Friday, September 05, 2008

Soccer Starts the Healing Process

This article describes a good start to healing old wounds. There is no love lost between Armenia and Turkey, but historically they were close and shared much common culture. While certainly, there was incomprehensible destruction of the Armenian people and culture between the tail end of the Ottoman Empire and the start of the modern Turkey, healing and progress cannot be made until contemporaries come together, establish ties and work together. There is much history and culture that binds Turks and Armenians, as much as they do not want to admit it. Since no one is going to come out and say "we were wrong, you are right" (except for Hrant Dink who was assassinated for saying that) - by skipping that step, and moving on to reconciliation and establishing ties, eventually, it will open peoples eyes and minds and allow them to subsequently re-visit that often desired first step.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Drink and the Devil Be Done for the Rest

15 men.... well, anyway, everyone seems to be in on the act these days, even college presidents:

It is perhaps trite to say the argument is academic. Since when you take away the rights of a minority, especially one that does not vote regularly or en masse, in the interest of security, who will take the risk of restoring the rights? What political gain could possibly be had? So all the logical arguments in the world won't change the views of the law makers.

Now I don't believe drinking alcohol is a right, per se, but it is a freedom. In truth, if you don't break any laws, what does the government care what you drink? And if you drink and commit a serious, or minor, crime, what is the real problem - the crime or the fact that you were drinking?

College is college. It may not be Animal House, but there are certainly episodes of college that resemble the hi-jinks of Delta Tau Chi. In other words, to be shocked that there is underage drinking going on in college is frankly idiotic. While the university, doesn't condone it, they only half-heartedly seek to prevent it or enforce the drinking laws with any rigor. While the university does have some responsibility to enforce the law, they understand the futility of it, as well as the potential negative implications of alienating the student body (and limiting future fund raising), but there is also something also subversive, in that most universites' elite think they know better. They may actually know better, but when it comes to laws, that is not supposed to be the point.

The age of 21 seems quite arbitrary especially in view of the fact that you can join the military, fight in wars, kill people and even, yes, vote when you are 18, yet drink? forget about it. Somehow you are not mature enough or resonsible enough to drink a glass or wine, but you can drive a car, operate heavy machinery and wield fire arms. There is also no magic switch that gets turned on when you hit 21. If you are unresponsible at 20, you most likely will still be unresponsible at 21.

Given proper education and shown proper social settings, students can learn to drink responsibly at 18. However, there also have to be suitable alternative outlets for activities and socializing. Too often, simply from boredom, people binge drink - whether stuck in the frozen tundra in Finland or on the gothic quad of Duke.

MADD, in their rapid, rapid action response:
In fact, MADD CEO Chuck Hurley said, nearly all peer-reviewed studies looking at the change showed raising the drinking age reduced drunk-driving deaths. A survey of research from the U.S. and other countries by the Centers for Disease Control and others reached the same conclusion.

What peer-reviewed studies are they talking about? If it is so incontrovertible, then why doesn't every country raise the drinking age? Wouldn't Canada be losing people left and right? and if 21 works so well, why stop there? Wouldn't 25 be even better?

While CNN in their typical breathless, thoughtless prose, don't actually report much, other media outlet articles talk about different studies:
Drinking ages around the world vary, but in many European countries, it is 18. And the group behind the push notes on its Web site that the U.K., Germany, Australia, The Netherlands and Canada all had bigger declines in alcohol-related traffic fatalities than the U.S. during a 10-year period from 1982 to 1992 -- the time when the U.S. made 21 the national standard.
The colleges make a libertarian arugment that since students are drinking anyway, and resorting to breaking the law, we are creating or at least fostering a culture of law breakers -- thus leagalize it and regulate it (or educate about it). In some ways, it is curious that the university frequently makes libertarian arguments, since often they are too eager for regulation and laws when they fit their enlightened view. This goes back to the arrogance of the university, which believes it knows better, than society at large...but will do anything to not seem elite to the so called down-trodden. Roast an entire lacrosse team anyone? Destroy a coach's career? Speaking of that, CNN likes to get in a cheap shot:
Duke faced accusations of ignoring the heavy drinking that formed the backdrop of 2006 rape allegations against three lacrosse players. The rape allegations proved to be a hoax, but the alcohol-fueled party was never disputed.
So in other words, no crime was commited, it was all made up, nothing happened, but the alchohol-fueled party, now that was, ah, well, so what? nothing happened. It doesn't matter whether they were drinking or playing chess. CNN, in its vapid cheap shot, doesn't mention the accusor's drug indused, alchohol laden, pschosis fueled behavior, but likes to point to the heavy drinking as being the root of the non-existant problem.

Now bad stuff does happen at college, and there probably is far too much drinking. All the more reason to deal with it head on, sensibly, rather than knee-jerk or dogmatically.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Good Security is Hard

Good security is hard is a common mantra, especially from Bruce Schneier, and he has a very good article in the current Crypto-Gram as well as published in Wired entitled Memo to the Next President. I especially liked his 3rd point:

Three, broadly invest in research. Basic research is risky; it doesn't
always pay off. That's why companies have stopped funding it. Bell Labs
is gone because nobody could afford it after the AT&T breakup, but the
root cause was a desire for higher efficiency and short-term
profitability -- not unreasonable in an unregulated business. Government
research can be used to balance that by funding long-term research.

