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mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)

Yesterday I posted a link to this disturbing article[1], which describes the US as Modernity's first failed state. It provoked responses from both left and right, and led me to research just what constitutes a failed state[2].

It turns out that there's a way of measuring degree of failure[3], called theFragile States Index[4]. At first glance, the US looks pretty good: with a score of 36.7, it currently ranks 154th out of 178. Currently. Here's what the Fund for Peace, which maintains the index, has to say about that:

The United States has experienced significant political upheaval recently, and as a result has ranked as the fourth most-worsened country for 2018. Despite a remarkably strong economy, this economic success has been largely outweighed by social and political instability. However, we must be careful not to misunderstand the longer-term nature of this trend. Though some critics will likely be tempted to associate the worsening situation in the United States with the ascendance of President Trump, and what can generously be described as his Administration’s divisive leadership and rhetoric, the reality is that the pressures facing the United States run far deeper. Many “inside the Beltway” in Washington have long complained of a growing extremism in American society and politics, with an increasingly disenfranchised (if not vanishing) political center. The FSI demonstrates that this is no illusion – it is definitely happening. Indeed, on the ten-year trend of the three Cohesion Indicators (including Security Apparatus, Factionalized Elites, and Group Grievance), the United States is the most-worsened country in the world bar none, ahead of the likes of Libya, Bahrain, Mali, Syria, South Africa, Tunisia, Turkey, and Yemen. To be sure, the United States has nearly unparalleled capacity and resiliency, meaning that there is little risk that the country is about to fall into the abyss. Nevertheless, these findings should serve as a wake-up call to America’s political leaders (not to mention media influencers) that divisive policy-making and rhetoric that seeks to divide Americans for political gain can have very real consequences and can threaten the country’s long-term stability and prosperity. [5]

I have three things to add:

  1. The United States may not be a "failed state" by this definition -- yet. But it has certainly failed a large number of its people.
  2. The United States has also failed -- miserably -- to become a modern country. By many measures, it is far behind the rest of the developed world, and falling farther behind as its ruling elite continues to gain power.

The US is not a failed state, but it's failing. If the current trend keeps up, it will reach the "warning" level of 70 in less than 16 years.


mdlbear: (distress)

Why Didn’t America Become Part of the Modern World?
The Great Lesson of the 20th Century — and How America Never Learned It
--Umair Haque

... is a very disturbing article. Hat-tip to thnidu.

When I say “the modern world”, what do you think of? Probably a great city somewhere, with broad avenues, spacious parks, art and culture, old museums, people buzzing about, public transport thrumming.

Now think of America. People dying for a lack of insulin. Young people who can’t afford to start families of their own. The average person living perched right at the edge of ruin, one missed paycheck, one illness, one emergency away from disaster. Kids massacring one another at schools. Infants on trial. Politicians who proclaim “God is a white supremacist!” An endless and gruesome list of stuff that’s beginning to put the dark ages to shame.

Here’s what I think. American never joined the modern world. It’s the modern world’s first failed state. It became something like a weird, bizarre dystopia, replete with falling life expectancy, hand-to-mouth living, relentless and legendary cruelty, instead of a truly modern society. But why?


Now you know what modernity is. It’s the idea that poverty causes ruin, and so the primary job of a modern society is to eliminate poverty, of all kinds, to give people decent lives at a bare minimum — and a social contract which does all that. Hence, Europe became a place rich in public goods, like healthcare, media, finance, transport, safety nets, etcetera, things which all people enjoy, which secure the basics of a good life — all the very same things you intuitively think of when you think of a “modern society” — but America didn’t.

But the question we still haven’t answered is why. Why did America never join the modern world? The answer goes something like this. Americans never learned the greatest lesson history taught. That poverty causes ruin.

You see, in America, poverty was seen — and still is — as a kind of just dessert. A form of deserved punishment, for being lazy, for being foolish, for being slow. For being, above all, weak — because only the strong should survive.


So here America is. Modernity’s first failed state. The rich nation which never cared to join the modern world, too busy believing that poverty would lead to virtue, not ruin. Now life is a perpetual, crushing, bruising battle, in which the stakes are life or death — and so people take out their bitter despair and rage by putting infants on trial. History is teaching us the same lesson, all over again. Americans might not even learn it the second time around. But the world, laughing in horror, in astonishment, in bewilderment, should.

What was that about those who fail to learn from history? Welcome to the 19th Century.

mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)

So. Trumped.

I suppose I'll get through the next four years somehow. But the possibilities range from disagreeable to agonizing to desperate. N tells me I'm stronger than I think. I hope she's right.

What the hell can I say? The Joy of Tech comic... National curl up in a Ball Day kind of says most of it. I'm still not uncurled.

"I wish it need not have happened in my time," said Frodo.

"So do I," said Gandalf, "and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us."

― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

Notes & links, as usual )

mdlbear: "Sometimes it's better to light a flamethrower than to curse the darkness" - Terry Pratchett (flamethrower)

Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize for literature. I am still kind of blown away. I mean... He's one of my personal heroes, and I've always known that there's a difference between a songwriter and a poet who sets their poems to music. The latter are quite rare. Most -- all? -- songwriters know which side of the divide they fall on. But... But... Nobel Prize!

Meanwhile, here I am on Desolation Row. Our predicted storm of the century wasn't even the storm of the decade; but it still did quite a lot of damage. The zipper on my pants broke -- again. We have a crack in the floor of our basement, which of course water is coming up through. I cut a corner too close and badly scraped the side of the van. What's left of my self-confidence is somewhat in tatters.

They're spoon-feeding Cassanova
To get him to feel more assured
Then they'll kill him with self-confidence
After poisoning him with words.

Ok, so at least I don't have to worry about that. Also on the plus side in no particular order, we never lost power, we can see the crack because I have been procrastinating getting the floor re-done since our flood last year, our second tenant has moved in, and all the damage to the van was cosmetic. So there's that.

Rather an unproductive week at work.

Notes & links, as usual )

mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)

A good week for Sanders supporters. Last Sunday we went to the Bernie Sanders rally at Key Arena, and yesterday was the Democratic caucuses. (There was another rally Friday evening that G and N went to, but I didn't.) As you probably know, Bernie won big in all three of Washington, Alaska, and Hawaii yesterday.

The rally was amazing. He's an electrifying speaker, with a message that resonates deeply with this old radical's values. We need him in the White House.

This was the first time I've been in a caucus, and despite the reference in Alice it wasn't dry at all. Mostly fun, with some boring bits and too much standing.

Inspired by the Functional Programming Principles in Scala course that our team's reading group is taking, I have branched out into Haskell and started to set up xmonad, the tiling window manager that rocks. The main reason for that is the way it handles multiple monitors, which looks like a great match for the way I use my work laptop, always switching between stand-alone at meetings, and plugged into multiple monitors on my desktop.

Still trying to wrap my head around monads and category theory in functional programming. Multiple Wikipedia dives on that one.

Notes & links, as usual )
mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)

Not a great week -- they rarely are -- but not too bad. Reasonably productive. As I wrote on Wednesday, hopefully that's the new normal for work. Quite a lot of laptop updating and some upgrading, cascading from N's disk failing to boot. Not clear whether the data is recoverable, but meanwhile she has a couple of options for laptops that work.

Our team's reading group has started taking Coursera: Functional Programming Principles in Scala. Which inevitably kicked off a couple of days' worth of Wikipedia dives into functional programming. And category theory, because monads. I'm going to have to learn Haskell next.

