Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The games are rigged


By now, everyone should know that the entire stock market is being gamed by a few at the top, and that the average person doesn’t stand a chance against such competitors. When trades are measured in millions of dollars and transacted in microseconds and less from receipt of information, and only the early traders stand to gain, why would anyone think they could win in the long run against the only players who matter? Put the money in a fixed-interest account instead? Your puny savings will only decline because the interest offered runs less than inflation. No investment gains for you! You lose.

The employment game is rigged too, and yes, everything you need to know you learned in kindergarten: Musical Chairs is pretty much the framework that needs to be understood by job-seekers, with more and more chairs being removed, and workers tossed out without a second thought. To make matters worse, if you don’t already have a job, most employers won’t even consider you for one of their rare jobs, so you’re not even allowed to enter the game. No job for you! You lose.

If you want to buy a home and you need a mortgage, good luck even if you do receive bank approval, because all the good deals are going to cash buyers who use them as “investments”--who cares if you just want some humble place to call home? Your mortgage dollars are worth less than nothing when they’re up against the investor’s cash-dollars--even if you are willing to pay more for the home than they are--simply because sellers prefer not to wait a couple weeks for a mortgage-funded deal to close. No home for you! You lose.

Meanwhile, any potential buyers who foresaw the crash of the real estate bubble and therefore remained on the sidelines (even though mortgages were being handed out like candy to people who knew they could not afford to own such expensive properties but were gambling that the bubble would keep expanding without bursting until they’d made their gains)...well, now our tax dollars are being used to prop up the overextended homebuyers, and to prop up market prices beyond their true value, so that cautious and responsible people who now could afford to purchase as first-time homebuyers are instead locked out, again. No home for you, again! You lose!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Quote of the day

From popsci.com (emphasis added):
"The US Army [is imbuing its drones] with the ability to recognize you in a crowd and even to know what you are thinking and feeling. Like a best friend that at any moment might vaporize you with a hellfire missile."
Well, with friends like that I'd be better off dead anyway!

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Basic math for journalists

When I first heard about the proposal to reduce the business tax rate “by 10 percent” when this was intended to report a business tax change from 35 percent to 25 percent, I started writing letters to the offending journalists at some of the largest news organizations. Apparently I was not understood, because my correction was ignored by all.

You’re not thinking clearly if you think that this change is a “10% reduction” in business taxes.

For example, assume that $100 is taxable, and the rate is changing from 35% to 25%...


35% tax on $100 = $35.00

25% tax on $100 = $25.00

$10 tax saved = 29% of the $35 original tax

Thus, the total tax in dollars is fully 29% less than it was originally; therefore business in this example will not be saving just 10% but will actually be saving nearly 3-times as much, a very significant difference!

This is the math that should also be applied to such things as sales tax increases. These are often presented as a “half-percent increase” going from 8.0% to 8.5% but going from 8¢ per dollar to 8.5¢ per dollar paid in taxes is actually more than a 6% increase in taxes paid, NOT 0.5% as implied.


I have nothing against paying taxes, since I believe in paying for the goods and services needed for a functional society, but I do think we should understand the math, and should understand the magnitude of changes that are to be made. Would the average person agree to a ~30% tax cut for business as readily as they would agree to a 10% cut? Shouldn't we all clearly understand exactly what is being proposed?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Watching it in slo-mo...

- modified from http://www.nuc.berkeley.edu/UCBAirSampling

"Tokyo Electric Power Co. spokesman Takashi Kurita told reporters Sunday that leaked water in Unit 2 of the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant measured at 1,000 millisieverts per hour." - sfgate.com

U.S. nuke workers are allowed exposure of 50 mSv/year, or, 1/20th of what is being emitted each hour from water leaked from Reactor 2.

Therefore, U.S. nuke workers would be limited to total of 3 minutes of work per year in an environment this contaminated.

Because of the Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant crisis, Japan's (far poorer) standard for nuke workers has been raised from 100 mSv/year to 250 mSv/year, so Japan's nuke workers should be allowed to work for no more than a total of 15 minutes per year in an environment this contaminated.

15 minutes to get in, work, get out will not allow much work to get done, and they will need to "burn through" a LOT of underpaid, poorly-trained, and ill-equipped temp workers to accomplish anything.

When will someone admit that a full-on catastrophe of Chernobyl-esque magnitude is unfolding?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Evacuations, plumes, and pills, oh my...

- screen capture, live-streamed NHK-TV, 12:04PDT, 16MAR2011; reactor numbers added, and contrast enhanced

A high-level American official, the Chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, recommends expanding the Fukushima nuclear disaster's evacuation area to a 50-mile radius, or ~3900 square miles (area of circle divided by 2, to include only land area):
"Mr. Jaczko’s testimony came as the American Embassy in Tokyo, on advice from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, told Americans to evacuate a radius of 'approximately 50 miles from the Fukushima plant' and that 'the commission believed that all the water in the spent fuel pool at the No. 4 reactor of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station had boiled dry, leaving fuel rods stored there exposed and bleeding radiation.' As a result, he said, 'We believe that radiation levels are extremely high...'"
- New York Times
When this disaster first began, there was a map of projected nuclear fallout, based on measurements of the Chernobyl plume, at some site that I've forgotten. Interestingly, this map was yanked almost immediately, so it's no longer available, but here's a screen shot:

- screen capture, 18:24PDT, 14MAR2011

I do not vouch for the accuracy of this plume map, and indeed it may be completely bogus as claimed by the government. But, the smoke does have to go somewhere, and if it doesn't reach our homes as smoke particulates, it will bioconcentrate and may end up on our dinner plates instead. The smoke (and smoke to come) may dissipate, but it will not vanish; the radioisotopes being released will do their damage for thousands of years to come. Hopefully for the Japanese, the winds will not shift, because obviously, they are at the greatest risk of all. These winds will rain death; the only question is whose deaths that will be.

- screen capture, live-streamed NHK-TV, 12:06PDT, 16MAR2011

And, a heads-up to those seeking potassium iodide tablets: these may be useful at some point, but not so much for adults. They're more a placebo for most of us. But, check your multi-vitamin container, because you may already be consuming the recommended dose for any applicable catastrophe (150 micrograms, or mcg). It is highly recommended that no one take more than that amount, and no disaster guidelines would recommend taking more. It is certainly not worth wasting your money by buying potassium iodide at inflated prices from disaster-opportunists.

UPDATE 2 - IMPORTANT CORRECTION!

Regarding potassium iodide tablets: There is still not sufficient radioactive iodine reaching California from Japan for anyone to be consuming these tablets.

HOWEVER, I need to correct a big error in what I wrote above, which was based on incorrect information...

The dose of iodine in multi-vitamins is typically 150 mcg, BUT the dose needed for protection in the event of exposure to significant levels of radioactive I-131 is much higher:

The adult dose for such a contamination event would be 130 mg (and 1 mg = 1000 mcg). The dose for children is half or less of what's given to adults.

