Revelation Channel 13: “Biometric ID,” The Mark of the Beast, and Immigration Reform

Barc666 15And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed.

16And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads:

17And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.

If Arizona’s draconian new law has put immigration back in the public consciousness, the proposal for a national “biometric ID” is about to trigger nightmares in this country’s Christian id. The Democrats who drafted a new immigration law aren’t just “tone deaf,” as blogger John Cole says (although they’re certainly that.) The bill’s content and language are going to terrify and outrage lots of evangelical Christians, and could even lead to violence.

Before they try to pass this law, there are a few videos they really ought to watch.

This bill couldn't be more inflammatory in both content and language to those who take their Gospel straight … and literal. A quick listen to what's currently being preached on YouTube and AM radio today will confirm that. And generations of kids from evangelicals families recall their terror at the dictatorship and disasters shown in the End Times films known collectively as the “Rapture” series. In these films, a world dictatorship demands that everyone identify themselves and be entered into a database while being marked with an “image of the beast.”

How will people who take these ideas as literal truth respond to the new law? As Congressional magazine The Hill reports, “Democratic leaders have proposed requiring every worker in the nation to carry a national identification card with biometric information, such as a fingerprint, within the next six years, according to a draft of the measure.” And the “biometric ID” system has been given a name that seems to come straight out of End Times prophecy.

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On being in Rome: visiting de Chirico’s home and Richard Serra at Gagosian

Inv. 138 Sue Hubbard

It was the week after Easter in Rome and the sun was out. The Spanish steps were heaving with tourists and ice cream sellers. Algerian immigrants hawked cheap leather goods. For most the steps simply provided a place to rest; as one ample lady from Texas put it: “ok, so I’ve seen them now, is that it?” Clearly she wasn’t impressed. Relaxing with their maps and bottles of water wondering what to do next few seemed to realise that just yards away from where they were sitting the 26 year old Keats had died a horrible death from tuberculosis (the wonderful museum was practically empty when we visited) let alone that one of the 20th century’s most puzzling artists, Giorgio de Chirico had lived over the road.

The Giorgio and Isa de Chirico Foundation was founded in 1986 by Isabella Far de Chirico, the painter’s widow, who in 1987 donated 24 of her husband’s works to the Italian state.Upon her death, in November 1990, the Foundation inherited the painter's apartment in the Piazza di Spagna – the 17thcentury Palazzetto dei Borgognoni – where he had lived and worked until his death in 1978. In November 1998 it opened as a museum filled with his late paintings, drawings, sculpture and lithographs, along with manuscripts and photographs.

It is a strange place,a haven of quiet above the crowded street below. I had expected something rather more bohemian from this ‘metaphysical’ painter, but found, instead, an airy bourgeois apartment full of antique furniture, comfortable sofas and rugs. Not what I had predicted from this one time friend of Apollinaire, Picasso, and that arch surrealist André Breton, who had hailed de Chirico’s early dream-like cityscapes as pivotal within the development of Surrealism. Most odd was the tiny monk-like bedroom, Spartan in its decor except for a few books, with its narrow childlike bed under a white cover, where the ‘maestro’ slept across the hall from his Polish second wife, the intellectually and emotionally powerful, Isabella Pakszxwer, whose rather large double bed sported a flamboyant red counterpane.

The enthusiastically hailed period – the pittura metafisica – on which de Chirico’s reputation is based, lasted until around 1918. Then his work changed. Why? The official version is that he was paying homage to the Old Masters of the Renaissance, pitting himself against the greats of art history by going to Florence and studying techniques of tempera and panel painting. As Robert Hughes wrote rather pithily, “he imaged himself to be the heir of Titian”.[1] Denounced by the French avant-garde de Chirico counter-attacked with diatribes on modernist degeneracy signing his work Pictor Optimus (the best painter.) But why should an artist who had written: “It is necessary to discover the demon in all things….to discover the eye in all things – We are explorers ready for new departures,” turn his back on contemporary aesthetic discourses in favour of producing second rate paintings that would not, if it weren’t for the significance of his early work, get a look in within the annals of art history?

