The Duck! Blog has moved.
This blog comments on current events that reflect on the predictions and analysis contained in this site. (By the way, on account of time-constraints (read: laziness), I started a podcast in March 2005 that tracks this commentary and some of the analysis.)
Not so fast
So, the majority of the presentations, interviews, and demos at Web 2.0 had at their core the following theme: "power to the People". Well, not stated that way, of course. But in any event this is the unmistakable common sentiment. This surprised me so much earlier in the conference that in the previous posting I went so far as to opine that these folks might share my world view, at least in part. Well, not so fast. The people here certainly seem to "get" the importance of People, self-reliance, community, and such. But there seems to be scant awareness of the dire threats to these targets posed by the Corporations. Sure, there was an oblique reference to the anti-People actions of major telecoms like Comcast and SBC with respect to WiFi. And sure, there's a vague, unstated, subliminal mood of "protest" in this place directed squarely against entrenched, concentrated powers. But I still think the majority of folks at this conference would find this blog to be quite off the wall. I think the reason for that is that few here seem to be thinking about health, and the deadly impact of Corporations on our health. I suspect that nothing short of an acute health crisis would wake up folks. Here's hoping our collective sleep remains peaceful.
Small is Beautiful ... in Tech?!
A fellow named Jason Fried of 37signals just gave a brief talk at the conference. His company and approach was chosen as the best "Web 2.0" example -- i.e. best example of what is to come on the web. The theme of his talk? "Small is beautiful." As you may know, I've written about "small is beautiful" here. My experiences during the first ten years of the Internet taught that all efforts in this domain were dedicated to large and fast. I discovered the beauty and power of small and slow pruning olive trees on a Greek island while taking time off during the height of the Internet mania. Yet here was this guy advocating small (if not slow) in the context of Web 2.0. Very interesting. Earlier, I said that I felt like a fish out of water in this Tech industry. Yet given what I wrote earlier during this conference about the web's march toward self reliance, it would seem that this particular fish is now back swimming. Could it be that more people are waking up to some of the thoughts in this obscure blog? Time will tell.
I suppose this makes me a cliche to be blogging in the middle of a tech conference. But what the hell. I just listened to a brief talk by the CEO of Second Life. Second Life is one of those MMORPGs (massively multi-player online role playing games). With these games, hordes of alleged humans log onto virtual worlds, and "live" in those worlds, doing most all the things we do in the physical world (e.g. buy/sell land, make/sell goods, get married, get dressed, dance, etc.). Edward Castronova wrote a fascinating and entertaining academic paper this topic. Here's my take: how pathetic. Not the academics who write about it. Nor necessarily people like the CEO of Second Life who operate these games (although the distinct whiff of "cynical opportunism" did seem to waft from him). No, I'm referring to the people who play these games. To me, these are lost people who can't find sufficient satisfaction in the world in which their bodies live. Here's some evidence for that guess: in all of the scenes from the game that the CEO showed to us at the conference, all the avatar people had idealized human bodies -- i.e. men with buffed muscles, skinny women with narrow waists and full breasts, etc. Presumably, the participants in such games are people who have given up any and all hope that their own bodies could ever become optimally healthy. To me, sites like Second Life are nets for collecting the sad people who get chewed up and spit out by our unsatisfying, corporate dominated world. They are refugees fleeing this false world of ours. Surely the popularity of MMORPGs is yet another sign of the coming apocalypse.
The Web's March Toward Self Reliance: Web Organization
At one of the first workshops of this year's Web 2.0, Caterina Fake of Flickr (now Yahoo!) described a dynamic that caught my atttention. The dynamic she described concerned the notion of "organizing the web". Here's what she described: Ten years ago, David Filo and Jerry Yang (the founders of Yahoo!) initiated web organization by hand-creating web directories. So initial web organization was done by two guys. Next, algorithmic search engines organized the web. This meant web organization was now being done by search engine developers. Then, in the late 1990s, Google came along, introducing PageRank to web search. PageRank had the effect of handing control over organizing the web to webmasters (via the ahref HTML command). Today, "tagging" -- pioneered by the likes of Flickr and de.li.cious -- is having the effect of pushing the organizing power down even lower in the ranks. Today, tagging is handing this power to all of us. At least all of us who have access to the web. Ms. Fake's vision is particularly interesting to me because it parallels the 500 year history of "America" that I have described here. That is, "America" means "the decentralization of concentrated power". As Fake described this morning, this same dynamic informs organization of the web. From two guys, to a handful of specialized engineers, to the multitude of web masters, and finally, to all of us. All of this in only 10 years. If the web is a mirror of ourselves, then this dynamic shows as clearly as anything can, exactly where we people are headed. Namely, straight toward self reliance.
