* A few weeks back, I had the misfortune to catch some CNBC show where a random scientist was being interviewed and some remark was made about how there need to be more scientists in Congress.
No there don’t. There don’t need to be more doctors in Congress. There don’t need to be more businessmen. You know why? Because there’s absolutely nothing preventing a Congresscritter from asking a scientist for information. Or a doctor. Or a businessman. Government doesn’t run like a business, so the thought that a CEO would somehow have a better grip is ridiculous. Government doesn’t snap to and do exactly what you demand, so a surgeon would be lost in the tall grass. Basically, what we need is what Great Britain has: parliamentary government, with no separation of executive head-of-government and legislature, plus a highly professionalized civil service. That, more than anything we supposedly get from separation of powers, would get us back to a more center-seeking model. A truly ironic thought as we head to the 4th of July.
* For that matter, the number one thing that Great Britain has over us right now is that their Tea Party is a mockable fringe that is considered beyond the pale by most of the country, rather than being in the drivers’ seat for the Tories. Sure, David Cameron is worried about local elections in some spots, but the BNP is not setting the agenda for the Conservative Party. British politics completely lacks that Southern-style religiously-motivated social-conservative aspect that has completely owned the GOP these last twenty-plus years. Which is ironic for a country that we split off from over religious freedom, a country with a hereditary monarch who is head of the state church. Happy Independence Day!
* Verizon Wireless has very impressive LTE speed. Verizon Wireless has ridiculously overrated network coverage. I mocked AT&T for “more bars in more places” but Verizon’s vaunted largest network seems to permanently run at about 2 bars everywhere I am unless I stand next to a tower. As a result, my iPhone’s battery life is struggling – right now, it’s lost more power than the three-year-old-and-running-a-beta iPhone 4 I’ve been using to play podcasts nonstop for over two hours, and I’ve been trying to use the 4 to do some browsing and other stuff (with varying degrees of success; beta is still beta, and at one point I had to delete and reinstall Podcasts to get it going again).
* I don’t know what’s stranger: that I routinely walk out the front door with $2500 worth of amazing electronic wizardry in a bag over my shoulder, or that $2500 doesn’t seem like that much money for a laptop, a tablet and a mobile phone. And this being June, it made me think that since my father died in 1998, the world has changed radically. Never mind the iPhone – routine cellphone ownership and pervasive use of computers in the workplace were just becoming a thing. Broadband, text messaging, Wi-Fi, GPS, social networking, HDTV, digital media…as long as you can afford $99 plus a two year contract, you can basically do fucking magic by 1980s standards. Just don’t try doing it on beta software, not if you’re trying to do production work. The iPhone 4 is back in the drawer.
* So during the ten-day weekend a while back (a LONG while back at this point), it was announced that Super Bowl L has been awarded to San Francisco. Meaning, of course, to Santa Clara, where the new 49ers stadium resides. Resides in the middle of nowhere, to be honest. Sure, there’s an Amtrak line nearby and a light rail track cutting straight through and they appear to be putting in a huge parking deck, but let’s be honest: all the action other than the game itself will be in and around San Francisco.
This is sort of the deal that pro sports teams angle for: build your team a nice new arena, generally at taxpayers’ expense, and you’ll be rewarded with A Super Bowl, or An All-Star Game. Besides, if you don’t, they’ll move to Los Angeles (NFL) or Las Vegas (most everyone else). In this case, a one-off event where the bulk of the action is happening 40 miles north. Great job, Santa Clara!
Actually, right now, there are riots in Brazil over this – about the amount of public money going into the World Cup (and presumably the Olympics) when social services are strapped. And this in perhaps the most soccer-mad of all nations. But they’ve figured it out: big-time sports largely revolves around the siphoning off vast public monies to the benefit of the leagues and teams and federations. And that – rather than any social instability – is why FIFA is so concerned about the rioting in Brazil.
*Speaking of riots, what the hell is going on down in Texas? The GOP tries to outlaw abortion by regulatory death (so much for the heavy hand of government regulation), is stood up by a legit filibuster for almost 12 hours, and then after forcing a close to the filibuster because of an alleged breach of a Senate rule, passes the bill after midnight in violation of a Senate rule. I’ll probably have more thoughts on this later, largely around why the Feds reading your email isn’t a patch on the fear one should have of a state legislature getting full of themselves…
* Meanwhile, DOMA gets thrown out on equal protection grounds, Prop 8 remanded to the original ruling, and with no governor or attorney general willing to defend it, odds are pretty good that it’s a dead letter at this point. For all intents and purposes, gay marriage is legal in California. SF PRIDE this weekend will be a circus hitched to a tornado with a generous admixture of Mardi Gras, Wrestlemania, and a hanging. Although in light of the Court’s turn on the Voting Rights Act, that’s a particularly unsavory and inappropriate reference. Odd, isn’t it, that the world has supposedly changed enough since 1965 to invalidate VRA, but not so much since 1787 that the Second Amendment shouldn’t be a blanket license for unlimited private ownership of military weapons.
*The confluence of Paula Deen, Trayvon Martin and the functional crippling of the Voting Rights Act is unpleasant but informative, and drives home for me the point that we are still at least 25 years away from being able to treat the South as if it were any other part of the country. Segregation is still living memory, and there are people dismayed at the coming of VRA who have lived to celebrate its effective demise. That shouldn’t have happened. VRA is in theory authorized until 2031, and that’s when we could get away with dumping sections 4 and 5. Not now, and not in a world with the kind of voting shenanigans seen in 2012 – if anything, you want to repair Section 4? Apply it to the whole country. Meantime, Texas and Mississippi have already announced they’re moving forward with their Voter ID program. For fucksakes, rednecks, at least make an effort to pretend you aren’t dying to shit on the brown people.
* So apparently Edward Snowden didn’t realize this would be such a big deal, didn’t expect that Hong Kong would be as restrictive of freedom as he found it, took the job in the first place with the intent of ferreting out information about classified programs, says he has information to release about the US spying on other countries…
I’m done. I’m through. I don’t know how many times I have to say it, but civil disobedience relies heavily on buy the ticket, take the ride. Rosa Parks didn’t high-tail it out of Montgomery. All Edward Snowden has done is prove that he is incredibly naive and appallingly stupid about the world outside his laptop – in other words, your typical Silicon Valley Millenial techie type. All he needs is a neckbeard and a Google hoodie. By and large, what he’s succeeded in doing is striking up a string of international incidents, making the story all about him, and completely distracting from the fact that we still need to have a conversation about the balance between domestic surveillance and national security. Sure, he did something important, but he also did a lot of stupid shit that’s going to bury the important bits. Hero? No. Asshole? Utterly.
* The great challenge in life is not changing the world, it’s learning how to cope with a world that doesn’t change. And to borrow a line from the great Sinatra, I’m for whatever gets you through the night – be that prayer, tranquilizers or a bottle of Jack Daniels.