Monday, October 25, 2004

Marijuana Activist Marc Emery Free, For Now

Marc Emery, a public example of the cruelty surrounding marijuana incarceration, is again free after a 61 day jail sentence for passing a joint (first discussed on this blog here). The video "Welcome Home Marc!" shows a leader energized by the sacrifice he made for the movement to stop the oppression of pot people in Canada. All the great freedom movements have required a charismatic leader to be jailed to energize the populace and bring the oppressors' cruel actions into public ridicule and outrage. Nelson Mandela spent 28 years behind bars to fight apartheid in South Africa, Gandhi pursued debilitating hunger strikes for Indian independence, and Marc Emery wrote inspiring blog entries (like here and here) condemning Ashcroft his henchman, the prison guard unions, and the corrupt cops and the drug lords they feed off, for what they are: evil.

That's right, the War on Some Drugs is completely, unequivocally evil, a human rights disaster, and a phenomenal waste of money. Conservatives like George "Axis of Evil" Bush and Ronald "Evil Empire" Reagan brought evil back into our politically correct public lexicon. So when I look at the destruction of families; the monopoly profits for terrorists and organized crime; the street wars that pit kids with AK-47's and RPG's against the police in destructive competitions of brutality; AIDS, cancer, and chronic pain patients imprisoned for using the only medicine that brings them relief, I can find no other word for it but evil, irredeemable, hideous, hypocritic evil.

War without end, without an exit strategy or hope for victory can bring nothing but tragedies like this one:
Quadriplegic man dies while jailed for pot possession
Jonathan Magbie, a 27-year old quadriplegic resident of Maryland, died in a Washington DC jail on September 24, after being sentenced to 10 days imprisonment for possession of marijuana.

The marijuana conviction was a first offence for Magbie, who was paralyzed from the neck down at age 4 after his school bus was hit by a drunk driver. Since then Magbie had been under almost constant nursing care, and got around on a chin-operated wheelchair. (A year after his injury, a young Magbie had met President Ronald Reagan during a White House ceremony commemorating National Respiratory Therapy Week.)

[Read the whole thing and don't forget the Washington Post articles.]
Can we not see this for the insanity it is? Are quadripalegics true threats to our safety or are they greater threats to the puritanical status quo? The War on Some Drugs is the lastest in a series of government efforts to eliminate minorities and freethinkers, to consolidate power and squelch dissent. There were the witch trials in Europe that destroyed centuries of herbal healing knowledge, the Nazi death camps for Jews, the concentration of Native Americans in reservations, and black slavery in service to the idle agro-aristocracy. All demonized peaceful, productive people in the service of wicked ideologies.

We must choose a model of public safety and health over the vindictive moralism of our current "punish the sinners" model. We must practice the same judicial forgiveness we extend to repeat alcohol abusers and drunk drivers to those who abuse marijuana, and leave the responsible consumers of the plant alone. Marc Emery is free, for now. He speaks for us. Let us speak for him, for freedom, and for peace.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Spellbound by Learning

Grab hold of your education because no one will do it for you. That's the central message of the documentary Spellbound (trailer) that tracks eight young Americans from their homes in tough urban neighborhoods and beach houses to the National Spelling Bee. They make up the entire continuum of American culture -- one the daughter of illegal immigrants in South Texas, another from trailer park rural Missouri, another the daughter of elite parents in New Haven, Conn., the college home of both our presidential candidates, Yale. They vary in privilege but none lack a hunger for learning, competitive spirit or strong encouragement from parents and teachers.

Poring over word lists in a trance, the young spellers train maniacally, like elite brain athletes. One of the kids, Neal Kadakia, had the benefits of obsessively loving Indian parents and an elite education in posh San Clemente, CA. His father stressed meditation and concentration and rigorous training methods with computers and spelling coaches. Others made due with unabridged dictionaries, notebooks, and self-authored crossword puzzles. Whatever their resource levels, the kids had a passion to work at something and get better. They provide many lessons for the rest of the world's youth.

If you don't like spelling, race souped up Civics. Design t-shirts and mouse pads and sell them on Cafe Press. If you're bored, challenge yourself more. Write your own story every day and make it heroic because anyone can erect mind obstacles and cage their hopes, but only heroes can chill, take a deep breath, and go do it anyway. Don't give into those who want to crush your secret passions. Harness the energy you find in people or books or knitting and get some extra miles out of your brain. Feed your hungry desires. Seek out the support you need. Encourage the people around you because everyone needs a team of coaches. Reach out, strive, believe.

The spelling bee hopefuls face difficult challenges in learning all the many sides English, but they come out with a better understanding of how to operate in a complicated landscape. English routinely poaches other languages for useful words like umbrella and burrito and is thus an amazing entry to the world of overlap and borrowing that drive value in today's global economy. Foreign luxuries like coffee and tobacco used to evoke mystery and power the way brand names like Mercedes and Louis Vuitton do today. Science and medicine fill books with jargon based on Latin and Greek. English is a chaotic mishmash, a cosmopolitan city of global cultural interchange, today's lingua franca -- a language for all. The ones that learn to keep up with it in all its global expressions will have incredible advantages.

A little while back Dan Sherman asked, "What's your immigrant story?" How did you sacrifice to overcome adversity? How did you push yourself and those around you harder? What desert did you cross without enough water? Each Spellbound kid had her own story of immigration, ignoring teasing "cool kids" or the dangers of the ghetto to find peace in themselves and their unique abilities. You are your own worst enemy if you don't invest in yourself.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

NeoJob: Art Enabler

Art Answers helps artists expand their repertoire from putting paint on a canvas to more complicated stuff like fire-blowing sculptures or complicated video projection schemes. Artists can concentrate on dreaming up new art, not geeky implementation details. With the growth of elaborate spectacles at opening ceremonies, Cirque du Soleil shows, and theme parks, art enablers and entertainment engineers that can meld technical knowledge with artistic vision wil be in high demand. And people wonder what's going to replace all the crappy code monkey jobs going to India. Do you want to be a Dilbert or a DaVinci?