I want to get back into recording; so far the only thing I have to show for that is picking up my guitar twice to get back into practice. We'll see how far that goes.

Sometime on Friday I apparently noticed that my self-talk has gotten increasingly negative and self-critical, especially while walking. Which may have something to do with not walking as much as I used to. (The fact that the factual content is, as far as I can tell, accurate is NOT HELPFUL.) I did manage to reschedule the appointment with my therapist that I had to put off a couple of weeks ago. So that's something.

Your attention is drawn to the following music-related links:

Notes & links, as usual )
mdlbear: (tsunami)

Not a good week. Nightmares and (almost entirely silent) meltdowns. Mostly panic over taxes and other money problems, though the fact that Curio isn't eating well doesn't help, nor does ongoing work stress, nor taxes.

On the other hand, I did (finally) go out and get the wood for the Maypole; it was a great deal more expensive than I expected, but... ok. Nobody has redwood, and nobody has cedar longer than 12'. N. suggested using a Christmas tree stand; that will probably work and has some distinct advantages. Like, not putting a hole in the lawn.

I wasted several hours yesterday and today booting up (or trying to) several different old computers, because my laptop is in poor shape. I'll take it in for service on Tuesday. Also wasted a lot of time and spoons fighting with the mac mini. MacOS is almost unusable as of Yosemite; they even turn off scrollbars by default! IDIOTS! Back to using the laptop today, because I decided to do a thorough backup before taking it in. So far it seems to be behaving itself.

Also wasted a great deal of time looking for tax info, which I was too careless and/or stupid to keep track of. That's looking to be another nightmare, what with selling the Starport.

At least the Honda has its mirror and is otherwise working pretty well; service came in well north of two grand, which is about what I expected. They didn't fix the bumper -- I'll probably have to go to a body shop for that. Unless I can fix it myself, which isn't impossible. I think all it's going to need is a few whacks with a deadblow hammer.

My mood hasn't been improved much by getting unfriended over a FB post. Wouldn't mind much except that I liked the person in question, but her posts have been getting more stridently conservative lately, and I'd been getting more and more uncomfortable reading them. My post was a re-share of the link she'd shared and agreed with, with my comment:

Re: Superintendent Stands Up In A Big Way For Principal Facing Atheist Backlash This has attracted a lot of highly predictable agreement from conservative Christians. Ask yourselves this -- would it still be ok if the principal had been quoting from the Koran? How about the Satanic Bible? Do you imagine, even for a moment, that he would still have his job in that case? Because what you would think about that is *exactly* what an atheist thinks about his bible quotes.


I'll admit that the second paragraph is a bit gratuitously confrontational, but I don't think it's out of line considering the article and the massively approving reactions it got from the original poster and her friends. *sigh*

Looks like I won't be going to Indiana for a while, either.

Links in the notes, as usual.

raw notes, with links )
mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)

Between network problems (which I caused), the disastrous US elections, being off my antidepressants (which may have been helping a little after all; it may just be too subtle an effect for this alexithymic old bear to have noticed), pain issues, and just generally feeling harried, it was kind of a bad week.

I threw my set plans out the window, and put together what turned out to be a pretty good little set at the last minute: "Bigger On the Inside", "Someplace In the Net", "World Inside the Crystal", "Millennium's Dawn", "Keep the Dream Alive". Recordings (thanks to Rick Weiss) later this week.

I pretty much nailed the lyrics. A lot of missed notes, but the nice thing about the guitar is that as long as you have the right chord fingered it's going to sound ok no matter how sloppy the playing is. Got comments from a couple of people after the set, so that was nice.

The hotel was a distinct disappointment -- they'd overbooked the handicap rooms (the king room we're in is ok, but it would have been nice to have more manoevering room in the bathroom), and the restaurant didn't have a regular dinner menu. (The bar did have something more like a dinner menu, but it was expensive.) The breakfast buffet was no more than adequate. I see it's in a different hotel next year.

I have so far failed to connect with any of the people I'd been hoping to connect with; this is not unusual but does little to improve my mood, which I think is still somewhat volatile.

raw notes, with links )
mdlbear: portrait of me holding a guitar, by Kelly Freas (freas)

Y'know, I can't miss today's Songs for Saturday -- the combination of Woody's 100th birthday and Bastille Day is just too perfect.

Here's a link to NPR: At 100, Woody Guthrie Still Resonates. And here's the Wikipedia article on La Marseillaise.

Here is one of the only two surviving film clips of Woody performing: The Ranger's Command - 1945, and here's Woody singing This Land Is Your Land.

And here's Tear the fascist down "This song is Copyrighted in U.S., under Seal of Copyright # 154085, for a period of 28 years, and anybody caught singin it without our permission, will be mighty good friends of ourn, cause we dont give a dern. Publish it. Write it. Sing it. Swing to it. Yodel it. We wrote it, thats all we wanted to do."

And here's La Marseillaise in my favorite scene in Casablanca.

It makes me angry that this is all still so relevant.

mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)

Oops! Here, out of sequence, is the to.done for Thursday. Most of it was an LHH webinar on interviewing essentials -- hopefully I'll have a chance to apply that when I'm up in Seattle next week.

I had a burst of pain in my left arm, probably from twisting it and pinching a nerve -- I'd had my elbow resting on the buffet next to my chair in the living room; it's a little too high for real comfort.

Some links, mostly political. One to Wikipedia on Martin Luther King, Jr -- I found it startling and scary that younger people don't remember the time when many -- perhaps most -- churches were liberal. It seems to be pretty rare now. Of course, I also remember when "liberal" wasn't considered particularly far left.

raw notes )
mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)

Finally posted my itinerary/tentative schedule for the next couple of months. And, as usual, didn't do all that much else. Well, there were some things accomplished. Including the phone interview with EDD, which I'd been worried about. It looks as though my pension won't affect my unimployment insurance, because Ricoh stopped paying into it in 2010.

I'm continuing to putter, and got a fair amount of book triage done in the office. Most were immediately snapped up by folks in the Wednesday crowd, which of course was the whole idea. The old turntable, too -- now that we've gotten rid of all our vinyl, we really don't need it. End of an era.

I called PODS and got a quote: about $3200 for a 16' pod. The move will be complicated by the fact that we want some of the stuff to go into N's garage; I'm thinking of PODS or some other container company for that. We'll see. Unfortunately moving.com doesn't seem to have any way to compare prices; I'll have to call them all separately. The salesdroid at PODS was rather pushy.

Link of the day, after a nod toward Richard Lugar's statement, is Rachel Held Evans | How to win a culture war and lose a generation. The money quote:

When asked by The Barna Group what words or phrases best describe Christianity, the top response among Americans ages 16-29 was “antihomosexual.” For a staggering 91 percent of non-Christians, this was the first word that came to their mind when asked about the Christian faith. The same was true for 80 percent of young churchgoers. (The next most common negative images? : “judgmental,” “hypocritical,” and “too involved in politics.”)

Now, I'm part of that 91%; as an atheist and a Democrat I don't see a major shift away from religion as a bad thing. But if you do -- if you're one of the many progressive Christians I know are reading this -- you might want to do something about it.

