Saturday, June 30, 2007

all publicity is NOT good publicity

Well maybe the USMC decided the case might not go their way. Every case is different. Ehren Watada made a stink because Iraq was a totally bogus incursion and he had the balls to say so. Entertainers, including conservative commentators, clearly act according to the old PR saying that "all publicity is good". But I wonder if the Military have concluded that "making examples" of persons in uniform who resist an immoral war has reached the point that it will backfire.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Let's give Bush a 3rd term!

I am about half serious here. Just think of how it would play out...

If it doesn't kill us all, Cheney and his chimp are not only their own worst enemies but supply endless proof of the toxic consequences that grow from the polluted "principles" and vacuous "values" hacked up from conservative stink tanks over the last two decades. Leave these cowards and corrupters no room to claim they were stabbed in the back. That would indulge one of their favorite political passion plays involving their martyrhood which is a recruiting tool of savage effectiveness. Don't let them see even the appearance of an excuse that they were held back from fully implementing their "reforms". Leave the "reformers" now in jail where they are. But, since one of the things struck and killed by the triumph of conservative will is the US Constitution, wink away the 22nd amendment and insist that the blame duck serve his nation as farsightedly as ever, insist that his looting lieutenants ignore reality until the last soldier dies or deserts and the Chinese foreclose on our national debt.

The 25% who still suck up to him and his coterie of fascists might be reduced to 10% in another three years. There will always be some small percentage who will go down into the bunker with Cheney at the end, bearing cans of gasoline for their gotterdammerung bonfire. That remnant we can kick to the curb and get on with the impeachments. The die-hard dimwit conservatives of Rove's patchwork coalitions will be slow to learn what a majority of us have been appalled at for the last 6 years. But it may be worth the pain of more deaths in Iraq and more Katrina-sized domestic neglect to open the eyes of an undeniable majority, larger than the 51% who "lost" the election in 2000. It may be useful to have a yet deeper and even more dramatic divide between the small wealthy class, who might think Bush an idiot but a very useful idiot, and the rest of us who earn our shrinking dollars. The rest of us may be ready to dine on the one percent who will be able to actually afford health care in a third Bush term. Change will finally flow from every vein rather than be coaxed by wily political stratagems. We must do better than having only the Thom Hartmann's and a few economists join the hardy liberals in wonder at a tapped out nation with its staggering no-growth economy in the shadow of a record Dow Jones average. If we just leave the corpse of neoconservative administration to hang right where it its lines to heaven have tangled around its neck and leave it there long enough, the stink will be undeniable and inescapable.

It is a shame. Many of us wised up long ago or were never fooled at all but not enough of us. It will be a much healthier country when a solid 80% or more of us repudiate the warmongering and the privatizing: the dumbass foot dragging congress will be gone and the obstructions to peace, the sabotage of domestic infrastructure and education can be steamrolled. The whiny neurotics like Jonah Goldberg who have made a living for the last 20 years scripting and enabling our nascent tepid American fascism will have the truth shouted in their faces even by children: a majority of the people who want their taxes spent for the common good is NOT fascism.

Nothing like a long painful hangover to give you a long term aversion to drinking...or picking a president primarily because you thought he'd be more the more fun guy with whom to share a drink.

Note from my shrink: Greensmile, you did not have enough time to do any proper blogging or gather corroborating links this week but events and news have wrought their usual toll on your equanimity. Even without benefit of any particular factual news items or insight, it will do you good to rant as though fresh and specific outrages burn you up. What are blogs for anyway?

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Your tax dollars buy more irony

Peeking at you from between the lines of this somewhat technical debunking of the latest twist taken by the global warming denialists, you might notice a bit of irony. The twist is the "saturation" argument against human impact, to wit, that there is already too much carbon dioxide in the air and more won't matter. The proof that, hell yes, it does matter lays in a mountain of expensive data on atmospheric absorption of infrared radiation. Do you suppose the Cheney administration worries much about adding more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere? While Cheney's puppet postures at the G8 summit with his recently discovered concern for the climate, we still spend billions of dollars per week and many lives to secure a supply of Iraqi oil. Where is the carbon in that oil going to wind up?

So who paid for that inconvenient data? The Department of Defense.

I really don't think we are getting our money's worth.

My Operation Democracy group will be hosting a "Live Planet" event on July 7. Look for one near you. Its a town hall meeting to watch candidates answer our questions about climate problems and a chance to see what others are doing about global warming.

In ways big and small today, the NY Times reminds us that if we don't pay more attention to real leaders like Al Gore, or even Robert Redford, and give less attention [but more subpoenas] to Darth Cheney and crew, we will be reading headlines about drought, famine and bloodshed for decades and the numbers dying now will pale by comparison.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

braking the news

This is the full text of an e-mail I am sorry to have recieved. A few of you may have gotten this but Radio Open Source deserves a bigger community:

This is not the news we ever dreamed of sharing with you.

After tomorrow's broadcast we are putting Open Source on a summer hiatus. We learned late last week that a brand-name media company that had asked to partner with us had changed its mind. So for now, the best hope on the near horizon of relaunching the program and refinancing it has gone aglimmering.

Without a substantial new funder, we cannot keep paying our bills. Your help and support has helped bridge the cost of production these last six weeks and helped pay some of our debts. For now the most responsible thing seems to be to regroup and think realistically about a new program for the fall.

We are actively dedicated, all day every day, to the essential mission: seizing the epochal opportunity of the web to stretch the public conversation... to hybridize media, to enlist the audience, to extend the palette of colors in the cultural as well as the political conversation; in short to democratize and globalize one model forum of constructive talk for the new century.

Many of you have told us to forget about conventional public broadcasting and concentrate on producing the best damn podcast on the Internet. So in order to clear our heads, accentuate the positive and focus resolutely on the future, we need to step back for the moment from daily production.

Keeping the OS website alive and dynamic is a top priority. Please don't just watch the site. Help fill it. We want to post content regularly. What would you like to see or hear? We'll post conversations we've already scheduled with Harold Bloom and Larry Summers. We've asked Sonny Rollins if he would care to stretch out again before his 50th anniversary trio concert with Roy Haynes and Christian McBride in Carnegie Hall in September. So many things to talk about, so little time! You've helped us create this space... now what do you want to do with it?

