Thursday, February 28

not.so.soft has a good post on branding, with many excellent links.
We told you about this months ago on Opensewer... The soon-to-be-infamous Line 47, which Paul Krugman mentions in his recent not-so-optimistic take on recovery from this recession: The Bush administration didn't want to give those famous $300 rebate checks; its original plan would have pumped hardly any money into the economy last year. Under prodding from Democrats the plan was changed to incorporate immediate cash outlays. But those outlays were included only grudgingly, and with a catch: they really weren't rebates. Instead, they were merely advances on future tax cuts. (NYT--user name: opensewer; password: iswatching.)

Wednesday, February 27

Did you know that next to The Bible, the Tao Te Ching is the most translated book in the world? And for good reason. This ancient Chinese book lays the philosophical foundations for one of the world's great wisdom traditions, Taoism. A friend recently reintroduced me to Taoist philosophy, and again, I'm reminded of how simple life can be.

Tuesday, February 26

Today in 1848, the Communist Manifesto was published in London. Recently I'd lost sight of the fact that the pen really is mightier than the sword--thanks to Mr. Keillor for the reminder.
Whether you love him or you hate him, the former Boy Mayor delivered a pretty invigorating speech recently at the University of Southern Cal. The Congressman is the first member of Congress to openly repudiate Bush's war rationale. An interested read indeed.

Monday, February 25

Everything you need for a summer house, you can certainly get in Wal-Mart; Wal-Mart Eyes BMW Crowd. Oh great.
The United States was not always the world’s economic leader. History looks more like a long-distance race in which one county assumes leadership for some time, only to lose it to another and return to the pack or disappear from sight. For much of the first millennium, and until the fifteenth century, China probably had the world’s highest level of output per capita. For a couple of centuries, leadership moved to the cities of northern Italy. It was then assumed by the Netherlands until around 1820, and then by the United Kingdom from 1820 to around 1870. Since then, the United States has been in the lead… If history is any guide, the United States will not remain in the lead forever.Oliver Blanchard

Saturday, February 23

In a world otherwise stripped of meaning and self-identity, adolescents can come to understand violence itself as a morally grounded gesture, a kind of purifying attempt to intervene against the nothingness.

For each act of gratuitous violence that is actually carried out, how many unconsummated dark fantasies are transmuted into depression, resignation, or a benumbed withdrawal from participation in civic society?

A frightening momentum has been building, and the qualities of generational understanding and assurance that once earned America a worldwide reputation as child-centered are fading fast. And yet despite a growing awareness of this fact, the public policy that we are developing to cope with troubled kids is only exacerbating the situation...the state's growing arrogation of power to punish rather than to rehabilitate. This is a policy that expresses both fear of and contempt for children.

We must face the fact that having ceased to exploit children as laborers, we now exploit them as consumers. RoperASW (with its Roper Youth Report), Teenage Research Unlimited, and similar organizations, using methods derived from the behavioral sciences, advise merchandisers and advertising companies on the latest semiotics of "cool" and consumer-friendly subversion. "We understand how teens think, what they want, what they like, what they aspire to be, what excites them, and what concerns them," the Teenage Research Unlimited Web site brags. What this understanding translates into in the marketplace is hypersexuality, aggression, addiction, coldness, and irony-laced civic disaffection—the very seed-bed of apocalyptic nihilism.

Friday, February 22

From Opensewer 11 Ithaca last night:

The most merciful thing in the world is the mind's inability to correlate its own content.

--Jorge Luis Borges. More later...

Thursday, February 21

It's Universal Letter Writing Week! Yes, letter writing, a lost art. Along the lines of lost art: thank you notes. People have truly forgotten how to send them. This article deals more with weddings but still has plenty to say about what goes on in the head of a gift-giver when no thank you note is ever received. Too lazy to write one? Well, then let Modern Humorist help you out!
OS New York is over. Tonight, the other 6 cities. See you there!

Wednesday, February 20

Trying to judge America's political possibilities by focusing on the dismal waltz of the dead in Washington is like a cat watching the wrong mousehole. Our future is out here, where we can build on the work of hundreds of thousands of unsung people who daily are taking on the corporate greedheads and political boneheads. These people are lighting prairie fires of rebellion against the way things are, and from them, we can learn how to put progress back in progressive.

