Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Facts You Won't Find In the New York Times or on NPR

Relatives mourn the death of 4-year-old girl Lama Hamdan.
Americans may find it difficult to remember that Palestinians are human beings,
since the Times and other American sources
rarely print photos of Palestinian civilians suffering.

As Israel turns from genocide by blockade and starvation to just plain old brute force, Americans may be surprised to learn that it is Israel that occupies Palestine, not the other way round. [1] This is just one of a vast array of facts about which Americans are ignorant thanks to a grossly biased (or timid) media, government and academe.

Here are some more:
Number of Israelis killed by rockets and mortars in the 2001-2008 interval: 23 (433 injured)
Number of Palestinians killed in the same interval: nearly 5000 (1000 under 17 years old)

On the BBC (Tuesday, Dec. 30), Benjamin Netanyahu equated Palestinian rockets with German V1 and V2s fired on London during the Second World War.

Number of Britons killed by V1 and V2 rockets: 8938 (25,000 injured seriously)

In one day, Saturday Dec. 27, Israel killed 230 Palestinians (5% of all the people Israel has killed since the beginning of 2001). 70 of that 230 (30%) were civilians.

From the ceasefire Hamas (not Israel) announced on June 2008 until Saturday, Dec. 27, no Israelis had been killed by Hamas by any means.

This one should go without saying: Palestinians have no tanks, no fighter/bombers, no helicopters, no heavy artillery.
Palestinians in Gaza have been deprived of food, water, fuel, medical supplies since Fall, 2007
Collective punishment of civilians is a war crime under international laws to which both Israel and the United States are signatories.

Israel has been charged with crimes against humanity by Richard Falk (UN special rapporteur for human rights in the Occupied Territories), Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu, and former President Jimmy Carter.

Activists trying to bring medical aid to Gaza by boat on Tuesday, Dec. 30, were attacked by Israeli gunboats while in international waters. Among the 15 people onboard was former Representative Cynthia McKinney.

Despite claims by Israel that it "pulled out" of Gaza in 2005, Israel has controlled land, sea and air access continuously (with the exception of the land crossing with Egypt, where Egyptian authorities have carried out Israeli policy).


1. A 2004 study found that only 29% of Americans university students did not know that Israelis are both the occupiers and the settlers in the West Bank (and at the time Gaza). http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2004/07/18/opinion/fenton/main630386.shtml

Five sisters killed in Gaza.

America is Shovel-Ready!

Shovel-ready. What the fuh does that mean? Man, I hope Obama is more than a mouth full of words. Shovel-ready.

Let us consider. What do we shovel?

Maybe too few Americans have ever even seen a picture of a farm. Plenty there to shovel. Get my drift?

I used to live in the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn. Before the super-duper new sewage treatment facility — making the neighborhood safe for overpaid Wall Street type pole-up-the-ass Manhattanistas — you could smell all that was shovel-ready on a 'nice' summer day. (Actually, those Manhattanites need a hose up the ass to ship everything that was 'shovel-ready' to us dumbasses in the outer boroughs. And with the new Bloomberg-Paterson proposals, we're going to get plenty more 'shovel-ready'.)

And Greenpoint, so aptly named, was also ground zero for the largest oil spill in human history, still going after 50 years. Couldn't shovel it, but you sure as hell could smell it and drink it — in Greeeenpoint.

Shovel-ready. Lawrence Summers. Timothy Geithner, Rahm Emanuel. Eric Holder, Robert Gates — all shovel-ready.

What else do we shovel? Coal into the furnace. The way the government and corporate leaders have been treating We The People, I guess We are shovel-ready. Bailout the billionaires. Shovel the rest of us into the economic oven. Ouch. But, daaaamn, that's what they're doing. Can anybody deny it?

But let's just take the shovel Obama and Company have in mind. The Shovel of Progress! The Shovel of Economic Renewal! Onward, Through Difficulties, to the Broad Sunlit Uplands of The Future. Future, heaven of the poor [and 1, 2]. Our finest hour is at hand. . . . or at least, their finest hour.

