MonthDecember 2013

Oklahoma’s 10 Commandments To Get A Sister Memorial … From The Satanic Temple

Addicting Info reports:

Remember the Satanic Temple, which performed a ritual to turn Fred Phelps’ dead mother gay? They are still at it, now in Oklahoma. The Satanic Temple has filed the papers to put up a memorial on statehouse grounds, next to the state’s display of the 10 Commandments. They are doing this by citing Okla.’s religious displays legislation, signed into law in 2009.

Full Story: Addicting Info: Oklahoma’s 10 Commandments To Get A Sister Memorial … From The Satanic Temple

(Thanks Jill!)

Every Part of American Life Is Now a Police Matter

Chase Madar wrote a good piece on the transformation of the U.S. into a police state. Many of the examples will be familiar to Technoccult readers, but it’s a useful and scary overview none the less:

f all you’ve got is a hammer, then everything starts to look like a nail. And if police and prosecutors are your only tool, sooner or later everything and everyone will be treated as criminal. This is increasingly the American way of life, a path that involves “solving” social problems (and even some non-problems) by throwing cops at them, with generally disastrous results. Wall-to-wall criminal law encroaches ever more on everyday life as police power is applied in ways that would have been unthinkable just a generation ago.

By now, the militarization of the police has advanced to the point where “the War on Crime” and “the War on Drugs” are no longer metaphors but bland understatements. There is the proliferation of heavily armed SWAT teams, even in small towns; the use of shock-and-awe tactics to bust small-time bookies; the no-knock raids to recover trace amounts of drugs that often result in the killing of family dogs, if not family members; and in communities where drug treatment programs once were key, the waging of a drug version of counterinsurgency war. (All of this is ably reported on journalist Radley Balko’s blog and in his book, The Rise of the Warrior Cop.) But American over-policing involves far more than the widely reported up-armoring of your local precinct. It’s also the way police power has entered the DNA of social policy, turning just about every sphere of American life into a police matter. […]

It will surprise no one that Americans are not all treated equally by the police. Law enforcement picks on kids more than adults, the queer more than straight, Muslims more than Methodists—Muslims a lot more than Methodists—antiwar activists more than the apolitical. Above all, our punitive state targets the poor more than the wealthy and Blacks and Latinos more than white people.

Full Story: Mother Jones: How Every Part of American Life Became a Police Matter

He didn’t really go into another scary element: the way that more and more people are expected to act as de-facto law enforcement. Financial services is one example. PayPal had to invested heavily in tools to detect money laundering and other illegal uses of its services. Competitors who couldn’t afford to do the same, or acted too slowly, were shut down by the feds.

And then there’s Alfred Anaya, a man who built secret compartments into cars, who was convicted of criminal conspiracy for not reporting that he had seen TK in cash in one of his client’s vehicles. Anaya never saw illegal drugs in the car, just cash. Prosecutors argued that he should have done something about it.

It’s of course reasonable to ask banks or other financial services company not to knowingly participate in illegal activity. But how much due dilligence is required? Just how far should Anaya have gone?

Imagine this being taken further: You’re arrested because your neighbors were caught selling drugs and you didn’t report them, even though you didn’t know for sure they were selling drugs. Your cousin commits murder and your whole family is convicted for not reporting that he seemed mentally unstable. Police cameras capture the license plates of not people who ran a red light, but everyone who may have witnessed the infraction, and send everyone tickets.

See also:

The U.S. as Police State

The New “Warrior Cop” is Out of Control

Undercover Cops Seduce High School Students and Entrap Them into Selling Weed

Reign of the Crazy Ants

crazy-ants

It sounds like something out of a horror movie, but it’s real:

Outside, dead ants began pooling around the base of the house in heaps so high that they looked like discarded coffee grounds. (It’s common in Texas these days for a person who is shown one of these heaps of dead ants to take several seconds to realize that the solid surface he or she is scanning for ants actually is the ants.) Mike laid out poison, generating more heaps of dead ants. But new ants merely used those dead ants as a bridge over the poison and kept streaming inside.