For complete information, please see the CDC's guidelines:

http://www.bt.cdc.gov/radiation/ki.asp

UPDATE - A map of the travel of a theoretical radioactive plume emitted from the Fukushima Nuclear Power Station in Japan, from New York Times, based on data from Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization, assuming the weather of this week:

- composite image of 24-hour intervals from the interactive feature provided by the New York Times, with the addition of elapsed time in hours

The model assumes a radioactive source in the middle range, of 0.1-1.0 baseline (without units), to illustrate the logarithmic reduction of intensity over time and distance. For the hypothetical emission of 1 unit, about 1/100 of that intensity would reach California in about six days, according to this model. The model stops at six days, so no further extrapolation can be made. This model does lend credence to the other plume illustration, shown above.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Don't we wish...

- (unmodified) photo taken at Rancho Seco Nuclear Power Plant, California, ca. 1978

Well, this is one way for humanity to learn...

- Reactor buildings #3 and #4 at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power station; image captured from live-streamed newscast, 21:10 PDT 15MAR2011, NHK World (contrast and brightness enhanced)

This photo of two of the six crippled nuclear power reactors was shared by a Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) executive, shortly after the announcement that the remaining 50 workers at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant on the east coast of Japan had been evacuated, due to "spiking" radiation levels. [LATER: Workers are being "allowed" back into the site now.]

Among the six reactors, TEPCO remains unable to maintain coolant levels in most of the reactor vessels, and in some the spent fuel storage vessels (located in the "attics" of the reactor containment buildings).

There have been fires and explosions and some of the reactor vessels are assumed by TEPCO to be breached. Cesium-137 and Iodine-131 have been detected in the surrounding atmosphere, supporting the breach assumption.

The roofs of several of the buildings have been blown off, leaving the spent fuel storage vessels exposed to the environment. Spent fuel rods, and fuel rods contained within the reactors, have been left uncovered by coolant and exposed to air for varying periods on the order of hours to days. Temperatures of the fuel, spent and otherwise, is climbing, and at least several of the reactors are assumed by TEPCO to be have already begun experiencing "partial melt-downs."

The Prime Minister of Japan has stated that radiation is leaking from four of the six reactors. An area of roughly 250 square miles (area within 20 km radius, halved) with about 140,000 inhabitants according to NHK-TV has been evacuated, and an additional 300 square miles (the band between 20 and 30 km from the plant, halved) has been issued a shelter-in-place order.

Most nuclear agencies regard the evolving situation as the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl, a Level 6 incident (with Three Mile Island being a 5 and Chernobyl being a 7) and expect it to worsen. Major aftershocks continue to be experienced throughout Japan, both on- and offshore (the second variety making another tsunami possible).

Nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen said on CNN today that TEPCO has been trying to deal with decay heat of the spent fuel rods, but that without a supply of cooling water, the spent fuel pool could go into a criticality, a chain reaction, making the situation far worse. "It can boil dry in a day." Then "the fuel catches fire, the steel--the zirc-alloy--begins to burn and the [radioactive fuel within] volatilizes and becomes an aerosol, becomes airborne."

One source said that there are 600,000 pounds of spent fuel rods at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi power station, and another report stated that some or all of the buildings are too radioactive for people to enter.

The workers at this site deserve medals, but I have little confidence that they will accomplish their goal of stabilizing the situation. This may well turn into an all-new nuclear "experiment," the likes of which we've never before seen, or even imagined. The stuff of nightmares.

Monday, March 07, 2011

What’s WRONG with this picture?

What’s WRONG with this picture?

Well, since he misrepresented his platform during his campaign, I guess it’s IN character for Republican Walker to launch a site of his own for the folks who are looking for the Wisconsin Democratic Party’s site (wisdems.org).

All the more reason to go to wisdems.org to donate whatever you can to the effort to recall eight Wisconsin Republican Senators...

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Democrat ASSASSINATED in Arizona



Who's next, Sarah?

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

All we need to know...

...about the Obama-McConnell pact:
"Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, tells National Review Online that a tentative tax deal between President Obama and the GOP is “a much bigger victory than people see” for the Republicans." (emphasis added)

http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/254638/norquist-tax-deal-andrew-stiles
Since Mr. Norquist's overriding goal has always been to "starve" the government, in order to force it to obliterate all social safety nets, and since this Obama-McConnell deal includes a partial defunding of Social Security (by lowering FICA from 6.2% of wages up to $106k, to 4.2%) in the face of the already-declared underfunded status of Social Security due to arrive sometime in the next 20-30 years, it is pretty obvious where this pact will take us, if it passes.

Furthermore, there is absolutely no defense for extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy for which the original justification was our post-Clinton budget surplus, something that's only a distant memory now. These tax cuts will add to the deficit for no purpose, except as a bargaining chip for the unemployment extension? Sorry, no.

Make the Republicans come out and declare that, against the Democrats' intentions, the Republicans are intent upon throwing these unemployed people under the bus (along with the 99-ers who wouldn't be helped anyway). Make it blindingly obvious who their enemies are! Don't bargain away the future of the country in order to avoid this confrontation! Bundling these two things together is genius on the part of the Republicans, and an utter blunder on the part of Mr. Obama.

This is NOT a case of "the perfect being an enemy of the good"--this is a deal that is flawed at its very core. This Obama tax cut deal trades the "hostage" of 1 million unemployed (for just one year) for a HOSTAGE of our entire country's long-term economic future, making everyone worse off in the long run (except perhaps for the grotesquely wealthy, but even they need to live in a functioning country)!

Let all the Bush tax cuts expire--the cost to those of us at the bottom is trivial in comparison to what it will cost the country to let them ride!

Fight to extend benefits to ALL of the unemployed, but this should include the start up of a WPA-like jobs program, so that we get something for our money!

Strengthen Social Security by raising the cap!

And get us out of ALL of our misbegotten military adventures!

That's a pact I could get behind.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Unsubscribe

http://my.barackobama.com/page/unsubscribe/

Well, that is the last straw. President Obama has made an unconscionable deal with the Republicans by supporting the extension of ALL of the Bush tax cuts, that will finish the job of "starving the beast" once and for all. Although the support for the original tax cuts derived from there being a budget surplus, that is obviously no longer the case. We can't afford to continue this drain on the Treasury, but since the Republicans know how to blackmail this Administration, that is what will come to pass.

Why does Mr. Obama always give away the store before negotiations even begin?

Why does Mr. Obama think that the rich need such a hand-out?

All of the polls state that the majority would prefer that ALL the tax cuts expire, rather than extend this give-away to the rich, even though it would mean these mostly lower-to-middle class folks (including me) would also have to give up their tax cuts. Who are the real patriots? Who really cares about the future of this country?

I am done with modern "Democrats" if all it means is lip-service to the middle class and poor, while the Republicans get everything they want, and BOTH parties are in place only to serve the wealthy and the transnational (AKA: unAmerican) corporations.

Unsubscribe me, now, in all meanings of the word.

