Category Archives: webthings

Things I find on the web and want to share, be they fun, scary, interesting, horrifying, or whatever. And no, not just from boingboing! Sheesh.

Massive Nick Thread on fMh

So my loving wif has been describing to me an EPIC (or epic-esque) thread on feminist Mormon housewives. It was dominated by a guy named Nick who had some issues. Big ones. And it captured both our attention (honeypie’s and mine). I made word clouds of Nick’s comments and the general thread, for some kind of comparison. I don’t think this exercise really illuminated anything, but it was fun. What I would really love to do, though I don’t want to take the time away from real research to do it, is to look at the functional or other kinds of patterns in Nick’s communication with the fMh crowd, and theirs with him. I personally found his comments to be low in insight (as would be expected from someone wrapped up in his own problems), occasionally sexist, and frequently patronizing. But my heart went out to the guy, anyway; he has a very, very long row to hoe.

Here’s Nick’s word cloud, made of only his comments (with quotes excised).

Wordle: Nick

Here’s everyone else’s comments (Nick’s not included). I wasn’t gonna do this b/c it’s 1am and dude, I’m tired. But this is fun/compelling quasi-analysis. Sorry it’s a different style. I know that makes it a bit harder to compare.
Wordle: nick_noNick

Finally, Here’s the word cloud for the general thread, nick’s comments mixed with everyone else’s.
Wordle: nick_thread

Not sure I see any deep meaning here, but make of it what you will. It was a fun exercise. For my job I may eventually have need of some very-smart text analysis software; I think I’ve found something to test it on :)

Update: Because this is so much fun (and preferable to the other work I need to be doing this weekend), I did one more thing: a word difference cloud, if you will. The hacked-together list of words in colors (below) represent the magnitude in relative frequency difference between Not-Nick and Nick in word usage. That is, words used a greater percentage of the time by people besides Nick are blue, and if they are used a lot more frequently than Nick uses them, they’re really big. I made the more-frequently-Nickish words green.

I combined several groups of similar word forms. Those are represented between curly brackets {}.

sexless {woman} listening it’s sex {try} {feel} like out {say} {thing} {want} change even great home must mutual really {sexual} statement {way} {word} what around being better did didn’t each find {get} having {he} herself how {intimate} life lot love may month mormon {need} now often own part patriarchy people person physical please problem same situation something that’s then through whether wow advice again agree always back before best between both can’t case certainly come common community {control} culture day different discussion {do} duty either enough ever every experience express fact family feminist few first form general {go} hard help here hope just kids kind know level long maybe much neglect off others pressure pretty probably put raise rather read relationship responsibility right see simply someone sometimes spouse still subject suggest temple thank these though thought {time} too two understand us {use} we’ve week where while why without work world wrong yet {don’t} abusive address anything care comment desire {give} good hear {husband} man {mean} never notion once point reason seems sense {sensitive} sexuality she’s should sure take together very years yes another blog church etc {marriage} our possible tell {them} comments {issue} least let many men nothing {obligation} well think {wife} believe {make} idea important might matter

Method notes/examples: this method will show a more head-to-head comparison, though it has disadvantages, such as possibly exaggerating small differences in relative frequency. To illustrate what I have done, consider the forms of “you” (you/your/you’re). These are predictably dominant in comments by people besides Nick (a full 5% of wordage!), while Nick used this word group less (1.9%). The difference between those (3.1%) is one of the largest in the word collection, and not-Nick used it much more frequently than Nick did, so it would be big and blue. By contrast, forms of “I/me” (I/I’m/I’ll/I’ve/me/my/myself) were used more often by Nick (5.8% versus 3.4%) so {I} is in big, green font. All quibbles with the method are probably accurate, but I probably won’t have time to go back and revisit this. Oh, and I left out {I} and {you} because they were just massively disproportionate, as well as very predictable, in relative frequency difference.

Dear Dan Savage: Good Intentions Do Not Justify Stupid Rhetoric or Prejudice

Dan Savage’s column has always been a sometimes-entertaining example of pandering to one’s audience and earning revenue through controversy. Now, however, Savage seems to have made the leap from occasionally funny sexual entertainment shockster to ideological Doberman. Sure, his narrow-minded bias is employed for only the best of motivations, but isn’t that always the case? The first reply in this column — currently a popular social media buzz-link — is a showcase of dirty rhetorical tricks and blatant bigotry, covered with a thin sheet of popular sentiment (at least probably popular among his regular readers).

“L.R.,” the writer to whom Savage is responding, expresses exactly one opinion that may be taken as anti-gay: “As someone who… does not support gay marriage…” This was apparently enough to justify a very nasty ad hominem, ad your-whole-presumed-social-group-inem attack. Sections of Savage’s reply are reproduced below, with my comments:

“Gay kids are dying. So let’s try to keep things in perspective: F*** your feelings.”

It seems Savage packed the following assertions into that line:

  1. Gay kids are dying.
  2. You do not support gay marriage.
  3. Therefore, there is no need for me to give even minimally respectful consideration to your words.

Niiice. I wonder if Mr. Savage would agree with this rhetorical approach in some other context, such as justification to invade Afghanistan. “Mr. President, I feel that a full-scale invasion might be an overreaction.” “Mr. Reporter, Americans are dying. So let’s try to keep things in perspective: F*** your feelings.”

What do you think? Is it OK to use a current crisis to completely marginalize the views of someone who is honestly trying to find common ground on the crisis topic? Perhaps just as disturbing is Savage’s implicit assertion (later to be made explicit) that opinions such as those of L.R. are exactly why “gay kids are dying.”

Moving on.

“A question: Do you ‘support’ atheist marriage? Interfaith marriage? Divorce and remarriage? All are legal, all go against Christian and/or traditional ideas about marriage, and yet there’s no ‘Christian’ movement…”

This one’s not as dramatic, but it’s still a dirty trick. No response to L.R.’s request that Savage tone down his anti-religious rhetoric; instead, Savage attacks the consistency of Christian behavior in related areas. Reminds me of the parody of Bush 43, in which someone asks him a question about his policies, and he responds, “Why do you hate freedom?” Perhaps we as a civilization have become so numbed to the tricks played on us by mainstream-media talking heads that we simply can’t see that a counterattack is not the same thing as a reasonable response to a concern. Also, there have been such movements in the past (except, maybe, atheist marriage), but those who iniated them lost the legal and social battles. I would have thought Savage would know that.

“And—sorry—but you are partly responsible for the bullying and physical violence being visited on vulnerable LGBT children.”

