Saturday, July 30, 2005

Hat's off to the British

Helena Cobban, like me, is impressed with the British reaction to the London Bombings. She writes in her recent post, Police work making a difference in London:

So anyway, this evening I want to say hats off to the British and their focus on massive and (with that one notable mistake) successful police work. And hats off to their ability to build new relations of apparently greater trust and mutual respect with people who formerly-- and for various reasons, not all of them crazy-- might have turned the condoner's blind eye to the activities of the men of violence in their midst.

Calm, de-escalation, building relationships, and sticking to decent values of respect for everyone's human rights... That, it seems to me, is the best way to contain and then end the scourge of terrorism. Globally, as well as within nations.

And no, it needn't take decades to do this. Not if we start out, from the get-go, with a solid, values-based approach.

The fans of GWOT will tell you that only a weak kneed liberal would favor a police response over the more manly approach of taking the violence to them, fighting the "terrorists" in places like Iraq so we don't have to fight them at home... But any thoughtful observer of recent events would have to see the fact that fighting in Iraq has not precluded their striking us on our soil. If anything, it inspires more and more Muslims to either volunteer to fight the US or, as Helena notes, be willing to condone and support those with violent intentions. Lastly, we see that a vigorous, thorough police response is invaluable and utterly appropriate. Police actions may not always prevent terrorist strikes, but its hard to argue that the ham-handed war in Iraq has done anything but increased the risks and likelihood of terrorism against the US and our allies.

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Boing Boing Boing Boing X 100,000 in SF

A couple irresistable Boing Boing posts to share. One to sit back and admire. Another to check out this weekend with the kids.

I wish I was there for this SF minute: 100,000 bouncy balls dropped at once down a street. I want to see the video!

Must... go... see... this...Pirate (arrrr!) ship (arrr!) invasion

A slew of tall sailing ships cruise in to the San Francisco Bay this weekend. Rides, tours, and battle re-enactments will be offered. Stick an eyepatch on, stuff some bootleg DVDs in your pants, and join the pirates here.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Time for some humor

breed 'em and weep is my favorite new blog. Definitely the funniest right now. Check out all her recent posts, but if you only read one, try this: Jehovahlicious!

We’re in the kitchen. I am putting groceries away, Sophie’s happily munching on her chosen lunch: two slices of bologna and two slices of watermelon. All of a sudden, the dogs bolt for the front door, barking up a storm.

I peek from the kitchen to see what the fuss is about. My fears are confirmed: a stern, shirt-and-tie–wearing man and a well-groomed, determined-faced woman, standing on our porch, peering inside, assessing conversion prospects.

I try to shrink back into the safety of the kitchen. Too late—they’ve spotted me. Big smiles, big hopes. I am bespectacled fresh meat, possibly smart, but definitely a sinner. They’ve taken stock. There is no Jesus fish on our car, no half-shell bathtub Virgin Mary on the front lawn, no crucifix hanging from my neck. I am just what they are looking for.

I leave Sophie with her lunch and trudge to the door, preparing for the onslaught of Jehovahliciousness. The smiles get bigger.

I open the front door, then crack the screen door, allowing only six inches of preaching space. The dogs continue to make a commotion, woofing and shoving their muzzles through to get a whiff of the Holy Human Spam. If these people appeared in my inbox, I would delete them faster than Jerry Falwell can shout out an amen.

But they are on my porch, and they are hungry for my soul.

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Cheney beats back at attack of Republican scruples

The latest news on GWOT prisoner abuse is utterly chilling. Cheney and the Bush administration are threatening fellow Republicans, notably McCain, for considering an amendment to curb prisoner abuse. I guess its heartening that there are moral Republicans with the guts to stand up and object. But look at the Bushies' reaction.

From the International Herald Tribune, Cheney leading effort to thwart legislation on detainees:

Vice President Dick Cheney is leading a high-level White House lobbying effort to block legislation offered by Republican senators that would regulate the detention, treatment and trials of detainees held by the U.S. military.

In an unusual, 30-minute private meeting on Capitol Hill on Thursday night, Cheney warned three senior Republican members of the Armed Services Committee that their proposed legislation would interfere with the president's authority and ability to protect Americans against terrorist attacks.

I also found this article in an Arab press outlet that framed it a little differently, as you might expect. White House Opposes Ban on Detainee Mistreatment

Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, who endured torture as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, said after meeting this week at the Capitol with Vice President Dick Cheney that he still intended to offer amendments next week "on the standard of treatment of prisoners."

Cheney told McCain, and two other senior Republican members on the Senate Armed Services Committee, that legislating these issues would interfere with the President.

I suppose the good news is that Cheney et al are consistent. They feel no shame about their proclivity for torture. They feel immune from Congressional oversight. We can expect more erosion of our moral authority in the world and more scandals as a result. Stay the course, indeed.

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Is it time for Roe vs. Wade to go away?

Katha Pollitt takes on an idea that it might be best if Roe V. Wade was wiped off the books. The theory being that Roe was a "weak" ruling that is not that firmly grounded in the law, and that the court decision short-circuited the political process which had been trending toward expanded abortion rights. If Roe goes away, the theory goes, it will energize the pro-choice side and eventually lead to more firmly established privacy rights.

But, as Katha points out in Is it time for Roe vs. Wade to go away?:

A national consensus on abortion might or might not develop over time, but any such agreement would not likely be as permissive as Roe. Meanwhile—and possibly permanently—fortunate women in anti-choice states would fly to New York or Los Angeles or Chicago, and the less lucky—the poor, the young, the trapped—would have dangerous, illegal procedures or unwanted children. It would be a repeat of 1970-73, when women who could get to New York—but only they—could have a safe, legal version of the operation that was killing and maiming their poorer sisters back home.

The blatant class and racial unfairness of this disparity, in fact, was one of the arguments that pushed the court to declare abortion a constitutional right. If Roe goes, that same disparity will reappear, relabeled as local democracy.[...]