When I was in college, the churches were hotbeds of radicalism, solidly on the left. They fed the poor, opposed the war in Vietnam, ... Where in Hell are they now?

raw notes )
mdlbear: (distress)
Originally posted by [livejournal.com profile] dejla at Stop Cyber Spying Week (CISPA)
Originally posted by [livejournal.com profile] rodlox at Stop Cyber Spying Week (CISPA)
Originally posted by [livejournal.com profile] sabaceanbabe at Stop Cyber Spying Week (CISPA)
Originally posted by [livejournal.com profile] morgandawn at Stop Cyber Spying Week (CISPA)
Join the Electronic Frontier Foundation and other groups in getting the word out this week:

"Under CISPA, can a private company read my emails?

Yes.  Under CISPA, any company can “use cybersecurity systems to identify and obtain cyber threat information to protect the rights and property” of the company. This phrase is being interpreted to mean monitoring your communications—including the contents of email or private messages on Facebook.

Right now, well-established laws, like the Wiretap Act and the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, prevent companies from routinely monitoring your private communications.  Communications service providers may only engage in reasonable monitoring that balances the providers' needs to protect their rights and property with their subscribers' right to privacy in their communications.  And these laws expressly allow lawsuits against companies that go too far.  CISPA destroys these protections by declaring that any provision in CISPA is effective “notwithstanding any other law” and by creating a broad immunity for companies against both civil and criminal liability.  This means companies can bypass all existing laws, as long as they claim a vague “cybersecurity” purpose."

More details and what to do here.

[A Dreamwidth post with comment count unavailable comments | Post or read on Dreamwidth| How to use OpenID]
mdlbear: (distress)
Originally posted by [livejournal.com profile] siliconshaman at Here we go again....CISPA is the new SOPA
Originally posted by [livejournal.com profile] griffen at Here we go again....CISPA is the new SOPA
Originally posted by [livejournal.com profile] atalantapendrag at Here we go again....CISPA is the new SOPA
Originally posted by [livejournal.com profile] ericadawn16 at Here we go again....CISPA is the new SOPA
Originally posted by [livejournal.com profile] sxymami0909 at Here we go again....CISPA is the new SOPA
Originally posted by [livejournal.com profile] xtremeroswellia at here we go again....CISPA is the new SOPA
Originally posted by [livejournal.com profile] sio at here we go again....CISPA is the new SOPA
PLEASE PASS THIS ON! i've shared on FB and a couple forums and hardly anyone else is--that bothers me on some level. we DON'T need this kind of censoring to be passed!!!

Originally posted by [livejournal.com profile] colonoscarpeay at CISPA is the new SOPA

Here's their next move: The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, or CISPA, would obliterate any semblance of online privacy in the United States.

And CISPA would provide a victory for content owners who were shell-shocked by the unprecedented outpouring of activism in opposition to SOPA and Internet censorship.

The House of Representatives is planning to take up CISPA later this month. Click here to ask your lawmakers to oppose it.

SOPA was pushed as a remedy to the supposed economic threat of online piracy -- but economic fear-mongering didn't quite do the trick.

So those concerned about copyright are engaging in sleight of hand, appending their legislation to a bill that most Americans will assume is about keeping them safe from bad guys.

This so-called cyber security bill aims to prevent theft of "government information" and "intellectual property" and could let ISPs block your access to websites -- or the whole Internet.

Don't let them push this back-door SOPA. Click here to demand that your lawmakers oppose CISPA.

CISPA also encourages companies to share information about you with the government and other corporations.

That data could then be used for just about anything -- from prosecuting crimes to ad placements.

And perhaps worst of all, CISPA supercedes all other online privacy protections.

Please click here to urge your lawmakers to oppose CISPA when it comes up for a vote this month.

Thanks for fighting for the Internet.

-Demand Progress

mdlbear: (distress)

This isn't a Songs for Saturday. It's important, it's political, it's inspiring, and you ought to go watch A Message to All Police Officers From Occupy Wall Street, delivered in an extremely powerful speech by an LAPD officer.

Hat tip to [personal profile] pocketnaomi

mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)

Pretty good week so far, actually. A lot of my mindspace early in the week was taken up by a River post on telling your friends what they need to hear, which replaced a previous post with, let's just say, more heat and much less light.

But I mostly kept up the momentum from the latter half of last week, and got quite a lot done. In particular, I managed to get some music-related work done every day, three walks and a drive with Colleen, and a lot of small but important tasks at work. Breaking things down into tiny steps really seems to work for me, and while there aren't all that many items here tagged with "15min", there probably should have been.

Sunday's drive was glorious. We reversed our usual route and drove up I280 to 92, then south along the coast via Highway 1 to Santa Cruz, and back by way of 17. This gave us a better view of the ocean than usual, and we saw a gorgeous effect that I'd never seen before -- bits of sunlight streaming through gaps in the clouds and making bright patches far out on the ocean, made more visible by the contrast. Just... wow.

I made chicken soup with rice for dinner. From scratch, using the chicken bones I'd saved from Saturday's broccoli chicken. Yum.

Monday I finally put two and two together and realized that the fact that my (AT&T) cell phone signal at work had gone from unusable to 100% and the fact that a group from Apple had moved in next door might possibly be related. Ya think?

Tuesday morning I had a nice conversation with the YD -- every once in a while she gets up early. Later that evening, I worked on the blackout code for steve.savitzky.net, lookingglassfolk.com, tempered-glass.info, tres-qique.com, and pocketpoems.net, using code from SopaBlackout.org. (I understand that PIPA won't be brought to a cloture vote today as previously scheduled. The net can kick ass sometimes.)

Wednesday I woke up remembering a dream mostly about plumbing. No idea what that signifies. Thursday I finally got printing back online for the netbooks and the YD's laptop. The latter also required booting from the "startup repair" partition and waiting for an hour or so while it cranked away, fixing what appeared to be a corrupt filesystem. Pretty slick, actually. F12. It would be nice if the boot screen actually mentioned that feature, though.

Note to self: make a restore disk first thing when configuring a new Windows machine.

I don't know whether batching up my daily updates like this is a good idea or not, but I do seem to have a little more time on days when I forget. I thought briefly of doing a "Wednesday Wrap-up", but I'd forgotten by the time I got home. They say your memory is the second thing to go.

I've forgotten the first.

Quite a few links, on a wide range of topics. I'm going to signal-boost [livejournal.com profile] moon_fox's Character Art Jam, in part because I left a prompt there (and a tip).

raw notes )
mdlbear: (snark-map)

Using code from SopaBlackout.org, I'm going to be blacking out the following websites tomorrow to protest the evil, evil bills called SOPA (House) and PIPA (Senate). You'll be able to click through to the actual site.

I'd say "sorry for the inconvenience", but I'm not. It's worth a little inconvenience to help prevent a disaster. Deal. Then write to your congresspeople. Ask them whether they're working for a handful of huge media corporations, or their constituents.

You can find out more here and here.

And listen to The Day The LOLCats Died

mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)

I was originally going to post something entirely different today -- I wanted to post one of my own love songs. Maybe I'll save it for February. Because I started thinking about the internet censorship laws now being debated in the House, and what's going on in New York, Davis, Seattle, and, well, just about everywhere...

And in the car this morning I remembered Die Gedanken sind frei.

Since the days of the Carlsbad Decrees and the Age of Metternich Die Gedanken sind frei was a popular protest song against political repression and censorship, especially among the banned Burschenschaften student fraternities. In the aftermath of the 1848 German Revolution the song was proscribed.

OK, then.

Here's Die Gedanken sind frei, the rally song of the 1942-43 German anti-Nazi youth movement, the White Rose. And here's Pete Seeger's translated version from his 1966 album, Dangerous Songs!? (Lyrics here.)

