monday morning musings

last week i was kvetching about monday’s late-winter snowstorm and subsequent single-digit temps. today it’s nearly 65 degrees at 9 a.m. yay, march.

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atheists are responsible for the dwindling percentage of christians in the united states. (maybe they’re eating them?) and i should move to vermont. except for that cold thing.

nifty charts here.

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almost everything i read online this weekend was about death and dying. one friend’s father passed away in late february. another friend’s mother, over the weekend. my great-uncle, on thursday. g’s grandmother was hospitalized with chest pains. then a friend’s dog had to be put down. isn’t spring supposed to be a time of rebirth?

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as i tweeted on saturday, the best time to watch watchmen is the 9:00 showing. with the coming distractions and a run time of 163 minutes, it means you’ll be out of the theater at five to 12:00. freaky. even freakier: billy crudup’s blue CGI dingle, which doesn’t dangle much.

great flick, btw. and fantastic use of leonard cohen on the soundtrack (and muzak tears for fears), but other people differ. (contains some spoilers.) although i have to ask: how do you put together a 3-hour movie set in 1985 without a single duran duran song? they’d released duran duran

, rio

, and 7 and the ragged tiger

by that point!

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i’m not much of a batman fan, but the first issue of neil gaiman’s two-part “death of” is storytelling at its finest. and what a story it is.

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and finally, in news of the sane, today obama will “issue a presidential memorandum aimed at insulating scientific decisions across the federal government from political influence.” the circular argument about that itself being political influence that will affect scientific decisions aside, it’s good to see obama continuing to dismantle the politicoreligious machine of the bush administration.

from his prepared remarks:

“This Order is an important step in advancing the cause of science in America. But let’s be clear:1 promoting science isn’t just about providing resources — it is also about protecting free and open inquiry. It is about letting scientists like those here today do their jobs, free from manipulation or coercion, and listening to what they tell us, even when it’s inconvenient — especially when it’s inconvenient. It is about ensuring that scientific data is never distorted or concealed to serve a political agenda — and that we make scientific decisions based on facts, not ideology.”

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1 am i the only one who would be happy if obama excised “but let’s be clear” from his vocabulary? i’m getting tired of being lectured at.

now, that's interesting

ecuador’s 2008 constitution has a governmental guarantee of sustainable development. the whole section on the environment is fascinating. (there’s also an interesting article in the post that leads one to question just how involved a spanish consulting group was in drafting the document.)

but what sort of hardware will it have?

obama’s cabinet seems to be coming along nicely:

in which an acquaintance makes his true feelings known

referencing the DOD antiterrorism level I training system:1

this training, IMO, is a feel good circle jerk thing for some bible thumping baptist who has never set foot outside of Mississippi and watches nothing but FOX news.

a choice tidbit from the training intro:

September 11, 2001 was a horrific day that is forever seared in the Nation’s memory. Since that day, the United States has been engaged in a Global War on Terror – a war to protect the Nation’s freedoms. The Global War on Terror is being fought by virtually every agency within the US Government. Additionally, friends and allies from all corners of the globe have joined the United States in its efforts.

in case anyone was wondering, the GWOT (global war on terror) joined these other, ongoing american campaigns:

war on drugs
war on poverty
war on condoms
war on global warming
war on christmas (or on christians)
war on science (republican)
war on iraq
war on cancer
war on entertainment piracy
and the war on islam

*whew* that makes me want to start a war on inane uses of the word “war.” and remember, children: war is the answer… if the clue is “a three-letter word for armed conflict between states.”

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1 amusingly, chrome doesn’t trust the security certificate of that website.

libertarian leanings, or just common sense?

reading the paper this morning, i came across something that bothered me. i know, that’s nothing new. it is, in fact, why i’d stopped reading the paper for longer than i care to admit.

what bothered me this morning was this: the d.c. attorney general has fired ten attorneys. the primary motivation for the cuts was to close a budget deficit; the particular attorneys were chosen due to their substandard performance. several of the attorneys are members of a union,1 which plans to challenge the terminations. the president of the union had this to say about the firings:

“it may be the way things are done at big law firms. i don’t think it’s a good way to run civil service.”

i’m boggling at that statement. it seems to me that big law firms are efficient, successful operations. why wouldn’t

you want to run the civil service in the same way? granted, civil servants get paid a fraction of what an associate at a large firm can make, and if we can’t afford pay parity, there should be other inducements to attract the best and brightest to public service jobs. good health care, a decent pension plan, generous vacation benefits, perhaps. but i don’t think lax performance standards should be among them.
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1 i’m philosophically pro-union, as i believe they rectify the inherent power inequality in the company/worker relationship. being an attorney myself, though, i wonder if attorneys need such assistance – we’re generally a well-educated (or perhaps just overeducated) bunch, capable of making rational decisions and by dint of our J.D., commanding comfortable salaries without the enhanced bargaining power of unions.

that said, i do think that contract attorneys should organize. not necessarily to secure better pay ($35/hour plus overtime isn’t anything to sneeze at, even in dc and nyc), but perhaps for better benefits and to minimize the profiteering of the temp agencies that place them. contract work is essentially white-collar piecework, where the attorneys are kept on a very short leash and working conditions can aggravate a host of chronic health problems. (no joke; just try sitting still for ten to twelve hours a day, staring at a computer screen, clicking clicking clicking away. and remember: these aren’t teenage gamers we’re talking about.)

that

said, if contract attorneys were to unionize, it might just speed outsourcing doc review to places like india.