Tag Archives: news

Reactionary politics bad

I find this sort of reactionary politics very distressing. Elections that are won on the platform of “I’m not the other guy” invariably put people in office who stand for very little, and accomplish very little, and excuse it with “at least I’m not the other guy.”

I don’t buy the idea that a change of president is going to fix anything. The mess that we are in appears to be the result of poorly-considered reactions to 9/11, but it certainly seems that these things are institutionalized to such a degree that simply changing the president is not going to make a whole lot of difference. You think that a new president can roll back the stuff that John Ashcroft has done? Apparently, the bulk of the populace thinks that it’s a Good Thing. You think that we can simply pack up and leave Iraq? We’ve not done that yet in any country where we have a military presence.

I guess that I’ve come to feel, to a greater and greater extent, what one of my British friends once told me – no matter who you vote for, the politicians will get in.

Note that I’m really not endorsing either one of the candidates. When I have to choose, I’ll likely vote for the incompetent with experience, rather than the one without. I simply don’t buy this “change is necessarily good” mumbo jumbo, and the “anyone but Bush” camp seems to have skipped one too many history classes.

Great Hackers

While various people are asserting that Paul Graham’s paper Great Hackers is wrong-minded, I have to say that the talk at OSCon, from which it was derived, was one of the better things going at OSCon. Granted, a large part of his audience was the Great Hackers of whom he spoke. I don’t actually have time right now either to read the entire thing, or to figure out why so many people think that he’s wrong. But those of you who were not at his talk might be interested in reading at least the introduction to what he’s saying. I think he makes some brilliant points. And I particularly like his introduction:

I didn’t mean to make the book controversial. I was trying to make it efficient. I didn’t want to waste people’s time telling them things they already knew. It’s more efficient just to give them the diffs. But I suppose that’s bound to yield an alarming book.

(See Feedster for some of the remarks being made on this topic.)

More hostages in Iraq

Three Kenyans, three Indians, and an Egyptian are being held hostage in Iraq with similar threats as before – ie, that one will be beheaded every 72 hours if their employer did not leave Iraq. The company appears to be a Kuwaiti company, perhaps a trucking company. They’ve also asked these three countries to withdraw their military personnel from Iraq. It appears that Kenya at least has complied, urging all of their citizens to immediately leave Iraq.

Granted, I don’t keep up on the news very well, but I was surprised to see this story, having not heard any mention of it in the US media.

It’s a little alarming that these sorts of tactics are being successful. It doesn’t bode well for the role of an international force anywhere in the future if all of the smaller entities flee when threatened.

Increasing confusion and anger about our government

Just three random links which illustrate some of the bizarre things going on in our nation under the name of National Security.

An article about a student photography project. (It’s long. Read the whole thing anyway.)

Passenger arrested for carrying a DVD of anti-american material, or, as they call it, suspicious materials.

And an article about how post-outage reports are a threat to national security.

I’m increasingly baffled by the notion that we’re more secure if we’re kept in ignorance. This “closed source” approach to governance is completely opposite to the way that our government was created to work. Something about a government of the people, by the people, and *ahem* for the people.

I’ve complained about this before – the absurd notion that government must be conducted in secrecy. How, I ask, can one have a government of the people if the people are routinely kept in the dark?

I am getting really fed up with the press telling us to be extra vigilant on one day or another, due to unspecified threats that they can’t tell us about. I am confident that we would be more vigilent, and less terrorized, if we were simply made aware of what threats were being made, and what was being done to counteract them. But, instead, the Feds Who Watch Over Us tell us that there were threats, and that we should be afraid, but not what those threats were. The consequence is that people either panic, or complete disregard anything that these folks say. Personally, I think that they are self-serving morons fabricating threats as a means to preserve their job securrity. I have absolutely no confidence that they know anything at all.

Really, who is served by keeping these things secret? Presumably the terrorists who made the threats already know about them, so it’s not like we’d be revealing important information. So, by keeping the citizenry in the dark, who benefits? The fear-mongers do, of course. Both those who are the “real” terrorist as well as our own government. Our government does the terrorists’ job – ie, they terrorize us – and they create multiple departments with virtualy unlimited power, based solely on our ignorance.

