athelind: (Warning: Self-Evolving System)
After my post about the possibility of a non-violent dissolution of the Union, and particularly in light of this comment about a Disunited States restructuring itself as a North American Union along the lines of the EU, two posts on Futurismic jumped right out at me.

The first raises the idea that the U.S. is just too big to govern with a top-down model, and as the amount of information involved increases, and transparency increases, it simply overwhelms the systems. Some of the quotes sound like knee-jerk Luddism, until you realize that the guy saying "The political system is broken partly because of Internet" is the founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the guy saying that releasing more government information would harm politcial debate and paralyze the government was Lawrence Freaking Lessig, one of the founders of the Creative Commons. When that hits, it turns everything around: they aren't critiquing the new technology; they're critiquing the established governmental systems, and actually suggesting new ideas.

(Again, a recurring theme in Toffler is that "second-wave" institutions are are a poor match to an economy driven by "third-wave" technology. Is that The Other Shoe I hear?)

The article about Post-National Identity is also Relevant To Recent Discourse, but it's one in the morning, so good frakkin' night.


athelind: (eco-rant)
Okay, one reason, and one alone:

The United States of America consumes a disproportionate amount of the world's resources, and produces a disproportionate amount of its pollution. Even a massive socio-economic catastrophe isn't going to do more than moderate that, at least over the next half-century or so. this is an issue that I can't run away from, because the ripples affect the entire world, and not just economically.

I am an Earth Systems Scientist.

If I have any hope of having an effect on this globe-threatening situation, it's gotta be here.

I've got my lever, rusty as it may be, and I think I'm narrowing down my places to stand.


athelind: (politics)
This was originally tacked on as a footnote to my last post, but I think it needs to stand on its own.

For the record, the "Divided States of America" is only a "worst-case scenario" if the Balkanization is violent. That's not unlikely, because we're all pretty pissed at each other right now, and we do like our guns.

On the other claw, the Soviet Union managed to spin off its component without devolving into all-out war, though, even if there were border skirmishes; if the U.S. pulled off the same trick, California might wind up better off than we are now, with the Federal Government funneling money out of the eighth-largest economy in the world and into Red States who rant against taxation, welfare and government interference.


athelind: (prisoner)
Mostly for my own reference: some thoughtful and measured words about emigration.

I'll tell ya: ever since reading Toffler's predictions for the future of the two "Second Wave" superpowers in 1990's Powershift, and watching it come true in the Soviet Union less than a year later, there's a part of me that's been waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Yes, I'm fully aware that this kind of apocalyptic paranoia has contributed to the paralyzing stasis of my life since graduation.

Still, there's an important truth in play: things aren't getting any better in the Untidy States, and the best-case scenario is to hope that the continual erosion of our rights and freedoms will be sufficiently gradual that we won't notice.

And the alternatives ... well, we seem to be using all the worst clichés of Cyberpunk as a road map as it is, why not that one, too?*

I would really like to convince myself that this is just pessimism due to the latest economic downturn, but even during the boom years of the '90s, I saw the "New Democrats" quietly and casually continuing the trends of restricting the rights of biological individuals and increasing the freedoms of "corporate persons". Some oppressed groups have made a few advances in acceptance, but really, it's just welcoming them to the same Village that the rest of us live in. One step forward, two steps back.

I'm in the process of reevaluating my life, realigning my goals, and trying to get a better grip on how the "real world" works.

And around here ... it doesn't. Not very well. Not in ways that will do me any good, now or in the future.

Realistically, if I'm trying to reconstruct my present to make plans for my future, "emigration" needs to be one of my options—even and especially if I land the elusive "Real Job" locally.

The big issue, of course, is that the other Anglophone nations don't really want more USian expatriates.


This is not a post about pessimism or defeatism. This is a post about options.
*See next post.

athelind: (Eye in the Pyramid)
I guess I can boil down my last post into a couple of simple questions:

Does investing public money into building a stadium actually yield a net economic benefit to the community?

If so, does it actually provide more of a benefit than investing the same public money into, say, public transit or public utilities*?




