Tina K. Russell

October 31, 2008

Term limits

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Tina Russell @ 11:16 am

Op-Ed Contributor – Bloomberg’s Limited Win – NYTimes.com

Patrick Egan argues that the City Council was right to extend term limits for themselves and the mayor. I agree with him—that term limits are a bad idea. I do not think the city council was right to push unilaterally a move with such an obvious conflict of interest. I do not think it would have been that hard, in American democracy, to organize a special election (that would cost money! Oh noes!) for this issue, and I hope voters would realize that arbitrarily firing public servants just as they become experienced is bad policy.

Failing that, the City Council should have passed a measure abolishing term limits, but one that would only apply to those not in office; that is, not themselves, and not Mayor Bloomberg. If Bloomberg wants to run for a third term, good for him; it seems like New York likes him. But if you want to push for an end to term limits, don’t do it right when yours is about to run its course. This is not Hugo Chàvez’s Venezuela. Remember that Rudy Guiliani tried to abolish term limits at the height of his popularity (before his present-day descent into the oddly effeminate Crazed Attack Goblin), and it didn’t work. Do what George Washington did, and what the country is forever grateful for: take a bow, thank your supporters, and exit stage right.

I will say that term limits make a little more sense for executive offices, such as mayor or the Presidency, because it’s good to have changes of pace and leadership to keep things running smoothly, and because long-serving executives tend to settle in and become complacent about their jobs. But, I’m still uncomfortable about them because a hard-and-fast term limit essentially says that Franklin Roosevelt shouldn’t have been President after 1938, which would have made him unable to carry out the rest of the New Deal or serve during World War II. And term limits for all other offices are massively stupid: they’re petty, they limit your choice as a voter, and they cause all the experience to walk out the door. Term limits are pure snake oil, and you should reject them every time some out-of-state loudmouth PAC puts them on your state ballot.

Oh, and one more thing: I may read The New York Times, but I usually don’t follow New York politics. (Fuhgettaboudit!) I’m making an exception just this once, ’cause it’s interesting.

Sonic Chronicles

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Tina Russell @ 1:36 am

I’ve been guzzling Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood. You may remember how excited I was when the game was announced (though reports of my orgasmic death were greatly exaggerated). I have the game, and it’s wonderful. In fact, so far, I’ve found only two major problems with the game:

  1. I am aware that it ends, and
  2. Every seventeen hours, I require a period of sleep, limiting my playtime options.

Seriously, the game is a bit shallow, and may be a little too… fruity… for the hardcore RPG fanatic. (Incidentally, want to know how to tell who is an RPG fanatic? It’s anyone who considers his or her favorite variety of RPG to be the definition of “role-playing game,” believing everything else needs a qualifier. This counts double if they consider it to be the definition of “game.”) However, it’s the exact sort of fruity that appeals to me, Succulent Strawberry Tina. I’m going to require you to call me that from now on, although “Her Tastiness” will suffice.

I need to get some sleep! Good night! (…Yes, it’s 3:30 on the West Coast. Hey, saving the world is hard work…)

October 30, 2008

Hooray for Ubuntu 8.10!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Tina Russell @ 9:01 am

Today is the long-awaited release of Ubuntu version 8.10, the “Intrepid Ibex”! You all know that I think Ubuntu is the best operating system ever made, a Linux distribution that is both powerful and easy to use, with lots of great packaged software. So, try it out! It’s free of charge and free like speech. You can even burn a CD of it (or request a free CD in the mail), start your computer with the CD in the try, and try it out from the CD just to make sure it all works and see if you like it. Trust me, you will!

Find out more about Ubuntu 8.10

Download it here, or request a free CD

Ubuntu respects you because it comes with all of its advanced capabilities out of the box. There’s no “professional” or “enterprise” edition, there’s just your edition. With its automated package system, it removes the common hassles of installing weird drivers and libraries you’ve never heard of. It comes with an office suite and advance image editing right on the CD, along with Firefox browsing, Evolution e-mail and scheduling, Pidgin instant messaging, F-Spot photo management, Ekiga Internet telephony, and more. You can also download everything from 3D modelling software to Web content frameworks from the Ubuntu repositories using the easy “add/remove” interface. Plus, it’s Linux, and that means powerful and stable. It rarely crashes, even when running for months or even years. It’s also secure from the ground up, so you’ll never need to worry about viruses or spyware again.

