27 January 2005

Sediment in the water?

Maybe the recent Phoenix water debacle was the result of a security lapse that resulted in a terrorist attack.

I've lived here since 1978, and nothing of this sort has ever happened, and yet it has rained, and water-treamtent plants have been shut. Ask some tough questions, Republic. At best this is a story of corporate contamination.

I assure you, it is not "sediment."

Perhaps it's just a little paranoia.

The same people who masterminded the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, set out to give the people of Phoenix the runs.

What next? Maybe they will increase the uric acid in our food supply and give us all gout!

I need to get into the bomb-shelter business because there is obviously a market for them with the amount of fear in this country.

Myopic in their failure to see what the impact will be on the American worker

Who are those embracing the privatization of Social Security.
The best comparison is to look at what happened when corporate America went from a defined-benefit retirement to the 401(k) program.

After World War II most employers offered a guaranteed-benefit retirement program. Employees were told "work 30 years and we will give you a lifetime pension at retirement."

But as cost of these programs mounted, corporate America convinced Congress to enact a bill creating the 401(k) program to pay for future retirements. The problem is that there are not adequate funds in most 401(k)s to pay for any type of retirement. Balances average $76,809, which at a 5 percent yield will produce a monthly income of $320 - far less than is required to fund a retirement without Social Security or a part-time job.

Social Security was never meant to create wealth. It was a promise by government to the worker that you will receive a minimum retirement benefit, regardless of what your employer offers you. The American government needs to keep its promise, not try to renege by changing Social Security. - Robert Hamer, Payson

Mr. Hamer could have also detailed how privatization schemes in other nations have turned out to be a bloddy mess.

President Bush continues the campaign to dismantle the successful social security system, even stooping to play the race card by repeating blatant lies, a despicable case of fear-mongering.

Social Security is a complex program, so it's easy to tell outright lies or make misleading statements about it with little fear of contradiction from the general public. All Americans should be on notice that the Bush administration, in its drive to start dismantling Social Security, isn't telling the truth on several fronts.

The system is not in crisis; it has money to last for about the next half century, and even then, if nothing is done the required benefit cuts would still leave retirees better off than those getting benefits today. Pay close attention to this debate, and don't get snookered. The crisis in Social Security is no more real than the "crisis" that led the United States to war in Iraq.

If enacted, this caper will essentially be a government mandated redirection of monies that will only be permitted to be diverted into selected financial avenues, no doubt, those blessed and sanctioned (and with the greatest political pull) by the government. There will be oversight committees and groups to judge and determine what the valid investment choices are, and if they are fulfilling their obligations (or taking care of the committee members!).

Leaving aside the cost in trillions of dollars to convert from the existing system to the new system, there is also the steep increase in administrative fees that will be borne by working folks and go straight into the coffers of brokers and investment planners, at anywhere from 20X-400X times the current cost of social security administration.

Despite the barrage of FUD, social security isn't broken. By even the most pessimistic of future predictions, it's on solid ground for another 40 years. And if those pessimistic predictions, repeatedly cited by Bush and proponents of privatization are accurate, would that not also pertain to payouts in a privatized system? Social security now is a trust fund, financed by Treasury notes, the safest investment in the world (if that bombs, we have bigger problems than worrying about "Social Security") – the proposed scheme is dependent upon the market (which in the long run, might be superior - remember, it took over 40 years for the market to get back where it was in 1929 and that could happen again…) and a "pessimistic" future outlook would severely dim the payback in such a concoction, and would excaberate a situation already crippled by reduced payouts as the president and his supporters have argued will be necessary.

For those reasons and others, the AARP is dead set against Bush's Social Security plan.

More obsfucations, accounting tricks, and misunderstandings that have created false impressions about Social Security's finances

Scientists have begun blurring the line between human and animal by producing chimeras…

…a hybrid creature that's part human, part animal
Chinese scientists at the Shanghai Second Medical University in 2003 successfully fused human cells with rabbit eggs. The embryos were reportedly the first human-animal chimeras successfully created. They were allowed to develop for several days in a laboratory dish before the scientists destroyed the embryos to harvest their stem cells.

In Minnesota last year researchers at the Mayo Clinic created pigs with human blood flowing through their bodies.

And at Stanford University in California an experiment might be done later this year to create mice with human brains.

Man playing God again.

19 January 2005

Not One Damn Dime Day

January 20, 2005 is Not One Damn Dime Day
Since our leaders don't have the moral courage to speak out against the war in Iraq, Inauguration Day, Thursday, January 20th, 2005 is "Not One Damn Dime Day" in America.

On "Not One Damn Dime Day" those who oppose what is happening in our name in Iraq can speak up with a 24-hour national boycott of all forms of consumer spending.

During "Not One Damn Dime Day" please don't spend money, and don't use your credit card. Not one damn dime for gasoline. Not one damn dime for necessities or for impulse purchases. Nor toll/cab/bus or train ride money exchanges. Not one damn dime for anything for 24 hours.

On "Not One Damn Dime Day," please boycott Walmart, KMart and Target. Please don't go to the mall or the local convenience store. Please don't buy any fast food (or any groceries at all for that matter).

For 24 hours, please do what you can to shut the retail economy down. The object is simple. Remind the people in power that the war in Iraq is immoral and illegal; that they are responsible for starting it and that it is their responsibility to stop it.

