Bracing against the wind  

Thursday, January 29, 2004

"Screamability" More Important than Foreign Policy

9 out of 10 Americans following the Democratic nomination have stated in a Zagry poll that the ability to give an enthusiastic cheer without seeming nerdy or loud is more important than foreign policy. "When Kerry cheers it sounds like an old-fashioned ballyhoo," says Christopher Keane from New Hampshire, "When Dean cheers it's more like a growl mixed with a goofy yee-ha".

The consensus among those polled was that wars and foreign relations generally "take care of themselves", whereas political appearances depend entirely on the candidate in question. Other top concerns listed were the quality of the suits worn to speeches and whether or not the candidate had on clean underwear.

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Sunday, January 25, 2004

The Kerry/Bush Connection

John Kerry and George Bush were members of the same fraternity in Yale, "Skull and Bones", in 1968. They hazed together, partied together and pledged to support each other for life. Why should we vote for one over the other? As far as a I can tell, they're the same candidate.


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Friday, January 23, 2004

Don't press Bush on the WMD issue

This man is heavily connected to the arms industry. He was willing to manufacture a war to prop up his ideology. Let's not give him a reason to bury nukes in the desert.

I say we stop pressuring the Bush administration to produce WMD's. They might just do it. The Democratic party has to stay on message: America is not safer with Saddam in American custody.

Saddam was a violent cat herder in a country with fierce religious leaders and warring ideologies. Now nobody's in charge, the cats are all over the place, the electricity and water doesn't work and nearly everyone has a dead cousin killed by an American missile.


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Register to Vote!

In New York, it's a fast and easy phone call: 212-VOTE-NYC.
In California, there's an online form, which also really easy.
Anywhere else, you can use the NVRA form, which requires you to have a printer.


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Boycott CBS

I crafted and sent this email today, in reaction to CBS's decision to reject MoveOn's advertisement criticizing the Bush administration, while accepting an advertisement advocating the president.

This story sums up the situation well.


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"The right to vote is the right to declare and enforce rights themselves. It is the meta-right. It enables social agreement and laws, and, therefore, the lack of this right can be exploited to supercede all other social agreements"


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Thursday, January 22, 2004

Treo 600 versus Blackberry

I ditched my Treo 600 after a week and a half. I spent days installing java software, changing settings and getting it to work as an acceptable email reader and contact management solution. It was a lot of work, and I never got it to the point where it was functioning seamlessly. I'm sticking with the Blackberry 7500. AFAICT, the Treo is a toy for people who don't seriously use their PDA. If there was better push->email, multitasking (background mail), instant messaging, built-in pop3 support, and better battery life ... I might have kept it. These are all things that the Blackberry gets right.

The one advantage of the Treo 600 over the Blackberry is that it surfs the web flawlessly. It also has great downloadable games. If web access and games on your phone are more important to you than email, messaging and contact management, then I highly recommend the Treo.

As far as a cell phone is concerned, the Sprint network was a tad bit worse than the AT&T and Nextel networks, at least in New York. I switched to the Nextel network to save money over AT&T and get a better network. Nextel also allows you to instal Idokoro's mobile ssh... which works like a charm. Finally, an affordable mobile ssh solution that doesn't' completely suck! I can now officially manage my business from the road.

T-mobile has the best deal for Blackberry service, but I heard that their firewall is too restrictive to allow for remote administration of stuff. If you find out otherwise, let me know... I'll switch.

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Wednesday, January 21, 2004

OK, the Gephardt card has been played

Gephardt sponsored attack ad after attack ad against Howard Dean in Iowa. He paid for hecklers to show up at Dean's speeches.

I emailed Google a few days ago and got them to shut down an internet attack ad against Dean, since attacking people politically (even Bush, I know) is against their policies. It was a Gephardt ad.

Are you Gephardt fans glad that your 4 million dollars were spent, entirely, on attacking Howard Dean in Iowa. Don't you realize that Dean was amazingly supportive of union workers in Vermont?

