Instead of prosecuting torturers, Obama prosecuted the guy who revealed the program

Timothy B. Lee writes:

But the Obama administration has had a different attitude when it comes to those who revealed the existence of the CIA torture program. In 2012, the Obama administration charged former CIA official John Kiriakou for leaking classified information related to the torture program to reporters. Threatened with decades in prison, Kiriakou was forced to plead guilty and accept a 30-month prison sentence. He’s in prison right now.

Full Story: Vox: Instead of prosecuting torturers, Obama prosecuted the guy who revealed the program

Let’s Stop Making Jokes About Furries While Discussing That Recent Terrorist Attack on Furries

Victoria McNally writes:

What should be an incredibly sobering and distressing bit of news for the entire geek community at large, is, due to its direct association with furries, now also becoming the butt of jokes. […] Listen, we’re all adults here—or at least, we’re supposed to be acting like adults. Forget about the fact that “furries” is such a hot Internet buzzword for just a second. Forget about how their relatively harmless kink might squick you the heck out. Can we at least agree that no one deserves to be gassed while at a convention, and that maybe now is not the time for jokes to the contrary? After all, even if you’d prefer to conveniently forget that furries are human beings who shouldn’t be subjected to physical harm for a weird thing they like, what happens the next time someone with access to a toxic agent of chemical warfare thinks a congregated group of people “deserve” it? Heck, what happens when it’s somebody who hates one of your hobbies?

Full Story: The Hairpin: Let’s Stop Making Jokes About Furries While Discussing That Recent Terrorist Attack on Furries

See also

XKCD on furries circa 2008 (which still can’t help but make a sex joke)

XKCD on furries

Juggalos, media scares, and the West Memphis Three

Mindful Cyborgs: What Is Post-Nihilism?

First of all, starting this week Mindful Cyborgs has a new regular co-host: Sara M. Watson. This episode, she, Chris Dancy and I interviewed Arran James and Michael Pyska of the “post-nihilist” website Synthetic Zero. We talked about Neitzsch, nihilism, post-nihilism, and Buddhism.

Tune in next week for the second half!

The Book of Good Practices Now in Print

The Book of Good Practices

The Book of Good Practices by Bill Whitcomb and Taylor Ellwood is now available in print. Here’s a bit from the interview with Bill and Taylor that Chris Dancy and I did for Mindful Cyborgs last year:

KF: I kind of see this book as a users’ guide to the human brain. The brain, the missing manual; that sort of thing. What is the book, in your own words? Maybe we’ll start with Taylor then Bill can chime in.

TE: First of all, I want to acknowledge that Bill is kind of the originator of the book. He had already been working on it for a while and I want to give a little history here, just because I think it speaks to what the book’s about. He came to me about four or five years ago and said, “I’m working on this book. I’m kind of hitting a place where I’m feeling really blocked. Would you be willing to help me co-write it because you’ve done some similar stuff with some of your other writing?” I thought it over and I said, “Yeah, sure.”

It’s been a long road to get this book put together. I mean, it’s turned into three e-books and a workbook which speaks to it. So what do we see it as? I think I see it as a catalog of certainly stuff related to the brain but really behaviors and actions that can come out of being more aware of the brain and how it programs a lot of our behavior. That’s my take on it. Bill, what would you say to that?

BW: Well, I think we’ve tried to produce a taxonomy, a way of categorizing behavioral practices, things that can be described in purely behavioral terms; that actually have a measurable neurological effect on people, physiological effect on people. Things that you can learn to do that could be said to truly impact your skills as far as fundamental human activities; things like concentration, memory, metabolism; things that impact pretty much anything you would want to do in your life.

We’ve tried to abstract that as much as possible from any specific tradition because in many ways, the traditions these things come out of have a tendency to separate out people as much as they bring them in. Someone will say, “Well, psychology is too cold or inhuman for me” or “I don’t do Eastern mysticism” or “That’s too fuzzy and spiritual”, any reason to not try the thing themselves, whereas in behavioral terms, these are things that you can learn to do that will change your level of skill as a human being.

Black Mirror Now on Netflix

Black Mirror

The biting, darkly satirical sci-fi anthology show Black Mirror is now available on Netflix, which I think may mark the first time the show has been available to watch legally in the U.S. Think of it as a modern British take on The Twilight Zone or Outer Limits. Highly recommended.

Also, Variety reports: “‘Mad Men’ star Jon Hamm, ‘Game of Thrones’ thesp Oona Chaplin and Rafe Spall will co-star in the ‘Black Mirror’ feature-length special due to air on U.K. free-to-air channel Channel 4 this Christmas.”

