Monday, September 27, 2010

How to ask awkward questions and annoy people

Angus Kennedy reviews Bettany Hughes' 'The Hemlock Cup':

Diogenes Laertius, in his Lives of the Philosophers, tells us that Socrates, unsatisfied with the natural philosophy of his day, 'began to enter upon moral speculations, both in his workshop and in the marketplace'. He devoted his life to investigating what it was for a man to live well or badly.

Socrates' relentless questioning of received moral wisdom and authority, his struggle to apprehend real existence in consciousness, would make him many enemies. Laertius goes on to tell us that 'very often, while arguing and discussing points that arose, he was treated with great violence and beaten, and pulled about, and laughed at and ridiculed by the multitude'. The great Athenian comedian Aristophanes ridiculed Socrates in his Clouds as 'an artful fellow, a blusterer, a villain, a knave with one hundred faces, cunning, intolerable, a gluttonous dog'. In Plato's Meno, Socrates offends a man called Anytus by suggesting that even great men such as Themistocles and Thucydides were not capable of teaching their sons to be good. Anytus warns him to be careful, that he is 'too ready to speak evil of men'. It was Anytus who brought the prosecution against Socrates in 399 BC, on charges of impiety and corrupting the youth, which led to Socrates' execution.

Was Socrates really so intolerable? Intolerant of Athenian democracy's belief that the many had the wisdom to judge, was he a threat to democracy itself? Was he guilty of asking too many questions? The debate about Socrates has raged continuously since his death. The birthplace of democracy, famed for introducing freedom of speech and equality before the law, had executed one of the first philosophers for the crime, essentially, of holding certain beliefs and for trying to educate his fellow citizens in morality. IF Stone argues in his 1988 classic, The Trial of Socrates, that he martyred himself to make his opposition to Athenian democracy immortal. But that implies that we should see Socrates as a hero of free speech at the expense of the ideal of democracy. So was Athens just a sham, a democracy in name only, a xenophobic and sexist system resting its leisured elbows on the broken backs of slave labourers, as many now claim?

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The Confessions of Robert Crumb




RCrumb-PhilipKDick.MOV


This is an annamatic testing the concept of video comics. It was done in the mid nineties and is incomplete.

On the Secret Committee to Save the Euro, a Dangerous Divide

Two months after Lehman Brothers collapsed in the fall of 2008, a small group of European leaders set up a secret task force—one so secret that they dubbed it "the group that doesn't exist."

Its mission: Devise a plan to head off a default by a country in the 16-nation euro zone.

When Greece ran into trouble a year later, the conclave, whose existence has never before been reported, had yet to agree on a strategy. In a prelude to a cantankerous public debate that would later delay Europe's response to the euro-zone debt crisis until the eleventh hour, the task force struggled to surmount broad disagreement over whether and how the euro zone should rescue one of its own. It never found the answer.

A Wall Street Journal investigation, based on dozens of interviews with officials from around the EU, reveals that the divisions that bedeviled the task force pushed the currency union perilously close to collapse. In early May, just hours before Germany and France broke their stalemate and agreed to endorse a trillion-dollar fund to rescue troubled euro-zone members, French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde told her delegation the euro zone was on the verge of breaking apart, according to people familiar with the matter.

The euro zone's near death had stakes for people around the world. A wave of government defaults on Europe's periphery could have triggered a new crisis in the international banking system, with even worse consequences for the global economy than the failure of Lehman.

The dangerous dithering was driven by ideological divisions that continue to paralyze the currency union's search for solutions to its structural flaws. Deep differences on economic policy between Europe's frugal north and laxer south, between Germany and France, and between national governments and central EU institutions hindered an effective early response to the crisis. Only when faced with calamity—the collapse of the euro zone—did leaders put aside their differences and reach a compromise.

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'The Lonely Crowd,' at 60, Is Still Timely

For many Chronicle readers, the most relevant work of David Riesman may be the milestone book he wrote with Christopher Jencks, The Academic Revolution (Doubleday, 1968), on America's dual trends toward mass higher education and elitist meritocracy. But the book that put him on a Time cover was The Lonely Crowd: A Study of the Changing American Character, with Nathan Glazer and Reuel Denney, published by Yale University Press in 1950, 60 years ago this October. (Riesman died in 2002, Denney in 1995.)

