect the internal.

[ ... ]

Spiritual adoption does not imply the intake of blessed food or a reference to yogis, preachers, hymns or thorough readings of religious scriptures. On the contrary, spirituality adopts you, by setting you free and allowing the spirit to expand; in short, being yourself and being happy the way you are.
 
Wait a while before becoming a hippy though, because here is where the interdependency between spirituality and religion creeps in. Much as spirituality is about letting your self free, it is religion that restricts you to human confines, disallowing addictive intake for an infinite experience.

~ full article ~

Osama bin Laden's "Second Life"

From Salon:

Lately there has been some rather bizarre hype about the potential threat from terrorists in cyberspace. Security specialists have been expressing increasing concern about the potential for mischief with Web 2.0. In particular, during the past six months a spate of newspaper articles have been citing security expertsalleged danger that terrorists will use virtual worlds for nefarious purposes. Groups such as the U.S. government's Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity say they fear that terrorists -- using virtual personas called "avatars" -- will recruit new members online, transfer funds in ways that cannot be traced, and may engage in training exercises that are useful for real-world terrorist operations. They point to existing "terrorist groups" operating on virtual reality sites as an ominous sign. about the

Granted, militant jihadists have long used the Internet as a propaganda tool; recently, Osama bin Laden's No. 2 man, Ayman al-Zawahiri, was even planning an online advice column for followers of al-Qaida worldwide. But what's the real game here?


~ read on... ~

‘Oil Fund’ managers set to lose bonuses

The Norwegian "Oil Fund" investment managers are having their bonuses taken away after losing billions of kroner in interest-rate market speculation.

A team of six investment managers who logged up huge losses in the interest-rate market last year are looking at much lower salaries this year, according to Norwegian business daily Dagens Næringsliv.

The managers of the huge government pension fund who were responsible for the biggest losses will also be deprived of their investment responsibilities, said the newspaper.

The average salary per investment manager last year, including bonuses, came to NOK 1.6m (USD 309,000). But 2007 was a "bad year".

Meanwhile, the Oil Fund's new boss, Yngve Slyngstad, makes a salary of NOK 5.7m, more than the Norwegian Central Bank boss, the Finance Minister and the Prime Minister earn in total, writes newswire E24.

This is also nearly double the salary of his predecessor, Knut Kjær, according to the Oil Fund's annual report.

However, commentators have pointed out that Slyngstad is responsible for a record-high amount of money and could earn at least as much if he were to work in the private investment sector.

~ link ~

Security agency warns of rising radicalism in Norway

Norway's state police agency in charge of national security (Politiets sikkerhets tjeneste, PST) reported Tuesday that Islamic extremism "will represent a considerable challenge" for Norway in coming years, and that it sees "indications of rising radicalism" both inside and outside the country.

Norway's contribution to NATO forces in Afghanistan is the main reason Norway is now viewed as a "legitimate target" of Islamic extremists, the PST claimed in its latest terrorism evaluation.

[ ... ]


The PST said it also was focusing on persons tied to both right-wing and left-wing extremist groups and animal rights activists. The number of persons tied to such groups was said to be "stable." The number of registered threats against Norwegian officials, though, has increased during the past three years

~ more... ~

Global warming, or the Ice Age cometh?

A few weeks back I noted in my column that when times get tough, Americans will stop worrying about whether polar bears have enough ice and start asking whether those white, furry critters are edible.

[ ... ]

The squirming may commence sooner than later.  Apparently Mother Nature hasn't been influenced by the “we're-all-going-to-fry” doomsayers.  According to a column published this week in Canada's National Post:

    * Snow cover over North America, much of Siberia, Mongolia and China is greater than at any time since 1966;
    * The average temperature in January was -0.3 F cooler than the 1901-2000 (20th century) average;
    * China is surviving its most brutal winter in a century;
    * The Artic Sea ice that had melted to its lowest levels on record . . . is back and, according to the Canadian Ice Service, “is actually 10 to 20 cm thicker in many places than at this time last year;”
    * Respected scientists from Canada and Russia are now predicting a long period of severely cold weather if sunspot activity does not pick up soon.

The author of the National Post column, Lorne Gunter, noted, “It would be premature to claim an Ice Age is looming just because we have had one of our most brutal winters in decades.  But if environmentalists and environmental reporters can run around shrieking about the manmade destruction of the natural order every time a robin shows up on Georgian Bay two weeks early, then it is at least fair game to use this winter's weather stories to wonder whether the alarmists are being a tad premature.”

