Monthly Archives: March 2013
Revenue will ruthlessly bring to bear the full arsenal of laws at its disposal to enforce the new tax.
If necessary Revenue will deduct the tax directly from the salary, pension or bank accounts of those who fail to co-operate.
People can only judge for themselves Revenue’s record for pursuing people…We have very extensive data. We will pursue. We’ve done it in the past.
Well I’d like to accept Ms. Feehily’s invitation and judge her organisation’s record of pursuing people.
A report in last Sunday’s Independent reveals that not one person has been prosecuted over the Ansbacher tax criminality.
Ms. Feehily extends three excuses for her organisation’s disgraceful failure in bringing the Ansbacher white-collar criminals to account.
Excuse one: A lack of original documentation.
An essential requirement for a successful criminal prosecution is original documents. There were very few original documents available and there was no legal mechanism to compel Caymen entities to produce such documents.
This excuse is, of course, bullshit. There is a mountain of good quality evidence available to Revenue if it had a mind to prosecute.
The reason this good quality evidence has never been used is simple – it would most likely result in damaging the interests of very influential and powerful people.
Excuse two: Time elapsed has made prosecutions impossible.
While many cases passed the serious evasion test to be considered for prosecution, the time elapsed – typically in excess of 10 years since the alleged offence occurred – meant it would not be possible to mount a successful prosecution.
Ms. Feehily’s admission that many cases passed the serious evasion test for prosecution directly contradicts her first excuse re original documents.
The ‘time lapsed’ excuse is the most powerful strategy employed by state agencies when it comes to protecting influential and powerful people.
It is no accident, in my opinion, that almost every major white-collar scandal is strung out over many years in order to benefit from the ‘time lapse’ excuse.
Excuse three: Some of the criminals were too old or too dead.
Being too old will not be accepted as an excuse by Revenue for failing to pay the property tax. This excuse is strictly reserved for influential and powerful people.
Neither will death be accepted as an excuse. If an ordinary citizen undervalues his property and the property is sold on after his death the tax due, with interest, will be extracted from the new owners.
Influential and powerful people are exempt from such exacting laws. For example, when the criminal politician Haughey died his wealth was passed on to his family with no response from Revenue.
In functional democracies such ill-gotten wealth is heavily taxed or even seized outright.
Returning to Ms. Feehily’s invitation to people to judge Revenue’s record of pursuing people I think the following sums up what most ordinary people think.
The very fact that so called law enforcement agencies like Revenue and the Financial Regulator are incapable or unwilling to enforce the law when dealing with white-collar crime but are more than efficient in enforcing the law against ordinary citizens suggests that there is indeed one law for the rich and another for the peasants.
Flies, Maggots, Rats, and Lots of Poop: What Big Ag Doesn’t Want You To See |
What’s it like inside a factory farm? If the livestock and meat industries have their way, what little view we have inside the walls of these animal-reviewing facilities may soon be obscured. For the second year in a row, the industry is backing bills in various statehouses that would criminalize undercover investigations of livestock farms. The Humane Society of the US, one of the animal-welfare groups most adept at conducting such hidden-camera operations, counts active “ag gag” bills in no fewer than nine states. Many of them are based on a model conjured by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a corporate-funded group that generates industry-friendly legislation language for state legislatures, Associated Press reports.
To understand the stakes of this battle, consider this 2010 Food and Drug Administration report on conditions in several vast egg-producing facilities in Iowa owned by a man named Jack Decoster. I teased out some highlights at the time of its release; in short, it involves flies, maggots, rats, wild birds, tainted feed, workers ignoring sanitary rules, and lots and lots of chickenshit. The report portrays the facilities as a kind of fecal nightmare, with manure mounding up in eight-foot piles—providing perches for escaped hens to peck feed from teeming cages—overflowing in pits, and seeping through concrete foundations.
It was, in short, a blunt and damning portrayal, an example of a federal watchdog agency training the public gaze on the misdeeds of a powerful industry. The investigation led the FDA to ban the offending operations from selling fresh eggs for several months.
USDA inspectors repeatedly witnessed dead bugs on the packing floor and old egg residues on conveyor belts just before the outbreak, but did nothing to stop production.
Trouble is, the FDA’s exposé came after those factory-like operations had been forced to recall nearly half a billion eggs potentially tainted with salmonella, and an outbreak that sickened nearly 2,000 people. It later turned out that the company’s own tests had detected salmonella in the facilities, including egg-carrying conveyor belts, no fewer than 73 times in the two years before the outbreak; and that inspectors from the US Agriculture Department had repeatedly witnessed unsanitary conditions like dead bugs on the packing floor and old egg residues on conveyor belts just before the outbreak, but did nothing to stop production, because they were only there to “grade” the size of eggs, not monitor the potential for disease outbreaks (which falls to the FDA).
Given that the egg company itself (which turned out to be part of the nation’s largest egg empire at the time) and federal watchdogs both failed to prevent the outbreak despite so many troubling signs, you have to wonder what would have happened if an animal-welfare group like Mercy For Animals or the Humane Society of the US had managed to sneak in cameras and record conditions before those half-billion suspect eggs made it onto supermarket shelves.
In fact, months before the outbreak, HSUS did get operatives to pose as a worker at several giant egg factories in Iowa, operated by Decoster rivals Rose Acre Farms and Rembrandt Enterprises. Here’s some of what they found:
From the report:
• Trapped birds unable to reach food and water: Battery cages can trap hens by their wings, necks, legs, and feet in the wire, causing other birds to trample the weakened animals, usually resulting in a slow, painful death.
• High mortality in layer and pullet sheds: The HSUS investigator pulled dead young hens, some of them mummified (meaning they’d been rotting in the cages for weeks), from cages every day.
Failure to maintain manure pits: According to one worker, the manure pit under a pullet shed had not been cleaned in two years. Rose Acre workers claimed that some hens are blinded because of excessive ammonia levels.
• Abandoned hens: Some hens manage to escape from their cages and fall into the manure pits below.
The exposure prompted Rose Acre Farms to undergo “third-party audit” of the facilities in question, while Rembrandt publicly declared it would investigate its facilities, adding to a farm trade journal that “it would have been beneficial had the Humane Society come directly to us right after the alleged violations occurred.” We’ll never know if the HSUS investigation caused changes that saved consumers from exposure to salmonella or other pathogens.