If you can help us reconceive all the fundamental things -- a conversation that's a little different, that's global and alert to the interactive possibilities of the Internet -- by all means consider yourself enlisted. If you see a threads of successful shows -- passion series, race-and-class series, musical series -- that could be models going forward, please speak up.

By far the hardest part of this decision is disbanding our amazing staff. They've stuck by us over the last two years in an intense colleague-ship of work and learning together. They have contributed mightily to the interest of the show and the website. We want to work with them again.

As always, Emerson speaks to a great deal of what we're feeling. This comes from the end of his marvelous essay "Circles."

"Nothing is secure but life, transition, the energizing spirit. No love can be bound by oath or covenant to secure it against a higher love. No truth so sublime but it may be trivial to-morrow in the light of new thoughts. People wish to be settled; only as far
as they are unsettled is there any hope for them."

Thank you for passionate, engaged listenership and commentary these last two years. And let us all together keep this "community of the curious" alive and growing.

In the spirit of Emerson: Onward, ever onward!

Christopher Lydon and Mary McGrath

Our postal address is
15 Mt. Auburn Street
Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138
United States

This makes me sad, even though I gave Christopher a bad time for his frenentic pacing on the show, it was sometimes an astounding thing to listen to and always, always thought provoking. He has been a bit of a Phoenix before, keep an eye on the ashes. Does this mean radio has been killed by the iPod? Does it mean intelligent talk radio is an oxymoron? Does it mean web+radio mashups are a poor bet? Does it mean we didn't send in enough money when the main sponsor pulled out a month ago?...keep an eye on the ashes.

my faith

If you start with the "why" because you think you know why and work out the "how" from that, you have a religion and it is founded on the fog they call faith.

If you start with the "how" as you discover it and as you can prove it and work out the "why" when that is possible, then you have a science and it rests as solidly on reality as your logic will support.

In the latter case, your one article of faith is that there is any knowable consistency in nature which the senses neither lie about nor explain.

Monday, June 25, 2007

a new feature

I know better by now than to ask your opinions on anything because hardly anyone comments on this blog. I have more or less democratic impulses and don't think I have a clue unless I have seen a lot of comments. On the other hand, I think there are some things I can post where even one response is a tiny blow for freedom, a halting step in the right direction.

I have causes, you know. I click through at the drop of a polling email and add my name to any plea or petition that sounds just. The lame "nobody reads those things" is not quite true as I have found out from collecting signatures for MoveOn write-your-congress-critter campaigns. If you think you should only do activist things if they have guarantees of high drama and maximum impact, you are a useless poser. You should go for the most effective things that you can actually and regularly get off your backside and follow through on your good intentions. If you don't have time for meetings or the energy to go to rallies or run a phone bank, that is a really lousy excuse to not at least sign a petition or send an email to your representative when the opportunity is handed to you. Time is precious for all of us but if you don't devote a little of it to expressing demands for more justice and research and less warfare and corporate welfare, you will find the quality of life obtained in all that time you hoarded is shoddy.

One of the ways to burn out the "volunteer" who hardly does anything anyway is to overflow his or her inbox with pleas for more money, more letters written, more get-togethers to plan how to budge the establishment a few more millimeters. I know. I have one or two of those in boxes.

So I inaugurate "The Daily Cause" RSS feed from a blog that recaps all the "action alerts" emails for the various causes I think you should be aware of. Those emails always want me to pass on the message to 50 friends--by email. How long would you stay in touch with someone who sent you 5 or ten solicitations for good causes every day? I am going to offer you the " you call me, I won't call you" approach. You can take or leave it but the feed will be in a box on the sidebar. You can act like a responsible liberal without wading through a tide of well intended emails that by dint of sheer volume, begin to feel like a spam tsunami. There will always be a link under the subject to which you can go if you get the urge to do a little good in the world.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

I did hot wire it

I said I would not install and remove circuits in a live 200 amp breaker panel and I reasoned, at the prospect, along the lines of an old post in which I observed my own long journey into caution. But when I opened the breaker panel and looked at each step to be taken and the armamentarium of tools I possess it didn't seem so daunting.

maybe the over caution of a conservative attitude is not so much learned reflex or misfired cognitive development but a matter of what you do on autopilot and assumption vs what you do with your eyes open, with a simple consciousness of what is present before you rather than its history, its associations and your habits having the lions share of your thought.

I should face the fact that my handyman-foo and my hot water heater drama is the stuff of a haircut blog, but if I were that honest about the cosmic significance I try to milk out of my mundane doings there would be no blog at all. You may want to pass by the rest of this post as it really isn't anything more than you would see in five minutes of This Old House...during a writers strike.

The new heaters were set on a proper level slab of blue stone and plumbed as a subsystem. That allows pressure testing before turning off the old heater. The extra valving serves several purposes:
  • cutting back to a single 30 amp heater when its just the two of us here. Either unit can be isolated from the house water system and electrical system.
  • a bypass arrangement in the cold water supply. This can be used to preheat the cold water via a heat exchanger. Several sources or potential sources are available.
    1. We have a "hot water bank" coolant loop in our heat pump which we have never hooked up.
    2. We could exchange heat with the pool which typically is 20 degrees F warmer than our well water.
    3. And there is 3/4 inch copper pipe plumbed up to the pitch of the roof which is oriented exactly south and pitched a fairly efficient 4-in-5 considering our 42 degrees north latitude. Yes, I new 15cents/kwh electricity was only a matter of time, even 25 years ago. So did your power company and the DOE but screwing you with profitable old technology is preferable to them. Our break-even threshold for solar collector with a 20 year life to preheat domestic hot water is around 13 cents/kwh and we just hit 11 cents.
  • provision for draining either hot water or cold water side of the system independently
  • from my software engineering, I know to always design for testability.
The last two were project savers because on the first test, water squirted every which-a-way and draining and resoldering were needed.
My plumber's nightmare turns out to be Home Depot's wet dream

The worst part of wiring a live breaker panel is how stiff, 8-gauge wire has a mind of its own. The rest is good tools, common sense and lots of practice. The 50-amp breaker was putting the children of the power company's shareholders through college. Its gone. The orange wire is the first of the new circuits wired to the 30 am breaker with the more tractable 10-gauge.