Web 2.0 = Self Reliance
This week, I'm at O'Reilly's Web 2.0 Conference in San Francisco. I was at the one last year too. Last year, I had only a vague notion of what "Web 2.0" meant to the folks in this industry. But inside the first 30 minutes of this year's conference, the meaning is clear. "Web 2.0" refers to precisely what I am writing about in this blog. At its core, this blog is about accepting personal responsibility. It's about embracing self-reliance. Sure, I'm predicting all manner of calamity about to befall America. But the key notion here is that what will bring us out of these dark days to come is self reliance. That is, reliance upon ourselves and our "local" communities. Of course "local" on the web loses its geographical meaning. But it still has coherence. More on this topic next.
Katrina and the Party of Responsibility
What would have transpired regarding Hurricane Katrina if we Americans had been a people who accepted responsibility for ourselves? Responsibility for our own drinking water, our food, our health, our shelter, our power? Even if such weighty responsibility proves too difficult for any single individual, then how about our local communities? How about I cover my roof in solar panels, and you raise the vegetables, while she grows the fruit, and he sets up the water pumping, purification, and distribution system? OK, that probably sounds like a fantasy for people who live in huge cities. But for the place where my wife and I live, that is not a fantasy at all. It's all quite feasible in our local community. I'm sure there's an analogous story for city dwellers. But whatever the story, where does the Party of Responsibility come in? For me, it comes in to help make this all happen. To create, not a giant "Contract With America", but rather a few million hand shakes among the members of local communities. I know this is vague. So let me make it more concrete. Where is the story coming from New Orleans about some guy in a neighborhood who had stored many gallons of drinking water, and secured it against the threat of major hurricanes? Where is the story in which such a fellow has been sharing his stash with his dehydrated neighbors for the past few days?
Katrina, Responsibility, and the Far Right
My Far Right (read: Libertarian) sentiments come in two branches. One branch looks at the inaction of the irresponsible federal, state, and local Governments, and says: "See, told you Guv' 'mint was useless." But the second branch from the Far Right in me looks at the "victims" we see on television and, well, harbors thoughts that sound a lot like "blaming the victim". Last night, the television showed an 18-year-old boy commandeering a school bus and driving it, full of desperate passengers, all the way to safety in Houston. Other images show "looters" "stealing" water, food, and other survival essentials. The Far Right sentiments in me watch this behavior and applaud people taking personal responsibility for their own survival. These same sentiments in me look at other images of "helpless" people, and can't help but wonder what percentage of those helpless people count themselves among the welfare recipients of that place. These sentiments say that if one raises a child to be self reliant, she will be so. But if instead, one raises her to be helpless, then that is what she will be. Has the well-meaning "butter" half of "guns 'n butter" created an entire class of people who see themselves as helpless? Has Hurricane Katrina exposed the soft underbelly of this nation -- an underbelly comprised of legions who can't imagine fending for themselves?
Katrina, Responsibility, and the Far Left
Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath is emerging as the next milestone after Kelo on the road toward the coming joining of Far Left and Far Right in America. This posting concerns my Far Left sentiments about this event. My Far Left (read: Green) sentiments whisper to me that I am my brother's keeper. They leave no doubt in me concerning for whom the bell tolls. This morning, my wife called me. She was weeping. She had been watching scenes from New Orleans of dying babies and those pictures sent her over the edge. She asked whether we had contributed anything yet. I said I was waiting for my company to announce a matching gift program. Turns out, this morning a company official sent mail reminding us we had a standing matching gift program in the company. I had trouble logging onto the internal gifting site this morning because I think thousands of other employees were simultaneously trying to do the same thing. Maybe they had been watching the same scenes as my wife had. But you know, as good and right as it felt this morning sending that money to the American Red Cross, some vague residual feeling of unease remained with me. Part of that unease is my suspicion that a non-trivial aspect of major charities amount to a cluster-f%&* of people who want to be seen as charitable. But that concern, even if well founded, goes only to the issue of efficiency (i.e. what percentage of the money I just sent this morning will go toward bringing essentials to needy people in the Deep South?). But there's something even deeper bugging me beyond mere efficiency. What that thing is has something to do with the words: "God helps those who help themselves". It has to do with another thought that keeps circulating in my head: "Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today. Teach a man to fish; and you have fed him for a lifetime." These thoughts bring me full circle toward my sentiments from the Far Right ...
Peekin' at Peakin'
It's only 2005, and we're already 2/3 of the way to half of there. But judging by the performance of the other half, it doesn't seem folks are too freaked out yet. So the resulting summer quiet seems sort of comforting.
All's Well ...
Well, with many dozens of people at the event this weekend, odds were good that at least a few people would more or less share my weird world view, or at least be open to it. And that turned out to be the case. So it's good to know that if I am insane, at least I'll have some interesting company in the asylum.
