MonthOctober 2007

Worst Mayor in America: Jackson, Mississippi’s Mayor Frank

How “Mayor Frank” got away with tearing down an innocent person’s home, a completely unauthorized act of vigilantism, and other repeat violations of the law, all in the name of the “war on drugs.”

The duplex demolition, however, got Melton in more trouble than usual. The rental property Melton sent his army of young drug warriors to destroy was owned by a single mother who rented it to a young schizophrenic man with no history of drug-dealing. The district attorney charged-and a grand jury indicted-Melton and his two police bodyguards of multiple felonies, ranging from burglary to directing a minor to commit a felony. At the same time, the state attorney general charged Melton with violations of various gun safety laws as well , including wearing a weapon in church and carrying a concealed weapon on a university campus; Melton pled down to misdemeanors on those charges. Still, a notable achievement for one of the founders of “Mayors Against Illegal Guns.”

Melton and his defense team-led by a conservative former mayor of Jackson who is also suing the city in an annexation battle, and the attorney who defended Byron de la Beckwith (the man who murdered civil rights leader Medgar Evers)-ratcheted up the mayor’s paternalistic populist appeal by pushing the meme that the duplex destruction was part of the mayor’s passionate war on crime. Despite all evidence to the contrary, Melton’s people painted the place as a ‘crackhouse,’ and his antics little more than a creative effort at getting another drug dealer off the street.

Full Story: Reason.

Kucinich Had A UFO Encounter, According To Friend Shirley MacLaine

So is this good or bad for Kucinich’s campaign?

In Shirley MacLaine’s new book, the actress and longtime friend of Dennis Kucinich makes an interesting claim: During a visit to her home in Washington state, Kucinich said he saw a UFO and heard messages from it.

“Dennis found his encounter extremely moving,” MacLaine writes. “The smell of roses drew him out to my balcony where, when he looked up, he saw a gigantic triangular craft, silent, and observing him.

Full Story: TPM Election Central.

New guest bloggers: TiamatsVision and Danny Chaoflux

Please welcome TiamatsVision and Danny Chaoflux to Technoccult. Danny is the designer of the Technoccult logo, and my co-conspirator for both Portland Occulture and Esozone. And you probably know TiamatsVision for her prolific commenting here at Technoccult. I’m looking forward to seeing what they share with us.

WWIV: Giuliani wants to go to war with Iran “soon,” says advisor

Norman Podhoretz believes that America needs to go to war soon with Iran. As far as he knows, Rudy Giuliani thinks the same thing.

‘I was asked to come in and give him a briefing on the war, World War IV,’ said Mr. Podhoretz, a founding father of neoconservatism and leading foreign policy adviser to Mr. Giuliani. ‘As far as I can tell there is very little difference in how he sees the war and how I see it.’

During a long interview this week in his bookcase-lined East 81st Street home, Mr. Podhoretz, 77, explained the very straightforward proposition he has been proposing to Mr. Giuliani from the start of the campaign: ‘The choice before us is either bomb those nuclear facilities or let them get the bomb.’

Full Story: The New York Observer.

More about Giuliani here.

More about the impending war with Iran:

The Secret History of the Impending War with Iran That the White House Doesn’t Want You to Know.

The Iran Plan.

Two things to write for

A very interesting event is shaping up in Rome, Italy:

The Conference ‘Music and esotericism’ seeks to bring together those working on the esoteric sciences – notably magic, astrology, alchemy, demonology, divination and cabale – in their relationship to music.

The Conference is an interdisciplinary event, aimed at breaking down the barriers between history, the history of art, of music, of science and of ideas. It is meant to be a multidisciplinary dialogue on musical practice, as studied in the light of specific historical and scientific contexts, in order both to deepen and to share our knowledge of the cultural background of the musical world in terms of science and belief.

Each lecture will focus on either the use of music within cultural and occult scientific traditions, or on the presence of these traditions in music. The multiple approaches will take into account all esoteric sciences and disciplines.

If you would like to attend or participate by presenting your own paper on the subject, more information can be found here.