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Uniting listening Canada, pushing hard musical drugs and making a show that’s actually a show: Colin Marshall talks to Laurie Brown and Andy Sheppard, host and producer of CBC Radio 2’s The Signal

Laurie Brown and Andy Sheppard are the host and producer, respectively, of The Signal on CBC Radio 2. Since debuting in March of 2007, the program has evolved to provide a highly distinctive listening experience that offers two skillfully-curated hours of late-night contemporary music to listeners across Canada — and, via the internet, the world — that’s neither predictable nor easily genrefiable. Brown accompanies Sheppard’s unusual sonic selections with commentary that’s long impressed fans with its friendliness, intimacy and wealth of odd stories. Colin Marshall originally conducted this conversation on the public radio program and podcast The Marketplace of Ideas. [MP3, with music] [iTunes link]

Signal1 I got hooked on this show when an American friend of mine who moved to Vancouver sent me a link and said, “You've got to hear this show they've got going up here.” I listened to it, and I was pretty immediately hooked. I've tried to spread the word to people who aren't Canadian and thus don't have a great knowledge of what the CBC puts out and why they should listen to it even if they aren't Canadian. But I've had a little problem describing what sort of music The Signal plays. All I can say is that “it's really good” and “you've got to listen.” “Modern” comes to mind, “contemporary” comes to mind, but these are vague words. What do you guys call it?

Laurie: It's just as hard for us as it is for you. This has been a real head-scratcher since the show went on the air. We've got lots of different names, and because we play so many genres of music, it's really easy to spout off a whole bunch of different things: “Oh, it's ambient, it's electronic, it's electronica, it's sort of freaky folk, it's avant-garde jazz, it's post-rock…” You can list and list and list. The thing that makes the most sense to me is, just think about late-night radio and think about the kind of music and the places you really want your brain to go at 10:00 through to midnight. “Late-night radio,” for me, makes more sense than anything else. Andy?

Andy: It's a trick, isn't it? We're programming a lot of music that exists at the intersection of different styles. I think that's the big thing I'm looking for. We're not going to play straight folk music or straight singer-songwriter or neo-classical music but music where the lines cross. You'll have a classical musician paired with a DJ or a world musician and an electronic artist. Those kind of crossover intersections I find the most compelling, and it's one of the ways I frame the idea of contemporary music. It's how people are making music now. What are they doing differently now, so it sounds like it's coming from this time?
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Priorities, Evidence, and Integrity: A Plan for Humanity

We humans have serious problems. Thousands of us starve to death every day, the planet is becoming progressively less habitable, and we're killing each other on a regular basis. Our way of life is detrimental to our well-being, and current trends don't bode well for posterity. It's time for change. I propose the following three-part plan.

Part 1: The Establishment of Clear Priorities

Our priorities guide our decision making, and our choices shape the world we live in. Every day, individuals, groups, organizations, and governments make decisions. We choose between what's healthy and what's easy, between what's kind and what's profitable, and between what's best for everyone and what's best for us. If optimizing collective well-being were most important to us, our decisions would lead us in this direction.

Our choices reveal priorities that we might wish to deny. It would appear that convenience is more important to us than sustainability, that our happiness is more important than that of future generations, and that people in our country are more important than people in other countries.

Selfish behaviors may serve the interests of individuals in the present, but they lead to a society that is undesirable for the majority. These behaviors can be attributed to a lack of integrity and the absence of clear priorities. If our priorities aren't clear to us, then our decision making will be undermined. So, we need to establish clear priorities.

What do we, as a society, value the most? Well-being? Reason? Autonomy? It's not just our values, but the way we prioritize them that will guide ethical decision making. For example, if we value well-being more than autonomy, making helmets mandatory for cyclists would be a good idea. If we place greater value on the freedom to choose, we might keep helmets optional, but take steps to promote their use. The prioritization dictates the strategy.

I suggest the following as shared values (in order): human equality and sustainability, autonomy, collective well-being, and individual well-being.

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The Fiscal Crises of the States: The Morning After Greece


Michael Blim

The word tonight, Sunday, May 2, is that Greece is saved, even though Athens has been burning for weeks with non-stop strikes and street confrontations. Greece will not go broke this year, even though many of her citizens may. Greece, the IMF, and the EU have finally agreed to a bailout.

Another breathless fortnight, another looming crisis averted.

It seems best to say averted, rather than solved. The massive Greek public debt is still there and will continue to grow. The new agreement promises to slow its growth by raising taxes, laying off government workers, reducing state salaries, and cutting pension benefits, among other actions. More loans from EU creditor countries and the IMF, a stand-in for the rest of Greeks international creditors, now guarantee the accumulated Greek government debt, much of which is held by European banks and the European Central Bank. The EU-IMF mission of mercy is thus an object lesson in collective self-interest, for the loans enable Greece to pay back the European banks, especially in Germany and France, that stood to lose billions without the new loans. European and world capital invested in Greece is saved, and its security enhanced. Rather than the debts endangering the finances of European and other world banks, the loans now return to the asset side of their ledgers, if not once more as silk purses, surely no longer as sow’s ears. And the assets actually multiply!

