Saturday, October 25, 2008

Yay, Apple!

Okay, I've been a Mac partisan for a long time (yeah, I'm one of those), ever since I replaced my Amiga 2000. But this is the kind of thing I like to see, and I don't care if it's pandering or PR:
No on Prop 8
Apple is publicly opposing Proposition 8 and making a donation of $100,000 to the No on 8 campaign. Apple was among the first California companies to offer equal rights and benefits to our employees’ same-sex partners, and we strongly believe that a person’s fundamental rights — including the right to marry — should not be affected by their sexual orientation. Apple views this as a civil rights issue, rather than just a political issue, and is therefore speaking out publicly against Proposition 8.
I can't tell you how offended I am by Proposition 8. I was so thrilled when the California Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional to prevent same sex couples from marrying. It's wrong to deny people equal protection under the law, to deny the sanctity of their relationships. One of the few times I wished I hadn't missed a political solicitation was when the "Yes on 8" people left a message on my voice mail asking for my support for their prejudiced, ignorant, hateful initiative. Oh, how I would have liked to have responded.

Good for Apple for taking a stand. I urge all of you in California to really protect the sanctity of marriage and vote against this horrible initiative. Donate to No on Proposition 8 if you can.

It's hard enough to find lasting love in this world. I don't understand a mindset that insists that millions of peoples' love is wrong and their relationships don't count.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Bad Blogger, no donut...

And I was doing so well...

I started this blog more than 3 1/2 years ago as a way to keep my writing chops up while I geared up for a new project. The blog has definitely had its ups and downs. I used to be a lot better at multi-tasking than I am now, and even with the sudden influx of unstructured time in my life ( some would call this "unemployment," but I prefer a more positive frame), I have a hard time splitting my attention (See this post for further insight into the sad state of my once formidable intelligence. Hey, really - I used to be smart!).

Anyway, I'd been getting back into the blogging swing of things, constantly finding articles that intrigued me that I wanted to share, and then I got immersed in rewriting an old screenplay, something I'd always thought had potential but could never quite make work. It was a fun thing to revisit. After all the agonizing over my last novel, the one which is out to publishers, working on something that was just sort,! Suddenly, I wasn't procrastinating till close to midnight before I'd sit down and make myself work. I was actually writing while the sun was out! I'd forgotten what that felt like.

Even though I've written after work for most of my life, the last few years doing this has felt really really hard. Just exhausting, and soul-killing. I know that sounds incredibly melodramatic. Writing novels isn't like, I dunno, working in a coal mine. But what I used to be able to do when I was younger, and hey, I was not a happy person when I was younger, I was bitter and angry and depressed, but I did my work, dammit...

Now I'm happier but I don't have the energy, I guess. Or I'm not willing to drive myself to the point of misery to manufacture the energy.

So, anyway, here I am. I wake up when I feel like waking up, and the whole day stretches in front of me. Figuring out how to use this time has been a challenge. I've tried to set goals every day: small things, much of the time. Hang up that picture. Arrange new health insurance. Walk to the gym. Walk to Santa Monica and buy a bread knife. Stuff like that.

But telling myself, okay, you're a writer, here's your time - that's been an adjustment.

I'm working on a new novel. I started it a few months ago and am about 4 chapters in. I like the prose a lot. I have the setting and the characters and the basic situation. I don't really have a story, yet. It's the kind of thing that I need to research.

So, today. I got up. Checked my email. Tidied some ends on a free-lance project I've been doing. And got to work on my novel. I have three books to read for it. Read about 100 pages of one. Did a bunch of internet research, really valuable stuff. Started getting a better sense of how I could shape this story.

Thought to myself, this is a life I could have. This is a life that works for me.

Now if only someone would pay me for it...

All of which is a long, roundabout way of saying that I've been focused on other stuff, and the blogging kind of falls apart.

I'll try to do better.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Whither the People's Premier?

Go read this if you have any interest in rumors of power struggles within China's top leadership. The Australian cites a Hong Kong magazine's report that hard-liners within the CCP seek to oust popular Premier Wen Jiabao from his position:
Rivalries inside the party have broken out behind the facade of unity erected for the Olympic Games, said Kaifang (Open), the monthly magazine known for its political sources inside China and its publication of information banned in the media.

It said hardliners in the party's propaganda department and at the People's Daily newspaper had orchestrated a campaign of abuse directed at Mr Wen's supposed support for universal values such as democracy and human rights.

"China's ship of reform is on the rocks and risks sinking," Kaifang said in its analysis. "The party needs to find a scapegoat."

Last week, important land reforms were put on hold.

Mr Wen had also been passed over for the job of heading a prestigious committee, the magazine said. It listed several press attacks, which, as is often the case in Chinese politics, did not identify their victim but left no doubt among those in the know as to who it was.