I mourn for my country, and I regret my previous enthusiastic support for President Obama's candidacy. The only thing I have learned is that I must never again trust anything ANY politician says, ever. I deeply regret my naiveté.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Fatal error


Oops. We killed it. All of it. That is the short version of the BP disaster.

The long version is that they chose to drill deep into the earth, starting a mile under the ocean, without having any back-up plan whatsoever for the event of a catastrophic failure of their equipment or methods. No back-up plan whatsoever, no effective back-up plan in existence, and they did not even choose to use the best available accident-prevention technology that is required to be used in other places, such as in the off-shore waters Brazil and Norway. To save a few bucks ($500,000), BP chose not to install remote-controlled or acoustic-controlled triggers for their ill-fated blow-out preventer. Although this might not have worked either, at least they could then have claimed to be using “best available” technology.

The real question is: Why is such deepwater drilling even allowed, when the catastrophic failure potential is so catastrophic, when there are no effective remedies to mitigate such failures?

BP’s main response to this grotesque debacle of their own creation has been the application of huge quantities of “dispersants” to the monstrous plume of crude, and I would conclude that their motivation in doing this is only to mask the full extent of the “spill” (a word that is vastly too miniscule for use in this context).

Why would we want to “disperse” the plume to cover an even greater area anyway? This just magnifies the extent of the clean-up that must be done, and breaking up the crude oil just makes it more likely to be consumed by wildlife at all depths. The dispersant itself is toxic too, so why would we choose to make the situation even worse? The widespread assumption seems to be that “dispersants” are a good thing, but all they really accomplish is to make the situation look better to overflights.

The figure of 40% has been widely used in news reports as the reduction to the US seafood harvest as a direct and immediate result of this spill. But that is only the beginning. As the oil kills the vegetation on the barrier islands (and any living creatures so unlucky as to be living there), the barrier islands will erode, i.e., disappear forever. As the barrier islands disappear, so will the coastline of the continent be hit. As the coastline marshes disappear due to the death of their vegetation, and erosion ensues, the coastal areas will have lost their main defense against storms, and even more damage (and oil contamination, and vegetation death, and erosion) will take place.

Ocean creatures over a huge expanse will disappear, even those who normally spend only small parts of their lives in the Gulf during seasonal migrations. Birds, mammals, fish, invertebrates, plankton, protists, plants—every living thing will disappear from these vast expanses of ocean and coastal waters, and with them will go the intricate food webs and normal oxygen production. This is a dead zone that will last for decades, and that will have a vast reach, and that cannot be effectively remediated by humans, no matter how we may wish otherwise. We can, however, make it a lot worse; for that we only need to use dispersants by the hundreds of thousands of gallons, as we are presently doing.

BP has made a fatal error (actually a string of fatal errors). Their actions directly caused the immediate deaths of 11 rig workers, and serious injuries to 17 rig workers (probably severely burned, but where is this ever noted in the news reports?), and toxic exposures to clean-up workers, and uncountable wildlife deaths, and BP has killed a large proportion of the Gulf of Mexico, as well as the coastlines of at least three states. BP made this final fatal error based solely on their desire to maximize cost-savings—by ignoring the warnings of rig workers who noted problems with the capping process, and by doing the underwater well technology on the cheap by omitting the acoustic- or remote-controlled triggers for their blow-out preventer (and who knows how many other short-cuts they took along the way).

In making these choices, BP has created a Pandora’s Box situation, where in their efforts to access the riches within, they now cannot get the lid back on no matter how hard they try. BP has loosed death on a incomprehensibly massive scale onto the Gulf, and while this will cost them a pretty penny now, their cost pales in comparison the what the rest of us, and the sea life, and the coastal regions, and the biosphere itself will have to pony up.

Will we learn anything at all from this? Will we learn that some technologies are too big to be allowed to fail, and therefore cannot be used, ever? That is the most doubtful outcome of all, as humanity seems to be hell-bent on rushing headlong to its own demise.

Humanity’s greatest asset, supposedly, is the frontal lobe in our collective cranium, the mass of intertwined neurons that allows us to speculate in any situation: “and then what?” So why is no one in charge of such technologies using this, our unique and immensely valuable talent? Could it be that the structure of corporations simply does not allow it? That the immediate bottom line trumps all else, just like in the “decisions” to be made by a cancerous tumor? The corporation says “I want it all now” and its minions have no choice but to obey or be destroyed.

Indeed, we have created a monster in these amoral corporations, and the monster cares not a whit about life—not ours, not the pelican’s or turtle’s or dolphin’s, not the ocean’s, not the planet's, not even its own life; its only directive is to grow, and consume, and grow, and consume, and grow…ad nauseum…ad infinitum…and so we reap the whirlwind.
_______________
Photo: Charlie Riedel/AP

Sunday, February 21, 2010

“Making Work Pay”

How many moderate-income people (like me) overlooked the fact that the “stimulus” payments they’ve already received, in the form of reduced payroll tax withholding taken from their paychecks since last Spring, will be yanked back out of their wallets unless they are sufficiently alert and astute to file a Schedule M with their 1040 or 1040A tax return?

How much in labor will it cost the IRS to deal with the inevitable 1040X amended returns that will be filed?

Will the IRS ever get a technical writer with the ability to accurately describe such things in their booklets? When I glanced at the “what’s new” section, I had the impression that I had already received my “Making Work Pay” stimulus, and I had no idea that by writing my check to IRS, I was simply giving it all back!

So, crank up the computer and spend an hour on the 1040X + Schedule M, and you’ll receive $400 for your hour of more tax-filing hell (or, $800 for couples): time well-spent (or, Make-Work that Pays)!

Personally, I would prefer a simpler or at least, more transparent, method of being stimulated. Of the college grads I’ve surveyed, not one spotted this issue during their tax-filing ordeal. But of course, we have the chutzpah to believe that being educated folk, we should be able to manage our “simple” tax situations of no itemized deductions.

Don’t get me wrong: I fully support paying taxes, and even believe that I receive a large return for my payments. But, I do believe that a person of average intelligence and literacy ought to be able to fill out an error-free “simple” tax return without great effort. Unless, that is, part of the program is to support full employment of tax specialists…

________________
(Image: modified from alviman)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The day after

Hopefully, Coakley’s loss in the MA election might wake up the present-day “Democratic” Party to the reality that, as President Truman said, when given the choice between genuine Republicans and Republicans-in-Democratic-clothing, the voters will usually choose the genuine article.

The Democrats and the Obama administration had better wake up to the fact that people are sick of the focus on the “needs” of corporations, that we demand some policies that will benefit US, not the bankers and corporations. We see the ginormous piles of tax money going to the bankers and their bonuses, while we, our neighbors, our friends, our relatives are losing their homes, their jobs, and going bankrupt or dying due to no health care. Even those who are not following politics clearly understand that the “little people” are being screwed, while the elites just keep gaining all the more. There is an undercurrent of anger that had better be understood and addressed, or there will be hell to pay, even by those in their walled enclaves and flying on their private jets. The MA election is only the beginning.

