click here to skip the menu and go to the page content
about | archive rss | atom
rebecca's pocket
guides: reference | web basics | computers | look | think | exotic
passions: books | film | domestic | gothica | music | gaia
ntk: weblog | handbook | other words | news | webloggia

.: 2003 --> february


:: This just in: Attorneys for Verizon Smoke Crack

Attorneys for Verizon told a federal judge yesterday that their customers would want and expect the company to analyze their calling habits in order to sell them new telephone services. [...] At issue is whether the state's desire to protect consumers' privacy outweighs Verizon's right to commercial free speech.

Remember kids, companies don't have rights, people do. (thanks, lizard and [not work-safe] sebastian!)
[ 02/03/03 ]

:: 'Organizers of Nebraska Wesleyan University's annual "Rat Olympics" have been told by the U.S. Olympic Committee to change the name of the 28-year-old event.... The Rat Olympics are the annual Behavioral Learning Principles class project to teach rats to perform in various competitive events.' [slithy popup!]
[ 02/03/03 ]

:: Breastfeeding vegans need B12 supplements. Sure, it's fun to say 'breastfeeding vegans'--but is it an oxymoron?
[ 02/03/03 ]

:: Still right on the mark: Marketing Myopia [pdf], Theodore Levitt, 1960. [update: I have replaced the update with the version I linked in the first place. Please note that you can buy the article from the Harvard Business Review for a mere $6.00.]

The railroads did not stop growing because the need for passenger and freight transportation declined. That grew. The railroads are in trouble today not because the need was filled by others (cars, trucks, airplanes, even telephones), but because it was not filled by the railroads themselves. They let others take customers away from them because they assumed themselves to be in the railroad business rather than in the transportation business. The reason they defined their industry wrong was because they were railroad oriented instead of transportation-oriented; they were product-oriented instead of customer-oriented.
Hollywood barely escaped being totally ravished by television; actually, all the established film companies went through drastic reorganizations. Some simply disappeared. All of them got into trouble not because of TV's inroads but because of their own myopia. As with the railroads, Hollywood defined its business incorrectly. It thought it was in the movie business when it was actually in the entertainment business. 'Movies' implied a specific, limited product. This produced a fatuous contentment, which from the beginning led producers to view TV as a threat. Hollywood scorned and rejected TV when it should have welcomed it as an opportunity-an opportunity to expand the entertainment business.

Hillary Rosen and Jack Valenti could do with another read-through of this. [ 02/03/03 ]

:: SustainAbility is a sustainable development consultancy that strives to help businesses become more sustainable. In support of tracking the 'triple bottom line, they have developed a methodology, sustainable development tools, and a matrix designed to describe each measure and its impact on business performance. Clicking on any square will spawn a popup window that explains the concept, it's impact, and the strength of their evidence for this assessment.

Their clients include Shell, PG & E, Nike, and Ford.
[ 02/03/03 ]

:: The Ford company explores sustainability and its own future in the 1999 report, Today and Tomorrow [pdf] (scroll past the big picture).

[ 02/03/03 ]

:: Enough said: US Budget/Surplus infographic. (via Anil)
[ 02/03/03 ]

:: Look at the expression on Bush's face. How does he do that? President Clinton had that same face, in fact, Clinton often smiled with the downturned mouth, managing to communicate both humor and gravitas with one facial expression.

You never see that downturned mouth anywhere but on a politician's face. Is there some guy they fly in to teach candidates how to make this face, as soon as they announce they are running?
[ 02/03/03 ]

:: Tom Petty is pissed. It's a real pleasure to see someone in his position who has retained values we rarely associate with wealth and celebrity.

I don't think it's a good attitude in your life to feel that you have to be rich to have self-esteem. You know, I saw a billboard in New York I wish I had photographed. It was for the TNN network. It said three words against a patriotic background of red, white and blue - BIGGER, YOUNGER, RICHER. Now, I find that fascinating: 'Bigger, younger, richer.' This whole idea of being wealthy has gone too far. [...]
My top price is about sixty-five dollars, and I turn a very healthy profit on that; I make millions on the road. I see no reason to bring the price up, even though I have heard many an anxious promoter say, "We could charge 150 bucks for this." I would like to do this again and maybe come through and not leave a bad taste in people's mouths. I was at one of our gigs recently, and I was just stunned driving in that it cost thirty dollars to park your car. It's so wrong to say, "OK, we've got them on the ticket and we've got them on the beer and we've got on everything else, let's get them on the damn parking." You got to care about the person you're dealing with.

[ 02/03/03 ]

:: John Snyder, president of Artist House Records, a board member of the National Association of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS), and a 32-time Grammy nominee has a message for NARAS: Embrace File-sharing, or die.

