Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Craigslist Anomaly

It's pretty incredible:
Craigslist is a fascinating anomaly in the world of large-scale web sites. Take a look at these numbers, as published by Craigslist with October 2006 data from Yahoo! and Alexa:
Employees Company
(page views)

1 10,000 Yahoo!
2 90,000 TimeWarner
3 10,000 Google
4 70,000 Microsoft
5 50,000 News Corp
6 12,000 eBay
7 23 craigslist
8 25,000 BBC
9 130,000 Disney
10 12,000 Amazon

That’s not a typo for the number of employees at craigslist—while the other top-10 sites have more than 10,000 employees (most of them far more), craigslist has 23.

The USA Today gives the soft kiss to the organization in a recent article.

Monday, January 29, 2007

No cars for a day?

Sounds like an interesting concept:

Rome - Cars were banned in Rome, Milan and other Italian cities on Sunday, leaving residents to walk, ride bikes or use public transportation.

The ban on cars and motor scooters, lasting most of the day, was put into place to lower pollution levels.

There was no exemption for soccer fans going to stadiums, but public transportation was increased.

Anyone else intrigued by the idea of an entire day with near-empty streets?

But I'd like to do it voluntarily - before we reach Hong Kong-like levels of smog, and are forced to do it.

Blipster - The Rise of Black Hipster Culture


WHEN Douglas Martin first saw the video for Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” as a teenager in High Point, N.C., “it blew my mind,” he said. Like many young people who soothe their angst with the balm of alternative rock, Mr. Martin was happy to discover music he enjoyed and a subculture where he belonged.

Except, as it turned out, he didn’t really belong, because he is black.

Death Cab for Cutie - Title & Registration:

Nirvana - Smells Like Teen Spirit:

Afro Punk trailer:

White Lies, Black Sheep trailer:

Saw some parts of the blogosphere acting grumpy because the Times 'just discovered' that 'black people like rock', too. I am unable to see the Times' article as anything but what it actually is - a non-controversial piece on a growing and interesting trend in pop culture.

This is interesting because punk's always been in on that political thing. I continue to hope for the rise of a new, better black power-type party. Could it come through punk?

Recent Ship Positions in San Francisco Bay

I don't know who the heck BoatingSF.com is, but they got this wickedly-cool real-time map of all the big boats moving around San Francisco and San Pablo Bays. The image below is a snapshot, with my mouse pointing to a yellow arrow (my mouse disappeared in the snapshot, but I pointed it towards the yellow ship heading north - right in the middle of everything, with the blue ship kind of tailing her) - yellow meaning 'passenger vessel'. In this case, as you can see in the upper-left hand corner of the image, I'm point to the Solano, one of the ferries belonging to the Baylink fleet.

Golden Gate Ferry also gets people around. There are a few others. Bottom line - ferries are darn cool. Is there a better way to get to work?

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Sex Tourism...for Women

I knew there was a plethora of books about 'the single girl traveling the world', which was code for 'single girl, go get laid in France or possibly even somewhere more exotic', but i never really thought of it as 'sex tourism'. This phrase conjures up the image of overweight, middle-aged white men going to Cuba or Asia to pay for sex from pre-teen girls. Well, looks like the ladies are getting in on the act:

People who have been part of the crowd -- Belliveau, for example -- point to a definite gender gap in sex tourism. Women travel for romance, men for prostitutes, they say. And unlike men, female sex tourists usually steer clear of teenagers and other child prostitutes -- a huge difference.

But whoever they sleep with, men and women who travel for sex aren't all that dissimilar, some academics argue. It's what they do that counts, not how they go about it.

In an article in August in Le Monde diplomatique, French anthropologist Franck Michel argued that global tourism and the sex trade have "turned the world into a gigantic theme park" for both men and women from developed countries. Eager to reap the "strong sensations" of sex provided by the poor of the south, they become masters of slaves -- at least for the time of their visit. "The new popularity of female sexual tourism shows that women are walking in men's footsteps, repeating the same representations of power, dominance and exploitation," Michel wrote.

Whether the master is male or female hardly makes a difference, other scholars agree.

Thankfully, women apparently don't prey on young boys, which does seem to make the female-controlled brand of sex tourism a least a little less destructive than that of their penis-wielding counterparts.

Listen up feminists. Time to start denouncing How Stella Got her Groove Back, and all those other books about intrepid women travelers who need to conquer the penises of the earth.

Actually, I will admit there does seem to be more risk for women travelers, at least in terms of physical security - not to mention risk of infection from HIV/AIDS, but just walk into Barnes and Noble / Borders / Books-a-Million any day and gander at the newly-released straight-to-paperback books for the single female traveler and try to keep down your double-espresso. It sounds like the titles were written by a politician who knows exactly how to pander to the crowd - lavishing the single female book buyer with glorious adjectives relating to their 'bravery', 'independence', 'fearlessness', etc. Blah.

English anthropology-type article from Michel. Michel's book. And what appears to be Michel's home page.

