28 November 2003

Things you have to believe to be a Republican today

  • Being a drug addict is a moral failing and a crime, unless you’re a conservative radio host. Then it’s an illness and you need our prayers for your recovery.

  • The United States should get out of the United Nations, and our highest national priority is enforcing U.N. resolutions against Iraq.

  • Government should relax regulation of Big Business and Big Money but crack down on individuals who use marijuana to relieve the pain of illness.

  • “Standing Tall for America” means firing your workers and moving their jobs to India.

  • A woman can’t be trusted with decisions about her own body, but multi-national corporations can make decisions affecting all mankind without regulation.

  • Jesus loves you, and shares your hatred of homosexuals and Hillary Clinton.

  • The best way to improve military morale is to praise the troops in speeches while slashing veterans’ benefits and combat pay.

  • Group sex and drug use are degenerate sins unless you someday run for governor of California as a Republican.

  • If condoms are kept out of schools, adolescents won’t have sex.

  • A good way to fight terrorism is to belittle our long-time allies, then demand their cooperation and money.

  • HMOs and insurance companies have the interest of the public at heart.

  • Providing health care to all Iraqis is sound policy. Providing health care to all Americans is socialism.

  • Global warming and tobacco’s link to cancer are junk science, but creationism should be taught in schools.

  • Saddam was a good guy when Reagan armed him, a bad guy when Bush’s daddy made war on him, a good guy when Cheney did business with him and a bad guy when Bush needed a “we can’t find Bin Laden” diversion.

  • A president lying about an extramarital affair is an impeachable offense. A president lying to enlist support for a war in which thousands die is solid defense policy.

  • Government should limit itself to the powers named in the Constitution, which include banning gay marriages and censoring the Internet.

  • The public has a right to know about Hillary’s cattle trades, but George Bush’s driving record is none of our business.

  • You support states’ rights, which means Attorney General John Ashcroft can tell states what local voter initiatives they have a right to adopt.

  • What Bill Clinton did in the 1960s is of vital national interest, but what Bush did in the ’80s is irrelevant.

  • Trade with Cuba is wrong because the country is communist, but trade with China and Vietnam is vital to a spirit of international harmony.

27 November 2003

Vegetal and mineral memory: The future of books

An insightful and thought provoking article by one of the world's leading philosophers.

25 November 2003

$9 million of federal funds designated for the reconstruction of Iraq were used to suppress globalization protests

United Steelworkers of America call for congressional investigation into "police state assaults" in Miami Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) meetings last week:
"Last week, the fundamental rights of thousands of Americans … were blatantly violated, sometimes violently, by the Miami police, who systematically repressed our Constitutional right to free assembly with massive force, riot gear and armaments," said Leo W. Gerard, USWA international president, in a letter to Congressional leaders.

"It is condemnable enough that a massive police state was created to prevent American citizens from directly petitioning FTAA negotiators for redress of their grievances," Gerard said in the letter.

SCOTUS and International Law

Clipped from an article named The Supreme Court's Disturbing New Internationalism, or OUR EUROCENTRIC JUSTICES or Courting International Law as it was originally titled.
Lost in the hoopla over the Supreme Court's decisions last term on affirmative action and gay rights is the development of a disturbing new legal trend, one hinted at by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor in a speech last week.

Increasingly, it seems, the court is relying on international law and opinion as the basis for domestic legal decisions. For an institution that puts so much stock in precedence, this move is, well, unprecedented. Worse, it spells potential trouble down the road.

In several of its highest-profile cases, the court looked for guidance from, among other bodies, the European Council for Human Rights and the U.N. For the first time, these authorities are being granted as much or more weight as U.S. law, or even the Constitution, in the court's decisions. This is a serious abuse of the Supreme Court's judicial review responsibility, as well as its role as the ultimate arbiter in our legal system.

Is a disturbing new legal trend fraught with peril indeed evident?

24 November 2003

Macs Better Than PCs

So says the Sydney Morning Herald.

Federal Spam Law is Evil and Useless

By a margin of 392-5, the House approved an anti-spam bill on Saturday. President Bush is expected to sign the bill into law.

This legislation will be most ineffective in curing the tide of spam, and worse contains provisions that make it outright evil.

