Saturday, January 30, 2010

NYT 2009 Year In Ideas

I like reading the NYT Year in Ideas, even if I am slow and only get to it in 2010. I've taken the liberty to copy all the topics in the annual review for my blog, which still needs a boost to get back in gear.

There were some interesting ideas. Forensic Polling Analysis reminded me of the blog, whose missing is to "to accumulate and analyze polling and political data in way that is informed, accurate and attractive. Most narrowly, to give you the best possible objective assessment of the likely outcome of upcoming elections". Why I forgot that I needed that is a mystery that I hope I can answer by reading more objective poll data. (Or for the subjective and non-quantitative thinkers among us, another good way to make objective assessments these days is to watch Obama field questions from House Republicans at their own meeting on Friday. Well worth 90 of anyone's time! This articulate, respectful and well-informed exchange is exactly what I dreamed of when I first heard President Obama's announcement of running for office. Fox "news" would do well to play some extended clips of this video.)

In other thought-provoking ideas, I think my colleagues in environmental assessment may soon be studying the Google Algorithm as Extinction Model. Yikes, what if you can start using these models and they indicate people are soon going to be extinct?

Always a sucker for a story on ICT, I believe in Social Networks as Foreign Policy. I'd go a step further than Robert Gates when he says "The freedom of communication and the nature of it, is a huge strategic asset for the United States" and add that it's an asset for social change, even in Karakalpakstan.

Has anyone read an Undead-Austen Mash-Up? I thought you could only do that with Queen vs. Fela. If Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is that good, I might be re-reading my Austen.

An illustration by Roberto Parada from the deluxe gift edition of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

You Can't Be Neutral On A Moving Train

Howard Zinn died yesterday. He was a man I had never heard of when I heard him speak at University of Oregon in 1994. His lecture that day was an eye-opener as much as A People's History of the United States was a page-turner for me. I have been flipping through my old copy tonight and recall that I had been pretty moved by this:
Around 1776, certain important people in the English colonies made a discovery that would prove enormously useful for the next two hundred years. They found that by creating a nation, a symbol, a legal unity called the United States, they could take over land, profits, and political power from favorites of the British Empire. In the process, they could hold back a number of potential rebellions and create a consensus of popular support for the rule of a new, privileged leadership.

When we look at the American Revolution this way, it was a work of genius, and the Founding Fathers deserve the awed tribute they have received over the centuries. They created the most effective system of national control devised in modern times, and showed future generations of leaders the advantages of combining paternalism with command.
While I can now say I moved away from some of Zinn's ideas, I will always appreciate the way he made me consider another side starting with Columbus and the native Americans through all the US wars and within the struggles for racial, gender and class justice. His writing made me more critical and empathetic.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Living and Loving Out Loud

Always nice to see Dr. West on the NYT homepage to re-activate the more radically democratic corners of the mind.

Animated as always on the Today show...

And in the New Yorker...

And on new website, with new book to get...