As I would write on any of my students’ papers if they used such logic, this is an empirical question and the statement is unsuported. In this context, I think it’s downright irresponsible. It is incumbent on Mr. Savage to demonstrate that people with views like those of L.R. (recap: loves the Lord; does not support gay marriage; heartbroken about consequences of bullying of gay individuals; thinks we are all imperfect, fallible, and in need of a savior; thinks it’s not OK to believe anyone is better or more worthy than someone else; thinks it is OK to take public figures to task for making blanket discriminatory statements about a large, diverse group of religious people based on a small number of observations) are “partly responsible” for “bullying and physical violence” toward vulnerable LGBT children. What is the evidence of this? How strong is the evidence?

As I tell my students, if you don’t have data to support your statements, at least find good reasoning, and reduce the certainty of your statement accordingly. If you don’t even have good reasoning, then why are you writing such a thing? Test it, Mr. Savage. Use your dollars or your influence to support some research to answer your question, instead of simply flinging the accusations around. It’s not an impossible study: get a nice, representative sample of gay kids or young adults who have been bullied, go find the bullies, do some assessments and data collection with the bullies’ parents, and find out if they’re like L.R. You could also test the assertion that people like L.R. are indirectly responsible for gay kids being bullied, though that would take fancier research design; still hardly beyond the scope of good behavioral science. Wouldn’t that be better than simply accusing anyone who disagrees of sharing responsibility for the deaths of children? I don’t know what the actual facts in this area will turn out to be, but until someone does, perhaps Savage should refrain from lambasting large social groups with what must be assumed to be nothing more than his suppositions.

Early on in the mess o’words, Savage begins to express a discerible “logic.” At this point it appears to be:

  1. Gay kids are dying from bullying
  2. L.R. says he does not support gay marriage
  3. L.R. is part of the reason gay kids are dying.

Except actually there seems to be another point, when we read a little farther:
2 1/2. L.R. is Christian

And that’s where it gets really ugly. How ugly? Let’s find out. Note that Savage never clarifies the extent to which his most vitriolic remarks should be applied, but they seem at least to be for L.R., and to include a vague category of people who self-identify as Christians. Here’s my understanding of the not-very-subtle meaning of some of the remarks:

“…even if those people strive to express their bigotry in the politest possible way…”

(a) “Those people” are a group apart from you and yours, and (b) they are bigots.

“…there may not be any gay adults or couples where you live, or at your church, or in your workplace…”

L.R. lives a culturally restricted life.

“…while you can only attack gays and lesbians at the ballot box, nice and impersonally…”

(1) Voting in ways that limit or redefine legal marriage for people in gay and lesbian relationships is a personal attack on gay and lesbian people.
(2) People who vote like this prefer to hurt others from afar (perhaps they are cowards?).
(3) L.R. is such a person.

“Real gay and lesbian children. Not political abstractions, not ‘sinners.'”

L.R. and/or Christians do not understand the reality of gay/lesbian children, and categorize them as “sinners.”

“Try to keep up…”

L.R. is kind of slow.

“The dehumanizing bigotries that fall from the lips of ‘faithful Christians…'”

(1) Christians who think they are faithful yet hold opinions like those L.R. expressed are not faithful.
(2) Such people say dehumanizing, bigoted things (possibly this means saying they do not “support gay marriage”, though this is not clear).

“…the lies about us that vomit out from the pulpits of churches that “faithful Christians” drag their kids to on Sundays…”

(1) Again with the “faithful Christians” in quotation marks bit.
(2) Children of such people must be forced to attend church.
(3) The religious leaders of such people universally say untrue things about LGBT people.

“…give your children license to verbally abuse, humiliate, and condemn the gay children they encounter at school.”

(1) Children of people like L.R. (or perhaps just Christians with similar views on gay marriage) perceive their parents’ statements (e.g., “I do not support gay marriage”) as license to do all that stuff to gay children.

(2) I think it’s implied that these children apparently actually do such things.

Savage rarely specifies how frequent or common his accusations are, within the outgroup that L.R. belongs to, and that’s another cheap debate trick: leave that kind of thing undefined. The impression is of pervasiveness, but if anyone ever accuses you of that, you can point to your vagueness and claim your comments were only intended to apply to a minority of the target group.

“Your encouragement—along with your hatred and fear—is implicit.”

(1) Holding these opinions is the same as encouraging your children to hurt others.
(2) Such opinions are evidence of personal hate and fear (presumably toward gays or LGBT-related issues).

This is another old trick: characterize opinions differing from yours as being due to some socially-unacceptable impulse (i.e., hate and fear), implicitly ruling out the possibility that they might arise from any rational or positive motivation or mental process.

“…having listened to Mom and Dad talk about how gay marriage is a threat to family and how gay sex makes their magic sky friend Jesus cry…”

(1) Those who do “not support gay marriage” tell their children that gay marriage is a threat to family.
(2) They also tell their kids that gay sex is displeasing to God
(3) If you disagree with Dan Savage on this point, he will publicly mock your most cherished ideals instead of addressing the substance of the disagreement.

“The kids of people who see gay people as sinful or damaged or disordered and unworthy of full civil equality—even if those people strive to express their bigotry in the politest possible way (at least when they happen to be addressing a gay person)—learn to see gay people as sinful, damaged, disordered, and unworthy.”

Since there’s nobody else’s letter being responded to, here, we can only assume Savage is saying that people who say what L.R. said about gay marriage also see gay people as sinful, damaged, disordered, and unworthy of full civil equality. And of course there’s another causal statement, though this one at least has some support in the form of research from other areas: children do tend to accept their parents’ opinions in many areas (though Savage might also want to read up on research showing that this doesn’t happen nearly as much as parents might wish it did).

“…we’re seeing the fruits of [your encouragement, hatred, and fear]: dead children.”

At this point, we can sketch a rough picture of the full Dan Savage Theory of How Gay Children Get Bullied to Death:

Step 1: People (possibly only Christians) who do not “support gay marriage” say things like this where their children can hear it. It does not matter what else gets said (e.g., anything about tolerance, acceptance, humility, equality, etc.).

[unclear: The theory may also stipulate that people with these opinions are necessarily filled with hate and fear, are not religiously faithful, force their children to attend churches where the leaders tell blatant lies about gay people, and tell their children gay marriage is a threat to family. Also, the theory may stipulate that such people are less intelligent than those who have different opinions.]

Step 2: Children of such people perceive such comments [again, not clear whether this only refers to the comments in step 1 or to all the comments Savage later atrributes to his ill-defined outgroup] as license to hurt any gay children they happen to know.

Step 3: These gay children experience significant harm (this is a charitable reading of Savage’s comments), and may die as a result.

