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News and Reaction, Politics

Hero of Belbek, UA: Colonel Yuri Mamchur

Link: http://dannyman.toldme.com/2014/03/04/gandhi-king-mandela-mamchur/

How do you triumph against an oppressor who has an overwhelming advantage in terms of firepower? If you are Mahatma Gandi, Martin Luther King Jr, Nelson Mandela, or Ukrainian Colonel Yuri Mamchur, you practice non-violent direct action. I hope that Ukraine may yet share in the triumph of this strategy.

Colonel Yuri Mamchur, Hero of Belbek, UA

Colonel Yuri Mamchur, Hero of Belbek, UA

I will tell the story from Simon Shuster’s Twitter stream:

UPDATE: Very Good Summary on Buzzfeed

Commander of Ukraine’s Belbek base just got a call from Russian counterpart. Another ultimatum: surrender by 16:00. This is the 3rd one

Incredible. Half the Ukraine troops from Belbek base now marching to airstrip occupied by Russians. Unarmed. To take it back.

The column of troops, carrying the Ukraine and Soviet (!) flags, about to march on the Russian occupied airstrip. pic.twitter.com/prR9rfP7Fp

Ukraine column has reached Russian checkpoint. Russians begin firing in the air. Ukrainians keep marching

Russians call commander to negotiate. Troops have RPGs and machine guns trained on the column of unarmed Ukrainian soldiers. Belbek, Crimea

Russians back down, allow 10 Ukraine soldiers to take up positions at occupied base, but still awaiting orders from Moscow

Face off between Ukraine base commander Col. Yuli Manchur and Russian officer at occupied Belbek airbase pic.twitter.com/6N10wuezef

The Ukraine commanders just received word that Putin ordered the Russian troops to withdraw. Is that true?

Officer who shot in air as Ukraine column marched up to him said he was on the Maidan fighting ‘fascists’ with a stick. Presumably Berkut

The red flag the Ukrainians marched with is the banner of the fighter pilots who fought Nazis in 1941 and guarded the Yalta Conference

Ukraine Colonel still negotiating, Russian snipers & RPGs still aiming at column of soldiers. But deescalation is clear, at least in Belbek

Personnel carrier just arrived, disgorging armed Russian troops at checkpoint. Ukraine commander just finished negotiating.

Ukraine commander demands to guard the base jointly with Russians, who pledge to give their commanders’ response by 12:00, in 2 hours

Russian military truck just brought a handful of (probably Russian) news crews to the Belbek standoff. They’re now filming from Russian side

Ukraine’s 204th tactical aviation brigade when they just arrived to face down the Russians in Belbek: pic.twitter.com/Zz91TuJHXf

Marching along with the Ukraine brigade were the wives of four of the officers, all standing surrounded by Russian snipers at Belbek

Phone battery dying. Read @Time a bit later for the hair-raising conclusion of the ballsiest move of the Crimean conflict so far. #Belbek

I first read of the story via ABC News. I think this is an excellent strategy to employ against the Russian occupation. Putin claims the Russians are there to defend against violent acts. It would appear that the Ukrainian Military are Not the Problem here. I hope this tactic is employed further by Ukraine’s soldiers and its people, and I wish to see them succeed. Mamchur and his soldiers are heros of humanity.

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News and Reaction, Politics

Syria vs US Credibility

Link: http://dannyman.toldme.com/2013/09/06/syria-vs-us-credibility/

One big deal is that when Hussein used chemical weapons against Iran, we knew it was happening, and instead of raising a stink, we gave him logistical support. Our credibility with regards to international law is heavily tarnished, and that undermines our claims in present day Syria.

What I would love to see is if Congress, in authorizing military action, also passed some kind of Whistle Blower Compulsion bill: if you see something, you must say something!! If you are aware that a war crime or a crime against humanity is being perpetrated, you have to tell everyone you can think of: your boss, your mom, your blog, the New York Times, hell, even tell that douchenozzle Julian Assange! Failure to disclose knowledge of such crimes should consequently open you to charges of criminal conspiracy once they are finally disclosed.

