30 August 2003

Do Republicans Manage the Economy Better than Democrats?

Poll results repeatedly show that Americans believe Republicans are better stewards when it comes to economic issues. Maybe it's the outcome from the preponderance of corporate media and conservative financial journals - because, the numbers simply don't bear out this truth at all. In fact, both the stock market and GDP have performed better under Democratic administrations. Ditto for House or Senate majorities.

What if the great depression era is excluded and years are tallied for the presidential party submitting the yearly budget? Still, the Democrats outshine the Republicans.

The economy grew in 19 of the 20 years in which Democratic Presidents submitted a budget and in 16 of the 20 years in which Republican Presidents submitted a budget.

For the twenty years for which Republican presidents submitted budgets, the average rate of GDP growth was 2.94%.

For the twenty years in which Democratic presidents submitted budgets, the average rate of GDP growth was 3.92%.

Well, many will argue, justifiably, that there is a lag time before economic and political policy can take root. So what if we looked at a two, three, four or five year lag? And let's examine inflation and unemployment too.

3 Yrs

4 Yrs

5 Yrs

GDP Growth












No matter what time lag you choose, Democrats post higher GDP growth, lower unemployment, and lower inflation.

29 August 2003

Schwarzenegger's Fuzzy Math

While he is drawing attention for past groping incidents and orgy participation, Blockbuster movie star and California gubernatorial candidate Arnold Schwarzenegger's remarks on tax rates in California were notable - a signal that he buys the W. Bush neoconservative "take two tax cuts and call me in the morning" economic soulution catch-all.
"I feel the people of California have been punished enough," Schwarzenegger said last week, oblivious to the voters' self-inflicted wounds after decades of demanding adequate government services they're not willing to pay for.

"From the time they get up in the morning and flush the toilet they're taxed," Schwarzenegger wails. "When they go get a coffee they're taxed ... This goes on all day long. Tax. Tax. Tax. Tax. Tax."

But is this oft repeated mantra that the public readily accepts grounded in truth? Columnist Paul Krugman says it's fuzzy math and has published a set of numbers that prove otherwise. For all but a fifth in the top income bracket, the state and local tax burden for California residents is lower than the national average.

Group Nation California
Bottom 20 % 11.4 11.3
Next 20 % 10.3 10.2
Middle 20% 9.6 9.2
Fourth 20% 8.8 8.7
Next 15% 7.7 8.1
Next 4% 6.5 7.6
Top 1% 5.2 7.2

Nationally, state and local taxes are highly regressive, and have become considerably more regressive over time. California's system is regressive, too, but not as much so as the national average. The result is that the typical California family pays less than the national average, but the well-off pay more.

So this is an alternative explanation of Ahnuld's remarks about the burden of taxes: he wasn't just mouthing right-wing cliches, he was reflecting what he sees. The kind of people he hangs out with do pay substantially higher taxes in California than they would if they lived in a red state. But the great majority of Californians aren't wealthy, and they also aren't highly taxed by national standards.

» read more

28 August 2003

Globalization is Breeding Hatred and Violence Around the World

What initially caused me to pick up a copy of World on Fire by Amy Chua was the listed endorsements from neconservative pundit Thomas Sowell and leftist Barbara Ehrenreigh on the back book sleeve. I couldn't fathom any common ground those two shared, thus my curiousity was aroused. The author, neither a proponent or detractor of globalization, lays the case in plain English that rapid democratization and full scale export of laissez faire capitalism is fermenting hatred and violence around the globe.

The author introduces the text with a personal story about her affluent Aunt's violent murder in the Phillipines. Describing how a small minority of Chinese dominate Filipino industry and commerce at every level contrasted against the poverty that embraces a majority of Filipinos, Chua sets the backdrop for her thesis challenging the conventional wisdom that exporting "free market democracy" would transform the world into a "community of modernized, peace-loving nations, and individuals into civic-minded citizens and consumers". Instead, we have witnessed ethnic violence, religous zealotry and hateful resentment. The Balkans, Zimbabwe, Indonesia, Rwanda and other recent current eruptions of ethnic violence serve up tragic proof.