And remember that if those bills pass, and the Great Firewall of China comes to the US, this could be the last song I'll post here.

mdlbear: (distress)
Originally posted by [livejournal.com profile] write_light at BAD Internet Laws Heading Your Way

From the flist: 

Spread the word, even you're not a US citizen, it is important for everyone!! It easy to do and it can change everything. More info by clicking on the banner.

Website Blocking

The government can order service providers to block websites for infringing links posted by any users.

Risk of Jail for Ordinary Users

It becomes a felony with a potential 5 year sentence to stream a copyrighted work that would cost more than $2,500 to license, even if you are a totally noncommercial user, e.g. singing a pop song on Facebook.

Chaos for the Internet

Thousands of sites that are legal under the DMCA would face new legal threats. People trying to keep the internet more secure wouldn't be able to rely on the integrity of the DNS system.

Read this analysis from boing-boing.net

Get on the phone and call your representative. Express your disapproval. Tell him or her exactly how you feel, and that you don't support this. Tell your friends to call their representatives, their Congressperson, and complain. Mention that you are a registered voter that takes your civic responsibility seriously and that you will use that vote to express your feelings about this.


“We support the bill’s stated goals — providing additional enforcement tools to combat foreign ‘rogue’ websites that are dedicated to copyright infringement or counterfeiting,” the Internet companies wrote in Tuesday’s letter. “Unfortunately, the bills as drafted would expose law-abiding U.S. Internet and technology companies to new uncertain liabilities, private rights of action and technology mandates that would require monitoring of websites.”  The chamber-led coalition in support of the bill includes Walmart, Eli Lilly & Co. and Netflix.

Google and other opponents of the legislation argue that restricting the Internet in the U.S. sets a bad international precedent and that the language defines infringing too broadly.

mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)

So... a good day. Not much more than that, but solidly in the "good" area. Mostly, I spent the mid-to-late afternoon down at City Hall with the Occupy San Jose folks. Mostly standing around and talking to people. They have about half a dozen small tents set up, and it feels like a friendly group. They apparently have a good relationship with the police, so they're likely to be there for the long haul. I spent most of my time hanging out at the table they have set up near the tents, talking to Mark, who is apparently one of the leaders of the group.

I like this movement -- they're not aligning themselves with any political party (why alienate half your potential allies?), they're making their decisions by consensus, and they're pointing out that things are WRONG rather than immediately making demands or proposing "solutions".

The logo on their donation page is particularly cool.

There's also a loosely-affiliated Bank Transfer Day action: the idea is to transfer money out of banks and into credit unions, which are local and non-profit. I'm not really in a position to close my accounts at Union Bank (which isn't so bad, as banks go), but I'm going to move most of the money in the savings account over to my credit union (Alliance).

I also like their choice of day for it -- November 5th.

Quite a few good links below in the notes. In addition to the inevitable Occupy... stuff, there's Eric Raymond's excellent Ubuntu and GNOME jump the shark. Yes, I've installed Oneiric. I don't like it either; fortunately I can always keep using CTWM.

raw notes )
mdlbear: (distress)

Daily Kos: Where's Your $50,000? From Alan Grayson. Mr. Grayson is a former Congressman from Florida, currently running for his old seat back. I really hope he makes it. We need people who will speak this kind of truth.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) says that our Government has handed out $16 trillion to the banks.

Let me repeat that, in case you didn’t hear me the first time. The GAO says that our Government HAS HANDED OUT $16 TRILLION TO THE BANKS.

That little gem appears on Page 131 of GAO Report No. GAO-11-696. A report issued two months ago. A report that somehow seems to have eluded the attention of virtually every network, every major newspaper, and every news show.

How much is $16 trillion? That is an amount equal to or more than $50,000 for every man, woman and child in America. That’s more than every penny that every American earns in a year. That’s an amount equal to almost a third of our national net worth -- the value of every home, car, personal belonging, business, bank account, stock, bond, piece of land, book, tree, chandelier, and everything else anyone owns in America. That’s an amount greater than our entire national debt, accumulated over the course of two centuries.

A $16 trillion stack of dollar bills would reach all the way to the Moon. And back. Twice.

That’s enough to pay for Saturday mail delivery. For the next 5,000 years.

All of that money went from you and me to the banks. And we got nothing. Not even a toaster.

I have been patiently waiting to see whether this disclosure would provoke some kind of reaction. Answer: nope. Everyone seems much more interested in discussing whether or not they like the cut of Perry’s jib.

Whatever a jib may be.

In the next few weeks, I’m going to be writing more about this. But right now, I wanted to keep this really simple. Just give folks something to talk about when they’re standing next to the coffee maker.

The Government gave $16 trillion to the banks. And nobody else is talking about it. Think about it. Think about what that means.


Alan Grayson

To put it another way, $16 trillion will buy enough gas to drive to Alpha Centauri and back. Twice.

mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)
raw notes )

Hmm. I spent most of yesterday feeling tired; I don't think that an under-two-mile walk contributed much to that even if it was the first in over a week. Also, my eyes hurt. Probably need to get new glasses.

Turns out there's a Trader Joe's only a mile from work. Easy walk.

I filled up the van and it cost me as much as a monthly bus pass. On the other hand, with a 17-mile round trip it's almost exactly even, and that's only if I always take the van and not the Honda, which gets 50% better mileage. I'll revisit this calculation in mid-March when I qualify for a senior discount. Um... Right.

A minor triumph -- I did something minorly stupid (I forget what) and actually said "Silly bear!" to myself, instead of the more usual "Idiot bear!" I thought "idiot bear", briefly, but I didn't say it. That's big. Bigger than it sounds, maybe.

That segues nicely into the link of the day, the Charter for Compassion and this talk by Karen Armstrong at TED (courtesy of [livejournal.com profile] liralen. It makes a lot of sense, this idea that "The principle of compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical and spiritual traditions, calling us always to treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves."

If more than a handful of religious people actually believed it, this would be a much different planet. Unfortunately, most religion right now appears to be in bed with politics, and when that happens you don't need to ask who's on top -- you know who's going to get screwed.

I'm a little surprised that I was able to come up with that last aphorism before going to bed last night and still remember it in the morning.

mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)
raw notes )

Lots of puttering (though not much visible), and a good walk around the Rose Garden. Nice, relaxing day at home.

Finished looking up, and started learning, the chords to a song -- I'm being deliberately vague here because we want to surprise people with our next concert, at Conflikt. It'll be... different.

I officially declared the old backup drive toast when mkfs with extra checking crashed my system halfway through the first pass.

Lots of links, of course, including Crohn's Disease Diet, Foods & Nutrition (I copied the list of bad-for-you foods in the notes; naturally it includes a lot of Colleen's favorites) and the excellent Goodbye to All That: Reflections of a GOP Operative Who Left the Cult (plus a link to some commentary). That's scary, but maybe now a few more people in the media and the Democratic Party will pay attention. What's even more scary is that they probably won't.

I set my mood as "good", but actually a lot of things are looking kind of bleak.

mdlbear: "Sometimes it's better to light a flamethrower than to curse the darkness" - Terry Pratchett (flamethrower)

Baffled is more like it. Baffled, and biting my tongue. I mean, people carrying signs that say "The End Is Nigh" have been a cartoon staple for as long as I can remember, and presumably long before that. I guess the only reason I'm not making fun of them beyond the occasional wry comment is that I find other people embarrassing themselves acutely painful rather than funny.