This is the Culture of They. They make decisions for us. So it is around the world. Billionaires decide for 300 million Americans. Five million Israeli Jews decide for four million Palestinians. One billion Chinese decide for six million Tibetans, nine million Uighurs. European Australians decide for aborigines. European Guatemalans decide for Mayans. On and on.

We the People are Shovel-Ready. God help us.
"These are the stakes:
To make a world in which
all of God's children can live,
or to go into the Dark.
We must either love each other,
or we must die."
— LBJ, 1964

And the days are not full enough

And the days are not full enough
And the nights are not full enough
And life slips by like a field mouse
        Not shaking the grass.
— Ezra Pound

Whispers of Heavenly Death, Whitman

WHISPERS of heavenly death, murmur'd I hear;
Labial gossip of night — sibilant chorals;
Footsteps gently ascending — mystical breezes, wafted soft and low;
Ripples of unseen rivers — tides of current, flowing, forever flowing;
(Or is it the plashing of tears? the measureless waters of human tears?)

I see, just see, skyward, great cloud-masses;
Mournfully, slowly they roll, silently swelling and mixing;
With, at times, a half-dimm'd, sadden'd, far-off star,
Appearing and disappering.

Some parturition, rather — some solemn, immortal birth:
On the frontiers, to eyes impenetrable,
Some Soul is passing over.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Harvard Teaches By Example

Or "Harvard Blows Its Wad"
Caroline Kennedy takes her cue as author from Alan Dershowitz, "borrowing" other people's work and calling it original. (You have to be a student at Harvard to be punished for plagiarism, as Kaavya Viswanathan learned the hard way.) Kennedy, it must be admitted, is smarter than Dershowitz: She called her grade-school caliber work an "anthology". Fair enough. And she also had the example of daddy's Profiles in Courage for the 'right' way to pass off another's work as one's own.

Similarly, Wall Street execs, no small number of whom 'studied' at the Harvard Business School, follow the example of their alma mater when taking massive bonuses even though they suck as businessmen.

Thus The Financial Times reports the newest development in the continuing saga of well-rewarded failure among America's elite:
Harvard’s top money managers paid $26.9m
By Rebecca Knight in Boston
Published: December 19 2008 23:34 | Last updated: December 19 2008 23:34

Harvard, the world’s wealthiest university, said on Friday it paid six senior investment officers a combined $26.9m (£17.5m) this year to manage its endowment.

The fund has lost $8.1bn since the summer [four months].

US college heads accept voluntary thrift - Dec-10

The Harvard endowment earned 8.6 per cent during the last fiscal year but has since taken a big hit.

Drew Gilpin Faust, Harvard’s president, said in a letter to university deans this month that the endowment lost about 22 per cent of its value between June 30 and the end of October, bringing it from $36.8bn to roughly $28.7bn. . . .

The endowment funds about 35 per cent of Harvard’s annual operating budget. The university is preparing for a 30 per cent reduction in its endowment by the end of the year.
Yale's endowment, second largest in the world, has lost 25% of its value. So much for the nation's 'best and brightest'.

Look for some special earmarks — a privileged bailout — directed Harvard's way by Sen. Chuck Schumer (darling of Wall Street, Bernie Madoff, and other money-grubbing, cretinous vermin).

Likewise, look for revelations about Harvard, Yale, and other universities' ties to everybody's favorite whipping-boy conman — Bernie Madoff, who like Gov. Blagojevich, only made the mistake of being excessively brazen in the practice all the nation's money-grubbers were indulging in.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

We Don't Need No Friggin Dynasties

Caroline Kennedy has offered her account of why we she should welcome her as an appointed senator. (But do we really need to speculate about the real reason ^ ?)
  • She can raise mountains of money. (The un-stated reason, but she could run as Republican or Dem on this one.)
  • Mother, lawyer, author, education advocate. (She lumped these together.)
  • Family with generations in public service.
Let's start at the end: family with "generations of public service". I can think of another such family. Do I need to name it? But let's just consider this on its merits. How about this: "I haven't been to medical school, but I come from a family with generations of doctors. Mind if I perform open heart surgery on you?"

