Thursday, January 31, 2013

The causal power of belief

I appreciate Bryant's post on free will. Well, it's actually about Occupy Wall Street, but free will comes into it. Using Dennett's Freedom Evolves he notes that if one believes they have it they will get off their asses and do something about a situation. Whereas those that don't believe will just accept their fate, that they are powerless to change anything. There is causal power in the belief. And this is why I get so emotionally involved in the topic, for I see the reductionists as those that just accept defeat, that we are powerless and may as well crawl in a corner and die. But not until after we submit to the powers of corporate capitalism and live out the lives of indentured slaves.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Reflection on recent posts: states, stages, postmetaphysics

Also of interest from the last article is how in the beginning it compares what I've excerpted above with Descartes' dualism, the mind being an immaterial 'ghost in the machine.' At the end he comes full circle, noting this same dualism is inherent to not only Husserl's transcendent consciousness but also to traditional Buddhist notions of transcendent awareness.

This has been of course one of my own criticisms with various brands of shentong above and in other threads. I explained it as as aspect of the rational ego, the autobiographical  self or formal operations in MHC-speak. That's where the Cartesean split occurs, so that when we unwind in meditation to the core self, that first reflective 'I,' we misinterpret it as some form of world-transcendent, metaphysical entity.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Summary of recent posts on consciousness, neuroscience & meditation

I found this interesting article, which basically summarizes everything I've discussed recently. A few excerpts:

"Antonio Damasio (1995) distinguishes three kinds of self that constitute consciousness. At the neural level, there is the non-conscious proto-self. This represents the pattern of neural impulses that, from moment to moment, regulate the body-mind organism in reaction to external objects that perturb homeostasis.

"The core-self is the next level up, the lowest form of awareness that observes the proto-self in the process of being modified by an external object. This produces a basic reflexive sensation e.g. 'I can feel myself becoming irritated by something'. The idea of the core-self draws upon the concept of the transcendental 'I' by the German idealist Fichte (1796/2000), where consciousness is not a pre-existing phenomenon reacting to external obstacles, but rather the phenomenological subject arises in the very interaction between outside objects and the internal activity that deals with this disturbance. The core-self is this very activity (Zizek, 2006).

Relevant quote from Self Comes to Mind

I like the following quote from Self Comes to Mind, relevant to recent enquiry
"The ultimate consciousness product occurs from those numerous brain sites at the same time and not in one site in particular, much as the performance of a symphonic piece does not come from the work of a single musician or even from a whole section of an orchestra. The oddest thing about the upper reaches of a consciousness performance is the conspicuous absence of a conductor before the performance begins, although, as the performance unfolds, a conductor comes into being. For all intents and purposes, a conductor in now leading the orchestra, although the performance has created the conductor--the self--not the other way around. The conductor is cobbled together by feelings and by a narrative brain device, although this fact does not make the conductor any less real. The conductor undeniably exists in our minds, and nothing is gained by dismissing it as an illusion" (25).

A few comments on Damasio

From this post on his latest book, and also related to the post on ipseity and bare awareness. Note that consciousness is not the same as basic mind awareness. The former requires a 'self' and the latter is bereft of one. Core consciousness pre-dates the narrative self and is focused in the present only. It seems this is the 'bare awareness' from the meditation article, which requires ipseity (self), and is not the same as the unconscious 'mind' process (awake awareness) that Damasio distinguishes.This is congruent with my earlier speculations that it requires an 'ego' to meditate, which goes down into the 'mind.' I didn't have Damasio's more refined definitions then, so the ego to which I referred might be more like the core consciousness than the narrative self?

Monday, January 28, 2013

Regressive re-frame image makeover can't conceal the facts

I've been praising the progressives for finally getting on the framing bandwagon, which I think helped them greatly in the last election. But this is not to say that it's all about framing. The progressive frame is based on genuine authenticity, since it matches their proposed and enacted policies. The GOP, on the other hand, after soul-searching about their defeats, think it's just a matter of messaging their frame better, that it has nothing to do with their actual policies. Paul Krugman highlights this in his recent blog post, "Makers, takers, fakers."

