Wednesday, December 31

Ok, everyone, sing along with me: This year, I resolve to trade in my SUV for two hybrid gas-electrics which I could drive simultaneously and twice as much and still get better fuel economy, and the money I save on gas I will give to a charity that is attempting to reduce the imbalance of power and resource use between the “first” and “third” worlds; I resolve not to shop at Wal-Mart (which is also responsible for contributing to the disparity between the “first” and “third” worlds), and to convince someone else to do the same, even though nobody ever listens to anybody anymore; I resolve to stop watching reality television, and in fact to watch less television in general, except of course for reruns of the classic 1980s action hit Riptide; I resolve to drive less and walk more, and to kick the headlights out of any car who encroaches on my crosswalk space; I resolve not to talk on my cell phone in restaurants; I resolve not to chew loudly or with my mouth open; I resolve never to buy a house at the end of a cul-de-sac, or to sell the one I own, or if that last statement confuses me to read books on planning and urban economics so that I can learn why cul-de-sacs are generally less than ideal when it comes to neighborhood and community; I resolve not to be afraid of the bus as a method of public transportation, even though there may or may not be persons aboard who are outside of my socioeconomic stratum; I resolve not to make fun of people with mullets anymore, because they are people too; I resolve that if I need to purchase a book, I’ll first try to find it at my cool (or not cool) local bookstore, even if it is $1.63 cheaper via Amazon; I resolve to get to know my neighbors better; I resolve to try to listen to people; I resolve to remember that there will always be more to learn than I can possibly know.

Wednesday, December 24

So this is what it's coming to? Are we going to tax the "bad" foods? If the American Public Health Association wants to tax our naughty foods, we just might get it.
A few years ago this idea would have been shocking, but now it simply seems likely. After all, we've made smoking nearly ilegal, and alcohol prohibition is slowly creeping back, too (big PDF link).
Really, this lunacy is just an extension of the idiotic ideas about substances we have as a culture - that a "thing" can be good or bad, when in fact, the thing itself does nothing, but the use and the user are what are good or bad. Land of the taxed, home of those not even responsible for their own waistlines.

Monday, December 22

Saturday, December 20

Friday, December 19

Weird to think that on the previous post, I linked to Alternet, the National Review, and the Cato Institute. The resistance to the insane drugwar stretches across some interesting divides. Maybe the war on drugs can unite freedom lovers of all stripes in opposition to the stealing of our freedoms.
Interesting ruling by the 9th circuit this week... the feds can't prosecute medical pot users who use it on the advice of a physician and obtain the drug at no charge. Not just a decision for patients, also a decision that recognizes that the constitution does actually limit the Federal Government's power to control your life by taking away your ability to buy what you want or need. The feds had been relying on the infamously expanded Interstate Commerce clause to make what a local doctor was prescribing as medicine illegal. In this case, "the cultivation, possession and use of marijuana for medicinal purposes and not for exchange or distribution is not properly characterized as commercial or economic activity" and therefore not in the scope of Congress's power to regulate.
Link to ruling in PDF format.

Thursday, December 18

You mean the president can't do ANYTHING he wants? But he got more, well, almost as many votes as the other guy...
Seriously, it's about time the courts stopped this.
Let's not forget something very important: We caught the wrong guy.

Monday, December 15

After decades of blight, large swathes of Detroit are being reclaimed by nature. Roughly a third of this 139-square-mile city consists of weed-choked lots and dilapidated buildings. Satellite images show an urban core giving way to an urban prairie.

As the world changes around our cities, and their urban form becomes irrelevant to current social needs and behaviors, perhaps allowing unused and under-used tracts to return to nature is not such a bad idea. This, combined with brownfield infill development, could help us rethink and rebuild our cities, making their forms more relevant to life in this century, and promoting wiser use of land.

Friday, December 12

I am shocked, simply shcocked, to hear allegations of overcharging for oil in Iraq by Halliburton.

Daniel Steiner, who owns a five-car limousine business in Tampa, is fighting the arbitrary dictates of local transportation regulators... (T)he government's demand: It wants him to raise his prices.

Wednesday, December 10

Now here's something, quite honestly, I did not know: Latin America already provides more oil to the United States than the Middle East does. Seeking Balance: Growth vs. Culture in Amazon (NYT)

Saturday, December 6

Still more follow up- on Jason's follow up to Rosie's: "(The) woman reported "trampled" last Friday by Wal-Mart shoppers desperate for $29.87 DVD players has a long history of claiming injuries from Wal-Marts and other businesses where she worked or shopped."
"... spokeswoman Karen Burk said from the massive retailer's Bentonville, Ark., headquarters. 'We will investigate this claim as thoroughly as we have the other 10 claims that this customer and her sister have brought against our stores in the past.' "
Following up Rosie's post about the woman who was trampled at Wal-Mart in the rush for a $29 DVD player... These two articles at Alternet: Tear Down That Wal-Mart and Shop Till You Stop about Reverend Billy and The Church of Stop Shopping. And while we're on the topic of stopping did Buy Nothing Day do this year? It seems that each year the stories of manic consumption get worse, and each year we need Reverend Billy and BND even more.

Of course, certain members of certain political parties would tell you that encouraging consumers to slow down their shopping is unpatriotic; that it will prevent our economy from recovering; that it's economic suicide for god's sake! Please, everyone, for the sake of the country, go deeper into credit card debt. Buy it now, pay for it later. Shop till you, or your credit rating, or your kids' college tuition, or that person you just trampled, drops.

Friday, December 5

More of the same: "A student expelled from Parkway High for a year for having Advil, an over-the-counter pain reliever, will not be allowed to return to the school."
So, remind me, what's the good effect of this policy? Does this help the student? Does it help other students avoid becoming junkies? Maybe it teaches some kids a lesson about authority, idiotic policy, and the perversion of justice and rights in the name of a holy crusade to rid unfavored substances from our land. Hopefully experiences like these will grow a new crop of civil-libertarians in the current generation of school kids and not allientate them all into permanent disaffection.

Thursday, December 4

The trend of turning schools into prisions continues - in one Chicago school, everyone is a suspect.