This bill makes it a crime to use any false or misleading information in a domain name or email account application, and then send an email. That would make a large fraction of hotmail users instant criminals.

It also makes it a crime to remove or alter information in message headers in ways that would make it harder for a police officer to determine who had sent the email. Anonymizers will be illegal as soon as this bill becomes law.

There are MANY, MANY other things wrong with it -- including the fact that most of its provisions apply to *ALL* commercial email, not just BULK commercial email -- and that it takes zero account of the FirstAmendment, attempting to list what topics someone can validly send messages about, while outlawing all other topics that relate to commercial transactions.

If it passes, I think I can make a criminal out of just about any company. Companies are liable for spam that helps them, even if they had no part in sending it.

Read the bill yourself:

And weep. And then call your Congressman.

An important theme on the anti-spam campaign has not been discussed in the mainstream debate - that any measure for stopping spam must ensure that all non-spam messages reach their intended recipients.

23 November 2003

The Chile Con

In today's Arizona Republic, columnist Robert Robb repeats conservative and libertarian think tank mantra on the argument for social security privatization. Robb omits some crucial details and offers a disservice in applying disinformation on other points. A serious examination into the matter reveals insidious subterfuge by monied interests, wishing to get their grubby hands all over another financial pie.

First, on the matter of Social Security being in trouble:

Social Security is not going broke. In fact, even under the pessimistic assumptions of the Social Security trustees, Social Security can pay full benefits until the year 2041. Thereafter, Social Security can still pay more than two thirds of its promised benefits.

Each year, in early spring, the trustees of Social Security release their report. As required by law, the trustees present what can be described as their best guesses for three different scenarios for the future of Social Security. In their annual report for 2002, the trustees project that Social Security will take in more in income than it will pay out in expenditures until 2017. Between 2017 and 2027, interest income earned on the trust fund assets is forecasted to make up the difference between income and expenditures. After 2027, Social Security is expected to draw down its trust funds to pay for the expenditures that are not covered by income. Finally, in 2041, the trust fund surplus is expected to be depleted, and annual revenue into the program is projected to be less than expenditures. However, the trustees project that Social Security will still be able to pay for more than two-thirds of its promised benefits from 2041 to 2076.

So, in another words, the Social Security program, for the next 15 years, will generate a surplus in each year. And it won't be until nearly 40 years later until that the surplus will be exhausted and revenue is exceeded by expenditures. And, by the most pessismistic model. Each for the fifth straight year, the trustees pushed back the date when the trust fund was projected to run into trouble.

But a greater faux pas by Robb is extolling the virtues of the Chilean model. One needs to peel aside the propaganda and simply look at the facts, which are emblematic of all social security privatization schemes to date around the globe, including an equivalent comparison here in the states between 401K programs and pension plans.

The real return after commissions over other periods of time is even lower. For example, although the average rate of return on funds from 1982 through 1986 was 15.9 percent, the real return after commissions was a mere 0.3 percent! Between 1991 and 1995, the pre-commission return was 12.9 percent, but with commissions it fell to 2.1 percent. Chilean regulators have sought to lower commissions, which have come down from their peak of 8.69 percent of taxable salary in 1984 to around 3.1 percent today (this includes a disability insurance premium of around 1 percent of income), but these middleman fees still represent between 16.7 percent and 20 percent of a worker's overall social security contributions (administrative costs under the old public system in Chile represented 5 percent of total contributions). By contrast, the U.S. system pays no commissions, and administrative costs are less than 2 percent of workers' contributions. Upon a Chilean worker's retirement, financial advisors charge fees as high as 3 percent to 5 percent of the worker's total accumulated funds to help the worker choose among various financial options.

Administrative costs will be 15 to 400 times greater under a privatized plan, according to empirical data. Even the Bush touted private accounts plan features administrative costs seven times greater than the current program.

The trustees report also shows that the Social Security system is far more efficient than the private accounts advocated by Bush. The administrative costs of running private accounts -- the money paid out to financial industry -- would be about 5 percent of annual benefits, according to the commission's own estimates. By contrast, the Social Security trustees report shows that the administrative costs of running the Social Security system are just 0.7 percent of annual benefit payments. The difference would amount to tens of billions of dollars paid from workers' retirement savings to the financial industry.

And that's money drawn out of the pockets of needy flowing into the coffers of the already wealthy...

