Monday, April 30, 2012

ANS -- Wasting Our Minds

This is bad news, but you knew that....
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Op-Ed Columnist

Wasting Our Minds


Published: April 29, 2012

In Spain, the unemployment rate among workers under 25 is more than 50 percent. In Ireland almost a third of the young are unemployed. Here in America, youth unemployment is "only" 16.5 percent, which is still terrible ­ but things could be worse.

Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times
Paul Krugman

And sure enough, many politicians are doing all they can to guarantee that things will, in fact, get worse. We've been hearing a lot about the war on women, which is real enough. But there's also a war on the young, which is just as real even if it's better disguised. And it's doing immense harm, not just to the young, but to the nation's future.

Let's start with some advice Mitt Romney gave to college students during an appearance last week. After denouncing President Obama's "divisiveness," the candidate told his audience, "Take a shot, go for it, take a risk, get the education, borrow money if you have to from your parents, start a business."

The first thing you notice here is, of course, the Romney touch ­ the distinctive lack of empathy for those who weren't born into affluent families, who can't rely on the Bank of Mom and Dad to finance their ambitions. But the rest of the remark is just as bad in its own way.

I mean, "get the education"? And pay for it how? Tuition at public colleges and universities has soared, in part thanks to sharp reductions in state aid. Mr. Romney isn't proposing anything that would fix that; he is, however, a strong supporter of the Ryan budget plan, which would drastically cut federal student aid, causing roughly a million students to lose their Pell grants.

So how, exactly, are young people from cash-strapped families supposed to "get the education"? Back in March Mr. Romney had the answer: Find the college "that has a little lower price where you can get a good education." Good luck with that. But I guess it's divisive to point out that Mr. Romney's prescriptions are useless for Americans who weren't born with his advantages.

There is, however, a larger issue: even if students do manage, somehow, to "get the education," which they do all too often by incurring a lot of debt, they'll be graduating into an economy that doesn't seem to want them.

You've probably heard lots about how workers with college degrees are faring better in this slump than those with only a high school education, which is true. But the story is far less encouraging if you focus not on middle-aged Americans with degrees but on recent graduates. Unemployment among recent graduates has soared; so has part-time work, presumably reflecting the inability of graduates to find full-time jobs. Perhaps most telling, earnings have plunged even among those graduates working full time ­ a sign that many have been forced to take jobs that make no use of their education.

College graduates, then, are taking it on the chin thanks to the weak economy. And research tells us that the price isn't temporary: students who graduate into a bad economy never recover the lost ground. Instead, their earnings are depressed for life.

What the young need most of all, then, is a better job market. People like Mr. Romney claim that they have the recipe for job creation: slash taxes on corporations and the rich, slash spending on public services and the poor. But we now have plenty of evidence on how these policies actually work in a depressed economy ­ and they clearly destroy jobs rather than create them.

For as you look at the economic devastation in Europe, you should bear in mind that some of the countries experiencing the worst devastation have been doing everything American conservatives say we should do here. Not long ago, conservatives gushed over Ireland's economic policies, especially its low corporate tax rate; the Heritage Foundation used to give it higher marks for "economic freedom" than any other Western nation. When things went bad, Ireland once again received lavish praise, this time for its harsh spending cuts, which were supposed to inspire confidence and lead to quick recovery.

And now, as I said, almost a third of Ireland's young can't find jobs.

What should we do to help America's young? Basically, the opposite of what Mr. Romney and his friends want. We should be expanding student aid, not slashing it. And we should reverse the de facto austerity policies that are holding back the U.S. economy ­ the unprecedented cutbacks at the state and local level, which have been hitting education especially hard.

Yes, such a policy reversal would cost money. But refusing to spend that money is foolish and shortsighted even in purely fiscal terms. Remember, the young aren't just America's future; they're the future of the tax base, too.

A mind is a terrible thing to waste; wasting the minds of a whole generation is even more terrible. Let's stop doing it.

A version of this op-ed appeared in print on April 30, 2012, on page A25 of the New York edition with the headline: Wasting Our Minds.

ANS -- Bad Arguments and other short notes

this is fun -- it's a bunch of short pieces, most of them pictures. 
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Bad Arguments and other short notes

This week's articles are so wordy that I'm going to focus the short notes on images.

Don't know your ad hominems from your slippery slopes? This poster can help.


Or you can show your opponents where their response falls in the pyramid of refutation.



Here's how democracy works:

Most editorial-cartoon flow charts are funny. This one is just accurate:

I keep hoping that Obama's pop-culture appearances will tempt Mitt Romney to prove that he's cool too.

Obama's stand-up routine at the White House Correspondent's Dinner was pretty good too.

Taking on the nuns at the same time they're challenging Obama on contraception may not be the Catholic hierarchy's greatest idea.

I don't know what possesses people to go on TV shows where they are bound to be humiliated. Here, former Texas Board of Education Chair Don McLeroy gets interviewed by Stephen Colbert ­ in a segment that promotes a documentary critical of McLeroy.

The marketplace gives you great power to decide which corporate octopus will take over the world.


Rachel Maddow continues her reporting on Michigan's loss of democracy. In this chapter, a petition to put Michigan's controversial Emergency Manager Law up for referendum is rejected it used the wrong font size. Or did it?

And while it is a step forward for a liberal woman like Rachel to get an occasional seat at the Meet the Press table, how long will it take for male conservatives to treat her like an equal?

The tussle took a more personal turn when Castellanos told Maddow, "I love how passionate you are. I wish you are as right about what you're saying as you are passionate about it. I really do."

"That's really condescending," Maddow replied. "I mean this is a stylistic issue. My 'passion' on this issue is actually me making a factual argument."


Department of Corrections: In last week's short notes I balanced the report that high-fructose corn syrup causes autism with a link to an article by the Corn Refiners Association. Here's a better counter-argument:


If you find yourself near Concord, MA Wednesday evening, come hear me talk to the Concord Area Humanists on "A Humanist Approach to Death".

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  • []  Kim Cooper On April 30, 2012 at 8:12 pm
  • Permalink | Reply in respect to that corporate map, as someone said, "Where can I get a large, readable version of this?"

ANS -- How Understanding Should Liberals Be?

Here is a very interesting article by Doug Muder at The Weekly Sift.  It's about how much should we understand and compromise with conservatives?  There's some valuable information here.
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s one week at a time

How Understanding Should Liberals Be?


In a polarized world, it's tempting and satisfying to think: My side is right and the other side is wrong. We represent truth, justice, and all that is good; they represent lies, corruption, and all that is evil. So the most direct way to improve the world is for Us to kick the crap out of Them.

