i-padded room

John Naughton tethers closed v. open:

Aldous Huxley and the iPad

Universe SplitterWatching Steve Jobs unveil the Apple iPad, what came to mind was something that Neil Postman, the most influential media critic since Marshall McLuhan, once said. Our future possibilities, Postman thought, lay on a spectrum bounded by George Orwell at one end, and by Aldous Huxley at the other: Orwell because he believed that we would be destroyed by the things we fear; Huxley because he thought that we would be undone by the things we love.

As the internet went mainstream, the Orwellian nightmare has evolved into a realistic possibility, because of the facilities the network offers for the comprehensive surveillance so vividly evoked in 1984. Governments everywhere have helped themselves to powers to read every email or text you’ve ever sent. And that’s just the democracies; authoritarian regimes are far more intrusive.

Until recently, the Huxleian nightmare seemed a more distant prospect…

For the implication of an iPad-crazed world – with its millions of delighted, infatuated users – is that a single US company renowned for control-freakery will have become the gatekeeper to the online world.

The iPad – like the iPhone – is a closed, tightly controlled device: nothing gets on to it that has not been expressly approved by Apple. We will have arrived at an Orwellian end by Huxleian means. And be foolish enough to think that we’ve attained nirvana.

blocked, blocked, blocked

I’ve come to think, as it happens, that the portrayal of ordinary Americans as helpless victims may be one of the most significant barriers in the way of the constructive changes we desperately need to make… the American assumption that all authority is illegitimate and all boundaries unreasonable… a bit about how the recent abandonment of community plays into the trajectory of decline our civilization is now following… a very awkward place to be… rejecting the system in their hearts while supporting it with their actions… forces that are tearing modern industrial civilization apart.

water that will not move

A top insight, perhaps of little use to most, but dynamite nevertheless.

forces nothing else in nature can match

…after the first large rainstorm in October, only 4 percent of the precipitation entering the soil ended up in the stream — 96 percent was taken up and held tightly by soil around plants to recharge soil moisture. A month later when soil moisture was fully recharged, 55 percent of precipitation went directly into streams. And as winter rains continue to pour moisture into the ground, almost all of the water that originally recharged the soil around plants remains held tightly in the soil — it never moves or mixes.

“This tells us that we have a less complete understanding of how water moves through soils, and is affected by them, than we thought we did.”

in order to make good

So if I’ve got this straight, Americans don’t want to hear unpleasant truths, let alone believe them, let alone act on them. And Republicans tirelessly obstruct any honest attempt to define our problems, let alone solve them. And Democrats are weak or traitorous or both.

The president should take his own advice and be honest with the American people about the challenges the country is facing.

Sure. And while he’s at it, he should telekinetically levitate the Washington Monument, and hang it like the sword of Damocles over the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

then, stop arguing

Mind, impressive ecstasy, loyalty to noble, hung in the basement of the paleomagnetic crater we call home, standing great, an iron stiff skeleton sinewed to virtue, our first and forever moment, free envisioning robed in the seduction of better, penetrating boundary, bending blood, task of will, only our good, our beauty, and only beauty, our melody exposed to the exquisite, well beyond the dilemma of our hopefulness.

Every human is labor.
And today, we are our future.
We have that in common with all things.

Time
, a sharp hope and memory drifts across the ribbon of life’s highway, the vast prairie of the mind, a new horizon every moment, a new footprint every thought. Seasons quilt the hills, stitchery of fresh and brown; stone erodes to sand; the cup of earth sways beneath the ocean’s heavy brew; magnetic hands of moon and star hold us all within.

We are vast creatures, we humans.
Touched by crisp of endless space.

We are vast creatures, we humans.
Never dirt nor sky but all alike.

We are vast creatures, we humans.
None too small and none so large.

We meet first within the caverns of the mountains and second along the slopes toward the sea. We meet again with the yearning grass and glimpse each other through the blizzard and the rain. We wander flat rivers or explore the spongy fingers of the delta near the coast, and we meet in clear water turned within the brine; breeze can be our only wind, another seared by desert, and another cut by hurricane, another crystal’d winter; at last, we each our time, none so greater than the next, none so infinite as we are made.

our era. period.

Tom Friedman:

Leaders, companies or individuals guided by situational values do whatever the situation will allow, no matter the wider interests of their communities.

“I’ll be gone when the bill comes due.”

People inspired by sustainable values act just the opposite, saying: “I will never be gone. I will always be here. Therefore, I must behave in ways that sustain — my employees, my customers, my suppliers, my environment, my country and my future generations.”

chamber of squander

Spending more than double any other lobby, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is embroiled in the most expensive lobbying efforts in the organization’s 98-year history.

The Chamber’s strong opposition to climate policy–and their strategy of challenging the science behind it–moved several large companies including Apple and several major energy utilities to leave the group in protest.