22 November 2003

AARP Sellout

AARP members are lodging their dissatisfaction online in the wake of its leadership embracing a Republican-backed Medicare plan.

Columnist Paul Krugman chimes in with a good take on the matter:

...As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities points out, the bill will force millions of beneficiaries to pay more for drugs, thanks to a provision that cuts off supplemental aid from Medicaid. Poorer recipients may find previously affordable drugs moving out of reach.

That's only one of a number of anti-retiree measures tucked away in the bill. It contains several Trojan horse provisions that are clearly intended to undermine Medicare over time — it will allow private insurers to cherry-pick healthy clients in selected cities, and it will heavily subsidize private plans competing with traditional Medicare. Meanwhile, the bill prohibits Medicare from using its bargaining power to cut drug prices; drug company stocks have soared since the bill's details became public.

Medicare bill winners, losers.

20 November 2003

Autoresponders - what are they good for?

Just how good is your website?

I hate autoresponders. Not those generated when you indirectly request them via a web form. Like requesting a new password or for a notification message that you've preordained is important enough to warrant an incoming email message. The autoresponders that irritate me are those incoming mail messages that you didn't pre-approve. The mildest form would be someone informing you they are out of the office and list alternate contact points. More insidious is the "Thank you for writing me!" responders that tell you that your message is important and we love you. Then there's the "I'm too busy too read all of this filthy email but you can use a web form here to submit feedback". Here's one from Arizona Congressman JD Hayworth:

Thank you for taking the time to e-mail me. Hearing from my constituents is one of the most important and rewarding parts of representing Arizona’s 5th Congressional District. In order to provide you with a more timely response we have updated our constituent e-mail system. You can now e-mail me by clicking on and following the directions. Please note that I will only receive your e-mail if you send it through this web page. Again, your comments are very important to me and I appreciate you taking the time to contact me with your views.  

Best regards,  

J. D. Hayworth
Member of Congress

Others are too important to even give you a web form:

Thank you for emailing Vice President Cheney. Your ideas and comments are very important to him.

There's also automatic employment rejections, undeliverable mail notifications, and whole bunch of stuff from MSN Hotmail:

Si ya ha iniciado sesión en su cuenta de Hotmail, haga clic en "Ayuda" en la esquina superior derecha para poder acceder a nuestras instrucciones de ayuda automática y también a nuestro sistema de respuestas automatizadas. Si no encuentra la respuesta en ninguno de estos documentos, basta con hacer clic en un vínculo de la Ayuda para ponerse en contacto directamente con nuestro personal del servicio de soporte técnico de MSN Hotmail.

It's just gunk in the digital networks.

Rick Bloom's got a mike, and "funny" has a whole new meaning

Any press is better than no press, even a Phoenix New Times article by Robrt Pela that pans the KFNX 1100 AM morning show.

In other KFNX related notes, Mike Newcomb's On Second Thought can be heard 5-7 PM and Arizona's libertarian broadcast deacon Ernest Hancock has the weekday noon (12-1 PM) hour slot.

Credit Reporting Files Now Sent Abroad

A story floating below the awareness of many who instead, are more captivated by whether Michael Jackson is a child molestor or who is the Sexiest Man Alive.

But it's an article that should alarm all Americans.

Privacy advocates say the outsourcing of files that include Social Security numbers and complete credit histories could lead to a surge in identity theft because U.S. laws cannot be enforced overseas.

The article's author correctly points out that foreign countries are devoid of laws protecting piracy but glosses over another charge. A credit bureau lobbyist spokesman, labeling critics against offshore relocation of such functions as "xenophobic", misses a more essential truth. It isn't that I think Hindus are "less safe" - it's that conditions in countries like India are inducive to impropriety. Bribes and kickbacks in developing countries are standard operating procedure and there is no doubt that for a small pittance, sensitive information would be readily given up by foreign nationals. Granted, there's no guarantee that a U.S. operation can provide a 100% warranty against such malfeasance. But here workers don't have to buy the families of electric utility workers dinner to keep the power from getting yanked out either.