The Lonely Crowd was part of a stream of writing on tendencies in American "social character" that flourished between the 1940s and 1980s, peaking in the 50s and early 60s. It described a shift in the way Americans followed society's prescriptions, from a 19th-century "inner-direction"—behavior internalized at an early age from parents and other elders—to a mid-20th-century "other-direction," flexibly responsive to "peer groups" and the media. Key metaphors were the "gyroscope" of inner-direction versus the "radar" of other-direction. (During World War II, Riesman had been a lawyer for Sperry Gyroscope, makers of gyroscopic bombsights.) Inner-direction provided moral stability in a rapidly developing society. Unlike "tradition-directed" people, dependent on external rules in older, more static societies, inner-directed people could carry their precepts anywhere. But other-direction was more suited to a bureaucratic age of sales, services, and "human relations."

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Workers abandoned by US employer want to run firm

Workers abandoned by their American employer, Filipino workers of a dental outsourcing facility in Manila plan to run the facility on their own, Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said Sunday.

Baldoz said workers of Skytech International Dental Laboratories Inc. wanted to resume operations of the facility through their cooperative after their employer, Laurence K. Fishman, left with unpaid debts.

“The 350-strong workers of the company have expressed the desire to resume the operations of the company through the workers' cooperative which is duly registered with the Cooperative Development Authority,” she said in a statement.

According to Raymundo Agravante, labor
director for Metro Manila, the workers, through its representative Darwin Landicho, erstwhile Skytech human resource manager, said they intended to operate the company with an initial staff of at least 10 percent of its dental technicians.

“We will initially cater to local orders. In three to four weeks, we might accept orders from abroad,” Landicho said.

The workers' desire got a boost when the company's vice president, Wilma Redler, an American, informed the workers that an investor, Canada-based Frontier Corp., is very much interested in doing business with them.

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'We misunderstand cancer by making it a noun'

From EDGE MASTER CLASS 2010: CANCERING - Listening In On The Body's Proteomic Conversation with W. Daniel Hillis:

"Instead of saying, 'My house has water', w' say, 'My plumbing is leaking.' Instead of saying, 'I have cance[r]'", we should say, "I am cancering.' The truth of the matter is we're probably cancering all the time, and our body is checking it in various ways, so we're not cancering out of control. Probably every house has a few leaky faucets, but it doesn't matter much because there are processes that are mitigating that by draining the leaks. Cancer is probably something like that.

"In order to understand what's actually going on, we have to look at the level of the things that are actually happening, and that level is proteomics. Now that we can actually measure that conversation between the parts, we're going to start building up a model that's a cause-and-effect model: This signal causes this to happen, that causes that to happen. Maybe we will not understand to the level of the molecular mechanism but we can have a kind of cause-and-effect picture of the process. More like we do in sociology or economics."

Last year's Edge Master Class in Los Angeles featured George Church and Craig Venter lecturing on Synthetic Genomics. Hillis points out that the genome is used to construct things, and that it's not the best place for analysis of what's going on. "Certainly," he says, "there are times it is useful, but I don't think that's where most of the information is.

If you think in terms of computer models, think of proteomics as a debugging tool for genomics programs. "When you write a computer program, the first thing you do is you try to run it, and it almost always has a bug in it, so you see what happens, and you debug it, you stop it in the middle of running, and you see what the state of the system is, and you understand what your bug is, and then you change the program. The proteome is the state".

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Vatican bank under investigation



Italian police freeze funds over alleged violations of EU money-laundering rules.

Univocalism in D



A poem which uses no other consonant than "D".

~ via Joel Stickley ~

'Sight is used to strike the imagination. Thirteenth experiment that proves the effect of sight.'

