Monday, November 1, 2010

GOPpers Enraged Against Sources of Real Intelligence - Cowards Bray All Over MSM - Good Jobs Not Ever Coming Back? "Ants Like Me" GO VOTE NOW!!!!

What Glenn said!

And why we refer to him as Glennzilla (I love this truly courageous American citizen patriot!). (Emphasis marks and some editing inserted - Ed.)

"Why is Assange still alive?"

"The Wretched Mind of the American Authoritarian"

Glenn Greenwald

October 30, 2010

"Salon"

Decadent governments often spawn a decadent citizenry. A 22-year-old Nebraska resident was arrested yesterday for waterboarding his girlfriend as she was tied to a couch, because he wanted to know if she was cheating on him with another man; I wonder where he learned that? There are less dramatic though no less nauseating examples of this dynamic. In The Chicago Tribune today, there is an Op-Ed from Jonah Goldberg - the supreme, living embodiment of a cowardly war cheerleader - headlined: "Why is Assange still alive?" It begins this way:

I'd like to ask a simple question: Why isn't Julian Assange dead? . . . WikiLeaks is easily among the most significant and well-publicized breaches of American national security since the Rosenbergs gave the Soviets the bomb. . . .

So again, I ask: Why wasn't Assange garroted in his hotel room years ago? It's a serious question.

He ultimately concludes that "it wouldn't do any good to kill him, given the nature of the Web" - whatever that means - and reluctantly acknowledges: "That's fine. And it's the law. I don't expect the U.S. government to kill Assange, but I do expect them to try to stop him."

What he wants the Government to do to "stop" Assange is left unsaid - tough-guy neocons love to beat their chest and demand action without having the courage to specify what they mean - but his question ("Why isn't Julian Assange dead?") was published in multiple newspapers around the country today.

Christian Whiton, a former Bush State Department official, wasn't as restrained in his Fox News column last week, writing:

Rather, this [the WikiLeaks disclosure] is an act of political warfare against the United States . . . . .Here are some of the things the U.S. could do:

. . . Explore opportunities for the president to designate WikiLeaks and its officers as enemy combatants, paving the way for non-judicial actions against them.

I emailed Whiton and told him I'd like to do a podcast interview with him for Salon about his WikiLeaks proposal and he replied:

"Thank you for the invitation, but I am starting a trip tomorrow and will be on a plane just about all day." I replied that it didn't have to be the next day - I'd be happy to do it any day that was convenient for him - and he then stopped answering.

As I said, the real objective is for them to beat their chest in public and show everyone how tough they are - take 'em out, Whiton roared - but they then scamper away when called upon to be specific about what they mean or to defend it (let alone to participate in the violence they relentlessly urge).

Whiton was just echoing his fellow war cheerleader, torture advocate Marc Thiessen, who wrote this in The Washington Post, under the headline "WikiLeaks Must be Stopped"

The government has a wide range of options for dealing with him. It can employ not only law enforcement but also intelligence and military assets to bring Assange to justice and put his criminal syndicate out of business.

"Military assets": apparently, according to this brave and battle-tested warrior - Marc Thiessen - the U.S. can and should just send a drone over London or Stockholm and eradicate Assange, or just send some ground troops into Western Europe to abduct him.

Speaking of war cheerleaders, The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg today points to an Editorial by The New York Sun's Seth Lipsky which fantasizes - as Goldberg puts it - that "Lincoln, and FDR as well, would have pretty much tried to hang the Wikileaks founder for treason."

Apparently, the fact that Assange is not and never was an American citizen is no bar to hanging him for "treason": when you wallow in self-centered, self-absorbed imperial exceptionalism, everyone on the planet has the overarching duty of loyalty to your own government, and you think everyone is under the auspices of American rule.

There are multiple common threads here:

* the cavalier call for people's deaths

* the demand for ultimate punishments without a shred of due process

* the belief that the U.S. is entitled to do whatever it wants anywhere in the world without the slightest constraints

* a wholesale rejection of basic Western liberties such as due process and a free press

* the desire for the President to act as unconstrained monarch

* a bloodthirsty frenzy that has led all of them to cheerlead for brutal, criminal wars of aggression for a full decade without getting anywhere near the violence they cheer on, etc.

