French Revolution

Today thousands of cyclists around the country hit the streets for Bike to Work Day in the United States. In a country dominated by the car, bike transit - as opposed to recreational cycling - is still somewhat of a novelty. Even in large, densely populated cities, you’re more likely to find shared cars than shared bikes. And despite the fact that a car costs 40 times more than a bike, daily fees for renting bikes often exceed those for renting a car. (See WashCycle for a good missive on this.)

But several major cities in Europe have embraced the idea of shared bikes. Shared bikes are low-cost rental bikes parked at stations across the city, optimized for one way trips. For-profit companies like Cyclocity or SmartBike work in conjunction with city planners to help link transportation nodes that are too close for a bus or car, but too far to walk. And unlike shared cars which must be returned to the same parking space, bikes can be returned to any station in the system.

Members provide a refundable deposit (~$200) and pay a nominal annual fee (~$15).  Whenever they need a bike, they simply swipe a card to release an available bike. Rides under 30 minutes are usually free, with increasing fares after that. Most bikes have internal gears and solid tires minimizing muss and fuss - ideal for commuters.

Paris announced this week that it is introducing 20,600 shared bikes at more than 1,400 stations across the city by July 15. The idea has been popular in other European cities, from Lyon to Munich, but with nearly one shared bike for every thousand Parisians, the Bastille Day rollout is nothing less than… revolutionary (see statastic below).

Several US cities including San Francisco, Portland, and Chicago are studying the idea of shared bikes, but it looks like Washington DC will be the first American guinea pig. Early indications are that the DC plan will initially be modest. Like shared cars, shared bike systems greatly benefit from network effects. But now that the planet is heating up, this is no time to be modest. The more shared bikes, the more locations near potential riders, and the users more likely to give it a try, the more profitable, etc.

So can DC match the French passion for shared bike? Not just yet. In order to have the same density of shared bikes in DC as in Paris, Washington would need 5,700 bikes or about 80 Smart Bikes per square mile. And if shared bikes help gets tourists off of those goofy Segways, all the better.

Previously, I hypothesized that widespread adoption of the shared cars would decrease demand for streetside parking (especially with this concept), allowing for more, safer bike lanes. Shared bikes and shared cars could easily work in harmony with one another - there are certainly times when you need a car. But it is time for local leaders to shun the one-car, one-driver paradigm and shared bikes are a great way to start.

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Your Children Should be Wearing Wooden Shoes

BBC World news was aflutter today over the results of the The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) report entitled, “Overview of child well-being in rich countries.” The Brits, it seems have taken over a place normally reserved for the United States: coming in dead last in child welfare.

The report takes a more inclusive approach to the measurement, and data quality varies widely across the rich nations that it surveyed, but the UK is at the bottom in many categories. Rest assured, America is still #1 in several categories, including: relative child poverty, percentage of single parent families, and the lack of overall health and safety for children. Paradoxically, while our children report getting plenty of exercise, they are also the second fattest (it seems that those pesky Maltese children edged us out).

Another seeming paradox is that one of the most tolerant countries on earth, the Netherlands, has many fewer children engaging in risky behavior than the United States. Of course, any Dutch person you ask will insist that this isn’t a paradox at all. The point of lax drug laws is to help demystify marijuana and other drugs for teenagers. Perhaps they have a point, about 50% more American 11 to 15 year-olds have smoked pot in the last 12 months compared to their Dutch counterparts. It might be worth listening to the Dutch - they came in first in the survey of child welfare among rich nations.

Below are some of the more interesting results from the report.

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A Nation of Spoiled, Trust Fund Warhawks?

President Bush’s 2008 budget hit the Hill yesterday to a frosty reception (so much for global warming). The budget is like having an accountant hold a mirror up to American society, and that society is simultaneously warlike and childish.

