November 30, 2004

Google Scholar CV

Google Scholar comes to the rescue already!

So I've been working on the NSF fellowship application, and realized that I still don't have a good list of papers to list for my grid computing work. But this year I can hop over there and do a quick search for the same; sweet -- turns out I'm in the acknoledgements of a half dozen papers that I never saw.

No need to gripe that I should probably be a co-author on a couple of them, since that's not really my field anymore. Although it would be nice if, say, the SPIE could get its act together so the stuff that's in my field and for which I actually am a co-author would show up.

Currently, that list contains (those items that could in some sense be considered "published" and actually refer to me):

Posted by mill1974 at 4:16 PM

November 21, 2004

More Internet Packrat-ism

Should work Terrorism 101 into my next post on the Mideast's problems and America's role therein.

Two from Ha'aretz: this one on blaming Arafat, and this one on non-violence and the IDF that help explicate the mood here.

www.FromOccupiedPalestine.org is a good aggregator of media and essays on the Palestinians. Not un-biased, but it isn't exactly hard to find the other side's opinion, as any regional or American newspaper will suffice.

The Lancet study on Iraqi civilian deaths, I've already linked to. There's a good sequence of articles on the New Republic's blog, including an interview with one of the study PIs.

I had been collecting a few links about the running vote-hacking paranoia, but that's all over Blogistan now, so it would be somewhat redundant to post about at this late phase, and all too easy to find links to, anyway.

"Revolutionaries always come from the hills, never from the beach," says one Gush Katif resident of the difference between Gaza and West Bank settlers (this article is a good read for a number of reasons). Think about this distinction. The ending quote is also diagnostic: "Why can't we stay, they ask, bewildered. If the Palestinians would stop the terror, we could all be neighbours once more. What country would your neighbours be citizens of, I asked. And they stared at me and said they did not know."

Posted by mill1974 at 12:05 PM

November 6, 2004

More blog drafting

Below the continuation, my response to Gemma's latest.

One last election-related post for EGAD, dealing with maps and more maps, and perhaps some speculation on demographics and where this is all going. But then we'll call it quits for the Amero-centrism. For one thing, I should say something about the Arafat situation, and in particular the interesting calm-before-the-storm tension dominating here, now that we don't know his status but suspect that he's not coming back.

In response to Gemma's thoughts on whether some people just want to be led:

I'm going to include by reference my response to your earlier post on BSF, since we are returning to the common theme of investigating how people decide which way to vote. Again, I would claim that on both sides of the political divide, large majorities do not put any real thought into the decision. In this political sense, they do want to be led.

People do not, in general, appreciate being forced to think. There is a feeling that life in modern America is so busy, so filled with tasks and distractions already, that it is altogether an imposition to "unnecessarily" ask that serious consideration be applied to question. We live in a just-tell-me-the-answer-already culture. Any suprise, then, that successful politicians have become adept at devising ready-made answers for their constituents? He who wins elections (and in America, it is generally a "he" anywhere above the school board level) excels at presenting himself and, to a lesser extent, his positions as obvious and sensible responses to the world. A natural consequence is that the incumbent powers will always have a vested interest in shielding the voters from the true complexity of the world, ensuring that they see only simplistic issues requiring knee-jerk responses.

This state of affairs offends the liberal sensibility, of course, since it strongly suggests that having the facts on our side, as we so often do, is unlikely to win us many elections in the near- to medium-term. Long term, of course, we can try to change the culture, but even there success is far from guaranteed. But in the shorter run, are we doomed to wring our hands and complain that we could have sensible and humane leadership if only the populace would sit still for long enough to understand our arguments? Perhaps not; there are plenty of media-savvy activists on our side trying to assemble a liberal message machine to compete with theirs. A descent into propagandism, perhaps, but at least ours will probably confine itself to generally true statements.

So here we are: about 30% of eligible voters sided with Bush because he seemed resolute, or they'd been frightened into believing that electing Kerry would invite the terrorists to dirty-bomb their suburbs, or they believe God hates gays and thus it's morally required to hate those who don't; another rough 30% sided with Kerry because Bush is either a liar or just stupid, because Cheney's either a crook or an evil genius, or just because they're tired of their jobs getting shipped across the Pacific while all the young men in their neighborhood are getting shipped the other direction. And 40% were too disgusted or apathetic to care. On each side, the decision comes down to emotion, impression, stereotype, preference. Almost nobody really thinks about their vote anymore.

Now, I'm sure you'll be quick to notice that we're using somewhat divergent notions of "wanting to be led" versus "wanting to think." I think the sense that you're getting at is more along the lines of, what would I want the people to want who will be under the command of the person I'm going to elect ? Or, what would I like my relationship to the leader to be, if I were to imagine myself in the White House with him? Perhaps one type of voter likes to picture policies coming out of reasoned, passionate debates over facts and goals, while another envisions a paternalistic commander-in-chief issuing decrees based on what his gut tells him is right. But I think this is just another artifact of the warm-fuzzies dynamic of politics. Recall, everybody cringed when Kerry's positions were described as "nuanced" -- even those of us who think that is a good thing could see that you don't run a campaign by telling the voters that it's a complex world out there. They don't want to hear it.

Salient points to expand upon:

1. America is not at war. There is no credible threat of invasion, of our crops being burnt, our peopel being carried off into bondage. Any threat to this nation's survival will be entirely of the self-destructive kind. This is not a war. Find some other term.