The Obama administration is run by Rahm Emmanual and other corporate minions/apologists, and their INTENT is to gut the Democratic party’s platforms and redirect the resources of this country to the corporations. I had hope that Obama would be strong enough to resist this inevitable pull, but I’m not that surprised that he has failed. It’s a superhuman task, really.

Maybe now that the Senate Dems don't have their bare-60 supermajority, they’ll learn how to govern like the Republicans always have. The Republicans have not had 60 Senators since ~1923, but they sure managed to ram some legislation through. I for one am sick unto death of the Senate whining about having to go to the middle to gather along the Liebermans, Nelsons, Snowes, et al., who exist only to obstruct any real democratic reforms being put into place. Let the Democrats LEARN how to GOVERN, just like the Republicans always have; they can review the method by which the Bush tax cuts were rammed through, for starters.

If the Democrats refuse to do this, they need to be outed for the LIARS that they are, because it will prove that they never had any interest in pressing for reform, but only in maintaining their job titles. It is about time that they start to show some COURAGE and PRINCIPLES, and that goes for all of them: Obama, Pelosi, Reid, the entire House and Senate. If they prefer not to do so, they should get the hell out of the way.

I do not believe that I am alone in this opinion.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

No doubt left (if there ever was any)...


From the beginning of the globalization frenzy, some of us have been saying that it is nothing more, or less, than a race to the bottom, in terms of wages paid to workers.

Some of us have understood from the beginning that the entire point of all the trade agreements that have been struck has been to reduce the wages paid to American workers, something that business would laud as an increase in efficiency.

Some of us have understood from the beginning that business interests in America have as their primary goal the depression of wages paid to American workers, and view with admiration the kinds of worker oppression seen in other countries—with forced labor only distinguishable as a matter of degree.

Some of us have always understood that if business could get away with paying their workers a bowl of rice a day as payment in full for their labor, as a kind of indentured servitude for the privilege of eating anything at all, that this would be seen as an ideal situation: cheap (nearly free) labor AND a bowed and broken “citizenry”—a real two-fer!

But rarely has it been so brazenly elucidated as it was in today’s New York Times, in American Wages Out of Balance:
“American workers are overpaid, relative to equally productive employees elsewhere doing the same work.”

“The global wage gap has been narrowing, but recent labor market statistics in the United States suggest the adjustment has not gone far enough.”

“the recession shows that many workers are paid more than they’re worth”

“It’s possible to run the numbers to show that American manufacturing workers should take average real wage cuts of as much as 20 percent to get into global balance.”
When will they admit that this was the goal all along, to depress American wages to the level of those in so-called Third World nations? Or don’t they think we care (or remember) anymore? (Bill Clinton, I’m talking to YOU!)

Any wage-earner who still believes that anyone has their interests first and foremost is sadly deluded. We “little people” are nothing but toast now, as the real players drink deep of their champagne while plotting their next moves. And make no mistake: we are of no consequence; it really is all about them.

By them I mean: those who are calling all the money shots, via their purchased toady politicians; those who would refuse to institute single-payer healthcare for all and who see nothing wrong with making people die for lack of healthcare; those who have been ceaselessly trying to destroy all social safety nets like pensions, Social Security, and unemployment insurance; those who want to “starve the government” of tax revenues, but then suck up all the remaining tax revenues by threatening to otherwise take down the economy with their “too big to fail” gambling enterprises. They will not rest until they bring every one of us to ruin and can scrape up our remains.

The sociopaths are in charge now.

________________
(Image: modified from sideshowmom)

Monday, September 14, 2009

We’re #37...



h/t Oliver Willis

Thursday, July 02, 2009

You’re invited...

...to celebrate Independence Day with an old-fashioned (and FREE) band concert in the park, 1:00 - 3:00:

Come enjoy Oakland Munipal Band’s first concert of their 99th season, in the beautiful bandstand by the lake. Guaranteed to make you smile, and maybe you’ll even have to get up and dance.

Bring a low chair or blanket, and a picnic, and the kids (but no dogs are allowed in the park).

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Tortured hypocrisy

President GW Bush:
“War crimes will be prosecuted, war criminals will be punished, and it will be no defense to say ‘I was just following orders...’ ”
Unless, of course, you were following his orders...



h/t Jonathan Turley

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Obstruction of justice at the highest level; the torturers were “just following orders”…

In modern America, the penalties for swiping a candy bar, or accidentally runnning a red light, are more severe than the penalty for killing a so-called “enemy combatant” prisoner with active torture, or by deliberately baking that prisoner to death in a shipping container in the sunny desert, should you be “ordered” to do so by your bosses. It’s also apparently perfectly OK to order others to do these acts under cover of your authority, words contrived and written by men blinded by obeisance, and then put into motion by the morally lazy (although there is some indication that Spain’s judiciary doesn’t quite agree).

President Obama has made a frightfully immoral error by declaring that we can simply move on from our torturing past, with no accountability, and that all the torturers and their bosses should escape the consequences of their willful actions done in violation of international treaties and laws (not to mention the most basic of moral standards).
Obama: “…those who carried out their duties (sic) relying in good faith upon legal advice from the Department of Justice […] will not be subject to prosecution [because there is] nothing [to] be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past.”
Well then, why on earth are we wasting so much “time and energy” trying to ship an 89-year old man, John (Ivan) Demjanjuk back to Munich to answer for his WWII “carrying out of his duties”? Shouldn’t we just let bygones be bygones for his long-ago past too?
Obama: “This is a time for reflection, not retribution. I respect the strong views and emotions that these issues evoke. We have been through a dark and painful chapter in our history.”
Prosecution for crimes committed is not “retribution”! Do not minimize my opposition to your path as “strong views and emotions”! I am motivated only by my respect for law and my pragmatic notion that laws are meaningless when enforcement is selective, and that such enforcement selectivity creates a tyranny of the worst sort.
Obama: “Our national greatness is embedded in America’s ability to right its course in concert with our core values, and to move forward with confidence.”
NO, you have it completely WRONG! Our greatness as a nation is incumbent upon our determination to BE a nation of laws, a nation that operates under the “RULE OF LAW,” which specifically “provides that decisions should be made by the application of […] laws without the intervention of discretion in their application” (Black's Law Dictionary, 1979).

This declaration by President Obama against prosecuting for known crimes harks back to those sorriest of days of the Bush administration, when Bush cited the supposed principle of “unitary executive” power, saying in a signing statement (to McCain’s 2005 torture amendment) that he believed his own adherance to the rule of law to be optional, and that he had the right to ignore laws and treaties at will:
“The executive branch shall construe [the provision] relating to detainees, in a manner consistent with the constitutional authority of the President to supervise the unitary executive branch and as Commander in Chief and consistent with the constitutional limitations on the judicial power, which will assist in achieving the shared objective of the Congress and the President ... of protecting the American people from further terrorist attacks.”
James Madison wrote:
“If the President be connected, in any suspicious manner, with any person, and there be grounds to believe he will shelter him, the House of Representatives can impeach him; they can remove him if found guilty...”
It would indeed be ironic if impeachment proceedings were brought against President Obama for the crimes committed by the Bush administration, simply because President Obama chose to “shelter” those lawbreakers from prosecution.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Bleeding us dry

“Annuit cœptis”? Not when it comes to usurious interest rates.

