5.31.2011

"The telos of techne"

"To speak more generally, the ultimate goal of technology, the telos of techne, is to replace a natural world that’s indifferent to our wishes — a world of hurricanes and hardships and breakable hearts, a world of resistance — with a world so responsive to our wishes as to be, effectively, a mere extension of the self."

Tomorrow, we return more fully, in a way, to that harsher natural world as the blog concludes.

But I will say that Letters in Bottles, while it's been an extension of the self, has not been about replacing a natural world through the technological medium of a blog.  It's been more about capturing, analyzing, and wondering at the lives that we and others lead in that world.  And in turn, a community of sorts has emerged in the chattering, though the bottles have long since floated far out to sea.

5.27.2011

“This is the land of dreams,” he said. “Oshkosh is the best in the world!”

Fernando Perez-Canto, sitting next to the single-engine Maule he flew here from Venezuela for the second year in a row, termed the event "the Woodstock for our hobby,' and Sergey Ryabtsev of Russia, an aviation enthusiast who overcame an intense fear of flying to travel aboard an airliner to the event, proclaimed Oshkosh “the spirit of aviation itself.” One evening, as he prepared time-lapse photography of Elvis, the Eriksen Air-Crane heli-tanker, he said, "I’m ready to spend money, spend time, spend everything to be in Oshkosh."
Will you be in Oshkosh this summer?

5.25.2011

"Democrats were clinging to the developments like koalas to eucalyptus trees"

Our debilitating national aversion to reducing the burden of federal entitlements needs to stop.

Fantastic

Jurassic Park sort of turned me off to technology in archaeology -- being a bit anachronistically inclined born in the early '80s, I preferred to think of my bone-hunters as latter-day Indiana Joneses (of course!). But I have to say, this is just all kinds of awesome:
"Indiana Jones is old school, we've moved on from Indy, sorry Harrison Ford."

5.24.2011

The Walk to School

















A young girl walks to meet the bus in St. Roch, New Orleans this morning as a SWAT team bursts into a home in the background.

5.18.2011

Further proof of how lucky we are that Joanne Kloppenburg will NOT be a Supreme Court Justice

I read her op-ed piece in the Journal Sentinel and was pretty shocked at how divorced from reality her arguments are. Many of the "irregularities" found in Waukesha County are no different than ballot bags found in Dane County or other counties throughout the state. Plus, with the GAB's press release the other day, it seems as though any court challenge would be doomed to failure.

I think Althouse has a pretty good takedown of how desperate Kloppenburg is beginning to look:
Oh, so the disembodied process proceeds as it was prescribed. No, it proceeds because you chose to put it in motion, and another choice looms in the future. Why are you pretending that you don't know what you are going to do?

"Wisconsin law specifically anticipates that there may be court challenges..." See what I mean by mind-crushingly dull? Or... if you think about it long enough, maybe it will cease to be dull and become infuriating.

5.16.2011

That Senate race may not be as exciting as we think

When a four term Senator retires, it naturally sets the political world ablaze with thoughts on who will step to the plate. Herb Kohl's announcement on Friday is certainly no different. We've heard several names tossed around on both sides, but unfortunately I'm not even certain that we'll get a competitive primary at all.

The problem is that for big races, the Democrats and Republicans in Wisconsin act far too much like machines. The retirement of Dave Obey last year should have been an opportunity for many ambitious state legislators, but the party feared a "waste" of resources and anointed Sen. Lassa as the nominee behind closed doors. The same holds true for the gubernatorial primary. Lt. Gov. Lawton suddenly dropped out of a race she'd wanted to run for eight years and Mayor Barrett was basically told that he would run and he would be the nominee.

On the Republican side, many in leadership acted disgracefully in the way they treated Mark Neumann and seemed to do just about everything possible to make the "undesirable" Senate candidates go away. While not as successful in limiting the field as the Dems, it was still bad.

So, while I would love to see a knock-down-drag-out fight between Ron Kind, Tammy Baldwin, and any number of state legislators, I simply don't believe it will happen. The DNC is still run by the White House and they will not allow that many open seats to defend in one of the most important states to the President's reelection. To borrow a phrase that's popular among the left right now, that would be shameful.

And honestly, the same goes for the GOP. There should be a lively and vigorous debate about the future of our nation and how best to combat the problems of entitlement reform and perpetual deficits from a conservative perspective. But I fear we won't get that because it's just far too costly in a presidential election year.

I'd love to see a big free-for-all next year and it would make Wisconsin one of the most watched states in the country, but it's more likely that the Dems will have picked their nominee by the end of the year and the GOP won't be far behind them.

5.13.2011

New music

Fleet Foxes released a new album last week. Do check it out; it's worth it.

Architecture in Helsinki also released an album.

Alas! They've traded in both the muppets and the crack of their last album, which was great but short, for one 80's synthesizer to sing along with softly for their fourth album. There are only a handful of songs that stand out before it turns into synth pop mush. I like the first song, second song, and the third which is the first single:



It's probably just me, but pop music made with synthesizers usually sounds terrible. For me, much of the 80's is a black hole of music, especially all the slow 80's songs.

Perhaps it's that synths are good at being synths and making electronic music, but when they're used to fill the exact spaces of conventional instruments, they enter the Uncanny Valley and the music sounds 'off'. The strange thing is that there's plenty of electronic music I do like. Perhaps after several years, which happened to be in and around the 80's, people figured out some good new things to do with electronics and electronic music split off with its own conventions.

