The Null Device

2001/9/21

The global economy: As the US is seized by patriotic fervour, China's flag industry is cleaning up, with Chinese factories working overtime to sew American flags for export.

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Short animation of the day: More. It's atmospheric, Kafkaesque, and uses a New Order instrumental (Elegia) as the score; what more could you ask for? (And there's an article about it at WIRED.)

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Oh yes, and if you're in Australia and near a radio, be sure to tune in to ABC Radio Natonal tonight to hear Antlerland's new track.

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A Canadian psychologist estimates that 1 in every 100 people is a psychopath. The vast majority of psychopaths, mind you, are not serial killers, but ordinary people like you and me, only incapable of differentiating between right and wrong or feeling any remorse for their actions. This trait makes them ideal predators:

He calls them "subclinical" psychopaths. They're the charming predators who, unable to form real emotional bonds, find and use vulnerable women for sex and money (and inevitably abandon them). They're the con men like Christophe Rocancourt, and they're the stockbrokers and promoters who caused Forbes magazine to call the Vancouver Stock Exchange (now part of the Canadian Venture Exchange) the scam capital of the world. (Hare has said that if he couldn't study psychopaths in prisons, the Vancouver Stock Exchange would have been his second choice.) A significant proportion of persistent wife beaters, and people who have unprotected sex despite carrying the AIDS virus, are psychopaths. Psychopaths can be found in legislatures, hospitals, and used-car lots. They're your neighbour, your boss, and your blind date. Because they have no conscience, they're natural predators. If you didn't have a conscience, you'd be one too.

While psychopathology may be considered a defect by most, it can actually be an advantageous mutation in the cutthroat world of business; advantageous, that is, for the psychopath and nobody else.

How can you tell if your boss is a psychopath? It's not easy, says Babiak. "They have traits similar to ideal leaders. You would expect an ideal leader to be narcissistic, self-centred, dominant, very assertive, maybe to the point of being aggressive. Those things can easily be mistaken for the aggression and bullying that a psychopath would demonstrate. The ability to get people to follow you is a leadership trait, but being charismatic to the point of manipulating people is a psychopathic trait. They can sometimes be confused."

While theprevalence of psychopaths is 1 in 100 in the world in general, one researcher maintains that the figure is 1 in 10 among executives.

Because psychopaths are neurologically different, they cannot be cured, though they can learn to fake remorse and spout insincere words of contrition, in order to get out and reoffend. As such, there is controversy on how to deal with them; whether to execute them (in the US, diagnosis as a psychopath is an argument for the death penalty), to lock them up even when they have not committed a crime (as in the UK), or to attempt to cure them by appealing to their self-interest. Wonder whether they've tried Clockwork Orange-style aversion conditioning. (via Plastic)

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Another person I know has bitten the bullet and started a blog. And it's not a bad start. Keep it up, Richard.

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Love meat but don't like killing animals? A scientist in the Netherlands has announced a way of creating artificial meat. And not just meat substitute, but actual vat-grown steaks, grown in tanks of nutrient solution from muscle cells collected from otherwise unharmed "animal donors". The process is similar to that used to grow artificial skin, and could be used to grow ethically-sound meat of a number of species, common and exotic.

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The Australian government has launched its latest high-tech initiative: an online map of public toilets around Australia. The National Public Toilet Map, at www.toiletmap.gov.au, is a serious government project, and is designed to help the incontinent (believed to number one million).

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It appears that there are more civil-liberties rollbacks planned for the United States in its state of siege, including a ban on flag burning. Will banning commie pinko traitor scum from burning their own copies of Old Glory make America safe from terrorism? Probably not, but it fits in with the shift towards right-wing authoritarianism, so let's have it anyway. Remember, citizens: in a state of war, dissent is treason.

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In the wake of Nauru's acceptance of the Tampa refugees, Australian Prime Minister John Howard has struck a new deal with the small island nation to take our Aborigines as well. (The Chaser)

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And now some lessons on dealing with terrorism, from the British (who have had quite a bit of experience):

Ask now of any action you mean to take -- bombing, assassination, ground war -- whether it means there will be more or fewer terrorists when the children who are now in preschool grow up to fighting age. ... The state has to become as good at theater as its enemies. There's a short version of this lesson: "Don't shoot the boys throwing stones."
Torture is the crack cocaine of anti-terrorism because, for a while, it works. The terrorists will certainly use it. But everyone tries it. ... But the price is higher than a democracy can pay.

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Not long after the alleged death of fugitive businessman Christopher Skase, a low-budget film about a vigilante mission to bring him to justice has gotten positive audience response at preview screenings. Let's Get Skase opens nationwide on October 18. (I get the feeling that, had Hollywood been making the film, they would have shelved or severely modified it after his death. There's something to say for the Australian larrikin spirit.)

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