Yes

Embrace the Daily Clips « DCI Group Public Affairs.

Linked above is a blog post about my primary duty at work: collecting all the mentions of my employer in the news media. It’s tedious work, at time, but its also interesting. You get exposed to all sorts of new sources of information out there you never saw before. It’s like having a thumb on the pulse of the nation, seeing what everyone is talking about.  And that’s exciting.

Of course, it would be more interesting if I were part of a cyborg commando unit that engaged in forcible memetic engineering by hacking and manipulating data sources…but that would be against my ethics.

Letter to the Editor (Unsent)

Continuing my opinion writing, this is a letter to the editor I would have sent in, but never did so. If I were to send it in, I would probably have aimed for the Washington Examiner.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Thursday that “The president is committed to reducing spending — cutting spending and reducing the deficit.”

Really? Where? Was it in the trillion-dollar stimulus budget? The trillion dollar health care reform budget? The hundred-trillion-dollar entitlement budget? Where are the cuts?

Oh, wait, I know: they must be in the “not-invading-foreign-countries-and-leaving-our-citizens-alone” budget. Because it sure as heck wasn’t the “kinetic military action” one.

Should have sent that in. Pure gold. Oh well…

Japan

My heart goes out to the Japanese who have suffered during this troubling time. I have many friends in Japan, though I don’t think any of them were in the tsunami zone; they mostly live around Osaka, which is on the other end of the country from Sendai and Miyagi Prefecture.

My Japanese has degenerated from my time spent there; I couldn’t understand what the Japanese anchor was saying this morning when CNN rebroadcast his feed. I resolve to begin studying for the JLPT as soon as possible; maybe I’ll end up going back to Japan in the future to help in long term reconstruction.

The 21st Century

One of the things that I love about science fiction is simply sitting
back in one’s chair and thinking how the future will unfold. What sort
of technologies will we develop? Will we be in space? What will our
culture look like? What will the international arena be? (A subset of
that question is one asked by socialists and left-wingers everywhere:
“When will the megacorps take over?” As if.) And, most importantly:
will there be liquor?

I was browsing the site of the “Institute for Ethics and Emerging
Technologies,” a transhumanist organization, when I came across their
new poll
on 21st century geopolitics.
The main question is who is going to
be the big dog over the next 50 years: China, India, Russia, nobody,
or those damn Yankees pull an upset, defy all expectations, and stay
on top.

Science fiction has come at this from many different angles. Of
course, during World War II, there were alarmist stories that had the
Nazis, the Japanese, or both, dominating the planet, with the United
States occupied territory. The concept was “updated” during the Cold
War to have the Soviets run roughshod over the planet. In the 70s,
Jerry Pournelle wrote the CoDominium series, which had the
United States and a revitalized USSR join forces and dominate the
planet. Most lean towards the world government; Star Trek is an
obvious example, as are many of the Gundam series (which always
have something like an “Earth Federation” fighting rebellious orbital
colonies), Babylon 5 with its Earth Alliance, and even the
BattleTech universe, which seems odd since that likes to splinter
humanity as much as possible. Indeed, a world government is the #1
most popular futuristic development for our Earth, if we don’t count a
post-singularity world where governments and nations are an obsolete
concept.

Personally, I don’t see this happening in the next century.

There might be, in the future, a slightly strengthened, less impotent
sort of United Nations, but I cannot see a “world federation”
happening before the 22nd or 23rd centuries. We,
as a civilization, are still too far fractured into our own different
subcultures and groups that we really can’t come together on a global
scale. Racism, collectivism, tribalism–these are all prominent
elements in our society. How are we going to accept that we’re part of
the same polity as those guys on the other side of the planet when we
can’t accept that we’re part of the same polity as the people in the
next state?

