Thursday, November 27, 2008

The FBI, National Geospatial-Intelligence & NORTHCOM: My Honor Is Loyalty, My Freedom Is Nihil...

The American Civil Liberties Union recently came across a revealing RNC Homeland Security Document. This official document was uncovered by the website Wikileaks, which according to its website "We help you safely get the truth out". This document outlines the planning leading up to the Republican National Convention and how security forces would be working together during the RNC. Many federal, state and local organizations were mentioned in this document, a number of which the ACLU did not know were involved.

A number of these agencies are military based, which may directly conflict with Federal law that prohibits the military from engaging in domestic intelligence gathering.

The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), is one of the organizations that is mentioned in the report that is particular cause for concern. NGA provides mapping tools and imagery intelligence that are obtained from the United State's military spy satellites which are controlled by the National Reconnaissance Office. In other words during the RNC, these top spying tools could have been utilized to gather intelligence on the homes of activists and media workers who were a part of the demonstrations. That information could have then been relayed to local officials.

A second agency that was involved in the planning is the Pentagon's Northern Command, NORTHCOM. Having NORTHCOM at the table, assisting in the planning is troubling because it could mean that the military was involved in the crowd control strategies and dealing with potential civil unrest. According to a report in Army Times, it said that an active military unit has been deployed by NORTHCOM in the United States. This deployment marks the first time an active unit has been given a dedicated assignment within U.S. Borders.

Furthermore it appears that the FBI may have been using a station faking technology that would allow them to locate an individual through their cell phone. The ACLU is concerned with how this technology is used and if there was proper judicial oversight. In the USA Patriot ACT, this process for obtaining a track was made easier, and could allow for little to no judicial oversight. This tracking via cell phones could have been used during the RNC without the knowledge of even the phone companies.

"These behaviors are a radical departure from separation of civilian law enforcement and military authority, and could, quite possibly, represent a violation of law," said Teresa Nelson, ACLU of Minnesota. The ACLU-MN will continue to investigate and will use their findings in future lawsuits against law enforcement officials.

Special Event Planning 2008 Republican National Convention: "Homeland Security & Emergency Management"

- American Civil Liberties Union ("Revealing RNC Document Leaked", ACLU of Minnesota, 11.21.2008. Image: Nazi Waffen-SS Propaganda Poster, 1940s).

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Dark Matters: Colliding & Annihilating In Space...

"Is this the dark side speaking?

A concatenation of puzzling results from an alphabet soup of satellites and experiments has led a growing number of astronomers and physicists to suspect that they are getting signals from a shadow universe of dark matter that makes up a quarter of creation but has eluded direct detection until now. Maybe...

“Nobody really knows what’s going on,” said Gordon Kane, a theorist at the University of Michigan. Physicists caution that there could still be a relatively simple astronomical explanation for the recent observations. But the nature of this dark matter is one of the burning issues of science. Identifying it would point the way to a deeper understanding of the laws of nature and the Einsteinian dream of a unified theory of physics.

The last few weeks have seen a blizzard of papers trying to explain the observations in terms of things like “minimal dark matter” or “exciting dark matter,” or “hidden valley” theory, and to suggest how to look for them in particle accelerators like the Large Hadron Collider, set to begin operation again outside Geneva next summer. “It could be deliriously exciting, an incredibly cool story,” said Nima Arkani-Hamed of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J., who has been churning out papers with his colleagues. “Anomalies in the sky tell you what to look for in the collider.”

On Thursday, a team of astrophysicists working on one of the experiments reported in the journal Nature that a cosmic ray detector onboard a balloon flying around the South Pole had recorded an excess number of high-energy electrons and their antimatter opposites, positrons, sailing through local space. The particles, they conceded, could have been created by a previously undiscovered pulsar, the magnetized spinning remnant of a supernova explosion, blasting nearby space with electric and magnetic fields. But, they say, a better and more enticing explanation for the excess is that the particles are being spit out of the fireballs created by dark matter particles colliding and annihilating one another in space.

“We cannot disprove that the signal could come from an astrophysical object. We also cannot eliminate a dark matter annihilation explanation based upon current data,” said John P. Wefel of Louisiana State University, the leader of the team, adding, “Whichever way it goes, for us it is exciting.”

The results came on the heels of a report earlier this fall from Pamela, a satellite built by Italian, German, Russian and Swedish scientists to study cosmic rays. Pamela scientists reported in talks and a paper posted on the Internet that the satellite had recorded an excess of high-energy positrons. This, they said, “may constitute the first indirect evidence of dark matter particle annihilations,” or a nearby pulsar.

Antimatter is rare in the universe, and so looking for it is a good way of hunting for exotic phenomena like dark matter. Another indication that something funny is happening on the dark side of the universe is evident in maps of the cosmic background radiation left over from the Big Bang. Those maps, produced most recently this year by the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe satellite, show a haze of what seem to be charged particles hovering around the Milky Way galaxy, according to an analysis by Douglas Finkbeiner of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

Adding to the mix and mystery, the European Space Agency’s Integral satellite detected gamma rays emanating from the center of the Milky Way, suggesting the presence of positrons there, but with much lower energies than Pamela and Dr. Wefel’s experiments have seen. What all this adds up to, or indeed whether it all adds up to anything at all, depends on which observations you trust and your theoretical presumptions about particle physics and the nature of dark matter. Moreover, efforts to calculate the background level of high-energy particles in the galaxy are beset with messy uncertainties. “The dark matter signal is easy to calculate,” Dr. Kane said. “The background is much harder.”

