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Where you from, Kansas?

Nov. 2nd, 2007

04:06 pm - Small yay for the CTA

Well, it looks like I'll still have a bus route to ride on Monday: CTA "Doomsday" Averted. Still rather annoyed at the constant brinksmanship going on here.

I noted in an earlier post that there had previously been no talk (that I knew of) about possible federal help for the CTA, so this development did surprise me a little. I half expected the story to add that the federal funds were contingent upon the agency dismantling the El system and replacing it with Bus Rapid Transit. Absurd, yeah, but no more so than some actual policies.

Is it a bit hypocritical for Chicago to accept federal money for this while our mayor (et al) has been harshly critical of the Bush administration? Eh. Maybe. But the thing is, millions of federal dollars go to misguided highway projects even as soaring oil prices and global warming concerns make it increasingly clear that more highways are not the way to go. This is a step in the right direction. So... we'll take it.

(Interesting, actually, that the Crain's article I've linked to speculates on how high up the decision to release the federal funds was.)

Oct. 24th, 2007

10:15 am - Heh heh, Gregg Easterbrook

There are a lot of wankers out there in the mainstream media, but there's only one that I've actually emailed to tell him so: Alleged sports writer Gregg Easterbrook. As they note at Sadly, No, plenty of people are wrong about plenty of things plenty of the time, but it takes a special kind of guy to be constantly wrong on a wide variety of subjects, and yet still have a place in our supposed elite discourse. The funny thing is that when I emailed him, it wasn't because of football, intelligent design or politics; it was because he'd gotten something wrong about Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Yes, make a thousand errors when it comes to energy policy, but don't mess with my fandom, bub. It was in the middle of one of his infamous ESPN columns in which he decided to make a point about the NFL, and made a comparison to season 7 BtVS but got his facts completely wrong. (He'd complained that near the end of the season Anya "forgot" she could teleport out of danger, and of course she could not do that, having lost her demon powers several episodes previous.) Sure it's a small thing, but the comparison would've been dumb even had he been right. Which he wasn't, and I said so in the note I sent to the feedback address. Gregg never wrote back, darn. Probably he'll never know that this was a memorable point for me as I learned to be skeptical of the mainstream media. Let that be a lesson to you, pundits; don't piss off the Buffy fans...

Oct. 19th, 2007

02:17 pm - Signs 'o the times...

The lot next to my office building, intended as the site of an ambitious luxury condominium project, has been tilled and seeded with grass. Apparently the development plans are on hold indefinitely, due to financing problems.

The last time I rode my bike to the local commuter train station, the bicycle racks were so full I had trouble finding a place to lock mine.

The bus route I normally take to work has decent ridership, but the buses are becoming noticeably dilapidated and the route may be shut down soon if more funding from the state doesn't come through. The possibility of getting federal help, I've noticed, is not even mentioned.

On my way to work I see many good houses, in desirable neighborhoods, that have been up for sale for more than six months. I noticed that a three-flat on my block which sold recently is now back on the market, for slightly less than its previous asking price.

It's been an unusually warm October overall, with great extremes in temperature. I turned on the heat only two days after turning off the air conditioning.

My nordic skis have been sitting in a closet gathering dust, unused for five years.

Oct. 12th, 2007

09:25 am - A bit of Nobel trivia...

After seeing the news this morning about Al Gore winning the Nobel Peace Prize (along with the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, but how many people can name one of them), my first thought was: "Wow, more than a few people are going to have a fit over this." Heh, I'm so mature. I blame all of those foul-mouthed liberal bloggers I've been reading.

And then my trivia-loving side kicked in: Al Gore is the first former US Vice President, who never served as President, to win the Nobel Peace Prize. How many of my smart flisters can name the US Presidents who have won the same prize? Without looking it up, of course.

(Update: John Berlau at The American Thinker is upset:

Looking at Gore's writing, it's far from clear that Gore even believes that humanity is his most important priority.

Yes, it's shocking but true: There are actually people who think that the needs of the human species must be balanced with the needs of the millions of other species with whom we share the earth.

And yes, I do try to avoid ending sentences with prepositions. Thanks for noticing.)

Oct. 2nd, 2007

01:50 pm - So why is the US rattling sabers against Iran now?

