Saturday, May 05, 2007

DIY Process

Just a Part of the Network - WaPo

I think what is so interesting in the transformation of the PC into a tech hub is the atomization of the computer itself. I've built and rebuilt my own computer multiple times over the last seven years. The selling point for me is the ability to upgrade only what I need for the tech devices I need. Need more USB hubs? Buy a USB card. Need a better graphics card for photos? Buy the new card. The key for me is the motherboard/cpu/memory platform. You can't buy one generally without buying all the rest. What I pivot my decision on is whether the platform will serve my tech needs for the next few years. More to the point, I have to decide what kind of tech I will want for my desktop. CD burning, DVD burning, music, Ipods, cellphones, photos, whatever. The whole point is maintaining my ability to fully utilize whatever comes along on the internet or in the general tech world.

When Funny isn't Funny

Naked Man Superglued to Exercise Bike - Reuters

When I first saw the headline I was prepared to for something hilarious but this is actually pretty sad.

Thursday, May 03, 2007


A Blog Doth Not a Journalist Make - The Inquirer

In the debate between blogging and journalism it is sentiments like this one that I give a good deal of credence to. The greatest obstacle to genuinely good blogging is the lack of editorial and economic pressures on any blog writer. While the free-wheeling nature of blogging has its own natural high, the considered, calculated articles and op-ed pieces one reads in proper journalism has far more longevity. This is the core of the debate. Blogs are by nature of-the-moment. Newspapers need something that will stand the test of time and a quickly written piece with little authorial control does not do the job. Even this blog doesn't stand up to the journalistic standards of a George Will or Frank Rich piece. And it's not supposed to. While I may argue that I have some sense of objectivity it's not crucial to anything that I might write. A blog is simply the opinion of someone, usually someone you don't know, who is accountable to no one and nothing. While that makes for some fun for the blogger, it usually doesn't lead to the best journalism out there.


Even Think Tank People Play Debate Drinking Games - Wonkette

Absolutely brilliant. After reading all the articles on how the GOP is looking for the next Reagan to save them and how much such sentiments mirror the Democrats efforts to find the next JFK, it's refreshing to hear someone make light of it all. “'If this debate were a drinking game, and you had to imbibe every time you hear the word ‘Reagan,’ you would pass out before the closing remarks,' predicted Bill Whalen, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University." This is exactly what is wrong with the GOP right now. If they have to go looking for the next great president in the mold of some past president then they won't find it. Reagan wasn't Reagan until he became president.

Attorneygate, Category 2

Monica Gooding's Lawyers - TPM

So it's tidbits like this that drive the whole Attorneygate storyline. Gooding is being smacked with a Justice department investigation while receiving immunity for any incriminating testimony she might give to the House Judiciary committee. It's a perfect moment for the whole damn storm of a story to come blowing in. Pay attention people, it only gets better from here on.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007


I Want It All - Spencer Ackerman

What's notable about Ackerman's post here is the growing pressure inside Iraq to impose a quasi-strongman. The idea of 'reconciliation' is a bit laughable if you didn't have to look past so many bodies. Still, any effort for reconciliation will have to deal with the fact that the man who can get the Shiites to calm down will only infuriate the Sunnis, and vise versa. What we may need is a Kurd who won't instantly split Kurdistan off from the rest of the country. Either way, reconciliation at this point is going to come with a body count, what matters morally is how high of a body count we are prepared to deal with to get what we want out of Iraq.

Kirchik and Stupidity, An Ode

Take That Anti-War Liberals! - Matt Yglesias

I do so love the line that Arabs and Muslims are incapable of achieving a truly democratic society. Not in the least because the EU is currently trying to work Turkey into their organization. No, what bothers me the most the idea that a simply military cue will bring about the 'flowering' of democracy. We've had two instances in the last sixty years where a military toppling of the government has ended with stable, lasting democracies. But in both instances, in Japan and Germany in 1945, we imposed a strongman to hold things together until the newly installed governments could get on their feet. We didn't just blow shit up and then blame them for the mess.

