Friday, 9 October 2009

Obama is a winner

I was shocked to hear the news today that Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize. I thought it was a joke at first, maybe something from the Borowitz Report, or the Onion. Nope. It really happened. I am happy that an American won it, and that Obama is the first sitting President to win since Woodrow Wilson, who won it in 1919 for creating the League of Nations and negotiating the disasterous Treaty of Versailles.

The fact is that Obama has made a terrific start on his foreign policy agenda (not so much his domestic agenda), probably in part due to Hillary Clinton's efforts among others. As an expat living in London, I can assure you that he has had an astonishing impact on world opinion of the US. He has also inspired people around the world, most notably Kenyans (but not all Nigerians apparently!). Add to that his improvement in US relations in the Middle East, his building of real coalitions to oppose nuclear weapons proliferation, his improvement in anti-terrorism outcomes (as opposed to rhetoric), and his shelving of the useless Star Wars program.

However, I am bewildered at the timing of this award. Obama was nominated less than 2 weeks after being sworn in. Though he has gotten a very good start on policies that could lead to peace, little has actually come to fruition yet. Add to that his aggressive stance on Afganistan, and the risk that he will escalate that war a la LBJ in Vietnam. I think it is too early to consider him for this award, and think that the Nobel Committee could have waited a couple of years.

That said, let's not fool ourselves into thinking that the Nobel Peace Prize is given to the current paragon of peace. It has always been highly political. For example:

1989 HH Dalai Lama
I am a big fan and follower of His Holiness. He could win it every year, as far as I am concerned. However, it can not be denied that he won in '89 as a punishment of China for Tiananman Square.

1994 Yasser Arafat, Shimon Perez, Yitzhak Rabin
What really came from their peace talks? Not much. They were not really men of peace. This prize was awarded in the HOPE that they would do something to lead to peace. It was driving the Nobel agenda. Full points for effort.

2002 Jimmy Carter and 2005 Mohamed El Barradei
Both were worthy recipients IMO, but one must recognize that these were meant as a slap in the face to Dubya.

2007 Al Gore
I like Al, and I think his work on climate change is extremely important. However, this was also for Dubya.

So, I conclude that this award was meant not only as a last swing at Dubya, but an attempt to influence Obama. I can't see why else they would give this award so early in Obama's term, rather than waiting until he has actually seen positive results from his efforts. While I agree with that motivation, I am not sure it is helpful. Conservatives in the US are already having a field day with this. It remains to be seen if they will manage to turn it against Obama, as they have the loss of the Olympics in Chicago.

Monday, 30 March 2009

Say NO! to circumcision!

There has been a lot of news floating around about the supposed benefits of circumcision.  Research has shown that it is effective in reducing rates of infection for a variety of sexually transmitted diseases, and is generally considered a more hygienic way of being.  However, it turns out that much of this research has been poorly conducted, and are likely WRONG. It is a classic case of scientists not controlling variables, and having confounded data as a result. For example, they compared circumcised (Jewish) with uncircumcised (gentile), and found lower infection rates.  It turns out that Jews and gentiles behave differently (who knew?).  Jews were less promiscuous than the gentiles, and this screwed the data (so to speak).

Perhaps we should adopt a general approach to questions like this.  If having a foreskin was actually harmful, shouldn't evolution have done something about it?  From now on, let's agree that anything that exists in nature, from mosquitos to e. coli, must serve some purpose in the ecosystem as a whole, and should not be dispensed with offhand. Just sayin'

Back to circumcision.  Now there is another reason to keep the mohel away from your boys.  It turns out that the prepuce (another word for the foreskin), is incredibly valuable.  Unlike any other piece of skin, the prepuce can be stretched almost infinitely, and used to replace the damaged skin of burn victims.  When taken from an infant, before the immune system kicks in and makes transplants difficult, the prepuce can be stretched to the size of several football fields by growing the cells on a polymer fabric in a nutrient solution. If you don't believe me, here is the article.

So, rather than just hacking off this part of our most vulnerable males, perhaps we should leave things as nature intended.

Monday, 9 March 2009

Long time, no see! Who?

A quick apology to the legions of readers secretly following my blog.  I have been exceedingly busy.  First of all, my school robotics team is kicking butt and taking names.  You should add their website to your bookmarks, since they will soon be rocking Annapolis at the Chesapeake Bay FIRST Robotics Regional competition.  Anyway, from Jan. 3 to Feb 17, we were working every day after school until 8pm and on Saturday!  You know what they say about school on Saturday?  NO CLASS.

Speaking of Saturday, the last one SUUUUCCCCKKKKEEEEDDDD.  Majorly.  I presented at the ECIS Technology Conference with some colleagues involved in the robotics team.  This is a conference designed for techie nerds like me (and worse).  Still, only three people attended my talk on FIRST Lego League, and exactly one came for my FIRST Robotics talk.  ONE FUCKING PERSON!  That is called a waste of time.  I gotta change my approach, I think.

So,  I need to go to bed now, but I promise all of you that I will write something about economics soon.  Promise...