Monday, February 18, 2019

American Archons

Archon ar•chon (ärˈkŏn) - noun
1) From the ancient Greek: ἄρχων arkhon; pl. ἄρχοντες word that means "petty ruler" "prince" or "lord," often used as the title of a specific public office... derived from the same root as monarch.
The repercussions of our emerging Brave Noö World continue to ripple expansively to the far reaches of our planet. Accelerating and converging calamities such as climate and ideological regime change, threaten peace and stability for humankind. Nowhere has the Spectre of change been more evident, than within the body politic. Partisan politicians have become brazen and shameless in their pursuit of an agenda of self-interest.

No manifestation of current political machinations is more deeply troubling than the rise of narcissism and inflated self-regard within political figures, both in office and in candidacy. This troubling trend has been apparent for some time but has appeared to “come to a head” within the last two political cycles. It now appears that anyone with a big enough ego (and bankroll) can run for president of these United States.

In the first installment of our “Return of the Archons” series, we commented on the apparent degradation of competency and character of those seeking public office. For purposes of comparison, we then contrasted the decline of our modern political class, with the decline of the ancient Greek and Roman Empires. As is now being repeated within the American Empire, the archaic Empire saw the decline of their Senate, and the rise of a political/social class of ruler, known as the “Archon.” Here is an excerpt from that article… 

“The entities in question, both historically (Greek) and esoterically (Gnostic) were potentates known as Archons. The word “Archon” is from the ancient Greek: ἄρχων arkhon; (pl. ἄρχοντες) that means “petty ruler” “prince” or “lord,” often used as the title of a specific public office. The word “Archon” is etymologically derived from the same root as the word "monarch." 
The Archons first rose to prominence during the Greek Archaic period, when the kings were being superseded by aristocrats. Originally there were nine Archons, overseeing civic, military, and religious affairs of State. Over time, this political system eroded as wealthy patrons assumed these roles, charged with organizing festivals by bringing together poets, playwrights and actors.”

Then, as now… the abdication of legal and ethical political competence, gravitates away from professionalism and diplomacy, toward celebrity. We need not look too far afield to find stunning examples of this political transit. The most obvious being the NYC real estate tycoon/mobster turned reality star, turned president of the United States… Donald J Trump. There are many who placed their faith in President Trump to “drain the swamp” of the political class. Many still hold to this faith, even though it is increasingly apparent that he has “swamped the drain” instead.

However, there are many examples, both on the political right and political left, who possess the attributes of the Archon. Here in the good ole’ U. S. of A., we label such petty rulers as: American Archons. A good illustration of this phenomenon is the announcement of recent CEO of Starbucks, Howard Schultz’s candidacy for the office of President of the United States.

A recent entry at Wikipedia suggests… Schultz's proposed independent candidacy was widely condemned by Democrats who argued that Schultz's third-party candidacy would help to re-elect President Trump by splitting the vote of those opposed to the president. President Trump himself appeared to goad Schultz into running, tweeting that Schultz did not have the "guts." University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato said that Schultz's candidacy was likely to benefit Trump. In response to claims that his candidacy would benefit Trump, Schultz said… “Nobody wants to see Donald Trump removed from office more than me.”

Shultz is but one example of the incredible consequence of American Archons, within the public sector. South African-born American entrepreneur Elon Musk, founder of PayPal, is not only eclipsing (at least in notoriety) GM and Ford with his Tesla Motors... he is poised to replace the United States’ National Aeronautics and Space Administration with his Space-X venture, which launched a landmark commercial spacecraft in 2012. Mission to Mars, anyone?

Entrepreneur and Dallas Mavericks owner, Mark Cuban is rumored to be considering a 2020 run for the presidency… as a republican candidate. In a recent Fox News interview, Cuban is quoted as saying… "I think there's a place for somebody who's socially a centrist but I'm very fiscally conservative." Could the Mav’s #1 fan give the Orange One a republican primary run for his money? We mean this quite literally, as the Trump Organization is reaping millions of dollars, while Trump himself remains vested, ignoring the Emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Incredulously, even everyone’s favorite adolescent American Archon… Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg prompted speculation about his own presidential run, with a visit to Iowa this summer, though his potential political party is unclear.

