Friday, July 08, 2011

Pondering Geographical Barriers to Going Green

"You want WHAT?"
This week's Change The World Wednesday challenge "Upped The Ante" on last week's challenge by asking
Of all your green achievements, which one was the hardest to accomplish and why? How did you overcome the obstacles?
This is a difficult question, especially since the hardest ones to work on may be those I haven't succeeded with yet! When I ponder the difficulties I've had in green achievements, the hardest barriers to overcome were geographical: physical geography and social geography.
I can annihilate some physical geographical barriers with technology. Compared to last year, I take a lot more meetings by phone or over the internet. This has saved a huge amount of commuting; however, I still need to tend the bookselling at the thrift store three or four days a week, and that requires physical travel.
The social geography can be more difficult whenever some change involves other people. Take energy use for an example: it is completely irrational to leave lights on in the house overnight, yet there are a couple of places downstairs where they are left on. When I ask about it, my housemates downplay the issue as not being that big a deal. Likewise, leaving chargers plugged into the wall; I have carefully attached them all to switched power bars, so that they can be easily flicked on or off, without having to unplug anything; yet a week later I find them plugged into the wall anyway. Any discussion of cutting back prompts resistance. What's going on?
There is a feature of social geography having to do with a level of comfort in doing things the same way. Changes are difficult, and especially changes for some reason having to do with being smart or efficient or cheap; these are uncomfortable for some people and so they are not merely resisted, but sabotaged. Perhaps it is a form of conspicuous consumption - a demonstration that although we are short on money, at least we don't have to turn the lights off!
 It does no good to complain about it. If complaining helped, the problem would have been solved long ago. Some approach that better addresses the root of the problem may be more effective.
I think there's an answer. It's a roundabout answer, and maybe the fun way to think about it comes from Jesse Schell's talk about the future of games. Bear with me, it's well worth watching and thinking about...

Thursday, July 07, 2011

July 26/Seattle - Torture and Legal Ethics

The Washington State Bar Association's World Peace Through Law Section meeting on Tuesday, June 26, noon – 1:30 p.m. features Professor Marjorie Cohn, Thomas Jefferson School of Law, discussing the ethical obligations of attorneys in advising their clients, using Bush lawyers such as John Yoo and Jay Bybee, who gave legal cover for the program of torture and abuse, as negative examples.
This event is co-sponsored by National Lawyers Guild (NLG).
Where: 1111 Third Ave., Third Floor Conference Room, Seattle
CLE credit: 1.5 ethics CLE credit applied forCost: Free for Section members, NLG members, and law students; $25 for others.Thanks to the Foster Pepper firm and WPTL member Kelly Angell for the generous offer of this space.
Register now at or contact the WSBA at 800-945-WSBA or 206-443-WSBA. We hope to see you there!
Professor Cohn is immediate past president of the National Lawyers Guild. She lectures throughout the world on international human rights and U.S. foreign policy. A news consultant for CBS News and a legal analyst for Court TV, she also provides legal and political commentary on BBC, CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, NPR and Pacifica Radio. In addition, Professor Cohn is the author of Cowboy Republic: Six Ways the Bush Gang Has Defied the Law and co-author of Cameras in the Courtroom: Television and the Pursuit of Justice and Rules of Disengagement: The Politics and Honor of Military Dissent. Her latest book, The United States and Torture: Interrogation, Incarceration and Abuse, was published in January 2011 by NYU Press.
Her articles have appeared in numerous journals such as Fordham Law Review, Hastings Law Journal and Virginia Journal of International Law, as well as The National Law Journal, Christian Science Monitor and Chicago Tribune. Professor Cohn is a contributing editor to Jurist, MWC News and National Lawyers Guild Review, and her frequent columns in many venues are archived at She has been a criminal defense attorney at the trial and appellate levels for many years, and was staff counsel to the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board. Professor Cohn is the U.S. representative to the executive committee of the Association of American Jurists and is deputy secretary general of the Bureau of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers.
Professor Cohn testified in 2008 about government torture policy before the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, and she has testified at military courts-martial about the illegality of the wars, the duty to obey lawful orders, and the duty to disobey unlawful orders. She was a legal observer in Iran on behalf of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers in 1978 and has participated in delegations to Cuba, China and Yugoslavia.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Flaming Bag Of Poo Is A Founding Father, Says #GOP Candidates

