Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Casey Anthony, O.J. and Steven Truscott

Guilt or not guilty. How do I know? How do you know? How does anybody know including the judge, the jury and the public? Yes, there is evidence. Yes, there are the circumstances. But is there reasonable doubt? Can anybody say with one hundred percent certainty that anybody is guilty or not guilty? And what do you do when after everything is said and done, the final argument is that one party says one thing and the other party says something else?

Like everybody else, I followed the DSK affair. Like everybody else, I heard the extraordinary tale of a sexual encounter between a very, very powerful man and a lowly poor immigrant hotel employee. Like everybody else, I heard some damning stories about past indiscretions. Was he guilty? Certainly he seemed to be condemned in the press and in the eyes of the public. Rape is a serious charge and who isn't against rape? Of course, the infamous "perp walk" with photographs sent around the world showing a man in handcuffs being escorted by police to a squad car had such an atmosphere of guilt that who wouldn't think DSK was culpable?

Now that all charges have been dropped against Strauss-Kahn and he is a free man once again, it is interesting to mull over how the credibility of the witness completely unravelled over the past couple of months. The woman in question, Nafissatou Diallo, lied about what took place immediately after the event. (Wikipedia: Prosecution disclosures) She lied on her asylum application. She claimed to have one phone and yet paid for five phones. She had deposited nearly $100,000 in the past two years from known felons. She phoned her boyfriend who was being held in an immigration detention centre a day after the incident and supposedly said, "Don’t worry, this guy has a lot of money. I know what I’m doing." Was she raped or was this a plot to extort money from a rich man? Will anyone ever really know the truth? It has been reported that Diallo filed a civil action against Strauss-Kahn on August 8, 2011.

Casey Anthony
A two year old girl goes missing and her remains are found six months later. Piecing together the information leads to a fairly bizarre story: a mother who doesn't report her own daughter's disappearance, a mother who lies several times to police, a car belonging to the mother with a smell in the trunk very much akin to the smell of a decaying body, etc. I wrote about the case in "The burden of proof: Casey Anthony, not guilty" and how the prosecution seems to have failed to conclusively show how the girl died.

This case has caused a hue and cry in the United States and with good cause. In looking at the story and hearing the evidence, it seems so obvious what the truth is, it is difficult to believe there could be a verdict other than guilty.

Will anyone ever really know the truth? Is Casey Anthony not guilty or is she now free because the legal process failed in some way?

O. J. Simpson
The criminal trial of O. J. Simpson lasted from January 29 to October 3, 1995 and ended with Simpson being acquitted for the murders of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman. However the Brown and Goldman families sued Simpson for damages in a civil trial and on February 6, 1997, a jury unanimously found Simpson liable for damages.

Mr. Simpson announced after the trials that he would continue to look for the killer. However over the years, several people have come forward claiming that O. J. has confessed to them. Who else could have done this? One private investigator put forward the idea that it was Simpson's son, Jason Simpson, who committed the murders. Will anyone ever really know the truth?

Deus ex machina
This Latin phrase which means "god out of the machine" refers to a plot device whereby the author gets the hero out of a seemingly inextricable predicament by introducing something new and possibly fantastic. The main character is trapped? He gets rescued by an angel. The main character is faced with an earth-wide cataclysmic event? A passing space ship swoops him away thus escaping death.

Obviously the criticism of such a plot device is that it is a cheap and easy way out of a predicament. Rather than coming up with a plausible and possible explanation, the author who may see himself backed into a corner introduces something totally bizarre and unexpected like an angel, a god, a superpower or god only knows what. Some consider this to be undesirable in writing as it implies a lack of creativity on the part of the author. It doesn't necessarily pay due regard to the story's internal logic and because of the unlikely nature of the event, requires a suspension of disbelief. Granted science fiction with its space travel or superpowers as the initial premise requires a certain suspension of disbelief but sometimes the exit from the inextricable predicament turns out to require a suspension of disbelief which is, well, unbelievable.

If it walks like a duck
It's an old saying but is it a valid one? In each of the above cases, Strauss-Kahn, Anthony and Simpson, it is difficult to believe that the defendants are not guilty of the crimes they are accused of. Nevertheless in each case, the prosecution failed to prove its case and the accused now walks free. Since the obvious doesn't seem to be true, is there a deus ex machina? Will O. J. Simpson in his supposed hunt for the "real killer" eventually turn up the actual perpetrator? Will somebody other than Casey Anthony finally confess to having killed the two year old girl? Is Diallo guilty of a plan to extort money from Strauss-Kahn?

100% Guilty
I remember watching a TV murder mystery that opened with a scene where the protagonist arrives at the apartment of a bitter rival. The door is partially open. The person enters to find his rival murdered on the floor. The protagonist squats next to the body then picks up a bloody knife to examine it. Just then the police burst in and as you can guess, they are pretty sure who the culprit is. The rest of the show has somebody, usually a rogue detective or a Miss Marple armed with just a hunch digging through the evidence to discover who the real killer is.

If you're not guilty, you have nothing to worry about
Actually, that statement should be rewritten as, "If you're not accused of anything, you have nothing to worry about." How would you like to be handcuffed then perp walked to a waiting police cruiser? Don't forget that your photo will be published on page one. Even if a jury eventually finds you innocent, that story of acquittal will appear on page 15, column 2, paragraph 5.

Steven Truscott
On June 9, 1959, 12-year-old Lynn Harper disappeared near Clinton, Ontario, a town about 110 miles (180 kilometres) west of Toronto. Her body was discovered on June 11 in a wooded lot. The girl had been strangled with her own blouse and raped.

Steven Truscott, a 14-year-old school mate, gave her a ride on the crossbar of his bicycle in the early evening of June 9 claiming he dropped her at a crossroad then continued on. He maintains that when he arrived at a bridge, he looked back and saw a car stopped at the crossroad and Harper entering it.

At the trial the evidence was for the most part circumstantial centered on placing Harper's death within the narrow time frame which implicated Truscott. Truscott was found guilty and sentenced to be hanged. An appeal was dismissed however the government commuted his sentence to life imprisonment.

During the 1960s, several attempts were made to retry the case however each time saw any new testimony dismissed as being too incredible. Truscott remained incarcerated until 1969 when he was released on parole. He eventually married and had three children.

New interest in the case came after an investigative television series ran an episode on Truscott. The government decided to review the case and new evidence came to light as to whether the original case was airtight in its rendering of the events.

The original trial presented as evidence an autopsy performed by Dr. John Penistan, the regional pathologist. He claimed that based on the contents of Lynn Harper's stomach, he could conclusively assert that the girl died between 7pm and 7:45pm on June 9, 1959 which would make Steven Truscott the most likely suspect and consequently, guilty due to no other suspect. However, a new review stated that the use of the stomach contents to ascertain the time of death cannot withstand scientific scrutiny and expert evidence now confirms she could have died much later. Add to this that the court had access to undisclosed autopsy reports authored by Penistan placing Harper's time of death much later on June 9, possibly as late as June 10. Plus Penistan prepared a report in 1966 for the OPP (Ontario provincial Police) in which he reappraised his own trial testimony and conceded that it was plausible that Lynne Harper could have been murdered at a later time. Testimony from some other kids who saw Truscott on the bridge came to light but was dismissed at the original trial. Police knew of people of interest with cars like the one Truscott described. None of this information came out at the original 1959 trial or in subsequent reviews during the 1960s.

On August 28, 2007, Truscott was acquitted of the charges. Truscott's defence team had originally asked for a declaration of factual innocence, which would mean that Truscott would be declared innocent, and not merely unable to be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Although they issued the acquittal, the court said it was not in a position to declare Truscott innocent of the crime. "The appellant has not demonstrated his factual innocence," the court wrote. "At this time, and on the totality of the record, we are in no position to make a declaration of innocence."

Attorney General of Ontario Michael Bryant apologized to Truscott on behalf of the provincial government, stating they were "truly sorry" for the miscarriage of justice. (Wikipedia)

Final Word
Guilty or not guilty? Did Dominique Strauss-Kahn rape Nafissatou Diallo or was this an extortion plot? Did Casey Anthony actually murder her daughter or was the death an accident and she's guilty of being a negligent mother? If O. J. is truly guilty of murder, how was he acquitted?

