Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Intimidation for fun and profit

Every thursday I attend a peace vigil here in my lovely hometown organized by a woman named Patricia, who just so happens to be one-half of the brilliant minds behind The Iraq Coalition Casualties website.

This past thursday, we had a visit from our local Protest Warrior chapter. It was alternately mind-bogglingly dumb and really really scary.

There are accounts of it in two seperate DailyKOS diary entries here and here, as well as in the blog of a fellow protester, Jonathan Gibson, here (scroll down to 'Protest Jammerz').

His signs were typically non-sequitir laden, including stunning attacks on such imagined enemies as 'communism' and 'the green party.' As effective as these atacks were, they would likely have been even more effective had the vigil been, say "Greens against Capitalism" or something. As it was, it fell a little flat. Still, points for downloading and printing premade signs and all that. I'm sure it was hella hard.

What none of the other accounts mention is the part where the Protest Warrior guy or one of his friends stopped his car in the middle of the street, and got out, blocking traffic and refusing to move. That was a little freaky.

What was freakier was his buddy wih the digital camera and the videocamera following us around taping everything we did. For a moment, I found myself a little worried and hesitant about continuing the protest. I mean, Jesus, if my image ends up on some psycho-right website, I'm really not that hard to find. It's a small town. Which, of course, is the point.

I believe that the videotaping part of the Protest Warrior methdology is as much about trying to bully protesters into stopping as it is about documenting their 'infiltrations' for posterity. What they're saying is "We know who you are. We have your photograph."

I have always believed that, as the saying goes, 'the solution to speech you dislike isn't censorship, but more speech," so on one level, I support the Protest Warrior's idea. I mean, I think the counterprotesters are dumbasses, but clearly they have a right to air their dumbass views. What they do not have a right to do is try to stop us from airing our views through intimidation, infiltration, or whatever they want to pretend it is. They're not trying to get a message across, they're trying to make sure we can't.

Therefore, I now get to the part where I beg all of my loyal readers who live anywhere near Benicia, California to please consider joining us at our peace vigil this thursday. It's at 5:00 in the afternoon at the intersection of Military and First, in front of the park. It's pretty easy to find, and I'll be glad to e-mail a map for anyone who's interested.

There's strength in numbers, folks, and right now, I feel like we need some strength.

Monday, July 12, 2004

Same Sex Marriage - Let loose the fury of the righteous.

Thanks to Ampersand at Alas, a blog, I got turned on to Long Story, Short Pier, who has an extremely frustrated sounding post up about Oregon's upcoming anti-SSM amendment. The post is great in general, but it ends with possibly THE most scathing paragraph attacking the anti-SSM movement I've ever had the pleasure of reading. Just absolutely stunningly brilliant.

From LS,SP, I was directed to this post by Real Live Preacher which comes at the anti-SSM folks from another tack . . . that of a pro-bible, pro-Christian, pro-SSM preacher-man. I swear to god, after reading these two posts in quick succession, it makes me glad I'm already in favor of government recognition of gay marriages, because if I wasn't I think my brain would have tried to dive down my throat and hide somewhere in my abdomen to avoid the blinding light of truth and reason that these two guys radiate.

Top notch. Once my "to-this-point-entirely-theoretical-blogroll" gets started, they're on it. In a quick minute.

Sunday, July 11, 2004

Ralph Nader: What the hell is that guy's problem?

Spurred on by this post at Crooked Timber and this one at Pandagon, I've been thinking about Ralph Nader a lot lately.

First off, I have always liked and respected Ralph Nader, I like the Green party (of which he's no longer a representative), I think building alternatives to the two-party system is a good thing, and I agree 100% with Nader that the Democratic party is too much in thrall to corporate interests. My problem is, I don't see how supporting Nader's bid (either this year or in 2000) does much to help any of these problems. I believe that the chief (although not sole) barrier to strong third-parties in the US is that our system is set up to discourage them. Therefore, as I posted in Pandagon's comments, I'm just absolutely mystified as to why Nader doesn't offer Kerry a deal like "look, I'll drop out right now and tell all of my supporters to vote for you, and in return, I'd like you to come out strongly in favor of Instant Runoff Voting."

The thing is, IRV is good for the Dems, because it means no more spoiler bullshit, IRV is good for the Greens, because it means that everyone who actually wants to vote for them can do so without feeling like they're drinking lye, I can't imagine that endorsing it would lose Kerry any supporters, and it might well gain him some new ones. Nader doesn't pull away enough of Kerry's vote to demand huge concessions, really, but something relatively minor like this, I would think would be well within the realm of possibility.

Perhaps most important, Kerry could do it without looking like he's caving in to Nader, and Nader could do it without looking like he's selling out to Kerry. It's a win for everybody.

