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Offline knarf

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Why We’re Underestimating American Collapse
« Reply #11265 on: February 16, 2018, 04:38:17 PM »
The Strange New Pathologies of the World’s First Rich Failed State

 February 15, 2018 "Information Clearing House" - You might say, having read some of my recent essays, “Umair! Don’t worry! Everything will be fine! It’s not that bad!” I would look at you politely, and then say gently, “To tell you the truth, I don’t think we’re taking collapse nearly seriously enough.”

Why? When we take a hard look at US collapse, we see a number of social pathologies on the rise. Not just any kind. Not even troubling, worrying, and dangerous ones. But strange and bizarre ones. Unique ones. Singular and gruesomely weird ones I’ve never really seen before, and outside of a dystopia written by Dickens and Orwell, nor have you, and neither has history. They suggest that whatever “numbers” we use to represent decline — shrinking real incomes, inequality, and so on —we are in fact grossly underestimating what pundits call the “human toll”, but which sensible human beings like you and I should simply think of as the overwhelming despair, rage, and anxiety of living in a collapsing society.

Let me give you just five examples of what I’ll call the social pathologies of collapse — strange, weird, and gruesome new diseases, not just ones we don’t usually see in healthy societies, but ones that we have never really seen before in any modern society.

America has had 11 school shootings in the last 23 days. That’s one every other day, more or less. That statistic is alarming enough — but it is just a number. Perspective asks us for comparison. So let me put that another way. America has had 11 school shootings in the last 23 days, which is more than anywhere else in the world, even Afghanistan or Iraq. In fact, the phenomenon of regular school shootings appears to be a unique feature of American collapse — it just doesn’t happen in any other country — and that is what I mean by “social pathologies of collapse”: a new, bizarre, terrible disease striking society.

Why are American kids killing each other? Why doesn’t their society care enough to intervene? Well, probably because those kids have given up on life — and their elders have given up on them. Or maybe you’re right — and it’s not that simple. Still, what do the kids who aren’t killing each other do? Well, a lot of them are busy killing themselves.

So there is of course also an “opioid epidemic”. We use that phrase too casually, but it much more troubling than it appears on first glance. Here is what is really curious about it. In many countries in the world — most of Asia and Africa — one can buy all the opioids one wants from any local pharmacy, without a prescription. You might suppose then that opioid abuse as a mass epidemic would be a global phenomenon. Yet we don’t see opioid epidemics anywhere but America — especially not ones so vicious and widespread they shrink life expectancy. So the “opioid epidemic” — mass self-medication with the hardest of hard drugs — is again a social pathology of collapse: unique to American life. It is not quite captured in the numbers, but only through comparison — and when we see it in global perspective, we get a sense of just how singularly troubled American life really is.

Why would people abuse opioids en masse unlike anywhere else in the world? They must be living genuinely traumatic and desperate lives, in which there is little healthcare, so they have to self-medicate the terror away. But what is so desperate about them? Well, consider another example: the “nomadic retirees”. They live in their cars. They go from place to place, season after season, chasing whatever low-wage work they can find — spring, an Amazon warehouse, Christmas, Walmart.

 Now, you might say — “well, poor people have always chased seasonal work!” But that is not really the point: absolute powerlessness and complete indignity is. In no other country I can see do retirees who should have been able to save up enough to live on now living in their cars in order to find work just to go on eating before they die — not even in desperately poor ones, where at least families live together, share resources, and care for one another. This is another pathology of collapse that is unique to America — utter powerlessness to live with dignity. Numbers don’t capture it — but comparisons paint a bleak picture.

How did America’s elderly end up cheated of dignity? After all, even desperately poor countries have “informal social support systems” — otherwise known as families and communities. But in America, there is the catastrophic collapse of social bonds. Extreme capitalism has blown apart American society so totally that people cannot even care for one another as much as they do in places like Pakistan and Nigeria. Social bonds, relationships themselves, have become unaffordable luxuries, more so than even in poor countries: this is yet another social pathology unique to American collapse.

Yet those once poor countries are making great strides. Costa Ricans now have higher life expectancy than Americans — because they have public healthcare. American life expectancy is falling, unlike nearly anywhere else in the world, save the UK — because it doesn’t.

And that is my last pathology: it is one of the soul, not one of the limbs, like the others above. American appear to be quite happy simply watching one another die, in all the ways above. They just don’t appear to be too disturbed, moved, or even affected by the four pathologies above: their kids killing each other, their social bonds collapsing, being powerless to live with dignity,or having to numb the pain of it all away.

If these pathologies happened in any other rich country — even in most poor ones — people would be aghast, shocked, and stunned, and certainly moved to make them not happen. But in America, they are, well, not even resigned. They are indifferent, mostly.

So my last pathology is a predatory society. A predatory society doesn’t just mean oligarchs ripping people off financially. In a truer way, it means people nodding and smiling and going about their everyday business as their neighbours, friends, and colleagues die early deaths in shallow graves. The predator in American society isn’t just its super-rich — but an invisible and insatiable force: the normalization of what in the rest of the world would be seen as shameful, historic, generational moral failures, if not crimes, becoming mere mundane everyday affairs not to be too worried by or troubled about.

Perhaps that sounds strong to you. Is it?

Now that I’ve given you a few examples — there are many more — of the social pathologies of collapse, let me share with you the three points that they raise for me.

These social pathologies are something like strange and gruesome new strains of disease infecting the body social. America has always been a pioneer — only today, it is host not just to problems not just rarely seen in healthy societies — it is pioneering novel social pathologies have never been seen in the modern world outside present-day America, period. What does that tell us?

