Friday, September 28, 2007

"And we are going to see this show through to the end..."

Fred On Everything:
"...Today the United States is politically and socially constipated. Nothing moves, or at least not in a desirable direction. Crooks, frauds, revivalists, the over-empowered under-brained, believers and mouth-breathers and unabashed lunatics—all of these have so firmly gummed up the gears that improvement founders. Someone seems to have poured glue into the political kaleidoscope. Little point exists in curmudgeing at the bastards.

A few examples to make a point: The schools are terrible, we know they are terrible, we have known it for decades, and yet they only get worse. The universities are become dumbed-down propaganda chutes, and we know it, yet they only get worse. The War on Drugs is an ineffective farce continued for the benefit of drug lords, and we know it, yet we continue. The racial situation is both grim and stagnant. We have no military enemies, yet spend ever more on “defense.” None of these foolishnesses can be changed. If they could be, by now they would have been.

A train wreck once started goes to completion.

And the policeman cometh. He cannot, I think, be stopped. The abolitions of the Bill of Rights, the ever increasing surveillance, the diminished recourse of citizens against the government—these are not business as usual. They have happened before, in bits and pieces, but now they become respectable. The CIA has always tortured people and the FBI has always engaged in illegal phone-tapping and political persecution. Yet in the past they didn’t want to be caught because consequences might follow. These are now federal policy, openly admitted. The government keeps records of the books you read in the airport. This is something different.

And it can’t be stopped. Actually it is wild and fun when viewed as entertainment. What a show: The United States is close to one-man rule. Congress is complicit, the Supreme Court a nursing home. No serious opposition exists. If Bush leaves office in 2008, the incoming president will continue the trends of today. The effects begin to show. People grow ever more docile, accustomed to intimidation, to searches without cause. Several writers of my acquaintance no longer question federal policy. They are afraid.

And we are going to see this show through to the end..."

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Oh, Japan.

Japanese TV. You really can't make this stuff up.

Let's see, you've got the requisite and required, basically constant, comparing of Japan with other countries... which is bad enough, but fairly typical. Japan is a mighty first rate power. With a huge inferiority complex and desire to "prove" its outstanding-ness, hence the never ending "see how much better we are than they are" subtleties. [WWII can have that effect on people, I imagine.]

But then, the very concept that # of robots trumps kissing of wives?

There are no words.

Why Don’t Japanese Men Kiss Their Wives? : Japan Probe:
"A few weeks ago, a show aired on Japanese TV that made some interesting comparisons between Japan and the rest of the world. Most of the data on the show as in ranking form, such as this chart showing how often a day married couples kiss around the world... If it wasn’t for Korea, Japan would have been dead last in the ranking. A dismal 0.56 daily kisses caused the show to state that it was an example of “Bad Nippon.”

...The Japanese men respond to this barrage of criticism by claiming that there are more ways to express your love and appreciation than kissing: Isn’t it okay to just say “thank you” to your wife and give her a shoulder massage? Kisses are only appropriate when one is in a certain extraordinary emotional state, so why kiss our wives every day when even when we’re not in such a state? Panelist Saito-san gives a passionate statement about how he shows his deep love for his wife by working hard,making money, and paying off loans so that he can support his household for many years...

...The kissing segment of the show may have made Japan look a bit “bad,” but they followed it up with an international ranking of countries with the most robots. Sure enough, Japan won... After announcing that Japan was number one, the announcers declared the result an example of “Good Nippon” and everyone applauded. At that moment, the floor beneath the Japanese celebrity guests began to rise, putting them above all the foreign guests seated next to them. Way to pat yourself on the back, Nippon!"

Baby steps back towards actual constitutional democracy.

Gonna be a long walk.

Court declares parts of Patriot Act unconstitutional - Boing Boing:
"Today, Judge Ann Aiken of the Oregon Federal District Court ruled that two provisions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), '50 U.S.C. §§ 1804 and 1823, as amended by the Patriot Act, are unconstitutional because they violate the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution.'

This case arose over warrantless surveillance of an innocent Oregon attorney who was falsely suspected of involvement with the Madrid train bombing based on a mistaken fingerprint identification."

"Everything but the Here and Now is a mental construct and an illusion that robs your life of precious energy."

This is good.

