random

NY Times Thinks the Glass is Fourteen Percent Empty

The NY Times is headlining that 1 in 7 of the released detainees return to terrorist activities. That’s 14 percent.
The truth is also that 86 percent of the detainees have not returned to terrorist activities.
While I’m not saying that the 74 people who have returned to doing bad things (although if you read the article it’s up in the air what “returning to terrorist activities” means) aren’t important, I am impressed with those other 462 released detainee who haven’t returned (or maybe were never part of) terrorist activities.
Fourteen percent! I wish that the US prison system had such a low rate of recidivism (repeat offenders).
As Americans we can’t justify jailing out of fear. We need due process. And if due process says we can’t hold them then we need to do what is right and let them go. We can’t let the fourteen percent boogie man scare us into being fascists. Heck, even if it was 86 percent, it is un-American to deny anyone due process no matter what they’ve done.

Standard
random

Is Horse Meat Countable?

Having been in Japan for several months now I’m aware that people eat horse here. Still, I was thrown off the other day when asked a simple English question, “is horse meat countable?” The person wanted to know if it was a countable noun, like “bird” is countable or uncountable one, like “grass.” The answer is that (animal name) meat is always uncountable, but it took me a minute to answer. Not because I didn’t know but because Americans don’t eat horse and I am vegetarian, so my brain got stuck on the idea of eating horse meat first.

It astonishes me sometimes how cultures vary. It also astonishes me that no matter how open I am variations in cultures, and even having lived in the culture for nearly a year, I am always trapped into seeing things through my own culture. I suppose it is this way for everyone.

Standard
politics

America's Biggest Threat is America

Politicians like to point fingers everywhere when talking about where America’s biggest threat is coming from. Whether it is legal/illegal immigrants, the ghosts of Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden, Iran, North Korea, even Russia— The list goes on. But the fact of the matter is that our country hasn’t done anything to actually decrease exposure to risk. For instance, the GAO (Government Accountability Office), which is probably the single most useful office in the government, just set up a bogus company and got a license to buy all the things they’d need for a dirty bomb. Who gives out this license? The Nuclear Regulatory Commission of course. Who’s the bigger threat, the ones trying to hurt Americans or the ones giving those people the tools they need to do it?

Standard
business, politics, technology

Where is Capitalism Anyway

There’s a hard case for saying capitalism still exists in America. Calling our market a free one is like saying a cage-free chicken is honestly free. The irony is that it is the market leaders (often ones who clamor for deregulation) are the ones that are steering America’s market towards a feudal system.

The linchpin in this drive is patents & copyrights and to a lesser degree trademarks. Patents & Copyright aren’t necessarily bad, but they are being heavily abused in the US. It only takes one look at Marshal, Texas to understand where we are heading.

While small businesses and start-ups are hurt, the folks sitting at the end of the punch are the America people. The state of intellectual property laws are such that we’ve stifled innovation in America and reduced competition. The concept of the free market is that those who can’t survive in business are pushed out of the market, however through intellectual property management any company that has established itself can remain on artificial life-support by abusing the system through lawsuits that either give failing businesses a cut of their competition’s income or by blocking that competition altogether.

The result is that old weak companies wheeze along while newer innovative companies are left emaciated or quietly strangled out of existence through a feudal market. A feudal market is one in which companies survive only through virtue of their heritage (intellectual property). If a new innovative company enters the market it must pay the old company to work on the land (license fees) or it can not work at all.

Companies have learned this and have begun hoarding patents. These patents abused to the detriment of America. The long-term result of a feudal business model is that innovative products will cost more and come from other countries. While the old companies flail in their slow death they are taking the economy with them. And while their death is slow it will not be nearly as painful for them as it will be for middle and low class Americans.

The life-span of companies has been artificially prolonged leaving us with undead monsters who scour the market for the brains of the living. There is always a balance, the dead trees fall down and decompose, feeding the young trees as the stretch upward, the question is where those trees will be. Will innovation be able to survive in America or will it find more fertile soil elsewhere? And consider this, sometimes the old dead trees don’t fall down and decompose, sometimes they pile up— the only thing for that is a fire, but fire destroys everything and it takes years for a new forest to grow in its place. Do we really want to wait for the fire?