As a liberal, though, I sometimes find it just as tempting (and satisfying in a different way) to think: No one has a monopoly on Truth; there are wise and good people on all sides. Democracy doesn't work without compromise, and for any conflict there's usually a higher Truth that transcends both poles. So it's important for the wise and good people on all sides to stay in dialog and work towards understanding and consensus. Only then can we achieve the kind of win/win solutions that move humanity forward.

On one path, anger and self-righteousness provide energy and direction. On the other, identification with the yet-to-be-discovered wisdom of the future yields a softer (but perhaps more lasting) determination.

Each attitude (if I'm being really honest) offers its own kind of ego boost. In one, I'm superior to those stupid and corrupt conservatives; in the other I'm superior to everyone who hasn't been to the mountaintop and seen my vision – or at least the vision that I plan to see when I get to the mountaintop.

In the blogosphere, kick-the-crap-out-of-them liberals and find-the-higher-truth liberals have their own polarization, which often manifests in bitter fights between idealists and pragmatists. So in this post, I'm doing when any good meta-liberal would do: I'm searching for the higher truth that transcends the conflict between crap-kicking liberals and conflict-transcending liberals.

The text for my sermon is Jonathan Haidt's recent book The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion. Obviously, Haidt hales from the conflict-transcending tribe. He describes himself as a life-long liberal from academia, but living among the common people in India opened his eyes to the worthiness of conservative values like in-group loyalty and respect for authority, and the data he has collected since convinces him that there is wisdom on both sides.

Now if only all the wise and good people could transcend polarization and get into dialog.

Not so fast. If Haidt had completely convinced me, I would write a polemic about how conflict-transcending liberals need to kick the crap out of the crap-kicking liberals who poison the dialog that we otherwise could be having with wise and good conservatives.

But I also read Charles Blow's post in February, showing that compromise itself is a liberal value conservatives don't share. In poll after poll, Democrats say their leaders should compromise to get something done, while Republicans say their leaders should stick to conservative principles.

Given that difference, the path of least resistance is for Democrats to compromise and Republicans to move ever further to the right. So the Heritage Foundation's conservative alternative to HillaryCare begets ObamaCare, which Heritage now denounces as an unconstitutional Marxist plot to take over the economy.

I sometimes imagine inviting the Ricks (Santorum and Warren) to a dialog aimed at finding a truth that transcends both my secularism and their Christianity. It's a non-starter. To the Ricks, the very idea of a truth transcending Christianity is Satanic. Even liberal Christianity might be Satanic.

Worse, you can't negotiate with Wisdom and Goodness when Lies and Corruption are in the driver's seat. Think about climate change: The "controversy" over global warming comes not from the laboratories of dissident scientists, but from the board rooms of Exxon-Mobil and Koch Energy.

Corporations are sociopaths; they aren't influenced by arguments about truth and goodness. So whatever evidence emerges, fossil-fuel companies (and their PR firms, lobbyists, and senators) will challenge the scientific consensus on global warming until they've sold the last trainload of coal to the last power plant to run the last air conditioner.

How do you find common ground with that? Don't we just have to win?

Haidt's case. Armored with appropriate skepticism, then, let's look at what Haidt has to say.

Haidt has very artfully organized his book to illustrate his own principles. He believes people first react to an idea intuitively, and only then engage their rational minds to justify their reaction. So Haidt knows that if he turns people off on page 1, none of the evidence he offers later will get a fair hearing. So instead he engagingly tells the story of how he got to his conclusions while saving the conclusions themselves until the end.

He offers (and supports with data) a model of how this all-powerful moral intuition works: Humans have evolved to 'taste' six different moral 'flavors'. Four are easy to describe:
  • Care/harm. Don't hurt the innocent, especially if they're cute and helpless.
  • Loyalty/betrayal. Don't break your agreements or sabotage the team.
  • Authority/subversion. Don't get uppity and disrespect your betters.
  • Sanctity/degradation. Don't break your community's fundamental taboos.

Haidt spells out the emotions these flavors evoke – violations of sanctity evoke disgust, for example, while violations of loyalty evoke rage – and how these responses (even the ones that contradict others) might have evolved.

Originally fairness was a fifth flavor, but eventually he realized that this word is used ambiguously for two different flavors.
  • Liberty/oppression. Nobody is inherently better than anybody else. Example: Count each person's vote equally.
  • Fairness/cheating. Rewards should be proportional to contributions. Example: People who worker harder should make more money.

The punch line is that liberal moral arguments focus on Care and Liberty, while conservatives season their arguments with all six flavors. (Again, there's supporting data.)

Politically, Haidt's book has two big takeaways for liberals: (1) We should learn how to appeal to a wider palate. (2) Conservatives aren't evil, they just taste different flavors of morality.

Not so fast, part II. I can buy (1), but I've got problems with (2). First, I taste those other flavors, I'm just deeply ambivalent about them, because I understand how they can serve evil purposes as easily as good: Being a team player and respecting authority can be bad (say, when you're in Nazi Germany). Sanctity provides the ugh-factor that justifies oppression of out-groups like homosexuals. Distributing rewards proportionately to contributions can hide an unequal distribution of the opportunities to contribute.

I love a good strong salty taste, but it makes me worry about the value of what I'm eating.

[] Second, go back to my Exxon-Mobil example: Corporations don't taste any flavors of morality, they just know how to manipulate the people who do. Fry up some pink slime, add a bunch of salt, and it tastes great!

How understanding do I want to be? But now I'm leaning too far over in the crap-kicking direction. I promised some transcendence. So here's how much of Haidt I take to heart:

First, liberals need to distinguish what we're fighting for from who we're fighting with.

That dittohead friend from high school or the cousin who forwards right-wing viral emails – you probably already realize that they're not bad people. If you can stand to talk politics at all with them, Haidt has a lot to tell you: You're never going to convince them by yelling your liberal values back at them. To be convincing, you need to understand what flavor of morality they find in the positions they're taking, echo that value to the extent you honestly can, and then detach it from the case at hand while you add liberal flavors to the stew.

But lies are poison, no matter how they're flavored. You can cut some slack for the woman in the next cubicle who tells you Obama is a Kenyan. But you can't cut any slack for the lie itself. "Why do you believe that?" invites dialog, but "You might be right" just surrenders.

And that TV-talking-head that a Koch-Brothers astroturf group pays to lie for them? He's evil. Don't waste your compassion trying to understand anything deeper about him than his paycheck.

Compromise on proposals, not principles. There's nothing wrong with supporting the best proposal you can pass, even if the other side also manages to get some of its agenda in as well. That's how democracy works.

