Related: health care coverage, economic policy, and racism

The same thinking that underlies racism, sexism, and classism underlies the thinking that says, “Hey, let’s get rid of health care coverage for those who aren’t federal politicians, well-employed, or wealthy.”

The bottom line is treating people as things, and money as the thing of most value.

All humans have something to give, which is only freed up when the basic needs of survival are met; money is a means of exchange but is, itself, neither food nor drink nor fuel nor care. It only gets us any of these things if everyone buys into it as a medium of exchange. That piece of paper has no intrinsic value.

Rational policy is based on the understanding that humans give and receive value, while money represents a part of that value. Corollary is, money must move around to gain value; letting it pile up in drifts and hold still is bad long-term policy, as Reagan’s advisors can now see.

“Trickle-down” assumed that rich people would spend. Rich people don’t spend. They save and invest. Thus, their money moves as little as possible, in order to keep more money coming back to them, where it stagnates further. The real economy (wages, employment, individual bankruptcies, COL, savings, home-ownership, etc.) is nearly dead in the water, but the stock exchange is doing better than ever; that’s how bad the disconnect is now.

With wages lower than a worm’s belly and the formerly-thriving middle class nearly all gone, most human energy is consumed by the struggle for survival. We have, in fact, enough resources and infrastructure that the only people who need to work are those who really want to (that would still be far more than half of us; stop seeing your exhaustion as laziness.)

Given the chance to survive, humans give back. It’s simply what we do. As some cities and a few countries have discovered, with housing, food, and care assured, creativity and productivity blossom. Value grows. Stability grows with it. So does the economy, by the way. Not in leaps and bounds, but at a steady, calm, non-bubbly, sustainable rate.

Weird idea, eh? I mean, who wants stability, right?

matchgrins-horsenwoman_decamps-pauline_4blog

I’ll give you a moment to pull yourself together…

Keeping people feeling cheated, disenfranchised, and looking for someone to blame other than those who hold the scales, is a great way to kill that kind of success. Racism, sexism in all its forms, and classism are the key tools used to divide and conquer us.

By request, I’m pasting in a stream-of-consciousness post I made elsewhere about racism. It relates to “living anyway” because, as with having a horrible disease, having and not having race/gender privilege does NOT have to poison my life, destroy my chances for freedom-within-my-limits, or negate my right to find true joy.

I know you know this about me, but in light of the horrors of the week, I just want to lay this out there, in order to be absolutely clear. Ready? here’s some Isy intensity. (Is-ensity?) …

 

I abhor racism. I abhor it in myself above all, and every day I try to educate/inform/reflect/analyze/remove a little more from my own mind and heart. I screw up sometimes, and the guilt for every screwup never leaves me. (True. OTT, but true.)

 

None of us are free until all of us are free. That’s not polemic, it’s basic psychology. The thinking that pulls us apart is irrational and hostile to our individual and collective well-being. Take a course; take two; you’ll see. It takes real work to get through the mental blocks to understand that fully, and classes provide the guidance and support to make that task feasible. It’s worth it.

 

I take an anti-ism/liberation course or pick up an enlightening book once or twice a year at least, sometimes more if I need it. The reason is this: I shower every day or two, because if I don’t, the stink builds up; same thing happens to the mind of a White woman living in this grubby world. Gotta clean up my thinking, because it’ll inevitably get mucked up by living in my skin in this larger reality.

 

  • As long as Native Americans of all ages are systematically robbed and murdered and left uncounted, I’m hollering for justice;
  • As long as Black people are shot down like amusement-park targets, I’m a co-conspirator in Black liberation;
  • As long as Latinos are thrown out like trash, I’m a gringa curandera for the soul of this nation;
  • As long as Asians, from the Subcontinent or the mainland or any of the islands, are silenced, entombed in unmarked graves, and their history erased from these shores, I’m an impassioned teacher of history;
  • As long as … go on, try to think of a race this country HASN’T systematically trashed. Even Whites — cf. indenture, which has changed its name but not its condition since the founding of this country.

 

Think the rich are free? Imagine the underlying terror of knowing that 99% of the population would gladly end you and destroy all you cherish. (A bit like the rest of us feel about the forces they keep in play, but still.)