Steven Truscott was nearly hanged for the murder of Lynn Harper. Instead he spent 10 years in jail and has been labelled a murderer his entire life. In reading about the case, it is obvious that many pieces of evidence and witnesses did not make it into the original trial. On top of it, much of the circumstantial link between Truscott and Harper was based on an autopsy which the doctor himself later recanted.

Guilty or not guilty? It is interesting to note that while the court acquitted Steven Truscott of murder, it did not declare him innocent. In other words, the court said that the case did not prove him to be guilty but it also did not prove him to be innocent. You only need to be not guilty to go free.


References

Wikipedia: New York v. Strauss-Kahn
New York v. Strauss-Kahn is the criminal case relating to the allegations of sexual assault and attempted rape made by a hotel maid, Nafissatou Diallo, against Dominique Strauss-Kahn at the Sofitel New York Hotel on May 14, 2011. On August 23, 2011, the judge formally dismissed all charges based on the prosecutors' assertions, including that the maid's "pattern of lies" had "made it impossible to trust her."

Wikipedia: Death of Caylee Anthony
Caylee Marie Anthony (August 9, 2005 – June 16, 2008) was a two-year-old girl reported missing in Orlando, Florida in July 2008, whose remains were found in a wooded area near her home in December 2008. Her 22-year-old mother, Casey Anthony, was acquitted of first degree murder, but convicted of lying to police officers, in a televised trial in the summer of 2011 that was described by Time magazine as "the social media trial of the century".

my blog - July 7/2011
The burden of proof: Casey Anthony, not guilty
This case has caused a hue and cry in the United States and with good cause. In looking at the story and hearing the evidence, it seems so obvious what the truth is, it is difficult to believe there could be a verdict other than guilty.

Wikipedia: O. J. Simpson murder case
The O. J. Simpson murder case (officially called the People of the State of California v. Orenthal James Simpson) was a criminal trial held in Los Angeles County, California Superior Court from January 29 to October 3, 1995. Former American football star and actor O. J. Simpson was tried on two counts of murder following the June, 1994 deaths of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman. The case has been described as the most publicized criminal trial in American history. Ultimately, Simpson was acquitted after a lengthy trial that lasted over nine months which was presided over by Judge Lance Ito.

Later, both the Brown and Goldman families sued Simpson for damages in a civil trial. On February 6, 1997, a jury unanimously found there was a preponderance of evidence to hold Simpson liable for damages in the wrongful death of Goldman and battery of Brown. On February 21, 2008, a Los Angeles court upheld a renewal of the civil judgment against him.

Wikipedia: Deus ex machina
A deus ex machina (Latin: "god out of the machine"; plural: dei ex machina) is a plot device whereby a seemingly inextricable problem is suddenly and abruptly solved with the contrived and unexpected intervention of some new event, character, ability, or object.

Wikipedia: Steven Truscott
Steven Murray Truscott (born January 18, 1945 in Vancouver, British Columbia) is a Canadian man who was sentenced to death in 1959, when he was a 14-year old student, for the murder of classmate Lynne Harper. His death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment, and he continued to maintain his innocence until 2007, when his conviction was declared a miscarriage of justice and he was formally acquitted of the crime.

Toronto Star - Aug 29/2007
Truscott acquittal weighed
An autopsy conducted later by Dr. John Penistan, the regional pathologist, yielded perhaps the most crucial and damning evidence in the case. The court's finding yesterday was that Penistan's conclusions were scientifically unsound and that provided the basis for quashing Truscott's conviction.

Press Guide for the book
"Until You Are Dead": Steven Truscott's Long Ride Into History by Julian Sher (PDF)
Police never seriously looked at other potential suspects in the case. The fifth estate documentary revealed the ominous presence of Alexander Kalichuk in the area. The book reveals more information about Sgt. Kalichuk, a "sexual deviant" according to secret air force reports, who lived near Clinton and was arrested for attempting to lure a young girl into his car less than three weeks before Harper's murder. The book also identifies other suspects police overlooked: among them a lifeguard at the air base who sexually abused his young daughters and a convicted rapist who knew Lynne Harper's father.

Amazon
"Until You Are Dead": Steven Truscott's Long Ride into History by Julian Sher
Paperback: 592 pages
Publisher: Vintage Canada (Aug 13 2002)
The nub of the prosecution case centred on the time when Lynne Harper was killed. Lynne Harpers' body had been examined by a pathologist from Stratford, Ontario, Dr. John Penistan. The time of Lynne's last meal was known, and on the basis of a visual examination of her partly-digested stomach contents, he placed the time of death between 7:15 and 7:45 p.m., 9 June, 1959. The only person known to have been with Harper at that time was Truscott. Penistan's evidence put Truscott on death row. Penistan later had doubts, but it was too late to help Truscott. The Supreme Court heard an expert who defended Penistan's estimate, and heard another whose analysis of it was devastating. Nowadays, science has moved on, and no pathologist would pinpoint time of death with such accuracy on the basis of speed of digestion. But the justices on the Supreme Court bench were not scientists. They decided that the jurors had heard the pros and cons with regard to Penistan's judgement of the time of death, and their decision should stand. They upheld Truscott's conviction.

official web site: Julian Sher
As a producer at CBC TV’s the fifth estate, Julian Sher spent two years investigating the Steven Truscott story for an explosive documentary.

2011-08-31

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Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Shane Koyczan: author, poet and performance artist

This 35-year-old Canadian seems to have started like most of us, in relative obscurity, being born in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories and growing up in Penticton, British Columbia. These are not necessarily hubs of artistic development in the country but then again, we all start somewhere. However the year 2000 was a watershed in Mr. Koyczan's career when he won first place in the National Poetry Slam in Providence, Rhode Island.

For those not quite in the know, let's cover some terminology. (Remember that the word "slam" means to criticise.) A "poetry slam" is a competition where poets read or recite usually original work and are then judged on a numeric scale. The judges may be previously selected members of the audience or possibly somebody of literary importance depending on the formality of the contest. While the performance centers on the poetry, costumes, props and acting may enter into the presentation which makes it more performance art than just a simple recitation. The National Poetry Slam is the mother of all slams occurring every year in early August in a different U.S. city. Note that a "book slam" is the same idea but where the content is part of a book or a short story.

In 2003, Koyczan formed a musical, spoken word trio called Tons of Fun University with fellow Canadian poet C. R. Avery and American poet Mike McGee which resulted in the 2005 album "The Them They're Talking About".

Koyczan published a collection of poems in 2005 called Visiting Hours (Amazon) which ended up on the lists Best Books of 2005 in the newspapers The Guardian of Britain and Canada's The Globe and Mail.

Canadian television documentary series Heart of a Poet featured Koyczan in a 2007 episode broadcast on Bravo! They write: Award-winning, spoken word sensation Shane Koyczan delivers his dynamic performance to a jam-packed house in Vancouver and proves his ranking as one of the top slam poets in the world. Koyczan is the winner of the U.S. National Poetry Slam, The Canadian Spoken Word Olympics, the CBC Poetry Face-Off, and author of ‘Visiting Hours’, published by Mother Press.

On February 12, 2010, Shane Koyczan performed at the Opening Ceremony of the 2010 Winter Olympics held in Vancouver, British Columbia. He recited a variation of his poem We Are More which had been originally commissioned by the Canadian Tourism Commission for the Canada Day festivities on Parliament Hill, Ottawa held on July 1st 2007. (A video of the poem is below in References section.)

I recently "ran across" a link to the following video. I had never heard of Shane Koyczan. I knew nothing of his work. However I discovered some things: slam poetry, recitation as performance art and Shane Koyczan. This man writes good words. He delivers them in a captivating manner. His presence on stage has a certain commanding quality as when he's there, you can't look away. I usually think of words as something I read. I had forgotten that words are also something I hear. I can read someone but I can also listen to someone and with the process of somebody actively presenting their words comes a different experience with a difference message or at least a different delivery of their message.


Uploaded by Bookslam on Jan 7, 2008
'Visiting Hours' by Shane Koyczan @ Book Slam
Canadian poet Shane Koyczan performing at Book Slam, London's best night of words and music.



Published on Feb 19, 2013 by Shane Koyczan
To This Day Project
Help this message have a far reaching and long lasting effect in confronting bullying. "My experiences with violence in schools still echo throughout my life but standing to face the problem has helped me in immeasurable ways. Schools and families are in desperate need of proper tools to confront this problem. This piece is a starting point." -Shane



Final Word
Poetry slam. Book slam. The spoken word. Who knew? Or had I forgotten?