~ from A Total Crock of Doo-Doo! ~



LAST month Australians endured our coldest June since 1950. Imagine that; all those trillions of tonnes of evil carbon we've horked up into the atmosphere over six decades of rampant industrialisation, and we're still getting the same icy weather we got during the Cold War.

[ ... ]

Other defining features of British life - screaming, inaccurate nonsense from the Guardian, for example - will never be farewelled. Cue wet Wimbledon, the coldest day for Test match cricket (7.4C) in English history, and this BBC online headline: "Where has the UK's summer gone?"

Maybe it migrated to Australia, like Augustus Owsley Stanley III, the American LSD enthusiast and manufacturer.

Possibly influenced by his product, Owsley moved to outback Queensland about twenty years ago, reportedly convinced that imminent global warming would cause - in the tradition of warm meaning cold - the whole Northern Hemisphere to be covered with ice.

~ from Fear of a global 'coldening' ~

'Rushkoff's algorithm'

"Like the participants of failed cultural eras before our own, we have embraced the new technologies and literacies of our age without actually learning how they work and work on us," claims writer and media theorist Douglas Rushkoff, in a recent email. He continues:

The 22-letter alphabet did not lead to a society of literate Israelite readers, but a society of hearers, who would gather to hear the Torah scroll read to them by a priest. The printing press and television set did not lead to a society of writers and producers, but one of readers and viewers, who were free to enjoy their own perspective on the creations of an elite with access to the new tools of production. And the computer has not led to a society of programmers, but one of bloggers -- free to write whatever we please, but utterly unaware of the underlying biases of the interfaces and windows that have been programmed for us.

I'd dropped a line to Rushkoff to ask him to explain the following algorithm, titled "Social Control as a Function of Media," which he contributed recently to a special exhibition (on "Formulae for the 21st Century") at the Serpentine Gallery in the UK. (The question was asked by the same folks who brought us recent books in which bleeding-edge thinkers answer questions like, "What Is Your Dangerous Idea?")

~ read on... ~

The forgotten belief: Secularism

What scheme of thought did soar in the 20th century? Although Shah and Toft cite the WCE when it appears to aid their thesis, they seem to have missed key passages near the beginning of the work. The evangelical authors of the WCE lament that no Christian "in 1900 expected the massive defections from Christianity that subsequently took place in Western Europe due to secularism…. and in the Americas due to materialism…. The number of nonreligionists….  throughout the 20th century has skyrocketed from 3.2 million in 1900, to 697 million in 1970, and on to 918 million in AD 2000…. Equally startling has been the meteoritic growth of secularism…. Two immense quasi-religious systems have emerged at the expense of the world's religions: agnosticism…. and atheism…. From a miniscule presence in 1900, a mere 0.2% of the globe, these systems…. are today expanding at the extraordinary rate of 8.5 million new converts each year, and are likely to reach one billion adherents soon. A large percentage of their members are the children, grandchildren or the great-great-grandchildren of persons who in their lifetimes were practicing Christians" (italics added). (The WCE probably understates today's nonreligious. They have Christians constituting 68-94% of nations where surveys indicate that a quarter to half or more are not religious, and they may overestimate Chinese Christians by a factor of two. In that case the nonreligious probably soared past the billion mark already, and the three great faiths total 64% at most.)

Far from providing unambiguous evidence of the rise of faith, the devout compliers of the WCE document what they characterize as the spectacular ballooning of secularism by a few hundred-fold! It has no historical match. It dwarfs the widely heralded Mormon climb to 12 million during the same time, even the growth within Protestantism of Pentecostals from nearly nothing to half a billion does not equal it.

Yet Longman, and especially Shah and Toft, left readers with the impression that Christianity, Islam and Hinduism are each regaining the international initiative against secularism.

~ from Why the gods are not winning ~


When a nation loses its symbol

Korea is an old civilization with epochs of great cultural achievement. But like its neighbor, Japan - another old civilization with great cultural feats by world standards - Korea has long harbored a collective inferiority complex vis-a-vis America and Europe. The Korean propensity to nestle in the collective myth of cultural uniqueness, racial purity and ultimate antiquity is matched only by the preponderance of such impulses on the part of the Japanese.

