Sunday, February 24, 2008

No End in Sight

Charles Ferguson's No End in Sight was released January of 2007. It is a must see documentary that painstakingly describes the "puzzling" decisions, actions, inactions, deceptions and overall fiasco that are being raging in Iraq from 2003. No End in Sight also got a deserved nomination in tonight's Oscar.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Dumb and Dumber

Who is smarter than a 5th grader? Most adults may find it increasingly difficult remembering facts, tidbits and skills acquired many years ago in school, college and university. The pervasive culture of infotainment where anti-intellectualism is on the rise, comment like "“too much learning can be a dangerous thing” and anti-rationalism comment like “the idea that there is no such things as evidence or fact, just opinion” taken only as face value. Religious fundamentalism's antipathy toward science is mostly masqueraded as benign questioning on the authenticity of scientific facts.

Susan Jacoby points out in her recently published book that "Not only are citizens ignorant about essential scientific, civic and cultural knowledge, she said, but they also don’t think it matters."

Now this indeed is a scary observation. When citizenry overwhelmingly thinks that essential knowledge is the mere matter of neglect, subject to complete ignorance, progress of this pampered "civilization" may not remain so much progressive down the road filled with nonsense infotainment. Reorientation and immediate redirection of mental sharpness from continuing numbness toward increased acquiring rational knowledge perhaps retains survivability of our human race after all. Otherwise down to the stone age. Or is it non-stop TV soap age?

Susan Jacoby writes in her Washington Post article: "I cannot prove that reading for hours in a treehouse (which is what I was doing when I was 13) creates more informed citizens than hammering away at a Microsoft Xbox or obsessing about Facebook profiles. But the inability to concentrate for long periods of time -- as distinct from brief reading hits for information on the Web -- seems to me intimately related to the inability of the public to remember even recent news events. It is not surprising, for example, that less has been heard from the presidential candidates about the Iraq war in the later stages of the primary campaign than in the earlier ones, simply because there have been fewer video reports of violence in Iraq. Candidates, like voters, emphasize the latest news, not necessarily the most important news."

About the "arrogance of lack of knowledge" Susan Jacoby comments,
"The problem is not just the things we do not know (consider the one in five American adults who, according to the National Science Foundation, thinks the sun revolves around the Earth); it's the alarming number of Americans who have smugly concluded that they do not need to know such things in the first place. Call this anti-rationalism -- a syndrome that is particularly dangerous to our public institutions and discourse. Not knowing a foreign language or the location of an important country is a manifestation of ignorance; denying that such knowledge matters is pure anti-rationalism."

Is there a quick fix from this agonizingly neglected problem? Ms. Jacobs comments: "There is no quick cure for this epidemic of arrogant anti-rationalism and anti-intellectualism; rote efforts to raise standardized test scores by stuffing students with specific answers to specific questions on specific tests will not do the job. Moreover, the people who exemplify the problem are usually oblivious to it. ("Hardly anyone believes himself to be against thought and culture," Hofstadter noted.) It is past time for a serious national discussion about whether, as a nation, we truly value intellect and rationality. If this indeed turns out to be a "change election," the low level of discourse in a country with a mind taught to aim at low objects ought to be the first item on the change agenda."

Read these two articles discussed above from the following sources:

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Titan’s surface organics surpass oil reserves on Earth

Now how do we bring all these "oil" to earth? Saturn's Titan is far and far away for mere human mortals whose "modern" technologies still has constraints on traveling fast like the "warp speed" depicted in popular Star Trek series and movies. But as the words go around, necessity is the mother of all inventions, and it is the dire need of energy that is practically running the "wheel" of our world will eventually propel human ingenuity shatter all barriers and constraints. Exploring oil in Titans? No problem! Here comes the humans.

Read the full article from here.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Perception on Earth

Look at the image above showing earth and its "neighbors", that slowly unravels the glaring insignificance of our world in cosmic reality.

You Are What You Spend

I have reservations on the thesis of this article published in The New York Times that states that "Income statistics, however, don’t tell the whole story of Americans’ living standards. Looking at a far more direct measure of American families’ economic status — household consumption — indicates that the gap between rich and poor is far less than most assume, and that the abstract, income-based way in which we measure the so-called poverty rate no longer applies to our society."

Here are a few examples the writer presents supporting his "consumption" hypothesis:
"To understand why consumption is a better guideline of economic prosperity than income, it helps to consider how our lives have changed. Nearly all American families now have refrigerators, stoves, color TVs, telephones and radios. Air-conditioners, cars, VCRs or DVD players, microwave ovens, washing machines, clothes dryers and cellphones have reached more than 80 percent of households.

At the average wage, a VCR fell from 365 hours in 1972 to a mere two hours today. A cellphone dropped from 456 hours in 1984 to four hours. A personal computer, jazzed up with thousands of times the computing power of the 1984 I.B.M., declined from 435 hours to 25 hours. Even cars are taking a smaller toll on our bank accounts: in the past decade, the work-time price of a mid-size Ford sedan declined by 6 percent.

There are several reasons that the costs of goods have dropped so drastically, but perhaps the biggest is increased international trade. Imports lower prices directly. Cheaper inputs cut domestic companies’ costs. International competition forces producers everywhere to become more efficient and hold down prices. Nations do what they do best and trade for the rest."

Read the full article from following link:

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Turkey Busts Alleged Murder Network

Last week Time magazine published an article on recent arrests of ultra nationalist killers in Turkey that raises troublesome questions. Along with plot on prominent Nobel prize winning writer Orhan Pamuk, these Gladio like "destabilizers" and "killers" "are suspected of involvement in last year's string of nationalist-motivated murders, which cost the lives of prominent ethnic Armenian journalist Hrant Dink and three Christian missionaries, according to newspapers."

Here are a few quotes from Time:
"If they are true, it suggests there are two parallel universes in Turkey," says Hakan Altinay, director of the Open Society Institute, a think tank. "There are people who wake up every morning and plan murders of political opponents, plot coups and how to destabilize the country," he said.

Most Turks have long suspected the existence of a covert web of elements within the security forces and bureaucracy who act outside the law to uphold their own political ends. There is even a household name for it: the "deep state," referring to a state within the state.

Newspapers have suggested that this network is the Turkish remnant of Gladio, a Cold War-era program, orchestrated by the U.S. in several NATO countries, to create a covert paramilitary force to counter Communist activities.

...the audacity and sheer scope of the allegations raises the unsettling question of whether the individuals arrested might just be the tip of the iceberg. "Who gave the orders? Who protected them for this long?" says Altinay. "We are faced with the possibility that this network existed. And, even worse, that it might still exist."

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Anne Coulter's Diatribes

Anne Coulter prefers Hilary Clinton over John McCain? Why? See the surprising video below.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Lifeline for Pervez Kambaksh

At least the "technical mistake" acknowledged by Afghan senate in stepping back from its previous atrocious death sentence decision for this student journalist Syed Pervez Kambaksh can be seen as the positive direction. However, this "positive direction" wouldn't be possible if not there fierce international protests and involvements were present. Read Indepndent's update on this case that needs constant scrutiny until the student journalist gets full reprieve and freedom of expression gets a boost in troubled Afghanistan.