Thursday, 20Sep2001 - Moral authority: what it is and isn't...

In a nutshell, Solomon had it and Caligula didn't.

One does not acquire moral authority by virtue of having a legitimate grievance, although a right to revenge is widely recognized, even if seldom codified in law.

Moral authority derives from habitually just conduct, from doing the right thing even when it's inconvenient, from treating others' rights as altogether equal with one's own, and from not taking the easy way out when values happen to conflict with each other in a particular circumstance -- the easy way out being to honor one and disregard the other.

Moral authority is unnecessary to exacting vengeance; the grievance itself is sufficient (in the minds of many, at any rate).

But in going on from that to eradicating the source of the grievance, one had better have it. Otherwise, when the dust settles, one is apt to discover that others have been tallying grievances against oneself.

In the present circumstance, this goes out both to Osama bin Laden, by way of an explanation for what is about to happen to him, and also to George Bush, as a plea to resist the temptation to throw caution to the wind, and to take seriously the signs that whatever moral authority America once wielded is badly degraded by the events of the last fifty-some years, and could snap under even moderate strain.

Wednesday, 19Sep2001 - Power vs. moral authority: cleaning our own house...

Power is not the same thing as moral authority...not even close.

Realistically, though, you need both to change the world.

America is long on power and short on moral authority, having too often, for far too long, taken the side of capital against the interests of common people.

It's not even much of a stretch to characterize this country as a rogue nation itself, since we have sponsored various forms of terrorism on a scale Osama bin Laden might envy, from routine assassinations in the 50's and 60's, to the carpet bombing of Laos, to our support of the Contras.

The decisions to bomb Iraq and Serbia into submission weren't quite in the same category, but, having been so heavy handed, they still contributed to an impression of America as a bully...the meanest sonofabitch in the valley, to invoke an old paraphrase of the 23rd Psalm.

Nor has American state-sponsored terrorism been entirely confined to the world outside our borders. What appears to be one such case, the bombing of Judi Bari, was particularly blatant, but there are many other examples.

Civil action in that case, which was to begin October 1st, has understandably been delayed, but the need to extricate the attitudes which precipitated that event from the halls of power is immediate and pressing.

We cannot both engage in a 'crusade' (poor choice of words, by the way) against terrorism and reserve the right to sponsor terrorism ourselves, without paying the consequences of hypocrisy.

Sat 15Sep2001 - Careful with that big stick... (ed:9/16)

You cannot end terrorism by force alone, particularly not by blunt military force (bombardment). You can, with more precise and riskier use of force, disrupt organizations which engage in terrorism, make them scale back their activities, and keep chopping off their heads as they grow back, but even these relatively modest objectives, if undertaken with too little consideration for the opinions of the societies within which these organizations have devoloped, will, in the long run, only exacerbate the problem.

Terrorism is born of resentment. It is the last resort of the powerless. And, in a world where the majority of people are relatively powerless, so long as scathing injustice continues, for every terrorist you terminate there will be a hundred to take their place. Count on it.

That's not to say that identifiable terrorists shouldn't be arrested and prosecuted -- they should be -- but that alone is not enough.

If you want to end terrorism, you must end the conditions that make people so bitter they are ready to give their lives in exchange for an opportunity to lash out just once. This means fundamentally altering the direction of the process of globalization, placing greater emphasis on the rights and needs of people and the natural environment, and less emphasis on the freedom of capital to pursue profit...and an abrupt end to the conflation of the two.

If you are unwilling to do this, terrorism will inevitably become a permanent phenomenon, and insecurity is the price we will all pay, and pay, and pay...

Sat 11Aug2001 - It's been a good morning...

energy.134: Sequestering CO2
energy.134.194: John Payne (satyr)  Sat 11 Aug 01 09:12

 I heard a report about pumping liquid CO2 underground, into spent oil/gas
 wells.  Had to wonder whether the energy used in purifying and compressing
 it might not more than offset the energy value of the fuel represented in
 its carbon content.

 Also, practiced on a massive scale for a long time, with continuing use of
 carbon-bearing fuels, it would really amount to Oxygen Sequestration
 rather than Carbon.

 Far better not to burn the stuff in the first place.

energy.139: Night Sky Radiation Cooling
energy.139.24: John Payne (satyr)  Sat 11 Aug 01 09:00

 A variation on evaporative cooling that also makes use of night sky
 radiative cooling, that would be useful in arid coastal regions, would be
 to spray filtered sea water over a horizontal surface with a high
 propensity to radiate in the infrared and a layer of insulation between it
 and any significant thermal mass, and then collect the brine that drained

 The brine would be cooled first by evaporation, then further by radiative
 heat loss.

 The reason for the insulation is to allow the temperature of the surface
 to drop more rapidly after sunset.

 Parking lots could be used for this purpose if the insulation and
 radiative surface were rolled up in the daytime and then deployed in the
 evening, although they would build up considerable heat in the process
 without having an opportunity to cool off at night themselves.

 A tension structure similar in appearance to a parachute suspended
 inverted on a ring of poles would be just about ideal, and would shade a
 small area around the center from all but the earliest and latest rays of
 sunlight during the day.  The bowl shape would also help keep drifting
 saline mist to a minimum.  Or, using flexible materials, it could be
 collapsed into a teepee shape in the daytime (poles angled inward) and
 deployed (poles angled outward) at night.

 Care would have to be taken that the flow of sea water be sufficient to
 avoid so much evaporation that salt precipitated onto the radiative
 surface...unless salt makes a good radiator, in which case it wouldn't

 For a ballpark estimate of how much cooling might be achieved per area of
 radiative surface, consider that roughly half the Earth is illuminated by
 sunlight at all times, yet the average temperature is nearly constant.

 Granted that the nights are shortest in the summer when cooling is most
 needed, so this approach works better the closer you get to the equator,
 where seasonal variation in day-length is the lowest and the need for
 cooling is pretty much a year-round affair.

energy.181: Natural Gas
energy.181.240-241: John Payne (satyr)  Sat 11 Aug 01 09:44

 Using hydrogen to turn coal into methane creates a market for hydrogen,
 and wind power may soon be the cheapest way to make hydrogen (since hydro
 power is already mostly committed to other uses).  And, for the purpose of
 making hydrogen, it matters not at all that the wind doesn't blow all the
 time, since electrolysis is exquisitely scalable.

 Turning coal into methane also means using less coal, since, carbon atom
 for carbon atom, metane has considerably more energy content.  It even
 means producing less CO2 than burning an equivalent amount of oil, since
 methane is CH4 and oil is essentially (CH2)n.

 And gas is transmissible by pipeline, and many such pipelines are already
 in place.  In fact there's a whole infrastructure in place for the use of
 methane (the predominant ingredient in natural gas).  Plus it's an easy
 step from methane to methanol for applications where a liquid fuel is

 What this all means is that coal gassification (using wind-produced
 hydrogen) is a GOOD IDEA as an intermediate step while the production of
 hydrogen is scaled up, since it's sure to take awhile for that production
 to catch up with our current consumption of natural gas, much less
 displace the use of other fuels.

 There's going to have to be a period of transition from fossil to
 renewable energy, and during that period what renewable energy we can
 produce is best used to offset the dirtiest of the old practices, of
 which burning coal extracted from strip mines is just about the worst.

 Building generating plants that run on natural gas is a great idea, so
 long as it's accompanied by long-term plans to build enough windplants to
 make enough hydrogen to gassify enough coal to replace natural gas as a
 fuel as the supplies of _natural_ gas dwindle.

 When most of the methane we burn is produced this way we can start
 converting to the direct use of hydrogen.

energy.227: Energy Journalism
energy.227.4: John Payne (satyr)  Sat 11 Aug 01 09:55

 As an academic matter, this would just about have to be a
 multidisciplinary program run in cooperation between a school of
 journalism and a school of engineering.

