Evolutionary Psychology, Memes and the Origin of War

Somebody (possibly Henson himself) posted Evolutionary Psychology, Memes and the Origin of War over at Kuro5hin in 2006. I had no idea Kuro5hin still existed, and Henson’s paper could use some consideration of group selection, but anyway it’s a worthwhile and controversial read.

It seems to me that if Henson’s basic thesis is right, our current global political situation is not just eerily similar to that of the mid-1930s, it’s actually the same phenomenon – so we better get it under control.

How many unemployed?

In this post-Reagan era, you can use the Government’s “official” count of unemployment – which is broken up into categories from U1 to U6, but everybody uses the U3, currently 5.3% – or you can check out John Williams’ Shadow Government Statistics, with puts the current count at 23%. Williams attempts to use the pre-1990 method of calculation (which is difficult because the government is trying really hard not to obtain anything resembling real unemployment figures) so that you can compare modern unemployment figures with historical data.

The problem with privilege metaphors

It seems to me that we are all the recipients of unearned privilege. You were formed in the womb of your birth mother, to her great discomfort and inconvenience; and obviously nothing you did yourself made you worthy of this privilege – it was a gift, literally the gift of life itself, that you received for free. You had already been a freeloading moocher for nine months before you were even born!

But not every birth is equal. Recent research claims that poverty diminishes mental capacities from birth. It’s fairly clear that the richer your parents and community are, the more unearned privileges you will eventually enjoy – for example, the children of Barack Obama enjoy vastly more privilege than the children of impoverished Arkansas sharecroppers, or the children of impoverished Native Americans on the Res.

Right Wing radio pundits like to split common people along color lines by screaming of “black criminality” and “black on black violence”, but criminality and violence correlate far more with poverty and lack of opportunity than with any skin color. Left Wing bloggers like to split common people on color lines by screeching “white privilege” – as though privilege did not correlate with wealth, and as if there were no privileged people of color.

These talking heads, Right and Left, are of their own free will servile to the ruling class. The .001% of humanity whose titanic wealth makes them immune to law would prefer that the rest of us split on color lines, gender lines, religion, anything that will keep us from uniting. If we could put aside our differences, it might interfere with the continuing concentration of the Earth’s vast resources into fewer and fewer hands – or even reverse that trend.

The US Government and You

“If you treat federal law the way the secretary of state does, you go to prison.
If you treat IRS rules the way the IRS treats IRS rules, you go to prison
If you treat immigration controls the way our immigration authorities do, you go to prison.
If you’re as careless in your handling of firearms as the ATF is, you go to prison.
If you cook your business’s books the way the federal government cooks its books, you go to prison.”

Courtesy of some guy at Slashdot.

know the dream

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. offered this country a different kind of vision.

The Deacons for Defense and Justice offered a righteous resistance to oppression, by any means necessary, including lethal violence. The Weather Underground declared bloody war on the US Government and capitalism. The Panthers fought for a vision of equality that endorsed a racially separated nation.

But Dr. King marched with whites, and Jews, and with people so mixed that there was no place for them in a world of stark color-lines. He gave us a vision of a country where people’s opportunities were governed by the content of their character, and not by the color of their skin.

Sadly, Dr. King’s heirs aren’t as admirable. Their insistence on standing as gatekeepers of his legacy means that I can’t make a copy of the “I have a dream” video and host it on my site here. But I can link to a transcript, and to a Youtube video that probably will get taken down.

Every American should listen to this speech today. I’ve heard it dozens of times, and that’s not enough.

Unexpected fairness from UK PM

British Prime Minister David Cameron on the BBC’s desire to exclude the British Green Party from televised debates: “[The BBC] can’t have some minor parties in and not other parties in”.

“The Greens have a member of parliament, they beat the Liberal Democrats in the last national election – the European Elections, so I don’t see how you can have UKIP and not the Greens. That is my very strong opinion.”

BBC political editor Nick Robinson claims the PM’s private view is “if we, the Conservatives, are to get hurt by the people to our right, UKIP, then Labour and the Liberal Democrats should get hurt by people to their left, the Green Party”.

