Last week, I wrote about the strange conspiracy theory known as Project Bluebeam, which contends that fake alien invasions will be used to create a global tyranny. Before that, Peregrin Wood wrote about the odd idea that Homo Capensis, a species of human-alien hybrids, has been working behind the scenes for tens of thousands of years to enslave Homo sapiens.
These are silly ideas, but they seem rather harmless. As delusions go, they’re entertaining, full of flamboyantly absurd ideas.
So, why bother debunking them? Sane, intelligent people will be able to tell that these strange stories are nothing more than elaborate fantasies, right?
Actually, sane and intelligent people are capable of believing all manner of strange ideas, even ideas for which there is no evidence. Large numbers of Americans believe in the literal reality of ghosts and angels. When videos of raccoons with mange show up on YouTube, people will spread the news that the Chupacabra has finally been found. Entire political movements in the United States are not only centered around the claim that the Earth is only 6,000 years old, and that people co-existed with dinosaurs not too long ago, but seek to force public schools to teach this belief as scientific fact.
It is commonly argued that these kinds of beliefs should be spared from criticism because they don’t harm anybody. If my neighbor wants to believe that cattle mutilations in Texas prove the existence of an Illuminati plot to infiltrate American manufacturing, it doesn’t do me any harm, right?
What if, among your neighbor’s ramblings, there were references to the Zionist victimization of the honorable Nazi Party? That’s just the sort of thing that can be found over at the conspiracy theorist site Pakalert Press.
One of the site’s most consistent writers, going under the pseudonym “Truther”, has written about coming revelations about extraterrestrial civilizations from the World Economic Forum, and about how the Denver International Airport contains a secret headquarters for the Antichrist and his Satanist minions. Truther’s most recent revelations contain claims that Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 is intact, having been taken to a secret location by a military escort, and the assertion that Stonehenge is a hoax that was constructed using modern equipment in 1954.
Mixed in with these apparently random absurd ideas is something more sinister. Two weeks ago, Truther wrote an article purporting to prove “How the Holocaust Was Faked”. In that article, Truther writes, “The Jewish Bolshevik terrorists who overthrew the Russian monarchy during WWI and their allies – the USA and the UK, primarily – committed the real atrocities and genocides against the German people and their sympathizers during and after WWII… Jewish propagandists have entirely reversed the reality of the situation using their control of the media, and have blamed the Germans for starting the war and committing all the alleged atrocities, when in reality the Germans and their allies were the most disciplined, honorable and righteous forces fighting in that fratricidal Jewish-instigated war. The German people and their allies were the ones who experienced a genuine holocaust – a real genocide – during WWII, not the Jewish population of Europe. The simple fact of the matter is that the “Holocaust” narrative – 6 million Jews persecuted, abused, and systematically exterminated by ‘those evil Nazis’ during WWII – endlessly promoted and perpetuated by the Jewish-owned mass media.”
Here in the United States, people are free to believe whatever they want, and to speak whatever they want. I have no wish to prohibit Pakalert Press from publishing whatever form of vile racism it wants to publish. However, I also have constitutional rights, and I intend to use those rights to expose the blatant falsehoods of Pakalert Press and other right wing conspiracy theory sites like it.
When these sites publish wildly ridiculous conspiracy theories, they do so with a purpose. They seek to stretch the limits of our credulity, encouraging people to adopt the posture of holding an open mind even in regard to ideas for which there is no evidence at all. If we accept this posture, when these sites unleash politically-motivated conspiracy theories, we are in no position to judge.
How could we judge assertions that Barack Obama was born in Kenya, or that Jews were the real villains of World War II, simply because there’s no real evidence for any such thing, when we were willing to accept the possibility that an advance force from the shadow planet of Niburu could have already infiltrated the Federal Reserve?
Why does conservative Christianity get so much negative press in America?
News item (via American Family Association’s One News Now)
“President Obama has submitted a list of five nominees for federal judge posts, and a constitutional law expert suggests America will pay a price. Among the nominees are four African Americans, one of them homosexual, and the final one is white.
“Mat Staver, who heads Liberty Counsel, tells OneNewsNow the president is reaching out to two communities: ‘So he gets a black man, who is a practicing homosexual, and now he wants to put this individual in an appointment for life on the federal bench,’ Staver advises.
A practicing homosexual? Come on! He should get his act down. Maybe the four negroes could help.
A week ago, we discovered that President Barack Obama became furious after discovering that people shared a photograph that he had allowed to be taken of himself. This week, Obama’s obsession with photographic privacy has become news again.
