Saturday, December 21, 2013

How The Official Pleasure In Torture is Analyzed

"Are you ready for some football?"
Regular readers know that for quite a while the Dredd Blog System has advocated that explaining some of the behavior of some government and corporate officials should be done with psychological reasoning and understanding (e.g. The Criminally Insane Epoch Arises).

That is because using economic, legal, educational, political, business management, or similar casual forms of analysis to explain sick mental behavior is inadequate (MOMCOM's Mass Suicide & Murder Pact - 5).

Such casual analysis is akin to using baseball or football techniques to analyze a mass murder.

In the series America's Shame Memos (cf. America's Shame Memos - #2, America's Shame Memos - #3 , America's Shame Memos - #4, America's Shame Memos - #Next, America's Shame Memos - #Last) we took a look at the shameful social dementia that affected government officials who seemed to have lost their minds.

Today we are going to tie that into "pleasure" and the cultural amygdala, and show that social dementia of this sort is accomplished by the rewiring of the cultural amygdala of the public, just as toxoplasma gondi ("Toxo") rewires the amygdala of rodents:
The parasite my lab is beginning to focus on is one in the world of mammals, where parasites are changing mammalian behavior... Toxo instead has developed this amazing capacity to alter innate behavior in rodents... If you take a lab rat who is 5,000 generations into being a lab rat, since the ancestor actually ran around in the real world, and you put some cat urine in one corner of their cage, they're going to move to the other side. Completely innate, hard-wired reaction to the smell of cats, the cat pheromones. But take a Toxo-
"Complex" Is An Understatement
infected rodent, and they're no longer afraid of the smell of cats. In fact they become attracted to it. The most damn amazing thing you can ever see, Toxo knows how to make cat urine smell attractive to rats. And rats go and check it out and that rat is now much more likely to wind up in the cat's stomach. Toxo's circle of life completed.

... part of my lab has been trying to figure out the neurobiological aspects. The first thing is that it's for real. The rodents, rats, mice, really do become attracted to cat urine when they've been infected with Toxo. And you might say, okay, well, this is a rodent doing just all sorts of screwy stuff because it's got this parasite turning its brain into Swiss cheese or something. It's just non-specific behavioral chaos. But no, these are incredibly normal animals. Their olfaction is normal, their social behavior is normal, their learning and memory is normal. All of that. It's not just a generically screwy animal.

You say, okay well, it's not that, but Toxo seems to know how to destroy fear and anxiety circuits. But it's not that, either. Because these are rats who are still innately afraid of bright lights. They're nocturnal animals. They're afraid of big, open spaces. You can condition them to be afraid of novel things. The system works perfectly well there. Somehow Toxo can laser out this one fear pathway, this aversion to predator odors... Toxo preferentially knows how to home in on the part of the brain that is all about fear and anxiety, a brain region called the amygdala... Toxo knows how to get in there.

Next, we then saw that Toxo would take the dendrites, the branch and cables that neurons have to connect to each other, and shriveled them up in the amygdala. It was disconnecting circuits. You wind up with fewer cells there. This is a parasite that is unwiring this stuff in the critical part of the brain for fear and anxiety... It knows how to find that particular circuitry... Meanwhile, there is a well-characterized circuit that has to do with sexual attraction. And as it happens, part of this circuit courses through the amygdala, which is pretty interesting in and of itself, and then goes to different areas of the brain than the fear pathways... Toxo knows how to hijack the sexual reward pathway. And you get males infected with Toxo and expose them to a lot of the cat pheromones, and their testes get bigger. Somehow, this damn parasite knows how to make cat urine smell sexually arousing to rodents, and they go and check it out. Totally amazing... So what about humans? A small literature is coming out now reporting neuropsychological testing on men who are Toxo-infected, showing that they get a little bit impulsive... And then the truly astonishing thing: two different groups independently have reported that people who are Toxo-infected have three to four times the likelihood of being killed in car accidents involving reckless speeding... Maybe you take a Toxo-infected human and they start having a proclivity towards doing dumb-ass things that we should be innately averse to, like having your body hurdle through space at high G-forces. Maybe this is the same neurobiology... On a certain level, this is a protozoan parasite that knows more about the neurobiology of anxiety and fear than 25,000 neuroscientists standing on each other's shoulders... But no doubt it's also a tip of the iceberg of God knows what other parasitic stuff is going on out there. Even in the larger sense, God knows what other unseen realms of biology make our behavior far less autonomous than lots of folks would like to think.
(Hypothesis: Microbes Generate Toxins of Power - 6). When we use only a naive part our decency-leaning minds to contemplate and analyze some of what our government has done in recent years, we are going to fall short of understanding the demented reality being played out.

The behavior of sociopaths or psychopaths is not like the behavior of our good neighbor, who we analyze using the simple social norms of our culture.

Thus, we are going to fall short in our civic duty analysis if we use that methodology to analyze government before we vote in an election, because these mentally defective rulers are on a different planet than we are, so to speak.

Sociopaths and psychopaths fit in to society because they know us better than we know them, thus, the sadist for example has, like us, been molded and shaped by certain types of submission to culture.

Submission which acts as camouflage ("law abiding citizen") for them.

The camouflage-like behavior used by toxoplasma gondi, as well as by human psychopaths, is beginning to become a scientifically recognized dynamic:
Most of the time, we try to avoid inflicting pain on others -- when we do hurt someone, we typically experience guilt, remorse, or other feelings of distress. But for some, cruelty can be pleasurable, even exciting. New research suggests that this kind of everyday sadism is real and more common than we might think.
...
Together, these results suggest that sadists possess an intrinsic motivation to inflict suffering on innocent others, even at a personal cost -- a motivation that is absent from the other dark personality traits.

The researchers hope that these new findings will help to broaden people's view of sadism as an aspect of personality that manifests in everyday life, helping to dispel the notion that sadism is limited to sexual deviants and criminals.

Buckels and colleagues are continuing to investigate everyday sadism, including its role in online trolling behavior.

"Trolling culture is unique in that it explicitly celebrates sadistic pleasure, or 'lulz,'" says Buckels. "It is, perhaps, not surprising then that sadists gravitate toward those activities."

And they're also exploring vicarious forms of sadism, such as enjoying cruelty in movies, video games, and sports.

The researchers believe their findings have the potential to inform research and policy on domestic abuse, bullying, animal abuse, and cases of military and police brutality.
(Science Daily, "Everyday Sadists Take Pleasure in Others' Pain"). The various media practices of analyzing psychopathic behavior as some form of "politics" can explain why American torture is still bragged about in public by past Vice President Dick Cheney and his cohorts:
Dante’s graphic description of the torment inflicted on the latter symbolically evokes scenes of terrible forms of torture. Unfortunately, such torture has and is still to some extent being used in the world today. Of late we witnessed examples of brutal persecution in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay prisons. Prisoners, not only, were subjected to physical abuse, somewhat reminiscent of the aforementioned punishment, but were also subjected to acts of sexual perversion. The leaked photos of the torture incidents in Abu Ghraib unveiled episodes of sodomy, rape, and an over indulgence of voyeurism. The photos also revealed that those who partook in the execution of these actions seemed to be enjoying the power that the exercise of torture gave them.
(Torture as an Extension of the Desiring Machine, emphasis added). Some forms of analyzing violence promulgated in media outlets is also a way of "educating" the public spectators by using the seducing spectacle treatment:
The importance of gladiatorial games should be obvious from the time and finances devoted to them. It is inadequate to attribute this solely to pleasing the crowd or for earning and the status of the sponsors, or to regard the games as ostentatious overtures to munificence and benefaction, even though they do play a role. Such explanations alone would not explain, for instance, the fact that the massive Colosseum, site of many such games, was initiated by Vespasian, the emperor who is reputed to have been the most economical of all [1]. Such games must have served much more important purposes.