Why is it that record companies pay dearly for radio play and fight Internet play? What is the real difference between radio and the Internet? Perfect copies? If we look at the Internet as analogous to radio, the problem becomes one of performance rights, not the unlawful exploitation of intellectual property. People are creating their own 'radio' on their hard drives, and they are constantly changing it. Would this have anything to do with the 'McDonaldization' of radio by Clear Channel and others? Would the fact that almost every song on commercial radio is bought and paid for have anything to do with the narrow focus and homogeneous nature of radio?
What drives radio is advertising and money, not music. A lot of music gets left behind thanks to the current state of radio; that consumers are rejecting it shouldn't be surprising. They're creating their own MP3 playlists, and if the labels were smart, they'd be doing everything in their power to be on those playlists, just like they do everything in their power to be on the playlists of radio stations. Instead, they scream copyright infringement and call their lawyers.

Long and so smart I could hardly choose a pull-quote. Print it out and read it on the bus if you don't have time to read all of it right now.

Bonus quote from John Perry Barlow's The Economy of Ideas, quoted in the article:

Intellectual property law cannot be patched, retrofitted, or expanded to contain digitized expression any more than real estate law might be revised to cover the allocation of broadcasting spectrum...

(via daypop)
[ 02/03/03 ]

:: For the past three years, controversial American Enterprise Institute scholar and author John R. Lott Jr.,has been posting passionate online defenses of his work...using a pseudonym. [annoying free login]

In a posting to the Web site maintained by Tim Lambert, an Australian professor who has relentlessly attacked Lott's guns studies, 'Mary Rosh' claims to be a former student of Lott at the University of Pennsylvania, where the economist taught between 1991 and 1995.
'I had him for a PhD level empirical methods class when he taught at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania back in the early 1990s, well before he gained national attention, and I have to say that he was the best professor that I ever had. You wouldn't know that he was a "right-wing" ideologue from the class.... There were a group of us students who would try to take any class that he taught. Lott finally had to tell us that it was best for us to try and take classes from other professors more to be exposed to other ways of teaching graduate material.'

On the internet, nobody knows you're a dog...but lots of people can find your IP address.
[ 02/03/03 ]

:: Home Despot

Solar Powered Submarine (31415)

(thanks, lizard!)
[ 02/03/03 ]

:: Cave paintings of Lascaux. (thanks, andrew!)
[ 02/07/03 ]

:: In response to pressure from animal activists, McDonald's has instituted new standards for their egg producers and for the slaughterhouses that kill their beef. Meet the autistic woman who who devised methods that cause the animals the least distress, then created metrics to allow the corporation to measure whether slaughterhouses are killing animals humanely. Her documentation for McDonald's outlines specific procedures. (via saute wednesday)

I'm still not clear on what percentage of slaughterhouses are better as a result of the McDonald's standards (WashPost 04/01) and which are slaughtering animals which are often still alive. (WashPost 04/01, and page is currently coming up without the article.) I would definitely pay a little more for meat that was marked with 'Humane Farming' and 'Humane Slaughter' labels.
[ 02/07/03 ]

:: An Army for Sustainablity

...the Army has decided to spend the next 20-30 years transforming itself.... And when the Army decides to do something, it does it--with surprising swiftness and alacrity.
It turns out that the Army's strategic transformation--with the intention of becoming lighter, quicker, and more efficient--lends itself to some creative nudging in the direction of sustainability. And if the US Army moves toward sustainability, it will lead a lot of other people in the same direction. [...]
I've talked to line colonels in the Army--not necessarily known to be 'green' in any but the military sense--who talk about global warming as a geopolitical stability issue, and see the Army's conversion away from fossil fuels as essential both for internal purposes (hydrogen fuel cells are less prone to control by unfriendly dictators) and for global-leadership purposes.

[ 02/07/03 ]

:: Miss claims to be the only site on the Web devoted to pressure cooking. Be that as it may, she has lots of recipes, and a terrific section on cookware. (thanks, kevin!)
[ 02/07/03 ]

:: Death row case raises insanity defense paradox

In the latest bizarre turn in a nearly 25-year-old death row case, a federal appeals court ruled that a mentally ill inmate can be put to death even though he would be too insane to qualify for execution without his medication.

Bonus: Man requests Jesus Christ as his trial attorney and check out that graphic. Being a photo intern at CNN must be sweet.
[ 02/12/03 ]

:: Following up last week's link about the woman who is reforming animal slaughter in this country, the excellent Anita pointed me to Dr Grandin's site, which includes her recommendations for Ritual Slaughter Practices. Anita tells me Dr Grandin was featured in Oliver Sack's book, An Anthropologist on Mars. Dr Grandin has written her own book, Thinking in Pictures.
[ 02/12/03 ]

:: Anita also points to the Galactic Jane Austen combining images from Star Trek, Star Wars, and various screen adaptations of Jane Austen. Words fail.
[ 02/12/03 ]

:: Denver Fabrics has put together a terrific page about the history, care, and uses of linen, including links to articles about Irish linen uses during WWII, creating linen from flax, and the webcam of a haunted linen mill.
[ 02/12/03 ]

:: This is neat: In the past month I've added links to versions in French and Korean to my essay, Weblogs: A History and Perspective. Thanks, BK and Christophe!
[ 02/12/03 ]

:: Happy Valentine's Day! If you don't have a sweetie, go with a good friend to see a date movie and have a wonderful dinner. Some of my best Valentine's Days have been spent this way.
[ 02/14/03 ]

:: Please set aside an hour this weekend and listen to Terry Gross's interview with Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid.

