Archive for October, 2008

Sarah Palin from 1984

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

I wonder if, in 1984, she could have predicted being on the national political stage, much less Governor of Alaska…

Fingerprint scanners to Facial recognition to, eventually, instant DNA analysis…Orwell 2.0

Monday, October 27th, 2008

First it starts with fingerprint scanners being deployed at traffic stops, moves to facial recognition in transportation security checks and ID card applications, and eventually DNA IDs and ID-checks.  Anyone want to guess how soon you will have to submit to fingerprints/facial recognition/DNA checks when entering and leaving countries, when applying for driver licenses, etc.?  If you think I’m a conspiracy-theory whack-job, read this article, where the British Home Secretary talks about how far he is willing to go in abrogating British citizens’ civil rights to keep them from being killed by terrorists.  Keep the people scared while you take away their freedom and civil liberties.  See Security Expert Bruce Schneier’s testimony before Congress on the problems with the implementation of a national ‘RealID" that the DHS wants to enact in the U.S.

From the London Guardian:

Every police force in the UK is to be equipped with mobile fingerprint scanners – handheld devices that allow police to carry out identity checks on people in the street.

The new technology, which ultimately may be able to receive pictures of suspects, is likely to be in widespread use within 18 months. Tens of thousands of sets – as compact as BlackBerry smartphones – are expected to be distributed.

The police claim the scheme, called Project Midas, will transform the speed of criminal investigations. A similar, heavier machine has been tested during limited trials with motorway patrols.

To address fears about mass surveillance and random searches, the police insist fingerprints taken by the scanners will not be stored or added to databases.

Liberty, the civil rights group, cautioned that the law required fingerprints taken in such circumstances to be deleted after use. Gareth Crossman, Liberty’s policy director, said: "Saving time with new technology could help police performance but officers must make absolutely certain that they take fingerprints only when they suspect an individual of an offence and can’t establish his identity."

Details of the type of equipment and the scope of its use have been revealed in a presentation by the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA).

The initial phase of the Mobile Identification At Scene (Midas) project, costed at £30m-£40m, will enable officers to perform rapid checks on the fingerprints of people arrested or detained. The marks will be compared against records on Ident1, the national police database which holds information on 7.5 million individuals.

Geoff Whitaker, a senior technology officer with the NPIA, told the Biometrics 2008 conference that Project Midas would save enormous amounts of police time and reduce the number of wrongful arrests.

At present, officers have to take suspects to custody suites if they need to check fingerprints. On average, the agency’s research shows, the procedure takes 67 minutes. "If we scaled this [saving] up to the national level that would equate to 366 additional police officers on the beat," Whitaker said. "One of the benefits is that it will reduce the number of errors – and we can reduce the number of arrests significantly.

"There’s a huge range of opportunities [for] mobile ID. It could be used on the deceased at the scene of a crime, on suspects for intelligence in the early part of an investigation, [or even] in a mortuary."

Policing of big public occasions, sporting events, festivals, political conferences – as a well as immigration and border controls – could benefit from the equipment, he suggested.

"Another use is for prisoners in transit; it’s not uncommon for prisoners to swap identities on the way to prison," he said.

Project Midas, he said, would give the police "a full, mobile national capability" to check identities.

The system is being designed to have the capacity to beam images of suspects back to officers on the streets to help confirm identifications. Some US police forces are already using the technology.

"The return of mugshots [to officers]," Whitaker added, "is something we would like to do."

The tender document for Midas states: "Bidders’ solutions … should include, but may not be limited to, fingerprint identification capability." Plans for a police Facial Images National Database (Find) were suspended last year but are being reviewed.

One of the companies bidding for the Midas contract, Northrop Grumman, told the Guardian: "A lot of the hand-held [devices] we are considering have cameras so they can support fingerprint and facial images".

A limited trial of mobile police fingerprint devices, called Project Lantern, started in 2006. About 200 have been distributed and 30,000 checks performed. They were deployed in police cars using automatic number plate recognition technology – stopping vehicles that were logged as stolen, having no insurance, no MOT or simply unknown.

"The aim was to deny criminals the use of the roads," said Whitaker. "Around 60% of drivers stopped gave false identification details."

Fingerprint checks often showed they were carrying falsified documents.

The electronic searches, encrypted and sent over public networks, were usually returned to the mobile devices within two minutes; 97% of searches were completed in five minutes. Responses are graded as "high" or "medium". If high, it shows the system is confident of a match; if medium, it could display up to three potential identities. The returned data includes the name, age and gender of the suspect if there is a match.

A spokeswoman for the NPIA added: "It will be up to each police authority to assess the benefits and see how many they want. Early indications are that the benefits will be huge."

Thomas Smith, an officer from the Los Angeles police department, also briefed the Biometrics 2008 conference on the success of his force’s mobile ID devices which send images and fingerprint matches back to officers on the street. He said they had become so powerful that once the machines were produced some suspects admitted they were lying about their identity.

"Our next thing will be facial recognition [computerised matching of suspects from their faces] in the field," he said.

A letter from 2012: What will happen if Obama wins, from an evangelical Christian perspective–the funniest thing you will read during election season

Saturday, October 25th, 2008

There’s a group called "Focus on the Family", that is a fundamentalist Christian organization. Not only does the group see Obama as a ‘far-left liberal’ (he’s not, something easily verified by reading his book(s)), but sees America essentially destroyed by 4 years of an Obama presidency, versus the wonderful state of being we find ourselves in after 8 years of George W.  It kills me that this organization would obviously prefer that things continue the way they have been going (which is to say continuing the collapse of major institutions and systems) then risk something new.

This group is so afraid of a ‘far-left’ liberal agenda brought to bear by Obama, that the organization has written a fictional letter from 2012, which outlines how bad things will get as a result of Obama enacting a ‘far-left liberal’ agenda.  ,After reading this letter, of course, people will be mobilized to vote for McAlin/Pain (my daughter’s name for the Republican ticket).

This is absolutely the most hilarious thing I’ve read (since Palin’s interviews were video, so they don’t count) during the election season.  For instance, because the Supreme Court has become dominated by liberals, the Court subsequently approved gay marriage (horror of horrors! hilarious that letting people who love each other get married is one of the worst things that a group who purports to worship Christ can imagine as a doomsday scenario), and now allows gay scoutmasters to sleep in the same tents as young boys!  This is only one of the many unspeakable horrors that will occur if Obama is elected.

Trust me, it’s worth the read if only to understand some of the religious red-state thinking as we head into this election. 

