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Mike M. [userpic]

A few sports notes

October 21st, 2006 (03:41 pm)

current mood: refreshed

1. I think we're going to have a great World Series this year and I can't wait for tonight's Game 1. I have to confess that at the beginning of the season, there was no way I'd pick either the Tigers or the Cardinals to make it this far. The Cards have done an outstanding job and played through a lot to get this far. But I'm incredibly excited about what the Tigers have done. Three years ago, this same core group of players lost 119 games, coming within one game of equaling the futility of Casey Stengal's '69 Mets. And look at them now--the best record in baseball for most of the season and they haven't yet lost in the playoffs since dropping Game 1 of the first round to the Yankees. This team not only has a chance to win it all, but also to secure their place as one of the best playoff teams in recent history. Go Tigers!!!

2. I've always really wanted to see John Bunting make it as UNC's football coach. He's a nice guy and he loves his alma mater and runs a clean program where he graduates athletes and pays attention to character. All of that is important. But at some point, winning on the field also has to be important. Carolina is a school with a certain aura that has a tradition of excellence--whether in academics, leadership, or athletics. We've seen that with all of the influential and successful people who've come out of Chapel Hill, the number of leaders who have been educated here, the astounding successes of programs like basketball and women's soccer. This school has the money and facilities to be a consistent Top 25 program. At the very least, UNC should be competitive. This year, we've seen blowout losses to Virginia Tech and Clemson, a near loss to Division I-AA Furman, and Thursday night's shutout at the hands of a Virginia team that was 2-5. We still have Notre Dame on the schedule and I would not be surprised to see them top 100 points the way we're going. We constantly hear that the program has turned a corner--but the corner always seems to be a circle. Enough is enough, there needs to be a change--not only with the football coach, but also with the athletics director. GO HEELS!!!

Mike M. [userpic]

And where did the summer go?

October 21st, 2006 (02:24 pm)

current mood: refreshed

I've recently gotten some emails pointing out that it has been quite some time since I've updated this. Two months now since I've updated; have I really been that slack? Most of this year has gone by in such a blur that its been easy to lose track--hence the pronounced lack of posts lately. On the other hand, I'm glad to see people are reading and bugging me when I don't update frequently. I feel so loved. Normally when I go on a hiatus, I'm at least still reading, but for the past month or so I haven't even managed that much. If any life-changing news or other valuable posts that I've missed, please comment with a link. And thanks for nudging me awake, Maggie. Now without further ado--a post.

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That's it for now. Hope everyone is having a great weekend.

Mike M. [userpic]

Bees leaving on a jet plane?

August 16th, 2006 (08:17 pm)

current mood: annoyed

1. Oh look: Bees On A Plane. And no, its not a movie.

2. The latest fad in the "let's put a bandaid on our energy problems instead of making real changes" school of thought is making oil from coal. I wonder if anyone has thought about how that's going to work once the coal runs out. And besides, the problem with coal as an energy source is that its dirty and the process to turn it into oil causes a lot of carbon dioxide emissions--yeah, way to slow down global warming there.

I have to wonder: is there anything that corporations ever consider a bad idea? Aside from not ruining the environment and actually improving conditions for their workers, that is.

Interesting quote from the article: "Pentagon officials "are interested in this obviously for national defense, where they find that 50 percent of their fuel to run the military is coming from countries we're likely to be fighting, and that is not a very good position to be in," Schweitzer said." [Emphasis added]

Think about that one for a minute.

Mike M. [userpic]


August 16th, 2006 (04:32 pm)

current mood: good

1. Global warming? No problem. We'll just air condition everything, right? Well...

Have you heard the news? Scientists have found a planet that can support life. Its atmosphere is too hot for year-round habitation, its gases impede breathing, and surface conditions are sometimes fatal. But by constructing a network of sealed facilities, tunnels, and vehicles, humans could survive on this planet for decades and perhaps even centuries.

The planet is called Earth.

You would think we would learn by now that Nature does not play games. Whether you're talking about super-hurricanes, endless columns of invading army ants, or the spreading H5N1 avian flu virus, there are consequences for living recklessly and without regard for the environment. Fact is, the "skeptics" of global warming have it all wrong. The issue is not whether humanity could destory the planet as these people claim. Rather, it is whether we are going to alter the planet so significantly that humanity will no longer be able to live its current comfortable existence. If anyone hasn't seen An Inconvenient Truth, I highly recommend it. And if you haven't thought about the full consequences of global warming, you are probably in for quite a shock.

