29 March 2006

Why We Fight opens Friday

My 7 March post said that "the Eugene Jarecki documentary Why We Fight is scheduled to open at the Camelview 5 in Scottsdale Fashion Square on Friday, 24 March." (Here's the original post, which includes a synopsis and a link to Information Clearinghouse, where you may view the film online.)

When I discovered from Harkins early last week that WWF's opening had been delayed due to market demands for other films, I failed to post an update here. Please forgive me.

The good news is, the film has arrived in the Valley! It opens at Camelview 5 on Friday 31 March, and is scheduled at least thru Thursday 6 April. Market forces will determine how long the film continues beyond that date.

All I can say is, Get out there and see this film -- and take a friend.

No, take two friends.

26 March 2006

This is the price we pay for our addiction to cheap labor, our unwillingness to take measures in Mexico to help people prosper there

Thousands line Phoenix street in protest march.

And immigration protests erupted around the country this weekend, pushing the immigration issue on to the center stage of political debate once again.

As I endured the lengthy traffic delays Friday, the result of the massive protest turnout here in the Valley of the Sun, I had time to reflect on all the various vantage points thrown at me from the one local Valley radio station that was providing coverage of the unfolding event (which is fodder for another rant in itself…). I didn't agree with any of the impromptu guests presented with air time on the KTAR 620 AM Ted Simons show, and figured that, in a crux, may be the mightiest wedge in the immigration policy debate. Meanwhile, the problem continues to escalate, and each passing day brings a deeper doom.

  • I really am exceedingly weary of the repeated mantra that illegal aliens take jobs Americans won't do. Always left off in that phrase is the "at those wages". Wages that support a middle class existence.

  • A guest worker program is an awful solution for the problem. It just legitimizes employee abuses and fosters a permanent underclass. And there is nothing more permanent than a temporary guest worker.

  • A flood of immigrant workers lower the wages paid to American workers. This is not sophistry or any supreme wisdom. It's basic economics.

  • But it's just not an issue for working class Americans. American workers at all levels are affected, given that huge increases in non immigrant visa levels that displace American engineers and programmers are often tied in to Washington congress critter chatter on immigration reform. Such legislative measures have galvanized disparate sets of Americans against "real immigration reform".

  • Bush's Yes Man, Senator Kyl has been in office long enough and his excuses for not spearheading a solution are entirely lame.

  • Those that protest the protesters sound as silly as those who decried civil rights demonstrators in the 1960s. You might not agree with their position, but mass demonstration is still an effective means of getting the message out.

  • But the "chutzpah of the day" award goes to Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon, who was literally steaming over the surprise turnout and wants to arrest the protest organizers for their inaccurate turnout predictions. Even while acknowledging it was a "peaceful protest", and crediting the Phoenix Police, disregarding the truth that it could have been an ugly ordeal if the spirit of those marching was tilted differently.

  • Making full fledged criminals of folks that for the most part, come to work as maids, in construction, or agriculture interests seems absurd, especially when Arizona (and U.S.) companies have profited immensely from such services. If illegal aliens/migrant workers are to be cast as felons, then unless the company owners that employ them arn't also dealt with as like criminals, then it's a travesty.

  • Why does nobody ever question, including those annointed voices in the mainstream media, the process of legal immigration. That is, it seems to me, that we should be asking (a) Do we have a need to import workers? and (b) Is the quota set high enough or does it need to be raised to reflect labor needs in 2006?. Instead the debate flurries around "guest worker" programs, which saddens me, to see our nation embrace a mode of economic being more akin to an theocratic Islamic nation like UAE or Saudi Arabia.

This debate will continue and will likely even get more polarized. Even the moribund Arizona Republic blogs have come to life, as their columnists and featured bloggers chime in and generate feedback. If I were to cast a prediction, I'd say the corporate interests will be most placated with any remedy, but that will, in turn, infuriate the other 80% plus.

25 March 2006

Mrs. Bush wanted to do something specifically for education and specifically for the thousands of students flooding into the Houston schools

An episode in Bush clan philanthropy.
Former first lady Barbara Bush gave relief money to a hurricane relief fund on the condition that it be spent to buy educational software from her son Neil's company.

The chief of staff of former President George H.W. Bush would not disclose the amount earmarked for purchases from Ignite Learning.

Since Barbara Bush's gift, the Ignite Learning program has been given to eight public schools with high numbers of Hurricane Katrina evacuees, the Houston Chronicle reported.

Just another audacious example of greed.

Of course, Mrs. Bush did say those people displaced by Katrina were better off anyways

22 March 2006

The religion of Islam is one of tolerance

However, not in Afghanistan where an Afghan stands trial for being a Christian.

Abdul Rahman is charged with rejecting Islam and could face the death sentence under Sharia law unless he recants.

