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photo safari with Sarah in L.A. 2008

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Posted on February 28, 2008 at 12:00 PM in friends & family | Permalink | Comments (0)

Many issues to choose from 2008

I like this post from Jinx of I am only one... so much that I'm reproducing the whole thing here:

In tackling the problems facing our world right now, there's plenty of work to go around, and the efforts are not harmed by some specialization.  If I am talking about gender issues and you are focussed on racial bias --- or if I am talking about education and you are talking about environment --- we are not enemies.  There are enough of us to work on many fronts at once; there are enough fronts to keep all of us busy.  We can cooperate; we can each work on the issue that most stirs our energy at the moment; we can still understand that we are allies in making things better.

If we begin to fight each other over which is the single most important problem, we are wasting energy that could be used to address various problems.  We are also helping those who don't want to acknowledge the problems and don't want to see them solved.

Two very common arguments that serve the purpose of not solving problems are these:

(1)  If the person trying to address the issue is a member of the community (or nation) where the problem exists, the line is "How can you be so disloyal as to attack and criticize your own people."  If the person trying to help is not from the same community/nation, the line is "You are an outsider, you don't belong here, what business is it of yours, why don't you go work on what's wrong in your own home."

(2)  Regardless of whether the problem-solvers are local or not, the line is "How can you even talk about [this problem] when you haven't said anything about [some other problem]." 

Variations of these two arguments show up repeatedly.  They are virtually always distractions from the attempt to solve the problem, though often those who use them aren't consciously aware of that intention.   A good answer may be to describe the solution we're trying to achieve and ask, "Can you agree that it would be better if we achieved this change?  if it would be better, why fight over who helps to make it better?  why say that some other unrelated problem has to be solved before we can work on this one?"

(The original is here if you want to comment).


Posted on February 26, 2008 at 03:43 PM in warnings & kvetches | Permalink | Comments (2)

"All showings of Helvetica sold out. Jesus. This town."

-- Joseph Gratz, October 2007

Posted on February 24, 2008 at 06:49 PM in quotes | Permalink | Comments (3)

Chalmers on how to make America implode economically 2008

This is a clip from a new film, "Chalmers Johnson on American Hegemony," in Cinema Libre Studios' Speaking Freely series [no info on this film available on the site yet, though] in which Johnson discusses "military Keynesianism" and imperial bankruptcy. You can also read Johnson's latest piece on the subject, "Going Bankrupt: The Debt Crisis Is Now the Greatest Threat to the American Republic" at Tomdispatch.com

I'm looking forward to seeing the full film.

Posted on February 24, 2008 at 06:26 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Two of these and you'd fight to defend Madonna's honor."

-- Professor Wondrich on the French 75

Posted on February 24, 2008 at 05:53 PM in quotes | Permalink | Comments (0)

Spending money you don't have, on things that you destroy when you use them, which often both cause expensive ongoing damage and which reduce the desire for others to subsequently do business with you sure sounds like a recipe for economic disaster.

"Hey, honey, let's buy ostrich eggs, watches and art glass on credit and lob them around the neighborhood with a trebuchet!"

Astonishingly, this is how the USA spends much of its money.

There are three broad aspects to our debt crisis. First, in the current fiscal year (2008) we are spending insane amounts of money on "defense" projects that bear no relationship to the national security of the United States. Simultaneously, we are keeping the income tax burdens on the richest segments of the American population at strikingly low levels.

Second, we continue to believe that we can compensate for the accelerating erosion of our manufacturing base and our loss of jobs to foreign countries through massive military expenditures -- so-called "military Keynesianism," which I discuss in detail in my book Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic. By military Keynesianism, I mean the mistaken belief that public policies focused on frequent wars, huge expenditures on weapons and munitions, and large standing armies can indefinitely sustain a wealthy capitalist economy. The opposite is actually true.

Third, in our devotion to militarism (despite our limited resources), we are failing to invest in our social infrastructure and other requirements for the long-term health of our country. These are what economists call "opportunity costs," things not done because we spent our money on something else. Our public education system has deteriorated alarmingly. We have failed to provide health care to all our citizens and neglected our responsibilities as the world's number one polluter. Most important, we have lost our competitiveness as a manufacturer for civilian needs -- an infinitely more efficient use of scarce resources than arms manufacturing.

Read How To Sink America by Chalmers Johnson for more. Here are a few things that jumped out at me:

- "This brings U.S. spending for its military establishment during the current fiscal year (2008), conservatively calculated, to at least $1.1 trillion."

- "On November 7, 2007, the U.S. Treasury announced that the national debt had breached $9 trillion for the first time ever. ... When George [W.] Bush became president in January 2001, it stood at approximately $5.7 trillion."