Dialing for Weirdoes
In the previous posting, I mentioned that I'm at a weekend retreat for techies. Perhaps the most interesting thing about this weekend concerns its structure. Basically, the weekend consists of multiple talks/discussion groups all day Saturday, plus half of the day Sunday. In other words, at any given hour, there will be 5-10 different talks/discussions going on in different rooms. People pick what discussions they want to attend. But none of that is the most interesting thing about this weekend. The most interesting thing concerns who gets to pick the subjects of the talks. The answer is: the participants themselves pick. That is, tonight, at the kickoff meeting, calendar boards were set up at the head of the room. Everyone was invited to fill in a room/time slot with his or her talk. I waited to see what times would be least desirable among the group. Turned out that, not surprisingly, the least desirable time slot was the one reserved for Saturday evening. That evening represents the peak of the weekend's festivities, and by then, most people will be too tired for yet another talk after a full day's worth. So that's why I picked that slot. I expect nobody to show up in my room. But if someone does show up, that will likely mean he or she is a passionate weirdo, just like me.
Fish on Dry Land
I'm spending this weekend with a few dozen other people with whom I share a common pursuit. In this way, this weekend is like others from my past. In years past, I've spent certain weekends with dozens of basketball players. Other weekends I spent with dozens of academic students. This weekend, however, I'm hanging with folks from the tech industry. In some ways, I could be considered an "insider", or at least "one of the gang", within the domains of sports, academia, and tech. But I must confess that not since high school have I felt so alienated from these groups "of mine". It's not that I don't like these people or that they don't like me. Quite the reverse. I very much like these folks, and this feeling of mine seems more or less reciprocated. No, the source of my sense of alienation emerges from the realization that my understanding of the world in which I live -- an understanding part of which is set forth in this site -- seems more or less in conflict with the world views of these groups. To put it bluntly, I'm fast becoming a weirdo within these groups "of mine". What about the people with whom I most closely share my present world view? It seems these people "of mine" already are "outsiders" from the mainstream groupthink circles of this nation (e.g., sports, academia, tech, entertainment, finance, etc.). As such, this time in my life is turning into the most interesting phase since puberty. Glad I'm going through this long after puberty. Good time to be blogging!
OK, OK, ...
So I was just checking the usage logs on this site and it seems the site has had 161 unique visitors through today. That exceeds the previous monthly high by 70 visitors. Moreover, my logs show that 75 of these 161 visitors (46.5%) bookmarked this site as a "Favorite". In fact, two folks went so far as to use the email link in the left nav bar to send me some nice mail last week. So I suppose this means this site is no longer a tree falling in a forest with nobody around to hear it, thus rendering certain philosophical questions moot. OK, OK. I suppose this means I need to get off my butt and drag this blog into the 21st century (i.e., add an RSS service, add commenting and trackback ability, etc.). In other words, it's time to transform this dry monologue into a lively community dialogue. Well, give me a week or two to figure out how to do this. With this site, I'm dusting off and applying my stale, rusty computer science training from 20 years ago. It's a painful, but interesting exercise for me.
Here's the author's story behind the video cited in the posting below: http://www.chrischandler.org/index.php?page=news&display=63&from=0. The author, Chris Chandler, explains that he is a traveling musician. He has performed the song of this video in various places across America. Concerning audience reaction to this song, he writes: "Nothing illustrates to me more, my friends, that we are at a tipping point. People are hungry for an antiwar message. The general population is – not just the guys with fashionable black bandanas around their faces." I couldn't agree more. I too believe that we are imminently approaching an epochal tipping point. However, I would amend Mr. Chandler's comments slightly, to add that the Far Left does not sit alone at this tipping point. As I've written elsewhere, we in the Far Left share that space with -- gulp -- the Far Right. So, as the song goes, c'mon people now, smile on your brother, everybody get together, try to love one another right now (and agree to disagree on certain non-critical subjects).
Check Out this Video
Someone just sent me a link to this page: http://chrisvids.org/. Check out the 8-minute video "There's Something in the Air / But It's Not on the Airwaves". I found it powerful and moving. Among the subjects it addresses are the absence of contemporary anti-war songs on the radio and the impending People vs. Corporations struggle. While I've written many pages on these subjects, this short video reaffirms the truism that the impotent written word pales in comparison to the potency of video and audio.
Better Late Than Never
Sixteen days after my rant below about Google not having crawled my site yet, they finally got around to doing just that. Spooky coincidence? I dunno. The logs for my site show only 80-something unique users during the month of July. Could one of those users have been a Google employee who rang a bell over there? I doubt it. Probably just a coincidence. But for whatever the reason they finally crawled my site, it's looking like they're doing a pretty sweet job of it. Today, the search for "people vs. corporations" on Google returns my analysis page precisely on that topic as the #1 result. Seems a highly relevant choice from my site. As for Yahoo Search, today it returns a non-existent link and a tangential page fragment from my site as the #4 and #5 results for that query. Not exactly relevant. So props to Google.
