In her May 9 commencement address at Tuskegee University, the historically black institution, Michelle Obama actually said (what I bet the students already suspected) that she is black:
My husband and I know how frustrating that experience can be. We’ve both felt the sting of those daily slights throughout our entire lives — the folks who crossed the street in fear of their safety; the clerks who kept a close eye on us in all those department stores; the people at formal events who assumed we were the “help”—and those who have questioned our intelligence, our honesty, even our love of this country.
How dare she? The right wing does not allow such a reference. “We” let “you people” win the White House, which meant that racism is over with and gone. Difference was abolished. Any mention of it now is “playing the race card”—and was denounced as such by all the many mouths of the Right—by Laura Ingraham, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Mark Levin, and Rush Limbaugh. Limbaugh shuddered melodramatically at a speech that could “lead to racial strife unlike any that we who are alive today remember.” How could an inspiring speech to students lead to such a doomsday? In her own quiet way Ms. Obama was breaking all of the four rules of racial discourse the right wing now wants to enforce.
Two years earlier, the Clinton administration’s instinct toward quarantine had lead to Washington’s tragic and deeply shameful efforts to prevent any designation of the outbreak of bloodshed in Rwanda in 1994 as a genocide in order to avoid having to commit the United States in any way there. Details of this story have emerged slowly ever since, with the picture growing steadily uglier. Newly declassified documents show how Clinton officials urged Belgium to withdraw its modest United Nations peacekeeping contingent from Rwanda at the outset of the genocide so that the United States would not be drawn into the violence. This all but guaranteed the crisis in Rwanda would spin out of control.
Less well known, however, is the story of how this stance of not-so benign neglect gradually gave way to another, far more proactive policy. The new approach — pushed by Christopher’s successor Madeline Albright — amounted to anointing and strongly promoting a group of authoritarian leaders who could, it was thought, best preempt conflict and preserve American interests in the region.
Generation labels are fairly meaningless - originally a marketing concept that somehow grew into a pseudoscience. While there may be some similarities in age groups it is easy to find wide ranges of people in each. An anthropologist friend calls the labels corporate astrology.
It was nice to see this essay by Rebecca Onion in Aeon
The archetypal scheme is also a theory of how historical change happens. The LifeCourse idea is that the predominance of each archetype in a given generation triggers the advent of the next (as the consultancy’s website puts it: ‘each youth generation tries to correct or compensate for what it perceives as the excesses of the midlife generation in power’). Besides having a very reductive vision of the universality of human nature, Strauss and Howe are futurists; they predict that a major crisis will occur once every 80 years, restarting the generational cycle. While the pair’s ideas seem far-fetched, they have currency in the marketplace: LifeCourse Associates has consulted for brands such as Nike, Cartoon Network, Viacom and the Ford Motor Company; for universities including Arizona State, Dartmouth, Georgetown and the University of Texas, and for the US Army, too.
The commercial success of this pseudoscientific mumbo-jumbo is irritating, but also troubling. The dominant US thinkers on the generational question tend to flatten social distinctions, relying on cherry-picked examples and reifying a vision of a ‘society’ that’s made up mostly of the white and middle-class. In an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education in 2009 on the pundits and consultants who market information about ‘millennials’ to universities, Eric Hoover described Howe and Strauss’s influential book about that generation, Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation (2000), as a work ‘based on a hodgepodge of anecdotes, statistics, and pop-culture references’ with the only new empirical evidence being a body of around 600 interviews of high-school seniors, all living in wealthy Fairfax County, Virginia.
Pure speculation - what can you say about the size of intelligent extraterrestrials ... only useful for fun. Throw in humanoid form as justified by space operas and you get the Na'vi. Still a fun exercise.
a tip of the hat to Larry
The Nature of Inhabited Planets and their Inhabitants
1ICC, University of Barcelona (UB-IEEC), Marti i Franques 1, 08028, Barcelona, Spain.
Earth-like planets are expected to provide the greatest opportunity for the detection of life beyond the Solar System. This notion stems from an assumption that the Earth constitutes a simple random sample amongst inhabited planets. However, in the event that other intelligent species exist, our planet should not be considered a fair sample. Just as a person’s country of origin is a biased sample among countries, so too their planet of origin is a biased sample among planets. The strength of this effect can be substantial: over 98% of the world’s population live in a country larger than the median. Any variable which influences either the population size or birth rate is susceptible to selection bias. In the context of a simple model where the mean population density is invariant to planet size, we infer that an inhabited planet selected at random (such as our nearest neighbour) has a radius r < 1.2r⊕ (95% confidence bound). If the range of habitable radii is sufficiently broad, most inhabited planets are likely to be closer in size to Mars than the Earth. Furthermore, since population density is widely observed to decline with increasing body mass, we conclude that most intelligent species are expected to exceed 300 kg. Primitive life-forms are a pre-requisite for advanced life, and so the planets which host them must trace at least the same volume of parameter space. Our conclusions are therefore not restricted to the search for intelligent life, but may be of significance when surveying exoplanets for atmospheric biomarkers.
Technological fixes are rarely thought through. Here danah boyd and Alex Rosenblat offer comments on body cameras. (via The Atlantic)
As researchers who have spent the last few months analyzing what is known about body cams, we understand the reasons for this consensus, but we’re nervous that there will be unexpected and undesirable outcomes. On one hand, we’re worried that these expensive technologies will do little to curb systemic abuse. But what really scares us is the possibility that they may magnify injustice rather than help eradicate it. We support safeguards being put in place. But the cameras are not a proven technology, and we’re worried that too much is hinging on them being a silver bullet to a very serious problem. Our concerns stem from three major issues:
1. Technology doesn’t produce accountability.
2. Removing discretion often backfires.
3. Surveillance carries significant, hidden economic and social costs.
We’re concerned that in the rush to support the communities who face oppressive policing practices, during the pivotal moment when these issues are at the center of a national conversation, the problems of body cams are being glossed over. Even the researchers behind the most oft-cited study demonstrating the efficacy of body cams are skeptical about the generalizability of its results or the net benefits to community policing. They emphasize that more empirical research is needed to determine what the impact of body cameras are to policing.
A few generations ago children were given much greater autonomy - that changed to the point where parents are sometimes accused of child neglect if they let their kids play at a park alone. Media fueled hperparanoia made it happen - the legacy of Etan Patz.. (via The New York Times)