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PokerStars pulls out of Washington state 2010-Sep-30 at 13:25 PDT

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Obviously, this sucks.  Fortunately, I play on Full Tilt.  I can’t help but wonder if they’ll follow suit.

From PokerStars No Longer Accepting Washington Cash Play On Site, by Earl Burton, 30-Sep-2010:

After a decision from the state’s Supreme Court regarding the legality of a law set in place four years ago, the top online site in the poker industry, PokerStars, has made the move to no longer accept cash players from the state of Washington.

In an e-mail message sent to residents of the state of Washington, PokerStars spells out the unfortunate news. “To date, PokerStars has operated in Washington on the basis of legal opinions where the central advice was that the state could not constitutionally regulate Internet poker, or at least could not discriminate in favor of local card rooms and against online sites. Last week, however, the Washington Supreme Court for the first time rejected that position and upheld the state’s Internet gaming prohibition.”

The e-mail continued, “In light of this decision, following extensive consultation with our legal advisors, we believe that the right course of action is to now block real money play by Washington residents on the PokerStars.com site.” PokerStars emphasized that the company always has legal issues in mind when offering their wares, stating, “In all of the jurisdictions where we operate, we are committed to making responsible decisions that are based on a full and considered understanding of the most up-to-date legal advice.”

Poker is not gambling.  It is a game of skill.  Tens of millions of Americans play poker regularly, and the haphazard legal environment around poker – particularly when it’s lumped together with other games like Blackjack and Roulette and Slot Machines – makes it difficult for the large online poker sites to operate.

How can you tell the difference between gambling and a game of skill?  To me it’s easy… am I playing against the house?  If I’m playing against the house, I’m gambling, because they don’t set up games that they lose money at.  If I’m playing against other players… it’s probably about skill.

I know most of you don’t care about this issue, but I do.  Ever since the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act was tacked on to a Port Security bill in 2006 by Senate Majority leader Bill Frist, who was attempting to mollify social conservatives in the Republican party, the national legal structures for poker have been problematic.  Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) has been shepherding a bill through Congress to address internet gaming in general, and although that bill has 70 co-sponsors, it doesn’t look like it’ll get through Congress in this session.  Let’s hope that reason prevails soon.

I hope Snoqualmie and Tulalip Casinos expand their poker rooms soon… I think we’re going to need it.


Bill Gates and Integral Education 2010-Sep-30 at 08:21 PDT

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Did you know that Bill Gates spoke to the American Federation of Teachers over the summer?  I didn’t.

A couple of interesting quotes from this speech:

Great teaching is the centerpiece of a strong education; everything else revolves around it. This is the main finding of our foundation’s work in education over the past ten years.

I have to admit – that is not where we started. Our work in schools began with a focus on making high schools smaller, in the hope of improving relationships to drive down dropout rates and increase student achievement. Many of the schools we worked with made strong gains, but others were disappointing. The schools that made the biggest gains in achievement did more than make structural changes; they also improved teaching.


In 2008 and 2009, our foundation partnered with Scholastic on a national survey to learn the views of 40,000 teachers on crucial questions facing your profession.

Teachers said in huge numbers that they don’t get enough feedback. They’re not told how they can improve. They’re not given training that can address their weaknesses or help them share their strengths with others.

This has helped spark the movement for change. Teachers want to help set the expectations that they will be held accountable for. You want to be rewarded for results. You want better evaluations. You’re tired of subjective, infrequent evaluations by administrators who don’t know how to improve instruction – the people who come into your class and write ―Yes‖ or ―No‖ for things like: ―arrives on time‖ and ―maintains professional appearance.

But even fair and insightful teacher evaluations are not enough to improve student gains; they have to be tied to great professional development that is customized for each teacher. After all, the goal of evaluation is not to sort teachers into groups; it’s to help every teacher get better.

And what, exactly, is the Gates Foundation doing about American education?

The first of these projects addresses a big gap in our knowledge: There has been a lot of research done about the impact of effective teaching, but little research has been done on what makes teaching effective.

That’s the research we’re doing now with nearly 3,000 teachers in six school districts who have volunteered to open their classrooms to visitors, to video cameras, to new assessments, to watching themselves teach and talking about their practice. Many of these teachers are members of the AFT. I want to thank those of you who are here today for being part of this project.

The chief goal is to work with teachers – using technology, data and research – to develop a system of evaluation that teachers believe is fair and will help them improve.

Project teams record student gains on two assessments – one a state multiple choice test, the other a more open-ended, problem-solving test to make sure the test scores reflect real knowledge and not just test-taking skill.

They assess the learning atmosphere in the classroom – asking students if they agree with statements such as: ―If you don’t understand something, my teacher explains it another way.‖

The teams will watch more than 13,000 videos of classes this year and 13,000 more again next year. They’ll put special focus on classes that showed big student gains and try to map it backwards to identify the most effective teaching practices. They’ll also look for what doesn’t work. If a struggling new teacher comes to a veteran colleague and asks: ―What am I doing wrong?‖ he should get an evidence-based answer.

What I love about this speech most is the perspective that Mr. Gates is taking on this problem.  He’s not coming into the AFT and dictating to them what needs to be done; he’s inviting them in to be part of the solution, he’s listening to their concerns about current testing regimes, and he’s standing firm in the idea that good practices can be reverse-engineered and shared.