I'm a father, designer and justice advocate. Want to vote for me?

Author? Let's review:
  • A Family Christmas. An anthology of other people's work. I understand that Alan Dershowitz has established the Harvard Standard for originality with his entirely plagiarized "Case for Israel", but, Caroline, you're not at Harvard anymore.
  • A Family of Poems. Again with the family and another anthology. Check above.
  • The Best-Loved Poems of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Jeeez.
  • The Right to Privacy. Finally something she might claim to have written, or co-written — a popular-audience casebook.
  • In Our Defense. Another casebook, also co-written with Ellen Alderman.
  • Profiles In Courage For Our Time. Well, at least book publishing hasn't come to Moby Dick 2.
Okay, you're an author Caroline. Too late to just keep that your little secret.

Money. Money. Money. Sounds vaguely like Mr. Blagojevich. To Mr. B's credit, we was up front about his motives. As for Charlie Rangel and his brand of Democrat (or Republican), they're in the same game. They just stay within the lines better. As for Caroline Kennedy, she's surely better than most, but frankly, we tried to get rid of dynasties in 1776. It's about time we actually finished the job.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Confirmation that Arctic Ice Decline Accelerating

Scientists in the US have confirmed that "warming in the Arctic is accelerating," according to the BBC:
Scientists say they now have unambiguous evidence that the warming in the Arctic is accelerating.

Computer models have long predicted that decreasing sea ice should amplify temperature changes in the northern polar region.

Julienne Stroeve, from the US National Snow and Ice Data Center, told a meeting of the American Geophysical Union that this process was under way.

Arctic ice cover in summer has seen rapid retreat in recent years.

The minimum extents reached in 2007 and 2008 were the smallest recorded in the satellite age.

"The sea ice is entering a new state where the ice cover has become so thin that no matter what happens during the summer in terms of temperature or circulation patterns, you're still going to have very low ice conditions," she told the meeting.
As a result, there can no longer be any doubt that polar bears and other species (beluga whales, seals, the arctic fox, etc.) are at grave risk.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Big Investors Get a Dose of Their Own

Bloomberg reports that "The Securities and Exchange Commission hadn’t examined Madoff’s books since he registered the unit with the agency in September 2006."

Meanwhile, some of the investors who were dumb enough to trust the goose have been identified. (We must always remember the American dogma that wealth is a virtue and that the wealthy must be more intelligent; else, how would they get welt
  • Director Steven Spielberg
  • Publishing and real estate tycoon Mortimer Zuckerman
  • New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon
  • GMAC (GM financing arm) Chairman J. Ezra Merkin
  • Philadelphia Eagles owner Norman Braman
  • French bank BNP Paribas
  • Tokyo-based Nomura Holdings Inc.
  • Spanish bank Santander, possibly $3 billion in losses
  • Britain-based bank HSBC, possibly $1 billion in losses
  • Zurich-based Neue Privat Bank
  • Yeshiva University in New York was an investor
And hedge funds (which have historically taken only investments from the very rich):
  • Fairfield Greenwich Group, possibly $7 billion in losses
  • Tremont Capital Management of New York
  • Maxam Capital Management LLC reports a loss of $280 million
  • Sandra Manzke, Maxam's founder and chairman: "I'm wiped out."
Senator Charles Schumer was one of the larger Congressional beneficiaries of Madoff campaign contributions. So too was New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg.

Bush Ducks Thrown Shoes in Baghdad

How to Make Money and Screw People

Forthcoming from Rotting Ideas Press: How to Make Money and Screw People, from the gliterati who brought you The Bonus, The Crash, and The Bailout. Pre-order your copy and get a free t-shirt!

Partial contents to include:
Better Business Advisory Boutique by Dick Fuld. The former chief executive of Lehman Brothers plans a comeback with a small advisory firm to harness his contacts in US companies once the dust settles on Lehman’s bankruptcy.
Fall and Fall Again. Robert Rubin tells how you too can be called on as an advisor to presidents even after conceiving one of the greatest financial disasters in economic history.
Effective Toadying on the Way to the Crash. Timothy Geithner, Neel Kashkari and others offer advice on Wall Street's most time-honored practice: saying yes clearly while having one's nose buried in the boss's ass.

