31 August 2006

We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty

Keith Olbermann has one shining "Edward R. Murrow" moment, and delivers a great response to a recent blistering attack by Donald Rumsfeld. It was a great piece, but it's about four years too late. Still, it's commendable, and I'm going to reproduce the transcript here:
The man who sees absolutes, where all other men see nuances and shades of meaning, is either a prophet, or a quack.

Donald H. Rumsfeld is not a prophet.

Mr. Rumsfeld’s remarkable speech to the American Legion yesterday demands the deep analysis—and the sober contemplation—of every American.

For it did not merely serve to impugn the morality or intelligence -- indeed, the loyalty -- of the majority of Americans who oppose the transient occupants of the highest offices in the land. Worse, still, it credits those same transient occupants -- our employees -- with a total omniscience; a total omniscience which neither common sense, nor this administration’s track record at home or abroad, suggests they deserve.

Dissent and disagreement with government is the life’s blood of human freedom; and not merely because it is the first roadblock against the kind of tyranny the men Mr. Rumsfeld likes to think of as “his” troops still fight, this very evening, in Iraq.

It is also essential. Because just every once in awhile it is right and the power to which it speaks, is wrong.

In a small irony, however, Mr. Rumsfeld’s speechwriter was adroit in invoking the memory of the appeasement of the Nazis. For in their time, there was another government faced with true peril—with a growing evil—powerful and remorseless.

That government, like Mr. Rumsfeld’s, had a monopoly on all the facts. It, too, had the “secret information.” It alone had the true picture of the threat. It too dismissed and insulted its critics in terms like Mr. Rumsfeld’s -- questioning their intellect and their morality.

That government was England’s, in the 1930’s.

It knew Hitler posed no true threat to Europe, let alone England.

It knew Germany was not re-arming, in violation of all treaties and accords.

It knew that the hard evidence it received, which contradicted its own policies, its own conclusions — its own omniscience -- needed to be dismissed.

The English government of Neville Chamberlain already knew the truth.

Most relevant of all — it “knew” that its staunchest critics needed to be marginalized and isolated. In fact, it portrayed the foremost of them as a blood-thirsty war-monger who was, if not truly senile, at best morally or intellectually confused.

That critic’s name was Winston Churchill.

Sadly, we have no Winston Churchills evident among us this evening. We have only Donald Rumsfelds, demonizing disagreement, the way Neville Chamberlain demonized Winston Churchill.

History — and 163 million pounds of Luftwaffe bombs over England — have taught us that all Mr. Chamberlain had was his certainty — and his own confusion. A confusion that suggested that the office can not only make the man, but that the office can also make the facts.

Thus, did Mr. Rumsfeld make an apt historical analogy.

Excepting the fact, that he has the battery plugged in backwards.

His government, absolute -- and exclusive -- in its knowledge, is not the modern version of the one which stood up to the Nazis.

It is the modern version of the government of Neville Chamberlain.

But back to today’s Omniscient ones.

That, about which Mr. Rumsfeld is confused is simply this: This is a Democracy. Still. Sometimes just barely.

And, as such, all voices count -- not just his.

Had he or his president perhaps proven any of their prior claims of omniscience — about Osama Bin Laden’s plans five years ago, about Saddam Hussein’s weapons four years ago, about Hurricane Katrina’s impact one year ago — we all might be able to swallow hard, and accept their “omniscience” as a bearable, even useful recipe, of fact, plus ego.

But, to date, this government has proved little besides its own arrogance, and its own hubris.

Mr. Rumsfeld is also personally confused, morally or intellectually, about his own standing in this matter. From Iraq to Katrina, to the entire “Fog of Fear” which continues to envelop this nation, he, Mr. Bush, Mr. Cheney, and their cronies have — inadvertently or intentionally — profited and benefited, both personally, and politically.

And yet he can stand up, in public, and question the morality and the intellect of those of us who dare ask just for the receipt for the Emporer’s New Clothes?

