Radioactivity Art

Greenpeace photographer Greg McNevin has created a beautiful series of photographs based on walking around areas formerly contaminated by the ongoing Chernobyl and Fukushima nuclear disasters with an LED stick connected to a geiger counter. It’s unfortunate that most people won’t be able to see the art past the politics, but I think it has value in both spheres.

UD cop doesn’t like having to investigate beachballs

Officer Slater is aggrieved because he knows he’ll be asked to investigate whether the giant penis drawn on the “free speech beachball” is a hate crime. It’s true it’s bound to be reported as one, but you know what officer? That’s your job. You’re a campus cop, OK? You are not protecting Gotham City from evildoers, you are investigating complaints of hate graffiti, some of which are going to turn out to be bogus. Somebody’s got to do it, and that’s why we pay you to do it.

Evolutionary Psychology, Memes and the Origin of War

Somebody (possibly Henson himself) posted Evolutionary Psychology, Memes and the Origin of War over at Kuro5hin in 2006. I had no idea Kuro5hin still existed, and Henson’s paper could use some consideration of group selection, but anyway it’s a worthwhile and controversial read.

It seems to me that if Henson’s basic thesis is right, our current global political situation is not just eerily similar to that of the mid-1930s, it’s actually the same phenomenon – so we better get it under control.

Mansplaining manspreading

Jason Kottke referred to this as “hilarious mansplaining about manspreading” but I thought it was interesting.

In an extremely crowded subway car or airport trolley, I’ll end up sitting with my legs at a 45 degree angle to one side and my back curled so that my chest is nearly touching my thighs, or even in a complete fetal position with my feet on the seat and my arms wrapped around my legs. The passages between seats are so narrow in American mass transit that I can’t have my legs stick straight out, because my knees will be battered into pulp by passersby with briefcases and purses, and the people on either side of me (especially if they are men) won’t have room for their shoulders if I lean back in my also-too-narrow seat.

It turns out there’s a reason for this, it’s basically because I’m shaped like most men – I have longer thighs and wider shoulders than the reedy eloi the seats were apparently designed for.

Happy St. Brice’s Day

November 13th, 1002 Æþelræd Unræd ordered the slaughter of all the Danes in England. Although at that point Aethelraed could only really enforce his will in about a third of his domain, this ill-advised plan did manage to cause the death of Harald Bluetooth’s daughter Gunhilde, and in some histories the St. Brice’s Day Massacre leads directly to the conquest of England by the Danish King Sweyn Forkbeard (Gunhilde’s brother) and Sweyn’s son Knut the Great.

Officer Involved

Radio station KPCC has put together an impressive expose of the Los Angeles Police Department. Apparently, if you want to kill unarmed, non-violent people without fear of prosecution, the LAPD has a career option for you!

Maybe that’s why police officers are far more likely to abuse their children and partners than the rest of us – because we’re attracting and selecting the worst possible people to serve as peacekeepers? Or is it even worse than that; does police culture actually create monsters from people who honestly wanted to do good?

“The infliction of physical punishment is not every man’s job, and naturally we were only too glad to recruit men who were prepared to show no squeamishness at their task. Unfortunately, we knew nothing about the Freudian side of the business, and it was only after a number of instances of unnecessary flogging and meaningless cruelty that I tumbled to the fact that my organization had been attracting all the sadists in Germany and Austria without my knowledge for some time past. It had also been attracting unconscious sadists, i.e. men who did not know themselves that they had sadist leanings until they took part in a flogging. And finally it had actually been creating sadists. For it seems that corporal chastisement ultimately arouses sadistic leanings in apparently normal men and women. Freud might explain it.” — Rudolf Diels, as quoted in Larson’s “In the Garden of Beasts”.

India re-legalizes santhara

Jainism is arguably the oldest religion continuously practiced by mankind. Arguably, because Hindus say their tradition is older, and will often claim that Jainism is merely a splinter sect of Hinduism. Jains typically disagree, but Jains are non-violent and nominally atheists – so they don’t get a lot of respect from the violent theists that control most of the world. In any case both religions are so ancient that their origin stories are unlikely to have escaped embellishment by later generations.