For example, the 15th Amendment guaranteed black men the right to vote. Some feminists opposed it, because it should have given women the right to vote as well.

In principle, they were right: It should have. But I'm glad the 15th Amendment passsed, especially since the 19th Amendment eventually followed.

But no post-Civil-War liberal should have said, "It's good that the 15th Amendment doesn't apply to women." Pass as much as you can, but never surrender your intention to come back for more.

Liberal/conservative isn't symmetric. Haidt is right that six-flavor conservatism has an inherent advantage over two-flavor liberalism. We just don't have as many ways to provoke a knee-jerk response. That's why conservatism corrolates with low-effort thought.

That's also why we can't just invert the knee-jerk arguments of the right. The correct response to "Black people are bad" isn't "White people are bad." "America is always right" shouldn't lead to "America is always wrong."

Our side needs nuance. We need to engage thought rather than shut it down.

In particular, we need nuance when we respond to books like The Righteous Mind. The proper response to "Conservatives are good people" isn't "Conservatives are bad people." It's "In what cases and what ways are conservatives good, and how can we engage them there without betraying our own values?"

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By weeklysift, on April 30, 2012 at 11:54 am, under Articles, The Sifted Bookshelf. Tags: 2012 election, framing. 8 Comments
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« Bad Arguments and other short notes
Jesus Shrugged ­ why Christianity and Ayn Rand don't mix »


  • []  kim siebert On April 30, 2012 at 12:13 pm
  • Permalink | Reply Does our side not already have, perhaps, too much nuance? Cut-and-dried, black-vs-white, overly simplistic arguments seem to gain greater acceptance and have staying power that's hard to disloge.
  • []  kim siebert On April 30, 2012 at 12:13 pm
  • Permalink | Reply *dislodge*
  • []  Kenneth Sutton On April 30, 2012 at 1:33 pm
  • Permalink | Reply Reminds me of liberal Quaker meetings trying to figure out boundaries. The initial impulse (and behavior) is to keep drawing the circle larger, looking for compromise, consensus, unity, transcendence, whatever. Sometimes however, such behavior is made possible only because underlying principles aren't clearly understood or enunciated: having a convicted sex offender come into the community is a time when the permeable and flexible boundaries will often stiffen into something that is clearly expressed and which both includes people and addresses safety issues. Sometimes such behavior resembles more closely what you describe here, the hope or faith that everyone is searching for the same truth. My experience with a meeting's consideration of same-gender marriage exemplifies this. For years there were speakers, workshops, and conversations, until the anti-gay-marriage folks insisted on their right to invite a speaker, who denounced not only gay marriage but also divorce. The meeting came to a decision within weeks to allow same-gender marriages.
    Sometimes you have to taste the other side's flavors in order to realize that you must spit it out.
    • []  weeklysift On April 30, 2012 at 2:18 pm
    • Permalink | Reply "Sometimes you have to taste the other side's flavors in order to realize that you must spit it out." That's fabulous, Kenneth. I may have to steal it.
  • []  Lance Brown On April 30, 2012 at 4:32 pm
  • Permalink | Reply Kim has a point. Nuanced arguments require effort to understand and assimilate. Effort some (many?) people don't want to or won't expend. The problem is there are easy, "freely available" arguments on the conservative side to further their agendas, while liberal/progressives lack the same, mostly because we want to to think beyond the end of their nose, or their family, or their immediate tribal/cultural group.
    I don't have any answers for that except to keep trying. I heartily approve of your compromise on proposals, not principles argument.
    • []  Kim Cooper On April 30, 2012 at 5:52 pm
    • Permalink | Reply George Lakoff tried to talk to us about this, and he started The Rockridge Institute to try to get us some "sound-bites" of our own to use, but liberals wouldn't support him. That was a big mistake: he was right. We don't need to think in sound-bites, but we do need to communicate with them in the mass media. And we need to sound them in a chorus, like the Right does.
  • []  Kim Cooper On April 30, 2012 at 6:02 pm
  • Permalink | Reply "Fairness/cheating. Rewards should be proportional to contributions. Example: People who worker harder should make more money."
    I am strongly for fairness and against cheating. I just happen to believe that, for instance, a garbageman works as hard or harder than a CEO. so do construction workers. Heck, I may myself, given that I work from 7:40 to 5:30 with about a half hour for lunch and no other breaks. Besides that, lots of CEOs have enough money that they don't work at all: they have hobbies.
    I also feel very strongly that lying is wrong even if it doesn't cause obvious harm, and cheating is wrong, not just related to work. It seems that the moral scheme you describe has left some stuff out.
    "Liberty/oppression. Nobody is inherently better than anybody else. Example: Count each person's vote equally."
    It seems that a lot of "conservatives" do not believe that people are, or should be, equal. That's more a liberal idea.

Monday, April 23, 2012

ANS -- Citigroup’s Chief Rebuffed on Pay by Shareholders

Doug Muder, in The Weekly Sift, in linking to this article, said this: "I didn't expect the revolution to be started by Citigroup shareholders. "

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April 17, 2012, 1:28 pm Investment Banking

Citigroup's Chief Rebuffed on Pay by Shareholders

The shareholder vote comes amid a debate over income inequality Lm Otero/Associated PressThe shareholder vote comes amid a debate over income inequality and hints that anger over executive pay is spreading.

In a stinging rebuke, Citigroup shareholders rebuffed on Tuesday the bank's $15 million pay package for its chief executive, Vikram S. Pandit, marking the first time that stock owners have united in opposition to outsized compensation at a financial giant.

The shareholder vote, which comes amid a rising national debate over income inequality, suggests that anger over pay for chief executives has spread from Occupy Wall Street to wealthy institutional investors like pension fund and mutual fund managers. About 55 percent of the shareholders voting were against the plan, which laid out compensation for the bank's five top executives, including Mr. Pandit.

"C.E.O.'s deserve good pay but there's good pay and there's obscene pay," said Brian Wenzinger, a principal at Aronson Johnson Ortiz, a Philadelphia money management company that voted against the pay package. Mr. Wenzinger's firm owns more than 5 million shares of Citigroup.

While the vote at Tuesday's annual meeting in Dallas is not binding, it serves as a warning shot to other banks that have increased the pay of their top executives this year despite middling performance.

After the vote, Richard D. Parsons, who is retiring as Citigroup chairman, said that he takes the vote seriously and Citi's board will carefully consider it.
Vikram Pandit, chief of Citigroup. Simon Dawson/Bloomberg NewsVikram Pandit, chief of Citigroup.

