Thursday, April 23, 2015

What is Terrorism?


I'm auditing an Earlham College class with my daughter, led by Ferit G├╝ven, professor of philosophy.  They've been boning up on recent history, with Edward W. Said's The Question of Palestine up for discussion.

Said is interested in what he calls Orientalism, a discourse shaped by the colonial past.  But then the US view of "terroism" is colored not just by the crusades, but by the so-called "conquest" of North America by an heir apparent to the British Empire (with the "imperial presidency" a consequence).
Key supporters of the War on Terror themselves see GWOT as an Indian war. Take, for example, the right-wing intellectuals Robert Kaplan and Max Boot who, although not members of the administration, also advocate a tough military stance against terrorists. In a Wall Street Journal article, "Indian Country," Kaplan notes that "an overlooked truth about the war on terrorism" is that "the American military is back to the days of fighting the Indians."
I'm plowing through An Infinity of Nations using Kindle software, tapping into a critique of conquistador type storytelling, which the Spanish were also good at.  I always think of Aguirre at the end of that Werner Herzog movie, exulting in his conquest of Mesa-America.

I was going to question Said's thesis on this basis:  that colonization of the Western Hemisphere is by definition not an Orientalist project.  But then I remember:  Columbus thought he might be in India.  Europeans called the people here "Indians".  So in that sense, "the Orient" includes the Americas.  Poetic justice.  "Welcome to the Orient" I say from my desk-chair in Indiana.
President Andrew Jackson, whose "unapologetic flexing of military might" has been compared to George W. Bush's modus operandi, noted in his "Case for the Removal [of Indians] Act" (December 8, 1830): "What good man would prefer a country covered with forests and ranged by a few thousand savages to our extensive Republic, studded with cities, towns, and prosperous farms, embellished with all the improvements which art can devise or industry execute, . . . and filled with all the blessings of liberty, civilization, and religion?"
Us vs. them is, of course, a feature of all wars, but the starkness of this dichotomy -- seen by GWOT supporters as a struggle between the civilized world and a global jihad -- is as strikingly apparent in the War on Terror as it was in the Indian Wars.
I'm interspersing my post with John Brown's essay on the web Our Indian Wars Are Not Over Yet.

Clearly the militarized wall along the US-Mexico border has much in common with the wall in the Middle East.  A lot of the same technologies and psychologies are operative in both cases.  Israel and DC have a special relationship based on mutual wall building.

How does Orientalism, which converges ISIS, Al Qaeda... Hamas into a single hydra-headed beast, relate to the Cold War and another wall, now removed, plus the psychological "Iron Curtain"?  Eastern Europe, Russia... to some extent the Byzantine / Ottoman matrix forms a backdrop.

Britain inherits from Rome more than from Constantinople.  Going back to the Crusades, we need to remember Christendom forked.  Did crusaders come from Eastern Europe at all?

Christian7777 writes, on OrthodoxChristianity.net:
I know that they were victims of it, like with the Sack of Constantinople in 1204. But I'm wondering if the Orthodox had at any point in time participated in The Crusades, as in helping the Catholics fight the Muslim invaders. According to Wikipedia (which I understand is not necessarily the most accurate source of information), "The Crusades were originally launched in response to a call from the leaders of the Byzantine Empire for help to fight the expansion into Anatolia of Muslim Seljuk Turks", so I figure that at some point in time, the Orthodox were participants. Were they ever? I'm just curious.
 Then, answering his own question:
I did more research, and found out that the Byzantine Empire was involved in the First Crusade and the Second Crusade. The Fourth Crusade is where things went downhill between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church due to the Sack of Constantinople; it's very unfortunate that the attack occurred, especially because the Catholics and the Orthodox Christians were fighting together at the beginning.
Looking at nationalism as under-girded by organized religion, I can see where Said is coming from.  Fuller's thesis (hypothesis) was that supranational corporations, as distinct from organized religions, were inheriting the wealth of nations, as the concept of "sovereignty" gave way to a more unified Spaceship Earth (or Earth Inc.).

One might say Fuller anticipated the triumph of secularism but what is secularism exactly?  Isn't secularism more about the enforced co-existence of religions than their abolition?