But that's to be expected. We lived for eight years under a President who essentially asserted all of those powers and more, and now have one who has embraced most of them and added some new ones, including the right to order even American citizens, far from any battlefield, assassinated without a shred of due process. Given that, it would be irrational to expect a citizenry other than the one that is being molded with this mentality. (Stolen from the indescribably delicious (and good for you, too!) Driftglass' Castle.)

On the rapidly failing U.S. economic front (which seems to be picking up speed as it heads over the falls), Paul Krugman identifies the culprits who are now turning on the power-boat engine.

So the moralizers are winning. More and more voters, both here and in Europe, are convinced that what we need is not more stimulus but more punishment. Governments must tighten their belts; debtors must pay what they owe.

The irony is that in their determination to punish the undeserving, voters are punishing themselves: by rejecting fiscal stimulus and debt relief, they’re perpetuating high unemployment. They are, in effect, cutting off their own jobs to spite their neighbors.

. . . The tone differs from place to place — listening to a German official denounce deficits, my wife whispered, “We’ll all be handed whips as we leave, so we can flagellate ourselves.” But the message is the same: debt is evil, debtors must pay for their sins, and from now on we all must live within our means. And that kind of moralizing is the reason we’re mired in a seemingly endless slump.

The years leading up to the 2008 crisis were indeed marked by unsustainable borrowing, going far beyond the subprime loans many people still believe, wrongly, were at the heart of the problem. Real estate speculation ran wild in Florida and Nevada, but also in Spain, Ireland and Latvia. And all of it was paid for with borrowed money. This borrowing made the world as a whole neither richer nor poorer: one person’s debt is another person’s asset. But it made the world vulnerable. When lenders suddenly decided that they had lent too much, that debt levels were excessive, debtors were forced to slash spending.

This pushed the world into the deepest recession since the 1930s. And recovery, such as it is, has been weak and uncertain — which is exactly what we should have expected, given the overhang of debt.

The key thing to bear in mind is that for the world as a whole, spending equals income. If one group of people — those with excessive debts — is forced to cut spending to pay down its debts, one of two things must happen: either someone else must spend more, or world income will fall.

Yet those parts of the private sector not burdened by high levels of debt see little reason to increase spending. Corporations are flush with cash — but why expand when so much of the capacity they already have is sitting idle? Consumers who didn’t overborrow can get loans at low rates — but that incentive to spend is more than outweighed by worries about a weak job market. Nobody in the private sector is willing to fill the hole created by the debt overhang.

So what should we be doing? First, governments should be spending while the private sector won’t, so that debtors can pay down their debts without perpetuating a global slump. Second, governments should be promoting widespread debt relief: reducing obligations to levels the debtors can handle is the fastest way to eliminate that debt overhang.

But the moralizers will have none of it. They denounce deficit spending, declaring that you can’t solve debt problems with more debt. They denounce debt relief, calling it a reward for the undeserving. And if you point out that their arguments don’t add up, they fly into a rage.

Try to explain that when debtors spend less, the economy will be depressed unless somebody else spends more, and they call you a socialist. Try to explain why mortgage relief is better for America than foreclosing on homes that must be sold at a huge loss, and they start ranting . . . .

I told you that I quit watching the financial news (and finally all the "snooze" shows) several years ago when I discovered how they lie with impunity. If you think the Economics reports on TV are hard to understand, I'll bet you didn't know that they were purposely trying to confuse you everyday with contradictory economic data being presented as straightforward. There's a reason why no one tells you what the economics of the present situation is.

Paul Craig Roberts has asserted himself again on that topic, and this time he's not going easy on the guys whom he used to think might know what they were doing. This time he's exposing the blackout curtain (among other things) that major print and media sources have drawn over real economic news - which he would love to reveal to all readers.

I think it's time.

American Job Loss Is Permanent

Paul Craig Roberts

October 28, 2010

Now that a few Democrats and the remnants of the AFL-CIO are waking up to the destructive impact of jobs offshoring on the US economy and millions of American lives, globalism’s advocates have resurrected Dartmouth economist Matthew Slaughter’s discredited finding of several years ago that jobs offshoring by US corporations increases employment and wages in the US.

At the time I exposed Slaughter’s mistakes, but economists dependent on corporate largess understood that it was more profitable to drink Slaughter’s kool-aid than to tell the truth. Recently the US Chamber of Commerce rolled out Slaughter’s false argument as a weapon against House Democrats Sandy Levin and Tim Ryan, and the Wall Street Journal had Bill Clinton’s Defense Secretary, William S. Cohen, regurgitate Slaughter’s claim on its op-ed page on October 12.

