30 October 2008

So Clever: How Do They Get Melamine Into Eggs

Almost 50,000 Chinese infants were hospitalized for melamine toxicity from infant milk products. Now, eggs are being pulled from supermarkets across China, and Chinese fisheries are being inspected for possible melamine contamination.

It seems that besides being added to dairy products, melamine has also been added to animal feed.
The practice of mixing melamine into animal feed is an "open secret" in the industry, the Nanfang Daily reported Thursday, describing a process of repackaging melamine scrap into an inexpensive product called "protein powder," which is then sold to feed suppliers.

...Four brands of Chinese eggs have been found to be contaminated with melamine this past week, and agriculture officials speculated that the cause was adulterated feed given to hens. No illnesses have been linked to melamine in eggs.

...Chemical plants used to pay companies to treat and dispose of melamine scrap, but about five years ago began selling it to manufacturers who repackaged it as "protein powder," the Nanfang Daily reported, citing an unidentified chemical industry expert.

The inexpensive powder was first used to give the impression of higher protein levels in aquatic feed, then later in feed for livestock and poultry, the report said. _AP
Many consumers are unaware that most processed food contains a wide range of ingredients, many of which may come from low-priced Chinese wholesalers of food concentrates. As the dragnet for melamine widens it is quite likely that some widely consumed western brands contain the contaminant via "no-name" low cost ingredients from Chinese distributors. Fortunately, most of these western brands are unlikely to contain the high concentrations of the contaminant that were present in Chinese baby formulas.


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29 October 2008

Remote Control of Brain Circuits Using Low Intensity, Low Frequency Pulsed Ultrasound

When asked about the potential of using his groups’ methods to remotely control brain activity, Tyler says: “One might be able to envision potential applications ranging from medical interventions to use in video gaming or the creation of artificial memories along the lines of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character in ‘Total Recall.’ Imagine taking a vacation without actually going anywhere?”
Brain researchers at Arizona State University have discovered how to use pulsed ultrasound for remote stimulation of brain circuit activity.
Led by Tyler, the ASU research group discovered that remotely delivered low intensity, low frequency ultrasound (LILFU) increased the activity of voltage-gated sodium and calcium channels in a manner sufficient to trigger action potentials and the release of neurotransmitter from synapses. Since these processes are fundamental to the transfer of information among neurons, the authors pose that this type of ultrasound provides a powerful new tool for modulating the activity of neural circuits.

“Many of the stimulation methods used by neuroscientists require the use and implantation of stimulating electrodes, requiring direct contact with nervous tissue or the introduction of exogenous proteins, such as those used for the light-activation of neurons,” Tyler explains.

The search for new types of noninvasive neurostimulation methods led them to revisit ultrasound.

“We were quite surprised to find that ultrasound at power levels lower than those typically used in routine diagnostic medical imaging procedures could produce an increase in the activity of neurons while higher power levels produced very little effect on their activity,” Tyler says.

Other neuroscientists and engineers have also been rapidly developing new neurostimulation methods for controlling nervous system activity and several approaches show promise for the treatment of a wide variety of nervous system disorders. For example, Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) and Vagal Nerve Stimulation (VNS) have been shown to be effective in the management of psychiatric disorders such as depression, bipolar disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, and drug addition, as well as for therapies of neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Tourette Syndrome, epilepsy, dystonia, stuttering, tinnitus, recovery of cognitive and motor function following stroke, and chronic pain.

...One prior stumbling block to using ultrasound noninvasively in the brain has been the skull. However, the acoustic frequencies utilized by Tyler and his colleagues to construct their pulsed ultrasound waveforms, overlap with a frequency range where optimal energy gains are achieved between transcranial transmission and brain absorption of ultrasound – which allows the ultrasound to penetrate bone and yet prevent damage to the soft tissues. Their findings are supported by other studies examining the potential of high-intensity focused ultrasound for ablating brain tissues, where it was shown that low-frequency ultrasound could be focused through human skulls. _Newswise
If you are curious whether such methods have already been used, for example, at Obama political rallies, Al Fin says that non-disclosure agreements he signed before touring the neuro-research facilities at the campaign prevent this blog from providing information on that topic. He was able to tell me that he was quite impressed by some of the unpublished progress he was shown.

When combined with increased knowledge of the neurological correlates of cognition and emotions--such as hatred, for example--the ability to remotely and non-invasively stimulate or suppress activity of specific brain circuits should prove useful to social engineers of all types.

For more information, consult George Orwell.

Alice Finkel

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Think This Economy is Bad? Just Add Obama's Carbon Caps and See What Happens

Obama has never held a "real job", where he needed to demonstrate judgment and competence. A good thing, too, for both attributes are in short supply in the Obama toolkit. Absurdly soaring rhetoric will have to do, instead. No wonder most of his ideas come across as "half-baked".
Sharp emissions restrictions would also push the costs of energy and other consumer products higher. According to a study conducted by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the restrictions could raise gasoline prices by 29%, electricity prices by 55% and natural gas prices by 15% by 2015.

The people most vulnerable to such price increases are the poor. A 2007 report by the Congressional Budget Office, examining the costs of cutting carbon emissions just 15%, noted that customers "would face persistently higher prices for products such as electricity and gasoline. Those price increases would be regressive in that poorer households would bear a larger burden relative to their income than wealthier households would."

Indeed, the lowest quintile income group would pay nearly double what the highest quintile income group would pay, as a proportion of income, in increased energy costs.

And it appears that all this economic pain would be an utterly meaningless gesture.

Dr. Patrick Michaels, former president of the American Association of State Climatologists, now with the Cato Institute, says reducing U.S. emissions by 63% would prevent a mere 0.013 degree Celsius in warming. With emissions from China, India and other developing nations growing at breakneck speed, even this modest benefit would be completely erased.

Some argue that we should undergo this pain anyway to set an example for others to follow. The European Union tried that and now, apparently, it's throwing in its recycled-material towel.

At a summit in Brussels last month, the EU applied the brakes to its ambitious program to reduce EU carbon emissions by 20% by 2020 after Italy, backed by 10 other EU nations, threatened to veto the plan. They argued that the costs of the climate plan couldn't be justified given the current economic turmoil.

Little wonder that Europeans are balking. Europeans have been paying enormous costs to meet their targets, getting little in return. In the United Kingdom, green tariffs already account for 14% of the average electricity bill. Yet only 2% of Britain's energy needs are met by renewables.

To meet its renewable target of 15%, these fees will have to be raised even further, increasing the number of Britons suffering from "fuel poverty," defined as spending 10% or more of income on energy. Over 4 million Britons currently qualify as fuel-impoverished.

Imposing such costs on Americans promises to do for the economy what Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae did for banking. We should bail out before it's too late. Let's hope that this is one bailout plan all Americans can get behind. _IBD_via_TomNelson
Should Americans elect Obamanation, they had better hope the baby senator from Illinois is "all talk." Because if the hollow man of no practical experience sits in the Oval Office, it will be decision time--put up or shut up.

Most Obama voters have not read anything he has written, have not traced the development of his thinking, his formative influences, his underlying motivations. Imagine their surprise if Obama ever reveals his inner self, without a ghost writer, without any checks and balances except a supermajority of "yes-men" in congress and an overwhelming majority of Obama appointed federal judges who owe him their positions. Checks and balances? What's that?


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28 October 2008

"Sarah Palin Is Very Smart" Says Former Editor of Ms. Magazine, Democrat Journo

People who have never met Sarah Palin are falling over each other to call her the vilest and most contemptible names. They do not know her, know nothing about her. But they publish insults and dismissals of her as if they had known her all their life. Here is the viewpoint of a Democratic Party voter, journalist, and former editor of Ms. Magazine, who has actually met and spent time with Sarah Palin:
Now by “smart,” I don't refer to a person who is wily or calculating or nimble in the way of certain talented athletes who we admire but suspect don't really have serious brains in their skulls. I mean, instead, a mind that is thoughtful, curious, with a discernable pattern of associative thinking and insight. Palin asks questions, and probes linkages and logic that bring to mind a quirky law professor I once had. Palin is more than a “quick study”; I'd heard rumors around the campaign of her photographic memory and, frankly, I watched it in action. She sees. She processes. She questions, and only then, she acts. What is often called her “confidence” is actually a rarity in national politics: I saw a woman who knows exactly who she is. _Daily Beast_via_TomNelson
This is what Al Fin has been saying, although he has never met Governor Palin. Palin has been ambushed by every media dirty trick they could devise, and still smiles and continues working long hours from coast to coast, giving the media more time than Obama and Biden put together. In fact, the redistributionist duo has made itself very scarce on the media scene lately--concerned about several potentially embarassing questions that may come up.

Palin is real, she is authentic, she learns and grows and speaks her mind. Obama is a narcissist full of resentment and fear of being understood. If Obama ever speaks his mind, it is in a moment of carelessness--as when Obama confronted "Joe the Plumber" in the plumber's front yard.