The notion of a Liberal Orient i.e. a time when Islam was uber-friendly to religious minorities under its care, is largely romantic science fiction, contrary to fact.  However it may also be a kind of foreshadowing.  Progressive branches within the world religions already have their Parliament, seeking a rollback of any Doctrine of Discovery.

A secular Orient that (A) includes the Americas and (B) embraces STEM as not a threat to "interfaith" psychologies, has the potential to seem like Fuller's Grunch of Giants, also science fiction of a kind. The completion of East-meets-West, i.e. the blending of the hemispheres (globalization) is what the Spaceship Earth meme attempts to summarize.  Is that really so terrifying?

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Business News


Today was a milestone in many respects.  Washington High School, which had been an art colony HQS, mostly abandoned, has finally morphed into offices plus a theater venue with ample bars to handle crowds.  We didn't get into the theater for picture-taking but did ride the elevator to the well appointed rooftop venue.

William, an Iraq War vet with subsequent experience in Afghanistan, joined Glenn (at one time a code cracker for the NSA), myself, and Steve Holden for lunch at Barley Mill, outside table (sunny warm day), then toured the remodeled school.

The remodel takes a page from McMenamins (Barley Mill was the first) in making no secret of the building's original purpose as a public school.  Museum cases and wall art are devoted to conveying that theme.  That the school's name was Washington is what gives Revolution Hall (the theater) its name.

Another transition was that of the symbolic (and quite literal) Chair of Computer Science, a fixture in Steve's apartment and successor to the Michael Jennings version.  Fortunately it comes apart into two pieces and could be transported by car to my place (just a few blocks away).  William is good at carrying things.  Steve is leaving Portland in about two weeks time, with future visits planned.

William met me as a student of Python while still in Afghanistan, later branching more into SQL which he now does for a living.  I've been putting a lot of emphasis on SQL in my curriculum writing as the majority or record-keeping is done using it.  As a Technology Clerk (IT Committee) for regional Quakers, I see SQL as having religious significance, Quakerism being a lot about record-keeping (including journaling).

Steve has a somewhat sardonic thing he says about concluding his Portland chapter:  "legal weed, Pycon in Portland, my work is done."

Steve got the ball rolling on having Pycons, in addition to EuroPython, in the early days in DC, an institution which has snowballed and has now been taken over by the PSF (Python Software Foundation).  The most recent North American Pycon, just concluded, was in Montreal with over three thousand in attendance.  That's fairly large number for a Pycon, even more than in Santa Clara.

As for weed becoming legal, the inertia behind that was less of Steve's doing.

Carol Urner, my mom, flew from LAX to EWR today.  She turns 86 tomorrow, somewhere over the Atlantic.


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Wanderers 2015.4.15


Tax day!

Terry Bristol, ISEPP president, is doing a test talk regarding two ballot initiatives he's planning to back:  $20 minimum wage; 5 weeks paid vacation.

The paid vacation policy feeds the travel and tourist industry big time i.e. it actually increases GDP, per the French model, not to mention living standards.

The $15 minimum wage is already a well-established lobby, so Terry is just one step ahead.

Lew Scholl is here.  His mom, like mine, came to Quakerism while in college, likewise at the University of Washington.  My parents were going to YWCA meetups where students spoke in earnest about ethical questions then facing them.  Vietnam was cranking up.  Civil Defense.  Atom bombs.

I filed awhile ago and got my refund already.  Given I have a daughter in college, I'm motivated to get my taxes done early so I can file a FASFA with nailed numbers.  FASFA is a form used by colleges to compute financial aid amounts.  I go through H&R Block.

My taxes this year were approximately the same as last year's.

ISEPP is a public policy think tank, an NGO.  I've served on its board for a few terms (an unpaid position, though with some perks).  Dawn Wicca and Associates, when still a partnership, was ISEPP's bookkeeper (Dawn died in 2007).  You'll find lots more history buried in these blogs.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Unicode Musings

Lindsey is keyboarding in Devanagari some of the time however the situation with plug-ins is my Gmail is so far not decoding it as such.

I'm getting nonsense, not surprising on a first experiment.

Another thing that's confused me:  Trashigang or Tashigang?  I'd always said "Tashigang" and seeing "Trashigang" on Google and Facebook had me thinking either I was wrong or some typo was propagating.