*Note that Santa Clara is one of the few municipalities in Northern California that has its own, independent power generation facilities, and thus is not a serf to PG&E; as a result, they're one of the targets of Proposition 16, officially named the "Right To Vote Act", but generally recognized as the "PG&E Power Grab" or "Monopoly Preservation Act".
athelind: (cronkite)
I should have posted this a lot earlier than the day before the primary election, especially since I know a lot of people who vote Permanent Absentee and have already mailed their ballots in. Better late than never, though.

There's a big push here in Santa Clara for Measure J, committing millions of dollars of public money to build a stadium for the "San Francisco" '49ers.

I hear constant radio ads, talking about how it will "bring jobs" and "boost the economy" and "benefit the schools". In fact, one of those ads is playing as I type this.

I am deeply suspicious of these claims. Has anyone ever done any solid, rigorous studies on the real economic benefits that the presence of a big-league sports franchise claims to provide to a city? Has anyone looked at how the economy of a city swings around when a sports franchise arrives—or when one leaves?

The gut reaction a lot of people have seems to be, "this is a great, big project; of course it will bring great, big changes". There's a lot of talk about intangibles like "prestige" that will bring increased tourist activity, and that it will be a Major Civic Improvement, the centerpiece of a mercantile theme park; there's an air of Shiny Happy Utopianism to these proposals that makes Walt Disney's plans for EPCOT sound cynical.

My gut reaction is that the presence of a sports team doesn't make a lot of difference in a city's "prestige", or in the vacation choices of most travelers. Los Angeles is still Los Angeles, with or without the Raiders—and Oakland, alas, remains Oakland.

I also have to say that, in my experience, the neighborhoods which are fortunate enough to have a stadium descend upon like some Spielbergian mothership seldom look like they've had a significant economic boost. They're not so much "Utopian Theme Parks" full of prosperous businesses and happy locals as they are, um, scuzzy slums punctuated by parking lots.

Full Disclosure: I don't have a lot of use for organized sports. Growing up, baseball was just something that preempted weekend reruns of Star Trek, and football's greatest virtue was that it seldom interrupted things that I wanted to watch. Still, if the presence of a sports franchise really did have a measurable positive impact on the local flux of valuta into the coffers of the city and the pockets of the citizenry, I'd be all for it.

I'm just not convinced.

I hear a lot from the supporters of Measure J.

I don't hear a lot from the opponents.

To me, in this day and age, that doesn't suggest that there are more or better reasons to support the stadium.

It says that someone with deep, deep pockets is shelling out a lot of Dead Presidents to convince us that there are—and that those who disagree don't have nearly as many resources to make their case.

Of course, in this day and age, one doesn't need a lot of folding green to make one's case, and to present hard data. It's just harder to get people's attention without it.

It took some searching to find Santa Clara Plays Fair: The Problems with Measure J. I cheerfully admit that the numbers they present and the claims they make dovetail with my biases and prejudices—however, they're also more thorough and detailed than any of the pro-stadium rhetoric being bandied about.

Follow the numbers, follow the dollars.


athelind: (Warning: Caustic)
One of the recurrent themes in yesterday's discussions of "Draw Mohammad Day" was that when you deliberately go out to provoke people, there are going to be consequences.

Well, after my post about Fundamentalism and Atheism, the comment threads that followed, and my own flippant, insensitive responses, I just wound up losing one of my oldest friends.

Yeah. Go me.


athelind: (cronkite)
I was in a black mood yesterday, and posted some deliberately inflammatory things in this journal.

Some of what I posted was frankly contrafactual, and does not hold up even to a cursory examination of the evidence.


A Retraction and a Correction Follow: )

This was an ignorant, insulting mistake that promulgated misinformation about a group that receives a great deal of abuse, and I apologize.


athelind: (Default)
A comment over at [livejournal.com profile] toob's journal prompted me to finally put down in words something that I've mulled over for a very long time.

Over the decades, I've seen a great deal of evidence to support the hypothesis that, no matter what faith they might nominally adhere to, Fundamentalists of any creed have more in common with each other than they do with more moderate adherents of their own creed.