My friend Scott predicted months ago that Gephardt was in the race just to rally the union workers and get them to attack any populist candidate that might threaten the status quo. That's been his role for years. Well, Dean threatens class power for sure.

But their Gephardt card is all used up.

Now we, the legions of internet warriors, will be descending on New Hampshire dressed in costumes that resemble the local fauna. Camouflage is necessary at this phase. A budding rebellion must not emerge from the chrysalis too soon.

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Tight Assed

I did a google search for "tight assed". I found a poem entitled, Tight Assed Town, which, pretty much, sums up how I felt in that moment. Sigh. Back to work.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2004

On lying

Today, I was writing a letter to Experian about my credit rating. Most of us lie a little. Some of us lie a lot. But we all know why people do it ... to cover up a shortcoming, to make us look good in the moment. When a person lies, somebody always gets hurt. The question is not whether or not lying is right or wrong. The question is not whether or not to harm. We will, inevitably, cause harm on this earth to other lifeforms. When we boil vegetables, we kill off the bacteria inside them. The question is what lifeforms are we harming? Are we creating a world in which harming others is an acceptalble solution? I choose to tread lightly.

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Friday, January 16, 2004

An emotionally realistic and interesting novel about emortality

Fountains of Youth is one of my favorite transhumanist books. It is a complex character and sociological exploration of an individual living in a future where aging has been eliminated. The technological and futuristic aspects of the novel are treated with a sophisticated casualness and subtlety that is uncharacteristic of the genre.

What was intersting to me was how the book that the main character wrote affected his life. In the beginning the novel was a work of personal achievement, but then, as it became a success, the charcter's relationship with his work and it's affect on his life became more complex. Perhaps this is a reflection of Stableford's own feelings about success.

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Howard Dean and Unilateral War

Howard Dean's message is not that he won't send America to war. It's that he won't send out soldiers to war without letting America know the truth. Bush lied as to why he went to war. Bush's advisors had been planning to invade Iraq to control its resources, to use it as a strategic base of support, and to garner support for increased military spending, as early as 1998.

If Bush had been honest with America, then we may not have supported his cause. But maybe we would have. We'll never know.

Dean supported the action in Bosnia to stop geocide. Clinton told America we were going there to stop geocide. Saddam was not in the process of committing genocide.

Maybe, in the long run, things will work out in Iraq, and maybe they will get much worse. We chose a conversation of overt violence. Normally, I would expect a country like ours to chose an intelligent, less costly, and more effective message.


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Thursday, January 15, 2004

Victory in Iowa Day

As soon as Howard Dean wins in Iowa, as soon as we hear the news, we will be donning our buttons and caps, or putting flags on our cars.

We're going to make a huge show of support.

If you don't have them yet, you can buy a button or a warm cap, or a car-mount flag at the online store.


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Wednesday, January 14, 2004

International Minimum Wages and Global Discussion

I've written two articles recently. One is the Global Discussion Project. This project begins with each of us talking to at least one stranger each day about political issues, for 5 minutes each day. It ends with a transformation of the planet.

The other article details a working model for an International Minimum Wage. It highlights the economic advantages and pitfalls of such a policy, and puts forth a conservative proposal on how to enact such a minimum.


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Monday, January 12, 2004

Dean's advisors are hurting his campaign

Howard Dean has expressed that he no longer feels like he is "allowed to speak his mind". Perhaps that was why he screwed up the debate with Sharpton. Dean's style is not to dodge the issue. But now that his advisors are imploring him to stop thinking for himself, he is unable to remain flexible and react to the attacks.

Here's my response to Sharpton's attack, "No, I didn't have any black members of my administration. Vermont is 97% white. Are you suggesting that I should have imported someone from outside the state in order to be a token black? You are playing the race card, Al, and it's despicable."

Sure, when I first saw Dean, I thought, "Yet another white guy running for office"... but that was my racism, not his. The reality of Vermont is that there aren't many African Americans living there. Maybe they all think it's too damn cold.

