Monday, November 19, 2007

So the Future is Permanent...

'Everything in moderation,' or so the saying goes. This is an applicable axiom for a prosperous people. It is only the generally satisfied who need self-restraint; the desperate need only guard against the excesses of despair. And so it seems I am a prosperous person. I promised a political commentary, but have failed to live up to my own haughty notions of a democratic duty. "It is the individual's joy and toil," I would have said, "to sift through the silt and mud of unrestricted speech, and find the nuggets of personal truth to elevate to power." And yet for some reason I took a break through September and October. I could explain the delinquency as a consequence of my return to regular and exhaustive school work, but we all know how untrue that is (there is just so much time wasted in every day).

No my failing was the direct result of a recession in urgency. Life is easy. Leisure, while restricted to certain hours, is readily available. And the North Pole is now water.

I have always feared and loathed radical change (referring of course to major change. policy is not a major change. the relationship of an individual to its society is a major change.). This is of course a product of the kind of upbringing one receives in a gently society. Things are so nice that every change should be slow and carefully considered. There are very few instances in which society (or government) should act quickly. Even in emergencies (as an enlightened student may find), the expedient response of the government needn't extend farther than making funds available.

As it is, I fear I have succumbed to the worst lie of all: that the mainstream democratic candidate will win this election, and it will be for the better (but not the best). The contradictions between what is said and what is meant in the candidate debates lost meaning. "ces't la vie" to the buildup and collapse of a community committed to Steven Colbert's electoral meddling. I even laugh (rather than choke or spit in a dostoyevskyish manner) when I learn one more independent-minded youth has been swayed by the utopian rubbish spouted by Ron Paul.

But then I read the IPCC's Fourth Assessment Report. If GHG emissions are not stabilized by 2015, we have little chance of preventing catastrophic increases in sea levels.

This is the most important issue. Period. The environment is most likely not a system in a stable equilibrium. It is most likely a pendulum delicately balanced with its weight at the very tip of its swing. This is very disconcerting.

George Bush is going to cause untold problems for centuries to come. Welcome back to democracy.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Friday, August 31, 2007

Jealousy Strikes Deep

So I'm not going to prevaricate about the bush. I'm a creepy guy, and I like to know things. Stalker-ish things. For example, I like to search my address in quotes to find out neat things about where I live. Without such tendencies, i would have never learned that the building i live in now was sold for $589,160 on April 12 of this year to my current landlord. A piece of fun and interesting news since I got this apartment by replying to a craigslist ad in mid-march (no wonder he didn't want to let us see it right away). This is also a great way to find out about your neighbors--especially the ones that moved here from somewhere far away and posted their new address on their Myspace or Xanga page. They may have done it five years ago, but thats the beautiful thing about google cache.

Right now, I am browsing the LiveJournal page of one of my neighbors from upstairs. He writes songs for a band, came from Gainesville, FL (UF, I presume), works as a courier for Vera Wang, writes very introspective and personal blog postings, and has dreams about black umbrellas. While it may irk you (my imaginary audience) that I can reveal all of this snooping so callously, don't think that I escape these forays into the virtual heart of people unscathed--just now I learned that two months ago I missed a free Television concert in the park. Not because I was out of town, but because I was too busy partying to get up off my lazy ass and seek free shows. Its moments like these that I reflect on my chosen path, consider reform, and hit Ctrl+T.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Next, Rudy Giuliani

This post will be less of a one-off rant and more of a frequently-updated black hole in which I will dump all my frustration and anger over the inane policy points that Republican presidential candidates think necessary to win over the 28% of Americans who are registered idiots.

From Rudolph Giuliani's website ( "Rudy is committed to collaborating with the private sector to eliminate sexual predators from websites. A recent study showed that nearly 29,000 convicted sex offenders, about 5% of all U.S. sex offenders, had profiles on the popular social networking website"

Somehow, somewhere the party of small government became the party that endorses less civil liberties. We all balked when the patriot act passed, and we shuddered a little bit when we found out that the incompetent power fiends in the executive were actually willing to fight the constitution to have their actions deemed legitimate. We even hung our heads a bit when the newscorp talk machine was willing to sacrifice the precept of liberty, the most sacred of enlightenment ideals for a few more ratings in its unabashed endorsement of Bushtopia, but whodathunk absurd policy ideas like banning people from the internet because of the perceived heinousness of their prior crimes would make it into the rhetoric of a new generation of politicians? Is it true? Is it possible that the Republican party has actually made the complete and full transformation into . . . The Man?