In what country was Mr. Rumsfeld raised? As a child, of whose heroism did he read? On what side of the battle for freedom did he dream one day to fight? With what country has he confused the United States of America?

The confusion we -- as its citizens— must now address, is stark and forbidding.

But variations of it have faced our forefathers, when men like Nixon and McCarthy and Curtis LeMay have darkened our skies and obscured our flag. Note -- with hope in your heart — that those earlier Americans always found their way to the light, and we can, too.

The confusion is about whether this Secretary of Defense, and this administration, are in fact now accomplishing what they claim the terrorists seek: The destruction of our freedoms, the very ones for which the same veterans Mr. Rumsfeld addressed yesterday in Salt Lake City, so valiantly fought.

And about Mr. Rumsfeld’s other main assertion, that this country faces a “new type of fascism.”

As he was correct to remind us how a government that knew everything could get everything wrong, so too was he right when he said that -- though probably not in the way he thought he meant it.

This country faces a new type of fascism - indeed.

A tremendous speech. Bravo!

One irony Olbermann missed was that the Nazis themselves used Rumsfeld's very same arguments and tactics to stifle any opposition to their policies before they became strong enough to just eliminate opponents.

More people will come across this story via the internet than watch MSNBC (even though I believe Olbermann's Countdown is the most popular show on the network), and I'm sure a vicious dittohead, neoconservative sycophant and/or Bush loyalist counterattack will be launched to smear Mr. Olbermann. So if you like the spirit here, even if you disagree with the content, let MSNBC know:


Sign-stealing in CD2

In the Arizona Congressional District 2, Trent Franks no doubt enjoys a sizable lead cushion, but yet it seems supporters of his, or miscreants motivated by other means, are pilfering the signs of Democratic rivals.
We reported earlier that 20+ of Democratic candidate John Thrasher’s signs have been stolen… this morning we got a report from Dr. Suchindran Chatterjee, also a Democrat, saying that his signs were stolen last night:

Who knows who is behind it. I asked ‘04 Democratic candidate Randy Camacho if any of his signs got stolen, and he said that six of the large ones ended up in some guy’s pool in the middle of the night.

If you're an Arizonan, or interested in the happenings of the Arizona Congressional caucus, bookmark Arizona Congress Watch.

Offer to the sincere and decent Republicans

Doctor Brin, with another excellent essay, this one titled "TIME TO GET TO WORK" in regard to the upcoming November election.
In some ways, the coming November elections are more important than any presidential year that we have known. If ever there was a need for at least one house of Congress to be controlled by a different party than the one occupying the White House, this is that year.

Please. Even if you are a Republican... even if you (for some mind boggling reason) have convinced yourself that President Bush and his friends are doing a great job... even so please ponder how often you praised divided government back in the old Clinton days.

Didn't you (once upon a time) claim to believe that unaccountable and unquestioned power corrupts? That it will corrupt anybody, even your side?

Aren't you even a little disturbed by an administration that -- while controlling every single lever of power --has dropped over us a veil of secrecy deeper than we knew during the deepest depths of the Cold War? Take just one example. When one party in power feels free to abandon all of the contract and accounting and competitive-bidding rules, in favor of ten thousand "emergency" no-bid contracts... contracts that always go to their pals (coincidence!)... don't you think that somebody, somewhere, ought to be asking questions?

You won't see questions being asked in the present Congress of the United States, amid their pork barrel feeding frenzy. A Congress which has held fewer days in session, fewer committee meetings, fewer inquiries, fewer debates, and issued fewer subpoenas than any other in the last hundred years.

A Congress that intentionally dissolved all of its own nonpartisan scientific advisory staff, in order to spend ten years of dogmatic monomania, avoiding hearing anything that its leading members do not like to hear?

Is this really what you want? Even as a lifelong Republican?

