Mungo Jerry and the Bear Stearns implosion

Well this post-capitalism capitalism is a grand thing, isn’t it. Privatize the profit, socialize the loss, and no matter what, make sure the hyperwealthy aren’t unduly taxed (or asked to serve in Iraq), for after all, they’re responsible for keeping this great financial engine running. (Cough! Cough! Sputter!.. .Wheeeeeeee! Crash!) Where would we be without hedge funds and their managers! One shudders to think! I mean, somebody has to play bridge and golf, don’t they??? Free up the magic market fairies! Deregulate! That’s what our great national poet Walt Whitman meant when he said

Unscrew the locks from the doors!
Unscrew the doors themselves from their jambs!

Thank God for the door-unscrewing Ayn Rand acolyte Alan Greenspan and the Reagan/Bush (hey, don’t forget Clinton!) revolutions, without which we might have had by now a decent health care system, peace, prosperity, a recovering (or never devastated) New Orleans, and some kind of plan to deal with the environmental and energy crises that threaten us all. Talk about bor-ring! How much more fun to do things the Greenspan/Cheney/Rove/Norquist/Dobson/Rumsfeld/Bush way! Imanentize the Eschaton, that’s what I say! Hasten the Coming! But whatever you do, don’t blame the rich (that’s “playing the class card”) or the Republicans (remember, whatever it is, it’s OK if you’re a Republican!) Just make sure that the Bear Stearns execs get a public-financed severance package in the reasonable seven figures (but not a dime more for the greedy limbless Iraq/Afghanistan vets who want to go to college–we’re not made out of money, you know!) Or in the words of Mungo Jerry,

If her daddy’s rich, take her out for a meal;
If her daddy’s poor, just do what you feel.

Life’s for living, that’s our philosophy!

Attack of the Killer Beets!

No, I’m not talking about the Beets, the great rock band from the Nickelodeon show Doug. (Couldn’t find a decent video of the classic “I need more allowance” from the show, but here’s a still, with music.)

I’m talking about genetically engineered sugar beets with Monsanto’s “Round Up” pesticide built right into them. Now, I’m not going to start a whole thing about genetically engineered food being awful, etc. ( I’ll leave that bioluddite verus brave-new-world stuff for my next novel!)(You think I’m kidding!!).

But I do think Monsanto is just horribly bad and awful, as are all the congresspeople who are in its pocket.

Here’s a petition to stop their latest assault on our food supply & environment. Not to mention, bodies. Sign it if you feel like it.

This Monkey's Gone To Heaven

News Item:

Astronomers have stumbled upon a tremendous hole in the universe. That’s got them scratching their heads about what’s just not there. The cosmic blank spot has no stray stars, no galaxies, no sucking black holes, not even mysterious dark matter. It is 1 billion light years across of nothing.

Gosh, if these so-called experts had only listened to the Pixies there would be no mystery. It was all explained in the song Monkey Gone to Heaven:

The creature in the sky
got sucked in a hole
now there’s a hole in the sky
and the ground’s not cold
and if the ground’s not cold
everything is gonna burn
we’ll all take turns
I’ll get mine, too
This monkey’s gone to heaven
Rock me, Joe!

By the way, I have not forgotten that I owe you the story of how I saved a damsel in distress in Chicago’s O’Hare Airport by a simple invocation of that same prophetic song, but that remains a story for another day.

Meanwhile, full lyrics below to the fold for all who’s interested;

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Gulf War Syndrome and Sarin: Jake Carelli was right

The plot of my thriller Acts of the Apostles concerns a search to find the cause of the mysterious Gulf War Syndrome reported by so many veterans of the first US war with Iraq.