I am, in general, not a fan of Ms. Gross, but this interview is an exception. Rashid, recently returned from Afghanistan, pulls no punches: among other things, he asserts that recent Pakistani elections were rigged by the military, and that the Taliban are living in Pakistan under the protection of the government. He believes (as I do) that the United States missed a huge opportunity to demonstrate its benevolent intentions with its apparent disinterest in rebuilding Afghanistan. And that the Bush Administration is dead-set upon another war with Iraq.
[ 02/14/03 ]

:: This weekend I plan to join the march for peace. Saddam is a monster. But the United States adopts a policy of preemptive attack against its real or perceived enemies at its peril.

Whatever moral authority we may have to allow or disallow other nations to possess weapons of mass destruction rests on our inviolate commitment to use our weapons only in self-defense. Whatever safety we have in this world derives not from our military might, but from whatever good will and trust we have earned from other nations and their people. If, by our actions, we sanction a policy of attacking whomever we deem to be dangerous, we open ourselves to the same. Our nation will be less safe if we attack any other sovereign nation, except in response to a direct attack.

Even the Bush Administration, in its unending attempts to link Saddam with al Qaeda, recognizes this most basic principle: that it is wrong to kill others, except in self-defense. The American government, the one I grew up believing in -- the one I believe in still -- does not attack other countries except in self-defense, or in the defense of its allies. I know it's more complicated than that, but at the bottom, that's the principle.
[ 02/14/03 ]

:: On Wednesday, Senator Robert Byrd spoke to the Senate on the recklessness of the Bush doctrine:

This coming battle, if it materializes, represents a turning point in U.S. foreign policy and possibly a turning point in the recent history of the world.
This nation is about to embark upon the first test of a revolutionary doctrine applied in an extraordinary way at an unfortunate time. The doctrine of preemption -- the idea that the United States or any other nation can legitimately attack a nation that is not imminently threatening but may be threatening in the future -- is a radical new twist on the traditional idea of self defense. It appears to be in contravention of international law and the UN Charter. And it is being tested at a time of world-wide terrorism, making many countries around the globe wonder if they will soon be on our -- or some other nation's -- hit list.
High level Administration figures recently refused to take nuclear weapons off of the table when discussing a possible attack against Iraq. What could be more destabilizing and unwise than this type of uncertainty, particularly in a world where globalism has tied the vital economic and security interests of many nations so closely together? There are huge cracks emerging in our time-honored alliances, and U.S. intentions are suddenly subject to damaging worldwide speculation. Anti-Americanism based on mistrust, misinformation, suspicion, and alarming rhetoric from U.S. leaders is fracturing the once solid alliance against global terrorism which existed after September 11.

Read it all. [ 02/14/03 ]

:: The Today Show recently did a fairly fluffy interview with former President Clinton. Clinton hopes, I think, to continue to be a force in the Democratic Party, and that means that some of what he says will automatically be filtered for public consumption. But there's something about having been President. This is a club with very few members, and I believe that engenders a certain loyalty and deep understanding of the office that in some ways transcends partisan issues. To wit, his take on Iraq:

I don't think the president needs another Security Council Resolution, as a matter of international law. I think politically, if he could get it, it would be great. For the simple reason that, if we had to go without another UN resolution — if we had to go and European powers or Russia or China are vocally opposed to this, then there will always be the suggestion that this was, in effect, a pre-emptive strike. I know the administration has said pre-emptive strikes may be justified in some places. But we've never done that. And democratic powers normally wait to get hit before they hit.
On the other hand, if it is the UN, carrying out the UN mandate, and we're doing this because for 12 years he has defied the UN mandate to disarm, that is not a pre-emptive strike. It's a police action designed to protect the world from chemical and biological weapons. I want the UN and the international community to be stronger and more united when it's over than when we started.

