PS... A Column

on Things

By Paul E. Schindler Jr.

Some things are impossible to know, but it is impossible to know these things.

I have a day job. So every word of this is my opinion, not that of my employer. This offer IS void in Wisconsin. Except, of course, that some material in this column comes from incoming e-mail; such material is usually reproduced in the Sans Serif type font to distinguish it from the (somewhat) original material.

To Pay For This Column Voluntarily
Tales of Teaching 2004
Tales of Teaching 2005

July 19, 2004: P.S. A Column On Things

July 19, 2004 Vol. 6, No. 28

Table of Contents:

General News

  • Ads?
  • Marlow from China
  • Political Notes

Computer Industry News

  • Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs on vacation


  • The Top 13 Things Overheard at the Women-Running-the-World Conference


  • None


  • Dalton on Sudan, Coquet on Tired.Com, Dan Grobstein File

General News


Well, like public television, I tried voluntary contributions (see note at the top and bottom of the column) and didn't do so well. So now, like public television, I am going to try underwriting. I have applied to an online ad agency for blogs,, to see if anyone is interested in advertising to the 1000 or so of you who stop by here every week. If I try it (that is, if someone is interested in such a small audience) and you don't like it... well, I'm sure you'll let me know.

Marlow from China

Marlow's in China. Here's what she's up to:

In the evening I joined my favorite couple in making fajitas. I was skeptical that this could actually be done in China, as I'd seen similar attempts fail in Taiwan. But it actually came together beautifully. A was the master chef, she actually made tortillas from scratch, L made amazing salsa, despite us having no limes. I thought it would have been nice to have avocados too, but then I guess I'm just greedy. C grilled up onions, green peppers and chicken with some black pepper and cumin, and it really was like we were eating Mexican food. It was kind of a trippy experience when all of the Chinese roommates started to hear about what was going on and they all filed in to try this exotic cuisine. They all wanted to help, and they didn't know how to assemble the fajitas which was cute. We only had two plates, but we could only go as fast as the tortillas were being made anyway, so it worked out fine. Most of the Chinese roommates were skeptical about using cheese, but they seemed to like everything else. L, our program coordinator, who has lived in China for some time now, was skeptical about the whole endeavor, but in the end, he had to admit that the fajitas were in fact delicious. J and I just acted as assistants in the process. In the beginning I didn't do much, but once things really got going I was kept pretty busy, in the fun way. It was an interesting cultural exchange for sure.

Political Notes

When the law is against you, argue the facts, when the facts are against you, argue the law. When the law and facts are against you, change the subject. An old saying which summarizes the Bush campaign perfectly.


Two great finds from Robert Malchman, who is too modest about their wonderfulness:

Some even-handed political satire (to the tune of Woody Guthrie's oft-parodied "This Land.")

Also, appropos of the "why blue collar types vote for Bush" stuff, this is a thread from Debby Levinson's husband's blog.

Also this...

CHICAGO, Illinois (CNN) -- Legendary Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka said Wednesday night that he has decided not to run for the open U.S. Senate seat in Illinois.
1. There were rumors that he'd bring his ex-wife to barbecue parties and tried to force her to eat ribs with him in front of other people.
2. Fill in your own Viagra joke.


After last week's tirades, a friend of mine wrote to ask what Kerry and Edwards stand for. I've concluded it's simple: As has been clearly enunciated the platform is: truth, justice, a stronger and safer United States, a fair deal for all Americans, and respect for all of our fellow inhabitants of the planet.


Last week's riff on Tim Russert may have been over the top; actually, most of last week's political notes may have been over the top. Here is some thoughtful analysis from an old friend of mine back East.

I enjoyed your column, as always, but your animosity toward all things Republican concerns me. There are lots of things to dislike about Republican politics now--gay bashing, elitism, tax cuts, deficits, anti-choice, anti-woman, but there are still lots and lots of decent, intelligent Republicans who are about as uncomfortable with some of these positions as we are. (Cheney's negatives among Republicans have almost tripled. Colin Powell is a decent man and lots of R's--and D's--respect him enormously.)

I'd feel more comfortable if you were putting the onus where it belongs--on Bush and this generation of leadership, but the bigger problem in my view is the increasing polarization of American politics--possibly also represented by your demonization of the "other guys." At the state level in California the legislative Democrats have come close to bankrupting the state and have seriously damaged the economy playing not to needy lower class citizens but powerful, very well-to-do interest groups like the trial attorneys. Gray Davis (a decent man himself) lost his job because he played to the extreme left of his own party in a misguided effort to build support on the left (this from one of the senior D's in the California legislature) and was caught in the growing polarization.