 

Want to know more? Use primary sources. Nothing is more telling, or compelling, than the words and images of those who were there. Want to know what the data are? Go to the proximal sources — ignore the pundits. Racism, and its toxic twins classism and sexism (including gender isms; graduate class on that coming shortly), poison all didactic thinking to some degree. Look at primary sources, and digest them yourself. It’s worth it.

 

None of us are immune from the effects of racism. Even loads of money only cushions you, as long as you can access its benefits; it doesn’t make you safer outside your circle. Speaking as someone who changed socioeconomic class dramatically, and rather quickly, I’m strongly aware of the value of having social ethics that don’t lock me to an income bracket or neighborhood.

 

Nobody, but nobody, is free, until all of us are free.

Hatred is no way to run a country, let alone a life.

 

Fiercely and lovingly yours,

Isy

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Moderation, part 2 (with footnotes)

Last week’s experimental overdose was not without consequences. There were a couple of days of the most astounding vacuousness, combined with a lethargy and inertia so profound that I find it hard even to remember… Also, record-setting levels of forgetfulness.

So that was the “overdoing on bad stuff” side of the question.

Because I don’t know when to quit, apparently, I did another experiment yesterday: allowed myself to run out of greens, and had a whole day without my Brain Food shakes. That was the “neglecting the good stuff” part, because of course //wide eyes// one must have both the yin and the yang.

Here’s how that went:

I was scheduled for a massage at one, but my massage therapist had (for once) forgotten to change it in his schedule, so he thought it was at noon. As I was leaving the house, I walked through a cell signal (few and far between here) and got the happy blurt that tells me I have a message. It was Ed, my massage therapist, calling to see if I was all right because it was 30 minutes into my session and I wasn’t there. (It’s not like me to be late.)

Here’s the fun part: I stood there, phone in hand, mentally cursing because now I had to go back in the house and look up his number.

While holding the cellphone he’d called me on.

I went back inside to where I keep my cell phone plugged in, looked at the empty space, realized my mistake, cursed inwardly, went back outside to make the call. Before I started dialing, I realized my vision was too bad to drive without my glasses. (It varies with my brain state.) Slightly panicked, I went back inside for my glasses. I didn’t want to forget and drive off without them, which I feared I might be capable of.

By the time I got there, I’d forgotten why I had gone inside, and was very annoyed with myself for wasting time. I stood there, staring into the blurry living room which I could not see across accurately, wondering what the hell I had come inside for and why it was important enough to keep me from driving off.

I went back outside, and was almost at the car…

when I realized, again, that I couldn’t possibly drive like that. Muttering, “Glasses, glasses, glasses,” so I wouldn’t forget again (which I was fully capable of), I went back inside and retrieved them.

I came back out, found my way to the phone zone, and made a slightly hysterical call to my massage therapist. I was now 15 min. late by my time, and an hour and a quarter by his. Bless his golden heart, he calmed me right down, and my day was considerably better soon after.

I’m preparing for a cross-country meander, meant to be conducted within my limits of capacity – mental, physical, and financial – which may be yet another fantasy, but at least it will be an interesting one.

I’ve taught myself 2 important lessons this week, though, and it’s good to be absolutely clear about them before I have so much else to think about:

1. Sugar in strictest moderation. It used to be a matter of avoiding pain, but this was a neurologic meltdown of a depth and duration best avoided in future.

2. Eat my damn Brain Food shake. I didn’t spend all these years figuring it out, just to dis my own discovery. Figuring out how to get them on the road just became the most important job of my life!

Is it just me? I sometimes wonder how many of us, who turn to sweets for comfort and let our distaste for kale exceed our longing to function (as I certainly did until very recently), could be doing so much better.

My pain levels rest very low, as long as I eat right and drink enough water. And my mental function — as, wow, I have reeeeeally demonstrated this week — is hugely affected by what I do, and don’t, get into my system.

  • If I still ate wheat, I’d be so thoroughly impaired I’d be in need of daily care to make sure I showered and ate and — literally — didn’t wander into traffic. 
  • If I still ate corn regularly, I’d be so sore, cranky and ill-behaved that it would be impossible to find an aide to help me. 
  • If I still ate rice I’d regularly be in so much pain I couldn’t think of anything else.
  • If I still ate grains in any amount (even of good quality, as I used to), I’d be nearly immobilized by the extra weight I’d be carrying, making that care even more necessary but even harder to get. 
  • If I ate sweets for comfort, I’d never really find it. But I’d keep trying, probably by eating more sweets! With insulin resistance, it’s a vicious cycle of longing with temporary and partial satisfaction overlaying a bottomless need.