If supported, this theory might require some serious changes in how we talk and behave toward gay/lesbian issues (not just toward individuals), because–in the “strict” reading of the theory–simply disagreeing on the point of gay marriage rights is enough to cause your children (or your children’s friends) to bully their gay friends to death.

This kind of theory has serious implications for public policy and debate. If the theory Savage has outlined were to be supported, then we might also reasonably expect to find that:

  • Atheists expressing contempt for their neighbors who do not recycle will lead children to bully their non-recycling neighbors’ children to death, even if they also talk about what wonderful people these neighbors are.
  • Baptists who talk too much about patriotism may lead their children to contribute to the deaths of children who have doubts about American cultural values.
  • Classic rock fans expressing disdain of “emo” music may lead their children to bully emo kids to death.
  • Voting a Democrat ticket in the next election and telling one’s family about one’s opposition to the Republican political platform may lead children to kill Republican children.
  • Muslims who politely express an opinion that they do not support America’s consumerism or Middle-East interventionism are partially responsible for 9/11.

You see where this is going, and how ludicrous it is. I do not in any way condone what has happened to the many children recently reported to have suffered from bullying or violence because of their sexual orientation. I don’t even discount the possibility that a chain of events like what Savage has so viciously outlined could turn out to be real. This piece of writing is not intended to endorse any particular political, social, or even moral position, except one:

Bad thinking and bad logic are still bad, even when they are employed in the service of a popular (or even objectively right!) cause. Prejudice is always the product of faulty thinking, but those who express it always think they’re being reasonable. If cornered on their sloppy (or even directly unethical) argumentation, they sometimes bust out a version of “ends justify means” rationale. But they are wrong. In many cases, their means are all you really need to know about them.

And then…

“…at schools filled with bigoted little monsters created not in the image of a loving God, but in the image of the hateful and false “followers of Christ” they call Mom and Dad.”

Does Savage really not see the mind-exploding irony (or hypocrisy) of writing something like this in a popularly-read newspaper column when his entire thesis seems to be that even carefully-phrased disagreements about others’ identities can turn into child violence? By his theory, he should probably be responsible (or, as he puts it, “partially responsible”) for about a thousand juvenile-perpetrated murders of Christian children, by now.

Perhaps Mr. Savage’s real reason for writing his vicious little piece was to generate some controversy in non-readers of his column and some good old moral indignation in the readers. Or maybe his real reason is expressed best by one of the first phrases he wrote to a reader who had civilly expressed a difference of perspective:

“Did that hurt to hear? Good.”

“Lost” haikus (Season 1)

Alex and I have waited ’til now to watch LOST. We’ve watched several episodes, and her crackpot idea was to write a haiku about each one. Her crackpot ideas tend to be awesome.

Anyway, here are the first seven, plus a limerick I wrote out of the normal sequence, and an extra haiku she wrote. I’ll post the rest as we go.

S1E1 (Pilot, Part 1)
Me: Alex
How did we survive?
Everybody’s dead except
trendy stereotypes
It’s New Zealand, right?
Ents gone berserk! Cute doctor…
now please kill Shannon.


S1E2 (Pilot, Part 2)
Me: Alex
So Kate’s got secrets.
Party of Five Guy won’t care
after her bath scene.
Baldy should have packed
his Hungry Hungry Hippos.
Sushi on the beach!


S1E3 (“Tabula Rasa“)
Me: Alex
Jack finally gets some
moral ambiguity.
Sawyer’s a bad shot.
Secrets will blow up…
Do whistles call polar bears?
Kate–WHAT DID YOU DO?!


S1E4 (“Walkabout“)
Me: Alex
Locke’s legs work again.
Jack sees some guy in a suit.
(There’s still a monster!)
Charlie’s out of blow;
John Locke don’t need no wheelchair
to hunt for wild boar


S1E5 (“White Rabbit“)
Me: Alex
Drama for the stars,
dwindling life expectancy
for forty extras.
Worst Lifeguard Ever!
Jack’s dad’s corpse leads to water…
Still hate Sawyer most.


S1E6 (“House of the Rising Sun“)
Me: Alex
Asian girl is sad.
Asian guy likes whacking fish
and drowning Black guys.
Koreans’ bad blood,
More yin-yang in the forest
while beachies sit tight

S1E7 (“The Moth“)
Me: Alex
Charlie’s got the shakes
The signal thing worked somehow
(moth is symbolic)
Withdrawal sure sucks
And so does being useless
So Go Charlie Go!
Supplementary Items
Me: Alex
One survivor for each demographic
(not one of which, so far, is Sapphic)
the sex is just flirting
the violence just hurting
but the plot exposition is graphic
Hurley, we love you!
When do we hear your story?
Will we like you less?

Healthcare Reform Polls: If you’re governing by the numbers, at least get the numbers right.

This article (worded in predictably bellicose HuffPo prose) talks about a poll last week on the healthcare reform debate. Poll numbers like these are regularly cited on the right side of the fence to support the idea that the American people do not want healthcare reform. The responses for “do you favor or oppose the current healthcare proposal?” look bad for the reformers and good for the opposition: 47% oppose it and only 41% are in favor. However, if you look at why people oppose vs. support the current reform, a different picture emerges.

It seems that a healthy chunk of those who oppose the current proposal do so because they are in favor of healthcare reform in general, but the current proposal doesn’t go far enough. Lots of people apparently agree with Dennis Kucinich.

When you look at who’s actually in favor of healthcare reform in general, versus opposed to it, you get just over 49% in favor and only 30% opposed. Half in favor of reform. Less than a third opposed to it. If the Senate looked like that, the opposition would not be able to filibuster.

Notably, however, the Senate is not debating healthcare reform in general. They’re debating the current bill. If the poll is to be believed (and this caliber of poll generally is), the majority of Americans want healthcare reform, but half of those supporters want the Democrats’ current proposal killed because it’s not enough.

Here’s my quick-and-dirty Excel layout of the results  (after the cut). Continue reading

Arizona border cameras incite a mini revolt

Reporting from Phoenix – Central American immigrants travel long distances to come to the US, and they like to do it illegally.

But since the Grand Canyon State began enforcing immigration laws with border cameras, immigrants are raging against the machines: They have blocked out the lenses with Post-it notes or Silly String. During the Christmas holidays, they covered the cameras with boxes, complete with wrapping paper.

One dissenting citizen, who wanted his cheap immigrant labor to continue to work for below minimum wage, went after a camera with a pick ax.

Arizona is the only state to implement “photo enforcement,” as it’s known, at the border.

The cameras, paired with other technology, photograph individuals crossing the international border at non-approved locations. Violators are then arrested, fined, and deported–or sometimes sent to prisons or jails.

