June 2, 2014
Meteorologists Forecast Bowe Bergdahl Shit Storm

Truly, we as the general public do not know much about him and the exact circumstances that surround his capture/surrender/desertion. His unit seems adamant that he deserted in search of the Taliban. However, unit narratives don’t always reflect the truth and are subject to groupthink and the “misinformation effect.”

If it comes to light that he deserted, even then I could understand on some, limited level. The wars we’ve participated in have been shameful and I carry a heavy heart for what I did. Having said that, I could NOT see myself EVER abandoning myself to the Taliban or its affiliates. My family and friends are in America; I’m an American, I belong in America. 

Many have questioned the reasoning behind trading five detainees for one American.

In a cost-benefit analysis, he Taliban got the better deal based on numbers alone. Further, the prisoner-swap encourages the Taliban to kidnap more US troops.

I have two problems with this line of reasoning:

One, it may be a five for one swap, but Bergdahl gives more strength the US forces alone than what the Taliban got from their five detainees. He is a walking, imbedded, fluent intelligence asset.  Meanwhile, the five detainees have been held at Gutanamo Bay with little visibility to America’s movements. This intelligence asset - Bergdahl - alone is worth more than the five detainees the Taliban received.

Second, the Taliban and Al Qaeda have long had an incentive to kidnap Americans. Most of them just aren’t soldiers, but Bergdahl isn’t the first one - and trading him in may create an incentive, but doesn’t really change how the Taliban operates.

I would like to think the best of Bergdahl and that he was kidnapped, though my cynical side causes me to have reservation until more information is available. Regardless of the moral conundrum Bergdahl has presented, the rational choice was always to bring him back - it upholds our promise to never leave a fallen comrade and to gather valuable, on-the-ground intelligence. 

May 28, 2014
A New Study on Slut-Shaming Finds That Rich Girls Are the Worst

Intersection of Affluence and Prestige. An interesting article. 

May 23, 2014
Summer Time

About three years ago, I started drafting notes on my ‘Economic Multiplicity’ theory. It was simple and straight-forward: Economic growth isn’t necessarily grown by growing businesses, but by also growing the efficiency of consumers. There’s a little complicated math behind it and sociological commentary to give it some feet. It took a lot of time (read: many months) to distill my idea into a few essential sentences. 

I submitted my paper to the Charles Lave Paper Prize which rewarded new ideas, clear writing and cross-disciplinary topics. Considering that my economic model was different from what I’ve seen before, that I used short sentences and easy-to-read paragraphs and that it used Economic language to describe Sociological phenomenon - that indeed, I would be a good candidate for the paper prize.

But I lost out. And there’s a few reasons why I didn’t win - it wasn’t even about the money (it was more about being recognized so I can use it for grad school; also to give validity to my ideas). First, the writing wasn’t as clear as I had hoped. In fact, it’s riddled with spelling and grammatical errors. Second, while the idea is new, the way I explain it feels cumbersome. Third, all my points are not flushed out - so it stands on shaky legs.

I’ve been told that it’s a good idea, but I guess I lost out to better competition this time. Naturally, I’m dissappointed. 

But this summer, I’m going to Harvard for a Summer Program, expenses paid. :) I suppose as long as I keep trying, even if I fail once in a while, I’ll be okay! 

May 17, 2014
American kids too fat to fight? Retired leaders worry

I’ve mentioned this in the past, and many have commented that it reeked of government intrusion into our personal lives. However, I would also kindly add that fewer obese children and healthier teens means less medical costs for the rest of us. So yes, I’m fucking fat shaming you… or rather, fat shaming you to keep your kids a little healthier.

May 16, 2014
Retired 4-star general: Climate change is 'catalyst for conflict'

When did retired generals become hippies?

May 16, 2014
My Essay on Communism

A Better and Worst World with Capitalism
Important questions: Does having capitalin capitalismmean I have to capitalize it? It may be a capital offense depending on where your capitol is. Some may think, What a capital idea!

I. IntroductionExplaining Marx in 1,000 words is like describing Mozart in a limerick. Its an injustice. Marx was so loquacious that the act of him breathing produced 1,000 words.

How has capitalism benefitted humanity? How do the powerful, in capitalism, maintain their power? Is the relationship between the powerful and the vulnerable fair? Is it equitable? Can a better world be imagined, if it is found unfair and/or inequitable? These are the questions Karl Marx tackled. To this day, these questions remain points of debate.