Especially as a lifelong Republican? For a century, the great American political tradition was one of independent legislators, only marginally beholden to party leaders. Do you really want an era when The Party controls and dictates everything from on high? Didn't we see enough of that in the failed Soviet Union?

No, even if you despise liberals and hate Democrats, this is a time when the opposition simply has to be given some back some power. Enough power to throw open the doors and windows, to let in some light, to ask questions, hold hearings...

...and if those hearings uncover bad things, well? Do you really prefer that bad things stay hidden from sight, to fester and sicken our republic? Was all of your earlier, Clinton-era talk about accountability just a sham?

No, this is the time when even conservatives... that is, conservatives in the tradition of Dwight Eisenhower, Barry Goldwater, even Bob Dole... need to decide what's more important. Partisanship and endless "culture War"? Or letting some healthy light and air onto the nation's bitter wounds.

With the presidency not at issue... this is the time to overwhelmingly change our legislatures, demanding that they get back to business, back to supervision and professionalism and asking hard questions. Back to Advice and Consent.

Upon reading this, I thought our resident Neocon… …or any other die hard Republicans still in support of the Bush administration…

30 August 2006

Six snacks and drinks that deserve an immediate pardon

Genius Junk Food — pork rinds, alcohol, beef jerky, sour cream, coconut and chocolate bars.

Now excuse me while I run off to the store to procure a case of beer and a box of chocolate bars…

29 August 2006

They wonder who the government is — and what ever happened to "peace"

Remember Afghanistan? Here is the perspective of Ann Jones, who has spent much of the last four years working in Afghanistan, on why it's not working there.
Remember when peaceful, democratic, reconstructed Afghanistan was advertised as the exemplar for the extreme makeover of Iraq? In August 2002, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was already proclaiming the new Afghanistan "a breathtaking accomplishment" and "a successful model of what could happen to Iraq." As everybody now knows, the model isn't working in Iraq. So we shouldn't be surprised to learn that it's not working in Afghanistan either.

The story of success in Afghanistan was always more fairy tale than fact - one scam used to sell another. Now, as the Bush administration hands off "peacekeeping" to NATO forces, Afghanistan is the scene of the largest military operation in the history of that organization. Today's personal email brings word from an American surgeon in Kabul that her emergency medical team can't handle half the wounded civilians brought in from embattled provinces to the south and east. American, British, and Canadian troops find themselves at war with Taliban fighters - which is to say "Afghans" - while stunned NATO commanders, who hadn't bargained for significant combat, are already asking what went wrong.

The answer is a threefold failure: no peace, no democracy, and no reconstruction.

28 August 2006

And the winner is-- ?

Did Hezbollah lose its war with Israel, as suggested here? Or maybe not
Clausewitz 101: "War is an extension of politics by other means."; I.e., what really counts is the political outcome, not the kill ratios or other metrics of physical damage caused.

At the level of politics we now have Nasrallah supported by 72% of his public and Olmert supported by either 37 or 26 percent of his

What’s behind Ireland’s economic miracle—and G.M.’s financial crisis?

A insightful article by Malcolm Gladwell in The New Yorker on how examining the ratio of workers to non-workers portends national economic wellness.
America's private pension system is now in crisis. Over the past few years, American taxpayers have been put at risk of assuming tens of billions of dollars of pension liabilities from once profitable companies. Hundreds of thousands of retired steelworkers and airline employees have seen health-care benefits that were promised to them by their employers vanish. General Motors, the country's largest automaker, is between forty and fifty billion dollars behind in the money it needs to fulfill its health-care and pension promises. This crisis is sometimes portrayed as the result of corporate America's excessive generosity in making promises to its workers. But when it comes to retirement, health, disability, and unemployment benefits there is nothing exceptional about the United States: it is average among industrialized countries — more generous than Australia, Canada, Ireland, and Italy, just behind Finland and the United Kingdom, and on a par with the Netherlands and Denmark. The difference is that in most countries the government, or large groups of companies, provides pensions and health insurance. The United States, by contrast, has over the past fifty years followed the lead of Charlie Wilson and the bosses of Toledo and made individual companies responsible for the care of their retirees. It is this fact, as much as any other, that explains the current crisis. In 1950, Charlie Wilson was wrong, and Walter Reuther was right.