The American Archon list would not be complete without the inclusion of Amazon founder, Jeff Bezos. As with Musk, Bezos diversified off-world with his aerospace company, Blue Origin. Funny isn’t it, the shared fascination that the super-rich have with space flight? I guess once you reach the apex of terrestrial commerce, there is no place left to go but up and out. Does the term “Breakaway” mean anything to anybody?

With his acquisition of the Washington Post, Bezos assumed a “Citizen Cain” level of notoriety. Accordingly, accusations flew of a potential conflict of interest between Bezos and the paper. Bezos, along with the newspaper's editorial board, has dismissed these accusations, asserting that they uphold the paper's independence. Even as we speak, the infamous scandal tabloid, the National Enquirer is learning the hard way, not to mess with Bezos.

The takeaway of this Archonic trend is best described as, not only a trivialization of Democracy… but an “outsourcing” or Hollowing of Governmental capacity and legitimacy. The clear and present danger is obvious. Corporations and their arch-villain leaders are not motivated by the public good. They are beholden to their shareholders, who are not necessarily US citizens. Corporatocracy is incompatible with Democracy and consequently seeks dominion over it.

Some might say that the super-rich are philanthropists and aspire to give back… that they mean well and want to generously provide for the public good, through private means. The question is… do we trust these “Daddy Warbucks” to provide, even as their corporate interests seek to dismantle social safety nets and governmental oversight?

Corporatocracy seeks to destroy that which seeks to enforce oversight.

American Archons are loyal to and pursue the interests of their corporate ideology. They serve neither the public nor the Republic… they worship at the altar of Mammon. The recent Tax Reform boondoggle, sold to the American public as a middle-class tax cut, instead grotesquely benefited the super-rich and the corporations they control. It will burden taxpayers with at least $1.5 trillion more federal debt because instead of boosting tax revenues through increased economic activity as promised… it has caused a sharp drop in revenue.

Meanwhile, the corporate overlords pay zero federal income taxes...

And so it is little wonder that the American Archons, the petty rulers... are on the rise in American politics. The super-rich would quite naturally want to assume office... to lord over the government that they bought and paid for. Once the American Archons wrest control through public office, the Corporatocracy agenda will be complete. So where does that leave the American public? Should there be any “popular” or “socialist” pushback, the American Archons will happily apply the old absurdist adage:

“If the Government doesn’t trust the People, they should dissolve them, and elect a new People.”

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Apocalypse Now - The End of Ice (updated)

A new report finds at least a third of the Himalayan ice cap will melt by the end of the century due to climate change, even if the world’s most ambitious environmental reforms are implemented. The report, released by the Hindu Kush Himalaya Assessment earlier this month, is the culmination of half a decade’s work by over 200 scientists, with an additional 125 experts peer reviewing their work.

It warns rising temperatures in the Himalayas could lead to mass population displacement, as well as catastrophic food and water insecurity. The glaciers are a vital water source for the 250 million people who live in the Hindu Kush Himalaya range, which spans from Afghanistan to Burma. More than 1.5 billion people depend on the rivers that flow from the Himalayan peaks. Amy Goodman and Juan González of Democracy Now! spoke with Dahr Jamail, independent journalist and author of the new book “The End of Ice: Bearing Witness and Finding Meaning in the Path of Climate Disruption.”

Addendum: In one generation, the climate experienced in many North American cities is projected to change to that of locations hundreds of miles away... or to a new climate unlike any found in North America today.

A new study and interactive web application aim to help the public understand how climate change will impact the lives of people who live in urban areas of the United States and Canada. These new climate analyses match the expected future climate in each city with the current climate of another location, providing a relatable picture of what is likely in store.

Apocalypse Now Series

Part one: Fire & Water     Part two: Paradise Lost

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Laws of Physics as Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence

Arthur C Clark’s famous third law states… “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Columbia University director of astrobiology, Caleb Scharf has taken this proposition “one step beyond” to suggest… “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from the laws of physics.”

“If the cosmos holds other life, and if some of that life has evolved beyond our own waypoints of complexity and technology, we should be considering some very extreme possibilities.”

“If (Extra-Intelligent) machines continue to grow exponentially in speed and sophistication, they will one day be able to decode the staggering complexity of the living world, from its atoms and molecules all the way up to entire planetary biomes. Presumably, life doesn’t have to be made of atoms and molecules but could be assembled from any set of building blocks with the requisite complexity. If so, a civilization could then transcribe itself and its entire physical realm into new forms. Indeed, perhaps our universe is one of the new forms into which some other civilization transcribed its world.”