- "'According to the U.S. Department of Defense, during the four decades from 1947 through 1987 it used (in 1982 dollars) $7.62 trillion in capital resources. In 1985, the Department of Commerce estimated the value of the nation's plant and equipment, and infrastructure, at just over $7.29 trillion. In other words, the amount spent over that period could have doubled the American capital stock or modernized and replaced its existing stock.' The fact that we did not modernize or replace our capital assets is one of the main reasons why, by the turn of the twenty-first century, our manufacturing base had all but evaporated."

- "'Today we are no longer the world's leading lending country.  In fact we are now the world's biggest debtor country'"

Posted on February 21, 2008 at 08:22 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1)

Really enjoying Jinx's new blog, I am only one...

Posted on February 21, 2008 at 04:55 PM in linky goodness | Permalink | Comments (0)

"At Best Buy reading about 802.11 draft N routers. Basically it sounds like it peels off your face and replaces it with the internet. Sold!"

- Jason Shellen (via Twitter)
April 5, 2007

Posted on February 19, 2008 at 02:27 PM in quotes | Permalink | Comments (0)

New tune tonight 2008

My old pal (Polyester) Lester just asked me to take a look at this great page for a new artist on his Belletrist Records label. Ladies & gents, I give you Batter Brown!

I like the song Lying On The Pavement best of these. Also be sure to highlight as instructed on the page.

Mmm, sure do love me some of that music of Alaskan school bus drivers...

Posted on February 17, 2008 at 07:27 PM in music | Permalink | Comments (2)

Coders of web sites may be interested in these clever tips from Niall Kennedy: Sniff browser history for improved user experience. Smart cookie, that Niall...

Posted on February 17, 2008 at 07:21 PM in web design & documentation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thanks to Thor for pointing out this post from David Brin with a brilliant suggestion for bringing some core honesty to political campaigns: Why The Candidates Should "Stipulate".

Posted on February 17, 2008 at 06:26 PM in politics & philosophy | Permalink | Comments (0)

Essential reading: Waving Goodbye To Hegemony 2008

I recall being interested in this article, Waving Goodbye To Hegemony, when it appeared in The New York Times Magazine on January 27, 2008, but it being quite long, didn't read the whole thing at the time. I've done so now and have to recommend it as some of the most insightful thinking on world power shifts I've encountered in the past decade.

Author Parag Khanna provides - in a surprisingly small package for the density of detail and intelligence - a grand overview of the three current superpowers, the European Union, China, and the United States, and of the swing (nation) states of the "second world" whose ties to these three are going to shape the next century and beyond.

I hope this has been assigned as reading in colleges and high schools around the world as it provides an excellent new view which illustrates how very much the world has changed since the cold war and will continue to change, particularly in the next decade.

Posted on February 17, 2008 at 06:06 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

A good holiday is one spent among people whose notions of time are vaguer than yours.

                   --J. B. Priestley

(About 95% of my great quotes come from my Uncle Larry who keeps putting irresistible ones at the ends of his nightly emails. Thanks, Larry!)

Posted on February 17, 2008 at 01:13 PM in quotes | Permalink | Comments (0)

Really enjoyed a (yet another) mind-stretching lecture from TED, this time Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Next Dilemma.

Posted on February 16, 2008 at 04:17 PM in the big room with the blue ceiling | Permalink | Comments (0)



[audience applauds discreetly] "Well played."

Posted on February 16, 2008 at 12:54 PM in politics & philosophy | Permalink | Comments (0)

Read this 2008

Thank you, Congressman Reyes.

Washington, DC - Congressman Silvestre Reyes, D-TX, Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, sent the following letter to President George W. Bush today regarding the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). The text of the letter is below:

President George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

The Preamble to our Constitution states that one of our highest duties as public officials is to "provide for the common defence." As an elected Member of Congress, a senior Member of the House Armed Services Committee, and Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, I work everyday to ensure that our defense and intelligence capabilities remain strong in the face of serious threats to our national security.

Because I care so deeply about protecting our country, I take strong offense to your suggestion in recent days that the country will be vulnerable to terrorist attack unless Congress immediately enacts legislation giving you broader powers to conduct warrantless surveillance of Americans' communications and provides legal immunity for telecommunications companies that participated in the Administration's warrantless surveillance program.

Today, the National Security Agency (NSA) has authority to conduct surveillance in at least three different ways, all of which provide strong capability to monitor the communications of possible terrorists.

First, NSA can use its authority under Executive Order 12333 to conduct surveillance abroad of any known or suspected terrorist. There is no requirement for a warrant. There is no requirement for probable cause. Most of NSA's collection occurs under this authority.

Second, NSA can use its authority under the Protect America Act, enacted last August, to conduct surveillance here in the U.S of any foreign target. This authority does not "expire" on Saturday, as you have stated. Under the PAA, orders authorizing surveillance may last for one year - until at least August 2008. These orders may cover every terrorist group without limitation. If a new member of the group is identified, or if a new phone number or email address is identified, the NSA may add it to the existing orders, and surveillance can begin immediately. We will not "go dark."