How to Get into Harvard. An essential entry guide to the university key to destroying whole economies (even more than the Chicago School of economics!) Greatly enhance your odds of getting an advisory role in the new and improved Obama Administration.
How to Be a 'Brilliant' Criminal. Henry Kissinger, while not an economist, can provide unique insight into committing monstrous crimes while remaining a darling of universities, news media and governments around the world.
Stay Rich! Rob Others! Bernard Madoff shows the cost-effective way to the tried and true method of American corporate criminality. Commit crimes with tiny penalties while netting yourself billions! This is the finest instance of the law and economics thesis we've seen. Learn how to profit legally through criminal activity with minimal costs to yourself and friends.
And more more more! The best insider info on how to rob from the poor and give to . . . yourself!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Cult of Money

The rich have conned themselves. Decades of the pseudo-science, the dismal delusion — economics — had the Milton Friedmans, Alan Greenspans, Robert Rubins believing their own lies and the money-grubbing toads of Wall Street likewise believing while inventing further cons to deceive us out of our savings. Billions were made, now billions are lost. Sadly, the principle losers will not be the architects of the con but us. The bailout is just the beginning.

The newest development in Wall Street's Comedy of Errors — Bernard Madoff's ponzi scheme conning people out of some $50 billion. According to the BBC and other news organizations,
Some of the world's wealthiest private and corporate investors are reported to be victims of an alleged $50bn fraud by Wall Street broker Bernard Madoff.

Mr Madoff is alleged to have confessed to a huge Ponzi scheme (pyramid fraud).

Reports say the main owner of the New York Mets baseball team, Fred Wilpon, and former American football team owner Norman Braman are among the victims.

Others facing losses reportedly include French bank BNP Paribas, Japan's Nomura Holdings and Zurich's Neue Privat Bank.
The rich fall prey to their own con.

Again according to the BBC, Madoff has also said, "that he planned to surrender to the authorities but not before he used his last $200m-$300m to pay 'selected employees, family and friends'."

But here is the best part. Madoff ran a pyramid scheme that burned $50 billion. But, "If found guilty, US prosecutors say he could face up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $5 [million]."

So, if were not for the fact that he is now 70 years old, he might very well conclude that robbing $50 billion is cost effective. This pales when compared to the Wall Street conmen who, like John Thane of Merrill Lynch, are still seeking bonuses in the millions.

This is the nature of American justice. Steal a car, serve 5 years. Steal tens of billions, as Wall Street has done, get a bonus.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Lawrence Berkeley National Lab Director Next Secretary of Energy?

What to make of this one? The San Francisco Chronicle reports:
President-elect Barack Obama is expected to nominate Nobel-laureate physicist Steven Chu, director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and a renowned expert on alternative fuels and climate change, as the nation's energy secretary.
Alternative fuels. Smarts. And . . . weapons research, nuclear weapons.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Blagojevich — Business as Usual

All who pay any attention to the news have now heard about Illinois Governor Rob Blagojevich's trolling for payment in return for appointing so-and-so to Barack Obama's now-vacant Senate seat.

Much shock expressed in Washington, the news media. Yadda yadda yadda.

Come on, let's not act so surprised. American politics is largely about how much a candidate or supporters are willing to pay for office. The only distinguishing feature is legality — and that's a pretty gray area.

On one side we have Ted Stevens, Tom Delay, Rod Blagojevich, William Jefferson, and on and on. The politicians who glaringly, stupidly, cravenly grub for money.

On the other side, we have cases like Michael Bloomberg, who spent almost $69 million of his own money to buy the 2001 New York mayoral election — $92.60 per vote. He is the respectable extreme. Respectable because this is the way "Washington," broadly taken, does business from day to day. Other "respectable" businessmen have taken the same approach — Ross Perot, Steve Forbes, Jon Corzine, Ronald Lauder. (Billionaires are willing to spend a lot to reassure themselves that someone likes them.)

