29 November 2010

Dear American Diplomatic Corp Members:

In light of the recent unveiling of your confidential cables and memos back and forth, allow me a moment to remind you of something every person should learn at a very early age: NEVER put in writing something you would be embarrassed to say out loud to the person about whom you are writing.

It is probably poor form to write that Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi "appears increasingly to be the mouthpiece of [Russian Prime Minister Vladimir] Putin"; or repeat that a Chinese official thinks that North Korean leader Kim Jong-il is “quite a good drinker”; or say of Ahmed Karzai, the half brother of the Afghan president, that "he is widely understood to be corrupt and a narcotics trafficker.”

You never know when something like that might end up in The New York Times.

15 November 2010

"Nothing to Hide" is Not the Point

You have all heard of the new body scanner being put into use at airports by the TSA. I am also sure you have all heard about the furor being raised whenever some poor innocent person requests to "opt out" of the electronic scan in exchange for a full body pat down that one male airline pilot has likened to a "sexual assault."

I marvel at how many people respond, in the comments sections of such articles, that people should voluntarily submit to this new electronic scanning because "What's the big deal, if you have nothing to hide?"

Yes, it is they who are ignorant of history who are currently repeating it.

"Nothing to hide" is hardly the point. Would you allow some strange TSA agent to do a body-cavity search if you have "nothing to hide"? Of course not. Would you want the police to come search your house without probable cause or a warrant if you have "nothing to hide"? Again, no. The point is, at least in this country, the implied freedom from unreasonable search and seizure as guaranteed under the fourth amendment to the constitution.

Is it reasonable to suspect that every person who flies is hiding explosive in his/her underwear? No, it is not. Is it reasonable to suspect that every person who flies is hiding an explosive in his/her shoe? Of course not.

While I totally get the need to exercise some level of passenger searches in an attempt to make airplane travel safer, I totally do not get how people are so willing to have their privacy violated and their innocence questioned under the apparently new legal standard of guilty until the full body scanner proves your innocence.

I am okeh, I suppose, with taking off my shoes, putting my wallet in the plastic bin, and my shampoo in a little baggie to let x-ray scanners do their thing. I am even okeh with the TSA employee "wanding" me with that metal detector just to get his rocks off. But until the TSA employee has some suspicion that I am a possible terrorist, I am not okeh with this full body scan.

And, no: I have nothing to hide.

14 November 2010

Who Speaks for God?

CBS News Sunday Morning this morning had an interesting overview of an event that happened 60 years ago today: the integration of public schools in New Orleans.

While I found that story interesting, I was more intrigued by a sign held by a protester in one of the vintage news clips shown. That sign read "God Demands Segregation."

There are certain people who always seem to know what their god is thinking. They say he/she/it demands segregated schools, or hates homosexuals, or insists people of different races cannot intermarry. After September 11, 2001 Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson said the attacks happened because Americans tolerate gays and lesbians. This means, conversely, that their god allowed or instigated the attacks on Americans -- which seems pretty harsh. How do these people know what their god is thinking?

Sixty years later, the world is even more integrated. Shouldn't this mean their god is even more pissed off now than in 1950 when that six-year-old black girl walked up the steps of that school? People are living in harmony-ish around the world, black and white people not only go to school together, they even marry each other. Black people drink from the same water fountains as whites; they sit at the same lunch counters as whites; why, they even sit at the front of a bus with whites. And, of course, Mexicans and Japanese and Chinese and whites intermingle in airports, and restaurants, and drive on the same roads.

Does their god demand segregation? Apparently not.

You can read about another case in which a woman's god demanded segregation here.

You can read about the event that occurred 60 years ago here.

You can read more about the girl at the center of the case here.

You can read a transcript in which Falwell and Robertson discuss god's motive for the attacks here.

The CBS News Sunday Morning site is here.

11 November 2010

Up in the Air

You may be interested in reading a fascinating collection of comments by airplane pilots -- things they want you to know, and things they don't. Coming off our recent flights to Hawaii, I found these most enlightening.

10 November 2010


Tuesday, NPR did an interesting story about a website which is trying to draw attention to words that have been dropped (or are in danger of being dropped) from dictionaries and everyday use. What a great idea! I love words and I don't care if I use words that people don't understand. I long ago stopped playing dumb just to fit in. There is nothing wrong with using multisyllabic words to convey a point. If you don't know what the words mean, look them up!

I went to the site and adopted the word "latibule" (see image) which means "hiding place." When you adopt a word, you have to promise to use it as often as possible every day.

So, I am encouraging all my readers to emerge from their latibule, go visit this site and adopt an orphan word yourself!

09 November 2010

Rand Plays On

Today's episode of Here and Now (WBUR.org) contained a nice overview of the newest renewed interest in Ayn Rand and her philosophy. Rand Paul (U.S. Senator-elect for Kentucky) is a big fan. Lots of people are fans. I am a huge fan.

You can listen to the overview here.

You can read about my interest in Rand here and here.

07 November 2010

Note to Matt:

In the future, please remember to tell me you are not feeling well BEFORE you kiss me goodbye. Your cooperation in this matter is much appreciated.