American collapse is much more severe than we suppose it is. We are underestimating its magnitude, not overestimating it. American intellectuals, media, and thought doesn’t put any of its problems in global or historical perspective — but when they are seen that way, America’s problems are revealed to be not just the everyday nuisances of a declining nation, but something more like a body suddenly attacked by unimagined diseases.

Seen accurately. American collapse is a catastrophe of human possibility without modern parallel . And because the mess that America has made of itself, then, is so especially unique, so singular, so perversely special — the treatment will have to be novel, too. The uniqueness of these social pathologies tell us that American collapse is not like a reversion to any mean, or the downswing of a trend. It is something outside the norm. Something beyond the data. Past the statistics. It is like the meteor that hit the dinosaurs: an outlier beyond outliers, an event at the extreme of the extremes. That is why our narratives, frames, and theories cannot really capture it — much less explain it. We need a whole new language — and a new way of seeing — to even begin to make sense of it.

But that is America’s task, not the world’s. The world’s task is this. Should the world follow the American model — extreme capitalism, no public investment, cruelty as a way of life, the perversion of everyday virtue — then these new social pathologies will follow, too. They are new diseases of the body social that have emerged from the diet of junk food — junk media, junk science, junk culture, junk punditry, junk economics, people treating one another and their society like junk — that America has fed upon for too long.

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/48807.htm
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Offline Eddie

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Re: U.K. Supermarkets To Ban Energy Drinks For Shoppers Under 16
« Reply #11266 on: February 16, 2018, 04:41:36 PM »

Next month in the U.K., anyone at a major grocery store looking to buy a soft drink with more than 150 mg of caffeine per liter will need to present an ID.

Next month, several chain supermarkets in the U.K. will stop selling energy drinks to customers under 16. Anyone looking to buy a soft drink with more than 150 mg of caffeine per liter Ť— a limit targeting drinks like Monster and Red Bull Ť— will need to present an ID.

The retailer Waitrose announced its new energy drink restrictions first, in early January. "These drinks carry advice stating that they are not recommended for children, so we're choosing to proactively act on that guidance, particularly given the widespread concerns which have been raised about these drinks when consumed by under 16s," Simon Moore, Waitrose's director of corporate social responsibility, said in a statement. Sainsbury's, Morrisons, Lidl, Coop, Asda, Aldi and Tesco followed with their own bans on selling the drink to children, which will all roll out at the beginning of March.

As Moore mentioned, European Union and British regulations already require drinks with this much caffeine to sport an extra label stating: "High caffeine content. Not recommended for children or pregnant or breast-feeding women." And while a nationwide soda tax will go into effect in the U.K. in April, banning so-called "under 16s" from buying energy drinks is a voluntary measure that grocery stores have taken up this year.

But the idea of checking IDs for energy drink purchases has been rumbling around for a while. Morrisons tested this initiative in 2014, then ended the pilot at the end of that year.

Now, U.K. grocery stores seem to be responding to pressure from a couple of different groups.

Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, who has long championed anti-obesity and nutrition efforts, recently mounted a campaign against energy drinks for kids. He appeared on Good Morning Britain in November, telling the anchors that since the advent of energy drinks, some children consume "about 14 espresso shots worth of caffeine per day." He ran a spot on his own show, Friday Night Feast, detailing the dangers energy drinks pose for kids' health and their prospects in school. He also started a hashtag on Twitter: #NotForChildren.

The National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers has blamed energy drink guzzling for poor behavior in school. The group has called for research in the area and supported the grocery store restrictions.

Policy researchers have called for energy drink legislation. Fuse, the Centre for Translational Research in Public Health, advocated for a law restricting energy drink sales to kids after finding that energy drinks are widely available for students as young as 11 years old. Another group, Action on Sugar, which runs nutrition-focused campaigns from Queen Mary University of London, has also rallied for regulation of these drinks. Although Action on Sugar focuses on sweeteners, the high caffeine in energy drinks worries them, too, says Kawther Hashem, a nutritionist and researcher for the group. "Why is it that we have a warning label, but children can buy these products?" she says.

Overall, it's probably a good idea to pause energy drink sales to children, says Jennifer Temple, a nutrition researcher at the University of Buffalo who has studied how caffeine affects kids. "We've seen kind of an explosion of energy drinks on the market over the past decade and a half, without really a whole lot of empirical data to understand what consuming these high amounts of caffeine can do, especially to children and adolescents," she says.

As they've boomed onto the market, energy drinks have been linked to emergency room visits, as well as a number of high-profile deaths, although it's impossible to say definitively that energy drinks are the only culprit in those extreme situations.

Small to moderate doses of caffeine haven't had a huge effect on kids in Temple's research, but she's not enthusiastic about supplying children with energy drinks. A major aim of caffeine Ť— preventing sleep Ť— can interfere with the rest kids need to grow, think and function. "There's no reason why kids need this caffeine," she says. "The sleep effects alone are something that we should be mindful of."

Oliver, teachers and those policy groups count the energy drink bans for kids in grocery stores as a victory, but they're not a perfect, overarching solution. "The issue with it is that these products will still be bought in convenience stores and other small stores," Hashem says. So while these are positive steps, she says she's still hoping a national law will eventually come into effect.

https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2018/02/16/585192696/u-k-supermarkets-to-ban-energy-drinks-for-shoppers-under-16

Those beverages are extremely harmful. They probably shouldn't eve be allowed on the market. But they are.

