Friday, January 25, 2008

The Jerusalem Effect

Alexis Millan - Warren Ellis

I love how Spider Jerusalem has taken on a life-force of its own. He stands for both the counter-culture and for what is ultimately right. I think Ellis has only once produce a better character: Elijah Snow of Planetary. Comics are wonderful.

The Lies and the People who Told Them.

Clinton's Campaign Sees Value in Keeping Former President in Attack Mode - Patrick Healy @ NYT
Black America Feels the Sting of Ex-President's Comments - Darryl Fears @ Washington Post
Lies and Democracy - hilzoy @ Obsidian Wings

Hilzoy makes a rather smart statement when she notes that most Americans simply are not the kind of political junkies who will track down every misleading statement a candidate makes. More to the point, they shouldn't have to resort to that. So the attacks that the Clinton campaign levees against Sen. Obama that are based on factually inaccurate statement, or as we like to call them in Texas, lies, shows how the Clintons are thumbing their noses at the electorate. The Clinton's believe their tactics are working, as the NYT articles shows. Former President Clinton will remain in attack mode on the campaign trail, essentially tag-teaming the Senator from Illinois and making me wonder who we would actually vote for in a national election--Bill or Hillary. Yet it seems that such tactics are taking a toll on the black base of support Sen. Clinton needs to send her over the top. The Washington Post article cited above relates various stories of blacks in South Carolina and in New York who are sickened over President Clinton's comments while black radio hosts are publicly denouncing the former president for turning his back on black voters.
Hilzoy's post, about how lies in a campaign run counter to the idea of citizenship and voting in a democracy, makes the excellent point that by spreading these lies, the Clintons do far more harm than good for the electorate, particularly when those who supported the Clintons uncover the truth of these statements released by the Clinton campaign. The reality is showing itself in South Carolina and across the nation through black radio hosts. And the media has taken to debunking these statements rather quickly and publicly while Sen. Obama has attempted to restrain himself in going on the attack himself.
I can understand the Clinton's frustration with the media on that point, but they have no one to blame but themselves. You cannot state a lie in today's 24/7 media and blogosphere without seeing those lies immediately exposed. And once the media smells blood in the water, they come swimming by to check it out. It's only their nature and the nature of their editors. So by keeping the former president on an active campaign schedule, the Clinton campaign is telling the public that they do not care about the truth, but only about winning the primary. Perhaps, as some like Ezra Klein have said, this is a good thing for when Sen. Clinton goes up against the Republican nominee, but I believe it's disingenuous and dangerous, particularly if the nation truly wishes to move past the politics of Rove and Bush.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Bring On The Noize!

A Place to Bury Strangers @ MySpace
A Place to Bury Strangers Home Page

I like knowing that the Jesus and Mary Chain are alive and well still. A little louder please? K, thx.

Answers to Questions You Really Didn't Want to Ask

Perhaps I shouldn't take such an interest in who views my blog, particularly the search terms used to reach it. The last person to view my blog was searching for, and I quote, "sex positions for above-knee amputees". I'm mildly disturbed now. Thank you very much Interweb.

Photo-Realism on the Cheap

Bic Art - Andrew Sullivan

Sometimes the only reason I read Sullivan's blog is for the random piece of culture that pops up. This is Bic Art; i.e. art created through the use of a Bic pen. That's right, a pen, ball-point, with the annoying little cap that you always lose. The artist is one Juan Francisco Casas, who's web site is in Spanish, but you savvy interweb users should make it through.

Obama as the Reluctant Samurai

Obama Winning Spin War Over Who's Victim In Campaign - Greg Sargent @ TPM

I think Sargent's analogy of Sen. Obama as a David to the Goliath of Sen. Clinton and President Clinton is remarkably astute when viewing it through the lens of the mainstream media. My take is that Sen. Obama has acted like the kid on the playground who reluctantly must fight against the schoolyard bully despite his best wishes. This kind of narrative, that of Sen. Obama as the reluctant fighter who desires only peace but whose hand has been forced, is a smart one and one likely to stick around so long as the Obama campaign does not come out with too hard of a charge against the Clintons. President Clinton does have a point that the media has paid a great deal of attention to his role in his wife's campaign, but I think that is only proper since he is after all a former president and de facto leader of his party. That Obama's campaign has used this to their advantage shows a subtle kind of ingenuity that might stave off the Clinton machine's attacks while delivering him the nomination. Sen. Obama's hesitancy to make an all-out attack against the Clintons plays both to his message of unity and to his advantage in a fierce primary race. Against a Republican opponent, I think Sen. Obama will prove far more aggressive since he can use his message of unity as a pivot point against the smears of a Republican candidate without worrying about driving a wedge in his own party. It's smart politics for Sen. Obama.