Sounds to me like Robinson & the BBC are at least as guilty of manipulation as Cameron is. In any case, Cameron says he will not debate if the Greens are excluded. Good show, lad.

No “right to water” in Detroit

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes on Monday refused to block the city from shutting off water to delinquent customers for six months, saying there is no right to free water and Detroit can’t afford to lose the revenue.

Ever since a bunch of well-meaning idiots who don’t understand basic math or science (otherwise known as the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights) declared that clean drinking water is a fundamental human right, activists have been trying to force people and organizations that provide access to safe drinking water to destroy themselves, apparently in the honest belief that inexhaustible supplies of safe water can be magically delivered to every single human being that might ever exist, free of cost, so it can’t matter if we wreck every existing system that actually provides water to people.

All these people have their hearts in the right place, I’m sure, but they have apparently misplaced their brains. The complex interweaving of ecosystems that makes up the terrestrial environment required to support the human race cannot sustain wholesale reallocation of water based on arbitrary human population densities; if a “right to water” actually existed, we’d eventually have to destroy huge swaths of riparian ecosystems in order to keep human desert-dwellers alive. Not to mention the collapse of every existing water allocation system – since they are all based on the idea that human beings will have to fight, work, or inherit wealth in order to obtain water.

The worst thing that could happen to these people (and everybody else) would be for them to succeed, condemning rich and poor alike to a global environmental catastrophe in the name of watering the poor.

John Carney is bragging.

So what, you ask, is US Congressman John Carney, D-DE, bragging about?

Here, let him speak for himself:

Last week in Congress, a bill I introduced to save 500 Delaware jobs passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 268-150. The bill fixed an oversight in the Affordable Care Act that would have put American companies at a disadvantage to their foreign competitors, and put 500 Delaware jobs on the line. Senators Carper and Coons are now working hard to get the bill passed in the Senate.

That’s an interesting way to talk about what happened. Here’s another way.

Under the bill, any insurance plan for an American who is out of the country for 90 days or 15 trips or a foreigner working in the United States who is gone from his or her country for 90 days or 15 trips would be exempt from the Affordable Care Act. Their families would be exempt, too. That means they are exempt from all of it — from requiring young adults under age 26 to stay on a parents plans to the new mandatory coverage benefits. And the health plans wouldn’t have to pay ACA-related taxes and fees.

Labor and immigration groups, such as the AFL-CIO and the SEIU, oppose the bill, too. They say it would encourage companies to hire foreign workers instead of Americans, because they wouldn’t have to provide the same comprehensive coverage. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce supported the bill.

“This bill contains too many loopholes that amount to an extraordinary bailout for insurance companies,” Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) said on the House floor.

So why did Democrat John Carney spend three years subverting his own party’s efforts, against the expressed will of Democrat President Barack Obama? And why would he brag about this to me, a registered Republican?

Well, I guess money talks, and Cigna walks.

Health insurance giant Cigna Corp. is using the threat of 500 Delaware layoffs to press a demand that federal policymakers exempt their Claymont-based international insurance business from new rules in last year’s federal health care law.

The demand from Cigna, a $21.3 billion Philadelphia-based company, comes just months after Gov. Jack Markell’s administration awarded the company $2.4 million in grants to keep those employees in Delaware — and add to the staff here.

Markell, economic development director Alan Levin, and members of Delaware’s congressional delegation are now working on a fix for Cigna and other insurance companies who offer similar “expatriate” health insurance plans.

So lessee; first, Cigna took 2.4 million dollars of Delaware tax dollars in a deal to keep 500 jobs in Delaware, right, got it… then they threatened to dump those 500 jobs if our senators and congressman didn’t hack out an exemption in Obamacare so that migrant workers would not have to be insured (they are “expatriates” after all)… right, OK, I think I’ve got it. The goal is to use the tax money of people living in Delaware to make it uneconomical for businesses to actually hire those same people? So that more Delawareans will be out of work, in order to save jobs, of course. Then Delaware won’t be making as much tax revenue and the state might have to raise taxes to pay for Cigna’s next round of corporate welfare, oh, excuse me, “grants”? No, I guess I’m not really getting this at all.

