27 February 2007

“Ron” who?

Looks like the evangelical king-makers are trying to follow the lead of the GOP power-brokers in a game of "let's ignore the e-l-e-p-h-a-n-t in the livingroom." And the e-l-e-p-h-a-n-t's name is Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX).

Rep. Paul has been announcing the formation of his presidential exploratory committee for nearly two months now. A few examples: But while Ron Paul has been letting America know for almost two months that he's exploring a run for the GOP presidential nomination, readers of the Rev. Jerry Fallwell's National Liberty Journal would never know it. NLJ's March 2007 issue includes the piece "Campaign 2008 — Identifying the Republican Presidential Candidates" — which doesn't even mention Ron Paul! (Interestingly, the piece does inform NLJ readers about such "serious" contenders as Newt Gingrich and "talk radio gadfly" Michael Savage — neither of whom have even announced yet!)

If you do nothing else, dear reader, I urge you first to read Pastor Chuck Baldwin's piece "Why Do Evangelicals Ignore Ron Paul?"

Then pass along printed and emailed copies if it to all your religious conservative friends who've never heard of Ron Paul. I suspect they'll thank you for it.

And by the way: If you'd like to hold Fallwell's feet to the fire, perhaps you could also drop his National Liberty [sic] Journal a short email. Maybe something like the following:
Dear sir or ma'am:

May this letter find you well.

I realize that you are the Webmaster and probably not a writer or editor for NLJ. But in the article "Campaign 2008: Identifying the Republican Presidential Candidates" (March 2007 issue), NLJ left out one very important candidate: Rep. Ron Paul of Texas.

May I ask, how did this happen? Was it merely an oversight, or was Rep. Paul left out intentionally?

In my opinion, Ron Paul is a politician of tremendous integrity. I hope NLJ will have the integrity to give your readers the pertinent info on all the GOP candidates. Perhaps you can include a "Ron Paul addendum" to the article in your next issue.

Phoenix, AZ

24 February 2007

AZplace Searcher

It is Time to tout my Google Co-op Custom Search Engine. There's also now a link in the LINKS right panel for it too.

I don't know how many are aware that you can use Google to restrict a search to a specific web site. For instance, the search box here (located in the upper right of every page) will perform a Google search on just pages. If you were to conduct such a search for let's say the phrase "talk radio" on the google home page search form, you'd enter this — "talk radio" And the returned search would show you only pages.

Now, the Google Co-op takes that power a step or two further. It allows one to setup a list of sites that you may confine an internet search to. A way to search through selected sites is one method of filtering out undesired search results. For the AZplace Search Engine, there are over 120+ sites in the data bank, mostly all of the links you see on the right side panel listed under the LINKS heading. One can also designate multiple individuals to edit the list.

Not the be-all and end-all of internet searching by any stretch, just another tool in your online research arsenal…


I've launched a tumblelog — AZspot.

While I own the domain, the site is hosted and run at tumblr, where anyone can create their own tumblelog. And there, I must write, the create and setup process was a snap.

What exactly is a tumblelog? To make a simple analogy: If blogs are journals, tumblelogs are scrapbooks. A way to post little snippets of links, photos, quotes, conversations, video clips and even typical old fashioned blog style posts. For when you want to share some stuff, but it really doesn't necessitate the creation of a post.

AZspot will be another link in the AZ$object online realm. Do visit and frequent it!

23 February 2007

Worthwhile Books

My ability to read books far outpaces my performance in posting reviews of them — my supply of books is presently flooding my capacity to store them has been exceeded for quite some time. Not that every book is notable enough for the sake of a review, but the queue of ones I wish to write about keeps accumulating. Truly, I am blessed with the gift of speed reading; however, my writing pace is unable to keep up. Meanwhile, I was spurred to concoct this list, and thought I’d share it .

Now, mind you, significance is not necessarily the equivalence being the best. And significance here is purely a subjective slash, centered on my life’s walk, and those texts that sparked in me a quest for further discovery, or jolted me from the clutches of a uninformed and/or misinformed state.