References

official web site: Shane Koyczan
Shane Koyczan is an award winning Canadian Poet, Author and Performer.

Twitter: Shane Koyczan

Facebook: Shane Koyczan

Wikipedia: Shane Koyczan
Shane L. Koyczan (born 22 May 1976) is a Canadian poet and writer. Born in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Koyczan grew up in Penticton, British Columbia. In 2000, he became the first Canadian to win the Individual Championship title at the US National Poetry Slam. Together with Mighty Mike McGee and C. R. Avery, he is the co-founder of spoken word, "talk rock" trio, Tons of Fun University (T.O.F.U.). In August 2007 Shane Koyczan and his work were the subject of an episode of the television documentary series Heart of a Poet, produced by Canadian filmmaker Maureen Judge for broadcaster Bravo!.

Wikipedia: National Poetry Slam
The National Poetry Slam (NPS) is a performance poetry competition where teams from across the United States, Canada, and France participate in a large-scale poetry slam. The event occurs in early August every year and takes place in a different US city.

Wikipedia: Poetry slam
A poetry slam is a competition at which poets read or recite original work (or, more rarely, that of others). These performances are then judged on a numeric scale by previously selected members of the audience.

Urban Dictionary: Slam book
[This is "slam book" as opposed to "book slam".]
A spiral notebook with the name of a jr. or sr. high girl (usually) written on the top line. The books is passed around among classmates who write nasty things (slam) on the page under the girl's name.

Shane Koyczan and the Short Story Long
[This is a collection of "musical pieces", that is Shane speaking with musical accompaniment.]
Shane Koyczan and the Short Story Long are based in the interior of British Columbia. They have been creating a buzz since their start in 2006. The quartet is made up of Shane Koyczan (poet), Maiya Robbie (guitarist/vocalist), Stefan Bienz (bassist/vocalist) and Olivia Mennell (pianist/vocalist). While Shane is responsible for the moving poetry, the band moves right along with him, setting the tone and backdrop of energy that resonates. (Apt 613)

House of Parlance Media Inc.
House of Parlance is a new media company and trade book publisher inspired by literary and visual storytelling. We work with authors, writers, artists, illustrators and spoken word poets. From high-quality titles to electronic media, our works promote new connections between artists, authors, and their worldwide audiences.

Visiting Hours by Shane Koyczan
Visiting Hours is Shane’s incredibly well-received first collection, which was a Guardian and a Globe and Mail Best Book of the Year.

Wikipedia: Tons of Fun University
Tons of Fun University is a musical, spoken word trio based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, which formed in 2003. It consists of Canadian poets Shane Koyczan and C. R. Avery, and American poet Mighty Mike McGee.

Amazon: Visiting Hours by Shyane Koyczan
Paperback: 112 pages
Publisher: House of Parlance Media, Inc.; 3rd edition (September 1, 2005)
The first book of poetry published by internationally renowned spoken word performer, Shane Koyczan. Voted to *Best Books of 2005* lists in the Guardian (UK) and Globe and Mail newspapers.

The Vancouver Sun - Feb 7/2011
On stage: Feel the fear, do it anyway by Francois Marchand
Almost one year ago to the day, Shane Koyczan confronted an audience of millions. Taking centre stage at the Opening Ceremonies for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, the slam poet stood by his lonesome to deliver his ode to being Canadian, We Are More, during an event televised worldwide.

Wikipedia: 2010 Winter Olympics opening ceremony
The Opening Ceremony of the 2010 Winter Olympics was held on February 12, 2010 beginning at 6:00 pm PST at BC Place Stadium in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Shane Koyczan performed slam poetry, a variation on his "We Are More". Performers formed a giant maple leaf around Koyczan with red flares to end off his section.

Uploaded by canadiantourism on Feb 12, 2010
We Are More by Shane Koyczan
[There are videos of Koyczan's performance at the opening ceremony of the Olympic Winters Games but the sound quality is such that it is sometimes hard to hear him. This video is a little more intimate and much easier to understand. By the way, I was going to include a transcript of the poem but discovered Koyczan keeps improvising a slightly different version each time he recites this. I will leave it to you the reader to listen carefully.]



Google video search: "Shane Koyczan"

2011-08-30

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Monday, 29 August 2011

Eyeborg: The Six Thousand Dollar Man

The word "cyborg", coined back in 1960, refers to a being which incorporates both mechanical and organic parts usually with the idea of an organism having enhanced abilities due to technology. The older crowd (Older? What the heck does that mean?) are probably acquainted with the seventies television series The Six Million Dollar Man where lead character, Steve Austin, is badly hurt in a plane crash but comes back as something of a super-human having had his right arm, both legs and his left eye replaced by bionic implants. In these more modern times, who's not familiar with the Borg of Star Trek or the Terminator?

Rob Spence, a Toronto film maker, lost his sight as a child in a shooting accident. Complications arose and six years ago, he actually had the eyeball removed from its socket. Being a fan of the 1970s television series The Six Million Dollar Man, he apparently had a flash of inspiration when looking at his cell phone camera and realised something that small could fit into his empty eye socket.

Spence contacted an engineer in 2009 to work on the idea of building an eye camera. Step number one turned out to be asking an ocularist to make a mould of the eye to figure out how much space they had to work. This turned out to be tiny, very tiny.

However they found the answer in a camera which was only 3.2mm squared from a California company specializing in the miniature cameras found in cell phones, laptops and endoscopes. It had a resolution of 328x250pixels. They found a battery measuring just 5x9x10mm and included a wireless transmitter. Everything was connected by a printed circuit board that had the same thickness of a piece of paper. His prosthetic eye gave him the power to record exactly what he's looking at as digital video and this prototype was named by Time Magazine as one of the best inventions of 2009. (The Eyeborg)

Fast forward to 2011 and the release of the game Deus Ex: Human Revolution from the computer game developer Eidos Interactive, now part of Square Enix. Set in the year 2027, the story is about Adam Jensen who is horrifically injured in an attack and ends up with many parts of his body replaced by technology. The company Square Enix, to promote their game, commissioned Rob Spencer to make a trip around the globe to investigate the field of prosthetics. The 12 minute video posted on YouTube is a bit of an eye opener to those of us who have never had to deal with the tragedy of losing a body part. Yes, there's the problem of coping but then there are the surprising advancements in technology which clearly point to a future not unlike what was conjectured in The Six Million Dollar Man and further explored in the game Deus Ex: Human Revolution.


Uploaded by DeusExOfficial on Aug 25, 2011
Deus Ex: The Eyeborg Documentary (12:33 minutes)
To celebrate the launch of critically acclaimed video game DEUS EX: HUMAN REVOLUTION, Square Enix has commissioned filmmaker Rob Spence aka Eyeborg (a self proclaimed cyborg who lost an eye replaced it with a wireless video camera) to investigate prosthetics, cybernetics and human augmentation. How far are we from the future presented to us in DEUS EX: HUMAN REVOLUTION?




Final Word
Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a computer game. The Six Million Dollar Man was a television show. However the idea of replacing body parts with technology is very real. It is no longer the wooden peg of your tradition cinematic pirate but a functional, computer enhanced replacement part which is getting closer to mimicking the real thing. While there is still a long way to go before these technological prosthetics replace all the functionality of an actual body part, the current stage of development shows clearly that the stuff of science fiction is slowly turning into science fact. Yes, we will eventually see a six million dollar man but by then, one would expect the price to have dropped considerably.


References

Wikipedia: Rob Spence (film producer)
Rob Spence (also known as "the Eyeborg guy" and "Robert Spence") is a film-maker based in Toronto, Canada. As a teenager, he lost his eyesight in his right eye due to a shooting accident on his grandfather's farm. He has decided to embed a small video transmitter camera in his prosthetic eye.

official web site: Eyeborg
Take a one eyed film maker, an unemployed engineer, and a vision for something that’s never been done before and you have yourself the EyeBorg Project. Rob Spence and Kosta Grammatis are trying to make history by embedding a video camera and a transmitter in a prosthetic eye. That eye is going in Robs eye socket, and will record the world from a perspective that’s never been seen before.

