you try and you try–but there are somethings you can’t affect

Haiti’s dilemma makes me so sad I can barely think about it. Just one little flicker of picturing the horror of being trapped under a building because of something that was entirely not your fault and knowing you are going to die…aaahhhhhhhhhhhg…think of something else quick.

Lots of peole are texting YELE for the Wyclef charity fund, and I think that’s great. I am telling myself I will donate after a little bit, when the rest of everybody has moved on but  Haiti is still in rubble.

Thing is, Haiti doesn’t have a lot of quakes. They have hurricanes. They build their houses  like the 3rd little pig, out of bricks, so that they would withstand the huff and the puff.

Here in california, we have quakes, so we build 2nd little pig style, out of sticks..Wood flexes and doesn’t fall down.  And let me remind all my readers, as others have been repeating, be ready for catastrophe. Get the spare water and get the food and medicine emergency kit. Okay? Cause you never know. Be prepared!

Except Haiti had been sort of trying to be prepared. THey were prepared for the likely even, a hurricane. THey were not prepared for the unlikely event.

And that makes me know that we are all very exposed to disaster. Some things you cannot see coming. THere is no such thing as being prepared enough.

I guess that is why it’s good to know how to pray. To keep your hand in, as it were, on the prayer hotline. Because when you can’t do anything, you can still pray.

Let’s pray for Haiti, and stay humble.

domestic imperialism

Jedidiah Purdy came to my attention because he wrote some amazing book or other and he was homeschooled.

I googled him further and discovered this article

In nearly impenetrable language, he discusses the ideals behind imperialism. To be reductive, he says that imperialist action is based on the idea that one party knows better than another. He divides imperialism into two camps, weak and strong.  Strong imperialism says “We know better than you and are going to place ourselves in a position to make decisions for you.”  Weak imperialism is a sort of emancipatory imperialism, saying, “You, the people, are under the power of other people who are not allowing you to make your own decisions. We will overpower those who have overpowered you to restore your self-determination.”

Weak imperialism contains a contradiction, because an outside party is deciding what the so-called oppressed people need. However, it is arguably a necessary thing to help the helpless on occasion.

Why do I bring up imperialism right now? Because the democrats in the united states congress have taken it upon themselves to decide for its citizenry what we need. There is not popular support for this Health Care bill, but they have come to the conclusion that they know better than their constituents.

That is just the current manifestation. What will this very deeply private health care bill further decide for Americans?

Local conflicts

Driving to the Long Beach Hilton yesterday for a convention, I saw a line of picketers in front. I was driving past to find the parking, but they seemed to be listless, and all the signs were professionally printed.

Hired picketers, I thought. I was early, so I wanted to go speak to them to see what they could tell me about their cause. Not much, I figured, if they were temp workers hired by the union to hold signs.

As sign holding gigs go, this one would be less taxing than the one where the guy has to hold the arrow ON SALE sign and dance while waving it around.

But by the time I got to the picketers, they had turned up the volume. Literally. There was a bullhorn in use, and some marching that could be interpreted as angry. Now I felt too intimidated to go up and talk to them.

Two people were standing in an alcove to take a better look so i joined them. The woman there said “What do those signs say? What are they protesting?”

My thoughts exactly. “Unite!” I answered her, reading the signs. “But that doesn’t tell us anything. What’s the deal?”

I looked over at the second person in our alcove, and saw he was a cop. He sighed, with his thumbs hooked into his belt.

“The Union wanted the workers at this Hilton to unionize. They had a vote and the workers didn’t want it. Hilton doesn’t care; a lot of their hotels are union already. But they don’t think the workers should be forced to unionize if they don’t want to. And we are caught in the middle.”

Didn’t expect that answer. “But…They are being pretty loud…Can they do that? I’m not feeling very peaceful. Perhaps they are disturbing my peace?”

Policeman said, “That’s why I’m here. Caught in the middle.”

Hmm. “Don’ t they have a red line? I mean, when I lived in an apartment, there was a limit to how high I could turn the volume up before I got in trouble.”

Apparently the city of Long Beach does not have red line legislation.

good point from a kenyan journalist’s perspective

Was listening to  a podcast this week that interviewed BInyavanga Wainaina. He’s a journalist and critic in Kenya, and he was talking about how western aid (money, projects, etc.) is destroying his country.

I’ve written about this before. I have long been looking at the situation in Africa and trying to get a handle on what’s going on. Mr. B.W. says that these swoop-down-and-save-them projects usually are not working with the infrastructure that is there, and end up as broken-down slums after the project runs out of funding from the Westerners who started it.

It’s a particular problem…That the western ‘compassionate’ eyes do not see how to work WITH the people and resources that are there…There is a lot of preconcieved notions and prejudiced ideas.

I thought I would share this article he wrote…it seems dead on the money. I’d call it satire, but it rings too true:

how to write about africa

Mattel says: All your Bratz are belong to us

When I was a kid, my mom did not let me play with Barbie dolls because they presented an impossible standard of beauty. I didn’t care that much for dolls, but I loved playing dress-up and did resent the Barbie sanctions. My  daughter will play with Barbie if she wants.