Why? How did the globalization champions like Thomas Friedman miss the mark? Well, Chua contends that it's the combination of "market dominant minorities", implementation of unfettered laissez faire capitalism, and rapid democratization enabling impoverished majorities to lash back. The phenomenon of market dominant minorities can occur on a national level, like in the Phillipines, or on a regional level, as in the middle east where 220 million largely poor Arabs co-exist with 5 million more prosperous Jews. Or on a national stage, as America is perceived as controlling the world, to the detriment of natives across the globe. Post 9/11 anti-Americanism was cited - while we view our economic success as the result of entrepreneurial spirit and generations of hard work, others say our wealth and power are the "spoils of plunder, exploitation, and exclusion".
» read more

Republican Party Outsources Fund Raising to India

Unprecedented levels (at least in modern times) of unemployment and underemployment, yet Republican party powers send work overseas. Shows you where their sentiments are...
THE REPUBLICAN PARTY is using call centres in Gurgaon and Noida in India to raise funds for itself and for its chieftain, George W. Bush.

Young people at the call centres are helping robots to phone American citizens to enlist their support and money for the political party, with plans to extend the scheme if they whip up enough donations.

26 August 2003

Statewide Smoking Ban Widely Supported

84% of Arizonians favor passing a law to ban tobacco smoking in any place children may be present. 55% believe any business open to the public should turn the smoking light off. The only exceptions seem seem to be outdoors (26% in favor of ban) and bars where no food is served (only 33% in favor).

Personally, I quit smoking five years ago. Occasionally, I'll fire up a minature Macanudo to accompany a 38 degree fahrenheit frothy beverage. Although my home is a smoke free environment, I don't have a problem with second hand smoke unless it's blown in my face. But if I am the proprietor of a business serving the public, what right is it of the state to tell me I can't smoke in my own establishment? Nobody is compelled to come in and eat in my place. Consumers are free to frequent another establishment that caters to their desire for a smoke free environment.

I'm not claiming that I should have the right to engage in illegal activity on my property, or exclude individuals based on race, religion or sex. Quite the contrary, folks dissauded from entering my place due to the existence of chain smoking fiends are free to exclude my spot from the circle of establishments they visit on a regular basis. And it's not like a single restaurant should be tagged a necessity, to satisfy every whim of even the most finicky patron. It isn't exactly the same as a courthouse where everyone must report to when prescribed. And there's an ample supply of restaurants open to customers to choose from.
» read more

25 August 2003

Females weren’t welcome right now, especially females who couldn’t be protected

Iraqi blogger Riverbend writes of Iraq's descent into fundamentalism in a strife torn country where 65% of the population is unemployed and repression of women, just like in Taliban controlled Afghanistan, is on the rise. Here is her tale of attempting to get her computer geek job back...
I continued upstairs, chilled to the bone, in spite of the muggy heat of the building which hadn’t seen electricity for at least 2 months. My little room wasn’t much better off than the rest of the building. The desks were gone, papers all over the place… but A. was there! I couldn’t believe it- a familiar, welcoming face. He looked at me for a moment, without really seeing me, then his eyes opened wide and disbelief took over the initial vague expression. He congratulated me on being alive, asked about my family and told me that he wasn’t coming back after today. Things had changed. I should go home and stay safe. He was quitting- going to find work abroad. Nothing to do here anymore. I told him about my plan to work at home and submit projects… he shook his head sadly.

I stood staring at the mess for a few moments longer, trying to sort out the mess in my head, my heart being torn to pieces. My cousin and E. were downstairs waiting for me- there was nothing more to do, except ask how I could maybe help? A. and I left the room and started making our way downstairs. We paused on the second floor and stopped to talk to one of the former department directors. I asked him when they thought things would be functioning, he wouldn’t look at me. His eyes stayed glued to A.’s face as he told him that females weren’t welcome right now- especially females who ‘couldn’t be protected’. He finally turned to me and told me, in so many words, to go home because ‘they’ refused to be responsible for what might happen to me.

Ok. Fine. Your loss. I turned my back, walked down the stairs and went to find E. and my cousin. Suddenly, the faces didn’t look strange- they were the same faces of before, mostly, but there was a hostility I couldn’t believe. What was I doing here? E. and the cousin were looking grim, I must have been looking broken, because they rushed me out of the first place I had ever worked and to the car. I cried bitterly all the way home- cried for my job, cried for my future and cried for the torn streets, damaged buildings and crumbling people.

