Archive for December 23rd, 2010

Free Enterprise Santa

| December 23, 2010 | 4 Replies
Free Enterprise Santa

Driving home from work today I did a bit of social psychology inside of my car by scanning the offerings of AM radio (I’ve been doing that a lot lately). Today, the most prominent AM radio station in St. Louis featured an opportunity to talk to Santa Claus. Santa took precious moments out from his busy schedule to talk to dozens of St. Louis children who were allowed to call the station and discuss upcoming matters of great importance with Mr. Claus. The typical conversation went something like this:

Santa: what your name? [I kept thinking, "Here's a man who claims to be virtually omniscient in that he knows who's been bad or good, but he doesn't know who he's talking to."]

Ashley: Ashley

Santa: How old are you, Ashley?

Ashley: I am six.

Santa: What would you like for Christmas, Ashley?

Ashley: I would like an iPod, and a Nintendo Wii and lots of other toys [Most of the children asked for toys that added up to many hundreds of dollars].

Santa: Ho, Ho, Ho! Thanks for talking! [Santa knew enough avoid saying anything that would cause big disappointments on Christmas morning]

As you might guess, there was a conspiracy of misinformation going on. The parents and the radio station personalities worked hard to tell the children that Santa Claus actually existed, and they convinced the kids that asking a stranger to bring them valuable things was somehow appropriate. And why wouldn’t he be? He gives you stuff, no strings attached.

Even though it is obvious, it needs to be said that Santa Claus is far more popular than Jesus Christ, at least among children.

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The United Nations comments on Wikileaks

| December 23, 2010 | 1 Reply
The United Nations comments on Wikileaks

On December 21, 2010, Frank LaRue (the UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression) and Catalina Botero (the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression) have issued a Joint Statement on Wikileaks. This statement is carefully crafted and right on the mark. It will piss off American conservatives who still care one whit about freedom of speech issues because it is written in the spirit of the First Amendment. It was written “in light of ongoing developments related to the release of diplomatic cables by the organization Wikileaks.

The Statement recognizes the critical importance of the free flow of information for the preservation of democratic societies. It advocates that a stiff burden of proof should be on those who attempt to stifle any form of speech with claims of national security. It recognizes the important work done by journalists and whistle-blowers. It condemns the following:

- Politically motivated legal cases brought against journalists and independent media,

- The blocking of websites and web domains on political grounds and

- Calls by public officials for illegitimate retributive action.

The only fault I find with the statement is that the issuing organizations have protected it with traditional copyright. that is so 20th Century. Something of this importance and magnitude should have been been issued accordance with Creative Commons or with “no rights reserved” to reach the broadest possible audience. Here are the first two articles of the Statement:

1. The right to access information held by public authorities is a fundamental human right subject to a strict regime of exceptions. The right to access to information protects the right of every person to access public information and to know what governments are doing on their behalf. It is a right that has received particular attention from the international community, given its importance to the consolidation, functioning and preservation of democratic regimes. Without the protection of this right, it is impossible for citizens to know the truth, demand accountability and fully exercise their right to political participation. National authorities should take active steps to ensure the principle of maximum transparency, address the culture of secrecy that still prevails in many countries and increase the amount of information subject to routine disclosure.

2. At the same time, the right of access to information should be subject to a narrowly tailored system of exceptions to protect overriding public and private interests such as national security and the rights and security of other persons. Secrecy laws should define national security precisely and indicate clearly the criteria which should be used in determining whether or not information can be declared secret. Exceptions to access to information on national security or other grounds should apply only where there is a risk of substantial harm to the protected interest and where that harm is greater than the overall public interest in having access to the information. In accordance with international standards, information regarding human rights violations should not be considered secret or classified.

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Not torture = torture

| December 23, 2010 | 11 Replies
Not torture = torture

Anyone who reads this post from David E. Coombs, Bradley Manning’s lawyer will realize that Bradley Manning is being tortured by the United States of America. He is being tortured in our name. Bradley Manning has not been convicted of any crime. Even if he were convicted of a hideous crime, torture would be immoral.

The United States claims that it is not torturing Manning, but consider one example of many disgraceful revelations made by David E. Coombs:

The guards are required to check on PFC Manning every five minutes by asking him if he is okay. PFC Manning is required to respond in some affirmative manner. At night, if the guards cannot see PFC Manning clearly, because he has a blanket over his head or is curled up towards the wall, they will wake him in order to ensure he is okay.

What the phuque. This is not making sure he is “OK,” as the military claims. Rather, this is sleep deprivation and it is a way to damage cognitive functioning. For those who suggest that this is not a problem, would they ever allow this to be done to someone they loved? And why is it that medical websites universally caution that we get enough sleep?

Learning and memory: Sleep helps the brain commit new information to memory through a process called memory consolidation. In studies, people who’d slept after learning a task did better on tests later.
Metabolism and weight: Chronic sleep deprivation may cause weight gain by affecting the way our bodies process and store carbohydrates, and by altering levels of hormones that affect our appetite.
Safety: Sleep debt contributes to a greater tendency to fall asleep during the daytime. These lapses may cause falls and mistakes such as medical errors, air traffic mishaps, and road accidents.
Mood: Sleep loss may result in irritability, impatience, inability to concentrate, and moodiness. Too little sleep can also leave you too tired to do the things you like to do.
Cardiovascular health: Serious sleep disorders have been linked to hypertension, increased stress hormone levels, and irregular heartbeat.
Disease: Sleep deprivation alters immune function, including the activity of the body’s killer cells. Keeping up with sleep may also help fight cancer.

Why would anyone do this to anyone else, other than to torture them? Why, especially, would you do this to a man who has never been convicted of a crime? This is the character of the perennial war-monger totalitarian state coming through loud and clear, and Barack Obama is not willing to step in and call a halt to this despicably immoral situation.

Bradley Manning had the guts to speak truth to power, and now, in my name and yours, he is being made into a hideous example so that none of the rest of us get any foolish ideas.

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Depth of the Mariana Trench illustrated

| December 23, 2010 | Reply
Depth of the Mariana Trench illustrated

How deep is the Mariana Trench. Deeper than you might have thought, and its depth is well illustrated by this graphic.

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