Archive for November, 2011

3 Reads on the Financial Industry

3 Reads on the Financial Industry

Wall Street Unoccupied as 200,000 Job Cuts Bring ‘Darkest Days’. Schadenfreude, especially considering:

The 1% are the very best destroyers of wealth the world has ever seen

Secret Fed Loans Gave Banks $13 Billion Undisclosed to Congress

But the level of dislocation is disconcerting, especially as it continues to demonstrate how jobless this “recovery”" really is – even the bankers are out of work.

November 30, 2011 0 comments
Coil Retrospective

Coil Retrospective

Coil

The Quietus ran a retrospective on Coil‘s career for the one year anniversary of Peter “Sleazy” Christopherson’s death:

Through a potent trinity of chemically-altered states, occult arcana and technological transmutation, Coil was, perhaps, the strangest and occasionally the most frightening of bands. While their twenty year history saw much in the way of personal turmoil and tragedies as they moved through the extreme hedonism and post-AIDS fallout of London’s gay clubland to a more hermetic but no less intoxicated existence on England’s South West coast, John Balance (née Geff Rushton) and Peter ‘Sleazy’ Christopherson remained true to their original intentions to explore, as the cover of their debut release puts it: “How sound can affect the physical and mental state of the serious listener”. Such explorations produced a unique and incomparable body of work that not only charts a most unconventional route through emergent musical technologies, but also signposts a hellishly complex set of references to occult theories and deviant figures throughout history (from Aleister Crowley to William S Burroughs) along the way. But the high physical and mental cost of their creative processes often lead to long gaps in their output. Indeed, the most elusive album in their back catalogue eluded the band themselves: Backwards, originally intended as a follow-up to 1991’s Love’s Secret Domain, was mentioned in the band’s semi-regular updates describing sessions with mainstream players such as Tim Simenon and Trent Reznor, yet the album was never released (although some of the recordings were later re-arranged posthumously for The Ape of Naples and its companion piece, The New Backwards).

The Quietus: Serious Listeners: The Strange And Frightening World Of Coil

November 28, 2011 0 comments
Update/Correction to Naomi Wolf Post

Update/Correction to Naomi Wolf Post

I originally posted this as an update to my earlier post, but I think it’s worth its own post:

I’d been avoiding posting anything about speculation that the Department of Homeland Security had anything to do with coordinating the police raids on occupy until there was some real evidence. I thought Wolf had some new sources but, as Kenneth Huey points out in the comments, it turns out Wolf’s sources rely on that same old anonymously sourced Examiner story. But there is currently no evidence that Congress or the White House ordered or coordinated the raids, and the White House has specifically denied this. If anyone knows of any particular mayor or police chief denying DHS involvement, please let me know.

There are many other problems with Wolf’s account of the story, as detailed here. That The Guardian is still running this story from Wolf without any updates or corrections is disappointing.

It’s worth noting that another source of national coordination regarding the Occupy movement has emerged. Wes Unruh pointed me towards this story in the San Francisco Bay Guardian which reveals that the international non-governmental organization The Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) coordinated raids nationally. Police chiefs in several major cities participated in a series of conference calls distinct from the 18 mayor call mentioned by Oakland Mayor Jean Quan. PERF has also been involved in coordinating crackdowns on anti-globalization protests. The executive director of PERF, Chuck Wexler, is also on the advisory council of DHS, leading some to refer to the organization as “having ties to” DHS (including the San Francisco Bay Guardian), but I wouldn’t (yet) read too much into this relationship.

It might also be worth mentioning that according to Tom Henderson DHS vehicles were spotted at the Occupy Portland eviction, but as Tom notes the Occupy Portland spilled into federal park, so we can’t read too much into that.

One final note on the potential federal involvement in the Occupy crackdown. I’ve noticed that Portland Mayor Sam Adams almost always mentions drug use in the camp when explaining why he flip-flopped from supporting Occupy Portland to ordering its eviction. Since 1981 there has been an ongoing erosion of military and civilian law enforcement, particularly with regards to drug law enforcement. Here’s an excerpt from Diane Cecilia Weber’s paper Warrior Cops: The Ominous Growth of Paramilitarism in American Police Departments:

In 1981 Congress passed the Military Cooperation with Law Enforcement Officials Act. That law amended the Posse Comitatus Act insofar as it authorized the military to “assist” civilian police in the enforcement of drug laws. The act encouraged the military to (a) make available equipment, military bases, and research facilities to federal, state, and local police; (b) train and advise civilian police on the use of the equipment; and (c) assist law enforcement personnel in keeping drugs from entering the country. The act also authorized the military to share information acquired during military operations with civilian law enforcement agencies.