Letter from 2012 after 4 years of Obama Presidency letter

Questions that the media isn’t asking but we, the people, should be asking…

Saturday, October 25th, 2008

What I find fascinating about the Presidential debates and major corporate media interviews with the candidates is not what they are asked, but what they are NOT asked or what is not subjected to national debate.  Also, given that there are 13 million children in poverty in this country, that there are 28,000,000 children estimated to be receiving food stamps (which, lest you think is a ‘free lunch’, works out to be only $1 per meal), and many millions of children without decent educations or affordable healthcare, you would think that the candidates might pick someone other than "Joe The Plumber" to use as the central illustration of who would be affected by either candidate’s domestic policies–by the way, it turns out that Joe isn’t who he says he is.

So here are the questions that I think should be asked of the candidates or of ourselves as we think about the important issues of the day:

1. How do you win a war on Terrorism? What does ‘winning’ mean, when anyone at any time can choose to use violence to accomplish political aims?

2. Why is it that the government has billions to spend on the Transportation Security Administration and on Homeland Security in general, but has nothing to spend on making sure that there are adequate voting booths and staffs to man polling stations for Presidential elections?  In 2004 and 2006 national elections, there were people who stood in line for as much as 12 hours in poorer districts in swing states.

3. Why is it that election day is not a national holiday, so that hourly or low-income workers can vote and not be penalized for taking time away from work? If Democracy is such an important aspect of our society, why penalize the poorest among us for taking time to exercise this most important of democratic principles?

4. Why are we imprisoning so many adults (approx. 50% of all inmates) for non-violent crimes? Why do we have the highest rate of incarceration of any Western industrialized nation and what less harmful, less expensive alternatives can we find for non-violent criminal offenders?

5. Why are we spending millions if not billions of dollars to build a fence around the U.S. to keep out illegal immigrants and then allowing golf courses or other friends-of-Bush to keep the fences off their land? Do we think that those entering the U.S. will stay off the golf courses that represent gaps in the fence because we put signs up asking them to?

6. What are we going to do to ensure we have a sufficient supply of drinking water?

7. Are we going to allow the continuing privatization of the water supply in the U.S.?  Now that water rights have been separated from property rights in the U.S., it is possible to buy up and privatize the water supply, which is now happening.

8. What are we going to do to address the threat of nuclear war, which is now greater than at any time in history?  There is a symbolic "Doomsday" clock that is used by scientists to measure the threat of human extinction, not just focused on nuclear war, but also on climate change and biosecurity. We are currently at 5 minutes to midnight, with midnight being the end of humanity.

9. Why don’t we value curing cancer, which kills hundreds of thousands of Americans every year  more than terrorism, which killed 3000 Americans one time in 2001?  Why do we care more about the WAY people die than the numbers who die?  Why do we outlaw the taking of paring knives on airplanes–which has not been known to kill a single human being on a flight–but not require breathalyzers built into cars so that people can’t drive drunk and kill thousands every year needlessly because they are DUI?  Why do we allow cigarettes to continue to be sold, when their use results in thousands of deaths and illnesses each year, the costs for which are borne by we the taxpayers quite often.

10. How do we solve the problem of massive functional illiteracy in our country, which now poses a national security threat?

11. How can we call the United States a Democracy when a majority of Americans want the U.S. to leave Iraq, and the President of the U.S. says (as he did on ’60 Minutes’ when asked) "I know that a majority of Americans want us out of Iraq and I don’t care"?

12. What are we going to do about childhood morbid obesity? How can we limit the commercials for foods high in fat, sugar and salt, so that kids aren’t inundated with them? How do we stop the marketing and availability of highly unhealthy food to children?  Why don’t we have well-funded physical education classes in our public elementary schools anymore?

France? Switzerland? Dubai? No…Indiana!

Saturday, October 25th, 2008

When you see a picture of a six-story hotel atrium like this, I bet the first location you think of isn’t Indiana.  But that is where this atrium resides, at the West Baden Springs Hotel after a $500M renovation.  You can learn more about the ‘Mid-West’s premier resort and casino destination’ here. 

A $2,000 Motorola Aura cellphone…for the 6 people in the United States who still have enough money to buy one.

Saturday, October 25th, 2008

You might think that now would be the wrong time to introduce a $2000 cellphone, what with a third of the workforce in the U.S. either being laid off or about to be laid off (an exaggeration, but not by much, if you look at the announced layoffs by big companies). 

But the marketing geniuses at Motorola have decided to appeal to the ‘have-mores’.  If you’re in the market for a $2000 phone (and why wouldn’t you be?), you can learn more here

Great site: fivethirtyeight.com–polling done right

Friday, October 24th, 2008

If you want to get the real low-down on election poll results and projections on election day results check out www.fivethirtyeight.com.  Things are looking pretty good for Obama.

Here’s the site’s latest summary of poll results:

Research finds that people who were raised with B&W TVs dream in monochrome

Thursday, October 23rd, 2008

Apparently, researchers have found that people raised with black & white televisions (usually people over 55) dream primarily in black and white, whereas people raised with color TVs are more likely to dream in color. 

What’s most interesting to me is that research conducted between 1915 and 1950, shows that before B&W TV, people dreamed in color.  So TV was responsible for denying a large group of people colorful dreams.

You can read the article here.

Extending Moore’s Law via a ‘quasi-three-dimensional electron crystal’

Thursday, October 23rd, 2008

When I read ’100 times colder than intergalactic space’, I first thought of Dick Cheney, but no, it has to do with creating new states of matter…

Newly Discovered State Of Matter Could Extend Moore’s Law

Researchers believe the strange state of matter could help improve transistors as they approach the physical density limit imposed by the laws of physics.

By Thomas Claburn
InformationWeek
October 22, 2008 07:02 AM

Scientists at McGill University in Montreal say they’ve discovered a new state of matter that could help extend Moore’s Law and allow for the fabrication of more tightly packed transistors, or a new kind of transistor altogether.

The researchers call the new state of matter "a quasi-three-dimensional electron crystal." It was discovered using a device cooled to a temperature about 100 times colder than intergalactic space, following the application of the most powerful continuous magnetic field on Earth.

Two-dimensional electron crystals were discovered in the 1990s, and were predicted in 1934 by Hungarian physicist Eugene Wigner. They are thus known as Wigner crystals.

Dr. Guillaume Gervais, director of McGill’s Ultra-Low Temperature Condensed Matter Experiment Lab, describes them in terms of a ham sandwich, where the ham — the two-dimensional crystal — represents a flat plane that constrains the movement of the electrons in two dimensions.

"We decided to tweak the two-dimensionality by applying a very large magnetic field, using the largest magnet in the world at the Magnet Lab in Florida," said Gervais in a statement. "You only have access to it for about five days a year, and on the third day, something totally unexpected popped."

The "popping" was the creation inside the semiconductor material of a "quasi-three-dimensional system," something that had existed in theory but, until then, not in fact.

Gervais believes the strange state of matter could help improve transistors as they approach the physical density limit imposed by the laws of physics in the coming decade or so.

"This issue is academic, but it’s not just academic," said Gervais in a statement. "The same semiconductor materials we’re working with are currently used in cell phones and other electronic devices. We need to understand quantum effects so we can use them to our own advantage and perhaps reinvent the transistor altogether. That way, progress in electronics will keep happening."

