Enter your email address to receive notifications when there are new posts
Powered by BLOG ALERT
You will get emails when I post a new blog. You will not get them for any other reason. I post on average 4 times a month. Each email will have a link to unsubscribe. You will not get any spam from me or Blog-Alert.

You have 993843 hits.

Latest Comments
Recent Entries

Blogs I follow:
The Briefing Room (White House)
The Future is Fiction
East Bay Bicycle Coalition
The Quiet Extrovert
Electrons and More!
Crystal Math
Green Eggs & Ham
Ghost Town Farm
30 is the new 13
The Gubbins Experiment
$0 Web Hosting
User Profile
Oakland, CA

You are currently viewing archive for December 2008
Posted By Bakari

Someone pointed out to me recently that no one skates anymore.

Honestly, I hadn't noticed.

Now that I think about it, when I first picked it up, about 14 years ago, there were a lot of people on inlines ("blades" hahahaha)
out on the streets, around Berkeley and SF, on the bike paths, and not just the kids grinding and jumping, but adults, just out for some exercise, or to get somewhere.
And looking around now, it seems that there is... just me.

And all of a sudden I realized; maybe I'm not as cool as I think I am.
Not even close.  Like not even 1/20th as cool as I assume.
Maybe what I interpret as a nod and smile of approval and vicarious enjoyment is actually strangers laughing at me.
Not that this upsets me, but its really interesting to think about.

You see plenty of people walking.  There seems to be a bigger bike culture today than there was back then (I've been cycling even longer than I've been skating, and more regularly and consistently.  It wasn't always so trendy as it is today).
Skating is no more or less practical means of transport, no more or less fun.
What happened to all the people who used to skate?  Did they all stop because they saw everyone else was doing it less?  Are trends really that integral to our lives that we let it dictate... everything?

This is so strange to me, to have been skating along all these years, and suddenly look up and everyone else is gone.

For me, its faster than walking, and more fun the bicycling (hard to dance on a bicycle), its free and its good exercise, and there are no laws regulating them so I can get away with riding on both the sidewalk and the street whenever I choose; I'm gonna keep my 10 mile commute to work whenever I can.

I say one of these days you should get your old skates out of the closet and come roll around with me. 
It'll be fun.

Posted By Bakari

For a long time now we have tried to believe in supply side economics (also known as Reganomics, closely related to the trickle-down theory).
Cut taxes and/or interest rates, which means people will have more money or borrow more (respectively), which they will in turn spend, and that spending will make the economy grow. Bush Jr. gave tax-payers not just a break, but a refund, calling it a "stimulus". This apparently did not work, because only a few years later we were at the point of handing billions of tax money over to major corporations.

The very idea that stimulating consumption can help the economy is flawed.

The goal is to increase the total amount of value circulating in the economy.
We want constant growth.
Setting aside for the moment the logical, ecological, and spiritual problems with never-ending growth, it is fairly straight-forward that consumption alone does not create anything.

Imagine several ship-wrecked survivors on a tiny deserted island. They have the luggage they brought with them, but nothing else.
Imagine they find some rare, beautiful shells, and decide to work out a system of representative currency using these shells.
It doesn't matter how much these shells are traded, saved, or spent. There is still the same amount of total value on the island.
No amount of consumption is going to increase the overall material holdings of the survivors. The only way any one person can amass anything more than they started with is at the expense of someone else.

As manufacturing has moved over seas, and produce is increasingly imported, we have moved to a service and finance based economy.
Nothing new is created by a service.
The finance industry is literally nothing more than moving virtual money - a placeholder for actual wealth - around, and skimming a transaction fee off the top.
Imagine one of our survivors loaning the worthless shells to another survivor, with a one shell per 100 interest rate, though there is nothing of any real value to buy.
Both the borrower and the investor still have no food, no clean water, and no shelter.

Perhaps one day someone comes across an enormous pile of shells, and places them into circulation.
You could say the total worth of our survivors has just increased - but obviously it doesn't mean anything. In fact, now that they aren't rare, each shell is worth that much less.

This is EXACTLY what happens every year, when the government literally prints up new money which is not tied to any actual increase in production.
They just print new money.
In fact, taxes pay for 59% of government spending. The other 41% comes from borrowing money (not much different from an American consumer with a credit card) and.... scooping more shells of the beach, and pretending that they have any value.
Since everyone agrees that $1 is worth some amount of real stuff, they can get away with this, but since they are spending without creating anything real, that value has to come from somewhere.
Where it comes from is out of every dollar held by every person in the country, as they become less valuable due to the increased supply. In a way, printing money to cover the deficit is a backdoor tax, a tax via inflation, but one which doesn't build us any new roads or guarantee healthcare.

When you think of the island, it is easy to see that this system isn't really doing any good overall.

[Entire blog at MySpace]

Posted By Bakari

I would like to point out that in January of this year, I wrote about houses not being a sound financial investment.

