September 22, 2007 archive

Pony Party: Coffee, Coffee, Coffee

I love coffee, even crappy coffee. I don’t remember the exact age at which I started drinking it regularly, but I grew up in a town with a coffee shop culture, probably because at that time there were a lot of shift workers. It was just coffee and donuts, it came in a white utilitarian cup. I did not get my coffee horizons expanded until a trip to Spain and Portugal at age 19.

Cowbody Environmentalism Is For Sissies

Let me say it straight out.  I am not real hot on gentlemen farmers who prefer others get their hands dirty while they look at Norman Rockwell paintings on their walls of a time that never was.  A time when happy cows frolicked in green meadows and happily gave their milk to tiny infants and playful children.

Such folks probably never milked a cow nor smelled much of the other stuff that cows produce.  Norman Rockwell himself was a strangely cynical illusionist who would have shocked the pants off the 1950’s puritans if they knew he had used his mistress in his Saturday Evening Post covers.

Geothermal Power Is Just Regional As You Know

Like New Hampshire for instance.  And Texas.

The region where geothermal power might be developed is Earth.  Not much chance on cold planets and other heavenly bodies. 

I have generally found heavenly bodies cold as ice but that is personal.  Environmentalists generally seem to have the same problem. 

The Morning News

The Morning News is an Open Thread.

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 Feds target Blackwater in weapons probe
By MATTHEW LEE, Associated Press Writer
1 minute ago

WASHINGTON – Federal prosecutors are investigating whether employees of the private security firm Blackwater USA illegally smuggled into Iraq weapons that may have been sold on the black market and ended up in the hands of a U.S.-designated terrorist organization, officials said Friday.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Raleigh, N.C., is handling the investigation with help from Pentagon and State Department auditors, who have concluded there is enough evidence to file charges, the officials told The Associated Press. Blackwater is based in Moyock, N.C.

A spokeswoman for Blackwater did not return calls seeking comment Friday. The U.S. attorney for the eastern district of North Carolina, George Holding, declined to comment, as did Pentagon and State Department spokesmen.

Statistics 101: Part 1 Introduction

re-posted, with edits, from daily Kos

Yesterday I posted a diary on statistical graphics which drew some notice.  I offered to re-post the whole series from dailyKos, and a couple people said I should, so I  will.

This series will not be for the statistical experts, it will be for those who want to be able to understand some basic statistics, without a lot of heavy-duty math.  I’ll try to emphasize aspects I think will be of interest to Kossacks, including how to tell when someone is misleading you with statistics. I welcome comments, suggestions, and thoughts both from people who are reading this as an intro to statistics and from the more statistically literate.

In today’s diary, I will discuss measures of central tendency.  See you after the fold.

Rocks, Alan Greenspan and the News From Japan

This is the first in what will be a weekly look at news from Japan and occasionally Korea. One thing you’ll discover your not the only ones with strange people, weird events and idiot politicians

Tuesday September 18

He may be the underdog in the race to become prime minister, but with his love of comic books and streetwise talk of pop culture, Taro Aso has plenty of support among Japan’s disillusioned youth.
“Aso understands the youth culture,” said 16-year-old Riku Shimoda, one of those who turned out to hear the two candidates vying to replace Shinzo Abe stump for votes in the neon-infested, teeny-bopper haven of Shibuya.

If one were watch the usual campaign rally in Japan 85% of those attending are middle aged or older. So its unusual for a candidate to attract any interest from the younger generation.

WASHINGTON – Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, in his new book published Monday, blames the Japanese government for causing a decade-long economic quagmire that followed the burst of an economic bubble in the early 1990s. In “The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World,” he says Tokyo’s reluctance to take bold action to resolve the bad-loan problems at Japanese banks, such as liquidating the assets of doomed banks, was more for “cultural” reasons than “economic” ones.

I know many people admire Alan Greenspan. However anyone with a rock rolling around inside their head could have told you that the economic malaise was the fault of Japanese government policy.

Equal Protection Under the Law – What You Can Do

One thing I like about DocuDharma is that it is not just about party politics, about the Democrats, the 2008 elections, the usual drumbeat we all know too well.

This site is also about issues and ideas and values, and one of those values very dear to my heart is social justice.