The overlap between civilian and military law enforcement was furthered in 1986 when President Reagan issued a National Security Decision Directive declaring illegal drugs a threat to national security. You can find more on this in Radley Balko’s book/white paper Overkill.

The possibility of federal involvement remains speculative, but returning to the line about drugs again and again could be a tactic to justify the invovlement of the feds, at least at the level of funding.

November 28, 2011 4 comments
If You Read Only One Thing on Occupy, Read This (Updated)

If You Read Only One Thing on Occupy, Read This (Updated)

For The Guardian, Naomi Wolf covers the Occupy crackdown thus far and makes some very interesting informed speculation:

Why this massive mobilisation against these not-yet-fully-articulated, unarmed, inchoate people? After all, protesters against the war in Iraq, Tea Party rallies and others have all proceeded without this coordinated crackdown. Is it really the camping? As I write, two hundred young people, with sleeping bags, suitcases and even folding chairs, are still camping out all night and day outside of NBC on public sidewalks – under the benevolent eye of an NYPD cop – awaiting Saturday Night Live tickets, so surely the camping is not the issue. I was still deeply puzzled as to why OWS, this hapless, hopeful band, would call out a violent federal response.

That is, until I found out what it was that OWS actually wanted.

The mainstream media was declaring continually “OWS has no message”. Frustrated, I simply asked them. I began soliciting online “What is it you want?” answers from Occupy. In the first 15 minutes, I received 100 answers. These were truly eye-opening.

The No 1 agenda item: get the money out of politics. Most often cited was legislation to blunt the effect of the Citizens United ruling, which lets boundless sums enter the campaign process. No 2: reform the banking system to prevent fraud and manipulation, with the most frequent item being to restore the Glass-Steagall Act – the Depression-era law, done away with by President Clinton, that separates investment banks from commercial banks. This law would correct the conditions for the recent crisis, as investment banks could not take risks for profit that create kale derivatives out of thin air, and wipe out the commercial and savings banks.

No 3 was the most clarifying: draft laws against the little-known loophole that currently allows members of Congress to pass legislation affecting Delaware-based corporations in which they themselves are investors.

When I saw this list – and especially the last agenda item – the scales fell from my eyes. Of course, these unarmed people would be having the shit kicked out of them.

Guardian: The shocking truth about the crackdown on Occupy

The whole thing is worth reading, as is Wolf’s case that we’re in the midst of a fascist shift. The Tea Party has been seen as part of this shift, but if an alliance can be struck the tide can be turned.

Update: I’d been avoiding posting anything about speculation that the Department of Homeland Security had anything to do with coordinating the police raids on occupy until there was some real evidence. I thought Wolf had some new sources but, as Kenneth Huey points out in the comments, it turns out Wolf’s sources rely on that same old anonymously sourced Examiner story. But there is currently no evidence that Congress or the White House ordered or coordinated the raids, and the White House has specifically denied this. If anyone knows of any particular mayor or police chief denying DHS involvement, please let me know.

There are many other problems with Wolf’s account of the story, as detailed here. That The Guardian is still running this story from Wolf without any updates or corrections is disappointing.

It’s worth noting that another source of national coordination regarding the Occupy movement has emerged. Wes Unruh pointed me towards this story in the San Francisco Bay Guardian which reveals that the international non-governmental organization The Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) coordinated raids nationally. Police chiefs in several major cities participated in a series of conference calls distinct from the 18 mayor call mentioned by Oakland Mayor Jean Quan. PERF has also been involved in coordinating crackdowns on anti-globalization protests. The executive director of PERF, Chuck Wexler, is also on the advisory council of DHS, leading some to refer to the organization as “having ties to” DHS (including the San Francisco Bay Guardian), but I wouldn’t (yet) read too much into this relationship.

It might also be worth mentioning that according to Tom Henderson DHS vehicles were spotted at the Occupy Portland eviction, but as Tom notes the Occupy Portland spilled into federal park, so we can’t read too much into that.

One final note on the potential federal involvement in the Occupy crackdown. I’ve noticed that Portland Mayor Sam Adams almost always mentions drug use in the camp when explaining why he flip-flopped from supporting Occupy Portland to ordering its eviction. Since 1981 there has been an ongoing erosion of military and civilian law enforcement, particularly with regards to drug law enforcement. Here’s an excerpt from Diane Cecilia Weber’s paper Warrior Cops: The Ominous Growth of Paramilitarism in American Police Departments:

In 1981 Congress passed the Military Cooperation with Law Enforcement Officials Act. That law amended the Posse Comitatus Act insofar as it authorized the military to “assist” civilian police in the enforcement of drug laws. The act encouraged the military to (a) make available equipment, military bases, and research facilities to federal, state, and local police; (b) train and advise civilian police on the use of the equipment; and (c) assist law enforcement personnel in keeping drugs from entering the country. The act also authorized the military to share information acquired during military operations with civilian law enforcement agencies.