“They literally come in waves of just millions,” Mike told me. (One Texas A&M entomologist confessed, “You figure these stories are laced with hyperbole, but when you get in there, it’s unreal.”) People don’t want to visit the Foshees anymore, and if they do, they leave quickly, before the ants can stow away in their cars and accompany them home. This summer, Mike had to cancel Therapy Through the Outdoors. Recently, he and his wife were sitting outside, watching a pair of bald eagles settle into a pecan tree for the evening, when Mike looked down and saw one of his bare feet overtaken by ants. He remembers thinking, No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, running inside and running back out with his AR-15, the assault rifle he uses to take out hogs. He was about to open fire on the ants until his wife chuckled and he realized how ridiculous the situation had become.

“The distressing part,” he told me, “is having the feeling of something always crawling on you. Like, if you get around somebody who has lice, and now you’re always itching because you know they have lice.”

“So it’s psychological,” I said.

“It’s psychological,” he said. “And yet, you actually do have them on you.”

He tried leaving different foods on his floor overnight, to figure out how he might bait and kill the ants, as he did with the feral hogs. He tried doughnuts, crushed-up Cheerios, bread crumbs — “anything a normal ant would be attracted to,” he told me. He claims they touched none of it.

He can’t fathom what the ants want — why they’ve come. They are frightening because they make no sense, because of the utter disarray of their existence. “They run around the floors like they’re on crack, and then they die,” he said. “They’re freakin’ crazy, man.”

Full Story: New York Times: There’s a Reason They Call Them ‘Crazy Ants’

(via Tim Maly)

Mindful Cyborgs: The End of the Firm as We Know It

In the latest episode of Mindful Cyborgs Chris Dancy and I journeyed to the belly of the beast at Defrag and interviewed investor Chris DeVore from Founders Co-Op on “industrial entropy”:

KF: Yeah, one of the things I’ve been thinking about lately is that in the 80s there was dystopian sci-fi people would talk about the mega corporation and you would see these big conglomerates but now what seems to actually be taking over or becoming more prevalent or mega networks . . . so, Y Combinator is one example though. Maybe the founders [00:04:06] would be as well but Paul Graham has explicitly said that part of the point of Y Combinator is to be a distributed peer to peer replacement for the traditional company to give the members of it the benefits of being part of a large company without having to be part of the structure of a large company. Do you have any thoughts on that? Do you think that’s actually happening?

CDV: I definitely do and I think this is where the pattern that I think is interesting and there’s a dark [00:04:31] that we’ll get to in a minute is, when everyone is responsible for their own career pathing, like no man is an island, right? We all need different mixes of skills and abilities and kind of promotional states to build an organization that’s capable of things that more than one human can do but this idea of going from hierarchies of organizations with organization design and managers and leadership into networks where you essentially have these flat as Paul says peer-to-peer networks of people that they collaborate in more dynamically as they come together around a project and then they disassembled and reassembled different products. I think that’s fundamentally true about the nature of work today.

Even an enterprise work you might have a project manager but they’re going to hire this sort of coalition of vendors to come together to build a software or to ship certain kind of product and then when that’s over and they then ships over they’re going to disassemble and they’re going to reassemble very organically and I think it’s again very empowering for people who have the skills and ability to navigate and set their own career path and build their own digital identity and kind of how work come to them and be called in to these dynamic networks.

The thing that I worry about is from a skilling standpoint who’s being left behind, who doesn’t have the ability to surf on this very organic dynamic networked economy and how do you make that economy as open or as porous as it can be so that people who are coming out of school right now it used to be they go to a career fair and they get a job. If those jobs don’t exist, what does exist and what are the gateways and points of access for people into the network at this point?

Download and Full Transcript: Mindful Cyborgs: Episode 15 – Industrial Entropy and the Turks! The Turks! The Mechanical Turks!