If Roe goes, whoever has political power will determine the most basic, intimate, life-changing and life-threatening decision women—and only women—confront. We will have a country in which the same legislature that can't prevent some clod from burning a flag will be able to force a woman to bear a child under whatever circumstances it sees fit. It is hard to imagine how that woman would be a free or equal citizen of our constitutional republic.

I have to admit that I did entertain the merits of this idea. But Katha's set me straight. The prospect of Roe's demise is, of course, very real. We may have to see if it energizes progressives and has a positive impact. But it does not change the fact that it will have a terrible impact on real people, especially the poor.

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Saturday, July 23, 2005

War on Academia

Once again Aftergood's Secrecy News brings news of new and ever more stupid attempts by GWOT nimrods to kill our economy by strangling academia. The latest idiocy involves an attempt to prevent furrenners from working on contracts involving export controlled technology:

Dod Proposes to Tighten Rules on Foreign Scientists The Department of Defense is proposing to tighten its contracting rules to restrict access by foreign nationals working in U.S. labs to information and technology that is export-controlled, a move that could wreak havoc in university research centers and elsewhere.

"Any access to export-controlled information or technology by a foreign national or a foreign person anywhere in the world, including the United States, is considered an export to the home country of the foreign national or foreign person," the proposed rule states. Accordingly, any such access must be restricted, or licensed, DoD contends.

What idiots. This must have been written by someone that has no idea about the role of foreign students in scientific research in this country. This will drive more foreign students to find a more accommodating country to study in.
University administrators and others say the export control requirements, strictly interpreted, would be so onerous as to cripple many DoD-funded university research programs, where foreign nationals make up a large fraction of working scientists.

Just what we need to win the battle against islamofacists. Yeah right.

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Friday, July 22, 2005


Beware, before visiting this page make sure you have a few hours to spare. Once you start you're not going to stop: play Planarity. I've reached level 10 a few times. Some folks at work have gone to level 18, which I find really hard to believe...

Update:Looks like this game does not play on Mac. Oh well. You Mac users are spared. Me? I'm playing way too much. Would you believe level 19?

Bolton? No! Roberts? We'll see. Now, back to burying Turd Blossom

Steve Clemons at The Washington Note has an interesting angle on the Roberts nomination

But despite the efforts underway by Dems to figure out how to place their marker in the coming confirmation debate about Supreme Court Associate Justice nominee John Roberts, I think it is clear that the battle over John Bolton -- still happily unresolved and withering on the vine -- may have chastened the White House (finally) to be more cautious.
I doubt they are chastened. If the Rove storm blows over they will happily get back to their nefarious ways. But happily, it looks like the Rove storm continues to intensify. The Senate will take their sweet time getting around to Roberts. Bolton is going nowhere unless Bush bypasses Congress with a recess appointment—which will cost Bush more political capital when he does it.

And Rove continues to get boiled alive! Rushing Roberts to the lectern didn't deflect all that much attention. Check out Koz's posts The dam is about to break and Precedent where he quotes John Dean on Rove's real perjury troubles.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Selling SfSchools on Blogging

I generally don't comment here on my professional life, nor on my other long term gig: I like it that way. Its not like I have any privacy here that would allow me to say anything here I wouldn't want to say at work or on the list. And if I have to be inhibited about some topic, why bother blogging about it?

So I'll proceed to make an exception here.
continue reading...

I've been spending a lot of my blogging time trying to get the SF Schools Blog project off the ground. I've been thinking that it would be a good summer project. Not so much happens on the list in the summer—though there are plenty of fires burning this year. And it takes time to build up a blog.

So you can see that the pace of posts has been pretty relaxed. I wanted to put a stake in the ground to demonstrate what it might look like to the folk on the list. I figure many of them don't really know too much about blogs, so it made sense to throw something up on the wall. And it took some time to set it up, toss a blog roll together, fiddle with the template... Molding the clay into something resembling a blog.

One concept I've had for the blog is for it to be a group blog. I don't consider myself any sort of domain expert in education. I've certainly learned a great deal by moderating sfschools, but I'm a parent first, a techie next, and aside from that I play an opinionated and informed SOB on education issues on the list. I'm not the one to write an expert blog on schools, not even SF schools. I'm a facilitator, not a guru. So I want it to be a group blog.

I figured it would make sense to invite some of my colleagues from the list to sign on as members of the blog to test out the group blogging support at They join. I wait. I prod a little. And after a while they have the time and figure out the UI and—voila, they put up some posts. Cool. This should generate some discussion.

Did it ever. Oi vey.

I'm realizing that what I'm trying to do is pretty unusual. I want the schools blog to be a group blog where the contributing members hold diverse and often clashing views. Aside from the HuffPost, where there are so many voices that a little opposition just add to the white noise there, I can't think of any group blogs that feature opposing, clashing views. Group blogging is more and more common, as the pressures of successful solo blogging drive more and more solo authors to seek the help of like voices. Plenty of new blogs are forming as group blogs now. But all the group blogs I can think of feature fairly harmonious voices. Already the discussion of imbalance and fairness are roiling the list. Makes me wonder how it will be possible to simultaneously edit the blog and encourage free expression by the whole group.

The other dimension to the blog that is different is the list. SfSchools has its own fairly well established ecology. It works pretty damned well compared to most any other listserve I've been around. Very open. Very civil. The occasional meltdowns come and go without too much injury.

Now I am worried that the blog could alter and potentially endanger the list. There will be fewer contributors to the blog. The blog will be edited. Will that create a new hierarchy of "insiders" on the list? Will that harm the group? If the blog takes off, will the list be filled with people who arrived via the blog? And will that cross section of members be less cohesive or less authoritative than the current mix?

I guess we'll see.

Into Google Maps

Been a few days between posts. With the family away, you'd think I would have more time than ever for this. But no, I've been busy.

