Archive for the opinion Category

A Mostly Self Balancing System

Posted in opinion with tags , , , on 2009 January 16 by KLP

While I don’t feel like seeking and citing evidence which suggests that the Earth’s climate has the capability to correct itself after experiencing disruptive inputs, I’m inclined to believe so. In other words, I believe that if humanity were to stop doing things like burning fossil fuels and clearing forests the consequences of having done so for the last hundred and fifty years would eventually diminish and go away without any help.

That’s why the events described in this article trouble me. Apparently some folks are so adamant that humanity can engineer climate change away that they’ll go ahead and experiment with dumping iron filings into the ocean to increase plankton growth in spite of a UN moratorium on doing so. I doubt that anything interesting will happen, but I’m sure the parties involved will claim promising results in order to gain investors and collect more grant money, money that’s better spent on research into and proven methods of reducing pollution. Also, when people proselytize geo-engineering in Popular Science or on shows like Project Earth, they promote an unhealthy notion that we’ve got a Plan B for the planet or that we can renovate the Earth to accommodate our behavior. What hubris! With the same notion, one can justify urban sprawl. Rather, we should modify our behavior to accommodate the Earth, and by extension, accommodate each other.

I can’t shake the feeling that these geo-engineers—I hate the term but it already has a Wikipedia entry—just want to profit on the hype (cough, Y2K) or are just crazy. Even if we have pushed the climate past its tipping point, and assuming that climate change can be intentionally reversed, only a cooperative, concerted effort from every country could overcome the climate’s inertia. I doubt that even an alien invasion could spur such an effort. Nevermind that reversing climate change sounds too much like un-baking a cake.

Insulating polar ice with blankets, spraying sea water into the air to make clouds, manipulating plants and creatures to gobble carbon dioxide, and other schemes either signal traps for venture capitalists or good faith yet futile attempts to avoid various nightmare scenarios. Our best bet is to eliminate pollution, rehabilitate forests and other ecologies, adapt the best we can to whatever happens next, and hopefully learn a lesson.

Don’t Call Somali Pirates Terrorists

Posted in opinion with tags , , , , on 2008 December 23 by KLP

In this article the author, Douglas R. Burgess Jr., attempts to make the case that the pirates operating out of Somalia are terrorists. In doing so, he takes the dangerously broad interpretation of the word terrorist, that which certain participants in the War On Terror proselytize, and tries to spread it out some more. Such blanket terms and the deficient policies that come with them make problems instead of solving them. Recent examples include Halloween streakers being charged as sex offenders in Colorado and electronic objects and clothing being treated as bombs in Boston. Naked people don’t automatically want to bugger children, exposed circuits don’t always explode, and international criminals don’t always want to achieve an ideological goal by means of fear and violence, even the Arabic speaking ones.

Burgess’s fails at reducing piracy on the high seas to terrorism because he misses a simpler truth. Pirates, like those operating off the cost Somalia, just want the money. This motive explains why they patiently hold ships, cargo, and crew members for ransom, as opposed to the proper terrorists who took hostages just to kill them in Mumbai. Burgess tries to justify his reduction with the ancient Roman reasoning that pirates are “enemies of the human race” as paraphrased by Edward Coke, a 16th century English jurist. Surely this reasoning resembles contemporary sentiment for proper terrorists, but the world should know by now not to let sentiment steer foreign policy. Anyone still seeking this conclusion for himself need only recall President Bush’s assertion of the presence of soul in the dreamy eyes of Vladimir Putin. Burgess goes on to claim that the inability of navies to defeat the pirates results from a jurisdictional Gordian knot in that no nation knows how to treat the pirates. Let’s just treat ’em like terrorists, he argues. Taking care of terrorism is also everybody’s responsibility, because you’re either with us or against us, right? With this argument though, he swings at the wrong Gordian knot with a dull blade.

Even if the world’s naval powers could round up all the pirates in the Gulf of Aiden, sending them to the various Guantanamos in the world would constitute an irresponsible and unreasonable effort. Such an effort would distract from going after real terrorists. Furthermore, if Burgess would actually compare the Somali pirates with Al Qaeda or Lashkar-e-Taiba, he’d see that they represent dissimilar threats. The Somali pirates threaten private property, while proper terrorist organizations specifically target and kill people. Given limited resources, I can’t imagine how Burgess could assign pirates to the same class as terrorists. And if we have to fight a War on Piracy, the War on Terrorism makes for a poor example to follow. I surmise that those who disagree enjoy confusing terms like criminal, solider, unlawful combatant, and prisoner of war and inventing others like illegal enemy combatant and detainee. I won’t bother to get into the issues of having a war on ideas or things like drugs and, of course, terrorism. 

If I recall my history lessons correctly, then interpreting the ancient Romans’ sentiments of piracy assuming anything but an ancient Roman’s perspective will lead to confusion. For all they cared, the Roman Empire was civilization and Romans were the human race. They filed everyone else under the category of barbarians. So piracy on the high seas threatened commerce and thus Roman interests. Indeed, piracy still threatens modern commerce just as it did back then, but one has to stretch to assert that the world revolves around these affected business interests. Furthermore, Burgess can’t call the Somali pirates enemies of the human race unless he thinks Somalis don’t count. After all, I imagine that a good amount of the ransom money helps to put food on Somali tables.