This time, the news comes from The Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression. The Jefferson Center released its 2014 Muzzle Awards yesterday. The Muzzle Awards are given to “those who in the past year forgot or disregarded Mr. Jefferson’s admonition that freedom of speech ‘cannot be limited without being lost.’” – the individuals and organizations in the United States that have done the most to promote censorship.
The Obama Administration has earned the top three Muzzle Awards this year.
One of those Muzzle Awards was given to the White House Press Office, for its policy of banning journalists from taking photographs at events involving President Obama. The White House claims that these prohibitions on ordinary press activity are due to the need for privacy. The White House Press Office typically releases its own photographs of these very same events.
The Obama Press Office policy has little to do with privacy, and a great deal to do with control of President Obama’s political image. President Obama’s team only wants to release polished and processed images that suit its political agenda. Giving photojournalists access to the White House would interfere with that project.
This is White House censorship is just the latest in a long course of Oval Office hypocrisy from Barack Obama. While Obama and his team demand that they be granted privacy for their public actions as public servants of the American people, they have unleashed unreasonable search and seizure of Americans’ private photographs, documents, homes, offices, communications and photographs. President Obama has even been working with British spies to steal pictures of naked Americans, in their own homes, from Yahoo.
If Barack Obama were subjected to the kind of privacy violations that he has inflicted upon the American people through the NSA, FBI and CIA, we would be able to read his emails, search through logs of his cell phone activity, and look at up to the minute maps of his GPS-tracked travel, all while watching and listening to live web cams of the Oval Office, top diplomatic meetings, and even the West Wing bedrooms.
We need more transparency from the President of the United States, and less in our own lives. Barack Obama volunteered to serve us. We did not volunteer to be the subjects of government spying.
On June 22 2013, the the official petition to pardon Edward Snowden surpassed a the threshold of a hundred thousand signatures officially required for a response at the White House’s We The People petition website. The Obama administration pledged that of all petitions receiving a hundred thousand petitions, “White House staff will review it, ensure it’s sent to the appropriate policy experts, and issue an official response.”
292 days later, the official petition to pardon Edward Snowden has received no response from the Obama administration.
No word of response for well over 100,000 Americans. Why? Taking Barack Obama’s word was clearly the wrong approach. They should have followed the example of David Cohen, Executive Vice President of cable industry giant Comcast. To get an audience with President Obama, Cohen gave the President oodles of campaign money. If the American people want to be heard, they clearly need to stop dicking around with petitions and bundle large dollar
bribes contributions for politicians instead.
Online music service Songza has more than catchy pop ditties. It has tunes to work and study by. In this category, it offers a channel called In A Busy Coffee Shop. This channel offers audio recorded in a coffee shop, with the kinds of clinking noise and indistinct background chatter that’s often heard in large cafes, though particular words never rise through the din to reach conscious awareness.
Does it seem odd, or perhaps even wasteful, for Songza to use the Internet to broadcast nothing but indistinct coffeehouse noises?
Actually, there is a thread of justification for the belief that such sounds may be helpful to productivity.
Two years ago, the Journal of Consumer Research published a study by Ravi Mehta, Rui Zhu, and Amar Cheema entitled Is Noise Always Bad? Exploring the Effects of Ambient Noise on Creative Cognition. The study consisted of five experiments, one of which compared the impact of noise in a working lounge area during loud lunch breaks, moderately noisy coffee break times, and quiet times in between. Study participants were offered various choices of products available to purchase, ranging from relatively traditional to relatively innovative. Analysis of the experimental data found that one group of experimental participants selected more innovative products to purchase as the noise in the lounge increased. In this group were those research participants who had scored high in a separate test of interest in innovative behavior. Those who had scored low in this “creativity” test had no such change – no matter what level of noise the low-creativity participants encountered, their interest in innovative products remained the same.
Songza, and the web site Coffitivity, have extrapolated the results of this study to conclude that moderate levels of noise such as the kind that are found specifically in a coffee shop will help people become more creative. What they neglect to mention is that this effect was only found among people who were assessed as more creative to start with, so that uncreative lugs shouldn’t be expected to benefit. Cafe Society is only good for those who have already got a perk on.
There’s also some reason to question the consumer researchers’ judgment that interest in buying innovative products is a measure of creativity or innovative quality within the psyche of a shopper. It could be that people are most interested in buying innovative products as tools of compensation when they are feeling the least ability to summon innovative thought themselves. As the research didn’t ask participants to explain the motivation behind their decisions, there’s a great deal of unanchored assumption taking place in its conclusions.
So, if you’re feeling the need to summon creative ideas from within yourself, you could listen to Coffitivity, or the coffee shop mumble channel on Songza. You might, on the other hand, come up with a more creative solution, such as experimenting with audio settings already available to you, taking notes on your productivity as you sit out on a stoop, in a city park, on a bench in a subway station, or even in a coffee shop, separate from the artificially chatter of online audio streaming services.
