On Wednesday a formal proposal appeared for discussion: “Propose merging Category:American women novelists to Category:American novelists.” Nominator’s rationale: “As per gender neutrality guidelines, gender-specific categories are not appropriate where gender is not specifically related to the topic. This subcategory also creates the unfortunate side effect that Category:American novelists contains only male novelists.” Many users quickly posted comments agreeing.
A large majority of commenters voted “Merge.” Some deployed the terms “ghettoization” and “back of the bus.” Then again, a few are voting for ghettoization — or as they say, “Diffuse women but not men,” diffuse being the term for sending members of a parent category out into a subcategory. At least it’s arguable that “women novelists” is a category of cultural and sociological interest. It was noted that Wikipedia features an extensive article on Women’s Writing in English, as part of Wikiproject Gender Studies and Wikiproject Women’s History.
“We should not let the media impose their view of political correctness on Wikipedia,” wrote Petri Krohn, who identifies himself as a Finnish “writer and Internet commentator.” He added — I think with a straight face — “We might also add some generic warning on American people category pages that they mainly contain white males and one should look into the subcategories.”
The research used something called a “memory confusion protocol”. This works by asking experiment participants to remember a series of pictures of individuals, who vary along various dimensions... When participants’ memories are tested, the errors they make reveal something about how they judged the pictures of individuals – what sticks in their mind most and least.
Using this protocol, the researchers tested the strength of categorisation by race, something all previous efforts had shown was automatic. The twist they added was to throw in another powerful psychological force – group membership. People had to remember individuals who wore either yellow or grey basketball shirts, and whose pictures were presented alongside statements indicating which team they were in. Without the shirts, the pattern of errors were clear: participants automatically categorised the individuals by their race (in this case: African American or Euro American). But with the coloured shirts, this automatic categorisation didn't happen: people's errors revealed that team membership had become the dominant category, not the race of the players.
So despite what dozens of experiments had appeared to show, this experiment created a situation where categorisation by race faded into the background. The explanation, according to the researchers, is that race is only important when it might indicate coalitional information – that is, whose team you are on. In situations where race isn't correlated with coalition, it ceases to be important.
It was no war of ideas at all, and on the ground in 2004 in Iraq, even a slightly retarded child could have analyzed the war more accurately than Packer. The war of ideas existed solely in D.C., and it was a war of cocktail parties. Packer, evidently, never understood the critique of American power - which was that it actually created the dictatorships for its own reasons historically, just as it created the jihadi network used so efficiently by Al Qaeda after the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan, just as it created the idea that hitting a superpower within its borders - hitting the Soviet Union through sabotage in Central Asia, for instance - was an "idea" that was conceived and distrusted by the CIA handlers of the Afghani "resistance" - etc., etc. In other words, American power was not about ideas, but about American interests, which in turn reflected different factions within the American compact – corporations, for instance. And in turn, these interests were not consistent one with another - they compete. So much, then, in two sentences, for the critique of American power. But such a critique went right over his narcissistic liberal head - since Packer evidently understood the entire war as nice people like him vs. not nice people. Who wanted "tyranny".
Sayed told me that it took a team of 12 people four hours to sort through the body parts, try to identify people and gather the dead bodies. ‘We were extremely afraid because three drones continued to fly above and we feared a secondary strike, because it has happened before, where they strike the rescue teams.’ US military slang for a secondary strike aimed at rescue teams, on the logic that first responders must be ‘up to no good’, is a ‘double tap’. When they kill someone, drone operators call it a ‘bugsplat’.
Although he called Nixon’s actions "treason," LBJ decided not to reveal the sabotage, because of how he knew about it - the FBI had tapped the South Vietnamese ambassador’s phones and LBJ had transcripts of the ambassador’s talks with Nixon’s intermediary, Anna Chenault, and revealing Nixon’s involvement in the scheme would have meant revealing the illegal wiretaps. Oops. Johnson’s administration did pass the information on to the Humphrey campaign, which chose not to use it either, since their polling suggested that they would win. Oops, again.
Last December, the Global Times, China's English-language tabloid, ran a story on the local punk band Bear Warrior, which found an ingenious way to measure the audience response to their songs. Its lead singer is a graduate student majoring in precision instruments at a university in Beijing, so he designed a device—"POGO Thermometer”—that measures the intensity of the audience's dancing through a series of sensors embedded in the floor carpet in the music hall. The signals are then transmitted to a central computer where they are closely analyzed in order to improve future performances.
According to the Global Times, the band found that fans “started moving their bodies when the drums kicked in, and they danced the most energetically when he sang higher notes.” As its lead singer put it, “the data helps us understand how we can improve our performance to make the audience respond to our music like we intend.”
The upside for Facebook is that by having other websites link themselves in through the Open Graph, they are able to collect information about user habits beyond the confines of their own pages. Whenever the Like button is clicked, Facebook’s data system receives information about the pages their users frequent. In this way the Like button operate as tendrils, passing data back to a central nervous system. From this data, the many and varied pieces of code that make up the website’s brain can decide how to proceed, often making ads relevant to your previous browsing appear on your screen...