Fri 10Aug2001 - Memo to Al...

Keep the beard; lose the hair coloring.

Sun 05Jul2001 - More docucode...

Both SOAP and WSDL appear to be pulling in the direction of merging document and program description, although neither is exactly either aspect of what I've suggested below.

Sat 04Aug2001 - A semi-modest proposal...

web.631: Markup-o-gramming: the docucode connection
web.631.1: John Payne (satyr)  Sat 4 Aug 01 21:44

I've no doubt there are a number of projects underway to create full-blown
programming languages that are also fully compliant XML applications.

And why not?!  XML is all about structure, and programs are highly
structured documents.  Except for the verbosity it seems like a natural

But this really isn't what I'm suggesting.

What I AM suggesting is supplying XML with enough functionality to

 	1) create an association between element types and object
 	   interfaces (lanugage independent classes) which extend the
 	   DOM's generic element node interface in ways directly
 	   related to the role of the element type in the document,
 	   and a standard method of including this information in
 	   the document model so that parsers supporting this feature
 	   are able to construct the enhanced objects as they build
 	   object models for documents of types making use of it,
 	   without having to have been specially written for the
 	   document type

 	2) an XML application for program description which can serve
 	   the same purpose across all platforms as the POSIX interface
 	   serves for UNIX and unix-derived systems (not a programming
 	   language so much as a lingua franca into which programs can
 	   be translated from whatever language and from which object
 	   code can be derived)

These are actually somewhat similar proposals, but the second is far more
ambitious than the first, and would benefit from it.

Sun 29Jul2001 - Music notation as an XML application...

Wondering how you might write music based upon integer ratios?

Well...some of the projects listed on this page having anticipated that question.

Sun 22Jul2001 - Ratio keyboard layout...

Wondering how you might build an instrument around mathematical ratios?

Well...here's one design that could work.

Sat 21Jul2001 - Tone frequency calculator...

Following up on Wednesday's plug for Just Intonation, I've thrown together a JavaScript calculator for tone frequencies calculated from the base frequency of your choice.

Fri 20Jul2001 - Recycled comment...

Making sure the vote of every eligible voter who goes to the trouble of casting one counts, and constraining the influence of money on politics, are only part of what's needed in the way of electoral reform. These Google searches point to a few aspects of this broad and terribly important subject:

Wed 18Jul2001 - 1.0594630943592953 and why you should recognize it...

1.0594630943592953 is an approximation of the 12th root of 2 - the number which yields 2 when multiplied by itself 12 times - the actual value of which is one of those never ending, never repeating sequences of digits referred to as an "irrational number".

So what does this have to do with anything?

Well, it's the number by which the frequency of any note must be multiplied to get the frequency of the next note, in the musical scale in common use throughout most of the world for the last few hundred years, the 12-tone equal tempered scale, in which each octave is divided into 12 equal steps.

So what does this have to do with human hearing and musical perception?

Not much, quite frankly. The standard scale is a matter of convenience, in instrument construction and musical notation, but it isn't quite so convenient when it comes to supporting precise musical expression.

Our ears have evolved to recognize tone intervals more easily described in terms of simple, whole number frequency ratios, like 4/5, which, except for octaves, can only be approximated using the standard scale. This may explain why even those with sharp hearing can have a very difficult time tuning instruments, since, in the standard scale, "in tune" is something of an abstraction.

For further explanation, visit the website of the Just Intonation Network.

Tue 17Jul2001 - The Disclosure Project heads for San Francisco...

It made the national news, awhile back, when twenty or so very credible witnesses testified before a gathering at the National Press Club to the effect that there has, in fact, been an energetic government coverup of evidence relating to incidents involving extraterrestrial visits to Earth.

The group which organized that event, The Disclosure Project, will be in San Francisco this coming Sunday, July 22nd, for a public presentation, to be held in the Masonic Auditorium, 1111 California St., with registration beginning at 1:00 p.m. There will be a $5 fee to help cover the hall rental.

This is part of a national tour, which began in Boulder, Colorado, where a 2-hour video of witness testimony was shown to an overflow crowd...hence the need for the large space.

Mon 16Jul2001 - Time to upgrade?...

Can't find the menu, or it's strung below the bottom of the page and unreadable? Must be time to upgrade your browser.

This page uses nothing not included in XHTML 1.1 and CSS 2, honest!

Sun 15Jul2001 - The craving for control/legitimacy...

Ever hear "he really dissed her" or "she really dissed him", followed after only half a moment of confused silence, by "see, (s)he agrees", or something of the sort - usually said hurriedly, all in a voice a bit too soft to be heard clearly - and been left to wonder to what the speaker was referring and just how they might represent the false-transaction to others. Ever wonder whether they might have been providing themselves with pretext to 'represent' someone else, without their permission and quite in conflict with their real interests.

No? Well I have, all too often, and I have a theory about it.

To begin with, such licentiously interpretive interposition is only possible between people who are relatively isolated from each other, with little opportunity to check the veracity of claims made about the other by third parties. The isolation may be measurable in miles, or it may be a matter of non-intersecting social circles.

But more interesting to me is why people do it at all; why do they grasp at straws to confound others' lives?

This is where my theory comes in. I expect it started as a method for well-born or ambitious parents to use in turning away suitors they deemed unsuitable. Any little complaint would be transmogrified into "I'm sorry sir, but the lady is indisposed" or some such.

This is well-known, even a cliche. What's new is the widespread application of similar truth-mutation to other circumstances.

What I suspect happened is that the same approach was used, by people who view homosexuality as a treatable syndrome, to pry gay men (in particular) apart, and that gay men have retaliated by also applying this approach to make all single men in their vicinity appear off-limits to women.

This isn't the only context in which I believe this pattern has become common, but it's the one in which the largest number of people have the most at stake.

I do hope everyone gets tired of this nonsense quite soon...

Sat 07Jul2001 - Of extra dimensions and cosmic asymmetry...

Warning, the following is pure, unadulterated speculation!

Two recent developments in physics have caught my attention, and they share the quality of asymmetry, making me wonder whether they might be related.

On the one hand, researchers in particle physics have discovered that the spontaneous generation of matter, an effect long known, disctinctly favors matter over antimatter, neatly solving the question of where all the antimatter went.

On the other hand, theorists have applied an old theory in a new way to show that the implications of a five-dimensional generalization of general relativity include a sort of antigravity that could account for both the orbital velocities measured in spiral galaxies and the expanding universe, and completely negate the need for the dark matter that has been such a puzzle. This fifth-dimensional gravity, is not, however, simply a mirror of the gravity we're familiar with, as the inverse square law doesn't apply to it.

Now for the speculative part. I'm guessing that the asymmetry between the two types of gravity is a consequence of the asymmetry between matter and antimatter.

Further, I'm guessing that the asymmetry in the spontaneous generation of matter/antimatter also results from the asymmetry in matter already in existence.

And to take it even further, I'm guessing that asymmetry was originally just a chance happening, an almost infinitely improbable event that only took place because there was infinite time available, but that once it did, it was like a chain reaction that could have filled infinite space with an infinite density of matter, had it not been forcibly dispersed.

Caveat: please understand this is coming from someone who needed a second pass at first semester calculus to really comprehend it, and who never made it through the second semester...but, if it turns out to be right, or even close, remember you heard it here first. ;-)

Sat 30Jun2001 - A cosmic "what if"...

What if, once upon a time, there was a species, on a planet located much closer to the center of our galaxy, that, much as we have, raised themselves up out of a purely biological existence to become wielders of science and technology, but with nothing at all to suggest they weren't alone in the universe, no ancient stories about gods arriving on fiery chariots, nothing like the Nasca Plain to suggest a pre-historic obsession with getting the attention of visitors arriving from above, no evidence whatsoever of any such visitations, nor even the thought that they might ever have occurred.