Google this! (@!#$%!?)
Get on Slashdot, and you'll find folks frothing about Google like mindless cult members. But if Google is so amazing, explain this to me: back in December 2004 when I redesigned my blog, I submitted the URL of this blog to both Google and Yahoo. It's now six months later. In this time, Yahoo has crawled my entire site. Presently, I am the #1 result on Yahoo for the query "People vs. Corporations". But on Google, my site appears nowhere for the same query. Why is that? The answer is: because Google hasn't even gotten around yet to crawling my site. I've checked the logs for my site. Google's crawler has merely pinged my robots.txt file, and that's about it. Now let's assume for a moment that my blog is not the work of a madman. Let's assume instead that it provides a new breakthrough analysis explaining the dynamic behind the Green Party's use of the phrase "corporate ... versus ... people" in their press release on Kelo. In that case, Google will have missed this breakthrough, yet Yahoo will have caught it. What's next? Pigs that fly? I dunno. Maybe folks just start getting becoming a bit laid back when their P/E ratio blasts right past 100.
Greens: 'corporate ... versus ... people'
In the posting below, I cite the Green Party's press release on Kelo. That press release includes following quote from the party: "We clearly need a new spectrum to describe politics -- dedication to corporate power versus dedication to the rights of people and the health of the environment." [emphasis added] You see that? "Corporate versus people". Or, equivalently, People vs. Corporations. In fact, if you now search for "People vs. Corporations", you get plenty of pages in the results -- beyond the pages of this blog -- using that phrase and discussing this topic. Back in December 2003 when I started this blog, I did a search for that phrase and could finally hardly anybody mentioning it. So it seems that we've got a little bit of rising consciousness on the march. Of course, it's not enough yet to register a pulse on blogpulse. But stay tuned ...
The Party of Responsibility
So maybe you thought I was kidding when I said below that Kelo serves as a bridge between the Green Party, Libertarian Party, and Nazi Green Party. OK, so maybe you were right about the Nazi Green Party bit. I just thought that anytime one could cite the Nazis for something sane, that might be interesting. But I searched the Nazi Green Party web site today and couldn't find any mention of Kelo. Instead, I found just a bunch of tired ranting about white folks and Jewish people. So that's it. That's the last time I mention those characters. But check out the other two parties. The Green Party has announced its position on Kelo, and so has the Libertarian Party. Well, the Libertarians did beat the Greens by five days. But better late then never. Both parties are outraged by the Kelo decision. I'm telling you: a new political party could formed by the intersection of the Greens and Libertarians. I call it the "Party of Responsibility" for reasons I'll explain later. But, the platform of that party would be the Green Party Ten Values (minus #2, #7, and #8) plus the Libertarian Platform (minus those items that ignore that we people are connected to each other and to our environment, and that, from time to time, not often, those connections supercede the pure individualist stance). When I have more time, I'll take a crack at defining a unified platform.
Presently, it's easy to find Democrats gleefully reporting on the demise of Mr. Bush's approval ratings. But if those numbers are going down, shouldn't the corresponding numbers for the Democratic Party be going up? Politics in America is a zero-sum game, no? Well, back to the same Democrats, we find that:
[There exists] an appetite for change [within America] and [therefore, Democrats would like to think,] a clear opening for the Democrats. The problem, as the DCorps report notes, is that voters still cannot bring themselves to be very enthusiastic about the Democrats--their favorability and thermometer ratings differ little from Republicans' at this point. That's because, while voters want real and substantial change, they still don't see the Democrats as being the party of such change. [emphasis added]
So it would seem the Democrats are not getting the rise from Mr. Bush's fall. But if not the Democrats, then who or what is getting that bump? I dunno, but my hunch is that a political party that could be formed at the intersection of the positions of the far Left and far Right on Kelo would get that bump. Call it, perhaps, the "Party of Responsibility". Or maybe it would be the Green Party, minus the civil rights agenda (i.e. strike, or least pipe down on, #2, #7, and #8). Or equivalently, the Nazi Green Party, minus the civil wrongs agenda (ie. strike, or at least pipe down on, #2, #5, #6, and #7). Or maybe even the Libertarian Party, spiced up with a little sista- and brotha- hood. Well, whatever that elusive chimerical party is, it doesn't seem to be the Democrats. As I'm predicting, they seem headed for a hard landing.
