Archive for the ‘History’ Category
Darwin Day, according to the International Darwin Day Foundation, is “a global celebration of science and reason held on or around Feb. 12, the birthday anniversary of evolutionary biologist Charles Darwin”. The idea of the celebration arose in 1993 as part of the activities of the Stanford Humanist Community, then headed by biologist Robert Stephens. And in the intervening 21 years, it has proliferated, with hundreds of events listed in cities around the world…
As an evolutionary biologist, and a scientist who finds great joy and meaning in communicating with the public, I am thrilled that there is a day around which so many events and seminars can be organised. That these activities celebrate evolutionary biology, science, and reason is particularly special.
I laud the work of the Darwin Day Foundation and all the organisations and people who make Darwin Day a highlight for curious, open and intellectually alive citizens. The Evolution & Ecology Research Centre, which I direct at UNSW, has been running a veritable fiesta of the Darwinian, with a conference and public lectures last week, and a seminar by eminent evolutionary psychologist Martin Daly on Tuesday 11th.
But it bears reflecting on the importance and modern relevance of Darwin himself.
In an assertion of same-sex marriage rights the US attorney general, Eric Holder, announced on Saturday that he will apply a landmark supreme court ruling to the Justice Department.
In prepared remarks delivered in New York to the Human Rights Campaign, an advocacy group which works on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights, Holder said same-sex spouses could not now be compelled to testify against each other, should be eligible to file for bankruptcy jointly and are entitled to the same rights and privileges as federal prison inmates in opposite-sex marriages.
The Justice Department runs a number of benefits programmes, and Holder said same-sex couples will now qualify for them. They include the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund and benefits to surviving spouses of public safety officers who suffer catastrophic or fatal injuries in the line of duty.
“In every courthouse, in every proceeding and in every place where a member of the Department of Justice stands on behalf of the United States, they will strive to ensure that same-sex marriages receive the same privileges, protections and rights as opposite-sex marriages under federal law,” Holder said.
Just as in the civil rights struggles of the 1960s, Holder said, the stakes in the current generation over same-sex marriage rights “could not be higher”.
“The Justice Department’s role in confronting discrimination must be as aggressive today as it was in Robert Kennedy’s time,” Holder said of the attorney general who played a leadership role in advancing civil rights.
Our nation confronts exactly the same kind of ignorance and bigotry we did with the civil rights advances of the 1960′s. Nice to see official Washington ready to join in, again. Excepting Congress and the Confederates, of course.
Colossus in 1945
Sometimes the most important victories in a war don’t occur on battlefields and don’t involve weaponry. On Wednesday, a very unusual group of veterans gathered at Bletchley Park, Buckinghamshire to commemorate an event that shortened the Second World War and saved countless lives. They were the men and women who built Colossus, the world’s first programmable electronic digital computer, and they and their families were at the National Museum of Computing for a re-enactment of the day the famous machine began its code-breaking operations against the Axis forces.
On February 5, 1944, a switch was thrown and one of the most peculiar weapons of the Second World War went into action. As radio valves glowed in massive racks and an intricate cat’s cradle of paper tape spun in front of an electric eye, the Colossus Mark I computer took its first crack at a German Lorenz-encrypted message used by Hitler and his High Command to send their most secret and important messages. It was an act that would lay bare the secrets of the Nazis and even become a decisive factor in launching the D-Day invasion.
Many people have heard of the German Enigma cipher that Alan Turing and others at the British code-breaking center at Bletchley Park managed to crack, allowing the Allies to read German communications. But there was another, more complicated cipher called Lorenz. Generated by the SZ40/42 teletypewriter in-line cipher machine (code named “Tunny” by the British) built by C. Lorenz AG in Berlin, the machine produced what is called a Vernam cipher using 12 rotor wheels linked in an eye-wateringly intricate manner based on the Boolean XOR function. The upshot of this is that a message encrypted by the Lorenz machine was incredibly difficult to decrypt without knowing the wheel settings used to write it…
I won’t edit down the original article in Gizmag. It’s all useful history, geek or otherwise.
Read how Tommy Flowers, a General Post Office telephone electrical engineer modified the digital electronic telephone switching system he was designing for the GPO – ending up with the Mark I Colossus and others that followed.
Conservative talk radio is criticizing a Coca-Cola Super Bowl ad that featured multiple languages, with Rush Limbaugh joking it might be a ploy from Republican leaders on immigration reform.