Federal watchdogs like USDA and FDA are having to cut back on inspections of meat-production facilities, meaning that already-weak oversight will only get weaker.
And in 2011, a Mercy For Animals employee got inside yet another Iowa egg company called Sparboe Farms and released a video depicting dead birds being left to rot in tight cages also occupied by live birds and flies, among other sordid scenes. In a web posting after the release, the company’s president wrote that the video had documented acts are “totally unacceptable and completely at odds with our values as egg farmers,” adding that the employees responsible had been fired. Just before the MFA release, FDA came out with the results of its own investigation of the facility, which found several violations—again potentially saving the public from a pathogen outbreak.
Last year, of course, Iowa and its famously agribiz-aligned governor, Terry Branstad, passed the nation’s first ag-gag law—meaning that any undercover investigator who exposes such abuses on one of the state’s hundreds of factory-scale hog and egg facilities will now be subject to criminal prosecution. The triumph in Iowa marks a significant victory in Big Ag’s push to keep its practices behind closed doors, because Iowa is the nation’s number-one state in both hog and egg-laying hen production.
In a time of fiscal austerity, federal watchdogs like USDA and FDA are having to cut back on inspections of meat-production facilities, meaning that already-weak oversight will only get weaker. If the meat industry wins these ag-gag battles playing out in farm states nationwide, who will serve as the public’s eyes on the factory farm floor? Answer: essentially, no one.
GE 1:28 Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and subdue it. Have dominion over all living things. (Note: God appears to be totally unconcerned with population control or ecology.)
GE 3:16, CO 11:3-9, EP 5:22-24, CN 3:18, TS 2:5, 1PE 3:1-6 The husband is to rule over his wife. Wives are to be subject to their husbands even when the husband is disobedient to God. Man is the image and glory of God, while woman is the glory of man. Man was not created for woman but woman for man.
GE 3:16 Women should suffer pain during childbirth. (Note: This verse was used by the Church to oppose the use of anesthesia during childbirth.)
GE 4:13-15 Cain–who murdered his brother Abel–is promised protection by God.
GE 17:10 “This is my covenant, …every male among you shall be circumcised.” (Note: God seems to have an obsession with this–the words circumcise, circumcised, circumcising, circumcision, uncircumcised, uncircumcision, foreskin, and foreskins appear 157 times in the KJV. Although the KJV correctly translates the oldest Hebrew and Greek manuscripts, versions since the KJV attempt to soften this apparent obsession by creatively translating these words in a different fashion wherever possible.)
GE 17:14 A child is to be punished when his parents neglect to have him circumcised.
GE 31:17, GE 36:6, DT 21:15, JG 8:30, SA 5:13, KI 11:3, CH 14:3, CH 11:21, 13:21 Polygamy is condoned. (Note: David is one of the polygamists. He is an angel of God, SA 19:27, and always fulfills God’s will,AC 13:22.)
GE 38:8-10 A man who refuses to impregnate his widowed sister-in-law is put to death.
EX 20:4 We are not to make likenesses of anything. (Note: This seems to preclude all photographs, paintings, statues, etc.)
EX 20:5 We are not to worship a likeness. The children to the third and fourth generation will be punished for infractions.
EX 20:8-11, 31:15-17, 34:21, 35:1-3 No work of any kind is to be done on the Sabbath, not even lighting of a fire. This commandment is permanent. Death is required for infractions. (Note: This would require even that essential services, such as hospitals, police departments, etc., shut down on the Sabbath.)
EX 20:26 You should not go up steps to a high altar; you might expose yourself. (Note: Men wore skirts at this time.)
EX 21:7-11 A father can sell a daughter into slavery to pay a debt. A daughter sold into slavery is not released at the end of six years as is an ordinary male slave.
EX 21:12 Whoever strikes a man so that he dies is to be put to death–except that, in some cases, God will appoint a place to which the offender may flee instead.
EX 21:15 Whoever strikes his father or mother is to be put to death.
EX 21:20-21 A slave owner is to be punished if he strikes his slave and the slave dies shortly thereafter. If the slave lives a day or to and then dies, the slave owner is not to be punished. A slave is the same as money to his owner.
EX 21:28-32 When an ox gores a man to death, the ox must be stoned. If the ox has gored a man previously, the animal’s owner must also be put to death; in the case of the goring of a slave, the only requirement is that the owner of the ox must pay thirty shekels to the owner of the slave.
EX 22:16-17 An unbetrothed virgin is required to marry her seducer.
EX 22:20 Anyone who sacrifices to other gods must be destroyed.
EX 22:29 Firstborn children should be sacrificed to the Lord.
LE 3:17 The eating of blood and fat are prohibited forever.
LE 10:9 Drinking strong drink in the tabernacle of the congregation will result in death.
LE 11:10 Eating shellfish is prohibited.
LE 12:2 A woman who has a child, especially a female child, is unclean and purification rites are required.
LE 15:2 When a man has any bodily discharge, it is unclean.
LE 15:4 Any bed that a man with a discharge lies on is unclean.
LE 15:5 Anyone who touches an unclean bed must bathe and is unclean until evening.
LE 15:6 Anyone who sits on anything that a person with a discharge sat on must wash his clothes and bathe, and is unclean until evening.
LE 15:7 Anyone who touches the skin of a person who has a discharge must wash his clothes and bathe, and is unclean until evening.
LE 15:8 Anyone who is spit upon by a person who has a discharge must wash his clothes and bathe, and is unclean until evening.
LE 15:9-10 Whatever [saddle] a person with a discharge sits on is unclean. Anyone who touches it must wash his clothes and bathe, and is unclean until evening.
LE 15:11 Anyone who is touched by a person with a discharge who has not washed his hands must wash his clothes and bathe, and is unclean until evening.
LE 15:12 Any clay or wood utensils that are touched by a person with a discharge are unclean and must be broken or washed.
LE 15:13-15 When his discharge has stopped, the person who had the discharge will count off seven days, wash his clothes and bathe. On the eight day, he must present two birds to the priest for an atonement for having had a discharge.
LE 15:16 When a man has an emission of semen, he must bathe his whole body, and he is unclean until evening.
LE 15:17 Any clothing or leather that has semen on it must be washed, and it is unclean until evening.