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Review of Damasio's book Self Comes to Mind

See it here. A few excerpts:

"On Page 8 he says, 'I believe that conscious minds arise when a self process is added to a basic mind process.' So, in Damasio's view the difference between mind and consciousness is all about the self. He defines 'mind' as the process by which the brain creates images based on its maps, both of the body and of the world. But he says that the mind is unconscious until it has a sense of self.

"Now, based on Damasio's definition, minds have existed for a long time, but they weren't conscious. He says, 'A mind unwitnessed is still a mind.' The key idea is that mind developed independently of consciousness—or at least before it. But they're both rooted in the physical processes of the brain, which itself evolved to maintain life.

Damasio on free will

Given the reference to his work in the last post, here is an excerpt from this interview, his response to the specific issue of Libet's work and what it tells us about free will. This relates to what Churchland said about the past and future and the self being just as real as external reality. Apparently he develops these ideas in his book Self Comes to Mind: Constructing the Conscious Brain.

Patricia Churchland on the neurobiology of consciousness

I find the following article by Churchland informative on a number of levels. First, she clarifies that her brand of reductionism does not assume that the parts can fully determine the whole, but that they certainly have influence and constrain the possibilities. Second, that the whole exemplifies systematic network properties that "are never a simple 'sum of the parts.'" Finally, that this system called conscious awareness is likely tied to a bodily-based self representational 'perspective.' I find this fascinating because this is what we might call 'the self,' that awareness that distinguishes us from some other, and that we represent to ourselves with perspectives like I, you, he/she/it. Which is of course how Lakoff and company view it at presented in Feldman's book, From molecules to metaphor: A neural theory of language. See for example p. 130 and following on image schemas as perspectives. Note that Damasio (below) is referenced liberally throughout the book.

Excerpts from "Can neurobiology teach us anything about consciousness?":

"May I say that I do not mean that a reductionist research strategy implies that a purely bottom-up strategy should be adopted.... So far as neuroscience and psychology are concerned, my view is simply that it would be wisest to conduct research on many levels simultaneously, from the molecular, through to networks, systems, brain areas, and of course behavior. Here, as elsewhere in science, hypotheses at various levels can co-evolve as they correct and inform one another.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The new, highest order of complexity in the MHC

This paper explores level 15 in the Model of Hierarchical Complexity, the meta-cross-paradigmatic. Or as Ross calls it, the performative-recursive. They list as one example of the new order string theory, which coordinates quantum mechanics with the theory of relativity. I still find this somewhat interesting but less so in light of my deeper exploration of the MHC in the IPS thread "real and false reason," with further expansions in the "object-oriented ontology" thread. The former thread directly addresses the MHC; the latter only in a few select posts that will require searching.

On a related note, not surprisingly Commons on his yahoo forum finds this paper a must read. It basically refutes Rosch and cognitive neuroscientific evidence in concept learning in favor of Boolean logic. Issues of course explored in depth in the real/false reason thread above.

Regressives can't win so they're trying to cheat, again

We saw how regressives tried to cheat in the last election by trying to limit the vote with various measures, from reducing early voting to taking people off the roles. They understand perfectly well that demographics in the US are changing, that minorities are gaining numbers, that more women and young people are voting. And these are the very ones they targeted and thankfully it didn't work, largely due to making folks aware of their agenda and fighting back.

So now they've come up with a new scheme. The ploy now is to rig the electoral college by congressional district. That is, if one wins the popular vote in a district then the winner gets their electoral votes. The problem is, many of these districts have far fewer voters, so that in effect a candidate can win the popular vote in a State, even by a landslide, but still lose the electoral vote in that State's congressional districts. In other words, it's not one vote for one person; those is less populated districts get more voting power than those in more populated districts.

Friday, January 25, 2013

More on Churchland

Continuing from the previous post, in this article she also discusses free will in the context of self control. It is an adaptive mechanism not limited to humans. She said:

“When the very abstract question of free will is put in this context, I am no longer sure exactly what the question is. If it means can we have self-control, then obviously the answer is yes. If it means can we create a choice with no causal antedecent, in all probability the answer is no.”

I’m guessing there are those who make such a claim for the second type of free will, but I am not one of them. Hence I’m referring to it as a means of self control and executive or top-down decision making. She further notes that executive control is also a key part of social mores.

