Friday, February 29, 2008
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Photos 3 and 7:
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Monday, February 25, 2008
To summarize: McKenna theorizes that as the North African jungles receded toward the end of the most recent ice age, giving way to grasslands, a branch of our tree-dwelling primate ancestors left the branches and took up a life out in the open -- following around herds of ungulates, nibbling what they could along the way.
Among the new items in their diet were psilocybin-containing mushrooms growing in the dung of these ungulate herds. The changes caused by the introduction of this drug to the primate diet were many -- McKenna theorizes, for instance, that synesthesia (the blurring of boundaries between the senses) caused by psilocybin led to the development of spoken language: the ability to form pictures in another person's mind through the use of vocal sounds.
About 12,000 years ago, further climate changes removed the mushroom from the human diet, resulting in a new set of profound changes in our species as we reverted to pre-mushroomed and frankly brutal primate social structures that had been modified and/or repressed by frequent consumption of psilocybin.
I found the allegory between the democratic race and the Iraq war to be pretty witty (tho perhaps a little snobbishly so):
The Clinton camp was certain that its moneyed arsenal of political shock-and-awe would take out Barack Hussein Obama in a flash. The race would “be over by Feb. 5,” Mrs. Clinton assured George Stephanopoulos just before New Year’s. But once the Obama forces outwitted her, leaving her mission unaccomplished on Super Tuesday, there was no contingency plan. She had neither the boots on the ground nor the money to recoup.
That’s why she has been losing battle after battle by double digits in every corner of the country ever since. And no matter how much bad stuff happened, she kept to the Bush playbook, stubbornly clinging to her own Rumsfeld, her chief strategist, Mark Penn.
Sunday, February 24, 2008
Link (be sure to watch the vid):
A man celebrating his buck's day with 26 of his mates thought it would be funny to strip off and be first past the post at the Moruya racetrack.
Problem was a race involving real horses was tearing down the home straight when the streaker made his mad dash.
This isn't about nukes or nuclear power — if it was then the US would have accepted Iran's various proposals including the Iranian offer to suspend enrichment and the 2003 peace feeler. This is about regime change, and the nuclear issue presents a good pretext. The Iranians have come to believe that no matter what they do, even if they accept the UNSC suspension and even if the IAEA gives Iran a clean bill of health, something else will be ginned up. That's not an irrational conclusion.
If you were to dig a hole 300 feet straight down from the center of the charming French village of Crozet, you'd pop into a setting that calls to mind the subterranean lair of one of those James Bond villains. A garishly lit tunnel ten feet in diameter curves away into the distance, interrupted every few miles by lofty chambers crammed with heavy steel structures, cables, pipes, wires, magnets, tubes, shafts, catwalks, and enigmatic gizmos.
This technological netherworld is one very big scientific instrument, specifically, a particle accelerator-an atomic peashooter more powerful than any ever built. It's called the Large Hadron Collider, and its purpose is simple but ambitious: to crack the code of the physical world; to figure out what the universe is made of; in other words, to get to the very bottom of things.
Saturday, February 23, 2008
The introduction of weapons in space would be deleterious to global security. But the treaty unfurled by Messrs. Lavrov and Li would neither effectively prohibit their deployment, nor conclusively annul the threat of force against space objects. It would only produce the illusion of security, while doing nothing to eliminate the counterspace capabilities currently present in many countries, especially China.So in the first sentence we have a suspicious admonition that weapons in space would be detrimental to global security (which certainly warrants a 'no shit sherlock'). Then Tellis explains why the US found the recently proposed treaty unappealing: the US is more concerned about the counterspace capabilities that states such as China and Russia wields, than it is with these two states' fears of the US expanding its military dominance--which the US undisputedly has in the realms of land, air, and sea--to the final dimension: space.
The biggest deficiency in the Russian-Chinese draft treaty is that it focuses on the wrong threat: weapons in space. There aren't any today, nor are there likely to be any in the immediate future. The threat to space assets is rather from weapons on earth -- the land- and sea-based kinetic, directed-energy and electromagnetic attack systems. The treaty entirely ignores these.Now we have two conclusions--the deleterious nature of weaponizing space with regards to the global security environment and the lack thereof of weapons in space today and, logic permitting, ever--which seems to warrant my proposal: sign the damn treaty if it makes the Chinese and Russians happy (since based on our conclusions we have nothing to lose, besides ink) and by doing so, unless I am too young and naive to understand international dealings, effectively decrease their need for and development of counterspace capabilities by giving them their desired 'illusion of security'.
