Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The anti-democratic caucus

This is a week old, but I found it to be really illuminating. I personally have been surprised that al-Sisi has not even been paying lip service to the Palestinian cause in the current Gaza conflict.

Fraternity signing while black

In all fairness, I guess college fraternities are a kind of gang.

Foreign coverage of Ferguson

A version of this parody has been written for most big domestic stories. But these days there's really no need to make one of those parody pieces up.

And for the record, I think the U.S. totally deserves all of the criticism it is getting. Sure, it is a bit weird for the state controlled media in Russia, Iran, or Egypt to criticize police brutality or the arrest of journalists in Missouri when those governments have an even worse record. But that just means that Americans should work harder to live up to our alleged ideals. Even a bad messenger can make a real point.


It really looks like Russia is not willing to go to war over Novorossiya.

Assuming the Ukrainian government regains control of all of Eastern Ukraine, I wonder if Kiev will quietly accept the loss of Crimea or if it will turn its military forces to the South. I suspect the former, although I doubt they will admit it publicly.

No doubt they were "human shields" because they were in the house where they live

I really don't like Nazi comparisons (and I don't actually think the comparison is fair), but it is hard when Israeli officials talk like this to not hear it in my head in the bad accent of a cartoon Nazi villain:
Tzipi Livni, Israel’s justice minister, told the news website Ynet that "every person who commits terror, his liquidation is not just legitimate but desirable, in my opinion."
What a statement to make after your country intentionally bombed a house, killing a baby and its mother! Imagine for a moment what would happen if Livni's husband and child were killed in an assassination attempt on her. What would that make Hamas?

I think Israeli society (and by extension the misguided people who think of themselves as "pro-Israel" by blindly supporting Israel's worst militaristic impulses), much like American society at the end of 2001, has gone into a dark violent place--a place where the ends justify the means, where everything is viewed as an existential threat, where actions that to a reasonable outsider seem counter-productive and foolish are presented as tough and effective. I just don't think that the Israeli leadership has any idea how they come across to the rest of the world, aside from the minority who are willing to support whatever they do.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Lou Gehrig's ice buckets

ALS might run in my family. My grandfather died of the disease. And while I'm glad that a millions of dollars have been raised for ALS by this ice bucket challenge fad, it is really strange that the American public will only open their wallet for the cause if everyone they know is posting videos of ice water being dumped on their heads.

So put me in the "Stop Dumping Ice on Your Head Just Give Money" camp. On the other hand, if people want to both dump ice on their heads and give money, I guess I have no problem with that either.

Climbing the escalation ladder.

I don't understand the logic of sending in the National Guard to calm Ferguson, MO. How could sending in armed forces to confront protesters do anything other than escalate things?

It has been interesting to watch as the police force in charge since the protests started last week has climbed up the escalation ladder. It started with the Ferguson police department, then the St. Louis County police took over to investigate the shooting. Then the Governor ordered the state highway patrol to take charge. That seemed to work briefly, but then it didn't. So now they have called in the National Guard (the only armed forces which are controlled by a governor). The only place to go from here is to call in the U.S. Army, although that would be illegal. I'm not sure why they don't try to go back to the initial highway patrol strategy of engaging the protesters rather than the heavy-handed curfews and tear gas. It just seemed to work better.

I keep debating whether to mention this, but I have personally witnessed one clear incident of police racism in my life. The police involved were the St. Louis County police. (See? It seems like it is relevant, but really it isn't. There are probably racist cops in every police department in the country--just as there are also some non-racist cops out there. The one incident I personally witnessed says more about happenstance, my race, and the fact that I lived in St. Louis County for three years, than anything else).

Losing Punch

Is anyone surprised by this? The whole reason that the GOP went so nuts about ObamaCare is that we all knew that the window for stopping or repealing the law was relatively small. Once it gets entrenched into the U.S. healthcare system and people are used to it, there really is no going back.

(via Memeorandum)

Monday, August 18, 2014

Shame on whoever did it!

It a little odd that the State Department would condemn an attack without being able to say who the attacker is. So what exactly does that "condemnation" mean?