How can anyone possibly believe that crap?

Just like every other time, some people have wrecked their lives, in the mistaken belief that tomorrow really wasn't coming. It's sad.

It's also rather horrifying, to realize that these are the kind of people who overwhelmingly vote Republican, or the equivalent in other countries. You'd think that blind acceptance of total nonsense was something that the conservatives are actively trying to encourage.

Oh. Right.

These are the kind of people who are going to go right back to wrecking the educational system, the health care system (what little there was of it), and the federal and state budgets so that the 500 richest people can keep getting richer, and the 500 biggest corporations can keep getting bigger. It's enough to make me wish they were right about Judgement Day.

OK, so maybe I'm not baffled. Or sad. Maybe I'm just angry.

mdlbear: (hill-of-three-oaks)

"Obama is not a brown-skinned, anti-war socialist who gives away free healthcare. You're thinking of Jesus." - John Fugelsang

(from mia_mcdavid: Quote of the day)

mdlbear: (distress)

Christianity, Social Justice and Politics - a well-researched rant against the Religious Right, with bible quotes. (From Ravan's Rants - New Post at Another Ravan Perch.)

mdlbear: "Sometimes it's better to light a flamethrower than to curse the darkness" - Terry Pratchett (flamethrower)

OK, so it looks like they want to send Colleen home tomorrow. We're dealing with the US health care don't give a damn system here, so the probability of changing that is nil. At best we might be able to fight a delaying action, but even putting it off until after Thanksgiving is unlikely. It's not like they have souls or anything.

(Update: 11/22 2pm She'll be moving to a skilled nursing facility, no earlier than Monday or Tuesday, and will stay until it's safe for her to be at home with less than 24-hour care. Apparently the doctors who she spoke to this morning were unanimous in saying that she couldn't go home yet. No telling where in the chain of command the idiocy was located. Kaiser covers 100 days/year of skilled care. Renting a hospital bed for when she does come home will only run some $20/month, but see below for a better long-term solution.)

Here are the major problems:

  1. It's 50 feet from the bedroom to the front door. Sometimes she needs to use a walker for that.
  2. Family members are in school or at work much of the day. If she can't be left alone for a couple of hours at a stretch, or needs someone closer than a half-hour drive on call, we're simply hosed. We do not have long-term care insurance.
  3. The bed is too high for her to get safely in and out of.
  4. The toilet in the front bathroom is too low for her to get safely in and out of.

Here are some possible solutions and side-notes:

  1. If there's a kind of pump that hangs on a shoulder strap, or an IV pole we can attach to the walker, she can get around the house safely by herself. This may require hardware hacking on my part.
  2. I can work half-days from home; Kat can take over in the afternoons. Still, if she needs someone closer than half an hour -- and preferably an hour -- away all the time, I don't see how it would be possible. There are errands, shopping, dentist appointments, taking the kids to school, you name it. The friends most likely to be free to help don't have cars.
  3. She can use the airbed in the sewing room temporarily. Longer term, I can set up a hospital bed either in the sewing room (which is really too small for it) or in the part of the living room that used to be the master bedroom. It already has curtains for privacy; I suppose we could put the wall back up at some point and make it a guest room. I've been thinking about that anyway.
  4. We need a higher toilet in the front bathroom anyway. And grab bars in both bathrooms. Short term, if she's in our bedroom or the front, she can use a commode; that would require clearing out space in our bedroom, but that's another project that's been put off too long.

Another possibility longer term is simply replacing the bed in the bedroom with a split, adjustable bed -- I know they exist. It would be expensive, but there's not much to be done about that. Right now we're using the space under the bed for storage, but that almost certainly would be less stuff to move than what's in front, which includes a couch and the Wolfling's pile of wedding presents. Those will all go away around the end of January, but hopefully by then Colleen will be better by then.

Longer term, the household is simply hosed. We don't have long-term care insurance (my stupidity about 15 years ago, and not fixable now) and it's inevitable that one or the other of us is going to get sick enough to need 24-hour care. I don't have enough cope to deal with that one -- ever.

mdlbear: (distress)
[With permission, from a locked post by my nephew, because I felt it needed wider distribution.]

So, can someone explain to me what the Republicans stand for these days?

See, I was listening to a party guy on the radio [the show was On Point, on NPR] on the way home talking about what they need to do to regain power. That got me wondering if the Republican party stands for anything other than hate?

- small government? I think not.
- individual freedoms? Yeah right.
- fiscal responsibility? Have you looked at our deficit?
- pro-business? I can't really see how.

- hate against pregnant women who want an abortion? Check.
- hate against gays who want to marry/adopt/have eights/etc... Yup.
- hate against people with drug problems (ie - throw them in jail) rather than rehab for them? Yup.
- hate against individual rights by limiting civil liberties? Yes.
- hate against the environment? I think so.

There was a caller who said that when he watched the democratic convention he saw a group of people full of hope and positive energy. When he watched the republicans he saw anger and fear. Is it any surprise Obama won?

So, I'm serious here. I know some of my friends at one point or another considered themselves to be republican. Step up and explain why please. I really want to know.

[I also have a link to this Salon article that essentially asks the same question.]
mdlbear: (distress)
American Civil Liberties Union : Legal Groups File Lawsuit Challenging Proposition 8, Should It Pass
SAN FRANCISCO – The American Civil Liberties Union, Lambda Legal and the National Center for Lesbian Rights filed a writ petition before the California Supreme Court today urging the court to invalidate Proposition 8 if it passes. The petition charges that Proposition 8 is invalid because the initiative process was improperly used in an attempt to undo the constitution's core commitment to equality for everyone by eliminating a fundamental right from just one group – lesbian and gay Californians. Proposition 8 also improperly attempts to prevent the courts from exercising their essential constitutional role of protecting the equal protection rights of minorities. According to the California Constitution, such radical changes to the organizing principles of state government cannot be made by simple majority vote through the initiative process, but instead must, at a minimum, go through the state legislature first.

The California Constitution itself sets out two ways to alter the document that sets the most basic rules about how state government works. Through the initiative process, voters can make relatively small changes to the constitution. But any measure that would change the underlying principles of the constitution must first be approved by the legislature before being submitted to the voters. That didn't happen with Proposition 8, and that's why it's invalid.
This would not be the first time the court has struck down an improper voter initiative. In 1990, the court stuck down an initiative that would have added a provision to the California Constitution stating that the "Constitution shall not be construed by the courts to afford greater rights to criminal defendants than those afforded by the Constitution of the United States." That measure was invalid because it improperly attempted to strip California's courts of their role as independent interpreters of the state's constitution.
I like this. It's straightforward, unambiguous, and best of all has nothing at all to do with gay rights. It's purely procedural.
mdlbear: (distress)

Earlier this morning I was willing to believe that I was just a cynical old morning person who shouldn't be allowed to post about politics after dark. I don't think that now.

What disturbed me, and still disturbs me, about the Religious Right's apparent victory on Prop 8 is the signal it sends to them: that even in "liberal" California, they can get over half the electorate to vote with them if they just pour in enough hatred, fear, lies, and money. That over half of my fellow citizens really are religious bigots.

Over the course of a couple of months, the Religious Right turned support for eliminating the right of gays to marry from about 30% to over 50%.

If they'd lost, there would be some hope that their grip on power, on the Republican party, might be weakened. Now they know for certain that they can get control back if they can just tap into enough fear and hatred. That over 50% of the people still believe that it's ok to deny civil rights to gays. Black people won their civil rights because most of the churches in the country believed that they deserved them. Blacks and Latinos voted in favor of Prop 8.

