The Books Have Nothing To Say
Posted on December 30th, 2009 at 9:48 pm by Steve

Following up on my post below (“What Is Fire?”):

“The only way to be happy is for everyone to be made equal. So, we must burn the books, Montag – all the books.”

It’s Francois Truffaut’s only film in English: Fahrenheit 451.

“What Is Fire?” – Buckminster Fuller Answers
Posted on December 30th, 2009 at 4:47 pm by Steve

Buckminster Fuller, in Critical Path (hello, Dr. Hoo!), answers a child’s query, “What is fire?”:

Fire is the Sun unwinding from the tree’s log. The Earth revolves and the trees revolve as the radiation from the Sun’s flame reaches the revolving planet Earth. By photosynthesis the green buds and leaves of the tree convert that Sun radiation into hydrocarbon molecules, which form into the bio-cells of the green, outer, cambium layer of the tree. The tree is a tetrahedron that makes a cone as it revolves. The tree’s three tetrahedral roots spread out into the ground to anchor the tree and get water. Each year the new, outer-layer, green-tree cone revolves 365 turns, and every year the tree grows its new tender-green, bio-cell cone layer just under the bark and over the accumulating cones of previous years. Each ring of the many rings of the saw-cut log is one year’s Sun-energy impoundment. So the fire is the many-years-of-Sun-flame-winding now unwinding from the tree. When the log fire pop-sparks, it is letting go a very sunny day long ago, and doing so in a hurry.”

Posted on December 30th, 2009 at 4:14 pm by Steve

Chris Hedges nails it:

The tyranny we impose on others we finally impose on ourselves.

Damn It’s Cold!
Posted on December 30th, 2009 at 2:37 pm by Steve

The image above is the daily trace of data from the weather station atop the Green Building at MIT (pictured below). The top box shows you the temperature, which dropped from 32°F to 10°F in 24 hours… the second box shows the steadily rising barometric pressure… the third box shows the wind speeds with gusts above 60 MPH and sustained wind speeds well above 40 MPH – the Green Building is about 300 feet tall, so it’s well above any obstructions and hence records higher wind speeds than ground stations.

All of which is to say… Damn it’s cold!

Wikipedia Says the Darndest Things
Posted on December 29th, 2009 at 5:29 pm by Steve

So… speaking with occasional NII blogger Dan, I mentioned in an off-hand fashion that breakfast cereals were developed to help curb masturbation. True story!

Wanting some backup for my outlandish-sounding claims, I did a quick Google search for ‘cereal masturbation’, which quickly led me to the Wikipedia entry for John Harvey Kellogg, M.D..

Kellogg didn’t invent dry breakfast cereal, per se, although he developed and championed the eating of cereal as beneficial in reducing sexual urges, particularly the “solitary vice” known as masturbation. In fact, he considered masturbation to be “a crime doubly abominable. As a sin against nature, it has no parallel except in sodomy (see Gen. 19:5, Judges 19:22). It is the most dangerous of all sexual abuses, because the most extensively practiced…”

Here’s where Wikipedia really gets creepy. It quotes Dr. Kellogg on the ‘treatments’ for masturbation:

A remedy which is almost always successful in small boys is circumcision, especially when there is any degree of phimosis. The operation should be performed by a surgeon without administering an anæsthetic, as the brief pain attending the operation will have a salutary effect upon the mind, especially if it be connected with the idea of punishment, as it may well be in some cases. The soreness which continues for several weeks interrupts the practice, and if it had not previously become too firmly fixed, it may be forgotten and not resumed.

Ah yes. The “brief pain…will have a salutary effect upon the mind, especially if it be connected with the idea of punishment!”

Nothing like good-old honest, straightforward advocacy of genital mutilation for the purpose of reducing sexual behavior! Not to mention the infliction of serious pain on an infant boy as a means of enforcing obedience! What could possibly be wrong with that?

Today, of course, we know better! After all, the US Agency for International Development even organizes an annual conference dedicated to banning genital mutilation as “a violation of human rights!” However, USAID and NGOs working on the issue point out that “It persists as a local custom in at least 26 developing countries, and many people believe, mistakenly, that it not only is a religious requirement, but that it makes a girl clean and sexually modest.”

Oh, right. Female genital mutilation is a violation of human rights.

Male genital mutilation is… sane and rational and healthy and medically appropriate and besides it’s a tradition!

These noxious ideas spouted by Dr. Kellogg had wide acceptance in the United States 125 years ago. The same ideas – with different justifications – persist today. Something like 75% of men and boys in the United States are circumcised. Or, in more vivid terms, three quarters of the men and boys in the United States are victims of genital mutilation.