Yes, piracy has bad consequences, but calling piracy terrorism will just lead to more bad consequences. I propose a more dignified solution. Just let the pirates continue their operations. Let them organize. Eventually the companies shipping things through Somali waters will get tired of the risks and ransoms. Some will take longer, more expensive routes to bypass the threat. And some, I hope, will negotiate and pay the pirates in advance. Such an arrangement would preclude violence and provide income to Somalia to make up for that which it cannot earn by fishing anymore. The pirates will become an authority in the region. They will seek to maintain power and keep competing and depreciating interests out, including proper terrorists. One could call my idea a cop-out that could potentially lead to the establishment of a pirate state in Somalia, but it beats playing a game of neo-conservative semantics.

Klaatu Barada Palin

Posted in opinion, politics with tags , , , , , on 2008 October 1 by KLP

This article helped me enunciate the major, non-policy related reason why Sarah Palin bothers me so much. I used think her resemblance to a number of annoying cartoon and sit-com mothers irked me so. But no, my ire results from her apparent difficulty in passing a Turing test. I take that back. What really gets me is that she can fool so many people with what I would call an unsuccessful performance.

Consider the various Sarah Palin quote generators’ eerily similar outputs. Well, they definitely don’t pass any Turing test, but my point is that too often, that which spouts from Palin’s mouth lacks coherence, relevance, even sentience. Her interview transcripts dumbfound. Joe Biden’s slip-ups, however, help prove that he’s not a bot. They demonstrate his fallibility and highlight his character. I have yet to encounter a bot which possesses these traits. As such, if Gotcha Journalism exists, I don’t see it at play here. I entirely understand Palin’s interviewers’ astonishment and recognize that if anything they’re not out to get Palin. They’re just aching to see what happens when they type in penis.

Justice by Embarassment

Posted in opinion with tags , , , , , , on 2008 September 23 by KLP

If only that Tennessee undergrad, David Kernell, had actually discovered something interesting in Governor Palin’s inbox, he wouldn’t look like as much of a loser right now. Governor Palin and her backwards ways could use a good shaming, but not by someone trying to be 1337 and accessing her inbox. A sort of pathetic, electronic Hail Mary, Kernell’s attempt enjoyed no more than a moose’s chance in Palin’s back yard. I don’t know how his efforts, or lack thereof, make him a hacker, but if he ever wanted the title he now has the mainsteam media to thank.

For the most part, I’ve heard two stories regarding what happened: one, that some hacker hacked poor Governor Palin, and two, that Yahoo!’s web-mail security sucks. Both lack the proper relevance. The first story screams hyperbole and the second, in addition to inadequately assessing free web-mail security, simply isn’t news. I want to hear the story about state officials conducting state business over an insecure medium, why they do it, and how are they allowed to do it.

Some folks, who I assume to agree with me, at least in part, decided to drive the point home to Bill O’Reilly. As I understand it, his website has some features and content only available to paying subscribers. As such, the site keeps information on the subscribers, but not securely. Now the subscriber information resides, in part, on Wikileaks.

I’m sure the prank will compel O’Reilly to find a secure web host, but I doubt that he’ll put his foot in his mouth out of embarrassment. For that, or any other sufficiently big target, only a big enough prank will do.

So now I’ll just come right out and say it: I want to see more of what happened in The Usual Suspects where the police escort service gets exposed. For the uninitiated, here’s a little synopsis of the scene at hand. In it, the New York City police arrest and generally harass some gangsters for apparently no reason. Afterwards, the gangsters get their revenge by spectacularly exposing the corruption within the department. And it’s awesome.

As a matter of definition, the gangsters carry out their revenge vindictively, but they do so in a big way that really messes things up for the corrupt police department. Also, no one really gets hurt. I’d love to see more pranks of this caliber as a matter of avenging the public and generally embarrassing people who deserve it. I think the folks responsible for going after O’Reilly had the right idea, but I hope that they and anyone else so inclined step it up next time.

My Lightsaber is Bigger than Yours.

Posted in opinion with tags , , , , on 2008 September 17 by KLP

"He's cool, let him in."

So far, I’ve only been through two bosses and the subsequent training sessions for each in The Force Unleashed for the Wii. My first impression is mostly good. Two issues immediately annoyed me, however. Those would be the game’s default brightness level and the controls. The first issue can be solved by taking some time to play with the game settings and the television’s settings. The levels tend to be dark and shadowy, so getting the settings right will allow for proper enjoyment of the scenery and you lightsaber skills. The controls are tricky at first but a little practice is all it takes to graduate from intuitive slicing motions with the remote.

Speaking of which the only characters I’ve actually been able to slice were some innocently bystanding droids. Unlike in the Star Wars films, I have yet to see any flying limbs or rolling heads. Hopefully there’s a cheat available to up the gore. To conclude this gripe session, there’s no online multiplayer support, as far as I can tell.

