From a recent IM conversation:
- Improv: Sounds like a militant group of Stallmanists
- Improv: "We're the Katanas of Stallman"
I'm sometimes a bit weirded out by watching morbidly obese mothers walking around town with their already fairly obese 8 year olds, chowing down on donuts and ice cream as they walk. Apart from humming the Dr Robotnik song to myself (and anyone near me who gets it), ... it's just strange watching brain-damaged behaviour in front of me. Being that obese from such a young age closes so many doors, damages the body so much, and certainly detracts from the aesthetics of people - I don't know if I consider it child abuse exactly, but it seems really broken...
I'm bothered that a staff member at CMU (member of the philosophy department, even) wrote approvingly of the rudeness to Ahmadinejad at Columbia - Bollinger's opening was both a serious breach of etiquette and without good purpose. The demands of civility should not be interpreted to prohibit frank discussion of difficult issues - we should reject the ideas of catering to "difficult people" by not asking questions on sensitive topics, but similarly, use of spit words and inflammatory language is something we should likewise condemn - they don't advance dialogue and waste discussion time shoving people around emotionally beyond what reasonable people should have to face. I think we should expect something better than a Bill O'Reilly from a University President - if people are to squirm, it shouldn't be through their counterpart's domination of conversation or rudeness - it should be because they're confronted with facts and perspectives that they are rarely effectively confronted with (if, for example, the current controversy about what's called the Armenian Genocide of the Ottoman Empire were frankly but politely discussed in a series of discussions, we might see some interesting progress, but in Turkey that's a taboo topic - likewise for the Lebanese civil war and several other past and present conflicts). If Bollinger did it for catharsis, he should've found some way to do that without colouring the forum with his misbehaviour. If he did it to apologise from those who would say the forum should not have been opened, he is a coward and betraying his obligation as a leading Academe with such waffling. There may, of course, be a number of other reasons, but I presently cannot imagine any good ones.
Two more bits of wrap-up on that story - Ahmadinejad partly withdrew from his statement about homosexuals in Iran - from what I understand, it's about as convincing as Billy Graham's "recanting" of his conspiracy theory against Jews or Mel Gibson's multiple recantations of all sorts of things.. Second, in response to a protest by some University students in Iran, Ayatollah Khamenei spoke favourably of the protential for dissent in Persian politics.
I'm bothered that Clinton2 seems to be pulling ahead of Obama in the polls - I don't think that Obama is the best of all possible candidates in the best of all possible worlds, but I believe he's the best person we've seen running for awhile (Howard Dean would've been excellent as well, probably even moreso I think). I don't trust Clinton2 to stand firm on matters of important national interest (such as establishing an effective national health care system, finding an effective solution to the mess America's invasion has made of Iraq, and making overhauls to our electoral system to curtail lobbyists - in the latter she's quite bad and quite open about being so). Clinton represents a kind of stasis rather than progress (at least, as I define the axes). I am bothered that we have few sane visionary politicians - a few issues that I'm concerned with that nobody seems to care about:
- Reform enlisted military training/culture - Knowing a few people who went through some or all of that, as I understand the culture is rotten and thuggish. This is not the way things have to be, and as I understand it is not the way things are in Europe.
- End don't-ask-don't-tell in the military - sexual interests/activity are not part of military duty, and discrimination based on them is unacceptable for a branch of the state.
- Gay Marriage - Either permit it or remove marriage from being an institution that receives special state support
- Gut the military-indistrial complex - There's no reason our military should outsource to private industry so much. If that means having military people do their own laundry, cook their own food, or guard our officials in regions of conflict, then that's fine. Likewise with much research. I believe the MIC threatens our democracy and state on several basic levels.
- Curb corporate free speech and kill corporate political speech (and corporate donations). On some level corporations need to be rethought on basic levels, but until/unless that is possible, we need to take steps to limit the damage
- Kill private pre-University-level schools across the entire nation (at least, those that would act as alternative rather than supplemental to public education)
- Gratis University level public schooling funded by taxes
- Reinstate estate tax
- Fair trade rather than free trade
- Withdrawl from WIPO
- Ending bans on contraceptive teaching/provision in aid to third-world countries
- Selective end of prohibition on controlled substances - Marijuana in particular, and other drugs that pose a similar or less danger/cost to society than alcohol, should be completely legalised (and have quality controls on them similar to those covering food and public-access drugs - mixed/cut drugs are a danger to society that could be largely eliminated)
- Kill funding for faith-based charities that do not accept duties of nondiscrimination that the government itself faces
- Requirements for more openness in government, covering everything from how torture is being conducted in Cuba and extraordinary rendition to better disclosure (and elimination) of corporate ties to the state
- Oh, and btw, end the government lease of Guantamino Bay in Cuba and establish friendly relations with Cuba and end extraordinary rendition
- Close the School of the Americas.
- Reform Voice of America, legalise its broadcast in the United States
- Recognise the Republic of Taiwan, become the first to push the PRC to change its position
- Get non-DC academes involved in running the state, establish a tradition (see France) of civil servants rather than lawyers and lobbyists running most of the mechanisms of the state. End/reverse politicisation of science
- Establish firm openness requirements for public resources (e.g. wireless spectra)
- Reverse the damage done to the EPA
- Federal funding for public transit in every major US city, strong incentives to both limit cars and switch what remaining cars are necessary to timeshares and efficient alternative-fuel vehicles. Making this public transit free would be slightly blue-sky but would be an admirable goal.
- Find ways to make Amtrak cheaper
- Eliminate Daylight Savings Time across the nation
- (blue-sky) Switch to a party-proportional democratic system
- (blue-sky) Work on models for noncommercial community-property
From an amusing article talking about the relationship between Bill O'Reilly and Steven Colbert, or rather one of the comments, "If the mainstream media were doing their job (at all) and solid public affairs reporting was not a its lowest ebb ever (let alone real investigative journalism), programs like the Daily Show and the Colbert Report would likely still exist - they just wouldn’t be the only voice of open political discourse and dissent." ... Arrrgh... Fairly accurate, and really unfortunate. Still, while I dislike O'Reilly's style (like most radio hosts, even Donohue, whose political opinions I find more palettable), I think it's helpful to have a passionate and vocal advocate of that perspective, partly as a barometer of that position, partly because public discourse is precious to me. I regret that there are no similar figures particularly close to my position in a similarly prominent role. In a battle between Industrialists, Theocrats, Deep Multiculturalists, small-town traditionalists, and doe-eyed Libertarians, I can't help but thinking that everybody loses.
I've been feeling really really lousy recently. The nature of things has seen this and has thrown me a few little crumbs to nibble on. I'm still starving though. I think the cracks in the smile I can summon as needed are starting to show outside of blogland.. Oh well, I still am grateful for those crumbs though, tea conversations and whatnot, and at least there are a lot of things to read.