The wiring did not leak. So I cut the dying behemoth out of the system and sweated the final two joints that put the new heaters to work. The old heater was so tall it had to be tilted to get it to clear the floor.
So the bottom line is that we will save money now, go a little easier on the planet and, when penny pinching comes to shove, be able to alter usage to yet greener means.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

essentialism by another name?

[this is another one of those posts that was only a comment but I grew impatient with the moderation dwell time.]
Amanda Marcotte put up an challenging post that cuts into a particular way in which Democratic party hopefuls attempt to please all the people all the time and wind up unidentifiable in their position or character. But in the comments she shines an especially clear light on one of her big issues:

Lakoff’s take on abortion is interesting—he thinks and I agree that it’s a debate over how to define “woman”. The conservative view is that because women can have babies, that’s basically our essence and to have an abortion is to assert otherwise. The liberal view is that each person and situation is different and a woman’s whole being needs to be the consideration when deciding if abortion is right, and since that’s so individual, it’s best left up to the woman herself.

The confusion arises over what always creates tension between essentialist and humanist views of women—most people have a hodge podge. We agree, for instance, that women have a right to be educated, but we blanch at suggesting that it’s perfectly fine for a woman to dress masculine. That’s how it goes with abortion, I think. A lot of people recognize the right intellectually but are made uncomfortable by what is coded in our society as a rejection of essential womanhood.

Which is why it’s so powerful to point out that most women who have abortions are mothers or will be mothers. It reminds people that the perceived conflict between “human” and “female” is a falsehood.

I just had to thank her for putting the matter in such suitably harsh light.

It seems to me that Marcotte and Lakoff are offering the essentialist view [as Chris explains it at mixing memory] as a theory of the cruel and broken incompleteness of much conservative "thinking". In a way, the mistake of essentialism, i.e. ignoring the complexity of real entities and organisms and especially people in favor of a token idea of the "nature" of that thing or being, reminds me strongly of the thesis that in the process of rendering a population susceptible to political manipulation via appeals to emotion, leaders carry out a campaign of substituting symbol for substance. Lobel & Loewenstein are legal scholars looking into how emotion takes over what should be more deliberative processes in law, national policy, politics and economics but they wind up finding fascists to be the most effective and the most intentional users of this kind of manipulation.

Applied to the abortion debate then, hammering the simple notion that women=mothers is like saying "Motherhood is the symbol for women... "[and, to finish the sentence with words Amanda might use to characterize the abortion opponents: "..., so shut up and bear children"]. And, like any other use of emotion in place of reason for political ends, power is the ultimate goal of the manipulator.

You may recall I mentioned that Lobel and Loewenstein paper maybe a year ago but I did not make the connection between essentialism and the casting of complex players into simple symbols until just now.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

How not to put a lid on date rape

In Boston, the statistics I have heard on the news are that about one rape case out of every 100 involves a "date rape drug". I don't date any more and I never did like bars so I am probably the last person who should have an opinion. But I agree with the doubters about a proposed requirement that bars in Boston affix a doily-like cover over mixed drinks they serve. One city councilor is arguing for such a regulation.

The TV news "sampled" opinion in its usual way so I heard one woman for it and one against it. From this I know nothing. The bar owners think it is ridiculous. If they make it a customers-choice option, what kind of message would a woman on a date be sending if she tells the waitstaff "I'll take my Margarita with a lid please"? When you date someone you are excruciatingly aware of what impression you are making. Even after the first date, you don't necessarily know how trustworthy and sane a guy is. A guy who is sick enough that he would enjoy sex with a limp semi-conscious woman doesn't seem like he'd win a second date but like I said, its been years since I made any first hand observations of the dating scene. (wouldn't a Viagra+testosterone cocktail be more fun?) What I am getting at here is that even if this protection were an option, many women would have to overcome a strong natural inhibition against using it. I seems unlikely that city councilor has thought through how this would play out in real life. It would be much less obtrusive to slip a little Romazicon into a drink than to order it with a tamper-evident seal. Obtrusive is not good in the dating context if I remember correctly.

Those other 99 rapes? Booze was more likely a factor. And even if benzodiazepine is used, the alcohol increases its effect. And avoid the herb kava-kava if you were planning on dating a guy who looked like he might drug and rape you...[who the hell does that on purpose?]

UPDATE: I found the comments at the ABC website. Commenting is by a self-selected crowd so you always have to take it with a grain of salt but its vastly better grist for the mill than 10 seconds of soundbite from each of a "balanced" pair of "woman in the street" interviewees...pap from the TV. I was surprised by how many commented in favor any such move and found out about much better ideas that have already been tested. And, wouldn't you just know it: some commenter has the rabid patriarchal perspective of the dating game [and the diction]:
Why dont the address the reay problem in the bars -- it is not people rushing over each other to put drugs in drinks - but the real problem is chicks using guys and scamming them into buying them free drinks ... I say they should come up with laws -- any chick who uses guys should be liable!
Posted by:newshopper Jun-21

It is actually that comment, far more than any of the various opinions in favor, that makes me realize why something preventative probably should be available: it demonstrates there are men out there who lug around a self justified anger at a whole category of women...what remains to stop such a man from predatory dating? Perhaps the old saying should be "no such thing as a free drink"?

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Never argue with a cop

Or perhaps "Never argue with a cop unless a judge and a lawyer are watching" is my rule. Its hard to tell from just one perspective on the incident whether this cyclist was reasonably viewed as resisting by the cop or whether the cop is just a sadistic SOB with a badge. Might be a bit of both. Whether you are having a bad day or making a bad day is pretty much in the eye of the beholder. That the cops have been back filling evidence is a matter of record.

The outcome of the case will be followed with some interest by cyclists. But there is already a moral to this story as far as I am concerned...

In Massachusetts, acting governor Kerry Healey, the very lame duck Lieutenant Gov. filling in for Mitt, ( since Romney was hardly to be seen in the commonwealth once Healey's defeat was certain last fall), vetoed legislation that would have funded the education of police on the rights of cyclists in the commonwealth. We need it. I have had cops yell at me to get out of the road when I was cycling exactly according to the law. That legislation was part of a package Mass. cyclists worked hard to get passed to make biking safer. Healey scribbled the veto in the closing hours of Republican administration when no chance of override, nor even much notice, was likely. Her excuse was she was saving the commonwealth some money. Yeah, right. "Saving money" must be why a string of Republican governors in Mass presided over a no-bikes-allowed highway and tunnel project that over ran estimates by billions of dollars.

