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Topics - Ageless the Drifter

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General Disconation / Watch your credit cards
« on: December 26, 2014, 08:00:25 PM »

On Friday, a group claiming affiliation with the loose hacker collective Anonymous released a document containing approximately 13,000 username-and-password combinations along with credit card numbers and expiration dates.

    You might want to change your password and start monitoring your credit card for any suspicious charges.

The stolen personal information was released in a massive text file posted the document sharing site Ghostbin. The compromised sites run the gamut from pornography to gaming to online shopping.

The most significant leaks came from online video gaming networks like Xbox Live, the Sony Playstation Network, and There are were breaches of Walmart, Amazon, and Hulu Plus accounts, as well as keys to computer games such as The Sims 3 and Dragon Age: Origins. Also, a whole lot of porn sites.

Judging from the document, the following sites were compromised. If you have an account with any of these places, you might want to change your password and start monitoring your credit card for any suspicious charges.

    PlayStation Network
    Xbox Live
    Hulu Plus

In a effort to be topical, the hackers also put up a link to where people can download a copy of The Interview, for freedom.

This holiday season has been a busy one for high-profile cyberattacks. On Christmas Day, a hacker collective called Lizard Squad shut down both Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network, before turning their attention to the online anonymity network Tor.

Photo via edans/flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Spamalot / post your desktop
« on: December 25, 2014, 05:16:19 PM »
new compy--needs new wallpaper. Gimme inspiration

Tech Heads / stuck with windows 8
« on: December 25, 2014, 02:15:59 PM »
what're the cool kids doing to get rid of the shitty start-screen and get the classic start button? I see but but if I must immediately load my new compy up with third-party crap that affects the whole system I don't wanna jump on the first thing that pops up.

Didn't M$ cave and release a package that replaces the start menu after everyone nerd raged?

In case you didn't hear, CAH sold thousands of people boxes of actual bullshit recently. That was pretty funny. But apparently they also put the money to good use:

Instead of bribing our elected officials, we gave $250,000 to the Sunlight Foundation - a nonprofit that lets us see who's spending money in politics and how much they're spending.

You can use the Sunlight Foundation’s tools to see who’s giving money to your officials using Influence Explorer, and you can find out who represents you and what they vote for using OpenCongress.

You can also learn about the important work that the Sunlight Foundation is doing to create a more open, transparent government at

So that's p cool

General Disconation / why is ticket scalping not illegal on the internet
« on: December 19, 2014, 03:31:08 PM »

General Disconation / US making amends with Cuba
« on: December 17, 2014, 03:56:13 PM »
President Obama Delivers a Statement on Cuba

Soon they too can know what HFCS and McDonalds taste like

General Disconation / Attn: TZT Physical Therapists
« on: December 17, 2014, 03:23:40 PM »
I've got a bum shoulder.

It's been like this for a long time, but I feel like it's maybe gradually getting worse. I'm assuming I blew the cartilage out of it or something.

If I lay flat on my back with my arms against my side, and then try to slowly swing them around (keeping them straight, and against the floor), my right arm will come all the way around until my right hand is "over" my head, but my left arm won't go much more than maybe 20 degrees past horizontal (ie the point where my arms form a straight line with each other).

If I lay on the floor and point toward the ceiling, I can let my arm descend straight back so that my left hand is "over" my head, but it's a bit uncomfortable and I have to do it slowly. From there, I can't swing it down to my side--it won't go more than maybe 10 degrees without feeling like it's going to pop.

If I point straight at the ceiling and try to let my arm descend straight into that zone (between 20 and 80 degrees from the horizontal), that hurts pretty bad, and I have to relax pretty carefully in order to let my shoulder rest on the floor without a lot of pain.

Is this something I can sort out with careful stretching/exercise, or is this permanent damage to something? What do.


Peru to take legal action over Greenpeace stunt at ancient Nazca lines

Peru will seek criminal charges against Greenpeace activists who it says damaged the world-renowned Nazca lines by leaving footprints in the adjacent desert during a publicity stunt.

“It’s a true slap in the face at everything Peruvians consider sacred,” said Luis Jaime Castillo, the deputy culture minister, after the action by the environmental group on Monday, at the famed drawings etched into Peru’s coastal desert, a UN world heritage site.

He said the government was seeking to prevent those responsible from leaving the country while it asks prosecutors to file charges of attacking archaeological monuments, a crime punishable by up to six years in prison.

The activists entered a “strictly prohibited” area beside the figure of a hummingbird, the culture ministry said. They laid big yellow cloth letters reading: “Time for Change! The Future is Renewable.” The message was intended for delegates from 190 countries at the UN climate talks being held in Lima.

Castillo said no one, not even presidents and cabinet ministers, was allowed where the activists had gone without authorisation and anyone who received permission must wear special shoes.

The Nazca lines are huge figures depicting living creatures, stylised plants and imaginary figures scratched on the surface of the ground between 1,500 and 2,000 years ago. They are believed to have had ritual functions related to astronomy.
Outline of Hands, Nazca Lines Giant hands adorn the desert as part of the Nazca lines, which were etched into the ground between 1,500 and 2,000 years ago. Photograph: Kevin Schafer/ Corbis

“They are absolutely fragile. They are black rocks on a white background. You walk there and the footprint is going to last hundreds or thousands of years,” Castillo said. “And the line that they have destroyed is the most visible and most recognised of all.”

Tina Loeffelbein, spokeswoman for Greenpeace, said the activists were “absolutely careful to protect the Nazca lines” and that the group was taking the case seriously and investigating.

She declined to answer further questions, such as whether Greenpeace intended to identify to authorities the people involved, which the government has demanded.

“Peru has nothing against the message of Greenpeace. We are all concerned about climate change,” said Castillo. “But the means doesn’t justify the ends.”
A candelabra type form drawn into the desert, in Paracas, Peru, related to the Nazca Lines in appearance. A candelabra type form drawn into the desert in Paracas, Peru, related to the Nazca Lines in appearance. Photograph: Roman Soumar/Corbis

A week earlier, Greenpeace projected a message promoting solar energy on to Huayna Picchu, the mountain that overlooks the ancient city of Machu Picchu, another protected ancient site in Peru.

Greenpeace regularly protests against governments and corporations with actions that sometimes lead to arrests and jail. In March, seven activists were arrested for unfurling banners from the roof of the headquarters of Procter & Gamble to protest against the corporation’s use of palm oil, which Greenpeace linked to rainforest destruction.

A lawyer for the seven said last week that they would plead guilty to lesser charges of criminal trespass to avoid a trial on felony charges.


Spamalot / A game about TZT
« on: December 06, 2014, 08:36:58 PM »

General Disconation / Abolish the Senate
« on: December 04, 2014, 11:55:38 AM »

With Republican Senate victories in Montana, South Dakota, Iowa, Arkansas, Colorado, North Carolina, and West Virginia, Democrats are reeling from their worst political drubbing in decades. Things, the pundit class proclaims, will never be the same.

The GOP’s 2014 Senate sweep is indeed big news, which is why it’s generated such massive headlines. But an even bigger story concerns the nature of the chamber the Republicans have just captured.

The US Senate is by now the most unrepresentative major legislature in the “democratic world.” Thanks to the principle of equal state representation, which grants each state two senators regardless of population, the great majority of people end up grossly marginalized by the body. It’s a problem that has only gotten worse over time.