I’m one of the lucky ones… I’m not important. I’m not vital. Over a month ago, a prominent electrical engineer (one of the smartest females in the country) named Henna Aziz was assassinated in front of her family- two daughters and her husband. She was threatened by some fundamentalists from Badir’s Army and told to stay at home because she was a woman, she shouldn’t be in charge. She refused- the country needed her expertise to get things functioning- she was brilliant. She would not and could not stay at home. They came to her house one evening: men with machine-guns, broke in and opened fire. She lost her life- she wasn’t the first, she won’t be the last.

» read more

23 August 2003

John Ashcroft Is Coming To Town

An enjoyable editorial from the Des Moines Register on John Ashcroft.
» read more

State of Talk Radio in the Valley 2003

With KXAM bowing out of the local talk radio racket, only the two big honchos remain - KTAR and KFYI. Meanwhile, KFNX starts to fill its schedule with notable personalities including Sheriff Joe Arpaio, Betsy Bayless, Dr. Mike Newcomb, and KXAM emigre Ernest Hancock. Quirky KXAM is transforming into an all-G-Gordon-Liddy station with ample helpings of brokered programming to ensure listener dyspepsia. The KTAR lineup remained intact, with the only change the adding of a permanent slot for Ted Simons in the afternoon. KFYI shuffled its lineup - Heidi and Haywood were dumped and Goyette was relegated to night duty. Tom Liddy and Austin Hill snag the coveted afternoon drive time slot.

I've sampled all the local radio fare, and once again will share my gradebook with the online world. I realize there are a few other talk radio stations in the Phoenix area - KKNT (960 AM), KXEM (1010 AM), and KMYL (1190 AM), but I believe their programming schedules consist solely of national/network programming and/or infomercials. If I am incorrect, please tell me. A schedule of all the Valley radio programs may be found at Bradley's excellent Jabbertalky listing.

Now, let's dive into the rankings...
» read more

22 August 2003

Valley "Dirty Dozen" Gas Station List

KTAR David Leibowitz asked listeners to fax in receipts from local gas stations engaging in gouging customers during the gas shortage due to the busted Kinder Morgan pipeline. He's composed a list of the egregious violators and published it via his Leibo letter (I think it's posted on the KTAR web site now too). Gouging was defined as charging over $2.50 per gallon. You too can fax a receipt (602-241-6810) if you discover a service station owner goring the public and it will make the list if the price beats these...
  1. The Lucky 7 Tire Shop, 8946 N. 7th Street, Phoenix charged $3.97 a gallon on August 19th.
  2. T's 76 Station, 710 E. Indian School Road, Phoenix charged $3.80 a gallon on August 19th. (A note about these losers: I passed by there this morning and they'd lowered the price by a buck. If that sounds like a bargain, they're still 50 cents higher than the rest of the neighborhood. The good news? The pumps looked like a ghost town)
  3. The 7th Street Exxon, 1919 S. 7th Street, Phoenix, charged $3.00 a gallon on August 19th.
  4. Bell & I-17 Exxon, Phoenix, charged $2.96 a gallon on August 20th.
  5. Alta Mesa Chevron, 5965 E. Brown, Mesa, charged $2.90 a gallon on August 19th.
  6. Q Star Market, Apache and Rural, Tempe, charged $2.80 a gallon on August 19th.
  7. Ranch Texaco, 9550 N. 90th Street, Scottsdale, charged $2.80 a gallon on August 20th.
  8. Texaco, 83rd Place and Hayden, charged $2.80 a gallon on August 20th.
  9. Towers Texaco, 2816 S. Country Club, Mesa, charged $2.70 a gallon on August 20th.
  10. Superior 76, 6262 E. Main St., Mesa, charged $2.70 a gallon on August 20th.
  11. Francis & Sons 76, 7934 W. Thunderbird, Peoria, charged $2.70 on August 18th.
  12. Goldfield Chevron, 3265 S. Goldfield, Apache Junction, charged $2.70 a gallon on August 18th.

