Tag Archives | Society

War Is the New Normal

Moyan Brenn (CC BY 2.0)

Moyan Brenn (CC BY 2.0)

Via William J. Astore at TomDispatch:

It was launched immediately after the 9/11 attacks, when I was still in the military, and almost immediately became known as the Global War on Terror, or GWOT.  Pentagon insiders called it “the long war,” an open-ended, perhaps unending, conflict against nations and terror networks mainly of a radical Islamist bent.  It saw the revival of counterinsurgency doctrine, buried in the aftermath of defeat in Vietnam, and a reinterpretation of that disaster as well.  Over the years, its chief characteristic became ever clearer: a “Groundhog Day” kind of repetition.  Just when you thought it was over (Iraq, Afghanistan), just after victory (of a sort) was declared, it began again.

Now, as we find ourselves enmeshed in Iraq War 3.0, what better way to memorialize the post-9/11 American way of war than through repetition.  Back in July 2010, I wrote an article for TomDispatch on the seven reasons why America can’t stop making war.  More than four years later, with the war on terror still ongoing, with the mission eternally unaccomplished, here’s a fresh take on the top seven reasons why never-ending war is the new normal in America.  In this sequel, I make only one promise: no declarations of victory (and mark it on your calendars, I’m planning to be back with seven new reasons in 2019).

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The loneliness of the long-distance drone pilot

Aaron Sankin via The Kernel:

Bruce Black had been preparing for this moment for most of his life.

Growing up, he always wanted to be a pilot. After graduating from New Mexico State University in 1984 with a degree in geology, Black was commissioned as an officer in the Air Force. He spent years as an instructor pilot before quitting to join the FBI, where he specialized in chasing down white-collar criminals, but the pull of military was too strong. He eventually found himself in the air above Afghanistan.

Black flew constantly. Once, in the spring of 2007, Black’s job was to serve as another set of eyes high above a firefight happening on the ground. An Army convoy had been patrolling near a site of a previous strike and gotten ambushed by Taliban fighters while returning to base. Black was acting as a crucial communications relay, sending life-and-death updates back and forth from the men and women on the ground to the Pentagon and a network of support staff located around the world through the military’s version of the Internet.

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Rollerball Amerika 2015

rollerballdvdVia Philip A. Farruggio – World News Trust:

You must see or revisit Norman Jewison’s 1975 film Rollerball, starring James Caan as superstar player Jonathan E.

In it, we see a world no longer made up of countries, but of corporations that control every bit of life for the people. There are no longer wars, just a complacent populace who “go along to get along.”

A very select few are chosen by the corporations to become executives, giving them elite status. It seems everyone loves the violent sport Rollerball, which is like our current NFL football on steroids.

Jonathan E. is their Michael Jordan or Lebron James superplayer who is revered worldwide, even by the fans of opposing teams. He has everything a man could wish to have: a fine sprawling ranch, with servants and horses, and gorgeous female companions chosen for him by the Energy corporation that rules Houston and the surrounding areas.

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Living Bits: Information and the Origin of Life

Image: Flickr user Tau Zero, adapted under a Creative Commons license.

Image: Flickr user Tau Zero, adapted under a Creative Commons license.

Via Chris Adami at PBS.org:

What is life?

When Erwin Schrödinger posed this question in 1944, in a book of the same name, he was 57 years old. He had won the Nobel in Physics eleven years earlier, and was arguably past his glory days. Indeed, at that time he was working mostly on his ill-fated “Unitary Field Theory.” By all accounts, the publication of “What is Life?”—venturing far outside of a theoretical physicist’s field of expertise—raised many eyebrows. How presumptuous for a physicist to take on one of the deepest questions in biology! But Schrödinger argued that science should not be compartmentalized:

“Some of us should venture to embark on a synthesis of facts and theories, albeit with second-hand and incomplete knowledge of some of them—and at the risk of making fools of ourselves.”

Schrödinger’s “What is Life” has been extraordinarily influential, in one part because he was one of the first who dared to ask the question seriously, and in another because it was the book that was read by a good number of physicists—famously both Francis Crick and James Watson independently, but also many a member of the “Phage group,” a group of scientists that started the field of bacterial genetics—and steered them to new careers in biology.