I got obsessed with a home-brew programming project. Felt good to spend all day Sunday getting into it. Starting it and (nearly) finishing it in a day. Of course, I've spent plenty of time since then refining it and starting another.

So what is it? A Google Maps hack: SFUSD School Info Google Map Hack I place a marker on the map of SF for every school. Click on the school and get some info. Nothing too breathtakingly useful—like some of the other map hacks I've seen on this blog, Google Maps Mania— but it was fun to do. I want to add some more bells and whistles to it, like displaying school stats on the map as circles centered on each school. It might be fun to look at school data like school population, student demographics, test scores, etc. on a map. The current map API is pretty lame in some key ways (unless I'm missing something) that its not possible to do polished, professional work. But, but, but,... what they have is so damned cool.

I've been obsessing on Google Earth too. Its just so fun to fly around the globe. Anywhere. My mind is blown.

After Google Maps and Google Earth, when I saw a note about Google Moon I immediately surfed my way there. And was totally unimpressed. Nice idea. But you Googleans have set the bar so high that, I'm sorry, you shouldn't put out anything so lame.

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Saturday, July 16, 2005

Trinity on my mind

I offer you these links to some famous photos of the Trinity blast, and I invite you to consider where we have come in the intervening 60 years.

These photos were taken 0.025, 0.090, and 7 seconds after ignition. That's about where the world is right now in solving the problem of living with nuclear waste. We're still just starting to see the dimensions of the problem, which properly lie on a geologic time scale that we have barely begun to traverse.

Since Trinity, in weapons programs and in commercial nuclear reactors, the world has generated hundreds of tons of Plutonium and orders of magnitude more tons of high level uranium wastes. We don't know what to do with all of this. We have not demonstrated any ability to deal with the long term ramifications of this explosion--not politically, not economically, and not even technically. There are many ingenious ideas being researched by many brilliant minds. But there are no demonstrated solutions—and most proposed solutions are stop gap measures that pale in comparison to the size and importance of the problem. The scope and magnitude of the problem, like the Trinity blast wave above, is still expanding practically unchecked.

While we stand in awe of Trinity, lets also bear humble witness to the unfolding story of humankind's nuclear legacy.

If you want to read more, let me recommend the Nuclear Threat Insitute's article on U.S. Plutonium Disposition and Russian Plutonium Disposition. A best-case scenario has the US and Russia "disposing" of 50 tons of plutonium by "burning" MOX fuels in convention light water reactors. There is a risky, rocky road that lies ahead. Vigilance, and possible radical new solutions, will be needed. Also, check out the Federation of American Scientist's page on Nuclear Weapons in the 21st Century and in particular, check out their Bomb-A-City Calculator


Friday, July 15, 2005

TalkLeft: Fitzgerald's Big Picture

Rounding out a night of Big Name bloggers, TalkLeft weighs in with Keeping an Eye on Fitzgerald's Big Picture

I'm glad to see Waas stay on the subject of Fitzgerald's investigation. I think that those who are fixating on trying to figure out whether reporters told Rove or Rove told reporters about Plame's status are falling for the Republican talking points.

Whether Karl Rove was only a 'confirming source' or learned about Plame from reporters is immaterial to Fitzgerald at this point.

This could make the Plame Affair look like peanuts

A lot of folks are linking to this story on AMERICAblog which alleges that the Bush sabotaged an investion of the London Bombers as a result of DHS media stunts during the Democratic convention. He compromised our first and only Al Queda double agent—to make cheap political hay. Holy shit.

Because the US let the cat out of the bag, the media got a hold of Khan's name and published the fact that he had been captured - his Al Qaeda contacts thus found out their 'buddy' was actually a mole, and they fled. Our sole source inside Al Qaeda was destroyed. As a result, the Brits had to have a high speed chase to catch some of Khan's Al Qaeda associates as they fled, and, according to press reports, the Brits and Pakistanis both fear that some slipped away.

Again, these were guys connected to the plot to blow up the London subway last week. Some may have escaped because of Bush administration negligence involving a leak. And in fact, ABC News' terrorism consultant says the group that bombed London was likely activated just after the arrests:

'It is very likely this group was activated last year after the other group was arrested,' Debat said.

Daily Kos: What did Bush know? and when?

Next up, Daily Kos: Day 5: What Did the President Know, and When Did He Know It?

So the question remains. There remain only two possibilities: either the President of the United States knew about Rove's involvement with the Plame case, and lied to the country, or Karl Rove lied to the President about his involvement.

The President must respond to these events. This isn't about the criminal investigation. This is about Karl Rove's already known involvement -- and the White House having lied about it for two years.

Krugman—Karl Rove's America

No found gems tonight. I bring you Big News covered by the Big Names.

Here's Krugman with Karl Rove's America - New York Times

But what we're getting, instead, is yet another impressive demonstration that these days, truth is political. One after another, prominent Republicans and conservative pundits have declared their allegiance to the party line. They haven't just gone along with the diversionary tactics, like the irrelevant questions about whether Mr. Rove used Valerie Wilson's name in identifying her (Robert Novak later identified her by her maiden name, Valerie Plame), or the false, easily refuted claim that Mr. Wilson lied about who sent him to Niger. They're now a chorus, praising Mr. Rove as a patriotic whistle-blower.

Ultimately, this isn't just about Mr. Rove. It's also about Mr. Bush, who has always known that his trusted political adviser - a disciple of the late Lee Atwater, whose smear tactics helped President Bush's father win the 1988 election - is a thug, and obviously made no attempt to find out if he was the leaker.

Most of all, it's about what has happened to America. How did our political system get to this point?

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Helena's take on our Iraqi exit

Declare Victory and Leave?