2. In case you haven't heard, we are no longer at war with terrorism. Apparently, Karl Rove decided we need a new noun. So we're not at war with Islamic fascists. Be sure to adopt the new term immediately, else you appear "weak on national security". Please do your part to keep America safe, since if we can make sure everyone uses correct terminology, it will automatically make our planes and cities safer and remove the threat caused by all the uninspected cargo containers that come into the country.

In other news, Oceania is at war with Eurasia. Oceania has always been at war with Eurasia.

3. Progressive Democrats have good reason to be thrilled with Ned Lamont's victory in the Connecticut primary. But as an opinion piece in today's Wall Street Journal clearly shows, Ned Lamont is not simply about opposing the war. The man has actual good ideas and after reading more about him, I'm excited about the prospect of having him in the Senate and I'm starting to wish I lived in Connecticut so I could vote for him.

4. The Wall Street Journal claims that Chicago's proposed living wage ordinance is driving big box retailers out of the city. According to the Journal, city council members who supported the ordinance made a mistake in thinking that retailers would not forsake doing business in Chicago. It is further claimed that the ordinance is going to cause these stores to either not be built or simply move to the suburbs. Of course, the obvious solution is for suburbs to pass similar ordinances and then spread the movement to other cities as well. Corporations have a race to the bottom approach but if more cities simply followed Chicago's lead instead of trying to poach Chicago's businesses, that approach would no longer work.

It is appalling how logically inconsistent these tactics really are. On one hand, Wal-Mart is spending all kinds of money to force communities to accept their stores even if they don't want them. On the other hand, they are pulling out of areas that try to do anything to protect their citizens who would become Wal-Mart's employees. It seems the only real consistency here is whatever is bad for workers. Personally, I am getting fed up with corporations trying to control everything rather than people and their elected representatives. I am also getting fed up with the Democratic Party's seeming inability to take advantage of a tremendous political oppportunity. Fact is, national polls considently show strong voter support for living wages--on the order of 70 to 80 percent in some cases. This is a huge opportunity for change and a great way to introduce some of the other problems with corporate America to voters. But no one seems to be taking advantage of the opportunity.

Mike M. [userpic]

Nature abhors a vacuum. And so do I.

August 15th, 2006 (09:01 pm)

current mood: exhausted

Two twelve hour days of mostly manual labor and I'm exhausted. I think I need to go back to pushing paper. On the bright side, it does feel good to have our work spaces cleaned out and organized again. Its hard to get motivated to work amid a lot of clutter. And plus, we had a delivery today of nearly 5,000 pounds of USDA food and we needed somewhere to put it. In the end, it was worth it. The community kitchen is organized where we can actually find things, the storage rooms and pantries are orderly, and we no longer have 27 open containers of every single item (that, more than anything, was driving me nuts). We also have a room set aside downstairs for every manner of tools and maintenance equipment--carpet cleaners, leaf blowers, weed eaters, spare light bulbs, tools, and so forth. Too bad we didn't get that set up before Paul's toolbox decided to take a walk.

And now...need sleep.

Mike M. [userpic]

Advice from the opposition?

August 14th, 2006 (08:01 pm)

current mood: satisfied

Although I haven't written anything about it, I've been extremely pleased (as I believe, have most progressives) about Ned Lamont's victory over Joseph Lieberman in the Connecticut Democratic primary. I've also been at turns amused and annoyed at all of the oh-so-helpful right wingers who are so eager to jump in and tell Democrats what's best for their own party. Exhibit A is this idiotic column in today's News and Observer, which aside from correctly describing "the stubbornly adolescent Michael Moore" gets nearly everything else wrong.

What happened to Lieberman is not a purge, but rather part of a broader trend in American politics. Large numbers of people in the U.S. continue to feel that no one speaks for them and we're starting to see those people becoming more active in standing up and saying they've had enough. Fact is, you don't win elections unless you appeal to a lot of people. The Democrats have long had a strategy of trying to win elections by outflanking Republicans on their own issues and positions rather than being a true opposition party. That strategy worked in the Clinton years during an entirely different political climate but now the political situation has changed and the Democratic Party hasn't. Thus, their strategy is no longer working and candidates who do not adapt are going to lose elections. Its really that simple.