Photographer of ‘Maltese Falcon in front of burning Angel Island’ discovered

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008

I was informed by my friend, Veit, that the photographer of the picture I posted is Robert Sanford. Wanted to make sure to give him attribution for this great photo. Well done, Robert!

The Maltese Falcon in front of a burning Angel Island…stunning photograph

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008

My colleague, Kurt, forwarded me this picture.  It is truly a great photograph.  I thought I would share it with you.  Not sure who shot it, otherwise I would pay homage to the photographer…

MalteseFalcon-1

North Carolina five-term Rep. Hayes’ (R) unbiased view of Liberals…

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008

Interesting how Republicans keep hurling these invectives and then recanting or revising them after the fact…

Hayes, at a rally in North Carolina said: "Liberals hate real Americans that work and achieve and believe in God."  Judging by his remarks, Hayes is a tolerant guy who reserves judgment on people who disagree with him…

You can read the full CNN story here

Great interview with former Reagan Asst. Treasury Secretary &former WSJ Associate Editor, Paul Craig Roberts, about current financial crisis on Democracy Now!

Tuesday, October 21st, 2008

I have to say,  much to my surprise, there are a number of former Reagan Administration officials that I have come to admire, based on work they’ve done after leaving government employment.  Kevin Philips, one of my current favorite political/economic affairs writers, who has written "American Theocracy" and "Bad Money", is amazingly objective, given his pedigree.  This gentlemen, Paul Craig Roberts, is another one.  While I don’t agree with everything Roberts says in general, I think he makes some very candid assessments in this interview, esp. given his previous stints with Reagan and the Wall Street Journal

I definitely recommend that you read this interview.

Here is one interesting extract from Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez’s interview with Roberts on Democracy Now on 10/17/08.

AMY GOODMAN: Paul Craig Roberts, the piece you’ve written, one of them, asks, “Has deregulation sired fascism?” What do you mean?

PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS: Well, the original Paulson plan was to give the Secretary of the Treasury $700 billion with no accountability and give him complete control over the financial system. And that, of course, is state capitalism or fascism. If you control the financial system, you control the economy. And so, that was my way of pointing out the dramatic sort of power that was said to be necessary to stem a crisis that, in my view, could be fixed just by refinancing mortgages, like they did during the Great Depression.

AMY GOODMAN: Who is driving this? Who framed this bailout? And explain exactly who it is who benefits right now.

PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS: Well, what the bailout does is it takes troubled financial instruments off the balance sheet of the banks and puts them on the balance sheet of the taxpayer at the US Treasury. So it’s a bailout of the financial institutions whose recklessness caused the problem. And as I’ve already said, it does not address the problem. It only addresses the problem of the banks. So the foreclosures and the defaulting mortgages will continue as the economy worsens, and yet nothing is being done to stabilize that default rate or to stop these foreclosures. So the money is essentially being poured into the coffers of Washington’s financial donor base.

JUAN GONZALEZ: In some of your articles, you reject a view by some Democrats that this is the end result of a deregulatory fever that began in the Reagan administration, and you point to a more recent aspect of this. And you point specifically to decisions that were made during the Clinton administration and the current Bush administration in 1999, 2000 and 2004. Could you elaborate on what those particular key decisions that were made?

PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS: Yes. First, just let me say the Reagan administration didn’t do any financial deregulation.

In 1999, in the Clinton administration, they repealed the Glass-Steagall Act. This was the Depression-era legislation that separated commercial from investment banking. In 2000, they deregulated all derivatives. And in 2004, Hank Paulson, the current Treasury Secretary, who at the time was chairman of Goldman Sachs, he convinced the Securities and Exchange Commission to remove all capital requirements for investment banks, and thus they were able to drive up their profits by amazing leverage. For example, when Bear Stearns finally went under, it had $33 in debt for every dollar in equity. So this is an amazing leverage. And it’s amazing that all reserves against debt would have been removed by the Securities and Exchange Commission. So, the whole thing is reckless beyond imagination. Now, they claim that they had new mathematical models that assessed risk and that they didn’t need these reserves. Well, that was all a bunch of hooey, as we now see.

AMY GOODMAN: Paul Craig Roberts, you write the US is not a superpower; the US is a financially dependent country that foreign lenders can close down at will. What do you mean?

PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS: Well, the savings rate in the United States is zero. The government is running large budget deficits. And these deficits are financed by foreigners who lend the money. The daily operation of the United States government is financed by the Chinese, Japanese, the OPEC sovereign wealth funds. This is not the financial position of a superpower. The same with American consumption. We consume about $800 billion a year more than we produce. We have an enormous trade deficit. And this has to be financed by foreigners, as well.

So the holdings of dollar-denominated assets, including United States Treasury’s, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac bonds, in foreign hands is enormous. And they could exert, if they wish, dramatic control over American policy just by calling up Washington and asking if they wanted to buy these things back—of course, with no money to buy them with. And if they were to—they don’t even have to dump them. If they just stopped financing the budget deficit, the government in Washington would have to resort to printing money, like Weimar Germany. So, this is not a strong position.

Another way for someone to eavesdrop: your keyboard’s EM emanations

Tuesday, October 21st, 2008

As if there weren’t already enough ways for someone to find out what you think, say, do, eat, watch, etc.–apparently there’s now a way to capture the radiation from your keyboard and use it to eavesdrop on what you type.

Colin Powell endorses Obama for President

Monday, October 20th, 2008

Colin Powell’s not someone I particularly admire or respect as a politician, but his endorsement of Obama is both impactful in the message it sends to voters who may be undecided, Powell’s belief in Obama’s ability to act decisively in matters of foreign policy, and the fact that Powell is breaking with his own party by supporting a Democratic nominee.

Here’s an excerpt of the report from CNN on Powell’s endorsement of Obama:

"I think he is a transformational figure, he is a new generation coming onto the world stage, onto the American stage, and for that reason I’ll be voting for Sen. Barack Obama," Powell said on NBC’s "Meet the Press."

Powell said he was concerned about what he characterized as a recent negative turn of Republican candidate Sen. John McCain’s campaign, such as the campaign’s attempts to tie Obama to former 1960s radical Bill Ayers.

"I think that’s inappropriate. I understand what politics is about — I know how you can go after one another, and that’s good. But I think this goes too far, and I think it has made the McCain campaign look a little narrow. It’s not what the American people are looking for," he said.

Katy Perry: I’ve just kissed a girl, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!

