Author Archive | Virtually Yours

Equality by Lot: A Brief Animated History of Sortition

This short animated clip offers a succinct history and explanation of how the ancient Athenians came to use sortition (the selection of random citizens through lottery to fill government roles). It questions whether or not such a system could be used in today’s modern world. Could this ancient practice help eliminate greed and corruption from the political arena by restoring the integrity and efficiency of the democratic process? As America gears up for yet another brutal election cycle, these are worthy questions to be asking…

This clip comes courtesy of the fantastic blog, Equality by Lot, and they have also transcribed the video:

What did democracy really mean in Athens? – Melissa Schwartzberg

Hey, congratulations! You just won the lottery. Only the prize isn’t cash or a luxury cruise. It’s a position in your country’s national legislature. And you aren’t the only lucky winner. All of your fellow lawmakers were chosen in the same way.

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The Abuse of Satire: Garry Trudeau on Charlie Hebdo and Free-Speech Fanaticism

via Gary Trudeau's Biography

via Gary Trudeau’s Biography

Garry Trudeau (author and illustrator of the long-standing comic, Doonesbury) was recently honored with the George Polk Career Award at Long Island University, and he used the opportunity to talk about Charlie Hebdo, free-speech fanaticism, and our growing culture of “punching down.” Trudeau is no stranger to controversy – his strip has been censored numerous times throughout its many decades – so it’s interesting to hear his take on these issues:

The Muhammad cartoon controversy began eight years ago in Denmark, as a protest against “self-censorship,” one editor’s call to arms against what she felt was a suffocating political correctness. The idea behind the original drawings was not to entertain or to enlighten or to challenge authority—her charge to the cartoonists was specifically to provoke, and in that they were exceedingly successful.

Traditionally, satire has comforted the afflicted while afflicting the comfortable. Satire punches up, against authority of all kinds, the little guy against the powerful.

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Stephen Hawking sings Monty Python’s “Galaxy Song”

Via CNN:
Famed cosmologist Stephen Hawking has partnered with the silly lads of Monty Python to recreate the signature "Galaxy Song" from their 1983 film "The Meaning of Life."
... In it, fellow scientist Brian Cox rails against the inaccuracies in "Galaxy Song" when a fed-up Hawking, who has ALS, zooms up in his wheelchair and knocks over Cox. Hawking continues singing the song in his signature computerized voice. The scene is derived from a filmed bit that Monty Python uses during its live shows. "Galaxy Song" song was written by Python member Eric Idle, along with John Du Prez, and is "an intricate and informative lecture on the enormity of the Universe fashioned into a bewitching and, above all, highly amusing pop song," according to the comedy troupe's site.
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Pussy Riot’s First English Single: “I Can’t Breathe”

Via HuffPo:

Pussy Riot members Nadya Tolokonnikova and Masha Alyokhina told The Guardian that they wrote the song after taking part in protests against police brutality in New York last December.

The song, inspired by Garner, is dedicated to people “around the globe who suffer from state terror — killed, choked, perished because of war and state sponsored violence of all kinds,” Pussy Riot wrote on the video’s YouTube page.

“Those words are his, but we hope they can also stand for us and for many around the world, for all who can’t breathe because authorities act with impunity and feel invincible and above the law in using power to humiliate, intimidate, hurt, kill and oppress,” the musicians told The Guardian.

“We’ve known, on our own skin, what police brutality feels like and we can’t be silent on this issue.”

The video, shot in Russia, shows Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina wearing Russian riot police uniforms and being buried alive.

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Cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo: Should We Nominate Them for The Darwin Awards?

On Wednesday night, Jon Stewart said something during his opening monologue on The Daily Show which has continued to bother me and nag at my conscience: “Our goal tonight is not to make sense of this because there is no sense to be made of this.” There is plenty of criticism which has been leveled against both Stewart and Colbert in the past, but I find his unwillingness to acknowledge the underlying factors which contributed to this slaughter to be particularly disturbing. Earlier today, I came across this superb article by Maria Bustillos, titled “How Much Did We Need This Blasphemy?” I can only hope that Stewart gets a chance to read it, and that he might consider amending his monologue with something a little more thoughtful and nuanced:

It is unsurprising in the extreme that the most hawkish, pro-Iraq War, pro-Bush and anti-Islamic conservatives are now falling all over themselves to defend Charlie Hebdo.

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Mummy Dearest: The Resurrection of Peter Wald

Frank and Julia

Frank and Julia

 

Here lies the curious tale of the resurrection that, well…wasn’t quite.