(. . . not like we would ever prosecute Americans for War Crimes, but a boy can dream . . .)

As far as the current situation in Syria goes, I am reminded of Serbia. After a few too many abuses Clinton sent in air power to disrupt their military command and control and mess up the power grid. We basically put our thumb on the scale to expedite our preferred outcome. From what I can tell, our short-term preferred outcome in Syria is a stalemate (brutal dictator vs Al Qaeda) so I don’t reckon we’ll spend much time with our thumb on the scale.

The long-term desired outcome, which is the real reason we need to take the idea of intervention seriously, is to discourage the future use of chemical weapons. “Remember when Assad looked like he might win the civil war in Syria but then he gassed civilians and the US started bombing him? Yeah, maybe we shouldn’t be too quick to reach for the chemical weapons.” This is what I hope will be an outcome of our bombing Syria.

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About Me, News and Reaction, Politics, Sundry, Testimonials

Skipping Ender’s Game

Link: http://dannyman.toldme.com/2013/08/07/skipping-enders-game/

As new parents, it is not as if we are getting out to the movies at all these days. All the same, when the Ender’s Game Movie page popped up in my Facebook I had to pay a visit, and share my opinion:

FWIW, Card has continued to advocate and advance his beliefs that homosexual people should have lesser rights than heterosexual people. If you see this movie then some of your ticket price goes to Card and will help in your own small way to advocate for discrimination. This reason alone turns me so far of the prospect of seeing this movie.

When I was younger, I loved the entire trilogy, and I would still encourage folks to borrow the books from the library, but the thought of giving another dime to Card fills me with revulsion.

Discrimination is not cool, and every dollar of revenue this movie fails to book is a dollar that has been better spent elsewhere.

Unsurprisingly, people who are planning not see go watch Ender’s Game aren’t spending much time on the movie’s Facebook page. So, comments like mine get a lot of pushback. Some guy in Netherlands reads what I said above and responds, “So you liked the books and then you learned about OSC’s beliefs and you didn’t like the books anymore?”

Which, no, that’s not quite what I said. So, I’ll try again:

Peter, I love the books. What I dislike is the idea of giving any money to a guy who uses it as a soapbox to preach that gay people should be discriminated against. I dislike the idea of giving my money to someone who preaches against the rights of homosexuals just as much as I dislike the idea of giving my money to someone preaching Racism or Sexism or Ultranationalism or Religious Extremism or any of the rest.

Fortunately, there are plenty of great books to be read, plenty of great movies to be watched, that aren’t asking me to support the cause of hateful people. There are plenty of great books I have not yet read, plenty of great movies I have yet to watch. Plenty of enjoyment to be had without giving money to those preaching a tired old hatred.

Ask yourself this: would the idealistic young kids portrayed in “Enders Game” be lining up to see a movie produced by someone preaching hate? There are surely any number of more valuable things that you could be spending your time and money on, neh?

At any rate, as I said, there’s only so much time I have to spend that I’m not going to blow too much of it debating kids on Facebook. I have done my little part, and Orson Scott Card is pretty small-fry compared to the kind of awful stuff that is happening in Russia.

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About Me, Politics, Religion, Testimonials

Remember Gwen Araujo

Link: http://dannyman.toldme.com/2013/04/03/remember-gwen-araujo/

Remember Gwen Araujo

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gwen_Araujo

Back when I lived in Mountain View I was deeply saddened to read of the death of Gwen Araujo in 2002. She was a transgendered teen in the South Bay who was brutally murdered by classmates. Why? She had given a few blowjobs to the boys. The boys realized in horror that they had committed a “homosexual” act. They felt betrayed by Gwen, beat her to death, and buried her in the woods.

The tragedy bothered me because Gwen was apparently accepted by these friends enough to become somewhat intimate, but the homophobia that had been instilled in these kids was so strong that they went from lust to the worst sort of violence.