I will, however, add a word of caution. The line between defeating candidates who no longer deserve to be in office and purging the party of all dissent can be a tricky one to navigate. This is particularly true in the fed up quasi-revolutionary atmosphere that is increasingly taking hold (rightfully) among the Democratic wing of the Democratic party. The problem with revolutions is that they can easily get out of control and I hope that will not happen. So far I'm not worried. The problems with Lieberman go far beyond his support of the Iraq war. On too many issues, he has abandoned the values of most Democrats and has been way too eager to pander to the Religious Right. Witness his statements attacking Ned Lamont in the wake of the foiled airline-bombing plot where he sounded strikingly like Dick Cheney--and indeed, Cheney himself backed up Lieberman on his statements.

Lieberman's stances on the war have been far more problematic than his vote for the use of force resolution. Voting for that resolution may or may not have been a mistake--there's room for disagreement; for example, John Kerry's vote that was intended not as a blank check to use force, but rather, as making sure that the rest of the world saw that the President of the United States had all options at his disposal. That Bush used that resolution in a way that many senators would not have felt comfortable with is not the fault of those senators. We must, after all, allow our leaders some degree of latitude to make mistakes and making a mistake by itself should not mean we should rush to throw that official out of office. The problem comes when leaders fail to learn from their mistakes.

Lieberman's continued unapologetic and unrepentant support of Iraq and of Bush's "War on Terror" in general is way over the line and cannot be tolerated any longer when his views are so out of touch with those of most Americans. For that, he does not deserve to be the nominee of the opposition party. I think Michael Moore (as usual) has gone way too far in putting Democrats such as John Edwards in the same category as Lieberman. Edwards and others have admitted they made a mistake in trusting Bush to use his authority wisely. Whether they are sincere or not is something voters have to decide for themselves, but I do not think an honest mistake means that someone does not make a good candidate. In fact, I want leaders who will admit their mistakes, because mistakes are inevitable and can often be valuable learning experiences. People who are never wrong tend to not learn very much. That's a problem that both Lieberman and Bush seem to share. Farewell, Senator.

Mike M. [userpic]

The illusion of safety

August 13th, 2006 (02:01 pm)

current mood: annoyed

There's an essay in today's New York Times called "My liquid-free flight abroad"--which is at turns amusing and just plain bizarre. This essay is even weirder after an article I read in yesterday's Wall Street Journal about how aviation security is beginning to switch from trying to stop dangerous things to trying to stop dangerous people. But come to think of it, this whole cliche of the "post 9/11 world" in itself is beginning to feel increasingly bizarre. One wonders if the next thing they're going to come up with is a supposed plot to blow up planes using exploding underwear--and how, exactly, they would try to deal with such a threat (one can only imagine). And do we really expect to stop terrorism with such quaint notions as "behavioral profiling" which sounds to me like some voodoo methodology of trying to figure out if someone's carrying a bomb aboard a plane by the way they wiggle their eyebrows. Perhaps the most sane point in the Journal article was the fact that the idea should be to stop terrorists before they ever get to an airport--because by the time they get to a security gate, you are already in trouble. Seriously, exactly how many terrorists have we caught going through security lines to get on a plane recently? Does anyone recall even one?

So now we have a group of people planning to blow up planes allegedly using a mixture of Drano, nail polish remover, and hydrogen peroxide. Stop and think about this for a moment: It is possible to blow an airliner out of the sky with ingredients anyone can purchase at their local neighborhood Rite-Aid. Given this fact, how safe can we really expect to be with draconian police state tactics? Airport security has a cost-benefit trade-off just like anything else. What about train security or shopping mall security, or the insane number of cargo containers that come into the country uninspected that contain God only knows what? And OK, liquids are dangerous on planes. As insomnia points out in a very good analysis, so are liquids and solids. Ah, so there's an idea: we prohibit any materials of any kind on board airplanes and we'll be totally safe.

