China and Japan edge closer to war | The Economist

January 17th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

I’ve always felt US China relations would always be peaceful as long as we remain as economically intertwined as we are. The brewing conflict between China and Japan might change everything though.

This week senior American officials rushed to Tokyo to urge caution on Shinzo Abe’s hawkish new government. America is obliged to come to Japan’s aid if it is attacked, and being sucked into a conflict with China is almost too unbearable to contemplate.

The two countries appear locked in a finger-pointing game and it’s unclear if anything short of ceding control of the islands to China will mollify them.

China seems unwilling to entertain other perspectives or interests. The sources of this chauvinism are not entirely clear. It may be that the government is responding to the ultra-nationalist sentiments that people increasingly give voice to on the internet.

The Economist is even drawing comparisons between the current China stance and the climate that saw Japan wage war across east asia during World War II.

East Asian parallels from a century ago are hard to ignore. Then, as justification for continental expansion, a bullying Japan drank from a dangerous brew of nationalism and a manufactured sense of foreign aggression and victimhood. As China pursues a policy of maritime expansion, the rhetoric of victimisation is remarkably similar. The coming clash that China now talks about could be as calamitous as that previous one was. It would imperil not just China’s but the region’s peace and its momentous economic advances.

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Thomas Jefferson’s thoughts on changing the constitution

December 21st, 2012 § 3 comments § permalink

"I am certainly not an advocate for for frequent and untried changes in laws and constitutions. I think moderate imperfections had better be borne with; because, when once known, we accommodate ourselves to them, and find practical means of correcting their ill effects. But I know also, that laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths disclosed, and manners and opinions change with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also, and keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy, as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors."

– Thomas H. Jefferson

I’m pretty sure we can extend that to the 2nd amendment as well. Times change and the laws had damn well better change with them if they want to stay relevant.

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Bad Behavior Online

December 16th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

Interesting video about ways to address online bullying, trolling. Do we add safeguards and restrictions or do we look to our culture as the root of the problem?

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Fixing our political system

December 7th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

It’s not as complicated as you might think.

There are, of course, a myriad of problems with our political system as it currently stands. The symptoms are many, whether it’s the undue influence of special interests or the opaque nature of creating laws, but most of the problems can be traced back to one problem. Money. More specifically the money that a member of congress needs to get re-elected.

It’s estimated that congressmen spend anywhere from 30-70% of their time fundraising. This isn’t grass-roots fundraising where constituent are asked to contribute $20 to a candidate they believe in; it’s eating breakfast, playing golf and having drinks with lobbyist that will buy $500 worth of a congressman’s time. Of course they aren’t coughing up the dough to spend some quality time with their favorite politician, this is a financial transaction after all and congress has a monopoly on votes.

Enter Lawrence Lessig and his Rootstrikers project. Not content stand on the sidelines complaining about the status quo he has dedicated himself to supporting real and permanent solutions to this fundamental flaw in our political system. If you are interesting in learning about some of the exciting bill proposals in congress to address this issue then check out this 3 minute video from Mr. Lessig.

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Television Is an Atrocious Format for Presidential Debates

October 12th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

This sums up my sentiment towards debates quite well.

TV debates give lazy voters the illusion that they’ve done their homework in much the same way that a student assigned a classic novel can fool himself into thinking it’s enough to watch the movie.

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Tea Party Smackdown

August 24th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

If you haven’t heard Michael Higgins, the recently elected president of Ireland, rip tea party evangelist Michael Graham a new one then you are missing out. Though it was recorded 2 years ago it’s still just as relevant today.

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The (Secret) City of London

August 2nd, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

Another great video by C.G.P Grey.

If you look map of London crafted by a careful cartographer that map will have a one-square mile hole near the middle — it’s here where the City of London lives inside of the city named London.

Despite these confusingly close names the two Londons have separate city halls and elect separate mayors, who collect separate taxes to fund separate police who enforce separate laws.
….