For me, the sorry thing about this alleged incident of police brutality is the way it underscores the difference between practical advice or behavior and moral advice or behavior. I just don't argue with cops...but that doesn't mean they are right, decent or even properly informed about the laws they enforce. I have a hunch a lot of conservatives just blur that difference: whatever the cop, or the soldier or the president is doing or saying IS the law, is the working definition of right behavior. Schooling members of the executive branch of government in exactly what the law allows would be a logical emphasis if one is of the attitude that executive actions are de facto law. Logical emphasis is not conservative emphasis. "Law and order" is too often a cover phrase for "fear and repression".

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

where job security is a bad idea

The ultimate goal of a warrior, whether at war or while peace holds, should be to put himself out of a job. The greatest warrior then does not just fight a foreign enemy but finishes his job by fighting to end the usurpation of resources, the injustices, the ignorance and the xenophobia that unbalance and divide nations and peoples.

The so-called military industrial complex and the way it has burrowed into the brain of most national economies is in dead opposition to that maxim. We praise with endless hollow words, the sacrifices of our individual soldiers while blindly giving all substantial support to the corporations that live off of war and the eager readiness for war.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Annonymity is on trial

Anonymity will be on trial in the AutoAdmit defamation suit...because some mother f__king sexist law students got their jollies by cyber-trashing two women law students. I blog anonymously. If I named names maliciously exposing identities of others, and particularly if I attached false statements to the reputations of such others or made threatening or demeaning remarks, I would not deserve what little protection anonymity gives me.

The problem is one of how to judiciously pull back the covers, how to expose only those who have been abusive. I hope the judges are wise enough to value the rights of the pamphleteer, the writers on the wall and smart enough to see the difference between indefensible personal attack and public denunciations that would not take place if officials had easy recourse to retribution. That retribution can even silence the powerful.

Ann Althouse, a law professor with a blog, does her level best to be even handed about this AutoAdmit suit. Unfortunately her best is framing her remarks with this introduction: "Now, we have a fine opportunity to see how people think about free speech on the Internet when the politics are turned around. "'d get the impression that misuse of freedom of speech to attack people is hardly any thing to worry about compared to a threat to freedoms. She hints by example that small claims court is the right place to shush one's attackers. I too value those rights yet I do not dismiss the the harms done under their guise. There is even a strain of opinion out there that the plaintiffs have no substantial complaint. I do not think you can take that stand without tacitly condoning lying about others and threatening them. One ought to be careful going on record in support of trolls.

The web has made anonymity cheap. Both care and common sense will be needed to prevent it being lost because it has been cheapened. The medium is new, the problem of cowardly sexists is ancient.

What should be on trial? Not anonymity, not any honest freedom. There is no such thing, nor should there ever be such a thing as the "freedom to threaten and harm another" and particularly so if nothing but the gender, race or other distinction of the attacked person is smudged with the stigma of the attacked.

An evolving sense of how to be a more positive and effective political animal.

One of the many posts I have idling in draft form looks at an upcoming book on how to approach politics in a democracy in a scientific way. I will eventually write that post but in my tardiness, the times have overtaken me. I was going to write a bit there in praise of the enlightening analysis of polls and political maneuvering that Matt Stoller has steadily provided at my My one misgiving in that draft is that a partisan approach such as Matt has been obliged to pursue and a scientific approach, such as Professor Hillygus presents are, necessarily, not able to reach exactly the same conclusions despite the brilliant quality of the efforts. Now Matt is leaving myDD. His parting words at myDD stir hope in me and I look forward to what will come of his next venture, a venture beyond partisan motivations.
"Being yelled at every day in good faith is the essence of democracy, of a civil society that pushes its leaders to be better than they ever thought possible... help more people understand the power of disagreement, the power of ideas, and the power of dissent."
I don't expect readership for my scribbles just because I complain about evil and greedy ineptitude of those in power. The problems I protest are probably deeper than the causes I discern, much harder to solve than any solutions I concoct or suggest...and yet...if I say nothing it is even worse and I tacitly own a piece of the screwed up state of this country and the world. I find that in complaining, like Matt, I have found something of a voice.

of course, another reason to expect no readership is that I have not been time even for my dodgy random drivel. If, in radical departure from all past achivement or habit, I get caught up on all my work and carve out a quiet time slot for writing, something like regular blogging should turn up.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Change is good an all that but

myDD has been an ongoing education for me. This change of personnel is a shock. I wish Chris and Matt and those who step in to their roles all the luck.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

In Massachusetts at least,

The legislators have refused to turn back the clock on gay rights. One can only guess whether they responded to their own consciences or to the demands of a majority of those who have any opinion at all in the matter.

There is jubilation among the many households that would have been hurt by the backward intentions of this proposed amendment. But we should also mention this outcome spares us a full year of acrimonious campaigning in a run-up to the ballot issue. The Catholic church has many fences and psyches to mend in the commonwealth of Massachusetts. It would be so much worse off trying to spend resources it barely has for a cause only bigots like, all while trying to put the worst of the slanders and homophobic doctrine in the mouths of proxies instead of giving the good fathers yet another PR black eye. It really is more of a victory than they realize. It takes off the pressure in all the right places.

People who think they can make other people's natures "better" typically make their lives worse.

HT to Pam

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Republican wealth distribution: unfair and unsustainable.

[this post may eventually emerge as a comment over at a Pandagon thread...but I am an impatient person when it comes to moderation dwell time.]

"Unsustainable": that means out-of-balance resource usage that produces extinction...applies in political economy but operates outside the equations economists are taught.

Never mind "unfair", Republican wealth distribution accomplishments are bad business and socially destabilizing.

I won't work up a sweat over morality of the stacked deck economic rules. That I think it is immoral won't fix a thing. I am personally in a pretty good place nearing the end of my career, self and spouse each making a salary above the state's median family income and no debt, writing tuition checks out of the bank account. Nice pile of assets and all that...and every penny we have came from a pay check we were careful with. The first ten years of work [70's] was the only time we were financially typical. I should be a republican. But instead, I am ripshit about their distorted ideas of enterprise, that privatise and steal all that was once common wealth. I pay more in taxes now than I used to make in a year but that money does no lasting good for anyone outside the boardrooms of a few corporations. I could just go over to Townhall and congratulate myself on my "values" except I know I am lucky and my success is a fluke. Everybody works and our work was just multiplied by the luck of being college educated and in technical subjects that, for most of our 35 years of employment, were in high demand.