I'm NOT sure the government should be regulating them in this way however. What ever happened to parental authority? Obviously, parents are now too complete stupid and ineffective to take a role in controlling what their minor children consume. That's the sad part.
What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well.

Offline knarf

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A Review of Two Books by John Michael Greer: Dark Age America and The Retro Future
« Reply #11267 on: February 16, 2018, 04:43:32 PM »


John Michael Greer acknowledges that his aim with Dark Age America is an ambitious one. The book is his attempt to sketch out the likely course of industrial society over the next 500 years, with a particular emphasis on the United States. Greer’s core premise is that our present civilization, like the late Roman Empire and the classic Lowland Maya before it (to name two examples), has overshot its resource base and is now in terminal decline. Thus, it’s inevitable that in coming centuries, America, along with the world’s other developed nations, will descend into a dark age as harsh as any the human race has ever known.

What makes Greer confident in his ability to extrapolate out half a millennium is the wealth of information we now have about the fates of previous civilizations. Greer is a historian, and one of his chief influences is the work of historical theorists like Oswald Spengler and Arnold Toynbee, who have demonstrated the existence of cycles in history. Civilizations, these theorists have shown, move through a predictable cycle of emergence, growth, maturity, decline and death. What’s more, the latter stages of this progression are the most predictable. While civilizations tend to be distinct from one another early on in their development, they become nearly indistinguishable as they fall. As Greer eloquently puts it, “[C]ompare one post-collapse society to another—the societies of post-Roman Europe, let’s say, with those of post-Mycenean Greece—and it can be hard to believe that dark age societies so similar could have emerged out of the wreckage of civilizations so different.”

Greer’s portrait of dark age America begins with the legacy of extreme environmental degradation we’re leaving our descendants. Climate change, in particular, threatens to destroy enormous swaths of human habitat throughout North America. Based on the available paleoclimate data, Greer predicts that the western half of America will eventually come to resemble the Sahara Desert, while the Gulf states will become increasingly tropical and the Gulf coast will retreat ever further inland. Most of Florida will become an uninhabitable saltwater swamp. Regions that are currently centers of agricultural production will fail to produce sufficient quantities of food due to topsoil loss and unpredictable rainfall. And, as seawater floods the ruins of hastily abandoned chemical facilities, what few fish remain in waters off North American coasts will in many places become too toxic to eat.

Judging from the population declines seen in previous dark ages, Greer expects the present world population to fall by as much as 95 percent. However, he stresses that this won’t, contrary to popular imagination, take the form of a cataclysmic die-off. Rather, it will be a gradual change that people will come to accept as the new normal. Industrial nations will find themselves in a situation in which their death rates persistently exceed their birth rates by small margins—say one to three percent per annum—and while this will add up over time, people will adjust. “That’s the way population declines happen in history,” explains Greer, adding, “Vast catastrophes need not apply.”

In addition to depopulation, two other factors that will shape the demographics of dark age America are mass migrations and the formation of new ethnic groups. Those migrating will be fleeing desertifying regions like the southern Great Plains and the Great Basin, as well as areas that are already desert today—and are inhabitable now only because of present-day technology—such as the Sonoran Desert. They’ll also be leaving flooded coastal cities and poisoned lands. Greer sees the erasure of ethnic divisions occurring in stages, beginning with a period of heightened strife among various groups as the industrial economy moves through its death cycle and economic inequities worsen. Beyond this phase, a chaotic melting pot will ensue as the institutions that maintain ethnic divisions fall away. The final stage will be one in which totally new ethnicities arise.

The politics of the coming dark age will be characterized by the disintegration of America’s current social hierarchies. These hierarchies, argues Greer, are like any other form of social capital in that they have maintenance costs that must be met. Their maintenance costs consist of the minimum standard of living that the elites must provide to persuade the masses to continue going along with the existing order. As a civilization’s resource base shrinks, it becomes increasingly difficult for the ruling class to provide members of the laboring class with a living wage. Eventually an uprising becomes inevitable, and the elites face a choice of going into exile or being murdered by bloodthirsty mobs.

This grisly cycle is, in Greer’s estimation, already under way in America. So far, the elites have responded to the growing unrest with a mixture of repression and complacency. On the repressive end, Greer points to the excessive militarization of local police, together with the rampant civil rights violations being perpetrated by both mainstream political parties. At the same time, the elites seem to have been lulled into a belief that nothing could ever unseat them from their privileged positions. “They’re wrong,” admonishes Greer, “and at this point it’s probably a safe bet that a great many of them will die because of that mistake.”

Greer believes that as political leaders, members of the scientific community and other public figures grow more and more out of touch with the general population, people will increasingly gravitate toward strongmen in much the same way that the Huns revered the fearsome warlord Attila. In the process, society will come to adopt a new, grittier worldview that does a better job of explaining people’s everyday experience than does the cheery narrative of perpetual progress.

The key takeaway from Greer’s chapter on economic collapse is that economic growth in late industrial America has passed the point of diminishing returns and entered the zone of negative returns. In making this case, Greer refers to a 2013 study sponsored by the United Nations Environmental Program. This study concluded that the world’s top 20 industries would become unprofitable if they had to pay for the ecological harm they cause, rather than foisting it off onto the public as they do now. This damage may not appear on businesses’ balance sheets, but it still impacts the economy. Greer cites the example of fracking firms that would rather dump their wastewater into the environment than safely dispose of it. Though this decision saves the companies money, it puts a drag on the economy elsewhere in the form of increased public health costs from disease clusters that spring up around dumping sites. Eventually, negative externalities like these add up until they come to debilitate an economy. Greer believes that this is where we’re at now with today’s industrial economy.