The news about the likelihood of a significant military drawdown in Iraq is really intriguing. And Helena Cobban is all over it. Lets start with her post, Slouching toward withdrawal which links to the stories about the leaked Brittish plan for a massive troop withdrawal. She continues with:

Anyway, the military leakers in London-- who did such a good job getting the Downing Street memo out to the public-- still seem to be alive and well, getting this memo, which was marked "Secret - UK eyes only" out to the broader public in a fairly timely fashion.

It is a total delight to me to see that despite all the sad and idiotic rhetoric that the pols both sides of the Atlantic continue to voice about "staying the course" in Iraq, etc, there are smart and realistic minds at work in the British Defence Ministry who recognize an imminent strategic defeat when they see one, and are able to start to plan appropriate actions to minimize their country's losses.

Really, thank God for the Brits. They at least are in the reality based ommunity. Too bad Bush doesn't heed them. Next she delves into the pending US military manpower crisis in Drawdown in Iraq:

There's an excellent piece in today's NYT about the intense manpower crunch the US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan have come up against, as more and more Reserve and National Guard troops reach the (fairly firm) 24-month cap on deployment that the Bush administration has reaffirmed more than once.

The crunch is about to happen. Soon. Like this fall. She makes the point that this a good thing, but not necessarily the end of story. The oft-denied but unmistakable desire to retain permanent bases in Iraq is always there in the background.
Well, the point of this post is [...] to prepare us all for the political battles ahead-- at the point when the administration declares its political "victory" in Iraq and sets about implementing its plan for a regrouping/concentration of US forces inside Iraq.

At this point, I think, we in the peace movement need to:
    (1) welcome the fact that the administration is starting to plan to bring some troops home and to recognize strategic realities on the ground in Iraq,

    (2) point out that no drawdown that is only partial can serve the longterm interests of either the Iraqi or US citizenries, and that progress must swiftly be made toward a total US troop withdrawal from the country, and

    (3) argue that-- as an important part of the exit strategy-- Washington should allocate substantial reconstruction funds to Iraqi firms, and reparation funds to communities and individuals harmed during the invasion and occupation.

Its not good enough if the career military manages to demand that troop levels be drawn down. We need to push for a real peace in Iraq and an eventual end to our military presence in Iraq. I guess I'm not as idealistic as Helena when it some to the desire for a fast, full withdrawal, much less the possibility of reparations. But the necessity for the US and England to significantly reduce their military deployments is a welcome opportunity.

Surreal clouds

Thanks to Boing Boing for this link. I've seen clouds like this (but not so extreme) while working in Alberta one summer. I can still vividly remember watching big squall line storms sweeping accross the high prairie. So cool.

I love this town

So I don't get out as much as I'd like to. Hey, its hard being chore-boy-paycheck. Gotta get up in the morning and get to work. Gotta run around all weekend doing chores, going to soccer games, catching a movie with the kids,... It doesn't leave so much free time to head out to the clubs and plug into the local music scene.

Some nights, though, it all clicks.

Last week Bernie emailed me a link to this Chron article: Headliner and Amateurs Alike Swing Through Amnesia for Unforgettable Jam Sessions which was enough to plant a seed. I knew the bar from when it was a punk dive (and I was more or less a punk—in other words, a long time ago). It was hard to imagine a jazz gig happening at the old Chameleon—it just would never have happened. But its not the Chameleon. Its Amnesia. Even though it has been remodelled the new digs were bound to be pretty funky. And the jam sure sounded like it had potential.

So the family's out of town this week. Bernie was up for it. We're on.

There was nothing mind-blowingly virtuoso going down at Amnesia last night. Nothing like the John Santos gig. What we found was something just as satisfying. Pure, down-home, soulful jamming. Mitch Marcus, the band leader, got the night going with a Monk-heavy first set that set the table nicely. No need to dumb down the stage with dog-eared standards that a bunch of strangers can jam on because they can play the songs in their sleep. If you want to step up to the mike at Amnesia, you better bring a more sophisticated sound. And I don't mean that in the macho sense. This is no bop slugfest. Marcus' willowy, relaxed phrasing, his expansive polyrhythmic solos seemed to challenge all the players to listen up and play off one another instead of blasting each other away. It didn't make the lesser players any better. It just made it all more enjoyable to bask in. As another patron put it, this music is free; free at the door, free on the stage, and free in your mind.

I love this city.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Whiskey Bar: Spin Dry

Another brilliant post from Billmon at the Whiskey Bar: href="">Spin Dry:

Awhile back I wrote that truth no longer stands much of a
chance in the political arena -- not when it's pitted against the best
modern propaganda machine that money can buy. But the question now is
whether the truth, armed with subpoena power and the federal rules of
evidence, can still prevail in a court of law. By the time this
particular legal battle is over, we may know the
His basic point being that it really doesn't
matter if the Rove propaganda machine can fool the media and the
public if Fitzgerald has the goods on him. What a hopeful thought.

I'm not so sure. These people are relentless and utterly shameless.
What if they get to Fitzgerald? Then their ability to pull the wool
over on the media and the public will matter.

Is this blog a career limiting move?

A few days ago I read this timely post on the Political Animal blog advising that new bloggers (me?) should post anonymously to be safe. Then suddenly I'm reading about blogging risks all over the place.

Ars Technica published a response to the Chron article: Blogging and job prospects: from the academy to the SCOTUS that offer this conservative advice

Ultimately, I think the answer to this dilemma is pretty clear: graduate students simply should not blog, and if they do blog they should never do so under their real names. As a grad student, your writing time is much better spent producing papers that will get you feedback from the folks who you're paying to study under.

Soon after, I'm reading an update on Political Animal ANONYMOUS BLOGGING....
Yesterday I wrote a post about the potential risks of blogging under your real name. Tom Spencer responds today with a personal story about how his blog very definitely affected his job and, possibly, his ability to get a new one.

I'm not trying to scare anyone away from blogging under their own name. But being a little bit paranoid isn't always a bad thing.

I'm still not buying it.