Not signing the treaty simply sends the message that the United States intends to keep the option of weaponizing space open. If that, indeed, is not our intent, than I see no need to send false signals. What can we hope to achieve with this stick, which pokes not only dangerously, but provocatively at the sleeping monster of potential disaster?
Friday, February 22, 2008
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Things I Have Learned In My Life So Far, an interactive exhibition by Stefan Sagmeister, opens at Deitch Projects on January 31, 2008. The exhibition will include works that have a life of their own, transforming throughout the exhibition as viewers engage with them. Things I Have Learned In My Life So Far is timed to coincide with the release of a new book of the same title, which surveys Sagmeister's illustrious career.
Stefan Sagmeister is one of today's most innovative and influential graphic designers. His conception and application of graphic design goes above and beyond traditional notions of the practice, taking it to the realm of performative and conceptual art, painting and sculpture. Sagmeister is most widely known for his album cover artwork for bands like The Rolling Stones, Talking Heads and Lou Reed, and for books, like Mariko Mori's Wave UFO for the Kunsthaus Bregenz, which function as sculptural objects.
Monday, February 18, 2008
Sunday, February 17, 2008
What I’d like to see is a pen pal web site designed to end war. The idea would be to connect citizens in different countries at such a high rate it would be politically impossible for the two countries to start a war.
You might support your government in a war against a country full of people you don’t know. But would you support a war that has a good chance of killing your e-mail friend Phlubanakawahaha and his entire family? There is some theoretical level of citizen-to-citizen contact that makes war between two countries virtually impossible.
It's called the "sQuba," and conjures up memories of James Bond's amphibious Lotus Esprit from "The Spy Who Loved Me." That fictional vehicle traveled on land and, when chased by bad guys in a helicopter, plunged into the water and became an airtight submarine -- complete with "torpedoes" and "depth charges."
But "Q" isn't responsible for this one.
The concept car -- which unlike Bond's is not armed -- was developed by Swiss designer Rinspeed Inc. and is set to make a splash at the Geneva Auto Show next month.
Company CEO Frank Rinderknecht, a self-professed Bond fan, said he has been waiting 30 years to recreate the car he saw Roger Moore use to drive off of a dock.
The sQuba can plow through the water at a depth of 30 feet and has electrical motors to turn the underwater screw.
Friday, February 15, 2008
Thursday, February 14, 2008
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
A baby hippopotamus that survived the tsunami waves on the Kenyan coast has formed a strong bond with a giant male century-old tortoise in an animal facility in the port city of Mombassa , officials said The hippopotamus, nicknamed Owen and weighing about 300 kilograms (650 pounds), was swept down Sabaki River into the Indian Ocean, then forced back to shore when tsunami waves struck the Kenyan coast on December 26, before wildlife rangers rescued him.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
The Road To Peace
Whenever we undertake the task of examining and ultimately explaining the International Relations system we, admittedly, are left with somewhat limited means to assist us in our endeavor to better understand an ever-changing, evolving, and vastly complex system. The only means available to us to accomplish this end are various and varying paradigms and traditions, inherited from the past, which we then adapt and modify to suit our particular modern context (our conceptions and convictions). These traditions/paradigms, which act like lenses palliating our myopia of ignorance, are, ironically, simultaneously liberating and limiting to our overall understanding. They are liberating because they offer an approach to and way of making sense of what we study; but, at the same time, they are limiting because they determine the approach we take and ultimate biases’ that we make, with regards to the interpretations we draw and the conclusions we reach. Moreover, these individual traditions/paradigms, once subscribed to, will ultimately influence and shape the very system that they endeavor to understand, as our textbook points out in quoting Kenneth Boulding when he presciently pointed out back in 1959, that “it is what we think the world is like, not what it is really like, that determines our behavior” (Stoett p.12). Similar to the ‘observer effect’ in quantum mechanics—the realization that the tools we use and the very act of observation can ultimately alter that which we attempt to study—in International Relations the paradigms we come to endorse effect the calculus of the decisions we make, which in turn effect the climate of the system we attempt to predict and understand. Thus choosing which tradition/paradigm you endorse is immensely significant. In this paper I will briefly sketch out the main tenets of the two dominant traditions found in International Relations theory and will then elaborate upon the implications of each, mentioning what I endorse and what I ignore in each particular paradigm/tradition. I will then conclude by summing up the appealing aspects of each paradigm and briefly elaborate upon my overall philosophy of and opinion towards international relations, that is to say, where it is or should be heading.