One such purpose is the education of Roman values, notably strength/courage (fortitudo), training/discipline (disciplina), firmness (constantia), endurance (patientia), contempt of death (contemptus mortis), love of glory (amor laudis), and the desire to win (cupido victoriae). In other words, in the absence of common military pursuits, gladiatorial games became the means of teaching Romans virtus, since the gladiatorial fights effectively demonstrated soldierly values and illustrated military ideas by punishing cowardly gladiators and rewarding courageous ones [2]. Indeed, it is through what is regarded in modern times as sadistic, i.e. witnessing the spectacle of men fighting to their deaths, that such values are conveyed.

This is supported by a passage in Pliny's panegyric to Trajan (Panegyric xxxi.1) in which he praised the emperor who first satisfied the practical needs of the citizens and the allies, and then gave them a public entertainment, nothing lax or dissolute to weaken and destroy the manly spirit of his subjects, but one to inspire them to face honourable wounds and look scornfully upon death, by demonstrating a love of glory and a desire for victory even in the persons of criminals and slaves. In other words, Pliny viewed the gladiatorial show as an educational experience of morality and virtue. The fact that the performers were outcasts strengthened this educational element by the implicit idea that if even such people could provide examples of bravery, determination to win glory and victory despite impending death, and even more so, contempt for death itself, then so could real men (viri)[3] .
(Violence and the Romans: The Arena Spectacles, emphasis added). In the series about The Cultural Amygdala, we explored the radical variations in perception among cultures concerning mass violence conducted on one's own populace.

Not only that, we tied the mass murder to media spectacle by utilizing a very disturbing yet revealing documentary:
Congo is a man who appears to live in an eternal cinematic fantasy. He's always dressed sharp—inspired by his Hollywood heroes John Wayne, Marlon Brando, and Elvis Presley. What exactly inspired him to murder a thousand people is never quite explained. The only slight ever mentioned that he takes from the communists was their desire to block screenings of his beloved American films. Tapping into this love of cinema, Oppenheimer offers him the opportunity to tell his story by making a dramatic film in which he's the star of his own story.
(Hypothesis:The Cultural Amygdala - 2, emphasis added). Like the mass murdering psychopath who has a nice family and goes to church, these psychopaths among us know our "language" and have known how to deceive us for many decades (The Deceit Business).

The morning pundits of McTell News stumble through the destruction done on 9/11, the destruction of Afghanistan, the destruction of Iraq, the destruction of Libya, the Orwellian spying of the military NSA, along with the cutting off of food stamps and unemployment insurance to those in need, as if they were all simply economic or political anomalies.

They miss the elephant in the room, never figuring out the massive sickness within our government and culture, as they extol our cultural virtues to a fairly horrified world around us.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Hypothesis: The Cultural Amygdala - 3

It is all about connections
In this series we are contemplating the neural network of brain circuitry that develops in humans influenced primarily by their culture.

I am calling it "the cultural amygdala," pointing out that it is composed of circuitry which lies outside of the physical amygdala  (Hypothesis: The Cultural Amygdala), but which connects to the physical amygdala's circuitry.

That connecting circuitry is composed of neurons with their long axons which end at dendrites.

There they connect to other neurons in the physical amygdala via "connections" which take place at synapses, those bridges over the gap between dendrites at the end of axons of other neurons.

Neurons that have their soma (cell body) in other sections of the limbic system of the brain (see e.g. The Brain).

As it turns out, the final basic circuitry that makes up the hypothesized cultural amygdala, within the prefrontal cortex portion of the cultural amygdala, does not begin to develop within us during childhood.

That generally begins in late adolescence and then generally matures during early adulthood:
The first realm to consider where PFC [pre-frontal cortex] function is compromised in humans is, quite reasonably, during development. Children show only minimal frontal function, from the standpoints of cognition (for example, in reversal tasks), emotional regulation, control of impulsive behaviour and moral reasoning. One of the myths of child development is that the brain is fully developed at some remarkably early age (the age of 3 years is probably most often cited (Bruer 1999)). Instead, brain development is far more prolonged and, not surprisingly, the PFC is the last region of the brain to fully myelinate. Remarkably, this process extends well beyond adolescence into early adulthood (Paus et al. 1999).
(The Frontal Cortex and the Criminal Justice System, PDF, p. 6). Dr. Robert Sapolsky of Stanford, in the video below, discusses the Limbic System, which contains the circuitry of the cultural amygdala as well as lots of other circuitry.

That ongoing development of the frontal cortex and the cultural amygdala in that area is some of the reason for the differing viewpoints, taboos, laws, and norms of one culture or sub-culture when compared to another culture or sub-culture  (cf. The Fruits of A Celebrity World of Illusion).

A contrasting example of how the brain develops early, with regard to language, is presented in the Dr. Lakoff  video below the video of Dr. Sapolsky.

Those videos are lectures by two prominent scientists.

The Dr. Lakoff video shows how the language a culture speaks has a very early influence as to how culture impacts on the shape and configuration of brain circuitry, including the physical amygdala.

Together, I hope they convincingly show that culture is important to brain development; so important that we can envision a virtual entity and call it the cultural amygdala.

One can also hypothesize that one's culture shapes one's cultural amygdala in meaningful ways.

Thus, how impulses etc. from the physical amygdala, which frontal cortex dynamics regulate to the extent that they can, are to a degree also influenced by the cultural amygdala, as well as, to a lesser degree, the individuality of every person.

That is another reason why the toxins of power affect those exposed to power in many different ways, even though the raw power itself may be essentially the same power type across cultures.

That is, a ruler in Culture A, a culture which is way different from Culture B, will be exposed to the same basic toxins of power that a ruler in Culture B will, however, those rulers may react to the same toxins of power differently (to the extent that the cultural amygdala is different).

The next post in this series is here, the previous post in this series is here.

Video index to The Limbic System video, by Dr. Sapolsky

15:20 logical section / emotional section theory of mind is nonsense
15:40 Antonio Demasio - shows Descarte utterly wrong
16:30 circuitry (James Papes)
17:40 Papes circuitry - emotional part of brain
18:58 entire limbic system tries to influence what the hypothalamus does
21:20 stilulating / restricting sections depends on closeness to hypothalamus
23:12 our olfactory system is closest to hypothalamus
24:30 amygdala
26:35 hyocampus
27:25 septum: mid-brain area
28:58 PFC (impulse control, emotional control) develops last
34:30 amygdala / hippocamus memory - connections
50:15 amygdala gets larger in people with PTSD
50:45 stress causes amygdala neurons to grow more dendritic processes
51:00 hippocampus gets smaller @ depression
101:00 amygdala activating aggression
102:18 septum inhibits aggression
103:30 hippocamus turn off stress response
104:40 precortal / frontal moderator
113:40 James / Lang theory of emotion



Dr. Lakoff:

23:35 "word binding"
26:00 "98% of your thought is unconscious"
26:10 "learning is ... 'neural recruitment' ... connecting new brain circuits to existing ones"
30:05 "you can't learn anything unless there are circuits already there to connect to"
31:20 "you think with your brain ... most of it is unconscious ... could all of your thought be conscious? ... no ... conscious thought is linear ... unconscious thought is parallel" [billions of thoughts taking place at once]
41:00 "Louder Than Words is a useful book ... funny" [but also serious]:

LOUDER THAN WORDS

"... The key to making your work resonate is to uncover, develop, and then bravely use your authentic voice.