I hate it when non-sci-fi people write about sci-fi

Vox should really distinguish better between science fiction films and books in this piece. I mean, it starts with film, but then slides into the written world of sci-fi when it talks about the genre's history, without noting that the book world is pretty different than the action-movie dominated sci-fi film world. My impression is that sci-fi books have made a lot more progress on the diversity front than movies have--both in terms of their creators and their characters. To the best of my knowledge, there is no film version of the Carl Brandon or Tiptree awards. While awards are not everything, they do reflect a conscious effort to diversify the creators and subject matter of sci-fi literature which I don't think the movie and TV people have bothered much with.

How did that convoy trick go?

So the "Russian Aid" convoy is stuck at the Ukrainian border. The Russian military vehicles that accompanied it were destroyed by the Ukrainian military. While this is happening, the Ukrainian military continues to make gains against the rebels. Pretty much everyone in the world now views the convoy as a thinly-veiled attempt by Russia to either prop up the rebels in Eastern Ukraine or invade Ukraine outright. Given the above, that attempt seems to have failed rather badly.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Chocolution 33: François Pralus, Venezuela 75%

Yet another single origin bar (I like the longitude and latitude coordinates of the plantation printed right on the front of the wrapper). The best touch is actually the small squares (about 1cm2) the bar is divided into. Fancy chocolate tastes better if eaten in small qualities. Once you start shoving it in your mouth, it might as well be the cheap stuff.

Franklin Institute

Friday, August 15, 2014

Makes the police look worse

It's totally absurd for the Ferguson police to release information on the convenience store robbery, but not the shooting itself. Even if Michael Brown was the guy in the video, that doesn't justify gunning him down. If they had a rock-solid excuse for the shooting, I bet they would have released that instead.

Russia won't let the customs union get in the way of their U.S. sanctions

This just goes to show that the Eurasian Customs Union is a fraud. Russia is fine with open borders if it means its former subject territories can't impose tariffs on the resources they ship to Moscow and the people of those territories have more access to Russian products. But as soon as it interferes with any other Russian priority, those borders don't seem so open anymore.

I've got mail!

One thing I love about this blog is all of the unsolicited email it generates. A surprising number of those emails start with "Dear Editor." Anyone who has spent more than a few seconds reading this site would know that I do not have an editor.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Brave new worlds

I have been living either on a college campus or in the academic slum on the outskirts of a campus since 1988. That is 26 years, basically my entire adult life. First I lived in my college dorm in New York State, then I moved to a townhouse for upperclassmen on campus. Then I went to law school on St. Louis and living in two apartment buildings, each dominated by renters who were graduate or law students. When I moved to Chicago to move in with Mrs. Noz (at that time girlfriend-of-Noz), she was a graduate student. So I ended up in a neighborhood of graduate students. We stayed there for two years after she got her PhD, before moving to "Philadelphia"--really faculty housing on a college campus just outside Philadelphia. My neighbors were no longer graduate students, but professors, which are basically just grown up graduate students. I have been living on this campus for 15 years--first in an apartment, and then for the last 9 years in a house. All the while surrounded my academically minded people. My people.

Which is a little strange because I'm not an academic. At best I'm an academic-in-law. But I do identify much more with academic-type people than lawyer-type people. For a while I could at least claim to be a student. I was a student of something for every year of my life from preschool until 2010, when I became a father and didn't have the time to continue with my Arabic lessons.

Today is another break with my connection to academia. Today we move into a new house and for the first time in my adult life I will be living in a place that isn't dominated by adult students or teachers. It feels like a big deal for me, even though I spend pretty much every day with non-academics.

It will be really weird. I mean, if there is a sudden change in government in Russia, what will I do if I can't just walk up some stairs and talk to someone with a PhD in Russian politics? How do the rest of you deal with stuff like that?

Moving Day

Monday, August 11, 2014

Moving week

Actual moving day is Wednesday. But today I'm spending the day at the new house getting things ready, greeting delivery people, and generally breathing the fumes of the refinished floor. Fun times.

The next few days are going to either really suck or be an exciting opportunity to set up a whole new house! Probably both.

Meanwhile, I have to stay at the house all day to greet those deliveries, but I completely forgot to bring lunch. All we have moved to the house so far is my stash of fancy chocolate and all our bottles of wine. It's gonna be a long day...

Isn't that always their strategy

For years, the consensus is the only way that Democrats can win is if they pretend not to be Democrats. This is not new  It has been the annoying truth for the entire time that I have followed politics.