The first paradigm/tradition I will discuss is realism. Within this paradigm are varying ideas and concepts, but it, stereotypically, is based upon the following tenets: anarchy, state-centrism, recognition of state sovereignty, power as the primary means to pursue and protect state interests, and an interest-oriented theory that accounts for state behavior. Realists diagnose the international relations system as being anarchic, not in the chaotic (Durkheimien anomie) sense, but in the sense that there is no overarching entity capable of governing the actions of the individual parts: what realists assert to be sovereign states. Therefore, states must ensure their own security and pursue their own interests by their own means, which, to realists, is hard (military and to some degree economic) power. E.H. Carr, a famous disciple of realism, described his discipline succinctly when he said that it “tends to emphasize the irresistible strength of existing forces and the inevitable character of existing tendencies, and to insist that the highest wisdom lies in accepting, and adapting oneself to these forces and these tendencies” (Mearsheimer p.27).
Our textbook accurately points out the poignant pessimism embedded within this tradition, especially with regards to the notion of man one day achieving peace, since realists judge from the historical record that man's nature is inherently and determinedly competitive, selfish, and self-serving (Stoett p.14). This Hobbesian outlook on the life of man being “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short” heavily influences the palliating prescriptions that realists offer: which are, namely, none. Realists determine the rot of the system— conflict, war, and violence— to be incurable features of the system and, therefore, irremovable— even to the good intentioned hands of idealistic men, whose efforts, while laudable, are in actuality (at least from the realist perspective), mere folly.
The realist diagnosis of the system is presciently and unflinchingly pessimistic, which you would think would make it unattractive to IR scholars, but its appeal lies in its practical applicability, since applicability often implies accuracy (in other words, if one's predictions are correct, than that often suggests that one's understanding is also correct). Realism's core conviction that humans are naturally competitive, selfish, and self-serving has yet to be disproved by the race it describes, and thus realism remains applicable. But, there is a growing consensus amongst men and women alike, united together in the conviction that we are not, in fact, inevitably prone to violence and conflict (perhaps a representative slogan for this conviction would be: blame the system, not the unit). The label of this more optimistic constituency is idealism (a word which has almost become a pejorative in today's IR discourse).
Idealism offers a much more sympathetic and teleologically hopeful view of mankind. Scornful towards the Hobbesian interpretation of human nature, idealism posits mankind's résumé in a much more positive light, as: “essentially cooperative political animals who are occasionally led astray be evil influences into war and conflict . . . have a natural affinity toward the communal, as opposed to the the individual, good” (Stoett p.12). Thus the underlying conviction in idealism is that man is manipulated by the system, or 'the institutional or structural setting in which they live', and as a result he is paradoxically both the helpless victim of and guilty perpetrator to the abhorrent violence and grievous war, which characteristically recur and systematically afflict the international system. The prescription that idealism provides to palliate the realist diagnosis is a healthy dose of international organizations, such as the UN, and conceptual entities, such as collective security, which can effectively and systematically promote peace (through cooperation and collectively bound interests) and harmony (through negotiation and treaties aimed at amelioration).
Both traditions provide a unique interpretation of the international system, use a particular calculus to predict state behavior, and offer a certain set of solutions to their respected system-view, but they are fundamentally different in each aforementioned respect. The observations drawn and the conclusions made with regards to the international system differ to such a degree that both disciplines have remained detrimentally divorced and disingenuously distanced from one another. The eagerness to point out the faults and shortcomings in the rivaling tradition, in order to strengthen the merits of one's own discipline, has only contributed to the overall divorced-ness and distance between the two paradigms. The critiques hurled at realism include: realism is anachronistic in scope, it neglects non-state/international actors and actions which are an important component in the international system; realism is a self-full filling prophecy, it legitimizes the states' right to protect itself and pursue its own interests by its own means (albeit military power, resulting in war); the list is long, but out of constraint of space, I will just mention those two. The main critique hurled at idealism is mainly that it is: Utopian and therefore hopelessly naïve. Realists suggest that the wishful thinking of cooperation and peace will always be shattered by the reality of competition and war which are endemic to the international system. According to realists the system cannot be changed and therefore the idealists' ought will never be acquainted with the realists' is.
I personally think that it is folly to imprison yourself within the framework of one tradition/paradigm in exclusion to all the rest. I prefer to synthesize certain aspects of particular traditions in such a way that best (in an accurate sense) describes and most beneficially (from the human standpoint) interprets the overall international relations system. Unfortunately best and most beneficial are not always one in the same in international relations, but I think that the best theory would be the one that aims directly between the two poles of is and ought, of best and beneficial, so that our predictions are pragmatic and our aspirations are idyllic.