You hear more about that perspective in this video he did as part of NBC News Education Nation week.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

As I think about what goes into something that we might call Integral Education, the most glaring lack we seem to have today is simply the gathering of raw data around all of the objective and subjective factors that go into great teaching.  Without this data, we’re all just a bunch of philosophers (and I admit that I’ve bashed the teacher’s unions as hard as anyone out there) with no information to apply to our theories.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is doing a great service to the future of education in the United States, and the future of Integral Education, with the work they’re doing, and with the humility and perspective they’re bringing to it.  I’m excited to follow this work over the coming years, and to see it adopted around the country.

A new view of Integral Spirituality 2010-Sep-29 at 03:22 PDT

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I think there’s a problem with spirituality as it’s seen and practiced in the Integral movement today.

It’s going to take a bit to explain what I mean… so this is going to be a long one.  I post it as a work-in-progress.

Evolution and Involution

Let’s start with the idea of evolution and involution.  Although the definitions of these terms change in different systems, I’ll define them this way: evolution is the process through which matter returns to Spirit, and involution is the process through which Spirit returns to matter.  In evolution, the sequence that is put forth (by Ken Wilber, among others) is, roughly speaking: matter to life to mind to soul to Spirit.  In involution, the sequence is reversed: Spirit to soul to mind to life to matter.

Both evolution and involution are taking place, in every moment.  And this is crucial to Integral Philosophy; without both evolution (the Ascending path, the Path of Wisdom) and involution (the Descending path, the Path of Compassion), held in balance, we cut ourselves off from one of the two crucial flows contained in our Universe.  So far, so good.

Let’s take a deeper look at involution, and at what we might call the levels of complexity that arise as involution unfolds.


At first, before taking the first step into manifestation, I exist as Spirit itself.  You exist as Spirit itself.  Nothing other than Spirit exists, in fact.  The worldview that arises from this point-of-view is what we typically call nondual.  If I hold myself as Spirit-prior-to-manifestation, then a nondual view is precisely the worldview that must arise.  When I inhabit a nondual worldview, I see everything – my house, my body, the computer I’m typing on – as undifferentiated Spirit, arising within a consciousness beyond all labels or description, a consciousness where, as Ramana Maharshi said, "That which is not present in deep dreamless sleep is not real."  In this worldview, there is no Witness because nothing real has ever arisen to be Witnessed, and nothing has arisen that is not, itself, Spirit.

This worldview has the least amount of complexity in it.  The forms of spirituality that arise from this worldview reflect it and teach it, such as Advaita Vedanta and the Mahayana and Vajrayana schools of Buddhism.

Witness and Form, or Self and Other

The first step into manifestation is to create a split between Self and Other.  At this level of awareness, I exist as Witness, seeing all that arises as undifferentiated Manifestation.  In this worldview, I exist as a pure Witness, never entangled in the vast field of arising, aware that all that arises is not Me, aware that all arises with no boundaries, able to sit apart from it with no attachment, and in complete Wisdom.  I can also arise as Manifestation being Witnessed, allowing myself to be unbroken Compassion for all that manifests without boundary.  Either way… there is at least the split between Self and Other.  This worldview is no longer nondual, but is the simplest form of duality… only Two exist.  No suffering exists in this worldview, because there are no separate entities in Manifestation… only Form with No Boundary.  (Someone ought to write a book with that title….)

This worldview is just that slight bit more complex than a nondual worldview,.  Again, the forms of spirituality that arise from this worldview reflect it and teach it.  The Hinayana forms of Buddhism, such as Theravadan, hold this view.  Really, any religion that holds that there are Two comes from this worldview: Witness and Form, Emptiness and Fullness, Atman and Brahman, Yesh and Ayin, Peanut Butter and Chocolate… if your spirituality has Two, your worldview is of this level of complexity.

The Few Things

The next step in involution is to create a Universe that has some small number of fundamental things at play.  At this level of awareness, I begin to see things arise as manifestations of combinations of a small number of different energies or elements.  From here, I believe, we see some of the great traditional systems, like the Five Great Elements of Ayurveda, the Chinese Five Movements, and the Sefirot in Kabbalah, among many others (most of which, no doubt, I’m not even familiar with).

From this worldview, we clearly see the beginning of separation, and therefore suffering.  But all entities that appear separate are made up of, and therefore closely linked to, the fundamental elements or energies.  Healing and wholeness are always available through balancing these fundamental elements.  Although separation between objects seems to exist now, each object retains a connection back to the fundamental energies, and so can be seen as an emanation of those energies, leaving an enchantment within the manifest world.

[A note: this doesn’t mean that all healing modalities that arose in these times are therefore better than the ones we have today… it just means that they dealt with things from a different worldview, one that indicated that it was important to view the world through those fundamental energies.  The good news is that those worldviews are native to all of us.  Of course, our Western societies have been locked in a predominantly modern and postmodern view of science, medicine, and the body (in other words, a purely UR view), and so we’re only now starting to see the effectiveness of these modalities, as we re-access the intelligence existent through this worldview.]

The Many Things

Eventually, through involution, we arrive at a level of complexity in manifestation where it appears to us that multiple things exist.  We come to believe, for instance, that there’s such a thing as a separate self, and that you are a separate thing from me, and that we are separate from other things that are arising, and that those separate things have an intrinsic existence.  In this worldview, suffering arises because separation arises.  We look at other people and see them as suffering.  We look at the planet and see that parts of it are suffering.  We look at ourselves and see that we are suffering.  And everywhere we look in what is now a world of gross manifestation, we see separate entities arising.