Afghanistan's post-Taleban constitution is based on Sharia law, and prosecutors in the case says this means Abdul Rahman, whose trial began last Thursday, should be put to death.

It appears that the Afghan government is backtracking from their prescribed implementation of constitutional law and is looking for "an out", on the basis that the convert may be "mentally unfit" and consequently could escape execution. The international backlash to this egregious act of religous tyranny seems to have the Karzai government spinning, even if they initially pledged to not intervene in the case.

But let us review a salient truth here — Afghanistan's post-Taleban constitution calls for execution if one rejects Islam. So aside from a loophole centered on a defendant's mental state, an Afghani faces death for converting to Christianity (or any other religion). And this apostasy law was exported from Saudi Arabia's flavor of Wahabbi Islam.

So what happens to Apostates in Saudi Arabia? Well, we don't seem to have many, if at all. When there's a group of guys sitting together having coffee, you won't see someone suddenly jump to his feet and say "There's something I need to share with you. I've taken Jesus Christ to be my Lord and Saviour. I am saved, Halleluja!"

There are no doubt a few Saudis, particularly those who have travelled abroad, who may feel that. There are certainly quite a few who have absorbed the teachings of other religions into their own religious world view. But Saudi Arabia is not a safe place for some wannabe Ned Flanders. Because, under Shariah Law, Apostacy is not only a Sin, it is also a Crime, and a Crime punishable by Death. So that's why you don't come across many Apostates, and why discretion is the better part of valor for those who are. Our clerics and lawyers will justify this situation as being perfectly acceptable; for them, it's just the same as the Spaniards did four hundred years ago. You know, those good old days, when you were most likely to die of Bubonic Plague before the age of thirty, having had three out of thirteen children survive.

But, Joy Oh Joy, it gets better. Because we don't just keep this bit of Muslim Brotherly Love to ourselves. We export it! And Afghanistan, thanks to all our zealots and Imam University graduates who went to join the Taliban in former years, is where it has also taken root!

Freedom on the rise!

21 March 2006

The 29 Healthiest Foods on the Planet

The 29 Healthiest Foods on the Planet
  1. Apricots
  2. Avocados
  3. Raspberries
  4. Mango
  5. Cantaloupe
  6. Cranberry Juice
  7. Tomato
  8. Raisins
  9. Figs
  10. Lemons/Limes
  11. Onions
  12. Artichokes
  13. Ginger
  14. Broccoli
  15. Spinach
  16. Bok Choy (Chinese cabbage)
  17. Squash
  18. Watercress and Arugula
  19. Garlic
  20. Quinoa
  21. Wheat Germ
  22. Lentils
  23. Peanuts
  24. Pinto Beans
  25. Low fat Yogurt
  26. Skim Milk
  27. Shellfish (Clams, Mussels)
  28. Salmon
  29. Crab

15 March 2006

How a fake general, a pliant media, and a master manipulator helped lead the United States into war

Heroes in Error
Eight weeks after September 11, a pair of Americans entered the gleaming marble lobby of Beirut’s Intercontinental Hotel La Vendome, where they were greeted by a group of Iraqi expatriates. The Americans were reporters—New York Times war correspondent Chris Hedges, who’d just been put on the Al Qaeda beat, and Christopher Buchanan, an associate producer of PBS’s Frontline—there to meet a mysterious Iraqi defector with information about Saddam Hussein’s secret weapons program. Hedges and Buchanan were ushered to an elegant suite overlooking the Mediterranean, where they interviewed Jamal al-Ghurairy, an Iraqi lieutenant general who had fled Iraq. Ghurairy claimed to have witnessed foreign Islamic militants training to hijack airplanes at an Iraqi terrorist training camp.

Two days later the story that spun out on the front page of the New York Times was as shocking as it was convincing. Ghurairy claimed that as a senior intelligence official, he had witnessed foreign Arab fighters training to hijack airplanes at the Salman Pak military facility south of Baghdad. About 40 foreign nationals, Ghurairy said, were based there at any given time. “We were training these people to attack installations important to the United States. The Gulf War never ended for Saddam Hussein. He is at war with the United States,” the Times quoted Ghurairy as saying. Ghurairy also claimed a German scientist was working in a section of the base that produced biological agents. The report noted the role the INC had in setting up the interview, but no serious questions were raised about the general’s provenance.

Unfortunately, the story was an elaborate scam. The purported general had indeed met with American intelligence agents in Turkey, but unbeknownst to Hedges the agents had dismissed his claims out of hand. What the reporters also didn’t know, and what has never before been reported, is that it now appears that the man himself was a fake. According to an ex-INC official, the Ghurairy who met with the Times and PBS was actually a former Iraqi sergeant, then living in Turkey and known by the code name Abu Zainab. The real Lt. General Ghurairy, it seems, had never left Iraq.

Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when we first practice to deceive...

11 March 2006

No lie can live forever

Some interesting parallels between the Warren Commission's coverup of the truth about the John F. Kennedy assassination and recent undergoings with the present day George W. Bush administration.

That the CIA at its highest levels exacted its revenge on President Kennedy has been an open secret since 1963. A Gallup poll on the 40th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination in 2003 found that twice as many people believed that the CIA was implicated in the assassination as there were who accepted the official fiction that Oswald had acted alone.

In 1963, people were already worried abut the CIA's extraordinary use of its powers. In the “New York Times,” Arthur Krock wrote in October 1963 that if ever there would be a coup in the United States, it “would come from the CIA and not the Pentagon.” The CIA, Krock wrote, was a “malignancy” on the body politic. It is difficult to imagine such words being printed in the “Times” today, so profoundly has our freedom of the press eroded since the time of the Kennedy assassination.

After the death of President Kennedy, ex-President Harry S. Truman, under whose watch the CIA was created in 1947, wrote on the front page of the “Washington Post,” that the CIA had been running a “shadow government,” becoming “operational.” Brazenly, Allen Dulles at one point even told a reporter to think of the CIA as “the State Department for unfriendly countries.” The CIA's policy-making also involved interference in the electoral process in Italy and France, funneling money to certain political parties - in Italy it was the Christian Democrats whom the CIA funded in an effort to prevent a coalition of socialists and Communists from taking power. The assassination of Prime Minister Aldo Moro was connected to that CIA campaign.

At the time of the assassination, Charles de Gaulle remarked that John F. Kennedy, whom he admired, had died as a result of an intra-government conflict, a situation not uncommon in many countries. The documentation available since the passage of the JFK Act in 1992 overwhelmingly supports de Gaulle's view.

The rubber-stamping of the Warren Report by the press in 1964 seems to mark the moment when the mainstream press became “embedded” in official versions of events. Traces of that process have surfaced. In April 1967 the CIA issued a memo (available at the National Archives) instructing friendly reporters on how to reply to challenges to the Warren Report, recommendations that have resurfaced in the past few years in a renewed set of attacks on Jim Garrison, a decade after his death.

So it should come as no surprise that the “New York Times” for a year covered up the National Security Agency domestic surveillance of citizens with rubber-stamped search warrants issued under a “Foreign Intelligence Services Act” (FISA) run by the Pentagon, or with no warrants at all. Only when their own reporter was about to publish a book detailing the evidence did the “Times” run that story. It should be horrifying that the Congressional debate about the Patriot Act has not been over whether there should be such a government capability, but how long it should be extended.

9 March 2006

Strong Bad Emails

Conservatives embrace the idea of eliminating the American middle class and replacing it with a Dickensian "working poor" class

And are working so hard to use illegal immigrant labor as the lever to bring this about.
As the '60's and '70's showed - during the height of the American middle class's economic and political power - a strong middle class will challenge corporate power and assert itself economically and politically. This represents a very real threat to conservative ruling elites. "The people" may even suggest that the most elite of the elites should pay stiffer taxes on the top end of their income, so that money can be used to provide the economically most disadvantaged with an opportunity to become socially and economically mobile. It would reduce the most massive of the wealth and the power of the most elite of our conservative elites.

Offshoring, union-busting, and nurturing a huge population of illegal workers (while pretending to be frantic about it and bleating about building fences, fielding vigilantes, or offering "amnesty") are the core ways to destroy an economic middle class, thus ensuring the ongoing political power of the conservative elite takeover that began with the so-called "Reagan revolution" and continues to this day.

This is why conservatives who complain about illegal immigration in front of the cameras won't lift a finger in the halls of congress to pass legislation that would put employers of illegals into jail. (They may support "tough fines," just so long as they're high enough to sound like a lot of money to the average working stiff but low enough to be a "cost of business" for a corporation that gets caught.)

If Congress were to pass a law that said, quite simply, that the CEO of any business that was caught employing illegal immigrants went to jail for a year - no exceptions - then within a month there would be ten million (more or less) people lined up at the Mexican border trying to get out of the United States. The US unemployment rate would drop close to zero, and wages would begin to rise. The American middle class would begin to return to viability, as would the union movement in this nation.

This problematic political outlook on immigration is not just confined to "conservatives" only. Liberals have also played the immigration card, when politically expedient, or to cast their opponents as backward in disingenuous fashion, all the while all too eager in supporting the status quo.

7 March 2006

Why We Fight scheduled for Phoenix

According to Harkins Theatres main office, the Eugene Jarecki documentary Why We Fight is scheduled to open at the Camelview 5 in Scottsdale Fashion Square on Friday, 24 March. Here's a synopsis from its entry at
Is American foreign policy dominated by the idea of military supremacy? Has the military become too important in American life? Jarecki's shrewd and intelligent polemic would seem to give an affirmative answer to each of these questions.