So here's my advice to Dean, "I paid you to speak your mind. Denounce the entire political process if you have to. But do not sacrifice your integrity and your voice. Have faith. A clear voice of reason will always ring true."


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Saturday, January 10, 2004

Parasites and Co-evolution of Recreational Drugs

I was listening to NPR some time ago and they had a parasite expert on the air. He was talking about Toxoplasma gondii. Toxoplasma gondii lives in cats, but the way it spreads is via rats. When it infects the rat, the rat becomes less risk averse, it becomes attracted to the smell of cats, and it has a slower reaction time. In humans, the Toxoplasma has a similar effect. In fact, people infected by it are more likely to own cats!

There's one parasite (Euhaplorchis californiensis) that reproduces in birds. This bloodfluke first infects snails that eat the birds' droppings. Them they travel through the water to fish, which they infect by swimming into the gills, finding a blood vessel, and then a nerve, ending up on the surface of the brain. The fish then become more likely to jump out of the water or splash near the surface, which makes them about 30 times more likely to be eaten by birds, thus completing the fluke's life cycle.

Parasites evolved over time to control the minds of their hosts. They get their hosts to engage in behavior that promotes their existence.

This got me thinking about the various recreational drugs that we find in nature. Might it be that these blood-brain barrier crossing drugs similarly evolved to the benefit of their parent species?

Is it possible that the effects of psilocybin on animals actually helps promote the survival of the psilocybin? How about the effects of cannabis or cocaine?

Cows and sheep fall into behavior patterns and rarely migrate outside their territory unless given an environmental nudge. Psychoactive mushrooms grow in cow and sheep feces. They cannot survive without animals. They spread via animal locomotion. An animal can run from a fire. A mushroom can not. Their vested interest, for millions of years, was for animals to not fall into predictable patterns, and to, instead, range far and wide.

Indeed, mushrooms may cause animals to break their established pattern of behavior and go to new fields in order to ensure their own spread and survival, since they have no locomotive ability on their own.

More generally, many plants and mushrooms have hallucinogenic effects on animals. Animal brain receptors and these compounds have certainly co-evolved. Indeed, there's a "cannaboid receptor" in our brain. Perhaps these are intended to produce behaviors that promote the survival of the psychoactive species?

Bob Ross in the Best of the Joy of Painting, was known to say "Think like a tree". Maybe he meant that... literally.

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Friday, January 09, 2004

Context, Iraq and Howard Dean

Media pundits are attacking Howard Dean saying he wasn't happy that Saddam was captured.

Actually, Dean's now-famous "the capture of Saddam has made America no safer" line was preceded by "the capture of Saddam is a good thing which I hope very much will keep our soldiers safer, but". [reference]

Where in the world does "the capture of Saddam is a good thing" mean "I wish he wasn't captured"? Maybe to the corporate media it means that. But, in my world, up is up and down is down.

Plus, the truth is that America isn't safer without Saddam. America is actually far, far worse off now that Islamists can point to Iraq as proof that America is aggressively trying to eliminate Islam.

Up until a few years ago, these Islamists were seen as radical and crazy by most Muslims. Now with America dropping bombs all over the Middle East, they are becoming more mainstream. Muslims, witnessing America's attack on Iraq, are more likely to sign to join extremist groups. If your religion was attacked, wouldn't you do the same?

Violence begets more violence. George Bush, with his aggressive policies, has probably done more to harm the goodwill and overall safety of this country in 3 years than Saddam did in his lifetime.


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Monday, January 05, 2004

Money and Votes

Money is a concept. It is an implicit social contract that everyone agrees to. We accept money as valuable, and, in exchange, we give money its value. It is, by itself, worthless. It cannot be eaten or used for energy and it has limited entertainment value. This is something often forgotten.