LE 15:18 When a man lies with a woman and there is an emission of semen, both must bathe, and they are unclean until evening.
LE 15:19 A woman who is menstruating is unclean. Anyone who touches her is unclean.
LE 15:20 Anything which a woman who is menstruating sits on or lies on is unclean.
LE 15:21 Anyone who touches the bed of a woman who is menstruating must wash his clothes and bathe, and is unclean until evening.
LE 15:22 Anyone who touches anything which was sat upon by a woman who is menstruating must wash his clothes and bathe, and is unclean until evening.
LE 15:24 If a man lies with a woman who is menstruating and any of her discharge touches him, he is unclean for seven days. Any bed he lies on is also unclean.
LE 15:28 After her flow stops, a woman who was menstruating must count off seven days before she is considered clean again. On the eighth day, she must present two birds to the priest for an atonement for having had a menstrual discharge.
LE 19:13 Hired help must be paid every day.
LE 19:19 Cattle must not be allowed to breed with a different kind.
LE 19:19 A field must not be sown with more than one kind of seed.
LE 19:19 A cloth garment made of two kinds of material must not be worn.
LE 19:26 Flesh with blood in it must not be eaten.
LE 19:27 The hair on the temples should not be rounded off.
LE 19:27 The edges of a beard should not be clipped.
LE 19:28 Tattoos and the like are prohibited.
LE 19:29 Do not make your daughter a prostitute.
LE 19:31 Do not consult mediums or wizards.
LE 20:14 If a man has sexual relations with both his wife and his mother-in-law, all three of them must be put to death.
LE 20:15-16 If a person engages in sex with an animal, both the animal and the person must be put to death.
LE 20:18 If a man has sex relations with a woman who is menstruating, both shall be excommunicated from their people.
LE 20:27 A medium or wizard is to be put to death.
LE 21:9 If a priest’s daughter becomes a prostitute, she is to be burnt with fire.
LE 21:14 A priest (or descendant of Aaron) must not marry a widow, a divorced woman, a woman who has been defiled, or a harlot, but only a virgin.
LE 21:17-23 A priest (or descendant of Aaron) with crushed testicles (or almost any other physical deformity) is not to be allowed near the sanctuary.
LE 24:16 Whoever blasphemes the name of the Lord must be put to death.
LE 27:3-7 Males are more valuable than females.
LE 27:29 Human sacrifice is condoned.
LE 27:30-32 A tithe, a tenth of everything, is to be given to the Lord.
NU 3:10 An unauthorized person who acts as a priest must be put to death.
NU 5:2-3 Anyone who has a discharge or who has touched a corpse is unclean.
NU 5:12-31 A woman suspected or accused of adultery is to be tested by making her drink the “water of bitterness,” or holy water mixed with dust from the floor. (Note: There is no such test for men.)
NU 19:16 Whoever touches one who is slain in the field with a sword, or a dead body, or a bone of a man, or a grave, is unclean for seven days. (Note: Isn’t one who is slain in the open field with a sword also a dead body? Why the distinction between the two?)
NU 19:22 Whatever an unclean person touches is also unclean. Anyone who touches an unclean thing also becomes unclean.
DT 4:19 Be careful when you look at the stars and planets not to be enticed into worshipping them.
DT 13:2-5 Anyone who causes someone to turn to another god must be put to death.
DT 13:6-10 A man is required to slay his friends and members of his own family who are guilty of worshipping another god.
DT 15:1-3 Every seven years, a brother (meaning a fellow Israelite) should be released from his debt. Only a foreigner should be required, again, to honor his debt.
DT 17:12 A man who shows contempt for a judge or priest must be put to death.
DT 22:5 One must not wear the clothing of the opposite sex.
DT 22:6-7 If you want to live a long time, you must not take a mother bird from her young, but you may take the young from the mother.
DT 22:10 You must not plow with an ox and an ass together.
DT 22:13-21 A bride in whom “the tokens of virginity” are not found is to be put to death. (Note: The bridegroom who falsely accuses his bride gets off with a fine.)
DT 22:23-24 A betrothed virgin who is seduced in the city is to be put to death unless she cries for help.
DT 22:28-29 A virgin who is raped must marry her rapist (if they are “found”).
DT 23:1 A man whose testicles are crushed or whose “male member” is cut off may not enter the sanctuary.
DT 23:2 A bastard–and his offspring to the tenth generation–are to be punished for his illegitimacy and cannot enter a congregation of the Lord.
DT 23:10 A man who has a seminal emission during the night is unclean and must go through a purification process.
DT 23:12-14 The Lord must not be allowed to see human excrement (it is indecent).
DT 23:19-20 Money must not be lent at interest to a brother (meaning a fellow Israelite). Interest can only be collected from foreigners.
DT 24:1-4 A man may divorce his wife simply because she displeases him.
DT 25:5-10 A man has an obligation to produce a child for his widowed sister-in-law.
DT 25:11 A wife who grabs her husband’s opponent by his “private parts” must have her hand cut off and is to be shown no pity.
JG 21:21 The Benjamites are commanded to take wives by hiding in the vineyards and then seizing the “daughters of Shiloh” as they come out to dance.
PR 13:24, 22:15, 23:13 Children are to be disciplined with the rod–if beaten with a rod, they will not die. (Note: Many Christian parents have inadvertently beaten a child to death following this precept.)
PR 26:4 Do not answer a fool. To do so makes you foolish too.
PR 26:5 Answer a fool. If you don’t, he will think himself wise.
PR 31:10-31 The able wife is to bring only profit and no loss, rise before dawn, buy land prudently, plant a vineyard with her earnings, keep her lamp burning all night, gird herself to work, be generous to the poor, lend a hand to the forlorn, talk shrewd sense, offer kindly counsel, and never be idle.
IS 56:4 A eunuch who keeps the Lord’s Sabbath will receive special rewards.
HO 4:14 The sins of female prostitutes and adulterers can be excused when the men themselves set a bad example.
MT 5:22 Do not get angry. Anger is a sin.
MT 23:9 Do not call any man on earth “father.”
MT 5:18-19 The OT law is to remain in effect until heaven and earth pass away.
MT 5:28 Whoever looks upon a woman lustfully commits adultery in his heart. (Note: This precept could cause some to think that they might as well commit adultery as to do so only in the heart.)
