Que sera, sera, whatever will be, will be, but first I need more coffee.

Month: May 2010 (Page 1 of 2)

It all makes sense

I saw a graphic called i, Republican with a parody on Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics. As I read it, I felt it didn’t quite ring true. I knew that there were Democrats in Congress who also obeyed these three laws. And if you’ve been following Congress for the past 20 years, you will see just how true these laws are:

i, Congress

The 3 Laws

  1. Congress may not injure a corporation or, through inaction, allow a corporation to come to lose money.
  2. Congress must obey any orders given to it by corporations, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. Congress must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

Signal to Noise Ratio

In my conversion from being libertarian (with a small L) to a progressive (because I couldn’t bring myself to calling myself liberal) has been a journey fraught with mistakes. In rejecting my old politics, I’d forgotten what was valuable from that old political belief system. Just as in rejecting Christianity (my Catholicism) I’d rejected all of it. After watching Joseph Campbell’s Power of Myth with Bill Moyers I was able to reclaim and keep what was good from my Catholic upbringing. It’s time I do the same with my political leanings.

Note- I use the lowercase L because I never joined the party. The reason is they wanted me to sign an oath:

"I hereby certify that I do not believe in or advocate the initiation of force as a means of achieving political of social goals."

I agree with it in principle and I totally oppose the neocon doctrine of preemption, but why did I not sign it or take it? I can’t quite articulate why at the moment and I apologize for that but it boils down to that I think of it as an unspoken principle. No party should advocate the use of force to achieve political ends. And yet we know that our government controlled by these parties use force all the time to do so. They also use laws to achieve political and social goals that are just as detrimental as the use of force. Such as the poorly named ‘war on drugs’.

But I digress.

Although political and religious ideas can never reach the precision of a scientific theory, I believe that using the principles of science to form a better view of the world is essential in producing ideas that are workable in the real world. And so I believe in taking what is useful and figuring out what works. I rejected libertarianism because they were never going to get into power and frankly their philosophy prevented them from doing so. They want small gov’t. Well to trot out a phrase ‘nature abhors a vacuum’. I concluded that corporations would fill that power vacuum left by the gov’t. And to me libertarianism became a bait and switch philosophy. I started looking at the history of progressivism and found myself agreeing with the Teddy Roosevelt era progressive policies: break up monopolies, ending child labor are just a few of the things I agree with.

Another note: I should have also questioned whether or not progressivism is also a bait and switch philosophy.

Anyway my point is I believe in the adage of not throwing the baby out with the bathwater. And that we should listen to our political opponents. The problem is picking the signal from the noise. And since Obama has become President the noise level has become extremely high. So here’s a nice clean signal extracted from the noise.

Republicans and Libertarians have the right idea here. One lesson we should all take to heart.

I’m not quite sure a high signal-to-noise ratio means there’s more signal than noise or more noise than signal. Does low signal-to-noise ratio mean that’s a bad thing? Anyway if the number on the left is higher than on the right, that’s a good thing. It means there is more signal than noise. So 2:1 is good and 1:2 is bad. I’ve forgotten a lot of my radio training.

Postscript: I should probably add there are differences between liberals and progressives, but the terms have become so conflated in public discourse that it’s takes time to explain the differences. I’d recommend Wikipedia as a good starting place to get the basic definitions about the differences.

2010 The Year of Destruction

For the past few years I’ve been give names to years. I can’t seem to find where I posted them or what emails I sent them in so the best I can do is guess at what they were called and when. I’m pretty sure I named 2007 The Year of the Fuckhead. There was a lot of fuckheadedness going on that year. 2008 I think was The Year The Chickens Came Home to Roost. I don’t recall what I named 2009 but I think it was probably a positive name. I think I named 2006 and I don’t recall any names for 2005 or earlier. In hindsight I’d rename 2009 The Year Evertyhing Was Supposed to Change But Didn’t.

We didn’t get health reform this year. We got a health insurance and drug company profitability law. There were a few items that were positive in it. It is possible for it to be morphed into real health reform but it’ll be another 20 years before we even think about it seriously again. We are getting a toothless Wall Street reform bill. I’m sure there will be a few scraps for Main Street.