Anyway, the BBC is reporting that India’s Supreme Court has revoked their earlier decision that made it illegal to voluntarily stop eating and drinking as a spiritual practice. Since this is often the only avenue a bedridden, terminally ill person has to gain release from incessant suffering, I have to applaud.

How many unemployed?

In this post-Reagan era, you can use the Government’s “official” count of unemployment – which is broken up into categories from U1 to U6, but everybody uses the U3, currently 5.3% – or you can check out John Williams’ Shadow Government Statistics, with puts the current count at 23%. Williams attempts to use the pre-1990 method of calculation (which is difficult because the government is trying really hard not to obtain anything resembling real unemployment figures) so that you can compare modern unemployment figures with historical data.

Slate shilling for GMOs

William Saletan, author of Bearing Right, has a lengthy column up on Slate explaining how purposely withholding information from common folks like me in order to fatten the coffers of giant agribusinesses is really, really totally morally OK, because Golden Rice. It makes some good points and provides lots of information, but ultimately reads like a catalog of formal logic errors papered over with pseudo-moralistic posturing.

The people who push GMO labels and GMO-free shopping aren’t informing you or protecting you. They’re using you. They tell food manufacturers, grocery stores, and restaurants to segregate GMOs, and ultimately not to sell them, because people like you won’t buy them. They tell politicians and regulators to label and restrict GMOs because people like you don’t trust the technology. They use your anxiety to justify GMO labels, and then they use GMO labels to justify your anxiety. Keeping you scared is the key to their political and business strategy.

Oh, my support for product labeling, including GMO labeling, is me using people. Because I’m the one with a profit motive? Seriously? People are supposed to believe that generic salarymen somehow magically make money by wanting labeling, and that food mega-producers are living in such abject poverty that they simply can’t afford to print meaningful labels? Really?

Wait, didn’t big corporate food producers also oppose the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act, and the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act? Despite the history of food and drug regulation in the USA, we are to believe that they oppose labeling because of their inherent saintliness, and it has nothing to do with their profits? We’re supposed to take seriously claims that 21st century science is too backward and primitive to define a labeling regime that would be of any use?

GMO shills commonly ignore all the regular everyday people who just want informative labeling, and characterize their opposition as being solely composed of loony Californian anti-vaccine anti-GMO crystal worshippers. Saletan goes on from there to paint the completely amoral American food industry (despite many examples of what typical behavior is when regulation is lax) as merely timid, brownbeaten victims whose great flaw is unwillingness to force GMOs into every market.

On one side is an army of quacks and pseudo-environmentalists waging a leftist war on science. On the other side are corporate cowards who would rather stick to profitable weed-killing than invest in products that might offend a suspicious public.

After reading the entire article, I was left with the impression that Saletan is saying labels are bad, it’s just too hard to give poor people carrots, never mind that white rice is a cultural shibboleth, Chewbacca is a wookiee, and therefore you don’t need to know anything, and if we label food products so that people can make an informed choice the terrorists win. It’s exactly like global politics… or CRELM toothpaste!

RMS is online

Richard Stallman finally figured out a way to get online that was ideologically acceptable.

…he now connects to websites from his own computer – via Tor and using a free software browser. Previously, he used a complicated workaround to more or less email webpages to himself. The announcement brought a surprised gasp and a round of applause from the 300-plus attendees.

“At one point, I used to believe that the Firefox trademark license was incompatible with free software, I found out I was mistaken – it does allow the redistribution of unmodified copies,” he said.

The problem with privilege metaphors

It seems to me that we are all the recipients of unearned privilege. You were formed in the womb of your birth mother, to her great discomfort and inconvenience; and obviously nothing you did yourself made you worthy of this privilege – it was a gift, literally the gift of life itself, that you received for free. You had already been a freeloading moocher for nine months before you were even born!

But not every birth is equal. Recent research claims that poverty diminishes mental capacities from birth. It’s fairly clear that the richer your parents and community are, the more unearned privileges you will eventually enjoy – for example, the children of Barack Obama enjoy vastly more privilege than the children of impoverished Arkansas sharecroppers, or the children of impoverished Native Americans on the Res.