And his take on the European response to the Bush Administration's push for war sounds about right to me.
[ 02/17/03 ]

:: Interesting. Discount Martha Stewart on EBay.
[ 02/17/03 ]

:: I've added a short list of classes that are using The Weblog Handbook in their courses (let me know if you are, too), and two more reviews: Metapsychology says 'This is an extremely well-written, informative, fun, and important book'. Australian IT compares all the weblog books that have been published to date and says 'For realism and subtlety, try Rebecca Blood, whose book The Weblog Handbook, despite its nuts-and-bolts title, gives the best account of the culture.'
[ 02/17/03 ]

:: Language is a virus? Art is a mutation. (via daypop)
[ 02/19/03 ]

:: I asked a .mil reader for a view of the situation with Iraq from where he sits. His account of the attitudes which prevail inside the military caught me by surprise:

'Inside the military' is not an easy place to get to. There are at least three sub-communities: green suiters, people who are enlisted or commissioned in the military; DOD civilian employees, such as myself, who do a lot of the work of making the military function; and contractors, who are also civilians, but are not federal employees.
Starting with Federal employees, I'll say that those that I know of and work with in the base operations and training communities view Iraq as an enormous waste of time, money and resources. We're all praying that it gets put off past the summer, so that the funds for our projects aren't sucked back into the black hole that is Desert Storm II or whatever they're calling it. The political leadership is not held in esteem. No one is planning on them being around past 20 January 2005.
The green suiters I work with are ambivalent about Iraq. They recognize it as an inordinate allocation of resources and effort that is distracting from actual threats, such as the continued fighting in Afghanistan and the real threat from North Korea. The higher you go in the military hierarchy, the more pronounced this perception is, or, at least, the more loudly it is vocalized. (At least up to the level I work with, which is the 0-6 and 0-7 level.) On the other hand, we have brothers who are going to be put in harm's way -- like many DA civilians, I'm ex-military -- and there is absolutely nothing that can detract from supporting and protecting them. And, in the end, green suiters are paid to execute orders, not analyze them, and they take great pride in their ability to do so.
(As an aside, I should note that the US military is the best trained and equipped, most professional, and best led military in history. No other military has ever put as much effort into training and preparation as the US has, and that's why we'll easily win any straightforward war. Green suiters know this, and take some offense at the notion that they can't win any war. Again, they don't analyze, they execute.)
The contractor community is another kettle of fish. Many military organizations, like other Federal agencies, don't have enough manpower slots to accomplish their missions, so they flesh out their organizations with contractors. Lots of contractors are from big engineering or consulting firms like Booz Allen Hamilton, Brown & Root, URS, Horn Engineering, etc. Iraq is a bonanza for them. If their normal projects are canceled or deferred, they can count on being transferred to some other, more lucrative endeavor. With contractors, the higher up the chain you go, the more optimistic they are about the whole thing. People down at the worker-bee level think Iraq is a waste of time, but the higher up you go, the more it becomes a matter of maximizing contract orders.

Addendum: my sister writes:

You may already know this, but government contractors negotiate their pay to be cost plus a percentage over cost -- so, if my $1 million contract, negotiated at a 10% profit scale, runs over by 50%, the government would pay me $1.5 million PLUS an additional $150,000. From a business point of view, it's hard to introduce cost savings measures to our companies that do Government contract work because there is actually a negative incentive to reducing base cost.
No wonder the contractors are so happy.

My military contact corroborates that this system of pricing is very common.

[ 02/19/03 ]

:: Narcissism + Social Rejection = Aggression. Apply this where you will. (via FmH)
[ 02/19/03 ]

:: I am honored to announce that I will be reviewing papers for the upcoming European conference on weblogs, Blogtalk. The conference is requesting submissions on current and emerging uses of weblogs, and I have been asked especially to encourage women to submit their work. Do you have something to say about weblogs or blogging? Now's your chance--but be quick! Submission deadline is the 28th February 2003.
[ 02/19/03 ]

:: The Quilts of Gee's Bend Part of Black History Month at NPR.
[ 02/19/03 ]

:: 'The GrayLIT Network makes the gray literature of U.S. Federal Agencies easily accessible over the Internet. It taps into the search engines of distributed gray literature collections, enabling the user to find information without first having to know the sponsoring agency.'

What is Gray Literature?
The U.S. Interagency Gray Literature Working Group, 'Gray Information Functional Plan,' 18 January 1995, defines gray literature as 'foreign or domestic open source material that usually is available through specialized channels and may not enter normal channels or systems of publication, distribution, bibliographic control, or acquisition by booksellers or subscription agents.'

Here's another definition:

Gray literature is the body of reports, studies, surveys, workshops, etc. often produced by local government agencies, private organizations and educational facilities, which have not been reviewed and published in journals or other standard publications and thus are not widely available for study. These documents often contain valuable and unique information which is not found elsewhere. The result is that a large pool of scientific and economic information is seldom accessed by the research community.

[ 02/19/03 ]

:: God bless Garret Vreeland.

if you see homeless individuals, it couldn't hurt to buy one a simple 'happy meal,' or hand the first individual you see an old blanket you're still storing in the closet. make it a point to do this, today. want is keenly felt during such times. never hand over money, however. often it goes into alcohol, or worse. if you're afraid to make contact (homeless are *not* violent, but can look frightening), just leave it near the individual. they'll pick up on it fast enough.