Popularly "sub-prime" is thought of as referring to lending to people with poor credit history.  In fact, 61% of sub-prime borrowers had a credit rating high enough for a traditional loan.  The middle class tend to be at least as guilty of living beyond their means as the working class.  21% of those making over 100k a year say they live paycheck to paycheck.
At the time I wrote the blog an unprecedented number of people were deliberately buying houses grossly out of their means using interest only loans (which would never be paid off, by design) on the assumption (by both the consumer and the bank) that the housing market would continue to climb at the rate it was forever. 
That climb, however, was driven mainly by that very speculation, valuable only due to popularity.
This summer, 6 months later, so many people were defaulting on their loans that it affected the entire credit industry, and by extension, the entire economy.

I have an associates degree in economics.  How is it that I was able to see this, yet no one in the dozens of banks and credit institutions, nor the rest of the financial sector was?  Or perhaps were they just confident that friends in the white house would help out with tax payer money?

Stay tuned for the coming of my more direct predictions.

Posted By Bakari

The Warren controversy is over the following statement:

"But the issue to me is, I’m not opposed to that as much as I’m opposed to the redefinition of a 5,000-year definition of marriage. I’m opposed to having a brother and sister be together and call that marriage. I’m opposed to an older guy marrying a child and calling that a marriage. I’m opposed to one guy having multiple wives and calling that marriage."

People are, of course, up in arms about this, as apparently comparing gays to people who commit incest or polygamy is extremely offensive.

Why is it ok to claim incest and polygamy are inherently immoral or unacceptable?
There are a great many cultures where polygamy is practiced, accepted, and legal. Obama's father, in fact, was married to more than one woman, which is legal in Kenya.
We are talking consenting adults. You personally may not want to share your spouse. What reason do you have to deprive someone who does?
It is legal, right here in CA, for cousins to marry. Siblings are slightly closer than cousins genetically, which makes it slightly more likely that certain genetic illnesses which reside on regressive genes could surface if they had children together - but we aren't talking about having children. Our sexual morays were developed long before the advent of accessible, safe, effective birth control. Set aside that its gross and weird, and that you personally would never want to do it. There is no objective reason why two siblings, who are consenting adults, shouldn't have sex if they so choose. No one is harmed. It isn't immoral. Its unusual, (because our brains evolved before birth control. We naturally feel its gross, because its better for the gene pool to be mixed up), but there is nothing wrong with it.
So then, seriously, why shouldn't siblings be allowed to marry?

In different cultures and times the age of adulthood has varied. A great number of countries - and most US states - currently allow marriage at 16, several at 14 (including 3 US states), and a few at 12. In many cases this is below the age of adulthood. Warren did not specify pedophilia (which implies a prepubescent child) nor the age of the older person.

The real issues are about sex - in general - and whether it is inherently immoral when used for pleasure; and about tradition and whether it is a legitimate basis for, well, anything.

Warren was not necessarily talking about morality. As a Christian pastor, his beliefs, "morality", and understanding are all influenced by, if not directly based on, some book written thousands of years ago. Essentially, tradition for tradition's sake. It has nothing to do with reason, or actual morality (based on the harm or good done to real people), or common sense, or modern reality.

That is not an issue of Warren himself, or of conservatives, or of Christians. Really, its an issue of having ANY tradition or text, religious or otherwise, dictate truth to you. The real issue is faith verses reason. If you accept a Christian as legitimate leader, you don't get to line-item-veto those things you don't like. The Bible is not ambiguous on homosexuality. (In fact, its rather more ambiguous on incest and pedophilia, and clearly accepts polygamy).
Instead of demonizing one individual, why not focus on the source?

I happen to agree with pastor Warren 100%. Those things he mentioned ARE similar to homosexuality. They are different than normal, different than what most people do. They are about sex, and as such are automatically pushed toward being considered immoral in many peoples eyes, independent of whether or not anyone actually gets hurt. And they are not actually immoral in any way. Creepy, maybe, but not immoral.

I find the response to his comments to be far more offensive than his comments themselves.
Prejudice is prejudice. Progressives are supposed to be the enlightened ones.

Posted By Bakari

Fushi (the cat who lives with me) taught himself how to use the toilet so he wouldn't have to go out into the rain.

I will never call him dumb again.

Posted By Bakari

I just discovered a website which allows bloggers to easily add a feature so that readers can receive email updates when a new entry is posted, rather than using RSS feeds or randomly checking for new posts.

Alternatively, it can be used by readers to receive emails, even if the author hasn't set it up.

I just added one here. See, there it is, right at the top of the page, on the left!

for authors:

If you can not access your source code, see if you can add a "custom script" to your side bar items.

for readers:
pretty straight forward, just do it once for every blog (or other RSS item) you want to follow

Its free.

Posted By Bakari

The non-profit I work for is government financed.