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American Academy of Pediatrics Calls For Rescheduling Cannabis

Dank Depot (CC BY 2.0)

Dank Depot (CC BY 2.0)

Via NORML

An updated policy statement issued this week by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) calls for federally rescheduling cannabis in order to better facilitate clinical trial research and to promote its pharmaceutical development.

The new position statement resolves: “The AAP strongly supports research and development of pharmaceutical cannabinoids and supports a review of policies promoting research on the medical use of these compounds. The AAP recommends changing marijuana from a Drug Enforcement Administration Schedule I (controlled substance) to a Schedule II drug to facilitate this (clinical) research.”

By definition, Schedule I controlled substances are defined as possessing no “accepted medical use.” Clinical protocols involving cannabis are strictly controlled and require authorization from various federal agencies, including DEA, FDA, and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) – the latter of which is designated under federal law as the sole provider of cannabis and/or organic cannabinoids for research purposes.

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A waste of talent? Making space for autism in engineering

Notoriously difficult to get along with and ruthlessly focused, Isaac Newton is now believed to have been on the autistic spectrum.

Notoriously difficult to get along with and ruthlessly focused, Isaac Newton is now believed to have been on the autistic spectrum.

Via the ENGINEER

What would you think if I told you that there was a group of people within our society that probably contained amongst their members some of the greatest engineers, scientists and inventor’s humanity has ever produced? Amongst its members are likely to be Einstein, Tesla and Newton as well as many of the luminaries that were responsible for the dotcom boom and the explosion of Silicon Valley in the world’s most concentrated area of business wealth. I presume you would, as engineering companies would want a way to identify this group of people and to get them to work for their business if possible. What if I went on to tell you that only 15% of this group actually find full time work as adults? Would you think this was nonsense?

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The Revolution of Everyday Life: The Decline and Fall of Work

JD Hancock (CC BY 2.0)

JD Hancock (CC BY 2.0)

by Raoul Vaneigem at The Situationist International Text Library

The duty to produce alienates the passion for creation. Productive labour is part and parcel of the technology of law and order. The working day grows shorter as the empire of conditioning extends.In an industrial society which confuses work and productivity, the necessity of producing has always been an enemy of the desire to create. What spark of humanity, of a possible creativity, can remain alive in a being dragged out of sleep at six every morning, jolted about in suburban trains, deafened by the racket of machinery, bleached and steamed by meaningless sounds and gestures, spun dry by statistical controls, and tossed out at the end of the day into the entrance halls of railway stations, those cathedrals of departure for the hell of weekdays and the nugatory paradise of weekends, where the crowd communes in weariness and boredom?

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U.S. to Develop DNA Study of One Million People

thierry ehrmann (CC BY 2.0)

thierry ehrmann (CC BY 2.0)

Antonio Regalado via Technology Review:

President Barack Obama is proposing to spend $215 million on a “precision medicine” initiative the centerpiece of which will be a national study involving the health records and DNA of one million volunteers, administration officials said yesterday.Precision medicine refers to treatments tailored to a person’s genetic profile, an idea already transforming how doctors fight cancer and some rare diseases.

The Obama plan, including support for studies of cancer and rare disease, is part of a shift away from “one-size-fits-all” medicine, Jo Handelsman, associate director for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, said in a briefing yesterday. She called precision medicine “a game changer that holds the potential to revolutionize how we approach health in this country and around the world.”

The White House said the largest part of the money, $130 million, would go to the National Institutes of Health in order to create a population-scale study of how peoples’ genes, environment, and lifestyle affect their health.

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History of War Tax Resistance

Mat Honan (CC BY 2.0)

Mat Honan (CC BY 2.0)

Via War Resisters League

Refusing to pay taxes for war is probably as old as the first taxes levied for warfare.

Up until World War II, war tax resistance in the U.S. primarily manifested itself among members of the historic peace churches — Quakers, Mennonites, and Brethren — and usually only during times of war. There have been instances of people refusing to pay taxes for war in virtually every American war, but it was not until World War II and the establishment of a permanent, centralized U.S. military (symbolized by the building of the Pentagon) was the modern war tax resistance movement born.

Colonial America

One of the earliest known instances of war tax refusal took place in 1637 when the relatively peaceable Algonquin Indians opposed taxation by the Dutch to help improve a local Dutch fort. Shortly after the Quakers arrived in America (1656) there were a number of individual instances of war tax resistance.

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