Friday, September 30, 2005

Obama on tone, truth, and the Democratic party

I'm not sure I agree with all of this, but he makes some really great points.
According to the storyline that drives many advocacy groups and Democratic activists - a storyline often reflected in comments on this blog - we are up against a sharply partisan, radically conservative, take-no-prisoners Republican party. They have beaten us twice by energizing their base with red meat rhetoric and single-minded devotion and discipline to their agenda. In order to beat them, it is necessary for Democrats to get some backbone, give as good as they get, brook no compromise, drive out Democrats who are interested in "appeasing" the right wing, and enforce a more clearly progressive agenda. The country, finally knowing what we stand for and seeing a sharp contrast, will rally to our side and thereby usher in a new progressive era.

I think this perspective misreads the American people. From traveling throughout Illinois and more recently around the country, I can tell you that Americans are suspicious of labels and suspicious of jargon. They don't think George Bush is mean-spirited or prejudiced, but have become aware that his administration is irresponsible and often incompetent. They don't think that corporations are inherently evil (a lot of them work in corporations), but they recognize that big business, unchecked, can fix the game to the detriment of working people and small entrepreneurs. They don't think America is an imperialist brute, but are angry that the case to invade Iraq was exaggerated, are worried that we have unnecessarily alienated existing and potential allies around the world, and are ashamed by events like those at Abu Ghraib which violate our ideals as a country.


Thursday, September 29, 2005


Ivan Eyes, they're watchin' you...
My friend Ivan passed away last week, and I've been spending a lot of time thinking about him, his wife Vanina, and their soon-to-be-born child. His passing is a mind-blowing event for me, and for for our wide network of mutual friends and family.

Ivan was a powerful force. A whirlwind of risk, excitement, and joy. He pushed us to live a full life - not of reflection and sober calculation, but of action and experiences. He crashed every vehicle other than (strangely) a car, broke many of his bones, and left a good portion of his skin on pavements around Northern California.

When I first heard the awful news, I pictured him pulling an e-brake stand into the Chunnel, or bungie-jumping off London Tower into a fishtank full of pihranas. The reality turned out to be much more mundane and random. It seems unfair, but we all know that it would have been hard to forgive such acts of stupidity these days.

Ivan was an instant friend to everyone he met. He spoke French like a cool punk from Marseille, and ate like a man possesed. From chicken feet to charcuterie, he was the Finisher, and he will never be replaced.

So, to Ivan. The coolest kid (sorry, Mina) ever to come out of Popper Kaiser. My friend, roommate, and co-conspirator. I love you.

Flickr group for Ivan
James Wilcox, on Ivan

Wednesday, September 28, 2005


Tom DeLay indicted.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Rethinking the Social Responsibility of Business

A Reason debate featuring Milton Friedman, Whole Foods’ John Mackey, and Cypress Semiconductor’s T.J. Rodgers

John Mackey defends (this is Reason Magazine, after all) his company's holistic approach to capitalism to a couple of people so devoted to the free market that you'd think the invisible hand was jerking them off under the table.

As usual, Friedman is slavishy devoted to capitalism, but with a detached, poorly-communicated style. TJ Rogers, who, if there is any karma in the world, will end up fishing recycled circuit boards out of pools of acid in rural China, brings his unique "style" of caustic, anti-humanitarian Ayn Randian horseshit to the table. John Mackey:
While I respect Milton Friedman’s thoughtful response, I do not feel the same way about T.J. Rodgers’ critique. It is obvious to me that Rodgers didn’t carefully read my article, think deeply about my arguments, or attempt to craft an intelligent response. Instead he launches various ad hominem attacks on me, my company, and our customers. According to Rodgers, my business philosophy is similar to those of Ralph Nader and Karl Marx; Whole Foods Market and our customers are a bunch of Luddites engaging in junk science and fear mongering; and our unionized grocery clerks don’t care about layoffs of workers in Rodgers’ own semiconductor industry.

For the record: I don’t agree with the philosophies of Ralph Nader or Karl Marx; Whole Foods Market doesn’t engage in junk science or fear mongering, and neither do 99 percent of our customers or vendors; and of Whole Foods’ 36,000 employees, exactly zero of them belong to unions, and we are in fact sorry about layoffs in his industry.

When Rodgers isn’t engaging in ad hominem attacks, he seems to be arguing against a leftist, socialist, and collectivist perspective that may exist in his own mind but does not appear in my article. Contrary to Rodgers’ claim, Whole Foods is running not a “hybrid business/charity” but an enormously profitable business that has created tremendous shareholder value.

Of all the food retailers in the Fortune 500 (including Wal-Mart), we have the highest profits as a percentage of sales, as well as the highest return on invested capital, sales per square foot, same-store sales, and growth rate. We are currently doubling in size every three and a half years. The bottom line is that Whole Foods stakeholder business philosophy works and has produced tremendous value for all of our stakeholders, including our investors.