What if this species slowly moved out into space, utilizing nuclear propulsion but still travelling at only a small fraction of the speed of light, gradually extending their range to a few systems, then a few dozen, then a few hundred, until they had finally spread throughout the habitable portion of the galaxy, settling primarily on previously lifeless planets to avoid the complications alien microbes could cause them, but also investigating and occasionally establishing outposts on planets that were teeming with life.

But what if, along the way, they discovered hints of prexisting technological species, long since gone extinct, scattered throughout the galaxy with nothing to suggest a common origin.

Might they not conclude that technology was a hurdle over which very few managed to jump, and that they were the first out of many to make it?

And might they not take it on as a mission to guide others across that hurdle?

Sat 23Jun2001 - Allium sodalitas, Amnesty and the unmaking of the secret government...

You might imagine the President has access to all governmental secrets. Not so. Some compartments of the far-flung national security apparatus are so much on a need-to-know basis that even the President isn't privy, and will be told "no" if he demands to be made so.

Whether a vestige of the world war II, the cold war, or something that just sort of happened, it exists - a patchwork of secret operations answerable to no one.

Perhaps it continues to exist to prevent those who are part of it from being tried for treason for doing what they believed to be their patriotic duty, for those instances where they've overstepped whatever authorizing legislation there may have been, perpetuating and extending the secret network on an ad hoc basis, and commiting serious crimes in the interest of protecting the integrity of its autonomy. (And maybe there's money to be made...)

But whether or not this is an accurate portrayal, the threat of prosecution can only be an impediment to a return to fully constitutional government.

Just as South Africa had its Truth and Reconciliation Commission, so also we need our own, to bring the era of secrets within secrets to an end.

Amnesty is necessary, but it should only be offered in exchange for disclosure...at the very minimum disclosure to the duly constituted authorities and congressional oversight committees.

Failing to unmake this network of secrecy will be to go the way of Rome and world dominance, and likely also the fate of Rome far more quickly than Rome itself.

Mon 18Jun2001 - There goes the other shoe...

U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) began investigating gasoline prices two years ago. In that time he's uncovered evidence of widespread market manipulation, including the closing of refineries to reduce supply.

This cover page links to Senator Wyden's remarks, the report itself, and supporting oil industry documents - all in .doc format.

Sun 17Jun2001 - Could this become a self-fulfilling narrative...

Oh, MY...this page is just one in a long and growing list of pages relating to the yet-to-be-released movie AI. Looks like a wild ride for those who get drawn into it!

Sat 16Jun2001 - Wired article on electrical power...

This article in Wired describes how the electrical power industry's own research organization, the Electric Power Research Institute, wants to move forward with a diversified power network, largely composed of smaller plants, and including more renewable-sourced power than the Bush administration's energy policy envisions.

Sat 09Jun2001 - Boom!

SF Gate reported yesterday that the California ISO is asking for refunds of "overcharges" from power generating companies, to the tune of more than $6 Billion!

It's also asking "the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to revoke the market-based rate authority for four generators -- Duke Energy, Mirant, Dynegy and Reliant Energy."

Fri 08Jun2001 - What a difference a day makes...

CNN reports that the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, of which Joe Lieberman is now chairman, will be looking into the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's glaring failure to perform the function for which it was created.

Tue 05Jun2001 - Reasons to elect Hillary to be President...

  1. she's got the grit to handle the job
  2. it may be our best shot at universal health care
  3. what better way to keep Bill on a short leash

Main reason not to: she's a centrist, not a liberal, and, after more than thirty years of center to center-right leadership, we really badly need someone of a more progressive persuasion. Fat chance, though.

Sun 03Jun2001 - How is nuclear energy like treading water...

A letter from the chairman of the citizens' advisory board for a nuclear fuel processing facility, printed in an Illinois newspaper, and posted in <inkwell.vue.105.287>, points to some serious slippage between the nuclear hype being tossed about lately and the far less attractive reality.

Thu 31May2001 - Elephant 'calligraphy'...

I only caught just a bit of the report, but it sounded fascinating; apparently elephants are capable of communicating through drawing! It sounded as though some trainer(s) have managed to get one or more elephants interested in holding (presumably very large) brushes in their trunks and using them to create images on paper.

No luck finding anything about it on the web, but this link, relating to elephant training, caught my eye. ;-)

Wed 30May2001 - Alternatives to term limits...

Shortly after the election, when the country's attention was torn between hanging chad and slipshod electoral proceedures in general, I hoped to divert some small part of that attention to a more general examination of elections, and to that end posted several links which were Google searches, one of which used "proportional representation" as a search term.

There are several variations on the theme of proportional representation, one of which, representation by proxy, I've previously written about.

So how are these alternatives to term limits? Well, both term limits and proportional representation are intended to make government more a voice of the people and less an instrument of the power elite, but term limits seem not to actually accomplish that in practice, the main problem being that inexperienced legislators are easy prey for skillful lobbyists - a problem exacerbated by the accelerated calendars some state legislatures follow.

A compromise approach would be to organize legislatures into a larger body, subject to term limits, and a smaller executive council that was not. This would insure some turnover, while allowing the retention of talented, committed legislators, giving them an opportunity to gain experience and exert long-term leadership.

But, even more generally, we need to quit ragging on "government" per se, and get back to experimenting with its form and operation, looking for ways to make it more closely approximate what it should be.

Sun 27May2001 - Greens for an Interim Democratic Majority (GIDM)...

Okay, I'll admit to not being much of a Green. Heck, I'm not even registered with the party, just with the county clerk. Don't get me wrong; I really like that platform Ralph was so proud of. I'm just not so sure about trying to pursue it by building a third party, at least not in a manner that effectively hands the reins over to the 'greater evil' between the two major parties.

Fact is, though, I'm pretty tired of even that brand of rhetoric. Sure, on the whole, I prefer the Democrats to the Republicans, but I'd just about rather hug a porcupine than be one.

Still, if you've gotta choose between 'em, better the donkey than the elephant, in most races and on most issues.

So pardon me for being an armchair activist just long enough to give me the opportunity to once again say to the Green Party, please, PLEASE, choose your battles (our battles) carefully, and don't just jump into every race for which you can find someone to accept the candidacy.

And remember, it's the platform, not the organization, that matters most! Organize for change, not just to be the new insiders. If the party grows into a real contender thereby, well and good.

Sat 26May2001 - Busy Bee BUZZ, re: Energy...

The Sacramento Bee has been following the developing situation regarding the price and availability of electrical power and natural gas, ummm, energetically. They've published numerous stories related to it, as you can see from this index of energy-related stories.

And, as we struggle to comprehend how we get into such fixes in the first place, it might be instructive to think back upon the tenure of Herbert Hoover.

Sun 20May2001 - Justice distorted is justice denied...

Lisl Ellen Auman is serving a life term for a crime committed by someone else, over whom she had no control, while she herself was in police custody.

Lisl is guilty of poor judgement in whom she chose to ask for assistance in retrieving her things from a residence she'd already moved out of, but not of the killing of Officer VanderJagt. His killer committed suicide at the scene - a sort of self-imposed capital punishment.

SNOW in Boulder!!!!! (~5400 feet elevation)

Sat 19May2001

This article, on energy policy, by former president Jimmy Carter, appeared Thursday in the Washington Post.

And this article from yesterday's San Francisco Chronicle describes an investigation that suggests electricity prices have been artificially inflated by unnecessary generating plant shut-downs.

A followup article in today's Chronicle says "state regulators have received evidence from whistle-blowers at California power plants that generators illegally manipulated prices by deliberately withholding electricity during shortages."

Fri 18May2001 - "Energy crisis"? Oh, yeah, right, uhuh, uhuh...

