Review: Agents of SHIELD season finale

Download PDF

I caught up on the end of the season for Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD.  (Yes, it’s that time of summer when I get to catch up on the shows I missed.)  The first season ended with the fallout from Captain America: The Winter Soldier, when the entire Marvel universe was scrambled.  Could Season Two match it?

Short answer: Surprisingly, yes.  Spoilers ho.

Continue reading Review: Agents of SHIELD season finale

Regarding >> “America has a simple ideology”: how one of Russia’s top US experts tries to explain America – Vox

Download PDF

A couple of observations:

  1. What might underlie this Russian perception — which I think is over the top — is something far more threatening to the Russian psyche than the idea that America is scheming and plotting to topple them.  Far worse indeed is the truth, which is that since the end of the Cold War we’ve more or less ignored them.  A lot of what Putin has done, seems to me, to be the geopolitical equivalent of a moody tweener screaming for attention from the once-idolized cool kid who nows ignores them.  Going from being one of two superpowers, where every time the Kremlin caught a cold, Washington sneezed, to a perceived backwater minor power, is bruising.
  2. Having said that, from one point of view, they’re not entirely crazy.  While I think they overestimate the coherence of any “American worldview”, there is a certain evangelizing tendency in American politics.  We’ve solved it, many Americans think, and of course everyone else should reap the benefit of our leadership.  It’s cloying and positive but threatening in its own way.  And the ongoing cultural ascendancy of American media — where our action films and pop fashions rule the world — can’t help anyone feel secure.
  3. It’s hard to see what to do about this.  You can’t convince someone you’re on their side by simply repeatedly telling them that.   And our actual attitude — dismissive neglect — is unlikely to generate either the evidence of a benign attitude or reciprocal respect.  The nigh-complete breakdown of the American political machine implies more neglect and drift, with sporadic and counterproductive engagement mixed with saber-rattling for domestic benefit.  It’s a bind.

Regarding: “America has a simple ideology”: how one of Russia’s top US experts tries to explain America – Vox

On riots, protests, and the legitimacy of violence (short)

Download PDF

For everyone who has counseled the citizens of Baltimore (and Ferguson and…) that “violence is not the answer” and that it would be better if everyone just protested peacefully:

1) As has now been documented extensively, the protests were by and large peaceful — and even more by and large, ignored by the national media.

2) Violence certainly is an  answer — and one which history shows can be quite effective in prompting change.  See for proof the French Revolution, or the American Revolution, for that matter.  Of course violence is a random and uncontrolled beast, and the odds are that the reaction it prompts will not be the outcome desired… but usually, something will change.  For people who’ve spent their whole lives trapped in a system crushing them without end, any change might be welcome, at least at first.

Would you prefer peaceful protest to violent outbursts?  Would you see people advocate for the redress of grievances without resorting to threats or damage to property or even lives?  Then address the systemic evils, the in-built hardships and unspoken oppressions, the things done not through active racist thought but through the far worse passive racist without-thought.  You want people to respect the police?  Then demand that the police behave respectably.  You want your cities to be bastions of peace?  Then save them from being cauldrons of hopelessness.

Above all, if you want this problem to “just go away”, pay attention to it — and for love of all that is true, pay attention even when the fires have gone out and the windows have been repaired and the next big distraction comes down the tube.  This problem has been centuries in the making and we’ve squandered five decades or more in addressing it — it won’t ever go away until we finally put it away.

re: Sexism in science: Peer editor tells female researchers their study needs a male author – The Washington Post

Download PDF

Apparently the study was so flawed that only a man could fix it.

Just ’cause, you know, it isn’t science without at least a trace amount of testosterone spilled on it.

Or — and this seems more likely to me — the editor is himself hard up for papers with his name on them, and desperately hopes that he’ll be the man they chose for co-author.