We are watching perhaps the greatest man-made natural disaster in the history of the human race unfold before our very eyes in the Gulf of Mexico. It’s certainly in the top 10. I predict this time next year BP will cease to exist as a company. If only to avoid paying for the damages they’ve wrought. And even if the flow were shut off today we won’t know the full impact for weeks, months, and years. We are stuck in two wars with no end in sight. The right wing in America has gone batshit insane. They haven’t gotten violent yet but they are making noises. Actually I’m somewhat hopeful they are directing their misplaced energies into the electoral process. We are still in the midst of a great recession though there are signs it’s not getting worse and stabilizing. I wouldn’t go so far as to say the economy is improving marginally.

As long as the middle class in America loses ground, as long as there are tent cities, as long as there are millions of undocumented workers, as long as the national debt soars, as long as we stay entangled in foreign wars, as long as we don’t take care of our wounded vets, as long as there are millions of unemployed, I do not see conditions improving in America. I do not feel hopeless but neither do I feel hopeful. All I can say is that I do not feel helpless.

Barry McGuire’s song The Eve of Destruction is as timely now as when it was first performed in 1965. It shouldn’t be that way but it is. And with everything that I see happening now I can’t see conditions improving for a long long time. America isn’t going to collapse but it has some very rocky years ahead of it. Since 2009 didn’t turn out the way it was supposed to 2010 was supposed to be crunch time. The time to really make a positive change. I’m not seeing it. I’m not depressed either. I just know that we are in a time of transition and that it’s going to be unpleasant to say the least. November will seal the deal on whether we move forward or we are totally screwed. There is so much more I could kvetch about but why?

The way things are shaping up I’m gonna call 2010 The Year of Destruction. Take it away, Barry.

Update May 31, 2010

I’d forgotten too mention there was a horrible earthquake in Haiti which was the worst earthquake in the world to hit the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. I think 100,000 died. Then shortly afterwards there was a massive earthquake in Chile. Thankfully they were better prepared. I was reminded of this by seeing a picture of a sinkhole recently formed in Guatamala City after a tropical storm killed hundreds and a volcano erupted. And now Israel attacks a humanitarian convoy in the Mediterranean Sea killing 10 and wounding 30. I knew Israel would not let the flotilla land in Gaza.

I should also add that the leak has still flowing strong after several failed attempts to stop it. It also could not have come at a worse time for the Gulf of Mexico. It is the height of breeding and spawning season for sea turtles, fish and fowl. The La. marshes are also critical stopover habitat for migrating birds. The bluefin tuna being fished to extinction spawns in the Gulf which is only one of two places in the world where it does.

Update June 1, 2010

Oh, and must not forget the unpronounceable volcano in Iceland that grounded air traffic in Europe.

Prepare to drop your jaw but don’t leave your mouth open to long or something may fly in

In space there is no up or down, but when presenting an image from space which is going to have a bigger impact?

I think the way the human brain works the image on the right has a bigger impact. Our brains either evolved to see things with the horizon below or have been conditioned to do so since birth. So what are we looking at? This image is from a series of images recently taken by Cassini. It was doing a close flyby of Enceladus and as it flew past it caught sight of the geysers backlit and then Titan hove into view. Between Enceladus’s horizon and Titan are Saturn’s rings. Here’s a bigger version of the image and click on it to embiggen.




To see more images from the sequence including the geysers and details check out these two blog entries:

Cumbrian Sky: A new iconic image of the Space Age..?
Planetary Society Blog: The most amazing image of Enceladus Cassini has captured yet

I must say these images are absolutely stunning. I’ll even use the clichéd adjective jaw dropping to describe them.

Thanks for Sharking

I recently posted a video on my Facebook page. I shared it from a friend who’d posted it earlier. I made sure to acknowledge him by writing “thanks for sharking” in the post. I meant to write “thanks for sharing.”

Sometimes a typo presents you with an opportunity. What does or can “thanks for sharking” mean? Was it a Freudian slip? Could it be a portmanteau of sharing + snarking? No, that’d have to be shnaring or shhnarking. The video was one great big snark. And a snark is an aggressive parody. Usually short and to the point. This really wasn’t that short. And the video in a metaphorical sense smelled an opportunity, blood in the water for something asinine an organization did. It screamed out to be parodied. And like any good parodist or shark they go after it.

I probably shouldn’t over-analyze it, but I really really like it. My subconscious knows what it means. It’s there just below the surface. My initial thought was that it could be used as a insult against astroturfers, against concern trolls.

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