Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Brain Decoded: 3-D Images Mapped

I highly encourage you to read the entire article at CNET, but here is a quick rundown and a link to the video.  This crosses the line of awesome and walks in the land of Damned Spiffy.

Several witnesses watched two movie trailers and allowed measurements to be taken.  Based on that, the interpreted brain activity was translated into images - scientist's best reproduction of what that person was seeing.  Once in a while I can't quite see it, but on certain images it's immediately clear what the subjects are looking at.

I'm going to put my Big Brother rants aside for a moment and just applaud the advances in decoding the brain.  There will be hundreds of breakthroughs before it even approaches reliable science, but in the meantime how exciting it is to take those first wobbly steps towards a deeper understanding of how we work.

Land Of The Rising Core Temperature, Part 40

Still plenty of unintended consequences from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, at this point we're starting to see heavily irradiated crops show up some distance away from the blast zone.

Japan found the first case of rice with radioactive materials far exceeding a government-set level for a preliminary test of pre-harvested crop, requiring thorough inspection of the rice to be harvested from the region, the farm ministry said late on Friday.

The ministry said radioactive caesium of 500 becquerels per kg was found in a sample of the pre-harvested rice in Nihonmatsu city, in Fukushima Prefecture, 56 km (35 miles) west of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant which was crippled by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, triggering the world's worst nuclear disaster in 25 years.

The ministry said the Fukushima Prefecture will expand the inspection spots nearly ten-fold to around 300 areas.

It is the first case in Japan of rice containing radioactive caesium exceeding 200 becquerels per kg, a level which requires further thorough testing of the area for the harvested rice. 

If this level of radiation is being found in new crops some 35 miles from the plant and six months after the disaster, it's a pretty good bet there's going to be continued problems with irradiated crops for some time into the future.  How many tons of irradiated crops are being missed by spot inspections?

I've said before the total cost of this disaster will be into the trillion dollar range, and the more signs like this we see, the higher that bill will be in the end.

This will be a generational disaster for Japan.

Walker-ing It Back, Part 3

The story about a former Scott Walker aide being pulled into an investigation of his boss was on the back burner of politics until today, that is. Eric Kleefield:

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's (R) spokesman, plus two supporters, have now been granted immunity in the ongoing campaign finance investigation of former aides to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), from Walker's time as Milwaukee County Executive.

WisPolitics reports:
The spokesman, Cullen Werwie, also served as deputy communications director for Walker's gubernatorial campaign.

Rose Ann Dieck, a retired teacher and Milwaukee County Republican party activist, and Kenneth Lucht, a lobbyist for the Wisconsin & Southern Railroad, have also been granted immunity in matters "still under inquiry" through the secret probe, according to the judge overseeing the case.

The judge stressed that a grant of immunity "does not necessarily mean, imply or infer that those witnesses are suspected of, or guilty of, any criminal wrongdoing."
WisPolitics also notes that Lucht, the lobbyist who has been granted immunity, was previously ordered in April to pay a $250 civil forfeiture, connected with the investigation.

The site further reports that Werwie has no comment on the matter -- which makes sense, given the secretive nature of the investigation.

It may not necessarily mean there's wrongdoing by the witnesses, but multiple people aren't given prosecutorial immunityin a secret grand jury proceeding unless the information they have is A) possibly self-incriminating and B) involves someone higher up on the food chain.

That someone in this case most obviously has to be Scott Walker, now the Republican Governor of Wisconsin.  This just got real interesting, folks.  I'll be keeping an eye on this case.

So Is It Jackass Season Or What?


Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator who is a favorite of social conservatives, said he would reinstitute "don't ask, don't tell" -- which formally ended earlier this week -- if he is elected.

"Removing 'don't ask, don't tell' I think tries to inject social policy into the military. And the military's job is to do one thing, and that is to defend our country," he said.

Santorum also made clear that he believes any sexual activity "has absolutely no place in the military."

Does he not see that he is inserting social policy into military? Those people are risking their lives for their country and he is too busy trying to enforce his personal beliefs on them. Who the hell does he think he is?


Chip Off The Old Moose

Someone should teach Bristol Palin to keep her mouth shut.  I know her mom never will, but someone should tell Mini-Moose that she doesn't do herself any favors.

She's young and she is impulsive, but she also surely understands that simply because of who she is, and who she is related to that this will happen.  Asking if the guy was a homosexual took a StupidiLeak and turned it into a flood.

TMZ's Harvey Levin brings up a great point on Twitter: why did she revert to a gay comment right away? Did she learn nothing from her sister's Facebook meltdown?  Why are Sarah's kids so darn hateful towards the gay population anyway?  It sure seems to be their first and most offensive response to anyone who displeases them.  

The whole damn family should be disgraced.  If they can't learn when to shut up, perhaps it is our duty to help them out.  And for what it's worth, I'd rather be gay that a skanky little girl with no class.  I'm just sayin' it because nobody else will.  

Not Far Removed From The Past

It always seems like the specter of political violence hangs just over our heads, especially when it comes to unconscionable reactions to this President.

President Barack Obama's Los Angeles campaign office was attacked on Thursday night by someone smashing a window and parts of a glass door, prompting officials to reexamine security plans for his visit next week, police said on Friday.

