Kinsley on the Rationales for War

Michael Kinsley: “The Freudian/Oedipal theorizing about finishing the job his father left undone is entertaining but silly. So is "Wag the Dog" speculation that Bush is staging a war for political reasons: The political risk of a bloody disaster surely outweighs any short-term patriotic boost. The lack of any obvious ulterior motive, in fact, is the strongest argument for taking Bush at his word.”

Kinsley dismisses almost outright two favourite arguments used by the left: that he's finishing the job for daddy; and that deflection away from scandals (in this case, scandals about companies, with tangential involvement of the government) back home are the motive for a strike against Iraq. The last paragraph of the article is the highlight.

It's funny how both Kinsley and Joe Klein note that Gore won the popular vote of the last election, which is entirely irrelevant. And I find it odd that people, like Weisberg (who tries to make the case against the case against war), are saying that "[t]he White House is proposing a radical new military and diplomatic doctrine for the United States—the right to intervene, unilaterally and pre-emptively, whenever we see fit." It's only really the first time they've said so publicly, and it's refreshing (although slightly dishonest in suggesting it's a new thing) in that they are acknowledging what has been policy for at least the last 50 years.

I haven't yet seen someone argue for invading Iraq in terms of 'opportunity cost', one of the few things I remember from Economics class in university. Opportunity costs are the costs of not doing something other than what you're currently doing (or about to do). (As an aside, some economists will tell you that efficiently-running businesses actually run at zero profit, if opportunity costs are taken into account.) Invading Iraq is favourable only if the costs of doing so outweight the costs of not doing so. So far conservatives firmly believe striking Iraq will save much in the future (e.g. keep Israel intact; get rid of someone not openly hostile against the United States but with some muscle to back it up), while those on the Left will argue many things: that the United States is being unilateralist (and nation-states are wont to do); that, as Klein argues, the outcome is less than certain, because of the complexities involved.

The best arguments against a war, which take into account President Bush's political interests (do you think he really listens to people who don't want to further his political interests?), are that in the political realm, it gains Bush nothing domestically, and something Photodude touched on earlier. The first President Bush lost to then-Governor Clinton because he failed to spend his political capital. The second Bush gained a huge amount of political capital from September 11th, and has so far failed to do Something Big with it. He risks doing the same with Iraq.

Low Voter Turnout Not So Bad?

George Jonas: “When few people bother to vote, it may not be due to their alienation or civic disengagement. It may be due to their confidence that any one of the political parties and persons seeking their mandate can do the job. In contrast, when voters consider that times are hard or ominous; when they regard one or more of the contending parties as menacing, and when they think that their choice of government might vitally affect their essential interests, few are likely to stay home on election day.”

I'm in in the unusual position of agreeing with Preston "Refoooorrrm" Manning, who in a speech “made it clear, though, that he considered voting virtuous.” (New political slogan: "Voting is Virtuous!") This article illustrates one of the reasons I like the media outlets like The National Post and Slate. A lot of their columns have a similar theme: either "What you think is bad is in fact good" or "What you think is good is in fact bad."

Totally unrelated: the September issue of The Atlantic Monthly, as I found out last night, is unfathomably good. Even the letters to the editor (with replies from the authors of the articles the letter-writers were referring to) rocked my world.

Universities Are Not Job Trainers

I just want to bring to the fore a comment to the post about university education for those who don't read the comments (and if you don't, are you mad?!). Steve Tannock


This is one of those things my friends and I argue in circles over and over again. I'm of the mind that university is not there to train you for a job. It is there to train you to think, to reason, to argue, to analyze, etc. It's training is abstracted and intellectual. In a certain sense, regardless of what your major is, you come out with a similar set of skills. Where the problem lies is that the non-arts majors all come with a certain amount of skill-training as well. A biologist comes (or should come) out with all the same intellectual tools that a poli-sci major comes out of school with. However, in maby [sic] ways a biologist is immediately far more employable to the average corporation than a political scientist. Why? For one, the skill-set provided by most science degrees is quantifiable, whereas those in the liberal arts are not.

Many would argue that universities are missing the point in this day and age: with the costs involved with education, they should be 'better preparing' students for the professional world. I would argue that these people are missing the point. What we need, perhaps, is more respect for trade & technical schools, as well as better regulation for them. Go to university, get a political science degree, learn how to think. Go to a trade school to get trained for a job. Perhaps apprenticeships should become more normal again (although internships are essentially the modern equivalent).

If you want to be trained in a skill, don't go to university. You're not helping it, it's not helping you. If your desires are a little more abstract, by all means, go: but don't expect them to prepare you for a job afterwards.

Well said. University students should educate students in how to become better citizens, of your community, city, province, country and world. Besides, we arts students are constantly told that employers look for imaginative, critical people who can analyze and solve problems. So it's win-win (again, if you have the money and the time).

Google News

Jack Shafer: “The Google News page exceeds every editor's dream—to produce a first-rate publication without the meddling interference of reporters—by making the editors themselves extraneous as well. Instead of assigning humans to gather and present the news, Google News delegates the task to software developed over the last nine months by five Google engineers (presumably all human).”