In this article on conscious and unconscious control she reiterates what Eagleman said in Incognito, that quite a bit of control is handled unconsciously. Like him she gave the example of skills once learned, how they then operate automatically. What she didn’t discuss was that those skills required conscious control in the learning process. The same goes for learning social mores or learning anything, for that matter. And that when we must learn new data the conscious control aspect again comes to the fore.

In the last section of the article (p. 346) she said:

Patricia Churchland on free will

See her article here. She too doesn't see free will as some dualistic, acausal idealism. She thinks a better frame for the notion is neural self-control, or as I've called it recently, embodied top-down causation from a "real self," as she attests. Some excerpts:

"To begin to update our ideas of free will, I suggest we first shift the debate away from the puzzling metaphysics of causal vacuums to the neurobiology of self-control.... Self-control can come in many degrees, shades, and styles. We have little direct control over autonomic functions such as blood pressure, heart rate and digestion, but vastly more control over behaviour that is organised by the cortex of the brain. Self-control is mediated by pathways in the prefrontal cortex, shaped by structures regulating emotions and drives, and it matures as the organism develops.

Thursday, January 24, 2013


Given the commentary to this post I was reminded of Libet's notions of the conscious mental field in this post, which depends on the brain but emerges from it, and is not limited by it. Which led me to recall Bryant's work on incorporeality. See for example the following posts: 1) A brief note on incorporeal machines; 2) The strange ontology of incorporeal machines: writing; 3) A few remarks on agency. Incorporeality, or trans-corporeality, will play a large part in his new book, Onto-Cartography.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The prefrontal cortex and goal directed social behavior

The above paper can be found  at this link. Abstract:

This chapter develops and integrative cognitive neuroscience framework for understanding the social functions of the lateral prefrontal cortex (PFC), reviewing recent theoretical insights from evolutionary psychology and emerging neuroscience evidence to support the importance of this region for orchestrating social behavior on the basis of evolutionarily adaptive social norms.

Review of Libet and recent research

So let's review the last few posts on Libet and recent research challenging one aspect of his research. He noted a readiness potential that occurred before the conscious awareness to move, and the latter occurred before the movement. And from that research the reductionistic determinists found support for their “hidden ad hoc assumptions,” assumptions that Libet himself did not share. To the contrary, Libet found that the conscious awareness of the movement indeed supported free will, despite the apparent earlier unconscious response.

An accumulator model for spontaneous neural activity prior to self-initiated movement

In this previous post there was a false link; this is the correct one. Following are some excerpts from the article. My summary: In Libet’s experiments the readiness potential (RP) was assumed to be an unconscious neural precursor to the conscious decision to move. Whereas in this experiment the RP is present whether or not a neural decision to move arises. The RP’s “causal role is incidental” to the movement. The actual neural decision to move, that is when the RP crosses a certain threshold, just happens to “coincide in time with average subjective estimates of the time of awareness of intention to move.” Now what does that tell us about free will?

Article excerpts:

“Our account departs from the prevailing assumptions about the nature of the RP and thus suggests that some very basic questions be revisited from a different perspective.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Taibbi on Zero Dark Thirty

As usual he is insightful as well as acerbic. He makes much the same point I made here, but with much more depth and articulation. That point being, if it's supposed to be a realistic account, then why not the realism of how ineffective torture is, how is enraged the Arab world against us, how it morally corrupted us. And all of which was bin Laden's plan to begin with, that we played right into his hands. See his review for much more.

More on Libet and free will

Continuing from my last post on Libet, it is deliciously ironic that people with a reductionistic determinist agenda interpreted his work to prove that free will doesn't exist, when Libet himself made no such claim. Quite the contrary, in the last post he stated unequivocally:

"There has been no evidence, or even a proposed experimental test design, that definitively or convincingly demonstrates the validity of natural law determinism as the mediator or instrument of free will.... In an issue so fundamentally important to our view of who we are, a claim for illusory nature should be based on fairly direct evidence. Such evidence is not available; nor do determinists propose even a potential experimental design to test the theory."

Of those who would make such a case based on his experiments he warns: "Great care should be taken not to believe allegedly scientific conclusions about them which actually depend upon hidden ad hoc assumptions."