As for some real world evidence, look no further than Kosovo and the
EU. When Kosovo announced its independence about three years ago,
supported by the UN, I honestly thought it was a moot point. What
would Kosovo seriously gain from independence, when, at that time, the
European Union was consolidating all national powers into its
supranational headquarters in Brussels? Why would it matter, when in
the next 5-10 years it would just be absorbed and assimilated into the
EU as a subnational entity with no sovereignty? At the time, I
seriously thought the EU was heading towards a unitary state scenario.
But let’s fast forward three years. The financial crisis that began
with Greece and soon spread to Ireland, Spain, Portugal, and Italy put
extreme pressure on the EU. Germany, which provided much of the
financial support that kept the current system afloat, is quickly
losing patience, and most Germans are deeply upset at what they see as
a de facto transfer union. While the EU may survive this
crisis, it is being heavily battered, and I have no doubt it will be
severely weakened; the Eurozone, however, the somewhat separate
institution whereby everyone uses the same currency, is dead. Oh,
sure, it hasn’t been buried yet–which is why it smells so bad around
here–but its dead. After this fiasco, with the rapidly dwindling
support of the German populace–a majority want their Deutschemark
back–and the Eurosceptic Britons laughing at their integrationist
colleagues, the Eurozone isn’t going to come back, not for a long
time.

We can also look to the Sudan and Darfur; the latter just voted to
become a new country, after years of genocide and violence. We can
look to the myriad secessionist movements within the United
States–while largely negligible, they still point out that we, as a
people, are not going to come together any time soon and start singing
kumbayah. If we’re trying to get away from our neighbors’ country, why
do you think that we’ll join together in a planetary government?

Unlike many, I actually don’t find a world government to be, by
definition, unpleasant. As long as the world government operates by
rule of law (thus keeping corruption in check and following its own
rules instead of breaking them whenever it feels like it); respects
and protects property rights, contract rights, and of course, basic
civil rights; and maintains a level playing field in the marketplace,
I would be all for it. The benefits would be immense:

  • No more need for passports, visas, or green cards: I positively
    hate filling out the paperwork to go visit another country, and I find
    it absolutely ludicrous that states can keep people from crossing its
    borders for no other reason than “They’re brown people.” (Yes, yes, I
    understand national security concerns, and I support those arguments;
    however, they would be irrelevant under a world government.)

  • No more wars: Well, I’m sure there would be some sort of
    violence going on somewhere, but organized wars would cease. I’m not
    just talking wars with airplanes, bombs, and soldiers, but even
    cyberwars, trade wars, etc.

  • No more trade protectionist bullcrap: I am so sick of hearing from
    conservatives–and even some “liberals”–about the Chinese stealing
    our jobs, and how we need to have a trade surplus and not this
    deficit, and we need tariffs, and blah blah blah. Such arguments are
    ignorant, dangerous, and ultimately make everyone worse off. Good
    thing in a world government, we would have no more need for that.

  • A new identity: With one world government, we might finally stop
    thinking of ourselves as “Americans” and “Russians” and “Brazilians”
    and “Chinese,” and instead finally recognize what we all are: homo
    sapiens
    . This one is a bit iffy, though, as to whether or not it
    would actually come about.

Unfortunately, I simply feel it won’t come to pass, not in the near
future, at any rate.

So then why do science fiction authors continually use it?

Well, to put simply, it makes things easy. Imagine if you’re writing a
story set hundreds of years into the future, when humanity has
colonized thousands of planets. Now imagine that each planet has 10,
20, or a hundred different countries (which is far less confusing than
what our geopolitical situation is today.) You could never keep track
of them all. Sure, you may have one or two planets set up like this,
but always as a contrast with the galactic norm. (“So, who do we get
to meet, the planetary president?” “Erm, no, see, there’s actually no
world government–” “What?”)

Of course, there’s also a sense of idealism, that we will transcend
these boundaries, these differences, at some point in our immediate
future–but again, I’m not seeing it.

Well, not unless a hyperintelligent artificial intelligence or a
hostile extraterrestial force makes us.

Good Taste

I’m not really into fashion all that much, I’m the kind of guy who just picks up what’s on top of all the other clothes and puts that on because its easier.

But sometimes…sometimes, I really do find something in the world of fashion that I enjoy. Something that makes me smile, and makes me feel better about myself. Behold…

Something you wish you had.
Yeah.

…my pleather tie. Bet you wished you had one.