I sent a letter to the Wall Street Journal, but the editors were not interested in what a former associate editor and columnist for the paper and President Reagan’s Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy had to say. The facade of lies has to be maintained at all costs. There can be no questioning that globalism is good for us.

Cohen told the Journal’s readers that “the fact is that for every job outsourced to Bangalore, nearly two jobs are created in Buffalo and other American cities.” I bet Buffalo “and other American cities” would like to know where these jobs are. Maybe Slaughter, Cohen, and the Chamber of Commerce can tell them.

Last May I was in St. Louis and was struck by block after block of deserted and boarded up homes, deserted factories and office buildings, even vacant downtown storefronts. Detroit is trying to shrink itself by 40 square miles.

On October 25, 60 Minutes had a program on unemployment in Silicon Valley, where formerly high-earning professionals have been out of work for two years and today cannot even find part-time $9 an hour jobs at Target.

The claim that jobs offshoring by US corporations increases domestic employment in the US is one of the greatest hoaxes ever perpetrated. As I demonstrated in my syndicated column at the time and again in my book, How The Economy Was Lost (2010), Slaughter reached his erroneous conclusion by counting the growth in multinational jobs in the U.S. without adjusting the data to reflect the acquisition of existing firms by multinationals and for existing firms turning themselves into multinationals by establishing foreign operations for the first time.

There was no new multinational employment in the U.S. Existing employment simply moved into the multinational category from a change in the status of firms to multinational.

If Slaughter (or Cohen) had consulted the Bureau of Labor Statistics nonfarm payroll jobs data, he would have been unable to locate the 5.5 million jobs that were allegedly created. In my columns I have reported for about a decade the details of new jobs creation in the U.S. as revealed by the BLS data, as has Washington economist Charles McMillion.

Over the last decade, the net new jobs created in the U.S. have nothing to do with multinational corporations. The jobs consist of waitresses and bartenders, health care and social services (largely ambulatory health care), retail clerks, and while the bubble lasted, construction.These are not the high-tech, high-paying jobs that the “New Economy” promised, and they are not jobs that can be associated with global corporations. Moreover, these domestic service jobs are themselves scarce.

But facts have nothing to do with it. Did Slaughter, Cohen, the Chamber, and the Wall Street Journal ever wonder how it was possible to have simultaneously millions of new good-paying middle class jobs and virtually the worst income inequality in the developed world with all income gains accruing to the mega-rich?

In mid-October Treasury Secretary and Goldman Sachs puppet Tim Geithner gave a speech in California in the backyard, or former backyard, of 60 Minutes’ Silicon Valley dispossessed upper middle class interviewees in which Geithner said that the solution is to “educate more engineers.

”We already have more engineers than we have jobs for them. In a recent poll a Philadelphia marketing and research firm, Twentysomething, found that 85% of recent college graduates planned to move back home with parents. Even if members of the “boomeranger generation” find jobs, the jobs don’t pay enough to support an independent existence. The financial media is useless.

Reporters repeat the lie that the unemployment rate is 9.6%. This is a specially concocted unemployment rate that does not count most of the unemployed. The government’s own more inclusive rate stands at 17%. Statistician John Williams, who counts unemployment the way it is supposed to be counted, finds the unemployment rate to be 22%.

The financial press turns bad news into good news. Recently a monthly gain of 64,000 new private sector jobs was hyped, jobs that were more than offset by the loss in government jobs. Moreover, it takes around 150,000 new jobs each month to keep pace with labor force growth. In other words, 100,000 new jobs each month would be a 50,000 jobs deficit.

The idiocy of the financial press is demonstrated by the following two headlines which appeared on October 19 on the same Bloomberg page:“Dollar Index Appreciates as Geithner Supports Currency Strength” “Geithner Weak Dollar Seen as U.S. Recovery Route

To keep eyes off of the loss of jobs to offshoring, policymakers and their minions in the financial press blame US unemployment on alleged currency manipulation by China and on the financial crisis. The financial crisis itself is blamed by Republicans on low income Americans who took out mortgages that they could not afford. In other words, the problem is China and the greedy American poor who tried to live above their means.