Mike Mayo, an analyst with Credit Agricole Securities, said: "This is a milestone for corporate America. When shareholders speak up about issues on which they've been complacent, it's definitely a wake-up call. The only question is what took so long?"

Shareholders rarely vote against compensation plans. The votes are part of the Dodd-Frank financial overhaul that mandates that public companies include "say on pay" votes for shareholders to express opinions about compensation. Last year, only 2 percent of compensation plans were voted against, according to ISS Proxy Advisory Services. In some instances, boards responded by reducing executives' pay.

In Citigroup's case, ISS itself recommended that shareholders vote against the pay proposal, citing concerns that the compensation package lacked "rigorous goals to incentivize improvement in shareholder value." At Tuesday's meeting, 75 percent of the shareholders voted.

Excessive pay has been a long-running problem at Citigroup, dating to well before Mr. Pandit became chief executive in 2007, analysts said. Citigroup has had the worst stock price performance among large banks over the last decade but ranked among the highest in terms of compensation for top executives, Mr. Mayo said.

Citi shares closed at $35.08 Tuesday, up 3.18 percent amid a market rally. Citigroup shares remain down more than 80 percent since the financial crisis.

Last year, Mr. Pandit's compensation included a $1.67 million salary and a $5.3 million cash bonus. In addition, he received a retention package valued at $40 million, to be awarded through 2015. In 2009 and 2010, as Mr. Pandit struggled to pull the bank back from the brink, he accepted only a $1 annual salary.

Still, investors say that it is too soon for the bank to start giving out generous pay packages again. "The company has been flatlining," said Mike McCauley, a senior officer at the Florida State Board of Administration, which voted its 6.4 million shares against the plan. "The plan put forth reveals a disconnect between pay and performance."

Calpers, the California state pension fund, also voted against the plan. The issue was whether pay was linked to performance and whether those targets were spelled out and sustainable over the long term, said Anne Simpson, director of corporate governance for Calpers, which owns 9.7 million Citigroup shares.

"Citi was found wanting on both," she said. "If you reward them for focusing on high-risk, short-term profits, that's what you get, and that's how the financial crisis caught fire."

Not all institutional investors are unhappy. Bill Ackman, the head of Pershing Square Capital Management, which owns more than 26 million shares, said he thinks that "Vikram Pandit is doing an excellent job and the bank has made tremendous progress during his tenure."

Noting that Mr. Pandit received just $1 a year in 2009 and 2010, Mr. Ackman called the current package "an appropriate level of compensation."

In justifying the pay package, the company noted in its proxy filing that Citigroup net income was $11.1 billion in 2011, up 4 percent from 2010 and that it paid back the federal government billions in bailout loans and deferred cash awards to "limit incentives to take imprudent or excessive risks."

Even as Citigroup's earnings and capital cushion have improved, the bank has struggled to make up for lackluster revenue. Citi was dealt a further blow in March when the Federal Reserve rejected the bank's proposal to buy back shares and increase its dividend. While Citi intends to submit a revised plan to the central bank this year, shareholders say that with a quarterly dividend of one cent, Citi's top executives shouldn't be rewarded.

"Citigroup was terribly managed and whatever could be done wrong, they did wrong," said David Dreman, whose money management firm owns about $400,000 worth of Citigroup shares. While many of those mistakes predated Mr. Pandit, he said, it was way too early to start handing out generous pay packages. "Shareholders have finally done something constructive on the whole C.E.O. pay problem," he said.

Mr. Pandit's compensation is higher than some more successful rivals, according to proxy filings. Lloyd C. Blankfein, the chief executive of Goldman Sachs, received $3 million less than Mr. Pandit's $15 million, while James P. Gorman, the chief of Morgan Stanley, had a pay package of $10.5 million.

Still, disapprovals are rare. Last year, shareholders at 42 companies ­ out of more than 3,000 firms ­ voted against pay plans. In one of the most visible renunciations, shareholders at Hewlett-Packard, which has struggled with lackluster returns, voted against the pay for the technology company's top executives, including the chief executive, Meg Whitman.

Companies should brace for more shareholder denunciations, said James D. C. Barrall, an executive compensation lawyer at Latham & Watkins. The nation's other major banks have their annual meetings in the coming weeks.

Bank of America, whose shares have also struggled, could be the next bank to feel shareholders' wrath when it holds its annual meeting May 9, executive compensation consultants said. Its chief executive, Brian T. Moynihan, received $7 million for 2011, down from $10 million the previous year.

"There could be a real disconnect between pay and performance at Bank of America," said Frank Glassner, a partner with Meridian Compensation Partners, an executive consulting firm.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

ANS -- The Making of a Rampage Murderer: What the Brutal Life of Oakland Shooter One L. Goh Says About America

This is very interesting.  We all heard about the mass murder at the Fundamentalist Christian nursing school.  Here's the shooter's personal story, but it's also a political story, a story about America decaying and rotting, about futility and frustration, about lack of control, and being scammed at every turn.  Remember the Back to the Future series?  We have become the dystopia version of that here in the former land of the free, home of the brave. 
I got it from a link by Brad Hicks.
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Consortium News / By Mark Ames
comments_image   233 COMMENTS

The Making of a Rampage Murderer: What the Brutal Life of Oakland Shooter One L. Goh Says About America

The cruelty, predation and concentration of wealth today has sparked a new type of murder that has more in common with insurgency violence than serial murder.
April 9, 2012  |  
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I was working on an article about last month's rampage massacre in Afghanistan that left 17 villagers dead, when news hit of this past Monday's massacre at an Oakland, California, religious college, leaving seven dead. In both cases, the shooters survived and face a possible death penalty ­ which is rare: Usually these rampage killings end with self-inflicted bullet in the mouth.

These "going postal" rampage killings like the one that just took place at the Oikos University campus happen so often and with such relentless rhythm, a lot of people might easily assume that these mass-shootings at American schools and workplaces have always been with us.

It's not true, of course ­ as I wrote in my book Going Postal: Rage, Murder and Rebellion ­ it's an exclusively American phenomenon specific to our time. The first post office rampage killing took place in Edmond, Oklahoma, in the mid-1980s, at the height of the Reagan Revolution's war on the American worker.

Those post office massacres quickly migrated into private workplace massacres by the end of the 1980s, where they've become a regular rhythmic staple of our murder culture ever since – and from the adult workplace, the massacres migrated to our schools.

We've had mass-killings before; and every now and then, you'll read about a rampage killing in some other country. But only in America, and only since the mid-1980s, do American employees attack their own workplaces and offices, and middle-class students attack their own schools, with such consistency, year after year.