What does this mean? When you are pouring yourself into your
work and bringing your unique perspective and skills to the table, then
you are adding value that only you are capable of contributing. How-
ever, many people operate in “default mode,” and they ignore their
hunches, their deeper intuition, and their unique vision, and instead
settle into the fold. Over time, they become more of a reflection of
everyone around them—​­or a faded photocopy of a photocopy—​­than
­an original source of ideas, energy, and life. Instead of doing the diffi-
cult work necessary to weave their influences together into something
fresh and original, they settle for recycling the scraps in exchange for a quick return on their effort. In the end, they fall short of making a
unique contribution that’s reflective of what they truly care about, and
because of a lack of individuality and passion, their work is less likely
to resonate with their audience.

However, brilliant contributors commit to the process of devel-
oping an authentic voice through trial and error, by paying attention
to how they respond to the work of peers, heroes, and even their
antagonists, by playing with ideas, by cultivating a sharp vision for
their work, and ultimately by honing their skills so that they have the
ability to bring that vision to the world. If you examine the most con-
tributive, impactful, and ultimately influential people throughout
history, the one thing that clearly sets them apart is their unique
voice. They had developed a personal expression that distanced them
from their peers and put them in a field of their own. Their body of
work speaks loudly about who they are and what they value. Louder,
even, than their words."
 [first two chapters here (PDF)]





Monday, December 2, 2013

Hypothesis: How Toxins of Power Are Neutralized or Removed

DNA: a molecular machine
Regular readers know that one of the problems with the hypothesis that toxins of power originate at the microscopic level (virus, single celled microbes, etc.) is that some people in power are not overcome by corruption.

Oh yes, the power of their office may stimulate toxins, however, as the hypothetical formulas for toxins of power origination show, those toxins can also be neutralized or overcome by those who are exposed to the toxins while in power, i.e. while in office (e.g. Tables For The Toxins In Power, The Power That Corrupts).

There has been no hypothesis on this Toxins of Power blog, up until now, for how this could happen.

A paper published recently details how pathogens and parasites are converted from dangerous or deadly behavior into mutualistic, symbiotic behavior, which is a complete change of their behavior from toxic bad to helpful good:
Like pretty much all multi-cellular organisms, humans enjoy the benefits of helpful bacteria. (As you may have heard, there are more bacteria in the human body than cells.) These mutualistic microbes live within the body of a larger organism, and, like any good long-term houseguest, help out their hosts, while making a successful life for themselves. It’s a win-win situation for both parties.

Scientists still don’t understand exactly how these relationships began, however. To find out, a team of researchers from the University of California, Riverside, used protein markers to create a detailed phylogenic tree of life for 405 taxa from the Proteobacteria phylum—a diverse group that includes pathogens such as salmonella as well as both mutualistic and free-living species.

Those analyses revealed that mutualism in Proteobacteria independently evolved between 34 to 39 times, the researchers report in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.  The team was a bit surprised to find that this happened so frequently, inferring that evolution apparently views this lifestyle quite favorably.

Their results also show that mutualism most often arises in species that were originally parasites and pathogens.
(Microbial Languages: Rehabilitation of the Unseen -- 2, emphasis in original). This is a discovery which clearly indicates that fundamental changes take place in microbial life, changes which convert them from a "toxic behavior pathogen" into a "helpful behavior symbiont."

I will, in future posts, consider papers that indicate the opposite, that is, the conversion from symbiotic microbes (good guys) into pathogens or parasites (bad guys).

Potential triggering sources for such changes from good to bad has been discussed in Dredd Blog posts Are Microbes The Origin of PTSD? and Weekend Rebel Science Excursion - 16.

Those posts discuss the abrupt changes in all Earth life, including microbes, that happened during the meteorite impact which caused the Fifth Mass Extinction of most Earth life (~90%) some 65 million years ago.

The hypothesis contemplated in today's post should also consider, in bad->good and good->bad behavioral changes, the potential damage to molecular machines within microbes, as well as the repair of damaged molecular machines, as potential reasons for changes in behavior.

In other words, let's consider damaging events as triggers for toxins, but let's also consider repair via healing and remedial behavior as factors for toxin neutralization or removal (see e.g. Putting A Face On Machine Mutation - 4 and the series beginning with The Uncertain Gene).

But, the bottom line is that the genetic material in microbial life, which has been through several mass extinction events on Earth, and perhaps elsewhere, may have recorded reactions within their genes that can be triggered to re-produce bad toxic behavior or good symbiotic behavior, depending on the environmental dynamics being experienced at a given time.

The hypothesis would have to show: 1) how the advent of toxins in an individual who becomes powerful triggers improper genetic ons or offs, and 2) how certain remedial behaviors (think epigenetic behavior) could neutralize or remove that toxic behavior by re-setting the proper genetic ons or offs.

The bottom line is that we are considering both genetic and epigenetic factors in this hypothesis (see e.g. the series The "It's In Your Genes" Myth).

That is all for this post.

The next post in this series is here.

The following video indicates that epigenetic dynamics take place in microbes ... genes do not control them any more or less than genes control us:



Saturday, November 16, 2013

Abiotic Evolution: Can It Explain An Origin For The Toxins of Power? - 2

What activates the Toxins of Power?
In this series regular readers will notice that Toxins of Power Blog has been intellectually honest.

Honest to point out that our ongoing search for a clear and present nexus between an individual experiencing power, and the subsequent advent of toxins of power in that individual, has not been adequately successful yet.

There have been abundant discoveries and discussions about where the toxins can come from, but that is only one side of the coin, so now we must focus on a nexus between those many potential toxin sources and the dynamics of the experience of power.

In other words the search is not over, it does continue.

What triggering mechanism takes place within the individual's subconscious and/or conscious mind when power is experienced by that individual?

In the previous post of this series I indicated:
"In other words, we can see that power corrupts those who are exposed to it for a sufficient amount of time, but we can't explain how power triggers those potential sources which are capable of producing toxins of power.

That linkage is the next series of possibilities we will begin to take a look at so we can try to develop that hypothesis."
(Abiotic Evolution: Can It Explain An Origin For The Toxins of Power?). Some research recently revealed a potential link between toxins and power:
Even the smallest dose of power can change a person. You've probably seen it. Someone gets a promotion or a bit of fame and then, suddenly, they're a little less friendly to the people beneath them.

So here's a question that may seem too simple: Why?

If you ask a psychologist, he or she may tell you that the powerful are simply too busy. They don't have the time to fully attend to their less powerful counterparts.

But if you ask Sukhvinder Obhi, a neuroscientist at Wilfrid Laurier University in Ontario, Canada, he might give you another explanation: Power fundamentally changes how the brain operates.

Obhi and his colleagues, Jeremy Hogeveen and Michael Inzlicht, have a new study showing evidence to support that claim.