This worldview has still more complexity in it.  The forms of spirituality that arise from this worldview also include separation and separate entities.  Here, we start to see things like angels, faeries, elementals, guides, ghosts, spirits, advisors; in other words… an uncountable number of independent entities of varying degrees of awareness and helpfulness.  We see some of the mainstream religions.

We also see separate souls arising.  We see those souls arising both incarnated in gross bodies in this universe (bodies like yours and mine), and we see those souls not incarnated in this universe, in some sort of subtle or causal world.

It’s all about worldview

What I’m arguing for is that if worldview determines the relationship we hold to gross manifestation, then that worldview also must determine the relationship we have to subtle and causal manifestation.  Do I believe that there are separate objects arising in manifestation at the moment?  Well then, the world looks one way.  Do I view it all as undifferentiated sensation, with no boundary arising between those objects?  You can, and if you do, the world looks another way.  Do I view it as lacking an intrinsic existence apart from the arising of Consciousness?  I hope you do from time to time… and as if there could be such a thing as time in the first place.

And don’t lie to yourself about it… we walk around in one of these modes at all times.  We spend different amounts of time acting like one worldview or another is real.  Some spend all of their lives believing in complete separation, and never taste a nondual worldview, for instance.  Some spend years cultivating a Witness / Form worldview, and eventually walk around with this view the vast majority of the time.

No matter what your path, you’re in one of the worldviews that corresponds to one of the levels of complexity we might perceive in manifestation.

What’s right about Integral Spirituality

The greatest contribution of Integral Spirituality to the world is that it allows us to put all of the different expressions of spirituality on one map, and view how they complement each other, and how much territory they overlap on.  It helps us see that the mystic forms of each path, while having different vibrations because they wear different cultural clothing, all lead to the same awareness.  We can give space for each of us to follow the path that feels and works best, while deeply enjoying the one that we walk.

And it also identifies a hierarchy of awareness that these expressions of spirituality sit within.  Noticing this natural hierarchy does help us to remain oriented towards paths that feature the most pure expression of nondual awareness, and those that include some subtle or even gross duality in them.

The Confusion

Noticing that there must be some sort of natural hierarchy running from nondual, to slightly dualistic, to more dualistic, to very dualistic is a crucial piece of Integral Spirituality.  This noticing is required if we’re to get the most benefit from taking an Integral perspective on spirituality… without it, we’re running a Flatland version of spirituality where every path is equal to every other path.  We know that’s simply not true… we’ve seen that different paths arise in, and therefore run through, different worldviews.

What I believe we’ve done, though, is that we’ve misused that hierarchy.

We’ve heard the message that the hierarchy exists, and that certain paths create state experiences from various degrees of duality (and nonduality, which has no degrees).  In fact, many of us have identified our favorite versions of those, and we’ve invested some time and money into exploring what life would look like in accordance with those teachings.

But then we turn around and spend most of our lives living from a worldview that most certainly includes many things.  Most of the time, we imagine ourselves as separate entities.  Most of the time, we believe that others exist.  We believe in separation, and therefore we believe in ideas like: the planet is suffering.  Or populations are suffering.  Or animals are suffering.

Or <insert-your-favorite-cause-here> is suffering, and we must help!

We seem to believe in that worldview, don’t we?  I assume we do, because we sure do believe in the suffering.  But then many of us turn our eyes to what seems like a distant high mountain, towards a form of spirituality that arises from a different worldview, and from a simpler level of complexity.  We turn our attention to Buddhism, or Kabbalah, or Sufism, or whatever seems to work for us.  When we do this, we commit ourselves to spending some of our time in a worldview that reflects that (simpler) level of complexity, which is good for us on many levels.  But we should notice that these kinds of paths have not been revealed from the more complex worldview we normally walk around with, and instead they take a perspective on it, so they can’t really help us when we’re living from inside the more complex story (which, I observe, most of us spend most of our time in).  They function only when we’re not locked into the more complex story… this is exactly what "being present" means.

We create a mismatch for ourselves… we spend most of our time believing in more complexity, we seek solace in less complexity, and therefore we cut ourselves off from the two sources that would give us a much smoother flow through this life.  We cut ourselves off from actually acting like the less complex world is possible, by being locked in a world with time and doubt.  And while we’re locked in that world, we don’t allow ourselves to believe in the arising of a spiritual world that’s appropriate to that worldview, and to that level of complexity.

It stands to reason that while we’re locked in the worldview of the many, we should also imagine a subtle realm occupied by the uncountable many spirits, souls, guides, elementals, and angels (call them whatever you want) who also arise within this worldview.

The people I know who have some facility for communicating with these entities —souls who may or may not be incarnated in gross bodies at this moment – all report that these entities carry a very high vibrational frequency, that they’re rooted in connection with each other and with all things, and that they reside in and reflect to us only love.  Only love.  (And that any scary encounters are our projections on that experience.  Duh, right?)

And I think it’s crucially important to remain intellectually honest about the worldviews we’re holding, and to act as if they’re true when we’re in them.  When I’m in a state from a nondual practice or path, and I’m not acting as if that state were true, then I’m not quite all-in, am I?  And that works both ways… in one direction, our spiritual view brings along a valid worldview, and in the other direction, our worldview brings along a valid spirituality.