Dark matter has teased and obsessed astronomers since the 1930s, when the Caltech astronomer Fritz Zwicky deduced that some invisible “missing mass” was required to supply the gravitational glue to hold clusters of galaxies together. The idea became respectable in the 1970s when Vera C. Rubin of the Carnegie Institution of Washington and her collaborators found from studying the motions of stars that most galaxies seemed to be surrounded by halos of dark matter.

The stakes for dark matter go beyond cosmology. The most favored candidates for its identity come from a theory called supersymmetry, which unifies three of the four known forces of nature mathematically and posits the existence of a realm of as-yet-undiscovered particles. They would be so-called wimps — weakly interacting massive particles — which feel gravity and little else, and could drift through the Earth like wind through a screen door. Such particles left over from the Big Bang could form a shadow universe clumping together into dark clouds that then attract ordinary matter.

The discovery of a supersymmetric particle would also be a boost for string theory, the controversial “theory of everything,” and would explicate the nature of a quarter of the universe. But until now, the dark matter particles have mostly eluded direct detection in the laboratory, the exception being a controversial underground experiment called Dama/Libra, for Dark Matter/Large Sodium Iodide Bulk for Rare Processes, under the Italian Alps, where scientists claimed in April to have seen a seasonal effect of a “dark matter wind” as the Earth goes around its orbit.

The sky could be a different story. Dark matter particles floating in the halos around galaxies would occasionally collide and annihilate one another in tiny fireballs of radiation and lighter particles.

Dr. Wefel and his colleagues have been chasing sparks in the sky since 2000, when they flew an instrument known as ATIC, for Advanced Thin Ionization Calorimeter, around Antarctica on a balloon at an altitude of 23 miles, looking for high-energy particles known as cosmic rays raining from space.

The Nature paper includes data from the first two balloon flights. It shows a bump, over theoretical calculations of cosmic ray intensities, at energies of 500 billion to 800 billion electron volts, a measure of both energy and mass in physics. One way to explain that energy bump would be by the disintegration or annihilation of a very massive dark particle. A proton by comparison is about one billion electron volts. Dr. Wefel noted, however, that according to most models, a pulsar could generate particles with even more energy, up to trillions of volts, whereas the bump in the ATIC data seems to fall off at around 800 billion electron volts. The ATIC results, he said, dovetail nicely with those from Pamela, which recorded a rising number of positrons relative to electrons, but only up to energies of about 200 billion electron volts.

Reached in China, where he was attending a workshop, Neal Weiner of New York University, who is working with Dr. Arkani-Hamed on dark matter models, said he was plotting ATIC data gleaned from the Web and Pamela data on the same graph to see how they fit, which was apparently very well. But Piergiorgio Picozza, a professor at the University of Rome and the Pamela spokesman, said in an e-mail message that it was too soon to say the experiments agreed. That will depend on more data now being analyzed to learn whether Pamela continues to see more positrons as the energy rises.

Moreover, as Dr. Kane pointed out, Pamela carries a magnet that allows it to distinguish electrons from positrons — being oppositely charged, they bend in opposite directions going through the magnetic field. But the ATIC instrument did not include a magnet and so cannot be sure that it was seeing any positrons at all: no antimatter, no exotic dark matter, at least at those high energies. But if he is right, Dr. Wefel said that the ATIC data favored something even more exotic than supersymmetry, namely a particle that is lost in the fifth dimension. String theory predicts that there are at least six dimensions beyond our simple grasp, wrapped up so tightly we cannot see them or park in them. A particle in one of these dimensions would not appear to us directly. You could think of it as a hamster running around on a wheel in its cage. We cannot see the hamster or the cage, but we can sort of feel the impact of the hamster running; according to Einsteinian relativity, its momentum in the extra dimension would register as mass in our own space-time. Such particles are called Kaluza-Klein particles, after Theodor Kaluza and Oscar Klein, theorists who suggested such an extra-dimensional framework in the 1920s to unify Einstein’s general theory of relativity and electromagnetism.

Dr. Wefel’s particle would have a mass of around 620 billion electron volts. “That’s the one that seems to fit the best,” he said in an interview. The emergence of a sharp edge in the data, he said, “would be a smoking gun” for such a strange particle. But Dr. Arkani-Hamed said that Kaluza-Klein particles would not annihilate one another at a fast enough rate to explain the strength of the ATIC signal, nor other anomalies like the microwave haze. He and his colleagues, including Dr. Weiner, Dr. Finkbeiner and Tracy Slatyer, also of Harvard, drawing on work by Matthew Strassler of Rutgers, have tried to connect all the dots with a new brand of dark matter, in which there are not only dark particles but also a “dark force” between them.

