Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

November 22, 2008
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Filed Under (Politics) by justin

Remember the good old days when we were projected to evolve into separate human races—the elite, creative, beautiful ones and the hideous, primal, servile type? I’m referring, of course, to H.G. Wells’ classic The Time Machine. I read the Moby Dick illustrated and abridged version when I was six or seven, and just remembering the drawings is enough to make me want some chocolate. But back when Mr. Wells was attacking pristine notebooks with inksticks, such things seemed possible. We were in a scientific age. Life was progressing. Peace was just beyond our boldly projected fingertips.

Then the World Wars came and shattered the illusion.

Have no fear, friends. Such days have reappeared on humanity’s horizon. According to Dr. Oliver Curry, an expert at some school, Mr. Wells’ vision will become reality in a scant 100,000 years. I have but one problem with his claim. It assumes progress.

A brief scan of this week’s news might convince him otherwise. Consider the webizens who watched a boy commit suicide live online. And the father who thinks the webhost failed in his responsibility.

Or how about the report predicting the US’s fall from global dominance will bring a return of territorial warfare among the rising powers of the world. Seriously, that almost excites me. It would be like living England during that tiny era of military confrontation with France. We have never in our lifetimes seriously considered the possibility of substantial map-rewriting. The possibility of full-scale war over pieces of property is stuff that happens in lore and parts of the map we never learned to read in the first place. I’m assuming most of you are in a demographic similar to my own, as you are the most frequent visitors of my site. Even those of you who experienced the true hype of Cold War hysteria didn’t really think about this kind of claim. We’re not talking about idealogical annihilation. We’re talking about armies blatantly attacking regions in order to draw them under their mantle of power. Something like what Russia was doing in Georgia, but between countries both of whose capitals have been heard of before (here’s looking at you, Vlady). It’s the Crusades all over again! Oh, and we even have a British Lord imprisoned in a foreign land.

Or my personal favorite—pirates. We quite literally have pirates sailing the high seas and outrunning royal navy ships to hold crews and cargo ransom. They’re establishing pirate cities with extravagant lifestyles. The pirates become local heroes and generate their own economies and codes of conduct. Lizzie knew what she was doing when she knighted you, Francis. You, sir, were a trend-setter.

And just when you thought it had reached an anachronistic apogee, we find rebel clans attacking the pirates.

We have not learned from recorded history. Now we get another go at it.

Just don’t tell Dr. Curry. It will ruin his next 100,000 years.

November 13, 2008
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Filed Under (Politics) by justin

Dear Ms.Mrs. (I’m sure real Americans get offended by such modernity) Palin:

Let’s be friends. Friends make their friends look like idiots for fun sometimes, but they don’t let them make themselves look dumb. That said, I keep reading news pieces about how you might want to make a run at the presidency in four years. I offer you my best wishes. And this advice.

If you really want to be the next President, stop talking about it.

You managed to make a few friends in this election. Those real Americans you kept talking about are, no doubt, stirred by your potential. Let’s learn from this election, though. You lost. That means you didn’t make enough friends.

So let’s solve that problem. To do so, we need to find the causes of the problem (consider that your first lesson).

You made some pretty big mistakes. You kind of looked like a moron during your interview with Katie Couric. And you need to admit it.

I’m not talking the things you stand for. I even agree with you on at least a few of the more controversial ones. I, too, would like to see abortion stopped. I, too, believe in God enough to say He isn’t lying in the beginning of his Bible. And most Americans can overlook what they deem to be religious fanaticism, anyway (you haven’t already forgotten our President-elect’s pastor, have you?).

I’m talking about the fact that you didn’t know anything about politics or history. That was the real problem.

Also, let’s address the fact that you never addressed facts. That, too, was a problem.

Yes, politicians spin things and avoid questions. They do it by spewing tons of conflicting and vague details, not by avoiding cameras and pledging their allegiance to ‘gee, so many’ Supreme Court decisions.

You don’t know how to talk to the public. Not to enough of the public to get elected, anyway. So stop.

Remember that one guy—the guy who won the election? He is talking a lot. He can do that. He has things to say. You don’t. So don’t.

You don’t yet have the persona to get elected. You do have time to change that persona. Hide away for the next two and a half years and learn the things politicians have to know. If you can emerge from a quiet respite and surprise everyone with poise, charm and intelligence, you will have helped yourself a lot.

Oh, and you may want to avoid corruption. And stop calling people who don’t agree with you un-American. But that’s entirely up to you.

I hope you find direction for your future. Don’t worry, you don’t become President overnight. It takes at least a year or two. Ask Barack.

Oh, and don’t stay up all night fretting about how to proceed—given the length of your nights, that could prove fatal, and then this letter will be wasted.


November 07, 2008
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Filed Under (Politics) by justin

My unorthodox method of news browsing led me to CNN’s report on President-Elect Obama’s pick for chief of staff from the Onion‘s recent videos. It was an enlightening experience I’ll recommend.

Start here. Watch a few of the videos, including this one.

Then go here.

If you care, report back here.