Almost half of your income taxes will be spent on national defense, and that doesn’t include the interest on debt from previous defense overspending. The Pentagon will spend 6% of its budget repairing and replacing equipment (mostly for Iraq), but it’s still more than the entire foreign affairs budget for 2008. Diplomacy from the barrel of a recently-repaired gun.

The budget also reveals that we are spending money like spoiled trust fund kids - but without the trust fund. Paying for the $261 billion in interest payments on our past indulgences takes up most (83%) of the revenue collected from corporate taxes. Lest you think that we should cut taxes to spur the economy, may I remind you that tax cuts still don’t pay for themselves no matter how many times Bush insists that they do. In fact, between 2008 and 2012, the Bush tax cuts will cost the Treasury Department more than one year of unemployment and welfare benefits combined.

Gift and inheritance taxes collect enough revenue to pay for nearly all of our national science and technology budget. So if you actually are a trust fund kid and think that so-called death taxes are unjust, consider that they might help keep grandma alive for a few more years. Or was that the point of cutting them?
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Selections from President Bush's 2008 Budget

Source: Washington Post

What Knots to Wear

Statastico has made some New Year’s resolutions:

1. I will update my blog five times a week.
2. I will try my darndest to provide at least one original statastic per week.
3. I’ll recommend some music that may help soothe your statastics-starved brains.

What does this mean to you the avid reader? It means that coming up with a clever idea, incisive analysis, statastics and graphics every day is more than a full time job… and that Statastico can’t do it alone. Rest assured, Web 2.0 - also known as Time Magazine’s Person of the Year - caught up to statastic! and churned out swivel.com.

Swivel is the Flickr of statistics and its user-generated (and statistically suspect) stats and graphs will challenge any of you bold enough to distinguish between correlation and causation. But it’s still good fun, and you have to admire wide-eyed entrepreneurs who staked their livelihood on the public’s thirst for more meaningless statistics.

Potosi MinesSo what has Statastico been up to? Glad you asked. Statastico was doing “research,” exploring the far reaches of the Incan Empire - from the apex of their power in Machu Picchu, to their tragic fate in the silver mines of Potosi, Bolivia at the hands of the Spanish conquistadors.

Seeing the quality of their stonework, the remnants of their agricultural prowess, and 500 year-old terraces still in use today makes one marvel that Pizarro so easily conquered this vast empire. The Incas governed a population of more than 15 million without the benefit of steel or the wheel. More shockingly, the Incas were the largest empire in the history of humankind without an alphabet or a written language (see chart below).

Or were they?

In January, Wired Magazine reports that there is an attempt to decipher Incan khipu textiles. The khipu may look like adornment, but these series of knotted strings were long assumed to be a type of abacus for recording census data. New research at Harvard, however, is exploring how the styles of knots, twists and colors in the string may form the basis of an Incan alphabet.

So far Harvard’s research is inconclusive, but their new approach applies network analysis based on the theory that different khipu textiles may refer to one another (much like Google PageRank). For any of you cryptophiles, Harvard has published the raw data here for you to noodle over.

In the interest of living up to Time Magazine’s Person of the Year honor, I thought I would offer some suggestions:

  1. 1. Many of the researchers focus on the khipu as stories to be handed down as a historical record. One of the advantages of knots as a form of a communication is its reusability. What if the khipu were more like portable blackboards constantly being written, erased, and rewritten in order to quickly send messages throughout the empire? This would change the nature of the translation. While researchers might be focused on translating a history book, they may be looking at the equivalent of ancient knot-based emails.
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  3. 2. Although the raw knot data seems pretty conclusive it might be worth enlisting the help of some folks who are so brilliant at mathematics that they created an esoteric sub-discipline known as knot theory. Here’s an example of some of the fun problems the folks at Williams College are considering: “Is the trefoil the only nontritangent knot? (A knot is nontritangent if there is a realization of that knot that does not have any planes tangent to the knot at three or more points.)”