As for the good stuff, I’m enjoying the story and the characters. I’m having fun killing storm troopers and other goons. The single player experience genuinly entertains me. The first two levels appear to follow the same formula. I haven’t encountered any real puzzles yet. I hope The Force Unleashed adopts some Metal Gear Solid gameplay elements in later levels.

‘Cause I’m a huge dork.


(And, I love Kat for buying me this game for my birfday!)

+1 Barack Obama

Posted in opinion, politics with tags , , , , , on 2008 June 4 by KLP

At the beginning of 2008, I would not have anticipated Senator Obama taking the Democratic nomination. I thought I was sure about one thing though, that a ticket shared by Hillary and Barack would only work if Hillary’s name came first. I believed in this notion because, based on the campaign that Hillary ran, her being Vice President would be harmful to the operations of Barack’s presidency. In other words, I thought she would be too hungry for power to be a constructive member of Barack’s inner circle, even though such a ticket would make demographic sense according to what CNN told me while I was eating dinner earlier. I thought that Barack would make the better Vice President. He would serve constructively in the position and Hillary wouldn’t have to worry about getting assassinated. Furthermore, what would presumably be eight years of experience in the White House would almost certainly help Barack’s case in the next election.

However, now that Barack has the nomination, I am very confident that he will become the next President. To be clear, Barack’s main opponent, John McCain, is annoyingly self-righteous and backwards in his policies. He’s also a robot under President Bush’s control.[1] I’m sure that enough voters are better than that.[2] Anyway, now I am thinking that Hillary can come around and shed the unfortunate tone she took in competing for the nomination. If Hillary can maintain discipline as a party member, then Barack’s presidency will fare well with her as Vice President. Of course, I still want Richard Anderson to be VP because he’s the man, but I’d vote for an Obama-Clinton ticket.[3]

[1] Did anyone else see his hand gestures in video clips of a recent speech? He was doing that elbows out, hands open, palms in, circular motion that Mr. Bush always does. I can see it now, George Bush in a circa 1998 virtual reality platform from Shaper Image, driving John McCain. However, it’s much more likely that McCain was imagining that he was gathering nuts with which to fill his cheeks.

[2] Fine. Call me delusional.

[3] Unless of course a really sweet third party candidate comes along… This condition makes me wonder: what would it take for another candidate to have my vote instead of Barack? My friends, I’m going to save the answer for another post.

There May Just Be a God After All.

Posted in opinion with tags , , , on 2008 May 13 by KLP

When I was in the eighth grade, I went on a field trip to a Mosque in New York City. Once there, we took off our shoes and sat upon the soft carpet within the high-ceilinged, elaborately patterned building. An imam sat down in front of us and did his best to educate us on the rules and customs of Islam and, in accordance with jihad, attempted to convert us. I agreed and disagreed with the various ideas he espoused and ultimately decided that I would keep the religious status I was born into. One of the ideas that I disagreed with was that the tornadoes which caused a lot of damage in the Midwest, just before our visit to the Mosque, where the work of God trying to tell mankind that gays are bad. I disagreed with this notion for several reasons:

  • His argument that gays are bad was based on his belief that nature is full of opposite pairs. His examples upholding the natural arrangement of male and female included positive and negative electric charges, day and night, and that animals never gay it up. The latter point is wrong, and the imam only managed to point out that homosexuals are different and different is never automatically bad.
  • God doesn’t actually have it out for gays because San Francisco still stands while homophobic Jesus-lovin’ Bible belt inhabitants get Dysoned every few weeks each Spring.
  • Bad weather has surely occurred prior to the advent of Homo sapiens.

However, the weather and seismic events that occurred in Burma and China make me consider that divine intervention is afoot. Like I said before, bad weather isn’t new, and neither are earthquakes. It’s the timing of these disasters that makes my ears prick up. In Burma, we have the military junta attempting to tighten its grip on the people by holding a false referendum of an illegitimate constitution. The junta has no intention of changing Burma’s status as a virtual slave state. The recent typhoon has served well to highlight the greed and cruelty of Burma’s leaders as they try to save face. Meanwhile, journalists languish in Chinese prisons, while the government paints a pretty picture of the Olympics and looks away from the atrocities in Darfur and Burma. Perhaps an intelligent designer is trying to point out that the governments in question are up to no good.

Of course, I would never wish such ordeals on anyone and I don’t actually believe that God is intervening. Everything I’ve pointed out is merely circumstantial. That said, there are some problems in the world that need to be fixed. Therefore, I propose the founding of a philanthropic mercenary organization designed to remove cruel and unjust leadership. Bruma’s junta would make a good first mission. Our philanthropist mercenaries would swoop in and quietly subdue and capture the unwitting junta members and promptly liberate Aung San Suu Kyi allowing her to form the government per the election in the early nineties. These events would proceed in a single evening, of course, and the deliverers of justice would certainly wear snazzy uniforms.

Taken from Sillof’s Workshop.

Surely, if any organization is going to be successful at regime change, it would have to be a stylish derivative of the Justice League. Afterall, the job can’t be left up to the likes of Mr. Bush.
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Venture Communist. Miscommunications Technologist. Telekommunisten Polemicist. ThoughtWorks Analyst.