Jim Hightower learns that progress crops up in the unexpected places and tells the story of the city that refused to be Wal-Marted.

Tuesday, February 19

Don't forget! Opensewer New York City is being held Wednesday, February 20th, and all others--Boston, Cleveland, Columbus, Ithaca, Jackson, and Jacksonville--are being held on Thursday, February 21st. Join us!
Good communication is as stimulating as black coffee, and just as hard to sleep after.

-Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Monday, February 18

Fox is going to air a show called the Glutton Bowl. Do we need to review the Seven Deadly Sins?

Sunday, February 17

Susan Harlan, an artist and professor, creates mappings that investigate the way humans impact the earth. She accomplishes this through her paintings, and draws upon history, storytelling and archeology in the process.

Saturday, February 16

Housing affordability is one of the key issues facing contemporary America. According to HUD, 12 million renter and homeowner households paid more then 50 percent of their annual incomes for housing in 1999—and this was at the tail end of one of the strongest economic expansions in history. When a household uses such a disproportionately high percentage of its income for housing, it becomes very difficult to meet the other basic needs of living.

Here’s my question: Doesn’t that fact that we (collectively) are even having a national discussion about affordable housing imply that we believe there are systemic problems in the American capitalist-democratic system that can never be cured? In other words, if laissez-faire capitalism works, then the invisible hand of the market would allocate scarce resources efficiently and all types of housing needs would be met, including affordable housing (because there is a demand for affordable housing). However, this does not happen. Therefore policy, a “band-aid,” becomes necessary to modify the natural behavior of the market.

In short, my assertion is that the mere existence of policy (of any sort) supports the notion that an unrestrained market doesn’t really allocate resources efficiently, or equitably.

Thursday, February 14

Hooray! Maybe the system does work sometimes. Good luck getting through the Senate, brave little bill!
The venues are set, everything is ready...7 days and counting until Opensewer 11. See you there!

Wednesday, February 13

This is getting posted everywhere but since it's well worth the Cause, I thought I'd mention it here. It's a little article about how humanity can defeat one of its greatest curses, the telemarketer, by using three simple words: "Hold on, please."
Ran across an article today about Big Brother watching what you read - and buy - from your local bookstore. Although law enforcement officials claim that the information sought assists with prosecution of cases, we need to all wake up: It's a huge infringement on First Amendment Rights. Before you know it, we'll all be memorizing books, and seeking institutions such as this and this for guidance.

Thanks to John Alston for the Big Brother article. Here's the banned books list. And while you're at it, take this quiz about censorship. Did you know that Dr. Seuss had a banned book as well? Admittedly, it's a little scary...

The House faces a decision on legislation Wednesday that lawmakers hope will remove millions of unregulated dollars from political campaigns and help restore public confidence in the nation's elected officials.

"Help" is the key word there. A real end to soft money? Not likely. But definitely a step in the right direction.

Tuesday, February 12

The International Olympic Committee's motto is "Faster. Higher. Stronger." The unofficial Olympic motto is "Sell. Protest. Pander."

Ahhh... capitalism at its best. Read here for the story. Thanks, Megan.

Monday, February 11

How do these people do it? The fugitive banker says top managers at his two former places of employment made it easy for him to swindle over $300 million; their top priority was about bringing in the cash, and they left him alone to do what he needed to achieve the numbers. The Allied Irish Bank broker's fictitious transactions created a $750 million loss for the bank, leaving investigators to believe there was inside help. Now the Government is looking into communications company Global Crossing. Read about it in this article titled How Executives Prospered as Global Crossing Collapsed. And we don't even need to say anything about Enron.

We are in a sad state of affairs in this country, all wrapped in putrid patriotic sentimentalism now corrupting the American Games --err, I mean the Olympics. Yippee-Yah-Hay-Hoo!

(New York Times articles. Login: Opensewer/Password: iswatching)

Follow-up to Jason's post. What's Tricky Dick hiding?
The bottom line is that secrecy prevails in every situation when at least one party wants it.

What are they hiding? Why is the Bush administration so obsessed with secrecy?

Sunday, February 10

Claim: For those who dream of a better life, science has bad news: this is the best it is going to get. Our species has reached its biological pinnacle and is no longer capable of changing.

Rebuttal: Scientists are split over the theory that natural selection has come to a standstill in the West.

Story.

