29 April 2006

Let's focus on what's really important!

Corpus Callosum recently confessed to making a very unpatriotic attempt to translate our beautiful national anthem into Klingon. I strongly feel that we should forget about depleted oil reserves, the proliferation of nuclear weapons, the doubling of the world's population, and the decline of human dignity for the moment and focus on the important issue of how a new Klingon version of our anthem would forever scar our national psyche in favor of some newfabulated intercultural intergalactacism. Write your senators now! Forbid the public from translating our sacred anthem into an alien tongue!

28 April 2006

Rag-to-riches dream an illusion

I thought this study was interesting as it punctures a major American myth:

America may still think of itself as the land of opportunity, but the chances of living a rags-to-riches life are a lot lower than elsewhere in the world, according to a new study published on Wednesday. The likelihood that a child born into a poor family will make it into the top five percent is just one percent, according to "Understanding Mobility in America," a study by economist Tom Hertz from American University. By contrast, a child born rich had a 22 percent chance of being rich as an adult, he said. "In other words, the chances of getting rich are about 20 times higher if you are born rich than if you are born in a low-income family," he told an audience at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think-tank sponsoring the work. He also found the United States had one of the lowest levels of inter-generational mobility in the wealthy world, on a par with Britain but way behind most of Europe.

27 April 2006

If we only had a brain...



If we could get the world to switch to CLEVER cars, world petroleum reserves could be extended for generations while prices would plummet. The Clever car will go up to 80 miles per hour and its fuel consumption (it runs on natural gas) is equivalent to 108 miles per gallon.

26 April 2006

Kenneth Lay: Some problems with priorities?

If we are really to become an Christian nation founded on Creationist principles and thought, we need to pass a law allowing us to immediately execute people like Kenneth Lay for one simple reason: The man clearly has no soul.

In recent testimony, Lay told us--referring to the Enron collapse, "I'm sure there's absolutely nothing in my life, including the loss of life of many of my loved ones, that even comes close to the same level of pain, and the same enduring pain, that has caused." Did I understand this right? This man would rather see those closest to him all die rather than witness the financial collapse of his corrupt corporation?

When I hear comments like this, I can see why the Enron folks were so comfortable rubbing shoulders with Shrub and his fellow neoCons. Lay and his ilk all seem to be missing a key chromosome responsible for the development of a soul and a conscience. And to think that such people are pushing the buttons that control the American plutocracy.

24 April 2006

Beam me up, Shrubby!

In his most recent attempt to slow his crashing poll numbers, Shrub has been lauding the potential of hydrogen. Once again, we're left with the feeling that the president--via some mysterious connection with higher unseen powers--knows something that our scientists have missed. Don't get me wrong--I love the idea of hydrogen. In fact, if you looked hard enough, you could probably find some ancient post on this site where I suggest we put more money into researching this cleanest of fuels. But sadly, the science has failed to live up to the hype.

The April 2006 issue of Scientific American--to cite just one example--has an article with the frank assessment (p. 79) that "the overall hydrogen fueling process is inherently costly and inefficient. Any effective hydrogen economy would require an infrastructure that could use zero-carbon power to electrolyze water into hydrogen, convey this highly diffuse gas long distances, and pump it at high pressure into the car--all for the purpose of converting the hydrogen back to electricity in a feul cell to drive an electric motor. The entire process . . . would leave only about 20 to 25 percent of the original zero-carbon electricity to drive the motor."

This compares with 75 to 80 percent of the original electricity that's used in hybrid technologies. If Shrub were sincere, we could at least praise him for his far-reaching "vision" and "leadership." Unfortunately, this sudden interest in hydrogen power is all little more than a cynical ruse. The fact is that enormous investment would be required to develop useful hydrogen power as a power source (if this is even possible in the near future) and this doesn't even begin to address the issue of the enormous infrastructure that would have to be erected to accomodate such a new technology. And we're supposed to believe that massive-tax-cuts-for-the-rich Shrub with his never-saw-a-pork-project-he-didn't-like policy is somehow going to pay for this?! As he drives up the deficit faster than any of his predecessors! What a joke!

All the president's hot air in favor of . . . uh, hot air, is little more than a con-job, a way to wear green for a day while failing to make even the tiniest sacrifice towards a solution. Green technologies are already here. Hybrid automobiles exist and they work. Fuel-efficient cars are sitting in car lots in every city. Meanwhile, the auto makers are suing California for its imposition of higher fuel-efficiency standards. I can assure you that if hydrogen, through some miracle, suddenly becomes possible tomorrow (requiring a trillion dollars of investment in infrastructure, i.e., the cost of Shrub's war), our great leader will suddenly proclaim that support for hydrogen infrastructure is somehow unfair to Exxon shareholders and that we should hold out for the upcoming wave of cars that will run off anti-matter instead.