Then, while reading a Boing Boing post about a rave, I stumble onto this writer discounting the employment risk, and conversely questioning applicants that don't have an on-line presence, and concluding with this beautifully sane outlook apophenia: bloggers need not apply: maintaining status quo in academia
I do wonder how my blog will be received when i apply for faculty positions. Or how my tendency to dress up in bright colors, dread my hair and talk with my hands will be seen. But seriously, if i start wearing suits, remove all piercings and pretend not to know what Burning Man is, i might make it past a faculty hire, but would i ever make it past tenure? Of course a 'fuck you, like me for who i am attitude' is not necessarily the most attractive thing either. And besides, i'm definitely past my most rebellious anti-establishment days. What it comes down to is that i have to believe that some of the meritocracy of academia is partially there, even if not entirely. I have to believe that if i do good work, my eccentricities will be less problematic, just as the stupid things that i said on Usenet in the early 90s are less visible in my digital performance thanks to my verbose tendencies.

I agree with apophenia. What I say anywhere may come back to haunt me. The only defense is to live fully in the present and leave any embarrassing mistakes to fade into the past. And if some rabid wingnut happens to come along and make trouble, I just hope I have friends where I need them.

Its just not like me to hide in anonymity.

breed 'em and weep

Here's a happy little stray thread from the blogospheric cloth. I found breed 'em and weep, a really funny diary of a mom and her kids, while reading Abu Aardvark, an academic expert on Arab media. Pretty unexpected. Reading this took me back a few years, Potty breaks are wasted on the young

"You have to go to the bathroom, honey." I say. We have been through this before. "You haven’t gone to the bathroom since very early this morning, and it’s already past lunchtime, and you need to go pee before your nap."

"But I don’t have to go to the bathroom," says Sophie.

"Yes. You do."

"No. I don’t." The lower lip juts out, just a bit. The heels dig in. Bring it on, Ma.

Why must it be like this? Why the resistance? When will it cease? Youth is wasted on the young. Potty breaks are wasted on the young. The bathroom is a respite, an oasis of serenity, the ultimate in Private Time. I would kiss anyone who commanded me, GO TO THE BATHROOM RIGHT NOW, AND DON’T COME OUT UNTIL SOMETHING COMES OUT. I would weep with joy, I would obediently sit on the pot, I would think about cranberry storm doors and striped sunshades for the porch and bright red woodstoves and sugar-free iced vanilla lattes while I stared at my chipped toenails and examined my arm freckles and wondered why I got the legs I did, and then I would pee, pee, pee like the wind. And I would enjoy every second, without feeling like I had to be anywhere else to rescue someone from floating face down in the dog’s water bowl. This kid has no idea how good she has it, no idea.

Wait 'til Sophie's in High School. This should be fun to follow.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Body and Soul on assisted interrogations...

How comforting. The doctors working at Guantanamo aren't ethically compromised. They don't have to assist the prisoners torment. They're not needed.

In fact, Winkenwerder told Mayer that "a number of medical and scientific personnel working at Guantanamo" were not there to treat patients at all, but to "assist the interrogators."

The guidelines don't control abuse, they parse the details. That dangling last sentence suggesting reform is just plain dishonest.

Bye, Flickr zeitgeist

I had to pull the plug on the Flickr zeitgeist thing that I used to run on the bottom of my blogroll. I still like the idea, but the implementation offered by Flickr just plain sucks. Literally in the case of bandwidth. But it was the flittery hyperness that blew my fuse. They must allow people to control the speed of the slideshow at a minimum. And I wish they'd offer more options on content.

I still want to post photos here. Just not that running slideshow thingamajig.

RIP zeitgeist.

Kinda cool Or sadly pathetic. But reading Atrios clued me into the need to stop blogging and go watch the Daily Show:

Jon Stewart on the White House Press Corps' Recent Performance
We have secretly replaced the White House press corps with actual reporters.
Double Super Secret Background
Stephen Colbert explains:
It's just like regular background but with no tagbacks, frontsies or backsies, taken to infinity plus one on opposite day, circle circle dot dot now you've got a cootie shot. It was first pioneered by Edward R. Murrow.
Thanks Atrios. Time to go...

Finally, a Rude Pundit post I can link to!

Never read Rude Pundit? Well, he's pretty rude. But here's where he earns the pundit tag: Tony Blair In Purgatory

Forget for a moment that Sarasota, Florida is about 860 miles from Washington, DC, roughly twice the distance that Gleneagles, Scotland is from London. Forget for a moment that after the attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001, President Bush continued to read to schoolchildren until he was taken on a multi-state flight around the United States, while Tony Blair yesterday rushed back to London to assure his nation before rushing back to Scotland to assure that the work of the G-8 Summit would be accomplished. Forget that Bush's first words to America on 9/11 were to thank the school children, declare it a tragedy, and offer a moment of prayer, while Tony Blair, before leaving for London, spoke to the UK about terrorism, resolve and the world. Forget that Bush's speech to the nation that fucked-up day was given by a man looking like a deer in headlights, including a reassurance that capitalism was fine and a Bible quote, while last night in England, Blair gave a speech that's been described as Churchill-like in its rallying call and was also compassionate towards Muslims.
Keep reading. He earns his full title by the end. And his Five Reasons Why Karl Rove Must Be Destroyed series is getting seriously rude.

Scofflaw Republicanism

Josh Marshall is the one to read on the Plame Affair—has been on this story from day one. He's got a bunch of good posts tonight. Rove a target? lays down and interesting riff on what Fitzgerald is up to. And we read that Rove attacks... guess who?

So now we know that Karl Rove started attacking Valerie Plame to get his boss out of the soup. And now two years later he continues to attack her.

True to form to the last. And every reporter in town knows it.

