Saturday, October 14, 2006

Saturday the 14th

It's still Friday the 13th in the US and the Washington Times has this article (via slashdot)
"...It's double-13 Friday. All the numbers in the numerical notation -- 10/13/2006 -- add up to 13 as well, giving great pause to the superstitious.

The phenomenon hasn't happened in 476 years, said Heinrich Hemme, a physicist at Germany's University of Aachen who crunched the numbers to find that the double-whammy last occurred Jan. 13, 1520. "
I really like Philadelphia's haunted express where they
"...ask riders to walk under a ladder, break a mirror, step on a sidewalk crack and confront a black cat before embarking tonight, spokeswoman Leslie Bari said.

"Guests will have the opportunity to challenge superstition," she said."
Nothing unlucky happened to me yesterday, and I was waiting in anticipation. :)

Friday, October 13, 2006

Pandemic influenza awareness week

from Effect Measure via Aetilogy.
"Bird flu means pandemic risk. A pandemic could start at any time and, with modern travel, be all over the world in just a few days. Many people would be ill, a number would die, and we might run short of basic things like food, water and other supplies. We need to prepare for all of that now when there’s no pandemic, because there will be no time to prepare when the pandemic comes, and governments can not prepare everything for everyone.

The purpose of Pandemic Flu Awareness Week, and the Flu Wiki, is to allow the dissemination of information about pandemic flu preparation down to the local level so that everyone can use each others’ experience, planning and ideas. Flu Wiki is a non-profit website, and does not endorse specific products"

Marxism in Our Time - Segment One

I transcribed part one of Dr. Francisco Nemenzo's Lecture "Marxism in our Time" presented by the University of the Philippines Podcast Channel. Hearing Dr. Nemenzo lecture on Marx and Marxism reminded me why I became a socialist in the first place.

Here is the transcript
Sabi nga ni Marx, that if you produce a new means of production, new technology, you will have to reorganize the way you work and the way we relate to each other, that's why we are now just learning how to teach using this new technology.

Next to Niccolo Machiavelli, Karl Marx is the most maligned figure in our Social Science II syllabus. But unlike the others who are now immortalized in classical works that only fascinate the specialists, Karl Marx was able to attract legions of followers whose activities has made a tremendous impact in our life. So anyone who does a serious study of the 20th century cannot ignore Marx and the movement he inspired.

Marx however had the misfortune of being known not for what he actually said, but for what others have said about him. Most detractors who malign him, as well as the disciples who adore him have never studied any of his works. So the popular image of Marx is a caricature either drawn by western mass media or by the communist propaganda. My aim in this lecture is to encourage you to read Marx in his own words, to read the original works of Marx. To study the Marxism of Marx and not the Marxism of his detractors and his disciples.

Now if you are really interested, this is a good starter - The Communist Manifesto. It is short, elegantly written and it is available in the National Bookstore, sometimes you can even buy them for 100 pesos. But if you are adventurous, you are really serious, you can try Das Kapital. This is only the first volume, there are 3 more because Das Kapital comes in 4 volumes. That is for those who are really serious.

What I'm going to do this morning, is to highlight his most controversial ideas and to debate with his contemporary critics. The contemporary critics dismiss Marxism outright as a jurassic ideology out of touch with current reality. The basis for this claim is the fact that the communist regimes in Russia, and Eastern Europe has collapsed whilke China and Vietnam have adopted capitalist ways. But those who have actually studied the works of Marx and shared his commitment to the socialist vision find no reason to discard him. They are convinced that his critique of capitalism is even more relevant now than at the height of the cold war. Marxism I think will survive for as long as there is any form of exploitation. As for me, it was not the presence of a formidable Soviet state that attracted me to Marxism but the rigor of his analysis and the eloquence of his advocacy for revolutionary change.

Contrary to what the critics say, Marx did not offer a blueprint for heaven on earth. The Soviet and Maoist systems, were not patterned after a preconceived model of a perfect society. therefore the failure of the systems in Russia and China does not disprove Marx. If it was not to propose a program for creating an ideal society, what was Marx trying to do in his numerous books and articles, which are by the way compiled in 45 different volumes. Well the answer is that he was just trying to analyze capitalism. So if you want to know about socialism or communism, do not bother with Das Kapital. But if you want to know how capitalism works, you have much to learn from Das Kapital. Nowhere in this 4 volume opus magnum will you find a prescription of how a communist society is to be organized and governed.

Marx analyzed capitalism using a methodology that he called Dialectical Materialism. This methodology starts from the axiom that everything changes except change itself. Applied to human society, it assumes that society is in a state of constant flux and the job of social science is to uncover the laws underlying the process of change. But what for? Just as the conventional economists and the professors of business administration study capitalist society for the purpose of managing it more efficiently Marx analyzed capitalism for the purpose of facilitating it's overthrow. as he put it in his 11th theses of Feurbach "Philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways, The point however is to change it."