Time Makes Fools of Us All

Al Gore's Journey - James Kirchick @ The New Republic

Now, I understand that James Kirchick is himself gay, but he has traditionally taken a neo-con-tinged view of things, much to my annoyance. Yet, here we have Kirchick noting how Al Gore has quietly changed his views on homosexuality from that of a senator believing homosexuality was unusual and not a normative value he supported during the 1980s to today's position supporting gay marriage. This isn't a hit piece that you'd might expect from someone like Kirchick. Instead, he takes a tactful, nuanced view that perhaps Gore, over a long period of time, has had a change of heart. It's actually a well-written blog post on how a politician's change in stance can come from a genuine change in belief. I hope Kirchick has it in him to continue writing pieces like this.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Strength through Unity

Hey, I'm looking for some incredibly gay pseudo-rave music ten years too late. Oh, and it has to have a faux-masculine singer, preferably Australian.



Okay, this'll do.

Endless Horizion

Eyeball-Implanted Camera Patent May Bring Electronic Vision, One Day - Kit Eaton @ Gizmodo

This is really a topic for Ann over at femtofrosting but I just love the graphic they included. And after the spat of articles on contact lenses that might some day act as telescopes, I think it is perfectly appropriate to talk about the cultural and technological issues involved. This is cyberpunk of the last decade, but made real. For people who want a leg up on their competition or for possible future web vision directly wired into the brain, it's tech like this that will bring about those advances. I love living in the future.

Mickey Mouse Prices, I think not.

Vivienne Tam's Mickey Mouse Dresses - Tokyo Mango

This is psychotically amusing to me. The fashion sense is great, but the theme causes parts of my brain to shift in uncomfortable ways. Either way, it is cool.

The Golden Mean

Atomic Structures Captured by New, Ultra-Powerful Microscope - Annalee Newitz @ io9

What you are looking at is an image taken by the Department of Energy's National Center for Electron Microscopy. The crystal lattice you see in the center of the image is a bridge between two pieces of gold. While images like this were possible in the past, a new electron microscope the DOE has brought online brings an incredible sharpness that was not previously available. This appeals both to my jewelers' instincts and my geek lobes. I've now witnessed gold crystals. Thank, my friends, is what we like to call happiness.

Universal Expansion of Health Care Costs

Why Universality Matters - Ezra Klein

I'm a little confused by Ezra's argument over universal health care. On the one hand, he fully supports the idea that universal health care is a necessity for the American public. On the other, he notes the great potential for spiraling costs once such a plan is implemented. Now I've seen Sen. Obama take a lot of flak for proposing a system that does not emphasize mandatory health insurance but rather focuses on lowering the cost of health insurance before any plan to promote universal health care is brought forward. It seems that Ezra is implicitly supporting Sen. Obama's health care plan and subtly hinting that Sen. Clinton or Sen. Edwards' plans do not account for the possibility of massive cost increases once universality is achieved. It's possible that I'm misreading this but that's the conclusion I've arrived at.


Rummy Resurfaces, Calls for U.S. Propaganda Agency - Sharon Weinberger @ The Danger Room

It's no surprise that someone like Donny "Let's Get Ready to Rumble" Rumsfeld is promoting a propaganda agency as a response to the war of ideas between the West and Muslim nations. Yet I can't shake the feeling that this is completely the wrong way to go about doing things. Ideological wars are not won through propaganda, or at least through propaganda alone. Where the trouble lies is in the expectation that by promoting pro-Western values in Muslim nation it will lead Muslim youths away from the words of radical imams or jihadists. Moreover, when it's easy enough to see the kind of destruction going on in places like Iraq, suspect news agencies and sources are not effective means of countering the feeling of resentment and rage. Yes, U.S. foreign policy needs to do a better job of promoting its ideas abroad but actions speak louder than words, particularly words that come from a known biased source. Unsurprisingly, Rummy doesn't get this. But at least he's not in any real position of power to enact such misdirected ideas.

The Kiling Joke

He'll Play the Joker - Andrew Sullivan

Oh thank god. I was worried there for a while.

Monday, January 21, 2008

My Robot Friend

Robot High School - Mark Frauenfelder, BoingBoing

Been there, done that, please try to keep up.