As yet another act in the world economic drama concludes, and another troop of actors prepares to take the stage, the basic point of the play is being lost. As speculative manias overtake other countries and/or other assets, and as instances of fecklessness and fraud feed the public demand for vengeance, we are overlooking the fact that we are living through the most massive redistribution of wealth rich societies such as ours have seen since the Gilded Age at the end of the 19th Century. The massive debts of private capital are being socialized. States are taking on society’s debts at a rate not seen since the Second World War. They are creating public debt to pay off or at least absorb the debts arising from asset crashes, bank and brokerage failures and near-failures, and massive unemployment triggered by recession. Banks and other financial institutions could not carry their own debt, so now the government is carrying it for them, either directly or by providing them with new credit at no cost with which they can become profitable again. The banks and other brokerage institutions have effectively cleaned up their balance sheets with newly created public debt, while the U.S. and European central banks have laundered their bad debts.

We are talking about a whopping lot of debt. According to the IMF’s April Global Financial Stability Report, the seven largest Western capitalist economies and Japan (the so-called G7) now hold a public debt equal to between 110 and 120% of their combined gross domestic product. The world’s public debt is about 50% of the world’s gross product. Given the size of the G7s’ economies, their public debt constitutes a huge financial commitment for which their taxpayers now are directly responsible.

This extraordinary shift of debt from corporate capitalism to nation-states has not attracted the attention it deserves. It is unlikely that the United States will find itself in a debt-driven crisis of the magnitude proportionately that afflicts Greece now, but the transformation of US finance capital’s private debts into US public debt has created a crushing burden for American citizens for generations to come. And the wealthy, once more, will likely come out of the crisis unscathed, unlike the rest of us.

As we have seen in Greece, the fiscal crises of the states swept into the economic downturn and the public debt upturn will trigger political struggle at levels we have not witnessed in over a quarter century. The political legitimacy of many states will be directly threatened. As we have seen thus far in the United States, the organized opposition fueled by anger and resentment, and often sense of betrayal that citizens express is already coming from the right. This trend will likely strengthen, as the fiscal crises of the states seem unlikely to abate and the lefts throughout Europe, Japan, and the United States are very weak.

Is Nuclear Detterence Obsolete?

Gettyimages_90769510Jeremy Bernstein in the New York Review of Books blog:

It should be noted that when nuclear weapons first began to be constructed in the early 1940s, no one thought of deterrence. The bomb was not designed to “deter” Hitler. It was to defeat him and his Axis allies. In the spring of 1943 the Columbia physicist Robert Serber gave a series of lectures to new recruits at Los Alamos. The opening lines of the printed version read: “The object of the project is to produce a practical military weapon in the form of a bomb in which energy is released by a fast neutron chain reaction in one of more of the materials known to show nuclear fission.”

As far as I can tell, the first suggestion that these weapons could be used for deterrence came from General Leslie Groves, who headed the Manhattan project. Some time after the defeat of Germany, but well before the first successful test of the bomb in July of 1945, he came to Los Alamos. At a small dinner he expressed the view that the Russians would have to be deterred by the bomb. He was sure that they had expansionist plans that included the domination of all of Europe and that nuclear weapons would be necessary to stop them. In fact, Soviet spies had already furnished Stalin with extensive knowledge of the US program well before it became public after Hiroshima; Stalin’s reaction was not to be deterred, but to start a crash program to build nuclear weapons of his own while at the same time occupying the countries of Eastern Europe.

Indeed, if you think about it, deterrence is an odd concept. It implies explicit or implicit negotiations between the deterrer and the deterree. How is one to know when deterrence has been successful? It is easier to know that it has not been when one is attacked. David tried to deter Goliath by invoking the God of the Israelites. Goliath had no interest. If David had shown Goliath his skills with a slingshot instead of attempting to deter him it would probably have provoked a better defense against sling shots. What does one expect a deterree to do, sign a document admitting that he/she is deterred? Would anyone trust such a document? Without such a document how much deterrence is enough? Is one atomic bomb enough? How about fifty or five hundred? Who is to decide? For many decades, the US and Russia were engaged in a policy of “mutually assured destruction”—MAD. How did we know that destruction of the other side was “assured?”

Group Think

02strogatzimg-custom1Steven Strogatz in the NYT:

My wife and I have different sleeping styles — and our mattress shows it. She hoards the pillows, thrashes around all night long, and barely dents the mattress, while I lie on my back, mummy-like, molding a cavernous depression into my side of the bed.

Bed manufacturers recommend flipping your mattress periodically, probably with people like me in mind. But what’s the best system? How exactly are you supposed to flip it to get the most even wear out of it?