Peter Wald’s family truly believed he would rise from the dead.

They believed it because they had prayed for it, every single day, while his corpse lay rotting for six months in an upstairs bedroom of their Hamilton home.

When neighbours asked about her husband, curious about the 52-year-old man’s seeming disappearance, Kaling Wald would tell them he was “in God’s hands now.”

On Monday, Kaling, 50, pleaded guilty to failing to notify police or the coroner that her husband had died due to a sickness that was not being treated by a doctor. It’s the first known case of its kind (involving the resurrection belief) in Canada.

For more gruesome details concerning the discovery of the corpse, read on here.

What disturbs me the most about this story, however, is the way in which the authorities avoided the elephant in the room (clearly this woman is mentally ill) and also, the impact which this unhinged environment has had upon her poor kids…

As assistant crown attorney Janet Booy put it, the devout Christian woman’s faith had “tainted and warped her better judgment.”

Okay, so far so good.… Read the rest

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The Rubble Challenge: A Palestinian Response to the Ice Bucket Challenge

 

Screenshot from أيمن العالول دلو الركام YouTube Video.

Screenshot from أيمن العالول دلو الركام YouTube Video.

 

It was only a matter of time before someone copied the idea of the ice bucket challenge for their own purposes, though this rubble challenge seems particularly powerful and poignant…

An appeal to garner support for Gaza which imitates the wildly popular ALS Ice Bucket Challenge but uses rubble and dirt instead of cold water is picking up steam on social media. “I have to do something and to send a message all over the world about Gaza,” said Ayman al Aloul, a journalist who started the so-called Rubble Bucket Challenge on Saturday. When the 42-year-old discussed the idea with friends, some suggested that he use either a bucket of blood or shrapnel. “It came to my mind that it’s good idea to show the whole picture – how Gaza looks now, rubble, destruction, cement with sand, small rocks,” Aloul said.

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90-Year-Old Holocaust Survivor/Palestinian Rights Activist Arrested During Michael Brown Protest

Hedy Epstein is a 90-year-old Holocaust survivor, as well as a Palestinian rights activist, and she was arrested on Monday while participating in a protest relating to the murder of Michael Brown:

Epstein, who aided Allied forces in the Nuremberg trials, was placed under arrest in downtown St. Louis, Missouri, “for failing to disperse” during a protest of Gov. Jay Nixon’s decision to call the National Guard into Ferguson. Eight others were also arrested.

“I’ve been doing this since I was a teenager. I didn’t think I would have to do it when I was 90,” Epstein told The Nation during her arrest. “We need to stand up today so that people won’t have to do this when they’re 90.”

Hedy is no stranger when it comes to activism and fighting for social justice:

In 2001 she founded the St. Louis chapter of the Women in Black anti-war group that originated in Israel, and has actively advocated for Palestinian rights since visiting the West Bank in 2003.

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You Can Now View the Military Gear Acquired by Your Local Police Department

If you are curious to know what kind of military gear your local police department has received through the government’s 1033 program, you can check out this spreadsheet over on GitHub which contains:

county-level data showing military equipment given to state and local law enforcement agencies through the Defense Department’s 1033 program. The data was received from the Defense Department in May 2014 as an Excel file, and includes transfers since 2006.

However, it is also important to note the following:

There is no information about which agency received a given piece of equipment. Items that went to a county could have been given to a state agency based in that county, for example.

This data does not represent all of the military-style gear that law enforcement agencies have. Agencies also purchase equipment with their own money or with federal grants.

This information comes courtesy of The New York Times, by way of the Pentagon:

In May, The New York Times requested and received from the Pentagon its database of transfers since 2006.

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#OpFerguson: Martial Law, Demilitarization & Camera-Wearing Cops

 

On Thursday, Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) went on MSNBC and voiced his opinion that Obama should declare martial law in Ferguson, Missouri:

“Ferguson, Missouri, is part of the United States of America. People have a right to protest. They have a right to dissent. They have a right to march in an orderly, peaceful, nonviolent fashion. And the press has a right to cover it. So my own feeling, right now, is that President Obama should use the authority of his office to declare martial law. Federalize the Missouri National Guard to protect people as they protest.”

A disturbing suggestion, though I can sympathize with the level of intensity which prompted it…the anger, frustration, and seeming helplessness. Thankfully, it sounds like things have calmed down somewhat since Lewis made that statement, and without the need to escalate matters even further:

Just 24 hours after police SWAT trucks, riot gear and tear gas defined protests of Michael Brown’s shooting death in Ferguson, Missouri, an entirely different scene appeared on Thursday.

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