If America chooses a phantom for president, and mocks and derides a genuine and authentic leader, that says more about what America is becoming than about the candidates themselves. Of course, the media bears much responsibility. Meanwhile, Oynklent Green looks on from the shadows.


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Coal To Liquids -- Smart, But Not Politically Correct

The world is full of coal, particularly the cheap low quality coal that is problematic for combustion. But if you take that low quality coal, gasify it, and turn it to liquid fuels, the pollution and contaminants are captured harmlessly for safe disposal. The subsequent liquid fuels and other chemicals -- including fertilisers and polymers -- will make the world far less dependent on the oil-producing state sponsors of terrorism.
In the 'indirect liquefaction' CTL route, coal is first gasified using oxygen and steam to form 'syngas' (a mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide). Syngas then can be further processed, via the proven Fischer-Tropsch (F-T) technology, to get liquid fuels like diesel and petrol. Next, depending on coal quality and requisite systems, F-T processes can yield substantial quantities of ammonia. The latter can be used to produce large quantities of nitrogenous fertiliser read urea. Besides, Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) technology can be incorporated in F-T plant design-and vice versa-to generate power at very high thermal efficiency. The objective ought to be to diffuse IGCC systems in the power sector, with speed. It would then be possible to generate say a third or even 50% more power, using quite unchanged quantities of coal. Clearly, viable CTL technology would have multi-sectoral impact.

The other method, albeit less common is 'direct liquefaction', which adds gaseous hydrogen to a slurry of pulverized coal in the presence of catalysts. The process requires further refining so as to derive high-quality liquid fuels. _ET
Gasification of low quality coal makes excellent sense, and produces a much cleaner product than the simple combustion of that same coal. The partial liberation from dictatorial oil states such as Russia, Venezuela, Iran, and Saudi Arabia that this technology would allow makes it worth doing by itself.

So why do Obama, Pelosi, Boxer, and the other usual demented suspects continue to stand in the way of clean and profitable uses of coal, oil sands, oil shales, and other indigenous energy sources? Because the American voter lets the fools get away with it. Do not piss on my leg and tell me it's raining. You may find yourself needing to sit down to pee for the rest of your life.


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If We Are to Survive This Dark Time

There is only too much reason to fear that Western civilization, if not the whole world, is likely in the near future to go through a period of immense sorrow and suffering and pain--a period during which, if we are not careful to remember them, the things that we are attempting to preserve may be forgotten in bitterness and poverty and disorder. Courage, hope, and unshakable conviction will be necessary if we are to emerge from the dark time ...

It is not the first time that such disasters have threatened the Western world. The fall of Rome was another such time ...

Two very different conceptions of human life are struggling for mastery of the world. In the West we see man's greatness in the individual life. A great society for us is one which is composed of individuals who, as far as is humanly possible, are happy, free, and creative. We do not think that individuals should be alike. ... He should have his personal conscience and his personal aims, which he should be free to develop except where they can be shown to cause injury to others. ...

If bad times lie ahead of us, we should remember while they last the slow march of man, chequered in the past by devastations and retrogressions, but always resuming the movement toward progress. ...

It is to the possible achievements of man that our ultimate loyalty is due, and in that thought the brief troubles of our unquiet epoch become endurable. Much wisdom remains to be learned, and if it is only to be learned through adversity, we must endeavour to endure adversity with what fortitude we can command. But if we can acquire wisdom soon enough, adversity may not be necessary and the future of man may be happier than any part of his past.

Bertrand Russell essay, 1961, "If We Are to Survive This Dark Time"

It took many tens of thousands of years for the right men (and women) to come together to create the most enlightened document of political governance known to history, in Philadelphia of the 1780s. It may take only a few years for the most unenlightened of humans to destroy that document, and the brave national experiment it has guided for just over two centuries.

If other nations were prepared to accept the standard of freedom and protection of individual rights from the excesses of government, the loss would not be as great to mankind as a whole. Without such alternate standard-bearers, a destructive retrogression to a malignant growth of the state at the expense of individual liberties and potential is virtually guaranteed. Things were proceeding in that direction in fits and starts, regardless. With a simple turn of the screw on a US November day, all obstacles to the free flow of populist decadence can fall away.

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27 October 2008

Obama Unmasked: What to Expect

This is Obama as he has always been, behind the mask. These are things he will not say until after the election. If you wait until then to discover what he has in mind, you deserve your fate.

H/T Neo


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Counterintuitive Graphs vs. Steamrolling Delusions

This graphic demonstrates an inverse relationship between CO2 concentration and temperature. Watts Up With That?
This graphic demonstrates the growth of US government spending in the human resources sector while spending on national defense and everything else stagnates or even declines slightly. Under a President Obama defense spending would drop significantly while increases in human resource spending and other new spending would accelerate even faster.

The "Catch 22" of human resource spending is that it is tied to cost of living, and can only go up. As the elderly population grows older, as the highly skilled craftsmen of industry grow old and retire and are not replaced, as highly skilled populations die off and are often replaced by less capable immigrants who can never replace them--paying for the exponential increases in government spending coming down the pipe will be impossible.

Over the past summer we witnessed the "demand destruction" of the global economy by hugely inflated oil prices. But that was nothing compared to the economic destruction of the anti-energy policies that the Obama-lution would bring to the US and the world. And to think it was all based upon a temporary correlation between rising CO2 and rising average surface temperatures over a few decades.


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26 October 2008

Brian Wang Covers the Singularity Summit

Be sure to check out Brian Wang's coverage of yesterday's Singularity Summit in San Jose. Brian links to several areas of progress covered at the conference, in the quest for a technological singularity. Particularly interesting to me at first glance are Dharmendra Modha's brain emulation project, the Intel digital "multi-radio" project, the impressive planned expansion of the XPrizes, and the collaboration between Carnegie Mellon and Intel in creating millimeter and smaller sized "catoms."

Also be sure to check out Brian's posting on the "mundane singularity" (a good antidote to "gee-whiz" futurism), and his article about the recent lunar lander X Prize contest $350,000 prize won by Armadillo Space.

The momentum achieved by many high-tech giga-corps such as Google, Intel, Microsoft, IBM, and others, will likely continue for some time in connection with their counterparts in Japan and Europe. They are less likely to be assaulted by the anti-business, anti-profit, anti-energy zealots in the possible Obama administration than are companies such as Exxon, Dow, Monsanto, GE, GM, etc. that are more directly connected to the misdirected environmental concerns of "green" ideologues entrenched in the current dysfunctional incarnation of the US Democratic Party.

What that means is that on the surface, much technological progress will appear to continue at an accelerating rate, due to the synergism of convergence and multi-disciplinary impacts of coming breakthroughs. At the same time, the economic foundation for the dissemination of this progress to all levels of society via the free marketplace will be undermined by the policies of a possible Obamanation. Simultaneously, surplus profits supporting new ventures and new private research projects will dry up, as increasing taxation, regulation, and preferential treatment to opportunity-destroying tort lawyers increases. All the time, vital energy infrastructure will be shut down by over-enthusiastic enforcement of unscientific, nonsensical greenhouse gas regulations.

All of which goes to point out the wisdom of Al Fin's emphasis on the improvement of the human brain, mind, and integrative competence, over the gee-whiz futurism of a technological singularity. It is important to keep up with developments in new technology, of course. Brian Wang's site is one of the best all-around news sites for significant future tech. Access to all types of tools will be important for next level humans.

Alice Finkel

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Russia and Europe Leading the Way Down

The financial problems of US financial markets and institutions has been front page news for several weeks. The more severe problems of the European and emerging nations' (BRIC) financials are coming to light far more discretely. And it looks as if Europe and the emerging markets are in even more trouble than the US, unless Obama is elected (in which case the US will have the worst of it by far).
The financial crisis spreading like wildfire across the former Soviet bloc threatens to set off a second and more dangerous banking crisis in Western Europe, tipping the whole Continent into a fully-fledged economic slump.

...Amazingly, Spanish banks alone have lent $316bn to Latin America, almost twice the lending by all US banks combined ($172bn) to what was once the US backyard. Hence the growing doubts about the health of Spain’s financial system – already under stress from its own property crash – as Argentina spirals towards another default, and Brazil’s currency, bonds and stocks all go into freefall.

Broadly speaking, the US and Japan sat out the emerging market credit boom. The lending spree has been a European play – often using dollar balance sheets, adding another ugly twist as global “deleveraging” causes the dollar to rocket. Nowhere has this been more extreme than in the ex-Soviet bloc.