Marx’s inquiry suffered derision for a failed economic ideology with the fall of the Soviet Union in the early 1990’s and its association with dictatorships. Since then, Marx has enjoyed a resurgence in popularity to explain the 2008 financial crisis. Given that the financial crisis had its roots in capitalism’s flaws, readers did not look to Marx to understand communism, but to understand a time-tested critique of capitalism.

Most poignantly, Marx wrote more about Capitalism than Communism, and lesser still on what Communism itself should look like (to the chagrin of revolutionaries). Today’s scholars call his body of work - from capitalism to socialism, to communism - as Marxism. Marxism rests on one idea: A fair economic system rests on the working class to seize the means of production, because to do otherwise, would be willful exploitation.

II. ClassThose with a lot of class think Marx is c[r]ass

The fundamental premise of Marxism rests on the relationship between two classes of people: The few bourgeoisie and the numerous proletariat (474 and 477). (Also known as capitalists and workers, respectively)

The bourgeoisie held the resources to make profits - machines, tools, natural resources and factories. Contemporary economists refer to it as capital; Marx calls it the “means of production.”

In contrast, the proletariat owned one thing: the ability to use the bourgeoisie’s capital to produce things of higher value. Marx called this ability to create as their “labor power.”

The relationship between the capitalists and the workers is necessary but antagonistic. The capitalists need laborers to turn their capital into profits and the proletariats need wages from the capitalists to survive. In essence, both groups are attempting to survive in capitalism’s eco-system - capitalists require profits to survive as a firm, workers are desperate for a wage to support their livelihoods.

To understand how the fight for survival became ubiquitous, one must inspect the prior economic arrangements. The arrangement was called feudalism. (477)

III. Feudalism - Not to be confused with Freud-ism,though incest was rampant among those with a lot of class during this time

The previous feudal economy enforced a hierarchy of power branching out like a tree from the pope to kings, to bishops, to knights and alike. They formed the elite, often in some form of nobility. The remaining varied between lower and middle classes such as farmers, tradesmen and journeymen. For purposes of clarity, they will be referred to as serfs.

The capitalists economy burgeoning in the nineteenth century transformed two aspects of the former feudal arrangement:

  1. The elites became the capitalists and the serfs became laborers; it was previously sufficient to name the various branches of power, but to Marx, these two classes defined power relations (474).
  2. Whereas the serfs gave up a part of their work in the form of a tribute to the political elite, laborers gave their labor power wholesale in exchange for a salary (204). Through a salary, laborers did not own the full value of what they produced.

Durkheim, another Sociology scholar writing after Marx, observed that the bifurcation of society held potential for new avenues of cooperation. In essence, Durkheim held an optimistic view: Skilled laborers would cooperate with other fields, fostering interdependence and thus, cooperation.

Although Marx wrote before Durkheim, Marx’s tomb of manuscripts suggests that tension would increase, not decrease. Skilled laborers would disappear, not strengthen, as this essay will explore later under ‘division of labor.’

More broadly, Marx illustrates the tension originates from the inherently flawed nature of capitalism: It is exploitative. The powerful, specifically the bourgeoisie/capitalists, return less than full value of the laborers’ products back to the workers.

IV. ExploitationThe French have a cure for it. Its called five weeks of mandatory vacation.

Capitalism’s exploitative nature comes from various societal conditions, but key among them was a paradigm shift in private ownership. (79) Laws began to change where what was commonly held land pastures was re-possessed by a growing class of elites. This idea of ownership begun to inspire other areas of the economy - including the idea of owning someone else’s work.

In feudal society, serfs owned all of their work, and gave a portion to the political ruler in exchange for safety, protection and basic infrastructure. However, in a capitalistic society, individuals gave up the complete result of their labor in exchange for one thing, a wage. The wage-givers, the capitalists, gave back only a portion of the total revenue produced by the workers. They offered little safety, protection and infrastructure to their workers. This is central to Marx’s explanation of exploitation. (209)

V. Capitalism as Social FactThis idea confuses Fox News

One may argue, “The capitalists are unfair, greedy pigs!” In one sense, that rings true, but as a famous rapper Ice-T recited succinctly, “Don’t hate the play[er]. Hate the game.” While Ice-T may have talked about the aggressive pimping or drug-hustling in Newark, New Jersey through the 70s and 80s, Ice-T did point to one key aspect that both urban youth and capitalists share: The desire to survive a competitive, profit-driven society. Get people to follow (with coercion if necessary), build prestige and make money, or perish. Capitalists are bound to the facts of society, just like a “player.”