And it is doubly ironic that Libet himself assumed free will as a premise. He said in this article, "Can conscious experience affect brain activity?":

Monday, January 21, 2013

Free will and top down control in the brain

The following is the abstract of chapter 10 of Downward Causation and the Neurobiology of Free Will:

"I suggest that the physiological basis of free will, the spontaneous and intrinsic selection of one action rather than another, might be identified with mechanisms of top-down control. Top-down control is needed when, rather than responding to the most salient stimulus, we concentrate on the stimuli and actions relevant to the task we have chosen to perform. Top-down control is particularly relevant when we make our own decisions rather than following the instructions of an experimenter. Cognitive neuroscientists have studied top-down control extensively and have demonstrated an important role for dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and anterior cingulate cortex. If we consider the individual in isolation, then these regions are the likely location of will in the brain. However, individuals do not typically operate in isolation. The demonstration of will in even the simplest laboratory task depends upon an implicit agreement between the subject of the experiment and the experimenter. The top of top-down control in not to be found in the individual brain, but in the culture that is the human brain's unique environmental niche."

The world's happiest countries and why so?

See Christopher Helman's article on this in Forbes. He bases this on Legatum Prosperity Index. And this is not solely based on economic prosperity but things like health, social cohesiveness, individual freedom, opportunity and even politics. Norway leads the way as the happiest country, with Denmark, Sweden and Finland following closely. What do these nations have in common? "Being an electoral democracy is almost a given." "They are all borderline socialist states, with generous welfare benefits and lots of redistribution of wealth. Yet they don't let that socialism cross the line into autocracy."Along those lines opportunity to start and maintain a business is a key factor. But what makes for that success? The "you didn't build that" social aspects that enable business success: "This means low business startup costs, lots of cellphones, plenty of secure Internet servers, a history of high R&D spending." They didn't mention roads and bridges, or court systems to enforce business protections, but these are social factors too.

Libet's study and his own words on free will

In a local reading group we're reading Eagleman's Incognito. A discussion has ensued on whether we are completely under the power of unconscious processes or if we have any conscious control over our zombie programs. Libet's study is of course seminal in such discussions. I figured I'd go right to the horse's mouth and the following are from his empirical paper. He noted that the initiation of a voluntary act preceded the conscious awareness of the act, but that the awareness preceded the actual action. He concluded that conscious awareness thus exerted control over the action in that it could veto it. He surmised that this conscious veto power is not preceded by an unconscious process. As to what the unconscious initiation of the act says about free will he said and I quote:

Sunday, January 20, 2013

A neural theory of language

I found this free e-copy at Scribd of From Molecule to Metaphor: A Neural Theory of Language. Enjoy.

Brain might not stand in the way of free will

See this article, which calls into question the standard neuroscientific arguments of Libet against free will. It is based on this recent study: "An accumulator model for spontaneous neural activity prior to self-initiated movement."

Organizing for Action

Are you in?

Maher is back

From his monologue: He appreciates the NRA accusing anyone of being paranoid; "It's like a sepctic tank saying 'you need a mint.'" On Armstrong doping and the Olympic Committee taking away his medal: "It's ok, they gave it to the runner-up, a nice Russian lady with a huge cock."

Top down causation and the human brain

Abstract from chapter 4 of Downward Causation and the Neurobiology of Free Will:

A reliable understanding of the nature of causation is the core feature of science. In this paper the concept of top-down causation in the hierarchy of structure and causation is examined in depth. Five different classes of top-down causation are identified and illustrated with real-world examples. They are (1) algorithmic top-down causation; (2) top-down causation via nonadaptive information control; (3) top-down causation via adaptive selection; (4) top-down causation via adaptive information control; (5) intelligent top-down causation (i.e., the effect of the human mind on the physical world). Recognizing these forms of causation implies that other kinds of causes than physical and chemical reactions are effective in the real world. Because of the existence of random processes at the bottom, there is sufficient causal slack at the physical level to allow all these kinds of causation to occur without violation of physical causation. That they do indeed occur is indicated by many kinds of evidence. Each such kind of causation takes place in particular in the human brain, as is indicated by specific examples.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Obama is making real progress with frames

Rachel Maddow had a good report on this Friday. She started with a discussion on the VIX, the volatility index which indicates the level of fear in the stock market. News about the economy is one important factor that causes the VIX to spike. For example, it had a record-high spike in October 2008 when the stock market crashed. It spiked again 5/20/10 after news of the dire European economy. It spiked again on 8/8/11 when the regressives threatened to default on the national debt and the US credit rating was downgraded. The VIX yesterday, just prior to President Obama's inauguration, is the lowest it's been since the spring of 2007.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Jon Stewart on NRA gun enforcement deception