Another axiom of Dialectical Materialism is that the forces of social change are inherent in the society itself. Society consists of antagonistic classes whose interests contradict each other. The struggle between them lies at the root of every historical event that brings about major changes in society. In the life cycle of a given social system like capitalism, piecemeal or evolutionary changes are introduced in response to concrete problems but there comes a point where the system can no longer accommodate further changes without destroying itself. At this point, evolution gives way to revolution. The class struggle according to Marx, is an objective fact, that is, it occurs even if the contending classes are unaware that their interests are irreconcilable. In fact a society to maintain itself, to preserve the status quo, fabricates a myth or what Marx calls an ideology, to make the existing class structure look like the natural order of things. The dominant ideology assuages the conscience of the elite that their priveledges are rightfully theirs. The dominant ideology, also makes the oppressed believe that their duty is to obey their natural superiors.

A revolution only becomes possible, if and when the dominant ideology breaks down and the subordinate classes gain consciousness of their own interests and organize themselves to overthrow existing systems and stand for a new social order. A revolution as Marx used the term is a fundamental change in society. That dramatic moment when the militant section of the subordinate class seizes political power is only the starting point, more crucial is how it rebuilds a new social system upon the ruins of the old.

Marx would not have considered EDSA 1 and EDSA 2 a revolution because both merely replaced the occupant in MalacaƱang. After 2 EDSA's, the Philippine state still pursues essentially the same foreign policies and the same development strategy because it continues to serve the same ruling class.

Marx did not consider the outbreak of violence as the essence of revolution. As a general rule however, the ruling class will not relinquish their wealth and power without a fight thus compelling the subordinate class to fight back. But Marx gave an allowance that in countries with well established democratic institutions, where the leading politicians respect the rules of the game, the revolution may occur peacefully. A social scientist who is not a captive of the dominant ideology, should analyze the existing social system in order to identify the class which radical change could bring, The class in the social system that has no vested interest in its preservation and for that purpose, Marx dedicated/devoted his whole life, suffering extreme deprivation, in order to analyze capitalism.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

UP Lectures

While googling Dr. Francisco Nemenzo, I came across the University of the Philippines Podcast Channel. The channel contains audio lectures by faculty members of the University on different topics. The topics uploaded are:
  1. Marxism in Our Time by Dr. Francisco Nemenzo
  2. Machiavelli and the Rise of Political Realism by Dr. Francisco Nemenzo
  3. Classical Liberal Political Economy: Adam Smith by Prof. Emmanuel De Dios
  4. Political Obligation and Legitimacy: Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau by Prof. Carolina Hernandez
  5. Medieval Political Thought: St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas by Prof. Athena Lydia Casambre
I'm sure they will be adding to the topics.

No to Nukes

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Random (Korni) Thought

Akala natin nakaligtas na tayo sa Millennium bug, Milenyo bag(yo) pala ang tatama sa atin. :)

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Nobel academy? No way! How did you get my number?

"Astrophysicist George Smoot spends his days pondering the origin of the universe. But when his phone rang before dawn on Tuesday with news that he and fellow American John Mather won the 2006 Nobel prize for physics, he was skeptical about the origin of the phone call."
If only EEE can be this skeptical. I would like to report that he's given up, he has not.

read more | digg story

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Penny Pinching

Came across this article by Daniel Gross in Slate about idiotic practices that companies do to save a miniscule amount of money at the cost of employee morale.

Part 1: Pinching the Penny Pinchers

Part 2: More Idiotic Corporate Penny-Pinching Measures

Some quotes
"Lots of you complained about your company's idiotic plan to cut costs by clamping down on the purchase and use of office supplies. J.S., a former employee of U.S. Bank, recalled that the company refused to order or pay for Post-it notes. At a very large name-brand data provider, pens and Post-its are apparently kept under lock and key."
"According to one correspondent, managers at a data center of a different firm were asked to "keep a listing (on a piece of paper) of each clip that we used, and the reason for the use!"
"Why do efforts to save on Post-its and paper clips arouse so much derision? You'd be hard-pressed to come up with an item that is cheaper than paper clips. At Staples, a box of 100 can be had for 49 cents. And large companies that buy in bulk certainly get an even better deal. What's more, these aren't exactly luxury items. People generally use paper clips, Post-its, pens, and notebooks to complete corporate chores. And yet companies presume that their workers show up each morning not for the wages and the benefits but for the opportunity to stuff stacks of purple stickies and tiny coils of very low-grade steel into their bags.

Family Planning Advice

read more | digg story

Day Against DRM

"DRM (officially, its Digital Rights Management) is the name for any technology that restricts the usage of digital media. Although not limited to music, the DRM in the music industry has been criticized more than other mediums in recent months."

The Martian narrates his brush with DRM in music.

read more | digg story

Monday, October 02, 2006

Star Trek: Not Sexist

"From now on, when anyone rolls into the Trek fan forum, spits their gum out onto the floor, and oafishly declares that Kirk was a heterosexual horndog who porked all of the chicks, I want you all to boldly and confidently SCOFF at them. Scoff also if they say that all the TOS women were bimbos in miniskirts who were nothing but eye-candy. The only proper reaction to such ill-informed opinions is round, sound scoffery"
read more | digg story