Not that I think this will be an effective ploy or anything, but I am going to observe its edict if just for the sentiment of counteracting of all those who ridicule others trying to enact positive social change. This protest boycott will need a lot more than the 7,000 netizens who responded positively to the survey posted here.

Meanwhile, the mainstream media puts its best effort forward to trivialize groups protesting during the President's inaugural festivities.

18 January 2005

It has turned our history into a commodity

Copyright law is kiling history, enabling the disappearance of photographic and video record. Eyes on the Prize, according to this article, can no longer be sold or broadcast anywhere.
"Why do you think the History Channel is what it is? Why do you think it's all World War II documentaries? It's because it's public-domain footage. So the history we're seeing is being skewed towards what's fallen into public domain," says filmmaker Robert Stone in the American University study.

Flahive at the NFB said that this pushes filmmakers to tell stories in more innovative ways. Animation, for example, is becoming a new vehicle for documentary-makers.

Else of Eyes on the Prize isn't as giving. "Would you rather see the footage of the actual attack on the [civil-rights] marchers at the bridge in Selma, Ala., in 1965, or would you rather see a re-enactment of that? There is no creative substitute for the real thing," he says.

The realm of digital media can be free and open, or it can be shielded from the public, and relegated to the dustbin of history.

The intent of copyright law was to encourage the creation of ideas, not curtail the dissemination of them. Greed has indeed trumped reason.

The Barrett Contradiction

Intel CEO Craig Barret, that is, casts a beam of gloom at a prospective future engineer during a recent Arizona Technology Council forum.
At last week's Arizona Technology Council forum, an ASU student asked Barrett about the possibility of going to work for the chipmaker in Arizona after graduation. But Barrett was downbeat. The lower cost of engineers and building plants in Asia trumps good feelings for the Grand Canyon State.

And yet he issues proclaimations about our state of education, while it's plain to aspiring students that potential prospects are indeed going to be limited, as so will the wages paid, as he and other corporate lords continue to sell out Americans.

13 January 2005

Get a Mac for Less

The Mac mini or Mini Mac. Under $500, two inches tall, six inches wide, it simply blows away any comparable discount machines that the Windows/Intel platform can offer.

My only gripe about it is the lackluster video card, with only 32 megabytes of memory, but for a general purpose surf, email & write documents machine, it is a splendid deal, with none of the ugly baggage that accompanies Windows machines — viruses, spyware infections, klunky tools. Heck, the software that comes bundled with the Mac mini is worth the $499 alone.

Torture is simply not a good way to get information

Pushing aside issues of moral, legal and consitutional merit, let's deconstruct the torture myth.
Given the overwhelmingly negative evidence, the really interesting question is not whether torture works but why so many people in our society want to believe that it works. At the moment, there is a myth in circulation, a fable that goes something like this: Radical terrorists will take advantage of our fussy legality, so we may have to suspend it to beat them. Radical terrorists mock our namby-pamby prisons, so we must make them tougher. Radical terrorists are nasty, so to defeat them we have to be nastier.

Perhaps it's reassuring to tell ourselves tales about the new forms of "toughness" we need, or to talk about the special rules we will create to defeat this special enemy. Unfortunately, that toughness is self-deceptive and self-destructive. Ultimately it will be self-defeating as well.

Still, the fact that it is not an effective means of extracting information does not weigh on me as much as the vile and barbaric aura it generates. It definitely is cruel and unusual punishment, and nowhere in the Constitution does it specify non-citizens are life forms devoid of humanity. While we may be battling savages who stoop to even lower levels of physical abuse to satisfy their goals of conquest, I don't believe that we must become monsters of an equivalent scale. We're supposed to be the good guys, who bring justice, not vengeance.

The Bush administration's nominated candidate for Attorney General sanctioned torture and fought to enable more of it, as the Abu Ghraib scandal has exposed.

A very questionable use of taxpayers money that is probably illegal

Armstrong Williams shills for the administration and accepts $240,000 from the Bush administration to promote No Child Left Behind. Williams did not disclose his financial windfall with his nationally syndicated television show's audience.
Williams' contract was part of a $1 million deal with Ketchum that produced "video news releases" designed to look like news reports. The Bush administration used similar releases last year to promote its Medicare prescription drug plan, prompting a scolding from the Government Accountability Office, which called them an illegal use of taxpayers' dollars.

The Bush forces are employing big Public Relations firms to shape public opinion, to strip away all the advances of the past fifty years, and return our society to the squalor of the Gilded Age. The public blindly swallows the propaganda mill, otherwise why would prominent conservatives be investing so much money into such PR campaigns. Other campaigns include the drive to destroy Social Security under an Orwellian guise.

The hypocrisy displayed by the new conservatives is simply astounding and knows no bounds. From these disingenuous glorified state sanctioned informercials to ridding the legislative branch of any ethics checks and enforcement.

5 January 2005

Iraq's insurgency counts more than 200,000 active fighters and sympathisers

According to the country's national intelligence chief.
"I think the resistance is bigger than the US military in Iraq. I think the resistance is more than 200,000 people," Iraqi intelligence service director General Mohamed Abdullah Shahwani said in an interview ahead of the January 30 elections.

Shahwani said the number includes at least 40,000 hardcore fighters but rises to more than 200,000 members counting part-time fighters and volunteers who provide rebels everything from intelligence and logistics to shelter.

The numbers far exceed any figure presented by the US military in Iraq, which has struggled to get a handle on the size of the resistance since toppling Saddam Hussein's regime in April 2003.