That theory was called “a delightful castle in the sky” by Dr. Kane, who said he was glad it kept Dr. Arkani-Hamed and his colleagues busy and diverted them from competing with him. Dr. Kane and his colleagues favor a 200 billion-electron-volt supersymmetric particle known as a wino as the dark matter culprit, in which case the Pamela bump would not extend to higher energies. Dr. Wefel said he had not kept up with all the theorizing. “I’m just waiting for one of these modelers to say here is the data, here is the model,” he said. “Fit it out. I’m not sure I’ve seen it yet.” Dr. Picozza said that it was the job of theorists to come up with models and that they were proliferating. “At the end of the story only one will be accepted from the scientific community, but now it is too early."

Sorting all this out will take time, but not forever. “With so many experiments, we will soon know so much more about all of this,” Dr. Weiner said. “In a year or two, we’ll either not be talking about this idea at all, or it will be all we’re talking about.”

- Dennis Overbye (A Whisper, Perhaps, From the Universe’s Dark Side, NY Times, 11.25.08. Image: -Loomis Dean, "Shadows Of The Junior Astronomy Club Peering Through A Telescope, Greeley,CO, Life Magazine, 1955 ).

Sunday, November 23, 2008

On November 22nd 1963: The Excessive & Unwarranted Concealment Of Pertinent Facts...

"We decided long ago that the dangers of excessive and unwarranted concealment of pertinent facts far outweighed the dangers which are cited to justify it. There is little value in ensuring the survival of our nation, if our traditions do not survive with it. And there is very grave danger, that an announced need for increased security, will be seized upon by those anxious to expand its meaning to the very limits of official censorship and concealment..."

"We are opposed around the world by a monolithic and ruthless conspiracy that relies primarily on covert means for expanding its sphere of influence, on infiltration instead of invasion, on subversions instead of elections, on intimidation instead of free choice, on guerrillas by night instead of armies by day. It is a system which has conscripted vast human and material resources into the building of a tightly knit, highly efficient machine that combines military diplomatic intelligence economic scientific and political operations. Its preparations are concealed, not published. It mistakes are buried, not headlined. Its dissenters are silenced, not praised. No expenditure is questioned, no rumor is printed, no secret is revealed..."

"I not only could not stifle controversy among your readers--I welcome it. This Administration intends to be candid about its errors; for as a wise man once said: "An error does not become a mistake until you refuse to correct it."

-President John F. Kennedy( Excerpt: "The President and the Press:" Address before the American Newspaper Publishers Association, Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, New York City, 4.27.1961. Image: -Stan Way, "New Yorker's Expression of Shock At News of John F. Kennedy's Assassination in Dallas, Texas," New York City, Life Magazine, 11.22.1963).

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Metamorphosis: Scandal, Ignorance & A Bottomless Pit of Self-Justification...

"Scandal is our growth industry. Revelation of wrongdoing leads not to definitive investigation, punishment, and expiation but to more scandal. Permanent scandal. Frozen scandal. The weapons of mass destruction that turned out not to exist. The torture of detainees who remain forever detained. The firing of prosecutors which is forever investigated. These and other frozen scandals metastasize, ramify, self-replicate, clogging the cable news shows and the blogosphere and the bookstores. The titillating story that never ends, the pundit gabfest that never ceases, the gift that never stops giving: what is indestructible, irresolvable, unexpiatable is too valuable not to be made into a source of profit.

Scandal, unpurged and unresolved, transcends political reality to become commercial fact.

We remember, many of us, a different time. However cynically we look to our political past, it is there that we find our political Eden: Vietnam and its domestic denouement, Watergate—the climax of a different time of scandal that ended a war and brought down a president. In retrospect those events unfold with the clear logic of utopian dream.

1. Revelation: intrepid journalists exposing the gaudy, interlocking crimes of the Nixon administration.

2. Investigation: not just by the press—for that was but precursor, the necessary condition—but by Congress and the courts. Investigation, that is, by the polity, working through its institutions to construct a story of grim truth that citizens can in common accept.

3. Expiation: the handing down of sentences, the politicians in shackles led off to jail, the orgy of public repentance. The exorcism of shame, the purging of the political system, and the return to a state, however imperfect, of societal grace.

It is a myth, of course, but a lovely one. It relies on images of power, the press, and the people that fit our collective longing—for justice, for heroism, and for ultimate goodness residing in a people who, once alerted to wrongdoing, insist on its rectification. The obstacle to this natural self-cleansing of our political life can only be the people's ignorance. For if they know, and the corruption and scandals persist—well, how can the people be good? No, what must be missing then—so the myth implies—is clarity, revelation. What is missing is the gatekeepers of our ignorance whose duty it is to draw the curtain back from scandal and show the people everything, thereby starting the polity on the road to inexorable justice.

Information is all. Information, together with the people's natural sense of the good and the right, leads to expiation and society's inevitable cleansing.