It was only after the crash in 2008 that some Americans began to accept the obvious: That the cruelty, predation and concentration of wealth and power introduced by the Reagan Revolution sparked a new type of murder that has more in common with insurgency violence or rebellious peasant violence than, say, the psychopathology of a serial murder.

Like so many school rampage killers, last Monday's alleged murderer, One L. Goh, was reportedly bullied and mistreated at his nursing school program at the small Korean Christian nursing program he enrolled in. Bullying also was blamed for the high school rampage killing a few weeks ago in suburban Cleveland that left three students dead and five wounded.

The gruesome details about the way Goh is said to have lined up and executed his victims, the way he apparently singled out women, make it hard not to caricature him as a monster, a demonic psychopath ­ and yet, without excusing Goh's killings, one should try to make sense of what happened to him, the downward-trending bleakness, the slow water-torture of low-five-figure debts, the broken marriage, the $23,000 tax bill owed to the IRS.

Losing Hope

In the Naughts, One L. Goh helped run a construction company. But construction collapsed as an industry in 2006-7; and unless you were Countrywide Financial CEO Angelo Mozilo, you'd have nothing to show for the few good years.

In late 2007, Goh moved into the Yorkview Apartments complex in Hayes, Virginia ­ a bleak, prefab looking structure in a rural corner of Virginia. By the following summer, One L. Goh found himself unable to cover his $575 rent payment two months in a row. He was evicted; and on the same day that they they evicted him, creditors took his car.

The future rampage-murderer took it all stoically, even politely, according to one of Goh's apartment complex neighbors, Thomas Lumpkin: "You would never expect it out of him. He just don't seem like that type of person."

Here is how his neighbor described the scene of One L. Goh's last day at the Yorkshire Apartments:

Lumpkin said he recalled the day when Goh was evicted and his Nissan pickup was repossessed. Goh left by cab that day.

"He was always neat, wore nice clothes," Lumpkin recalled. "You would never expect it out of him. He just don't seem like that type of person."

So he lost his car the same day he was evicted from his apartment in bumfuck, Virginia­and he took it all stoically as he cabbed away to god knows where.

I tried to imagine what that cab ride felt like for One L. Goh, a pudgy 40-something Korean-American dweeb, stewing with resentment, in his nice neat clothes. How far did he go in that cab ­ and where to?


The Yorkshire Apartments parking lot

Eventually he wound up with his father on the West Coast. One L. Goh's father lives in an Oakland housing project for senior citizens run by a Christian non-profit. Goh found work in a San Mateo warehouse; he moonlighted as a mover. Anything to get back on his feet.

It's not a good place to be if you're a middle-aged failure: San Francisco has so much obscene wealth, and smug beauty ­ to be a fat 40-something nerd working with your father in a grocery store in Daly City, in the shadow of San Francisco, is some kind of Hell, a Hell for failures.

Goh, who was born Su Nam Ko, had lived in the shadow of his more successful, celebrated war hero brother, Su Wan Ko. In 2002, he changed his name from birth name, Su Nam Ko, to One L. Goh, stating that he did "not like my current name because it sounds like a girl's name."

And then last year, Goh's brother, an Iraq War veteran and Special Forces hero, died in a freak car accident when his Toyota slammed head-on at 70 mpg into a "multi-ton" boulder lying on a Virginia road. The photos of the accident scene look almost unreal, almost staged.


The freak accident that killed One L. Goh's war hero brother

The news of the brother's death destroyed One L. Goh's mother: She died within months of her son's funeral.

This is the backdrop to Goh's fateful decision to pull himself out of a years-long rut, and to start a new career for himself as a nurse. It may have been the shock of the back-to-back deaths in the family ­ or maybe it was his father who encouraged him, or the experience of living with his father in a building for the elderly.

Whatever the case, his widower father supported his son with a $6,000 loan to pay for the vocational nursing school tuition. But after a few months, One L. Goh was out of the program, bitter and vengeful, dead set on murder; and his father was out $6,000, thanks to his son's bad bet.

Ignition to a Massacre

What set Goh off? Why did he leave the nursing school so early? Most reports say he was teased by his classmates for his age, 43, and his accent. Which is odd, considering most of the students are foreigners and Koreans.

(Another Korean-American rampage-killer was teased over his voice:  Virginia Tech killer Cho Seung-Hui. As another Virginia Tech student told reporters back in 2007, "As soon as [Cho] started reading, the whole class started laughing and pointing and saying, 'Go back to China.'")

Goh enrolled in what must have been one of the very worst nursing programs in the entire state of California: the vocational nursing program at Oikos University, a fundamentalist Korean-American Christian school in Oakland.

The school's nursing program is accredited, which is important of course if you want your for-profit school program to make money. To comply with the accreditation, Oikos U. had provide a "2010 Performance Sheet" summing up its students' performances both on the national nursing exam and, once licensed, in the job market.

The "performance" is abysmal, to the point where you almost wonder if it's even statistically possible to fail as spectacularly as Oikos University's nursing students. Of the programs 28 graduates from the Spring 2010 – 2011 term, only 11 of those 28 managed to pass the national nursing exam. That's a 29 percent pass rate, almost unheard of.


Oikos University ad promises: "Dreams Do Come True"

According to a spokesman for the California Department of Consumer Affairs, it makes Oikos among the state's very worst programs ­ the average success rate for graduates of other programs is 75 percent. (An Oakland Tribune article puts Oikos U's exam pass rate at 41 percent of students who took the test, but the actual Performance Sheet gives a lower 29 percent pass figure ­ either way, both are awful).

Oikos University failed to prepare its students for the test, and it failed those who passed when they turned to the job market. According to the same Performance Sheet, of the school's 11 students who passed the exam, eight found paying jobs as nurses, with salaries ranging as low as $5,000 per year to the one lucky top salary earner who earned up to $35,000. That's in the Bay Area, the most expensive region in America.

In sum: One L. Goh could not have chosen a worse nursing program to pin his personal hopes on. This nursing program was all but guaranteed to fail him.

Fundamentalist Mission

One thing Oikos University does fairly convincingly is fundamentalist evangelical Christianity for Korean-Americans. Students at Oikos U. are required to attend regular church services; the pious language of evangelical Christianity frames everything.

The school's president, Rev. Jongkin Kim, says his goal is "to foster spiritual Christian leaders who abide by God's intentions and to expand God's nation through them." Under the university's "Our Vision" it reads:

"The vision of Oikos University is to educate emerging Christian leaders to transform and bless the world at every level – from the church and local community levels to the realm of world entire."