I think the selfishness of rules that sustain wealth as if money had a soul and working were a punishment is the most damnable thing about this country. And I agree with Thomas Hartmann that the current situation is a result of concerted manipulations of the laws and loopholes on the part of wealthy interests, both businesses and dyna$ties. But getting worked up actually hurts Hartmann: his book comes across as "bleeding heart" liberal even though he is historically accurate and only argues for justice.

Emotions follow quickly when the moral aspects, fairness and justice, call up anger in the disadvantaged and fear in the advantaged classes. Simple "which works better?" reasons can be used. There are practical reasons why the scales should be rebalanced to leave wages with those that earn them. I find in one particular hardship, the demise of the LA Times, a harbinger of an economy where only the rich can afford anything: the rich will have no one to sell things to. If you will only serve the rich who can easily afford your service, you would be smart to advocate an increase in the numbers of the rich. Will your clients support that?

I am not worked up. I am not going to blow my cool if its going to undermine my cause.

Authority issues

I am tempted to gloat. I should refain since the choir is probably hoping for a more substantial sermon.

Well, OK, one little dig and then I get serious...

It turns out, in spite of all this Bush league spinning, lying and muzzling of scientists that, legally speaking, there really is such a thing as global warming. That being so, the SCotUS found the present administration negligent of its duties to do something about green house gasses.

Yes, that supreme court, the one Dubya and his daddy packed with conservatives.

And now a few thoughts this development puts in mind...

So our bus crowded with an unlikely assortment of strange bedfellows who sooner or lately realized we must stop global warming all should be asking: Are we there yet?

Most of us probably think "told ya so" with a shrug and go back to our other concerns. For some of us I expect global warming is as big a problem as we will ever have...wars are hell but they are just detours in the path of history. Those with professional or personal priority for global warming's problems will take this victory as one more plodding step. Next we move on to identifying solutions and preparations, now that discussion of constructive measures won't be suppressed by the Republicans. The capitulation of the Republican's "f__k the environment" school of policy is not complete but how do you mark a turning point in the battle? Which is the belated step in the right direction to which a long time proponent of reducing our GHG emissions can point and say to any laggard denialist "See, even the dimwit-in-chief says we have to change our tune because we are hurting our world and our selves"? Bush jumped on the bandwagon a few days before the G8 summit, actually tried to commandeer the bandwagon, with policy "initiatives" a decade too late. The polite toleration of his posturing by other world leaders is better than Bush deserves.

But is that change of tune meaningful? Does the court's decision mark a corner turned by an entire nation? Do money and serious intention now materialize to support scouring universities and industry for the brains and means to start putting the brakes on carbon emissions? Will those dusty Rolodexes with names of climate scientists whirl again?

If in fact this decision truly does lift the roadblocks to environmental responsibility then that is the meaning of the decision and it is authoritative.

But it could be meaningless. For those of us who think a response to man made climate change is long over due, there won't be any questioning of the authority of the court. Those who have mountains of coal to burn may think otherwise. The flock tended by Rev. Senator Inhofe may think otherwise. Money we little polluters pay in the name of our own convenience is dribbling out of out check books as always and continues to flood into the coffers of oil and coal lobbies. That money needs to dematerialize. Global warming denial is a stupid activity until you consider its balance sheet.

What is "authority" in a personal sense? Is it an agency, of whatever human or institutional form, that promulgates the rules a person recognizes via the tug of their own conscience? Is it more than mere expertise, more than a reputation for knowing a little more than the next guy? I do not mean authority in the sense of "the authorities", i.e. those who have laws written to their purposes and the guns of policemen if need be, to back up their wishes under these laws. I mean what commands your will, what tells you "This is right, whether I like it or not, and I will not connive or work against its aims." Since some people have bought off their own conscience with their own wealth, no law, regardless of its logic of common good and necessity, has the authority with such parties to make them relinquish the agenda to profit personally despite horrible consequences to others. "Others", if removed in consanguinity, geography or time are remote enough to be absent from considerations where a good conscience would weigh their interests. In this sense, then, I doubt the parties who profit or most of US consumers and end-of-the-pipe polluters see much authority either in the SCotUS or even the poseur-in-chief. You can still sell papers by printing this kind of denialist crap.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

You might not want to know the weight of responsibility

The first thing to learn is that you really are making the choices in your life--even the ones you blame on others. You are in control of your own mind. Even total passivity is the constant deciding it would be better not to act.

The second thing to learn is that your mind is in control of your experience. You are not really being swept along by a malicious or uncaring world. Your relationships do not simply blow up of their own accord. Much of what seems to have gone wrong "all by itself" is the result of a psychological lazyiness, a tendency to take the emotionally easy way out ( which can look like doing it the hard way to others who observe your behavior). Avoiding little confrontations, making excuses, hedging your all adds up to trouble.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Of strawatheists and real preachers

Stanley Fish has a long and distinguished career in academia behind him. He has a running series of blog posts, often related to religion, behind the paywall at the NY Times. I have been riled up by a few of them but this time out I am riled enough to type.

Stanley Fish cannot see his own biases at work in his June 10 post in the NY Times titled The Three Atheists. He claims the atheist's objections were raised first and answered better by the faithful. The starting points of his arguments are the self referential and self contained "facts" of a delusional system, e.g., quoting George Herbert: "if it is only by the infusion of grace that we do anything admirable....". These premises, per Fish, lead to conclusions that faith is not the easy way to knowing our place in the universe: "Where does that leave us, Herbert implicitly asks, a question more severe and daunting than any posed by the three atheists." To this I can only reply with an astounded "That's what we have been telling you! And If you want, you can probably dream up some even more complicated notion of omniscient and controlling supernatural presence, some scheme from which it is harder yet to pluck the meaning of our existence." So what?