With this being the American mindset, you can see why nothing can be done to save the economy. No government will admit its mistakes, especially when it can blame foreigners.

China is being made the scapegoat for American failure. An entire industry has grown up that points its finger at China and away from 20 years of corporate offshoring of US jobs and 9 years of expensive and pointless US wars.

“Currency manipulation” is the charge. However, the purpose of the Chinese peg to the US dollar is not currency manipulation. When the Chinese government decided to take its broken communist economy into a market economy, the government understood that it needed foreign confidence in its currency. It achieved that by pegging its currency to the dollar, signaling that China’s money was as sound as the US dollar. At that time, China, of course, could not credibly give its currency a higher dollar value. As time has passed, the irresponsible and foolish policies of the US have eroded the dollar’s value, and as the Chinese currency is pegged to the dollar, its value has moved down with the dollar.

The Chinese have not manipulated the peg in order to make their currency less valuable. To the contrary, when I was in China in 2006, the exchange rate was a little more than 8 yuan to the dollar. Today it is 6.6 yuan to the dollar - a 17.5% revaluation of the yuan.

The US government blames the US trade deficit with China on an undervalued Chinese currency. However, the Chinese currency has risen 17.5% against the dollar since 2006, but the US trade deficit with China has not declined.

The major cause of the US trade deficit with China is “globalism” or the practice, enforced by Wall Street and Wal-Mart, of US corporations offshoring their production for US markets to China in order to improve the bottom line by lowering labor costs. Most of the tariffs that the congressional idiots want to put on “Chinese” imports would, therefore, fall on the offshored production of US corporations. When these American brand goods, such as Apple computers, are brought to US markets, they enter the US as imports.

Thus, the tariffs will be applied to US corporate offshored output as well as to the exports of Chinese companies to the US. The correct conclusion is that the US trade deficit with China is the result of “globalism” or jobs offshoring, not Chinese currency manipulation.

An important point always overlooked is that the US is dependent on China for many manufactured products including high technology products that are no longer produced in the US.

Revaluation of the Chinese currency would raise the dollar price of these products in the US. The greater the revaluation, the greater the price rise. The impact on already declining US living standards would be dramatic.

When US policymakers argue that the solution to America’s problems is a stronger Chinese currency, they are yet again putting the burden of adjustment on the out-of-work, indebted, and foreclosed American population.

(Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He was Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page and Contributing Editor of National Review. He is coauthor of The Tyranny of Good Intentions.)

World-renowned entomologist, E.O. Wilson, Father of Sociobiology, is evidently a genius - a uniquely American genius known for his research on ecology, evolution, and sociobiology. As a "researcher (sociobiology, biodiversity), theorist (consilience, biophilia), naturalist (conservationist) and author" he is a "two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction" and many other prizes, awards and recognitions. "He is known for his career as a scientist, his advocacy for environmentalism, and his secular-humanist and deist ideas pertaining to religious and ethical matters."

"The evolutionary epic," Wilson wrote in his book on human nature, "is probably the best myth we will ever have." Myth as falsehood was not the usage intended by Wilson in this statement. Rather, myth as a grand narrative that provides a people with a placement in time — a meaningful placement that celebrates extraordinary moments of a shared heritage. Wilson was not the first to use the term, but his fame prompted its usage as the morphed phrase epic of evolution. . . . On the question of God, Wilson has described his position as provisional deism. He has explained his faith as a trajectory away from traditional beliefs: "I drifted away from the church, not definitively agnostic or atheistic, just Baptist & Christian no more." Wilson argues that the belief in God and rituals of religion are products of evolution.

. . . Wilson appears in the upcoming documentary Behold The Earth, which inquires into America's "divorce from nature", and the relationship between the forces of science and religion (from Wikipedia).

Wilson has written many of the books which now inform our understanding of man's place in the natural world. Please see a complete listing* at the bottom of the page.

Would that people could read today. They might discover the answer to many of the questions they look to spurious sources like Limpbaugh and Beckkk for.

I highly recommend reading anything he has written. Once you've read him for a while, you'll understand why I think it's imperative in viewing the world that we've let the incompetent powers-that-be relegate us to fixing before it's too late. (Read it cause we need to.)