The riff on Tim Russert (and I've never seen his show) also struck me as over the top. I do care about genocide, oppression, and dictatorships. I care about the dead people in Bosnia, Palestine, Israel, Ireland, and Iraq. I care because they are every bit as human as my fellow citizens in Kansas or Maine and because the kinds of conflicts, hatreds, and dictatorships that exist in these places have a way of coming home.

Should we be the world's policeman? No. Should we provide the intelligent leadership necessary for the world to police itself? I would hope so. And that Bush failed to do that and perhaps is incapable of doing that is reason enough to elect anyone else (even Kerry who may be the most elitist candidate for President in our history). I think it is important to oppose that which is repugnant as policy but not to automatically vilify anyone with a label that isn't us.

Polarization and "us vs. them" breeds more extremism and "winner take all" politics that lead to more commitment and involvement by more extremists on both sides and cyclical (and cynical) politics that divide and diminish us and ultimately diminish the nation. We fail of our promise in so many ways.

What's needed is a platform that entices the millions of decent people in the other party to support intelligent programs that move the country forward but result from shared beliefs that come from the middle of the political spectrum. Roosevelt, Eisenhower, and Clinton all did this in their own ways. Bush-bashing is important, but the next step is to give decent R's a reason to abandon him and support a better way. Vitriol about all things R teaches them that they have no choice but to stick with their party--and every word of this note could apply in reverse to ideologues on the right.

My biggest problem is I think we've been too polite and too calm on the left. The Right has been loud, shrill, and unfair, and they have both drowned us out and moved the center of the political debate way to the right. And the Republican Party has been doing everything it can to purify itself--where are the Hatfields, the Packwoods, the Brooke's? "Rockefeller Republicans" no longer exist in meaningful numbers. There's Olympia Snowe of Maine and that's about it.

Plus, the GOP has made coded and uncoded appeals that try to make it clear to White, Southern males that theirs is the party of "Segregation, Now and Forever." I had forgotten that Reagan kicked his campaign off in Philadelphia, Miss. Hard to miss the symbolism of that decision--the town where the civil rights workers were murdered in 1964. I am glad the Democratic Party is no longer a comfortable home for racists, and I wish the GOP wasn't, but it is.

Computer Industry News

Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs

On vacation this week


The Top 13 Things Overheard at the Women-Running-the-World Conference

End of a long drought at No. 10:

July 14, 2004

13> "Israel agrees to the Palestinian proposal under one condition: We simply must have that hummus recipe! It's divine!"

12> "She may think her pyramids are holding up like they used to, but 'denial' ain't just a river in... well, you know."

11> "Hey! How'd that guy get in here? Oops! Sorry, Bulgaria."

10> "Well of course the United States says it will still respect you in the morning."

9> "Who does Iraq think she's kidding? Those WMDs are so fake."

8> "Bosnia, honey, drop the 'Herzegovina.' Hyphenated names are soooo 1995!"

7> "Can I borrow a nationful of oil?"

6> "No, they weren't an imminent threat. We declared war on them because their president was wearing the same dress I had on at the G-8 Summit."

5> "Listen Miss 'I'm-the-Only-Remaining-Superpower,' just remember that we knew you back when you were a lowly Brit stepchild with buck teeth."

4> "Would someone please get a bicycle for my fish?"

3> "All right, Arabs? Jews? Over here! We're all going to sit down with Dr. Phil and work this thing out!"

2> "By a unanimous vote, the 'Share the Pain' measure to stretch male anuses to 10 cm during childbirth is hereby passed."

and's Number 1 Thing Overheard at the Women-Running-the-World Conference...

1> "These summits are all the same: Solve the world's problems before lunch, then spend the rest of the day trying to divide the check."

[ The Top 5 List ]
[ Copyright 2004 by Chris White ]
Selected from 101 submissions from 38 contributors.
Today's Top 5 List authors are:
Janis Spidle, Kansas City, MO -- 1 (Woohoo! 1st #1!)
Paul Schindler, Orinda, CA -- 10




Dalton on Sudan, Coquet on Tired.Com, Dan Grobstein File

From Richard Dalton:

According to Mercy Corps (an impressive, Portland-based outfit providing emergency relief around the world), the situation in Sudan has degenerated to the point that:

  • The United Nations now estimates that over 2.2 million Sudanese will need food and other assistance for the next several months.
  • In some camps in Darfur, over one-third of the children are severely malnourished.
  • New estimates say that, without increases in food and other aid, up to a million Sudanese could die as a result of hunger.

Remind you of the horrors of Biafra? Maybe, if all of us provide just a little support, we won't have to see pictures of skeletal African children, dying of malnutrition again.

Check out:

Peggy Coquet wonders why people write to I confess, I'm baffled.

Dan Grobstein File:

New York Times

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