Twitter Message Of The Day

Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson shows his talent for dry humor:

Twitter message by Neil deGrasse Tyson, Apr. 21, 2013

Image credit: Screenshot of Twitter message by Cujo359

I wonder when Megashark Vs. Giant Octopus will be on again? I’m sure the mayhem will be just as tasteful…


Word Use: Terrorism

Despite what some U.S. Senators seem to think, the U.S. code has a very specific meaning for terrorism:

(2) the term “terrorism” means premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents;

22 USC § 2656f – Annual country reports on terrorism

I’d expand that slightly to include the same kind of violence, by the same means, for ideological reasons, such as religion. Beyond that, though, any use of the word is wrong, and has more to do with manipulating opinion than it does with trying to define or explain something.

Blowing up an abortion clinic for religious reasons, for instance could be considered terrorism. Blowing one up for the purpose of extorting money from others is a crime.

In the context of the bombing in Boston last Monday, whether or not it’s terrorism depends on the motivations of the bombers, not on whether or not people were frightened by it. That is why I’ve avoided using the term, and will continue to until such time as the people responsible have been found and tried for what they’ve done, or until they admit what they’ve done and explain why in some other circumstance that doesn’t involve duress.

Any opinions expressed using the word “terrorism” should, I think, be viewed in that context. Words mean particular things. When people use those words in other ways, then their opinions should be viewed more skeptically.

(h/t to Micah Zenko of Atlantic magazine for that USC link.)

Tutti A Roma

Some interesting developments are going on in Italy right now. Last night, Giorgio Napolitano was re-elected president:

Giorgio Napolitano, an 87-year-old political veteran who had been planning to embark on a well-earned retirement within weeks, has become the first Italian president to be re-elected to serve a second term, after squabbling and discredited party leaders who had failed to agree on his successor begged him to stay on “in the higher interests of the country”.

In an unprecedented move which observers said raised Italy’s chances of seeing the formation a broad coalition government, the widely-respected former Communist was re-elected with cross-party backing that included Silvio Berlusconi’s centre-right Freedom People (PDL) party and the centre-left Democratic party (PD).

Giorgio Napolitano re-elected as Italy’s president, prompting relief and protests

Napolitano was one of the Italian leaders responsible for ushering in the recent austerity measures that have threatened to make Italy the latest economic basket case in Europe. Needless to say, he is less popular with ordinary Italians than he is with the folks who run things there.

A few hours ago, Italian comedian turned politician Beppe Grillo sent out this Twitter message:

Twitter message from Beppe Grillo, Apr. 20, 2013

Twitter message from Beppe Grillo, Apr. 20, 2013, prior to start of march on Rome.

Google translate renders the text as this in English:

I’m going to Rome. I will be before the House tonight. We must be millions:

Within hours, people were marching on Rome, as this article illustrates:

Marchers on Rome, Apr. 20, 2013 photo via  @_0Marco0_

Tutti a Roma, April 20, photo via @_0Marco0_

Dear people,

It’s going down, right now, in Rome.

Seven years ago, the Berlusconi party cried wolf when Giorgio Napolitano was elected president without Berlusconi’s consent. I still remember the headline of his personal newspaper. “As from today, the hammer and the sickle are flying over the presidential palace”, in reference to Napolitano once having been a member of the Italian Communist Party.

Now, Berlusconi has been one of the architects of Napolitano’s re-election, together with Mario Monti and left wing leader Bersani. They hadn’t been able to convince their backbenchers to agree on two other candidates who would guarantee the status quo – and impunity for Berlusconi – so they settled on the 88-year old incumbent president, simply because he hasn’t made trouble for anyone during his first mandate.

The Italian gerontocrats will do everything to cling on to power, and to prevent change from happening.

Tutti a Roma!

As an update to that article, along with a video link make clear, things are just getting started there. Italians are used to dysfunctional government, but if ever there was an example of what the phrase “re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic” implies, it’s this political situation.

Since I know almost nothing about Italian politics, I have no idea how this will turn out, but it’s at least a hopeful sign that people there are determined to make things change, despite their alleged leaders’ inability or unwillingness to have those changes come about.

Moving GIF Image Of The Day

A hex editor showing an empty GIF file. Image credit: Bless Hex Editor/Wikimedia

A hex editor showing an empty GIF file. Image credit: Bless Hex Editor/Wikimedia

Don’t know what a moving GIF image is? Don’t worry. Go here. You’re welcome.