    Although California has the same number of votes as Wyoming, its population, currently at 38.3 million, is now some 65 times larger. One Californian thus has 1.5 percent of the voting clout in Senate elections as someone living just a few hundred miles to the east.
    Since a majority of Americans now live in just nine states, they wind up with just eighteen votes while the minority holds eighty-two, a ratio of better than four to one.
    Thanks to the Senate’s bizarre filibuster rules, forty-one senators representing less than 11 percent of the population can prevent any bill from even coming to a vote.
    Thanks to the requirement that proposed constitutional amendments be approved by at least two-thirds of each house, thirty-four senators from states representing just 5 percent of the population can veto any constitutional change, no matter how minor.
    The same goes for treaties, which also require two-thirds approval.
    The Senate “hold” system is even more unjust since it allows a single senator representing as little as one citizen in a thousand to stall a bill or executive appointment almost indefinitely.

The upshot is one of the most cockeyed systems of minority rule in history, one that allows tiny coteries to hold the entire country ransom until their demands are met. Congress is hardly the only bicameral legislature on earth. But while the British House of Lords, the Dutch Senate, and the German Bundesrat are often less than fully representative, their actual power ranges from minimal to non-existent, which helps soften the blow.

Yet thanks to Article I, which gives the Senate veto power over treaties and executive appointments, America’s upper chamber is actually more powerful than the lower and at the same time vastly more unequal.

It’s a double blow to democracy that feeds into American capitalism’s worst oligarchic tendencies. And yet the problem is almost completely invisible. Where one would expect millions of people in the streets protesting against US government’s resistance to one-person-one vote, the crowds are nowhere to be seen.

Not unexpectedly, equal state representation also turns out to be racially unrepresentative. While Hispanics and racial minorities make up 44 percent of the population in the ten largest states, all of which are heavily urbanized, they account for just 18 percent of the ten smallest states (in which individual voting power happens to be some eighteen times greater). Non-whites wind up hugely short-changed as a consequence. Yet while minority leaders have plenty to say about individual senators, they seem to have nothing to say about the institutionalized racism of the Senate as a whole.

Other groups are also penalized. Although women are not affected in the same way since their population is evenly distributed, issues like abortion and equal pay are hardly well served by an arrangement that multiplies the power of rural conservatives. But the LGBT community, whose most vocal activist base is typically in urban areas, does suffer from the Senate’s reign. Yet if the Lambda Legal Defense Fund or other gay advocacy groups have anything to say about equal state representation running contrary to their members’ interests, it has been so muted that no one has noticed.

The same goes for socialists, labor unions, health-care activists, conservationists, and others. All suffer under an exclusionary system that deprives progressive city dwellers of their rightful representation. Yet all are strangely acquiescent.

If Republicans proposed stripping workers of 80 percent of their voting rights, the uproar would be overwhelming. But since it is all the result of forces that the nation’s founders set in motion more than two centuries ago, there is only silence.

What can be the reason for such passivity? Any attempt at an answer requires a journey into the depths of American constitutionalism. As every political science student knows, Roger Sherman, a lawyer, shopkeeper, and surveyor turned politician, put forward his famous Connecticut Compromise midway through the 1787 Constitutional Convention in an effort to assuage fears that small states were about to be swamped by giants like Virginia and New York.

Instead of a unicameral system, Sherman’s modest proposal was to divide legislative responsibility between a lower house that would look after popular interests and an upper house that would attend to those of the states. American bicameralism, a variation on the British Parliament’s division between commons and lords, was born.

But that was not all the compromise entailed. It also required that the upper house be at least as powerful as the lower to ensure that state interests would be adequately protected, as well as modifications to the amending clause to see to it that the arrangement would be effectively immune to popular pressure. The upshot was the Senate’s enhanced power over treaties and appointments set forth in Article I, plus a clause in Article V stipulating “that no state, without its consent, shall be deprived of its equal suffrage in the Senate.”

Where other parts of the Constitution can be changed with the approval of two-thirds of each house and three-fourths of the states, any deviation from the principle of equal state representation in the Senate is forbidden without the states’ unanimous consent.

This was enough to render the Senate all but untouchable back in 1790 when Delaware was less than a twelfth the size of Virginia. But as the number of states has grown and population disparities have widened, the guarantees have only grown more ironclad. Today, a demographic microstate like Wyoming derives so much benefit from the system that the chances of it ever saying yes to reform approach zero. The very idea is unspeakable.

Given such obstacles, Americans have made the pragmatic decision to concentrate on what they can change and ignore what they can’t. But the problem involves not only specific legal impediments, but the very nature of the Constitution and its place in larger society.

Americans think of their Constitution as a document towering over society, hardly surprising since it preceded the nation and essentially gave rise to it, a process that continued through the Civil War and even after.

The Declaration of Independence said nothing about a nation-state, referring instead only to “the good people of these colonies,” which “of right ought to be free and independent states.” The Articles of Confederation, adopted in 1781, were equally chary, specifying that “each state retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence” and characterizing the new union as no more than “a firm league of friendship.”

“We the people,” the 1787 Constitution’s famous opening phrase, was the first official reference to Americans as anything approaching a single entity.

Americans view this as perfectly natural. After all, the Constitution created the federal government, which then laid the basis for the first stirrings of a unified society. But elsewhere the process was different. Beginning in the spring of 1789, the French convened the first national assembly, issued the Declaration of the Rights of Man, and stormed the Bastille, all without drafting a constitution until more than two years later.

The Constitution gave rise to the nation in America, the nation gave rise to the constitution in France.

As a result, the American nation was above the Constitution in one instance and below it in another. The preamble seemingly establishes “we the people” as the highest authority in the land since it describes them as ordaining one plan of government and, in the process, implicitly tossing out another, the ill-fated Articles of Confederation.

But the Constitution then goes on to subordinate the people by severely limiting their ability to change a document made in their name and in at least one instance, that of equal state representation, eliminating it altogether. The Constitution established the people as sovereign and non-sovereign in virtually the same breath.

It is tempting to dismiss the results as little more than a muddle. If a camel is a horse designed by a committee, then the Constitution, the product of four months of labor by fifty-five merchants, planters, and lawyers, is a multi-humped dromedary straight out of Dr. Seuss.

But one could also describe it in more modern terms as a kind of early computer program, one that switches on a processor, powers it up, and then orders it to perform certain specific tasks. The Constitution invests the people with just enough power to carry out the functions that it dictates.

If so, this explains a good deal about the American political system – its low ideological level, its narrowness of debate, its all-around thoughtlessness. Instead of freely thinking through the problems before them, Americans are required — programmed, actually — to think only in ways dictated by the founders.

They are creatures of a pre-ordained democracy that limits their role to filling in certain blanks. They will argue endlessly about the “necessary and proper” clause in Article I or the meaning of the Second Amendment, but never about why, after more than two centuries, they should remain bound by such precepts in the first place. They debate what the Constitution allows them to debate and disregard the rest.

Hence the silence over the undemocratic nature of the Senate. Since equal state representation is the single most immovable part of the political structure, it is the feature most resistant to popular pressure and therefore the one most off-limits to debate.

Americans campaign for and against various Senate candidates, they spend millions on political ads, and they beat their breasts when the wrong side wins. But they never pause to ask themselves why they play the game at all or what purpose it is serving in a democratic society.

Since they’re not programmed to think about such issues, they’re no more inclined to do so than a laptop is inclined to think about the merits of Microsoft Word.

This is the equivalent of what the Scottish New Left political theorist Tom Nairn once described as “royal socialism,” the notion that Labor MPs can nationalize industry, expand the welfare state, and promote equality all while kneeling before the queen and praying for a peerage. It assumes that progress can continue indefinitely within certain fixed parameters, whether those of an unwritten constitution in the United Kingdom or a 227-year-old written document in the United States that is all but unamendable.

But it can’t. Rather than a workers’ state, royal socialism in Britain led to the grotesque hypocrisy of the Tony Blair years and the growing financial dictatorship of the City of London. The American version has resulted in even worse, the eclipse of organized labor and a dramatic surge in income polarization, not to mention economic crisis, unemployment, and war in the Middle East.

Constitutional strictures thus have a way of turning on their supporters and biting them in the derriere when they least expect it. What seems generous and accommodating in one era becomes suffocating and restrictive in another. In the United States, an entire generation came of age thinking of the Supreme Court as the key to social progress. The deep freeze might continue on Capitol Hill while Ike continued to putter around the golf course, but “the Supremes” would return the Bill of Rights to all its glory.

But that was so last century. With the court restored to its normal historical conservatism and the executive branch likely to lurch to the right in 2016 as well, the strategy is by now exhausted. In Congress, the trench warfare meanwhile grows more and more dangerous.

Nation columnist Alexander Cockburn labored to put a positive spin on gridlock. “We like it,” he wrote in 2000, because it prevents conservatives from ramming through such initiatives as Social Security privatization and school vouchers. But that was wrong then and even more wrong now.

In the long run, it is plain that gridlock plays into the hands of the know-nothing right who want Americans to believe that democracy equals mob rule and that government is a dead end. The more democracy is made to tie itself in knots, the more frustrated working people grow and the more corporate interests have the field to themselves.

The Senate is now the center of the conspiracy. Republicans are rejoicing over what is likely to be a fifty-four to forty-six majority. But since their forces are concentrated in less populous states in the West and South, they actually represent fewer Americans than most people realize — just 46 percent.

In democratic terms — the only terms, of course, that count — they are still the minority party. But that will not stop them from making the utmost of their constitutional prerogatives.

Next year’s GOP freshmen include such troglodytes as software executive Steve Daines of Montana, who maintains that solar cycles cause global warming; millionaire “turnaround specialist” David Perdue of Georgia, who told a campaign rally, “I believe in the good Lord, I believe in the Bible, and I believe in our Constitution”; and IBM executive Thom Tillis of North Carolina, who is anti-abortion, anti-birth control, and a global warming skeptic to boot.

An increasingly undemocratic structure fuels a growing anti-democratic assault. Yet the problem can only grow worse. Over the next decade or so, the white portion of the ten largest states is projected to continue ticking downward, while the opposite will occur in the ten smallest.

By 2030, the population ratio between the largest and smallest state is estimated to increase from sixty-five to one to nearly eighty-nine to one. The Senate will be more racist as a consequence, more unrepresentative, and more of a plaything in the hands of the militant right.

If you want to know what the future looks like, to paraphrase Orwell, imagine the old pre-reform Mississippi state legislature stamping on democracy — forever. Reformers will face an uphill fight even in defending existing gains. Yet there will not be a thing that liberals will be able to do about it without going contrary to rules that they previously extolled. Their options will be either to stand by and watch as democracy rapidly unravels or somehow strike off into a radical new direction.

With growing income polarization and an increasingly rigid Constitution, the US political structure is more brittle than most people realize. Americans have not had a chance to vote on the Constitution as a whole since the ratification battles of 1787–88. And since only white male property owners were allowed to vote — with only a quarter actually choosing to do so — those contests hardly qualify as a democratic.

“We the people” have therefore never been consulted at all. They have merely acquiesced. But the big question is: for how long?

General Disconation / Doctor?
« on: December 02, 2014, 02:44:26 PM »
How do I adult?

I've literally never had a primary care physician. I've only ever gone to a doctor for immediate treatment of an immediate problem--usually walk-ins/emergency room.

I'm trying to book a routine physical. I signed up for Obamacare through Blue Cross/Blue Shield while I was still in Fl, but I called and they sent me a list of a bunch of doctors that supposedly take my plan.

But none of those doctors are taking new patients?

So much for preventative care. People used to pay for this fucking plan?


Six Myths About Climate Change that Liberals Rarely Question
by Erik Lindberg, originally published by Transition Milwaukee  | Nov 26, 2014

Myth #1:  Liberals Are Not In Denial

“We will not apologize for our way of life” –Barack Obama

The conservative denial of the very fact of climate change looms large in the minds of many liberals.  How, we ask, could people ignore so much solid and unrefuted evidence?   Will they deny the existence of fire as Rome burns once again?  With so much at stake, this denial is maddening, indeed.  But almost never discussed is an unfortunate side-effect of this denial: it has all but insured that any national debate in America will occur in a place where most liberals are not required to challenge any of their own beliefs.  The question has been reduced to a two-sided affair—is it happening or is it not—and liberals are obviously on the right side of that.

If we broadened the debate just a little bit, however, we would see that most liberals have just moved a giant boat-load of denial down-stream, and that this denial is as harmful as that of conservatives.  While the various aspects of liberal denial are my main overall topic, here, and will be addressed in our following five sections, they add up to the belief that we can avoid the most catastrophic levels of climate disruption without changing our fundamental way of life.  This is myth is based on errors that are as profound and basic as the conservative denial of climate change itself.

But before moving on, one more point about liberal and conservative denial: Naomi Klein has suggested that conservative denial may have its roots, it will surprise many liberals, in some pretty clear thinking.   At some level, she has observed, conservatives climate deniers understand that addressing climate change will, in fact, change our way of life, a way of life which conservatives often view as sacred.  This sort of change is so terrifying and unthinkable to them, she argues, that they cut the very possibility of climate change off at its knees:  fighting climate change would force us to change our way of life; our way of life is sacred and cannot be questioned; ergo, climate change cannot be happening.

We have a situation, then, where one half of the population says it is not happening, and the other half says it is happening but fighting it doesn’t have to change our way of life.  Like a dysfunctional and enabling married couple, the bickering and finger-pointing, and anger ensures that nothing has to change and that no one has to actually look deeply at themselves, even as the wheels are falling off the family-life they have co-created.  And so do Democrats and Republicans stay together in this unhappy and unproductive place of emotional self-protection and planetary ruin.

Myth #2:  Republicans are Still More to Blame

“Yes, America does face a cliff -- not a fiscal cliff but a set of precipices [including a carbon cliff] we'll tumble over because the GOP's obsession over government's size and spending has obscured them.”  -Robert Reich

It is true that conservative politicians in the United States and Europe have been intent on blocking international climate agreements; but by focusing on these failed agreements, which only require a baby-step in the right direction, liberals obliquely side-step the actual cause of global warming—namely, burning fossil fuels.  The denial of climate change isn’t responsible for the fact that we, in the United States, are responsible for about one quarter of all current emissions if you include the industrial products we consume (and an even greater percentage of all emissions over time), even though we make up only 6% of the world’s population.  Our high-consumption lifestyles are responsible for this.  Republicans do not emit an appreciably larger amount of carbon dioxide than Democrats.

Because pumping gasoline is our most direct connection to the burning of fossil fuels, most Americans overemphasize the significance of what sort of car we drive and many liberals might proudly point to their small economical cars or undersized SUVs.  While the transportation sector is responsible for a lot of our emissions, the carbon footprint of any one individual has much more to do with his or her overall levels of consumption of all kinds—the travel (especially on airplanes), the hotels and restaurants, the size and number of homes, the computers and other electronics, the recreational equipment and gear, the food, the clothes, and all the other goods, services, and amenities that accompany an affluent life.  It turns out that the best predictor of someone’s carbon footprint is income.  This is true whether you are comparing yourself to other Americans or to other people around the world.  Middle-class American professionals, academics, and business-people are among the world’s greatest carbon emitters and, as a group, are more responsible than any other single group for global warming, especially if we focus on discretionary consumption.  Accepting the fact of climate change, but then jetting off to the tropics, adding another oversized television to the collection, or buying a new Subaru involves a tremendous amount of denial.  There are no carbon offsets for ranting and raving about conservative climate-change deniers.

