Near Earth Archive

A backup of Near Earth Object by Paul Fidalgo

Month: January, 2011

I Don’t Know Who to Boycott Anymore

The wife and I are struggling with chicken. We’ve always known Chik-fil-a to be a “Christian business,” whatever that means, if only because they’re closed on Sunday, a fact which often chaps our asses. But — not surprisingly, I might add — Chik-fil-a has been in the news for tipping its hand as being against gay equality and for discriminating against non-Jesus worshippers.

But we looooove Chik-fil-a food. Love, love, love it. We even like how goddamned nice the employees are, even if that niceness is based in fear of God’s wrath in the afterlife. On paper, then, it seems pretty clear: We, as good secularist liberals, must simply forgo the tasty chicken and take our artery-clogging business elsewhere.

It’s not a big sacrifice, really, so there should be little angst around a personal boycott of a fast food chain. But it has me thinking about the speciousness of this kind of principled capitalism, this voting with our dollars.

Let’s presume that you’re at least vaguely tethered to reality, and accept the fact that global warming is a real, human-borne threat to our civilization and ecosystem. ‘Cause it is. And let’s also presume that when you find out that a company from which you purchase and enjoy products and/or services engages in activities that assists in the callous, craven attempts to curtail progress toward green energy and the reduction of global-warming-causing emissions that would help save our species from itself.

Well, there’s this super-lobby in DC that you might have heard of. They’re the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Essentially, their job is to use their incredible political muscle to oppose any measures that make life more fair for non-billionaires. They opposed health care reform, financial reform, and yes, any moves to curtail global warming, because any such move would presumably place some onus on corporations to do something other than soak up money. Indeed, the Chamber is contesting climate change’s veracity. So, as you can see, we’re dealing with a fundamentally amoral political behemoth, if not fully immoral.

Here’s the problem. You drink anything made by PepsiCo? You ever ship anything using UPS or FedEx? Own an iPhone and get your service from AT&T, or planning on getting one on Verizon? You ever use a product made by Kodak, 3M, or IBM? Well, guess what, folks. All of these companies are members of the Chamber. Actually, the full membership of the U.S. Chamber is secret, so these are just a handful of the companies that have representation on the board of freaking directors.

Global warming is a dire existential threat to homo sapiens. All these companies are complicit in the aiding of the Chamber’s agenda. Indeed, these companies rely on the Chamber to advocate on their behalf. So the question is, are you going to boycott all of them? Some? Since the Chamber’s membership is secret, how will you know whether you now regularly patronize a business that is also part of the problem, but isn’t public about it?

You see where I’m going. Corporations tend to look after themselves in the most short-sighted ways (short-sighted in terms of ignoring the broader implications of their actions). We live, day in and day out, consuming their products. Where does one begin to make a political statement with one’s wallet?

I genuinely don’t know. For right now, it seems like a good idea to deny Chik-fil-a my business as a way of expressing my disapproval of their bigoted ways, but then I don’t know where to draw the line. Short of joining a hippie commune (no, please) and eschewing all that corpora America has to offer, I can’t help but feel overwhelmed by all the businesses that ought to be boycotted, but I know never will be.

Of course, there are, once in a while, companies that decide that the Chamber has gone too far.

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I Don’t Know Who to Boycott Anymore

The wife and I are struggling with chicken. We’ve always known Chik-fil-a to be a “Christian business,” whatever that means, if only because they’re closed on Sunday, a fact which often chaps our asses. But — not surprisingly, I might add — Chik-fil-a has been in the news for tipping its hand as being against gay equality and for discriminating against non-Jesus worshippers.

But we looooove Chik-fil-a food. Love, love, love it. We even like how goddamned nice the employees are, even if that niceness is based in fear of God’s wrath in the afterlife. On paper, then, it seems pretty clear: We, as good secularist liberals, must simply forgo the tasty chicken and take our artery-clogging business elsewhere.

It’s not a big sacrifice, really, so there should be little angst around a personal boycott of a fast food chain. But it has me thinking about the speciousness of this kind of principled capitalism, this voting with our dollars.