I see no contradiction in believing that I have spirit guides, or advisors (because I do), at the same time I believe that Mirror Mind is an important vehicle for seeing the truth of Witness and Form, at the same time I know, because I have experienced it, the absolute truth of the nondual perspective.

If, however, I’m acting as if the gross world contains separation, and I’m not including a spirituality in that worldview that’s also made up of separation, them I’m engaged in some self-deception.  There’s room to add some new forms of spirituality into the mix.

The Promise

The sad, crushing part of that self-deception is that we cut ourselves off from the very source of all of our hope and love within this worldview.  We don’t believe that there are any others who arise to help us through the suffering, but how could the suffering exist if there weren’t others to begin with?  We therefore try to become Big Mind and Big Heart ourselves and alone, hoping that that move will magically make things better in this world.  The very fact that we see the suffering, though, is our indication that we must also have an uncountable many souls aligned with us, supporting us, helping us, as we navigate the gross, manifest world.  It is the indication of the arising of a particular worldview, and that worldview includes separation and suffering… and it also includes multiple souls both in and out of incarnation at this time.

I invite each of you to feel into the rightness of this for yourselves. Does it feel more accurate to imagine these kinds of plentiful subtle and causal realms, or does it feel more accurate to imagine that they don’t exist?

For me, I know they exist, and I know that they’re full of souls.

They’re full of souls who have been around the wheel of existence enough times to carry a higher vibrational frequency than we’ve ever seen in a large group on this planet before.

They’re full of souls who carry such a high vibrational frequency that they only choose to incarnate at times when they’re needed to make a significant shift in consciousness on the planet.

They’re full of souls who are choosing difficult circumstances of birth all around the planet so that this consciousness arises in all places as it’s needed.

And they’ve already been coming.  We’ve heard about the Indigo Children.  Or the Crystal Children.  Or the Ages of Aquarius and Pisces.  Or a thousand other labels indicating that something interesting and new is happening with some of the children these days.  I’m guessing they’re all different ways of saying the same thing:  souls that have been around the block more times than some others are starting to show up in large numbers, and they’re showing some incredible ability to be present through whatever is arising.

They’ve been coming for some time, and now they’re coming in growing numbers – and if my prediction that we can get 10%-20% of the world’s population operating from an Integral center-of-gravity is right – then they’ll be coming in much larger numbers very soon now.  They’ll have to be adults as some of the amazing new technology comes online, so that they can partner with it from a very present place.  They’ll also carry the kind of vibrational frequency that allows what seem like intractable issues on the planet to be solved with quite a bit more grace than we’ve seen, because they’ll natively see a global – dare I say Integral – perspective.

They’re arising as the Integral movement is arising, because all timing is perfect, and because they must in order to help us navigate the incredible new worlds of technology that are coming.  Things are just getting good around here.

A final plea

If you believe nothing else that I’ve said about how our world is going to be fine, if you think that technology and artificial intelligence will harm us, if you think that nanotechnology-based manufacturing will never happen, and solar power is too far off to prevent permanent damage, and even if you think that spiritual development won’t come soon enough:  I tell you, those souls are coming, and they’re coming in large numbers, large enough to make a difference.  You probably already know a few.

Nice to meet you, too.

So hold all of the perspectives of spirituality with me, as we all remain aware of the level of complexity we’re seeing at any given moment, and act as if they’re all true, without disowning any of them.  This ride through manifestation can go far more smoothly for all beings than it has thus far, and it’s in our ability to see that it happens at all levels.  We can’t get there if we have a large hole in our lives where the spirituality of the many should be.

President Obama at the United Nations 2010-Sep-23 at 14:21 PDT

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Another great, if short, speech by President Obama today at the United Nations.  Here, he presents a balanced and serious approach for all nations dealing with the recession, with wars, and with global development.  Seriously, the only guy with more hits than Obama is Jay-Z.

The Killers are the next U2 2010-Sep-12 at 08:21 PDT

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There, I said it.

I’m so hooked on this band right now.  Four albums so far, one of them was mostly covers and B-sides, but at least half of each of the other three are amazing pop songs.

And they have a great singer and frontman, like U2.  And the other guys grow on you after a little while.

Great lyrics, and you know they’re feeling their way into talking about spirituality.

And so young.  U2 did Live at Red Rocks after their third album, and The Killers have done their first video, Live From Royal Albert Hall, after their third full album (not counting the covers and B-sides album).  The difference: The Killers have more good songs at this point than U2 did.  Of course, they don’t have a "Sunday Bloody Sunday", but then again, no one but U2 does.

I’m not making any claims about them operating from Second Tier or anything… they might be, they might not be.  But they’re definitely headed in the right direction.  Very impressive early career so far, and I’m on board for the ride.

A New START 2010-Sep-09 at 03:09 PDT

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President Obama and President Medvedev signed the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty in Prague, on April 8, 2010.  The treaty remains stuck, waiting for the U.S. Senate’s "advice and consent" to ratify it.  In the meantime, the previous START expired in 2009, and so, for the last nine months, we’ve had no visibility into Russia’s nuclear forces.

This remains important because, even though the U.S. and Russia are now allies, we’re still, by far, the two nations with the largest nuclear force, and keeping up an inspection regime between us remains the best way for both nations to stay up-to-date and accurate about our nuclear weapons.