Stewart nails them again. In this clip he shows a key regressive argument against more gun laws is that we cannot even enforce the laws we already have on the books. And that those laws should be handled on a federal level by the ATF. However we have not had a Director of the ATF for the last 6 years.  Why? The Senate refuses to confirm one. This confirmation for a non-Cabinet position was inserted into the Patriot Act by a WI congressman, who just happened to receive the NRA's coveted Defender of Freedom Award.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Director Bigelow responds on torture in 0 Dark 30

Kathryn Bigelow responds in this article to the charges that her movie promotes torture. She notes correctly that depiction of action is not the same as endorsement. But that is not the point. The point for me is that the movie attempts to portray an accurate depiction of what happened, and for the most part it succeeds and does so brilliantly under her usual directorial aplomb. But she did not portray the fact that prior to enhanced interrogation techniques including torture being employed on 'Ammar'* he was interrogated without torture. And the facts are that much more progress was made prior to the torture, and that after the later the intel got worse, not better. So why no scenes of the prior interrogation? Or of those on the scene who challenged that torture would work? That is part of the accurate depiction of what happened, is it not?

* According to Gibney this is a composite of two likely people, Hassan Ghul and Mohammed al-Qahtani. In both cases useful information was obtained prior to torture.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Ipseity and bare awareness

See this paper, Meditation and the neuroscience of consciousness. Some excerpts and commentary follow.

"A central goal of the practice of meditation is to transform the baseline state of experience and to obliterate the distinction between the meditative state and the postmeditative state. The practice of Open Presence, for instance, cultivates increased awareness of a more subtle baseline (i.e., ipseity) during which the sense of an autobiographical or narrative self is deemphasized. Long-term training in Compassion meditation is said to weaken egocentric traits and change the emotional baseline. Mindfulness/ Awareness meditation aims to experience the present nowness, and it affects the 'attentional baseline' by lessening distractions or daydream like thoughts.... From an empirical standpoint, one way to conceptualize these various meditative traits is to view them as developmental changes in physiological baselines in the organism. Finding ways of systematically characterizing these baselines before, during and after mental training is thus crucial for the empirical examination of the long-term impact of meditation" (70).

Sunday, January 13, 2013

On whose hands is Aaron Swartz' blood?

Lawrence Lessig comments on his friend's suicide. Lessig admits that what Swartz did was wrong, both his alleged behavior* and his suicide. But the prosecution he was facing was cruel and unusual, and a huge impetus for this desperate young man. JSTOR refused to press charges and urged the government to back off. MIT did not so the prosecutor went full tilt, saying it was a crime of profit seeking. Lessig calls anyone who believes that crap "either an idiot or a liar."

The neuroscience of decision

This is a new field of research to me, decision neuroscience. It is apparently not all that new. Following are some resources in the field with some samples.

Frontiers in Decision Neuroscience. One article from this source is "Reasoning, cognitive control and moral intuition." The abstract:

Recent Social Intuitionist work suggests that moral judgments are intuitive (not based on conscious deliberation or any significant chain of inference), and that the reasons we produce to explain or justify our judgments and actions are for the most part post hoc rationalizations rather than the actual source of those judgments. This is consistent with work on judgment and explanation in other domains, and it correctly challenges one-sidedly rationalistic accounts. We suggest that in fact reasoning has a great deal of influence on moral judgments and on intuitive judgments in general. This influence is not apparent from study of judgments simply in their immediate context, but it is crucial for the question of how cognition can help us avoid deleterious effects and enhance potentially beneficial effects of affect on judgment, action, and cognition itself. We begin with established work on several reactive strategies for cognitive control of affect (e.g., suppression, reappraisal), then give special attention to more complex sorts of conflict (“extended deliberation”) involving multiple interacting factors, both affective and reflective. These situations are especially difficult to study in a controlled way, but we propose some possible experimental approaches. We then review proactive strategies for control, including avoidance of temptation and mindfulness meditation (Froeliger et al., 2012, this issue). We give special attention to the role of slow or “cool” cognitive processes (e.g., deliberation, planning, and executive control) in the inculcation of long-term dispositions, traits, intuitions, skills, or habits. The latter are critical because they in turn give rise to a great many of our fast, intuitive judgments. The reasoning processes involved here are distinct from post hoc rationalizations and have a very real impact on countless intuitive judgments in concrete situations. This calls for a substantial enlargement of research on cognitive control, drawing on work in developmental psychology, automatization, educational theory, and other fields.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Stewart on 2nd amendment paranoia