So, I suppose this is one of the reasons that I’m not looking forward to flying out to Portland. I suppose I can just put my head down and endure it, try to be cheerful when I’m treated like a criminal, when my electronics are mishandled and treated like contraband, or, perhaps, explosives, and try to say “yes” with a straight face when they ask politely if they may paw through my personal effects.

Maybe it’s only a matter of time before I get tagged as an anti-government fanatic. It’s a label that I’ll wear proudly, in the fine company of George Washington, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Paine. I just have to wonder if our government of the people does indeed represent the people in a meaningful way. Because, if it does, then I’m woefully out of touch with how the majority looks at things.

And, so, we’re coming up on another election. Is there any chance that voting for one or the other candidate will, in any way, change this political climate, and the downward spiral towards a police state? No, of course not. And I really don’t know what can break us out of this nasty state of affairs, particularly if those of us who think that it’s even a problem are in the minority. I’d say write to your congresscritter, but I’m no longer convinced that they are literate.

Reflections on an almost-perfect day

Today was very good. From a good breakfast (eggs, sausage, Ethiopian coffee) to a wonderful dinner (crab legs, lobster, fried shrimp, shrimp scampi) , just about everything was great.

This morning we went to the Wilmore Festival of the Fourth parade, which is always more pleasant than the Lexington parade, which we also attended. We went down to the campgrounds, where we ate too much cotton candy and snow cones, and Sarah got her hair painted red and blue.

The Lexington parade is always a showcase of nutjobs and fringe groups, from cross-dressing Harley-Davidson gangs to Gays for Jesus to John Kerry supporters.

I saw several people I knew in the parade. Tim Philpot was in the parade, as part of his re-election campaign. And Tim and Lisa and the kids were marching with the RailTrails folks (there’s photos of them in there somewhere).

Oh, and this year, I got footage of the Wilmore Precision Lawnmower Marching Brigade. (HERE and HERE) Fortunately, this year’s parade did not have the spectacular lawnmower-related injuries that accompanied last year’s parade.

Ben Shabalala shot in Durban

Those of you familiar with Ladysmith Black Mambazo might remember Ben Shabalala, who was a member of the group from 1979 to 1993. He was Joseph’s brother. He was shot in Durban on the 16th. You may also remember that Headman Shabalala was shot by a policeman in 1991. And Joseph’s wife, Nellie, was shot in Durban in 2002.

These folks – Mambazo – are an international treasure. If you haven’t heard their music, you really should. Some folks are aware of Mambazo because they worked on Graceland with Paul Simon. I’m aware of Paul Simon because he worked on Graceland with Mambazo.

Several years ago I got to hear Mambazo when they came to Kentucky and gave a concert at Asbury College. It was absolutely amazing, and it was as though the acoustics of the place were specifically designed for their music.

Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika
Maluphakanyisw’ uphondo lwayo
Yiva imathandazo yethu
Nkosi Sikelela Nkosi Sikelela

Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika
Maluphakanyisw’ uphondo lwayo
Yiva imathandazo yethu
Nkosi Sikelela
Thina lusapho lwayo.

(God Bless Africa)


I just spent over $2 for a gallon of gas for the first time ever. $2.019 to be exact. Yes, I’m sure some of you other folks have spent a lot more than that. Just recording what seems to be an historic event. I suppose it will be $3 this time next year.

It was the computer’s fault

Kansas City man mistaken for alleged 9/11 terrorist – Apr 22, 2004

It’s things like *this* that make me drive, rather than fly, whenever possible. It’s the main reason I drove to St. Louis this week. And it’s the main reason that I will drive to Atlanta next month. The level of gross incompetence required for this sort of thing to happen, is one thing, but the enormous machinery behind this, and the fact that nobody knows how to fix the problem, is yet another indication – as if we needed one – that the “security” infrastructure is irremediably broken.