Peter Smith - linking the web, so you don't have to.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Yet Another Israeli Murder Victim

This time, an eleven year-old girl:

Was it the stun grenade that hit her head, the shock caused by its explosion or the rubber bullet fired by the Border Police? Does it make any difference? Did the Border Policeman intend to kill a child of 11 - or not? What difference does it make? The real question is why Border Policemen come almost daily to Anata, doing the devil's work, as it were, just when children are on their way home from school? What are they looking for, for heaven's sake, near a school in Anata, a West Bank town located northeast of Jerusalem? The Border Police come, the schoolchildren throw stones, the police fire and kill another innocent little girl - and nobody is called to account. The Shai (Samaria and Judea) police district is investigating, but not the Police Investigation Department.

I can't even imagine.

...is there ever a moral case for using cluster bombs?

Friday, January 26, 2007

Google Base to Crush PeopleAggregator, Salesforce.com, Amazon, etc.


I recently wrote about how Google was going to crush some career websites. Well, now that I've had a chance to dig around Google Base a bit more, I'm starting to think Google is going to crush everyone, everywhere. Or, more specifically, Google is going to strip away some of your business - or at least force you to use a Google competitor for some services. End of the day, the way you operate will change.

There are Google APIs already available for Google Base (the primary focus of this blog post), Blogger, Google Calendar, Google Code Search, and Google Spreadsheets. And it's probably safe to say there are more APIs coming.

Google Base explicitly provides for the creation / storage / lookup / update / deletion of at least the following types of people/objects/things: Events and activities, Hotels, Housing, Jobs, Personals, People profiles, Products, Reviews, Recipes, Services, Vacation rentals, Vehicles, Doctors, Reference articles, Photographs, Images, Course schedules, Company profiles, Jewelry, Podcasts.

Let's go through the companies mentioned in the title of this post just to try and get a better idea of what's going on. PeopleAggregator is that web service/application service provider that allows social networks to pop up overnight by just customizing and reusing PeopleAggregator infrastructure. [See PeopleAggregator treachery here.] Well, Google Base provides for 'People profiles'. Blogger provides for all sorts of blog-type functionality. Google Calendar provides for all sorts of event handling and notifications / reminders / invites. Google Base also provides for creating your own custom data fields within each of the Google Base 'objects'. So, for instance, a 'Vacation rental' object for your particular rental - an isolated island in the Pacific - might have an extra text field for your life insurance policy number. The pre-defined field types, so far, are text, number-unit (4 kg), number (4), date range, large text (a long-ish description), web URL, checkbox, location. With access to all of this flexibility in the API, it's not difficult to see how at least a rudimentary social network could be build on top of Google Base, and build pretty quickly. I don't think anyone actually uses PeopleAggregator, but if they were, if PeopleAggregator was actually a viable company, they would probably have to change to accomodate Google's entrance into the market. They would, at a minimum, have to work to differentiate themselves to development teams about to embark on a deep customization project.

Salesforce.com is the king of XML/web services/outsourced application hosting-type 'stuff'. It seems to me like Google Base could soon provide enough APIs that development teams anywhere in the world could quickly build out a Salesforce competitor - all for little to no overhead - and it would all perform at Google quality levels - that is, crazy fast.

Amazon started building out some custom stores - or at least one that I heard of - Endless.com. Why? Probably to show people that Amazon was as much of an ecommerce platform as Google. In fact, it sought to demonstrate that what you dream of doing with Google in a couple of years time, you can do with Amazon web services right now. A few weeks ago, one of the business magazines headlined on Jeff Bezos' "Big Gamble". What Jeff probably didn't mention is that going to web services/hosting/etc. provider was more of a survival strategy than a gamble. Bezos is no dummy - he saw the writing on the wall.

The mashups scene could get very hectic in a hurry, if it's not there already.

Bet on Microsoft and lots of other threatened folks to continue to work behind the scenes on Capitol Hill (DC) to slow down the Google juggernaut.

Spleak - Your Virtual Friend

Tellin ya - it's gettin hectic. If you're not a believer in the potential power of Second Life, then you should check out the Second Life wiki page - you might at least get an idea of how much people are doing in and around 'SL'.

Now we have Spleak - your female virtual friend who lives in San Francisco and is available all the time to IM chat, etc. Craziness.

Tracked in America

The ACLU and a bunch of other organizations have put together this online documentary of sorts - minus the video - of the history of U.S. government surveillance of its citizens and others. It seems pretty decent. Some audio clips. Lots of downloadable stuff, including mp3's and transcripts and lesson plans.

Because it's the ACLU and pushing for broad, mainstream acceptance, the site doesn't get too controversial, it seems. So expect to see how the U.S. government tracked folks, but don't expect to see the other activities the government participated in that went hand-in-hand with that tracking - the harassment, the terrorizing, and murder.

Get involved.

Salesforce.com and Marc Benioff

This guy Marc Benioff kicks ass. Certainly sounds like he can be dickish, but I love the way he's just like 'fuck you'. Mad contempt for repeaters, er, I mean reporters. And he has that same sick swagger that he probably learned from his boss at Oracle - Larry Ellison. For whatever reason, I love the fact that he's been claiming that he's gonna crush Oracle.

It's probably just like he said in the interview - he's just saying it to 'stay relevant'. But, whatever the reason, I like this guy's schtick. I want to work for Salesforce.com.

A Girl Like Me

Think I heard about this short (7 minute) documentary on MetaFilter or Reddit or a similar service. It's pretty good:

Here's an article I found on it, and filmmaker Kiri Davis.