Less extreme but no different in kind are Charles Rangel, with his special rent-stabilized million dollar apartment. New Yrok Governor Paterson is also a member of that club.

Whatever Obama's merits, whatever he has done or will do, he has unambiguously established one new standard — raise raise raise money and dismiss federal funding. Howevermuch Republicans may wave their hands over Obama's "broken promise" to take public funding, we can be sure that they respect his example. And by gum, they'll follow suit. And if they can't, because the people are sick and tired of right-wing idiocy, then Republicans will just turn to the tried and true oldies — PAC money, etc. The Democrats are little better.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Way the World Ends

Let us count the ways, my droogies. Let us be analytical, or anal-ytical. First,

Animate versus Inanimate
In today's lesson we will not consider rocks, ice cubes or exploding stars. No meteors, comets or novas. No changes in the Earth's orbit, etc. It has to be our fault or somebody else's. Somebody is to blame, dammit! Second,

No Homefield Advantage
In the battle for Planet Earth, there is no homefield advantage. The visitors always have the upper hand. Third,

Smarts versus Dumb Luck
A tough one. Do we want to lose out to a foe which can play 3D chess with eyes closed, or are we okay with plain old fashioned brute force? Bear in mind that a repeat-appearance will be made by Dumb Luck on our side. And,

We Have Met the Enemy, and You Know the Rest
Yeah, we can defeat ourselves. Tens of thousands of years of humans piling on humans tells us this again and again. Fifth,

The End is the End
It's not apocalyptic if their isn't a pretty much all-consuming disaster. We have to be done for. . . . Mostly. Not completely done for, just mostly, pretty much. So, either Washington or New York has to be destroyed.

Reality vs. WTF?!
Some films actually take the end of the world seriously, especially if made during the reign of murderous maniacs like George W. Bush or Ronald Reagan. But this can wear on one, so most take the entertaining road of unreality, antireality, fantasy, delusion, illusion, denial. Finally,

The Suck Veto
I reserve the right to pass over films that just plain suck, as opposed to suck in a fun, late night camp way. Tim Burton's Mars Attacks just plain sucks.

Let us begin.

1. The War of the Worlds
Tom Cruise. No big victories, we just get lucky.
And nobody has a clue. Nice.
Weakened by the rosy ending with a near-perfect
Boston street, but for badly parked cars. (In some
sense understandable, who would bother
attacking Boston?) Cruise might join our classic heroes
noted below.

2. The War of the Worlds
The original. Scientist knowing
it all detracts from doom and gloom.
Screaming dimwit woman sidekick is a downer.

3. Children of Men
Now this is the way to end
things. Nasty, brutish, and drawn out.
And a good post-apocalyptic hero has
a nice cynical realism. (Witness two of
our heroes below.)

4. The Blob
That blob is best of the dumb luck, brute force brigade.
But not good enough to beat Steve McQueen.
Excellent camp factor. (Sorry, the cast of
the remake sucks so massively, I cannot
take it seriously.)

5. Invasion of the Body Snatchers
The original.

6. Invasion of the Body Snatchers
Donald Sutherland, Leonard Nimoy,
Jeff Goldblum, Brooke Adams,
Veronica Cartwright. Has that great
70s Stalinist gloom quality.

7. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (aka Invasion)

8. 28 Days Later
Night of the Living Dead, but with
less camp, more stamp.

9. Omega Man
Charlton Heston takes on the end thing
and blows away . . .

10. I am Legend
This could have been so much better.
How did Will Smith get that James Bond
house going, anyway? And just how dumb
can a person be and make it through 3 years
of apocalypse?

11. The Planet of the Apes
The original. One of The Great Three
Charlton Heston apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic
movies. The third being . . .

12. Soylent Green
What a dystopia here. And in each of the
Big Three, Heston has that great
resigned cynicical realist vision. He
just toughs it out.

