Sunday, August 29, 2010

So... What's in Your Wallet? Oh, Look it is a Bus Pass, Two-Dollars, A Receipt and Extremist Conservative Rhetoric. Score!

I was sitting in my office, stroking my newly trimmed beard, contemplating the future of American politics and I had a Archimedes moment. Eureka! I exclaimed... Eureka! Of course, my wife came in to the room to investigate and upon hearing what I discovered... Promptly left while leaving lingering curses in her wake.

To most of this nation's pundits, the Tea Party "movement" is going to be an enduring movement. Critical gains have been made and GOP defenses exploited during the mid-term primaries have led many to believe that the Tea "Party" is a force to be reckoned with.

I humbly disagree and I will let my comrade Occam's Razor do the explaining. The Tea Party is basically the extremist arm of the Grand Old Party and as such will not elicit votes from Liberals or Independents. In fact, it is doubtful these candidates will garner many or any of the votes from moderate or liberal Conservatives.

If one looks to history, two variants from the same ideologies will ultimately split the vote. Don't believe me, ask the world's largest president (waist-wise), William Howard Taft. Still not convinced? Try, father of the most controversial president... George H. W. Bush.

So, keep patting yourselves on the back for winning a couple of primaries... It will ultimately be more difficult to face an opponent with mainstream appeal. Certainly, they might win a few seats but those will be in districts that typically vote Conservative anyway. So, what is in the wallet of the Tea Party movement? Devoid of any cache... It is ultimately just moths and lint.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Naysayers Might Call it 'Perpetual' War But We (The Establishment) Call it: Being in it for 'The Long Haul'

Washington Rules: PORTEmaus Book Club Update: No. I

After the Aspidistra debacle (Look at how long it took to post the review... let alone finish the short novel), I decided to get a jump on Bacevich's book and be more "johnny on the spot" with the updates. I have been a little surprised by the book, namely the composition and Bacevich's writing style. I can say with much certainty that those few people that follow this blog will not read this book because it would be considered too "dense" or political.

True, you cannot have a book about policy without being political but honestly this book is not dense. So far, the book is more historical about the concepts and people who have forced concept of perpetual war to the forefront of the "Washington Rules." People like Allen Welsh Dulles (Brother of the "guy" (John Foster Dulles, Eisenhower's Secretary of State) they named the airport after... he also is considered to be the father of the Central Intelligence Agency) and the head of the Strategic Air Command, Curtis Lemay (A man most known for as the guy behind firebombing of Japan and the basis for the character of General Buck Turgidson in Dr. Strangelove)

Needless to say, this technique provides an interesting perspective on policy decisions. It puts more emphasis on how these decisions became entrenched into American politics. For those who are still unconvinced, consider this... I received my copy yesterday (the local library never received their copies evidently) and I read sixty some odd pages (out of two-fifty)... Couldn't put the sucker down, it also makes me want to apply to Boston University... But I digress.

Global Military Hegemony... Pish Posh, Tis Nothing More Than Politics As Usual... Now, Everyone Go Back To Watching WifeSwap.

PORTEmaus Book Club Entry No. III:

Have you ever wondered why it seems like history is repeating itself? Does it feel odd that our nations history cannot be separated neatly into four or eight year blocks? Many people --myself included-- feel that the particular brand of politics (or more generally... policy) emanating from Washington is detrimental to not only individual citizens but also our standing in the eyes of the world.

This might seem like a common sense assessment of the United States status as a Superpower or the War on Ideological Concepts but it does not explain why the policies of one presidency closely resembles that of its predecessor. Specifically, how can the war in Afghanistan (which began under President Bush) become Obama's war?

These concepts and other corollary's (perpetual war) is the core of Andrew Bacevich's book. It is for this reason that it has been suggested and selected as the PORTEmaus Book Club book for August. Hopefully, one will consider it relevant and not too dense.

Addendum: I think a trend has begun to manifest --for the club that is-- and it goes a little something like this... Non-fiction-Fiction-Non-fiction... This was not a conscious decision but it seems like an obvious route to go... At the very least, it is a natural one to take.

This novel has everything... Class Warfare, Adult Situations, Disorderly Conduct and an Immortal Plant! PORTEmaus Book Club Review #II:

Keep The Aspidistra Flying... A novel by George Orwell.

Preface: I had the most frustrating conversation regarding Orwell (Like all literature talks, it stemmed from noisiness about the book I was reading at the time... The Scarlet Pimpernel) and how he was nothing more than hack, only able to plagiarize and incapable of an original literary thought. Basically, the clod asserted that 1984 was a rip-off of Zamyatin's We. What she neglected to note was that Orwell cited this novel as inspiration. I recount this story, merely to clear Orwell's name...