Please, somebody beam me up. You can beam me back down when this idiot has left office.

17 April 2006

$400 million?

So now we read (ABC News Story) that Exxon is giving Lee Raymond one of the most generous retirement packages in history, nearly $400 million, including pension, stock options and other perks, to include a a million-dollar "consulting" deal, two years of home security, personal security, a car and driver, and use of a corporate jet for professional purposes. Exxon pocketed $36 billion last year, but even so, four-hundred million is a honkin' big piece of the pie. Of course, Libertarian types (I'm thinking of Glen, here) ask us, "Why do we have such resentment over companies making profits and individuals making money?" The problem is that people don't "make" money. In a perfect world, money serves as a reward for the productive labor that has created wealth. So what's wrong with this picture?

First, the idea that one man waving the baton, conducting the orchestra, is somehow responsible for the lion's share of the sounds omitted from the instruments is ludicrous. As a person who has engaged in quite a bit of productive labor (in spite of my efforts to avoid it at all cost), I can tell you that the people who form the cogs in the machinery of any large enterprise do a helluva lot of back-breaking work that is just as essential (actually, much more essential) than anything the CEO does. Now I realize that there can be only a few people at the top and that someone must do the dirty work. We will always need managers. But doesn't this large payment completely undermine the legitimacy of the current model? In this case, one member of a collosal multinational company is being paid over 1% in profits! A great number of people (especially those hired in Africa) probably don't make in a year what this fatcat makes while chewing a single bite of a doughnut.

Even if we were to accept the fantastic premise that some chubby guy in an office had single-handedly produced the entire productive output of a small nation, we'd be left with an inconsistency; namely, that the current market forces that determine prices fail to account for a large group of stakeholders. In addition to the people who live in the countries where the oil's being depleted and those affected by the pollution, there are the unborn billions who soon will be born into a world lacking an adequate petroleum supply. Such a world may, out of necessity, place a higher premium on the actual contributions of people in the productive process. The Lee Raymond story will hopefully be relegated to those back pages of history. Future students can wonder (as we so often wonder about our ancestors now), what in the hell were they thinking?!

14 April 2006

Shrub and Rummy

WaPo recently had a detailed article about how the President had told the American people that Iraq had mobile biological weapons labs--days after a team of top experts unanimously confirmed in a report that this was not the case. All I can say is that if this president hasn't fullfilled the criteria for impeachment, no one ever will. There's something very wrong when people are more concerned about someone lying about a blow job than their lying about what will become a trillion dollar debacle that destabilizes an entire region.

Shrub's co-conspirators aren't doing much better. Six retired generals have now called for Rumsfeld to step down, including two who came forward on Thursday. When both the defense establishment and weapons experts side against the president and his war, it's time for those 38% of the die-hards on the right to take a long hard look inside themselves and ask themselves why they still support Shrub. I realize that it ain't the rightwing thang to admit that you were wrong, but we all mistakes. We on the left, who had this figured out from the beginning, we won't laugh at you . . . too much.

11 April 2006

Secrets R Us

The Afghanis seem to be picking up American-style free market principles all too well. Look at what was found in a bazaar just a couple hundred yards away from the front gate of a U.S. army base:

A reporter recently obtained several drives at the bazaar that contained documents marked "Secret." The contents included documents that were potentially embarrassing to Pakistan, a U.S. ally, presentations that named suspected militants targeted for "kill or capture" and discussions of U.S. efforts to "remove" or "marginalize" Afghan government officials whom the military considered "problem makers."

Slip sliding away...

Bush's job rating numbers continue to slide, reaching 38% in the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll. The same polls asks people to rate the two parties on 7 issues ranging from Health Care to the U.S. campaign against terrorism. Democrats score higher in every single category. The Dems have a historic opportunity. The question is do any of the Dems have a plan or a vision? Although I have very little hope for the Democratic Party at this point, I have to conclude that nobody could screw things up as bad as Bush has.

We've been fooled again.