Then Fish takes three paragraphs to dispose, by similarly self contained and groundless premises, of the problem of evil in a god-made world. He begins "Harris wonders why the Holocaust didn’t “lead most Jews to doubt the existence of an omnipotent and benevolent God?”" Fish, and perhaps Harris, may not have talked to so many holocaust survivors. From the luxurious perch of a tenured philosopher or cleric, contemplation of the evil men do to each other and to the innocent gifts of nature quickly becomes a shadow boxing match with abstractions of people and abstractions of their acts. I know Jews who survived slave labor and can, with some difficulty still recount as eyewitnesses, daily death and degradation who no longer believe there is a god yet still harbor hope for humanity rising above its impulses and selfishness. Fish only arrives at the usual mildly circular conclusion that if we had no freedom to be evil, we would not even be free to have faith and reverence. Yet I revere creation and the wondrous diversity of life that has come forth on earth...freedom is not required, only awareness.

The point Fish is trying to make in both these myopic rebuttals is that the three atheists have no substantial argument because they have a mistaken and shallow take on the theism and faith they critique and dismiss. I cannot agree. Why does Fish give the faithful so much credit for dealing with their own doubts in what, to me, is an orgy of communal solipsism yet give the atheists so little credit for a vastly more plausible if less comforting categorization of those same doubts? Why would a man of Dr. Fish's worldly accomplishments think outspoken atheists could not recognize the complexity and human frailty of an observant person who, as more than a few at my synagogue do, say "pray as if god were listening, but act as if it were all up to you."? When you observe faith by trying to live with the faith, you come to see many who are unburdened by fundamentalism and in practice, though hardly in proclamation, are agnostic and merely doing what makes them feel better about themselves and their fellow creatures. Don't look a gift course in the mouth. Some never lose that comfort with ritual, some never tire of the rhythm of service, some are never ready to take off the training wheels of agnosticism...and yet they do not afflict others with accusations of damnation and doom and would not share Dr Fish's peevish begrudging of the atheists arguments. If, indeed as Dr Fish contends, the deepest expressions of religious faith are those that have wrestled with doubt then why not admit that those who have walked all the way through the doors of doubt are, in consciousness, perhaps even closer to the thoughtfully religious than are those who rub their specious certainties in ones face? The authors whom Fish takes to task have only offended in rubbing the uncertainty in the face of the faithful...a challenge welcomed by those confirmed in their faith and feared by those most outspoken against any questioning or dissent.

I would not care one way or the other if there is a god and I do not dismiss at all the great need some people feel to put a face on nature and to sense an addressable will behind their fates. I presume aching humanity would welcome a person who could come to these conclusions about deity that Fish reports but do so by starting with the wind and the dirt and the birds and the electrons which we can, every sane one of us, see, measure and agree more or less as to their presence and natures and build a case from only the observable, avoiding all projections and ghosts to still arrive at some ghost in the machine. Yet none of this inclination and hunger for a god is deemed a weakness to any of Fish's arguments but instead as an evidence.

He summarizes that the religion against which Dawkins, Harris and Hitchins rail is a bit of a straw man: too complacent and simple to be compared to the real, sublime and even tortured dialogs the faith has had with itself. Does Dr Fish forget what world we live in? It is not the likes of John Milton from which the authors hope to rescue a few minds but the likes of Albert Mohler. Fish says "... the incredibly nuanced and elegant writings of those who have tried to answer it are what the three atheists miss; and it is by missing so much that they are able to produce such a jolly debunking of a way of thinking they do not begin to understand. I would say that Fish is fighting an academic battle long since lost whereas the authors are sniping at a street gang religion to regain for more popular audiences exactly that healthy level of doubt Fish is so proud of.

UPDATE: Quite by accident as far as my efforts and intentions are concerned, This post has had more traffic than any other I can recall. And many of you are actually reading it which is even more unusual. The NY Times has over 200 comments to the original post as of 4:00 PM June 13. The number would doubtless be much higher but for the log-in required. The commentary at the Times is overwhelmingly critical of the Fish article. The few attempts there to bolster the narrow view of Dr Fish may amuse you. Though I don't quite agree with his weighting of the benign vs the malignant aspects of religion, I still commend the remarks of Wilhelm Evertz near the end of the commenting:
Atheists believe that we human beings have only each other. We do not believe in an unearthly paradise. We seek fulfillment by working for a better here and now and we derive pleasure from nature and the wonderful works humans have created in the arts and sciences. We even admire the creators of the great illusions: Buddha, Jesus, Muhammad.
You don't have to pay to read that but you do have to create a registration, hit this link, and fill in the blanks. [I find the paywall a good way to be one post ahead of the cheapskates] PZ Myers has had his response in Phyrangula on the "most active" list at science blogs for over a day. Andrew Sullivan gets in his licks too by pointing to PZ. There has been a perfect storm, a two day gale, of Google searching for this topic which leads me to ask: Did the Fish article get mentioned on broadcast or print so there was interest but no link?

Anyhow, welcome strangers, there's leftovers in the archive and feel free to poke around.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Sweet and sour forgiveness

In seeking atonement for hurting others, keep in mind that pleasure does not cancel or erase pain, compliments do not render insults unmemorable: memory is a pot from which you can subtract nothing. Just add sugar to the vinegar.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Be careful where you say "Yamamah"

Looks like a "culture of corruption" is not unique to our upstart new world empire: The LA Times reports today that a Saudi minister of influence peddling and the British Military Imperialist Complex have been exposed engaging in a kind of baksheesh, about two billion in baksheesh to be imprecise. This story is not one of simple greed, to hear British officials tell it. Fear is invoked for its explanatory magic:
The Serious Fraud Office's decision to close its probe led to charges that Britain was attempting to shore up its negotiations to sell a $20-billion new fleet of Eurofighter Typhoon jets to the desert kingdom.

But British officials said their real fear was losing Saudi Arabia's cooperation in the war on terrorism. Atty. Gen. Peter Goldsmith told Parliament the heads of Britain's security and intelligence agencies, as well as the nation's ambassador in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, had warned that the investigation could seriously damage relations.
...riiiight. The Saudi's, awash in dollars we poured into the gas tanks of our SUVs, hardly need a few more billions. Arms dealers plying them with money seems suspect. The Saudi royals can already afford a huge dole to the Wahhabists to buy political stability...and in turn the Wahhabists can fund their fundamentalism world wide. That is not to equate Wahhabism with Islamic terrorists in the overstated manner of a report such as this in a web zine for the arms trade . But it would be naive to say there is no relation between making Saudi royals rich and fomenting extremism. The money defense contractors have to plow into such "marketing" programs ultimately must come from governments and thus from taxes we insignificant blog readers pay. The money we spend filling the skies with hawks in search a dove to eat would be better spent defusing the petrodollar time bomb and the festering sore that is Palestine/Israel. Shortsighted ideas of defense, built on fear rather than on understanding, are breeding grounds for misdirected monies and corruption.