Standard
whatnot

Imus Isn't the Problem

Listen. Imus might suck for saying stupid things but talking only about what he said is just dumb. Imus isn’t the problem. The problem with Imus is that he said something stupid and now people want to talk about what he said, and once the media is through with him we will all pretend America is alright again. But America isn’t all right. Race and sex are still major hurtles for Americans every day.

One problem is our reaction is tailored to be completely impotent, another problem is what we are teaching people. “Watch what you say and no one will bother you,” is all we are saying. That is worthless. The problem is the racism and sexism in this country, the words are just the expression of those feelings and ideas that are very real still in America. The reality is that even if these ideas are not voiced they will continue to exist. By shutting down the conversation we are doing nothing to change the situation.

Don’t be fooled. You can shut Imus up but in doing so you haven’t done anything. By focusing only on Imus and the larger issues (race and gender in America) the media only facilitates the band-aiding of those issues and is hamstringing good honest discussion. If they really cared about the issues and not the entertainment value of what Imus said they would be discussing these issues in relation to Don Imus.

If you want to affect change in America on the issues that matter you can not just oppress the hurtful and wrongheaded ideas that people have, you have to meet them head on with a rational, thoughtful, and unemotional dialog. But until then we can just keep telling people to keep their mouths shut and walk around in willful ignorance of the challenges people face in this country based on race, class, religion, and gender.

Imus isn’t the problem, the way we deal with a person like Don Imus is.

Standard
random

A Little Something Extra

There isn’t much that can make me crave TV lately, but one show that does is Extras. The sad thing is that you need HBO to get it in America, but it looks like you can watch episodes on the BBC2 website (you’ll need real player, which I don’t have/want so I can’t vouch for what is actually there).

Ricky Gervais - ExtrasExtras is another one of Ricky Gervais‘s projects and let me tell you, it is funny in that beautifully painful way that it seems only Gervais can really make work. I won’t go into the details since wikipedia and imdb do a better job than I could. But I will say that it is funny at at times just over the top but stays grounded with moments of struggle and frustration known to everyone. And though most people probably can’t relate to showbiz the situations are very relatable. This is the man that created The Office which has also had great success as a US Sitcom.

[tags]bbc, comedy, extras, good tv, hbo, ricky gervais, sitcoms, tv[/tags]

Standard
music, random

One of the Many Reasons Billy Bragg is Great

billy brag You would have to be crazy and stupid to hate Billy Bragg. That is all there is to it. Today on KEXP I heard a song he played live for KEXP, that isn’t the only place to find it, but it’s the one I think sounds best. Sadly, KEXP uses WMA & Realplayer… I’ve mentioned it before, but let me say again that those are crappy formats. If you want to hear KEXP’s version look under live performances. Anyway—

This new (to me) song’s title is Bush War Blues, which is of course and allusion to Leadbelly’s amazing song Bourgeois Blues. Leadbelly wrote his song after having a bad experience in Washington DC. Billy Bragg is just having the same hard time that all of America, and the world, is having. I suggest you listen to both of these songs, and I offer them both to you here. First some lyrics, and below you’ll find the audio.

Bourgeois Blues
by Leadbelly

me and my wife went all over town
and everywhere we’d go people turned us down
Lord, in a bourgeois town
woo it’s a bourgeois town
I got the bourgeois blues
gonna spread the news all around

me and my wife we were standing upstairs
we heard a white man say “I don’t want no niggers up there”
lord, he’s a bourgeois man
woo bourgeois town
I got the bourgeois blues
gonna spread the news all around

home of the brave, land of the free
I don’t wanna be mistreated by no bourgeoisie
lord, in a bourgeois town
woo the bourgeois town
I got the bourgeois blues
gonna spread the news all around

me and my wife went all over town
and everywhere we’d go people turned us down
Lord, in a bourgeois town
woo it’s a bourgeois town
I got the bourgeois blues
gonna spread the news all around

them white folks in Washington they know how
to call a colored man a nigger just to see him bow
lord, it’s a bourgeois town
woo the bourgeois town
I got the bourgeois blues
I’m gonna spread the news all around

