Thursday, June 30, 2005

America supports you by mispending money.

I'll make this one short. I'm just saddened enough by this that I don't know what to say, really. To make a long story short, the Department of Defense has created a website where you can get a free dogtag that says "America Supports You." The fact that they're spending the money on the servers, shipping and tag itself rather than on buying even a small amount of armor is insane. I know, the site isn't likely that expensive, but if even one more soldier was properly equipped, wouldn't that be worth it?

Note: to avoid increasing the Google PageRank of this sick site, I have used the rel="nofollow" attribute. I encourage anyone else linking there to do so as well.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Supreme (In)Justice

The Supreme Court has been busy. In the past several days, there have been no less than five actions taken that fly in the face of liberty, law and human dignity.
What can I say? The Courts are busy these days. So many liberties to revoke, so many people to step on, so many pockets to line at our expense. It's a wonder that they have time to breathe anymore.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

18 USC 2257: At what cost protection?

Politics is about priorities. What matters more to you? Protecting children from exploitation, or the freedom of the press to write about important political issues? This question becomes of import as US Code Title 18, Section 2257 is about to reach it's effective date. On June 24, any entity which publishes sexually explicit materials across state boundaries will be required to provide enough details about each subject in the material so that the government may ascertian whether or not they are under 18 years of age. Sounds innocuous, right? That is, until you realize several implications of the law:
  • Strange as it may sound, porn stars are people, too, and as such have some expectation of privacy. (Hence the usage of pseudonyms.)
  • Sexually explicit materials are not by nessescity pornographic, nor designed for entertainment. I doubt that the Abu Gharib photos will find their way into porn shops across the nation any time soon, yet they fall under this law.
  • In some (many) cases, the recordkeeping requirement is unreasonable. Let me enumerate two examples: 1) You leave your webcam on by accident, and have sex within range of it... and are now liable for a five year jail sentance. 2) Once again, consider the Abu Gharib photos. Some of these are sexually explicit enough to fall under the law, and yet full disclosure may be impossible if a reporter doesn't know the identity of the infringing individuals. Would you limit the reporting of an important political event?
Furthermore, consider that this doesn't really help children all that much: child porn is already illegal, so now you've just added another crime to the plate. They didn't think they'd get caught, so how's it help? Legally and socially, this makes as much sense as Texas' tax on pot.
Thus, in the name of some vauge "protection," we have given the government still more power to prevent free expression, in particular, with regards to valid journalism. Not that all targets are so high and mighty... one of the first to be hit by the chilling effect is the spinoff, adult humor site the Gaping Maw. As reported by BoingBoing, among others, the site has been forced to shut down as a result of ammendments to the law which go into effect soon. Good to see that all those child porn sites are going away... except that Gaping Maw wasn't one at all. Forget the War on Child Porn... it's just a War on Porn.

Update: This post made in onto BoingBoing!

Update: Irony abounds... a Google search for 18 USC 2257 turns out to be a really efficient way of finding porn sites... so much for the War on Porn!

Update: Check out Minimalist, strong statement. I like it.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

State of the Union.

Ladies and gentlemen: our nation is in a very sad state. It should generally be taken as a very bad sign indeed when a soldier's parents take to buying their armor, because the army is just that underfunded. If it were a militia, this might be understandable (no gov't funding), but it is inexcusable for this to happen in the context of one what is supposedly the most advanced army in the world.
In other news, we still don't give a flying fuck about terrorism. Bush is still lying about Iraq. Condoleezza Rice is lying about Iraq. The White House is still harrassing and disregarding reporters. It is rare to see the nation in this kind of a state... last time I recall reading about anything with this consistancy of death, deception and disrespect from the administration was during the Vietnam War.
To all those still denying the sad state of the union in order to hold on their pristine image of G. W. Bush, let me tell you something: Iraq is the new Vietnam. As Rice said, Iraq is now an effort expected to last an entire generation. The cost of war in Iraq has already passed $177 billion. The number of US troops killed in Iraq has already passed 1,700. The number of Iraqi civilians killed in Iraq? At least 22,000. (Recall: about 3,000 people were killed on 9/11/01 as a result of the infamous attacks.) As long as this war continues, our safety will continue to be comprimised, as well as the safety of Iraqi civilians. Like Vietnam, we entered this war under false pretenses. Like Vietnam, we entered this war without appropriate tactical planning, and with insufficient troops.
Perhaps the most sad part of this whole state is that we didn't learn any lessons from Vietnam I, are repeating them in the Gulf War II. This nation seems content to repeat its mistakes over and over again. What a sad state.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

"He's an artist? Go paint a bowl of fruit or something."