Fareed Zakaria: Prevailing over terror

Juan Cole linked to this article by Fareed Zakaria, Prevailing over terror that puts the London Bombing in what I consider to be a proper perspective:

THE London bombings have failed. Barbarous in intent, brutal for a few hundred people, unsettling for all who watched in horror, they have nonetheless failed. In one day much of the cityÂ?s transport system was up and running again, its Underground stations busy and its buses crowded with passengers. [...]
To realise victory, we have to understand this struggle is more complex than we have been led to believe. Simple slogans telling us we fight terrorists in so that we will not have to fight them here in US, are just that: slogans, not comprehensive policies. [...]
In the years after 9/11 we have wasted much time, effort and money on other priorities rather than engaging in the massive investment in the systems of response that we need. Our leaders remain unwilling to speak honestly about the world we live in and to help people develop the mentality of response that is essential to prevailing.

The bombs were meant to show that the terrorists were strong and we were weak. In fact they have shown the opposite. But to realise victory fully, we must know what victory means.

The Brits are so much more experienced with living with and prevailing against a terrorist threat. During 9/11 I was working with an Irishman and he immediately made the point that we in the U.S. need to learn to live with terrorist threats—that Europeans have been living with this for many years and have learned how to carry on and live their lives in spite of the risks. Unfortunately, our leaders still believe in simplistic notions of Good triumphing over Evil. They believe that a military solution is both possible and preferable. How much blood and treasure do we have to waste on this counter productive world view? How long until the foolishness is exposed?

Friday, July 08, 2005

A new God in my Pantheon: Orestes Vilató

And now for something completely diffrent...

I love live music. I love going to small clubs and seeing performers in intimate, small venues. I can't remember the last time I went to see an arena concert. About the biggest venue I've been to recently is The Filmore. So when I experience great music in a small venue, I'm in heaven.

Which brings us to a concert I caught last weekend at the Noe Valley Ministry featuring Cuarteto Dos Alas: John Santos, Elio Villafranca, Orestes Vilató, and John Benitez.

I heard about the concert while listening to my abosolute favorite radio show, Fire Music on KPOO, 89.5 FM, which airs on Fridays, 9:00-noon. All I heard was that some Afro Cuban quartet with John Santos and some NYC players was happening at Noe Valley Ministry. I've heard Santos a few times and loved his work. I've been meaning to catch a show at Noe Valley Ministry since, forever — since years ago when I saw a playbill for Bobby McFerrin (long before "Dont Worry, Be Happy") and did not act. So I got to work, googled the gig, and called Bernie — the one friend that can be relied on to get out of the house for a good concert — and by 8:00 that night we're settling in for the concert.

Turns out this was the quartet's first gig. They may have been playing together earlier in the week at Jazz Camp West, but never together as a quartet. It took them a few songs to turn the heat up. Maybe it was playing in a churh, on the altar, that kept the first few songs low-key, understated. Or maybe the music they play is usually played by a larger ensemble with horns, maybe a guitar. This group was heavy on the rhythm section. As my friend Bud said when I told him about the quartet, "the piano had to be good", since he naturally had to shoulder a lot of the melody. Elio Villafranca was better than good. He was huge, playing powerfully with an amazing range of styles. The bass player, John Benitez, was also an eye opener. He played off Villafranca's lines beautifully, and stepped out to take the lead on many songs.

Santos was very laid back. Maybe too laid back. I suspect he was waiting for everyone to jell together before stepping to the front. OK, but the first few numbers stalled at times as they all waited for each other to take the lead. Santos eventally cut loose with some excellent solos and even better rhythm support -- but it was not his best concert.

The real revelation was Orestes Vilató on timbales. WOW! Where have I been that I haven't heard him before? I've learned that he came up in the New York Afro Cuban, Salsa scene and moved to SF and played with Carlos Santana. He's played with just about everyone. He has played with John Santos in recent years. This night he was the first player besides Villafranca to go off. He's been around. He can hear when there's a void to fill. And man, can he fill it. He just kept getting better and better. As the group found its groove in the second set, he really came to the front. The second set featured a lot of traditional Afro Cuban pieces that I imagine he's been playing since he was a kid — and that spans a long, long time. The whole ensemble shined on those numbers, but Vilató was in another plane of being. I know he was good, but when Benitez came accross stage to hug him after a particularly incindiary solo, I knew it wasn't just me. This guy is a maestro extrordinaire.

I will definitely have to catch him again...

Why can't we have pols like Ken Livingstone?

This man, the mayor of London, gets it. From FT to TPM to me to you, an excerpt from Text of statement delivered by Ken Livingstone

Finally, I wish to speak directly to those who came to London today to take life.

I know that you personally do not fear giving up your own life in order to take others - that is why you are so dangerous. But I know you fear that you may fail in your long-term objective to destroy our free society and I can show you why you will fail.

In the days that follow look at our airports, look at our sea ports and look at our railway stations and, even after your cowardly attack, you will see that people from the rest of Britain, people from around the world will arrive in London to become Londoners and to fulfil their dreams and achieve their potential.

They choose to come to London, as so many have come before because they come to be free, they come to live the life they choose, they come to be able to be themselves. They flee you because you tell them how they should live. They don'?t want that and nothing you do, however many of us you kill, will stop that flight to our city where freedom is strong and where people can live in harmony with one another. Whatever you do, however many you kill, you will fail.

Stand up. Be brave. Be free. Be open to the world. That's the way to fight this war. Not by hunkering down in fear, isolated from the world, with ever more circumscribed liberties.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Kos: Dems wimping out

I'm with Kos on this one. This is an issue that will be critical for the Dems to turn the tide and retake Congress. But the sitting Democrats may not be up to the task. Congressional Dems wary of Dean's anti-corruption crusade

Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean is trying to get voters to hold the Republican Party responsible for the "culture of corruption" he sees in Washington, but Dean is getting virtually no help from fellow Democrats in the House of Representatives.
There is no more salient argument for ousting Republicans right now than DC's culture of corruption. People who couldn't care about 'issues' instinctively cringe when their elected officials use their office to personally profit at the expense of the American people. It's the argument that helped the GOP sweep into office in 1994, and it's the argument that helped Montana Democrats sweep state-level elections in a solid Republican year.

