The Columbia Critic

A place to debate anything we want to. We'll talk Columbia campus issues. We'll talk up the homosexual problem. We'll talk China. And we'll talk without resorting to partisan rhetoric. We may be left. We may be right. But we aren't going to be quoting any party line. We're leading the discussion. But feel free to chime in. Hannity and Colmes this is not.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

rethinking the paradigm?

Irish company Steorn claims they have developed a method of using the interaction between magnets to produce energy. This energy is "free and unlimited", a statement that flies in the face of accepted modern physics. Could it be that we are violating conservation of energy or are we using a fundamentally flawed paradigm about energy creation? Perhaps we aren't creating energy out of thin air but rather converting energy from one form to another by means of a perfectly efficient transfer method.

Steorn has challenged academics to verify their findings and well... if no flaw is found we could be living in a drastically different world. This is beyond an energy dependence problem where the US and China are consuming increasingly huge amounts of energy, this could change the balance of international wealth. I can see the countries that stand to lose from a discovery like this is those middle eastern economies that are entirely oil dependent. Middle eastern nations like Saudi Arabia have long been warned that their dependence on oil exports was a flawed policy, one that would doom them when their oil reserves ran dry. Oil reserves running out is a outcome that can be prepared for, a change in sources of energy could render their presence obsolete. Can you imagine the social unrest caused by rapid economic change? Terrifying.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

The Original Nanotechnology

During a recent family reunion I had the opportunity to converse with the husband of one of my cousin's and he made some comments that struck me in an intriguing way. He is an engineer and business consultant and very well read, but when he caught me reading some biochemistry and neuroscience articles that had just been published in Nature, he interjected to the effect of
'Nature? What good is reading about leaves and trees! Give me a magazine about Technology any day, something practical, thats the future you know.'

I spent part of this evening walking around New York City and I began to notice the pockets of trees and birds and animals that profuse throughout the urban environs. I couldn't help but view the whole scene rather differently: as simply a mottle of giant primitive man-made structures surrounded by immense networks and systems and microscopic machines that are far more advanced and complex than one can possibly fathom. New York City, with its huge skyscrapers, snaking subways and electrical lines, and its systems upon systems of machines, computers, and mechanisms, is amazingly intricate and represents a pinnacle of human achievement. But it pales in comparison to the complexity of a single tree, or any multicellular organism for that matter. Meditate on this fact for a moment -- a single microscopic cell with its countless enzymes and proteins and genomic machinery is far more complicated than even the massive nuclear reactor that powers this city. One must simply view a chart of the most basic biochemical processes that occur in the cell to understand the magnitude of the systems of cellular machinery. (See link at bottom of this post).
I have oft read science fiction stories and seen movies that illustrate amazing advancements made through the deconstruction and analysis of technologies from highly advanced extraterrestrial beings. Such an opportunity is already before us, and we are really just barely scratching the surface of what I consider to be the original nanotechnology - life.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Israel Overkill

WWII suicide bombers and modern day Arab suicide bombers are worlds apart. What sets them apart is that Arab terrorists have been successful and they have a community that believes they are making a noble sacrifice. I don't think you're going to see any extremist Muslim deciding that his/her suicide bombing is ineffective; every life they take is supposed to be some sort of statement to the world that they will attempt to win at any cost.

While I'm sure members of the IDF and Israel are not proud of killing civilians and mourn to some degree, I have to think that most take the stance that you do (edit: this was a blog comment response to Matt Rutta), that it is an accident when civilians are killed but that is a by-product of war.

What troubles me is that it really isn't an accident. Israel knows full well that the areas that they bomb are heavily populated and that the civilian death toll will be high. Yes, Hezbollah does use "human shields" if you mean attacking from public spaces and they are endangering their own people. However, Israel being the obviously stronger party in the mix might take care to notice that their campaign against Hezbollah has resulted in the deaths of about 50 Hezbollah guerrillas, ~ 20 Lebanese soldiers, and 700+ and growing civilian deaths.

At this point calling this an accident is becoming a joke, regardless of how Hezbollah chooses to wage war; Israel is supposed to be better than this. Carpet bombings leveling entire towns and the use of white phosphorous is overkill. At this point if you can justify the staggering accidental deaths of civilians as a unfortunate product of war and the leveling of cities because guerrillas are launching rockets from the centers of towns, you might as well completely destroy Lebanon if that is your mentality. From their justification, what is sparing anyone in Lebanon? Guilty by geographic proximity.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

What is 'war'?

Bush: "this only serves to remind us....that we are a nation at war"

The 'war' on terror? Here is a question, how can one wage war on a tactic? At the most one could refer to a 'war on Terrorists' but even then that implies that we are utilizing warfare, an enterprise of one state in opposition to another, to combat the terrorists--when most of our actions against terrorists, the brief war in Iraq and the ongoing war in Afghanistan aside, have been comprised of intelligence and police actions.