What I like most about Ubuntu is its philosophy. “Ubuntu” comes from the Zulu and Xhosa languages, a Southern African concept of humanity towards others, that your dignity comes from the dignity of those around you. Ubuntu is developed by a community all over the world, from dedicated hobbyists to paid professionals, a diverse group of programmers, artists, writers, and everyone else willing to pitch in to make the software world easier and more fun. I can say with certainty that Ubuntu brought me a dignity I haven’t had with a computer since I was very little. Ubuntu made me feel I was worth it, I was worth having all these powerful tools at my fingertips, without ever needing to pay. It made computing fun again and put me back at the cutting edge. So, try Ubuntu today! It’s wonderful!

October 29, 2008


Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 5:19 pm

I’ve spoken recently on Ethiopia’s human rights abuses and Somalia’s right to self-determination. In the interest of fairness, here’s what an Islamist court in Somalia has decided to do with all that self-determination:

World Briefing – Africa – Somalia – Rape Victim Executed – NYTimes.com
A woman was stoned to death for adultery on Monday in an Islamist-controlled region of Somalia. Somali human rights officials said the woman, 23, had been raped, but the Islamist authorities determined that she was guilty of adultery.

That’s disgusting. (The article is just one more sentence, but I snipped that because it’s graphic.) This is reprehensible on, like, a million levels. To note three:

  1. The death penalty is wrong. Always.
  2. They say that she was an adulterer. Even if that were true, which I doubt, it is wrong to punish adulterers. Government should not legislate individual choice, or attempt to fix families.
  3. Punishing the victim is wrong.

While the mistake of punishing the victim occurs on many levels in many governments, to punish the victim of rape is to take what is already a crime to an unspeakable degree. To punish her with death is beyond my comprehension. I cannot imagine how anyone who asserts that is moral can claim with a straight face to speak for God.

Jesus, a prophet of Islam, once espoused that “he who is free of sin shall cast the first stone”; and that was about a woman who was actually guilty of what she was accused of. I step carefully when I talk about this because I think stoning her to death would still be wrong if she were guilty. I think it would be wrong if she were guilty of murder. I think it would be wrong if she were guilty of murder and the execution were administered with a lethal injection of painkillers in the most humane way you could possibly think of. It’s clear, though, that the people who delivered, carried out, and supported this verdict have vast oceans of sin in their hearts, given their willingness, their enthusiasm, for such an unequivocally evil act as this. They should not throw stones; and neither should we.

October 26, 2008

Well, then

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Tina Russell @ 9:19 pm

Somalia Makes Peace Deal With a Militia – NYTimes.com
NAIROBI, Kenya — Somalia’s transitional leaders made important concessions toward peace on Sunday, agreeing to accept insurgent troops within their ranks and detailing a plan for a phased pullback of Ethiopian soldiers, currently the most powerful force in the country.

Oh! That sounds good.

Somalia and “the Islamist threat”

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 8:34 pm

Op-Ed Columnist – The Endorsement From Hell – NYTimes.com
Today, Somalia is the world’s greatest humanitarian disaster, worse even than Darfur or Congo. The crisis has complex roots, and Somali warlords bear primary blame. But Bush administration paranoia about Islamic radicals contributed to the disaster.

Somalia has been in chaos for many years, but in 2006 an umbrella movement called the Islamic Courts Union seemed close to uniting the country. The movement included both moderates and extremists, but it constituted the best hope for putting Somalia together again. Somalis were ecstatic at the prospect of having a functional government again.

Bush administration officials, however, were aghast at the rise of an Islamist movement that they feared would be uncooperative in the war on terror. So they gave Ethiopia, a longtime rival in the region, the green light to invade, and Somalia’s best hope for peace collapsed.