The most prominent critic was Chen Kuiyuan, vice-chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, a rubber-stamp body whose title sums up everything it is not.

"Some in China want to dance to the West's tune," Mr Chen wrote.

The People's Daily of September 10 printed a column headlined "How to see through the theory of so-called universal values".

Today, the Prime Minister is seen by many ordinary Chinese as a friendly face at the apex of power. He has been compared to the veteran revolutionary Zhou Enlai, who is claimed to have moderated the worst crimes of Maoism.

Suspicions about Mr Wen's authoritarian credentials date back to 1989 when he went into Tiananmen Square to meet demonstrators at the side of his boss Zhao Ziyang, the reformist general secretary of the Communist Party.
(you can view the famous photo of that incident here)

Wen cemented his popularity among "ordinary" Chinese by his prompt response to the disastrous Sichuan earthquake earlier this year, flying immediately to the scene, promising aid and offering comfort. Symbolic gestures, perhaps, but potent ones coming from a leadership that is not known for its accessibility to the public. If "social harmony" is the goal of Hu Jintao's administration, he might want to think about the impact of ousting Wen, one of the few political figures among the top leadership whom the laobaixing consider responsive to their needs.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

It's just the way it is

With all the talk about racism and finally (though not nearly soon enough) misogyny prompted by this year's US Presidential campaign, a particular frustration for me has been the lack of recognition of sexist attitudes and behavior.

I think this is because racist discourse is generally (not always) pretty easy to spot. Richard at TPD provides this sterling example.

Sexism, on the other hand, often goes unacknowledged because we can't always agree on exactly what it is. Because, you know, men and women are just different.

Echidne of the Snakes has written a post that looks at some very basic realities for women and frames these as human rights issues in a way that really resonated for me. It's stuff I've tried to say but never managed to articulate so clearly. Go have a look.

(H/T to Lambert at Corrente)

UPDATE: do check out the discussion at Shakesville and Anglachel's post reacting to Echidne's piece. Obviously I'm not the only person for whom this resonated.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Paul Krugman Wins Economics Nobel Prize!

Okay, he actually won the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences. Whatever. I can't think of a public figure in recent years more deserving of the honor, not just for his economics commentary, which has been right on target far more often than not, but for his political bravery at a time when expressing dissent against the White House was met with ridicule, scorn and even accusations of treason.

A virtual champagne toast to you, Mr. Krugman!

(h/t to JB)

Saturday, October 11, 2008

It's the Poor Folks' Fault


Go read this clear-eyed, pulls-no-punches article by the good folks at McClatchy:
As the economy worsens and Election Day approaches, a conservative campaign that blames the global financial crisis on a government push to make housing more affordable to lower-class Americans has taken off on talk radio and e-mail.

Commentators say that's what triggered the stock market meltdown and the freeze on credit. They've specifically targeted the mortgage finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which the federal government seized on Sept. 6, contending that lending to poor and minority Americans caused Fannie's and Freddie's financial problems.

Federal housing data reveal that the charges aren't true, and that the private sector, not the government or government-backed companies, was behind the soaring subprime lending at the core of the crisis.

Subprime lending offered high-cost loans to the weakest borrowers during the housing boom that lasted from 2001 to 2007. Subprime lending was at its height vrom 2004 to 2006.

Federal Reserve Board data show that:

_ More than 84 percent of the subprime mortgages in 2006 were issued by private lending institutions.

_ Private firms made nearly 83 percent of the subprime loans to low- and moderate-income borrowers that year.

_ Only one of the top 25 subprime lenders in 2006 was directly subject to the housing law that's being lambasted by conservative critics.
"Read the whole thing," as bloggers are wont to say. The piece demolishes the conservative canard that places the blame for the crisis on working class people and on the Clinton Administration for making it easier for them to get credit. And while you're at it, go read Anglachel's post, which makes explicit how restricting credit to the poor and working class (except on the most onerous terms) is yet another tactic in movement conservatives' class warfare.

(H/T to Corrente, another fave on my rapidly dwindling political blogroll)

Friday, October 10, 2008

Riding the Tiger..

When rage is the energy that fuels your movement, this is what happens:
The anger is getting raw at Republican rallies and John McCain is acting to tamp it down. McCain was booed by his own supporters Friday when, in an abrupt switch from raising questions about Barack Obama's character, he described the Democrat as a "decent person and a person that you do not have to be scared of as president of the United States."

A sense of grievance spilling into rage has gripped some GOP events this week as McCain supporters see his presidential campaign lag against Obama. Some in the audience are making it personal, against the Democrat. Shouts of "traitor," "terrorist," "treason," "liar," and even "off with his head" have rung from the crowd at McCain and Sarah Palin rallies, and gone unchallenged by them...