Say 'allo to Gordon Comstock, starving poet, shop keep and lone soldier in the war on Capitalism. Gordon is a complex character with few redeeming virtues and I doubt most readers will like him. His motivations for shunning money (however, he is not above accepting it from his poor and also starving sister) and "good" jobs would not resonate with them. He is staunchly anti-consumer and anti-Capitalist for the sake that neither behaviors have no intrinsic value in society.

Orwell surrounds Gordon with characters who cannot fathom the reasons for his actions. The horrors of Capitalism expounded by him is lost upon --those closest to him--Julia, Rosemary and even the self-described Socialist Ravelston (who is wealthy no less). All feel that Gordon should abandon his fools errand and obtain a job that pays. Of course, Gordon refuses to oblige them.

This is an interesting literary technique as the reader will inevitably side with the supporting cast and render Gordon's views taboo. At its foundation, Aspidistra is a novel that serves as means to awaken class consciousness... While simultaneously not offering a replacement for Capitalism. It merely seeks to expose Capitalistic values as being shallow and superficial.

In the end, the novel is one that illustrates the ills of Capitalism and how it adversely affects British intellectual development (I.e. Thoughts are "controlled" subconsciously through economics and this is illustrated through the reading habits or political views of the characters). There is a reason why this system is entrenched in Western society, it is because the individual creates a need for it. For even Gordon Comstock, avowed enemy of the "Money God" (aka Capitalism) realizes the futility of his battle and much like the protagonist in 1984, Winston Smith (Nice callback, it all comes full circle), he accepts the dominant system of control and obtains a "good" job. Of course, he has a reason for this but ultimately, Orwell utilizes Comstock as a means to illuminate that political or economic systems are nigh impossible to overthrow... Especially, when only one man answers the call to arms.

Friday, August 13, 2010

We Are About to Embark Into a Brave New World, Where Computers are Still Computers and People are... Well, People... Who Use Computers.

As many of you might know, I have embarked on the path of a graduate student and oh what a delightful path it is... With learning, lollipops and rainbows... A lot of rainbows. Needless to say, most of my effort was spent not morphing into the atypical "graduate student..." Let's face it, some of them can be the worst.

I also learned a few concepts and terms... All in all, a good time was had by all. Yet, on the final day of a seven day intensive course, we watched a short film detailing the relationship between man and machine. (This was actually my second time watching it)

The first time, I thought it was pretty good, not merely from a technical (the editing and presentation) perspective. However, after seeing it a second time I found it to be a wee bit pretentious.

For your consumption, The Machine is Us...

Like I said, from an aesthetic point of view, it is pretty sweet and has a kicking beat to accompany it. However, something continues to bother me about it. The fact remains that the point behind is built on shaky foundation. To say that every time we click a link, create a blog or post a video, we are teaching the machine to think... Is well, ridiculous.

This is coming from the guy who likes many of the ideas behind Transhumanism... Who wouldn't want their brain placed in a robot that can dance the robot? However, human interaction or contribution to the internet is not going to affect or enlighten a server housing digital information. Especially, since a computer does not possess the processing speeds to match the capabilities of the human mind. Nor will it be able to achieve this any time soon.

What is the effect of man on the "machine?" In a word... Nothing. One would argue that the internet or Web 2.0 applications impact human behavior... However, this would presume that a man-made concept could alter a thought process. Surprise, surprise... This applications are made with a specific audience in mind, it is not aiding in the achievement of computer sentience.

So, if you were watching that video and had visions of a nuclear holocaust... Have no fear, clicking a link merely fulfills a process dictated by its code, which was constructed by a human programmer not a computer. Take that Skynet! Humans 1, Sentient Robots 0!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

All Good Things Must Draw to a Close: Aspidistra Closing Update No. 2

Aspidistra has drawn to a close and a good time was had by all. It was great to spend some time in pre-war Britain for a bit... Especially since I spent my nose firmly in dense course materials for the better part of July.

All grousing aside, the book did not disappoint the second time around. A rare occurrence since nothing lives up to the expectations or memories in our mind. Oddly enough, I have reread a couple of Orwell's books in my time and they don't disappoint on multiple readings.

With that said, the review should be posted either tomorrow or Friday.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Curse you money-god! How one live on two quid a week? Aspidistra update: number one.

So I suppose everyone is wondering (pins, needles and such) where I am at in Orwell's Keep the Aspidistra Flying... Especially since the first week of August is drawing to a close. I am about two-thirds of the way through it and I cannot believe it took me this long to reread it. Orwell has a way with presenting poverty stricken characters and pre-war (the Second World War) England for that matter.

Hopefully, I will be able to finish it by tomorrow or Sunday at the latest... Though, much like the first time I read it, I --kind of-- don't want it to end. Damn you Orwell and your literary prowess!