2. Far more people want to be led than voted for Bush. People do not, in general, appreciate being forced to think. The vast majority voted based upon what common sense told them was the obvious choice, this sense having been conveyed to them by various communicative and propagandistic processes over long periods of time. To win in the short term, we must convince the undecideds in the middle, who bother to think about their vote, however superficially. To win in the long term, we must recontextualize the larger former group's interaction with the political world, such that our approach is the obvious, sensible one. It is probably hopelessly naive to hold out for a world in which most voters actually consider the facts and decide based on rational arguments. The world is too complex for that to work in practice. Bush succeeds because he projects the dominating issues of terrorism and morality through his media apparatus to represent the world as far simpler than it is, as something his supporters can readily understand.

This argument draws some inspiration from this discussion of framing, but should be larger.

Posted by mill1974 at 7:12 PM

November 4, 2004

Blogging to-do list

Mention Minneapolis micro-radio experiment -- doesn't quite fit in the upcoming "thinking about time" meditation, but fit it in.

Talk about the survey of world opinion on Bush; this would be apropos to another election-related post.

Respond to Gemma's recent post on Connor's blog. We'll compose that response here.

In response to Gemma's recent pre-election post, now that we're immediately post-election:

This post has been made here as a comment to Gemma's post.

I don't know that you've provided any particular evidence regarding Tiera's intelligence as such. However, with all deserved respect to the American people, I can definitely say that she appears to have put more thought into her vote than 90% of voters, the roughly 45% on each side that reflexively cast its vote based upon only the vaguest impressions of the candidates. Even you and me. After all, we both knew we'd be voting for Kerry, or whoever the Democrats happened to nominate, within 30 seconds of hearing that the Supreme Court had effectively declared Bush president back in 2000. So I commend anyone who has bothered to agonize over their vote.

I still think she came to the wrong decision, of course, even taking into account her particular viewpoint. Abortion is a major issue for her. Fair enough; I don't know anybody who argues that there should be more abortions, and I would certainly prefer that fewer occurred. Voting for Kerry would have been the correct course of action, then. After all, the abortion rate has increased under Bush's watch, and there's no reason to expect that to change, given the theocratic right's instinctive opposition to readily available birth control and sensible education about sexual health.

The theocrats' other big wedge issue this year was gay marriage, which Tiera also has a problem with. Of course, the gay marriage that she and so many others were voting against is quite a different animal from the thing they are so uneasy about. She doesn't want her church to bestow the sacriment of marriage upon homosexual couples? This is a reasonable religious sentiment, and I can't think of a circumstance in which that would be likely to happen, anyway. A typical argument for taking this further, though, claims that married couples will feel their own marriages to be sullied if any church, anywhere, so sanctifies such a union. Unfortunately for anyone who feels this way, not even a Constitutional amendment repealing the freedom of religion would accomplish such a thing, any more than the Roman Empire was able to eradicate Christianity. The government can bar the issue of marriage licences if it so chooses, but cannot even in principle govern what blessings may be offered, or in which sacriments people have faith, barring the reinstatement of the Inquisition.

However, even if Tiera intended to lodge a vote against certain sacriments, that is not what she accomplished. Instead, she made it that much more likely that a certain type of legal document will not be issued, and that a bundle of accompanying rights will not be granted to certain people. Really, a marriage license differs little from a driver's license, and is arguably easier to obtain. By legally declaring themselves to the state, an eligible couple gains various various rights generally intended to simplify the legal aspects of operating a shared household and raising children. The only conceivable reason to declare that homosexual couples should be ineligible for this convenience is to be uncomfortable with the idea of gays "getting it on."

I would point out, though -- and this should be a particularly relavent argument to much of the population of Chicago -- that due to mostly identical sentiments it was illegal until the civil rights movement for couples of mixed race to marry in many states. While marriage licenses were withheld, priests mostly just worked in secret as they always had. Slaves, too, could not marry, and before the Civil War priests compensated by amending the closing rite to end "... until death or distance do you part." Thus, a politician militating against "gay marriage" can only sensibly be seen as promoting bigotry, which in and of itself should be enough to declare Tiera's vote for Bush to be flawed. This error is only compounded by recognizing that she was basically deceived to get her vote: the theocrats suggest that voting for them will somehow defend the sacrament of marriage, while it is clear that the most they can do is pass bigoted laws against legal marriage.

Both of these arguments have smacked strongly of pragmatism, which you worry might be in opposition to voting morally. I argue that there can be no difference. Morality deals with the rightness of an action, while pragmatics is concerned with the desirability of the outcome. But nobody can be harmed by my filling in the "Bush" oval versus punching the "Kerry" chad. Alone in the voting booth, my choices cause no suffering, no loss. I can tell my ballot no lies. Within the strict confines of voting one way or another, there is no activity upon which morality impinges.

Instead, the impact of my vote lies wholly upon the eventual outcome to which I am contributing, the election of a ruthless theocratic demagogue or a fair-minded moderate leader. I vote pragmatically, in the way that I believe will produce the best outcome. But how am I to decide which outcome is best? This is a fundamentally moral question. Morals -- religious or otherwise -- dictate what kind of world one must work towards, and it is for reason to deduce what actions support that goal. Thus a moral vote is a pragmatic vote, and vice versa. A vote for Bush is not a decision to put morality over pragmatism; it is merely (given what I think are Tiera's morals) a failure to adequately consider which outcome would better agree with morality.

Bluntly, a vote for Bush was a short-sighted error.

Posted by mill1974 at 12:53 PM