No Baggage Challenge for Charity

Totally not related to politics, but I’m about to embark on a 10 day trip to Japan and carry with me only what I can fit in the clothes I wear – no bags allowed. I’m partnering with the travel clothing company Scottevest and they will be making a donation to Students for a Free Tibet in support of the trip.

My first post explaining  why I’m taking this trip and how it’s going to work is up at Huffington Post. I just posted another one where I go over what exactly I’m taking with me and how I’m packing it. I’m also posting my updates at my travel and technology blog, Blogger Hamlin.

I’ve also made a couple videos so far. The one explaining the trip itself is a bit…let’s say dry. I had some technical problems with the recording and posting and a few reshoots left me without a lot of passion. But I think the packing video is pretty fun.

The way the charity aspect of this works is that Scottevest will make at least a $1500 donation to Students for a Free Tibet. They will raise that donation to $5000 if the Youtube videos from my trip get a combined 10,000 views. So please, share posts and videos from my trip with your friends!

Hold Fast, The Movie

Totally not political, but via Boing Boing, here’s a documentary about sailing:

Ever dream of taking off for the equator, fixing up an old boat, and then sailing it off into the sunset? Well, a few years ago, a group lead by Moxie Marlinspike did just that. Under the banner of the Anarchist Yacht Club, they migrated to Florida, found and restored a boat that they named the Pestilence, then proceeded to sail it around the Bahamas. It’s the ultimate adventure, and luckily they captured their experience in the documentary Hold Fast.

Dangerous Anti-Choice Law Pushed by Wholesalers

Originally posted at A Jigger of Blog

Eric Asimov, the NY Times wine reporter, had a piece earlier this week on HR 5034, the Comprehensive Alcohol Regulatory Effectiveness Act of 2010. The Orwellian-named CARE Act would would “severely restrict direct interstate shipping of wine by retailers.” The bill is being pushed in Congress by beer and wine wholesalers who are threatened by online or direct from winery/brewery/distillery sales that leave them – the middle man – out of the money making process.

Yet as welcome as these lifelines are, they may be threatened by a bill introduced earlier this year before the House of Representatives, the Comprehensive Alcohol Regulatory Effectiveness Act of 2010, or H.R. 5034, which has the potential to severely restrict direct interstate shipping of wine by retailers. Direct sales from wineries could be threatened, too, although the current language of the bill appears to focus more directly on retailers….

Opponents, however, including wine and beer producers, retail shops and importers, assert that states already have ample regulatory authority. They say the bill is meant to protect beer and wine wholesalers, who have been cut out of the loop by the rise of direct sales. Wholesalers have set their well-financed lobby to work for the bill and have liberally doled out campaign contributions to supporters.

The industry is threatened that other businesses are able to use internet commerce to break their hold on what Americans are able to use their money to purchase and drink when it comes to wine. Their lobbying arm, the National Beer Wholesalers Association, prominently features a promotional statement on HR 5034 on their website. According to, the National Beer Wholesalers Association is the fifth largest federal PAC this election cycle. They have spent over $3.1 million dollars just in the last two years. Obviously this is a high priority bill for them and they’re spending to get it through Congress.

The most laughable part of Asimov’s article is this:

Wholesalers argue that they are not acting to protect their own financial position but the rights of states.

“Our main concern is making sure states can continue to effectively regulate alcohol and maintain the system that serves the public well by balancing competition with an orderly market,” said Rebecca Spicer, a spokeswoman for the National Beer Wholesalers Association.

Yeah, right. The wholesalers lobby is using a states’ rights canard to appeal to Republicans and Blue Dogs (who make up most of the bill’s sponsors). The “balancing competition” they support is simply a way of using their influence in government to crush competition and reduce consumer choice. This is about a major business lobby using their influence in Congress to try to quash small businesses who provide a meaningful service to consumers: increasing selection and quality of wines on the market. Asimov notes, “The bill, though, which is unlikely to come up for a vote until next year, would clearly mean a narrowing of choices for consumers.”

Hopefully HR 5034 doesn’t get a vote in Congress any time soon, but with 151 cosponsors, I have to assume that it will at some point next year.

Spoiler Alert

Not that I’m particularly concerned that the readers of the New York Times op-ed page will be upset about Russ Douthat spoiling the endings of two major books turned movies, but hot dang, what a wanky thing to do. And for what it’s worth, Dan Brown was a teach at my high school. I knew him as such, though it was at that time that he authored Digital Fortress. The idea that he’s setting himself up as a prophet akin to Jesus, as Douthat postulates, is simply absurd.

I know it must be scary for a young conservative like Douthat to see religious stories become massively successful pop culture items, but I wish Douthat reveled in the irony and not the fear he clearly instead responds with. Religion is popular culture. That Dan Brown found a way to cast a mostly secular, fictional spin on it is no more remarkable than the authors of the Left Behind series of books and video games casting a successful fundamentalist fictional take on religion in the modern age.



Jules Dassin, one of the great directors of film noir, has died. He was blacklisted during the HUAC for associations with the Communist Party and had lived in exile since 1953. Rififi is one of my favorite movies – I actually thought about watching it this weekend, coincidentally. If you’re a fan of Quintin Tarantino, you’d love Dassin, who is one of Tarantino’s biggest influences. Seriously, just watch Rififi and you’ll find about a third of Tarantino’s themes. Plus Rififi has probably the most incredible scene in the crime/heist genre, as Dassin depicts a break-in at a jewelry store in real-time. The scene is over half an hour long, contains no dialogue, and gave such accurate detail of what it takes to avoid alarms and break into safes that the film was banned in some countries. Dassin was a great artist and I highly recommend his work.


The Washington Post has a very interesting article today on an Indian initiative giving community coalitions access to bureaucracies and input in the governance process.

But under a popular government initiative called Bhagidari, which is Hindi for partnership, citizens’ groups across New Delhi have been empowered to walk into any office and demand answers.

Since 2000, neighborhood groups participating in the program have collaborated with the government to solve everyday problems with sewage, trash collection, roads and community parks. And that is no small feat in a country infamous for its bureaucracy and red tape.

I have to think that giving citizens a means to hold government agencies responsible for implementing public works projects and maintaining infrastructure is a good idea. While I don’t think American civil services are as rife with corruption as India historically is, there is still benefit by building partnership between communities and government agencies tasked with making the quality of life in those communities better. At a fundamental level, the Bhagidari program is a valuable exercise in trust between community groups and government. I’d be very curious to see how this would look in America and what instances of similar partnerships already exist in American communities.

Hat tip to MS for the article.