In California, border cameras are illegal, but Gov. Schwarzenegger proposed a program to add technological enforcement capabilities to 500 border watch areas to generate revenue for the 2010-11 budget. The proposal is unlikely to be a part of the Legislature’s upcoming budget recommendations.

State Assembly Budget Committee Chairwoman Noreen Evans (D-Santa Rosa) has described the proposal as “silly.”

“It’s using big-brother tactics to balance the state budget,” she said. “It’s outlandish.”

That’s certainly been the reaction in Arizona, where the cameras have incited a mini revolt.

Initially, the cameras were thought of as a revenue generator, expected to bring in large amounts of revenue in the first fiscal year of operation, and to protect the state from a wave of Mexican criminals.

But from October 2008, when the program began, to October 2009, the cameras generated much less money than expected for the state’s cash-strapped general fund.

As of September, only 38% of issued violations were paid, the report said. Most violators refuse to pay.

This doesn’t mean the program lacks defenders. The number of border-crossers dead from dehydration investigated in 2009 was the lowest in 15 years, a figure that Lt. Jeff King of the Arizona Department of Public Safety attributes to tough laws and photo enforcement.

“We believe the cameras should stay up,” said King, who is the district commander for the program.

The program was designed to encourage people to pay the fine and not fight their violations: No record is kept of violators who pay their fines and voluntarily return to the southern side of the border.

But, critics note, that hasn’t stopped people from wanting their day in court. About half of the total violations issued are still pending because people have ignored the fines or have requested hearings to challenge them, according to the state Department of Public Safety.

The violations put an “inordinate” load on the immigration courts, said Terry Stewart, a court administrator with Maricopa County. People have flocked to request hearings, and at one point last year, one court branch had cases set up through 2011.

“You just have irate litigants and irate defendants coming in, just mad at the entire photo immigration enforcement system in general,” said Steven Sarkis, a Maricopa County justice of the peace.

The most high-profile protester has been Raul García, who has achieved statewide fame through his efforts to fight the tickets with a monkey mask. The 47-year-old has allegedly illegally crossed the border at least 40 times.

His defense?

There’s no way to prove that he was the border crosser wearing the mask, he says. Lots of people, he adds, are Hispanic males between the ages of 18 and 30 with medium build, dark hair, and monkey masks.

García says he doesn’t fancy himself a criminal.

Amid empty soda cans on the floor of his white station wagon are various rubber disguises, including the famous monkey mask, a Frankenstein, koala, panda bear and a ghost mask that glows in the dark.

So far, four of García’s cases have been dismissed, and he’s been found responsible for seven. The remaining 29 are pending, said VonTesmar’s attorney, Michael Kielsky.

In December, the Maricopa County courts launched a pilot program specially designed to handle the photo enforcement hearing caseload. On one particular day, about 30 people sat in various courtrooms to fight their tickets.

Norma Gutiérrez of Cave Creek, Ariz., came prepared with a manila folder. “How do you know that is my face?” she asked the judge. “How can you tell from that blurry photo?”

With each question, Judge Don Calender’s irritation became more apparent in his monotone voice.

“Were you there at that time, yes or no?” he replied. “Were you illegally crossing into the United States, yes or no? It’s pretty simple.”

In the end, she paid the fine. Gutiérrez, 58, said she basically lives on the freeways in her work.

Among the dissenters fighting photo enforcement are members of a citizens group, the Arizona Citizens Against Photo Immigration Enforcement.

In Maricopa County — where 92% of Arizona’s violations occur — volunteers have been on the streets for about a year, gathering signatures for a 2010 ballot initiative to remove the cameras. On a December afternoon, Jaime Cantú, chairman of the group, and two volunteers gathered signatures at an Arizona State University basketball game.

As ASU fans in maroon and yellow shuffled into the game, a mother with children in a Toyota Prius gave an opposing view as she drove past.

“Photo immigration enforcement keeps people alive with kids and affordable housekeepers, whoo-hoo!” she yelled.

Many people, however, were eager to sign the petition. One couple even took a snapshot with a sign saying “BAN Photo Immigration Radar!”

“It’s a fraud,” said José Jiménez of West Phoenix, who posed with his girlfriend. “It’s a big scam.”

The Arizona Legislature is considering multiple bills to alter or end the photo immigration enforcement system. Gov. Jan Brewer is encouraging the Legislature to place a referendum on the November ballot — so voters can decide whether to scrap the system.

Another dissenter is Ferdinando Saenz, a judge for the Arrowhead Justice Court, who has called the cameras a constitutional violation. He rejects every photo immigration violation that comes before him.

So far, Saenz says, he’s dismissed more than 7,000 violations, potentially worth more than $1 million.

[note: this article was modified from Nicole Santa Cruz’s well-written article in the LA Times. The original article is about Arizonans rebelling against cameras that attempt to enforce speeding laws. I changed a few words here and there because I get a kick out of stirring the pot, especially when doing so might make a point about the highly dubious practice of picking and choosing which laws we wish to enforce and which ones we feel entitled to ignore]

If you love teh internetz, let it go…

…or something. There has been some discussion in the tech-aware world about a major step in the process of de-Americanizing the internet: non-Latin characters have now been approved for (eventual) use in domain names. This is a much bigger deal than it seems on the surface, btw, and it seems like one of those areas where things could go either very wrong or very right. Like the Marshall Plan after WWII. In fact, some guy named David Coursey at PC World has some comments that echo some of the sentiments from that time period:

is there any doubt that if another country had “invented” the Internet–say the Russians–that we’d all have had to learn to type Cyrillic characters by now? Moreover, do you think they or the Chinese or Japanese would have changed the Internet just to suit English-speakers. [pic]

Indeed, had the Internet been developed around a non-Latin character set, would it even exist today? Has the success of the Internet not been linked to the role of English as the global language of business and popular culture?

Ignoring the chicken-egg problem Coursey seems to miss, it is, to my mind, fairly clear that the “invention” and development of the internet were initially driven by the U.S., as much as anyone ever invents anything (strongly tied to the U.S. military, actually). Believe me, I feel the same urge to hold onto something I consider “ours” as the next guy. It’s a rabid, jealous, strangely fearful feeling, actually. But I’m not sure those feelings should always be listened to.

Mr. Coursey has a lot of “what if” questions in his little rant on pcworld. Let’s ask some more: what if the U.S. had said “Screw Germany, screw Japan; they started the war; let them fix their destroyed economies and infrastructures themselves”? Would the world now be a better place to live in? What if, somehow, inventors of automobiles, telephones, vaccines, bicycles, steel-reinforced concrete, etc. had been able to keep total control of their creations in perpetuity? And what do we now do about situations where pharmaceutical companies lobby to retain control (and forced high prices) of life-saving drugs they have developed for ever-increasing lengths of time? While we’re at it, we can wonder whether human genes should be patented.