Ants and Us

By J.M. Ledgard They work together, share food and send their elders into battle to protect the young. And the world authority on them thinks they have a lot to teach us. J.M. Ledgard goes to Harvard to discuss ants, and more, with E.O. Wilson ... From Intelligent Life Magazine, Autumn 2010 What do you think about when you think about ants? An aerial view perhaps, looking down at a line of ants moving along a trail. Go closer. If you stay with it, your view may twist, your ants grow, become singular, each an alien creature, somehow militarised. As primitives we ate them, they were our crunch, and now they are lodged in our subconscious. We know their noise in the soil, even if we do not acknowledge it. The mandibles dominate, snipping, giving the ant its name in Old English, “aemette”, from the proto-Germanic ai mait, meaning to cut away, or to cut off. Even in that early time in Anglo-Saxon lands there was a grim sense of ants swarming, and now we know that army ants move in waves of a million or more, eating through anything in their path, someone staked and tied to the ground, for instance.

The blank eyes, the glands under the jawbone secreting pheromones that signal alarm, laid down by foraging ants and reinforced by following ants to show the shortest possible route to a source of food. The antennae, cantilevered at the elbow, twitching at speeds our eye cannot follow.

The slender waist, the shimmer and bristle of the exoskeleton, red or black, metallic, so that the ant corpse rots from within, leaving the armour intact. Whereas we are jellies, prick us and do we not bleed...? One way or another, when we think about ants, we tend not to think they are a part of us, or that they have something fundamental to say about us. But they probably do.

It all started with a poke in the eye for a seven-year-old boy, out fishing in Alabama. It was 1936, and Ed Wilson’s parents had just divorced, leaving him lonely and introspective. When he pulled up his rod, a pinfish swung into his face and its spine blinded him in one eye. The accident had lasting repercussions. If Wilson had been sighted in both eyes, he might have been drawn to the megafauna, or passed fit for the United States Army and killed in Korea, or otherwise diverted from being an exceptional young biologist. As it was, he came to be reliant on what he could see up close and through a microscope and so was ineluctably drawn to the microfauna.

E.O. Wilson is the ant man. Over six decades at Harvard University he has discovered more about ants than anyone else in history. He has thrown into relief for the general public just how important ants are — how they represent 25% or more of the insect biomass on the planet, how collectively they weigh more than all the humans in the world, how they assist humans by aerating the soil, suturing wounds, or, as in South Africa, harvesting the rooibos seeds for farm workers to collect.

And how ancient they are: in 1966 Wilson and his colleagues identified an ant in a shard of amber that was 80m years old. Ants emerged along with flowering plants 130m years ago. By contrast, the genus Homo diverged 2m years ago, has existed as Homo sapiens for a fraction of that time, with a civilisation of 20,000 years or so.

Wilson arrived at Harvard from the University of Alabama in 1953 and proved his mettle by traversing the tropics in search of undiscovered ant species. He helped uncover the diversity of ants in Amazonia and in the Orinoco basin. He was one of the first outsiders to climb the remote mountain ranges in Papua New Guinea, gathering ants and frogs in the chill mists. His studies were so thorough they laid the groundwork for the new field of biogeography. Every summer he set out, and every autumn he returned to Boston, studying the ants under the microscope into the winter, mapping all the features down to the talons on the claws of each of the six legs, and the milky sacs in the body of a queen which she would draw on for ten years or more.

None of this would have amounted to much in the eyes of the outside world had Wilson not got into the behaviour of ants and from there into comparisons with human nature. He has written 24 books and 400 scientific papers. Two of his books —“On Human Nature” (1978) and “The Ants” (1990, with Bert Hölldobler) — have won the Pulitzer prize. Tom Wolfe, the American journalist, described him as “Darwin II”. I think what Wolfe meant was that Wilson’s thinking about the biological basis of social and group behaviour would fundamentally alter man’s perception of himself. Wilson contends not just that we are primates, made in nobody’s image, but that the same laws of population biology and evolutionary theory that govern behaviour in ants also govern us.

Wilson works at the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology, where he keeps an office as emeritus professor of entomology and honorary curator of the insect collection. It’s between terms when I wander across the Harvard Yard to meet him, and there are not many people on the campus, just a few Chinese taking pictures of each other on the library steps. I press the black lift buttons in sequence, as instructed, to overshoot the museum, the sound of children sidling up to the stuffed sloth, and get to Wilson’s floor. When the doors open, there is a smell of mothballs and formaldehyde, reminiscent of mortuaries in poor countries, but everything here is tidy, the smells issue from cabinets and drawers, and there is a calming effect of knowledge, thought and routine. Wilson greets me warmly and insists on showing me around. At 81 he is professorial and grandfatherly at the same time, just as he appears on YouTube. His manners and speech are Southern.

