Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Redstate joins the chorus on the right assuming that liberal attacks on Bobby Jindal are due to us being scared of him.
Bobby Jindal doesn't scare anyone. Nor for that matter do Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter or the rest of the mental midgets that form the core of the conservative/Republican axis.
It's not as if we've never been scared of the right. For 8 years we feared what George W. Bush and Dick Cheney would do to America, and sadly the damage done was even worse than most of us (including myself) feared.
But now? I have no doubt that the right will one day again be on top, there will likely be more than a few Republican presidents within my lifetime. But right now you've got idiots like Sarah Palin and cartoons like Bobby Jindal being touted as serious national candidates. I'm too young to remember it firsthand, but I've got to feel that liberals today feel like LBJ did in 1964 or Ronald Reagan felt in 1984: You can't be serious.
So we mock, not the way we mocked Bush out of fear of what he would and did do, but out of that most natural of reasons: Conservatives and republicans, right now in 2009 are the most mockable of public figures. We've just been through the first election in what could turn out to be a fundamental shift in voting attitudes in America. Conservatives, outside of the mainstream media who pretends as if they're still at the 60%+ strength of 2003-4, are on the outs looking in, tilting at a president with a 60-70% approval rating. And in light of that scenario, they have appointed a gaggle of circus clowns as their standard-bearers.
Anyone who has spent a few hours on the Internet understands how reading a single paragraph can lead to a multimedia journey so far-reaching you forget what you originally went online to look up. Nicholas Carr — author of last July's Atlantic cover story, "Is Google Making Us Stupid?" — believes the distracted nature of Web surfing is reducing our capacity for deep contemplation and reflection. He began developing his theory when he realized that, after years of online information gathering, he had trouble reading a book or a magazine. As he puts it, "I've had an uncomfortable sense that someone, or something, has been tinkering with my brain, remapping the neural circuitry, reprogramming the memory. . . . I'm not thinking the way I used to think."
Growing up in a small town in central Connecticut in the seventies, Carr couldn't have imagined he'd someday make a career of critiquing computer technology. He read a great deal as a boy and entered Dartmouth College with hopes of becoming a writer. He graduated in 1981 with a degree in English literature and spent a year working as an editor and playing in a punk-rock band before he entered a graduate program in English literature at Harvard University. The theoretical focus of his courses failed to captivate him, however, and Carr soon realized that he didn't want to become a professor. He got his master's degree and left.
Carr and his new wife had a baby on the way, so he took an editorial position at a management-consulting firm. He ended up staying twelve years and getting an education in business, economics, and the blossoming field of information technology, or it. In 1997 he became senior editor of the Harvard Business Review. It was the height of the dot-com boom, and Carr spent nearly six years editing articles about business strategy and it. Then in 2003 he wrote an article for the Review titled "IT Doesn't Matter," arguing that as computers have become almost universal, they no longer provide a competitive advantage to companies. The piece aroused much interest — and contempt; Microsoft ceo Steve Ballmer called it "hogwash." Harvard Business School Press offered Carr a book contract, and Does IT Matter? was published in 2004. That success led to a second book, The Big Switch (W.W. Norton & Co.), about "cloud computing" — providing computing software over the Internet, like electric power sent out over a grid. While writing The Big Switch, Carr became interested in the social and cultural implications of the Internet, which led to his Atlantic cover story and the book he's currently working on, tentatively titled The Shallows: Mind, Memory, and Media in an Age of Instant Information.
As for all those years studying literature, forty-nine-year-old Carr has no regrets. In fact, he believes learning to deconstruct poems and stories trained him to think analytically and led him to where he is today. Carr's methodical mind — the "Google effect" notwithstanding — has given him an impressive ability to dissect the ever-expanding cyberworld. He blogs at www.roughtype.com and recently moved from New England to the Colorado Rockies to spend more time outdoors, hiking, fly-fishing, and skiing — and deepening his ability to be contemplative.
Cooper: You've quoted Richard Foreman, author of the play The Gods Are Pounding My Head, who says we are turning into "pancake people."
Carr: We used to have an intellectual ideal that we could contain within ourselves the whole of civilization. It was very much an ideal — none of us actually fulfilled it — but there was this sense that, through wide reading and study, you could have a depth of knowledge and could make unique intellectual connections among the pieces of information stored within your memory. Foreman suggests that we might be replacing that model — for both intelligence and culture — with a much more superficial relationship to information in which the connections are made outside of our own minds through search engines and hyperlinks. We'll become "pancake people," with wide access to information but no intellectual depth, because there's little need to contain information within our heads when it's so easy to find with a mouse click or two.