Monday, October 20th, 2008

Not sure why Katy Perry is jumping onto a giant cake, but she definitely had a equilibrium malfunction when she tried to stand back up afterwards.  Pretty funny…

Objet’s Alaris–3D printing becoming increasingly affordable

Friday, October 17th, 2008

There’s a game I like to play with technology.  It’s very simple.  I imagine my daughter saying to me "you mean there was a time when you couldn’t…" and I fill in the rest.  For instance, "you mean there was a time when you couldn’t call someone from wherever you were…you had to stop somewhere to use a phone?"  Or "you mean there was a time when you went to a store to buy music, and they came on 12" spinning pieces of vinyl that were read by a needle?"

So, when I read about 3D printers increasingly becoming a reality for everyone to have in their own homes, I imagine a scenario–not too far off–when anyone can design something relatively easily on their PC and can then "print" it or really build it via translating the virtual design into the design’s physical manifestation.  I don’t know how much this printer from Alaris will cost (price hasn’t been announced yet), but eventually it will be available for $250, and then things will get interesting.  Build your own toys.  Build your own tools.  Build  your own…

You can read more about this cool tech here.

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Chomsky interview with Der Spiegel, Oct. 2008

Friday, October 17th, 2008

A decent interview with Noam Chomsky, in which he talks about the candidates for President, and the lack of true distinction between the parties–both being driven essentially by the business interests that fund them.

The linguist and public intellectual Noam Chomsky has long been a critic of American consumerism and imperialism. SPIEGEL spoke to him about the current crisis of capitalism, Barack Obama’s rhetoric and the compliance of the intellectual class.

SPIEGEL: Professor Chomsky, cathedrals of capitalism have collapsed, the conservative government is spending its final weeks in office with nationalization plans. How does that make you feel?

Chomsky: The times are too difficult and the crisis too severe to indulge in schadenfreude. Looking at it in perspective, the fact that there would be a financial crisis was perfectly predictable, its general nature, if not its magnitude. Markets are always inefficient.

SPIEGEL: What exactly did you anticipate?

Chomsky: In the financial industry, as in other industries, there are risks that are left out of the calculation. If you sell me a car, we have perhaps made a good bargain for ourselves. But there are effects of this transaction on others, which we do not take into account. There is more pollution, the price of gas goes up, there is more congestion. Those are the external costs of our transaction. In the case of financial institutions, they are huge.

SPIEGEL: But isn’t it the task of a bank to take risks?

Chomsky: Yes, but if it is well managed, like Goldman Sachs, it will cover its own risks and absorb its own losses. But no financial institution can manage systemic risks. Risk is therefore underpriced, and there will be more risk taken than would be prudent for the economy. With government deregulation and the triumph of financial liberalization, the dangers of systemic risks, the possibility of a financial tsunami, sharply increased.

SPIEGEL: But is it correct to only put the blame on Wall Street? Doesn’t Main Street, the American middle class, also live on borrowed money which may or may not be paid back?

Chomsky: The debt burden of private households is enormous. But I would not hold the individual responsible. This consumerism is based on the fact that we are a society dominated by business interests. There is massive propaganda for everyone to consume. Consumption is good for profits and consumption is good for the political establishment.

SPIEGEL: How does it benefit politicians when the populace drives a lot, eats a lot and goes shopping a lot?

Chomsky: Consumption distracts people. You cannot control your own population by force, but it can be distracted by consumption. The business press has been quite explicit about this goal.

SPIEGEL: A while ago you called America “the greatest country on earth.” How does that fit together with what you’ve been saying?

Chomsky: In many respects, the United States is a great country. Freedom of speech is protected more than in any other country. It is also a very free society. In America, the professor talks to the mechanic. They are in the same category.

SPIEGEL: After travelling through the United States 170 years ago, Alexis de Tocqueville reported, "the people reign over the American political world as God rules over the universe." Was he a dreamer?

Chomsky: James Madison’s position at the Constitutional Convention was that state power should be used "to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority." That is why the Senate has only a hundred members who are mostly rich and were given a great deal of power. The House of Representatives, with several hundred members, is more democratic and was given much less power. Even liberals like Walter Lippmann, one of the leading intellectuals of the 20th century, was of the opinion that in a properly functioning democracy, the intelligent minority, who should rule, have to be protected from “the trampling and the roar of the bewildered herd.” Among the conservatives, Vice President Dick Cheney just recently illustrated his understanding of democracy. He was asked why he supports a continuation of the war in Iraq when the population is strongly opposed. His answer was: “So?”

SPIEGEL: “Change” is the slogan of this year’s presidential election. Do you see any chance for an immediate, tangible change in the United States? Or, to use use Obama’s battle cry: Are you "fired up”?

Chomsky: Not in the least. The European reaction to Obama is a European delusion.

SPIEGEL: But he does say things that Europe has long been waiting for. He talks about the trans-Atlantic partnership, the priority of diplomacy and the reconciling of American society.

Chomsky: That is all rhetoric. Who cares about that? This whole election campaign deals with soaring rhetoric, hope, change, all sorts of things, but not with issues.

SPIEGEL: Do you prefer the team on the other side: the 72 year old Vietnam veteran McCain and Sarah Palin, former Alaskan beauty queen?

Chomsky: This Sarah Palin phenomenon is very curious. I think somebody watching us from Mars, they would think the country has gone insane.

SPIEGEL: Arch conservatives and religious voters seem to be thrilled.

Chomsky: One must not forget that this country was founded by religious fanatics. Since Jimmy Carter, religious fundamentalists play a major role in elections. He was the first president who made a point of exhibiting himself as a born again Christian. That sparked a little light in the minds of political campaign managers: Pretend to be a religious fanatic and you can pick up a third of the vote right away. Nobody asked whether Lyndon Johnson went to church every day. Bill Clinton is probably about as religious as I am, meaning zero, but his managers made a point of making sure that every Sunday morning he was in the Baptist church singing hymns.

SPIEGEL: Is there nothing about McCain that appeals to you?

Chomsky: In one aspect he is more honest than his opponent. He explicitly states that this election is not about issues but about personalities. The Democrats are not quite as honest even though they see it the same way.

SPIEGEL: So for you, Republicans and Democrats represent just slight variations of the same political platform?

Chomsky: Of course there are differences, but they are not fundamental. Nobody should have any illusions. The United States has essentially a one-party system and the ruling party is the business party.

SPIEGEL: You exaggerate. In almost all vital questions — from the taxation of the rich to nuclear energy — there are different positions. At least on the issues of war and peace, the parties differ considerably. The Republicans want to fight in Iraq until victory, even if that takes a 100 years, according to McCain. The Democrats demand a withdrawal plan.

Chomsky: Let us look at the “differences” more closely, and we recognize how limited and cynical they are. The hawks say, if we continue we can win. The doves say, it is costing us too much. But try to find an American politician who says frankly that this aggression is a crime: the issue is not whether we win or not, whether it is expensive or not. Remember the Russian invasion of Afghanistan? Did we have a debate whether the Russians can win the war or whether it is too expensive? This may have been the debate at the Kremlin, or in Pravda. But this is the kind of debate you would expect in a totalitarian society. If General Petraeus could achieve in Iraq what Putin achieved in Chechnya, he would be crowned king. The key question here is whether we apply the same standards to ourselves that we apply to others.