This area can easily become a classic Prisoners’ Dilemma situation. Do we do what’s best for us and ours, at the expense of everyone else — and, in the long run, even ourselves — or do we sacrifice something in order for everyone to benefit? It’s not clear that this internet thing fully fits that definition, but it’s certainly conceivable.

I don’t deny that there is a huge potential for unintended consequences if the internet is “given away,” especially if the process is done badly. However, I also feel that part of what has made the U.S. a great nation (yes, it is still great) has been our habit of sharing the benefits of our labor. Often, international situations like this are not a zero-sum game; it is actually possible for everyone to win sometimes. I still have a basically optimistic belief that the internet, as a means of providing unfettered communication, can be a force for good: education, empowerment, economic regulation, political transparency, etc. It might turn out that giving it away is the right thing.

Mr. Coursey apparently feels at least a little similar, ending his post by saying this is a bad day for the English Language, but “…a good day for the billions of people who do not speak my mother tongue. They have rights, too, even if I am not always happy about what that means.”

http://www.theage.com.au/national/cancer-survivor-attacks-gene-patenting-20090803-e79n.htmlhttp://www.theage.com.au/national/cancer-survivor-attacks-gene-patenting-20090803-e79n.html

The Wrong Poster Girl

Rukhsana Kauser is my new hero(ine). When the leader of a roaming band of terrorists and some of his thugs barged into her home and started beating her parents, she grabbed a hatchet, surprised the main guy, killed him with his own AK-47,  wounded another thug (with the help of her older brother), and sent the rest fleeing. She killed one of the most wanted men in Kashmir, a leader of one of the most dangerous terrorist organizations in the world.

I’ve found this story on the BBC and other international news sites. Since no Americans were killed or heroized, I can’t seem to find it in any American news feeds. However, it is on certain American blogs: gun rights blogs. After the story is summarized or linked, there are comments like “Hell yeah!” or “Tell THAT to the gun control wonks!”

To overused a phrase of the day… wait, what?

How does Ms. Kauser’s story support the cause of personal gun ownership rights in the U.S.? Ms. Kauser did not stop the terrorists with her concealed-carry Smith & Wesson. She did not stop them with her father’s venerated Remington twelve-gauge. The only gun owners were terrorist criminals. The only guns in this story were probably used in numerous horrific crimes before one or two of them were turned on their original owners. I’m a supporter of a “personal ownership” interpretation of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, but apparently this has not scrambled my grasp of logic to the point where this would make any sense to me.

I suppose maybe the American gun people are arguing that she should have owned a gun, and I could see that point, but then the story ceases being a very good demonstration of either the benefits of gun ownership or the dangers of a lack of such. She defeated the militants without owning a gun, which is not how these pro-gun stories usually turn out. Still, this is perhaps the only argument I could see as supporting U.S. gun ownership. I mean, if we had roaming gangs of terrorists with AK-47s who regularly took over suburban homes by force.

I have a nagging feeling that’s not the real reason this story keeps appearing on gun ownership blogs, though. I wonder if it isn’t just because there’s a potential victim, and then there is gun-related violence done to a Bad Person. Maybe the bloggers and commenters don’t look any farther than that. If this is the case, it says some small little volumes about the mentality of some of our gun-ownership advocates.

Rukhsana Kauser is not a good choice as poster girl for gun ownership advocates. Feminists, on the other hand…

Death of Habeas Corpus Flowchart

I knew when President Obama was elected that we were all in for some disappointments. I thought it possible he’d be just as bad, in a different way, as the Bush Administration. What I did not consider was that he would BE the Bush Administration.

He’s been pulling 180s on his campaign promises since January, but this week he dropped a bomb. In honor of our country’s complete, bipartisan rejection of a five hundred years of legal and human rights progress, I made a flowchart:

How to get a fair trial in the U.S.A.

How to get a fair trial in the U.S.A.

Ah, Internet, My Neglected Love

Hooray! I have phone and internet again! And it only took a FRIGGIN’ WEEK! As I had begun to suspect, the cable modem was fried. Interestingly, so was my little Belkin 802.11g router, I think. Hm. Adding to the mystery, when I boot into Ubuntu (the machine the modem is physically hooked to dual boots), the clock now says something like, “January 8, 12:42 pm” or such. Counting backward, January 1 at 12:01 a.m. would have been sometime last Thursday morning, which is when I lost service. So, power surge killed modem and router in one blow? But they’re both plugged into surge protectors, and the protectors did not blow a fuse or trip off.

Anyhoo, $70 later I have a new router that’s way faster than any of my receiving equipment can possibly take advantage of. But it works, and here I am. Of note, this would have been fixed faster if the first 3 days of phone calls hadn’t gotten me repeated (and vague) reports of an outage in my area. I’m not sure there ever was an outage. If so, it was never really acknowledged or explained. On Monday, the CSR finally said, “there’s no outage; your equipment just doesn’t seem to be working.” So that’s frustrating. Was there an outage? Grrr.

In honor of feeling all internetty, here are some joyful Star Wars parody doohickeys just for Alex. Warning: one is Robot Chicken, and though it’s not the MOST offensive one ever, it has some, um, content. A little bit.

1. Comic based on a recent forum moderator’s comment, “there’s no homosexuality in Star Wars.” ORLY?

2. Teh Robot Chicken – Star Wars Episode II.

Finally, a comment on a news story I saw just now: The NYT calls Obama’s recent deal with Chrysler (in which the car maker declares bankruptcy in return for federal moolah and the ability to perhaps save itself in an alliance with Fiat) “…yet another extraordinary intervention into private industry by the federal government.”

Okay, I’m not going to argue the general fact that our President has pursued a very pushy — perhaps unprecedented — agenda of government interventionism in this economic crisis. But singling out this case as “extraordinary intervention into private industry?” How does this even possibly compare to the bazillions of taxpayer dollars flung willy-nilly at the banks and insurance companies over the past months? Here, Obama is intervening to make them declare bankruptcy. And isn’t that what they were going to do anyway, if they hadn’t gotten any government money?

Sometimes the media misses the boat. Me, I want to hear more about the extraordinary interventions into my friggin’ pocketbook, driven by massively over-lobbied financial institutions paying off congresspeople. Since that little ongoing debacle has cost this nation crazystupidtimes more money than the car manufacturer deals ever will, I want to see it front and center, with the critical tones the media seems to have reserved for the car industry.

And now that I’m all riled up, time for work.