The next couple of elections are going to be very ugly.

I would pray, to whatever gods there may be, to save us from their followers. But I don't believe that it would work.

mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)

Obama won. Good. Pretty amazing, actually. Things will improve, though probably not as much or as quickly as I'd like. Or at least not go to Hell quite as quickly.

Prop 8 and Prop 4 appear to be winning in California; I probably won't know the final results before I go to bed, but I'm not particularly hopeful. Damn. It'll be a long, long battle to fix those.

I'm sleepy, and cold, and not as happy as by rights I should be.

I'm not sure why disappointment over 8 is hitting me as hard as it is. Perhaps because it's yet another triumph of hate over love, bigotry over tolerance, religion over rationality. As usual.

mdlbear: (distress)
Update: Problems with e-voting reported early in battleground states | InfoWorld | News | 2008-11-04 | By Elizabeth Montalbano, IDG News Service
Problems with e-voting machines were reported early on election day in several U.S. states, including Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia, which are identified as battleground states where the outcome of the vote could tip the presidential race in favor of either Democratic Sen. Barack Obama or Republican Sen. John McCain.

According to voter reports on the ground and from watchdog organizations, there were problems with getting e-voting machines up and running in these key states and others, and in some cases the machines would crash during the voting process and had to be rebooted.

Pennsylvania and Virginia were among states Verified Voting, an advocacy group focused on improving voting systems, and other watchdog organizations said they would keep a close eye on for voting problems. Neither state had early voting before Nov. 4, nor do they require paper-trail backups with the touchscreen electronic-voting machines in place at polls.

Critics of e-voting say that without a paper trail, there's no way to audit the results of a touchscreen machine, often called DREs, or direct recording electronic machines.
I'm not saying that there is deliberate fraud going on, only that it wouldn't surprise me at all, and that there's no way to detect it.

I voted

2008-11-04 09:59 am
mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)

Just got back from voting; there were only four people ahead of me in the line, but one was a provisional so it took a while. No matter.

If you're in the US and haven't voted yet, DO IT.

mdlbear: (distress)

All across my friends list there are people reporting huge lines at the polls, urging their friends to vote, expressing cautious hope. I particularly draw your attention to An Open Letter to the United States of America by [livejournal.com profile] telynor. Go vote.

I'm guardedly optimistic, as the phrase goes. The right of all couples to marry in California hangs by a thread. All across the country people are voting with machines that are easy targets for fraud. The election could easily have already been stolen, and the Supreme Court could well let them get away with it again. Even if Obama wins, the outgoing administration is, even now, shredding decades worth of regulations, and has hired a generation of right-wing civil servants who will take decades more to age out.

This mess is not going to be cleaned up in the next four years, and possibly not in my lifetime. Go vote anyway. It's important.

mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)
Why I Support Barack Obama - O'Reilly Radar
We are in unprecedented times. And folks, I'm sorry to say that the current financial meltdown is not the worst of it. Political instability around the world, wars over access to resources, and yes, terrorists, are all in our future. Scientists who've studied global warming agree that we're heading towards decades of extreme environmental stress, leading to even more severe economic disruptions than we have seen to date. Meanwhile, we have an aging population with ballooning healthcare costs, an unfair economy in which some people receive outsized gains while others fall behind, an educational system that is not preparing children for the future, and deficits that require an increasing percentage of our tax dollars to service debt to other countries. Even if there is a short term recovery, huge problems loom in the years ahead, problems we can no longer pass off to our children and grandchildren.

Faced with these problems, we need a president who can harness the best and brightest our country has to offer, a president who is conversant with, and comfortable with, the power of technology to assist in solving these problems, a president who is good at listening, studying, and devising solutions based on the best insight available, rather than on narrow ideology. We need a president who can forge consensus, not just among the partisans in our own fractured democracy but around the world. We need a president who can inspire our citizens and our global partners to forgo narrow self interest and embrace the possibilities that we can achieve if we work together to build a better future.

I believe Barack Obama is that president. He is a man of intelligence, but also a man whose character and temperament seem suited to the problems of our age: unflappable, optimistic even in the face of adversity, willing to speak the truth about subjects that have long been taboo (I'm thinking of his speech on race, and his speech on fatherhood) and with unscripted reactions that show his fundamental decency (I'm thinking of his reaction to those who wanted to make a campaign issue of Sarah Palin's daughter's unplanned pregnancy.)

Because this is a tech blog, not a political blog, though, I primarily want to address the subject of why members of the technical community should join me in supporting Barack Obama. (The New York Times has made a compelling case based on the broader issues, as has Colin Powell.) I outline four principal reasons:

1. Connected, Transparent Government
2. The Financial Crisis
3. Climate Change
4. Net Neutrality
mdlbear: (distress)

Copy this sentence into your livejournal if you're in a non-same-sex marriage, and you don't want it "protected" by the bigots who think that gay marriage hurts it somehow.

(seen several places this morning)

mdlbear: (xkcd-boomdeyada)
How do you document real life? - Hey there, Joe Six-Pack
Sarah Palin et al like to call us "Joe Six-Pack," and they think we like it too. They think it sounds folksy and homey and cute.

Sure. It's a folksy, homey, cute way to euphemistically call us something very close to trashy, ignorant hillbillies. We're just not supposed to be smart enough to realize it.
Referred from a locked post, but this is intelligent, thoughtful, uplifting, and [livejournal.com profile] copperwise is just fscking amazing.
mdlbear: (hacker glider)
Internet Traffic Begins to Bypass the U.S. - NYTimes.com
“Since passage of the Patriot Act, many companies based outside of the United States have been reluctant to store client information in the U.S.,” said Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington. “There is an ongoing concern that U.S. intelligence agencies will gather this information without legal process. There is particular sensitivity about access to financial information as well as communications and Internet traffic that goes through U.S. switches.”

But economics also plays a role. Almost all nations see data networks as essential to economic development. “It’s no different than any other infrastructure that a country needs,” said K C Claffy, a research scientist at the Cooperative Association for Internet Data Analysis in San Diego. “You wouldn’t want someone owning your roads either.”

Indeed, more countries are becoming aware of how their dependence on other countries for their Internet traffic makes them vulnerable. Because of tariffs, pricing anomalies and even corporate cultures, Internet providers will often not exchange data with their local competitors. They prefer instead to send and receive traffic with larger international Internet service providers.
(From [livejournal.com profile] cryptome.)

Not surprising.
mdlbear: (distress)
Close the Loopholes - On July 17 We Take Back the Economy!
Buyout firms such as Kohlberg, Kravis and Roberts have made billions of dollars using special tax breaks that reward them for buying and selling companies; and they’ve slashed wages and destroyed jobs all while using tax loopholes to pay an even lower tax rate than everyday Americans on their billion-dollar profits. On July 17, in cities from New York to Bangalore to Paris, SEIU members will be joined by activists from 25 countries to take aim at the special perks and tax loopholes that buyout firms depend on to get rich.

There is legislation in the U.S. Senate to close the loopholes that would provide money for tax relief for middle income taxpayers and fund healthcare. The buyout industry has spent millions to defeat this legislation.
I'm a little embarrassed to say that I got this link from our building manager -- I work just down the street from the main target's HQ.

Particularly apropos in view of parts of my previous post, don't you think?
mdlbear: (distress)

I want my country back, and the only way to get it back is to vote for a Democrat in every damned election I'm qualified to vote in.