Turns out:  both spellings are considered correct, Facebook says so.

Glad to have that cleared up.

I'm packing for a trip and looking forward to trying the new cider bar that just opened on Hawthorne where the essences and oils shop used to be, a bead shop before that if memory serves.



:: tashigang or trashigang? ::

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Chain of Command


A lot of people are confused about how a succession of US presidents, nominally commanders in chief, can say publicly they hope to close Gitmo, only to have Gitmo stay open.  Are we not looking at a treasonous level of insubordination?

Plans to spin-off Gitmo, give it back to the Cubans, have already been drawn up, with dates and everything.  Those running the place may be held back for interviews, which could lead to future jobs.  The prisoners need a place to detox and reconnect with family.  Those running Gitmo will have no responsibilities over prisoners ever again is the hope.  They have failed to obey the president and are dropping in rank by the day.

Having Gitmo on one's resume in any way adds to the stench of one's portfolio.  Those connected to Gitmo have something shameful on their record that I recommend hiding.  This was the Nazi Chapter, when Neocons were out of control and behaved contrary to democratic values.  After a president says he wants to close the place, continuing to obey orders is a Nuremberg thing.  A Hall of Shame is being prepared in the historical record.

Saturday, April 04, 2015

OLPC + OPPA


OLPC = One Laptop Per Child
OPPA = One Palmtop Per Adult

A palmtop is another name for a laptop computer so small it fits in the palm of your hand, a smartphone in other words, but perhaps with the cell feature turned off.

OLPC pioneered making laptops so inexpensive that even children, among the least privileged in our societies, might get one, not just their teachers and the administrators.

What OPPA means in 2015 is a $15 Coolpad, an Andoid, that one may use to play music, take pictures, and use free Wifi from any hotspot, no need to sign up for any plan.

Put it in airplane mode to make the battery last longer and then turn on the Wifi only.  This isn't your phone.  It's your palmtop.

If you're careful, you don't even need to let Google know this phone has been switched on, though you'll be asked many times if you wish to create a Google account (you may already have one, and still choose to keep this phone more anonymous).

I recommend paying more and getting an SD card for it, adding gigs of storage.  More room for more music, like Philip Glass and Pink Floyd.

Related Reading:
STEM Lesson Plan
Kirby on YouTube (2009)
Invading Florida
More Autobio

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Arresting Power (movie review)


Arresting Power is a locally produced film about police cruelty.  A few example cases get a closer look, such as the murder of Jim Jim.  Most of the victims are young black men.

The film excavates a lot of interesting history, reminding us of the fact that being a black person in Oregon was in itself criminal until 2001.  Seriously.  That bit was written into the Constitution by a bunch of low EQ hicks who thought of themselves as brave pioneers of a new state. 

Not every pioneer behind the design of this state was such a moron.

Then the morons decided to criminalize all the behaviors and ethnicities they didn't want to deal with (sound familiar?) and repurposed the slavery patrol vigilante groups, already popular back east, to give us today's police forces (shades of KKK + NRA per the South Park analysis).

OK, that's a bit of a caricature but films have only so much time to set the context and a lot of the viewpoint here is classic Black Panther, which I appreciate, coming from a Laughing Horse background.

A police system is complicated and multi-dimensional.  Professionals inside the system are well aware of the "bad cop" problem.  One reason we have a lot of bad cops, more than we need, is the lack of any credible safety net.  We all pay a price in lower living standards.

Quitting one's job before one is fired would be much more likely if retraining and exciting work, perhaps involving adrenalin rushes, were offered.  

Obvious points:  cops with anger management issues should not have to keep mentally ill from aggravating the public.  Different trainings and more recognized kinds of badge, not necessarily reporting to the same chief, might be effective. People who might be "on drugs" and/or "off their meds" are in a whole different category from those carrying lethal weapons (as police are).

911 needs to learn how to dispatch teams with different types of expertise.  When all you have is a hammer, every problem becomes a nail.

A lot of the Q&A was about overhauling the system, which currently satisfies no one, police included.

People not good at their jobs, and some police are not, need a way to move on without bringing things to a head.

Peace and Social Concerns Committee (PSCC) no longer concerns itself with already successful organizing efforts per the Seifert Format, and is now pitching its services mostly to activists who need special Quaker expertise. 