But externalities are only half the story when it comes to explaining what ails the modern growth economy. The other half has to do with the depletion of oil and other nonrenewable resources. We’ve now reached a point where many finite resources are in irreversible decline, and Greer sees this as spelling the demise of industrialization. To support this conclusion, he cites a well-established principle of human ecology called White’s law, which says that a society’s level of development depends on how much per capita energy is available to it. Greer’s term for the process of decline that sets in when a civilization lacks the energy it needs to sustain itself is catabolic collapse. The word catabolic refers to the way in which such a society begins feeding on (i.e., catabolizing) itself, just as an organism deprived of essential nutrients destroys itself by breaking down its own body tissues for energy.

A chapter trenchantly titled “The Suicide of Science” delves into the ways in which Greer sees the scientific profession sowing the seeds of its own undoing. These include the profiteering machinations of the medical industry, the demonstrable lies that scientific experts regularly tell the public, the verbal abuse that outspoken atheists within the scientific community hurl at people of faith and the toxic legacy that industrialism is leaving for future generations. Even without these considerable downsides to modern-day science, scientific research would still have a tough go of it, since the resources on which it depends will be desperately needed for necessities like food production and defense against barbarians. In light of all this, predicts Greer, it will be a no-brainer for communities to decide to stop funding science altogether. Greer also sees laboratories and other scientific facilities being vandalized and burned down for the betrayal of public trust that they will have come to embody.

The book’s section on responses to the predicaments of early dark age America focuses on individualized, localized actions. This is in keeping with the conventional wisdom among collapse thinkers that large-scale institutions will be of no use, since it’s their vast scale that caused the crises in the first place. Greer’s specific recommendations all speak to the need to proactively ratchet down our energy and resource consumption so as to be prepared for the lean future ahead. Greer also encourages readers to learn all they can about the lived experience of Americans during other periods of crisis in our history, both by reading books and by talking with elderly relatives about their personal survival strategies.

As those familiar with Greer’s previous work are well aware, he’s now written numerous other books that cover much the same territory as this one does, but from differing angles. Given this thematic dovetailing, it’s impossible not to marvel at how fresh each new entry feels. Nothing ever seems recycled in the least. Rather, each new book astounds anew with its erudition, literary panache and ideative exuberance.



These days, the word progress has come to mean deterioration far more often than improvement. This is the central tenet of The Retro Future, and it’s something that Greer believes we all sense at some level but aren’t yet willing to admit. We can’t help noticing that each new software upgrade is more riddled with bugs and less user-friendly than the one before, or that consumer products across the board grow shoddier, less satisfactory and more dangerous every year. Yet our faith in progress prevents us from coming to terms with these facts. It’s this faith that The Retro Future squarely confronts.

The book proposes that the world’s industrialized nations deliberately reverse course technologically as a matter of public policy. Greer reasons that this transition is bound to happen eventually anyway, as we lose access to the money, energy and other resources necessary to sustain our current level of technology. Thus, it would behoove us to get ahead of the curve by bringing about the shift ourselves while we can still do so gracefully. The U.S. government could spur this change through simple revisions to the U.S. tax code, as well as laws that would limit our public infrastructure to technology from previous eras (say the 1950s or the 1880s). This would drastically decrease the nation’s dependence on dwindling energy supplies, since ‘50s technology, for example, was far less energy-intensive than is today’s. It would also put scores of unemployed people back to work, as the technology of the ‘50s relied far more heavily on manual labor than does today’s.

The tax code revisions that Greer has in mind would, he believes, go a long way toward bringing about these changes. It’s currently more cost-effective for businesses to automate than to hire people, because automation comes with significant tax breaks, while human capital entails additional taxes in the form of Social Security, unemployment insurance, workers compensation and the like. Meanwhile, as companies automate more and more, society bears the costs of caring for displaced workers through taxpayer-funded assistance, while the environment shoulders the burden of rising pollution from the machines. The new tax that Greer envisions would transfer the responsibility for these latter costs back to the companies. With humans increasingly replacing machines on assembly lines, the wage-earning class would return to something like its former prosperity, and nature would rebound as well.

A glimpse into how this might work out in practice can be gleaned by reading Greer’s 2016 novel Retrotopia (reviewed by me here). Set five decades from now in a nation known as the Lakeland Republic—which is located in what is currently the American Upper Midwest—Retrotopia paints a picture of what life could be like if citizens were allowed to decide democratically what level of infrastructure they were willing to support with their taxes. This approach has yielded fantastic dividends for the Republic. At a time when most other nations within the former contiguous United States are economic basket cases because of their continuing commitment to growth and innovation, the Republic is flourishing due to its decision to pursue “retrovation.”

If you’re thinking that this strategy amounts to depriving people of access to technology, you’re wrong. Greer emphasizes that the type of public policy he has in mind would apply only to publicly funded infrastructure; individual citizens and privately held companies would be free to own and use more modern technologies, as long as they were able to pay for them out of their own pockets.

The biggest barrier to this sort of change is cultural; it has to do with what Greer calls “the heresy of technological choice.” Our culture worships progress so absolutely that people harbor a deep-seated superstition against picking and choosing which technologies to use or not use. People are expected to embrace the entire gamut of modern-day technology, or else reject it just as completely. Those who don’t fall in line with this expectation—by, for instance, refusing to own a TV or cell phone, while still making use of the Internet and electric lighting—face ridicule. Fortunately, the taboo against technological choice will eventually, Greer thinks, fall away as we begin to run short on the resources that make the industrial era’s signature technologies widely available.