I don't think it's even necessary to try and critique the study itself, which I'm very unclear about - I think it's enough for me to congratulate Kiri on making a short flick that taught me something new about a very important legal case in U.S. history.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Jonathan Schwartz vs. Terry Semel

Jonathan Schwartz is forty-one years old. Terry Semel is fifty-three.

Somewhat paradoxically, the younger guy runs Sun Microsystems - a stodgy-type computer hardware company. The older guy runs Yahoo - the onetime darling fast-mover-innovator of the internet, now almost a stodgy old media company.

Who would you rather have running your company? Either company? I'd take this Schwartz cat.

Yahoo continues to head in the wrong direction (YHOO). Sun (SUNW) looks to be moving in the right direction. Can't believe Scott McNealy is finally gone. Talk about sacred cows.

Granted, there are no comparable 'Googles' in Sun Microsystems' space (hardware), but Yahoo is just languishing. Quick example - compare Yahoo Groups to Google Groups.

Semel needs to go. His glory days are past. He's got no fire. It's just his ego holding on, now. He can retire 10,000 times over on the wealth he's accrued. He needs to make way for a CEO who will actually do something - and I don't mean some loser like Brad Garlinghouse who will cut 30% of the workforce just to please Wall Street. I'm talking about someone competent. The problem is not Yahoo's workforce - the problem is Yahoo's leadership, or lack thereof.

Writers with Drinks / Writers in Drag

Writers With Drinks (sometimes aka Writers in Drag) is this crazy-ass, fun-as-all-get-out literary event that happens once a month in downtown San Francisco, usually in the Mission, but recently in Hayes Valley.

This past week we heard from this cat Justin Chin, author of Gutted, who told this story of a drug addict who would do favors for his good-looking dealer. I'm not necessarily into the whole druggie/whatever genre, but this stuff was so outrageous and so hilarious, it was well worth my time. Just when you think you've heard it all.

Charlie Anders is the transgender dude/chick who emcee's the event and he/she is frickin hilarious. The writers and what they're reading can often be great, too - based on the couple of times I've attended this little shindig - but Anders is pretty much always on point. Just damn outrageous and hilarious. Charlie is one of the folks behind Other Magazine - and this event is actually advertised as 'Other Magazine presents...Writers With Drinks'.

This last event was held at the The Rickshaw Stop. Yes - it comes complete with old-school rickshaws which are very very cool. Events are usually held on a early Saturday evening, so you can come in, have a couple of drinks, shmooze around, and if you feel like partying later, you'll still have time - the event runs from 7:30 pm to 9:30 pm.

I like this Hayes Valley location because it allows you quick walking access to one of my favorite restaurants in the world ever ever - frjtz. Yes, we're talking about french fries, but served in a cone like they do at the boardwalk at the Jersey Shore, or at frites shops in Belgium. And these 'frites' are served with cool-ass condiments like 'roasted pepper mayo' - yum! - as opposed to the ketchup and vinegar you might choose at the Jersey Shore - also a fine combination! frjtz also serves good Belgian beers - don't even get me started on how good the Belgian beer/frites combination is. Whew.

Another reason I like this event is that the authors largely seem like real people - mostly on the younger side, fifty or younger (fifty-year olds in san francisco can look younger than my thirty-three year old ass), and they make you feel like you could write if you wanted to. Maybe it's kind of like going to amateur or lower-level professional sporting events - say baseball, but in the literary world.


Not sure how I stumbled on this article from 1983, but I thought it was pretty wild:

Thirteen male track and field athletes from the United States voluntarily flew home from the Pan American Games today, only hours before the start of competition in their sport.

Their departure came as four more weight lifters were disqualified by the Pan American Sports Organization for the use of banned drugs, an action that brought the total to 11 in the last two days. That total made the disqualifications the most sweeping of their kind in international sports history.

The group that left included eight of the 10 United States men in the throwing events, the ones in which athletes are most likely to use anabolic steroids, testosterone and other substances that are believed to be body-building but that are banned internationally.

Stiff drug testing?! Out!

Can all the folks out there who think Barry and Lance and the rest of pro athletes don't use steroids or other at least semi-illegal substances like HGH please raise your hands?

I guess I just want to be done with it. Plausible deniability being what it is, though, the haters (of truth) will deny it until their deaths.

Was also a little bit surprised that the USOC didn't do a little more dissembling on the part of our athletes. They have a solid history in that department - such as keeping secret the failed drug tests of Carl Lewis, Flo-Jo, and many others. Maybe the tradition wasn't as strong back in the day. If for no other reason, we should be honest - because drugging kills.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Google Blogger Down Again...seriously.

Check out Eschaton at 5.26pm:

What does it take to get someone fired over this? Blogger is such a total piece of shit.

Google to Crush Monster, HotJobs, Craiglist, etc.?


Probably been said a million times before, but what is job hunting? It's job searching. Who's great at search? Google.

And after lots of little tweaks, the biggest recruiting boards - take your choice - Monster, HotJobs, etc. - they're all still horrible. Though, I have to admit, Craigslist is not really horrible, and they have low overhead, and community good will, so maybe they survive. But they will probably be hurt just the same.

Add-in that many corporations take to using the anti-human Taleo or some other godforsaken crapper outsourced HR solution that makes a candidate do something outrageously hokey like upload a resume in Word format, have it scanned it for keywords, tries to put your address in the appropriate 'address' field only to completely fuck it up, and you have to manually fix it - all to make sure the spammers and snail junk mailers have the greatest accuracy and cost-effectiveness in sending you information about shit you don't need. Fuck you very much.

