Tuesday, October 23, 2007

An Education Well Spent

This is why I can't wait to get to medical school. The kind of students that populate top medical schools are truly amazing. Milton is a friend of a friend of mine from Vanderbilt undergrad, and I wish him all the success he obviously deserves.





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Monday, October 22, 2007

Why The System Is Broken

Here's a little something I stumbled across. While I often disagree with libertarians like those at Reason on many things, I rarely disagree with them on everything. Here's the bit of this argument that I like most:

"If you don't know what you're talking about," South Park co-creator Matt Stone recently told Rolling Stone, "there's no shame in not voting." The comment upset actor-activist Sean Penn, who scolded Stone for "not mentioning the shame of not knowing what you're talking about."

When it comes to politics, Americans who don't know what they're talking about have a lot of company. In fact, as George Mason University law professor Ilya Somin shows in a Cato Institute paper published last month, they represent a majority of voters.

Somin reviews survey data from the 1950s on that indicate "most individual voters are abysmally ignorant of even very basic political information." Furthermore, "a relatively stable level of extreme ignorance has persisted" despite rising education levels and increased availability of information.
The rest of the article fleshes out those assertions somewhat and then devolves into some personal whining that injures an otherwise strong point.


Of course, The Onion already knew that:
Poll: Bullshit Is Most Important Issue For 2008 Voters

And speaking of Parker and Stone, I haven't seen Idiocracy, but this little clip from it makes me think it's worth a gander:




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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Democratic Elitism

I have defended the notion of "elitism" here before. While there are some forms of elitism that I oppose, like plutocracy, I do consider myself an aristocrat in the original Greek sense of the word, which is better represented in the modern lexicon by the term technocrat. (I am aware of the irony of dropping Greek-bombs when defending elitism; how autologous!) In any case, I suppose I will be getting a cane, because I must sound a lot like this guy:





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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

AI


This reminded me of my philosophy of mind class. Dennett and Fodor would dig it.




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Saturday, October 13, 2007

Friday, October 12, 2007

The Swift-Boating of Graeme Frost

This article pretty much says all you need to know about the Republican smear machine. Smearing candidates and speciously impugning the credibility experts are long-accepted forms of political and legal discourse, but I think you need to step back and consider the depths to which you have sunk when you viciously attack a kid and his family (using claims that are not just spun but purely fabricated, I would add) to defend an act that is frankly indefensible -- the denial of healthcare to children whose parents can't afford it -- just to preserve tax breaks for the wealthy.

"It's for your own good; socialized medicine will destroy everything in the end."
It's easy for a politician to say that to a camera, but it's not easy for a doctor to say it to a patient. Because it's not true.

From the article, a letter from the father:

"My son Graeme has helped put on a human face, that of a young boy, representing the needs of children and families across this nation. We are a hard working family that has stepped forward to support SCHIP. Mudslinging from the fringe has now been directed at the messenger. To be smeared all over the Internet and receive nasty e-mail — my family does not deserve this retribution. It is both shameful and pathetic.

"Driven by a most dubious agenda, shortsighted cut-and-paste bloggers, lacking all the facts, have made a feeble attempt at being crack reporters. This is an aberrant attempt to distract the American people from what the real issues are. Hard working American families need affordable health insurance.

"I find it morally reprehensible, and the act of a true coward, to publicly (world wide) smear a man and his family and not sign one's own real name to what they have written. I sign my name to what I write.

-Halsey Frost"




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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Doubting Thomas

I actually caught the 60 Minutes segment where Clarence Thomas, in an effort to promote his new book, paints quite a different picture of himself than history would suggest is the case. It did not go unnoticed, and he was called out on his hypocrisy. This post pretty much says it all.






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Fucking Linguistics

Tee hee.

Besides being at once playfully scatalogical and beautifully deadpan, the article is actually quite serious and thoughtful, as I will fail to suggest in my commentary below.

I love Steven Pinker. I think he should write just about everything that gets written about popular neuroscience and linguistics, and when he says things like "the gynecological-flagellative term for uxorial dominance," it makes me think he should write the clues for the NYT crossword too. That would be one fun crossword. (How fun would it be? Fucking.)*

*Pinker says that this construction is ungrammatical, which it clearly is. But I'm going to try and change that.

By the way, although most of the piece is focused on the sociolinguistics of profanity and the evolutionary traits that underlie it, he offers a spot-(fucking-) on assessment of what this means, politically, for us today:

When it comes to policy and law, it seems to me that free speech is the bedrock of democracy and that it is not among the legitimate functions of government to punish people who use certain vocabulary items or allow others to use them. On the other hand, private media have the prerogative of enforcing a house style, driven by standards of taste and the demands of the market, that excludes words their audience doesn't enjoy hearing. In other words, if an entertainer says fucking brilliant, it's none of the government's business; but, if some people would rather not explain to their young children what a blow job is, there should be television channels that don't force them to.


Read it.


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Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Blackwater

I've always thought that contracting a war out to mercenaries (who are politically unaccountable and of a questionable international legal status, among other issues) was a terrible idea. I'm surprised how little political outcry it has caused. But amidst growing discontent among Americans for the Iraq war, and among Iraqis for Americans, the recent shooting of about 20 Iraqis by Blackwater has provoked the censure of the Iraqi government and attracted much negative attention from our citizens at home. Now there are a string of high-profile allegations, revelations, and PR disasters, culminating in congressional investigations. You could say the shit has officially hit the fan. I hope accountability is restored.

Also in the bad news department for Blackwater, the wrongful death suit against it by families of deceased contractors is a big news item once again.

All I can say is that I don't think people should be getting rich off war, period. Combined with the fact the Blackwater seems to have been greedy, unethical, and inhumane in many of its actions and policies, I hope courts show no mercy.


Update: Another embarrassing incident and a piece about, what else, corruption.


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Monday, October 1, 2007

Healthcare

In a follow up to this post, the Onion offers Bush's solution to healthcare reform, reminding us that it is not government's business to take care of (our own) citizens.

But seriously, the military-industrial complex is not very funny. Why We Fight is an amazing documentary that explores its historical roots and contemporary relevance. Every American should watch it.

Official site.


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