At the time I was writing the book, from 1995 to 1999, there was no generally-accepted explanation for the syndrome, nor even a universal acceptance that the phenomenon was, quote, “real”, unquote. One of the leading theories of the day was that the culprit was Sarin nerve gas released when the Navy bombed the Iraqi munitions dump at Khamisiyah, and then later when EOD, “explosive ordnance disposal” units of the United States Army further blew up what the Navy missed. Jake Carelli, the Gulf War Vet in Acts who has Gulf War Syndrome, says (page 242), “I know where Gulf War Syndrome comes from”:

“[. . .] It was my job to go into bunkers looking for documents. I saw that Iraqi stuff. They had beaucoup chemical-biological weapons, big time. The Iraqis probably never shot any at us. But EOD just went in there and blew all that stuff up. The sky was black, and it wasn’t just from the oil fires.”

There was ample evidence that the Defense Department believed that that was the cause and was covering it up. Indeed, the evidence of a coverup of the bombing of Khamisiyah figures into the plot of Acts of the Apostles (see pages 165, 166, 231, and 242 in the free PDF of my novel, which you can easily find on this site or by clicking here (warning: large PDF)).

In my book I made up another–outlandish, science-fictiony– explanation for the Syndrome, even though I had a hunch that Carelli (whose character was inspired by a soldier I interviewed when researching the book whose remarks about the bunkers are essentially quoted verbatim by Carelli) was right.

Well, it gives me no pleasure to report that Carelli, indeed, was right. This article by Kelly Kennedy of the Army Times, reprinted in the Seattle Times on May 26, 2007, states,

[. . .] researchers say they have no doubts they have found the root of the problem: sarin gas. [. . .]

Research released in early May showed that 13 soldiers exposed to small amounts of sarin gas in the 1991 Gulf War had 5 percent less white brain matter — connective tissue — than soldiers who had not been exposed. A complementary report showed that 140 soldiers who were exposed had the fine motor skills of someone 20 years older, what researchers called a “direct correlation” to exposure.

The research was the work of Roberta White, chairwoman of the Department of Environmental Health at Boston University School of Public Health.

PLEASE follow me after the jump to read more about this important development.

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More good news from the Precog Engineering Team

Via my friend Mike who sent me a link to Kurzwell AI, this story in the Guardian about research at the Max Plank Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences. A new brain scan enables the reading of thoughts and intentions; can predict what a person will say or do next. Some goody-two-shoes expressed concern (see below)–but fear not! Such retrograde badthink bioluddites will be squashed like bugs as the glorious Singularity/Technopoly arises!

Because brains differ so much, the scientists need a good idea of what a person’s brain activity looks like when they are thinking something to be able to spot it in a scan, but researchers are already devising ways of deducing what patterns are associated with different thoughts.

Barbara Sahakian, a professor of neuro-psychology at Cambridge University, said the rapid advances in neuroscience had forced scientists in the field to set up their own neuroethics society late last year to consider the ramifications of their research.

“Do we want to become a ‘Minority Report’ society where we’re preventing crimes that might not happen?,” she asked. “For some of these techniques, it’s just a matter of time. It is just another new technology that society has to come to terms with and use for the good, but we should discuss and debate it now because what we don’t want is for it to leak into use in court willy nilly without people having thought about the consequences.

”A lot of neuroscientists in the field are very cautious and say we can’t talk about reading individuals’ minds, and right now that is very true, but we’re moving ahead so rapidly, it’s not going to be that long before we will be able to tell whether someone’s making up a story, or whether someone intended to do a crime with a certain degree of certainty.“

Professor Colin Blakemore, a neuroscientist and director of the Medical Research Council, said: ”We shouldn’t go overboard about the power of these techniques at the moment, but what you can be absolutely sure of is that these will continue to roll out and we will have more and more ability to probe people’s intentions, minds, background thoughts, hopes and emotions.

Monty Meekman, a spokesman for the Overmind entity known by its acronym ORSON (Obedient Remote Servo-Organic Network), was reportedly pleased. A presss release from his office contained the single word, “Excellent!”

Dr. Evil to create virtual people

using government money:

EVL will build a state-of-the-art motion-capture studio to digitalize the image and movement of real people who will go on to live a virtual eternity in virtual reality. Knowledge will be archived into databases. Voices will be analyzed to create synthesized but natural-sounding “virtual” voices. Mannerisms will be studied and used in creating the 3-D virtual forms, known technically as avatars.

