Super, a novel by Aaron Dietz from Emergency Press

Religious School’s Discrimination Against Lesbians Could Spark Witch Hunt

Posted: January 30th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Long, Serious | No Comments »

An appeals court in California recently upheld a decision that supported a religious school’s right to expel two students based on sexual orientation.

If you’re a religious person who actually believes that being gay is a spiritual offense, this might seem like a victory.

In reality, it’s not. In fact, if the decision is upheld (they’re trying for an appeal to the State Supreme Court), it could be the end of religious institutions that attempt the same form of discrimination.

Any religious institution that follows suit risks losing more than the many fantastic, religious, beautiful people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transexual church-goers. They risk losing all people who understand what’s coming: a witch hunt.

The ruling doesn’t just support a religious institution’s right to discriminate based on sexual orientation. It gives religious institutions the right to discriminate against anyone, as long as they use religious beliefs to justify it.

Scenario: Orianne doesn’t like Andrew because Andrew sometimes hums to himself. Whoops–Andrew ate meat on the wrong day and now Orianne can get him fired! Hooray for Orianne!

But boo for humanity.


Yes, Prop 8 is Discrimination

Posted: January 22nd, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Funny, Long, Serious | No Comments »

Some people are convinced that Proposition 8 (the California measure that limits marriage to one man and one woman) doesn’t take away any rights from the LGBT community.

They claim that through things like a strong will, power of attorney, and more, an LGBT couple can have the same rights as a straight, married couple.

Let’s take a look at how equal these scenarios are.

Situation One: A Man and Woman Want to Marry

Man: “Hi, woman. Let’s marry.”

Woman: “Okay. Let’s go to the court house and get that done right now.”

Man: “One simple document. How nice!”

Woman: “Easy peasy! We’ll have time for coffee and a doughnut afterward!”

Situation Two: An LGBT Couple Wants to Marry

Partner 1: “Hi partner. Let’s marry.”

Partner 2: “Actually, that’s illegal, but we can have all the same rights as a married couple.”

Partner 1: “Oh, goodie. I’ll call the accountant and find out how we can avoid the estate tax should one of us, heaven forbid, pass away before the other.”

Partner 2: “Good thinking. I’d better call the attorney and find out how I can be allowed to visit you if you’re ever in the hospital.”

Partner 1: “Well, hey! That’s not going to take much time at all! And after that, there are only one thousand one hundred thirty six more federal rights we need to get back in order for us to have the same rights as a married couple!”

Partner 2: “That’s the spirit! At this pace, we’ll be done setting this all up in about a decade–that is, if I don’t have to take a second job to pay all the attorney costs and filing fees!”

Partner 1: “I suppose that will slow us down if you’re working two jobs, but it’s worth it, just to get the rights that we’re not being denied!”

It’s true. There are 1138 federal rights that LGBT couples do not have when they are denied marriage. Saying that LGBT couples can simply regain those rights by filling out paperwork, consulting expensive professionals, and paying processing fees for acquiring those rights is equivalent to giving all people the right to vote, but forcing some of those people to fill out special forms.

Thus, Prop 8 is discrimination.

And don’t get me started on the psychological effects of facing people that don’t recognize your marriage just because they have a specific interpretation of a book.


How Starbucks and Microsoft can Save the Economy of the Northwest

Posted: January 19th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Long, Serious | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

While I don’t have an allegiance to Starbucks or Microsoft, I do want the Northwest’s economy to do okay, primarily because I live there.

Here’s how Starbucks and Microsoft can save the Northwest:

Starbucks

Quit competing with McDonald’s and do what Starbucks does best: sell pretension. When people see the McDonald’s ads aimed at Starbucks (“Four bucks is dumb. Now serving espresso.”), they need to be reminded that, to a slave growing coffee, four bucks is not dumb.

Action Plan: 100% Fair Trade espresso drinks within one year. Bonus points for adopting standards better than Fair Trade. Boom. Everyone buying espresso drinks at McDonald’s feels like a cad.

Microsoft

Develop software for technology needs that actually exist and will exist in the near future. This is way better than developing an entire operating system based on sucking resources just to justify replacing hardware that already has enough memory.

Action Plan: Cell phones are computers. Why don’t they run on Windows? As much as I fear Microsoft becoming the dominant cell phone software company, it could save the Northwest. And, there’s something to be said for knowing how to use a brand new cell phone without experience, just because you’re familiar with the software. Hey, it’s better than trying to convince people they want Vista.


In a Cheesy Legal Thriller Novel, I am an NSA Goon

Posted: January 7th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Long, Other People, With Pictures | 2 Comments »

It’s true. In the novel Case of Lies, by the author team up that calls themselves Perri O’Shaugnessy, I am an NSA goon. See for yourself:

Okay, the linebacker body type was a little off, but they got the silent act down. And I do like a good water.