Let’s presume that you’re at least vaguely tethered to reality, and accept the fact that global warming is a real, human-borne threat to our civilization and ecosystem. ‘Cause it is. And let’s also presume that when you find out that a company from which you purchase and enjoy products and/or services engages in activities that assists in the callous, craven attempts to curtail progress toward green energy and the reduction of global-warming-causing emissions that would help save our species from itself.

Well, there’s this super-lobby in DC that you might have heard of. They’re the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Essentially, their job is to use their incredible political muscle to oppose any measures that make life more fair for non-billionaires. They opposed health care reform, financial reform, and yes, any moves to curtail global warming, because any such move would presumably place some onus on corporations to do something other than soak up money. Indeed, the Chamber is contesting climate change’s veracity. So, as you can see, we’re dealing with a fundamentally amoral political behemoth, if not fully immoral.

Here’s the problem. You drink anything made by PepsiCo? You ever ship anything using UPS or FedEx? Own an iPhone and get your service from AT&T, or planning on getting one on Verizon? You ever use a product made by Kodak, 3M, or IBM? Well, guess what, folks. All of these companies are members of the Chamber. Actually, the full membership of the U.S. Chamber is secret, so these are just a handful of the companies that have representation on the board of freaking directors.

Global warming is a dire existential threat to homo sapiens. All these companies are complicit in the aiding of the Chamber’s agenda. Indeed, these companies rely on the Chamber to advocate on their behalf. So the question is, are you going to boycott all of them? Some? Since the Chamber’s membership is secret, how will you know whether you now regularly patronize a business that is also part of the problem, but isn’t public about it?

You see where I’m going. Corporations tend to look after themselves in the most short-sighted ways (short-sighted in terms of ignoring the broader implications of their actions). We live, day in and day out, consuming their products. Where does one begin to make a political statement with one’s wallet?

I genuinely don’t know. For right now, it seems like a good idea to deny Chik-fil-a my business as a way of expressing my disapproval of their bigoted ways, but then I don’t know where to draw the line. Short of joining a hippie commune (no, please) and eschewing all that corpora America has to offer, I can’t help but feel overwhelmed by all the businesses that ought to be boycotted, but I know never will be.

Of course, there are, once in a while, companies that decide that the Chamber has gone too far.

Change = Dialed-Back Douchiness

As crazy as I am often driven by our current administration, it is nice to sometimes be reminded that, at the very least, the demagogic, binary, apocalyptic douchebaggery of the previous administration has been dialed back.

From the New York Times‘ Bill Keller in his fascinating essay on the paper’s dealing with WikiLeaks:

I have vivid memories of sitting in the Oval Office as President George W. Bush tried to persuade me and the paper’s publisher to withhold the eavesdropping story, saying that if we published it, we should share the blame for the next terrorist attack. We were unconvinced by his argument and published the story, and the reaction from the government — and conservative commentators in particular — was vociferous.

This time around, the Obama administration’s reaction was different. It was, for the most part, sober and professional. The Obama White House, while strongly condemning WikiLeaks for making the documents public, did not seek an injunction to halt publication. There was no Oval Office lecture. On the contrary, in our discussions before publication of our articles, White House officials, while challenging some of the conclusions we drew from the material, thanked us for handling the documents with care. The secretaries of state and defense and the attorney general resisted the opportunity for a crowd-pleasing orgy of press bashing. There has been no serious official talk — unless you count an ambiguous hint by Senator Joseph Lieberman — of pursuing news organizations in the courts. Though the release of these documents was certainly embarrassing, the relevant government agencies actually engaged with us in an attempt to prevent the release of material genuinely damaging to innocent individuals or to the national interest.

Of course, Joe Lieberman never disappoints.

Change = Dialed-Back Douchiness

As crazy as I am often driven by our current administration, it is nice to sometimes be reminded that, at the very least, the demagogic, binary, apocalyptic douchebaggery of the previous administration has been dialed back.