From New START: Security Through 21st Century Verification, by Rose Gottemoeller:

In the 22 years since these first inspections occurred under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, on-site inspections have been a vital means of verifying compliance with arms control treaties between the United States and the Soviet Union, the post-Soviet successor states, and now the Russian Federation.

With the December 2009 expiration of the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), the United States is unable, for the first time in more than 20 years, to conduct nuclear arms inspections inside Russia.

The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), which was signed April 8 and is before the Senate for its advice and consent to ratification, provides for a resumption of vital on-site inspections of Russian strategic nuclear facilities. There is no substitute for on-site inspections. They provide not only the “boots on the ground” presence to confirm Russian data declarations, thus helping to verify compliance with treaty obligations, but also insights into Russian strategic forces located at those facilities. Simply put, the United States is more secure and safer when our country is able to gain a better understanding of the Russian strategic arsenal.

Interestingly, what started as a contentious relationship warmed over the years into a healthy professional respect.

These baseline inspections began at the close of a very cold winter in Russia. U.S. inspectors often stood knee deep in snow while conducting three- to four-hour-long discussions with their Russian escorts on the nuances of inspection procedures. For many Russian and U.S. personnel, this was their first encounter with their counterparts from the other country, so initially the relationship was impersonal, formal, and sometimes adversarial. During the succeeding years of conducting START inspections, the demeanor on both sides developed into one of mutual respect as each side recognized that the other’s inspection team members or in-country escorts were doing their jobs with competence, professionalism, and fairness while ensuring the exercise of their full and reciprocal rights under the treaty.

Over the life of START, the atmosphere during inspections continued to improve. “It’s not personal, it’s about the treaty” became the mantra of the inspectors on both sides. Each side learned a great deal about the other’s strategic forces during those on-site inspections. Thus, both sides gained a strong body of knowledge and experience about conducting on-site inspections efficiently and effectively under START and the INF Treaty; they also learned how to improve on them.

We’re not nearly done with the threat of nuclear attack, particularly in terms of nuclear non-proliferation.  Keeping our two nations aligned in this regard remains a crucial piece of United States foreign policy, and a wonderful demonstration of the kind of International cooperation that eventually gets people to trust that it’s OK to give up a little bit of national sovereignty for a larger peace.

Mike Portnoy leaves Dream Theater 2010-Sep-08 at 20:51 PDT

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Not sure what to say about this… just have to share that it sucks, and it hurts.  I’m still a Dream Theater fan, I’m still a Mike Portnoy fan, I’m definitely looking forward to whatever DT is going to come out with that’s so important that they couldn’t take the hiatus that Mike was asking for… I mean, this had better be the best album they’ve ever done.

And I only wish them all the best.  And I just can’t imagine Dream Theater with Mike, but I can’t wait to see which drummer has big enough balls to step into Mike Portnoy’s shoes and learn the entire DT catalog of songs and play three-hour concerts and write an entire album of music with the best hard rock musicians on Earth.

Scumbag dictators, um, I mean, fine leaders of nations 2010-Sep-08 at 00:10 PDT

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My brilliant and beautiful girlfriend, Lauren, had an interesting reaction to my post from Monday.  I thought I should answer it here, and since I promised her that I wouldn’t take what she wrote to me out of context (well, I promised that after I told her that I totally would), here is the important part in its entirety:

So now I want to suggest that when you open your whole piece on Chavez and Venezuela by issuing the declaration that he’s a scumbag, you accept and perpetuate a frame that does not encourage or enact taking the view from love. That’s the way it feels to me. Scorn and rejection, embodied by name-calling, seem to have power, but actually have the effect in my opinion of weakening your effectiveness and influence, because it comes across as inconsistency and hypocrisy, because it has the feel of reaction and closure, not response and openness. Which feels like a lesser integrity if not a lack of integrity. Which makes some people less open to considering your views. Why should we discuss GW [Bush] respectfully, with willingness to seek to understand, while you exempt Chavez from this same respect and care? I want to be inspired to dig deeper in myself, to look at where I excuse myself from the call to love without condition, no exceptions. What inspires me most and will be most likely to call me to that level of integrity is witnessing it in others. So, where you are coming from seems to me to be deeply understandable, but I want to suggest that it is not the highest level of power you can come from.

And, no, we’re not in a fight or anything. :-)

So… I’m not sure if I’ll be able to win this one, but here’s what I’m thinking.

Let’s say that I call Kim Jong-Il a scumbag dictator.  Which I do.  The suffering of the North Korean people under the rule of this crime family is unimaginable.  North Koreans are 5 to 6 inches shorter than their cousins in South Korea, due to malnutrition.  Their IQ’s are 10-20 points lower.  Two million people have died from starvation and torture under his rule.  That’s twice as many as Saddam Hussein was responsible for killing, and Saddam is already a first-ballot Scumbag Hall of Famer.  His regime is responsible for selling hard drugs around the world to raise cash, and for selling nuclear technology to anyone willing to pay for it.

In other words, the very existence of the Kim regime in North Korea is a mortal threat to North Korea’s population specifically, and to the world as a whole.  I consider it to be a top foreign-policy objective of the United States and of Europe to end his family’s reign over North Korea, and to move towards Korean reunification.  The very minute that China entertains the idea of finally getting involved militarily in solving this problem, I consider it to be the United States’ highest military priority to move in, secure the country with the help of the Chinese, and to organize the logistics required to move towards a swift reunification with South Korea, along with creating a strong economic relationship between Korea and China.