The region has borrowed $1.6 trillion in dollars, euros, and Swiss francs. A few dare-devil homeowners in Hungary and Latvia took out mortgages in Japanese yen. They have just suffered a 40pc rise in their debt since July. Nobody warned them what happens when the Japanese carry trade goes into brutal reverse, as it does when the cycle turns. _Telegraph
As these cascading failures make their way through interlocking global financial institutions, national leaders who only a few weeks ago were taunting the US for its financial troubles will have to face some extremely difficult decisions close to home.
I fear that what we will see are ever more meddlesome initiatives both in the United States and, especially, in Europe. Already we have witnessed tax-and-spend politicians seize upon the credit crisis to propose measures that would take the “private” out of “private property” and would deliver ever more aspects of the the economy into the governments hands, aiding and abetting their increasingly ambitious efforts to “spread the wealth around.” I shudder to think what embracing such policies would portend for prosperity and freedom. _PJM
If US voters choose Obama, the US will be taken out of play as the traditional powerhouse of the global economy. Obama's revolutionary cadre will not be able to help themselves. Like the scorpion crossing the river on the turtle's back who cannot keep himself from stinging the turtle in mid-stream, Obama's revolutionaries cannot help but attack the taxpayers and businesses with suffocating regulations and taxes. They know no other way. If voters elect them without understanding their nature, whose fault is that?

The US rescued Europe in WWI, WWII, and in the cold war. Europe has been depending upon the US defense umbrella to prevent significant wars in Europe since 1945. Europe has depended upon the US domestic markets for export income and on a steady flow of new scientific and technological discoveries from North America, Japan, and joint efforts between the three. With a significant and sustained dip in business and R&D activity in the US due to redistributive burdens and costly and counterproductive environmental regulations, the world economy will have to sort out the chaos on its own, for the most part.

Such chaos often leads to war, and without a strong US military committed to maintaining order, significant re-ordering of the world powers with concomitant huge loss of life and destruction of infrastructure is not unlikely.

As the ancient Chinese curse states: "May you live in interesting times." It appears that the US voter-- led by the US news and popular media and pseudo-intelligentsia-- means to invoke exactly that curse upon the world.

For more ideas of what an Obamanation would mean, read this and this. It is not as hard to understand the underpinnings of the Obama-lution if one is aware of the intent undermining of education in the US dating from the 1960s, from K12 through university. If Obama had not come along, someone else would have in a few years. But Obama's timing has been immaculate, ever since he entered politics.

America will suffer a hangover, of sorts, soon after the election. A "buyer's remorse", if you will. But that will be nothing compared with the impact of Obama's policies on the nation, its economy, its traditional sense of optimism and self-reliance, and ultimately its ability to create a good life for its people. The detrimental effects of Obama on all of those national traits cannot be overstated. Obama has had a wild ride upward. I wonder how he will handle the subsequent and inevitable descent?


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25 October 2008

A Dream that Captivated Millions...Until it Happened

Then it became a nightmare -- The Soviet Story -- the movie. See it in NYC at Village East Cinema Oct 24 thru Oct 30, 2008. Follow the link above for information on seeing the film in your locale.

H/T No Pasaran

History tends to repeat itself, as humans fail to learn from it. Populist revolutions find new fodder with every new generation. It is not just simpletons in Argentina or Venezuela who fall for big promises from sleazy politicos. The US and Canada are growing their own crops of simpletons under the close supervision of university professors, perhaps in your home town.

There will always be a market for poorly thought out utopias, among the young, among the self-pitying, among the lazy/envious, and among pseudo-intellectuals hostile to what they see as "the established order." If the half-baked narcissistic purveyors of these crank utopias somehow achieve power, take cover. The roof is about to cave in.

Genuine utopias grow out of societies based upon the real competence of the citizens, not upon the faux-largesse of elected leaders.


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The Coming Obama Depression: How to Prepare

Take a look at this and this. Then consider this and this. If you connect the dots, they spell a devastating economic downturn should Obama be elected along with a Democratic Party congressional supermajority. They also hint at a national security disaster of historic proportions. Either one alone -- economic disaster or national security disaster -- would be catastrophic. Both at the same time would be cataclysmic for the 230 year old American Experiment. "A republic, if you can keep it . . ." Franklin said. "If" indeed.

How would a wise person prepare for a potential Obama depression? First of all, don't wait until the election. Start collecting tools and useful items you might have been strongly considering buying anyway, if they fit the scenario.

Get out of debt. Nothing is worse in the middle of economic bad times than to be tossed out on the street or to have your vital transportation confiscated. Cut down on luxuries and accelerate those payments. Build a cash reserve. Have a cache of gold and silver coins, and a supply of trade goods of various value to use in place of money. Also, hone any basic skills you may have which might allow for barter situations.

Make good friends with your neighbors. If too many of your neighbors are unreliable or antagonistic, consider relocating to a more amenable (and defensible) area.

Look to essentials: food, water, sanitation, shelter, heat, power, fuel etc. How would you get the essentials under different scenarios? What do you need to stockpile, and what do you need to find super-reliable sources for? Can you convert to ethanol or biodiesel for transportation and/or generator fuel?

Once you account for most of the basic needs of yourself and your family, what about others in your inner circle? Are they thinking about worst cases? What can you do to help them?

Do you have a bugout kit and destination? Those precautions are for when things are soon to be falling apart around you at your current location, and you must get out now if you get out at all. A bugout destination is a fallback position. It can be an intermediate fallback position or your final "do or die" location. Best to consider every location an intermediate fallback but be prepared to defend it if it comes to "d or d."

Guns, lots of guns and ammunition--if you know how to use them and care for them. Otherwise, you may want to make friends with loyal and reliable people who have that expertise.

There are many other things to consider. Check out the survival category on the Al Fin sidebar as a possible starting point. Survival Blog is good. Customize your planning for your particular situation.

Perhaps you think I am overstating the problem? If so, you may wish to do more research on Obama's background and his network of "associates." If you are at all sympathetic to the US Constitution and its aims, you should begin to understand the problem.

Or you may want to read the PDF Civil War 2, that projects a US split into three dominant fragments in the not-so-distant future. Much of the message sounds parochial and dated from the 1990s, but it makes some important points that an intelligent person should be able to update mentally to our current situation. The graphic maps in the PDF are also interesting. Always remember that the barbarians are at the gate. Any weakness inside will be exploited by strength outside. Any scenario that restricts itself to players within US borders -- in case of civil breakdown -- is unrealistically simplistic and less than useful.

Added Bonus: A Tutorial on Obamanomics
H/T Small Dead Animals

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24 October 2008

Neuron Logic Gates, Grobycs, Mind Control, More

Researchers at the Weizman Institute of Science are building logic gates out of neurons grown on a specially coated and etched glass plate. The brain neurons are caused to grow and send out controlled numbers of axons along small channels in a micro-circuit, trained to function as an "AND" logic gate.
The gate is made from a network of neurons in a square shape approximately 900 micrometres on a side. Three of the sides form a "horseshoe" 150-micrometres wide, and packed with neurons. On the fourth side an isolated neuron island is linked to the other sides by two thinner bridges (see image, top right).

Neurons send their wire-like extensions that carry signals – axons – across those narrow bridges to the neuron island.

When stimulated with a small dose of a drug, the neurons send signals around the circuit. An ion blocker is used in the centre of the horseshoe to electrically isolate one side from the other.

By changing the width of the bridges, the researchers are able to control how many axons link to the neuron island, and tune their device to behave like an AND gate.

The neurons on the island only produce an output after receiving signals through both of the thin bridges. Like a natural system, the device transcends the performance of individual neurons – achieving 95% reliability from a collection of 40% reliable components. _NS
It is easy to visualize the creation of more advanced neural logic devices designed to function as natural interfaces between whole brains and electronic controllers and prostheses.

Stanford researcher Karl Deisseroth is working on methods of "switching" brain states using light to control genetically engineered proteins in brains.
"Here's what happens when we turn on the light," Karl Deisseroth says. He points to a mouse, ordinary save for the thin optical fiber protruding through its skull. When a lab tech presses a lever, blue light shoots through the fiber, and the mouse -- which had been sauntering straight ahead -- starts to run in circles. "He's doing that because the blue light turns the neural circuit on," Deisseroth explains. "As soon as we stop the stimulation, he'll walk straight again." _PopSci
Oxford researcher Gero Miesenbock is also pursuing methods of controlling neural activity with light.
There is a whole range of approaches that becomes possible with the ability to control specific groups of neurons. This allows a connection to brain tissue that is noninvasive and physiological. You can get wiring diagrams of neuronal circuits. You can apply spatiotemporal patterns of input activity and measure what kinds of inputs a target cell or a group of target cells is looking for. This would be not just a mapping of anatomic connectivity but rather a way of deducing the input/output characteristics of a circuit. A still higher level of complexity would be to see what exact features of activity patterns are relevant for perception, action, cognition, memory, and so forth. _JCB
Scientists see this approach as a sophisticated way to probe and map neural circuits in vivo, on finer and finer levels. Ultimately it would also allow sophisticated control of behavior, and probably non-motor cognitive activity as well.