Wikipedia: The Six Million Dollar Man
The Six Million Dollar Man is an American television series about a former astronaut with bionic implants working for the OSI (which was usually referred to as the Office of Scientific Intelligence, the Office of Scientific Investigation or the Office of Strategic Intelligence). The show was based on the novel Cyborg by Martin Caidin, and during pre-production, that was the proposed title of the series. It aired on the ABC network as a regular series from 1974 to 1978, following three television movies aired in 1973. The title role of Steve Austin was played by Lee Majors, who subsequently became a pop culture icon of the 1970s. A spin-off of the show was produced, The Bionic Woman, as well as several television movies featuring both eponymous characters.

Wikipedia: Cyborg
A cyborg is a being with both biological and artificial (e.g. electronic, mechanical or robotic) parts. The term was coined in 1960 when Manfred Clynes and Nathan Kline used it in an article about the advantages of self-regulating human-machine systems in outer space.

Wikipedia: Deus ex machina
A deus ex machina (Latin: "god out of the machine"; plural: dei ex machina) is a plot device whereby a seemingly inextricable problem is suddenly and abruptly solved with the contrived and unexpected intervention of some new event, character, ability, or object.

Wikipedia: Deus Ex
Deus Ex (abbreviated DX) is a cyberpunk-themed action role-playing game developed by Ion Storm Inc. and published by Eidos Interactive in 2000, which combines gameplay elements of first-person shooters with those of role-playing video games. The game received near-universal critical and industry acclaim, including being named "Best PC Game of All Time" in PC Gamer's Top 100 PC Games.

Uploaded by telegraphtv on Aug 26, 2011
Amazing 'Eyeborg' man replaces lost eye with wireless video camera
Rob Spence is the documentary maker who films through a camera fitted into his prosthetic eye.



Uploaded on Sep 3, 2011 by bigpotplant
Eyeborg Man Rob Spence Fits Video Camera Into Prosthetic Eye


***********

The following is not related to the above project even though it has the same name.

Wikipedia: Eyeborg
An eyeborg or eye-borg is a cybernetic body apparatus which typically fits on the wearer's head, and is designed to allow people to perceive color through sound waves. It is mostly used by blind people or by people with visual impairments such as color blindness or achromatopsia. It works with a head mounted camera that reads the colors directly in front of a person, and converts them in real-time into sound waves.

official web site: Eyeborg 2.0

***********

This movie is not related to the above project even though it has the same name.

Wikipedia: Eyeborgs (2009 movie)
Eyeborgs is a 2009 American science fiction film. It was released on video on July 6, 2010.

Rotten Tomatoes: Eyeborgs

CineFanyastique - July 20/2010
Eyeborgs: DVD Review by Scott Shoyer
It may seem to have “ScFy Channel” written all over it, but EYEBORGS turns out to be a well-acted film with an intelligent story and a topical message.

2011-08-29

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Sunday, 28 August 2011

Jane Fonda, Yogi Berra and Grey Sex

Jane Fonda is out on tour to promote her recently published book "Prime Time: Love, Health, Sex, Fitness, Friendship, Spirit--making The Most Of All Of Your Life". She is 73 and will be 74 this coming December 21. Ms. Fonda has a fake hip and a fake knee but by all accounts is still going strong. The secret to her success seems to be held in the pages of this new literary opus where she discusses life, love, diet, exercise, philosophy and sex. It is curious to look at the last two items, philosophy and sex.

Ms. Fonda discusses life from two perspectives, an arch and a staircase, supposedly taken from the work of Rudolf Arnheim, the late professor emeritus of the psychology of art at Harvard University. She includes two illustrations in her book.

One diagram, the arch, represents a biological concept, taking us from childhood to a middle peak of maturity, followed by a decline into infirmity.

The other, a staircase, shows our potential for upward progression toward wisdom, spiritual growth, learning— toward, in other words, consciousness and soul.

Ms. Fonda says that our culture, which seems to be youth-obsessed, encourages us to focus on the arch - age as physical decline - rather than on the staircase - age as our continued development. While this seems to be some interesting ideas, one can't help noting that these ideas come to light when Ms. Fonda is 73 and did not occur to her when she was, let's say, 23. With age comes perspective.

Besides the philosophy, there's the sex and Ms. Fonda readily admits to being sexually active and having some of the best sex of her life. Traditionally, the 70s would be the age of a grandmother and traditionally grandmothers have never been looked upon as being sexual. However Fonda points out that we are all living longer and with longer lives, our attitudes towards life are changing. Instead of "declining into infirmity", we would like to continue living our lives but with a certain quality of life.

If there is a spring in Ms. Fonda's step, it would seem that the scientific community has an explanation: women who are satisfied with their sex life are happier over all. The Stein Institute for Research on Aging at the University of California, San Diego conducted a study of 1,235 women between the ages of 60 and 89 and found that successful aging and a positive outlook on life correlated with sexual satisfaction. The report, published online in the August edition of the Journal of the American Geriatric Society, also shows that these women reported a good quality of life even though they did face declines in physical health. Good sex makes up for anything?

Wesley K. Thompson, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry with the Stein Institute for Research on Aging was quoted as saying, "Contrary to our earlier hypothesis, sexual satisfaction was not significantly associated with age. Although the levels of sexual activity and functioning did vary significantly, depending on the woman's age, their perceived quality of life, successful aging and sexual satisfaction remained positive." (Science Daily)

Previous research from the Stein Institute had suggested that how people rate their own health changes little with age even if objectively, health indicators show age-associated decline. This new study confirms this idea adding the sex factor as part of our "perceived" quality of life.

Professor Thompson continued, "What this study tells us is that many older adults retain their ability to enjoy sex well into old age. This is especially true of older adults who maintain a higher level of physical and mental health as they grow older. Furthermore, feeling satisfied with your sex life -- whatever your levels of sexual activity -- is closely related to your perceived quality of life. While we cannot assess cause and effect from this study, these results suggest that maintaining a high level of sexual satisfaction may positively reinforce other psychological aspects of successful aging."

Testosterone
Fonda admits to using this male hormone to boost her sex drive. While the treatment is considered controversial, she has stated quite candidly in several interviews that it has been a help to her.

"Here's something I haven't said publicly yet: I discovered testosterone about three years ago, which makes a huge difference if you want to remain sexual and your libido has dropped." (Telegraph)

Testosterone patches are effective at treating low libido in post-menopausal women. Low libido may also occur as a symptom or outcome of hormonal contraceptive use. Women may also use testosterone therapies to treat or prevent loss of bone density, muscle mass and to treat certain kinds of depression and low energy state. Women on testosterone therapies may experience an increase in weight without an increase in body fat due to changes in bone and muscle density. Most undesired effects of testosterone therapy in women may be controlled by hair-reduction strategies, acne prevention, etc. There is a theoretical risk that testosterone therapy may increase the risk of breast or gynaecological cancers, and further research is needed to define any such risks more clearly. (Wikipedia: Testosterone: Medical uses)

Speaking Frankly
Fonda in her book discusses sex openly covering such topics as masturbation, sex toys and Viagra. Yes, we're all living longer and here's somebody who wants to ensure those later years are just as good as the early ones.

“A woman could be upset about a man liking to watch porn films,” she says. “But it’s important for the woman to know why. It’s not that he doesn’t love you or that you don’t turn him on, it’s more that men, as they get older, do need more stimulation. Men are way more visual than women.”

Is she talking from experience?

“Sure. I have found from my own experience that instead of fighting him you should join him. You go and choose the porn film. They make some that are more appealing to women now. That means you’re halfway home.” What about talking dirty? “I’ve done it all.” Licking chocolate off your partner? “That’s something I have not done, but I know people who have.” (Telegraph)

Final Word
Yogi Berra was the manager of the New York Mets. In the middle of the 1973 season, the team was stuck in last place in a tight divisional race. When reporters asked Berra if the season was finished, he said,

"It ain't over till it's over."

The Mets rallied and went on to win the division title in the final day of the season. Yogi Berra has been quoted many times over for saying what is obvious but what turned out to be profoundly philosophical.

The obvious: if you're not dead, you're still alive. And if you're still alive, you can live your life. Jane Fonda, at the age of 73, has a fake hip and a fake knee but is still going strong admitting that she is still sexually active and having good sex at that.

