27 April 2012

"51": Kool A.D. drops new album

This post is a digression of sorts, given that this blog's raison d'ĂȘtre doesn't necessarily include embedding newly released albums and the like. But 51, Kool A.D.'s new album/mixtape released yesterday (26 April) is well worth checking out. Do it—it's good.    

08 April 2012

QuickThought no. 3

Mass incarceration for profit.

If you aren't already aware (in which case, you should take some time to inform yourself about these critically important issues), the United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world—not just the highest in North America or among developed Western nations, but the entire world.

(Credit: ACLU.org)
As Al Jazeera's "The Stream" reported in a piece entitled Incarceration, Inc. on 5 April, the use of private prisons in the United States increased by "40 percent at the state level and by 784 percent in the federal prison system" between 1999 and 2010. 

784 percent. 

Think about that. Between 1999 and 2010, was there actually an almost-800-percent increase in the number of persons who committed crimes worthy of incarceration? Absolutely not. One would be hard pressed to find valid evidence to support this. What, then, is to blame for this all-too-real statistic? The answer is money. In our capitalist, corporation-dominated system, not even the incarceration of human beings is immune from the attempt of some to make a profit. This is what is known as the Prison-Industrial Complex. 

The article, which examines the Prison-Industrial Complex, includes a vast array of information, data, statistics and the like—all pertaining to the ridiculousness of America's blatantly prejudiced prison system. You could probably spend hours analyzing the info in the article. And if you somehow find that the amount of information presented there is not enough, check out this list of the 39 most unequal countries in the world (as per the Gini coefficient) and keep in mind that, if you are reading this as an American citizen, you are living in the 39th most unequal political system on Earth.

"America imprisons approximately 760 per 100,000 people. This is the highest rate in the world and no other country comes close." But the reality of America's PIC doesn't stop there. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, 1 in every 106 white males over the age of 18 is incarcerated in the US. For hispanic males, it's 1 in every 36. For black males, it's 1 in every 15.

God bless America, eh?

06 April 2012

Anti-choice extremism and SNL's "trans-vaginal airlines"

It seems nothing short of absurd that in 2012, citizens of the United States are, as of late, experiencing right-wing attacks on women's rights—reproductive and otherwise. In this post I want to show how and why these issues on the GOP platform are not really "issues" at all, especially for anyone with an informed, rational and realistic understanding of certain present-day social circumstances.

I'd like to share a phenomenal (and impressively extensive) GlobalComment article posted on 2 April. The article, entitled The Trans-Vaginal Ultrasounds You Didn't Hear About: Ignoring Anti-Choice Extremism in Texas, focuses on legislation in Texas and Virginia that requires superfluous, unnecessary and most often involuntary trans-vaginal ultrasounds prior to receiving an abortion. It boils down to forceful conservative moralizing through legislation—bullshit, basically. I should say that parts of the article might seem a bit dense, but it is well worth the time investment.

Also, as is mentioned in the article, be sure to check out this recent Saturday Night Live segment that features Amy Poehler and Seth Meyers responding to right-wing attacks on birth control and women's reproductive rights. Poehler pokes fun at the ridiculousness of forced trans-vaginal ultrasounds with a "trans-vaginal airlines" joke, and the segment also points out that no women were present at a recent congressional hearing about contraception. It's a pretty humorous piece with serious sociopolitical undertones. But, on a more serious note, let's be frank: the very unfortunate fact that this congressional hearing consisted exclusively of men (almost certainly wealthy, white, heterosexual, "Christian" men in particular), raises a hugely important question. Can we agree that such a "congressional hearing about contraception" was completely absurd in the first place? In the 21st century, contraception—and an individual's decision to use it or not to use it—are not issues. Period. And they absolutely should not be matters of congressional concern. Yet even worse, not a single woman or female-identifying person was present. Maybe I'm foolish for thinking that the American political system has to have at least some room for rational, realistic discourse, but such discourse was clearly missing from this hearing—this good ol' boy gathering.

I intend to write more on this subject soon. For now, though, I'll return to the SNL segment. The best part might just be the end, when Poehler comically and commandingly shouts, "Don't tell me what to do!" Kudos to Poehler for saying what any reasonable human being ought to shout in the face of conservative bigotry. If only more would follow suit—then, maybe, we would no longer find ourselves stuck in a society that doesn't care to question such irrational, sermonizing nonsense.

02 April 2012

Can matter be spontaneously generated? And what is 'smart sand'?

Some interesting news (to say the least) came out of MIT's Distributed Robotics Laboratory earlier today, when the MIT News Office posted this article about a type of self-sculpting "smart sand" that could potentially "assume any shape [and allow for] spontaneous formation of new tools or duplication of broken mechanical parts."

"Robot pebbles" developed by researchers at MIT.
(Photo credit: M. Scott Brauer/MIT)
The lab, which is part of MIT's larger Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, has developed a system of small cubes (measuring about 10mm an edge) with built-in "rudimentary microprocessors" and "unusual magnets on four of their sides." Apparently, these cubes have the ability to construct an object from a model of the object—using only an unformed pile of other cubes.

I'll leave it to the article to explain specifically how these cubes can generate matter. It's a fascinating read. Be sure you check out the video posted at the bottom of the article, too.