Hence, the Korean trauma of helplessly bearing witness to an historic national monument burn down to ashes cuts deeper than, say, Parisians witnessing the Eiffel Tower collapse, or Bostonians watching Faneuil Hall burn to the ground. Beneath the pain and fury that the Koreans feel flows a visceral psychological hurt, shaped in part by pride in their old history and in part by an abiding discomfort in having played in recent memory, and in having to go on playing still today, the catch-up game with America and Europe. That some 350 firefighters over the course of nearly five hours could not extinguish a fire inside a wooden structure is considered by many South Koreans as national humiliation of the first order.

Korean - and, as an extension - East Asian attachment to antiquity stands in vast contrast to the future-oriented mentality of Americans. Americans are unencumbered by their youth as a republic or even civilization. One rather obvious reason is that the United States is just barely over 230 years old, while the Chinese civilization is - if not in point of antiquity then certainly in point of continuity - the oldest civilization in the world. Perhaps world hegemony is a most effective cure for collective neurosis, but the forward-looking mentality of Americans was apparent even in the 19th century when the young American republic was at best only a second-rate power.

China may not harbor such acute self-doubt as Korea or Japan when it comes to historical seniority and superiority, because China is indeed the oldest and for much of human history was the world's leader in wealth and technology. On the other hand, or perhaps precisely because of China's once glorious past, the Chinese, too, are particularly sensitive when it comes to protecting their cultural relics and works of art.

[ ... ]

The US government and the American people would never support an exhibition abroad of say, the Declaration Independence. Nonetheless, they were still unable to understand the emotional attachment to centuries-old art on the part of the Taiwanese. The signed copy of the Declaration of Independence preserved in the National Archive in Washington, DC, was sealed in 1951 in a bullet-proof glass encasement with humidified helium to block out oxygen and a filter to screen out light. In recent years, new and improved encasement designs made from pure titanium filled with inert argon have replaced the older ones. Americans, too, care for their national treasure, except that Americans simply do not have centuries-old art or monument to make a fetish of.

In many ways, art and cultural relics in China, Japan, and Korea embody the spirit of independence and national pride contained in the American Declaration of Independence. Namdaemun for many South Koreans was just that - the spirit of the Korean people and the Korean republic. It was certainly something to dote on - a beloved icon that came close to a national fetish.

~  from A blow to the Korean soul ~

International Congress of Ethnobiology: Cusco, June 2008

http://www.icecusco.net

11th International Congress of Ethnobiology
Cusco, Peru 25-30 June 2008

Livelihoods and Collective Biocultural Heritage

The 11th International Congress of Ethnobiology will be held in the context of the United Nation's International Year of the Potato, a Peruvian native crop which epitomizes the close links between cultural and biological diversity in the Andes. The aim of this Congress is to stimulate awareness, discussion and debate on the state of knowledge and practice around biological and cultural diversity by providing a forum to share information and examples from a variety of regional and national settings.

~ from Colonos ~



Reeling in Venezuela

Looks like fun and games time is over and the empire is getting restless. Used to be countries had to be 'pacified'. Now 'hard measures' such as regime change and bombing countries silly may be excused in the interest of 'fighting terror' (I suppose the joke of fighting terror with greater terror is lost on them who are embroiled in this noble cause). Case in point...

Our next regime-change project

Does Dubya have time to get rid of Hugo Chavez before he leaves office? Probably not -- but never fear! Both Dem candidates seem okay with the Bush policy toward Venezuela. After Colombia's recent cross-border incursion into Ecuador and Chavez' saber-rattling reaction, Obama issued a vague anti-terrorism statement, and Hillary sided strongly with our client state Colombia, while calling Chavez the provocateur. See http://www.commondreams.org/archive/2008/03/06/7520.

Underscoring this is an 'impartial' opinion from the people we can trust at the Latin American oil and gas industry's Petroleum World:

The Corrupcion of Democracy in Venezuela

Under Pres. Hugo Chavez's regime the last nine years, corruption has
reached heights undreamed of by even the greediest of despots, as the
people of Venezuela have been fleeced out of billions of dollars.


