October 30th, 2012

(no subject)



This whiteboard animation shows what happened when Hitler lied to get elected and people don't care or pay attention to the lies of their leaders, until they do care...and at that point, it is too late. Parts of this video are narrated by a man who served as a German soldier and a German woman who lived right by the railroad tracks the cattle trains ran on that carried the Jews to their deaths.

Based on Andy Andrews' book, How Do You Kill 11 Million People?


If you watch this video and think that it's talking about "the other guy" and not your candidate, think again. Where do you think we are on the civilization cycle (around 5:20)? I think we're well into the apathy stage (as amply demonstrated on this very community time and again) if not dependence, and getting pretty close to getting back into the bondage stage. So, are you going to stay complacent, or actually do something besides make fun of others?
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Monthly Topic: Observations on Science, Technology, and Capital‏

I met some young people who are put off by science because of the problems that have resulted from its use. They experience the dirt and waste of industrial society as something to escape. They consider science to be the reason for existence of a degraded environment because science is an essential part of industrial activity. What has been withheld from our young people is a view of the mechanism that has led to this application of science in such a dehumanizing fashion. Imagine if young people only saw knives being used to stab people and rob them of their possessions. Children would think very negatively of knives the way that most people think negatively of nuclear bombs (except, of course, those possessed by their own nation).

Before we see a knife used to inflict a disabling injury, we see one used to prepare a meal. In some homes, each person is provided with a knife for use in cutting up a meal. With such an introduction to knives, it is difficult to hate knives just because they can be used against others in an act of violence. Likewise, having been raised since an early age with exposure to science, I could not share the antipathy that some youngsters feel toward the discipline.

Pure science does not consider the end for which it is used. The first scientists to study the physical principles of nuclear decay did so without thinking of incinerating large urban areas with an intensively concentrated chain reaction. Even those scientists who developed the first such device did not know what effect it would have on the Earth's atmosphere or on plants and animals downwind of the blast. Those scientists had already strayed from the domain of pure science to the technological domain of applied science.

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How does capital work in this game? Financiers will gladly point out that the Pyramids of Giza could not have been built without capital. The Internet would still be an academic niche without the capital expansion required for commercial traffic. Public works get nowhere without the assets needed to implement them, whether those assets come from private or public investment. The latter does not guarantee perfection, but it can reduce exploitative aspects of the final system. When we privatize public works, we open them up to commercial degradation. Privatizing space exploration promises to degrade the quality of life for those who enjoy the night sky without orbiting billboards by further cluttering up space.

Once the genie is out of the bottle, it will not return of its own free will. How we deal with the genie is a matter of public policy. What are your hopes and fears for the future of science and technology in the hands of the next generation of public officials?

Links: 2006 Salon article on libertarian discussion of space billboards. Trailer for the original version of The Day the Earth Stood Still.
My Update Portrait

Obama's Uphill Climb - Another View

Obama

Our platform is crafted by Democrats but it is not about partisanship, its about pragmatism. – Cory Booker

The 2012 Presidential election is right around the corner. It is a choice between an incumbent defending his last 4 years at a painful time in America and a challenger whose chameleon-like etch-a-sketch approach to the race has delighted his base. I decided that I would post this based partially on an article that I read in the New York Times recently.

[My take on the article]

It was written by Christina Romer, who, as Chairwoman of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisors, was instrumental in the Fiscal Stimulus that was implemented soon after Obama’s inauguration. In the article, she details the rationale behind the Stimulus package that had become a focal point of conservative ire and initiated battle cries to make the Obama administration a failure. Whether you agree or disagree with the stimulus is immaterial to this post, but Mrs. Romer brought up an interesting point in her article.

Finally, there’s little question that policy makers — myself included — should have worked harder to earn the public’s support for the act. One frustrating anomaly is that many of its individual components routinely received favorable reactions in polls, while the overall act was viewed negatively.

This pretty much summarizes the public perception of the entire Obama administration regardless of being rated #15 by historians in presidential rankings, even ahead of Ronald Reagan, after 18 months of his administration. Despite the President’s attempts to gain public support for his agenda and the legislation that ensued, much of it has received negative reactions. Any attempts to describe his major policies would get nothing but comments that he was being preachy, professorial or elitist from right wing pundits.

It was apparent from the start that there was a pragmatic agenda that was laid out and needed to be executed. At the top of that agenda was reducing our footprint in the Middle East and the health care reform that was promised in the 2008 elections. Although many would say that the economic meltdown that happened during the election should have thrown a wrench in that agenda the administration goals ambitiously continued to be pursued.

As a result, any attempts at explaining his Iraq War policies, the stimulus, the health care legislation, the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection legislation were met with hyperbole, demagoguery, out of context sound bites and irrelevant non sequiturs. Since the 2008 elections, the term “red meat” became a mainstay of our election process and eventually of our legislative process. Critiques of the legislations that were drawn up included such insignificance as page counts and the weight of the paper that the bills were written on. Transparency became nothing more than an opportunity to take amateur pot shots at thoughtful and carefully negotiated policies.

Our election process has ceased to be a selection process. It has turned into mindless reality show that rivals American Idol. Americans no longer want to be led. They only want to be entertained.


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Doing it for the first time

Just 10 days before the presidential election, Obama's campaign released a video that fanned the flame of passions even more, just as the vote is looking very close. The reason is that the "Your First Time" campaign ad explains that voting is like sex, so it's very important who you're doing it with, especially at your first time.

The actress Lena Dunham (in the ad, looking considerably sexier than in real), explains that your first time shouldn't be with just anyone, you want to do it with an awesome guy who really cares about women and who understands them. She goes on to tell her story how her first man had been awesome, how it was a turning point in her life - she had been a girl before, and became a woman after. So she went to the ballots and cast her vote for Obama. Applause.



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