Spread those research dollars wide. Lately, most research money has been
redirected through DARPA to near-term military-related projects; that's
not good. Keep the earmark-happy Congress from dictating how the money
is spent. Let the NSF, NIH and other funding agencies decide how to
spend the money and don't try to micromanage. Give the national
laboratories lots of freedom, too. Yes, some research will sound silly
to a layman. But you can't predict what will be useful for what, and if
funding is really peer-reviewed, the average results will be much
better. Compared to corporate tax breaks and other subsidies, this is
chump change.
It makes so much sense, but seems so anathema to the political process. In the next President, will we perhaps see a change in policy, a change for the true appreciation of science? Will the next President (and Congress) be strong enough and intelligent enough to realize that security by consensus is mediocre security? That for truly good security (and this does not mean anything resembling a police state), you will undoubtedly upset some special interest or group.

Will the next President be business as usual or will we see something different?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

I read an interesting article about Queen Rania's efforts to use the new media to dispel and address head on the misconceptions of Arabs and Muslims. Using YouTube, she sets the stage for the democratization of an emotional debate. However, what I found truly interesting, was the argument of the academics regarding whether the interconnectedness of people in the virtual world of the internet broadens attitudes or instead leads to self-selected, insular communities. It is obvious, to me at least, that both views hold true. It all depends on what you are looking for. Just like in a small town, you can keep your contact to the known and comfortable, and never be challenged or like some, get on a train and see what's over the horizon. Some people will naturally seek the broad perspective and draw energy from the different and exotic. Others cannot tolerate change and want to reinforce their own belief system. That isn't quite fair, since even those seeking new, challenging experiences are in esssence reinforcing their own belief system.

Will the world get closer together? or will we have a Clash of Civilizations (which incidently is not so much about the clash but rather how to avoid it).

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Parallel Thinking

Shouldn't it be possible, to spawn off a separate and deep thought process while you are engaged in everyday life? This would be similar to a very effective subconscious mind acting at the bequest of the conscious. When I was younger, it seemed like I could do this quite naturally and effortlessly. Now, despite my efforts, I cannot carry on a parallel thought process beyond an instant. Why? Perhaps, I have too many distractions now, too many pressing concerns. Perhaps I am just too tired, my brain too crippled. Maybe I am overwhelmed by the modern ADD.

I feel like if I could just get a lot of rest and get my mind at ease, I could re-engage my parallel thought processes. My cousin complained about my nonlinear thinking while I was on vacation recently. For him, a General Counsel, a corporate lawyer, this was derogatory. Too me, it was a sigh of relief. It re-awakened my desire for parallel thinking, for nonlinear thinking. When you can effectively engage in this type of thinking, you experience a new kind of creativity and awareness of relationships.

So off to bed!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

A Late Night Thought(s)

Slanted, pink sunlight illuminates all,
Long ago, the light faded and the waves are just sounds,
Late night TV looks for meaning, ensconced in a PBS fundraiser.
I see people looking for meaning in motion, constant entertainment or new experiences,
others looking for meaning in philosophy or religion or gargantuan rocks strewn by the sea.
But is the pursuit of meaning short sighted?
Not seeing the whole puzzle.
Is meaning just a convenient summarization of something much larger?
Like capturing the air with a bag and thinking you've got it all, the scents, the sounds, the sky.
So what is beyond meaning, beyond the pursuit of explanations?
Is it still satisfying? Is it still marketable?
What if meaning is just a photo, at 10x magnification, that misses the scene and losses the context?
So where do we go from here?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

I have been remiss in writing this blog entry for some time. Hopefully, I will still have some pertinent or at least accurate thoughts on the subject. Over the last several months, we've watched a couple of movies about Bob Dylan:

Bob Dylan is fascinating in many respects, because of his mystique and his insightful and poetic songwriting. While perhaps some poetic elites may have denigrated his poetry in the past, his lyrics are now studied at many universities, in multiple contexts. His friendship with Alan Ginsberg and Ginsberg respect for Dylan's writing offer credence to this statement, though Ginsberg did feel Dylan betrayed or abandoned his ideal of the politically and socially conscious poet.

Bob Dylan did consciously start out to become successful and to make himself into his image of a songwriter like the previous generation (like Woody Guthrie ). His music mastery and gift are sometimes overlooked, but apparently he could listen to a song once and commit it to memory. People looked for deep meaning and obscure messages in many of his songs, yet he was unaware of the depth attributed to them. I think he was like a prism of society and culture that brilliantly reflected the yearnings, grievances, failings and desires of Western civilization at that time (and subsequent generations). He was able to eloquently focus the cross-currents and turmoil of group thought in a laser like precision that built upon the successful methods of folk song writers of past.

Most of all, Bob Dylan was much like a medium of old, a channeler of art, music and poetry. From his innate gifts and his pursuit of a solid base from which to project, he was able to channel this powerful spirit and crystal clear images through his songs.