Saturday Catchup 2010-05-22

Nicole Belle on Many people "...didn't think things could get worse  than jingoism and dishonesty of the Bush/Cheney years....that more than a year into the Obama presidency that things like the 1964 Civil Rights Act and 1968 Fair Housing Act would be considered less than settled matters....that thinking that the world's superpower should be able to offer health care to its citizens would make one a Maoist/Stalinist/Communist, despite the fact that most Americans want it too...Or that suddenly the existence of undocumented workers has become so intolerable that we must address them with huge fences, detention camps, moats and all other matter of law enforcement, despite the fact that there have always been an underclass of undocumented workers and not one person has proposed focusing energy on reducing demand by going after the employers of said workers. What I came away with from all these conversations is that the dialogue in this country is fundamentally dishonest, just as these members of the People's Front of Judea are. I mean, honestly, apart from the sanitation, medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh water system and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us? Change PFJ to 'Tea Party' and change Romans to 'government' and you've got an idea of the intellectual dishonesty rampant:

An OA meeting. The setting is a dingy meeting room in a church basement. Seated in a circle on rickety folding chairs are LP Record, VHS Tape, 8-Track, Cassette Tape, Compact Disc, Video Rental Store, SLR Camera, Instant Camera, TV Antenna, Dot Matrix Printer, Copy Machine, Fold-Out Map, Typewriter, others.
Moderator: Welcome to Obsoletes Anonymous! I've gathered you all here to welcome our latest member, the Print Industry.
Print Industry: Hello, everyone. But there's been a mistake. I don't belong here.
(chuckles all around)
Print Industry (continues): I'm serious. I'm not obsolete. I'm relevant. Print books have been around for hundreds of years. They're never going to be replaced.
VHS Tape: Yeah, we all thought like that once.
LP Record: It's called denial. It's tough to deal with at first. -- Is Print Dead? by J.A. Konrath (Huffington Post 2010-05-21).

R.I.P.: Martin Gardner, 1914-2010 (Discover 2010/05/22)

The Nature of Things / Martin Gardner
from Wagner Brenner on Vimeo.

All of the survivors feel hatred toward the United States. It is a real problem,this rising hatred: "People who have seen an air strike live on a monitor described it as both awe-inspiring and horrifying. 'You could see these little figures scurrying, and the explosion going off, and when the smoke cleared there was just rubble and charred stuff,' a former CIA officer who was based in Afghanistan after September 11th says of one attack....Human beings running for cover are such a common sight that they have inspired a slang term: 'squirters.'" -- Drones and Democracy by Kathy Kelly and Joshua Brollier (truthout 2010-05-20).

WalMart isn't the only American organization to have brought something home from China: With rendition, suspension of habeas corpus, and other Bush-era human rights violations continuing and worsening under Obama, the report by Think Progress, Why Bush’s ‘Enhanced Interrogation’ Program Failed, has taken on new relevance and urgency.

Oops!: Arizona seems about to say it's sorry.

Watch on YouTube.

We have a dream, too, and it's nothing like Dr. King's: "To understand Rand Paul's agonized contortions over America's civil rights consensus, let's review the tainted pedigree of the movement that reared him. Specifically, both the Kentucky Republican Senate nominee and his father, Ron Paul, have been closely associated over the past two decades with a faction that described itself as 'paleolibertarian,' led by former Ron Paul aide Lew Rockwell and the late writer Murray Rothbard. They eagerly forged an alliance with the 'paleoconservatives' behind Patrick Buchanan, the columnist and former presidential candidate whose trademarks are nativism, racism and anti-Semitism." -- The roots of Rand Paul's civil rights resentment by Joe Conason (Salon 2010-05-21). Or as Bill Maher put it the other night: "The shit doesn't fall far from the bat."

Change Watch: "Over the past couple years, I've written numerous times about the serious left-right coalition that had emerged in Britain -- between the Tories and Liberal Democrats -- in opposition to the Labour Government's civil liberties abuses, many (thought not all) of which were justified by Terrorism.  In June of 2008, David Davis, a leading Tory MP, resigned from Parliament in protest of the Government's efforts to expand its power of preventive detention to 42 days (and was then overwhelmingly re-elected on a general platform of opposing growing surveillance and detention authorities).  Numerous leading figures from both the Right and Left defied their party's establishment to speak out in support of Davis and against the Government's growing powers. Back then, the Liberal Democrats' Leader, Nick Clegg, notably praised the right-wing Davis' resignation, and to show his support for Davis' positions, Clegg even refused to run a LibDem candidate for that seat because, as he put it, "some issues 'go beyond party politics'." Now that this left-right, Tory/Lib-Dem alliance has removed the Labour Party from power and is governing Britain, these commitments to restoring core liberties -- Actual Change -- show no sign of retreating. Rather than cynically tossing these promises of restrained government power onto the trash pile of insincere campaign rhetoric, they are implementing them into actual policy. Clegg, now the Deputy Prime Minister, gave an extraordinary speech last week in which he vowed "the biggest shake-up of our democracy since 1832." -- The Tory/Lib-Dem Government endorses actual change by Glenn Greenwald (Salon 2010-05-21).

Time saver: Eclectic Method remixes all of Phish’s list of "99 Albums":

Eclectic Method Goes Phish :: 99 Albums in 4:20 from Eclectic Method on Vimeo.