Myth #3:  Renewable Energy Can Replace Fossil Fuels

“We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories.” –Barack Obama

This is a hugely important point.  Everything else hinges on the myth that we might live a lifestyle similar to our current one powered by wind, solar, and biofuels.  Like the conservative belief that climate change cannot be happening, liberals believe that renewable energy must be a suitable replacement.  Neither view is particularly concerned with the evidence.

Conventional wisdom among American liberals assures us that we would be well on our way to a clean, green, low-carbon, renewable energy future were it not for the lobbying efforts of big oil companies and their Republican allies.  The truth is far more inconvenient than this: it will be all but impossible for our current level of consumption to be powered by anything but fossil fuels.  The liberal belief that energy sources such as wind, solar, and biofuels can replace oil, natural gas, and coal is a mirror image of the conservative denial of climate change: in both cases an overriding belief about the way the world works, or should work, is generally far stronger than any evidence one might present.  Denial is the biggest game in town.  Denial, as well as a misunderstanding about some fundamental features of energy, is what allows someone like Bill Gates assume that “an energy miracle” will be created with enough R & D.  Unfortunately, the lessons of microprocessors do not teach us anything about replacing oil, coal, and natural gas.

It is of course true that solar panels and wind turbines can create electricity, and that ethanol and bio-diesel can  power many of our vehicles, and this does lend a good bit of credibility to the claim that a broader transition should be possible—if we can only muster the political will and finance the necessary research.  But this view fails to take into account both the limitations of renewable energy and the very specific qualities of the fossil fuels around which we’ve built our way of life.  The myth that alternative sources of energy are perfectly capable of replacing fossil fuels and thus of maintaining our current way of life receives widespread support from our President to leading public intellectuals to most mainstream journalists, and receives additional backing from our self-image as a people so ingenious that there are no limits to what we can accomplish.  That fossil fuels have provided us with a one-time burst of unrepeatable energy and affluence (and ecological peril) flies in the face of nearly all the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves.  Just starting to dispel this myth requires that I go into the issue a bit more deeply and at greater length.

Because we have come to take the power and energy-concentration of fossil fuels for granted, and see our current lifestyle as normal, it is easy to ignore the way the average citizens of industrialized societies have an unprecedented amount of energy at their disposal.  Consider this for a moment: a single $3 gallon of gasoline provides the equivalent of about 80 days of hard manual labor.  Fill up your 15 gallon gas tank in your car, and you’ve just bought the same amount of energy that would take over three years of unremitting manual labor to reproduce.  Americans use more energy in a month than most of our great-grandparents used during their whole lifetime.  We live at a level, today, that in previous days could have only been supported by about 150 slaves for every American—though even that understates it, because we are at the same time beneficiaries of a societal infrastructure that is also only possible to create if we have seemingly limitless quantities of lightweight, relatively stable, easily transportable, and extremely inexpensive ready-to-burn fuel like oil or coal.

A single, small, and easily portable gallon of oil is the product of nearly 100 tons of surface-forming algae (imagine 5 dump trucks full of the stuff), which first collected enormous amounts of solar radiation before it was condensed, distilled, and pressure cooked for a half-billion years—and all at no cost to the humans who have come to depend on this concentrated energy.  There is no reason why we should be able to manufacture at a reasonable cost anything comparable.  And when we look at the specific qualities of renewable energy with any degree of detail we quickly see that we have not.  Currently only about a half of a percent of the total energy used in the United States is generated by wind, solar, biofuels, or geothermal heat.   The global total is not much higher, despite the much touted efforts in Germany, Spain, and now China.  In 2013, 1.1% of the world’s total energy was provided by wind and only 0.2% by solar.[ii]  As these low numbers suggest, one of the major limitations of renewable energy has to do with scale, whether we see this as a limitation in renewable energy itself, or remind ourselves that the expectations that fossil fuels have helped establish are unrealistic and unsustainable.

University of California physics professor Tom Murphy has provided detailed calculations about many of the issues of energy scale in his blog, “Do the Math.”  With the numbers adding up, we are no longer able to wave the magic wand of our faith in our own ingenuity and declare the solar future would be here, but for those who refuse to give in the funding it is due.  Consider a few representative examples: most of us have, for instance, heard at some point the sort of figure telling us that enough sun strikes the Earth every 104 minutes to power the entire world for a year.  But this only sounds good if you don’t perform any follow-up calculations.  As Murphy puts it,

"As reassuring as this picture is, the photovoltaic area [required] represents more than all the paved area in the world. This troubles me. I’ve criss-crossed the country many times now, and believe me, there is a lot of pavement. The paved infrastructure reflects a tremendous investment that took decades to build. And we’re talking about asphalt and concrete here: not high-tech semiconductor. I truly have a hard time grasping the scale such a photovoltaic deployment would represent.  And I’m not even addressing storage here." [iii]

In another post,[iv] Murphy calculates that a battery capable of storing this electricity in the U.S. alone (otherwise no electricity at night or during cloudy or windless spells) would require about three times as much lead as geologists estimate may exist in all reserves, most of which remain unknown.  If you count only the lead that we’ve actually discovered, Murphy explains, we only have 2% of the lead available for our national battery project.  The number are even more disheartening if you try to substitute lithium ion or other systems now only in the research phase.  The same story holds true for just about all the sources that even well-informed people assume are ready to replace fossil fuels, and which pundits will rattle off in an impressively long list with impressive sounding numbers of kilowatt hours produced.  Add them all up--even increase the efficiency to unanticipated levels and assume a limitless budget--and you will naturally have some big-sounding numbers; but then compare them to our current energy appetite, and you quickly see that we still run out of space, vital minerals and other raw materials, and in the meantime would probably have strip-mined a great deal of precious farmland, changed the earth’s wind patterns, and have affected the weather or other ecosystems in ways not yet imagined.

But the most significant limitation of fossil fuel’s alleged clean, green replacements has to do with the laws of physics and the way energy, itself, works.  A brief review of the way energy does what we want it to do will also help us see why it takes so many solar panels or wind turbines to do the work that a pickup truck full of coal or a small tank of crude oil can currently accomplish without breaking a sweat.  When someone tells us of the fantastic amounts of solar radiation that beats down on the Earth each day, we are being given a meaningless fact.  Energy doesn’t do work; only concentrated energy does work, and only while it is going from its concentrated state to a diffuse state—sort of like when you let go of a balloon and it flies around the room until its pressurized (or concentrated) air has joined the remaining more diffuse air in the room.

When we build wind turbines and solar panels, or grow plants that can be used for biofuels, we are “manually” concentrating the diffuse energy of the sun or in the wind—a task, not incidentally, that requires a good deal of energy.  The reason why these efforts, as impressive as they are, pale in relationship to fossil fuels has to do simply with the fact that we are attempting to do by way of a some clever engineering and manufacturing (and a considerable amount of energy) what the geology of the Earth did for free, but, of course, over a period of half a billion years with the immense pressures of the planet’s shifting tectonic plates or a hundred million years of sedimentation helping us out.  The “normal” society all of us have grown up with is a product of this one-time burst of a pre-concentrated, ready-to-burn fuel source.  It has provided us with countless wonders; but used without limits, it is threatening all life as we know it.

