Friday, March 14, 2008

Amatuers and Respect: Florida and Michigan

A Do-Over for Florida and Michigan - Andres Martinez

I'm going to say a few words on the Florida/Michigan delegate debate and then that will be all. First of all, ignorance is no defense under the law. If you drive past a stop sign you didn't see and get a ticket for it you can't claim that because you didn't see the sign you shouldn't have to pay the ticket. Second, the entire legislature of a state like Florida took a vote to change the date of the primary and I can count the number of votes against on one hand. So blaming the Republicans for Democratic stupidity doesn't actually help revote supporters' case. Third, the state parties were told there would be punitive action taken if they did move their primary before a certain date. The state legislature did so anyway and even the Republican party punished Florida. Again, stupidity is no excuse. Fourth, the candidates (and we must include people like John Edwards in this as well) pledged not to campaign in these two states. While there are some debatable shenanigans all around, the essential fact remains that the Clinton campaign made concentrated efforts to win these states, despite the pledge. National ads that ran in those states count about as much as an ad for Colgate or Ford. Fifth, claims that Florida and Michigan voters were somehow disenfranchised by the DNC is pretty bunk when their elected state officials went along with the plans to move their primary dates forward. If you want to blame anyone for the supposed 'disenfranchisement' then blame the state legislatures, of whom the people voted in to represent their interests. Plainly, these legislatures failed in their jobs. Sixth, the DNC needs to simply say, "sorry guys, but next time vote in better representatives," not give the poor voters of Flordia and Michigan a pat on the head and tell them that everything will be alright. If the states go red then so be it, it's their choice and the DNC can't keep them from voting in the general election. The seventh and final point is directed at Florida itself. If you guys can't run a damn election, even a primary, and show even the smallest degree of fucking common goddamn sense, then you deserve what you get. Get your shit straightened out and come back to us when you are ready to act like you know a thing or two about representative democracy. Michigan, sorry guys, better luck next time. Oh, and pay a little more attention to who you vote for too, since it's pretty obvious that state representatives actually, you know, matter.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Clinton Hate Future

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Proud Son of Gaffney

Remember the Definition of a Washington "Gaffe"? - Alex Massie
Say It Ain't So - Josh Marshall @ TPM
The Contingency of Candidacy - Matt Yglesias
What If? - Ezra Klein

So Geraldine Ferraro makes an stupid comment and the blogs light up like Vegas. The comment, that Sen. Obama would not be where he is if he wasn't black, was clearly not helpful for the Clinton camp, of which Ferraro is a supporter. The argument amongst the more leftist bloggers is whether the comment is true or not. For the most part, everyone falls on the side of true, but the question lingers of what that means exactly. Apart from Massie, the other bloggers have come to the conclusion that yes Sen. Obama would not be where he is today if he were someone else. It's a tautalogy. Of course if Sen. Obama were someone else he wouldn't be the black Democrat running for the presidency. But being black with a foreign sounding name and a diverse heritage and childhood do not make him somehow lucky. I'm fairly sure that millions of black men are not finding it exactly easy to make their way in the U.S. The same goes for women, gays, atheists and several other maligned groups. It's exactly his blackness that make Sen. Obama unique, just as Sen. Clinton is unique as a white woman running for the same office. So while Ferraro's comment is true, it doesn't mean anything and it certainly isn't an advantage for Sen. Obama. What the comment also says is that Ferraro would rather make the issue about race than about the issues of the campaign. Thus, once again, a Clinton surrogate is attempting to inject race into the nomination when the person being attacked has taken a strong stance that we as Americans should transcend race or gender. It's sad to see a woman come out against another maligned group of people for the sake of politics, particularly a woman who has long advocated for civil rights. Even a true comment is sometimes a stupid one.

Clinton Hate Future

I Am A Fractal And So Are You

Second Life fractal art exhibit opening Thur, March 13 - Cory Doctorow @ BoingBoing

Fractal art is one of the strange off-shoots of fractal geometry. Basically, it is a repeated function taken to a large scale, but if you move downward through the fractals you see that the same shape is repeated seemingly into infinity. It's an excellent way to visualize complex geometric problems. It's also something that I think more high schoolers should see.

Clinton Hate Future

Monday, March 10, 2008

Cog-Enhanced, Continued

Debate Around Brain Enhancement Drugs - David Pescovitz @ BoingBoing

Some more reading about cognitive-enhancement and academia. I think my cat needs some though. She's trying to attack the cursor right now.