Okay, sometimes it might look like I’m regarding people as Nabokov might have regarded a specimen butterfly before spoking it, but I’m not into decorative insect corpses, I swear. I try to respect the right of living things to die without being on display. Once again, though, they got the silent act down.

That does sound like something I’d say if I were NSA. But I’d probably follow this up with a discussion of semantics involving the word “nation”.

I’ll have to try the tie-yanking thing, though I’m not sure exactly what an angry tie yank means, or how it affects a conversation. Is that like saying, “Leave me alone already”? Or is it a “I’m getting angry. Hulk. Hulk. HULK!” kind of thing?

I used to chew on my fingernails when I was young, but I’ve given up the habit. In this novel, though, I’m not sure if this is a sign of me being frightened or bored. Or perhaps the Dietz character had to be mentioned because he wasn’t in the previous five pages and people might wonder what he was doing for that entire five page conversation.

The suspense is killing me, but this is the last we hear of Aaron Dietz, the NSA agent, in this book. Maybe he just evaporates into thin air, as I hope to do when I’m ready to leave this world.

Cheesy Legal Thriller Question: If you were in a cheesy legal thriller novel, what would your character be like?


When Does a Problem Become a Crisis?

Posted: January 4th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Long, Serious | No Comments »

Having recently been on a bus with someone who claimed that Hurricane Katrina wasn’t as messed up as the recent snow inundation of Seattle, I pondered the criteria required for a problem to become a crisis.

The problem: Several repeated snowfalls of 4 to 6 inches in a city with virtually no ability to remove snow.

The side effects: Reduced business viability in the form of reduced hours, reduced patronage, and the sheer impossibility of getting anything done when you can’t go anywhere.

So, Seattle had some snow. Usually, the snow melts quickly. This time, it didn’t, and more snow happened. Thus: a problem.

That being said and accepted, how much snow would it take for someone in Seattle to call in the National Guard? It would be unthinkable to call on the National Guard to get rid of a six inch snowfall.

But what if that same amount of snow fell ten times over ten days? It’s like unpacking a suitcase: you take out one thing at a time and don’t see any difference, until suddenly: there’s the bottom of the thing, peeking out between the jeans and dirty underwear.

This only partially explains how Hurrican Katrina became a severely mismanaged crisis (especially since there was data that indicated a looming crisis). Nevertheless, in many cases, a crisis happens gradually, then suddenly*. You see the gradual changes, but it’s hard to see each small problem as part of a collective crisis until it’s suddenly too late.

Usually, there is no algorithm for detecting a crisis because a crisis is either easy to detect (example: a 200 foot wall of water about to hit your city) or the crisis is produced by cumulative effects (like moderate snowfalls that happen repeatedly for many days).

I’m not saying Seattle entered the crisis stage a couple weeks ago. I’m just pointing out that it could have, without anyone noticing, if there had been just a little more snow…and a little more…and a little more after that.

* Thanks to Hemingway, or whoever first used that phrase.


Why I Voted Obama

Posted: October 30th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Long, Other People, Serious | 3 Comments »

1. Because I believe McCain plans to continue fighting in Iraq for as long as he can. Even Bush is looking at exit possibilities. McCain wants us there permanently. Obama’s withdrawal plan won’t happen as it was written, but at least he’ll focus on having a plan.

2. Because it will be awesome to have a president that knows how to use the Internet to communicate.

3. Because Obama has demonstrated a deeper understanding of the issues than any Democrat hopeful in a long time.

4. Because other countries love him. This will be more and more important if things get worse for the U.S.

5. Because he’s creative, and knows how to surround himself with creative people.

6. Because many closet racists will freak out. And I think this will be healthier than pretending racism doesn’t exist.

7. Because he’s skinny. As a skinny male, I’m hoping he makes skinny masculinity the new popular thing.

8. Because he’s convincing. I have no faith in the Democrats, but I’ve become convinced Obama is for real.

9. Because none of the third parties have a chance of getting 5%. If Obama works out, I’ll be sad that a third party has to wait until 2016, but we can’t afford to wait until 2012 even. I’m taking a chance on Obama – NOT on the Democrats, although they are obviously helped by this vote. To 2016, independents! We have 8 years to plan a massive movement, and Obama has given us the example of how to do it.

10. Because Obama will support Internet neutrality, which will eventually enable us to build a movement that doesn’t depend on either big party.


Education – Not what you think, and highly irrelevant

Posted: October 27th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Long, Other People, Random, Serious | 2 Comments »

I’m a little interested in figuring out why people in certain states tend to vote one way. So, I decided to compare RCP’s current poll averages with states’ ranks in education. I wanted to be able to explain something. Anything.

Conclusion

Hard to say (the data is below). 50 is a small sample size, but this is how it shapes up, whether it’s conclusive or not.
:: Obama leads in the polls of 9 of the 10 smartest states.
:: 14 of McCain’s 21 states are in the bottom half in education.