Not in a long time have we witnessed such a brazen attempt to bum-rush the whole country into acquiescing to the exorbitant demands of a corporate cartel. Even John D. Rockefeller didn't take advantage of the monopoly he establised to gouge prices, like BIG ENERGY is currently trying to do. The closest parallel is probably the railroad industry of the mid nineteenth century.

What's up? Well, it looks to me like you have a combination of envy over the high growth rate high-tech investments recently enjoyed, combined with desparation to find a new home for the capital that can't be satisfied with a more reasonable rate of return (like the 6% one mogul suggested), now that the tech-bubble has burst, combined with Bush & Cheney's links to the oil industry, combined with an opportunity in the form of a boneheaded restructuring of California's electrical power industry a few years ago and Bush's overpowering lack of incentive to bail the state out.

Do we actually need additional refinery and generation capacity at all? Yeah, probably, but not nearly on the scale that Bush is talking about, and the very last thing we need is cuts in the federal programs to encourage conservation and alternative sources of energy, which, rhetoric aside, is what Bush is actually trying to serve us up in his proposed budget.

Sorry George, game's up. Your buddies have been caught with their hands in the cookie jar.

Wed 16May2001 - E.T. revisited...

Looks like skepticism will survive the onslaught of evidence, for a little while longer anyway.

Might be just as well. I'm not sure most of us are up to dealing with certain knowledge of the existence of more advanced species that aren't even part of the our phylogenetic tree.

Fact is, I haven't given much thought to such implications stemming from my own experience. I know what I saw, and estimate the probability of it having been of (contemporary) human origin as being infinitesimal...and that's as far as I go with it.

You prefer to believe in Atlantis or people traveling back through time (or some clandestine human society with more advanced technology they keep more or less secret from the rest of us), than to believe in life having emerged and having produced intelligence somewhere besides Earth, and earlier. Fine; I'm not prepared to argue.

I expect they'll introduce themselves to us when they're good and ready, and, until then, there's not much we can do about it, so we might as well keep on as though they weren't there. We've got plenty on our plate already, just figuring out how to get beyond this nest-fouling stage of our development...

Tue 15May2001 - Etiquette in a mixed community...

As a single, straight male living in a community with an unusually high concentration of gay men, I've had more than a little cause to consider how best to conduct myself around other men, whether gay, straight, bi, or of undetermined sexual preference.

And, you know, the best answer I've been able to come up with is to tread softly, because it's a situation not unlike the proverbial bull in a china closet, where it's all too easy to deeply offend some with behavior barely adequate to register on others - some men, gay or straight, having awfully thin skins and others skins as tough as rawhide.

But I have to own up to having come to that realization slow and late, and having made an ass of myself more than a few times. So, to all you gay men out there who I've rebuffed cruely, when you were just innocently testing the water, please accept my apology. Same goes for all the men of whatever persuasion that I've turned a cold shoulder to in an effort to avoid having to deal with the question of what their motives might be.

Sun 13May2001 - Can't blame 'em for trying to hush it up...

If you're younger (or even a few years older) than myself, you've been hearing about UFOs, as something from the weirder side of human nature, all your life. But now belief in the reality of extraterrestrial visitors to Earth may be on the verge of going mainstream.

ABC NEWS.com is reporting that "20 former government workers" went public together, Wednesday, at the National Press Club in Washington, with evidence of the reality of UFOs and of a coverup.

As I've already mentioned, I've seen a couple of these hummers myself, up fairly close, so I'm rather inclined to believe in their existence, if not in everything you hear about them. I daresay most of it is probably disinformation cooked up to make those with less far out testimony sound nuts by association.

It'd be awfully considerate if some congressional committee would hold the hearings suggested in the report linked above, so we could all quit playing these crazy-making games, at least with regard to this one issue.

What I saw didn't tell me much about the nature or intentions of the entities behind it, but (to be less mealy-mouthed about stating the obvious) it was unmistakably not of human origin...not, at least, unless you want to postulate time travel. (ed: 5/14)

Fri 11May2001 - A moot point regarding indeterminate results...

The media recount determined that it depends how you count 'em.

Sun 06May2001 - The least popular civil rights issue...

I think I'll let this link stand on its own, without explanation, as your right to keep it to yourself is what's most at issue...which does make it difficult to build a constituency...

Sat 05May2001 - Best viewed with standards-compliant software...

Can you believe this weather? ;-)

(Boulder's seen a nearly continuous mix of wet snow and drizzle for the last few days, proving that winter isn't over 'til it's over.)

Another question...have you heard of The Web Standards Project? Minor point, I suppose. I'm sure they would themselves be much more concerned that you'd gotten their message. Yes, they want you to upgrade!

The browser vendors are already coming around, which means it's now up to the rest of us to cart out those old-version browsers and replace them with the new, standards-compliant versions, so we can all quit worrying about which version doesn't include what and how to get around it (a game I've personally simply refused to play, but not everyone has had that luxury).

So, don't just relegate that 4.x version of MSIE or Netscape you've been hanging onto to a quiet corner of your hard drive; get it out of there!

Tue 01May2001 - Sorry, Mary...

Gentle, Strong Woman Seeks Chivalrous Agnostic or Atheist for Eventual Marriage and Deepest Love, with what may be the lengthiest and most detailed personal ad yet. I won't even pretend to have read more than a bit of it.

My first clue that I'm not what she's looking for was the word "Chivalrous" - something I may be, to a small degree, but certainly not enough so to satisfy anyone who would place it so prominently.

Pity, though. In some other respects this is a very attractive offer...

Mon 30Apr2001 - The passing moment of intersection...

We live on the trailing edge of what is likely to prove - in the absence of vastly improved methods of learning - a unique moment in our history, when we both understood the basis of the technology we'd acquired through trial and error over the millenia and could hope to at least grasp, as individuals, the main points of the whole breadth of human knowledge.

We used fire, for instance, for a very long time before understanding the nature of combustion, including to smelt metals, with no understanding of why some materials have a metallic character and others not. We used throwing sticks and bows without the ability to precisely describe the basis for their function. We even used a whole pharmacopia of medicines, with no understanding at all of biochemistry.

That time, when practice preceded understanding, has for the most part already come to an end, and a new age, in which practice is predicated upon understanding, has already begun.

But this new, powerful understanding is corporate in nature (referring to the collective mind rather than corporations, although, at least for the moment, I might just as well have intended either interchangeably). Where, in the past, we were ignorant of the basis for the effectiveness of what we did, in the future we will be incapable, as individuals, of encompassing it all.

As I suggested in a caveat above, this projection assumes no breakthroughs in our ability to learn...something I don't actually assume, but rather believe is just far enough off in the future that we'll have a good opportunity to experience the pangs of being cast upon an ocean of incomprehensibility before acquiring the skill to navigate it deftly.

So cherish this moment of chaos while you may, for it may not come again.

Sat 21Apr2001 - Reducto ad substantia...

Join me for a moment in imagining a little thought-bubble, a sort of universe in miniature in which anything can happen. Within this laboratory of the mind we're going to let the meme of private property operate unhindered.

Let's begin with a world in which every square inch of land is owned by someone in particular - by him or her and not by you, except that you'll have your own piece of land too, at least to start with.

Between these tracts of private property there will be high walls with gates, which can be locked tight from either side, or left wide open if the neighboring property owners agree to do so.

Because the walls will be high, and ridged, and topped with lots of spikes, all movement of people, goods, materials, energy, water, et cetra - even information - will have to pass through a succession of private domains, subject to whatever conditions the master or mistress of each imposes.

Those of a more cooperative mindset can negotiate to provide routes through the maze where a given set of conditions applies uniformly from end to end, whereas others can set their own rules or deny access altogether, requiring that their property be routed around, although they might deign to meet others at their gates for the purpose of conducting commerce...a piece of which their neighbors on the other sides of those gates are sure to demand.

