Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Predatory lenders bribe lawmakers to pass laws hiking interest rates

The New York Times has a story that will make you want to throw up a little: Citibank and other predatory lenders  have been bribing state legislatures to pass laws increasing the interest rates and fees they can impose on people, including many serving in the military, with low credit scores.
Under the previous law, lenders could charge 30 percent interest on loans up to $1,000 and 18 percent on a remaining balance of $6,500. The new law allows for rates of up to 30 percent on the first $4,000 of a loan and 24 percent on the next $4,000.
North Carolina lawmakers, meanwhile, collected hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign donations from the consumer finance industry. Speaker Thom Tillis, who supported the bill in the House, was one of the biggest beneficiaries. Mr. Tillis, a Republican who is running for United States Senate, has received more money from the American Financial Services Association than any other Senate candidate, according to
Mr. Tillis’s campaign manager, Jordan Shaw, said the donations did not sway his voting record. “He wanted to make sure that people still have these loans as an option,” Mr. Shaw said.
How about paying people a living wage? Is some of the pressure against raising wages coming from the banks which literally make out like bandits charging obscene rates on their impoverished customers?

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Another real email from a fake academic conference

Undoubtedly because I am such a leading, nay, 'on the platform ', researcher in Education or STEM fields, I received a 'call for papers' from the organizers of this conference.
The 2015 Hawaii University International Conferences (HUIC) on Education and STEM welcomes and invites papers (in English only) from all areas of Education, Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, and related fields. The conference will be held from June 13 to 15 (Saturday through Monday) at the Ala Moana Hotel, in Honolulu Hawaii.

The conference main objective is to provide a platform for researchers, engineers, and academicians as well as industrial professionals from all over the world to present their research results and development in their related fields.
'What fields?', you may ask.  And the organizers answer:

  • Academic Advising and Counseling
  • Art Education
  • Adult Education
  • Business Education
  • Counselor Education
  • Curriculum, Research and Development
  • Distance Education
  • Early Childhood Education/Elementary Education
  • Human Resource Development
  • Indigenous Education
  • Kinesiology & Leisure Science
  • Language Education
  • Music Education
  • Reading Education
  • Rural Education
  • Science Education
  • Secondary Education
  • Social Studies Education
  • Special Education
  • Student Affairs
  • Educational Administration
  • Educational Foundations
  • Educational Measurement and Evaluation
  • Educational Psychology
  • Education Technology
  • Education Policy and Leadership
  • Health Education
  • Higher Education
  • Teacher Education
  • Second Language Studies
  • Sociology
  • Social Science
  • Speech/Communication and Translation
  • Theatre
  • Urban and Regional Planning
  • Visual Arts
  • Women's Studies
  • Inter-disciplinary and other areas of Education

Science Topics & Focus Areas
Original contributions on topics covered under broad areas but not limited to:
  • Anatomy, Biochemistry & Physiology
  • Animal Sciences
  • Physical Sciences
  • Biological Engineering
  • Biology
  • Botany
  • Cell and Molecular Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Communication Sciences and Disorders
  • Complementary and Alternative Medicine
  • Environmental Science
  • Food Science and Human Nutrition
  • Forensic Sciences
  • General Biology
  • Health Science
  • Human and Health Services
  • Information and Computer Sciences
  • Mathematics
  • Medical Technology
  • Microbiology
  • Natural Resources and Environmental
  • Management
  • Natural Science
  • Physics and Astronomy
  • Political Science
  • Psychology
  • The Molecular Biosciences and Biotechnology
  • Inter-disciplinary Areas of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics

Technology and Engineering Topics & Focus Areas
Original contributions on topics covered under broad areas but not limited to:
  • Low Power VLSI Design
  • 3 D Integrated Circuit Design
  • Current Trends in Semiconductor Devices
  • Programming and Logic Devices
  • Wireless Communications
  • Embedded Technology
  • Biomedical Engineering and Technology
  • Mechatronics/MEMS/NEMS/Robotics/Automation
  • Renewable and Non-renewable Conventional Energy Sources
  • Bioinformatics
  • Material science and Engineering
  • Nanotechnology
  • Reliability Engineering
  • Optimization Technologies
  • Non-traditional Manufacturing Process
  • Agile, Lean and Jet Manufacturing
  • Industrial Engineering and Management
  • Education Technology
  • Entrepreneurship Development
  • Partnership Between Academia and the Corporate World