It’s said that one shouldn’t assume malice where incompetence is a sufficient explanation. And after all, Jack Markell seems a nice enough man. But at this point the government of the First State has displayed such an incredible level of fiscal incompetence that it might be comforting to suppose they are a bunch of crooks – rather than the chuckle-headed corporate dupes they appear to be. Did I mention Cigna’s making record profits and also refusing record numbers of insurance claims? It’s a good thing they’ve got John Carney, Chris Coons, Tom Carper and Jack Markell looking out for their interests, I guess.

Native American Chickens

No, not Dick Cheney.

The Boston Globe has some newly digitized footage of the New England Heath Hen (Tympanuchus cupido cupido) taken by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation Division of Fisheries and Game in 1918.

If you want to know what the Heath Hen sounded like before it was hunted to extinction in 1932, Arkive.org has more recent footage of the Greater Prairie Chicken (Tympanuchus cupido pinnatus), which is rapidly headed for extinction itself.

3 states now blocking Tesla sales

New Jersey has joined Arizona and Texas in banning direct sales of Tesla electric vehicles to the public.

Chris Christie, that fearless champion of free enterprise and democracy, used his personal control of the state’s Motor Vehicle Commission to end-run the representative branch of New Jersey’s government, who might have raised some sort of ethical objections to what Christie called “the cold, hard hand of government determining winners and losers.”

Tesla will presumably have to shut down its two dealerships in New Jersey, which were giving well-heeled NJ residents a way they could personally and individually choose to reduce the tailpipe-emission pollution problem that sends 53,000 Americans to an early grave every year.

Is the inevitable apotheosis of the Reagan “Revolution”? Parasitic middle-men and Ayn Rand worshipping dirty energy producers using their control over the machines of government to prevent individuals from taking effective action on the behalf of their neighbors and descendants? These people believe that any action that is not motivated by greed should be forbidden, and it seems that they have the power to make it so.

Fighting “Doubt Science”

In 2010 Dr. Laura Welch wrote an exhaustively researched and documented amicus brief to the Michigan Supreme Court titled “Asbestos Exposure Causes Mesothelioma, But Not This Asbestos Exposure” exposing the practice of “doubt science”. The brief was signed by 51 other notable physicians and medical researchers.

…the vast amount of additional scientific information regarding asbestos and mesothelioma, provides more than sufficient evidence to allow someone to conclude within a reasonable degree of scientific certainty that a mesothelioma in a mechanic who worked with asbestos-containing brakes was caused by that asbestos exposure. Since 2000, Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler have paid over $30,000,000 to hire consultants for the purpose of generating the very papers they rely upon, and for testifying regarding those papers in Courts.

One of the main industry experts has acknowledged that the papers were conceived and authored for the purpose of buttressing testimony in court cases involving mechanics suffering from mesothelioma.

The same expert also acknowledged that this business model is a pattern he has also followed with dioxin, benzene, hexavalent chromium, beryllium, formaldehyde, and glycol ethers. Recent revelations regarding undisclosed involvement of the employer of these experts in connection with publication of a paper favorable to the chromium industry have been well publicized and led to the retraction of that paper.

It is in no way surprising that the experts and papers financed by these manufacturers conclude that asbestos in brakes can never cause mesothelioma. To the contrary, the exoneration of the sponsoring industry is the expected conclusion of doubt science.

Robert Kehoe, Charles Kettering and Thomas Midgley created doubt science so that General Motors and DuPont could knowingly poison the world with tetra ethyl lead. Over the years the Merchants of Doubt have become an accepted part of the American dialogue, and doubt science is used in courtrooms, newspapers and bar-rooms to justify and applaud all sorts of vicious, completely avoidable crimes against humanity knowingly committed by the wealthy corporations that own our political leadership in order to marginally increase their profits.

Beware the Bloat

Last week Heather sent me a link to Alex Marchant’s graph comparing lines of code in the Healthcare.gov site with other popular software and sites. Go see it, it’s a hoot.

Reagan famously said government can’t do anything right, and everyone elected since then seems determined to prove it. There’s something quintessentially American about purposely electing people who say the job can’t be done… no, wait. Not “quintessentially”… that other word… quixotically? Something like that. Tea partiers take note.