Leibowitz's efforts attracted national attention, as the Washington Post even commented upon his campaign.

31 Cents of Every Dollar Spent on Health Care in the United States Pays Administrative Costs

And that rate is nearly double the rate in Canada.
Researchers who prepared the comparison said today that the United States wasted more money on health bureaucracy than it would cost to provide health care to the tens of millions of the uninsured. Americans spend $752 more per person per year than Canadians in administrative costs, investigators from Harvard and the Canadian Institute for Health Information found.

20 August 2003

Military Families to Rally in Crawford, Texas

To send President Bush a message - BRING THEM HOME NOW.
The truth is coming out. The American public was deceived by the Bush administration about the motivation for and intent of the invasion of Iraq. It is equally apparent that the administration is stubbornly and incompetently adhering to a destructive course. Many Americans do not want our troops there. Many military families do not want our troops there. Many troops themselves do not want to be there. The overwhelming majority of Iraqis do not want US troops there.

Political Conservatism as Motivated Social Cognition

According to a research study performed by the American Psychological Association, the core of political conservatism is the resistance to change and a tolerance for inequality. Some other common psychological factors linked to conservatism include:
  • Fear and aggression
  • Dogmatism and intolerance of ambiguity
  • Uncertainty avoidance
  • Need for cognitive closure
  • Terror management

19 August 2003

Gasoline Industry in the Valley is Broken

Governor Napolitano calls out Kinder Morgan in an Tuesday afternoon press conference.
Napolitano met with pipeline owner Kinder Morgan this afternoon and said she wasn't satisfied with the answers she received.

The governor questioned why a 50-year-old gas pipeline wasn't inspected more often, and wondered why plans put in place to move more fuel into the Valley while the pipeline was down.

Napolitano stressed that the gas shortage predicament the Phoenix area is experiencing is due to the shut down pipeline owned by a private company. She expressed angst over the fact that no redundancy was setup and no contingency plans were in place in case of potential problems.

18 August 2003

Lights Out on Deregulation

Dennis Kucinich, guest blogging for Lawrence Lessig, has written an interesting piece about the energy company that was the responsible culprit for the blackout that gripped cities in the northeast U.S. and Canada.

17 August 2003

Valley Gas Pumps Run Dry

Most all of the gas stations in the Phoenix area vicinity are closed for business. Signs and yellow tape announcing "Out of Gas". Across the Valley, motorists are waiting in long lines, in some instances spending hours, at the few spots that do have gasoline. Governor Napolitano told KTAR radio host Michael Hagerty that supply was in existence, but distribution seems to be the problem. Tanker trucks are delivering gasoline to Phoenix from Tucson, as the pipeline, managed by Kinder Morgan Energy Partners, has been shut down for repairs. Some customers are reporting that pump prices have risen to close to $3 per gallon at some stations.

Yoy, one pipeline ruptures and the whole Phoenix motorists are crippled. Good Gates, what a tempting target for a plotting terrorist. With no refineries in Arizona, fuel must be piped in. But there are only two pipelines connected - one comes via Tucson from Texas and the other from Los Angeles.

And this news blurb from KFYI is comforting:

"Chuck" worked for Williams Pipeline from September 1999 to August 2000. His job was to place new fiber along the Kinder-Morgan pipeline that broke down over a week ago. He was shocked to see the condition of the 44-year-old pipeline. He says the pipeline is flaking and is ten years beyond the time for it to be replaced. The state Attorney General's office is in contact with the Federal Trade Commission, the U.S. Department of Energy and other Attorneys General to monitor the supply and price situation.

» read more

16 August 2003

Neither my mother nor Maria is allowed to go out with me in pants

Skeletons continue popping out of Arnold Schwarzenegger's closet.
During hundreds of interviews over three decades to promote 28 starring movie roles, the cameras rolled and the tape recorders were on as he openly smoked marijuana, acknowledged his Nazi father and admitted to steroid use. No doubt he wasn't thinking about his future constituents in Berkeley when he unloaded this comment on appropriate attire for women:

"I hate pants. This is something I have inherited from my father," the actor told Playboy magazine in 1988. "He despised pants, and my mother was never allowed to wear them at home. We're talking about a different time period now, when the man was much more the ruler of the house. But I still feel that way, and neither my mother nor Maria is allowed to go out with me in pants."

Not that smoking pot or gobbling up steroids should automatically disqualify him from office. But the womanizing, admiration for Kurt Waldheim, and the heavy handed treatment of any reporters probing his personal life should sound a shrill alarm.

13 August 2003

Cameras are a lot more affordable than extra people

Some schools now are relying on the "unblinking eye" of webcams to watch and preserve a video record of every school day.
When students in Biloxi, Miss., show up this morning for the first day of the new school year, a virtual army of digital cameras will be recording every minute of every lesson in every classroom.

Hundreds of Internet-wired video cameras will keep rolling all year long, in the hope that they'll deter crime and general misbehavior among the district's 6,300 students -- and teachers.

''It helps honest people be more honest,'' says district Superintendent Larry Drawdy, who, along with principals and security officers, can use a password to view classrooms from any computer. In an emergency, police also can tune in.

While I realize the intentions are benign, this bothers me greatly. I guess I should have never ever read 1984.

12 August 2003

Fox News Channel Claims They Own "Fair and Balanced" Phrase

Al Franken must be overjoyed that Fox News Channel has decided to pursue a trademark infringement lawsuit against him for the selected title of his soon to be released book Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right. What a godsend in the form of free publicity promoting sales for the book. Fox News also takes a few shots at the notorious satirist, who also wrote Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot.
In its fair and balanced way, Fox News refers in its suit to Franken as an "unstable" and "shrill" "C-level commentator" who is "not a well-respected voice in American politics."

Thanks, FNC, for reminding me about Franken's new book. I'll be sure to purchase a copy now.
» read more

A government action to address offshoring that makes sense

Finally, the mainstream media is awash in a rash of articles on the migration of white collar jobs to offshore locales. Here's a recent article that should get every American fuming - and it's a scenario that I've personally experienced in a previous job assignment.

Some of the proposed solutions to this epidemic would invoke more harm than good and would trigger a spate of unintended consequences. However, one idea that I've read seems logical, sensible and a sure fire way to put a clamp on the selling out of knowledge jobs in America.

Forbid, by law, the access and display of U.S. customer data outside the United States. If you use your American Express card, your account information is available to third world denizens not bound by U.S. law. Recently, I worked on projects related to health care privacy (HIPAA), but it seems a giant joke to put rules and restrictions on access to patient data when the computer systems that contain this data are easily accessed by foreign workers.

Why should foreign nationals and unscrupulous indivduals working in third world countries where bribes are made to achieve any official end (read this article on the "Living Dead" in India ) can provide your personal information to any unsavory agent?

Perhaps folks who don't feel sympathetic towards IT workers losing their jobs to offshore "transformation" (that's the word for outsourcing at the company I work at now ... well, at least for the next couple weeks), will agree that porting their personal customer data to the third world is not a prudent course.

11 August 2003

Land of the Midnight Inferno

July was the hottest month in recorded history for Phoenix area residents. And yesterday, the thermometer topped out at 116 degrees, setting a new record for a high temperature in August. As I compose this report, even after darkness has set in for a couple of hours, it's 108 degrees in Phoenix.

It sure turned Sunday yard work into a grueling adventure. The hand on my back porch wall thermometer eclipsed 100 before 8 am. Frantically finishing up, I had to take numerous breaks toward the end of my chores. Nearly five hours were spent toiling under the fiery sun. I debated getting an earlier start, but didn't think my neighbors would be too appreciative at the sound of my lawn mower at 6 am on a Sunday morning.

Meanwhile, in Europe, a record heatwave that has brung triple digit temperatures, now in its second week, is taxing utility companies and responsible for many deaths. Air conditioning is not a fixture in Northern Europe where the average summertime temperature is in the 70 degree range.

10 August 2003

Bush administration persistently manipulates scientific data to serve its ideology

Politics & Science, an online repository for investigating the Bush administration's promotion of ideology over science, has released a report that finds numerous instances where the Administration has manipulated the scientific process and distorted or suppressed scientific findings. Beneficiaries include important supporters of the President, including social conservatives and powerful industry groups.

7 August 2003

Whatchoo talking about Arnold?

Arnold Schwarzenegger upstaged Gary Coleman and announced on the Jay Leno show that he will be a candidate for governor in the upcoming California recall election. He started his campaign to win the governorship of the largest state in fine Hollywood fashion, blurting out action movie slogans to a cheering television studio audience.
"Do your job for the people or else you're out. It's hasta la vista, baby," Ah-nold said, repeating the Terminator's catch phrase in his famous Teutonic accent.

"I will pump Sacramento up," he said. "I will go to Sacramento, and I will clean house."

Forgive me if I don't leap on to the Arnold for governor bandwagon - I realize millions of Californians and Americans are enthralled with the blockbuster superstar's political foray, but I believe it bothersome, and I'm thankful I am not a California resident. What exactly qualifies the immigrant son of a Nazi stormtrooper to be a state governor? California's dismal problems can't be solved by sci-fi flick quips. Folks will point to Ronald Reagan, Jesse Ventura and other examples where sports stars pursued a second political career. But there was a large gap of time before ascending to the presidency where Reagan performed executive type behavoir, like being president of the screen actors guild.

Sorry but celebrity status and treasure chests packed with gold doesn't convince me of Schwarzenegger's suitability. And his boast that "I don't need to take money from anyone - I have plenty of money myself." is a hollow cry as he, no doubt, will serve nothing more than a front man token for a small group of ideological extremists to wreak more devastation on a state that is already reeling.

6 August 2003

Bush Administration's Top 40 Lies About War and Terrorism

All the President's Lies

Rumsfeld is an arrogant asshole

Retired colonel David Hackworth continues to lash out against the Bush administration and its Iraq invasion campaign, this time in a Salon interview. Hackworth details how his pair of web sites, Soldiers for the Truth and, are serving as a "repository for the gripes and fears of America's beleaguered combat troops".
On a typical day Hackworth receives hundreds of e-mails, letters and faxes from American soldiers, complaining about everything from silk-weight underwear to the weapons they've been assigned. "Pistols suck," wrote one soldier. "Bring and use every weapon. Shotguns are great at close ranges." At a time when soldiers have been disciplined for griping to the media, Hackworth is providing a fascinating outlet for what they're really experiencing. Among the more evocative messages:

"Soldiers are living in the dirt, with no mail, no phone, no contact with home, and no break from the daily monotony at all. I practically got in a fist fight with this captain over letting my private send an e-mail over his office's internet. This clown spends his days sending flowers to his wife and surfing the net. Fucking disgraceful and all too typical of today's Army."

"Soldiers get literally hundreds of flea or mosquito bites and they can't get cream or Benadryl to keep the damn things from itching ... .I am not talking about bringing in the steak and lobster every week. I am talking about basic health and safety issues that continue to be neglected by the Army."

» read more

Generational Divide on Homosexual Rights

In Minneapolis, the Episcopal Church approved the election of its first openly gay bishop, in a move that threatens to split the denomination in two.

It seems that it's the summer of gay news story inundation, taking the heat off the Bush administration for the economic problems that plague the nation and the scandalous web of PR deceit that they weaved to justify the Iraq invasion. First, Supreme Court ruling that struck down a Texas sodomy law. Then a plan for a New York high school dedicated to gay students. And the story on Canada changing its laws to permit gay marriage.

While I wish no harm to those who pursue an alternative path of sexuality, I'm uncomfortable and uneasy with the thought of gay religous leaders or gay marriages providing benefits that traditionally are granted to married couples. According to polls on the matter, I'm not alone in my assessment.

In analyzing the poll data, one observation leaps out off the page. When Americans are asked if they are in favor of homosexual marriage, 55% are opposed, 40% are in favor. But if you examine the age breakdowns, it is remarkable how dependent the value is upon the responder's age. Young Americans, under 30, are in favor of gay marriage by a margin of 61-35. Those 65 and older are against such unions by a large spread, 73-18. And the average number slides downward for each younger age bracket. The 30-44 age bracket is dead on matched with the 55-40 against overall mark.