...When a visibly angry McCain supporter in Waukesha, Wis., on Thursday told the candidate "I'm really mad" because of "socialists taking over the country," McCain stoked the sentiment. "I think I got the message," he said. "The gentleman is right." He went on to talk about Democrats in control of Congress.

On Friday, McCain rejected the bait.

"I don't trust Obama," a woman said. "I have read about him. He's an Arab."

McCain shook his head in disagreement, and said:

"No, ma'am. He's a decent, family man, a citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with (him) on fundamental issues and that's what this campaign is all about."

He had drawn boos with his comment: "I have to tell you, he is a decent person and a person that you do not have to be scared of as president of the United States."

The anti-Obama taunts and jeers are noticeably louder when McCain appears with Palin, a big draw for GOP social conservatives. She accused Obama this week of "palling around with terrorists" because of his past, loose association with a 1960s radical (William Ayers).
Barack Obama, socialist.

I'd be laughing a lot harder if these people didn't have guns.

Surfing the Apocalypse

My mom once told me that she read an article about trends and how they got started, and according to what she'd read, I was an early adopter. I don't know if this is true or not (I didn't read the article). I am not particularly trendy, and in some ways I feel like I'm generally a few steps behind. It took me a while to get out of college (six minors, no major) and I lived like a student for years after that. I guess I'm no longer living like a student because I bought Shack By the Sea five years ago, but if you visited my humble abode and looked at the funky old Korean and Chinese cabinets, the 50s era dinette set, the framed poster of Zhou Enlai spinning yarn (with the slogan "A Common Soldier") and more to the point, The Great Wall of Books, you'd probably conclude "eccentric hermit academic writer". Possibly a Commie. But I don't actually have a degree either. You know, six minors, no major, way more credits than necessary for a BA, a drop-out due to boredom and the need to get on with my life, which surely would consist of six figure screenplay deals and rock stardom. But I digress.

In some ways, I guess I have been ahead of certain trends. I lived in China in '79, when that was pretty much unheard of for an American. I came home and taught myself bass guitar, so I could play in a band - I had Carol Kaye and Tina Weymouth to inspire me, but it was still pretty rare at that time, to the point where I got both admiration and a lot of shit. More of the former, but the latter was not insignificant. Later, I recognized an under-utilized resource at my former company and managed to turn it into something relevant and really cool.

Which brings me to my latest trend-setting activity: I left my job of over 15 years on Sept. 2. Right before everything went crazy.

Anyone who's been paying any attention knew this was coming, that our current economy was unsustainable, based on debt and obscure financial transactions that were some form of mutated pyramid schemes on steroids. I'd felt this anxiety acutely the last couple years, that any moment it was all going to come crashing down, that I had to somehow get out, play it right. Escape.

But truth be told, I've nearly always lived my life in the shadow of dread, with the sense that disaster can strike at any moment, that I am not safe. That no one is.

While this is more or less logically true — hey, you could get hit by a bus! — it does make for a certain degree of ambient stress.

Particularly in the case of my job, where I never felt secure. This was actually a pretty rational conclusion. My department was nearly sacrificed to the Corporate Gods a number of times, and only a certain cockroach skill at politicking on my part and great allies within the company managed to save it. This time, politicking (by a bunch of folks) backed up by the department's good reputation preserved it. But as far as my own job went, I realized that I just wasn't up to fighting for it. It wasn't worth it to me anymore. I'd rather see the department stay and make a decent exit. Everybody got what they wanted that way.

Sometimes you have to let go, particularly when you may not have a choice. And I wanted to leave.

So, here I am, an "Unemployed American" sitting on my couch, watching wave after wave of economic crisis crash on our shores. I feel okay. When you've already lost something big, there's not so much anxiety, you know?

I have about a year's worth of resources. Maybe a little more. I have the sense that I'm holing up in my shelter, stocked with supplies; enough, I hope, to weather this storm.

No one knows how bad this is going to get. I think it will get pretty bad, and that for a lot of people who don't have the resources I have, things will be very bad indeed. But I also think that after the shakeout, we may be in better shape, because maybe our economy and our society will out of necessity get back to basics, rebuild on a sounder foundation. Based on real things, of value.

Maybe I'm an optimist after all.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

No Release for Guantanamo's Uighurs

"Appeals court blocks release of Guantanamo detainees":
A federal appeals court temporarily blocked the release of 17 Chinese-born Muslims detained at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba , a day after a landmark decision required them to be freed to the U.S....