For me, the most fascinating part of this book is one exploring the concept of “orphan technologies,” or those that outlive the civilizations that birthed them. In the course of this discussion, Greer speculates that today’s hydroelectric dams could well become an orphan technology in much the same way that the ancient Roman aqueducts did during the post-Roman dark ages. If this proves to be the case, the denizens of dark age America will, like the inhabitants of early medieval Europe before them who inherited the aqueducts, be the recipients of a great windfall. Despite lacking the resources or knowledge needed to construct it themselves, they will nonetheless be benefitting from a fully functional advanced technology left over from our time.

I have one minor criticism of both Dark Age America and The Retro Future, and it’s one I’ve leveled at previous books by Greer. Greer’s book material comes from his prolific output of blog posts, and his method is to write on a particular theme for an extended period, then weave the resulting posts into one longer work. Though he does this masterfully overall, there are sometimes points in the finished books where the transitions between blog posts could be smoother. For instance, in Dark Age America there’s a spot where he expresses the same idea twice, using similar wording each time, within the space of a couple of pages. Before the shorter pieces became a book, a degree of repetition was appropriate, as not every reader of a given post would have read the one before. When translated into book form, however, this is problematic. Greer’s books also occasionally neglect to define terms introduced in his blog. While his regular blog readers will have encountered these terms enough times to know their meaning, this doubtless isn’t the case for everyone who reads his books.

But the editing lapses described above are a faux pas of mere aesthetics, not of content. What really matter are the visionary perspectives on the future of humanity that Greer’s books offer in spades.

http://www.resilience.org/stories/2018-02-15/review-two-books-john-michael-greer-dark-age-america-retro-future/
HUMANS ARE STILL EVOLVING! Our communities blog is at https://openmind693.wordpress.com

Offline Eddie

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Re: Why We’re Underestimating American Collapse
« Reply #11268 on: February 16, 2018, 04:48:22 PM »
The Strange New Pathologies of the World’s First Rich Failed State

 February 15, 2018 "Information Clearing House" - You might say, having read some of my recent essays, “Umair! Don’t worry! Everything will be fine! It’s not that bad!” I would look at you politely, and then say gently, “To tell you the truth, I don’t think we’re taking collapse nearly seriously enough.”

Why? When we take a hard look at US collapse, we see a number of social pathologies on the rise. Not just any kind. Not even troubling, worrying, and dangerous ones. But strange and bizarre ones. Unique ones. Singular and gruesomely weird ones I’ve never really seen before, and outside of a dystopia written by Dickens and Orwell, nor have you, and neither has history. They suggest that whatever “numbers” we use to represent decline — shrinking real incomes, inequality, and so on —we are in fact grossly underestimating what pundits call the “human toll”, but which sensible human beings like you and I should simply think of as the overwhelming despair, rage, and anxiety of living in a collapsing society.

Let me give you just five examples of what I’ll call the social pathologies of collapse — strange, weird, and gruesome new diseases, not just ones we don’t usually see in healthy societies, but ones that we have never really seen before in any modern society.

America has had 11 school shootings in the last 23 days. That’s one every other day, more or less. That statistic is alarming enough — but it is just a number. Perspective asks us for comparison. So let me put that another way. America has had 11 school shootings in the last 23 days, which is more than anywhere else in the world, even Afghanistan or Iraq. In fact, the phenomenon of regular school shootings appears to be a unique feature of American collapse — it just doesn’t happen in any other country — and that is what I mean by “social pathologies of collapse”: a new, bizarre, terrible disease striking society.

Why are American kids killing each other? Why doesn’t their society care enough to intervene? Well, probably because those kids have given up on life — and their elders have given up on them. Or maybe you’re right — and it’s not that simple. Still, what do the kids who aren’t killing each other do? Well, a lot of them are busy killing themselves.

So there is of course also an “opioid epidemic”. We use that phrase too casually, but it much more troubling than it appears on first glance. Here is what is really curious about it. In many countries in the world — most of Asia and Africa — one can buy all the opioids one wants from any local pharmacy, without a prescription. You might suppose then that opioid abuse as a mass epidemic would be a global phenomenon. Yet we don’t see opioid epidemics anywhere but America — especially not ones so vicious and widespread they shrink life expectancy. So the “opioid epidemic” — mass self-medication with the hardest of hard drugs — is again a social pathology of collapse: unique to American life. It is not quite captured in the numbers, but only through comparison — and when we see it in global perspective, we get a sense of just how singularly troubled American life really is.

Why would people abuse opioids en masse unlike anywhere else in the world? They must be living genuinely traumatic and desperate lives, in which there is little healthcare, so they have to self-medicate the terror away. But what is so desperate about them? Well, consider another example: the “nomadic retirees”. They live in their cars. They go from place to place, season after season, chasing whatever low-wage work they can find — spring, an Amazon warehouse, Christmas, Walmart.

 Now, you might say — “well, poor people have always chased seasonal work!” But that is not really the point: absolute powerlessness and complete indignity is. In no other country I can see do retirees who should have been able to save up enough to live on now living in their cars in order to find work just to go on eating before they die — not even in desperately poor ones, where at least families live together, share resources, and care for one another. This is another pathology of collapse that is unique to America — utter powerlessness to live with dignity. Numbers don’t capture it — but comparisons paint a bleak picture.