From my observations, the common keystone in the Fundamentalist worldview is this:

We and we alone know the One True and Proper Path, and those who disagree with us are not merely in error, they are evil, they are our enemies, and any abuse we can deliver unto them is not only justified, but for their own good.


All too often, this becomes the Fundamentalist's primary tenet -- the specific details of his or her faith all become a distant second to the pure, blind assertion that I am right and you are not.

This is their true religion.

Proportionally, I've seen just as many Fundamentalists who think they're Atheists as I have Fundamentalists who think they're Anything Else, and their reaction to Thoughtcrime is just as zealous.

Did that last sentence piss you off?

Might want to run some diagnostics.


athelind: (flames)
Yes, I get it. We all have the right to be assholes.

That doesn't mean we have an obligation to be assholes.


Maybe I wouldn't be in such a foul mood this week if I didn't keep posting flamebait.
athelind: (cronkite)
"Draw Mohammad Day" offends me, despite the fact that I read Gods Playing Poker, which depicts Mohammad in every single strip.

GPP is irreverent and snarky, but it isn't in the least mean-spirited, and this "crusade" most certainly is.

(Of course, it's in "defense" of one of the most mean-spirited shows in U.S. television history, so yeah.)

This little stunt offends me because it's not just aimed at the Fundamentalists; this is a deliberate slap at moderate and progressive Muslims, as well (not that many of the Draw Mohammed Day crowd actually bother to acknowledge that there's a difference). It's a wide-sweeping smackdown of an entire group, and it's saying the same damned thing that the real offenders keep saying: "all of them hate all of us."

Gods damn it, people. how hard is it to grasp? If you're really opposed to an ideology, don't let its adherents frame the argument.

I'm not saying "don't do this". I'm not saying "it shouldn't be allowed". I am saying that we need to examine the motives and sincerity behind it. So much of the output is a tedious repetition of hackneyed Prophet-As-Terrorist memes that it's hard to see it as a statement of "artistic freedom".

If this were really about "free speech", we'd be following it with "Draw Christ Getting Raped In The Nail-Holes Day".


Wow. I think that's the most Regrettably Appropriate use of the word "crusade" I've invoked in a long time.
athelind: (fascism)

White House Caves on Miranda Rights



We don't need to read terrorist suspects their Miranda rights! This is a Public Safety Matter, based on realistic case scenarios from the best U.S. policy thinktanks!

Don't worry! Nobody could ever get falsely accused of terrorism!

... why would you even think that such a thing could apply to you, hmmmm? Maybe we should keep an eye on you ....

Like I said a few days ago, I'll celebrate my country's independence when it happens.

As I was typing this, the radio just blabbed an ad for a local TV news series inciting panic because the restrictions governing where sex offenders can live can't be applied to homeless people, because they don't have an address. ONOES! Homeless people are out to rape your children!

I am so fucking tired of fearmongering.

athelind: (big ideas)
Elsewhere, I just started to type "corporate plutocracy", and left out the "l".

After a moment's thought, I realized that the typo, if taken as a Spanish root instead of Latin, made at least as much sense, if not more.

So I left it.


athelind: (tell it like it IS)
[Error: unknown template qotd]

Do you celebrate your country's independence? If so, how?

When it finally happens, I'll celebrate it.


athelind: (We The People)
Edit: Yes, this is a May Day post.

John Seavey is a contributor at the Mighty God King blog.1

He just posted an outline for the Captain America prologue story he'd like to write, putting young Steve Rogers' life into its historical context: a sickly, working-class 98-pound weakling who had enough patriotic fervor to try and enlist and to fight his 4F status passionately enough to get the notice of the archetypal Secret Government Project.

He's the son of working-class, Depression-era Irish immigrants, and he's politically-motivated. Seavey observes that his parents were likely union organizers, and quite possibly members of a party that wasn't quite so demonized in the '20s and '30s, though it still wasn't exactly respectable.

This is something that most people outside the fandom don't get about Captain America. They look at the flag-colored costume, the blond hair and blue eyes, and immediately equate him with jingoism and the "America: Love It Or Leave It" crowd. They think he's a right-wing icon, a government tool, a crypto-fascist.

Even the right wing thinks so.