How many undiagnosed food sensitivities and metabolic dysregulations are deepening the levels of Hell in which CRPSers live? Especially given that it’s a disease of the central nervous system, which most certainly does include the gut? It really makes me wonder.

The largest concentration of nerves outside the brain is in the gut, and there’s a breathtaking new field of science about that, called gastroneurology or neurogasteroenterology (it’s only been around for 20 years, so the name is not yet fixed).

Metabolically, I’m just not that weird,  that so many core, neuro-immunologic issues that show up in me could be all that unusual. It makes me wonder if my brain is really all that broken, or if it’s just signalling really hard…

I know how desperately hard it is to change the way you eat, because it means changing the way you have to respond to your most primitive longings at your most vulnerable and achingly needy times. (I have an extremely high tolerance for uncertainty and an extremely low one for needless stupidity, especially in myself, and that has been a great help in working this out.)

It helps to have a structure worked out and some sort of support: hence the success of Weight Watchers and clinician-approved eating patterns like the Stone Age diet or the South Beach Diet.

These dramatically different strategies coexist because … drumroll please … we aren’t all the same! Some will work on some, others will work for others.

Personally, I’m intrigued by the immunological component of digestion and assimilation (another key characteristic of gastroneurology), best addressed by the Blood Type bouquet of diets. The Type O eating pattern (with added wheat) was what I did naturally when I was fit and well, and guess what, I’m type O.

mmmmm, lunch!

But things have gotten weirder since then…

Now that I’ve finished my tea, it’s time for breakfast. Guess what that’ll be? 🙂

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Out of the foggy night: Overmedication and abandonment issues

I was overmedicated on mixed psychoactives (in plain English, my doctors had me on too many pills for CRPS) and, at the beginning of February, I ditched most of them. The following weeks were pretty hideous in an interesting way, as my brain’s natural chemistry struggled with the messy extrication and departure of the pharmaceuticals.

It feels like washing my dirty laundry to say this, but I suspect I’m being too finicky: LOTS of people get overmedicated by well-meaning medicos who don’t talk to each other.

The pills I stopped were SSRIs and SNRIs. (I can’t remember which was which.) The upside to this class of medication is that it specifically relieves nerve pain, in addition to helping lift depression. (I wrote an article, buried in my archives, about the tiny handful of neurotransmitters, and how each one has many jobs. Serotonin, for instance, helps digest protein in the gut; dopamine mediates decisions. I’ll dig it out and post it on the Biowizardry blog.)

When you have CRPS and you’re overmedicated on neurotransmitter Reuptake Inhibitors (of whatever flavor), your brain is in the toilet and there’s no way to tell which mental blurch is due to drugs and which one is CRPS. I couldn’t always tell how well I was thinking, though I kept trying anyway. Perceiving how I felt underneath it all was like trying to determine the shape of a bomb while it’s still in the box. I was usually clear about what I remembered and what I wasn’t sure about… but just try getting anyone to believe you when they already know that your brain is not firing on all four cylinders.

There’s a lot of grey area in the grey matter, when you’re overmedicated and have CRPS.

I’m not sure how much more crap there is to clear out, but I know I’m a lot clearer about what’s going on right now. I look back on the past two years with some dismay, as I try to rebuild the relationships I dented, and (most painfully) try to understand why those who should have known better had simply abandoned me to that foggy night.

[photo credit http://www.flickr.com/photos/jfraissi/2165047274/]

But anyway.

I am remarkably clear, now, about what I remember and what is nothing but a sudden hole in my mind. I’m clear about whether I can think right now or not. I’m able to feel the brain crank up and crank down, so I can communicate to others, “I can do this!” or “Gotta stop now!” And, for the first time in years, I can get something done on some sort of schedule. Not a consistent or reliable schedule, not to any sort of clock, but just to know that I CAN do something is quite a step. I’ll take it and be thankful!

I still have CRPS. My medication is still problematic. I still have sudden, random, Swiss-cheese-like holes in my memory and cognition. BUT — and it’s a big but! — there is no grey area in my grey matter any more. I know if I know, and I know if I don’t know.

And that’s information I intend to use.

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Mind, brain, spirit, and the im/pertinence of death

I referred to this material in an earlier post, where I described the online conversation that started it. My first thought was to turn it into a coherent essay. On reflection, I realized that digesting what my co-conversationalists said was not necessarily going to improve the content, as they’re very eloquent and have distinctive voices. So I chose to let them speak for themselves.

