Wednesday, September 7, 2011

A Very Sad Loss

From LisB:
Hello, Paradigm family. It’s with much sadness that I must inform you of a huge loss. Our beloved friend “othepeoplechoose” has passed away.

The People Choose, as you know, migrated here after Josh Marshall closed the reader’s cafe at Talking Points Memo, and through the years he has become a very close friend to several of us here. Most especially Dick Day. TPC, as we affectionately called him, shared emails and phone calls with Dick and I on a regular basis, and earlier this year he came up with the idea of flying Dick out from Minnesota so that the two of them could finally meet. TPC also invited me, and was ecstatic when Dick and I both agreed to make the trip up to Syracuse for this Labor Day weekend. TPC made all sorts of plans for us (we were to visit the State Fair, attend a concert, and have a beautiful dinner together this past Friday night). I can’t tell you how much the three of us were looking forward to this trip.

Although I did not hear from TPC after Wednesday of last week, I went ahead on Friday and made the three hour drive up to the hotel in Syracuse that he had booked for us, and once I got there I tried him on the phone several times, only to keep getting his voicemail. It wasn’t until I called Dick Day’s cell phone and found that Dick was stranded at the airport in Syracuse, waiting for TPC to meet him, that I realized something was very wrong.

Dick told me to drive over to TPC’s house, while Dick took a taxi from the airport to the hotel. I had TPC’s address and a map from Google, so I had no problem making the short drive over to his place. But when I got there, there was no one home, although the front door was open. This made me very wary, so I called Dick back, and he told me to hang up and contact the police right away. Two officers arrived shortly thereafter, and they were able to get into the house. Unfortunately, they discovered that our dear friend had passed away at home. I can’t tell you how shocked and saddened Dick and I were by this discovery. I can’t tell you how much we will miss our friend John (his real name) and how sad we feel for his family.

I was able to leave information with the authorities, and John’s sister called Dick and I on Saturday to thank us for contacting the police. What a very sweet lady she is. She was able to answer some of our questions, and we were very pleased to let her know about her brother’s writing and our friendship with him. Those phone calls with her really helped Dick and I, and we are so grateful to her for getting in touch with us.

John, TPC, thank you for planning this wonderful weekend for us, and thank you for being such a good friend. You will be missed.

Rest in peace, friend. 

Friday, July 1, 2011

A Fable

John Haddock had been with the company for almost 25 years and at 58 very close to retirement now. He was one of the most successful design engineers they had. Graduated from Columbia Engineering School with his Masters degree and went to work for a communications firm. When the opening in his current company for an assistant design position opened up, he jumped at it. Marshal Control Systems was just the place he wanted to be. Helping to design the necessary power and charge control systems needed for photovoltaic and wind turbine systems. This was the future.

Monday, June 13, 2011

It is not enough to succeed, others must fail.

This quote from Gore Vidal sums up much of the trouble humanity consistently generates for itself.

We, most of us anyway, can't be satisfied simply with doing OK. Someone else has to be doing worse.

This simple thought underpins everything from "the profit motive" to that particular perverse pride criminal types like Dick Cheney and John Yoo took in inflicting torture on captured suspects.

You're wondering about that, no doubt. How does wanting to make a buck off your work (or more likely the work of others) lead to torture?

Easy, if you give it a look.

There is a point where some of us go over to the dark side. It's no longer enough to simply benefit from someone else's efforts. The infliction of well-timed, carefully selected doses of suffering becomes an end in itself.

Of course, such as Cheney and Yoo would never dirty their hands on such matters themselves. They have it done for them. Their pleasure is in the knowing that they can do it with impunity.

And lest you think this is just a Greenwaldian screed against torture and will lead to the current administration, think again.

The foreclosure mess ongoing nationwide? Check. Legislation preventing gay people from marrying? Check. Teabaggers? Check. (Think I'm making this up? Remember the guy getting in the face of the Parkinson's patient?)

Something dark in many of us gets off on the suffering of others. Always has, probably always will. It's never enough to have something, it always seems to involve taking something away from someone else. Money, happiness, basic human rights, something.

Why do you think the "budget crisis" is being resolved on the backs of working people? Did we cause it? And why the hell is any sane working person supporting taking anything away from his fellows?

Sometimes I just don't

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Feeling misanthropic, are you?

(Cross-posted at That Guy With The Ponytail)

Have a read:

A retired Japanese nuclear plant engineer is stepping forward, at age 72, contacting his retired colleagues and volunteering to go into the severely damaged Fukishima plant to see what stabilization efforts can be made.

The Skilled Veterans Corps, as they call themselves, is made up of retired engineers and other professionals, all over the age of 60.

They say they should be facing the dangers of radiation, not the young.

It was while watching the television news that Yasuteru Yamada decided it was time for his generation to stand up.

No longer could he be just an observer of the struggle to stabilise the Fukushima nuclear plant.

The retired engineer is reporting back for duty at the age of 72, and he is organising a team of pensioners to go with him.

(Yes, they're British spellings - it's the Beeb, guys!)


Volunteering to take the place of younger workers at the power station is not brave, Mr Yamada says, but logical.