Although it is difficult to keep up with (or make sense of) our current financial morass, every so often a beacon of light can illuminate the crux of the issue. For me, that was the recent Harper’s Magazine piece, “Infinite Debt,” by Thomas Geoghegan. His premise is very simple: the whole mess was caused by unregulated interest rates.

As he notes, the profit potential this change generated drew all investment away from manufacturing and into the financial “services” industry, and the money just poured in, from all over the world, because everyone wanted in on a good thing. There was more money than anyone knew what to do with, and thus, the exotic paper was issued, betting on bets that bet on other bets, snowballing to more than $600 trillion in “investments”--a bubble to beat all bubbles, based on nothing but air, and really, a Ponzi scheme to beat all Ponzi schemes (although Geoghegan does not define it so).

It is only the unregulated interest rates that led investors to demand high year-after-year returns on their deposits, and the only place to find those returns was in the banking industry, so manufacturing (and the jobs and towns it sustains) was bled dry. This accounts for the declining real income of wage-earners, who then turned to credit in order to cover living expenses, and who were also subjected to the high interest rates charged by banks (in spite of the lowest Federal Reserve interest rates in history).

I recently let a small balance remain on a credit card for a couple months, as the card has its minimum payment made automatically and I hadn’t gotten around to paying it off, and the interest rate was not horrendous (13.24%). With an excellent credit rating and almost no debt, I recently received a fine-print letter from the bank (Chase) telling me that the interest rate would rise in a month, “in response to market conditions and to maintain profitability on your account.” Boom! I immediately sent payment in full, plus a slight overage, to force them to issue a credit statement monthly for the next six months. No more “profitability” for you!

It’s pretty obvious that the banks are killing us. They are sapping every dime from regular people (in the form of credit card interest and lost wages and rip-off mortgage schemes), and they are draining the lifeblood from all other industries, and now they’re draining the people’s treasury as well. “Too big to fail”? How about “too big to live”? Banks and the entire financial “services” industry are not being operated in the interest of the people, and it is time for the regulators to address that fact.

Usury is not only a sin, but it is the ruination of any economy where it is allowed to reign.

The only defense the average person has is to do the hard work to eliminate all use of credit from their lives, except for a reasonable mortgage, and if they can’t get a reasonable mortgage, to forego the purchase of a home. To do otherwise is to enslave yourself, to cast yourself into a debtor’s prison of your own making (thanks to the collusion of the banks and the government).

We also need to demand that our representatives re-regulate the banks, but this is a far tougher matter, given their conflicts of interest (lobbyists and campaign contributions) and their general ignorance of the intricacies of the financial industry. A good start would be a cap on consumer interest rates, but it should not stop there. Re-regulation also needs to be applied to the creative rip-off schemes dreamed up by Wall Streeters, and it needs to be made clear that the U.S. Treasury does not exist for the purpose of bailing out losing bettors.

Will any of this happen in my lifetime? Probably not, in the absence of a complete finanacial melt-down, something I dearly hope does not come to pass. For the rest of us, the regular folks who work for our livings, our only response to current events can be to just say no: no more credit-based purchasing, no more feeding the banks, no more get-rich-quick investments. Get out (and stay out) of debt as best you can. The banks are your enemy! For myself, I would rather live in my car than give the banks another dime.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Torture: It’s illegal, it’s immoral, and it does not work.

(Composite photo; originals from Wikipedia)

Finally, they admit the obvious, that torture is not effective:
“When CIA officials subjected their first high-value captive, Abu Zubaida, to waterboarding and other harsh interrogation methods, they were convinced that they had in their custody an al-Qaeda leader who knew details of operations yet to be unleashed, and they were facing increasing pressure from the White House to get those secrets out of him.

“The methods succeeded in breaking him, and the stories he told of al-Qaeda terrorism plots sent CIA officers around the globe chasing leads.

“In the end, though, not a single significant plot was foiled as a result of Abu Zubaida’s tortured confessions, according to former senior government officials who closely followed the interrogations. Nearly all of the leads attained through the harsh measures quickly evaporated, while most of the useful information from Abu Zubaida -- chiefly names of al-Qaeda members and associates -- was obtained before waterboarding was introduced, they said.”

[...]

“Abu Zubaida’s revelations triggered a series of alerts and sent hundreds of CIA and FBI investigators scurrying in pursuit of phantoms. The interrogations led directly to the arrest of Jose Padilla, the man Abu Zubaida identified as heading an effort to explode a radiological ‘dirty bomb’ in an American city. Padilla was held in a naval brig for 3 1/2 years on the allegation but was never charged in any such plot. Every other lead ultimately dissolved into smoke and shadow, according to high-ranking former U.S. officials with access to classified reports. ‘We spent millions of dollars chasing false alarms,’ one former intelligence official said.”

Washington Post, 29 March 2009
And finally, someone has taken responsibility to uphold the law:
“A Spanish court has taken the first steps toward opening a criminal investigation into allegations that six former high-level Bush administration officials [John Yoo; Douglas Feith; Jay Bybee; William Haynes II; Alberto Gonzales; David Addington] violated international law by providing the legal framework to justify the torture of prisoners...

“The [Spanish Court’s] move represents a step toward ascertaining the legal accountability of top Bush administration officials for allegations of torture and mistreatment of prisoners in the campaign against terrorism. But some American experts said that even if warrants were issued their significance could be more symbolic than practical, and that it was a near certainty that the warrants would not lead to arrests if the officials did not leave the United States.”

[...]

“[Spanish lawyer] Mr. Boye said that lawyers should be held accountable for the effects of their work. Noting that the association he represents includes many lawyers, he said: ‘This is a case from lawyers against lawyers. Our profession does not allow us to misuse our legal knowledge to create a pseudo-legal frame to justify, stimulate and cover up torture.’ ”

New York Times, 29 March 2009

Bravo, Mr. Boye! But I think you’ve overlooked a couple more perps...

(Can I be the only one to find it wryly amusing that these fellows are effectively exiled to their country?)

Monday, February 23, 2009

Kids these days...

Presenting…the Teresa Carreño Youth Orchestra of Venezuela…



Some say we can no longer afford the luxury of music and art in the schools. Some say that kids these days are lazy and unwilling to excel.

I say: give them a chance, and they will show us what they can do. But first, you have to give them the chance.

h/t onegoodmove

Monday, January 19, 2009

Honor before expedience

Dear President-Elect Obama,

It is unsettling to hear your recent comments regarding the crimes that have been committed by the Bush Administration, with your focus having drifted to a position of moving “forward,” rather than one of addressing the wrongs that have been committed in our names.

Contrary to House Speaker Pelosi’s well-known position, we do not have as an honorable option the choice to forego prosecution for the war crimes that were committed by those in our employ. We are a nation of laws, but if we do not adhere to those laws, and choose not to prosecute violations of those laws, we are mere pretenders, and our Constitution will be as besmirched by our inaction as it has been by the actions of Bush and his minions.