With all of that said, can I take the view from love on Kim Jong-Il?  Well, yes, I can.  I can see him as a deeply wounded soul, someone who grew up as the son of a dictator (remember Uday and Qusay?), and who therefore never had the chance to develop a healthy sense of empathy.  I can see his soul as one that must now carry a lot of karma for endless lifetimes.  I can hold the story that his soul agreed to this incarnation before he came in, and that when his soul leaves the body it will remember the agreements it made.

I can hold all of that and more about poor little Jong-Il, and yet I also feel morally compelled to hold the position that, in this world, his continued existence remains a mortal threat to peace and stability around the world, perhaps more than any other single human being.  And, if I had the chance, I’d kill him… with my bare hands if I had to.

To me, the view from love suggests that a wake-up call is required around him and around this issue.  It boggles my mind how many people I talk to just aren’t aware of how bad it is in North Korea.  If calling him a scumbag shocks a reader into noticing, then I guess I’m all for it.  Perhaps there’s a more skillful way to do it – I could call him a worthless mother-fucking piece-of-shit scumbag dictator, perhaps – but until I find it, my current level of skill will have to do.

Along the same lines, let’s say I call Robert Mugabe a scumbag dictator.  Which I do.  He’s run the once-thriving economy of Zimbabwe into the ground, running the annual inflation rate up to 89,700,000,000,000,000,000,000% (that’s not a typo – 89.7 sextillion %), while allowing unemployment to skyrocket to over 94%, while enriching himself with as much of the nation’s wealth as he could.  He’s killed or imprisoned every political opponent he could over the last three decades, including the severe beating of, and then assassination attempt on, Morgan Tsvangirai, his supposed partner in a power-sharing government, in which Mr. Tsvangirai’s beloved wife, Susan, was killed.

Now, Mugabe isn’t quite the level of scumbag that Kim Jong-Il is, but that’s kind of like saying that Kerry Wood isn’t Sandy Koufax.  I mean, no one is Sandy Koufax.  But, still, Mugabe is a complete scumbag, and responsible for the suffering of millions of people in his own country, and in neighboring countries in Africa.  Again, can I take the view from love on him, and see his personal suffering in this lifetime?  Sure, I could.  But, again, so few of the people I speak to are even remotely aware of what he’s done to Zimbabwe (much less locate it on a map) that I’m choosing to shout about it rather than starting by being reasonable about it.

And, so, when I call Hugo Chávez a scumbag dictator (which I do)… again, he hasn’t quite inflicted the level of pain on Venezuela – yet – that Mugabe has on Zimbabwe.  And he’s nowhere near Kim Jong-Il on the scumbag list.  Hell, he’d have to get busy for the rest of his life to catch up to Kim on that score.  But… he has effectively had himself declared ruler-for-life, he’s shut down opposition media outlets, he’s had political opponents arrested and imprisoned, he’s run the Venezuelan economy into the ground, his policies have created food and energy shortages for his people, he’s responsible for a murder rate that puts Venezuela near the top of the list of most dangerous places to live, he’s been caught red-handed funding a terrorist insurgency inside of Colombia, he’s just begun to introduce cards that eventually will be used for food rationing, he’s demonized everyone in the Western world who could help him run things more effectively, and on and on.

We’ve seen this pattern before.  We know where it’s going.  We know the kind of limited mind that’s behind it.  And I think that we have a responsibility, globally, to ensure that the suffering in Venezuela doesn’t reach the level of Zimbabwe or, God forbid, North Korea, before we do something about it.  And so, I’m choosing to shout about it now, before it’s too late.

And if I’m losing power by calling him a scumbag dictator… I mean, what does it take to be a scumbag dictator these days?  What should I call him?  Just a dictator, without the scumbag?  Should I simply refer to him as the current President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela?

I just don’t feel that way… I think having him in power is a deeply destabilizing force both for Venezuela and for South America as a whole.  The poor Colombians… it must suck to have Chávez for a next-door neighbor.

And, to me, anyone who draws any parallels between any of these three and President George W. Bush is just being intellectually dishonest, and immediately loses me.  President Bush made mistakes, like all Presidents do, but to accuse him of holding the kind of contempt for his fellow man that Kim, Mugabe, and Chávez do, well… that’s projection, and I can’t go there with you.  Dictators are special, and deserve special consideration.  And, in case you didn’t notice… President Bush wasn’t a dictator.  We don’t have dictators in the United States.  He served his terms in office, and left peacefully, and now we have a new President.  I like our new President quite a bit better, but I don’t demonize our previous one.

But, Kim, Mugabe, and Chávez?  Yeah, to me, and to their populations, and their neighbors, they are demons that ought to be removed from power for the safety and peace of the entire world.  I can’t see a level of development other than Green that wouldn’t agree.

And I hope Lauren will still talk to me after this…. :-P

Artificial Intelligence and Human Intuition 2010-Sep-07 at 13:57 PDT

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I’m a little out on a limb with this one, but I’ve had the thought lately that, as AI gets inevitably more and more powerful, and is therefore in charge of producing and maintaining more and more complex objects in the world, that it will simply be beyond human comprehension to keep up with the design and repair of those objects.