Monday, August 20, 2007

Prez Sez . . .

Following far too many hours of scouring youtube for debate footage and too many more on candidate websites, I had a moment of severe reflection. The dark spectre arose from the depths of my soul and questioned whether the homogeneous and inane policy positions and pandering remarks should be regarded at all in the massively unsolvable computation that is this presidential election. In search of a more enlightened perspective on the matter, i retreated to google with the intent of getting a grasp on the potential educational backgrounds on the next leader of the free world. So here, mostly from wikipedia, i have compiled a list of candidates, institutions, and degrees conferred, majors, and in some cases honors. The list is by no means thorough. Feel free to criticize:

Mike Huckabee
Ouachita Baptist University – B.A. (magna)
Southwestern Baptist Theological University

Sam Brownback
Kansas State University
of Kansas
– J.D.

Bill Richardson
Tufts University – B.A. – French, Political Science
Tufts Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy – M.A.

Chris Dodd
Providence College – B.A. – English Literature
University of Louisville – J.D.

Hillary Clinton
Wellesley College – Political Science (departmental honors)
Yale Law School – J.D.
Yale Child Study Center – Post-Grad Study

Barack Obama
Occidental College – Some Undergrad
Columbia University – B.A. – Political Science (specialized in international relations)
Harvard Law – J.D. (magna)

Mitt Romney
Stanford University – Some Undergrad
Brigham Young University – B.A.(Valedictorian) –
Harvard Business School/Harvard Law – M.B.A./J.D.(cum laude)

Rudolph Giuliani
Manhattan College – B.A. – Political Science (minor in philosophy)
NYU School of Law – J.D.

Ron Paul
Gettysburg College – B.A. –
Duke University School of Medicine – M.D.
University of Pittsburgh – Residency – obstetrics/gynecology

Dennis Kucinich
Cleveland State University – Some Undergrad
Case Western University – B.A. – Speech and Communication
Case Western University – M.A. – Speech and Communication

Tom Tancredo
University of Northern Colorado – Political Science

Mike Gravel
Columbia University School of General Studies – B.S. – Economics

Joe Biden
University of Delaware
Syracuse University College of Law – J.D.

Mike Bloomberg (of course he'll run. he has to . . .)
Johns Hopkins – B.E.(S.) – Electrical Engineering
Harvard Business School – M.B.A.

Al Gore
Harvard University – B.A. – Government
Some graduate courses at Vanderbilt University

John Edwards
NC State University – Textiles -
UNC Chapel Hill School of Law – J.D.

Fred Thompson
University of North Alabama – Some Undergrad
University of Memphis – Political Science, Philosophy
Vanderbilt University Law School – J.D.

Interestingly, Barack Obama is the only candidate whose name is thought a misspelling by Microsoft Word. Hmm.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

I Thought Ron Paul Was Smart . . .

He certainly gives that impression at least. Libertarians always make sense to engineers. Its an elegant minimalist solution to every problem, the kind of systematic approach engineers dream of. Unfortunately, to run for president in this country, you have to be entirely duplicitous. This post is about Ron Paul's immigration policy. I respect Ron Paul and his accomplishments greatly. Managing to challenge other candidates on issues based not on stock phrases, but on actual analytical thought is a very impressive feat in a mainstream debate. He has built a name for himself among the fringe, and though he stands no chance, he plays a very important role in challenging the often idiotic party line pitched to the 'base.' The republican party has lost faith in itself (actually i don't know if it ever had any). Gore Vidal once spoke of the contempt that elected officials have for their constituents. The republican debates confirm his conception of American democracy by focusing softball questions on issues that no one but the senile and the uneducated think are important to the nation. The republican discourse has been reduced to pandering such that even the most unqualified can legitimately participate in the debate.

Ron Paul is a Libertarian, but he believes in a nation state. Ron Paul believes in free trade, but he believes in strong borders and immigration control. Worst yet, he has taken the stance of 'no amnesty,' the hate-mongering battle-cry of people who focus not on issues because they understand and are concerned about them, but because they want people to follow their flag. Ron Paul may sound like he understands the essence of market capitalism, but he doesn't. After all, he is a congressman. Any free-trade neo-liberal would tell you that immigration fosters economic growth. For someone who rails against entitlements the way Ron Paul does, he should be less concerned with who may or may not gain access to those entitlements he already said he wants to dismantle, and more concerned with building the kind of economic growth that (while not possible) should equalize our economy. A libertarian should understand that our national standard of living is too high. So the question is, when Ron Paul talks about kicking out them damned illegals, is he pandering or is he really that wrong?