HUGO CHAVEZ was elected president of Venezuela in December 1998 on the strength of three main promises: convening a Constituent Assembly to write a new constitution and improve the state, fighting poverty and social exclusion, and eliminating corruption. Nine years later, it has become evident that the Constituent Assembly primarily was a vehicle to destroy all existing political institutions and replace them with a bureaucracy beholden to his wishes. Poverty and social exclusion remainas prominent as before, while the levels of government corruption are higher than ever.

Today, the nation is locked in an intense struggle between the defenders of democracy and a president intent on becoming a dictator bfor life. Chavez's latest attempt to push a constitutional reform that would have allowed him unlimited opportunities for reelection was defeated by a margin that official figures put at two points, but independent analysts place at five to 10 points. In negotiating the narrower margin with a National Electoral Council largely under his control, Chavez managed to appear magnanimous in defeat, but he is not a democrat, and he will keep trying to become president for life in any way he can...

Which in translation means they who remove him from power will be doing Venezuelans a big favor. Right...


Hillary's Irish peace claim "silly" says Nobel Peace Prize winner

Hillary Clinton had no direct role in bringing peace to Northern Ireland and is a "wee bit silly" for exaggerating the part she played, according to Lord Trimble of Lisnagarvey, the Nobel Peace Prize winner and former First Minister of the province.

Hillary Clinton with the Rev Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness after their meeting in Washington last year "I don't know there was much she did apart from accompanying Bill [Clinton] going around," he said. Her recent statements about being deeply involved were merely "the sort of thing people put in their canvassing leaflets" during elections. "She visited when things were happening, saw what was going on, she can certainly say it was part of her experience. I don't want to rain on the thing for her but being a cheerleader for something is slightly different from being a principal player."

Mrs Clinton has made Northern Ireland key to her claims of having extensive foreign policy experience, which helped her defeat Barack Obama in Ohio and Texas on Tuesday after she presented herself as being ready to tackle foreign policy crises at 3am.

"I helped to bring peace to Northern Ireland," she told CNN on Wednesday. But negotiators from the parties that helped broker the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 told The Daily Telegraph that her role was peripheral and that she played no part in the gruelling political talks over the years.

[ ... ]

There is no record of a meeting at Belfast City Hall, though Mrs Clinton attended a ceremony there when her husband turned on the Christmas tree lights in November 1995. The former First Lady appears to be referring a 50-minute event the same day, arranged by the US Consulate, the same day at the Lamp Lighter Café on the city's Ormeau Road.

The "Belfast Telegraph" reported the next day that the café meeting was crammed with reporters, cameramen and Secret Service agents. Conversation "seemed a little bit stilted, a little prepared at times" and Mrs Clinton admired a stainless steel tea pot, which was duly given to her, for keeping the brew "so nice and hot".

~ Full article ~

The (Unfolding Secret Banker Conspiracy) Plan Revealed?

Interesting proposition. The wise will keep an open mind but take with a pinch of salt...

...When enough of the Third World nations sign the agreement, saying they are not going to repay the loans they received from the holding company, the international bankers can declare the holding company insolvent. (This is where it becomes apparent why the money was put in holding companies instead of in banks. The holding companies were designed to go bankrupt.! Chase Manhattan or Chemical Bank would not have to be sacrificed since there were not responsible for the loans.)

Once the holding company is declared bankrupt, they can legally avoid payment to the Arab nations. The international bankers will say, "Sorry, Arabs. We lost your money. You are broke!" When the Arab nations realize that all their money is gone, they will immediately liquidate all of their other assets. They will dump billions and billions of stocks and Wall Street will collapse. They will put all of their farmland and real estate on the market and land values will plummet. Farmers will have no collateral to borrow against to plant next year's crops and food will become scarce in the grocery stores.

The effect this will have on the American economy will be chaotic. This catastrophic collapse has been purposely designed to throw the American people into a state of confusion. Then the benevolent bankers will step forward saying, "Look what these dirty Arabs have done to you!" and offer a solution to our problems.

Their solution will be to abolish our currency and institute a new form of money. Each person then would be issued a government ID number and would need a debit card to do any business transactions.

Perhaps the biggest shock in May's story is that the "Star Wars" system is only 40% concerned with defense and 60% concerned with banking! These "Star Wars" satellites would link the debit system to a central computer base - a super bank. Transfer of funds between accounts would be instantaneous and the internal bankers would finally have complete financial control. May says the debate over "Star Wars" is all show because the satellites are already in place!...

~ from New World Order - 13 Families Effectively Control The Central Banks ~

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