How did America’s elderly end up cheated of dignity? After all, even desperately poor countries have “informal social support systems” — otherwise known as families and communities. But in America, there is the catastrophic collapse of social bonds. Extreme capitalism has blown apart American society so totally that people cannot even care for one another as much as they do in places like Pakistan and Nigeria. Social bonds, relationships themselves, have become unaffordable luxuries, more so than even in poor countries: this is yet another social pathology unique to American collapse.

Yet those once poor countries are making great strides. Costa Ricans now have higher life expectancy than Americans — because they have public healthcare. American life expectancy is falling, unlike nearly anywhere else in the world, save the UK — because it doesn’t.

And that is my last pathology: it is one of the soul, not one of the limbs, like the others above. American appear to be quite happy simply watching one another die, in all the ways above. They just don’t appear to be too disturbed, moved, or even affected by the four pathologies above: their kids killing each other, their social bonds collapsing, being powerless to live with dignity,or having to numb the pain of it all away.

If these pathologies happened in any other rich country — even in most poor ones — people would be aghast, shocked, and stunned, and certainly moved to make them not happen. But in America, they are, well, not even resigned. They are indifferent, mostly.

So my last pathology is a predatory society. A predatory society doesn’t just mean oligarchs ripping people off financially. In a truer way, it means people nodding and smiling and going about their everyday business as their neighbours, friends, and colleagues die early deaths in shallow graves. The predator in American society isn’t just its super-rich — but an invisible and insatiable force: the normalization of what in the rest of the world would be seen as shameful, historic, generational moral failures, if not crimes, becoming mere mundane everyday affairs not to be too worried by or troubled about.

Perhaps that sounds strong to you. Is it?

Now that I’ve given you a few examples — there are many more — of the social pathologies of collapse, let me share with you the three points that they raise for me.

These social pathologies are something like strange and gruesome new strains of disease infecting the body social. America has always been a pioneer — only today, it is host not just to problems not just rarely seen in healthy societies — it is pioneering novel social pathologies have never been seen in the modern world outside present-day America, period. What does that tell us?

American collapse is much more severe than we suppose it is. We are underestimating its magnitude, not overestimating it. American intellectuals, media, and thought doesn’t put any of its problems in global or historical perspective — but when they are seen that way, America’s problems are revealed to be not just the everyday nuisances of a declining nation, but something more like a body suddenly attacked by unimagined diseases.

Seen accurately. American collapse is a catastrophe of human possibility without modern parallel . And because the mess that America has made of itself, then, is so especially unique, so singular, so perversely special — the treatment will have to be novel, too. The uniqueness of these social pathologies tell us that American collapse is not like a reversion to any mean, or the downswing of a trend. It is something outside the norm. Something beyond the data. Past the statistics. It is like the meteor that hit the dinosaurs: an outlier beyond outliers, an event at the extreme of the extremes. That is why our narratives, frames, and theories cannot really capture it — much less explain it. We need a whole new language — and a new way of seeing — to even begin to make sense of it.

But that is America’s task, not the world’s. The world’s task is this. Should the world follow the American model — extreme capitalism, no public investment, cruelty as a way of life, the perversion of everyday virtue — then these new social pathologies will follow, too. They are new diseases of the body social that have emerged from the diet of junk food — junk media, junk science, junk culture, junk punditry, junk economics, people treating one another and their society like junk — that America has fed upon for too long.

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/48807.htm

Nice one. Here's a similar one I read a day or two ago, in the same vein. A few brave people are waking up and speaking up.But only a few....

https://libertyblitzkrieg.com/2018/02/15/insanity-fatigue/
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Offline Surly1

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OK. I'm sure his books are fine and erudite, but Mo Berman was first with the title and the story arc, Jared Diamond traced the decline of past civilizations, and Kunstler limned out Retrotopia in "A World Made By Hand."

Ehh.
"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

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OK. I'm sure his books are fine and erudite, but Mo Berman was first with the title and the story arc, Jared Diamond traced the decline of past civilizations, and Kunstler limned out Retrotopia in "A World Made By Hand."


If I was Mo Berman, I'd sue him for plagiarism.

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Re: Knarf's Knewz Channel
« Reply #11271 on: February 16, 2018, 05:43:05 PM »
So..JMG  is a historian? Like according to whom?

I'll tell you whom. His own self.

He has no PhD in History. He has a fucking B.A degree  He is, in my opinion, a self-aggrandizing putz.
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Re: Knarf's Knewz Channel
« Reply #11272 on: February 16, 2018, 05:58:10 PM »
So..JMG  is a historian? Like according to whom?

I'll tell you whom. His own self.

He has no PhD in History. He has a fucking B.A degree  He is, in my opinion, a self-aggrandizing putz.

He is madly in love with himself, no doubt about it.

Not a member of the Dim though Eddie IMO, far from a putz, as to my understanding of the word anyway.

Define putz: a stupid, foolish, or ineffectual person : jerk; penis — putz in a sentence
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Offline Eddie

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Re: Knarf's Knewz Channel
« Reply #11273 on: February 16, 2018, 06:04:06 PM »
He sure strikes me as a dick. He's not dumb.
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OK. I'm sure his books are fine and erudite, but Mo Berman was first with the title and the story arc, Jared Diamond traced the decline of past civilizations, and Kunstler limned out Retrotopia in "A World Made By Hand."


If I was Mo Berman, I'd sue him for plagiarism.

RE

Can't copyright a title.