And then there's the reality, revealed in a lawsuit filed last month by a former staffer of Oikos University named Jong Cha, who says the school cheated her out of $75,000 in salary and expenses, and stiffed her on a $10,000 loan that she personally gave to the Christian college in 2008.

Viewed from this angle, One L. Goh might have come to the conclusion at some point that he'd taken scarce funds from his poor old widower father, and handed it over to religious hucksters running the Golden State's worst nursing program.

One thing to keep in mind here: It's easy to see why Oikos University introduced a nursing vocational program. If you get it accredited, these nursing programs are guaranteed cash-cows. Most of the big for-profit education predators like Kaplan Inc. (which provides the majority of revenue to the Washington Post Company) are in on the vocational nursing for-profit gig.

You can charge students insane tuitions, hire hacks as teachers, pocket the difference, and dump the unpaid loans on the government in exchange for 100 cents on the dollar.

The Reverend who founded Oikos University certainly understood this ­ his good friend told the New York Times that Rev. Kim "had established the nursing school to support the school's department of religion." The cash must have rolled in quickly, because within a year after launching its nursing program, Oikos doubled its size ­ meaning doubling revenues.

And yet even with all those new revenues coming in, the school couldn't figure out a way to raise its graduates' test results out of the failure category. The school appears to have stiffed one of its top staffers out of her pay and her loan, suggesting, in the words of the Oakland Tribune, "that the school may have fallen on hard times."


The bleak Oikos University "campus": Like a converted warehouse

I wonder if this is what set off One L. Goh a few months after he enrolled ­ the realization that he'd been fleeced, that he enrolled in the wrong program on his father's money.  The year 2011 had already taken his brother and his mother.

A Dashed Last Hope

There is something in between the lines that suggests his plan to become a nurse, worked out with his father's assistance a kind of desperate last attempt to turn everything around in the proverbial One Bold Swoop.

He would do something practical, and morally good, helping the elderly, people like his father ­ and earn a steady income that would allow him, at last, some dignity and some chance to start paying off his debts.

It was as though Goh pinned everything on this plan to reinvent himself as a nurse ­ and according to all our cultural propaganda, all the Hollywood movies and newspaper bromides, Goh would be rewarded for undertaking this self-transformation. It was guaranteed to change everything. As the Oikos U. ad promised, "Dreams Do Come True."

And for a brief while last year, Goh's mood was transformed, he really did think he had a great future ahead of him. One of Goh's former employers at a food warehouse described Goh as "upbeat" when he ran into him last year in Oakland ­ a change from the usually quiet, sullen Goh he'd known.

This new "upbeat" One L. Goh boasted to his former employer "about how he had returned to school to become a nurse and help elderly people."

The idea that you can reinvent yourself, that your fate is in your own hands, that you have the power inside of you to make yourself a winner (and if you fail, it's all your own fault) ­ this may be America's most toxic cultural snake-oil. And yet it never fails to find takers.

Of course, nothing changed ­ except that Goh had been conned out of his dad's money. As his former employer put it:

"Not many people go back to school at that age. He was trying something new and it wasn't working."

It didn't take long for him to figure it out. Just a few months after enrolling, One L. Goh dropped out of the Oikos University program. When he dropped out of the program, he asked them to refund his father's $6,000 that he paid for tuition. He was denied. He fought with the administrators, but they didn't budge. This was what made him snap.

The administrator, whom Goh fought with for his tuition refund and whom he came to kill that day, has now come forward. Her name is Ellen Cervellon. She was gone on the day of the massacre because she also teaches nursing to students at California State University at East Bay.


Ellen Cervellan: The face of "Real America"

Now she will have to wonder, why didn't she just approve the refund to a desperate man? What if she had approved it? Her argument was that he'd already spent several months in the program. According to a friend of Ellen Cervellon's, Linda Music, she even denied Goh his last reasonable request, to prorate the refund.

As Matthai Kuruvila reported at, Goh had asked Ellen Cervellon for a full refund of his tuition and when he was denied suggested prorating the tuition refund. Cervellon said no, Music said.

That meant he threw his father's money away: He had nothing to show for the $6,000 given to the university; he would never be able to pay his father back; and he would never be able to borrow a sum like that from him again. That was it, the final act. The jig was up for him.

Lack of Empathy

Why? Why couldn't Cervellon meet this desperate failure half-way? What was in it for Cervellon? What's with the Ayn Randian lack of empathy in this country among the non-oligarchy caste?

Cervellon seems to be asking herself this same question: "In talking to several of the students and faculty who were there, I think he was looking for me. I have that weight on my shoulders and I don't know what to do with it."

School officials have been painting a portrait of One L. Goh as a psycho and a freak, using phrases like "behavioral problems" and calling him "angry" and "paranoid." There must be truth to that; nice, normal people in a healthy state of mind don't rampage-massacre others.

But the intended target, Ellen Cervellon, disputes that: "He was never forced out, he showed no behavioral problems, and he was never asked to leave the program. He decided on his own to leave the program."

The depressingly familiar dead-end life that One L. Goh found himself in ­ surrounded by petty scams as revealed in the ex-staffer's lawsuit and the bleak performance of the school's graduates, combined with the back-to-back deaths of two family members ­ could make a lot of sane people desperate and enraged and suicidal. Not to mention the larger context of an inequality-ravaged America where opportunity and dignity are scarcer and scarcer.

On top of all this, as he complained often, students at the nursing program wouldn't talk to him. That could be traumatizing even under better circumstances, but under his conditions, being mocked and ignored by fellow fundamentalist Christians for being an aging loser, would be devastating.

One of Goh's teachers continued criticizing Goh even after the massacre: "I always advised him, 'You go to school to learn, not to make friends.'"

More great advice from the Oikos University folks.

After quitting the nursing program, One L. Goh spent the last few months working with his father at the Daly City supermarket. He was back at square one: A failure, swindled, condemned to work in a shitty job beside his struggling father whom he'd let down.

You might say that One L. Goh snapped because for once, he saw things as they really were, stripped of hope, stripped of fantasies about self-improvement or self-transformation.

He failed at everything; he was one of those faceless, anonymous losers. But there was one thing he could still excel at, something that could get him attention, something that this country perversely celebrates: mass murder in a blaze of anti-glory.  So long as you're ready to make that transformation-of-character into a death row inmate, that option is always available here.


Last Monday, according to police accounts, One L. Goh armed himself with a .45 caliber semi-automatic pistol and showed up at the Oikos school for his final act. But the plan failed from the start: The administrator he was after was gone. So the target became the entire setting, Oikos University, as it so often happens in these "going postal" rampage killings.