Stewart rationally discusses the problem, which is of course a problem for paranoid psychos. He asks i.f common sense regulations might reduce some of the killings, why not try. One regressive compares it to drunk driving and asks "Do we ban bars?" Stewart responds we do not but we do enact strict blood alcohol limits, raised the drinking age, ramped up enforcement. Such sensible actions reduce drunk driving deaths. So why not outlaw high-capacity clips? Is that not a reasonable limitation? Or take military weapons out of the hands of civilians? The reply: the original assault gun ban was ill-conceived and didn't work. So how about well conceiving one that will work?

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Downward causation and the neurobiology of free will

I'm now reading Downward Causation and the Neurobiology of Free Will, a copy of which is at the link. They acknowledge and address two main critics of the premise, Libet and Weger. Libet did experiments where there was a delay between an action and our conscious awareness of "willing the action." Weger brings in severed right/left brain research, among other things. The chapters in the book address this research which both concur with and dispute them in varying degrees. More later.

No sugar tonight

For some strange reason (or no reason) this one popped into my head today.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Jon Stewart on the vote for hurricane Sandy relief

He nails it again. First the GOP refuses to hold a vote on it. Then, after members of their own party like Governor Christie cry asshole they brought it to a vote. But they only vote on part of it, leaving the more significant part in limbo. And even with the vote on the first part 67 regressives voted against it. Paul Ryan was one of those nay-sayers. When asked why he said that there was too much pork put in the Bill. Stewart help up the Bill, which was a mere 2 paragraphs specifically addressing flood relief and nothing else. So why would they vote against it, other than they are really sick bastards?

Monday, January 7, 2013

P2P, the new narrative

Someone from my reading group provided a link to this article on the space between the old narrative and the not yet manifest new one. I was reminded of a couple of things from the article. First was Michael Moore's response to Sandy Hook here, addressing those deeper causes like poverty, fear/racism, and the 'me' generation.

And regarding the new narrative, it's already here and has been since the advent of the internet revolution. Like Krugman's story, and the similar one Steve provided, all echoing Rifkin's focus on a shift to distributed energy and lateral organizational dynamics. It's known in computer literature as peer to peer (P2P). An excellent seminal essay on the topic by one of my associates is at this link. Also see his website, P2P Foundation.

What's in a story?

Continuing from the last post, check out Eagleman's website at this link. In the "research-other projects" tab I read his article "The moral of the story." It asserts that the neural purpose of stories is to

"simulate potential situations.... By learning the rules of the world and simulating outcomes in the service of decision making, brains can play out events without the risk and expense of attempting them physically.... The production and scrutiny of counterfactuals (colloquially known as 'what ifs') is an optimal way to test and refine one’s behavior."

He goes on to note that learning new information or skills requires that we must be in a state of curious anticipation and emotionally engaged. And story is the door that opens up this learning experience, not facts and figures. Stories "accomplish the same evolutionary function as religion: defining groups, coordinating behavior and suppressing selfishness in favor of cooperation."

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Framing: What is it good for?

Continuing this post, our reading of Incognito let to a discussion of just what we are conscious. And how we might tap into what we are not aware from our zombie programs, at least just a bit, and what implications that might have, and how we might use such access, limited as it may be. How can we apply it to climate change for example? Lakoff is one of the authors of Philosophy of the Flesh. His specialty is cognitive linguistics and we've previously discussed his work on framing, and how important it is in persuading people to vote a certain way. I'd maintain that the likes of the Obama campaign were listening during the last election, as many of their frames were right out of Lakoff's playbook, like the social contract in "you didn't build that" road, bridge etc.

So which countries are happier and why?