Over time, some property owners will have thrived whereas others will have faired less well. The latter may find themselves in the position of having to sell out to the former (assuming transfer of title is allowed), rendering themselves once again solvent, but also landless, and no longer in a position to demand anything from anyone, except in exchange for their skill and labor, which they may sometimes find at a premium and at other times not at all so.

Under this regime of a mix of property owners and people who make their way by skill and sweat, again some will thrive and others fair less well, and the domains of the successful will grow, whereas those of the less fortunate will be subsumed. The numbers of landless laborers will grow, as will the average size of each remaining private domain, while the number of such domains and the number of property owners will shrink.

As this process continues, the number of property owners relative to the number of landless laborers will grow quite small, and they will come to constitute, effectively, a class of feudal lords, although that analogy may apply more or less depending upon how they conduct themselves.

The question that I leave for you to answer is, given that situation in which nearly all property has been appropriated by a very few, what sort of conduct on the part of those few will be rewarded by further success, and what sort of conduct punished by diminution? And what endgames are possible?

Mon 16Apr2001 - "Nothing exceeds like excess..."

Leave it to Jack Woehr to draw upon the lessons of classical history to make the "conservatism" of the present era look loose and profligate.

Sun 15Apr2001

How often do you get a chance to say "where were you twenty-three years ago today?"

As often as you like, I suppose, and, no, I'm not going to say why it occurs to me to ask. It did, and that's all I plan to say about it.

A better question would be "what do you plan to be doing twenty-three years hence?"

I have no ready answer for that, so I'll contemplate it along with you.

Sun 08Apr2001

(Found on Robot Wisdom Weblog): "18,000 variants on 'all your base...'" (Google search)

(Found on The Register): "Microsoft excludes world+dog from Passport climb-down" Have to give the Redmond lawyers credit for a nice job of revising the terms of use for the Passport Services. Unfortunately the revised terms only apply to North American users (so far) according to this Register piece.

From the half-formed thought department: There was a time in my life when I was frequently being reminded that I'm white, as though I was giving that supposed fact short shrift (actually I'm a sort of translucent biege-pink, given just a little exposure to sunlight), and was negligent in some supposed duty to define myself according to what would commonly be perceived as my "race".

But rather that pursue that thought further, I'd like to use it as an analogy for another sort of insanity, the belief that free markets will, left to themselves, result in the greatest good for the greatest number. There might have been a time when this was true, when trade was still a modest component of what kept people busy and met their needs, while it still lacked the power to defile ecosystems, corrupt governments, and turn whole societies into frenetic wage-slaves, but that time is now long past.

That said, it is also not the case that more regulation is necessarily better. Take the California energy debacle, for instance, where a few provisions in the market restructuring of a few years ago, which look unnecessary and ill-considered in hindsight, have resulted in a situation that allowed generating companies to game the market and drive distribution companies into bankruptcy. In this instance, less regulation, or at least the absence of those specific provisions, would probably have been better.

Neither the unjustified, quasi-religious belief in the supernatural beneficence of markets nor the irrational belief that any regulation is better than none represents reality. The devil is in the details, as they say, and there's no escaping the necessity of getting the details right.

Wed 04Apr2001

This report in The Register describes the broad rights to YOUR information granted to Microsoft by the terms of use of MS Passport services.

This link is where the "Terms of Use" link on the Hotmail homepage takes you. And this one is that actual terms of use for the Passport services.

Here's an excerpt from the Register article:

"The current Passport Terms of Use agreement not only fails to guarantee confidentially, but actually gives Microsoft and its business partners the right to own your information, and do pretty much what they want with it. That encompasses all your Hotmail and MSN Messenger communications today."

In effect, according to the terms of use, you grant Microsoft unlimited rights to use and/or market anything you include in messages using the Passport services. You are, in effect, donating a license for the free use of your information to the company in exchange for the service provided, and the terms of use make no bones about it.

Ooooops!...I see I'm a day late with this news. (Probably a dollar short too... ;-)

Sun 01Apr2001

I'm still assimilating the news from Amiga2001, but here's a digest written earlier in the day.
("Status" = 3rd person self-reference.)

Topic 850 [rockies]:  Beware the Ides of March - 3/01 Status Report
#235 of 236: John Payne (satyr)      Sun Apr  1 '01 (11:50)    18 lines

 jp sez Amiga announced deals with Sharp and Psion!
 jp sez they also showed a WinCE PDA running AmigaDE (Digital Environment)
    as distinguished from AmigaOS (the original one), which
 jp sez has a new lease on life and  will see further development,
    including memory protection!
 jp sez AmigaOS will host AmigaDE, just as it will also run hosted on
    Windows, Linux, and probably also Mac OS, as well as on PDA and cell
    phone OSes (talk about cross-platform!)
 jp sez TWO companies are producing motherboards to the new spec (PPC)
 jp is bowled over by all this news, and thinks they've found just the
    right combination of choices
 jp can't imagine what change he might wish for, other than that it all
    happen NOW
 jp thinks the announced timetable is reasonable, and will remain so even
    if it slips some
 jp hopes to be able to think about other things again, for awhile... ;-)
 jp muses 'from its own ashes...'

Fri 30Mar2001

Amiga2001 is happening this weekend.

I won't be there in the flesh, but I'll be following developments as best I can from the opposite side of the prairie.

Sat 24Mar2001 - Not all gloom and doom...

Here is a little superficial humor to brighten your day. ;-)

Fri 23Mar2001 - Bush tells ABA to get lost...

So GW thinks he stands to gain more than he loses by dissing the American Bar Association (ending a 50 year tradition of giving the Bar the opportunity to review prospective federal judge appointments before they're finalized).

He may want to fire his political consultants after this one...

Will this turn out to be the gaffe that relegates his administration to caretaker status? Possibly, but probably not. But it does substantially increase the load on the camel's back. Who knows when the next straw will prove the last?

Thu 22Mar2001

Mac OS X goes on sale in TWO DAYS!

Wed 21Mar2001 - In defense of Alan Greenspan...

Alan Greenspan, as the Federal Reserve's primary flak catcher, has been getting more than his share of heat since the Fed announced a measly 0.5% cut in the rate banks charge each other to borrow money overnight. Cut the man some slack already!

The Fed doesn't exist to preserve bull markets. It's a monetary institution, and it's primary responsibility is maintaining the currency at a stable value.

The assumption is, I suppose, that a stable currency is the best way to assure the long-term health of the economy, and, while I couldn't argue the point myself, it certainly sounds reasonable.

Lowering interest rates opens the throttle of the economic engine a bit, but it also has the effect of devaluing the currency, threatening to take us back to the bad old days of double-digit inflation. (You may not be old enough to remember that, but I am. There's nothing like an expectation of constantly rising prices to make you feel like the faster you go the behinder you get!)

So don't judge the Fed by whether its actions bail out those who bought high expecting the market to go even higher. That isn't its job. Rather judge it by whether you can still buy a loaf of bread with one of those formerly sky-high shares of dot.com stock.

And, while you're munching on the heel, contemplate the meaning of P/E...

Sat 17Mar2001 - Bush admin. shows its true colors...

(Found on The WELL): This L.A. Times article tells about the plight of a federal contract worker who was recently fired for posting a map of caribou calving areas in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

This postcard-sized map was just one of about 1000 such maps of national wildlife refuges and parks that he posted last week, and just one of about 20,000 maps he'd accumulated on his website overall. Since his firing, his website has also been removed from the net.

Thu 15Mar2001 (ed: 3/17) - You CAN say buh-bye to Bill...

Mac OS X and the Amiga operating environment there's enough other alternatives to Microsoft Windows to offer an interesting choice.