In any case, I applaud Wired Magazine for running this article. Any time you can cross anthropology and google search algorithms, you have my attention. Now it time for the person of the year (you - not me) to decipher the khipu and save the Incas from the ignominy of being the most extensive empire without a written language.
Music Note Border 2While you’re busy untangling the khipu alphabet, have a listen to the Munich-based Notwist’s 2002 album Neon Golden: beepy, indie, minimalist, fuzz pop.

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Evidence of Writing in the 40 Largest Empires

Major League Sports Teams: Animal, Vegetable, or Mineral?

If you were the owner of a major league sports team, how would you decide what to name it? There are many considerations: city history, fan base, and an image that intimidates opponents (but nothing so fierce as to reduce marketability).

Some of the best team names had a fortunate confluence of culture and mascot: Baltimore’s foreboding Raven pulled from Edgar Allen Poe, or Scandinavian heritage brought to life in the pillaging (just not in Super Bowls) Minnesota Vikings.

When team owners decidet to move to a new city, their mascost often lose relevance. Thus, we are left with perplexing names like the Utah Jazz or L.A. Lakers. But some cities such as Cleveland are more far-sighted. Cleveland held on to rights to the Browns football name, even as Art Modell was moving the team to Baltimore.

Then there are annual battles over political correctness. The Atlanta Braves have their tomahawk chop and DC has its Redskins, a favorite target of the Washington Post:

This is not a new issue, nor is it the first time we have urged the change of a name that, as a check with the dictionary shows, is a racial slur. In the early 1990s, a group of Native Americans sued over the name, citing federal law prohibiting the registration of any trademark that disparages any race, religion or group. There’s been new activity in this challenge, and once again the Redskins are on the defensive, advancing the argument that since the team and its fans don’t intend to be racist, the nickname is not offensive.

…(But) it really is not up to the offender to characterize the nature of the offense.

It was in the paralyzing grip of political correctness that Washington renamed its basketball team the Wizards after the Washington Bullets became a self-fulfilling prophesy in the mid 1990s.

Many teams have steered well clear of controversy by naming their teams after something in the neighborhood. The Colorado Rockies and Phoenix Suns team owners seem only to have walked out onto their front porches to come up ideas. The Washington Nationals isn’t particularly ambitious, either. Statastico always favored something along the lines of the Washington Bureaucrats, or the Beltways Bandits. But that’s why I probably don’t own any major league sports teams.

Finally, there are the team names that stick out as historic oddities: teams named after folks dodging street cars, packers of meat, or brewers of beer. Those are the most appropriate team names. If not for the people honored by those teams, how else would we spend a lazy Sunday?

Major League Sports Team Names: Animal, People or Thing?

Politicians Ride the Iowa Butter Cow

Iowa Butter Cow and Superman Guard the White HouseState fairs are in full swing, and presidential hopefuls are getting acquainted with Iowans. As the first state to hold a caucus in the 2008 presidential primary, politicians take advantage of the state fair’s 1 million visitors to test the political waters.

It’s an odd setting for DC politics. The Iowa State Fair is a demonstration of how agriculture has helped shape a quirky Midwestern culture. Today’s events, for example, include a Mom Calling Contest, hot beef sundaes, rubber stamp art techniques, “Focus on Ostrich,” by the Iowa Ostrich Association, at least two goat milking competitions, and a titillating program entitled “How’s My Wienerschnitzel?” Ambivalent fairgoers can escape to the Iowa Wine and Cheese Garden starting at 11 am.

For anyone born and raised in Iowa, the real highlight is the butter cow. Lines typically snake around the Agriculture Building as eager Iowans wait for look at the cow crafted from 500-600 pounds of butter. While the Butter Cow Lady, Norma “Duffy” Lyon, has sculpted a new butter cow annually for the last 45 years, this year she gave up the reigns to her 29 year-old apprentice, Sarah Pratt. Over the years, Norma has also sculpted butter objects to keep the cow company in her refrigerated showcase. These butter creatures hold a funhouse mirror to Iowa culture: Grant Wood’s “American Gothic,” Elvis Presley, Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper,” John Wayne, The Peanuts Gang, Tiger Woods holding a tiger (really), and this year, Superman.