Wednesday, December 3

Follow up: Reason's Ronald Bailey on the retracted Ecstasy study:
"The lesson here is not that Ecstasy is safe, though evidence that it is particularly harmful is certainly lacking. The lesson is that scientific peer review, like all human institutions, is an imperfect process, sometimes subject to political pressures. When it goes wrong, as it clearly has here, how it went wrong needs to be thoroughly investigated and fixed. That's the minimum the public and the scientific community should expect from Science in this case."
More on the discredited Ecstasy research - you know, the one by Dr. George A. Ricaurte, where the monkeys weren't actually given Ecstasy but methamphetamine instead. (nytimes login:opensewer; password:iswatching)
Politics also play a significant role in drug research.
"It's hard to trust George," said Dr. Julie Holland, a professor of psychiatry at New York University who has edited a book on Ecstasy and wants to test it in psychotherapy. She accused him of "playing games with his data' to win more federal grants by making the drugs look bad."
For or against the war on drugs - shouldn't we all be in favor of transparent and honest science?

Tuesday, December 2

Images from the protests in Miami. Agree or disagree with the views of the protestors - more important questions are: does the government have to respond this way? Aren't those pics of the wall of riot cops a little scary for a democratic republic?
After nearly a year of sharp warnings about the dangers of prescription drugs from Canada, U.S. Food and Drug Administration officials cannot produce a single U.S. consumer who was killed or injured by inferior medications from Canada.

Monday, December 1

American voters (are) increasingly split along religious lines.
Open mouth, insert foot. Rumsfeld, usually renowned for his uncompromising tough talking, was awarded the "Foot in Mouth" award for a confusing message which probably left his audience in the dark as to its meaning, Britain's Plain English Campaign said.

Wednesday, November 19

Jacob Sullum has a nice post about one Circuit Court that tries to keep perspective and limit the power of the Federal Government, as the Constitution intended.
The now famous, reasonable and correct decision in the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court this week is sending conservatives into hissy fits trying to explain their opposition to it. If conservatives want the government out of people's personal lives (a noble claim), then they'd either have to be against state sponsored marriage completely or want it for everybody. They'd also have to applaud the US Supreme Court's ruling on sodomy that got the government out of the bedroom. But conservatives' tortured "logic" (here's one example) makes their lies plain.

Tuesday, November 18

More on the placelessness of the cellular world (this one via metafilter). A previously posted article on the same subject from the excellent Hermenaut.
Wal-Mart, babies, and hate. In an arrangement you might not expect.

Friday, November 14

Some ideas on states and their budget crises through Parkinson and his laws.
1. "Expenditure rises to meet income." Pork barrel supreme!
2. "Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion." NYS Legislature anyone?
3. "The matters most debated in a deliberative body tend to be the minor ones where everybody understands the issues."

Wednesday, November 12

Sixteen-year-old Ryan Richter got kicked out of school Monday morning for a stick-figure drawing that another student thought was a violent threat.
Schools like this (which are all over the country) - part of why I am glad to no longer be a teen.

Monday, November 10

More on the " schools into prisions" trend - cops raid a South Carolina school with guns drawn, looking for drugs and force the kids to the floor.
Oh, no drugs were found. (site also has a link to video footage)

Thursday, November 6

A Flordia man will be going to prison for refusing to keep his yard tidy enough. Yep.

Wednesday, November 5

In September 2002, I was with my wife and children, and her family, vacationing in Tunis.
I got an e-mail from the MathWorks saying that they might need me soon to assess a potential consulting work for one of their customers.
I said goodbye to my wife and family, and headed back home to prepare for work.
I was using my air-miles to travel, and the best flight I could get went from Tunis, to Zurich, to New York, to Montreal.
My flight arrived in New York at 2 p.m. on Sept. 26, 2002. I had a few hours to wait until my connecting flight to Montreal.
This is when my nightmare began.

Tuesday, November 4

Pain is good, treating it is bad--the DEA has been prosecuting medical doctors for their prescription habits:

"'They're unable to take down the real drug lords, so they're coming after doctors using the same tactics,' one pain physician tells the Voice. For an agency keen to justify its massive budget, doctors provide an easy target."
Ah, here we go--the FDA is thinking about forcing restaurants to add nutritional labels to their menus. While it sounds like a nice option--dieters armed with their latest get slim guidebook can check-off unsuitable entrees--shouldn't it be a voluntary choice for the restaurant? You can't blame the producer of a product that's perfectly safe when the consumer misuses it.

And think about this--how much freedom of the chef are we taking away here? What if an unusual, fresh but rare element becomes available at the last minute--will the chef be unable to make a new dish to delight her costumers with because no government-approved nutritional information was available? Will the chefs have to start weighing out their portions to conform to the menu rather than for taste? A fine way to ruin what could have been a fine meal at a fine restaurant.

Seriously, nobody becomes obese by accident; nobody becomes obese from one meal. Take some responsibility for yourselves, you so called adults.
Global Warming--whether you believe it is happening, or just distant threat, this NY Times article explains the need for developing a course of action now. The technological challenge and financial challenges for creating a new energy economy require immediate investment--even if we set a 50 year goal for the end of the carbon-energy system. (NYTimes; login: opensewer; password: iswatching.)

Tuesday, October 28

More good parenting ideas from America - feed those infants french fries and soda pop!

Monday, October 27

"Neuromarketers" - nueroscientists scanning the brain to enhance marketing - is the kind of vaguely scary thing that we in the high tech west are having to deal with.
Meanwhile, back in the jungle...
Psychological warfare of a vastly different character in the Congo.

Sunday, October 26

The overweight suburban shopper; the underpaid elderly greeter; the overworked, underaged Chinese laborer; the illegal immigrant cleaning crew--all part of that smilin' face that is Wal-Mart.

Saturday, October 25

An endless succession of vacated spaces, a present without color, the creation of fear, implied Keri Mortimer's paintings, the viewer tells the story with the simple icons put forth.

Thursday, October 23

I thought the government wasn't Soviet-style anymore in Moscow...

Monday, October 20

Friday, October 17

"Markets make a great servant but a bad master and a worse religion. Markets produce value, but only communities and families produce values. And a society that tries to substitute markets for politics, ethics, or faith is seriously adrift." OK -- all those in favor of eating all the food all at once, raise your paws. (M)

Tuesday, October 14

The US Supreme Court affirms doctors' First Amendment rights and protects their ability to speak freely with their patients.
This is common sense, but I wonder how many would consider it radical: Oregon posts reward for driving less. "PAYD is an innovative approach to insurance that rewards motorists for driving less by selling insurance on a per-mile rate instead of a fixed rate. ... Essentially, pay-as-you-drive makes buying car insurance more like buying gasoline: The less you drive, the less you pay."