The Truthers are getting special help for example.  Given what they're up against, I can understand why.

The cop watch culture in Portland, in contrast, is highly evolved and therefore not especially in need of "Quaker therapy" (like est?).  PSCC was not a sponsor of this event.  Occupy Elder Caucus was the primary organizer with AFSC a co-organizer, providing the projection equipment. 

The AFSC, with independent management, appreciates not having its hands tied by the newly restrictive policies Multnomah Monthly has applied to its own PSCC as a condition for reinstatement (Nominating was refusing to nominate until this possibly crippling new model could be forced through by the Business Meeting's ad hoc group). 

Mireaya (Portland staff) is answering a question right now.  She's outwardly too young to be Elder Caucus but like the Gathering of Western Young Friends, the group self identifies.

So, how do we fire bad cops?  Moving them to "desk jobs" is not necessarily helping.  A lot of them get bored and chafe under the sense of being punished.  Real criminals go to jail.

Dan Handleman worries the subculture of violence porn now popular in the US military will spread, reversing civil values in favor of mayhem as the new norm.  CBS will up the violence level with snuff films as viewers cheer?   Sounds a lot like Fallujah.

How does one fire "bad soldiers"?  How does one de-fund "bad wars"?  These were the deep questions the audience was considering.  Sending the bad apples to kill each other in faraway places only works for so long.  Will Mars become a next prison colony, the one way trip the Americas used to be (and Australia)?

While on the topic, lets look at the question of "bad Quakers" maybe?  Given housecleaning was a focus, I think that question deserves some real thought. I'd be a hypocrite if I acted like only the police have a bad apple problem.  Every group seems to have that.

We used to "disown" our slavers but that comes across as archaic in today's culture.  Mostly one just works around 'em (those slower to catch on), hoping they'll either find another sect, or work on developing their skills.

Phone apps are becoming important.  You can watch a cop do her or his job and upload the clip directly to ACLU.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Equinox Redux

Taking It In

I started my day with a short bench press at the gym on the sitting up machine, just 90 pounds to keep the blood going, then on to an IT meeting with an interested party.

Lew and Ek were in the same building (no, not the meetinghouse) presumably talking over Property Committee business (Lew had some blueprints).

My meeting was about ways to keep Bluetooth going even if the Internet goes down, among other things.  My Razr has succumbed to "smartphone Alzheimer's" so much of what I learned was for the next incarnation.

Tonight was our Equinox Festival at the Linus Pauling House, still ongoing.

I came home to do some doggie care and tackle some business, having enjoyed my fill of good food and great company.  Nirel showing up with the little dog reminded me I needed to take care of Sarah.

We did get our walk in today, Sarah and I, a practice underlined (as in emphasized) by Lindsey when she was here, visiting from Nepal for three months.

Weird atmospherics have been kind to ham radio operators lately, especially those ten million or so who know Morse Code.  Jeff has been bouncing signal from distant corners of the globe.

Thanks to Nirel for bringing a dog.  By tradition, I uphold the ethos on nonhuman Wanderers in our midst ("we" being the hominids, not always friendly to our fellow travelers, even when they mean us no harm).

Sunday, March 15, 2015

WQM Men's Group 2015


We came close to maxing out Big Bear Camp facilities this year.  I slept in my car out of choice, not having done so before and wanting to experiment.  Henry, who slept outside the first night, said he could hear me snoring, even through all that glass and metal, which must have vibrated considerably.

During one of the breakout sessions, I practiced sermonizing, based on a Bible passage wherein Jesus has a conversation with the devil where they compare notes on God and holy writ.  Having studied Lucifer's psyche at Princeton, in the form of Paradise Lost, by Milton, I remarked that "the devil within" was likewise a manifestation of the Inner Light, given a fallen angel would also have "Intel Inside" (God within).  Jesus obviously knew this and conversed with angels on a regular basis, not always in an adversarial role.

I like what angels add to Christianity, especially skeptical angels with a strong misanthropic streak, known as "devils" in the jargon, but angels nonetheless.  Not that I'm pushing the literal existence of daemonic beings.  Their figurative existence is quite sufficient.  I figure the ego is likewise metaphoric i.e. the Buddhist doctrine of "no self" means that a self refuting the existence of daemons (or "ghosts") is a lot like the pot calling the kettle black.