Right Wing radio pundits like to split common people along color lines by screaming of “black criminality” and “black on black violence”, but criminality and violence correlate far more with poverty and lack of opportunity than with any skin color. Left Wing bloggers like to split common people on color lines by screeching “white privilege” – as though privilege did not correlate with wealth, and as if there were no privileged people of color.

These talking heads, Right and Left, are of their own free will servile to the ruling class. The .001% of humanity whose titanic wealth makes them immune to law would prefer that the rest of us split on color lines, gender lines, religion, anything that will keep us from uniting. If we could put aside our differences, it might interfere with the continuing concentration of the Earth’s vast resources into fewer and fewer hands – or even reverse that trend.

The US Government and You

“If you treat federal law the way the secretary of state does, you go to prison.
If you treat IRS rules the way the IRS treats IRS rules, you go to prison
If you treat immigration controls the way our immigration authorities do, you go to prison.
If you’re as careless in your handling of firearms as the ATF is, you go to prison.
If you cook your business’s books the way the federal government cooks its books, you go to prison.”

Courtesy of some guy at Slashdot.

know the dream

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. offered this country a different kind of vision.

The Deacons for Defense and Justice offered a righteous resistance to oppression, by any means necessary, including lethal violence. The Weather Underground declared bloody war on the US Government and capitalism. The Panthers fought for a vision of equality that endorsed a racially separated nation.

But Dr. King marched with whites, and Jews, and with people so mixed that there was no place for them in a world of stark color-lines. He gave us a vision of a country where people’s opportunities were governed by the content of their character, and not by the color of their skin.

Sadly, Dr. King’s heirs aren’t as admirable. Their insistence on standing as gatekeepers of his legacy means that I can’t make a copy of the “I have a dream” video and host it on my site here. But I can link to a transcript, and to a Youtube video that probably will get taken down.

Every American should listen to this speech today. I’ve heard it dozens of times, and that’s not enough.

Unexpected fairness from UK PM

British Prime Minister David Cameron on the BBC’s desire to exclude the British Green Party from televised debates: “[The BBC] can’t have some minor parties in and not other parties in”.

“The Greens have a member of parliament, they beat the Liberal Democrats in the last national election – the European Elections, so I don’t see how you can have UKIP and not the Greens. That is my very strong opinion.”

BBC political editor Nick Robinson claims the PM’s private view is “if we, the Conservatives, are to get hurt by the people to our right, UKIP, then Labour and the Liberal Democrats should get hurt by people to their left, the Green Party”.

Sounds to me like Robinson & the BBC are at least as guilty of manipulation as Cameron is. In any case, Cameron says he will not debate if the Greens are excluded. Good show, lad.

Holiday Dump Status Report

Thanks to State Representative Michael Ramone, last week the Delaware Department of Transportation served a “cease and desist” order on the leader of the illegal dumping ring that’s been filling the wetlands on Upper Pike Creek Road with construction debris. He was given seven days to remove the fill or DelDOT will do it for him… and charge accordingly.

Unlike DelDOT, the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control continues to do nothing, but State Senator Karen Peterson has bluntly told DNREC’s David Small that she will be instigating a senate inquiry if they don’t stop shirking their responsibilities.

State Representative Timothy Sheldon has engaged the New Castle County Department of Land Use. If past history is any guide, Land Use won’t be taking any back talk from contractors or local corrupt cops. The status of the County action can be tracked by looking up complaint #201409617 here.

What a lovely Xmas present for me and my neighbors!

Dumb and Dumber

I am not so secretly amused by the emergence of the term “warmist“.

“Global warming” is a dumb name for a single, highly academic globally averaged measure of one of the many harmful effects of mankind’s pollution of our environment. Focusing on global warming is like focusing on smoke damage to your drapes during a house fire. Pollution is the problem to be solved.

The big polluters are very pleased that the rest of us are wasting time calling each other names instead of looking for a sensible common ground.