I do not deny that the system is a certain way, but that in and of itself does not mean that it cannot be changed to what we determine it ought to be. In my opinion the realists seem to have the is part right. They correctly observe that anarchy is caused by a lack of an overarching body or entity that supersedes the sovereign state. Without law and a mechanism to enforce it, humans are left to their own devices. They are reduced to eye for an eye type justice, where an individual is responsible for punishing any perpetrator who commits a crime or wrong-doing upon him/her and, moreover, is also free to bully and exploit weaker individuals when the temptation arises. States, not surprisingly, operate under these same conditions. With no international organization or entity to enforce orderly conduct powerful states are free to exploit their own power, to accomplish their own ends, while weaker states inevitably suffer at the behest of their limited power. Thus every state strives to increase its power relative to the other states in the system, causing an unending security dilemma, which continuously manufactures arms races which erupt, every so often, in war. But this is is not, in my opinion, indefinite, nor is it immutable.
Idealists offer the most beneficial prescription to the intolerable problems rooted in the international system. The 'blame the system, not the unit' motto I referred to earlier to characterize a usefully imaginable idealistic slogan I think is a correct perception. While man may seem hopelessly and perhaps helplessly stupid sometimes, he seems to vindicate himself in his valiant resilience. He is slow to learn and change, but, helped by his habit, is quick to repeat and reify. The most provenly effective way to shape mans behaviors, beliefs, opinions, and convictions is through conditioning, and that conditioning is most strongly influenced by his continuous interaction with the system and environment he lives in. Change his system and you can, in essence, change him. This same concept applies on the state level. If you delegitimize unilateral military actions, in effect neuter all forms of aggression by establishing a system or organization which revolves around collective security, you will, effectively, end war. The collective security arrangement's appeal is its protective power, which is immensely strengthened by the collectively bound interest of maintaining peace. If states feel secure and if their interests are respected and protected in international forums and organizations then they will be less prone to fall under the security dilemma spell of arms races and warfare, which are otherwise the only available and effective means to ensure their own survival and pursue and protect their own interests.
The system man or states live in is, conceptually, the one they inherit from the academic traditions of the past, however, the systems potential for change may be, in some regards, indifferent to its unit's (man's) theories, as globalization has clearly done much to change the framework of the international system. Nevertheless it is our conceptual interpretation of the system that ultimately plays the heaviest hand in determining the nature of that system. If we change our convictions, if we abandon the realists suspicion that war and violence are endemic and immutable, if we can convince enough people that this 'ought' of a peaceful international system is a worthy and achievable goal to strive towards, then we will, indeed, change the very nature of the system.
Paint me as an optimist but I honestly think that if one were to plot the history of mankind on a graph it would look like a jagged saw of progress and regress, but the overall movement would be an upward linear movement towards sustainable progress: towards global integration, cooperation, freedom, and harmony. Perhaps not so much by man's choice, as by necessity, but the human race, nevertheless, appears to be getting better at tolerating itself. As Bertrand Russel once so wittingly put it “Man is born ignorant, not stupid; he is made stupid by his education.” To change our perceptions is to change our realizations. Peace is an achievable aim, but it will take a global effort, will require a concert of consensus, and will be difficult at first and full of rule breakers, but if we maintain our resilience and are resolute we will, indeed, succeed. And Peace, that illusive dream, will at last be ours to enjoy.
Thursday, February 7, 2008
Monday, February 4, 2008
Via The Telegraph:
Sperm cells have been created from a female human embryo in a remarkable breakthrough that suggests it may be possible for lesbian couples to have their own biological children.
The University of Newcastle team that has achieved the feat is now applying for permission to turn the bone marrow of a woman into sperm which, if successful, would make the method more practical than with embryonic cells.
Sunday, February 3, 2008
Glands, weeping sweat
shaking, nervous nerves
Enamored with the solitary vice of passion’s naked longing.
Incarnate, alluring luster
love’s binding spell
Clinging childishly to fate’s unknowable hand.
Spear, stinging tip
Enchanting muse of raping sorrow and violent vexation.
Freedom's screaming howl
lonely, comforting isolation
Possessed with the unbearable itch of indignation.
Disappointment's scarring mark
the knotted sinews of a torn heart
Conquered soul. Perpetually ravaged by the armies of a guilty discontent.