Third, in the remote possibility that a new terrorist organization emerges that we have never previously identified, the NSA could use existing authority under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to monitor those communications. Since its establishment nearly 30 years ago, the FISA Court has approved nearly every application for a warrant from the Department of Justice. In an emergency, NSA or the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) may begin surveillance immediately, and a FISA Court order does not have to be obtained for three days. The former head of FISA operations for the Department of Justice has testified publicly that emergency authorization may be granted in a matter of minutes.

As you know, the 1978 FISA law, which has been modernized and updated numerous times since 9/11, was instrumental in disrupting the terrorist plot in Germany last summer. Those who say that FISA is outdated do not understand the strength of this important tool.

If our nation is left vulnerable in the coming months, it will not be because we don't have enough domestic spying powers. It will be because your Administration has not done enough to defeat terrorist organizations - including al Qaeda -- that have gained strength since 9/11. We do not have nearly enough linguists to translate the reams of information we currently collect. We do not have enough intelligence officers who can penetrate the hardest targets, such as al Qaeda. We have surged so many intelligence resources into Iraq that we have taken our eye off the ball in Afghanistan and Pakistan. As a result, you have allowed al Qaeda to reconstitute itself on your watch.

You have also suggested that Congress must grant retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies. As someone who has been briefed on our most sensitive intelligence programs, I can see no argument why the future security of our country depends on whether past actions of telecommunications companies are immunized.

The issue of telecom liability should be carefully considered based on a full review of the documents that your Administration withheld from Congress for eight months. However, it is an insult to the intelligence of the American people to say that we will be vulnerable unless we grant immunity for actions that happened years ago.

Congress has not been sitting on its hands. Last November, the House passed responsible legislation to authorize the NSA to conduct surveillance of foreign terrorists and to provide clarity and legal protection to our private sector partners who assist in that surveillance.

The proper course is now to conference the House bill with the Senate bill that was passed on Tuesday. There are significant differences between these two bills and a conference, in regular order, is the appropriate mechanism to resolve the differences between these two bills. I urge you, Mr. President, to put partisanship aside and allow Republicans in Congress to arrive at a compromise that will protect America and protect our Constitution.

I, for one, do not intend to back down - not to the terrorists and not to anyone, including a President, who wants Americans to cower in fear.

We are a strong nation. We cannot allow ourselves to be scared into suspending the Constitution. If we do that, we might as well call the terrorists and tell them that they have won.


Silvestre Reyes
Member of Congress
Chairman, House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence

Posted on February 16, 2008 at 08:52 AM in politics & philosophy | Permalink | Comments (0)

War is only a cowardly escape from the problems of peace.


--Thomas Mann

Posted on February 16, 2008 at 08:44 AM in quotes | Permalink | Comments (0)

A Drink With Something In It

There is something about a Martini,
A tingle remarkably pleasant;
A yellow, a mellow Martini;
I wish I had one at present.
There is something about a Martini,
Ere the dining and dancing begin,
And to tell you the truth,
It is not the vermouth--
I think that perhaps it’s the gin.

- Ogden Nash

(Inspired? Good instructions & a bit of history here from Robert Hess)

Posted on February 15, 2008 at 03:44 PM in Food and Drink | Permalink | Comments (0)

Narrow Doors and Transitions Ahead 2008

Excellent essay by Jinx McCombs: "The Narrow Door"

So why does the real-life situation look so far from the 50-50 gender population distribution? And why are minorities also still represented at far below their demographic numbers?

My thesis, developed over decades of observation, is this: in a choice between a white male and any other, the "other" will be held to much stricter limits of personal characteristics, qualifications, and behavior. This is the Narrow Door.

The Narrow Door operates in two ways. First, the range of "acceptable" behavior is narrowed, usually at both ends of a scale. For example, a personal style which is seen positively in a white male as strong and authoritative is likely to be seen negatively in a woman as bossy and controlling. A man's "good support and coaching of staff" may be seen in a woman as "coddling and micro-managing."

Second, the Narrow Door often means that negative charges against a candidate --- especially if they fit previous stereotypes --- are accepted as true with little examination or evidence.

The Narrow Door works outside conscious awareness. (Common usage would be "subconsciously" but the term "outside conscious awareness" emphasizes that we can become aware of the influence and mitigate it.) But in highly competitive arenas such as national politics, some will exploit Narrow Door assumptions to damage opponents.


A more politically-anchored piece by Robin Morgan - Goodbye To All That #2 - makes similar points but ties them to anti-Hillary Rodham Clinton sentiments.

Goodbye to the toxic  viciousness  . . .