The Iowa State Fair also has another proud tradition: politicians eating fair food. Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich visited the fair last week and ate a pork chop on a stick. Delaware Senator Joseph Biden, who first visited the fair 20 years ago during his bid for president, was reportedly devouring a hoagie in one hand and an ice cream cone in the other.

Other politicians couldn’t help but compare the Iowa State Fair to home. Indiana Senator Evan Bayh commented that “I see you serve beer at your fair and we don’t” in Indiana. (Wait until he finds out what time the wine garden opens.) George Pataki observed that, “We have a great state fair in New York but… we don’t have pork on a stick.” Republican Senator Sam Brownback was at the Iowa State Fair yesterday and Senators John McCain and Bill Frist are expected today or tomorrow. Iowa Governor, Tom Vilsack, has also visited several times - no word on what he’s been eating, but as a native Iowan it’s unlikely to make much news.

So are the state fair visits paying off? According to WHO-TV’s informal “Cast Your Kernel” poll taken on August 16th, not really. Of the Republicans, Senator John McCain came out on top with 24 percent, followed by Rudy Giuliani and Condoleezza Rice each with 20 percent. Neither of the leading Democrats has yet paid a visit to the butter cow. John Edwards and Senator Hillary Clinton were tied at 33 percent, while Iowa’s own governor Tom Vilsack came in third with 13 percent.

It seems that the 500 pounds of butter in the butter cow are enough to sustain the hopes of at least eight politicians. It is a copious amount - about 2000 sticks in all. That’s enough buttersticks to nickname 2,000 baby pandas, or draw butter for 2,000 lobsters. Or, you could butter 4,000 tubs of popcorn, or 16,000 pieces of toast.

And if you get addicted to shaving with butter like Kramer, you can get 16,000 close shaves out of this year’s butter cow. Those 500 pounds of butter would also fuel a very successful bake sale: 20,000 pieces of fudge, 35,000 of my mother’s famous brownies, 60,000 Toll House cookies, or 64,000 Rice Krispies Treats. Of course, if you’re in Iowa, you would most likely use 500 pounds of butter on 32,000 ears of sweet corn.

In a letter about his trip to Iowa, Newt Gingrich closed with this:

“…the process of electing the President of the most powerful country on earth passes through a state fair in rural America where more than one million people come with their families to eat nearly anything that comes on a stick, compete in numerous agricultural competitions and contests, ride the rides, enjoy the shows and see the ‘butter cow,’ but that is how we do it in America, where a free people get to put their candidates to the test face to face.”

Fair enough.

Enough Butter for...

Notes: According to the new butter cow lady, Sarah Pratt, this year’s butter cow is a Jersey and requires about 500 pounds of butter.

Assumptions: One ear of Iowa sweet corn only requires half a tablespoon of butter. Popcorn needs 1/4 cup per tub. Lobsters apparently require 1/2 a cup. Statastic does not advocate sautéing pandas, no matter how delicious that might be. Butterstick was blogosphere’s attempt to name Tai Shan, the baby Panda at the National Zoo.

How Comcast is Picking Your Pocket

How Comcast is Picking Your PocketAfter nearly two full seasons of Washington Nationals baseball in the nation’s capital, 1.6 Comcast cable subscribers will finally be getting Nats games at home. While DIRECTV, Cox and others in the DC area receive the Nationals games from Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (MASN) for free, Comcast subscribers will enjoy a $2 monthly fee tacked on to their cable bills for carrying MASN. This is not an optional subscription fee like DIRECTV’s NFL Sunday Ticket, it’s a permanent hike, and it will provide $38.4 million in annual revenue for Comcast.

Fewer than 150,000* DC-area residents are likely to watch Nats games on TV. But if Comcast were to earn the same $38.4 million by selling subscriptions only to Nats viewers, they would have to charge them $44 per month. That’s money they can more easily extract from all 1.6 million Comcast customers in the DC area.