Myth 4: The Coming “Knowledge Economy” Will be a Low-Energy Economy

"The basic economic resource - the means of production - is no longer capital, nor natural resources, nor labor. It is and will be knowledge."  -Peter Drucker

“The economy of the last century was primarily based on natural resources, industrial machines and manual labor. . . . Today’s economy is very different. It is based primarily on knowledge and ideas — resources that are renewable and available to everyone.”  -Mark Zuckerberg

A “low energy knowledge economy,” when promised by powerful people like Barack Obama, Bill Gates, or Mark Zuckerberg, may still our fears about our current ecological trajectory.  At a gut level this vision of the future may match the direct experience of many middle-class American liberals.  Your father worked in a smelting factory; you spend your day behind a laptop computer, which can, in fact, be run on a very small amount of electricity.  Your carbon footprint must be lower, right?  Companies like Apple and Microsoft round out this hopeful fantasy with their clever and inspiring advertisements featuring children in Africa or China joining this global knowledge economy as they crowd cheerfully around a computer in some picturesque straw-hut school room.

But there’s a big problem with this picture.  This global economy may seem like it needs little more than an army of creative innovators and entrepreneurs tapping blithely on laptop computers at the local Starbucks.  But the real global economy still requires a growing fleet of container ships—and, of course, all the iron and steel used to build them, all the excavators used to mine it, all the asphalt needed to pave more of the world.  It needs a bigger and bigger fleet of UPS trucks and Fed Ex airplanes filling the skies with more and more carbon dioxide, it needs more paper, more plastic, more nickel, copper, and lead.  It requires food, bottled water, and of course lots and lots of coffee.  And more oil, coal, and natural gas.  As Juliet Schor reports, each American consumer requires “132,000 pounds of oil, sand, grain, iron ore, coal and wood” to maintain our current lifestyle each year.  That adds up to “an eye-popping 362 pounds a day.”[v]  And the gleeful African kids that Apple asks us to imagine joining the global economy?   They are far more likely to slave away in a gold mine or sift through junk hauled across the Atlantic looking for recyclable materials, than they are to be device-sporting global entrepreneurs.  The Microsoft ads are designed for us, not them.  Meanwhile, the numbers Schor reports are not going down in the age of “the global knowledge economy,” a term which should be consigned to history’s dustbin of misleading marketing slogans.

The “dematerialized labor” that accounts for the daily toil of the American middle class is, in fact, the clerical, management and promotional sector of an industrial machine that is still as energy-intensive and material-based as it ever was.   Only now, much of the sooty and smelly part has been off-shored to places far, far away from the people who talk hopefully about a coming global knowledge economy.  We like to pretend that the rest of the world can live like us, and we have certainly done our best to advertise, loan, seduce, and threaten people across the world to adopt our style, our values, and our wants.   But someone still has to do the smelting, the welding, the sorting, and run the ceaseless production lines.  And, moreover, if everyone lived like we do, took our vacations, drove our cars, ate our food, lived in our houses, filled them with oversized TVs and the endless array of throwaway gadgetry, the world would use four times as much energy and emit nearly four times as much carbon dioxide as it does now.  If even half the world’s population were to consume like we do, we would have long since barreled by the ecological point of no-return.

Economists speak reverently of a decoupling between economic growth and carbon emissions, but this decoupling is occurring at a far slower rate than the economy is growing.  There has never been any global economic growth that is not also accompanied by increased energy use and carbon emissions.  The only yearly decreases in emissions ever recorded have come during massive recessions.

Myth 5: We can Reverse Global Warming Without Changing our Current Lifestyles

“Saving the planet would be cheap; it might even be free. . . . [It] would have hardly any negative effect   on economic growth, and might actually lead to faster growth” –Paul Krugman

The upshot of the previous sections is that the comforts, luxuries, privileges, and pleasures that we tell ourselves are necessary for a happy or satisfying life are the most significant cause of global warming and that unless we quickly learn to organize our lives around another set of pleasures and satisfactions, it is extremely unlikely that our children or grandchildren will inherit a livable planet.  Because we are falsely reassured by liberal leaders that we can fight climate change without any inconvenience, it bears repeating this seldom spoken truth.  In order to adequately address climate change, people in rich industrial nations will have to reduce current levels of consumption to levels few are prepared to consider.  This truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.[vi] 

Global warming is not complicated: it is caused mainly by burning fossil fuels; fossil fuels are burned in the greatest quantity by wealthy people and nations and for the products they buy and use.  The larger the reach of a middle-class global society, the more carbon emissions there have been.  While conservatives deny the science of global warming, liberals deny the only real solution to preventing its most horrific consequences—using less and powering down, perhaps starting with the global leaders in style and taste (as well as emissions), the American middle-class.  In the meantime we continue to pump more and more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere with each passing year.

Myth 6: There is Nothing I Can Do.

The problem is daunting; making changes can be difficult.[vii]  But not only can you do something, you can’t not do anything.  Either you will continue to buy, use, and consume as if there is no tomorrow; or you will make substantial changes to the way you live.  Both choices are “doing something.”   Either you will emit far more CO2 than people in most parts of the globe; or you will bring your carbon footprint to an equitable level.  Either you will turn away, ignore the warnings, bury your head in the sand; or you will begin to take a strong stance on perhaps the most significant moral challenge in the history of humanity.  Either you will be a willing party to the most destructive thing humans have ever done; or you will resist the wants, the beliefs, and the expectations that are as important to a consumption-based global economy as the fossil fuels that power it.   As Americans we have already done just about everything possible to bring the planet to the brink of what scientists are now calling “the sixth great extinction.”  We can either keep on doing more of the same; or we can work to undo the damage we have done and from which we have most benefitted. 

I hear a lot of my more radically-left pals making these arguments. I feel like the punchline is worth-while, but I also think that the argument seems to be rooted in the assumption that the possibility of 'progress in renewable energy' is limited in principle to using already-existing technology on a larger scale, which seems too pessimistic.

Spamalot / lotta broken imgur images on TZT lately
« on: November 25, 2014, 08:37:48 PM »
what is up with that

Agrulian Archives / Agrul where can I buy the cheapest textbooks.
« on: November 20, 2014, 03:24:09 PM »
Agrul where can I buy the cheapest textbooks.

I miss all the text books I abandoned when I moved away and cannot afford to replace them. Why don't libraries carry textbooks??

General Disconation / Anyone knowledgeable about mopeds? (Salviadiv?)
« on: November 17, 2014, 03:10:51 PM »
Was it Salviadiv who was the huge moped buff? Does he even lurk anymore?

Anyway I sold my car when I left Florida because public transit+bicycles were enough in Denver in the Summer and I thought I'd be overseas by now.

But while public transit+bicycle is sufficient in Portland in the Fall, it's not quite ideal, and it's definitely not gonna cut it for frequent long-hauls across town in the winter, so I'm looking to buy something small for getting around town.

I know mopeds are notoriously unreliable, though--I don't want all the savings on gas and insurance to go into constant repairs. So is there a reliable sort I should be looking out for? Preferably on the cheap (but I realize of course that those goals are largely mutually exclusive). Any other tips/advice?

General Disconation / Hoverboard (for real this time)
« on: November 17, 2014, 12:25:26 PM »
Just watched the video, didn't read anything, but it looks disappointing enough to be real. I'm guessing they used quantum locking to pull this off (edit: according to the second video this is in fact the case) and it only works on that metal halfpipe and that the halfpipe probably costs $100k per second to run and $14524352345245 to build

But still kinda neat

Crave - Taking a spin on a real-life hoverboard

Spamalot / evil stick
« on: November 11, 2014, 11:04:57 PM »
Lol wtf

'Evil Stick' wand toy for toddlers reveals picture of a young girl slitting her wrists with knife

Spamalot / too many cooks
« on: November 07, 2014, 02:11:15 PM »
Infomercials - Too Many Cooks [adult swim]

Apparently aired on Adult Swim at 4AM without being listed anywhere. Watch the whole thing.

No airline'll take a dog in-cabin that can't walk around comfortably in an 8.5" tall carrier, and most won't check animals in cargo--which is probably super miserable for the dogs, anyway, and they don't allow sedation.