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Taking My Dad's Consulting Business to the Next Level with a Blog

My dad took the plunge a year ago and started his own independent consulting business, called Building Commissioning. According to his site, commissioning is "The quality control component added to the design and construction process that ensures that new buildings operate the way that their owners intended." Basically, he debugs buildings. The unique proposition is that the design and building process works better when it's transparent, when the major players are held accountable for their decisions by an impartial third party. It's relatively new concept for the industry and therefore requires a lot of client education, which is why I think he could really benefit from starting a blog.

megablogger Hugh Macleod thinks the function of companies is to be "idea amplifiers." The best way to inject your voice into the market conversation is with a focused and insightful blog about how you add value to a client's assets.
Blogs are funny things. Say something smart, people pay attention. Say something dumb, you're ignored... Regular blogging can help train you to better discern between to discern between smart and dumb. Makes it easier to extend this to the rest of one's business.
Perfect! My dad is in the business of discerning dumb stuff in the design and construction of buildings. A blog allows him to tell the stories of how his clients save money when he roots out the numbskull shortcuts that design engineers and contractors use. And he has tons of stories to tell, he's been in the HVAC and district energy engineering field for years. Every job is a post. Every new story about commissioning's vital importance in green building is a post.

The best thing is, nobody else is doing it! (There's only a couple blogs that I could find that come close: ACCABuzz, HVAC Planet, and EnviroPundit.) He could become the expert blogger on the field, building reputation, trust, and visibility. Already some companies are requiring job applicants to be bloggers. Shouldn't we expect clients trying to hire a consultant to do the same? And this trend can only increase.

Other suggestions for building an online identity for his firm? Buy some AdWords. Think about revamping the website with dirt cheap services from international designers on Design Outpost or Elance (or go all out and hire the amazing Sekimori). Check out some of the sites that promote blogs for business use like The Big Blog Company, BusinessLogs, and Business Blog Consulting. Subscribe to these and other webfeeds using Bloglines. Create custom feeds with Yahoo News Search and Blogdigger for phrases that you'd like to write posts on like "green building."

I know that I love talking about my dad's business with him. I'm sure lots of potential clients would like to get in on the conversation.

Friday, October 01, 2004

The Bush-Kerry Debate Recalls Galileo vs. the Church

The debate hinged on of whether you should lead by facts or faith. The President chooses to ignore the deteriorating situation on the ground in Iraq, Kerry wants to incorporate actual data (1,000 dead, expanding insurgency, etc.) into a revised plan.

The debate hinged on of whether you should lead by facts or faith. The President chooses to ignore the deteriorating situation on the ground in Iraq, Kerry wants to incorporate actual data (1,000 dead, expanding insurgency, etc.) into a revised plan.

Bush plays the High Priest preaching a gospel of moral certainty. Other countries must follow our holy "doctrine." He repeats the ritual mantra of "staying on the offense" and the congregation nod their heads solemnly. Standing like a king over his podium, Bush declares, "I know how the world works." He forgets blowing up innocent children tends to piss people off. Every father that loses a child in this way becomes a soldier for Al Qaeda and the Iraqi insurgency. Families receiving a son or daughter in a flag covered casket wonder, "Are we doing more harm than good in Iraq?" But doubt does not enter into the liturgy of liberation and redemption played out on Fox News. His appeal is based purely on faith and emotion. But now even our few allies are losing faith. Thailand, Spain, Honduras, Norway, the Philippines, the Dominican Republic, Singapore have all abandoned ship.

John Kerry plays the part of scholar warrior, unafraid to point out the facts and present an alternative plan. He's Galileo to Bush's Pope. He won't allow dogmatic arrogance to prevent us from building a true coalition that should include troops from our Muslim allies like Turkey and Egypt, Security Council members like China and Russia, and other regional players like Pakistan and India. He understands a president is not just a commander-in-chief but also a diplomat-in-chief.

Kerry's said our policies must pass the "global test." This doesn't mean outsourcing our foreign policy to Geneva or Brussels but it does mean international problems (rogue regimes, WMD, terror, etc.) need international solutions. The UN is far from perfect. The corrupt system of kickbacks and corruption in the Oil for Food program is but one example. But it is the one international institution that cannot be accused of imperialism. Iraqis had no hand in the liberation of their country and are now forming a national identity in opposition to us, the occupiers, as I discussed here. Kerry can do the work to get blue helmets on the ground in Iraq. We must transition from "occupation" to "peacekeeping."

Real leaders don't stick with plans that are failing. Real leaders don't let the true target escape into the mountains of Pakistan or North Korea to quadruple its nuclear weapons capability. Real leaders don't ignore facts because they don't fit into his ideological boxes. Bush can't invoke infallibility to cover up his "colossal error[s] of judgment" and no amount of iron will or blind faith will change that. Kerry offers an alternative. We're going to see another very tight election and more good debates like last night's.

UPDATE -- Some excellent related articles:

Tales from the Bushiverse: What the debates tell us about the president's psyche. By Julian Sanchez, one of my favorite writers at one of my favorite magazines, Reason.

Camille Paglia [ed. What a brilliant bitch!] returns to cast a withering eye on Clark ("what a phony!"), Kerry ("the hair!"), Madonna ("a monster"), bloggers -- and the "delusional narcissists" in the White House who led an out-of-his-depth president into a disastrous war. From Oct-03 Salon.