Friday, December 27, 2013

Nobody Asked Me, But...

1) Well, it’s the end of yet another year. We’ve lost some great ones, and possibly gained one, and we’ve seen so much strife and anger over doing the Lord’s work and providing medicine to the sick and poor. Sucks, right? Let’s hope 2014 is much better.

2) And here’s a hopeful sign.

3) You may have missed the ship stranded in the Antarctic, but thankfully, the Snow Dragon has not.

4) This week in derp-failure.

5) What’s killing off our national symbol?

6) Considering their voracious appetite, it’s surprising to me that this story isn’t more common.

7) What would a “real Barbie” doll look like? Maybe like this.

8) it turns out that it’s possible that concussions could stir up pancake jar whatsits.

9) Are there no workhouses? Yes. They’re called schools.

10) George Zimmerman may have a job yet. What could possibly go wrong here?

Thursday, December 26, 2013

What Is And What Can Never Be

So, Edward Snowden has apparently decided to have a freak-out over losing Time Magazine’s Person of the Year. Let’s review, shall we?

First, the preening, gloating, self-important popinjay had this to say:

National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden said his "mission's already accomplished" and spoke of having “personal satisfaction” at the revelations about U.S. surveillance policies in an interview published Tuesday.

The former intelligence contractor, who exposed extensive details of global electronic surveillance by the U.S. spy agency, said he was not being disloyal to the U.S. or to his former employer.

"I am not trying to bring down the NSA, I am working to improve the NSA," he told The Washington Post. "I am still working for the NSA right now. They are the only ones who don't realize it."

OK, fair enough. He realizes that he exposed an already public program, and that what happens next is up to the people reading his revelations. Altho that last bit, about working as some sort of dubble-sekrit sooperspi is a bit…disturbing. But I digress…

Next up, Diva Snowden:

Edward Snowden has made two prominent appearances in the last two days. The first in an interview with the Washington Post in which he declared "mission accomplished," by which he means that his leaking of secret NSA documents has started a debate on the propriety of the practices he exposed.

This interpretation of events is indisputable. Whether it was any of his business to do what it took to start the debate is another matter.

But the next day, Snowden delivered a short Christmas Day message on British television, and here he got carried away, to put it kindly:

A child born today will grow up with no conception of privacy at all. They'll never know what it means to have a private moment to themselves -- an unrecorded, unanalyzed thought. And that's a problem, because privacy matters. Privacy is what allows us to determine who we are and who we want to be.

So which is it, Snowy? Did you alert us all that the sky is falling or have you suddenly discovered that it was just your nuts?

The debate started. That it’s falling on mainly deaf ears in the world (apart from a few Inspector Reynauds of the world who are shocked, shocked!, to discover there’s spying going on! And who are no doubt taking the hint and covering their own tracks) is something Snowden will have to deal with in his cups.

You can lead a horse to water, after all.

The pure panic in his voice about that child born today nonsense is a tell. There has been no privacy pretty much since the Clinton administration and the rise of the Internet and web. And surprise! It’s not the government we really need to be worried about, which is why Snowden is tilting at windmills here.

Think about it for a moment: governments are accountable to the people they serve, even if it is eventually. No. The privacy we no longer have and can no longer have, is from the multinational conglomerates that actually run the world, run our government, and make decisions affecting our lives and the future of the planet and human society.

You want to do the world a service, Snowy, go after those guys.

If you have the nuts.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

And So This Is Christmas....

…so what have you done?

For various reasons having to do with my psychology…and you could write a book on it…this season is always a very nasty stressful time for me, but doubly so this year. I find very little to look to as a blessed thing. The year started off with a bad attack of gout (which flared up at least once more during the year), ended with one of the worst allergy attacks I’ve ever suffered, complete with post-nasal drip and insomnia from coughing, and the coda to the entire year is that I have this awful taste in my mouth about nearly everything I can think of.

Including this fucking coffee sitting on my desk. Blech.

From failing to finish a few bike rides that I challenged myself on to failing to sell my book (which is in its second draft) to an agent, to facing an enormous challenge at work in the form of my new boss (aka Bag of Salted Rat Dicks), this year has been so bad that I’ve been able to find the positive in it.

Wait. What?

Yes, the positive. It’s been so bad that I’ve put it behind me (actually weeks ago) and mapped out 2014 already, from leaving my job, to being more forceful about making my own way in the world, earning money for me and not for some other shmuck with a checkbook, to taking care of my health.

I am, in the words of Danny Glover, getting too old for this shit.

See, I’ve always been a little maladjusted to the working world, but maladjustment is appropriate when the world is unjust, and lately, the working world has become grossly unjust. I look around me, and I see friends of mine, of my age – good people, hard-working and experienced – getting the pink slip left and right. In the past, I’d be all “There but for the grace of God,” but I realize through my tears of goodbyes and guilt over not being let go (did I mention I’m maladjusted to the working world? I’m maladjusted. Usually it’s me going away.) through my tears that I’m envious a little.

There’s a trust, an unspoken contract, in work that says that if I or you take a job, we agree to work for a given amount of money for a given amount of time and that we will give our best effort. In return, we ask, we contract for, that employer to give us their best effort.

And it seems for decades now, but in particular now to people of a certain age, that effort is lacking on the boss’s part. In a blindly capitalist system, our experience, our value, to the enterprise would be immeasurable, and our compensations both material and not would reflect that.

But we’re treated like children, and watch our salaries be frozen or cut and our bonuses fritter away, if indeed we ever get any. Meanwhile, we’re asked to pay more towards our health insurance (Obamacare, thank God, will help here) and to pitch in more of our precious free time to avoid having to hire someone who will simply end up replacing us should we balk or dare to age at all.

So WTF is the point?

Monday, December 23, 2013

Sport As Politics

Don’t let anyone tell you that sports isn’t political. Sports is always political.

1) Pussy Riot released – As I reported last week, Russia passed a political amnesty bill to deflect some of the stickier human rights issues that folks would raise during the Sochi Olympics. One could imagine the protests athletes would have staged. This is just one less issue they can raise.

2) Mikhail Khodorkovsky speaks – Again, I believe that this release occurred in large part as a way to deflect attention from Putin’s putsches more than from the human rights violations. After all, Khodorkovsky publicly criticized corruption in the country. He financed liberal parties and opposition candidates - much to the displeasure of then President Vladimir Putin. In February 2003, he and Khodorkovsky had a heated televised debate. A few months later, he was arrested. It would be as if George Soros was arrested.

But given what he has said over the weekend, there are human rights elements that cannot be ignored.

3) Dennis Rodman is coaching a North Korean basketball team ahead of an exhibition on Kim Jong Un’s birthday. It seems likely his team will win, given Kim’s predilection for having things go his way.

4) A billionaire will get a new arena. Paid almost entirely by Michigan taxpayers. In bankrupt Detroit.