Painting Video Games in the Surreal Hyperreality

Oil Paintings Inspired by Internet Memes - Cory Doctorow @ BoingBoing

This doesn't fall into the category of supermodern but I think it does fit in with the hyperreal crowd. This is a painting inspired by the prairie dog viral video giving the viral video a longevity that has already surpassed the original. The artist, Jeremiah Palecek, has taken the original and transformed it into a pop zen painting of stunning simplicity. It's fitting for the hyperreal I think due to its twisting of something already simulated into a real, physical object. There's plenty more at his web site

The Burka Only Confuses The Criminal

Iran's Badass, Wall-Crawling Female Cops - Noah Shachtman @ The Danger Room

Truly impressive on the part of the Iranian police force. But man, think about nuns doing this? With rulers? We'd all be fucked.

And There Goes Logic Out The Window

Obama Slams Clinton Veep Illogic - Marc Ambinder

Perhaps it's due to my Clinton Derangement Syndrome or my deep desire for Sen. Obama to win the nomination, but it's things like this that once again prove how just plain silly the Clinton camp is. In all of their attempts to win the nomination, the "he's not ready but he'll make a fine veep" logic just falls like a quadriplegic with epilepsy. You know you shouldn't laugh but you can't stop laughing long enough to help. At least we don't have to worry about Sen. Clinton swallowing her tongue...oh, wait.

Public Enemy No. 1 - Spencer Ackerman

Lucky Lucky, Oh You're So Lucky - Spencer Ackerman

Damn you Ackerman! Stealing my thang! I'm the one that talks about the fear of a black president. Send me money, or classy Spitzer-style hookers, now!

Should Have Thrown the Collar Too...

Priest Sent Off For Throwing Shirt at Referee - Reuters via Binomite @ Truemors

See, this is why I like real football versus American football. You wouldn't have priests throwing things at the refs in the U.S. at an American football game. But go play football somewhere else and then you have real dedication.

Knife-Fights at the Disco Party

Test Garments - Young Meagher's Cutting Edge Menswear - Trendhunter

I have this thing for jackets and other clothing like this. It's the industrial/functional look about it that makes it all so very cyberpunk. The sleek looks and minimalist design are the perfect symbol of the cyberpunk age as hidden pockets, protective armor and a sense of understated flash work together to create both an aura of 'cool' without losing functionality. This type of clothing is certainly hip without shouting it out.

The Hyperreal Academic (Turning the Mediocre into Genius)

This is your brain on drugs - Michelle Cottle @ TNR

I've often wondered what the implications of brain-enhancing drugs might have on the intellectual world. Most of the basic questions surrounding the use of Provigil and Adderall are whether students should have regular, non-prescriptive access to such drugs and whether professors should take the use of such drugs into consideration when grading papers. Personally, after seeing many students perform at their typical level but for a longer period of time on these types of drugs I don't believe it is a serious issue. However, and you saw this coming, what of drugs that might enhance cognitive function beyond the norm? If an average student can take a drug that makes them an above-average student then does that negatively impact the student, the class and the way a professor can fairly assess the performance of the class overall? What of competitions such as chess matches where the use of cognitive-enhancement would give a player an edge over the competition, or whether the rest of the competition is on such enhancements themselves? When being assessed for applications, scholarships, tenures or other such life-enhancing positions, what role can we put cognitive-enhancement in?
For those of you who think that academia is not a competitive place then take a quick glance at grant allotments and professorial pay. Academia is very competitive, from undergrad to tenureship, and people will look for anything that could give them the edge to make it pass someone else for the prestigious scholarship, the highly-regarded research award or the continuation of funding for your academic work. Unlike sports where professional players only have a decade at most to make their mark, academics are in it for the long haul. This is not a past-time for them, it is a career. And when the difference between taking a trip to Oslo for that Nobel prize or sitting in some backwater community college is a simple cognitive-enhancement drug it's obvious what any sane person would do.
Even so, curiousity gets the better of me. What are the potentials of such drugs? Can a simple drug treatment turn a 130 IQ into a 150? Could we have cadres of scientists all working at the levels of a Bohr or an Einstein? Or how about historians who can grasp the sub-disciplines of economic history, social history, cultural history, political, military, micro, diplomatic or every other kind of history all at once? What kind of groundbreaking works could they produce? Could we have neuroscientists that can see how both the single neuron and the whole network of neurons work together? What advancements to society are possible? It's a genie that cannot go back in the bottle though. Once out, cognitive-enhancement is here to stay, whether it be through cyberization, chemistry or a combination of both. How far beyond the childhood of the mind we are still in could we progress?