Archive for February, 2005

Comic of the Day

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rall22805

created by Ted Rall

Podcasting a Wider Shadow

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The Boston
Globe
came out with a semi-major
article
on Podcasting
today, but they really seem to have missed the point. Instead of
commenting on some of the popular experimental podcasts and/or exploring
the time-shifting or educational potential of ‘casting, they concentrate
on their commercial potential, or lack thereof. Well, what do you expect,
the article is in the Business section…

”As is the case with advertising
on blogs, there seems to be some potential," writes
David Moore via e-mail. Moore is CEO of 24/7Media, an advertising network
based in
New
York.
”However,
it
is
too early
to tell if there is a serious market opportunity there."

Dave Winer disagrees, and makes a good point.

When I suggested to Winer that podcasting might be supported by ads,
like commercial radio, or sponsorship, like public radio, or subscription,
like satellite radio, he had a quick comeback. ”The assumption is
this must be exactly like every other medium that has come before," he
says. ”It’s different. It has different economics."

We are feeling increasingly old-fashioned, as we haven’t really even
gotten used to ads on blogs yet….

from today’s Boston Globe

Prozac for the Middle East

1

Just
when we thought it was safe to come outside, George Bush seems to have
solved the mystery of the "vision thing".  After
40 months of wandering the globe like a wounded hyena reeling from
the nightmare of 9/11 and lashing out in opportunistic anger at friend
and foe alike, the Bush Junta has finally had an authentic, collective
vision, and its a doozy.

Believe what you will about their methods and their motives, but who
can doubt the audacity of this vision. The Neo Cons aspire to untangle
the thorniest problem afflicting humanity during the entire past 2,000
years. They have opted to tackle the Gordian Knot of International Relations
– Peace in the Middle East. And their announced plan to achieve that
goal is through the Power of Democracy, unleashed upon totalitarian and
despotic republics across the region. A bold ploy, indeed.

Clearly, Bush has balls, if not brains. Democracy is a dangerous and
potentially explosive policy anywhere, let alone in a region we absolutely
must have on our side, or
at least within
our
trading
sphere,
if we hope
to maintain our present privileged position atop the fellowship of nations.
Democracy is a powerful, revolutionary ideology, especially in societies
long steeped in repression and lack of political choice or organization.
The simple fact is, if by some miracle we were able to hold fair,
open and equitable elections tomorrow in Egypt, in Iraq, in Lebanon,
in Saudi Arabia, in Chad, in Iran, in Pakistan, in Jordan, in Palestine,
in Libya
or in Algeria, they would elect governments which did NOT like America, and which America liked even less. In many cases these freely elected governments would turn out to be more problematic and confrontationalist
than the presently installed regimes they replace. 

In most cases, democratically
elected representative governments would be even less stable than
the dictatorships there now, which is not to be taken as an endorsement
of dictatorship in any way, shape or form. However, as the legitimate
aspirations of minority or plurality ethnic groups thrown
together in
these modern
artificial
states come to the fore, as they inevitably would, in national assemblies
and cabinets, deadly conflicts would result. In many cases these aspirations,
repressed for generations and leavened unevenly with lust for revenge
will form
the
shoals on which
these incipient democracies will flounder.

Eventually, these artificial nation states formed by the fancy of a
handful of power-drunk European political hacks at the time of the dissolution
of the Ottoman Empire, a mere 80 years ago, are doomed to fail and disappear
from the map.  Whether
they will be replaced by a region-wide fundamentalist Islamic state based
on a 14th century interpretation of the Koran or a series of modern
techno-Petro states based on economic and historical imperatives and
emphasizing existing cultural and religious cohesion is the key geopolitical
question looming over the region and the next piece of planetary history.