But a couple years back, I encountered the Bratz dolls. These little 10″ fabrications of feminine ideal are just about the sluttiest thing for ages 3 and up. The Bratz make the anorexic Barbie (a 5’9″ Barbie in real measurements would have a 36″ chest, 18 waist and 33″ hips) look wholesome.  No way would a child of mine be playing with these belly-baring, poof-lipped pubescent prettygirls that truly belong in the virtual reality section of an Adult DVD store.

Bratz came about in 2001. That’s not long after Brittany Spears declared she was saving herself ’til marriage, even if though she wanted someone to hit her “Baby, One More Time”.  The Spice Girls were peaked and already broken up by the time the Bratz got packaged, so the dolls were not breaking new ground.

But the Bratz were for little girls, and therefore lingered longer.  I would not be able to stop my kid from seeing these and wanting their hyper-sexualized glamour as they stand in plastic-packaged splendor in the toy aisle of EVERYWHERE. They are in the zeigiest. Pandora was here  and the box is open.

But now, I see new hope.

Turns out, Carter Bryant, the creator of Bratz, was working for Mattel when he sold the idea of Bratz to MGA Entertainment. Since he was on their payroll, Mattel had the rights to his ideas. The lawyers began their work.

I don’t know if Mr. Bryant brought his teenage slut fantasy doll up for consideration to his then-employer Mattel. They already had been making and selling Barbie for more than 40 years. Perhaps they had more shame than MGA proved to have.

Either way, the courts say that Mattel owns Bratz now. It’s a business after all, and this WSJ article asks:

MattelInc. faces a big question in the wake of a federal judge’s order handing it control of MGA Entertainment Inc.’s popular Bratz dolls: Are the Bratz worth more to Mattel dead or alive?

The times have changed. Brittany Spears long ago lost her schoolgirl allure. And isn’t it a common rule of thumb, that hemlines rise and fall with the economy? Let these barely-clad Bratz recede into history already.

Please Mattel, let the Bratz die. Barbie can handle the future.





Presidential Shoes

This is on the news, and probably most people have seen it.

Here’s what I want to point out. Doesn’t it seem like whatever security/bodygaurds that the President has are pretty slow to react? The guy lobbed two shoes before anymore jumped up.

Even the perpetrator seems like he’s just waiting at the end, for someone to show up and grab him.

I’m glad no one was hurt, but if dude had lobbed a grenade at the Pres, he’d have gotten TWO off before anyone even made a move.


UPDATER: The Huffington Post agrees with my concern (although the writer says that if it were BARACK he’s do a Matrix move and Neo his way out of the shoe path–Obama is THE ONE)

Abolish Capitalism

I have asked for the abolishment of certain words before (see ‘Teleconference’). I found another one: Capitalism

This article  provides an alternative:

 I refuse to use the word “capitalism” in this context, because it’s really a Marxist term and doesn’t capture the essence of a system in which individuals and corporations freely exchange goods and services without government interference, if indeed it ever did. When so-called “capitalists” who run the finance, real estate, insurance, and now automotive industries come to Washington, hat in hand, for taxpayer dollars, it’s laughably ludicrous to call them supporters of the free market. Moreover, the term “capitalism” doesn’t capture or connote the importance of property rights and the ability to exchange them freely that are at the base of human liberty in the way that the phrase “free market” does.


I’m irritated with the persistent of ‘Marxism’ as a valid political theory. It was a living theory more than a hundred years ago, but the world has changed.  Using Marxism as economic theory now makes about as much sense as using the four Humors for medical diagnostics.  When I hear people refer to it now, I think they are being intellectually lazy and not willing to reevalute the changes that have heppened during the 20th and 21st century.

So lets not use that word any more. Free Marketer can be a replacement.

Citizen Action Kit

Well, I tell you. I am sad that my team did not win the Presidential election.

But I am not willing to go gently into that dark night. I feel ominous about what President Obama might choose to do regarding taxes and stifling business. Then I remember, he’s not the only guy with influence on these matters.

So here is my plan:

I will get the names and addresses of all my government representatives and create pre-addressed stamped envelopes for all of them. Maybe more than one for each. Then, when I hear of a situation that I have an opinion about, I can dash off a letter to the people who are handling that situation and let them know how I think it should be handled.

This election had a massive turn-out. I’m sorry they didn’t vote for my team, but it is heartening that so many people are willing to take action to be involved in government. I don’t think that momentum should be lost. So, I’m going to make my action kit of preaddresses envelopes and let my representative know that their job and performance is being scrutinized.

That wayI have a reason to stay on top of issues. Rather than just stewing about it, I can take action. I would hope to avoid frustration and impotent rage. Let’s hear it for potent rage!

Tomorrow we’ll know

I guess most of the country is pretty excited about the election.