Scandals, the more complicated and richer the plotlines the better, have above all to endure. Scandals provide the fodder for on-air confrontation, the verbal slash and parry—which is what television, a terrible medium for conveying information of any complexity, does best, and does most cheaply. Scandals provide subplots and minor characters and spin-offs. They offer, to the post-Watergate, high-profile, well-coiffed, colleague-of-the-powerful journalist hero of today—could anything be further from the deeply irreverent working stiff cracking wise in Howard Hawks's "His Girl Friday" - the true venue for the highest practice of his art, the television studio.

That art relies on, or anyway thrives on, scandal. Scandal denotes success. Scandal shows he is doing his job. Scandal means pay dirt. And scandal represents that media-age dream, the perpetual story. Scandal can be rehashed, debated, photographed, from initial leak, to perp walk, to hearing, to trial, to appeal.

Scandal offers an endless stream of what the business is after all supposed to be about: news. As in: what is new.

Scandal brings the heart-pumping, breath-gulping surge of stop-the-presses excitement, letting us know that into our fallen world the Gods of Great Events have finally come down from on high to intervene. Scandal represents movement, the audible cracking of the ice. And yet it is all an illusion, for beneath the rapidly moving train of gaudily hyped "breaking news," beneath all the grave and breathless stand-ups before the inevitable pillars of public buildings, beneath the swirling, gyrating phantasmagoria of scandal lies a kind of dystopian stasis.

Everything changes and nothing does.

It is not information, it is politics. If we have learned anything this past decade it is that "the people," that vaunted repository of public good—"the people always find out"—the people are willing and able to live with quite a lot. They read, watch television, grunt a pox on all their houses, and turn back to their dinners. Thanks to the efficiency of our age of scandal we now know as never before what the public is willing to live with. "Now you have shown independence, commendable independence," Barack Obama said to John McCain in the third debate, "on some key issues—torture, for example." Torture has metamorphosed, these past few years, from an execrable war crime to a "key issue." From something forbidden by international treaty and condemned by domestic law to...something to be debated. Something one can stand on either side of.

Something we can live with.

What notes on scandal could be complete without mention of the presiding master-scandal of our age, The War. One uses capitals to denote not a set of discrete events—a set of particular people being cut down or blown apart by particular violent actions at particular times—but a state of mind. Threat becomes not only a political shield but what is in the end much more dangerous: a source of bottomless self-justification. What is dangerous is not only that our leaders have endlessly maintained that they are right but that they believe they are. George Bush, as he declared to the world in a proudly emphatic phrase, had been reborn as a "war president."

George Orwell has long since surveyed this ground, most famously in 1984, in his perpetual war between Eastasia, Eurasia, and Oceania, a never-ending, shape-shifting struggle that, if we judge it by the standards of previous wars, is merely an imposture. It is like the battles between certain ruminant animals whose horns are set at such an angle that they are incapable of hurting one another. But though it is unreal it is not meaningless.... It helps to preserve the special mental atmosphere that a hierarchical society needs.

How will history choose to explain a war launched in the cause of ridding the world of weapons of mass destruction that turned out not to exist? It is a tantalizing question. Will the Iraq War take its place as a historical curiosity, alongside the Guano War of the nineteenth century or the Soccer War of the twentieth? And how interested will our descendants be in the response of our democratic polity: the investigations that, like dinosaurs slowly rousing themselves from the mudhole, ever so slowly got under way and then, after years of lumbering effort—hundreds of hours of testimony, thousands of documents examined—finally discovered...What...?

In the end, there was, alas, no "smoking gun."

-Mark Danner (Excerpt: "Frozen Scandal,"NY Review Of Books, Volume 55, Number 19 · 12.4.2008. Image: Poster for "The Pit And The Pendulum," directed by Roger Corman, 1961).

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Old Reality: Lizards, Chimps & A Dozen White Heterosexual Males...


"For the past eight years, conservatives have marched in lockstep to defend the indefensible. Just about everything that President Bush and his administration have done has been endlessly praised, defended and echoed. In fact, in their arrogance, Republicans have described Bush's actions -- to an increasingly skeptical populace -- as creating its own new reality.

I'm thinking of the unnamed Bush official who, in 2005, told reporter Ron Suskind, "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors... and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."

Now that most of America has rejected Bush's version of reality, you have to ask, what were these people thinking?

Was it the lizard brain in action? That's the "Amygdala" , an almond-sized part of the right side of the brain that generates fear and blocks out the logical left side of the brain. When presented with a life-threatening situation, the Amygdala kicks into gear in the classic "flight or fight" mode. Reason becomes impossible and the subconscious looks for any nonverbal cue that communicates safety and security.

Since 9/11, the lizard brain of the white heterosexual male appears to have been in charge of the national psyche. Fear of terrorism, of "the other," of pointy-headed do-gooder liberals out to take your Bibles and guns away, of homosexuals and feminists and black people -- has been steering the ship of state. No questions allowed.

We like to think that this election was a triumph for the reality-based, multicultural community, the people who didn't believe we would be greeted as liberators in Iraq and who suspected that cowboy capitalism...just might not advance the greater good.