Radio hosts were reacting Monday to Sunday’s ad from Coke, in which several voices sing “America the Beautiful” in multiple languages, as faces of people of different cultures are shown. The ad has been both praised as a display of multiculturalism and slammed as divisive as immigration reform remains a controversial political hot topic.
…popular conservative radio voice, Glenn Beck…criticized the ad, calling it divisive and politicized amid the immigration debate. On his show Monday, Beck said he got a tweet from a viewer asking what he thought of the spot.
“I said, ‘Why? You need that to divide us politically?’ Because that’s all this ad is,” Beck said. “It’s an in your face — and if you don’t like, if you’re offended by it, then you’re a racist. If you do like it, well then you’re for immigration, that’s what it is. You’re for progress…”
Beck got it right – even if by accident, even though he stands against anything that smacks of progress.
Thanks, Coke, for reminding me why I hold what passes for conservatism in America, nowadays – in such contempt. The Republican Party has become the mouthpiece for racism and bigotry that Dixiecrats of old only dreamt of becoming.
They should stuff their ears with whatever fecal matter is handy. Plug them with rubber stoppers carved from the gaskets reserved from Auschwitz. And die of the several plagues resulting from lives lived as obedient fascist clones.
Americans will continue to sing.
A custom-built bus with oversized windows is parked outside a health fair at the University Medical Center. The decal on its side reads, “Making Healthcare Reform Transparent.” Inside the bus are snacks, Wi-Fi and three booths where sales agents from the Humana health-insurance company sit behind laptops and explain the Affordable Care Act to uninsured people. They sign up customers, too.
Mississippi is the poorest, sickest state in the nation, and most insurance companies have avoided it altogether, preferring to do business in more profitable markets. In 36 of Mississippi’s poorest counties, no insurance companies were offering plans that meet ACA guidelines until the Obama administration intervened and asked Kentucky-based Humana to help fill in the gaps. Humana had two of these buses built to spread awareness and drum up business. They’re zigzagging around the state on a tour called Covering Mississippi. So far they’ve traveled 7,000 miles, and the agents have seen more than a thousand people…
Nowhere else in America has a greater need for affordable, accessible health care. Mississippi has the lowest life expectancy in the country, the highest rates of obesity and diabetes, and an infant mortality rate closer to Sri Lanka’s and Botswana’s than to the rest of the United States’. Heart disease is epidemic, and nearly 20 percent of the state’s population — some 511,000 people — were uninsured when President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act last March…
When the ACA was written, the law required all the states to expand Medicaid. Low-income people who weren’t poor enough to get existing Medicaid would be covered. Then the Supreme Court decided that states had the right not to expand Medicaid. Mississippi, led by Republican Gov. Phil Bryant, who has described Obamacare as “an assault on the liberty of American citizens,” was one of two dozen states to exercise this right. That left an estimated 300,000 Mississippians with no prospect of health insurance.
Just in case you still labor under the misapprehension that today’s conservatives actually care crap about working people, working poor, poor people. Decades of hatred rooted in racism support a political structure not only tied to elitism; but, willing and able to destroy the lives of people without power.
Mississippi is the worst example of this kind of criminal politics, a gangster economy, corrupt and ready to lie about everything from the weather report to school menus to maintain power for the racist elite.
The classic Southern Strategy of deluding white people into believing that because they are better off than Black folks – they are better off in general – has never changed. It wandered over from Dixiecrat Democrats to Nixonian Republicans. Stupid still trumps ignorance. But, then, that’s been the premise of the Confederacy and States’ Rights since we started the long march towards democracy in 1775.
The film accompanying Pete’s rendition of “Which side are you on…?” is Salt of the Earth – filmed here in New Mexico and based on a strike by the Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers Union. Just in case you think Women’s Liberation started in the US in the late 1960′s – instead of with a bunch of Reds in the 1950′s. Folks who made the movie were blacklisted. Folks in the movie, actors or local mine workers, were blacklisted. The movie was blacklisted.
Pete Seeger was blacklisted for years. An old American tradition, blacklisting. Trying to keep folks who got out of line from getting work. Believe me, it still happens.
I was on stage with Pete more than once. No one appearing with him ever thought of competing with the hold he had on an audience, his ability to communicate through song and good sense was greater than most can imagine – unless you ever experienced it. Matched by his courage, conviction, willingness to stick up for a good cause regardless of how popular it may have been. Or not.