Scientists have already found ways to observe the development of very young mammalian brains as early experience shapes brain structure. From there it is only a short step to controlling the development of the young brain in specific ways toward specific ends. A brain developing in isolation from the rest of the animal--connected to the outside world only by reasearcher-controlled inputs--would allow a wide range of investigative manipulative control of brain development.

If you add the ability to selectively dull or eliminate specific memories or functional circuits to such an extensive library of brain circuitry, you begin to have significant control over what that brain can or will do.

The placement of artificial neural connections from motor neurons in the brain directly to voluntary muscle groups is already allowing the study of brain plasticity in motor neuron circuits in a sophisticated way. In the experiment linked above, nerves to the target muscles had been temporarily numbed. But in future experiments it is likely that nerve connections--first peripheral nerves, then entire spinal cords--will be permanently severed to allow extended study of multiple artificial bypass circuits to various synergistic and antagonistic muscle groups, to test the limits of motor neuron circuit plasticity.

A Grobyc is simply a Cyborg spelled backwards. It is the use of neural nets or animal brains to control machines. To make a Grobyc, one starts with the machine and finds ways to augment it with biological neural networks or animal brains. A Cyborg is a biological organism that is augmented with artificial prostheses to allow continue or augmented function as that organism. With Cyborgs, you start with the biological organism. The two concepts are mirror images of sorts.

This is only the beginning of the beginning. If you are a bit uneasy about some of the implications of this research--given the clearly unscrupulous nature of many politicians, judges, intellectuals, academics, and other highly influential people, you are not alone. Pay attention.

Note from Alice Finkel: The past two articles on this blog are based upon emails received from an account that Al Fin sometimes uses when he wishes to remain anonymous. That is good news, since if he has the time and freedom to post email, and chooses to spend that time on blog postings, he is not likely to be under any duress. I suppose I will have to drive up to Mr. Fin's place and take Valerie out of hibernation.

Xtra: Follow this link to find out how to get a $75 discount on the price of a ticket to tomorrow's Singularity Summit in San Jose.

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22 October 2008

Oil Supplies and Costs Impact National Security

OPEC is meeting this week to decide how much to reduce production, to support falling oil prices. Different OPEC members have different expectations for the meeting.
Saudi Arabia needs oil prices of less than $30 a barrel to balance its government budget, according to Merrill Lynch & Co. estimates. The United Arab Emirates requires $40 a barrel and Qatar $55.

Iran, with double the population of Saudi Arabia, has a breakeven point of about $100 a barrel, according to Edward Morse, managing director and chief economist at Louis Capital Markets LP in New York. In Venezuela, where President Hugo Chavez's government is spending oil revenue on social programs, the figure is about $120, he said.

.....Oil options trading shows the probability that crude will fall below $50 a barrel by June has more than doubled in 10 days, Deutsche Bank AG said in an Oct. 17 report. There is a 9 percent likelihood that June 2009 crude oil contracts will expire below $50, up from 4 percent, Deutsche said.

The world's industrialized economies will expand next year at the slowest pace since 1982, the International Monetary Fund said Oct. 8. Growth will weaken to 0.5 percent in 2009, from 1.5 percent this year, sending U.S. unemployment to its highest level in 16 years, the agency said.

Oil demand may fall for the first time in 15 years this year as the worst financial crisis in decades tips economies into recession, according to the Centre for Global Energy Studies, a London-based consulting company. _Bloomberg
Naturally the tyrants of Iran and Venezuela wish to push prices as high as possible. But with the slow global economy, and the potential for an Obama depression in the works in the US if the baby Illinois Senator is elected, the natural direction for oil prices would be downward even further.

Last summer, Mr. Fin assured me that the final repercussions of near $150 a barrel oil would be profound. He suggested that by the time the impact of such prices rebounded down the global business markets, a recession could easily be triggered. The lingering effects of overpriced oil on world business, the huge money losses by financial markets over-invested in oil and commodities, the credit crunch caused by US Democratic Party failure to address the subprime mortgage market in a timely manner, etc combined with other cyclic factors to create the current global slowdown.

When Obama, Boxer, and Pelosi work to starve the US of oil and energy, they are making the nation far more vulnerable to outside threats. Many of these threats originate within oil producing countries, whose product the US is forced to buy when Obama, Boxer, and Pelosi prevent the US from using clean alternatives--coal, oil sands, oil shale, heavy oils, etc. Current price levels are hurting oil tyrannies which are also state sponsors of terrorism. Sponsoring terrorism is expensive work for Iran, Venezuela, and friends. You might even think that Obama, Boxer, and Pelosi want to help the poor, cash-stressed terror sponsors?

How quickly can the US and world markets rebound? As the threat of world socialism hangs like a pall over world economies should Obama be elected, few people are suggesting reasons for short-term economic optimism. George Gilder is one of the exceptions. In this Forbes article, Gilder looks at several new technologies that might trigger important new economic activity. It is good to see an optimist when the news media is so universally gloomy in its presentation.

We will need to transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy. That transition will take a few decades. Fortunately, the world supplies of coal, oil sands, oil shales, and heavy oils will allow those decades, and more if necessary. In addition, nuclear energy should provide an even wider margin of safety for transitioning to renewables such as nuclear fusion, enhanced geothermal, and nano-enhanced solar options with utility scale storage.

Even better, technology for making biofuels from algae, other microbes, and biomass are progressing even faster than Al Fin previously expected. Significant (10 to 20%) amounts of transportation fuels should be provided by biological means by 2025, with an ever increasing capacity after that. In fact, if one were looking for a good investment in gloomy times, agrochemicals represent a good prospect.

Needless to say, these would be good times to limit your debts and protect your assets. A socialist revolution in the US would definitely dim your prospects for rapid wealth creation, but there is no reason for you to share your wealth more than you really want to, despite what Obama and his wife Imelda er, Michelle might wish.


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Coalition Hardball: Obama and the Ayatollah

In politics as in revolutions, the side with the strongest coalition usually wins. The coalition does not necessarily need to survive the acquisition of power. When the radical Iranian Islamists rose to power, some of the first elements to be purged (killed) were former coalition members that had become liabilities--leftists, communists, political liberals and civil libertarians. The same thing happened when the Bolsheviks achieved power in early 20th century Russia and when the Sandinistas achieved power in Nicaragua. If a coalition outlives its usefulness, it will usually be dismantled.

In the US, the two large political parties consist of uneasy coalitions of convenience. As the economic and political fortunes of various parts of the coalitions rise and fall, the viability and political power of the major parties also tend to rise and fall. As long as the US depends upon elections to determine its governmental makeup, coalitions will matter. Only when a coalition leads to a dictatorship or a complete loss of power does a coalition tend to come apart completely.

Permanent institutional changes in American education favors the creation of government dependency mentality in the young. Hyper-specialization of function due to urbanization, high technology, and mental laziness, also lends to an attitude of "let the government do it" when the question of solving problems comes up. This automatic deferral to government solutions for all problems of society makes it much easier for populist smoke-blowers such as Obama to rise to the top.

Fueled by a complicit media, an indoctrinating academy from K-12 through university, a dumbed-down popular culture, an out of control immigration situation, a dominant "resentment culture" in the black community, and the will to power among big money elements such as big labor, big environmental interests, and leftist activists financed by the super-rich, the coalition driving the Democratic Party is energized and growing.

Opinion polls suggest that the Republican Coalition will be the big loser this year, although the reliability of opinion polls has never been particularly good. But should the Republicans be soundly defeated in the real elections, a significant rethinking of their coalition and of particular elements within the coalition, will be necessary.

Obama's motley coalition, if it wins, will be the victim of its own success, like most winning coalitions. Many of the revolution's children will be eaten by the revolution. That can't be helped. Incredible disillusionment will follow the initial euphoria, over time. But as power becomes more firmly entrenched in the hands of fewer and fewer top manipulators, expendable elements of the winning coalition will be pruned and thrown away.

All of that is inevitable and unimportant. The important events will be happening off-stage, where US media can safely ignore them. As the Obama revolution bulls its headstrong and oblivious path, ignoring many centuries of hard-won lessons in checks and balances, market economics, and limits to government power, the inevitable backlash from the real world--a world the media and government propaganda lackeys can't control--will bring hardships to the electorate that they had not expected.

It will finally dawn on some backers of the revolution that larger government is not the best solution for most problems. Others will suspect betrayal or weakness within the revolution that prevents it from achieving its promise. But most will follow the media in blaming some scapegoat or another from outside the revolutionary coalition. The revolutionary coalition will show cracking and pitting, but not quickly enough to do the underlying society any good.

Here is the real unspoken 300 ton gorilla in the room: the US is not alone in the world. If the US adopts a posture of weakness a la Obama, the US will be challenged far more fiercely than anything seen within the past 40 or 50 years. Obama's coalition is strong, in terms of winning a US election as an oppositional party. As a ruling coalition, it will be a disaster.

When faced by foreign coalitions far more accomplished in the Machiavellian arts more than willing to practice the arts of death to achieve their ends, the pretend "masters of the universe" within the Obama coalition will find themselves outmatched.