I was over at Kai’s site, zuky – which by the way, is on our blogroll here, and who Nezua over at the Unapologetic Mexican (also on our blogroll) characterizes as the people of color (POC) blogosphere’s “Digby.”  In other words, her posts rank up there as a gold standard of POC blogging, and if you check out her site, you’ll see why.

The post I have linked above speaks about the phenomenal effort the POC blogosphere and grassroots communities made to put the story of the Jena 6 in the national spotlight — an extremely difficult task that the liberal blogs were late in covering, due to the above emphasis on party politics rather than issues and values and social justice — and helped create the amazing civil rights march in Jena that took place yesterday.

Kai writes about what should be done now, after the march, and there is indeed a great deal to be done.  We know now that mychal bell lost his case to be released from prison.  And we also know this story will not escape the usual racist spin.

I urge everyone to read the entire post as well as the links — it tells an amazing story of organization and commitment, one we all would do well to emulate and join.  Some of her reflections:

Now that most semi-conscious people out there have heard the basic outlines of the story, I see it as the job of (real) progressives to assert an anti-racist narrative frame in popular discourse. All too often stripped of historical and social context, the story can get fragmented and reduced to a random series of isolated incidents to be pondered like some cheesy Law And Order script, hyper-focused on legal technicalities and the minutiae of violence. But properly contextualized, the story neatly illustrates the fundamental realities of institutional racism in action: the white control of decision-making offices at all levels – school board, law enforcement, district attorney, judge and jury – and the draconian penalties which befall young persons of color who resist the racist social order, as hauntingly symbolized by the wide leafy oak tree in the center of the schoolyard whose cool southern shade was jealously reserved for white skin only.

In my view, the most striking element of the extensive CNN coverage I watched yesterday was the profundity of white denial of racism. Almost without exception, white Jena residents who were asked whether there was “racial tension” in their town suddenly looked as though a major chunk of their brain short-circuited and went dark, their eyes went flat, and they mass-hypnotically mouthed hollow statements such as “No we’re not that kind of people, we play football together.” And that’s because one of the effects of racism is precisely a sort of mass hypnosis which insidiously blinds people to the flagrant system of power and oppression under which they live by making the racist power structure seem as natural and invisible as the air we breathe.

Sadly, I had a personal experience at work today which illustrates quite well the “mass hypnosis” Kai writes about.  My comment to her post:

I think you are absolutely right that this is not the end of the story.

I took a call today for a lawyer (I’m a legal secretary), it was a fellow from Louisiana. I blog a lot about NOLA, so I asked him where he was from. He said Alexandria, and then made a comment about how that was near Jena. He made some sort of joke about how they all were making a lot of money because of all the folks going to Jena to protest.

Got a sinking feeling in my stomach, but tried to stay professional. I said I hoped things worked out for all, that justice was served. He made some comment that he didn’t like the “stereotyping” going on. The sinking feeling in my stomach grew worse — I responded, “well, I think a lot of folks in this country are getting sick of being stereotyped.” His voice became a bit colder and we quickly ended the conversation.

Equal protection under the law. That is exactly what this is about. Law makes no sense at all unless it is applied equally. In the case of the Jena 6, it is crystal clear that was not the case.

Thanks for the great work you have done — have signed the petition and will blog about this myself as well, to get more signatures.

Folks in the liberal blogosphere talk every now and then about “diversity,” as though it was sort of an optional value to Progressives.  I disagree — I think it is essential and it is not about party politics or the mechanics of same.  Sure, I will support local candidates I think are progressive, from Gilda Reed in Louisiana to Barry Welch in Indiana.  But there is more to being Progressive than supporting candidates.  There is something called solidarity, and we don’t read enough about that.

Read what you can do below!

My Big Fat Rant: Saudi Arabia Set to ABANDON the U.S. Dollar.

The title of this Essay is taken from one of the many private newsletters that folks like me (a currency trader) subscribe to. In the past three years of trading, however, I have never seen anything like the “Red Alerts” that have bombarded me this week.

International Investors Are Abandoning the Dollar, Driving It Toward  All-Time Lows Fast: The US Dollar Index has just fallen well below critical support levels – to within a fraction of a point of its lowest level in history. And it’s signaling even more dramatic declines ahead….

Do you have any idea how much this is going to impact your life before the end of the year?