And if you're not reading dangerousmeta every day, you're really missing out. It's best in show, without question. When you're done with that page, go spend some time in his photo galleries.
[ 02/20/03 ]

:: When Pitcher Mamie 'Peanut' Johnson was rejected for her race by the woman's baseball league, she did the next best thing: joined the Negro Baseball league.

The rejection led her to a spot in the men's Negro Leagues, which featured legends such as Satchel Paige, whom she says helped her perfect her curveball. 'I got to meet and be with some of the best baseball players that ever picked up a bat, so I'm very proud about that.'

[ 02/20/03 ]

:: Sometimes, modern conveniences make it easier to do the right thing: A study performed by a German scientist found that washing dishes by hand can waste ten times as much water and twice as much energy as a dishwasher, and the dishes still won't be as clean. (via your planet earch)

Although I don't see how you could save more water than by using the economical Australian dishwashing method so charmingly described by this Japanese exchange student. For the curious, how-tos abound.
[ 02/20/03 ]

:: When Peter Mangone was 14, he fell in love with Marilyn Monroe. Recently he found a home movie he had made, shopping with her one day in 1955. The happy ending? She's still as beautiful as she was on that day. [NY Times: pockeet, password: pockeet] (thanks, jjg!)
[ 02/20/03 ]

:: Some weekend reading: The Bush Administration's hunger for war with Iraq is absolutely puzzling for many Americans and much of the world. Why war, when other means might accomplish the same thing? Why now, after so many years of supporting, ignoring, containing, and/or punishing? Why Iraq, and not North Korea? Why Iraq and not Saudi Arabia (9.11 hijackers had Saudi passports) or Pakistan (where the Taliban apparently now reside)? For many observers, something just doesn't add up.

:: In Pax Americana, [that link is expired: try this one] Jay Bookman argues that current foreign policy is derived from a September 2000 report published the Project for the New American Century, a group which included several people now influential in the current administration.

Because they were still just private citizens in 2000, the authors of the project report could be more frank and less diplomatic than they were in drafting the National Security Strategy. Back in 2000, they clearly identified Iran, Iraq and North Korea as primary short-term targets, well before President Bush tagged them as the Axis of Evil.
To preserve the Pax Americana, the report says U.S. forces will be required to perform 'constabulary duties' -- the United States acting as policeman of the world - - and says that such actions 'demand American political leadership rather than that of the United Nations.' To meet those responsibilities, and to ensure that no country dares to challenge the United States, the report advocates a much larger military presence spread over more of the globe, in addition to the roughly 130 nations in which U.S. troops are already deployed.

The Current Strategic Agenda of the United States, a special edition of Aspects of India's Economy (published by the Research Unit for Political Economy) argues the same thing. (via dangerousmeta)

Perhaps the most startling element of this plan is the targeting of Saudi Arabia, long considered the most faithful American ally among the Arab countries--the base for the American assault on Iraq in 1991, a continuing US military base thereafter, the US’s largest market for weapons, the largest supplier of oil to the US (at a special discount to boot), and the source of up to $600 billion of investments in the US. On July 10 2002 a researcher from the RAND Corporation...made a presentation to the Defence Policy Board--headed, as mentioned earlier, by Perle. The briefing, titled 'Taking Saudi out of Arabia'... describe[d] Saudi Arabia in bizarre terms as an enemy of the US ('the kernel of evil, the prime mover, the most dangerous opponent', 'The Saudis are active at every level of the terror chain, from planners to financiers, from cadre to foot-soldier, from ideologist to cheerleader'), and recommended that the US give it an ultimatum to prevent any anti-US activity in Arabia, failing which its oil fields could be seized by US troops and the House of Saud replaced by the Hashemite monarchy that now rules Jordan.

I haven't read the primary documentation, but I plan to spend some time with it this weekend: Rebuilding America's Defenses [pdf] September 2000. A Report of the Project for the New American Century; The National Security Strategy of the United States of America. If this is where the Bush administration is heading us, it's important to know that. If the Bush strategy isn't based on this report, it's important to know that, too. Read the articles, read the primary documents, and decide for yourself.

It will not surprise you that I am opposed to a policy of empire-building. My view is simple: nations' fortunes wax and wane, but empires fall. If we hope to preserve a way of life for generations to come, and to have a continuing influence on the world, we'd best put aside all aspirations for expansion (an inherently short-term proposition) and start to work on strengthening our own nation.
[ 02/21/03 ]

:: (As an aside, kudos to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for including links to these documents alongside the article. This is a value weblogs often add to the stories they link, but it's about time commercial publications get the hang of this Web thing. Publishers deliver only half the value when they use the Web strictly as an alternate broadcast medium. Use the links, Luke.)
[ 02/21/03 ]

:: George Monbiot, also struggling for an explanation, see war as a siphon for excess capital.