Also, OVO is ramping up for its 18th installment:

OVO 18 Money

Please submit words (no more art) on the theme of ‘money,’ broadly

ownership / jobs / theft / economics / capitalism / libertarianism /
socialism / gambling / doing without / consumer culture / do-it-yourself
/ black market / free market / alternative currencies / free / barter /
strikes / banks / gold / class / blackmail / sex work / wealth /
mercenaries / poverty / lotteries / open source / intellectual property
/ stocks / wages / counterfeit / sabotage / etc.

Details here.

On evolutionary psychology

This interview with Satoshi Kanazawa, co-author of Why Beautiful People Have More Daughters (with Alan S. Miller) reminded me of this critique of Kanazawa and Miller’s Psychology Today article by the Thistle. I meant to reply when he first wrote it, but got too caught up with Esozone stuff and forgot.

First of all I have to say that I’m skeptical of all popular science books, especially popular psychology books. I must also say that I am not a scientist, and don’t have a lot of knowledge of evolutionary psychology. Also, I’ve only read the article and interview, not the book. So Kanazawa and Miller’s work could be total bunk for all I know. That said, lets take a look a look at what the Thistle has to say.

Many of the speculations in this article are without clear source.

True. Hypothetically, more detail about how they reached these conclusions can be found in the book.

Evolutionary psychology is emphatically not science. It is a genre of speculation based on a mix of other peoples’ science and observation of cultural trends. EPs, like the sociobiologists before them, are notorious for rationalizing status quo culture as being rooted in biology. They are not researchers but armchair theorists (just like me). Thus when Frank Marlowe contends something, he is not dispelling a “mystery,” just giving his opinion.

Scientists haven’t even decided if social science really is science, nor am I sure I accept social science as science. Evolutionary psychology (or any other branch of psychology) may not live up to the strictest of definitions of science. But to call evolutionary psychology arm chair speculation is unfair. Again, Kanazawa and Miller’s research could turn out to be nothing but arm chair theory. I haven’t evaluated the research. But extensive research, rigid application of the scientific method, and peer review separate professional psychology from home speculation. A professional evolutionary psychologist must examine statistical research, make falsifiable predictions, and subject their work to review of fellow scientists. The process of evolutionary psychology is not a mere practice of saying “oh, maybe that stems from this” but a tedious process of making predictions and testing them.

But “Men also have a universal preference for women with a low waist-to-hip ratio”? [Emphasis mine.] I’ll open this up to the readers: Should I even bother to provide evidence that this isn’t the case?

I was a little surprised at how much of a response this particular bit got (see comment here). I’m also surprised no one pointed out the most obvious deviation from this “rule”: gay men. Gay men are not even attracted to women, much less blond ones. So some men are less attracting to large breasts than other men. Some men prefer chubby women. So what? The use of the word “universal” is probably the hang-up for people here. No, people don’t conform 100% to these rules. Does that make the conclusions drawn any less valid? No. Much less the entire field of evolutionary psychology.

But there is an important lesson to be learned here: we can predict the behavior of individuals based on the past behavior of individual with perhaps enough certainty to do well at gambling. But probably not well to do well at life. We may be able to accurately say “most women prefer cooking shows to sports” or “most men would rather spend money on power tools than handbags” but there will always be exceptions.

To go off on some armchair theorizing of my own: there seems to be a rise in pornography based around non-blond women with many different body types. Some of this might be due to the Internet making it possible to produce and distribute porn profitably without marketing to the lowest common denominator. But perhaps men are adapting as we become aware of the fact that just because a woman is blond and has perky tits doesn’t mean she’s actually young. Or not. I have no idea.

We are currently living through the largest wealth disparity in the history of mankind.

It’s my understanding that the middle class developed along with globalization and industrialization. It might be true that there’s a larger gap between the top 2% and the bottom 2% (or whatever) than ever before (this seems probable as there is more for the top 2% to have than ever before). But are the middle classes of “industrialized” nations not much, much closer matched? And do they not take up the majority of the population?

I can never tell if the largely male population of Evolutionary Psychologists are trying to invent and rationalize some class-based stratification of sexuality because they have a little extra money and need come up with an excuse to get with multiple partners or because they are trying to come up with an excuse for why they can’t get a date at all.

I suspect it’s the latter.

Oooooo burn!

So here’s my advice, you armchair theorists of the world. Lighten up with all the “women act this way, men act that way” talk and get out there and talk to people you actually want to have sex with as though they were people and not aggregate collections of statistically observable behaviors interpreted through the lens of your personal bias. It’s not sexy.