Brian Hayes explores this problem in the title essay of his recent book, “Group Theory in the Bedroom.” Double entendres aside, the “group” in question here is a collection of mathematical actions — all the possible ways you could flip, rotate or overturn the mattress so that it still fits neatly on the bed frame.

By looking into mattress math in some detail, I hope to give you a feeling for group theory more generally. It’s one of the most versatile parts of mathematics. It underlies everything from the choreography of contra dancing and the fundamental laws of particle physics, to the mosaics of the Alhambra and their chaotic counterparts like this image.

The Fetishism of Morality

Ree200 Jonathan Rée in The Philosophers' Magazine:

One of the most intriguing questions about morality, it seems to me, is what happens when it changes. What happens, for example, when the subordination of women to men, or their exclusion from higher education or the professions, ceases to seem innocuous or natural, and starts to be regarded as a grotesque abuse? Or when corporal punishment goes out of style, and homosexuality comes to be tolerated or even respected, or when cruelty to animals arouses indignation rather than indifference, and recklessness with natural resources becomes a badge not of magnificence but of monstrous irresponsibility?

There is of course room for disagreement about such alterations of moral opinion. But no one could maintain that they are devoid of discussible intellectual content. No one would claim that – like, say, changing fashions in moustaches or skirt-lengths – they simply reflect the unaccountable gyrations of taste. Indeed it seems probable that moral change, over the long term, involves something like an expansion of horizons, a process of learning, or even – to use a dated word – something you might call progress.

It seems timely, therefore, to turn back to Immanuel Kant’s celebrated treatment of the question “whether the human race is continually improving”. Writing in the 1790s, Kant argued that the “moral tendency” of humanity was, like human knowledge as a whole, destined to carry on getting better till there was no room for further improvement: humanity was imbued, he thought, with a transcendental impulse to refine and clarify its moral opinions as time goes by, or to grow in moral intelligence.

Kant’s faith in moral progress was popular in the nineteenth century (think of Auguste Comte’s Positivism and various branches of Hegelianism), but it is not likely to be promoted with much conviction any more. If you were to show any signs of moral optimism today you would be mocked as the dupe of political boosterism or moral grade-inflation, and friends would try to re-educate you with a catalogue of ferocious wars, futile revolutions and murderous regimes, topped off with some sad sagacity about the destructiveness and deceitfulness of human nature. The old proverb about pride applies to moral optimism as well, or so you would be told: hope comes before a fall.

Left & Right: Prospects for Peace

Over at The American Conservative, a number of thinkers address the question (via bookforum). Paul Gottfried:

I have no hope for any alliance between the antiwar Right and any significant leftist force. Individual liberals may establish informal relations with self-identified conservatives, but one should avoid generalizing from this observation. Individual libertarians, like Bill Kauffman and Justin Raimondo, may get on well with maverick leftists Alexander Cockburn and Gore Vidal. But this does not foreshadow larger trends. During the Bush administration, the antiwar Right struggled to connect with leftist opponents of the war, and they received hardly any attention from their would-be partners in organizing antiwar activity.

The reasons for this non-recognition seem self-evident. First, the Left has no interest in being allied to social reactionaries by becoming identified with the antiwar Right. The Left is happier to deal with “conservatives” like David Frum and David Brooks, with whom they agree on most social issues, even if they remain apart on foreign policy. For those who consider gay marriage, unrestricted abortion, and special rights for minorities to be paramount issues, having Catholic traditionalists or paleolibertarians as allies is not a genuine strategic option.

Second, there is no recognizable advantage for the Left to be allied to marginalized people on the Right. As long as neoconservatives control the media and financial resources of the conservative movement, no one, except for hopelessly deluded antiwar rightists, would consider an alliance with our side to be a political coup. Unless the antiwar Right can push itself into public attention and counteract the neoconservative-fashioned image of “conservatives,” the Left can have no practical interest in reaching across the ideological chasm.

Sunday Poem

Mother's Home Ritual for Quenching Fires

Unwind your garden hose……..Lady bird, lady bird
……….lay it across the insatiable lawn
……………… not turn it on

Drink wine from a jar
……….shake the dregs
………………..into your palm
…………………………………… away home

Bathe in a tub without water
……….walk into the kitchen with your eyes closed
………………..stare at the horizon
……………………………………..your house is on fire

Build towers of ash on the walk
……….the vacant swings
………………..the back seat of your car
……………………………………..your children are gone

Borrow sugar from a neighbor
……….let it melt in the driveway
………………..give away your matches
……………………………………..all except one

Write the fire on your laundry list
……….set it aflame
……………… the name curl into ash
……………………………………..and that's Little Anne

Dine with firefighters
……….wear a sundress with nothing underneath
………………..say a prayer to St. Barabara
……………………………………..for she has crept under your warming pan

Steady your hand above a basin or water……….Lady bird, lady bird
………pretend to read your fortune there
………………..pretend you are not thirsty.

by M.L. Brown
from Blackbird; Vol 8. No. 2

‘Green’ exercise quickly ‘boosts mental health’

From BBC News:

Tree Just five minutes of exercise in a “green space” such as a park can boost mental health, researchers claim.