Monday, October 13

(Identical) letters claiming to be from U.S. troops in Iraq and hailing the Army's accomplishments there have cropped up in newspapers across the country - although some of the troops say they either didn't sign them or were forced to by a superior. (Thanks to hit and run.)

Tuesday, October 7

The more commercial television news you watch, the more wrong you are likely to be about key elements of the Iraq War and its aftermath, according to a major new study released in Washington this week.

And the more you watch the Rupert Murdoch-owned Fox News channel, in particular, the more likely it is that your perceptions about the war are wrong, adds the report by the University of Maryland's Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA).

Sunday, October 5

Supervisors of a hospital in Abington, PA complied with the demand of a pregnant patient's husband that no black employees assist in the delivery of his child.

Thursday, October 2

Race-based social inequity in health care: "In one comprehensive study of 1.7 million patients, African Americans received major therapeutic procedures less often than whites in 37 of 77 conditions, according to the report. In contrast, minority patients underwent limb amputations in greater proportions and were given anti-psychotic medications more often."

Monday, September 29

Wednesday, September 24

Weird pro-sex, err, pro-family messages are coming from conservative politicians in England. An even weirder quip from the American past in this BBC article - 'In a 1951 letter only now made public, Ronald Reagan revealed his angst about sex. "Even in marriage I had a little guilty feeling about sex, as if the whole thing was tinged with evil," the man who would be US president wrote to a friend. '

Tuesday, September 23

The largest arctic ice shelf has ruptured, but don't worry, it's not due to global warming. Don't worry, we don't need to do anything differently. (M)

Monday, September 22

Statistic of note: There are approximately two million people in jail in America today, 2,166,260 at last count: more than four times as many people as thirty years ago. David Garland's The Culture of Control: Crime and Social Order in Contemporary Society - reviewed.

Friday, September 19

If ye ignorant wenches and stupid salty dogs don't celebrate International Talk Like a Pirate Day (today, Sept. 19th!), I'll make ya walk the plank!

Thursday, September 18

"What ideas and worldviews motivated the push to overreach and try to dominate the globe, with Iraq as step number one? What secrets, maneuvers behind the scenes policy power struggles after the attacks of 9/11, led the U.S. to invade a country that had nothing to do with 9/11?" The U.S. Plan for Global Domination. (M)

Tuesday, September 16

The Science Behind Prohibition - A scientific study (widely quoted in support of the oppressive RAVE ACT passed earlier this year) that claimed to prove the negative health effects of Ecstasy use has been retracted because the authors were using the wrong drug on the monkeys.

Monday, September 15

"Within six months of passing the Patriot Act, the Justice Department was conducting seminars on how to stretch the new wiretapping provisions to extend them beyond terror cases," said Dan Dodson, a spokesman for the National Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys. "They say they want the Patriot Act to fight terrorism, then, within six months, they are teaching their people how to use it on ordinary citizens." (via

Friday, September 12

Sunday, September 7

Thursday, September 4

When do we resist convienence? (Especially) In questions of technology, does it seem sometimes as if there is an ineveitable wave of increased use that swamps and erodes one's choice to opt in or out? I am thinking about cell phones (previously blogged article), which I most likely will obtain one of in the near future, but also things like the rise of friendster, E-Z toll passes and related intelligent transportation systems, the internet in general, automobiles and many other things that change our identity and perhaps nibble at our privacy. Will I be able to buy a car in 5 years that doesn't have a GPS enhanced tracking, err, navigation system? By law, all your cell phones have GPS these days. Sometimes the choice is taken from us.

Related posts - Commercial tracking, Technoculture, Taste...
Be careful, because in Ashcroft's America, you can be jailed for what you - whoops, check that - for what other people write.

Wednesday, September 3

In Search of the Buy Button - What makes some products irresistible? Neuroscientists are racing to find the answer to that question--and to pass it along to consumer marketers. (via the ccle)

Sunday, August 31

Friday, August 29

Friday Selections:
Paul Krugman on the Bush Team's blundering of the budget and occupation. (nytimes login: opensewer; password: iswatching)

The Voice's J. Hoberman on the Bush - 9/11 "documentary."

Slate on Bill O'Rielly's favorite two-word phrase.

Reason's Nick Gillespie on attorneys general running out of crime to fight.

Tuesday, August 26

They want to take bitter away. Don't they get it? Bitter is important. They want us to only have the easily enjoyed sweet and salty, and maybe a mild sour. Bitter signifies something. It is an evolutionary asset, the ability to recognize bitter. It is associated with potency in herbs like ginseng. Bitter adds character and is essential to things you learn to love, like coffee (ok, I hate coffee) and flavorful beer. My grapefruit juice shouldn't taste like orange juice. Don't homognize my food. I hate this kind of thing.

Monday, August 25

Even the NY Times gets in on the act, calling Ashcroft's tour to promote the liberty crushing Patriot Act "Unpatriotic." - nytimes login:opensewer; password: iswatching

Friday, August 22

Early next month, a dozen families whose tar-paper shacks lack even running water will move into new homes here with heat, flush toilets and hot showers. ... The people of Bayview, most of them related by marriage or blood, are descended from freed slaves. ... As a child, [Alice Coles] picked potatoes with her seven brothers and sisters for 10 cents a bag. ... Those were the good days, when the big farmhouses had high-pitched roofs and screened porches, and when it was possible to get enough work to pay the rent, maybe even buy a house. ... Ms. Coles, who has at one time or another done all those jobs, blamed government subsidies and what some might call progress for the area's decline. ... "They paid farmers not to plant — or what to plant, like soybeans and barley," she said. "And harvesting machines put people out of work." ... Now retirement houses, second homes and golf courses are spreading in the town of Cape Charles on the bay, for those who can afford the $14 round trip from Norfolk through the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. But down the back roads, away from the water, half the people are barely literate, and the average income is $9,000 a year. (NYT; usr: opensewer; pwd: iswatching)

Saturday, August 16

We should learn to love our cars: "The truth in question is that motorcars are dreadful things but human beings love 'em. There's a contradiction there, but refusing to accept that we are a mass of contradictions is one of our biggest denial issues... [Does the car culture] make New York a machine city, a petro-freak, abhorrent waste land? Not a bit. Architect Rem Koolhaas calls it the culture of congestion. The city where the car runs free is the most human-proportioned metropolis on the planet, the most encouraging to walk in and on and through. It is a natural landscape, a modern natural landscape. For all its skyscraping, it is curiously human-dimensioned. And curiously full of cars... The streets run hither and thither across town and the avenues are adorned by carefully synched traffic lights to help people drive up and down the island. Get a roll on at 42 miles per hour and you can get halfway downtown in one exciting rush."