There's Linux, of course, in numerous variations and ubiquitous enough that I'm not going to bother saying much about it, except to mention RT Linux, which is a realtime layer that slips between the hardware and the standard Linux kernel, allocating processor time to it as well as to higher priority (timing dependent) tasks. This project may prove critical in helping to move Linux onto consumer machines, since it will give a big boost to the performance of multimedia applications.

Then there's BeOS, now in its 5.0 version, which is the result of a project begun about ten years ago, to create an uncompromising multimedia platform from scratch, using modern operating system concepts and programming methods, and NO LEGACY CODE, not even from UNIX. To sweeten the deal, BeOS is free for noncommercial use.

Another option also being offered free for noncommercial use is QNX Realtime Platform. QNX RTP is the outgrowth of QSSL's long experience in providing operating systems for embeded processors in all kinds of devices, combined with more recent effort to develop a modern graphical user interface (GUI), to help make their reputedly excellent software more acceptable in the consumer market.

Remember the Tandy (Radio Shack) Color Computer? Well, the CoCo's operating system, OS-9, is still around, and providing QNX with some stiff competition in the embeded processing market. Microware has put less recent effort into making OS-9 a factor in the consumer marketplace than QSSL has with its QNX RTP, but OS-9 already had an acceptable interface years ago, so this may not be much of an issue.

There's more, but those are the major contenders, unless you want to include game systems, like the Sony Playstation which is actually a powerful computer running a sophisticated operating system, in its current version. And, with the advent of the Playstation III, it undoubtedly will inspire descriptions like "formidable", although much depends on Sony making the system more amenable to use in more conventional computing. (For example, it currently doesn't include a network port as standard equipment, like most desktop systems now do, but it certainly doesn't lack for processing capability!)

Microsoft still commands the lion's share of the consumer desktop market, and also of desktop business computing (although they've been losing ground to Linux in the server market and have never been a significant presence in either high-end computing or embeded systems), and has made recent forays into set-top (television augmentation) and game systems, and PDAs. Moreover, if having the most overwhelming possible selection of software available is what matters to you, there really is no alternative to Windows. The only way other platforms can compete on that score is by providing Windows emulation, so they can count all of the Windows programs as well as those written specifically for their own systems. (Did you know you can actually install Windows on Macintosh computers, using a program called Virtual PC?)

But if you care about performance more than about having a hundered and one choices for every category of productivity software (in any case, only a few of which in any category are full featured, thoughtfully designed, and well written), then check out some of these other options. Of those listed above, only Mac OS X and the Playstation system won't run on the Intel-based hardware you probably already have.

Then, too...if you're among those who feel like the recent election was stolen, you might also want to consider the $30-million in soft money spent in Florida by Microsoft during the campaign, on top of the charges of anticompetitive behavior already making their way through the federal courts, and give long thought to whether the company may have grown too big for its britches, and whether you want to continue contributing to its hegemony. This, by itself, should be sufficient reason to go looking for alternatives, nevermind that Windows is a kloodgy resource hog that frequently stalls for long moments while working its way through many layers of complexity, just to perform simple tasks. That such poorly operating software enjoys such overwhelming market share is perhaps the best evidence that Microsoft does, in effect, constitute a monopoly.

A recent editorial cartoon highlighted the public's irritation with new stuff that doesn't work as advertised as a contributing factor in the current economic slowdown. More attention needs to be paid to elegant design (in the engineering sense) and reliability, and the alternative operating systems listed above are a good place to start.

Wed 14Mar2001

Amiga implies responsibility for the earthquake that shook up Bill Gates during a speech he was delivering - along with the rest of the Seattle area.

But, declining further comment at this time, they say, if you want to find out what's so earthshaking, plan on attending Amiga 2001, March 31st - April 1st, in St. Louis.

Sun 11Mar2001

(Found on Amiga News Network): This IEEE Spectrum Online article traces the history of the Amiga platform and the vision of the new company.

Thu 08Mar2001

(Found on rc3.org Daily): This NPR report describes the interpretation of DNA sequences in music.

Thu 08Mar2001

You know how they say to back up your work? Well, I just lost what I was writing here by freezing up a telnet session with a stray keystroke. Just as well, it wasn't all that great anyway.

This space is for a "weblog", which is to say random comments and links in most-recent-first order. In my case, "random" generally means social commentary and one or another of my many enthusiasms.

Upcoming events which are likely to find their way into this space include the release of Mac OS X and the demystification of what remains untold about Amiga's business model and plans, both due within the coming month.

But you're just as likely to see a link to a report about some politically motivated skullduggery, or, on the upside, some group organizing to help tilt the balance of power towards sustainability and social justice.

(Imagine the flightpath of a bumblebee as it moves from flower to flower and back again, sometimes seemingly taking the most circuitous possible route to arrive at the least obvious destination. I'll try to be a bit less oblique than that, but I do tend in that direction...)

So, check back from time to time. I occasionally have something worthwhile to say, even if I do say so myself. ;-)

Mon 05Mar2001

Okay, enough techno navel-gazing.

This drivel will soon head into the buzz-bin, as a new chapter begins.

Sun 04Mar2001

Slow progress, but progress nonetheless.

The box containing nothing but links, which should be in the upper-right corner of your browser window, is no longer a table but a division. And I've replaced the definition list which used to be near the bottom of the page with a paragraph, to which I'll add break tags as the need arises, since that seems better than misusing the dl tag, even though, structurally, that section is, or will be, a list. (I was able to get rid of the bullets using an unordered list, but not to get it to center correctly, directly under the heading. Maybe after I've learned more about the box model.)

So, I guess I'm no longer technically cheating, at all, and both the XHTML and the style sheet just validated!

I suppose this should call for a celebration, but I've encountered enough frustration getting to this point that I'm ready to give it a little rest instead.

Mon 26Feb2001

Hee! This page just might validate again! (Yep, does.)

Turns out substituting "&amp;" for "&" in URLs works fine.

Fri 23Feb2001

Okay, so maybe I was being a little hysterical...

There's still some functionality missing - a form with a selection list and a button that worked with an HTML 4.01 doctype which no longer worked with the page declared as XHTML - but it wasn't a case of event handlers not being unsupported, as I was beginning to believe, nor of JavaScript functions not being called. (You'll notice that the message in the status bar changes when you pass the mouse over the "about me" link, in a way that indicates a working script.)

This might be a browser issue, since I'm viewing the page on a Mac using MSIE 5, which isn't the most current version. Or there might be something different about the way forms work under XHTML that I haven't yet learned.

Anyway, that wasn't so bad, really. Just a bit of tweaking.

PS - If you run the validator yourself, you'll notice a few errors relating to the use of "&" in some of the links. Can't be helped; those links don't work with the "%xx" substitution.

Thu 22Feb2001

Sometimes "for now" just means "for today"...

Well...I'm back to HTML 4.01 Transitional. Why, you ask. Because I tried first for XHTML Strict and then for XHTML Transitional, and discovered that event handlers aren't supported under either, at least not the way that I know how to write them.

This makes sense, from the standpoint that XHTML really wants to completely separate document formatting (structure) from presentation, and event handlers would be presentation, but it still bites.

I'm sure there's another way, and I'll figure it out sooner or later.

Wed 21Feb2001

Valid HTML 4.01 Strict! Not bad for an amateur.

To get past that hurdle, I had to sacrifice a "target" attribute and a couple of "align" attributes, and add "p" tags to the form that encloses the selection list and open button.

I'm still cheating to the extent of using a table for layout, and using a definition list in place of a menu or unordered list at the bottom of the page (to avoid bullets), but it's good enough to pass W3C's muster, which is good enough for me for now.

Mon 19Feb2001

I've had plenty on my mind lately, but not much to say.

On the other hand, if you'd been watching the source code of this page, you'd have seen a few changes. It isn't quite XHTML compliant yet, but it's getting close!