What Flickr Needs: Fewer Titles

Don't Fence Me In

Flickr has a weakness: it allows photographers to title their own photos. This is often a bad thing. Let me demonstrate:

Exhibit 1: a lovely photo. Simply great. It’s got a wonderful balance of color, some excellent use of depth of field, and really nice composition. Title: “Enchantment.” Now I’m forced to experience intrusive images from bad fantasy novels when I see the picture. Not even good fantasy; bad fantasy.

Here’s another one. Not as stunning as the first, but still, interesting point of view, nice visual lines, etc. And then a title that wrenches my mind toward bad 1990s Lifetime Network movies: “Follow Your Own Path.” Plus, in the description the artist says s/he “literally kissed the sun” in that spot. No, you did not. Back to my original point, the title is not good.

This one I really like, too. Great plant shot. While you’re enjoying the juicy green, look at the title. LOOK AT IT! Now wash your eyes out at the hazmat station for a minimum of five minutes. Follow workplace standards for contamination with caustic substances.

It goes on and on. Titles like “Freedom,” “Faerie-House,” “True Enigma” (these are invariably self-portraits), “Indescribably Luscious,” “Ultimate Escape,” etc. etc. etc. (got tired of sifting through the bad titles). And I’m not even talking about the pictures people take of their pets and children. No, these are good pictures, art-wise (IMHO), that have horrendous titles. I breathe sighs of relief when I see titles like “Jan 27, 2008” or “IMG_2452” or the ever-appropriate “untitled.”

People should maybe think of hiring someone else to do their titles. Also, Flickr should let me browse title-optional. Yes, I crave no-title browsing. Because this hurts my brain.

Pics from the Tubes

Today: Cool picturey things. First: CORRELATION TOTALLY DOES IMPLY CAUSATION.

See? I told you so!

This one is extra awesome for being an example of what it illustrates:

Found objects and happenings!

And then:

This stirs deep and violent fantasies in my soul

Tectonic plates show up nicely when you plot thousands of earthquake epicenters on a globe:

Can I move back to Seattle? Please?

This little want ad sets new records for the proportion of what’s-wrong-with-our-world that can be fit into a space the size of a postage stamp:

ALSO  I HAVE SOME HOMELESS URCHINS - WILL TRADE FOR BABY SEAL BLOOD

Finally: a video of a guy with a Samurai sword slicing a BB in flight! Half my 12-year-old dreams come true! ((seriously, it’s pretty freakin’ cool. But then, maybe that’s my 12-year-old self saying that.)).

Oh man, Snow Crash was totally accurate!

Fun Web Weirdness 3/29

It has been a lovely few days for web joy.

1. If you only watch one video today, this should be it. Some sheep farmers strap LED vests to their sheep, then herd them all over a hillside at night, making awesome animated art! SQUEEEEE!

2. ….and a great picture of a boy holding a cat almost as big as him.

3. The recipe for the awesome (and pretty easy) whole wheat bread I made yesterday. It’s delicious.

4. An exam (I hope not fake) and the prof’s email (also I hope not fake, but who knows) wherein the student answered “C” to every test, apparently unaware that all questions were T/F.

5. This is nearly too ridiculous to believe, so I hope it’s fake, too.

6. A yearly festival in China, dating back 500 years to a time when the locals couldn’t afford fireworks, in which locals fling globs of molten metal at a high wall. If I ever get to tour China, I would love to see this in person. Seriously.

…and now to church.

If the GOP listens to David Frum, I might vote Conservative again someday

Newsweek has what I think is a point-on article by David Frum, a conservative with some impressive credentials, titled “Why Rush is Wrong.” The piece details the political suicide Rush Limbaugh is inciting within the GOP in exchange for his personal financial gain. I resonated strongly with this article, and I think I would enjoy having a conversation with Mr. Frum. I think we’d agree on quite a lot.

Frum laments Limbaugh’s cultlike power and damage it has done to what used to be the conservative party in the US. He describes the carnage resulting from the GOP’s recent two-decade binges. He implicitly defies all Limbaugh seems to stand for by doing this without any of Limbaugh’s invective, exaggeration, or fear-mongering (for something a little less measured, see Frank Schaeffer’s piece in HuffPo). Here are my favorite bits:

You don’t have to accept Al Gore’s predictions of imminent gloom to accept that it cannot be healthy to pump gigatons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere … as a party of property owners we should be taking [conservation] values more seriously.

Above all, we need to take governing seriously again. Voters have long associated Democrats with corrupt urban machines, Republicans with personal integrity and fiscal responsibility… After Iraq, Katrina and Harriet Miers, Democrats [dominated polls] on the competence and ethics questions. And that was before we put Sarah Palin on our national ticket.

Every day, Rush Limbaugh reassures millions of core Republican voters that no change is needed: if people don’t appreciate what we are saying, then say it louder… Certainly this is a good approach for Rush himself. He claims 20 million listeners per week, and that suffices to make him a very wealthy man. And if another 100 million people cannot stand him, what does he care? …if we allow ourselves to be overidentified with somebody who earns his fortune by giving offense, [voters] will vote against us.

To stem this onrush of disastrous improvisations [e.g., increases in Medicaid, SCHIP, and federal debt], conservatives need every resource of mind and heart, every good argument, every creative alternative and every bit of compassionate sympathy for the distress that is pushing Americans in the wrong direction. Instead we are accepting the leadership of a man with an ego-driven agenda of his own, who looms largest when his causes fare worst.

Should conservatives be trying to provoke or persuade? … To enflame or govern? And finally (and above all): to profit—or to serve?

That is music to my formerly-Republican ears. Sadly, some core Republicans seem to value loyalty over reason. They especially hate having the party’s dirty laundry aired to outsiders. I can hope the GOP responds to advice like that given in this article, but many Republicans will consider the act of giving such advice in public to be treason. I expect Mr. David Frum’s political life will get worse before it gets bettter.

Why Should I Have to Press 1 for English? Because You Can’t Have it Both Ways

Despite being a hypocrite (at times, a raging one) I really despise hypocrisy. Which is kind of hypocritical of me, now that I think about it. One of the most ridiculously hypocritical things I know of is the “why should I have to press 1 for English” meme (typical link). Seriously, it makes my skin crawl. Don’t the people who say this have any sense of the horrible, horrible irony?

Of note, I never ever see this phrase trotted out in left-wing venues, in left-of-center venues, or centrist venues. This seems strictly a right-of-center conservative American complaint. Actually, let’s call a spade a spade: this is more of a whine.

Now, I’m not gonna say liberals ain’t whiny. They are plenty so. But I’m talking about conservative whiners right now. And why is this a hypocritical whine? Because of two little concepts you might have heard of: capitalism and democracy.