Cooper: In your Atlantic article "Is Google Making Us Stupid?" you suggest that using the Internet has actually lessened your ability to concentrate while reading. What led you to this conclusion?
Carr: I was having trouble sitting down and immersing myself in a book, something that used to be totally natural to me. When I read, my mind wanted to behave the way it behaves when I'm online: jumping from one piece of information to another, clicking on links, checking e-mail, and generally being distracted. I had a growing feeling that the Internet was programming me to do these things and pushing on me a certain mode of thinking: on the one hand, distracted; on the other hand, efficient and able to move quickly from one piece of information to another. In the article, I focused on Google because it's the dominant presence on the Net — at least, when it comes to gathering information. It provides a window into how the Internet is imposing its own intellectual ethic on its users at both a technological and an economic level.
Timothy Leary was an inspiration and friend of bOING bOING from our earliest days. (Photo left of Tim with bOING bOING founders Mark Frauenfelder and Carla Sinclair in 1995; and right with me in 1990.) Mark previously posted about the first glimpses of the Timothy Leary Archives available online, in the form of some fantastic videos. That's part of a much larger project to digitize all of Tim's archives and bring him to life in Cyberspace, one of his greatest wishes before he died in 1996. Now, the Timothy Leary Archives are seeking donations to help keep the momentum going. From Denis Berry, trustee of Tim's estate:
Timothy Leary was a visionary. Realizing the importance of the events of the day, he tenaciously saved records of each phase of his life, capturing not only the budding psychedelic movement and its history, but years later, trumpeting the coming of the digital age of personal computers when this concept was still foreign to most.
His archival collection contains over 500,000 documents, including hundreds of letters from luminaries of all kinds (Allan Ginsberg, Aldous Huxley, Jack Kerouac, Abbie Hoffman, Robert Anton Wilson), documents from his Harvard research, Millbrook journals, IFIF documents, hundreds of hours of audio and video and thousands of photographs. This collection records not only his life, but the history of the entire psychedelic movement, and more.
Last week, at a huge reunion event in San Francisco, his estate announced their plans to digitize this collection and place it online as one of the first projects of its kind. Hosted by Brewster Kahle at the Internet Archive, the site will eventually house the entire collection, and it will be completely searchable and indexed. Dr. Leary had this dream before most people even knew what the internet was, or how important it would become.
We invite you to visit to help support the digitization, by donating to help move the project forward.
By Tom Cox
For the old Kurdish shepherd, it was just another burning hot day in the rolling plains of eastern Turkey. Following his flock over the arid hillsides, he passed the single mulberry tree, which the locals regarded as 'sacred'. The bells on his sheep tinkled in the stillness. Then he spotted something. Crouching down, he brushed away the dust, and exposed a strange, large, oblong stone.
The man looked left and right: there were similar stone rectangles, peeping from the sands. Calling his dog to heel, the shepherd resolved to inform someone of his finds when he got back to the village. Maybe the stones were important.
They certainly were important. The solitary Kurdish man, on that summer's day in 1994, had made the greatest archaeological discovery in 50 years. Others would say he'd made the greatest archaeological discovery ever: a site that has revolutionised the way we look at human history, the origin of religion - and perhaps even the truth behind the Garden of Eden.
A few weeks after his discovery, news of the shepherd's find reached museum curators in the ancient city of Sanliurfa, ten miles south-west of the stones.
They got in touch with the German Archaeological Institute in Istanbul. And so, in late 1994, archaeologist Klaus Schmidt came to the site of Gobekli Tepe (pronounced Go-beckly Tepp-ay) to begin his excavations.
As he puts it: 'As soon as I got there and saw the stones, I knew that if I didn't walk away immediately I would be here for the rest of my life.'
David Lewis-Williams, professor of archaeology at Witwatersrand University in Johannesburg, says: 'Gobekli Tepe is the most important archaeological site in the world.'
Some go even further and say the site and its implications are incredible. As Reading University professor Steve Mithen says: 'Gobekli Tepe is too extraordinary for my mind to understand.'
So what is it that has energised and astounded the sober world of academia?
The site of Gobekli Tepe is simple enough to describe. The oblong stones, unearthed by the shepherd, turned out to be the flat tops of awesome, T-shaped megaliths. Imagine carved and slender versions of the stones of Avebury or Stonehenge.
Most of these standing stones are inscribed with bizarre and delicate images - mainly of boars and ducks, of hunting and game. Sinuous serpents are another common motif. Some of the megaliths show crayfish or lions.
The stones seem to represent human forms - some have stylised 'arms', which angle down the sides. Functionally, the site appears to be a temple, or ritual site, like the stone circles of Western Europe.