Note to non-academics and other civilized beings: I find that, with academics as with working engineers, it’s more important to be clear than to be sweet. Caveat emptor.

This thread is from James Croft’s blog on “State of Formation,” an excellent venue for lively conversations. It started with Jim F., as I secretly suspect a lot of the most interesting arguments do:

Jim F. says:
[…] Injuries to the brain from accidents or from disease like tumors or strokes can lead to radical changes in personality and/or character. In Lamont’s opinion, there are no real good reasons for believing that consciousness is something that can exist without the body. Therefore, when the body dies, so does the mind.

Isabel says:
February 28, 2011 at 2:30 am
Jim, I’ve mulled that relationship a lot. (Lifelong interest in neurology, now with neurologic disorder.) My studies and experience leave me certain that it’s a seductive mutuality, but not an absolute connection. It’s certainly not a simple one.

While mental states are associated with neuroendocrine activity, the subjective experience is inevitable _only_ to the extent that it’s unaware — or, of course, volitional.

This seriously disturbs the structure of the idea that “mental state doesn’t exist without physical state.” And that doesn’t even go near the eternal chicken/egg question — whether the chemical shift or the feeling it’s supposed to transmit comes first.

Go on to look at more organized ways of managing one’s mentation & neuroendocrine flow, like meditation or yoga or “inward” martial arts, and the question of connection and control becomes not just loose, but flaccid.

The more I think about awareness, and the more I learn about neurophysiology and endocrine behavior, and the further I go on the personal inquiry into how to navigate this neurologic disruption, the less I’m persuadable that the mind depends on the brain. That concept totally fails in the face of this experience — the clinching argument for me, obviously — but it also fails to describe those experiences that are _not_ as unaware, uncontrolled, and are experienced as irreflectively as those of animals. We are richer beings.

When my neurochemistry is whacked, I’ve gotten pretty good at finding other ways to hold my mind in a bearable state. That would be impossible if the brain were the only determinant of mental state. And I know I’m not so special that this capacity MUST be rare if I have it.

I’ve never found a good explanation for that part of the mind that can participate with and respond to neurochemistry, without being pwned by it (in hacker parlance.) It sure is an interesting inquiry, though I don’t need an answer. I just need to continually improve my command of it, since so far this condition is incurable. (We shall see.)

I’m glad you raised the mind/brain issue. More philosophers should study neuroendocrinology — and meditation.

Jim F. says:
March 1, 2011 at 7:21 am
Responding to Isabel. I have always found Hume to be pretty persuasive on this subject, even though he was without the benefit of modern neuroscience. In his essay, “The Immortality of the Soul”, he wrote:

“[…]— Sleep, a very small effect on the body, is attended with a temporary extinction, at least a great confusion in the soul. — The weakness of the body and that of the mind in infancy are exactly proportioned, their vigour in manhood, their sympathetic disorder in sickness; their common gradual decay in old age. The step further seems unavoidable; their common dissolution in death.”

//Isabel comments: Hume must have had curious nightmares. My own dreams tend to be rich and narrative; not as rich as waking life but often more encouraging.
// Hume’s understanding of mental development is clearly in step with his own time, which is to say, very uninformed: the brain of an infant is in the most quickly-developing, rationally evolving period of the person’s entire lifetime. Never again are we as aware, as able to learn, and as able to prune away useless thoughts as we are in infancy. The tiny fledgling bodies we have are needy indeed, but again, the capacity to recover from proportional insults to the body and brain is better than it ever will be again. Still, the brain function far exceeds the body’s function in infancy. Not proportional at all.
// The mutual disorder of the body and mind in sickness is rarely proportional, and as I have worked with sick and injured people for most of my life, I am the authority there. Sorry, Hume. Normally-healthy men are vile patients, making their tenders miserable while refusing to mend themselves; old women typically manage their way through pain and physical disruption that would have most of us on our knees in howling agony — unless it kills them. And of course, the rest of us fall in between these extremes, depending more on our personalities and cultures than on a proportional response to the illness or injury.
// Senility in old age is not a given, either: some people’s bodies rot long before their minds do, and with others, their minds go fast while their bodies soldier mercilessly on for decades. Any true proportionality between a fading body and fading mind is so rare that, in my clinical experience, it’s the exception and not the rule. (It would be fun to find a study on that, if only to discover the name of a doctor who has the nerve to tell us what degree of disintegration is “proportional.”)
// Thus, while Hume’s prose is wonderfully telling, his conclusions are not.