Luddites on the loose with checkbooks.

salvaging our damaged

Anja Atkinson:

We may not directly be aware of the suffering caused others in pursuit of boundless material wealth, power and crushing corporate domination of the world’s markets and natural eco-systems. A pursuit that has been a ruthless hunt within the context that only the fit survive. A false pretense that supports a false truth revealing only an ignorance of our place in life – which is to live in harmony with nature, the complete life sustaining system of the planet.

where quake aid goes

About $1.25 each from everyone in the United States.

Each American dollar roughly breaks down like this: 42 cents for disaster assistance, 33 cents for U.S. military aid, nine cents for food, nine cents to transport the food, five cents for paying Haitian survivors for recovery efforts, just under one cent to the Haitian government, and about half a cent to the Dominican Republic.

Martha Mendoza, AP review of U.S. earthquake relief. Cash is withdrawn from $2.6 billion already appropriated in the 2010 budget for foreign disaster relief. There are no plans to ask Congress for more money.

  1. The U.S. rarely gives large amounts of money directly to governments. Under one penny of each dollar is going straight to the shattered Haitian government, whose president is sleeping in a tent.
  2. Just under a dime has already been spent on food: 122 million pounds of pinto beans, black beans, rice, corn soy blend and vegetable oil. When purchased in bulk, the actual food prices are relatively low. Pinto beans, for example, cost the U.S. government 40 cents a pound when purchased in 5 million-pound batches last week.
  3. 33 cents is going to the U.S. military, paying for security, search and rescue teams, and the Navy’s hospital ship USNS Comfort.
  4. 42 cents funds US AID’s disaster assistance – everything from $5,000 generators to $35 hygiene kits with soap, toothbrushes and toothpaste for a family of five.

“I really believe Americans are the most generous people who ever lived, but they want accountability,” said Timothy R. Knight, a former US AID assistant director who spent 25 years distributing disaster aid.

freeze-eology

Jared Bernstein at WhiteHouse.Gov:

During the campaign, you may recall that John McCain touted option 1 – the hatchet approach of an across-the-board freeze.

The President was critical of that approach then, and we would be critical of it now. It’s not what we’re proposing.

To the contrary, the entire theory of the President’s proposed freeze is to dial up the stuff that will support job growth and innovation while dialing down the stuff that doesn’t.

Under our plan, some discretionary spending will go up; some will go down. That’s a big difference from a hatchet.

don’t let force pile

– it ain’t the quake

Mason White at Wired’s Haiti initiative notices Lebbeus Woods, an experimental architect based in New York, revealing that earthquakes are not at fault in the destruction of settlements:

Lebbeus Woods, forces of earthquakes

“This destruction is not the ‘fault’ of earthquakes, but rather of the buildings, which, even in regions regularly visited by earthquakes, are not designed to work with the violent forces released. Buildings collapse, usually with loss of life and injuries. The earthquakes are blamed, as though the purpose of these sublimely unself-conscious phenomena was to damage and destroy the human.”

rescue arrived

What are the individual encounters that have stuck with you the most?

For me it was meeting the people there. People in the media were saying there are riots there and people are angry. We met the complete opposite–people who were very thankful that we came there to try to help search for loved ones.

Yes, we did see riots or people trying to get things out of stores, looting. You take something that you can trade for food. Even when we saw those kind of things, they would stop, allow us to go through and then continue to do what they were doing.

From a short interview at CNET .

what grieving accomplishes

The New YorkerGrief, like fear, is a stress reaction, attended by deep physiological changes. Levels of stress hormones like cortisol increase. Sleep patterns are disrupted. Loss of appetite. The immune system is weakened. Grief is more complex than mere despondency.

Additional studies suggest that grief comes in waves, welling up and dominating your emotional life, then subsiding, only to recur.

“When we look more closely at the emotional experiences of bereaved people over time, the level of fluctuation is nothing short of spectacular.”

The heightened physical arousal, anger, and sadness of grief resemble the anxiety that children suffer when they’re separated from their mothers. Searching, or yearning, crops up in nearly all the contemporary investigations of grief.

Good Grief? Is there a better way to be bereaved”, asks Meghan O’Rourke.

full spectrum inequality

G. W. Bush jobs destruction, dismantled oversight, slashed corporate taxes and mushrooming debt.

G. W. Bush job destructionThe Plunder, Pillage and Destruction of the American Tax Base by James Woolley.

For example, offshore-registered hedge funds are tax-exempt and so too are earnings of those fund managers. Yet, they live and work in America. They utilize the same streets, highways, playgrounds and facilities as the rest of us, and they escape all financial responsibilities.

But what about a small company where the employees routinely ate lunch at a nearby sandwich shop? Once everyone has been laid off, the business for that sandwich shop suddenly takes an enormous downturn.

quick tent city

tremblement de terre!

