Politics, open government, and safe streets. And the constant incursion of cycling.

Month: November 2010 Page 1 of 4

Silence Instead of Sputtering

In all honesty, the Wikileaks event has turned me into a net consumer of media in the past week. I’ve got a lot to say (shocker), but I keep wanting more of it before I’m certain about what I want to say. I’m a longtime resident of the Transparency Camp, and this doc dump tests a lot of the principles required for residency.

But then we get to a day like today, and I’m glad that I’ve mostly shut up. Between idiocy like this and this and this? I might permanently sink my chances of being welcome in polite society.

Why You Should Read Non-American Media, Example 5421

Compare the New York Times glossing of the revelations concerning US diplomatic spying with the Guardian’s detailed look.

Anything That Keeps Us Safe



Hitchens v. Blair: “Be it resolved, religion is a force for good in the world.”

Oh, to have been there to watch Christopher Hitchens debate Tony Blair on the net benefit of religion in the world.  Hitchens opened, quoting Cardinal Newman’s Apologia:

“The Catholic church holds it better for the sun and moon to drop from heaven, for the earth to fail and for all the many millions on it to die in extremist agony than one soul … should tell one wilful untruth or should steal one farthing without excuse.”

You’ll have to say it’s beautifully phrased, but to me, and this is my proposition, what we have here, and picked from no mean source, is a distillation of precisely what is twisted and immoral in the faith mentality. Its essential fanaticism, it’s consideration of the human being as raw material, and its fantasy of purity.

Once you assume a creator and a plan, it makes us objects, in a cruel experiment, whereby we are created sick, and commanded to be well. I’ll repeat that. Created sick, and then ordered to be well. And over us, to supervise this, is installed a celestial dictatorship, a kind of divine North Korea. Greedy, exigent, greedy for uncritical phrase from dawn until dusk and swift to punish the original since with which it so tenderly gifted us in the very first place.

Blair replied:

So the proposition that religion is unadulterated poison is unsustainable. It can be destructive, it can also create a deep well of compassion, and frequently does.

And the second is that people are inspired to do such good by what I would say is the true essence of faith, which is along with doctrine and ritual particular to each faith, a basic belief common to all faiths, in serving and loving God, through serving and loving your fellow human beings.

[ . . . ]

The message of the prophet Mohammed, saving one life is as if you’re saving the whole of humanity, the Hindu searching after selflessness, the Buddhist concepts of Kuruni … which all subjugate selfish desires to care for others, Sikh insistence on respect for others of another faith. That in my view is the true face of faith. And the values derived from this essence offer to many people a benign, positive and progressive framework by which to live our daily lives. Stimulating the impulse to do good, disciplining the propensity to be selfish and bad.

The entire transcript is available.  Grab a cup of tea and read the whole thing.  Inspiring, really.

10:15/Saturday Night: Sunday Morning Edition


Midweek Makeover: Recycling Edition

Monday Morning Mashup: Love The Way You Lie In Paradise City

This DJs from Mars track was an unexpected pleasure, this morning:

10:15/Saturday Night: Lived Among v. Know Edition

Portastatic’s I Wanna Know Girls:

(Fanvid, featuring Keith Newton’s I Lived Among Girls)

Rep. Moran is Dead Wrong on the TSA’s New Searches

Next time you see Rep. Moran, let him know what you think of his position on the TSA’s new nude-photo-or-get-your-genitals-groped policies:

Northern Virginia Rep. Jim Moran (D) dismissed the recent wave of privacy concerns generated by controversial Transportation Security Administration screening practices, saying: “I could care less whether somebody feels me up.”

[ . . . ]

“You know, it there’s intrusiveness, if it makes you shy or embarrassed or whatever, I’m sorry,” Moran continued. “You just go with the flow. That’s life in the 21st century. I don’t have much sympathy for the privacy advocates on that.”

No, Rep. Moran, you don’t just go with the flow.  In fact, let me remind you what you are expected do:

    “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support the Constitution of the United States.”

Try it in this instance.  Your constituents will appreciate your efforts.

Friday Notes: Rock Dodge Edition

Of everything I have on my to-do list today, getting down the “rock dodge” drill for a cycling instructor course is probably the most difficult.  The result isn’t particularly challenging (dodging a rock), it’s the method by which you’re required to do it (a seemingly unnecessary bit of countersteering).  In any event, if that’s the toughest part of the day, it should be a good day, no?  Now on to bits and pieces collected over the week:

30 airports in 30 days.  I remember wishing I could do this, when I saw the JetBlue pass on sale.  It’s been at least 5 years since I last did a “mileage run” (something you do to push yourself just over the line for the next medallion status in a frequent flier program), and quick travel appeals less than it used to.  But this?  Sounded like a bit of fun.

Travelling at a slower speed is what’s gained my interest, lately, and this piece on a significant uptick in bicycle touring makes it sound like I’ve got some company.  A proper cycling tour has been bouncing around in my head for a while, and I think Taiwan cemented my decision to make it happen soon.   It’ll probably start with a long weekend’s out and back along the C&O, to sort things out.  Then maybe a SF-LA (via the PCH) week trip?  After that, who knows?  I should probably stop reading this site, if I want to keep it reasonable . . .


Here are a couple of interesting pieces on control in the marketplace.  The first is about the differing approaches between Facebook and Google on the matter of who controls your data.  You know you’re doing it wrong when you make Google look unthreatening by comparison.  (I keep trying to kick the Facebook habit, but it’s tougher than you might imagine.  Serious network effect going on, there.)   The second is a post by a San Francisco restauranteur, and why he doesn’t use OpenTable.  It’s really quite interesting, the amount of leverage that OpenTable (with its dominance of the market) has on metro area restaurants.   I’ve been using OpenTable since they arrived in DC (2003?), but this (and, well, this) makes me hope that a competitor will be arriving shortly.


I admit that, despite the rather large rhetorical role that it’s played in Virginia’s politics, I’ve never taken a close look at “clean coal” (or the veracity of a million claims about it).  So while I realize that it’s just scratching the surface, I felt like I learned a fair bit from the always-informative James Fallows in this article:

To environmentalists, “clean coal” is an insulting oxymoron. But for now, the only way to meet the world’s energy needs, and to arrest climate change before it produces irreversible cataclysm, is to use coal—dirty, sooty, toxic coal—in more-sustainable ways. The good news is that new technologies are making this possible. China is now the leader in this area, the Google and Intel of the energy world. If we are serious about global warming, America needs to work with China to build a greener future on a foundation of coal. Otherwise, the clean-energy revolution will leave us behind, with grave costs for the world’s climate and our economy.

If anyone has rebuttals to this article that I should check out, do pass them along.


Michael Turton, a Taiwan-based blogger, highlights what I think is a compelling political ad explaining why it’s important to care about politics.  Watch it:


Yes, it’s in the context of Taiwan, but it struck me as hitting universal truths.

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