Perhaps this is just an indication of the likelihood of people feeling an affinity with their candidates. Obama and Biden survived grad school. McCain and Palin never went. You may have seen this breakdown already:

Barack Obama
Occidental College (2 years)
Columbia University, B.A.
Harvard, Juris Doctor magna cum laude

Joe Biden
University of Delaware, B.A. double-major – rank 506 of 688
Syracuse, Juris Doctor

John McCain
U.S. Naval Academy – rank 894 or 899

Sarah Palin
Hawaii Pacific College (1 semester)
North Idaho community college (2 semesters general studies)
University of Idaho (2 semesters)
Matanuska-Susitna community college (1 term)
University of Idaho (3 semesters), degree in communications-journalism

And since it’s only fair:

Aaron Dietz
Iowa State University (2 semesters)
Metro State College of Denver (2 classes)
Antioch University Seattle (6 quarters), B.A. Arts & Literature
GPA: 3.0 or so (but I wasn’t graded at Antioch)
Total time in school: 2.5 years.

State Education Score RCP Poll Spread Candidate
Vermont 18.57 -21.5 Obama
Massachusetts 16.09 -23.7 Obama
Connecticut 14.46 -19.3 Obama
New Jersey 14.35 -18.0 Obama
Maine 10.79 -16.2 Obama
Virginia 10.07 -7.3 Obama
Montana 9.55 3.3 McCain
Wisconsin 9.04 -10.6 Obama
Iowa 8.82 -11.4 Obama
Pennsylvania 8.69 -10.8 Obama
Nebraska 6.4 18.7 McCain
New Hampshire 5.9 -7.7 Obama
Minnesota 5.33 -11.3 Obama
Rhode Island 4.31 -22.7 Obama
Kansas 4.27 12.0 McCain
New York 3.66 -29.7 Obama
South Dakota 3.25 9.0 McCain
Maryland 2.27 -23.0 Obama
Wyoming 1.35 21.0 McCain
Idaho 1.29 39.0 McCain
North Dakota 0.95 4.0 McCain
Missouri 0.94 -0.6 Obama
North Carolina 0.84 -1.6 Obama
Indiana 0.06 -0.3 Obama
Texas -0.11 13.6 McCain
South Carolina -1.19 15.0 McCain
Colorado -1.32 -6.2 Obama
Delaware -2.47 -17.6 Obama
Florida -2.9 -2.7 Obama
Tennessee -3.01 14.0 McCain
Kentucky -3.24 12.4 McCain
Arkansas -3.44 11.8 McCain
Washington -3.85 -16.7 Obama
Ohio -4 -6.3 Obama
Illinois -4.32 -23.5 Obama
Oklahoma -5.81 29.0 McCain
West Virginia -5.82 8.0 McCain
Utah -6.3 36.4 McCain
Michigan -6.43 -17.0 Obama
Oregon -6.87 -15.2 Obama
Georgia -6.92 5.3 McCain
Hawaii -9.31 -41.0 Obama
New Mexico -10.6 -8.4 Obama
Louisiana -10.95 15.6 McCain
Alabama -11 23.7 McCain
Alaska -11.91 15.0 McCain
California -13.1 -24.7 Obama
Mississippi -14.78 10.3 McCain
Nevada -15.81 -3.5 Obama
Arizona -17.61 6.0 McCain

In case you’re wondering, McCain won the coin flip and got to be the positive numbers.


Which Presidential Candidate is More Creative?

Posted: October 22nd, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Long, Other People, Serious | No Comments »

The U.S. has major problems. These problems are going to need creative solutions if we’re going to see positive change within the next four years, or even within the next decade.

Which candidate is more likely to consistently produce creative solutions to problems? Let’s consider the presidential candidates’ campaigns….

(Candidates get credit for the creativity of their staff because good presidents know how to surround themselves with creative people.)

Obama took his campaign overseas in an actual demonstration of his desire to generate positive relationships with the rest of the world.

McCain has essentially adopted the same strategy that’s been around for decades now: exploit differences in people.

Obama bought ads in video games.

McCain can’t seem to think of anything more creative at this stage than smear tactics.

Obama
has used modern technology in original and unprecedented ways (for presidential campaigns, anyway), including text messaging.

McCain has admitted to having trouble just using a computer (source and source).

Obama’s most creative gambit? It’s too hard to choose between them.

McCain’s most creative gambit? Telling everyone he was suspending his campaign so that he could have an interview with Katie Couric.

Subjective Summary: Obama seems to have beaten McCain to all the good ideas. And though Obama has a larger budget (probably due to his creative relationship building online apparatus), there really isn’t anything he’s done that McCain couldn’t have done first, if only McCain had thought of it.