UPS and FedEx won't even ship mammals, period.

Wtf airplanes, how am I supposed to regale the ailing state of Florida with Euler's presence this xmas season??

Spamalot / A compelling video about Shia Labeouf
« on: October 23, 2014, 01:24:39 PM »
"Shia LaBeouf" Live - Rob Cantor


Officials in the City of South Miami have passed a resolution in favor of splitting the state in half so South Florida would become the 51st state.

Vice Mayor Walter Harris proposed the resolution and it passed with a 3-2 vote at the city commission meeting on Oct. 7.

Harris told the commission that Tallahassee isn't providing South Florida with proper representation or addressing its concerns when it comes to sea-level rising.
Officials want South Florida to break off into its own state
Officials in the City of South Miami have passed a resolution in favor of splitting the state in half so South Florida would become the 51st state.

"We have to be able to deal directly with this environmental concern and we can’t really get it done in Tallahassee," Harris said. "I don’t care what people think -- it’s not a matter of electing the right people."

Mayor Philip Stoddard agreed with Harris' reasoning, saying he's advocated for secession for the past 15 years but never penned a resolution.

“It’s very apparent that the attitude of the northern part of the state is that they would just love to saw the state in half and just let us float off into the Caribbean," Stoddard said. "They’ve made that abundantly clear every possible opportunity and I would love to give them the opportunity to do that.”

But the vote wasn't unanimous. Commissioners Gabriel Edmond and Josh Liebman voted against the resolution with Edmond, a history teacher, being the most vocal about it.

"I just want you guys to be careful because if you vote for this you’re setting a precedent that if other people in this city don’t like our representation or feel we’re not responsive to them they might say ‘we want to break away from the city of South Miami’.”
State of South Florida
Officials in the city of South Miami proposed that each county shown in orange separate from the rest of the state to become the state of South Florida. (Charles Minshew)

The resolution lists the northern border of what would be the state of South Florida as being Brevard, Orange, Polk, Hillsborough and Pinellas counties.

Orange County is particularly important because that's where the South Florida Water Management District begins, Harris said. It was even suggested that a Central Florida city could possibly be the state of South Florida's capitol.

In total, the proposed 51st state would include 24 counties.

The resolution's 3-2 approval paved the way for it to be sent to the governing bodies of the proposed South Florida counties for consideration. In order for secession to be enacted, however, the measure would require electorate approval from the entire state and Congressional approval.

Tech Heads / Ugh
« on: October 18, 2014, 08:47:40 PM »
Finally decided to say fuck it and put Windows back on my box after being throttled in productivity by linux for ~4 months

Shortly beforehand I'd started getting S.M.A.R.T test notices saying my HD is gonna die soon

But I went ahead and put Windows back on anyway. Spent a day getting it all set up because I had some trouble with drivers since I didn't use the original Win disk ASUS gave me that included drivers and whatnot.

The within like five minutes of finally getting my touchpad all set up the way I like it (more or less, the new Elantech drivers are shit), my charger completely gave up the ghost.

So I borrowed a charger from a friend who doesn't have a laptop anymore and said I could keep it. Turned out to be the right one, by chance. Plug it in, nothing happens. Got a bad DC jack. But it's not worth replacing the jack because the HD could tank any time. Replacing both'd be cheaper than buying a new laptop, I guess, but I'm gonna be without for a while, anyway--moving halfway across the country twice in 6 months has left me broke as fuuuuuuu

Just ugh.


Pay per Laugh | TeatreNeu on Vimeo

Even though this could only lower the cost of attendance I feel like the distraction of wondering how much money I'm spending and trying to control it would spoil the experience a bit.

General Disconation / World's Scariest Haunted House
« on: October 10, 2014, 10:47:46 PM »

This isn’t your average haunted house… it’s honestly a walk through your worst nightmares, and by walk I mean gauntlet. Located in San Diego, McKamey Manor is one of the most intense and scariest haunted houses on the planet….. and that’s putting it lightly. Russ McKamey is the evil genius behind this haunt that he started about 14 years ago.

Here are a few requirements you must pass to even be able to enter: you now must be 21 years of age (previously was 18), you’re required to sign a wavier, and you must be in excellent physical condition. Only two people go in at a time, and get this… it can last anywhere from 4 – 7 hours. They actually now only take four people through the haunted house each week.

They’re allowed to touch you, gag you, put a bag over your head and pretty much anything that’s not illegal. It’s also one of the few haunted houses that stays open year round, and the only haunted house in the world where admission is free….. I’m serious. Check out the promo video below, it’s from 2013.

Think you can handle it?? Check out their website here and make your reservation…. oh and just because you make a reservation doesn’t mean you will get selected. It’s almost like by invitation only, or how Russ likes to call it, a “Golden Ticket”.


I'm guessing people subject themselves to this to prove they're tough/build character and in most cases come out with PTSD. The fact that it can last anywhere between 4 and 7 hours makes me wonder if they don't just keep you in certain locations till they break you.

General Disconation / Art people + technophiles: Tablet shopping
« on: October 10, 2014, 02:34:37 PM »
Hey ya'll

I'm broke as fuck but I want to start putting away money for a touch-screen tablet for drawing on, and I dunno what's good these days. If I remember correctly, back in the day "tablet" pretty much meant "pen-mouse pad with a screen in it" and was primarily a digital art thing, but now "tablet" means "Galaxy S_ with a larger screen" and I dunno if that kind of thing is worth a shit for what I need it for.

So what's good for that these days? I imagine the top of the line is way outside my budget if I wanna be able to buy the thing in the next year, but I don't need bleeding edge, just not hardly-functional. I think Gabe from Penny Arcade draws on a Surface Pro, so maybe that's pretty good?

I figured we've got at least a couple serious artists here that might have opinions.

General Disconation / Twin Peaks revival
« on: October 06, 2014, 03:09:35 PM »
In case your facebook news feed isn't as flooded with excitement about this as mine is

“Twin Peaks,” the ABC series that was a forerunner of today’s offbeat serialized cable dramas, is coming back to life with nine new episodes to air on Showtime in 2016.

Series creators David Lynch and Mark Frost are working away on the scripts, with Lynch planning to direct all nine episodes. The episodes are expected to bow in early 2016, which would coincide with the 25th anniversary of the show’s demise after two seasons on ABC in 1990 and 1991.

The new segs will be set in the present day and continue storylines established in the second season. Frost emphasized that the new episodes will not be a remake or reboot but will reflect the passage of time since viewers last checked in with key characters. As part of the deal, Showtime will rerun episodes from the original series’ first two seasons leading up to the 2016 premiere.

Frost would not elaborate on plot details or even the characters that will come into play. But the story threads that will picked up were “baked in to the last episode,” Frost told Variety. He called it “the next chapter of the story” and said that the passage of 25 years will be an important element in the plot.

“For those followers of the show who felt bereft when the show ended where it did all those years ago are going to like where it goes from here,” Frost assured. “And we hope that a lot of people who haven’t been to Twin Peaks yet are going to be equally interested in where the story goes from where we left off.”

“Twin Peaks” was ahead of its time in its unusual, often surreal approach to telling the yarn of a murder mystery in a fictional small town in Washington state. The show bowed with a ton of buzz — Lynch was red-hot as a feature helmer at the time — but it had little in the way of a sustained audience by broadcast TV standards of the day.

The series has remained a cult favorite over the years and thus was a ripe candidate for revival amid the general mania in the TV biz for reinventing vintage film and TV titles.