For me, “Gwen Araujo” is as a reminder that homophobia is a deadly poison that can turn even a lover into a brutal murderer. Gays aren’t murdering people: it is homophobia that is the dangerous sickness. The younger generations have proven increasingly tolerant, but Gwen’s friends were still held under its deadly influence . . .

I dream of a world in which people can be who they are as they are without fear of violence.

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Politics, Presidential Decrees, Technology, Testimonials

Presidential Decree #6: Intellectual Commons Restoration

Link: http://dannyman.toldme.com/2013/02/19/presidential-decree-6-intellectual-commons-restoration/

In an age where innovation and creative thinking move ever faster, it is sick and demented that we have extended copyright periods to over a century. It is shame for the current generation and those of the twentieth century that the intellectual commons ended in 1923.

The gradual seizure of the intellectual commons.  CC: Wikipedia

The gradual seizure of the intellectual commons. CC: Wikipedia

The United States hereby withdraws from International Copyright Treaties, especially the Berne Convention. The substance and spirit of the Copyright Law of 1790 shall be restored. All intellectual property rights must be recorded by the government. Software copyright protection requires a copy of source code for software to be stored in escrow with the government. Exclusive rights are conferred to the author for 14 years, plus an option to extend rights for 14 years if the author is alive at that time.

A Copyright Will Protect You From Pirates!  CC: WikiPedia

A Copyright Will Protect You From Pirates! CC: Wikipedia

All other works are Public Domain. Upon expiration of software copyright protections, the government will publish the source code.

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Politics, Testimonials

Speak Softly, and Carry a Crowbar

Link: http://dannyman.toldme.com/2013/01/14/speak-softly-and-carry-a-crowbar/

Biiiiig guns!!!

We are not the young, strong, boisterous nation that we once were. We are older and slower, hopefully a bit wiser. We are beginning to suspect that if we sold the old gunboat we have parked in the driveway that we could afford to repave the driveway, upgrade to energy-saving appliances, help the grandkids through school, and still have a few bucks left over to take the wife out for tango lessons.

But how can you be safe without a gunboat in the driveway? Well, I have been thinking about that. It turns out that almost any burglar can be scared off by a guy wielding a 2×4, or a baseball bat, or a crowbar. In fact, Grandpa used to sleep with a crowbar by his bed, just in case. He was tough and never scared. And these days if you don’t find an old man with a crowbar scary you can bet his wife is standing behind him, on the phone with the cops.

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Politics, Religion, Sundry, Testimonials

Shen Yun

Link: http://dannyman.toldme.com/2013/01/06/shen-yun/

Some weeks back I saw a poster for “Shen Yun: Reviving 5,000 Years of Civilization” at work and thought “Excellent! The wife digs artistic performance and bonus points for digging some traditional Chinese culture.” I grabbed some tickets and mentioned to a coworker. “Shen Yun? That’s Falun Gong.” I know very little about Falun Gong, except that the Chinese government views them as a threatening cult. Of course, the mainland government is easily wigged out over any perceived threat to stability, so I figured that doesn’t tell us much. We’re seeing a performance sponsored by an oppressed religious minority. That could mean anything, really.

The performance was pretty cool. Lots of dancers in colorful costumes evoking stories from Chinese history. I’d say it is like watching a Chinese version of the Nutcracker Suite. Lots of color, lots of movement, and good music. Although they’re telling mostly ancient stories they make effective use of a modern prop of a projected backstage. This saves not only on set design, but the characters at various points jump off the back stage and fly up into the screen as digital avatars. The first time I saw this I thought it was a bit gimmicky, but by the second instance I thought “hey, that is pretty neat, and I bet really magical for the kids.”

And then there’s the Falun Dafa bits. They have some solo singers come out and sing in Chinese, which is cool. They even put the lyrics on the back screen in Chinese and English. I am sure some of the poetic nuance is lost in translation, but the songs lament that we are … most of us, anyway … Gods from the Heavens who have come down to Earth for some reason, something about breaking the cycle of reincarnation and restoring the cycle of creation and destruction. To the disinterested observer it comes across as Buddhist Scientology, and the cycle of creation and destruction sounds like the sort of thing that would raise the ear of a mainland censor.