SPIEGEL: Who prevents intellectuals from asking and critically answering these questions? You praised the freedom of speech in the United States.

Chomsky: The intellectual world is deeply conformist. Hans Morgenthau, who was a founder of realist international relations theory, once condemned what he called “the conformist subservience to power” on the part of the intellectuals. George Orwell wrote that nationalists, who are practically the whole intellectual class of a country, not only do not disapprove of the crimes of their own state, but have the remarkable capacity not even to see them. That is correct. We talk a lot about the crimes of others. When it comes to our own crimes, we are nationalists in the Orwellian sense.

SPIEGEL: Was there not, and is there not — in the United States and worldwide — loud protest against the Iraq war?

Chomsky: The protest against the war in Iraq is far higher than against the war in Vietnam. When there were 4,000 American deaths in Vietnam and 150,000 troops deployed, nobody cared. When Kennedy invaded Vietnam in 1962, there was just a yawn.

SPIEGEL: To conclude, perhaps you can offer a conciliatory word about the state of the nation?

Chomsky: The American society has become more civilized, largely as a result of the activism of the 1960s. Our society, and also Europe’s, became freer, more open, more democratic, and for many quite scary. This generation was condemned for that. But it had an effect.

SPIEGEL: Professor Chomsky, we thank you for this interview.

http://www.spiegel.de/international/wor … 54,00.html

McCain’s pet project…regulating boxing…because all the other more pressing problems in the U.S. have already been solved…

Friday, October 17th, 2008

The Wall Street Journal reports that John McCain’s passion for years, in fact since the mid-90s, has been creating a better regulatory system for boxing in the United States. 

Here’s an extract from the article:

Sen. McCain says he is "dismayed by the lack of integrity" in the sport. Boxers "are the poorest and least educated among us, and the most exploited athletes in our nation," he said in a recent statement. In a 2004 article in Stanford Law and Policy Review, Sen. McCain wrote that "professional boxing has reached the precipice of irrelevance and that federal uniform standards may be the only way to preserve the sport for the enjoyment of future generations."

Now I have nothing against boxers or creating a less-exploitative environment for boxers to fight in.  But if I were a senator, I think I would have a list of, oh, maybe 50 higher priorities that I would want to badger my colleagues in the Senate with?   It says something interesting about McCain that of all the things he could champion as a cause celebre, that it would be regulating boxing.  He chooses this over the improvement of children’s welfare, the environment, the high rate of incarceration, etc.

Anyway, something you might keep in mind as you consider who to vote for, or not vote for.

Noam Chomsky: Anti-Democratic nature of U.S. Capitalism is being exposed…

Thursday, October 16th, 2008

From the Irish Times

Anti-Democratic Nature of US Capitalism is Being Exposed
By Noam Chomsky / October 10, 2008

Bretton Woods was the system of global financial management set up at the end of the second World War to ensure the interests of capital did not smother wider social concerns in post-war democracies. It was hated by the US neoliberals – the very people who created the banking crisis, writes Noam Chomsky.

THE SIMULTANEOUS unfolding of the US presidential campaign and unraveling of the financial markets presents one of those occasions where the political and economic systems starkly reveal their nature.

Passion about the campaign may not be universally shared but almost everybody can feel the anxiety from the foreclosure of a million homes, and concerns about jobs, savings and healthcare at risk.

The initial Bush proposals to deal with the crisis so reeked of totalitarianism that they were quickly modified. Under intense lobbyist pressure, they were reshaped as "a clear win for the largest institutions in the system . . . a way of dumping assets without having to fail or close", as described by James Rickards, who negotiated the federal bailout for the hedge fund Long Term Capital Management in 1998, reminding us that we are treading familiar turf. The immediate origins of the current meltdown lie in the collapse of the housing bubble supervised by Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan, which sustained the struggling economy through the Bush years by debt-based consumer spending along with borrowing from abroad. But the roots are deeper. In part they lie in the triumph of financial liberalisation in the past 30 years – that is, freeing the markets as much as possible from government regulation.

These steps predictably increased the frequency and depth of severe reversals, which now threaten to bring about the worst crisis since the Great Depression.

Also predictably, the narrow sectors that reaped enormous profits from liberalisation are calling for massive state intervention to rescue collapsing financial institutions.

Such interventionism is a regular feature of state capitalism, though the scale today is unusual. A study by international economists Winfried Ruigrok and Rob van Tulder 15 years ago found that at least 20 companies in the Fortune 100 would not have survived if they had not been saved by their respective governments, and that many of the rest gained substantially by demanding that governments "socialise their losses," as in today’s taxpayer-financed bailout. Such government intervention "has been the rule rather than the exception over the past two centuries", they conclude.

In a functioning democratic society, a political campaign would address such fundamental issues, looking into root causes and cures, and proposing the means by which people suffering the consequences can take effective control.

The financial market "underprices risk" and is "systematically inefficient", as economists John Eatwell and Lance Taylor wrote a decade ago, warning of the extreme dangers of financial liberalisation and reviewing the substantial costs already incurred – and proposing solutions, which have been ignored. One factor is failure to calculate the costs to those who do not participate in transactions. These "externalities" can be huge. Ignoring systemic risk leads to more risk-taking than would take place in an efficient economy, even by the narrowest measures.
The task of financial institutions is to take risks and, if well-managed, to ensure that potential losses to themselves will be covered. The emphasis is on "to themselves". Under state capitalist rules, it is not their business to consider the cost to others – the "externalities" of decent survival – if their practices lead to financial crisis, as they regularly do.

Financial liberalisation has effects well beyond the economy. It has long been understood that it is a powerful weapon against democracy. Free capital movement creates what some have called a "virtual parliament" of investors and lenders, who closely monitor government programmes and "vote" against them if they are considered irrational: for the benefit of people, rather than concentrated private power.

Investors and lenders can "vote" by capital flight, attacks on currencies and other devices offered by financial liberalisation. That is one reason why the Bretton Woods system established by the United States and Britain after the second World War instituted capital controls and regulated currencies.*

The Great Depression and the war had aroused powerful radical democratic currents, ranging from the anti-fascist resistance to working class organisation. These pressures made it necessary to permit social democratic policies. The Bretton Woods system was designed in part to create a space for government action responding to public will – for some measure of democracy.