The Department of Health & Human Services moves to define "contraception" as "abortion".

I live in California. Our initiative process has made it entirely clear that any small, cynical group of greedy bastards can cobble together enough special-interest votes to get almost any hare-brained scheme that benefits them passed by a simple majority. The Bush administration and their puppet masters have done that on an even larger scale; the entire Republican party has been turned over to the religious right as a way of keeping a small group of extremely rich, extremely cynical people in power. This latest move is a blatent attempt to drag mainstream Catholics into the conspiracy, and it may very well succeed.

One more term with a Republican in office, and there will be a right-wing nutcase majority on the US Supreme Court. DO YOU WANT THAT? If you have to think hard about it, I'm not sure I want to know.

A little history. Cut-tagged for strong language and graphic descriptions of violence toward women and minorities. )

I am old enough to remember people driving across state lines to get abortions. To buy contraceptives. DO YOU WANT THOSE DAYS BACK?

I am old enough to remember when Jews and Catholics, as well as African-Americans (as we call them now) were routinely discriminated against in jobs, housing, and college admissions. When restrooms, drinking fountains, and schools were segregated. When Jewish kids like me were routinely teased -- if not worse -- at school. DO YOU WANT THOSE DAYS BACK?

I am old enough to remember when a divorced-and-remarried relative couldn't go back home to Italy for fear of being arrested for bigamy, because divorce wasn't legal there. DO YOU WANT THAT HERE?

Think about whether you want the bad old days back before you vote Republican, because that's what you're going to get, and worse. Much worse.

We are one Supreme Court justice away from a right-wing religious dictatorship. If that. It may already be too late, because the ones pulling the puppet strings aren't necessarily tied to the religious right. That's just where they can get the votes now. If that coalition falls apart, they'll start to cobble together a different set of single issues. We may only have one or two terms to root them out. They already have a head start.

I am also old enough to remember when Richard Nixon was considered by many to be a corrupt right-wing nut case, and to remember that he was somewhere to the left of most of today's Democrats. I am old enough to remember when "liberal" was considered middle-of-the-road. I am old enough to have been proud to call myself a radical.

I am old enough to remember when the US had a middle class. When most rich people paid their fair share of taxes. When we learned the Bill of Rights in school, and knew that our government was there to enforce it and not to undermine it.

I am old enough to have learned the Pledge of Allegiance before a Republican administration added the words "under God" to it, and I still say it as I learned it.


Thanks to this post by [livejournal.com profile] snobahr, this post by [livejournal.com profile] kyburg, and this post by [livejournal.com profile] ravan. Planned Parenthood has an online petition.

mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)

Jesse Helms is dead!

Not to speak ill of the dead, or anything. Guess I'll just stop here.

mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)

The morning was almost entirely eaten up taking [livejournal.com profile] chaoswolf and [livejournal.com profile] selkit to the bank so they could set up a joint account. The bank we've been using since before we were married, Union Bank of California, is one of the few with a branch in Canada, which made it an obvious choice as well as convenient for all. It still took two hours for them to figure out how to handle a Canadian's identity. Feh!

After that, we piled the whole gang plus the wheelchair (Igor), into the [livejournal.com profile] flower_cat's minivan (the Rambling Silver Rose -- yes, the song was an afterthought) and went to the local Greek Orthodox church's Greek Festival. It's not about the music, the dancing, or the hucksters: it's about the food. Everyone in the family has something they like there, even the normally-super-picky Younger Daughter, who invariably has the deep-fried squid strips and a big box of honey-dipped, deep-fried dough balls for desert. Colleen had lamb, and I had a skewer of pork cubes; both of us drank retsina. Yum. The Cat and I finished lunch with Greek coffee (sometimes described as caffeinated sludge served in tiny cups at knife-point) and baklava.

Went over to the stage, and I joined a line dancing a Syrtos. Took a while for the pattern to come back to my feet, but I eventually got it. Left after that because the music really was a bit too loud. No walkies, but I got my exercise with the RollyCat. I'd parked only a couple of blocks away, so it wasn't worthwhile going around for a pickup.

After that, I took [livejournal.com profile] selkit to Fry's to exchange the Fujitsu tablet laptop he'd bought back in March, and which has been giving him considerable trouble, for a new Sony. Tedious but straightforward; I got a smile out of the salesdroid by mentioning to Selkit that one of the reasons I really like Fry's is their return policy.

Welsh rabbit (yes, that's really what it's called, not "rarebit" -- hint: it's an English dish) for a quick, light dinner.

After dinner the Cat, Emmy and I got dressed up and went out to the Mountain View Masonic Center for the installation of the Y.D.'s best friend Kaylee as Worthy Advisor of the local Rainbow Girls assembly. Needless to say, this was far, far outside my experience, or Emmy's for that matter. (Colleen had been to one, four decades ago.) K. seemed a little surprised, but delighted, to see us (it was her Mom who had given us the invitation). But, you know, you have to support your friends.

I found it fascinating. Girls in long dresses floating in precise patterns across the floor, simple but effective ritual hand-offs from the old officers to the new, a little bit of ad-hoc silliness to lighten things up... Light reception afterwards -- we came home with a plate of cucumber sandwiches. Emmy's sotto voce remark was that it was too religious for her -- too explicitly Christian, in fact; she described herself on the way home as "spiritual but not religious". It's a part of her friend's life that she's never going to share to any great extent, but we were all glad to have been there.

I said the Pledge of Allegiance as I originally learned it, without "under God". It's a small protest, but I do it anyway.

mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)

There are some crimes that are universally condemned in the civilized world. Murder. Slavery. Torture. Terrorism. Genocide. Sometimes one has to condone one evil in order to prevent a greater one; most civilized countries have standing armies, and some conscript their citizens into them. All civilized countries draw the line at torture.

There are several reasons for this, besides the obvious fact that history has proven time after time that it does not work: the "information" one obtains from a person who is give it in order to stop intolerable pain is likely to be of little value. Likely, even, to be deliberately misleading. But the chief reason has to be that it's evil. Like Sauron's ring, it corrupts any person, any organization, any nation that uses it. Like other great crimes, torture cuts the perpetrator off from civilization. From humanity.

It's possible to construct a "ticking time bomb" scenario in which torture is the only possible way to get some necessary, vital bit of information needed to prevent a greater crime. Fine. Leave the law on the books. If somebody is willing to break that law, in public, with all the records on video, and put their career, their reputation, and their life on the line in front of a jury of their peers, I'll grant them the right to try it.

If they're not willing to pay that very personal price, if they want to warp the law to let them get away with unspecified acts in secret that, when found out, do untold damage to their country's reputation in the civilized world, well, that's a crime, too. It's called treason.

Just as an aside, you'll find some other blog entries more-or-less aligned with my point of view here, here, and here. Opposing view here.

Oh, and the title? It's what Gandhi said when asked what he thought of Western civilization. I'd really like to be living in a civilized country again.

mdlbear: (distress)

... and keepin' old Cheney down (with apologies to Phil Ochs). But I couldn't resist, now that Chris Dodd (D-CT) has succeeded in stopping the FISA bill with its retroactive immunity for telco wiretapping.

It'll be back in January, but that's a whole new year, and a few more senators may be thinking about how it will look on their record.

mdlbear: (distress)
...on the other side, that is...

US says it has right to kidnap British citizens - Times Online
AMERICA has told Britain that it can “kidnap” British citizens if they are wanted for crimes in the United States.