Obhi and his fellow researchers randomly put participants in the mindset of feeling either powerful or powerless. They asked the powerless group to write a diary entry about a time they depended on others for help. The powerful group wrote entries about times they were calling the shots.

Then, everybody watched a simple video. In it, an anonymous hand squeezes a rubber ball a handful of times — sort of monotonously. While the video ran, Obhi's team tracked the participants' brains, looking at a special region called the mirror system.
(When Power Goes To Your Head, emphasis added). In future posts we will build the nexus bridge structure available with that new study.

Another study may fit in with those details in the above study as well:
In 1776, Adam Smith famously wrote: "It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we can expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest."

Economists have run with this insight for hundreds of years, and some experts think they've run a bit too far. Robert Frank, an economist at Cornell, believes that his profession is squashing cooperation and generosity. And he believes he has the evidence to prove it. Consider these data points:

Less charitable giving: in the U.S., economics professors gave less money to charity than professors in other fields -- including history, philosophy, education, psychology, sociology, anthropology, literature, physics, chemistry, and biology. More than twice as many economics professors gave zero dollars to charity than professors from the other fields.

More deception for personal gain: economics students in Germany were more likely than students from other majors to recommend an overpriced plumber when they were paid to do it.

Greater acceptance of greed: Economics majors and students who had taken at least three economics courses were more likely than their peers to rate greed as "generally good," "correct," and "moral."

Less concern for fairness: Students were given $10 and had to make a proposal about how to divide the money with a peer. If the peer accepted, they had a deal, but if the peer declined, both sides got nothing. On average, economics students proposed to keep 13 percent more money for themselves than students from other majors.

In another experiment, students received money, and could either keep it or donate it to the common pool, where it would be multiplied and divided equally between all participants. On average, students contributed 49 percent of their money, but economics students contributed only 20 percent. When asked what a "fair" contribution was, the non-economists were clear: 100 percent of them said "half or more" (a full 25 percent said "all"). The economists struggled with this question. Over a third of them refused to answer it or gave unintelligible responses. The researchers wrote that the "meaning of 'fairness'... was somewhat alien for this group."

Hearts of Darkness

But maybe studying economics doesn't change people. It could be self-selection: students who already believe in self-interest are drawn to economics.
...
(Does Studying Economics Breed Greed?). The basic direction we are taking is to gather studies showing the brain-circuit level changes that take place, metamorphosis if you will, when an individual experiences power.

We will then follow that information down into the microbial levels to see if relevant microbial communication disruption, toxin level activity, and other activity has been discovered and the results published.

The next post in this series is here, the previous post in this series is here.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Abiotic Evolution: Can It Explain An Origin For The Toxins of Power?

Newly discovered life form
In a previous post the subject of quantum proton tunneling was contemplated as a potential source of genetic mutation.

A genetic mutation which could hypothetically cause or result in the eventual development of toxins of power (Stem Cell Malfunction A Quantum Toxin Source?).

A series at Dredd Blog quotes the same scientific paper written by Per-Olov Löwdin (see The Uncertain Gene) that was quoted here.

That Dredd Blog series goes further to quote more recent papers that are based upon or expound upon Löwdin's paper, as well as quoting several other relevant books and papers (see e.g. The Uncertain Gene - 5).

We have talked about other sources for toxins of power too.

It is quite clear that there are many potential sources for toxins of power to originate either through abiotic evolution, biotic evolution, memetics, behavioral dynamics like epigenetics, and the like.

What is still not clear, still not solved, and still not adequately presented in any workable hypothesis on this blog, so far, is the problem of "what is the link between exposure to power and the advent of the toxins themselves?"

In other words, what happens when someone is exposed to political or other offices which give them power, which therefore expose them to power, and which causes the toxins of power to affect the thinking of those so exposed?

Our case is somewhat like Dr. Semmelweis and others who could not understand  the reasons for what they could observe, and could even control:
If you could ask Ignaz Semmelweis he just might say pseudoscience is "the kind of science that rejects the obvious, then has a violent reaction towards those who don't reject the obvious":
Semmelweis's observations conflicted with the established scientific and medical opinions of the time and his ideas were rejected by the medical community. Some doctors were offended at the suggestion that they should wash their hands and Semmelweis could offer no acceptable scientific explanation for his findings.

Semmelweis's practice earned widespread acceptance only years after his death, when Louis Pasteur confirmed the germ theory. In 1865, Semmelweis was committed to an asylum, where he died of septicemia, at age 47.
(Ignaz Semmelweis, emphasis added). Galileo or Copernicus would have similar notions, as would modern scientists who also experienced blinding bias during their scientific careers.
(What Is Pseudo Science?). In other words, we can see that power corrupts those who are exposed to it for a sufficient amount of time, but we can't explain how power triggers those potential sources which are capable of producing toxins of power.

That linkage is the next series of possibilities we will begin to take a look at so we can try to develop that hypothesis.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Hypothesis: The Cultural Amygdala - 2

"Thank You for killing us"
In this series we are thinking about the possibility that the culture, society, or nation that we live in can result in the development of a cognitive structure attached to the physical amygdala, which we hypothesize as "The Cultural Amygdala."

In today's post we will use the recently released documentary "The Act of Killing" (see video below) to illustrate some of the dynamics and functionality of that hypothetical cultural amygdala.

But first, let's set the stage.

The medical doctors who practiced medicine about a century ago had no idea that some germs, and/or the toxins those germs produced, were in any way related to health or disease in any medical way that they could professionally deal with (What Is Pseudo Science?).

Like those medical doctors of about a century ago, by and large the politicians and other officials who practice government today still have a similar concept when it comes to the toxins of power (The Germ Theory - of Government).

They tend to think that they are at the apex of human reasoning, intellect, creativity, culture, and morality; that they therefore exist in exceptional circumstances, and that their culture is the best on Earth (Exceptionalism In A Nutshell).

What could go wrong?

All of which informs their institutionalized concept of the act of killing:
The Act of Killing focuses on Anwar Congo, one of the self-proclaimed "gangsters" who executed over a million suspected Communists and ethnic Chinese in Indonesia during the bloodbath of 1965-66. Congo, much like his fellow executioners that he remains friends with, has yet to face prosecution for the war crimes he committed as a younger man and lives as a national hero.

Congo is a man who appears to live in an eternal cinematic fantasy. He's always dressed sharp—inspired by his Hollywood heroes John Wayne, Marlon Brando, and Elvis Presley. What exactly inspired him to murder a thousand people is never quite explained. The only slight ever mentioned that he takes from the communists was their desire to block screenings of his beloved American films. Tapping into this love of cinema, Oppenheimer offers him the opportunity to tell his story by making a dramatic film in which he's the star of his own story.

This does not end up being The Act of Killing itself, but a meta film-within-a-film that allows Congo to tell his own story as he chooses to see it, guts and all. He casts his own friends, adds a romantic subplot where one of his friends dresses in drag, and even has musical finale at the foot of a waterfall where his own victims thank him for murdering [them]. But despite all of these flourishes, he manages to stay true to the story in the recreation of his preferred method of execution.

Demonstrating to Oppenheimer's documentary crew how he strangles his victims with wire, he boasts that he learned it from American gangster films.
(A History of Violence, emphasis added). While reading that quote, including the "thank you for murdering us" fantasy, I saw that the American military notion of "destroying them in order to save them" is of the same cognitive circuits in the cultural amygdala.