This technology is the typical horrific stuff that was going on ten years ago. It's the same old story - look at the technology of today - it's the same as that of yesterday. And what's more - each massive corporation will have its own custom Taleo silo, so if you actually wanted to sell your soul to one or more of those godforsaken corporations - and often, it seems we must if we want to eat - then you have to upload your resume umpteen times and correct the same or different mistakes umpteen times. And Taleo is not the only crapper outsourced HR/resume service provider - there are myriad companies providing this horrible service - selling your information to the highest bidders.

So, where does that leave us? Google. Google will solve all of our problems. The only reason they haven't tackled recruiting yet is that they haven't needed to. Monster's $1 Billion market cap or whatever it is these days is nothing. Recruiting sites' revenues are paltry compared to the markets that Google is still chasing. They're staying focused on their core competencies - cross-spectrum ad market domination. But be forewarned - Google has a core competency in search, and sooner or later they're going to go after verticals with a vengeance.

It's already been happening. Have you been paying attention? You have to remember - Google moves like a tsunami close to land - very slowly. But it moves methodically and deliberately and without remorse - it just takes everything in its path. It sneaks up on you, and before you know it, it's too late.

Check out what is already going on with Google Base: search for travel info - 'sfo to atl'. Search for single soccer chicks within 30 miles of me. Search for a computer that costs between $100 and $125. Search for 'java engineer' jobs making six figures within 30 miles of me.

I don't know if Google Base is how we get to the ultimate job search, but it's worth a try.

Personally, I can't wait to see the suffering of Monster and Hotjobs and many of the other job sites that really tilt the power away from the job seeker and into the hands of the corporations - as if we didn't have it hard enough, already. I have mixed emotions about Craigslist, though. Their job listings still tilt heavily in favor of giving power to the corporations, but they seem like decent people - much too decent for this earth or at least for capitalist America, so I suspect we'll have to keep them around.

Monster, HotJobs, Taleo - goodbye, bitches!

...forgot to mention Emurse (yes, a play on 'resume'). They have this insanely slick interface and I was hoping something would happen with it, but I haven't heard anything about it recently. Maybe I'll ping one of their email addresses. I don't know the nuts and bolts of how Emurse works, but you get the distinct feeling, when uploading your resume, that this is how resume-building should work. You can add and remove sections, and automatically choose any one of several different formats based on the data you've uploaded - voila! [Is there an XML schema for 'human resources'/career/resume information, yet?] So, why can't I authorize Hotjobs, Monster, Taleo, and anyone else I choose to download my resume from Emurse? I tell Emurse which services I wish my resume to go to, and boom - it's there, and all the data is structured, so no more fuckups from backwards technology attempting to scan Word documents. And when I'm done with my job hunt, recruiters stop calling. Maybe Emurse can set up a temporary forwarding email address and phone number, so I can go back to answering my phone when job-hunting season is over. That's probably a pay-for premium service. As it stands right now - I can't go back to using my cell phone and email addresses normally. My voice and email inboxes stay filled with crap job offers from Hungary and email scams from God-knows-where until I finally change my phone number and email addresses again. Seems easy enough to me to put this together - or, at least, it seems like it can be done, if not without difficulty. Web services. Web2.0. Let's get it done!

...several typos fixed and a bit of new content in main post.

..QuietAgent.com seeks to....do something about crappy job boards, and I'm not exactly sure what it is, but at least one part of their solution seems to be 'passive job hunting', where even if you're casually employed, you can still keep an eye open. As far as I know, that doesn't exist yet. Or hasn't, until QuietAgent. I heard about these guys on Forbes - seems they have some kind of partnership thing going. Also, I talked to an entrepreneur-type out here in SF a few months ago. He told me he was going to 'revolutionize' the job board scene by doing the 'passive job seeking' thing. I don't think this company is his, so maybe we'll start to see more of these types of companies/sites very soon. It is, in general, a good idea - that part of the equation is missing. But whether it leads to greater efficiency and value for everyone involved remains to be seen. One of the great tools that employers have over employees right now is that employees have to job hunt while remaining anonymous - i.e. they hunt for new jobs in terror, always afraid of getting caught, so they can rarely do it unless they're truly committed to making a change, and can truly risk getting fired. It sounds like QuietAgent might help tilt the balance of power back towards employees - try to make things a bit more even.

Monday, January 22, 2007

HopeLab: Re-Mission Video Game

Cool organization designed a cool video game for kids with cancer. It seems to help them stick to their cancer pill-popping regiment better, which should help them heal better/faster.

Here is some video about the making of the video game - it's pretty darn inspiring:

Washington Post coverage of Re-Mission, and other games.

HopeLab was co-founded by Pam Omidyar, wife of ex-eBay entrepreneur (and now billionaire) Pierre Omidyar.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

We Were Tired of Getting Bombed

Doesn't it always end the same way?

Texas Justice

Pretty much the same as Iraq Justice.

See The Innocence Project.

...American justice...same as Texas justice.

...Egyptian justice...remind you of anything? Yes! More American justice! It all comes full circle, dunnit?

...same as Mexican justice. anyone else noticing a pattern, here?

...and the Brits are in!

