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205: The NFL, Brain Trauma, and Domestic Violence

It's been a rough couple of weeks for the National Football League. Ever since a sickening video emerged on September 8th of Baltimore Ravens’ running back Ray Rice knocking out his then-fiancee (now-wife) Janay Palmer, the public outcry over the league’s handling of a series of domestic violence issues has been at fever pitch, even reaching the nation’s highest office. All the while, the looming specter of concussion consequences is generating more discussion than ever regarding the future viability of the sport itself.

 

But is there a link between playing a violent sport involving repeated hits to the head, and someone’s propensity to commit domestic violence? To discuss the evidence, Guy Evans welcomes Dan Diamond, contributor at Forbes.com and author of the recent article 'Does Playing Football Make You Violent?'

 

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Direct download: the-nfl-brain-trauma-domestic-violence.mp3
Category:Podcasts -- posted at: 11:25pm EDT

204: Scottish Independence

Tomorrow, Thursday September 18th, voters in Scotland will be asked in a referendum to vote on whether their nation should be an independent country, breaking away from the rest of the United Kingdom. A yes vote would establish a separate Scottish state for the first time since 1707, when a need for economic security resulted in union with England, and the subsequent formation of the Kingdom of Great Britain.

 

Despite periods of backlash against the ideology of Britishness, particularly at the end of the 19th century, it wasn’t until the late 1960s that Scottish nationalism was revived as a serious political movement. After the famous ‘Wind of Change’ speech by UK Prime Minister Harold Macmillan signified the start of decolonization in Africa and the end of the British Empire, many in Scotland began to question the ultimate purpose of the United Kingdom.

 

Throughout the early part of the following decade, the 1970s, the discovery of North Sea Oil increased the momentum and support for nationalism and devolution – the process designed to decentralize government through the granting of powers at a regional or state level. The Scottish National Party (or SNP), which by now could make a strong case for independence – organized a highly successful campaign with the tag line “It’s Scotland’s Oil”, disseminating the idea that Scotland would not significantly benefit from the oil revenue while it remained part of the UK.

 

In the late 1990s, the UK government began to devolve powers from the parliament in London to assemblies in Cardiff (Wales) and Belfast (Northern Ireland), and the newly minted Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh. By 2011, a landslide victory by the SNP in Scottish parliamentary elections ensured that the party had secured the required seats to advance a referendum on secession – the act of formally withdrawing from membership of a federation or body, especially a political state. Although polls at the time indicated that Scots disapproved of independence by a two-to-one margin, SNP leader Alex Salmond remained steadfast in his conviction to hold the vote – and thus, by agreement with British Prime Minister David Cameron, Britain’s political and economic landscape could change forever if a majority of balloters vote ‘yes’ tomorrow.

 

And so, the long history of Scottish skepticism towards union with England, plus relatively recent political differences between Scotland and the rest of the UK, have meant that a decades-long push for political autonomy has led to an independence referendum.

 

At this point I’d like to look at the arguments on both sides of the issue – so let’s begin with examining the case for Scottish independence.

 

Firstly, there is the matter of Scottish pride and cultural identity. Polls consistently reflect the fact that the majority of Scots regard themselves as being Scottish first and foremost, as opposed to British. On a related note, Scottish culture is highly distinctive and well-recognized the world over.

 

But according to former human rights lawyer Amanda Taub, happy coexistence with the rest of the UK may have continued were it not for political divisions between the decidedly more liberal Scotland, and the lead party in the U.K.’s current coalition government, David Cameron’s conservative party. Cameron himself is a particularly unpopular figure in Scotland, with his posh boy image completely at odds with the way many Scots see themselves. While this political divide has existed, as Professor Dauvit Brown of the University of Glasgow points out, since the time of Margaret Thatcher as Prime Minister, Cameron’s involvement in the ‘no’ campaign has arguably weakened and undermined its message.