In spite of the fact that it’s been hyped by the powerful marketing resources of Google, and by tech-enthusiast writers who have received product samples to test, Google Glass has yet to catch on. The electronic eyeglasses, which contain a small computer, a teeny camera, and a semi-transparent screen that fits over part of the wearer’s field of vision, are distracting to both the person wearing them and to the people around them. They manage to simultaneously compromise the quality of both ordinary sight and online activities. They’re ugly.
Never mind all that, say Google Glass afficionados. Google Glass is the mobile communications technology of the future, they say.
Who’s going to actually use Google Glass, and for what? “It’s for the 90% of workers who don’t work behind a computer and use their hands a lot,” says Yan-David Erlich, CEO of Wearable Intelligence, a company that has designed software for use on Google Glass.
The 90 percent of workers who don’t work behind a computer? Who are they?
The latest data release from the Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the following as the largest occupations in the United States.
retail salespersons and cashiers
combined food preparation and serving workers
general office clerks
waiters and waitresses
customer service representatives
Half of these top six occupations (retail, office clerks, and customer service) spend a lot of time working with access to computer screens. They don’t need Google Glass. That “90 percent of workers” Erlich refers to isn’t really 90 percent of the workforce.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics also notes that most workers don’t make enough money to buy Google Glass as a professional accessory. Nor do they work for employers who have shown a willingness to invest in expensive technology to help workers do their jobs more easily. “Most of the largest occupations were relatively low paying,” the Bureau found in its latest data review.
Google Glass costs $1,500 plus sales tax per pair.
Then there’s the vulnerability of a lightweight computer worn on the face in a hands-on workplace. Cooks work in kitchens where steam, smoke and grease will obscure glass screens that hang over ovens and fryers. Highway crews and park rangers work outside, where it rains and snows. JP Mangalindan of the Wall Street Journal, who spends most of his time working in front of a computer, proposes that, with Google Glass, “a construction worker could work without ever reaching for a building map”. A construction worker also wears a hardhat because of the danger of falling objects that could smash a dainty pair of Google Glass into a million little high-tech pieces… and how hard is it really to reach for a building map?
The more people struggle to find reasons to use Google Glass, the more plain it becomes that Google Glass is the Segway of the face.
I am grateful to the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board for at least holding hearings on the subject of the massive warrantless surveillance. On March 19, 2014, the PCLOB held a hearing and subsequently produced a transcript so that we can hear the Obama administration’s point of view on civil liberties.
As you already know, the United States government has been storing huge amounts of information on the communications of law-abiding Americans, sweeping them up as supposedly incidental in searches for terrorists, then searching through those communications anyway in order to uncover evidence of pedestrian, non-terrorist law-breaking or legal but suspicious activity.
At one point, Board member Elisabeth Collins Cook asked a question that raised the constitutionality of such a process. After all, the 4th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States prohibits unreasonable search and seizure and insists that “no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” Read Cook’s question, and Deputy Assistant Attorney General for National Security Brad Wiegmann’s answer, for yourself:
MS. COLLINS COOK: Thank you for coming here this morning. We really appreciate your time on this and happy to be a part of this dialogue here.
I wanted to follow up on a couple of points that have already been raised, but first, we’ve talked about the Fourth Amendment implications of the collection. We’ve also talked about the fact that, or it is known that the information that’s collected can subsequently be queried. Do you consider that subsequent query a search for the purposes of the Fourth Amendment? And if not, why not?
MR. WIEGMANN: No, I would say that the search occurs at the time that the collection occurs. So when the information, as Raj just explained, from a particular selector is acquired by NSA, then that’s the time at which the search occurs.
Once you’ve lawfully collected that information, subsequently querying that information isn’t a search under the Fourth Amendment, it’s information already in the government’s custody.
The War on Terror proves its worth. If you can convince people that “terrorists” are out to get them and it’s OK to suspend liberties protection to hunt terrorists, you can collect everything in the hunt for the “terrorists.” Once you’ve got everything, you can search through it all without protection. Without probable cause.
That’s not exactly right, of course. “You” doesn’t mean you. It means your government. The U.S. government has after more than two centuries obtained general search powers. In the 1700s, general warrants so upset American colonists that they started a revolution and wrote the Fourth Amendment to stop them. The British are back; King George has won.
Three and a half years after, what do you think?
A graphic making its way through social media sites has a message with which I have some sympathy: There are alternatives to the manufactured health products upon which we have come to rely. Yet, there are some elements of the “Field Bandage – Cut finger? Oh no!” message that go a bit far even for me.