Apart from the rarely used Share and Report buttons, your options are to Like or Comment. This is an uneven choice. By forcing this dichotomy, Facebook requires that any negativity or disapproval must be expressed through a comment...
By simply providing a Like option, without the opportunity to Dislike, Facebook creates a place of relentless, expected positivity. The inherent ease in liking compared to the effort required to comment means that criticism requires additional commitment. Far from the vacuous mouse-flutter of a Like, commenting requires the thud of fingers on a keyboard, the unmoving motive of a durable thought. As a result, within this space, negativity has to be viewed as more negative than positivity is positive; you have made the extra effort to disagree.
I don’t know what happened in Hugo Chavez’s room when he died, 60 years to the very day after Stalin, though I doubt it was anything quite so dramatic. Chavez wasn’t a mass murderer, after all, though he did an enormous amount of damage to his country’s judiciary, to its press, to its public life and to its ever more oil-dependent economy. Like the Soviet dictator, he promised the poor of his country things that cannot be delivered — and still they are expected to turn out in vast numbers for his funeral Friday, while his henchmen begin the battle for succession.
One anecdote alone should be enough to give the lie to the idea that poor Venezuelans voted for Chávez because they were fascinated by the baubles they dangled in front of them. During the 2006 presidential campaign, the signature pledge of Chávez’s opponent was to give 3,000,000 poor Venezuelans a black credit card (black as in the color of oil) from which they could withdraw up to $450 in cash a month, which would have drained over $16 billion dollars a year from the national treasury (call it neoliberal populism: give to the poor just enough to bankrupt the government and force the defunding of services). Over the years, there’s been a lot of heavy theoretically breathing by US academics about the miasma oil wealth creates in countries like Venezuela, lulling citizens into a dreamlike state that renders them into passive spectators. But in this election at least, Venezuelans managed to see through the mist. Chávez won with over 62 percent of the vote.
While not going so far as to actually do anything remotely dictatorial, Chávez was far from a democratic leader. Instead of competing honestly in elections, he provided services and raised the standard of living for the people of Venezuela, ensuring their gratitude and thereby gaining an unfair advantage at the polls. Much of the funds for this insidious election tactic of ‘making things better’ were rerouted from the newly nationalised oilfields: through this wanton kleptocracy, billions of petrodollars were withheld from deserving rich white people.
But what happened to Chaco? It lasted a couple of hundred years and then it was abandoned. There was no manmade environmental catastrophe at Chaco. There was, however, an environmental catastrophe. In fact it was a great drought lasting from 50 to 75 years, about 1130AD to 1180AD. So Chaco was abandoned. People who used to come to Chaco built Chaco-like structures.
What failed at Chaco then? What collapsed? Well, what failed was their belief system. And Pueblo Indians who tell their story today, increasingly to archaeologists who, as a change from their own past, listen to Pueblo Indians talk about their own history...these Pueblo Indians relate how in their past people fell away from the gods, describing Chaco, and thus they abandoned Chaco. In other words, the ritual centralisation which is very foreign to Pueblo Indians today was regarded as an experiment that failed.
After Chaco, new settlements arose, some in imitation of Chaco, but around 1300BC a vast change in the belief system occurred in the south-west. So what failed at Chaco was not only their agricultural system which couldn't survive this big drought, but the belief system that the gods were supposed to make it rain, for example, also failed and a new religious system arose with new material symbols which we can archaeologically identify and securely date, and which have still meaning today to people who live in the south-west.
Except for those few stones that have been destroyed, every diamond that has been found and cut into a jewel still exists today and is literally in the public's hands. Some hundred million women wear diamonds, while millions of others keep them in safe-deposit boxes or strongboxes as family heirlooms. It is conservatively estimated that the public holds more than 500 million carats of gem diamonds, which is more than fifty times the number of gem diamonds produced by the diamond cartel in any given year. Since the quantity of diamonds needed for engagement rings and other jewelry each year is satisfied by the production from the world's mines, this half-billion-carat supply of diamonds must be prevented from ever being put on the market. The moment a significant portion of the public begins selling diamonds from this inventory, the price of diamonds cannot be sustained. For the diamond invention to survive, the public must be inhibited from ever parting with its diamonds.
In developing a strategy for De Beers in 1953, N. W. Ayer said: "In our opinion old diamonds are in 'safe hands' only when widely dispersed and held by individuals as cherished possessions valued far above their market price." As far as De Beers and N. W. Ayer were concerned, "safe hands" belonged to those women psychologically conditioned never to sell their diamonds. This conditioning could not be attained solely by placing advertisements in magazines. The diamond-holding public, which includes people who inherit diamonds, had to remain convinced that diamonds retained their monetary value. If it saw price fluctuations in the diamond market and attempted to dispose of diamonds to take advantage of changing prices, the retail market would become chaotic. It was therefore essential that De Beers maintain at least the illusion of price stability.