It gets better. Comcast extended basic TV comes with 76 channels, which for the sake of argument, provide 24 hours of programming for the local-monopoly price of about $46 per month. So 100 hours of TV on any of those channels will cost you about 8 cents.

If MASN broadcasts all 162 Washington Nationals games each year, and we assume that a baseball game takes 3 hours, that $2 fee from Comcast will be costing it DC-area customers $4.94 per 100 hours of Nationals baseball in the 2007 season.

But Comcast is more cunning that simply charging DC residents 60 times the normal per-hour cable program rate. They also chose to cut a deal with MASN at the very end of the 2006 season, meaning that they will broadcast a maximum of 22 games this year. So for the seven months between September of 2006 and Major League Baseball’s opening day of April 1, 2007, Comcast will broadcast about 66 hours of Nats games for the low, low price of $14. That comes out to $21.21 per 100 hours of programming!

Rest assured, Comcast isn’t going to make any money from this. Comcast executive vice president David Cohen said in a statement that, “Comcast does not intend to profit from the carriage of this new network, but its significant cost makes it necessary to pass along a price increase to our customers. It will cost literally hundreds of millions of dollars over the next decade to provide MASN….”

I’m sure the shareholders are going to be pleased to hear that Comcast isn’t broadcasting Major League Baseball for a profit. So are Nats games just unusually expensive to film and distribute? Not according to MASN. They told Reuters that Comcast would be paying about $1.25 per customer per month. MASN also estimated that Comcast could make back another $.60 per cable customer on advertising. After subtracting MASN fees and adding in their advertising revenue, Comcast’s net income will be about $15 million for broadcasting 22 Nationals games between September 7, 2006 and March 31, 2007.

If you’d like to switch to DIRECTV now, click here. Statastico earns nothing from this hyperlink, just a little satisfaction.

Go Nats!

100 Hours of Comcast

Sources: Statastic research; Washington Post; Comcast

Notes: *How many Nats TV viewers are there? It’s hard to say since there has never been full cable coverage. San Francisco had about 144,000 regular TV viewers the year after their Giants were in the World Series. This is likely a good proxy because it has a similar metro-area population and the Oakland A’s compete for viewers, much as the Baltimore Orioles do.

Republicans, witchcraft, cannibalism, breast implants and terrorism

Google Trends is statastic! Not many web sites get the statastic adjective, but it’s no surprise that the Google Labs have pulled it off.

Google Trends is an anonymous snapshot of worldwide Google searches broken down by the geographic origination of the search. My favorite part is that terms are normalized, which basically means that Google takes the search term that you’re interested in as a percentage of all search terms from the geographic area you’ve selected. Google explains here.

The word or words that appears at the top of each section were the search terms that people around the world entered into Google. In all cases except the last one, these are the top results from around the world. The last comparison between Arcade Fire and TV on the Radio was limited to U.S. Google searches.

Now to see what the world has on its mind!
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When Republicans Google themselves?

Top 10 cities around the world searching for the word “corruption.”

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Google Trends: Corruption

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Hope the Romanians are voting in the midterms

Top 4 regions around the world searching for the words “democrat” and “republican.”

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Google Trends: Democrat vs. Republican

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Planning a vacation?

Top 10 countries around the world searching for the words “witchcraft,” compared to their search for “cannibalism,” and “spontaneous combustion.”

.Google Trends: Witchcraft vs. cannibalism vs. Spontaneous Combustion

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We care a lot. But not as much as you.

Top 10 cities around the world searching for the word “Darfur.”
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Google Trends: Dafur

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When men are in charge

Top 10 countries that searched for the word “sex” compared to the frequency with which they searched for the term “love.”

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Google Trends: Sex vs. Love

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Now that’s not funny

Top 10 countries searching for the word “joke.” I don’t get it.