I like the idea behind Google News, which I've known about for some time and have used to search news stories (especially when someone said "hey, did you hear that..." and I hadn't). I liked the older design, however (which was very similar to Kottke's proposed redesign). The new design now requires scanning horizontally as well as vertically. And the photos make it a little to busy for my liking. I'll probably warm to it, but not soon.

No Amount of Education?

Elliott Cohen: “As an unemployed 24-year-old psychology major graduate with two additional diplomas, let me be the first to tell you that this reality of 'work' after school could not be further from the truth. Being unable to find work in my field, I have started looking for unrelated work just to survive.”

I was reading this letter to the editor (Vancouver Sun) while sipping on my orange juice this morning. I'm an under-employed Political Science graduate, so I know a little bit about what he's talking about.

“I want every reader to know that no amount of education prepares students with work skills or for work itself. A word of advice: Before enrolling in a post secondary institution, consider whether the time, effort and money are really worth it.”

I have a little problem with that paragraph. The first sentence is a little hard to believe (no amount of education?), and the second seems a little overly cautious. I enjoyed university because of the new ideas and the interesting people. It's only really worth it if you have the time and money (which I did), but if you do, I would highly recommend any type of higher education, just for the person you become because of it.

Aaliyah Discography

Aaliyah Discography

I'm just looking at the songs I need for my Aaliyah compilation (which I need to re-do, because I made a boo-boo the first time around). It appears as if I have the vast majority of the CDs containing Aaliyah's Other Tracks & Guest Appearances, but evidently I missed a few. This just in reference to Devon's music nerdiness and that as much as she's a nerd about the Tragically Hip, I'm a nerd about Aaliyah (and Soulive and DJ Shadow).

Beck Gets Serious

Gerald Marzorati: “In the increasingly globalized realm of pop, it has perhaps become too easy to overlook the fact that much of the music, and most of the best of it, remains stubbornly rooted in place. The rock the Strokes make is fundamentally downtown New York rock (Velvet Underground, Television, Richard Hell and the Voidoids); the rock the White Stripes play is, in essence, Detroit rock (Mitch Ryder, MC5, Iggy Pop and the Stooges). The music Beck makes is to a great degree informed by the musical traditions of Los Angeles.”

I love album reviews like these. They're not simply what the album is about or what the components are, but rather a brief history of the influences that went into the album's production (in this case, the importance of place in pop music). Beck has a unique ability to blend country sensibility yet have appeal among hiphop heads. If it's anything like Mutations (that album's "Nobody's Fault But My Own" being easily on my top 5 saddest songs of all time), I might have to take a look at his new joint.

Meeting People Through Websites

Kottke on meeting people through websites: “Anyone who meets me online -- including possible friends, fellow Web design enthusiaists, or potential employers -- has access to 4+ years of my thoughts before they even have to strike up a conversation. That's damn powerful stuff.”

This is in line with what I've been thinking about lately. I've met a lot of interesting people I've online, and the vast majority of them have been people who found me through my website. I've even been fortunate to meet some of them in the physical realm. Some people whom I'd describe as online friends (since that's where the majority of our conversations take place) I've actually met IRL before I knew about their online lives, like David and Tina, and some, like Lisa, Chunshek and Paulo, live so far away that online is the only way to communicate (Lisa and I have chatted on the phone twice, so we actually know what each other sounds like).

I'm not so sure about the matchmaker stuff the guy Kottke links talks about though. I still think that, despite articles on and the like to the contrary, online dating is a little weird and awkward. In this field I have a little bit of experience, but due to the killer combination of trepidation (it's still weird explaining to my parents that I have online friends, much less that I've tried my hand at online dating) and laziness (my ad is devoid of hilarity), it's never gotten past the email stage.

Then again, this is the year 2002, and I know people who actually put online ads because they want to meet new people. It's funny though, because I didn't initially think of blogging as a way to meet people nor as a way for them to get to know me (my intentions were purely self-interested, in that I wanted to get the repetitive thoughts in my head out of my head). Now though, I think of blogging as a really good way to get a fairly detailed first impression of a person, keeping in mind that people's online personas are different than their offline ones (oh, don't deny it, your online persona is different than your offline persona, however slightly).

So now when people say to me that they've heard a lot about chatting but are having trouble meeting people online, I just tell them to put up a website, preferably a weblog.

Goodbye Taiwan?

Invading Iraq: pros and cons

Nicely laid out, in a kinda humourous way too: (e.g. "Goodbye Taiwan"). Slight problem with the following quote:

"The whole "regime change" effort by Bush could turn out to be a cakewalk. Or it could be a complete disaster."

Those are the two opposite extremes of possible outcomes. It could also be a minor victory, or a minor disaster, or could result balancing out in terms of costs and benefits. It's a bit of a tautological argument, like saying it's either going to rain tomorrow or it's not.

Cool graphic though.

I thank Tina for the link.

Neptunes Produced

Songs produced by the Neptunes

Totally unformatted, but who cares. I'm feelin' the Neptunes vibe (ever since N.O.R.E's Superthug, but now more so because of N.E.R.D.'s album), so I'll probably have to download most of the songs listed there. They're in the same vein as Mannie Fresh, Swizz Beats and Timbaland (you know, how you're not supposed to like them, but they're just too catchy), the first two who have seemed to fade from the spotlight, and the latter who has changed his style somewhat.