What Happened To The Education Revolution?

I was just thinking tonight about St Michael’s Grammar School in St Kilda. I remember back in my Ozemail days, around 1996 or 97. We – along with Microsoft and, I think, Cisco and Compaq – had set-up St Michael’s as a pilot school for all of our latest technology. The classrooms were all networked, there were laptops everywhere, it was all quite exciting. If you had told me then that fifteen years later, many schools would still be lacking a basic internet understanding, I wouldn’t have believed you.

Last week my kids attended interviews at the high school in Brisbane they will be attending next year. Their mother and I went along. The interviews went well – I was quite proud of my youngsters asking very grown up questions about the school and curriculum during the course of the interview – and as they drew to a close I asked the teacher whether or not the boys’ curriculum would be available on the school’s website.

“Ah no,” she replied.

“Well I like to be keep abreast of what they are working on,” I said. “How will I find out what the curriculum is?”

“You’ll have to email the teachers,” she replied.

“Each of them individually?” I asked.

“Yes,” she replied.

“Are their email addresses up on the website?” I inquired.

“Ah no,” she replied.

“Well how do I get their email addresses?” I asked.

“Well they should hand them out to the kids on their first day,” she replied. “Otherwise, you can ask them when you have the first Parent-Teacher meetings a couple of months into the year.

WOW. Seriously?

The primary school my kids currently attend love to send paper notes home with the kids. Of course, these usually end up buried in school bags and we don’t find out about them until it’s way too late. Why aren’t they emailing us with information we need to know? I understand that not every parent has access to the internet, even in 2012, but surely the schools can take the same approach as most of the utility companies now and ask me if I want to receive notifications by email or paper? Wouldn’t that save schools significant dollars each year in printing costs?

Another example – my kids are on their Year 7 school trip to Sydney and Canberra this week. What system did the school put into place for notifying parents that the kids have arrived and are okay? Well it works like this. First, one of the teachers on the trip sends a text message to TWO parents. Then the rest of the parents are supposed to text THOSE parents asking for updates. I kid you not. Even the kids’ soccer team sends out weekly text blasts to all of the parents advising updates to this weekend’s game. It isn’t rocket science.

I haven’t had anything to do with school IT for many, many years, but I can’t believe it is 2012 and we still don’t have laptops (or, better still, iPads) in the hands of every school child; that every classroom isn’t connected by wifi; that a year’s worth of lesson plans aren’t posted on the school’s website for students and parents to peruse in advance; and that all schools aren’t using blogs, email, Twitter and text messages to update parents about stuff they need to know.

I just scanned through the ALP’s education policy document and it doesn’t seem to mention much about investing in internet infrastructure.

Am I being unreasonable?

When The CIA Took Over The Media

I’m still reading this book about LBJ’s involvement in JFK’s assassination (LBJ: The Mastermind of The JFK Assassination by Phillip F. Nelson) and it introduced me to one part of the CIA’s history I either didn’t know about or have forgotten – something called OPERATION MOCKINGBIRD.

CIA Logo

Mockingbird isn’t some conspiracy theory – like MKULTRA and the 638 attempts at assassinating Fidel Castro, it’s a genuine part of CIA history. MOCKINGBIRD has been written about in detail since the late 70’s, but it’s one of those pieces of U.S. history that isn’t talked about much in the mainstream media. Why? I assume because they would prefer people don’ t know about it as it would make them ask too many questions, such as “how do we know the CIA isn’t controlling the media today as well?”

It’s also one of those events in history that should help us all realize that we’ve been manipulated and lied to by the government and the media in the past so it’s entirely rationale to believe they might be manipulating and lying to us still today.

SO WHAT WAS OPERATION MOCKINGBIRD? 

Basically Mockingbird was a CIA operation that ran from the 50’s through to the 70’s and which used the U.S. corporate media to deliberately spread lies to the American people and international readers (and media). 

Carl Bernstein, one of the guys who broke the Watergate scandal, wrote in Rolling Stone in 1977 that Mockingbird was the story of:

How Americas Most Powerful News Media Worked Hand in Glove with the Central Intelligence Agency

Bernstein goes on to explain that the most powerful people in the US media were happy to work with the CIA:

American publishers, like so many other corporate and institutional leaders at the time, were willing to commit the resources of their companies to the struggle against “global Communism.”

