We beg your pardon, America

The passing of President Gerald Ford, “Oatmeal Man,” got me listening again to Gil Scott Heron and wondering about how little our country has learned in the last 30 years.

The pardon you gave, this time, was not yours to give.
They call it due process and some people are overdue…
Said they were going to slap his wrists and retire him with $850,000
And America was shocked! America leads the world in shocks…

The man who tried to steal America is not in jail…
The poor and ignorant go to jail, while the rich go to San Clemente…
and pardon us, while we get sick…
we have an understanding of Karma; what goes around, comes around…

And here we are looking at the long job ahead of cleaning up after the “national tragedy” that has been the Bush administration and its adventures to enrich the corporate class. Illegal wiretaps, the suspension of habeas corpus, the lies and fabrications to start an unnecessary war, the abandonment of a just military action, the sell-out of Americans to a system that crushes those without the cash to pay their way. How did we come back to this?  Did we just get fat and happy, losing our way?  Were we hijacked, hoodwinked or harrassed into letting go of our rights?

Will the Bush Administration ever really be held accountable for the damage it has wrought on our system, nation and reputation?  Will they pay for the hundreds of thousands of lives they have destroyed with their “pre-emptive strike” foreign policy?  When will we see the full impact of their ruinous fiscal policies?

The answer of course, is no, the administration will never truly be held accountable.  They will trot out all of the same old tired reasons used to send Nixon to San Clemente.  National security, health, etc. The MSM and their corporate ownership structure will ensure the short term legacy of this administration and the political wonks and bureaucrats will wrap the rest in the ponderous obscurity of the archives.  And the Democratic candidate that will succeed him will inherit a system so fundametally broken that he will be lucky to escape the worst of what Jimmy Carter had to deal with during his years in office.  Stagflation, anyone?

Messy Desks are Best

I feel so much better now. From the NY Times:

Studies are piling up that show that messy desks are the vivid signatures of people with creative, limber minds (who reap higher salaries than those with neat “office landscapes”) and that messy closet owners are probably better parents and nicer and cooler than their tidier counterparts.

Based on the state of my desk, I should be getting a raise. 🙂 In all seriousness though, while my desk always looks messy, there’s method to the madness: I am a horizontal organizer. When I need a document that’s somewhere on my desk, I can usually put my hand on it in a few seconds. Every couple of months I go through a clean-out and dump obsolete documents, and for a while it’s clean but hard to find things without rifling through a stack of papers. I agree when the author says, “the most valuable dividend of living with mess may be time”. By condensing my “filing” activities to a rare occasions, it’s much faster to dump lots of useless stuff that I might have spent time filing and forgetting about had I kept my desk cleaner.

Wasp T12 Speechtool

Here’s the must-have gadget for Christmas: the Wasp T12 Speechtool. Featuring the Sympiot keypad with extra-large five and intelligent thermotones, no self-respecting technophile will be without one. “It’s well weapon!”.

Hmm, it’s getting hard to tell the parodies from the real thing these days.

How to Win in Iraq : Stick figures are the key

It might seem incredible to describe an 18-page powerpoint decorated with stick figures this way, but after reading Fiasco I honestly believe this is the most sophisticated foreign policy approach to solving the Iraq problem to come out of the Pentagon so far. Sadly the author of “How to Win in Iraq”, a young Army captain called Travis Patriquin, was killed by an IED last week. A great loss.

Stormy in Seattle

There was a huge windstorm here in Seattle last night. It began with heavy rains early in the evening, and then the wind really started to pick up after midnight. We lost power soon after, and it still wasn’t on when we left for work this morning. Apparently much of Bellevue still lacks power; we’ll see if the lights are on when we get home. Other than a bit of water coming in the back door from a flooded gutter we came off unscathed. This slideshow shows the damage around the region. Four deaths have also been reported, including a woman drowned in her basement about a mile from where we live, after a holding pond flooded an apartment complex.

I’ve lived in Seattle for almost 7 years now, and this has easily been the worst month of weather … and it’s not even winter yet!

Verizon can’t multiply

I’ve had a few exasperating customer service myself (most notably trying to get my Xbox 360 repaired) but this guy’s dispute with Verizon really takes the cake. Before a trip to Canada (outside of his unlimited-data plan), he checked on the rate for browsing the Web on his phone over there. He was quoted .002 cents per kilobyte. So, if he downloaded 5 kilobytes, that would be .01 cents (.002 x 5 = .01, one one-hundredth of a penny). If he downloaded one hundred times that, 500 kilobytes, he would be charged 1 cent. In fact, he downloaded about 38,000 kilobyes, and expected to be charged about 76 cents.

Verizon charged him 76 dollars. The problem seems to be that no-one at Verizon is capable of basic arithmetic. Their billing system is clearly set up to charge 0.002 dollars per kilobyte (0.2 cents / kilobyte), but the support reps consistently quote 0.002 cents per kilobyte (.00002 dollars per kilobyte).

He recorded the support call complaining about the overcharge, and all 27 minutes of it is a hoot. The guy has the patience of a saint, even when two different reps agree that 1 dollar is different from 1 cent, and half a dollar is different from half a cent, but somehow .002 dollars and .002 cents is the same thing.

This is the product of the American educational system. At one point the supervisor even complains, “I’m not a mathematician!”, but you don’t need to be a mathematician to understand decimal points and multiplication. This is grade school arithmetic, people!

Still Married in Canada

The future of same-sex marriage is secured in Canada, as a Conservative bill to revisit the issue failed 175-123 on a free vote. More MPs supported same-sex marriage than in the last vote on the issue in June 2005. This effectively closes the issue in Canada, meaning that Jay and I will be married in Canada forever.

It still means nothing legally here in the States, but (with a hat tip to my Mum) it might well make a difference should we decide to move to Australia, where my home state of South Australia has just passed an equal-rights law for domestic partners both heterosexual and same-sex, bringing it in line with other Australian states.

This is America

Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen, was a victim of the U.S. policy known as “extraordinary rendition.” He was detained by U.S. officials in 2002, accused of terrorist links, and handed over to Syrian authorities, who tortured him. Arar is working with the Center for Constitutional Rights to appeal a case against the U.S. government that was dismissed on national security grounds.

His speech to receive the Letelier-Moffitt International Human Rights Award (by video, since he is barred from entry from the US) is truly shocking. This is the America we have become: a torturer of innocents.

For me, this sums it all up: an immigration official saying to him when detained at JFK: “The INS is not the body or the agency that signed the Geneva Convention, convention against torture.” They have no shame.

National Soup Swap Day is January 23rd, 2007

No, it’s not a joke. My post about Soup Swap was picked up at BlogHer, where it was found by the soup loving goddesses of The Gracious Bowl, a DC blog about, yes, SOUP. Inspired by our soupy goodness, they decided to host their own. Meanwhile, in Boston, the Wooden Spoon of Power was passed along to a new Master of Soup Ceremony. All these events converged, emails were exchanged, and National Soup Swap Day was declared.

The Soup Swappers of Boston, Washington DC, and Seattle encourage YOU to host a soup swap in your town on January 23rd, making this a craze that sweeps the nation. And, so there’s soup for those that might not get the chance to have some, please add a canned soup drive for a local shelter to your soup swap party, courtesy of the thoughtful ladies of The Gracious Bowl.

If you want to know how to host a soup swap, there are general guidelines here. If you do host a January 23rd soup swap, please drop me a line so I can let the other soup swappers know who’s participating and add your city to the press release. And you, you overseas people? You know who you are. We’d love to be able to call it International Soup Swap day, so if you can round up your neighbors and get them in on the swapping, do let me know.

Swap on!