Is anyone not convinced yet that there is no possible way that we're ever going to increase security enough to be completely safe? Is there anyone who doubts that in order to truly stop terrorism, we have to address American policies that cause so many people around the world to hate us enough to blow us up and kill themselves just to get back at us? Do we really think that we can continue this self-delusion of thinking we are "the good guys" forever?

Mike M. [userpic]

Still more randomness

August 12th, 2006 (02:01 pm)

current mood: optimistic

1. I've been thinking some more about yesterday's post and how Americans tend to use resources very inefficiently (at best) or simply waste them in obscene amounts (all too commmon). Recently in Sri Lanka, there have been increasing numbers of clashes between the government and Tamil rebels, with each side accusing the other of trying to restart the civil war there. Its hard to tell what is really going on with this, but the primary conflict has centered around a resoivor and the needs of nearby farmers for reliable access to water. I can't help wondering if water, something we tend to take for granted to such an extent in America, will increasingly be the focal point of armed conflict. That is quite an astounding thing when you really stop to think about it--something that all too few people actually do.

2. Another thought on the same line: It occurs to me that I've been getting quite an education in the practical side of political questions lately. I had the luxury of a lot of time to spend on theory, but the thing is, most questions about resources are political and these questions tend to be very basic. Not so much about things like abstract theories of governance, but basics like food, water, energy, jobs, and transportation. After the victory of hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad over the reformer Hashemi Rafsanjani in the most recent Iranian elections, many analysts discussed how Ahmadinejad's campaign focused a great deal of attention on issues such as helping the poor. The reformers, on the other hand, after Khatami's long term as president, had little to show as far as actually improving people's daily lives. In the end, that counted more than all the promises of the reformers, in spite of the large numbers of Iranians who were fed up with rule by the clerics. I think there has to be a lesson there for progressive movements around the world. Americans tend to not see how politics affects their daily lives. But perhaps that is because Americans have the luxury of taking so much for granted, where the rest of the world does not.

3. I can't help but feel hopeless most of the time about the news out of Iraq and the tragedy of how Iraqi society has become caught between so many different groups that consider violence their only means to their objective. But there does seem to be a small glimmer of hope in the creation of the Iraqi Freedom Congress (IFC), which bills itself as the secular resistance to American occupation. Although the IFC is of course opposed to the American occupation, they do not seem to be opposed to America itself and in fact, in one recent interview, Samir Adil, co-founder and president of IFC, expresses a lot of sympathy with the goals of the US anti-war movement and urges that movement to look beyond the current situation and toward the creation of a truly worldwide human progressive movement. In fact, the beliefs of the IFC seem to be not all that different from those America was founded on: the building of a progressive secular society that expresses a diversity of views and the right of everyone to live in peace and security.

Of course, I don't expect to ever hear the U.S. media report much about a faction of the Iraqi resistance, since the media seems quite content to go along with the government's line that all resistance to American occupation amounts to terrorism. But I would urge everyone to take a look at this interview (its quite lengthy). For me, I found the words of Samir Adil very uplifting and inspiring and not at all different from the true American ideal. In googling more information about the IFC, I also found an enlightening interview by another IFC cofounder, Houzan Mahmoud, who also co-founded the Iraqi Women's Rights Coalition.

**NOTE: Readers should not confuse the Iraqi Freedom Congress (IFC), with the organization I work with locally in Chapel Hill which is also called IFC. Our local organization's acronym stands for Interfaith Council for Social Service. I'll try to make sure to be very obvious in distinguishing the two in future posts.

4. Speaking of poverty and the effect of politics on people's daily lives: In case anyone has been keeping track, there has been a total of $31,600 in Congressional pay raises since the last minimum wage increase (which came in 1997 and has long been wiped out in real terms by inflation).

Mike M. [userpic]

Friday Already?

August 11th, 2006 (05:01 pm)

current mood: bouncy

Yet another week has flown by and it seems as if I am always busy now. I wonder where the summer went so fast. Karley and Becky have both bugged me about my recently infrequent updating, so here's a post. At least I know I have some interested readers out there.