Then as a follow up, my brain conjured up a quote from a 1944 book, a quote which touches upon historical episodes of massive-scale killing events.

That book quote concerns de facto human sacrifice to deities as massive-scale cultural events:
The enemy aggressor is always pursuing a course of larceny, murder, rapine and barbarism. We are always moving forward with high mission, a destiny imposed by the Deity to regenerate our victims, while incidentally capturing their markets; to civilise savage and senile and paranoid peoples, while blundering accidentally into their oil wells.
(As We Go Marching, by John T. Flynn, 1944, page 222, emphasis added). Flynn was speaking of the growing American culture of war he detected (On The Origin of The Bully Religion - 2).

An American culture of war which Anwar Congo excitedly says he draws upon.

But Anwar Congo, since his culture glorifies him as a national hero for what he did, has some circuits in his cultural amygdala that self-glorify him to the point that he fantasizes that those massive numbers of people whom he murdered actually thank him for murdering them.

The American cultural amygdala does not quite go so far, if the example of Dick Cheney bragging publicly about torture is any indicator.

Dick Cheney did not thereby attain national hero status, because the culture at large has not yet degenerated to that point.

In fact Dick Cheney was seen as a villain in the eyes of most of the American public who give him much of a thought.

Even Dick Cheney's protégé, Bush II, is likewise not accepted as a national hero in the eyes of the general American culture (He Whose Name Cannot Be Spoken).

The American cultural amygdala is evolving in that direction however.

All of the ingredients are in place and have been proliferating within the government subculture for a long time, hidden from public view as if a coup had taken place  (see Stockholm Syndrome on Steroids? - 2, A Tale of Coup Cities - 4, and Myth Addiction Is Establishment's LSD - 3).

As predicted in the late 1700's, by a statesman who helped to establish the Constitution of the United States of America, the germs of war and/or their associated toxins develop "the germ of every other" threat to society (The Greatest Source Of Power Toxins?).

Let's focus on that threat to society by noting that the religious fervor, which Anwar Congo exhibits, is deeply embedded in the subculture of the vast American military:
In 2011 the Army faced public scrutiny after the exposition of once mandatory "Spiritual Fitness" testing which assessed the resiliency of soldiers on such qualitative measures as frequency of prayer or attendance of religious services. When a soldier failed this religious test they were denigrated with the following:
Spiritual fitness may be an area of difficulty... You may lack a sense of meaning and purpose in your life. At times, it is hard for you to make sense of what is happening to you and to others around you. You may not feel connected to something larger than yourself. You may question your beliefs, principles and values... Improving your spiritual fitness should be an important goal.
Of course, no military organization is content with a tongue lashing as a response to failing a mandatory test. For the test to have been worth anything, Army leadership determined remedial training in the form of training modules and even the requirement to visit with chaplains for religious counseling was appropriate.
(Marine Corps Declares 'Lack of Spiritual Faith' = Unstable). One would not normally expect the killing machine called the Marine Corps to go all Church Lady on them, then have a "church chat" with any soldier who misses Sunday School.

But the spirituality of killing machines we now call "the military" has been a strange mystery down through the history of civilization, and it is no different for modern American culture:
This is the sixth post in a subject matter series concerning what is both a deep as well as a wide subject of considerable general historical mystery, which we call MOMCOM.

The last episode concerned a timely review of one aspect of MOMCOM, detailed in the book "Dismantling The Empire."

Today's post will do the same using a timely review of the book "The Spiritual-Industrial Complex" for reference purposes, however, I do suggest that you read the two complimentary Dredd Blog series: "Bully Worship: The Universal Religion" as well as "On The Origin of The Bully Religion."

The reason for considering all of them is that this subject necessitates the development of a broad based understanding of U.S. History, to countermand years of broad based propaganda.
(The Virgin MOMCOM - 6). That quote from Dredd Blog links to a series that points out how George Orwell coined the phrase "The Bully Religion", which makes it an Orwellian concept, but which also links the greatest source of the toxins of power to a particular religion.

A particular ancient religion that camouflages itself so well that the vast majority in any given culture cannot detect the camouflage (On The Origin of The Bully Religion).

The U.S. Congress, the U.S. Courts, and the Executive Branch of the U.S.A. are following the lead of the military by glorifying and enabling them in their continuing atrocities (see the two Dredd Blog series: The Dogma of The High Priest In Chief and The Government of MOMCOM: Wartocracy).

Visionaries whom we can call "cultural doctors", who have been aware enough to detect the toxins of power once those toxins seriously infect the cultural amygdala, have lovingly given us various diagnostic tools:
"It is forbidden to kill therefore all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets." -Voltaire
Make no mistake, there is an epidemic spreading the toxins of power, so it is imperative that we develop a vaccime (see the Dredd Blog series The Germ Theory - of Government).

We will expand upon the cultural amygdala hypothesis in future posts.

The next post in this series is here, the previous post in this series is here.

The Act of Killing - trailer:


Thursday, March 14, 2013

2011toxins.org A Toxic Blog Protected By A Toxic ISP

Toxic webmobster at 2011toxins.org
I recently discovered that an asshole blog (On The Origin of Assholes) was jamming posts here and also infringing on the copyright.

Yes, not only were the dorks copying the material, then distorting some of it, they also cause a Google Search to put valid Toxins of Power Blog posts way down out of sight.

Normally, before the joker thiefs did that, Toxins of Power Blog posts would show up on the first page, instead of way down the pages, so they can not be easily found.

Sending an email to their ISP to ask them to link to this blog on their "not found page", after they removed the illegitimate posts they copied, was futile.

Their ISP probably warned them (or they would not have known to delete the stolen posts), and their ISP is:
C Turner
Office of the General Manager
Domains By Proxy, LLC

The ISP protected their secret client 2011toxins.org by refusing to give me the address even though they informed their client of my complaint.

Still working on that.

An example Google Search shows the posts they copied then deleted when they found out I discovered their malfeasance:
About 381 results (0.13 seconds)

Search Results

  1. Bacterial Toxin Diseases

    2011toxins.org/
    Program consisting of internationally known basic and clinical scientists focus on clinical botulism, epidemiology, and therapeutic interventions for botulism ...
  2. Is Toxic Power A Cosmic Phenomenon? | Bacterial Toxin Diseases

    2011toxins.org/toxin.../is-toxic-power-a-cosmic-phenomenon.html
    Not all nations of the earth subscribe to the notion that power corrupts those who inhabit seats of power. Modish generous measure the notion is limited to ... (What The Fraudsters Covered Up)
  3. Toxin Bacterial | Bacterial Toxin Diseases

    2011toxins.org/category/toxin-bacterial
    This blog is of course primarily focused on how the toxins of power infect broadcast modish government, but it also touches upon the expanded territory of those ...
  4. An Example Of An Antitoxin – 2 | Bacterial Toxin Diseases

    2011toxins.org/toxin-bacterial.../an-example-of-an-antitoxin-2.html
    Modish the first post of this run, we showed an example of what the 99% should do to curtail the oppression of the 1%, beginning with permanent positive for ... (What The Fraudsters Covered Up)
  5. Tiger wood vs. The Toxins of Power | Bacterial Toxin Diseases

    2011toxins.org/toxin...70/tiger-wood-vs-the-toxins-of-power.html
    This blog is of course primarily focused on how the toxins of power infect broadcast modish government, but it also touches upon the expanded territory of those ... (What The Fraudsters Covered Up)
  6. Hypothesis: Microbes Generate Toxins of Power – 4 | Bacterial Toxin ...