“A movement that looked as if it might end this long national nightmare was derailed, in part because of American and Ethiopian actions,” said Ken Menkhaus, a Somalia expert at Davidson College. As a result, Islamic militancy and anti-Americanism have surged, partly because Somalis blame Washington for the brutality of the Ethiopian occupiers.

“There’s a level of anti-Americanism in Somalia today like nothing I’ve seen over the last 20 years,” Professor Menkhaus said. “Somalis are furious with us for backing the Ethiopian intervention and occupation, provoking this huge humanitarian crisis.”

This is one of the biggest and most-ignored tragedies of recent American foreign policy, and it breaks my heart. I don’t like the Islamists one bit and I don’t think religion has any place in government. But, our attempt to instill that bit of political wisdom by force—by funding the an army with a dismal human-rights record, at that—has caused untold suffering in yet another faraway land.

Somalia is near an important Middle Eastern trade route (a large reason piracy is such a problem). Stability in Somalia would be great for the region (particularly Eritrea—ancestral homeland of a friend of mine—which would like to be known as a Singapore-like trading hub one of these days), which includes the affluent Persian Gulf and the struggling and developing nations in East Africa.

Anyway, Sens. Pat Leahy (whom Cheney once told to “go #@$! yourself”) and Russ Feingold (the one vote against the Patriot Act in the Senate!) are co-sponsoring a bill to tie additional funding to Somalia to them cleaning up their human-rights situation. Call your representatives! Go!

A new raison d’Êtroit

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 12:11 pm

General Motors, Driven to the Brink – NYTimes.com
What is clear is that Detroit, among its other miscues in recent years, particularly overindulged its romance with S.U.V.’s, leaving it tethered to a product line that may prove to be the industry’s undoing.

Pa-haa! Who could have guessed that the success of the SUV was entirely predicated on a glut of cheap oil that would not last?

The sad thing about fuel-efficiency standards is that conservatives opposed to it are partly right. They say that if the public really wants fuel-efficient cars, companies will make them. Ideally, that will happen, but the automakers in Detroit coveered their ears, sang “la la la,” and kept pushing out gas-guzzlers (and a few efficient PR pieces) when customers were clearly willing to pay more for a car to forego the expense and inconvenience of having to refuel practically every few meters. Now that the Japanese (again! Damn their ability to make our inventions better) have beaten us to the punch with the Prius, Detroit is left with a black eye, with America losing its title and facing the bloody consequences. It’s depressing when the government has to force companies to do what will make them money, but it happens.

(I should note, here, blasphemy of blasphemies, that $4 gas finally sparking interest in the electric car is evidence that we should have been taxing gasoline into that range all this time. Cheaper gas following the Carter era’s highs meant we forgot all about the kind of investments that could have spared us our energy crisis. Wow, we’ve been putting off an energy crisis, a healthcare crisis, an economic crisis, various foreign-policy crises… we’re in a mess…)

(I also made a promise to myself, as a kid, not to buy a car that isn’t electric. Now that I’ve been diagnosed with ADD, the government—at least in Portland—subsidizes my bus passes, which is perhaps a sign that I should stay off the road entirely save for public transportation. But, I do promise that I won’t consider buying a car until I can find one that runs on a force first discovered by the ancient Greeks and named for their word for amber.)

Propping up a failed Hank

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Tina Russell @ 11:47 am

Talking Business – So When Will Banks Give Loans? – NYTimes.com

Joe Nocera at the NYT notes, with some damning evidence, that banks (at least JP Morgan Chase, now the proud owner of my bank, Washington Mutual) don’t really plan on using Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson’s magical capital injections to free up credit for ailing business owners, despite that being the entire justification for the capital injections in the first place. Instead, banks would prefer to munch on the tattered carcasses of other banks through high-finance acquisitions.