My position: Obama and the people he surrounds himself with are far more creative than McCain and his staff.

P.S. Obama gets bonus points for inspiring creativity in others, such as the folks who put together the attempt at a million dollar minute, and of course, the incredibly cheesy (but still a decent idea) Yes We Can YouTube video.


Voter Supression Fun Facts!

Posted: October 15th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Long, Serious | No Comments »

There are many ways in which votes are suppressed, both intentionally and unintentionally.

1. Bogus information is distributed. Example: An anonymous flier warned that people with outstanding arrest warrants or even unpaid traffic tickets might be arrested at the polls. 2nd Example: Voters that filled out a voter registration according to the instructions apparently filled out the registration incorrectly.

2. Voter residencies are challenged. Example: A GOP plan to use foreclosure lists to limit voting despite the fact that a foreclosure notice doesn’t mean the resident has moved out.

3. Machines don’t record votes accurately. Example: Polls in Ohio in 2004 recorded far fewer totals than were realistically expected. I won’t even bother telling you what was happening frequently in Florida that year.

4. Voter registrations are removed from the list. If this is done in the last 90 days before an election, it is illegal. Example: Nine states (many of them swing states) are potentially illegally removing voters from their registration lists.

5. Polling places don’t schedule enough hours or get enough machines for everyone to vote. Example: Ohio in 2004 documented many polling places with too few resources to get the job done.

How to Fight Back

If you are wrongfully denied your right to vote, they will not figure it out later. If you are not able to resolve the problem by the time your poll closes, your vote will not be counted. Here’s how to fight back.

1. For electronic ballot voters, make sure the summary of your vote at the end records your actual votes. Sometimes, for unexplained reasons, some machines switch your votes to other candidates, or simply drop them altogether.

2. If you are challenged, don’t give up. At the very least: as long as you’re arguing with the challengers, they won’t have time to challenge anyone else.

3. Assume the challenger is a stupid jerk. They don’t know shit. Get their name and what reason they have for denying your vote. Then proceed to step 4.

4. Use technology. Find someone with an iPhone nearby and ask them to look up the phone numbers of your county’s election office. If that doesn’t work, find the names of election officials and get their phone numbers. Keep calling people until someone acquiesces.

5. Use witnesses. Go to the polls with friends. After your friends have voted, ask them to speak in your defense. One supposed foreclosure on a list doesn’t mean jack, legally. Four witnesses who say you live in a house is significant. At the very least, a lot more people will notice five people arguing than one person arguing. This might make people upset enough to join you. A whole district against one polling official? It could work.

6. Threaten to call the press. If all else fails, emphatically state that you have the right to vote, and since the polling place is denying your right, you will report this to the press.

7. Call the press. When you call them, be sure to share the facts: particularly that you are being wrongfully denied your right to vote. You must be calm and collected, or they’ll drop you. If you seem reasonably intelligent and appear to have facts that support your case, you might have a shot.

8. Support others’ right to vote! Defend them after your vote has been cast, but don’t obstruct the voting of others while you do this. If you are working at a polling place, you do not have to close the
polling place when you are supposedly supposed to close – the people that show up to the polls before closing time have the right to vote, so extend your hours at least long enough to let those that made it in time cast their ballot.


The Bill, be it Bailout, Rescue, or Sweet Love to Asset Owners Given Freely by the U.S. Taxpayers

Posted: October 1st, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Long, Other People, Serious | No Comments »

The bailout bill is old news. Now it’s called a rescue bill. And the new one does seem to have a few provisions that I think are decent, while in essence carrying out the general shmuckus of handing over tax payer money to whomever.

Nevertheless, while I’m still trying to understand the new bill, we can talk about the old bill(s)–and I’ll be quick to say that I never felt comfortable with the old bill, and suspected treachery, perhaps just because that’s what I’ve come to expect.

However, after days of asking questions and poking around and reading a bunch of stuff, Kendra finally forwarded me an opinion that my instincts agreed with.

Bankruptcy, not bailout, is the right answer, by Jeffrey Miron

I’ll quote the really good stuff:

“Bankruptcy means that shareholders typically get wiped out and the creditors own the company. Bankruptcy does not mean the company disappears; it is just owned by someone new (as has occurred with several airlines).”

“If financial institutions cannot make productive loans, a profit
opportunity exists for someone else. This might not happen instantly,
but it will happen. Further, the current credit freeze is likely due to Wall Street’s hope of a
bailout; bankers will not sell their lousy assets for 20 cents on the
dollar if the government might pay 30, 50, or 80 cents.”

I was particularly never satisfied with anyone’s positive reviews of the bailout plan just because not one person that I encountered had the time or knowledge to adequately explain how it would be a good thing. I’m glad I ran into someone who could adequately explain why it was a bad thing.

Now, hug your children tight. The credit will flow eventually, one way or the other.