The audacity of some people... how dare they recreate a historic, tragic event (like the millions of times that different Civil War battles have been reenacted) like those around the WTC collapse. How dare an artist provoke thought, discussion and controversy! How dare he explore tragedy to find meaning! The audacity... must he do his job?
All sarcasm aside, have we as a nation so lost sight of what it means to be an "artist" that we cannot even accept something as simple and profound as this? How sad that we are so narrow minded as to insist that all artists must simply rehash what has been done countless times, such as a "bowl of fruit." After a while, there ceases to be any meaning to such cliches, and it becomes an act of skill alone, not a vehicle for creativity. Consider: an artist is one who seeks meaning through metaphore, and if we deny this, what have we achieved? We thus become a nation that seeks only to propagate its own existance... a nation without meaning.
How sad.
Don't let this be what the nation becomes.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Hmph. Typical drivel.

I am never at a lack of amazement when viewing neoconservative/pesudolibetarian blogs. The neocon/plib blogs seem to be villifying those of us who have some kind of respect for humanity, not for this so-called "life" they claim to serve- look at the blogad on this blog which endorses the war in Iraq. Pro-life indeed. Pro-life does not mean killing 25229 Iraqi civilians (for the math challenged among us, that's about 8 September 11ths worth of innocent deaths), nor does it mean the sacrifice of 1,895 of our men and women to this merciless cause. People like this have no end to their gull, it seems. At least the comment below seems to indicate this (taken from the same blog as above):

Who’s next? Babies in utero with Down Syndrome or some other chromosomal abnormality. The very day doctors find something similar for homosexuality and parents opt to abort the fetuses is the day liberals will suddenly become pro-life, I predict. :?

It’ll be good to have them on the team.

Tsk, tsk. Let me attack this idiocy point by point...

  1. What a blurring of issues. Pro-choice is not the same as genetic manipulation. By blurring these two issues, the blogger in question is already commiting an act of intellectual dishonesty.
  2. It's an ad hominem attack. He doesn't make a point here.
  3. He assumes to know the priorities of what is by definition a diverse group. That is, how does he know that we would all become "pro-life" (again, as if it were- wonderful marketing)? He doesn't. Some of us may support genetic engineering and pre-natal selection... he shouldn't make assumptions like this. In my own defense, I am not trying to paint all neocon/plibs with the same brush, except for in so much as to illustrate the hatefulness of their positions which are the very definitions of the terms. Furthermore, there is far less divergence in the neocon/plib movements, as any dissenter is quickly torn to shreds and discarded. As another point, consider that the neocon/plib movements are incompatible with an openness to critique for the reasons mentioned above.
  4. He is trying to use scare tactics to energize his base while remaining devoid of potentially counter-productive content. In other words, he's blowing out hot air.
People then wonder why they don't get taken more seriously... as far as I can tell, this commenter is a troll on his own blog. How sad.

Apologies are owed to Michael Schiavo.

The tactic of distraction succeeded. The GOP successfully managed to bring the entire nation into what was, essentially, a fight inside of a family. Not only did they tramatize the situation for political gains, they managed to spin it into some "moral" crusade (yes, I used the word crusade) to "save Schiavo's life." I have an extreme amount trouble believing that the GOP would give a rat's ass about anyone's life, much less a vegatable in Florida, so I must conclude that the facade was only for direct political gain, and for damage control. Remember, the less people know about Bush, the more they seem to like him.
For these dispicable rationales, they made the life of Michael Schiavo much more difficult than it already was. Not only did he have the painful decision to make about his (mostly) dead wife, as well as to struggle with the deceased's parents, he now had to deal with death threats, being called a murderer, being the whipping boy for a nation, and the embarresment of the national spotlight.
It has now been revealed that it was all based on a lie: Terri Schiavo was pracically dead. There was no reviving the poor thing, nor was it even remotely possible that it was Michael's fault that she died. Not only was he not a murderer, he was doing what was best for her the whole damnned time. The refusal of the "moral majority" to realize, or even allow for the possibility, that he had her interests in mind caused no small cost to him and his life. He is owed an apology. They made him a whipping boy to save Bush, and for that, they must apologize if they at all are to be considered decent human beings.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Christina Aguilera- preferred by torturers worldwide!

I couldn't resist. This one is too damnned silly to pass up:
Guardian Unlimited | Special reports | Guantánamo detainees are 'bad people', says Cheney: "Time reported that a Saudi al-Qaida suspect, Mohamed al-Kahtani, had water dripped on his head, was forced to bark like a dog, and kept awake by the music of Christina Aguilera, according to extracts of prison logs."
I never knew that CG was so useful!

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Why praise conviction?