In my blog posting Sex: 1% vs. 99%, I point out, with a mathematical calculation, how sex is probably only 1% of our lives. However it is so very, very, very important that it can have the most dramatic of effects on the other 99% of our lives. In other words, if you have a good 1% you are more likely to have a good 99%.

In Sex: Over 50, over the hill?, I discuss that yes, sex is possible but obviously it's going to be different. We do physically age and as the joke goes: I'm not as good as I once was but I'm as good once as I ever was.

To conclude, being sexually active later is life is possible. But more importantly, being sexually active is an important component of one's "perceived" quality of life. Wait! Doesn't having sex make anybody feel better about themselves, about the world and about life in general no matter what their age? Make love, not war. Heck if you make love you don't feel like making war!

It's good to know in following Ms. Fonda that there is life after 60 or 70 and even 80. Maybe the younger crowd might be taken aback by the "old fogeys" but Fonda makes a good point when she says in an interview, “We're living 34 years longer than our great-grandparents did. That's an entire second adult lifetime. Why should we pack it in in any way when you have all that time?” (The Globe and Mail) As long as we're alive, let's (try and) make it a good one!

"I'll give you my vibrator when you pry it from my cold, dead hands!"


References

Urban Dictionary: Grey-Sex
Adjective. Sexual intercourse between old people. The female participant must be post menopausal. The male participants are overweight baby boomer types over 50 years old. The quality of sex is poor and the sexual act is quick.
Baby Boomer Bill went to the 'Mosman Rowers' (defined)to have some 'gre-sex'.


Urban Dictionary: Mosman Rowers
n. A licensed premises located above the Mosman Rowing Club, in the affluent northern suburb of Mosman in Sydney, Australia. It is a famous 'pick-up' joint frequented by divorced females aged over 45. The women patrons are usually over-weight, well-worn (ugly and used-up), have dyed blond hair and wear inappropriately tight fitting clothing (borrowed from their 24 year old daughter's wardrobe). The male patrons are all baby boomer types over 50 years old, sporting a grey moustache (or other grey facial hair) and have a massive 'beer-gut' (fat stomachs). These sad creatures usually consume large amounts of alcohol before leaving with someone they have never met for a 5 minute session of 'grey-sex'.
Bill went to the Mosman Rowers to grab a granny. He needed 5 minutes of poor quality 'grey-sex'.


Google search: sex over 60

Wikipedia: Jane Fonda
Jane Fonda (born Lady Jayne Seymour Fonda; December 21, 1937) is an American actress, writer, political activist, former fashion model, and fitness guru.

Wikipedia: Rudof Arnheim
Rudolf Arnheim (July 15, 1904 – June 9, 2007) was a German-born author, art and film theorist and perceptual psychologist. He himself said that his major books are Art and Visual Perception: A Psychology of the Creative Eye (1954), Visual Thinking (1969), and The Power of the Center: A Study of Composition in the Visual Arts (1982), but it is Art and Visual Perception for which he was most widely known. Revised, enlarged and published as a New Version in 1974, it has been translated into 14 languages, and is very likely one of the most widely read and influential art books of the twentieth century.

National Post - Aug 25/2011
Third Act Twist by Angela Hickman
She may have a fake hip and a fake knee, but don't think for one second that Jane Fonda is slowing down. When she arrived for an interview in Toronto this week, the 73-year-old Oscar-winning actress and author was wearing chic black suede boots with what must have been three inch heels.

The Globe and Mail - Aug 23/2011
Jane Fonda on boomer sex: ‘It's young people that have the hang-up’ by Nick Patch
Jane Fonda's new book features several chapters devoted to encouraging sexuality in old age, a topic she knows is uncomfortable for many people. Young people, that is. “It's young people that have the hang-up,” the 73-year-old icon said while chatting at a chic Toronto hotel this week. “I think as the population ages in general, the taboo around sex at an older age will be lessened. Because after all, baby boomers think they invented sex, you know? Their knees and hips will go before their sex [drive] will.

The Globe and Mail - Jan 21/2011
Am I just ‘too old’ for sex? by Claudia Dey
My husband and I married in our 60s and are the loves of each other's lives. Although his diabetes prevented full sexual activity, with inventiveness we were able to be loving and satisfied. Now that we are 70, he still desires physical intimacy and is disappointed that I have zero sexual “twinges.” I am not sure if it is because of my hypertension medicine. I hate to say I am just too old. Suggestions?

The Globe and Mail - Jul 3/2009
The secret to good sex: aging by Zosia Bielski
Despite aging bones and decades spent sharing the conjugal bed, old married people just might do it better. That's what Peggy Kleinplatz of the faculty of medicine at the University of Ottawa discovered after putting out a call for “great lovers” across Canada and the United States. She and her team were deluged with married people who boasted that they'd enjoyed their unions – and sex lives – for a quarter of a century.

The Telegraph - Aug 27/2011
Jane Fonda on sex at 70 by Nigel Farndale
The actress turned author explains why, at 73, she's happier than ever – and shares some very surprising secrets

The Telegraph - Aug 27/2011
Jane Fonda tells how she boosts her sex life with testosterone by Adam Lusher
Jane Fonda, the actress, has told how she used the hormone testosterone to boost her love life - after publishing a book containing sex tips for the over-70s.

The Daily Mail - Aug 27/2011
People with a healthy sex life cope better with ageing... just ask Jane Fonda By Emily Andrews
It's cheering news for anyone of a certain age. Those with a healthy love life cope better with ageing, a study has found. Following the example of movie stars such as Jane Fonda and Joan Collins, women who are satisfied with their sex life are happier over all.

Amazon: Jane Fonda
Prime Time: Love, health, sex, fitness, friendship, spirit--making the most of all of your life
Hardcover: 448 pages
Publisher: Random House (August 9, 2011)

In this inspiring and candid book, Jane Fonda, #1 bestselling author, actress, and workout pioneer, gives us a blueprint for living well and for making the most of life, especially the second half of it. Covering sex, love, food, fitness, self-understanding, spiritual and social growth, and your brain. In Prime Time, she offers a vision for successful living and maturing, A to Z.

Highlighting new research and stories from her own life and from the lives of others, Jane Fonda explores how the critical years from 45 and 50, and especially from 60 and beyond, can be times when we truly become the energetic, loving, fulfilled people we were meant to be. Covering the 11 key ingredients for vital living, Fonda invites you to consider with her how to live a more insightful, healthy, and fully integrated life, a life lived more profoundly in touch with ourselves, our bodies, minds, and spirits, and with our talents, friends, and communities.

In her research, Fonda discovered two metaphors, the arch and the staircase, that became for her two visions of life. She shows how to see your life the staircase way, as one of continual ascent. She explains how she came to understand the earlier decades of her life by performing a life review, and she shows how you can do a life review too. She reveals how her own life review enabled her to let go of old patterns, to see what means the most to her, and then to cultivate new goals and dreams, to make the most of the mature years. For there has been a longevity revolution, and the average human life expectancy has jumped by years. Fonda asks, what we are meant to do with this precious gift of time? And she writes about how we can navigate the fertile voids that life periodically presents to us. She makes suggestions about exercise (including three key movements for optimal health), diet (how to eat by color), meditation, and how learning new things and creating fresh pathways in your brain can add quality to your life. Fonda writes of positivity, and why many people are happier in the second half of their lives than they have ever been before.

In her #1 New York Times bestselling memoir, My Life So Far, Jane Fonda focused on the first half of her extraordinary life—what she called Acts I and II—with an eye toward preparing for a vibrant Act III. Now we have a thoughtfully articulated memoir and guide for how to make all of your life, and especially Act III, Prime Time.

Review of Jane Fonda's book by prisrob
One of the biggest obstacles that most people face in moving ahead is that they really don't know how to go forward. The best method is to look at the past and analyze what has occurred. Find out where you have been, and then try to arrange a plan for the future- a life review. Jane Fonda suggests using a stairway and steps as a metaphor. It sounds complex, but once you read about the steps, it seems so plausible. Jane Fonda is very explicit in her discussions of sex and sexuality in our later years. She discusses quite openly how to promote the best sex life you can have, and the steps to take to get there. Jane shares her life. She lets us know where she has been and where she is now,and where she hopes to be in 5 or 10 years. She is in a constant state of learning, taking on new challenges one after another.