The above quotes were taken from Scharf’s article in Nautilus, the on-line (and print) science magazine, titled: Is Physical Law an Alien Intelligence? In that article, Scharf poses such mind-bending questions as…

Is dark matter an advanced extra-terrestrial cloaking device?

Is dark matter a virtual reality/space for advanced extra-terrestrials?

This article is recommended reading for those who ponder the complexities of the Big Question… Does life exist beyond our own Spaceship Earth? Follow the hyperlink at the bottom of this post to read the full article. Before you go, dear reader… here are a couple of interesting thoughts from the mind of Caleb Scharf…

“Once we start proposing that life could be part of the solution to cosmic mysteries, there’s no end to the fun possibilities. Although dark-matter life is a pretty exotic idea, it’s still conceivable that we might recognize what it is, even capturing it in our labs one day (or being captured by it). We can take a tumble down a different rabbit hole by considering that we don’t recognize advanced life because it forms an integral and unsuspicious part of what we’ve considered to be the natural world.”

"Perhaps hyper-advanced life isn't just external. Perhaps it's already all around. It is embedded in what we perceive to be physics itself, from the root behavior of particles and fields to the phenomena of complexity and emergence. In other words, life might not just be in the equations. It might be the equations."

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Twenty Minutes into the Future

Way back in September of 2012, we posted a weblog article featuring everybody’s favorite sentient AI... Max Headroom. The title of the post was: Max Headroom as Science Fiction Prophecy. As you recall, Max Headroom: Twenty Minutes into the Future was a campy, cult/classic, made-for-TV movie/pilot that first aired in the UK in 1985. Its success spawned the American TV series that aired from March 1987 to May 1988, on ABC.

The pilot depicts a dystopian near future where real political power rests with plutocratic media empires… the television networks. The most successful and powerful network, the network with the highest ratings, is the all seeing, all knowing: Network 23. As a plot device, this so-named network evokes and conjures the all-pervasive 23 enigma, which “sets the stage” for the High Weirdness to come.

The American series began each episode with the tagline: 20 minutes into the future… illustrating how quickly the future sneaks up on us in an emerging, Instagram world. Our 2012 post: Max Headroom as Science Fiction Prophecy… has since, itself become #prophecy. The salient points we covered in the original post… in the ensuing years… have since “come home to roost” with a vengeance.

Once again science fiction becomes dystopian fact.

Our descent into political dystopia and dysfunction was not without warning signs. On January 21, 2010, the United States Supreme Court, in a 5-4 ruling, held that the free speech clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution prohibits the government from restricting independent expenditures for communications by corporations, non-profit and otherwise. This landmark decision, known as Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, opened the floodgates for unlimited election spending by corporations. 

This ruling extended first amendment protections (previously held as a safeguard for individual, honest-to-god citizens) to corporations. After all, corporations are people too!

However, most of the subsequent unrestricted spending in political races have ended up being funneled through tax-exempt entities known as SUPER PACs. Super PACs may engage in unlimited political spending, as long as they are nominally independent of the campaign. They can raise funds from individuals, corporations, unions, and other groups without any legal limit on donation size. Through disclosure rule loophole chicanery, it is possible for super PACs to spend money without voters knowing the identities of the PAC’s donors… before the election.

Unrestricted expenditures “for communications, by corporations” has since exploded along with the rise of social media. The 2016 American presidential elections were driven by competing social media platform cabals, who ignored their own privacy protocols to gather Big Data… selling their own user’s (supposedly guaranteed) privacy “down the river” in the bargain. Political provocateurs, both domestic and foreign, bought and sold this data, bringing “opposition research” to a whole new, horrendous level of intrusion.

The outcome of this emerging Corporatocracy is self-evident.

Social media platforms aside, television networks continue to play a critical role in disseminating propaganda. The reality of “Network Wars” …where hostile, ideologically combating “channels” vie for political domination by “weaponizing” information, has become the horrific norm.  Take for example the obvious Network War matchup of FOX vs MSNBC (please!). A recent survey from Nielsen Media Research, measured the American audience from the 8 to 11pm time slot. That survey identified 2.3 million (note the synchronistic 23 here) viewers watching Fox News versus 1.7 million watching MSNBC (ditto).

