Friday, August 06, 2010

We are All So Doomed

I guess I need to stop looking at the web. It's depressing enough to read stuff like Glenn Greenwald's description of what collapsing empires look like (here's a hint...look in the mirror). Cutting basic services in the name of austerity while spending profligately on foreign wars of choice, for example. Coddling the wealthy while making life harder for the common people.

But then I notice a link on the side of that piece that takes me to a very brief one:
What we see is at once hilarious, sad and perhaps deeply worrying. Do I need to explain? This is the state of airport security in the United States of America, and we, as American citizens, have allowed this to happen. Not only have we become willingly subjugated cowards, we've clearly lost our minds.
 *sigh*

Friday, July 16, 2010

Bloggers from History

I keep wanting to post stuff, but time gets in the way. Well, work and time.

Anyway, now and then I get inspired. I liked this line from PZ Myers:
Mark Twain would have been an awesome blogger.

He's right. Twain would have been great. Oscar Wilde, too. Will Rogers. Smart, opinionated, well-informed, and witty. Sounds like a great recipe for a blogger.

Who else?

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Melancholy

I miss my dad today.

I mean, I miss him every day, but today should have been his 85th birthday. Unfortunately, he only got to celebrate 56 birthdays. So it's kind of hard to imagine what he would have been like at 85.

So I guess it's time for one more reminder: Take care of yourselves and each other. And do what the doctor tells you.

And if you have a little extra (time, energy, stuff), please consider sharing some of it with the American Cancer Society. They do amazing work supporting people with cancer and their families, as well as supporting research so that maybe fewer people will have to miss their dads (moms, siblings, cousins, friends...).

You get the picture. Thanks for listening.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Abstinence FAIL

My niece and I were chuckling (well, laughing out loud, really) over news coverage of a U.S. Congressman who resigned this week over an affair with a staff member.

The most amusing part was that the staffer in question had hosted a video interview with the Congressman on the topic of...wait for it...abstinence.

My niece turned a video still I found online of that fine piece of work into a motivational poster that she said I could share:

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

It Has Come to This

I wasn't aware of this incident until I saw this piece at Digby's blog.
During Monday's Phillies game, a person in attendance at Citizen Bank Park ran onto the field while the Cardinals were up to bat. According to those at the game, this fan was promptly tasered.
This is just amazing to me. We seem to have lost all sense of proportion. Having a young child myself, I'm used to hearing kids threaten death and dismemberment for all sorts of minor transgressions. That's developmentally appropriate at a certain age, but eventually we're supposed to grow out of it as we come to understand both physical and social realities. By the time we're adults (or even teens), we are supposed to have developed some sense of measured response.

But really. Fans (usually inebriated ones) have been running onto fields for a long time: At least as long as games have been televised. And I am old enough to remember the "streaking" fad. For those who are fans and want to watch the game, these things are an annoyance, but a minor one at most. You have a delay while the intruder eludes a few security guards or police for a few minutes, then they subdue the person, remove them from the premises, and the game resumes.

In my experience, the intruder usually eludes being captured for a few minutes, probably causing a little embarrassment for the pursuer, but truly nothing of consequence is happening here.

So why is it even remotely reasonable to use a weapon of any kind, much less a taser, to subdue such a person? Delaying a sporting event isn't a serious offense. No one is in serious danger of attack (though there have been assaults on players an coaches, nothing that remotely justifies this kind of response to someone just running around). Embarrassing security personnel isn't smart, but again, it can't possibly justify subjecting the interloper to this level of physical danger.

[As someone once wrote about the decision to run out on the field, it probably seems like fun at first, but once you get removed from public view, you may get a lesson on differing interpretations of the term "reasonable force," especially if you've made the security guard or off-duty police officer run around and look a little foolish. But that was talking about a little roughness, not electrical shocks.]

My hat is off to Digby for her ongoing coverage of the taser issue. The taser is a great example of how our society has become inured to violence and torture and how the threshold for these things has gotten ridiculously low. Are we really so culturally immature that we believe this kind of behavior is reasonable?