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Google Trends: Joke

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Time for the Butter Cow!

Top 10 cities around the world that searched for “state fair.”

Google Trends: State Fair

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“Well they’re both really important issues… the boobs, I mean.”

Top 10 cities around the world that searched for the term “breast implant” versus how often they googled the name of the Iraqi prison “Abu Ghraib.”

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Google Trends: Breast Implant vs. Abu Ghraib

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“Jihad” must mean something else in Indonesian. Besides, there are hardly any Muslims there.
Top 10 languages that searched for the word “jihad” versus the frequency with which they searched for the word “terrorism” and “al Qaeda.”

.Google Trends: Johad vs. Terrorism vs. Al Qaeda

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What exactly are the Indonesians planning for?

Top 10 countries that searched for the term “UFO” versus how likely they were to look up “Elvis.”

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Google Trends: UFO vs. Elvis.

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Washington DC just isn’t very hip.

Top 10 U.S. cities that googled “TV on the Radio” compared to how often those same 10 cities searched for “Arcade Fire.”

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Google Trends (U.S.): TV on the Radio vs. Arcade Fire.

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War, Peace and Video Games - pt. 2

Video and computer games are no longer a nascent entertainment technology just for kids. It’s a $7 billion industry aimed at an average player who is 33 years old. In fact 69% of players are older than 18. So it should come as no surprise that an industry born to entertain is now reaching maturity. Violent video games have existed since the beginning. But innovation in gaming is allowing a wider range of viewpoints to use video games to reflect their own reality, recruit people to their causes, and even to mix foreign policy with virtual reality.

Early video games such as fighter jet flight simulators were developed in the private sector. Some simulators such as F-16 Fighting Falcon were so realistic, that the Air Force classified aspects of the game and started using them for training their own pilots.

The U.S. Department of Defense has used several video games over the years to train and recruit new soldiers. The line between government and commercial games is increasingly blurred. The Army game, America’s Army was first developed with U.S. government dollars. Now it’s available for Xbox. More recently, the government has flipped the investment equation, using venture capital money to fund video games, hoping that commercial sales will subsidize the classified versions of their strategy and war games.

But such public-private partnerships are a thin line to walk. Pandemic Studios, the creator of Mercenaries 2, has previously developed training aids for the US Army. Their most recent commercial release of the video game Mercenaries 2 features a presumably fictitious storyline about a group of ragtag mercenaries on their way to Venezuela to oust Hugo Chavez. Apparently this hit a little too close to home and there are accusations from the Venezuelan government that the game is propaganda from the U.S. Intelligence Community. Dreamy rockstar/activist, Bono, an investor in a parent company was even swept up in the controversy.

Resistance and terrorist organizations have also developed video games that tell their side of the story. Special Force is Hezbollah’s response to American video games that portray all Arabs as terrorists. In another video game, Under Siege, players violently fight the Israeli army in game apparently based on a true story of Palestinian repression and resistance.

And finally, domestic extremists have utilized video game technology to extol their own twisted values. The game Border Patrol has a deceptively innocent, cartoon-like interface. The object of the game is anything but innocent: gun down families crossing border between Mexico and the U.S. An even more technologically complex and disturbingly sinister game is blatantly named Ethnic Cleansing. The neo-Nazi goal is to wipe out all non-whites.

For the baby boom generation it is easy to ignore video games as child’s play. They are not. As you can see from the screenshots below, video games are effective tools of resistance, terror, war and death. But as much as gaming reflects the dark side of humanity, they are also showing signs of redemption, peace, and diplomacy. Stay tuned.
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Commercial War Games

Real War: Rogue States

About: A commercial release where a player can choose between two player profiles: the United States and the Independence Liberation Army, an amalgam of terrorist groups with access to heavy weaponry. Based on the game Real War, an official Joint Chiefs training game, all jets, ships, and ground vehicles are taken directly from today’s military - with a few special items right off the Pentagon’s drawing boards.

