darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Default)
I've been thinking about outrage. Outrage is fun! It must be. Otherwise, why do I engage in it? (I just noticed that I even have a tag for it.)

If you feel strong, check out the search term "political outrage" in Google image search, and note your physical reaction. For me, it's a concentrated dose of what the rest of this post is about.

Outrage vs. paying attention )
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The Atlantic today published a very good short essay on the NSA data collection issue: Why Should We Even Care If the Government Is Collecting Our Data?.

There is a comparison of metaphors: the Orwellian 1984 image of constant surveillance inhibiting behavior, and the Kafkaesque The Trial concept of an inscrutable government doing inscrutable things for hidden reasons. The author argues that the latter is far more appropriate for the current disclosures about the NSA.

Her conclusion, which I think is excellent:

...we should ease off the privacy hand-wringing and turn our attention to something much more fundamental: how we relate as citizens to our government and how much power we have in that relationship.
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In his article Using Metadata to Find Paul Revere, Duke University sociologist Kieran Healy takes a time machine back to 1776 to show how powerful the collection of impersonal data can be.

Listen, my children, and you shall hear... )
darkemeralds: Image of River Tam from the River Tam Sessions, Serenity, with caption "I can see you." (I Can See You)
I read somewhere that Megaupload accounted for 4% of ALL THE TRAFFIC ON THE INTERNET, which is an incredible amount of traffic. The odds against the FBI singling any one individual out for an occasional one-off download, among 4% of the whole internet's traffic, must be astronomical.

Still, one would be kind of crazy to continue the practice. It's no longer feeling vaguely daring, or comfortably familiar. It feels like high-risk behavior, and I'm notoriously risk-averse.

Besides, speaking for myself, I can't say that most of the TV content I've consumed (ever) has enriched me very much in its own right. It's my fannish interactions with the content--fic, chatwatches, reviews, comments, conversations--that add value to my life.

I would miss that, and I wonder what might come along to replace it.

But! But! - rant ensues... )
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I took a break from my job-about-which-the-worst-I-can-say-is-that-it's-stressful, and went across the street to check out #OccupyPortland.

An Occupy Portland protester in a crone mask in the crowd


OccupyPortland )
darkemeralds: Photo of duct tape with caption "May actually prevent head explosion" (Duct Tape)
[livejournal.com profile] thedarkages posts a helpful plea to California voters in which he explains that measures on this Tuesday's California ballot may sound like one thing and actually have the opposite effect. There's a great danger of inadvertently voting against your own best interests.

This is a a standard ploy of corporate-controlled elections, one that afflicts every (nominally) democratic state or nation with a referendum system. If you're a California voter, and you care about, you know, actual democracy (not to mention the environment), I hope you'll read his brief, informative post.
darkemeralds: Naked woman on a bike, caption "I don't care, I'm still free" (Bike Freedom)
I know there's something wrong with this, but I'm having trouble articulating exactly what it is, so I'm hoping some of the more savvy in my circle can help me figure it out, 'cause it's bugging me.

The full story is here--mostly in the comments.

The summary is this: in a move that gives provides medical and scientific backing, the Centers for Disease Control have declared their support for the Department of Transportation's recent and controversial "active transportation" initiative, which puts biking, walking, and mass transit on an equal footing with cars and highways in its planning efforts. The CDC's reason for supporting it is that walking and biking as transportation would be a good way for a lot of Americans to be more active, and that more activity would be better for Americans' overall health.

I'm fine with that part. Excited, even. It's good news for American cycling.

Then come the comments. "Jackattak" (a regular on that blog) at number 2 says: "Here's a good idea: Get your fat ass out of your car and get a bike, walk, jog, or skateboard to work" and goes on to bemoan his mother's morbid obesity (including her height, weight and age).

This bothered me, so I commented back requesting an end to that kind of name-calling, and said that active transportation wasn't magically going to solve the nation's obesity epidemic. I cited my own cycling and my own wide posterior in evidence, and I think I was groping towards pointing out the fallacy of his broad brushstrokes, but I don't think I got there and I wasn't really clear on what I wanted to say.

