Russia will be free!

It appears that hundreds of thousands of Russians have reached Howard Beale-like levels of intolerance with the status quo. And what a joy it is to see the Putin-Medvedev team reel. From USA Today:

Rally participants densely packed a broad avenue, which has room for nearly 100,000 people, about some 1.5 miles from the Kremlin, as the temperature dipped well below freezing. They chanted “Russia without Putin!” A stage at the end of the 0.43 mile avenue featured placards reading “Russia will be free” and “This election Is a farce.” Heavy police cordons encircled the participants, who stood within metal barriers, and a police helicopter hovered overhead. Alexei Navalny, a corruption-fighting lawyer and popular blogger, electrified the crowd when he took the stage. A rousing speaker, he had protesters shouting “We are the power!”

Pictures of the massive protest can be found at HuffPo.

And the rain on the Putin parade continues to come down too. Former Soviet premier, Mikhail Gorbachev, has called on Putin to resign.

You know what grinds my gears?

One of my favorite segments from Family Guy was Peter’s out of left field tirades entitled “You know what grinds my gears?”. I had one recently and here is a compilation from youtube:

What led me to that video was an editorial over at the Huffington Post by a respected academician, Benjamin Barber, who rails against the hypocrisy of American exceptionalism in light of our frenzy to cut funding to important programs and entertain the possibility of an unconstitutional default. I agree with Barber’s thesis that we have passed the point of being exceptional and the debacle happening Washington is example #1 but the tone of his column is just deliciously curmudgeony:

Leadership is a competition in big deeds not big talk. Big deeds cost big bucks and demand from a people confidence and a willingness to sacrifice, as well as a firm sense of how the private and the public intersect and reinforce one another. No nation ever maintained a global role by dismantling its government and refusing to pay its bills. We certainly cannot be number one and turn over leadership in physics to Europe (as we did when we dropped out of the super-collider race and punted to CERN in Switzerland), end our manned space program and defund the Webb telescope, and give up on higher education and public health. Launching Predator drones over Pakistan while we stumble into default won’t cut it. In short, we can embrace timidity and go on maiming the public sector, destroying democratic governance and stashing our shrinking wealth (unequally divided) under our mattresses. Or we can walk the bold talk and share our common-wealth (well named!) and resume a global leadership rooted in vision, dynamism, equal sacrifice and hard work. But please, all you “exceptionalists,” all you libertarian and Tea-Party and fiscal conservative hypocrites, stop preening to show off your new clothes when you’re dressed in tatters. Stop telling the world how great we are, and yet telling us how impotent we are to pay for, let alone realize, greatness. Stop shouting “WE’RE NUMBER ONE” when it’s because of you we’re heading for number 35.

Being a space nut, I was particularly incensed (my gears are grinding) at the defunding of the Webb telescope. Just how dedicated are we to shaming the legacy of John Glenn, Buzz Aldrin, Sally Ride and all the other brave Americans that inspire generations to believe that we can achieve the unthinkable?

A gotta see movie

Brad Pitt is already getting some oscar buzz for his part in the upcoming Terrence Malick movie “Tree of Life”. I am so excited to see this movie. This is a movie aimed directly at the hearts of those suffering from a quarter-life crisis:

THE TREE OF LIFE is the impressionistic story of a Midwestern family in the 1950’s. The film follows the life journey of the eldest son, Jack, through the innocence of childhood to his disillusioned adult years as he tries to reconcile a complicated relationship with his father (Brad Pitt). Jack (played as an adult by Sean Penn) finds himself a lost soul in the modern world, seeking answers to the origins and meaning of life while questioning the existence of faith. Through Malick’s signature imagery, we see how both brute nature and spiritual grace shape not only our lives as individuals and families, but all life.

Sunlight, Water & Carbon Dioxide=Diesel?

HuffPo has some fascinating news on the renewable energy front. A company by the name of Joule Unlimited has announced the creation of a cyanobacterium which transforms through photosynthesis sunlight, water and carbon dioxide into diesel fuel. This particular form of cyanobacterium was created through genetic modification and the company’s CEO Bill Sims makes what I hope time will demonstrate to be an appropriately bold claim:

“We make some lofty claims, all of which we believe, all which we’ve validated, all of which we’ve shown to investors,” said Joule chief executive Bill Sims. “If we’re half right, this revolutionizes the world’s largest industry, which is the oil and gas industry,” he said. “And if we’re right, there’s no reason why this technology can’t change the world.”

Sites to watch on Egypt

Wanted to share some of the sites I’ve been using to follow the revolution in Egypt.

Enduring America, Al Jazeera, The Guardian and the Huffington Post have some excellent live blogging. CNN correspondent Ben Wedeman @bencnn has been faithfully providing coverage particularly via Twitter. On Facebook, user We are all Khaled Said is also providing some excellent coverage.