From the New York Times‘ Bill Keller in his fascinating essay on the paper’s dealing with WikiLeaks:

I have vivid memories of sitting in the Oval Office as President George W. Bush tried to persuade me and the paper’s publisher to withhold the eavesdropping story, saying that if we published it, we should share the blame for the next terrorist attack. We were unconvinced by his argument and published the story, and the reaction from the government — and conservative commentators in particular — was vociferous.

This time around, the Obama administration’s reaction was different. It was, for the most part, sober and professional. The Obama White House, while strongly condemning WikiLeaks for making the documents public, did not seek an injunction to halt publication. There was no Oval Office lecture. On the contrary, in our discussions before publication of our articles, White House officials, while challenging some of the conclusions we drew from the material, thanked us for handling the documents with care. The secretaries of state and defense and the attorney general resisted the opportunity for a crowd-pleasing orgy of press bashing. There has been no serious official talk — unless you count an ambiguous hint by Senator Joseph Lieberman — of pursuing news organizations in the courts. Though the release of these documents was certainly embarrassing, the relevant government agencies actually engaged with us in an attempt to prevent the release of material genuinely damaging to innocent individuals or to the national interest.

Of course, Joe Lieberman never disappoints.

Cultivating a Good Depression

I like to cultivate a good depression.

Well, I suppose “like” is a poor choice of words when discussing uncontrolled despondency. Perhaps it’s better to say that apparently I tend to cultivate a depression — or perhaps my depression is something that induces me to cultivate it.

In any case, when depression comes on — and the difference between depression and just feeling bummed is quite palpable to me these days — it isn’t enough just to feel bad. I need to sit in it, to wriggle around until I’ve found a cozy spot. I savor my melancholy to experience all of its emotional nuance, its flavors. I sample varying degrees of moroseness and experiment with different combinations of ingredients; add a touch of anxiety, a hint of anger, a dash of humiliation, or a good pang of regret. What varieties of despair can I concoct?

I also test these various combinations on my physiology; if I have a particular kind of depression swimming through my system (for example, three parts sadness, two parts fear, one part boredom), what does it do to the feeling in my stomach? Does it produce a sickly simmering sensation, or will it add an acidic burn to the lining? Check in with my lungs, and see how deep or shallow, rushed or sedate, easy or labored is my breathing. My head might feel heavy, as though balancing a thick goo in my skull, or it might feel dense, overly packed, the molecules shoved together creating an almost inaudible hum of pressure. My limbs and overall musculature may give in to the depression, becoming flaccid and weighty, or they may find new levels of tension, the fibers of the tissue twisting in on one another, reaching a feeling of imminent implosion. There are so many possibilities.

And for whatever reason, I seem inclined to explore them all. Simply assuming a gloomy attitude won’t do. For my depression, I need to feel every aspect of the woe, and invent new misery cocktails once my senses have been fully saturated by the latest offering.

One could say that it is making the best of a bad situation. No one wants just one brand and flavor of ice cream all the time, or only one varietal of wine from a single vineyard. For something I experience so often for such considerable stretches of time, I demand nuance, diversity, dynamics.

Actually, I don’t demand it. It happens that way without my even trying.

[Note: I wrote this as a kind of writing experiment a year and a half ago, recently rediscovered it, and thought I’d post it here, not knowing what else to do with it.]

What *is* the ‘Internet’ Anyway??

There’s something sublime about this.

Hat tip Eric.

Cultivating a Good Depression

I like to cultivate a good depression.

Well, I suppose “like” is a poor choice of words when discussing uncontrolled despondency. Perhaps it’s better to say that apparently I tend to cultivate a depression — or perhaps my depression is something that induces me to cultivate it.

In any case, when depression comes on — and the difference between depression and just feeling bummed is quite palpable to me these days — it isn’t enough just to feel bad. I need to sit in it, to wriggle around until I’ve found a cozy spot. I savor my melancholy to experience all of its emotional nuance, its flavors. I sample varying degrees of moroseness and experiment with different combinations of ingredients; add a touch of anxiety, a hint of anger, a dash of humiliation, or a good pang of regret. What varieties of despair can I concoct?