From Testing the Claims of Mesmerism - The First Scientific Investigation of the Paranormal Ever Conducted, with an introduction by Michael Shermer:

This power that sight has over the imagination explains the effects that the doctrine of magnetism attributes to it. It is preeminently sight that has the power to magnetize; signs & gestures employed are ordinarily useless, the Commissioners were told, unless the subject has already been taken hold of by being glanced upon. The reason is simple; it is in the eyes where the most expressive traits of the passions are, & it is there that all that is most important & most seductive in character is unfolded. Therefore, the eyes must have a great power over us; but they have this power because they stir the imagination, & in a manner more or less exaggerated according to the strength of that imagination. It is therefore sight that gets all the work of magnetism underway; & the effect is so powerful, its origins so deep, that a woman newly arrived at M. Deslon's, coming out of a crisis & meeting the gaze of the disciple of Deslon who magnetized her, stared at him for three quarters of an hour. For a long time she was hounded by this look; she kept seeing before her that same eye intent on watching her; & she constantly carried it in her imagination for three days, whether asleep or awake. One sees all that can be produced by an imagination able to preserve the same impression for such a long time, the same impression, that is to say, able to revive by its own power the same feeling for three days.

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CIA seeks to gag critics of terror hit list

The Obama Administration is trying to use national security laws to pre-empt an embarrassing court case over its targeted assassinations of terror suspects.

In papers filed over the weekend Leon Panetta, the head of the CIA, argued that American security would be breached if the lawsuit was heard in court.

"This case cannot be litigated without risking or requiring the disclosure of classified and privileged intelligence information that must not be disclosed," he wrote.

Mr Panetta was responding to a lawsuit brought against the Government by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Centre for Constitutional Rights on behalf of Anwar al-Awlaki, a dual US-Yemeni citizen. His name was added to the counter-terrorism "kill list" after his alleged involvement in the failed Christmas Day airline bombing last year.

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Pentagon destroyed 10,000 copies of army officer's book

The Pentagon has admitted buying up and destroying 10,000 copies of an insider's account of life in Afghanistan by an army intelligence officer.

It said that the book, Operation Dark Heart by Lt Col Anthony Shaffer, threatened to divulge state secrets.

Lt Col Shaffer, a bronze star recipient, said he had no intention of jeopardising American lives or damaging national security.

"The whole premise smacks of retaliation," he told CNN. "Someone buying 10,000 books to suppress a story in this digital age is ludicrous."

The book was cleared for publication by his superiors at the US army reserve command despite being critical of strategy in Afghanistan.

But shortly before it was due to leave the warehouse, the Pentagon's intelligence unit raised concerns.

The author has said he has fallen victim to an increased sensitivity about inside information following the release by the Wikileaks website of thousands of military documents detailing the conduct of the war, and the resignation of Gen Stanley McChrystal as US commander in Afghanistan because of disparaging comments about the Barack Obama administration made by his aides to a magazine.

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It Is Official: The US Is A Police State

By Paul Craig Roberts, Information Clearing House

On September 24, Jason Ditz reported on Antiwar.com that “the FBI is confirming that this morning they began a number of raids against the homes of antiwar activists in Illinois, Minneapolis, Michigan, and North Carolina, claiming that they are 'seeking evidence relating to activities concerning the material support of terrorism.'”

Now we know what Homeland Security (sic) secretary Janet Napolitano meant when she said on September 10: “The old view that 'if we fight the terrorists abroad, we won't have to fight them here' is just that--the old view.” The new view, Napolitano said, is “to counter violent extremism right here at home.”

“Violent extremism” is one of those undefined police state terms that will mean whatever the government wants it to mean. In this morning's FBI's foray into the homes of American citizens of conscience, it means antiwar activists, whose activities are equated with “the material support of terrorism,” just as conservatives equated Vietnam era anti-war protesters with giving material support to communism.

Anti-war activist Mick Kelly whose home was raided, sees the FBI raids as harassment to intimidate those who organize war protests. I wonder if Kelly is under-estimating the threat. The FBI's own words clearly indicate that the federal police agency and the judges who signed the warrants do not regard antiwar protesters as Americans exercising their Constitutional rights, but as unpatriotic elements offering material support to terrorism.

“Material support” is another of those undefined police state terms. In this context the term means that Americans who fail to believe their government's lies and instead protest its policies, are supporting their government's declared enemies and, thus, are not exercising their civil liberties but committing treason.

~ more.. ~

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