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Semiformalishmaybe

Density and Light

Sorry, more politics!

  • Sometimes when I look at the profiles of some politicians, it mystifies me as to how they're electable. I guess the American public, by and large, is the same public that sustains McDonalds - they're not a crowd with high expectations.
I'm particularly irritated with our president for two (likely soon to be three) very high profile failures where he could've made a difference but failed to do so out of political cowardice/stupidity.
  • Firstly, he gave in on tax cuts for the wealthy, against the rough majority opposing them, as part of a deal to get tax cuts for the middle class. First, I question the wisdom of continuing either tax cut - given a budget crisis, it's understood that raising taxes is something that will need to be done (alongside service cutbacks, possibly). Why not let that be this? Second, if he really must extend the middle class tax cuts, it is worth it to allow the difference between his plan (which aligns with a majority of public opinion) and the Republican plan to come to a head and to play chicken. He was operating from a position of strength, and there was no reason letting the cuts expire would mean that he could reinstate the middle class ones retroactively. The public pressure would've backed him up and likely pushed some Republicans towards his side, breaking the lockstep party unity they've shown so far. Instead, he squandered that opportunity because of impatience and too great a dislike of confrontation. (ACTION: Please write your representatives and ask them to OPPOSE Obama's tax plan)
  • Second, his administration has been unwilling to strong-arm Israel to continue its settlement freeze and has given up on doing so. Obama has done a good job on theoretically talking nicely about change in the region, but has been unwilling to backup his speeches with action. The government of Israel, just like the Palestinian Authority, needs its arm twisted in order to come to the table. Without both East Yerushalaim and dismantling of settlements on the table, no peace is equitable or likely. Making it clear (and following up) that the US will abandon Israel if it continues to kowtow to the Settlers and other far-right forces - that's the best tool that the US has to achieve its policy ends. In the long run, it is acceptable (even pragmatic) to abandon Israel as a special ally if it continues this rubbish. It is unfortunate that the US must meddle in the affairs of other nations like this; our relationship with Israel is like an unhappy marriage with a crazy racist. (ACTION: Find ways of limiting the influence of AIPAC (and probably J Street) in Washington without supporting groups that are just as bad - yes, this is vague - it's a tougher problem)
  • It looks like the DREAM act is in for a very tough fight, again due to inadequate control of the message in Washington. This is difficult because of the Fox News problem in the US, and the tiptoing of the White House into doing direct outreach (to the dislike of traditional press) is not enough. (ACTION: Contract your representatives and express yourself). (Note that on immigration, I don't have a very coherent position yet - the dream act seems to be pragmatically a very good idea in that it gets us more college graduates even as I'm not comfortable with the rule-of-law issues involved in amnesty. My primary disappointment is that this is a major policy stand for Obama and he's done an inadequate job of making his case to the public - it's the political incompetence that bothers me)
Also:
  • The health care bill was half-baked, at least partly due to presidential inaction. If he wanted it to be his bill, he should've been more involved. If he didn't, he should've made that clear. Either way, once the bill limped through approval, he entirely failed to defend it, making the crowning achievement of his administration something politically vulnerable.
  • In general, he has failed to control his image to the extent that when we look at the crazy rubbish coming out of FoxNews describing him as he never was, all his theoretical supporters can do is (mostly) wish he were half the president his least sane critics think he is.
Someone with an expansive liberal vision who's willing to defend that vision, defend himself, and who's willing to take hard political stances to support the public good rather than slowly trade it away - that's who we need. Obama's a great speaker, but instead of getting a fighter, we have a paper tiger. We knew his policies were moderate and technocratic when we elected him, but his tepid defense of even those moderate policies is not what we need or should accept. I believe that Obama should not stand for election in 2012, and that the left needs new leadership. In the realm of what's politically possible here, that'd (unfortunately) mean another democrat, but ideally one with some spine. Dean? H.Clinton?

Unrelated, I am tickled that the government of Bolivia has decided to be a mirror of wikileaks. They'll be a bit harder of a mole to whack in the continuing efforts of the US and some European governments to close things down.

Ok, done with politics!

This weekend, I intend to make Quiche (and Giga Pudding! In the longer term, I want to have a list of projects on which I might work during the (rapidly approaching) quiet times. Ideas so far:

  • Continue to work on sketching, paying particular attention to perspective. Possibly either redo some old webcomic stuff (not Oyschlisn, but maybe one of the others) or work on some stories that never were drawn (or remain unshown)
  • Finally get around to doing more language learning. I don't know why I've been dragging my heels on this
  • Music: I have an accordion but have very little experience with chords. I should fix this. I also should acquire a new Violin, Piano-like instrument, or String Bass, because despite not being amazing at any, I had a lot of fun playing them.
  • Writing apps for Android - I keep putting this off.
  • Do something interesting with my PlugPC. I suspect this will mean devoting a webcam to it.
  • Cooking experiments!
  • Refining philosophy and writing it out
  • Website stuff?
  • Prepare to retake the GRE
  • Try biking some of the more difficult hills in Pgh that I've been putting off.
I may want to wait until I get a new bike - K has suggested that I wait until January so I can get a better deal on what I want (due to 2011 models being available then)

Also: recent fascination with rock gardens. I've been thinking about the shapes in the sands and how the patterns may relate to the stages of processing in the visual cortex. Likewise: doodles on paper. Unusual to look at such things and think "you've really got something there" when that something is hard to define - we've struggled to make words that are probably some abstraction over how our perception of space works (like "negative space"). I think it'd be interesting to try to trace concepts in space and aesthetics like that to properties of the visual cortex, both because it'd be interesting to see each perspective from the other, and because it might suggest new kinds of art that we haven't invented yet (e.g. let's try to create sensations of motion through stimuli that excite V5 while minimally exciting the ventral stream) (P.S. the visual cortex is divided, after the initial stages of processing that are more-or-less making a bitmap of the visual field, into a dorsal stream that's relatively motion oriented and a ventral stream that's relatively object/identification oriented - the specifics of this are fascinating reading!)

Also, been thinking a bit about the "when/whys" of calling people on social dishonesty - saying something untrue to avoid broaching a topic, or to avoid admitting something, or to mentally position oneself or make a situation that gives one wiggle room..

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I think it'd be interesting to try to trace concepts in space and aesthetics like that to properties of the visual cortex, both because it'd be interesting to see each perspective from the other, and because it might suggest new kinds of art that we haven't invented yet

interesting idea! it seems like it wants to be the stuff of a psychology study before being fully developed, of course.