Perhaps as a result of the Bush Democracy Doctrine or
pre-existing pressures in the nations affected, we can see the first
tenuous steps being taken in a democratic direction.  Although
deeply flawed, the fact that ANYONE in Iraq would risk life and limb
to actually
go to the polls was astounding in itself. President
Hosni Mubarak
is
proposing real (i.e. more than one party) elections in Egypt in the near
future. Lebanon is on the point of ending
25 years of Syrian occupation
,
and all plans we have seen or heard about so far involve post-withdrawal
elections to create a new government.  Of course, Lebanon is a country
with a long history of open, if rigged, elections. Even bosom Bush buddies
the
Saudis
have recently held elections, although their validity is in
questions since only bearded males able to pay a 25-goat poll tax were
allowed
to vote. Will these feeble first steps lead to the dream of a free, peaceful,
democratic Middle East?

Unfortunately, between here and there
lies many more chapters of the long-running human tragedy that passes
for political progress in the
middle east. The Bush Administration should be very careful what they
ask for, especially when they are throwing around charged terms like
Democracy, self-determination, and inalienable rights. But if the goal
is a series of self-determining independent states insuring representation
of ALL
of
the cultural, religions
and
political persuasions in the region, how can the spread of Democracy
in a totalitarian cesspool be dangerous?

The Dowbrigade sees parallels between the breakup of the totalitarian
logjam which has frozen progress towards peace and development in the
Middle East and the perplexing phenomena of the rash of suicides among
depressed teens on the anti-psychotic drug Prozac.

The human mind is like a powerful motor, running 24/7 to monitor and
control our behavior and cognition. When something breaks and it starts
to gyrate seriously off-balance it has but one mechanism to protect itself.  It
shuts down, and the affected person drops into depression, inaction,
inertia and sometimes autism or insensibility. It is as though the mind
recognized that should it continue to try to operate with a thrown rod
or a busted cam, so to speak, it would probably do serious, perhaps
permanent damage to the mind itself or the body that housed it.

The theory is that when Prozac is administered in cases like this,
it does indeed melt the frozen pressure points and breaks up the mental
and emotional logjams which prevent the person from participating in normal human interaction.  The problem is that the first thing that some of
these people want to do, freed of the chains and weights which stopped
them from doing ANYTHING during their crisis, is to kill themselves.

This is not excusive a Dowbrigade theory.  From US
News and World Report

Psychiatrists have long known that some people become agitated, anxious,
and have trouble sleeping when they start taking SSRI s. The speculation
is that this "activation" may make patients more apt to injure
themselves or others, because the drug has lessened the despair and
lassitude typical of depression. But there are no reliable data available
to support
this theory. And because suicide is an outcome of the condition that
the drugs are supposed to treat, it’s difficult to sort out whether
the disease or the treatment is at fault.

So the "unfreezing" of a teenaged mind must be done under the careful
supervision of an experienced professional, and should involve both drugs
and intensive face-to-face, "talking" therapy.  And the
"unfreezing" of political freedom in the Middle Ease must be done VERY
CAREFULLY. Although we believe strongly in the justness of the ultimate
goal, it gives us no pleasure to report we see things getting considerably
worse before they start getting better.

Egypt article from the New York Times

Lebanon story from CNN

Prince Saud interview in Newsweek ("Democracy is a Virus")

Tattoo’s and the Tapeworm

17

As a parent, the Dowbrigade considered himself pretty liberal. For example,
we let ’em stay up as late as they wanted at night, on the theory that
they’d
cause less trouble during the day if they were dog tired. But when
it came to tattoos, we drew the line.

When they asked for
an explanation, we tried to explain our ongoing goal of getting through
life with as few distinguishing characteristics
marring the nondescript anonimity of our body as possible. When we further explained
that this was intended to make more difficult identification by law enforcement,
various spy services, organized crime and minions of the devil, they
seemed to
get
the point.

We wish we could have pointed them to the following article,
as a prime example of what we were talking about, but it’s too late.
Of course, as soon as they moved from under our roof, the first thing
they
did was get tats.

 

WASHINGTON
— The reputed leader of a violent Honduran gang was using an alias,
but
the
tattoos
on his
body
gave him
away. Further
checking
revealed the man arrested in Texas on Feb. 10 was Ever Anibal Rivera
Paz, known as "El Culiche" — The Tapeworm. Rivera Paz had
escaped Jan. 23 from a Honduran prison where he was being held on charges
of masterminding an armed attack on a bus that killed 28 people, including
six children.

