Tag Archives: Politics

The_President's_House_by_George_Munger,

Did you think the White House locked automatically after 1814?

The President should feel safer now.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Secret Service Director Julia Pierson says the front door to the White House now locks automatically in a security breach.

Pierson told a House panel that the switch to automatic locks at the White House’s north door was made after an Army veteran jumped the fence on Sept. 19 and made his way into the interior of the building through two unlocked doors.

Photograph republished here under a public domain license.

Transparancy at whitehouse.gov – look at the robots file

Does this mean more transparancy in our government, the fact that the Obama administration has a one line exclusion for the robots file? What, you don’t remember the infinite robots file Bush had? The robots file, which tells search engines what files or directorys not to index (meaning you would never find that information in search engines), was about 2400 lines under the Bush administration.

Let the searching begin!

Who are the idiots that began this torch business?

Torch security
Creative Commons License photo credit: tomsflickrfotos2

The Greeks started the Olympic flame business, but the people to start running this stupid candle around the world were the Nazi’s before the 1936 Summer Olympics in Germany. That’s right, the idea to have a relay around the world with the terminus being Berlin were the Nazi’s.

A enlightening article by the BBC succinctly gives us the history:

The organiser of the 1936 Olympics, Carl Diem, wanted an event linking the modern Olympics to the ancient.

The idea chimed perfectly with the Nazi belief that classical Greece was an Aryan forerunner of the modern German Reich.

And the event blended perfectly the perversion of history with publicity for contemporary German power.

The Nazi’s ran this torch through countries it would later invade.

So, why do you think China is going to run the 2008 Olympic torch through Tibet?

Olympic Torch Relay Protests at Tower Bridge London - P1220502e
Creative Commons License photo credit: clearbrian

Update: This just came to my attention. See those guys dressed in the friendly looking powder blue track suits, sort of looking like United Nations peace keepers? Well, they’re from the Chinese secret police, which Great Brittan, France, and the United States have allowed in their countries to protect the Olympic candle. Japan said “no, thanks,” we’ll take care of it ourselves.

Lieberman campaign clogged its own tubes

stomped
Creative Commons License photo credit: Sluggo

Okay, in 2006 when Joe Lieberman was sucking wind because of all the body blows he was getting from Ned Lamont, his Democrat primary opponent, he blamed the Lamont the campaign of dirty tricks when the Lieberman server died. Lieberman said it was because of a denial of service attack. On August 6, 2006, the day before the primary in Connecticut, the Lieberman server shit the bed, with the Lieberman campaign demanding the matter be investigated by FBI.

Now we have the truth, to which the Lieberman office said . . . never mind! It only took a freedom of information request by The Advocate of Stamford, CT to get the details of the of the long closed investigation. What did the investigation find? The server was misconfigured, only allowing 100 emails an hour to pass threw, and when that limit was reached the server began to tumble.

Oh, well . . . we’re idots . . . let’s blame the other guy!

Blog Action Day: The Environment

When I read that the topic for Blog Action Day was the environment I knew almost immediately that I was going to write about my trip to Germany this past summer. It was my first trip to Europe, my first trip beyond North America, and immensely influential to my environmental consciousness. When comparing the environmental consciousness of the average person in Germany and the United States, there really is no comparison; the people of Germany, either compelled by state policies or through individual belief, consider the environment when making choices.

Baden-Württemberg 1I first had to get used to taking a shower differently. Instead of leaving the water on during an entire shower, in Germany (and I guess all of Europe) people rinse, turn the water off, soap up, then turn the water on again and rinse. I was aware of that method, but thought it was a pain in the ass. It’s not, and I think you might get a better wash. Regardless, it saves a lot of water when you turn it off when it’s not needed.

A valley:  Baden-WürttembergI’ve tried to alter my behavior in other small ways: recycling more, being more conservative when using water, and turning down the temperature on my water heater. But these small actions can’t compare to the policies the German government has instituted to slow the increase in greenhouse gases. Germany produces the most wind turbine electricity in the world, and is rapidly growing its solar power base. Besides direct investment in these technologies, the government has required utilities to pay a competitive rate for solar power generated and put back on the grid. In the real world, this means that it makes sense for people to invest in solar panels. Traveling around the Black Forest, I saw these panels everywhere, even on the smallest farmhouse or factory.

During my trip to Germany, I came up with an idea to increase the environmental consciousness of Americans (who need this the most, it seems): the U.S. government should pay for a two week trip to Europe for every citizen, during which people can get some sense of how others are treating the environment. For me, this trip was an environment changing event.

Representing a community in local media

I help Valley Free Radio, a low-power FM (LPFM) station in Northampton, MA, with their Website and other Web related issues. Lately at the station there has been a conversation about how to best represent members of the local community in the programming on the station. In an effort to ensure a radio station that represents the local community, a “collective” system was established; each collective (around 30 different ones!) is supposed to represent a particular type of programming or group of people in the community. Some of the collectives include “African American Affairs,” “Children’s,” “Current Affairs,” “Goth Music,” “Native American Affairs,” and “Spirituality”.