He posted back giving me (I'm pretty sure) permission to accept myself under certain circumstances. I, uh, may have thanked him for this with a wee bit of sarcasm.

Now I feel all inarticulate and icky. I know that I'm sick and tired of the "fat ass":"lazy" equation (stated or implied), I know I don't like being reduced to a single physical characteristic, and I'm sure that I've had it up to here with the bootstrap philosophy of the privileged. But I need a better set of answers, a clearer conclusion--if only just to repeat in my own mind.

I'm not going back into the fray or anything, and I don't want to score points off the guy, but I'd LOVE some clarification.

If anyone interested in these fat-related, privilege-related types of issues would care to read the comments (they're pretty short) and help me think this through, I'd be very grateful.
darkemeralds: Naked woman on a bike, caption "I don't care, I'm still free" (Bike Freedom)
This just came over the wire from my favorite bike blog, BikePortland: US Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood announced a new set of federal transportation recommendations designed to integrate the needs of bicyclists and pedestrians of all ages and abilities into transportation planning.

It's pretty awesome.

US federal transportation policy since the 1950s has been so exclusively about creating more roadways for more motor vehicles that when LaHood calls this set of recommendations a "sea change" he's not exaggerating.

Even though it clearly arises from recession, inflation, and scary, scary peak oil, the sudden burgeoning of attention to bikes as transportation in the US in recent months seems very positive to me.
darkemeralds: Old French poster of bicycle with naked flame-haired woman. (Bike)
You know how your boss is someone who has a lot of power over you? Bear that in mind as you read on.

Today Google rolled out the exciting new BikeThere addition to GoogleMaps. I was having a look at it this morning when my boss wandered up.

"What's got you smiling?" he asks.. I show him the map because he's kind of a geek and I figure he'll appreciate another cool Google development.

My mistake. )

Yay, work.
darkemeralds: Photo of Downtown Portland, Oregon USA in twilight (Portland)
The mayor of Stumptown is giving his first State of the City address right now. According to Twitter, he began by thanking "my boyfriend Peter Zuckerman," definitely a Portland first.

State of the City. )

Sometimes I still kind of enjoy politics.

Sigh...

Jan. 20th, 2010 03:23 pm
darkemeralds: Old French poster of bicycle with naked flame-haired woman. (Bike)
What is it about a person on a bike that gets so many people's back up?

I ran into an old friend at lunch. She asked "What's new with you?" so I told her about riding Clyde, and the first thing out of her mouth after that was, "Oh God! Are you all political about it now?"

A certain amount of (relatively mild) anti-bike sentiment ensued, but she soon enough introduced a civil change of subject.

Before I started riding a bike, I didn't love bikes. (I still don't--I just love Clyde. :D) I didn't think bike commuting was possible for me, and the people who did it seemed to be from a different, more physically-privileged species.

Driving behind cyclists made me nervous, and I felt alienated from the predominantly young, predominantly male bike culture. Bike-riders were, in short, annoying. But not in a Dr Thompson kind of way.

My old friend was just unthinkingly giving voice to that annoyance and alienation. I get that. But her views are along an unbroken continuum at the far end of which is a surprisingly popular notion that bike-riders deserve injury or death for a lack of "respect for motorists" (read the comments on that LA Times Blog post if you doubt me).

I just...I see it--with depressing frequency--but I don't understand it, you know?
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I think it might be very hard for any self-identified conservative to find fault with the clear, reasoned Conservative Case for Gay Marriage that Theodore B. Olson made in Newsweek last Saturday. It's an essay I wouldn't hesitate to share with someone who needs persuasion on this point.

Olson is currently involved in "attempting to persuade a federal court to invalidate California's Proposition 8--the voter-approved measure that overturned California's constitutional right to marry a person of the same sex." He's "a politically active, lifelong Republican, a veteran of the Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush administrations," so his cred with the knee-jerk set ought to be pretty solid.