...same as California justice. They almost slipped this one by us - dropping that little nugget of info in at the very last graph:

Three men, including Taylor, were charged in Young's attack in early 1975, but those charges were dismissed by a San Francisco judge because of an earlier ruling that evidence was obtained by torture.

John Safran vs. the Mormons

Yeah, it's old, now - I know. But I want to be on record as fully supporting this shit:

"You didn't factor Yazz into your little plan to ring my bell at eight in the morning?!"

And without further adieu, Yazz & The Plastic Population:

...ok, here's the dog i should probably remember. i swear - i think i blanked-out my entire life right up until...yesterday - i don't remember shit. not sure if this clip is from an intro to one of the movies or what:

Friday, January 19, 2007

Christian Kids Doing the Dying in Iraqistan?

It's a theory.

Not quite sure what that means in the bigger picture, but it's probably not a good thing. If it becomes easier for this government to find fresh blood, it'll be easier to start new wars.

Consumer Reports Fuckup

Serious fuckup.

How in the world does something like that happen? It's like dropping off your car for an oil change, and you get it back - painted a different color. Don't you notice it? And, then don't you, you know, have a little conversation with whoever changed the oil? How the fuck did Consumer Reports just publish this shit, which was so obviously over the top?


...fixed typo. added link to CR.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

NetSquared - remixing the web for social change

For at least the past year I've been thinking about how to get all these really smart Silicon Valley people more involved in shaping the world we live in - as opposed to just trying to their way to their first million dollars, or maybe just their first BMW or downtown condo. Many of these folks, I suspect, are actually horribly selfish people who don't flinch at human suffering, but I also suspect that many are just like me - or like I used to be - not really aware of anyone else like themselves who are interested in changing the world for the better, and so they go on worrying about themselves only. I want to help bring these smart, driven people into the 'social justice' fold. I recently wrote about finding the FLOW people, but now I've found an organization that seems a little more in tune with my thinking - NetSquared.

Netsquared is an offshoot of TechSoup (wiki), which is a massive website and other stuff run by CompuMentor (wiki). What is NetSquared about? From their website:

Our mission is to spur responsible adoption of social web tools by social benefit organizations.There's a whole new generation of online tools available – tools that make it easier than ever before to collaborate, share information and mobilize support. These tools include blogs, wikis, RSS feeds, podcasting, and more. Some people describe them as "Web 2.0"; we call them the social web, because their power comes from the relationships they enable.
Every year, starting in 2006, NetSquared organizes a conference, here is the 2007 Conference page. Nonprofit technology people from all over the U.S. pour into the Valley and try to figure out how to help themselves engage regular citizens. This is all good stuff, but it still seems to leave out from the party many of the true movers and shakers of Silicon Valley - true difference-makers - be they investment bankers, semi-retired now-rich entrepreneurs, or the still-poor, but brilliant and driven entrepreneurs looking for their first million. These people are not non-profit folks. And I don't need them to be. I'm not about to launch into my anti-Capitalism spiel. All I want to do is plant a seed in these folks' heads that it is possible to be a profit-seeker, but to also give a shit what is going on around them - to people less privileged than themselves.

To find out more about NetSquared, just hit their website and do some reading. Their participate page has lots of good info, especially regarding their Net Tuesday events - NetSquared-type meetup events in whatever city you live in (I really like their Net Tuesday do-it-yourself PDF guide). There are apparently already regular Net Tuesday events in DC, Houston, and San Francisco. If you don't have one yet in your town, then try to start one. You can use meetup.com, you can send an email to Net Squared and have them try to hook you up, and you can use your own means - craigslist, nonprofits you know about, friends, etc.

For a little more info on what this whole Web2.0/Activism thing is about, check out this interview podcast with Alison Fine, author of Momentum: Igniting Social Change in the Connected Age.

For a little more on why Web2.0 and 'internet social networking' are so important, conceptually, to nonprofits - the people who do activism for a living - you might check out the book Bowling Alone, The Collapse and Revival of American Community (wiki) (home page) (I haven't read it yet myself, but I'm already convinced we've got 'social' problems.).

Googling around for 'Robert D. Putnam', author of Bowling Alone, I stumbled onto the documentary Subdivided: Isolation and Community in America. I haven't seen it, but from the looks of this clip, it seems valuable.

...long-ass article in the LA Times about Pierre Omidyar and Jeff Skoll, founders and gotten-very-richers of eBay, and now of the Omidyar Network and Skoll Foundation, respectively. These guys are on the whole 'venture philanthropy' thing, and that's an important piece of this 'remixing the web for social change' idea - I'm just not sure exactly how important it is, or even where it fits into the picture.

An example of the results of 'venture philanthropy' would be Benetech, funded by Skoll. This Palo Alto-based company has a project called BookShare which helps visually-impaired folks access books. Skoll didn't necessarily think Benetech would become the next eBay, but he did think it might have the chance to earn a decent amount of revenue - maybe even pay for its own operation someday, or be very successful and be able to pay back the original investment. And how cool would that be? You create jobs and great social benefit. And hopefully the investment eventually gets paid back so other companies who do social benefit can be started.