The CIA basically had the co-operation of the news media to publish lies about foreign governments (e.g. Iran, Guatemala, Cuba, Indonesia), designed to indoctrinate the American people to believe the official stories and to look the other way while the CIA illegally overthrew governments and started civil wars. News organisation involved in Mockingbird included:

CBS, Time and Life Magazine, New York Times, The Washington Post, The Washington Star, The Miami News, The Louisville Courier-Journal, The Copley News Services and The Christian Science Monitor.

Of course, these same news organisations were used to promote the official version of JFK’s assassination (the “lone gun” theory) and completely ignoring the evidence tying LBJ and the CIA to the hit or the massive holes in the Warren Commission’s official report.

The MOCKINGBIRD story has lots of twists and turns. For example, the story of Mary Pinchot Meyer. Her husband, Cord Meyer, worked for the CIA and was heavily involved in MOCKINGBIRD. Her sister married Ben Bradlee, publisher of The Washington Post. Her best friend married James Angleton, chief of the CIA’s counterintelligence division. In the late 50’s, Cord Meyer decided to leave the CIA. Not long after, one of their sons was killed by a mysterious hit-and-run accident outside of their home and Cord changed his mind. Cord and Mary divorced in 1958. In 1961 Mary started having an affair with JFK, whom she had known since she was a teenager and had lived next door to in Washington for several years before he was President. According to Timothy Leary, the father of the LSD movement, Mary told him she and JFK were smoking marijuana together and taking LSD. She said this was part of a plan she had to influence the President to bring about world peace.

After Kennedy’s assassination, Mary called Leary and said “They couldn’t control him any more. He was changing too fast…They’ve covered everything up. I gotta come see you. I’m afraid. Be careful.”

A year later, two days after the Warren Commission’s report was released, Mary Meyer was shot to death. One bullet to the heart, another to the head. The man charged with the murder was found innocent, despite an eye-witness testimony. Meyer’s private life (who her ex-husband was and that she had been sleeping with JFK) was kept not only from the courtroom but also from the attorneys involved.

In 2001, several months before his death from lymphoma, when asked who killed his ex-wife, Cord Meyer said  “The same sons of bitches that killed John F. Kennedy.”

Let’s Ban Anonymous Comments!

As the power elite continue to struggle to re-gain control of an increasingly rabid populace, we will continue to see all manner of bizarre suggestions. From Senator Conroy’s “Filter The Internet” initiative here in Australia to this one from New York:

Legislation is pending in Albany that would make illegal anonymous online commenting, City & State tweeted this morning. Looks like Wired was among the first to report on the measure.

The bill’s backers, according to the mag, want to curtail “mean-spirited and baseless political attacks” and “spotlight on cyberbullies by forcing them to reveal their identity.”

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The legislation would make New York-based websites, such as blogs and newspapers, “remove any comments posted on his or her website by an anonymous poster unless such anonymous poster agrees to attach his or her name to the post.”

via Disinformation: Everything You Know Is Wrong.

Personally I’ve always been more than happy to attach my name to my online opinions (which is why my ID is always “cameronreilly”), but I can fully understand why some people would like to be more cautious – people like Bradley Manning, etc. In this current era of “Kill The Whistleblower”, we need to provide anonymous avenues for concerned citizens to leak what they know about the workings of the power elite. And, of course, it stands to reason that the elite will want to destroy those avenues as much as they can.

Personally I don’t think they are going to succeed. For every website they shut down, for every piece of pseudo-fascist legislation they erect, there will be one hundred tools and channels invented by people like Assange that route around the control mechanisms.

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Murdoch Block for Chrome

I just installed this great Chrome extension called “Murdoch Block”.

What does this app do?
– Blocks websites owned and operated by News Corp

Ok cool! Which websites are blocked?
– http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_assets_owned_by_News_Corporation
– The default setting blocks only news and publication sites but that can be customized on the options page.

And how is a site blocked?
– When the user opens a blocked site, a warning is displayed and the user is given an option to continue to the site.

Can the list of blocked sites be customized?
– The options page provides a full list of blocked sites which can be customized by the user. An initial list of blocked sites is set for you by default and consists of news and publication sites.

Sounds great but why should I install this app?
– Install this app to if you want to estimate News Corp’s influence on your internet life, install it to make a statement to the Murdoch empire or install it because you’ve just had enough lies.