Considering the long history of hostility between the United States and Iran, one might wonder why it's only now that a US administration is talking seriously about military action. Iran has not made any especially agressive moves lately, unless one counts Ahmadinejad's recent visit to New York. There is no credible evidence that Iran is close to developing nuclear weapons, and while the Iranian government is a sponsor of terrorist groups, no one can seriously argue that any of these are a direct threat to the United States.

Likewise, it's true that Iran is attempting to influence events inside Iraq. But there's no reason to think that it's a major driver behind the Sunni insurgency, that a majority of foreign jihadists in Iraq are coming from Iran, or (for that matter) that Iran would benefit from having an endless civil war going on in its western neighbor. More likely, Iran is pursuing its interests by forming ties with the Iraqi Shiites whom they believe (probably rightly) will be the ruling faction in the new Iraq.

So what are we left with? Well, actually, I could have skipped the two paragraphs above and just said, "With this administration, it's best to ignore the official narrative and follow the money instead."

And look at what comes up: This short, neutrally worded article in business news: Iran slashes oil transactions in dollars. (Interestingly, this article is from AFP, a French news agency.)

The vast majority of transactions for oil from OPEC's number two producer are now being carried out in euros, said Mohammad-Ali Khatibi, deputy head of the National Iranian Oil Company...

Put that bit of news together with this information from Wikipedia about the Iranian Oil Bourse and it becomes a bit clearer: Iran is a threat to the US currency rather than a direct threat to the United States. The more that a vital resource like oil is traded in currency other than dollars, the less relevant the dollar becomes in the global economy, and the lower its value will be. (That the US dollar dropped below the Canadian dollar recently, for the first time since the 1970's, is very telling.)

All of this is publically available knowledge, but of course it isn't part of the official narrative. The administration and the corporate media (whose interests are very nearly congruent) would have us believe that the tension with Iran is about terrorism and WMD's, rather than such crass concerns as money and oil.

But this time around, the public may remember that we were sold the same bill of goods in the run-up to the Iraq war, and now we know how that turned out. I worry, though, that it won't matter. Unless we can find a way to make the politicians, and their enablers in the media, listen to us then this new war will probably happen.

Sep. 11th, 2007

05:06 pm - I wasn't going to say anything about 9/11...

I think I've said all I want to say about that specific day, already. What happened then, and what has happened since, is a fait accompli.

But I did have this simple thought today: It's so tempting to look at a calamity of this kind and see it as vindication. "See! This confirms what I've always thought!"

Consider, though, that the people who suffered and died didn't volunteer to prove you right about whatever it is you believe. They just wanted to get on with your lives, as you do.

And flisters, if I forget this myself in the future (and I know I will) feel free to give me a kick. In some region.

~ Kansas, that's where I'm from

Peace to you all.

Aug. 21st, 2007

01:26 pm - LiveJournal is serious business, but first...

a silly quiz:

</form>
How will you be suspended from LJ? by Anonymous LJ User
Username
Years on LJ
Snape
Hours left until your suspension30
Your crimeFailing to establish literary merit in your Harry/Draco/Ron/Seamus/Hagrid/Dobby/Bart Simpson circle jerk fic.
Who reported youst_salieri
Your fateOld. Alone. Done for.


(st_salieri, you dirty snitcher you.) ;)

So... I've been reading back through some of the classic Harry Potter "race wanks", and two things occur to me:

1) There's a big difference between moral clarity and moral simplicity... sadly, too many fans don't get this. While that's often described as a typically American failing, I see it in people from all over.

(Naturally, it doesn't help things when much of modern "conservative" thought aims to erase this distinction, but that's a whole other topic.)

2) Many people will fight to their last breath to maintain their emotional comfort zones.

Much of the defensiveness I've seen in reaction to the Daily_Deviant "miscegenation" controversy was motivated by #2 (if unfamiliar with this controversy, you could do worse than checking out liviapenn's roundup of links here). To make a long story short: A fanfic community on LJ called daily_deviant used the word "miscegenation" as a fic prompt, a black woman asked them to remove it, the community members refused, she took her complaints public, they got angry and defensive... I think y'all know the drill.