And they are so wrong. Only someone who just looks at the pictures, and doesn't look too closely at them, could think so.2

Cap's a New Deal Democrat, and always has been. He was created by a couple of poor Jewish kids from New York, for the express purpose of punching Hitler in the snoot, almost a year before Pearl Harbor, in a period when a lot of "respectable" Americans were still pushing for isolationism.

He's not a symbol of "Love It Or Leave It": he's a symbol of "Love It and Fix It". That's what real patriotism is, dammit.

He's a left-wing icon, and we need to take him back, and claim him as our own.


1He's not MGK himself, who has a long line of similar posts delineating just why he should write Dr. Strange and The Legion of Super-Heroes. These guys really need to get off their butts and submit to Marvel and DC.
2I'm looking at you, you illiterate hack.

athelind: (cue howard)
Earlier today, [livejournal.com profile] ceruleanst pointed out an article about a wounded American soldier whom the U.S. Army subjected to enhanced interrogation torture, until he signed a paper indicating that he had a preexisting personality disorder when he enlisted, and thus was ineligible for health benefits or disability.

This is, as it transpires, part of a continuing effort to misdiagnose wounded soldiers as having preexiting personality disorders specifically to deny them care and benefits.

Shortly after reading the first article, above, I discovered another article about the suicide rates among military personnel over the last decade, which is larger than the death toll from either the wars in Afghanistan or Iraq. Last year alone, 330 active duty suicides were reported.

That doesn't count the deaths among veterans, who are considered civilians; the VA estimates the suicide rate among veterans at around 6,000 per year.

I wonder how many of those vets were denied health care because of their "personality disorders"?


athelind: (barcode)
Today, I filled out my census data as the second person living at [livejournal.com profile] thoughtsdriftby's residence, and something occurred to me.

Neither [livejournal.com profile] quelonzia nor I remember filling out a census form in 2000 -- and in 2000, we were living in CSUMB's student housing. Despite the fact that we lived there for five full years (and the longest I've ever lived in any single place is six years), we were considered transient. In many places, students living on campus aren't considered "local residents", and thus aren't permitted to vote in local elections (though they can vote in national elections); since districting is based on census data, it makes sense that they might leave students out of that, as well.

In 1990, I was in the Coast Guard, and lived on a military base.

In 1980, my family lived in an RV park in a largely-agricultural part of Southern California; the immigration status of most of the other long-term park residents was, shall we say, dubious. My mother can't remember if we filled out a census form that year.

This may be the first census that's actually counted me since I was six years old.

The next time someone bitches about the effort the government has been going through to try and get the homeless and other "traditionally under-represented" segments of the population tallied accurately, I'll have to point out how easily a middle class white kid slipped through the cracks for forty years.


(This may be the most appropriate use of my barcode icon ever.)


athelind: (Default)
Today, I filled out my census data as the second person living at [livejournal.com profile] thoughtsdriftby's residence, and something occurred to me.

Neither [livejournal.com profile] quelonzia nor I remember filling out a census form in 2000 -- and in 2000, we were living in CSUMB's student housing. Despite the fact that we lived there for five full years (and the longest I've ever lived in any single place is six years), we were considered transient. In many places, students living on campus aren't considered "local residents", and thus aren't permitted to vote in local elections (though they can vote in national elections); since districting is based on census data, it makes sense that they might leave students out of that, as well.

In 1990, I was in the Coast Guard, and lived on a military base.

In 1980, my family lived in an RV park in a largely-agricultural part of Southern California; the immigration status of most of the other long-term park residents was, shall we say, dubious. My mother can't remember if we filled out a census form that year.

This may be the first census that's actually counted me since I was six years old.

The next time someone bitches about the effort the government has been going through to try and get the homeless and other "traditionally under-represented" segments of the population tallied accurately, I'll have to point out how easily a middle class white kid slipped through the cracks for forty years.


(This may be the most appropriate use of my barcode icon ever.)


athelind: (pennyfarthing)
AMC has made all 17 episodes of Patrick McGoohan's classic series, The Prisoner, available online.

This series is required viewing for anyone who's ever ...

Well, for anyone.

Anywhere.