Since the Bible is a given for any Christian, and would occupy the top of any Christian’s significant book list, my list here omits it.

  1. The Upside Down Kingdom by Donald Kraybill
    The Jesus story examined from the perspective of what the culture looked like at the time. The historical backdrop and its relevance explained, illustrating how upside down the kingdom Jesus advanced. Considered in the context, Jesus was more radical than is commonly conceived. Down is up, rich is poor, poverty is luxurious, triumph is gained by losing. Love replaces hate, shalom overcomes revenge, enemies are to be loved, a basin replaces the sword, etc…. This book was a big force in how I was transformed from Christian in word to Christian in deed.

  2. Endless Enemies: The Making of an Unfriendly World by Jonathan Kwitny
    An eye opening book that awakened me from my Reagan-esque conservative slumber. Kwitny, former Wall Street Journal investigative reporter, chronicles the follies and foolishness of U.S. intelligence organs intervening in foreign government activities in a post World War II world. Kwitny details how a vagabond backpacker trekking across the globe was more attuned to political matters than the CIA. Really stunning stuff, calling into question all the billions spent on meddling into the affairs that are of no concern to the average working American. Reading through some reviews at Amazon, I saw one reviewer note that Endless Enemies was sort of a precursor to John Perkins Confessions of an Economic Hit Man. No, while the themes of both books are tangential, Kwitny’s work is well researched, while Perkins is mostly constructed from his own empirical remembrances of anecdotal tales. True, Perkins was an inside man who now in a sense, came out and acknowledged his part in what many perceive to be less than ethical conduct that still goes on today, now in the form of Halliburton or Bechtel or other $BigDefenseContractor. Kwitny also authored a great biography of Pope John Paul II.

  3. The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community by David Korten
    A recent release, 2006, by the author of another one of my favorite books, When Corporations Rule the World. It’s not even been out a year, yet I’ve read it at least three times, and some chapters over a half-dozen times. Korten writes how globalization is just the recent most manifestation of Empire, in stark contrast to Earth Community — a sustainable and democratic model, in contrast to “Empire” which is the embodiment of a “fortune for the few and misery for the many” scheme that has been the dominant theme throughout history. David Korten is no starry eyed hippie — he was an insider that worked for the global organs he now identifies as advancing the interests of Empire over Earth Community.

  4. The Long Emergency: Surviving the End of the Oil Age, Climate Change, and Other Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-first Century by James Howard Kunstler
    A shocking read, one that is made truly gripping by the remarkable writing of Kunstler’s, who exposes how precarious our lifestyle predicated on the existence of cheap oil might be. Here is a review I penned of Kunstler’s work.

  5. A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn No doubt that this work has been a treasure for those of a progressive ilk, but I had never heard of it until a family member brought it home and informed me it was serving as their history textbook at school. From the very opening chapter, the reader is riveted by Columbus, the Indians and Human Progress where Zinn cites the logs of Columbus and Bartolome de las Casas, a priest who participated in the conquest of Cuba, showing the Spanish conquerors in a different light than is typically portrayed in the schoolroom. Not that the theme is about blame, judgment or condemnation — instead, a look at how traditional Columbus history telling glosses over enslavement and mass murder as the “price of progress”. Zinn aims to elucidate historical insight from the perspective of everyone else besides the political leaders and generals. Each successive chapter, covering a segment of American history from the point of view of slaves, the oppressed, war victims, civil rights protesters and even plain ordinary working Americans. Even if your political philosophy is diametrically opposed to Zinn’s, his “follow the money” approach of examining American history is much deeper than the shallow, jingoistic fare that is usually trotted out.

  6. Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill
    An annual reading happenstance for me, this material should be part of every school child’s curriculum. Setting goals, repeating and reinforcing those goals every morning and every night is a bonafide recipe for success.