In contrast, Cypress Semiconductor has struggled to be profitable for many years now, and their balance sheet shows negative retained earnings of over $408 million. This means that in its entire 23-year history, Cypress has lost far more money for its investors than it has made. Instead of calling my business philosophy Marxist, perhaps it is time for Rodgers to rethink his own.


This is where we get off

Because this (WARNING: That link is probably the most horrific thing you will ever look at - Better to just read the stories below) is where we're getting off.


East Bay Express article on the same subject.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

It's the NEW Neutral Milk Hotel

Well, they DO sound a bit like NMH, but mostly I mean that their music is completely stoking me out right now, and making me excited about music again. And this is just from these crappy low-bitrate streams. As Said the Gramophone says:
If someone were to ask me what kind of music I like, it would probably make a lot of sense to just say "THIS".


And a couple downloads:

Fluxblog has "Chariot."

MySpace has "Junkyard."

said the gramophone has "Jesus."

David Mamet has some lessons for the Democrats

Lessons from the poker table:
In poker, one must have courage: the courage to bet, to back one's convictions, one's intuitions, one's understanding. There can be no victory without courage. The successful player must be willing to wager on likelihoods. Should he wait for absolutely risk-free certainty, he will win nothing, regardless of the cards he is dealt.

For example, take a player who has never acted with initiative — he has never raised, merely called. Now, at the end of the evening, he is dealt a royal flush. The hand, per se, is unbeatable, but the passive player has never acted aggressively; his current bet (on the sure thing) will signal to the other players that his hand is unbeatable, and they will fold.

His patient, passive quest for certainty has won nothing.

The Democrats, similarly, in their quest for a strategy that would alienate no voters, have given away the store, and they have given away the country.


Bush drinking again?

As Digby says, the teflon is finally off the codpiece.


Bush's new kind of fascism - same as the old fascism

The reconstruction of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama provides a fascinating picture of how the Bush administration actually works. His government represents an odd melding of corporatism and cronyism, more in tune with the workings of 1930s Italy or Spain. In fact, if one looks at fascist regimes of the 20th century, it is appears that the Bush administration draws more from these sources than traditional conservatism. Dr. Lawrence Britt has examined the fascist regimes of Hitler (Germany), Mussolini (Italy), Franco (Spain), Suharto (Indonesia) and several Latin American regimes. Britt found 14 defining characteristics common to each:

1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism - Fascist regimes tend to make constant use of patriotic mottos, slogans, symbols, songs, and other paraphernalia. Flags are seen everywhere, as are flag symbols on clothing and in public displays.

2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights - Because of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of 'need.' The people tend to look the other way or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerations of prisoners, etc.

3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause - The people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial, ethnic or religious minorities; liberals; communists; socialists, terrorists, etc.

4. Supremacy of the Military - Even when there are widespread domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding, and the domestic agenda is neglected. Soldiers and military service are glamorized.

5. Rampant Sexism - The governments of fascist nations tend to be almost exclusively male-dominated. Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Divorce, abortion and homosexuality are suppressed and the state is represented as the ultimate guardian of the family institution.

6. Controlled Mass Media - Sometimes to media is directly controlled by the government, but in other cases, the media is indirectly controlled by government regulation, or sympathetic media spokespeople and executives. Censorship, especially in war time, is very common.

7. Obsession with National Security - Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses.

8. Religion and Government are intertwined - Governments in fascist nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology is common from government leaders, even when the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed to the government's policies or actions.

9. Corporate Power is protected - The industrial and business aristocracy of a fascist nation often are the ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite.

10. Labor Power is suppressed - Because the organizing power of labor is the only real threat to a fascist government, labor unions are either eliminated entirely, or are severely suppressed.

11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts - Fascist nations tend to promote and tolerate open hostility to higher education, and academia. It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored or even arrested. Free expression in the arts and letters is openly attacked.

12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment - Under fascist regimes, the police are given almost limitless power to enforce laws. The people are often willing to overlook police abuses and even forego civil liberties in the name of patriotism. There is often a national police force with virtually unlimited power in fascist nations.

13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption - Fascist regimes almost always are governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions and use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. It is not uncommon in fascist regimes for national resources and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders.

14. Fraudulent Elections - Sometimes elections in fascist nations are a complete sham. Other times elections are manipulated by smear campaigns against or even assassination of opposition candidates, use of legislation to control voting numbers or political district boundaries, and manipulation of the media. Fascist nations also typically use their judiciaries to manipulate or control elections.

(Source: The Fourteen Defining Characteristics of Fascism, Dr. Lawrence Britt, Spring 2003, Free Inquiry)

Perhaps it is unfair to characterise the Bush Presidency in these terms, because it would imply the existence of a coherent governing philosophy.