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Climate Change and Economics

I nearly always enjoy reading Paul Krugman's work. Not only is he a brilliant thinker, but he's a very good writer, with a knack for making complex subjects understandable.

So I was most pleased to see his piece today on climate change.

This is a topic near and dear to my heart. It was climate change and what we referred to at the time as the "greenhouse effect" that led me to study environmental science in college and to focus on the public policy aspects of that field. The intersection of science, economics, and politics is a fascinating, complex, and rewarding area, but not without its frustrations.

I recommend that you read Krugman's article. He concludes with what I think is meant to be a hopeful summary:
We know how to limit greenhouse-gas emissions. We have a good sense of the costs — and they’re manageable. All we need now is the political will.
Unfortunately, as he demonstrates earlier in his analysis, political will is hard to come by these days. Recent events haven't demonstrated to me that either the American body politic or its "leaders" have either the understanding or the backbone to make difficult choices. I fear we will dither ourselves into catastrophe.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Units of Measure

And while I'm uncharacteristically blogging, I ought to mention another fine Berkeley guy: Art Rosenfeld. He started out as a particle physicist, but the energy crisis of the 70s spurred him to turn his attention to energy efficiency.

He's now retiring after a long and distinguished career, and some of his colleagues have proposed naming a unit of measure (specifically a measure of energy conservation) after him.

Regardless of whether that takes hold, Rosenfeld has had an enormous influence over our world. For example, his research on reducing the size of the ballasts used by fluorescent lights led to the development of compact fluorescent lights (CFLs), which currently save huge amounts of electricity.

Rosenfeld also gets a lot of credit for the "California miracle," also known as the "Rosenfeld effect": California's per-capita electricity consumption has remained essentially the same since 1970, where that of the rest of the country has increased by about half. Through a combination of technologies, building codes, and other public policies, California has led the way, largely propelled by Rosenfeld.

My wife, who works in energy efficiency, got to go to Rosenfeld's retirement dinner this week, and it must have been a great event. His influence will continue to be felt both in the state and throughout the world.

Remembering Mario

No, not Super Mario: Mario Savio.

I never got to meet Mario, but as a student at Berkeley, I lived in a world that he helped shape. Walking through Sproul Plaza almost daily, it was easy to see the impact of Savio and the Free Speech Movement.

Even today, the FSM is remembered at the cafe in the undergraduate library.

Anyway, the linked review from The Nation is interesting, and makes me want to read the book.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

What's in a Name?

A friend just pointed out to me that one can look up one's name in the Urban Dictionary. I thought the results for my nickname were particularly hilarious. I quite like:
2. v. as 'chard something up'. To, by error or misfortune, destroy iredeemably a situation that might otherwise have been promising or a suitestormme (see suitestormme).
Life is fun sometimes.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Crocodile Tears--For What?

Yesterday, the "big news" was that Mark McGwire finally admitted to using steroids during his baseball career.

Frankly, I have trouble seeing this as anything newsworthy, other than maybe the fact that a baseball team is actually hiring McGwire to work for them again. I'm all for forgiveness and redemption and all that, but really, you don't go hiring Al Capone to run BATF.

OK, here's my big problem with the McGwire admission: he's not sorry. He cheated through much of his career, and he clearly feels bad about it, but seems to think he was doing it for a good reason, so we should just forgive him. This, for me, was the money quote:
“I did this for health purposes. There’s no way I did this for any type of strength purposes,” he said.
Uh-huh. And why is that OK? You weren't trying to be a stronger ballplayer, you just wanted to recover quicker, or heal or prevent injuries. It's not like that would give him a competitive advantage over other players or anything. And then, he doesn't even take responsibility--it was the times, you see:
“It was a wrong thing what I did. I totally regret it. I just wish I was never in that era,” he said.
Yeah, because if there hadn't been those illegal drugs tempting you, you just would have lived with your injuries, put your tail between your legs and gone quietly home while someone else played ball. Bull. You cheated. You knew what you were doing, and you did it anyway.