"Primatologists have known for some time that organized, lethal violence is common between groups of chimpanzees, our closest relatives. Whether between chimps or hunter-gatherers, however, intergroup violence is nothing like modern pitched battles. Instead, it tends to take the form of brief raids using overwhelming force, so that the aggressors run little risk of injury. "It's not like the Somme," says Richard Wrangham, a primatologist at Harvard University. "You go off, you make a hit, you come back again."This opportunistic violence helps the aggressors weaken rival groups and thus expand their territorial holdings."

What: -Joyce Marcel, "Lizard Brains,", 8.19.2008, Why: -Robert Holmes, "How Warfare Shaped Human Evolution," New Scientist, 11.12.2008. Image: Screenshot -"2001: A Space Odyssey," directed by Stanley Kubrick, 1968).

Saturday, November 15, 2008

On Moral Derangement: The Psychopath Carries Disaster Lightly In Each Hand...

"Psychopaths are as old as Cain, and they are believed to exist in all cultures, although they are more prevalent in individualistic societies in the West. The Yupik Eskimos use the term "kunlangeta" to describe a man who repeatedly lies, cheats, steals, and takes sexual advantage of women, according to a 1976 study by Jane M. Murphy, an anthropologist then at Harvard University. She asked an Eskimo what the group would typically do with a kunlangeta, and he replied, “Somebody would have pushed him off the ice when nobody else was looking.”

The condition was first described clinically in 1801, by the French surgeon Philippe Pinel. He called it “mania without delirium.” In the early nineteenth century, the American surgeon Benjamin Rush wrote about a type of “moral derangement” in which the sufferer was neither delusional nor psychotic but nevertheless engaged in profoundly antisocial behavior, including horrifying acts of violence. Rush noted that the condition appeared early in life.

The term “moral insanity” became popular in the mid-nineteenth century, and was widely used in the U.S. and in England to describe incorrigible criminals. The word “psychopath” (literally, “suffering soul”) was coined in Germany in the eighteen-eighties. By the nineteen-twenties, “constitutional psychopathic inferiority” had become the catchall phrase psychiatrists used for a general mixture of violent and antisocial characteristics found in irredeemable criminals, who appeared to lack a conscience.

In the late nineteen-thirties, an American psychiatrist named Hervey Cleckley began collecting data on a certain kind of patient he encountered in the course of his work in a psychiatric hospital in Augusta, Georgia. These people were from varied social and family backgrounds. Some were poor, but others were sons of Augusta’s most prosperous and respected families. Cleckley set about sharpening the vague construct of constitutional psychopathic inferiority, and distinguishing it from other forms of mental illness. He eventually isolated sixteen traits exhibited by patients he called “primary” psychopaths; these included:

Being charming and intelligent, unreliable, dishonest, irresponsible, self-centered, emotionally shallow, and lacking in empathy and insight.

“Beauty and ugliness, except in a very superficial sense, goodness, evil, love, horror, and humor have no actual meaning, no power to move him,” Cleckley wrote of the psychopath in his 1941 book, “The Mask of Sanity,” which became the foundation of the modern science. The psychopath talks “entertainingly and is “brilliant and charming,” but nonetheless “carries disaster lightly in each hand.” Cleckley emphasized his subjects’ deceptive, predatory nature, writing that the psychopath is capable of “concealing behind a perfect mimicry of normal emotion, fine intelligence, and social responsibility a grossly disabled and irresponsible personality.” This mimicry allows psychopaths to function, and even thrive, in normal society.

Indeed, as Cleckley also argued, the individualistic, winner-take-all aspect of American culture nurtures psychopathy.

The psychiatric profession wanted little to do with psychopathy, for several reasons. For one thing, it was thought to be incurable. Not only did the talking cure fail with psychopaths but several studies suggested that talk therapy made the condition worse, by enabling psychopaths to practice the art of manipulation. There were no valid instruments to measure the personality traits that were commonly associated with the condition; researchers could study only the psychopaths’ behavior, in most cases through their criminal records. Finally, the emphasis in the word “psychopath” on an internal sickness was at odds with liberal mid-century social thought, which tended to look for external causes of social deviancy; “sociopath,” coined in 1930 by the psychologist G. E. Partridge, became the preferred term. In 1958, the American Psychiatric Association used the term “sociopathic personality” to describe the disorder in its "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders." In the 1968 edition, the condition was renamed “general antisocial personality disorder.”

Cleckley’s book fell out of favor, and Cleckley described himself late in life as “a voice crying in the wilderness.” When he died, in 1984, he was remembered mostly for his popular study of multiple-personality disorder, written with Corbett Thigpen, “The Three Faces of Eve.”

One of Kiehl's postdocs, Karla Harenski recently interviewed a Western prison inmate who scored a 38.9. “He had killed his girlfriend because he thought she was cheating on him,” she told me. “He was so charming about telling it that I found it hard not to fall into laughing along in surprise, even when he was describing awful things.” Harenski, who is thirty, did not experience the involuntary skin-crawling sensation that, according to a survey conducted by the psychologists Reid and M. J. Meloy, one in three mental-health and criminal-justice professionals report feeling on interviewing a psychopath; in their paper on the subject, Meloy and Meloy speculate that this reaction may be an ancient intraspecies predator-response system. “I was just excited. I was saying to myself, ‘Wow. I found a real one."