As this article in the American Prospect documents, Americans seem to like conviction in a politician more than what that politican actually is convicted to. This, however is a dangerous standard as it leads to the approval of political movements that exhibit a fundamental dedication to ideals to which one is diametrically opposed. For instance, if one opposes Bush's positions, why vote for him at all? His dedication to what is in your view a disrepectable view point should be a detriment to his electability, not a complement. Similarly, someone who you largely agree with should not be instantly disqualified from consideration because he or she is not strong of conviction... certianally, they will not be as preferred as someone who is both strongly dedicated and with whom you agree, but the weaker candidate is most certianally perferrable to someone who is dedicated to the betrayal of what you hold dear. At least if the weaker candidate does this, he or she will not pursue this ends to an extreme, right?
So, with this in mind, why praise conviction? It is not a virtue in its own right, but rather part of a person's traits which when considered as a whole can be either virtuous or destructive. As an example, consider Hitler (fuck Godwin). He was one of the most dedicated and convicted persons that history has yet recorded, and by modern American standards, thus the best qualified for a position as president! Obviously something is amiss here. It is thus that once again, I revisit one of most tired themes: American need to rethink their priorities, and soon.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Strange difficulties.

Astute observers of the obvious will note that this entry is far more topical than my typical fare, but alas. I can't be high & mighty all the time.

Anyway, that aside, as a new Gamemaster of a modern-day campaign, I encountered an unexpected difficulty: I seem to have trouble finding a good floorplan for a generic hotel... if anyone could help, I'd appriciate it.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

My environmentalism.

Once again, my history class has prompted a blogging session. This time, in response to the incredibly narrow views of environmentalism being expressed by classmates:
  • "He's a hunter... he can't be an environmentalist!"
  • "He eats meat... he can't be an environmentalist!"
  • "She's praying... she can't be an environmentalist!"
  • et cetera
Such statements betray a fundamental lack of understanding as to what environmentalism is. Rather than requiring that all practicioners be "tree-hugging hippies," environmentalism is about doing something for the environment, regardless of one's rationale. Want to hunt more? Then hunt sustainably so that there will be something to hunt. Want to eat meat? Then make sure that there will be lands to graze upon. Want to serve your God? Then protect His creations.
Of course, protection can be a very broad idea, ranging from the stereotypical image of a tree-hugger wrapping him or herself around a tree to keep it from being cut, to Ducks Unlimited working to keep lands developed that they wish to use for hunting, to recycling one's waste. If you feel that the environment is worth protecting, even in some small way, and even if only as a means to another ends, then you, too, are an environmentalist. With that, let me list some of what I do. It's not much, but every little bit helps, eh? I'm not trying to brag... trust me, this isn't much.
  • I recycle my aluminum and glass.
  • I don't buy lots of small plastic junk.
  • I use packaging as packing materials when I move.
  • I turn of the lights, and my monitors, when I go to bed or leave my room. If I remember, I also turn off my speakers.
  • I use resusable containers (like Tupperware) rather than lots of plastic wrap.
I'm sure that there are some other things I do... I just can't think of them off the top of my head. Still, though, this little bit does help, right? I'm sure that my room still draws a lot of power, with my 480W computer, my two monitors, 6-piece speaker system... so I'm no saint by any measure. On the other hand, even such a small thing as recycling aluminum can have a huge impact. Aluminum, while not rare, takes a lot of energy to smelt: fill an aluminum can with gasoline to get an idea of how much petroleum is required to smelt that much aluminum. Recycling cuts down the waste by quite a large amount, and thus saves a lot of oil.
At any rate, hopefully you can think about whether you are an environmentalist or not. I wish to show people that the label doesn't have to be anywhere near as narrow as most people think. Are you an environmentalist?

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

On Grades.

School, and public education in general, depend upon grades to motivate "students." Without grades, students have no motivation to work beyond the bare minimum required to get a GED. This is partially due to the fact that from the perspective of the public school system, learning stands in the way of the objective of indoctrination. Thus, if the motivation afforded by grades is removed, why does anyone do anything? Any actual education is quickly quelled by activist administrators and politicans, leaving only the promise of a carrer as reward for the experience. If these carrers are not tied to grades, then what difference does it make if a student skips class, does drugs and either gets knocked up or knocks someone else up?
This trend continues into college (if one decides to enroll), despite that actual learning is occasionally encouraged. Many students are too used to the idea of schooling exclusively for the ends of a job to ever see any broader purpoes to education. Grades continue to be the sole motivation for work to those unable or unwilling to partake in the braoder system that is college.
That's why there is so much danger in the fact that not only were Bush and Kerry not star students, both had below average grades. Without the motivation afforded by grades, and with most students ambivilent towards self-education, there no longer exists a system by which an educated and critical populace can be developed. It is unfortunate that things are allowed to develop this way, but perhaps there is hope here, in the blogosphere, in that enhanced global communication and awareness might provide the spark needed to encourage criticality, and thus education. Time will tell if this optimisim is misplaced or not.

Ah... a new home.

Welcome, all readers, to my new blog. Finally, I have functionality to use Technorati tags automatically, thanks to Greasemonkey, a custom GM script (ask me if you want it), custom CSS templates, Firefox supporting standards, and loads of other nice things.