Math Topics & Focus Areas

Original contributions on topics covered under broad areas but not limited to:
  • Algebra
  • Applied Mathematics
  • Calculus
  • Computational Mathematics
  • Discrete Mathematics
  • Foundations of Mathematics
  • Financial Mathematics
  • Finite Mathematics
  • Fractals
  • Geometry
  • History of Mathematics
  • Logic
  • Mathematics Education
  • Number Theory
  • Numerical Analysis
  • Philosophy of Mathematics
  • Pre-Algebra
  • Pre-Calculus
  • Probability
  • Psychology of Teaching and Learning Mathematics
  • Statistics
  • Topology
  • Inter-disciplinary Areas of Mathematics
  • Other Area Related to Mathematics Research and Practices
It looks to be a hellava conference, focused like a laser beam on the beach and padding cv's.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Pumpkin riots

Rioting while white in New Hampshire:
Keene, New Hampshire’s 24th Annual Pumpkin festival burst into a riot Saturday night, requiring riot cops, tear gas, pepper spray, and even a response from the governor’s office. The festival has a history of violence, with over 140 arrests last year, and the city has been unable to figure out a way to contain the chaos.
There must be some pathology deep within white culture that generates this annual white-on-white violence, this pumpkin fueled mayhem, this thuggish disrespect for the Halloween traditions that true Americans hold sacred.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Contagious incompetence

I'm filing this under: "I've had it up to here with this bullshit":

"It may make sense for us to have one person ... so that after this initial surge of activity we can have a more regular process just to make sure we are crossing all the T's and dotting all the I's," Obama said Thursday of the possibility of naming an "Ebola czar."
Dumb question: Wouldn't it make sense to have someone overseeing the Ebola effort to actually know what the crossed T's and dotted I's spell? Like someone in medicine?Like, perhaps a surgeon general?
Klain is currently the president and general counsel of the investment firm Revolution. He previously served as the chief of staff to Vice President Joe Biden and led former Vice President Al Gore's Florida recount effort.
So Obama is turning to a proven incompetent hack, someone who ran Gore's 2000 campaign into the ground, and didn't exactly cover himself in glory in his subsequent political hackery roles, someone with absolutely no background in infectious disease, public health or medicine, but who sucks on the teat of the financial industry with no particular notable success.

I've been trying to figure out why this pisses me off so much since it is just one more tired instance of the familiar pattern of governance in the waning years of the US empire: proven failures recycling through high level appointments, being promoted upward each time they fail. But this one makes my gorge rise. Maybe it's because Ebola is, you know, real, and the terrorized response we are seeing in the media can lead to real harm. And maybe  the entrenchment of incompetence is the infectious disease we should all be worrying about.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Don't do stupid stuff

File this under 'no shit, sherlock':
The Central Intelligence Agency has run guns to insurgencies across the world during its 67-year history — from Angola to Nicaragua to Cuba. The continuing C.I.A. effort to train Syrian rebels is just the latest example of an American president becoming enticed by the prospect of using the spy agency to covertly arm and train rebel groups.
An internal C.I.A. study has found that it rarely works.
And by' rarely', they mean 'never' unless you judge that arming the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan to fight the Soviets was a success, given that many of these fighters morphed into al-Qaeda.
The still-classified review, one of several C.I.A. studies commissioned in 2012 and 2013 in the midst of the Obama administration’s protracted debate about whether to wade into the Syrian civil war, concluded that many past attempts by the agency to arm foreign forces covertly had a minimal impact on the long-term outcome of a conflict. They were even less effective, the report found, when the militias fought without any direct American support on the ground.
The findings of the study, described in recent weeks by current and former American government officials, were presented in the White House Situation Room and led to deep skepticism among some senior Obama administration officials about the wisdom of arming and training members of a fractured Syrian opposition.
But in April 2013, President Obama authorized the C.I.A. to begin a program to arm the rebels at a base in Jordan, and more recently the administration decided to expand the training mission with a larger parallel Pentagon program in Saudi Arabia to train “vetted” rebels to battle fighters of the Islamic State, with the aim of training approximately 5,000 rebel troops per year.
So far the efforts have been limited, and American officials said that the fact that the C.I.A. took a dim view of its own past efforts to arm rebel forces fed Mr. Obama’s reluctance to begin the covert operation.
“One of the things that Obama wanted to know was: Did this ever work?” said one former senior administration official who participated in the debate and spoke anonymously because he was discussing a classified report. The C.I.A. report, he said, “was pretty dour in its conclusions.”
But maybe this time things will be different, our forever war cheerleaders tell us. With enough boots on the ground....