If Dems are worried about being 'collegial', they should stop. The DeLay majority hasn't bothered with civility and collegiality since it took power. If Dems are worried that some of them may be tainted, then too bad. Corruption is bad whether it bears an (R) or (D).
I read in today's paper that Pelosi may be compromised and unable to take the ethics battle to DeLay. I hope that is just the wimp media trying to be "fair and balanced" and not how Pelosi views the field. This issue is more important than protecting a few sitting pols' butts. Let the chips fall where they may.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Watching the Wingnuts

Didn't I say that I'd avoid the whole SCOTUS blogasm? Oh well.

This post from Political Animal resonates with me: Opening the Curtain

One argument that I hear frequently from moderate conservatives is that although they don't like the Christian right much, they continue to support the Republican party because they don't think it has that much influence. Liberals, they say, are just overreacting.

If there's anything good that might come from the impending Supreme Court fight, it's the possibility that these folks might realize that times have changed: the Christian right is no longer just a bunch of marginalized yahoos who get nothing but lip service from cynical Republican leaders. That was arguably the case in the 80s, but it's not anymore. If progressive groups have any brains, they'll do their best to goad the Dobson/Falwell/Bauer faction into revealing their real natures on a national stage once and for all. The more publicity these guys get, the better it is for the liberal cause.
It will take some goading, and some discipline from the left. The Bushies are busily trying to tell everyone on their side to cool it and let the left be the ones to overreact -- and we are playing defense so it will be up to our side to set the terms of the debate without staking out a position that will unite the Republican coalition. The key strategy should be to highlight the divisions on the right and not by turning the fight into a left versus right battle that the hapless minority Dems can't win. Either the nominee will be too moderate for the wingnut faction, or too Taliban for the centrists. Either way, out job is to accentuate the divisions.

Leapfrogging with Open Source Nanotech?

WorldChanging posted an interesting article on Nanotech futures in the developing world, Nanotechnology and the South-South Divide.

Hassan argues that the pace and pattern of nanoscience and nanotech research in the developing world increasingly mirrors that in the North, and that there are good reasons to believe that significant breakthroughs could come from laboratories in the developing world. As noted, China spends a very large amount of money on nanotech research (perhaps as much as $600 million total between 2003 and 2007), and India, Brazil, South Africa and a variety of other less-developed nations are also funding nanoscience relatively well. Hassan argues that this reflects both a recognition of nanotechnology's potentially critical role in developmental leapfrogging and an embrace of the larger notion that science is a fundamental engine of development.

The article raises some interesting ideas on how to ensure that the benefits of nanotech innovation in 'The South' serves indigenous needs and not just market whims of 'The North'.
The Tropical Disease Initiative can be a model here: an open effort by biomedical specialists, often in the employ of commercial firms, to discover and deploy treatments for the kinds of diseases afflicting those regions least able to pay for cutting-edge pharmaceuticals.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Face of Tomorrow

About a year ago, when I was just starting to follow, I stumbled onto this cool project, Face of Tomorrow. I revisited it today hoping that the project was still growing. Unfortunately it appears to be stalled with no recent updates. Too bad. It is such a cool idea.

The Face of Tomorrow is a concept for a series of photographs that addresses the effects of globalization on identity.

The large metropolises of the world are magnets for migrants from all parts of the planet resulting in new mixtures of peoples. What might a typical inhabitant of this new metropolis look like in one or two hundred years if they were to become more integrated?

Best July 4th Fireworks Ever!

Sam and I think Deep Impact was totally cool. Click on this image to see the view of the impact from the flyby craft:

Click on this picture to get the view from the impactor probe:


Monday, July 04, 2005

Daily Kos: True Patriots

I doubt I will have much to say about the Supreme Court nomination battle. And I doubt I will spend much time writing about the Valerie Plame affair. The issue is covered in oh so copious detail by every other blogger in the universe, why should I bother?

Still, I like Kos' summation at the end of his recent Plame Post, True Patriots

It is important to remember, in all of this; Joseph Wilson, and his wife, were attacked simply because Wilson was right. The link between Iraq and Niger has been disproven; even the White House has confirmed that. Wilson's wife was attacked for the simple reason that the White House itself found her husband important to attack. And to attack this one family, this one act of factual dissent, the Bush Administration engaged the attentions of numerous government officials, a variety of Republican political entities, and all the press contacts they could muster.

Our country is better than these men. Felony or no, I am ashamed of them. And that shame represents a deeper patriotism than a hundred tattered flags waving from car antennae.
As he said earlier in the piece, what we already know is so outrageous and despicable, it almost doesn't matter if there were no felonies committed, or if nothing worse will be discovered. What we know that Rove did and Bush approved is already bad enough.

Hey hon, I'm in the Sunday Funnies!

You can bet this was the subject of discussion over today's Sunday paper,

Trudeau and my wife are on the same page. Me, I wonder what got into his Wheaties?

Culture warrirors taken on… Pigeons???

Found this next one in the Science Friday post over at Ars Technica. And I have no idea what to make of it:

HoR intervenes to prevent the NIH from funding grants

For the second time in two years, the House of Representatives has intervened to prevent the NIH from funding two research grants, thereby subverting the peer-review process. Despite sounding like an episode of the West Wing, Randy Neugebauer (R-TX) added an amendment to a spending bill that bars the NIH from funding two studies, one looking at marriage, and another at perception and cognition in pigeons. I can understand why a social conservative might be opposed to a study on marriage, although I see no indications as to any inherent bias in the study. I’m more perplexed at his opposition to the pigeon research. Perhaps these common birds are to be the next line of attack in the culture war?

Responding to the move by congress, NIH Director Elias Zerhouni labeled the move "unjustified scientific censorship." I could not agree more.

