We never talk anymore . . .

I've commented before about my concern that, as a nation, we don't spend enough time talking with people who disagree with us.  This essay, The Elephant in the Room, describes the symptom well enough, but doesn't really offer much in the way of solutions.  I go out of my way to have conversations with a few smart people who disagree with me, but I must admit that I also have friends with whom I avoid talking politics – its just not always worth the emotional sturm-und-drang.

We have a hard balance to strike.  How much can we avoid strife in our personal conversations without restricting our conversations to trivial and meaningless topics?    

The Foley Scandal

Despite the fact that the fallout from the Foley scandal has the potential to bring about changes in Congress that I would like to see, I hate to see this kind of thing determine elections.  I would rather have this election decided on what I see as the "big issues":  the conduct of the war in Iraq, the proper way to conduct the war on terror, civil liberties, tax policy, the proper role of FEMA during natural disasters, etc.   Mark Foley sounds like a vile human being who abused his position of power, but should that be the determining factor in this election? 

I'll argue politics and policies all day long, but I won't pretend that the moral failings of a single Republican congressman should cost the Republican's control of Congress.  They are lots of reasons that the Republican's should lose Congress – the Foley scandal doesn't even rank in the top 10.  

Crossing the Rubicon

While all historical analogies break down if you look at them closely enough, I found this essay by Robert Harris to be pretty damn insightful. 

Once we violate our core principles in response to a crisis, can we really expect to ever recover them?  If we decide that the right to challenge detention by Executive authority can be suspended at the will of the Executive, then does a right to Habeus Corpus really exist at all? 

 IN the autumn of 68 B.C. the world’s only military superpower was dealt a profound psychological blow by a daring terrorist attack on its very heart. Rome’s port at Ostia was set on fire, the consular war fleet destroyed, and two prominent senators, together with their bodyguards and staff, kidnapped.

Free text messages from a web browser

Even though my mobile phone plan includes a pretty decent number of text messages, sometimes it would be nice to be able to type messages using my computer keyboard.  It just seems silly to use the phone to 'type' messages using iTap when I'm sitting at a full-sized qwerty keyboard.  I stumbled across this web site that lets me send free text messages from my web browser, which may come in handy at times.  The cell phone carriers provide a similar web-based interface, but at least on Cingular's web site you have to log in and you can only send messages to other Cingular customers. 

Tips for the Traveller: Retractable Cable Lock

On my European Walkabout, my day pack was stolen while I was sitting in a cyber cafe in Barcelona.  If only I'd been using my cable lock!  I was pretty good about locking my bag to the tale while I was travelling, but that day I forgot.  In any even, a cable lock like the one pictured below (originally designed for locking skis and snowboards to a rack) provides a handy way to secure your personal belongings so that your personal items don't wander while you're sitting in a cafe/airport/train station/etc.  While it certainly won't stop somebody with tools and time, a lock like this provides a great deterrent against 'snatch-and-grab' thefts.  

Apparently, I'm not the only person who has discovered this use for this handy gadget.