While part of what went on here has to do with latent, unrecognized racist feelings, I think that the root problem was the inability of these fans to step outside of their comfort zones even for a moment. The very thought that they might be racist was overwhelmingly scary, so they closed their minds and tried to shut down the discussion. A valuable opportunity to learn is lost that way, which is tragic.

So it goes with so many discussions of race and racism in the "real world". Then again, I don't really believe in a stark division between the fandom sphere and everything else. Too much like that moral simplicity thing. Eh?

Jun. 15th, 2007

01:33 pm - A bit of grimly funny guerilla theater...

Via Daily Kos:

Imposters posing as ExxonMobil and National Petroleum Council (NPC)
representatives delivered an outrageous keynote speech to 300 oilmen
at GO-EXPO, Canada's largest oil conference, held at Stampede Park in
Calgary, Alberta, today...

We need something like whales, but infinitely more abundant," said
"NPC rep" "Shepard Wolff" (actually Andy Bichlbaum of the Yes Men),
before describing the technology used to render human flesh into a
new Exxon oil product called Vivoleum. 3-D animations of the process
brought it to life.


(Apparently, efforts to get the Yes Men arrested failed, as it isn't illegal to impersonate oil company employees. Or at least it isn't in Canada.)

Sounds a bit like Soylent Green meeting The Matrix. The bit about whales is brilliant; it could be a reference not only to the possibility of whale extinction, but also a put-down of a silly but popular meme I've seen lately: "Well, we discovered that petroleum could replace whale oil, so when the petroleum's running out something else will come along." Uh... no, it doesn't work like that.

(I noticed that gasoline prices in Chicago seemed to have ticked down a few cents. Perhaps refiners have managed to catch up to demand, at least to some extent? I don't have time to research that, though.)

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May. 22nd, 2007

04:47 pm - We're paying market prices for gasoline. Seriously.

Oops. I just clicked, accidentally, on a link in a MoveOn.org email that urged members to add their names to a petition against oil company price gouging. With all due respect to the MoveOn folks, I think they're buying into a simplistic explanation for our gasoline woes, and supporting a bit of political grandstanding that won't accomplish a thing. Well, I may be clumsy with the digits, but I do know a few things about this topic.Read more...Collapse )

So I predict that Congress will make noise, the President will say we need to develop alternate fuels that, of course, need to be subsidized, industry people will respond as they usually do (a combination of truth and excuses), nothing will actually happen, and next summer prices will go up another fifty cents above where they are now.

Or, y’know, higher. Good thing I like bicycling.

May. 18th, 2007

11:23 am - Jeez, I was kidding about Jerry Falwell being reincarnated as a tapeworm...

But it's actually appropriate, I think. A tapeworm is a destructive parasitic creature, and the late, unlamented Rev. Falwell was...

I'll put it this way: In the few years before and after 1980, the United States was facing some grave challenges, and we had a window of opportunity in which we could've seriously addressed them. Our industrial base was shrinking, the trade deficit was growing, our energy independence was fading fast... unemployment was rising, real wages were falling and economic inequality was growing. At the same time it was becoming increasingly clear that our way of life was ruining the environment and was not sustainable. We had hard choices to make, and they had to be made quickly.

And into this sea of troubles stepped the Rev. Falwell and the Moral Majority, bringing the message that womb control and stern measures against the Homosexual Menace were what we needed. Politicians like Ronald Reagan eagerly embraced these useless and counterproductive policies as if they would actually bring American renewal, and the public embraced Ronald Reagan. We were scared; we wanted someone to tell us that everything would be all right and we wouldn't have to make the hard choices after all.

But it wasn't all right. And we see the results today.

Sure, it isn't exactly fair to blame one man or one organization for the direction taken by an entire society, and I doubt that Jerry Falwell actively desired all of the negative developments that have happened since 1980. But that's just the thing: Effects like the new, looming energy crisis and the Iraq war were entirely predictable to anyone who was thinking clearly and comprehensively at the time, and I just don't think that Mr. Falwell and his followers cared that much about how many people would be hurt as long as they got what they wanted.

So for that depraved indifference I condemn Jerry Falwell, and if I believed in a hell, yes, I'd wish him in it.

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