Before things start to get worse…?

Investors Are Shunning U.S. Bonds, As Demand Sinks a Staggering 80% in One Month: The U.S. Treasury just reported that purchases of U.S. bonds collapsed from $97 billion to just $19 billion in July alone.

Do you know how this has already affected your life and the well-being of your family?

Read on. You haven’t even heard the bad news yet…

Thank You

What do you dream about? Many of us here dream about a day when the neocons are but a distant memory, and war isn’t an option.  When health care is a right for every human being, not a privilege, and those uncounted millions who are working three jobs just to keep a roof over their heads, are able to make a living wage, and still have time to raise their children. A day when racism and ignorance is no longer tolerated, and those who support and inflame those ideas are banished to the outskirts of society in shame, not elected to national offices. Some folks have other dreams, very simple ones that don’t require massive cultural change or revolutionary ideas to achieve. Some people dream only of having a friend, one that will look after them and help keep them safe.  In the last three weeks I have written several stories, both here and at another blog, about a brave young man who needed a little help making his dream come true. His name is James, and all he needed was a little help from folks like you, in making his miracle happen. Today thanks to some special people like yourselves, he is very close to making that dream a reality.
More below.

I Want my LBJ, and screw the “Supermajority” stuff (avec poll)

Aren’t you guys a little tired of the whingeing about not having enough
Democrats in the Senate?  About waiting for 60 votes before we can do anything meaningful about… well, anything?

The problem isn’t the size of the majority. The problem is the leadership.
Democrats have done more with less….

picture slowly fades into wayback sequence

We are So F***ED: The True Significance of Iraq and George W. Bush

I’m trying to wrap my mind around something that, frankly, seems impossible. It started with some revelations (to me!) about Iraq’s history written by none other than Scott Ritter – the UN Weapons Inspector in Iraq from 1991-1998. It’s turned what I thought I knew about Iraq and that country’s relationship with Islam – and us and George W. Bush – on its head and not for the better.

If I may provide you with some examples of what I learned, please repel over the crevasse with me…

Waiting For the Heroes Who Will End This War

The war will end, some day. We tend to forget that. Neither our military nor our economy can sustain this abomination forever. So, it’s really just a question of when. It’s a question of how many more people will be killed, or have their lives destroyed, before the inevitable and inexorable finally comes to pass. Nothing else really matters, anymore. It’s about lives. There is no rationale. It’s just senseless death and destruction. And when it’s all over, the shattered and the scarred will never have a reason why.

We’re waiting for the heroes who will end this war. Many people are trying to end it, but a small handful will succeed. They will have the right strategy, at the right time, and suddenly the war will be over. Even until the last shot has been fired, it will seem that an end will never happen, that it is impossible; but it is not impossible, and it will happen. We will wonder that it was so obvious. We will wonder that no one before was able to get it done. We will wonder why it took so long. We will receive no answers.

There have been many heroes, in the cause of peace. Cindy Sheehan gave opposition to the war a diginified human face. Numerous veterans and veterans’ organizations give it their courage and sacrifice. Many Congressional Democrats have spent many sleepless nights trying to build the coalitions that, thus far, have failed to coalesce. They have done so even while being berated and derided by many who have no idea how hard they are working, behind the scenes. All of these efforts are noble. All of these efforts are sincere. None of these efforts has yet had the right strategy or the right political muscle to succeed.

The war cannot be won. Even its most ardent supporters no longer seem capable of even explaining what exactly victory would mean. And it just goes on and on. Death. Destruction. Murder. Mass murder- a war without cause or justification is nothing else. Those who started the war are responsible for every single death. For every single life that has been irrecovably damaged. For every tear that has fallen.

If history is a guide, those responsible for this war will never be held accountable- unless there is the sort of deity in which they claim to believe. If there is, they will discover that eternity is a very long time. But what matters most, now, is neither justice nor retribution. What matters most is that the war end. It must end. It will end. So, it ought to end as soon as possible. There is literally no reason for it not to.

If these words find their way to any federal officials, or to any who work for federal officials, I hope they will pause and think. I hope they will realize that it’s actually very simple. Someone needs to end this war. Those who do will be among the greatest heroes of our time. Those who will are out there, somewhere, right now. We’re waiting to find out who they are.

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