In the post below, I say that the far Right (defined as: "sensitive to abuse of Government power") and far Left (defined as: "sensitive to abuse of Corporate power") see the Kelo case the very same way, i.e. bad for us People. Now, it's one thing to say that Kelo serves as a bridge between far Left and far Right. It's quite another to prove it. But the proof is easy. Go to Technorati. First, search Technorati for "kelo takings". Next, search Technorati for "kelo pfizer". In the first set of results, you should have no problem finding Right wing, "conservative" blogs criticizing Kelo. In the second, with a little more effort, you should be able to find Left wing, "liberal" blogs criticizing Kelo. I just did these searches and in the first bucket I immediately found Liberty's Outpost, Shore Mutterings, and The Boring Made Dull. In the second bucket, with a little more digging, I found The Next Left, Boistering, and invincibleoverlord. Now, who says the Internet isn't fun?
You know you're WAY left of Left when ...
... you find yourself in vehement agreement with the reactionary Right wing of the Supreme Court. But that's where I find myself after the Court's 5-4 ruling yesterday in Kelo v. City of New London, No. 04-108. As the New York Times article on the case explains, the "5" comprised liberal/moderate Justices Stevens, Bader Ginsberg, Breyer, Kennedy, and Souter. The four dissenters included Justice O'Connor plus the three reactionary stooges, Justices Rehnquist, Scalia, and Thomas. Here I am calling them the "three stooges", yet I couldn't agree more with their strident criticism of the majority opinion. The case involved the Constitution's "takings clause". This clause governs those situations when the government comes to you and says: "We're buying your house; you have to move out; we're putting a freeway through your back yard." This case involved the last part of that dynamic. Instead of taking a neighborhood for a true public purpose like a highway, the Connecticut town in Kelo took a neighborhood for the purpose of building an office park next to the research center of pharmaceutical multinational Pfizer. If you've been reading this blog, my revulsion at this case should come as no surprise. To me, this case is about immense Corporations reducing the transaction costs of shaping their environment to their liking. After Kelo, all these anaerobic organisms that feed on money need to do in order to scoop up a neighborhood is to persuade the local government officials to do their bidding. There's no longer any need for them to negotiate directly with every stubborn grandmother who refuses to sell her home. To sum it up, the far Left revulsion about the Kelo decision concerns the barn door that the case leaves wide open for Corporations to take away our homes. As far as I can tell, the far Right revulsion about Kelo concerns Government coercion of individual property rights. But whatever the case, the relevance of Kelo to this blog is that this case serves as a bridge between the far Left and far Right. And as I've predicted, I see these two unlikely bedfellows finding common cause in the coming years.
The Pandemic Domino
So here I am predicting a pandemic and citing the steady drum beat of news articles warning of it. Clearly, I think such a pandemic would be dangerous to America. But how? I haven't had time to write this up in the analysis section. But here's a quick and dirty analysis: The danger is not so much that a large percentage of Americans will die during such a pandemic. The news article cited in the posting below predicts "only" a half million flu deaths. Even if that prediction is short by a factor of 10, and five million people end up dying, that will still account for less than 2% of the American population. This is a far cry from the 33% mortality rate of the Black Death in Europe during the 1300s. So what's the big deal if a million or two Americans die prematurely of the flu? Well, of course, it will be a big deal if that one or two million includes you or me or any of our friends and family. But still, how could our personal tragedies lead to a systemic harming of America? Here's my answer: fear. If a surprising number of Americans with health insurance start dying of a mysterious flu, and government, business, and media are exposed as impotent to stop it, Americans will panic. And they'll do exactly what Mr. Bush implored them not to do in the wake of 9/11. Remember what Mr. Bush said was our patriotic duty in light of 9/11? He said it was to keep shopping. If a pandemic sweeps through America, panic will follow in its wake, and frightened chubby people will avoid population centers, and abate all but the most essential shopping. Depending on how long the panic lasts, this panic could end up bursting the housing bubble, the credit bubble, the hedge fund bubble, the U.S. dollar bubble, and just about every other financial bubble that we're presently riding. In other words, America has been teetering on a financial collapse since 2000. Many are writing about it. But since everyone in the financial community is aware of the "bearish" predictions, they seem unlikely to come true. That is, they're unlikely to come true, unless something unexpected comes out of left field to blow up the uneasy calm. That "something", I believe, will be a pandemic. But all that aside, enjoy your summer!
Avian Flu Pandemic Watch
The warnings are getting louder. Today's warning reads: "Flu pandemic could kill half million in U.S.-report". Of course, the only reason I saw this article was because I've set up my MyYahoo page to give me the top news health stories from Reuters. This sort of story doesn't make the mainstream press. From my vantage point, it seems so obvious that this pandemic may be imminent, and that the public has been well warned. But then I wonder if random news reports prior to 9/11 told of Bin Laden's threats -- reports that we all just ignored.