Developer: Rival Interactive

Price: $9.95

Download
Mercenaries 2

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Mercenaries 2: World in Flames

About: Players drop into Venezuela to help settle an oil dispute, take on “a power hungry tyrant,” and blow up lots and lots of stuff. Though Mercenaries 2 is based on a fictional scenario, the plot is “realistic enough to believe that it could actually happen,” a Pandemic rep told the AP.

Supporters of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, an outspoken critic of American policy, are not amused. “[Mercenaries 2] sends a message to Americans: You have a danger next door, here in Latin America, and action must be taken,” said lawmaker Gabriela Ramirez. “It’s a justification for an imperialist aggression.” Ramirez also said that Mercenaries 2 could be banned from the country by laws intended to protect children from violent games….

“I think the US government knows how to prepare campaigns of psychological terror so they can make things happen later,” said Venezuelan congressman Ismael Garcia. - Source: gamespot.com
Developer: Pandemic Studios

Price: TBA

Web Site: http://www.pandemicstudios.com/proj_mercs2.php

Mercenaries 2

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Government War Games

F2C2 (Future Force Company Commander)

About: The Army’s war game and recruiting tool for Future Combat Systems (FCS).

From army.mil: “F2C2 is a real-time tactical strategy game that allows you to learn about the Army’s FCS program by giving you command of a Mounted Company Team in the year 2015. Through gameplay, F2C2 shows how FCS is designed to give the 21st Century Soldier unprecedented situational awareness and the ability to see first, understand first, act first, and finish decisively.”

Developer: SAIC

Price: Free

F2C2

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First to Fight

About: First to Fight is a tactical first-person shooter in which you lead a four-man fire team in close-quarters urban combat in the streets and buildings of Beirut. It was created with the help of more than 40 active-duty U.S. Marines fresh from firefights in the Middle East and will be used by the United States Marine Corps for training.

Developer: Destineer & U.S. Marines. In-Q-Tel has invested in Destineer to develop additional training and simulation games for the intelligence community.

Funding: Private

Price: $29.99

Web site: http://www.firsttofight.com/html/

First to Fight

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America’s Army

About: America’s Army is a tactical multiplayer first-person shooter owned by the U.S. government and released as a global public relations initiative to present an image of the current U.S. Army and help with U.S. Army recruitment. A different version of the game for Xbox and PlayStation 2, America’s Army: Rise of a Soldier, is being developed by Ubisoft in collaboration with the U.S. Army. The Xbox version was released in November, 2005.

Developer: MOVES Institute at the Naval Postgraduate School was contracted by the U.S. Army to create the game
Funding: U.S. Department of Defense

Commercial Developer: Ubisoft

Funding: U.S. Government - three years and $7.5 million

Reach: 5 million registered users as of May, 2006

Price: Army version is free; XBox version America’s Army: Rise of a Soldier is $19.99

Web site: http://www.americasarmy.com/
America's Army

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Resistance War Games

Hezbollah’s Special Force

About: Special Force is a first-person shooter military video game, published by the militant Islamic organisation Hezbollah. Special Force allows the player to take the part of an armed member of the Islamic Resistance to the Israeli invasions of Lebanon and to attack Israeli positions and Israeli politicians.

It carries a deliberate and specific political message, that is pro-Islamic and anti-Israel. On the cover of the game’s box, a message to users says “the designers of Special Force are very proud to provide you with this special product, which embodies objectively the defeat of the Israeli enemy and the heroic actions taken by heroes of the Islamic Resistance in Lebanon.” It adds: “Be a partner in the victory. Fight, resist and destroy your enemy in the game of force and victory.” - Source: Wikipedia

Reach: game sold out of first run of 100,000 copies

Web site: Official website in English (Inactive as at 20 July 2006)

Video of game being played: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yvmj7wj1UOw
Hezbollah's Special Force