13. Battlestar Galactica, Revelations
Just that one scene at the end earns this
episode a place on the list. I never thought
the producers would have the guts for a
plot turn like that.

14. Independence Day
Windows spammers can't even write a good virus for the Mac.
How did Jeff Goldblum write code to hack the aliens here?

15. Road Warrior
The rip-roarin-est best of the
post-apocalypse chase.

16. Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome
Delicious vision of post-apocalyptic tribalism.
And Mel Gibson is the third of the just
tough it out lot, with Heston and Owen
(and maybe Cruise in War of the Worlds)

17. Threads vs. The Day After
Threads is the brutally bleak British answer
to the picnic nuclear apocalypse, The Day After (1983).
Day After is so sunny, you half expect it turn into a
musical midway through.

And forthcoming: The Road
I don't think there's a snowball's chance in hell
that Hollywood can get this one right.

And the awful that shouldn't be mentioned but must be lest we forget:
Battlefield Earth. How did Travolta get work after this?
Waterworld. How did Kevin Costner get work after this? Would have been better as Wayne'sWaterworld.
The Postman. And how did Kevin Costner stay on the roster to strike out again?
Signs. Had some nice touches, like the sense of isolation. But what the hell are the aliens up to? They're just making crop circles? What about leveling something?!

And what have we learned today, my droogies?
If you're going to survive the End of the World, you better have that don't-grin-and-bear-it attitude. Plus, running or racing, be fast. And watch out for people who have got religion.

A Heap of Humans

This courtesy of entomologist and great biodiversity E. O. Wilson:

Take all humans on earth — all 6.5 billion of us — and log-stack us, we humans would fill a cube just 1 mile on a side. One cubic mile of humans on the whole earth. So few humans in many senses, yet each of us, on average, now requires roughly 24 acres of Earth's surface to support our consumption (much more than 24 acres for those of us in the US and much much less for those in the poorest nations).

That entire cube could fit into the Grand Canyon.

This little mass of humanity is annhilating life at a rate greater than any natural disaster in the history of the planet.

Monday, December 8, 2008

No Shame At All, Pt. 2: The Spirit of Christmas

ABC television's version of the spirit of christmas. Broadcast "A Charlie Brown Christmas" with 4 minutes of advertising for every 3 minutes of program. That's the real timing, plus or minus 30 seconds. Thanks for the memories, ABC.

No Shame At All

John Thain, head of Merrill Lynch and graduate of MIT Sloan School of Business, is seeking a bonus of 10 million dollars. Assuming that Thain worked 50 weeks at 50 hours per week (both overestimates, we can be sure), that bonus adds up to $4000 per hour.

Merrill Lynch is merging with Bank of America after being an early headliner in the current economic collapse. But John Thain's miserable excuse for management hasn't taught him humility.

Fortunately, New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is opposing the bonus, calling it "shocking".

My suggestion: Imprison Thain and his Wall Street cohorts. With the collusion of Congress, they are bankrupting the United States, robbing us blind. Try them for treason and imprison them.

Good News! Dow Chemical Cuts 5,000 Jobs!

My thesis for some time has been that one key feature of the American financial landscape is that We the People are irrelevant. How we suffer, how little we make, how long we go without work altogether — none of this matters. We the People are The Other. The decision-makers in Congress, on Wall Street, in boardrooms, know that they are exempt, immune to whatever befalls us.

Thus, news like today's from Dow Chemical is common. Dow announced that it is slashing 5,000 jobs — 11% of its labor force. Wall Street loved this news, Dow's stock soared.

Scan the past 20 years of labor news and you will find that, more often than not, Wall Street responds well to news of job cuts. It takes something really drastic, like the news of 533,000 job losses in one month, to dismay investors.

Why? Well, the easiest short-term way to improve the bottom line is to cut jobs. And the bottom line is all that matters. Needless to say, just as corporations are bemoaning the terrible state of things and laying people off, they are still finding ways to compensate executives. AIG, one of the leading recipients of bailout money, promised to cut bonuses — then reintroduced bonuses with a new name . . . a rose by another name.