The Hare Psychopathy Checklist:

Robert D. Hare, Ph.D., is considered one of the world's foremost experts in the area of psychopathy and he is the author of the popular book, "Without Conscience." Dr. Hare is a professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia, and has researched psychopathy for more than twenty years. The following is his well-known and implemented Hare Psychopathy Checklist. For each characteristic that is listed, the subject is given a score: 0 for "no," 1 for "somewhat," and 2 for "definitely does apply."

1. Glibness/superficial charm
2. Grandiose sense of self-worth
3. Need for stimulation/proneness to boredom
4. Pathological lying
5. Conning/manipulative
6. Lack of remorse or guilt
7. Shallow affect
8. Callous/lack of empathy
9. Parasitic lifestyle
10. Poor behavioural controls
11. Promiscuous sexual behaviour
12. Early behaviour problems
13. Lack of realistic, long-term plans
14. Impulsivity
15. Irresponsibility
16. Failure to accept responsibility for own actions
17. Many short-term relationships
18. Juvenile delinquency
19. Revocation of conditional release
20. Criminal versatility

Narcissism is also a characteristic.

Sound familiar anyone?

- John Seabrook, (Excerpt: “Suffering Souls,” The New Yorker, 11.10.08. Image: -Jean-Philippe Charbonnier, Paris Psychiatric Hospitals, 1954).

Thursday, November 13, 2008

From Love To Possessions: A World Of Consumption...

Products no longer simply appear in shows – they're becoming important parts of the plot, too. Forget "product placement" – that's so 20th century. Even "product integration" is passé. Advertisers these days want to do far more than just place BMWs, Manolo Blahnik shoes, and other luxury items within reach of favorite TV and movie characters. They want to create entire worlds of consumption.

For instance:

• CW Television Network's "Gossip Girl" features characters whose lifestyles are driven by the Prada bags they want and the La Perla lingerie the highly sexualized characters need.

• Actresses in "Roommates," a MySpace TV Web series, use their characters' online profiles to chat with fans and dish out information about their clothing and other products as well as advice on where to buy them.

These are the heady days of "brand integration" and "immersive" commercial environments. "We are in an increasingly commercialized culture," says David Johnson, CEO of Strategic Vision, who points out that as consumers develop more tools to screen out traditional ads, such as 30-second TV spots, advertisers must get more subtle and innovative. The result? "Less story and more push to consume," he says. This also leads to "more potential for manipulation," says David Howard, a marketing professor at Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University.

The trend is expected to grow. Global ad dollars spent on product placement of all kinds will expand from $3 billion in 2006 to $5.6 billion by 2010, according to PQ Media. A July poll in the trade magazine Ad Age found that 60 percent of TV and movie audiences say they are influenced by product placements.

While audiences are migrating to many new-media gadgets and outlets, such as iPods, video games, and even the displays on gas pumps, advertisers still depend on the content and large audiences that TV delivers. "Television is sooo not dead," says Dennis Ryan, chief creative officer at Element 79, a Chicago-based ad agency. "All that is going on is a diversification of screens."

In the summer, for example, Mr. Ryan's firm created "Ball Girl," a video showing a girl in the audience leaping to her feet to make a spectacular catch at a minor-league baseball game. As she returned to her seat, the camera casually spied a Gatorade bottle next to her. There was no tag line for the online version, which used a news footage style and easily passed as an actual event. After allowing the clip to generate some online buzz, the firm moved it to television, where it picked up a Gatorade tag line, identifying it as a commercial. But this subtle form of messaging can occasionally produce troublesome results.

Ryan points to a campaign from Cardo Systems, a manufacturer of wireless headsets, that ran online this past summer. The firm produced a trio of videos made to appear homemade, in the style of YouTube, depicting cellphone signals powerful enough to pop corn kernels. The videos ignited a flurry of news coverage about the topic of possible brain damage from mobile-phone signals. The subtle message: Buy one of Cardo systems' headsets and keep your head a safe distance from those scary cellphone transmissions.

The blurring of story and selling concerns many media watchdogs, not to mention parents and educators.

"This selling of a consumer lifestyle can be very detrimental to the development of a healthy sense of self and the kind of values a society needs," says Naomi Johnson, assistant professor of communication studies at Longwood University in Farmville, Va. She points to the romance novels that inspired "Gossip Girl" and says that a significant shift from internal values, such as true love and romance, to possessions and shopping is evident. The issues of manipulation and deception lie at the heart of many critics' concerns. Some, such as Professor Howard, say that while today's consumers are far savvier than previous generations, they aren't infallible and dislike being tricked or manipulated.

The most successful relationship advertisers can strike with consumers is the most overt, says Richard Notarianni, executive creative director of media for Euro RSCG, a New York ad agency.

"Consumers will engage when they feel they are being treated honestly."

A healthy cynicism about media messages is the best tool against manipulation, say most observers. Vigilance is doubly important when dealing with underage audiences. However, unlike some, she sees value in the shows as a teaching tool about what's important. After all, she says, "you don't come out of the womb asking for a Louis Vuitton handbag."