Is this phenomenon emblematic of a future change in national social policy or will those young adults modify their beliefs and conform to the beliefs of the elderly today?

4 August 2003

Seabiscuit is mammoth audience pleasing movie of Summer 2003

Just about everyone loves to root for the underdog, to cheer for the undermatched or to champion the accomplishments of the disadvantaged. So it should be no wonder that theater audiences for Seabiscuit showings are erupting into applause even before the onset of final credits. It is a heartwarming tale where all the principal players, including the horse, all are physically handicapped, beaten down by life or been broken in spirt, yet all rise back up to hurdle over the obstacles life bestows in front of them. Each driven by passion, they in turn fuel the passionate desire of eachother in the backdrop of the Great Depression era.

Usually, I am not a big fan of the tear jerker, sentimental drama fare, and even Seabiscuit serves up sporadic doses of cheese. Still, this flick is in the must-see category.

Seabiscuit is a screen adaptation of a bestseller written by Laura Hillenbrand. The author's tale is an inspiring one also, on a scale larger than the ones the characters in her book endured. Battling a debilitating illness, it's been a herculean effort for her to live life, let alone pen a blockbuster selling book.

2 August 2003

Missing 28 pages detail connections between the 9/11 hijacking plot and the very top levels of the Saudi royal family

According to a New Republic article, an official who has read the entire joint Congressional committee report on the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack, Saudi Arabia's support of the hijackers goes far beyond the cited links to Al Qaeda charities.
The Bush administration has, of course, good reason for not wanting to ruffle the Saudis by declassifying the 28 pages. Saudi Arabia sits atop 25 percent of the world's proven oil reserves and, through its dominant position in OPEC, essentially controls the global energy market. In addition to stabilizing world oil prices--most recently during the run-up to the war with Iraq--the Saudis also directly subsidize American consumers by offering oil at lower prices to the United States. In a 2002 article for Foreign Affairs, petroleum experts Edward Morse and James Richard estimated the subsidy at $620 million a year. It's probably much larger now, given recent trends in oil prices and the volume of oil imports. A serious conflict with the Saudis could not only disrupt an already turbulent Middle East, but could halt the economic recovery here and perhaps even precipitate a global downturn.

The Bush administration has insisted, again and again, that the war on terror is its first priority. In testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz argued, "The battle to secure the peace in Iraq is now the central battle in the global war on terror." Wolfowitz says this presumably because he still believes that Saddam Hussein's regime had close ties with Al Qaeda. But it's looking more and more like the principal theater in the war on terror lies elsewhere. The official who read the 28 pages tells The New Republic, "If the people in the administration trying to link Iraq to Al Qaeda had one-one-thousandth of the stuff that the 28 pages has linking a foreign government to Al Qaeda, they would have been in good shape." He adds: "If the 28 pages were to be made public, I have no question that the entire relationship with Saudi Arabia would change overnight."

1 August 2003

Talk to the Paw

Japanese toy company Takara is importing their popular Bow-Lingual product, a digital device that "translates" your dog's barks into English phrases, to U.S. retailers. This gadget identifies your dark's barks, er his "woof print", as belonging to one of six different moods - happy, sad, frustrated, needy, on-guard or assertive. A random phrase will then be displayed from that mood category. Sort of like that baby translator that Uncle Herb, Homer's half brother, built in a Simpsons show episode.
The battery-powered product consists of two parts: a cordless microphone that attaches to your dog's collar, and a wireless receiver that displays the translations and other data on a tiny screen. It has a range of 30 feet, or even farther in rural and suburban settings. Along with bark translation, the Bow-Lingual handset's main screen also offers dog-owning tips, and a home-alone feature that keeps a log of your dog's barks for as many as 12 hours while you're away. Bow-Lingual comes in bright hues of blue or red, and each color device operates on a different frequency, in case you want to use it with more than one dog.

Takara insists there is real science behind this product. It is based on analysis by the Japan Acoustic Laboratory, a private research lab, of thousands of barks from over 80 breeds. The JAL grouped the barks into one of six moods according to the bark's digital voiceprint or sound wave shape: happy, sad, frustrated, needy, on-guard and assertive.

Accurate or not, it will be a good seller as Americans continue to spend more money on their pets...