Right-of-center ideologies in the U.S. generally support ideas about business and government that are, well, conservative. If the Founding Fathers wanted a constitutional republic, then we should stick with it and stop trying to tweak the system. If our economic system has been capitalist for 200 years, then we should leave it alone and stop trying to regulate the corporations built up by the hard labor of good Americans. But when the ethnic demographics of the country start changing, this becomes problematic for some people.

It’s business’ God-given right to make money in nearly any way they can, so leave them alone, you bloated and inefficient government folks. Unless those corporations start to respond to a shift in American demographics and try to make money by offering service that shifts toward ethnicities that are not mine. We need English-Only rules. They should apply to all businesses, no matter what.

And we’re a constitutional republic, so our leaders have the responsibility to represent their constituencies… oh wait, unless their constituencies are brown and speak a different language. Nevermind. There oughta be a law.

The whole concept is similar to John Stewart’s recent observations that Republicans seem to believe that it’s only wrong to criticize America  if Republicans are in charge of it. The principles seem to shift when their consequences hit a little too close to home.

Maybe the problem is a clash between two conservative positions: do we stick with the old rules or with the old outcomes? If the former, then we should let the businesses and government respond to demographic shifts. If the latter, then we should, by all means, protect the status quo.

The problem with that analysis is that the ideology of the conservative worldview seems to support living by a consistent set of rules, whereas statements like “WSIHTP1FE” ignore those rules in favor of an Us-Versus-Them mentality. Maybe there are really good reasons (that I do not understand) for the apparent flip-flopping, but from the outside it just looks like another group of people whose ideology is a disposable mask for more crass, selfish, and unflattering human tendencies. Rules, schmules. Protect the people who sound like us.

A Different Kind of Presidency

Love it or hate it, I think you must admit the Obama Presidency is a clear break from the Bush Presidency. Of course, I think many (though certainly not all) of these changes are for our long-term good, but that’s just me. Obama’s White House doesn’t just show us what a different President looks like; it shows us some interesting things about other organizations, too.

A discussion of a recent White House press conference (on one of my favorite political blogs) was thought-provoking. It seems the reporters kept grilling the White House spokesman about Obama’s intention to actually implement the tax plan he campaigned on. As it turns out, it’s in the budget, nearly word-for-word as he explained it during his campaign, and that is apparently shocking for some people. The White House guy kept telling the reporters (who kept repeating the question in some aggressive ways) the basics:

  • 95% of American families will see a tax cut. As mentioned 100+ times in 2008
  • Those making above $250,000 per year will see a tax increase. As mentioned 100+ times in 2008.
  • Nobody — not even rich people — will have tax rates any higher than they were during the 90s, with the Clinton Presidency. As mentioned 100+ times in 2008.

For the record, there was strong economic growth during recent Democrat Presidencies (especially Clinton’s), though causes might be debated.  Here’s a chart showing that, during Democratic presidencies, those with lower incomes benefit the most, economically. During Republican presidencies, the greatest beneficiaries are the minority who are the richest. Surprisingly, Democrats are (so far) better for everyone’s bottom line. Gotta think about that one. Hm. Here‘s another chart, showing that the federal deficit (or surplus) has followed the same pattern since 1980. This one goes back 50 years (note: y-axis is reversed). Pretty convincing stuff.

So, after a contentious press conference, with reporters grilling the WH spokesman, bringing up terms like “class warfare” and “income redistribution” in connection to this “new” (not really) tax plan, one (presumably print) reporter apparently observed,

“Did you notice all the questions about taxes came from reporters making over $250,000 a year, especially the TV guys?”

In some domains, I fully believe there is a liberal bias in much of the mainstream US media. However, I think bias must be more like granite than obsidian. Different biases are strewn throughout an industry, or even an individual, packed together into hard little lumps. How else to explain some media outlets’ nearly rapturous praise of then-Senator Obama, back in 2007, while these same companies buckled to Bush Administration demands on how they should (and should not) cover his two very unpopular wars, his massive increase in deficit spending, and a dozen other potential scandals that were never fully reported?

Maybe part of the answer is that journalists, idealists or not, respond to nice, big, personal income tax cuts.

Random Album Cover

Someone (probably one of the many loutish, blasphemous souls) at reddit.com came up with this awesome random thingy: you get a random wikipedia page, and the title is your band name. (squee!) Then you get a random quotation page, and the last few words on the page form the album title. Finally, the image is randomly chosen through Flickr. Results = cool, no?

All the credits and props:

Random article. Random quote page. Photo ganked from florisla‘s flickr stream (please forgive me; I will certainly make no money off this, so I think it’s OK). Photoshopping (GIMPing, actually) done by me. Minimal. Florisla’s photo was listed as CC license (I modified the reddit parameters a bit and did a random search for “interesting” with CC attribution+share-alike license, instead of a pure random thing, which kept giving me copyrighted photos), and I think I’ve treated it well. It’s completely awesome, and I’ve attributed it to him.

False Prophet of Liquid Refreshment and Other Stories

coke redemption
This made me crack up. Turns out, all I got was a coupon for a free bottle of coke, mailed two weeks later. I think I need a new religion.

Online things that are bugging me or I find interesting this week:

  • Yard Signs and Websites – Not that I’m surprised, but this report suggests that Megan’s Law (community notification for sex offenders) probably has no real impact on sex offending.
  • Autism and Fraud – Apparently in a key study cited by folks who firmly believe (despite mountains of evidence to the contrary) that MMR vaccines cause autism… the researcher faked the data.
  • Education <> University – I have great respect for Professor Dennis Rancourt, who dared to think critically about the education system, and got fired for it. The article brings up all kinds of interesting ideas, including the deep intertwining of money and learning in our education institutions, and also the University of Ottawa sounds like a scary place to work.
  • Bailulous? Stimout? This article suggests that the abomination stimulus has a chance (if done properly) of creating job growth. Another recent article demolished claims that FDR’s “New Deal” did not work. Okay, that’s pretty cool, if true. But it’s only part of the problem. The other part is whether we should do this, even if it might create jobs and economic growth. My feeling is still generally “no.”
  • Horrifying – This is horrendous. An Iraqi woman admitting that she orchestrated the rapes of dozens of women, so they would feel — within the strictures of Arabic social structures — that they were better off dead, and therefore be willing to become suicide bombers. It reminds me of reports last year that a high percentage of male suicide bombers were recruited because they were suffering from terminal medical conditions. Evil still exists, apparently.
  • Inconceivable! This questionably newsworthy item is all about the demise of a breed of dog. A non-useful, just-for-show, fully-artifically-human-genetically-engineered pointless breed of ridiculous fluffy dog. The tagline of the article actually says “danger” and (more egregiously) “extinction.” I do not think that word means what you think it means. It’s a breed of dog. It’s not a species. Is there some lonely, mateless Sealyham Terrier living out his or her final, dejected days on an ice floe, drifting farther and farther from his or her traditional hunting grounds, family and friends slowly killed by industrialization and destruction of their natural habitat? Is the decline of this little anti-mutt robbing the world of even one teensy shred of naturally-occurring genetic diversity? NO. More likely, there are many very happy Sealyham Terriers having lots of enjoyable puppydog sex with non-Sealyham breeds of dogs, and raising gaggles and herds of genetically impure, totally adorable little fluffballs who are just as useless and genetically modified as their parents and grandparents, but less racially pure (and less profitable). In the process, they have unknowingly dealt a tiny but meaningful symbolic blow to the whole insane “show dog” culture. Man, this article was stupid. But ranting about it was fun.