“You know biology is a beautifully messy subject,” he says, by way of introduction. The “beautifully” is pure Alabama, the flourish of one who likes to tell stories. He still has the run of several rooms. There is a study, lined floor to ceiling with books and papers, a room for his assistant, and a meeting room with a large table, more books, trophies, and dozens of pictures and sculptures of ants.

“You have to see this.” He gently guides me into an adjoining room filled with umpteen large specimen cases. He opens up just a few drawers, with polymorphic examples of a single species of ant — soldiers, nurses, workers, queens — ranging in size from 0.75mm to 52mm, each with a tiny handwritten label. How large is the collection? Wilson looks embarrassed; boasting seems beyond him. “Well, among the largest in the world, maybe in the top three, it’s hard to say.”

We sit at the meeting-room table, which is scattered with notes for a book Wilson is co-writing on a Spanish scientist, José Celestino Mutis. Wilson wants Mutis installed in a high place in the history of science. He arrived in Colombia from Spain in 1761 and built Bogota’s first observatory and botanical garden. Linnaeus wrote to him asking for specimens of the leafcutter ant, then almost unknown in Europe. Mutis put together the most complete treatise ever assembled on ants and it was lost at sea on the way to Sweden. He was the first to observe how the leafcutter ants snipped away at the leaves and brought the pieces to the nest to feed a garden of fungal mulch that they live off. “No one had studied ants before,” Wilson says. “There were no systems of classification, no names, nothing recorded about the habits of ants. Mutis had to do everything on his own.”

Wilson is clear about his starting point: all living things are subject to the same laws of physics and biology; there is no metaphysics. “All entities and processes in life come to life through natural selection. The law is all-encompassing.” He smiles mischievously. “Darwin is infuriatingly almost always right.” On top of his Pulitzers, he has won many teaching awards. His idea about teaching is to begin with a big thought, then work down to the facts. He has shown generations of students that the ant is lungless, so its muscles get their oxygen through fine holes in its exoskeleton. He has backed up earlier findings of the prodigious strength of the ant, which can lift many times its body weight above its head, not with its legs, which end in hooked claws, but with its mandibles. And he has asserted that, despite its small brain, the ant teaches its young, with foragers taking novices along in “tandem running”.

His biggest thought is sociobiology, which he has defined as “the extension of population biology and evolutionary theory to social organisations”. This is the idea that eusocial insects—that is, those 20 or so species of ants, termites and bees that have developed complex civilisations — can teach us something about how humans interact with each other. Wilson says that in the eusocial species he has studied, the caste systems are supported by acts of seeming charity.

He has joked that Karl Marx had it right about socialism, he just got the wrong species. In his writings he is wont to emphasise the beneficence of ants, how an ant with a full stomach will regurgitate liquid food for those without, and how the old will venture into battle so that the young can survive. That may confirm some of the findings of “Mutual Aid”, the pioneering 1902 study of altruism in animals by the Russian anarchist Prince Pyotr Kropotkin. But is this really socialism? To the casual observer the ant colony looks more like a Nazi ideal, where the weak are shed and fed upon, and those who have the slightest scent of another colony are sprayed with a chemical marking them out for death. It makes one glad to be human.

When Wilson unveiled sociobiology in 1975, it met with an angry response. Feminists, Marxists and Christians were opposed; so was Stephen Jay Gould, another Harvard biologist. But Wilson’s belief in sociobiology has not wavered. He leans forward and folds his hands together. “History is almost certainly colony against individual and colony against colony. If group selection is correct, what you would expect to find is an intense human desire to form groups that attack other groups; bands of brothers, teams.”

Then comes the rider. “As shortages in oil and other energy sources increase, we will see insect traits. Group conflict is so deeply endemic that we will never diminish it until we confront it.” This is more than a little alarming. Ants, after all, fight enormous battles to the death. If Wilson is right, regardless of political science, the future will be both more structured and remorseless in its violence. “With leafcutter ants”, he adds, “there is a 1-in-10,000 chance a queen will succeed in colonising a new colony. So there is an intense pressure to stick to the rules of an organisation.” He emphasises how an ant colony “insists upon absolute sovereignty” and demands “constant population growth and ever-rising productivity”, traits which seem to (be) shared by humans.