Listed in the article are some of the projects each guy has funded through their organizations:



Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Women Should Run the Government

This article is all over the place, but it does note there are a few more women in power in DC these days:

"I think that women are agents of change. And while we're only 16 percent of the United States Senate, we are trying to make change," Cantwell said. "So it doesn't mean that you're going to predict the outcome, but it does mean you will hear about collaboration, you will hear about cooperation and you will hear about a format that I think brings people together."

I've read enough feminist and anti-feminist stuff, and had enough life experiences, to convince me beyond a shadow of a doubt that females would improve government in this country - period. In fact, they'd improve government all over the world, but I'm mostly concerned with how the most violent country on earth conducts itself. It's the country I live in.

...I could be wrong, as I often am, but I suspect lies like this could be very common for the next couple of years as Hillary approaches her appointment to the throne. I think the old white men running Capitol Hill suspect they can talk to and convince any guy - including a black guy (i.e. Obama) - but a woman? That's a different story altogether. You'll start to hear all sorts of 'coward'-type labels being applied to Democrats over the next couple of years, but as Hillary gets closer to her appointment as preznit, the right-wing machine will be taking it to new levels - talking about how a woman "doesn't have the [insert synonym for courage/strength here]" to be president in such a "deadly/vicious global environment". They know that even if Hillary managed to get appointed president, they'll have done their job of making her doubt herself - making her doubt her own courage/strength - thus pushing her more towards militarism (because militarism is strength, don't ya know?) - against female/motherly instincts. Don't get me wrong - Hillary is as wrong as most of the other Dem candidates, but I, for one, would like to see a female president. As for Obama, I can't imagine that he could get elected in America today, with its vicious racism ingrained so deeply in the American psyche, but we'll see. He did support Condi 'The Torturer' Rice for her appointment to SecState. Is that any better/worse than all that Hillary has done to support our wars?

...here comes the "Hillary is too much of a woman to be preznit" stuff...from this loser. Here's Romney:

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Friday accused Democratic front-runner Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of "timidity" regarding the security threat posed by Iran.

In a speech to a retreat of conservative congressional Republicans, Romney lashed out at Clinton for telling a pro-Israel dinner that a dialogue with countries hostile to Israel - including Iran and Syria - is needed to promote peace in the Middle East.

"At this point, We don't need a listening tour about Iran," Romney told the Republican Study Committee. "Someone who wants to engage Iran displays a troubling timidity toward a terrible threat of a nuclear Iran."

But don't be fooled into thinking that Hillary is not up to the task of defending Israel:

"I have advocated engagement with our enemies and Israel's enemies," Clinton said. "I believe we can gain valuable knowledge and leverage from being part of a process again that enables us to get a better idea of how to take on and defeat our adversaries.

Israel? Israel?? What the fuck do I care about Israel? Does Israel mean anything to me? Who the...? These fucks are crazy. I have nothing against the people of Israel. Their government is run by a bunch of international terrorists - making the State of Israel an outlaw state, just like the state of America. But our government, if it continues to exist at all, should only be concerned with the welfare of its own citizens - not those of some other country somewhere for some unknown reason.

And did you know that Iran is our enemy?

The Martin Luther King You Don't See on TV

The Martin Luther King You Don't See on TV:

It's because national news media have never come to terms with what Martin Luther King Jr. stood for during his final years.

In the early 1960s, when King focused his challenge on legalized racial discrimination in the South, most major media were his allies. Network TV and national publications graphically showed the police dogs and bullwhips and cattle prods used against Southern blacks who sought the right to vote or to eat at a public lunch counter.

But after passage of civil rights acts in 1964 and 1965, King began challenging the nation's fundamental priorities. He maintained that civil rights laws were empty without "human rights" — including economic rights. For people too poor to eat at a restaurant or afford a decent home, King said, anti-discrimination laws were hollow.

Opposition to the Vietnam War. Opposition to poverty. Good stuff.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Pedal-a-Watt Stationary Bike Power Generator

This model is a build-your-own - how long until we see these contraptions installed in hamster traps/gyms all over America?

from hugg. part of treehugger.

Throw away your TV - Rollins Net Neutrality

Throw away your TV - Rollins opinion on Net Neutrality - great website, great video clip, reproduced below:

Find this video and thousands of others at vSocial!

Good shit.

FLOW - The Role of Business in Building a Better World

I see a lot of tech conferences going on out here in the Valley. Many of them are just ego conventions, but none seem to be addressing what's been on my mind for the last year or two - how to take this internet/Web2.0 thing and apply it to affect social change. Commerce and profit and helping well-to-do white kids and India-born entrepreneurs get rich/richer is wonderful for some people, I'm sure, but what about stuff that really matters to the rest of us - like having a meaningful say in what our government does to us?

How have the internet and Web2.0 technologies helped us to improve our lives with respect to affecting society? Have we been able to use Meetup.com to organize with other like-minded folks and have we been able to achieve results, like starting a recycling program in our communities? Does collaborative software/content like Wikipedia help us get to the truth about our government's actions, thus making us better aware and ultimately more discerning citizens? And does it matter that we're more discerning now? Do social networks have any effect on society other than helping advertisers to push their products? Is blogging an effective tool for checking the corporate media? Do sites like Digg/Reddit really make a difference in types of information we consume? Will they ever go mainstream enough to make a critical impact on society? What tools and technologies have helped us to build open source software better, and what is the affect on society, if any? Does the rapid growth of other virtual reality-type social networking tools like Second Life further isolate us from one another, or is there an upside? Where do Kiva and GlobalGiving fit in?