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Friday, July 27, 2007

Some quick math . . .

In 2003, "President" George W. Bush dedicated $1.2 billion to research on Hydrogen Fuel Cells and their application in the automobile industry.

If that money had been invested into purchasing solar panels, even at today's slightly higher costs, and the government had simply given them away (assuming industries would be willing to assume the slight capital costs of wiring, transforming, etc.) there would now be more than 247MW of free additional clean energy on the market. Thats enough to power somewhere between 160,000 and 200,000 houses according to one site.

That is assuming that the government had just given solar panels away. Without expecting anything in return on a $1.2 billion investment. This is rudimentarily equivalent to investing in hydrogen fuel cells for automobile use when institutions and corporations have both already found better, more efficient, and more economical (and less fantastic) alternatives to modernizing our transportation infrastructure.

But of course when the government gives things to businesses, they can get things in return. Useful things. Like the reinvestment in the American city. Or compromises on more transparent fiduciary practices. Or even a guarantee to wear yellow hats on Thursday. They'd be saving a fuck-ton of money.

non-academic and purely anecdotal sources:

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Why We Love Jim McGreevey

Following the massive blackout on August 14th, 2003 that interrupted 7 states and over 50 million people, we find this little gem in the Philadelphia Inquirer:

"As they awaken this morning, commuters into New York must decide whether going back to work is worth the hassle. Gov. McGreevey urged New Jersey residents to forget it.

'Go down to the Jersey Shore and have a great weekend,' he said."

Now that's leadership.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Philadelphia: City for Hedonists!

It is no surprise when a person decides to follow their ambitions and finds themselves in a roach-ridden studio in New York, or Los Angeles. It is a surprise when their wildest dreams bring them to Philadelphia. New York, the city that never sleeps, is globally known for being the center of business, commerce, advertising, and multitudinous other activities. L.A. is where you go to be famous, and there is no argument that it is almost always the best way. Philadelphia on the other hand, is the center of . . .

Absolutely nothing. And perhaps this is why everyone in Philadelphia hates everything so much. I learned to read cities in New York, where we have an image for being hostile, cynical, depressed and allover unpleasant people. This reputation isn't undeserved--it doesn't take very long in a city with no sleep to get a bit grumpy. Hell, look at the name of this blog! But New York is a veritable candy land (with unicorns and pixies) next to Philadelphia's characteristic 'go get 'em' malice. In my few weeks experience, Philadelphians have been consistantly ruder and meaner than New Yorkers. Even the local news-media wears the sarcastic and spiteful slant of the Philadelphia layperson like some perverted badge. What other city boos their own sports teams, or counts down until they reach a record number of losses? What other city's paper begins an article about a home-town band with an insult, then goes on to tell when they're playing?

Almost unnoticed, however, are a few ambitions particularly well served by Philadelphia's self-loathing pessimism. These are the hedonists. Specifically, those people whose only goal in life is to drink away the part of the day that they cannot sleep away. These people are very well served by Philadelphia's extensive b.y.o.b. restaurant market and odd laws that seemingly encourage buying more beer than one wants. When one realizes that the opportunities open to them are extremely limited because of the city they live in, they are forced to focus their attention on the immediate--the here and the now--so they head over to the bar.

This is not an entirely negative phenomenon. There is some productive industry which may arise out of the ashes of alcohol and drug abuse, dead end jobs, and excessive sleep. For those who self-consciously seek depravity as an art form, or as an expression, Philadelphia may be just the perfect scene. I speak, of course, of the hipsters, the burgeoning resurgence of young middle-class white kids who seek to live in hopeless squalor for irony's sake. The lower east side had them. Williamsburg has them. And sure as shit, Philadelphia's got them.