  7. The C Programming Language by Brian Kernighan, Dennis Ritchie
    Through the years, I’ve purchased reams and reams of computer books and sadly, the everlasting value of the lot of them is total nil. And typically, your average tome devoted to technology topics is chock full of pages and pages of unnecessary bloat. Even the few that are relevant and worthy for a short duration often take way too many words to lay the groundwork, explain a concept or illustrate a technique. Not the K&R book as it’s affectionally referred to. Terse, concise, succinct, less than 200 pages, but if you can grok and master, you can righteously call yourself a proficient programmer. This is the example that all computer books should strive for!

  8. The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology by Ray Kurzweil
    This is a non-fiction work but it really reads like a science fiction novel. At least after the initial chapters — where Kurzweil lays out how Moore’s Law not only applies to integrated circuits, but to most all advancing technology, and he illustrates this with charts and graphs plotting it all out. From there, it’s a trip into how the GNR (Genetics, Nanotechnology, Robotics) threads ravel together will revolutionize life as we know it. Intelligent medical agent nanobots, self healing organs, downloadable brains, and the prediction that some living today will witness the coming of human immortality. Kurzweil believes it will be, and is carrying out measures to ensure his longevity to be here for it when his prediction comes to fruition.

  9. Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas Hofstadter An extraordinary work, written in 1979, and a huge impetus in my career choice of computer science. I don’t really know how to describe it — a book about “strange loops”, winding together bits of Lewis Carroll, the art of M.C. Escher, the music of Bach with mathematician Kurt Gödel’s theorem of incompleteness. In the simplest form, his discovery entails the translation of the ancient Epimenides Paradox into mathematical terms. A mind blowing trip into paradoxes of finite v. infinite, mind v. machine, and relevancy for artificial intelligence research.

  10. Wealth and Democracy: A Political History of the American Rich by Kevin Phillips
    A cogent treatise on “wealth and democracy” in America. Packed full of charts and graphs along with profiles of the richest Americans in each historical era, Phillips chronicles the source of wealth for the upper crust. And how wars historically have dramatically realigned the picture. But the impactful piece is the portion where Phillips draws parallels of the United States with past powers England, Spain and Holland. How we are trending towards a second Gilded Age as contemporary financial powers entrench their aristocratic hold at the expense of us all and our total economic health. How the Reagan era brought forth a focus on FIRE (Finance, Insurance, Real Estate) business sectors while diminishing manufacturing and entrepreneurial ventures. Phillips is viewed as a “Republican turncoat” for this work, but I believe it to be most prescient. When favor is granted to those interesting in prolonging wealth off of that which is already built over those who build and make anew, that nation’s aggregate wealth is headed for a downward slope.

Honorable mentions

The following books almost made the cut, but got squeezed out in the final analysis. Partially because they are of a more specific focus, or perhaps they were impactful, but not as great as others that made the list.

  1. Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis C.S. Lewis is an extraordinary writer, the words just eloquently stream from his pen onto paper. A treatise on what all Christians, regardless of denomination, believe, written carefully to avoid controversies between differing denominations.

  2. The Exception to the Rulers: Exposing Oily Politicians, War Profiteers, and the Media that Love Them by Amy Goodman, David Goodman
    The lefty politics of Amy Goodman is too extreme for many, including me, but she’s a doggone excellent journalist and has written (along with her brother) an insightful book that exposes mainstream journalists for the establishment access seeking whores that they are.

  3. Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser
    Eye opening study of all the facets and segments of the fast food industry.

  4. The Secret War Against the Jews: How Western Espionage Betrayed The Jewish People by John Loftus, Mark Aarons
    Lots of conjecture, based mostly on the author’s network of “old spy” clients, but it’s fascinating reading and in the vein of Kwitny’s work above.

22 February 2007

Dr. Mike Out, Stephanie Miller In

KPHX AM 1480 morning host Mike Newcomb is out at 1480/Nova M to make room for the Stephanie Miller radio show.
Apparently the Drobnys wanted him in PMD to make room for Stephanie Miller, and he didn't go for it. KPHX listeners are complaining because of the time/effort/cash he/they put in the bring the station back.