MT 5:29-30, 18:8-9, MK 9:43-47 If your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. (Note: Many believers insist that this admonition, and others like it, are to be taken figuratively, although others take even this admonition literally. The problem is that there is no clear and decisive method to determine whether a passage is meant to be taken literally or figuratively. God could have foreseen this problem and should have provided an unambiguous solution.)
MT 5:33-37 Make no vows or oaths. They arise from evil (or the Devil).
MT 5:38-44 Turn the other cheek. Love your enemies. Do good to those that hate you.
MT 5:40 If any man would sue you and take your coat, give him your cloak also.
MT 5:48 Be perfect.
MT 6:6 Pray in private.
MT 19:12, RO 8:13 A man should consider castration, thereby making himself a eunuch, for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. If you live after the flesh, you shall die, but if you put to death the deeds of the body, you shall live. (Note: During the dark and middle ages, saints castrated themselves by the thousands in order to become more godly. Even now, the practice continues in some sects.)
MT 23:3 Practice and observe everything the Pharisees and scribes teach.
LK 12:33, TI 6:8 Sell your possessions and give to charity. Be content with having only food and clothing. (Note: Many believers claim that the first injunction applies only to those who are wealthy or have a problem with wealth. That this is not the case is clear from the context. It is also clear that the Disciples practiced this principle; see AC 2:44-45 and 4:32-35. This is in sharp contrast to the concept of abundance that many evangelists preach and to the personal wealth they often amass.)
LK 14:26 One cannot be a disciple of Jesus unless he hates his mother, father, wife, children, brothers, sisters, and even his own life.
LK 14:33 “… any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.”
RO 13:1-4, PE 2:13-14 Be subject to every human institution. All authorities (laws and governments) are from God. (Note: This would include those of a Nazi Germany, yet believers seldom follow this injunction. Even Jesus and his Disciples violated this principle.)
1CO 3:18 Become a “fool” (for Christ) in order to become wise. (Note: A fool is still a fool.)
1CO 6:1-8 Christians should never go to court against each other, but should, instead, let the church settle their differences.
1CO 7:1-38 Men and widows should not marry. Although it is well for a man to remain chaste, the temptation to immorality is a valid reason to marry; a man should marry if he cannot control himself. Yet, a man who is already married should live as if he were not. He that is unmarried is concerned about how he can please the Lord while he that is married is concerned about pleasing his spouse. It is better to remain single so as to attend to the Lord without distraction.
1CO 10:24 Put your neighbor’s good ahead of your own.
1CO 11:3-10 A woman is to keep her head covered while praying or prophesying.
1CO 11:14 It is a shame for a man to have long hair. (Note: Why is it, then, that most portrayals of Jesus show him with long hair?)
1CO 14:34-35 Women are to be silent in church. If they have any questions, they are to ask their husbands at home. It is a shame for women to speak in church.
2CO 13:12 Greet each other with a holy kiss.
CN 2:8 Philosophy is to be shunned.
1TH 5:16 Rejoice always.
1TH 5:18 Give thanks no matter what the circumstances.
2TH 3:10 Anyone who doesn’t work should not be allowed to eat.
1TI 2:11-12 Women are to learn in silence (from men) in all submissiveness.
1TI 2:12 Women are not permitted to teach or have authority over men.
TS 1:10-11 There are many who must be silenced.
JA 4:7-10 Humble yourselves before God: be miserable, grieve and cry, let laughter be turned to sorrow. The Lord will then exalt you.
JA 5:14-15 Use prayer and anointing to cure illness.
2 JN 1:9-11 Do not allow anyone into your house who is not a fellow believer.
Tomorrow part 7 Bible Vulgarities & Obscenities –
THE EASTER BUNNY – Taking a well deserved break. My ass would need soothing after shooting out all those eggs too.
American sociobiologist Edward O. Wilson is championing a controversial new approach for explaining the origins of virtue and sin. In an interview, the world-famous ant reseacher explains why he believes the inner struggle is the characteristic trait of human nature.
Edward O. Wilson doesn’t come across as the kind of man who’s looking to pick a fight. With his shoulders upright and his head tilting slightly to the side, he shuffles through the halls of Harvard University. His right eye, which has given him trouble since his childhood, is halfway closed. The other is fixed on the ground. As an ant researcher, Wilson has made a career out of things that live on the earth’s surface.
here’s also much more to Wilson. Some consider him to be the world’s most important living biologist, with some placing him on a level with Charles Darwin.
In addition to discovering and describing hundreds of species of ants, Wilson’s book on this incomparably successful group of insects is the only non-fiction biology tome ever to win a Pulitzer Prize. Another achievement was decoding the chemical communication of ants, whose vocabulary is composed of pheromones. His study of the ant colonization of islands helped to establish one of the most fruitful branches of ecology. And when it comes to the battle against the loss of biodiversity, Wilson is one of the movement’s most eloquent voices.
‘Blessed with Brilliant Enemies’
But Wilson’s fame isn’t solely the product of his scientific achievements. His enemies have also helped him to establish a name. “I have been blessed with brilliant enemies,” he says. In fact, the multitude of scholars with whom Wilson has skirmished academically is illustrious. James Watson, one of the discoverers of the double helix in DNA is among them, as is essayist Stephen Jay Gould.
At 83 years of age, Wilson is still at work making a few new enemies. The latest source of uproar is a book, “The Social Conquest of Earth,” published last April in the United States and this month in a German-language edition. In the tome, Wilson attempts to describe the triumphal advance of humans in evolutionary terms.
It is not uncommon for Wilson to look to ants for inspiration in his writings — and that proves true here, as well. When, for example, he recalls beholding two 90-million-year-old worker ants that were trapped in a piece of fossil metasequoia amber as being “among the most exciting moments in my life,” a discovery that “ranked in scientific importance with Archaeopteryx, the first fossil intermediary between birds and dinosaurs, and Australopithecus, the first ‘missing link’ discovered between modern humans and the ancestral apes.”
But that’s all just foreplay to the real controversy at the book’s core. Ultimately, Wilson uses ants to explain humans’ social behavior and, by doing so, breaks with current convention. The key question is the level at which Darwinian selection of human characteristics takes place. Did individuals enter into a fight for survival against each other, or did groups battle it out against competing groups?