As gross as all this is – and, at some level, as utterly stupid as it all is – I think it’s important for people to think about it, and try to understand how these batshit crazy ideas stick around. As Mark Twain wrote, “Often, the less there is to justify a traditional custom, the harder it is to get rid of it.”

You can read a whole lot of reasons why male circumcision is properly considered genital mutilation at the Doctors Opposing Circumcision website.

And you can read Dr. Kellogg’s bizarre views on health and sexuality in his 1881 tome, Plain Facts for the Old and Young (published in 1881). The passage quoted above is from the section entitled “Curative Treatment of the Effects of Self-Abuse.”

Something to think about while you much on your Corn Flakes…

The Lost Beer Caves of the Bronx
Posted on December 27th, 2009 at 11:42 pm by Steve

via BLDBLG I found – their current top story links to a New York Times feature about the rediscovery of the Ebling Brewing Company’s beer-aging caves in the Bronx.

Read It Just for the Title
Posted on December 27th, 2009 at 11:37 pm by Steve

Submarine-Repair Facilities, Mushroom Farms, and the Abandoned Islands of Sydney, Australia [BLDG BLOG]

Happy Holidays!
Posted on December 23rd, 2009 at 8:09 pm by lulutsg

Marilyn bucks Santa

Marilyn bucks Santa

I Know It’s Gauche to Quote Oneself, But…
Posted on December 22nd, 2009 at 9:03 pm by Steve

…I just can’t resist. This is something I wrote right here on this here blog-o-thingy waaaaaaaay back in October of 2008:

the Democratic Party is happy to use the efforts of thousands of dedicated volunteers to elect their candidate; don’t expect the Democrats to return the favor, when those thousands of people are demanding mortgage relief, welfare payments, and health care. The Democrats have demonstrated, time and time again, that they are firmly on the side of the corporate masters, and against the people.

I’m hopeful that, with so many people getting experience in organizing their fellow citizens during the Obama campaign, we’ll find it easier to work together to bring about greater economic and social justice. The big difference will be that, instead of working with the support of the Democratic party, we’ll be “out in the cold,” working against the entire corporate-political juggernaut. If you think it’s hard to fight the Republicans with the Democrats on your side, wait until they’ve ganged up on you!

Indeed. Even though Obama campaigned on a promise of a “public option” for healthcare coverage, the new Democratic bill contains no provision for a public option, no early Medicare buy-in, no cost controls on doctors, hospitals, drug manufacturers, or insurance companies. Worst of all, Obama actually told the Washington Post this week, “I didn’t campaign on the public option.”

In other words: we were sold a bill of goods. Obama’s campaign website promised “any American will have the opportunity to enroll in [a] new public plan,” but now he denies ever having made such a promise. And the entire Democratic establishment is now turning on anyone who criticizes the bill; Glenn Greenwald takes note of what he calls the swarm of White House operatives, media professionals, and bloggers who deride

the bill’s progressive critics as insane [David Axelrod], crazy [Five-Thirty-Eight’s Nate Silver], childish [Time’s Joe Klein], idiotic and drugged-out, [CNBC “reporter” John Harwood] Naderite, purist [TPM’s Josh Marshall] liars [Ezra Klein] who — we now learn today — are the equivalent of “global warming denialists.” [Nate Silver again]

It’s like 2003 all over again, except the mud being slung is blue instead of red.

Obama also promised to run the most transparent administration in American history. He said that all of his healthcare negotiations would be televised on C-SPAN. Instead, he met in secret with pharmaceutical company executives and promised them there would be no cost controls on prescription drugs and no plan to allow the reimportation of medicines from abroad. In fact, this new bill even extends the patent protection on prescription drugs to 12 years, with an additional 12 years offered any time a change is made to the drug.

While the so-called “left” sees betrayal and a complete evisceration of real healthcare reform, the health insurance industry (and their investors) see a major windfall. Here are their stock prices since October 27, 2009 (the date that Holy Joe Lieberman pledged to filibuster any bill that included a public option):

The Huffington Post’s Shahien Nasiripour has all the details, including this summary of the numbers:

  • Coventry Health Care, Inc. is up 31.6 percent;
  • CIGNA Corp. is up 29.1 percent;
  • Aetna Inc. is up 27.1 percent;
  • WellPoint, Inc. is up 26.6 percent;
  • UnitedHealth Group Inc. is up 20.5 percent;
  • And Humana Inc. is up 13.6 percent.

I don’t post this to be cynical; I post this to remind myself and those few who might read this that national electoral politics are not the main avenue by which we can transform our lives and our world. No president, no matter how well-intentioned, can wrest control of the state from the hands of Wall Street and their symbionts in the Pentagon.

Imagine the Horror!
Posted on December 22nd, 2009 at 8:35 pm by Steve

(h/t: Nate-o)

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