All you can do is steal it, then wipe your ass on it.
"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

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Re: Knarf's Knewz Channel
« Reply #11275 on: February 16, 2018, 06:11:31 PM »
He sure strikes me as a dick. He's not dumb.

JMG is not stupid, but he is EXTREMELY rigid in his thinking.  He works inside one small box that he has built for himself over the years.  Anything outside that box is not worth discussing to Mr. Wizard.

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Offline Golden Oxen

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Re: Knarf's Knewz Channel
« Reply #11276 on: February 16, 2018, 06:18:29 PM »
He sure strikes me as a dick. He's not dumb.

JMG is not stupid, but he is EXTREMELY rigid in his thinking.  He works inside one small box that he has built for himself over the years.  Anything outside that box is not worth discussing to Mr. Wizard.

RE

He considers anyone that disagrees with him an undesirable.

His blog, now closed it seems is a Dick Suckers paradise.

You lick his dick and praise his genius or get banned or totally ignored. He talks down to everyone as though they are first graders.

He does put out some heavy stuff though now and then.
'

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One in 10 senior politicians in Brazil funded by companies 'linked to slavery'
« Reply #11277 on: February 17, 2018, 03:56:49 AM »
Investigation finds President Michel Temer among 51 politicians who received donations from firms accused of labour abuses


 Michel Temer is sworn in as interim president following the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff on 31 August 2016 in Brasilia, Brazil.

More than one in 10 of Brazil’s high-ranking politicians, among them President Michel Temer, received campaign donations from companies linked to modern-day slavery, an investigation has found.

Party leaders, state secretaries and five of ex-president Dilma Rousseff’s governors are among the elected parliamentarians who received R$3.5m (Ł760,000) during the last general election, according to the NGO Repórter Brasil.

Temer’s election committee was found to have received R$700,000 (Ł150,000) from OAS, a Brazilian construction company found guilty of keeping 111 workers in slave-like conditions during the expansion of Săo Paulo airport, in 2013.

“This is just one of an ocean of shocking practices that Temer’s administration has exposed,” said Xavier Plassat, head of the Pastoral Land Commission (CPT).

President Temer is being investigated for corruption as part of the nationwide Lava Jato (“Car Wash”) enquiry following accusations that he received bribes from JBS, the meat-packing company. JBS was at the heart of a series of Brazilian corruption and meat-industry scandals last year, including investigations of reported slavery in its supply chain.

Though receiving donations is neither a crime nor forbidden by Brazil’s electoral commission, the report provides an insight into how closely connected lawmakers can be with companies and individuals linked to illegal practices.

Twenty-one of the 51 MPs who received donations from companies identified by the authorities as using slave labour are part of the extremely influential rural caucus in congress. This lobby has continually attempted to limit efforts to combat slavery in Brazil and, late last year, supported Temer’s attempt to restrict the legal definition of modern-day slavery.

According to Brazilian law, four conditions are used to categorise “slave-like labour”: being forced to work; being obliged to work to pay off debts; degrading conditions that put workers’ health or dignity at risk; and an excessive workload that threatens workers’ health.

In a statement sent to Repórter Brasil, the president’s office said Temer was not aware of the company’s slave labour case, and that “[the] money was passed on to other candidates”. The office also denied that the donation had had any influence over Temer’s political decisions.

OAS did not respond to requests for comment from Repórter Brasil, which is based in Săo Paulo.

Marcos Montes – a federal deputy for the south-eastern state of Minas Gerais, who has repeatedly voted to decrease workers’ rights and limit the definition of slavery in Brazil – received donations from two entities on the register of companies caught using slave labour: Ł33,000 from Cutrale, one of the biggest orange juice suppliers in the world, and Ł1,000 from Marco Barbosa, a farmer found to be keeping eight workers in slave-like conditions in 2007.

Cutrale, which was caught keeping workers in slave-like conditions in 2017, said in a statement: “All donations made by Cutrale in election periods have always been made in a legal and transparent manner.”

Neither Marcos nor Barbosa responded to Repórter Brasil’s request for comment.

Another deputy from Minas Gerais, Domingos Sávio, who authored a bill to reduce rest periods for those who work outdoors in often blistering heat, received a direct donation of Ł4,000 from a construction company, which was on the register after it was found to be keeping 40 workers in conditions of modern-day slavery in 2014.

Sávio also made an amendment to labour laws, halving fines for those who illegally employ workers without signing their employment documents. Sávio did not respond to the Guardian’s request for comment.

“These findings are very useful for demystifying what is fuelling current attempts to backpedal on workers’ rights and anti-slavery legislation,” said Plassat. “The rural and construction lobbies are presenting a very strong offensive.

“It is not a surprise that those MPs who are supporting Temer’s administration in these huge regressions might be funded by those employers and corporations whose interests they are advocating for on a daily basis in congress.”

Repórter Brasil cross-checked campaign donations from the electoral court against companies that have been included on a centralised register of employers caught using slave labour between 2003 and 2017. The data includes cases of slave labour identified before and after the 2014 election.

These findings are part of the “Ruralometer”, a tool developed by Repórter Brasil to monitor the impact of actions by federal deputies on the environment, indigenous people and rural workers.