The People's Revolt
Given my prediction about a coming pandemic, I naturally gravitated to John Kelly's recent book, The Great Mortality: An Intimate History of the Black Death, the Most Devastating Plague of All Time. I just finished this book and highly recommend it. Now, I might just be the only person who has read this best-selling book and thought: Could this mid-1300s plague followed by a 1381 Peasants' Revolt against the ruling English nobility presage an upcoming pandemic followed by a People's Revolt against the ruling Corporatocracy in America? I write about this thought in the analysis section of this blog.
Larry meet Mikey; Mikey meet Larry
Yesterday afternoon, I listened to Michael Weiner's arch-right-wing AM talk radio program that he calls "The Savage Nation". This afternoon, I listened to a talk given by (presumably) arch-left-wing Lawrence Lessig at the Open Source Business Conference in San Francisco. Consistent with my prediction about the far left finding common ground with the far right in Mr. Bush's America, the words of these two seemingly contrary commentators struck a common chord. Mr. Weiner railed against the "oligarchy" of big business and big government that controls both Red and Blue and that works against the interests of us the people. Similarly, Mr. Lessig spoke passionately about a coming "war" (his term) pitting us individuals and small businesses against the "legacy" big businesses -- in particular, big businesses in the content (led by Disney), telecom (led by Verizon), and software (owned exclusively by Microsoft) industries.
Goldman Sachs predicts $105/barrel
I realize it's only a forecasted research report, but Goldman Sachs is predicting that crude oil "could" hit $105/barrel in the near future. If they're right, and the near future puts it into Mr. Bush's second term, then one half of my prediction #7 would prove out. Time will tell ... .
Well, with my day job, plus too many side projects, this blog is just not getting enough of my attention. This is a bit frustrating because I think about these issues, and come across relevant news stories on them, most every day. Enter podcasting. Podcasting allows me to work on this blog during the more or less dead 60-90 minutes of my daily commute. So sorry if you're interested in reading instead of listening. But as of Spring 2005, this is the best I can do. When circumstances change for me, perhaps I'll have the time to get typing again. But for now, here's my podcast.[posted: 03/17/05]
Self Reliance of Cities
I haven't yet gotten around to writing it up in the analysis section of this blog. But a major theme of this blog will be "self-reliance." For example, this theme will serve as one pillar of an answer to the question: In the coming People vs. Corporations war, what will the People need to do to prevail? Anyway, along this theme comes a story today about the mayor of Seattle driving an effort to have American cities pledge to follow the Kyoto Protocol on global warming. I see this is an early incarnation of what will happen in the next few years. That is, I believe communities will be continually forced to become ever more self-reliant. I further believe these forces of responsibility will "trickle down" to the individual families and individuals. Where do you get your water? Your food? Your heating? Your health? I am predicting that whatever your answers are to these questions today, your answers to these same questions a few short years from now will be quite different ... and the vector of that difference will point toward self-reliance.[posted: 02/22/05]
But for one little mutation ...
With the major media still stuck on the same old same old topics, and with the rest of us waiting to see what will happen next on "Fear Factor", those quiet voices warning of pandemic are getting louder. We're one little, random, viral, genetic mutation away from a calamity that will dwarf 9/11. Hope your immune system is in fine working order.[posted: 02/22/05]
The Judicial Preseason
The New York Times reported today that Mr. Bush will be re-nominating 20 Red judges that Blue previously resisted. According to the article: "President Bush said shortly after the election that he had earned political capital from his victory, and that he intended to spend it. Today's statement by the White House ... made clear he intends to spend some of it trying to strengthen the conservative presence in the federal courts." These 20 judges will be nominated for seats on the federal appellate and district courts. How their confirmation hearings go will determine much concerning my prediction about a coming Red Supreme Court. For these confirmations to succeed, all that the Red Senators need to do is flip 6 Blue Senators concerning the filibusters that Blue will try. I'm betting that Red will succeed here. All they have to do is convince 6 Blue Senators that what happened to Mr. Daschle will happen to themselves if they participate in the filibuster.[posted: 12/23/04]
The Corporate Cult