Working for a Nuclear Free City

Something to cool the mind after the debate. Going to go read some cyberpunk now.


I find it very appropriate that the MLK episode of The Boondocks is on tonight. Thank you Adult Swim.

First Impressions

Sen. Clinton got smacked around like a bitch. Sen. Obama's gloves are coming off and she's not going to like it.

President Bill Clinton wasn't there at all. Wonder why?

Sen. Obama gave the best answer to whether MLK would endorse any particular candidate by saying that MLK wouldn't have endorsed any one of them. Sen. Clinton side-stepped it but essentially said that MLK would have endorsed her.

Sen. Clinton was rightly booed when she accused Sen. Obama did not take responsibility for anything.

Sen. Obama had the best quip concerning the Bill/Hillary Clinton tag team when he said he didn't know who he was running against.

Sen. Edwards was a great foil for Sen. Obama, playing Devil's Advocate and challenging Sen. Obama in ways that he needed without the vitriol that would have come from Sen. Clinton.

Sen. Obama seriously hurt his chances with the Latino vote when he explicitly said that his health care plan would not include the 12 million illegal immigrants. It was the right answer though. He was also right to say that lowering health insurance costs first before enacting universal health care mandates was the most important part of fixing the health care system.
Sen. Clinton kept taking this huffy looking stance whenever Sen. Obama made a strong point against her. It was very reminiscent of VP Al Gore's sighs during his presidential debates with President Bush.

I really like that Sen. Obama is fighting back. My fear has been that Sen. Obama would stay too far above the fray and let these allegations fester.

Sen. Edwards would make an excellent running mate for Sen. Obama.

Overall I think Sen. Obama won this debate but only by a slim margin. What I think the most important thing that will come from this debate is that Sen. Obama found his debating voice. But whether this will help him is uncertain.

Idealism with Bite

Hard Truths and Half Truths on Health Care - Jonathan Cohn, The New Republic

Jonathan Cohn has an interesting post up at The Plank on Sen. Obama's Illinois Senate record on health care. The gist of the post is that Sen. Obama made several proposals for state-wide health care that eventually ended up as bill mandating universal healthcare in Illinois. Throughout the process Sen. Obama met with some industry lobbyists and made some changes to the bill that proved fruitful for its eventual passage. Cohn reported on the sense of liberals who fought for such a bill. Quote: "As far as they are concerned, Obama's signature inclusiveness was always a means to an end--a way to push the limits of reform rather than accept them. And, they say, it worked"
Now after watching the latest Democratic debate and the attacks both Sen. Edwards and Sen. Clinton leveraged against Sen. Obama for push smaller steps toward universal healthcare I have to say that I believe Sen. Obama's plan has a far greater chance of actually, you know, getting passed than attempting to push a radical plan for universal coverage. This, my friends, is what we call pragmatic idealism, and it does work.

A Black Sheriff!?

I heard today that Oprah Winfrey is getting some flak for supporting Sen. Obama, a black man, over Sen. Clinton, a white woman. For the rest of the day it reminded me of something from a movie and I figured it out about five minutes ago: Blazing Saddles. And here's the scene I was thinking of.

Hillary Clinton, The Anti-Ann Richards

This is the second part in my free-thought commentary on the 2008 elections, this time concerning Sen. Clinton's campaign. After watching the Iowa caucus, the New Hampshire primary and the Nevada caucus I have come to see Sen. Clinton as someone who is willing to destroy her own party in her pursuit of power. I must add though, that it is not only Sen. Clinton's doing but the doings of her husband and her campaign staff. The entire Clinton camp is willing to tear their party apart in order to win the presidency and after nearly a decade of slash-and-burn politics I cannot stand idly by and watch it happen again. For a woman in the 21st century to not only run on the coattails of her husband but to denigrate another man who has not directed his entire being toward the gaining of more power is not only sickening, it is exactly what a man like Karl Rove would have done. What we face in the Democratic primary is the choice between the continuation of the Bush presidency, both in underhanded actions and secrecy, and a new kind of president who hearkens back to the great orators who actually did bring about real change to this country. Sen. Hillary Clinton is not the president we as a country need right now for many reasons. Her tendency towards secrecy, her attitude that citizens should not have a voice, and her craven attempts to court minority voters who she will not support or work for are all marks of a bad president. They are the marks of the Bush presidency and they are the marks of President Bill Clinton's social policy (Don't Ask, Don't Tell and the Defense of Marriage Act were both signed by the man asking us to vote for his wife). I do not want a president who is all talk and no bite when it comes to policy but is willing to sink her own party when it comes to winning an election. I want a president who is willing to stand on their principles but find ways of compromising with the opposition and I have yet to see such actions from Sen. Clinton. Moreover, I want a president who does not take to smearing and mocking their opponents. It's a sad day when I would consider moving to another country if a president like Hillary Clinton were elected. That should only happen with Republican presidents, not Democratic ones.