A defining factor of ants is the speed at which they communicate through chemical cues. These pheromonal messages are simple — “Look, this is my caste, this my condition,” or, “Raise more soldiers” — but in the context of the super-organism they create a common intelligence capable of dealing with complicated problems. There are specialist jobs: many ant colonies have cemeteries. The cemetery workers live at the edge of the city, where their sole responsibility is to arrange the dead, and parts of limbs, and rubbish, and to bury it. They dispose of the dead both as a service and to protect the nest from pathogens.

These vivid details sound like fiction, and that is what Wilson has turned them into. Not content with his other roles, he is now a debutant novelist, author of “Anthill”, published this year, excerpted in the New Yorker, and a bestseller. The novel takes place in three parallel worlds: human, ant and the biosphere that contains them. “They rise together,” it begins, “they fall, they rise again, but in cycles so different in magnitude that each is virtually invisible to the others. The smallest are the ants, who build civilisations in the dirt. Their histories are epics that unfold on picnic grounds.”

. . . I sit at a stool by the window of a pizza parlour in Cambridge, contemplating our swarming kind, the ants at our feet, the bacteria inside and below us, existing without sunlight. Wilson has served as a corrective, placing us in a larger sweep of life and time. A line of his comes back to me that feels true, at once kindly and devastating: “We were not driven from Eden. Instead, we destroyed most of it.” (J.M. Ledgard is The Economist's Nairobi correspondent and author of "Giraffe". His last piece for Intelligent Life was on Marienbad.)

Suzan

* The Theory of Island Biogeography, 1967, Princeton University Press (2001 reprint), ISBN 0-691-08836-5, with Robert H. MacArthur The Insect Societies, 1971, Harvard University Press, ISBN 0-674-45490-1 Sociobiology: The New Synthesis 1975, Harvard University Press, (Twenty-fifth Anniversary Edition, 2000 ISBN 0-674-00089-7) On Human Nature, 1979, Harvard University Press, ISBN 0-674-01638-6 Genes, Mind and Culture: The coevolutionary process, 1981, Harvard University Press, ISBN 0-674-34475-8 Promethean fire: reflections on the origin of mind, 1983, Harvard University Press, ISBN 0-674-71445-8 Biophilia, 1984, Harvard University Press, ISBN 0-674-07441-6 Success and Dominance in Ecosystems: The Case of the Social Insects, 1990, Inter-Research, ISSN 0932-2205 The Ants, 1990, Harvard University Press, ISBN 0-674-04075-9, Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, with Bert Hölldobler The Diversity of Life, 1992, Harvard University Press, ISBN 0-674-21298-3 The Diversity of Life: Special Edition, ISBN 0-674-21299-1 The Biophilia Hypothesis, 1993, Shearwater Books, ISBN 1-55963-148-1, with Stephen R. Kellert Journey to the Ants: A Story of Scientific Exploration, 1994, Harvard University Press, ISBN 0-674-48525-4, with Bert Hölldobler Naturalist, 1994, Shearwater Books, ISBN 1-55963-288-7 In Search of Nature, 1996, Shearwater Books, ISBN 1-55963-215-1, with Laura Simonds Southworth Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge, 1998, Knopf, ISBN 0-679-45077-7 The Future of Life, 2002, Knopf, ISBN 0-679-45078-5 Pheidole in the New World: A Dominant, Hyperdiverse Ant Genus, 2003, Harvard University Press, ISBN 0-674-00293-8 From So Simple a Beginning: Darwin's Four Great Books. 2005, W. W. Norton. The Creation: An Appeal to Save Life on Earth, September 2006, W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. ISBN 978-0-393-06217-5 Nature Revealed: Selected Writings 1949-2006, Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore. ISBN 0-8018-8329-6 The Superorganism: The Beauty, Elegance, and Strangeness of Insect Societies, 2009, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. ISBN 978-0-393-06704-0, with Bert Hölldobler _____________

2 comments:

The Blog Fodder said...

Another great reading list. Well researched, Susan.

Suzan said...

Thanks!

And you are very welcome.

S