Today's New York Times Magazine featured story on "Word-of-Mouth agents" is so compelling to me, I'm have difficulty finishing it. Here is my next take: this dynamic is the '00s cult. In the '50s, the emergence of science as the savior of America -- see, e.g., atom bombs and the polio vaccine -- gave rise to the cult of Scientology. In the '60s, the emergence of Eastern mysticism as wisdom in America -- see, e.g. the Beatles in India and the Esalen Institute -- resulted in the Hari Krishna cult. And now, in the '00s, Corporate dominance of all that we see, hear, feel, and taste has resulted in the Cult of Corporations. In this cult, the Word-of-Mouth agents serve as the core faithful. What is a cult? One thing in common among the earlier cults is that they were pervasive systems of belief to which the faithful adhered. The faithful, infused with the sense of being the "chosen people", awoke to find their formerly dull lives illuminated by singular meaning, their formerly pedestrian personalities transformed into passionate proselytizing, their views of non-believers turned substantially dark, and their admiration of leaders turned reverent. Sure, this formula describes "born-again evangelicals" too (and, perhaps also, the '90s dot coms, the Red Sox Nation and the Dean Campaign, for that matter). But at least Scientology, Hari Krishna, and Evangelical Christianity all stake a claim in the transcendent. Who would have guessed that money-worshipping fictional-person Corporations could generate the same sort of disturbance in humanity? The apocalypse is surely upon us. Read the story. p.s. I just finished the article, and sure enough, in the third-to-last paragraph, the author says the magic word: "cult".[posted: 12/05/04]
Foot Soldiers in the Coming War
Today, the New York Times Magazine featured a story about young "Word-of-Mouth agents". These are young people who volunteer to serve as foot soldiers on behalf of duplicitous, desperate Corporations. As the Times story notes, these agents are akin to an "open source" movement. A critical difference, of course, is that open source developers volunteer to challenge Corporate hegemony (e.g. the dominance of Microsoft), whereas the former volunteer promote it. An even more stark difference is between the Word-of-Mouth volunteer agents and the Black Bloc. The latter volunteers gather at Corporate property to (c'mon, this is America here -- you get only one guess ... good guess) vandalize it. Interestingly, World-of-Mouth agents, open source developers, and the Black Bloc are all volunteers, most of whom tend to be relatively young, and all of whom volunteer in a service that relates to Corporations with a stark valence -- positive in the case of Word-of-mouth agents, and negative in the case of the other two. While the FBI is surely working to infiltrate the Black Bloc, I'm predicting that the surprise unmasking of Word-of-Mouth agents will result in some acts of violence. Whatever the case, it seems worthwhile to keep an eye on these various foot soldiers in the coming People vs. Corporations war.[posted: 12/05/04]
The Weiner Nation Gets it Right
I'm predicting that during Mr. Bush's second term, Left will meet Right in America. When I say Left and and Right, I mean far Left and far Right. I suppose it pegs me squarely on the far Left to say I believe that America's military engagements in the Middle East are driven primarily by the interests of what Mr. Eisenhower called the "military industrial complex". Well as such, I was feeling a little disgusted over the past year with NPR, and its cozy relationship with the world's leading producer of high fructose corn syrup (I'll have much more to say on that in the analysis section). Anyway, disgusted with NPR, I figured I'd spend my commute time listening instead to a reactionary Clear Channel radio station in the Bay Area called "Talk 910 KNEW". In particular, I've been listening to a show called "The Savage Nation". This show is hosted by an angry Jewish fellow named Michael Weiner who presents himself as a white, heterosexual, Christian, conservative, male. Mr. Weiner fills his shows with diatribes against virtually all human forms that are non-white, non-heterosexual, non-Christian, non-conservative, or non-male (except, of course, he's all for conservative Jewish folks). The term "reactionary" does not quite do justice to Mr. Weiner. He says Mr. Bush is a liberal, and he argues that liberalism is a mental disease. Well, needless to say, I usually find myself in disagreement with Mr. Weiner on one or more of his observations on any given day. Listening to his show is sort of like lifting weights. If you're a progressive, and you can intently listen to his show while keeping your blood pressure on an even keel, then you can listen to anything. So today, after his usual diatribe against Mexicans and the "liberal" Bush administration, Mr. Weiner went after Big Pharm. He even advocated holistic medicine. Given that, he's probably harboring a few rants about food additives like HFCS, trans fatty acids, and MSG. Well, hey now! What do you say about that? The scourge of Big Pharm and Big Food is a main pillar of this whole blog. And to think I'll be able to cite poor, chubby, frightened Michael Weiner as a supporter of these radical "Left" views of mine! This is what I meant when I said the far Left will meet far Right. What's next? The Green Party linking up with the Nazi Green Party? Um, well, actually, I have some thoughts on that score ...[posted: 12/02/04]
AAD: Front Group for the Cosmetics Industry
My sister is a naturopathic doctor who has a beautiful, highly informative web site on natural health called Naturally Empowered. She just sent me an email with a link to a press release (notice that the site calls it "news") put out by the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) . The press release discusses sun exposure, vitamin D, and sunscreen. It concludes:
The AAD recommends that everyone practice a comprehensive sun protection program, including avoiding outdoor activities between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the sun’s rays are the strongest, seeking shade whenever possible, wearing a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 15 and reapplying it every two hours, and wearing sun-protective clothing.