Review of Jane Fonda's book by O. Brown
The author discusses eleven key ingredients for vital living and successful aging: (1) not abusing alcohol, (2) not smoking, (3) getting enough sleep, (4) being physically active, (5) eating a healthy diet, (6) brain health through learning, (7) positivity, (8) introspection and life review, (9) connection, (10) generativity, and (11) caring about the bigger pictures. She covers these areas in depth, including working out (with an actual workout for older folks in an appendix)--which you'd expect. She includes a very frank, helpful, and in-depth discussion of sex (including masturbation, sex toys, and erectile dysfunction medications) in an open and tasteful manner. She also discusses practical social problems of aging like poverty, nursing home care, elder abuse, etc. She includes the topic of meditation--a work-"in"--as well as well as the discussions of working out.

Science Daily - Aug 24/2011
Sexual Satisfaction Tied to Overall 'Successful Aging' as Reported by Women Age 60 to 89
A study by researchers at the Stein Institute for Research on Aging at the University of California, San Diego finds that successful aging and positive quality of life indicators correlate with sexual satisfaction in older women.

Journal of the American Geriatrics Society
Association Between Higher Levels of Sexual Function, Activity, and Satisfaction and Self-Rated Successful Aging in Older Postmenopausal Women
[Note: The full article is only available on a paid basis.]
OBJECTIVES: To determine whether measures of successful aging are associated with sexual activity, satisfaction, and function in older postmenopausal women.

SETTING: Community-dwelling older postmenopausal women in the greater San Diego region.

PARTICIPANTS: One thousand two hundred thirty-five community-dwelling women aged 60 to 89 participating at the San Diego site of the Women's Health Initiative.

MEASUREMENTS: Demographic information and self-reported measures of sexual activity, function, and satisfaction and successful aging.

RESULTS: Sexual activity and functioning (desire, arousal, vaginal tightness, use of lubricants, and ability to climax) were negatively associated with age, as were physical and mental health. In contrast, sexual satisfaction and self-rated successful aging and quality of life remained unchanged across age groups. Successful aging measures were positively associated with sexual measures, especially self-rated quality of life and sexual satisfaction.

CONCLUSION: Self-rated successful aging, quality of life, and sexual satisfaction appear to be stable in the face of declines in physical health, some cognitive abilities, and sexual activity and function and positively associated with each other from age 60 to 89.

Stein Institute for Research on Aging
The University of California at San Diego, School of Medecine
Higher levels of sexual function, activity, and satisfaction are associated with self-rated successful aging in older post-menopausal women: Thompson WK, Charo L, Vahia, IV, Depp C, Allison M and Jeste DV: Higher levels of sexual function, activity, and satisfaction are associated with self-rated successful aging in older post-menopausal women. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society (in press, 2011))

Wikipedia: I'll give you my gun when you take it from my cold, dead hands
[This] is a slogan popularized by the National Rifle Association (NRA) on a series of bumper stickers.

2011-08-28

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Saturday, 27 August 2011

Cream: Badge


Thinkin' 'bout the times you drove in my car.
Thinkin' that I might have drove you too far.
And I'm thinkin' 'bout the love that you laid on my table.

I told you not to wander 'round in the dark.
I told you 'bout the swans, that they live in the park.
Then I told you 'bout our kid: now he's married to Mabel.

Yes, I told you that the light goes up and down.
Don't you notice how the wheel goes 'round?
And you better pick yourself up from the ground
Before they bring the curtain down.
Yes, before they bring the curtain down.

Ah Ah Ah, yeh yeh yeh
Ah Ah Ah, yeh yeh yeh

Talkin' 'bout a girl that looks quite like you.
She didn't have the time to wait in the queue.
She cried away her life since she fell off the cradle.


References

Uploaded by 2Cilix on Jun 27, 2010

Wikipedia: Badge (song)
"Badge" is a song performed by Cream, written by Eric Clapton and George Harrison. It was included as a track on Cream's final album, Goodbye. Peaking at number 60 on Billboard's Hot 100, "Badge" was a minor hit after its release as a single in April 1969. The single was much more successful in the United Kingdom, where it reached #18.

Wikipedia: Goodbye (Cream album)
Goodbye (also called Goodbye Cream) is the fourth and final original album by British supergroup Cream. The album was released in Europe by Polydor Records in March 1969 and by Atco Records in the United States. A single, "Badge", was subsequently released from the album a month later. The album was released after Cream disbanded in November 1968.

Wikipedia: Cream (band)
Cream were a 1960s British rock supergroup consisting of bassist/vocalist Jack Bruce, guitarist/vocalist Eric Clapton, and drummer Ginger Baker. Their sound was characterised by a hybrid of blues rock, hard rock and psychedelic rock, combining the psychedelia-themed lyrics, Eric Clapton's blues guitar playing, Jack Bruce's voice and blues bass playing and Ginger Baker's jazz-influenced drumming. The group's third album, Wheels of Fire, was the world's first platinum-selling double album. Cream are widely regarded as being the world's first notable and successful supergroup. In their career, they sold over 15 million albums worldwide.

2011-08-27

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Friday, 26 August 2011

England's Riots: Anarchy in the U.K.

Like a lot of people, I sat dumbstruck before my television set watching the video clips of the riots in England. Quick, let me double check the channel. Am I actually watching a Middle Eastern country in the throes of a democratic awakening during the Arab Spring? It was positively stunning to watch Great Britain, bastion of all that is civilised and polite, reduced to the most primitive and animalistic. Is it true? Is our civilisation merely a thin veneer which is easily scrapped off to show that at the heart of it, it's an every-man-for-himself, might-is-right mentality?

On August 4, 2011, Mark Duggan, a 29-year-old man, was shot and killed by police when they tried to arrest him in Tottenham. On August 6, Duggan's relatives and local residents marched to Tottenham Police Station to demand information about the circumstances of Duggan's death. During discussions with police, a few people in the waiting crowd set a couple of police cars on fire. From there, things degenerated into a riot with the police reportedly saying that the violence was started by certain elements not involved with the original group. In the subsequent days, rioting spread to several London boroughs and districts and eventually to other areas of England.

As of August 15, reports list the following results: 3,100 people arrested, 1,000 charged, 3,443 crimes, five dead, 16 injured and an estimated £200 million worth of property damage ($325 million U.S. dollars). Standing back at a distance, newspapers, government officials and various experts have analysed the events which spanned several days in an attempt to arrive at some sort of conclusion about the cause or causes of what turned out to be the worst riots England has experienced in decades. While the police shooting of Mark Duggan may have been the spark, it in no way explains how this single event mushroomed into an all out crime spree of enormous proportions.

In contrast, look what happened after the Japanese disaster. In general, the population of this country conducted itself in a sociably acceptable manner and pulled together for the common good. In general there was no widespread looting despite the fact there were many opportunities for individuals to take advantage of this natural disaster. (Japan: Why no looting after the disaster? Oye! Times - Apr 24/2011) Analysts point to a dramatic difference in culture as the explanation for why the Japanese appeared so honest throughout the catastrophe.

The Bank Vault
Here's my scenario. I put you in front of an open bank vault and tell you that you are free and clear to take any amount you want; it is guaranteed that no one will ever know and that you will never get caught. The question now is not whether you'll be punished; the question is merely whether you can overcome any moral compunction which would prevent you from taking the money. Yes, you could choose to not take the money but this would in no way benefit anybody or hurt anybody. The only aspect of this is that the money isn't yours. You would be taking money that wouldn't belong to you.

What would you do? I'm betting you'd take it. Why? Well, why not? Leaving the money benefits absolutely nobody on Earth; it would only benefit your conscience.

Apparently, back in the late 50's, a postal worker in San Francisco found a bag full of unmarked bills (unmarked = the bills could not have been traced) which had apparently fallen off a Brink's truck. - How does a bag of money "fall off" a truck? - The worker turned the bag in. When the story broke, the postal worker supposedly received letters from all over the United States telling him he was an idiot; he should have kept the money. Ha! I'd say those people wouldn't think twice about cleaning out the vault in my devised scenario above!

