Borrow and Leverage - The Language of Money

Listen to the way rich people and poor people describe the same thing and you will start to understand some of the divides in this country. The financial apocalypse has brought different ways of speaking to the forefront of our media and our attention. There are many examples of linguistic difference between rich and poor. For example consider the way we use the words “leverage” and “borrow.” Let’s go the dictionary first to read the definitions.

Saving Education, the Bill Gates Way

Bill Gates clearly has a bee in his bonnet about education. A few weeks ago he was at the TED conference to give a speech on two topics: preventing malaria and reforming education in America. About malaria I have no comment, except to praise it for inspiring such luminous headlines as Rocket Scientists Shoot Down Mosquitoes With Lasers. Last weekend he was on Fareed Zakaria’s GPS program to talk about education again.

Hating Politicians

We tackled the topic of American cultural literacy last night at Socrate’s Cafe and, as always, the topic immediately turned to politics. A gentleman quoted Patrick Fitzgerald (the attorney involved in the Blagovich scandal) saying that “there is a fine line between politics and criminality.” Extend this to gross generalizations about all politicians and you begin to see the tone of the discussion. He asked whether anyone looking at the American political system from outside would see anything other than criminality.

Sense of Authority

Never have so few been so sure of their own rightness. That is my reaction to this morning’s meeting of the MN Futurists. I’m sorry to say this, because I like the principle of the group, but the reality today was a bunch of old white men exercising their sense of dudgeon. The topic of the day was immigration, a sensitive issue to be sure. Some of the initial presentations raised good issues about the immigration policy of America but the discussion was quite different.

Harry Boyte - Reinspiring Citizenship

I drove into the Weisman Art Museum last night to listen to Harry Boyte and Don Shelby talk about re-inspiring citizenship in the 21st century. Boyte just released a book called the Citizen Solution about the growing movement to reconnect ourselves to politics and the communities we inhabit. Shelby started things off by recapping an anecdote about his third grade teacher from the forward to the book. He speculated about Lincoln’s delivery of the Gettysburg address - especially the emphasis on the famous phrase “of the people, by the people, and for the people.

Affordable Housing and Complexity

My friend Eric invited me to come to an Isaiah meeting at Westwood Luthern church last night. He’s been working with the group for the past few years on a bunch of different issues, including affordable housing. The meeting began with two introductory presentations about the problem of affordable housing. The message is pretty simple to state: the current median home price in Minnesota and the nation is significantly higher than the 30% of income that is the threshold for affordability.

National Conference on Media Reform - Day 1

I went down to the Minneapolis Convention Center for day 1 of the National Conference on Media reform this afternoon. I skipped the Larry Lessig morning plenary and arrived at about 1 p.m. I wandered through the displays in the ballroom, ate half an over-priced burrito and then headed for the first afternoon panel session. Panel 1 - Free Speech in the 21st Century Josh Wolf kicked things off with his account of being imprisoned for refusing to testify before a federal grand jury in 2006.

These Horses Must Be Dead by Now

Three years ago I wrote the following about my experience at Socrate’s Cafe here in Minnesota. I stopped attending for three reasons: 1. every conversation started revolving around politics, which became tiring after the first month and 2. the conversations lacked philosophical sophistication (granted I studied philosophy in college so my standards might be higher than just anyone off the street)… What became more and more frustrating to me was that each conversation

Autocratic Personality and Other Odds

Reading about conservatism and personality is like watching a slow motion car crash. You wish it could be stopped or would just end, but instead it goes on endlessly. More evidence of this appears in a recent series of essays by Sara Robinson at Orcinus, Dave Neiwert’s blog hangout. Neiwert has been a longtime observer of far right wing political groups and an astute commenter on rightwing eliminationist rhetoric. Robinson’s series is a summary of the psychology of authoritarianism in part 1, some personal stories about people who escaped authoritarian cultures in part 2, and suggestions for reaching out to authoritarians to ‘bring them over the wall’ in part 3.

Existential Threats and Silly Ideas about Genre SF

Charlie Stross gets things going with a post about the dissipated habits of current science fiction. Chad Orzel says not so fast, you foreigner science fiction hasn’t dissipated it’s just been outflanked by wacky internet fads. John Scalzi pipes up with a comment about how American just don’t care what other people think of our politics and John M. Ford tells it like it is - selective futurism. I think something has happened to science fiction and fantasy in the last two decades.