Tuesday, August 12

"When students in Biloxi, Miss., show up this morning for the first day of the new school year, a virtual army of digital cameras will be recording every minute of every lesson in every classroom." The language in the article betrays the military/prison charateristics of such a project. Schools into prisons = students into prisoners...

Sunday, August 10

The Unbearable Heaviness of Industry: The scenes in these black-and-white photographs ... seem from the Industrial Revolution at its worst. But they are very much part of today's China, where glitzy electronics and the crudest of mechanical industries coexist.

From the New York Times. Be sure not to miss the slide show, and take a look at Zhou Hai's website. Thanks to our friend Maria for the link. (usr: opensewer; pwd: iswatching)

Thursday, August 7

I haven't been following the recall donnybrook in California too closely, and now it seems two big name candidates - Schwarzenegger and Huffington - are in. The potential for an Arnold candidacy had me wondering (and worrying a little) but last week I found an interesting piece that made me feel a little better about an Arnold governorship. How many other candidates have gotten stoned on camera? Hard to be a rabid drug warrior with that on your resume. What other candidate has said things like, "I have no sexual standards in my head that say this is good or this is bad. 'Homosexual'—that only means to me that he enjoys sex with a man and I enjoy sex with a woman... it's all legitimate to me" ? Perhaps he's a politician who'll actually leave people's personal lives alone....
And hey, he did make a movie with ex Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura.

Wednesday, August 6

Illegal linking? Linking as a terrorist act? Jailed for distributing information... think about this extended in a broad sense....

Tuesday, August 5

Fox Television News - home of powerful presidential critique, spoken by an articulate defender of the Constiution and liberty?

Monday, August 4

Following up - not only non-threatening notes, but also pictures of dynamite can get you banned from the airways (from
Saying you don't have a bomb in your bag is, apparently, an arrestable bomb threat.

Tuesday, July 29

While Sibeni declared that Bill Clinton had been more dangerous to America than Osama bin Laden, Chen defended the ex-president's economic program. "Without him," Chen argued, "we would not have had globalization. He took a Republican idea, used it as a Democratic idea, and used it to become the most popular president of all time."

Chen seemed so mild and centrist that at one point I called him a closet Democrat. Taken aback, he replied: "How am I a closet Democrat? I'm racist, I love guns and I hate welfare."

Michelle Goldberg attends a college Republican convention for (click through ad to view article for non-subscribers).
"What is lacking in the Pentagon and the White House is not intelligence (or not, at any rate, of the kind we are considering here), but receptivity. Theirs is not a failure of information, but a failure of ideology." America as religion.

Friday, July 25

Michael Moore - darling of the left, populist hero, fat-man muckraker in a trucker hat. But he's been getting a lot of backlash lately, and a lot of the criticism against him seems to have some weight. This article runs down a lot of the cirticism against him, explaining why he sometimes he seems to be moving towards becoming the Ann Coulter of the left. The article reveals a lot about Moore the person, but for someone whose work so consistently trades off his identity, some investigation seems valid.

Personally, I have liked some of his work, though watching his second movie The Big One, the title being his nickname for the USA, it seemed really to be all about him. And no, that is not a fat joke.

Monday, July 21

Rearranging an Ad Jingle So That It Now Jangles--a fine musical product from Cleveland (Lakewood--a first-ring suburb), OH, our neck of the woods. From the article: ...more than 30 audio artists captured speech and music samples from commercials, public service announcements, campaign ads and other promotional spots, then rearranged them into short sonic collages that often subvert the source material's original message. Good work, Mr. Kennedy. (NYT; user: opensewer; pwd: iswatching)

Sunday, July 20

Keep up that happy face, soldier. Those fighting for freedom in Iraq have to be careful not to speak too freely.

Friday, July 18

The FBI investigates a dangerous reader in Atlanta. (thanks to for the link)

Tuesday, July 8

"But there's the problem with President Bush. It is not the moral immaturity of the texts he reads. Like his callow statement in the National Cathedral, they are written by someone else. When the president speaks, unscripted, from his own moral center, what shows itself is a bottomless void." (thanks to mefi)
Everything is set for a new Pentagon program to become perhaps the federal government's widest reaching, most invasive mechanism yet for keeping us all under watch. Not in the far-off, dystopian future. But here, and soon.
A Fairbanks judge ruled the Alaska Constitution guarantees a local man the right to possess marijuana for personal use in his home. First Canada and now Alaska. Does cold weather promote tolerance and reason?
Big Brother in your grocery cart - reminding us that Ashcroft and Bush aren't the only ones spying on US citizens these days. One scary tracking technology is focused on here:
The European Central Bank is quietly working to embed RFID tags in the fibers of Euro bank notes by 2005. The tag would allow money to carry its own history by recording information about where it has been, thus giving governments and law enforcement agencies a means to literally "follow the money" in every transaction. If and when RFID devices are embedded in banknotes, the anonymity that cash affords in consumer transactions will be eliminated.
If you're feeling politically active today... or if you're not.

Thursday, July 3

I’ve been so occupied lately with my family—my wife, my new son—that I haven’t thought much about my disdain for “branded” America. The concentration on my family is good for me, as it would be for anyone. I’ve spent so much time thinking about what’s positive in this world, rather than what’s negative.

Then I think of the things from which I want to protect little Max, I think of the values I want to instill. I think of a boy whom I hope can have self-confidence without material, who can have self-acceptance and pride without feeling the need to place himself within a certain caste, created by the brands of clothing and possessions he owns. With that mindset, I applaud

Wednesday, July 2

I'm sorry my president's an idiot. I didn't vote for him.

- American Apology Shirt
More on the US trend of making schools more like prisons. I guess the goal would be to make students more like convicts?

Monday, June 30

Perhaps you're not as obsessed as I am with how the eye works, but, hey, whatever -- here's a non-political blog just for the heck of it.