He will be missed.
Mayor Inamine [center] and his supporters celebrate re-election
Efforts to relocate a US base on Japan’s Okinawa appeared to suffer a new setback Sunday, 17 years after they began, with the reported electoral victory of an opponent of the project.
The mayor of the town of Nago on the east coast of Okinawa has won re-election, according to the TBS news station after the majority of votes were counted.
Susumu Inamine, supported by several leftist parties, is a strong opponent of the joint project by the US and Japanese governments to move the US Marines’ Futenma Air Station, sited in an urban area in the south of Okinawa, to Nago bay.
Understand, the mayor wants the base off the island altogether!
Last month, more than 17 years after Washington and Tokyo agreed to move the base from the densely populated urban area, the Okinawa government finally consented to a landfill that will enable new facilities to be built on the coast at Nago.
The issue had been deadlocked for years, with huge opposition to any new base among Okinawans fed up with playing host to an outsized share of the US military presence in Japan…
The mayor of Nago does not have the right to overthrow plans to relocate the base but could refuse to approve the use of roads and other facilities necessary for building works…
Okinawa’s Governor Hirokazu Nakaima, long a thorn in the central government’s side, gave the plan his approval after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe promised Okinawa financial aid of at least $2.9 billion every year until fiscal 2021.
A bribe of $8,000 per resident per year.
Opponents support the removal of the US base from the town of Ginowan but want it relocated out of Okinawa altogether.
Let me insert an educated guess here. Founded on over a half-century of watching our Cold Warriors in action. I guarantee there is a secret treaty stashed in the GOUSA that specifies US troops will leave Okinawa and Japan ONLY when the United States says so – a treaty signed after Japan’s unconditional surrender in 1945.
Japan has even elected national governments on this issue and then rec’d an unpublished phone call from the White House – most recently from Obama in his first term – and then announced they wouldn’t be able to close the US Base in Okinawa. No further discussion allowed. So much for transparency, enlightened democracy.
I think I’ll write a little bit about this photo. You see, I’m standing just to the right of the field of vision – politely nudged aside by the news photographer who wanted to get a good close-up of Dr. King speaking in one of the toughest neighborhoods in Black Chicago. Out in front of the Robert Taylor Projects.
Looking around for a photo and a news piece to reflect upon on this holiday, I bumped into this news photo from the summer of 1965 in Chicago. I spent that summer as a community activist working with other like-minded folks from the then fairly-new W.E.B.DuBois Clubs. Radicals, communist and non-communist, religious and atheist, all colors and creeds; but, convinced that it would take more than band-aids to patch up the effect of centuries of racism in America.
I met some wonderful people that summer. Not the least of whom was Dr. King. Though he wasn’t the biggest influence on my feelings, understanding of what the movement needed to do, where to go next. Most influential was Ismael Flory, founder of the African American Heritage Association, editor and stalwart in his dedication to producing an encyclopedia of African American studies. Ish could turn traffic directions into a discussion of history, turn lunch into the science of gastronomy – could make you laugh or cry over silly humanity.
I opened for Dr. King, that day in Chicago’s South Side. Back in the day, there wasn’t anyplace I sang and performed that didn’t have at least a core of the call for change in it. Newspaper articles and historic documents say this was the first time that Dr. King was booed by a Black audience. It was much, much less than that.
There were two truly tiny efforts birthing in Chicago at that time joining the early call for Black Power within the civil rights movement – and ready to exit the larger effort at the drop of a dollar bill. That day the noisiest boos came from members of the Blackstone Rangers already devolving into hustlers taking money from the Feds and using the funds to build one of the largest drug gangs in Chicago. The other silliest group was comprised of one well-known young Black man – an early advocate of separatist activism – who trotted out a line of a half-dozen or so schoolchildren, none over 6 or 7 years old, who carried anti-King signs. Dr. King chided him for his opportunism and guile.
For me, the day is remembered as the first time I met Martin Luther King, Jr.. I remember the summer sun and heat. I remember one Black teenager who liked one particular song I wrote – something I rarely did. I never wanted to be a songwriter. It was one more step away from America’s bigoted history. One more step towards a future still unrealized; but – believe me – better than it ever was.
I wrote this a few years ago. Worth reposting.