Newcomb goes from flagship unit and president of the fledgling network, to being out on the pavement. These are preliminary reports, so obviously I do not know whether the parting is as detailed above or is a mutual separation on kind terms so Newcomb can go off and pursue some another passion.

If it's as described on the Radio-Info forum, then this a terrible move by Sheldon Drobny. After collecting $100 "Founder's Club" subscriptions, he simply discards the most popular on-air talent asset Nova M employs, ensuring a dissatisfied set of listeners, who no doubt, will be promptly asking for refunds.

Drobny was one of the founders of Air America, and now it appears he's destined to have a lead role in the disintegration of another liberal/progressive talk radio network. Perhaps there is some sinister conspiracy at work here…

Haven't seen any "official reports" declaring this, either on Nova M web site, Mike's site or Mike's forums.

9 February 2007

The quality of recruits will almost certainly keep dropping, and the Army will see its disciplinary problems and dropout rates continue to rise

According to this piece, bad students are indeed getting stuck in Iraq. Senator and past presidential hopeful John Kerry, if you recall, previously took some heat for a spoken gaffe on the matter.
When Senator John Kerry said last fall that students who didn't do well in school were more likely to “get stuck in Iraq,” he was immediately attacked for insulting the intelligence of U.S. troops. Of course, Kerry's comment was entirely accurate — not because American soldiers in Iraq are dumb, but because the Pentagon, in seeking to overcome serious recruiting shortfalls, has enlisted growing numbers of high school dropouts.

I recently spoke about this with my friend Eli Flyer, a longtime Pentagon consultant on military recruiting, who painted a grim picture of the Army's current recruiting strategy. In 2005, Flyer noted, the Army fell far short of its goal of attracting 80,000 enlistees. It managed to meet that same target last year by deploying about 1,400 new recruiters, by offering larger enlistment bonuses and other incentives, and by systematically lowering educational standards for new recruits. For example, the portion of non-high school graduates in last year's enlistee pool was 27.5 percent, up from 17 percent in 2005. In the 1990s, non-grads (most of whom do have a G.E.D.) made up only about 5 percent of new Army recruits.

8 February 2007

Teaching the Machine

And the machine is us.


7 February 2007

H1B is the root cause for underemployment in America

Recently, President Bush revealed again how out of touch he is with working Americans. Speaking to employees at DuPont, Bush exclaimed “We’ve got to expand what’s called H1B visas.

It’s been a few years since I toiled as a computer programmer in the IT department (and when I started, it was called Data Processing) for $BigCorporation. Now, I spend my workdays developing web applications for clients and an employer not in the domain of $BigCorporation. I still remain in contact with friends who are still sweating it out, hanging on for an impending retirement that can’t come soon enough. So I really don’t know how many computer programmers are still entangled with recurrent outsourcing and imported non-immigrant visa worker concerns — those I know still in the business are either leading offshore teams, in senior management, or consulting in some specialized realm of IT. But I’ve written extensively on this matter previously, and sadly, everything is playing out as I predicted.

So let me let another speak out on the matter — here are some relevant portions of a letter to the editor, or response to the AP article on the matter:

My name is Richard Vickers, a US contract software engineer. On 1/24/2007, President Bush gave a speech at a Dupont facility where he stated “It makes no sense to say to a young scientist from India, you can’t come to America to help this company develop technologies that help us deal with our problems,” stating further, “We’ve got to expand what’s called H1B visas (for skilled foreign workers),”.

I am a FL resident, but I am willing to work at any location performing any work. I hold a BS in Computer Science and have over fifteen years of successful IT contract experience. In 2001, when the H-1b cap was last raised, I went over eighteen months without work, followed by two years of low salary work, part of which was done for $5.00/hr. I just barely survived. Now, with over 500,000 H- 1b visa holders currently in the US, many now with expired visas, I am again finding it difficult to find work. While I am again finding it difficult to find work, the President is seeking to bring in more foreign, temporary workers under H-1b.