Jeffrey Sachs recently had an informative article on this. He was countering the regressive argument that people on welfare are unhappy due to taking unearned handouts. Countries with the highest expenditures on social programs are the happiest according to the World Happiness Report, the Gallap World Poll and the World Value Survey. Social democracies lead the way: Denmark, Finland, Norway, the Netherlands, Iceland, Costa Rica. The US lags far behind.The leading countries have higher tax rates that are spent on far better and humane social programs.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Sky is over

Sky is Over - Serj Tankian. This one seems a blatant statement on how our capitalistic culture is destroying the 'sky,' our ozone layer. And good music too.

Paramore, Emergency

I sometimes listen to radio, an alternative album station. They've been playing a lot Paramore lately, and this is another one they've introduced me to: Emergency.

Debt ceiling default a legitimate political strategy? Seriously?

We already know that the top 1% give not a damn about the rest of the world, as they brought it to near and total financial collapse by their demented greed. And now we have not only the GOP enabling such behavior but the lamestream media with the upcoming debt ceiling. It's horrendous enough that the Congressional regressives want to cut necessary programs for the poor and middle class to provide tax cuts and incentives to the very people that are motivated by avarice and nothing else, except perhaps the complete and utter destruction of the environment and the middle class. And that they are willing to default on our financial obligations thereby causing more worldwide financial turmoil unless they get such cuts to those most in need so that their pals might have that fifth Gulfstream G650.(A lovely plane, by the way.)

Friday, January 4, 2013

Of bangs and whimpers

In response to this post, also sent as an email to a reading group in which I participate, I got a reply leading to some indeed dire evidence that our climate problem may be beyond fixing. I responded with the following, also bringing in the current book we are reading, Incognito by David Eagleman.

This reflects a more a general trend of defeatism, that there's nothing to be done, the world will end, and we should just accept it. I'm not convinced. We are too easily writing off the human spirit, and by that I don't mean something 'spiritual' but more like our ingenuity,  resourcefulness and will.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Chinese leaders embrace Rifkin's 3rd Industrial Revolution

Balder posted this link at IPS, which notes the incoming Chinese premier is a fan of Rifkin. Which led me to search and find this story, noting

"that members of the twenty-four person Politburo and senior party officials are reading and actively discussing Jeremy Rifkin’s New York Times bestselling book, The Third Industrial Revolution, on the eve of the National Party Congress on November 8th that will usher in the new leadership of China- see attached article from the November 3rd edition of The London Times. According to The Times of London, the Chinese leadership is taking up Rifkin’s vision of linking internet technology with renewable energies, to prepare China for a dramatic shift into a sustainable post-carbon Third Industrial Revolution economy in the 21st century."

Encouraging indeed, since China is the world leader of anthropocentric CO2 emissions.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Integral capitalism redux

Joe Corbett has an interesting Integral World response to the Institute for Cultural Evolution (ICE). It seems ICE blames pomo for not getting along with modernist capitalism, nor recognizing all its wonderful benefits. It those MGMs would just get over their dysfunction and integrate modernist capitalism things would work out just fine. Corbett, to his credit, berates ICE's Polyanna attitude that the corporate-industrial-military complex can be "swept aside" once pomo gets on track and we can get on with the business of selling evolutionary theory. He notes that this is incredibly naive, since it misses the power structure of that massive complex and how it limits the very possibilities of action of the underclass, lest they be out of a job and die. And all the while meanwhile ICE touts individual initiative (more like obsession) and material consumption as positive values we should "integrate" as some kind of next gen survival of the fittest. All of this is explicit in the IPS thread on integral global capitalism.

Fiscal cliff averted, for now

The White House and the Senate came to an agreement 3 hours before the midnight deadline of the greatly feared fiscal cliff, then passed it 2 hours after midnight. The Bush tax cuts will remain for all except those earning over $400,000, and unemployment benefits will be extended for a year. Spending cuts will be put off for now with promises to get to them later. Now will the House pass it, that encrusted political body inhabited by fanatics incapable of adult behavior? However the dreaded and draconian automatic spending cuts have been delayed only for 2 months, when that nightmare will return in full force. Not a great deal*  but it's some small good news for the new year.

*Reich thinks it's rather bad, as does Sachs and Krugman. And this article shows the pork attached to it, though I like this particular bacon:

"Green energy was another big winner in the bill. Roughly a dozen provisions would extend credits and incentives for plug-in electric vehicles, energy-efficient appliances, biodiesel and renewable diesel, and other alternative energy initiatives."