John Maynard Keynes, the British negotiator, considered the most important achievement of Bretton Woods to be the establishment of the right of governments to restrict capital movement.
In dramatic contrast, in the neoliberal phase after the breakdown of the Bretton Woods system in the 1970s, the US treasury now regards free capital mobility as a "fundamental right", unlike such alleged "rights" as those guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: health, education, decent employment, security and other rights that the Reagan and Bush administrations have dismissed as "letters to Santa Claus", "preposterous", mere "myths".
In earlier years, the public had not been much of a problem. The reasons are reviewed by Barry Eichengreen in his standard scholarly history of the international monetary system. He explains that in the 19th century, governments had not yet been "politicised by universal male suffrage and the rise of trade unionism and parliamentary labour parties". Therefore, the severe costs imposed by the virtual parliament could be transferred to the general population.

But with the radicalisation of the general public during the Great Depression and the anti-fascist war, that luxury was no longer available to private power and wealth. Hence in the Bretton Woods system, "limits on capital mobility substituted for limits on democracy as a source of insulation from market pressures".

The obvious corollary is that after the dismantling of the postwar system, democracy is restricted. It has therefore become necessary to control and marginalise the public in some fashion, processes particularly evident in the more business-run societies like the United States. The management of electoral extravaganzas by the public relations industry is one illustration.

"Politics is the shadow cast on society by big business," concluded America’s leading 20th century social philosopher John Dewey, and will remain so as long as power resides in "business for private profit through private control of banking, land, industry, reinforced by command of the press, press agents and other means of publicity and propaganda".

The United States effectively has a one-party system, the business party, with two factions, Republicans and Democrats. There are differences between them. In his study Unequal Democracy: The Political Economy of the New Gilded Age, Larry Bartels shows that during the past six decades "real incomes of middle-class families have grown twice as fast under Democrats as they have under Republicans, while the real incomes of working-poor families have grown six times as fast under Democrats as they have under Republicans".

Differences can be detected in the current election as well. Voters should consider them, but without illusions about the political parties, and with the recognition that consistently over the centuries, progressive legislation and social welfare have been won by popular struggles, not gifts from above.

Those struggles follow a cycle of success and setback. They must be waged every day, not just once every four years, always with the goal of creating a genuinely responsive democratic society, from the voting booth to the workplace.

* The Bretton Woods system of global financial management was created by 730 delegates from all 44 Allied second World War nations who attended a UN-hosted Monetary and Financial Conference at the Mount Washington Hotel in Bretton Woods in New Hampshire in 1944.
Bretton Woods, which collapsed in 1971, was the system of rules, institutions, and procedures that regulated the international monetary system, under which were set up the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) (now one of five institutions in the World Bank Group) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which came into effect in 1945.

The chief feature of Bretton Woods was an obligation for each country to adopt a monetary policy that maintained the exchange rate of its currency within a fixed value.
The system collapsed when the US suspended convertibility from dollars to gold. This created the unique situation whereby the US dollar became the "reserve currency" for the other countries within Bretton Woods.

© 2008 The Irish Times
Noam Chomsky is professor emeritus of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His writings on linguistics and politics have just been collected in The Essential Chomsky, edited by Anthony Arnove, from the New Press.

A very cool computer graphics music-video ‘Mygraph–the fusion thing" by Florian Baumann

Wednesday, October 15th, 2008

I came across this video and thought it was very cool. I know something about computer graphics, and what this guy is doing with the tool–Mograph module from a program called Cinema 4D by Maxon is pretty sophisticated and visually interesting. It would be great to see this video in high-def.

Hope you enjoy it, too.:

A great tune, MIA’s "Paper Planes"

Tuesday, October 14th, 2008

This song samples "Straight to Hell" from the Clash, which was pretty catchy in its original form.  It is infectious…I predict you will like it.

AIG knew of potential problems in valuing derivative contracts long before it became a crisis…

Sunday, October 12th, 2008

First few paragraphs from the WSJ, original article.  I say we create a new form of punishment for executives at bailout targets who failed to act to avoid the crises: they have to work at Wal-Mart or Target for 3 years at minimum wage, stocking shelves and have to live on the wages they make. Perhaps that would teach them to think about the average person who puts trust in them.

"Top officials at American International Group Inc. knew of potential problems in valuing derivative contracts long before these risky transactions caused the insurer’s shareholders severe pain, according to documents released by congressional investigators.

The disclosures come as prospects dimmed this past week for AIG’s efforts to quickly sell assets to repay its bulging debt to the government. The derivative-contract problems would have driven AIG into bankruptcy; in the past month, the government has made available to AIG nearly $123 billion in a rescue plan.

A federal criminal probe under way since earlier this year is also looking at how candid company executives were with investors at a December 2007 investor conference and whether executives at AIG’s financial-products unit, which sold derivatives contracts, misled AIG’s outside auditor last fall."

Here’s the Sequoia Capital Presentation I referenced in my last post

Sunday, October 12th, 2008

I realized I could just embed it, rather than provide the link…

A great slide show which summarizes how big a hole we’re in and how long it may take to get out of it…in short, it’s big and it’s going to take a long time.

Sunday, October 12th, 2008

My friend Whitey turned me on to this Sequioa Capital deck that summarizes why we’re in the dilemma we’re in and why it’s worse than other dilemmas, and why it’s going to take a while to get out of it.

You can see the slideshow here: http://www.slideshare.net/eldon/sequoia-capital-on-startups-and-the-economic-downturn-presentation?type=powerpoint.

The deck highlights what I think is the big issue for this recession, one which the media (not surprisingly) doesn’t seem to be highlighting: e.g. that consumer credit is used up,  consumer mortgage equity withdrawals are now exhausted, and consumers (on average) have no household savings.  So, if our economy depends upon consumer spending–and it does–where is future consumer disposable income going to come from to fuel the next upturn, esp. if oil prices don’t fall below $80 a barrel or so (and it can’t if oil companies are going to fund their deep sea/tar sands drilling, which is very expensive and is only profitable if oil prices stay above $80 a barrel or so)?

If anyone has some good theories on how we dig ourselves out of this hole, I’d love to hear them.

I will just keep re-posting this periodically, because it’s worth it.

Saturday, October 11th, 2008

This is too funny not to post several times.

Some movie recommendations

Saturday, October 11th, 2008

Here are some films, all currently available on DVD, that I have seen recently that I would  recommend:

Once

I’ll admit that I’m not a huge fan of romantic movies (vs. romantic comedies, of which I’m somewhat more a fan), but this was a great film about romance in the real world.  The male lead is played by Glenn Hansard, a real-life singer/songwriter in Ireland who plays a guy who works in his father’s vacuum repair shop by day, and performs on the guitar and sings at night.  He meets a woman and they fall in love.   Not terribly original at a high level, but there are elements of this film which are really well done–for instance, where Glenn is performing one of his songs on the guitar while Marketa Irglova (the female love interest) accompanies him on the piano.

The performance of the song together–the song won ‘Best Song’ at the Academy Awards– serves almost as a first date, convincing both people that they are interested in each other.  This is one of the great things about the movie. Others include: a) neither actor looks like a movie star; b) all the songs performed in the film are very good; c) the film has very few of the standard cliches of the genre; d) the film does not end as you would expect.