    2011toxins.org/.../hypothesis-microbes-generate-toxins-of-power-4.h...
    Modish the previous post of this run, concerning The Hypothesis at issue, we considered prions as a fund for the toxins of power. Modish this post I will condense ... (What The Fraudsters Covered Up)
  7. Ecocide: Evidence Of Toxins of Power | Bacterial Toxin Diseases

    2011toxins.org/toxin...83/ecocide-evidence-of-toxins-of-power.html
    Broadcast be inflicted with a like affair with their new cars it has been understood. Some are as a result intimate with their vehicle that they aid them as a weapon ... (What The Fraudsters Covered Up)
  8. The Toxins Corrupt Frames of Mind | Bacterial Toxin Diseases

    2011toxins.org/toxin...80/the-toxins-corrupt-frames-of-mind.html
    Modish a run of posts beginning here, we graphically depicted, modish unadorned constructs, how a meme is stored modish the “mind” and is transported via ... (What The Fraudsters Covered Up)
Their tactic is to keep people from using Google to find Toxins of Power Blog posts.

The 2011toxins.org site is a bad joke and a phony site.

UPDATE: As of 1/1/2014, and perhaps earlier, the toxic site has been suspended, and the subversive links that were an attempt to block Toxins of Power Blog have been deleted (cf. An Example Of An Antitoxin - 3).

Monday, February 25, 2013

Stem Cell Malfunction A Quantum Toxin Source?

Hidden Universe of Complexity
Last year about this time, on Toxins of Power Blog, I was planning to talk about stem cells as a potential source for toxins of power, but decided to wait (Microbial Hermeneutics).

But more papers and information came out about the human microbiome and symbiont microbes.

Then came more research results from the scientific world which revealed the activity of microbe viruses on the genetics of mammals.

So now the time is ripe to talk about a scientific paper that is less than a year old, and a paper which links microbe viruses and stem cells in the most surprising discoveries yet discussed.

So, you decide if it was worth waiting for.

There is some controversy about whether DNA is alive or not, as there is with various viruses, but there is growing evidence for a "virus-first" evolutionary narrative.

I think this is indicated by the role viruses play during stem cell morph into a myriad of different types of cells:
We all started out as a fertilized egg: a solitary cell about as wide as a shaft of hair. That primordial sphere produced the ten trillion cells that make up each of our bodies. We are not merely sacs of identical cells, of course. A couple hundred types of cells arise as we develop. We’re encased in skin, inside of which bone cells form a skeleton; inside the skull are neurons woven into a brain.

What made this alchemy possible? The answer, in part, is viruses.
...
One way cells can switch genes on and off is producing proteins that latch onto nearby stretches of DNA called promoters. The match between the protein and the promoter has to be precise; otherwise, genes will be flipping on at all the wrong times, and failing to make proteins when they’re needed. Pfaff and his colleagues found that all the two-cell genes had identical promoters–which would explain how they all managed to become active at the same time.

What was really remarkable about their discovery was the origin of those promoters. They came from viruses.

During the earliest stage of the embryo’s development, these virus-controlled genes are active. Then the cells clamp down on them, just as they would clamp down on viruses. Once those genes are silenced, the totipotent cells become pluripotent.

Pfaff and his colleagues also discovered something suprising when they looked at the pluripotent ball of cells. From time to time, the pluripotent cells let the virus-controlled genes switch on again, and then shut them back down. All of the cells, it turns out, cycle in and out of what the scientists call a “magic state,” in which they become temporarily totipotent again.
...
Cells in the magic state can give rise to any part of the embryo, as well as the placenta and other tissue outside the embryo. Once the virus-controlled genes get shut down again, they lose that power. This discovery demonstrated that these virus-controlled genes really are crucial for making cells totipotent.

Pfaff and his colleagues propose that the domestication of these virus promoters was a key step in the evolution of mammals with placentas. The idea that viruses made us who were are today may sound bizarre, except that Pfaff is hardly the first person to find evidence for it. Last year, for example, I wrote about how placental mammals stole a virus protein to build the placenta.

A discovery this strange inevitably raises questions that its discoverers cannot answer. What are the virus-controlled genes doing in those first two cells? Nobody knows. How did the domestication of this viral DNA help give rise to placental mammals 100 million years ago? Who knows? Why are viruses so intimately involved in so many parts of pregnancy? Awesome question. A very, very good question. Um, do we have any other questions?
(We Are Viral From the Beginning, Discover, emphasis added). So, a lot of back and forth, a lot of switching on and off, of genetic "buttons" takes place with the assistance of viral elements (or during stem cell body repair episodes).

This increases the risk of mutation, if we factor in some of the details of a paper written by a physicist, of all disciplines.

He explains that at the quantum level, deep down in DNA, "proton tunneling" can cause DNA mutation:
"The analysis of the original proton wave packet involves an interesting phase problem, and, since the energy distribution is temperature dependent, the whole phenomenon is also temperature dependent."
...
"The tunneling times will depend essentially on the height and the form of the barrier. In DNA, the form of the double-well potentials regulating the hydrogen bonds depend not only on the base pair involved but also on neighboring pairs, their net charges, and the entire electric environment. The tunneling time is hence not only characteristic for a certain biological specimen but is also a function of the position in the DNA molecule involved. The tunneling time is very likely also temperature dependent, even if the protons are well shielded in the double helix. The main problem is whether the tunneling time is very short in comparison to the replication time, or whether there exist organisms where the penetration of the barrier is slow in comparison to the replication." 
...
"It should always be remembered that, in Born's interpretation of quantum mechanics, the quantity |¥|² represents the probability density for finding the proton in a specific position. The tunneling of the wave packet is hence a time-dependent process which is going to influence the properties of the genetic code.
...
"In this connection, it should be observed that the tunneling probabilities depend not only on the base pair involved but also on the electrostatic environment, the neighboring base pairs, etc., which may explain the occurrence of "hot spots."
...
At a DNA replication, the protons have to "choose sides," and the proton code immediately after a DNA replication represents actually a nonstationary state from the quantum-mechanical point of view. The time evolution of the system and particularly the penetration of the potential barrier in the double-well potential represents a loss of the genetic code which should perhaps be considered as the primary cause of aging. The aging is thus a process which goes on continuously in the DNA molecule but gets "manifested" at the replications.
...
Proton tunneling may finally be of importance in connection with the occurrence of spontaneous tumors. The growth of an individual is a highly refined balance between factors which enhance the cell duplication and other factors which limit this duplication so that the organism takes a specific shape. The entire process is stimulated and controlled by various enzymes, and there is a feedback from the environment about which we know, at present, very little. If there is a somatic mutation, i.e., a change of the genetic code in a DNA molecule in the body of an organism, the change may influence the protein synthesis and the balance between the enhancing and controlling enzyme actions in the growth cycle. Actually, the new genetic code may lead to the development of a "new individual" within the individual, i.e., a tumor."
...
"In this paper we have pointed out that, since the protons are not classical particles but "wave packets" obeying the laws of modern quantum theory, the genetic code cannot --in spite of all precautions-- be 100% stable. Due to the quantum-mechanical "tunnel effect," there is always a small but finite probability that the protons will change place, alter the genetic code, and give rise to mutations. This implies also that this transfer of protons over a distance of about 10-8 cm may be one of the driving forces in the evolution of living organisms on the earth."
(Proton Tunneling in DNA and its Biological Implications, by Per-Olov Löwdin; Journal: Review of Modern Physics, Vol 35, No. 3, July 1963, emphasis added). This quantum level proton tunneling behavior is said to be more likely to occur under some conditions than under others.