Actually, the true reason we have always had an aversion
to tattoos had to do with the first real tattoo we saw, at the impressionable
age
of 17. It was on the right forearm of our Foster Mother on a kibbutz
a few klicks from the West Bank, and it was a number.

Were we to ever, under extreme duress or temporary madness, forced to
mar our body with a real tattoo, the only design we could see ourself
getting would be that same number, on OUR right forearm.

from the Boston Globe

 

Glowing Memories

1

Our recent
posting
on the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling and La Gata Negra brought
up mounds of memories, some pleasant, some painful. In the aftermath,
we
found a few precious snippets of twenty-year-old video that brought
it all back – the stench of stale sweat and cheap cologne, the bright
lights above the mat, and the steamy shadows below.  There
was even some footage of our old flame, Spanish Red, real name Pertetua
Paniagua,
of
Pulcullpa,
Peru.

Here, for your viewing pleasure, a blast from the past:

Spanish Red and Jungle Woman against the Cheerleaders

Spanish Red against Debbie Debutante

Red Rant in Spanish

video from TV Party (requires Real Player)

 

Diamonds for Dipping

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The world’s most expensive teabag has been created. The diamond teabag worth

Why Does Love Have to Be So Sad?

1

WINNIPEG – A lovestruck American who tried to walk from North Dakota to Winnipeg is recovering from severe frostbite in a hospital in Manitoba.

The man from Los Angeles was on his way to meet his internet sweetheart but didn’t count on the Prairie winter.Gonsoulin said he planned to take a bus from Winnipeg to Quebec to be with a woman he met in a chat room for people suffering from depression.

Charles Gonsoulin got lost after setting out from Pembina, N.D., last Saturday with the intent to sneak across the border to Winnipeg, more than 100 kilometres away.

"When I found him, he was babbling and incoherent," Cpl. Don McKenna of the Emerson RCMP told the Winnipeg Free Press. "His hands were black and frozen solid. He didn’t know who he was or where he was."

Gonsoulin, who may lose some fingers, has been charged with entering the country illegally.

from CBC News

Local Boy Makes Good

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illustration
by John Hendrix from the NYT

Local vBlogger, rising media star and all-round
good guy Steve Garfield is
featured this morning in a comprehensive review of
the evolving blogosphere in the New
York Times.

Some vloggers are further blurring the lines between journalism and
blogging by producing news reports of local interest. Steve Garfield
of Boston, a self-described citizen reporter, took a video camera to
investigate, among other things, whether election campaign workers were
following the law by staying 150 feet from polling stations. He posted
his report at stevegarfield.blogs.com/videoblog/2004/09/150_feet.html.

Way to go, Steve, but they should’ve used this
video
(starring yours truly) instead…..

from the New
York Times

Mistress Cheetah, the Mean Mistreatah

4


Choke slams, reverse crabs, Canadian backbreakers — it’s all in a day’s work for La Gata Negra, an all-female, all-masked wrestling league. Founded by two veteran burlesque performers, LGN came about when Worm and Cheetah (full name: Mistress Cheetah, the Mean Mistreatah) got to talking about wrestling while backstage at a go-go dancing gig. Some modern female wrestling is good stuff, they agreed, but all too often it devolves into something — well, something less about wrestling than the often surgically enhanced physical attributes of the wrestlers.

We must confess, the Dowbrigade has always been a big fan of women’s
wrestling. Back in college we fanatically followed GLOW
the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling. Shot in Vegas, most of the Ladies were
recruited straight out of casinos and strip clubs. They were BAD-ASSED
BABES, who could really throw their weight around. In
addition
to being
top-flight
athletes,
they sang, danced and performed in funny skits between matches. Who can
forget the No-Holds Barred Mud-Wrestling Match between Tina Morretti
and Lady Godiva (they used Chocolate Pudding!).