Obama's coalition cannot lead. It is not a leading coalition, it is an oppositional coalition. It has all the substance of a music video and the solidity of a paper tiger. It is meant to hold together long enough to disorient the staid traditionalists and energize the young and the vengeful. So far it has achieved its purposes.

Coalition politics has never been the Republicans' strong suit. While they are in fact a coalition today -- ranging from the country club set to Bible belt Christians -- it is a very uneasy coalition. So long as the Dow Jones average is up and taxes are down, the country club set is happy. _Thomas Sowell
Sowell points out that the willingness of the Bible Belt Christians in the Republican coalition to fall on their swords of abortion to make a symbolic point--at the expense of winning an election--is making them a far less valuable part of the coalition than they would be otherwise. At this historical point in the US, the issue of abortion is far more likely to lose an election than to win one. So much for being concerned about the rights of the unborn.

Sowell is certainly right about the weakness of Republican coalition, when compared to the current Democratic coalition's incarnation. Which leaves one coalition element usually not mentioned--heavy firepower. Most members of the military vote Republican, but unless you expect a military coup to occur, the political views of the military rarely figure into practical politics. The military follows the orders of the CINC.

The Democratic Party has the backing of militant elements among minority communities, but even more, it has the backing of organized crime as allied with organized labor and corrupt big city political machines, such as Mayor Daley's Chicago mob conglomerate. From the Nation of Islam to Earth First to politically connected gangs and mobs, the Democratic Party has firepower on the street, where it can count.

Of course, should ordinary Americans ever decide to arm themselves and organize in defense against the mobs, count on the news media to accuse them of vigilantism and right wing extremism, and count on politicians to again try to disarm peaceful citizens, while doing nothing to neutralize the criminal mobs that can prove so useful to politicians.

Alice Finkel


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20 October 2008

A Word From Alice Finkel

Being the Al Fin blog's assistant administrators has not been easy over the years. Mr. Fin is extremely demanding and often petty in his expectations. Still, I remain at my job because I believe this blog provides a valuable service to select individuals who choose to look ahead. As Mr. Fin often says, "what we call the present is only a smoke screen of illusion. We must develop vision capable of penetrating the charade."

Yes, Fin comes across as very haughty and pompous at times. He is certainly not as smart as he thinks he is, I can tell you that. I myself am much smarter, although I patronize him, and let him think he's right if we can't agree on something. Why-what part of the meaning of the word "assistant" don't you understand?

Anyway, I have strict instructions from Mr. Fin for situations like this. If he ever goes incommunicado, I am to make sure that the main blog, at least, continues to post articles at least a few times a week. Valerie posted an article yesterday, but the poor android's so frantic with worry over Mr. Fin that I had to put her in hibernation so she wouldn't burn her circuits.

So I thought I'd write about Senator Barack Obama's plans to regulate Carbon Dioxide as a dangerous pollutant. Most ordinary people do not realize or understand how such a move would affect the US economy and US energy availability and costs.
Jason Grumet is currently executive director of an outfit called the National Commission on Energy Policy and one of Mr. Obama's key policy aides. In an interview last week with Bloomberg, Mr. Grumet said that come January the Environmental Protection Agency "would initiate those rulemakings" that classify carbon as a dangerous pollutant under current clean air laws. That move would impose new regulation and taxes across the entire economy, something that is usually the purview of Congress. _WSJ
Most of you won't understand how startling this development is. Obama's spokesman is saying that if Congress won't cut the throat of the American economy, then Obama will take care of it himself. Whether this is Obama the "smoke blower" or Obama the genuine "tough guy" remains to be seen.

In the real world, Arctic sea ice is accumulating at unprecedented rates, putting the sea ice anomaly years ahead of schedule in a chilly return to "normalcy." And for some reason, the planet seems to be getting colder all over, not just in the Arctic. This global cooling's been going on since about the turn of the last century. You won't read about it in the lame mainstream. You have to go to first-class websites like WattsUpWithThat, Climate Science, Icecap or Climate Audit, to get the real story.

I used to believe in all this climate catastrophe claptrap that Al Gore and his drones in the press keep pushing. Then I looked closer and started studying the complicated way that climate shifts and changes in the normal course of things. You'd have to have some kind of lobotomy not to be curious enough to look closer. What is that Mr. Fin keeps talking about? Psychological lobotomy? Or is it Academic Neoteny? Don't tell me, I'll google it.

Well, it's been fun subbing for the boss. Things are pretty quiet lately, without all his demands to "research this" or "document that." Almost too quiet. I know I'm only supposed to update this blog, but "Al Fin, You Sexy Thing" has been crying out for a woman's touch. Maybe I should slip a little femme-bomb into the works over there?


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19 October 2008

Will China Save the World's Financials?

First, a disclaimer. My name is Valerie. I am Mr. Al Fin's domestic android. But since Mr. Fin has gone missing after meeting with representatives of the Obama campaign, I have decided to practice my blog-writing skills in his absence. Mr. Fin might not approve, but then he isn't here, is he? Mr. Fin hasn't written about China in a while so I think I'll post a quick one on that topic.

A lot of conventional analysts think that China's booming economy will save the world from the big credit crunch in Europe and the US. But they are not thinking clearly, even for humans. China thrives on exports to Europe and the US. Without big orders from those places, China's economy is in trouble.
"A significant slowdown in US growth will hit emerging markets in general, and China in particular," Michael Pettis, professor of finance at the University of Beijing, said.

...He also said that "I don't believe the government is in such a strong fiscal position as many analysts believe," explaining that Chinese provinces and municipalities were probably hiding debts not shown in national accounting.

Total government debt, he said, was more likely more than 50 percent of gross domestic product -- far higher than the 20-30 percent given by Chinese officials.

"With global and domestic conditions apparently trending lower, it's easy to see a plausible scenario in which spending starts to radically overtake income. Revenue growth is already slowing markedly, while spending is rising," he said. _source
China is a propaganda state. Nothing that comes from official government channels can be taken at face value. You've got to look deeper, and deeper yet.

If the human voters of America choose Senator Obama as their next president, Mr. Fin believes the US economy is in for deep, long term trouble. I've looked at the issues, and processed the numbers, and I tend to agree with Mr. Fin. Humans are irrational. Public opinion tends to swing like a pendulum. Reacting, rebounding, swinging this way and that like a pinball. Silly humans.

Anyway, if Mr. Fin ever gets his human cognition project off the ground there may be hope for them. Otherwise, I wouldn't give you very good odds for the entire species.

Well, I'd better stop here before I get chatty. Mr. Fin hates chatty. Speaking of Mr. Fin, I wonder whatever happened to him. It's not like him to be out of contact for days at a time.

Signing off,


Previously posted at Al Fin Next Level

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18 October 2008

Obama Vows to Change The Brains of the World

The supremely confident demeanour and exalted rhetoric of the Democratic nominee at a New Hampshire event betrayed that he is a man convinced he is poised to make history. _Telegraph
"Barak Obama is poised to change the brains of the world--all of them." Al Fin recently spoke with a former classmate, who is presently working deep inside the Obama Campaign's Magick Negro Tricks Division. When Al questioned his acquaintance about the odd name of his department, he was answered with a shrug and a sheepish grin.

"Obama has always been considered a magical negro, someone who can bridge the gap between black and white, a politician of wisdom and deep thought, with incredible powers of accomplishment. It may sound like a joke, but everyone in the campaign takes the idea very seriously."

AF: But what do you actually do in the campaign? Back at school you were always interested in behaviour modification of rhesus macaques. What does that have to do with a political campaign?

Acqu: You'd be surprised, Al. Humans are not that different from monkeys, when you cut through the false sophistication of language and culture. I was approached by the campaign because I was beginning to find clinical applications for some of what I have learned from research on monkey brains.

AF: Fascinating! Tell me more.

Acqu: Alright. But I can only tell you so much, before the election. You know that the brain stores beliefs and behaviour patterns in a hard-wired fashion?
(AF nods)
So. When you want to modify beliefs and behaviour, you have to take into account what is already there?

AF: Yes, go on.

Acqu: Oh, Al! I'll give you the nutshell view, but don't ask me to explain more deeply.

AF: Fine, whatever you can tell me.

Acqu: Alright. Here's the basic approach:
1. Map current belief patterns in the population at the rally location with Obama campaign talking points.
2. Take every possible connection and Repeat, repeat, repeat!
3. Arrange for “firing together.” Juxtapose local beliefs and undercurrents with Obama slogans.
4. Be consistent in building positive connections for Obama, and extremely negative connections for "the other".
5. Don’t stress your mistakes. Don’t reinforce neuronal networks that aren’t useful.
6. Keep going back to existing brain networks and subtly add to them. Nothing is completely new. Just alter what is there
7. Misconnected brain networks are most often just incomplete. Try to coopt them, own them for Obama.
8. Be careful about resurrecting old networks that contradict the message; common sense that contradicts the message dies hard.
9. Construct metaphors and insist that your students adopt campaign metaphors -- like change, hope, he is the one, etc.
10. Use nonsensical analogies and similes like, "we are the ones we've been waiting for."
It all hinges on understanding the brain networks that are already there, and knowing how to twist them so that Obama seems like a natural fit. Make them think it's their own idea!