Then again, it might just be an issue of art, in which case you either just like it or don't.

5.11.2011

Sandbags emerge along the levee in Baton Rouge

Take a trip!


On a Philippine jeepney...


...maybe to Mt. Taal! But look out -- it might explode soon.

Because terms matter

The "cold war with Pakistan" meme seems to be getting some play in the conservative blogosphere lately. Which is pretty obnoxious, really.

The first thing, really is just meaning: "Cold War" doesn't mean that. We have a pretty major policy difference with Pakistan, yes. We're in a diplomatic faceoff with them, maybe. But a Cold War suggests not only absolute ideological opposition, but evangelical absolute opposition, as well as a major military focus to the opposition. On every level, that's simply not the case with Pakistan.

But more problematic is the fact that yelling about a "new cold war" by Republicans inevitably suggests a very particular set of policy prescriptions. These begin with a Kennan-esque sense that our opponent only understands a hard military response:
Impervious to logic of reason, and it is highly sensitive to logic of force. For this reason it can easily withdraw--and usually does when strong resistance is encountered at any point. Thus, if the adversary has sufficient force and makes clear his readiness to use it, he rarely has to do so. If situations are properly handled there need be no prestige-engaging showdowns.
The trouble is that the conservative policy response lately tends to leave off that last bit -- the Obama focus on diplomacy has been roundly derided, particularly by the ascendant Tea Party types within the GOP. It also leaves no room for flexibility in a US diplomatic response, to, say, Pakistan's continued refusal of access to bin Laden's wives. Every disagreement becomes, to this view, a prestige-engaging showdown once the US decides it wants something.

Instead, we have a policy dispute. Indeed, we're still able to work with Pakistan on a range of issues -- look at the continued drone strikes within the country, for instance. Nor is there any ideological outlook to combat. This is simply the reality of a newly unipolar world: Pakistan can play off various sides -- the US, China, non-state actors like terrorist groups -- to advance what it sees as its own objectives.

Words, and framing, matter very much -- and this is irresponsible.

5.07.2011

Spring storms

The best defense is using your best defense

Kenneth Anderson's dig at "the advocacy communities, the UN human rights machinery, the NGOs, activist-academics, Euro-intellectuals to seek to seize the legal-political narrative" notwithstanding, this is a great look at the Obama team's response to the killing of Osama bin Laden:
So, to say what the Attorney General should have said: It is

* okay to enter a country that is “unable or unwilling,”
* okay to use lethal force,
* okay to attack without warning,
* okay to attack an unarmed, unthreatening, but still lawful target,
* okay to attack without inviting surrender,
* okay to press the attack with lethal force and without pause, the exception being if the target were to succeed in completing the act of surrender — which, in this case, is likely to be never, because there will not be enough time, and
* okay not to give the target time to make an attempt at surrender, even if inclined or even attempting, by pausing or slowing the attack.

Meanwhile, has the administration regained its composure? No — and it won’t manage to do so until someone with Harold Koh’s stature starts speaking out, and pointing out that the legal standards are precisely what he laid out in his speech a year ago, and none of it represents anything other than long-held US legal positions.
I'm surprised the administration isn't defending itself more vigorously here.

5.05.2011

"mi gran sueno"



The volano Tungurahua - "throat of fire" - erupts, spewing ash last week, as seen from the streets of Riobamba, Ecuador.

5.03.2011

The world made visible

I can only imagine what this flowchart of a story foretells.

This near-instantaneous, barely intentional, global interconnectedness that extends well down into the weeds is not a new phenomenon.

But this is one of the better illustrations of where we are at...along some line extending outward.

Shocked?

Anyone who's shocked in any way that Osama bin Laden may have been "hiding out in plain sight" deep within Pakistan should read one book to understand the deeply complicated and ultimately untenable relationship between the governments of the U.S. and Pakistan, especially their respective intelligence agencies.

It's called Ghost Wars by Steve Coll.

I highly recommend it as a backdrop for all that has happened in Afghanistan since 1979 and all that has happened surrounding U.S. involvement in Afghanistan/Pakistan since September 11, 2001.

The book may actually be more relevant than ever at this stage.  This next new phase in the U.S./Pakistan relationship may need to account for and rectify all the double dealing that's been going on for decades.

5.02.2011

Quito






















Never before have I seen such dizzying, baroque architectural excess - an incredible mixture of Spanish, Moorish, and Quiteno influences.  And that didn't characterize just one key building, but many.

The churches of Quito blew me away.

Implications

I wondered how long it would take for the argument to appear:
The slaying capped almost a decade of a drifting wartime task in which security has worsened in both Afghanistan and nuclear-armed Pakistan.The U.S. invaded Afghanistan in order to make war on al Qaeda, but ended up in a fight to keep the Taliban from overrunning Afghan President Hamid Karzai. The question now is whether there is more that the United States can accomplish in Afghanistan or Pakistan. If the answer is yes, what is that more? And if it is no, is it time to wind down?
Levine suggests that the answer is to wind down, and has some interesting things to say about the implications of that.

5.01.2011

Osama bin Laden is finally brought to justice

I cannot believe that Osama bin Laden is dead. This is moment of justice for the thousands of victims of this evil man and though it took much longer than many would have thought or liked it has finally come. After ten years, I began to think this would never happen, but I'm glad it has.

We finally got the bastard.