Tuesday, June 24

Nat Hentoff keeps excellent tabs on the Ashcroft regime in the US Dept of "Justice."
Shock and outrage! One of my favorite (online for me) magazines is denied the right to cover a major business conference despite their press credentials and a focus directly relevant to the matter at hand. Check out what the denied publication has to offer: relevancy, an attention to history, insightful journalism, and challenging political insight.

Monday, June 23

I admit I am mostly clueless about the upcoming presidential election here, but I liked the ideas from a recent speech by candidate John Edwards distilled in this article.
full text of the speech is here

Thursday, June 19

The way we treat kids in enlightened America.
The Internet is one of the most powerful agents of freedom. It exposes truth to those who wish to see and hear it. It is no wonder that some governments and organizations fear the Internet and its ability to make the truth known.

- The Internet under Surveillance: Obstacles to the free flow of information online

Yesterday, I had a conversation with a man who is the mayor of a small commuter-city within the NYC metro area. He seemed to be an upstanding individual, and had several municipal programs in place that appeared to be aimed at "doing the right thing" (social welfare, urban redevelopment, etc.). During that conversation, it was pointed out that a couple of his council members are opposing some of the good things he wants to do. I asked why--budget constraints, differing views of the correct solution? No, he said, they just didn't like him personally.

Later, an astute observer pointed out that politics is one discipline that never sheds the simplistic and immature social relationships we develop in high school. The above situation makes me think of the political wind-blowing described in this article from today's New York Times: The Environmental Protection Agency is preparing to publish a draft report next week on the state of the environment, but after editing by the White House, a long section describing risks from rising global temperatures has been whittled to a few noncommittal paragraphs.

In politics, it seems, attempts at objective thought are considered irrational idealism. (New York Times; login: opensewer; password: iswatching.)

Wednesday, June 18

Canada becomes only the third country in the world to stop discriminating against what are, after all, just family values.

Friday, June 13

The notion of The Creative Class and The Memphis Manifesto...genuine ideas to reinvent our cities, our lives, our culture, our economy--or just the latest fashionable flash-in-the-pan socioeconomic theory?

Tuesday, June 10

Wasn't it fairly recent, even still in our memory, when being a snitch, a rat fink, was the lowest thing a person could be?
Creepiest kid ever? Of course, many parents won't agree, and will be jealous. And American Junior Idols is on my only tv channel tonight again I think. Little performing robots. Consumer bots being bred for a life of driving and eating...

Monday, June 9

Foreign distrust of America has increased dramatically over the past year according to a new survey of 20 countries by the Pew Research Centre. The proportion of people with a favourable attitude towards the United States has dropped from 61% to 45% in Germany, 63% to 43% in France, 61% to 15% in Indonesia and 25% to just 1% in Jordan. (From the Economist)

Tuesday, June 3

"You wouldn't believe the things I've hauled off," Ciszek said. "Fully functional air conditioners, entire record collections, VCRs, unopened boxes of cereal and canned goods, like-new chairs, desks with barely a scratch, stereo components, computers--you name it. I don't know how many pairs of shoes still in the box, never been worn, I've tossed in the back of the truck. I must have junked 50 miles of extension cords, and I'm guessing 95 percent of those still worked."

Funny, yes... Less funny, though, when you think of the truth of it.

Monday, June 2

I ponder sometimes about all the spam that I get--in fact also about the amount of spam that everyone receives--and it makes me think... Spammers are a type of bottom-feeder within the information economy. Not only are they email marketers, which are bottom-feeders already, but they are the lowest type of email marketers, often using deceptive techniques in an attempt to separate one from his or her money. Then I look at my Popfile history, and it's buckets tell me that only 16.5% of the email I receive is legitimate (non-spam). Then, you know, naturally, I start to get a little upset. But I consider: Perhaps these bottom-feeders have a true place in our internet-economy…indeed, in our economy as a whole. They have always been around, after all, in one form or another. Could it possibly be that the snake-oil salesman serves a legitimate purpose? The most important thing: Bottom feeders exist in nature, in ecosystems…and they comprise important parts of those ecosystems. Bottom feeders are part of the cycle in nature--are they simply a part of the cycle in economics as well? Is it misguided and futile to try to get rid of them? That said, what purpose do they serve? Is it to punish naive customers for being so naive? Is it a “survival of the fittest” kind of thing? Is it the economic-ecological way of ridding the weak and uninformed economic agents from the game?
Media ownership is a war and the independent public is losing: F.C.C. Votes to Relax Rules Limiting Media Ownership (NYT: opensewer; iswatching).

Nevermind believing half of what you hear and none of what you read. It will be hard to believe anything anymore.
This one is for Rose: The new tax bill quadruples the deduction available on small-business equipment purchases, which include trucks. The catch? You've got to buy a big one. New tax breaks for SUVs is what it means!

Sunday, June 1

If there's one thing we've learned from the's this: distributed systems work. In any sort of goods or services production, we're always trying to achieve economies of scale--ever since Henry Ford taught us that lesson. But economies of scale can blaze a trail of destruction in their wake, because they have such massive levels of inputs (often natural resources) and outputs (what is produced PLUS whatever the waste product may be). Distributed systems have small point inputs and outputs of whatever they're producing-distributing-using, and aren't as destructive. I'm speaking in the most general terms possible here--it doesn't matter what the distributed system is "carrying".

Back to our example. The internet, and similarly P2P networks, rely on small scale, interconnected, redundant "pieces" to achieve their power. We should have learned by now that the network, not the central plant, is the key to our future. Actually, I believe we have already learned this lesson (nature of course taught us first), but there is much in this world that is highly dependent on the old ways of thinking, and fearful of losing economies of scale (because what would we do then?), so it will take a long time for things to change.

Thursday, May 29

US PLANS DEATH CAMP IN CUBA - I have seen this headline a couple places, and it seems to not be coming under fire. So when does it hit the major press?
Researchers are reporting today that first-person-shooter video games — the kind that require players to kill or maim enemies or monsters that pop out of nowhere — sharply improve visual attention skills. I don't find this so surprising. It seems to me like it's tied to some evolutionary hunting and survival core in us, from back when we had to be on the look out in an eat or be eaten world. (ny times again! holy cow, what's going on here...)
It's the details, really, that make this administration so awful. (NYTimes article, you know the drill; login: opensewer; password: iswatching.)