Carl Bernstein's disgust at Hillary’s “thick ankles.”  Nixon-trickster Roger Stone’s new Hillary-hating 527 group, “Citizens United Not Timid” (check the capital letters). John McCain answering “How do we beat the bitch?" with “Excellent question!” Would he have dared reply similarly to “How do we beat the black bastard?” For  shame.

Goodbye to the HRC nutcracker with metal spikes between  splayed thighs. If it was a tap-dancing blackface doll, we would be righteously outraged—and they would not be selling it in airports. Shame.

I have to agree that the level of sexism in criticisms of her and her campaign have been frequently revolting and the list which Robin Morgan describes - of which the few above are just the beginning - make the case strongly that Clinton is not being treated fairly in the media.

However, as much of a feminist as I am, I find myself more personally inspired by Obama's movement. Would I be happy with Hillary Rodham Clinton as president? Absolutely. Would I work hard for her campaign if she won the nomination? Yes, definitely. People I like and trust have worked intimately with her and her experience and skill cannot be denied.

But would I support her over Barack Obama for the nomination? No. Our choice of president must represent to the country and the world that we reject the international policies of George W. Bush.

I don't think you should vote for Hillary because you're both women or for Obama because you're both African-American. Vote for the candidate that represents the world you want to live in and whose policies will bring you closer to it.

To take Bill Clinton's famous sign about the economy, it's about the war, stupid.

I'm supporting Obama because peace matters more than what's in our pants or the color of our skin.


Or, put more succinctly:

How it Works

Many thanks to Randall for permitting hotlinking and for the excellent comics!

Posted on February 14, 2008 at 09:44 PM in politics & philosophy | Permalink | Comments (0)

Unexpected Time Off 2008

Tuesday night after dinner Joe and I were going to go over to Momi Toby's cafe and do an hour or so of work to make our Wednesdays go better. Since it's just round the corner I was carrying my laptop in my hands rather than in my backpack. On the bottom step I wasn't paying close attention to my feet and slipped, twisting my ankle to the side sharply. Fortunately, I had my precious lovely 12" PowerBook in my hands and so without thinking, instead of putting my hand out to catch myself and probably breaking my wrist or something, I landed hard on the sidewalk on my ass. Let's just say it's good that baby's got back; big bruise, but no lasting harm.

What was clearly not okay was my ankle. I lay still and had Joe bring me a big ice pack immediately so my foot could chill down while I assessed my condition without trying to stand. Clearly gonna be a bruise on my butt, yep. Scraped the right ankle a little falling, but doesn't feel like any internal problem, okay. But that left ankle, not good. Big twist and I think there was a kind of a noise. On the bright side, a very cautious exploratory wiggle of the big toe hurts like hell on the top of the foot but doesn't make me scream.

So into a cab, off to the ER and back home a couple hours later with a splint & crutches. Lay in bed or sat on the couch with my foot raised up on an ottoman all day yesterday. In the evening crutched my way verrrry carefully down the stairs for door to door delivery to & from Absinthe for a simply lovely anniversary celebration: their first cocktail pairing dinner.

This morning a follow-up appointment with the doctor to learn, yes, a break, but it's more of a chip really and at this point I'm not going to damage it further provided I keep it elevated & let it heal for week. No going to work. My company doesn't generally allow telecommuting (*sigh*) and if I can't go to work I'm certainly not making the planned weekend trip to Vegas, so I'm suddenly and surprisingly faced with the next 5 days completely free except for the physical constraints.

We'll see how I do at actually catching up on my reading and online projects, but prepare yourselves for more than the usual amount of blogging.

Posted on February 14, 2008 at 07:40 PM in health | Permalink | Comments (1)

flight home 2008

VX 832     LOS ANGELES, CA 06:25PM     SAN FRANCISCO, CA 07:45PM     A320

Posted on February 10, 2008 at 06:25 PM in travel | Permalink | Comments (0)

flight to Los Angeles 2008

VX 839     SAN FRANCISCO, CA 06:20PM     LOS ANGELES, CA 07:45PM     A320

Posted on February 8, 2008 at 06:20 PM in travel | Permalink | Comments (0)

Vote. 2008


Posted on February 4, 2008 at 09:01 PM in politics & philosophy | Permalink | Comments (0)

There's an important difference between a "bottom-up" approach and a "bottoms-up" approach.

-- Jesse James Garrett
who I now want to buy a drink for...

Posted on February 3, 2008 at 03:58 PM in quotes | Permalink | Comments (0)

If knowledge can create problems, it is not through ignorance that we can solve them.               

--Isaac Asimov

Posted on February 3, 2008 at 02:21 PM in quotes | Permalink | Comments (0)

Blog (noun) A weblog or similar brief journal usually containing links and commentary thereon. Term coined by Peter Merholz.

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