Lynch and Frost have retained ownership of “Twin Peaks” all these years. CBS has distribution rights to the show through the deficit-financing pact that Lynch/Frost Prods. set back in the day with Aaron Spelling’s Worldvision distribution arm, which CBS now controls.

Another key connection that helped the new-model “Twin Peaks” land at Showtime is the pay cabler’s Gary Levine, exec VP of original programming, who was the ABC exec who developed and championed the show during its original run.

Lynch and Frost have talked about taking another run at the Twin Peaks world over the years, but the effort got serious about three years ago when the two had one of their semi-regular lunches at Hollywood’s Musso and Frank Grill. It was not lost on either of them that “Twin Peaks” had proved to be a TV pioneer in many respects. Aspects of the show that were seen as a handicap in the ABC days are now pillars of the contempo generation of edgy cable and pay cable series.

“I always felt that in ‘Twin Peaks’ we were more or less filming a novel — drilling down to a level of detail you weren’t used to seeing in network storytelling,” Frost said. “Over the years a lot of people have credited us with inspiring them to think differently in how to tell stories. Now that we’re doing (the show) again, I’m happy to come back and get in on the action.”

Lynch and Frost didn’t shop the series around. Showtime was a natural home because of the latitude offered by pay cable, plus the comfort level offered by the connection with Levine.

“Showtime was the place we felt most comfortable going to after meeting with Gary and (Showtime prexy) David Nevins and seeing their passion for the show,” Frost said. “Gary we consider a good friend and David I’ve known for quite a while.”

There’s no word yet about casting. In the original series, Kyle MacLachlan (pictured) played the pivotal role of the Agent Dale Cooper, the FBI agent who comes to the small town to investigate the murder of homecoming queen Laura Palmer.

After that mystery was solved, the show explored even more seamy goings-on and oddball characters in the town. The pilot for the original series was shot on location in Washington state, but subsequent episodes were primarly lensed on stages in the San Fernando Valley. There’s no decision yet on a shooting location for the new segs.

Frost said it was still to be determined whether the revival will be a one-time limited series or an ongoing effort.

“The proof will be in the pudding. If we have a great time doing it and everybody loves it and they decide there’s room for more, I could see it going that way,” he said. The original “Twin Peaks” premiered on April 8, 1990 and had its last original telecast in June 1991. A prequel story, “Twin Peaks: A Fire Walk with Me,” was released as a feature by New Line in 1992.

The TV series has endured for a new generation of fans through periodic homevid releases and more recently, a streaming pact with Netflix. The AFI hosted a tribute to the show in Los Angeles in July in connection with the Blu-ray/DVD release “Twin Peaks: The Entire Mystery.”

Given the show’s legacy and the rabid fandom it has inspired, Frost admitted that he and Lynch feel the pressure to make the new episodes worthy additions to the canon.

“We can’t rest on our laurels,” he said, which is a key reason why Lynch has committed to directing all nine hours.

“This show is a kind of thanks to all of the incredibly passionate fans we’ve had over the years that have kept the show alive and passed it down to the next generation,” Frost said. “We’ve been lucky enough to have one of the coolest, most intelligent, most inquisitive group of people attracted to our show. We’re happy for them that the show is coming back.”

In a statement issued by Showtime, Lynch and Frost quipped: “The mysterious and special world of Twin Peaks is pulling us back. We’re very excited. May the forest be with you.”

Was kinda disappointed in the article after reading the headline--I don't think the smarm is quite warranted beyond the fact that it's kinda nice to see people who think there shouldn't be child labor laws get suckered. It's not like this instance really gives any evidence against the legitimacy of their ideology, though, since the community never had a chance to get going due to external government interference.

Still thought it was comment-worthy, though.

A community made up of American ex-pats deep in the South American hills of Chile – far away from America’s annoying taxes, healthcare mandate, and legal abortions — was supposed to be a libertarian paradise of rugged individualism. Instead it cost many of the people who bought into it almost everything, and now is buried under lawsuits — a reminder that everything that glitters is not inflation-proof, Ron Paul-backed gold.

It seems pretty obvious that basing one’s society on a single work of (poorly written) fiction is folly, but for many adherents of Ayn Rand and her seminal book of Objectivist allegorical grandstanding, Atlas Shrugged isn’t just any book. It’s about as close to the Bible that many libertarians have — apart from the Bible, of course. It’s influenced an astounding number of conservative public figures — from Ron Paul to Rand Paul to Ronald Reagan. Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney’s Rand-loving running mate and probable 2016 presidential contender, said it was his favorite book growing up.

    “I grew up reading Ayn Rand, and it taught me quite a bit about who I am and what my value systems are,” the congressman told a convention of Rand followers in 2005. Rand was “the reason I got involved in public service.” (source)

In many ways, the entire Republican ethos — hard-working job creators having their vitality leeched by lazy “takers” — stems from Rand and her rigidly anti-socialism ideology. In Atlas Shrugged, Rand explores the fantasy of leaving those poor, lazy, uneducated leeches behind, creating a new society of self-sufficient ubermenschs, living free from governmental or social tyranny. That is where the mysterious John Galt comes in. A man set on freeing these enslaved freedom-lovers from the shackles of the moochers. He creates a mountain home for his followers: Galt’s Gulch.

Let’s call it what it is: Libertarian fan fiction. An artificial world where hard work is all you need, and poor people are responsible for their own misery. In fact, Rand goes a bit further than what many — even fervent “Rand-heads” — find comfortable. Such was Ayn Rand’s fury over socialism that even hallowed institutions that Americans find important were excised under the Objectivism razor. Ryan might not admit it, but that book he loves advocates for getting rid of everything from public education, to farming subsidies, to any form of welfare. If that seems a bit drastic, well hey, Rand never claimed to be sentimental.

Unfortunately, the real world is a bit more complicated — socioeconomics, cycles of poverty, economic disparity, lack of education, racism and sexism; a myriad of factors contribute to an individual’s lot in life. But for some, the dream didn’t die with the close of the book. For some, Galt’s Gulch could be real if only someone would create it.

In the book, Galt’s Gulch is based in the Western United States. Unfortunately for today’s Libertarians, “out west” isn’t far enough from America’s socialized oppression. Convinced that America is on the verge of economic collapse, they fled the country and headed south.

Billed as Galt’s Gulch Chile, the South American would-be community is 11,000 acres of pure, unregulated freedom.

According to, Jeff Berwick, one of the project’s early promoters:

    With the oppression of the over regulated, over taxed, war riddled and welfare riddled society consuming the world, Ayn Rand’s famous protagonist character, John Galt, came to conclude that he would not use his talents to support such a society any longer…driving him to create a community where scientists, inventors, entrepreneurs and many others would come together to escape from the confines of their daily lives to not only be free…but to thrive.

    In today’s world, it is becoming more and more difficult to find true freedom from very much the same oppressive forces Ayn Rand wrote of…which drove John Galt and others to a place where they found their freedom, success and peace of mind.

    Welcome to Galt’s Gulch Chile!

The community is the brainchild of Ken Johnson and a collection of investors. In 2013, when the project was just shaping up, Mother Jones went down to Chile to see how things were coming along.

    Welcome to Galt’s Gulch Chile, a libertarian refuge from the coming economic, social, and political collapse of the United States. The would-be free-market utopia, named after the mountain redoubt of the protagonist of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, is taking advance payments (Bitcoins gladly accepted) for parcels on its 11,000 acres.

    Joining Johnson, the project’s managing partner, are three prospective buyers: a retiree from Oregon, a California-based expert in moving assets offshore, and another retiree who doesn’t want to give much in the way of personal data. “Oh, the NSA’s here too?” he says the first time he sees my audio recorder. The men talk of a coming financial meltdown caused by the Federal Reserve, followed by a Homeland Security police state. They’re ready to get out with their silver, guns, and organic honey—but not quite ready to sacrifice fast internet, access to an international airport, and a time zone convenient for Skyping with the doomed sheeple back home. Throw in low taxes, privatized social security, and a Mediterranean climate, and you have Chile.

