Heiser Christmas Letter 2009

Govt. issues new marijuana guidelines: “Don’t ask, don’t tell.”—Ironic Times

☼ Weisman Foundation

Dick is thrilled at becoming a docent at the magnificent Frederick R. Weisman Foundation collection of 20th century art. It’s in a beautiful home. Make an appointment for a ninety–minute tour, offered weekday mornings and afternoons at (310) 277-5321 or tours@weismanfoundation.org. Ask for one of Dick’s tours so he will get to see you.

☮ Obama conciliation

Thank you, Barack Obama for being so generously bipartisan. Too bad that it hasn’t worked. Ralph Nader calls Obama a “concessionary president” who has given away the store for nothing. But, maybe he’s doing better than it sounds. Karma has a way of evening things out.

Nuclear weapons: We’re slowly but surely negotiating a new treaty with the Russians to reduce missiles, but the best part was Obama’s call for a world free of nuclear weapons. By the way, we need to de-enrich the warheads and not just disassemble them.

Critics said Obama gave away the European missile defense system without bargaining for anything in return. The next day the Russians announced they would not advance their intermediate-range ballistic missiles to the border. Nice.

Health insurance reform still looks pathetic, though; the policy options are bouncing all over the place. We haven’t begun to discuss whether we’ll have guaranteed insurability but unaffordable premiums based on age, gender, zip code, or medical history. We don’t understand that health insurance is not a conventional business like property insurance.

Financial regulation reform is something that didn’t seem likely to happen, but suddenly we got a House bill that regulates derivatives, clarifies and improves credit card and loan terms, and avoids systemic risk. Who knew anything was happening? Maybe the conciliatory approach works after all.

⚠ War in the Stans

The glass is half empty, too. Obama looks trapped by his previous support for war in Afghanistan. There are plenty of contrary warnings: the Afghans don’t want us, only a handful of Al-Qaeda fighters remain there, their government is corrupt and weak, powerful warring clans hate each other, etc.

On the other other hand, our strategy in Pakistan is even loonier. Seymour Hersh warns that in a crisis, we may be thinking of seizing Pakistan’s nuclear weapons to keep them from falling into the hands of Al-Qaeda. That is, we’re worried that Al–Qaeda might grab them, so we’ll grab them. We’ll mirror our worst nightmare. Sounds risky.


It’s going to be fun to watch the Olympics with a Tivo; it’s way efficient because you can focus on the action and fast–forward through the standing–around. Dick was experiencing déjà vu last time, when some events were broadcast more than once.

⌘ YouTube

Dick has been watching a lot of instructional YouTube videos lately. YouTube is more like a magazine than like TV; many historical videos have been posted, and each video is accompanied by a list of related videos, which lead to endless rabbit trails. Dick has linked to some videos and playlists from his homepage. Delightful videos include Michael Nagler’s PACS164 nonviolence course, J.K. Rowling’s and Bill Gates’ Harvard commencement speeches, Barack Obama’s foreign policy speeches, classical music performances and Music Animation Machine songs. Other recordings from The Teaching Company (www.teach12.com) are topnotch; Bill Gates says so, too. Dick listens in the car.

☺Feynman goes platinum

Dick plans to coordinate a PLATO study/discussion group this summer, on video lectures by Richard Feynman. The videos are posted on the web. There’s a link at dickheiser.info.

☞ So does Wikipedia

Wikipedia has continued to expand, and its reputation increases. People grudgingly admit that the articles are useful, amazingly comprehensive and easy to get. Facebook, too, is turning out to be better than we expected. But we still don’t tweet.

ℒ Better half

Loretta’s experimenting with different forms of collage. She’s even put one together with found objects.

We are grateful for good health, leisure and friends, and hope you will have the same good luck.

Peace and Love! Best Wishes for 2010! Dick and Loretta