-Gloria Goodale (“Advertisers Up the Ante as Products Become TV Plots,” The Christian Science Monitor, 11 .3 .2008. Image: Screen shot: Dystopian Los Angeles 2019, "Blade Runner," directed by Ridley Scott,, 1982).

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Dear Mr. President: "A True Patriot Is A Lover Of His Country Who Rebukes And Does Not Excuse Its Sins..."

Dear Mr. President:

Victory achieved. "Its been a long time coming”…too long. The tears you witnessed on election night were tears of joy, pride and ultimately relief. Finally, after eight years of negativity and darkness, the light called Democracy ignited again. It was an incredible night in this country's history. In a moment, we saw the United States renewed for the sole reason that its citizens came out of their caves and voted for change...for light.

Our request is to ask you to bring Democracy and Justice full-circle. For a Democracy is not that...if those who willingly chose to subvert, distort and ignore it are permitted to enjoy the benefits of freedoms and decency that they denied others for eight long secretive, torturous and needless death-filled years. You know of whom I speak: George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, David Addington, John Woo, Karl Rove, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, etc. For these men to retire to their luxurious mansions and pristine golf courses without repercussions for their lies, their disdain for our Constitution and finally for their crimes against humanity would be a travesty of Democracy, a travesty of Justice and would certainly lessen the significance of the people's victory on November 4.

We respectfully ask that you open a full-investigation into the Bush Administration's past governmental activities. We know they broke the laws many times. It’s been documented, reported and archived. However, these men must be held accountable for their actions. If action is taken in this direction, then our Democracy is working. It means that you cannot break the law and get away with it even if you are the King or a subject in the King's Court. You cannot twist the laws of this country. You are not entitled to make any rules that you desire just because you wear a crown. Following the laws of our Constitution and displaying simple human decency are what separate the United States from the rest of the world. We must restore the Constitution. We must punish the King for being a King in what was designed to be a Federal Constitutional Republic. They have willingly broken the laws of our Founding Fathers. They must atone.

We realize you have more urgent matters to attend to first. The economy being of that upmost importance at this time but we ask you to devote some time to this too. It is a long process. It will cost money we don’t have. However, we guarantee you it will be money well spent. If you proceed, you will have support from the majority of Americans and you will have served your country as the Founding Fathers intended. A million innocent Iraqi civilians and 4191 American soldiers will have not died in vain. Close the circle that you drew for us on Nov. 4. 2008. Close it so this country can begin anew in all the just ways and finally close it for any future Presidents who might try to govern under the same lawless and despicable policies.

"A true patriot is a lover of his country who rebukes and does not excuse its sins.
-Frederick Douglass

-VioletPlanet (Letter to Office of The President-Elect Barack Obama: Change.Gov, 11.7.08. Image: Nazi Party Leaders, Hermann Goring & Rudolph Hess on trial for crimes against humanity. Reaction as the verdicts are read, Nuremberg Trials, National Archives, 10.1.1946).

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Origins Of An Infinite Universe? A Fractal Conversation...

THE PREMISE: "Galaxy Map Hints At Fractal Universe":

Is the matter in the universe arranged in a fractal pattern? A new study of nearly a million galaxies suggests it is – though there are no well-accepted theories to explain why that would be so.

Cosmologists trying to reconstruct the entire history of the universe have precious few clues from which to work. One key clue is the distribution of matter throughout space, which has been sculpted for nearly 14 billion years by the competing forces of gravity and cosmic expansion. If there is a pattern in the sky, it encodes the secrets of the universe. A lot is at stake, and the matter distribution has become a source of impassioned debate between those who say the distribution is smooth and homogeneous and those who say it is hierarchically structured and clumpy, like a fractal.

Nearly all physicists agree that on relatively small scales the distribution is fractal-like: hundreds of billions of stars group together to form galaxies, galaxies clump together to form clusters, and clusters amass into superclusters.

The point of contention, however, is what happens at even larger scales. According to most physicists, this Russian doll-style clustering comes to an end and the universe, on large scales, becomes homogeneous. But a small team of physicists, including Francesco Sylos Labini of the Enrico Fermi Centre in Rome and Luciano Pietronero of the University of Rome argue that the data shows the opposite: the universe continues to look fractal as far out as our telescopes can see...Article Continues Here

THE DEFINITION: Fractal |ˈfraktəl| Mathematics

Noun: A curve or geometric figure, each part of which has the same statistical character as the whole. Fractals are useful in modeling structures (such as eroded coastlines or snowflakes) in which similar patterns recur at progressively smaller scales, and in describing partly random or chaotic. -New Oxford American Dictionary, 2008.


VioletPlanet: Fascinating article. You must educate me. In layman’s terms what does this mean? What is the concept of a fractal universe?

IvansArmy: Usually, Fractal is used when referring to a fractal system. In layman's terms a fractal is a part of a system or a whole (singularity) which in itself possesses all the information necessary to create a singularity or a system of its own. The most obvious fractal example is Nature. You have a seed or a singularity which grows into a plant with a stem and the off-shoots. The leaves or branches divide into their own singularities; then you can say that we are fractals of our parents since we literally come out of them and contain their DNA.