Wednesday, May 28

Who pays for U.S. government propaganda dressed up as primetime entertainment? Canadian taxpayers, that's who!

Who writes it? Canadians living in Hollywood, of course!

Who thinks up these almost military exercises in spin? That you can blame on a Texan.

Tuesday, May 27

Oh man. Trust in the Military Heightens Among Baby Boomers' Children in today's NY Times... Look at this : 'A poll by the Harvard Institute of Politics, based on interviews with 1,200 college undergraduates last month, found that 75 percent said they trusted the military "to do the right thing" either "all of the time" or 'most of the time.'

Holy cow. Young kids so ready to trust an organization that did this. (NYTimes; login: opensewer; password: iswatching.)

'The lunatics are now in charge of the asylum.' So wrote the normally staid Financial Times, traditionally the voice of solid British business opinion, when surveying last week's tax bill. ... Paul Krugman relentlessly exposing the evil of the Bush economic policy. (NYTimes; login:opensewer; password: iswatching.)

Sunday, May 25

This is one of the most powerful, most amazing stories I've ever heard. (From the archives of This American Life, Real Audio Player Required.)

Friday, May 23

Ladies and gentlemen, it's another day, another blog. That's all. Maybe more. Maybe not. It's a grey, not so sunny day here, but I wouldn't know, I am stuck inside for most all of it. In world news, governments abused their power, people starved to death all over the world, pockets of resistance and hope rose up from places far and near, and the earth kept flying through space at thousands of miles per hour without throwing anyone off. Cheers!

Wednesday, May 21

Given all the coverage bestowed today on last night's final episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I probably don't need to write this blog. Publications as diverse as The New York Times, Slate, Salon, and The Washington Post have weighed in. Who knew the Chosen One had so many friends? I haven't much to add -- I'm still too overcome by emotion to analyze the show's passing -- except that, dammit, I'm gonna miss her and him and her and him and him.

Tuesday, May 20

Report from Canada: a new series of surveys shows that the gap between U.S. and Canadian cultures has been widening for decades, and, contrary to popular opinion, has not closed since 9/11. U.S. of Americans continue to attend church, defer to authority, and evince a patriotic fervor more than their northern neighbors. Those three trends, developing together during a vague but constant "war on terrorism," seem doomed to erode the liberties the U.S. is so admired for. But this nice, informative article is ruined when it concludes with the usual grotesque, cliched implication: "Canadians responded to 9/11 with heartfelt sympathy and outrage, but also with many questions. They asked why young Muslims would do what they did in New York and Washington." It's an intellectually stimulating query to ask, but morally and ethically it misses the point by two enormous skyscrapers.

Monday, May 19

"An unarmed Haitian father of two children is shot by a seedy-looking undercover narcotics officer after angrily refusing to help the cop buy drugs. (It was intended to be a "buy-bust" operation.) Ironically, the victim worked as a uniformed security guard and had told his family that he hoped one day to become a police officer."
Details can be found here, similar stories are here... (thanks to the agitator)

Sunday, May 18

WHAT!!?? You mean white suburban kids columbine sometimes do genuinely columbine bad things? That goes against everything columbine my pure and sacred core values columbine tell me!

Thursday, May 15

Follow up from 5/6 - talks to Eric Schlosser, the author of Fast Food Nation, about his new book, Reefer Madness: Sex, Drugs, and Cheap Labor in the American Black Market, and has a review here. - click through ads to get article but no reg. required.

Monday, May 12

Some people want you to have a healthier diet, and some people are nuts (is "Nabisco Nazi" the appropriate term for these wackos?)
With this president, having federal agents in high schools (interrogating students) is becoming a regular practice.

Sunday, May 11

Great…I can see it coming: The uninformed are going to use Friday’s hostage situation at CWRU in Cleveland as an example of why not to build unconventional, progressive architecture. (“How can we catch terrorists if we don’t have right angles?”) You watch, someone will extrapolate this argument to the design of the WTC very soon.

Thursday, May 8

The future of interactive tv - a future where you are watched as much as the shows? No, it's not reality television, it's the companies learning everything about your viewing habbits. The home is sacred no more. article - click though ads but no reg required

Monday, May 5

A graphic comparing the relationship between workers and bosses in the U.S.A. to that of other countries (via mefi). Further investigation asked for on this one...

Sunday, May 4

Fuel Economy Hit 22-Year Low. The technological and engineering leaps of the last two decades have been poured into everything but fuel economy... Since 1981, the average vehicle has 93 percent more horsepower and is 29 percent faster in going from 0 to 60 miles an hour. It is also 24 percent heavier, reflecting surging sales of sport utility vehicles. ... over the same period, fuel economy has stagnated, contributing heavily to the nation's rising oil consumption. Cars and light trucks — S.U.V.'s, pickups and minivans — account for about 40 percent of the nation's oil consumption and a fifth of its carbon dioxide emissions, which many scientists see as the leading contributor to global warming. (NYT; user name: opensewer; password: iswatching.)

Friday, May 2

Following up - I got a nice tip on the strange convergence of Loyalty Day and May Day and a reminder of what May Day meant/s in communist countries - state mandated loyalty celebrations. A very brief history on Loyalty Day here and here (worth noting that I found these web sites while googling for " 'may day' communist loyalty ").
May 1st has other meanings, too, with labor connotations. Its even older pagan origins were stamped out in the US by those damned puritains. So did anyone have a Maypole yesterday? (pop-up ads warning)
Whatever the roots, I find the notion of a "Loyalty Day" pretty damn repulsive. Was I supposed to celebrate by attacking anti-war demonstraters with buckets of water?
In case you missed it, yesterday was officially Loyalty Day in the U.S. Next year, expect participation to be mandatory.

Wednesday, April 30

In trying to promote such ideal worlds, censors on the right and left often end up demanding texts that are not realistic, as any child, exposed to television, pop music and the daily hubbub of real life can plainly see. When it comes to the teaching of literature, it can reduce the ambiguities and complexities of art into simplistic social and political messages; it can result in the rejection of classic texts and good writing in favor of boring works, calculated to offend and stimulate no one; and it can result in the selection of works deemed "relevant" to students, instead of works that might broaden their outlook and introduce them to new worlds. Diane Ravitch paints a picture of "The Language Police" in her book of the same name. (NYT: user name: opensewer; password: iswatching.)