I also test these various combinations on my physiology; if I have a particular kind of depression swimming through my system (for example, three parts sadness, two parts fear, one part boredom), what does it do to the feeling in my stomach? Does it produce a sickly simmering sensation, or will it add an acidic burn to the lining? Check in with my lungs, and see how deep or shallow, rushed or sedate, easy or labored is my breathing. My head might feel heavy, as though balancing a thick goo in my skull, or it might feel dense, overly packed, the molecules shoved together creating an almost inaudible hum of pressure. My limbs and overall musculature may give in to the depression, becoming flaccid and weighty, or they may find new levels of tension, the fibers of the tissue twisting in on one another, reaching a feeling of imminent implosion. There are so many possibilities.

And for whatever reason, I seem inclined to explore them all. Simply assuming a gloomy attitude won’t do. For my depression, I need to feel every aspect of the woe, and invent new misery cocktails once my senses have been fully saturated by the latest offering.

One could say that it is making the best of a bad situation. No one wants just one brand and flavor of ice cream all the time, or only one varietal of wine from a single vineyard. For something I experience so often for such considerable stretches of time, I demand nuance, diversity, dynamics.

Actually, I don’t demand it. It happens that way without my even trying.

[Note: I wrote this as a kind of writing experiment a year and a half ago, recently rediscovered it, and thought I’d post it here, not knowing what else to do with it.]

What *is* the ‘Internet’ Anyway??

There’s something sublime about this.

Hat tip Eric.

‘A Better Pencil’: A Good Point That Needs a Better Book

Apart from some interesting bits about the challenges presented by, and the romanticism associated with, various writing tools and implements, Dennis Baron’s A Better Pencil: Readers, Writers, and the Digital Revolution is a very repetitive book with little to say. Essentially, Baron gives laborious, truly unnecessary explanations of some of the most common and basic writing means — from pencils and typewriters to Facebook and IMs — fit only for those to whom these technologies are totally alien (so perhaps it will be of use to folks 500 years from now).

On the positive side, there’s a point made by Baron that, while not needing a book’s length to make, is important and worth remembering: Every new means of setting words down has elicited both exciting expansion of the ability to write and publish, as well anxiety over the alleged dire consequences for our culture. And every time, we seem to agree that the advance was worth the ensuing mess and uncertainty. But it’s fun to note that, yes, even the pencil once seemed a bridge too far for some folks, and we can keep that in mind when we wonder at the wisdom of things like Tumblr and Twitter and what they might be doing to the art of writing.

Baron also uses the book as a clumsy sledgehammer to attack those he sees as Luddites and tech skeptics. I’m sympathetic to Baron’s position, certainly, but it’s not enough to save the book. Interestingly, Baron may be one among a very rare species: the pro-technology curmudgeon.

But skip this one for now, at least for the next 500 years.

‘A Better Pencil’: A Good Point That Needs a Better Book

Apart from some interesting bits about the challenges presented by, and the romanticism associated with, various writing tools and implements, Dennis Baron’s A Better Pencil: Readers, Writers, and the Digital Revolution is a very repetitive book with little to say. Essentially, Baron gives laborious, truly unnecessary explanations of some of the most common and basic writing means — from pencils and typewriters to Facebook and IMs — fit only for those to whom these technologies are totally alien (so perhaps it will be of use to folks 500 years from now).

On the positive side, there’s a point made by Baron that, while not needing a book’s length to make, is important and worth remembering: Every new means of setting words down has elicited both exciting expansion of the ability to write and publish, as well anxiety over the alleged dire consequences for our culture. And every time, we seem to agree that the advance was worth the ensuing mess and uncertainty. But it’s fun to note that, yes, even the pencil once seemed a bridge too far for some folks, and we can keep that in mind when we wonder at the wisdom of things like Tumblr and Twitter and what they might be doing to the art of writing.

Baron also uses the book as a clumsy sledgehammer to attack those he sees as Luddites and tech skeptics. I’m sympathetic to Baron’s position, certainly, but it’s not enough to save the book. Interestingly, Baron may be one among a very rare species: the pro-technology curmudgeon.

But skip this one for now, at least for the next 500 years.