So it goes. With 'globalization' (of profiteering, not of labor), it is increasingly possible for corporations to profit without employing people domestically. The illogical, irrational extreme of this trend is a nation with an elite class of millionaire and billionaire owners and investors and a vast underclass of people underemployed, unemployed, poor.

Friday, December 5, 2008

533,000 Jobs Gone in One Month

Two million jobs lost so far in 2008.

Biggest job losses in over 30 years.

Some will say that 10% unemployment is the "defining point" of depression.
"Today's employment report begs the question of whether the meltdown we're experiencing should be called a Depression."
— Robert Reich, former secretary of labor, professor at Berkeley
"The threat of a widespread depression is now real and present."
— Peter Morici, professor, University of Maryland
The real unemployment rate is certainly over 10% now. (The real unemployment rate is significantly higher than the official rate, now at 6.7%, because the government cooks the numbers.)

Finally, it begins to sink into the glitterati of Wall Street. The masters of Congress. The pundits, the academics. It's bad. We the People, who have to live with Their Decisions — the decisions of The Immune, The Exempt — already knew this.

We must ask what kind of "science" economics is if so many "economists" predicted the opposite of what we are now seeing, or at least got it drastically wrong. Is economics a science in the way Physics was in, say, 1700? Or is economics just no science at all?

If We the People are ill-equipped to do economics ourselves (though we can now reasonably ask whether we are just as well equipped as the so-called economists), we are perfectly equipped to judge the public assertions of economists. They have, with the exception of a small, progressive or liberal minority, been dead wrong.

So is economics just so poisoned by the self-serving interests of economists that it cannot realize its scientific potential? Or is it simply not a science? (And that raises the question of what makes Physics or Biology a science but not economics.)

Things We Need That We Don't Really Need

Sabretooth Mouse. I put this on the need side. Mouses jess don't have enough protection against cats.

Leaf blowers. Definitely a NO NEED. We have a leaf blower . . . wind. I see the guys blowing leaves into the street. Fifteen minutes later, it's back on the sidewalk. People worry about saving energy. Leaf blowers?

Things with more than 4 legs. Four legs is plenty. Ya got balance. Speed. Stability. What's six legs for? Eight? A thousand? That's crazy talk.

Cars. The world is too fast anyway. Then we give millions of people multi-ton murder machines. No cars.

Dinosaurs. On the need side. We need something that is really scary and big. I don't like scary and small. I can't hide from a spider.

Neanderthal people. On the need side. We need smart alternative hominans, somebody who "thinks different" for real.

Sea monkeys. Why don't we have any pets that really can take care of themselves? Dogs. Cats. Very nice. But they need care, attention.

Bamboo paper clothing. I hate doing laundry. Really hate it. But trees grow slow slow slowly. Bamboo is fast fast fast. Makes great paper. Let's have disposably bamboo paper clothing. Recycle the clothing to make paper.

On-writable desks and tables. My desk is covered with little sticky notes. People write on their desktop, placemat calendar. Let's make the desk on-writable, eraseable.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Britain's DNA Highway

There is a peculiar kind of highwayman in Britain — the run-of-the-mill cop. In Britain, upon arrest, a person is instantly swabbed for a DNA sample. The British practice has been to keep all such samples. Those eventually released, eventually not charged, eventually found not guilty, nevertheless can count on the DNA remaining in the system.

Currently, the UK has some 4.6 million DNA samples on file. That is, more than one in every fifteen Britons has DNA on file. Moreover, 860,000 of those 4.6 million have no criminal record at all.

This in country which is also distinguished for having the most extensive video surveillance system in the world and whose labor government has sought to mandate an national ID card for every citizen.

So bad as the US is on many counts, Britain may well come nearer to being a police state.

Now the European court of human rights has intervened, The court, affirming a fundamental human right of privacy, criticized “the blanket and indiscriminate nature” of the British practice.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

If It Walks Like a Duck . . .

Remember AIG? Got over $100 billion in government handouts because it was the "world's biggest insurer" and "too big to fail". Then there was a big stink because execs were having big, expensive shindigs in swank locations.