The overlap between civilian and military law enforcement was furthered in 1986 when President Reagan issued a National Security Decision Directive declaring illegal drugs a threat to national security. You can find more on this in Radley Balko’s book/white paper Overkill.

The possibility of federal involvement remains speculative, but returning to the line about drugs again and again could be a tactic to justify the involvement of the feds, at least at the level of funding.

November 25, 2011 5 comments
The Majority, Including Occupy and the Tea Party, Agree On Top Issues

The Majority, Including Occupy and the Tea Party, Agree On Top Issues

Zero Hedge sums up the ways in which the majority of the U.S., including both Occupy and the Tea Party, agree on the most important issues:

  • No more bailouts
  • End crony capitalism
  • Prosecute Wall Street fraud
  • End, or at least rein in, the Federal Reserve
  • Respect the constitution and our liberty
  • End perpetual war
  • Make elections fair
  • Keep poison out of our food and water

A Majority of Americans (Including Both OWS and the Tea Party) AGREE on the Most Important Issues … We Just Don’t Realize It

This isn’t to say that health care reform, reproductive rights, immigration reform, and civil liberties for women and ethnic and sexual minorities aren’t important. But with the possible exception of the Federal Reserve issue, these are issues that affect everyone, and both liberals and conservatives can mostly agree on.

I’ve been hoping for some sort of left-alliance with the Tea Party for a long time (and I’ve made my own proposal for a left/libertarian alliance, but given the debt-ceiling debate, it’s not one I think would actually go over well). It may finally be happening. But it’s not an easy proposition, there’s a big clash of cultures.

This is not a trivial challenge. A few years ago Slavoj Zizek wrote in a somewhat meandering critique of both Alexander Bard’s and Jan Soderqvist’s Netocracy and Michael Hardt’ and Antonio Negri’s Empire:

Is it then true that these tendencies (these lignes de fuite, as Deleuze would have put it) can coexist in a non-antagonistic way, as parts of the same global network of resistance? One is tempted to answer this claim by applying to it Laclau’s notion of the chain of equivalences: of course this logic of multitude functions – because we are still dealing with RESISTANCE. However, what about when – if this really is the desire and will of these movements – “we take it over”? What would the “multitude in power” look like? There was the same constellation in the last years of the decaying Really-Existing Socialism: the non-antagonistic coexistence, within the oppositional field, of a multitude of ideologico-political tendencies, from liberal human-rights groups to “liberal” business-oriented groups, conservative religious groups and leftist workers’ demands. This multitude functioned well as long as it was united in the opposition to “them,” the Party hegemony; once they found THEMSELVES in power, the game was over.

This is not, I don’t think, an insurmountable problem, but it must be kept in mind. These conflicts could destroy a coalition.

November 25, 2011 2 comments
The Neuroscience of Video Games, a Review of the Literature

The Neuroscience of Video Games, a Review of the Literature

Gamer

John Walker takes a look at the journal Nature‘s recent Brains On Video Games collection, which includes both possible negative and possible positive outcomes of video game play.

The bad news: much of the positive cognitive gains from video gaming are non-transferable, and gaming may increase both aggression and the symptoms of ADHD. The good news: it doesn’t sound like that should be a problem for people without existing aggressive tendencies or ADHD.

My take-away: if you like playing games, keep playing them. If you don’t, there’s probably not much benefit in starting.

Rock, Paper Shotgun: Nature’s Neuroscientific Review Of Games

See also:

Video Games Boost Brain Power, Multitasking Skills

Video Games and Spatial Cognition (PDF)

Video Gamers Are Better Lucid Dreamers?

November 23, 2011 1 comment
Boing Boing’s David Pescovitz Interviewed on the Future of Attention

Boing Boing’s David Pescovitz Interviewed on the Future of Attention

David Pescovitz

Media Magazine is running an interview with David “Pesco” Pescovitz on the subject of the future of attention:

What do you think about the ability to process more concurrent streams? Do you think we’re adapting our brains to be able to process more at the same time?