Sat 10Feb2001

Okay, okay...having spent much of today working on a units conversion chart/utility, I'm more impressed with the complexity of the problem.

Being lately drawn to directories, as opposed to search engines, allow me to recommend these units-of-measure category pages, brought to you by Yahoo!, Google Web Directory, and the Open Directory Project.

It's still not rocket science, but there's more ways to get confused than I knew about before. For instance, did you know there's more than one kind of horsepower? I didn't. I did know that the "calorie" used to measure the energy content of food is actually a kilocalorie, but I needed to be reminded that another name for that unit is the kilogram calorie, and may never have considered the possibility of measuring power in kilogram calories per second.

So, let me propose, here and now, a new metric system, based on a few already familiar units: the meter, the gram, and the second - no scale modifiers, like "kilo" or "micro" allowed.

To use it, we'd need to get used to expressing quantities in scientific notation, verbally as well as in print, but that might be a good thing in itself, improving everyone's comprehension of logarithmic scales.

Sat 10Feb2001

In the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power February 8th Daily Energy Update,

you'll find "MW per hour" used as though it were a meaningful construction. (MW, parsed into it's component units, would read "one million volt-(coulombs per second)", making the overall phrase "one million volt-(coulombs per second) per hour". What's that about?) Maybe they meant MW-hours per hour.

I suppose the media should be forgiven for scrambling the jargon when the experts can't get it right either. (I got the parsing above wrong on the first try myself...)

While using such terms correctly probably wouldn't contribute much to resolving the crisis, the confusion contributed to by failing to do so will most likely help to cover the trail of those who've used it to their private advantage.

Thu 08Feb2001

You thought Amiga was dead? Think again...

Tue 30Jan2001

Yesterday, on NPR's All Things Considered, I heard the phrase "megawatts per day", not once but several times.

On the same day, the Berkeley Daily Planet published a story

about a city council member who said "East Bay MUD generates about 12 megahertz of energy. That's enough to run 12,000 homes."

Puh-LEEZE, people! This isn't rocket science!

(Watts, kilowatts, and megawats are all rates of energy production, transmission, or use - no need to add per second, minute, hour, day, year, or century!)

Fri 26Jan2001

Steve Roberts of Nomadic Research Labs raves about ConceptDraw in his latest newsletter (available on the website).

He used it to create an overall system diagram for his microship, something he'd been putting off doing for lack of an appropriate tool.

You can see it at: <http://www.microship.com/microship/techinfo/microshipnet/microshipnet.html>

Sat 20Jan2001

For better or worse, whether or not in keeping with a reasonable interpretation of law, today George W. Bush becomes our President.

This does not mean that we are bound to agree with him, nor even to cooperate with him beyond the limits of the constitutional powers of that office.

But perhaps it does obligate us to give him an opportunity to define himself by deeds, with the need to portray himself in terms of what the polls told him would appeal to his perceived constituency receding into the past.

Wed 17Jan2001

I do intend to get around to other subjects...just not until after the coronation.

Thu 04Jan2001

What to do, what to do?

On the one hand, I'd very much like to see the country well-governed, and fear that continuing resistance to George W. Bush's efforts to consolidate his victory and make his pending administration appear legitimate may actually impair even his modest best efforts in that regard. They might even lead to us seeing a demented side to his character that we'd previously only had cause to suspect existed.

On the other hand, he and his cronies have made their bed, and will now have to lie in it - double entendre intended - and we, as citizens, have some obligation to make it clear that IT'S NOT OKAY TO STEAL ELECTIONS!

There will be protests; that much you can be sure of.

Sun 31Dec2000

You may wonder what Jorn, of Robot Wisdom Weblog, is up to, first posting "Is Judaism simply a religion of lawless racists? (UK Times via Drudge)" which links to this article, and following that with "Are Jews incapable of polite discourse? (Was: Response to my critics) (interactive forum)" which links to this thread in his discussion forum.

Matter of fact, I'm wondering what he's up to myself, although I sincerely doubt his use of such inflammatory language is anything other than rhetorical.

Sat 23Dec2000

Before jumping to the conclusion that George W. Bush's proposed Office of Faith-Based Action is unconstitutional, we should inquire what he means by faith. It's a word with many shades of meaning, some religious and some not.

For example, one can have faith in one's own abilities, in one's friends, in some leader, even in a set of principles. One keeps faith by demonstrating loyalty or allegiance. We even embody faith each time we walk through a door without knowing what lies beyond it.

If Mr. Bush intends faith in this broad sense, then I see no problem with his proposal. But if he means faith only as it applies to a particular set of religions, all sharing belief in a supreme, male-identified diety, then his proposal would seem to be contrary to the plain meaning of the First Amendment. At the very least, he shouldn't expect to fund it with public money.

Fri 22Dec2000

Of course, rosy predictions of surpluses, made in more prosperous times, may turn out to be pie in the sky. Capital gains revenues, in particular, are apt to be just about nil with the market down and much of what stock is sold being sold at a loss, or, in the case of companies gone bankrupt, for pennies on the dollar.

Too steep a tax cut could put us back into deficit spending, pushing the time when the federal debt will be paid off further into the future.

Thu 21Dec2000

George W. Bush says he wants a BIGTIME tax cut. Alan Greenspan says that if taxes are cut like that he won't be able to lower interest rates. George W. Bush still says he wants a BIGTIME tax cut.

Why is this not a contradiction?

Because a tax cut like Bush wants and high interest rates both work to the advantage of people with money.

Oh, and have a look at item #5 in this discussion!

Wed 20Dec2000 (ed: 12/21)

Okay, practically everyone knows that, strictly speaking, George W. Bush probably shouldn't be the President Elect - that the chances are if, by some miracle, the manual vote tallies had proceeded without interruption, Al Gore would have won.

Well, it didn't happen that way, and, as disconcerting as it may be to contemplate, the only reality that now possesses any legal force is the outcome of the vote in the Electoral College, which has already decided in favor of Mr. Bush. So, like it or not, barring something even stranger than what's happened thus far, George W. Bush will be our next president.

Now I'd like to suggest that there's a bright side to this state of affairs, which is that we can expect the office of President of the United States to diminish to fit the man - in prestige, certainly, and quite possibly in terms of specific authorities delegated to the executive by Congress. And this could turn out to be a good thing. Perhaps the obsessive attention we gave to the outcome of this election is a measure of our having allowed this role to grow to superhuman dimensions, making inevitable our perpetual disappointment in the all-too-human men who've borne it.

We needn't concern ourselves about a vacuum of leadership. There are plenty of leaders, across the country and around the world, ready, willing, and able to take up any slack the PotUS might yield - even eager to do so. Japan, Russia, China, and India all (arguably) deserve a larger role in world affairs than they have played in recent years. Perhaps we'll find ourselves looking to Vladimir Putin to guide us through the next international crisis, and, frankly, we could do worse.

Sun 17Dec2000 (ed: 12/19)

Apparently losing the popular vote and barely squeaking out an Electoral College victory (with the assistance of a much-criticized Supreme Court ruling) hasn't been sufficiently humbling to prevent the administration-in-waiting from pursuing its goal of a huge tax cut for the rich.

With luck, Congress will decide instead to pour the budget surplus into debt reduction; that should be a goal Republicans and Democrats can agree upon. It would be very ironic indeed if the net effect of a 0.009% lead in one state's truncated vote tally turned out to be a $1.3 TRILLION bonus for the Republican Party's primary constituency - the wealthy.

Fri 15Dec2000

I can't claim this idea is original to me, but it's a good one.

This would be a particularly good time for President Clinton to end the economic embargo of Cuba - however much of it he can end by executive order.

Tue 12Dec2000

The U.S. Supreme Court has spoken...the majority opinion would, in a just world, be grounds for the impeachment of the justices supporting it. Only those in dissent deserve the high office they hold. Democracy in America has been sorely maimed.

