Monday, February 06, 2012

Podcast Potpourri



So, I had this dumb idea of saving a podcast on my iPhone for a friend that I knew would be interested in it. And then I thought of another friend when I heard the next podcast. And another. And then another. You get the idea.

Then it occurred to me that more than one person might be interested. And then I remembered I had a blog. One other thought and it’s away we go. Podcasts are like blogs -- once you find a couple you like, you wonder why you didn’t start listening to them sooner. (All of these can be heard on the radio, of course, should you have a job that lets you listen in real time.)

How The Glock Became America's Weapon Of Choice

I’m not a gun nut but found this story fascinating anyway. The story actually has something for everyone -- gun nuts, gun-control nuts, capitalists, rappers and ex-patrons of The Gold Club in Atlanta.

How 'Space Weather' Affects Planes And Power Grids

I’m guessing I really don’t have to sell this story to my audience. But this is the one that got me started with this dumb idea. I had just heard a briefing about this very subject at Communicating for Safety from some astronomy nut I know.

Defending Climate Science's Place In The Classroom

Remember the (ongoing) classroom battle about teaching evolution vs. creationism? Here we go again. Now it’s climate change/global warming.

”The National Center for Science Education has long defended educators' right to teach evolution in public schools. Now climate science too is under attack. NCSE executive director Eugenie Scott talks about how teachers and parents can fight the push to get climate change denial into the classroom.”

I believe we all know how I feel about Democracy vs. Theocracy. The petrochemical companies/countries don’t care as long as the money keeps rolling in. The evolution fight is just a convenient model for them.

”The commonality is that with the anti-evolution problem that we have been dealing with, yes, you're right, the ideology that motivates it is religious ideology. There's some religious ideology that motivates the anti-global warming group, but it's not really predominant.”

”You know, sometimes I think that the climate change issue, climate change education issue, is sort of where evolution was 25 years ago or 25, 30 years ago. And it took us awhile to gear up to us being, you know, NCSE, but the science community as well. Maybe we can get ahead of this one and it won't be quite as big a problem.”

Was The Stimulus Package 'Money Well Spent'?

This one starts out all wrong but works around to redeeming itself. I must say, I’m astounded by how much I’ve learned reading Krugman’s blog and how it influences what I hear in these podcasts . It’s a perplexing situation for someone like me that absolutely hated economics in college.

The takeaway is that the stimulus was too small but without it unemployment would have peaked at 12% instead of 10%. The politics and human foibles of the story are fascinating. You should give this one a listen.

Unlike the other podcast, I’m going to actually ask you to listen to this one. You’ll have to try to keep an open mind because this one will probably sting a little.

Legal Scholar: Jim Crow Still Exists In America

I’m serious about the open mind thing. Throughout this podcast another statistic I’d heard (yes, from another podcast) kept going through my mind -- crime is at an historically low level. That’s just my mind trying to rationalize and justify. Some of the statistics from this podcast are appalling.

”Today there are more African-Americans under correctional control, in prison or jail, on probation or parole, than were enslaved in 1850, a decade before the Civil War began.”

If nothing else, think of the money this costs our society. And when you think of money, you have to remember that -- in today’s contractor nation -- someone is making money off of this shameful statistic.

”You know, if we return to the rates of incarceration we had in the 1970s or the early 1980s, before the war on drugs, we would have to release four out of five people who are in prison today - four out of five. More than a million people employed by the criminal justice system would lose their jobs.

Most new prison construction has occurred in predominantly white rural communities, communities that are quite vulnerable economically and have often been sold on prisons as an answer to their economic woes. Very often these rural communities have been offered benefits of prisons that haven't really materialized, but nonetheless, those prisons across America, you know, would have to close down. Private prison companies listed on the New York Stock Exchange would be forced to watch their profits vanish.”


Speaking of shame in America, that brings me to this morning’s podcast.

The Inquisition: A Model For Modern Interrogators

”Murphy's new book God's Jury: The Inquisition and the Making of the Modern World traces the history of the Inquisitions — there were several — and draws parallels between some of the interrogation techniques used in previous centuries with the ones used today.

"A few years ago, the intelligence agencies had some transcripts released ... of interrogations that were done at Guantanamo, and the interrogations done by the Inquisition were surprisingly similar and just as detailed," he tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "[They were] virtually verbatim."”


God help us. In reviewing all this, I am stuck by how depressing it all is. That we can't be bothered to keep up with what is happening in our world (we’re too busy) much less the evils that are being committed in our name. And with all the billions upon billions of dollars spent in these stories, the most hopeful thing you’ll find in all this is some half-mad-controller-turned-astronomer turning kids into scientists with a telescope. The thought occurs to me that maybe -- just maybe -- we “normal” people don’t know what we’re doing.

Don Brown
February 6, 2012

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