Would any District Attorney seriously address a crime that was committed with the preference, for expedience sake to let it go, to simply move “forward”? The whole suggestion makes a mockery of the Rule of Law, and I dearly hope that your focus will be at least partly on holding those who committed such abominable acts as torture accountable for their actions. We, and the rest of the world, deserve nothing less. “Moving forward” in willful ignorance simply is not an ethical or lawful option.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Homeward bound


Riding the rails up the coast from LA to Oakland earlier this month, I was surprised to again see dolphins as we neared Carpenteria during lunch, just like last year, as if on cue. The Coast Starlight is a spectacular way to get an overview of the west coast, and a worthwhile trip for the views alone. What a pleasant way to get from here to there...






Heading inland...


People—of all ages—waved as we passed by just as in days past, yet more proof of the continuing magic of trains. (Do they wave at Greyhounds, or jets, or SUVs?)


A view of the front of the train from the middle of the third sleeper:


Highly recommended! Go AMTRAK!

Torture: What now? The “Rule of Law” perhaps?


I hope that after the inauguration there will be a bit more attention paid to the issue of torture than there is at present.

I dearly hope that the Obama administration will recognize that it is thoroughly unacceptable to simply move on, and ignore the profound criminality of what has gone on during these past Bush-years. We cannot just say that we are a nation of laws, unless we actually enforce those laws, and that means that those responsible must be held to account. Cheney clearly stated on national television that he approved the so-called “enhanced interrogation” techniques, an outright admission of his culpability:

Do we as a nation operate under the “Rule of Law” or is it the “Rule of Expedience”? The whole world is watching…

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Joy goes around



h/t: Patrick

Wishing peace and joy to all beings,
Kathleen

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble

How is it that so many missed all the signs, and that so much money is being lost? The signs have been there all along, showing clearly that something is gravely amiss, that all market sectors have been teetering on the unsustainable for years now, and only the delusional could have believed that such an anomalous upward trend could have continued unabated. Apparently, most of us, at least in the US, can count ourselves as delusional.

Below are compiled some telling figures, of the major stock indices and housing prices and wage trends, going back as far as 1965 in some cases. The x-axis is consistent between the figures, so that years can be more easily compared. Can anyone look at this data and seriously contend that they are surprised at what looks to be only the beginning of a catastrophic financial meltdown? My guess is that anyone who is genuinely surprised is probably routinely filling a prescription for Xanax or Ambien or another similar pharmaceutical.

Those of us in California should pay particular attention to the last graph, of housing prices in Japan, and in particular we should note the similarity of Carlifornia's curve to that of Japan's largest cities.

It is what it is. Ignore reality at your peril.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Under the bus she goes...

She really didn't know that Africa is a continent? Fox News says so, so it must be true, eh?

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Music to mark my ballot by...



V O T E ! ! !


h/t: LJC

[Original video pulled by YouTube; this one is more recently done by same performers - 17Dec2008]

Sunday, October 12, 2008

A brief primer on McCain’s role in Keating 5 and the S&L crisis



Fast-forwarding to the present debacle…on March 25, 2008 McCain recommended [begins at 10:52 in video] even MORE deregulation to address the current subprime meltdown, while his key advisor, Phil Gramm says this is merely a “mental recession”…

Secessionists started our (so far only) Civil War: Who’s the traitor?



And, she wants to know: What's in it for Alaskans?



Country first? Who are they trying to kid?

Where the $700,000,000,000 will go

Saturday, October 11, 2008

We should be surprised?

Look at the plot for 37 years, and tell me that recent Wall Street activity and plummeting Dow Jones Industrial Averages should be considered unusual or unexpected, because I sure don't see it that way.

Graphs of "most recent data" are a composite Dow Jones Industrial Averages derived from Wall Street Journal (wsj.com) on October 9, 2008; note that the values on Y-axis are not constant.

Unfit for command

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

For a little perspective...

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Call it what it is

21st Century Depression

The Greatest. Misappropriation. Ever.

Channeling Sarah Palin



In Sarah Palin's own words:

Monday, September 08, 2008

Blogging to the choir


For quite a while, I’ve been thinking about the difference between 2008 and the 1960s in terms of the effectiveness of dissent, and I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s all about the blogging.

In the 1960s, there was a shared discourse, and people made their opinions known far and wide, while in contrast, we now blog amongst ourselves and spend all of our reasoning and argumentation in the nooks and crannies of the internet. For some time now, I’ve been dutifully following the larger blogs, noting the thousands upon thousands of comments that are made, pages and pages of comments that no one in their right mind could possibly read through to completion. Many of these comments are cogent and even brilliant, filled with effective stand-alone arguments, but they’re all tossed out into the aether, scattershot, and for the most part they remain unread, unnoticed. If an argument falls upon no ears, does that argument exist?

Lewis Lapham has suggested that the pretense of democracy in America exists as a pressure-relief valve, because it allows people to believe that they live in a land of self-rule, when in fact, the deck is stacked grotesquely against their favor. I have finally come to believe that blogging, too, functions as a pressure-relief valve, and that the internet is absorbing the vast bulk of public dissent and attention and thought, and that it may therefore be more functionally damaging to our democracy than opium would be.

What does it mean if we pour our best arguments into one of the billions of web pages and they are never read by more than a few people? How is this different from screaming into the wind?

I started blogging because I liked the exercise of crafting clean prose about topics that interest me, and I thought that perhaps others might share some of those interests, but I’ve gradually realized that I’m really just wasting my time, that this is no more than a personal diary that will never have any effect whatsoever. But more importantly, I’ve come to believe that this describes the vast majority of web communication as well.

Simply put: what is the point in adding to the uncountable verbiage out there that says all the right things but into what’s essentially a void? The internet gives the impression that we’re all connected, but in reality that connection is just a circle-jerk. The energy that we put into reading and writing posts and comments is energy that is squandered, energy that’s not directed toward a tangible goal: futility and nothing more.

And that’s the short version of why this blog has been pretty much abandoned. It’s really pretty pointless to continue it.

Best regards,
kathleen

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Breathtaking—literally...



Look what happens when developed nations “help” those in less-developed nations, by providing International Monetary Fund (IMF) loans. The authors of the paper that provides the figure and conclusions, above, were careful to eliminate or minimize confounding factors from their analysis, and the results of their study could not be more stark: the peripheral damage of IMF lending practices kills people, kills the most vulnerable in those nations, kills them without mercy.

The IMF is famous for the “conditionalities” they impose on debtor nations, heavy on privatization (especially of utilities and various government functions), demanding strict austerity measures (including reduced social and healthcare spending), market “liberalization” (AKA: increasing exports at the expense of subsistence farming, thus increasing hunger among the poor), apparently with little thought given to just exactly what so much “austerity” does to a person who lives on less than $1000 per year.

Well here are the results for all to see. Desperate countries take desperate measures to obtain needed funds, and in the process, desperate people are killed.