I tell all the colored folks to listen to me
don’t try to find you no home in Washington, DC
`cause it’s a bourgeois town
woo the bourgeois town
I got the bourgeois blues
I’m gonna spread the news all around

Bush War Blues
by Billy Bragg

If you’re worried about Iraq
I’ll tell you this one thing I’m certain
this war is gonna make
the whole world safe for Haliburton

I got the Bush war blues
I got them Bush war blues
I got the Bush war blues
I’m gonna spread the news all around

well they spent a trillion dollars
on this illegal war
could paid all the social security
for a hundred years or more

I got the Bush war blues
I got them Bush war blues
I got the Bush war blues
I’m gonna spread the news all around

we’ve got to find some moderate muslims
with whom we can converse
might be an idea if we try to find
some moderate christians first

I got the Bush war blues
I got them Bush war blues
I got the Bush war blues
I’m gonna spread the news all around

here’s my simple message
to our soldiers overseas
wanna bring them back from Baghdad
send them to New Orleans

I got the Bush war blues
I got them Bush war blues
I got the Bush war blues
I’m gonna spread the news all around

well damn this war on terror
this invasion of Iraq
let’s declare war on poverty
cut the working poor some slack

I got the Bush war blues
I got the Bush war blues
I got the Bush war blues
I’m gonna spread the news all around

yeah, spread the news

cute little smile
curly hair
it’s George Bush’s poodle
goddamn Tony Blair

I got the Bush war blues
I got the Bush war blues
I got the Bush war blues
I’m gonna spread the news all around

[tags]billy brag, blues, bourgeois blues, bush war blues, class, iraq, leadbelly, music, politics, war, class [/tags]

Standard
whatnot

I think this is funny

Is it just me or does this say a lot about class?

edit: there was a screenshot attached to this post, sadly this was lost when the blog broke. It wasn’t all that great anyway, it just announce a talk being given at Harvard with a $15 admission (I was trying to point towards issues of access to important dialogs, education, etc in America)
[tags]class, classism, privilege[/tags]

Standard
whatnot

Non-Profit Funding (notes)

Some notes towards something more later:

greenYesterday I was approached by Greenpeace for the second time in three days while walking home. They were doing some fund raising. It was a typical deal, where a young man with a clipboard asks you an easy question like “do you care about the environment?” Of course I care about the environment. The problem is what this question leads to, will you give us money? Asking for money isn’t the problem though, it’s how they are asking for the money that is. Non-profits have started to use a new system where they automatically deduct “as little” as ten dollars straight from your bank account. What’s more, you won’t be given an other option. Either give a minimum of $120 a year or don’t at all. You’ll have to go to the website for that, but only after getting the hard sell on the street.

The explanation is that it lowers their overhead, which is undoubtedly true. The problem is that I don’t have a lot of money. I like to give to charity, but my little means makes it so that I can only give a little and what little I can give I like to break up among important issues. Yes, I like the environment, I also like the ACLU, and saving children, and ending Hunger and Homelessness in America, and so on. But I can not give every group $120 ever year, not without risking becoming a charity case myself anyway.

The Greenpeace hard sell was extra insulting because the fella implied that I should have given to him instead of buy my new shoes which I needed to keep my feet dry after four days of straight rain, which I explained to him. He then told me how I could say the environment for the price of X number of lattes, which I don’t drink (partially) because of the cost. I then explained that I just moved here and just got a job and that I have a bunch of bills and also need to get money together for a deposit so I can get an apartment. The solution? He’s signed up a bunch of broke college students so I should too. I won’t go into why that was a dumb thing to say, but it led me to this thought— non-profit funding is in crisis. If they all are depending on broke college students and people like me to support important issues there isn’t much hope. And this funding isn’t just money, but time and energy. I didn’t like the guy hard selling me, but I respect his commitment and I realize what good work these people are trying to do. I think from here it would be easy to get back into class, but I’ll hold off, I need to get ready for work anyway.
[tags]aclu, class, fund raising, funding non-profits, greenpeace, hunger and homelessness, non-profits, save the children[/tags]

Standard