The key to understanding the pension business is something called the "dependency ratio", and dependency ratios are best understood in the context of countries. In the past two decades, for instance, Ireland has gone from being one of the most economically backward countries in Western Europe to being one of the strongest: its growth rate has been roughly double that of the rest of Europe. There is no shortage of conventional explanations. Ireland joined the European Union. It opened up its markets. It invested well in education and economic infrastructure. It's a politically stable country with a sophisticated, mobile workforce.

But, as the Harvard economists David Bloom and David Canning suggest in their study of the Celtic Tiger, of greater importance may have been a singular demographic fact. In 1979, restrictions on contraception that had been in place since Ireland's founding were lifted, and the birth rate began to fall. In 1970, the average Irishwoman had 3.9 children. By the mid-nineteen-nineties, that number was less than two. As a result, when the Irish children born in the nineteen-sixties hit the workforce, there weren't a lot of children in the generation just behind them. Ireland was suddenly free of the enormous social cost of supporting and educating and caring for a large dependent population. It was like a family of four in which, all of a sudden, the elder child is old enough to take care of her little brother and the mother can rejoin the workforce. Overnight, that family doubles its number of breadwinners and becomes much better off.

This relation between the number of people who aren't of working age and the number of people who are is captured in the dependency ratio. In Ireland during the sixties, when contraception was illegal, there were ten people who were too old or too young to work for every fourteen people in a position to earn a paycheck. That meant that the country was spending a large percentage of its resources on caring for the young and the old. Last year, Ireland's dependency ratio hit an all-time low: for every ten dependents, it had twenty-two people of working age. That change coincides precisely with the country's extraordinary economic surge.

Companies with older work forces are heavily penalized, whereas new companies have no such burden. As the number of workers needed to generate revenue has dramatically declined, it has left firms like General Motors an abundance of retirees, the cost of which is borne by the smaller lot of present day workers. And American companies face a "fifteen percent cost disadvantage" due to the fact that every country we compete against has universal health care.

27 August 2006

What the Iraqi people want

Data from a recent survey indicates that by large margins, Iraqi people do not support the presence of coalition troops in Iraq.
The bottom line: 91.7% of Iraqis oppose the presence of coalition troops in the country, up from 74.4% in 2004. 84.5% are "strongly opposed". Among Sunnis, opposition to the US presence went from 94.5% to 97.9% (97.2% "strongly opposed"). Among Shia, opposition to the US presence went from 81.2% to 94.6%, with "strongly opposed" going from 63.5% to 89.7%. Even among the Kurds, opposition went from 19.6% to 63.3%. In other words, it isn't just that Iraqis oppose the American presence - it's that their feelings are intense: only 7.2% "somewhat oppose" and 4.7% "somewhat support."

Maybe there are reasons for keeping American troops in Iraq, but "it's what the Iraqi people want" really doesn't seem to be one of them.

This despite President Bush's assertion that there will be no withdrawl of American troops from Iraq as long as he is president and one of his reasons given was that "it's what the Iraqi people want".

Also of interest, is Iraqi belief on the main reason for the illegal, immoral invasion of Iraq:

The most recent survey, done in April this year, also asked for "the three main reasons for the U.S. invasion of Iraq." Less than 2% chose "to bring democracy to Iraq" as their first choice. The list was topped by "to control Iraqi oil" (76%), followed by "to build military bases" (41%) and "to help Israel" (32%).

Interview with Me

Hear how I have a voice made for writing on web pages
During our conversation Naum candidly answers each of your questions, shares his views on the war, Iraq, Dick Cheney, the Internet, our friendship/relationship, his hockey, gay marriage, Al Gore and the PHX toys we’re building for you right now.