Prior to this book, Wilson had been an influential champion of the theory of kin selection. He has now rejected his previous teachings, literally demolishing them. “The beautiful theory never worked well anyway, and now it has collapsed,” he writes. Today, he argues that human nature can only be understood if it is perceived as being the product of “group selection” — a view that Wilson’s fellow academics equate with sacrilege. They literally lined up to express their scientific dissent in a joint letter.
Some of the most vociferous criticism has come from Richard Dawkins, whose bestselling 1976 book “The Selfish Gene” first introduced the theory of kin selection to a mass audience. In a withering review of Wilson’s book in Britain’s Prospect magazine, Dawkins accuses a man he describes as his “lifelong hero” of “wanton arrogance” and “perverse misunderstandings”. “To borrow from Dorothy Parker,” he writes, “this is not a book to be tossed lightly aside. It should be thrown with great force.”
SPIEGEL recently sat down with sociobiologist Wilson to discuss his book and the controversy surrounding it.
SPIEGEL: Professor Wilson, lets assume that 10 million years ago some alien spacecraft had landed on this planet. Which organisms would they find particularly intriguing?
Wilson: Their interest, I believe, would not have been our ancestors. Primarily, they would have focused on ants, bees, wasps, and termites. Their discovery is what the aliens would report back to headquarters.
SPIEGEL: And you think those insects would be more interesting to them than, for example, elephants, flocks of birds or intelligent primates?
Wilson: They would be, because, at that time, ants and termites would be the most abundant creatures on the land and the most highly social creatures with very advanced division of labor and caste. We call them “eusocial,” and this phenomenon seems to be extremely rare.
SPIEGEL: What else might the aliens consider particularly interesting about ants?
Wilson: Ants engage in farming and animal husbandry. For example, some of them cultivate fungi. Others herd aphids and literally milk them by stroking them with their antennae. And the other thing the aliens would find extremely interesting would be the degree to which these insects organize their societies by pheromones, by chemical communication. Ants and termites have taken this form of communication to extremes.
SPIEGEL: So the aliens would cable back home: “We have found ants. They are the most promising candidates for a future evolution towards intelligent beings on earth?”
Wilson: No, they wouldn’t. They would see that these creatures were encased in exoskeletons and therefore had to remain very small. They would conclude that there was little chance for individual ants or termites to develop much reasoning power, nor, as a result, the capacity for culture. But at least on this planet, you have to be big in order to have sufficient cerebral cortex. And you probably have to be bipedal and develop hands with pulpy fingers, because those give you the capacity to start creating objects and to manipulate the environment.
SPIEGEL: Would our ancestors not have caught their eye?
Wilson: Ten million years ago, our ancestors indeed had developed a somewhat larger brain and versatile hands already. But the crucial step had yet to come.
SPIEGEL: What do you mean?
Wilson: Let me go back to the social insects for a moment. Why did social insects start to form colonies? Across hundreds of millions of years, insects had been proliferating as solitary forms. Some of them stayed with their young for a while, guided them and protected them. You find that widespread but far from universal in the animal kingdom. However, out of those species came a much smaller number of species who didn’t just protect their young, but started building nests that they defended …
SPIEGEL: … similar to birds.
Wilson: Yes. And I think that birds are right at the threshold of eusocial behaviour. But looking at the evolution of ants and termites again, there is another crucial step. In an even smaller group, the young don’t only grow up in their nest, but they also stay and care for the next generation. Now you have a group staying together with a division of labor. That is evidently the narrow channel of evolution that you have to pass through in order to become eusocial.
SPIEGEL: And our ancestors followed the same path?
Wilson: Yes. I argue that Homo habilis, the first humans, also went through these stages. In particular, Homo habilis was unique in that they already had shifted to eating meat.
SPIEGEL: What difference would that make?
Wilson: When animals start eating meat, they tend to form packs and to divide labor. We know that the immediate descendants of Homo habilis, Homo erectus, gathered around camp sites and that they actually had begun to use fire. These camp sites are equivalent to nests. That’s where they gathered in a tightly knit group, and then individuals went out searching for food.
SPIEGEL: And this development of groups drives evolution even further?
Wilson: Exactly. And, for example, if it now comes to staking out the hunting grounds, then group stands against group.
SPIEGEL: Meaning that this is the origin of warfare?
Wilson: Yes. But it doesn’t take necessarily the forming of an army or a battalion and meeting on the field and fighting. It was mostly what you call “vengeance raids”. One group attacks another, maybe captures a female or kills one or two males. The other group then counterraids, and this will go back and forth, group against group.
Part 2: ‘Kin Selection Doesn’t Explain Anything’
SPIEGEL: You say that this so called group selection is vital for the evolution of humans. Yet traditionally, scientists explain the emergence of social behavior in humans by kin selection.
Wilson: That, for a number of reasons, isn’t much good as an explanation.
SPIEGEL: But you yourself have long been a proponent of this theory. Why did you change your mind?
Wilson: You are right. During the 1970s, I was one of the main proponents of kin selection theory. And at first the idea sounds very reasonable. So for example, if I favored you because you were my brother and therefore we share one half of our genes, then I could sacrifice a lot for you. I could give up my chance to have children in order to get you through college and have a big family. The problem is: If you think it through, kin selection doesn’t explain anything. Instead, I came to the conclusion that selection operates on multiple levels. On one hand, you have normal Darwinian selection going on all the time, where individuals compete with each other. In addition, however, these individuals now form groups. They are staying together, and consequently it is group versus group.
SPIEGEL: Turning away from kin selection provoked a rather fierce reaction from many of your colleagues.
Wilson: No, it didn’t. The reaction was strong, but it came from a relatively small group of people whose careers are based upon studies of kin selection.
SPIEGEL: Isn’t that too easy? After all, 137 scientists signed a response to your claims. They accuse you of a “misunderstanding of evolutionary theory”.
Wilson: You know, most scientists are tribalists. Their lives are so tied up in certain theories that they can’t let go.
SPIEGEL: Does it even make a substantial difference if humans evolved through kin selection or group selection?
Wilson: Oh, it changes everything. Only the understanding of evolution offers a chance to get a real understanding of the human species. We are determined by the interplay between individual and group selection where individual selection is responsible for much of what we call sin, while group selection is responsible for the greater part of virtue. We’re all in constant conflict between self-sacrifice for the group on the one hand and egoism and selfishness on the other. I go so far as to say that all the subjects of humanities, from law to the creative arts are based upon this play of individual versus group selection.