I don’t think our brains are necessarily changing. But I think we do develop new skills. It started with wanting more information, and being forced to deal with it and make sense of this onslaught that has led to a habit, basically, where we want more and more of it. Or, we think we want more and more of it. I actually think that, as we spend more time in these sort of fast-paced, virtually mediated experiences, there’s going to be this quest for authentic, visceral, focused, immersive and, in many ways, singular experiences. I don’t think sitting down and reading a book or watching a two-and-a-half hour art film are going away any time. I actually think that we’re going to see a renewed appreciation for those kinds of experiences, as they become more rarified.

Are we becoming addicted to information supply?

I don’t know. I mean, I don’t know what addiction really means. That’s within the realm of psychology and medicine. I can certainly say that I feel a sense of twitchiness when I don’t have access to my email during long meetings. And I don’t think that is necessarily a good thing. So, I guess you could probably argue that that’s a form of addiction in some way. Then again, maybe it’s also what was once an addiction. I mean, I think things change. As technology changes, the mores surrounding that technology change. Usages change. And it adds up to the way the world turns.

Media Magazine: The Future of Attention: A Conversation with David Pescovitz

My interview with Pesco is here.

November 22, 2011 0 comments
Fixing A Scene: Examine Your Assumptions

Fixing A Scene: Examine Your Assumptions

This is about underground hip hop, but much of it could apply to almost any scene:

Bars are, for the most part, terrible places to be. Obnoxiously crowded and stupid expensive. The sound system has never been set up right and it’s always too loud. So why do artists keep presenting their blood and guts in these fast food environments? I’ve played shows in beauty salons, backyards and basements and had a great time doing it—there’s not a “tour circuit” for this yet, but there will be soon.

How many shows can you play for a room full of dudes before it’s time to kill yourself in a hotel room? Why don’t more women come to rap shows? That one is easy: because they don’t want to be there. They don’t enjoy themselves, they don’t feel safe and they don’t have fun.

We need more than “Alternative Hip Hop,” and definitely more than another coffee shop for spoken word navel-gazing. We need an alternate Universe, a great & secret show, a Truth & Beauty circuit full of fresh fruit, fine foods and exotic tea from fictional continents. We need daytime shows, midnight gigs on anonymous rooftops, costume concerts and a nationwide revival of Acid Tests from coast to burning coast. We need all four alleged “Elements of Hip Hop” in the same building again—most of all, we need parties worth going to, parties worth putting down your fucking phones for and actually living.

Hump Jones: Fixing Underground Hip Hop

November 22, 2011 0 comments
Using Speech Patterns to Detect Psychopaths

Using Speech Patterns to Detect Psychopaths

Hannibal

With regard to psychopaths, “We think the ‘uhs’ and ‘ums’ are about putting the mask of sanity on,” Hancock told LiveScience.

Psychopaths appear to view the world and others instrumentally, as theirs for the taking, the team, which also included Stephen Porter from the University of British Columbia, wrote.

As they expected, the psychopaths’ language contained more words known as subordinating conjunctions. These words, including “because” and “so that,” are associated with cause-and-effect statements.

“This pattern suggested that psychopaths were more likely to view the crime as the logical outcome of a plan (something that ‘had’ to be done to achieve a goal),” the authors write.

And finally, while most of us respond to higher-level needs, such as family, religion or spirituality, and self-esteem, psychopaths remain occupied with those needs associated with a more basic existence.

MSNBC: How to spot psychopaths: Speech patterns give them away

Bruce Schneier writes: “I worry about people being judged by these criteria. Psychopaths make up about 1% of the population, so even a small false-positive rate can be a significant problem.”

See also: The Rise of Predictive Policing: Police Using Statistics to Predict Crime

November 22, 2011 1 comment
Majority in the U.S. Supported the Shooting of Kent State Shooters in 1970

Majority in the U.S. Supported the Shooting of Kent State Shooters in 1970

Kent State massacre

It’s not the case that nobody sides with the National Guard at Kent State — terrible people abound — but it’s definitely true that history condemns them. We can’t reconcile the massacre of protesters, even less-than-peaceful protesters, with our idea of democracy. We do not condone it when soldiers slaughter unarmed teenagers on US soil. We ‘re not willing to be that country.

We were then.

A Gallup poll conducted after the shootings showed that 58 percent of respondents blamed the students for the massacre. Nixon’s prepared statement said that the protesters’ behavior “invite[d] tragedy” — in other words, they were asking for it. You can bet your ass that if there had been Internet comments sections in 1970, they would have been full of misspelled missives about how those hippies only got what they deserved. Since there weren’t, those people sent hate mail to the victims’ mothers instead.

xojane: For Some Reason UC David Did Make Me Give Up On Humanity

(via Alexis Madrigal)

November 21, 2011 0 comments