He sets up and knocks down each of the popular arguments against gay marriage in the clearest, simplest terms, intelligent but not highbrow.

My only quibble with the article is that it points out how wonderful and important and privileged the married state is in all societies--but he could hardly make his argument without that, so I overlook it.
darkemeralds: Photo of Downtown Portland, Oregon USA in twilight (Portland)
I really like the mayor of Portland. I wish the pearl-clutchers would quit trying to recall him.

Sam Adams, my boss's boss's boss's boss's boss, has survived a really nasty recall effort of the Clinton Impeachment variety (no links, no love, no energy, but if you're curious, it's out there), and has never once wavered in his public face as a hardworking, progressive, and effective mayor.

He's also fun, funny, and hip. And he rides a bike.

No clue if he likes green eggs and ham. )

One of my favorite recent Sam Tweets:

Congrats to Houston Mayor-Elect Annise Parker, now US's largest city openly gay Mayor; from the US's 2nd largest city openly gay mayor.
9:43 PM Dec 12th from TweetDeck
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If you're a US citizen, you may want to register some outrage today with the Obama Administration (which, I think most of you know, I generally support with great enthusiasm).

Here's why: The United States along with the other Big Rich Nations, is busy opposing a treaty introduced yesterday at the World Intellectual Property Organization. The treaty would help blind and reading-impaired people gain access to reading material (audio, braille, large-print and other expensive-to-produce formats). The opposition, as far as I can tell, is from the "content" industries.

Cory Doctorow, one of the world's great defenders of freedom of information, has the whole scoop.

There's a Twitterfeed you can follow too.

Here's what I posted on Whitehouse.gov. Feel free to borrow. Anyone know a more targeted way to protest? Let me know.

I'm appalled and disappointed that the US has opposed a treaty that would secure the access of blind and reading-impaired people to reading material, at the World Intellectual Property Organization last night in Geneva.

Doesn't the US have better things to do right now than defend the coffers of a few rich and scared publishing conglomerates? Please, Mr President, withdraw our country's opposition to this treaty and sign on.
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Thank you, [livejournal.com profile] decemberlead, for pointing me to this cool little video encouraging President and Mrs. Obama to plant a food garden on the White House grounds.



And if the embed doesn't work, the video is here.
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President Obama (nope, not done feeling a thrill every time I use that phrase) is magically undoing the fear and loathing I felt from 2000 to 2008. At Recovery.gov he explains how the ginormous economic stimulus package is going to be allotted.

Look at the graph of undoing )

Science and Infrastructure! It's third only to direct tax relief and state-and-local direct funding. That's code for "Stem cell research and levees, you Bush-administration fuckers," I'm pretty sure.

If you have to sink us into a trillion more dollars' worth of the hole we're in (and I've come to accept that you probably do), at least doing it this way gives me hope that rational, reality-based minds are the ones doing the digging.
darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Default)
This is beautiful.

Art work and words about Inauguration Day, Washington, and America. Brought tears to my eyes. Especially the helicopter.
darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Default)
I can't help it. I feel happy and hopeful and glad to be an American again tonight for the first time in eight years.

And to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of our world – our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand. To those who would tear this world down – we will defeat you. To those who seek peace and security – we support you. And to all those who have wondered if America’s beacon still burns as bright – tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from our the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity, and unyielding hope.

President Obama. How cool is that?
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Barack Obama spoke in Portland today after receiving the endorsement of New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson in a surprisingly thrilling speech before a packed house at Memorial Coliseum.

I decided not to fight the crowds, but more than one of my coworkers went, and all agree that all the speeches were inspiring, and that Obama was electrifying. I like to think that the oh-so-left-wing audiences they find here in Portland put them at their ease by giving them an overwhelmingly warm reception.

I've been reserving judgment on the presidential race to far, partly because Oregon's primaries mean very litter. But now I'm thinking that Obama/Richardson would make a dream ticket.

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