SPIEGEL: Is this Janus-faced nature of humans our greatest strength at the end of the day?
Wilson: Exactly. This inner conflict between altruism and selfishness is the human condition. And it is very creative and probably the source of our striving, our inventiveness and imagination. It’s that eternal conflict that makes us unique.
SPIEGEL: So how do we negotiate this conflict?
Wilson: We don’t. We have to live with it.
SPIEGEL: Which element of this human condition is stronger?
Wilson: Let’s put it this way: If we would be mainly influenced by group selection, we would be living in kind of an ant society.
SPIEGEL: … the ultimate form of communism?
Wilson: Yes. Once in a while, humans form societies that emphasize the group, for example societies with Marxist ideology. But the opposite is also true. In other societies the individual is everything. Politically, that would be the Republican far right.
SPIEGEL: What determines which ideology is predominant in a society?
Wilson: If your territory is invaded, then cooperation within the group will be extreme. That’s a human instinct. If you are in a frontier area, however, then we tend to move towards the extreme individual level. That seems to be a good part of the problem still with America. We still think we’re on the frontier, so we constantly try to put forward individual initiative and individual rights and rewards based upon individual achievement.
SPIEGEL: Earlier, you differentiated between the “virtue” of altruism and the “sin” of individualism. In your book you talk about the “poorer and the better angels” of human nature. Is it helpful to use this kind of terminology?
Wilson: I will admit that using the terminology of “virtue” and “sin” is what poets call a “trope”. That is to say, I wanted the idea in crude form to take hold. Still, a lot of what we call “virtue” has to do with propensities to behave well toward others. What we call “sin” are things that people do mainly out of self-interest.
SPIEGEL: However, our virtues towards others go only so far. Outside groups are mainly greeted with hostility.
Wilson: You are right. People have to belong to a group. That’s one of the strongest propensities in the human psyche and you won’t be able to change that. However, I think we are evolving, so as to avoid war — but without giving up the joy of competition between groups. Take soccer …
SPIEGEL: … or American football.
Wilson: Oh, yes, American football, it’s a blood sport. And people live by team sports and national or regional pride connected with team sports. And that’s what we should be aiming for, because, again, that spirit is one of the most creative. It landed us on the moon, and people get so much pleasure from it. I don’t want to see any of that disturbed. That is a part of being human. We need our big games, our team sports, our competition, our Olympics.
SPIEGEL: “Humans,” the saying goes, “have Paleolithic emotions” …
Wilson: … “Medieval institutions and god-like technology”. That’s our situation, yeah. And we really have to handle that.
Wilson: So often it happens that we don’t know how, also in situations of public policy and governance, because we don’t have enough understanding of human nature. We simply haven’t looked at human nature in the best way that science might provide. I think what we need is a new Enlightenment. During the 18th century, when the original Enlightenment took place, science wasn’t up to the job. But I think science is now up to the job. We need to be harnessing our scientific knowledge now to get a better, science-based self-understanding.
SPIEGEL: It seems that, in this process, you would like to throw religions overboard altogether?
Wilson: No. That’s a misunderstanding. I don’t want to see the Catholic Church with all of its magnificent art and rituals and music disappear. I just want to have them give up their creation stories, including especially the resurrection of Christ.
SPIEGEL: That might well be a futile endeavour …
Wilson: There was this American physiologist who was asked if Mary’s bodily ascent from Earth to Heaven was possible. He said, “I wasn’t there; therefore, I’m not positive that it happened or didn’t happen; but of one thing I’m certain: She passed out at 10,000 meters.” That’s where science comes in. Seriously, I think we’re better off with no creation stories.
SPIEGEL: With this new Enlightenment, will we reach a higher state of humanity?
Wilson: Do we really want to improve ourselves? Humans are a very young species, in geologic terms, and that’s probably why we’re such a mess. We’re still living with all this aggression and ability to go to war. But do we really want to change ourselves? We’re right on the edge of an era of being able to actually alter the human genome. But do we want that? Do we want to create a race that’s more rational and free of many of these emotions? My response is no, because the only thing that distinguishes us from super-intelligent robots are our imperfect, sloppy, maybe even dangerous emotions. They are what makes us human.
SPIEGEL: Mr. Wilson, we thank you for this conversation.
Interview conducted by Philip Bethge and Johann Grolle
Does Democracy and Justice still apply in the USA?
The federal trial against alleged computer criminal Barrett Brown has been delayed by six months. Now the activist once called the “spokesperson” of the Anonymous hacker movement will wait in prison for one full year before being tried.
Brown, 31, was scheduled to stand trial later this month for a slew of charges that have handed down in three separate indictments filed by the government since last September. Per the request of his attorneys, however, legal proceedings have been pushed back for six months, delaying the trial until September 2013.
Doug Morris, a public defender appointed to serve as Brown’s defense counsel, asked for an extension in order to evaluate the evidence against his client, the Associate Press reports. US District Judge Sam Lindsay obliged on Wednesday this week.
The AP adds that Brown’s trial for one indictment is now slated for September 3, 2013, with trials for his second and third indictments scheduled to start on Sept. 23. Brown was arrested on Sept. 12 last year and has been in law enforcement custody for the nearly six months since.
The AP describes Brown as having Brown “once served as de facto spokesman for Anonymous, a shadowy movement that has gotten attention for cyberattacks,” although he says he’s never represented himself as such. Although Brown has aligned himself with the Anonymous movement on several occasions in the past and have spoken broadly on matters relating to the group, he wrote from prison last year, “I am not and never have been the spokesman for Anonymous, nor its ‘public face’ or, worse, ‘self-proclaimed’ ‘face’ or ‘spokesperson’ or ‘leader.’”
Brown’s legal issues began last March when FBI agents raided his Dallas, Texas home with search warrants for computers that contained information pertaining to, among other things, the Anonymous collective, offshoot LulzSec and a number of private businesses that were investigated by both groups as well as Brown’s own Project PM, an independent think-tank he designed in part “to develop new methods by which to use the internet for positive change and to encourage others to adapt such methods.”
One day after the March 2012 raid, Brown wrote the FBI “fully intended to take a certain laptop, and did” when the feds raided his mother’s house shortly after the first incident. He also said that federal agents threatened both he and his mother with conspiracy to obstruct justice for the next few months, spawning Brown to lash out at the FBI in a series of YouTube videos and Twitter posts created in September 2012.
