MonthJanuary 2011

Eliminationist rhetoric and the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords: There were plenty of precursors

Giffords Event

Please see this update

David Neiwert writes:

It can happen, in fact, because conservatives so thoughtlessly and readily use violent eliminationist rhetoric when talking about “liberals” (to wit: anyone who is not a conservative). They will adamantly deny it, of course, but the cold reality is that this kind of talk creates permission for angry and violent people to act it out.

Crooks and Liars: Eliminationist rhetoric and the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords: There were plenty of precursors

Neiwert wrote in his book The Eliminationists: How Hate Talk Radicalized the American Right:

a particular trend that has manifested itself with increasing intensity in the past decade: the positing of elimination as the solution to political disagreement. Rather than engaging in a dialogue over political and cultural issues, one side simply dehumanizes its opponents and suggests, and at times demands, their excision. This tendency is almost singularly peculiar to the American Right and manifests itself in many venues: on radio talk shows and in political speeches, in bestselling books and babbling blogs. Most of all, we can feel it on the ground: in our everyday lives, in our encounters, big and small, with each other.

I have a hard time blaming Palin’s antics and the “Target” campaign, any more than I blame rap music or action movies for other violence. At the same time, I don’t think this elimination rhetoric is entirely blameless. I’m reminded of Leon Wieseltier’s words about religion and terrorism:

If the standpoint of broadly collective responsibility was the wrong way to explain the atrocities, so too was the standpoint of purely individual responsibility. There were currents of culture behind the killers. Their ideas were not only their own.

It’s worth revisiting Sara Robinson’s writing on the 2010 election as the a tipping point for fascism. This is the first high profile case of non-state violence since the election. This incident does not a trend make. If we’re lucky, this could be the event that turns discredits the Tea Party. They get shamed out of public life and the violence stops. I wouldn’t bet on it though.

This conversation around Dr. Tiller’s death is also very relevant today.

(via Zen Werewolf)

Pay the Poor

The program, called Bolsa Familia (Family Grant) in Brazil, goes by different names in different places. In Mexico, where it first began on a national scale and has been equally successful at reducing poverty, it is Oportunidades. The generic term for the program is conditional cash transfers. The idea is to give regular payments to poor families, in the form of cash or electronic transfers into their bank accounts, if they meet certain requirements. The requirements vary, but many countries employ those used by Mexico: families must keep their children in school and go for regular medical checkups, and mom must attend workshops on subjects like nutrition or disease prevention. The payments almost always go to women, as they are the most likely to spend the money on their families. The elegant idea behind conditional cash transfers is to combat poverty today while breaking the cycle of poverty for tomorrow. […]

The program fights poverty in two ways. One is straightforward: it gives money to the poor. This works. And no, the money tends not to be stolen or diverted to the better-off. Brazil and Mexico have been very successful at including only the poor. In both countries it has reduced poverty, especially extreme poverty, and has begun to close the inequality gap.

The idea’s other purpose — to give children more education and better health — is longer term and harder to measure. But measured it is — Oportunidades is probably the most-studied social program on the planet. The program has an evaluation unit and publishes all data. There have also been hundreds of studies by independent academics. The research indicates that conditional cash transfer programs in Mexico and Brazil do keep people healthier, and keep kids in school.

New York Times: To Beat Back Poverty, Pay the Poor

The criticism I’ve heard of this sort of program from the hard left is that the money is essentially a small bribe to keep the poor from rising up and affecting real change. That may be true – but it’s hard to argue with with real results.

My biggest concern is the fact that the World Bank is financing all of this in the form of loans. What happens when it’s time for the countries to pay up?

I’d be interested in seeing a comparison of these conditional transfers with the U.S. welfare system.

4 Out of 6 of the Lost Numbers Used in Mega Millions

According to Damon Lindelof, 9,078 people played Hurley’s numbers in the Mega Millions lottery last night. Four of the six numbers were selected, earning those that plaid the Lost numbers won $150 each. According to The Today Show’s Clicker blog, the numbers selected were 4, 8, 15, 25, and 47, plus the Mega Ball of 42.

(Thanks Trevor)

DARPA and Raytheon Building New Ad-Hoc Mobile Network for the Military

DARPA

The military is decentralizing its networks. Here’s a piece I wrote for ReadWriteWeb about it:

DARPA contracted Ratheon in 2009 to build the “Mobile to Ad-Hoc Interoperable Network GATEway” (MAINGATE), a mobile network that both military and civilian organizations can use to communicate using any radio or wireless device. The agency announced last month that the system has now been tested for video, voice and data by both high bandwidth and low bandwidth users.

A key component of MAINGATE is Network Centric Radio System (NCRS). According to Defense Industry Daily, NCRS provides: “1) a backbone radio architecture that enables IP versatile networks and 2) a radio gateway that enable legacy analog and digital communications systems to be linked together.” NCRS provides a self-healing ad-hoc mobile network that enables seamless communication between nearly any radio.

Defense Industry Daily reports that MAINGATE also features disruption-tolerant networking to cope with disruptions caused by line-of-sight issues, spectrum access, congested radio frequencies and noisy environments.