James Ray - "Remember the Glory Days?":
...Many movies and books have been written about the "mid-life crisis" when people make radical changes in their lives. Grown men leave their families and date women half their age. Women long past their prime are seen frequenting bars and parties that are known to not satisfy in the long run.

Dr. Anderson in his book, The Stages of Life, is the first (to my knowledge) who has observed this occurrence as a good thing... at least, to a point. While the behavior is not wise, this external search is driven by an inner spiritual desire to evolve and grow... A setting aside of the dying and a breaking through into a new realm.
Unfortunately, a return to the past behavior of glory days and younger years is unable to satisfy.

In most cases, the temporary thrills of chasing teenagers and other juvenile behavior is short-lived. The wise individual realizes that it all was the outcome of an inner longing for something more and of greater significance.

The student lives life in the Now... not hanging onto the past and not longing for the future. When asked the question, "Where are you, and what time is it?" there is only one answer: "Here and Now."

Everything but the Here and Now is a mental construct and an illusion that robs your life of precious energy.

The sad individual that lives, thinks and talks consistently about the past is looking to affirm their sense of identity. The problem is that this identity is based upon a long history and interpretation of past experiences and life situations. You are more than that.

...Conversely, the person who is constantly thinking about the future is living in never-ending anticipation.

...Constantly thinking of the future is a strategy of the ego based upon a deep dissatisfaction with what is. While I'm a strong advocate of visualization, constantly visualizing the future will often do more harm than good.

...What of goals? Setting a goal and working towards it is positive. You're clear on where you want to go. The key is to honor and give full attention to the step you are taking right now in this present moment. Those who are excessively focused on the future are doing so because they are seeking happiness, fulfillment or a more complete sense of self in the glory days of the future instead of the past."

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The irony is lost on them, apparently.

Reason Magazine - Hit & Run > The DEA's Regard for Safety:
"Nearly a century after the passage of the Harrison Narcotics Act, the DEA reveals that the quality of black market drugs is unreliable. Since it's the government that creates and maintains the black market by preventing people who want steroids from obtaining them legally, who is it again who gives no regard to safety?"

'Southland Tales' trailer - "This is the way the world ends."

"There'd be a lot less violence in the world if everybody just got a little more cardio."

"It had to be this way."

How much jail time for an abortion?

Watch the cognitive dissonance just fly.

Awesome in that it takes the question to the obvious, albeit totally avoided in the debate, conclusion.

Quindlen: How Much Jail Time for Women Who Have Abortions? - Newsweek Anna Quindlen -
"...on YouTube is a curious little mini-documentary shot in front of an abortion clinic in Libertyville, Ill. The man behind the camera is asking demonstrators who want abortion criminalized what the penalty should be for a woman who has one nonetheless. You have rarely seen people look more gobsmacked. It's as though the guy has asked them to solve quadratic equations. Here are a range of responses: "I've never really thought about it." "I don't have an answer for that." "I don't know." "Just pray for them."

You have to hand it to the questioner; he struggles manfully. "Usually when things are illegal there's a penalty attached," he explains patiently. But he can't get a single person to be decisive about the crux of a matter they have been approaching with absolute certainty.

A new public-policy group called the National Institute for Reproductive Health wants to take this contradiction and make it the centerpiece of a national conversation, along with a slogan that stops people in their tracks: how much time should she do?

..."They never connect the dots," says Jill June, president of Planned Parenthood of Greater Iowa. But her organization urged voters to do just that in the last gubernatorial election, in which the Republican contender believed abortion should be illegal even in cases of rape and incest. "We wanted him to tell the women of Iowa exactly how much time he expected them to serve in jail if they had an abortion," June recalled. Chet Culver, the Democrat who unabashedly favors legal abortion, won that race, proving that choice can be a winning issue if you force people to stop evading the hard facts. "How have we come this far in the debate and been oblivious to the logical ramifications of making abortion illegal?" June says.

...Lawmakers in a number of states have already passed or are considering statutes designed to outlaw abortion if Roe is overturned. But almost none hold the woman, the person who set the so-called crime in motion, accountable. Is the message that women are not to be held responsible for their actions? Or is it merely that those writing the laws understand that if women were going to jail, the vast majority of Americans would violently object? Watch the demonstrators in Libertyville try to worm their way out of the hypocrisy: It's murder, but she'll get her punishment from God. It's murder, but it depends on her state of mind. It's murder, but the penalty should be ... counseling?