Sun 10Dec2000

With everybody that's lining up to count the disputed ballots when they become available under Florida's open records law, they're going to be dog-eared and covered with grime by the time it's over.

Before that happens, perhaps their present condition should be recorded digitally, using high-definition, 3D scanning, at least of that portion of the ballots relating to the presidential race. The resulting files could then be made available on CD and/or on the web.

Sat 09Dec2000

Gee, and I was already psyching up to give Bush the benefit of a (realistically overwhelming) doubt, as regards the legitimacy of his victory, if he were still ahead after the manual recount ordered by the Florida Supreme Court. So much for that...

By the way, in case you missed it, CNN is reporting that eleven plane-loads of GOP volunteers are being ferried from Washington, D.C. to Tallahassee, and that several more plane-loads were expected to be dispatched by this evening. I suppose we can expect more "spontaneous" demonstrations...

Fri 08Dec2000

It seems somehow wrong that the outcome of a presidential election could depend upon a legal strategy in the aftergame - wrong even that there should (have to) be an aftergame at all.

Why, if the outcome was so close that the undervote was potentially relevant, was it even necessary to request that those ballots be closely examined? Why wasn't this part of the automatic recount? Isn't the public's interest in the accuracy of the count paramount over the self-interest of the candidates themselves, even paramount over laws presumably enacted to ensure that, for example, a Secretary of State doesn't simply sit on the outcome of an election and refuse to certify a winner?

How is it possible that election laws could become an impediment to the expiditious execution of the public's fundamental interest in a reliably accurate election outcome? How could such laws not be struck down?

Tue 05Dec2000 (ed: 12/8)

The relevant cases are still in the courts, but, in the event, it will be a poignant irony if, on the one hand, absentee ballots - which were only cast because of preferential access and illegal intervention to correct the applications - are allowed, while, on the other hand, good votes are not allowed simply because a machine failed to count them.

It has taken an altogether improbable collection of events, some underhanded, some actually sinister, to provide George W. Bush with the most vaporous lead imaginable in Florida. It prompts one to wonder what must have been happening behind the scenes to insure that lead doesn't disappear.

Thu 30Nov2000

Finality, yes, but NOT hasty, unjust finality!

Pundits and partisan spokespeople have blathered "count and recoount" so many times we're all bored of hearing it, but the fact is there are still thousands of ballots which haven't yet been counted even once, because they were tossed out by the counting machines as not displaying votes the machines were able to recognize as such.

The machines aren't perfect, and many of these ballots doubtless do contain votes, even without resort to counting 'dimpled' and 'pregnant' chad.

Manual examination of such ballots is the usual and proper proceedure when the outcome of an election is close enough that the votes those ballots may contain could prove decisive. All the arguments Republicans have raised against counting these ballots have been obstructionist in nature, and entirely disingenuous.

Tue 28Nov2000

I previously stated "In all probability, more people in Florida intended and attempted to vote for Gore/Lieberman than intended and attempted to vote for Bush/Cheney, despite that Bush enjoys a razor-thin lead in the count thus far." This now seems quite certain.

Sun 26Nov2000

Shut down John Sweeney instead.

The jackbooted thugs have carried the day, but tomorrow may sing a different tune.

Thu 23Nov2000 (ed: 11/26)

By now you will have heard numerous declarations that the Green Party is dead, never to be a factor again. Well, don't you believe it!

While the 3% of the vote that went to Nader/LaDuke - even a fraction of which could have saved Al Gore the present turmoil, had it gone to him instead - is sure to have gotten Al's attention, this will do us precious little good if he ends up losing the election. The echoing recriminations from Democratic ranks serves to demonstrate that they (some of them anyway) still don't get it...

But if we're smart, we won't again put ourselves in the position of stepping on each others toes. It's my hope that Greens will be far more selective about the races we choose to enter in the future, targetting those that are winnable, or where we can at least hope to come in second, ahead of the Republicans, in a 3+ way split, and those where the Democratic Party is unwilling to invest resources because it judges it has no chance of winning, or where their nominee isn't noticably prefereable to that of the Republicans...and not be shy about endorsing candidates of other parties, even Republican candidates, in those rare instances where they merit support as individuals. A single statewide race is enough to demonstrate voting strength, but even that should only be undertaken judiciously, always with an eye to the consequences. (Races which are resolved by automatic runoff elections in the event no candidate wins a majority are less problematic than those in which the candidate with a plurality wins.)

I also hope the Green Parties will invest themselves at least as much in legal reform (particularly electoral reform) as in attaining office. We have sufficient numbers to place issues on the ballot in most states having an initiative process, and we should make assertive use of this.

We must be careful to avoid partisanship. Those who decide they can do more good if registered with and active within one of the major parties shouldn't be treated as outsiders! This isn't football; we're not a team in that sense; all who share our objectives are part of our movement. And the stakes - the future of humanity and the earth itself - vastly overshadow the petty jealousies of partisan politics.

Wed 22Nov2000 (ed: 12/12)

Al Gore's declaration - that he wouldn't accept crossover votes from Electoral College electors who are pledged to Bush - is illustrative of what it is about him that prevented me from ever getting excited about his candidacy. He didn't need to do that, in fact it's not even up to him. At most he only needed to disassociate himself from efforts to organize a crossover vote.

If there's any reason for having an Electoral College at all, it's for that one, final exercize of judgement. Some states bind the electors they choose, others don't, and those that don't have a right to expect their electors to follow the dictates of their conscience, even if that means casting their votes for someone other than the candidate by association with whom they became electors in the first place. The uncertainty of the process affords leeway to avert catastrophic choices, and so long as the Electoral College exists and even one state refuses to bind its electors we should elevate its responsibility to produce the best available outcome above party loyalty.

Tue 21Nov2000

One possible cause for 'dimpled' and 'pregnant' chad is that the hole through which they should have been punched might have become clogged. A drop of glue into one of those holes would be very likely to result in their becoming clogged. Has anyone examined the booths themselves since the election?

Sun 19Nov2000

It may be a measure of how little attention has been given to the issue that neither Google nor Raging Search turned up a single link in response to a search on the phrase "voting booth sabotage".

Thu 16Nov2000 (ed: 11/25)

Al Gore and Joseph Lieberman won the popular vote, and came very close to winning an outright majority, despite the ~3% of us who voted for Nader/LaDuke, a substantial fraction of whom would probably have supported the Democratic ticket in the absence of a vigorous Green campaign.

Florida aside, where the final vote will be within at most a few thousand votes one way or the other from being evenly split, Al Gore and Joseph Lieberman also won a majority of Electoral College votes.

In all probability, more people in Florida intended and attempted to vote for Gore/Lieberman than intended and attempted to vote for Bush/Cheney, despite that Bush enjoys a razor-thin lead in the count thus far.

The vote spread in Florida between the candidates of the two major parties is indisputably within the margin of error of the voting/counting methods used in some individual counties, let alone over the state as a whole.

Yet the Bush camp would have you believe that the Gore camp is doing something out of the ordinary and uncalled for in requesting manual recounts in certain counties, and that there is something suspect about manual recounts in general, despite that such recounts are provided for in Florida law and are the usual and proper method for resolving election outcomes as uncertain as this one, including in the state of which George W. Bush is governor, under legislation he signed. They would have you believe that whatever the counting machines tally is the definition of a vote (in Florida). This is patently false!

IMHO, the Republicans are guilty of exactly what they've been charging the Democrats with...of wanting to count until they like the result. They liked the initial, automatic, approximate result, and want to stop with that, rather than improving the accuracy of the count by subjecting ballots passed over in the automatic count to closer examination.

The word for this is HYPOCRISY! George W. Bush campaigned on character; we now see that too was hypocrisy.

my online journal from several years ago