Who would have thought Ice-T’s rap lyrics would serve as a microcosm of Marxism? In fact, Ice-T’s life of well-staged bank robberies and subjugation of women would be equally tantamount to capitalism’s egregious moral flaws. Marx would point out that one individual stealing, drug dealing and “hustling” would be seen as moral depravity. However, when done on a wide scale that encourages humans to extract profit from others, that is institutionalized prostitution. Except, the name is capitalism, not sex work.

In a historically significant example, Imperial China suffered a siege of Capitalists aggression through the 1800s: the influx of drug-hustling by the British unto the Chinese natives, and violently retaliating when the Chinese encroached on their profit margins. This would be known as the Opium wars. It was capitalism’s invisible free market hand, as Ice-T would write, “smacking a bitch up.” Capitalism would then proceed to search China’s pockets for loose change. (477)

Marx’s explanations for exploitation and the endemic nature that span over a hundred years attest to his voraciously robust critique of capitalism. In fact, as Ice-T and the Opium Wars suggest, capitalistic exploitation not only applied to businesses. More importantly, these cases illustrate, capitalism affected micro and macro interactions.

Further, as Ice-T wrote about “the game,” capitalism predates many people, people are bound the rules and are directly and indirectly affected by it. To be involved, either as a capitalist or a player, is not to perpetuate an unfair system. It is simply surviving something that one individual cannot tackle, if they can recognize the system at all.

VI. Division of LaborAlso known as Divide and Conquer, another French cure (by Napoleon)

Capitalists have created many methods to extract profits from workers - wage minimums (206) that kept laborers alive enough to work and reproduce, ideological control through intellectuals, the employment of children and women and long work days that kept them focused on surviving. (79)

As the basic unit of business is its capital. It will seek to make his capital more efficient. Among its capital is not only machines and natural resources, but also its workers. Thus, to drive down the cost of his human capital, a division of labor begins to appear.

Division of labor allows capitalists to extract higher profits by making routine the many motions of a highly-skilled laborer. Rather than having one individual make a product from conception to the last finishing touches, the task is broken up into possibly thousands of little motions shared by hundreds of people. 

Marx reveals his great admiration for the division of labor and capitalism in general. (475)

By breaking down tasks into simpler segments, the collective force of human work created infrastructure and monuments to society that had not been seen before. Producing commodities required less material and human capital.

Additionally, paired with market competition, the division of labor drove enterprises to push the boundaries of human knowledge and exploration of the furthest reaches (476). As a consequence, enterprises discovered technology and phenomenon that could improve the human condition. For once, economic actors harnessed the scientific process. Arguably, running water, electricity, medicine, trade and imported exotic food are possible through capitalism’s ethnic of profit 

However, Marx reveals a dark side to the division of labor despite its glorious achievements.

The simplification of jobs did not required skilled laborers. In fact, laborers became replaceable. Tasks were routinized such that one skilled laborer’s knowledge was broken into various parts for a multitude of people, each person acting as a replaceable gear in a long assembly line. The replaceability led to competition for a few jobs - there was always a worker somewhere who could demand less in wages, increasing the firm’s revenue, and place out of work individuals who wanted a higher salary.  (213, 214, 217, 479)

In this scheme, cooperation was not created among workers. The opposite occurred. Workers competed among each other for the few jobs available.

Further, the division of labor, by having a person do one or two simple tasks, men became estranged from what they created. Marx called this the separation of man from species being (77). The serf owned all he made and could be proud of what he did - like skilled trade guilds. However, under the division of labor, the many tasks are simplified that any meaningful product is robbed from man.

One may think that the laborers’ toils are all one sided - the endemic exploitation, the division of labor and the estrangement of workers from their labor.