To date, 45 of these stones have been dug out - they are arranged in circles from five to ten yards across - but there are indications that much more is to come. Geomagnetic surveys imply that there are hundreds more standing stones, just waiting to be excavated.
So far, so remarkable. If Gobekli Tepe was simply this, it would already be a dazzling site - a Turkish Stonehenge. But several unique factors lift Gobekli Tepe into the archaeological stratosphere - and the realms of the fantastical.
The first is its staggering age. Carbon-dating shows that the complex is at least 12,000 years old, maybe even 13,000 years old.
That means it was built around 10,000BC. By comparison, Stonehenge was built in 3,000 BC and the pyramids of Giza in 2,500 BC.
by Muriel Kane
Conservative columnist Michelle Malkin enthusiastically called the "Tea Party" protests "a fledgling grassroot movement" and some of the protesters even described themselves as the vanguard of a "new conservative counterculture." Those claims naturally aroused a certain amount of skepticism, since similar activities in the past have proven to be not genuine grassroots activity but so-called corporate "Astroturf."
Now fresh revelations suggest that the skepticism may be well-placed. Mark Ames and Yasha Levine allege in their blog at Playboy.com that the protests were planned well in advance, coordinated by old-line anti-tax organizations, and funded by right-wing corporate interests.
"What hasn't been reported until now is evidence linking Santelli's 'tea party' rant with some very familiar names in the Republican rightwing machine," they write, "from PR operatives who specialize in imitation-grassroots PR campaigns (called 'astroturfing') to bigwig politicians and notorious billionaire funders. As veteran Russia reporters, both of us spent years watching the Kremlin use fake grassroots movements to influence and control the political landscape. To us, the uncanny speed and direction the movement took and the players involved in promoting it had a strangely forced quality to it. If it seemed scripted, that's because it was."
Newspapers, that great arena for serendipitous discoveries, are seemingly folding by the day (the Seattle P-I and Denver's Rocky Mountain News only the latest), and with their demise comes concern that internet replacements may for the most part provide a very different experience.
Cass Sunstein, one of several Harvard professors recently installed in the Obama administration, outlined that concern and its place in the American system in an interview in Harvard Magazine shortly before departing for Washington. (
The Frankfurter professor of law at Harvard, Sunstein has been named administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.)
"Although [the internet] has the capacity to bring people together, too often the associations formed online comprise self-selecting groups with little diversity of opinion," says Sunstein, adding that these environments reinforce preexisting viewpoints, undermining the constructive dialogue that promotes progress in democracies.
Sunstein reinforces his views with three studies he has worked on in the last decade. In one, two separate groups were gathered — liberals from Boulder, Colorado, in one and conservatives from Colorado Springs in another. Interviewed individually, people on both sides expressed some diversity of views, but when they were put together within the peer group of liberals or conservatives their views became more fixed, more politically polarized. Sunstein said two other studies, involving juries and judges, had similar results.
The paradox of the new media environment is that the plethora of sources is often targeted to niche audiences, in sharp contrast to the diverse audiences of newspapers and network television, the great tribunes of the last half-century. These "shared general-interest intermediaries" not only exposed readers to diverse topics and points of view, but "created a shared experience, a social glue," Sunstein believes.
Mario Brothers/Donkey Kong's Princess Peach
Ever since a plucky, squat plumber named Mario saved the helpless princess from the clutches of a crazed ape in Donkey Kong back in 1981, heterosexuality — and to a large extent, lame female characters — have been the rule in the world of video games.
Despite recent successes in marketing games to "non-traditional demographics," the multi-billion dollar industry still caters largely to a young male audience with androcentric power fantasies straight out of a women's studies instructor's worst nightmares.
If you've played many modern games, you'll know that female characters tend to come in one of two bland varieties: well-endowed amazons in stilettos and helpless, hyper feminine princesses who need to be rescued by the hero. There are exceptions to the rule (Samus from the Metroid series, Faith from Mirror's Edge, Nariko from Heavenly Sword), but it's a pretty shallow pool.
Metroid's Samus Aran
Artwork credit: Transfuse at Deviant Art
Nariko from Heavenly Sword (left) and Faith from Mirror's Edge
Unfortunately, the pickings become even slimmer when searching for good lesbian characters.
"It would be great to think that there will be more gay/lesbian gaming content in games at some stage soon, but there's just little happening with that from the developers," lamented LesbianGamers.com co-founder Tracy Whitelaw in a recent email interview.
"They think about mass market and numbers and ultimately that means that they go for the mainstream approach," she explained. "There are certainly a few characters appearing here and there that at least gives hope for the future, but gaming seems to be one of the last bastions of entertainment that is desperately trying to hold onto the heterosexual norm as long as it can."