ReadWriteWeb: DARPA and Raytheon Building New Ad-Hoc Mobile Network for the Military

Previously: Douglas Rushkoff: Abandon the Corporate Internet

As Humans Evolve, Our Brains Are Actually Getting Smaller

Leader

Today’s human brain is about 10 percent smaller than the Cro-Magnon brain from more than 20,000 years ago.

When it comes to brain size, bigger doesn’t always mean better. As humans continue to evolve, scientists say our brains are actually getting smaller. […]

Cro-Magnon man, who lived in Europe 20,000 to 30,000 years ago, had the biggest brains of any human species. In comparison, today’s human brain is about 10 percent smaller. It’s a chunk of brain matter “roughly equivalent to a tennis ball in size,” McAuliffe says.

The experts aren’t sure about the implications of this evolutionary trend. Some think it might be a dumbing-down process. One cognitive scientist, David Geary, argues that as human society grows increasingly complex, individuals don’t need to be as intelligent in order to survive and reproduce.

But not all researchers are so pessimistic. Brian Hare, an anthropologist at the Duke University Institute for Brain Sciences, thinks the decrease in brain size is actually an evolutionary advantage.

NPR: Our Brains Are Shrinking. Are We Getting Dumber?

Scientists in Abu Dhabi Control the Weather

Abu Dhabi rain

Hail, lightning and gales came through the state’s eastern region this summer thanks to scientist-puppetmasters.

As part of a secret program to control the weather in the Middle East, scientists working for the United Arab Emirates government artificially created rain where rain is generally nowhere to be found. The $11 million project, which began in July, put steel lampshade-looking ionizers in the desert to produce charged particles. The negatively charged ions rose with the hot air, attracting dust. Moisture then condensed around the dust and eventually produced a rain cloud. A bunch of rain clouds.

Time: Scientists Create 52 Artificial Rain Storms in Abu Dhabi Desert

(Thanks Bill)

The Brain Can’t Tell the Difference Between Homosexual and Heterosexual Love

Six Feet Under - Keith and David

There are no differences between heterosexuals and homosexuals or between women and men in terms of the brain systems regulating romantic love, according to new UCL research published in the latest issue of PLoS One.
The study, by Professor Semir Zeki and John Romaya from the Wellcome Laboratory of Neurobiology at UCL, is a continuation of earlier work from the same lab which described brain activity in terms of romantic and maternal love.

PhysOrg: Love: it’s all the same to the brain

Douglas Rushkoff: Abandon the Corporate Internet

facebook network

Of course the Internet was never truly free, bottom-up, decentralized, or chaotic. Yes, it may have been designed with many nodes and redundancies for it to withstand a nuclear attack, but it has always been absolutely controlled by central authorities. From its Domain Name Servers to its IP addresses, the Internet depends on highly centralized mechanisms to send our packets from one place to another.

The ease with which a Senator can make a phone call to have a website such as Wikileaks yanked from the net mirrors the ease with which an entire top-level domain, like say .ir, can be excised. And no, even if some smart people jot down the numeric ip addresses of the websites they want to see before the names are yanked, offending addresses can still be blocked by any number of cooperating government and corporate trunks, relays, and ISPs. That’s why ministers in China finally concluded (in cables released by Wikileaks, no less) that the Internet was “no threat.” […]

Back in 1984, long before the Internet even existed, many of us who wanted to network with our computers used something called FidoNet. It was a super simple way of having a network – albeit an asynchronous one.

One kid (I assume they were all kids like me, but I’m sure there were real adults doing this, too) would let his computer be used as a “server.” This just meant his parents let him have his own phone line for the modem. The rest of us would call in from our computers (one at a time, of course) upload the stuff we wanted to share and download any email that had arrived for us. Once or twice a night, the server would call some other servers in the network and see if any email had arrived for anyone with an account on his machine. Super simple.

Shareable: The Next Net

(via Disinfo)

I’ve covered how CouchDB can create a more distributed web. Also, Openet is working on creating a mesh network of mesh networks. BitCoin and Freenet are worth looking at as well.

DARPA’s working on wireless mesh networks as we speak.

Grant Morrison’s Flex Mentallo Returning to Print

Flex Mentallo

The official Vertigo blog reports that Flex Mentallo by Grant Morrison and Frank Quietly will return to print in a collected volume this fall, along with some unspecified bonus material.

Update: You can buy it here.

(via Jess Nevins

Japanese Scientist Produces an Artificial Alternative to Rare Earth Minerals (Specifically Palladium)

Palladium

The world–and particularly the Japanese–may be in a frenzy over China’s newly announced 35% cut in rare earth exports, those used to produce many high-tech devices, in the first half of this year. But a Japanese scientist has found one answer: Create the metals artificially.

Professor Hiroshi Kitagawa of Kyoto University has announced that he and his team of researchers have artificially produced a metal similar to palladium, a material commonly used in catalytic converters. In his lab, Kitagawa used a heating method to produce ultramicroscopic metal particles, ultimately mixing the usually resistant rhodium and silver to create the palladium-like metal.

Fast Company: Rare Earth Race: A Japanese Scientist Produces an Artificial Alternative

Meanwhile: U.S. rare earth mine resumes active mining

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