October 24, 2008
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Filed Under (Finds, Politics) by justin

“When someone tells you something defies description, you can be pretty sure he’s going to have a go at it anyway.” – Clyde Aster

I think of this every time someone says, “I don’t really know a lot about economics, but it seems to me….” You’ll notice I haven’t commented much on the economic downturn. Fortunately, some people who actually know what is happening have commented. And he has commented in a way that makes sense to all of us. Like Dr. Saxon explaining Platonic forms to Cowboy Dave, it’s beautiful and beneficial to all of us.

June 04, 2008
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Filed Under (Finds, Politics) by justin

One of my more recently-discovered daily joys is reading BBC’s Magazine Monitor. Basically, they read the news and then give you the non-newsy highlights. I like it for a few reasons, namely, 1) it’s really well done and 2) it’s the kind of thing I do when I read the news.

I’m going to try something similar. Don’t worry, I don’t want to make this a regular feature. Unless, of course, it’s demanded by thousands of fans threatening violence to kittens. So, enjoy this single instance of the day’s news in review.

Let’s start small. This story gets notice simply because it is quite possibly the most fascinating political event I’ve witnessed in my brief tread on the life wheel. The king got fired. So he’s leaving. End of story. Except that his mother doesn’t really want to move out of the royally-sponsored home she’s lived in for years. Oh, and that there are rumors that he destroyed important documents and pilfered royal assets, but he’s letting us know not to bother following up on those. And really, I believe him. What kind of important documents are accessible to a king who can get voted out of office?

I highly recommend reading the article for the opportunity to revel in the queerness of an expelled king:

  • “[T]he ex-king did express concern about his future security and where he would live.”
  • “I don’t see any complications in the former king’s departure from the palace.”
  • “But he said it was time to move on rather than regret what had happened – and that the authorities had promised to find jobs for everyone.”
  • “He said that Gyanendra did however ask the government for help in finding alternative accommodation for him and his mother. ‘Once the issue is resolved he will immediately move.’ “

In another power grab—but with some sort of struggle this time—Bolivia owns a new gas company. Because it wants it. It runs something like this: the Bolivian government decided it wants to control its own industries, so it started negotiating with the company that currently controls things. After Bolivia “waited patiently all month,” they realized the company wasn’t going to give them everything they wanted, so they just seized control. My favorite part is the justification: “They wanted to be bosses, and have us be the employees. We’re a small country – sometimes they call us underdeveloped – but we have lots of dignity.” Read: We’re big people. Stop treating us like children, or we’re taking our ball and going home. OK, so it’s actually your ball, but we want it, so we think it should be ours. Dignity.

I blamed them until I realized Bolivia was just following the leaders. With no reported misgivings, the UN has decided they’re going to allow member nations to attack pirates in Somali waters. Hey US, UK, France, China, Libya or basically anyone else, it’s OK to invade a sovereign nation’s territory with hostile intent—you said so. I think I just found a new meaning for self-referentially absurd. China, Vietnam and Libya were quick to point out they were cool with this resolution because it didn’t violate the sovereignty of any other countries. Except the one they decided to blatantly ignore.

And while we’re talking about ignoring, I was happily perusing this story about the latest space shuttle trip’s purpose when I stumbled across its placement of an astronaut in a six-month stint on the space station. He was mentioned in passing after the new laboratory and toilet parts threads had been developed nearly to their limits. Adding to the insult was the quick progress to the other astronaut aboard: Buzz Lightyear. Yes, the action figure garnered exactly one paragraph and eight words more attention than the human. I assume that was because Buzz was on an exciting “educational programme,” and the stupid human was just keeping the space station running for the next six months.

The last story is from space as well—both the inky expanse around us and that vast mental void we call scientific prediction. Scientists found a planet outside our solar system that is not vastly different in size from the earth. It could very well be habitable if not inhabited. OK, well, that’s a surmise, but it makes sense. Follow it: they discovered the planet’s existence and approximate size by noting a warp in light rays from a distant star. The light measurements aren’t solid enough to even know much about the star, but science doesn’t care so much about the star as about the vastly smaller planet that seems to be orbiting it. They like it so much they named it. MOA-2007-BLG-192Lb. I’m a little upset because they stole my (or Brian Regan’s) preferred name for my first child. Now if I use it, people will naturally assume my progeny was named after that planet that warped the light rays so they think it’s there and is probably the home to a human-like race of people smart enough to avoid building Chicago.

But I’m getting distracted from telling you why this has so excited them.

They took the the solid data from the mangled electromagnetic waves and plugged them into their vast knowledge (“best ideas”) of planet formation. Remember all those planets they built? And of course we’ve all watched countless planets’ genesis. From there, they speculate that this planet might have an atmosphere—a thick one even. Which is good, because the only data they can gather seems to indicate the surface temperature would naturally be lower than that of Pluto (an odd measuring stick since that thing got demoted from planethood). But since there might be an atmosphere, it’s possible that the surface temperature would be higher than colder than anything that has ever been measured or imagined before. And obviously, if the temperature is high enough, there might be liquid on the surface. And we could totally imagine that liquid being water. Which is what we think would make a nice surface of an inhabitable planet.

And that’s really not me making them sound ridiculous. My science disclaimer (recently and appropriately joined by the history/law/politics disclaimer) is further justified.

I dare you to pronounce my sardonicism unwarranted. Now if it could do something constructive. Or at least earn me money.