Luke's Binoculars

Binoculars that Tap the Brain - The Danger Room

And to add to the idea of plugging the brain into something comes DARPA with their brain-interfacing binoculars. Utilizing research into the way the eyes and the brain interact, these binoculars highlight sensory data that would otherwise have gone unnoticed by the conscious mind. For the purposes of war this kind of technology would alert soldiers to oncoming threats that previously they would not have seen or paid attention to. This is another example of using a tool to offload our sensory information and present it in a new way. I love it.

The Atomic Yogi

Quantum Tantra - Warren Ellis

"Modern physics is a fully erect science. Quantum tantra is physics on all fours."

This sounds a little too granola for me but hey, it's 'physics on all fours' which gets me going. In some ways it sounds like the kind of chaos magic Grant Morrison spins out, what with it's twisting of the world using organic means. The idea seems to be that we can tap our brains into some sort of cosmic server of other minds. Don't know if I necessarily believe that but the idea is interesting enough. My question then is, what happens when the 'cosmic server' becomes sentient?

The Statist Mindset of Terrorist Activities

Perle's Comments to Tenet: True or False? - The Danger Room

My concern is not with Perle's comment necessarily but the mindset behind them. The belief that the only way an attack like 9/11 could have occurred was with government support, whoever that government may be, is a holdover of the old belief that systematic genocide could only occur through state sanction and action. Now it is well know that the government of Afghanistan at the time did support Al Queda but their government was both rather small and ineffectual in affecting world politics. The most important thing the Taliban provided was the space and freedom to train and organize. A government like Saddam's Iraq could have provided such aid itself but Saddam didn't pull the trigger anymore than the Taliban did. Certainly the U.S. should move against those states that tacitly support terrorism through their inaction against terrorist groups but to say that the host nation bears the same responsibility is pushing the envelope some, to say the least. It's a little different to say the Taliban is the same as a nation such as Iran who has known financial and military ties to Palestinian terrorist groups. In one instance you have a nation who is actively funding and training a terrorist group using government means while in the other you have a nation who isn't doing anything to prevent it. In the world of foreign policies and foreign affairs you cannot treat other countries like an opposition party. It simply doesn't work. You can't just throw some pissant country against the wall and expect everyone to suddenly fall into line. You take down the biggest motherfucker on the block then people will respect you.

Webb's Web

Senator Webb on The Iraq War Bill - TPM

See, this is the thing, Sen. Webb can make the distinction between occupation and war yet few, if any, of the other pundits have caught up with the language. What we have in Iraq is an occupation and, despite all our wishing otherwise, acts like an occupation. The best way we can deal with the insurgency and the militias is to treat ourselves like occupiers and do the damn thing right. I wasn't in favor of this war and I haven't changed my mind yet but still, if you're going to do it then do it well. Wars are important things and performing poorly in a war reflects in world opinion and, more importantly, in the relations between nations. It doesn't matter what the press says or how the administration spins it. What matters is how other nations will treat us afterwards, particularly when we want something from them. We put ourselves in a weaker position due to poor performance. And the kicker is that it isn't the soldiers fault or even the generals per se. It has always been the fault of the civilian leadership.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Meta Meta

Metadata as a 'filing system' - Nick Santilli, Lifehacker

I find this kind of use of metatagging as an intriguing direction OS makers could move in. The intuitiveness of the design is appealing in the era of portable multimedia players, computers and devices. The ability to maneuver data in a way that makes sense to the human mind is something of a holy grail for UI designers. This is what the whole Web 2.0 concept is all about.