19 November 2003

Arizona Lost 19,000 High-Tech Jobs 2001-2002

The nation's second-sharpest decline in terms of percentage (15%).
Nationally, Cyberstates 2003 reported that high-tech employment fell by 540,000 jobs, dropping to six million in 2002. However, using preliminary data, AeA estimated that the tech industry will lose 234,000 jobs in 2003.

New Hampshire was the only state to top Arizona in terms of percentage of high-tech jobs lost, with its high-tech sector suffering an 18 percent drop in employment. In sheer numbers, California lost the greatest number of jobs (123,000) but remained the nation's biggest high-tech employment state at 995,000 jobs.

Korea to build 100M bps Internet system

While the United States spends $87 billion on rebuilding Iraq, South Korea is earmarking the equivalent of $80 billion to build a nationwide Internet access infrastructure capable of speeds between 50M bps (bits per second) and 100M bps by 2010. By comparison, Cox Communications, provider of high speed internet service to Phoenix metropolitan area residents, offers a maximum of 3Mbps. Not that Korea wasn't already in the forefront of high speed internet availability:
South Korea is already regarded as the world's leading broadband nation, with 11.3 million broadband subscribers in a population of 48 million, and with 85 percent of new subscribers opting for broadband, according to telecommunication equipment vendor Alcatel SA.

An estimated 370,000 jobs will be created as a result of the initiative. Not too shabby in a nation with a population of 48 million. Should the U.S. be pursuing a similar plan, investing in its electronic network infastructure?

18 November 2003

Why did the Israelis attack the Liberty?

More tales of government lies in the 1960s.

Admiral John McCain, father of current Arizona senator John McCain, was a player in the Israeli military attack on the USS Liberty off the coast of Gaza back in 1967, Jeffery St. Clair reports.

On June 6, the Joint Chiefs sent Admiral McCain, father of the senator from Arizona, an urgent message instructing him to move the Liberty out of the war zone to a position at least 100 miles off the Gaza Coast. McCain never forwarded the message to the ship.

Then Admiral McCain directed the coverup after...

But the book wasn't closed for the sailors either, of course. After a Newsweek story exposed the gist of what really happened on that day in the Mediterranean, an enraged Admiral McCain placed all the sailors under a gag order. When one sailor told an officer that he was having problems living with the cover-up, he was told: "Forget about it, that's an order."

Wikipedia has a nice writeup on the USS Liberty attack, including a letter from the USS Liberty Veterans Association:
» read more

Rick Bloom Show Daily Journals

Heard on KFNX 1100 AM weekday mornings 6-9 AM, according to Jabbertalky. The Rick Bloom Show with Dale Silverman has a nifty web page though I didn't discover any posted schedule show times. Chance has prevented me from sampling it so far, a browsing of the posted daily journal recaps tells of interesting guests like Arizona Republic writers Bill Goodykoontz, Paola Boivin, US Senator Zell Miller, AZ Attorney General Terry Goddard and NY Times economics writer Paul Krugman.

No online show archives availabe, but a KFNX internet stream can be heard here if luck and technology converge for you. It was troublesome getting a steady sound stream, perhaps Safari launching Windows Media Player sans plugin is to blame. And you'll have to endure some annoying sound distortion.

Salon Day of the Dead Wins 2003 Online Journalism Award

In the "feature journalism" category for a story on the mysterious deaths of hundreds of women in the border town Ciudad Juarez.

Read the full the list of awardees here.

Republican Hypocrisy Part LXIII

Republican politicos are harshly decrying the Senate Democrat tactics in blocking some of President W. Bush's judicial nominees, and refuting charges that they acted in the same fashion during Clinton's terms.

Are they correct? Or were they just as committed and ruthless in their pursuit to keep many Clinton judicial nominees from taking office? Let's examine the historical record, shall we.