In mathematics there are fractal equations which may be represented as fractal graphs. One of the key characteristics of these graphs is that you may "zoom" or scale into the graph indefinitely with new geometric structures being created by the equation into infinity.

You may see how it becomes very intuitive to view the entire universe as an infinite, complex, fractal structure. This is not really any groundbreaking idea, but it's only recently that our "modern" science is coming to terms with reality and shedding some old abstract ideas about the nature of existence. These ideas are mainly influenced by a specific point of view held in the West that we (as self-conscious beings) are observers separate from the universe in which we exist. This point of view is not necessarily directly expressed but is more a state of self-consciousness which observes the universe but is not aware of its own state and therefore has fundamental hang-ups in its perception of itself and everything around it.

VioletPlanet: So...Quantum Physics is definitely true in this case. We are all connected and the universe is the seed.

IvansArmy: We are all...the universe. To be connected to the universe assumes that in some way we are "other" and therefore need to connect to it. We just are...IT. There is nothing but the universe so "we" cannot be other from...IT.

VioletPlanet: But didn't the universe ever have a beginning...hence "the seed?" Or has it always been infinite or shall we say immortal? Is it possible for anything to be immortal?

IvansArmy: Death and life are very relative concepts. There is a birth and a death of the ego or what we think of as...I. However, the line between life and death becomes blurred when you ask... what is the exact point of differentiation in time between the two and who is doing the measuring? For the purposes of convenience, we say someone is born on the day they come out of mother's womb. However, does this mean that the previous day that same person was not alive? When does life start? Is it during Gastrulation when bases of all the rest of the tissues are created? Or is it upon fertilization of the egg? Or is it when the spermatozoa are created in the testicles of the father and the ovum in mother? Or is it the birth of the mother and the father? We could say that life and death are complements of each other or duality of being. Therefore, immortality as the western dualistic and moralistic philosophy might view it...does not exist because it implies absence of death, which is absurd since we see things die daily.

Another problem with "immortality" is that it implies a concept of linear time which is purely an abstract human concept created for utilitarian purposes. We forget that just like the number 3, or the equator line, time as we perceive purely an abstract human construct and the true reality of time is inconceivable purely through the linear data-processing of our mind. In this sense, when we talk about immortality what is usually implied is a constant unchangeable measure of time which is divorced from the universe in which it exists and therefore is non-existent.

Scientists are a part of our culture and they view the world through the "lens" of the Ego or the finite "I." This is logical to them: I (the Ego) have a beginning and an end. Therefore, the universe must have a beginning and end. Yet, when you were born your body did not come out of nothing but was constructed with atoms of numerous elements which were utilized by other systems (bodies of your parents) to assemble you. When you die your body does not disappear into thin air but is dissolved back into the environment. The molecules and atoms are recycled into other life forms, particles of dust, soil, plants, etc. Therefore, it's not possible to claim with any degree of certainty that the universe had a definite beginning before...which it did not exist. I am not saying there was no big bang or a similar happening, but it's false to assume the universe's non-existence prior to the happening. Universe is immortal purely in its existence.

VioletPlanet: Life and death on earth parallel life and death within the universe, the death of stars, planets, black holes are dead etc. Therefore, the inter-connectedness makes sense. We would mimic that which created us. There is an order to things...which is infinite. The earth is one gigantic cell within the universal body. The cycle the universe offers us is cyclical: life, death, life, death etc. However, all cells die. We know when we die on earth that our bodies become fertilizer. However, if the earth were to die, would it regenerate into something else? Would that something else be alive or dead or a better word....functioning? What fertilizes the universe? I totally agree re: man-made time construct but if the universe's structure is cyclical at what point was the circle constructed? At what point did the circle begin?

IvansArmy: Trying to answer that question is like chasing a ghost. It's entirely relative to who is observing. If we say we're "observing" and we concluded that we're the universe then it's us "observing...ourselves," hence the impetus to ask the question: when did I begin. Postulating that question divides us from our true existence. It implies we are something other than ourselves observing that "other" in Euclidean time and space. The problem is impossible to solve since it requires "othering" from the universe in order to observe it which creates an abstract reality. Ultimately, even if there is a logical answer, I believe a much more relevant and question is: Why is this answer so important?... or even better, Who wants to know?

VioletPlanet: But yet everything must begin...begin from what?

IvansArmy: Why must there be a beginning, and how do you define beginning and end?

VioletPlanet: A singular point of origin...everything originates from something else. Endings are just new beginnings. In other words, has it been scientifically proven that the universe is infinite or is there something greater and more vast than the universe? If the fractal article is correct then by your own description and the picture you sent me of the cauliflower, an origin must exist. Notice the base of the cauliflower and notice the top of the cauliflower. There are two distinct points.

IvansArmy: You have just answered your own question. Science cannot with any certainty prove its major theories about the universe, hence the theories. Origin of something does not necessarily mean...a beginning.

VioletPlanet: Good Answer.

- Amanda Gefter ("Galaxy Map Hints at Fractal Universe,", 6.25.08. Image: Fractal Cauliflower, 2008).