Sunday, June 24, 2012

Middle class? Upper Middle Class? My foot!

Middle class? Upper Middle Class? My foot!

The Blogfather ran an item today:

Julie Gerstein: Let’s Stop With This “Having It All” Crap. “Being able to ask if ‘you’re having it all’ comes from such a place of middle-class privilege it makes my head spin.”

Actually, it’s upper-middle-class privilege. Most of the debate about feminism is an occupation of upper-middle-class women. Which is why nobody asks — or cares — about whether men can “have it all.” ...
 And it kind of bothered me:

The middle class is (using CBO's 2007 numbers) the 3rd and 4th quintiles of income from roughly $35,000 to $75,000. The fifth (highest) quintile is north of $75,000. The top 10% begins at  $103,000, top 10% at about $142,000, and the infamous top 1% at $353,000.

Now where do you suppose Ann Marie Slaughter (the original subject of this whole flap) sits in the grand scheme of things. She and her Princeton prof husband are easily clearing $500,000 in cash earnings. And are easily in the top 1%, but more importantly, they are professors at Princeton (Not Trenton State CC) and she has had a Deanship at Princeton and a top job in the State department.

I think this is a member of the Ruling Class.

Of course, Princeton profs are notoriously unconscious of their place in the great food chain of life:

"You see, the rich are different from you and me: they have more influence."

"The Angry Rich" By Paul Krugman

Oh, yes, and the worst Ruling Class ever.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Wretchard Nails American Policy in the Middle East

 One of the very best thinkers about contemporary policy and politics is Richard Fernandez, proprietor of the Belmont Club and one of the Founding Fathers of PJ Media. Today (probably yesterday as his meatspace 20 is Oz) he dissected US policy on Syria, or should I say he gutted and filleted it. Here is a taste:
... in just a little while politicians will be asking themselves, “who lost Egypt”? That would be just one of their worries if the Syrian civil war spreads into Iraq and destroys the fruits of America’s expensive victory there; if it pushes hundreds of missiles into Hezbollah hands and forces the hand of Israel; if it results in a full-scale confrontation between Sunni and Shia across the Middle East based on a conflict fueled by Russia, which could turn around and sell Europe the fuel it need but can no longer get from the region. There may be a nuclear confrontation between Iran, whose WMD program has but been barely inconvenienced by the administration and the Saudi-led Sunnis, with the entire Pakistani atomic arsenal at their disposal.

None of this is inevitable. But those catastrophes are now distinctly within the realm of possibility and palpably nearer. The bulk of America’s forces are in landlocked Afghanistan, dispatched by a genius policy that sought to ‘end the war where it began’. Those forces have scant means of resupply through Pakistan, which has finally manifested its open hatred for the United States. Nor can American forces be withdrawn from Afghanistan except through Russian controlled territory — the same Russia which Hillary Clinton must now face off against in Syria.
The administration has checkmated itself in such an epic manner as to beggar the imagination. Ordinary stupidity could hardly have effected such a comprehensive disaster. Mere imbecility would have been insufficient to the task. Only an arrogance that mistook ignorance and incompetence for “smart diplomacy” could have achieved such a train wreck.

The Syrian Civil War

As they say: RTWT.


Monday, June 11, 2012

Walking in Rhythm

 What follows is my attempt at translating a press release from a science lab into English. The original Press Release can be found at this link.

Electrical engineers and neuroscientists at Stanford University have proposed a new theory of the brain activity behind arm movements in an article published online June 3rd by "Nature".

Neuroscientists have long known that the neurons responsible for vision encode specific, external-world information in a form resembling digital electronic video. Many neuroscientitsts thought that motor cortex neurons transmitted signals about direction, distance, and speed, in the same way visual cortex neurons transmit color, intensity, and form.

The co-first author of the study Mark Cunningham said that "Our findings indicate an alternative principle is at play ... the motor cortex is a flexible pattern generator, which sends rhythmic signals down the spinal cord".

The researchers studied the brain activity of monkeys reaching to touch a target. By monitoring the electrical activity of motor-cortex neurons in the monkeys, researchers found an oscillatory response that is not independent from neuron to neuron. Instead, the entire neural population oscillates as one. The electrical signal that drives a given movement is the summation of the rhythms of all the motor neurons firing at a given moment.           

"Each neuron behaves like a player in a band. When the rhythms of all the players are summed over the whole band, a cascade of fluid and accurate motion results."

Mr. Churchland explained that the patterns of activity the primary motor cortex displays presumably derive from evolutionarily older rhythmic motions such as the swimming motion of leeches and the gait of walking monkeys.

"Say you're throwing a ball. Beneath it all is a pattern. Maybe your shoulder muscle contracts, relaxes slightly, contracts again, and then relaxes completely, all in short order," explained Churchland. "That activity may not be exactly rhythmic, but it can be created by adding together two or three other rhythms. Our data argue that this may be how the brain solves the problem of creating the pattern of movement."

"Finding these brain rhythms surprised us a bit, as the reaches themselves were not rhythmic. In fact, they were decidedly arrhythmic, and yet underlying it all were these unmistakable patterns," said Churchland.

"Further research in this area may help us devise more effective technology for controlling prosthetic limbs." said Yuan Liu of NIH.

I think this is very cool and that scientists and engineers can turn this work into thinks that can help suffering humanity as fast as possible. I also think it confirms an older artistic insight into music and dance:

In Celebration of the Jubilee

Last week there was a great deal of to do over the Queen's Jubilee. I saw this headline:

"Royal style: Why Elizabeth II is the queen of color"
by Lauren Said-Moorhouse for CNN on June 5, 2012

The article was nothing, but the picture caught my eye:

I thought of an old song by the Rolling Stones, they are English too, you know. Maybe they were on to something:

Have you seen her all in gold
Like a queen in days of old
She shoots colors all around
Like a sunset going down
Have you seen the lady fairer

It wasn't a typical Stones song, it was a late 60s thing, a bit self consciously psychedelic.

Here is the cover of the album:

And the complete lyrics:

[Begins with chorus]
She comes in colors everywhere;
She combs her hair
She's like a rainbow
Coming colors in the air
Oh, everywhere
She comes in colors

Have you seen her dressed in blue
See the sky in front of you
And her face is like a sail
Speck of white so fair and pale
Have you seen the lady fairer


Have you seen her all in gold
Like a queen in days of old
She shoots colors all around
Like a sunset going down
Have you seen the lady fairer


One More Picture:

Oh yes, and, God Save the Queen.