There's a section on the Oikos University website about the 11 beliefs that the University holds to ­ they call it their "Doctrinal Statement" and it's the last belief, Number 11, that sums up the malevolence of it all:

"We believe in the existence of a personal, malevolent being called Satan who acts as tempter and accuser, for whom the place of eternal punishment was prepared, where all who die outside of Christ shall be confined in conscious torment for eternity."
Read more of Mark Ames at He is the author of Going Postal: Rage, Murder, and Rebellion: From Reagan's Workplaces to Clinton's Columbine and Beyond.

ANS -- More on "the Pepper Spraying Cop:" Why WERE the Cops There?

this is a follow-up piece by Brad Hicks on the pepper-spraying incident on the UC Davis campus.  If you read it, read through to the end.  It's not long.  If you read the comments, you might click on polyparadigm's link -- it''s a good picture. 
Find it here: 

Previous Entry

More on "the Pepper Spraying Cop:" Why WERE the Cops There?

  • Apr. 16th, 2012 at 6:23 PM
Brad @ Burning Man
In the interest of brevity, when I wrote yesterday's journal entry about the UC Davis report (PDF link) on the still-infamous " pepper spraying cop" incident, I left one of the interesting unanswered questions of the report out of it: what were the cops even doing there, when everybody, and I mean everybody, that they interviewed knew in advance that this was not a police matter, and when everybody, and I mean literally everybody, who was involved in the planning of this was present at at least one meeting where that was brought up?

I mean, after all, this is the University of California system that we're talking about, here! This is not the first campus protest they've had to deal with, to put it mildly. The University of California system has been dealing with disruptive campus protests since shortly after World War II. They have been dealing with disruptive protests, including ones that violate campus regulations, including ones that go farther than this one did and explicitly broke the law, ever since the Berkeley Free Speech Movement days. They have procedures for this. Those procedures were not followed. Why not? The report doesn't say. And the report does say that this question was asked in advance.

I didn't know this, but it turns out that under UC rules, no campus protest is a police matter. By long-standing policy, no protest that is defined as a campus protest is a matter for the university to involve state, local, or even campus police in. The consultants who wrote the fact-finding report couldn't find an official definition of the term campus protest, as separated from an outside protest, one for the cops. But the department that is supposed to handle campus protests is the Student Affairs office, and when interviewed, they said that they use the same rule that the university system uses for defining campus clubs: three quarters or more of the attendees must be current students of that campus, alumnae of that campus, or faculty of that campus, and all leadership roles must be filled by students, alumnae, or professors. It seems like a good rule of thumb, and nobody had a contradictory definition. So if a protest happens on campus, and it meets that definition, then the campus police (and, in the university system's opinion, all other police) are supposed to stand back and let Student Affairs handle it.

At the previous protest, the one where this protest was decided upon and scheduled, there was someone from Student Affairs there monitoring it, as part of her job. She reported that during the day, she couldn't get a good count, but it seemed to her like it was more than three quarters students, not even counting alumnae and faculty. When they were occupying the admin building overnight, she did get an approximate count: 20 to 25 students, 10 to 15 alumnae, and one non-campus person, some kind of legal adviser who was there in case there were mass arrests, well within the guidelines. However, one campus police officer went by briefly and he reported to the Chancellor, the next day, that almost none of them were students. In that same meeting, after questioning him, the Chancellor said that she didn't believe him, because he admitted that he had somehow forgotten that UC Davis has a grad school and plenty of older students; he had assumed that anybody who looked older than 20 couldn't possibly be a college student. Nevertheless, she seems to have forgotten this by the time of later meetings, and in every meeting thereafter she stated that her concern was that she had a report from campus police that "most" of the protesters were from off campus, from Occupy Davis, who had come over to campus to make trouble.

But before that meeting even occurred, the head of Student Affairs had gone to the Chancellor and said "we have this under control, let us handle this" and the Chancellor agreed. In that meeting, Student Affairs again contradicted the one cop who said otherwise, and said, "we have this under control, we have a plan, it's worked before, let us handle this." I can't remember the circumstances, but I remember reading that there was one more meeting or voice conference of the "leadership team" set up to deal with the protests where it was said, yet again, that this was Student Affairs' responsibility, why are the campus cops dealing with this? The day of the incident, the Vice Chancellor, when it was her turn to speak, gave an impassioned 20 minute speech about how involving the cops in this and evicting the protesters was a bad idea, that they were on the wrong side of history, that using cops against protesters has never worked well for the University of California, we should not be doing this, we should let Student Affairs deal with this. Everybody who was on that conference call remembers this ... and the awkward silence that followed it ... and then everybody else ignoring the Vice Chancellor and going on with planning the police raid. And in the car on the way to the raid the incident commander (the one I called "Officer Nameless" yesterday) and his superior, the now-famous Lieutenant Pike, say that it occurred to them to ask each other, "Wait, why are we even being asked to do this? Isn't this Student Affairs' job?"

So, was it Student Affairs' responsibility? Well, Lieutenant Pike and his officers arrested 10 randomly-selected people: 8 students, 1 alumnus, 1 outsider. So, yes.

(What was Student Affairs' plan, if they had been allowed to use it? Politely wait them out, basically. Instead of paying overtime to every other campus police agency for one big raid, pay one local campus officer overtime on Friday and Saturday nights at bar-closing time to be on hand to keep rowdies from disturbing the camp. At other times have one Student Affairs staff member or volunteer at the protest to monitor it for safety issues and politely bring those issues up with the protesters. Student Affairs said that their experience was that when handled this way, campus protests always dry up and blow away, usually after the first rain, but if not then, then always by finals week.)

When interviewed after the fact, neither UC Davis Chancellor Katehi, nor US Davis campus PD Chief Spicuzza, could explain why the police were there, what campus policy or state law made it a campus police matter. Nobody said it, but I will: Student Affairs, the Vice Chancellor, the consulting firm who ran the investigation, and all of us who are appalled by this, we all have " a pre-9/11 mentality." Since the Bush administration, "coddling" protesters (and by "coddling protesters" what I mean is "obeying the law" and "following good standard procedures") is just not what "real Americans" (and by "real Americans" I mean "people with authoritarian personality and social dominance orientation") do.



( 6 comments ­ Leave a comment )
[info] livejournal wrote:
Apr. 16th, 2012 11:47 pm (UTC)
More on "the Pepper Spraying Cop:" Why WERE the Cops There?
User [info] nebris referenced to your post from More on "the Pepper Spraying Cop:" Why WERE the Cops There? saying: [...] [...]
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[info] drewkitty wrote:
Apr. 17th, 2012 01:07 am (UTC)
I am a UC alum. When the campus alumni fund last called and asked for a donation, I said, "Not a penny as long as the Chancellors who authorized using police against students at Berkeley and Davis still work at UC."