Some project called FLOW just popped up on SquidList. It talks about 'using business to better the world', but with a $40 'donation', I can't imagine this ego-fest will be any different than most of the others that occur in the Bay Area. But at least in name it seems to suggest a willingness to consider life beyond dollar bills for Mercedes' sake, and that's a step in the right direction.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

What Oprah can't forget

Been thinking that the brouhaha over Oprah's donation had something to do with racism - possibly my own. I checked myself early, but even after this early 'checking', I still had 'a moment' when I saw a little East Indian-born girl in a picture along with a group of black girls - all students of Oprah's new school. My subconcious brain seemed to blurt out, "Oh - they're Indian girls, too, so it's OK to spend boatloads of money on them."

As anti-racist as I try to be, if I have 'a moment' of realization that my deeply-planted racist notions/tendencies got the best of me, albeit slightly and temporarily, then chances are that there are lots of folks out there having big 'ol racist tirades in the form of righteous indignation - i.e. 'how dare Oprah spend so much money on those people?! they are just black girls, from Africa).

This Salon article agrees that a lot of the tut-tutting springs directly from racism - in fact, the author just about says, 'of course this is the case'. But the article is more interesting for the psychoanalysis it does on Oprah - fair or not - and her school drama. I think the article is fair in some places and very unfair and overly critical in other places. But it's still pretty thought-provoking.

Discovery Times Channel - Propaganda Outfit?

Looks like it. Check out this documentary from them on North Korea.

Just watch the first two minutes - it's pretty unbelievable. It's just like state television must be inside North Korea, except this is a U.S. show broadcasting inside the U.S. I watched up to about ten minutes. It is just one U.S. propaganda slogan after another, in quick succession. It borders on racist, and never veers very far from completely ridiculous.

Examples? OK. The documentary has on a military general type talking about how Kim Jong Il could sell his nuclear weapons to terrorist organizations. This is a ridiculous assertion on its face - why would any country sell something that could destroy it to someone else? Short answer - it wouldn't. But what makes it more ridiculous is that this is the same line that was used just a few years ago to get 'indoctrinated' Americans to buy into Bush's case for invading Iraq (if you believed other Bush claims of a nuclear or soon-to-be nuclear Iraq). It's just one absurdity after another.

The series home page link is here .

Maybe the New York Times, in its primary role as propaganda outfit for the U.S. government, was able to exert its influence at Discovery.

'Discovery Times' wiki.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Pedophile's counsel is ruled effective; new trial denied

I don't know all the facts of the case, but it seems pretty clear to me that Frederick Everts did not get a fair trial. Dude didn't get to present a single expert witness in his defense.

What the fuck is wrong with these people - cops, prosecutors, and judges - that they couldn't get the dude a fair fucking trial? Jesus fuckin christmas.

George Fuckin Bush deserves a fair trial, goddammit - and so does accused pedophile Frederick Everts.

Unfuckinbelievable. What is so difficult to understand? It's called 'due process'. Constitution. All that bullshit.

'Instant runoff' voting touted

Not a particularly interesting story on IRV, but it's been a while since I've seen a headline, so I thought I'd point out that there were still people working on some important things.

In particular, I know that the Green Party has done a lot of good, hard work on IRV initiaves all over the country, so props to them. Even if they're a Feminist Party and maddeningly stupid and ignorant and arrogant and etc. on any number of other issues. Props where props are due.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Conservative Takes Over; People Go Hungry

Unfortunately, this is not going to be the last of the problems for Mexicans facing their new conservative ruler:

Mexico's president says he will tackle the price of tortillas, the corn-based foodstuff that acts as a dietary staple for millions of the country's poor.

Tortilla prices have soared by as much as 400 per cent recently and Felipe Calderon said on Thursday the government would take 'all the measures within reach… to avoid escalating prices.'

The move could see the business-friendly conservative government face off with Mexico's powerful monopolies after a federal antitrust watchdog announced it was investigating allegations the country's corn tortilla companies were manipulating prices, and limiting supply, especially among the poor.

'Surge' vs. 'Escalation'

Thank you, Media Matters, for doing the work, so I don't have to.

I will add that I've long thought a lot of the 'framing' debate was way overplayed, but in the case of the Bush folks, we have to be prepared to examine every single word/phrase/clause that they use because they've all been carefully poll-tested by Frank Luntz to make sure the language will impart maximum advantage.

A troop increase is an escalation of the Iraq War II, no matter what way you look at it. We'll only know it was a 'surge' when the Preznit pulls the troops back out, shortly after putting them in. Until that happens, this is an escalation.

...and read this while you're at it. that's an order.

Antiwar Protest in Palo Alto

Found out about it through Peninsual Peace & Justice, who linked to the moveon.org website. There were 250 or so people out there:

Bad picture from my camera phone - sorry. This lady was in a wheelchair. Pretty cool that she made it out there when other folks couldn't be bothered.

3000 American Deaths in Iraq by Ron Paul

Ron Paul is a Republican congressman from Texas. He may be a racist and some other not-so-nice things - I just don't know for sure because I haven't paid enough attention to him; only enough to worry about him - but he's antiwar, bigtime. At least right now he is. Word on the street has it that he's about to jump into the Preznit race for 2008:

Mr. Speaker, Saddam Hussein is Dead. So are Three Thousand Americans.