The great thing about video is that you can see the mental wheels turning as these people realize that they somehow have overlooked something central while they were slinging certainties... there are only two logical choices: hold women accountable for a criminal act by sending them to prison, or refuse to criminalize the act in the first place. If you can't countenance the first, you have to accept the second. You can't have it both ways."

Japan does the wacky.

The really wacky.

Anytime anyone tells you folks are uptight in Japan... well... they are. But they aren't. Understand? » Photo Series Of Japanese Peeping Toms:
"Here is a fascinating story about a series of photos taken of Peeping Toms in Japan in the 70’s. These furtive voyeurs were sneaking around parks late at night in search of romantic encounters. The photos were taken by photographer Kohei Yoshiyuki while he was taking a walk with a friend through a park late at night...

“I had my camera, but it was dark,” he told the photographer Nobuyoshi Araki in a 1979 interview for a Japanese publication. Researching the technology in the era before infrared flash units, he found that Kodak made infrared flashbulbs. Mr. Yoshiyuki returned to the park, and to two others in Tokyo, through the ’70s. He photographed heterosexual and homosexual couples engaged in sexual activity and the peeping toms who stalked them.

“Before taking those pictures, I visited the parks for about six months without shooting them,” Mr. Yoshiyuki wrote recently by e-mail, through an interpreter. “I just went there to become a friend of the voyeurs. To photograph the voyeurs, I needed to be considered one of them. I behaved like I had the same interest as the voyeurs, but I was equipped with a small camera. My intention was to capture what happened in the parks, so I was not a real ‘voyeur’ like them. But I think, in a way, the act of taking photographs itself is voyeuristic somehow. So I may be a voyeur, because I am a photographer.”"

Via Boing Boing.

Laughter is the most educational medicine.

Reason Magazine - Who's Afraid of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad?:
"If you saw C-Span's abbreviated coverage of the event, you may have noticed the many yarmulkes adorning heads in the audience. I doubt the people who wore them admire Ahmadinejad any more than Silver did. But they apparently understand that the solution to bad speech is more speech, and that even bad speech can be valuable. In response to one query, about the mistreatment of homosexuals in Iran, Ahmadinejad claimed that there simply are no gays in his country: 'In Iran we do not have this phenomenon. I don't know who has told you that we have it.' Anyone listening to that lie learned a lot about Iranian society. Ahmadinejad himself may have learned a thing or two from the laughter that swept the room after his answer."

"Who is the the terrorist?"

America’s Police Brutality Pandemic by Paul Craig Roberts:
"Who is a terrorist? If the police and the US government have the mentality of airport security, they cannot tell a terrorist from an 86-year old Marine general on his way to give a speech at West Point. Retired Marine Corps General Joseph J. Foss was delayed and nearly had his Medal of Honor confiscated. Airport security regarded the pin on the metal as a weapon that the 86-year old Marine general and former governor of South Dakota could use to hijack an airliner and commit a terrorist deed.

In America today, every citizen is a potential terrorist in the eyes of the authorities. Airport security makes this clear every minute of every day, as do the FBI and NSA with warrantless spying on our emails, postal mail, telephone calls, and every possible invasion of our privacy. We are all recipients of abuse of our constitutional rights whether or not we suffer beatings, Taserings, and false arrests.

The law makes it impossible for Americans to defend themselves from police brutality. Law and order conservatives have made it a felony with a long prison sentence to "assault a police officer." Assaulting a police officer means that if a police thug intends to beat your brains out with his nightstick and you disarm your assailant, you have "assaulted a police officer." If you are not shot on the spot by his backup, you will be convicted by a "law and order" jury and sent to prison."

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Cops call other cops "dicks."

For actually doing their jobs and holding them accountable for *SHOCKING* the same things they bust the rest of us for.

It's almost as if they know most traffic violations are just bullshit revenue enhancement programs, huh?

The outrage!

Reason Magazine - Hit & Run > Cops Writing Cops:
"Here's a charming little website where cops nominate one another for the 'Dick of the Month' award. Nominees are cops who dared breach police 'professional courtesy,' and wrote a ticket to another cop whom he caught breaking the law."