My sister has a page on her site that also discusses sun exposure, vitamin D, and sunscreen. However, her page offers a rather different recommendation. Assuming you knew nothing about UVB, Vitamin D, or anything else along those lines, how would you go about deciding whose story to believe? One thing I suggest is to follow the money. If the speaker earns money from his position on a topic, but would lose this money if he adopted the opposite position, then we have reason to doubt that speaker's credibility under the principle known as "money pollutes information". Well, starting with my sister's page, note that she makes no money on either side of the question about sun exposure, vitamin D, and sunscreen. Now, how about the AAD? Check out this page on AAD's site: AAD is a front group for the Cosmetics Industry. If, rather than the press release mentioned above, the AAD instead issued a press release saying what my sister is saying about sun exposure, vitamin D, and sunscreen, how many milliseconds do you think would elapse before (847) 330-0230 rang off the hook with AAD's "Corporate Partner Circle" and its "Diamond Level" Corporate Partners on the other end? This dynamic is part of what I write about in the analysis section of this blog, in a posting called "Corporate Lies".[posted: 12/02/04]
WHO's on First? Pandemic's on Second
Last week, some guy from the World Health Organization said: "I believe we are closer now to a pandemic than at any time in recent years. ... No country will be spared once it becomes a pandemic." If he's right, that would put this disaster in Mr. Bush's second term.[posted: 11/29/04]
Looks Like the Hmong Have Finally Made It
A few years ago, I read a moving book called The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down. It was about an immigrant Hmong family with an epileptic young daughter. The book was about the family mistaking as natural medicine, the rocket fuel derivatives prescribed for their daughter. Wacky immigrants! Reading the book, I wondered when, if ever, the Hmong would "get" the American Way. But today just might be that day. You see, today, a Hmong immigrant named Chai Vang was charged with gunning down six Wisconsin hunters. Apparently, Mr. Vang was exercising his Second Amendment right to carry a semi-automatic assault rifle, by way of "going postal" on some fellow hunters of his. What could be more American than going hunting with a semi-automatic assault rifle? And "going postal" is as "Made in America" as is Las Vegas. Bet you anything, back in the Old Country, ain't no Hmong was going hunting with a semi-automatic assault rifle, and going postal was unheard of. Now, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking that a Hmong will have to turn up in the news as a serial murderer before we can definitively confirm that the Hmong have truly made it in America. I mean, going postal can be merely about one singular day, and most anybody can have one really bad day. But producing a serial murderer seems to require a dysfunctional family of the sort that only post-modern America can produce. So yeah, I see your point. But c'mon, ya gotta give the Hmong at least "foot in the American door" status for this one.[posted: 11/29/04]
FDA, Pharmaceuticals, and Waking Up
Among the top stories on AP and Reuters today: FDA scientist, David Graham, told a Congressional investigation that "the FDA has an inherent conflict of interest that triggers 'denial, rejection and heat' when safety questions emerge about products it has approved." Hey, if you had read the report from the Union of Concerned Scientists when it came out back in February of this year, your reaction to today's story would not be surprise. Let's say life is a cartoon, our health is a hen-house, the FDA is the guard dog, and Big Pharm is the fox. If you hadn't read that report, you might be wondering how it came to be that the dog has a "conflict of interest" between the interests of the hens and those of the fox. How exactly did the dog come to think it "inherently" serves the interests of the fox? Maybe you missed that episode. If so, read the report. And while you're at it, ask yourself where the Democrats were when it came out. And then ask yourself whether you still believe the Democrats serve a socially useful purpose.[posted: 11/18/04]
Shortly after Gavin Newsom started marrying gays in San Francisco, and my heart was warmed by the pictures coming from SF city hall, my head predicted to some friends that Newsom's actions would cost the Democrats the 2004 election. (I also opined that Newsom would claim "civil rights" as his sole motivation, but what was a bigger motivation for him was the prospect of launching himself on the national stage.) Some say the results in Ohio last week validated my prediction. But you know, I didn't post that prediction online. So it's time to step up. I just posted my "Democrat Demise" prediction. Prior to the election, I had been saying to friends that if Kerry lost this election, the Democrats would blow up. A friend just forwarded me Arianna Huffington's column of yesterday. My take: she's right that "we need to completely rethink the Democratic Party" and that Democtraic leadership is "misguided" and "amateurish" ; but she's less right in suggesting that issues of war are distinct from issues of the economy. Both of those issues are explained by Corporate interests that are antagonistic to those of People.[posted: 11/12/04]
The Clock is Ticking
After nearly a year of leaving this blog quiet, my motivation to get typing again kicked in last week. As I recall, it was around about the time Ohio was starting to look rather Red. It's not that a Kerry victory would have headed off the impending crisis I'm predicting. Just that that might have slowed things down a little. But now with Mr. Bush ready to charge ahead on his "mandate", the clock of history is ticking faster. Blue may be obtuse. But on the scale of this blog, Red is downright comatose.[posted: 11/11/04]