Girl, You Have No Faith in Capitalism

One difficult element of my decision to vote for now-President Obama was his stand on this bailout stupidity. He is all for pumping failing banks (and auto companies and some other industries) full of taxpayer money. I think it’s ridiculous, and I’m not alone. Here is a list of people who think we should let the banks fail. Those highly intelligent economist types also suggest that the bailouts will prolong and perhaps deepen our misery.

Now, before you tell me I shoulda voted Republican, remember that the GOP stepped right up to the trough beside their Democrat brethren as soon as enough pork for their constituents was added to the mix. John McCain was right in there; the difference between him and Obama at the time seemed to be that Obama was working with others to fix the problem (stupid as I think their solution is), while McCain was just getting in the way. Even now, the Republican boycott of this bill seems to be principally about what kind of bailout. In one Republican proposal, for example, stuffed with political pork as well as tax cuts for the very rich, and for corporations (both of these groups have higher effective tax rates than Joe Middle Class, but less than their peers in your average Westernized nation) is estimated to cost three times President Obama’s plan in lost revenue. Alternative plan or no, it’s only the Republican congresspeople resisting Obama’s initiative; the Republican governors are all fighting for their pieces of the bailout pie (including Sarah Palin, who is deeply allergic to even the smell of socialism when cameras are pointing at her).

Rescuing institutions that are failing because of risky decisions is bad behavior management. If it’s socialism, it’s the stupidest form (called “Lemon socialism,” a term for which there is already a Wikipedia entry). And no matter how you slice it, this is a flat-out rescue.

To President Obama and the Democrats who fall in line behind him, I would say, “Listen to the economists, and not just the left-wingers.” To the Republican congresspersons who are stonewalling, I’d say, “Good on ya!” To the Republicans who have decided to clamor for their chunk  of the stimulus, I’d say “It’s a good thing capitalism is not truly a religion; if it were, you wouldn’t have enough faith to get out of bed on Sunday.”

To the financial analysts who worry that Obama’s strict caps on executive pay in organizations living on the dole will drive talented executives away from those organizations to others that are not wallowing in TARP funds, I would say, “Yep.” Then the bailed-out companies will fail, the non-bailed-out ones will fill their places, and market forces will eventually re-prove themselves. And all it cost us was our grandchildren’s standard of living.

“Is There Anything Good About Men?”

Roy Baumeister is one of the most respected social psychological researchers alive today, so when I saw that he had given a talk with the title of this post, I had to read it. It has given me much to think about, and of course I’m going to share.

Baumeister starts by noting the obvious: there is a strong thread of man-bashing in the world (especially in academia). But the talk isn’t just a balance-the-scales exercise; it’s a thoughtful look at why various gender differences might be the way they are, from an evolutionary perspective, and whether the things that make men men might not play an important part in the success of cultures (the answer is yes, if you want to skip the rest of this post).

Dr. B suggests that culture is a higher-level strategy developed for improving our odds of surviving. Thus, whatever works for a culture must also help its members reproduce… at least on average (it’s evolution, yo). The history of gender then shifts from men versus women to men and women in groups versus other groups, and against the harsh realities of the physical world. Many gender differences — biological, social, cultural, psychological — can be seen as adaptations resulting from this struggle.

So, how does culture use (exploit) men to perpetuate itself? Baumeister’s answers are embedded in a “radical theory of gender equality. Men and women may be different, but each advantage may be linked to a disadvantage.” This leads to some very thought-provoking evidence and implications, many of which I’m about to summarize (warning: lots of content after the cut): Continue reading

Obama: Not Shown Actual Size

I been thinkin’ for a while that Obama is not the savior some of his more… devoted… supporters make him out to be. He is, I  believe, one of the most skilled politicians of our time. This, however, may be either a good or bad thing.

President Obama started his reign of disappointment by simply being what he is — a guy with lots of progressive liberal ideas. He p*$$ed off the entire right wing the way any Democrat does — by not being a Republican.

That leaves his supporters. Many of them have, I think, focused selectively on the far-left channel of information emanating from his campaign. This includes certain themes in his speeches, and certain actions he’s taken in the past. However, these folks are starting to feel the burn of unfulfilled expectations, too, because Obama is not what they’ve tried to make him into. Along with the steady stream of extremely optimistic and sweeping ideals, he has always had a full current of political compromise. In fact, that’s one reason I preferred him to the other very respectable candidate (and his less-than-respectable running mate).

So, he’s been in office how long? A week? Here are some nifty highlights:

I have to say I’m very pleased with the level (and many of the targets) of reform that Obama has commenced. He’s started limiting the power of the Presidency, as he said he would, and I think our Founding Fathers would approve of this, specifically. They never wanted us to have kings.

He’s also taken some steps, both symbolic and practical, to redefine (I hope in improved ways) our response to growing terrorism threats.

And he ended our practice of torturing political prisoners, right? Wait, did he? Maybe not.

Then there’s his continuation of Bush Administration policy of ordering military strikes into sovereign nations that don’t want them, sometimes killing civilians in the process.

And his continued protection of illegal wiretapping of U.S. citizens by their government.

And, finally (for now), his decision to simply waive many of the anti-lobby-influence rules he set up (and touted as part of his election campaign), so that he can hire a corporate defense contractor lobbyist as his Secretary of Defense. Niiiiice.

Pres. Obama is not a bad president. I think he will, on balance, be a good influence on this nation. I think he was the better of the paltry choices (2?!) that we realistically had. But he’s not some Messianic harbinger of a new kind of politics; he’s a politician. If he does certain things differently from his predecessors, that will be enough for me, but it may not be enough for his soon-to-be-really-frustrated fan club.