The likelihood of it happening statistically increases when stem cells are transitioning from one potency phase to another, or back again.

Could this be another suspect place where the mysterious toxins of power emerge as a mutation enhanced by the torque caused by having power over others ("power corrupts ... absolute power corrupts absolutely")?

We can reflect on what Dr. Roger Penrose said about the source of human intelligence, and what Dr. Ernst Mayr said about it, then conclude for ourselves.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Microbial Hermeneutics - 3

Microbes are talking with human cells.
One of the hypotheticals of Toxins of Power, the subject of this blog, is that there is a metamorphosis which takes place in most of those who are exposed to social power (About Toxins Of Power).

While trying to search the Earth and the Universe for the source of the toxins of power that may, in whole or in part, cause that metamorphosis, the Toxins of Power Blog came upon prions, phages, machines, and microbes that are "doing their thing" within the human species.

Upon encountering them, we stumbled upon their ability and practice of communication between and among themselves, as well as their ability and practice of communicating with human cells.

In this series, Microbial Hermeneutics, we have been discussing not only the communication between and among microbes, but we have also been discussing their usage of something we humans also use: hermeneutics.

For a discussion of human hermeneutics see "Hermeneutics For The Blogosphere" and "His Or Hermeneutics?," two Dredd Blog posts that deal with several types of human hermeneutics.

Since hermeneutics is a science concerning the interpretation of communicated messages, and since (like us) cells of all types within our bodies communicate through signals, it became at once obvious to me that a viable hermeneutics that focuses on the inner microbial world of communication is important:
An alternative view is that cells use simpler ‘‘rules’’ to determine
appropriate gene expression levels in response to conflicting signals. But what do these ‘‘rules’’ look like, how complex are they, and to what extent can they be used to predict the response of cells to novel signal combinations?
These issues are increasingly critical throughout biomedical science. Single-cell organisms such as bacteria can live in extraordinarily diverse environments, in and out of hosts, and surrounded by other microbial species and the antibiotics that many of them produce. In this milieu, signal integration abilities are critical to survival. Similarly, in metazoan development, individual signaling pathways rarely work in isolation; rather, cellular responses depend on combinations of inputs from multiple pathways ...
(Microbial Hermeneutics). Signal integration is a vast subject, however, it basically boils down to making sense out of multiple signals.

Which is also the basic task of human hermeneutics (human words, whether spoken, sung, or written are basically signals which need to be interpreted).

Let's also consider that the opposite of signal integration or hermeneutics is miscommunication caused by signal disruption.

However, before we delve a bit into signal disruption or impaired hermeneutics, let's seriously note that the value of microbial and other cellular heremeneutics should not be underestimated:
Normal, healthy cells only reproduce when there is enough space for them to fit. The body can regulate the production of cells by sending signals when to stop. With leukemia, these cells do not respond to the signals to stop and reproduce, regardless of space available.
(Pediatric Leukemia, emphasis added). In the context of microbial cell to cell communication, not responding to signals is a function of either not having received a message in the first place, or of not properly interpreting that signal (note: not responding is only bad when a response to that signal is required).

By taking into consideration childhood leukemia such as acute lymphoblastic leukemia [ALL], we see the results of an absence of adequate cellular or microbial signaling, cellular hermeneutics, or both.

The ultimate nature of signaling fundamentally requires: a signal, a signal sender, a signal receiver, a medium within which the signal can be sent, and an understanding of the particular signal by both sender and receiver.

Thus, we see that the glue which holds communication together is a signaling language that is understood by both the signal sender and the signal receiver.

To thwart communication, a signal disruptor can attack the signal itself during signal transport, or can attack either the sender, the receiver, or both, so that there is a defective signal or a defective hermeneutic episode as to that signal.

A disruption anywhere in that signal chain can result in a misunderstanding, a failure to successfully communicate.

In this sense, we can define some diseases as a failure to successfully communicate, as with the form of leukemia they call "ALL", mentioned above.

The Dredd Blog post, Childhood Leukemia Linked To Government Carelessness, discusses a scenario where, according to the perspectives of this blog, the toxins of power have corrupted those in seats of political power who have then corrupted the signalling abilities of the type this post is concerned with.

That is, the toxins of power have caused those officials in positions of power to unleash signal disruptors, in the form of deadly nuclear radiation, on the populace (There is no safe level of Radiation).

Those disruptors are known to then cause leukemia and other maladies in both adults and children.

In future posts of this series I want to take a look at, yes, focus on that disruption, that is, I want to take a look at, or to pose questions about, which specific areas in that specific signal / communication chain are disrupted or damaged by nuclear power plant radiation.

In theory, that disruption could involve damage to the machines within cells, whether human or microbial cells, damage to their signal sending capacity, damage to their signal receiving capacity, damage to the medium outside those cells -- through-which signals must travel -- or even damage to the hermeneutical abilities of the receiver cell.

The previous post in this series is here.

More signals are coming in future posts, but in the mean time you might enjoy hearing from some of the scientific teams that are able to talk to microbes -- (they know the language of microbes):


Monday, January 7, 2013

On The Origin of Assholes

"Did you say Chanel No. 5?"
In the tireless quest and search for the origin and evolution of The Toxins of Power, this series will deal with yet another difficult subject.

One is likely to hear giggles when the growing scholarship about assholes arises in a normal conversation.

Nevertheless, two books have been published this year which deal with this extremely difficult subject, and in these two books there is helpful academic scholarship, if for no other reason because they concern serious scientific work in the sometimes nebulous subject of "social evolution."

Therefore, in today's post we will refer to those two books in an attempt to tie them into the search for the origin of the toxins of power, where Lord Acton once labored so hard for so long.

Regular readers know that Lord Acton is the person that is probably most famous for the notion that power corrupts, which among other things, means that "something" turns people into assholes, especially when they are exposed to power and are unaware of its morphing tendencies.

That "something" is what we here at Toxins of Power Blog call "the toxins of power."

Okay, so let's get into the aforesaid scholarship about assholes:
He started sketching a theory of assholes, refining his thinking at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford, where he spent a year as a fellow in 2009.
...
He consulted Rousseau ... Hobbes ... Kant ... and more-recent scholarship on psychopaths. He spoke with psychologists, lawyers, and anthropologists, all of whom suggested asshole reading lists. "There are a lot of similar characters studied in other disciplines, like the free rider or the amoralist or the cheater," James says, calling his time at Stanford an "interdisciplinary education in asshole theory."

James argues for a three-part definition of assholes that boils down to this: Assholes act out of a deep-rooted sense of entitlement, a habitual and persistent belief that they deserve special treatment. (Nunberg points out that use of the phrase "sense of entitlement" tracks the spread of "asshole"—both have spiked since the 1970s.) How to distinguish an asshole
from a scumbag, a jerk, a prick, or a schmuck? Assholes are systematic. We all do assholeish things, but only an asshole feels fully justified in always acting like an asshole. As James puts it, "If one is special on one's birthday, the asshole's birthday comes every day."