“[…] Every thing is in common betwixt soul and body. The organs of the one are all of them the organs of the other. The existence therefore of the one must be dependant on that of the other. — The souls of animals are allowed to be mortal; and these bear so near a resemblance to the souls of men, that the analogy from one to the other forms a very strong argument. Their bodies are not more resembling; yet no one rejects the argument drawn from comparative anatomy. The Metempsychosis is therefore the only system of this kind that philosophy can harken to.

// Hume is always delicious to read, but he is ignorant of the better-developed spiritual traditions which characterize the spiritual body as overlapping and interacting with the physical, but not being either a clone or tied into lockstep with it. These (both Asian and European) traditions therefore fundamentally differ from his base assumption about the twin-image nature of the body-mind relationship.

Concerning meditation, Rick Heller has been writing on the neurological basis of meditation in The New Humanism. He is himelf a practioner and teacher of meditation and also a convinced naturalist and physicalist.

// I’ll have to look him up. Could be interesting.

There seem to me a lot of problems with the sort of psychophysical dualism that Isabel seems to be defending. If it is true then this would seem to violate some of the most basic laws oh physics. Maybe such basic laws like the laws of the conservation of energy and of momentum are not completely valid, but most natural scientists are going to requires lots of very strong evidence to be so persuaded. Dualists have yet to come up with a convincing account of how a nonphysical mind can interact with the physical body. Dualistic interactionism therefore seems to violate a general heuristic principle of science: the causal closure of the physical world. And at this point we can invoke Ockam’s Razor to argue that we really have no need to posit any sort of a mental substance that exists apart from the physical organism.

// The assumption that mind is necessarily physical because the brain is, is a false conclusion. This nonbrain attribute is generally considered to be energetic in nature. Energy interacts with matter all the time, or none of us could (for instance) access this web site, let alone think the thoughts we bring to it. Hence the law of conservation is easily observed.
// Given how the body parts transmute so nothing is wasted, it remains reasonable to suppose that the energetic component transmutes as well, without being lost. Unrecognizable, perhaps, as Paul indicates below — but not annihilated. That would indeed contravene a number of laws of physics.

Returning to Corliss Lamont, one of the other arguments that he made was that even in the Abrahamic religious traditions, there is the tacit assumption that a body is required for conscious existence. Hence, the doctrines concerning the resurrection of the dead that exist in all three of the major Abrahamic religions. Eastern religions likewise have their doctrines concerning reincarnation

// I’ve been content to agree with the theologists/spiritual philosophers who explain that this is a metaphor for the benefit of the many-headed, i.e., a handy lie; the inward self continues in a way that does have its own integrity, but re-inserting the energetic “self” into the physical body is not something that happens literally. It makes a useful concept for the bulk of the laity to work with, to reinforce the idea that they are going to be held responsible for what they do to themselves.
// (While I object to using religion as a form of terrorism, it _is_ an ancient form of crowd-control. In the times of short lifespans, societies were run by adolescents and post-adolescents; therefore, these kinds of down-to-earth metaphors could be very useful indeed.)
// Physical experience has no exact correlation in the nonphysical realm; therefore, certain kinds of understanding can only be reached by means of in-carn-ation — allowing the spiritual/energetic/durable self to become embodied. This is one of the most basic theses in many traditions which consider both life and afterlife to be valid memes.
// It would be more accurate to speak, not of “conscious existence”, but of incarnate life that’s perceptible to itself. This leaves an obvious logical gap: What about perceiving non-incarnate “life”, or un-embodied types of consciousness? That’s a much more sophisticated question than, “is there continued existence after bodily death”, and requires a degree of intellectual care on everyone’s side.
// Why so much intellectual care? Partly because, to assume that spiritual life must be consistently observable only through a narrow spectrum of physical means, is to overlook one or two (or a million) basic realities of matter, energy, logic, and so on. And partly because, if spiritual theses can’t be described in plain language, they probably need rethinking. Thus, both sides need to approach that question with consideration, care, and (ironically) good faith.

Paul J. G. says:
March 2, 2011 at 3:49 pm
So thought-provoking as always. You just can’t help yourself can you?