Our obsession reached the point that we actually dated one of the wrestlers,
"Spanish Red" for a few weeks. We still have the scars, physical and
emotional, that allow us to state unequivocally that Red’s nickname didn’t
come out of a bottle!

We wonder if Norma Yvonne would be interested in La Gata Negra…..

from the Boston Globe

90 Days in the Cage

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Kids!
Make sure you have your file sharing programs set to DOWNLOAD ONLY!
And stay away from Arizona. And don’t try this at home! Is my review-only
copy of Constantine done yet?

PHOENIX – A University of Arizona student has been sentenced in Mesa
to three months incarceration in a movie and music piracy case.

Eighteen-year-old Parvin Dhaliwal of Mesa was accused of uploading digital
copies of recently released movies and music.

Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas says the defendant pleaded guilty
to possession of unauthorized copies of intellectual property, which
is a felony.

Thomas says the illegally copied material included movies that at the
time they were copied were only showing in theaters.

Besides incarceration, Dhaliwal also was sentenced to three years’ probation,
200 hours of community service, and fined 54-hundred dollars.

He also was ordered to take a copyright class at the U-of-A and to avoid
file sharing computer programs.

from KVOA Channel
7
, Tucson

Power Seekers vs. Knowledge Seekers

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The
Dowbrigade continues to be confused and disturbed by the controversy
surrounding the recent
remarks
by Harvard President Lawrence Summers
concerning possible sources of the sexual disparity at the highest levels
of teaching and research positions at America’s leading universities.

We have read and reread the recently
released transcript
of Summers
statement, and it seems clear that he was putting on the table a number
of possible theses which could shed light on the easily observable but
difficult to explain differences in representation and achievement between
men and women in the sciences. For example, he said:

"So
my best guess, to provoke you, of what’s behind all of this is that
the largest phenomenon, by far, is the general clash between people’s
legitimate family desires and employers’ current desire for high power
and high intensity, that in the special case of science and engineering,
there are issues of intrinsic aptitude, and particularly of the variability
of aptitude, and that those considerations are reinforced by what are
in fact lesser factors involving socialization and continuing discrimination."
…and…

"I
don’t know the answer, but I think if people want to move the world
on this question, they have to be willing to ask the question in ways
that could face any possible answer that came out."

Now, Lawrence Summers is not a geneticist, or a biologist, or a social
scientist of any stripe. But he is the President of Harvard University,
and as such his role is to ask provocative questions, to open lines of
inquiry,
and
to suggest areas worthy of investigation and research for others to follow
up.

That’s what leaders do – they set agendas for others to follow. Summers
did not say that women are inferior to men in scientific aptitude or
ability.  He merely suggested that genetic differences between men
and women are a POSSIBLE source of SOME of the disparity between the
sexes, and an area worthy of continued research.

It is up to those serving under the leader (in this case, research faculty)
to enact the agenda (in this case, design experiments to explore the
relative importance of sex differences in academic achievement and faculty
appointments).

This specific question harks back to one of the central issues in
modern behavioral science – nature vs. nurture – i.e. how much of what we are depends on our genes,
and how much on our environment and experience. Almost all experts agree
that in the real world actual human lives are a result of a complex interaction
of these two areas of influence, and hold that experiments can
be designed to isolate and illuminate the relative importance of each
in any particular observed behavior.

Even more fundamental is our understanding of the scientific method,
the modus operandi of the entire rationalist worldview. We were taught
that it consists of observation of measurable phenomena, formulation
of hypotheses
to
explain them, and design and execution of repeatable experiments to prove
or disprove these hypotheses. Formulation of a hypothesis does
not
and
cannot be interpreted
as advocacy
of a position or discrimination against alternate explanations.  The
ability of scientists to freely formulate and attempt to verify or disprove
hypotheses is the core value that makes the scientific method work,
and the introduction of political, personal or profit-oriented pressures
on researchers not to ask certain questions or form certain hypotheses
brings the validity of the entire method and its results into serious
doubt.