How Chris Claremont hid queer X-Men characters in plain sight

Excerpt from Excaliber # 5

Excerpt from Excaliber # 5

Sigrid Ellis on realizing that Kitty Pride is gay, and that she is too:

As is so common in queer history, though, an ostensibly fair and even-handed treatment of sexuality in comics makes gay and lesbian relations invisible. The heterosexual pairings among the X-Men could kiss or hug, could call their time together a date. The queers could not. Moreover, there’s that “perversion” clause. Ego-dystonic homosexuality was removed from the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 1986. [2] New Mutants #36 was published in February 1986. When it was written, lesbianism was legally and medically a perversion. Chris Claremont and Bill Sienkiewicz, the writer and artist of New Mutants at the time, could not say that Illyana came to the rescue of her some-time girlfriend Kitty who had been defeated by a demon with a penchant for classic bondage porn. But they could write it, and draw it, without ever acknowledging that is what they were doing. The relationship, the subtext, the highly sexualized imagery, all these things were presented not as queer kink but as friendship and heroism. The kind of relationship any high school girl might have with her best friends.

Full Story: Rachel and Miles X-Plain the X-Men: Kitty Queer

(via Metafilter, where the commenters explore some of the more problematic elements of Claremont’s work)

Ellis also wrote “No Return Address,” one of my all time favorite short stories.

Gut–brain link could shed light on mental health

Nature reports:

Companies selling ‘probiotic’ foods have long claimed that cultivating the right gut bacteria can benefit mental well-being, but neuroscientists have generally been sceptical. Now there is hard evidence linking conditions such as autism and depression to the gut’s microbial residents, known as the microbiome. And neuroscientists are taking notice — not just of the clinical implications but also of what the link could mean for experimental design. […]

The evidence that probiotics affect human behaviour “is minimal to say the least”, Mazmanian acknowledges. Still, he says, a growing number of researchers are starting to look at some mental illnesses through a microbial lens.

Full Story: Nature: Gut–brain link grabs neuroscientists

Previously:

Networks, Bacteria, and the Illusion of Control

Can Bacteria Make You Smarter?

Humans Are Really Just Biomechanical Suit-Cities For Bacteria

Electric shock study suggests we’d rather hurt ourselves than others

How about some positive news before the long weekend? Science magazine reports:

If you had the choice between hurting yourself or someone else in exchange for money, how altruistic do you think you’d be? In one infamous experiment, people were quite willing to deliver painful shocks to anonymous victims when asked by a scientist. But a new study that forced people into the dilemma of choosing between pain and profit finds that participants cared more about other people’s well-being than their own. It is hailed as the first hard evidence of altruism for the young field of behavioral economics.

Full Story: Science: Electric shock study suggests we’d rather hurt ourselves than others

3 Things to Read in the Wake of the Non-Indictment in Fergeson

The web is full of stories about the non-indictment of Darren Wilson today, so you probably don’t need to hear from me about it. But if you just home from work and only just started trying to sift through the links of the day, here are a few suggestions.

First, Ezra Klein says what a lot of people were thinking: Officer Darren Wilson’s story is unbelievable. Literally..

Usually a story as fishy as Wilson’s would be enough for an indictment, but it’s highly unusual to actually hear testimony from the accused in a grand jury trial, Jeffrey Toobin writes for the New Yorker. After all, the grand jury trial isn’t meant to determine Wilson’s guilt or innocence, just whether prosecutors have enough evidence to merit a case. That’s why some have described the grand jury trial as an alternative to a real trial.

Toobin writes:

Some might suggest that all cases should be treated the way McCulloch handled Wilson before the grand jury, with a full-fledged mini-trial of all the incriminating and exculpatory evidence presented at this preliminary stage. Of course, the cost of such an approach, in both time and money, would be prohibitive, and there is no guarantee that the ultimate resolutions of most cases would be any more just. In any event, reserving this kind of special treatment for white police officers charged with killing black suspects cannot be an appropriate resolution.

In other words, the trial itself is yet another example of the gross inequalities in our country.

Zooming out from Fergeson, the The Salt Lake Tribune reports that killings by Utah police have outpaced other homicides in the state:

Over a five-year period, data show that fatal shootings by police officers in Utah ranked second only to homicides of intimate partners.
In the past five years, more Utahns have been killed by police than by gang members.

Or drug dealers. Or from child abuse.

And so far this year, deadly force by police has claimed more lives — 13, including a Saturday shooting in South Jordan — than has violence between spouses and dating partners.

The article doesn’t dive into racial dynamics of police shootings in the state, but you can bet that it’s not pretty. Just another reminder that the police are out of control.

Gentrification and urban decay aren’t the only choices for neighborhoods

David Madden writes:

The leading myth is that the only possibilities for neighborhoods are gentrification or urban decay. Well-meaning liberals sometimes think cities face a choice between the bad days of the past and a gentrified future. Urban theorists invoke this same theme with the idea of the city as a ceaselessly changing organism that can either gentrify or stagnate. But these are all deeply misleading arguments, because they offer a false choice. No serious critic of gentrification wants to maintain the status quo. Instead of either gentrification or decay, cities could push for more equal distribution of resources and more democratic decision-making.

Full Story: The Guardian: Gentrification doesn’t trickle down to help everyone

I like this perspective for obvious reasons, but some examples of communities that have successfully staved off both decay and gentrification would have been helpful.

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