“Considering that most of the politicians we evaluated are expected to run in this year’s elections, the Ruralometer aims to bring public interest into the debate, as well as monitor agendas behind campaign finance,” said Ana Aranha, from Repórter Brasil.

https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2018/feb/16/one-in-10-senior-politicians-in-brazil-funded-by-companies-linked-to-slavery
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‘Lost’ ancient Mexican city had as many buildings as Manhattan, laser map shows
« Reply #11278 on: February 17, 2018, 04:02:10 AM »
'If you do the maths, all of a sudden you are talking about 40,000 building foundations up there'


The 3D aerial laser mapping technique also helped uncover Mayan villages in a jungle in Guatemala

A "lost" Mexican city built by rivals to the Aztecs has as many buildings as Manhattan and was home to around 100,000 people, according to new research.   

The sprawling urban centre of Angamuco which was part of the Purépecha empire that peaked in the 16th century was detected by an aerial laser mapping technique called the Lidar system.

An aircraft beamed out laser pulses and experts later examined the signals that bounced back from the ground, which helped them pull together a 3D map of the city near modern day Morelia in the state of Michoacan in western Mexico.

It revealed Angamuco covered an area of more than 10 square miles, complete with monuments such as pyramids, temples, plazas and road systems.

“To think that this massive city existed in the heartland of Mexico for all this time and nobody knew it was there is kind of amazing,” archaeologist Chris Fisher told The Guardian.

The Purepecha were a major civilisation which peaked in the 16th century, with its capital Tzintzuntzan also located beside Lake Patzcuaro in western Mexico.

Mr Fisher was part of a team which studied the 3D maps of Angamuco city. He estimated some  100,000 people lived there at the height of the civilisation between 100Ad to 1350AD.

“That is a huge area with a lot of people and a lot of architectural foundations that are represented,” he said. “If you do the maths, all of a sudden you are talking about 40,000 building foundations up there, which is [about] the same number of building foundations on the island of Manhattan.”

He added that its size "would make it the biggest city that we know of right now in western Mexico during this period."

Archeologists initially found Angamuco in 2007 and tried to explore the area the traditional way on the ground, but realised it would take at least 10 years to map out the area.

The researchers later deployed the Lidar laser mapping technique which helped them uncover the area in detail.

University College London archaeology professor Elizabeth Graham, who was not involved in the project, hailed the system but said archeologists still had to get “on the ground and excavate”.

The aerial laser mapping technique also helped researchers discover a lost Mayan "Snake King" city in a jungle in the Peten region of Guatemala earlier this month.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/lost-mexico-city-aztec-buildings-pur-pecha-empire-morelia-michoac-n-a8214551.html
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Can social media data be used to predict threats or identify fake news?
« Reply #11279 on: February 17, 2018, 04:06:36 AM »


A new project uses data from large-scale social networks to predict and mitigate threats to society

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Can publicly available data from large-scale social media networks be used to help predict catastrophic events within the country’s infrastructure, such as threats to national security, the energy system or even the economy?

Conrad Tucker, associate professor of engineering design and industrial engineering at Penn State, has received funding from the U.S. Air Force to investigate whether crowd-sourced data from social media can be used to not only detect threats, but also prevent catastrophic events from happening in the future.

Tucker received $342,995 for the three-year project titled, “Transforming Large Scale Social Media Networks into Data-Driven, Dynamic Sensing Systems for Modeling and Predicting Real World Threats.”

“The challenge with using data that comes from a group is that people — or algorithms — can be unreliable,” explains Tucker. “So the major thrust of this project is to create algorithms that increase the reliability of the information that you can acquire from these publicly available sources.”

One of the obstacles researchers face in advancing machine learning — or using computers to predict outcomes — is the acquisition of high-quality data. It is typically costly and time consuming to obtain large data sets. However, with the emergence of the internet and social media networks, the availability of data is less of a challenge, and large sets of data from publicly sourced social networks are becoming more readily available.

“We live in an increasingly digitally connected world, and this connectivity actually presents challenges, like volatility,” said Tucker. “If one CEO’s tweet can send a stock’s price down billions of dollars, that is a huge threat to the company and its stakeholders. That is just one example of what we are looking to model with new algorithms that can analyze and predict such chaos.”

There have been other industries in which researchers have used publicly available data as a decision-making tool, such as in health care. Researchers in the field have explored the concept for disease surveillance or capturing the spread of epidemics.

“Regardless of what domain you are looking at, the fundamental problem is when you go to sample data or acquire information, how do you know which pieces of data to include in your model and how do you know which ones to leave out,” said Tucker. “That’s the biggest problem and the area in which this study is seeking to make one of the more significant contributions in this space.”

Because of the growing prevalence of connectivity worldwide, new threats continue to emerge. Predicting those threats is also a major part of this project.

“One of the major threats to society in the 21st century is the integrity of information … how do people decipher what’s real and what’s fake? How do you start preventing misinformation from being disseminated via social media?” asked Tucker. “I think that’s going to be a very difficult notion to combat, especially as algorithms become better at generating human-readable text and images. I don’t have the answer yet but hopefully this is a good start to finding out how we can get there.”

Tucker’s collaboration with the Air Force started in 2014 when he was selected to participate in the U.S. Air Force Summer Faculty Fellowship Program. He participated in the program again in 2015.

Tucker’s research at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in 2014 and 2015 led to the development of his current project.

“I was working with Dr. Ken Hopkinson (professor of computer science at the Air Force Institute of Technology) on this idea that we can use data from social media networks as a real-time sensor,” said Tucker. “We looked at different ways we could use this publicly available data, such as whether it was possible to predict electricity utilization or weather patterns based on what people observed and shared on social media. This project is a natural evolution of the previous research.”

http://news.psu.edu/story/504004/2018/02/15/research/can-social-media-data-be-used-predict-threats-or-identify-fake-news
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