There is growing evidence that combining activities such as walking or cycling with nature boosts well-being. In the latest analysis, UK researchers looked at evidence from 1,250 people in 10 studies and found fast improvements in mood and self-esteem. The study in the Environmental Science and Technology journal suggested the strongest impact was on young people. The research looked at many different outdoor activities including walking, gardening, cycling, fishing, boating, horse-riding and farming in locations such as a park, garden or nature trail.

The biggest effect was seen within just five minutes. With longer periods of time exercising in a green environment, the positive effects were clearly apparent but were of a smaller magnitude, the study found. Looking at men and women of different ages, the researchers found the health changes – physical and mental – were particularly strong in the young and the mentally-ill.

More here.


From Harvard Magazine:

Network If a campaign volunteer shows up at your door, urging you to vote in an upcoming election, you are 10 percent more likely to go to the polls—and others in your household are 6 percent more likely to vote. When you try to recall an unfamiliar word, the likelihood you’ll remember it depends partly on its position in a network of words that sound similar. And when a cell in your body develops a cancerous mutation, its daughter cells will carry that mutation; whether you get cancer depends largely on that cell’s position in the network of cellular reproduction.

However unrelated these phenomena may seem, a single scholarly field has helped illuminate all of them. The study of networks can illustrate how viruses, opinions, and news spread from person to person—and can make it possible to track the spread of obesity, suicide, and back pain. Network science points toward tools for predicting stock-price trends, designing transportation systems, and detecting cancer. It used to be that sociologists studied networks of people, while physicists and computer scientists studied different kinds of networks in their own fields. But as social scientists sought to understand larger, more sophisticated networks, they looked to physics for methods suited to this complexity. And it is a two-way street: network science “is one of the rare areas where you see physicists and molecular biologists respectfully citing the work of social scientists and borrowing their ideas,” says Nicholas Christakis, a physician and medical sociologist and coauthor of Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives (2009).

More here.

there’s a tumble yet in the clanking, hybrid Victorian bawd


Has steampunk jumped Captain Nemo’s clockwork shark yet? The genre — succinctly described as a mix of archaic tech (either real or fanciful), the supernatural, and postmodern metafictional tricksterism, set in the consensus historical past or alternate timelines — was first christened in 1987, a lifetime ago as cultural and literary fads are measured, in a letter to Locus magazine from the writer K.W. Jeter. Of course, the actual roots of the form extend back even further, perhaps as early as 1965, when a certain television show named “The Wild, Wild West” debuted. Some literary styles and tropes wane with their cultural moment, but others have proved exceedingly long-lived, with writers continually discovering unexplored narrative possibilities within elastic bounds. Perhaps the best example is the Gothic, still with us today, and flourishing, despite being a couple of centuries old. But steampunk has exfoliated beyond the merely literary, into the daily lives of its fans.

more from Paul Di Filippo at Salon here.

lady of beyreuth


Cosima Wagner had about as interesting a life as anyone who didn’t found a religion or personally lead an invasion of a foreign empire. It’s perhaps surprising, since her whole existence was just as an appendage to her husband, Richard, the great composer. Before she met him, everything in her circumstances seemed to be preparing her for the momentous marriage. After he died, she devoted the rest of her long life – she died 47 years after him, in 1930 – to perpetuating his memory and sustaining the festival of his works at Bayreuth. By the time she died, Wagner’s reputation was in an aesthetic aspic, and at the forefront of a terrible political dynamism: antique stagings of his works were presented to audiences of Brownshirts. For that, Cosima Wagner was as much to blame as anyone. She was the daughter of Franz Liszt and his aristocratic mistress, Marie d’Agoult. Though they had three children together, they maintained rather a loose connection – Marie once wrote to Liszt, on tour, to ask his permission to commit adultery with an English diplomat. Cosima and her siblings were abandoned to the casual care of elderly women – Liszt’s mother Anna, then the governess of Liszt’s new mistress, the legendarily bonkers Princess Carolyne von Sayn-Wittgenstein.

more from Philip Hensher at The Telegraph here.