Think about it… right now, in my living room, I have several pieces of audio/visual equipment that no one person fully understands.  My amplifier is made of hundreds, if not thousands, of individual components, all assembled into higher-level components with well-known interfaces, which are, in turn, assembled into still higher-level components with their own interfaces, until we come to the whole thing as one unit.  The fact that it functions at all (and functions very well, I might add), is somewhat miraculous.  Someone at Yamaha knew enough about the highest-level components to assemble them into this unit, but then other people know how those components actually work, and so on until we get to the smallest pieces.

And now imagine that on the level of nanotechnology-based manufacturing.  When that comes (within 20 years), we’ll effectively be “3-D printing” our manufactured goods.  Solar panels, computers, phones, vehicles, appliances, furniture – hell, lots of things – will be created out of a process that looks more like writing software than creating hardware, because the input to the manufacturing process will be a complex set of instructions and some raw materials, and not much else.  That’s what “nanotechnology-based manufacturing” means… we turn hardware problems into software problems.  And AI is going to be brilliant at solving software problems.

So we’ll be living in a world where the very objects that we use on a daily basis are designed by an Artificial Intelligence so vast that it can solve these kinds of software problems easily, in a way that no human intelligence could do on its own.  And, speaking as a computer programmer (which I’ve been since the age of 11), even today the software challenges we’re facing require new languages and new structures to express the complexity that we have to deal with… and those new high-level languages are relying on a significant amount of automation behind-the-scenes to enable the parallel processing and sequencing that is required on current and future hardware.  And our ability as human beings to hold all of that complexity in mind, at the same time, is starting to show some seams in terms of programming.  Very few people really understand the mechanics of how to do parallel processing well, and few understand even the new constructs that have been created to make that easier to do.

I’m not telling you this as a sad story… I’m just noticing what is, and I’m also noticing that there’s a level of AI that’s just being birthed right now that will be able to pick up this ball and run with it.  And when that happens… what will be left for us humans to do?  When the complex tasks are more-and-more handled by AI, when the objects themselves are so complex that we can’t fully grasp them with our human cognition, what will we do?

What’s come up for me is something like this:

Intuition and AI

Roughly speaking, we’ll cede the right-hand quadrants to AI, because it’ll be way better at figuring out objects, measurements, and how those objects interact than we ever could.  And we’ll have to start using our intuition to navigate the world, in the left-hand quadrants, because that’s what we’ll have that AI won’t, and because our intuition, when it’s sourced from the subtle and causal fields that we’re already drenched in, turns out to be a very elegant and accurate solution for navigating.

(And, yes, doing a regular UZAZU practice will give you the clearly felt sense, in the gross body, of being in touch with the subtle and causal fields from which intuition can be accessed.  And that’s part of why I believe UZAZU holds an important piece of the future of the Integral movement.  But I digress.)

That’s not to say that AI won’t have the left-hand quadrants, or that humans won’t have the right-hand quadrants… all quadrants co-arise at the same moment.  With that said, today, us humans are involved in almost every aspect of creating and finding external objects, and that task is going to be ceded more and more to AI over the coming decades, and we’ll still be here, and we’ll still be a valuable partner and co-creator of the world with AI, so I’m just thinking about the strengths that humans and AI will bring to the table together.

And I’m also trying to think about how we can view AI as a valued partner and how we can even love AI as we would love any of our friends… because if we don’t, we’ll never treat it with the respect and care that it deserves as a being or set of beings with consciousness.

Early thoughts on this topic, lots more to work out, but that’s where I am on this today.

Venezuela – Murders, electricity rationing, and now food rationing 2010-Sep-06 at 13:23 PDT

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We already know that Venezuela, under scumbag dictator Hugo Chávez, has become the world’s most violent place to live, with four times the number of civilian deaths from violence in 2009 than Iraq, and 63% more homicides since 2007 than even Mexico, with its out-of-control drug-related violence.

Caracas itself is almost unrivaled among large cities in the Americas for its homicide rate, which currently stands at around 200 per 100,000 inhabitants, according to Roberto Briceño-León, the sociologist at the Central University of Venezuela who directs the violence observatory.

That compares with recent measures of 22.7 per 100,000 people in Bogotá, Colombia’s capital, and 14 per 100,000 in São Paulo, Brazil’s largest city. As Mr. Chávez’s government often points out, Venezuela’s crime problem did not emerge overnight, and the concern over murders preceded his rise to power.

But scholars here describe the climb in homicides in the past decade as unprecedented in Venezuelan history; the number of homicides last year was more than three times higher than when Mr. Chávez was elected in 1998.

Chávez’s official response to newspapers reporting that story was to order them to stop publishing photographs of the murders, but what would you expect from an incompetent government whose only remaining backer is the equally confused Oliver Stone?

"Forget the hundreds of children who die from stray bullets, or the kids who go through the horror of seeing their parents or older siblings killed before their eyes," said Teodoro Petkoff, the editor of another newspaper here, mocking the court’s decision in a front-page editorial. "Their problem is the photograph."

The electricity rationing is starting to ease, but in a nation that previously was prosperous, and is one of the largest energy-producers in the world, it’s an embarrassment and a symbol of the incompetence that Chávez brings through his dictatorship.

Now, however, we move to an even deeper sign of desperation and grasping at control… and one that all dictatorial regimes eventually turn to: food rationing.  From Venezuela introduces Cuba-like food card, by Antonio Maria Delgado, 03-Sep-2010

Presented by President Hugo Chávez as an instrument to make shopping for groceries easier, the "Good Life Card" is making various segments of the population wary because they see it as a furtive attempt to introduce a rationing card similar to the one in Cuba.