To put meat on the bones of his theory, James names names. He was loath to do it. "I don't see my job in life being the asshole police," he says. But after a few pages of throat clearing—"We happily admit that any examples are properly controversial ... we stand ready to update and revise"—he walks us through the "teeming asshole ecosystem."
(A Social Offender for Our Times). That should suffice as an introduction, however, it should be said that The Toxins of Power Blog will not stop at the "teeming asshole ecosystem" here on Earth.

No, because traditionally we have framed our searches to consider even the heavens for the source of the toxins of power (see e.g. A Religious Doctrine For Toxins of Power and Is Toxic Power A Cosmic Phenomenon?).

Thus, in this series we will follow the scholars as they examine one asshole after another, especially when they name names:
To put meat on the bones of his theory, James names names ... Rush Limbaugh and Michael Moore ... Richard Dawkins, Larry Summers, and Bernard-Henri Lévy ... Dick Cheney ... Ralph Nader ... [Ann Coulter, Karl Rove] There are many species in the asshole kingdom.
(ibid, see also Assholes: a theory). Stay tuned like a piano dear readers, because this new ongoing hypothesis will likely be morphed into a hypothesis of phases.

That is, this hypothesis may show that the first phase of the activation of the toxins of power is related to the advent of asshole characteristics (see Ascent of the A-Word: Assholism).

Yes, the experiment may indeed turn out to be an exercise of noticing the phenomenon that a particular individual in one of the many seats of power is becoming an asshole.

That would be the time to check for the toxins of power in that asshole.

An ode to assholes:


Saturday, January 5, 2013

Interlude - 2

In the post Interlude there was an emphasis on the issue of not blaming microbes of every sort for the behavior of a few pathogens that also tend to be parasitic.

There is a world of history that counsels us in this direction, mainly involving the discovery that even microbes with bad behavior at times also have good behavior that helps us.

The exercise, then, is to find out what happened to the good microbes that caused them to become involved in some pathogenic behavior.

There are examples in the history of medicine and science where our culture has caused not only microbes to become pathogens, but culture has sometimes even caused people to become destructive to life.

The example to be used in support of today's post is the microbe Helicobacter pylori:
Helicobacter pylori may be the most successful pathogen in human history. While not as deadly as the bacteria that cause tuberculosis, cholera, and the plague, it infects more people than all the others combined. H. pylori, which migrated out of Africa along with our ancestors, has been intertwined with our species for at least two hundred thousand years. Although the bacterium occupies half the stomachs on earth, its role in our lives was never clear. Then, in 1982, to the astonishment of the medical world, two scientists, Barry Marshall and J. Robin Warren, discovered that H. pylori is the principal cause of gastritis and peptic ulcers; it has since been associated with an increased risk of stomach cancer as well.
(Germs Are Us, New Yorker). The author of that piece, Michael Specter, goes on to point out that we went overboard once that factoid was discovered:
The consensus was clear; as one prominent gastroenterologist wrote in 1997, “The only good Helicobacter pylori is a dead Helicobacter pylori.” Eradication proved complicated and expensive, however, and the effort never gained momentum. Yet few scientists questioned the goal. “Helicobacter was a cause of cancer and of ulcers,’’ Martin J. Blaser, the chairman of the Department of Medicine and a professor of microbiology at the New York University School of Medicine, told me recently. “It was bad for us. So the idea was to get it out of our bodies, as fast as we can. I don’t know of anyone who said, Gee, we better think about the consequences.”
(ibid, emphasis added). Eradication without understanding is risky business, as we have seen over and over in the history of human interaction with the environment.

Predators are sometimes overkilled, then we suffer the consequences because we then have lost the moderating role that predators play.

The same dynamic applies to the relatively few microbe species that become pathogenic for some reason or another, and it even applies to the microbe Helicobacter pylori:
No one was more eager to rout the organism from the human gut than Blaser, who has devoted most of his working life to the study of H. pylori. His laboratory at N.Y.U. developed the first standard blood tests to identify the microbe, and most of them are commonly in use today. But Blaser, a restless intellect who, in addition to his medical duties, helped start the Bellevue Literary Review, wondered how an organism as old as humans could survive if it caused nothing but harm. “That isn’t how evolution works,” he said. “H. pylori is an ancestral component of humanity.” By the nineteen-nineties, Blaser had begun to look more closely at the bacterium’s molecular behavior, and in 1998 he published a paper in the British Medical Journal suggesting, contrary to prevailing views, that it might not be so dangerous after all. The following year, he started the Foundation for Bacteriology, to help focus attention on the critical, and usually positive, role that these organisms play in human evolution.
(ibid, emphasis added). Blaser goes on to tie research into the new understanding:
In the past decade, however, aided by the rapidly escalating power of computer processing and by the same revolution in DNA-sequencing technology that made it possible to map our genome, another truth has emerged: while our health is certainly influenced by genes, it may be affected even more powerfully by bacteria.

We inherit every one of our genes, but we leave the womb without a single microbe. As we pass through our mother’s birth canal, we begin to attract entire colonies of bacteria. By the time a child can crawl, he has been blanketed by an enormous, unseen cloud of microorganisms—a hundred trillion or more. They are bacteria, mostly, but also viruses and fungi (including a variety of yeasts), and they come at us from all directions: other people, food, furniture, clothing, cars, buildings, trees, pets, even the air we breathe. They congregate in our digestive systems and our mouths, fill the space between our teeth, cover our skin, and line our throats. We are inhabited by as many as ten thousand bacterial species; these [microbe] cells outnumber those which we consider our own by ten to one, and weigh, all told, about three pounds—the same as our brain. Together, they are referred to as our microbiome—and they play such a crucial role in our lives that scientists like Blaser have begun to reconsider what it means to be human.

“I love genetics,” Blaser said. “But the model that places our genes at the root of all human development is wrong ..."
(ibid, emphasis added). Regular readers know that this blog and its co-blogs have been aware of the revolution that has taken place in microbiology and genetics, and has been informing readers of those developments (see e.g. Microbial Hermeneutics, The "It's In Your Genes" Myth, Hypothesis: Microbes Generate Toxins of Power, and On The New Meaning of "Human").

In conclusion of this post, when we study the affects of power on those in the seats of power, we use the same approach that should be used in the study of microbes.

That is, one does not condemn all people in power because of the corruption that the few succumb to, rather, one focuses on the bulls-eye to find the cause, then apply a remedy to that situation, to that person in power, and more specifically, to the microbial, viral, or other source of the toxins of power that infect them.

Likewise, we want to find out how the toxins of power originate so as to treat only the area of the problem, not to massively destroy good microbes along with the malfunctioning microbes:
The passengers in our microbiome contain at least four million genes, and they work constantly on our behalf: they manufacture vitamins and patrol our guts to prevent infections; they help to form and bolster our immune systems, and digest food. Recent research suggests that bacteria may even alter our brain chemistry, thus affecting our moods and behavior.
(ibid). In fact, the goal should ultimately be to learn how to repair any malfunctioning microbes so that they become stronger to the point of being immune from future malfunction that may once again attempt to produce toxins of power.

The previous post in this series is here.