For the price of $48,500 you too could own a piece of Galt’s Gulch (specifically, one-and-a-half acres of it). Amazingly, people cashed in their retirements and did just that.

A year later and things have completely unraveled. According to one person who spent a great deal of her savings on this grand experiment, the thing was doomed from the start. Based on her description, what you are left with is the growing sense that this isn’t just a case of arrogant stupidity, this is a downright scam.

Writing out of The Dollar Vigilante, a website devoted to the libertarian movement, the investor, Wendy McElroy, who describes herself as an individualist anarchist, documents the nightmare of Galt’s Gulch Chile:

    Many have wondered about the status of Galt’s Gulch Chile (GGC), the libertarian community that was planned and sold in lots as a liberty oasis for those who wished to live freedom before they died. My husband and I purchased an option on 1.25 acres in July 2013. Others bought 10- or 25-acre lots and some invested in the agricultural side of the venture; extremely savvy investors committed small fortunes. GGC has been an unexpectedly wild ride since then.

After throwing in considerable money, McElroy received an email from a concerned friend, essentially calling the entire operation into question. At first McElroy dismisses the email, at the harried assurance of Ken Johnson. Later, it begins to be apparent that the concerned friend was disturbingly on the money (emphasis added).

    There will be no zoning for the 1.25-acre lots or other arrangements of less than 10 acres.  GGC is an environmentally protected area and it would take the political movement of heaven and earth to allow a community based on small lots to be officially approved. I had the opportunity to ask a question of the salesman who showed my husband and me “our property.” I claimed it because I fell head over heels for the most beautiful tree I’ve ever seen. I felt an instant connection as though the two of us were old souls who had found each other. I could believe it, I could see it… waking up each morning and having coffee under that tree, telling it about my plans for the day. Months later, in a Skype conference, I asked the then-GGC-alienated salesman, “When you ‘sold’ us the property, when you printed out a photo from your phone that read ‘Wendy’s tree,’ did you know you could not legally sell us the lot you were offering?” He said, “That is correct.”

Since writing that, the Galt’s Gulch Chile founders have been engaged in a series of increasingly dramatic legal and personal squabbles. Litigation is being thrown around, as are ad hominem attacks. Nearly all of the anger is directed at Ken Johnson.  One former co-owner, Jeff Berwick, who happens to run The Dollar Vigilante website, has called Johnson a sociopath and a fraud. A Facebook community has been established calling itself “Galt’s Gulch Chile Rehab and The Exposing of Ken Johnson” to serve as a support group for other investors who felt they were ripped off.

Meanwhile, Galt’s Gulch owes “hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars to hardware stores [and] service providers” in Chile for work done in preparation for the community. As the pyramid scheme of investors collapses, it seems likely that those workers – many of them poor laborers from small Chilean towns — will go unpaid. The workers being ripped off by the moochers? How very Randian.

The Grim Reaper lingers nearby. By the end of August, the entire online existence of Galt’s Gulch Chile had been scrubbed from the web. Every promotional YouTube video made to entice suckers freedom-lovers has been taken down. The GGC website comes back with an error message. Ken Johnson is in the wind.

It’s almost as if basing a community around people who hate other people and don’t want to have to pay for any services that don’t directly and concretely benefit themselves is inherently unstable. Who would have thought?

Not really that surprising in hindsight, but interesting, anyway.

New research shows that schizophrenia is not a single disease, but a group of eight distinct disorders, each caused by changes in clusters of genes that lead to different sets of symptoms.

The finding sets the stage for scientists to develop better ways to diagnose and treat schizophrenia, a mental illness that can be devastating when not adequately managed, says C. Robert Cloninger, co-author of the study published Monday in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

"We are really opening a new era of psychiatric diagnosis," says Cloninger, professor of psychiatry and genetics at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Cloninger says he hopes his work will "allow for the development of a personalized diagnosis, opening the door to treating the cause, rather than just the symptoms, of schizophrenia."

Clonginger and colleagues found that certain genetic profiles matched particular symptoms. While people with one genetic cluster have odd and disorganized speech – what is sometimes called "word salad" – people with another genetic profile hear voices, according to the study, funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Dr. C. Robert Cloninger, Washington University School of Medicine, and colleagues found that certain genetic profiles matched particular symptoms of schizophrenia.(Photo: Robert Boston, Washington University)

Some genetic clusters gave people higher risks of the disease than others, according to the study, which compared the DNA of 4,200 people with schizophrenia to that of 3,800 healthy people.

One set of genetic changes, for example, confers a 95% chance of developing schizophrenia. In the new study, researchers describe a woman with this genetic profile who developed signs of the disorder by age 5, when she taped over the mouths of her dolls to make them stop whispering to her and calling her name. Another patient – whose genetic profile gave her a 71% risk of schizophrenia – experienced a more typical disease course and began hearing voices at age 17.

The average person has less than a 1% risk of developing schizophrenia, Cloninger says.

Psychiatrists such as Stephen Marder describe the the study as a step forward. Today, doctors diagnose patients with mental illness with a process akin to a survey, asking about the person's family history and symptoms, says Marder, a professor at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California-Los Angeles.

"It underlines that the way we diagnose schizophrenia is relatively primitive," Marder says.

Patients may wait years for an accurate diagnosis, and even longer to find treatments that help them without causing intolerable side effects.

Doctors have long known that schizophrenia can run in families, says Robert Freedman, editor in chief of the American Journal of Psychiatry and chair of psychiatry at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. If one identical twin has schizophrenia, for example, there is an 80% chance that the other twin has the disease, as well.

In the past, doctors looked for single genes that might cause schizophrenia, without real success, Freedman says.

The new paper suggests that genes work together like a winning or losing combination of cards in poker, Freedman says. "This shows us that there are some very bad hands out there," Freedman says.

Doctors have known for years that breast cancer is not one disease, but at least half a dozen diseases driven by different genes, says study co-author Igor Zwir, research associate in psychiatry at Washington University.(Photo: Robert Boston, Washington University)

In some cases – in which a genetic profile conveys close to a 100% risk of schizophrenia – people may not be able to escape the disease, Cloninger says. But if doctors could predict who is at high risk, they might also be able to tailor an early intervention to help a patient better manage their condition, such as by managing stress.

Doctors don't yet know why one person with a 70% risk of schizophrenia develops the disease and others don't, Clonginger says. It's possible that environment plays a key role, so that child with a supportive family and good nutrition might escape the diagnosis, while someone who experiences great trauma or deprivation might become very ill.

The study also reflects how much has changed in the way that scientists think about the genetic causes of common diseases, Marder says. He notes that diseases caused by a single gene – such as sickle-cell anemia and cystic fibrosis – affect very few people. Most common diseases, such as cancer, are caused by combinations of genes. Even something as apparently simple as height is caused by combinations of genes, he says.

Doctors have known for years that breast cancer is not one disease, for example, but at least half a dozen diseases driven by different genes, says study co-author Igor Zwir, research associate in psychiatry at Washington University. Doctors today have tests to predict a woman's risk of some types of breast cancer, and other tests that help them select the most effective drugs.

Those sorts of tests could be extremely helpful for people with schizophrenia, who often try two or three drugs before finding one that's effective, Cloninger says.

"Most treatment today is trial and error," Cloninger says.

If doctors could pinpoint which drugs could be the most effective, they might be able to use lower doses, producing fewer of the bothersome side effects that lead many patients to stop taking their medication, Cloninger says.

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