fooled by propaganda

We live in two Americas.

One America, now the minority, functions in a literate world. It can cope with complexity and can separate illusion from truth. The other America, which is the majority, exists in a non-reality-based belief system. This America, dependent on skillfully manipulated images for information, has severed itself from the literate culture. It cannot differentiate between lies and truth.

Chris Hedges:

Political propaganda now masquerades as ideology. Political campaigns have become an experience. They do not require cognitive or self-critical skills. They are designed to ignite pseudo-religious feelings of euphoria, empowerment and collective salvation.

Campaigns that succeed are carefully constructed psychological instruments that manipulate fickle public moods, emotions and impulses, many of which are subliminal. They create a public ecstasy that annuls individuality and fosters a state of mindlessness.

Drew Curtis, founder of crowd aggregator

The ‘wisdom of the crowds’ is the most ridiculous statement I’ve heard in my life.

Crowds are dumb. It takes people to move crowds in the right direction, crowds by themselves just stand around and mutter. Only one percent of web comments have any value and the rest are ‘garbage’.

Curtis pointed to the America Speaking Out website launched by House Republicans to “allow the public to weigh in” on the issues. Curtis called the site an absolute train wreck. “It’s an absolute disaster. It’s impossible to tell who was kidding and who wasn’t.”

opening one’s mouth

Ensuring there’s enough money to pay for the war will require reforming the country’s entitlement system, said House Minority Leader John Boehner, adding that the retirement age must be raised to 70.

“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” Ephesians 6:12

After transferring trillions of dollars of bad debt or toxic assets from the books of financial speculators to those of governments, global financial moguls, their representatives in the State apparatus and corporate media are now blaming social spending (in effect, the people) as responsible for debt and deficit!

hybrid dragon

David Dayton:

You won’t change China.

You can either learn how to work within it or constantly fight against it.  I find that it’s usually some of both.

When you make small cultural mistakes like not using the public chopsticks or bowing (Chinese don’t bow) or slapping a female co-worker on the shoulder or a million other little things you’ll be completely forgiven.  It’ll just be chalked up to “stupid foreigner.”

But when you make demands on a broken contract or hold people accountable in public for personal mistakes or force specific processes to get things done you will be punished for it.  I promise.

wealth engine

John Robb:

Current efforts to revitalize Detroit appear to be a mix of ad hoc green approaches (urban gardens, etc.) and traditional commercial development. That’s not going to turn the city’s wealth creation engine back on.

What’s needed is a rethink of how a city produces wealth and becomes economically vibrant.

A good place to start is with the urbanist Jane Jacobs. Her analysis showed that the wealth engine of a city is a bootstrap called import replacement. Essentially, a city become economically vibrant by finding ways to locally produce the things it is currently importing.

not very successful

Two pictures of many from the TED-sponsored Gulf expedition.

Both are worth a good cry.

“We saw oil ranging from sheen to much heavier all the way to the coast and as far as the eye can see in both directions… There’s no good way to describe how huge an area is impacted.”

economic edge

Paul Sankey, Deutsche Bank:

“If we stopped producing gold tomorrow, we have 100 years of supply in inventory. If we stopped producing oil tomorrow, we have 55 days in inventory.” [link]

Americans buy ten thousand gallons of gasoline per second.

I suddenly wondered why we assume we can consume the Earth. Whether 55 days or 100 years, both point to finite and irreplaceable resources. We are sloppy, sloppy, sloppy. We can do much better and create a robust economy while doing so.

a glut of profits

Rob Parenteau:

And this, dear reader, brings us to the heart of the matter.

Remember the global savings glut you keep hearing about from Greenspan, Bernanke, Rajan, and other prominent neoliberals? Turns out it is a corporate savings glut.

There is a glut of profits, and these profits are not being reinvested in tangible plant and equipment. Companies, ostensibly under the guise of maximizing shareholder value, would much rather pay their inside looters in management handsome bonuses, or pay out special dividends to their shareholders, or play casino games with all sorts of financial engineering thrown into obfuscate the nature of their financial speculation, than fulfill the traditional roles of capitalist, which is to use profits as both a signal to invest in expanding the productive capital stock, as well as a source of financing the widening and upgrading of productive plant and equipment.

What we have here, in other words, is a failure of capitalists to act as capitalists.

tax-free jets

Inherited wealth and privilege are a fact of life in America as one can witness in any private jet terminal in America (there are 453 of them in Texas alone).

Jon Taplin:

So we began talking and he immediately asked me what I thought a liberal was. And I replied that liberals seek to continuously advance liberty and equality, just like John Locke suggested we should do in 1660.