// obviously, I didn’t even try to 🙂

Something cannot become nothing. What is it precisely that we want from an ‘afterlife’? What did the Star that went Supernova ‘want’? It probably wanted to keep being a Star. It could never have imagined its afterlife to be human cogitation, and Happy Meals, because it lacked the vision and imagination to see its new emergence as an afterlife. So maybe the Star thought it had no afterlife. I would disagree. Brian Swimme leads us down this road.

[…] What’s more, we don’t need to wait till some ‘final’ death (in the way we usually talk about death of a person as a person) to identify our many continuation bodies– the infinite ways that our life, energy, heat, thoughts, words, bodies, breath continue. Just because we are not sensitive enough to identify all of these continuation bodies, teaches Thich Nhat Hanh, does not mean they are not there. It just means that we fail to see. Hanh teaches this because the Buddha teaches that there is no annihilation.

I think there is no such thing as a final death– and that’s what is meant by afterlife: endless going on, eternal life. But, I agree with Charles Hartshorne who says, eternal life is not some eternal human career after death. To think that is an offense against the lavish exuberance of cosmic creativity. Human beings are not the end. Maybe we are merely embryos, or blastocysts, or zygotes of what is yet to come!

Isabel says:
March 2, 2011 at 9:52 pm
Well put, Paul. Yeah.

Further thoughts on stroke and brain injury …

These are good examples of unprepared-for, unawarely-encountered changes in the brain state, and these are the kinds of conditions that most disrupt the mind. Without a chance to become aware of the interface between your mind and your brain, and without a chance to learn and practice the techniques that give you some conscious leverage over it, the damage that these injuries do to the mind – that energetic aspect of the self, the one that may or may not outlive your body – can be devastating indeed, because the injuries to the brain specifically disrupt your ability to understand and deal intelligently with that interface. The injuries that disrupt the personality are perhaps the most difficult to overcome, because access to your accustomed “self” is specifically disrupted.

Practical note: It’s much easier to manage a well-hydrated brain. Drink more water.

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Query: where have all the good studies gone?

I wonder why so much money gets thrown at the same basic studies over and over again. My personal hair-puller is the ones that call for subjects “with chronic CRPS, with only one affected limb.” They must be testing the same dozen people over and over and over again. Wait, they can’t, because if the subjects have chronic CRPS with only one limb affected, they’re either about to get better or much worse.

It’s all very well to keep re-proving a treatment until a level of acceptance is reached, but there are more effective and cheaper avenues — and much richer ones — that are passed by, in favor of flogging a handful of horses who are, at best, unconscious.

It has been too long since significant effort has gone into much more basic research: by and large, we’re still working with the scientific equivalent of the horse collar, when it comes to pain management — not the Ferrari. In fact, it’s unclear to me why we’re still fixated on management, when we need to think in terms of cure. Most chronic pain is needless.

If we knew more about the relevant neurochemistry and cellular metabolism, we’d be in a MUCH better position to figure out when NSAIDS, lido, shock, acupuncture, spinal cord stim, or ketamine comas will work, and when they’ll just be another doorway into hell.

Can you imagine how much money — and misery, and time — it would save to have a short list of things to try, based not on each doctor’s semi-religious leanings or equipment contracts, but based on each body’s signal framework and chemical signature?

Dreaming is free. Studies require funding. Follow the money, and unfortunately the reasons behind all this brutal silliness become clear.

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Expanding these horizons

As a gift of my old friend Jen, I’ve scraped the online acquaintanceship of a very lively group of secularists… And it says a lot that many will shoot down that collective noun; these are the intellectual equivalents of the clan of Asterix the Gaul, who will cheerfully scrap with each other when there’s no one else around to scrap with, and woe betide anyone silly enough to try and conquer them.

I love it. Oink heaven. My memory still has Swiss-cheese holes in it, but my reasoning is not completely shot.

I was mulling a blog entry on “trying to remember there’s a forest among the trees”, given the way that we tend to get fixated on a tiny handful of things which, if we had ’em, would surely fix everything. Surely.

These thoughts have been rather derailed by an online conversation I got into about the mind/brain issue. It touches on neurology, history, philosophy and theology, with logic and info architecture as palette-cleansing interjections (or so my thoughts are trending.) Naturally, I’m knawing it like a rawhide bone, tail thumping.