Then the sky fell. Andrew Cuomo threatened legal action. The AIG mongrels backed off — even said they would forgo their bonuses.

Now it turns out they are getting "cash awards" — up to $3 million per person.

Solution? Tax away all of their income and most of their assets. Try them on charges of treason and put them in prison. After all, the possibility of Dubai Ports World taking over management of an American port was widely called a threat to national security. The vile money-grubbing execs at AIG, Goldman, Citigroup have done far more to damage, even destroy, the United States.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The World In Collision!

This from the BBC:
World 'must tackle space threat'
By Julian Siddle
Science reporter, BBC News

The international community must work together to tackle the threat of asteroids colliding with Earth, a leading UN scientist says.

Professor Richard Crowther's comments come as a group of space experts called for a co-ordinated science-led response to the asteroid threat.

The Association of Space Explorers (ASE) says missions to intercept asteroids will need global approval.

The UN will meet in February to discuss the issue.

In the ASE report, the group of scientists and former astronauts point to the historical record to highlight the dangers of asteroids; an impact 65 million years ago may have wiped out the dinosaurs, and the Tunguska impact in 1908 produced a 2,000 sq km fire in Siberia, big enough to engulf a city the size of New York.

They say the next major threatening event could occur in less than 20 years. Asteroid Apophis is due to pass close to the Earth and analyses suggest a one in 45,000 chance of a collision.

An impact by Apophis would generate the equivalent of a 500 megatonne blast, at least 100 times more powerful than the Siberian event. [The most powerful thermonuclear weapon ever tested by humans had a yield of about 50 megatons. The Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs probably had a yield of about 15 kilotons. So an impact by Apophis would have a yield about 30,000 times greater than Hiroshima . . . 30,000 Hiroshimas. (HES)]

Monday, December 1, 2008

Republicans Broke Law to 'Guard' Convention

The ACLU of Minnesota, following on the discovery of a document by Wikileaks.org, reveals how the Republican Party used federal forces in efforts to "protect" the 2008 Republican National Convention from such threats as anti-war protesters, free speach advocates, etc.
Revealing RNC document leaked
For Immediate Release
November 21, 2008

The American Civil Liberties Union recently came across a revealing RNC Homeland Security Document. This official document was uncovered by the website Wikileaks, which according to its website "We help you safely get the truth out". This document outlines the planning leading up to the Republican National Convention and how security forces would be working together during the RNC. Many federal, state and local organizations were mentioned in this document, a number of which the ACLU did not know were involved. A number of these agencies are military based, which may directly conflict with Federal law that prohibits the military from engaging in domestic intelligence gathering.

The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), is one of the organizations that is mentioned in the report that is particular cause for concern. NGA provides mapping tools and imagery intelligence that are obtained from the United State's military spy satellites which are controlled by the National Reconnaissance Office. In other words during the RNC, these top spying tools could have been utilized to gather intelligence on the homes of activists and media workers who were a part of the demonstrations. That information could have then been relayed to local officials.

A second agency that was involved in the planning is the Pentagon's Northern Command, NORTHCOM. Having NORTHCOMM at the table, assisting in the planning is troubling because it could mean that the military was involved in the crowd control strategies and dealing with potential civil unrest. According to a report in Army Times, it said that an active military unit has been deployed by NORTHCOM in the United States. This deployment marks the first time an active unit has been given a dedicated assignment within U.S. Borders.

Furthermore it appears that the FBI may have been using a station faking technology that would allow them to locate an individual through their cell phone. The ACLU is concerned with how this technology is used and if there was proper judicial oversight. In the USA Patriot ACT, this process for obtaining a track was made easier, and could allow for little to no judicial oversight. This tracking via cell phones could have been used during the RNC without the knowledge of even the phone companies.

"These behaviors are a radical departure from separation of civilian law enforcement and military authority, and could, quite possibly, represent a violation of law," said Teresa Nelson, ACLU of Minnesota. The ACLU-MN will continue to investigate and will use their findings in future lawsuits against law enforcement officials.

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