The authors write:
“Both the duration and amount of IMF lending have an estimated dose-response relationship with tuberculosis mortality rates: each additional year of participation in an IMF program was associated with increases in tuberculosis mortality rates by 4.1%, and each 1% increase in IMF lending was associated with increases in tuberculosis mortality rates by 0.9%.”
And it is not merely that destitute countries have higher rates of TB, because they also note that countries that took on non-IMF debt slightly reduced their rates of TB mortality.

In case you think that TB is “just” a problem in poverty-stricken countries, and not an issue for our comfortable selves, be assured that aside from the moral aspects of treating poor people so shabbily, TB will prove to be a public health menace everywhere, as we “incubate” more and more deadly and drug-resistant strains in populations of destitute people. Even if we were to view this in entirely selfish terms, no good can come of policies that lead to increased rates of TB morbidity and mortality: this will surely arrive on our shores too. Here too, though, the poor will be disproportionately affected, so who cares?

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Nothing “sweet and fitting” about it...

From the battlefield, watching others die, and finally dying there himself, Wilfred Owen* issued the correction to Horace**:
“...you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.”
Another Memorial Day, and still we are in Iraq with no end in sight. When will we ever learn?
_____________________________
* from “Dulce Et Decorum Est” by Wilfred Owen, 1918
** “Sweet and fitting it is to die for one’s country.” Horace, Odes III.ii.13

Image (modified) from wikipedia

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

The Great Rip-Off

To understand our economy, you must first understand what has happened to the “middle class,” and what forces have caused it to shrink, and how tenuous a state it has become. One of the best explanations of the big picture is by Elizabeth Warren, whose lecture here is much worth viewing (but you could omit the first five minutes or so, before she takes the podium):



The short version: Warren addresses part of what I’ve said for years—that family income has not risen in tandem with the number of hours spent in the work force, that the lifestyle that once demanded just one full-time worker (often with only a high school education) now requires two full-time workers (usually with at least some college).

I would take this one step further, and note that the real windfall has come to business, which has managed to extract almost double the working hours from the (better-educated) populace, while holding wages down. (Men’s earnings, corrected for inflation, are about level with what they were in 1970.) Not only have they held wages down, but most pensions have been gutted, so if that were included, total compensation has actually declined over those 35 years.

Most tellingly, listen as Warren describes the data of where we are spending our money now, as compared to then, and ponder for a moment what it WILL mean to our society to drive so many into ruin. You may also gain some sympathy for those who find themselves in bankruptcy, which is not usually due to frivolous spending, but to vastly increased fixed costs in the face of a lost job, or family illness, or family rupture, or some combination of two or three of these factors. It’s not a pretty picture, and there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel.

Again: consider what it will mean for a society that’s accustomed to having a massive middle class, if large numbers of those people enter poverty, and ours becomes a two-class society. A brief study of two-class societies should include the realization that most of them are police states, to one degree or another. Is this really where we want to head?

(h/t for the video to Chris Bertram at Crooked Timber)

Clarification:
If what I've said above appears internally contradictory—that men’s earnings (corrected for inflation) have remained about constant over time, but are insufficient to support a family, even when augmented by women’s earnings—it is because of the way inflation is calculated: it does not include housing costs, healthcare costs, the additional childcare and transportation costs inherent in the second earner leaving the home, and also does not account for the higher tax hit by moving to the next bracket. Warren makes all of this quite clear, but I realized that I could not leave this out of my comments if I wanted them to make sense.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

The Ford Pinto as a model for medical care

Remember when Ford’s Pintos were routinely bursting into flame and exploding as the result of very minor collisions?

Remember the outrage when it was learned that Ford was aware of this problem with the gas tanks of those cars, but that they chose to leave them as-is rather than spend a dollar or two per car?

Remember the disbelief that greeted their explanation that they chose this course because their cost-benefit analysis had shown that it was cheaper for Ford to let some cars explode and pay off those lawsuits, rather than to add a couple of dollars to each of the cars?

Well, welcome to the philosophy of modern medicine.

As a case in point, take look at the immunization policy that has been adopted for determining who should receive shots to prevent shingles…

First, you need to know that shingles is due to a reactivation of chicken pox (Varicella zoster) virus that lays dormant in the roots of your spinal nerves for decades, and then emerges to wreak some degree of havoc on your sensory nerves.

If you’ve had chicken pox, you are at major risk for shingles, and the incidence before age 45 is about 1 of 10 getting the disease for both males and females, and after age 45 it is about 1 of 3 for females, and 1 of 4 for males.

Furthermore, HALF of all shingles cases occur in patients younger than 60.

Overall, you clearly have a very good chance of losing in the shingles lottery.

So, what’s in store for you when it happens? Some people get lucky and just have a few months of intense itching followed by weird pain (for me, it felt like I was being chewed on internally), if they catch it in time and take anti-virals and then either anti-convulsants or anti-depressants (both of which often seem to moderate the symptoms somewhat) but all of these drugs have their own side effects. While I was on the anti-convulsant neurontin for more than a year, I found my thinking got quite muddled and I stopped caring about much at all.

Others, though, lose again, and can experience months of agonizing pain that calls for extreme pain meds (like fentanyl, oxycontin, and morphine), and some can even experience blindness, while others can experience itching so severe that they will scratch through bone:


Even having had shingles (twice!), this kind of itching is beyond my comprehension. But perhaps not for my co-worker, who was one of the unlucky: even on massive pain medication, she spent weeks curled into a fetal position, moaning, crying, begging for relief. More than two years later, she still has symptoms, but at least she was not unlucky for a third time; at least she has escaped the worst of it—having pain that is unremitting for years and even decades—but others are not so lucky, and can have their lives completely ruined by years of unspeakable misery.

And yet, the medical establishment has decided to withhold the newly developed and highly effective shingles vaccine (partially paid for by taxpayers like us) from everyone who is younger than 60. Yes, their recommendation, which is what insurance companies base their reimbursement policies on, is that the vaccine “should” only be given to those over 60. Remember, as noted above, half of those who get shingles are younger than 60 (like me and my co-worker…), so a great many people have been, willy-nilly, sentenced to suffer this preventable atrocious disease!

I can only conclude from my research that this is a choice that was made because the health insurance companies do not want to pay the freight for the costly shingles vaccinations ($180 each) for all of their patients. Medicare will pay for those 65 and over, so this leaves only the 60-64 year old cohort to be paid for by the health insurance companies.

But isn’t the big selling point of HMOs and PPOs the superior preventive care that’s given, so that health care costs can be better managed?

Ah, but there’s the rub: a case of shingles doesn’t cost an insurer very much. A few office visits, a few prescriptions, and that’s it. Sure, the patient may be unable to work for years, may require care from family and friends, and may simply end it all through suicide (not that uncommon an outcome of shingles).

None of this ever shows up on the health insurers’ balance sheets, though, so none of this is of any concern to them. The formidable costs—monetary and otherwise—are borne by the patient, the patient’s family, the employer, other insurers (long term care; disability; SSI), but no harm done to the HMO! Obviously, it is far cheaper for the corporation to withhold needed medicine from its patients than to actively prevent the disease! Econ 101!