In fact, it is the non-traditional ending of the film that I liked best.  The reason the ending resonated was because it is like real-life.  I won’t give it away, but I think if you watch it, you’ll agree that is realistic in the right way.

The Visitor

This film got great reviews when it was in the theater and, after watching it on DVD, I can see why. The film is about a widowed college professor whose life perks up when he meets a Syrian man and Senegalese woman (at least I think she’s from Senegal) who’ve been squatting in his unused (or so he thinks) apartment in NYC.  The Syrian man has to battle the U.S. Immigration officials and the professor is drawn into his struggle.

It’s not  a typical plot line for a Hollywood movie (thankfully) and the film has some strong performances, particularly by the lead, Richard Jenkins (who also played the patriarch of the family profiled in Six Feet Under).

It’s not an action film, but is very compelling in a quiet way and stays with you.

Lagerfeld Confidential

This isn’t the best-made documentary I’ve seen, but I think the subject matter makes it worth seeing anyway.  Karl Lagerfeld has ruled the House of Chanel since 1982, yet I have only really seen brief clips of him bowing after a runway show or still pix in magazines.  This is the first time I have seen a film that focuses on him.  Given his amazing success over 26 years (he transformed Chanel from an also-ran worth very little to an empire that Portfolio Magazine estimates is worth North of $10 Billion dollars), it’s surprising how little has been said about him. 

In this film, he is interviewed fairly extensively, and, as an artist, I found it fascinating to see how he works, creates his designs, and perceives both art and the world.  I don’t think the film reveals any huge truths, but it does reveal some interesting facets of Lagerfeld’s life–how he lives, what he finds interesting, and what he thinks of the fashion world.

Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project

You either think Don Rickles is hilarious or you don’t. I do, so I found this film, where he is captured performing his standup routine as well as speaking about himself (and hearing other famous comedians speak about him) very entertaining.  It’s amazing how many comedic and dramatic roles he has had in some very famous and prominent films. It’s easy to forget that the guy is a pretty good actor.

Julian Beever–pretty amazing artist who fools your brain into seeing 3D where none exists…

Friday, October 10th, 2008

This guy is pretty amazing. He draws sidewalk art with such depth that you know the work is 2D but your brain tells you it has to be 3D. 

I urge you to check out this talented artist at http://users.skynet.be/J.Beever/index.html

Here’s an example of Julian’s work…Keep in mind that only the little girl (in the first picture and the little boy in the second picture) is actually 3D.

By Julian Beever.

A kilometer-tall skyscraper…yup, it must be in Dubai

Friday, October 10th, 2008

I don’t know who’s going to occupy all these very tall buildings that are being constructed in Dubai.  Maybe the plan is just to build them and then have residents of other previously-tallest buildings in Dubai move to the now-current tallest ones.  They can use the older buildings then to house all of the workers they import from other countries to build all of this.

The current tallest building in the world, due to be finished in 2009, is the Burj Dubai, which is 818 meters.  The 1KM-tall building, the Al Burj, will be completed in 2020, and will then be the world’s tallest building, assuming Donald Trump can’t come up with something in the meantime (after all, if he can keep his hairpiece from blowing away, he can certainly figure  out how to build a very tall building that doesn’t suffer from wind shear).

You can read more here.http://www.burjdubaiskyscraper.com/

Michael Schumacher gets his own tower in Abu Dhabi

Friday, October 10th, 2008

In a way it’s kind of fitting that a champion racecar driver would get a very prominent monument (try saying that 3 times fast) in an Oil Belt country. I guess if you’re going to honor someone it should be someone who’s job it was to burn fossil fuel as quickly as possible and have  others worship you as you do it.  It’s amazing how many new skyscrapers are either being built or announced as planned in the Middle East. 

Forbes’ 10 most expensive zip codes in the United States

Friday, October 10th, 2008

My county didn’t make it.  Maybe yours did…

1. Fisher Island, Fla., 33109, Miami-Dade County
Median sales price: $3.85 million

2. Alpine, N.J., 07620, Bergen County
Median sales price: $3.59 million

3. Mill Neck, N.Y., 11765, Nassau County
Median sales price: $3 million

4. Newport Coast, Calif., 92657, Orange County
Median sales price: $2.8 million

5. Water Mill, N.Y. 11976, Suffolk County
Median sales price: $2.72 million

6. Atherton, Calif., 94027, San Mateo County
Median home price: $2.7 million

7. Santa Barbara, Calif., 93108, Santa Barbara County
Median home price: $2.7 million

8. Wainscott, N.Y., 11975, Suffolk County
Median home price: $2.56 million

9. Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., 92067, San Diego County
Median home price: $2.47 million

10. Beverly Hills, Calif., 90210, Los Angeles County
Median home price: $2.41 million

Old Russian billionaire proverb: Keep your friends close & your enemies away– with missiles

Friday, October 10th, 2008

Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich new $355 million dollar, 555 foot long yacht, which will be the biggest yacht in the world when it’s finished, will have its own missile defense system built in.

Really, what do you get the man who has everything except a good missile system? Well…the yacht will also have its own submarine which can be used for a getaway in case the missiles don’t stop Roman’s enemies first.

You can read more about this amazing yacht here

And you think YOU lost a lot of money lately?…losing $10M per hour

Friday, October 10th, 2008

World’s 4th Richest Man Loses $28 Billion

Posted Oct 6th 2008 5:02PM by Jared Paul Stern
Filed under: Wealth

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Indian steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal, 58, the richest man in Europe and the 4th richest man in the world, can now be known as the world’s biggest loser after his net worth plummeted by a whopping $28 billion over the last four months due to the global financial crisis. Mittal, a London resident who paid a record $200 million for a Georgian mansion in Kensington Palace Gardens earlier this year, still has $17 billion left, the London Times reports. We don’t yet know how Mittal’s stunning loss – which equates to $240 million / day or nearly $10 million per hour – re-positions him on the world’s rich list as several other plutocrats have also suffered reversals, but it’s safe to say he’ll end up much further down unless the stock market recovers soon

Canada in crisis: Stemming the flood of American liberals sneaking across the border into Canada

Thursday, October 9th, 2008

This was sent to me by my friend, Len.  Fictional, but not by much, esp. if McCain wins…

> The flood of American liberals sneaking across the border into Canada
> has intensified in the past week, sparking calls for increased patrols
> to stop the illegal immigration.
>
> The possibility of a McCain/Palin election is prompting the exodus
> among left-leaning citizens who fear they’ll soon be required to hunt,
> pray, and agree with Bill O’Reilly.
>
> Canadian border farmers say it’s not uncommon to see dozens of
> sociology professors, animal rights activists and Unitarians crossing
> their fields at night.