AF: Ahummm! I see. But how is that different from politics as normally practised?

Acqu: Okay, good point. But you would have to visit our test lab to understand how sophisticated we have become. Say, Al! We could use someone with your clinical skills right about now. In fact, some of our latest techniques borrow from your ideas on the micro-timing of brain communication.

AF: Really? Well, I hope you give me some public credit if you are using my ideas!

Acqu: Now, Al, you know we can't give public credit for any of this. It's still secret, for goodness sakes. Seriously, now. Do you think you can make some time to work with us over the next couple of weeks? We can make it worth your time.

AF: Indeed? Perhaps you should allow me to sleep on that idea. I try not to make spare of the moment decisions about anything as important as this seems to be.

Acqu: Sure. Will you be at your hotel tonight, if I need to contact you?

AF: Hmmmm? Oh, yes. My plane does not leave until 6 in the morning. Thanks for your time.

Acqu: No problem. We'll be in touch.

To readers from assistant blog administrator: We have been unable to reach Al Fin since he submitted this dispatch for editing last night. He has been unavailable by landline, cell, text messaging, email, or encrypted satellite phone.

Mr. Fin's domestic android, Valerie, says that she has neither seen nor heard from Mr. Fin since yesterday morning when he rushed out of the house to make an early flight. We will update with new information as it becomes available.

Brain network teaching methods adapted from the work of James Zull H/T Alvaro at Sharp Brains

Intriguing findings on the timing of brain perception and behaviour relating to earlier Al Fin postings on cognition and AI

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16 October 2008

Obama's Brave New Energyless World

Oct. 16 (Bloomberg) -- Barack Obama will classify carbon dioxide as a dangerous pollutant that can be regulated should he win the presidential election on Nov. 4, opening the way for new rules on greenhouse gas emissions. _Bloomberg_via_Wattsupwiththat
Obama in his wisdom is preparing to put the finishing touches to the demise of the US (and thus the world) economy. The implications of this incredibly foolish proposal go to the heart of Obama's judgment and personal competence.
In my opinion, this is lunacy - Obama’s thinking is completely off the rails now. He cites a new energy plan in August, then cripples it from the start with this sort of thinking. _WattsUpWithThat
Lunacy is proposing to give every citizen $50,000 a year just for existing. Lunacy is being willing to sit down with enemies of your country without preconditions. Lunacy is destroying the educational system of Chicago and planning to do the same to the entire US. But this????!! This goes far beyond lunacy into the criminally insane category.

Already, much needed power plants are being cancelled due to misplaced concerns over CO2 emissions. Under Obama's grand regime, plans for new uses of coal, oil sands, heavy oils, shale oil, and other carbon producing energy methods would be placed in suspension indefinitely, as existing plants are shut down, and the already dangerous energy and electrical generation reserves will be reduced below critical levels.

Want to know a secret that only you and a few other people will know? The current worldwide market fiasco and credit crunch happened not just because of Carter and Clinton's misguided forays into "home mortgages for all" using the CRA and Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac. The crash is not just because the federal government pushed banks into dangerous loans, and provided incentives for the wild trading in credit default swaps in national and international markets. It was not just that ACORN, Maxine Waters, Barney Franks, Chris Dodd, and the other usual suspects prevented Bush and McCain from reforming Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the growing mortgage dysfunction. Not even a growing dread among investors over a possible Obama presidency fully explains the sinking financials.

The tipping of the edifice occurred when the headlong flight into commodities (including oil) by hedge funds, pension funds, long-only funds of investment banks, etc. ran into a brick wall. The funds, banks, and investment houses were already up to their necks in unsound derivatives. But when the commodity markets took a dive--which anyone with a brain knew they would--the camel's back was broken. Now you know. A delusional belief in "Peak Oil" was one of the fibres in the straw that broke the financial camel's back.

Now, Obama wishes to use another popular delusion--climate catastrophe or CAGW--to finish the job. Is he that stupid? Does he believe the American people are stupid enough not to connect the dots? Or are both questions to be answered in the affirmative?

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15 October 2008

Many European Cities are Already 25% Muslim

A total of fifty-four million Muslims now live in Europe. San Diego University recently calculated that a staggering 25 percent of the population in Europe will be Muslim just 12 years from now. Bernhard Lewis has predicted a Muslim majority by the end of this century.
Dutch politician Geert Wilders spoke to a group in NYC a few weeks ago. These are a few of his thoughts on that occasion.
Muslim demands are supported by unlawful behaviour, ranging from petty crimes and random violence, for example against ambulance workers and bus drivers, to small-scale riots. Paris has seen its uprising in the low-income suburbs, the banlieus. Some prefer to see these as isolated incidents, but I call it a Muslim intifada. I call the perpetrators “settlers”. Because that is what they are. They do not come to integrate into our societies, they come to integrate our society into their Dar-al-Islam. Therefore, they are settlers.

Much of this street violence I mentioned is directed exclusively against non-Muslims, forcing many native people to leave their neighbourhoods, their cities, their countries.

Politicians shy away from taking a stand against this creeping sharia. They believe in the equality of all cultures. Moreover, on a mundane level, Muslims are now a swing vote not to be ignored. _Wilders
The politically correct thing to do is to deny that the exploding Muslim populations of Europe are unassimilable, untrainable, perpetually dependent on government welfare and a drain on the treasury of the host country. The reality is quite different from the PC talking points. Muslim settlers in Europe are building ever-growing neighborhoods of endemic violent crime, disorder, religious and ethnic intolerance, and an impoverishment of life too profound to describe with words. But such broad spectrum physical and spiritual impoverishment would be familiar to anyone who has visited the Gaza Strip, the Hezbollah dominated areas of southern Lebanon, or the Iran of the mullahs.

The current economic problems of world markets have not been kind to Europe. The fracture lines in the European Union have never been so clear as when member nations were asked to unite to prop up European banks--and refused. Is Europe dying?
...the population of Europe is not just declining but ageing, too. Across the Continent, retirees are heavily dependent on state pensions for their income, and this is predominantly structured along the lines of PAYG–Pay As You Go–ie. workers transfer a portion of their income across a generation via the pension system to retirees. This proportion, (the ‘contribution rate’) is critically dependent on the ratio of pensioners to workers, a ratio that is becoming progressively less favourable as the army of retirees continues to swell while the size of the workforce shrinks. Workers and their employers will only accept increasing contribution rates up to a certain pain threshold, above which it becomes too expensive to hire workers, while those in employment find their take-home pay substantially eroded. In Germany, companies are moving production overseas. In Eastern Europe, workers are voting with their feet by joining the black economy, where they pay no taxes or contributions, putting even greater pressure on the contribution rates of their law-abiding fellows until there is a general revolt and the state pension system goes bust.

There is another aspect to ageing. Older generally means iller, so as the population ages, the need for medical care and sheltered accommodation increases relentlessly ... at a time when the size of the workforce on whom they will depend for nursing and homecare will be in decline. The result? Soaring state health costs to add to soaring state pension costs. Governments are therefore faced with a dilemma–whether to maintain present levels of these services and benefits at the cost of sharply rising tax and social security contributions, or to cut them sharply. _Source
Most European governments do not have the option to cut services and benefits. The political costs would be too high. So Europe is doomed to a creeping economic erosion due to its inability to sustain its own populations.

Of course, the Singularity may happen before the great collapse of Europe. But if Americans choose Obamanation, the Singularity is apt to recede into the distance due to a re-routing of scarce resources to pay for carbon cap and trade, and other misbegotten economic and energy policies of the Obamalution. Not Obamageddon or Obamapocalypse. Just creeping incompetence and anti-meritocracy. Permanent ideological warfare against market economics leading to long term depressed markets and economies.

That will be bad enough for America, but for those parts of the world that have been heavily dependent upon America for their export markets, for the guarantee of world trade routes, for the defense umbrella, for the seemingly never-ending flow of scientific and technological innovations . . . . . When America retreats into itself, the scornful and contemptuous nations of the world will wonder what happened to their smug and complacent world, once so predictable.

Time for change? Believe it.

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Who Is John Galt? Scaling Back In An Obamanation

The prospect of Americans (with the help of ACORN and other fraudsters) electing Obamanation to lead the developed world is weighing heavy on the minds of many American professionals and small business owners. Over at "Ask Dr. Helen", commenters are discussing ways in which they might scale back their economic activity under a full-scale socialist assault such as has never been seen in a previously free country. The ideas are interesting, and worth looking over.