Actual photo of newest
GOP Presidential Candidate

Internet historians were astounded to discover that Republican candidates were correct in stating that among America's Founding Fathers was the hitherto little-known Flaming Bag of Poo.
Minnesota Representative Michele Bachman's initial statement had previously been derided by the lamestream media and historians, when she told Fox News, "Party leaders act like my candidacy is a Flaming Bag of Poo."  When asked if she meant that they considered her unlikely to contribute to victory in 2012, Bachmann replied "Not at all. Our Founding Fathers included a Flaming Bag of Poo, left on the doorsteps of many a British soldier. The British regretted stepping on it, as party leaders are regretting stepping on my candidacy."
Internet historians were quick to respond, updating the wikipedia entry for Flaming Bag of Poo to include actual photographs of Poo signing the Declaration of Independence, freezing at Valley Forge and breaking the tension throughout the hot Philadelphia summer of the Constitutional Convention.
Not to be outdone, Bachmann's rival Sarah Palin announced her own special historical knowledge of the Flaming Bag of Poo. "When Paul Revere went ringin' those bells to warn off the British, we now know that he also left flaming bags of poo on their doorsteps. Them British soldiers sure got what-fore when they heard his gunshots and came a-runnin'!"
Some candidates expressed reservations about the Flaming Bag of Poo. Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty seemed puzzled when asked about the role of Flaming Bag of Poo, but soon announced he had long favored putting a Flaming Bag of Poo on the doorstep of every icon of Big Government, such as school houses and fire departments. However, Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney swiftly claimed a lead on the Flaming Bag of Poo issue, stating "I am the candidate with the most experience with poo. Obama has never had to hose poo off the windows of a car, as I did after tying my dog to the roof. I'm the most qualified to do the same with the American people!"
A snap poll showed that 37% of all Americans, and 78% of Republicans, agreed with Bachmann. "I saw her say it on TV," said one supporter, "And I though, well, she must be right. Only in America!"
But the biggest news of the day came from none other than Flaming Bag of Poo himself, at a hastily called press conference in which Poo announced his intention to seek the Republican Party nomination for President, "Why not?" announced Poo, "I have all the qualifications needed to run for the office. I've been around politics longer than anyone else; I'll go anywhere my handlers want and take any position they set up; and I'm completely  full of that substance which I cannot name on TV but which nourishes the crops. I'm not the only one that is full of it, but I'm the only one that admits it. Vote for me!"

The Way Of Crafting: A Change The World Wednesday Challenge

Crafted from repurposed materials
Home to chard and lettuce!

When you have a small repair or improvement to do around the house or apartment, is your first impulse to go buy something? That certainly is mine; our hardware stores carry everything and can get me what I need quickly, shipped here from some nation where workers get $1 an hour so you know it's as inexpensive as possible.
This is a mistake in more ways than I have fingers to count them on!
With just a little mental re-orientation, we can accomplish many fixes and improvements without a single purchase! Instead, we craft existing materials into solutions at no cost except your time; and if this is time taken away from the time you'd waste watching television, you may think of time spent crafting as itself being recycled from waste!
The crafting projects in which I take the most pride are:
All of these products are useful, could have been purchased, but were instead crafted out of repurposed materials. This helps keep stuff out of the landfills while eliminating the costs of transporting them to  my home - they're already here! The general strategy is this: make it do, or do without  - and with a little cleverness and confidence in my ability, I didn't have to do without.
Of course, there are limits - there are limits to EVERYTHING - I'm not going to craft anything if its failure would have serious consequences, e.g. brake shoes. But there is a huge number of things that we can craft, limited only by our confidence in our abilities. (Doesn't it sometimes seem that we have a learned helplessness that discourages our craftiness in favor of shopping? I wonder how that could have developed ...)
 I got thinking about this by my bloggy friend Reduce Footprints' Change the World Wednesday Challenge:
This week we'd like to hear about your proudest "green" achievement. Perhaps you started a compost for the first time or purchased organic food. Maybe you stopped driving a car or added solar panels to your home. It could be as small as carrying a reusable bag or as large as building an energy efficient home. Whatever your proudest Eco-friendly achievement is ... we want to know about it. Please leave details and tips/ideas so that we can all celebrate with you and perhaps try the activity ourselves.
Judging by what I like to take pictures of and blog about, crafting for my house is my proudest accomplishment. You can do it too!
Can persuade you to take up The Way Of Crafting?

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Estate Sale for Living Friends

Jewelry on the yard lamp
I've known Charlotte and Jim for about a decade now, through our volunteering at the Mercer Island Youth and Family Services Thrift Store. She and I stock donated books while Jim tests and repairs electronics, all to be sold to raise money in support of local families. It's a great hobby and, as it turns out, a good way to make friends.
We all age. That's a basic fact of the universe. Jim and Charlotte got to the point at which an assisted living facility is a good idea. They lived 45 or more years at a house just up the hill from the store, and in the course of those many years gathered a heap of treasures, too many for the very nice new living place they choose.
Some they moved (I helped the move, and met their kids & grandkids: great people!) Some they donated or gave away. But at some point, it's time to have the estate sale, and they turned to a professional small business to organize it.
The other day, I stopped by the estate sale to show my support and pick up a momento. A piece of jewelry lept out: I'm not sure why it seemed appropriate but it was something that Kris might wear and, as it happens, it was priced at EXACTLY the amount of cash in my pocket. Here's a photo - I posed it on the yard lamp in front of Jim & Charlotte's.
The next week as I was stocking books with Charlotte, I asked about the piece. It turned out to have been her mother's, and I think she's happy that Kris will have it.
That's all: no big news, just the world turning.