Ain’t American health care great!

But wait, there’s more! When the manufacturer tested the vaccine, they noted that its efficacy was greatest in the youngest cohort they tested, and then declined in each succeeding cohort. And the age of their youngest cohort was? 60-69 years old. Merck didn’t even test the vaccine on those younger than 60, for some inscrutable reason that I’d love to know about.

Clearly, if the vaccine was more and more effective in each younger cohort, it’s quite possible that it’s even more effective on the next younger group, 50-59 years old, and maybe even more so in folks younger than that, as suggested by simple extrapolation. Sure, there’s no data showing that such extrapolation is valid, but there’s also no evidence that it’s not valid, so why not find out? This seems to be a case of willful ignorance, the motivation for which I have no clue.

The upshot of all this is that it seems I will be requesting the vaccine on my own dime, something I would recommend for anyone who can afford this course. Yes, I am living proof that lightning—shingles—can strike the same person twice, and I have no desire to try for a third bout. The vaccine is “especially recommended” for those who have already had shingles. So even though I supposedly have “great” insurance, I will be paying for this myself. Yea, those corps really do know what they’re doing! And it ain’t health “care.”

Friday, March 21, 2008

Uh, whoops…

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Cultural dementia

I was deeply dismayed for many reasons when I first heard the story that Obama campaign operatives had told the Canadians that Obama’s NAFTA stance was “just politics,” just for show. But guess what: the story was just that—a story, with no basis in reality. One more lie among many.

It turns out that, in fact, the actual NAFTA conversation that took place with the Canadians involved not Obama’s, but Clinton’s operatives.

And yet, the story about Obama and the Canadians has entered the realm of received wisdom, even though it is pure fabrication!

Has the Clinton campaign morphed into its own bogeyman, and become their own “vast [whatever]-wing conspiracy”? Is the press so willing to promulgate lies, and simply not bother to correct them (regardless of where fault might fall for the original untruth) that lies are given equal standing with truth?

How can there be a functional democracy when the air is filled with nothing but lies? On what basis can a rational person reach their conclusions and make their choices, if there is no way to distinguish truth from lies?

Being faced with innumerable falsehoods is at least partially the cause of the veritable chaos we find ourselves in, as we try to sort truth from fiction, because with so many lies and new ones being spewed every day, there’s simply not enough time or attention to get to the bottom of all of them.

This, then, is what the Bush administration meant when they claimed that they would “make their own reality”—and they have indeed done just that. What we didn’t realize then was that the reality they intended to make was one in which a steady onslaught of lies meant there was simply no way to discern what’s true and what’s not, and that when this is the case, one is free to say anything at all. Because there is no feasible way in which to sort the bits of truth from the chaff of lies.

Analogously, if crime ramps up beyond a certain point, no amount of policing can restore civil order. In the realm of ideas, this is what has come to pass, and it presages the death of rational discourse.

Clinton has behaved abominably in her responses to such lies: instead of disavowing the falsehoods, she basically smiles and shrugs them off as if to say “believe what you want,” whether about Obama’s supposed secret confabs with the Canadians, or his supposed Muslim beliefs, or his supposed refusal to swear his oath of office on anything but a Koran, or his supposed lack of a “record” as a Senator, etc.: all lies, but no one is denouncing them as the lies that they are. And so, they become truth.

Lies are truth.

Truth is irrelevant.

Repeat.

________

[h/t: Mark Kleiman at Reality Based Community]

Saturday, March 08, 2008

One more betrayal (in a long series)…


Now we learn that the Chinese are poisoning us by implanting lead in our dental work:
“In the U.S., four cases of lead poisoning have been linked to Chinese dental fixtures. A laboratory test revealed that some contained 210 times the acceptable amount of the toxic metal.”
So far, they’re known to be deliberately poisoning:
• pharmaceuticals and OTC drugs
• vitamins
• pottery
• toys and teething rings
• lunchboxes and backpacks and bibs
• cosmetics
• toothpaste
• food
• dental crowns and dentures
The only question I have is: Are there any remaining routes of poison administration that they can exploit?

Dentists who have utilized the cut-rate Chinese crowns and dentures should be identified if they did not pass their cost-savings through this practice on to their patients. If patients and insurance companies were billed at the “usual and customary” rates for these procedures, they were ripped off, and the rest of us need to be protected from such corner-cutting practitioners.

Meanwhile, it appears that all of us need to ascertain the origin of every single product we consume or expose ourselves to, or have implanted within us: where did that pacemaker come from? the hip or knee replacement? the cardiac stent? mouthwash? saline solution? cutlery? contrast media for imaging tests? hypodermic needles? glassware? bubble bath? sutures? plastic food containers? The list is endless.

We have grown accustomed to the safety of many things, but should now we know that EVERYTHING from China is poisoned until proven otherwise.

For now the safest course appears to be:
1. Buy nothing at all other than the essentials.

2. Buy nothing from China, if at all possible.

3. Buy nothing from “dollar” stores, and nothing generic, and nothing that’s likely to be counterfeit.

4. Make what you can (e.g., simple toys, curtains, food from scratch) and withdraw from the culture of consumption.

5. Tell your doctor and dentist that you expect them to use top quality materials on you, and specifically, that you demand they use nothing from China in or on your body.
Generations have gotten by quite nicely without the quantity of goods we now consider somehow essential. Kids and adults had far fewer toys, but enjoyed their bikes and the public library and making up their own games. And always, we need to remember that for every dollar we spend, we are sacrificing our time, because time really is money.

Image modified from:
http://www.wpclipart.com/medical/symbols/

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Votes for sale—cheap!

What is one to make of the fact that the Clinton and Obama campaigns have been donating money to the campaigns of the superdelegates, whose votes will in all likelihood determine the outcome of the Democratic Party's nominating process?

This is how they use our campaign contributions?

This is legal?

This is democracy in America?

No, in actuality, this is a mockery. We have completely lost our way.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

And, a bozo legislates…

Still half asleep while listening to Weekend Edition this morning, I heard a brief mention of California legislation that would allow any and all vehicles full access to freeway HOV (“carpool”) lanes, once the owners pay a carbon offset charge.

Huh? Suddenly I was awake. The absurdities never end. Time to fire up the search engine…and there it was:
“A California state senator is proposing legislation that would let the owners of gas-guzzling vehicles drive in the car pool lane, but the lawmaker doesn't expect it to pass. Sen. Jim Battin, R-La Quinta, says his legislation would let ‘polluting, flashy, fuel-sucking’ vehicles drive in car pool lanes if their owners buy carbon offset credits. In a press release Friday, Battin mocked the state's efforts to reduce global warming.”
Ha. Ha. Ha.

The state is about to go bankrupt, and this clown is spending his time, and our time, and the press’s time, to make a mockery of the legislative process and the state’s efforts to reduce pollution and fuel use. Whoa, what a funny dude!!