In a series of packed lectures in Oxford, Professor David Harvey, one of the world's most distinguished geographers, has provided what may be the first comprehensive explanation of the US government's determination to go to war. [...] The underlying problem the US confronts is the one which periodically afflicts all successful economies: the over- accumulation of capital. Excessive production of any good - be it cars or shoes or bananas - means that unless new markets can be found, the price of that product falls and profits collapse. Just as it was in the early 1930s, the US is suffering from surpluses of commodities, manufactured products, manufacturing capacity and money. Just as it was then, it is also faced with a surplus of labour, yet the two surpluses, as before, cannot be profitably matched.
Attacking Iraq offers the US three additional means of offloading capital while maintaining its global dominance. The first is the creation of new geographical space for economic expansion. The second (though this is not a point Harvey makes) is military spending (a process some people call 'military Keynesianism'). The third is the ability to control the economies of other nations by controlling the supply of oil. This, as global oil reserves diminish, will become an ever more powerful lever. Happily, just as legitimation is required, scores of former democrats in both the US and Britain have suddenly decided that empire isn't such a dirty word after all, and that the barbarian hordes of other nations really could do with some civilisation at the hands of a benign superpower.

Now, I believe the most wars have an economic component, but this view strikes me as a bit simplistic, in the same way that economic explanations for historical events are usually somewhat blindered to all the other forces at work in any given moment. Would even this administration go to war primarily to line the pockets of the elite? I reject that theory strictly on the grounds that I don't want to believe anyone in my government is that amoral. Would they go to war to retain power, expand (as they saw it) US national interests, and (as it happens) line the pockets of the very rich? That sounds more realistic.

The truth is so very complex. One factor might weigh more than another, but in my experience usually lots of 'facts' are true all at the same time, and some of them contradict each other. Looking through one filter or another be very enlightening, but one explanation is rarely more than a slice of the picture. I like to consider things from numerous perspectives, weighing, sifting, mixing. The ideas I readily accept, I sometimes discard later on; and the things I reject, I sometimes understand, and even believe, after some time. It's equally a matter of collecting more information (and experience), and letting all of it percolate. Time (and familiarity) often soften my resistance to ideas I have summarily rejected. Mixing all of them together to see what fits and what does not often allows me to gain a more complete understanding of the whole than I would have otherwise. I have little problem holding contradictory truths in my head, but I know that for many people that is an impossibility.

Anyway, I provide it to you as perhaps a variation on the Pax Americana theory.
[ 02/21/03 ]

:: The Virtual March on Washington is this Wednesday, February 26. Phone, fax, or email your representative to register your opposition to the war on Iraq.
[ 02/23/03 ]

:: Jeff pulls together some interesting analysis and argues that in the present situation, Cold War style alliances may work against US interests, suggesting that Pakistan, for example, is a problematic partner.
[ 02/23/03 ]

:: Read Fortune magazine's long and fascinating account of one of the most influential organizations in the United States. One Nation Under Wal-Mart: How retailing's superpower--and our biggest Most Admired company--is changing the rules for corporate America. [slithy popup!]

By systematically wresting 'pricing power' from the manufacturer and handing it to the consumer, Wal-Mart has begun to generate an economy-wide Wal-Mart Effect. Economists now credit the company's Everyday Low Prices with contributing to Everyday Low Inflation, meaning that all Americans--even members of Whirl-Mart, a 'ritual resistance' group that silently pushes empty carts through superstores--unknowingly benefit from the retailer's clout. A 2002 McKinsey study, moreover, found that more than one-eighth of U.S. productivity growth between 1995 and 1999 could be explained 'by only two syllables: Wal-Mart.'
'You add it all up,' says Warren Buffett, 'and they have contributed to the financial well-being of the American public more than any institution I can think of.' His own back-of-the-envelope calculation: $10 billion a year.

Compare: How Walmart is remaking our World.

Behind this manufactured cheerfulness, however, is the fact that the average employee makes only $15,000 a year for full-time work. Most are denied even this poverty income, for they’re held to part-time work. While the company brags that 70% of its workers are full-time, at Wal-Mart 'full time' is 28 hours a week, meaning they gross less than $11,000 a year.
Health-care benefits? Only if you've been there two years; then the plan hits you with such huge premiums that few can afford it--only 38% of Wal-Marters are covered.

I'm fascinated with all of this. Clearly, Walmart is re-creating local economic ecologies in the towns where it lands: first, by drawing shoppers with its low, low prices; next, after local businesses--unable to compete--have closed, by creating a need for employment at the local Walmart; and then, since so most of their workers are modestly paid part-timers, creating an even greater need for their discount prices.