I sure say "you know" a lot… ...I need to hit that toastmasters lecture series… …or maybe stop guzzling whiskey prior to recording an interview… :)

26 August 2006

At last, empirical evidence that listening to Fox News Bill O'Reilly turns people into jerks

Florida Man Caught Driving Under the Influence of Bill O'Reilly

25 August 2006

iPods on a Plane

Enough is enough! I have had it with these mother%*#*ing iPods on this mother$&#*ing plane!

Don't drop your iPod in the airplane bathroom. And don't tell the authorities you play massively multiplayer online role playing games and that you're headed to visit with one of your online game chums.

It all started when I got out of my seat to go to the bathroom. I went to the bathroom, washed my hands, and returned to my seat. A little while later the two stewardesses on the flight crossed each other in the aisle. They had a quick conversation that I was in earshot of.

"I locked off the front lav. There's something in the toilet that's preventing it from flushing. Run some water and see if you can clear it." My face immediately turned red. The seat cover! I thought. It must have been too big to flush! I should have thrown it out!

I was so embarrassed. I tried to act normal ... I took a sudden interest in the contents of the seat pocket in front of me, acted nonchalant and all. I watched as the stewardess got on her hands and knees in the lavatory and did unfathomable dirty work.

Sometime later, I decided it would be best if I forgot the whole thing happened, so I went to put on my headphones and drown myself in iPod music. But ... no iPod. I panicked, checked my other pockets. Where was it? Not under the seat, not in the pockets, not ... anywhere. I looked up to the stewardesses. One of them had run past me in a decent clip. She was carrying a green handbook. She brought it to the other stewardess. They flipped through the handbook, read a page, then made a call. The other stewardess had retrieved a blue metal box and was removing some equipment from it.

I put two and two together. I knew what had happened.

What a story!

Here is another perspective of another passenger on the plane along with a mainstream newspaper story of the incident.

It seems to me that all this overreaction and waste of resources is a giant victory for the terrorists. 52 people detained for over 5 hours, involvement of 4 government agencies including 15+ officials all on the public dime, etc... — what a waste. This isn't the price of vigilance, it's the price of extreme paranoia.

24 August 2006

If the average Californian doesn't like his congressman, the only option is to call the moving vans

Or just about any other state, including Arizona, as this well written Economist article titled Congressional redistricting or "How to rig an election" details:
All in all, reckons Charlie Cook, a political analyst, with four-fifths of the states having issued their new district plans, there will be fewer than 50 competitive races this time (meaning races in which the candidates are only a few points apart) compared with 121 ten years ago. Of those 50, only half will really be toss-ups. This is worsening existing trends. In 1998 and 2000, nine out of ten winning candidates in the House of Representatives won with 55% of the vote or more. That was the lowest percentage of close races of any election year since 1946, save one. In other words, redistricting is becoming a glorified incumbent-protection racket. And that is having all sorts of odd effects.

For one thing, it means the Democrats probably cannot take over the House this year unless a miracle occurs. The House will be decided by the toss-up seats. Roughly half of them are Democratic, half Republican. To overcome their current six-seat deficit, therefore, Democrats will have to take three-quarters of the closest seats — something they cannot do unless there is a dramatic change in the national mood.

The 2002 redistricting plans are making an already change-resistant Congress even more immutable. Only six sitting congressmen were defeated in the general election in 2000, a re-election rate of 98%. Such a result, which would hardly shame North Korea, is becoming the norm: the re-election rate has averaged more than 90% since 1952. Not surprisingly, congressmen are reluctant to leave their warm nests. Only 28 have announced their retirements so far, compared with 64 in 1992.

The combination of larger numbers of safe seats and increasingly expensive election campaigns is undermining the quality of American politics. There are now two categories of House races: the overwhelming majority, where the incumbent is a shoo-in and which national parties ignore, and a tiny number of competitive races into which the parties pour all their money and energy. Of course all politics is local. But in the current political arrangement, the local concerns of a handful of seats are inflated by a vast amount of national attention and end up deciding the balance of Congress.