Campaign workers were in the West Los Angeles office when an unknown object or objects broke the front window and shattered portions of the glass front door, according to Los Angeles Police Department commander Andrew Smith. Nobody was injured during the attack, he said.

"Because it is the president's campaign office, the FBI has been in contact with us as well as the Secret Service," Smith said.

City police were leading the investigation. There were no immediate suspects, but police were examining footage taken by nearby surveillance cameras for clues, Smith said.

No evidence of any projectile was found, which Smith said was common for BB-gun attacks because the tiny, ball-bearing-shaped pellets fired by such a weapon will often bounce off a window and become easily lost.

However, police also were considering the possibility of an attack by hand using a monkey wrench or similar object, Smith said.

Asked if security arrangements for Obama would be altered for his planned visit to Los Angeles as a result, Smith said, "With the president coming on Monday, certainly we will take this under advisement. It is considered as an issue to be aware of."

I'm much less interested in who did this or even why as I am the reason behind why this story was buried for two days.  Even Reuters didn't get a hold of it until almost 18 hours after the even happened and with the President visiting LA on Monday for a campaign and fundraising stop it seems the President's campaign office being vandalized like this is a serious story.

Maybe I am a bit overly worried about this President being hurt in some way, but given the history of the last four years, I would much rather err on the side of caution.

When All Other Possibilities Are Eliminated...

...the remaining explanation, no matter how bizarre, must be true, according to Sherlock Holmes.  Sometimes that leads to uncomfortable truths.  In the Nation this week Melissa Harris-Perry brings up the theory that some liberals turning on the President right now has at least something to do with an unfair double standard based, in part, on race.

Today, America’s continuing entanglements in Iraq and Afghanistan provoke anger, but while Clinton reduced defense spending, covert military operations were standard practice during his administration.  In terms of criminal justice, Obama signed the Fair Sentencing Act, which decreased judicial disparities in punishment; by contrast, federal incarceration grew exponentially under Clinton. Many argue that Obama is an ineffective leader, but the legislative record for his first two years outpaces Clinton’s first two years. Both men came into power with a Democratically controlled Congress, but both saw a sharp decline in their ability to pass their own legislative agendas once GOP majorities took over one or both chambers.

These comparisons are neither an attack on the Clinton administration nor an apology for the Obama administration. They are comparisons of two centrist Democratic presidents who faced hostile Republican majorities in the second half of their first terms, forcing a number of political compromises. One president is white. The other is black.

In 1996 President Clinton was re-elected with a coalition more robust and a general election result more favorable than his first win. His vote share among women increased from 46 to 53 percent, among blacks from 83 to 84 percent, among independents from 38 to 42 percent, and among whites from 39 to 43 percent.

President Obama has experienced a swift and steep decline in support among white Americans—from 61 percent in 2009 to 33 percent now. I believe much of that decline can be attributed to their disappointment that choosing a black man for president did not prove to be salvific for them or the nation. His record is, at the very least, comparable to that of President Clinton, who was enthusiastically re-elected. The 2012 election is a test of whether Obama will be held to standards never before imposed on an incumbent. If he is, it may be possible to read that result as the triumph of a more subtle form of racism.

Now whether or not you agree with Harris-Perry is actually almost beside the point, the truth of the matter is that if there's one group of Americans that doesn't want to have an honest conversation about race in America more than conservative Republicans, it's liberal Democrats.

Judging from the comments at the Nation article, the Left doesn't even want to entertain the possibility that there may be a racial component to the precipitous drop in support for the President among some groups.  Liberals like myself pride themselves on being open-minded and willing to ask questions, to search for answers, and to discuss and analyze these answer from multiple points of view, it's what being classically liberal means.

But when it comes to race and the Left, there are times when this question should be asked and discussed.  I seriously doubt given the statements by many of the Republicans in this country that anything approaching true racial equality exists in 2011, but even the act of discussing that among liberals, the same way that we as liberals should question and investigate LGBT equality, gender equality, and socioeconomic equality among liberals (a state that is largely accepted) is taboo.

There are lifelong Democrats that have a problem with women in politics, with the LGBT movement, with economic equality.  But to even suggest that there are Democrats and even Liberals who may have issues with race is clearly out of bounds.  I've said time and again that the main reason that Republicans will never address the issue of race in their party is that they can't get past the notion that some of their social mores might be offensive, that racism has to have a deliberate intent to it in order to be racism.

But as many African-Americans such as myself can attest to, or members of the LGBT community, or women, those of various religious persuasions (or those without religious persuasions at all) can attest to as well, intent is not necessary in order to offend.  Republicans at this point dismiss the argument as unwinnable and stomp off in a huff, claiming that there's nothing they can do in order to be perceived as not racist, so that the real issue is that minority groups simply have to learn to be less sensitive.  The issues don't get discussed.

Sadly, judging by the comments section of Melissa Harris-Perry's article, there's a depressingly similar intractability on the left as well, maybe not in breadth or depth as in the right, but it's still there.  When you pride yourself on being open-minded, one often forgets that the state of open-mindedness means that you must always continue to have your beliefs questioned and explored as new information is received and processed.

So yes, kudos for the question being asked.  Now, as a whole, we must continue to explore it.


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