Thursday, April 24

Rose: She got her reply. And she deserves it, too, for inflicting her boring self on all of us.

Monday, April 21

I pledge allegiance to the United States, the most important country in the world; and to the unilateralism with which it acts, one nation that believes in God, with tough luck, sucka, to alla yous who don't agree wit us...

Wednesday, April 16

While it may be the 60th birthday of LSD, this new technology of turning animal, human and consumer waste into oils, minerals and water is what blew my mind today.

Monday, April 14

Update: the RAVE Act (new name, same bill) is now law....

Thursday, April 10

In case you forgot that the war on terror isn't the only war being waged IN (not just by) America: The dreaded RAVE Act has been re-introduced (with a new name) in Congress, this time attached to the "Child Abduction Prevention Act," which is one of the most effective ways Congress gets unpopular bills passed - they attach them to popular bills, usually bills that have nothing to do with the unpopular bill. Among other things, the RAVE Act treats club owners who own clubs where a few kids manage to sneak in drugs as someone running a crackhouse, punishes club owners for using harm-reduction methods in their clubs, saying it encourages drug use, and generally takes away property rights, something you'd expect Congress would like to be protecting. I guess club owners and event promoters don't donate eough to congressional campaigns. Learn more and take action with these links: Electronic Music Defense Fund - Drug Policy Action Center - Dance Safe. Perhaps you really do need to fight for your right to party...

Tuesday, April 8

In case you missed this news, "A facility near Baghdad that a US officer had claimed might finally be "smoking gun" evidence of Iraqi chemical weapons production turned out to contain pesticide, not sarin gas as originally thought." The world is still waiting for some evidence.
"What was promised to Afghans with the collapse of the Taliban was a new life of hope and change. But what was delivered? Nothing. Everyone is back in business." - Ahmed Wali Karzai, brother of Afghanistan's president.
Iraq next year? Oh wait, Iraq has oil, so the wells will need our armed protection.
"People who eat hemp food tend to be liberal," he continues. "They tend to be Democrats and Green Party. It's a drug war out of control." "Advocates say the DEA's new attack on hemp has more to do with politics than with miniscule amounts of THC. 'It's funny [that] only after the industry started growing [the DEA] stepped in,' says Adam Eidinger, spokesman for the Washington D.C.-based 'They hadn't stepped in 30 years. They don't want the industry to prosper because they see it as a counterculture thing. I think it's a cultural war.' "

Thursday, April 3

Monday, March 31

The Motley Fool's Quote of the Day: I'm trying to decide if I should listen to less radio, or more; read less papers, or more. The news is bad -- it is the job of the news to be bad, of course; every paper might as well run 100-point headlines every day that say, 'Things Suck, Thousands Die' -- but that has an unnerving quality lately. Put simply: no one is in control, except for people who shouldn't be in control.

-- James Lileks, columnist for the Minneapolis Star Tribune

Saturday, March 29

Hee hee: Walton, the first of three Wal-Mart communities scheduled to open this year, introduces residents to the company's new 'all you can live' consumer goods subscription service. "Beyond its quality environment and top-notch municipal services, Walton represents our first serious foray into flat-fee provision of consumer products," explains Michael Elmoere, Wal-Mart VP of Intra-Regional Logistics and First Regent of Walton Township. "It's a 21st century horn-of-plenty, all for one no-fuss monthly fee."
I had not planned on winning an Academy Award for "Bowling for Columbine" ..., and so I had no speech prepared. I'm not much of a speech-preparer anyway. ... I spoke of the need for nonfiction films when we live in such fictitious times. We have a fictitious president who was elected with fictitious election results. He is now conducting a war for a fictitious reason (the claim that Saddam Hussein has stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction when in fact we are there to get the world's second-largest supply of oil). Viva Michael.

Sunday, March 23

Although completely suppressed by the U.S. media and government, the answer to the Iraq enigma is simple yet shocking -- it is an oil currency war. The real reason for this upcoming war is this administration's goal of preventing further Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) momentum towards the euro as an oil transaction currency standard. However, in order to pre-empt OPEC, they need to gain geo-strategic control of Iraq along with its 2nd largest proven oil reserves. This essay will discuss the macroeconomics of the `petro-dollar' and the unpublicized but real threat to U.S. economic hegemony from the euro as an alternative oil transaction currency. The author advocates reform of the global monetary system including a dollar/euro currency `trading band' with reserve status parity, and a dual OPEC oil transaction standard. These reforms could potentially reduce future oil currency warfare. --from The Real Reasons for the War with Iraq. (Thanks, Steven.)

Thursday, March 20

By the way, we're at war. Oh, and don't forget to fill out your NCAA Tournament Bracket for the Road to the Final Four... (Do you get my correlation?)
Good news: Senate Republicans lost a battle to add a provision to the budget bill that would have opened an Alaska wildlife refuge to oil drilling. The vote to strip it was 52-48. (New York Times article - login: opensewer/password: iswatching)
On political language, a timely subject, by the always relevant George Orwell. from metafilter

Wednesday, March 19

New Jersey "terror czar" (that sounds pretty awful, doesn't it?) describes what will happen if (when?) we ever go to "red" on the terror alert scale.

Tuesday, March 18

In case you were wondering why we are about to go to war this week, it's not to keep the United States safe, seeing as the FBI expects terrorist activity to pick-up as a result of the war and has a large mobilization planned at the onset of hostilities in Iraq.

Saturday, March 15

Back to the "freedom fries" thing for a minute: This issue makes me ashamed of our leaders--once again. Regardless of France's cooperation/non-cooperation with our military initiatives, a lame-ass, grossly sentimental gesture like this (i.e., renaming the fries) just illustrates the myopic, reactionary, self-centered, violent attitude that continues to make the rest of the world both laugh at us and fear us. And when I sear "fear", I mean that kind of fear you have of someone who is acutely paranoid and defensive. We are so out of touch. I wonder if Jones and Ney were listening to Lee Greenwood (warning: MIDI link) when they came up with this idea. Maybe this was on the wall of the conference room...

Wednesday, March 12

Late at night, flipping through channels on my way to the Cartoon Network, sometimes I chance upon this freak of nature.

Suze Orman has the courage to be rich, and apparently the adrenaline to avoid blinking altogether. I mean, how does she do that with her eyes? She’s like a combo demon-possessed horror chick and Type-A personality poster-child, MBA-style. Yikes.