The H-1b visa program has provided three affects on the US economy, namely;

  1. it has driven down wages for all IT workers, described by the late Milton Friedman as a labor “subsidy”,

  2. it has provided American employers with indentured servants, as H-1b visas require the worker to stay with the requesting employer regardless of working conditions, and

  3. it has flooded the market with foreign workers, many without IT degrees, but given basic training, training refused American citizens, and therefore driving many American IT workers out of the field.

Even an Indian newspaper editorial chastised the President for this policy stance.

American Corporations and American Universities are exploiting the talented youth of India and other countries through F1, J1 and H1B visas. Some of those who come with H1B visas are less talented ‘failed’ engineers in India and other countries trying to earn some living in software application development. Simply put they perform automation of clerical work. H1B was not designed for that. The real talent comes to America with student visa. They complete their degree in America and finally obtain H1B and the Greencard (path to US citizenship).

H1B is the root cause for underemployment in America. The professional wages are depressed and qualified American citizens sacrifice their standard of living.

Currently H1B is totally abused. In India a set of middlemen (worse than drug dealers) trade young people to American Corporations who hire these men and women for low salaries to make them work for six years. Most of these men and women eventually are discarded after six years or less of exploitation. Most of them come to United States with a hope to settle in USA. They eventually find ways to stay back. Many of them eventually become illegal aliens.

The American Universities are worse. For example, Rutgers University’s Geography department refused American Citizens (with 3.9 GPA and on Dean’s list) from Graduate Studies while bringing in mediocre talents from India on F1 visa with fat teaching and research assistantships and free tuition. Guess what these students from India are working on? They are working on climate studies of India while talented American citizens are deprived from graduate studies in Geographic Information Systems. The exploitation of foreign nationals and discrimination against American citizens are profound even more in Engineering and Computer Science departments. The Faculty in these schools make these foreign nationals do the research and then they coauthor the reasearch articles with them to manifest their own research talents. It is shame for American Universities. Rutgers is just an example. Other Universities are no exception.

1 February 2007

Bush's Misdeeds

So many misdeeds, perpetrations of fraud, flagrant commissions of crimes… …here's a summary list of recent events plaguing the ethically challenged Bush administration:

Meanwhile, Congress fritters the time away with ceremonial and symbolic gestures like unbinding resolutions. For another president, covering up an illicit relationship with an intern was cause to launch Congress into a teetering impeachment tizzy whereas the current administration's conduct has bequeathed thousands of U.S. casualties and killed vast numbers of Iraqi civilians, along with the commission of felony crimes, according to a federal judge. And speaking of impeachment, the Bush administration has done far greater damage than Nixon.

A canard that the perpetrators of the current catastrophe use to frighten people into supporting a fatally flawed nation-building debacle

The Myth of an al Qaeda Takeover of Iraq
In his State of the Union Address last Tuesday, President Bush warned that if the U.S. fails in Iraq, al Qaeda will gain a safe haven from which to launch attacks against America. It is an argument that the President, other members of the administration, and neoconservative hawks have been using for years.

Despite such scare mongering, it is highly improbable that al Qaeda could use Iraq as the kind of safe haven it enjoyed in Afghanistan. There, the organization had the protection of an entrenched, friendly government, which it will not have in Iraq. Al Qaeda also had a much larger force in Afghanistan -- an estimated 18,000 fighters. Even the U.S. government concedes that there are fewer than 2,000 al Qaeda fighters in Iraq, and the Iraq Study Group put the figure at only 1,300.

Indeed, foreign fighters make up a relatively small component of the Sunni insurgency against the U.S. and British occupation forces. It strains credulity to imagine 1,300 fighters (and foreigners at that) dominating a country of 26 million people.

A September 2006 poll conducted by the University of Maryland's prestigious Program on International Policy Attitudes found that 94 percent of Iraqi Sunnis had a somewhat or highly unfavorable attitude toward al Qaeda.

And the anemic Sunni support for al Qaeda is overshadowed by the intense Shiite and Kurdish hostility to the group. Almost to a person, they loathe al Qaeda. The PIPA poll showed that 98 percent of Shiite respondents and 100 percent of Kurdish respondents had somewhat or very unfavorable views of the organization.