Saturday, February 9

What are you doing spending a nice day like this in front of your computer?

Friday, February 8

By now, we’ve certainly all heard some form of the saying, “The richest industrialized countries contain X percent of global population, but consume Y percent of the world’s resources” (where Y is significantly greater than X). Well, whether you believed it, or simply thought it a cliché of environmental extremists, the latest UNFPA report on The State of World Population 2001 gives the real numbers:

A huge "consumption gap" exists between industrialized and developing countries. The world's richest countries, with 20 per cent of global population, account for 86 per cent of total private consumption, whereas the poorest 20 per cent of the world's people account for just 1.3 per cent.

Do yourself a favor and look over this report. It’s quite long, but the Overview is very manageable and gives a good summary of many of the findings.

It’s times like this that I’m unendingly thankful for the Internet (in fact I’m so happy that I spelled it with a capital “I” this time). How many world citizens are too poor to have access to this report?

Been a while since we visited Michael Moore, so when I saw his Open Letter to George W. Bush I thought we'd say another hello!

Thursday, February 7

10 Worst Corporations of 2001, no surprises. On CorpWatch, a site worth bookmarking.
GreenerCars rates 2002 vehicles and gives you tips on which cars are nicest to the environment, including why to buy green, a list of the greenest vehicles of 2002 and the meanest vehicles for the environment.
Integrity still exists, but apparently not among parents of certain American high school students.

Wednesday, February 6

Ouch. Wakey-wakey.
Sven Woodside, a student at the University of Amsterdam, presents his thesis, Every Joke is a Tiny Revolution - Culture Jamming and the Role of Humour (pdf) along with a great collection of culture-jamming links. (Thanks antenna)
Bush's new 2.13T budget calls for cuts in digital divide programs, job training, highway funding, environmental funding, and countless other beneficial programs. In the eyes of our nation, national defense is obviously important, but it's not worth cutting support for government programs that will make a real difference in the long-term. How will it affect you and your community?

Tuesday, February 5

Just a bit ago, in the stall next to me in a ladies' restroom, a four-year old kid was screaming at the top of her lungs reciting the alphabet with her mother, who was waiting on the other side of the stall. My ears were literally hurting as each scream echoed. The kid bellowed, "A!" The mother enthusiastically replied, "B!" From my stall I uttered a curt "Shhh!", and as I was washing my hands I politely told the mother that her kid needed to tone it down. The woman looked me up and down and replied, "You obviously don't have kids."

So it is with fierce agreement that I direct you to Christina Waters' article, Screaming Me-Me's and repeat: If your children aren't ready for prime time, keep them at home until they are.

Proud to say that I was not one of the 130 million Americans watching the Superbowl. But I should have at least watched the commercials, because as you may or may not have known, our Government spent $3,200,000 of our tax dollars on Super Bowl propaganda. Read Geov Parrish's spin on it all here.

Monday, February 4

The Miniature Earth puts some things into perspective. Note: flash movie.
Artist Daniel Cimmerman explores the concepts of community and belonging through his dramatically beautiful studies of blemished, disguised, and manipulated faces.
One of the two teams in the Super Bowl beat the other one last night. In other news, yesterday afternoon Mrs. Bessie Willis picked up the special cross-stitch patterns she'd ordered several weeks ago from Jo-Ann Fabrics. It's all very exciting.

Friday, February 1

Did you know that our Government has just spent over $8,000 for two blue velvet drapes, one of which will cover the partially nude statute of Spirit of Justice at the Great Hall of Justice? ABC News reports the decision was made at the request of John Ashcroft. The Justice Department states he knew nothing about it. If we're not careful, Mr. Conservative Republican will work on destroying anything that shows the nude body. Hmmm. Next thing you know he'll destroy a Buddah statute. How did I miss this one?! Read the BBC report for a bit different spin.
We love our Moderators. Here's an article from Josh, moderator of our Columbus Opensewer, reporting that US scientists have isolated stem cells from monkey embryos created using only an egg. And here's another interesting article about discovery of the "ultimate stem cell"
From Sara, moderator of our Boston Opensewer, just in time for the upcoming Opensewer-11: Stem Cells: A Primer.
What do you think of this article: Headline reads, EU Challenges US Over Israel. And then, Frustrated EU governments are starting to speak out more bluntly about the violence in the Middle East - and America's failure to intervene.