Day: September 5, 2011

Ironic Effects of Dietary Supplementation

Various pills

Illusory Invulnerability Created by Taking Dietary Supplements Licenses Health-Risk Behaviors (Chiou, Yang and Wan, 2011, abstract via Psychological Science).

Skull Nickels

“Although the history of carving miniature bas relief sculptures into coins stretches back to the 18th century if not earlier, it was greatly popularized in the early 20th century with the introduction of the Buffalo nickel. This particular coin was minted using soft metal and was imprinted with the portrait of an indian with bold features, making it easier to deface and transform into the portraits of other people, animals, or even scenery. Add to that the idle hands of unemployed artists during the depression (thus, “hobo”) and soon a flood of curious numismatic treasures were born. Most of the images on hobo nickels are too folk artsy for my taste, however a number of artists etched away the flesh of the subject to reveal these awesomely macabre skulls. Hobo nickel carving remains a popular hobby today and it even has a society. Don’t you wish we had actual money that looked like this?”  (via Colossal).

The Battle Over Zomia

Scholars are enchanted by the notion of this anarchistic region in Asia. But how real is it? 

The Battle Over Zomia 1

‘Much of the most recent debate has been spurred by the Yale University professor of political science and anthropology James C. Scott, who describes the region in his latest book, The Art of Not Being Governed: An Anarchist History of Upland Southeast Asia (Yale University Press, 2009)…

Zomia does not appear on any official map, for it is merely metaphorical. Scott identifies it as “the largest remaining region of the world whose peoples have not yet been fully incorporated into nation-states.” Though the scholars who have imagined Zomia differ over its precise boundaries, Scott includes all the lands at altitudes above 300 meters stretching from the Central Highlands of Vietnam to northeastern India. That encompasses parts of Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Burma, as well as four provinces of China. Zomia’s 100 million residents are minority peoples “of truly bewildering ethnic and linguistic variety,” he writes. Among them are the Akha, Hmong, Karen, Lahu, Mien, and Wa.

He depicts an alternative past for the inhabitants of Zomia. The majority of the people who ended up in the hills were either escaping the state or driven out by it, he says…

While others might describe the hill peoples as “primitive” because they did not have permanent abodes or fixed fields, adhere to a major religion, or adopt other modern practices, Scott turns that idea around. He argues that those many minority ethnic groups were, in a sense, barbarians by design, using their culture, farming practices, egalitarian political structures, prophet-led rebellions, and even their lack of writing systems to put distance between themselves and the states that wished to engulf them.

As Scott develops his thesis, concepts that many scholars might hold dear vanish. Longstanding notions about the meaning of ethnic identity: Poof, gone. The idea that being “civilized” is superior to being uncivilized. Poof. The perception that absence of a written language signals a group’s failure to advance. Poof.

Instead, Scott asserts, “ethnic identities in the hills are politically crafted and designed to position a group vis-à-vis others in competition for power and resources.”

Over the past two millennia, “runaway” communities have put the “friction of terrain” between themselves and the people who remained in the lowlands, he writes. The highland groups adopted a swidden agriculture system (sometimes known, pejoratively, as “slash and burn”), shifting fields from place to place, staggering harvests, and relying on root crops to hide their yields from any visiting tax collectors. They formed egalitarian societies so as not to have leaders who might sell them out to the state. And they turned their backs on literacy to avoid creating records that central governments could use to carry out onerous policies like taxation, conscription, and forced labor.’ (via  The Chronicle of Higher Education).

It’s time for Clarence Thomas to resign.

Clarence Thomas

A recently published New York Times expose details the improper ties between Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and influential rightwing funder and activist Harlan Crow…

Crow is not the sole source of questionable ethical behavior on the part of Clarence Thomas. His highly questionable relationship to an ethically challenged Supreme Court justice is simply the latest to be exposed.

Clarence Thomas participated in a secret political fundraising event put on by the Koch brothers to fund Tea Party infrastructure groups.3

And for years, Thomas disregarded rules requiring him to report his wife’s income on financial disclosure forms. His household received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the conservative Heritage Foundation during a period when he was voting on landmark cases in which the rightwing think tank had a clear ideological stake.4

This type of behavior wouldn’t be tolerated for other federal court judges because they, unlike the Supreme Court, are bound by a code of ethics. Common Cause Attorney Arn Pearson says in the Times, “The code of conduct is quite clear that judges are not supposed to be soliciting money for their pet projects or charities, period. If any other federal judge was doing it, he could face disciplinary action.

…Clarence Thomas’ behavior has long been beyond the bounds of what is considered acceptable. In response to these latest revelations by the New York Times it’s well past time to demand Clarence Thomas’ resignation.” (via CREDO Action).

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