 

Writing for the Huffington Post, Sarah Moyes, a Scot, provided some insight into the mindset of the pro-independence argument. “My decision to vote Yes,” she wrote, “is not one I’m taking lightly, yet it’s one that feels completely natural. I haven’t had to do months of soul searching to come to this conclusion. It just feels right for me and the country I live in. After all, why wouldn’t we want to live in a country that makes its own decisions? At the moment, we’re living with a London based parliament making our decisions for us. Of course, Scotland has the right to make some of the choices, but a lot of the decisions which affect us are still being decided by people in London. Can they really have our best interests at heart? And more importantly, can they even understand our needs?”

 

In essence, the ‘Yes’ campaign argues that in 2014, Scotland shouldn’t have to be dependent on the rest of the U.K. Some estimates have suggested that 90 percent of the revenues from North Sea oil would cause the per-capita GDP of the “new Scotland” to be higher than that of Italy, in spite of concerns that the wells may be starting to run dry.

 

Other reasons that have been cited in favor of independence include nuclear disarmament, as control over defense and foreign policy would result in the potential removal of nuclear weapons; renewable energy, with Salmond himself suggesting a focus in this area could lead to the ‘re-industrialization’ of Scotland; and the idea that a new “cultural awakening” would unleash a fresh wave of cultural ideas and expression.

 

Switching over to the anti-independence side of the coin, the obvious counter-point is that changing the political structure of the UK would be too risky for Scotland. The “Better Together” campaign, an organization made up of the parties, organizations and individuals supporting a ‘no’ vote, argues that separation would leave Scotland’s economy weak, and that its proposed exploitation of North Sea Oil is not a long-term strategy for economic prosperity.

 

Aside from discussion of potential economic issues, those on the side of the “No” campaign have looked to take advantage of the shared history and ties of the union with various attempts to tug at voter’s heartstrings. These attempts to appeal to hearts and minds have not occurred without several missteps along the way however, notably, the decision to utilize the slogan “no thanks” – not to mention the release of a patronizing video aiming to make the issue crystal clear to undecided female voters.

 

The Better Together campaign’s most famous supporter is Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling, who donated £1 million to the cause and said the following in an open letter warning against the apparent end of the Union:

 

If we leave…there will be no going back. This separation will not be quick and clean: it will take microsurgery to disentangle three centuries of close interdependence, after which we will have to deal with three bitter neighbours. I doubt that an independent Scotland will be able to bank on its ex-partners’ fond memories of the old relationship once we’ve left. The rest of the UK will have had no say in the biggest change to the Union in centuries, but will suffer the economic consequences.

 

Currency has also been another huge area of disagreement. Under independence, the Scottish government wants to keep the pound as part of a formal currency union with the rest of the UK. The three main parties in Westminster however — David Cameron’s Conservatives, their coalition partners the Liberal Democrats, and Labour — have all said that this simply will not be an option. Therefore, Scotland may have to eventually turn to the unstable Euro, which based on recent history could be disastrous. It’s also unclear what would happen to Scotland’s share of UK debt if the nation does go it alone.

 

If Scotland votes to separate, it will take 18 months of negotiations before independence is officially declared. The repercussions of a yes vote would be significant for the rest of the U.K., with speculation that Britain might leave the European Union and even find itself deserted by Wall Street banks. The queen herself emerged to give her first comments on the issue this week, cryptically urging voters to “think very carefully about the future.”

 

As has been widely reported, the polls have the race neck-and-neck as both sides gear up for a monumental last day of campaigning.

 

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Direct download: scottish-independence.mp3
Category:Podcasts -- posted at: 4:15am EDT

203: The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

Throughout July and August of this year, social media users were inundated with an almost constant stream of short videos featuring people from seemingly all walks of life dumping buckets of ice water on their heads. This trend, known as the 'ALS Ice Bucket Challenge', went viral in an effort to promote awareness for the disease known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS. It soon became a most unlikely pop culture phenomenon, with various celebrities, politicians and athletes performing the challenge and posting their videos online.