Something's wrong in the UC system, and it's symptomatic of the larger wrong in our society.
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[info] tzaddi_93 wrote:
Apr. 17th, 2012 03:57 am (UTC)
I think this begs the question--why is Chencellor Katehi still employed by UC Davis?
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[info] polyparadigm wrote:
Apr. 17th, 2012 05:45 am (UTC)
Maybe this photo explains it:

It might, perhaps, be the case that one or two decision makers in the UCPD felt that government attacks on their department were worth protesting, and didn't want this particular protest to "dry up and blow away".
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[info] cestmama wrote:
Apr. 17th, 2012 01:54 pm (UTC)
I don't know how right this is:

but it's interesting.
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[info] invaderxan wrote:
Apr. 17th, 2012 04:43 pm (UTC)
The more I hear about this incident, the more concerning I find it...
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ANS -- 10 Pieces of Evidence That Plants Are Smarter Than You Think

Sent by one of our readers, this is about amazing abilities plants have. 
Find it here:   

daily 10
By Annalee Newitz and Sophie Bushwick
Apr 19, 2012 10:00 AM
17,782[] 55[]



10 Pieces of Evidence That Plants Are Smarter Than You Think

Though plants possess nothing even remotely like brains, they can nevertheless communicate, measure time, and even use camouflage. They may not be thinking in a way that we'd recognize, but our chlorophyll-saturated pals are certainly doing a lot more than sitting around splitting water molecules. Here are ten things plants do that look pretty damn smart ­ even to those of us over here in the Kingdom Animalia.

1. Plants communicate with insects
As we've mentioned on io9 before, some plants have evolved a survival strategy that involves the chemical equivalent of sending out a distress call. When tobacco plants are attacked by caterpillars, they release a chemical into the air that attracts predatory bugs who like to eat caterpillars. So the nice smell you get from crushing up leaves may actually be the plant's way of asking its insect buddies to come bite your head off.

2. Plants have memories
Certainly plants don't "remember" the way humans do, but a group of researchers discovered that plants learn to associate various wavelengths of light with different kinds of danger. The scientists would shine light on plants for an hour, then expose them to a virus. This was a pathogen the plants could protect themselves from by manufacturing a particular chemical. What the scientists discovered was that the next time they shone light on the plants for an hour, its leaves began to manufacture the chemical necessary to fight the virus. It didn't manufacture the chemical at other times ­ only when exposed to the same kind of light for the same amount of time. The scientists speculated that perhaps plants have developed this "memory" because each season brings with it a change in the light ­ as well as changes in the kinds of pathogens likely to attack the plants. So from an evolutionary perspective, a plant that learns to associate light duration with certain pests is going to survive longer.

Full size
3. Plants create communication networks
Plants don't just yell for insect help when attacked ­ they also warn each other of impending doom. Strawberry, clover, and other ground plants grow by sending out "runners," horizontal stems that eventually bud into their own plants. These runners create simple communication networks between the connected plants. When one plant in a network is attacked by a bug, it sends out a warning to the network so that its siblings can build up defenses against the invaders ­ ranging from toxins to chemicals that simply taste really bad to herbivores.

4. Plants grow differently in response to sound
We may have to stop mocking gardeners who talk to their plants: University of Western Australia biologist Monica Gagliano found that corn plants could emit and respond to sound. Gagliano noticed that the roots of corn plants made clicking noises at around 220 Hz. She and her collaborators then grew corn suspended in water and played an artificially generated, continuous noise at 220 Hz. The roots responded to the noise by leaning towards the source of the sound. It's not clear why plants would evolve the ability to hear and emit sound, but Gagliano and her colleagues are trying to find out by gathering more data.

10 Pieces of Evidence That Plants Are Smarter Than You Think  5. Plants measure time
How do you think plants know when to flower? That's right ­ they're keeping track of time. Scientists have recently identified a set of proteins in plants that respond to the amount of light they're exposed to during the day. When they receive enough light per 24 hour period, these proteins send a signal that activates the flowering cycle.

6. Plants know up from down
Are you one of those people who likes to screw around with plants by sticking them into the ground upsidown or sideways? Well plants don't give a fuck, just like honeybadgers. No matter how they are positioned, plants will aim their roots downward, into the ground. It's likely that they sense gravity, just the way their ambulatory cohorts do.

10 Pieces of Evidence That Plants Are Smarter Than You Think  7. Plants know who is family and who isn't
It seems that plants can recognize kin. Explains Wired 's Brandon Keim:

In a paper published in the November American Journal of Botany, [biologist Susan] Dudley describes how Impatiens pallida, a common flowering plant, devotes less energy than usual to growing roots when surrounded by relatives. In the presence of genetically unrelated Impatiens, individuals grow their roots as fast as they can.

Apparently plants recognize their relatives via chemicals exuded from their roots, and choose to share available nutrients with them.

8. Plants warn each other about approaching enemies
It seems that tobacco plants are pretty communicative. Not only do they call in their insect allies when attacked, but they also prepare for battle themselves when receiving chemical warnings from neighboring sagebrush. To discover this, scientists clipped some sagebrush, and observed that tobacco plants living downwind were eaten by herbivores far less often than they would be ordinarily. Apparently the tobacco had heeded the sagebrush's "danger" warnings, sent via windborne chemicals, and manufactured some defensive chemicals that made their leaves less tasty.

9. Plants use camouflage
As tobacco plants have taught us, one of a plant's best defenses is to make itself less tasty. The Mimosa pudica has a unique way of doing this. Instead of using chemicals to produce a nasty flavor, the plant curls its leaves up in response to touch. Scientists believe this is a defense to make the plant's leaves appear smaller and less succulent. Herbivores looking for a nice, leafy snack will go seek it elsewhere.

10. Plants are escape artists
Light provides plants with energy, a system for telling time . . . and an impetus to grow big enough to escape the confines of shade. Plant biologist Joanne Chory recently identified the exact protein that triggers stems and stalks to grow taller. The protein, called PIF7, senses the arrangement of light around the plant ­ and if the plant is in shade, will spur the entire plant to grow taller and seek sun. Chory says that she hopes to use PIF7 to push crops to grow larger and "thus produce more food or feedstock for biofuels and biorenewable chemicals."

Sources linked within the article. Top photo by Sebastian Duda, via Shutterstock.