Guns for Armes: The Amazing True Story of the World’s First Real Life Superhero

600px-jay_j_armes

I wrote about J.J. Armes for Grinding:

Every night dozens of people around the world don masks and costumes and venture into the streets to fight crime.

Phoenix Jones and Master Legend are perhaps the most famous, but there are hundreds of costumed would-be crime fighters and their activities range from attempting to apprehend criminals to watching over the homeless while they sleep to make sure their positions aren’t stolen.

These caped crusaders aren’t mutants, aliens or cyborgs — they’re just concerned citizens. They have no superhuman powers. But with advances in technology — such as exoskeletons and bionic limbs — you might think it’s only a matter of time until we see the first grinder superhero.

Actually, we’ve had him for quite some time.

The first real-life superhero may have been J. J. Armes, a private detective who active in El Paso since 1958. His super power? A gun implanted in one of his prosthetic hook that he could fire with his biceps — without using his other hook.

Armes lives in a mansion, surrounded by lions and tigers. He always wears three piece suits, and travels by limo driven by his body guard cum chauffeur. It’s no wonder Ideal Toy Company manufactured a line of action figures based on his likeness, and comic book mogul Stan Lee wants to make a movie based on his life.

Full Story: Grinding: Guns for Armes: The Amazing True Story of the World’s First Real Life Superhero

4 More “Satanic Panic” Victims Released from Prison

The AP reports on the release of four women imprisoned during the Satanic Panic:

Four San Antonio women imprisoned for sexually assaulting two girls in 1994 have achieved their first aim: freedom.

Their next step is to fight for exoneration, and that is what their attorneys intend to pursue before the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

Elizabeth Ramirez, Kristie Mayhugh and Cassandra Rivera were released Monday night on their own recognizance. That was after a judge decided to recommend that an appeals court vacate their 1998 convictions as tainted by faulty witness testimony.

The fourth woman, Anna Vasquez, was released on parole last year.

The women haven’t been exonerated formally. Bexar County prosecutors have said they don’t intend to retry them if the appeals court vacates the convictions. However, they disagree with the women’s attorneys that they should be declared formally innocent. Exoneration would allow them to collect money Texas pays to the wrongfully imprisoned

Full Story: Yahoo News: 4 released San Antonio women to pursue exoneration

More info: Free the Texas Four

(via OVO)

See also:

West Memphis Three Go Free – But At What Cost?

Good riddance to day care sexual abuse prosecutor

Why I Don’t Find Conspiracy Theory Funny Anymore

What Does IQ Really Measure?

I’ve wondered for a long time how IQ studies controlled for the motivation level of the participants. Turns out they don’t:

New work, led by Angela Lee Duckworth, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, and reported online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences explores the effect of motivation on how well people perform on IQ tests. While subjects taking such tests are usually instructed to try as hard as they can, previous research has shown that not everyone makes the maximum effort. A number of studies have found that subjects who are promised monetary rewards for doing well on IQ and other cognitive tests score significantly higher.

To further examine the role of motivation on both IQ test scores and the ability of IQ tests to predict life success, Duckworth and her team carried out two studies, both reported in today’s paper. First, they conducted a “meta-analysis” that combined the results of 46 previous studies of the effect of monetary incentives on IQ scores, representing a total of more than 2000 test-taking subjects. The financial rewards ranged from less than $1 to $10 or more. The team calculated a statistical parameter called Hedge’s g to indicate how big an effect the incentives had on IQ scores; g values of less than 0.2 are considered small, 0.5 are moderate, and 0.7 or higher are large.

Duckworth’s team found that the average effect was 0.64 (which is equivalent to nearly 10 points on the IQ scale of 100), and remained higher than 0.5 even when three studies with unusually high g values were thrown out. Moreover, the effect of financial rewards on IQ scores increased dramatically the higher the reward: Thus rewards higher than $10 produced g values of more than 1.6 (roughly equivalent to more than 20 IQ points), whereas rewards of less than $1 were only one-tenth as effective.