Source: Sexism in science: Peer editor tells female researchers their study needs a male author – The Washington Post

Regarding “Huckabee: The Supreme Court ‘Cannot Overrule God’ On Gay Marriage”

Download PDF

Gov. Huckabee is entirely correct: SCOTUS cannot overrule God.  The justices can’t make a gay marriage sanctified.  But then, they can’t make a straight marriage sanctified either.  It’s really quite simple:  To the extend that marriage is a sacrament, the government cannot have an opinion, and the marriage-equality suits do not speak to this.  To the extent that marriage is a social contract for the transmission of and management of property — i.e., its historical role in society — then the government can regulate and must ensure equality.  Anything else is sophistry.

That means I happen to agree with the loons in Oklahoma and elsewhere, though I disavow their motives:  Get the state out of marriage entirely.  Enact universal civil union laws that any pair of consenting adults may enter into, and leave the sacraments to the churches.

From Talking Points Memo:

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R), no stranger to mixing religion and politics, might have outdone himself on Wednesday night when he greeted the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.”I do not come to you tonight with the ability to speak Spanish. But I do speak a common language: I speak Jesus,” he said, according to CNN.

Full article: Huckabee: The Supreme Court ‘Cannot Overrule God’ On Gay Marriage

Josh Marshall, spot-on as always

Download PDF

From Talking Points Memo:

Yes, George W. Really Should Remain Silent

For all my many criticisms of him during his presidency, I have come to respect President Bush’s post-presidency. He’s kept out of the toxic political battles that came after he left office. He’s had the confidence or perhaps simply the realism and detachment to leave it to posterity to judge his presidency and not try to duke it out in the 24/7 press cycle like his toxic second Dick Cheney. And there are moments of grace like the recent 50th anniversary commemoration of the the March on Selma. DC’s Republican leadership stayed away. But Bush was there. One might argue that there was little to be gained by Republicans attending since, in the nature of things, it was not going to be a receptive audience and they would be upstaged infinitely by the iconic symbolism of an African-American President. But the same applies to Bush. And he was there.

Full article: Yes, George W. Really Should Remain Silent

Happy Victory over the Confederacy Day

Download PDF

Lee Surrenders

On this day one hundred fifty years ago, a scruffy, scrappy, but determined general accepted the surrender of his well-born, well-dressed, and traitorous counterpart, effectively ending a vast sedition launched in the name of slavery, orchestrated by cowardly politicians, and fought — like most wars are — by poor men dying at the behest of rich men. There was no nobility in the losing side; there was no honor; there was only the proposition that one man might justly hold another as property, and that in support of that one twisted principle, oaths may be broken, loyalty suborned, and a great democracy threatened with sectarian dissolution.

Stragglers of the Confederate army fought on for a few more weeks. Their descendants, stragglers of history, fight on today. Their cause is equally dishonorable, equally seditious, and, thankfully, equally ultimately futile.

 

One sentence can pull you out of an entirely fine essay

Download PDF

By Godot13 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

I actually agree with most of what Fareed Zakaria writes in his Washington Post op-ed “Why America’s Obsession with STEM Education is Dangerous“.  We need balanced, robust, well-rounded education, not narrow business-driven training.  It will take many different vantages points to see solutions to the problems we face in this hardest century of human history.  Students of mine often express shock (and perhaps a little betrayal) when they complain about, say, their history teacher and ask me “Don’t you think it’s just a waste of time?” only for me to reply that it is one of my favorite subjects.  As a physics guy, I obviously think we need more and better science teaching, but I also think we need more and better teaching in the humanities and the arts.

Having said that… boy, does this one sentence put me in a slow burn:

No matter how strong your math and science skills are, you still need to know how to learn, think and even write.

It angers me that Farakaria, with a vast platform, falls into the stereotypical thinking that these skills — learning, writing, thinking — are somehow not part of the math/science pool.  In actuality, of course, scientists, engineers, and coders practice those skills constantly.  While there are surely scientists who cannot write, there are English majors with the same problem.  STEM thinking isn’t the only kind of thinking we need, but it is thinking.  It is both disingenuous and insulting for him to imply otherwise.

I know it’s a small piece of a larger argument, but it still rankled me.

Thoughts on teaching, politics, life in general