Two of the dance performances are set in modern China. In one, a tourist gets sent to jail when he unintentionally takes a picture of an innocuous Falun Dafa protest. The guy is tossed in a cell with the Falun Dafa kids, whom he wants nothing to do with, but after the guards treat him contemptibly, everyone in the cell identifies their common predicament. I thought “alright, the Chinese government overdoes it, and many social reform movements have found strength in the jails. Right on, brothers! Fight the power!” In the final dance, the Falun Dafa are having a great time protesting in Tienanmen Square. Right on, sisters! Let us see your “tank man” performance! As soon as the Chinese police come out to bust some heads, a massive earthquake starts to destroy Beijing. Huh? That kind of sucks! But, no worry, the Gods come down and restore Beijing … everything except the Great Hall of the People … ah!

Yeah, I can see how even a reasonable government might not be super enthusiastic about that sort of performance.

The show was overall entertaining. I would still hope that people can practice their religion freely. But whatever innate sympathy I might have had for the Falun folks is diminished, especially by their last performance. When it comes to resistance movements, I am most sympathetic to the non-violent, and to those who aren’t fantasizing that apocalypse is an element to their eventual success.

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About Me, Movies, News and Reaction, Politics, Testimonials

Mitt Romney Plays the Race Card

Link: http://dannyman.toldme.com/2012/08/25/mitt-romneys-coded-racism/

As a white guy I can often get away without worrying about racism. But then I’ll get on the phone with my step mother. As a proud black woman, she takes the Obama hatred personally. “They wouldn’t be so vicious except he’s black.”

I know enough about my country to agree. This is a racist country. We have elected a black man, but we’re in that awkward transitional phase where we feel like we’re over the worst of it but we still have racism that gets diluted year after year. Not sure if that is true or not . . . but like I said, the white majority manages not to think too often about racism.

I get reminded again, today, catching up on blogs and Angela Tung has to speak up about this video:

She contrasts this to McCain in 2008 gently prying himself away from more blatant racism from some of his supporters:

The earlier video makes me squirm all the more … I wish McCain had said that Arabs are decent people too … but you can tell that his top priority is to back away from the crazy. McCain isn’t going to revel in the easy hatred of his opponent. “Obama is a decent man. You do not have to live in fear of Obama being president!”

And, I’m totally cool with a sense of humor, but us white guys, especially anyone running for public office, know there are things you just don’t joke about, especially not in front of the TV cameras. Of course nobody asks about our birth certificate. Nobody asks where we are from. That never happens. Its preposterous! Because white == American == white! Everyone knows this! The only reason an intelligent person like Mitt would crack a joke about his birth certificate to a crowd of supporters is as a nod to his “birther” supporters.

And you know why there’s a birther movement who absolutely can not believe that the president of the United States, Barack Hussein Obama, is a native-born citizen of the United States? I’ll give you a hint. Some coded, off-color humor:

Nobody asks for Romney’s birth certificate because he’s not a n*gger.

That’s the plain and simple truth, and when Romney deliberately brings it up he is race-baiting his audience.

Angela takes is more personally than I do … she is quicker to speak up. But even if the casual coded racism doesn’t bother you, what is all the more disappointing about Mitt Romney is that he is so desperate to pander to an audience that he will even pander to racism. John McCain had some character and integrity. The same has not been demonstrated by Mitt Romney.

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News and Reaction, Politics, Testimonials

How to Stop Armed Crazy People

Link: http://dannyman.toldme.com/2012/07/24/an-armed-society-is-a-polite-society/

So, we have yet-another-shooting, which usually provokes a mention on the potential wisdom of gun control and some NRA vitriol about how what we need isn’t less guns but more guns. But then, the latest incident involved kevlar body armor and a gas mask. Guns wouldn’t have been quite as useful in stopping this guy.

I have a more practical solution for the NRA to advocate. Instead of arguing that more people should carry unregulated firearms, instead create a world in which the populace is universally armed. In every pubic place we install explosive devices capable of maiming an armored human being. Then, you put a sign on each device explaining what number to text to trigger an explosion.