Just examine the Arizona 2004 Congressional election results. The closest race was for the seat in the district which I reside, where Trent Franks coasted to a victory margin of 20%. The only seat seemingly in play for 2008, is CD8, for Jim Kolbe's soon to be vacated seat.

23 August 2006

Vote-rigging software written for Republican...

Computer programmer Clinton Eugene Curtis testifies under oath before the U.S. House Judiciary Members in Ohio

Are there computer programs that can be used to secretly fix elections?


How do you know that to be the case?

Because in October of 2000, I wrote a prototype for Congressman Tom Feeney [R-FL]...

It would rig an election?

It would flip the vote, 51-49. Whoever you wanted it to go to and whichever race you wanted to win.

And would that program that you designed, be something that elections officials... could detect?

They'd never see it.

Have written about the Clint Curtis saga previously.

It is a strange story, with twists not even present in a Hollywood thriller…

The Brad Blog has a compendium of articles on the Clint Curtis saga… …more "shocking" than these outlandish revelations is the reluctance of major media to cover this story. At least a token attempt to pooh pooh it, or air a smear rebuttal campaign — you know, like charges that Curtis beats his wife, was a pyromaniac, or is a Michael Moore fan…

"Pilotless" is a bit of misnomer

Details on the Israell attack on a Marjayoun Convoy of Lebanese civilians.
There are few marks on the road where the missiles hit the innocents of Marjayoun. But there are the memories of what happened immediately after the Israeli airstrike on the convoy of 3,000 people after dark on 11 August: a 16-year old Christian girl screaming "I want my Daddy" as her father's mutilated body lay a few metres away from her; the town mukhtar discovering that his wife, Collette, had been decapitated by one of the Israeli missiles; the Lebanese Red Cross volunteer who went into the darkness of wartime Lebanon to give water and sandwiches to the refugees and was cut down by another missile, and whose friends could not reach him to save his life.

There are those who break down when they recall the massacre at Joub Jannine - and there are the Israelis who gave permission to the refugees to leave Marjayoun, who specified what roads they should use, and who then attacked them with pilotless, missile-firing drone aircraft. Five days after being asked to account for the tragedy, they had last night still not bothered to explain how they killed at least seven refugees and wounded 36 others just three days before a UN ceasefire came into effect.

Who flew the drones? An Israeli soldier of the invasion force? A nameless officer in the Israel Defence Ministry in Tel Aviv? The Israelis knew a civilian convoy was on the road. Yet they sent their pilotless machines to attack it. Why? Last night, the Israeli Defence Ministry had not responded to inquiries from reporters who asked for the answer last Friday.

Somebody hit the button, somewhere from behind a cozy computer console. It has been said that air bombers from great heights are depersonalized from the act of human destruction due to the great distance. But what about the use of "pilotless" drones that make killing as easy as playing a video game? What is the moral culpability for such wanton acts where the agents invoking death can shift blame to the robotic killers executing commands calling for human termination.

22 August 2006

John Dougherty gone

Arizona's premier investigative journalist, John Dougherty, has quit his Phoenix New Times post. It's really a shame, even if Dougherty's work is not noted by many — discounted because his articles run in the alernative press weekly Phoenix New Times. But Dougherty has served as a courageous muckraker in taking on corruption and malfeasance of Valley authority figures, where mainstream media entites scurry away enraputured with "avoidance at all cost" philosophy when it comes to coverage on Arizona power brokers.

For years, Dougherty has reported on corruption and misdeeds of Sheriff Arpaio's office and on the plight of polygamous Mormon sects in Arizona. Recent targets in Dougherty's crosshairs include county attorney Andrew Thomas, the Phoenix Coyotes, state secretary Jan Brewer and the state government's disdain for the Havasupai.

