Monday, March 7, 2011


Wonks chugging coffee by the barrel in Washington and London all-nighters will probably welcome this news: Even geniuses revered down the ages can be taken down a peg or two.

And so they can take heart that while Libyan cities burn, and Egypt’s not-quite-there-yet democracy totters on yet another cliff, and Middle East gazillionaires throw money at their people as fast as they haul the same to jail, a demigod is undergoing a shakedown in the rarefied corridors of science.

Biologists at the University of Sidney say studies they’ve conducted indicate that Charles Darwin -- Lucifer’s son according to Creationists -- was wrong in his theory about invasive species.

That, instead of being absorbed by host communities – as marauding humans are wont to do – amphibian invaders are more likely to establish themselves.

So do, apparently, the Johnnies-come-lately of the digital world where “yesterday” is considered old.

The phrase “a battery of lawyers” may go the way of the dodo if scientists continue to pump up software and hardware.

Already, analysis that took months and millions of dollars a few decades back – we’re talking 1.5 million documents -- can now be had for less than $100,000. That’s probably not too bad a thing. Think the charming “Watson” of Jeopardy fame and you’ll see the merits of interface sans the BO and bad breath of nerds lost in the depth and breadth of libraries.

“Some programs go beyond just finding documents with relevant terms at computer speeds. They can extract relevant concepts — like documents relevant to social protest in the Middle East — even in the absence of specific terms, and deduce patterns of behavior that would have eluded lawyers examining millions of documents.”

Not sure why the article stops at lawyers. The paragraph just cited could as well make journalists an extinct species, too.

Except that, maybe, people are just so darn ornery. They live to embarrass scribes and talking heads and other seers -- even when we do the job fine, thank you, in the era of the breaking news, where forecast coverage waivers tend to last half a day.

Trouble is a relative word. Those of us troubled by clergy threatening fire and brimstone on users of condoms and other aids meant to prevent a life yet to come, should probably take heart that their brethren may be taking greater heat.

Unlike dirty little secrets of the bed, however, secrets of the purse are a little harder to hide in places where the rich and famous like to announce their works of charity.

Which is how the whole of Mexico learned that a huge popsicle-colored church in Pachuca was partly built through donations by Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano, described by the New York Times describes as “the executioner” and “commander of the ruthless crime syndicate called the Zetas.”

“Long dependent on gifts, but often less than discriminating about where they come from, the church is grappling with its role as thousands die in turf wars among rich, and sometimes generous, criminals.”

Yeah? Jose Rizal could have told them that.

But the church isn’t the only entity in bed with feral dogs. And it’s not just Wikileaks that’s dragging rot into the light, though it’s a pity that Hilary Clinton forgot Julian Asange’s baby as she praised a lil brave outfit that puts “real news” out there.

Clinton: "Al Jazeera has been the leader in that are literally changing people's minds and attitudes. And like it or hate it, it is really effective. In fact viewership of al Jazeera is going up in the United States because it's real news. You may not agree with it, but you feel like you're getting real news around the clock instead of a million commercials and, you know, arguments between talking heads and the kind of stuff that we do on our news which, you know, is not particularly informative to us, let alone foreigners."

Gotcha, ma’am.

Al Jazeera airs arguments, in between very dramatic footage that more delicate Western agencies forego. ‘Leaks’ just exposes classified information that everyone can then parse till kingdom come. As opposed to controlling armies that can strafe everyone till kingdom come.

Bodies turn to dust. Words live forever, especially on Google, when “erased” posts from 2007 can come back to haunt its author. And so Charlie’s Libyan papa merits “orange” despite his jets and bombs and little germs cooked up in secret labs while Asange, who can’t even control two gals, gets a big, big red.

Al Jazeera, Leaks – and Jon Stewart. They kinda go together.

Oil-rich Muslim royalty spawned the first. The platinum blonde, who looks like a bastard of some Aryan prince, continues the Aussie tradition of churning out charming thespian rogues. And Stewart, of course, is the equal-opportunity Jewish smartass. The thing they do best is unnerve the powers-that-be though Stewart in the age of Obama is struggling to remain outside of the establishment that loves him.

The venerable NY Times, of course, has slipped a couple of times in the last decade or so, from mistakenly publishing literary fiction on its new pages to falling for tales of weapons of mass destruction,

It’s still a great read but the newspaper has fierce critics. And so its smug story on how the Mideast flare-up is hurting the Russians got an angry reply from the Angry Arab News Service.

Says The Times: “Russia will lose $4 billion because of the unrest in Libya and the subsequent United Nations embargo, Sergei V. Chemezov, the director of the Russian state company in charge of weapons exports…

Over all, unrest in the Middle East has toppled or threatens to topple several governments that are longtime customers of Russian military industries, Mr. Chemezov said, and the total losses could reach $10 billion.”

Fine; after all it’s quoting a Russian not some American redneck or a senile retiree from the Cold War.

But here’s the Angry Arab’s riposte:

“Of course, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Yemen, and Bahrain purchased far more weapons from US than from Russia. Even Libya:
"Libya also has obtained weaponry from the European defense contractor BAE Systems; the American defense company Raytheon; a branch of Saab of Sweden; and Beretta, the Italian gunsmith, according to Jane’s."

This made me whistle -- until I discovered that pressing “Jane’s” took me back to the Times. So much for blasting propaganda. Everything comes around.

No comments: