Heiser Christmas Letter 2010

Friends don’t let friends unfriend friends

☼ Weisman Art Foundation

Dick loves giving tours of amazing 20th century art. The Weisman collection is full of humor, animals and lifelike people, which makes a visit very interesting. Ask for one of Dick’s tours, offered weekday mornings or afternoons at (310) 277-5321.

✌ Obama continues conciliating

Barak Obama continues to upset liberals. They’re urging him to “take the gloves off.” That’s not who he is. That’s not what nonviolence is, either. Gandhi and King practiced relationship–building with their opponents. That involves giving away a lot. The idea is to build trust and cooperation with the other side rather than to trick them into making mistakes. Listen. Help. Invite the Republicans for dinner again. Jonathan Freedland of the Guardian says Obama is smarter than he seems; “he plays the long slow game, advancing gradually.”

Republican reluctance to ratify the New START treaty is unsettling, since even most Republicans agree the treaty is good for us. We still have to be generous, even when the opponent is unreasonable, so Obama agreed to spend billions on nuclear weapons production, to reach out to Republicans. It’s hard to give away something that big, but the key is not to delay ratifying the treaty. Delay is like defeat, which re–raises the original question of limits to compromise.

☢ What missile?

At sunset on November 8th, a dramatic contrail appeared in the sky west of Los Angeles. The faa and norad assured us that it was not a secret or accidental missile launch, and that it was not the work of a foreign government. (How could they be so sure?) By a process of elimination, then, authorities concluded that it must have been only an airplane contrail, but many observers were unconvinced. Then an article claimed it was an ICBM launched from a Chinese nuclear submarine near Catalina Island! This missile was launched in our front yard as retaliation for the missile we recently launched just off the Chinese coast and our current nearby naval exercises. Since then, there has been no further word from the media. Maybe we’d rather not know! Dick is reluctant to become a conspiracy theorist; he would be happy to see a scientific investigation dispose of these concerns. Otherwise this was a dangerous nuclear posturing stunt and the world will eventually be destroyed.

☹ Infowar

In our PLATO Society course on whistleblowers, we learned that retaliation against whistleblowers never stops. That’s one reason it’s important that Julian Assange has created an anonymous publishing service for whistleblowers that focuses on the data rather than on the person. He’s a publisher who uses strong cryptography and international web hosting to withstand resistance. WikiLeaks won an award for exposing extrajudicial killings in Kenya. You can view his talk at the Oslo Freedom Forum via a link on Dick’s website. There’s a smear campaign on Assange in Sweden just like the one on weapons inspector Scott Ritter. Assange is a publisher in the same sense as the New York Times. There’s no basis for prosecuting him in the US.

The administration claims that WikiLeaks has endangered lives. Actually, WikiLeaks had sent the documents to the Pentagon and State Department inviting redactions. Apparently the government wouldn’t respond because then they would be implicitly approving release of the remaining text. Five world newspapers reviewed the material and WikiLeaks has followed their redactions. Then it was revealed that the New York Times had worked separately with the government to improve the redactions.

Dick understands the sensitivity of recent diplomatic negotiations, but the big mistake was building a database of 250,000 cables in the first place. Like an aircraft carrier, it’s too much honey in one pot. There’s no reason to search the reports of more than one country at a time anyway. Intelligence and diplomacy data would stay confidential if they were minimized and not sent to the field, and if they don’t document corruption and lies.

In an open society, reports of corruption, lies and crime will not stay secret. The good news this time, according to Le Figaro is, “We see no cynicism in American diplomacy. They really believe in human rights.”

☺Olympic visuals

The camerawork was stunning. The special effects and camera angles were superb. Dick loved the dramatic slow–motion shots upward at the ski jumpers; they were flying!

By running skiing events in reverse order of seeding, everybody got a moment in the sun as temporary leader, and got to stand by the podium.

〒Over–the–air digital TV

When the cable company jacked up the rates again, Dick decided to migrate to over–the–air digital TV.

Wow, what a picture! The New York Times says over–the–air is the new basic cable. “It can be crisper than cable or satellite because the pay TV companies compress the video data.”

Watching with a DVR is so much more efficient and convenient than watching broadcasts directly.

☯ Family news

We’re lucky we don’t have to multi–task like today’s parents. It’s too stressful! Dick’s habit of playing with puzzles and problems is healthy and fun. Nearing 70, he can’t believe how comfortable and lucky he feels.

Dick found that he can actually stretch his spine, simply by digging in his heels while lying down.

Hello from Loretta!!

Rand Policy Brief RB-9504 at www.rand.org analyzes the benefits of the healthcare reform bill; we hope everyone appreciates these improvements.

If it weren’t for the last minute, nothing would ever get done!

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

☮ Peace and love! Best wishes for 2011!

Dick and Loretta

“A noble spirit embiggens the smallest man.” — the Simpsons

They finally split the smithereen. — the Onion