I've read about plants that excrete substances that will, for example, acidify the soil, helping them to thrive while simultaneously making it more difficult for other species to live. This is an economic version of the same thing.
[ 02/23/03 ]

:: The CIA Factbook is an interesting, authoritative, and tremendously pragmatic source of information about the nations of the world. Take, for example, the United States:

Area - comparative: about half the size of Russia; about three-tenths the size of Africa; about half the size of South America (or slightly larger than Brazil); slightly larger than China; about two and a half times the size of Western Europe.
Environment - current issues: air pollution resulting in acid rain in both the US and Canada; the US is the largest single emitter of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels; water pollution from runoff of pesticides and fertilizers; very limited natural fresh water resources in much of the western part of the country require careful management; desertification.
Languages: English, Spanish (spoken by a sizable minority).
Political pressure groups and leaders: NA [ed. note: NA??? I'll bet just NA to the website.]
Economy - overview: The US has the largest and most technologically powerful economy in the world, with a per capita GDP of $36,300. In this market-oriented economy, private individuals and business firms make most of the decisions, and the federal and state governments buy needed goods and services predominantly in the private marketplace. [...] The onrush of technology largely explains the gradual development of a 'two-tier labor market' in which those at the bottom lack the education and the professional/technical skills of those at the top and, more and more, fail to get comparable pay raises, health insurance coverage, and other benefits. Since 1975, practically all the gains in household income have gone to the top 20% of households.

Now, let a politician or pundit begin talking about unequal gains in household income and it's labelled 'class warfare'....
[ 02/23/03 ]

:: Do you remember my comment about faces you see only on politicians? Matt sends this picture of Jeb Bush and speculates that he has aspirations....
[ 02/23/03 ]

:: Home Greening Tips from the National Park Service:

If you have reversible ceiling fans, set them in the winter to circulate the heated air collecting at the ceiling down towards the floor.
Keep your fireplace damper closed unless you have a fire going. An open damper in a 48-inch square fireplace can allow a heat loss of up to 8 percent through the chimney.
Request that your name not be sold to mailing list companies. The average American receives an amount of junk mail each year that is equivalent to 1.5 trees.

Remember, conservation is the cheapest method of reducing your energy bill. [ 02/23/03 ]

:: Erich has an extra complimentary ticket to South by Southwest Interactive. Let him know if you'd like to have it.
[ 02/25/03 ]

:: The Virtual March on Washington is today!. Phone, fax, or email your representative to register your opposition to the war on Iraq.
[ 02/26/03 ]

:: Pulling together Pax Americana and the 'chicken' theory that was so popular a few months ago, John Perry Barlow offers some very interesting speculation about the Bush administration's motives in their strategy with Iraq. Barlow was acquainted with Vice-President Dick Cheney, and clearly respects him. Also, the notion of Cheney as an ideologue and 'indifferent to greed' is an interesting one. (via genehack)

You have to give Barlow points for integrity. Most people are so invested in defending their own point of view, they simply lose the imaginative ability to see anyone else's perspective, never mind being able to convincingly get inside the head of someone who holds nearly opposite views.

I'm suddenly noticing numerous articles referring to the Bush administration's The National Security Strategy as 'Pax Americana'. Now, did you ever come across that phrase before?

About a year ago, I was startled by the sudden press debate about attacking Iraq, long before there was an official peep on the matter from the White House. But clearly the White House started that debate: being now on the brink of war with Iraq is not a response to public demand. And this is an administration that is renowned for its controlled messages to the media, both in public and behind the scenes. (Remember the shock and dismay engendered by Andrew Card's candid remarks to Esquire?)

So, I have to wonder, why would so many people suddenly make the connection between current foreign policy, and an obscure policy paper written in the '90s? It's possible they all read each other. It's also possible they were nudged in that direction by various sources or other members of the public.

Empire-building, like a policy of unilateral pre-emptive strike, is un-American. It goes against our national mythology. Empire-building would be anathema to men who founded this nation.

There has been so much talk for so long that most people are inured to the idea of attacking Iraq. Whether we argue for it or against it, we have absorbed the idea. It is no longer surprising or ludicrous or unimaginable. Repetition is an old advertising technique. The music industry's desire for radio play is based on the theory that if you hear a song often enough, you'll start to like it.

I wonder if we're at the beginning of a campaign to overcome our national resistance to the idea of Empire-building? Peace, after all, is an easy sell, even if it's a peace which is derived through fear.
[ 02/26/03 ]

:: Good News/Bad News: The EPA report: Childhood asthma is up, lead levels and second-hand smoke are down.
[ 02/26/03 ]

:: Sticking to Orthodoxy News: A report that AIDS in Africa is passed primarily by way of dirty needles has health officials up at arms. The main argument against the new findings seem to be a) if we tell people dirty needles cause AIDS, they will stop using condoms; and b) if we tell people dirty needles are causing AIDS, they will stop going to hospitals when they are sick. These are realistic concerns, but if they've been able to educate people to use condoms and go to the hospital, I have confidence they can explain this new development in a way that will reinforce those messages rather than undermine them.