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Under Siege

About: Under Siege is a sequel to the video game Under Ash. It is a first-person shooter, with the option of playing the game as a third-person shooter. The game focuses on the lives of a Palestinian family between 1999 and 2002 during the second Intifada. The player shoots at Israeli Defense Force soldiers throughout most of the game. However, shooting at civilians or otherwise hurting them ends the game. The game has been described as a docugame, since all the game levels are based on on the lives of 5 Palestinian family members during the second Intifada 1999-2002. - Source: Wikipedia

Developer: Afkar Media in Damascus, Syria

Cost: About $100,000

Price: $10

Web Site: http://www.underash.net/en_download.htm

Under Siege

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Hate Video Games

Border Patrol

About: Credited to the bigoted neo-Nazi Tom Metzger, puts you in the role of a hunter/murderer who patrols the southern border with Mexico. Your objective: “Keep them out…at any cost!” “Them,” by the game’s definition, are the “wetbacks” trying to cross the border from Mexico.

Developer: Tom Metzger

Funding: Private

Cost: Free

Border Patrol

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Ethnic Cleansing

About: Created by the fringe neo-Nazi organization National Alliance, this elaborate and incredibly offensive video game seeks to extend the reach one of the most extreme viewpoints in American culture.

A description from the Anti-Defamation League: “The player roams the streets and subways murdering ‘predatory sub-humans’ and their Jewish ‘masters’ thereby ‘saving’ the white world…. The game has a high level of background detail and various National Alliance signs and posters appear throughout while racist rock blares on the soundtrack.”

From the resistance.com: “The most politically incorrect video game ever made. Run through the ghetto blasting away various blacks and spics in an attempt to gain entrance to the subway system, where the jews have hidden to avoid the carnage. Then, if YOU’RE lucky…. you can blow away jews as they scream “Oy Vey!”, on your way to their command center.”

Developer: National Alliance

Funding: Private

Cost: $14.88

Ethnic Cleansing

What Is Social Isolation?

According to a recent paper by Miller McPherson, Lynn Smith-Lovin, and Matthew E. Brashears, the number of Americans saying they have no one with whom they discuss important matters nearly tripled from 1985 to 2004. The study used the same questions from the 1984 survey to determine how social networks have changed over time. The core question was:

“From time to time, most people discuss important matters with other people. Looking back over the last six months—who are the people with whom you discussed matters important to you? Just tell me their first names or initials.”

The study found that the average number of people in our personal networks has decreased from 2.94 in 1985 to 2.08 in 2004. They also found that women’s social networks are more likely to involve non-kin: As women have moved from homemakers to the workforce, they have increased their number of confidants outside the family unit.

The authors offer several caveats for the extraordinary change in less than two decades: a change in the interpretation of the question, a different view of what is “important” in a post-9-11 world, and finally, actual differences in the way we interact.

Indeed, we do work more hours, commute longer distances, and communicate in new ways. All of these are likely contributors to the change. The Internet has made it possible to remain geographically dispersed while finding people with similar interests. Barry Wellman calls this concept “networked individualism.”

Communication via the Internet is also more public: Diaries once under lock and key are now blogs with hundreds of readers. A note once left on a work colleague’s desk is now an email with several other recipients copied. Open communication might make the idea of a confidant a less relevant concept. Asking someone in an Internet chat room for advice on how to deal with a parent with Alzheimer’s certainly qualifies as “discussing an important matter” even the person who responds remains anonymous.

Perhaps a recent paper from the Pew Internet & American Life Project puts it best:

“Instead of disappearing, people’s communities are transforming: The traditional human orientation to neighborhood- and village-based groups is moving towards communities that are oriented around geographically dispersed social networks. People communicate and maneuver in these networks rather than being bound up in one (solitary) community.”

Size of Discussion Networks 1985 & 2004

Source: “Social Isolation in America: Changes in Core Discussion Networks over Two Decades.” Miller McPherson Lynn Smith-Lovin, Matthew E. Brashears; American Sociological Review, 2006, VOL. 71 (June:353–375)