Votes are also a concept. Again, the contract is implicit. There is no cardinal right to vote, either in the Constitution or in the Commandments. Frankly, there is no reason why a government must listen to a word the people say. This is, also, something we forget.
[Link to Full Article]


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Project for a New American Century

"The 'Project for a New American Century,' a 90 page document that outlines a radical new strategy for American military and foreign policy, was published in September of 2000 - two months before the presidential election, and a full year before the events of 9/11. It was commissioned by several individuals who later came to play key roles in the Bush administration - including Rumsfeld, Cheney and Wolfowitz - and now guides current U.S. foreign policy. Anyone interested in understanding U.S. policy is sure to find a study of this document invaluable."

A full year before the events of 9/11, it described the need for a 'new Perl Harbor' if the monumental policy changes that it envisions were to quickly be put into effect (page 51). It also revealed, 5 years before the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the real reasons behind such an action. Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and the crew had plans to attack Iraq and
"finish what was started in the Gulf" as early as 1998.

To quote the PNAC: "Indeed, the US has for decades sought to play a more prominent role in Gulf region security. While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein. (page 14) ". This is the real reason behind the war in Iraq.

You can download a printable (and digitably searchable) PDF version of the entire PNAC document from the New American Century website. This is not a "conspiracy". The authors of these documents and promoters of these militarist policies have never hidden their intentions or their plans for global rule.


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Friday, January 02, 2004

Neo-Liberalism and the Right to Vote

A liberal is someone that works for social progress. A conservative is someone that works to preserve traditions. These are the classic definitions of the terms. There are no specifically liberal or conservative "issues", since these issues change over time. What used to be traditional can bee seen as progressive, and vice-versa.

A good example is the phenomenon of the WTO and the activists that rally against it. Ultimately, the luddides and conservationists who show up at WTO rallys are even more conservative than the class-rulers they seek to depose. Ultimately they seek to "preserve" and "conserve" social institutions, ancient cultures and languages, and bilateral trade.

A neo-liberal recognizes that globalism is here, and seeks to create social structures to regulate global trade that are progressive. For example a living wage law, a human rights bill and a global environmental standard would be appropriate provisions for entrance into the WTO. This would be a way of leveraging the power of the WTO as a positive force. We favor scientific and rational solutions over knee-jerk reactions and nostalgia for so-called "simpler times".

Some people claim that multilateral trade organizations favor the wealthy. This may be true today, but so does bilateral trade. Bilateral trade favors the extremely wealthy and corrupt, over the "merely wealthy". For someone to exploit workers in a bilateral trade system and get cheap goods from a sanctioned country X, they have to buy from a corrupt merchant in country Y who, in turn, buys from country X, and relabels everything. The inefficiency of this "middle man trading" system requires poor countries to oppress their workers even more than would be required under a multilateral trade system. This is the way it was done in the long and sad era of bilateral trade. It did very little to protect the workers in foreign countries. It may have helped protect some jobs in the U.S., at the expense of increasing cost of goods. What it was really good for was protecting the U.S. politicians who could conveniently blame France every time banned products slipped past the border.

Ultimately there are two forms of currency in the world: money and votes. Votes are equal among all people. Money is not. Votes recognize our fundamental sameness. Money acknowledges our differences. Both are "counters" or "markers" that seek to account for our value as people in society. Both are valuable.

My sense is that money has a great deal of law behind it, securing its future. Votes do not. Votes are a fragile currency, and their very existence often comes under attack. This is why I strongly advocate measures which secure the right to vote, and measures to increase the number of issues and positions of authority that are voted on. The United States, for example, is one of the few so-called democracies which does not protect its citizen's right to vote or to have their vote counted in a reasonable manner.

A neo-liberal is someone who advocates practical and technological solutions to traditional liberal problems. We recognize that railing against technology and raging against the system have failed and will continue to fail. Instead we use technology as a solution for positive social progress, a tool that can be used to solve the environmental and human-rights problems that are traditional liberal areas of concern.


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Howard Dean's Theme Song

Did you know that Howard Dean's campaign song is the theme music for Legally Blonde 2? If you really want to understand Howard Dean, watch both movies.


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Thursday, January 01, 2004

Just mentioned this site, and the free commenter tools, on WNYC. Got scolded for turning the radio off during the call. Post a comment if you heard it...

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