Deindividuation
This curious word used by psychologists refers to what happens when social norms are withdrawn because identities are concealed. The classic experiment demonstrating this phenomenon (Diener, Fraser, Beaman, and Kelem: 1976) involved setting out a bowl of candy for children at Halloween. Children came individually or in groups and some were questioned about their parents, where they lived, etc. while others were just left alone. The adult would first tell them to take one piece of candy then get up saying she had to do something in the kitchen leaving them alone with the bowl of candy. Those who were not questioned, who were "anonymous" showed a greater tendency to take more than one piece of candy. In fact, some took the entire bowl.

The point was that when we are anonymous, we no longer have any of the constraints we would normally feel with other people: no morality, no decency, and no rules at all. At that point, it is merely our own moral compass which guides us as to whether we do something or not.

The Threat of Punishment
Looking at the bank vault scenario and the idea of deindividuation, I see in the English riots that the threat of punishment was effectively removed by increasing the anonymity of an individual. How much does the threat of punishment stop us from doing stuff like stealing or vandalizing? How much does being in a group give us a greater sense of anonymity which lessens the threat of punishment?

The G-20 Summit, Toronto, June 25-27, 2010
At the time of this international meeting, I lived in downtown Toronto. I didn't watch what happened on TV; I was actually there, out in the street taking pictures and video of what was going down. As a result of the protest, 1,118 people were arrested, the largest mass arrest in Canadian history; 40 shops were damaged and vandalized to a total cost of $750,000; four police cruisers were set on fire and numerous windows were smashed in the downtown core.

Canada is a peaceful country. I was utterly shocked to see this happen right in my front yard. I watched the Black Bloc, hundreds of people totally dressed in black wearing ski masks and balaclavas, sweep through the streets destroying stuff. A local TV cameraman shot a young man with a bandana to hide his identity using a hammer to break the video terminal of an ATM at a bank not one block from where I was living.

I kept asking myself over and over again, "Why?" This was totally senseless destruction which served absolutely no practical purpose whatsoever. I was pissed to see these thugs in my own neighbourhood wrecking stuff. It wasn't like I was watching this on TV, images of some far off place. No, this was my city, my neighbourhood, heck it was my street! What the F are you bastards doing? How would you like it if I showed up at your house and tossed a brick through your front window? Protesting my ass. This was organised mayhem. This was an opportunity for a bunch of idiot weekend warriors to have a funtime rampage at the expense of those who came to legitimately protest the policies of the G-20 countries.

Final Word
Take away the threat of punishment and would anybody not take the money from the bank vault? Take away the threat of punishment and would anybody go nuts looting and vandalizing? While I watched people set a police car on fire in Toronto, I had the idea that we all seem to have a huge disconnect from our surroundings. It's not my car, so burn it. It's not my window, so smash it. It's not my store, so rob it. It's not my city; it's not my neighbourhood; it's not my street. Who cares?

The Guardian published an article about two young men sent to jail for trying to incite rioting by posting "riot events" on Facebook. Why did they do it? What if rioters had smashed their houses? Would they better "get it"? Would they better see that wasn't an appropriate thing to do?

I talked about the thin veneer of civilisation we seem to have. Wipe it off and you have the makings of the next post-apocalyptic Mad Max movie. It's unfortunate because it's our city. It's our country. In fact, it's our world. One comment I read in a paper summed it up nicely:

Young people have no right to riot, but they have a right to be angry.


References

Wikipedia: 2011 England riots
Between 6 and 10 August 2011, many London districts and some other cities and towns in England suffered widespread rioting, looting and arson.

Following a peaceful march on 6 August 2011 in relation to the police response to the fatal shooting of Mark Duggan by Metropolitan Police Service firearms officers on 4 August 2011, a riot began in Tottenham, North London. In the following days, rioting spread to several London boroughs and districts and eventually to some other areas of England, with the most severe disturbances outside London occurring in Bristol and cities in the Midlands and North West of England. Localised events connected to the major riots also took place in many smaller towns and cities in England.

Wikipedia: Death of Mark Duggan
Mark Duggan, a 29-year-old man, was shot on 4 August 2011 by police attempting to arrest him in Tottenham, London, England, following a surveillance operation, on suspicion of a planned revenge attack following the fatal stabbing of his cousin. He died from a gunshot wound to the chest. The reaction of some people to the apparent circumstances of his death, a public demonstration and an attack on police vehicles, were contributory factors to a riot in Tottenham, which escalated into widespread riots, looting and arson in London and in some major English cities.

Wikipedia: 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami
The 2011 earthquake off the Pacific coast of Tohoku, also known as the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake or the Great East Japan Earthquake, was a magnitude 9.0 (Mw) undersea megathrust earthquake off the coast of Japan that occurred at 14:46 JST (05:46 UTC) on Friday, 11 March 2011, with the epicenter approximately 70 kilometres (43 mi) east of the Oshika Peninsula of Tōhoku and the hypocenter at an underwater depth of approximately 32 km (20 mi). It was the most powerful known earthquake to have hit Japan, and one of the five most powerful earthquakes in the world overall since modern record-keeping began in 1900.

The earthquake triggered extremely destructive tsunami waves of up to 40.5 metres (133 ft) in Miyako, Iwate, Tōhoku. In some cases traveling up to 10 km (6 mi) inland.

The Japanese National Police Agency has confirmed 15,729 deaths, 5,719 injured, and 4,539 people missing across eighteen prefectures, as well as over 125,000 buildings damaged or destroyed. The overall cost could exceed US$300 billion, making it the most expensive natural disaster on record.

Wikipedia: 2010 G-20 Toronto summit protests
The 2010 G-20 Toronto summit protests began one week ahead of the summit of the leaders of the G-20 on June 26 and 27 in Toronto. Protests included demonstrations, rallies, marches, as well as a destructive riot that broke out on June 26 which caused vandalism to several businesses in Downtown Toronto. A reported 1118 people were arrested in relation to the protests, the largest mass arrests in Canadian history.

My Complete Photos and Videos of the OMG-20

my blog - Friday, June 25, 2010
Day 1: The G20 Summit in Toronto: I'll show you!

my blog - Saturday, June 26, 2010
Day 2: The G20 Summit in Toronto: I'm shocked. Here?

my blog - Sunday, June 27, 2010
Day 3: The G20 Summit in Toronto: Thank God It's Over!

my blog - Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Aftermath and Afterthoughts

The Guardian - Aug 16/2011
Facebook riot calls earn men four-year jail terms amid sentencing outcry
Two men who posted messages on Facebook inciting other people to riot in their home towns have both been sentenced to four years in prison by a judge at Chester crown court.

Jordan Blackshaw, 20, set up an "event" called Smash Down in Northwich Town for the night of 8 August on the social networking site but no one apart from the police, who were monitoring the page, turned up at the pre-arranged meeting point outside a McDonalds restaurant. Blackshaw was promptly arrested.

Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan, 22, of Latchford, Warrington, used his Facebook account in the early hours of 9 August to design a web page entitled The Warrington Riots. The court was told it caused a wave of panic in the town. When he woke up the following morning with a hangover, he removed the page and apologised, saying it had been a joke. His message was distributed to 400 Facebook contacts, but no rioting broke out as a result.

Uploaded by theclashVEVO on Oct 3, 2009
The Clash - London Calling
Okay, it was a toss-up between this by The Clash and Anarchy in the U.K. by the Sex Pistols.


London calling to the faraway towns
Now war is declared, and battle come down
London calling to the underworld
Come out of the cupboard, you boys and girls
London calling, now don't look to us
Phoney Beatlemania has bitten the dust
London calling, see we ain't got no swing
'Cept for the ring of that truncheon thing

[Chorus 1:]
The ice age is coming, the sun's zooming in
Meltdown expected, the wheat is growing thin
Engines stop running, but I have no fear
'Cause London is drowning, and I live by the river

London calling to the imitation zone
Forget it, brother, you can go it alone
London calling to the zombies of death
Quit holding out, and draw another breath
London calling, and I don't wanna shout
But while we were talking, I saw you nodding out
London calling, see we ain't got no high
Except for that one with the yellowy eyes

[Chorus 2: x2]
The ice age is coming, the sun's zooming in
Engines stop running, the wheat is growing thin
A nuclear error, but I have no fear
'Cause London is drowning, and I live by the river

Now get this

London calling, yes, I was there, too
An' you know what they said? Well, some of it was true!
London calling at the top of the dial
After all this, won't you give me a smile?
London calling

I never felt so much alike [fading] alike alike alike

2011-08-26

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Thursday, 25 August 2011

Was George W. Bush the worst president ever?