"It's alive!" As a non-believer educated by Jesuits and likeminded cultivators of inquiring minds, I've never understood the objection to "playing god." Why would a higher being be irked by his creatures' clumsy efforts to figure out what he had in mind? So I don't see it as a moral or ethical dilemma that researchers at the J. Craig Venter Institute have created a new organism by injecting man-made genetic material into the empty body of a cell. Artificial organisms almost certainly will provide solutions to many serious health and environmental difficulties, from cancer to oil spills. The only real question, just as it is with other scientific developments such as nuclear power and genetically modified food and life-prolonging drugs and technology, is whether "synthetic life" is worth the risks as a matter of public safety.  Dr. Frankenstein, I presumeConstructing artificial creatures "has unimaginable potential risks," naysays Oxford ethics professor Julian Savulescu, since by "engineering organisms that could never naturally exist," we expose ourselves to possible calamities — from bio-weapon terrorism to environmental catastrophes — so destructive they could wipe out life as we know it. Such an outcome is certainly undesired, but, counters Ken MacLeod in the Guardian, worries about blowback from playing god are entirely "misguided:" our "biosphere comes up with natural resistance to entirely new organisms every day;" and while the threat of bio-terrorism "may be great," it's "not in principle greater than those posed by natural organisms" that already exist; besides, the potential upsides are so phenomenal, practical benefits ought to trump whatever squeamishness anyone may have over theoretical disasters. One can more easily imagine a bacterium that sucks carbon from the air than one that leeches poison into our water supply. I'm with David Ropeik, author of How Risky Is It, Really?: Why Our Fears Don't Always Match the Facts, that the "almost unimaginable promise" of being able to create life "to our specifications" shouldn't be sacrificed just because we've seen too many movies about Dr. Frankenstein, although his caution is well taken that "far less of that promise will be realized if the people doing this work" treat it, as Venter seems to, simply as a race to fame and fortune, and "fail to recognize and address [the public's concerns] about what they are doing."

Editorial: The debt that the public owes to police officers for taking the risks that they take can never be repaid. -- Growing risk for the police -- Extreme views behind the West Memphis tragedy: Two officers are dead after a shootout with a delusional conspiracy theorist (The Commercial Appeal, Memphis TN 2010-05-22).

Resource: The earliest gangs of New York were not criminal groups. Many street gang members were employed, mostly as common laborers. Some were bouncers in saloons and dance halls, as well as longshoremen. A few were apprentice butchers, carpenters, sailmakers, and shipbuilders. “They engaged in violence, but violence was a normal part of their always-contested environment; turf warfare was a condition of the neighborhood." Gangs formed the “basic unit of social life among the young males in New York in the nineteenth century.” More dangerous street gangs than previously seen emerged around 1820 from the persistent disorder that gripped the city slums, tenements, saloons, and dance halls. The Forty Thieves gang was characterized as “the first important and decisively dangerous gang of the quarter century.” It and other new groups of gangs that emerged in this period were centered in criminal enterprises as much as in territorial disputes. “It is axiomatic that the more sophisticated the gangs became, the more violent they grew as well.” -- History of Street Gangs in the United States (pdf) by James C. Howell and John P. Moore (National Gang Center Bulletin 2010-04).

Cartoon Beatles do the Dead Kennedys' California über alles:

The truth is out there: The only way to debunk an enshrined falsehood is with maximum reportorial firepower. Toting big guns and an itchy trigger-finger is American University professor W. Joseph Campbell, whose new book, Getting It Wrong: Ten of the Greatest Misreported Stories in American Journalism, flattens established myths that you were brought up to believe were true: that Orson Welles sparked a national panic with his 1938 War of the Worlds broadcast; that the New York Times suppressed news of the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba at the request of the White House; that Edward R. Murrow destroyed Sen. Joseph McCarthy; that publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst told an illustrator, "You furnish the pictures, I'll furnish the war," before the Spanish-American war started; and more. -- The Master of Debunk: W. Joseph Campbell corrects the record on 10 important misreported stories by Jack Shafer (Slate 2010-05-21).

Here comes the sun: One year ago this Friday, U.S. chief information officer Vivek Kundra launched an ambitious website called to make the government’s vast stores of data available to the public. The thinking behind the site then, as now, was to give app developers access to these rich, comprehensive datasets on all sorts of topics — health care, education, energy, the environment and so on — in the hope that they would create useful tools for analyzing a range of information, from air quality by county to crime statistics by neighborhood and foreign aid by nation. To make good on incoming president Barack Obama's promise of transparency and open government, launched with 47 datasets. By its first anniversary on Friday, had ballooned to more than 250,000 datasets and racked up 97.6 million hits — not bad for a website whose main attractions are massive databases and wonky graphs. However, the sailing has not been entirely smooth. Federal Computer Week complained that was a demonstration of “how not to do open government” because it didn’t pass “the ‘mom test.’” By that, FCW meant it was too hard for the average person to figure out what to do on the site and where everything was. Kundra’s team redesigned the entire with that sort of feedback in mind, and the new homepage is markedly more intuitive and user-friendly. -- Sneak Peek: Obama Administration’s Redesigned by Eliot Van Buskirk (Epicenter 2010-05-19).

This is about all you need to know about Lost:

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