Cops complaining about cops writing cops tickets - Boing Boing:
"Apparently, police corruption isn't worthy of hiding any more. Here's a site where cops (of various flavors) name and shame other police officers who have the temerity to issue tickets to their 'brother' police officers when said 'brothers' break the law. Don't miss the 'Dick of the Month' section of the website, which could, in my opinion, be renamed 'Cops Who Actually Do Their Jobs.'"

And from the actual website, I kid you not...

Cops Writing Cops - Where's the Professional Courtesy? Law Enforcement and Polcie Officers help each other.:
"If you are a police officer, trooper, court officer, correction officer, telecommunicator, highway patrol, federal agent, or any other type of police (peace) officer either full-time, part-time or retired that has been disrespected or insulted by another police agency (officer) by not receiving some sort of professional courtesy, please email staff (at) with the information. If you have been arrested for a crime and want to use this as a podium to rant, go somewhere else.

This is a site for officers getting traffic tickets that ANY normal civilian could get a warning on, verbal or written. This is a site for cops, about cops, and designed by cops. Needless to say, we are fed up with hearing about this and think something should be done. There's always another ticket down the street. We are all family and maybe someday you may need one of us to get out of our car and save your sorry ass. But odds are you're the cop that doesn't do anything to begin with."

See, it's disprespect and lack of professional courtesy to not let them break the law!

Irony has now officially been curbstomped and then taken to jail for resisting arrest.

And by the way there, GI JOE, regular folks aren't "civilians" and you're not in the military. Remember the good ol days, when cops were "peace officers" who protected and served instead of seeing themselves as an occupying military force who kept the "civilians" in line?


Saudi religious police attacked by girls - Boing Boing:
"Two officers of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice in Saudi Arabia were attacked by two 'inappropriately-dressed' girls, according to an article in the Asharq Alawsat.

According to Dr. Al-Marshood [Head of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice in the Eastern province], the two commission members approached the girls in order to 'politely' advise and guide them regarding their inappropriate clothing.

Consequently, the two girls started verbally abusing the commission members, which then lead to one of the girls pepper-spraying them in the face as the other girl filmed the incident on her mobile phone, while continuing to hurl insults at them."

Homeless in Japan.

Always see a handful of homeless when I go into Fukuoka, more if I happen to go by the park or the art museum, where more than few of them have makeshift tents set up. And when I went to Nagoya earlier this year, it seemed to be a bigger problem there.

Heart goes out to them, especially in a country like Japan, where if you're not a part of "something" you hardly exist. I've given some of them 500 or a thousand yen before, and they mostly seem surprised. But bald gaijin will have that effect on people no matter the circumstance.

I doubt life is as rosy for any of them as this Post article makes out, but maybe some of them really do have their lives in some semblance of "okay" like this guy in the story. I hope so.

A Contented Life in a Tokyo Park -
"Retirement comes in January. That's when Katsunori Hamahara turns 65, when his government pension kicks in and when he will be able to afford a place to live. Until then, the former cabdriver will stick with the life he has made for himself: He hangs out in a park and sleeps nearby on a bench.

By U.S. standards of homelessness, it's not a bad gig.

Hamahara eats free fresh food -- rice, fish, meat and vegetables. Because of strict Japanese hygiene laws, lunch boxes are discarded by convenience stores about 15 hours after they are prepared.

"If I am lucky, I get really good food, much better than at a restaurant," said Hamahara, who has befriended neighborhood convenience store employees.

He bathes, combs his hair and washes his clothes in the park's clean public restroom. With the two brooms and dustpan that he keeps at his side, he tidies up the restroom and the park every morning at dawn, often with park employees.

Most days, small children, along with nannies and parents, invade the park. Hamahara finds peace in the sounds of their play but keeps his distance. He does not talk to children, fearing he might frighten them or their guardians.

He has chosen his neighborhood well. The park is in Nishi-Azabu, where houses and apartments often rent for $10,000 a month or more. And the bench where he sleeps is next to a fancy supermarket that is guarded at night by private security guards. Hamahara says the guards are kind to him, which makes his sleep restful.

Police officers have never bothered him, he says, and no one has stolen or disturbed his possessions: an umbrella, a hand-held fan, a winter jacket and clothing he keeps in a large cardboard box that says "Kleenex" on it. When Hamahara needs money, he goes to a construction site and offers himself as a day laborer, making about $90 a day.