Considering the fallout all Americans, in fact the entire world, continue to face from the various events which occurred during the Bush presidency like the war in Iraq, the financial crisis and the war on terror, this question has been discussed over and over again by pundits, political analysts and your average Joe in the street without having yet arrived at a satisfactory answer. Even during Mr. Bush's time in office, there were those who doubted his ability to lead and certainly doubted his decisions.

On June 10, 2008, Congressman Dennis Kucinich and co-sponsor Robert Wexler introduced 35 articles of impeachment against Bush to the U.S. House of Representatives. On July 25, a vote of 251 to 166 saw the House refer the impeachment resolution to the Judiciary Committee where no further action was taken on it. The second term of the Bush presidency ended on January 20, 2009 rendering impeachment efforts moot.

Wow. Is that a condemnation or what? But let's not forget history. Eventually, somebody in the distant future is going to look back on the Bush era with a more objective eye.

On July 30, 2003, George Bush gave a news conference on Iraq. During his talk he explained his reasons for the invasion talking about the supposed weapons program.

"I'm confident history will prove the decision we made to be the right decision."
- George Bush: The Washington Post - July 30/2003

This apparently was not the first time Mr. Bush suggested, in the face of criticism of his decision, that he would eventually be vindicated at some time in the future. In 1993, Bush was the owner of the Texas Rangers baseball team. At a September 1993 meeting of the Major League Baseball owners, Bush was the only baseball executive to vote against the plan to allow more teams into the playoffs each year.

"I made my arguments and went down in flames. History will prove me right."
- George Bush: The Atlantic - Oct 6/2007

The change was implemented and has been enormously popular with the fans and an unprecedented financial success for Major League Baseball.

Thomas Fleming
Mr. Fleming is an American military historian and historical novelist. On February 28, 2009, he penned the Wall Street Journal article "Was George W. Bush the Worst President?" to give his take on this question which was asked quite naturally when Bush's term in office came to an end on January 20, 2009. Apparently a number of historians had ranked Bush as the worst and Mr. Fleming found this to be perplexing.

Fleming goes on to enumerate various presidents like John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and Woodrow Wilson and their various actions which could be considered as catastrophic. When shooting started with revolutionary France in 1798, Adams offered to resign so that Washington could resume the job. Instead of building a navy to deal with the British, Jefferson declared an embargo on all trade with England and Europe and brought the American economy to a standstill. Wilson talked Congress into declaring war on Germany saying America would not have to send a single soldier. Before the end of the war, over two million troops were overseas. In modern times, Fleming cites Jimmy Carter as presiding over the most horrendous stagflation in U.S. history.

Fleming concludes:

In this light, however wavering, maybe it's time to suspend the rush to judgment on George W. Bush for 10 or 20 years. I suspect we will decide Mr. Bush's first term, with his decisive response to 9/11, deserves some praise, and that his second term succumbed to an awesome amount of bad luck, from his generals' disagreements on how to fight the war in Iraq to the Wall Street collapse of 2008.

Many presidents have run out of luck in their second terms, but Mr. Bush's record in this department will be hard to match. Beyond the popularity polls there may be a dimension we should remember in judging every president: sympathy.

Richard Adams
Adams is a journalist for the Guardian in England and his July 1, 2010 article "George Bush: Worst. President. Ever?" has him concluding as did Fleming that we may be rushing to condemn Bush when history has other examples which may better qualify. Adams feels that Nixon with his resigning in disgrace, his foreign policy in Laos and Cambodia and his disastrous economic policies should be ranked worse than Bush. However he points out that William Henry Harrison may have a leg up on anybody else because he took office on 4 March 1841 and left it on 4 April 1841. I suppose one could argue that he didn't have time to do anything wrong but he certainly didn't have time to do anything right.

Alan Grayson
Mr. Grayson was the U.S. Representative for Florida's 8th congressional district from 2009 until 2011. He is a member of the Democratic Party. This blog posting and the re-asking of the eternal question of where George Bush ranks among the worst presidents was prompted by a recent video clip of an interview with this gentleman on MSNBC. Amusingly enough, the interview at first gives the impression that Grayson supports Bush but you soon realize that no, Mr. Grayson is not in any way a Bush fan.

Uploaded by RepAlanGrayson on May 6, 2011
Bush: The Worst President of My Lifetime
Alan Grayson appears on MSNBC's The Ed Show to help give President George W. Bush the proper credit for his role in the killing of Osama bin Laden. Bush gets credit for torture, ruining America's reputation around the world, destroying the American economy, and getting us into two endless wars. The interview took place on May 5, 2011.


Final Word
The jury is still out. However leave it to politics to polarize opinions. Certainly looking back in time one sees things differently as one knows things one didn't know then. I remember a press conference held about three months before the war in Iraq started and Donald Rumsfeld said to the reporters that the war would not last longer than six months and cost no more than one billion dollars. The Second Gulf War or Operation Iraqi Freedom started on March 20, 2003. Estimates on the cost of the war are $1 trillion in direct costs and $1 trillion in complementary costs (interest paid on the funds borrowed to finance the wars, extra spending to care for veterans returning from combat through 2050).

There are known "knowns." There are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say there are things that we now know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we do not know we don't know.
- Donald Rumsfeld, Press Conference at NATO Headquarters, Brussels, Belgium, June 6, 2002

The historian Thomas Fleming suggested that instead of rushing to judge Bush, we should look at him as with every president with "sympathy". I suppose that any of us have to remember that the president is a man just like any of us. And any of us could very well ask the question as to what we would have done in any of the circumstances the president faced and whether or not we would have made the "right" decision. Yes, we could ask ourselves that. However when I look back on 9/11, the war in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan, the war on terror, Katrina, the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression, etc. I have to say to myself, "Wow!"


References

Wikipedia: George W. Bush
George Walker Bush (born July 6, 1946) is an American politician who served as the 43rd President of the United States from 2001 to 2009. Before that, he was the 46th Governor of Texas, serving from 1995 to 2000.

Wikipedia: Efforts to impeach George W. Bush
During the presidency of George W. Bush, several American politicians sought to either investigate Bush for allegedly impeachable offenses, or to bring actual impeachment charges on the floor of the United States House of Representatives. The most significant of these efforts occurred on June 10, 2008, when Congressman Dennis Kucinich, along with co-sponsor Robert Wexler, introduced 35 articles of impeachment against Bush to the U.S. House of Representatives. The House voted 251 to 166 to refer the impeachment resolution to the Judiciary Committee on July 25, where no further action was taken on it. Bush's presidency ended on January 20, 2009 with the completion of his second term in office, rendering impeachment efforts moot.

Wikipedia: Public image of George W. Bush
George W. Bush, the 43rd President of the United States, has elicited a variety of public perceptions regarding his policies, personality, and performance as a head of state. In the U.S. and elsewhere, journalists, polling organizations, and others have documented the expression of an evolving array of opinions of President Bush. Time magazine named George W. Bush as its Person of the Year for 2000 and 2004, citing him as the most influential person during these two years. According to Time, the distinction goes to the person who, for good or ill, has most affected the course of the year; it is therefore not necessarily an honor or a reward.

Wikipedia: Legality of the Iraq War
The legality of the invasion and occupation of Iraq has been widely debated since the United States, United Kingdom, and a coalition of other countries launched the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The then United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in September 2004 that: "From our point of view and the UN Charter point of view, it [the war] was illegal."

Wikipedia: Alan Grayson
Alan Mark Grayson (born March 13, 1958) is the former U.S. Representative for Florida's 8th congressional district, serving from 2009 until 2011. He is a member of the Democratic Party.

Wikipedia: Thomas Fleming (historian)
Thomas James Fleming (born 1927) is an American military historian and historical novelist.

Wikipedia: Iraq War
The Iraq War or War in Iraq, also referred to in the United States as the Second Gulf War or Operation Iraqi Freedom, began on March 20, 2003 with the invasion of Iraq by the United States under the administration of President George W. Bush and the United Kingdom under Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Wikipedia: Financial cost of the Iraq War
The following is a partial accounting of financial costs of the 2003 Iraq War by the United States and the United Kingdom, the two largest non Iraqi participants of the multinational force in Iraq.

2011-08-25

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