We were trying to expand our size and range of services for the
community, (not to mention securing better working conditions for the
employees), and many people had been working behind the scenes on this
project for a couple of years. When I started 2 years ago it seemed
little more than a vague idea, but at each new meeting updates showed
it was coming closer and closer to a reality.
And then
Last week

I was invited to a last minute meeting...
At it we were told that the city (the smallest of 3 funding sources for
the project, but a vital component w/o which it could not happen) had
decided, unilateral, to rescind the (as yet unofficial) offer to back
the project, using the funds instead for a smaller, independent, temporary,
substitute instead.

The federal grant has been pending for almost 3 years, and will expire this year.
We were informed of this change early last week.
Not 'literally' last minute, but about as close as possible.

We had exactly THREE DAYS to prepare, between the sub-committee meeting
where we learned of the potential change, and the general city council
meeting where it would be voted on.

We had one chance to get it done, and get it done right.
If we did not convince the city council, the city funds would be
eliminated, which would mean we would lose an additional million in grants and other support;
in other words, this one meeting would decide if it happened or not.

Our campaign began the next morning.
It involved, of course, fliers, posters, handouts.
It involved speaking in person to every single patron of our services,
calls to cycling advocates and supporters in the area, connections
with the downtown business association, the Sierra club, allies in

It involved secret meetings, letters and calls to the city counsel and
mayor's office, and countless, constant, emails between the people involved.

After getting home around 10 or so from a meeting, I was up at 5:30am to open the shop the next morning.
After work at 2, the rest of the day involved preparations for the evening.

6:30pm, co-workers and allies began trickling in.
At 7, as we walked to city hall, others joined us along the way.

Several popular things were on the agenda that night.
New members were being sworn in so there was ceremony and speeches.
People were there to protest the hiring of John Yoo (the guy who
wrote the 'enemy combatant' law in order to circumvent Geneva
convention guidelines for treatment of prisoner's of war) by UC

The council hall was full.
We were made to sit in the hallway downstairs.
As our supporters showed up to join us, we passed out signs, and waited
to be let in one by one as people there for other reasons left.

We were #28 on the agenda.

We expected to be there all night, waiting.

As an information item, we would be allowed 3 speakers, 1 minute each, and no vote would be taken at that time.
A council member moved that it be changed to an action item.
The mayor recognized that many people there were for our project, and asked just how many there were.
About 4/5th of the room stood.
The mayor moved it on the agenda to be addressed after the first
information item (a report by the financial analysis department.)

The city staff, which had come up with the alternate plan, gave their report.
They were grilled some on the numbers, and it seemed we at least had a chance.
Our line of people waiting to speak, from the manager of the project,
to the director of BART, to long-time patrons of the service who had
given up their cars only after finding out about us, went to the back
of the room.

It was a long night.

We won.

Posted By Bakari

No ranting here.

It has come to my attention that a lot of people don't really know about these options.

Chances are, if you are reading this, you have a computer, and if you have a computer, you will probably find one or more of these things useful.
They are free.
And they are even legal.

The first are related to security. Internet relate hacking can be a big problem when someone cracks into your computer remotely and ID thefts you. A bad virus can permanently crash computer. A dialer can rack up 100s in unauthorized phone charges by using your fax line to dial 900 numbers. Mostly its just annoying software that hopes to entice you to buy some stupid crap.
While Norton and McAfee would like you to spend $60 plus a ongoing subscription charge, you can get equally good protection from viruses, spyware, and hackers, all for free.

For viruses, try AVG Free.
For spyware (and a lot more under "advanced, if you so choose) install "SpyBot Search and Destroy"
For a software firewall, there is ZoneAlarm (A firewall keeps people from accessing your computer remotely.) (note: they want you to buy the pay version. Read carefully and keep clicking the free options. It is fully functional, and does everything you need)

There are plenty of other free security software out there, but not all are equal. In fact, there are some "spyware removal" programs which are actually spyware themselves, and "antivirus" programs which install their own viruses.
These 3 programs have been around for many many years, and are well known. They have been shown in tests to be as effective as the big brand name versions. I personally have been using them successfully for years.

Then there is plain old Mozilla Firefox. It seems most people already know about it. According to my data compiler, almost as many people access my website using it as use Internet Explorer. If you aren't among them: Firefox takes the place of Internet Explorer. It has fewer security flaws. It is easier to use, but at the same time has more options and is more configurable. The latest version of IE was basically them trying to catch up with the format Firefox has had all along (most obviously the "tabs" option, which allows you to have two subwindows open within the same main window.) There is the added bonus of not using Microsoft software.

Chances are that you are using Firefox to read this right now.
But within it, there is something called "add-ons" which a lot of people never notice. Its in the menu bar under "tools".
Some examples:

AdBlock Plus. It will block all of the annoying flashing and animated advertising boxes and bars on 1/2 of the websites you use.

(find more at MySpace)