Sure, if Nader did this, it would mean that he'd be out of the race this go-around, but so what? I mean, HE'S the one who keeps telling us that we have to think long term, right? Well: Think long-term, bucko!

Now, I'm not one of those people who will infer from the fact that Nader hasn't done this yet that he's not serious about building the possibility for third-party involvement in US politics . . . after all, 'not doing what I say' isn't a decent metric for serious commitment. I do, however, infer that Nader's not serious about building the possibility for third-party involvement in US politics from the fact that he hasn't done a goddamn thing since the year 2000 that would actually advance his stated goal. It's okay if he doesn't favor IRV for whatever reason, but to just repeat over and over "they're the same . . . they're the same . . . bzzzt . . . they're all the same" is not helpful.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

James Burke's KnowledgeWeb

Okay, I'm going to bed, but I ran across a link I just had to toss up here. I've checked the original Connections series out from the library recently, and Lucy and I have been working our way through it, getting ever more impressed with James Burke as we went. Thus tonight, I was poking around the net to see what he's up to these days, and I ran across James Burke's KnowledgeWeb Project. I swear to god, this is really, really cool. I have no idea how they'll ever get it up and functional, considering the obscene amount of information they must be working with, but here's hoping.

Oh, and check out the video demo to get some idea as to why I'm so jazzed about this.

Monday, June 21, 2004

Why Nerds are Unpopular

Okay, okay, I know I haven't posted lately. Between trying to get my upcoming Vampire game ready and trying to find a job, I've just been too damn busy. Once I have the game in a more coherent form, I'll write it up here, though . . . sans secrets for those of you who are playing in it.

Anyhow, while we're on the topic of role-playing games, social ostricization, and horrible childhood trauma, I ran across an absolutely fantastic article, entitled Why Nerds are Unpopular. Everyone should read this. Parents, children, students, and teachers. Everyone. Teachers should read it twice. Nerds should read it five times. It's something Lucy and I have been planning on for a while, but reading this article really cemented my desire to homeschool any kids I have.

It's an odd position for a liberal who believes so strongly in public education to take, I realize. It's not that I think homeschooling will give my kids a better education (although there's certainly that possibility) so much as I'm utterly unwilling to subject my kids to the kind of social torture that Junior High School creates. I'm all for cleaning the system up and trying to actually punish bullies instead of rewarding them, but until that time, no. Hell no.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

A Lovely Afternoon

This afternoon, I went to the Solano Peace & Justice Coalition's weekly 'Vigil for Peace,' held every thursday on First Street here in town. There were a few counter-protesters across the street, and we'd get the occasional angry drive-by shouting, but 80% of the reaction from passers-by was positive. I got to spend time arguing with a Green about the prospects for gradual or dramatic political change. It was a good time. I'll probably take photos to post next week.

After the vigil, Lucy and I wandered down first street to the Farmer's Market, stopping to chat with a few friends at the local coffee shop. At the market, we browsed for a bit and picked up some good organic fruits and veggies. Of course, no food pyramid is complete without junk food, so we got a big-ass bag of Kettle Korn too.

The afternoon finished up with a visit to the library, where I had 5 or 6 books on hold, then back home. All in all, a damn fine day.

It wasn't until I got here that I realized: I just lived the stereotypical leftie afternoon.


I guess I'm officially part of the coastal elite now.

If we'd only had time to take in a foreign film (preferably something anti-American) it would have been really perfect. Oh well. Maybe next time.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

I Told You So.

First, a little scene-setting:

From June 1999 to September 2001, I was working at a place in San Francisco called Pulse Entertainment. They did streaming 3D graphics over the web . . . typical late-90s dot-com startup kind of place to work, and typical early-00's layoff. Anyway, when I was working there, I had a long, involved discussion with a co-worker of mine, David (who was a pretty excellent guy, despite his politics), about the energy industry deregulation. My argument was, more or less, "What's to keep these unregulated energy companies from deliberately restricting energy flow in order to drive prices sky-high?" David, a dedicated libertarian, argued that it wouldn't be in their best interests to do that, because the laws of supply and demand dictated that they couldn't make money that way, as usage would fall off as prices rose. it's a fairly standard sort of argument. "The Invisibe Hand is never wrong" and all that.

Time passed.

Then, in 2000 the energy crisis hit. David and I revisited our discussion. "Well," I said, "surely this is proof of what I was saying?" "No, no," said he, "the problem isn't that the energy companies are manipulating the market, the problem is that we don't have enough supply. If anything, we should have deregulated further!"

Well, this morning, I woke up to read that apparently there are tapes of Enron employees gloating over how much money they were making by deliberately restricting energy flow in order to drive prices sky-high.

I hope you'll all indulge me, but it's not too often I get to win a four and a half year old argument.

David, I was right.