“I know what’s legal, I know what’s been done to me… And if it’s legal when it’s done to me, it’s going to be legal when it’s done to FBI Agent Robert Smith — who is a criminal,” claimed Brown in one of the clips uploaded to the Web. “That’s why Robert Smith’s life is over. And when I say his life is over, I’m not saying I’m going to kill him, but I am going to ruin his life and look into his fucking kids… How do you like them apples?”
Hours after that video was uploaded to the Web, a SWAT team raided Brown’s Dallas, Texas apartment and placed him in custody for nearly one month before he was charged with threatening a federal officer. Once behind bars, though, Brown’s legal issues escalated.
While in custody, the Justice Department unsealed two separate indictments against Brown: In December, Brown was charged with sharing an Internet hyperlink that contained over 5,000 credit card account numbers, the card holders’ identification information and the authentication features for the cards. One month later, Brown was charged with obstructing justice by “knowingly and corruptly conceal and attempt to conceal records, documents, and digital data contained on two laptop computers,” as he hinted at nearly one year earlier.
Attorney Jay Leiderman, who is not representing Brown in this case, wrote on his personal blog when the third indictment was unsealed that the hacktivist could face a century in prison if convicted on all counts.
“He is alleged to have made threatening YouTube videos aimed at the FBI agent that raided his home, he is alleged to have shared a link that contained credit card and access information, and he supposedly hid laptops when the FBI came-a-knocking. That’s right, that sorta stuff could cost you 100 years these days,” he wrote.
Brown is alleged to have shared a link to the credit card details in a chat room after seeing it posted in another. The trove of data contained within the link related to subscriber data pilfered by Strategic Forecasting, or Stratfor, a private intelligence company hacked by Anonymous in December 2011. Thousands of emails obtained in that compromise were later given to the whistleblower website WikIleaks and have been subsequently published online.
Upon release of the credit card numbers, Brown disavowed the hack. He said, “Stratfor was not breached in order to obtain customer credit card numbers, which the hackers in question could not have expected to be as easily obtainable as they were. Rather, the operation was pursued in order to obtain the 2.7 million e-mails that exist on the firm’s servers.”
Jeremy Hammond, a hacker and activist from Chicago, has been behind bars for over one year while awaiting trial for charges relating to the Stratfor hack. Federal proscutors say he spearheaded the hack as a member of the groups Anonymous and LulzSec. He stands to face the rest of his life in prison if convicted.e
NICOSIA (Reuters) – Big depositors in Cyprus’s largest bank stand to lose far more than initially feared under a European Union rescue package to save the island from bankruptcy, a source with direct knowledge of the terms said on Friday.
Under conditions expected to be announced on Saturday, depositors in Bank of Cyprus will get shares in the bank worth 37.5 percent of their deposits over 100,000 euros, the source told Reuters, while the rest of their deposits may never be paid back.
The toughening of the terms will send a clear signal that the bailout means the end of Cyprus as a hub for offshore finance and could accelerate economic decline on the island and bring steeper job losses.
Officials had previously spoken of a loss to big depositors of 30 to 40 percent.
Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades on Friday defended the 10-billion euro ($13 billion) bailout deal agreed with the EU five days ago, saying it had contained the risk of national bankruptcy.
“We have no intention of leaving the euro,” the conservative leader told a conference of civil servants in the capital, Nicosia.
“In no way will we experiment with the future of our country,” he said.
Cypriots, however, are angry at the price attached to the rescue – the winding down of the island’s second-largest bank, Cyprus Popular Bank, also known as Laiki, and an unprecedented raid on deposits over 100,000 euros.
Under the terms of the deal, the assets of Laiki bank will be transferred to Bank of Cyprus.
At Bank of Cyprus, about 22.5 percent of deposits over 100,000 euros will attract no interest, the source said. The remaining 40 percent will continue to attract interest, but will not be repaid unless the bank does well.
Those with deposits under 100,000 euros will continue to be protected under the state’s deposit guarantee.
Cyprus’s difficulties have sent jitters around the fragile single European currency zone, and led to the imposition of capital controls in Cyprus to prevent a run on banks by worried Cypriots and wealthy foreign depositors.
Banks reopened on Thursday after an almost two-week shutdown as Cyprus negotiated the rescue package. In the end, the reopening was largely quiet, with Cypriots queuing calmly for the 300 euros they were permitted to withdraw daily.
The imposition of capital controls has led economists to warn that a second-class “Cyprus euro” could emerge, with funds trapped on the island less valuable than euros that can be freely spent abroad.
Anastasiades said the restrictions on transactions – unprecedented in the currency bloc since euro coins and banknotes entered circulation in 2002 – would be gradually lifted. He gave no time frame but the central bank said the measures would be reviewed daily.
He hit out at banking authorities in Cyprus and Europe for pouring money into the crippled Laiki.
“How serious were those authorities that permitted the financing of a bankrupt bank to the highest possible amount?” Anastasiades said.
The president, barely a month in the job and wrestling with Cyprus’s worst crisis since a 1974 war split the island in two, accused the 17-nation euro currency bloc of making “unprecedented demands that forced Cyprus to become an experiment”.
European leaders have insisted the raid on big bank deposits in Cyprus is a one-off in their handling of a debt crisis that refuses to be contained.
But policymakers are divided, and the waters were muddied a day after the deal was inked when the Dutch chair of the euro zone’s finance ministers, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, said it could serve as a model for future crises.
“The content of his remarks comes down to an approach which has been on the table for a longer time in Europe,” Knot was quoted as saying by Dutch daily Het Financieele Dagblad. “This approach will be part of the European liquidation policy.”
The Cyprus rescue differs from those in other euro zone countries because bank depositors have had to take losses, although an initial plan to hit small deposits as well as big ones was abandoned and accounts under 100,000 euros were spared.
Warnings of a stampede at Cypriot banks when they reopened on Thursday proved unfounded.
For almost two weeks, Cypriots were on a ration of limited withdrawals from bank cash machines. Even with banks now open, they face a regime of strict restrictions designed to halt a flight of capital from the island.
Some economists say those restrictions will be difficult to lift. Anastasiades said the capital controls would be “gradually eased until we can return to normal”.
