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Jargon Watch

Unlike a Google search on the phrase “follow me here”, my PubSub feed, which delivers to me weblog references to “Gelwan” or “Follow Me Here”, has very little referring to my writing these days. It is mostly full of links to folks who are saying “now follow me here…” as they spin out some tortuous logic or questionable argument. Should I have copyrighted the phrase?

While we are on the topic of the writer’s perennial preoccupation with how much atttention s/he is attracting, there are many many more comments being entered on my posts here these days. I am not sure why that is, but I am loving it. Keep it up! (It seems it is a function of the efforts of just a few faithful and loquacious readers. What about the rest of you?)

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Give nukes a chance

Columbia University political scientist Kenneth Waltz thinks nuclear proliferation can make us safer. Nonproliferation made sense in a world dominated by the balance of terror between two superpowers, but now in a unipolar world, a nuclear deterrent in the hands of smaller nations can disrupt the destabilizing ambitions of a reckless arrogant superpower. (Boston Globe)

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The Poor May Not Be Getting Richer:

But they are living longer, eating better, and learning to read: “So the conventional wisdom in development economics has long been that to boost the prospects of the world’s poor, one needs to boost their incomes. This is still true, but as World Bank economist Charles Kenny points out in a provocative article titled ‘Why Are We Worried About Income? Nearly Everything that Matters is Converging,’ income growth does not tell the full story.

Even though some of the world’s poorest people are not earning much more than they were two generations ago, they’re still living much better than they were. In fact, many quality of life indicators are converging toward levels found in the richer countries.” (Reason)

Is this a new version of the slaveowners’ argument that their slaves should be grateful for how well they treated them, rather than simply agitating for their freedom?

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Our unhealthy obsession with sickness

Why is being ill now embraced as a positive part of the human experience? Frank Furedi:

“We live in a world where illnesses are on the increase. The distinguishing feature of the twenty-first century is that health has become a dominant issue, both in our personal lives and in public life. It has become a highly politicised issue, too, and an increasingly important site of government intervention and policymaking. With every year that passes, we seem to spend more and more time and resources thinking about health and sickness. I think there are four possible reasons for this…” (spiked)

Furedi, an English sociologist, discusses medicalization, the ‘normalization of illness’ (we are all seen now as being potentially ill), the growing use of the language of illness and health to make sense of increasingly ambiguous human experience, and the politicization of health (politicians’ growing preoccupation with healthcare and the healthcare crisis, which I think stems largely from the growing political power of the pharmaceutical industry and its stranglehold over healthcare). His summary theme is the interesting, and telling, point (with which I agree) that the normalization of illness is a cultural fact. Proeccupation with health, and the fact that more and more of us are thinking of ourselves as sick, sicker, and sicker for longer, is the real source of the healthcare crisis, and it is not going to be solved in the public policy sphere.

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Blogging Beyond the Men’s Club

“Since anyone can write a Weblog, why is the blogosphere dominated by white males?” (MSNBC/Newsweek) Steven Levy puts this concern in the same frame as the issue of affirmative action in the MSM*, which is on everyone’s minds these days as law professor Susan Estrich takes Michael Kinsley to task for not running more pieces by women and people of color at the LA Times op-ed page. Levy thinks the problem of building more diversity into the weblogging world is one caused by its decentralization. But he never gets beyond grappling with what is essentially the wrong question. Concerns from minority writers that, just as they are gaining some legitimacy on the op-ed pages, their voices are being drowned out on the web pages by white men talking to largely white audiences is only legitimate to the extent that you think weblogging is a form of journalism, which it is not. Weblogging is far more like writing letters to your friends about some of the things that interest you.


*We’re all supposed to know by now that this refers to the “mainstream media”, right?

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Sony patent takes first step towards real-life Matrix

“Imagine movies and computer games in which you get to smell, taste and perhaps even feel things. That’s the tantalising prospect raised by a patent on a device for transmitting sensory data directly into the human brain – granted to none other than the entertainment giant Sony.

The technique suggested in the patent is entirely non-invasive. It describes a device that fires pulses of ultrasound at the head to modify firing patterns in targeted parts of the brain, creating ‘sensory experiences’ ranging from moving images to tastes and sounds. This could give blind or deaf people the chance to see or hear, the patent claims.

While brain implants are becoming increasingly sophisticated, the only non-invasive ways of manipulating the brain remain crude. A technique known as transcranial magnetic stimulation can activate nerves by using rapidly changing magnetic fields to induce currents in brain tissue. However, magnetic fields cannot be finely focused on small groups of brain cells, whereas ultrasound could be.” (New Scientist)

Call me a curmudgeon but my first reaction is — what are we going to learn five, ten or fifteen years down the line about the side effects of this??