28 October 2009

What I Read

My RSS feedreader (Google Reader) is pretty full these days. I generally read the whole of what's posted on the following, every day. It looks like a huge amount, but most of them are specific topic feeds; rather than all of the Washington Post, for example, I just get the dozen articles about politics on any given day. And of course several items - The New Yorker and the London Review of Books - are issued only monthly. This list has been pretty stable for a while now.

Laws of the Internet

There are a lot of lists, but most of them are stupid and derivative. These are the only ones that I think are really true:

1. Godwin's Law.
The longer an internet discussion continues, the more likely it is that someone will make a comparison to Hitler or the Nazis.

2. Poe's Law.
Without a winking smiley or other blatant display of humor, it is uttrerly impossible to parody a fundamentalist in such a way that someone won't mistake for the genuine article.

34. If it exists, there is porn of it.

12 October 2009

On a Practical Morality

I have some moral principles worked out pretty well, I think. And really, according to my best judgment, I should be a vegan locavore (eating only locally) who buys free-trade clothing and never downloads television shows, movies, games, books, or music. But really, it's just too much. I confess to being unable to live up to my own moral ideal.

All of my favorite foods are meat (almost without exception), so being a vegetarian is very difficult. It would surpass my strength to be a full vegan. Similarly, I read a great deal. It's just too easy for me to grab books off the net and read them on my PC (or now, my Kindle).

The question, of course, is whether or not I let myself lapse at the current level. Someday, I know, I will have to delete everything and start looking at labels.

Someday. Right?

Mucking about

After months after absurdly extensive travels involving four continents (even if Africa was only tangential and Asia only as a point of departure), I am back in Tampa until the beginning of February. I have secured a position at EPIK and am getting my documents taken care of now. Lizzie and I will be living together on Jeju-do and teaching for a year, and then it's off to graduate school (deo volente and insha'allah).

I am going to find some sort of temporary work here, as I live with my father and stepmother. I may end up going back to UPARC unless I can find something that pays better. And there's the problem of a car. But everything's going pretty spiffily, so it's hard to complain.

09 October 2009


I'm as surprised as anybody.

05 October 2009

Who Runs America

I know it's very cliched for a liberal to rant about big business and pharma running the country. So let's step away from the cliche and look first at the raw numbers. Who are the big spenders when it comes to lobbying - that miraculous political tool that turns money into laws? The data's easy to find on OpenSecrets. Over the past decade:
US Chamber of Commerce$488,458,180
American Medical Assn$208,472,500
General Electric$183,895,000
American Hospital Assn$172,940,431
Pharmaceutical Rsrch & Mfrs of America$154,533,400
AT&T Inc$140,516,229
Northrop Grumman$133,515,253
Edison Electric Institute$128,645,999
Business Roundtable$127,980,000
National Assn of Realtors$127,977,380
Exxon Mobil$124,626,942
Blue Cross/Blue Shield$120,491,385
Verizon Communications$118,344,841
Lockheed Martin$115,567,888
Boeing Co$108,728,310
General Motors$104,774,483
Southern Co$97,670,694
Freddie Mac$96,194,048
Altria Group$88,380,000

Pretty much lays it bare. The statistics are all like this. There are no environmental groups, no parental-constituent education firms, and no civil rights groups up there. Nor will you find them anywhere near the top on any list. You know how many lobbyists Greenpeace has on staff? Two. You know how many Exxon Mobil has? Forty-eight.

This is a problem at the base of our electoral system, along with proportional disenfranchisement, that has only recently come into my view. I don't know if there are any solutions yet, but I damn sure know there are problems.

01 October 2009

Greatest Presidents

1. George Washington. His leadership was remarkable in all ways, and he was rightly called first in war and first in peace. While the immense brunt of American resources would probably have assured independence from a distant oppressor, it was only with Washington's skill at managing the war that it was won in such a short time and with so few losses. Indeed, he lost several times quite badly, scrambling to create an army while still engaging and holding off the enemy, but his management of his losses was magnificent. He turned a war that might have lasted decades into a decisive and short conflict.

Afterwards, he enforced the laws of the land with magnanimity and swiftness, putting down the Whiskey Rebellion. Further conflict, such as the nascent officer's coup, he defused by his nobility alone. His foreign policy was inspired and almost certainly preserved America from meek vassalage. He created the traditions of humility and reticence which made the Presidency such a perfect office (prior to modern extensions of power). His farewell speech was a guide for all time.

Not just the father of the country, but its soul.

2. Thomas Jefferson. If Washington was America's soul, then call Jefferson its mind. His brilliance plucked the ideas of republicanism, limited government, and separation of church and state from their lettered abodes and made them into an effective plan for government. His understanding of the rights of men and the nature of the state found and presented the just cause of revolution. Just as Washington set forth the virtues of the federal government's central hand in such matters as the military and financial, Jefferson demonstrated the benefits of local government and state's rights.

Some of his "defeats" led to fundamental advances. His noble acknowledgment of a court subpoena established that not even the President was above the law, and the exposure of a long-term affair with his slave Sally Hemings showed that an impulse towards equality resided in America's elite from its start.

Jefferson was a master of a thousand crafts, and these thousand masteries helped make the nation.

3. Teddy Roosevelt. He broke the first mega-companies down when they threatened the welfare of the people, he practically created the conservation movement in America, and he was as potent a force as ever sat in the Office. While the Spanish-American War might have been unjust, he served in it as a soldier with astonishing distinction and courage and remains the only President to have the Medal of Honor. He is the only person to have ever gotten that highest aware for bravery as well as the Nobel Peace Prize.

They were flawed, but it's good to know that heroes have lived.