The Propaganda Model

 

The propaganda model is a theory advanced by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky that alleges systemic biases in the mass media and seeks to explain them in terms of structural economic causes.

The 20th century has been characterized by three developments of great political importance: the growth of democracy, the growth of corporate power, and the growth of corporate propaganda as a means of protecting corporate power against democracy.

First presented in their 1988 book Manufacturing Consent: the Political Economy of the Mass Media, the propaganda model views the private media as businesses selling a product — readers and audiences (rather than news) — to other businesses (advertisers) and relying primarily on government and corporate information and propaganda. The theory postulates five general classes of “filters” that determine the type of news that is presented in news media: Ownership of the medium, the medium’s Funding, Sourcing of the news, Flak, and Anti-communist ideology.

The first three (ownership, funding, and sourcing) are generally regarded by the authors as being the most important. Although the model was based mainly on the characterization of United States media, Chomsky and Herman believe the theory is equally applicable to any country that shares the basic economic structure and organizing principles the model postulates as the cause of media biases. After the Soviet Union disintegrated, Chomsky said terrorism and Islam would be the new filter replacing communism.

(Source: Wikipedia)

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Flashed Face Distortion Effect

If you’ve read my book “The Three Illusions”, you already know that the world we think we see around us is an illusion of the senses. Our eyes take in photons, which are turned into electrical signals, sent to the brain, which then interprets them into what it thinks we are looking at. The brain literally just MAKES IT UP.

But brains aren’t perfect – by a long stretch. Which is why optical illusions are so much fun. And this is one of the best.

The below videos demonstrate what’s known as the “Flashed Face Distortion Effect” — an optical illusion first described last year by University of Queensland researchers Jason Tangen, Sean Murphy and Matthew Thompson.

We describe a novel face distortion effect resulting from the fast-paced presentation of eye-aligned faces. When cycling through the faces on a computer screen, each face seems to become a caricature of itself and some faces appear highly deformed, even grotesque. The degree of distortion is greatest for faces that deviate from the others in the set on a particular dimension (eg if a person has a large forehead, it looks particularly large). This new method of image presentation, based on alignment and speed, could provide a useful tool for investigating contrastive distortion effects and face adaptation.

If you haven’t seen them before these will blow your mind.

Here’s a version with pretty girls:

Here’s another version, this time with Hollywood celebrities:

(HT: io9)

Who Is Marco Bolano?

Reading the Craig Thomson transcript today and wondering “who is Marco Bolano?”. I must admit, I don’t follow the HSU that closely.

As part of my research, I came across this 2009 video on YouTube from a HSU “Crisis Meeting”. Looks like an interesting bunch.

Get Back Up

 

Aaron Sorkin, writer of THE WEST WING, THE SOCIAL NETWORK and the upcoming biopic on Steve Jobs, recently gave the Commencement address at Syracuse University.

The text is, surprisingly for a man of his talents, mostly blech – work hard, stay off drugs – but here’s a few lines that really resonated with me:

Every once in a while, you’ll succeed.  Most of the time you’ll fail, and most of the time the circumstances will be well beyond your control. How you live matters. You’re going to fall down, but the world doesn’t care how many times you fall down, as long as it’s one fewer than the number of times you get back up.

As some of you know, the start-up I spent the last two years of my life building (Perdomo Cigars Australia) just went belly-up. Not because it was a bad business – it was doing quite well – but because the other guy involved in the business was involved in ANOTHER business that closed down and because of a whole bunch of things I won’t bore you with, it dragged the cigar business down with it.

In times like that, it’s easy to kick yourself for a bunch of reasons – like getting involved with the wrong people, not trusting your gut (or your wife) when it/she tells you “this guy doesn’t know what he’s doing” – but that doesn’t help. Hindsight is great later on when you are doing a post-game analysis of the lessons learned. But the most important thing you need to remember when the shit hits the fan and your life cracks is GET BACK UP.

I’ve got two questions I always ask myself when things go bad.

1. What does this situation enable me to do that I couldn’t do before? 

2. How can I turn this situation to my advantage? 

I’ve found that these two questions quickly re-program my brain in times of drama to think about the upsides and not worry about the downsides (or about how the downsides came to happen in the first place). There’s time for analysis later.