BTW, don't tell Gonzo about this Britishism, "Serious Fraud Office". Until we stop the unethical and probably illegal flow of influence between Cheney, Rove and the DoJ, we can't be sure they won't try to bury any real investigation of unseemly political influence in civil service with a new "Run-out-the-clock Fraud Office". [Really now! Do you suppose they have a "Frivolous Fraud Office" or a "Comical Fraud Office" in the UK that creates a need for the semantic distinction of a Serious Fraud Office? One begins to understand Monty Python as a perfectly sane response to a daffy strain of Brit bureaucracy.] Here, let Josh Marshall spell out exactly how eager DoJ is to not answer questions and yet, how serious the questions are.

Thinking about stuff we do without thinking

You can find something to love in anyone. You do not have to give anyone the power to hurt you just because you want to be close to them.

Mastery of these two ideas will bridge many gaps and render many conflicts in a more constructive perspective.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

second hand muck

The culture of corruption, the Republican "values" at work pilfering the commons for any common wealth that is not nailed down, is depressingly perennial. But for a toy journalist, it would provide a rich beat. I admit I just repeat the muck that others have raked up...hence the label second hand muck. For my own benefit, I will post under that label as the stories come along...and they will come along. That way I can pull the record with a single click if I ever need to review the quality of this fine, fine administration.
For your benefit? Well, lets just suppose you and I are comparing notes since we don't all read the same things

Two gobs of muck today. One is an excerpt from a new book Are We Rome? by Cullen Murphy, reprinted in Vanity Fair. On the strength of a few other good articles and Walcott's wit, I broke down and subscribed to VF. The topic is comparing the bloat and degeneracy of American empire with that of Roman empire. That comparison is a theme that comes without tutoring into the mind of anyone with even a half decent education in history. The excerpt takes only the essay on venality and privilege, the privatization meme, from the broader comparison, i.e. just the culture of corruption part. Walter Isaacson reviewed the book for NY Times last month. He gets right to the polar extremes between the nation we might once have been and could yet be and the nation our present leadership permits and encourages:
Laudably, he ends on some optimistic notes, and some prescriptions.... At home, it should resurrect the ideals of citizen engagement and promote a sense of community and mutual obligation, rather than treating most government as a necessary evil.
The one thing a government run by and for K-Street does NOT want, would not even survive, is an engaged citizenry. A body politic that in its persons and its minor councils felt a "sense of mutual obligation" would demand as much from its leaders. Nothing that goes on in our nation's capital today would measure up. Selfishness as I have said, is the bad coin that drives out the good so I am not as optimistic as Mr Murphy.

The other gob is from the TPM Muckraker pages, a veritable storm drain of patronage news from which the daily e-mail alerts alone would provide me most of a day's reading. Today, TPM's Laura McGann details the naked venality of Rep. Don Young who was supposed to be doing the business of the people of the state of Alaska.

And for dessert, and justice, I cannot ignore one glaring exception. William Jefferson exhibits what I have called Republican values but he is a Democrat. An explanation of sorts for this oddity was provided by Jon Stewart last night on The Daily Show: "He has discovered what it takes for a black man from New Orleans to get some attention from Washington".

Because you just don't have enough to worry about...

Coturnix tirelessly performs a service I would enjoy doing but I would have to retire to gain enough free time for it: he scans a ton of science news and highlights stuff that has both readability and consequences or interest for the average reader. Yesterday he pointed to a deadly cancer outbreak among Tasmanian devils.

Why be concerned? Clearly some infectious agent is involved, though pollutants have yet to be ruled out. But germs that cause cancer are well known. Take human papiloma virus [HPV] for instance, which can cause genital warts and cervical cancer. If we aren't worried enough to protect our children from HPV, why fret about some obscure and far away creatures better known for the cartoon character they inspired? Today, Amanda Marcotte takes apart the excuses used by one of the surprise enablers of that Texas-sized defeat of a common sense solution to the HPV epidemic.

I'll tell you why you should care about this. It can be boiled down to two numbers, one that indicates the efficiency with which a disease can be communicated from one individual to another and one that indicates how many infected individuals will die. I used "transmissibilty" in googling around for the links in this post but other keywords might do as well. I looked around for comparable diseases and found none, so a HIGHLY TRANSMISSIBLE cancer is a thing for us to worry about.

If you lay a guy who is carrying HPV, your chances are 4/10 of getting the disease (an average, YMMV) . That is a higher transmissivity than HIV or herpes [read section 7.1 ].

Rous Sarcoma Virus has been an animal cancer model studied since the 60s' ...I stopped having nightmares about it getting away from the laboratories by the 70's:-{ It requires injection of filtered cultures to transmit but can jump between species more easily than many viruses.

Reticuloendotheliosis virus would be a nastier disease but it does not spread as easily and antibodies develop quickly.

Another virus that causes a kind of cancer are the leukemia viruses, forms of which affect cats and cows. And the bovine form produces antibodies in humans. About half the humans tested have been exposed...meaning we got over it [100% survival rate] before we had any symptoms.

Retroviruses are quick to set up shop in their hosts. Speculating on a class of retroviruses that do affect humans, the mouse mammary tumor virus is closely related to the human mammary tumor virus which may be inherited as a genomic hitchhiker rather than an infection, and may provide diagnostic insight into the majority of breast cancer cases.