ShelterBox is a tough, green plastic box containing a durable tent and ancillary equipment designed to enable a family of up to 10 people survive for at least six months.

Other items may include insulated groundsheets, thermal blankets, a multi-fuel stove, cooking equipment, tools, mosquito nets, water containers etc.

Emergency shelter for more than 20,000 people is now in Port au Prince and surrounding areas with small camps already set up in Delmas, Petion-Ville, Carrefour and Leogane.

Hundreds more ShelterBoxes containing disaster relief tents and other life-saving supplies are being sent to the city in the next few days from Miami, Curucao and France, meaning another 11,000 people will be given emergency shelter.

Shelterbox contents

spike in food prices

US Grain used for alcoholThe Folly of Grain to Cars.

George W. Bush diverted more than a quarter of the total U.S. grain crop into ethanol, enough to feed 330 million people for one year and raising food prices worldwide.

If the entire U.S. grain crop were converted to ethanol (leaving no domestic crop to make bread, rice, pasta, or animal feed for meat, milk, and eggs), it would satisfy at most 18 percent of automotive needs.

privatization as power

Arthur Cutten:

Starting with the Reagan privatization revolution, the finance sector began to grow in importance, moving from a utility serving the capital distribution and storage needs of the real economy taking a relatively small percentage of real output to a dominant force in the national decision making process, controlling the allocation of capital through its powerful influence and lobbying in Washington, placement of its supporters in political positions of power, and the consolidation of the mainstream media into an oligopoly of four or five major corporations.

And if we do not give the banks their demands, if we do not maintain the status quo, then they threaten that they cannot protect the world from financial ruin and a collapse of the money system, which they themselves control.

And this is no mere extortion, no corruption of a single party or person, but the foundation of an enduring modern tyranny.

Since Reagan, banks extract from the U.S. economy:

Banks since Reagan
“Single acts of tyranny may be ascribed to the accidental opinion of a day; but a series of oppressions, begun at a distinguished period and pursued unalterably through every change of ministers, too plainly prove a deliberate, systematic plan of reducing a people to slavery.” Thomas Jefferson

plutocracy unleashed

The conservative Supreme Court cherry-picked precedents further enabling huge accumulations of wealth without any personal risk.

David Kairys at Slate:

  1. Increasing the constitutional rights of corporations beyond their business purposes is really about increasing the rights and power of corporate managers.
  2. Taken as a whole, the conservative court’s First Amendment jurisprudence has enlarged the speech rights available to wealthy people and corporations and restricted the speech rights available to people of ordinary means and to dissenters.
  3. Wealthy people and corporate managers shouldn’t dominate politics or have more and better speech rights than the rest of us.

Dana Blankenhorn analyzes:

Because right now corporations are not just men — they’re supermen. They can’t be killed, they can’t be jailed, yet they have all the rights of men, including full political rights.

Immortals, with absolute power over the rest of us, able to control society in perpetuity from behind their board room doors. America becomes a classic fascist state…

secret financing

Slate inaugurates “This Week In Crazy“:

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas wanted to let corporations spend as much as they want on influencing public policy without ever having to identify themselves.

XXXXXXXXXXIn his undistinguished 20-year stint, Clarence Thomas has rarely called attention to himself for original thinking. But if Thomas had had his way with Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission, in which the court decided to remove limits on campaign financing, an already horrible decision would have been far, far worse.

Crazy worse.

Thomas went along with the majority in agreeing that corporations and unions can once more be permitted to spend freely on political issues, thus driving a stake through the heart of the democratic process in the United States. But he dissented in part, because he didn’t think the ruling went far enough.

Specifically, he argued that the court was wrong to continue requiring that the sponsors of political advertising disclose who paid for them.

headlines are revenue

Soon after almost every disaster the crimes begin: ruthless, selfish, indifferent to human suffering, and generating far more suffering. The perpetrators go unpunished and live to commit further crimes against humanity. They care less for human life than for property. They act without regard for consequences.

I’m talking, of course, about those members of the mass media whose misrepresentation of what goes on in disaster often abets and justifies a second wave of disaster. I’m talking about the treatment of sufferers as criminals, both on the ground and in the news, and the endorsement of a shift of resources from rescue to property patrol.

Rebecca Solnit: incisive criticism of our media machine in Haiti:

Panic among ordinary people in crisis is profoundly uncommon. The media will call a crowd of people running from certain death a panicking mob, even though running is the only sensible thing to do.

We live and die by words and ideas, and it matters desperately that we get them right.

Necessity is a defense…

rush hour porn

digital advertising on Moscow streetsCity officials warn that all digital advertising screens on Moscow streets will be removed unless hackers stop disrupting traffic by beaming hardcore porn.

“If we are not 100 per cent sure that this situation cannot arise again, we will decommission this type of screen in the city.”

Motorists were shocked reports the The Moscow News.