"I am 72 and on average I probably have 13 to 15 years left to live," he says.

"Even if I were exposed to radiation, cancer could take 20 or 30 years or longer to develop. Therefore us older ones have less chance of getting cancer."

Mr Yamada is lobbying the government hard for his volunteers to be allowed into the power station.

This is heroism. This is recognition of a duty to his society and willingness to perform that duty under dangerous conditions.

I'll leave you with the money quote, nothing I can say will add to it:

The question is whether you step forward, or you stay behind and watch.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

True Believers

"I saw someone peeing in Jermyn Street the other day. I thought, is this the end of civilization as we know it? Or is it simply someone peeing in Jermyn Street?" Alan Bennett
Well the date of the rapture, apocalypse etc. has come and gone. Many people apparently believed that it was going to come and even though it did not - and likely will not for some time to come, say a couple thousand years or so, give or take a few thousand - most of these same people will continue to believe and believe in the person who made this prediction.  With Camping not even opening the door.

An apology to the world for what the MN legislators did.

Last night, the Republican majorities in the MN state legislature put a constitutional amendment on the 2012 ballot with the intent of permanently prohibiting gay people from marrying.

Oh, it's all very nicey-nice, of course, couched in the cowardly language of "letting the people decide" and other such nonsense.


It's hatred, in no uncertain terms, and needs to be called out as such every last time it raises its head.

So0me people might wonder why it matters to me. I'm a straight guy. Well, I have gay family members. This is not an abstraction to me, this is directly affecting relatives. Real people that I have Christmas dinner with and see at other family occasions.

So, on behalf of them, myself, and the good people of Minnesota (and yes, I do draw a clear distinction between good people and these tragic wastes of human DNA) I apologize to the world for what the cowardly bigots of the MN Republican party did last night.

And now, a call to arms...

This will be on the 2012 general election ballot in the state of MN.

Vote "NO" on the hate amendment.

We'll see a lot of out-of-state money coming in, financing lies about what might happen if gay marriage is not permanently banned by constitutional amendment in Minnesota. Scare stories about all sorts of things.

Here's the truth:

Enough with the hate and fear already. Nobody's rights, basic human rights, the right to the pursuit of happiness we freed ourselves from the Crown for among them, should be put to a vote.

Sadly, we have to vote on this.

So, vote "NO" in November of 2012. Vote no because it's the right thing to do. Vote no because it's voting for my family members. Vote no because you probably have gay acquaintances, colleagues, and even relatives - vote "NO" for them.

And vote "NO" because you're doing it for yourself. We're better than that.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

On America's responses to the takedown of bin Laden

Watching the American reaction to President Obama's ordering the Special Operations team into the villa in Pakistan where Osama bin Laden was hiding has been interesting, though only sometimes in a good way. Maybe "instructive" is a better term.

For starters, we now see how Americans react to the removal of the boogey-est boogeyman of recent mythology.

It's a mixed bag, to be sure.

Some celebrate, even wildly. This is not appropriate. A sense of relief, yes, chanting, singing, screaming in the streets, very much less so. You didn't do it, folks, a highly trained team of specialists did, and they know how to conduct themselves afterward. They act like they've accomplished significant things before.

Some quite vocally doubt that he's really dead. Nothing much can be said here, as there's literally no level of evidence to offer that will persuade someone who comes to a conclusion based on things other than evidence.

Still others, most notably the dyspeptic professional contrarian Glenn Greenwald, over at the once-proud liberal site Salon*, and to a fair degree his legions of devoted followers, spend their time complaining that bin Laden ought to have been captured alive and returned to the US for a trial. While they may be sincere in their beliefs, I suspect they'd also be the very first in line to moan and grumble about the proceedings being a "show trial" only, and mounted only as a means to reach a predetermined conclusion.

In that, they are a somewhat lesser species of the doubters described above. Nothing they say, even at the voluminous output level of Greenwald's army of acolytes, will persuade me of the value of a trial. There was nothing to be gained, and the supposed principle they base their false argument on was already malleable enough for them to have come to their own conclusions on no evidence other than their own beliefs.

Principles are wonderful things. They are the basis of a rationally conducted life.

They are not a substitute for one.

What we see in their case is an unwillingness to live in anything other than the carefully constructed abstraction that forms the foundation for their alternate worldview. Reality, as most of us know, is much messier and includes far more shades of gray than many of us want to admit. Such people will decry the absolutism of anyone other than themselves, and do it absolutely.

Life in the real world is a balancing act, among multiple colliding interests and principles. Sometimes things are pretty straightforward. Others, much less so, and this, I suspect, has been one of those others.

And yet the fact remains, the single most wanted criminal on Earth has been tracked, found, and dealt with. This, after the previous administration declared its indifference to his fate, perhaps recognizing that he was more useful to them as a scare figure than a victory.

What will we do in the absence of that scare figure? Will we have to invent one? Are the fear-sellers already hard at work on threat v 2.x?

* You'll have to go there yourself. I'm not going to give them a link, based on the deterioration of the site at the hands of its editors, who have let the Libertarians and trolls run wild. It's sad, really - it used to be a good place.