>"I went out to milk the cows the other day, and there was a Hollywood> producer huddled in the barn," said Manitoba farmer Red Greenfield,
> whose acreage borders North Dakota.
>
> The producer was cold, exhausted and hungry. "He asked me if I could
> spare a latte and some free-range chicken.  When I said I didn’t have
> any, he left.  Didn’t even get a chance to show him my screenplay, eh?"
>
> In an effort to stop the illegal aliens, Greenfield erected higher
> fences, but the liberals scaled them.  So he tried installing speakers
> that blare Rush Limbaugh across the fields.  "Not real effective," he
> said. "The liberals still got through, and Rush annoyed the cows so much
> they wouldn’t give milk."
>
> Canadian officials are particularly concerned about smugglers who meet
> liberals near the Canadian border, pack them into Volvo station wagons,
> drive them across the border and leave them to fend for themselves.
> "A lot of these people are not prepared for rugged conditions," an
> Ontario border patrolman said. "I found one carload without a drop of
> drinking water.  ‘They did have a nice little Napa Valley cabernet,
> though."
>
> When liberals are caught, they’re sent back across the border, often
> wailing loudly that they fear retribution from conservatives.  Rumors
> have been circulating about the McCain administration establishing
> re-education camps in which liberals will be forced to shoot wolves from
> airplanes, deny evolution, and act out drills preparing them for the
> Rapture.
>
> In recent days, liberals have turned to sometimes-ingenious ways of
> crossing the border.  Some have taken to posing as senior citizens on
> bus trips to buy cheap Canadian prescription drugs.  After catching a
> half-dozen young vegans disguised in powdered wigs, Canadian immigration
> authorities began stopping buses and quizzing the supposed
> senior-citizen passengers on Perry Como and Rosemary Clooney hits to
> prove they were alive in the ’50s.  "If they can’t identify the accordion
> player on The Lawrence Welk Show, we get suspicious about their age," an
> official said.
>
> Canadian citizens have complained that the illegal immigrants are
> creating an organic-broccoli shortage and renting all the good Susan
> Sarandon movies.  "I feel sorry for American liberals, but the Canadian
> economy just can’t support them," an Ottawa resident said, "How many
> Art-history and English majors does one country need?"

McCain’s Rage

Wednesday, October 8th, 2008

This video was created by Robert Greenwald, a documentarian who has made some great documentaries about Murdoch/Fox, Iraq War, etc.  He is currently focusing his efforts on exposing the real McCain.

If you’re a McCain supporter, check out this video.  If you’re not, you probably won’t be surprised by what you see.

Our National Priorities — have-mores vs. poor children…guess who wins?

Wednesday, October 8th, 2008

Recently, Marion Wright Edelman, an amazing woman who has devoted more than 40 years to the protection and advocacy of children’s rights in the U.S., was interviewed on Democracy Now. Following is a brief extract from that interview, one which highlights some amazing statistics about children in the United States.

It’s amazing to think that when Wall Street needs money, we can act to address it in less than 2 weeks, but when children’s fates are at risk, we can debate the issues surrounding the children for years or simply claim that government isn’t the answer. 

Remember, earlier this year, when there was an effort by Congress to pass legislation that would have ensured no poor child in the U.S. was without health care? This legislation would have cost $35B, 1/20th of what the bailout costs (at a minimum…estimates of the true figures in the bailout go as high as $850B).  Bush vetoed it claiming that government couldn’t afford the expenditure.  He had no problem finding the money for his friends ‘the have-mores’ when they needed it.

What are our country’s priorities?  Why aren’t people outraged over the plight of children as they are over the plight of Wall Street. Perhaps they don’t hear the true figures via corporate media.

Extract from Edelman’s appearance on Democracy Now…

MARIAN WRIGHT EDELMAN: And the real crisis in America is not the real bailout on Wall Street; it is what we’re doing with our children and our failure to invest in our human capital for the future. What is happening in our country, where a child is born into poverty every thirty-three seconds, and we have seen an increase in child poverty, 500,000 in the recent—in the last three years.

AMY GOODMAN: Half a million?

MARIAN WRIGHT EDELMAN: Half a million children between 2005, 2006, and that’s before the downturn in the economy; where we have a child who is born without health insurance every forty-one seconds, is neglected or abused every thirty-six seconds, is having a child every minute; and where we have got one in three black boys who are seven years old today who is going to go to prison in his lifetime, one in six Hispanic boys likely to go to prison in his lifetime, one in seventeen white boys to go to prison in his lifetime—we’re the world’s biggest jailer, and we’re spending three times more on incarceration than on public education per pupil—and where we’ve got ten percent of our—children drop out of school every ten seconds of every school day; and where 65 percent of all of our children are not reading at grade level in twelfth grade if they’ve stayed in school, and a half of them have not; and where over 80 percent of our black and Hispanic children cannot read at grade level in fourth, eighth or twelfth grade. The real economic downfall and the—is in these figures, and we have got to begin to get our heads screwed on straight and to begin to invest in the future and in our young people today.

AMY GOODMAN: And yet, we’ve been told that we can’t afford that.

MARIAN WRIGHT EDELMAN: Well, we can’t afford not to. We have seen, in effect, an ideological and economic coup d’etat over the last decade, where we’ve taken from the poor, taken from children, and given in massive tax breaks to the rich and in prosecuting several wars. And, you know, this is just—we are upside-down.

We have got to reset our moral compass. We have got to redirect our attention to our internal human infrastructure, because I am convinced that what we are failing to do today in educating our children, providing them very basic healthcare, is going to be a moral and economic Achilles’ heel that is going to topple America’s leadership in the world in the future.

The eventual end of waiters, courtesy of Microsoft?

Wednesday, October 8th, 2008

I don’t know if mixing Microsoft technology and food preparation/consumption is such a good idea (just like mixing TV watching and Microsoft Media Center was cause for concern in previous years), but it’s happening anyway. 

A chic restaurant in London, ‘Inamo’, is using the Microsoft Surface technology and projecting designs, menus, ‘themes’, etc. on to the surfaces of patrons’ tables.

You can read more here.

Great speech by Naomi Klein on disaster capitalism

Wednesday, October 8th, 2008

If you get a chance listen to the October 6, 2008 podcast of Democracy Now.  You can download it from iTunes, Zune Marketplace, or from Democracy Now’s own site.  Naomi Klein’s speech to the University of Chicago, Wall St. Crisis Should Be for Neoliberalism What Fall of Berlin Wall Was for Communism, about the failure of Milton Friedman and about the relevance of Disaster Capitalism, Friedman’s legacy, to our current financial crisis is quite good.

You can acccess it here.

National debt clock runs out of numbers

Wednesday, October 8th, 2008

To quote the site Gizmodo, ‘It’s official. We’re hosed. The National Debt Clock near Times Square has just run out of spaces to add more zeroes to its running count of our national debt, thanks to the one-two punch of the $700 billion Wall Street bailout and the $100 billion used to prop up Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac before that.’..