See above for why statistical predictions don’t make good practice in day to day life.

BTW, 100 years ago, similar genetic behavior theorists were trying to convince the populace at large that polygamy was a sign of the inferiority of the poor (they’re having all the sex, which we know because they make so many babies) and trying to get them sterilized because of it.

Scientists were saying lots of incorrect things 100 years ago. Should we discount discount science altogether because of it?

Also: Kanazawa and Miller haven’t made, at least in the articles in question, any value judgements or policy recommendations.

I’m not sure what this point has to do with “human nature.” Period. Is religious affiliation genetically coded? No.

Did you even read the article? Kanazawa and Miller say the Muslim tendency towards suicide bombing isn’t caused directly by religion, but by the absence of sex. Is that correct? I don’t know, but it does answer your question.

Ditto. Actually, I slept through the rest of these until…

What, you didn’t have a problem with the notion, expressed in point 9, that all men care about is sex? That all of our accomplishments, dreams, and ambitions are nothing more than cheap ploys to get laid?

Look, if ever there was a phrase that was designed to bait the political opposition, it is “political incorrectness.” It serves as a umbrella term meant to signal that the author is setting out to offend people, then act as though he is surprised when people get offended. Then he points the finger at them, saying, “You’re too easily offended.” Some people are too easily offended; that doesn’t make these guys any less asinine. It is always an indication that the author is trying to start some very public drama.

I basically agree. The framing of these theories as “politically incorrect” is a marketing ploy. And it seems to have worked.

To address the whole of your objection to the section on sexual harassment: I think you’re way off the mark in your interpretation of what was being said in that section. They say that women “legitimately complain” about harassment. I don’t believe they were trying to *excuse* sexual harassment (any more than they were trying to excuse suicide bombing), but try to get to the bottom of why it happens.

And that is the goal of evolutionary psychology: not to justify bad behavior, but to explain it. One can only hope that with a better rational understanding of our problems, we can find new solutions. From the interview with Kanazawa:

As a scientist, I am not interested in Utopian visions (or any other visions for society). But it seems to me that, if you want to change the world successfully, you cannot start from false premises. Any such attempt is bound to fail.

Esozone: The Other Tomorrow

October 3-5, 2008. Portland, Oregon.

Ikipr’s Audio Wizardy: Wes Unruh interviews Ikipr

Wes: In looking over Aleph9.comaleph9.png and listening to the music you’ve released, I can’t help but ponder how people have gotten to the point where they’re working with digitized samples to deconstruct meaning, and then rebuilding it all over again. I don’t know that this is specifically a magical process, but it does seem to inform the basis of a lot of people’s magical systems nowadays.

Ikipr: Well it is kind of a magical act in and of itself. It kind of reaches out into that non-linear time interface there, and your digital recordings are like quantum interfaces into what they’re recordings of… it’s also kind of kinetic in a way, there’s a momentum to that evolution. You know, we’re the intelligence in that feedback system, analyzing the inputs, using whatever tools, but we’re still the only utterly free-willed sentience doing that particular aspect of the process there.

Interview Part 1.

Interview Part 2.

Hipsters worship Mayan saint of vice

maximon alter

A Kansas City, Missouri, artist well-known for his political public performances, Ford flew 24 members of his entourage to New York last weekend to participate in Maximon, a “public audience” with the aforementioned deity. Also known as Hermano San Simon, the spirit is traditionally maintained throughout the year with offerings of tobacco, liquor, music, flowers, and incense, and is said to serve as a redemptive or protective source for the prostitutes and gang members of Guatemala. (He’s also said to symbolize male sexual power-his darker aspects lead devotees to carefully guard his visage from public view for fear that his sexuality may run rampant. Um, bring it!) Participants in Friday night’s Williamsburg show-the first here after years of the celebration in KC-were instructed to bring evidence of their vices: These gifts to Maximon supposedly “guaranteed redemption for the artists and musicians of New York.” I brought vodka. Also: receipts from Anthropologie.

Full Story: Village Voice.

(via Robot Wisdom).

Wikipedia entry for Maximon.

Burning Man Time Lapse Video

(via Robot Wisdom).

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