To top it off the City of London gets to act more like one of the countries in the UK than just an oddly located city — for uniquely the corporation that runs the city of London is older than the United Kingdom by several hundred years.[emphasis added]

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Require the Transportation Security Administration to Follow the Law!

July 12th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

This shouldn’t be controversial. The TSA needs to follow the law and given that this petition is on whitehouse.gov it might actually accomplish something.

Sign it.

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Ending sexism one quaint phrase at a time

July 6th, 2012 § 8 comments § permalink

A few weeks ago Rep Lisa Brown, a Democrat in the Michigan State house, gave a speech defending abortion under the guise of religious freedom. An interesting approach but how she put it caused a bit of a stir.

NPR reported the comment:

“I have not asked you to adopt and adhere to my religious beliefs. Why are you asking me to adopt yours?” she said. But what came next is what got her in trouble: “And finally, Mr. Speaker, I’m flattered that you’re all so interested in my vagina, but ‘no’ means ‘no.'”

Zing. Obviously the Republican’s felt the need to retaliate in a petty manor so they prevented her from speaking about a completely unrelated bill.

The Detroit News reported on their rational.

“‘What she said was offensive,” said Rep. Mike Callton, R-Nashville. ‘It was so offensive, I don’t even want to say it in front of women. I would not say that in mixed company.’

“Majority Floor Leader Jim Stamas, R-Midland, determined Brown’s comments violated the decorum of the House, said Ari Adler, spokesman for the Republican majority.”

The fact that some old white dudes got their panties in a knot when a woman used “Mr. Speaker” and “vagina” in the same sentence is not terribly shocking. It’s clear that sexism is at the heart of this issue but you don’t usually get people to admit their bias so openly. Lets return to what Mike Callton said as evidence.

“It was so offensive, I don’t even want to say it in front of women. I would not say that in mixed company.” [emphasis added]

The implication being that if he was getting cozy with his good ole buddies then he would be just fine saying vagina though lets be honest, he would probably use something less clinical. The fact that he openly admits to having double standards regarding what he would say in front of women is sexism at it’s most basic level. If you think I’m off my rocker lets try looking at this through a different lens. A good measure of whether or not a joke is racist is how willing you would be to tell it in “mixed company”. Would you tell that great joke you heard about Mexicans in front to your Hispanic maid? No, you wouldn’t. She is from Guatemala by the way, not that you care.

Lets stop considering the phrase “mixed company” to be quaint and start calling a spade a spade. It’s a sexist phrase that needs to die.

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How To Stop Science Alienation Syndrome

June 21st, 2012 § 2 comments § permalink

Deborah Blum of Slate Magazine poses a fascinating theory as to one of the reasons so many people in this country find it acceptable to dismiss scientific reasoning when it doesn’t fit their world view. Those of us that have studied science can find it baffling how quickly someone can dismiss out of hand what is clearly a well researched theory because their TV “news” host told them to. What Mz. Blum is putting forth, however, is that it’s the studying of science in K-12 that is the problem. It was an idle conversation with a physicist years ago that set her on this train of thought.

What we really operate, he said, is not so much an education system as a filtration system. Our science classes are designed to filter out those meant for the “priesthood” (his word) of science from everyone else. By the time students are ready for college, those who will become scientists are primed for the next step. And those who are destined for the “lesser” (my word) professions are primed to fear, even dislike the subject.

Obviously this doesn’t excuse the people that exploit this fear for their own political or financial gain but it does present a solution. If we raise our kids, whether they are destined to be scientists or not, to admire the subject we can take away some of the power from those who are so willing to exploit ignorance.

The solution the author poses is very intriguing as well and it starts at the high school level. Rather than cutting back on science she proposes doubling the required two years of science to four while creating two tracks.

Those who want to specialize in science could take math, physics, and complex chemistry (and the kind of genetically detailed biology that my son disliked). Nonmajors, by contrast, would focus on what I think of as science of the everyday—things like kitchen chemistry, CSI-style crime investigation, the biology of health, and a class in the physics of sports that would include playing the games.

Here is hoping someone runs with this idea.

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