 

Prior to this craze, ALS, a devastatingly debilitating and usually fatal disease, hardly registered at all on the consciousness of the public. On August 29th however, the ALS Association announced that the total donations resulting from the challenge had exceeded $100 million. For this reason, it would appear that it would be difficult to criticize the campaign, but it certainly has not been met without any detractors. One such individual is the investigative journalist and television producer Willard Foxton, author of an article written at the height of the craze entitled ‘The Ice Bucket Challenge – a middle-class wet-T-shirt contest for armchair clicktivists’:

 

"The whole thing has turned from a decent enough attempt to raise cash for a good cause into a ghastly narcissistic freakshow, combining the worst elements of social media self-love and celebrity worship with armchair feelgood clicktivism."

 

Mr. Foxton joined the Smells Like Human Spirit Podcast to discuss his article further, explore some of the issues with the Challenge, and evaluate possible alternatives to the current charitable-giving paradigm. Other topics covered in this podcast include online mysogyny in the wake of the hacked private photographs of a litany of female celebrities, and the Scottish Independence debate. Enjoy!

 

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Direct download: als-ice-bucket-challenge.mp3
Category:Podcasts -- posted at: 12:17pm EDT

202: The Birth of Korean Cool, with Euny Hong

For Episode 202 of Smells Like Human Spirit, Guy Evans interviews Euny Hong, a journalist and author whose work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal, among many other places. Euny’s most recent book, ‘The Birth of Korean Cool: How One Nation is Conquering the World Through Pop Culture’ examines the 21st Century rise of South Korea becoming a global leader in business, technology, education, and – as the title implies – pop culture.

 

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About The Birth of Korean Cool:

 

In 1985, 12-year-old Euny Hong, an American, entered a Korean public school system that thrashed students for wearing unzipped jackets; her elite Hyundai apartment building regularly faced brownouts and water shutoffs. Two decades later, Korea had leapfrogged from third-world military dictatorship to first-world liberal democracy on the cutting edge of global technology. It paid back a $57 billion loan from the IMF, wired the entire country for superfast Internet, and created the Ministry of Culture to spread the Korean Brand worldwide. Samsung, once known as 'Samsuck', now generates 1/5 of South Korea's GDP and dominates the global smartphone market.

 

Hong pairs stories from her own childhood, spent first in Chicago and then in the Gangnam neighborhood of Seoul, with in-depth reporting and exclusive interviews. She spoke with government officials and cultural icons - Samsung execs, admins at Korea's National Institute for International Education, Michelin-starred chefs, rapper Psy of the viral hit "Gangnam Style" - to show us how one country made an unprecedented leap into the 21st century to become a global leader in business, technology, education, and pop culture.

Direct download: the-birth-of-korean-cool.mp3
Category:Podcasts -- posted at: 6:36pm EDT

201: Music Psychology, with Mic.com writer Tom Barnes

This episode of Smells Like Human Spirit is a continuation of sorts from SLHS 197, a show which examined the rise of the so-called 'evil empire' of radio, Clear Channel Communications. To further explore the current state of the music industry and mainstream music in particular, Mic.com writer Tom Barnes joined Guy Evans to expound on his very popular recent article, ‘The Music Industry Is Literally Brainwashing You To Like Bad Pop Songs – Here’s How'. Enjoy!

 

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Direct download: music-psychology.mp3
Category:Podcasts -- posted at: 11:18pm EDT

Guy Evans interview on Tom Secker's 'Clandestime' Podcast (09/03/14)

This podcast episode contains the audio of Guy Evans'  recent appearance on Tom Secker's 'Clandestime' podcast (aired 09/03/14). 

 

As part of Tom's series of shows looking at various motion pictures with surveillance themes, the subject at hand was the 2002 movie 'Minority Report'. Throughout the 40+ minute talk, specific topics of discussion included the film's origins, the technology featured in the film and how much of it is now operational in 2014, and the philosophical dimensions of the movie. Enjoy!

 

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Direct download: GuyEvansInterview090814.mp3
Category:Podcasts -- posted at: 9:16pm EDT

200: Media Matters

On the heels of the decision by the New York Post to defy basic rules of decency with its disgraceful James Foley cover, Guy Evans looks at three other recent instances of egregious coverage in the mainstream media.

 

Thank you for helping SLHS get to 200 episodes!

 

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Direct download: media-matters-slhs200.mp3
Category:Podcasts -- posted at: 11:01pm EDT

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