Questions of political correctness and off-limit topics may be appropriate
during the INTERPRETATION of experimental results, but NOT during the
development
of hypotheses.  If the professional
or political climate are allowed to determine what questions can and
cannot be asked, the answers themselves lose their validity and significance.

This is not a recent conundrum.  The history of science is studded
with trail-blazing thinkers and experimenters who were pressured, persecuted
or prosecuted by the political powers-that-be of their times.  Italian
astronomer
Galileo
Galilel
was hounded, arrested, tried, imprisoned and basically terminated
by the Catholic
Church
(at that time more a political than a religious
organization), for claiming the earth revolved around the sun. Leonardo
da Vinci
was forced to great extremes to hide his research into human
anatomy, due to prohibitions against doing anything to dead bodies but
burying or burning them. Who can say that without the political pressure
of the papists the first volume off old Johann Gutenberg’s press
would have been a treatise on fly fishing or recipes for making beer?

Today we see political, social and economic pressure being placed on
scientists and researchers every day, in a thousand ways, overtly, covertly
and expertly.
We see it in earning potential and lifestyle carrots and sticks guiding
talented researchers into certain fields and lines of inquiry. We see
it in medical
research, and the controversy around stem cells.  We see
it in medical care, where the power of the international pharmaceutical
industry imposes a treatment model heavy on the drugs at the expense
of therapy and lifestyle modification. We se it in the energy industry
where the assumption of the first wholly owned Petro-President has swept
the already anemic alternative energy research sector even further under
the rug.

Is this modern dominance of political and economic powers in setting
the agenda for scientific research inevitable?
It seems to be deeply rooted in the lines of power in our culture. It
certainly dates back to the pre-history.  Probably
the person who invented the lost wax method of casting statues was immediately
put to work casting likenesses of that culture’s fearless leader or god,
often one and the same.

Dusting off our hat of Cultural Anthropologist, it often seems that
the individuals who stand out and above the masses of humanity, who make
a lasting impact on what we know as history, are motivated by one of
two things: a thirst for power, or a thirst for knowledge.  This
is a gross over-simplification, but sometimes painting with a broad brush
can put details into context. Politicians, business magnates, tribal
chiefs, populists, proselytizers and generals are driven by the lust
for power. Scientists, philosophers, shamen, artists and mystics are
driven by a lust for knowledge.

In most cases, members of each group lack both
the time and the inclination to become expert in the skills necessary
to succeed in the other arena. And in almost every case, in every part
of the world and throughout recorded history, it is the power gang that
gives the orders to, and sets the agenda for, the knowledge guys.

However, with the advent of the scientific revolution and the development
of modern scientific accumulation of knowledge based on repeatable experimentation,
the value of free formulation of hypotheses seemed to be firmly established,
at least as an attainable ideal. The attacks on Summers for suggesting
we look closely at inherent differences between the sexes makes us wonder
if this is still the case.

In a final ironic twist, and our last feeble attempt to bring this posting
back to the vicinity of its origin, Summers can place some of the blame
for his hens coming home to roost on the fact that he is operating in
a long-running patriarchy. With a precious few exceptions, patriarchies
have held sway around the planet for, oh, three or four thousand years,
at least.  It is in patriarchies that the dichotomy between power
seekers and knowledge seekers is most pronounced.  In primal patriarchies,
with the Alpha Males firmly in charge, the ultimate political power
almost always lay with the military – the fiercest warrior was king.
The Chief Knowledge Officer, the Shaman, usually took orders from the
Conan the Warrior King.

In matriarchies it is different.  In most of the few existing indigenous
matriarchies the woman in charge IS a shaman.  Her healing and spiritual
knowledge are what empower and enable her to rule.  In matriarchies
the knowledge seekers set the agenda and order the priorities.  Another
gross over-simplification, but who’s counting?

Universities are supposed to be ivory towers rising above the jungle
of politics and business.  The public trial of Lawrence Summers
for suggesting a possible line of investigation is evidence the jungle
is creeping into the tower.

latest on Summers problems from the Harvard Crimson

Bloggers at the Gate

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olifant

created by Pat Oliphant