Improvised Explosive Devices have proved invaluable to the Iraqi population in their struggle against a well-armored occupying army. And, frankly, learning to handle firearms and having to drag them around everywhere in case a crazy person starts shooting and keeping up your aim so you can get a clean headshot . . . that’s so 19th Century Old West. We can solve our modern problems with modern technology, and put the ability to defend oneself with lethal force in the hands of anyone who can obtain a simple mobile phone.

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About Me, News and Reaction, Politics, Religion

George Takei on the BSA

Link: http://dannyman.toldme.com/2012/07/18/thats-so-bsa/

Beautiful words:

Many well-meaning people counter that the BSA is a private organization, and as such should be able to keep whomever they want out. This is of course the same justification used to prevent minorities from eating in restaurants during the Jim Crow years. And where an organization as revered and national in scope as the Scouts maintains and defends such a policy, it sends the wrong message to our youth, many of whom already are struggling with their own sexual identity–an identity which has nothing whatsoever to do with their “morality,” but everything to do with their self-esteem and happiness. Thus, while the BSA may have the “legal” right to continue to discriminate–a question I believe should be revisited–I and others have the same “legal” right to protest the policy, till our last breaths if necessary, as blatantly discriminatory and against everything that equality in America stands for.

The dinosaurs running the national organization at the Boy Scouts of America need to stop practicing discrimination. Acceptance of people without regard to sexual orientation is the Morally Straight approach.

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About Me, News and Reaction, Politics

No Justice . . .

Link: http://dannyman.toldme.com/2012/07/18/no-peace/

This image I seen at The Lost Albatross is Creative Commons so I can post it here:

I have been aware of the prison problem for a decade or so. What strikes me here is that every year we have the same number of people released from prison as receive Bachelor’s degrees. We funnel this money to corporations who are always happy to lobby for more money, when we should be putting the cash into schools, who are always protesting about their budget cuts.

Once upon an unemployed time I was soul-searching, and I figured that our biggest, most solvable problem was the rate of incarceration. How could I help to solve that? Well, if we started letting folks out, they would need jobs . . . jobs with a prison record and poor educational background. People need to help improve literacy in the prisons.

But I wasn’t bold enough to follow up. And when I am working I don’t worry so much about finding mission to make the world better.

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Excerpts, Politics

Political Compromise

Link: http://dannyman.toldme.com/2012/06/23/we-shall-overcome-some-day/

A paragraph I had highlighted as I finished my reading of Du Bois’ “Dusk of Dawn”:

The Dyer Anti-lynching Bill went through the House of Representatives and on to the floor of the Senate. There in 1924 it died with a filibuster and the abject surrender of its friends. It was not until years after that I knew what killed that anti-lynching bill. It was a bargain between the South and the West. By this bargain, lynching was let to go on uncurbed by Federal law, on condition that the Japanese be excluded from the United States.

Sometimes Divide and Conquer needs some unity of purpose to succeed. All too often, we have made compromises to accommodate critically-needed constituencies, and it takes us far too long to realize the evil in the deals we have made, and far too long to correct it. These days I feel that efforts to reduce carbon emissions for the sake of a stable climate are for our generation what race and gender equality, voting rights, workers rights, national infrastructure and slavery were for previous generations.

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Excerpts, Good Reads, News and Reaction, Politics, Relationship Advice, Religion, Testimonials

Prop 8 Guy Decides to Stop Hating

Link: http://dannyman.toldme.com/2012/06/22/prop-8-guy-decides-to-stop-hating/

A Prop 8 champion is having a change of heart:

Marriage says to a child: The man and the woman whose sexual union made you will also be there to love and raise you. In this sense, marriage is a gift that society bestows on its children.

At the level of first principles, gay marriage effaces that gift.