I don’t know what will happen. I can’t predict.

But I will be walking into my polling place tomorrow.

See you on the other side!

Iceland’s bank accounts are frozen? Really?

We all know that the U.S. is having some money troubles. We’ve gotten used to hearing ‘seven hundred billion dollars’ repeated and echoed on TV and the radio and in print. But we are not alone in economic distress. Europe’s been feeling a little panicked, too.

By my reckoning, the first country that did a bail-out plan was Ireland. They jumped right on it:

(from 10/1/08)

Ireland said Tuesday it would guarantee payments on as much as €400 billion ($563 billion) in bank debt…The figure, which the government said guaranteed nearly its entire banking system, is twice the country’s gross domestic product.

Ireland acted a lot faster than the US in doing a bailout. And in terms of the size of the each respective country, Ireland’s move is substantially larger than America’s 700 Billions. Ireland is not nearly as large as the US. I think that speaks well of Ireland’s concern for its people and for its reputation. People will not say that the Irish renege on promises. Although, I would feel concern if I were an Irish taxpayer. But Ireland will probably come out all right.

That’s not true of every country. Take Iceland. Right now, the big explosion of Iceland’s banking has left nothing but rubble. Last year, the excitement was high and the money was pouring in. At that time, the London Times describes the scene in Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland. The “billionaires boys club” rode the wave of a deregulated banking system. The icelandic Krona was quite expensive, and everyone was living large:

Flush with cash raised domestically and from international markets and headed by fresh-faced entrepreneurial chief executives, firms such as Bakkavor Group, FL Group and Baugur have used Reykjavik as an unlikely base for aggressive overseas expansion…

The success of these firms has attracted overseas investment far out of kilter with Iceland’s own small economy… It is one reason for the run on the currency sparked by a mini-financial crisis in Iceland last year. Standard & Poor’s, the credit rating agency, gave warning last week that it may cut the country’s sovereign rating, causing alarm bells to ring …To tame inflation it has lifted interest rates to a record 13.75 per cent.

Interest rates of 13.75%? Hot damn! Sign me up! But wait a minute. Even this optimistic times say there was a mini-crisis in 2006 and some “alarm bells” were ringing because the bank’s reach is out of kilter with the country. But people believed that banks are solid. They never fail; they always keep their promises.

Well, this october surprise was a trick, not a treat for the many investors in Icelandic banks: bupkis. Investors put their money in Iceland, and they aren’t getting it back. Not if you’re not an icelander, anyway. This is doesn’t make happy customers. A bunch of officials are converging on the little island. The British Prime Minister Gordon Brown made some speeches back home, telling his countrymen “We will take further action against the Icelandic authorities wherever that is necessary to recover the money…This is the responsibility of the Icelandic government. They’ve got to take responsibility.”

From what I have found, the Prime Minister has to say something.The situation in Iceland seems to have affected every corner of the UK:

Hundreds of thousand of British consumers have accounts now frozen in Icelandic banks that have collapsed and been nationalized. Also stuck is close to £1 billion held by British regional governments, police and fire departments and London’s transport authority. British companies are also thought to have substantial deposits in Iceland.

As far as the Brits were concerned, this must have seemed a sure thing. Everyone was doing it, and the interest rates were not something to pass by. And even if they had some doubts, Iceland was part of the EU. Every bank that was part of the EU guarantees deposits, just like the FDIC in the US. They could deposit up to 20,000 euros worth of money and be secure. That’s the law:

The government, however, has said it may not be able to compensate foreigners…Iceland Prime Minister Geir Haarde said Friday the two countries are trying to work constructively to resolve the dispute, but he found some of Mr. Brown’s comments in recent days “disconcerting and not very helpful.”

I’d say that the British Prime Minister’s comments were disconcerting! What did he mean by “further action” anyway? Is he planning an invasion? The British navy is good, but how are you going to draw blood from a turnip?

See, the Iceland banks did their job on advertising.The British invested heavily in Iceland, lured by the huge interest rates. They weren’t the only ones either; thirteen and three quarter interest attracted customers from a lot of other European nations. Holland had a lot of money over there too.  But you know what bank-savvy country didn’t fall for this fabulous interest rate deal?


The land of banking had a populace that apparently knew better than to fall for a “too good to be true” deal. I would like to think that I would be a credulous of such an outlying front-runner on the interest rate game. But maybe if I’d seen the ad, I’d have fallen for it too. Especially if I kept the balance below the 20,000 euro insured limit. If I had, I’d be screwed just like England.

This economic crisis is a challenge to the European Union’s newly achieved economic status. This month euro is falling against the dollar at last. And  the beaurocrats from Belgium haven’t had to deal with this sort of thing before. It will be a history-making and policy-changing adventure.

For Iceland, it will probably be even more of a change. All those Icelandic suits are going to be in mothballs in their closets. They’ll have to return to being fishermen. Or maybe they can go back to their roots and go pillaging like Vikings.But maybe they just did.