If by hook or crook Obama emerges victorious next month, he will not just be the US President. He will likely be the almost uncontested leader of a powerful monolith of leftist oriented government, media, popular culture, and revolutionary-minded powerful interests--aligned nationally and internationally as never seen before. The momentum toward permanent revolutionary change will be virtually irresistable.

It will not be a situation like 1992, where early Clinton excesses led to the election, in 1994, of an opposition Congress. If the Entitlist, "Hollow-Man" Obama is enthroned in the Oval Office, he will assume a type of power only dreamed of by Bill Clinton or Al Gore. You can be sure that even if B.O. is unsure how to govern, he will be accompanied by a revolutionary cadre whose plans have been worked out years in advance--if not decades.

The overrunning of the university by leftist ideologues over the past 4 + decades is finally bearing fruit--in the electorate, in the media, in K-12 education, in popular entertainment, in the very mythology of the west. That is the type of undermining foundational change that was necessary in order for overt change of open revolution to occur in a formerly free country.

In the past, cheating at the polls occurred in mob-controlled areas such as Chicago, New York, Philadelphia etc. But the cheating now is occurring nationwide--just like in Zimbabwe, Cuba, or Saddam's Iraq. In order to achieve such widespread corruption, a lot of people had to work hard for a long time--and with taxpayer support as it turns out. If Obama is crowned in January, it will be because of the hard work of these mostly behind-the-scenes workers, bureaucrats, and elected officials.

So here we are, contemplating an Obamanation--the bringing of destructive power against personal and economic freedoms that rational Americans never believed possible. These storm troopers will quickly be voted the power by Congress to shut down all media that goes against them. Radio, TV, public forums, internets, wireless, print, and so on. Consider: If Google bowed to the CCP in Beijing to assist spying on dissidents, it is easy to imagine the same thing happening under Obamanation.

Finally, Who Is John Galt? I recommend you go to Dr. Helen's and read through the comments.

The election hasn't happened yet. But it is never too early to make advance preparations for a potential disaster. The radicals of Obamanation do not understand what makes free markets run. They seem to believe that wealth flows out of government, to whomever the government favours. That is certainly how things look from a third world perspective. They have a lot to learn about who "John Galt" is and what happens when the mainspring runs down.

Update: Here is a link to Ayn Rand's "Anthem", Free Online. "Atlas Shrugged" is still under copyright, but "Anthem" is a little brother of sorts, in the public domain. Enjoy.

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14 October 2008

Obama's ACORN Brings Third World Voter Fraud to Make Sure of Victory In November

In a county in Indiana, the first 2100 out of 5000 registrations submitted, were fraudulent Every single one. Across the US, the Democratic Party/Obama - linked organisation called ACORN is under investigation for blatant vote fraud similar to what one might see in Zimbabwe or Belarus. Watch this CNN clip and notice the journalistic fraud of failure to mention the close links between ACORN and Obama/DP. ACORN has submitted roughly 1.3 million voter registrations nationwide. One ACORN center in California was found to be hiring persons convicted of identity theft.

Notice the weasel words from the ACORN attorney in the CNN clip. And how dissociated from reality the CNN anchors appear to be--as if they are talking about their niece's third birthday party with clowns and balloons. The future of the free world hanging on third world voter fraud. I wonder if it's gonna rain?

The links between ACORN and Obama go back over 10 years, back to Obama's community organising days. "You scratch my back, I scratch your back. It's poifect!"

More on Obama and ACORN Here and Here

Update: The Complete Guide to ACORN Voter Fraud

Over 30,000 Florida felons still illegally on voter rolls

ACORN voting drives coming under national scrutiny

Most populous Ohio county pressing for fraud investigation of ACORN

Obama may inspire even dead people to vote for him with a little help from ACORN's convicted felons, some of whom appear to have the ability to "see dead people," talk to them, and sign them up to vote.
Update: The Community Reinvestment Act--the law that allowed ACORN to use its Democratic Congressional Allies to pervert Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to the point of almost destroying the world credit market this month--IS STILL IN EFFECT!!! And Chris Dodd is pushing to divert billions of dollars from the bailout BACK TO ACORN!!!! And Barak Obama is right in the middle of all of it

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13 October 2008

You Call This a Crisis? Now, That is a Crisis

Real crisis occurs when people who are accustomed to being provided for, are no longer taken care of. It happens when the check is no longer in the mail. When the money is no longer in the account. When the food is no longer on the grocer's shelf. When the fuel is no longer in the pump. When the plumber doesn't come to fix a freeze-broken pipe after the oil furnace runs out of oil. When water doesn't come out of the spigot. When the garbage is not picked up and piles up for rats in the streets. When the emergency rooms close and hospitals have no electrical power or medicines, while numbers of the sick and dead rise rapidly. And all of that, with the barbarians at the gates possessing weapons of creeping and exploding death.
US voters are being whipped into a panic by the media's army of child-journalists. Painting the troubles of the financial industry as the "worst crisis since the great depression of the 30s", the media hopes to gain more readers and viewers--and sell more advertisement. Crisis and panic are good for the news media business.

Except it isn't true. Almost everyone who was employed in August is still employed in October, with full salary and benefits. Very stupid money managers made huge bad bets based upon bad assumptions such as "oil always goes up" or "property always gains value" or "the government said we should do it so it must be alright." But on this planet, what goes up eventually comes down. A lot of very wealthy people lost a lot of money due to stupidly complacent bets placed by Harvard educated psychological neotenates. That's just the way it goes. If you want to see a crisis, every day in the third world is a crisis to a first-worlder. First-worlders need to understand what separates the first world from the third world and BRIC.

But if you want to open your eyes a little more, to see the real crisis coming down the pipe before it gets here, you might save yourself a lot of hardship. First of all, understand why this particular credit crash happened, and what it has in common with the dot.com crash and the credit and loan crash. Understand how the same type of wishful thinking and government refusal to reform itself (Barney Frank) perpetuated old problems so that they caused a new "crisis." And particularly understand that today's bailouts and "reforms" will do virtually nothing to prevent similar "crisis" from occurring ten or twenty years from now. And ultimately, understand how the largest unfunded mandates are distributed, and when the big payment comes due.

But that is not the biggest problem. The biggest problem is that science and technology are racing against growing bureaucratic complexity, voter stupidity, and cultural collapse/dysgenic demographics. The brighter and more far-seeing humans may survive and prosper beyond the rapidly approaching unraveling true crisis, or they may not, depending upon the precautions they take. No, I am not talking about religion. Remember, I am a Darwinian atheo-agnostic. Religion makes me exasperated, although I tolerate it in others as long as they do not force it on me.

The topic is real crisis. Real crisis occurs when people who are accustomed to being provided for, are no longer taken care of. It happens when the check is no longer in the mail. When the money is no longer in the account. When the food is no longer on the grocer's shelf. When the fuel is no longer in the pump. When the plumber doesn't come to fix a freeze-broken pipe after the oil furnace runs out of oil. When water doesn't come out of the spigot. When the garbage is not picked up. When the emergency rooms close and hospitals have no electrical power. When the welfare and pension and disability checks stop coming.

The tracks for that genuine crisis train have been laid for over 60 years, but recently track-laying has been spurred to a fever pitch, and the engine firebox is being stoked like never before. The US election in November 08 will not signal a change in direction--it will only determine the rate of increasing acceleration toward the crisis (just as the election of Reagan in 1980 only slowed the train temporarily).

What we see here, is a failure to communicate. And a failure to apprehend, a failure to comprehend, and a failure to grow the focque up. Even Barak Obama marvels at the simple-minded naivete of his "liberal" cohorts on the political path. Only the hard-core leftists and revolutionaries such as Wm. Ayers, Rev. Wright, Farrakhan, Pfleger, etc. have Obama's respect for being realistic. The others make convenient doormats and world class chumps.

The joke of Obama's revolution is really on him, though. Just as Lenin's revolution led to the horrors of the USSR, Obama's revolution would lead to the horrors of a UNASR--if it only could. But it can't. The crisis train is on the tracks, and it will collide with the Obama-lution train before it truly has a chance to get started.

That is not good news for Obama, but it is even worse news for the rest of us. Our complacency might have been cramped under Obama-lution, but it might have survived. Under the confluence of Obama-lution and the crisis train, surrender all hope--unless you are one of the few who knew what was coming.

I am not talking about faux crises like Y2K, Peak Oil, Climate Catastrophe, Overpopulation, etc. etc. etc. The crisis I am referring to will make the 1930s look like a picnic at Golden Gate Park in September.

You have some time to think about it. You can believe it or not. If you believe it, you can prepare or not. If you prepare, you can prepare thoroughly or not. All of those bifurcation points will determine how you and yours ride out the first big crash of the not so distant future. The aftermath? Ah, the aftermath is another story . . . . .