Here is an interview John Dougherty did with Amy Goodman at Democracy Now! on the topic of John McCain a few years back.

20 August 2006

Why the TV newscasts are focused on the Ramsey case

TV Media all over JonBenet's Corpse, while discarding treatment to critical stories on Constitutional issues.
In a media system dominated by entertainment conglomerates, it's no accident that we're served up a steady stream of "top" stories saturated by sex, violence and celebrity: OJ, Princess Di, JonBenet, JFK Jr., Condit/Levy, child abductions (especially upper-middle class blonde girls), Laci Peterson, the runaway bride, the missing teen in Aruba, etc.

Let's face it: The Murdochs and Disneys and Time Warners and GEs that own our media system much prefer a nation of mindless consumers and spectators over a nation of informed, active citizens. They like the fact that avid TV viewers know all the intimate details about the JonBenet or OJ murder cases - and almost nothing about how big corporations lobby against middle-class interests in Washington.

Best of all to TV news managers, tabloid stories are cheap to cover, especially when pundits or legal experts can fill up hours of time with their (often ridiculously wrong) speculation. And these are stories that can't possibly offend powerful forces in Washington, or advertisers.

Over the last few days, anytime I heard radio hosts devote time to the Ramsey case, I impulsively, instinctively and immediately toggled the tuner to dial in another station. Really, some mentally unbalanced kook cries out a obviously suspect confession (given the truth of the case and his travels), and that moves all other news off the plate? And where is the media at in all the rest of abhorrent child murder cases. Or is the lavish attention just for rich white girls?

Cohen is correct — these sorts of stories are treasured by the media barons — they are cheap to cover and there is no risk of offending powerful interests by digging into controversial issues.

It's not a sacrifice. It's how we want to be living

For one family, living without a TV is the right program
"Living can be a tricky thing. There are a lot of things wanting our attention and allegiances. And often they aren't life-giving, leading us to a deeper, freer, more restful life. Television is not something that is life giving."

Not the first occasion I have written on this theme, but on a personal note, it is day 3 on a 30 day quest for my family — we've pledged to give up television for 30 days. And after my contractual obligations with the good folks at DirecTV are met, we plan to permanently discontinue satellite service.

While, it's not a total viewing blackout — at this juncture, we're still availing ourselves of DVD movie library and video games, it's the first step in breaking free of a sort of electronic bondage. Not that I watch much network television, but increasingly, I've noted the the gravitation to a default act of sitting down to watch HD movies and to satiate post World Cup withdrawl with televised soccer games around the globe.

Thus far, it's not been much of a sacrfice for us, though I'll have to check back once football season begins (and then the one true sport, hockey, begins another season).

A big sign to date that we are moving towards a market-state

The IRS privatizes debt collection.

An excellent assessment of what this development of affairs portends:

It looks like the US implementation of the market-state concept is going to end up relatively badly implemented. What does that mean? Here's what a poorly executed US market-state look like in 15 years: A largely privatized state. Lots of crony capitalism due to a massively corrupted government. Huge disparities in wealth. Oodles of paramilitaries (think in terms of private security firms replacing the thousands of SWAT teams that have proliferated over the last couple of years). Radical increases in poverty. Urban decay on a grand scale. Immigration out of control. Wealth flight (to the Caymans).

The keys to making this work are ruthless efficiency (likely through extremely competitive marketplaces), incorruptibility, fairness (to a fault), transparency, platforms, and viable ecosystems. Anything less and it breaks (fragments) due to: your opportunity is at the expense of my opportunity...

And here's an interesting take on the matter from the Freakonomics crew:

…“The private debt collection program,” Johnston writes, “is expected to bring in $1.4 billion over 10 years, with the collection agencies keeping about $330 million of that, or 22 to 24 cents on the dollar.”