Dwight D. Eisenhower may have been the ultimate icon of 1950s conformity and postwar complacency, but he was an iconoclast, visionary, and the Cassandra of the New World Order. Upon departing his presidency, Eisenhower issued a stern, cogent warning about the burgeoning "military industrial complex," foretelling with ominous clarity the state of the world in 2004 with its incestuous entanglement of political, corporate, and Defense Department interests.
In the meantime, you can also view Why We Fight online at Information Clearinghouse. (Runs 1 hour 39 minutes.)

2 March 2006

Why does anyone think science is a good job?

Such media annointed luminaries like Thomas Friedman have received a great deal of attention for their cries that America needs more education, more math, more science. There's never any discussion on the economic factors that push Americans away from science. Though this article on Women in Science, spurred by recent news of Harvard president Larry Summers resignation, captures precisely the predicament of the state of engineers and scientists in America.
He claimed to be giving a comprehensive list of reasons why there weren't more women reaching the top jobs in the sciences. Yet Summers, an economist, left one out: Adjusted for IQ and working hours, jobs in science are the lowest paid in the United States.

University salaries are not that much lower than they were in the 1970s, but all the other smart people in the U.S. have gotten so rich that faculty and postdoc salaries seem lower. Any resource that is scarce, such as real estate, is snapped up by society's economic winners. A science researcher at Harvard now earns an annual salary that is only 1/50th the price of a family-sized house in Cambridge, a fact that may not be lost on an intelligent female Harvard undergraduate choosing a career.

Science can be fun, but considered as a career, science suffers by comparison to the professions and the business world.

And for whom does a science career make sense for?

The picture so far is pretty bleak. The American scientist earns less than an airplane mechanic, has less job security than a drummer in a boy band, and works longer hours than a Bolivian silver miner. Does this make sense as a career for anyone? Absolutely! Just get out your atlas.

Imagine that you are a smart, but impoverished, young person in China. Your high IQ and hard work got you into one of the best undergraduate programs in China. The $1800 per month graduate stipend at University of Nebraska or University of Wisconsin will afford you a much higher standard of living than any job you could hope for in China. The desperate need for graduate student labor and lack of Americans who are interested in PhD programs in science and engineering means that you'll have no trouble getting a visa. When you finish your degree, a small amount of paperwork will suffice to ensure your continued place in the legal American work force. Science may be one of the lowest paid fields for high IQ people in the U.S., but it pays a lot better than most jobs in China or India.

Personally, I can also relate to these points. But I continue to work in computer science because it's what I love to do. I've recently accepted a position that pays less than half of what I was making, and a fraction of what I could earn if I was willing to travel around the country for gigs. But I like being home with family, getting involved in my community, and serving in an organization focused on saving souls rather than raking in fat profits. Nothing wrong with the profit motive, mind you, just that the state of affairs for careers in my chosen field is a complete mess. Outsourcing, offshoring, merger consolidations and continued erosion of knowledgeable leadership have turned what was once a joy for me into a thorny pursuit.

1 March 2006

Comparing Past Presidential Performance

In lieu of the recent abysmal presidential approval poll numbers, here is an interesting historical breakdown of past president approval highs and lows.
Bush G.W. 92% 10/01 34% 11/05
Clinton 73% 1/98,12/98 36% 5/93
Bush G.H.W. 89% 2/91 29% 8/92
Reagan 68% 5/81,5/86 35% 1/83
Carter 75% 3/77 28% 7/79
Ford 74% 8/74 37% 1/75,3/75
Nixon 67% 11/69,1/73 23% 1/74
Johnson 80% 3/64 35% 8/68
Kennedy 80% 3/62 56% 9/63
Eisenhower 79% 12/56 48% 4/58
Truman 87% 6/45 22% 2/52
Roosevelt 84% 1/42 48% 8/39

Some quick takes from this data.

  • A lot can change in a little over a year. Poppy Bush went from the top of the chart after the post Gulf War euphoria to lower depths than his son has thus far encountered, 18 months later.

  • Clintons's numbers climbed even amidst the Lewinsky scandal and he encountered low marks almost immediately after taking office. Despite a well financed and organized right wing jihad in opposition to him, the public still warmed up to Clinton.

  • An obvious conclusion - presidents are immensely popular during wartime. The numbers for Bush 43, Bush 41, and Roosevelt bear this out.

  • Though Roosevelt's low mark in 1939 indicates Americans weren't gung ho to embrace WWII voluntarily.

  • Since Kennedy, all our Presidents have had bouts of terrible approval numbers.