Full Story: What Does IQ Really Measure?

Full paper here.

(via Slate Star Codex)

Also of note: A study found that students who thought intelligence was malleable got better grades. “Convincing students that they could make themselves smarter by hard work led them to work harder and get higher grades. The intervention had the biggest effect for students who started out believing intelligence was genetic.” (paper).

Watch for my fiction debut next week in Membrane from Dreadful Cafe

Membrane cover

My first short story, “The Faraday Bag,” will debut next week in the Membrane art and fiction anthology from Dreadful Cafe on Thursday December 12. My contribution is a near-future sci-fi story about the precariat, 3D printed pharmaceuticals and student loan debt. It also includes nine other stories stories on “android cannibals, a clown plague, Nazi zombies, alien cancer, killer nuns, and more, as well as original and vintage art and photography.” Every story includes a full-color illustration.

Membrane will be released initially as an e-book only, but a print version will follow sometime next year. All proceeds will go to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.

South Carolina: The Border Control State

Todd Miller writes:

The police always put the checkpoint at the entrance to the mobile home park where María and Manuel live. A road barely two lanes wide leads through the park with its approximately sixty gray, white, and beige mobile homes tightly concentrated in a two-block area. Just in case, María and Manuel check to make sure the shiny black police cars and orange cones aren’t there. They decide to risk it and go to church.

Even though they are in South Carolina, María says the placement of the checkpoint makes it feel as if the U.S.-Mexico border were right at her doorstep. That’s saying something. María, though originally from the Mexican state of Michoacán, grew up in Naco, Mexico, right on the border. Although police checkpoints are often used throughout the state of South Carolina to find people driving under the influence, they are also there to make sure a driver’s residency status is in order.

“They put it in the entrance of the trailer park,” María tells me. “You have to go through the checkpoint.” There isn’t any other way to get in or out. The authorities at this particular checkpoint have already busted Manuel three times, each time for driving without a proper driver’s license. And this checkpoint has caused serious havoc for María’s neighbors, family, and co-workers, many of them non-citizens who have come into the area to work in the booming construction industry around the island of Hilton Head. Many are carpenters, landscapers, and construction workers who now live in the small town of Ridgeland. They are the people who have sculpted and landscaped gigantic gated communities built around golf courses and fake waterfalls. These modern subdivisions are now filled with mainly affluent white retirees, the majority from the Northeast and Midwest. Some places, like the ten-thousand-person town of Sun City, didn’t even exist fifteen years ago.

Full Story: Guernica: South Carolina: The Border Control State

See also:

Despite ID and birth certificate, Chicago man detained for three days

American Conservative: Hispanics don’t commit more crimes than whites

The U.S. as Police State

Amazon’s Drone Delivery Hoax Distracts from Working Conditions at Amazon Warehouses

James Ball writes that although Amazon’s drone plan is unlikely to happen, it did manage to minimize criticism of Amazon’s corporate practices during cybermonday:

Bezos’ neat trick has knocked several real stories about Amazon out of the way. Last week’s Panorama investigation into Amazon’s working and hiring practices, suggesting that the site’s employees had an increased risk of mental illness, is the latest in a long line of pieces about the company’s working conditions – zero-hour contracts, short breaks, and employees’ every move tracked by internal systems. Amazon’s drone debacle also moved discussion of its tax bill – another long-running controversy, sparked by the Guardian’s revelation last year that the company had UK sales of £7bn but paid no UK corporation tax – to the margins. The technology giants – Amazon, Google, Microsoft et al – have have huge direct reach to audiences and customers, the money to hire swarms of PR and communications staff, and a technology press overwhelmingly happy to incredulously print almost every word, rather than to engage in the much harder task of actually holding them to account.

Full Story: The Guardian: Amazon to deliver by drone? Don’t believe the hype

A bit more about why this won’t work from Wired

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