Lesser known is that the bourgeoisie suffer too, though likely less. If the fight for a limited number of jobs exemplified the workers’ struggle, the fight for finding new markets to create revenue was equally strong. This lead to a host of other problems Karl Marx writes about: the crisis of overproduction, strengthening nationalism and pilfering of natural resources. Nations fought each other for control of colonies so it may profit; the losing side could mean the demise for many bourgeoisie. Further, in order to create a profit, firms often over-produced, leading to “crisis of overproduction.” (478) During such a crisis, the bourgeoisie became vulnerable to popular unrest. Most importantly, however, the bourgeoisie risked the highest amount of defeat because of the constant need to innovate - other firms with more efficient technology could place people out of work. (476) Thus, the bourgeoisie would shrink. (211)

VII. Conclusion

In Marx’s writings, he plunges deeper into the mechanics of Capitalism which support his theory that it is inherently exploitative for all classes. However, in a small subset of his writings - the Communist Manifesto - he encourages workers to own the fruits of their labor. Marx does not deny capitalism altogether because he is acutely aware of the gifts it has bestowed.

Rather, he offers a fix to the moral irony that plagues capitalism that allows man to feel fulfilled, but also live in a system that can create bigger and better things. He called it communism. Exactly what it would look like, well, he did not write much about that. 

May 14, 2014
Donald Sterling & Jews

Donald Sterling is Jewish, if you didn’t know. In his leaked conversations, he talks about the resilience of the Jewish people. He is quoted as saying, “When a Jew becomes successful, he gives back to his community.” Sterling then goes on to say that Blacks and Hispanics don’t do the same - perhaps alluding to a cultural or biological inferiority of those ethnic groups.

While Donald Sterling is most definitely a racist, he does illustrate something that is lost in our politically-correct era: Blacks and Hispanics are disadvantaged. Jews are usually well-off, and even those who are not, are buttressed by a resilient cultural community.

Let’s look at the Jewish community, first. Donald Sterling is absolutely right that the Jewish community gives back when it has reached a level of success. Even before reaching a level of success, there is a cultural ethos of returning value to the community. This is clearly evident in Southern California - public art, communities and research would be virtually impossible without Jewish philanthropy. 

I’m not sure why the Jewish community is so affluent and resilient. They have, somehow, been able to pass on cultural knowledge of thriftiness, good character and social integration that very few other cultures can do effectively. I think it’s extremely admirable. As an example, during World War II, the Japanese authorities refused German requests to extradite the Jewish diaspora living in Japan. The Japanese respected the Jews for their hard work ethic, entrepreneurship and civic duty. So, the Japanese never sent the Jews to Germany due to the Jewish character.

Sterling’s comments may lead one to believe that there is something intrinsically superior to the Jewish community - either biological or cultural. It’s difficult to say what and I will not venture there.

When you contrast other racial groups to Jews, it is easy to think that the black and hispanic communities are inferior. In America where we believe that opportunity is generally equal and many believe we live in a post-racialized era, this view could almost be permissible. 

Yet, this glosses over hundreds of years of colonization, cultural disintegration through forced migration, broken families and institutional barriers to success.

Wyatt Cynac, a black comedian, commented on how a video of a cat jumping in and out of a box could be a visual allegory for blacks’ fragmented cultural identities - between the “black” and “white” worlds they simultaneously inhabit. 

I doubt that the Jewish community has had that severe of a problem (they’ve had other problems, obviously, but different in its cultural effect). In fact, it appears that the high level of social integration Jews enjoy have allowed them to enter the wider social context with better success. Professor Rúben Rumbaut at UC Irvine wrote about this: There are better economic and educational outcomes for racial and ethnic groups who have a strong sense of ethnic identity. 

Blacks and hispanics suffered such a unsorted history that creating robust ethnic identities is rough, and perhaps, seemingly disingenuous. But worst than that, our society does not allow them to flourish in ways we’d like. 

As a recent example, around the 1950s, California was actually more progressive than the rest of the country in terms of black and white school de-segregation. However, due to a lawsuit brought on by an Orange County suburb in the late 50s, any de-segregation that did not stink of obvious racism was allowed. In other words, under-the-radar racism was allowed to persist. Today, Southern California schools suffer higher rates of racial segregation than any part of the country - including the deep south. (Source: “Divided We Fail: Segregation and Inequality in the Southlands Schools” by Orfield, Siegel-Hawley, Kuscera through the ‘Civil Rights Project’ March 18, 2011)

Obviously, the belief that America has equal opportunity is largely mischaracterized. May I even say, a figment of the elites’ imagination? 

I believe that Donald Sterling is a racist, even if he doesn’t acknowledge it in himself. However, I also believe that Sterling is a good guy deep in his heart. While the NAACP was errant in their award for him, they did not do it out of nowhere - Sterling did offer the black community something to be happy about.