During the eight years of Clinton's watch, 63 Clinton judicial nominees were blocked, thus setting his approval success rate at 83%. Thus far, for W. Bush, only 6 apointees have been blocked while 168 have passed. That tallies to a 97% approval success rate for Team Bush II. If the Democrats were maintaining the same rate as Republicans they would have blocked 23 nominees by now.
» read more

12 November 2003

Revisionist Reaganism

CBS is still backpedaling for its decision to yank the broadcasting of a miniseries on "The Reagans", claiming that the conservative outcry was not the ruling factor, just that "it was a moral decision, not an economic or a political one". I've searched and scanned the right wing internet zines, enduring the third grade reading level of many of them, but I've yet to see what the big hullabaloo is about. In fact, you can review the series script as it's been posted online. About the only specific knock against it is the literary license taken for a quote about AIDS -- "They that live in sin shall die in sin". But several biographers and historians have attested that he indeed spoke of AIDS as God's punishment for those inflicted with the deadly disease. Yes, there's a few other "fly on the wall" type conversation blurbs publicized from the cancelled show that are a dramatization of affairs, but nobody minds too much when Bob Woodward does it, or the propaganda flacks who twisted the Jessica Lynch story or just about any televised bit on the Kennedys. I suppose much of the criticism is directed at the portrayal of Ronald Reagan as a heartless ogre. But then again, here was a man who refused to acknowledge the existence of poverty in America and shared anecdotal stories with the public that were simply fiction.

Arizona Republic Viewpoints contributor Mark Genrich's The BS in CBS is a classic illustration of conservative hypocrisy. Mr. Genrich pronounces the production a "mendacious fiction" based simply on a few blurbs of dialogue, and not having even seen the show. It seems conservatives are so set on embracing the Reagan mythos, despite the historical record that marks a subpar presidency.

I haven't read the entire script, but I bet that the story, centered in scandalous personal travails of the Reagan clan, omitted some far greater historical truths:

  • Giving missles and weapons to Islamic terrorists and rewarding hostage taking while publicly disclaiming such actions.

  • Charge of an administration seeped in corruption. Much was made of the impropriety during Clinton's watch, but under Reagan/Bush, his staff claimed over 30 felony convictions (in contrast to 2 for the Clinton years) and departments like HUD were awash in wrongdoing.

  • Harsh economic times that funneled an incredible increase in income to the upper 20% of Americans but left the average working American with a lower standard of living and a larger tax bill, despite being heralded as a tax cutting champion.

  • Support of murderous regimes in Central America and the approval of the South Africa system. Of course, this was a man who was against the 1964 Civil Rights Act and supported segregation, rekindling the Republican's "Southern Strategy" that began with Nixon.

  • Lying repeatedly to the American public about the Iran/Contra scandal, trashing the Constitution in a gross Machiavellian display of hegemony.

George W. Bush a Disgrace to this Veteran

One veteran's Veteran's Day screed for 2003:
A soldier’s responsibility is to “defend America,” at all costs and with his or her life if necessary. It is an oath. It is a creed. However, on this Veteran’s Day, this Veteran has to wonder exactly how our troops in Iraq are “defending” this nation, “defending” our way of life, or are “defending” our shores. This is not a “defensive” war. There were no Iraqi citizens on those planes that fateful day in September. There were no Iraqi citizens “infiltrating” our shores. This war didn’t have to happen and we are no safer as American citizens because of it. Our soldiers are being forced to kill rather than protect. Yes, there is a huge difference. As a veteran, that does not make me proud at all. In fact, I feel used.

This war, and the death that is the result, is the direct fault of the President of these United States. He decided that he had a score to settle (for numerous reasons) and it is evident that his decision serves the self-interests of his business partners. This is in no way a “defensive war,” nor are our troops “protecting” this country or its citizens. American forces are not “protecting” our way of life. They have been misused and they are now dying as are their “enemy,” which includes many civilians. This is a war created by Americans so powerful and wealthy that one could call them demigods, who preemptively invaded a region of the world they neither understand nor respect. They have turned the men and women serving in our Armed Forces into cowboys wearing black hats, the same black hats you saw on TV worn by the ‘villains’ in old Western movies.

10 November 2003

Comparative Home Prices in the U.S.

According to Coldwell Banker, a 2,200 square foot home in La Jolla, California will set you back nearly $1.4 million, the most expensive in the states, while Binghamton, New York is the most affordable, at $121,400.

In Arizona, Scottsdale is the locale for all the pricey real estate while Mesa offers the best bargains.

8 November 2003

Welcome to the Machines

Former Clinton Secretary of Labor Robert Reich with an interesting take on the disappearance of manufacturing jobs and how it's not a phenomenon exclusive to the United States:
America has been losing manufacturing jobs to China, Latin America and the rest of the developing world. Right? Well, not quite. It turns out that manufacturing jobs have been disappearing all over the world. Economists at Alliance Capital Management in New York took a close look at employment trends in 20 large economies recently, and found that since 1995 more than 22 million factory jobs have disppeared.