A senior lawyer for the American government has told the Court of Appeal in London that kidnapping foreign citizens is permissible under American law because the US Supreme Court has sanctioned it.

The admission will alarm the British business community after the case of the so-called NatWest Three, bankers who were extradited to America on fraud charges. More than a dozen other British executives, including senior managers at British Airways and BAE Systems, are under investigation by the US authorities and could face criminal charges in America.

Until now it was commonly assumed that US law permitted kidnapping only in the “extraordinary rendition” of terrorist suspects.

The American government has for the first time made it clear in a British court that the law applies to anyone, British or otherwise, suspected of a crime by Washington.
(From this post by [livejournal.com profile] wcg.)
mdlbear: (distress)
Guardian | Fascist America, in 10 easy steps
From Hitler to Pinochet and beyond, history shows there are certain steps that any would-be dictator must take to destroy constitutional freedoms. And, argues Naomi Wolf, George Bush and his administration seem to be taking them all.

Naomi Wolf
Tuesday April 24, 2007

Last autumn, there was a military coup in Thailand. The leaders of the coup took a number of steps, rather systematically, as if they had a shopping list. In a sense, they did. Within a matter of days, democracy had been closed down: the coup leaders declared martial law, sent armed soldiers into residential areas, took over radio and TV stations, issued restrictions on the press, tightened some limits on travel, and took certain activists into custody.

They were not figuring these things out as they went along. If you look at history, you can see that there is essentially a blueprint for turning an open society into a dictatorship. That blueprint has been used again and again in more and less bloody, more and less terrifying ways. But it is always effective. It is very difficult and arduous to create and sustain a democracy - but history shows that closing one down is much simpler. You simply have to be willing to take the 10 steps.

As difficult as this is to contemplate, it is clear, if you are willing to look, that each of these 10 steps has already been initiated today in the United States by the Bush administration.

Because Americans like me were born in freedom, we have a hard time even considering that it is possible for us to become as unfree - domestically - as many other nations. Because we no longer learn much about our rights or our system of government - the task of being aware of the constitution has been outsourced from citizens' ownership to being the domain of professionals such as lawyers and professors - we scarcely recognise the checks and balances that the founders put in place, even as they are being systematically dismantled. Because we don't learn much about European history, the setting up of a department of "homeland" security - remember who else was keen on the word "homeland" - didn't raise the alarm bells it might have.

It is my argument that, beneath our very noses, George Bush and his administration are using time-tested tactics to close down an open society. It is time for us to be willing to think the unthinkable - as the author and political journalist Joe Conason, has put it, that it can happen here. And that we are further along than we realise.
Got this from the lovely, talented, and normally mild-mannered [livejournal.com profile] vixyish. It was sort of apparent, but I haven't seen the steps set out this clearly before. The book referenced in the article, The End of America: A Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot, was published last month and is available here.

So I don't want to invoke Godwin's Law here, but rather the reverse. So with a little prodding from [livejournal.com profile] technoshaman, here's what Vixy says at the end of her post:
But not long ago, in a conversation about this kind of thing with a co-worker who follows news & politics pretty heavily, I asked him rather bleakly, "what can we do?"

He said, "Keep talking about it."
So I'm talking about it. Your turn.
mdlbear: (abt)
Techdirt: Court Slaps Down Software And Business Model Patents
This case involved a guy who was trying to patent the concept of "mandatory arbitration involving legal documents." The USPTO denied the patent. After a failed appeal, the guy went to court, and CAFC is also saying that his concept does not deserve patent protection, with this being the key quote: "The routine addition of modern electronics to an otherwise unpatentable invention typically creates a prima facie case of obviousness." In other words, simply taking a common process and automating it on a computer should be considered obvious -- and thus, not patentable. This doesn't rule out business model or software patents by any means -- but it at least suggests that the courts are beginning to recognize that the patent system has gone out of control. The court also specifically addresses its own earlier State Street decision, suggesting that people had been misinterpreting it to mean any business model was patentable -- when the USPTO and the courts should still be applying the same tests to see if the business models are patentable. It then notes that a business model on its own shouldn't be patentable unless it's tied to some sort of product, and then states: "It is thus clear that the present statute does not allow patents to be issued on particular business systems -- such as a particular type of arbitration -- that depend entirely on the use of mental processes."
(Emphasis added.)
mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)
OMG! Navy Calls MySpace Kids "Alien Life Force" (And They Hate the War, Too)
The MySpace generation is a "somewhat alien life force," a Navy recruiting presentation contends -- with a language and lifestyle that's almost unrecognizable to adults. And because the kids are such "coddled," "narcissistic praise junkies," they'll be beyond tough to bring into the military. Propensity to join the armed forces among these so-called "millennials" has dropped to as little as 3%; that's down from 26% in 2001.

Entropic Memes uncovered the bleak, often unintentionally hilarious report from the Annual Navy Workforce Research and Analysis Conference, which also glumly notes that the Iraq war has brutalized recruiting efforts. Up to two-thirds of millennials are "less likely to join the military" because of the war, according to the presentation.
(From BoingBoing.)

To answer the question in my title, "not much." The Iraq war means that the military can no longer pretend to be merely a place to work with good pay, on-the-job training, and benefits. The GI Bill, that put my Dad through grad school at Columbia, has been gutted to the point where it can hardly pay for four years at a state college. And you might actually be shipped off to someplace unpleasant for an interminable war that was started under false pretenses by Bush and his gang of greedy, cynical sycophants handlers puppet masters.

I could say something about the Vietnam here, but I think I'll pass except to say that they'll probably have to bring back the draft if they want to get us into another war any time soon.
mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)
Every election season when politicians unleash their expensive and (usually) unimaginative attack ads, op-ed writers invoke the unofficial title of the most notorious 60 seconds in advertising history: "The Daisy Ad" (official title: "Peace, Little Girl," aka "Daisy Girl," "The Daisy Spot, "aka "Little Girl – Countdown"). The spot features a little girl picking petals off of a daisy in a field and counting out of sequence just before an adult voiceover interjects a "military" countdown which is then followed by stock footage of a nuclear explosion and the cautionary words of President Lyndon B. Johnson: "These are the stakes – to make a world in which all of God's children can live, or to go into the dark. We must either love each other, or we must die." The ad – which never identifies its target – was aimed at reinforcing the perception that the 1964 Republican candidate for president, Senator Barry M. Goldwater, could not be trusted with his finger on the button. Title screen from 'David and Bathsheba'As has often been recited, the Daisy ad aired only once as a paid advertisement – on NBC during the network movie (DAVID AND BATHSHEBA) on Monday, September 7, 1964. Since that long ago Labor Day, the film of the child and her daisies has been re-played millions of times.
(Via BoingBoing, of course.)

I've seen it. It was very effective.
mdlbear: "Sometimes it's better to light a flamethrower than to curse the darkness" - Terry Pratchett (flamethrower)

In the interest of not feeding my depression, I don't think I'll make any political posts today other than pointing at [livejournal.com profile] ravan's annotated copy of the Declaration of Independence.

I find the name of our country's current president theocratic dictator ironic in the extreme.

added: Also go watch/listen to this opinion piece by Keith Olbermann, or read the text which has the last paragraph that was cut off in the video.

mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)

So it seems that Jerry Falwell died this morning. Far be it from me to speak ill of the dead.

But if the afterlife he so fervently believed in really exists, I hope he has taken up residence in the appropriate section of it.

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