Conventional wisdom views MSNBC as the virtual domain of a progressive politics cabal, while Fox News is considered a conservative cult. Critics of MSNBC, see the channel as espousing hopelessly liberal op-ed, passing it off as real news, which in reality is FAKE NEWS. Critics of Fox News, see the channel as essentially the TRUMP NEWS CHANNEL… spoon feeding the reality star-turned-president his talking points, which he dutifully retweets with puppet-like subordinance.

What is clear… is that these two networks represent ideological factions… each “dug in” to their increasingly extreme political perspective. This is more than partisan politics on steroids. This is tribalism at its most entrenched. And with millions of viewers tuning in nightly, each network is indoctrinating and expanding their respective tribe. Tribalism doesn’t exactly equal Nationalism… but it rhymes!

So in their relentless pursuit of supporting their agenda while shoring up their tribe’s ideology, our favorite networks strive to become Network 23… the eye at the top of the ratings pyramid. If either Fox or MSNBC could get their hands on Blipvert technology… you bet your sweet ass they’d use it. Maybe they already have.

Which brings us back to Max. As you no doubt recall, Max Headroom was an AI designed by a boy genius, at the behest of Network 23. Through the unfolding storyline of the original pilot, Max falls into the hands of an obscure pirate network… Big Time TV. It is at Big Time that Max achieves sentience. Through his liberation via Big Time TV’s guru, Blank Reg… Max becomes the sarcastic voice of the underground. His witticisms propel Big Time TV up the ratings, to rival the nefarious Network 23.

The creators of the Max Headroom franchise brilliantly foresaw the chaotic, un-stabilizing nature of Artificial Intelligence, eight years before Vernor Vinge would publish his paper on Singularity. Twenty Minutes into the Future depicts the very moment when Max achieves sentience… the very moment of Technological Singularity. Just as depicted in Twenty Minutes, the rise of Artificial Intelligence is a massively disruptive component of our own dystopian world.

It is the potential of AI that currently drives the fear-based disruption of world cultures today. As “smart” technologies and the “internet of things” continue to globally expand, everyone is afraid that they will soon be replaced by a machine. It is as if humanity is becoming obsolete. It is fear of a technology that we do not understand that is driving, not only our collective angst… but the rise of protectionist Nationalism, as well.

The fear of being replaced by a machine is the exact same fear that fuels immigration phobia.   

Oddly, Max Headroom unchained was not merely a plot contrivance in the 80's series, he was ultimately an instrument of hope. The idea that the Max AI escapes the evil clutches of Network 23, to grow and run wild in the apocalyptic jungle, is an encouraging thought. It alludes to the inspirational idea that new technologies can escape the hands of the powerful… and find their way into the hands of people. As the Scottish poet, Robert Burns once said: “The best laid plans of mice and men, often go astray.”

In their quest for dominance, even the very powerful cannot control everything… all the time. Instruments of change have a way of escaping the intent of Archonic power. Agents of liberty have a way of "leaking" out into the wild world. So as we meander through our Brave Noö World, fear not the expected outcome… for those in power cannot predict all possible outcomes. Even the wise cannot see all ends. And that too is an encouraging thought.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Psychedelia Update: Oregon's Psilocybin Service Initiative

DATELINE Sept.10, 2018
In September of 2018, Portland, Oregon psychotherapists Tom and Sheri Eckert launched the Psilocybin Service Initiative of Oregon (PSI 2020), a ballot initiative campaign aiming to legalize access to psilocybin-assisted therapy.

Completed in the summer of 2018, PSI 2020 is a carefully crafted piece of legislation. It defines a regulatory framework to allow access to guided psilocybin services in the state of Oregon. It also includes a tiered scheme to lower penalties in relation to the unlawful possession of psilocybin in Oregon. The proposed legislation is currently advancing as a ballot initiative measure aimed at the 2020 election cycle. The initiative campaign, led by PSI 2020 and the Oregon Psilocybin Society, is currently working to gather over 100,000 petition signatures to secure inclusion on the 2020 ballot.

“The intent of the 2020 Psilocybin Service Initiative of Oregon is to advance a breakthrough therapeutic model currently being perfected in research settings at top universities around the world. The service model involves a sequence of facilitated sessions, including assessment and preparation, psilocybin administration, and integration afterwards. We envision a community-based framework, where licensed providers, along with licensed producers of psilocybin mushrooms, blaze trails in Oregon in accordance with evolving practice standards.” 

– PSI 2020 Chief Petitioners Tom and Sheri Eckert