In fact, the United States has not even been the biggest loser. Between 1995 and 2002, we lost about 11 percent of our manufacturing jobs. But over the same period, the Japanese lost 16 percent of theirs. And get this: Many developing nations are losing factory jobs. During those same years, Brazil suffered a 20 percent decline.

Here’s the real surprise. China saw a 15 percent drop. China, which is fast becoming the manufacturing capital of the world, has been losing millions of factory jobs.

What’s going on? In two words: Higher productivity.

4 November 2003

PR Specialist of Debunked Persian Gulf War Incubator Story Promotes Book on Jessica Lynch Rescue

Weapons of Mass Deception author John Stauber connects the dots in the public relations campaign to promote the Jessica Lynch story. And tells of how the same folks who spearheaded a PR blitz for the first gulf war that included shocking but completely phony testimony on Iraqi soldiers murdering Kuwaiti babies are behind the Private Jessica propaganda.

Stauber has performed some interesting muckraking on the doctor spirited out of Iraq and given a cushy lobby firm post.

3 November 2003

Zell, the Republican Shill

Late Sunday night, while doing some studying, I ended up listening to a tape of Meet the Press with Tim Russert on MSNBC. Now I don't make a habit of watching these Sunday news shows where limp witted hosts serve up softball questions to pious politicos. And when it comes to pandering pundits of the Team Bush persuasion, none can pry the prize away from Russert. But it was on and I listened first to Mr. Rumsfeld defend the POTUS plan in Iraq, which didn't sound any different than the daily Fox News executive memos. Then Russert interviewed Zell Miller, Democrat Senator from Georgia who simply astounded me, with his outrageous remarks on his party.

First off, I have no qualm with Mr. Miller's opposition to the present day Democratic party platform, that is if there really is any coherent plan in existence. That Miller disagrees with his colleagues on matters such as Iraq invasion or runaway budget deficits really is his prerogative and an affair for voters in his home state to address. Shocking, however, was his defiance of the historical truth, in attacking his own party and endorsement of President W. Bush. In doing so, he slandered the factual record in an attempt to appease his right wing champions.

Let us tally the transgressions:

  • He invoked the conservative mythos that places John F. Kennedy into the same realm as Republicans Reagan and Bush. The upper income tax rate when JFK lowered taxes was a whopping 91%. And it was lowered to 77%. A far cry, indeed, from marks that whittled it down to a third, and despite claims from the Kennedy camp that such comparisons were ludicrous exercises.

  • He lamented Walter Mondale's pledge to raise taxes in the 1984 presidential campaign, yet does not acknowledge that taxes actually increased for the average American under Reagan's watch. For the majority of workers in the U.S. during the 1980s, taxes, as a percentage of income, went up significantly. All the while budget deficits soared to unprecedented heights.

  • In heralding Bill Clinton for welfare reform and deficit containment, he totally disregards the Clinton push for health care reform. Although it was spiked by special interests of the insurance industry kind, it was motivated by a progressive desire to amend a system that is spiraling out of control, as is plainly evident ten years hence.

  • His unquestioned acceptance of the Team Bush economic guidance, despite the fact that this administration is on target to become the first since Herbert Hoover to have its term end with a net reduction in jobs. And the recent numbers coming out of Washington are suspect. Paul Krugman has pointed out how these numbers are quietly adjusted a few weeks after. Also, the majority of the new jobs recently created are temporary jobs, many part time and most without benefits.

Finally, Miller's reasoning for why he remains a Democrat, despite totally adhering to the Republican plan, floors me:

It’s kind of like living in this old house. You’ve lived in it all of your life. It’s getting kind of run down, and it’s drafty, and the commodes won’t flush. And last week a family moved in down into the basement, and you don’t even know who they are or where they came from. And I would be comfortable probably in some other house much more than I am where I am, but I have been here all these years. I haven’t got many more years to live in it. It’s home. It’s always been home. And I’m not leaving it.

I think the Democrats should take a page out of Zell's book and endorse a challenger in his next senatorial election campaign. Perhaps they can cozy up to a moderate Republican and accept a minus one in Georgia.