Barak Obama - The Jack Ryan of 2008

This is just a bit of free-thought commentary on the primary race as I see it thus far. In my opinion, Barak Obama represents in many important ways, the Jack Ryan of Tom Clancy's books. He is a humble yet driven individual who believes that both words and action are necessary to bring about any real change. In my youth (which wasn't all that long ago) I was an avid reader of Tom Clancy's books. Jack Ryan represented a lot of what I expect from our political and bureaucratic leaders: intelligence, respect, the willingness to work without acknowledgment and, perhaps most importantly, the ability to take one's ideals and find pragmatic ways of applying them. Many commentators and pundits have argued that Sen. Obama's strength lies in his speech-making but his weakness is in his policy substance but that's not what I see at all. So much of what Sen. Obama speaks about comes from his policy positions, from that substance he has built up through his years, but he believes that the only way to enact those policies is to inspire the people to believe that, yes, he can do these things. Perhaps Sen. Obama doesn't have a wonkish answer to every policy question but I don't expect a wonkish answer for every question that is asked. There's a difference between giving wonkery and telling it like it is. Both Sen. Obama and Jack Ryan are the types of people who would rather tell it like it is than obscure things with massive details that, in the end, really don't matter so long as action is taken. We've had wonkish presidents before, in Gerald Ford, in Jimmy Carter, in George H W Bush, but those presidents, I think most can agree, were rather ineffectual in getting things done. It was the presidents who inspired the people who made the real changes. Having a mind for wonkery is all well and good and necessary, but to speak to the people like that, as if they had the years of experience to understand the details of a wonkish answer, is rather condescending and stupid. Giving people answers they can understand, much as doctors do, is a better quality to have than giving them answers that merely have the appearance of knowledge. Again, Sen. Obama tells it like it is without talking down to the people, much as Jack Ryan did. And a president who can tell us that we need to step up because one man can only do so much is what makes me want to vote for him.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Economics and Other Things Pulled From My Ass

For Clinton, Government as Economic Prod - David Leonhardt @ NY Times

I'm going to show some of my less liberal and more libertarian tendencies here by: a) calling Sen. Clinton a dolt; and b) saying that the role of the federal government in the national economy is one of referee, not babysitter. I do admit there are times when the federal government must act more vigorously but those time are rare and rarely does government intervention actually achieve positive results in a meaningful time period. It's the government's charge to keep the economic playing field fair, either through regulation or strict and swift punishment, but beyond taxing the people only enough to sustain the projects and institutions of the federal government, they need to keep their camel nose out. If it is truly the wish of the current administration and Congress to provide a relief package to American citizens then it needs to come in the form of serious tax relief and a reworking of payroll taxes (including excising the cap on Social Security taxes) so that working Americans will have a larger paycheck every month and not just one time.

In the Shadow Library

I've spent the last couple of weeks going over my ever-growing mp3 collection in search of mix albums to pull from the oleo of music. Three weeks and I'm only down to around 220 hours of music left. In the meantime, I'm putting up the last mix I've made along with the artwork of comic artist Chris Bachelo and his rendition of Death from Neil Gaiman's The Sandman. I believe it was in Bachelo's transition period as it is primarily his older, cleaner style with hints of his more scattered and sketched style he currently uses. You can use the cover to the mix if you like. The total running time is just at what will fit on a normal CD-R. Hope you enjoy it.

No, Really?

Sleaze in Nevada? - Andrew Sullivan

Voter fraud? Campaign supporters using strong-arm tactics? The illegal withholding of ballots? In Nevada? Apparently the Clinton campaign hired the guys who ran President Bush's last two campaigns. And this is the first woman president we want?