It’s a complex system and some station members are trying to simply the system while still ensuring that the programming represents the community (assuming it does under the current collective system). I agree that changes need to be made, and I agree with the direction members have been working towards, but I’m not convinced that it’s the best it could be.

I think that having “people of color,” “youth,” “music,” and “public affairs” collectives is problematic, and in particular the “people of color” collective. This isn’t just about semantics, but “people of color” can be a stigmatizing phrase in certain contexts–it suggests “the other” because while at the same time signifying non-white people, it suggests that white people don’t have color and are “normal” or not “the other”. In no way am I an original thinker in this regard; the literature is deep and wide within critical cultural studies concerning this very issue, I am just bringing the information forward.

I understand what the motivation for creating these collectives is, and I agree with the motivation; I fully support inclusiveness and a diversity of voices at VFR. However, I think creating these youth and people of color collectives is the easy way out. In the end it could be said, hey, we created these collectives and blocks of time, if “they” (see “the other”) don’t want to participate so be it, we created the opportunity. The harder road, but the road that I believe would be more progressive and inclusive, would be a three part plan to insure diversity at VFR: outreach, opportunity, and retention. With a guiding idea like that we can then enter into many different constituencies to bring new members to the table, not just youth or people of color.

That’s why I think keeping the collectives aligned with the genres on the program schedule (which could change in any re-alignment), would keep things simple and allow for energy to be focused towards outreach, creating opportunities, and keeping people at VFR (retention). Currently the four genres are Arts and Culture, Education, Opinion and Advice, News and Public Affairs, and Music, which seems like good jumping off point for organizining the programmers at the station. Under a genre/collective plan some programmers may have a problem with the genre they’re categorized in, but they are cateorized like that now. My proposal is simple: collective and genre names are the same. Then we work together on a plan for outreach and retention.

Mike Gravel: a post-modern guy

Here is the most . . . interesting presidential campaign ad maybe in history. Mike Gravel‘s ad, which I call “Gravel throws rock,” begins with the candidate staring into the camera for a full minute, turning around, grabbing a rock the size of a volleyball and heaving it into a pond, then walking along the pond for another full minute. This post-modern ad is a true masterpiece.

Why Non-Profits Annoy Me

Fund raising by non-profits drives me crazy. I don’t think non-profits take the task very seriously, are not bold enough, and annoy people by living from fund drive to fund drive. People or organizations that might donate pick up on this dynamic and do what the non-profit asks: give nickles and dimes. Frankly, I don’t like these groups asking me for money I don’t have. Here I’m arguing that the smaller organizations–those with the smaller budgets–are most able to change this dynamic of begging for their operating budgets.

I volunteer my labor for Valley Free Radio, a low power FM (LPFM) station in Northampton, MA; I help them with their Website and some other online issues. The station is unusual in a few respects: it is truly community-run; it is a non-profit station; and it has no paid staff members. That’s right, the station exists and functions entirely because of volunteer labor. It’s not perfect, but the station is an interesting project in community owned media.

Because the station is an all volunteer endeavour the operating costs are low; last I heard, I think the yearly budget for the station was about $13,000 (that’s the rock-bottom number). The station could use a lot more funding to improve equipment, but it can survive with relatively little funding. Even still, keeping the station fully funded is a chore. Tasking an all volunteer organization into a unified fund raising effort, with many moving parts, is like trying to grab mercury.

Here is my proposal: VFR needs an endowment that will pay for its yearly operating budget, and the endowment could increase year by year (interest and donations), allowing for greater yearly budgets. My basic research tells me that standard practice for endowments allows for the spending of 4.5 percent of the total endowment per year (interest covers that and allows for the endowment to increase at the same time). With that assumption, and spending 4.5 percent of the endowment, VFR would need a $300,000 endowment to pay out $13200 per year.

I didn’t even know this, but there are people that help non-profits take care of this very thing, setting up endowments. Doing a bit of research, I find these companies (themselves non-profits) are generally referred to as “community foundations.” Check this out! There’s one right here called the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts.

Let’s be bold, outrageous, and have large goals. Pitch ideas: “The mother of all fund raisers!” “The fund raiser to end all fund raisers!” “The last fund raiser!” “We’ll never ask you again, you can take that to the bank (we will)!”

Gasoline And Fun

My partner and I want to travel to the upper peninsula of Michigan to visit a friend this summer, but the 2,300 mile round trip cost has caused us pause; is the $300+ bill for gas (just gas), worth the three or four days we’ll spend visiting? I don’t know. We’re strapped for cash, and there are plenty of other distractions in New England this summer.

If I knew the majority of the cost of a gallon of gas was going towards taxes and spent on improved public transportation across the country, I might spend the money.

In the not too distant future, I think (and many other people think too), this planet will be forced to change its energy consumption habits; we’re going to need to live closer to work, have good public transportation, and increased living density.