I realize this is nit-picking and that the term is merely political rhetoric meant to rally people for a cause and to focus the enactors in government towards a clear (and quite worthy) goal--but I do rather prefer accuracy to polemical

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

ACLU Losing Touch With Reality

The ACLU continues to offend me in its actions. I understand the separation of church and state quite clearly, but when they attempt to sanitize the public sphere of any and all references to God and faith in the name of "civil liberties" they cross the line, not to mention far exceeding the boundaries of the constitution. Strange that, in instances of religious expression, they seem to forget the primary purpose of the First Amendment (for which they otherwise stand so starkly in defense), that being the protection of free speech.

Communities as well as individuals should be free to express themselves, and their faiths, as they so choose. Those who are public servants are also citizens, for whom the First Amendment applies as equally as it does for the rest of the populace. They should not be prevented from supporting a public cause with their own time and private resources, simply because they are employed by the state.

The ACLU continues to overinterpret the clause that separates church and state, and the example below only serves to further demonstrate that the organization has ulterior motives beyond mere "defense of civil liberties."

ACLU wants parish to forget cross

Katrina memorial bears Jesus' face
Sunday, August 06, 2006
By Karen Turni Bazile

Alarmed by newspaper reports that a hurricane memorial in St. Bernard Parish will feature a cross bearing a likeness of the face of Jesus, the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana is reminding parish officials of the Constitution's separation of church and state.

Never one to back down, Parish President Henry "Junior" Rodriguez has a simple reply: "They can kiss my ass."

In a July 28 letter to Rodriguez and other officials, Louisiana ACLU Executive Director Joe Cook said that the government promotion of a patently religious symbol on a public waterway is a violation of the Constitution's First Amendment, which prohibits government from advancing a religion.

Rodriguez did not say whether he has responded to Cook's letter, but in an interview, he said he sees nothing improper about the memorial, which will be mounted near the shoreline of the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet at Shell Beach. The cross and accompanying monument listing the names of the 129 parish residents who died in Hurricane Katrina are earmarked for what the parish says is private land and are being financed with donations, Rodriguez said.


Friday, August 04, 2006

Stephen Colbert makes an....interesting....point


"Another good thing war is good for...Peace. This year the peace corps accepted 7,810 volunteers--largest number in 30 years. THATS GREAT NEWS. Because the Peace Corps identifies the people who hate America...then ships them overseas. Yes! Yes. Hard to camp out with Cindy Sheehan when your digging a well in Berundi."

Thursday, August 03, 2006

The Progressive Case for Military Service

This article by former Clinton aide Kathy Roth-Douquet covers the important subject of national service. It explains why it is vital, now more than ever, that graduates of Columbia and the other Ivy League schools take up the torch of leadership and EARN their citizenship through military service.

Issue #1, Summer 2006

The Progressive Case for Military Service

For years, progressives have touted joining the Peace Corps. Now, it’s time for them to enlist in the Marine Corps.

Kathryn Roth-Douquet
t is controversial, and even uncomfortable, for many progressives to talk about individual responsibility for military service, particularly during an unpopular war, started with what many see as a dubious rationale. Many contend that because they neither voted for nor support George W. Bush, they have ample reason to be excused from military service. And their progressive values, they presume, support work for the Peace Corps or Teach for America, but not the uniformed services. Others, especially those from "good" families and schools, suppose that military service simply isn’t for people like them: Ivy League schools sent half their graduating classes for a tour of duty during periods of the Cold War, but today the percentages hover in the tenths of 1 percent. These people wouldn’t shoulder colors in a Clinton, Gore, or Kerry presidency, either.

There are two fundamental reasons for the present rift between progressives and the military. First is the emergence, during the twentieth century, of a rights-based philosophy on both the Left and the Right that sees government as a counterpoint and even a threat to the individual. Second is the left’s reaction against the military after Vietnam, a reaction that was itself rooted in rights consciousness and, over time, solidified into a presumption that military values, and the members of the military themselves, are antithetical to progressive values. While some may charge that these characterizations are actually caricatures of the dreaded "liberal," these attitudes do persist. Indeed, just this year, a group of liberals, including famed activist Cindy Sheehan, published a collection of essays titled 10 Excellent Reasons Not to Join the Military.

At its core, the opposition to military service on the Left fundamentally misconstrues the meaning of self-government and the role of the military in the United States today. It confuses military service with militarism, equating participation in the Armed Services with subscription to the fetish of military action as a policy tool (in fact, those with military experience are often the most cautious in supporting military action). As a result, military service is left to an increasingly narrow slice of the U.S. political and economic spectrum, drawing disproportionately from military families, Midwesterners and Southerners, Christians, Republicans, and the working and middle class. In doing so, we have disconnected one of the most important arenas of national action from true democratic decision-making.

Given the likely centrality of military operations to American foreign policy over the next decade, it is time for progressives to reconsider both their attitudes toward service and their aversion to the military as a culture and value system. Indeed, the military itself–and the act of serving in it–are quintessentially progressive.