So what's a girl to do? Give up playing games until developers pull their character archetypes out of the 1950s? No way — Whitelaw and her partner Angela Simpson instead saw the value in building a community for queer women who game.
"We think it's absolutely fundamental to provide a safe, lesbian-oriented space for gay girl gamers," Whitelaw stated. "We realized before starting LesbianGamers.com that there simply were no lesbian gaming sites around and that's a real shame as lesbians deserve to have a place to create a community with other lesbian gamers."
Posted by David Pescovitz
What isn't straightforward about orange juice?Squeezed: What You Don't Know About Orange Juice (Amazon), Q&A with Alissa Hamilton (Boston.com, via Michael Leddy's Orange Crate Art)
HAMILTON: It's a heavily processed product. It's heavily engineered as well. In the process of pasteurizing, juice is heated and stripped of oxygen, a process called deaeration, so it doesn't oxidize. Then it's put in huge storage tanks where it can be kept for upwards of a year. It gets stripped of flavor-providing chemicals, which are volatile. When it's ready for packaging, companies such as Tropicana hire flavor companies such as Firmenich to engineer flavor packs to make it taste fresh. People think not-from-concentrate is a fresher product, but it also sits in storage for quite a long time...
So parse the carton for us. For example, what is the phrase "not from concentrate" really about?
HAMILTON: In the '80s, Tropicana had a hold on ready-to-serve orange juice with full-strength juice. Then this new product, reconstituted orange juice, started appearing in supermarkets. Tropicana had to make decisions. Storing concentrate is much cheaper than full-strength juice. The phrase "not from concentrate" was to try to make consumers pay more for the product because it's a more expensive product to manufacture. It didn't have to do with the product being fresher; the product didn't change, the name simply changed. Tropicana didn't want to have to switch to concentrate technology.
Last year, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR), proposing new rules for greenhouse gas emissions. If passed the new rules would mean that the EPA would have sole power to regulate greenhouse gases and define what constitutes as a greenhouse gas.
Under the proposed rule businesses that use fossil fuels would be regulated, products and buildings would have requirements and even farm animals would be subject to taxes.
So far this new rule -- which would have enormously negative effects on our economy -- has sat on the back burner. But under an Obama administration, with the environment a hot button issue, the new rules could become a reality. That's why some in Congress are taking steps to try and stop action before it happens.
H.R. 391 is a bill being spearheaded by Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn (R-TN). This amendment to The Clean Air Act would provide that greenhouse gases are not subject to regulation by the EPA.
Blackburn is concerned that the rules proposed by the ANPR would have devastating effects on all taxpayers, but farmers in particular. Blackburn made it clear that "everybody would be subject to this."
Since cows produce a certain amount of methane. And methane would be regulated under The Clean Air Act, then cows and pigs would be subject to a tax. Blackburn said projections she has seen suggest that for dairy cows the tax would be about $175 a head, $20 per pig and $88 for beef stock.
Plus, a tax on farmers would also mean something to consumers. Blackburn said, "the cost of milk is going to go up and all of your dairy products."
The monumental quarterly loss revealed by U.S. insurance giant AIG of $62 billion is the largest in corporate history, amounting to about $460,000 per minute. The loss caused jaws to hit the floor around the world and left us wondering, what else would $62 billion buy?
2. Shareholders could use the money they lost to buy a great fleet of planes. $62 billion would buy almost 250 Boeing 747 jumbos at about $250 million each, although they would need plenty left over to run them.
3. Britain's Queen Elizabeth II might not be moving any time soon, but the money could buy 46 Buckingham Palaces, according to a 2008 estimate of its market value by the Daily Telegraph newspaper. And still leave some remaining to buy her weekend retreat, Windsor Castle.
4. AIG shareholders might wish a black hole would swallow up the company's executives so why not send them into space? At $30 million a go, you could send 2,000 of them to the International Space Station -- and back if you so wished.
5. The world's 10 top-earning celebrities, including J.K. Rowling, Oprah Winfrey and 50 Cent, would only have to work for 40 years to repay AIG's losses.
6. The money would provide the income for 210 seasons of the world's richest football club, Manchester United. Although not if the players crashed their cars every week.
7. Divided equally, America's population of 303 million people would have to pay $204 each to repay AIG's losses.
8. Given an average used car price of $13,900 in the United States and an average car length of 5 meters, $62 billion will buy enough of them to create a traffic jam from New York to Beijing AND back.
10. If you exchanged the $62 billion losses for dollar bills the cash would carpet an estimated 595 square kilometers -- the same approximate area occupied by Baghdad.