January 2010

Tue Jan 12 16:47:10 PST 2010

Sometimes, Bias is in a Story’s Emphasis

Remember the shit storm when then Colorado University professor Ward Churchill lobbed the rhetorical stink bomb of calling the 9/11 attack victims “little Eichmanns?” Remember the second shit storm when it was found that he had previously committed academic misconduct?

Well, what about the shit storm when a jury found that the investigation which uncovered the misconduct was politically motivated?

Oh, wait, there wasn’t one. The story indeed got covered in the establishment media, but it never made the front page.

And not only that, the judge then proceeded to take the unusual step of basically ignoring the jury’s verdict. That story also got conveniently buried.

Look, it was a stupid thing to say. Lots more working class people got killed in those attacks than big time capitalists did. But it doesn’t justify what happened to the guy. Being tactless is not a crime.

As one politically conservative professor from Oklahoma remarked:

Suppose I publicly criticize the local police department, and their officers subsequently start following me all over town, ticketing me for minor violations that they normally would ignore.

Am I being punished for breaking the law — or for exercising my right of free speech?

It’s entirely possible, in other words, for a sanction to be purportedly based on an actual, non-political offense while at the same time the sanction is politically motivated.

Tue Jan 12 17:21:07 PST 2010

Mixed Feelings on Avatar

I saw Avatar last week. Some random observations follow. My opinions are so mixed that I couldn’t decide whether to give it a negative spin by listing the bad stuff after the good stuff, or a positive one by doing vice versa. And it’s not really possible to list both at the same time and be organized. So I flipped a coin.

Warning: Spoilers ahead.

Purely technical notes:

The good:

The bad:

Just plain unbelievable:

A summary of the original scriptment can be found here; it’s quite a bit better than what ended up coming out of the studio.

Wed Jan 20 10:28:44 PST 2010

So, What Happened in Massachusetts?

Mainly, the end of this:

Obama "Hype" Poster
I always thought this was the most accurate of all the spoof posters put out by the righties.

Really, now, 2008 was merely a presidential election victory. Nothing more. The fundamental nature of the system remained unchanged. You can elect whomever you want to the job of running a system of hierarchy and privilege, but in the end he’s still just running a system of hierarchy and privilege.

The most indoctrinated population the history of the world remained fundamentally unchanged, as did the machinery that indoctrinated them. It should therefore be no surprise that the same system that herded people into supporting a war in Iraq on extremely flimsy pretenses can be used to herd them into voting based on equally flimsy ones.

The power of wealth remained unchanged. So whatever health care (and bank bailout) bills that passed would be distorted by having to first and foremost cater to the needs of the privileged. There is more than a germ of truth in the Tea Partiers’ claim that the health reform bill is a bloated monstrosity. (Where they err is when they claim it is so because it’s “socialism” instead of corporate welfare.)

If there had been the sort of widespread grass-roots radicalism that existed during the administrations of LBJ and both Roosevelts, then there would have been reason for hope. It would have served the interests of the system to kick down a few meaningful reforms in order to defuse the anger. But there wasn’t. So they didn’t. Ruling elites never do anything simply because it’s nice.

What will happen to health care reform? It won’t happen. It theoretically could still happen, of course. For openers, the House could simply pass the bill the Senate has already passed, verbatim, skipping the conference committee rewrite. But it won’t happen. We’re talking liberals here. Their psychopathology is the unrealistic desire to always be loved by all people in all circumstances. They’ll cave so fast it’ll make your head spin. I guarantee it. In fact, they’re already starting to.

Given all that, was it still worth it for me to support the effort anyhow? Yes. First, as much as I’d like to see more radical efforts taking place, they currently aren’t. Second, even though it was fated to be an awful bill, it was discernibly less awful than the status quo. Third, it almost passed. It was always a crap shoot, but it wasn’t that far-fetched a one. If I had to do it all over, I’d still take the crap shoot.

Thu Jan 28 13:48:16 PST 2010

D-Star vs. FM

I’m starting to get active in amateur radio again. It’s as a result of suffering a broken ankle last spring out of cell phone (but, based on maps, well within 2m repeater) coverage territory. So much has changed in the 10 years since I regularly got on the air.

One of the changes is D-STAR, a new digital mode that’s used on the same VHF and UHF bands that FM commonly is. Like all new technologies, its promoters claim it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread.

I don’t think so:

That said, I think it will find its uses. It’s a brand-new way to send data, and the bit rate is considerably higher than old-fashioned packet radio. It’ll be great for sending visual information (e.g. photographs, scanned signed documents) for emergency communications and to remote areas beyond the reach of the cell network.

It also might find some use in the most congested major metropolitan areas, since it allows more signals to be packed into a given amount of spectrum space than analog FM. Than again, making more use of currently-underutilized bands like 33cm and 23cm can achieve the same end goal without having to resort to proprietary technologies.

If electronics technology keeps advancing, eventually digital modes will displace analog FM for voice transmission. I don’t expect that to happen for another decade or two, however. First, the false start of D-STAR will have to run its course. Then something that has better weak/fringe performance than FM will come along, and the trade off of having more range (for the same or less transmitter power) will be worth putting up with the “fall off a cliff” effect when range is exceeded (and the cost of getting new equipment).

Monthly Index for 2010 | Index of Years

Last updated: Tue Sep 13 16:14:10 PDT 2011