Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Thoughts of the day

Still not a fan of the new Blogger editor.

For Democrats, politics is personal (or tribal) before principle. Ralph Nader called Obama a "war criminal" with the most damning accusation from the Left, "he's gone beyond George Bush" on the issues that the Democrats used most stridently to lambaste Bush's presidency. What has been the Democrats' reaction to Nader's criticism of Obama? Those issues, which were horrible transgressions with Bush, are now non-issues with Obama. When there is a response from Democrats to Nader, it's shut up and go away.

The Dems exhort voters to reject Romney if they disagree with the GOP on 1 (usually identity-based) issue but agree on 9 issues, while asking us to choose Obama if we agree with the Dems on 1 (again, usually identity-based) issue but disagree on 9 issues. I guess the GOP does the same thing, but it's not nearly as pronounced.

Activism 101: Defining the problem frames the solution.

A politician gives us what we want. A leader gives us what we need.

DIY or do-it-yourself 3D printers open up new areas of granular technological sophistication. Global Guerillas applies the concept to DIY weapons.

Soldiers go to war, but the military institution continues to run on peacetime procedures. What would the military institution at war look like?

A cool exchange about the US role in the Middle East between an IR undergrad and IR grad student at Andrew Exum's blog. Grad student: "And the situation in Iraq was not in a permanent equilibrium... something was going to have to give there, and it was likely going to be very bad whether the US was involved or not." I pointed out there was no "or not" choice for US involvement - since 1991, the US was inextricably entwined with Iraq.

I've written plenty on the justification for Operation Iraqi Freedom on this blog, but I'll just jot down this difference between Clinton's and Bush's public arguments justifying military enforcement against Iraq. Clinton: We know Saddam has or had WMD, and we don't know what he did with them. Bush: We know Saddam has them.

From 2010, an informative discussion in a blog-post's comments, apparently involving Iraqis and Iraq scholars, about partitioning Iraq. Generally, they're against it, but the issue is complicated.

Guileless pixie Rose Conlin (Nora Zehetner), the love interest of Herman Spooner (Matthew Lillard) in subdued indie rom-com Spooner, is a fantasy girl, like Traci. Her eyes say yes.

The story of Paul Wayment and his son Gage reminds me of the the fine line between culpable criminal negligence and non-intentional accident we discussed in CrimLaw. Indie movie Angels Crest is based on the Wayment story.

Annie Dookhan, WHAT DID YOU DO?! What a nightmare for law enforcement in Massachusetts. I don't understand from the accounts why Dookhan felt her actions were necessary, since there was no apparent resulting self-benefit or even self-preservation.

Looking forward to it: Warner Brothers and DC Comics are releasing a two-part animated version of Frank Miller's Dark Knight Returns. Peter Weller, not Kevin Conroy, will be voicing Batman. Early reviews say it's faithful and good to the source material.

Gangnam Style by Korean pop-star PSY is the next Party Rock Anthem by LMFAO. Catchy. The making-of is fun. PSY, who went to college in the US, did his compulsory military service twice. Though not, as far as I can tell, as a KATUSA, despite his advanced English. Whatsupelle's mom-and-baby parody of Gangnam Style is fun. Elle seems to have an enviable young family. West Point does Gangnam Style, blowing away Annapolis's version. Colorado Springs (Air Force) chimes in.

Cargo cult is a useful metaphor for sensing a thing and trying to duplicate it without accurately understanding what the thing is. It's a reminder to learn the 'why' and 'how', not just the 'what'.

HISHEdotcom (How It Should Have Ended) on youtube is funny.

The inimitable Rebecca Sealfon interviewed at Columbia in April 2012. Her twitter account. Her May 2012 reflection on the spelling bee.

R.A. Dickey won his 20th game. He was at 18 wins with 5 starts left, lost the 1st 2 of the 5 starts, then buckled down and won the 3rd and 4th starts to reach 20. Mission accomplished. Good for him. Dickey is the front-runner for the 2012 NL Cy Young award. He just needs to pitch respectably in his last start of the season and improve his numbers to burnish his case for the Cy Young award.

Back in the day, I wanted Timberwolves free-agent Kevin Garnett to join the Spurs to replace David Robinson as Tim Duncan's front-court partner. They were both very smart and versatile, dedicated leaders and competitors, their strengths and personalities complemented, and they both were in their young prime. KG and TD would have formed an all-time big-man partnership. On a lower level but similar kind of expectation, I had hoped Luis Scola would join Dirk Nowitzki on the Mavs after the Rockets amnestied Scola. The cagey versatile Fs Scola and Nowitzi playing together would have been fun. Their games complement. But the Mavs had already picked up Elton Brand so didn't bid high enough for Scola. Oh well.

Necessary/Sufficient. As in, smarts and fundamental academic skills are necessary to earn straight As in high school, but smarts and fundamentals are not sufficient to earn straight As. Or, the qualities tested by the SHSAT are necessary to succeed at Stuyvesant, but are not sufficient in and of themselves to succeed at Stuyvesant.

What can be made of the phenomenon of smart, sophisticated, perhaps even subject-expert prognosticators and pundits who strongly supported the goals of the Iraq mission while acknowledging it would be a long difficult process, but then withdrew their support of the Iraq mission and abandoned its goals once it became in reality a long difficult process? I think their temperament may lag behind their unbounded imaginations. The theoretical constructions of professional thinkers may not be robust enough to endure the blunt psycho-social and economic drag of real life. Or, the world is moved by primitive forces that are incompatible with their finely evolved minds. The same prognosticators and pundits may also underestimate, over-simplify, or skip over potential obstacles while bridging various points of their overarching theories. Stanley Fish articulated a similar gulf in his essay about the difference between faculty and administrators (all of whom come from faculty): "[Administrators] have come to appreciate a form of activity that is at once intellectual (albeit in another tone) and productive of real results. They are pleased that they have learned to work together in a coordinated effort to solve extraordinarily complex problems."

Steve Hsu on Bounded Cognition: "Many people lack standard cognitive tools useful for understanding the world around them. Perhaps the most egregious case: probability and statistics, which are central to understanding health, economics, risk, crime, society, evolution, global warming, etc. Very few people have any facility for calculating risk, visualizing a distribution, understanding the difference between the average, the median, variance, etc. A remnant of the cold war era curriculum still in place in the US: if students learn advanced math it tends to be calculus, whereas a course on probability, statistics and thinking distributionally would be more useful."


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