Since that day the liberal constitutional world has gotten much freer and much more equal. But, despite the wishes of Karl Rove and Rush Limbaugh, the Liberal Project is not finished.

Clearly a Revolution fought on the principle that “All men are created equal” and “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness”, advanced the cause in our country, but one might argue that since Ronald Reagan took power in 1980, the cause of equality has been in retreat.

Fewer people control more wealth and the gap in pay between the CEO and the factory line worker has widened dramatically.

We have returned to the aristocracy Jefferson warned that Hamilton was reconstructing in New York from the London model of “The City”–the financial class that pulled the strings of government. And as Alan Wolfe in his extraordinary book, The Future of Liberalism, says, “Liberty without equality would be as empty as equality without liberty would be authoritarian.”

industrial welfare

Unpublished info. released at the request of ministers of the G20:

Fossil fuel subsidies cost the global economy $557 billion in 2008.

Source: International Energy Agency, OPEC, OECD, World Bank.

Obama began to roll back U.S. subsidies for fossil fuels almost immediately after taking office.

The 2009 federal budget eliminated subsidies worth $12.7 billion during Obama’s first term and an estimated $31.5 billion over the decade. The budget implemented an excise tax that restored royalty revenues that had been omitted from off-shore drilling sites.

the ungoverned

Bruce Sterling:

[pullquote]Financiers live in small, panicky urban cloisters, severely detached from the rest of mankind. They are living today in rich-guy ghetto cults. They are truly dangerous to our well-being, and they are getting worse and more extremist, not better and more reasonable. [/pullquote]The obviously dangerous aspect of modern cities is urban organized crime, narcoterror, low-intensity warfare, war in urban terrain, favela shoot-’em-ups, whatever faddish name the trouble has this year. Baghdad, Mogadishu, Grozny.

But I’d also like to point out that large financial centers in certain cities around the planet are certainly going to kill millions of us by destroying our social safety networks in the name of their imaginary financial efficiency. You’re a thousand times more likely to die because of what some urban banker did in 2008 than from what some Afghan-based terrorist did in 2001.

overpowering reading

emily dickinson gets real

Once, when her mother was trying to make a houseguest comfortable, Dickinson couldn’t help but transform her mother’s solicitous questions into provocations: “Wouldn’t you like to have the Declaration of Independence to read? Or the Lord’s Prayer repeated?

sting of rape

30,000 barbed Anti-Rape condoms were given away free at the World Cup.

And see here. Stitched within linen and cotton, teeth in the groin is not new.

“Did you pinpoint what changed in our relationship?”

full-blown goofy

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer says most illegal immigrants are drug mules:

“Well, we all know that the majority of the people that are coming to Arizona and trespassing are now becoming drug mules.

“They’re coming across our borders in huge numbers. The drug cartels have taken control of the immigration.”

Although it is common knowledge that Mexican drug cartels have merged human smuggling with drug trafficking, 20,000 border patrol agents and staff  have formally disputed her claims pointing out that drug smugglers are typically transporting much larger quantities of drugs!

widespread ordinary fraud

Generic headlines and political rhetoric do not tell us how our economy crashed.

Tom Adams:

Back in April of this year, Yves Smith and I suggested that some of the responsibility for the widespread failure of CDOs might lie with CDO managers.

CDO managers were tasked with assembling the assets that went into CDOs and overseeing the transactions. While they failed miserably at creating successful deals, they have somehow managed to escape the wrath of the broader world. Large investment companies, such as TCW, Putnam, BlackRock and even Pimco, had assembled and managed CDOs backed by toxic mortgage bonds as had well-regarded banks such as Goldman, Merrill, UBS and Citibank.

Thanks in large part to the CDO managers own assertions of expertise, investors trusted in their ability to wisely select safe mortgage bonds while avoiding the increasing risks that were appearing in the mortgage market. By 2008 it was obvious that the faith that investors had in these highly skilled and highly paid managers was misguided.

After several months of analyzing the deals and participants in the market, I began to suspect that the CDO managers, had ample opportunity and motivation to knowingly or negligently contribute the collapse of the deals under their charge.

As jaded as I have now become, I must confess that I am still surprised at just how blatant and casual some of the thievery in the CDO market appears to have been.

full-blown craze

Republican Senator Orin Hatch introduces drug testing for the unemployed!

Counter comment:

Politics can stay irrational longer than the unemployed can stay solvent.

Austerity is in full political swing, and unlikely to improve, except in the improbable scenario that Congress remains Democratic in the midterm elections.

The easiest way to lead people by the nose is through their morality.

“Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed.”—Herman Melville

capturing actors

A new method of capturing actors opens up games and animation production.