I could not be more baffled. What in the hell is Neugebauer's problem? Google fetched me this link to a UK article. But it doesn't really set the table on why this Yahoo was tripping on the pigeon study. Maybe he's just plain batshit insane?

Saturday, July 02, 2005

A prayer for the 4th

From TPM to me to you -- here's a great op-ed piece by a true patriot. I offer this link as a prayer on July 4th that this great nation will come to its senses and stop the sanctioned use of torture.

The Stain of Torture, by Burton J. Lee III, a former physician to the president to George H.W. Bush and a board member of Physicians for Human Rights.

It's precisely because of my devotion to country, respect for our military and commitment to the ethics of the medical profession that I speak out against systematic, government-sanctioned torture and excessive abuse of prisoners during our war on terrorism. I am also deeply disturbed by the reported complicity in these abuses of military medical personnel. This extraordinary shift in policy and values is alien to my concept of modern-day America and of my government and profession.
America cannot continue down this road. Torture demonstrates weakness, not strength. It does not show understanding, power or magnanimity. It is not leadership. It is a reaction of government officials overwhelmed by fear who succumb to conduct unworthy of them and of the citizens of the United States.
Amen to that.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Happy July 4th!

Now that Bush will get his chance to shape the court, lets have some fun imagining what this might mean for our republic. Fafblog has this covered:

Happy July 4th!

Riverbend on Hosting Bush's GWOT

Today we hear from one of my all-time favorite bloggers, Riverbend, author of Baghdad Burning. She is a college educated, middle class, Sunni, fluent English writer who has been relating her experience of the war as an Iraqi in Baghdad. In today's post, Unbelievable... she offers an Iraqi perspective on Bush's speech:

Bush said:
"Iraq is the latest battlefield in this war. ... The commander in charge of coalition operations in Iraq, who is also senior commander at this base, General John Vines, put it well the other day. He said, 'We either deal with terrorism and this extremism abroad, or we deal with it when it comes to us.'"
He speaks of 'abroad’ as if it is a vague desert-land filled with heavily-bearded men and possibly camels. 'Abroad’ in his speech seems to indicate a land of inferior people- less deserving of peace, prosperity and even life.

Don’t Americans know that this vast wasteland of terror and terrorists otherwise known as 'Abroad’ was home to the first civilizations and is home now to some of the most sophisticated, educated people in the region?

Don’t Americans realize that 'abroad’ is a country full of people- men, women and children who are dying hourly? 'Abroad’ is home for millions of us. It’s the place we were raised and the place we hope to raise our children- your field of war and terror.

The war was brought to us here, and now we have to watch the country disintegrate before our very eyes. We watch as towns are bombed and gunned down and evacuated of their people. We watch as friends and loved ones are detained, or killed or pressured out of the country with fear and intimidation.

Timetables, Schedules, Process

Timetables are for trains, not wars.

I've been reading a lot of blog talk about disengaging and finding a way out of Iraq. Blogs like
Atrios: "The only thing that will work is to say "we were wrong to invade Iraq."
Informed Consent: "the UN and the global South can solve the problem, that they have every incentive to solve the problem, and that they will be richly rewarded for solving the problem."
Political Animal, "make the deals you need to make. Form a government. Get your troops trained. Because by the end of 2006, after nearly four years of war and occupation, coalition troops will be gone."
Just World News "It is now becoming increasingly clear that the US position in Iraq is, quite literally, unwinnable."

I'm encouraged that there is talk of coming to grips with reality in Iraq and finding an end to the war. Its no longer fringe. Its clear to a lot of people. We need to imagine a way to step back and try a different approach. I heartily recommend each of those posts.

But when I hear talk of timetables, I balk. I write software for a living and in that work I deal with schedules and plans all the time. Not as weighty as going to war, thank God. But it does teach me some lessons about managing chaos, working towards a goal, and reaching the finish line. Schedules are hugely important, but when you start from the schedule and work backwards you almost always guarantee failure. Milestones and deadlines are important, and useful for steering your efforts and validating progress. But they don't solve any problems and they don't guarantee anything.

With Iraq, we obviously need to imagine a way of stopping the carnage, getting our troops out, and leaving some sort of stable, legitimate, pluralistic and viable Iraqi government. Everyone wants that. Bush, Rumsfeld,... Dean, Kerry... Krugman (and Cole, and...) are right to point out that we're not going to achieve the neocon wet dream of a US and Israel friendly, capitalistic, democratic Arab renaissance. But we can't just cut and run. The Pottery Barn rule really does apply. As bad as Iraq is now, it would be so much worse to leave behind a vacuum to be filled with neo-Baathist fascists, metastasizing civil and ethnic war, and regional instability.

Seems to me that what is new, and what is different between the left and the right, is the realization that we will not be able to incubate a new government of our choosing. Our occupation taints any government and any politician we embrace. So we need to do things like standing down our troops, giving Iraqi politicians more responsibility and autonomy, bringing in third parties like the UN, etc. Anything that will allow a legitimate, inclusive Iraqi government to stand up. Anything that will stop the killing and the ruinous war.

But timetables sound like cut and run. I just don't think we can do that. I wish. But there's just too much at stake.

Krugman: America Held Hostage

Another strike from Paul Krugman! Go read America Held Hostage now!

The Iraq that emerges once U.S. forces are gone won't bear much resemblance to the free-market, pro-American, Israel-friendly democracy the neocons promised. But it will pose less of a terrorist threat than the Iraq we have now.

Remember, Iraq wasn't a breeding ground for terrorists before we went there. All indications are that the foreign terrorists now infesting Iraq are there on the sufferance of a homegrown insurgency that finds them useful for the moment but that, brutal as it is, isn't interested in an apocalyptic confrontation with the Western world. Once we're no longer targets, the foreign terrorists won't be welcome.

The point is that the presence of American forces in Iraq is making our country less safe. So it's time to start winding down the war.