Road to Ruin, or the Revenge of Sen. Clinton

Playing to Win, Take 2 - hilzoy @ Obsidian Wings

I think hilzoy is on to something here with her argument that, while there's a good chance for voters in this election cycle to see through Republican smear attacks, such an argument only works when those voters are not already predisposed to believe such attacks. The point she is trying to make is that Sen. Clinton has faced more than a decade of repeated attacks by the Republican party; so many so that, despite most people generally overlooking the attacks of the last seven years, voters are more inclined to believe those attacks now since they have built a strong and long-standing foundation. A candidate who has not played victim to these attacks stands a much better chance of winning a general election than a candidate like Sen. Clinton who has.
The second point hilzoy makes concerning Sen. Clinton is that at times when she had the opportunity to stand firm on Democratic principles she has buckled. Beyond the AUMF vote on Iraq, Sen. Clinton has tended to take only half-measures when it comes to central points of the Democratic party. As hilzoy notes, Sen. Clinton has not renounced her support of her husband's signing of the Defense of Marriage Act since, as Ben Smith of the Politico writes, she has distanced herself "from the portion which allows states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages from other states." The result of Sen. Clinton's partial repudiation is, as Smith concludes, the inability of the federal government to fully recognize same-sex marriage as it has become entirely a state's matter. In other words, Sen. Clinton walked away from pushing for federal recognition of same-sex marriage and will allow states like Texas to maintain their adoption of same-sex marriage bans. Sure, Sen. Clinton supports the right to same-sex marriage in theory, but when it comes to actually doing something about it, count her out.
It's this kind of false support that has so infuriated many in the Republican base and has led to the fracturing of their party. The pledges President Bush has made for bipartisanship and 'compassionate conservativism' have never materialized while the social conservative base has quietly fumed at the president's apparent lack of zeal in promoting their agenda. This is not what the Democratic party needs, particularly at a time when nominating the right candidate for president would further fracture the already creaking Republican coalition. I just hope that those members of the Democratic party who would rather take revenge for the last decade don't prevail over those of us, like myself, who would rather see us move the fuck on.

Blacker than Shaft?

Ultradark Material is Thirty Times Blacker than Black - Kevin Kelly

I'm wondering about the possible applications of such a material and solar cells spring to mind. The ability to absorb more sunlight than before could have serious ramifications for the solar energy industry. The military applications are pretty obvious as the blacker material would give soldiers a great advantage in terms of concealment. I wonder what would happen if you painted a car with this material?

The Runner with No Legs

Bilateral Amputee Banned from Olympics - Trendhunter
Photo Credit: Bryan Christie Design

My father is an above-knee amputee and has talked about the Cheetah prosthetic for some time now. The basic concept is to use a piece of tensioned metal that produces a spring in the step of the runner, propelling him forward. At the moment, such prosthetics are limited to below-the-knee amputees as the sockets requires for above-knee amputees lag are complicated and require a different arrangement than is possible with below-knee amputees. The key factor is the issue of building a working synthetic knee.
All this is said as a way of helping people understand why a double below-knee amputee is being denied the opportunity to compete in the 2008 Olympics. The crux of the matter is that the Cheetah prosthetic is basically a giant spring, giving the wearer a distinct advantage over those runners who have to rely only on their natural leg muscles. Still, is a bit of a win-lose situation: sure a runner equipped with the Cheetah prosthetic would run fast than the competition but at the end of the day you're still missing your legs. I understand the Olympic committee's decision, just as they would ban any substance that would give a runner a performance edge over the competition so does the Cheetah prosthetic. Still, it would have been a sight to see Oscar Pistorius compete.

Superhuman Eyes

Electronic Contact Lenses Give Future You Crazy Eyesight, Heads-up Display - Jason Chen @ Gizmodo

Inventions like these contacts are the first serious step toward a computer-free internet interface. Beyond the mere superhuman vision capabilities, these lenses can act as head-up displays bringing you web access directly to your eye without necessitating brain surgery. Perhaps all you will need are these lenses and a Wi-fi device much like an iPhone or iPod Touch.
The next question that springs to mind is the idea of hacking into the visual display of these contacts, seeing what someone else it seeing directly. The trippiness of such an experience aside, along with the military applications, the issue of privacy does enter the equation as a skilled hacker would have the tools to "hack your eyes" to use the parlance of Ghost in the Shell. While no direct connection to the brain is required, people still look at their hands when entering information such as pin numbers and Social Security numbers. Moreover, such a hacker could insert false visual data leading to a person responding to things that aren't there.
Still, it's a fucking cool concept that should come to market. The privacy issues need dealing with, but that will come with time as well. I'm looking forward to getting my first pair when I'm fifty.