Facing the possibilty of extinction of the island's most important predator species, as well as its mascot and tourist attraction, Australian government offices and scientist have mounted a multifaceted attack on the disease and an effort to sequester uninfected populations in safe places should re-population be the only solution after a die-off. Concern, and stories on the web have increased since 2003. Oddly, the most informative article I found was not on ABC, NPR or National Geographic but a sarcastic "doomsday" site that actually gets the science , current, readable and balanced. At ZKEA, Christopher Minson reports positively the infectious agent is a retrovirus. Here is another article on the epidemic written by a person who placed poorly in his ESL class and messed up the epidemiology but adds some interesting facts about how the disease spreads. The Minson article is the one to read if you are only reading one and don't require a bibliography because it spells out the likely consequences [80% population decline] and when the outbreak began [mid 90s]. In particular, that article shows just how grim survival rates and transmission rates for cancer, a disease we don't even think of as contagious, can be.
"This epidemic is also interesting due to the fact that cancer is a basic symptom. Retroviruses that cause cancers are not unknown; in recent years a number of cancer-causing viruses have been identified. However, a sudden epidemic of such cancer-causing viruses has never before been witnessed in any species. ... Homo sapiens is subject to the same natural ecological laws as Tasmanian Devils."

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

postette 1

Its kinda like a post only it requires no effort--which is about as much as I can afford this week.

Blogging or not, I still reflexively take notes as I browse. Most of it will be stale by the time I can spare an hour or two to write. And I actually do jot in HTML. Looking through my notes from the last week of May I find
So, this is the test: the dems caved because they were afraid of being branded unpatriotic and unsupportive of the troops and the two dems with higher aspirations than avoiding a few angry wingnut slurs went against the president anyway. lets watch and see what happens to their approval ratings as senators and their poll standings as candidates...if they don't take a hit, all the democowards are proven wrong in ignoring the will of the people.
Well, I didn't call the shot quite right but yesterday at myDD, Chris Bowers described the fallout among progressives that results from gutless democrats, citing an ABC-WaPo poll,
Disapproval of Bush's performance in office remains high, but the poll highlighted growing disapproval of the new Democratic majority in Congress. Just 39 percent said they approve of the job Congress is doing,...
This is less healthy than the boost I wanted to see for the two Democratic candidates who, for whatever carefully calculated reason, took the right decision: its just an erosion of the work progressives did back in the 2006 congressional election. Like I said, start taking names.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

I know Cheney has few friends...

...but just look at some of his enemies!

I was not aware these old Master red Baiters were still around. They must have been greatly vexed to peel back the sod and emerge into my news feeder. The John Birch Society denounces Darth Cheney for garbling the statement of duties sworn to by the graduates of West Point when he addressed them last week. Their cause, for the nonce, is much like mine:
Was this just bad fact checking by the Vice-President's speech writers, or is this just another example of how meaningless Mr. Cheney and the rest of his team believe the U.S. Constitution to now be in their scheme of things?
Or, take US News & World Report, I haven't read a copy since I moved out of my folks house after college but unless they changed management, they are probably still a magazine people would identify as conservative or moderate-conservative. For counterpoint, they tolerate the columnist Bonnie Erbe. She does not tolerate Cheney...and claims to have thought so for some time. I understand CBS being glad to pick this piece up...but that it was written for USN&WR is interesting.

And and your little dog too!:
This just in... Cheney's flying monkey lying flunky, Scooter Libby, has been sentenced to all but six months of the three years that prosecutors were seeking. Better go find the prison library, Scooter, cause your old boss is not going to pardon you or even visit you.

Still phoning it in...

I am not completely dead yet. Purgatory appears to have limited cell phone service however.

By the time we reach adulthood, the goings on we see in the world are more a reflection of our expectations and models than the goings on in our minds are a reflection of the events around us.

Monday, June 04, 2007

my homework is still eating my blog

Still pretending I am a plumber and an electrician. Have a nice couple of weeks off from run on sentences and sketchy inferences. I am just going to play some 25 year old reruns for the time being.

Utter honesty, simple to imagine, difficult to fulfill, is the heart and the hallmark of a good relationship. Any relationship that builds into itself the need to lie, carries the seeds of its own destruction.

Friday, June 01, 2007

start meeting future presidents

I can't schlep up to Manchester. Maybe you can. I get an invitation from the Edwards campaign:
This Sunday, June 3, John Edwards will be in Manchester for the first New Hampshire debate. We're counting on you to join us for our exciting pre-debate gathering so we can show all the press and pundits on hand just how strong our grassroots support in New Hampshire really is.

We'll be meeting at 3:30 PM at Saint Anselm College in front of the Joan of Arc Hall at 100 Saint Anselm Road in Manchester. Please click here to let us know we can count on you to join us:

The first 75 Edwards supporters to sign up will get a free Edwards' Debate t-shirt and every supporter who comes to the pre-debate gathering will be guaranteed a spot at our campaign's special debate watch party. The party starts at 6:30 PM and takes place at J.W. Hill's Sports Bar and Grille on 795 Elm St (on the corner of Elm St. and Merrimack St.) in Manchester. You don't want to miss it!

Additionally, in order to help our supporters get to the event, we're creating a ride board where you can post a ride or look for others who are driving from your area. Please help us fill the board: if you're planning to drive to Manchester for the debate on Sunday or are looking for a ride, visit our RSVP page and let us know:

We can't wait to see you at 3:30 PM on Sunday!

That is a new level of lame as posts go but I thought the least I could do is spread the word. Now if only I had readers from NH.

Its not muck, its a presidential order.

my TPM daily briefing email pointed me to this DoD doozie: the inspector general cites numerous cover ups and violations of a DoD interrogation rule book that already has rules too cruel and crude for a western democracy.

And TPM is right to register some concern that media coverage of has been a bit sparse considering the calamitous irony that it is the DOD itself that is judging ruefully the methods the administration has urged upon it. My question is why anyone would be the least bit surprised at such developments. The constant nuts and bolts working of this administration are bent on scuttling any human rights that get in its fascist way or cloud its fear-fueled vision of foreign relations. For instance, who noted that the president had signed into effect, without public or legislative comment, rules that enable trials in absentia? Such rules will come in handy for trying prisoners held in foreign based torture facilitiesdetention centers we won't even admit to using. Such rules will come in handy for providing "witnesses" who never physically appear in court.

Americans have let weak minded and amoral characters run things too long. The psychology of this leadership is such that the enemies they see are based less on realities than on projections of what they fear most...and in steeling themselves to deal with the enemy they imagine, they justify operating as cruelly as their own worst nightmares. I sicken of living within the waking nightmares of conservatives. Let us make the dark age of neoconservatism a short aberration and rid ourselves of them by all the means they have failed to make work: fair elections, recall votes, impeachment.