Maybe that seems like too big a cut to surrender. And maybe people will be worried about the collection agencies having access to their financial records (a concern that Johnston addresses in the Times article). But what’s most striking to me is that the I.R.S. knows who owes the money, and knows where to get it, but can’t afford to collect it itself because it is understaffed. So it has to hire someone else to do it, at a stiff price.

The I.R.S. admits that external collection is far more expensive than internal collection. Johnston cites current I.R.S. commissioner Mark Everson as saying so, as well as former commissioner Charles O. Rossotti, who told Congress that if the I.R.S. hired more agents, it “could collect more than $9 billion each year and spend only $296 million—or about three cents on the dollar—to do so,” according to Johnston.

12 August 2006


Stealing a line from odious hate monger radio host Michael Savage, President Bush, in the aftermath of the arrests of 21 alleged extremists in Great Britain in connection with a plot to blow up US-bound commercial airliners, said "it is a “stark reminder that this nation is at war with Islamic fascists who will use any means to destroy those of us who love freedom.”.

That remark drew attention from all sides — including domestic critics and Muslims around the world.

Fascism is defined as a "system of government marked by centralization of authority under a dictator, stringent socioeconomic controls, suppression of the opposition through terror and censorship, and typically a policy of belligerent nationalism and racism". Now, one could make a great case for Hussien's Iraq as a fascist model, but a global set of jihadists, unified by what they view as an immoral enemy just doesn't fit. I'm not a fan of total societal subordination to theocratic edict, but it's not fascism.

The indiscriminate and inaccurate dropping of the fascist moniker serves the neoconservative movement in two-fold fashion. It fits into their "axis of evil" story and paints our side as lovers of "freedom", but more important it trivializes or conceals our own country's slow march to fascism, and state driven erosion of "freedom". Indeed, notable conservative luminaries argue for the end of "probable cause" and other neoconservative banner unfurlers believe the Constitution should be stomped over, all in the interest of a vague, perpetual "war on terror".

As an addendum here, checkout Why Hezbollah has "Rocketed" to Success.

The other night, as I watched the engrossing, if challenging, film Syriana, I was struck by the portrayal of the grim, shabby lives of the oil workers for the vastly wealthy Saudi families -- those "pliant dictators in oil-producing countries" enabled by U.S. intelligence operations, "the American penchant for military intervention," and Texan oil CEOs (whose idea of recreation is a canned hunt on Texas ranches, an apt metaphor for how they like to set up their business deals).

The CEOs, the Middle East dictators, and the U.S. and Israeli policy makers -- utterly removed from the low wages, terrible housing, lack of health care, and family crises of their worker bees (including minimum wage workers in the U.S.) -- think that military might, invasions, and submissive compliance of their own citizens, by ratcheting up fears of terrorist attacks, will keep their populations in check.

Syriana "opens with a shot of desi oil workers struggling to get onto a crammed Tata bus. Later in the movie, a shady oil company merger triggers layoffs. A Sikh foreman gets on a megaphone to Pakistani workers, telling them they've been fired, they must surrender their badges, and unless they find another job soon they have to report to immigration within two weeks and be deported."

In the Lebanon crisis, while the U.S., Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and other nations fail to "get it," Hezbollah has emerged victorious -- not because of its daily rain of rockets on Israel but because it has grown grassroots support in the alleys and streets of the less-advantaged Shiites of southern Lebanon.

8 August 2006

Welcome to the rightwingoverse

Dedicated to all the farce based neoconservatives out there…
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2 August 2006

If the authorities insist on the right to spy on our every move in public — they should not be immune from reverse surveillance

Criminalizing photography in the wake of a recent arrest of a Philadelphia man for using his cell phone camera to snap a picture of the police arresting an individual.
The people who would rule our lives in the most minute ways are now trying to stop picture-taking in public places. They are the ones who should be stopped.

Citizen media tools are in the hands of just about everyone these days. If the authorities insist on the right to spy on our every move in public — witness the spread of video cameras operated by police agencies and private citizens alike — they should not be immune from reverse surveillance.