Especially in this day and age.


I am not a number!
I am a free man!


athelind: (Default)
AMC has made all 17 episodes of Patrick McGoohan's classic series, The Prisoner, available online.

This series is required viewing for anyone who's ever ...

Well, for anyone.

Anywhere.

Especially in this day and age.


I am not a number!
I am a free man!


athelind: (outrage)
A lot of people keep defending President Obama's mediocre track record on progressive causes,* citing the close margin he has, and occasionally even acknowledging that he can't even rely on his own party members in Congress.

[livejournal.com profile] bradhicks points out that Roosevelt, Johnson, and every other President who managed to accomplish anything of lasting significance faced the same kind of opposition, but knew how to use the power, prestige, and clout of the Chief Executive of the United States to get shit done.

The ones who didn't?

They didn't accomplish jack shit, for any cause, progressive or otherwise.

This is not the change I voted for.


*Most of his defenders also ignore his reprehensible track record in sustaining and expanding frankly regressive causes, including some of the worst stances of the Bush Junta on privacy, security, and copyright law, just to name a few.
athelind: (Default)
A lot of people keep defending President Obama's mediocre track record on progressive causes,* citing the close margin he has, and occasionally even acknowledging that he can't even rely on his own party members in Congress.

[livejournal.com profile] bradhicks points out that Roosevelt, Johnson, and every other President who managed to accomplish anything of lasting significance faced the same kind of opposition, but knew how to use the power, prestige, and clout of the Chief Executive of the United States to get shit done.

The ones who didn't?

They didn't accomplish jack shit, for any cause, progressive or otherwise.

This is not the change I voted for.


*Most of his defenders also ignore his reprehensible track record in sustaining and expanding frankly regressive causes, including some of the worst stances of the Bush Junta on privacy, security, and copyright law, just to name a few.
athelind: (politics)
Okay, kids. Politics time.

First: On Elections.

[livejournal.com profile] rodant_kapoor just said everything that needs to be said about yesterday's special election in Massachusetts.

Second:On Activism.

I've heard some comments that there's more to participating in democracy than just saying, "I voted; now it's their turn to sort things out."

I really want to do things. I really want to make my voice heard. I really want to do that activism thing.

Unlike Billy Joel's "Angry Young Man", I haven't "passed the age / of consciousness and rightous rage". I just don't know what to do with it.

The only leads I've found in that direction have been canvassing, either door-to-door, on the phone, or stuffing envelopes.

You cannot convince me that this is significant or effective.

I don't treat political solicitors any differently than I do commercial or religious ones. At the door, on my phone or in my mailbox, they are an uninvited intrusion on the sanctity and privacy of my home.

I will politely turn away a political canvasser on my doorstep. I will rather less politely inform an unsolicited caller that I am "not interested". I will briefly glance at political mail to see if the candidate in question expresses views that coincide with my own, and if so, I'll put their name on my list of candidates to consider.

I almost always assume that the claims being made for or against Proposition X or Candidate Y are unreliable, at best, and flat-out lies, at worst. When election time rolls around, I troll the web looking for independent analyses and recommendations, but I don't trust unsolicited opinions.

And this is my reaction for the canvassers that I agree with. I have a hard time believing that this kind of activity is actually going to change anybody's mind.

Am I just stubborn? Am I too cynical to believe that J. Random Doorbell might be swayed by the presentation of reasonable arguments and evidence-based debunkings of misinformation? Or, despite my adherence to Colbert's memorable statement that "Reality has a well-known liberal bias", am I too cynical to believe that "my side" will provide me that kind of good, solid data to present?

Am I just an antisocial jerk who likes to hang up on people and slam doors in their face?

Really, are independent voters any more eager to have zealots idealists concerned citizens pounding on their door or ringing them up in the middle of dinner or the latest episode of Supernatural than Your Obedient Serpent is?

Heck, if I were an "independent" rather than a liberal technocrat, I'd probably wind up voting for the party that bothered me the least.

I suppose this boils down to two questions:

One, are my door-slamming habits atypical?

Two, what kinds of "grass-roots activity" are out there that don't include pestering the neighbors?


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