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Zombie eyed granny starver denies facts and science

How is this clown still a thing?


Now compare:


 See the resemblance?

How Black America measures up to other countries

Theodore Johnson raises a fascinating question, then begins to show us the answer:
This decades-old conversation invites a thought experiment: If black America were a nation-state, how would it stack up against other countries? How would it fare on standard measures of national power and weakness?
Look at some of his infographics:

These graphics show, among many other things, why we need a word in English meaning "enlightenment leading to depression". Reviewing them, I experienced both. Look at the rest for yourself.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Reactive attitudes and violence

On the heels of yet another police shooting of a young black man in St. Louis (and who knows how many others over the last weeks), philosopher Kate Manne makes a plausible case that these shootings do not stem from the police failing to see the common humanity in their victims but rather, they grow from a recognition of that common humanity, coupled with the fear that these fellow humans are refusing to accept their low status on the social hierarchy.
[i]t is likely to come out in momentary flashes of aggression for some white men when they are feeling threatened. That “Bring it, you [expletive] animals, bring it!” that the Ferguson police officer spat at the protesters back in August should be heard in this vein as a slur and a battle cry. As Kwame Anthony Appiah has argued, those accused of dehumanizing others often “acknowledge their victims’ humanity in the very act of humiliating, stigmatizing, reviling and torturing them.” The cop put these people down by likening them to animals — an insult that depends, for its humiliating quality, on its targets’ distinctively human desire to be recognized as human beings. The cop also declared his readiness to fight for his position in the existing social hierarchy. And the hierarchy assumes that we are all people — some of whom are more equal than others, naturally. This is the nature of domination and subordination relations, which have been theorized by Catharine MacKinnon and Sally Haslanger, among others. They require that there be people ranked above and/or beneath you. And it is important that we all know our place, if only tacitly.
The humanist line on Ferguson hence fails to explain what seems to provoke the aggression — namely, acts of political and personal defiance, which only people can demonstrate. Moreover, it is hardly surprising that historically subordinated people should be perceived in this way when they try to assert themselves around, or over, dominant group members. They are liable to be perceived as belligerent, “uppity,” insubordinate or out of order.
This is a plausible hypothesis about what happened in Michael Brown’s case as well. The exact events remain in some dispute, but most agree on the same basic sequence. What seemed to set Wilson off was that Brown challenged his authority. The incident began when Brown ignored Wilson’s orders to get out of the center of the street, where he and his friend had been walking. Wilson drove off, apparently cowed. He then seems to have changed his mind, decided to stand his ground, have a do-over. He slammed his car into reverse; by some accounts, he was taunted by Brown, following a physical altercation. In the end, Wilson shot Brown at least six times, including twice in the head, and reportedly kept shooting after Brown surrendered. But at that point, it seems, it was too late for deference.
The humanist line on Ferguson also fails to explain the quality of the aggression, which has a resentful, vindictive tenor. After he was killed, Brown’s body was left uncovered on the street for some four hours afterwards, to add deep social insult to fatal physical injury. And when another young black man, Kajieme Powell, was shot and killed a mere 10 days later in St. Louis, the police officers who shot him did something extraordinary. After they had killed him, they handcuffed his dead body. Powell had been staggering around with a small knife, apparently trying to commit so-called suicide by cop. The man clearly needed some help to raise him up again. Instead, the police shot him down, and arrested him post mortem.
These actions, as well as being shameful, reveal a resentful and punitive mentality behind the aggression, which are classic examples of what the English philosopher P. F. Strawson famously called the interpersonal “reactive attitudes.” These attitudes are held to be both distinctive and central to our dealings with other human beings — that is, with people who we recognize as such, or as fully paid-up members in this club we call humanity. When it comes to animals and children and people we regard as (temporarily or permanently) not in control of their actions, we may try to correct, manage, deter or restrain their behavior. But, ordinarily and ideally, we do not resent it. They are not moral agents. We can’t really blame them.
And resentment and blame, along with punitive behavior and the associated social practices, are precisely what black people in this country are being systematically subjected to at present, at every level of the criminal justice system. Black people are proportionately far more likely to be stopped, frisked, searched, arrested, tased, charged, tried, convicted, incarcerated and executed (by means that are often grossly unconstitutional). Black bodies are routinely being policed and punished without mercy. And we don’t police animals in this way. Nor do we punish them in this spirit.
Unfortunately, seeing people’s humanity is only the moral beginning. Sometimes people will be punished for the crime of being people.
---people, that is, who don't know their place.