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How to handle the refugee crisis in Europe?

By on Aug 28, 2015 in Society | 0 comments

Europe is facing its worst refugee crisis since World War II. Ironically, the cause seems to be the havoc caused by US-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the current destruction of Syria caused by factionalized fighting between NATO-supported forces, those loyal to the regime, and ISIS. Daily, it seems, there are more discoveries of people dying in boats trying to cross the Mediterranean, or being killed in some other sinister fashion (as in these 71 people who suffocated in an abandoned truck). It is unlikely that European countries, (at least those that have  supported Western military action in these regions), considered the consequences of military action at the time they provided such support. If they had, they probably would have been much slower to agree to such campaigns and may have been more interested in looking for alternatives to war. After all, the entire premise of...

NASA – World “locked in” to 3 feet of sea level rise

By on Aug 27, 2015 in Climate | 0 comments

It’s difficult for most people to wrap their heads around climate change because there really isn’t a everyday frame of reference. People plan their lives around certain factors which they think are predictable and will never change – the weather in a certain location, where family is living, the location of the office. There is already so much going on in life, staying psychologically healthy requires fundamental assumptions that some things are more stable than others. And one of those things, like it or not, is climate. So when NASA releases news that says that the world is “locked in” to 3 feet of sea level rise, and that worst-case scenarios for sea level rise (which assume 21 feet of rise) may be too conservative, most people are likely to understand what those words mean, but will not be able to process what it is those words mean — that,...

Trump as the Trickster

By on Aug 27, 2015 in Society | 0 comments

Trump’s success in the polls calls to mind the archetype of the Trickster.   Wikipedia has a good summary on this archetype: In mythology, and in the study of folklore and religion, a trickster is a god, goddess, spirit, man, woman, or anthropomorphisation which exhibits a great degree of intellect or secret knowledge, and uses it to play tricks or otherwise disobey normal rules and conventional behaviour. It is suggested by G.P. Hansen that the term “Trickster” was probably first used in this context by Daniel G. Brinton in 1885 Famous Tricksters include Loki, the coyote in some myths, and even arguably the serpent in Genesis. Tricksters are able to cross back and forth the boundaries of social conventions at ease, and are even famous for doing so. I have no idea if Trump is a serious Republican candidate or a Democratic Party double agent. The fact that we are...

Why we should care about the dissolution of the UPP in South Korea

By on Dec 29, 2014 in Politics | 0 comments

Earlier this month, the Unified Progressive Party (the UPP), the third largest political party in South Korea, was dissolved by the Korean Constitutional Court as constituting a “threat to the democratic order”. The UPP advocated for peaceful reconciliation with the North and immediate dialogue. It was accused of acting as a fifth column in South Korea. The Guardian, ABC News and the Los Angeles Times have some good articles about the dissolution. In November of this year, I flew to South Korea to provide assistance to the UPP in its efforts to avoid dissolution. I submitted papers to the Korean constitutional court and made the case that a free and open society should encourage political discourse. Nothing that I had seen substantiated any claims that the UPP was “in league with the enemy” or was conspiring against the South Korean government. Indeed, the UPP...

100 years after the Christmas Truce

By on Dec 28, 2014 in Society | 0 comments

The Christmas Truce in World War I , in which soldiers in opposing armies laid down their arms to observe Christmas, is a story that is largely forgotten by history. This year marks the 100 year anniversary of the Christmas Truce. This forgetting is unfortunate: The Christmas Truce is a reminder that most people, perhaps the vast majority of people, are good, decent people, largely caught by forces outside their control, and if given the opportunity, seek ways to connect with other people, even ostensible enemies. As explained by Wikipedia: “In the week leading up to the holiday, German and British soldiers crossed trenches to exchange seasonal greetings and talk. In areas, men from both sides ventured into no man’s land on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day to mingle and exchange food and souvenirs. There were joint burial ceremonies and prisoner swaps, while several meetings...

Reexamining the death penalty

By on May 5, 2014 in Law, Politics, Society | 0 comments

The execution of Clayton Lockett on April 29, 2014 calls for serious reexamination of the death penalty. Lockett was to be executed for his role in a rape and murder of an 18 year old woman. Lockett reportedly writhed for close to an hour as executioners struggled to make the cocktail of drugs enter his body or otherwise work. The execution was called off, but Lockett eventually died of a heart attack soon after. The Kafka-esque brutality of Lockett’s execution was heightened by the use of drugs, needles, and lab coats. Previous to his execution, Oklahoma had denied Lockett’s request that the state disclose the contents of the cocktail used to kill him. One becomes reminded of the medical experimentation done by tyrannical regimes elsewhere, outlawed under international law. As the Second Circuit has recognized, “[t]he medical trials at Nuremberg in 1947 deeply...

Tech needs a strong California

By on Apr 5, 2014 in Society | 0 comments

I don’t agree with venture capitalist Tim Draper’s plan to split California into six different states. But I do think there is a lot of value in thinking and imagining different types of political structures for California. California doesn’t need to be split up. California needs to be strengthened. In fact, a thriving tech industry requires a strong California. Strengthening the UC system, for example, would produce more innovation and expertise in engineering and the sciences. A stronger California health care initiative — perhaps a single payer California system — would encourage entrepreneurship and help mend the frayed social fabric. Prison reform, desperately needed, would place people back in jobs and reduce social costs, again strengthening the economy and helping tech to thrive. Instead of taking California apart, Californians should be thinking...

Senate report paints grim picture on torture

By on Apr 4, 2014 in Law | 0 comments

While the Senate moved only yesterday to declassify some of its report relating to the CIA’s use of torture during the Bush era, contents of the report have already been leaked. They paint a grim and disturbing picture of the crimes that were committed by government agencies at least in the previous decade. These crimes include conduct that amounts to torture. CIA officials reportedly destroyed evidence of their use of torture, even though publicly they claimed that the use of so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” provided actionable evidence with respect to terrorism. The information disclosed in the Senate report would provide more than a sufficient basis for a more formal inquiry by the United States Department of Justice, or even by state legal authorities who could prosecute officials for state crimes, to the extent such conduct was criminal under state...