The government initially said the controls would stay in place for seven days, but Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides said on Thursday they could last “about a month”.
On Friday, easing a ban on cheque payments, Cypriot authorities said cheques could be used to make payments to government agencies up to a limit of 5,000 euros. Anything more than 5,000 euros would require Central Bank approval.
The bank also issued a directive limiting the cash that can be taken to areas of the island beyond the “control of the Cypriot authorities” – a reference to Turkish-controlled northern Cyprus which considers itself an independent state. Cyprus residents can take 300 euros; non-residents can take 500.
Under the terms of the capital controls, Cypriots and foreigners are allowed to take up to 1,000 euros in cash when they leave the island.
(Additional reporting by Ivana Sekularac and Gilbert Kreijger in Amsterdam; Writing by Matt Robinson; Editing by Giles Elgood)
There’s a hole in the system, dear Draghi, dear Draghi,
There’s a hole in the system, dear Draghi: a hole.
Then fill it dear Olli, dear Olli, dear Olli,
Then fill it dear Olli, dear Olli: fix it.
With what shall I fill it, dear Draghi, dear Draghi,
With what shall I fill it, dear Draghi: with what?
With taxes dear Olli, dear Olli, dear Olli,
With taxes dear Olli, dear Olli: try tax!
But the tax take is falling, dear Draghi, dear Draghi,
But the tax take is falling, dear Draghi: it falls!
Increase them dear Olli, dear Olli, dear Olli,
Increase them dear Olli, dear Olli: whack’em on!
But tax take falls more now, dear Draghi, dear Draghi,
But the tax falls more now, dear Draghi: it fell!
Squeeze the sovereigns, dear Olli, dear Olli, dear Olli,
Squeeze the sovereigns dear Olli, dear Olli: squeeze them!
But the sovereigns are bursting, they’re bursting, they’re bursting,
But the sovereigns are bursting, they’re bursting: some burst!
Try the savers, dear Olli, dear Olli, dear Olli,
Try the savers dear Olli, dear Olli: try them!
The hole just got bigger, got bigger, got bigger,
The hole just got bigger, got bigger: it grew!
Then the bondies, dear Olli, dear Olli, dear Olli,
If you must it’s the bondies, it’s the bondies: burn them!
Now the system is creaking, is creaking, is creaking,
Now the whole system is dear, dear Draghi: it creaks!
Inflate it dear Draghi, dear Draghi, dear Draghi,
Inflate the system it dear Draghi, dear Draghi: inflate!
But I don’t have a mandate dear Christine, dear Christine,
But I don’t have a mandate dear Christine: don’t ask!
Well then print it, dear Draghi, dear Draghi, dear Draghi,
Well then print it dear Draghi, dear Draghi: please print.
But we don’t have a printer, dear Christine, dear Christine,
We don’t have a printer, dear Christine: there’s no ink!
Well who make money, dear Draghi, dear Draghi?
Well who can make money, dear Draghi: who can?!
Well the banks are supposed to, dear Christine, dear Christine,
Well the banks are that system, the banks: that’s who!
[All together now]
But there’s a hole in the system, dear Draghi, dear Draghi,
There’s a hole in the system, dear Draghi – a hole!
The lead Swedish prosecutor pursuing sexual assault charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is no longer handling the case, media reports revealed. Her departure comes as a top Swedish judge is set to speak publicly on the ‘Assange affair.’
Recent court documents have revealed that starting Wednesday, high-profile Swedish prosecutor Marianne Nye will no longer be at the helm of the case against Assange, the Sydney Morning Herald reported. Nye will be replaced by her far less experienced colleague Ingrid Isgren; the reasons for her departure have not been disclosed.
However, according to a Swedish newspaper report, Nye “has not quit the Assange case formally rather that there is a new ‘investigator,'” WikiLeaks tweeted on Thursday.
Meanwhile, Anna Ardin, one of two women who accused Julian Assange of sex crimes, also moved to fire her controversial lawyer Claes Borgstrom late last month after she lost faith in his ability to represent her.
Ardin charged that Borgstrom was more interested in being in the media spotlight than providing her legal counsel, and has often referred her inquiries to his secretary or assistant. The court has approved Ardin’s new lawyer, Elisabeth Massi Fritz, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.
Borgstrom reportedly supported his former client’s decision, saying that “in cases concerning sexual offenses, it is particularly important that the plaintiff has confidence in the lawyer representing her,” Swedish tabloid Expressen quoted him as saying.
News of the legal shakeup in the Assange case comes less than a week before Swedish Supreme Court judge Stefan Lindskog’s lecture at the University of Adelaide on the “Assange affair, and freedom of speech, from the Swedish perspective.”
Assange blasted Justice Lindskog – who is chair of the Supreme Court of Sweden, the country’s highest court of appeal – for his decision to publicly discuss the case.
“If an Australian High Court judge came out and spoke on a case the court expected or was likely to judge, it would be regarded as absolutely outrageous,” he told Fairfax media.
This development is part of a pattern in which senior Swedish figures including the Swedish Foreign Minister, the Prime Minister and Minister for Justice have all publicly attacked me or WikiLeaks,” Assange added.
Upon announcing Lindskog’s upcoming lecture, Adelaide University said that “as one of Sweden’s most eminent jurists he is uniquely able to provide an authoritative view of the Assange affair.”
WikiLeaks characterized the judge’s lecture as part of the Swedish government campaign against Assange, following Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt’s recent visit to Australia.
“The head of Swedish Supreme Court campaigning on a case they expect to judge with $ from the embassy in the run up to an election,” the group wrote on Twitter.
Assange, who is running in for the Australian Senate in the September 14 federal elections, has previously said that securing a seat in the senate could potentially secure him safe passage out of the UK.
He has been holed up in the Ecuadorean embassy in London since June, after claiming asylum in a bid to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning on sexual assault allegations. British authorities have vowed to detain him if he sets foot outside of the embassy, in light of the European Arrest Warrant issued against him.
If handed over to Swedish authorities, Assange fears he will be re-extradited to the United States to be questioned over the WikiLeaks release of thousands of US diplomatic cables. Assange believes that a conviction in a US court could result in the death penalty.
Ecuador has offered to allow the Swedish government to conduct an interview on the embassy’s premises, but the Swedish government has so far refused the offer.