It scares me that this woman, whose eyes have grown deeper and scarier over time (look at her various book covers), is so popular. People must be sad, desperate, looking for answers. Looking for the answer. If they look to her, they may see an oracle, but they’re dealing with a snake-oil salesman.

Long ago in a dusty village
Full of hunger, pain and strife
A man came forth with a vision of truth
And the way to a better life
He was convinced he had the answer
And he compelled people to follow along
But the hunger never vanished
And the man was banished
And the village dried up and died

Salon had a good article last year that spoke to this and related issues.

Tuesday, March 11

This is what we have sunk to. Oh man. So pathetic. So stupid. And two elected officials are standing there, proudly posing. Yup. I bet France is really hurting from this one. Hooray for intelligent discourse.
From fires to flying sheep-heads, concert going has gotten very dangerous lately. Of course, you can always stay home and watch the puppy channel.

Friday, March 7

A gem in the rough: Ford to sell the hybrid Ford Escape small sport/utility vehicle at a loss while it tries to cut the costs of the hybrid system in half. Kudos to Ford for putting customer awareness about this cleaner technology before profits.
The US Government is busy going after the real threat to America - no, not the terrorists, people who sell bongs! And their little websites, too!

Tuesday, March 4

Presenting the Raging Cow Weblog, the first corporate marketing campaign disguised as a teenager's weblog. What Dr. Pepper is depending on and also unfortunately what a lot of bloggers aren't going to know is the difference between real content and a corporate ad. This has the same stench as ramming advertisements down easily impressionable elementary school students' throats.

Advertising disguised as an innocent teen blog is dishonest. It's corporate America at its worst, and it stinks. More from MSNBC.

Most Americans Believe In Hell, Few Expect To Go There
quickie from the village voice

Monday, March 3

Now you can help decide the future logo of America's future thought-police. What nifty patch design do you want to see on the security officer's shoulder as they haul you away to for suspicious computer usage? The mailing-label friendly format? the eagle with a handbag?

Friday, February 28

"But until this Administration it had been possible to believe that by upholding the policies of my president I was also upholding the interests of the American people and the world. I believe it no longer."

U.S. Diplomat's Letter of Resignation. (username: opensewer; password: iswatching)

Monday, February 24

One of my favourite writers, George Orwell, seems to be in the news an awful lot lately, generating so much controversy you'd swear it was the 1930s. Last year, Christopher Hitchens published Why Orwell Matters, a biographical essay on the continuing relevance of the novelist, essayist, broadcaster, activist. That seems to have triggered a debate in cultural magazines as well as daily newspapers. About a month ago, Louis Menand wrote an intrepidly obtuse piece of criticism in The New Yorker, and it wasn't long before an editor at The New Republic presented his rebuttal: "He [Menand] derides Orwell's linguistic contributions to modern liberalism--'Big Brother,' 'doublethink,' 'thought police'--as 'belong[ing] to the same category as "liar" and "pervert" and "madman." They are conversation-stoppers.' But why should some conversations not be stopped, not concluded with the demonstration that a man who was called a liar actually lied?" Then, a few weeks ago, I caught this remark in Canada's National Post, in a column arguing that Orwell's importance has fizzled now that the iron curtain is down: "Lacking a real-world reference point, students will in time find 1984's perfect dissection of the totalitarian state befuddling, nonsensical, a little bit silly even." I guess this guy doesn't bother reading any political satires that are now "out of date." Don't anybody tell Jonathan Swift.

Thursday, February 20

"Candeo Glacia is powered by hydrogen. Its residents submit to regular iris scans for security purposes. And the leaves on its bioengineered trees turn purple at any sign of radiation."

What the kids dream of - the city they design for the future. A mix of environmental concerns and terror inspired hyper-security nightmares. Kids in the 1980's dreamt of the world ending from nuclear war; kids now dream of environmental decimation and terrorism. Just some of the differences that divide generations...

Wednesday, February 19

This is interesting. Regan revisited in the age of Dubyah. Well, maybe it's just a speech comparison. "Evil Empire" vs. "Axis of Evil." The contrast in rhetoric is notable for both the difference in eloquence and content.

Tuesday, February 18

Bush said that the size of the protests against a possible war was irrelevant.

I suddenly have this picture in my mind of a child blocking out his parents' voices by putting his hands over his ears and shouting, "Nah nah nah! I can't hear you!"

Sunday, February 16

Remember, kids, “patriotic hacking” is still a crime.
Warning: semi-sweeping (but nonetheless accurate) generalization ahead.

We” view the state of the world one way, and “the rest of the world” views it a different way.

The growing chasm between our cosmology and that of the many of the other nations of the world, particularly those who reside in that deplored tranche referred to as “the third” world, is, in my humble opinion, the greatest threat to a peaceful earth.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu: “Can you imagine what we'd be able to do if half of what we invested in war, we invested in peace?”

Friday, February 14

The Wordsmith word for today is Rubicon:

Rubicon (ROO-bi-kon) noun: A point of no return, one where an action taken commits a person irrevocably.

Is it a mere coincidence or a subtle warning that this is the word of the day on one of the most decisive days in the pending war on Iraq?

Wednesday, February 12

Ted Rall sums up some of my thoughts on the student loans most college kids are forced to acquire in the United States. I have also always thought that these loans should be interest free, too - it seems like they are about the best possible investment the Federal Government can make in the future, even in simple economic terms. Not only are they among the least defaulted on of any loans, in general, college grads = higher incomes = more taxes paid and less social-services needed.
yup, we're blogging at 3:30am here. the sewer is open all night.

Monday, February 10

The Justice Department has planned a new bill that is being called a sequel to the freedom-devouring USA PATRIOT Act. It's been on a couple of news sites, but I thought it bore mentioning. Here's the full text in PDF format.

Friday, February 7

Rose - skip the dinner, but go for the jerky. I love jerky. Jerky Rules! High in protein, low in fat and sugar, it's a great healthy snack (a little salty, that's all). But buying retail jerky certainly can be expensive. However, you can do it at home, even without your own smokehouse! Recipies vary, but you really get to individualize your dried meat. And there are products, too, you can order for your jerky making. Beef, pork, deer, even emu is perfect for jerky. Just remember to use the proper safe temperatures in your jerky making. Enjoy!