No white balls glued to spandex body suits. No markers or phosphorescent paint on the actors faces.

MotionScan from Depth Analysis is much more sophisticated, generating a fully-textured 3D model that incorporates every nuance, mannerism and emotional detail.

32 high definition cameras, 16 stereoscopic pairs, capture every angle of an actor’s performance at 30 frames per second.

perennial agriculture

Why do we carve up soil each year to start crops?
Seed, equipment, fertilizer and erosion are costly.

Perennial Grains could be the biggest farming breakthrough in 10,000 years!

  • Never replanted. Saving fuel, labor and costs.
  • Roots up to 12 feet reduce erosion, build soil and hold carbon.
  • Less equipment, less fertilizer, less herbicide.

Annual grains lose five times more water and use 35 times more nitrate fertilizer, too often migrating from fields to pollute drinking water or create ‘dead zones’.


Despite doubling of yields of major grain crops since the 1950s, more than one in seven people suffer from malnutrition.

Global population is growing; demand for food, especially meat, is increasing; much land most suitable for annual crops is already in use; and production of nonfood goods (e.g., biofuels) increasingly competes with food production for land.

The best lands have soils at low or moderate risk of degradation under annual grain production but make up only 12.6% of global land area (6.4 million sq. miles).

Supporting more than 50% of world population is another 43.7 million km2 of marginal lands (33.5% of global land area), at high risk of degradation under annual grain production but otherwise capable of producing crops.

Global food security depends on annual grains—cereals, oilseeds, and legumes—planted on almost 70% of croplands, which combined supply a similar portion of human calories.

Annual grain  production, though, often compromises essential ecosystem services, pushing some beyond sustainable boundaries.

To ensure food and ecosystem security, farmers need more options to produce grains under different, generally less favorable circumstances than those under which increases in food security were achieved this past century.

Development of perennial versions of important grain crops could expand options.

spill on the inside

Many say we do not see much of the oil spill.

This is unacceptable.

So, I decided on the way back, well let me just go out from the coast a little bit and see what’s going on. I ran into oil 3/4 of mile off the coast. Not sheen. Crude.

As I’m driving along back towards Red Pass I look over the Gulf and I notice that there’s big swarms of birds. That’s not unusual. I figured they were diving on bait. But why were they diving into oil sheen? Because birds don’t know any better.

We’re driving out towards the birds. I wanted to see what they were diving into. I wanted to know. As we get out to the birds, I don’t know if you’ve been out on the water much, if you’ve seen a big school of fish. They have like a boil on the water. It looks like a pot boiling. The fish boil the water with their moves.

As we drove into it, there was big Bull Reds with their mouths on top of the water , laying sideways , swimming upside down in a circle. Again, hundreds of thousands of them, school after school after school.

They were dying. They were so disoriented that they were running into the side of my boat.

made of human ashes

Dutch design studio Wieke Somers offers memorable sculpture made of human ashes.

I don’t know what to say except I’m unsteady about keeping urns and slightly more comfortable spilling ashes. Yet memory is precious, even if we’ve rolled boulders uphill or threw rocks at a rubber sky.

a vast industry


Online pornography is a vast industry.

Figures collated by Internet Pornography Statistics suggest more than $3,000 is spent on Internet pornography every second.

Sex is the number one search term in the world, accounting for 25 percent of all Internet searches.

With an estimated 370 million pornographic websites on the Internet, .xxx could become one of the largest domain name repositories, as big if not bigger than .com.

argument is cheap

Seth Godin:

The easiest way to make noise within a community is to divide the tribe.

Modernism, classicism, realism, impressionism–dividing things into schools of thought–or even warring camps–makes it easy to create tension and thus attention.

I’m running out of patience for people who would further their personal or media goals by dividing us in exchange for a cheap point or a few votes.

If members of a tribe encourage schisms and cheer on the battles, is it any wonder that it’s hard to create forward motion? When we’re not in sync, power is dissipated.

Thoughtful conversation, dissent and disagreement are an essential part of growth. Intentionally pitting people against one another to make a few bucks is dangerous self-indulgence. The hardest part of being patriotic to your cause is rooting on the whole even when it’s easier to be a cynical critic.

big amusement industries

Alan Lomax 1915-2002:

I mean, you and your CBS and all the big amusement industries represent a way of silencing everybody.

Communication was supposed to be two-way, but it turned out to be basically one-way.

From those people who can afford to own a transmitter, which costs a few million dollars, to a little guy who can afford to own a receiver that costs a few bucks.

So there are millions of receivers and people at the other end, and only a few transmitters. I think that is one of the major—if not the major—human problem now. Because everybody is off the air.