Leigh said his team hopes to create virtual people who respond with a high degree of recognition to different voices and the various ways questions are phrased.

Hope it does not cost ONE BILLION DOLLARS!

What’s that you say? Electronic Visualization Laboratory, EVL, not Dr. Evil, the archvillain?

Oh. Nevermind

Overmind hires Rutgers to build PreCog Institute

The so-called Homeland Security Agency is looking to use supercomputers & datamining to find latent terrorism in “open-source web logs” and other nasty & threatening instances of that pernicious “free speech” thing:

Leading the Rutgers effort is the university’s Center for Discrete Mathematics and Theoretical Computer Science (DIMACS). It will include partner researchers from AT&T Laboratories, Lucent Technologies Bell Labs, Princeton University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Texas Southern University. This group will develop computing technologies that find patterns and relationships in data, such as news stories, open-source web logs, and other accessible information, to quickly identify emerging indicators of possible terrorist activity, and rate the consistency and reliability of the sources. Such information could give officials more lead time to investigate and potentially thwart terrorist plans.

“The challenge involved in this endeavor is not only the massive amount of information out there, but also how quickly it flows and how fast the sources of information change,” said Fred Roberts, director of DIMACS. “We will develop real-time streaming algorithms to find patterns and relationships in communications, such as among writers who may be hiding their identities, and to rate information sources for their reliability and trustworthiness.”

The Rutgers center will undertake nine research projects in its first year and will also create educational programs around the technology it develops, such as courses and certificate programs for undergraduate and graduate students. The center will also establish outreach efforts for high school students and community groups.

I do appreciate that Stasi throwback to “outreach efforts for efforts for high school students and community groups.” So very retro!

Heckova job, Rutgers! Heckova job!

The precogs are here

In Philip K. Dick’s Minority Report, police detect and arrest for pre-crime; crime that has not yet been committed. Pre-crime is detected by precognition, and the entities that perform this future-seeing are called “Precogs”. This goes one step beyond Orwell’s Thought Police, who prosecute for bad thoughts. In the land of Minority Report, prosecution is for thoughts and actions that have not even occured.

Here we have an article about Sigard(tm) precognitive hardware and software from an outfit called “Sound Intelligence” that, it claims, “can also detect verbal aggression with a high level of accuracy.”

Combined with closed circuit television systems, Sigard can quickly notify security personnel about loud, angry people in outdoor public spaces, public transportation, nightclubs and bars.

Here’s how it works. A single analysis computer accepts sensor input from a variety of locations. Once the software detects a verbally aggressive human voice, it activates the camera associated with that sensor, bringing it to a security guard’s attention. This helps cut down on the number of people needed to monitor CCTVs.

Sigard Sound Intelligence software imitates the way that humans deal with sound, splitting it into different frequencies with varying amounts of energy. Just as a person can immediately detect anger and aggression in the midst of background noise, Sound Intelligence software “listens” for the same parameters that humans use in detecting aggressive speech.

This system is already in place in a few locations in the Netherlands. Police in the UK are also considering installing the system.

If this seems creepy to you, Another Sign of Overmind Emergent (ASOE(tm)), then you too might be a technoparanoiac Wetmechanic. Welcome to the club.

Alien, (or was it Aliens?) in Alabama

According to this article in the Montgomery Advertiser, “To the bafflement of insect experts, gigantic yellow jacket nests have started turning up in old barns, unoccupied houses, cars and underground cavities across the southern two-thirds of Alabama”.

You must check out the photo.

When you do I think you’ll come to the same conclusion as did Pvt Hudson and Ripley: “Blast off and nuke it from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.”

SHOUT OUT TO GARY GRAY: This was your story, man. I saw it on the ex-of-Curl list, which I know you read too. So where was you? Ping below to let us know you’re OK, OK? Because this is a Gary story if ever there was one.