Lt. General Gregory Newbold, retired director of operations at the Pentagon's military joint staff, has publicly expressed his disdain for Shrub administration policies in a recent Time article which begins with the following:

In 1971, the rock group The Who released the antiwar anthem Won't Get Fooled Again. To most in my generation, the song conveyed a sense of betrayal by the nation's leaders, who had led our country into a costly and unnecessary war in Vietnam. To those of us who were truly counterculture--who became career members of the military during those rough times--the song conveyed a very different message. To us, its lyrics evoked a feeling that we must never again stand by quietly while those ignorant of and casual about war lead us into another one and then mismanage the conduct of it. Never again, we thought, would our military's senior leaders remain silent as American troops were marched off to an ill-considered engagement. It's 35 years later, and the judgment is in: the Who had it wrong. We have been fooled again.

V for Vendetta

Last weekend, I finally saw V for Vendetta. The film has a comic book quality as the hero (a true "army of one") takes on a fascist regime (a revived British empire?) But if you're willing to suspend disbelief, the film is highly entertaining. In contrast with the grunting macho men that dominate typical Hollywood revenge flix, the hero of the film is intelligent, witty, and occasionally even poetic. The ruling power has some echoes with the Shrub Misadministration, in particular, in the way it constantly manipulates facts and public perception.

Other discussion of the movie can be found at Cry Monkey and Hyosando.

9 April 2006

Skepticism should be taught in schools!

Cyberkitten has an excellent argument for adding the doctrine of unintelligent design to the K-12 curriculum, alongside evolution and intelligent design. To this, I think we should add the doctrine of skepticism, which has a long esteemed history in both the East and West. High school students, stressed out by having to remember all the rival theories (Hindu cyclical theory, divine autogenesis, creation by the flying spaggetti monster) may be relieved to know that one possible answer on every test is that the whole question is simply unknowable. Skepticism could have other benefits as well. Young people could be taught while young that there really is no way to know truth, that they should simply follow their leaders and watch their parking meters, that they should maintain that dunno-&-can't-know attitude at all cost.

7 April 2006

Duck season! Rabbit season!

Remember the ol' Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck clip with Bugs and Daffy standing in front of Elmer with a gun. Bugs and Daffy kept shouting back and forth "duck season" "no, rabbit season" and so on until Bugs suddenly switched to "rabbit season" prompting Daffy to goof up and say "duck season." I think some of those on the political right have mastered the Disnyesque rhetoric in an attempt to get us on the left to defend unfettered free-market capitalism. I recently came across the following post on Glen Dean's site:

I have said it before and I will say it again. I shiver to think that this man was only a few hundred votes away from being the President of the United States. The article ends with this sentence, More mechanisms to incorporate environmental and social externalities will be needed to enable capital markets to achieve their intended purpose--to consistently allocate capital to its highest and best use for the good of the people and the plan. Sounds to me like a command economy. And you wonder why we call you commie.

Perhaps I need help reading through the lines on this one. Gore said that markets allocated capital the best way--how does this remind anyone of Lenin? Down farther in the comments, someone took offense at my remarks on Halliburton, defending Bush's use of no bid contracts. Evidently, the government (vs. the evil market) really knows best when it comes to such things. We would hate to open up these things to the competition of the market!



My theory is that the current neo-cons are only pretending. They'll get everyone on the left defending Gore's pro-market stance and open-markets on all government contracting and then suddenly switch parties.

We need another Watergate

Today, suicide attackers wearing women's robes blew themselves up in a Shiite mosque, killing 79 people and wounding more than 160. We can quibble about the precise definition of "civil war" until we're blue in the face, but it's now clear that Iraq has descended into chaos. I've always thought that Shrub & Co. would be able to stave off a complete meltdown until a Democrat was elected to the oval office but it's looking increasingly unlikely. To make matters worse, Shrub's foreign policy debacle is now compounded by a constant flood of news scandal and political intrigue on the domestic front.

The best thing that could happen to the U.S. right now is to have another Watergate. Americans need such a clarion call in order to take a long hard look at what's going on. There's a need for greater introspection, something far beyond the 30 second sound bytes on Fox News or other propaganda sources.

4 April 2006

Zfone

Good internet encryption is now available to all of us with the offering of Zfone. Big Brother(s) ain't gonna like this and will do his best to outlaw it. All I can say is:

When encrypted voice protocols are outlawed,
only outlaws will have encrypted voice protocols.

I confess--the logo needs some work if it's going to be bumper-stickerified so as to appeal to "the man in the street" but it does have a certain ring to it, eh?

Thanks goes to co-conspirator Katherine at Cut to the Chase for bringing this to light.

Long delayed departure

Delay is finally leaving for good--hopefully headed for a prison cell along with Abramoff and the other good-ol-boys.

2 April 2006

Doh!

At last Hollywood is giving us some quality fare: Homer Simpson is at last coming to the big screen.