Anyway, when I tell anyone involved professionally with computer science that the Obama administration entrusted the building of the Health Care Exchange website to a raft of consultants, and the budget ran to more than $88 million (how much more, nobody seems to quite know!) none of them are at all surprised that the system doesn’t work and is laughably poorly constructed. Of course it won’t work if you don’t hire real experts into full-time, permanent positions to build and support it.

Currently it appears that we’re going to blame Canada for this debacle. And you do have to wonder what brilliant management consultant (I have heard the name Booz Allen whispered, but not confirmed) decided to hire CGI, who also failed to build a working healthcare system for Ontario, Canada last year. I mean, Canada’s single-payor! If a consultancy can’t handle a simple, already working system like Canada’s, how are they going to manage implementing the Heritage-foundation designed Affordable Care Act?

Are they exploiting the oil, or the Brazilians?

Brazil had an auction of the right to use up some of their non-renewable resources. The Chinese state-sponsored companies CNPC and CNOOC made a deal with French oil giant Total and Anglo-Dutch Shell to submit a combined bid – instead of bidding against each other, they submitted the lowest possible bid as a consortium.

Reading between the lines, it looks like maybe the Chinese told the other nine companies expressing interest “we can outbid you, or you can work with us” but only Shell and Total were willing to collaborate; everybody else just left, rather than annoy the Chinese by driving the price up.

Magda Chambriard, president of the Brazil’s National Petroleum Agency, said “It is hard to imagine a more successful outcome.”

Higher education’s obesity spiral

Tim Carmody gives his take at Snarkmarket.

Heather (my only reader) says that it’s unsurprising that University costs are so high; she claims that the accommodations and meals are better than at a hotel, what with the sushi bars and high-speed Internet and whatnot. She’s definitely got a point.

But it seems to me, even so, that we could easily afford give every child in America a complete tax-funded education – all the way to PhD level if they can hack it – for less than we spend on foreign military adventuring. And since we no longer bother to raise taxes to pay for our wars, obviously printing money has not been any barrier to spending in the Obama or Bush administrations. Money’s not really the problem for these people we’ve elected; it’s just a matter of what they want to spend our wealth on – in short, they’ve willingly chosen slaughter over education.

If you’re above the law, why bother hiding it?

Eric the Just says “when you play a rigged game, you get sloppy“.

In a well regulated free market, organizations tend to spring up, grow, and eventually fail, just like living organisms. They aren’t maintained in power by corrupt legislators so that they can become a leeching plague upon a nation’s citizenry. Barack Obama lost my vote on July 9, 2008, at 2:47 PM, when he (along with most of the Democratic Party) reneged on the promise that “telecom immunity is off the table”; for me, the infamous TARP bailout and Obama’s continual unfunded war-mongering has been just icing on the cake.

i like ike

“Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes that you can do these things. Among them are a few Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or businessman from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid.”
–President Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1952

Sadly, the power of a few stupid Texas oil millionaires has grown enormously since Ike’s time.

time to play whack-a-mole

Bev Harris of Black Box Voting has obtained and published source code to the Accenture voting software used in US elections!

Excerpt from Bev’s post:

Note that one of the service items reveals that it was tripling votes for “random” voters in the 2004 primary. Files I have obtained show that it doubled or tripled votes in the 2008 primary, and also in the May 2010 and Aug 2010 primaries in Tennessee. However: It is not random. It only appears to be random when voters are sorted by fields other than precinct/voter ID. In fact, it is doubling and tripling recorded votes in white Republican suburbs.

Everyone with any computer chops who has actually been studying this issue knows that vote-rigging has been on the rise in the US for quite some time. It’s always seemed pretty clear to me that vote fraud is not nationally co-ordinated – it’s happening all over the place, in individual districts, and both parties are involved. Basically, an eminently hackable voting machine with no audit trail is an attractive nuisance.

BBV is (so far) holding up under the load, and (so far) hasn’t been shut down by the authorities. I’m hoping for a repeat of the DeCSS whack-a-mole comedy. Download it and pass it on!