31 January 2009

Senator McCaskill

28 January 2009

Thus far

In spite of some pre-inaugural mis-steps, I'd give the Obama administration an A at this point.

27 January 2009


If you haven't done so yet, you should all think about joining LifeSharers or at least filling out a donor card. I don't know why people want to hang on to their organs after they die. I'm pretty sure that some extras are handed out on the Day of Atonement.

24 January 2009

Kirsten Gillibrand???

Kirsten Gillibrand has taken Hillary's Senate seat--an odd choice. I was glad that Caroline Kennedy didn't get it just because I'm opposed to the creation of political families, but Gillibrand is quite a disappointment. During her time in the House, she was a member of the Blue Dog coalition that supported eaves-dropping on innocent Americans and the idiotic FISA Amendments Act of 2008 that provided immunity to large telecom companies.

22 January 2009

Is the party over?

Bad news for Joe 5-pack and the Republican Party. Inside Higher Ed reports the results of a recent longitudinal study:

Consistent with reports leading up to the 2008 presidential election, the survey describes record political engagement, with 85.9 percent of freshmen reporting that they frequently or occasionally discuss politics. (The proportion for “frequently,” 35.6 percent, was also a record over the previous high, in 1968.)

The proportion of students who describe themselves as “middle-of-the-road” politically continues to decline, hitting an all-time low of 43.3 percent, while the proportion who describe themselves as liberal and far left grew to 31 and 3.2 percent, respectively. “This is the largest percentage of students categorizing themselves as liberal since 1973,” states the survey. The survey finds that 20.7 percent of freshmen characterize themselves as conservative, down slightly from 23.1 percent the year before.

Somehow the idea that the Republican Party appeals more to the uneducated demographic doesn't surprise me.

The report finds increasing support among freshmen for liberal causes — including same-sex marriage. Support for environmental causes continues to grow.

Great. We'd better save what's left 'cause it ain't gonna be around much longer.

20 January 2009

Obama's inaugural speech

I particularly liked the following two quotes from Obama's inaugural speech:

The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works — whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified.

This is exactly what I'd argue. If the government is going to spend all of our tax money on corporate give-aways and corporate-back foreign interventions, there's no point in funding government. But whatever happens, we should have a system where those who do most of the work receive their fair share of the nation's wealth. Any system that enriches a tiny club of capitalists at the expense of those who work is an abject failure.

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our founding fathers ... our found fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations.

This point could be expanded. When most of our higher ideals were stated, the U.S. was threatened by Britain--the world's greatest military power at the time. This historical reflection flies in the face of the ridiculous notion that we should abandon all our rights because of a few people with box-cutters.

19 January 2009

Universal World House

A Swiss company and German university have created a $5000 house that will last for 50 years. I figure that if the U.S. took the 10% of the previous stimulus package that went to executive compensation and had bought these houses instead, we could have entirely eliminated homelessness in the U.S. for the next half-century.

The material used in the construction of the houses mimics the honeycomb pattern used in the manufacture of airplanes and other products for which both weight and strength are important factors. But instead of using aluminium or other alloys, Niemöller used resin-soaked paper processed to form thin, light -- yet strong -- panels. The material is also an excellent insulator, and is flexible, making it appropriate in areas at risk of earthquakes. According to Niemöller's business model, his company would deliver the machines to manufacture the panels along with the raw materials. Everything else would be taken care of by locals.

14 January 2009

Dealing with the Bush legacy

WaPo today is full of articles on U.S. torture. On page A-1, Sasan Crawford, the top Bush administration official in charge of determining whether detainees should stand trial, states explicity that "we tortured Qahtani." On A-8, former lieutenant-colonel Vandeveld says that evidence in the terror cases is a complete mess with much evidence missing or apparently destroyed. Hopefully, the new president can turn this all around.

7 January 2009


Mark Bittman has an excellent lecture on the world food situation. I think this was done at the TED Conference.

3 January 2009

A welcome bellwether

Why haven't any of you told me about this? I just ran across Stephan Bell, a new singer with some excellent politically-conscious folk music with many songs free for download. Our current era could definitely use fewer TV pop stars and tabloid news outlets and more prophets in that fine tradition of Dylan or Joan Baez.

1 January 2009

Happy New Year!