[ . . . ]

But there are more good things under heaven than these beliefs. For me, the most important is the equal dignity of homosexual love. I don’t believe that opposite-sex and same-sex relationships are the same, but I do believe, with growing numbers of Americans, that the time for denigrating or stigmatizing same-sex relationships is over. Whatever one’s definition of marriage, legally recognizing gay and lesbian couples and their children is a victory for basic fairness.

I think that there is more to marriage than children, and that those children who can not be adequately cared for by their birth parents are still entitled to be cared for by whatever competent and loving parents society can find for them. At any rate, I am glad to see a Prop 8 supporter come out of the closet and realize that the way to strengthen marriage is to focus on strengthening marriages, rather than denigrating homosexuals.

The other day they were talking about Aung San Suu Kyi on the radio, that the path she chose to follow was the path laid forth by Mahatma Gandhi and Dr Martin Luther King. The idea is not to seek victory over the enemy, but to identify the universal capacity for virtue, to love the enemy and change the enemy’s heart, to be open to a more enlightened and equitable path. I feel that David Blankenhorn’s evolution here, along with the evolution of many Americans, is evidence that this sort of spiritual warfare is carrying the day in my country.

I love the smell of progress in the morning.

HT: kylev

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Politics

Objectivism

Link: http://dannyman.toldme.com/2012/06/08/objectivism/

Someone for whom I have a decent respect is winding down his reading of Atlas Shrugged. While I haven’t read Ayn Rand, I basically get that her shtick is that “self-centered material greed is good because it maximizes economic efficiency. If you waver from this conclusion you are a Communist.”

A comment I left on Facebook:

“Rewarding people who work hard to build wealth” is a key argument for those who desire to rationalize ever-greater disparity in the material welfare of the wealthy over the poor.

“Rewarding people who work hard” is a core objective of Communism.

“A regulatory system that provides fair governance and an incentive for economic efficiency through competition in order to realize the greatest material benefit for society as a whole” is pretty much the desired end of free market capitalism. That’s got three parts: fair regulation, competition, and social good.

Objectivism, like Communism, is like saying “I hate it when a stool has three legs. Things would be better off if the stool had only one leg.”

I likes me some free market economics but it seems like many in our nation have this religious devotion to the idea that everything would be better if there were minimal governance and if we stopped fretting over social welfare. Fortunately there seems to be a counter-argument being put forth, at last, which explains that “wealthy people don’t create jobs unless they have so much consumer demand that they have no choice but to hire more folks” and that “wealthy people are wealthy in large part because the government has built an economy in which there is sufficient infrastructure and a sufficiently educated work force for economic activity to be conducted profitably, and a legal and enforcement structure which removes uncertainty over what rules there are how whether they will be followed.”

If you want to be a Libertarian, I would argue that Somalia is a Libertarian Paradise. There is no government! Strictly speaking, its Anarchy, and whenever I’ve tried to get a Libertarian to explain what parts of government are absolutely necessary the answer has always come out to “only those parts I need to get what I think I want.”

Anyway, I think that if the government can reasonably afford to do so, it ought to, among other things, provide a floor of basic material welfare for its people. And in the interests of promoting a vigorous market system, the government should make an effort to educate its citizens, provide clear and rational regulations and enforcement of economic activity, and if we can ever figure it out, get to a state of Keynesian regulation where we put more capital into the economy when it is weak, and replenish government coffers in times of abundance. All of that effort is rarely efficient and there are lots of opportunities for unfairness and injustice. The government isn’t perfect but it is what we’ve got. The nice thing about Democracy is that we put a value on transparency and fixing of government problems . . .

. . . I’ll take a modern welfare state over Somalia any day of the week!

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Photo-a-Day, Politics, Sundry

Voting Day

Link: http://dannyman.toldme.com/2012/06/05/voting-day/

Voters in Mountain View, CA

I haven’t done any research, but I figured I would put in a vote for the cigarette tax, as well as local school bonds for asbestos removal. At current interest rates, government borrowing just sounds like an obvious thing to do.

I also got to vote for Obama for the Democratic Presidential Primary. His was the only name on my registered-Democrat ballot.

I am also hoping that the Cheeseheads give Governor Walker the boot.

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