"I feel very comfortable in this park," Hamahara said on a warm morning in late summer. He was not expecting visitors, but he was cleanshaven, his white T-shirt was spotless and his sneakers looked new.

...There are only about 18,500 homeless people in this country of 127 million people. That compares with estimates of 335,000 in the United States, with a population of 300 million.

..."Nearly half survive without public support and they earn money as well," said Toshio Mizuuchi, a professor at Osaka City University who studies homelessness.

...Besides being rare, the concept of homelessness in Japan is rather new. There were always beggars, vagabonds and vagrants, but they were neither numerous nor visible since postwar prosperity exploded in the 1960s.

The word "homeless" was almost never used until Japan's bubble economy burst and the homeless became visible in city parks. "The reality and the term changed in the 1990s," Mizuuchi said.

...At the same time, the city of Tokyo has moved aggressively -- and generously -- to remove about 2,000 homeless people from five major parks. The city has persuaded about 70 percent of them to abandon their tents and hand-built cottages. It offers job training and two years of deeply subsidized rent ($30 a month for an apartment that rents for $600).

All this has conspired to make Katsunori Hamahara a lonely guy in the park.

"There are much fewer of us now," he said.

Only rarely, he said, does a friend (who works and lives in an apartment) come by to share a bit of sake.

City social workers, though, do stop by. They have not told Hamahara to get out of the park, but instead have offered free cigarettes, an affordable place to live and job training.

He has always declined their offers. But the dreadful heat of this summer and the prospect of another winter on a bench have weakened his resolve.

"I was not ready then, but if they come back again, I would go," he said. "I came here to take a break from life, now I am ready to go back."

Among his possessions there is a government-printed book about pension benefits, which average about $2,000 a month in this country for men, like Hamahara, who have worked for companies for more than 20 years. He declined to say what his pension would be.

In any case, he studies the book often, while counting off the days until he can throw away his brooms and his dustpan -- and say goodbye to the park."

Hat tip Japan Probe.

Begin again, at any age.

At 51, Establishing a New Body of Work - New York Times:
"Eva Birath of Sweden began bodybuilding at 47 after being laid off from her marketing job. Despite a late start, she competes at the national level. She also paints.

...Blunt questions and curious looks are the price Birath pays for making such a striking career change. Four and a half years ago, at 47, she was a harried marketing executive who had been through two divorces. She made 45,000 krona (about $6,700) a month, often flew to Stockholm on business trips, chatted constantly on her cellphone and lived with her two children in a large house in Goteborg. It was, she says, a very normal high-pressure corporate existence.

And then, in December 2002, she was laid off.

Birath sold her house and moved into an apartment. She sold her car. She had no idea what to do next. She began going to a nearby gym, where one of the regulars told her she had a good physique for bodybuilding...

“It was very unusual for someone to begin bodybuilding at my age, but I thought my age was one bit of the challenge,” said Birath, who is now 51. “I think all people have preconceptions, like that bodybuilders are all stupid. I think I probably thought bodybuilders were a bit stupid, too.”

At that first tournament, Birath faced one other competitor in the heavyweight division and finished first. It was, she says now, a bit of a fluke, but it was enough to persuade her to commit to her training as an amateur bodybuilder.

She finished fourth last year at the Swedish national championships, and despite the fact that she is 10 or more years older than most of her competitors, she is one of the favorites to win this year’s event, Oct. 13-14 in Vasteras...

...Birath says she has no plans to turn professional, in part because of the expense of training, and in part because of her late start.

At some level, she says she is not concerned about how she may be judged at competitions; she is doing this for her well-being.

“My life now is so much better,” she said. “I’ve stopped searching for a job because I realize I don’t want it. I do what I love now: I paint and I train.”"

B.K.S. Iyengar 1938 newsreel - very cool.

"Belur Krishnamachar Sundararaja Iyengar, (aka Yogacharya B.K.S. Iyengar) (Born December 14, 1918 in Belur, Karnataka, India) is the founder of Iyengar Yoga. He is considered one of the foremost yoga teachers in the world and has been practicing and teaching yoga for more than 60 years." - via Wikipedia.

Monday, September 24, 2007

How very creepy of them.

First high school devoted to homeland security - Boing Boing:
"'Extremely quietly, a Maryland school district has launched the first public high school in the country dedicated to teaching homeland security."