1. Regarding this whole alleged plot to blow up airliners that will no doubt in the end turn out to have been an Al Qaeda conspiracy which necessitates our invading yet another country, let's try to keep one important fact in mind. Read more...Collapse )

2. I don't have the time right now for a lengthy commentary on the Israel-Hezbollah conflict, so for now, I'll summarize my position in Cliff's Notes version: You kids knock it off right now or you're both going to be grounded for the next year!

3. With IFC's regular kitchen coordinator, Paul, on vacation in sunny Mexico for over two weeks during July and August and his assistant having taken another (better-paying) job, I've been filling in at the Community Kitchen due to the fact that staffing is so scarce. Its usually only in the mornings and through lunch, but the pace can get tiring. I have restaurant experience, but that was over ten years ago and I'm not used to it at all. But I suppose it does me some good to do more than push paper for a while. Nevertheless, we would need two or three people to fully replace all the of the work that Paul's assistant used to do, so we still have a sizable staffing gap. Paul, if you're reading this, its good to have you back, in spite of everyone's extensive efforts to pretend otherwise. And also, you owe me. Big time. Read more...Collapse )

4. Speaking of waste, jajy1979 did an excellent recent post on how much Americans waste water. Unfortunately it is locked and I'm hoping he'll consider making it public. James, if you're reading this, it seems that the post about the ten most dangerous animals is showing as locked again as well.

5. With all of the talk about Peak Oil and the ensuing decline in supply and skyrocketing prices, I thought it might be interesting to take a look at a country that has already experienced Peak Oil. An added bonus is that its a country that's recently been in the news a lot. I'm talking about Cuba and their ways of coping with a limited energy situation brought about by the U.S. economic embargo and the loss of massive amounts of aid from the Soviet Union. It is interesting to look at how Cubans have managed to radically change their society to use less energy: rooftop gardens, altering the food distribution system, using less petroleum-based fertilizers, cutting pesticide use, and improved agricultural methods, for starters. Read more...Collapse )

6. Spotted on a t-shirt downtown earlier today: "I child proofed my house but they still got in." Even funnier because the man wearing said shirt was being trailed by three small children.

7. And finally, a Friday Five (last week's, because I liked it better). Read more...Collapse )

Mike M. [userpic]


July 15th, 2006 (03:01 pm)

current mood: enthralled

1. I don't think it comes as any surprise to anyone that Americans tend to have an astounding lack of interest in science, particularly the younger generation. Which is why websites like Livescience.com should be more careful about using science as entertainment to the point where its portrayed as frivolous or silly. What particularly irks me is their idiotic Top Ten lists which, more often than not, seem like they were written by a gang of amateurs doing a David Letterman impression rather than people who actually know what they are talking about.

James already shredded their list of the top ten deadliest animals (the mosquito?!?! please!!!), though not in a public post. But another prime example of this idiocy is the top ten natural disasters potentially facing the US. Natural disasters, as we should have learned from Hurricane Katrina, are very serious business and we need to be prepared to deal with them.

Livescience has a tremendous opportunity to educate the public with a well thought-out list explaining potential threats and how likely they are. But this is not in fact what we see. A midwest earthquake ranks a clear number 1 and we are overdue for a major quake along the New Madrid fault line. Yellowstone erupting would be another devastating event, one we might not survive as a country. The chances of an East Coast tsunami (ranked #3), by contrast, are not all that great. And #1 being the complete destruction of the Earth in an antimatter explosion or by being sucked into a black hole is just silly. Does Livescience actually want to be taken seriously or not?

Admittedly, though, a scenario in which the Earth is devoured by von Neumann machines is frighteningly plausible.

2. I've been doing a lot of interesting reading lately. I've wanted to finish Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy, which I started a few years ago and never got around to finishing. So I've started rereading Red Mars, the first in the series, so I can have the events fresh in my mind again when I start on the others. I've also started a completely mind-numbing non-fiction work called The Singularity Is Near, which discusses, among other things, the implications of the accelerating rate of technological process. I'm still trying to wrap my mind around a lot of these things, since the author makes some totally jaw dropping predictions that, amazingly, don't seem all that far-fetched when you really grasp his logic. I'll probably write more about this as I go through the book. The bottom line is that reading all these things has caused me to feel very inspired and future-oriented lately and I think that's a definite good thing.

3. I was going to write more but I'm not really feeling up to it. So I hope everyone is enjoying their weekends.