Pat Gunn (dachte) wrote,
Pat Gunn
dachte

Living on a slanted roof

In Persia, part of their government called the Guardian Council, thepresence of which makes their Democracy partly theocratic, has disqualifiedthousands of liberal candidates from running for Parliament in upcoming,elections, including several incubents. The remaining liberals in theirgovernment are preparing to resign en masse in protest, and the E.U., whichtrades with Iran, is applying pressure. Interestingly, their electoralentity is run by liberals, and said that it won't respect the disqualifications.Ali Abtahi, our favourite (only?) politician blogger in Iran, considersit to be dishonest that the council wasn't willing to admit that it was aimingto disharm the reformists, and instead disqualified them by trumped-up chargesof corruption. I wonder if the presence of the GC serves a similar structuralpurpose for their government as seperation of powers does for the Americangovernment.

Speaking of American politics (nice segue there, eh?), former secretary ofthe treasury for BushJr (pbuh) Paul O'Neill has told some things to thepress that haven't endeared him to the current administration. He chargedthat BushJr was intent on war with Iraq before the September 11th bombings,something we all really knew anyhow, but it's good to have it on record. Askedsome of the hairy questions after O'Neill's interview, BushJr admitted as such.I do have some liberal friends who still approve of the war, and to you, I'mgoing to join with Abtahi in saying that if you can't do it honestly, it's notusually something worth doing, in politics. It doesn't redeem if it turned outwell (and frankly, I don't think it has), the fact is that BushJr's reasons forthe war have danced all over the map, and that's no way to run a supposeddemocracy. The WTC bombings should not have been used as a throwaway excusefor war like it was. Closing on O'Neill, he made a totally unnecessary butfun comment that BushJr's cabinet meetings were"like a blind man in a room full of deaf people". That reminds me of a picturein Time magazine I currently have open on my dining room table of BushJr andhis cabinet all praying together before a meeting. More inspiration to get thatnut out of office... I'm pleased that Powell has indicated that he won't serveunder BushJr again if he gets elected. General Clark, incidentally, is willingto go much further than O'Neill.Interestingly, we're starting to see a bit of blame-shifting, as the war mightbe starting to be disowned by the agressors (Britain under Blair and theU.S. under BushJr) -- Blair's starting to emphasize that he really wantedpeace all along, and BushJr is, as far as I know for the first time, thisweek now starting to talk about how another Iraq war was Clinton's planall along. The thing is, I don't think he can really go any further in thisdirection without sacrificing a lot more credibility -- unless he's willing toadmit that he's an idiot and a puppet, BushJr won't be able to pose the war as'not his fault'.

An interesting development in Catholicism reminds me of the first lineof a song...o/~ They installed a condom dispenser at the VaticanYasser Arafat said he'd never wear that hat again... o/~ -- Foremen, Hell Froze Over

In my neuropsych class yesterday, the teacher made us a fake cake shaped andcoloured to resemble a human brain (it was very cute, although it wasn't exactlymy kind of cake), and also handed around (in baggies) slices of real brain. Theclass is small (around 20 people), and we're going to have speakers andpatients come in to talk -- within the next two weeks, someone with a lesionin the face-recognition area of their brain will come in, and we'll askquestions. I think I have a good one lined up -- I want to know if theirlessened ability to do deep analysis of human faces damages their notion ofhuman facial aesthetics (drawn from seeing a special on TV about how humanaesthetics gives people favour in everyday life), which actually connects tosomething a friend just IM'ed me -- The Uncanny Valley, which he thinks mightexplain why people dislike clowns.

Another thing we saw in class was someone who had a callosotomy(brain-hemisphere-bridge severing surgery), and apart from anumber of other fascinating effects was the effect of them fabricating storieswhen asked to reintegrate data from their now-uncommunicating areas of brain.In each example, they made up plausable but false stories that neatly sweptaway what would otherwise be mysterious additions of knowledge that they,from their perspective, shouldn't know. This seems to me to really emphasizethat 'making things make sense' plays a big role in how our brain works, andin that sense, it should be considered a major philosophical principle in theexploration of the brain. I'll have to see if it remains useful as I continuein the field :) It fits nicely into some studies on memory I recall where peopleremember distinct but internally consistant versions of the same event. Memoryis perhaps like history -- writing a consistant story out of the scraps andparts we're left after the fact. Also on the topic of such a surgery, I findmyself wondering ... callosotomy (my fingers keep wanting to type collosectomy,argh!) is typically done to eliminate the reflection of seizures between thetwo hemispheres of the brain. The seizures still happen after the callosotomy,but are less severe because they can't spread as far. I'm wondering if a devicecould be implanted that would, on demand, temporarily inhibit transmissionsacross the corpus colossum in times of seizure, similar to how a pacemakerstabilizes the heart.. Perhaps such a device would make severing the connectionunnecessary. Of course, it's a much finer-grained thing to selectively blocktransmissions across a region of neurons than to simply provide an impulse tothe heart, but it would be awesome if it could work.

Even conservatives can get bitten by media consolidation.Here's demonstration that something akin to nationalism can arise in very differentcontexts -- read all the pages ... the guy won't *touch* Coke bottles, anddrinks nothing but Pepsi.

Incidentally, bittorrent totally rocks.

And, because you likely won't hear it anywhere else, and because this issacred wisdom, I present to you .. Debb's secret rules for line selectionin a supermarket (please don't use this to get advantage over us when we'reshopping)..

    People not to get behind when picking supermarket lines
  • people whose carts are packed full in many layers
  • really old people
  • people with a checkbook or food stamps (checks and cash are faster)
  • people with more than two coupons
  • those who look like they're going to haggle or argue over prices
  • smokers (frequently they'll need the cashier to go get them more cigarettes from a seperate area)
  • people with unlabeled produce (cashier'll need to look it up)
Tags: politics, science
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