Tom and I discussed his being a peer advocate for Mr. Chasse, as they both had similar diagnoses and had to work their respective ways through half way house chapters.  Tom, originally an Irish Catholic from Coos Bay, had gotten caught up in Lyndon LaRouche's political party at the height of its power.  He tells many interesting stories from that era.

Although Joe shared with the group that the main melodrama at Multnomah Meeting these days had to do with complying with insurance guidelines and doing background checks on a minimum of two child care personnel, I told Tom I thought the disposition of the Dove Puppets in coming weeks would likely have more impact on the reputation of Portland's unprogrammed Friends in the long run.  May Day Coalition has written Peace and Social Concerns wondering if we'll see Friends, and their puppets, on May Day.  Or is protesting climate change more the extent of Quaker brand activism these days?  Maybe May Day is too scary?  Not for AFSC at least.

Speaking of which, we enjoyed the presence of programmed Friends in our midst (programmed = Pastoral).  Like the Women's Theological Conference, which Joe has been jealous of (not me), we're sometimes involved in closing circuits, or switch-boarding, across lineages.  I learned a lot about ongoing controversies in West Hills Friends Church, plus was glad to see Henry again, nowadays with Camus Friends Church in Washington State.  I hope to pay both a visit one of these days.

Those of us into IT had some discussions using that jargon.  Quakers have a reputation for being meticulous about record-keeping, which is in tension with our Luddite tendencies, which latter I associate with our shedding of responsibilities over the decades since our peak in power in the late 1700s.  Had we kept our hand on the tiller, we'd have our act more together in cyberspace by now.

Getting our IT back into focus might galvanize us in other ways that increase our ability to make a difference in the world.  Time will tell.  As NPYM's first technology clerk (a co-clerk of the IT committee), I suppose I may over-indulge myself with such hopes and dreams for a more tech-savvy future.

Monday, March 09, 2015

AFSC APC Meetup (meeting notes)

AFSC Meetup
Left clockwise:  Joanne, Kelly, Christopher, Marielle, Cecil, Anna, Mireaya
Not pictured: Kirby (photographer), Leslie & Pedro (on Blackberry device)

Check in included reports from our circle.  I took pictures.  Lots is going on, with immigration law especially.

How does the Board get input from volunteers?  YMAs (Yearly Meeting Appointees) at a higher level, but lets have Executive Committees come up with some ideas.

This group:  unusual in having a cohesive group with across-the-board oversight.  Dividing it more, while inviting individuals to join multiple "subcommittees" (PACs), if still wanting multiple commitments, is the next schema.

I had Alien Boy, the DVD, to flash around, before returning it.  That's overlapping with oversight of civil authorities, police and so on, by citizen bodies.  Portland has a few of those bodies.  Christoper, just turned 20, is on one.

Activists want a front row seat on training, community policing or whatever.

Program Advisory Committees will be more per program, with staffers calling the shots.  An overall APC is not required.  PACs are more focused (our PACs are not Political Action Committees in the conventional Washington, DC sense).

Joanne was clear that interlocking issues (e.g. militarism + migrant rights) would mean a lot of blurring of the boundaries, between this and that initiative.

Two of us patched in by phone.  Anna, a new mother, was here in Portland.

We probably won't meet as this large a group, with this many characters, in the next chapter.  We'll join "away teams" with staff when destiny calls.  Staff will be more like casting directors, picking which circus animals they need, depending on the mission (the task) at hand.

Volunteers don't boss staff, but sometimes they represent organizational memory.  There's ongoing dynamics with volunteers.  No one particular structure is magically going to solve every problem.

Mireaya has a clear vision of where she's taking her program.  She's cutting edge and needing fresh blood, one might say.  Shaking off dead weight, in program committees, shedding skin, is part of what's happening.  Marielle (regional staff) just said "fresh blood" so I feel OK with this metaphor.

Our APC doesn't consider itself deadweight but we understand the Regional Executive Committee has regional responsibilities and West Region is ready to experiment with a new design.

Staff expressed sincere appreciation for our work together so far.  The move from E Burnside (which was literally a near death experience for Mireaya) to here, marks a new beginning in other dimensions as well.

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