Good hash tags: #jan25, #jan28, #egypt, #cairo

Another people rise up

The picture says it all, doesn’t it? May we all stand in solidarity with the brave men and women who don’t ask but do demand a government of their own choosing and respect for rights fundamental to every single human being on Earth. The January 25th demonstrations against the nearly 30-year rule of Hosni Mubarak continue. Even after the regime outlawed demonstrations and ordered security forces to quell the unrest. And thank goodness, just as I was beginning to wonder, Mohamed ElBaradei is headed back to Egypt to “support efforts geared toward a transition to a new government”.

Colbert channels Keith Olbermann

Keith Olbermann has returned. At least in spirit as Stephen Colbert attempts to absorb his punditry power. So let’s see how it goes…

This is not the first time that Colbert has absorbed the powers of previous TV personalities according to the Huffington Post:

Colbert has “absorbed” both Lou Dobbs and Gene Shalit in the past, taking on their personalities to make his punditry that much more powerful.

You too, are a defender of human dignity

The events of history are not like time itself. It is not an uninterrupted forward movement. On a day like this where we celebrate the inherent dignity within all human beings it is important to remember that the work of human rights defenders is ongoing. Huffington Post cites the Human Rights Risk Atlas of countries where human rights are least respected. Not surprisingly, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo or Congo-Kinshasa) comes in at a dubious first. Millions have died from the two civil wars that have ravaged the nation and the eastern provinces have been described as the “rape capital of the world”.

As mentioned earlier the work of human rights defenders in ongoing on this the 62nd anniversary of the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. And if you agree that “recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world” then you too are a human rights defender.

Of interest: Beer and Antimatter

Scientists and brewers don’t usually find themselves side-by-side in exciting news but it has happened this week:

A report cites scientists at CERN who claim that we have isolated a particle of antimatter for the first time. If you are a trekkie like me you probably first heard of this substance on Star Trek.

And some interesting beer combinations from brewer Sam Calagione who will be hosting a new show called Brew Masters on Discovery.

Since you’re in the neighborhood

I had a work-run to Butte a couple of days ago and everytime I go there I seem to compare it to Missoula another nearby city. Both are intriguing places with a quirky air. Someone over at the Huffington Post recently visited “the richest hill on Earth” (due to Butte’s mining history) and had a similar impression.

My first thought as we came in for a landing at the Butte, Montana, airport on a gorgeously sunny fall day was…What the heck is that?! What is that giant sculpted hole right next to town that looks like it could spill over and destroy everything in its path? Very soon I would learn the story of that extremely large copper mine–and all the other wonderful highlights of Butte–which is beautiful in an odd sort of way.

I have to agree.

Neo-Progressives and “Special Interest Government”

Lawrence Lessig has an interesting piece over at HuffPost on the history of the Progressive Movement and the cyclical reiteration of its importance to the achievement of genuine social justice in America.

It seems that just about every hundred years (or so, I’m a lawyer; cut me some slack; numbers aren’t my thing), the body politic we call America swells with fever as it fights off a democracy-destroying disease. That disease is “Special Interest Government,” a government captured by the economically powerful in society, as they find a way to convert economic into political power; the fever comes from the reform movement, keen to kill that disease and restore an ideal of government of, by, and for “the People.”

The rise of Andrew Jackson was the first of these cycles. His fight with the Second Bank of the United States and with the “monied interests” as he called them was the romantic political struggle for most Americans for much of the 19th Century — far more important than anything Washington or Hamilton had done.

The rise of the Progressive Movement in the late 19th, and early 20th Century was the second of these cycles. Reformer after reformer focused the American democracy on the deep corruption that had captured government. The first round of “robber barons” had completed their theft. Smart and courageous souls fought on every front to end the threat of more robber barons, and reclaim the democracy that Jackson had promised.

Ignoring Cassandra…Again

As economists, policy-makers and politicians debate deficit reduction and further economic stimulus one worries that we are missing prescient warnings from a knowledgeable, articulate and passionate voice for the middle class. This time it is Elizabeth Warren, chairperson of the Congressional Oversight Panel overseeing the financial bailout and a law professor at Harvard who is renowned for her work in the area of consumer advocacy. She has been an untiring advocate for a consumer protection agency for years.

Shahien Nasiripour over at Huffington Post leads us to this quote from White House Senior Advisor David Axelrod regarding the Administration’s consideration of Elizabeth Warren to head the new Consumer Financial Protection Agency (CFPA):

“Elizabeth Warren is a great, great champion for consumers and middle-class families across the country,” White House senior adviser David Axelrod told reporters on a Friday conference call. “She has helped inform this effort greatly and what has been done here in many ways reflects something she’s been advocating for years and years and years, so she’s obviously a candidate to lead this effort.

A candidate? All of that praise and she isn’t the Administration’s candidate for heading the agency? Amid rumors that Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is opposed to her candidacy I hope the Obama Administration doesn’t make the same mistake with Elizabeth Warren that our last Democratic president made with Brooksley Born. (I am referring to the Clinton Administration’s dismissal of Brooksley Born’s advice on the growing danger of derivatives–which are frequently cited as one of the major causes of the near-collapse and following Great Recession which lingers today.)

Put Professor Warren forward as the candidate to head the CFPA without any insulting delay. We ignore her prescient advice and reject her valuable service at our peril.