I love the idea that we might be able to use fresh herbs, rather than sterile plastic band aids, but when I look at the details communicated in this graphic, I wince in anticipation of an amputated finger.
1. The Cut
With a cut the size of the one shown in this graphic, there’s a sizeable chunk of flesh missing, much more than just a simple slice of the skin. It might go all the way to the bone, by the looks of it. I’m no medical professional, but it looks to me like that wound might need some stiches. It needs to be looked at by a medical professional pronto. Frilly leaves and flower petals aren’t enough. Heck, a band aid probably won’t suffice.
2. The Dirt
An essential piece of advice that’s missing from this herb garden infographic: Wash the dirt out of the wound! If you’re the kind of person who has fresh herbs readily available in the event of accidental lacerations, the chances are good that you’ve received a cut while working with dirty hands out in the garden. Are there anthrax spores out in that soil? Have neighborhood cats used it as a litter box? Did an animal die of a flesh-eating disease where you just planted the dahlias?
The graphic advises us to “apply the leaves and/or flowers to your cut”, but doesn’t advise how this application should take place. Does it matter whether there are flowers or not? What about flower buds that are on the verge of opening, or old flower heads that have finished blooming and are becoming brittle? As its species name implies, Achillea millefolium has many little leaves, and its flowers are quite small as well. What do we do if the leaves and/or flowers adhere to the wound, so that we cannot remove them without vigorous washing? Anyone who is familiar with Achillea millefolium knows that the leaves and flowers come on long, stiff stems. What do we do with the stems? Do we leave the leaves and/or flowers attached, or break the stems?
4. The Mythical Cities of Yarrow
The wild yarrow to be applied to our bloody wounds is, according to this graphic, “a common weed you can find in many cities growing in direct sunlight”. I know what Achillea millefolium looks like, and I’ve been to many cities on different continents, but never have I seen this plant growing wild in any urban environment. In what cities, in what kinds of locations, can wild yarrow actually be found? How long should we wander around a city, bleeding, looking for volunteer plants of this species, before we give up and go to a pharmacy?
5. A Rose Is a Rose Is a Rose?
Scientific studies have found that rose petals can have some mild-to-moderate antibacterial properties – depending on the variety of rose being used, and depending on the way in which the rose petals were processed. Currently available research studies alcoholic or petroleum-based extracts of rose petals, however, not the direct application of rose petals to open, bleeding wounds, as this graphic advises. Which kinds of roses should wounded people take petals from, and how should those rose petals be prepared?
6. Extract of Plantain
Plantago major, unlike Achillea millefolium, actually is a common weed in urban areas. As with rose petals, however, studies of the healing properties of plantain leaves have used extracts, rather than direct applications of entire leaves. Also, the FDA has discovered that herbal packages sold as “plantain” have, in the past, contained foxglove leaves. Foxglove has strong cardiovascular effects that can lead to heart attacks in some people when taken in poorly controlled doses.
7. Feeling Handy?
In the scenario proposed in this graphic, people who have at least one bleeding cut on a finger are supposed to hunt around their backyard gardens or urban landscape, searching for plants to contribute to an herbal remedy for their wound. They are supposed to pick leaves and flowers, and gather these ingredients together, then assemble them, one by one, without any adhesive or wrapping, and then tie them all down in a secure fashion on a finger using the stem of the plantain flower.
Plantains flower only during the late summer and early autumn months in many places in the United States, but even if these flowering plantains can be found, how can a person with one wounded hand securely tie a knot over a three-layer herbal bandage onto one of their fingers?
8. Red Snows
What is a wounded person supposed to do in wintertime, when all the plants listed here are dormant, without fresh leaves or flower petals? Are they advised to walk south until they reach Florida, or just sit tight and hope for the best? Should we keep indoor gardens going, under artificial lights, just in case?
K. of Washington State writes in to Irregular Times with a request:
Could you possibly offer a Robert Reich in 2016 bumper sticker?
(It’s one way of encouraging him to run. We need a good candidate with a major party affiliation. Independents like Bernard Sanders do not get elected, and he’s too old.)
Fact check: Senator Bernie Sanders is 72, but Robert Reich is just 5 years younger at the age of 67. Does Robert Reich’s “Just for Men” look, compared to Sanders’ white mop-top, really make the age difference seem so much wider? Can we allow a president with white hair? Must there be speckles?
More seriously, it’s becoming increasingly clear that Bernie Sanders will be running for President, and he’s always been outside the Democratic Party. But what do you think of someone like Robert Reich running from within the Democratic Party? Could you support a Robert Reich run?