And finally, the weaseling in his press statement about why he didn't come clean five years ago when he "testified" before Congress:
After all this time, I want to come clean. I was not in a position to do that five years ago in my congressional testimony, but now I feel an obligation to discuss this and to answer questions about it.
Uh, "not in a position"? What better position than when you have the attention of the whole country, broadcast live on C-SPAN and ESPN? I guess it's better to wait five years, then put out a press statement to clear the air for your new job. After all, it's all about you.

And that's bad. But even worse to me is the guy who is hiring him, again: Tony LaRussa. LaRussa was McGwire's manager when he broke into the majors with Oakland, then brought him to St. Louis later on. And now he's hiring him as his batting coach in St. Louis. LaRussa has insisted until yesterday that he had no knowledge, no idea that McGwire was juicing all those years. That doesn't even come close to passing the sniff test. LaRussa has been covering for McGwire (and therefore himself) for years. LaRussa has a fabulous (and IMHO, inflated) reputation as a baseball "genius" (I mean, he has a law degree from Florida State!) and humanitarian (largely for his work in animal rescue). But somehow he was unaware that the man he worked with for fifteen years was ballooning himself like a cartoon character and then lying about it. I offer you the opinions of baseball columnists Terence Moore and Ray Ratto. Neither seems to find LaRussa credible on this issue, either.

I have been accused of having a blind spot on this issue, having rooted for Barry Bonds for so many years. I will admit having suspicions for a long time, despite Bonds' denials. I will say this: he has been consistent with his stance that he did not knowingly use banned or illegal substances. That may not prove true, but I have no knowledge one way or the other. What I do know is that it was apparent during that era that some, indeed many, players were juicing. The fact that Bonds stood out among them does not diminish for me the achievements. He was the exciting player in an era of exciting players, some or all of whom may have been enhanced.

To me the bottom line is that one can never know all the details of who did what or just how much it helped them. McGwire claims he would have hit just as many home runs without enhancements. We'll never know, and that's too bad. What we do know is what happened: We saw, we cheered, we enjoyed. It's time to stop looking for which numbers need to have asterisks by them. Instead of moralizing about the past, we should learn from it and move on.

Baseball and other sports have always had their share of people trying to find advantages outside the game itself: doctored balls, amphetamines, steroids, altered bats. In a "game of inches," even tiny changes can make a big difference.

What we need to look out for is those who excuse or condone such behavior. People like Tony LaRussa or Bud Selig, the owners, managers, agents, and players who either supported or feigned ignorance of the drug problem that was making them rich, need to come clean about their culpability.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

My Broken State, Part WAY Too Many

It's not getting any better.

The Left Coaster has a good piece today about the ongoing death spiral that is California these days:
Anyway, that’s basically it, nothing has been solved in California in all of 2009, there are no solutions in sight to solve any element of our revenue problems, and we will continue to abuse our little people in a stupid, cruel twist of human life that was never, ever necessary. As always, it was so easy to be so much better than this, the problems we face aren’t difficult to solve, but the Republicans have abandoned public service altogether, they’ll bring all of us down if they can’t get their way.
This on the tail of last month's news that California's roads, once the envy of the world, have almost slipped to the worst in the country. And the worst are in the major metropolitan areas.

Mark Watt, executive director of Transportation California, a labor and heavy construction industry group that works with TRIP, said the state's failure to raise the gasoline tax since 1990 combined with the recession-related decline in driving leaves the state with far too little money to maintain and rehabilitate highways.

"We've got to come to grips that we have to pay for it or we have to live with it," he said. "We need new revenues to dig through the backlog we're building."

It just keeps rolling. Downhill. You don't get what you don't pay for....

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Terror, Paranoia, and Silliness

I always wondered when the Underpants Gnomes were going to go bad. Apparently many others fear this a lot more than I do.

As usual, Tom Tomorrow has his finger on the crazy.