If Donald Sterling wishes to addresses his latent racism, Sterling should work to right all the social inequities that minorities suffer. He should educated himself that Jews are great for their culture, but minorities have suffered for many, many other reasons. He should help create the bond and community that the Jewish people have enjoyed. Let blacks and hispanics live in his housing. Let them feel a part of their community. Encourage racial integration for all races and find additional funding for those people - don’t just “give jobs” to black people as basketball players. And not only that, he should work the streets and see that like most people, minorities are getting along and surviving like anyone else. 

May 6, 2014
A reporter, a reddit founder, a lawyer, and an ex-NSA chief walk into a debate

"Surveillance equals power." 

May 3, 2014
‘Solar’ jet fuel made out of thin air | Chemistry World

One step closer to my flying car.

Seriously, though? When is it coming?

If you’ll let me spitball for just a minute here. At the turn of the 20th century, Western Civilization went from having horse buggies and outhouses to homes with cars, wireless transmission of music, running water and flushing fucking toilets. 

A lot of these advancements came from discoveries that were too small to see, principles of the universe that were previously unknown or an engineering breakthrough (with the help of the previous two). 

In regards to flying cars, current conventional thought says we have the technology. Except our flying cars don’t look like cars - they’re helicopters, and not only are they a pain in the ass to save up to buy, but you need time for a license plus a bunch of regulatory hoops you’ll need to jump through.

So, when people say flying cars, they’re talking about something pretty simple to drive, comfortable and isn’t so loud! We’re talking about a flying car that is basically from the Jetson’s, not helicopters.

Okay. We have the technology to build the structure of it - 3D printing, some of the best engineers in the world are in the US and battery technology has come a long way to power things. There are new burgeoning sources of energy, like the link above, and information technology has progressed where vehicle to vehicle communication is not only possible, but effective too.

The only issue left is what propulsion/levitating technology will actually let the thing fly other than the Marine Corp’s Harrier Jet or Osprey? 

Right now, there’s nothing. We need basically something that’s anti-gravity. Something like… Tom Cruise’s super cool helicopter-looking thing from Oblivion! Or any of the other flying vehicles from his storied career (Minority Report, anyone?)

Going back to the turn of the century, they engineered the heck out of what they knew, or discovered new things. Today, however, we’re currently reaching the limits of movement within the normal confines of physics. Very few things we have access to will be anti-gravity, especially since gravity is so fundamental and pretty sure what’s anti-gravity is floating away from everything really fast right now, so it may be a little hard to get.

We need a new wireless radio. We need a new nuclear bomb. We need a new electricity to harness. 

There is one promise. Quantum physics. Sit with me here for a second.

There was a recent article written in Wired about the Flow of Time and how basically, over time, all things are entering a state of equilibrium. It explains why coffee wants to be the same temperature as the room around it: Smaller than on the atomic level, there is something intrinsic about atoms wanting to be like each other. It’s called entanglement. This is part of the reason why we can only go one way in time, because before, our perception is only the result of things coming together, not in its broken state.

Okay. Well, if you skipped that paragraph, I don’t blame you. This is the part of the article that really matters: 

Entanglement is in some sense the essence of quantum mechanics,” or the laws governing interactions on the subatomic scale, Brunner said. The phenomenon underlies quantum computing, quantum cryptography and quantum teleportation.”

Could it be possible to harness a platform on which vehicles are on that has corresponding atoms somewhere else? And those atoms, we can dictate, are floating? Therefore, bypassing gravity - or at least mitigating it - because atoms are acting in accordance to each other first? 

This is using what Einstein called “Spook Action at a Distance” - two atoms, seemingly unconnected, will change its state in accordance to the other one very, very far away.

We are currently utilizing quantum physics in some computer cores to solve some very interesting math problems, so on some level, we’re beginning to tap into that reality we barely know. Kind of like how we tapped into radio or atomic energy for the first time. We’re not sure what it completely entails.

However, if we’re able to tangle two atoms and control one side, we could possible bind a whole set of atoms with others to make things float. Right? 

Then, we’d have engines that would be quiet, and we can say, “About time we got flying cars” and proceed to zoom around New York City, looking for the 5th Element. 

But what do I know? I’m just a sociologist that likes Sci-Fi.

March 11, 2014

(Source: livefromearth, via wilwheaton)

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