Tuesday, September 20, 2005

"I guess this means we've won the war on terror"

Mischievous commentary began propagating around the water coolers at 601 Fourth St. NW and its satellites, where the FBI's second-largest field office concentrates on national security, high-technology crimes and public corruption.

The new squad will divert eight agents, a supervisor and assorted support staff to gather evidence against "manufacturers and purveyors" of pornography -- not the kind exploiting children, but the kind that depicts, and is marketed to, consenting adults.


Thursday, September 15, 2005

Guess who's been put in charge of NO reconstruction

Karl Rove! Hahaha... Just kidding. That would be ridiculous. What's that? Hold on...


Um. Actually it's not a joke.


Happy birthday Slurpee!

Which brings us to 7-Eleven's glistening new Manhattan outpost. Apparently the location is doing well, having been dutifully covered in the New York Times and worshipped by burnished, carb-counting types looking to dupe themselves into thinking they're not burnished, carb-counting types. Slacker-hating sophisticates can now pretend to be slackers, projecting a false sense of value onto the very suburban childhoods that felt so valueless at the time. What's glimpsed here is a small piece of a much larger and much stranger social machinery: With misguided nostalgia comes a tendency to fetishize the mundane because the truth is either too earnest (I miss being young!) or just plain sad (When did I become this person?). As a result, people no longer simply wander inside and drink a Slurpee, but wander inside and "drink a Slurpee." I'd be concerned about this, worried that the point of the Slurpee will be missed, except years of experience have taught me that after three furious sips, the overly self-aware brain will be frozen, all meta-oriented cells will be annihilated, and, for a few painful seconds, we will all be bumbling freshman again. Truly.


Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The world's first real bionic man

This is freakin' AMAZING!

Dubya asks Condi if he can drop a deuce

Another way to f*** with telemarketers

The "Telecrapper 2000"


Best life-imitates-Onion example yet!

Courtesy of Metafilter...


Sheep-vivor The Sheep-prentice Shear Factor!

Planned Parenthood comes up with an ingenious fundraiser

Here's how it works: You decide on the amount you would like to pledge for each protester (minimum 10 cents). When protesters show up on our sidewalks, Planned Parenthood Southeastern Pennsylvania will count and record their number each day from October 1 through November 30, 2005. We will place a signoutside the health center that tracks pledges and makes protesters fully aware that their actions are benefiting PPSP. At the end of the two-month campaign, we will send you an update on protest activities and a pledge reminder.


Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Want to talk to a human?

Find-A-Human tells you the quickest way to get a human on the line when dialing customer support.


TiVo adds stupid-ass DRM to its product

The latest TiVo software now adds a "feature" which won't let you save a show indefinitely, or record it to tape. Way to go.


Sunday, September 11, 2005

The iTunes 5 Announcement From the Perspective of an Anthropomorphized Brushed Metal User Interface Theme

Title says it all, really.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Friday links

1. Amazing slideshow from New Orleans:

2. New Get Your War On:

3. Fun Math, Physics, and Engineering Applets:

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Clueless marketing crap o' the month

Courtesy of Hitachi.


Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Two thirty-somethings try XBox Live

There's a lot of hilarious stuff in here, like
I don't think I'll play Xbox Live too often, now that our touristic exploration is done. Mostly this is because I'm bad, and no one likes to lose all the time. Partly it's that I've yet to find any games I really enjoy. (I like the tennis game Top Spin, but I suck at that, too. When I played it on Xbox Live, my opponent hit every single serve for an ace and smacked every single one of my serves for a return winner.)

But partly it's because I feel like everyone else is cheating—"modding" their characters to be stronger and better-equipped. There was a lot of chatter about this when we were playing online. One kid said he'd seen a guy in Halo 2 who'd rigged his gun to somehow fire vehicles out of its barrel. You're in a firefight with him and he sends a truck hurtling toward you. (Conversely, it felt like someone had modded my character to be especially frail and had limited my weapons options to "butter knife.")


Friday, September 02, 2005

FEMA Director Mike Brown couldn't even manage frickin' HORSES!

I think I've told you that I'm into Arab horses. Well, for 3 years Michael Brown was hired and then fired by our IAHA, the International Arabian Horse Assoc. He was an unmitigated, total fucking disaster. I was shocked as hell when captain clueless put him in charge of FEMA a couple of years ago.

If we've learned anything from the past few years, this guy is going to be Dubya's pick to replace Rehnquist.

Can we stop with the PR-speak, CYA bullshit?

Here is Senator Landrieu getting a smackdown from Anderson Cooper over her happy-talk back-patting comments about what a great job all the politicians are doing.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

EVO as good as Advil?

The discovery of a natural anti-inflammatory agent in extra virgin olive oil offers a reliable biochemical insight into the well-documented but puzzling health benefits of a Mediterranean diet, which appears to lower the risk of cancer, heart ailments and some chronic diseases even though it is high in fat and salt.


FEMA Directing Donations To Rev. Pat Robertson


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