The regime in Iraq has been changed. Yet victory will not be declared: not only does the war go on, it’s about to escalate. Obviously the turmoil in Iraq is worse than ever, and most Americans no longer are willing to tolerate the costs, both human and economic, associated with this war.

We have been in Iraq for 45 months. Many more Americans have been killed in Iraq than were killed in the first 45 months of our war in Vietnam. I was in the U.S. Air Force in 1965, and I remember well when President Johnson announced a troop surge in Vietnam to hasten victory. That war went on for another decade, and by the time we finally got out 60,000 Americans had died. God knows we should have gotten out ten years earlier. “Troop surge” meant serious escalation.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Anti-war Protester Burns Self to Death

Yes. Exactly what it says. No, they're not gonna talk about it on the evening news. His name was Malachi Ritscher.

In December 2002, the city of Chicago dedicated a statue called 'The Flame of the Millennium'-- a seven-ton, stainless-steel, abstract rendering of a flame in high wind, standing over the Kennedy Expressway, just west of the downtown Loop. Last Friday, November 3, the statue appeared to be on fire. When authorities got there, they found a video camera, a canister of gasoline, a sign reading 'Thou Shalt Not Kill', and a human body so badly charred that it was impossible to determine its sex. Someone had self-immolated, near a highway off-ramp, amid rush-hour traffic.

Making Philosophy Relevant Again

Good article on philosophy and social justice:

Back in Aristotle's day, people used to think philosophers had all kinds of relevant things to say, Koeze says. He still does.

'Business is traditionally about measurable skills you can put on a list,' Koeze says. 'Can you type this many words? Do you have a degree in accounting? But that describes, at most, 50 percent of your performance. And when you get to senior management, it's 15 percent of your performance.

'The rest of it, I think, is about the concerns of philosophers,' he says. 'The questions of the heart. Motivation, desire, passion. Why do people do what they do? How do people think about things?'

Emotional Eating

Researchers making progress:

There's some truth to the idea that the broken-hearted may eat entire cartons of Ben & Jerry's, or that kids picked last for dodgeball may lash out at their classmates.

Experiments have shown that social rejection prompts people to make poor decisions, such as eating more than they know they should or drinking too much. Now, a study in the current issue of the journal Social Neuroscience uncovers the neural basis for such poor decision-making. Researchers report that the feeling of social exclusion changes activity in specific regions of the brain responsible for self-control.

I like this story because it ties into the whole religion/isolation debate in America. People in America, I suspect, are lonely as fuck. Married and long-term couples seem to do fine, but one breakup later and each person is on their own. With sane folks rejecting church outright, and the demise of small-community culture along with the rise of massive exurban communities where neighbors do their best not to come into contact with each other, a whole new generation of lonely - read: non-politically active - people are cropping up. And the political power vaccuum is being filled by the churches - those crazy terrorist Christian fascists.

Of course, the health affects of emotional over-eating can be and are devastating for millions of lonely, overweight/obese Americans, but one of the root causes, I would think, is our growing social isolation. Is online socializing filling the gap? No. So how do we address the situation?

We need more and better ways for people to gather - outside of a religious/fantasy context - but how? What should these new entities/organizations look like? How often do they meet? What is their purpose? What is their common bond? Can it be completely non-political? Should it be?

Racism in Sports

Here's one twist I hadn't considered - and I don't know if it's true, but it certainly sounds interesting. This article is a few weeks old - Allen Iversen, NBA uber-star, was about to be traded out of Philadelphia. But where to send him?

From the business side of the equation, trading for Allen Iverson has to be beneficial for his new team … both on and off the court. In a market where some of the cities that host NBA teams are not 'urban' cities, having Iverson as the face of your team will not be 'in the best interest' of the franchise. Which makes a deal for Iverson as much a business decision as it does one based on basketball.

So, teams in the particularly-racist midwest or deep south with predominantly white exurban ticket holders will not be good places for Iverson to go because he's, you know, too black.

I would have thought this was probably a very serious concern of organizations thinking of taking Iverson, but now we have 20/20 hindsight and Iverson's been traded...to Denver. I've never been to Denver, but I suspect it's almost as white as Utah, where Karl 'The Mailman' Malone faced racism for so many years, in spite of his superstar performances.

So, if Denver really is whitesville, what does this trade mean? That NBA teams don't, in fact, care how 'black' a player is? Or was there some other combination of factors that let ownership in Denver think that taking Iverson was a good move? Maybe a championship?

...fixed typo.

Humans Evil By Nature?

That's the excuse I hear from a lot of folks who think activism is a waste of time. They say, 'people are just evil' - as if that somehow excuses their laziness. I've never believed it. I know governments can be evil - with a very very few men/women being evil - but that doesn't speak to the whole of the population of citizens.

Some new research looks at why we may not all be evil, in fact just the opposite:

In every society, humans make personal sacrifices for others with no expectation that it will be reciprocated. For example, we donate to charity, or care for the sick and disabled. This trait is extremely rare in the natural world, unless there is a family relationship or later reciprocation.

One theory to explain how human altruism evolved involves the way we interacted as groups early in our evolution. Towards the end of the Pleistocene period – about 12,000 years ago – humans foraged for food as hunter-gatherers. These groups competed against each other for survival.