..."Seventeen men were told yesterday that they were going to be released after nearly seven years of wrongful detention," said Emi MacLean , an attorney for the Center for Constitutional Rights , which coordinates the representation of detainees including the Uighurs. "Now, they have to be told that their detention will continue to be indefinite."

The Uighurs are among a group of more than 60 men inside the prison who've been cleared for release by the military but who are stuck in limbo because the U.S. government can't find a country to ship them to. The Uighurs say they can't return to China because they'll be tortured as political dissidents.

Urbina's decision marked the first time a court had ordered the transfer of Guantanamo detainees to the U.S. and could have prompted the release of others who've been cleared by the military.

Urbina declared the continued detention of the Uighurs to be "unlawful" and said the government could no longer detain them after conceding they weren't enemy combatants.

However, Justice Department lawyers continued to argue that the release of the group into the U.S. could pose a security risk and warned that the decision could harm international relations with China.

In court papers, Justice Department lawyers attacked Urbina's ruling, warning in court papers of "serious harms to the government and the public at large" if the appeals court did not intervene.

The lawyers said that Urbina's decision "directly conflicts with the basic principle" that the executive branch, specifically the Department of Homeland Security , has sole discretion as to whether to admit foreigners into the U.S. The Justice Department also raised security concerns about releasing men they say were captured at a weapons training camp run by the Taliban in Afghanistan.

The Uighurs attorneys disputed that characterization, saying the men merely were living in a small village in Afghanistan where they'd kept one weapon, but lacked ammunition.
Show of hands — who do you believe?

Maybe I'm cynical.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Some good news (we hope)

I posted about the plight of Chinese Uighurs detained in Guantanamo over three years ago. As the Washington Post reported at that time:
In late 2003, the Pentagon quietly decided that 15 Chinese Muslims detained at the military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, could be released. Five were people who were in the wrong place at the wrong time, some of them picked up by Pakistani bounty hunters for U.S. payoffs. The other 10 were deemed low-risk detainees whose enemy was China's communist government -- not the United States, according to senior U.S. officials.

More than 20 months later, the 15 still languish at Guantanamo Bay, imprisoned and sometimes shackled, with most of their families unaware whether they are even alive.
Now, after nearly seven years in detention, a US judge has ruled that the Uighurs must be released into the US, agreeing with their attorneys that holding the men without cause is unconstitutional:
At a hearing packed with Uighurs who live in the Washington area, Urbina rejected government arguments that he had no authority to order the men's release. He said he had such authority because the men were being held indefinitely and it was the only remedy available. He cited a June decision by an appellate court that found evidence against the Uighurs to be unreliable.

Urbina said in court that he ordered the release "because the Constitution prohibits indefinite detention without cause." He added, "The separation of powers do not trump" the prohibition against holding people indefinitely without trial...

...Justice Department lawyer John O'Quinn asked Urbina to stay the order for a week, giving the government time to evaluate its options and file an appeal. Urbina rejected that request and ordered the Uighurs to appear in his courtroom for a hearing on Friday. He said he would then release them into the custody of 17 Uighur families living in the Washington area.
Apparently the government plans to appeal, but Urbina seems firm in his determination that these men have gotten a raw deal and that they will be released from custody, period (he didn't take kindly to the proposal that US Immigration authorities might re-detain the Uighurs either). Good for him.

I'll go further: the United States of America should pay these men an annual stipend equivalent to a decent income for a period of time allowing them to adjust to their new lives here. I'd say for about seven years, at the very least.

(H/T to Nathan Bransford)

Sunday, October 05, 2008

On How Many Levels Is This Wrong?

I'm really not much in the mood these days to comment about American politics, but I have to say one thing...

What the hell is with the Republican chant of "Drill, baby, drill!"?!

This is just deeply weird, and not a fun kind of weird. I mean, do I have to get into just how perverse it is to celebrate the destruction of pristine natural environments with a crude sexual metaphor?

Okay, there. I just did.

Friday, October 03, 2008

None of your business...

Gah. It's inevitable that if you blog long enough, you will get tagged with a blog meme, and I have gotten tagged again. This time it's "six interesting things you don't know about me."

Okay, look. First, if you know me, you probably know what's interesting, or not, about me. If you don't know me, why would I want to tell you?

Besides, I'm pretty sure that I already did this once, except it was five things you didn't know about me, and now you want six?


I'll give you two.

I once gave a speech during a Democratic convention to the California delegation during our delegation's breakfast. Me, Barbara Boxer (she gave away cute boxer shorts), Bill Bradley, and I forget who else. I was pretty good.

I also arranged and sang half the backing tracks for the scene in the film, "Undercover Brother," where Eddie Griffin and Denise Richards sing "Ebony and Ivory" in a karaoke bar.

I think that's enough for this evening.