In fairness, not everyone wants the erudite stuff; nor does everyone want the why-what-works pragmatism. Both are so closely linked for me (the blogger, here) that I’ve decided not to break out a different blog. I’ll get better about tagging, and I’ll use indicative titles.

Please come along and play. I hope this works out well.

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Julian Assange and Swedish herrings (red)

The Interpol-ation of Julian Assange, the most widely-known of the Wikileaks founders, is a thoroughgoing exercise in logical fallacies and predatory smoke-screening.

First, the fallacies…

Straw man: The sex was consensual, though it may have gotten out of hand in one case. Charges weren’t brought until the two girlfriends found out about each other. They backed and forthed about whether they wanted to press charges or not. (Whether large men in dark suits paid them furtive visits is open to debate.)

Selective memory: Sweden has a shamefully high rate of unexamined, unpursued, unprosecuted cases of true rape — that is, forced sex, nonconsensual sex, sex with minors. Why pursue this sexual “irregularity” over condom use and infidelity?

Entrapment: Why give him direct permission to leave the country, at his explicit request, then send the Rottweilers after him?

These charges are not designed to bring someone down. They’re designed to tie him up. How else were they going to keep tabs on someone who can afford to dress like that without having a fixed address?

The real harm was not done by Assange. That imputes too much leverage to a self-infatuated ho with mad hash skillz.

The U.S. was hoist by its own sloppy petard. The State Department and the Military decided to share records, without sharing precautions. Let’s look at that, shall we?

The U.S. State Department, whose core purpose is the pursuit and use of social and political information, has an educational requirement involving alphabet soup behind your name; a staggering array of tests; and a final examination for *entry-level positions* that takes days to complete. The computers are subject to high levels of security, including an inability to even accept removable media.

The U.S. Military has three things it wants to know: What’s your name? Got a pulse? All your parts attached? And some people scrape by on the third try.

The military develops some of the fiercest computer security in the world, but guess what? Removable media! Oh, and all that State Department data … accessible by anybody with technical skills. Guess what the Army and Air Force specifically teach? Technical skills, maybe?

Well done.

So here’s the setup:

Tons, masses, heaps of socio-political data …
– collected on the basis of strict secrecy
– sometimes at terrible personal risk
– on people and issues who remain viable and valuable;

Gets passed by the State Dept. …
– from graduate-prepared, carefully-selected, highly-socialized personnel
– in an environment with lojack and hijack protections in place
– with no meaningful guarantees of its continued protection;

To the U.S. Military,
– an organization with minimal entry requirements
– and a post-adolescent social environment
– staffed by technically competent personnel.

Doesn’t that seem kind of silly to you? I realize most of us are not masters-prepared, much less possessed of a law degree, but pure common sense would make that unthinkable. Wouldn’t it?

Now, as for the leaky boy …

While being accused of being gay is a common put-down these days, in the U.S. Military this accusation could lead to someone losing his job, his housing situation, his social network, and his entire career path. Feel powerless, much?

They’re isolating, freezing, and tormenting an idiot kid over the staggering, monumental idiocy of the Military implementation of secrecy AND the State Department’s lack of due diligence.

They’re hunting down and marginalizing a tired, aging hack who misjudged the value of his own charms, over his willingness to advertise that kind of collective stupidity.

There were a whole lot of much brighter, much better-educated, far better-informed people who fucked up on a simply staggering scale before Assange or that kid ever got into this.

Where are the courts martial? Where are the heads that should be rolling out the state dept. doors and down the steps — bouncing on the way?

The real damage, sadly, is to the wider world. The US has lost credibitlity and leverage on the world stage to a degree unmatched by anything since the initial invasion of Iraq. That, folks, is the real tragedy: we have demonstrated that we are poisonous even to our most important friends.

How many more will die for _this_ mistake, eh?

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File-sharing ~= sex, fecal transplants, and bacterial cognition

This is the richest, most fascinating article I’ve read about life, the biosphere and everything:

http://www.miller-mccune.com/science-environment/bacteria-r-us-23628/

Now that’s a writer with ADD, putting all that into one contiguous piece — but also she’s got one hell of a gift, to make it so coherent and approachable. I want to be like Valerie when I grow up!

I’m completely blown away. I’m going to go for a bus ride so I can explain to the air how thrilling bacteria are. After all, I have to take the bus ride anyway, so I might as well scare people off.

I am in paroxysms of bio-geek delight!

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