The Good Prince

Smells Like Team Spirit - Matt Yglesias

Yglesias does have a point here. A good conservative or a good liberal should tend to stick with other conservatives or liberals. That is to say, bucking the ideology doesn't seem to enhance the solidarity of the ideological group. However, if your purpose were to improve the ideology then bucking the trend is exactly what you should do. More to the point, an ideology cannot stay static, it must move with the times and the culture. Certainly there are aspects of any ideology that can apply to almost any period of time but one should worry about which aspects those are. If they last then they last, otherwise you are attempt to graft an ideology of a different time onto the modern world and that just doesn't work too well. Ideological purity does have its advantages but standing the test of time is not one of them. So the division is really between the good conservative or liberal and the person or ideas good for conservativism or liberalism.

The IRS and Federal Contractors

Pentagon Contractors Owe $7.7 Billion in Unpaid Taxes - Thomas Williams, Truthout (via The Danger Room)

I distinctly remember a post by Matt Yglesias over the issue of federal contractors and the worst of both worlds aspect of the federal contracting system. The basic idea is that private companies can do a government job better and with a lower cost since the laws of free market economics come into play. However, what we have here is another instance where federal contractors are significantly insulated from the free market by the contracting system. So you end up with companies that, due to insufficient oversight and a lack of economic pressures, are slow in paying taxes, providing the requested products and generally mismanaging the whole damn thing. I still believe in the free market, although I don't hold to the ideal of the 'invisible hand' anymore than I hold to the idea that communism can work. But this system as is has left us with huge and growing debts while providing substandard services and products, or not providing them at all. What we need is reform of course, but how we can achieve true reform is a question I'm not able to answer at this time. The difficulty lies in the nature of the lobbying system and how legislation is passed.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Dead Hookers, Live Boys

DC Madam - TPM

It's disappointing that the Hookergate scandal of last spring didn't take off the way it should have. But now we get Hookergate part two with DC Madam and the ex-head of the Foreign Aid department. Nothing better than a dead hooker or a live boy for politics.

Dead Horse College

A World of Diplomas - Ezra Klein

"This demonstrates how rigid the credentialing mentality has become in higher education, trumping three decades of undisputed good work. It wasn't always that way. When Ludwig Wittgenstein returned to Cambridge in 1929, they simply accepted his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus as a doctoral thesis. The knew that forcing him to go through a formal course of study to earn a credential would be absurd. They were acting in their role as certifiers of learning, which is (see the post below) not necessarily the same thing as being a provider of learning."

Not to beat a dead horse, but I thought this quote of Kevin Carey via Ezra Klein deserves some notice, not least because of its mention of my favorite philosopher Wittgenstein. The point is that since Wittgenstein had already proven himself he didn't need classroom education. The purpose of college education is to further an already fruitful mind, not simply certify this person for a particular set of jobs. But the way college degrees are treated it has become the high school degree of thirty years ago. Now graduate school has become the arena for pushing the mind further while undergraduate work has become an extension of high school.

Elitism of Education

Creditialism - Matt Yglesias

Now I have two parents who don't hold college degrees and they have done fairly well for themselves. My grandfather made to the ninth grade and then went to work. College degrees are not the be-all, end-all of creditials. I have two bachelors and one master's degrees but that doesn't mean squat when it comes to jewelry work. And I have many friends who never went to college but are doing well for themselves. They don't see a need for it.
But the way most education systems are set up now, college is the ultimate goal. I think this is wrong. There are some kids who simply don't belong in college. Whether it's due to college not being their thing, college not being the place they can learn or, and sit down before you read this, they simply don't have the aptitude for it. And this, I think, is the key for why college has taken this glorified place in American minds. We are afraid of telling someone that they are not smart enough for college. The problem is, there are people not smart enough for college. Not to say they aren't smart but that their intelligence doesn't work on the college level. They can do a lot of other things very well but taking college exams, writing papers or conducting lab experiements is not one of them.
Now I'm hesistant to say that we should introduce a tracking system ala Japan and England. But we might at least consider it instead of continuing the lie that all minds are equal. The key here is ensuring that everyone has equal access to quality education, but education that will actually help them once out of school.