I supported these, uh, injections (into the rump!), since they would yield profits for the government if they work, and hopefully give some control to the government over how the businesses are run. (A note on “moral hazard”: if you want to bail out a failing bank, make sure heads roll, first. CEOs getting generous severance packages for screwing up creates an environment where CEOs take risks without personally facing the consequences, convinced that shareholders have their backs. They might, say, bet the entire company on dodgy financial vehicles, for instance.) Of course, to sweeten the deal for his Wall Street chums, Paulsen made sure that the government bought only non-voting shares, and that the deal wouldn’t put restrictions on how the banks used their money. Wow! Imagine if you went to bankuptcy court and got terms this favorable. You’d think the government would have a bit more leverage in dealing with companies about to go belly-up if they can’t get a government lifeline.

Back to the issue at hand. The whole idea of the “capital injections” was that we would partially nationalize the nation’s failing banks to keep them afloat for a while. The government, as it is said, is the “investor of last resort”; if nobody else will buy stock in your company, perhaps Uncle Sam will (though I’m flabbergasted at why Paulsen wouldn’t have insisted on giving Uncle Sam a seat on the board). This was an idea initiated by Gordon Brown, Prime Minister of Britain, and now being copied all over the world as though it were a high-concept game show. Now, Britannia had a good idea: banks that bent over and accepted the injections would be held to certain terms on how they spent the money (according to Nocera, here); for instance, they would have to lend the money to ailing businesses, as freeing up credit was the entire justification for the plan here and everywhere. The United States of America, on the other hand (or at least its appointed “Count Baron von Moneypants,” in Jon Stewart’s words), made no such requirement.

Back to the damning evidence. So, banks, at least JP Morgan Chase, are more focused on consolidation than the stated goal of “freeing up credit.” Without the requirement to lend, they won’t, and are instead planning to use the money to purchase smaller banks and place them on their corporate mantles. Now, I generally think well of the practice of, say, Chase buying out Bear Stearns and the Surprised Cow Bank (“Wha?! Mooooo…”); if Bank of America buys out Merrill Lynch for $2.50 and a Snickers bar, that’s a lot of accounts that aren’t to go down in a bank failure. (And, you’ll note that Paulsen let Lehman Brothers go under, begetting this crisis; had he given government backing to an acquisition, Lehman Brothers may have found a suitor and we may not have been faced with a crisis so big that we’d need to give him sweeping powers to handle it. …Wait a minute…)

But, there’s a problem: this disaster began with institutions “too big to fail”, well, failing. If big banks decide to play Pac-Man and gobble up all the smaller (or formerly big) ones, the next financial crisis will involve banks way too big to fail. Plus, there’s the problem Nocera focuses on: this whole bailout package was proposed as a way to free up credit, so that businesses can get loans and your friend can keep his job in lean times. If banks want to play hunter-gatherer with the money—instead of making loans and freeing up credit—what, exactly, are we paying for?

Is Paulsen—a man who predicted none of this, was consistently behind the curve, and spent the months before the crisis insisting everything was fine—just laying the groundwork for the next big crisis? And when does he plan to disprove our notion of him as a man beholden to his former colleagues on Wall Street and put some enforcement into his role as temporary supreme bank lord? When is Uncle Sam going to start carrying a big stick, and stop simply handing out free bags of money?

Blogroll notes

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — Tina Russell @ 12:51 am

I’ve added Wronging Rights to the blogroll, belatedly. Also, I’ve fixed the “my shared items in Google Reader” link; before, it led to a WordPress “add a link” page. I’m not sure how that happened.

By the way, my birthday is October 28, this Tuesday! My favorite charity is the Grameen Foundation. (I also like the Electronic Frontier Foundation.) Just sayin’.

October 25, 2008

Would you prefer wild abandon?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Tina Russell @ 4:21 pm

Letters – Reaction to the Obama Endorsement – NYTimes.com
To the Editor:

The New York Times endorses Senator Barack Obama for president. Shocking! Of course, the utter predictability and lack of suspense regarding your presidential choice has completely negated the value of your advocacy.

Paul Marasciullo
Laurel Hollow, N.Y., Oct. 24, 2008

?! This is the strangest thing I’ve read all day. Would you prefer the NYT to put some totally random endorsements in there to increase the “suspense”?

I read the New York Times editorials because I’m interested in their opinions, not for thrill-a-minute action, thank you very much.

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