But wait, I said 'productive industry'! Surely, I don't consider lazing about drinking PleeBR and snorting coke productive industry?! Ah, but ye of little faith. The shadowy forces of 'cool' and 'not cool' are both destructive and life-giving, but they are as fickle as they are quick. Williamsburg is officially 'not cool'. New York's only outerborough whose rents are as high as the village has not been helped by the fungus of high-rise condos and subway ads that advertise them that sprung up overnight. But what did in Williamsburg (and the East Village 10 years prior) was the arrival en masse of Yipsters. Thats right, Yipsters. Yuppie-Hipsters. People with jobs that are actually going somewhere, but in desperate attempt to hang on to youth, live far below their means (at least in the beginning). These people generally work white-collar office jobs and have a good sense for cool, but rather follow cool rather than create it. They also tend to pay more and more rent over time. More importantly, they have ambition. The drive to be something more than what one already is is distinctly missing from Philadelphia, and it has shown.

My claim is that ambitionless scene-obsessed trust-funders could save Philadelphia, or at least they could set off the chain of events which leads to her rejuvenation. The influx of a young 'creative class' would reverse the old trend of flight to the suburbs caused by a 5% income tax and unnecessarily high crime. The mechanism by which this might work is the peculiar desire of well-off young people to look poor. Perhaps it is a passing fad--this decade's style. Perhaps it is an instinctual rejection of omnipresent corporate advertising or the cloying materialism of middle class life. Who knows?

Sunday, July 8, 2007

New: Campaign!

Sometimes things are truly broken and need to be fixed. Sometimes things don't really matter that much, but people choose to fix them anyway. In the latter case, the opportunity is open for a good old fashioned campaign!

The way I figure it, campaigns have a storied history of much ado about nothing, but for some reason stay popular. Since we're not going to band together to solve (or even rationally discuss) the problems of climate change, world poverty (unless you call doing what George Clooney or Bono says 'solving'), growing ethnic conflict, and the increasing gap between the rich and the poor, we may as well target things that mildly annoy us. With this spirit of self-righteous vigor, I officially announce my campaign against redundant multi-lingual cognate signage!

This is not an attack on multi-lingual signage per se; it is important that public instructions function for the public that they are intended for. Furthermore, it is better to be inclusive, as anything which merits saying must have enough value to be heard (at least so we'd hope . . .). Rather, this campaign is against signs which might, in the interest of universal accessibility, blatantly and egregiously disregard human intellect. Specifically, if a sign repeats in a second or third language a word so close to the original that it actually hurts your mental development, I ask you to campaign against it. What methods of campaigning should you engage in? Be creative! Perhaps a smug chortle, or a disrespectful "p'shaw" would accomplish the goal. Carry around a sharpie for offenders whose scale and isolation lend themselves to mocking graffiti. In some cases, you might find it necessary to chain yourself to the infractious signage with an equally redundant sign (for ironic purposes) stating your complaint hung about your neck. After all, no campaign is successful until the attention it draws completely overshoots the legitimacy of the complaint.

An important (importante) note regarding this campaign is the rule by which we judge which signage is helpful, and which signage is actually destroying your brain. Signs, by nature, are made available to prevent you from having to think. Telling you which way to the bathroom is handy in an airport when people don't have time to get inside the airport designer's head and deduce where he might have thought ideal bathroom locations might be. Even more, the sign on the huge industrial machine that says "don't press this button unless you intend to spill thousands of gallons of acid into the river which serves as chief source of drinking water for greater Philadelphia" serves as an extra reminder to the machine's operator, even if he has been operating the machine for twenty-five-odd years and knows full well every last in and out of the machine. In the latter case, there is less evil done, as even a thousand years of exposure to such signage would not outdo the horrors of one mistake.

This is not true of all signs, however. When we become trained to be dependent upon signage, we forfeit that part of our conscious that is constantly exploring. By assuming that there will be signs to tell us the right way to go, or thing to do, we cease to consider which way would make the most sense, or even allow new inputs to change what we had previously set out to accomplish. In the case of multi-lingual signage, the effort that it may take to interpret a word that is off by only a few characters will certainly flex parts of your brain in beneficial ways, even if it is done subconsciously.

Where do we draw the line for the case of translation? Clearly, the huge machine should be labeled in Spanish as well, but the sign that directs one how to mount toilet paper need not say "IMPORTANT/IMPORTANTE." When does a sign encourage you to think, and when does it bug you? The choice is yours! Sure a structured approach could probably find a rule based on the degree of similarity between two words might make a sign easily translated or not, but this is a campaign, and if we actually accomplished our goal, we'd have nothing left to be angry about! Reason and discourse have no place here. Sharpies out!