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A visit to the food pantry

A mother stands in line for her daughter.

Deep thought

If you think it’s not exhausting spending three weeks worrying about your digestive system, you’re wrong.

It was a nice surprise to see a smidgeon of actual history in a newspaper — an explanation in the NYT for Iran’s deep hostility toward Britain, providing context for the story of the storming of the British Embassy earlier this week. More here.


Life after “It’s a Wonderful Life” wasn’t so great.

Oh, I have kissed a few…

…A few have kissed me too
I guess I’m just a stubborn kind of fellow
Got my mind made up to love you

PATRIOT act killing jobs?

From Intoxination:

This is something I never thought of, the stronger hand of our government, at the behest of the Patriot Act, actually hurting us on the tech front. It turns out that is exactly what is happening:

Cloud computing is a gold mine for the U.S. tech industry, but American firms are encountering resistance from an unexpected enemy overseas: the PATRIOT Act.

The Sept. 11-era law was supposed to help the intelligence community gather data on suspected terrorists. But competitors overseas are using it as a way to discourage foreign countries from signing on with U.S. cloud computing providers like Google and Microsoft: Put your data on a U.S.-based cloud, they warn, and you may just put it in the hands of the U.S. government.

We don’t need no stinkin’ principles

I think pieces like this, which analyze the incoherent, inconsistent public positions of candidates, in this case Newt Gingrich (with an honorable mention to Mitt Romney’s “ever-changing stripes”), while valuable in calling bullshit in very specific terms on bullshit artists masquerading as public servants, miss the larger point.

If politicians’ words and deeds seem to be connected more to the prevailing political winds than to the deeply held beliefs of the speaker, maybe there’s a reason for that. Maybe it’s time to abandon the notion that these politicians apply their deeply held principles and values to their public utterances and policy positions, or that such deeply held principles and values even exist. Rather than respond with shock and outrage every time a politician does or says something that contradicts what they have done and said in the past, we should look for a metric that more consistently explains (and could predict) what we see. Maybe the only underlying political philosophy at work here is winning, and the only relevant deeply held values are those of the wealthy individuals and institutions that can make or break the political ambitions of these aspiring lapdogs.

If the trainwreck George W. Bush administration was good for anything, it was for the development of a powerful sense of political cynicism. That administration’s polices were widely criticized as being dumb because they did nothing to help the vast majority of Americans (99 percent, according to some estimates), let alone mankind. But those policies appear dumb only if one assumes they are actually designed to help the vast majority of Americans and/or mankind. If one assumes that those same policies were designed to move vast amounts of money into the hands of the wealthiest humans on earth, then one can’t possibly argue with the ruthless effectiveness of those policies.

Here’s a handy rule of thumb: If politicians have to stop to think before discussing one of their “deeply held values,” it ain’t all that deeply held. Peoples’ principles don’t have to be written on note cards (or their palms) to be remembered. And unless you are very rich, stop assuming that politicians care about you. Their individual utterances might change, but the class of people that benefits from their actions doesn’t.

And those stories that call bullshit would be more valuable if they focused less on the bullshit and more on who benefits.

(Cross-posted at Redsoxville)

Zombie stuff.

“One minute you’re running, next minute you’re hiding in a cold, dark corner. It pays to have layers.”

From Thinkgeek. And your mother.

Advent adventure

A seasonal rerun.

I so miss the columns Anne Lamott used to write for Salon, because they got me through some of the roughest times of my life. (How can you not love someone who refers to herself as a “cursing Christian”?) Anyway, via several other bloggers who reminded me of this, an excerpt from one of my favorite columns. I hope it gets to someone who needs it:

So I called my Jesuit friend, Tom, who is a hopeless alcoholic of the worst sort, sober now for 22 years, someone who sometimes gets fat and wants to hang himself, so I trust him. I said, “Tell me a story about Advent. Tell me about people getting well.”

He thought for a while. Then he said, “OK.”

In 1976, when he first got sober, he was living in the People’s Republic of Berkeley, going to the very hip AA meetings there, where there were no fluorescent lights and not too much clapping — or that yahoo-cowboy-hat-in-the-air enthusiasm that you get in L.A., according to sober friends. And everything was more or less all right in early sobriety, except that he felt utterly insane all the time, filled with hostility and fear and self-contempt.

But I mean, other than that everything was OK. Then he got transferred to Los Angeles in the winter, and he did not know a soul. “It was a nightmare,” he says. “I was afraid to go into entire areas of L.A., because the only places I knew were the bars. So I called the cardinal and asked him for the name of anyone he knew in town who was in AA. And he told me to call this guy Terry.”

Terry, as it turned out, had been sober for five years at that point, so Tom thought he was God. They made arrangements to go to a meeting that night in the back of the Episcopal Cathedral, right in the heart of downtown L.A.

It was Terry’s favorite meeting, full of low-bottom drunks and junkies — people from nearby halfway houses, bikers, jazz musicians. “Plus it’s a men’s stag meeting,” says Tom. “So already I’ve got issues.
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If we live in the land of the free and all that twaddle, then why do our cops treat protesters as if they’re terrorists rather than fellow citizens? Inquiring minds, including a prominent United Nations official, want to know. More here.

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