One doctor argues against the findings on the grounds that:

South Africa and Zimbabwe, which had good health systems, were less developed than those in countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, where medical care was poorer. This was the opposite of what would be expected if most cases were transmitted through medical procedures, he said.

No, this is exactly what I would expect: good health systems would use clean needles, and poorer ones might not.

Now, I haven't seen the research, but I have to say that this explanation for the massive spread of AIDS in Africa makes more sense to me that any other I have seen. It's interesting how attached to their notions humans can be.
[ 02/26/03 ]

:: Whoa: A Computer Made from DNA and Enzymes. (via daypop)
[ 02/26/03 ]

:: Nature Writing Resources. While you're in the mood, go say hi to Viviculture and Fragments from Floyd. I need to think of a good name for this type of weblog, which are focused on the rhythms of day-to-day living, with an eye to the natural world. And then add that category to my portal page.
[ 02/26/03 ]

:: Goodbye, Mr Rogers. And thanks.

Update: Chuck Olsen has a beautiful and moving tribute to Mr Rogers and the legacy he leaves us all. Here's a short, lovely story from Fred First, and Jeanne d'Arc's beautiful remembrance of what Mr Rogers taught her after she became an adult. (via anita)
[ 02/27/03 ]

:: What kind of war?

Conventional thinking... says that the United States is now committed to war with Iraq, even if tens of millions of people and most of the world's governments are against it. You don't send 200,000 troops to staging areas in the Mediterranean, Kuwait, and Jordan only to call them back without a fight.
I agree. It is a waste of time and money. The question is - What kind of fight?

(via follow me here)
[ 02/28/03 ]

:: You know, I always say I have the smartest, most thoughtful readers in the world. Mark sends some food for thought. His comment to me is apt: 'I also don't want to believe our leaders could be motivated by personal interest, but a couple of our founding fathers seem to have considered it a possibility.'

Federalist No. 4, John Jay:

...the safety of the people of America against dangers from foreign force depends not only on their forbearing to give just causes of war to other nations, but also on their placing and continuing themselves in such a situation as not to invite hostility or insult; for it need not be observed that there are pretended as well as just causes for war.
It is too true, however disgraceful it may be to human nature, that nations in general will make war whenever they have a prospect of getting anything by it; [rulers] will often make war when their nations are to get nothing by it, but for purposes and objects merely personal, such as a thirst for military glory, revenge for personal affronts, ambition, or private compacts to aggrandise and support their particular families or partisans. These and a variety of other motives, which affect only the mind of the sovereign, often lead him to engage in wars not sanctified by justice or the voice and interests of his people.

The Federalist No 6, Alexander Hamilton:

The causes of hostility among nations are innumerable. There are some which have a general and almost constant operation upon the collective bodies of society. Of this description are the love of power or the desire of pre-eminence and dominion--the jealousy of power, or the desire of equality and safety. There are others which have a more circumscribed though an equally operative influence within their spheres. Such are the rivalships and competitions of commerce between commercial nations. And there are others, not less numerous than either of the former, which take their origin entirely in private passions; in the attachments, enmities, interests, hopes, and fears of leading individuals in the communities in which they are members. Men of this class...have in too many instances abused the confidence they possessed; and assuming the pretext of some public motive, have not scrupled to sacrifice the national tranquillity to personal advantage or personal gratification.

I think this weekend might be a good time to sit down and start through them all.
[ 02/28/03 ]

:: Environmentalists and the Bush administration join forces to put the teeth back into organic standards.

...a bill introduced on Wednesday by 27 Senate Democrats and Republicans... would again require organic producers of meat, eggs and dairy products to use organic feed.... The bill would effectively repeal the language wrapped by Rep. Nathan Deal, R-Ga., into the $397 billion government-wide spending bill that was signed into law by President Bush last week. Deal's provision allows for use of nonorganic feed if the price of organic feed becomes prohibitive.... Deal sought the measure on behalf of Fieldale Farms Corp. in Baldwin, Ga., after it complained it couldn’t find enough organic grain for producing organic chickens.

Everyone loses if the provision stands. Non-organic farmers lose their market price advantage if 'organic' animal products can be produced using feed that is as inexpensive as that fed to conventional livestock; organic farmers lose sales to farmers who are willing to use conventional feed for their 'organic' livestock; and they lose their market advantage if their 'superior' product might be produced by conventional means. And of course the consumer loses altogether when information they rely on becomes meaningless.
[ 02/28/03 ]

:: Eat well, eat safe (via waterloo wide web, who was maintaining a sidebar of links long before the cool kids started.)
[ 02/28/03 ]

:: The Fallacy Files The truth is out there. (also via waterloo wide web)
[ 02/28/03 ]

comments? questions? email me