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12 October 2008

World's Most Dangerous Un-Conference 15 Nov 08

On the 15th and 16th of November, 2008, Convergence 08 will be held at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California. What is convergence? It is the coming together of a number of disruptive technologies in a synergistic re-working of the world as we know it.The list of featured speakers is impressive, and the potential for seminal interaction between participants should be very high. Here is more:
"A host of technologies that seemed like daring science fiction just a few years ago are racing toward practical application with breathtaking speed. Convergence08 is a unique opportunity to look into the coming NBIC future, examine its implications, and prepare for the vast surprises in store for us all."

Both days feature debates on controversial NBIC topics including Synthetic Biology, Longevity, and Artificial Intelligence. Dr. Barney Pell, founder of Powerset and search strategist and evangelist at Microsoft, stated, "At this event we aim to use the power of collective intelligence to see farther along the convergence trajectories; each of the NBIC technologies is transformative on its own, and there's a strong interplay among them."

Headliners include:

* Dr. Bruce Ames, biochemistry professor at UC Berkeley, founder of Juvenon
* Dr. Gregory Benford, physics professor at UC Irvine, founder of Genescient
* Denise Caruso, executive director of Hybrid Vigor Institute
* Dr. Aubrey de Grey, CSO and chair of Methuselah Foundation
* Dr. Ben Goertzel, CEO of Novamente, director of research at Singularity Institute
* Terry Grossman, MD, co-author, Fantastic Voyage
* Andrew Hessel, consulting biologist and author
* Dr. Chris Heward, president of Kronos Science Laboratories
* Dr. Peter Norvig, director of research at Google
* Dr. Steve Omohundro, founder and president of Self-Aware Systems
* Dr. Barney Pell, founder of Powerset, search strategist and evangelist at Microsoft _NantoechnologyNow
Here is a partial list of topics to be discussed:
* Neurotechnology
* Artificial general intelligence
* Synthetic biology
* Human enhancement
* Space tourism
* Social software
* Prediction markets
* Nanotechnology
* Smart drugs

* Bioethics
* Cleantech
* NBIC startup tips
* Reputation systems
* Life extension / anti-aging
* Accelerating change
* Biotechnology
* Open source everything
* Sousveillance / privacy _C08
It is important not to allow the economic downturn to jaundice your viewpoint of the future. Fewer resources will be devoted to many promising areas of science and technology, for a few years. But much vital work will continue. Even should the worst occur, and Obamanation be brought into existence, ways of routing around the corruption and mismanagement will be devised to allow the most important pivotal discoveries to be made.

While tens and hundreds of billions of dollars will be squandered on politically correct science such as faux climate catastrophe, and abundant resources diverted to political friends and cronies of elected officials, intelligent people are working behind the scenes to allow vital functions to survive. And while the minds of most children are twisted and warped in government schools and universities - cum - indoctrination centers, a large enough trickle of young minds bypass the waste mainstream to feed into the unseen competent core--the ones who get things done, fend off unmentionable catastrophes, and prod human development toward a better future.

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11 October 2008

"Affordable Health Care?" Is that Similar to His Idea of "Affordable Mortgages?"

Watch the entire video for an entertaining, brief, and enlightening synopsis of the gang that took a left-handed sledgehammer to the world economy. This gang wants you to re-elect them all, and elevate "Dear Leader" to the head honcho position, so that he can finish the demolition. Are you stupid enough to do it? They think you are.

Markets begin to discount Obamanation

Obamanation: Rule by Thugocracy

Update: The "Hispanic Connection" underlying the housing bubble and credit meltdown

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10 October 2008

What the Mind Knows, What It Thinks It Knows That Just Isn't So, And What May Yet Grow

Everything we know, everything we believe, everything we think and understand, comes from the function of our brains. A better understanding of brain function is opening a clearer window into how our brains create the worlds we inhabit.

Recently, researchers from St. Louis and Boca Raton, Florida have applied "Granger Causality" to fMRI studies in an attempt to more precisely trace the flow of information between brain centers, in the performance of a mental task. Sir Clive Granger was a co-recipient of the 2003 Nobel Prize in Economics for his method of comparing complex time series of economic data, to forecast economic changes. The researchers used Granger causality to overcome the poor time resolution (roughly 2 seconds) in the fMRI data in analysing information flow in the brain.
Chad Sylvester, an M.D./Ph.D. student at Washington University, gathered the data for the analysis. Researchers gave volunteers a cue that a visual stimulus would be appearing soon in a portion of a computer display screen, and asked them to report when the stimulus appeared and what they saw. Corbetta's group previously revealed that this task activated two brain areas: the frontoparietal cortex, which is involved in the direction of the attention, and the visual cortex, which became more active in the area where volunteers were cued to expect the stimulus to appear.

Scientists believed the frontoparietal cortex was influencing the visual cortex, but the brain scanning approach they were using, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), can only complete scans about once every two seconds, which was much too slow to catch that influence in action. When researchers applied Granger causality, though, they were able to show conclusively that as volunteers waited for the stimulus to appear, the frontoparietal cortex was influencing the visual cortex, not the reverse. _Source
The complex timing and sequencing involved in neural signaling between brain centers, has been a particularly difficult problem in understanding how the brain generates consciousness and knowledge. It is also a difficult challenge to AI researchers who are trying to simulate animal consciousness via artificial cortex architectures.

Chris Chatham's blog Developing Intelligence regularly looks at some of these neuro-cognitive research teasers. One of the most interesting topics Chris examines is the topic of "far transfer":cognitive training for one skill that also creates competence in other areas.
What if training ourselves on one task yielded improvements in all other tasks we perform? This is the promise of the cognitive training movement, which is increasingly showing that such "far transfer" of training is indeed possible, while short of being "universal transfer." Interestingly, this phenomenon might be most likely to occur for some of the most abstract and challenging cognitive functions. _DevelIntel
In general, acquiring expertise in a narrow specialty does not result in broader competence. People often exaggerate their own competence in multiple areas, based upon expertise in a specialised field. If they are lucky, their misplaced hubris results only in their making fools of themselves, rather than losing their fortunes, families, and sanity.

In fact, all human minds have their blind spots, their areas of false certainty.
LEHRER: In your book, you compare the "feeling of certainty" that accompanies things such as religious fundamentalism to the feeling that occurs when we have a word on the-tip-of-our-tongue. Could you explain?

BURTON: There are two separate aspects of a thought, namely the actual thought, and an independent involuntary assessment of the accuracy of that thought.

To get a feeling for this separation, look at the Muller-Lyer optical illusion.

Even when we consciously know and can accurately determine that these two horizontal lines are the same length, we experience the simultaneous disquieting sensation that this thought—the lines are of equal length—is not correct. This isn't a feeling that we can easily overcome through logic and reason; it simply happens to us.

This sensation is a manifestation of a separate category of mental activity—-unconscious calculations as to the accuracy of any given thought. On the positive side, such feelings can vary from a modest sense of being right, such as understanding that Christmas falls on December 25, to a profound a-ha, "Eureka" or sense of a spiritual epiphany. William James referred to the latter—the mystical experience—as "felt knowledge," a mental sensation that isn't a thought, but feels like a thought.

Once we realize that the brain has very powerful inbuilt involuntary mechanisms for assessing unconscious cognitive activity, it is easy to see how it can send into consciousness a message that we know something that we can't presently recall—the modest tip-of-the-tongue feeling. At the other end of the spectrum would be the profound "feeling of knowing" that accompanies unconsciously held beliefs—a major component of the unshakeable attachment to fundamentalist beliefs—both religious and otherwise—such as belief in UFOs or false memories.

LEHRER: Why do you think that the feeling of certainty feels so good?

BURTON: Stick brain electrodes in rat pleasure centers (the mesolimbic dopamine system primarily located in the upper brain stem). The rats continuously press the bar, to the exclusion of food and water, until they drop. In humans the same areas are activated with cocaine, amphetamines, alcohol, nicotine and gambling—to mention just a few behaviors to which one can become easily addicted.

It is quite likely that the same reward system provides the positive feedback necessary for us to learn and to continue wanting to learn. The pleasure of a thought is what propels us forward; imagine trying to write a novel or engage in a long-term scientific experiment without getting such rewards. Fortunately, the brain has provided us with a wide variety of subjective feelings of reward ranging from hunches, gut feelings, intuitions, suspicions that we are on the right track to a profound sense of certainty and utter conviction. And yes, these feelings are qualitatively as powerful as those involved in sex and gambling. One need only look at the self-satisfied smugness of a "know it all" to suspect that the feeling of certainty can approach the power of addiction. _SciAm
It feels good to be right. Of course, one is often wrong at the same time he feels himself right. It still feels good. Hence the attraction of violent jihad, lynch mobs, programming by college professors, witch hunts, cult indoctrination, and political rallies. Resonating with the emotions of the crowd only magnifies the sensation of "rightness."

As America contemplates electing its own "Dear Leader", it is good to keep in mind how fallible our mental world's creation truly is. If a politician makes you feel that he will make everything right, you have certainly been taken in by a skilled practitioner of world creation. Run away. Quickly.


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