The measure could easily become a mechanism to control the population, according to civil society groups.

"We see that in short-term this could become a rationing card probably similar to the one used in Cuba," Roberto León Parilli, president of the National Association of Users and Consumers, told El Nuevo Herald. "It would use more advanced technological means [than those used in Cuba], but when they tell you where to buy and what the limits of what you can buy are, they are conditioning your purchases."

And although the cards were introduced [in Cuba] as a mechanism to deal with scarcities, Suchlicki said, they later became an instrument of control.

"People depended on the government to eat, and nothing gives you more power than having people depend on you to get their food quota," he said.

As I frequently point out… it’s just a matter of time until Venezuela becomes a state like North Korea or Zimbabwe, thoroughly controlled by an oppressive regime, economically and socially run into the ground, and desperately in need of international intervention to save its population.  The sooner we deal with him, the less the damage, and the suffering, will be.  And the suffering is already great.

Using vertical development to move down 2010-Sep-05 at 21:37 PDT

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In the Integral world, we’re all familiar with some scheme of developmental psychology… whether it’s Spiral Dynamics, the Leadership Development Framework, Dynamic Skill Theory, we’ve all seen one or more of them.

Typically, when one learns about these hierarchical schemes of development (and/or gets introduced to Integral), one does two things fairly quickly:  first, one looks at the scheme, tries to figure out where on it one fits, and then looks at the levels of development above that to see where one’s growth might be heading; second, one starts to project out onto everything whatever levels of development those objects or concepts or people might represent.  Quickly, we populate our world with what seems like a significant improvement over our old, confusing, flatland view of everything.  Now, everything has its level and its place, and we situate ourselves in the middle of all of that new labeling and order.

And I’m not trying to denigrate that move at all.  It’s quite natural for that to be the first thing that we do when we “get it” about developmental psychology.  And when I say “first thing” I’m not talking about something that lasts for a day or two.  This seems to be a stage that many of us pass through as we enter Integral, and it lasts for years.  And I’m really glad that it does; it’s a more developed position than the (pathological) post-modern view that holds all hierarchies as bad.

Of course, even new and more highly developed positions have their limitations and their shadows, and sometimes those shadows hold beautiful opportunities, and that’s what I’m interested in here.

One idea I’ve been playing with lately is the importance of using vertical developmental sequences not just as scaffolding for our own (or for our collective) growth up, but also to use them to grow down, as tools to re-inhabit those levels within ourselves that we’ve disowned.  For instance (using Spiral Dynamics as our scheme-of-the-moment) many people in the Integral movement have, to one extent or another, disowned their inner Blue and Orange tendencies, and that disowning runs deep.

Don’t believe me?  Let’s go right to an extreme case, then.  Just ask anyone you know who is familiar with Integral this one question: Can you love President George W. Bush?

So many people I saw at the Integral Theory Conference last month still walk around with deep, visceral hatred for President Bush, for instance, and expressed it quite publicly, and it saddened me.  I have to ask… is that really the most healthy relationship one can have with BLUE/Orange?  Are you capable of expressing appreciation for President Bush, and for some of the decisions he made?  Or is it all anger and disappointment and hatred?  Even he wasn’t capable of 100% error, right?

[Ed. note: this is not about having a political debate.  It’s about looking at our relationship to levels of development that we may have disowned and therefore are no longer able to access – you know, transcend and include, not transcend and disown.]

I’d suggest that there’s a way that we can open ourselves up to a more loving perspective about those parts of ourselves that we’ve disowned.  If we do, we can have a relationship with those who are currently living through those levels that we’ve disowned.  We can meet them where they are, with love, and see them – truly see them – and through the simple act of seeing them deeply and being present with them, we can hold the invitation to continued growth, not from a place of “you have to” but from a place of “you’re loved exactly as you are, and even more is possible.”

And if we don’t?  Well, if we don’t, then everything we do and say about people who live through the levels that we’ve disowned comes from one place: our own projections.  If you’re not truly in a relationship with someone – if you’re not treating them and feeling them as their own subject, worthy of respect and all of the Universe’s love – then you’re just projecting your own limitations onto them.

And I have to ask all of you in the Integral world: have you disowned your Orange?  Have you disowned your Blue?  Have you disowned your Green?  Are you ready to fix that now?

And how do we re-own them, to be more complete, to be able to take the view from love with everyone we meet?

I suspect that as the years go by, we’ll come up with more than just a few ways to remedy this particular developmental pathology, but I know one method for this that’s pretty fool-proof and easy to do: the UZAZU Vertical Practice.  Using the sound / breath / movement combinations of UZAZU, the Vertical Practice can walk you through a felt experience of each of the levels of development in Spiral Dynamics, all within 30 minutes, leading up to a deep experience of Oneness.  By doing this practice regularly, you give your body the experience of occupying those levels that you’ve disowned (as well as the ones that you’re comfortable with), and you get the felt sense of how they build on each other, and that they’re all a part of your own birthright as a human being.

Whether you choose to use UZAZU for this, or some other practice, I consider it to be absolutely vital for Integral action-in-the-world that we relate to all people wherever they are on the grand spirals of development, and with as much love – and as little projection – as we can muster.  You know as well as I do that you can’t get there from projection.  We all want to grow up… and let’s all grow down, too.